Early Doors doesn't know if you have noticed, but Harry Redknapp has made a career out of managing expectations as well as managing footballers. Playing down his team's ambition has been a staple of his public discourse: from the regularity with which Portsmouth were down to the "bare bones", to the regular refrain of "two points from eight games" which underlined the mess Juande Ramos had left Tottenham in prior to his arrival, and the depth of the hole he was forced to dig them out of.
Having done to great effect, recent seasons at Tottenham have seen a new mantra that Spurs are "two or three" big signings away from being a top club, though sporadically in the throes of ecstasy following a notable victory Redknapp has fleetingly spoken of his ambition to win the league.
On Tuesday, following a 2-0 win over Norwich which consolidated Tottenham's hold on third and left them gazing ever-more intently upwards to the Manchester pair at the top of the table, he erred on the side of caution, stating: "Sure, the results went well for us this weekend but we still had to make full use of that. Others may have dropped points but it just shows how everyone is scrapping for their lives.
"OK, you might look at some [easier] games and you might think 'Yeah, yeah'. But it's so hard to pick up good results these days. Just look at Liverpool. Who'd have thought that they would fail to beat Blackburn at Anfield? We don't worry about the opposition. We just go out to win games.
"I still think that the two Manchester teams are favourites for the title. United look really strong to me. You can't write them off, can you? We'll just keep doing our best, keep winning games and see where that takes us."
But as much as Redknapp obfuscates, the fact is that the talent of this Tottenham team cannot be disguised, obscured by a cautious public line any more. Victory over Norwich provided yet more evidence that this Spurs side are thrilling, sexy and, perhaps most importantly, they know it, just like a smouldering Hollywood starlet who wears a plunging neckline on the red carpet to provocatively steal the show.
The suspicion that they are now the only team really capable of breaking up Manchester's monopoly of the title race is backed up in fact, and not just ED's rather troubling metaphors. In their past 15 games, Spurs have taken more points (38) than either Manchester United or Manchester City (36). If they win their game in hand they will be just four points behind the Mancunian candidates.
Put simply, ED believes it is time to take Spurs seriously as a Premier League force. They are box office, and that is a rather unfamiliar situation for a generation of fans bred on the likes of Milenko Acimovic and Paolo Tramezzani, and conditioned to suffer poorly in comparison with their London neighbours.
But now, on a parochial level, they end the year as the top team in London for the first time since 1995. When Chelsea and Arsenal both suffered disappointing home draws following Christmas, Spurs grabbed a deserved away win.
Should they win their game in hand they would be a full seven points clear of Chelsea and eight clear of Arsenal. Neither of those gaps are insurmountable of course, but it is not beyond the realms of reality that this season Spurs could leave Chelsea and Arsenal in their wake, scrapping it out for fourth along with Liverpool.
On that note, has the dictionary definition of the 'Big Four' been formally changed yet? If not, someone should really see to that. (Oh, and while you are on with the Oxford Dictionary chaps, can you please request a formal ban on the word 'banter'? Thanks, ED.)
If ED were to take a big red pen and draw a diving mark between those teams who are in with a chance of winning the title, and those who are not, Spurs would fall one side and the aforementioned three would fall the other.
Chelsea are still grappling with a new philosophy at the same time as they are being undercut by old failings. Liverpool have become a parody of a football club with their Suarez t-shirt nonsense and Arsenal, well, are just Arsenal. They aren't going to win the league, are they?
If you are looking for a confident, stylish and genuinely likeable alternative to the Manchester juggernauts then there is only one show in town. Tuesday night's victory over Norwich just compounded that feeling.
Here was a team whose manager admitted the extent of his tactical instructions to Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart was "go and play where you want to play". Arrigo Sacchi he ain't, but for Tottenham and Redknapp this kind of hands-off approach clearly works, and it clearly brings the best out of Bale.
When watching the Welshman storm through the centre of the pitch to then dink the ball over John Ruddy - a goal that elicited an unprecedented double "my word" from the unparalled Ray Wilkins - ED was reminded of none other than Cristiano Ronaldo. Surely no player has come closer than Bale to replicating the potent mix of power, pace and finesse that saw Ronaldo steamroller teams on a weekly basis?
That is not to say Bale is as good as Ronaldo, of course, and strangely it seems that such qualifications must be made with regularity about Bale, as praising the Welshman can leave you open to ridicule for declaring him to be the best player in the world, when he is clearly not, and you clearly have not stated as such.
No doubt this phenomenon stems from the over-reaction to his hat-trick in what was a 4-3 loss to Inter last season and his somewhat undeserved grab for the PFA Player of the Year award, but can we not just all agree that he is a frighteningly talented specimen?
Certainly he is demonstrating as much on a regular basis, and Bale is a key component in an system that has seen Spurs become the most entertaining side in England. Yes, City have been fantastic, largely thanks to David Silva, but for ED the greatest entertainers around at present call North London home.
Arsenal's regression to a more direct, counter-attacking side has lost them style points and instead it is Spurs setting the aesthetic standards, with Luka Modric, Van der Vaart and even Emmanuel Adebayor instrumental in imposing a free-flowing, thrilling brand of football that rarely fails to disappoint. Just ask regulars down the Lane who have had to endure some tripe down the years.
A pretty favourable fixture list in the first half of the season has helped their cause - they must still visit Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea in the league - and inexperience in the squad may yet to come bear when Sir Alex Ferguson officially declares "squeaky bum time" season to be open, but for now, Spurs are looking pretty decent.
Whisper it quietly in the vicinity of Harry Redknapp, but they might just be the best team in England at present.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "As long as there is a hole in my bum, that was never a sending off. I will go and ask Stuart [Attwell]. I think that rarified atmosphere at the Emirates is a difficult place to work in whether you are a player, coach, manager, referee or assistant. It's pretty pressurised out there and I think there was a lot of pressure on him to do it." - Mick McCarthy gets graphic when insisting that midfielder Nenad Milijas was harshly done by when being dismissed for a sliding challenge on Arsenal's Mikel Arteta on Tuesday night.
FOREIGN VIEW: A big story broke in Italy on Tuesday night, and as ED's legal expertise could be written on the back of a court summons for council tax avoidance, we will let Reuters take it from here:
"Italy's new match-fixing scandal gained momentum when legal testimony showed former Atalanta captain and Italy midfielder Cristiano Doni admitting his role in illicit betting. Reports also said another accused player, ex-Piacenza defender Carlo Gervasoni, had told prosecutors that many more Italian matches than previously suspected involved illegal betting and match-fixing including games in Serie A.
"Promoted top-flight side Atalanta had six points deducted and Doni was banned for three and a half years in August after a football federation probe into betting in Serie B last term, but Doni had never previously admitted his guilt.
"On Tuesday, the ANSA news agency published his testimony in front of criminal prosecutors where he said he engaged in illegal betting 'only because of the passion which linked me to my team and the hope of being able to help them to the objective (of promotion) that season'."
COMING UP: We have highlights from all of the Premier League games since Christmas Day, as well as a rundown of the top five goals. We also bring your own team of the week, as well as casting our eye over the ten biggest sporting moments of 2011.
If it's live, table-topping, Glasgow-based derby action you are after, then that's handy as it's the Old Firm clash tonight as Rangers visit Celtic. We have live commentary on the game that kicks off at 7.45pm, while Desmond Kane also blogs on tonight's contest.