‘LADS, IT’S Tottenham,’ was how Mike Phelan’s old boss once inspired Manchester United to victory over a club that last won the League title just a few months after the maximum wage for players was abolished.
The Hull City head coach does not have the luxury of being able to adopt such a dismissive attitude when attempting to fire up his players against the Londoners.
Not only are the Tigers scrapping for their lives at the wrong end of the Premier League but Spurs have come a long way since that infamous three-word team-talk from Sir Alex Ferguson was enough to send his side out justifiably convinced the three points would be theirs.
Nowadays, those same three words have a very different connotation. Tottenham finished last season in third place and their squad provides the backbone of the England national team.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side may not yet quite be the finished article, as was underlined last night by how the Tigers were able to give Tottenham plenty of nervous moments before finally succumbing to defeat.
But there is quality in abundance at White Hart Lane, as Christian Eriksen underlined by coming within a whisker of netting a hat-trick as Hull slipped to a sixth straight loss on the road.
The Dane netted Tottenham’s first two goals and then saw an exquisite free-kick turned on to the post by David Marshall before Victor Wanyama smashed in the rebound.
Defeat means City will, barring a couple of crazy scorelines this weekend, spend Christmas in the bottom three but there were still positives for Mike Phelan to glean on the flight home.
Ferguson’s former assistant at Old Trafford had seen his side cause Spurs a host of problems either side of half-time.
Jake Livermore was denied a goal on his return to north London three times by Hugo Lloris when the score stood at 1-0. Had any of those gone in, the night could have turned out very differently.
As it was, Hull matched a club record consecutive number of away defeats in the top flight on what, FA Cup draws permitting, is likely to be their last visit to White Hart Lane.
Spurs home since the 19th century is well into its final year, the new £750m stadium that sits just a lusty Gary Mabbutt clearance away being scheduled to open at the start of 2018-19.
Next season will see Spurs decamp to Wembley as the final building work is completed and, providing Hull can stay up, that could well be a blessing for the East Yorkshire club.
In 17 visits to N17, City have won just once and, even allowing for their bright play either side of the interval, that sorry statistic rarely looked like being improved.
The hosts went ahead in the 14th minute courtesy of a 30-pass move that had Hull chasing shadows.
Leeds-born Danny Rose made the telling dart down the left flank eventually to collect a Jan Vertonghen pass picking out Christian Eriksen ten yards from goal.
He didn’t need a second invitation to shoot, the Dane smashing a first-time effort beyond Marshall and into the net.
Hull’s response was impressive, the visitors taking the game to Spurs and Lloris had to twice deny Jake Livermore before the break.
The City midfielder, one of four former Spurs players on duty last night, was particularly unfortunate to see his second effort saved next to his post by the Frenchman.
Ahmed Elmohamady also had a shot that was much more comfortably dealt with by Lloris, while Marshall brilliantly kept out Dele Alli with a save made all the better by the England international’s low shot taking a wicked deflection off Harry Maguire’s heel.
City’s goalkeeper, however, was unable to do anything to prevent Tottneham doubling their advantage shortly after the hour mark.
Robertson, caught out of position, was left trailing by former Sheffield United man Walker and the full-back’s cross from the byline was touched over the line by Eriksen.
Moments earlier, Hull had been unable to take their best chance of the night as Livermore was again left scratching his head in frustration by Lloris turning his shot behind with an outstretched foot.
Two goals behind, Hull’s defence looked as wide open as the corner of White Hart Lane that was flattened last summer to allow the foundations of the new stadium to be laid.
There was, though, just one more goal, Wanyama firing in after Marshall had denied Eriksen his hat-trick to confirm a tenth and probably final defeat in N17 for the Tigers.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris; Walker, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Rose; Dier, Wanyama; Eriksen, Alli (Winks 62), Sissoko (Onomah 85); Kane (Son 74). Substitutes (not used); Vorm, Nkoudou, Trippier, Davies.
Hull City: Marshall; Maguire, Dawson, Davies; Elmohamady, Livermore (Meyler 74), Huddlestone, Clucas (Mason 66), Robertson; Snodgrass (Bowen 84), Diomande. Substitutes (not used): Jakupovic, Maloney, Weir, Henriksen, Bowen.
Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands).