James Maddison: Spurs midfielder clashes with Neal Maupay but impresses on injury return

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James Maddison
Tottenham’s James Maddison played in the Premier League for the first time since 6 November against Brentford

Tottenham fans hoped to see James Maddison’s trademark darts-throwing goal celebration on Wednesday night, on his first start for nearly three months.

They saw it three times – and not once from Maddison. The first time was not even from a Spurs player.

Maddison starred for Spurs in their 3-2 Premier League win over Brentford, making his first start since 6 November when he injured his ankle in the chaotic home defeat by Chelsea.

Things started badly for Maddison and Spurs however, as Brentford broke their high line in the 15th minute through Neal Maupay bundling home his 100th career goal.

Maupay marked the moment by stealing Maddison’s celebration, throwing mock darts towards an enraged home support.

Maddison was none too impressed, and was captured on camera exchanging words and unfriendly hugs with Maupay afterwards.

“I just said to him, he hasn’t scored enough goals of his own in the last few years to have his own celebration, so he had to copy mine,” Maddison told TNT Sports.

“Short story, ended well for us.”

It did end well for Tottenham, as they blitzed Brentford with three goals in eight minutes after half-time.

Destiny Udogie equalised, before Brennan Johnson and Richarlison pulled the hosts away. Ivan Toney pulled one back for the visitors, but Spurs held on.

‘Went a bit early with that one’

After scoring, Johnson and Richarlison also performed the Maddison darts celebration, in front of the same section of fans Maupay baited.

Maddison further rubbed Maupay’s nose in it by posting to Instagramexternal-link with the caption, “a short story”. The post had three pictures: Maupay’s celebration, Maddison with his arms raised in triumph, and finally a graphic with the 3-2 scoreline.

Maupay himself sheepishly acknowledged he had been left with egg on his face – although he did try to claim some victory over Maddison.

“Went a bit early with that one,” the Bees striker wrote on Instagramexternal-link. “Gutted we couldn’t get the win. More goals and less relegations in my career than James Maddison. We go again Monday, Bees.”

Maupay also commented “ahahah rent free” under Maddison’s post.

Brennan Johnson
Brennan Johnson pulled out the darts celebration after making it 2-1 to Tottenham…
Richarlison
…before Richarlison did the same after scoring Spurs’ third goal

While Maddison and his team-mates celebrated and Spurs fans were entertained both by the quality of football in the second half and the soap-opera drama, manager Ange Postecoglou was less impressed.

Postecoglou was unhappy with the way his side were sucked into squabbles with Maupay and his cohorts in the first half, saying after the game it was not what he wanted to see from his side.

He told TNT Sports: “We were getting dragged into things, that’s not who we are. We were chatting to the ref more than we were playing football. We are naive at times, focusing on the wrong things, but that’s all part of our growth.”

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Asked if Maupay’s darts celebration had fired-up his team, Postecoglou replied: “I hope not, because that’s exactly what I’m talking about.

“I’m not a fan of it. I don’t like the whole bravado, pushing people around. If you’re that brave about things, my players and their players, get into a UFC cage and I’ll see how brave they are.

“We’re out there to play football and that’s what I want our guys to do, focus on playing football and they shouldn’t get motivated by things that aren’t really that important to us.

“Like I said, we got sucked in first half. Second half was better.”

‘There’s a design fault at Spurs’

Outside the Maupay tit-for-tat, it was an encouraging return to Premier League football for Maddison to follow from his substitute appearance against Manchester City in the FA Cup last Friday.

The England midfielder was crucial in Spurs’ run of eight wins and two draws in their first 10 Premier League games this season, and was central here to what proved the pivotal third goal.

Moved deeper after half-time to accommodate Johnson coming on, Maddison drove into the area and had a shot blocked, which Richarlison followed up and finished.

While not quite at his creative sharpest and forced off before the end because of cramp, this represents the reward for months of hard work by the former Leicester man to regain fitness.

“I’m a moaner at the best of times and I’m worse when I’m injured,” he said.

“There’s a design fault at Spurs – all the physio beds face the pitch with a big glass window. You’re getting your treatment and you’re watching the lads train every day. It’s tough.

“But I’m through it now – I’m feeling good and strong.”

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