The contest was over the second Andre Villas-Boas handed in the team sheet. Whilst some Premier League managers may consider winning a trophy, earning extra revenue and playing football a nuisance, AVB thankfully sees the FA Cup as a route to glory. With the title and Champions League becoming a closed shop, the oldest cup competition in the world is one every team should try their best to win.
Sat in Block 30 at White Hart Lane on Saturday, it was great to finally experience the 1882 movement first hand. Unfortunately having selected a seat in Row 6 I found myself away from the core of the group, but nevertheless it was an atmosphere that so far this season only the West Ham game has come close to matching.
The cup tie started brightly for Spurs but once Gareth Bale had added to Clint Dempsey’s opener, a repeat of the 1987 Cup final was never really in danger. Instead Spurs focused on consolidating the win and giving match time to Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Scott Parker, two players who will be key for the 3rd/4th spot push.
As the first half wound down and Dempsey headed in his second to put Spurs three nil up, Coventry City’s big day out was officially over, but credit to them they kept singing their one or two songs.
The fixture, despite what some romantics from the Midlands may have been hoping for, was never going to be a contest. Spurs over the past few years especially at home (Leeds United apart), have been more than comfortable against lower division opponents. Coventry kept trying but not even wearing a commemorative 1987 kit could raise the ghosts of their famous day at Wembley.
Michael Dawson and Steven Caulker, the pairing AVB favours against more direct teams were comfortable, with Caulker even bringing the ball out of defence and moving through midfield, on more than one occasion. At right back, Kyle Naughton found himself in more familiar territory, and the advantage of being able to move down the line on his favoured foot helped his game immensely. It may have only been Coventry, but his composure on and off the ball, combined with BAE’s return will now start to place some much needed pressure on Kyle Walker.
In central midfield Tom Huddlestone switched from moments of brilliance to sheer ridiculousness with ease. Aided by inferior opponents he was able to twist, shimmy and move his way out of trouble, before landing himself right back in it with an under hit pass. Huddlestone remains a shadow of himself and his shooting has taken on a Steffen Freund quality, it wasn’t quite the “put yourself in the shop window” game that Daniel Levy was hoping for.
Alongside Huddlestone and Parker, Icelandic international Glyfi Sigurdsson continued his little mini revival. The former Swan has struggled in his first season to handle the weight of expectations and the unfair comparisons to VDV, but one threaded ball through to Naughton in the first half shows that he is a player with a deft touch and great vision.
The second half lacked the buzz and excitement of the first. With the game over and Bale subbed on 60 minutes; it was just a question of denying the visitors any glimmer of hope.
However despite the second half not living up to the first, the noise from 1882 continued. It would have been better had more people, especially those in Blocks 29 and 28 joined in the singing, but not everyone likes to stand and sing at football.
One supporter in particular commented: “Why are they singing about Nicola Berti??”
Singing and supporting is a freedom of expression, it’s also a matter of choice and may depend on your personality, but surely supporting the team you came to watch isn’t?
My first experience of 1882 was clear proof of why The Fighting Cock is right to join the push for safe standing. Some supporters prefer to sit and absorb their football, whilst others prefer to sing and stand. Once again it’s a question of choice and preference, the Premier League and the FA should therefore allow fans to make that choice, without having to disturb those who refuse to recognise Nicola Berti as a legendary figure.
It wasn’t the classic FA Cup tie that the sub-standard ITV highlights programme hoped for, but generally in Round Three, it never is unless a big team gets scalped.
Spurs are into the fourth round and face an away tie at either Leeds United or Birmingham. This fixture in the past may have troubled Spurs, but with a side brimming with confidence and organised for each fixture they have, Tottenham may well be on their way to Wembley, or at least the fifth round again.