Pete Sixsmith was there on Sunday. He’s now recovered from the long trek back and able to file his match report. But has he recovered from the match itself? Here’s your chance to make your own mind up.
What happened in the moments leading up to the kick off may never be known. It may be our equivalent of the Schleswig-Holstein Question, which plagued British Foreign Policy in the 19th Century (about which Lord Palmerston said “There are but three men who understand this; the Prince Consort, who is dead, a German professor who is mad and myself, who has forgotten,”) or the riddle of the sphinx, which I believe is something to do with the shape of one of its orifices.
Quite why the Dutch full back was unable to play has not yet been spilled but it meant a last second change with Manquillo moving across and Jason Denayer coming in for his debut at right back, when he is really a centre half. We put a right back (Donald Love) on the bench. It meant that we had two full backs playing out of position and two central defenders who were still shell shocked after Monday night.
We also had Lee Cattermole returning from his hernia operation, Didier Ndong making his debut and Jan Kirchhoff working his way back to fitness. The midfield engine room would need some firing up, one thought.
Spurs were seeking to bounce back after a disappointing Champions League defeat to Monaco and they took the game to us from the start, as you would expect at this soon to be demolished White Hart Lane, a stadium that has seen some of the finest players in the land such as Jimmy Greaves, Chris Waddle, Danny Blanchflower and, er, John Pratt.
Usually, they use Erikson and Lamella to unpick us ever so expertly, but this time they went for force rather than finesse by including Wanyama and Sissoko and leaving former tormentors on the bench.
I thought we held them reasonably well in the first half. The back four and the midfield five kept its shape and when they did slip up, Jordan Pickford was there to show why he is so highly regarded on Wearside.
We even had the best chance of the half when the peripheral Janusaz broke through and set up Stephen Pienaar. The South African, who had endured a disappointing season at WHL side footed straight at Lloris and the chance was gone. There were no more.
There were plenty for the Spurs, particularly in the second half. I do wish that opposition managers would stop being so damned unfair and targeting areas where we are particularly weak. Why did Pochettino feel it was necessary to tell Son to attack Denayer and go to the by-line? That really is not cricket and Johnny Foreigner should be made aware of that.
Our plucky Belgian was roasted by their skilful Korean until finally, the wall collapsed or, if you like your clichés more water based, the dam gave way. Denayer was left floundering on the by-line as Son pulled the ball back, and Harry Kane pounced. His shot was blocked by Papy Djilobodji, who, up until then, resembled a decent centre half.
Having made the interception, all he had to do was hoof the ball away and we could regroup for the next instalment of “Attack and Defence.” Unfortunately, he fell before he kicked it and Kane, who really should have kicked it over the bar as taking advantage of an error is not the sign of a true gentleman, thumped it into the net.
Mike Dean might as well have blown the whistle then and we could all have gone home early. There was more chance of Donald Trump joining the Workers Revolutionary Party than there was of us levelling and that was how it stayed. There was some resolute defending, some excellent goalkeeping and some shooting that reminded me of the gag about the difference between a useless hunter and a constipated owl; one shoots and can’t hit while the other………
It was another worrying display for owner, manager and supporters and it clearly heralds yet another season where we will be looking at league tables and working out favourable results to help us retain that place in the Premier League which we fought for ten years ago. We seem to have spectacularly wasted the subsequent years with little forward momentum save for a blip under Steve Bruce.
There were some positives on Sunday. Ndong looks a good player. He reads a game well and puts himself where he needs to be. Compare him with the hapless Rodwell who allows the game to go past him and there is an improvement. He could turn out to be a better bet than M’Vila.
Cattermole added some needed bite to the centre of the park and Kirchhoff is inching back to fitness. Spurs offered little through the middle and it was only Son who consistently tested us. Jason Denayer found him very difficult to handle and PVA may well have had the same issues.
Up front we were an embarrassment. Defoe had one touch in the Spurs box and Janusaz flickered before being sent off for acting like a petulant teenager; one yellow for dissent and one for a nasty kick at a Spurs player is not what we want to see and he should be in the Headmasters Study today.
As usual, we are playing catch up with the other teams. Stoke are below us, West Brom and West Ham not far above. Coincidentally, they provide three of our next four opponents with Pontius Pardew starting us off on Saturday. Wins are needed before the schools break up for half term, but I am not full of optimism. David Moyes has his work cut out here.
Finally, I met two interesting people with SAFC connections this weekend. The young woman sat in front of me at the match was Alan Durban’s granddaughter. She said he is still playing tennis and spends much of his time at his house in Spain. His spell at Roker ended in disappointment when Tom Cowie dismissed him but he had the nucleus of a solid side and left us better off than when he came.
On the way down on Saturday, the elderly lady (even by my standards) was the cousin of Colin Grainger, who was signed from Sheffield United in 1957. He won seven caps for England, one of which was while he was at Roker, and was described in “All The Lads” as being “fast moving and keen to score.” Older readers will also remember that he possessed a fine singing voice and was known as “The Singing Winger” making records and appearing on stage.
A long season beckons; Ha’way The Lads.