Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Efan club

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

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

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

Come on Sky, sort it out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 24 December 2011

And Adebayor must score...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a hazelnut good Christmas everyone.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 4 December 2011


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

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

I hope the answer's not 'Stoke'.

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

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

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

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

Presumably part three was four blokes saying 'No'.

It was pretty good though.

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

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