Defoe points the way to Tottenham's bright future

Tottenham Hotspur 1 - Birmingham City 0
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The Independent Football

As proudly as the cockerel on their shirt, Spurs strutted into the unfamiliar roost of the Premiership top four on Saturday. With the Jacques Santini revolution off to a flying start that few would have dared dream of, it just goes to prove that the French love a cockerel almost as much as North London loves a French manager.

As proudly as the cockerel on their shirt, Spurs strutted into the unfamiliar roost of the Premiership top four on Saturday. With the Jacques Santini revolution off to a flying start that few would have dared dream of, it just goes to prove that the French love a cockerel almost as much as North London loves a French manager.

Indeed, there was even a palpable sense of "this could be our Wenger" as White Hart Lane emptied riding on the air of optimism that an undefeated run in the first four games of the season brings. That is undoubtedly an unfair comparison to make at this stage (even Arsène Wenger was not the Arsène Wenger we now know when he arrived in N5 way back in 1996), but a highly inevitable one considering the manner in which he has dismantled the squad and regelled it into an impressively united force in the frantic seven weeks he has been in town.

Not that Steve Bruce, the Birmingham manager, would be quite as quick to unfurl the eulogies. For the second time in as many Saturdays he left wondering how it was he was empty-handed. Last week it was Chelsea whom Birmingham dominated but lost to - this time it was Spurs. Goals are a headache to Bruce at the moment and he is at a loss to what to do. What he would give for the effervescence of Jermain Defoe as the remedy.

With Sven Goran Eriksson in attendance, it was a given that the 21-year-old would appear in the squad named last night for England's forthcoming World Cup qualifiers. One instant of genius rubber-stamped that inclusion. It also added more credence to the theory that here is an emerging striking talent that can be a genuine rival to the places commanded by Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen.

In the 35th minute, Defoe took a short pass inside from the French defender Noe Pamarot and embarked on a mazy run - twisting one way, feinting the other - that left three Birmingham defenders bemused and bedraggled. Once at the edge of the area he span to his right and unleashed a shot that buried itself in Maik Taylor's right-hand corner. "A deflection," Bruce claimed, "it was going wide", and although replays suggested that Matthew Upson did indeed get a touch it still appeared that Defoe's strike was destined for one place and one place only.

Bruce was kind enough to compliment his vanquisher, saying: "Jermain is a bit special. He's as good as any striker in the Premiership. I'm just glad he's English." And Santini was not disagreeing. "He is a real option for Eriksson," he said.

So, too, will be Julian Gray if Bruce's testimony is to be believed. He started the lanky left-footer in defence before it became obvious that Gray's pace and trickery represented Birmingham's best chance of breaking the Spurs resistance. "Three games into his Premiership career and Julian has been very impressive for us," Bruce said. "If he keeps adapting to the Premiership at this rate then he will have an excellent opportunity to press his England claims."

Alas, once he was sent forward, Gray's many forages failed to yield the equaliser Birmingham's persistence deserved. Emile Heskey summed up another afternoon of missed chances with his injury-time header that scraped the bar. "We huffed and puffed, but it was just one of those days," Bruce said. At least he is getting used to them.

Goals: Defoe 35 (1-0).

Tottenham (4-4-2): Robinson; Pamarot, Naybet, King, Edman; Brown, Davis, Pedro Mendes, Jackson (Gardner 90); Defoe (Redknapp 86), Keane (Kanoute 64). Substitutes not used: Keller, Ifil.

Birmingham (4-4-2): Taylor; Melchiot, Cunningham, Upson, Gray; Gronkjaer, Izzet, Clemence (John 79), Johnson; Heskey, Forssell (Morrison 72). Substitutes not used: Bennett, Martin Taylor, Tebily.

Booked: Tottenham: Brown, Defoe, Jackson, Pedro Mendes. Birmingham: Heskey.

Referee: M Clattenburg (Co Durham).

Man of the match: Defoe.

Attendance: 35,290.

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