x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Divide yet to be conquered

William Gallas will have to improve, quick, if he is to win the hearts and minds of Tottenham fans, says Paul Radley.

William Gallas, the former Arsenal defender, endured a lacklustre debut for Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, his first for the club since crossing the north London divide.
William Gallas, the former Arsenal defender, endured a lacklustre debut for Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, his first for the club since crossing the north London divide.

As Parker set his late shot off on its high, wistful parabola, he had plenty of time to muse on what might have been. What if his mum and dad had demanded more royalties from that McDonald's advert he starred in when he was a kid? What if he had not thrown in his lot with Chelsea in favour of a move to low-flying Newcastle United five years ago?

What if Fabio Capello had realised that a fully fit Gareth Barry was not the World Cup answer, let alone a barely fit one? What if he had expressed a little more eagerness to move when Liverpool came calling for him this summer? Then the ball struck the back of the net, and he was still playing for West Ham United, still bottom of the Premier League, and still having to answer to Avram Grant.

When Tim Cahill's trademark header brought his side back to 3-2 with 90 seconds left of injury time, it prompted the sort of cheer from the Gwladys Street end that meant: "Oh, that was unexpected. I'm glad I stayed now." Few among the Goodison Park faithful might have expected their side would then go on to equalise (let alone have a chance to seal a win). Then Everton retrieved possession, slung it into the mixer, Cahill got his head on it again, and Mikel Arteta, everyone's favourite Anglo-Basque midfield maestro, smashed the loose ball home.

Cue pandemonium on Gwladys Street, and a quick retraction from Efan Ekoku on commentary for deigning to suggest the game was over at 3-1, as well as for doubting the wisdom of David Moyes, the Toffees manager. Cue, too, Sir Alex Ferguson, his Manchester united counterpart, trading in his Rolex for a new model: Fergie Time is not supposed to work like this.

England's finest performer at this summer's World Cup earned himself an extended holiday for his exploits in South Africa. The smiling Yorkshireman Howard Webb brandished 13 yellow cards and a red in the World Cup final, and made himself Public Enemy No 1 in Holland as a result. Ironically, referee Webb handed out the first card of his return to Premier League duty for a foul on a Dutchman, the new Tottenham Hotspur playmaker, Rafael van der Vaart. He even took time out to treat an eye problem suffered by the same player later in the game. So no hard feelings there, then.

After a pair of stellar displays for his country during the international break, England's No 1 was probably starting to think he could walk on water. He has now learned that walking on slightly sodden grass 10 yards outside of your penalty area, with no good reason, brings with it its own perils. Pride comes before a fall. For all the plaudits Hart has been receiving for his brilliance between the posts for club and country, he should still leave the defending to those who are paid handsomely to do it. The incredulous smile of Manchester City's captain and centre-half, Kolo Toure, said it all, after his goalkeeper decided to go walkabout to allow Blackburn Rovers to score the calamitous opening goal at Eastlands. What was he thinking?

Given the way he has turned the club around since arriving at White Hart Lane, Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham manager, probably has a point when he says Spurs fans should trust his judgement.

However, the jury is likely to remain in session for a long time on the signing of William Gallas, the former Arsenal captain, going by his lacklustre first appearance since crossing the north London divide. West Bromwich Albion's supporters welcomed him to The Hawthorns with a rendition of, "Gallas is an Arsenal fan." And that was about the highlight for the veteran Frenchman. Judging by his passing on Saturday, Gallas has yet to be introduced to the majority of his new teammates.

The little-heralded Marc-Antoine Fortune strolled past him to set up the home side's goal. The striker generally gave him a torrid time all afternoon, which reached its nadir when he was booked for fouling him. Gallas could have righted the wrongs when a chance to score the winner fell his way three yards out, but he ballooned it over the bar. Gallas will have to get better for Spurs; he cannot get much worse.

pradley@thenational.ae