Friday, 31 December 2010

Spurs 101


A team (x) has three games in six days.

One (a) is difficult.

One (b) is quite difficult.

One (c) is easy.

They win (a) and (b).

What happens in (c)?

Now what happens if x = Spurs?

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The perfect 10 men


Last season, when we were positively battering Chelsea at home, a friend texted to ask, 'Who are these strange men in white shirts?'

I had to admit I didn't know. But whoever they were, they're still here.

This team just doesn't know the rules. Our rules, anyway. And they have no respect for our traditions. When they go ahead, they think they'll go on and win. When they go behind, they think they'll probably still win.

They see a goal as the first step towards victory not, as it used to be the case, an audaciously early equaliser or, in some cases, the laying down of a marker for some semblance of respectability in the scoreline. Conceding a goal, meanwhile, is just a bump in the road to victory.

When they're reduced to 10 men, they don't just dig in and show resilience, they break up the pitch with speed, style and confidence - and score actual goals, like real teams. Like, well, like Man United, frankly.

Previously, in almost any situation, a win was viewed largely as a wholly unexpected bonus. We, fans and players, would be quite giddy with delight. Oooh, have we won? Are you sure? I know the final whistle's gone and we've scored more goals than them, but, three points? Really? You're sure? Excellent! Let's get pissed and lose the next one!

Now, we sort of shrug a bit and maybe have a look at the table.

So, who are those strange men in white shirts? Perhaps they're Spurs players.

Perhaps, finally, the psyche of Spurs is changing.

Because more than a properly world class striker or a fit-again pairing of Woodgate and King, that's the final piece in the jigsaw.

We need to stop being Spurs. I'd hate us to be New Spurs, that sort of rebranding doesn't seem to end well, but, more than we need to play differently, we need to think differently. We need to react differently to going ahead and to going behind. And that's what these strange men in white shirts seem to be doing.

They've just done it, twice. And, whilst they seemed very pleased about it, they didn't seem hugely surprised.

I like these strange men. That's not a quote I wish to be remembered for, frankly, but it's true. They can stay. We emphatically don't want our Tottenham back.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Prediction


1-1

A league of our own


Interesting one, Villa. They used to be us. We used to be them.

Now we're supposed to be something different, something better.

Previously, the top four was almost always The Big Four. Outside of that, there was us, Villa and Everton, all sort of knocking on the door. And then invariably running away before it was opened. Like a sort of shit and pointless version of Knock Down Ginger (there may be regional variations on the name of this game/minor offense, but rest assured it was slightly more innocent and harmless than hitting carrot tops).

We would shuffle 5th, 6th and 7th positions between us, whilst still finding time to slip in the occasional nightmare season where we dropped quite significantly further down.

In truth, the big boys' 1-2-3-4 hegemony was never threatened. Chelsea, Man Utd, Arsenal, Liverpool. 1-2-3-4. Over and over again. They were the Premier League Ramones.

Liverpool, of course, have now 'done a Joey'. This doesn't really work as a metaphor, because Joey Ramone is dead, and Liverpool are just resting. But that slight medical discrepancy is compensated for by the use of the word 'Joey', which, having seen Liverpool a few times this season, seems entirely appropriate.

If you look at our performance over the last 18 months and the current quality of our squad, though, we do seem to have left both Villa and Everton behind, right? Put some clear white water between us. We certainly seem to have established enough points of difference. (Points, see, what you get when you win football matches. Clever, I know).

But we're still not Big Four. Top four last year, yes, but not Big Four Proper. The Champions League still feels like a once-in-a-lifetime holiday, not a permanent place in the sun.

Actually, after a few years of working hard and finally scraping through last year's end of term exam (in other words, after earning our place) one of the other boys, City (Manchester Minor) got adopted by unfeasibly rich new parents who just went ahead and bought a place. Probably donated a geography block or something.

So maybe we've been unfortunate enough to finally become good enough to be in the top/Big Four, just when the barrier to entry was raised, and we were asked to leave more or less straight away. Sorry Spurs, there's been a mistake. Manchester City have moved the goalposts. Which makes a change from Manchester United, where they move the goal line.

But, hopefully, we've outgrown our old peer group, as well. We're fifth. It seems very, very likely that we'll remain fifth and finish fifth. We've got nowhere else to go. And whereas previously this would have been a rather splendid achievement, this season it may well feel like a terrible disappointment and horribly unjust. It will be a fifth full of fury.

To get and stay in the top/Big Four, someone has to give up their place. Liverpool did. Which was damn decent of them. But United, Chelsea and Arsenal won't. And City just don't work as a business, as a club or, as the directors their are fond of saying, as 'a project', without Champions League football. They'll do whatever it takes. If that sounds sinister, that's because it is.

Back to Villa. Today's game won't prove one way or another whether we're more comfortable in their company, or alongside the genuinely big boys. But, it does feel like we won't be jostling them for position in the season's final straight. Nor does it seem feasible that we'll be part of the leading pack. We'll be where we belong: fifth. Oh my God, we're Peter Elliot. Ginger twat.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Hateful or hollow?


There should be a hierarchy of hate.

Hate is football currency and, strangely, it's the withholding of it that's really valuable.

Arsenal started it, I think. As the gap between us grew, they tried to convince us/themselves/the watching world, that they weren't really concerned with the odd domestic skirmish any more, as they had sustained, significant campaigns to fight elsewhere, against more worthy (and more despised) opponents.

They were trying to kill us with indifference, basically. Just like we do to West Ham. Aw, bless.

I'm not sure how true it was/is. They certainly seemed upset the other week, didn't they? But they were making a point.

So, yeah, proper London team fansites should basically poll their readers to see which other London team they hate the most. We'll have a league table. I think we might 'win'.

If we do, could we put it in the roll of honours bit in the programme?

Whitepool



Result!

I mean no result, obviously.

But, still, result!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Don't panic!


It's honestly not that bad.

I refer, of course, to the fact that we've just drawn AC Milan in the last 16 of the Champions League. The worst tie we could have got by some distance.

But also, and again by some distance, the best.

It's the best because the Champions League is, or should be, all about playing AC Milan. It's going to be brilliant.

We'll lose, obviously, but as long as we don't get properly hammered (which could happen), that's fine too.

You see, this cheery tone isn't because I think we can win. Of course we won't win.

No, it's because, as with all knockout competitions, the Champions League is about managing your exit. Now, that sounds like something that might involve Anusol, but it's actually a sound cup strategy for all teams that aren't going to win the thing - and, in this case, that's very much us.

It we'd got our 'dream' tie against Copenhagen then one of two things could have happened:

1) We go out to Copenhagen. That means that all last year's league achievements and this season's amazing group stage campaign, even that daft yo-yo preliminary against those pesky Young Boys, would have been building towards, essentially, humiliation.

2) We go through. And then what? We we draw Chelsea (or Arsenal, if they out pitty-pat Barcelona) and they knock us out in a tie that immediately becomes part of history (ours and theirs).

This way, in terms of progress, we've done as much as was expected of us, but with more goals, elan and drama than anyone could have hoped for. Then we get knocked out by a properly aristocratic European team. We may even lose heroically!

It's a win-win scenario, by which, clearly, I mean lose-win.

Prediction


2-2/Postponed

Monday, 13 December 2010

Drawing conclusions


Well, I was almost right. Should have been right. Glad I was wrong.

I think we just about deserved a draw - and the fact that they missed a penalty in injury team means that it feels like a point won rather than two dropped.

The media seem to be laying it on pretty thick in regard to it being a great game, blood and thunder, end to end, etc. I thought it was just okay. Not exactly bags of chances, no real, sustained quality from either side. Even the fouls were a bit half-hearted. Essien kind of stamped on Bale, but not really; Hutton snapped and snarled but didn't really bite.

Obviously, having taken the lead, it was disappointing that we didn't push on but, 1) we rarely do and 2) this is Chelsea we're talking about.

Pav's goal was a beauty. I've worked him out. He scores an amazing goal that none of our other strikers would score once every 5.7 hours of playing time, and for the other 340 minutes just sort of lumbers about, probably reflecting on how ace that goal he 'just' scored was.

Drogba was, predictably, a fired up handful when he came on. Dawson was kind of out-muscled for the goal, but there was also an element of fortune. Plus he can be forgiven for thinking that maybe Gomes might have bailed him out. But oh no. Twat. If he carries on like this we won't be able to laugh at Arsenal's 'keepers. And that will never do.

Ah well, onwards and sideways.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Prediction


Okay, let's do this every Friday, shall we?

1-2.

Do the maths


Also, sorry, can we stop all this nonsense about Spurs having problems the weekend after a Champions League games.

It's just lazy bullshit that pundits trot out to convince idiots that they're smart enough to have spotted a trend; that they can explain things through some sort of logic when really it's all largely, gloriously illogical.

So, we've played seven league games after CL weeks. That's 21 possible points. And we've picked up 13. That's 62 per cent.

The weekend after no CL games, we've played nine games. That's 27 possible points. And we've picked up 13. That's 48 per cent.

Fuck you, 'Lawro' x 10.

Doomed


Right, so, Chelsea on Sunday.

The media's being hugely annoying, talking up our chances, Spurs to put another nail in Chelsea's coffin, etc. Utter nonsense, obviously.

We're doing okay in the league and, sure, we've made a decent fist of our first (by which I mean last) Champions League campaign. But, with one or two exceptions, we're not playing that well, are we?

Plus, look at the team:

Gomes - Pulls off the odd decent save, seems to be acquiring the same baffling cult status as Pav, but still a liability and surely the most cowardly 'keeper ever to pull on a pair of gloves.

Hutton - Nah, not really quality, is he? Plus, looks a bit like a mental patient.

Gallas - Old, fragile, unsavoury past.

Bassong - Literally our sixth choice centre back. Decent enough, but any team playing its sixth choice centre back would be weakened. And would have too many crippled centre backs.

Assou-Ekotto - Can look remarkably composed on the ball. But that could be largely down to the fact that he doesn't give a fuck.

Lennon - Shows flashes, but generally having an average season.

Palacious - Nope, not good enough

Modric - Genius, fair enough. Looks like an ugly 15 year old girl. But, yeah, genius.

Bale - Ditto. Only change '15' for '22' and 'girl' for 'bloke'. But, yeah, genius.

All Our Forwards - They're just sort of fine. Apart from Keane, who's a bit worse than that. Defoe's a good goal scorer (penalties aside), but not an actual centre forward. Crouch is a trier, but not an actual human being, possibly. Pav will capable of scoring spectacular goals and looking like the real deal, but there's a definite Brigadoon quality to his brilliance

So, doomed.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

I still don't want to go to Chelsea


Chelsea used to be Just Another Game. Sort of. I mean obviously they've always been a bit loathsome, their ground was a dump, fans annoying, etc. But we'd beat them more than they beat us, nerves weren't particularly shredded. It was fine.

Then everything changed. No, not when Ambramovich took over; when we started playing like utter cunts against them. That's how and why our dreadful run against them became so dreadful, because it started when they were shit.

When they spent shed loads of money and became really very good, we couldn't beat them, nor could most other teams, but we already had several years of not beating them in the bank.

It was fucking miserable. I ran out of ways to experience us losing against them. I tried going to the matches, of course. The 1-6 at White Hart Lane is a low point that springs to mind. I also tried:

* Watching on TV in a pub
* Watching on TV on my own at home
* Listening on the radio in the kitchen whilst pretending to do other stuff
* Listening on the radio whilst driving round aimlessly
* Going to the cinema and then checking my phone when I came out
* Ignoring the whole thing and getting depressed and depressing texts from friends

On November 5th 2005 we were live on TV. I decided to start watching. By 'watching', I mean having the TV on and glancing at it when I happened to walk through the front room. Affected nonchalance. Actual torture. Pathetic.

They scored, of course, and that was it. Might as well turn it off. Didn't turn it off.

One of my daughters wanted a lift somewhere. Respite. An excuse. I volunteered. Might as well. This is shit. I deliberately listened to something else, there and back. Five Live could fuck off. Okay, I'll just quickly check. See if the crowd noise tells me anything. It's loud. Why is it so loud? We sound encouraged? What's given us encouragement. We haven't, have we? We have. Fuck.

Then it got really painful. We could get a point here. Fuck. I got home and put the TV. Straight away, Lennon scored. Beautiful, brilliant Aaron Lennon. Fuck. This is terrible. We might well get a point now, but it'll feel terrible. Terry gets sent off. Not entirely sure what for. Hmmm, now they'll get a point and it'll be 'heroic'. They'll all mention 'JT' in the post match interviews. Fuck. ('JT' and 'Lamps' are the two most unpalatable words in football, surely).

I couldn't watch anymore. I grabbed my iPod, put my coat on and went for a walk. Honestly. I was getting texts from a few friends. They were excited. Idiots. I replied to one. My friend Ron. I told him I couldn't watch, that I was walking round in the cold listening to the Manic Street Preachers. He would text me when anything happened. If anything happened. Please God don't let anything happen. By this stage I must have had hope. I hate it when that happens.

I wrapped my hand round my phone in my pocket. If it didn't vibrate, we'd be fine. The 90 minutes must have been up by now. Every second that passed cranked up the level of pain the equaliser would bring. At a conscious level, that was all I could think about it. Subconsciously, of course, I must have been thinking, this is it. Finally. Surely. Please. All the pain will end soon. Today's pain, the last 193 years of pain (it seemed that long). The counter would be set back to zero. It would be no games since we'd beaten them. We'd be almost like a normal team again.

My phone vibrated. "It's over". For just a second I thought, is there a tiny chance he means the dream? Does he mean stop hoping, we've fucked it up again, it's over. No, he can't mean that. The phone vibrated again. It was ringing this time. Another friend, Graham. He was shouting. Happy shouting. Unintelligible ecstatic shouting. Not the sound of a man reflecting on our dream being over.

I ran home. My wife and daughters, not great football fans, but huge fans of me not killing myself, were actually there to greet me at the door. We did it! We finally fucking did it!

I watched every second of post match analysis. Went out, watched fireworks, drank. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered apart from the fact that we'd won. Three point lane? Fuck the fuck off.

Since then, of course, we've done fine against them. Can't win at Stamford Bridge, of course, but in the last five at WHL we've won three, drawn one (Berbatov should have fucking won that for us, as well) and lost one. I doubt any other Premier League team has done that well against them (can't be bothered to look it up, sorry).

And we beat them in the Carling cup final, of course. For that one, I was really nervous.

Monday, 6 December 2010

What's in a name?


'Such small portions' is the punchline to the joke that Woody Allen tells at the start of Annie Hall:

Two elderly jewish ladies are having lunch at a restaurant in the Catskills. One says, 'The food here is terrible'. The other says, 'I know, and such small portions'.

Myself and a friend realised a few years ago that we were constantly having versions of this conversation in regard to Spurs. 'Christ that was shit'; 'Can't remember a worse performance'; 'Fucking hopeless'; 'If it carries on like this, I tell you, we're going down'; 'See you at the Bolton game?' 'Absolutely'.

Didn't matter how dire we were, we always wanted more.

Eventually, we'd conclude every moanathon with, 'Such small portions'.

Thankfully, it's not a comment that's as apposite these days.

Then again, I've just looked at our next five fixtures. I can see seven points, maximum.