If Tottenham Hotspur hoped to put in the kind of stirring performance that might persuade Harry Kane that then this was not it.
This was a limp, disorganised, defensively shambolic capitulation against an impressive Aston Villa which ended in a cacophony of boos – the acoustics in this new stadium are something – angry fans protesting and Kane appearing to say his goodbyes as he solemnly walked around the pitch on his own at the final whistle.
The chaotic defeat leaves Tottenham, who face Champions League-chasing Leicester City away on the final day, in danger of not even qualifying for the next season and this is not the kind of trajectory that will keep one of the world’s best strikers happy.
Amid all the anger focused on Daniel Levy maybe the Spurs chairman should note that there was not a murmur directed at despite having three years left on his contract.
A large number of the 10,000 fans allowed back into the stadium themselves furiously refused to depart afterwards demanding the players come back out for a ‘lap of appreciation’ and ignoring the public address pleas for them to leave. Eventually the players did come back to try and appease them but it was all very uncomfortable. Even the way that was handled was yet another error from Spurs. It was in keeping with what had gone on before it and how this dismal campaign has unfolded.
It took only a minute into the game for the fans to sing “Harry Kane, he’s one of our own” and although there was another refrain of that later on it was replaced by anger and frustration. “We want Levy out,” was chanted despite Levy writing something of a , admitting the club had lost its way, to try and appease the fans.
Maybe that, too, was an appeal to Kane but how can he look back on this game and on this season and on this managerless club and believe it is where his career will be fulfilled?
A bit like the campaign, the game had begun brightly with Steven Bergwijn, in his first start since February, scoring a determined goal after Sergio Reguilon intercepted a clearance with Marvelous Nakamba’s poor control allowing the forward to steal in. Bergwijn held off John McGinn and resisted Nakamba before striking a fierce rising shot into the top corner of the net.
Then it all fell apart for Spurs. Defensively they were shocking: Eric Dier, Japhet Tanganga and, in particular, Reguilon who was heavily involved in both of Villa’s goals as the visitors turned it around before half-time. For them Jack Grealish was back in the starting line-up and there was a lift although Ollie Watkins was their outstanding player as he gleefully capitalised on the torpor.
McGinn shook off his earlier error and hounded his opponents and when Grealish eventually went off, with strapping and ice on his leg as a precaution, the game was won and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who was marking him, had been run ragged.
“There have been a few questions thrown because it has been an inconsistent second half of the season but we have been missing our best player, Jack Grealish,” Villa manager Dean Smith later. “But I believe our first XI can go and compete with anyone.”
The same cannot be said of Spurs at present. They were fortunate not to concede a penalty when Hugo Lloris needlessly slid into Watkins but the goalkeeper was beaten in the most extraordinary way. The cross from Nakamba was routine and Reguilon should have volleyed clear from just inside his own area. Instead, under no pressure, he shanked it high in the opposite direction. A stunned Lloris got a hand to it but that was not enough and Villa were level.
Dier hauled a distraught Reguilon up by his shirt but probably wished he had left him on the turf. The left-back messed up again as he twice messily tried to clear with the second effort rebounding off Bertrand Traore and into Watkins’ path. Dier was caught wrong-footed with Watkins easily holding him off and firing his shot low through Lloris’ legs.
Spurs were slow, lacking aggression and impetus and that was highlighted as first Harry Winks was dispossessed by McGinn before Anwar El Ghazi miscued horribly wide and then Dier lost the ball, again to the tireless McGinn, with Traore picking out Watkins who was denied by Lloris.
Spurs briefly rallied with Emiliano Martinez saving well from Bergwijn on two occasions and then, later on, from Kane’s powerful, deflected near post shot. The crowd demanded Gareth Bale and eventually he did come on but the chances were Villa’s with Traore dangerous but wasteful and Watkins blocked.
Spurs had no response. They were spent. Even six minutes of injury time meant nothing. Instead it was Villa who went close with substitute Carney Chukwuemeka striking the post with a low shot from the area’s edge. The 17 year-old, one of Villa’s own, was lively and has a bright future at the club. Kane is hoping his own future is not at Spurs.