Monday, 31 January 2011
That was fucking nuts, right?
Multi-billionaires trading multi-millionaires in deals that can genuinely be described as shocking. By the end of the evening Sky Sports' Jim White, the David Dimbleby of the transfer window, had nowhere to go. He'd reached the limit of his hyperbolic register. I thought he'd give up and have a Hindenburg moment; just breakdown sobbing 'The humanity, oh the humanity...'
Football has cut all remaining ties with the real world. It has drifted off into its own ludicrous orbit. It's had to, because in the real world none of this makes sense and much of it is kind of unpalatable. Planet Football had to be created to house the madness.
At the heart of the darkness, of course, are Chelsea.
They started it, and they've made the final push over the line between between 'Gosh, that's a lot of money' and 'Oh do fuck the fuck off'.
They've had help, of course, especially from Man City. The noisy neighbour's spending spree did two things for Chelsea. It meant that someone else could share the blame and take the heat. And it gave them a target to point at and go 'You thought we were bad!'
And then they spent £75m in about 10 minutes. Their record signing now comes in at three times our biggest buy.
All this after a lot of guff about 'doing it properly'.
They'll argue that they did, for a bit. The last few years have seen pretty negligible net outlay and last year they did the double. Admirable.
Bollocks. What actually happened is that a few years ago they spent hundreds of millions on a set of players who in 09/10 managed a last hoorah. There's no kudos to be had from not buying £20m and £30m players when you have a load of them playing perfectly well and winning you things.
Now they're fading fast. Now they need replacing. Now's the time to 'do it properly'. But instead they've smashed the British transfer record. Again. They've reverted to type.
And they've skewed everything. A week ago, £20m seemed like a lot of money, but after the Torres deal, as a direct result of the deal, Liverpool paid £36m for him. Because they felt they had to and because they could.
One of the low points of yesterday's media circle jerk was hearing a Sun journalist reveal that Chelsea players had been texting him, 'Chelsea are back! Chelsea are back!'. Or probably 'R', I guess. And probably 'Chellsee', the fucking morons.
And where does all this leave little old us? Well we didn't miss the boat, we missed the space ship. We're still earth bound. And I'm not mad at us, with Levy or with Redknapp (although that last minute dart for Charlie Adam was embarrassing. We missed out by three minutes?! What were we doing, boiling an egg?). We've assembled a good squad, paid decent money for some of them and all of them are well rewarded. It's fine.
And our squad has a correlation to who we are, to what we earn as a club and to our standing in the game. A correlation to the real world, in fact, to what the real world considers to be just about the right (still fucking loads, but just about right) amount of money to pay for and to that set of footballers. It's not outer space money.
And just to address the usual comeback: yes, it probably would be quite exciting if it happened to us. I probably would have quite a nice night after we clinched the Premier League, thanks very much. But I'd still think the same about it - I'd just be thinking it with a drunken grin on my face rather than a bitter scowl.
Also, no one's saying Chelsea, Man City or whoever can't do this. Or that if we signed Lionel Messi for £200m it wouldn't be the most exciting day in our Spurs supporting lives.
But today this all feels wrong. And properly mad. And, yes, far, far away from the real world.
As Steve Claridge said on Five Live earlier:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity, Chappers.
Okay, so it's nothing to do with Spurs, but in honour of the man who named the blog, Mr Woody Allen (Clive's dad - little known fact), we're going to offer up one of his quotes every week. We'll start with one from Crimes and Misdemeanors (which seems entirely appropriate after yesterday's performance):
Show business is dog eat dog. It's worse than dog eat dog, it's dog doesn't return other dog's phone calls.
No, not a particularly depressing new musical. This is my David Rocastle story. One that should probably end with the phrase 'I'm not proud of it...' But, well, I'm not sure. Grey area. You'll see.
Okay, so it's 2001, I'm in the kitchen with my wife, preparing breakfast for our six year old twin daughters. Oh, and it's the North London derby later that day.
My girls know Daddy loves a team called Spurs, and that he really doesn't like a team called Arsenal. They know that for sure this week, as he's been muttering darkly about the encounter to come. They don't know why they feel enmity towards these Arsenal people, but they know they do and they know that when bad things happen to them, life is sunnier. (They're now 16, and still don't know what the word enmity means, incidentally)
Back to the kitchen. Kettle's boiled, toast is buttered and nerves have started to jangle, when suddenly it comes through on the radio that David Rocastle has died. Fucking hell, I thought, that's terrible. Fucking hell, I thought, he must have been my age. Fucking hell, I thought, it's the derby later and there'll be a minute's silence, I hope our lot do it properly and respectfully.
I told my wife about it. Fucking hell, she said.
I explained a bit about his career, about how young he was, about my memories of him playing against us - about how he broke our hearts in the league cup semi-final reply in 1987.
We took the girls' breakfast through to them. They looked up, quizzically. They hadn't been able to make out what we'd been saying in the other room, but they'd picked up on the change in tone and volume. They knew it was odd, maybe a bit scary. Certainly not good.
'What's happened?', they asked. 'Ah, well, we've just heard that an Arsenal player has died.'
They raised their cute little hands in the air, smiled the sweetest of smiles... and shouted, 'Yay!'.
Right, that sounds awful, I realise that.
It is bad, of course it is. But, they just didn't understand the concept of death, honestly they didn't.
We've worked hard since then, talked about life and death, right and wrong, etc. About what a great player Rocastle was and the fine work done in his memory by Arsenal.
And I think we've made progress. By the time Tony Adams kicks the bucket I'm pretty sure they'll be able to at least look upset.
Sunday, 30 January 2011
I remember when we were 3-0 up at home against Man City at half time in the FA Cup, and as they were walking off at half time, they had Joey Barton sent off.
They won 3-4. Of course they did.
A couple of minutes after the final whistle I phoned a friend and said, 'I'm not sure we'll survive this'. I meant it was such an outlandish, juddering result that it would actually change who we were, like when David Bowie got hit so hard as a boy that one of his eyes changed colour (is that actually true? I'm never sure).
It felt like we'd been delivered a blow so bad we'd never fully recover. Like the victim of a truly terrible crime, the psychological damage would leave us nervous wrecks, jumping at shadows, terrified of 3-0 leads and underachieving teams from the North. Or that no matter what we did, any discussion of Spurs would always refer back to that result. Like the punchline in that joke: 'You shag one goat...'
I was wrong, of course.
But today feels almost as cataclysmic. And it has to be said, results like this don't happen to proper teams. Genuinely great teams don't put in performances like that and don't get humiliated like that.
This may not have been an eye colour-changing thwack to the brain, but it was a seriously sharp elbow in the ribs; a reminder that we've a long way to go and hopefully a reality check for a media that until a couple of weeks ago thought we were challenging for the title.
We'll survive, like we survived the nightmare against Man City, and if it's at least a reason to have a proper appraisal of a squad that's been punching above its weight (tricky with Thud in the mix), then maybe it hasn't been a total disaster*.
* It was a total disaster
Another bit of re-appropriation from a previous virtual life shared with m'colleage (and fellow season ticket holder), Ronnie Dungan.
I know there's not exactly a national shortage, but do you fancy another reason to loathe Arsenal and in particular their unique brand of chi-chi supporters/apologists? Of course you do. Okay, well, you will blush, you will seethe and you may well vomit when you read what an actual journalist (and Arsenal fan) in a proper national newspaper wrote a few years back about Thierry Henry:
'...banally, Thierry Henry stopped a ball going out of play. But the way he did it, the style with which he stopped, then captured, then redeployed the ball, made me gasp...I had achieved de-evolution, the merging of the individual into the ecstatic mass.'
You wouldn't want to be sitting next to him, would you? Especially at the moment when he 'achieved devolution', even with wipe-clean seats.
For the record the guilty party was Tim Lott, and the organ was The Independent.
And from those same pages, here's some equally staggering guff by Nick Coleman:
'A fantastic thing occurs at the Highbury Library when Thierry Henry sees killing space to run into and - whether he has the ball or not - just takes off and goes. It's a kind of judder, a hard, neural ripple...
'And within three-quarters of a second the whole joint is transformed from a library into a weird conflation of bacchanal and chantry, in which Gooner and arriviste, spotty Herbert and hormonal Henrietta, turn to one another and experience the football equivalent of the joy of spiritual oneness.
'As a spectacle, Henry running fast and purposefully has come to define a specific kind of beauty for me - beauty as a dynamic, supple thing to do with the relationship between space and time: things happening all at once, spontaneously, in a semi-chaotic, semi-organised fugue of separate but interconnected micro-events - but all of it stimulated by the exercise of one will and its tool, a singular body...'
The world 'tool' is key, I feel.
That week, 'Pseuds Corner' had to be extended to make room for both these fools. And renamed 'Cunts Corner', obviously.
News from this decade will follow shortly.
Saturday, 29 January 2011
The Sun seems convinced this morning that we've bid £25m for Newcastle's Andy Carroll.
I do hope we haven't. And if we have I do hope it gets rejected. I'm not remotely convinced by Carroll.*
Last year I joked/predicted to a couple of friends that some mug team would end up spending £20m+ on Carroll and that it would go down as a monumental mistake. Step forward... Tottenham Hotspur.
He's tall, yep, got that. Okay, he's not just tall, because being tall doesn't necessarily mean being good in the air, does it Peter?
So, fair enough, he's good in the air. But, as far as I can see, he's got fuck all else.
He seems clumsy and laboured with the ball at his feet, he doesn't have pace, or tricks, or a range of passing or much awareness of what's around him. He's also a liability when he receives a pass with any sort of zip.
Look at the way Luka, or VdV or even Defoe take a pass; a combination of touch and movement takes them away from trouble and opens up a range of options. Carroll would need to take out temporary restraining orders on the opposition's entire back for in order to take a sharp flat pass with any confidence.
Which means he wouldn't suit our style of play - or at least the way we want to play, pinging it around, retaining possession, probing, finding passes and angles that break down sides who come to defend and are happy with long diagonals to a big lump looking to cause chaos.
Yes we can look good going down the wings and we should be able to supply decent crosses, but at speed, with balls intended for quick centre forwards making smart runs or midfielders arriving on the edge of the box. We don't (shouldn't) just hang it up at the back post.
He may be slightly better than Crouch, although he'll never prompt the phrase 'good touch for a big man' with the same regularity that Lurkio does. He's certainly much younger and so, yes, has potential. No real marked, immediate improvement, though.
Pav's a far sharper and more skillful striker. He doesn't seem to be part of Harry's plans, admittedly, but already this season he's scored a couple of goals which Carroll simply isn't - and never will be - capable of scoring.
Defoe's season has stuttered and spluttered because of injuries and suspensions, but he's quicker, a better finisher and has more natural striker's instincts (he's selfish).
I'm not denying we have problems up front. We absolutely do. And the only one of those three I'd definitely keep is Jermain.
But Carroll's not the answer. And if Levy and Redknapp think he is, then they haven't really understood the question.
Oh, and he does seem a right twat.
* Obviously there's an element of 'We never score from corners' in all this. You know, when we really need a goal, we get a corner, and you say loudly and wearily, "We never score from corners". Only now that's such a tired tactic that you have to say "I always say 'We never score from corners' in the hope that somehow fate will intervene and give us a goal to prove me wrong, but it never works". And by the time you've said that, we've taken the corner, and failed to clear the man at the near post.
So, yeah, let's break our transfer record, let's bring in a young British centre forward and let's hope Andy Carroll proves me hopelessly, stupidly wrong. He may even score from corners.
Just when we thought maybe Chelsea were going to fuck off, or at least fade away, they seem to have unleashed the retarded-looking Russian's cheque book again.
No confirmed kills as yet, but a bid of £35m has gone in for Torres (and tonight they look increasingly likely to get him), they were going to sign Benfica's David Ruiz for £20m+ (although tonight they look increasingly unlikely to get him), and there's talk of another Brazilian, forget his name now, again for £20m+, in the summer. They're back. Carrie's hand has shot back out from the earth, and it's clutching a wad of £50 notes.
They rattle on about how they've reined in their spending and, true, in the last five years, their net outlay is actually less than £5m. I know, I was surprised too.
But if you measure the last eight years, it's over £300m (net), £180m more than us. Our record signing wouldn't be in their top 10 record signings. I don't think we pay anyone over £80K a week. And, okay, I don't know how many they pay over £100K a week. But at least half a dozen? Maybe more than 10?
Chelsea are still a long way from being a normal club. And a long way from being the Chelsea that anyone over the age of 10 remembers. The lovable old duffers.
It's funny the way they so desperately instigate or latch onto any criticism of Man City's spending. 'Can you believe it?' etc. Well yes, actually, thanks to your lot's precedent-setting, we can. If it had come out of the blue, it would have stunned and appalled us, but because it came after the Blues, it simply seemed an extension of established practice.
And here's what was really different about Chelsea. Here's why they can't say 'show me a team that hasn't bought the title', why they can't point to Blackburn, or Man Utd or just weasel away from the fact that they are, essentially, the schism between good and evil in the modern football world. Too much? Oh come on.
Okay, let's deal with Blackburn first. Jack Walker spent some serious money and, yes, bought the title for a small club. He did, there's no denying it. But he was a local businessman made good. He was part of quite a grand tradition: the benevolent mill owner investing in the local team to deliver a feel good factor (and increased productivity) to his town. His was a football story.
(Plus, they never paid more than £8m, and that was in 2001, for Andy Cole, nearly a decade after they'd won the title. Shearer cost £3.5m)
Man Utd? Well, yes, they've spent some money. But they're Man Utd, they've kind of, or, in fact, literally, earned it. They've spent 40 or 50 years becoming the biggest team in the world, at least partly through what they achieved on the pitch (there are factors like Munich to take into account, but even then, it was the resilliance showed and glory found on the pitch after the disaster than created the long term, global legacy. Like I say, they earned it). Again, it seems, to me at least, like a football story. Football will always have bigger clubs. It seems natural/right that Man Utd are one of them.
Chelsea had untold wealth poured into their nearly bankrupt business for unclear and certainly non-footballing reasons. They were a pin in a map. A random selection. A lottery winner.
They'd also been run into the ground and spent beyond their means in the previous seasons. They were fucked and had to sell. Their reward for this mis-management was being seen as a cheap and easy option by an oligarch looking to make his mark and sate his ego in the Premier League. Had they been profitable and well run, he may have looked elsewhere. (And yes, okay, he might have bought Spurs, and this entire rant is motivated purely by jealousy)
The other thing that marks them out as different is that when they talk about their 'net' spend (something that reduces the ridiculousness factor of their gross outlay), it's sort of bunkum. Because, when we sell Berbatov and Carrick to Man Utd, or even Keane to Liverpool, we kind of have to.
It's not just that we have some responsibility to balance the books, or at least to not trade insolvently year after year, it's also that we have wage structures, so we can't/won't be held to ransom, and, perhaps most crucially, we can't afford to let players run down their contracts and walk away for nothing. If we're offered £30m for a player with two-and-a-half years left on his contract, we have to weigh that amount against how much it will decrease, until eventually it becomes fuck all, during that two-and-a-half years.
We have to take a view.
Chelsea don't have a view. Wealth has blinded them. From their perch, the real world is a million miles and half a billion pounds away. When they sell it's because it suits them. They don't have to. They never actually have to.
Their trophies are the most worthless baubles anyone ever paid a fortune for.
Friday, 28 January 2011
A friend of mine, an Arsenal fan actually, was, a couple of years ago, having relationship difficulties. Don't worry, we never used the word 'relationship'. Things are never that bad. And we're not girls.
But, nonetheless, he was a troubled and distracted soul. One Friday lunchtime, when he was agonising over the latest twist or turn, I reassured him, or tried to, by saying at some point tomorrow, when you're at the Emirates, 2-1 up and starting to sit a bit too deep, or when it's 0-0 with five minutes to go and you think it's going to be One Of Those Games, you won't be thinking about any of this. All you'll be worried about is the match unfolding in front of you and all you'll be longing for is a winner/an equaliser/the final whistle.
A few minutes after that, of course, probably when you check your phone, all that relationship crap will start to occupy your mind again. But for 90 minutes, at least, you'll have been free of it.
Only football, for some of us, can be this consuming. And thank goodness for it.
Thank goodness, also, that it's only during the game that it overtakes us so powerfully and completely. In our real lives we think about it, we talk about it and we care about it. But, like Spinal Tap at Elvis' graveside, we have perspective - though not too much, hopefully
During the game, perspective is markedly, terrifyingly lacking. Everything else in our life shrinks to the point of trivia. The normally vital and much-loved elements of it become bargaining chips to be used in the only thing that actually matters.
We resort to Robert Johnson style deals. We offer up sacrifices. And it can get pretty diabolical. 2-1 up against Arsenal, Robin van Persie's just come on and looking a real threat, what have I got?...
Well I don't know about yours, but my dear old mum's knocking on a bit. If she wasn't such an avowed fucking atheist I'd tell her dad's waiting for her (we lost him in the last 10 minutes of the league cup win against Chelsea I'm afraid).
What else? Joyously, I'm the father of twin girls. They both have their own personalities, styles, idiosyncrasies, dreams etc. But, essentially, and sort of scientifically, they're the sort of same person? I'm sure I'm on the right lines, genealogically, here. So, what I'm saying is, even if there was just one of them from now on, in a sense, I'd still sort of have 'all' of them. Just in neater packaging.
What else? Well, thinking about it, almost exactly the same arguments apply to my bollocks. I'd miss whichever one had to go, but I'd get by. The similarities are spooky, actually. One's even slightly bigger than the other.
Right, so, that's a mum, a twin and a testicle vs three points against Arsenal. Deal or no deal?
Okay, the scenario here is that I'm not at the game and I'm not up the pub.
When I'm at the game, I'm kind of stuck in my seat. I can't really go into any rituals to see the boys over the line. I just have to grimace and bear it.
Up the pub, my only tactic is maybe going to the toilet with a couple of minutes left if we're winning by one goal. You can usually hear from in there when the final whistle goes, and, yes, now and again there's been an odd look when my sigh of relief has been exponentially heavy in comparison to the strength of jet. Shouting 'get in' and angling for a hug is an absolute no-no.
So, this is me at home and us one up, with 10 minutes or less to go.
1) Walk round my kitchen
A basic one this. Not too energetic. Wouldn't actually get ridiculed if caught doing it. It just seems so wrong to sit or even stand still when there's so much at stake. And walking round the kitchen seems slightly more sane than walking round the front room.
It has the possibility of purpose. You can look in the fridge, say. Or get a glass of water. Feed the cat, maybe. Anything other than pay full attention to the game. I remember clocking up some serious miles during the 4-4 draw with Chelsea.
2) Star jumps/press ups
Ratcheting it up a notch. The idea, I guess, is to do something physical, something I can do on my own, that will pass a few minutes. Oh stop it.
It's a distraction, basically. A way of forcing the mind not to actually blow. Sort of like counting sheep, only a thousand times more ridiculous. It also makes me feel that at least I'm doing something. To just sit and watch would be lazy, and inviting trouble. The lads would appreciate it, I know they would.
3) Turn the TV off
Quite an extreme one, this. It's more panic than tactic. Did it first against West Ham in that game we won 4-3 at Upton Park. The one where Tevez scored his first goal for them. They went 2-0 up and were 3-2 up (thanks to Bobby Zamora) with five minutes to go.
We equalised more or less on 90 minutes with a Berbatov free kick. I was so shocked I turned the TV off. And no, that sentence doesn't make much sense. I just figured it would make the game over. Not getting any better, is it?
I thought, well that's got to do us. Let's not be greedy. And if I stopped watching, they'd stop playing (I'm sure there's some deep philosophical argument based around something like this theory, but that's not what I was referencing at the time).
After a quick walk round the kitchen and 20 star jumps, I decided to compromise, I'd leave the TV off and turn the radio on. "And Stalteri scores to win it 4-3 for Spurs". Paul Stalteri. Now, tell me that wasn't down to me. It can't have been down to Paul fucking Stalteri, can it?
The same method was applied in the recent Arsenal game. Only there was too long to leave it off till the end. So I kept sneaking it back on. Then off. Then back on. The moment when the TV sort of springs to life and you look for that score in the top left hand corner, fucking hell. It worked again, though.
Yes it did. Don't look like that. What do you do for fuck sake?
Thursday, 27 January 2011
And so, back to the cup.
Fulham away is pretty much the perfect tie. The key, you see, to a successful cup campaign is getting knocked out and almost no one noticing.
Some have questioned this definition of 'successful cup campaign'. Some have talked of 'winning it' being a far more accurate definition. These people are idiots.
Fulham, fourth round, perfect. They're a middling and decidedly uninteresting Premier League team and we're away, so we're perfectly entitled to lose.
It's the fourth round, the dullest of all rounds. It's early enough for the final itself to be looming in anyone's mind, and it's not The Third Round (capitals), which the media keeps insisting is one of the best days of the sporting calendar, etc.
Fulham aren't a lower division club, or even a small club, or a plucky club, or a sleeping fucking giant with a great tradition and a proud history, blah, blah, blah. They're Fulham.
And they're not a big boy glamour club. They're not Man Utd, or Liverpool, who bring the spotlight wherever they go. They're Fulham.
And they're not a proper rival, with bragging rights amongst huge groups of friends/colleagues up for grabs, like Arsenal, Chelsea or West Ham. They're just fucking Fulham.
The one downside is that we're on TV, so people will be watching. But, we can still near as dammit sneak out of this competition and no one will ever remember we were in it.
Our worst FA Cup exits in my time were, of course, the semi final defeats to Arsenal.
(By the way, have we now lost five semi finals in a row? See, in all those cases, if we'd have just slipped out in January...)
The most calamitous, however, was our third round 2-1 defeat against Port Vale in 1988.
It was also just about the most scared I've ever been at a football match. And I've watched Terry Fenwick take a penalty.
We set off for Port Vale bright and early. Well we would have done, if the stupid fucking place existed in the first place.
Pub quiz bores will already know it's the only football team not named after a location. It's in Stoke. So you can see why they'd want to make something up.
Anyway, we got 'there' in time for a few pints. We went into a local pub. All was well.
We were sat at the back, about five of us. The pub was, of course, extremely busy - packed with Port Vale fans.
All of a sudden there was a bit of a ruckus and a fuck of a lot of shouting down by the doors. A group of Spurs hooligans had charged in and were attempting to, as I believe they call it, 'take' the pub.
The locals, of course, were having none of it. The ones at the front went wading in, while the ones further back, the ones standing right in front of us, started grabbing all the empty glasses off the tables, including our table, and hurling them at head height into the advancing (not that effectively by now) Spurs supporters.
We just sat there. It would have been wrong, of course, to actually start passing up glasses, but we also didn't want to do anything to draw attention to the fact that we were sort of 'with' that lot up the front. So we remained neutral - by which I mean frozen with fear.
It's all a bit of a blur, to be honest, but I do remember at one point one of the Spurs contingent stepping forward, spreading his arms in that 'You want some?' type pose and screaming: 'We come by train!'.
Now, strictly speaking, I think he meant 'came', past tense, and he was referring to his journey earlier that day. I don't think he meant to employ the continuous passive useage of the verb and thereby indicate his ongoing travel preferences...
And, ha, goodness me was he miffed when I pointed this out! Just for a second, everyone in the pub stopped what they were doing and pretty much guffawed with laughter. Then they went back to glassing each other.
We got out unscathed, eventually.
Later, during the game, I'm sure I remember a horse being in their end. Some of them seemed to be trying to fight it. Sorry, a police horse, obviously. This is weird, but it's not a Norse myth. Or, get this, an 'orse myth.
And then we lost.
And it was a fuck of a long way home.
Fulham away will do just fine.
Yes, this is largely an excuse to use the funniest line uttered so far this year. The funniest line of the year from the unfunniest man of this or any other year.
And fair dos, it's not even noos, because it happened several days ago, but, I did want to just highlight part of Karen Brady's argument for West Ham's Olympic stadium bid and, more specifically, part of her argument against our bid.
She said, in The Sun, that if we win, it would be "like building over 100 primary schools and then bulldozing every single one of them".
It sort of wouldn't though, would it? 100 primary schools serve a very different purpose to one giant sports stadium. I think she's referring to cost. But she's thrown in a whole load of implication about public good, moral responsibility etc. And ended up sounding a tiny bit mad.
If it's about wasting money, then why primary schools? Why not, 'It's like ordering 98,000 chicken bhunas and then not eating them'? For many West Ham fans, this would also be easier to visualise. And care about.
She also very cleverly doesn't mention whether or not these primary schools will be empty or not. Back the Spurs bid? You're essentially killing children.
In the same piece, she says: "We have embraced the legacy promises made to the world in the Queen's name".
That's 'to the world' and 'in the Queen's name'. Can we try for just a teensy bit more overblown? Probably not.
Again, though, she is right on The Sun reader's money in her emotive 'reasoning'. Still backing the Spurs bid? So you kill children and you just called our glorious monarch a lying bitch.
As mentioned previously. Most Spurs fans don't want to move out of Tottenham and most West Ham fans I know don't want a stadium with a running track. This is two bald men fighting over a comb. A £500m comb. Only one of those bald men is also a republican child murderer.
Breaking: Just had a preview of this week's column and she's said that Richard Keys' sexist remark about her was "tantamount to pissing on Lady Diana's grave".
Wednesday, 26 January 2011
I know I said The Last Word was the last word, but sweet baby Jesus I've just listened to Richard Keys on TalkSport.
It was, essentially, a live breakdown. This was the Sky chimp's 'driving to Dundee in his socks' moment.
Obviously the dark forces (racist) bit's being picked up everywhere, and clearly he'll never work for Sky again. Hell, he may never work again.
But there are so many other nuggets in there that deserve highlighting.
Here are two of my favourites (but I'll be listening to it again and again, so there may be more):
He takes roughly 20 minutes trying to work out what he should call Sian Massey. It doesn't help, of course, that the process probably starts at 'sugar tits', but oh my God it's painful. At one point I honestly thought he was going to opt for 'assistant person'.
Towards the end of the interview, and by now I think he had stood up and was slowly, absent-mindedly, but very tidily, undressing in front of Hawksbee and Jacobs, he claims "I must have been one of the last people to talk to Sian Massey". Er, Richard...
We've got a pretty big squad. 34 players listed on the website. Half a dozen or so on loan, but nonetheless, a good pool to pick from.
Or possibly not. Let's apply a few criteria: Not too old, not too shit, not too injured. And let's be unsentimental. Sorry Ledley. Who's left?
RB: None. Possibly Kyle Walker. Or Kyle Naughton.
CB: Dawson, Kabul, Bassong
CM: Huddlestone, Modric, Palacious
CF: VdV, Defoe
Out of 34, we're left with.... 11 (plus a Kyle or two, maybe)
Now, technically, that is enough to make up a team. I've checked with Andy Gray and he's confirmed this. Whilst touching himself. But I think Thud's going to have to play in goal.
And yes, there are some known unknowns: the Kyles, of course, Danny Rose, Andros Townsend. And there are some unknown unknowns: Bongami Khumalo, the big South African central defender who might just come into his own if we get drawn into a game of Scrabble.
Generally, though, that's a lot of dead wood. Never mind ligament damage, our biggest threat seems to be dutch elm disease. Remember dutch elm disease? Absolutely massive in the 70s.
Maybe any fan of any team could do that to their squad, and the rest of us would be a bit baffled, occasionally blurting out, 'We'll have him'. Your team's like your family. You hate your own, you'd get rid of at least half of them and other people's always seem perfectly fine. (Dear members of my family, this absolutely isn't true, obviously.)
I remember reading a comment from a Sunderland fan when Alan Hutton was on loan there saying 'For God sake don't let Spurs know how good this lad is or they'll want him back. If he stays I think he'll be the best right back we've ever had'.
So, the pruning's possibly a bit sever, then. But when you consider it includes Assou-Ekotto, Kaboul, Bassong and Palacious, possibly not that severe at all.
Right, the transfer window closes in five-and-a-half days and we need about 16 players. Let's go to work.
Tuesday, 25 January 2011
It won't be the last word, obviously, but that's the name of a show fronted by Andy Gray and his trained chimp. Plus it's this blog's last word on the subject.
So, what they said was pretty retarded. No one needs to point out how rude and wrongheaded the content is (although an awful lot of people are doing just that).
But, listen to how they said it. Listen to their tone: joyless, mean and weary. Maybe they're bored with each other, with themselves, with the crushing, banal predictability of their own opinions.
Maybe they're a couple of characters by Beckett. In which case, stick them in a bin (that's the sort of allusion you're simply not going to get at triffictottenham.co.uk)
What they should be are characters created by Harry and Paul. I mean, that was a perfect parody of a couple of mock Tudor cunts. The last line, 'Do me a favour, love' – priceless. It only becomes tragic when you realise they have no idea. If comedy is tragedy plus time, then tragedy is comedy plus clueless cunts.
And a woman in football, hmmm, what could we immediately bang on about... I know! The offside rule! Hilarious. But they weren't joking, they weren't parodying. They were talking. They were expressing actual opinions with their actual mouths.
When Liverpool scored their opening goal, I thought it was offside. When the camera cut to Sian Massey, my heart sank a little, just because I thought the jocks (overtly masculine sporty types, not a racial slur) at Sky would make some pathetic jibe about her ability. Or want to, at least.
So, when replays proved it was onside and a really good call, I was pleased for her. Andy Gray, however, didn't say a word. And I actually said to my wife (who I'd let watch the game as a special treat for washing up so brilliantly that lunchtime): He could at least have given her some credit for that. He'd have been quick enough to give her some stick and bang on about how it was 'unacceptable in a big game like this' if she'd been wrong, the haggis munching cunt (racial slur, not nasty weird food lover).
Now I suspect his silence simply betrayed his disappointment. Shall I say like Hitler watching Jessie Owens at the Berlin Olympics? No, I think I'll leave it.
And also in that tone you can hear everything you need to know (and everything you always suspected) about the atmosphere within the Gray/Keys section of the Sky Sports office (or, on Monday nights, spaceship): bullying, boorish, blokeish. Not simply masculine or genuinely tough, they essentially sit on comfy chairs talking about stuff, remember. They are, God help us, our Loose Women - only ugly and stupid. Oh stop it.
Their working world is a grim mono culture of ism upon ism, where to be a slightly different white, middle-aged man, one who uses the word 'arriviste' or 'onomatopoeia', for instance is to risk ostracism (a word which, in itself, risks a wedgy), and where to be a young woman who wants to do slightly more than read from an autocue whilst dressed like a hopeful starlet on The Only Way Is Essex risks the full ire of Stadler and Waldorf's less charming modern day equivalents.
The last word's last word: I bet you 20 Spurs points (worth 30 on the open market), that both men have massive fuck off extensions of which they are inordinately proud.
Monday, 24 January 2011
Bolton 0 - Chelsea 4
We just don't do results like that. Not this season we don't.
Seriously, check. We've only won three league games by more than one goal. And we haven't won any by more than two.
We've scraped quite a few:
Stoke away – they had a perfectly proper goal chalked off and we were very lucky to get all three points.
Fulham away – Huddlestone's winner was initially flagged offside. And Gomes made a couple of 'worldies' (as the Men Who Stare At Football say).
Liverpool at home – Torres could, should and, the way he's playing now, would have made it 0-2, before an own goal gave us some hope and Lennon blagged an injury time winner.
Arsenal away – well that was just fucking ridiculous. Gloriously fucking ridiculous.
For once, it feels like we've snatched more points than we've had points snatched from us. Every other season, it feels like we're more winned against than winning (clever, right?), but this year there's no way we could say we deserve to be in a higher position.
We've rarely been convincing.
Our goal difference is +6. That's two better than the team below us (Sunderland) and 17 worse than the team above us (Chelsea).
Goal difference isn't a better marker of performance than points, but it does say something about how you play and (at this end of the table) how you win.
We're playing okay and winning narrowly.
Next time we line-up in the league, let's hope the side's spearheaded by a record signing who can play with Van der Vaart or Defoe and will go on to get double figures this season and 20+ next.
That would be the goal difference we're looking for.
Sunday, 23 January 2011
Are we allowed to be disappointed with this one?
The media seemed to get a bit snippy, bordering on incredulous, about us being unhappy with a draw against Man Utd. Above our station, get some perspective, etc.
But, despite the gratifying nature of how we got the point, we can still be fucked off with the fact that it was only a point against Newcastle, right? I mean, they're shit. And they were under strength.
Under strength shit? That's diarrhea. No one wants a draw with diarrhea.
The problems were, again, blatantly obvious: plenty of possession, no cutting edge, strikers that can't score, midfielders bailing us out (quite often baleing us out).
The always nonsensical notion that this team could win a title now looks plain comical. And even a top four slot looks fanciful. When you see a left flank of Bassong and Pienaar and a right flank of Hutton and anyone, it surely shows that we're still a long way short. Sunderland are a point behind us.
In five weeks time we could have lost to Fulham in the FA Cup, AC Milan in the Champions League and be 6th.
Sell Pav and Crouch, top up their transfer fees a bit and get a £20m striker to create a pool of three to pick from: Defoe, VdV and the new guy. We've still never spent £20m on a player, remember. Or paid anyone £100K a week.
That's probably something to be quite proud of, but you can't list it on the honours board.
This season we're accruing slightly less points per game than we did in Martin Jol's first year. That's not a damning indictment, obviously. Jol did a good job and that was a good year. But, it does show that maybe there hasn't been as much improvement as the media's making out.
Before we face Arsenal at the Lane on Feb 26th, we play Blackburn, Bolton, Sunderland and Blackpool - with only the Bolton game at home. The only way we'll go into the derby with our season still alive is if we win all four.
If you feed those fixtures and each team's current form into this handy ready reckoner, the odds come out at nofuckingchance-1.
The game up on Wearside is more likely to take on six pointer status than the Arse fixture.
Happy Monday, everybody.
Saturday, 22 January 2011
I guess I should say something about Stratford. It seems important.
This week, in particular, it'd be like writing a blog about politics and not mentioning Andy Coulson. Or writing a blog about devious snivelling cunts and not mentioning Andy Coulson.
The trouble is, I have no really strong opinion. I realise this isn't what the blogosphere needs. Feelings are running high. Mine are having a duvet day.
I'm not from Tottenham and neither are my family. (South Wales, actually. Yeah, exactly). I have no ties to the area and it's not the most salubrious, is it? That's not a terrible thing, I know that. And it's obviously not a reason to move.
No one wants the chichi crap that now dominates around Chelsea, and we all have our favourite little haunts. But, well, you wouldn't book a holiday there, would you?
I started going, 25 years ago, because my mates went. And yes, some of their families did come from N17 or thereabouts.
I want us to have a 60,000+ seat stadium, I want us to make loads more revenue every match day, I want everyone who's put their name down for a season ticket to get a season ticket, and a I don't want us to go bust (or be hamstrung in the transfer market) making that all happen. I guess we all want that.
Ideally, yeah, let's move 50 yards down the High Road. And have better transport infrastructure and facilities as part of the package. Plus, it means a team called Tottenham still play in an area of London called Tottenham.
But, if we move to Stratford, if we get a world class new ground with the best transport links in the capital, and we get it for a fifth of the proposed cost of the Northumberland Park scheme, then I think I'll get over it.
I don't think it's that I'm missing something, not something logistical or practical, anyway; no, what I'm missing is a meaningful, visceral attachment to the area.
My biggest concern about moving might be that it'll give other fans (let alone our fans) a new stick to beat us with. We're still rattling on about the Woolwich Wanderers nearly 100 years after they crossed the river.
And my biggest concern about not moving is that West Ham will somehow think they've 'won'. (To be fair, it's not surprising they have trouble with the definition of the word. It's like an Eskimo struggling with 'sunburn', completely understandable).
Those are the trivial side issues on which I'm judging this. Which is wrong, I know.
There are many loud and convincing voices proclaiming that the heart and soul of Tottenham Hotspur are at stake here. They may be right. But my heart and soul aren't.
What really puzzles me is why the fuck they want to hold the Olympics in Warwickshire in the first place.
Friday, 21 January 2011
Traditionally there are three great comedy clubs: Man City, Newcastle and Us.
The mix of ingredients that go into creating a really tittersome team vary, but some staples include: the ability to fuck up in almost any situation, the more high profile the better; the disparity between what fans believe and expect and what the watching world knows to be the reality; a 'great tradition' that, on closer inspection, is a bit shabby; a more successful local rival who obviously and disdainfully don't give a fuck about said 'rivalry'; and a set of supporters that believe their devotion, passion etc marks them down as exceptional, especially when compared to those blase bastards next door - it helps if they get furious at any perceived slight, as well.
In the past two decades, Man City have been the funniest. I mean they have, on occasion been fucking hilarious. Getting relegated to the third tier in the mid-90s was a genuine side-splitter; it was their 'Don't tell him Pike!' moment. (And God it's a shame we can't just say 'Division Three' anymore, but as soon as the Premier League broke away, I knew it'd end in tiers. Thanks).
Now they're not so funny. Just weird. I mean they could still fuck up, and if so this will be the biggest build-up to the biggest pratfall since silent movies ruled the world, but, sadly, I think the kid everyone used to laugh at has won the lottery and is determined to flaunt his flash new car, new girlfriend, whitened teeth and hired muscle. A sneer is more suitable than a chuckle.
We were never truly funny like the other two. More sort of laughable. There's a big difference - I'm told (more often than is necessary, I feel). And now, like ITV's comedy department, we seem to be moving away from humour altogether. It's more fun down at the Lane these days, but it's not as funny. Which is fine, obviously.
So that just leaves Newcastle. The new kings of comedy. Getting relegated on the last day of the season in 08/09 with a truly abject performance against Aston Villa showed all the great touches: slapstick, pathos, timing. Great stuff.
Now they're back in the Premier League, and at least two of the squad seem to have bought clown wigs to celebrate. Their treatment of Chris Hughton was, surely, a cruel joke - and Alan Pardew's always made me laugh. Plus they've got a chairman who can't seem to put a tie on properly, let alone run a football club.
Trouble is, I bet they'll be the ones laughing tomorrow.
(With a nod towards m'colleague, this is from an older blog and more innocent days, but I didn't have anything to say before this weekend's prediction, so I thought I'd use the trusty sword of cut and the noble shield of paste and, er, 're-imagine' a ramble from 2005. With some changes and a couple of footnotes)
Whenever footballers retire, they steadfastly assert that what they will miss most is “the banter in the changing room”.
This seems odd for many reasons. Chiefly, because there seems so much more to miss about being a professional footballer. Playing football, for instance. And being paid something like £80,000 a week to do so.
Then there’s the glamour, the profile, the excitement, the adulation, the access to very sexy and extremely accommodating young women. But no, it’s the banter they’ll all miss the most.
Also curious is what happens to these almost narcotic levels of quick-witted quippery after the players leave the 21st Century Algonquin Round Table that, apparently, is the modern pro’s changing room.
I’m not one to bemoan the lack of eloquence amongst footballers. For a start, it’s often exaggerated; and secondly, when was the last time The Spectator’s 5-a-Side team won anything?
Nevertheless, this universal conviction to fight for the right to repartee does seem odd coming from the ranks of a profession out of which Chris Kamara rises as a gifted communicator and where Mark Lawrenson can seem erudite simply by hooking his arm over the back of a sofa when he talks.
Perhaps there’s a sign above every changing room door: ‘No Banter Beyond This Point’. (In the case of Spurs, that would be just below the one that says, ‘Remember, Play Like Cunts’ that so obviously takes pride of place). So, when, for instance, Joey Barton runs out for Newcastle, chatting away to Kevin Nolan, the conversation takes a dramatic turn: “...precisely, Nollers, my good man. As Dorothy Parker so memorably put it, One more drink and I’ll be... getting stuck in early doors and then looking to grind out a result.”
When I retire, I think what I’ll miss most is the ability to control my bladder and any sense of feeling in the extremities of my limbs.
As Jason McAteer once said, “Fuck that”.
In paragraph two it originally said 'Something like £20,000'. That is now, in some cases quite literally, a day's wages, not a week's.
That sign in the Spurs changing room: at least 'Remember' has been changed to 'Try not to'. Progress.
Thursday, 20 January 2011
What's the point of Steven Pienaar?
Or, if that's too philosophical: What's the point in us signing Steven Pienaar?
I've honestly never seen him have a good game for Everton or South Africa. He's a poor man's Jermaine Jenas. And if anyone's that poor, Bob Geldof should have stirred himself by now.
(Actually, I think Jenas is a genuinely useful squad member who gets bafflingly short shrift from the Spurs crowd - a crowd who, even more bafflingly, bestow hero status on Pav).
One of the arguments 'for' is that he can play 'all across the middle'. Which means, at the age of 28, he has made no valid or impressive claim on any particular position. All great and most good midfielders can probably play 'all across the middle'. But they don't. And it's certainly not what they're known for, let alone a chief selling point.
It's like admiring Spinal Tap for their punctuality; it's a compliment that comes laden with negative implications.
Anyway, Kranjcar can play all across the middle, and is a far better player than Pienaar. Plus he's really punctual.
What else? He's fast. We've got 'fast' covered, thanks. I think we're looking for other things to add.
He's cover. We've got cover covered as well, thanks.
There's a theory that he's actually an investment. He's an £8-10 million player who's available for £2.5 because he only has six months on his contract. So we can sell him in 12-18 months time and make six mil or so.
Well, okay, but we're supposed to building a football team, not a portfolio. What next, pork bellies?
Anyway, Harry's emphatically not a wheeler dealer. He made that very clear to that nasty man from Sky, remember? He's a thoroughly modern, tactics obsessed coach - a thoroughly modern, tactics obsessed coach who, when chucking Pav on as a last throw of the dice against Liverpool last season famously told him to 'just fucking run around a bit'. Pro License? You bet. (Plus, it worked).
A more interesting theory is that maybe he can be converted to a right back. That might make some sense. But even there we've got Hutton and Corluka, with Kyle Walker on loan at Villa.
There's also pride being taken in some quarters from the fact that we beat Chelsea to his signature. The theory is that this is another signifier of some shift in the balance of power.
Not if Chelsea weren't that fussed it's not. 'Sources close to Pienaar' have today said that Ancelotti didn't seem very enthused when they met and hardly bothered speaking to him. Probably because he didn't really want to sign him. Maybe the board targeted him because at least he's fresh legs, an international, not 57 and not wildly expensive. But Ancelotti never really thought he'd improve the squad, so couldn't be arsed to woo him.
Harry, on the other hand, again according to the source, 'told Steven he could play him on the left, the right or even in the middle for Spurs and that they were going to go all the way in the Champions League and finish in the top four. He was so enthusiastic and bubbly that Steven knew straight away White Hart Lane was the place for him.'
So, we've signed an idiot.
Did he tell you pixies lay your kit out for you and the club's masseuse is Angelina Jolie? That we'll win away at Newcastle on Saturday?
Jesus, someone's been played for a sucker. Er, hang on...
Monday, 17 January 2011
1) We're kind of disappointed with a draw against Man Utd, which just shows how much progress we've made
2) They were there for the taking and we lacked the nous, belief and composure to do the job properly
3) Ferdinand and Vidic are the best central defensive pairing in the league - and both played particularly well against us
4) All of the above
I'd go for 4.
It actually wasn't much of a game. We had one great chance (Crouch somehow getting his angles wrong and firing it the wrong side of the near post) and one good chance (Van der Vaart doing something similar, but more forgivably). If Stoke and Blackburn had fought this one out it would have been propping up every media outlet's weekend coverage.
On the plus side, Modric proved to the watching world that he is undoubtedly our best player. (I was going to say 'pound for pound he's our best player', but pound for pound, he'd only have to be as good as Jason Dozell and he'd still be our best player). (Also, maybe 'on the plus side' is a bit rash. A smart manager/chairman/director of job titles would have seen a £30m player/bargain and may be preparing to tempt us/him in the summer)
Bale and VdV have been getting all the media attention and, to be fair to them, all the goals, but Modric is our most consistently impressive performer and, if he sticks around, will join the Spurs pantheon.
The other two show flashes of brilliance, but have off games and quiet periods (both seemed a little subdued yesterday and didn't really influence the game, for instance). Modric doesn't. That's why he doesn't have 'flashes of brilliance'. It's more a sustained luminescence of brilliance.
Up front, it's sustained frustration and mediocrity. Games like yesterday's, against teams like United, highlight the problem. You won't get many chances. So what's required is a centre forward who doesn't need many chances, not one who needs a map, some luck and a pair of callipers.
Between them our three main strikers have scored seven goals in the league. Pav has five of them. And against Chelsea he did exactly what I'm talking about. He had one half-chance and converted it. Brilliantly. He's got that in his locker; the goal out of nothing, or next to nothing. The problem is, he often looks like he's got pissed and forgotten what the combination to the locker is, or where the locker is, or what a locker is, or that he's got sick down his shirt.
Back to Man U and the 'significance' of the result. Well, actually, in terms of pointers and temperature taking, it's on the money. We didn't contrive to lose, we didn't look either out of our depth or like a small team putting in a heroically huffing and puffing performance. But we couldn't close it out and we still looked a little psychologically short. And, perhaps most significantly, it stuck us in fifth.
Significantly because, as previously proposed, that's where we belong. We must be the first team to so securely and solidly lay claim to such a drab position. Because I'm not talking about 'between fifth and eigth' or 'mid-table' - they're drabber places to be, but they're not actual nailed on finishing berths. I'm talking about precisely, eternally fifth. Arsenal, Man U and Chelsea, to varying degrees, are better than us. Man City have bludgeoned their way above us. And below us, well, it's Sunderland, Bolton and some other mediocrities. They're only a few points behind us, but over the season that gap will increase to double figures, surely.
Which inevitably leaves you asking, How much more fifth could we be? And of course the answer is none, none more fifth.
Saturday, 15 January 2011
Games we lose always seem to mean far more than those we win.
When we win, it's just a win. But when we lose it's a full-on bellwether of doom. Away at Villa down to ten men - coming away with a win could easily been a signifier of a different Tottenham in a new era. Same could have been true of going on to beat Newcastle at home after Kabul's sending off. You could even have said that the Fulham game, one we really should always win, and the barrier between us and a perfect Christmas, was a key indicator of who we are and where we're going.
But no, they were just games. Everton away - that was the true test. That was the match a proper Champions League side, or even a genuine title contender, would have won. That was our real examination. Basically, it's only a real examination when we fail. When we win, they're all just mocks.
Tomorrow against Man Utd sure does feel different, though. It feels significant. Certainly, if we lose, this silly and troubling talk of the title can stop immediately. Ferguson's said in the build-up that this is the first time he's taken a team to White Hart Lane to face a Spurs side capable of challenging for the league. He's ruffled our hair, basically. Told us we're really doing very, very well. Considering. Tomorrow he'll just clip us round the ear and give us a look that says 'Not so fast, sonny'.
And oh boy the media must already have written their opening paragraph's: Harry Redknapp's title pretenders were put firmly back in their place yesterday...; Spurs' long wait for a league title will last at least another year as a rampant Manchester United reminded the White Hart Lane faithful just what it takes to win a title...; Spurs may have a squad that looks capable of winning the Premier League, but the component parts of that squad look a long way short of having the mentality or experience to actually pull it off, especially when compared with a Manchester United side that yesterday reasserted its authority over the London upstarts with a performance marked 'Normal Service Has Been Resumed'.
Oh, or, from The Star: 'Fergie's Red Devils shoved a pitchfork up Spurs' season in yesterday's title showdown, and afterwards the canny Scot roared 'No one can stop us now' - leaving an angry 'Arry to moan about the 26 penalities awarded to the away side, and the fact that Wayne Ronney actually threw the winning goal into the net with both hands.'
That's the significance of a loss, then. What about a win? Well, in my mind, it would be hugely significant. Because in my mind a win is genuinely impossible, and so if we beat them, a quite fundamental universal law will have been transgressed and scientists around the world will have to have an emergency meeting about the nature of reality, quantum physics, etc. Will be interesting to see how The Star cover that: 'White Hot Spurs Baffle Boffins' would be my guess.
But, for the rest of the world, well, the silly and troubling talk of the title will get sillier and more troubling. Even though we'll be five points behind the best English club side of the modern era, who also happen to have a game in hand.
And people will say we've matured as a team, that we can beat the big sides in big games, etc. But it's been 10 years since we beat them, so the significance is just as likely to be statistical as anything else. As in, it's about time. I mean it's literally, simply about time. And the clock's just been reset for another 10 years.
It will also mean that Arsenal are more likely to win the league. Which is one of the things I like most about the Man U fixture. It's great when we win (I seem to remember), but when we lose it generally fucks up Chelsea and/or Arsenal. It's the one fixture they support us in, and it's always a pleasure to let them down.
Actually, perhaps the most significant thing about tomorrow is that for the first time in years, Chelsea fans probably want United to win. Usually they can patronisingly hope we can 'do them a favour' in their battle for top spot, a battle we're watching from several places and dozens of points further down.
This week they may well think that catching Man U is beyond them this year and that they're better off hoping for a Lillywhite defeat/mini slump, to at least allow them to shore up fourth spot.
So, in summary: A loss = same old Spurs, hello Everton and Villa. No, nothng, sorry, we just popped out for a pint of milk. Back now, where were we? And who the fuck let Bolton in? A win = Oooh, about six pints, probably. COYS.
Thursday, 13 January 2011
David Bentley obviously longs to be referred to as 'mercurial' and 'enigmatic'.
He's probably far less keen on 'lazy' and 'a twat'. Tough.
What he really wants is for people to shake their heads and talk wistfully about how he wasted his talent. In the same way European Cup winner George Best wasted his talent; in the way finest English midfielder of his generation Paul Gascoigne wasted his talent. And they both did, to some extent. But they had such an abundance of it in the first place that even with their in-built profligacy, they were still left with rich gifts. And we indulged them. And we benefited - as did their teams.
Bentley had the same swagger, attitude and compulsion for self-destruction, but without the initial reservoir of skills. Just a puddle of hair gel, really. So when he was wasteful, he actually became talent negative. He didn't have enough of the stuff to be able to afford to spill a drop. He had the mindset of a wayward genius and the game of, well, of a decent but limited Premier League midfielder.
That incident with the ice water bucket at the end of last season summed him up pretty well. I mean, it was vaguely amusing, I suppose, for people who don't have an actual sense of humour. But him taking centre stage at that time seemed irrelevant, if not plain wrong. The hard work had been done by others, Bentley just provided a silly little flourish - and chiefly for the cameras.
Earlier this season he started in that Carling Cup disaster against Arsenal. It was genuinely like we were playing with 10 men. Or, as I remember it, four men, three women, two girls and a paraplegic. But even then, with the team struggling and him having a nightmare, he continued to try and flick and trick his/our way out of trouble. Because, presumably, to actually try, to get your head down and run and work and pass the ball accurately, with, y'know, the conventional part of your instep, that would have have been to admit to mortality; that's what normal players 'resort' to. And Bentley wasn't having that. He'd showboat his way into form. Yeah, that always works.
Compare and contrast with proper player and proper genius, Luka Modric: twice as talented as Bentley, but full of running, team spirit, selflessness, courage, intelligence, tackles... okay, yes, sorry, calming down. If he was good looking the Gods would resent him. And my marriage would be in trouble.
And then there's the Beckham comparison. Now, obviously, this is based largely on him being English, slow, playing on the right hand side of midfield and having nice hair. Oh, and they're both called David. But in the beginning presumably it was at least partly to do with talent - or at least with style of play.
Now, Beckham's a better player than Bentley, obviously, but, at his core, maybe not by much?
But, whilst 'eckham isn't exactly a Scholes-like eschewer of the modern game's trappings, the boy sure does apply himself. That game against Greece that really ratcheted up his fame and global standing? He basically just ran around a lot. Okay, ran around a lot and planted a perfect free kick into the top corner in the last minute. But mainly he ran around a lot.
All 'entley really took notice of was the lifestyle, the wife, the sponsorship deals and the sarong. And because of the financial nature of the modern game, he's probably got them all (well, not the exact same wife, and not the blue chip sponsorship deals, but more money than he can spend and more of the spotlight than is good for him). Trouble is, there's no substance. It's like buying a gold plastic Oscar from one of those movie memorabilia shops. It's nice and shiny, but lightweight and meaningless; there's nothing behind it. And if you stick one on your mantelpiece you're a twat.
Best of luck, Birmingham.
Tuesday, 11 January 2011
Or, what the fuck is it with Spurs and left backs?
In the beginning there was Chris Hughton. And Chris Hughton was good.
But since then, fucking hell.
The first candidate to succeed the Socialist Workers Party member and honorary Geordie was... Mitchell Thomas; a gangly, awkward mess of limbs and intentions who patrolled the left side with all the confidence of Dean Windass at a MENSA meeting.
Frank Skinner said recently that watching Bruce Forsyth wending his way through a joke towards the punchline is like watching an elderly waiter cross a restaurant floor with a full tray of drinks. You don't want to look but you can't look away. Basically, you're waiting for the crash. That was how we felt when Thomas dribbled. Or, in fact, when he ran somewhere without the ball.
The elderly waiter would have been more effective. Bruce Forsyth would have been more effective.
Then came Pat Van Den Hauwe. He achieved something resembling cult status at the Lane in certain circles, but that's just because he was 'hard'. And to not admire him would have been to more or less admit to being gay. If you didn't like Van Den Hauwe, you probably read books, or watched BBC 2, or had sex with men.
I didn't like him. He looked like he was playing on parole. Or as part of some sort of deeply resented community service. He couldn't half glower, mind you. Not an overused word, 'glower', but if you ever need a definition, just look at a picture of Van Den Hauwe. Also works with 'crap'.
And so we come to the Edinburgh years. In tandem with right back, Dean Austin, Justin Edinburgh was a blight upon the Spurs side for pretty much a decade.
On the plus side, he had classic floppy, '90s indie hair. On the negative side, he played like he was a roadie for Ned's Atomic Dustbin.
He's also remembered for getting sent off in the 1999 League Cup Final, at which point we just about found enough gumption to score the last minute winner in one of the most dire finals of any competition.
Next up: Mauricio Taricco. We signed him from Ipswich where the fans apparently loved him. I think they must have all mistaken him for their sister. I mean, what was to love?
Actually, after he left us, he went to West Ham, tore his hamstring less than half an hour into his debut, knew his career was over and so offered to have his contract canceled. West Ham's then manager Alan Pardew said it was the most honest thing he's ever known a footballer do. All right, that's a bit like winning a least paedoey Catholic priest competition, but nonetheless, full marks.
Christian Ziege, of course, was a good player. He won Euro 96 with Germany and had successful spells at Bayern Munich and AC Milan. He managed to drag himself down to our level in the early noughties, though.
Also, after one game in, well, it must have been in September 2001, as you'll see, he'd scored a very flukey goal (a cross that floated in, basically), and when asked about it in the post match interview he said something like 'It's nice to score, but I'd have happily seen it go past the goal if those planes had gone past the towers'.
When they cut back to the studio this sentiment was immediately hailed as 'apt and touching', rather than monumentally idiotic and really quite life-threateningly embarrassing. Plus, I do also remember thinking, 'Hold on old son, they're not your three points to give away, are they? Let's just weigh things up...'.
Post football he launched a range of skin care products in partnership with the leader of the Scorpions gang in Grease.
Lee Young Pyo was, when we signed him, hailed by many as the best left-back in Europe. And to be fair, he wasn't awful. But he wasn't even one of the three best left backs in London, so, y'know.
Now we have Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who often looks confident and composed, but sometimes looks like he's forgotten where he is. I don't mean in respect to the tactial nuances of a demanding position, I mean in respect of actually being on a football pitch.
There was also the Gareth Bale conundrum: At left back he mostly got injured, looked vulnerable and gained a reputation as an absolute albatross. Then he moved forward 25 yards and became the best player in the world.
So maybe it's the position that's cursed. In which case, welcome aboard, Phil Neville. Yes, Phil Neville: the only man who can walk into a room and elicit the sentence, 'Oh dear, I was hoping it would be Gary Neville'. Just a rumour at the moment, but given the history of this particular position, it seems entirely appropriate.
Saturday, 8 January 2011
It seems a loan deal for David Beckham is imminent. Even before it's happened it occasionally leads the bulletins on Sky Sports News.
This, though, is the most irrelevant big story ever. The component parts are there, sure enough: Beckham's the most famous English footballer of the last 30 or 40 years (ever?); Spurs are a pretty big Premier League club enjoying an exciting season at home and in Europe; it came as something of a surprise. But still, who cares? Apart from Sky.
Actually, one of Sky's presenters, the shouty Scottish fellow who looks like he might brain bleed from excitement on transfer deadline day, said recently that 'We've had hundreds of texts and emails from Spurs fans wanting to know the latest on the David Beckham situation...'. Really? What were their names? And their ages?
Because any grown-up must realise that it will make no difference whatsoever, to us or him.
He'd be here for six weeks or so. That's shorter than a school holiday.
And let's assume the only place he can play would be wide right. So, the incumbent is Aaron Lennon. And there's no way Beckham should be picked ahead of litte Azza, right?
Look at our man's most recent significant contributions: The winner against Liverpool on the break, the vital first goal against Newcastle (again on the break) and being there to link between Bale and Van der Vaart for the clincher, and possibly the breakaway goal of the season, against Villa.
Beckham wouldn't have been there to contribute in any instance. There'd have just been a handsome shaped hole. Which is sort of what he is even when he's there.
The argument against Lennon, of course, is that he doesn't deliver a quality final ball. There may be some truth in this. But not enough to warrant its status as omnipresent media cliche. And certainly not as much as there used to be. He regularly picks out teammates in good positions, and has become especially good at cutting back to the edge of the box where players like VdV, Modric and Jenas tend to arrive cleverly - and where players like Pavulchenko and Crouch tend to be because they're too fucking slow.
Other supposed pluses? Well, merchandising, apparently. But really? Doesn't seem likely. I mean, who'd get the name of a girlfriend tattooed on them if they knew they were splitting up with them in six weeks? Actually, David Beckham, possibly. And he may well be only one with his name on a Spurs shirt, as well.
Then there's the 'good influence' argument. Presumably our training ground is currently something like Pimp My Lord of the Flies. With Kevin Bond's head on a stick in the centre circle. Becks just has to show up, dribble round a few cones whilst concentrating so hard that his tongue lolls out the side of his mouth and this will inspire our entire squad to stop hoovering up coke and driving their Baby Bentleys into pensioners.
Nope, sorry, I just don't see what he brings to us and what a month and a half on our bench will do for him.
He's being loaned to us like an exhibit. We need an experienced centre forward, with the presence to spearhead an attack on his own, the speed to maximise the runs of Lennon and Bale and the skill to link with VdV - not the Elgin Marbles, or even the Golden Balls.
Tuesday, 4 January 2011
God it's hard to win the league. I think I miss it being impossible.
Maybe it still is impossible. I'm certain it won't happen. I mean it absolutely won't happen. It will not happen. But does that make it impossible? This could get philosophical. Can there be degrees of impossibility? There can't, surely.
Okay, so let's say it's impossible like pulling Liz Hurley's impossible. And it's possible like pulling Liz Hurley's possible.
A year ago, see, she's married to Arun Nayar, you'd never met her, she didn't know or care you existed. Three months ago, she split up with hubby, you came second in a reality TV show, got invited to a premiere, Liz was there, you held the door open and she smiled rather sweetly when she said thank you. And your agent used to work at the PR firm that handles her swimwear brand.
So there you go, of course you're not going to pull Liz Hurley, it's impossible. Yet, through a strange set of circumstances, it's still more likely than it was. Which means it's not impossible. Even though it's definitely never going to happen. And isn't actually possible.
Oh fucking hell, does anyone have Alain de Botton's number? Or Liz Hurley's number, preferably.
The point is we seem to be winning an awful lot of games at the moment, but we're not really getting anywhere. And it's becoming so clear how hard winning the league is. Harder than when it was impossible.
When you're battling Villa and Everton for a Europa cup spot, six wins and three draws in nine games will really do some damage.
When you're battling West Ham and some other rubbish in the relegation places, it'll settle matters.
But when you're (definitely absolutely not) challenging for the title, it doesn't seem to make any difference. You don't pull away confidently and decisively, you just earn the right to hang on in there. Teams that win the title must be very, very, very good. Not just very, very, very good, in fact, but a different type of good. It's strange that I'm only just beginning to realise this.
And when all that's still happening with, say, less than 10 games to go, or maybe with two or three to go.... You win, they win, you win, they win, you win, they win, you win, they win, you blink, they win, you're fucked.
The only way Spurs could win the league is if we won our first 30 games in a row and were about 20 points clear. We could then have the collective, inevitable nervous breakdown, not pick up another point and yet still, somehow, fall over the finishing line.
We wouldn't win the league in style on a glory night at the Lane. We certainly wouldn't smash and grab it at Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge.
We'd be losing at home to Bolton. Aaron Lennon would, as usual, be wide right, but by now he's curled up in a foetal position, sucking his thumb (yet still Redknapp rightly resists the temptation to bring on Bentley). Hutton has put on six stone and now has the look and demeanour of the fat recruit in Full Metal Jacket who ends up blowing his brains out. Gomes has got himself caught in his own net, he's stopped thrashing about and now simply can't stop crying. Luka and Thud are both swatting away at imaginary flies in the middle of the park. Assou-Ekotto has taken the corporal Klinger role and is wearing a lovely floral dress from Warehouse, several sets of beads and a nice hat. Pav is just fucking hammered.
Suddenly word reaches the bench, then the crowd: Man U have drawn away at Everton. With two games to go we're seven points clear. There is a brief moment of panic when someone starts a rumour that Fergie is attempting to sign Johnny Ball in a late bid to change the laws of mathematics. But no, we've actually done it.
We didn't have to win any six pointers, we didn't have to hold our nerve, or show bottle, or stand up and be counted. We simply won 30 games in a row and then collapsed in a mess of tears and piss and vomit and fear until someone told us it was over.
Sounds impossible, doesn't it? Or at least very, very unlikely.
Monday, 3 January 2011
Are we in a race for fourth with Chelsea?
Is that what this is? Is that actually happening now?
I mean it's fine, obviously. We've raced for fourth before. I have absolutely no problem with us being in a race for fourth.
But with Chelsea? Really?
What next? Johnson in the post room?
I did like that noise Dobbie made when Ciaran Clark equalised.
I might ask her to make it again later.
Mmmm, Ciaran Clark.