If Messiahs need to show evidence of their powers then, two months into his first full campaign, Tottenham's manager, Glenn Hoddle, can point to the fact that he has quickly transformed Tottenham into a force away from White Hart Lane.
Already this season Tottenham have managed as many away wins as they did in nine long, unhappy months under George Graham and are playing with a verve that suggests the passion with which Hoddle's appointment was greeted in north London was based on something more than mere nostalgia. Their last victory at Newcastle came in August 1993, the first Premiership match St James' Park staged, and was achieved by the fragile, self-destructive outfit moulded by another idol of the Tottenham High Road, Ossie Ardiles. This year's remodelled team promises to be a far more durable thing.
What should have been a compelling tactical contest between two former England managers was won comprehensively by the younger man; it was like watching Steve McQueen out-think every one of Edward G Robinson's poker hands in The Cincinnati Kid.
Bobby Robson had spent the run-up to yesterday's match obsessing about Gustavo Poyet, who has now scored five times against Newcastle in the past 18 months, and abandoned his usual 4-4-2 formation to play three at the back with Aaron Hughes left to man-mark the Uruguayan.
That Poyet scored Tottenham's second after the kind of fluid passing movement which Hoddle was brought in to recreate was not the only evidence that Robson's tactical tinkering did not work. "I thought it [their changed formation] was a show of respect to us and as such put us on the front foot," said Hoddle. "It did surprise me. But with good, intelligent players you have a chance of opening teams up, even with man-to-man marking."
In Darren Anderton and Teddy Sheringham, Tottenham have players whose footballing intelligence burned through even the autumnal murk that shrouded St James' Park yesterday. Anderton, returning to the kind of form that made him an integral part of England's midfield in the last World Cup, might yet be part of Sven Goran Eriksson's squad that travels to the Far East next summer.
"He is going to be there or thereabouts," said Hoddle. "If you go to a tournament you need his experience."
This he proved with the cross that led to Poyet rising easily above not Hughes – who was nowhere to be found – but Nolberto Solano, a goal which virtually settled the contest.
Just as they had in their previous home game, a 2-0 defeat to Liverpool, Newcastle conceded in the opening few minutes. Anderton was resting in a sea of space as Christian Ziege tapped a short free-kick to him on the edge of the box and though the first attempt at a shot was blocked, the second ricocheted into the corner of the goal via Gary Speed's boot.
Ironically, though Robson did not alter his tactics in the second half, Hoddle did revert to a flat back four when Mauricio Taricco withdrew with twisted ankle ligaments, although his three centre-backs had served him splendidly.
Newcastle's three were repeatedly exposed not just by Solano's inability to tackle back but by the Peruvian's indolent passing which presented Tottenham with far more possession than they deserved. "It is not about systems, it is about players," Robson complained. "We missed Rob Lee's link play. Knitting the team together as he does, a vital part of our game was missing."
Lee was absent with a virus and his team, generally, was off colour. Newcastle dominated territorially in the second half with Craig Bellamy and Nikos Dabizas going close, but Sergei Rebrov might have scored twice and Sheringham grazed the bar with a free-kick.
In victory, the Spurs players found themselves taking cold showers as the boiler in the visitors' dressing-room malfunctioned, although this was as inhospitable as they were to find Newcastle.
Goals: Anderton 0-1 (7), Poyet 0-2 (19).
Newcastle United (3-5-2): Given 6; O'Brien 7, Dabizas 6, Distin 4; Solano 3 (Lua Lua 6, 75), Acuna 5 (Bassedas 5, 75), Hughes 5 (Ameobi, 80), Speed 5, Robert 5; Bellamy 7, Shearer 5. Substitutes not used: Elliott, Harper (gk).
Tottenham Hotspur (3-5-2): Sullivan 6; Perry 6, Richards 7, King 7; Taricco 5 (Davies 7, 49), Freund 5, Anderton 8 (Sherwood, 89), Poyet 7, Ziege 5; Sheringham 7, Ferdinand 6 (Rebrov, 79). Substitutes not used: Thatcher, Keller (gk).
Referee: A Wiley (Burntwood) 7.
Bookings: Newcastle: Bellamy, Dabizas. Tottenham: Freund.
Man of the match: Anderton.
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