Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Some questions for Sam Allardyce

This, from Sam Allardyce in the Evening Standard, yesterday:

“The fans at Tottenham thought it was going to a breeze for them, a nice comfortable three points. But the Premier League will tell you that if you think like that then you are going to get your backside kicked, and they got their backside kicked.”

Okay, so, like I say, a few questions:

Does he really mean "the fans"?

If so, does he believe that this collective arrogant attitude from the terraces was the chief contributing factor to our defeat?

And it was "the fans" that got their backsides kicked? By his players?

Or does he mean our players? Were they the ones that were too confident and too casual? He must mean the players, right?

(But if he does mean the fans, do we, the fans, have a manager? And if so, could that manager not have torn into us at half time? Got us a bit more focused, maybe made a couple of changes?)

Let's go back to assuming he means the players: what was their attitude for the previous 14 home games against West Ham? Were they fearful of a terrible hiding every time the boys in claret and blue came to town - and so raised their game in order to prevent this mauling?

Or were they equally casual and just got lucky - 14 years in a row?

Is that sarcasm drifting dangerously close to wildly misplaced arrogance? And if it is, have I already cost us three points next season?

Has he ever met  a Spurs fan? Okay, I mean Spurs fans like me. Okay, I mean me. I never think we're getting a nice, comfortable three points. 'Nice' and 'comfortable' are not words that match my Spurs experience or expectations.

Can 'the Premier League' talk?

What does it sound like?

Is it true that you're the most brilliant and underrated manager in the history of football?

There are two things beyond question: West Ham beat us fair and square and all managers are effortlessly irritating, especially just after they've beaten us.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Come on football!

I didn't see the game as I was doing horrible adult things in Brighton.

I should rephrase that. It involved forms, sofas and progeny, not dungeons and drag queens.

Anyway, I saw the score after the event, read a couple of reports and only the next day saw brief highlights, including Chelsea 'celebrating' their goal.

Gosh they seemed angry. Such a lot of shouting and pointing and snarling: players to each other, players to fans, fans to players. None of them seemed to be enjoying themselves very much.

Also saw Mourinho's post match interview which, like a multi-storey car park next to a clown convention, was ridiculous on so many levels. Silly preening child-man. I was bored before he even began.

I mentioned all this to a friend and they said, You know, maybe you just don't like football. Maybe I don't. I'm not sure. I hope I do, but I'm really not sure. I don't think I like footballers. I definitely don't like most football managers. I doubt I'd like many football club owners. I don't like football supporters much. I don't like football commentators or football pundits. I don't like football phone in shows - the people who host them or the people who call them. I don't like football journalists. I don't like football debates or football banter.

Maybe I just like the football. I mean the actual thing. Maybe if everything else could be muted and whited out I could watch it pinging about, being manipulated, arcing through the air, rifling into the net. Whose net? Dunno. Don't care. It's all about the football. C'mon football!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Yid

"They're beginning to get on my nerves. Who are those guys?"

So says Butch to Sundance in the classic 1969 buddy Western as they are chased by a relentless six-strong posse during the central sequence.

Didn't end well for them, did it?

And so Spurs look over their shoulder. And there are our dogged pursuers. Tracking us at an almost perfectly constant distance. Getting on our nerves. Except we know who those guys are.

It's a horrible feeling. And it makes you do stupid things. Like look at the remaining fixtures and work out how many points we'll end up on. People treat this like an exact science. Newspapers run features showing who's going to pick up and drop points when and where – and print 'final' tables based on those 'results'. (I've just done it, and I reckon 67)

What you're actually doing there is trying to predict the outcome of 12 football matches. If you could do that, you would, within a week or two, win enough money to buy Tottenham Hotspur and ensure we finish above Arsenal and everyone else every single season.

Back to Butch and Sundance. What can we learn from them? Well, in the end, the pressure of pursuit caused them to throw themselves off a cliff and into a ravine. I think it was a ravine.

Anyway, that kind of worked, and then they moved to Bolivia, and then they died in a hail of bullets. The film ends, famously, on a freeze frame of them in their last moments of life. With a happy ending still possible.

Spurs' equivalent will be a close-up of of Danny Graham's face, a study in cold concentration, the electronic scoreboard in the back ground showing three numbers: a 90, a 2 and a 1. He is clean through on goal, Lloris has come out to narrow the angle, but Graham looks like he knows what he's about to do, he looks certain.

And the sound? In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid it's gunfire, in Spurs' season it will be the sound of 30,000+ plastic seats clacking back into the vertical position for another restless summer.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

The day I met Paul Gascoigne - naked

(So, this was written almost exactly two years ago, when I was concerned about Gascoigne. Today, concern doesn't begin to cover it. But I still met him, we were both still naked,  and he's still my favourite player)

I met Paul Gascoigne once. We were both completely naked.

It was at a health club. Gazza knew the owner (a quite loathsome 'hanger-on', truth be told) and he used to go there quite regularly.

One morning, I'm walking out of the shower and he's walking in. A mutual friend who, I think it's fair to say, struggles with the fundamentals of social etiquette, decided that would be the ideal time and place to forge an introduction.

I was excited to meet him, of course. But, thankfully, not that excited.

Gazza seemed completely unabashed. I guess when your life is that mental (this was the early '90s (I don't know why I added that, it could have been anytime at all)), then meeting a naked idiot barely registers on the crazy scale. It may not have been the first time it had happened to him that day, who knows.

Those that spent time with him back then said he was already something of a mess. But still a convivial, funny, slightly naive mess. The dark side remained hidden. At least in public. Cheryl's memories probably follow a different timetable.

Noel Gallagher tells a great story of when Oasis played Loch Lomond and Gazza was at Rangers. They were both staying in the same incredibly posh country hotel and, of course, they ended up having a drink together, complete with entourages.

Gradually, inevitably, all the other super-rich guests started to glance towards them more and more often and less and less subtly. Both their fame levels at this stage were dizzying. Eventually a crowd started to gather; everyone wanted to buy them drinks and grab their own little slice of the stellar action.

Deep into the evening, Gazza launched into a story about a game that involved that stalwart of Saturday tea time results shows: Hamilton Academical. They weren't the point of the story, just part of it. But poor Paul simply could not say their name.

He tried a few times and then Noel said it for him, to try and move things along. But our boy was having none of it. He would not be beaten. He kept trying and trying in ever more garbled and giggly ways, until saying Hamilton Academical stopped being a tiny part of the story it became the story.

Noel says Gazza had everyone in stitches, just through trying and failing over and over again to say Hamilton Academical. Was there a punchline beyond that? Probably. Did anyone care? Of course not.

There's a bit of a performing monkey aspect to the story, sure, and maybe it tells us more than we want to acknowledge about how Gazza was viewed and treated.
But the way Noel tells it it's clear that Gascoigne was still inherently and artlessly charming. And that he had huge reserves of goodwill amongst the general public. To paraphrase Homer Simpson, they weren't laughing at him, they were laughing towards him.

Now it's all very different. No one's laughing. (Okay, the bit where he turned up with some chicken and a fishing rod for Raul Moat was pure, staggering farce, you can have that).

Instead, the decline and fall of Paul Gascoigne, as a player and as a man, is just fucking chilling - especially when you look back at all the signs that everyone ignored.

It absolutely wouldn't happen today. If any player, let alone the greatest English player of his generation, behaved like that on camera or indeed anywhere in public, serious questions would be asked and something would be done. He would not simply be indulged or encouraged.

We will look back on what happened to Gazza, what was allowed to happen to Gazza, in the same was as we look back on sending children up chimneys.

To avoid ending with incredulous head-shaking and general depression, let me add that Paul Gascoigne remains the single greatest player I've ever seen play for Spurs. His pomp probably lasted less than two seasons, but my God he was good. And he could change and dominate a game like no one else.

I saw the last few years of Glenda's reign at the Lane, and he was a brilliant passer of the ball who could contribute 20 goals from midfield. But when Gazza was at his best he was a brilliant passer of the ball, could contribute 20 goals from midfield and do so much more.

Large portions of the crowd used to watch him, or at least keep an eye on him, even when he wasn't in possession. That's partly because Paul Gascoigne without the ball was more effective than David Howells with the ball, but mainly we were working out when he might get it next; willing play to drift into his orbit; knowing, I mean actually pretty much knowing, that when it did something amazing would happen.

I fear what's left to come in his story and I fear what's left of the man himself. But, without wishing to sound too elegiac, what he gave us and what he left us with will be treasured as long as Tottenham Hotspur exists.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

I've become THAT supporter

Who's that supporter? Well me, obviously, the clue's in the title. But that's a recent development. He's actually been around for ages and until this season I thought he was just plain weird and not a little wrong.

He's the guy who you see in the crowd after we score, just sort of casually clapping his hands (he's usually wearing quite big gloves, I think), smiling, standing still, maybe swapping a couple of cheery words with his equally relaxed mate standing next to him. Enjoying the moment but not engulfed by it.

I never understood this guy. He bemused and, frankly, kind of annoyed me. I didn't get why he wasn't hurling himself around, celebrating 'properly', going nuts. Clapping? I never clapped a goal. Goals were celebrated by screaming, by jumping, by falling over four rows of seats, by hugging, by punching (the air), then more screaming.

When Robbie Keane scored the opening goal against Arsenal in our last match against them at Highbury, I made a noise so loud, so inhuman and so troubling that over in Africa a dying wildebeest fell silent, pricked up his ears, sought out the medical treatment he needed and learned to use a mobile phone just so he could text me and ask if I was okay.

Arsenal equalised, of course, and the season, like that match, ended in disappointment. And maybe that was when I started to become that guy. It wasn't immediate, but I think it's now nearly complete.

Goals are great, but they're not full stops. The narrative continues. Same goes for wins. Same goes for trophies, in fact. Chelsea won the European Cup very recently but are, sporadically, still something of a laughing stock and their internecine struggle intensifies week by week.

There's an argument, certainly, for being what I believe people call 'in the moment', and I will, obviously, be sound tracking Sir David Attenborough's new series, rather than clapping, should we do something crazy, like win the FA Cup, or get three points at Stamford Bridge.

But there's also an argument for, most of the time, being that guy: for enjoying and appreciating the goal, and then not really enjoying the equaliser. Then going home and doing something else. A slight swing rather than a manic lurch.

That said, by the end of our game against Sunderland I had turned off the TV and was pacing the kitchen, because, I thought, with the logic of the lunatic, that if I watched the game it would 'invite them onto us'; but if I didn't, nothing would happen, time would simply pass and we would win. Oh I don't know. I think it had something to do with trees falling in forests, or maybe cats locked in boxes. Anyway, it worked, didn't it?

And all the time my heart was, to quote Dr Peter Sellers, going Boom Boody-Boom, Boody-Boom, Boody-Boom, Boody-Boom, Boody-Boom, Boody-Boom-Boom-Boom.

That guy wouldn't have been such an idiot, or so close to death. He'd have been 'enjoying' the last five minutes. Of a Spurs game. I'm not quite that mad/sane yet. But I will buy some gloves.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Fulham Vs Tottenham: Some things are more important than the result

Spurs have a rare opportunity to right a wrong this Saturday against Fulham. And it is one they must seize.

The football world was appalled recently when Shakhtar Donetsk's Adriano flouted the conventions (if not the laws) of the game by cynically pouncing on of one of those tiresome 'After You, Claude' free kicks, banging the ball in the back of the net and then twirling his waxed moustache in celebration. Disgusting.

It (the football world, remember; think of a world, but marked out in black and white hexagons) was then further outraged when UEFA punished this black-hearted transgression of the spirit of the game (stop giggling) with a paltry one match ban rather than the far more appropriate removal of the testicles.

On Saturday, though, a similar situation will play out. Dimitar Berbatov has, of course, already scored against us in this game. An old-fashioned linear approach to the concepts of time and space means we haven't seen it yet, but he has scored. It is done. The goal exists. Just not in this moment.

So, to save everyone time, to allow our still-dreamy ex-striker to enjoy the moment and, more self-servingly, to give us the time to equalise, the Tottenham team should do the decent thing on Saturady, do what Shakhtar should have done after Adriano's villainous transgression: simply allow the Fulham to kick off, let Berba dribble up to our goal unchallenged and slot home. Personally I'd like to see him drop down onto his tummy and head the ball over the line, schoolboy style.

It's what that game needs. It's what the game demands. And it's a damn site better than him notching a winner in the 93rd minute.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Why tonight's game is the biggest of the season so far

This is the big one; the bellwether, the true test.
Until now there have been a few routine results, the odd stunner and a few stinkers. But this is the one.
After a run of swings and roundabouts, this is the see-saw game. Pivotal, see? Cheers.
The reason is because for the last few years we have been a better side than Liverpool. And in order to achieve anything, we need to remain so.
Actually, let's not skip on so fast. Let's read that again: For the last few years we have been a better side than Liverpool.
For anyone of my generation, that is a staggering collection of words - especially in that order.
When I first became aware of football Liverpool were just embarking on a breathtaking era of domination at home and abroad.
As a child I remember thinking that them winning the league simply didn't count. Only other teams could win the league; win it off Liverpool, to whom it belonged - and then apologetically give it back.
A season that ended with Liverpool on top was like a dot ball or a safety car lap. It meant nothing had happened. The status quo (also huge at the time) had been maintained.
The idea of Spurs being better than them was frankly ridiculous.
But now we are. And have been for a while. It's rather unsettling. It really hit home a couple of years ago when we casually popped up to Anfield and very calmly cruised to a routine 2-0 win. A routine 2-0 win, people!
I think Ledley may have zipped back into the office for the afternoon to do a bit of tidying up. Didn't tax him too much, as I recall. Pretty sure he had a tea break at one point.
We are, of course, perfectly capable of losing to them tonight. And that won't necessarily make them a better side than us, or indicate that they'll finish above us.
But it we win, and we play better than them, and finish higher than them, then it certainly won't be a bad night or a bad season.
And then we'll start being disappointed and rather surprised when we don't beat them and don't finish above them. At which point I will be excited about the arrival of time travel but perturbed by the recent invasion from Mars.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Spurs' season so far: the definitive guide

We've beaten some cannon fodder. Failed to beat some other cannon fodder. And played really rather flippin well at Old Trafford for 45 minutes.
Actually that doesn't look right. 'Cannon fodder', I mean. Too redolent of The Other Lot. But then if you transpose our crest for theirs in that phrase, it becomes cock fodder. And that doesn't look right either. That doesn't look right at all.
The first three games, especially the two home games, were extremely frustrating. But they were the first three games. For the manager, for some of the players, for a new system, etc. So, whilst it wouldn't have been outlandish to expect seven points, it wasn't a disaster to get two. (Try telling that to the cat, though. My cat. Not Peter Bonetti; I didn't kick Peter Bonetti twice. Although I'm not saying I wouldn't if given the opportunity)
Since then, to quote John Le Mesurier, it's all been rather wonderful. 
(Peter Bonetti, John Le Mesurier, this really is one for the teenagers)
And now here come Chelsea. The Blue Meanies (another bang up to date cultural reference point, thanks very much) of modern football. They'll most likely field a front four that cost around £140m and are probably paid, between them, about £40m a year. God how I admire their pluck and commitment.
Paragraph here about what a loathsome cove John Terry is, obviously. Although, actually, what's best, is the way Chelsea fans (and officials) continue to laud him and happily hail him as some sort of club totem. Which is fair enough, actually, because he so is.
Anyway, I can't be bothered doing the 'research', but I'm figuring it's unlikely we'll put out an entire team that cost half that amount this season.
If we beat them we will definitely win the league. I say that with absolute certainty and a blood/alcohol reading of 0.45.
Actually I kind of hope Chelsea and Man City occupy the top two places in the league at the end of the season. And stay there. Forever. Occasionally swapping places. Eventually fielding teams of billionaires against each other. Spending more and more and more and more...
And then in a few years time they'll look behind them and see that we've all packed up and gone away. And it'll be like the bit where Wile E Coyote looks at the camera, realises he has actually hurtled off a cliff, and plummets to the floor. Because there is nothing solid underneath his stupid whirring feet.
Oh, and Moussa Dembele is my new favourite player, since you ask. He's dreamy. I like him so much I looked up how to spell his name. I even considered trying to work out how to put acute accents on the 'e's. Actually I BET HE'S GOT A CUTE ACCENT. Hahahahaha.
That is all.

Monday, 27 August 2012

So farewell then, Luka

One of the chaps in the row behind us at White Hart Lane was once attempting to extol the virtues of Luka Modric. Fumbling for the words to express his admiration, he eventually said: 'He just, I dunno, when he has the ball at his feet, he just… he glides'.

'Glides' is quite an unusual word for a football fan to use. And so, of course, it was seized upon. For around a year, whenever our number 14 got the ball, this bloke's fellow season ticket holders would all gleefully shout 'Go on Modric, glide, my son, glide!'

They did it to rib their mate, of course, but they also did it because they knew he was spot on. Luka did glide. He beat people through touch and movement. He didn't look to stepover, or nutmeg or purely outpace. He lost markers simply by being more aware of space, of his own body, of the position and likely next movement of an opponent – all combined with sublime control. 

He had the ability to execute the spectacular: there were raking cross field balls, the odd thunderbolt; but mostly, entirely appropriately, his brilliance came in small, subtle packages.

(The only drawback, he was appalling in front of goal; the guy finished like an asthmatic in a marathon.)

Now he's gone. Thankfully, I can't muster myself to care. I would have done, a while ago. Luka was my last footballing crush; a footballing crush defined as a player I watch above all others and long to perform and impress because in doing so he validates my love for him; I believe that he represents something about my club, about the way football should be played, and about me, probably.

It started with Hoddle, then Waddle, then Gascoigne, I even had a bit of a thing with Anderton in the early '90s, but neither of us like to talk about it. Since then, I've fallen in love less easily. There was Berbatov, of course, but I think that may have been lust. I knew he'd treat me badly in the end. And I'm still not sure if I enjoyed it or not.

Then along came Luka. Skinny, scruffy, little Luka. He looked as if he should play with his socks round his ankles. He was pretty much perfect for me. And I was in love again. Unlike all the other affairs, though, this one didn't end when he left me/us, it ended because, well, you can't love a woman if you don't love women. So when football suddenly seemed bleak and soulless and the scales fell from my eyes, Modric and me were just a casualty of that break-up. Now jog on, rat face.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Beautiful Games - and the return of Clive Tyldesley

I didn't need the unadulterated wondrousness of the Olympics to throw the grubbiness and sheer wrong-headedness of the Premier League into sharp relief.

Watching under/hardly paid, decent sportsmen and women compete honestly and ferociously, then accept their fate and finishing position with humility, equanimity, tears and smiles has, of course, been a delight. But I already knew the modern day footballer was in another world. Similarly, I don't need to stick my head in a bowl of pot-pourri to know that sh*t stinks. Talking of which...

On Sunday, I caught maybe 10 minutes of the Community Shield. I saw the multi-millionaires (paid by multi-billionaires) strut their stuff, I saw close-ups of the snarling, baying crowd, I heard their chants and their boos, I heard Clive Tyldesley's voice,  I was even unlucky enough to catch a celebration: all clenched fists and preening machismo. And I thought, Jesus football, you're just so... ugly. So unappetising, so out of tune and out of touch.

I still love football. I still love kicking a ball more than I love running round things, throwing things or jumping over things. My favourite sporting memories all revolve around football. I still have more admiration for the skill of a great player than I do for any other sporting prowess. But do I admire or like the player executing that skill? These days, almost certainly not.

I also know football, in terms of its fanbase (its most active and vociferous fanbase), is a working class sport in a way that, say, rowing, is not. And that it inspires a different type of passion, one that lasts a lifetime rather than burns and fades in time with the Olympic flame. These are both good things. But no, this isn't about class. Well, maybe it is, but not that type of class.

The Olympic athletes were the best of us. They performed, won and lost with the values and spirit that we hold dear and like to think we carry in our real lives. Premier League players are on Planet Football. They breath a different air. They are not the best of us. They are not even the worst of us. They are simply not of us. They are other. We don't understand them. And we don't particularly like them.

There are exceptions, of course. There are honest, decent, inspirational footballers. But not many (The upcoming book by The Guardian's Secret Footballer will, I fear, bear this out in plenty of gory, gaudy detail). And there are athletes who cheat and bitch and think their money and status excuse them from the 'binds' of everyday morals and mores. But, again, not many.

As I said at the start, though, the Olympics didn't influence my feelings for football one iota. Like most people, over the last two weeks, I fell in love with these amazing games. But I fell out of love with football way, way before the B of the Bang.

Friday, 15 June 2012

What's this? Harry's left?! Why didn't anyone tell me?...

I wasn't overjoyed when Harry was appointed.

I wasn't dismayed, but I didn't see it as a great choice or huge step forward.

I considered his managerial record (one very streaky cup win in 30-odd years) to be far from stellar - and thought his kudos was based as much on a 'one-of-the-chaps persona' allied to media smarts as much as footballing achievements.

But, he took us from bottom to eighth, and then to fourth, and then to the quarter finals of the Champions League. I must be a convert, right? And gnashing my teeth and the sheer lunacy of sacking a manager with such an impressive record?

Well, certainly I'm not celebrating his departure, and I'm not sure that whoever we get next will take us forward. Forward would be third. And third would mean finishing higher than two out of Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and a more expensively–assembled/better paid Chelsea squad than ever.

But I'm not mourning his departure either. I don't think many Spurs fans are.

For a start, his achievements have to be put in perspective. Yes he got us into the Champions League, but we weren't exactly miles off before. Martin Jol was an extra 30 seconds in the microwave from cracking it. And Harry had a much better squad at his disposal. The best Spurs squad since 86/87. And the best Spurs midfielder since Paul Gascoigne.

So let's maybe not overstate his record. And let's not forget playing like absolute puddings in an FA Cup semi-final against a broken Portsmouth, or letting a 12 point lead (and possible tilt at the title) slip away.

(I actually think Harry's right when he says Spurs fans should view finishing fourth last season as an achievement. Considering where we were in February I think it's an absolute miracle)

But, if we didn't bend a knee in gratitude at any given moment, if we dared question decisions or demand slightly more, then we were always likely to cop a bit of flack from Harry and his cronies in the media.

And that's one of the reasons why I won't miss him: he just seems so consistently and suspiciously defensive when he talks about fans: Spurs fans, Portsmouth fans, Southampton fans, West Ham fans...

He shakes his head and incredulously asks what 'they' expect, insinuating that 'they' should think themselves lucky to have him - and implying that what went before and was pretty paltry compared to the riches he's delivered.

In Spurs case, of course, when in this mode, he always referred to the club (not just the fans) as 'they'. As in his sarcastic, 'Yeah, cos they were always qualifying for the Champions League before I got here weren't they?'

Like rival fans and some sections of the media, he saw Spurs supporters as arrogant and deluded, warped by a weird and inexplicable sense of entitlement; impatient for success and angry about 'under-achievement'; unaware, basically, of their actual position in the modern game and, therefore, unable to gauge what is and isn't success - unable, in fact, to recognise it let alone enjoy it when it comes along, because it's not the sort of success we think we deserve.

But that's not my view or my experience of fellow fans at all. All that nonsense about the Carling Cup being Mickey Mouse? Strap some big ol' ears on me and tell Minnie I'm coming home drunk. I loved winning it and want some more.

I think most of us know what level we're at, how easy it would be to sink considerably lower and how hard (maybe impossible without Chelsea/City money) it's going to be to inch up just a little higher.

Harry, on the other hand, believed the slack-jawed, loud-mouthed, arrogant and ignorant cliche. And that was pretty insulting.

(And, yes, we do have those types, so does ever club. But the majority of 'us' are realistic, sanguine and generally pretty stoic after decades of, largely, disappointment).

Anyway, he's gone now, and once again I am not overjoyed and I am not dismayed. The only question that really matters is who's next? The answer, I think, is obvious: we appoint Tim Sherwood, call him Interim Coach, win the title and then just wait for John Terry to turn up and lead the celebrations. COYS!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Flippin Fulop - far from 'armless

Wise football folk will always say your team's fate isn't decided on the final day. They also say there is no point in looking back over a season of iffy decisions, glaring misses and last minute equalisers to work out either where you blew it or how different things would be in a 'fair' universe.

They're right, of course. So let's not do that. Let's definitely not dwell on being robbed away at Stoke (and rotten at home to Stoke), or getting precisely no points from consecutive games against Norwich and QPR. Let's not linger over having efforts cleared off the line at the death in both games against Chelsea. Or THAT moment away at Man City (followed almost immediately by THE OTHER MOMENT away at Man City)

But can we, perhaps, take just a minute or two to gape open-mouthed and broken-hearted at the performance of Mr Martin* Fulop - once of this parish, more recently of West Bromwich, and now, presumably, of a brand new palace made of gold and crushed unicorn horns in some far-off island paradise (how he afforded it, I guess we'll never know).

I heard on Sunday evening, via Twitter of course, that he had had a shocker, but couldn't be bothered to check it out. I then accidentally saw the goals on SSN the next morning. Oh my word. That's match-fixingly bad.

That was Hooveringly bad. As in a proper noun nearly became a verb ('Ooh, he's fuloped that right up') and a common noun ('The lad's had a fulop') in just a matter of minutes.

West Brom would surely have done better to play one-armed washer-upper Albert Riddle from Robin's Nest between the sticks. Ah, you might point out, but the actor that played him, David Kelly (obviously), died early this year.

I know. And?

(Oh, by the way, no, I don't think for a moment there was anything crooked about his performance; and I think if you had to pinpoint any one factor in us finishing fourth rather than third, it would be Arsenal winning six points in injury time within the space of five games or so, by grabbing winners against Sunderland, Liverpool and Newcastle. As far as I know, that's perfectly within the rules)

*Actually Marton, but it looks so much like a typo...