Through with the two-step, where the rhythm is law
Through with the two-step, where the rhythm is law
Oh, yes, it’s love in any key
You opened up the door – now I know it’s got to be.
Robert Plant ‘Thru with the two step’ Principle of Moments (1983)
He came from Monaco and he’s five foot seven. There was a moment yesterday during the Tottenham match when Joao Moutinho, Midfielder, Portugeezer swept around the Spurs midfield like they weren’t there. There was ugliness of course, the dragged foot, the shove, the physical heckling. Everything you expect from a Spurs side, a Mourinho side. We have that Yin and Yang of Portuguese art. The feral grappling of Spurs and Jose contrasted with the lightness of foot, the creativity of Joao Moutinho.
At one point there was a moment of sheer beauty when Moutinho possessed the ball at his feet from a jangly discordant under pressure pass. The ball clung to him. The ball was his, for the moment. He slid here and there with it and that ball although his would soon be sliding across the beautiful Molineux pitch to another player in Gold and Black. But not just delivered, it was inserted, perhaps even gifted. The ball was ‘to foot’ or it was delivered to the place where the receiving player should have been. An almost perfect juncture made between Moutinho to Jota or to Raul or to Otto or Doherty. Splashed across all sections of the pitch in melodic and perfect timing.
Joao receives again and he is under pressure. He shifts his balance, prods the ball an inch here or a few inches there. He waits, looks up. The opposition player is on the floor wondering, amazed, sad. Eating the Molineux turf.
Under pressure again and surrounded by two, three now four players. He is water to their rock. Spilling out from the press of bodies he is alive and able. He drops a shoulder and his balance is left, then right foot. He leans back to slow himself and the momentum of the ball and him is now slower and players slide past him. Now lean forward and a prod of the ball means it is two or three feet in front of him. He moves to the ball. Outide of the right foot. He moves and watches. Adama is moving into space. Adama hasn’t moved yet but he’s about to. You see Adamas head has dropped a few inches and he has started to swivel his body to coil a burst of speed off his right foot. That’s all it is, T-Minus 0,005 of a second until Traore lift off. Joao knows even if he is twenty yards away. How does he see it? What does Moutinho see that we rarely do? I see it because I am watching closely. The ball is gone from Moutinho and is sent into a patch of turf where no one stands to receive. Not yet anyway. Adama is there within a split second. A chance. Adama is hacked down instantly. Joao Moutinho raises his hands to the sky and looks at the rain, these cold black sheets of rain falling out of the sky.
Moutinho is back in the centre circle. We are not in possession. Spurs move the ball around with slick almost patent intent. But it now rarely moves around Moutinho. They are avoiding him. Forcing the ball out wide, forcing Tottenham to leave gaps and holes. You see, Joao also reconnoitres, he senses movement before it happens. Even against players he may not know well enough. They move and probe and he replies constantly at their heels. There are no tackles here, no sending Spurs players crashing to the floor. There are no Jose Mourinho bitter pills to give out. Instead he shadows and he plays with them. He moves them to positions of weakness and ineffectiveness. He mugs them at will and they don’t even know it. They are ignorant and stupid. This isn’t football we recognise of course. Many of the faces around me see the complete art, the whole rapturous symphony of football we are playing. I am just watching parts that Moutinho is playing. When the ball is elsewhere I watch him close. His movement, his temerity and his mature almost Philosophical play.
Jota is upended again on the Spurs touchline right in front of the Southbank. Jota has been clattered by ignorance from a Spurs player who jogs back to his team mates and winks at one, high fives another. Jota sits still, gathering his thoughts. He was clattered, upended and the Referee is ineffectual, noctambulistic, displaying a mere shadow of control now. Spurs are emboldened by Atwells ignorance of the rules of the game. Atwell is redolent in it, he bathes in his foolishness. The ball is out for a corner. Joao Moutinho jogs up to the prone Jota who has the look of a man who can’t believe the events that have followed this almost violent assault on his idea of what football should be. Jota looks to Moutinho, it’s a look of almost apology and resignation at what has just happened. Joao just half shrugs and smiles, collects the ball. There is a corner to be taken. The machine grinds on. No time to waste in internal debate as to the wasted chance and the morbid stoicness of Stuart Atwells darkness and idiocy. The ball must be put back into play. Joao has seen it all. For him there is no time to waste but more importantly there is no need to let the darkness of Atwells surreal decision making, bordering on the obscene affect him. There is no remonstration, no angry display, just an objective reply and glint of emotion. The ball goes back into the box, inch perfect. A chance. The ball rattles around the box and Joao is lurking just outside, waiting patiently and there isn’t a Spurs player within nine or ten yards of him.
It was a loss and I’m not going to give a punch by punch report of the whole game because it’s pointless in more ways than one. I came away from the ground in awe. I came away speechless thinking of things I could say about the match and all of them became pointless every time I thought of what Joao did here or there. As Spurs fans milled around me going back to the hell hole they came from they were smiling and happy. Three points for them. For me…well. I have just watched probably the greatest footballer that has ever played for Wolverhampton Wanderers. I watched him in the rain, a cold December rain and I didn’t feel it really. I watched beautiful football and the result was nothing to me really. Spurs could have the three points. It is a fair exchange in what was to me, a light in the darkness of the game. I couldn’t stop thinking about the way he moved. Dancers steps, small increments of movements, off the ball and on it. I see the other Wolves players responding to what Joao is and more importantly why he is. This is now what we are. We have made a team who played in a Champions League final look like the teams we used to play in the Championship. Where the spirit of Warnock is wrapped in the faux football Mourinho has brought to them. A moral victory for us? Of course. I watch Match of the Day later and listen to Gary Lineker expound his own blabberings on how Tottenham dominated the game and I laughed out loud and all through the night I am kicking my legs out restless, replaying every move Joao Moutinho did.
God Bless you Joao Moutinho. Thank you Joao Moutinho.