Tottenham break character and show their backbone 3

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“We played like a team. We never gave up, always believed and this is important.”

Mauricio Pochettino’s English may still be in its formative stages and he is yet to escape the platitudes, but something rang very true in his post-game comments this evening.

Tottenham left Upton Park today have taken all three points despite having endured a numerical disadvantage for the majority of the game.  Eric Dier’s late goal felt like the culmination of a mugging, but on reflection it was a win that the visitors thoroughly deserved and the young debutant’s composed finish and the team’s exuberant celebrations in front of the traveling fans was a perfect precis of everything that happened this afternoon.

Tottenham were composed. Tottenham were spirited. Tottenham worked their balls off.

As any Spurs fan will tell you, there’s something in their team’s DNA which makes them short-circuit at even the slightest exposure to adverse circumstances. So in the 29th minute, with Kyle Naughton trudging off the field and the ball on the penalty-spot, the supporters were probably braced for another Tottenham clusterfuck.

Not so much.

Sam Allardyce will spend the evening spreading his self-serving rhetoric through the media and talking about chances created, the balance of play, and bad luck, but none of that matters.  There’s no currency worth quite as much as winning in the Premier League, and Allardyce would be better served examining his own side’s mental fragility and their failure to take proper control of a game they were being gifted.

Conversely, Pochettino has every right to be very proud.  This is the opening day of the season and hasty conclusions will make fools out of all of us, but it’s worth noting that this wasn’t a game in which Tottenham lived on a wing and a prayer - rather, it was one in which they provided a good example of how to adapt to their changing circumstances and work their way through to the other side.

There’s was no defeatism or sulking and definitely no surrendering to misfortune.  That may sound like feint praise, but this is a club who have been characterised by their softness all the way through the Premier League era.

Tottenham relied on some very good individual performance today - and Hugo Lloris’ outstanding late denial of Stewart Downing - but they also operated very cohesively and with a trust for the system that they were playing.  Even with ten men, they relied on method rather than panic and West Ham were impressively contained considering how little time Pochettino has had to drill his team.

It’s just a start, but it was still an impressive one.

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