Tuesday, 28 June 2011

There's no place like home

Such Small Portions is happy to present another post from special guest @Bentleysbird. As well as being a star of the THFC Twitterati, she has also been active in the We Are N17 campaign. Here are her strong but eminently sensible views on our ongoing stadium saga...

So the story goes a bit like this. There’s this amazing Technicolor land where everything is brighter and where your dearest wish can be granted by a magical man.

Turns out that it’s all just a con. Everyone already possessed the ingredients for their greatest desire. The magical man talked a good game, but actually there’s no place like home. Anyway, enough about the bid for the Olympic Stadium, who wants to talk about the Wizard of Oz?

There were many pros and cons to moving to Stratford which have been discussed to death so I’m not going to bore you with them here. The basis of every one of them was this; head v heart, money v history. And I’m an old fashioned kinda gal, so old fashioned I still think winning cups is important, so for me it wasn’t a hard choice to make.

We were told more than once to take the emotion out of it. That’s a big statement to make when every penny spent by every fan of every club is based on emotion. Take the emotion away and it’s 22 men and a ball - which is not worth £700 of my hard earned cash for a season ticket plus away games and cups. So if it’s all the same to everyone I’ll remain emotional thanks.

Then the argument turned silly, pitched as success v staying in Tottenham. Does anyone want to ask our friends at the Emirates how a shiny new stadium has improved them? Are Bolton challenging for the league, have they just signed Lionel Messi? No. It’s a ridiculous argument with no basis in fact.

The strange thing about the entire situation is that the Spurs bid seemed to absolutely ignore the basics of what had been asked for: athletics to stay and community use of the stadium.

And that’s why West Ham won. Because they did as they were asked. Not because there was bias, not because the OPLC made dodgy decisions and not because Hugh Robertson MP and the Mayor of London ratified an unfair decision. Because with huge arrogance, someone at Spurs thought it was a good idea to ignore the basic requirements of a bid.

So, click your heels three times (forgetting the colour of the slippers) and look at that, we’re back in Kansas where Aunty Em and Uncle Henry (or Clare Kober and David Lammy as they’re better known) were waiting with the soothing news that it was all a bad dream.

But wait, who could forget Return to Oz? A bizarre, scary and definitely unnecessary sequel. Or as I prefer to call it, ‘Daniel, just leave it the fuck alone, you’re embarrassing yourself and the club, move on, it’s over’ which I think you will agree is far catchier.

You’d think the fact that a judge agreed with my revised title, telling Spurs that they did not have the right to appeal would mean that it’s all done and we can now concentrate on how to build in Tottenham right? Wrong. Instead, the club are now deciding whether to appeal against not being allowed to appeal.

More money spent on something that is gone- hopefully someone will ask at the AGM how much this has cost so far and how much of a new striker or an improvement on Modric’s wages that could have paid for. Now I’m not saying that I want a house to land on Levy but I’m starting to think it may be the only way to stop him.

You may recall that there were rumours that a third Oz film would be made. But Disney realised it was a rubbish idea so it never happened. Daniel, I beg you, take a leaf from their book, admit when something is a bad idea and repeat after me: There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home……

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Lovely Luka Vs filthy lucre

In the 'Flaming Moe' episode of The Simpsons, there comes a point where Homer is so traumatised and obsessed by the fact that his old friend and trusty barkeep has stolen the recipe and credit for his cocktail that all he can do is stumble through life as if in a trance, repeating over and over again, 'Moe, Moe, Moe, Moe...'

That was basically me a few days ago re. Modric.

Yes, the pasty faced Croatian who essentially looks like an ugly 15 year old girl has come to dominate my summer. It was the early '80s the last time an ugly 15 year old girl dominated my summer. And that didn't end well either.

The Daily Mail interview containing those heartbreaking quotes broke quite late and I was quite drunk. Which must explain why I was crying; just tired and emotional, surely.

The next day I was out and about, wandering through cemeteries, shopping for rope, that sort of thing, when some kind soul on Twitter sent me a link to Daniel Levy's 'fuck you' statement. I have never found our chairman hugely attractive, I'll be honest, but at that point I'd, at the very least, have dry-humped his leg.


Immediately, inevitably, people wondered if that wasn't more or less exactly what he'd said about Berbatov. And there were echoes, sure (minus the references to John Terry's cock), but for me, Levy's made it personal this time. He's put his word and honour on the line and left no wriggle room. This wouldn't just be a strategic volte-face it would be a humiliating loss of face. And possibly of legs if I get hold of him,

What we need to do now is take an equally firm stance with Luka - though perhaps stopping short of feeding his genitals to Frank Lampard who, let's face it, needs to be eating less not more at this stage of his career.

In fact, once we've made our position clear, we need to give the little guy a way out.

At the very worst, we can play the Bill Murray card (something got lost in translation). Or, preferably, we can take the Rooney route: 'After a long and wholly positive discussion with Daniel Levy and Harry Redknapp I am now fully aware of the ambitious plans they have for Tottenham Hotspur and am certain that we are about to sign the calibre of player that will help me and everyone else at the club realise our goal of competing regularly for the Premier League and Champions League.'

Until then, from me, all you're likely to get is Modric, Modric, Modric...

There's more of this sort of searing insight and casual swearing on Twitter.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Spurs - an idiot's guide

Okay, so we're all currently obsessed with The Modric Situation, but, just to round things up, here are all the Idiot's Guides in one place.

It strikes me now that I haven't done The Manager yet. And that, on September 1st, I should probably do The Chairman. He is, after all, the most important player in our close-season drama.

For now, though, here are the chaps that kick the ball about.

The Goalkeepers

The Full-Backs

The Centre-Backs

The Wingers

The Central Midfielders

Rafael van der Vaart

The Strikers

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Spurs - an idiot's guide: the strikers

Yep, we seem pretty well sorted up top. So, we're done, right?

Okay, maybe our forward line does need a little bit of tinkering.

In the same way that Piers Morgan needs a little bit of punching.

Conversely, though, whilst this has been, by some distance, the most exasperating area of the team, it's also the one where there is the least to say - that's worth saying, anyway. Because the hope must be that our line-up will be altered so radically come kick-off on August 13th, that all musings and moans will be redundant.

But, in the 'Guide to...' spirit, let's have a quick skittle through our not so fab four.

Robbie Keane: I nearly said 'terrible trio', because in my mind Robbie's already gone.

Maybe he'd gone as soon as he left for Liverpool. Certainly the same player never came back.

He's been great for us. He's occasionally been a more or less solitary bright spot in very dark times, times when we all dreamt of a team of Robbie Keanes.

When he officially departs, I will be probably eulogise, maybe even rhapsodise. For now, and without recall to anything other than my own addled memories, I'll flag up a game against Aston Villa at WHL. We'd gone 0-1 down. It was pretty grim. Then we rallied. Then we equalised. And then someone put Robbie Keane in on goal.

He may not have been clean through, there may have been a defender to shake off. Whatever, there was suddenly a moment of truth, when the 'keeper came out to close him down and Robbie had to decide. And had to score.

I don't know why I remember this but I wanted him to score so badly. I needed this to go in. I needed us not to be shit.

I actually stood up and said 'Don't fuck this up, Robbie'. And he didn't. He slotted, perfectly.

He had finer games and scored better goals in bigger games, but for some reason I remember that afternoon, that very second, being very, very glad that that particular chance had fallen to that particular player because, with or without my prompting, he wasn't going to fuck it up.

That was the thing about Keane at his very best; he could handle the pressure. He relished the pressure. He was a proper player. And he rarely let us down.

That said, time's up, get outta here.

Peter Crouch: Time's up, get outta here.

Look, I've defended Two Metre Peter before, but he's just so ineffective these days - and almost painfully inelegant to watch.

Also, have you ever seen him really strike a ball? Properly? Like, really hard. He just can't, can he? Jermaine and Pav, now and again, can almost nonchanantly smack it in the corner, like a rifle shot. Crouchy? Not so much.

I'm sure it's not a phrase you hear bellowed at the Barcelona training ground too often, but, can he not just fucking welly it? And isn't that a pretty fundamental flaw?

Can he kick it? No he can't! Doesn't have the right ring to it, does it?

His goal against Milan was a season highlight - and really well taken (I don't subscribe to the view that he scuffed it, I think he did really well to take a chance that looked simple but could easily have been missed). But his meltdown in Madrid was inexplicable and fatal to our slim chances.

QPR can have him. And we'll give him a warm(ish) welcome when he comes back to the Lane with them.

Jermain Defoe: I'd keep him. He had a frustrating season, reaching a nadir in that home game against West Ham, probably.

But he remains an instinctive goal scorer who, when he's confident, can slide rule a ball into the far corner, or simply smash it so hard and true that it can go just an inch either side of the 'keeper, and he still won't stop it, or even know about it, before it hits the net.

Roman Pavlyuchenko: Our top scoring out-and-out striker in the league this year, with, brace yourself, nine notches on his belt. Then again, he only played 29 league games and maybe started less than 20?

Plus, the quality of some of those strikes shows that behind that shambling gait and semi-surly demeanour lurks a proper predator. He scores goals that Peter Crouch would have trouble describing let alone matching.

Surely he can afford a slightly better haircut, though? He and Sandro need to get that shit sorted for next season.

So, in conclusion. Keane's gotta go and will go. Crouch has gotta go and probably won't go. I'd definitely keep Defoe - and I wouldn't grumble if we kept Pav (although I also see merit in the quite popular argument that he's a feckless wastrel and/or Harry will never get the best out of him because, basically, they hate each other).

Oh God, please let us sign someone brilliant...

And here are an idiot's guide to the goalkeepers, the full-backs, the centre-backs , the wingers, the central midfielders, and Rafa van der Vaart.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur

This the second guest appearance from Twitter legend and Spurs fan @Bentleysbird. This time she's taking on Man Utd. I don't fancy their chances...

Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur. That’s the song. Not glory glory Man United.

Sadly a song isn’t the only thing that some sections of the Utd faithful seem to think they have the divine right to take from us. Even more sadly, we haven’t exactly given them any reason to think any differently.

Now I’m not one of those people who think that players should show nothing but loyalty to the shirt and remain at the same club forever. It’s a nice dream but the money that the Premier League and Champions League bring has made it a completely unrealistic one.

Gone are the days when you could get relegated and your stars would remain faithful. I shudder to think where we would be now if football in 1977 had been the same beast that it is now. And as I have no family connection to Spurs I’m not sure whether I would have ended up a fan had our return to top flight football not been so swift.

Players have limited careers. Surely it’s understandable that they should want to be as successful as possible while they are at their peak? And that being so, it follows that players will move on if they don’t think that we as a club have enough capability or ambition.

Let’s not kid ourselves, Manchester United is one hell of a temptation and not one that many players find themselves able to resist. For me personally, it isn’t about whether a player leaves. It’s about how he does so.

When Utd came knocking on Teddy’s door he treated us with respect till the day he left, won his medals and then came back. Michael Carrick also tried his hardest all the time he was our player. Although he probably had a bit of a laugh once he’d gone at the fans who suddenly realised that actually he was quite an important part of our team...

Then there's Berbatov who, in his haste to force his move, showed us everything that is wrong with modern football. His talent is indisputable. But so is the fact that he treated the club that had given him his Premier League chance, and the fans who had adored him, like the White Hart Lane dirt he was so keen to shake from his boots. As far as I’m concerned the rumours of him coming back should be put to bed by Levy as soon as possible.

This season of course, they are linked with Modric. It was always likely, but Ferguson’s comment that Modric would have been his choice for player of the season made it inevitable. But calm down everyone; at this stage an interest is all that’s inevitable. Contrary to the seemingly mass belief of the press and the section of Utd fans that frequent Twitter (I don’t know any in real life to say how they’re reacting), Ferguson’s expressing an interest doesn’t actually mean he’s bought the little magician.

We’ve spent the last few years building and with the right three or four purchases we could be up there competing with Utd instead of meekly accepting that they are superior to us. Modric hasn’t made any noise about wanting to leave and it is now up to Levy and Redknapp to make him want to stay.

That’s not necessarily about increasing his wages; it’s about making a statement of intent that we intend to be challengers. No offence to Friedel but we’re going to need to move in on some better players and quickly if we want to be convincing. And maybe we should promise Luka a better song if he stays.

So Danny boy, get your chequebook ready and Redknapp, stop the OAP love-in. This is the season that we need to make sure that the Spurs go marching on- while the reds quite frankly can fuck right off.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Spurs - an idiot's guide: Rafael van der Vaart

The original plan was to finish with 'The Strikers', but, in a pleasingly apposite summation of the man himself, I just couldn't figure out how to work in Rafael Van der Vaart.

Should he have made a fleeting appearance in the Central Midfield post? A wholly unconvincing one in the Wingers section?

Basically, is he actually a striker? Now then, I know Crouch, Defoe and dear old Pav have all prompted this exact same question at various points in the last 12 months, but with Rafa it really isn't pejorative, it's just a puzzle.

Let's answer an easy one first: Is he a great player? Absolutely. He's shown moments of real class, weighed in with goals and also has a big match/winning mentality that can only help our attitude to the big time leap from 'Ooh, thanks for inviting us' to 'What the fuck are you looking at?'

But, at times, he also unbalanced our side or, depending where you stand on the Harry debate, been poorly deployed to the detriment of the team as a whole.

Part of the problem is that he was apparently deemed undroppable. Small club in awe of big player, perhaps? Redknapp getting star struck?

Another factor seemed to be that either he wasn't keen on adhering to tactical and positional instructions - or he simply wasn't given any.

So, when he played out wide, we'd end up with one flank more or less unmanned and if he played up top he'd drop deep and look for the ball, sometimes taking it directly off the back four or just getting in Luka's way.

At home against West Ham, when he was partnered with Defoe, because they did a good, snarling job of shutting us down, VdV felt the need to drift back to try and spark something, meaning we effectively played against one of the worst teams in the league with just one (very small) striker.

A friend of mine rebutted all this with the argument that 'he's one of the best players we've ever signed, we got him for a bargain price, don't start wishing him away'.

Fair point. Also fair to highlight, again, the goal tally that (considering how many matches we won by slim margins) probably made the difference between a massively disappointing mid-table meh-fest and THE GREATEST SEASON EVER.

And, yes, it'll be interesting to see if a proper pre-season means he won't fade in the second half of the campaign (and the second half of most matches) this time around.

But if he stays, we've got to use him better, play him like a attacking 10 behind a razor-sharp striker and in front of a midfield four that should pick itself; he's got to be part of our system not a lavish adornment to it.

Or, y'know, someone who knows what they're talking about can work it out. I couldn't even write about him and JD in the same post, let alone play them in the same side.

Or, if someone offers us £20m, just take it and admit he doesn't suit our system.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Spurs - an idiot's guide: central midfield

The redux version of this could just be a big tick, or maybe a gold star. And then a question mark.

The tick, of course, is for our current crop, and especially the pair who have established themselves as one and two: Modric and Sandro. M&S. Or, if you're feeling kinky, S&M.

The question mark, just as obviously, is over Luka's future.

For now though, let's assume he's staying and reflect on our strength in the most important area of the pitch.

Luka's always been a bit special and I've praised him to the skies before. If he was a better finisher he'd be pretty much perfect. The only thing he could add at that point would be the ability to fly - and I wouldn't rule it out.

It's Sandro that's been the revelation. In the second half of the season he put in a series of performances that revealed him as the perfect foil for the slight and skillful main man.

Defensively he's not just a tough tackler, he's a super smart reader of the game and unfussily intercepts as often (and as effectively) as he slides in and clears out.

But there's more to his game than breaking up opposition attacks. He can burst forward, link with strikers (often a thankless task, admittedly), find a pass and even grab a goal - the thunderbolt against Chelsea was hopefully just a taste of what's to come.

The one area he really needs to improve, of course, is up top. I mean, that hair: what the fuck?

I'm not saying they're the best midfielders in the Premier League, nothing so absolute, but I do think that we wouldn't swap either of them for anyone doing the same jobs for any of the other big teams.

Huddlestone seems to have been edged out to first reserve. Like Lennon he's a player that needs to push past the 'potential' stage and become what he surely could be - world class. His passing is superb, but maybe needs to be more threatening. His shooting technique in open play surpasses anyone's at the club, yet he's not seen as any sort of threat from a dead ball. Come on Tom, step up.

Behind him there's Palacios, who's looking like yesterday's man but, in tandem with Sandro, was a key part of probably the result of the season, 0-1 at the San Siro.

And then there's Jenas. There's always Jenas. He's been with us five years and is still only 28. Obviously most of us have given up on him becoming the sort of player he could and should have been.

He's probably the most unpopular player with the fans, but I've always defended him - he's popped up with some important goals (a few of them against Arsenal), he puts in a shift (minimum requirement, I know) and he can cover defensive as well as attacking absentees (okay, you might argue that he covers them both with the same disappointing degree of ineptitude, but at least it's versatility - or a sort). Besides, if he's fourth or fifth choice, I'd say that's pretty impressive.

In conclusion: fuck off Scott Parker. (Nothing personal, sorry)

And here are an idiot's guide to the goalkeepers, the full-backs, the centre-backs and the wingers

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Spurs - an idiot's guide: the wingers

I always believed in Gareth Bale. No, honestly, I swear. I know there were a few bumps in the road to his current lofty status, but that boy always had the game.

There were, admittedly, some early doubts about his mentality and maybe even his physicality... Okay, what I'm saying is, for a while there we thought that he was either a brittle-boned, twangy-tendoned sicknote-in-waiting or a thundering great pansy who hobbles off at any excuse and refuses to play if he feels the slightest twinge.

But he's toughened up. He's toughened in the way that an egg yolk toughens into meringue, perhaps - but he's still got the game.

I remember watching his first goal for us, Fulham away I think, when he burst down the left and, ignoring an unmarked (and offside) Berbatov in the middle, just calmly slid the ball in at the keeper's near post. It was a proper, confident finish.

His progress over the next couple of years was faltering, and he's still not a genuine go-to match winner on a regular enough basis, but he's shaking off his youthful reticence and acquiring some belief and confidence - in his ability and his body. And now and again, oh boy...

To the consternation of most Spurs fans, he probably carries the highest price ticket of all the players in the current squad, and it's interesting that many of us would, possibly, regard accepting an offer of, say, £40m not a bad piece of business. (Except, of course, whether it makes 'sense' or not also has to weighed against what messages it sends to the rest of the players in the squad)

Another scenario I've seen touted is Man City offering us Adam Johnson, Micah Richards and, steady yourselves, Adebayor in a straight swap. Again, there are those who believe we'd be getting the sweet end of that deal.

Not much back up though, is there? Danny Rose, I guess, can cover BAE and Bale. And Kranjcar can cover pretty much anyone, but it seems unlikely he'll be with us come August.

On the right, Aaron had an indifferent season, but did pop up with a couple of joyous late goals - Liverpool at home and Newcastle away.

As @studup pointed out recently on thfc1882, Lennon really can't be considered in terms of potential anymore. He should be terrifying full-backs week-in, week-out - and I can't help thinking that maybe a lack of top notch coaching has hampered his progress a bit.

Perhaps that's harsh on Harry and his team. But, even if they're doing everything they can for the lad technically, they don't seem to have pushed the right buttons in terms of motivation. In fact, they seem to have accidentally leaned on the one marked OFF. And I don't think that situation's fixed yet.

I hope little Azza stays, though. He's a player who was born for the epiphet 'jet-heeled'. Which means, essentially, he's defined by his speed. Which, in turn, means at 24 he can't still be developing. He should be at the peak of his powers right now. Maybe he is. Which would be a shame.

Cover? Well there's David Bentley. But there won't be for much longer, surely. I know at least one very loyal and very wise Spurs fan who will be sorry to see him go, but I won't miss him. I thought his performance against Arsenal in this season's league cup match was pretty much a disgrace.

Apart from that, Jenas can put a shift in when required, but it's not ideal. And Harry tried to crowbar VdV into the position towards the end of the season, but as a right winger he drifted towards the middle more than Ken Clarke. At times, he seemed to do it at about the same speed as well.

So let's concentrate on our first choices - Aaron and Gareth. They sound like a couple of jolly nice young boys from a middle-ranking public school, but fit, firing and on form, they're possibly the best right/left combination in the league. Now they just need to deliver more knockout blows.

And here are an idiot's guide to the goalkeepers, the full-backs, and the centre-backs.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Spurs - an idiot's guide: the centre-backs

On God, the key track from 1970's John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, the former Beatle lists a series of things and people in which he no longer believes.

He mentions religions, political leaders and some spiritual mumbo jumbo then, at the end, he lists rock stars. He doesn't believe in Elvis, he doesn't believe in Zimmerman and, most sacrilegiously, he doesn't believe in Beatles. He's telling the world what it doesn't want to hear: the greatest band in the world has split up and will never play together again. Move on.

Which brings us to King and Woodgate.The dream is over.

We now have to consider our strengths and weaknesses at centre back without taking either of them into account. Yes Ledley played a couple of games at the end of the season, and at Liverpool he was absolutely outstanding. And yes one or both of them may yet play again.

But in order to plan and buy for the long term there can be no caveats based on these two fine, fine players. We can no longer think 'What if...'

Which means our centre backs are, mainly, Dawson, Gallas, Kaboul, Bassong - plus, possibly, the South African lad, Bongani Khumalo, and England under-21 international Steven Caulker. And maybe that's not top four quality.

Dawson, of course, is a proper defender, carved from granite and already a White Hart Lane hero. Strangely, though, he doesn't seem comfortable in the role of main man. It's become a cliche to say he plays better next to a senior player - but that's because it's true, and his excellent performance in harness with Ledley up at Anfield only confirmed the theory.

Gallas, quietly and unfussily (thank goodness) had an excellent season - and, unencumbered, perhaps, by any sense of 'Spursness', but with plenty of experience at a higher level, even pointed out a few home truths (without causing offence or controversy) about our shortcomings. Fair play to him - and to Harry.

I really like Kaboul - I like his game and I like his attitude. I think with top class coaching he could be the real deal. But he has his critics amongst the faithful and he has got a few mistakes in him.

Harry clearly doesn't fancy Bassong, even though he played an awful lot of games in the 09/10 season. Maybe he's not up to being first choice, but he's not a bad back-up and I hope we hang onto him.

Rather like our strikers (only less so) we have a collection of players who are all pretty good - but, as a group, probably not quite good enough. And maybe the answer's the same: one big, inspired signing, someone who will be an automatic first choice and who will galvanise those around him, forming a partnership with one of them that could even be as good as the one that flourished briefly but brilliantly between those two players whose names escape me...

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Spurs - an idiot's guide: the full-backs

Our first choice full backs are quite a pair. I like them.

Charlie and Benny. For a start, they sound like an old music hall act.

But, also, the sound of their names fits the same pattern as Frankie and Johnny. So when I say them together, I can't help extending it to 'Charlie and Benny were lovers...'

Although I'm pretty sure they're not.

They are, however, the most laid back full-backs in the universe - certainly in the Premier League.

BAE famously (justifiably and admirably) refuses to pretend that he was born to play for Spurs and would die for the shirt. It's a job, and one that he does to the absolute best of his ability whenever called upon to do so. And that's fine by me. I'd rather see someone defend properly than pump their fist at the crowd or indulge in any of that mob-agitating nonsense that is so often interpreted as passion.

Personally, I don't need a player to do that sort of two-arm-wafting 'let's hear you' gesture when they come over to take a corner in order to persuade me to encourage the team, or call Ashley Cole a cunt.

He, Benny that is, also seems supremely relaxed on the pitch. That's not a criticism at all. Only very, very rarely does his attitude spill over into sloppiness. Most of the time it's just cool and calm and exactly what you need under pressure.

Corluka, perhaps without Benny's elan, has a similar demeanour. He will not be rushed, or panicked. I mean yes, that's largely because he's slower than Guns and Roses in the studio, we know that, but he manages to pass it all off as deliberately taking his time.

Both of them always seem one (positive) step removed from the hurly burly of the game. Basically we've got Cheech and Chong as full backs, haven't we?

As back-up, on the left, we've (suddenly) got Danny Rose, although I'm sure he was a marauding right winger and scorer of spectacular goals last time we saw him.

There's some debate as to whether it was 'Arry and Spurs or Stuart Pearce and the England Under-21s who spotted his potential at left back. Either way, he was pretty impressive in the last few games of the season - and a damn sight tougher in the tackle than you'd expect.

On the right we have (or will have) Kyle Walker. He's one of those players who has become significantly better and certainly much more appreciated by not playing at Spurs.

There was plenty of disgruntlement amongst fans that he was considered good enough to be called up for England but not good enough for us - and injuries only exacerbated the frustration/bafflement.

But maybe he's going to come back a much better and instantly 'trustable' (not an actual word, granted) player, in which case, whilst the grumbles were understandable, perhaps the strategy can be said to have worked.

There's Kabul, of course, who filled in now and again, but if an athlete of that build ends up at full back, he's pretty much failed.

Oh and then there's Alan Hutton. In the last 12 months he's (occasionally) shown real promise, but there's something wrong with the wiring.

I don't think we've got the best full backs in the Premier League, but I think they're better than adequate and, always bearing in mind that our limited funds need to be spent where they're really needed, we're all set.