When writing a column like this, it can sometimes be hard to come up with a subject that can stretch to the word count. Other days, you get thrown something that makes you look up to the footballing heavens and say “thank you, footballing gods, thank you.” Tottenham’s match with Wigan definitely falls in to the latter category. Hands up who saw that one coming?
After his heartbreaking midweek exploits in Paris, Robbie Keane was left on the bench to have a 90 minute breather. On this occasion, Spurs did not miss him. If Keane was able to enjoy seeing his team score nine without him, then he might have allowed himself a rye smile at the sole Wigan reply. Having seen his World Cup dreams disintegrate at the hands of Thierry Henry, he then watched on as a team he belonged to conceded a very dodgy handball goal for the second time inside a week. Paul Scharner’s blatant arm-control will not have garnered many, if any, headlines, but the similarities with Henry’s goal are too large for it not to be given at least a cursory mention given the current climate.
French defender Patrice Evra has offered to replay the France vs. Ireland game on his Playstation, and the happenings at White Hart Lane were more akin to something found on a computer game pitch than a real one. The headlines were stolen by two players who are almost certain to be on the flight to South Africa next summer. Jermain Defoe became just the third player since the Sky revolution to net five goals in a top flight game and Aaron Lennon was in rampaging form on the right wing. Both players will be hoping that Fabio Capello has seen the DVD because, on this evidence, their plane tickets are as good as booked.
If ever there was a game of two halves, this was it. Although it was mostly the solid goalkeeping of Chris Kirkland that kept the score down before half-time, the first half still only saw the back of the net bulge once. Fast forward another 45 minutes and nine further goals had been celebrated, eight of them resulting in the previously impressive Kirkland doing his old back problems no good by bending over to pick the ball out of his net. Wigan’s defensive capitulation was spectacular, but credit must go to the home side who could easily have settled for what they had got when the goal count reached four and five.
Harry Redknapp was keen to praise his whole team, but it was the England duo of Defoe and Lennon, and Croatian midfielder Niko Kranjcar, who got the really glowing reports. He beamed: “Aaron was great and great goals for Jermain. Niko Kranjcar was fantastic. Some of the ability he showed out there today was top, top class. You’ve got to enjoy the good times and it was a good day today.” To Redknapp’s credit, he did not gloat, despite leading his team to the club’s biggest ever top-flight win, and offered his sincere consolations to opposing manager Roberto Martinez: “I feel for Roberto today. It’s not easy for him standing watching that. Seeing all the goals flying in, all you want is the final whistle to go. They will pick themselves up next week and come out even stronger. He’s a fantastic young manager in my opinion.”
A thought must be spared for the hapless Erik Edman who suffered a torrid return to his old stomping ground. The Wigan left-back had not long returned to the Latics side after injury and the last thing he needed to test his recovery was to come up against the flying Lennon in this form. The Swedish defender did not have a clue how to handle the England winger and consistently made the wrong choice as to whether to close Lennon down or stand his ground. Even when the ball came nowhere near Lennon, he was still causing big problems. One of Defoe’s quintuplet came as a result of space created by his international colleague who had pulled Edman out to the flank. Defoe was left with space inside and was duly picked out with a through ball from Vedran Corluka. For his part, Defoe was absolutely lethal in his finishing, giving Kirkland no chance time and again. Redknapp attributed his frontman’s upturn in form this season to new-found physical strength. He said: “He’s got stronger this season and is using his upper body strength a bit more and holding people off and Capello will be impressed.”