By Callum McCarthy
As you pass the “welcome” mat at Harry Redknapp’s front door, your attention may be drawn to the dartboard in the hallway.
“Is that really a picture of Michel Platini and Sepp Blatter peppered with holes?”
Tottenham Hotspur are the latest team to fall victim to badly timed international breaks, losing centre-back Michael Dawson for 6 weeks (knee and ankle) and hot-shot Jermain Defoe (ankle) until mid-December, both injured on international duty. To make matters worse, returning playmaker Luka Modric left the Hawthorns on crutches after limping off in the first half. All three will miss the trip to Bremen in midweek.
Spurs undoubtedly had one eye on their European excursion, and it showed in their lacklustre performance on Saturday afternoon. It was a game they could — and possibly should — have lost.
They started well, Aaron Lennon firing over from 12 yards, before new signing Rafael Van Der Vaart provided the first of what Spurs will hope to be many assists — a left footed cross from the right that acted as a magnet for anything in blue and white. As Pavlyuchenko was crowded out by two defenders, the ball ricocheted to the allegedly healthy Modric (photo), who smashed one low past Carson.
1-0, a wide smile and a Bebeto-style cradle celebration to boot.
Just five minutes later, that smile was gone. What looked like an innocuous clash left him prone and in considerable pain, clutching the same shin he broke toward the end of last season in the exact same spot. Spurs now nervously await a scan that will show the extent of the damage, which is feared to be a re-fracture.
Any momentum that Tottenham were riding after their goal had gone. West Brom had the ball down and were playing it, well. Towering midfielder Paul Scharner was controlling the tempo, and winger Chris Brunt (photo) was causing Spurs every problem in the book. Direct runs and dangerous passing was causing a noticeably unfit Spurs considerable distress, and it would be Brunt to level things up.
Marc-Antoine Fortune thundered past new (and unfit) signing William Gallas, firing a shot in that Cudicini could only parry. As the ball went up, the Italian scrambled, only to be beaten to it by Peter Odemwingie, who headed the ball to Brunt for a simple finish from a meagre distance.
1-1, and West Brom looked like they could do some real damage.
In the second half, Tottenham came out firing. Younes Kaboul had a 35 yard free kick blocked by Carson, and Gareth Bale’s penetrative run and shot met the same fate. Such high tempo desperation from Spurs seemed to do more harm than good however, as slowly but surely, they ran out of steam.
West Brom smelled blood late on, and should have had the winner.
Jonas Olsson and Odemwingie were superbly denied by Cudicini, but it would be Gabriel Tamas, Romanian defender extraordinaire, who would royally screw everything up for the Baggies. The former Romanian under-21 skipper would miss a gaping net with just minutes to go, ruining his side’s chances of taking all three points.
For a team that have been hyped this much, Spurs have been terribly disappointing. On top of their injury problems, Tottenham’s new signings are unfit to say the least, and it will take time for them to gel both on the pitch and on the training ground. Manager Harry Redknapp has a long September ahead of him in which he must prepare his team for the rigors of a dual competition schedule, and rely on good form from bit-part players to keep Spurs’ Top 4 ambitions alive.
A difficult trip to Bremen has the potential of compounding Spurs’ misery, but with this being their first ever Champions League fixture, the adrenaline of the occasion may just see them through.