It's time to pay kudos to Tottenham Hotspur - the unit. The team. The work laid out and delivered by Harry Redknapp and the march into battle the players repeated time and again, regardless of depletions, AWOLs and MIAs.
With thanks to THFC6061 (of Glory Glory) who is the (Ledley) king of statistics.
So, why 'the unit'? What made Spurs so special this season compared to previous (limp) efforts? Well for starters, resolve. Spurs have instilled a work ethic and spirit that means if we lose a player to injury, we get on with it, no complaints - with the replacement fulfilling his duties.
Now if you go back to Christmas/the New Year you'll remember all of us (yes, me included) holding our heads in the palm of our hands at the fact that we didn't quite spend during the window to fill the gaps in our midfield. Kaboul? Really? We shrugged. Again, this was a very subtle form of knee-jerk, mainly because we feared for the worst (lose Palacios, and we're doomed, dooooooomed I tells ya). When the reality of the situation was we had plenty in reserve to cope. As seen with the injury to Luka early on. Ye of little faith.
So, exactly what was the damage on paper concerning key players? You hear it from them lot over there in the swamplands telling us how they would have faired far better had they not lost players to injury. Using their logic, we'd have faired far better too. We all know it doesn't quite work like that, and had BAE not got injured, would Bale have broken through etc etc.
Anyways - to the stats. Below is a general overall breakdown, but for all the glory in Technicolor - please click here (and bookmark the site for reference as it's a gold mine of wealth). We've had a number of players out injured this season, but looking at key players, here are the numbers that mattered (but didn't quite knock us off our perch):
Woodgate - 3 starts, 3 total appearances, 194 minutes players, (46 games injured) - Five game period saw Woody play three times, but has since spent a very lonely time stateside, with doctors struggling to work out what his injury is exactly (and how to fix it).
King - 20 starts, 21 total appearances, 1,637 minutes played, (29 games injured) - Vast majority of the season spent missing games and playing when his knee allowed him to do so, only managing to play 4 games on the trot in the finale to the EPL to aid our push for CL and his England ambition.
Lennon - 33 starts, 34 total appearances, 2,846 minutes played, (25 games injured) - Our Azza missed a run of 22 games which meant various shuffles in selection for Harry as he attempted to find the best formation to make up for the loss of one of most potent creative outlets.
Modric - 28 starts, 32 total appearances, 2,547 minutes played, (15 games injured) - Fourteen consecutive games missed in all competitions. Play him on the left or in the middle, when you lose Moddle you lose that craft and those dinking runs that allows us to dictate tempo offensively.
The Fab Four - 115 combined games missed through injury.
Corluka (8 games missed towards end of season)
BAE (11 games missed - allowing for Bale to cement a first team place)
Bale (7 games missed at start of season)
Dawson (7 games missed at start of season)
Jenas (19 games missed through injury across the season)
Kranjcar (6 games missed at end of season)
Huddlestone (6 games)
We've had other players picking up knocks (Pav, Bentley etc) - but nothing out of the ordinary. The main key players cited above (Woodgate, King, Lennon, Modric) - are backbone players, imperative to the way we set out and play.
We got through the start of the season - special mention to Bassong who took his place against his centre-back partner without complaint and has been a quite superb signing for us. The King scenario is no surprise. We know he's not able to perform for us every week. So we make do. Having no Woodgate or Dawson didn't help but this is where people covered and got on with it.
Losing Modric was devastating. Felt like it would be detrimental to our progress. But we shuffled. Niko played a part on the left and at one point was quite simply unplayable as far as the opposition were concerned. He tore City a new one. Then when Modric returned, Lennon got injured, and again we had to balance the side to avoid any loss of cohesiveness in both attack and defence.
Moddle playing a part in central midfield, Wilson and Tommy sharing the other centre-spot. We showed adaptability and application with responsibilities given out by the gaffer.
No squad depth they said? I remember we got burnt after Robbie Keane's comments about the strength of our team on the pitch and on the bench. But across the season, he has had his comments vindicated - even though the irony of him being up in Scotland whilst we took 4th is no doubt hurting him bad.
Every time we lost a player, Harry tweaked it. Bale coming in for BAE for left-back, then shifting forwards to left-flank resulting in a flourishing lefty relationship between the two.
Huddlestone. More on the big lad in the next few days. Stay tuned. But I'll note here that he has time and time again proven the critics wrong and has been one of our most vital players in central midfield.
Kaboul, equally maligned, proved in the end that he was worth bringing back. Yes, he's raw and very much rough in parts. Whether there's a diamond underneath all the dirt, we'll have to wait and see. But he covered well (had his comedy moments) but should be applauded for his efforts. When it mattered, he dared to do.
At any given moment this season, we've had someone key out on the sidelines. More than one at any given moment in fact. It worried us. It didn't appear to worry the team.
The players deserve the accolade. It's a team game and we did more than enough to prove we are a team and one that doesn't crumble or lose heart because we are without a talisman or two.
The surprise factor also helped. Bale's resurgence. Pav's free-scoring goal-scoring stint. Love it when it all comes together when the Gods do everything in their power to test your resolve.