Into the darkness

 

Tottenham Hotspur boldly go where they've gone before. Out of the group stages and into the knock-outs. This Spurs Trek not quite the supernova experience we expected. It feels more like a black-hole where even light can't escape. Talking of which, the game against Besiktas witnessed floodlight failure twice with long delays before the football returned. If it isn't trolls running onto the pitch at White Hart Lane to grab a selfie we have to suffer the indignity of faulty electrics in a game where the winner takes all.

It wasn't an inspirational night but on this occasion I didn't expect much for my time. I was however hoping to be surprised, wishing that somehow the collection of bench warmers and forgotten potential would give us a goal and a chance. If this season was the Enterprise Scotty would be shouting 'She cannae take no more captain!' before the Starship exploded into a million pieces. We had to draw or claim victory to secure a top spot to avoid one of the failures from the Champions League in the next round. The single positive is that we can now look forward to seeing a stronger line-up if we have to entertain, say Roma.

What we got in the Ataturk Stadium was a fairly tidy performance when you consider the vagabonds and ghosts that made up our starting eleven. Plenty of possession. A fair amount of clear cut chances. Just no warp speed and unfortunately the type of aim and fire you'd expect from a Stormtropper chasing Han Solo. Sci-fi cross-over klaxon, back to Roddenberry in 3..2..1..

If Roberto Soldado turned up in classic episode of Star Trek he'd be one of the poor souls in a redshirt on an away mission landing party that winds up dead. He got himself into decent positions and once more didn't do enough when presented with the goal-net screaming for the ball. The near header was all about his run and positioning. He took the wrong angle and didn't connect. The other chances we've seen time and time again. This period of time since the Everton goal was meant to be his personal awakening. He's still trapped in a nasty bout of sleep paralysis.

There wasn't much more I took from the game to be fair. I lost conciousness twice during it, momentarily falling asleep. Woke myself up with a brew. Tea. Earl Grey. Hot. The two in-game blackouts, my cue to replicate the atmosphere in Instabul, shutting off the lights and waving my illuminated smart-phone around. I stopped short of lighting up a flare but let off a smoke-bomb in the kitchen (burnt some toast).

The returning Kyle Walker was a highlight. Danny Rose also back and running. Younes Kaboul took the role of the forgotten captain Christopher Pike, after taking a hit of delta ray radiation. His mistake lead to a thunderous smack of the cross-bar and as the ball returned to play we failed to shape up and defend before the home side took a 1-0 lead.

We could have drawn which would have been acceptable considering the fact Mauricio Pochettino was willing to risk the result with the rotation. Sunday and Swansea the priority. Euro hangovers the obstacle. Our pressing game and the resulting fatigue the ingredients that always leave us with an undesirable excuse.

One moment that has to be citied was from Goodison Park where Les Ferdinand in the studio (during the first floodlight failure) told the other pundits that they (himself and other esteemed representatives of THFC when they were employed by the club) would take it upon themselves to inform Mousa Dembele that he would be the next Spurs player to move to Real Madrid. This apparently influenced by Dembele and his power and ability on the training pitch rather than the doppelgänger that fails to materialise during first team games. It's like watching someone in the midst of being lost in a transporter accident. 'Ooh, there he is, he's coming through, he's there...oh Christ, he's gone, where's he gone? I just saw him. He's disappeared again'.

I completely agree that Dembele is in stagnation. He could do so much more with the skills and physicality he's been blessed with. If it's attitude and application holding him back he doesn't seem too fussed about it. Ferdinand and co also not too fussed if they spent their time feeding his ego about an impossible move to our special Spanish friends.

As for the cup itself, I still don't feel like there is genuine commitment with the team contemplating progression in the Europa League that would take us all the way to the final. The League Cup seems a fair more probable bet if we get past Newcastle and reach the two-legged semi. Yet it all feels a touch too fantastical when you consider the continued troubles of selection and style. But I'll take it, I'll take anything. A Champions League drop out, a rare solid home performance in the cup against the Toon after an away day win in Wales (with hopefully a red card dished out to the host side). Anything, give me that inspiration.

 

Spurs: the frustrating frontier. These are the voyages of Tottenham Hotspur. Its five-year plan, to conquer the top four, to regain an identity and silverware, to swashbuckle back to where none of us have gone for several seasons.

Where's a Vulcan when you need one? I could do with a mind meld right about now.