Tottenham forward Gareth Bale targeting twin success

Welshman has been nominated for the Player of the Year award

Tottenham forward Gareth Bale is determined to end the week inside the top four of the Barclays Premier League and with a second Player of the Year award on his mantelpiece.

Bale returned from a two-and-a-half week injury absence yesterday to help inspire Spurs to a dramatic 3-1 win over reigning champions Manchester City.

Although manager Andre Villas-Boas changed the game with his substitutions, Bale's contribution was also key to the win, which came after Samir Nasri had put City ahead.

Bale curled a peach of a pass across the box to Clint Dempsey, who started off the comeback, and the Welshman scored himself eight minutes from time with a clever chip over Joe Hart to seal the win after Jermain Defoe had scored Spurs' second.

That strike took Bale's tally for the season to 23 - a highly impressive achievement which means he is the odds-on favourite to win the Professional Footballers' Association player of the year gong when it is announced on Sunday night.

"It's massive. It's great for your peers to vote for you," said Bale, who is also up for the Young Player of the Year award.

"Hopefully I do win. To be nominated is fantastic and fingers crossed (I do win)."

Ever the selfless man, Bale was keen to ensure his double nomination did not take the focus off what was a crucial win for Spurs yesterday.

The forward even played down his own contribution, merely describing his goal, which came after a brilliant slide-rule pass from Tom Huddlestone as "all right".

For, as everyone has been pointing out at White Hart Lane all season, Spurs are not a one-man team, and that showed yesterday.

Huddlestone, Defoe, and Lewis Holtby all contributed hugely, while the character on display from the home side, coupled with Villas-Boas' tactical nous, gave Tottenham supporters hope that this will not be another season where their team throw away Champions League qualification in the home straight.

Spurs will move a point clear of third-placed Arsenal, who play Manchester United on Sunday, if they beat Wigan the day before, and Bale wants to see his team-mates show the same kind of fighting spirit for the remainder of the season.

"We knew it was a massive game and the lads showed what we have in the team - a lot of character," Bale added on Spurs TV Online.

"It was a fantastic turnaround. As soon as we scored the first everyone had that belief and confidence, the fans raised the noise and gave us that belief to go forward and thankfully we were able to score two more.

"We need to keep that character, team spirit, and togetherness in to the last five games and push for our objectives this season."

The initial diagnosis that Bale would miss only two matches when Basle's David Degen stood on his ankle on April 4, twisting it a right angle to his right leg, seemed optimistic.

Bale started sluggishly yesterday, but he discovered his explosive pace in the second half, dismissing fears that the tackle had caused long-term damage.

"My ankle was all right," Bale said.

"It was touch and go whether I was going to play but I got through it OK.

"It was a bit sore maybe in the first half but I got more confidence in the second half.

"It's just about managing it and carrying on."

There were no signs that Defoe's pelvis injury, which had kept him out for three weeks, troubled him yesterday, and Spurs will be further boosted by the expected return of Aaron Lennon from a knee problem for Saturday's trip to Wigan.

All that has left Holtby, who supplied Defoe for his goal, in an upbeat mood about Spurs' chances of qualifying for the Champions League.

The German said: "The belief in the team is high. Gareth and Jermain came back and scored.

"The roof's just really going up and with Aaron Lennon coming back we're going to be even stronger."

PA

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