Among the more exotically named personnel who comprise Tottenham's 34-man squad these days, plain Dean Marney, a 20-year-old born a few miles east of here, at Barking, will have scarcely caught the eye at three o'clock yesterday. Yet, as the faithful departed a couple of hours later, their team having placed the pretensions of the visitors as Champions' League contenders fully in perspective, they did so marvelling at a young man who epitomises the vagaries of football.
Such is the maturity of this former Tottenham trainee that it required a fair bit of believing that, two months ago, he was to be found at Gillingham, where he had been loaned out to the Coca-Cola Championship strugglers and was assisting in their scrap against relegation.
Yesterday, his two exceptionally executed goals proved to be the instigation and culmination of what, in the estimation of their head coach, Martin Jol, was Tottenham's "best performance of the season". In between his goals, young Marney performed with an assurance that belied his years, allowing the Everton left-back Alessandro Pistone little respite.
For once, the focus had swung away from Jermain Defoe. The England striker was injured, and watched events unfold from the dugout. As it transpired, while Robbie Keane and Freddie Kanouté, with his perceptive link play, contributed fully to this comprehensive victory, this was Marney's afternoon.
"Yesterday, we had been a bit worried, because Jermain was out anyway and Michael Brown got injured in our last training session," Jol explained. "But I know Dean Marney. He's a terrific talent and a complete player. It paid off. He scored two and made another. It's a terrific achievement for a young boy. He's a cool lad. I saw him play [pre-season] in Sweden. He's very versatile, can play wide right and right full-back."
Apparently Jol was just a trifle concerned that the player may not have been suitably prepared for his second Premiership start. "I had told him yesterday [Friday] that there might be a doubt about Brownie [Michael Brown] and to be on stand-by," he said. "I rang him at midnight on his mobile, but he had his voicemail on. I had a sneaky feeling that he might be out at a party or something. But he rang me back two minutes later. He was at home in bed. I probably woke him up." It means that Tottenham start 2005 with their followers beginning to convince themselves, after a sixth triumph in seven Premiership games, that Jol may finally prove to be the man to lead them once more to the promised lands of Europe. "I don't know about that," insisted Jol, with understandable circumspection. "But we are in a good position. A few weeks ago, who could have imagined that we would be seventh in the League?"
In stark contrast, Everton's aversion to the capital is becoming as pronounced as that of the motorist who fails to pay his congestion charge. All their six defeats have been inflicted by London clubs. This second reverse in five days, following that at Charlton, will confirm to all those sceptical of the Goodison Park side's elevation that this is not merely a blip, but the beginning of a downward spiral.
With good reason, too. Though all the talk has been about forward reinforcements, and in particular a club-record £6.5moffered to acquire Southampton's James Beattie, this performance suggests that it is in the rearguard that strengthening is required. Admittedly, the visitors had to make do and mend without their injured captain, Alan Stubbs, but, apart from a period at the end of the first half when Tim Cahill brought the score back to 2-1, this was a wretched display.
Spurs struck their first after 16 minutes with a goal of simplicity. Pedro Mendes's ball through was headed on by Keane and Marney accepted the opportunity with relish, looping the ball over Richard Wright as the goalkeeper advanced on him. Just before the half-hour, Eric Edman's throw was headed on by Kanouté. Reto Ziegler had time to chest the ball down and score. It could have been worse for Everton before the break, when Keane's attempted chip over Wright struck the bar.
Everton had come close to scoring themselves, through a near own-goal from Noureddine Naybet and their captain, Thomas Gravesen, before Marcus Bent's header found Cahill, who scored with a neat volley. Spurs were not fazed. Just before the hour, Kanouté opened the way for Mendes, who bemused David Weir before unleashing a venomous drive.
Midway through the second half, Marney nutmegged Pistone and set up a facile chance for Keane, which was gratefully received. Spurs were not finished yet. Michael Carrick fed Marney, who strode forward before driving the ball with precision into the top corner of Wright's goal.
The visitors had the final say themselves with a splendid angled drive by James McFadden, but on this evidence it is Tottenham who can start enjoying the more fanciful dreams.