Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Efan club

Also, can we have more Efan Ekoku on the telly, please? He was smart, articulate, realistic, insightful, honest, interesting and pretty funny in a sardonic, anti-banter kind of way.

Basically, find as many endings as you can to the sentence 'Paul Merson is not...' and you've got Efan Ekoku. He used the word 'phlegmatic' last night, for goodness sake. In context. The anchor went straight to commercials, obviously, while Sky's lawyers checked it wasn't a swear.

And yet presumably he was only on because he used to play for Norwich. And, obviously, you have to have played for Arsenal or Liverpool to get a truly high profile media job. And be a MASSIVE idiot.

Come on Sky, sort it out.

Great Expectations - what the Dickens is going on at Tottenham?

And so, on Tuesday evening, we all settled down to watch Great Expectations. There'd been a lot of hype in the build-up and plenty of stars were on show, and yet the feeling persisted that it might turn out to be a horrible disappointment.

In the end though, it was rather good, wasn't it? Gillian Anderson lacks genuine pace, admittedly, but Brad Friedel made an excellent Magwitch and as for Luka as young Pip... No, hang on, I'm confusing myself now.

The point is, we played as big a game as Norwich away on a Tuesday night can ever be at exactly same time as the BBC was showing episode one of its splendid adaptation of Great Expectations. And goodness, what larks!

The stage was set by Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and City all getting disappointing (by which I mean hilarious) draws.

Initially it seemed we might fluff our lines (Jesus this theatrical analogy's becoming as tortuous as one of Paul Merson's updates on Gillette Soccer Saturday: 'There's been an offside corner on the halfway line Geoff and he's skied it all the way along the ground and straight into the goalkeeper's corner. 1-0'), but eventually pressure, persistence and sheer class paid off. It was, goddammit, comfortable. Impressive, even.

Especially Bale, our leading man. He is obviously some sort of God, hewn in Welsh valleys from iron and fire and sent over the border to carry Spurs to greatness. But, sharpen up those celebrations, boyo. That camp Morecambe and Wise one he does with Ade? Nah, I'm not having it, Geoff, as 'Merse' would drunkenly grunt. And as for all that shouting and gurning last night? It's not that I'm not having it, I just don't get it. And neither, clearly, did a visibly concerned Kyle Walker.

Apart from that, just keep on keeping on. Same goes for everyone, really. In fact, to ham-fistedly round this Dickensian special off in suitable style: Please, sir Harry, can I have some more?

Saturday, 24 December 2011

And Adebayor must score...

If Adebayor had taken his 92nd minute chance, it may have been the greatest thing to happen in the history of things happening. Or at least in the top 183 billion, which, when you think about it, is right up there.

One thing's for sure, if he'd had an Arsenal shirt on and been playing against us rather than for us, he'd have slotted it. And we'd have been heartbroken.

As it is, we're mildly disappointed with a 1-1 draw at home to Chelsea. Not because we deserved more, we didn't, but because, in that last five or ten minute spell we could so easily have snatched more.

I actually think the best chance fell to Bale, when Pav's miscontrol became an unwitting 1-2 with Modric, who then played a wonderfully delicate little ball into Gareth - who blazed over the bar. It was only when you saw the replay from behind him that you saw how sweetly it sat up, begging, demanding even, to be drilled low either side of the 'keeper, something our man is eminently capable of doing. But he didn't.

Also, of course, their goal should have been disallowed (shut up Alan Smith, seriously, just shut up. Forever.) and Adebayor's was clearly onside. Chelsea's last three goals against us, in fact, have all been bogus - giving them four points instead of none. Ah well.

Two tricky but winnable away games next - four points wouldn't be a terrible return. Except, of course, it probably would be, because City, United, Arsenal and Chelsea all look to have fixtures that will quite comfortably deliver six points before the new year - at which point the transfer window opens up and Man Utd will come wooing (or possibly even a-courting) Luka, who might finally speak for the first time in forever, only to repeat what he said in the summer, only substituting the words 'Manchester United' for the word 'Chelsea'.

Well, in this sentence, try substituting the word 'hazelnut' with a word that rhymes with 'ducking'. 'You're hazelnut staying, sunshine, so hazelnut accept that and stop being a hazelnut pain in the hazelnut backside every six months, because, seriously, if you leave, what would have been the hazelnut point in the last three years?'

Have a hazelnut good Christmas everyone.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Seven would be heaven - but is it 'Welcome to Hell'?

Stoke away has become a symbolic fixture for football folk. 'On a wet Tuesday night', I believe, completes the cliche.

This was the exact mix of venue, time and prevailing meteorological conditions that Andy Gray reckoned would expose Lionel Messi for the effete charlatan he so obviously is.

Or did he? Maybe it's one of those apocryphal things. Or something that's been twisted just to make him look dumb and conform with his image as an old school clogger. A bit like the Gordon Brown/Arctic Monkey's/Gazza's goal things.*

Another cliche is ex players 'coming back to haunt' their old clubs. Possibly even 'proving a point'. Step forward, P. Crouch. Only try not to trip yourself up. Actually, do.

Anyway, Stoke away it is. On a trembling Sunday afternoon.

We have played better teams than this in the last 11 games. We've beaten better teams. But this feels like the biggest test. We're live on TV; Sky will hype us to the heavens before kick off; Arsenal, Man Utd and Liverpool will all have won the day before.

Even more interestingly, Chelsea and Man City play the day after. If we lose, we surely have to root for City - concentrating on an achievable target rather than dreaming the impossible dream. But if we win we... what, support Chelsea? Good lord. These are strange times. Strange and wondrous times. And I don't care what happens, I'm not calling them 'JT' or 'Lamps'.

* Arctic Monkeys: Brown was asked if he preferred James Blunt or The Arctic Monkeys. He said he didn't really know/like either, but he knew Alex Turner's boys were kinda loud, so he said 'at least they'd wake you up in the morning'. The tabloid press ignored all this and decided that he'd declared himself a fan in a craven and embarrassing attempt to court popularity and generally not be seen as, well, weird, frankly.

* Gazza's goal: He was asked if he'd ever been to an England game. He said yes, several. He was asked to name the most memorable. He said one was the qualifying game for World Cup '98 against Italy in Rome, the other was the Euro '96 match against his beloved Scotland. He said it was the best atmosphere he'd ever experienced at a football match. Fair enough. But, it was reported as 'Gazza's goal AGAINST Scotland is Brown's favourite'.

Sunday, 4 December 2011


A lousy hand at Scrabble, but a hell of a run.

There's a Joy Division song called Day of the Lords which ends with a desperate Ian Curtis bleakly intoning "Where will it end? Where will it end?" It's on a permanent loop in my head these days.

I hope the answer's not 'Stoke'.

It was never going to be 'at home to Bolton', was it? Not after scoring within the first 15 minutes? No, of course it wasn't. But then...

At one point I thought all 36,000 of us were part of some weird new hidden camera show and that the players, under instruction from the production team, were just winding us up. Mind you, they'd have needed an industrial strength bleep button in the editing suite. It was the double miss by Adebayor and Defoe in added time at the end of the first half that, for me, dragged out swear words not in common useage since Beowulf.

Thankfully, in the second half, we played just as well, only with goals. Not the nine or 10 that would have had us reaching for the record books, but two that made for a comfortable afternoon and temporarily put us second (be honest, who took a screen grab?).

The next day, on the Sunday Supplement, Brian Woolnough wrapped up part two with a sentence that went something like: 'After the break we'll be looking back at Tottenham's 3-0 win over Bolton, and asking are they playing the best football ever seen in the Premier League era?'

Presumably part three was four blokes saying 'No'.

It was pretty good though.

Where will it end? Yeah, Stoke, maybe. The key question is actually becoming, How will we react when it does end? But that's not the title of a Joy Division song. In fact, the only song they ever recorded about Spurs was, of course, The Atrocity Exhibition. I think Dean Austin was on the cover.

Anyway, two more Ws, please, and then a massive C (Chelsea, obviously).

Monday, 28 November 2011

Not even Phil Thompson can spoil this party

It's rarely a good thing when Phil Thompson talks.

When he's 'doing' us on Gillette Soccer Saturday, it's almost always a truly terrible thing.

When he's 'doing' us, it's injury time, we're one-up and he suddenly shouts 'GOOOAAAL!', it's borderline justification for conkicide.

This weekend though, when he did exactly that, it was an excellent thing; he spoke the words we longed to hear: "It's a third goal for Spurs, Jeff. Game over."

I'd started watching the match on an iffy internet link. The picture was okay, but couldn't really cope with movement at speed - much like our back four, initially.

We were poor. Not just bad, but Bad Old Days-bad. It was a classic 'we're away, it's cold, let's barely turn up' performance, so beloved of Spurs teams through the ages.

Somehow, though, we went in all level, then found a couple of gears West Brom didn't have and, ultimately, deserved the three points.

After JD's excellent goal, I decided I couldn't watch my buffering feed any longer and turned, instead, to Sky, and The Men Who Stare At Goals.

Which is when Phil Thompson came into play and delivered the sentence we longed to hear nearly as much as 'I realise I am an inept and inarticulate communicator and resign immediately'.

And so we won again. We gained ground on all the teams around us except Chelsea. We put ourselves in a position to overhaul Man Utd. We did it all without our best player.

Oh God, it's like a scene from a breaking down marriage: 'I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHO YOU ARE ANYMORE!'.

But I like it.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Efficient, ruthless - who are those strange men in white shirts?

I'm not too sure of the etymology of the word 'ruthless', so I'd hesitate to describe previous incarnations of our beloved Spurs as 'ruth', or even 'ruthful'.

I mean, I'm no expert in the English language (oh shut your face, as Frankie Howerd would have said), but neither of those sound quite right.

Whatever. We all turned up on Monday hopeful of a win, but certain of a nervous night. I thought we might go 1-0 up early, threaten to get a second for about an hour, fail to seal the deal, then get decked by a sucker punch in the last 10.

Or, as we've done a few times, go 2-0 up, then mysteriously decide to change the way we're playing, sit back, concede and leave ourselves hanging on - to three points and our sanity.

In the end, we did the first part, then just coasted to victory. Yep, you heard/saw: coasted. It was an eerie and unfamiliar atmosphere. At one point, probably about 75 minutes in, I had a strange feeling. I have asked the stewards if I can swap seats, but apparently there's nothing they can do.

Anyway, a minute after that I realised that I was.... what? Relaxed? Bored, even. Boredom! Sweet, beautiful boredom! Spurs 2-0 up and playing with such confidence that there was a complete absence of what I believe the TV and film industry call 'peril'. Without it, no show or movie is worth watching. The audience has to be unsure about what might happen next, what might befall the characters they've started to care about.

We knew what was going to happen next: we were going to win. And what wasn't going to happen next: Aston Villa were not going to score.

And now there's talk of the title. But not serious talk, not from anyone who doesn't need their food cut up for them. We remain eminently capable of going on a bad run - and eminently capable of losing against West Brom on Saturday.

As has been noted here before, at this level, jostling for position against the very best, you have to win and win and win and win and win and win. And then you look up. And you've moved up one place, if you're lucky. So you get your head down and try to do it again. And again. It's relentless. Are we ready to be relentless as well as ruthless? Not sure.

So, City and United will finish one and two. Then it's us, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool for third or fourth. At the start of the season I though it would be us, Arsenal and Liverpool for fourth. So, mathematically, our chances have increased (four teams going for two spots as opposed to three teams going for one slot).

Plus, after this weekend, our 12 games will have seen us play every other side in the top 10 apart from Chelsea. I don't know what that proves or suggests - other than the fact that despite these ardor-cooling words of wisdom, I'm as guilty as anyone of staring at the league table for the last 24 hours.

It's unavoidable: the atmosphere around the club at the moment is a bit... giddy. And giddy's no good. Great teams do not get giddy. Let's calm down. Let's ignore the league table (because, in some ways, it's a bit embarrassing to be this excited about being third) and let's concentrate very, very hard on winning at the Hawthorns. Come on Spurs, bore me again. Bore me stupid.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Pacemakers or a right bunch of anginas?

So, having upset the blue half of Manchester, it's time to get back to what I do best: depressing the lillywhite half of North London.

Seven wins out of eight, flowing football, bags of goals, new-found resilience and the odd slice of luck. It can't last. Can it?

Probably not, but can it last at least one more game, please? Because to be brought back down to earth by Villa: that'd be a bump and a half. I mean they're such a bland team. Not so long ago, they were our main rivals for the title of Team Most Likely To. Now they're... God knows. What are their ambitions? Where do they want to be in five years? How are they going to qualify for the Champions League?

You're right, of course, it's the classic Barry Davies answer: Frankly, who cares.

All that matters is that they don't find any ambition, direction or a fit Gabriel Agbonlahor on Monday evening.

Interestingly (or as 'interestingly' as you can get in the context of discussing Aston Villa), they're top of The Others, right now, four points behind Liverpool. There have always been leagues within leagues, of course; groups of teams fighting at different levels for different prizes, or for survival.

But maybe the fault lines are shifting. Perhaps the idea of a big four is fading. Will there be many points separating Chelsea, Arsenal, Utd, us, Liverpool? Newcastle even? If it wasn't for Man City, this might well be the most exciting season for years. Unless you support Aston Villa. Then your only hope of excitement is, just as a for instance, an away win at Tottenham.

But, screw that. Adebayor's been playing well lately but not notching. So, let's have a brace from him and another from Bale. All before the 70 minute mark and with nowt at the other end. Nice and boring.

If nothing else, it'll be good for Harry's heart.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Why the 'Poznan' is a wholly appropriate celebration for Man City

I'm making a list, the Wrong-Headed Buffoon list: any pundit, commentator, journalist or fan who uses the phrase 'all credit to Man City' will be on it.

Man City deserve no credit whatsoever. Man City, in fact, don't exist anymore. A collection of footballers (and 'collection' is a good word here, by the way - they could be Picassos or sports cars) play in troublingly familiar light blue shirts in a place called the Etihad Stadium because they are paid ludicrous amounts of money by someone called Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan to do so.

That's not Man City. That's, to use the club's own word, a 'project'. Or, more accurately, a pin in a map. Like Chelsea, City are a pin in a map.

They have not been adopted by an avuncular local businessman who spent his youth on the terraces, and then, when he'd struck it rich, decided, rather romantically, that he could think of no finer way to lose a hundred million or so than by investing it in the team he supports.

And they're not an obvious blue chip target, like Man Utd, Liverpool or, let's face it, Arsenal: a club known all over the world and one that leaps to the front of the mind and the head of the queue if a foreign businessman does want to get involved in all this Premier League excitement.

They're Man City, the comedy club. The y0-yo club. Manchester's real club? Maybe. But now now, now they're a pin in a map.

And I'm not having all that nonsense about 'Yes, but, you can't just win the title by spending money; Mancini's got to build a team, make decisions, etc. All credit to him.'

Nope, you're on the list. There's never been spending like this, it dwarfs even what Chelsea did. Check it out. And that doesn't even take wages into account.

Yes the manager, tactics, team spirit or whatever might be so appalling that they don't win it in the first, second or third season of 'the project', but they will. It's just a matter or time and numbers. Sheer weight of numbers.

So, when (not if) they do win the league, there's no sense in applauding them and no point in berating them. This is how the world works now. This is how success is... um, not 'won', exactly... I know 'arrived at'. This is how success is arrived at.

No, the only response is to turn our backs. Look elsewhere. Let them celebrate and celebrate and congratulate each other. Until they realise no one else is congratulating them; no one else is even watching.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Fulham v Spurs - Just what the doctor ordered?

Undeserved, unconvincing, utterly joyous.

Presumably the doctors treating Harry haven't wasted too much time trying to diagnose the cause of his heart problems. Our second half performance was basically a full fry-up covered in melted cheese.

But... three points, 22 from 24, another away win - and more than two weeks to savour a job well done. Okay, to savour a job done.

I do love winning ahead of an international break. That monumental relief at the final whistle just lasts and lasts. It's like a tantric win. A Sting win.

It will be at least 10 days before the prospect of playing Aston Villa becomes real enough to worry about. Until then, we can gorge ourselves on the freeze-frame moments: Jermain's volley; the ref (very wisely, I thought) not pointing to the spot when Kyle picked the ball up and hid it under his shirt for five minutes; the realisation that Aaron not only has a left foot, but has just used it to quite brilliant effect; Bale's bafflingly effete celebration with Adebayor... actually, no, let's delete that.

The only man I know with a gloomier outlook than me on these things (he's basically Eeyore in a Spurs shirt), texted me straight after the game to say he wished to report a robbery that had just taken place in South West London.

I know what he meant, but told him to sod off and cheer up anyway. We've been robbed plenty of times. And perhaps afternoons like that are as much a part of progress as taking Liverpool apart or feeling genuinely confident going into games against Arsenal. Maybe there's something in that old bollocks about the importance of winning when you play badly. And maybe the late nineties/early noughties were just our way of really nailing the 'playing badly' side of the deal.

Maybe. Or we were rubbish and lucky.

Who cares. Let's just enjoy two weeks off. And get well soon, Harry.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Just what the doctor ordered?

Undeserved, unconvincing, utterly joyous.

Presumably the doctors treating Harry haven't wasted too much time trying to diagnose the cause of his heart problems. Our second half performance was basically a full fry-up covered in melted cheese.

But... three points, 22 from 24, another away win - and more than two weeks to savour a job well done. Okay, to savour a job done.

I do love winning ahead of an international break. That monumental relief at the final whistle just lasts and lasts. It's like a tantric win. A Sting win.

It will be at least 10 days before the prospect of playing Aston Villa becomes real enough to worry about. Until then, we can gorge ourselves on the freeze-frame moments: Jermain's volley; the ref (very wisely, I thought) not pointing to the spot when Kyle picked the ball up and hid it under his shirt for five minutes; the realisation that Aaron not only has a left foot, but has just used it to quite brilliant effect; Bale's bafflingly effete celebration with Adebayor... actually, no, let's delete that.

The only man I know with a gloomier outlook than me on these things (he's basically Eeyore in a Spurs shirt), texted me straight after the game to say he wished to report a robbery that had just taken place in South West London.

I know what he meant, but told him to sod off and cheer up anyway. We've been robbed plenty of times. And perhaps afternoons like that are as much a part of progress as taking Liverpool apart or feeling genuinely confident going into games against Arsenal. Maybe there's something in that old bollocks about the importance of winning when you play badly. And maybe the late nineties/early noughties were just our way of really nailing the 'playing badly' side of the deal.

Maybe. Or we were shit and lucky.

Who cares. Let's just enjoy two weeks off. And get well soon, Harry.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Unpicking the pecking order

In the last three months I've made two pretty confident calls.

Firstly, I was grumpily and publicly underwhelmed by the arrival of Scott Parker.

Then, I consistently questioned whether or not Van der Vaart contributed enough on an individual basis in relation to how he disrupts the pattern of our team.

So, let me start by predicting a thumping win for Fulham on Sunday.

That should guarantee us three points. And probably a hat-trick for VdV plus another man of the match performance from our granite-jawed '50s throwback.

We'll certainly need the points. This weekend's fixtures look pretty tame for Arsenal and Liverpool. But, here's the thing, who else to keep an eye on? Chelsea? Are we going to end up two or three points either side of them now? Man Utd, even? If we win our game in hand, we're a point behind them.

Do I dare follow that brilliant piece of maths with a quite devastating slice of English: and they've still got to come to White Hart Lane.

I mean that's ridiculous, right? Using 'got to' as if it's some kind of threat, challenge or even inconvenience.

But these are bewildering and exciting times. Only City seem to soaring clear of the confusion - borne aloft by a stranger's billions. If it wasn't for them, in fact, this would be the most exciting and open season for years. Thanks Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan! (Crazy name, crazy guy). Thanks for sticking your golden pin in a bloody map and screwing our season (our sport?).

And what about Newcastle? Do I have to start worrying about their results now? I mean that's just embarrassing. And, again, confusing.

So, best just resort to cliche. It's what the proper pundits do. Which means some old blather about concentrating on our own results and letting other teams worry about theirs.

Utter nonsense, of course. Like you I will be watching this newly expanded group of five or six rivals whilst praying for red cards, injuries and upsets. Worry isn't a finite resource for me. I've got enough for our results and their results and probably have enough left over to have a panic attack on behalf of Ebbsfleet United, if called for.

Let the nail biting and number crunching begin...

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Tottenham v QPR - here come the nice

It's impossible to say this without sounding patronising. And I retain the right to completely reverse my position after the game, but I quite like QPR. They're nice.

Very few of us, I'm sure, have QPR-supporting friends that really get on our tits with their constant arrogance, needling, aggression or triumphalism. They don't do that sort of thing. (And yes, the fact that they haven't won anything since 1967 or been in the Premier League since 1996 probably helps).

Their famous fans include Mick Jones and Mark Ellen. Top marks.

I like the ground. I like where it is. I like the walk to the ground. I like the pubs. We all love Sir Les.

QPR are a good, solid indie label of a team. Plus they didn't half stick it to Chelsea last week.

If we don't win tomorrow, though, I will burn a copy of Word magazine and smash a couple of Clash albums to pieces (Cut the Crap and Sandinista, I guess).

Because a series of weird results mean that whilst City disappear into the distance, everyone else is checking calculators and fixture lists to see if they're going to be second or seventh when Christmas comes. I'm gonna guess fifth for us. And the same goes for where we'll finish come May. I knew if for a fact last year - and I fear it as our fate this year.

That said, I suspect all I have to do is Tweet one grumbly remark about VdV being picked ahead of Defoe and he'll bag a hat trick. I will look 'stupid' - and – although most of you will have to trust me on this – very, very happy.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Rafa: we need the eggs

The big question ahead of Sunday's game is a strange one: will Rafa start?

Yeah, Rafa, the guy that slotted two fine goals and won us three points away at Blackburn. That Rafa. Our leading goalscorer, you know the guy.

It was the big question this time last week, as well, with much debate as to whether/where he should fit into the line up. And when he was announced ahead of Defoe, there were some dissenting voices. One of them sounded suspiciously like mine. In fairness, though, I am an idiot.

And yet, questions remain. Not about Rafa's quality as a player. But how he fits into our meat-n-potatoes system - and how much we're prepared to change, adapt, sacrifice in order to accommodate him.

So, let's look at the options. I don't think he should play in goal. Not unless it's a straight choice between him and Gomes.

Let's rule out the back four as well. And assume that in midfield we have Bale on the left, with Modric and one of his minders (Parker or Sandro) next to him.

That leaves the right of midfield, up front, or just off the striker.

If we play a nominal 4-4-2, then playing him wide right is a risk, as he is a free spirit/law unto himself and will go looking for work/abandon any sense of defensive responsibility (delete according to generosity of spirit/levels of Rafa fanboyism).

If you play him up front or 'just off', you negate the possibility of Adebayor and Defoe striking up a proper partnership. You could play him with Defoe, but I don't think that works; our wandering star leaves the little guy too isolated. The worst (best?) example of this was last season's home game against West Ham where we ended up playing, essentially, with one up front, at the Lane, in a must-win game against a not great side.

Finally, of course, you could play him with Pav... okay, no, you absolutely couldn't. Jesus, as a pair they'd have the work ethic of Cheech and Chong.

So, the riddle of Rafa. It's a bit like a joke told by this blog's patron saint, Woody Allen, in Annie Hall. He's discussing how love is so infuriating and irrational, whist also being the only thing worth living for. He tells a story of a guy who goes to the doctors and says 'Doc, my brothers crazy, he thinks he's a chicken'; the doctor says 'Well why don't you turn him over to a psychiatrist?'; the guys says, 'I would, but we need the eggs'.

Rafa: he thinks he's irreplaceable, he thinks he can win games single-handed, he thinks he'll score every time he takes to the pitch. We could, of course, dismiss all this vainglorious nonsense and just drop him. But, well, we need the goals.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Newcastle report/Blackburn preview

Didn't get round to a Newcastle review and haven't done a Blackburn preview, but both can be covered off with similar points.

(Not even a mention of Rubin Kazan, but I can do that now: Oh Pav. Pav, Pav, Pav.)

Okay, it's gonna get a bit technical here, and I might lose some of you, so concentrate. Against Newcastle, from the off, we just looked... wonky.

Was it 4-5-1, or 4-4-1-1? Or nine outfield players going wherever they had to to cover for Van der Vaart?

Right midfield is obviously the problem. I'm sure most players at the cub know what both words mean individually, but fuck me they're baffled when used in conjunction with each other.

We've tried VdV there, we're tried Sandro there, we've tried Bale there, we've tried Modric there and for 10 minutes against Arsenal we tried no one there.

Lennon's supposed to be the answer, but he he didn't look in sparkling form on Thursday and it's doubtful he'll get the nod of either Rafa or Sandro, even in his 'specialist' position.

Shame. Because whilst I know there are plenty of ways of tweaking the system to make room for our best players, there are three things that I want to see every game for at least a while: Adebayor and Defoe in partnership up front, Bale on the left of midfield and Modric plus either Parker or Sandro in the centre of midfield.

Got a bit of a headache now. I don't like thinking about shape and tactics. I like shouting useless encouragement and frankly non-sensical abuse. So, Harry, make it easy for me to understand. Make it easy for the players to understand. Fuck it, make it so simple even Alan Smith understands. And make us win.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Adebayor, or... or what, precisely

Right, just a quickie: is it me or have we become awfully reliant on Adebayor all of a sudden?

If he's out, which apparently he might be this Sunday, what are our options? I don't think Defoe on his own works; I don't think VdV on his own works; I don't think Defoe and VdV work together; I don't think Pav... well, I don't think Pav knows what 'work' means.

And what are the chances of us actually signing Adebayor at the end of the season? Slimmer than Luka on cup-a-soup, I'd say.

We've got a long term plan though, right? Good. Just checking.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Super Seismic Sunday

Spurs always do this to me. Or do I always do this to Spurs?

A non-descript match in the middle distance of our fixture list comes closer and suddenly takes on the proportions of an epochal acid test that will basically decide the fate of our club for at least a decade.

I mean, Newcastle away. Who gives a fuck, right? Or, at least, who gave a fuck? But now it looms. And it looms large. See how it looms. Goddam it's loomy. You can practically hear the John Williams theme welling up in the background.

Newcastle looked like a bump in the road when the season began, especially after the fucking car crashes that befell us against United and City. This was something to look forward to, surely.

Now it looks more like a fork; a pivotal moment. Win and we'll probably be top four and the pecking order will be established. Lose and we'll be mid-table, scratching around with Villa and Everton.

Newcastle, of course, are unbeaten. And in that hallowed top four. Now, I can't be arsed to check who they've played, but, off the top of my head, I'd say Wolves, Blackburn, er, Grimsby, Chorlton-cum-Hardy under-11s, the lot that lost to Brian Glover's team in Kes... Barnstoneworth United?

Anyway, the point, the crumb to cling to, is that they might still be shit. (Can you cling to a crumb? You can't, can you?)

And yet, they're 4th. They're unbeaten. They seem to have a load of French players that may well go on to, I don't know, form the nucleus of a national side that lifts the world cup in three years time or something.

See, it's happening again. Newcastle away, with Nolan, Carroll, Barton and Enrique all gone, was going to be a walk in the St James Park. Now it looks like one of Hercules' 12 tasks. Probably, given the nature of the opposition, the one involving clearing a never-ending pile of horse shit.

Mark Lawrenson will soon be saying almost exactly the same over at BBC Sport, mark my words.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Jr Walker and the All Stars make a joyful sound

The most significant thing, perhaps, is that this was only my third favourite win against Arsenal in the last couple of years.

The spell-breaker at White Hart Lane in 2010 and the curse-lifter at the Emirates six months later occupy the top two slots.

Still, it wasn't bad...

We were, of course, famously, loudly, justifiably and terrifyingly favourites going into the game. And during the game? Did we look noticeably the better side?

I think in terms of possession and territory, they were at least our equal, but we consistently looked more dangerous - apart from when VdV stopped playing ten minutes before he got taken off. And they gave the ball away far more often and easily than we did.

From a fan point of view, the reviews, regrets and recriminations have swapped almost completely. Here, surely, is what a sane Arsenal fan's appraisal would be:

* They went into the game with the better squad and the better starting 11

* We had a lot of the ball but never really looked like scoring until they sort of let us.

* They scored two and could have had four or five more.

* We always looked vulnerable in defence and nervous in possession.

* We huffed and puffed but never purred.

* They had the game's outstanding player(s).

* When we equalised, we kind of knew it was false hope. And so did the team. Instead of us kicking on for the winner, we sat back and let them wrestle momentum back. We never believed

* And yes, at the end, were were knocking on the door. But very, very timidly.

* We could, just about conceivably, in a galaxy far, far away, have snatched a win. We should, maybe, in something akin to the real world, have grabbed a draw. But, ultimately, in 2011 we lost - and could have lost by more.

* We're not as good as them and need to get some points on the board fast before we get dragged into a relegation battle.

* I really miss us being good.

That's our script! Unchanged for 25 bloody years! That's worse than My Family (dear wife and children, please note capital letters and obvious reference to pedestrian but inexplicably enduring BBC sit 'com')

And now? Well, we've won three out of the last four derby games? Arsenal? They've 'only' won 12 out of the last 20 or something. So, as with most stats and trends, the result depends on how long a period you take into account. And which point you want to 'prove'.

The giant leap forward will be finishing above them in the league. And saying goodbye to all that St Tottering Day bollocks - dumped, hopefully, in the same bin where Chelsea's Three Point Lane jibe is gathering dust.

Even then, it will only be one year in 17.

So, let joy be unconfined, absolutely. But let reality have a starter and pour perspective a drink.

Also, our next game, against Newcastle, suddenly looks huge, doesn't it? They're in a Champions League spot and packed with good young French players you hadn't heard of 20 minutes ago. Remind you of anyone?

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Hip hip hip hooray

It's October, the sun is cracking the flags and we're odds-on favourites to win the North London derby. Someone is fucking with me.

If you were to pick a best 11 from the two teams' current squads, the majority would be from Spurs. I get that, I really do.

In the last three years we've drawn two and won one. I know that, of course I do.

And we should have done the double over them last year. I believe that, I honestly do.

But do I think we'll win? That's a blazing sun up in the sky, not a pig.

Selection will be interesting. I'm thinking chest pains beforehand, self-harm for the first hour and then bring on weeping and incontinence to see the game out.

On the pitch, I know it's boring, but I'd like to see us go 4-4-2, with either Sandra or Parker 'minding' Modric, maybe even Lennon on the right and Defoe upfront alongside that son-of-a-preacher-man, Adebayor.

The consensus, however, seems to be that Parker and Sandro need to be accommodated, and that VdV should start somewhere. Either as a sort of midfielder or a sort of striker. In his favour, he seems very much a big game player. But wherever we stick him he'll end up in central midfielder. Probably giving us four in there.

Anyway, all very boring and probably irrelevant. Because when we kick off tomorrow, form and formation will be forgotten instantly. The ball will take lucky deflections and unpredictable bounces, referees will make bad decisions and players will make horrible mistakes, someone you'd never even thought about will do something wondrous/disastrous and everything will fly past at 100 miles an hour - lasting a total of 17 excruiating years.

My forecast: dark, dark clouds.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Bucket of blood

I watched Carrie last night.

This isn't the start of some sort of 'horror show' metaphor. I actually watched Carrie.

When it finished, I turned straight to Channel 5 to see Jermain Defoe celebrating a goal with rather too much gusto. Surely, over an hour in, we should be looking apologetic after scoring, not relieved?

The commentary soon explained. And then I had to explain - to my bemused family.

It was when they laughed out loud when I said the words 'Shamrock Rovers' that I realised the depth and darkness of the hole we'd just dragged ourselves out of.

'You're playing a team called Shamrock Rovers?!'.

I had to admit, it did sound made up.

'And you were losing?!'

I had to admit, it sounded all too believable.

So, a freakish game, but a win, some more game time for a group that will soon be registering the official brand name 'Spurs Kids' (better than Fergie's fucking Fledglings) and some sharpening for JD and Aaron (who really fucking needs it). Plus glimpses from Dos Santos.

The main thing is, it's out the way and now the only thing to think about is Sunday. Sunday, bloody Sunday.

(Carrie was as weird and excellent as I remembered it, by the way. It was actually my daughters that wanted to watch it. It's okay, they're teenagers who can genuinely fall asleep in front of the Saw series. They found the phrase 'I can see your dirty pillows' especially hilarious).

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Sofa so good

Right, as ever, no point in rehashing a match you almost certainly all saw, so, instead, a few points of 'interest'.

1) The right way to win

Not right as in perfect, or even hugely impressive, but just what we needed: a good result with built-in reminders and warnings, perfect ahead of next Sunday.

If we'd spent a full four halves playing like world-beaters, we might have started expecting to win. Arsenal beating Bolton might not be a bad thing, either. If they hadn't they would surely have found some passion from somewhere and torn into us.

As it is, they've probably rediscovered their never-far-from-the-surface feeling of superiority (historically down to them being superior), while we've been reminded that we're not the finished article; that we have to work fucking hard to play really fucking well.

Three points and a reality check. Just right.

2) Benny bashing

The BAE mistake led to some Twitter lunacy. He got a bit of a caning from some - which in turn provoked passionate and expletive-riddled defence from others.

Such extremes took me by surprise. I'd say most Spurs fans rate him as one of their three or four favourite players at the club, but that most also shook their heads and muttered 'oh for fuck sake', when he dithered and dallied to give a goal away.

Surely it's possible to hold those two thoughts in your head at the same time without being considered crazy: he's been a great player for us - but that was shit; every defender makes mistakes, and quite often they result in goals - but that was shit; maybe, having not been well during the week, he either shouldn't have played or can be cut a bit of slack - but Jesus, that was shit.

The important thing, surely, is that no one has any qualms about him starting our next game, or any game. Everyone's totally behind him, still - he just made a silly mistake and probably got a bit of a bollocking. No drama.

3) A not too terrible Match of the Day joke

Match of the Day's awful these days, isn't it? I mean the core concept of showing the best bits from Saturday's games remains unbeatable.

But fuck me the BBC are doing their best to suck all the life and excitement out of it. Hansen and Lawrenson add precisely nothing. They deal exclusively in cliches. They even look bored: with each other, with themselves, with the show, with their ramblings and, quite reasonably, with Lineker.

There's nothing wrong with dissecting a few incidents and chatting about the game, but to what end? Presumably to tell people with less insight and experience something they might have missed.

My cat could enlighten me more than those two. My poor dead cat.

So why not just get rid? I don't mean replace them with younger models, I mean show the matches, maybe some highlights of interviews with the managers and players, if they say anything of interest, - and then just move on to the next match. I bet there wouldn't be many complaints.

Anyway, I was watching it on Saturday night and Tweeted, hilariously, that Hansen and Lawrenson are like cushions: they're always on the sofa, but no man can see the point of them.

And if you plunge a knife into them, feathers fly out. Although I'm not sure about that last bit.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Peering at Wigan

I have never been to Wigan.

I am reasonably certain that I will never go to Wigan.

I have nothing against Wigan. Why would I? Why would anyone?

When I think of Wigan (not often, I must admit), I think of The Road to Wigan Pier, Wigan Casino and Stuart Maconie. All excellent things (albeit things that I have never read/been to/met. I just instinctively approve). And, of course, I think of pies. But that's not necessarily to do with Wigan. I just quite often find myself thinking of pies. I'm doing it now.

Right, sorry, yes, I like their football team, as well. Again, why wouldn't you? Completely devoid of pretension or agenda (or, quite often, fans), they couldn't offend if they ran out with the word 'CUNT' on their shirts.

And there go my last remaining hopes of a NewsNow listing... Ah well, fuck 'em.

Wigan had a weird start to the season, playing all the promoted sides in their first three fixtures. They drew with Swansea and Norwich and beat QPR - but that was Old QPR, not Bright Shiny New QPR. So, not a great return.

Since then they've lost to City, Palace and Everton and, well... look, I'm not going to predict a win, of course I'm not, but if you look at their run of results, then you watch the MotD highlights for the 27th time, and you knock back, say, half a bottle of red, put on something especially stirring by Ralph Vaughan Williams, squint a bit... well, you can maybe see a score draw, right?

Monday, 19 September 2011


I don't often enjoy watching Spurs. I never really relax.

If I'm at the ground I literally sit on the edge of my seat, my dogged concentration broken only by occasionally muttering dark forebodings to m'colleague.

If I'm up the pub, I get intensely irritated at anyone who wants to talk, or eat crisps, or ask me what I want to drink; anyone who isn't simply staring at the screen, fearing the worst and making silent deals with God in order to secure one or three points just isn't on my wavelength.

On Sunday, however, even I... well, okay, maybe I didn't 'enjoy' it, but I certainly didn't suffer the usual agonies, question the point of existence etc.

We just got better and better, shifting up a gear at exactly the right times, until eventually even I knew we were going to win. Actually knew. That is such a rare and wonderful feeling to experience in a match of any significance or difficulty.

We started well. But so what. We almost always start well. And then fail to score and fade away.

And, indeed, we missed a couple of chances, one absolutely gilt-edged.

Then, we scored. He scored. Lovely little Luka. "KISS CHICKEN BADGE! KISS CHICKEN BADGE!", I screamed. He didn't. And just as well. He seemed to enjoy the moment, though.

But, of course, we do score first sometimes. And then we defend too deeply, we abandon all the tactics and tempo that got us our lead and wait for it to be taken away from us.

But, no, we kept attacking and kept creating chances. We just couldn't convert any.

Then Adam got sent off. And at half time we were 1-0 up, playing brilliantly against 10 men. I know: recipe for disaster, right?

But, again, no. We carried on playing brilliantly, creating chances - and missing them. We were now heading towards 'one of those days' territory, sharing a border with 'those misses will come back to haunt us'ville.

Then they went down to nine men. A draw would now officially be humiliating.

But thrice no. We went 2-0 up, then three, then four. Both our strikers scored. For the second week in a row. A striker scored more than once. We beat Liverpool for the fifth year in a row. We're officially better than them. Much better, it seems.

The last time I got my mate to check the odds for a draw on Paddy Power, they were 500-1. 83 minutes had ticked by - and I was beginning to enjoy myself.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Tottenham v Liverpool: a litmus test match

It's straightforward enough: we're not as good as Man Utd or Man City, we're better than Wolves, but are we as good as Liverpool?

It's what pundits call 'a litmus test', I believe. It certainly was in 2009/10 when we beat them in blazing sunshine on the opening day and went on to finish fourth. We were, simply, better than them - that day and that season.

Same last year, when we smash and grabbed the points at the Lane with a late Lennon winner and then put in a fantastically professional performance at Anfield to complete the double. Again, we were just better than them. And finished above them. It was starting to feel quite natural.

For those of us who first started following football in the '70s or '80s, this was quite something. A psychological breakthrough of mammoth proportions. Liverpool were Man Utd before Man Utd were Man Utd: virtually unbeatable, relentlessly successful, and a fixture you more or less wrote off - home and away.

To be demonstrably better and regularly above them was some going - even if their decline played as much a part as our rise.

The consensus now seems to be that Liverpool are 'back'. Certainly Kenny Dalglish is back - and the media love him, especially in harness with "his beloved Liverpool", blah, blah, blah.

Yet they've had a stuttering start (all things are relative: if there's has been stuttering, ours has been more or less mute).

Their most impressive result was a 0-2 win at The Emirates, but that's subsequently been dimmed by context. It's like hearing someone's shagged Brigitte Bardot - and then finding out it was last week.

(For a second there I just had to check to make sure the Woman that God Created hadn't died. But then I thought, well, the point would still stand, right?)

Apart from that they've lost to Stoke, beaten Bolton and drawn with Sunderland. Ho fucking hum.

And their recruitment campaign has seen them fill their ranks with players from poor teams who certainly didn't frighten us last year: Henderson, Adam, Enrique, Downing, Carroll. Quake ye not, mighty Spurs, they wear red shirts but they are beige players.

So, Parker and Modric to continue in midfield, Adebayor and Defoe to be given a chance to form an actual partnership up front, Ledley and whoever's fit at the back.

It's taken most of my life for Spurs to become better than Liverpool, let's not throw it away in an afternoon.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Spurs are basically Andy Murray

I'm beginning to develop a theory that if Ledley King had been fully fit for the last three or four years, we'd have qualified for the Champions League more often than not, and maybe even challenged for the title.

Far-fetched, I know, but ye Gods we love that man.

Certainly the centre back pairing is the foundation for any great side, and if you offered me King and Woodgate, with Modric and Sandro as the central midfield two, all fit and happy and aged 25-28, I'd be very unlikely to swap them with any combination that didn't involve players in Barcelona shirts.

And maybe we now have another partnership, this time up front. In truth, Adebayor and Defoe didn't play brilliantly as individuals or combine particularly prodigiously, but they did both score and they do seem to be a 'fit'. They certainly give us more cause for optimism than any pairing since Keane and Berbatov.

There's certainly something encouraging about a scoreline that reads 0:2 - striker a; striker b. It reads like a job well done and a proper performance.

So, we're up and running, we've beaten the unbeaten Wolves and we've won, comfortably if not spectacularly, at a ground where you'd think no more than five other teams will come away with maximum points.

Looking at the City and United scores though, you can't help but feel there's something of the Andy Murrays about us. We're good, no doubt about it, and we'll win matches. But when we come up against one of the big boys, there's a frustrating gulf in class - and a massive barrier between us and any of the truly grand prizes.

I also think that probably makes Harry Redknapp Judy Murray, and for some reason that pleases me.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Harry Redknapp: the man who knew too little

I read this morning that Harry Redknapp knew nothing about Sandro signing an extension to his contract until he saw it on SSN.

This is worrying. I mean, is he not even on Twitter? Or Twitcher?

It is,of course, just the latest in a long line of really important things, affecting the club he manages, about which he knows nothing.

Maybe it's become a stock answer because of his dealings with the Revenue: 'Yeah, sorry, don't know about that; nope, can't tell you anything about that; ooh, hang on, now that one I do know happens to be for... no, sorry, it's gone again."

Let's review what he doesn't know about Spurs:

He doesn't (or didn't) know that Sandro has signed a new five year deal with the club.

He doesn't know what Luka Modric's current state of mind is.

He doesn't (or didn't) know anything about any bids Chelsea made for Modric ("only what the chairman's said").

He doesn't know if we've made any enquiry about David Beckham.

He doesn't know anything about any transfers, in or out, ever.

I'd like to know what he does know:

Daniel Levy's phone number?

The location of the 'ignore' key on his phone when TalkSport call him?

That we're playing Wolves this afternoon?

How to beat Wolves this afternoon?

Where we'll be in six months time?

Where he'll be in six months time?

Answers on a postcard please to: Harry Redknapp, Anywhere The Buck Isn't, OOTK, N17.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Window gleaning

The transfer window left me slightly underwhelmed, I must say.

I thought we needed two new centre forwards and one new centre back - preferably one who could read the game and play a bit rather than just a 'stopper'.

(I used to think we had more than enough 'stoppers' but after the performances against United and City I now suspect they are, in fact, 'facilitators').

And as a luxury, just maybe, a right-midfielder who could put some pressure on Aaron Lennon (if he carries on like he's started the season I'm going to start singing 'Shit Aaron Lennon, you're just a shit Aaron Lennon' at him. That should mess with his head)

What we got instead was Brad Friedel, Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor - on loan. Plus a couple of youngsters. Oh, and a £19m net profit. Maybe I'll get a shirt with that written on the back of it. That'd be fucking subversive, right?

Friedel: well, yeah, for a goalkeeper who's let in eight goals in two games, he looks pretty good. But he's 84 next March and his arrival says more about Harry's distrust of Gomes than it does about long-term planning.

Parker: again, yeah, fine. I'm not a huge fan, I must admit. But most Spurs fans seem pleased with his capture and at £6m, even though there'll be no sell-on value, he's hardly a risk. I almost wish he was. But he's just a solid English yeoman, to me.

I'm told, however, that he "always gives 100 per cent". Gee, thanks. I also winced a little at a line from the commentary on the England game the other night: "Parker there, getting his body in the way - that's what he's on the pitch for". Great, he's a cone.

No, look, welcome aboard and please feel free to become a Lillywhite legend. No one would be happier than me. He'll do fine, I'm sure. Better than fine, I'm not so sure.

Adebayor: "On his day he's pretty much unplayable". This must be true because everybody says it. What they mean, I think, is that he's a big but athletic and awkward unit who puts himself about but is also comfortable on the ball and a proven finisher. Whether or not that means it's hardly being worth lacing your boots up if you're defending against him, I'm not so sure.

But, he does have one important thing going for him, something that's much easier to define and prove: he's not Peter Crouch.

I'm still not comfortable about us taking players from 'rival' Premier League clubs on loan, though. I'm not sure what it says about us - but I suspect it's not good.

Also, who thinks he'll be here in, say, 18 months? Might not matter, of course, I know that; he'll 'do a job' etc. But for me it still makes it harder to get really excited about him as a 'signing'.

So, yeah, no real complaints, but no real jubilation or heightened expectation, either. We have a big striker who's better than what we had, we have better back up for Sandro (although with Thud, Palacios, Jenas and maybe even Livermore in the ranks, we didn't seem especially short-staffed) and we have an experienced goalkeeper who Harry (and hopefully our defence) feels more comfortable with.

Oh, and we still have Luka, of course. For now. Or at least someone who looks like Luka. Time will tell if he's the real thing.

We don't have Gary Cahill, though. And I'm still not sure why. Did we really stop just shy of £13m and decide we'd rather miss out than feel we'd got the fuzzy end of the deal? Could we not just have said: "You know what, Bolton, you cheeky little imps, £13m is probably about £4m more than market value (especially given the length of time left on his contract) and £2m more than we thought we'd be paying - but fuck it, let's just get this done, let's get a young, talented, English central defender to White Hart Lane while we're in a position to do so and before his contract actually expires and it becomes all about who can offer the highest wages."

That's certainly what I'd have fucking said.

And if we'd got him I think I'd have been happy with the business we'd done. And maybe even looking forward to what I am going to apocalyptically describe as our SEASON-DEFINING fixture - away at Wolves. In early September. Oh brother...

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Not wishing to overreact, but I think football may be coming to an end

This is true: there are a few Premier League clubs who can buy players for £20m-£50m and pay them £100K-£250K per week.

But the vast majority can't. This overrides everything. That's not sour grapes. It's bitter reality.

If it helps, imagine James Alexander Gordon saying it. That's how true it is.

There will still be amazing games, shock results, delirious afternoons and glory nights - but, plotted on a graph over any meaningful amount of time, it is that economic fact that will determine who does what, finishes where and wins anything.

It makes football more predictable, more boring and, for the majority of us, let's call ourselves The Excluded, more depressing.

The key is to stop fucking caring. Because there's nothing we can do about this. We are New York and football finance is Hurricane Irene. (And, yes, that does throw up the tantalising possibility of evacuating).

There are degrees of disenfranchisement, of course. Spurs are relatively wealthy and privileged. And fans of, say, Macclesfield may well be tempted to sarcastically rub their eyes and do the fake boo-hoo thing at this point. But it's at our end of the spectrum where the most dramatic changes are taking place and where the greatest gulf is (currently) opening up.

Against Man City our attack was as toothless as a tinker and our defence was as suspect as a hoodie with a can of petrol. But whilst the match itself, like every other match, turned on bad decisions, good goals and poor finishing, the game, the game of football, is turning, in a wider arc, on the influx of billions and billions of pounds, from owners who have no history with or attachment to their chosen play things.

It is, frankly, as baffling as it is depressing. There is no logic to Man City's rise. It's dumb luck followed by brute force. Same as Chelsea.

For the next few days we will pick over the bones of our beating and we will fret about comings and goings. Essentially, we will be rearranging the deckchairs.

I'm not sure where that leaves us, what we have left to hope for, aim for or dream of. (Other than, as always, along with every other poor sod supporting every other crappy club, three points at Wolves next Saturday. Everything has changed, but some things remain the same)

Down, down, down we all go together. Not just to the bottom of the table, but to goodness knows where...

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Let's finally get this season started, shall we?

Bit late for a Man Utd review, sorry. It was all right for an hour, wasn't it? And then it was very fucking far from all right.

One thing that struck me, though, as it has done many times before: there is something about Being Man Utd that just undoes certain teams, including us (if I knew what I was doing I'd have dicked about with the image so that it was an endless repetition of Tom Cleverly's face, not John Malkovich's).

I mean the names on a sheet of paper aren't exactly terrifying. The new keeper's clearly struggling to settle. Two of the defenders were Fulham and Blackburn players until recently - neither hailed as the best in their position at those far from gargantuan clubs.

In midfield Cleverly did okay at Wigan on loan last year and Young did okay at a Villa. Anderson's a bit fat. And up front, I mean, yes, okay, Rooney, but the main threat was Welbeck, another one who was out on loan last year, this time not exactly ripping up trees at Sunderland.

You could stick six or seven of those Man Utd players in Spurs shirts and we'd actually be a worse team. And they'd play like Spurs players. The magic would suddenly wear off. They wouldn't expect to win. The 'Being Man Utd' effect would be missing and they'd look like Fulham, Blackburn, Wigan and Sunderland players. It's bloody alchemy, is what it is. And bloody annoying.

But, of course, the season actually starts this weekend against Man City. And it's a great benchmark game for us. City will be top three this season, but our best 11 should still be able to give their best 11 (if such a thing exists) a run for their money, especially at home.

The biggest moment of the afternoon may, of course, come before kick off when (hopefully) Luka Modric's name is read out - presuming his slight mind strain has worn off.

Boos? Cheers? Indifference? It's a complicated one. If it can be orchestrated, I'd like us to greet him with a mass chorus of: 'Yes, on some level we understand your desire to earn more money and, let's face it, stand a better chance of winning trophies. Plus, admittedly, it's naive to expect much loyalty from all but a very few players these days. It's also true that Tottenham were here before you and will be here (or maybe a few miles up the road) after you - and as for the risks of keeping a disgruntled player at the club, in the dressing room, well that's a whole other headache. But, you did sign a new contract just last year and we have little doubt that an even better one is on offer if you accept that you're not going anywhere; that your future, for now at least, is here, so you'd better make the best of it. And, yes, when we're 14th in January we can maybe have another chat.'

I'll count us in, shall I?

We'll lose 2-1. Nasri will probably score. And watching that lot do the almost painfully unfunny Poznan thing will probably be enough to make me question not just what's happened to football, but whether or not mankind deserves to continue.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Reasons to be cheerful - three parts

1) Gareth Bale

Thanks to the ongoing Modric saga (Jesus, I'm not even calling him 'Luka' anymore. A year ago it was 'honey-bunny'), the speculation spotlight stayed away from young Gareth this summer.
It was, in fact, a mercifully quiet close-season for the lad who, just seconds after the final whistle at the San Siro last year, was more or less put up for auction at pitchside by the ITV team of pundits (Curly, Larry and Twat, or whoever was on duty that night), such was the level of assumption that a player that good simply couldn't or wouldn't want to stay at Spurs.
Thankfully, in the end, Bale spent his holidays in a chalet in Tenby with his mum and his gran, sipping tea, running up and down mountains in the morning and re-reading his Harry Potter books in the afternoon, tongue lolling constantly but quite charmingly out of the corner of his mouth.
Obviously he may have spent the summer roasting wannabe wags in that resort where Michael Winner and Simon Cowell go - Cunt Island, I think it's called - but in my mind he's a good boy.
And the real point is that he remains our boy.
Last year, whilst he hit some very high highs, he was sometimes not consistent or imposing enough in bread and butter league games. This year, we must hope, he becomes a great player who has the odd and totally understandable off game, rather than a good player who has quite a lot of not-much-better-than-average games (and the odd almost inexplicably brilliant game).

Inevitable downside because that's the nature of this blog, supporting Spurs and, let's face it, life: Still wonder if he might be a little fragile - or at least over-susceptible to injury. The new Darren Anderton, basically.

2) Rafa van der Vaart

I didn't swoon quite as wholeheartedly as some when the surprise signing lit up the start of our season last summer/autumn.
Me and Rafa just never really clicked. And he did fade a bit - in the second half of games and in the second half of the season. Plus, I always presumed he'd arrived here by mistake; that the first he'd heard of it was a profusely apologetic call from his agent at 00:05 on September 1st: 'Now, before you say anything, just hear me out...'
But, he scored goals, and he oozed confidence. He didn't seem like a Spurs player at all. He seemed surprised (possibly even angry) when we lost. And he relished big games - again, not a typical Spurs trait.
This year, he'll have done a proper pre-season, he's not sneakily looking at the back of shirts to know which name to shout during matches. So, rather like Bale, perhaps this year he'll be one of the Premier League's outstanding performers, from beginning to end - of matches and of the season.

Inevitable downside because that's the nature of this blog, supporting Spurs and, let's face it, life: He does fuck with our 'preferred' shape and system. To get the best out of him he cannot be a second striker in a rigid 4-4-2 - and do we have the tactical nous/flexibility to change?

3) Benoit Assou-Ekotto

Just because, really. Yes he's a much better left-back than pundits give him credit for, but that's because they tend to buy into a set of mutually accepted half-baked truths (or, just as often, cliches) about clubs, players, manages and not have the wit, insight or courage to deviate from them (In psychiatric circles it's know as 'Lets himself down with his final ball syndrome').
Anyway, who gives a fucking fuck what Steve Claridge, Alan Hansen or Garry Neville think about our Benny. We know that he's prone to the odd lapse, but he's also cooler than Fonzie in a fridge, fast, smart and always capable of springing into attack.
Plus, he's that rare breed: a modern footballer with a sense of perspective and honesty. Benny's no badge-kisser and the vast majority of us thank the lord for that.
Rather than trot our PR-approved platitudes, he knows he just happens to have ended up playing for Spurs because that's where his professional life has lead him, that's where he could get the best deal, and that's where he'll stay until a significantly better deal comes along. And while he's here he'll try as hard as he can because that's what he's paid to do.

Inevitable downside because that's the nature of this blog, supporting Spurs and, let's face it, life: There's a nice little contradiction brewing here. Because of his honesty, because he refuses to pretend he loves the club, or us.... well, guess what, we love him! And I think he knows that, and I think he likes that. I even think he maybe values that. So, perhaps, completely by accident, he will end up caring, 'doing it for the fans', rejecting better offers from bigger clubs and seeing out his days with a blanket over his knees in the directors' box, revelling in his honourary, lifelong and specially created role: Tottenham's Director of Cool.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Talking Tottenham with @charlieparrish - Part 5

Right, it's time to type away the tumbleweed, get this blog back on track and attack 11/12 with all the vim and vigour of, well, our beloved Spurs, I guess. In other words: yeah, why not, might as well, contractually obliged etc.

This season's opening fixture is an intriguing encounter with @charlieparrish - not only a top Tottenham tweeter, but also a super cool blogger, here). As we emailed back and forth, London burned and Harry fiddled. The season started and our match against Everton was postponed. My spirits sank, while Charlie searched for a bright side...

SUCH SMALL PORTIONS (Dave): So, when we waved an apathetic goodbye to the boys at White Hart Lane in May, if you could, in Delapesque fashion, have thrown forward to the day before the season, what would you have expected to see?

For me, worst case scenario: some deadwood out, and a £20-£30m superstar added to a striking line-up shorn of Keane and Crouch. Best case scenario: A classy centre back in the style of King/Woodgate, maybe a quality right midfielder to put some pressure on Lennon - and two new strikers, one £20m+, one a super-promising 18-21 year old.

And what have we got? Brad fucking Friedel. Oh and a couple of others - I know you'll be excited by Coulibaly's showreel, but he's not the missing piece in the jigsaw, is he? So, I ask you, in the modern vernacular, double you tee eff?

A SPURS BLOG (Charlie): WTF, indeed. Firstly, I don’t think all blame can be Levy’d on Daniel. He’s an ENIC employee who runs the club in a manner that pleases his bosses, safeguards against financial ruin and keeps us in vastly gifted players. But while we haven’t changed, the Premier League’s financial goalposts have.

Levy can hare about Europe with dog-eared £25m cheques all he likes, but hamstrung by ENIC’s wage structure: it’s pointless. Selling a Europa League outfit blighted by a very public spat with its best player to Giuseppe Rossi, Fernando Llorente, Emmanuel Adebayor or Pablo Osvaldo is hard enough. But if you can’t even tease their greedy bone? Mission impossible.

And so a bracing reality quickly set in this summer. I was forced to ask myself: Is this as good as it gets? Rather than howling at the bone idle footballing pricktease, do I now, finally, embrace Pav? And do I mind squint really hard back to when Jermain Defoe was England’s darling? And when Crouchy nodded us into the Champions League? And when Robbie Keane… hang on, that’s a step too fucking far.

Of course, there’s always Levy’s Plan B. Wait until 31 August and see if one of his foes blink first. Should City show an as yet unseen ounce of financial care, they might be desperate enough to part-finance an Adebayor loan. Maybe, we tell ourselves, there’s a Van der Vaart-style coup sulking on a super power’s bench, ready for thieving.

But to finance any of this, we’re still told the deadwood has to be flogged. Problem is, they all appear as immovable as Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in Step Brothers. Quite honestly, I’m starting to picture Jermaine Jenas hosting a goodwill-free testimonial in (just) four years time (that’s right, this will be his seventh season). Will no one relieve us? Surely Tottenham must appreciate values of transfer disasters and substitutes depreciate? Apparently not. And so we lurch into another season with barely a squad number changing hands.

There is, however, an upside to this. Our heightened security efforts have safeguarded the crown jewels for now. The sharks have spared us Gareth Bale for at least the fag end of 2011. Rafa – predictably and sort of endearingly – likes being the big fish in a medium sized pond. And who knows, Modrić might just knuckle down, lead us back into the top four and realise money and bandwagon-jumping ain't all that.

Sure, a 40-year-old back-up ‘keeper, Barcelona ball-juggler and ultra-raw YouTube headliner don’t represent the summer booty we wanted Harry to be talking up. But Kyle Walker could be the most exciting right-back that people make excuses for since Glen Johnson was at Portsmouth. Sandro should evolve into a cultured Nigel de Jong. A savvier Bale will learn to dodge the hackers. Lassana Diarra might somehow agree a £50k wage cut and instantly upgrade our options. There are positives available. They just involve, well, settling.

So, tell me, Dave: what do you expect from our non-moving squad?

SSP: Blimey Charlie, I’ve read that four times and I’m not sure if it’s depressing or inspiring.

It’s true, certainly. We are seriously hamstrung by the wages we offer and by the quaint old notion of fiscal responsibility. In fact, if you drill further in it becomes even starker.

Remember ‘big-spending’ Blackburn? (Sometimes mentioned by the City/Chelsea apologists). A local businessman bought the team he supported and spent a quite hefty amount of money to make his dreams come true. And cried his eyes out when he did it. That’s fine. It didn’t cause a seismic shift, it was just a nice story.

Man Utd? Spend gazillions, sure. But have also spent 50 odd years becoming the biggest brand in world football. There’s a correlation between what they spend and who they are (and even what they earn).

Now, we’re through the looking glass...

When the identity and motivation of owners is frankly baffling, quite possibly dubious, then we’re soon lost. It becomes a pin in a map and a roll of the dice. It’s footballopoly. And whilst it may look glamorous and thrilling – it’s actually grubby and depressing.

Anyway... What do I expect? Sixth. If we can sign a big name striker and maybe a central defender, we’re back in the mix for the top four. But as things stand, we’ve stood still and gone backwards.

Now then, my beloved Luka: I reckon he’ll be with us at the start of this season but not the start of next. What do you think?

ASB: I’m going to hop straight onto Luka. I think he’ll stay with us, at least until January. Levy’s clearly gone into Liam Neeson-in-Taken mode on this one: no one, not least Chelsea, are going to fuck him about. He will find you, and he will kill you. Levy knows that this is his final shot at keeping us hanging with the big boys. The last season we’ll be able to keep the wolf from the door. Relent, and we too become a Jack Walker’s Blackburn-style nice story. Cheeky Cockney finally gets shot a rejuvenating a sleeping giant, saves them from relegation, leads them to the promised land, plays cavalier football, and slays some European giants on their charming Champions League run. Then of course comes the miserable chapter: club can’t quite make the leap, best players abandon ship, cheeky Cockney evades jail, hops on the Metropolitan Line to Wembley and we’re suddenly Aston fucking Villa.

What would I like to happen, however? Well, I’d tell Chelsea they either find £35m (I’d allow a wry smile if we claimed the same compensation as Arsenal did for the far-superior Fabregas) or throw in Drogba. Because I can’t stand Luka’s whining a moment longer. And I’m not entirely convinced we’d drop down a Premier League social strata by replacing him with a Diarra, or even a Parker. In fact, playing two solid central midfielders could even enhance our prospects.

Obviously though, the fug of negativity polluting the club should he leave would be unavoidable. The press are determined to paint this as a black and white situation: lose Luka and we’re doomed, keep him and we’ve got a puncher’s chance of gatecrashing the party again.

Savvy to this, Spurs fans – so often pilloried as mardy moaners – deserve enormous credit for cheering his name against Bilbao. As do the players for publicly voicing their hope that he stays. And so does Harry. Constantly commending Luka’s attitude and character in the press is actually a masterstroke. He’s craftily backed the Croatian into a corner with sheer goodwill. Of course, believe this weekend’s press and apparently Harry now wants shot of his po-faced playmaker to fund moves for Rossi and Adebayor.

Bigger picture, I expect another ding-dong battle for 4th to emerge with us right in amongst it. I think, like last season, though, we’ll lose out. Possibly right down to 6th. However, should Adebayor secure this unlikely loan deal (honestly, if City part-finance our greatest team hole, they’re bigger idiots than any of us suspected), perhaps Christopher Samba beefs up the defence and Diarra somehow rejects PSG’s petrodollars, then I think we’ve got the best Spurs team in years. I think about a potential: Friedel; Walker, Dawson, Gallas, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Sandro, Diarra, Bale; Van der Vaart; Adebayor and that’s exciting. And more than enough to see us challenge Liverpool and, yes, Arsenal.

Dave, tell me, who do you think will come and go in the next two weeks?

SSP: Fair points on Luka.... but we both know you wouldn’t be so damn rational if was your beloved VdV.

I honestly don’t know who will come and go in the next week or so – but what I hope is that Crouch and Palacios go to Stoke, and players like Keane, Hutton and Bentley just go. To Lidl, maybe. Or on an unwittingly ironic cultural tour of Skelmersdale. Just not here. Not anymore.

Then let’s steal Gary Cahill from under the noses of Arsenal and grab some European hotshot with ridiculously over-confident hair who I will barely have heard of but who makes more cosmopolitan supporters go weak at the knees and marks his debut by smashing the winner at Old Trafford – followed by a wild-eyed, hot-blooded, awe-inspiring celebration that banishes forever the memory of rather awkward and wholly unconvincing cartwheel/roly-poly mash-ups. (These things are important).

Do that, and yes, okay, we’re battling and maybe even beating Arsenal and Liverpool in the, ugh, race for fourth. But we won’t. We’ll start limply and tail off to sixth at best. We will finish les than five points north or south of Bolton. We will be beset by injuries and, at some stage, watch a midfield four of Jenas, Livermore, Bentley and Kranjcar.

This isn’t our year, Charlie. Nothing feels right. The club is being distracted and divided at all levels, from the boardroom to the forums.

The season being delayed by damage to our infrastructure will turn out to be horribly telling...

ASB: Very true. Whether it’s his lack of goals or occasional habit of being robbed of possession in unfortunate areas, Luka and I always remained colleagues, not close friends. Which is why I won't be mourning when he takes his 4 goals a season and terrible hair off to West London's soccer Disney World.

I hear your consternation, Dave. I really do. But I refuse to acknowledge we’re suddenly a terrible team. One £15m+ signing and the mood pendulum swings right back to “Ossie’s going to Wembley” levels.

I want our boys to be up against it. To be reading paper after paper writing them off and hearing Liverpool talked up as superiors. Harry’s half-arsed title wibbling didn’t suit them last year. They looked stressed against weaker opposition at the Lane, burdened by their hot mid-week dates. Should our dark horses break into a canter and we sign a striker and suddenly a 4-2-3-1 formation finally works, then we might just be on.

So, let’s stay strong, Dave. I know we’ve got a petrifying opening fixture salvo and the stars aren’t aligning right now, but this is Tottenham: who the Christ knows what’ll happen, who we’ll sign or how we’ll play.

Oh, and please don’t remind me of this come Tuesday night when Hearts are celebrating their famous scalp.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Not a season preview

For work, I recently had to do thumbnail previews for all 20 Premier League teams. It was part of a sponsored piece of contract publishing, so the content was necessarily a little anodyne, but here's us:

Tottenham need to do two things this summer: hang on to Luka Modric and sign at least one world class centre forward. Both are easier said than done. But whilst the Spurs board and management are clearly giving task number one a right good go, the lack of activity regarding the second part of the process is beginning to frustrate. A centre half to compensate for the loss of Woodgate and King’s ongoing battle of wounded knee would be nice – a centre forward to compensate for the current crop being rubbish is absolutely essential. Two years ago Spurs broke into the top four and hinted at becoming part of English football’s true elite. Last year they took a faltering step backwards. This season will go a long way to deciding whether they can be part of a new ‘Big Six’ – or just a bit better than Everton.

And here's Arsenal:

Ross and Rachel got together quicker than Cesc Fabregas and bloody Barcelona. This year it looked certain they’d finally fall into each other’s arms but now… not so much. Samir Nasri also seemed halfway out the door, only to be hauled back in and made to see out his contract. All of which means that the only significant departure to date has been Gael Clichy – and even that can’t have been too significant because Arsene Wenger immediately declared he didn’t need replacing. Gervinho has arrived to bolster a striking line-up that last season looked a little lightweight, except when Bendtner played, when it just looked shit. But still no snarling centre back to shore up a sometimes comically brittle defence. The ‘Arsene Knows’ banners still fly high at The Emirates, but if he doesn’t deliver this year, some slightly less complimentary messages may start being scrawled.

I'll maybe put some more up over the next few days.