Finally, Tottenham's season is over
If only the season had started on the last day -- or perhaps not. On reflection, it's better for everyone at White Hart Lane that this season ended as soon as possible. After all, most of the players have been doing little more than going through the motions for the past six weeks.
A 3-0 victory over Aston Villa that ensured Spurs of a sixth-place finish and the doubtful privilege of playing Thursday night football in the Europa league next year gave glimpses of what might have been. Spurs were never less than comfortable and at times in the first half looked more than that.
Paulinho gave the crowd a rare sighting of his natural talent, scoring the first goal and being at the forefront of most attacking moves. Harry Kane made a nuisance of himself and could have scored a brace. At the back, Michael Dawson and Vlad Chiriches had one of their easier games.
The home side were well worth their three-goal halftime lead. Their dominance was almost total and had they taken all their chances, they might have scored five or six. That their second and third goals came from an own goal and a penalty was tellingly symptomatic of the season. Whenever Spurs have been on top for extended periods of play, they have struggle to convert their pressure into goals. This time they found opponents who were generous enough to do that for them.
Villa, though, were awful. They played like a team that were pleased merely to have avoided relegation and their only sense of purpose appeared to be to ensure that their manager, Paul Lambert, is sacked as soon as possible. If Spurs manager Tim Sherwood believes he has had problems with some of his players' attitude and desire, then he has nothing on Lambert. A shot from outside the box that flashed well wide in the 43rd minute was the closest Villa came to troubling Hugo Lloris in the first half.
It would have been a kindness to all concerned -- especially the fans -- if both teams had shaken hands on the result at the interval. The second half was a total non-event; spectators going to Ledley King's testimonial at White Hart Lane on Monday will see a more skilful, competitive game. To be fair to Villa, the Midlands side merely maintained their performance levels of the first half.
The difference was that Spurs used the second half to descend to their standard. Emmanuel Adebayor repeatedly failed to get back quickly enough and was caught offside, Paulinho did his familiar disappearing trick, Kyle Naughton and Danny Rose competed with one another to give the ball away. The others just huffed without much puffing.
The only real excitement to be had was from the visiting Villa fans, who had come to White Hart Lane in fancy dress determined to enjoy their day out. And when their team didn't provide any entertainment they laid on their own by cheering imaginary goals. But even they were pleased when the game came to the end. As must have been the fourth official: despite six second half substitutions and a long delay while Villa keeper Brad Guzan was treated after a clash with Harry Kane, the official only added two extra minutes. That got the biggest cheer of the day.
At the end of the game, Spurs fans were asked to stay behind so that the home players could do their traditional end of season lap of honour. In recent seasons, the ground has remained almost full. Today it was two-thirds empty. If the club's directors had any lingering doubts about the strength of the fans' disappointment with this season, they won't now. The silence said it all.