Bale buoyant on CL push
Gareth Bale is confident that Tottenham's push for Champions League will not fade like it did last season.
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11. Gareth Bale
Tottenham are four points ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal following their Bale-inspired 2-1 win over Newcastle at White Hart Lane.
Spurs were in a much healthier position at this exact time last season. A 5-0 thumping of the Magpies at home kept Spurs in third place - some 10 points ahead of the Gunners - but their season soon began to unravel.
Speculation that Harry Redknapp was going to be appointed as England manager affected the squad, and the Londoners went on to record just four more wins, leaving them praying for a Bayern Munich win over Chelsea that did not materialise.
Spurs won four of their final 13 games the season before, again costing them a place in the Champions League, but Bale is determined for that not to happen again this term.
"In recent years we have kind of gone off the boil a little at this time of the season but I think the lads have got a lot more confidence," Bale said.
"We have learned from our mistakes from previous years and now we can be a lot stronger going in to the finishing end of the season so I hope we can do it."
Had Bale not performed as he has been doing recently, Tottenham would be well off the pace for Champions League qualification.
One week on it was the same story again, although this time he hit two superb strikes - a marvellous free-kick and a breathtaking solo effort - to grab the three points against the Magpies.
Typically for the grounded 23-year-old, he shunned the personal plaudits that came his way after the match and instead claimed he was unhappy with his performance because he missed a couple of late chances to take home the match ball.
"I was absolutely fuming (that I didn't get a hat-trick)," Bale told Spurs TV Online. "I missed a few chances, especially the one with my right foot, but the most important thing was that we got the three points to put the pressure on the teams above us and below.
"I am enjoying my game at the moment and the team is playing well, which always makes it easier."
Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas has brought the best out of Bale this season, allowing the wide man to drift in from the flanks and operate down the middle, leading to comparisons between the former Southampton man and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Spurs boss said: "He is such a great player. These moments of individual brilliance always help the team. "The best teams in the world count on the best players and they are able to make the difference for you so it was a great game for him."
Tottenham looked set to record a comprehensive win when Bale's powerful free-kick dipped over the Newcastle wall and beat the diving Tim Krul, but Yoan Gouffran - who was later carried off on a stretcher with a leg injury - equalised with a deflected shot after 24 minutes.
Tottenham were on the back foot for large parts of the game, but Bale came to the rescue with 12 minutes left, capitalising on the hesitancy of Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini before racing clear to nutmeg Krul.
Newcastle are just six points above the relegation zone despite winning two of their last three matches, but manager Alan Pardew was impressed with his team's effort.
"I look at my team and it's a team that was competitive against a good Tottenham side," he said.
"They were lively and we coped well with that. We have certainly gone up a couple of levels as a team. We gave a good account of ourselves and we can take that into our remaining games and start looking like we did last year."