WELCOME back Gareth, you have been away for far too long.
Some 162 days after his return from Real Madrid, Tottenham finally saw the best of Gareth Bale.
The Wales superstar celebrated only his third Premier League start of the season with a wonder show to batter Burnley.
Bale rolled back the years as he scored twice - including the opener after only 68 seconds - and set up another for Harry Kane with a brilliant long-range pass.
But forget the goals and the assists, there was one moment in the first half when he knocked the ball one side of as Burnley player and sprinted past him the other side to collect it, leaving him trailing as though he were Maicon.
The former Inter Milan and Brazil full-back must still have nightmares after the way Bale roasted him in the Champions League a little over 10 years ago.
Burnley’s back line will know how Maicon feels, even if at times they were architects of their own downfall.
But you have to credit Bale for a performance which could end up putting a new tint on his Tottenham return - and possibly even his future as well.
This was undoubtedly the best we have seen of him since he rejoined the North Londoners on a season loan from Real Madrid on September 19.
This Bale-inspired romp reignited Tottenham’s top-four bid as Burnley’s four-match unbeaten run came crashing to an end - although we should not have been surprised.
The Clarets have not won at Tottenham in the League since a 3-2 victory on October 5, 1974 - a match which saw TWO Spurs stars, John Pratt and Mike England, netting at both ends.
Top of the UK pop charts that day was Annie’s Song by John Denver.
Many thought Bale would be Leaving On A Jet Plane - Google it, kids - back to Real Madrid this summer.
But do not bank on it after this.
Yes it may have only been against Burnley, but the improvement, on the back of encouraging cameos against West Ham and Austrian no-hopers Wolfsberger in the Champions, was so stark.
So you have to conclude if he continues to progress and perform at this rate, why would not Tottenham look to extend the loan for the final year of his Bernabeu contract?
On this evidence the prospect of Bale, with a full pre-season under his belt, playing a full campaign alongside Kane, Son Heung-min and an equally-committed Dele Alli in front of packed houses would be a mouth-watering prospect for Spurs and English football.
Of course, we should not get too far ahead of ourselves. We are talking about a player who has not been able to get into an abject team for most of this season.
But Spurs boss Jose Mourinho said on Friday the former Southampton trainee is the happiest and fittest he has been since his return to N17.
And he was smiling again when he took advantage of the Clarets’ square, static to defence, to tap in the opener from Son’s cross with less than two minutes on the clock.
Burnley boss Dyche looked gobsmacked as he stood on the touchline, staring up at the big screen, looking for a reprieve - and no wonder as it was the fastest goal Burnley had ever conceded in the Premier League.
The replays showed Bale was onside which must have been a relief for fourth official Simon Hooper who was the VAR involved in Saturday’s refereeing controversy at West Brom v Brighton.
Kane then drilled a shot wide before Lucas Moura had one blocked at point-blank range by visitors’ keeper Nick Pope.
Dyche joked last week that, with Lockdown beginning to bite, he happily sell Pope for a pint of lager and a packet of crisps in a pub.
Well, after that stop the England hopeful must be worth at least a pie as well.
But there was nothing Pope could do to keep out Kane’s deflected shot that made it 2-0 in the 15th minute after Bale’s sensational 60-yard pass played the England captain in down the left channel.
Kane has now scored 22 goals in all competitions for Tottenham this season. And with Bale now chipping in with assists, along with his striker partner Son, you would put your house on there being a few more to come.
Neither of them had a hand in Tottenham’s third, though, as Serge Reguilon crossed for Moura, who was able to take a touch before steering his shot past Pope in the 31st minute.
But Bale was not finished yet as he made it 4-0 in the 55th minute when, after Son sprayed the ball out to him on the right with the outside of his boot, he cut inside and powered a curling shot from the edge of the box into the bottom corner of Pope’s net.
Yet with the romantics dreaming of a Bale hat-trick, he was replaced by Erik Lamela in the 70th minute.
Typical Mourinho, he is so negative!
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