Bale finds winning formula to boost Spurs' top-four bid
HE was once a figure of fun. Now Gareth Bale is a player Fabio Capello probably wishes was born in Carlisle rather than Cardiff.
The young Welshman could not buy a win in a Spurs shirt; now his name is the first on manager Harry Redknapp's teamsheet after emerging as one of the most exciting left-sided players in the Premier League.
Bale went a record 24 Premier League games for Tottenham, spanning more than two years, without being on a winning side until the match against Burnley last September.
Even Redknapp was concerned. "The record bothered me. Alex Ferguson said to me last year, 'You can't pick him, you're mad!' But now he looks fantastic, an amazing left-sided player," he admitted.
With England's left-back position a problem and their midfield not exactly blessed with a queue of worthy candidates, someone at home in defence or midfield would be ideal for South Africa.
Now 20, Bale is Wales' youngest international and goalscorer, and Redknapp admitted: "If he was English he'd be in the England team, for sure, because he could solve two problems."
Blackburn's experienced defender Michel Salgado was often embarrassed by Bale and admitted: "He is like Vicente from Valencia. He has good pace, he drives the ball well. For me he is a complete player."
Not so impressive were two penalty claims made by Bale after falling at the feet of Salgado and Morten Gamst Pedersen.
"There was contact but he was diving. The second one was a dive, too," said Salgado, a Champions League winner with Real Madrid.
Even Redknapp admitted that Bale has, in the past, gone down too easily, adding: "There was a spell when he used to get a little knock and he'd lay on the floor in training every day and the physio would run on.
"Now he looks harder, stronger, bigger and he's lightning quick. He's just got everything."
Also back in top form is Roman Pavlyuchenko, who scored two more goals -- he now has eight in six games -- to secure the win that keeps Spurs comfortably in fourth.
Jermain Defoe opened the scoring after referee Howard Webb had failed to award what looked a clear penalty for a challenge on Blackburn's David Dunn.
Christopher Samba scored in between the Russian's brace after Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson hobbled off with a torn calf muscle which will rule him out for "several weeks" according to Sam Allardyce.
The Blackburn manager was further frustrated when Nikola Kalanic was penalised for handball after finding the net late on for the visitors.