Preamble: Evening all. Are we well? Good, good. Me? Fair-to-middling I'd say, and it'd be closer to middling if it weren't for tonight's festival of football under the floodlights at White Hart Lane. And when I say "festival", I of course mean "game", but there's no reason it shouldn't be a good 'un.
You can't help but feel that Villa are there for the taking this evening. Alex McLeish's side may be riding perfectly high – they're eighth after all – but they've won only three times this season, those victories coming against Wigan (20th), Blackburn (19th) and Norwich (11th). They've drawn with Fulham, Wolves, Sunderland, they've lost to West Brom. And they've had a fairly soft start to the season, only playing two of the teams above them in the table – Newcastle, who held them to a 1-1 draw at Villa Park, and Manchester City, who dished out a predictable 4-1 spanking at Eastlands.
Spurs, meanwhile, have been strutting through their fixture list. Seven wins and a draw in their last eight matches see them level on points with Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea but with two games in hand.
The teams are in:
Spurs: Friedel; Walker, Kaboul, King, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Modric, Parker, Bale; Van der Vaart; Adebayor
Villa: Given, Cuellar, Dunne, Collins, Warnock; Hutton, Petrov, Herd, Heskey; Agbonlahor, Bent.
So just the four full-backs for Aston Villa. Hutton is likely to play right midfield, presumably to combat Gareth Bale. Chris Herd resumes his defensive central midfield role.
A bit of an early riff for you. Fans decorating their cars/vehicles. A Twitter hunt has produced this classy effort from Gillingham and the wonderful Northwich Victoria Supporters Bus. More suggestions warmly welcomed.
This kicks off a very, very tricky run of fixtures for Villa. Between tonight and New Year's Day they've got eight games: Tottenham, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea, plus away trips to Stoke, Swansea and Bolton. It's going to be a tough few weeks for McLeish's side.
"Once he gets his legs open, he's unstoppable," opines Gary Neville of Gareth Bale. Stop sniggering at the back.
The Manchester City mobile. Yikes!Steve Gaw points us towards another very tasteful way of getting around:
Click-clack, click-clack … out come the players.
ADVERTS, ADVERTS, ADVERTS … Buy a stereo, go to a hotel with Lennie Henry …
Peep! Off we go then. Villa get things under way at a misty White Hart Lane. Mist, floodlights, evening kick-off … lovely.
1 min: Heskey gets his head on a Petrov cross to the backpost. Tottenham clear, but the ball finds its way back in to Bent who wangs the thing off towards Essex. Snatched at that just a touch.
2 min: Walker shimmies and shakes his way towards the byline, but its a poor cross and cleared. "Here's one more car directly from São Paulo, Brazil," writes Allan de Matos. "A beautiful beetle from SE Palmeiras." That is something rather special.
3 min: Bale zips down the left and zips a cross into Adebayor. The striker zips it back to the Welshman … though he was trying to control it. Villa clear.
4 min: Van der Vaart sidesteps into space on the edge of the box but can't find Adebayor. Emile Heskey is playing on the left of midfield with Agbonlahor and Bent up front. He'll have plenty of defensive work to do on this early evidence.
5 min: Ryan Dunne presents Alex McLeish: On Second Thoughts. "Am hoping Villa get at least a point tonight. hopefully leading to a reappraisal of the very harsh verdicts on Big Eck's management nous (compare and contrast with Martin O'Neil - who didn't win any more trophies than McLeish when the two were going head to head in Scotland). On top of which, any fan of the Glorious Glasgow Rangers will fondly remember the treble, Helicopter Sunday and making the last 16 of the Champions League. Admittedly, that same time also involved some horrendous lows, but surely - if one is a supporter of an English Diddy Team - some lows are worth tolerating for once-in-a-lifetime highs like the league cup win? Any sign of the Villa fans warming to McLeish, or are the natives still revolting?" I think this winter programme will be decisive on that score.
7 min: Adebayor, Van der Vaart, Bale, Assou-Ekotto, Parker, Assou-Ekotto, Bale, Parker, Modric, Van der Vaart, Walker, Van der Vaart, Parker … Spurs are knocking it about very comfortably and making progress. Worrying signs for Villa.
10 min: Parker dinks one in, Warnock tidies up but Villa are under the cosh.
11 min: SITTER! Lennon skips past Warnock like a man on a moped skipping round a bollard. His cross finds Adebayor six, maybe eight, yards out, but he glances his header wide of the post.
12 min: Adebayor runs Dunne, but the defender gets back well. Corner to Spurs …
13 min: … Lennon and Van der Vaart work a short one, Warnock heads clear but it drops out to Kaboul, whose volley deflects wide. Another corner …
GOAL!!! Tottenham 1-0 Aston Villa (Adebayor 14) … spectacular stuff from the striker. Villa can't clear the corner and as the ball drops back into the danger area, Adebayor is lonelier than an owl at a voles-only birthday party. He makes a solid contact with an overhead kick to beat Given.
15 min: "Hutton in midfield to (man)handle Bale - Levein will be watching on with interest for Scotlands WC qualification," reckons Scotsmo on Twitter. The Villa left has been the weaker area thus far, but in truth Spurs are surging forward in all areas, hot item of cutlery through your proverbial low fat spread.
17 min: Agbonhalor does well to win a corner off Kaboul …
18 min: … Heskey attempts to flick-on, but can only flick-behind-into-the-stands.
20 min: Modric is loose in midfield, but Villa can't take advantage.
22 min: "Why would an owl be lonely? Wouldn't it be rather fatter/ more sated?" wonders Alex. Yes, not an entirely satisfactory analogy was it? From another short corner, Van der Vaart spanks a shot into the side netting from an acute angle.
23 min: Terrific tackle from Parker denies Bent after Agbonlahor flicks on. Villa have come back into this since the goal.
24 min: Van der Vaart lofts a pass into the box, Adebayor, Crouch-style, flails at it in a rather ungainly manner and can't make proper contact.
26 min: Heskey takes a whack, but the magic sponge does the trick.
27 min: Another corner to Spurs, another short one. Every time a team takes a short corner I can't help but picture a fan with a look of tired fury seething: "We never score from short ones …" And they don't score from this one.
28 min: Van der Vaart's attempted lob drifts a couple of yards over the bar.
29 min: CHANCE! Agbonhalor feeds Heskey, who is bearing down on goal, albeit from a tightening angle. But rather than shooting, he looks to square it to Bent and overhits the pass.
31 min: Parker chops down Bent in midfield. A few tackles going in now. "Did Adebayor's overhead, pass the Messi test?" wonders Ian Copestake. "Namely, it was so good that had the little one scored it it would have been hailed a masterwork?" I think it probably would, yes.
33 min: Van der Vaart wastes a free-kick 40-odd yards from goal by attempting to shoot, and from the break Kaboul does well to stop Agbonlahor in his tracks. A horrible throat-high pass from Cuellar ends the attack.
34 min: "Are you West Ham in disguise?" sing the Spurs fans. It's not a very good disguise if they are.
35 min: "Re: fans decorating their cars," writes Jon Millard. "This bloke overdid it." Walker lands face-first after a challenge with Heskey. Looks like he's winded rather than broken.
37 min: Bit of a lull here, so here's another decorated car: A West Ham Mercedes courtesy of E7_Del on Twitter.
38 min: Bale can't quite get on the end of a lofted through-ball, but …
GOAL!!! Tottenham 2-0 Aston Villa (Adebayor 39) … Bale works half a yard of space against Cuellar and whips in a ball more dangerous than a hungry owl at a voles-only birthday party (better?). Collins desperately dives in at the near post but only succeeds in distracting Given, who fumbles and allows Adebayor to tap in from less than a yard.
41 min: That goal might be a bit of a shame for the neutral, as Villa looked to have weathered the storm, even if they hadn't looked like brewing up much thunder and lightning of their own. Tough tactical decision for McLeish now.
43 min: Poor through-ball from Adebayor fails to find Heskey after a loose Spurs pass in midfield.
44 min: Bale skips around Cuellar and draws a sliding tackle from Herd. The youngster is a touch late. Yellow card and a dangerous free-kick down by the corner quadrant …
45 min: … from which Modric, eventually, skews wide. "Is it my imagination," begins Chris Hawkins. Has he finally found something worth living for? Oh. No … "Or is Assou-Ekotto one of the best left-backs in the league?" Discuss.
45+2 min: Stats show Spurs have had almost as much possession as Regan MacNeil – 69%.
Peep! Peeeep! That'll do for the first 45. Tottenham couldn't be much more comfortable in a pair of sheepskin slippers.
Half-time tweets-and-email dept.
Jimmy McManners presents a Newcastle addition to our decorated club cars.
"Got to agree with Chris re BAE," writes Niall Sheerin. "Think the only LB in EPL who can touch him is Evra. With Walker at right back we've finally got a decent pair of full-backs."
"We're quite happy with everyone else thinking Disco Benny isn't any good," tweets rl3ao. "Its Spurs little secret."
"I wonder what's happened to that brilliant, dizzying camera stuck up there under the roof of the Lane?" writes Nikolaj Steen Møller. "Don't know if you've got the same picture, but this looks like some shambolic League One production and the camera is in row four, like at Highbury of all places. Get that coward up there on a ladder."
Personally, I have to say I quite like a low camera angle, once you get used to it. But then I watched two matches yesterday and found Millwall v Bristol City than Chelsea v Liverpool, so I'm probably not entirely normal.
Peep! Teams unchanged, Spurs get us going once more.
46 min: Heskey's ambitious swivel-and-pass on the edge of the Spurs box doesn't pay off, but it's Villa on the front foot.
47 min: Herd whips a superb cross in, Bent heads at goal, Friedel drops to his left to save. Decent chance that.
48 min: Lennon opens the taps down the right. Warnock is left trailing but Heskey does an excellent job of tracking back. The ball gets worked back to Van der Vaart, but his shot is straight at Given.
49 min: Lennon gives the ball away, Warnock whips in a cross, King heads behind. Corner …
50 min: … deep, too deep and Bent can't direct his header at goal. White Hart Lane has gone day-old-fizzy-pop flat at the start of this half, though.
51 min: Warnock clips a free-kick into the box, but there's a lack of hunger from the Villa players in the box. Friedel collects rather more nonchalantly than he should have been allowed to be.
52 min: ANOTHER SITTER! And again it's Adebayor. He should've had four tonight. This time he's clean through, bearing down on Given, but delays a touch too long, ends up slightly off-balance and can only guide his shot wide of the post.
54 min: Lennon mugs Dunne, Adebayor finds Van der Vaart, who attempts a china-cup-delicate cushioned pass for the onrushing Lennon but overhits the thing behind.
56 min: Lennon goes past Warnock again – I can't remember the Villa left-back stopping his once man this evening – and again Heskey dons his cape and comes to the rescue.
57 min: Warnock this time does well to deny Bale. Corner to Spurs … played out to Walker, who sends a swerving, dipping drive a yard wide of Given's post.
59 min: Adebayor flops over in the box. White Hart Lane howls for a penalty, but there's nothing doing. Meantime, Jon Matthews directs us towards Arsene Wenger's face on a car. "The Guardian shouldn't mock, mind," he adds. "You were flogging tickets for it."
60 min: Replays suggest that penalty shout was actually not as optimistic as I first thought, but still not much more convincing than an owl wearing a pair of false whiskers attempting to get into a voles-only birthday party.
61 min: Bale charges through the centre of the Villa defence, leaving desperate tackles in his wake. He feeds Adebayor, who curls a lovely effort wide of Given but a foot wide of the post.
62 min: "Here's hoping Abedayor gets his hat-trick so we get part three of your owl-at-a-vole-party riff," writes Justin Kavanagh. Yeah, I got tired of waiting and slung it in apropos of not very much. On comes Barry Bannan in place of Carlos Cuellar.
64 min: Parker does superbly to deny Agbonlahor, who gets on the end of a fine Herd ball over the top.
66 min: "As a recent emigrant to the US (since yesterday) thought I would tell you I just clicked in to check score as have already given up watching highlights after work on US TV," writes Robert Lowery, whose missing out on some excellent owl-and-vole-based stuff. "Turned on chelsea vs. Liverpool to discover half-time expert punditry and analysis (yes, PUNDITRY not banal presentation) provided by Piers Morgan! Suddenly the Dunphy/ Giles douible act seems fresh, insightful and inspiring again."
68 min: Bale flashes a shot at goal, which thwacks satisfyingly into the meaty paws of Shay Given.
69 min: Van der Vaart makes way for Jermain Defoe, making his ninth appearance of the season (his fifth as a substitute).
70 min: A Villa corner sparks a bit of a scramble, but Kaboul sorts out the mess with a thumping header away. James Stevenson on Assou-Ekotto: "Definitely up there as one of the best left backs. Doesn't threaten to burst past people, but his touch and passing is SO good that he can be relied upon to play in opponents half and not give the ball away. I was lucky enough to be at the San Siro for Bale's hat-trick, and watching Benoit and Alan Hutton (then of Spurs) warming up for that game by hitting long passes to each other, the difference in quality between them was astonishing. Hutton never had to move, whereas Assou-Ekotto was getting a real work-out. And just look at them now..."
71 min: "Liking the 'owl-at-a-vole-party' riff," writes Philby1976 on Twitter. "Shrew-d move." Oh dear. Do we really want to go there?
73 min: A lengthy spell of possesion for Villa ends with an optimistic ball over the top towards Hutton – well I say towards Hutton, it's more in the general, vague direction of Hutton – goes out for a goal kick.
75 min: Pass, pass, pass from Spurs …
76 min: A Modric cross sparks an almighty scramble – Given gets a hand to it, Defoe attempts to backheel it in but Given blocks, the ball breaks loose to Adebayor who gives it the laces but is denied by a brave block from the keeper.
78 min: "Yes. I think we should gopher it," opines Jon Millard. I don't know. You lot. The slightest encouragement. And thanks to all who reckon it would be a "hoot". To be honest, there might not be a great deal to report on in these last 10 minutes. Spurs might nick another I suppose, but Villa looks a beaten team. Indeed, they are a beaten team this evening.
80 min: It's amazing how an MBM can unfold. I thought I'd managed a reasonably high-brow affair: a bit of tactics chat, praise for an under-rated full-back, a bit of quirky chat about football vehicles. Now I'm posting a video of an owl in training for a voles-only birthday party.
82 min: The aforementioned under-rated full-back Assou-Ekotto wriggles a bit of space down the left but his unselfish cut-back is snuffed out. Villa clear the corner but here comes another …
83 min: … cleared again but Villa remain under pressure. This might be a long last 10 and a long journey back up the M1 for the visitors.
84 min: Petrov scythes down Bale on the edge of the box to earn the second yellow card of the evening (and the second awarded for challenges on Bale). That was an ugly one too.
85 min: Petrov reads Modric's free-kick and gets a block in. "Robert Lowery (66 mins), my fellow emigre, you have much to learn," writes Eugene Montague. "Piers Morgan is British (tr. English) so he obviously knows everything worth knowing about soccer (tr. football). Plus it was really weird (tr. highly unusual) for EPL (tr. football) to be on network tv (tr. free telly) on a Sunday afternoon (tr. American football's holy time), so we really can't complain. You'll learn to be grateful for the crumbs over here …"
86 min: Herd is replaced by the former Leeds youngster Fabien Delph, whose Villa career is yet to properly ignite. Five minutes against a rampant Tottenham – not the best birthday present for the midfielder who is 22 today
89 min: Sandro replaces Luca Modric – he's been tidy, but it says a lot for how well Spurs are playing that the little Croatian has probably been the least notable of Spurs' midfield four (or five if you want to include Van der Vaart).
90 min: Two minutes of added time, so Villa's pain won't be dragged out too long. This has been exceptionally one-sided, though, in truth.
Peep! Peep!! PEEEEEEEP!!! All over. An ominously good Spurs go third. An ominously weak Villa travel home with all they deserve.
Right that's it from me. Thanks for all your emails and tweets – some made me laugh out loud. I'll leave you, obviously, with two more owl-based videos. One that is frankly terrifying. "I think this video fairly depicts what it would be like to be a vole and have your voles-only birthday party gatecrashed by an owl," writes Adam in NY …
And, to even it out, one that's fuzzy and lovely courtesy of @Philby1976 …