Sunday, 14 August 2011
Talking Tottenham with @charlieparrish - Part 5
Right, it's time to type away the tumbleweed, get this blog back on track and attack 11/12 with all the vim and vigour of, well, our beloved Spurs, I guess. In other words: yeah, why not, might as well, contractually obliged etc.
This season's opening fixture is an intriguing encounter with @charlieparrish - not only a top Tottenham tweeter, but also a super cool blogger, here). As we emailed back and forth, London burned and Harry fiddled. The season started and our match against Everton was postponed. My spirits sank, while Charlie searched for a bright side...
SUCH SMALL PORTIONS (Dave): So, when we waved an apathetic goodbye to the boys at White Hart Lane in May, if you could, in Delapesque fashion, have thrown forward to the day before the season, what would you have expected to see?
For me, worst case scenario: some deadwood out, and a £20-£30m superstar added to a striking line-up shorn of Keane and Crouch. Best case scenario: A classy centre back in the style of King/Woodgate, maybe a quality right midfielder to put some pressure on Lennon - and two new strikers, one £20m+, one a super-promising 18-21 year old.
And what have we got? Brad fucking Friedel. Oh and a couple of others - I know you'll be excited by Coulibaly's showreel, but he's not the missing piece in the jigsaw, is he? So, I ask you, in the modern vernacular, double you tee eff?
A SPURS BLOG (Charlie): WTF, indeed. Firstly, I don’t think all blame can be Levy’d on Daniel. He’s an ENIC employee who runs the club in a manner that pleases his bosses, safeguards against financial ruin and keeps us in vastly gifted players. But while we haven’t changed, the Premier League’s financial goalposts have.
Levy can hare about Europe with dog-eared £25m cheques all he likes, but hamstrung by ENIC’s wage structure: it’s pointless. Selling a Europa League outfit blighted by a very public spat with its best player to Giuseppe Rossi, Fernando Llorente, Emmanuel Adebayor or Pablo Osvaldo is hard enough. But if you can’t even tease their greedy bone? Mission impossible.
And so a bracing reality quickly set in this summer. I was forced to ask myself: Is this as good as it gets? Rather than howling at the bone idle footballing pricktease, do I now, finally, embrace Pav? And do I mind squint really hard back to when Jermain Defoe was England’s darling? And when Crouchy nodded us into the Champions League? And when Robbie Keane… hang on, that’s a step too fucking far.
Of course, there’s always Levy’s Plan B. Wait until 31 August and see if one of his foes blink first. Should City show an as yet unseen ounce of financial care, they might be desperate enough to part-finance an Adebayor loan. Maybe, we tell ourselves, there’s a Van der Vaart-style coup sulking on a super power’s bench, ready for thieving.
But to finance any of this, we’re still told the deadwood has to be flogged. Problem is, they all appear as immovable as Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in Step Brothers. Quite honestly, I’m starting to picture Jermaine Jenas hosting a goodwill-free testimonial in (just) four years time (that’s right, this will be his seventh season). Will no one relieve us? Surely Tottenham must appreciate values of transfer disasters and substitutes depreciate? Apparently not. And so we lurch into another season with barely a squad number changing hands.
There is, however, an upside to this. Our heightened security efforts have safeguarded the crown jewels for now. The sharks have spared us Gareth Bale for at least the fag end of 2011. Rafa – predictably and sort of endearingly – likes being the big fish in a medium sized pond. And who knows, Modrić might just knuckle down, lead us back into the top four and realise money and bandwagon-jumping ain't all that.
Sure, a 40-year-old back-up ‘keeper, Barcelona ball-juggler and ultra-raw YouTube headliner don’t represent the summer booty we wanted Harry to be talking up. But Kyle Walker could be the most exciting right-back that people make excuses for since Glen Johnson was at Portsmouth. Sandro should evolve into a cultured Nigel de Jong. A savvier Bale will learn to dodge the hackers. Lassana Diarra might somehow agree a £50k wage cut and instantly upgrade our options. There are positives available. They just involve, well, settling.
So, tell me, Dave: what do you expect from our non-moving squad?
SSP: Blimey Charlie, I’ve read that four times and I’m not sure if it’s depressing or inspiring.
It’s true, certainly. We are seriously hamstrung by the wages we offer and by the quaint old notion of fiscal responsibility. In fact, if you drill further in it becomes even starker.
Remember ‘big-spending’ Blackburn? (Sometimes mentioned by the City/Chelsea apologists). A local businessman bought the team he supported and spent a quite hefty amount of money to make his dreams come true. And cried his eyes out when he did it. That’s fine. It didn’t cause a seismic shift, it was just a nice story.
Man Utd? Spend gazillions, sure. But have also spent 50 odd years becoming the biggest brand in world football. There’s a correlation between what they spend and who they are (and even what they earn).
Now, we’re through the looking glass...
When the identity and motivation of owners is frankly baffling, quite possibly dubious, then we’re soon lost. It becomes a pin in a map and a roll of the dice. It’s footballopoly. And whilst it may look glamorous and thrilling – it’s actually grubby and depressing.
Anyway... What do I expect? Sixth. If we can sign a big name striker and maybe a central defender, we’re back in the mix for the top four. But as things stand, we’ve stood still and gone backwards.
Now then, my beloved Luka: I reckon he’ll be with us at the start of this season but not the start of next. What do you think?
ASB: I’m going to hop straight onto Luka. I think he’ll stay with us, at least until January. Levy’s clearly gone into Liam Neeson-in-Taken mode on this one: no one, not least Chelsea, are going to fuck him about. He will find you, and he will kill you. Levy knows that this is his final shot at keeping us hanging with the big boys. The last season we’ll be able to keep the wolf from the door. Relent, and we too become a Jack Walker’s Blackburn-style nice story. Cheeky Cockney finally gets shot a rejuvenating a sleeping giant, saves them from relegation, leads them to the promised land, plays cavalier football, and slays some European giants on their charming Champions League run. Then of course comes the miserable chapter: club can’t quite make the leap, best players abandon ship, cheeky Cockney evades jail, hops on the Metropolitan Line to Wembley and we’re suddenly Aston fucking Villa.
What would I like to happen, however? Well, I’d tell Chelsea they either find £35m (I’d allow a wry smile if we claimed the same compensation as Arsenal did for the far-superior Fabregas) or throw in Drogba. Because I can’t stand Luka’s whining a moment longer. And I’m not entirely convinced we’d drop down a Premier League social strata by replacing him with a Diarra, or even a Parker. In fact, playing two solid central midfielders could even enhance our prospects.
Obviously though, the fug of negativity polluting the club should he leave would be unavoidable. The press are determined to paint this as a black and white situation: lose Luka and we’re doomed, keep him and we’ve got a puncher’s chance of gatecrashing the party again.
Savvy to this, Spurs fans – so often pilloried as mardy moaners – deserve enormous credit for cheering his name against Bilbao. As do the players for publicly voicing their hope that he stays. And so does Harry. Constantly commending Luka’s attitude and character in the press is actually a masterstroke. He’s craftily backed the Croatian into a corner with sheer goodwill. Of course, believe this weekend’s press and apparently Harry now wants shot of his po-faced playmaker to fund moves for Rossi and Adebayor.
Bigger picture, I expect another ding-dong battle for 4th to emerge with us right in amongst it. I think, like last season, though, we’ll lose out. Possibly right down to 6th. However, should Adebayor secure this unlikely loan deal (honestly, if City part-finance our greatest team hole, they’re bigger idiots than any of us suspected), perhaps Christopher Samba beefs up the defence and Diarra somehow rejects PSG’s petrodollars, then I think we’ve got the best Spurs team in years. I think about a potential: Friedel; Walker, Dawson, Gallas, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Sandro, Diarra, Bale; Van der Vaart; Adebayor and that’s exciting. And more than enough to see us challenge Liverpool and, yes, Arsenal.
Dave, tell me, who do you think will come and go in the next two weeks?
SSP: Fair points on Luka.... but we both know you wouldn’t be so damn rational if was your beloved VdV.
I honestly don’t know who will come and go in the next week or so – but what I hope is that Crouch and Palacios go to Stoke, and players like Keane, Hutton and Bentley just go. To Lidl, maybe. Or on an unwittingly ironic cultural tour of Skelmersdale. Just not here. Not anymore.
Then let’s steal Gary Cahill from under the noses of Arsenal and grab some European hotshot with ridiculously over-confident hair who I will barely have heard of but who makes more cosmopolitan supporters go weak at the knees and marks his debut by smashing the winner at Old Trafford – followed by a wild-eyed, hot-blooded, awe-inspiring celebration that banishes forever the memory of rather awkward and wholly unconvincing cartwheel/roly-poly mash-ups. (These things are important).
Do that, and yes, okay, we’re battling and maybe even beating Arsenal and Liverpool in the, ugh, race for fourth. But we won’t. We’ll start limply and tail off to sixth at best. We will finish les than five points north or south of Bolton. We will be beset by injuries and, at some stage, watch a midfield four of Jenas, Livermore, Bentley and Kranjcar.
This isn’t our year, Charlie. Nothing feels right. The club is being distracted and divided at all levels, from the boardroom to the forums.
The season being delayed by damage to our infrastructure will turn out to be horribly telling...
ASB: Very true. Whether it’s his lack of goals or occasional habit of being robbed of possession in unfortunate areas, Luka and I always remained colleagues, not close friends. Which is why I won't be mourning when he takes his 4 goals a season and terrible hair off to West London's soccer Disney World.
I hear your consternation, Dave. I really do. But I refuse to acknowledge we’re suddenly a terrible team. One £15m+ signing and the mood pendulum swings right back to “Ossie’s going to Wembley” levels.
I want our boys to be up against it. To be reading paper after paper writing them off and hearing Liverpool talked up as superiors. Harry’s half-arsed title wibbling didn’t suit them last year. They looked stressed against weaker opposition at the Lane, burdened by their hot mid-week dates. Should our dark horses break into a canter and we sign a striker and suddenly a 4-2-3-1 formation finally works, then we might just be on.
So, let’s stay strong, Dave. I know we’ve got a petrifying opening fixture salvo and the stars aren’t aligning right now, but this is Tottenham: who the Christ knows what’ll happen, who we’ll sign or how we’ll play.
Oh, and please don’t remind me of this come Tuesday night when Hearts are celebrating their famous scalp.