When England made their inglorious exit from the 2006 World Cup finals, Aaron Lennon was just about the only good news story to come out of the tournament and from that moment on the Tottenham winger has struggled to live up to the billing. Fabio Capello has never even picked him for an England squad but after yesterday, he might not have a choice.
Lennon ransacked the left side of Blackburn's defence to set up Roman Pavlyuchenko's winner and he drew two fouls from Martin Olsson that meant the Swedish left-back was dismissed six minutes before half-time. In Capello's brave new England world, pace counts for double and Lennon, twisting Blackburn inside out, has plenty of that. Pity for him that he is currently Capello's sixth choice for England behind Theo Walcott, David Beckham, Joe Cole, Shaun Wright-Phillips and David Bentley.
Olsson's red card aside, the game was distinguished by an argument in the tunnel between Joe Jordan and Paul Ince and an unexpected third league clean sheet for the always entertaining Spurs goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes. Ince accused Redknapp's assistant of appealing for Andre Ooijer's dismissal. "We've already got a man sent off and he's trying to get another sent off," Ince said before calming down. "It's part and parcel of football. It's a heated game and we all want to win. It's water under the bridge and not a problem."
The "Guv'nor" is now presiding over a regime that has not won in eight games and find themselves one place from the foot of the Premier League. He could not even argue with Olsson's red card, in fact the full-back could even have got a red card earlier when he fouled Lennon twice in one passage of play in the 26th minute – the referee Howard Webb playing advantage after the first. Even Ince had to admit that, against Lennon in the first half, there was very little his side could do.
The 21-year-old from Little London in Leeds has had his moments in the previous two seasons, most notably the winning goal against Chelsea in November 2006 but nothing like the form he showed during the last World Cup. He is painfully shy and unwilling to do interviews, a stark contrast to Bentley, his rival for the right-wing position. "Harry's given us confidence and freedom to play," Lennon said, "and I think that's it really. He's given me licence to get at people and that's my game."
Redknapp has shown the greater faith in Bentley so far but he was pushed out to the left yesterday to accommodate Tottenham's No 7. "I love Lennon, he's exciting, he picks the ball up and gets at people," Redknapp said. "He carries the game forward for us. He was a wonderkid and then suddenly he dropped off the radar. His confidence is coming back and he is a real handful. He's so quick and he can go either way."
As Redknapp said, the problem with playing against Lennon is that "his feet are so quick you stick a foot in for the ball and suddenly it's not there".
That was the problem Olsson encountered for his two bookings and also the moment when he lost possession to Lennon in the ninth minute and chased him back in vain before the winger crossed for Pavlyuchenko to score.
Lennon's delivery has not always been of the highest order and Redknapp said that he had worked with him on that at the training ground – yesterday it was perfect when it needed to be. "He's a great little lad," Redknapp said. "Theo Walcott is a fantastic talent but so is Lennon and he is 21. He's still a kid and there are not too many exciting wingers like him around."
Lennon was not the only one to shine: Tom Huddlestone was also excellent although Spurs failed to put the game out of sight in the second half. Fraizer Campbell missed with a glancing header four minutes from time. Pavlyuchenko struck the post in the first half. But, regardless of the score, Paul Robinson was determined that no one was going to spoil his big day back at White Hart Lane in front of supporters who have, bizarrely, always given him unconditional love.
They sang "You're Spurs and you know you are" repeatedly to the Blackburn goalkeeper while cheering ironically when Gomes made his first save after missing with a punch in the sixth minute. As Redknapp said later, it did not do anything for his goalkeeper's confidence. Robinson, however, milked the occasion – throwing his gloves into the Spurs fans at the end of the game.
The one save he was applauded for was, on closer inspection, a lucky ricochet off his legs after Ryan Nelsen had stopped Lennon's shot on the line. Gomes might have watched mournfully from the tunnel as Robinson took the applause but it was Spurs who won the fourth league game of Redknapp's reign and are now 15th in the Premier League. Into the bargain, Spurs also seem to have got the Lennon of old back.
Goal: Pavlyuchenko (9) 1-0
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Gomes; Corluka, Woodgate, King, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Jenas, Huddlestone, Bentley (O'Hara, 86); Bent, Pavlyuchenko (Campbell, 73). Substitutes not used: Sanchez (gk), Bale, Zokora, Gunter, Dawson.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Robinson; Ooijer, Samba, Nelsen, Olsson; Emerton (Derbyshire, 70), Mokoena, Andrews, Pedersen (Treacy, 80); Santa Cruz, McCarthy (Simpson, h-t). Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Tugay, Fowler, Roberts.
Referee: H Webb (South Yorkshire).
Booked: Tottenham Bentley, Jenas; Blackburn Olsson, Ooijer, Andrews.
Sent off: Blackburn Olsson.
Man of the match: Lennon.
Attendance: 35,903.Reuse content