Never red...unless it's a card
Sunday Spurs and early in the game, misery was the obvious conclusion. 'The relegation will be televised'. At half-time I was already thinking about Everton away next weekend. Oh ye of little faith. The second half of our away visit to the KC Stadium to face the triple threat of ex-players turned out to be yet another cleansing of the soul. One down, two one up, three points in the bag, two points of the top four (seven away from the relegation spots if you dare to be depressed). Welcome to the below par Premier League; not quite the best in the world.
The first half wasn't great. Bossed and bullied by a committed Hull side that saw Michael Dawson dominate defensively (he always did play well against average teams) and Jake Livermore and Tom Huddlestone energetically running around us like men possessed.
If it wasn't for Hugo Lloris and a couple of poorly placed finishes we'd have gone in more than a single goal down. Livermore with a decent strike for the 1-0 with no celebration. Spurs once more lacked cohesiveness, basic structure and fluid passing. No Kaboul, Chadli, Adebayor, Capoue, Townsend or Naughton - for differing reasons. Suspension, injury and <insert you're own conspiracy theory> here about punishments dished out for rebellious players. Fazio alongside Vertonghen in defence, Davies with a rare start, Mason and Dembele the centre-pairing and Soldado joining Kane up top. It was still an ominous start and a struggle to embrace the positives (due to lack of evident positives).
The second half was great. Or at the very least vastly improved. Whatever was said in the dressing room resulted with a far more competent display. Crisp, tidy pass and movement. More composure on the ball. Chiriches replacing Dier at right-back wasn't as maverick and chaotic as you'd expect. Although having a centre-back play right back and replacing him with another centre-back pretty much defines Tottenham Hotspur logistics. Then came the red card that once more presented itself as a klaxon of hope to aid our recovery.
Plenty of controversy here for those that want to push punditry beyond its threshold of shock and horror. Yes, it was probably nothing more than a yellow card but we've all seen petulance punished in the past, so why the big cry-baby reaction to Jan Vertonghen falling after Gaston Ramirez slapped his bum then followed it up with kick? The ref missed it, the lino flagged it. We lapped it up. According to Steve Bruce and others, this sort of thing should be frowned upon. This sort of thing being Vertonghen's reaction rather than the Hull's player inability to contain his temper for not winning a free-kick a moment before.
Funny how tv and those wonderfully astute pundits love to push an agenda of dissatisfaction (warranted with the inconsistency of some of the decisions) by referencing the past when footballers were proper footballers. What? Like the class sides of the 90s and early 00s where supposedly world class players cheated their way through games by actually diving and feigning injury?
I've got no sympathy for Ramirez. If you're going to give the officials a reason for an over-reaction, don't expect a happily ever after.
Cue 11 versus 10. Queue the return of Aaron Lennon and hello our old friend Mr Width (I'm talking about the football here). We might have got ourselves back into the game before the red incident but now it was almost a certainty that we'd probably labour our way to an equaliser and winner (shades of Aston Villa).
With the extra man and both Lamela and Lennon hugging the touchline and stretching out the congested middle, we added time and space to our renewed passing ability whilst Hull decided to give up on their discipline and shape.
Christian Eriksen settled and took control of what was now an open house midfield. So no surprise that our equaliser came by way of a free-kick from the boot of our great Dane. Off the woodwork, off the head of the keeper and into the path of the alert goal-scoring machine, Harry Kane.
At the time, watching it live, I found the experience agonisingly frustrating. You know how it works. You want Spurs to win, to do well and when you watch the same lacklustre start play out you suddenly see everything through Spursy goggles, meaning it all looks so much worse than it is. Sure, it's still not filling me with optimism (even with the comeback) but at the time I had one of those ickle epiphanies. Damn it all to hell, I told myself. Last week, this week, next week; we all know we are struggling for form and identity but you know what...it's shared between all of us - players and supporters. It wasn't as bad it looked and I still want to be a part of this. The lows and the highs. Mostly lows, but the occasional high too.
Yes, yes, ten men Hull. But I screamed Spurs forward to find the second. Before that happened we got treated to three grand opportunities.
Harry Kane did his best to avoid a clean connection with the ball to head it in. The uber-apologetic Roberto So-sado (see what I did there) hit the ball with the type of delivery you'd expect to see from an 18th century man slapping another man in the face with an empty glove. For someone that cares (and he does, take note of how angry he gets and how much he fights for his team-mates) he has nothing more than limp potency when staring down the face of the goal.
Soldado doesn't lash at the ball. He doesn't show killer instinct. The latter evident when Eriksen sent a ball across the six yard box begging for a toe-poke with the Spaniard failing to smell the goal potential and attack. As much as I want him to find his goal scoring boots I'm left thinking they wouldn't fit him in the Premier League. He had no problems scoring in La Liga, he was positively prolific. It's never worked for him at Spurs, be it thanks to poor management and tactics but equally so because he's not been able to find a way to prove a point. He's broken. I'm not really confident he can be fixed.
Jake Livermore escaped a red card for a truly awful tackle. Craig Pawson deciding not to punish which for me was a far bigger talking point than the Gaston dismissal. Then came the winner (into the 90th minute) from the excellent Eriksen, rewarding himself and his team-mates for a more than decent work ethic. He took the ball and didn't even bother to look up as he fired it into the corner. Standard delirium from the away support followed.
I loved the players falling on top of each other. The connection with players and supporters is no myth, it exists away from N17. I also laughed at Jan telling a supporter not to join in and I burst out laughing at the one Spurs fan being dragged away by the stewards with a grin so demented he looked like he'd sucked in laughing gas from the Joker.
No last laughs for Daws and co. Red card or not, Hull lost their way. Spurs found theirs. That epiphany has me punching the air, not caring how crap we've been recently, just basking in the glory of another away day winner.
Gooners, Liverpool both lost. Spurs won. Pretty much the perfect weekend. I'm not even going to let the latest rumours of in-house disagreements and power-struggles ruin my mood although there's something in the suggestion that Pochettino's squad have not taken to his methods.
Onwards into the winter cold we march.