Calgary Flames road trip couldn’t come at a better time

Sports

After losing five of six at home since Jan. 20, heading out on the road for a six-game trip is the perfect tonic for the Calgary Flames. 

The importance of beating the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday should not be overstated. It was, in a way, a peace-offering for Calgary’s fans, who, over the last three weeks, watched helplessly as their beloved team dropped into 10th place in the Western Conference.

Sean Monahan’s overtime winner on Saturday will restore belief in the locker room, injecting confidence as the boys depart for the second half of the back-to-back with Chicago.

In a recent interview, Glen Gulutzan said his team doesn’t mind playing on the road. His answer is a candidate for biggest understatement of the year. He does, however, get points for modesty.

Calgary Flames’ impressive road record

The Flames head to the Windy City with the third best away record (13-5-5) in the league in terms of winning percentage, trailing only Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston. Eight games above .500, the Flames have won four of their last five away encounters.

Maybe suffering from holding their sticks too tightly at home, Gulutzan’s team can get back to basics during the forthcoming trip.

Winning four of six would be a successful stint, particularly considering the Flames have to play on back-to-back nights against two teams – the Rangers (17-9-3) and Devils (15-8-3) – that are tough to beat at home.

After that the Flames play the Islanders, Bruins and Predators before returning home on Feb. 17. As you can see, none of those games are of an easy variety, with the final two offering especially difficult tests.

But don’t put anything past the Flames, who have proven time and again to be worthy of their road warriors moniker. It’s crucial to sweep the mini-series against the Blackhawks, the worst of the six at home (12-10-3).

Mike Smith, with a league-leading .948 road save percentage, has been lights-out in unfriendly confines all season, and Gulutzan’s men support their all-star netminder proficiently on the road, locking it down in their own end.

In five recent away games, the Flames have conceded only nine goals, which equates to 1.8 goals against per game. In comparison, the Bruins, who concede 2.38 goals on average, lay claim to the league’s stingiest defence this season.

Those paltry numbers combined with Calgary’s propensity for finding the back of the net bode well for the current road trip.

The Flames have scored 3.8 goals per game in the last five away outings, which, albeit over a small sample size, tops the Lightning’s league-best 3.56 per game.

If they can maintain those impressive numbers at either end of the ice, the Flames will further cement their status as one of the league’s most dangerous road teams.

(This piece originally featured on Flame for Thought. Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

What impressed most about Tottenham’s 2-2 draw at Anfield?

Opinion, Sports

It was by no means a perfect away performance but Mauricio Pochettino can be proud of his side for the way they refused to capitulate in unsavoury conditions. 

Firstly, I’ll talk about the elephant in the room, getting the negative aspects of the draw off my chest.

Spurs have won a single match at Anfield in their last 24 visits; that win came back in May 2011.

Tottenham haven’t kept a clean sheet against a top-six side in 30 matches on their travels and have a single win to show from 21 away contests versus the élite six.

Some disconcerting trends from the match also reared their ugly head. Eric Dier and Davinson Sánchez endured miserable matches, akin to the weather on Merseyside. But Sánchez is still only 21 and is bound to have uncomfortable outings, while Dier’s performance can be considered a mere blip for the time being.

On to the positive for Tottenham

But overall, Mauricio Pochettino is probably walking some extra pep in his step today after watching his side thoroughly outplay one of only two teams in England who remain unbeaten at home.

Speaking of Pep, Manchester City is the only other unbeaten home side.

Jurgen Klopp’s game plan was effective in the first half. Liverpool’s relentless high press disturbed Tottenham’s flow, stifling their ability to play enterprising football for which they’re renowned. But Spurs didn’t bat an eyelid, steadfast and defiant in their approach.

While the first half was fairly evenly played, the exact opposite is true of the second 45 minutes. Tottenham bossed proceedings, knocking the ball around like they were in a Sunday training session.

It’s one thing to enjoy the lion’s share of possession against Liverpool, but it’s altogether different to accomplish that feat at Anfield, one of the most difficult places to play in Europe. Overall, Spurs enjoyed 66 percent of possession. Those numbers underpin just how comprehensively the away side outshined their Merseyside counterparts.

Spurs received their just deserts when Victor Wanyama scored what will certainly be the goal of the season to level the score.

Harry Kane then had a chance to put Spurs ahead, but the marksman, usually a sure thing from the spot, missed his penalty.

And then the unthinkable happened: against the run of play, Mohamad Salah came up with a genius moment, scoring to put the Reds up late in injury time.

My nerves totally shot, I was consigned to defeat.

But then Tottenham displayed in a few minutes how far they’ve come as a unified collective. A never-say-die attitude, combined with the skill, gumption and bit of good fortune, pulled off the grandest escape against all odds.

I’m not going to analyze whether it was a penalty. That matters little at this point. What does matter is how Tottenham reacted to Salah’s goal, a moment that would have killed off permanently most other sides.

But Tottenham are not most other sides.

They have a fortified togetherness other teams can only dream of. While the point Spurs left Anfield with is invaluable, the resilience the team showed is far more important in the long-term.

Wanyama’s wonder goal and Erik Lamela’s contribution on the second penalty also mark the first time all season Pochettino’s substitutes have affected decisively the outcome of a match. It’s yet another good omen to take away from Merseyside.

It was exactly the type of away performance that should spur Tottenham on, and, with Juventus beckoning in the Champions League, it came at the most opportune time.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pochettino’s side use this result as a springboard, lofting the team to eminent heights on all three remaining fronts.

(This piece originally featured on Tottenham HQ. Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Calgary Flames’ Mike Smith hopes to start enjoying some home cooking

Sports

Mike Smith, looking for a bounce-back game, is hoping to reproduce his impeccable away form when the Calgary Flames host the Blackhawks tonight. 

Overall, Smith has enjoyed a stellar season between the pipes. He’s unarguably one of the team’s most consistent performers and rarely takes a night off, with the exception of a frustrating evening against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

A large discrepancy, however, does exist between Smith’s home and away outings.

The 35-year-old has a .948 save percentage away from home, the best of any NHL netminder in unfriendly environs.

He is the embodiment of a road warrior, going 9-3-3 in 15 away starts. Smith’s paltry 1.83 goals against average (GAA) in road games would, in isolation, put him behind only Carter Hutton (1.70 overall GAA) and Marc-Andre Fleury (1.79 overall GAA).

Smith hasn’t been able to match those otherworldly numbers in front of Flames’ faithful at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The contrast is stark, with Smith’s save percentage dropping almost five percent, to .905. His GAA swells on home ice to 2.89, a large enough gulf to warrant further inquest.

What’s wrong with Smith’s Calgary Flames home cooking?

Firstly, the sample size probably has something to do with the existing chasm between Smith’s home and away performances. He’s played in 28 games at home, while only making 15 road starts.

That caveat isn’t reason enough to explain his drop in form at the Dome, though. While not nearly as demanding as Montreal fans, Flames’ faithful have high expectations of their number one netminder. But Smith’s expects just as much from himself, if not more, than the exacting Calgary crowd.

Plus, you wouldn’t expect a wily, well-versed veteran like Smith to succumb to pressure, no matter how immense. You can’t put it down to bad fortune either, as the gulf in numbers is too big to substantiate that reasoning.

That leaves me with one clear-cut explanation: Smith is only as good as the support his team offers in front of him. Calgary, as a collective, have been poor in what are supposed to be friendly confines. The Flames have a grotesque 12-13-3 home record, the fourth worst in the Western Conference.

For Smith to assimilate unconditionally to life in Calgary, his team must improve markedly at the Dome, making their relatively new netminder feel more at home.

Until that happens, Smith won’t be able to enjoy and appreciate the home cooking Calgary has to offer.

(This piece originally featured no Flame For Thought. Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

What is behind the Flames’ recent third period collapses?

Sports

Before consecutive third period collapses against Las Vegas and Tampa Bay, the Flames were one of the most reliable teams in the league at shutting down shop when leading after two. 

What a difference a few days can make.

Flames fans, prior to Jan. 30, could rest easy with the lead going into the third, knowing their team were almost certainties to secure the win, evinced by their 89 percent winning ratio in such situations.

The Flames, who boasted a 17-0-2 record when up after two, led the Golden Knights 2-1 with 1:47 to play.

Then came Michael Frolik’s moment of madness, his wayward backward pass turning into a shot on his own netminder. Understandably caught off guard, Mike Smith was only able to push the puck back into harm’s way.

Erik Haula couldn’t believe his luck and dually obliged, punishing Frolik for his haphazardness. It’s impossible not sympathize with Frolik, who had just return from a long injury layoff. Too outrageous to avoid further punishment, it was a eureka moment that burst Calgary’s bubble.

Ten seconds later the Golden Knights scored the winner, obliterating the Flames’ unbeaten regulation record when taking a lead into the third. Calgary enjoyed an otherwise near flawless performance against the top team in the Western Conference, dictating play until that fateful moment.

Those type of heartbreaking losses are more difficult to recover from, the devastating defeat compounded by the fact the Flames had already lost four on the bounce.

Worrying third period signs against Tampa

The signs were more worrying in the third against the Lightning, symptomatic of a team devoid of confidence and assuredness. Smith, usually one of the team’s most consistent performers, looked apprehensive and unsure.

Uncharacteristically, he conceded two weak ones from bad angles in just over five minutes, turning the game in Tampa’s favour. The initial momentum shift occurred in the second when Matthew Peca halved Calgary’s lead, but it was Alex Killorn’s leveller in the third that totally deflated Glen Gulutzan’s team.

In coughing up a second successive third-period advantage, the Flames fell from 14th to 24th in holding the lead after two.

They have lost six in a row and must overcome and extinguish quickly any feelings of self-pity or skepticism. Because at this level the difference between winning and losing has a lot to do with confidence and self-belief.

The Flames have the talent, depth and skill set to make a run to the playoffs, so long as they swat sternly away the devil currently perched on their collective shoulder.

(This piece originally featured on Flame For Thought. Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

Dominant Dane sparkles as Tottenham topple United

Sports

It took Christian Eriksen less than 11 seconds to make an unforgettable statement on his return to the lineup, showing how much Spurs have missed his presence of late. 

Eriksen is the lone Tottenham starter blessed with an artist’s creativity and an entrepreneur’s vision.

Though his opening goal, the third fastest in Premier League history, had more to do with anticipation, canniness and, as his gaffer put it, a teachable sense of belief. Talking about belief, his goal – which he finished with the killer’s instinct – injected Tottenham with exactly that.

Eriksen’s goal, taken in context with his overall performance, was a mere drop in the ocean. The masterful maestro made six key passes according to Who Scored, but it felt like he was ripping apart Manchester United’s defence like a butcher’s blade through bone every time he had possession.

Eriksen played a first-time ball to Harry Kane in the first half, delivered a stunning free kick that Eric Dier headed over and threaded the needle in the second half, putting Son Heung-Min through on what should have been Spurs’ third.

Eriksen, back to his inspirational best

It reminded me of his performance against Ireland in the World Cup playoff qualifier, when he scored a hat trick while concurrently breaking a nation’s collective heart. Sure, he didn’t score against United, but his performance had the same creative spark, youthful energy and decisive dominance.

But last night’s showcase came against one of the world’s best clubs, not a mediocre nation whose hopes of making the World Cup were more aspirational than realistic.

United, even after being exploited by Spurs, still lay claim to the stingiest defence in the Premier League, having kept a clean sheet in four straight encounters before last evening’s match. Only their Manchester counterparts have conceded as few goals.

The dazzling Dane, after two weeks off through illness, looked fresh and full of life. Maybe it was burnout that weakened his immune system and led to him contracting the flu. Regardless of what caused the sickness, it looks like a case – based on his supernatural display against the Red Devils – of short-term pain for long-term gain.

If Eriksen continues in this rich vein of form, Spurs will be guaranteed a top four spot to go along with a deep run in the Champions League.

(This piece originally featured on Tottenham HQ. Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino playing a dangerous game with Kane

Opinion, Sports

Mauricio Pochettino, by starting Harry Kane unremittingly regardless of the occasion, is a playing an exceedingly dangerous, yet necessary game.     

Pochettino’s decision to start Harry Kane was once again proven correct, with Spurs’ precious asset scoring Spurs’ only goal against Newport County, delivering an FA Cup stay of execution. One question, unanswerable in nature, is whether Kane would have come up with the goods had he come on from the bench.

It’s a question that could stoke an endless debate among Spurs supporters. The more meaningful question, though, is when, if ever, will Pochettino rest his leading man.

If Pochettino can’t afford to rest him against a team of Newport County’s negligible pedigree, then when will Kane be able to recharge a battery that will, sooner or later, start to deplete.

It’s obvious the gaffer has no trust in Fernando Llorente, and who can blame him? The Spaniard has been an abomination since signing for Spurs in the summer. The argument that Llorente hasn’t been provided the platform to succeed is no longer valid. That ship has long since left the dock.

His listless, beggared performance against Newport is further proof of his inadequacy. Which leaves Pochettino with an unrelenting quagmire. While youthful and vibrant, Kane, like any other professional footballer, is not entirely indefatigable. And with compounding wear and tear comes increased susceptibility to injury.

Regarding Kane, I’m not sold on Pochettino’s ride-it-until-the-wheels-come-off mantra. The overt lack of strategy is palpable, caused solely because of an absence of viable alternatives.

No rest forthcoming for Kane

I can’t envision Kane being rested any time soon, so hopefully he’s able to maintain his present otherworldly form devoid of a rest in the run in. Jostling for a top four spot in the Premier League, combined with a Champions League round of 16 tie with Juventus, guarantees Kane’s interminable on-field presence.

The potential of burnout, with playing two games a week, even for a 24-year-old at peak fitness, increases considerably.

But maybe Pochettino knows something the rest of us don’t. If Kane starts in the Wembley replay against Newport on Feb. 7, a match sandwiched between playing Liverpool and Arsenal and less than a week before facing Juventus, my suspicions of him being from another planet will be confirmed.

And if that’s the case, Gareth Southgate can rest easy knowing England’s only hope of winning the World Cup is immune to a human’s imperfections.

(This piece originally featured on Tottenham HQ. Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Could every Tottenham supporters’ worst nightmare become reality?

Opinion, Sports

Loyal, long-term Tottenham supporters waited for what seems like eons to see their team transform into a contender, so try imagine what it would feel like if everything came crashing down in an unbearable foul swoop.

My mum, in my formative, impressionable years, always told me to hope for the best but to prepare for the worst. The worst-case scenario for Tottenham, though, makes me wish I never thought in a prudent way, as it would resemble a scene from the Day After Tomorrow.

It includes Mauricio Pochettino being poached my Real Madrid, with Harry Kane as the Argentinian’s first purchase for the Galácticos. The thought of that catastrophic moment causes recurring, lucid nightmares.

While improbable, pessimists will direct you to the irrefutable and persuasive arguments as evidence of the armageddon-like moment becoming an eventuality. And those arguments shouldn’t be ignored, or overlooked: Mauricio Pochettino spent the peak of his playing career in Spain with Espanyol; he returned to Espanyol for his first managerial job, coaching the La Liga side from 2009-2012; Espanyol is to Barcelona what Arsenal is to Tottenham; Real Madrid is Barcelona’s main competition, and other than Espanyol, their fiercest rival. Real Madrid are back-to-back Champions League holders; and, as blatantly obvious as it might sound, Spanish is Pochettino’s native tongue.

Have the involuntary sweats started yet?

I won’t fire off the reasons Kane could be enticed to the Bernabeu. However, suffice to say that if Pochettino goes, so too does Kane.

You hear it all the time; no player is bigger than the club they play for.

Pochettino and Kane’s club

But what about the world’s most valuable forward and sought after coach, together as one?

That venerable, superstar package comes close to vetoing the rule. Pochettino and Kane, even in tandem, still aren’t bigger than Tottenham Hotspur Football Club; though it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say the pair, particularly Pochettino, are the glue that holds the squad together.

Pochettino is the primary reason Spurs were able to sign Dele Alli, Davinson Sanchez, Juan Foyth, Fernando Llorente, Victor Wanyama and Toby Alderweireld.

He is the principle reason Tottenham have been able to hold on to Hugo Lloris, Eric Dier, Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen, and to this point, Alderweireld.

And the Argentinian is also the main reason Harry Winks, Kane, Alli, Eriksen, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Dier, Wanyama, Ben Davies, Son Heung-Min and Kieran Trippier have fulfilled their respective potentials.

It doesn’t take a neurosurgeon to foresee a potential player exodus if Tottenham’s charismatic boss leaves for pastures anew.

Would Tottenham recover if the duo leave for Madrid?

The club, knowing Spurs as I do, is, as a collective, blessed with the resilience and never-die persona to recover from such a disaster. But, like in the aftermath of a Category-5 hurricane, that recovery certainly wouldn’t happen overnight.

Some might consider the comparison of Pochettino and Kane departing for sunny Spain and the world coming to a violent, cataclysmic end as sensationalistic, even dramatic.

You obviously haven’t been a Spurs supporter long enough if that’s the case.

(This piece originally featured on Tottenham HQ. Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Same old problem haunts Tottenham, hampers Kane, in Southampton draw

Sports

A number of issues contributed to Spurs’ draw with Southampton, none of which having as much impact as the lack of offensive support for Harry Kane.

Christian Eriksen’s absence certainly hampered Tottenham’s usually fluid attack, and so too did the wet and boggy conditions on the south coast. But those factors alone shouldn’t be enough to derail a side of Tottenham’s credence and quality.

Whether we like to admit it or not, our beloved Lilywhites would be in a dire state without Kane’s prolific offensive output. The elephant in the room reared its ugly head on Sunday, and not for the first time.

Kane, who scored Tottenham’s sole tally against Southampton, has 45 percent of his team’s Premier League goals this season.

No other club in England relies on an individual as much as Tottenham count on Kane: Wayne Rooney, with 10 goals, has scored 38 percent of Everton’s goals while Mohamed Salah has a 33 percent share of Liverpool’s markers.

Nobody else comes close to scoring at Kane’s alarmingly disproportionate rate.

And as impressive as that is, it’s also gravely disconcerting.

While a winger like Bordeaux’s Malcolm would help, he’s not the solution to all that ails Spurs. Mauricio Pochettino needs a shifty, speedy, creative forward to support, supplement and partner Kane. I’m not disillusioned enough to think the gaffer will transform entirely his tactics to accommodate a new signing, all of a sudden altering his philosophy by deploying two men up front.

Another top striker is needed

But there is scope, particularly in matches like the one at St. Mary’s, that would lend itself to playing two up front. Debilitated by Eriksen’s illness, Pochettino opted to start with Mousa Sissoko, Mousa Dembele and Eric Dier as the trifecta patrolling the midfield, playing directly into Southampton’s rough-and-tumble persona.

The partnership of Dier and Dembele have more than enough to cope with Southampton’s physical prowess. Starting Sissoko, who didn’t necessarily perform poorly, was overkill, his position made redundant on a day tailor-fitted for a bit of craft from a skilled second striker. Seeing Pochettino bring Erik Lamela for an added attacking threat instead of Fernando Llorente says it all.

Pundits reckon no striker wants to play second fiddle to Kane, a logical and reasonable excuse for Tottenham’s inability to lure another top frontman to North London. Surely, though, any proficient forward can see the merit in suiting up beside Kane, whether to play alongside or in support of the club’s sniper.

But the rightful suitor cannot share similar attributes or physicality traits with our top marksman. He must be the polar opposite in playing style and character, while still having the desired complementary effect.

Not taking anything away from Fernando Llorente, but a move for an élite secondary striker is well overdue, and until Spurs solve this unrelenting bugbear, they’ll find winning the Premier League just beyond their outstretched reach.

(This piece originally featured on Tottenham HQ. Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

If the top five pound-for-pound UFC fighters were NHLers, who would they be?

Opinion, Sports

Comparisons between professional hockey players and mixed martial artists aren’t often made, but there are more similarities among the top five UFC fighters and current NHLers than you might realize.  

Can you envision Conor McGregor or Daniel Cormier strapping on a pair of skates and hitting the open ice? Nor can I.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t share some skills and character traits of prominent NHLers.

Altogether dubious of their skating abilities, I’m going to focus on attributes that are necessary, transferrable and advantageous assets across both sports from the top five pound-for-pound fighters. The fighter rankings are provided by UFC.ca

5. Daniel Cormier would be Jarome Iginla

Light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier and free agent Jarome Iginla share numerous commonalities: both, at one time or another, were at the peak of their sports.

Unlike Iginla, Cormier is still at the top of his sport, looking ahead to defending his title against Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 220 on Jan. 20. However, that could change in the blink of an eye if the Swiss challenger upends Cormier in Boston on Saturday. The pair of powerhouses are of almost identical builds, with Iginla two inches taller and five pounds heavier than Cormier.

They are highly respected in their respective sports, both of whom usually avoid running their mouths, preferring their skills do the talking. The wily veterans are only two years apart, with Iginla, 40, two years Cormier’s elder.

And both have represented their nation at the Olympics. More forebodingly, If Cormier loses his belt on Saturday, his career, like Iginla’s, will take a downward turn.

4. Max Holloway would be Patrick Kane

American idols – please, excuse the pun – Patrick Kane and Max Holloway are dominant forces in their corresponding sports. Both are relentless in attack and lethal finishers.

Kane has won three Stanley Cups and Holloway is the undisputed featherweight champion. They share the same height and are ranked first in their specific fields: Kane sits atop EA’s NHL 2018 right winger rankings, while Holloway, until March at the very soonest, rests on his pedestal as the featherweight’s apex predator.

3. Georges St-Pierre would be Sidney Crosby

Two of the most decorated Canadian athletes, Sidney Crosby and Georges St-Pierre are idolized and lionized in the Great White North. Crosby has won three Stanley Cups with the Penguins and two Olympic golds, while St-Pierre is one of the only UFC fighters to win belts in different weight classes. St-Pierre is unbeaten in 13 bouts and Crosby has won back-to-back Stanley Cups.

Physically, there’s not too much to choose between the two legends. Crosby weighs 15 pounds more than St-Pierre while both are 5 ft 11 in.

While St-Pierre’s nickname is Captain Canada, Crosby is Canada’s captain. The uncanny list of similarities doesn’t end there, as both superstars have been plagued by a litany of injuries throughout their illustrious careers.

Finally, they way they present themselves maybe their most impressive shared trait. True ambassadors of their respective sports, the venerable duo are well spoken, humble and forever respectful, the polar opposite of the following featured pair.

2. Conor McGregor would be Brad Marchand

The bad boys of both sports certainly know how to backup their bellicose trash talking. Conor McGregor and Brad Marchand have reached the pinnacle of their sports, and both are controversial figures who draw a large, cult following.

Marchand has won the Stanley Cup and Olympics; McGregor is the only UFC fighter to hold two titles, featherweight and lightweight, simultaneously. The polarizing stars stand at 5 ft 9 in, and both are 29 years old. And it goes without saying that The Notorious and The Nose Face Killah love an old fashioned, no-holds-barred street brawl.

1. Demetrious Johnson would be Johnny Gaudreau

Despite defending his flyweight title a record 11 times, the top ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC is under hyped, still fighting under the radar. He is indisputably the most talented fighter in the UFC, continuously showcasing his exceptional agility, quickness, creativity and technique.

All of the aforementioned attributes apply to Johnny Gaudreau, who plies his trade for the Calgary Flames. The diminutive left winger certainly hasn’t enjoyed the unparalleled success of his UFC counterpart, but Johnny Hockey is blessed with a comparably impressive skill set.

The 24-year-old is also undervalued, but that’s slowly changing as Gaudreau’s unique, highlight-reel playing style can only be passed over for so long. Sound like a certain UFC flyweight champion?

(Photo by David Becker/Getty Images for Wynn Nightlife)

Son Heung-Min is most underrated player, not most improved

Sports

Garth Crooks says that Son Heung-Min is the Premier League’s most improved player, but the former Tottenham man has completely missed the mark with evaluation of the South Korean.

Your performances must get substantially better over the course of a moderate time period to be considered the most improved player. That is certainly not the case for Son, who has played at the same élite level since the start of the 2016-17 season.

Son definitely has a strong claim as the league’s most underrated player, though.

Crooks, who played for Spurs between 1980-1985, said in an interview with the Evening Standard, “I have said before that I think Son is one of the most improved players in the Premier League and against Everton he proved it once again.”

I’m not sure what version of Son he’s been watching over the last two seasons, but the 25-year-old South Korean is one of Spurs most consistent players, and has been for almost two seasons.

Sure, he took a while to adapt and acclimate to the Premier League, scoring four goals in 28 appearances during his début season with Tottenham.

Since, though, Son is producing at a consistently high rate, and is usually on Mauricio Pochettino’s team sheet, appearing in 22 of 23 league games this season.

Son’s consistent contributions

In 2016-17, Son scored 14 goals and added six assists in 34 appearances. And it’s not just the number of goals he scores, but the importance of them. He’s a clutch performer who elicits the best from his teammates.

The affable Korean is his nation’s top scorer in the Premier League; he is one of the primary reasons Spurs were in the title race for most of the 2016-17 season and bagged his momentous 20th goal in a Tottenham shirt earlier this season.

After a trivial blip at the start of this season, Son has picked up where he left off in May. He didn’t score in the first seven matches of the 2017-18 campaign, but has bagged eight goals while adding four assists in the 15 games since. Oh, and Son has scored in five consecutive home Premier League matches, matching Jermain Defoe as the only other Tottenham player to achieve that feat.

To further emphasize my point, Son has won the Premier League Player of the Month award twice in less than two seasons – in September 2016 and April 2017.

Surely those numbers reflect his unerring consistency, contradicting totally Crooks’ most-improved-player assertion. If anything, his viewpoint confirms just how underrated and undervalued Son is across the league.

But the gaffer, teammates and supporters understand acutely his importance to the side, and it’s time the rest of the Premier League sees the light when it comes to our favourite Son.

(This piece originally featured on Tottenham HQ. Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)