This is what supporters of Tottenham Hotspur were telling themselves. We are stronger. Our passing is better. We can score goals. We like this manager much more than the last manager. With a bit of luck, we could even have a shout in the Championship.
Glenn Hoddle knows better. A cup success, maybe a top six finish in the league, but, as the manner of Saturday's 3-1 loss at Charlton proved, there is still a limit to Tottenham's ambitions.
With 10 minutes left to play at The Valley, before Gus Poyet hooked in a consolation goal, Tottenham's faithful were heading for the exits, their confidence dented by the telling urgency of Charlton's football. All three points would have sent Tottenham into second place for at least a day, but this was the day when Charlton's manager, Alan Curbishley, began to feel that a corner turned at Chelsea in midweek has opened up a future that can only get brighter with the acquisition of the Portugese interntional defender Jorge Costa, on loan from Porto, and Chris Bart-Willams's arrival from Nottingham Forest. "Because of injuries we needed to bring players in and the chairman backed me all the way" Curbishley said. "The squad looks a lot stronger and I think we can go on from here."
As Hoddle later said, winning matches in this league is difficult. More so when you are slow out of the blocks and give up an early goal through sloppy defending. Charlton got a flier, scoring after only four minutes when Dean Richards was caught on the wrong side of Jason Euell, who nudged the ball square to present Graham Stuart with an empty net.
Roared on by their biggest crowd in more than 20 years, mounting swift attacks that would force Hoddle to change his defensive system at half-time, going to a back line of four, Charlton went further in front after 19 minutes when Kevin Lisbie punished more confusion in Tottenham's penalty area with a shot that sped through Neil Sullivan's legs. Had Claus Jensen taken better advantage of an opportunity before the interval, Charlton's victory would have been secured before Tottenham had made any impression on the game.
Hoddle's influence can be seen in Tottenham's passing and movement off the ball, but with Sergei Rebrov forced deeper and deeper by robust measures, the need for a more direct option led to the introduction of Steffen Iversen and subsequently a response to Teddy Sheringham's influence. Under the eyes of Sven Goran Eriksson, the Tottenham captain laid fresh claims to a place in the England World Cup squad, his intelligence and touch again quite outstanding even before the team he led out began to get their act together.
Having been thrown into disarray by Euell's hustling and bypassed in midfield, where Scott Parker was a force, Tottenham gradually began to take advantage of a predictable downturn in Charlton's energy. An opportunity to cut Charlton's lead came and went when Darren Anderton drove over the free kick awarded against Dean Kiely for handling a back-pass and Sheringham was clearly offside when he deflected in Poyet's low drive. Instead of coming Tottenham's way when Sheringham struck a marvellous volley directly from a corner only to see it met by Kiely's equally terrific save, it fell to Lisbie.
Charlton have been waiting for Lisbie to fulfill his potential. Waiting for goals to go with his all-round ability. "He's been on the fringe of things," Curbishley said. It was Lisbie's last-minute goal that brought Charlton victory at Chelsea and his second on Saturday finally put paid to Tottenham. Unsuprisingly, it was provided by Parker, who darted through midfield, outpacing Poyet before feeding the man for whom goalscoring is suddenly a habit.
Goals: Stuart (4) 1-0; Lisbie (19) 2-0; Lisbie (78) 3-0; Poyet (85) 3-1.
Charlton Athletic (3-5-2): Kiely 7; Fish 6, Jorge Costa 6, Fortune 6; Young 6, Stuart 6 (Bart-Williams, 82), Parker 7, Jensen 6 (Konchesky, 88), Powell 6; Lisbie 7, Euell 7 (Johansson, 88). Substitues not used: Roberts (gk), Brown.
Tottenham Hotspur (3-5-2): Sullivan 5; Perry 5, Richards 5, King 5; Davies 5 (Sherwood 67, 4), Anderton 6, Bunjevcevic 4 (Iversen, h-t, 5), Poyet, 6, Tarrico 5; Sheringham 7, Rebrov 5. Substitutes not used: Keller (gk), Gardner, Leonhardsen.
Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).
Bookings: Charlton: Kiely, Young, Lisbie. Tottenham: Tarricco.
Man of the match: Parker.
Attendance: 25,125.Reuse content