Monday, 28 February 2011

A large glass of schadenfreude or just small beer?


Okay, yes, it was joyous and it was hilarious.

When Martins celebrated, I told my family to shift the coffee table as I was about to try something similar. (It ended up as a quite lame and ultimately debilitating forward roll)

So, rest assured, I was as happy as you and I'm as shallow as you. Like Spurs fan and Word magazine founder David Hepworth tweeted yesterday: "The great thing about sport is that it's a legitimate outlet for your least worthy feelings."

A day later, with some time to reflect, what's most interesting perhaps is that Arsenal/Arsene took a strategic and, I think, very sensible decision to win the Carling Cup this year – and it backfired.

After dismissing the League Cup as a distraction, the thing about having not won anything finally became an even bigger distraction, so he decided to just win the fucking thing; reset the clock to zero and shut everyone up.

As Arsenal's leading blogger put it on the morning of the game: "It really does feel like a monkey on our backs. Today, we need to shake off that monkey, kick him squarely in the bollocks and say ‘Fuck off monkey, you little cunt'."

Trouble is, the monkey's now a bloody great gorilla.

It's like one of the biggest, coolest kids in school getting into a series of scraps with some other proper hard bastards, battling it out to be king of the playground, landing some fucking big shots, but always just being out-pointed on the final decision.

And so people start to doubt that they're much of a fighter at all. They always seem to be losing. Never mind that they lose real dust-ups against heavyweight opposition, they're still losing. Their reputation is waning, their aura is fading.

So they snap. They've had enough of all this chirping about them being bottle jobs. And they decide to just fucking twat the weediest little gimp in school; to prove a point and stop all the sniping. Only they fuck it up. They get caught with a sucker punch and hit the deck. And now they're a laughing stock.

But...

1) They could still win the treble. They probably won't. They're 80-1 at William Hill. But they could. And we won't, because we can't. They're still better than us, is the point, essentially.

2) A lot of Spurs/football in general's glee involves pointing out the disparity between Arsenal (as a club and a group of fans) dismissing the League Cup as Mickey Mouse and then being so dejected at losing the final.

This isn't much of an issue for me. The fact that they didn't take it seriously in the last few years can't be denied or decried. And it's tiresome media nonsense to get haughty about 'not treating the trophy with the respect it deserves' etc.

They took a view based on their status and their ambitions weighed against the cachet of the competition. And their conclusion was, 'Nah, fuck it'.

Then they changed their minds, for the previously outlined and perfectly understandable reasons. And they still lost. It happens.

3) And actually, I know quite a few Arsenal fans that resolutely didn't change their minds. They haven't seen the League Cup as important for about a decade and they didn't see it as important yesterday. They'd rather have won than lost, but that's about it. To them, the Carling Cup remains very small beer.

4) See 1). It's the main point, really. They could still win the treble. Yesterday wasn't a big part of their season. It was maybe important for 'historical' reasons, reasons of Arsenal's own making, almost. But not in terms of their agenda for this season. This season could, in fact, still be their best ever.

Friday, 25 February 2011

The ten greatest moments of my Spurs supporting life - No. 7



10)

9)

8)

7) Wimbledon 2 - Spurs 6
Premier League
Selhurst Park
02/05/98
Spurs Scorers: Ferdinand, Kinsmann (4), Saib


'Greatest' might be stretching it.

It was very nearly 'worst'.

Including it in this line-up is probably 'most humiliating'.

With five games to go we had 35 points.

We'd just lost away at Chelsea. Of course we had, it was a year ending in... well, a number, basically.

Relegation was a stomach-churningly real possibility. I was genuinely struggling to sleep. Even at work.

We drew at home to Coventry. Nicola Berti scored. What a strange, strange signing he was. Astonishing hair.

36 points, four games to go.

Next up was Barnsley away. They showed it on the big screen at the Lane. Barnsley away. Beamed back live to N17. These were terrible times. I went. These were terrible, terrible times. I went on my own. These were terrible, terrible, terrible times.

I just couldn't bear having the game unfold any way other than me watching it. I had to witness whatever it was, even if it was gruesome.

Speaking of which, I popped into the Bricklayers Arms for a nerve-steadying pint before the game. I have never drunk in the High Road apart from on match day or when celebrating a Cup Final win. I never will again.

There's a bit in Withnail & I when they walk into some particularly grotty pub and 'I' says 'It was like walking into a lung'. This was like walking into a dead man's lung. And he'd been a really heavy smoker - who also suffered from chronic BO. Jesus it was a grim place. The perfect place, in fact, for a drink ahead of a relegation scrap with Barnsley.

Colin Calderwood scored. Good old Calderwood. A limited defender and a more than limited player, sure, but he always looked like he cared, did Colin. The game finished 1-1. I remember feeling relief. A defeat would have been a disaster, I'm sure of that. A draw wasn't - at least partly because it stopped Barnsley getting three points (God it's embarrassing typing that, even 13 years later)

We then beat Newcastle at home, 2-0, with goals from Ferdinand and Klinsmann (who we'd brought back to the club specifically to help save us from relegation and with the assurance that we wouldn't use his shirt to wash any more cars).

But for some reason that wasn't enough. Results must have gone against us. And, indeed, looking at the table, I see Bolton got relegated with 40 points - always referred to as "the magic 40 points", only this year it made you disappear.

So we needed to win away at Wimbledon. It was May, for fuck sake. I remember doing one of those deal-with-God type things, promising that never again would I moan about our season being over in late January if this is what it took to keep us interested way past Easter.

I listened to the game on a radio at home. It was torture. Worse than The Archers – even the episode with the Duchess of Cornwall (did you hear her? good lord why didn't someone intervene? And by 'intervene' I mean hit her with a shovel).

We went 0-1 up thanks to Sir Les. But then suddenly we were 2-1 down because of a brace from, wait for it, Peter Fear. Brilliant, huh? If Gary Fuckofftoobscurity had snatched a third we'd have probably been down and out. Or out and down...

Thankfully, Jurgen equalised just before half-time, stabbing home a Ginola cross.

After half-time Ben Thatcher, a future Spurs.... what's the opposite of legend?.... we'll settle for 'player', but we'll use quote marks... more or less assaulted Allan Neilsen and got himself sent off.

Pretty much straight away, Klinsmann scored two more, securing a hat-trick for himself and safety for us. Oh and then he got another one.

(There's some sadly grainy footage here. Watch it and feel your heart break as you realise what a side we'd be with a striker like that right now. We'd be challenging for the title, we really would).

Moussa Saib even got a sixth. Yep, Moussa Saib.

It was a beautiful day - weather-wise, I mean. I remember shouting out of the window to my wife who was in the garden:
'3-2'
'4-2!'
'5-2!!'
'Jurgen!! I fucking love Jurgen!!'
'6-2!!!'
'Moussa Saib!'
Moussa. Saib.'
'M-O-U-S... look it doesn't matter, you'll never hear of him again; the point is, we're safe.'

What else happened that season? Oh yes, Arsenal did the double. Now that, as Spinal Tap would have readily pointed out, isn't just perspective, it's too much perspective.

Look, this isn't a glorious moment in the annals. It's not something to be hugely proud of. No one comes out of this looking good – except Klinsmann, maybe. And Berti, with that hair.

But it was mightily significant. At least it felt that way, on a sunny afternoon in May 1998. And the first cold beer of that early summer evening tasted very, very good.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Final decision


A better class of Spurs forum recently asked its readers to choose between two scenarios:

A) We get beaten by AC Milan in the second leg and go out of the Champions League in the last 16, but we finish in the top four and qualify for next year's competition.

Or

B) We get to the final of this year's Champions League, play against a team of our choosing, but finish fifth.

Now, in light of how the poll actually went, I fear I may lose some of you here. But this is a no brainer, right?

It's B all the way, isn't it?

Isn't it?

Apparently not. The vast majority of respondents plumped for A.

I know!

There was plenty of talk about the future development of the club; continuing to take strides forward; long-term financial implications etc. It sounded more like a shareholders meeting than a fans' forum.

I was genuinely shocked. What's the point in qualifying for a competition? It's to try and win the bloody thing, isn't it? To add to the honors list, not shore up the balance sheet?

Someone, a well meaning someone, piped up with the observation that it's not as much of a gamble, because if we won it, then we'd qualify anyway.

Well, yes, yes we would, but, more importantly, we'd have won it. That's the ultimate goal. In fact, that's sort of the entire point of the game. It's why we're here.

It doesn't matter that we'd be in next season's group stages, we'd be in the fucking history books for Christ sake. We'd be the first London club to win the thing. That wouldn't change. Ever. Arsenal and Chelsea would be so envious and dispirited they might just pack everything up and sod off.

I still don't think I was wrong to go for B in a heartbeat. There is no wrong answer in a poll like this. Apart from A, which is so fucking wrong it's astonishing.

Where I obviously was wrong, however, was thinking that everyone, all of us, would jump at the Final option.

People see things differently, obviously, and is, of course, genuinely fine. Maybe mine's an old fashioned view. Maybe it's short-sighted, short-termism and maybe we would lose the game then lose Modric and Bale in the summer and end up 'doing a Leeds'.

Finishing fourth last year was fantastic. The game against Man City was genuinely exciting and felt like a cup final. But it only felt like a cup final. It was, ultimately, a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.

What's the game about, again? Remind me: Is it about financial implications? Or shoring up the long-term future of the club? Or 'qualifying' for something? Oh no, I remember, the game's about glory. Whoever said that knew what they were talking about, and they certainly wouldn't have chosen option A.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Fade to Blackpool


Bad finishing or bad luck? One of those nights or inherent psychological flaw? Chicken or fish? Sorry, yes, wrong question.

Back on topic. You can read last night's game many ways. But here are the pass notes: we lost 3-1. Actually, those are the fail notes aren't they?

Here's another fact that keeps nagging away. Manchester United were in exactly the same position and they found a way out of it. We didn't. I'm sure this tells us something. And I'm sure it's not good. I'm also sure, deep down, we already knew.

These are my truths, tell me yours. Please. Something warm and encouraging, preferably.

In our position success comes down to precision and relentlessness.

Precision defending and precision finishing. Bassong's challenge for the penalty was a shocker, but that's not what I'm talking about. That's idiocy rather than lack of precision. Look at the build-up, though: that cross should never have got into our box. Pienaar could have closed his man down and either blocked it or made it harder for their winger to deliver with any quality. That actually, genuinely went through my mind as it happened. Yeah, well done me. Whoopdeefuckingdoo.

For the second, if BAE steps up half a yard, DJ Campell's offside.

Up front, we can bemoan the goal line clearances and the 'worldy' saves, but again, it's about precision. It's not 'unlucky' if someone blocks it on the line or the 'keeper somehow gets a hand to it; it means you've hit the defender on the line, and you've made it possibly for the 'keeper to get a hand on it. So don't look to the heavens and curse your 'luck'. Just be (precisely) 3.7 per cent better and score.

As for relentlessness, it's been mentioned before that the road to the top is actually more of a fucking treadmill. You have to keep winning and winning and winning to make any impression at all. To actually make a decisive move you have to keep winning and winning and winning and winning and, yeah, you get the point.

Man Utd's motto isn't You win some, You lose some. It's just You win some. Then silence, usually filled by other teams weeping.

We get overexcited by three or four wins in a row. We view it as an achievement in itself, not the first part of a run of seven or eight wins.

There is a misconception that miserabalists such as myself might somehow enjoy defeat; revel in a touch of told-you-so. Not true. Just because we expect defeat doesn't mean we welcome it, or even know how to deal with it.

So last night was shit, today is grim and we'll finish fifth.

Arsenic top for me, please.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Back to Blackpool


I admit, I wrote this when the original game was scheduled. But honestly, no one was reading then. Now there are literally some of you.

Obviously, anyone who feels let down by this regurgitation of old content is free to ask for a refund.

Also, anyone who feels let down by this regurgitation of old content is free to ask for a refund.

Okay, here we go...



Amazingly, I've been to Blackpool before. To Bloomfield Road, I mean.

I was there in January 1991 to see the first game of our really quite astonishing, Gazza-inspired run to FA Cup glory.

We hired a mini bus, about 10 of us. The match was played in what must have been a gale. I've never seen football played in such difficult conditions, before or since. I don't actually know what the proper definition of a gale is, but honestly, that wasn't just wind. And that's not the first time I've said that, I can tell you.

It was like a new game - related to football, but also on nodding terms with It's a Knockout and I'm A First Division Footballer, Get Me Out of Here.

I'm pretty certain Tony Adams had just been banged up over Christmas for drink driving (with 87 other charges of Being A Cunt also taken into consideration), so we kept warm and entertained by singing songs about exactly how rehabilitating or otherwise that experience must have been.

(This was Old Tony, not New Tony who suddenly took piano lessons, brought a copy of The Nation's Favourite Poems, wore shirts under V-neck jumpers, mis-pronounced Kierkegaard and took about 17 seconds before he'd start answering a question as he confused simply not saying anything and grimacing a bit with depth. I preferred the pisshead who broke Steve Morrow's collar bone)

Anyway, this ridiculous game was settled when Gascoigne hoisted a free kick into their box, the wind tossed it about a bit, and then Paul Stewart just sort of poked it home. Ah, Paul Stewart. Paul fucking Stewart. Paul shitting Stewart...

Sorry, drifted a bit there. Anyway, that was the start of a campaign that culminated in the 3-1 win against Arsenal at Wembley in the semi-final. And no, a cup campaign (a successful cup campaign) can't, strictly speaking, culminate in a semi-final. But it sure felt that way. In every way, it was so much more than a semi.

Tuesday night we're at Bloomfield Road for the first time in the Premier League - and another 0-1 would do just fine. That's the sort of in-depth analysis you're simply not going to find elsewhere. Okay, possibly from Mark Lawrenson.

Back to that 1991 trip, and what puzzles me now, more than the weather or even the fact that Paul Stewart scored, is that we didn't actually go out in Blackpool. Seems crazy, right? We drove halfway home and went out in some market town in the midlands then slept in the mini bus. It was fine, but, seriously, why didn't we go out in Blackpool? Ah well, at least we didn't go out to Blackpool. Thanks.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Woody


Monday, and it's time for another line or two from our patron, Woody Allen.

This week it's from a film that the man himself considers to be one of his best, Stardust Memories.

Allen plays a neurotic film director who is plagued by fans telling him they prefer his 'earlier, funnier films'. He insists it's not autobiographical. Okay...

Anyway, here's an exchange between Woody's character, Sandy Bates, and his ex-girlfriend, Dorrie, played by Charlotte Rampling:

Dorrie: That aftershave. It just made my whole childhood come back with a sudden Proustian rush.
Sandy Bates: That's because I'm wearing Proustian Rush by Chanel.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Do you remember the first time?


It's a quiet weekend in a noisy season, so I thought I'd pause to recollect my first ever Spurs game. Very self indulgent, I know. Feel free to wash the car or something.

The bare bones are these: it was Arsenal away in 1986. We drew 0-0. The attendance was 44,703.

I can't find the line-up on the internet (although, excitingly, I have just put a bid in for the programme on eBay), but I'm guessing it was: Clemence, Thomas, Mabbutt, Gough, Hughton, Allen (P), Waddle, Hoddle, Ardiles, Hodge, Allen (C). I reckon at least eight out of those 11 will be right. Some side.

I was 18. A very late starter.

Tottenham wasn't drummed into me from birth. My dad was a Cardiff supporting Welsh ex-pat. When he first moved to London he lived in the East End, so adopted West Ham. When we moved to the suburbs, he stopped going, and his feelings for them weren't strong enough for him to want to foist them onto me, thankfully.

So he just supported Cardiff from afar and accepted that it was, in practical terms, unlikely that I would do the same.

(He went back to see them one more time before he died. He phoned to ask about tickets (Internet? Not so much, no) and got chatting to the woman in the office. He explained he hadn't been for 40-odd years and how this was something of a pilgrimage. They sent him a pair of top notch tickets, free of charge, met him at the entrance, showed him round the ground, got him a drink and settled him into his seat with a complimentary programme. Fair play to them for that; a real touch of class).

In other words, in terms of choosing my team, I had a free hand. And it's as simple as this: I supported Spurs because my friends did.

Initially, though, I didn't really support them, just followed them. So in the late '70s and early '80s I looked out for our results, liked it when we won but was also more or less fine when we lost.

On Saturdays I was almost always playing football rather than watching it. I think it's true to say that I liked football generally, everything about it, more than I liked Spurs, specifically. Seems weird, given how much of the football world outside of N17 I now despise.

'81, '82 and '84 are all TV memories for me. Pleasant, but not precious. Shame really. Friends of mine who are just a few years older recall that period as the best in their Spurs-supporting lives, never to be surpassed. I hope they're wrong, but I suspect they're right.

In 1986 you could just turn up at the game. Any game. So one September morning a group of friends who did go regularly asked me to come along. Yeah, why not, I replied, not knowing that 25 years of truly astonishing times lay ahead and that a seismic shift in my relationship with Spurs, in the priorities of my life, in fact, was about to take place.

We went first to a pub called The Bull in The High Road. Now, it turns out that this was quite a famous meeting place, frequented by some quite naughty gentlemen. I had no idea. Although it did seem odd when about 300 of us left at exactly the same time.

When we re-emerged from the underground at Arsenal and there was, inevitably, and for a greenback like me, terrifyingly, a lot of running, shouting and throwing things. At one point an abandoned milk float, complete with a vast stock of empty bottles, came into play.

I'd never known anything like it. All I could think was, 'And after all this we get to watch a game of football, right?'.

Then, when I was watching the football all I could think was, 'And after all this I've got to get home...'

I did, of course. And I'd learned two things. One, I would be going again - going a lot. Probably forever. Two, don't meet in The Bull.

(A few years later it turned into 'The Pleasure Rooms'. Jesus, that place was bad.)

The silliness before and after wasn't for me. But the 90 minutes in between most definitely was. And all of a sudden, I desperately wanted us to win. All of a sudden, it really mattered. I'd crossed the line.

I saw us play Arsenal five times that year: That 0-0 draw, a 0-1 win at Highbury in the first leg of the League Cup semi, a 1-2 defeat in the second leg, a 1-2 defeat in the replay and a 1-2 defeat in the league. For a while, whenever I heard anyone say 1-2, I flinched. Soundchecks were a fucking nightmare.

That entire season was one of disappointment. We were in with a shout at the league until the last month or so, and ended up finishing third. We were 2-0 up at half time in the second leg of the League Cup semi-final and couldn't close the deal. We only had to steamroller Coventry in the final to win the FA Cup, and, somehow, we fucked it up.

Disappointment. Nothing but disappointment. Still, things are bound to get better, right? I mean it can't always be like this...

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Sweet FA


First of all, let me say, I'm not monstrously disappointed that we've got a weekend off.

Football without fear or feeling isn't really football, but it can be fun.

For a break, mind, not forever.


What I am worried about is our dismal 'recent' FA Cup record. Hmm, yeah, 'recent'? Can we still get away with that? 20 years is a long time. EMF weren't 'recently' in the charts, were they? It's becoming, simply, 'dismal'.

When I first started supporting Spurs, we could quite justifiably claim to be the cup kings. Winners in 81, 82 and 91, finalists in 87 (and teams of scientists are still trying to work out how we lost that one).

That's a helluva return in 11 years.

Since then, sweet FA.

Chas and Dave have been living on dog food since the mid-90s.

But there are also downsides.


In our fallow 20 years, Liverpool have won the cup three times, Man Utd four times and, most gallingly of all, Arsenal and Chelsea five times each.

Since we apparently fucking 'retired' from the competition, our main London rivals have, between them, won the damn thing in half the years available.

(There has also been a trophy apiece for Everton and Portsmouth, of course).


Here's the 'All Time' list of FA Cup winners as it stood when we clinched number 8:

Tottenham Hotspur 8

Manchester United 7
Aston Villa 7
Newcastle United 6
Blackburn Rovers 6
Arsenal 5

Everton 4

Liverpool 4

Big, big gap
Chelsea 1


Here's how it looks now:
Manchester United 11

Arsenal 10

Tottenham Hotspur 8

Liverpool 7

Aston Villa 7
Chelsea 6

Newcastle United 6
Blackburn Rovers 6

Not only have Man U and, for fucking fuck sake, Arsenal cruised past us, but Liverpool and Chelsea are now right on our tails.


You think we'll overhaul the two above us anytime soon? Or will they extend their lead?


And you think we'll be able to stay ahead of Liverpool and Chelsea?


(Villa, Newcastle and Blackburn, thankfully, seem even more frozen in aspic than us in this particular competition).

Point number two to worry about is this: since the 1991 win, we have lost five semi-finals in a row. I can't be arsed to find out if that's a record or not. I suspect that's because I really don't want to know.

Even if it's not, it's still fucking shocking. It's serial choking, is what it is.


The two defeats to Arsenal (1993 and 2001) were horrible but, on some level, forgivable. But Everton, Newcastle and Portsmouth? Equally horrible and on every level unforgivable.

A semi should lead to something, right chaps? And if you lose five semis in a row, well frankly you need to talk to someone...

Here are some other giants of the game that have knocked us out in the last 20 years:
Aston Villa
Ipswich (3-0!)
Notts Forest
Barnsley (!)
Newcastle (three times!)
Southampton (4-0!)
Man City (3-4, after we were 3-0 up at half time and they had a man (well, Joey Barton) sent off!)
Leicester
And, most recently, fucking Fulham (4-0!)

If anyone calls us a cup specialist from now on, shout them down. Tell them they don't know what they're fucking talking about. It's most likely to be Ray Stubbs on the telly, of course, so it might not do you much good, but it still needs to be said.

Rod Stewart stopped making good records in the mid-late '70s. Only no one told him. By the time he realised himself, it was too late. He was shit. Let's not be Rod Stewart.

And finally, I'm going to say it: I'd rather win the FA Cup than qualify for the Champions League. I know we're all hopped up on this week's result, and of course the Champions League is a bigger and better competition.

But the FA Cup's not too shabby, and we absolutely, definitely can win it. We have won it, for Christ sake, plenty of times. Just not for two shitty decades.

It's still a damn fine prize. And it deserves better than we've given it for the past 20 years.


Thursday, 17 February 2011

Wear sunscreen


A letter from me, aged 43, to me, aged 10. The year is 1977. This is a pivotal moment...


Dear Such Small Portions,

Firstly, yes, I know you want to change your name. I completely understand that. And children can be cruel. But, trust me, one day you will want to write about Tottenham Hotspur (more on them in a minute) on the internet (like a snazzy Ceefax) and when you do, Such Small Portions will be a much better name than Gary.

Right, Tottenham Hotspur, the argument(s) against, let's get stuck in...

Well, no, they're not Liverpool. But, pretty soon, Liverpool won't be Liverpool. The sun will set on the Red Empire, as impossible as that sounds to you now. You're beginning to suspect that the league title belongs to Liverpool and other teams just borrow it now and again. Then give it more or less straight back. That's not the case, I swear. Although things will get worse before they get better.

Plus, if you support Liverpool you have to blub into your hanky and demand a nationwide minute's silence every time someone that played six times for the reserves in the late '50s kicks the bucket. So forget about Liverpool.

Who else is up there this year? Man City? Honestly, just a joke. Ipswich? Enjoying purple patch, will end up in brown stuff. Villa? Boring and bitter. Newcastle United? Another joke, just not a very funny one. Okay, Man Utd in 6th, but let's ignore them. While we still can. Don't ask.

Another argument against: we've just been relegated. Right, yes, tricky one this. But, let's not panic. Next season's going to be far more enjoyable than you think. Make sure you get tickets for the Bristol Rovers game in October, that's all I'm saying.

Enjoy the World Cup next summer. Look out for two players called Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricardo Villa. ITV's theme tune is ace, btw.

And watch out for young Glenda as well. He's going to be quite something, that lad.

Look, I'm not going to go into too much detail, and ultimately it's up to you. What I will say is this: Supporting Spurs will depress, frustrate and annoy you. It will probably make you a tiny bit ill and a not so tiny bit bald. The key word at most times will be 'disappointment'. You will witness humiliations and capitulations. There will be misery. There will be so much misery.

Are you in? Well you should be.

Because somehow it will all be gloriously, spectacularly worth it. The good times won't outweigh the bad times. But who cares about weight? (Actually, you will, in about 23,24 years time, but fuck it). What they will do is outshine the bad times.

They will even make you forget the bad times. Not completely and not forever, but for occasional, joyous moments of wild and perfect abandon. And those moments will be all the more joyous and all the more wild because of what we went through to get there. In those moments you will know that you made the right decision and you would not swap those moments or your Spurs, our Spurs, for anything else.

Why does God let bad things happen, ask confused innocents. Because without the bad things, how would we recognise the good things, answer idiots. Well that's also why God made Jason Dozzell. Do you see, child? There has to be contrast. You have to experience a few bumps in the road to success in order to appreciate it when you arrive. If you just set up camp there, maybe buy a villa, well eventually you get bored by the same old scenery and start calling up phone-in shows when you 'slip' to 5th. Yes I'm looking at you, Chelsea.

(And yes you're right to laugh so hard that milk comes out your nose at the concept of Chelsea fans being spoiled by success. But only if you're drinking milk. If you're not drinking milk, see a doctor, immediately. Or a vet, maybe.)

Like I say, I'm not going to promise cups and players and league positions. We can't work this out on a ledger. Besides, you will have all sorts of fun (and all sorts of other emotions) watching all those issues unfold over the next 33 years. That's sort of the entire point.

If you don't know who Danny Blanchflower is yet, look it up, then read and remember what he said about how the game's about glory. That is what supporting Spurs will be. That is what supporting Spurs means.

Come on, stick with it. Sign up for life. And while you're at it, try one of these lovely, smooth-tasting cigarettes...

Yours hopefully,

Such Small Portions

P.S. The answer to that other question is 1983, Leah, and not too bad.

The ten greatest moments of my Spurs supporting life - No. 8


10)

9)

8) Man City 0 - Spurs 1

Premier League
City of Manchester Stadium
05/05/10
Spurs scorer: Crouch


I can't remember the exact maths, but I remember the precise moment.

What I mean is, looking back, I know a draw would have been okay and I don't think a defeat would have actually killed us, but I don't recall the exact equations. Which is odd, because at the time I was thinking about almost nothing else. I was great company that week.

As with AC Milan on Tuesday night though, we went for the win and dismissed as rot all talk of whether we actually 'needed' it or not.

As with AC Milan on Tuesday night Harry told the world (and especially our opponents) that he'd send out a team to 'give it a right good go'.

As with AC Milan on Tuesday night, he was true to his word.

And as with AC Milan on Tuesday night, the boys put in a great performance, deserved to win, with Crouch clinching it late on after good work down the right wing.

You've heard about AC Milan on Tuesday night, right?

The parallels are definitely there and entirely appropriate. You can connect the two nights with a line as straight as little Azza's run from our half to their penalty box.

That evening at Eastlands we went toe-to-toe with our direct rivals for Champions League qualification. We didn't blink, we didn't bottle it and we didn't half play some good stuff.

We absolutely deserved to win, to finish fourth.

And it was/is such a big deal.

I wanted us to fall over the line so badly. Partly, yes, so we could embark on our European adventure, play teams like Inter and Milan. And goodness knows who else. It was part of our progression.

But I also just wanted us to get it done. To stop it being a thing. To stop us never having qualified for the Champions League being a fact, a nasty little fact that the media and other fans used to beat us with. I wanted them to shut the fuck up and for that ugly, undeniable fact to fuck the fuck off.

It was a means to an end, of course it was, it was the ticket to the chocolate factory, but it was also an end in its own right. An end to a fantastic campaign and an end to all that bollocks about us never having played with the big boys.

It's a petty reason, sure. But I'm a petty man. I'm pettier than Tom. And he's Petty.

Crouch's performance that night epitomised his Spurs' career and his relationship with the fans. Harry picked him for the big game. A lot of people weren't so sure. He worked hard, put himself about, looked awkward, missed chances, smiled ruefully, began to frustrate, but never looked for a second like giving up.

Then he fluffed a sitter. A long cross, a free header six yards out, more or less a gimmee, and he manages to hit Shay Given. The entire goal is empty and he manages to pick out the only Martin Fulop-shaped object in the vast expanse of nothingness.

Fucking Crouch. Pav would have scored. Defoe would have scored. Sandra would have scored. Etc.

And then Crouch did score. Then came the moment. It was about three minutes later. The crowd's curses were still in the air, probably still in his ears. And he goes and makes himself a hero. He's an enigma that lad. An enigma wrapped in a riddle trapped in a grow-bag

I watched the game down my (Spurs leaning) local, in a state of heightened tension and advancing inebriation.

Almost exactly a year earlier, a chap called Adam had bullishly bet all non-believers that next season Spurs would qualify for the Champions League. 17 people took him up on it at ten pounds a pop. The landlord wrote all their names down and kept the sheet of paper behind the bar.

At about 10:00 that night, all of the 17 that were there to witness his prophecy come to pass duly paid up. And yes, of course that included me.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The history boys


What a night. Take That win Best British Group to cap a triumphant reunion and Tinie Tempah is finally hailed by the mainstream as the most exciting new talent in the country. Amazing scenes.

Oh and apparently there was a game of football in Northern Italy.

You'll all have gorged yourselves silly on match reports already, so you don't need another one. Not a proper one anyway. Not a (literal) blow by blow account. Wiser souls (and, let's face it, some stupider souls) will be doing all that and more (by which I mean less) elsewhere. Instead, some observations and questions.

But first, an apology. The internet seems to be bursting with Spurs fans who were 'right' this morning. I was totally, wonderfully, happily wrong.

I didn't like the look or our central midfield pairing. I thought Pienaar was lucky to get the nod ahead of Niko. I thought Harry had boobed, basically. I didn't think our defence would hold out and I didn't see enough creativity higher up the pitch. I thought injuries and absences had weakened us to a damaging degree. I'd honestly have taken a 3-1 defeat. Lots of other far wiser and much less pathetic voices predicted more and expected better. I tutted quietly at them.

They, and Harry, were spot on.

Everyone said the first 15-30 minutes would be crucial. As it was, the first 15-30 seconds set the pattern for the first half. We kept hold of the ball, we looked dangerous when we swung in crosses, we controlled the tempo of the game and we should have had a penalty. We looked at home and we looked comfortable. They looked impotent.

That was the story of the first half.

In the second half, things got a little spikier and Milan looked a little livelier. They weren't hugely impressive, though. Gomes made two great saves ('worldies', as Paul Merson would say), but they came from strong headers off decent crosses; standard Premier League stuff. There's no need to be afraid, as Paul Young once warbled.

Flamini was disgusting. Not just for the tackle that looks to have lost us Corluka for goodness knows how long, but for his pathetic, pseudo hard man gesturing to the crowd immediately afterwards. That's what Van der Vaart picked him up on. We look forward to welcoming you to White Hart Lane, Matthew. There'll be no need to try and wind the crowd up there, don't you worry.

Gatusso was just a funny, silly little man. His antics are purely for show and frankly embarrassing.

Why was he punching the grass like that? Is it because the short arse twat is always so close to it that it was starting to get on his nerves?

Joe Jordan was top class. The removal of his specs at the end in anticipation of trouble was simultaneously dignified and menacing.

I think instead of letting the confrontation develop into the usual melee, our players and staff should have all taken two steps backwards and said Okay sunshine, there you go, what do want to do now? Gonna take a swing? Fancy your chances? No, thought not.

As Mr Blonde said: 'Are you going to bark all day little doggie, or are you gonna bite?'

Graeme Souness, it seems, is also a Reservoir Dogs fan. Here's his perfect summation on Sky: "He's never been much of a player. He's a little dog at best. That's all he is, a little dog. Go get the ball and scuffle around." Yiddo!

I can't remember who said it, maybe it was Harry, in fact, but another cute comment on the spat was, 'He hasn't done his homework, has he?'

Tremendous to see Woodgate back. Absolutely top class that lad. The best defender at the club, when fully fit. His little post-match speech about how he had to keep believing he'd play again was damn close to moving.

Also ace to see Modric put in a little cameo. Actually, fuck that, it was more than a small piece of Victorian jewelry, wasn't it? Did you see his contribution to the goal? Picks up possession and just slips it past his marker to set Lennon away. Obviously little Azza and lovely, silly, gangly, Crouchy were superb from that point on, and equally obviously I'm a teeny bit in love with Luka, but we honestly wouldn't have scored if he hadn't been on the pitch.

And finally, what does that tell us about Serie A? If we do have to move, can we move to Italy? If that lot are top, I think we'd clean up.

So, to the second leg. Well, yes, it is only half time, but as Spurs Simon, blogger at Rumbles and Grumbles, pointed out on Twitter, as half time scores go, this is a fucking corker ( I think he may have put it more eruditely than that).

And at 0-1 down, Milan didn't look like a team that could rally. Stomp about a bit and put some distance between toys and pram, yes, but not show any actual true grit. Not so much John Wayne, more Wayne Sleep.

At half time (sorry, the actual half time, last night's half time) I said that no matter what happened in the next 45, what we'd already learned was that, with Bale, Modric, and maybe Thud back for the next leg, we could rip this lot apart at White Hart Lane.

So, let's do that.

Now, return to your hangovers in an orderly fashion.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Last night I dreamed of Milan away*


Gulp.

That's pretty much the match preview right there.

Gulp.

I mean yes, it's exciting. And yes this is exactly the sort of game we want, the sort of night we slogged through last season for. It's what we beat Chelsea, Arsenal and Man City away for. It's our reward. And we hope it's a taste of our future.

But still, y'know, gulp.

The way our defence is wobbling, the way our midfield is depleted and the way our strikers are misfiring, we have every reason to be fearful of tonight's game.

Nothing to fear but fear itself? Bollocks, Franklin, what about Ibrahimovic, Pato, Robinho, Nesta and Gattuso? Stupid yanks, know nothing about football.

Our last three wins have been thoroughly enjoyable, but basically we've squeaked past Blackburn, Bolton and Sunderland. I looked on Wikipedia and cross-referenced with Rothmans, and I can confirm that none of these teams are AC Milan.

The game before those three, our last in a cup competition, was a 4-0 defeat to Fulham. Again, research suggests they are not AC Milan.

You'll recognise AC Milan when you see them, they're the Italians that are top of Serie A by a thousand points or so and who won 4-0 at the weekend. Already bagged the European Cup seven times, you must know them.

This is a step up in class akin to ditching Jordan for Kristin Scott Thomas.

I'm not saying it can't be done, just that if we play like we have done for the last four or five games, we'll come up short. And end up having a knee-trembler Jodie Marsh. No, I'm not sure what that means in terms of the analogy either, but it can't be good, can it? That can never be good.

There's bullish talk elsewhere, from our camp and around the blogosphere, about 'going for it', dismissing pessimism as cowardice etc. Excellent, admirable. Seriously, I'm in awe of fans who predict and even expect great things. I sincerely wish I could join in and I fervently hope they're all right.

But allow me to at least acknowledge that AC Milan are a bigger and better team than us, have home advantage, are enjoying a better season than us and aren't as hampered by injury as we are. And if I start crying, I start crying. No need to laugh and point. It's my thing. You've got your thing, I've got my thing.

Look, I was delighted when we drew AC Milan. I think it's the perfect tie for us. But that doesn't mean I'm not dreading it just as much as I'm looking forward to it. It's like sex with a girl you've fancied for ages: you're thrilled it's finally going to happen, but you suspect it might end really badly. And oh Jesus, if it's all over in 17 seconds that'll be rubbish even for us.

Conflicted, see. I want the game to be kicking off right now and I want it to be over already. I want to revel in every second of the build-up and I want to hide away until it's all done and dusted.

I expect a defeat, I'd jump at a draw, and yet those strange men in white shirts keep doing amazing things and put fleeting thoughts of victory in my addled mind. Confused as well as conflicted.

If Modric is fit, and there were encouraging shots of him training last night, then might we consider a five man midfield? Palacios, Sandro and the Little Genius in the centre, Krancjar on the left and Lennon on the right. If that leaves VdV on the bench then, well, maybe...

Oh I don't know, it's probably not about systems, it's probably about attitude and belief. Our big away games in Europe have been so schizophrenic (not from game to game, but from minute to minute) and it's not been tactical upheavals that have prompted the changes, it's been our mindset; swinging from nervous and tentative to gung ho and heroic, depending on expectations, context and the scoreboard.

We need the first 15 minutes to be out of the way, for the score to be 0-0, for us to look like we know what we're doing and that we're comfortable on the stage. Then maybe I'll relax.

I'm lying. I need the entire 90 minutes plus added time to be over and for us to still be in the tie. Because even a Cassandra like me believes that if we're losing by two or less, especially if we've scored, then we still stand a chance of going through, and Milan won't be looking forward to their night at the Lane.

Until then, gulp.


* Sounds a bit like Manderley

Monday, 14 February 2011

Paul Gascoigne, naked


I met Paul Gascoigne once. We were both completely naked.

It was at a health club. Gazza knew the owner (a quite loathsome 'hanger-on', truth be told) and he used to go there quite regularly.

One morning, I'm walking out of the shower and he's walking in. A mutual friend who, I think it's fair to say, struggles with the fundamentals of social etiquette, decided that would be the ideal time and place to forge an introduction.

I was excited to meet him, of course. But, thankfully, not that excited.

Gazza seemed completely unabashed. I guess when your life is that mental (this was the early '90s (I don't know why I added that, it could have been anytime at all)), then meeting a naked idiot barely registers on the crazy scale. It may not have been the first time it had happened to him that day, who knows.

Those that spent time with him back then said he was already something of a mess. But still a convivial, funny, slightly naive mess. The dark side remained hidden. At least in public. Cheryl's memories probably follow a different timetable.

Noel Gallagher tells a great story of when Oasis played Loch Lomond and Gazza was at Rangers. They were both staying in the same incredibly posh country hotel and, of course, they ended up having a drink together, complete with entourages.

Gradually, inevitably, all the other super-rich guests started to glance towards them more and more often and less and less subtly. Both their fame levels at this stage were dizzying. Eventually a crowd started to gather; everyone wanted to buy them drinks and grab their own little slice of the stellar action.

Deep into the evening, Gazza launched into a story about a game that involved that stalwart of Saturday tea time results shows: Hamilton Academical. They weren't the point of the story, just part of it. But poor Paul simply could not say their name.

He tried a few times and then Noel said it for him, to try and move things along. But our boy was having none of it. He would not be beaten. He kept trying and trying in ever more garbled and giggly ways, until saying Hamilton Academical didn't become part of the story it became the story.

Noel says Gazza had everyone in stitches, just through trying and failing over and over again to say Hamilton Academical.

There's a bit of a performing monkey aspect to the story, sure, but the way Noel tells it it's clear that Gascoigne was still inherently and artlessly charming. And that he had huge reserves of goodwill amongst the general public. To paraphrase Homer Simpson, they weren't laughing at him, they were laughing towards him.

Now it's all very different. No one's laughing. (Okay, the bit where he turned up with some chicken and a fishing rod for Raul Moat was pure, staggering farce, you can have that).

Instead, the decline and fall of Paul Gascoigne, as a player and as a man, is just fucking chilling - especially when you look back at all the signs that everyone ignored.

It absolutely wouldn't happen today. If any player, let alone the greatest English player of his generation, behaved like that on camera or indeed anywhere in public, serious questions would be asked and something would be done. He would not simply be indulged or encouraged.

We will look back on what happened to Gazza, what was allowed to happen to Gazza, in the same was as we look back on sending children up chimneys.

To avoid ending with incredulous head-shaking and general depression, let me add that Paul Gascoigne remains the single greatest player I've ever seen play for Spurs. His pomp probably lasted less than two seasons, but my God he was good. And he could change and dominate a game like no one else.

I saw the last few years of Glenda's reign at the Lane, and he was a brilliant passer of the ball who could contribute 20 goals from midfield. But when Gazza was at his best he was a brilliant passer of the ball, could contribute 20 goals from midfield and do so much more.

Large portions of the crowd used to watch him, or at least keep an eye on him, even when he wasn't in possession. That's partly because Paul Gascoigne without the ball was more effective than David Howells with the ball, but mainly we were working out when he might get it next; willing play to drift into his orbit; knowing, I mean actually pretty much knowing, that when it did something amazing would happen.

I fear what's left to come in his story and I fear what's left of the man himself. But, without wishing to sound too elegiac, what he gave us and what he left us with will be treasured as long as Tottenham Hotspur exists.

Woody


So, on Mondays we like to give a little bit of space to Woody Allen, the man whose punchline provides the title for this blog.

Today we're getting deep. A momentous week lies ahead of us, so it's time for some gravitas. Take it away, Woody....

"I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics exam; I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me."

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Reserves of strength


And so we return to our theme of 'Who are those strange men in white shirts?'

Only this time, with that line-up, it was a perfectly reasonable question (but in light blue shirts, not white, obviously). Our entire first choice midfield was missing. Plus, you could argue, our first choice centre backs and first choice forwards. Eight outfield players. Just the two full backs in place. And they're not the best.

(I do like Corluka, but sweet Jesus he's slow. It's sometimes actually hard to tell if he's running or not. When at 'full throttle' he does that sort of scuttling fast-walk thing that people do when they're trying to catch a bus but don't want to look as if they're actually rushing just in case they miss it. For a man nicknamed 'Charlie' he's got fuck all to do with speed)

So, before kick off, at kick off and 30 minutes after kick off, I couldn't see a win. I couldn't see a side or an attitude capable of winning.

And when Gallas skipped off to get his nail polish buffed up, and Dawson continued to resemble a piece of shingle compared to the rock he was last year, well of course they scored. They'd read the script as well.

But then, those strange men in white (light blue) shirts re-appeared. We rallied, we improved, we girded out collective loin and we worked hard. We didn't play particularly brilliantly, but we found a win, somewhere, somehow.

This was Spurs. Away. Away at a Northern team. Away at a North Eastern team. 1-0 down. Hugely depleted. With a game against AC Milan just three days away. Strange.

The goal that got us the win was totally out of keeping with our performance but totally typical of wonderful, wonderful Niko Kranjcar. Everyone is, quite rightly, raving about Rooney's derby-winning scissor kick. But in terms of technique, our man's volley was equally exquisite. Such a sweet strike, and such a great player to have as cover for every single midfield position. Top, top man.

In the giddy aftermath I declared it our best and biggest win of the year. Well, we've played a lot better and we've beaten bigger teams. But in terms of defining what our season's about, this was surely pivotal. If we'd lost we'd have have spent the next few weeks checking for Liverpool's and, yes, Sunderland's results. As it is, we're right in the mix for fourth, or even third, and it's Chelsea and Man City we'll be worrying about - and, make no mistake, they'll be worrying about us.

For a dose of morning after the night before reality, let's remember that our strikers still didn't score, our defence continues to wobble and Gomes, silly, silly Gomes, once again crumpled like a thundering great Jessie after having his tummy tickled. Good God he's the cowardly lion of goalkeepers that lad. Even Harry was laughing at him. Oh, and AC Milan won 4-0. Arsenal also looked excellent. Irrelevant but depressing.

I get the feeling, though, that none of that will worry these strange men.

The team news that emerges over the next two or three days will be crucial. If we can get two out of our big three back, we're in business. Or at least we're applying for a start-up loan.

Let's worry about that tomorrow and Tuesday, though. For now, let's enjoy our third straight weird, wonderful win. And thank the Lord for Niko Kranjcar and Sky Plus...

Prediction(s)


We'll lose 3-1.

Man U and Man City to draw 1-1 at lunchtime.

Liverpool to pretty much liquidise Wigan.

And hopefully West Brom to beat West Ham.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Six reasons why we'll lose tomorrow



1) It's really, really important that we win. That's never a good sign.

2) We'll be without Van der Vaart, Bale and Modric. Our two leading scorers and our most creative player. Attacking options suddenly look seriously limited. Lennon will probably be our leading scorer on the pitch (unless Pav starts, and I wouldn't be that surprised if he did. Harry likes Crouch in Europe and will want to pair him with VdV on Tuesday. Plus he's got a bit of a niggle, right? So, thinks our Machiavellian manager, give Pav a game, stick him at the top of a weakened team that won't create many chances and strengthen the case against those who can't understand why he doesn't get more of a look in)

3) The defence is wobbling. Okay, the Fulham game was probably just freakishly bad. But the Bolton goal was also horribly preventable, with Dawson and Gomes both culpable. There's been no settled centre back partnership all season, and none of our full backs are really top class. Should have made my 'Dawson's creaking' joke again there. Maybe later.

4) The Milan game kicks off about 72 hours later and will loom terrifyingly large. There'll be a load of platitudes about taking each game as it comes, the Premier League being our bread and butter, etc. but we're bound to have one eye on what is, let's face it, the biggest game of our season so far and the biggest game in some of our players' lives.

5) Sunderland aren't shit. Asamoah Gyan looks like a decent buy, Sulley Muntari's had a game to bed in. Darren 'Sandra' Bent's gone, of course, and he was nailed on to score. But they've still got enough. And, right now, they would have even if they were shit.

6) Mark Lawrenson's predicted we'll win. The bastard.

Mostly though, this is just one of those weeks and one of those games. I think in some way, at some level, we've written it off. We've sort of given ourselves permission to fail. We've bagged six points from our last two games and we're hoping for a great performance in the San Siro. According to the Tottenham mentality, Sunderland has now become a bridge between the games. A bridge too far, I fear.

I haven't felt this pessimistic about a fixture since we played Bolton away after the glorious win against Inter Milan. Every Spurs fan knew we'd lose that game. Thankfully, the bookies didn't. They saw us tear apart the European champions and made us odds-on favourites. I watched us tear apart the European champions and stuck £50 on Bolton.

My winnings are going on Sunderland.

Not just another 48 hours


Because of who's playing who, when and where, this weekend looks a real biggie.

At 12:45 on Saturday, Man Utd will beat the noisy neighbours and Man City will, for the first time in a while, be properly within reach. They'll be five points clear still, but we'll have two games in hand.

At 3:00 on Saturday, Liverpool will beat Wigan at home and will be just three points behind us (they'll have played two games more, but we do have a trip to Anfield to negotiate). They'll have won their last four in a row. And work will begin on a Dame Kenny Dalglish statue in the centre of the city. Not that they're prone to emotional over reaction, obviously.

At 5:30 on Saturday, we play Sunderland away. Win and we go fourth. Not just fourth but 'third if we win our game in hand'. Lose and we should honestly be at least as concerned about Liverpool closing the gap on us as we are about us closing the gap on the Champions League spots.

Sunday's a day of rest. Well, Bolton play Everton, so God obviously wants you to at least have a snooze.

On Monday evening, Chelsea go to Fulham. And a draw can't be ruled out. Zamora's just played for their reserves, I believe. Come on The Goal Machine. Bag another one and continue your completely mental argument with that one bloke in the stand who dared call you a bit shit after a sustained period of being a bit shit.

(Apologies about the 'stained' bit of 'sustained' being so close to 'shit'. And 'period' come to that. Now I've said 'come' right next to 'period'. Shit.)

Arsenal are at home to Wolves, but that's an irrelevance, we won't be catching them. Shhhh, now, you big sillies.

So, yes Stratford (or rather no Stratford), yes the entire future of the club, yes the debate continues, but for the next few days let's also remember what we do best. Which is, of course, er, anyone?

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Dear Tottenham...


A letter written by a friend of mine to Daniel Levy, just yesterday.

Levy recently claimed, I believe, that he'd received less than 100 of these type of missives, so hopefully Sean's efforts will have taken the total up to treble figures.

And yes, his name really is Sean Conry. Try not to focus on that...


Daniel Levy
Tottenham Hotspur Football Club
Bill Nicholson Way
748 High Road
Tottenham
London, N17 0AP

8 February 2011

Dear Daniel,

I am writing to you to express my absolute objection to Spurs moving to the
Olympic Stadium.

What stops football just being about 22 people kicking a ball is an
unbending emotional attachment that football fans feel for their club. If
it was just about success or being able to compete in Europe we would all be
Man United fans, but it's not. It's about a sense of history and this is
inextricably linked to a sense of place.

My first match was in 1967 against Everton (we won 2-0) and I know you are a
long time supporter yourself so you will not need reminding but since that
first game we have never won the league nor even finished 2nd. - 3rd
place 5 times has been our best(67, 71, 85, 87 and 90). Despite this I
count myself lucky to have supported the club. I have been fortunate enough
to be at Wembley to witness the FA Cup wins in 1981, 1982 and 1991 and was
also at White Hart Lane for the 1984 UEFA final. I mention all this because
I want to make the point that whilst all supporters would like success it is
not the most important thing. Feeling part of the club, talking about 'We',
having a shared history, feeling a sense of belonging - that's far more
important.

If you take Tottenham to Stratford you are moving the club out of its core
area and into an area where the majority of local support is for West Ham.
The club would not be about 'We' it would be about 'It' and for me at least
'Them'. Moving there would be as wrong as Wimbledon going to Milton Keynes
was; although the distance was a lot further, Milton Keynes had as much
relevance to Wimbledon as Stratford does to Spurs. Just as the rump of
Wimbledon quietly dropped their name following the move, so morally should
Tottenham if this horrible move takes place. I know it was a long time ago
but the principle was understood in Edwardian times when Woolwich Arsenal
moved into Islington they had the good grace to drop the name Woolwich and
just became Arsenal instead.

If you do move I won't be going with you because Tottenham Hotspur will just
be a name you call the football club that play at Stratford. It will have
nothing to do with the club that I have invested with far more emotion and
love than is sensible over the years.

I daresay you are getting a lot of correspondence about this and I think you
probably understand where I am coming from so there is no need for me to
write anymore, but before I go there is one further thing I would like to
mention. I heard you on the television today talking about how most Spurs
fans support the move. Really? Where's your evidence for saying that? I
have no data to the contrary but all Tottenham supporters to whom I have
spoken are adamant that the club should stay in Tottenham.

Please do not move the club to Stratford, it is just plain wrong. And,
what's more, as a Spurs fan yourself I am sure that you know that as well.

Yours sincerely

Sean Conry

The ten greatest moments of my Spurs supporting life - No. 9


10)

9)

Spurs 1 - Leicester o
League Cup Final
Wembley
21/03/99
Spurs scorer: Neilsen



A true triumph of context over content.

By God it was a dog of a game. A dead dog of a game.

It delivered, however, our first trophy for eight years, which at the time seemed quite a gap (although after this we immediately went nine years barren).

And the moment when Allan Nielsen scored was quite exquisite. It's not often you get to celebrate a goal with such complete abandon.

Usually, you're not sure if a goal will even win you a game. There's almost always still time for something to go wrong. And we need less time than most.

And if it does win you the game, you're almost never sure it's going to clinch you the competition that game is part of. Every celebration is tempered or cut short by the intrusion of the future - be that the remaining seven minutes of the match (Come on Spurs, fucking concentrate) or the next round of the cup (It'll be Chelsea away, I know it will be).

At Wembley, grim, grubby old Wembley in 1999, we could celebrate the lot all in one go. And oh boy, did we.

Other points of note: Well, those pictures of George Graham and Sol Campbell celebrating with our trophy certainly strike an incongruous note; Ramon Vega played pretty well and made a goal saving tackle against Emile Heskey (I say 'goal saving', but it was Emile Heskey, so you can never be sure); Ginola failed to shine; and, of course, Justin Edinburgh was sent off for wafting a hand somewhere near Robbie Savage's Miss Piggy hairdo. That was the incident that gave the game some narrative, at least, and made a scrappy victory in the tin cup against lowly Leicester sort of heroic. Okay, memorable. For those us who were there, and remember it.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Bresslaw, to Marley, to McDonald...


Despite the headline, there's no commentary needed.

It's the ultimate Spurs celebrity team, plus subs and backroom staff.

I'm pretty proud of them, I must say.

I reckon we'd take on anyone.

And yes, I know there are more pressing matters facing Spurs fans right now, but, still... COYCS!




Goalkeeper: Peter Cook

Right Back: Phil Collins
Centre Back: Bernard Bresslaw
Centre Back: Nicky Wire
Left Back: Warren Mitchell

Left Midfield: Stephen Mangan
Centre Midfield: Jude Law
Centre Midfield: Trevor McDonald
Right Midfield: Mathew Horne

Centre Forward: Michael Holding
Centre Forward: Bob Marley

Substitutes:
Simon Mayo
Charles Bronson (notorious lifer, not movie star)
D'Arcy Bussell
Gideon Coe
Michael Fish


Manager: Kenneth Branagh
Assistant Manager: David Aaronovitch

Coaching Staff:
David Hepworth
Salman Rushdie
Howard Jacobson

Chairman: Bruce Forsyth
Director of Football: Leslie Philips

Club Historian: Simon Schama

Pre-Match DJ: Brandon Block

Masseuse: Patsy Kensit

Monday, 7 February 2011

Who are our most famous players?


This is science.

This absolutely isn't science.

But, let me at least explain the methodology. Good science word, methodology.

So, I type our players' names into the Google search box (Hello Google! Did you spot your own name? Do you Google yourself? Please, please notice me) and I note down how many letters it takes for them to become first choice in that predictive drop down menu.

Pretty fucking rigorous, huh? It was like this when I built the Large Hadron Collider. Detail, detail, er, something else.

Okay, if you have a player called, say, Barack Obata, he's probably going to have to wait, what, 1o key strokes till he takes the top spot. So maybe other factors apart from our players' own fame do come into play, but the results were still kind of interesting. And pretty much right, ridiculously enough.

Plus, when they did become the top spot, I checked the next entry under them, to see what it told us about them. In the majority of cases it was 'name injury'. I've experimented (this is science, after all) and that's the case with most footballers. But, amongst our brave boys, those that differed from the norm differed quite significantly, and quite hilariously.

Okay, let's start with the Brazilian by whom we would apparently all like to be cuckolded...

Heurelho Gomes
5 letters plus space
Next entry: Heurelho Gomes red card
The only question is which one. Google goes for Inter Milan. Of all the players not to play the 'injury' banker...

Carlo Cudicini
7 + space
Next entry: Carlo Cudicini injury
Fair enough, but if I was Carlo, I'd have expected 'amazing smash up on very manly motorbike'. And I'd get a lot more sex.

Ben Alnwick
6 + space
Next entry: Ben Alnwick scandal
Bad ben. Yep, it's the traditional footballers' favourite: a roast, a 16 year old girl and a teammate on video camera duties. The word 'traditional' has never been so incongruous. Anyway, more here you salacious devils

Alan Hutton
7+ space
Next entry: Alan Hutton injury

Gareth Bale
4!
Next entry: Gareth Bale jersey
The boy's on fire. Yep, just four little taps and the internet puts our Welsh wizard on top of the pile. That's fame. The jersey thing's a bit disappointing, but just below that is 'Gareth Bale hat-trick'. In six months it'll probably be Gareth Bale transfer. Sad face.

Younes Kaboul
6
Next entry: Younes Kaboul injury

William Gallas
10 + space
Next entry: William Gallas Samir Nasri
Jesus, not even the internet likes the man with the most curious career path in London football. The prominence of the Nasri spat speaks well of him, mind.

Sebastien Bassong
12 + space
Next entry: Sebastien Bassong wife
The problem here is Sebastian Bach. Not Johan Sebastian Bach, but Sebastian Bach the lead singer with ultimate poodle band Skid Row.
You see, although his name is spelled differently, even when you get past that point of difference at letter eight, Google still insists that you want the shaggy-haired metal man.
He has two sons, by the way, called Paris and London. And two daughters called Down and Out. (He really does have two sons called Paris and London).

Michael Dawson
11 + space
Next entry: Michael Dawson injury
Although I suspect soon it will be 'Michael Dawson worrying loss of form'.

Verdan Corluka
6
Next entry: Verdan Corluka injury.
Took ages to load, this one.

Ledley King
5
Next entry: Ledley King news
A good showing in terms of recognition for the captain (just one more key stroke than Bale), but the next few entries tell their own story. I mean they almost literally do.
Here's how it goes: 'Ledley King news' 'Ledley King drunk' 'Ledley King christmas party' 'Ledley King knee injury' 'Ledley King fastest goal' 'Ledley King asleep'. It even ends perfectly!

Benoit Assou Ekotto
7 + space
Next entry: Benoit Assou Ekotto girlfriend
And after 'girlfriend' comes 'contract' and 'salary'.
Our quirky French full-back avoids 'injury' by giving interviews where he says he's happy to stay with his long term girlfriend, because if he got a new one now she'd probably have been with lots of other footballers, and that players sign contracts not because of the colour of the shirt but because of the size of the pay packet.
I can't help liking the little scamp.

Jonathan Woodgate
10 + space
Next entry: Jonathan Woodgate injury

Tom Huddlestone
6 + space
Next entry: Tom Huddlestone stamp
It's because he recently got away without being charged after accidentally coming into unfortunate contact with Bolton's Johan Elmander.

Aaron Lennon
8 + space
Next entry: Aaron Lennon speed
A lot of letters before wee Azza gets recognised, but that's a nice apposite next entry.

Jermaine Jenas
10 + space
Next entry: Jermaine Jenas injury

Rafael van der Vaart
8 + space
Next entry: Rafael van der Vaart twitter
He's @VdVaart_NL10 if you want to check it out. I wouldn't bother though. His last entry was on the morning of July 11th, the day of Holland's World Cup Final against Spain. It says: 'I got a feeling...'. Bit embarrassing.

Wilson Palacios
8 + space
Next entry: Wilson Palacios Barcelona
Because he was suggested as a replacement for YaYa Toure at Barcelona. Yeah, by his agent.

Luka Modric
5 + space
Next entry: Luka Modric Barcelona
At Luka + space, he's beaten by 'Luka and the Fire of Life' which, as you'll know, is a novel by Salman Rushdie. Seems harsh, doesn't it? Google being a bit snobby?
That said, the Fatwa dodger is, to his credit, a loyal Spurs man of 50 years. Fact.
It was the buccaneering football of the Venables/Gascoigne/Lineker side that helped him through his darkest days. Not a fact.
The 'next entry' bit makes me cry all over my stupid face.

Niko Kranjcar
5 + space
Next entry: Niko Kranjcar wife
Not interesting, don't bother, they just got married, that's all.

Sandro
6
Next entry: NA
Waste of space. Six characters is his entire name. And even then the top hit is some fashion label. And the next entry is Sandro Botticelli, who, as any fule kno, plays for Sampdoria. His bloody stupid hair annoys me as well.

Steven Pienaar
10 + space
Next entry: Steven Pienaar twitter
He's @therealstevenpi
Not very interesting. I have warmed to new boy Bongani Khumalo, though, since I learned he knocked him out in training. You're right, harsh. Nearly scored Saturday and at least looked lively. Ooh, look at that straw, must try and grab it...

Roman Pavlyuchenko
8 + space
Next entry:
Roman Pavlyuchenko volley
The volley's the one from the defeat to Bolton. The entry after that is
'Roman Pavlyuchenko statistics'. I clicked through and it's a blank page. Edited by Harry, I think.

Jermain Defoe
8+ space
Next entry: Jermain Defoe injury

Peter Crouch
8 + space
Next entry: Peter Crouch robot.
Oh Peter. You have your critics. You have your limitations. You have tendency to be a bit shit. But this is a hell of a performance.
His next entries are: 'robot' 'prostitute' 'weight' 'scandal' and, most astonishingly 'can do anything'. I clicked on this last one, obviously, and sadly it's an internet meme that exploited a particularly unfortunate snap of our man looking especially freakish (I can't say handicapped, can I? No, just checking) as he fails to connect with a volley for England. We love you, Peter.

That's it then. Gareth Bale is officially Spurs' most famous player. Our strikers are all equally average. And Google hates centre backs. That's scientific fact.

Oh, and like it says on the right there, please do follow Such Small Portions on Twitter - @spurs_ssp

Woody


Monday's the day we honour our founder. Well, the man who (sort of) named the blog, Woody Allen. This week we're going with a quote from his 1979 black and white masterpiece, Manhattan.

In it, Woody, 42, dates a 17 year-old Muriel Hemingway. Nothing wrong there. And certainly no sign of any troubles to come. All completely fine.

Anyway, it's very funny, is the point. And here's what he says to Diane Keaton's character, who he starts dating half way through the film, in the back of a yellow cab:

"You look so beautiful tonight I can hardly keep my eyes on the meter."

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Last minute heroes


Returning to the 'Who are those strange men in white shirts?' theme...

And apologies, it's a bit statty, this one. I will try and drop in a few swears just to spice it up.

'Resilience', 'Belief', 'Determination'. Not three words we traditionally associate with our lilly-livered Lillywhites. A depressing management training course in Woking, possibly, but not Spurs.

This season, though, here's what we've done from 85 minutes onwards:

On the Plus Side

Wolves (h)
Turned one point into three
Pav 87; Hutton 90+1

Arsenal (a)
Turned one point into three
Kaboul 85

Liverpool (h)
Turned one point into three
Lennon 90+2

Newcastle (a)
Turned 0 points into one
Lennon 90+1

Bolton (h)
Turned one point into three
Kranjcar 90+2

That's nine points won either in the last five or in injury time.

That's more than 20 per cent of all our points.

Without them we'd be below Sunderland.


On the Negative Side

Astonishingly, nothing. Two negatives that are wholly positive. Haven't dropped a single point from 85 mins onwards.

As far as I can work out, in fact, on six occasions we've gone into the last five minutes leading by one goal. And every time, we've hung on. That sounds so improbable I'm literally going to go and check that right now. Wait there.

Hi, I'm back. Yep, six games. No fails:

Stoke (a)
Villa (h)
Fulham (a)
Villa (a)
Fulham (h)
Blackburn (a)

We did give up leads quite late against Chelsea, Birmingham and Sunderland. But not late late. Not kick the cat late.

The reason must be partly down to having that 'strong bench' people keep talking about. (We'll need it, too, when Thud comes back from injury and eases himself back into action with a couple of stints as sub. He's quite heavy, see. It's a bit like a joke, only not funny.)

But it must also be something to do with that change in psyche we so desperately need.

There are no extra points on offer for drama, for leaving it late. But God those wins and draws feel like they're worth more. In fact, very few things in life feel as good as a last minute winner. Okay, maybe a few, but none that should be done on a cold Saturday afternoon at White Hart Lane in the manly embrace of m'colleague.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Bolton out of the blue


Well that was an astonishing, thrilling and, at 91 minutes, wholly unexpected three points.

(I'm trying hard not to mention the Arsenal result)

Dreadfully unconvincing performance, inestimably important result.

As previously established, fuller and better analyses of the game are available elsewhere. I'm not a football expert, I'm a one-eyed, passionate and quite often despairing Spurs fan. These are just a series of observations, some of which may have relevance to what happened during the 90+ minutes during which we were playing football.

(I'm absolutely not mentioning the Arsenal result)

1) Drinking at least two cans of Red Stripe in the Bell & Hare is definitely a lucky charm. (We drank Fosters for the Wigan game. Never again).

2) Can we all agree that Jermaine Jenas is a fine and useful squad player and that he's been a real asset to this club for eight years or whatever it is? Why the constant negativity from a significant section of fans? I thought he was top great again today.

Okay, maybe he's never 'great', but he was pretty damn impressive: busy as you like in defence and attack, nearly got a winner with a free kick that he'd won himself; er, like twice as good as Pienaar.

And did you see the highlights of the Blackburn win? In the last minute Samba directed a header towards our goal and that would have meant two points down the drain. But it bounced off Jenas and went over the bar. He didn't mean to get in the way and he certainly didn't know where the ball was going. But the fact is, he was there to get hit by the ball. And none of our other midfielders would have been.

(I still haven't mentioned the Arsenal result)

3) What the fuck's up with the other Jermain? His all round game was fine today, but whereas he used to be on almost embarrassingly intimate terms with the goal, now he's like a gawky teenager on a first date. To paraphrase Richard Keys, he used to smash it. Now he can't find it.

4) Dawson's creaking. Terrible defending for their equaliser. Not as bad as last week, but still terrible.

5) We won without Modric, Bale and (second half) Van der Vaart - this season's three outstanding performers. If you asked the media or other fans, no other names would get mentioned. And let's not forget Thud, Woodgate and King.

So we're getting results stripped of our stars and without much conviction. That's good, right? Well, it is if, as is to be expected, we improve exponentially when they return.

(How did Arsenal get on? Anyone know?)

6) Good God how much do we love Niko Kranjcar? In terms of a reserve midfielder, he can't be beaten, can he? Okay, so our first choice would be Lennon, Modric, Thud, Bale. But Kranjcar can cover for all of them. And he's far better than fucking Pienaar.

The winner today, the way he made the space and struck the shot, was pure quality. Thank fuck we didn't sell him in the transfer window.

7) Dean Sturridge looks good.

8) Fuck it, let's talk about Arsenal. Hysterical, obviously. But, when word of Newcastle's fourth reached WHL, and the crowd went nuts, I have to admit I was a little pissed off. Not because those fools had thrown away a four goal lead, that was ace, obviously. But because we got so stupidly excited and celebratory about it - while we were drawing at home to Bolton.

I just wanted us to concentrate on - and be dissatisfied with - our own performance, rather than be small and petty enough as to be so sated by their travails. Their fuck-up should be a side dish, not the main course.

(There is an alternative view that it was the sudden surge in crowd noise, passion and urgency that moved the team up a gear. Maybe)

8) We have three away games coming up: Sunderland, Blackpool and Wolves. We need a minimum of seven points. If we manage it, let's see where we are and recalibrate the scope of our ambition accordingly.

Actually, I'll do it now: 5th by five points or 5th by 10 points. We'll finish closer to Liverpool than we will to Chelsea (in terms of points totals, anyway).

Sorry, it was a fun day and an exciting result, but, we did only just beat Bolton at home.