When Jose Mourinho arrived at this deserted stadium on the hill, the memories of his friend and mentor will have been charging through his head like a slide show on fast forward.
So will the irritation he had never won a game here, at the club of Sir Bobby Robson, the club they used to talk about in Portugal and Spain, the club the man he still calls “Mister” left him at Barcelona to manage 21 years ago.
This is the “house Bobby built” Mourinho always says, the only man the Portuguese has always been unflinchingly loyal and deferential to.
He will have remembered his old friend here. Maybe the change in protocol, where the teams could not pass the bust of Sir Bobby on the way in, led to change in luck. In reality, it was just Harry Kane. “Finally, I can see Sir Bobby Robson’s statue on the way out with a happy face, not a sad one,” Mourinho said.
This was Jose’s day, his first win at St James’ Park in the league secured thanks to Kane’s 20th and 21st club goals of the season and the 200th and 201st of his professional career.
Kane may look a little sluggish at times, but this is the sixth season in a row he has scored 20 goals all more, better even than the great Jimmy Greaves.
“He is a young guy,” said Mourinho. “To score 200 goals at his age, with the remaining years he has in front of him it is normal for him to go on and score another 200 goals.”
Spurs needed him again to recharge their European push. The Champions League looks beyond them, especially after Manchester City won their appeal against their ban, but this win keeps them in the race for a Europa League spot.
From a Champions League final in 2019 to continental football’s consolation prize in 2020 might not seem like much to get excited about, but given Tottenham’s poor start, the teething problems under Mourinho and questionable recruitment, it would at least salvage something; something to build on. Interestingly since Mourinho became manager in November, they have collected the fourth highest points total in the division. It is working far better than he has been given credit for.
As for Newcastle, this was a third successive defeat since they secured Premier League safety. They have injury problems in defence and little to play for, but actually performed pretty well.
Indeed, they were the better side for most of the first half, Miguel Almiron missing two chances, Dwight Gayle hitting the post with a glancing header, Jonjo Shelvey failing to get a much easier chance on target.
But they went in at half-time behind, Fabian Schar losing the ball stupidly close to his own goal to Lucas Moura, who fed Kane, who fed Son Heung-Min, who shot through the legs of DeAndre Yedlin.
Newcastle equalised with a rocket from Matt Ritchie and appeared to be getting back on top, only for Spurs to score again, Kane pulling off the shoulder of the flimsy Emil Krafth to head in his first before scoring a late third as Newcastle pushed for another equaliser, nodding in from close range after Erik Lamela’s effort had been saved.
“The players were really extraordinary, really tired,” added Mourinho. “I was speaking to their pride, asking them to find some energy and the only place you can find that is in your heart when there is none in their legs.
For Bruce the season is fizzling out. “We were naïve in some of our defending, we kept Kane quiet and he still goes away with two goals, that’s the difference.”