People who got here really early got to enjoy this excerpt from Amy Lawrence's interview with soon-to-be red card victim Younes Kaboul. There's no reason why latecomers shouldn't be allowed a similar pleasure:
Younès Kaboul chuckles at the notion that he is like one of those adverts for a before and after transformation. Here is the man with premature baldness who develops a fine head of hair. Check out the overweight lady who becomes slimline. Look at how the footballer who used to appear anxious, erratic and overpriced has become composed, dependable and going places.
Splitting the two phases of Kaboul's Tottenham career – he spent one inconsistent season at White Hart Lane in 2007-08, was sold to Portsmouth, then summoned back to north London after two years at Fratton Park – works on two levels. Not only does the player feel like a new man, the club has undergone a revolution, too. Look at how the team which used to fall short have become contenders.
"When I came back here it was a different club," he says. "The direction, the mentality of the club, is more focused, more excited about playing Champions League. That's what gave us more power here. That's why everyone respects the club now. They saw we had a beautiful season last year with the Champions League. That's why we want to fight again every day to make sure we are there next season."
Article continues here, for completists. Anyway, on with the show.
Hello world! Tottenham's title-bound juggernaut is preparing for the greatest test a team can face: a cold, wet day in Stoke. Or are nights worse? Anyway, I read that 36% of the goals Stoke have scored have been from headers, the highest proportion in the top flight, and 64% of their goals have come from set pieces, another Premier League high.
Some encouragement for Tony Pulis, then: the team which has conceded proportionally the most goals from headers, with 31%, is Tottenham. Some discouragement will shortly follow. Shall we have some teams? Why not, eh?
Stoke: Sorensen; Woodgate, Shawcross, Huth, Wilson; Shotton, Whelan, Whitehead, Etherington; Walters, Crouch. Subs: Begovic, Jones, Fuller, Upson, Delap, Jerome, Palacios.
Tottenham: Friedel; Walker, Gallas, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Modric, Parker, Bale; Van der Vaart; Adebayor. Subs: Gomes, Bassong, Corluka, Giovani, Pienaar, Sandro, Defoe.
Other stats of note: Tottenham have won their last six games, something they last managed in 1990. They haven't won seven on the spin since 1967. Avoid defeat for the 12th match in a row and it will be their longest unbeaten run since 1984/85.
this. I am imagining the possibility of producing a beverage that tastes of wee and induces poo.In totally unrelated news – and I should warn you that this is about as off-piste as MBM updates get – I couldn't help raising an eyebrow at
The teams are trotting out, Tottenham in their rather dashing lilac away strip. Action is just a short ad-break away.
Spurs have won here in the last two seasons, and are enjoying their best form in approximately ever. So why do I get a niggling feeling that they could lose this? Don't worry, I'll delete this later if they win 6-0.
1 min: Peeeeep! They're off!
1 min: Great save! A long throw from Shotton – not up to Delap standards, but not bad – is flicked on at the near post by Assou-Ekotto, but it's not a great header and loops towards Etherington, whose volley is low, on target, and only just pushed round the post.
3 mins: Modric curls the ball with the outside of his right foot out of play for a Stoke throw-in. He even gives the ball away beautifully, but he looked a little scared of possession there.
4 mins: The first mention in commentary of the fact that Peter Crouch has long legs.
5 mins: Shotton steals the ball from Assou-Ekotto and hares into the area, but his shot is skewed wide, with William Gallas nibbling at his ankles.
6 mins: Modric just challenged Crouch for a header. A ridiculous sight, though I remember once seeing Anthony McNamee, then at Watford but now at Wycombe (he scored on his debut yesterday), try to beat Sami Hyypia in the air, and there'll never be a mismatch to match that one.
8 mins: Shot! Etherington cuts in from the left and unleashes a shot from 20 yards which is low, hard, but much more comfortable for Friedel than his last one.
10 mins: Half-chance! Another long throw from Shotton, which Crouch wins, and a Spurs defender manages to head over. A good start for the home side, this.
11 min: A good Spurs counter-attack and the first time that Bale has found space on the left. Released after a pretty Adebayor backheel and Scott Parker's short poke, he hammers a low ball across the penalty area, but it's cleared at the near post.
13 mins: "Where on earth are Woodgate and Shotton playing? Right and left back?" asks Alex Cowell. Looks to me like Woodgate is at right back and Shotton at right midfield.
13 mins: Quarter-chance! Another long throw from Shotton, which skims off Adebayor's head but Crouch can't control.
GOAL! Stoke 1 Tottenham 0! (Etherington, 13mins)
13 mins: Shotton again sends the ball into the area, this time with his feet. Walters flicks it on to Crouch, whose heavy touch takes the ball wide of goal, but he conjures a shot which is deflected into the path of the onrushing Etherington, who slams the ball home.
15 mins: The day's first chorus of Delilah. Stoke have been excellent so far, but the pace they are playing at is surely unsustainable. Surely?
17 mins: Parker is fouled, but he pops up and in an instant has taken the free-kick, before any Stoke player is ready for it. Fortunately for them, it's rubbish.
18 mins: Walters' cross from the right is only just too high for Crouch in the middle.
19 mins: Another contender for football's all-time greatest mismatches: "Patrick Vieira and Gordon Strachan chasing the same ball," writes David Acaster. "Vieira just loping along and wee Gordon's legs going like a flicker book. The whole crowd at Highfield Road laughed." Yes, that does sound good.
23 mins: Another Shotton long-throw has Spurs hearts in mouths. See, I always assumed that when Rory Delap finally got too old, Stoke would have to find a new tactic. Instead, they've just found a new long-throw specialist.
26 mins: Whelan takes a corner from the left wing, and Huth rises above everyone (not entirely surprisingly) only to send his header high.
28 mins: Spurs have the ball for a bit, and for an instant – when Modric finds Assou-Ekotto on the left, and he cuts inside his man and into space – it looks like something might happen for them, but they overcomplicate things and Modric eventually tries to dribble past a wall of gians and gives the ball away.
30 mins: Spurs have had their best spell, since I wrote that they'd just had their best spell. It's ended by Aaron Lennon being hacked down by makeshift right-back Jonathan Woodgate – he's booked.
31 mins: Good save! Spurs are passing the ball around nicely now, and Modric unleashes a blistering low shot from 30 yards that Sorensen only just gets down to stop.
35 mins: A flatter few minutes, played out in an overcrowded midfield. Stoke have ventured forward a couple of times, on both occasions giving away free-kicks as soon as they got into the penalty area.
37 mins: Adebayor prods the ball back to Parker, 25 yards from goal. He shuffles the ball on to someone else just as Woodgate arrives, and then collapses in apparent agony. The referee waves play on, and Lennon does go on to have a vaguely decent shot on goal, but Woodgate was pretty close to getting a second booking there.
40 mins: I've just noticed that, to judge from the faded pitch markings, Stoke have recently shortened the pitch by about four or five yards at both ends.
42 mins: Tottenham's effort is being entirely focused down their left wing, where Aaron Lennon is based (having swapped sides with Bale about 10 minutes ago). This is getting a bit predictable, but is also bad news for Woodgate, who's going to find himself in another race with Lennon soon.
GOAL! Stoke 2 Tottenham 0 (Etherington, 42mins)
42 mins: It's another long throw from the right, flicked on I think by Walters at the near post, and even though Etherington mishits his shot it still floats past first Kaboul, and then Friedel.
45 mins: "Other pitch markings are for Europa League," point-of-informations Gary, from Stoke, as the players launch into the first of two stoppage-time minutes. "Their minimum sizes are larger than the Premier League, so Stoke constantly have to increase length and width of pitch for Euro-Thursdays."
45+2 mins: Peeeeeeep! That's half-time. Crikey.
Half-time thoughts: Excellent Stoke performance. They were brilliant in those opening 15 minutes, and thoroughly deserved their first goal at the time. They couldn't sustain that pace, but even when they weren't seeing much of the ball they have restricted Tottenham's opportunities, and then they've gone and grabbed a second. Brilliant stuff. This really is a test of Tottenham's mettle now.
Someone else's half-time thoughts: Dave Young has admired my new photo, that highlights Scott Parker's reaction to the first goal. "But what's he got down his shorts, Simon – a half-time banana?" Don't make me look there, Dave.
Someone else's half-time thoughts: Harry Redknapp's, in this case. Spurs are making changes: Defoe coming on for Lennon, and Bassong for Assou-Ekotto.
46 mins: Peeeeeeep! They're off! Again!
46 mins: I love to see someone sprint and appeal to the referee for handball at the same time. It's basically impossible to combine the two actions with any grace, as Walker has just proved.
48 mins: Stoke are back on the front foot. Spurs fail to deal with Shotton's long throw, or with Shotton's cross (when the ball is worked back to him). Eventually he wins a corner, which is cleared at the near post.
50 mins: A lovely ball sends Walters clear on the right of Stoke's penalty area, and his cross is cleared just as Crouch prepared to head it. I didn't see whose lovely ball it was. Sorry, lovely-ball player.
52 mins: Chance! Spurs win a corner, which is taken by Modric and met by Bassong, on the penalty spot and totally unmarked. The ball flies over the bar, but he should have worked the goalkeeper there, as they say.
55 mins: Crouch wins another Shotton long throw, but the ball doesn't go anywhere useful. Spurs have been really uncomfortable from those long throws today.
57 mins: To say that the introduction of Defoe has yet to revolutionise the game would be understating matters. He just tackled Crouch, conceding a throw-in – possibly his first touch.
59 mins: Defoe's just sent the ball screaming over the bar from 20 yards. Gareth Bale is quite upset about it.
60 mins: A lovely cross by Bale, which Shawcross sends out of play with a near-post diving header. Still, though, Spurs yet to have a decent chance.
61 mins: Chance! A lovely cross by Walker, but Parker and Defoe are the two men in the box, and it just misses them. Still, nearly an own goal at the back post.
62 mins: Penalty! Modric jinks past Whelan in the penalty area, and he sticks out a foot. It's withdrawn pretty quickly, but by then Modric has fallen over it.
GOAL! Stoke 2 Tottenham 1 (Adebayor 62pen) The in-form frontman sends Sorensen the wrong way, and Spurs are back in the game.
64 mins: The home fans are not happy with Modric, whose every touch and hair-flick is being very loudly booed, and there are regular chants of "cheat cheat cheat" and "same old Tottenham, always cheating". I don't think there was a lot of contact there, but Whelan did stick out a leg, and that's an invitation to win a free penalty. I don't think they'd be embarrassed if one of their own players had won it.
65 mins: Parker's explosive 20-yard shot is turned away in eye-catching style by Sorensen.
66 mins: Adebayor, just inside the penalty area, shifts the ball onto his right foot and curls the ball goalwards. It goes maybe a yard wide.
67 mins: In the meantime, Kaboul was pulled down in the penalty area by Shawcross as the pair contested a corner. The referee didn't see it, but that could have been a second penalty.
68 mins: Wilson's 25-yard free-kick is deflected over the bar. "There is something refreshing about how having some tall blokes you hoof it to in the box is enough to keep you middle of the table in the Premier League," writes Damian Durrant. " A nice antidote to the tiki-taka in vogue. I would love to see Stoke do this to the shorties of Barça." That's something to look forward to when Stoke get into the Champions League.
70 mins: "Modric took two steps before falling over," rages Pete Marland of the Croatian midfielder, who is still being booed. "Had that been Suárez people would be screaming dive. But as it's a London based Spurs player I expect it will be judged he had every right to fall over a few seconds after any possible contact." Conversely, from Niall Sheerin: "The Irish boys have been excellent tonight for Stoke, Walters in particular, and I'm fairly certain Whelan was the lovely-ball player of 50min fame, but he's just been sold by Modric there. I hope Glenn has learned his lesson for Poznan in June!" I don't think the decision was unacceptable, but then I'm from London, so who'd believe me?
72 mins: Stoke are, to put it mildly, fully assessing their options before taking any set pieces. The referee has just told them to get a ruddy move on.
74 mins: Modric's shot from 20 yards is slightly deflected and well saved.
74 mins: Goalline clearance! Modric crosses from the left with his right foot, Defoe just missing it in the middle – I think because Shawcross gave him a tug. Kaboul picks up the ball, and his shot is cleared off the line by Shawcross, with his elbow. The ball is sent back in, where Adebayor turns the ball in but is given offside (though he probably wasn't). That should have been two penalties and a goal for Spurs.
78 mins: Parker runs to the byline, on the left side of the penalty area, and pulls the ball back for Defoe. His shot is blocked, and Spurs claim another handball.
78 mins: Modric plays the corner short, and to a Stoke player. The home side break, 4 v 3, but Shotton runs out of space and into a defender.
80 mins: In the last three minutes the referee, in addition to not giving Spurs any of about eight possible penalties, has decided that two very obvious corners should be goal kicks. Now Bale's lovely low ball has trundled across goal with nobody on hand to put it in (Defoe had pulled back towards the edge of the penalty area, a run which suggests that he's never watched Bale play before).
82 mins: RED CARD! Kaboul has been sent off for a second bookable offence. Etherington's pass had sent Walters through on the left, and Kaboul very much made the most of any contact (though Kaboul had no reason to go anywhere very near him).
84 mins: Stoke bring Rory Delap on for Jonathan Woodgate. "So, in the minutes since the Modric penalty, Foy has twice missed Stoke players pulling down Spurs attackers in the box and a clear handball," writes Jonathan Francis. "His official also missed an obviously onside Adebayor goal. Think Pullis will recognize these facts after the game when he discusses the refereeing decisions? Me neither."
85 mins: Great save! Etherington's corner, Shawcross's excellent near-post header, Friedel's great save. From the ensuing corner they try a repeat: Etherington's ball in, Shawcross's near-post header. This time the angle is less favourable, but the ball still clips the bar on its way over.
88 mins: Giovani comes on for Rafael van der Vaart, which I think is the first time I've mentioned the Dutchman today.
89 mins: Etherington is also coming off, for Wilson Palacios.
90 mins: There will be five minutes of stoppage time. Five! On the pitch there's all sorts of break and counter-break going on.
90+2 mins: Parker, having given the ball away, is booked for bringing Crouch down as he attempted to win it back.
90+3 mins: Tottenham take a long throw! But Stoke deal with it very easily. I guess they get a lot of practice in training. Plus, Gareth Bale is no Rory Delap.
90+5 mins: Stoke play Delap through on goal, and Defoe pops up in defence to dispossess him. Double improbability.
90+6 mins: Peeeeeeeep! It's all over, and Tottenham's unbeaten run is over! They'll be a bit peeved about it, I'd have thought.