Thursday, 14 April 2011

Talking Tottenham with @charlieparrish

Fellow Spurs fan and Twitter friend @charlieparrish (who writes the excellent A Spurs Blog) recently suggested we kick a few issues back and forth between us on email and post the results on our respective blogs.

I thought that sounded like a splendid idea. So we've done it. We're doing it. We may well continue to do it for some time.

And the first question is...

Will we qualify for the Champions League? And if we don't, do we even want to qualify for the Europa League?

Charlie: So, as José prepares for a El Clásico mini-series, Harry must sober up from his Champions League hedonism and focus on this little lot: Arsenal (H), West Brom (H), Chelsea (A), Blackpool (H), Man City (A), Liverpool (A) and Birmingham (H).

Get a point more than City take off Blackburn (A), West Ham (H), Everton (A), us (H), Stoke (H) and Bolton (A) and we’ll have another beautiful summer fearing another band of plastic-pitched chancers in the Qualifier. Oh, and we get to keep our lovely stars.

But can we do it? Well, much like last season, it all hinges on a post-disappointment North London derby. Twelve months ago, we were hoodwinked by a no fear, no future and no-regular pay Pompey and all looked bleak and Europa League-shaped. This time – my cresting hatred for Heurelho Gomes aside – we face Arsenal all proud of our brave little European soldiers. Trump our neighbours for the third time on the spin, and suddenly: it’s on.

Yes, we have an away day triangle of doom with Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool looming, irrespective of derby delights. But it’s about drumming up some momentum. Now distraction-shy and with Bale galloping back into full flight, there’s again every chance (shut up about Gomes, our strikers, and Rafa’s malaise, voices in my head…) we can extract one last run from this lovely Spurs vintage.

Now for the depressing bit. Their away games are a lot easier than ours (“Come on, um, Junior Hoillet!”) and even without Tevez (although popping on the confidence cap again briefly: his potential month long absence is terrific news) they could joylessly dismantle everyone like they did those tumbling Mackems. Or wither à la Anfield. Our mutual inconsistency simply hammers home how important it is for us to thunder on and only worry about them when we square of for Battle For Fourth II: Mancini’s Revenge.

Personally, I think we’re going to do it. Enough players are returning to fitness and owe us some form. My favourite panto villain (and player of the season) Billy Gallas will drag the defence through the season’s business end. Big Tom and Luka are finally reunited for their crafty little ‘n’ large schtick. Bale owes his reputation (and us) a run of barnstormers. Van der Vaart needs just something – a goal, outrageous piece of arrogance, free-kick, anything – to come off for this funk to be lifted. And surely one of our meandering strikers will realise they’ll be in Moscow, Birmingham and the North East respectively should they not start milking our creative teat. Three out of four of these happen and we’re golden.

And if we don’t? Then I refuse to be snooty about a year of Europa League purgatory. The monumental collapse required to allow Liverpool to vault us would be more damaging to confidence than travelling to Gent for a 4:45pm kick off live (ish) on ITV4+1*

* Please don't allow this pay-off to haunt me come August, Tottenham.

Me: Charlie, you won’t be surprised that I don’t share your optimism.

I do share some sentiments: your increasing annoyance at Gormless, your begrudging but burgeoning admiration for Mr Gallas, your bafflement at the travails of VdV, and your belief that the Mod/Thud combo could be as good as any midfield pairing in the country. But the optimism? Nah, we’re fifth. We are, to slip into the vernacular of my daughters and their friends, so fifth.

We actually haven’t been playing very well for an alarmingly long time. After that FA Cup humbling by Fulham, we won three games in a row: Blackburn, Bolton and Sunderland. A decent run of results, but far from sparkling performances. We scraped home in every single one.

Then we took three points from Blackpool, Wolves, West Ham and Wigan. That’s where we blew fourth. We won’t miss out by more than four points. And we should have got a bare minimum of seven from those fixtures. Instead, we got three. You’re a Partridge fan, I know (what right-thinking individual isn’t), so let me put it like this: that was our driving to Dundee in our socks moment.

The best we can hope for against Arsenal, I think, is a draw. And I tell you what, I’d absolutely take that if it was on offer. When was the last time we beat them three times in a row? Were numbers even invented then?

We also just look a bit tired. Key players, especially: Bale (first big season and pressure of sudden triple-A fame for a young lad), VdV (never looked fit from day one), Modric (carrying a whole team must quite a drain on such a slight frame).

I thought the Stoke game was interesting. We managed to splutter into life now and again and remind ourselves how good we can be, without actually sustaining it – not over 90 minutes and certainly not over the remainder of the season.

So, it’s fifth. In which case, and here I do agree with you, bring on the Europa League. It’s the Champions League’s ugly little sister, sure, but we genuinely haven’t got the right to be fussy about exactly which major European trophy we deign to pick up, have we?

Chelsea and Arsenal fans would sneer, but fuck ‘em. They’ve won two European trophies apiece in their history. And do you think we’d care about them when we’re dancing through the streets of Bucharest (yep, I looked it up) next May?

Oh and yes, obviously, I thought exactly the same thing after our semi-final defeat to Portsmouth last year...

For more of Charlie's frankly ridiculous but beautifully expressed optimism, check out his really rather good blog here

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