Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Keeping the faith?

It is customary for pretentious and predictable fuck faces such as myself, when discussing Wigan in any context, to make mention of George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier. Preferably via some sort of pun.

But I can't think of any. So, let me instead just casually mention that I've read, like, loads of books. Some of them were almost entirely about how people were feeling and what they were thinking and stuff, with hardly anything actually happening at all. Brilliant.

Actually, I think I might be able to work the phrase 'down and out' into a preview, if that'll help? As in: if we don't win I'll be incredibly down and we'll be completely out of the race for fourth - which will then officially become a struggle for fifth.

I kind of like Wigan.

I like their manager.

I like the way he makes his teams (at least try and) play football.

I like how he once talked to a Spanish newspaper and was all, like, 'what the fuck?' about the other Premier League managers' frankly embarrassing kowtowing to SAF - until he found his dog's head in his bed and toed the line like everyone else. (He didn't have a horse. And now he doesn't have a dog).

I like that they scored two late goals last season to beat Arsenal and kill off their title "chances".

I like how we beat them 9-1 last year.

I even like how they came back to the Lane this season and regained their pride. (I didn't, obviously, but fair play to them)

I like their chairman and his old-school 'mill owner' approach to basically subsidising his hometown club.

I like that he named the stadium after himself and don't see any reason why he fucking shouldn't have done.

What I don't like are our chances of beating them at that stadium this weekend.

With an occasionally iffy defence and a continually average strike force, we tend to win games when the best four or five players from our astonishingly good midfield options are available, fully fit and in form.

When we have Bale, Modric, Lennon plus one from either Sandros, Thud or even Jenas firing on all cylinders, then we're a hell of a side.

That absolutely won't be the case on Saturday.

Maybe Pienaar will suddenly make it clear exactly why we bought him and what he adds to the squad. Maybe Kranjcar will start. Maybe we'll play quite badly but be rescued by our razor sharp strikers snaffling the two or three half chances that come their way. And maybe Liz Hurley will stop begging me for sex long enough to knock up a quick bacon sandwich, but not long enough to cover herself up. Brown sauce please. (Not a euphemism).

We should, of course, win with any combination in all departments. This lot are rock bottom. But I still think they're a decent side and that we'll end up trudging away with our third frustrating draw in the last four games (with the odd one out being a defeat).

None of the three possible results would surprise me, though. And maybe we just need a little luck in the Wigan casino. Keep The Faith - that's the slogan associated with the famous and now defunct night spot. Easier said than done. But if we win on Saturday I might just give Do I Love You? (Indeed I Do) a spin and chuck some talc on the floor. Trust me, this is a good thing.

Oh, and it's the most important game of the season so far. Again. Did I not mention that?

Tuesday, 29 March 2011


Time for this week's nod to the site's patron.

As ever, for those new to this, here's why Woody Allen is, along with Spurs, of course, the inspiration for Such Small Portions.

Today's quote... well, i dunno, maybe it's got something to do with John 'Not Everyone's Cup of Piss' Terry and his magnanimous offer to sit down for a calm and rational discussion with any member of the England squad that had a problem with his captaincy.

Actually, make that a cro-magnanimous offer. Ba-boom tish.

"The lion shall lie down with the lamb... but the lamb won't get much sleep."

Sunday, 27 March 2011

The ten greatest moments of my Spurs supporting life - No. 3








3) Spurs 2 Nottingham Fores 1 (aet)
FA Cup Final
Spurs scorers: Stewart, Walker (og)

This should, logically, be number one:

It's the biggest trophy we've won in the 25 year qualification period for this list; it was a great game at the end of an astonishing campaign; I was there; I was at every game in the cup run, in fact, from Blackpool to Wembley via Portsmouth and White Hart Lane; it was an amazing incident-packed day that started with a fry-up and ended with a trip to the police station. Perfect.

But here it is at number three.

I remember thinking that all Paul Gascoigne had to do was make some sort of contribution to us winning and it would go down as The Gascoigne Final, simply because the story of our cup run had been all about him. He took the free kick that lead to our winner in the third round and had scored in every tie since then. Actually, he'd pretty much single-handedly won every tie since then.

So, all he had to do was stay on the pitch, play at something like his capability and it would be The Gascoigne Final. The only precedents were The Matthews Final and The White Horse Final - and one of those doesn't really count because, well because it's a horse. Our greatest player was about to make history.

And he kind of did, didn't he?

He was fucking wired, completely out of control. Even in the warm up you could tell all wasn't well.

Actually I remember him deliberately kicking a ball right into the middle of the marching band, causing havoc in their ranks, which was pretty funny.

Then he kissed Princess Di's hand for some weird reason. It was clearly all too much for him and he just didn't know how to behave. It was sensory overload for a guy who was mentally fragile at the best of times.

His first 'tackle' saw his studs go into Garry Parker's chest. He should have been sent off, but Roger Milford was the world's first and last Hippy Ref, and he just mumbled something about bad vibes and let him off.

Then he... well, it's a very schoolboy phrase, but he just sort of hacked down Gary Charles, who was dribbling sideways and quite harmlessly just outside our box. Again, it was a definite red card, but again Milford just offered him a drag on his jazz woodbine and told him to mellow out.

He just about remembered to award a free kick. From it, Stuart Pearce scored an absolute belter - although a Forest player very clearly drags Gary Mabbut out of the wall, so it should have been disallowed. Milford was too busy listening to The Allman Brothers Live At Filmore East so he missed it.

We kicked off. Gascoigne collapsed. Suddenly there was a stretcher on the pitch and Nayim was standing on the touchline ready to come on.

It was all a bit surreal. This couldn't be happening. We were supposed to win and Gascoigne was going to be carried round Wembley on his grateful team mates' shoulders. Not carried out of Wembley on a stretcher.

In two minutes, the script had been torn up and our world had caved in.

Lineker had a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside (he was genuinely at least a yard on) and then missed a penalty.

In the second half Paul Stewart scored a pretty damn good equaliser, drilling it low across the keeper and into the far corner right in front of us. In extra time Des Walker's own goal put us 2-1 up and we hung on.

We deserved to win, I don't think there's any doubt about that, although Forest fans still argue, with plenty of justification, that had Gascoigne been sent off rather than being substituted, it would have been a different story.

For us it was important, impressive and yet at the same time hugely disappointing to win it without Gazza. We had become incredibly reliant on him and when he crumpled to the floor and waved to the bench for assistance, we looked deflated, shocked and a little bit lost.

He'd become our "magic feather". Thankfully, after an initial panic, we pulled out of the dive and learned to fly under our own steam. Not sure that analogy quite works, but I have just been looking at a picture of Lineker and for some reason I started thinking of Dumbo...

We left Wembley and headed back to meet some ticketless friends who'd watched it in a pub in the High Road. They were the drunkest people I'd ever seen. We tried catching up but it just couldn't be done.

It was quite a night. All the pubs were packed. I remember trying to steal a stuffed bear out of one.

I also remember someone spitting at the screen when Irving Scholar's face came on during BBC's highlights. These were strange, dramatic times in N17.

After midnight the police wanted to clear the streets and so made the odd dart into the crowd to arrest the drunkest revelers. Our friends were obvious targets. A couple of hours later we met them outside the police station. I think the original plan had been to detain them till they sobered up, until the office in charge realised that this could constitute a sentence of something like 15 to life, which seemed a bit harsh, so they just gave up.

For me the jubilation was tinged ever so slightly by a mixture of sadness and frustration at just what a fucking idiot our star player had been. It should have been Gascoigne's Final. Instead it was, to some extent, Gascoigne's finale.

Because, of course, he would never be the same again. Or play for us again. The first thing we did without him was come from 1-0 down to win the FA Cup. Sadly, for a very long time, that was as good as it got...

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Our next manager...

We don't know for certain that Harry's going to get the England job next summer.

We do know, however, the the situation will be vacant after the Euros (or before if England don't qualify) and that he his hot favourite to take over. We also know that if he is offered it, he'd take it.

And let's face it, if he's not offered it, he'll have to have fucked up so spectacularly that we'd probably be looking to get rid anyway.

So, with all that in mind, hopefully it's not too rude to start considering who our next manager might be, what effect he might have on our squad and whether or not we might just land the big one. Or, in fact, The Special One: Jose Mourinho.

Two big questions: Do we want him? Would he come?

The answer to the first is entirely subjective, but I'd welcome him.

Contrarily, though, I'm not a fan. When he came to the Premier League, the media fell head over heels for the swarthy little bastard and a lot of fans thought he was 'a breath of fresh air'. I thought he was an obnoxious, pretentious, arrogant sod.

I hated the way he talked in those clipped sentences, which he obviously thought imbued everything he said with incredible wisdom and gravitas. The sentences weren't clipped and gnomic because he's foreign, it was because he could only spare us a limited number of words. An actual conversation would have been too human, so he would utter a few phrases and it was our job to listen carefully, think hard then come to the conclusion that he was a genius.

And as for his preening, self-aggrandising struts up the touchline... Perhaps he's only leaving Madrid because there simply aren't enough mirrors to go round for him and Ronaldo to share.

But, he was a fucking great manager for Chelsea. They'd spent a shit load before he arrived, remember. They spent a shit load even before Abramovich arrived, remember. But they couldn't quite seal the deal as far as the league title was concerned. They lacked a certain something.

Chelsea's success may have been built with hundreds of millions of pounds that they never earned and will never pay back, but it was their superstar manager who cut the ribbon and declared them open for titles.

Clubs' psyches are deeply engrained. Players and managers change many times over decades, but most clubs remain essentially the same. Or at least they display the same characteristics, just in different degrees in different leagues.

It takes something seismic to shift them. To be fair, Arsene Wenger did it for Arsenal. And Mourinho did it for Chelsea. He made them winners.

He might just do the same for us.

Because, bear with me, what if Redknapp isn't that great a coach? What if we've actually got the best squad since the '60s, or at least the mid-'80s and, ridiculous as it sounds, it's actually under performing? What if, galvanised and organised by the best manager of the modern era, this collection of players could actually do more - could actually will the league?

What if someone thoroughly decisive with decent budget but even more impressive clout and pull in the transfer market could make the one, two or three personnel moves necessary to take that last step? That someone sounds like Mourinho, doesn't it? He could be our seismic shift.

So, would he come? Well, probably not. He'd certainly have other options:

Man Utd
Only if Fergie goes, and I heard a journo on the radio the other day saying he was looking at 'another five years at least'. And even if he did go, would Jose fancy a job where the best he could do was continue what someone else has done? He has to be the hero. And there's nothing heroic about being Dick Sargent to Fergie's Dick York (it's honestly just a happy coincidence that this analogy makes them both a couple of Dicks)

Man City
There'll be a vacancy, that seems certain. And Mourinho will be their top target and I'd say this seems his most likely destination. The parallels with the Chelsea job are obvious, but maybe, just maybe, Jose knows that if he does clinch the title for City, he won't be able to take all the credit.

Again, there looks likely to be a vacancy. But can he patch things up with the retarded-looking Russian? And is it ever wise to go back?

Would have been a front-runner, but they won't sack Dalglish and he seems to want the job long term.

Nah, Wenger will be allowed to continue his interminable bloody 'project' for a while yet, probably until the main injury threat to his 'young team' is arthritis.

Which leaves little old us. Could we, perhaps, appeal to his ego? If he won the league for Spurs after a gap of over 50 years we'd be renaming roads so quick GPS systems couldn't keep up.

It would eclipse Porto's Champions League win as his greatest achievement.

Winning the title with us is just about possible but undeniably epic. Failure would come with no blame and absolutely no shame. Success would bring garlands and statues beyond imagination. And Jose would love that, right?

Or Owen Coyle. Whatever.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The ten greatest moments of my Spurs supporting life - No. 4







4) Spurs 5 Arsenal 1
League Cup Semi-Final

White Hart Lane


Spurs scorers: Jenas, Bendtner (OG), Keane, Lennon, Malbranque

It may be a bit sad, possibly even slightly demeaning, that the number four spot is occupied by a semi-final in a not especially prestigious competition against a team that professes not to care about it anyway, but, in our world (certainly in my world), this was a very special night.

After the first leg, a 1-1 draw at the Emirates, I went out to pick up one of my daughters from something or other. The first thing I saw was a banner hanging outside the front of a local church displaying the single word HOPE in massive letters. Yeah, thanks God, we don’t need you taking the piss as well.

I wasn’t at the second leg. I watched it on my own at home. I just couldn’t face witnessing it in public. To paraphrase Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral, I needed to be where others were not.

Because, of course, this would end badly. And then, most unexpectedly, it started brilliantly. Jermaine Jenas put us 2-1 up on aggregate after just three minutes. I’ve been a staunch supporter of our much-maligned midfielder for many years now, and I would definitely throw ‘key goals against Arsenal’ into the case for the defence.

Bendtner then helped us on our way with a beauty of an OG. This was back when the world was only just discovering how shit he was – though to be fair he was already giving loads of clues.

And the goals just kept coming: Keane with one that Fabianski should have stopped, Lennon finishing off a fantastically flowing breakaway and Malbranque getting the fifth (created by Jenas) on 90 minutes. At that point I shouted at the telly ‘That’s embarrassing. That’s. Now. Officially. Fucking. Embarrassing’. I’m not proud. Then I went to the pub.

Arsenal fans subsequently, tediously and for the most part disingenuously mocked our excitement. They claimed that they hadn’t taken it seriously. Utter tosh. Their team of kids and reserves? Step forward messers Fabianski, Sagna, Gallas, Traore, Hleb, Denilson, Fabregas, Silva, Diaby, Walcott, Adebayor and Bendtner. Recognise a few of those names? Thought so. And Van Persie only didn’t play because he was injured. He started in the first leg, though.

The one player who didn’t figure on the night but was available and would have strengthened the line-up was Eboue – a fact that acknowledged sportingly by several Arsenal-supporting friends the next day.

And when Bendtner, Adebayor and Gallas started rowing with each other on the pitch, they looked like they cared a bit, didn’t they? Let’s not get bogged down in all that nonsense, though.

For us, this wasn’t just a win, this was an Event Win. It was a Can’t Wait For Work Tomorrow Win. It was a Buy All The Papers Win. It was a Marks & Spencer Win. It was a Still Got A Soppy Smile On Your Face 24 Hours Later Win. And, yes, Arsenal fans, it was a DVD Win (although I didn’t buy it).

Look, I wish I lived in a world where this wasn’t quite such a treasured highlight of our last 20 years, but we are what we are and this is what it is. In five years maybe this night will have been knocked out of the Top Ten altogether by a series of far more glorious achievements and amazing matches. But for now, let’s not apologise. Let’s just remember and enjoy.

Monday, 21 March 2011


Every Monday it is customary round these parts to roll out a quote from the blog's patron, Woody Allen.

For those new to this, here is why he is our patron and why the blog is named after one of his punchlines.

And now, this week's quote:

"I'm very proud of my gold pocket watch. My grandad, on his deathbed, sold me this watch."

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Not with a bang... but with a 0-0 draw at home to West Ham

Well that was utterly shit, thoroughly depressing and entirely predictable.

Let's start, annoyingly perhaps, with some credit for West Ham. They defended pretty well, created one or two more than decent chances, Robert Green made some maddeningly good saves and, yes, Scott Parker is a fucking pain to play against.

But, they could have had no complaints if we'd won. Our profligacy played as big a part as their obdurateness in keeping their goal in tact. It wasn't 'a classic away performance' - it was a limited team battling hard and getting (a bit) lucky. And it was frustrating as fuck.

The game threw up three main talking points: Jermain Defoe, the race for fourth and, perhaps less obviously, Rafael van der Vaart.

1) Jermain Defoe

It seems his two goals against Wolves may have been blips. The question being asked at the ground yesterday was, If he doesn't give us goals, what does he give us? Anyone?

He actually started off looking quite lively. When Bale got free down the left Defoe darted in front of the defender and improvised a very smart little angled shot that just rolled past the far post. After that, however...

The Lennon rebound chance? I mean sorry, but what the fuck happened there? It was an open goal from four yards. Rather than just side-foot it in he opted instead for the harder alternative, which was to have some sort of mini seizure. Astonishing.

In the second half, Luka put him in. Again he was four yards out, this time the keeper very kindly went to ground, and all he had to to was make proper contact. He scuffed it.

There were six or seven other misses, including two or three in the last 10 minutes. In golfing terms he's got 'the yips'. In footballing terms he's got 'the playing like a cunts'.

In the corresponding fixture last year we were 1-0 up going into the last 10 minutes and it was getting a bit squeaky. Then Robert Green parried a fierce shot from Defoe, the rebound went back to the striker on the edge of the box and he absolutely lashed it home. Where's that guy gone?

As for his fucking T-shirt. Fuck your 100 goals, yesterday should have been about Spurs three points.

Can I suggest one that says, "No, really, don't make too much fuss, I'm just doing what I'm paid an obscene amount of money to do and, actually, haven't been doing that well, if at all, lately."

2) The Race For Fourth

I haven't fancied us for fourth for some time. Two points from games against Blackpool, Wolves and West Ham have just confirmed it for me. Also as I've said before, this isn't a criticism or complaint, I think it's probably where we belong.

But, for those with a slightly sunnier outlook, here's something to hold on to. If Chelsea beat Man City this afternoon, then we'll actually have made up ground. (And City are the only viable target).

3) Van der Vaart
He's a talented player, of course he is. And he's weighed in with plenty of goals. But I think he has a disproportionate effect on the shape of our team and the way we play.

Yesterday we essentially had one short and out form striker up front against West Ham at home.

VdV came far too deep far too often and ended up taking balls from the back four, or trying to spray passes from central midfield.

When you've got players as good as Modric and Sandro there, he doesn't need to do that. He just thinks he does. Maybe he thinks he's slumming it a bit and doing it because, frankly, no one else could do it as well as him; like the best centre forward at school who ends up playing in midfield, and defence and grabbing the goalies' gloves when there's a penalty to be saved.

He'll be some people's player of the season, but I'm not convinced. I'm not convinced by his value to the team, his fitness or his committment (he disappeared off down the tunnel again yesterday when subbed).

And I think maybe we're in awe of him a little too much. Maybe Harry's a bit too deferential as well. Can you imagine him giving VdV a rollocking?

This might be well wide of the mark, I'm prepared to concede that. But I wouldn't be hugely upset if he left in the summer. I certainly wouldn't be hugely surprised. Especially if, as now seems horribly certain, we'll have no Champions League football.

Friday, 18 March 2011

The Real thing

Right up to the draw itself I was desperate for us to get Schalke. The second the draw was made I was absolutely fucking delighted we didn't get fucking Schalke. What a dull-arse waste of time that would have been.

(Plus, I fear, there'll be plenty of time to play them over the coming years in 'The Scottish Cup'. No, not the actual Scottish Cup you idiot. Oh, never mind.)

When I saw that Sky had devoted a 90 minute show and three studio pundits to the draw, I have to admit I thought it was a tad overblown. But, well, it was seriously fucking exciting, wasn't it?

My heart actually beat a little faster when Lineker pulled out Real Madrid and then, as he undid that second little Kinder surprise, pulled a face. Was it a grimace? He made a noise. He definitely made a noise. A semi-suppressed incredulous chuckle, would you say? It could only mean one of two things: Either he'd pulled out Barcelona and the world was about to go ape shit, or he'd pulled out Spurs and we were about to go ape shit.

He'd pulled out Spurs. We went ape shit.

"Real fucking Madrid! We've drawn Real fucking Madrid!", I shouted to the cat. Sky could extend their programme for another 90 minutes, they wouldn't be topping that sort of analysis.

It's worth admitting at this point that the draw proved one thing to me: I've fallen for the Champions League. And I've fallen hard.

When we're not in it any more I'll probably buy the theme tune and play it over and over whilst looking at pictures of Bale tearing up Inter; Joe Jordan going head-to-head with The Little Dog; hell, even Pav cracking that second goal against Young Boys that made us realise everything was going to be all right. Look, I don't want to be playing sad music, alone in my room, crying and thinking of Young Boys, but I think it will happen.

The Europa Cup will be the scabby prostitute with whom we go through the motions, all the while thinking of and weeping for our true love...

Sorry, right, yes, Real Madrid. The perfect draw. It ticks all the boxes, as 12 year old marketing types like to say.

They're a big club - arguably the biggest. But they're not the best.

And the other runners and riders? They just don't fit the bill:

Barcelona - Nope, not just yet. Plus, genuine risk of utter degradation.

Man Utd - Didn't want an English side, plus our record against them's not what you'd call sparkling.

Chelsea - Hell no.

Shakhtar Donetsk - Had to look up how to spell their name. Dull. And dangerous.

Schalke - Dull. Just dull.

Inter - Played them twice, three times would have been overkill. Plus, after reveling so joyously in that victory at White Hart Lane, it might have been tempting fate to invite them back so soon.

Which leaves Real. Like I say, perfect.

We're the tie of the round. We're the main fucking event. We're battling a European giant for the right to face the greatest team in the world.

Chelsea and Man Utd are playing a Premier League fixture for the right to... oh who cares: Real Fucking Madrid.

It has to be hoped, of course, that the players aren't quite as giddy as we are. Or, that if they are, they hide it rather better.

We don't want them taking pictures during the warm-up, or asking for autographs at set-pieces.

The one downside of the tie for me is the Mourhino factor. For a start, his teams are hellishly hard to beat. Plus he's got that Chelsea stain running through him, and their fans will be gormlessly willing him on to 'do it for the Blues' - conveniently glossing over the fact that he coldly and expertly stood on their neck till it snapped like a dry twig in last season's competition. They remain, however, so gay for him that it's frankly embarrassing.

There is also one outrageous, horrific downside to what we shall call the extended draw; the potential route to the final. What if we beat Real Madrid? What if we then beat Barcelona? What if, after 129 years we pulled off the two greatest results in our history back to back? This team, in our time, achieving the impossible...

And what if that team then lost to Chelsea in the final? Exactly. We'd be in Revelations territory. Unbearable. Unthinkable.

But, for now, for all sorts of reasons, fuck Chelsea. Forget everything, in fact, accept Real Madrid in the Bernabeu on April 5th.

Oh, shit, apart from West Ham tomorrow, of course. COYS.


Meanwhile back in the real world...


Happy Hammers, sad Spurs.

Match preview here.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Hammer blow?

Oh goody, another Biggest Game of the Season. It’s been days.

The strolling Milanese aristocrats may have been replaced by the bow-legged Bash Street Kids, but the stakes are still high and the implications still terrifying.

God the stress is unbearable. At this stage we’re usually treating games as pleasant days out: having a few pints in the Bell & Hare beforehand, shoveling a pie down our necks at half time and maybe even nipping off early to get to Barry's 30th.

And that’s just the players. You saw that coming, didn’t you?

The importance of the fixture is ratcheted up a notch or two by the fact that Chelsea play Man City the next day. If we win, any result in their game will give us encouragement. If we lose, any result will look like a nail in our coffin (and by ‘coffin’ I mean ‘Channel 5’s Thursday night schedule’, home of the undead rather than the actual dead)

I don’t fancy our chances. FA Cup quarter-final aside, West Ham have found some form and confidence recently. Our last two league games have seen us lose to Blackpool and draw with Wolves – conceding six goals in the process. (I’m ignoring the Champions League – it’s good practice for when we’re not in it anymore)

They’ll come snarling out of the traps, and give it loads of grrrrr, whereas we’ll try and take them to one side and calmly explain that, whilst we admire their gusto, they have to understand that, by any objective measure, we have better players than they do and if they just take a minute to analyse…. Oh dear, they weren’t listening and seem to have opened the scoring. What rotters.

Perhaps we can bring out their softer side by convincing them that they’ve already won this season’s big prize: the Olympic Stadium.

I remember we played Leicester in the league not long after we’d beaten them in the Worthington Cup final. They formed a guard of honour and clapped us out onto our own pitch. They practically fucking curtsied. We were all, ‘Aw, shucks, you guys’ – and they promptly tanked us.

The trouble is, it’ll be hard to offer our humble congratulations without sniggering – and we don’t need them any more riled up than they already will be.

West Ham will get at least a point. They won’t get relegated and we won’t finish top four. We’ll be fifth. We were always going to be fifth. I may have mentioned this before. Over the season we’ll be quite a bit better than the teams below us and a tiny but irritatingly tangible bit worse than the teams above us.

Prove me wrong, Spurs. Please, please prove me wrong.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011


Once again, we're late with a quote from our patron. The lack of respect round here is shocking.

Anyway, with John Terry back in the mix as England captain, let's have one about being a wanker, shall we? From his breakthrough hit, Annie Hall (Woody's breakthrough hit, not Terry's)...

"Don't knock masturbation, it's sex with someone I love."

Sunday, 13 March 2011

In praise of Arsenal...

When Arsenal lost to Man Utd in the FA Cup on Saturday, and reduced their possible trophy haul this season to one, I tweeted a quite average little joke about their diminishing returns: 4-3-2-1 - Arsenal are The Ramones in reverse.

A Gooner friend on Twitter took some exception to this. How many trophies are you lot competing for, then?

I thought about it and answered: In all honestly, probably none.

I also said that I was well aware (by proxy, not through experience) that getting knocked out of big competitions by great sides in high profile games on a quite regular basis is a fate that only befalls teams who are pretty bloody decent in the first place.

And that Arsenal have been a better side than us for about 25 years, a fact which I've happily conceded many times. Okay, maybe not 'happily'.

It got me thinking, though, about the nature of rivalry and about the perils of becoming a good side, if that is, indeed, the direction in which we're heading.

Regarding rivalry, there are two opposing schools of thought. The most dominant one revels in the defeats of others, most especially Arsenal and Chelsea.

Then there are those who believe that supporting Spurs has nothing to do with hating Arsenal. Or Chelsea. Or, in fact, with 'hate' in general. These people do exist, believe me. They're just quieter than the other lot.

My position is somewhere between the two. I wanted Birmingham to beat the Arse in the Carling Cup final, I wanted Barcelona to knock them out of the Champions League and I wanted Man Utd to win on Saturday.

But in each case, as the 'right' results panned out, I didn't feel the need to project my satisfaction outwards, towards Arsenal friends and fans. Maybe clink a glass or two with some fellow Spurs supporters, perhaps crack the odd gag between us. But no need to goad or to gloat. After all, what have we achieved in this scenario? Fuck all. What's it actually got to do with us? Fuck all.

Enjoy Arsenal defeats and Chelsea failings, sure. But don't let them define you, or your support of Spurs, that would be my stance, I think. And certainly avoid using them as a stick to beat their fans with, because when it comes to defeats and failings, our club provides them with much, much bigger sticks to beat us with.

The other thing I thought is that I'm dreading drawing Chelsea in the Champions League. For a start, I think we'll get beat. But it's also such an awful, galling and gut-wrenching way to go out of a competition in which, by and large, we've performed pretty fucking well.

It would be almost too big a game to bear. It'll be a result for the record books. A defeat for the ages.

But, here's the thing, sides like Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea play these high risk/high reward games all the time. Quite often against each other.

They get to the sharp end of the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Champions League pretty much every year. Every year they face matches and challenges that we find daunting and almost unimaginable. And they lose some of them. And we take the piss. But, well...

Also, my first thought after Man Utd's 2-0 win was that Arsenal can still win the league. And, therefore, have a better season than we have had in half century.

If you wallow in other sides' defeats as much as in our wins then two things are certain: that 'other side' will, eventually, win something big, at which point our sulky silence will just make us look stupid in contrast to all the noise we made when they didn't win; and even more surely, our next defeat, possibly to them, is just around the corner. We too will fail to win a trophy. We will fail to win nearly every single competition we enter. That's the nature of football. And when we do, we will consider those than give us stick for it to be small-minded irritants who, frankly, can fuck the fuck off.

Stand up if you hate Arsenal if you like, I'll watch the game, and then stand up because I support Spurs.

(That said, if they don't win the league I am going to try and come up with some porn-related quip about blowing it on a regular basis. So, that's something to look forward to).

Saturday, 12 March 2011

The ten greatest moments of my Spurs supporting life - No. 5






5) Spurs 2 - Chelsea 1
Premier League
White Hart Lane
Spurs Scorers: Dawson, Lennon

It's rather pathetic and perhaps even a little embarrassing that this regulation league fixture ranks so highly. It isn't a tale of glory, rather the full stop (or exclamation mark) at the end of a tale of woe.

Our litany of fuck-ups against Chelsea had become an embarrassment, frankly. Just fucking tortuous. It was like we were being punished for something, but I couldn't remember what. Being shit, presumably.

Going into this game it had been 32 league games and 16 ghastly years since we'd taken three points off Chelsea. There were people in full time employment who had never seen us beat them.

I'd given up. It had all become too painful and too predictable. And when Claude 'goal machine' Makelele opened the scoring after 15 minutes it seemed certain that the game would follow a familiar pattern.

It was November 5th. A Sunday. The match was live on Sky. And I was monumentally fucked off.

One of my daughter's needed a lift somewhere so I volunteered. I'd seen this show before, far too many times, and it didn't have a happy ending.

I only switched the radio to 5 Live on the way home. Just to check on the extent of the damage, you understand.

The crowd was loud. Too loud for it to be them making all the noise. Why are we making so much noise? What's happened? We haven't, have we? We have. Fuck.

Then it got really painful. We could get a point here. As every football fan knows, it's not the despair that kills you, it's the hope. Horrible, horrible hope.

I got home and put the TV. Almost straight away, Robbie Keane made their full back fall over, crossed and Lennon scored. Beautiful, brilliant Aaron Lennon.

Fuck. This is terrible. We might well get a point now, but it'll feel terrible, like a defeat.

Then 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. Fucking 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. The Intense Humming of Evil, probably. Or 'Chelsea's theme tune', as I like to call it.

Ron agreed to text me only if anything happened. If anything happened. Please God don't let anything happen. Let the game achieve some sort of transcendental state of nothingness. Happening but not actually existing. Or existing but not actually happening. Or, y'know, two banks of four, whatever's easiest.

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 16 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? The possibility of beating them? 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 gloomily 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. Great big grins on their faces.

Three point lane? Fuck the fuck off.

Since then, 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 two. And that's why this game was so huge. It ended an ear of unadulterated misery and smashed down a crippling psychological barrier.

Are we now their bogey team? Nah, of course not, but we're not their fucking doormat any more - and this was the game that set us free.

(Here's some Fanzone footage that includes the main highlights. Fair play to the Chelsea lad, his little glances to camera when our fella's going nuts are absolutely priceless)

Friday, 11 March 2011

Why Luka Modric is the key to Spurs' future - in every way

I love Luka Modric.

Let me make it clear, I love Spurs more. One day, he won't be here. Spurs will. And so will I. That solid fact underpins all the dopey fanboyism that's about to gush forth. I will also avoid expressions like 'gush forth', promise.

Every few years or so a player comes along that has a visceral appeal. It goes deeper than skill or technique. You don't just want them to succeed, you will them to succeed. You make it personal. They represent you and something you believe about the game.

When they do well you're happy not just because it helps the team, you're happy for them (as if they give a fuck). And you feel vindicated. See that? That was my boy, that was. Told you, didn't I? (Even though no one disagreed with you in the first place). You have invested more in them than the money for your ticket.

For many, initially, there was Hoddle. The way he played seemed to embody the way we believed Spurs were supposed to play. Even his imperiousness was part of the package. Let's face it, in his era, we fancied ourselves a bit. And so did he.

So, when he shone, we knew we supported the 'right' team. And when he failed, we simply reasoned that when you consistently try for magnificence, sometimes you'll fall just short. We still supported the 'right' team – and he was the perfect totem for it.

Then there was Gascoigne. Fuck me the man was a force of nature when he first joined us.

He scored against Arsenal in his socks in like his second game or something.

He could destroy lesser teams at will but also relished the big occasion. He could dribble and drive at the heart of a defence with an unrivaled combination of power and skill. He thrilled us week after week.

That hat-trick against Derby. That semi-final.

And, like Hoddle, he represented us as a club. He was maverick, cavalier, audacious and loads of other cliches that are no less true for being over used. He dared and he did.

He never waited for the other lot to die of boredom. He could be our most eye-catching player just sitting on the bench.

I remember playing Man Utd in the last home game of the '89/90 season, when there was still some doubt about whether or not our boy would go to the World Cup that summer.

Bryan Robson was up against him in their midfield and Gascoigne completely dominated. In the Paxton we sang 'Robson, man of the match/Robson, Robson man of the match'. A searing, ironic commentary on the media and wider public's neanderthal belief that the Reds' box to box merchant should be the fulcrum of the national side. God we were a sophisticated lot.

And now there is Luka.

I won't go to rhapsodical lengths about his qualities, or tactical analysis of his importance to the team. I'm assuming you watch Spurs - and anyone who watches can see that he's the real deal.

What I will say is that he plays the game exactly as I - and hopefully you - think it should be played. The awareness of space and of where teammates and opponents are is astonishing. There's also something gratifying about the fact that he could bathe in a thimble and still need help getting in and out.

Now for the tricky part. More than Bale and more than Van der Vaart, hanging on to Luka will be the litmus test of our ambition as a club.

Bale, I think/hope will stay for at least a year or two, even without Champions League football. He came here as a young man, he struggled, he picked up injures, but we believed in him, gave him plenty of time and chances - and ultimately made him a better player.

He's still a young man, more or less devoid of ego (if we are to believe what we're told) and doesn't seem to be too drawn, yet, to the glamour of Man Utd, Barca, Inter or whoever.

Van der Vaart? Well, he was a nice unexpected present last summer. He tends to move around quite a bit. He treats the transfer market like the pitch, he kind of goes where he wants, finds space, doesn't get pinned down.

He's been brilliant, but I don't think he's settled and I don't think we'd be that surprised if he was somewhere else next year.

Plus, he dictates the way we play to a quite imposing degree. Basically, if he's in the team then we can only play with one out and out striker - and that's usually not a little 'un (Defoe). If we spend £20m or so on a must-start centre-forward, we become even less flexible.

What I'm saying is, if we can keep VdV, fantastic, and if we can have a team in which he's an option, maybe even a luxury, rather than an out-and-out superstar, great. But if he goes, our general upward trend can still continue and I don't think it suddenly makes us a selling club. It just means we've had our turn with him in our ranks and now it's someone else's turn. It will have been a blip.

But, Luka Modric...

Well, the Bale argument doesn't apply. Luka was already an experienced international footballer when he arrived. He doesn't owe us anything. This isn't his home - not this club and not this country. This is a lad that's been on the move since his family was forced to flee their village when he was six during the Croation war of independence. Yep, all true. Luka: The Movie's got to be a goer, right? David Spade in the title role?

And the VdV argument doesn't apply either. Luka wasn't an unexpected bonus who we've had to crowbar into the team. He was a shrewd buy who we've learned to trust at the very heart of our midfield and who has paid back that trust a thousand times over. He's a fucking little gem and he makes us tick.

He's the player that any big club in the world would want. Same is true of Bale, but with Luka, why would he stay? What would keep him? Without Champions League football, that becomes a very tough question to answer. Can it be answered? Maybe. By Daniel Levy and Harry Redknapp behind closed doors with Luka and his agent. But it's hard to imagine how that conversation would go.

I love Luka Modric. I suspect you do too. I just hope we're not going to get our hearts broken. Again.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

My daughter, pretend supporter

When she was about four or five, one of my twin daughters, Annie, started supporting Tottenham Hotspur.

This pleased me, obviously. And I figured it would be the start not just of a life long passion for her, but a life long bond between us. I've read Fever Pitch, I know how this stuff works.

She started asking me about the results, when she remembered. She would be happy when we won and sad when we lost.

We went to see a pre-season friendly at a local ground and she got Darren Anderton's autograph. Sadly, he sprained his wrist adding an unnecessary flourish when crossing the 't' and was out for six weeks.

She asked for a shirt for her birthday. We got her one with her name on the back and she wore it everywhere, including to bed.

A couple of years later she asked if she could actually start playing football. Again, I was delighted.

We went straight out to the local park, gently side-footing between us, me encouraging like mad every vaguely decent touch that went at least somewhere close to where it was intended - much like Avram Grant must do now on a daily basis.

She started training with the school team and then told me how she didn't think it was fair because none of the boys would pass to her, which was silly because she was at least as good as them, etc.

Eventually, snubbed and shivering on the wing, she decided she'd go in goal. She asked for some gloves and on Saturday afternoon's we'd go to the park to practice. I'd gently chip the ball towards her. She'd save pretty much all of them and I'd tell her she was at least as good as Pat Jennings.

One Christmas we bought her a book called My Dream Cup Final. You might be aware of these bespoke little gifts. Basically, it's a templated story with the name of your team and your child slotted in.

I think ours involved Annie getting a lift on the Spurs coach, one of our players being injured in the warm up (Anderton again, I'm guessing), and Gerry Francis telling Annie she'd have to fill in.

We were playing Arsenal, obviously. I think they went 1-0 up, Teddy equalised from the spot and then Annie got the winner in the last minute and the whole squad carried her around Wembley on their shoulders.

To be fair, it's as believable a scenario as us actually winning the bloody thing over the last 20 years.

I would dig it out to check the details, but if I did I'm pretty sure I'd start blubbing.

A few years later, you see, when the twins were about 11 or 12, I was chatting to my other daughter, Alice, about how her sister just didn't seem as interested in football or Spurs any more. 'She never was, Dad', Alice casually informed me, 'she just pretended to be because she knew it would make you happy'.

'But... but she actually started playing... She made us buy her goal keeper's gloves and go and practice over the park every week, even in the freezing cold!'

'Yeah, that was just so she could spend some time with you'.

I was stunned; genuinely didn't know what to think. The whole Spurs thing had been a sham. But it had been a sham that she'd acted out for several years, to make me happy and so that we could be together.

Was I touched because she'd gone to such effort? Disappointed because none of it was actually real? Or sad because dropping the pretense meant she was no longer as fussed about us spending time together, even though I knew that was just a function of her growing up?

I'm still not sure what I feel, frankly, but I certainly feel something, which is why I'm not quite ready to flick through that book.

When we beat Chelsea in the League Cup final in 2008, just after the final whistle, she texted me a smiley face. And I'm just thankful that when I read it, there were plenty of other grown men crying that day as well.

For a slightly less touching story of Spurs family life, click here

The best 0-0 draw in Spurs' history?

Weird night, strange game, phenomenal achievement.

Finsbury Park, Victoria Line, Seven Sisters, back on the overground, White Hart Lane (station), brisk stroll to the Bell & Hare. The usual routine. Everything familiar. But everything just a little bit different - a little more significant and a little more serious.

The line-up was pretty much what we expected. Bale not quite fit enough to start. Pienaar his replacement, technically.

The hope (my GP's hope, certainly) was that we'd come flying out of the traps and put the tie beyond doubt with a couple of goals before half time. In the event, our attacking intent withered after about five minutes. They were five pretty good minutes, but they gave way all too soon to a pattern of sitting in our half and defending our box.

The astonishing thing was, we did it quite well. It wasn't elegant or smooth. It was, in fact, at times, pretty ragged and a tad desperate. But you know what, it got the job done.

We made them work hard for their chances (apart from one or two that we fucking gift-wrapped for them) and ultimately they weren't good enough to find a way through.

So we watched a really quite astonishingly dull game on the edge of our seats; a weird dichotomy between the drabness of the match and the tension of the occasion.

Van der Vaart and Modric were ordinary at best, and with Bale on the bench and Lennon only ever flirting with top gear, it meant that as an attacking force we were pretty fucking limp.

It all made for a strange atmosphere. The crowd was properly pumped up at the start, but after a while, there was so little for them to get their teeth into that the noise levels dropped. The clock on the big screen became the star attraction. Milan didn't look like scoring, we looked even less like scoring.

In the last 10 minutes, with the clock now playing an absolute blinder, the intensity returned and was transferred onto the pitch. It was enough to get us to the final whistle. And to the quarter finals of the Champions League.

Much has been made in the media about our resilience, personified by Sandro. And yeah, there was a lot to admire. But come on, it wasn't sensational, was it? It's like complimenting a car on its cup holders.

I'm not anti Sandro, so there's no need to jump to his defence. He did an important job really well last night (and in the first leg), and if he keeps developing at the rate he is he could be a tremendously important player for us for a very long time. But when he's our best performer you know it hasn't been a storming performance or a firecracker of a match.

But, actually, a damp squib was exactly what we needed. Considering one goal would have changed everything from first minute to last, it was actually pretty comfortable.

And when the final whistle went there was relief, pride and delight. But there wasn't full-on, breathless euphoria, not like there was after the Inter Milan game, not from where I was, anyway. Which is weird, because against Inter we only proved something, whereas last night we achieved something.

It was a history night, but not a glory, glory night.

That's to come, maybe. Possibly in April. Possibly, even, in May.

God, sorry, forget I said that.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Rising to the occasion

We haven't had a Biggest Match of the Season for days now. Must be due another one.

And oh yes, look, here come Milan. Pronounced Meelan, with emphasis on the 'Mee'. By twats.

Remember how we jumped around when Crouchy scored? Remember how we celebrated like lunatics at the final whistle? Remember how pissed I got? Oh God, how could we have been so foolish.

It's cold bloody comfort now, isn't it, as the team that people call the Rossoneri (people who are even bigger twats than the ones who over-pronounce Meelan) come swaggering into town.

Presumably, though, we're going to, in the words of our glorious leader, 'give it a right good go'. We'll have to, the idea of trying to defend for 90 minutes against AC Milan is patently absurd. We couldn't defend for 10 minutes against Wolves.

Gomes is back in leper mode (flaky as fuck), Dawson's not the rock he was, Hutton's an accident waiting to happen (a really impatient accident often waiting hardly any time at all to happen) and BAE has tonsillitis or something.

The midfield, however, should be pretty much full strength, with Lennon, Bale and the Little Genius all surely starting, plus one from Jenas, Sandros or Palacios. I'd be happy with any of them, but I think JJ might be considered a slightly too adventurous selection. Then VdV and Big Peter up front.

No matter what the formation or tactics tomorrow, at some stage it will be 1-1 and we'll be playing next goal wins. It will be a question of holding our nerve. I will struggle to hold my bladder.

One thing I find strange is that the club has asked everyone to turn up wearing white. Isn't there a danger that it'll look like a Bros concert? Or that the entire stadium has surrendered en masse? Specialist subject for the Italians, surrendering - they're not likely to miss the hint.

The win over there was so glorious, so unexpected and so damn impressive that it felt like an achievement. And in a way, yes it was. But we didn't actually achieve anything, did we? Not a tangible end result.

If we were 1-0 up against Milan at half time (which we are), you'd be pleased and surprised, but not massively confident, right? And if you were Milan and you were going into this 0-1 down, you'd still fancy your chances, right?

There's a myopic misconception that only English teams can rally in the face of adversity, or play with passion, give it some grrrrr. Milan, though, have plenty pride and plenty to be proud of. They will find some fire, and tomorrow night will be an ordeal.

So let's fight fire with fire and get at them. Not in an ugly 'get in their faces' sense (what a shit, over-used expression that's becoming amongst dumb arse media pundits), but in a rampaging, swashbuckling, all-out attacking sense. On Harry's signal, unleash Lennon and Bale.

We've set up an opportunity to get ourselves into a Champions League game that was the word 'final' in its title. That's pretty fucking exciting.

Let's not blow it. Let's rise to the occasion, because if we don't, Pancake Tuesday will be followed by Flat as a Pancake Wednesday.

Monday, 7 March 2011


Right, well, just because we're all pissed off with yesterday's result, there's no need to neglect our patron, Mr Woody Allen - and our duty to mark each Monday with a quote from the great man. This week's was suggested via Twitter by a long-suffering fellow fan reveling in the name @LiquidSpurs. And here it is:

There are two types of people in this world: good and bad. The good sleep better, but the bad seem to enjoy the waking hours much more.

When he fired it over initially I read it on my quite small phone screen and though it said 'wanking' hours. Would have worked just as well, I guess.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

It's the Wooluves! It's the Wooluves!

Look up a bit. No, not there. How do I know what's behind your computer? Jesus.

I mean there, the line just below the main blog title. Today pretty much encapsulates that and that just about encapsulates today.

Sometimes Spurs lift the spirits and make your weekend like almost nothing else can. Other times they crush your soul and ruin your week like almost nothing else can.

This is dreadfully shallow, obviously. There are far more important things in life than football, of course there are. I just don't really give a fuck about most of them.

Instead I rely on Spurs. 'Rely' and 'Spurs', two words that really don't sit comfortably in the same sentence. Apart from, 'You can normally rely on Spurs to fuck things up one way or another'. They both seem right at home there.

So this weekend was always going to be largely defined by what happened up at Wolves on Sunday afternoon. And goodness what a lot happened up at Wolves on Sunday afternoon.

Their opening goal was always coming. After about 10 minutes we seemed to decide that we were playing okay, but lacked any real zip or bite, and that what would really shake us from our torpor would be conceding a goal. Yep, we'll get going once we're one down. It's a plan we turn to time and time again.

(After riding his horse home by a short head, Lester Piggott was once asked when he knew he was going to win. The interviewer meant at which point in the close race did he feel certain of victory. Piggott replied: "Last Tuesday". Same answer for their first goal.)

We had to give them a few opportunities though, they're not great, after all. But we kept plugging away and eventually we managed to get Kevin Doyle on the end of a cross and steer well enough clear of his rather tame header to allow it to reach the back of our net. Which meant we could finally start properly.

And then suddenly, after 12 months of shitty shitty, it was bang bang and Defoe was back. Hitting them as hard and true as we always knew he could.

We could, of course, have pushed on from there and won comfortably. But where's the fun in that? Where's the Spurs in that? Instead, we started to defend like children - handicapped, malnourished children, who had never met each other.

2-2. And Hutton lucky to be on the pitch. (Although I'm not sure any team should ever be considered 'lucky' to have Hutton on the pitch).

Second half, Pav, 2-3. Awesome analysis, I know, cheers.

From then on, I think we all knew they were going to score, it was just a question of whether or not we could get a fourth. That was the only way we were going to win.

And we nearly did. There seemed to be about a dozen situations where the right ball at the right time would have created a clear cut opportunity. Two or three times, indeed, we did just that. Bale battled his way through, and then was ushered through by two charmingly polite defenders a little later. But he could neither finish, nor find the exact right ball.

The best chance fell to Defoe (courtesy of Sandro, who's looking better and better, but still needs a decent haircut) and if he'd completed his hat trick to clinch the win then life and the league table would look pretty good right now. But he hit the post, our hearts sank and our fate was sealed.

I honestly think that if we'd thrown Bale and Lennon both on with half an hour to go - and played them on their 'natural' wings, they'd have run riot and we'd have won.

I never understand it when we play them on the wrong sides. I presume it's a deliberate ploy, not just Harry forgetting his left and right, but what good does it do?

They're supposed to be able to cut in onto their stronger foot and threaten the goal, is that right? But when have you ever seen Bale play better on the right than the left? And Lennon play better on the left than the right?

So the match ended in disappointment and the weekend was ruined. Yes it was.

Twitter threw up a few noble comments about how it was a great match to be part of, tremendous advert for the game, probably a fair result, blah blah fucking blah. I admire these attitudes, I genuinely do, but I could never feel them.

Fuck Wolves, fuck fair and fuck being part of a great game. That makes me a bad person. But fuck being a good person as well.

This is getting dangerously close to the timeless 'winning ugly' argument, close to the very nature of the team we support and why we support them. But, right now, fuck that as well. I just wanted three points.

We won't finish fourth now. We have to go to Eastlands and Stamford Bridge.

Meanwhile, Liverpool can now see a great big target on our back. We have to go to Anfield as well.

Right, bring on Milan.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

The ten greatest moments of my Spurs supporting life - No. 6





6) Spurs 3 - Inter Milan 1
Champions League
White Hart Lane
Spurs Scorers: Van der Vaart, Crouch, Pavlyuchenko

The build up to all three Milan games so far have said quite a lot about Spurs and where we're at in our progression (and I do think that maybe we are, finally, progressing).

They've all felt like cup finals. Not matches in league systems from which multiple teams qualify; not first legs where the 'final' whistle means, according to cliche (and, sort of, fact) that it's only half time; but bona fide, one-off, all or nothing, the-next-90-minutes-will-define-us cup finals.

They certainly didn't feel like regular matches, part of our this season's package, games we expect to play and are used to. Why the fuck should they? Other teams may sneer at our giddy excitement and wide-eyed enthusiasm, but it's no good feigning familiarity. This is all genuinely, thrillingly new to us.

Let the older boys stand on the sidelines looking cool, smoking and waiting for the erection section till they make their move. We're going to spend the whole night on the dance floor frugging like lunatics and loving every second of it.

I actually selected the Top 10 before our AC Milan away victory - and I'd have to concede that the win in the San Siro was a worthier achievement – a bigger result against a better side.

But I'll stick with this night at White Hart Lane for a few reasons. Firstly, I was there, and I can testify that the atmosphere was astonishing. Possibly as good as I've known.

It was the first proper 'Glory Glory night' since the '80s. And considering they're supposed to be part of our DNA, it was long overdue and hugely important as part of redefining who we are and where we want to get to.

Gareth Bale, of course, was the game's outstanding performer, but look at that first goal again: brilliant skills from Modric getting right at the heart of their defence, and then slipping in Van der Vaart with a perfect little pass - and, as a friend of mine said on the night - it's nice when you have a player in the position and you don't think he's going to score, you know for an absolute fact he's going to score.

Then there was the 'taxi for Maicon' period when Bale just seemed to be able to beat his full back at will and whip in cross after cross that was just asking to be put away. These were crosses in mini-skirts and lip gloss, I mean they were just begging for it.

The goal from Eto'o even provided a nice little psychological test - which we passed with ease and confidence. 'Ease and confidence', two words very rarely associated with Spurs wins, and certainly not in big games against intimidating opposition.

(Anyone else think a cheeky bid for Eto'o's worth thinking about in the summer? I know he's probably past his best, but he's only 29 and I think he'd be great for us)

I loved the final goal as much as the first. Bale didn't just beat his man, he summarily dismissed him. And as he did so, we could all not only see the perfect ball to play, but knew that he would play it. And he did. And Pav scored. And we'd won.

A few weeks later we'd go back to Inter's ground and beat their biggest rivals with a display that was, in many respects, more rounded, more impressive - and certainly amounted to a bigger achievement, especially with injuries taken into consideration.

But that night at White Hart Lane was our first big marker. It was a swashbuckling, skillful, pacy and glorious demolition of the European champions in front of a crowd who drank it all in and played their own ecstatic part. It was pure Spurs.*

* Our next game saw us capitulate 4-2 away at Bolton. Also pure Spurs. God how we love them.

If you fancy it, and why wouldn't you, enjoy the highlights again here.


2-1 to Wolves. We'll go behind early as they come snarling out of the traps.

Bit of a rally, equaliser early in the second half, then heartbreak in the last 10 minutes.

I have passed my hunch on to Paddy Power in the form of money.

Come on Spurs, make me poor.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Beware the 'idings of March

Blackpool beat us 3-1. Wolves beat Blackpool 4-0. So... what?

Well, yes, that's probably the correct answer: so what?

But, we don't like Wolves much, do we? They did the double over us last year and this season's 3-1 win at the Lane was about as convincing as John Prescott in drag. When Alan Hutton's your saviour, you know you've been in a dark, dark place.

Wolves just aren't our type of team. They're all angular and awkward. Like really, really bad jazz. By which I mean 'jazz'.

We're all smooth and floaty. Like, er, Enya?

They'll certainly be looking forward to our visit far more than we're looking forward to making the trip.

As ever, it's A Massive Game. Nuzzling up against the edges of proper success is really tiring in that sense.

By this stage, we're usually playing dead rubbers against Everton. These days, Wolves away has the potential to be the game that shapes our season, maybe even next season, maybe even beyond that. Basically the entire future of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club should be decided one way of the other by about six o'clock on Sunday.

Also as ever, it doesn't feel good. Man Utd, Chelsea and Man City have already fallen up there. More than enough evidence to suggest that Molineux doesn't make things simple.

(I'd guess you have to be at least 40 to get that reference to an old advertising slogan for Moulinex. Plus, it only works if you see the two words written down, not when you say them. And even if you do get it, what are you going to do? Laugh? Of course not. I really shouldn't have bothered.)

An optimistic man might point out, they've also lost at home to Stoke, Liverpool, Wigan, Bolton, Arsenal and Aston Villa. That man is an idiot. Even if, in this case, that man is me. Especially as, in this case, that man is me.

Last time out against Blackpool, with Bale and VdV out, I thought the only way we'd win is if the damn finally broke and our strikers delivered a deluge of goals. As it is, the drought continued. A hose pipe ban is to be introduced in April - bad news for Aaron Lennon, if the rumours are to be believed.

So, there you have it, the usual mix of the team news, tactical insight, in-depth analysis and expert opinion.... can probably be found somewhere else on the internet.

Although, be careful exactly what you type in the search box.

Also, this week's concerted drive to get Such Small Portions a slightly bigger slice of Twitter pie ends here, largely because it's made fuck all difference. Oh go on. It means you'll never miss another post again. I've said the wrong thing, haven't I?

Thursday, 3 March 2011

What Tottenham really 'are'...

More fun with Google!

So, previously we've used our search engine chums to find out which of our players are the most famous, and for what.

Now, let's find out exactly what Spurs 'are'. And what the rest of the Premier League teams 'are'.

Again, it's pretty simple and rigorously scientific: type 'Team name are...' in the Google search box, and see what gets thrown up, in what order.

'Definitive' is the word your looking for.

Let's start at the top of the table with...

Manchester United are:
The best

A trifle harsh on the most successful side of the modern era? Possibly.

Arsenal are:
The best team in the world

Early conclusions: the internet's quite a negative place, isn't it? And yet, I'm surprised there was no place for 'Quite blush-makingly trophyless'.

Manchester City are:
Going to win the Premiership
A joke
A massive club
The best team in the world
A laughing stock
The new Chelsea

Is that last one an insult? I'm gonna say.... yes.

Chelsea are:
You there Vodka?
The Champions
The best team in the world

Okay, that top one needs some explaining. There's a book, apparently, called Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea.

The title's a piss-take reference to a Judy Blume novel called Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret.

It's by someone called Chelsea Handler, who sounds very much like a West London-based groupie, but she's actually an American comic and author. And the internet likes her more than it likes the Crap/Rubbish/Gay nouveau riche football club/play thing. Good internet.

Uh-oh, here we go....

Tottenham are:
Better than Arsenal
A joke
The best
Bigger than Arsenal
A small club

Top? Really? Was Google invented then? Was the internet invented then?

West Ham are:
A joke
Going down
The best
Not bad

Somehow it's that last one that's most damning, isn't it?

Newcastle are:
Going Down
A joke
Given a lifeline by goalkeeper
Going up

I like the last one quite a lot. But the most intriguing, surely, is that wonderfully wistful, enigmatic and ultimately tragic, 'Always'.

And finally, from the bad old days...

Everton are:
The best

If that last entry confuses you somewhat, good.

So, what have we learned?

Well, pretty much all teams are crap, rubbish, shit/shite, a joke and the best.

A lot of them are also gay.

But we're the most gay.

And Arsenal? Well Arsenal are uniquely poo.

Seems as good a last line as any...

Actually, without spoiling that last line thing, if you'd like to follow Such Small Portions on Twitter, that would be completely wonderful. Thank you.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Green is the colour

Sorry, there are no jokes, no swears and no revelations; just the depressing mathematical detail of a truth that's almost as obvious as it is dispiriting. But...

The 14 players Chelsea fielded last night cost nearly a quarter of a billion pounds.

£230m, actually.

That's an average of £16.5m - which is just chump change away from our record signing.

Amongst that 14 were two 'freebies' – Terry and Cole, who between them probably get about a quarter of a million a week. So, well, there's free and then there's free.

Take them out of the equation and the average transfer fee paid (on those who commanded transfer fees) was pretty much £20m.

They're in a different league, basically. Only, sadly, they're not.

Also, like it says over there on the right, please at least consider following Such Small Portions on Twitter - @spurs_ssp

Tuesday, 1 March 2011


How rude. Monday's supposed to be the day on which we pay tiny tribute to the site's patron, Woody Allen. But the Carling Cup final meant that there was simply too much chortling to do, and suddenly it's Tuesday.

So, a day late, and dedicated to Arsenal fans everywhere, here's one of his more succinct and certainly less sophisticated quips:

"I'm such a good lover because I practice a lot on my own."