Sunday, 29 May 2011

Spurs - an idiot's* guide: the goalkeepers


Okay, so, summer's here, it's an age till the start of the season and we're bored already. So, to fill in time and space and any other dimensions you want to throw in the pot, I'm gonna go through our team/squad and cogitate on who's done well, who's done badly and who's Alan Hutton. We start, of course, in goal and with the Brazilian who many belief lives up to that name not by being a gifted footballer but by being a shaved....

Heurelho Gomes was a big part of us qualifying for the Champions League last year - and he was many people's player of 09/10.

He was no one's player of 10/11. He made some absolute howlers. More than Hart at City, more than Van der Sar at Man Utd, more than Cech at Chelsea and more than Almunia at... okay, he's not that bad. But is he good enough for Spurs?

I'm inclined to say no. When he fucked up against Chelsea I shouted something along the lines of 'that twat's got to go'. His fuck-up riled me even more than the lino's. There is an argument that he makes enough blinding saves to outweigh the embarrassing gaffes. This season I just don't think that's true. He made a couple of outstanding stops at the San Siro, true, but apart from that, not too many 'worldies' spring to mind.

Also, is he starting to actually look like a clown? I don't know, maybe it's an Animal Farm thing, where he's physically morphing into the thing he's acting like. You know before kick-off when he runs across his goal line, jumps and touches the crossbar four times while the crowd goes 'Wooooaaaahhooray!': try playing that in your mind with the 'Da da da-da dadle-a-da-da-da...' music behind it. Basically, that's a clown.

The trouble is, I'm one of the thick, crass and essentially shallow football fans who just can't bear the thought of spending huge money on a goalkeeper. I know it makes all sorts of sense, I know it's just about the most important decision you can make, but it doesn't excite me in any way. It doesn't matter who we sign, I will not be excited, come August, about going to see a new keeper.

A keeper should just stand between the sticks, wait until the ball's there to be stopped and then, y'know, stop it. I don't see goalkeepers as actual footballers, just a rather unreliable way of restarting the game when the real football breaks down.

So, if funds are limited, and the only way to get better than Gomes is to spend £15m. Well, maybe we give him another season.

Plus, he's Sandro's best friend. Those guys fucking love each other. Got to be real careful with the word order there.

The ideal solution's probably to sign Shay Given for the same or less than we get for Gomes and get him on a three year contract with Cudicini sticking around as perfectly adequate cover.

City, however, are hugely unlikely to sell him to us - and certainly rich enough to just let him run down his two year contract, by which time he'll be nearly 40.

I think we may be stuck with the Brazilian for at least another year.

* Just to be clear, I'm the idiot - and it doubles as a half-jokey reference to Harry's famous comment

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Spurs' greatest season ever* - or the greatest trick the devil ever pulled?

Okay, it's the third and final season review from a guest columnist. As with @Liquidspurs and @Bentleysbird, @Studub is a friend from Twitter with plenty to say but no blog on which to say it fully. Hence the invitation to take some rant-space here at Such Small Portions. But, bear with me, since we arranged this little gig, @drwinston001, previously the man behind thfc1882.com, has quit regular writing duties due to the imminence of a new baby, and handed the reins over to @Studub. Which means he now does have somewhere to let rip. But, when we first discussed this, he didn't. So, follow him on Twitter, read his new blog - and enjoy this season review, written just before he was famous...


In all fairness, this past season probably falls somewhere between those two hyperbolic statements. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I will say it again: this has been a good season with great moments, rather than the great season we are being told it is.

For me - and despite all the highs - the overriding feeling that I’m left with, is one of massive frustration, of what could have been.

On a sunny day in August when we kicked off the campaign against that smaller club from Manchester, it looked like we had the makings of another real shot at the Champions League. We put City to the sword and were it not for an awesome display from Joe Hart we would have walked away with all the points.

Looking back the game was a vivid portent of what was to come. I lost count of how many matches we dominated only to fall short due to an impotent front line, either not being in the right place or taking shot after wayward shot with no end product.

The August deadline day saw us all excited but baffled by the arrival of Rafa Van Der Vaart. To be honest, Redknapp exhibited the same emotions. Here was a world class player for only £8m but what were we to do with him? Using him would (& did) force Harry to abandon his beloved 4-4-2, but we all knew we didn’t have the striker that Rafa needed to be partnered with.

First signs were really good though, Crouch and Rafa struck up a partnership which brought goals for VDV and assists for the big fella, but even then it looked like we were over reliant on the Dutch ace to provide the firepower. However, it was working and as the autumn crept up on us, we had started to make a big noise in Europe.

And You don’t need me or anyone else to tell you that it was specifically young Gareth Bale making most of that noise, winning the PFA Player of the Year award on the back of some sparkling performances. I understand that Maicon has been mentally scarred for life. I

nter were torn to shreds in the second half at San Siro and you have to ask yourself, what if Gomes hadn’t been sent off and we’d actually turned up in the first 20 minutes? See what I mean about frustration and what could have been?

We showed them what could have been with a rip roaring performance at The Lane and secured top spot in the group stage in our debut season.

We did it in typical swashbuckling Spurs style too, equalling or beating records for goals scored in group stages and in goals per game (overall). Great achievements that we should all be proud of.

We were also tearing up domestic record books. Without a win away to one of the Sky Four clubs for eons, we strode out at The Emirates looking to turn the tide. After 45 minutes it looked like we were going to be in for another horrid NLD at their place, going in 2-0 down and looking disjointed.

The second half however was a complete turnaround, with Redknapp realising his error and bringing Defoe on. I’m sure his intent was that JD’s movement would bother the Arsenal centrebacks, it turns out his almighty aerial ability was the key (I know!), out jumping Koscielny to help set up Bale’s opener.

Rafa continued his impressive form with a penalty, before sending in the free kick that was met with a mighty KA-BOOM by Younes for the 3-2 win!

Despite highlights such as this, and the 2-0 win at Anfield, we were still frustrating (that word again), especially against clubs we were expected to beat. That our only victory over the three relegated clubs came on the last day of the season really sums it up. Literally too little too late.

Through January we were all convinced that a big name striker was just about to turn up at Spurs Lodge. Going into deadline day and we once again provided the comedy foil to all those actually doing serious business as we were linked to pretty much every striker in La Liga, allegedly making bids for everyone, including Alfredo Di Stefano.

And who did we end up with? Steven Pienaar. To this day I still don’t know why. Such a frustrating choice when we had players like Jenas and Kranjcar twiddling their thumbs on the bench.

It’s also the transfer window where we decided that Luis Suarez wasn’t better than what we had. I believe the kids today would say: epic facepalm. Still it could have been a lot worse, we nearly signed Phil Neville.

So we headed into the Champions League knockout stages still looking light up front, things not improving with Van Der Vaart and Bale also picking up knocks that affected their end of season performances.

We put in a very un-Tottenham like dogged display at San Siro as the other Milan team (and much of the rest of the world) discovered exactly who Sandro Raniere was. He is the definition of a midfield machine: tireless, almost unpassable, good in the air and as he’s proved since, technically capable with a thunderbolt shot.

In the return leg we again showed that we can be defensively solid and compact when required and next thing you know we are facing a tie against the might of Real Madrid’s ‘New Galacticos’.

It was about this time that the wheels really fell off domestically though, that victory in San Siro, prompting a run of 1one win in 13 games. Not quite the soundbite that Redknapp wanted to replace 2 points/8 games with I feel.

As various calamities and bad luck befell us against Madrid, back in the Premier League we just looked inept. Goals were now almost impossible to come by, unless Pav decided that he’d remember what a class player he can be, an all too rare occurrence.

Games away to Blackpool and Wigan showed that we had put all our eggs into that CL basket. And then handed the basket to Gomes. Scrambled egg was inevitable.

Even after that we had chances to push on beyond City, but successive home draws with Arsenal, West Brom and Blackpool left 4th looking decidedly unlikely.

Yes, we got stitched by the linesman at Chelsea but even so, we shouldn’t have been relying on that result. If we’d taken just one win from each of West Ham, Blackpool, Wigan and WBA, do you know where we would have finished? Second. Comfortably. Now I defy anyone to tell me that isn’t massively frustrating. Or does that make me an idiot?

There were some great moments, and some real memories to take away from this season. We also have Europa League football to look forward to, much to Jermain Defoe’s chagrin. That is if we take it seriously, although that is a discussion for later in the summer.

For now I’ll leave you with my best memories of this season & one wish for next:

Player of the Season: I haven’t mentioned his name once yet because I’m trying to keep him a secret, but all credit must go to our conductor, our heartbeat and our only irreplaceable player, Luka Modric. He is the ‘Croatian Xavi’ or the ‘Croatian Cruyff’ depending on whether you ask me or Iain McIntosh, but both work. He has been an absolute pleasure to watch as he goes about his business dominating game after game from midfield. He’s the best player we’ve had at White Hart Lane since Paul Gascoigne and we simply have to keep him.

Signing of the Season: For a while this looked a shoo-in for Van Der Vaart, but he tailed off at the end of the season, due to a lack of fitness more than anything. So for me the outstanding signing has to be William Gallas. What a defender, what a man, he has defied everyone to establish himself as an absolute rock and was vital in holding the back line firm in front of an increasingly flappy Gomes. And he was FREE! Credit to Harry Redknapp for that one. I never thought I would cheer Billy, now I wouldn’t dream of not doing so.
Flop of the Season: Not a nice thing to choose, but it has to be said a few have put their name forward for it, pick one from our strikers, Alan Hutton, Pienaar or Gomes. For me the biggest disappointment was Gomes and Redknapp’s seemingly blind faith in him. Too many errors this season and an obvious lack of confidence, for me his time is up. A top club needs a top keeper, he’s not it.

Match of the Season: Despite the CL heroics, for me the ultimate victory this year was at The Emirates: 3-2 in the North London Derby to put to bed the away day hoodoo and also cement our rep as a team who are no longer a soft touch who will roll over.
Goal of the Season: There are a number of candidates, an NLD THudd, Sandro doing his THudd impression, Bale at San Siro (pick one), Bale’s volley at Stoke. For me though, the goal that gave me the biggest thrill was Rafa Van Der Vaart's second away to Villa. The Bale, Lennon, Rafa counter attack combo was beautiful to watch and is something we should have seen even more of. This move was summed up perfectly by Huddlestone on twitter: "Bale bale bale!! Fifa-like counter attacking play!!" (@thuddz)

My Ideal Signing for Next Season: Honestly? Right now, Carlo Ancelotti & Ray Wilkins as our new management team. For one simple reason, Redknapp has his eye on England in summer 2012, and is therefore not focusing on our club's future. Ancelotti is an excellent manager who is available now and who wants to stay in the Premier League. For me it’s an absolute no brainer.

* Since Sky invented football, anyway

Friday, 27 May 2011

Waiter, more wine please


For Such Small Portions' second end of season review, please welcome Twitter starlet @Bentleysbird as our guest columnist. As with @Liquidspurs, here's a Spurs fan with plenty of opinions worth listening to but, without a blog, only 140 characters with which to express them. Until now. So, make sure you're following her - and if you're a Harry/Stratford fan, stand well back...


If you’re a glass half full kind of person you should probably stop reading. Me? When my glass is half empty I ask for a refill.

We all start every season with enormous anticipation: surely this will finally be our year. In August I was actually optimistic, not just hopeful. Champions League with a decent qualifier, the best squad we’ve had in a while and a manager who was saying all the right things. It seemed this really could be it.

Sadly I won’t look back on this season with fondness, in fact, I’m glad it’s all over.

Before anyone throws the Champions League run and the wins at le scum and Liverpool at me and I counteract with Wolves, Wigan, West Ham etc, I want to be clear. The main reasons that I just want to forget this season are not footballing ones. From a season of hope this has turned into a season of division, fan against fan, of sniping, backbiting and downright pettiness.

Firstly, the stadium. There are arguments for and against moving to Stratford but the big one is this: heritage v convenience.

The club moved from a position of ‘plan B’ to ‘preferred’ with amazing speed, telling us the Northumberland Park Development had become ‘unviable’, aiming blame in the direction of the local council and MP yet providing no concrete reasons.

I just can’t shake the feeling that a move away from Tottenham would be the beginning of the end of the club I love and the start of something completely different - and not in a good way. For that reason a large part of my season was spent campaigning against this move. And while I firmly believe it was the right thing to do, it took a lot of the pleasure out of games for me, especially while I was questioned and berated for doing something that in my heart I know is right.

I thought the decision to award the Olympic Stadium to West Ham would end this particular battle, and we could campaign together for the NPD, creating the space we need in the area we belong.

Sadly, for all the good Levy has done for Spurs it seems that like a drunk in a nightclub he just can’t take no for an answer. Ladies, you know the man I mean and gents, you may have been him. Bottom line: it’s unattractive, desperate and will only end in further rejection and potential humiliation.

Secondly, Harry Redknapp. He’s overtaken Jenas as the Marmite man. Personally I think he’s a classless media junkie who treats our fans and heritage with utter contempt and who has written my beloved Martin Jol out of Spurs history.

Other fans like his easy manner with the press and the slack they have cut us in return. On the pitch there have been good performances and bad. The people in the middle would just like him to admit that sometimes he gets it wrong instead of constant deflection, talking about unhappy fans on a phone in as ‘idiots who don’t even watch football’, telling us ‘it won’t get any better’ despite his early season assertion that Spurs could challenge for the title and, the icing on the cake for many ‘Anyone that doesn’t enjoy it should go and support someone else’.

Wherever you stand on this debate, it should be just that, not sections of fans calling others names and questioning their loyalty to a club who they have backed through numerous bad times. We’re allowed to disagree as long as we remember the constant, we all love Spurs.

So, yes, there have been good times this season but with the exception of a memorable trip to Bremen they aren’t what I’ll remember. But chin up, we are Tottenham, next season is sure to be different. So waiter, bring me my wine and please, make it a good year.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

"It's too early to tell..."


Okay, so, here's the first of three season reviews from special guests. They'll all be people who have interesting things to say on Twitter, but no blog via which to say them more fully. The first is from @Liquidspurs - a name that pays tribute not only to our beloved Tottenham, but also the mighty Alan Partridge. You should probably follow him. And you should definitely read this...



In 1971, Henry Kissinger asked Chinese leader Zhou Enlai for his assessment of the 1789 French Revolution, and was told “It’s too early to tell”.

I feel the same way about Spurs’ 2010-11 season.

This really could have been the season that Spurs stepped up from also-rans to being one of the really big boys; the season that we were accepted into permanent membership of the Big Four, with all that that entails: challenging for the title every year, regular trophies, Champions League football as of right, and so on.

It obviously didn’t happen. But what does that mean? Have we blown our chance? Now that Manchester City have bought their way into the top four, and Liverpool seem to be well on the road to recovery from a two-year malaise, are we doomed to be go back to where we have been for so long - scrapping for a Europa League spot, and thinking of a top-half finish as an OK season? Or does this season simply demonstrate how hard is the task that we are undertaking – and was just a rocky step on the road to a soon-to-be Golden Era?

There were certainly signs that we were learning the ways of the Big Four. It became a cliché that Spurs won so many points coming from behind, which distracted from the fact that we thereby showed real mettle, a refusal to give up and a self-belief that we were the better side and therefore should and would win.

The game away to Sunderland in February epitomised this: 1-0 down, we scrapped back to win a game against an inferior side by sheer force of will. And our European adventures, more often than not, showed this too. Not just keeping out AC Milan, the Italian Champions, for three hours, and hitting them on the break at their place to win the tie; but also the ruthless demolitions of Twente, Inter, and Werder Bremen at White Hart Lane – the first of those despite the fact that our talisman had been sent off at a critical stage of the game. And none of us will ever forget that second half at the Emirates.

But of course there were plenty of signs that this was just the same old Spurs: the appalling record against the bottom six, that period from the beginning of March to the middle of May when we took nine points from a possible 30, and so on.

We took six points from Liverpool, four from Arsenal, but only one each from West Ham, Wigan and Blackpool. It was a great season to play the “what if?” game. For me, the right “what if” concerns all those draws – 14, of which no fewer than 9 were at home, the ground where we battered the Champions of Europe in November.

What if we had managed wins in just five of those? That would have required just five more goals, one each against (for example) Sunderland, West Ham, West Brom, Blackpool and Birmingham – and we would have finished second in the Premier League. Harry could have realistically argued that this was our “best season ever”.

If we do make the step up that we are all dreaming of, then 5th place in 2010-11 will not look like a blip, it will look like another step on the long road to where we eventually got to. If we go back to the mid-table mediocrity of the 1990s and early-mid 2000s, it will look like the year we blew our best ever chance. A lot will depend on what happens in the transfer market over the Summer. At present, it’s just too early to tell.

Player of the season: Modric
Flop of the season: Defoe
Match of the season: AC Milan 0 THFC 1
Ideal (but vaguely realistic) summer signing: God knows
Do you think we’ll qualify for Champions League football next season? Not really, no

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Birmingham had a great season


Just after our final game, I tweeted that, "actually, Birmingham have had a great season" (@spurs_ssp - if you were wondering)

The wise @weekspotblog replied to say 'Interesting positing, but not sure I agree' - he's a journalist, words like 'positing' come easy to him.

The next day I spoke to a QPR fan (@byronicman, since you ask) and posited the same thing. He also disagreed. So, I asked him, if you could guarantee that next season, QPR would win the league cup, but also get relegated, you wouldn't take it?... Nope, not interested.

I was and remain astonished.

First, let me say, it's different for Spurs. We're a bigger club. Sorry, but we are. Our expectations are calibrated differently. That isn't arrogance, it's the truth. We've been relegated once sine the second world war, Birmingham and QPR have probably gone down a dozen times between them since the first Iraq war.

In 129 years, QPR have won one trophy - the League Cup in 1967. Did they get relegated that year? Who knows! Who cares! My wife's dad lived in West London and was a QPR fan. Pride of place in our house, still, is an ash tray with a picture of that winning team. There is, as far as I'm aware, no ash tray commemorating any team that avoided relegation in the '60s. Or any other decade.

Birmingham, same story. Just one trophy in 136 years - the League Cup in 1963. Until this year. Until this great, great season, this historic season when, against all odds, they beat a full-strength and supremely confident Arsenal side, with a goal in the last minute. Glory. Never to be deleted, never to be forgotten glory.

It goes in the front of the programme, people! C'mon! You don't add 'Avoided Relegation' to the honours board. What were Birmingham gonna do in the Premier League if they'd stuck around for another year? Probably have another relegation battle? Or, at best, finish eighth.

And next year in the Championship? Well they'll probably go straight back up. And if they don't, they'll do it the year after.

Ooh, but what if they 'Do a Leeds'... This is the bogeyman of modern football, the monster under the bed used to frighten all fans who yearn for a bit of ambition - a shot at glory.

Well, okay, maybe, but to do a Leeds you've got to be pretty fucked up in the first place, so fucked up that you're unlikely to survive another season in any division. And you've also, presumably, never heard of Leeds - because if you had you might just have learned some lessons.

This isn't meant to be patronising, or glib, or unsympathetic. It's supposed to be congratulatory. Winning trophies remains the hardest and best thing in football. Relegation sucks, but, for Birmingham and QPR (depending on what their owners decide to do in the future), it's part of life.

The pain of last Sunday will pass. One day (relatively) soon, Blues fans will be celebrating promotion like lunatics - and not long after that they'll be worrying about Premier League survival again.

It's a cycle.

That win was a moment.

It was about saying, I was there. It's about two brothers or best mates, in 30 years time, reminiscing at a retirement do or even a fucking funeral and and saying, we were there. It's about the look of awe and envy in the faces of your kids or grandchildren, who have never known anything but a series of promotions and relegations, when you tell them, I was there.

It is unlikely, hugely unlikely, that they will reply by saying "Yeah, but you must have been gutted when we were relegated a couple of months later. Terrible season 10/11, really terrible."



Monday, 23 May 2011

Tottenham's best season ever comes to a glorious end...


And so Pav uses both thumbs to point at his name one last time - simultaneously showing Birmingham's players and fans the way to go.

Never been sure why he does that. Then again, it is a fucking hard name to spell (hence this blog's overly matey habit of calling him Pav), so maybe it's just a series of refreshers. Although, at his scoring rate, it may take us some years to actually memorise it.

Or is it a pretty damn delusional 'Im The Man' type thing?

Anyway, it's kind of annoying. And so is Pav. That's probably, what, six goals this season that with minimum fuss and even less back lift he's just drilled into the back of the net from outside the box.

90 per cent of the time, he's as ineffective as Crouch - only at least Crouch looks like he's trying.

Actually, wait, is that a good thing or not? It means Crouch is doing his best (hooray!) and still isn't good enough (boo!). Whereas Pav looks feckless and half-arsed, so is maybe underachieving, which is annoying but at least leaves us with the possibility of a great player - a possibility he hints at every now and again with the sort of goal that poor Peter could never score.

Anyway, I'd certainly keep Pav ahead of Crouch. I'd keep my toenail clippings ahead of Crouch.

He seems like a nice lad, sure, but if our last sight of him was being lead from the pitch, dazed and disorientated, possibly about to collapse, a threat to no one and nothing but low flying aircraft - well that would be a fitting coda to his White Hart Lane career.

After the game, dear old Harry told all supporters who have any quibbles with his view that 10/11 was a total triumph to go and support someone else... Much more likely, of course, is Harry going to manager someone else.

I don't have major quibbles, but I do have some reservations. What should I do Harry? Am I allowed to carry on spending a grand and a half a year supporting Spurs? Or do I need to do a season at Barnet as penance and maybe have some sort of parole hearing next summer?

I tell you what, I'll stick around, if it's okay with you. In fact, out of the two of us, if one isn't going to be at White Hart Lane in August...

Right, there'll be some season review stuff over the next couple of weeks, including the odd guest appearance.

And there'll probably be some despairing commentary on the inevitable and relentless avalanche of transfer nonsense, some of it involving Pavulych... Pavlyec.... Super Pav.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Luka's final lap?


The mood before the Liverpool game was rather flat.

Compared to this though it was 23 Christmases and a couple of millennium eves rolled into one big celebration of hope and glory.

Birmingham at home. It even sounds flat. A flat fixture full of flat vowels.

Astonishingly, though, both teams have something to play for - one of only two Premier League fixtures to fall into that category this weekend.

For them, it's a battle against relegation that they should never have been dragged into.

For us it's the unseemly scramble for fifth that we should never have been dragged into.

I think the majority of Spurs fans want us to clinch it and, next season, fancy us having a good go at winning it - whilst acknowledging that it may well have some (though not a catastrophic) effect on the league campaign.

(Incidentally, I was out on Wednesday night - not that easy to find a pub showing the Porto v Braga final, I gotta tell ya. Still, different story next year...)

It would also be nice to finish above Liverpool again. And, even more basically, it would be nice just to win our last home game, to make it to victories on the trot and to send plays like Luka Modric away for the summer with the feeling that this is a team going places - not a team that huffs and puffs to a dire 0-0 draw at home to bloody Birmingham.

We want Europa League football, but we don't need it. What we need is to be convinced that the underlying trend for Tottenham is still up. We need to look like a team ready to compete in a newly and loosely defined Big Six - although the likelihood is that there could even be divisions within that little lot.

And after the game, of course, the main event: the lap of honour - and all eyes on Luka for any signs of a goodbye.

If he bursts into tears, throws his shirt into the crowd and makes sure he's the last to leave whilst waving furiously to all four corners of the ground, you can bet that not one kick of the preceding 90 minutes will make it into any of the next day's match reports. Not that I'll be reading them. I'll be hanging from a lamppost.

(Incidentally, if you Google 'lamppost', just to check if it's one word or not, the first story you're directed to is this)

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

A word on West Ham... no, not that one


I'm lucky, I guess. I know about a dozen West Ham fans. No, that's not the lucky part. The lucky part is that they're all really nice people: proper football folk with whom you can have an enlightened, entertaining and well-informed discussion about any aspect of the game, even the Olympic Stadium or why we blush to think we only took one point of them this year.

Which means that, whilst I understand Spurs fans' malicious jollity these past few days, I haven't been reveling in the Irons' relegation quite as much as some.

I didn't shed a tear, understand. But neither did I raise a glass. This week, however, listening to 5 Live, I did raise an eyebrow.

Steve Claridge, one of the most successful players, managers and administrators of the modern era, lest we forget, was absolutely caning the club for not changing their manager in January (or whenever it was that the media widely assumed Martin O'Neill was taking over and Avram chucked his claret and blue scarf into the crowd in what was understandably interpreted as a farewell gesture).

He, backed up by Mark Chapman and whoever else was in the studio, then went on to compare (unfavourably) their inertia with the "brave" and "decisive" action taken by West Brom and Newcastle in changing their managers (Roberto Di Matteo and Chris Hughton) mid-stream.

There may be some validity in some of what was said, but it was also hypocrisy and revisionism of the highest (lowest) order. The BBC's party line on any sacking is always, and I mean always, that the board has panicked, not enough patience has been shown and that changing a manager never works.

What's needed, they sanctimoniously intone, is stability. Then they waffle on about Ferguson and Wenger (Who, of course, were both appointed after their predecessors had voluntarily and gracefully stepped aside having put in a solid 25 years at the helm... No! After managers who weren't good enough were sacked).

Now, all of a sudden, the BBC line became: If you don't fire your manager you're a dithering ninny. And if you do, you're a clear-thinking macho man who's not afraid to take tough decisions.

I'm absolutely not saying West Ham were right to hang onto Grant. They clearly weren't. In fact, they almost certainly didn't want to - rather they spivved the whole thing up and lost their replacement before he'd signed as his qualms about working for Daley and Del Boy kicked in. Their fans knew and said this at the time.

But the BCC bloody well didn't. None of their presenters or pundits ever, ever say 'Yeah, the answer here is to sack the manager'. Even when the fans know he's gotta go. They're too close to the game, maybe. Or not close enough to know how it actually feels to be saddled with a manager who might use statistics to skew the truth, but who, the fans know, doesn't have the long-term good of the club at heart.

(Stop it, I'm definitely still talking about West Ham and in no way making a clever and acute allusion to our 'Arry. Seriously).

Clarridge and his accomplices were merely chiming with the completely understandable anger and frustration of the West Ham fans. Populist, opportunistic, hypocritical. I'm still not actually crying for West Ham, but I do sometimes despair at pundits like Steve Claridge.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda...


There can, surely, be no such thing as 'a dispiriting 2-0 win at Anfield', can there?

Of course there can't be, no. And yet that was a strange kind of joy. A wistful kind of joy tinged with regret and frustration.

But, joy nonetheless, so let's concentrate on that. It was a great performance and an excellent result. There was nothing particularly spectacular about it, but it was a team that really wanted the win and knew how to get the job done. Well set-up and spiritedly sent out by Harry. Full marks.

We didn't create a wealth of chances but pinched a couple of goals and looked resolute and unruffled at the back.

Actually, we looked fucking excellent at the back. And it's worth pausing to praise the returning King. Alan McInally, one of the Men Who Stare At Goals this afternoon (and one who's actually worth listening to), was asked after covering our game how good he thought Ledley was.

He was effusive and genuine with his praise. 'Just brilliant. If he'd been fit throughout his career, he'd have had 0ver 100 caps.'

Well said, sir. It fair brought a tear to my eye.

What he didn't say, however, and what every Spurs fan knows, is that King's presence also ensured that Dawson was once again the rock we know he can be. If anything, he was more involved and more effective than his senior partner - but only because the two of them were back in tandem.

Whether Ledley's his mentor, his comfort blanket or just the perfect, calm complement to his playing style, I don't know. But I do know that was his best game since... well, probably since the last time Ledley was fit. Regret upon regret.

Staying at the back, Danny Rose had probably his best game for Spurs so far. Not his best moment, of course, but away at Anfield, and with us under pressure for long periods, he looked assured, strong in the tackle and, as you'd expect, a threat going forward. Who knew he was a left back? Who decided he was a left back? Harry? We can only assume so. Again, full marks.

Even more baffling: Who knew Luka was a penalty taker? Who decided Luka was a penalty taker? Luka? Surely not. He scored, so obviously it was 'a good penalty'. But notice he didn't try and find a corner. It wasn't 'unstoppable'. And it's not, surely, a permanent appointment.

He was, though, excellent in every aspect of his game. As always. I watched the match on a feed from a US channel. I only mention this because they made Modric man of the match. And I only mention that because the man of the match award is 'sponsored by the US marines'. I also learnt that Crazy Larry's prices really are crazy, because Crazy Larry is crazy about value.

Crouch? Nah. He can go to QPR. He seems a nice lad, and it's always an entertaining three minutes or so when he tries to control the ball down from his neck to the floor using every part of his body on the way, but nah, not next season, not for me.

So, the double against Liverpool. Only the fourth win up there in 100 years or something, and a place in the Europa League in our hands.

Now, to some, that's like saying, 'and an especially runny turd in our hands'. As in, it's not something you really want in your hands, or anywhere near you, frankly.

But I want us to qualify and I want us to try and win it. What I want, in fact, is for us all to be in Bucharest just over a year from now, nursing hangovers after Spurs picked up their first European trophy in 28 years the night before, and reflecting that, actually, the journey began at Anfield on 15th May, 2011.

(And ideally I'd like us to be discussing how it can't have hampered our Premier League form that much... SEEING AS WE'RE CHAMPIONS AND EVERYTHING!)

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Tottenham's season about to Kop it


There's a classic episode in Porridge in which Godber has been paid to throw an inter-wing boxing match. But so has his opponent.

The bell goes for the first round, they dance round each other for a few seconds, then simultaneously reach out with a tentative jab - and both collapse in a heap as soon as they feel any contact.

And so we come to the Europa League Play-Off. Which, coincidentally, is an anagram of Tallest Dwarf Competition.

Now, I want us to win on Sunday. I want us to win every game we play. I want us to finish as high as possible. I want us to qualify for the Europa League. And I want us to win the Europa League.

But...

Well, if we don't qualify, I have to admit, I won't be kicking the cat. Possibly giving the gerbil a hard stare, but that's about it.

Also, I don't think we deserve to finish 6th. We've been shocking. And maybe finishing the season with absolutely nothing to show for it will, I don't know, bring things to a head, make a point.... Bring what things to a head? Dunno. What point? Not sure.

Then again, Harry doesn't seem to want the Europa League anyway, so perhaps the king of spin and his media cronies will hail seventh as a tactical masterstroke.

Anyway, we're going to lose, obviously. Liverpool are in great form, they're on a high after King Kenny walked across water to sign his new contract, they've already bought big, they'll have no close-season worries about losing star players - and they're even laughing all the way to the bank after Torres' first little spell at Chelsea.

We, on the other hand, are patched-up, pissed-off and ready for a tense summer of 'Luka Who's Talking to Man Utd' headlines.

Now, who are Everton playing?...

Friday, 13 May 2011

Talking Tottenham with @charlieparrish - Part 4

It's the fourth back and, er, forth with the wise and thoroughly entertaining Charlie Parrish - to be found on Twitter at @charlieparrish and, in blog form, here. This time we're discussing Spurs' next manager. In fact, initially, we're discussing why we're discussing Spurs' next manager...


Charlie,

Firstly, let’s establish why we’re discussing Spurs’ next manager. I’m presuming it’s because we know that in 13 months or whatever he’ll be announced as England’s next manager.

Or that in two months he’ll be banged up.

The point is, I guess, is that we’re preparing for him to leave us rather than calling for him to go, right? I mean yes, we’re in the midst of the worst run since he took over, and yes it really grates when he derides us for daring to expect something slightly better. But: Saving us from relegation + 4th + 6th + a great Champions League adventure + key wins against Arsenal (including one at the emirates) doesn’t = the sack, surely.

In my mind, despite some niggles, he absolutely deserves credit for what he’s done, but, conversely, when he goes I won’t be sorry and I’d actually quite welcome a new manager – just to see what might be possible.


Dave,

I think we’re in an oddly fortunate situation with Harry.

Barring any significant judicial movements or a complete meltdown next season, he’ll be sizing up his Wembley office this time next year. And it’ll be strange to see him off. When he arrived, I felt like an Uncle had arrived to clean up a family mess. With his warm reassurances, practical advice and clear dialogue, I suddenly felt safe again. After years of Director of Football faffing and self-dug holes, here was Uncle ‘Arry to sort it all out.

And he has. Like you rightly point out, his list of accomplishments is robust and impressive. But this late season collapse has left me thinking what a more tactically astute coach could do with this elite group. Perhaps nothing more at all. But us football fans get itchy trigger fingers, particularly those with Tottenham-branded firearms.

We shouldn’t underestimate the affection a lot of these players will hold for Harry. It’s a torch that some will probably use as an excuse for their own exits when he goes. But it’ll be time to roll the managerial dice again whether we like it or not. And we appear agreed that this might not be the most terrible news. But who would we want?



Charlie,

Well, firstly, I think that even in the midst of our dialogue Harry has raised the stakes (and the temperature) in terms of his relationship with us Spurs fans with his ‘suicidal’ (quote marks possibly not needed) comment. Ill-judged, at best. I now think we’re as likely to be looking for a new manager this summer as next.

Also, I think it’s a good and worrying point about you make certain players using his departure to facilitate their own exit. But I guess that depends on who we replace him with. Which brings us to the main course...

Okay, so I’ll be the first one to mention Mr Mourinho, shall I? Opinion seems divided as to whether or not he’d be the right man for us. Some argue that he’s a serial winner (okay, not so much this year) and that if he brings us trophies, maybe even the title, we would love him just like fans at all his other clubs have loved him – with a burning devotion and a V-sign to his/our detractors.

Others seem to think that his ‘anti-football’ style is anathema to ‘the Spurs way’ and that even if he wins us some silverware, he might lose us our identity.

I feel a little disloyal to the true believers, but I can’t help thinking it would be a great ride and I quite fancy it. I actually find him a preening, self-aggrandising and faintly ridiculous man at times. But the centre of the footballing universe seems to shift around him, and I do like the idea of it alighting on White Hart Lane.

There’s a danger here, though, of us looking a little silly. I mean, why would he come to Spurs? If (or, according to him ‘when’) he comes back to the Premier League, he’ll go to Man City or Man Utd, right? And we could come across like the rather plain girl making eyes at the handsome quarter back who only smiles back because he’s confused by our gooey expression, but then looks way quickly as he realises he can’t remember our name and, besides, the prom queen is waiting for him behind the bleachers.

I may have got slightly confused by my American metaphors there, but you get the point.

The card we do hold, however, is the one that appeals to Jose’s ego. Oh yes, sorry, did you not hear? Apparently he has one – with its own weather system.

If he goes to Man Utd the best he can do is not quite as good as Sir Alex. If he goes to Man City, well, they’ve already spent, what, a quarter of a billion? By the time he wins something, it could be more than half a billion. So, yes he likes to go to a club that supplies a limitless budget and yes, if he does win City the title he can say, as with Chelsea, that whilst the money was the main factor, he was the ultimate difference – but, it wouldn’t be messianic. City winning the league is a question of time and diminishing odds, not an achievement of genius to be marvelled at throughout the world and down the ages.

If he wins the title at Spurs – against City’s billions, against his old love, Chelsea, against his old enemy, Wenger, and against the institution that is Man Utd... well then it’s statue time. Roll over Bill Nicholson and tell Keith Burkinshaw the news.

Sorry, that sounds sacrilegious, I don’t mean it to be. I just mean that in the modern game, in this environment, when winning the league isn’t just 50 years away, it’s a million miles away, well that really would be something....

So, thoughts on Jose? And, when we’ve both agreed he’s definitely not coming, who else?



Dave,

Firstly: entirely agree. A Pompey-enduring pal just this morning warned me we’re balls-deep into ‘The Harry Exit Plan’.

Phase One: constantly remind everyone just how well you’ve done and That the fans should be grateful for bringing the good times back.
Phase Two: develop demob happy attitude. Fail to see off inferior opposition? “It was one of those days. The boys did everything but put it in the back of the net.” Draw a vital derby when only three points would do? “We played nice football and gave the fans a show, didn’t we?” Capitulate and hand Man City our Champions League slot? “We’ve overachieved and they’ve got loads of money.”
Phase Three: Start drip-feeding a few moans to the press.
Pahse Four: Ensure media pals exaggerate these moans, paint you as wronged man, hoodwink less savvy fans.
Phase Five: Leave.

The “there might not be any cash this summer” leak sees us move stealthily into Part Three. You’re right, Dave: he may not see out the summer.

So, Jose. I, too, would welcome him. I’ve loved our fill of cavalier Harryball, but, frankly, would welcome some of Mourinho’s dark arts. He is a preening, self-aggrandising, faintly ridiculous man, but I’d love him to be our preening, self-aggrandising, faintly ridiculous man.

Which is why I’ve surprised myself by how much I’ve enjoyed The William Gallas Experience this year. All that snarling, the tactical fouling, the PR-unfriendly honesty. I’d like to see a few more of our players – to borrow a wrestling expression - “turn heel”. Go bad. And who more dastardly to corrupt, for example, Tom Huddlestone into Black Swan than Jose. He add some devil to any number of our fairplay fairies.

It is enormously fanciful though, as you warn, Dave. No matter the ego, or the faintly flattering comments he’s put our way down the years, surely someone – his agent, his staff, his wife, even – might remind him who he is and who we are. It’s a beautiful long shot.

Who else, then? Well, how about Jose Mk. II. André Villas-Boas. 33, sponge-like Bobby Robson/Mourinho apprentice, fluent English speaker, currently has Porto in the Europa League final and safely into the Portuguese Primeira Liga’s winner’s circle, might be more handsome than Jose, has an exceptionally cool name.

Of course, he too might be a fanciful bet, with all of Europe’s aristocrats fluttering their purses. And he could be an inexperienced disaster. But you know what: I bet we go leftfield. I can’t for one second envisage David Moyes being given the nod, for example.

In many ways, he’s the most qualified and deserving of the Spurs job. But call it arrogance, or the club’s foolish romanticism: we don’t like settling. We’re the Liz Taylor of the Premier League, forever preferring that one heart-melting, explosive and unhealthy love affair over a lifetime of stability. We won’t give it to Moyes and we’re probably silly enough to instantly dismiss Owen Coyle. Should Norwich put up at least a fight next season, I’m sure Paul Lambert’s name might some inches. His story is a little sexier, but Levy would be swooning ten-fold if he’d just led Celta Vigo through two promotions.

Of course, I’m afflicted by this terminal romanticism, just like the rest of us. Which is why I daydream of my Jurgen returning through the gates. All sun kissed and rested, Gary Mabbutt and Teddy Sheringham his Tottenham-in-their-veins lieutenants and his best mate Nicola Berti showing up for the mums. Of course, it’d be Ossie: The Remix/Hoddle 2: Legend’s Revenge and I’d be devastated that another hero sullied his playing legacy. But it doesn’t stop these bloody daydreams.

So, Dave, you’re drawing up your list of candidates. Who’s on it?



Charlie,

My problem here is that I’m not one of those devotees of European or lower league football who can give you chapter and verse on emerging players and promising young managers.

So, I won’t be throwing any wildly leftfield names into the ring.

Villas-Boas I’m aware of. And I know he’s well thought of. But the ‘new Mourinho’ tag just seems a bit too convenient for me. Good-looking, well-dressed, Portuguese, spotted early by Bobby Robson, just guided Porto to the Europa League final... surely that’s piquing people’s interest as much as his track record.

Some ugly bastard could be just as successful with Panathinaikos and barely be noticed. Plus he’s 10 years younger than me for fuck sake.

Moyes is an interesting one. I used to be dead set against him. Dour man, dour football. But he’s at Everton, isn’t he? His transfer budget is generated by cutting down on biscuits for the boardroom in June. What can we expect? And when measured over a sustained period, in relation to outlay, he’s been brilliant. No European experience, though. Well, some, but it’s limited, essentially to getting beat.

Klinsmann? Yep, there are endless reserves of affection for The Good German, but, as you point out, there were (are) for Hoddle and Ossie. Nah, I don’t think he’s got his hands dirty enough yet – and don’t think he ever will. Why should he? Carry on driving Herbie round California, Jurgen.

So, with an acknowledgement that my search has been far from thorough and in no way scientific, I’m gonna go for Owen Coyle. He’s made Bolton play neat one-touch football. He’s made Elmander play football! He clearly wants to play the ‘right’ way. And he’s Scottish. Told you this wasn’t scientific.

More than anything I think we need someone with the sort of personality and will to win that actually hits this club so hard it shifts our psyche into a different gear – actually transforms the personality of the club. Like when the young David Bowie got it so hard one of his eyes changed colour. That’s the sort of impact we’re after. We want a man that everybody hates and we fucking love.

Wenger did it for Arsenal, Ferguson did it for United and Mourinho did it for Chelsea. Who’s gonna do it for us?


Dave,

That we’ve tossed about two (well, three including Lambert) un-starry, mid-table Scots and a Junior Jose as our prime candidates perhaps tells us it’ll ultimately be nicely leftfield candidate who succeeds Harry. But it has to be someone the players respond to. A boss with a reputation and ego to match his army of premature millionaires. Someone who they’ll be intimidated (Mourinho-style) or inspired (like King Kenny) into playing for. That’s my only requirement.

Ultimately, it all comes down to a point you raised when we first began this most agreeable of correspondence: this is the most important summer in the club’s most recent history. As most decent bosses always say, it’s how you respond to a defeat that’s important. And if Harry knows it’s to be his final season, he can’t betray the club by half-arsing it between now and August.

I’m hoping he’s told himself the England chances hinge on Tottenham’s performance next season. But the demob happy attitude he’s blithely and offensively brandished towards the season’s end tells me this won’t be the case. I fear a summer of excuses, leaked stories about how we apparently tried to sign some £30m game-changer but couldn’t afford his wages and a series of selfish grumblings.

But do you know what? He’s done nothing but surprise me since he’s been here. And I reckon he’s got one more round of surprises left up his cockney sleeve.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

City slackers


Peter Crouch scores at Eastlands to secure Champions League football for the first time.

Only this time, we can safely assume that it won't be the beneficiary's last go at Big Cup. For us? Who knows.

The game itself was largely an irrelevance - apart from a handful of vignettes that neatly encapsulated our strengths, weaknesses and close-season challenges: Sandro continues to look rather awesome; Modric is a little genius who usually fluffs his lines in front of goal; Crouch has got to go; Pienaar should never have arrived; Van der Vaart drops too deep meaning we end up with one up front; and we can have more than two-thirds possession and still not create any really great chances - thereby losing 1-0 to a team that simply aren't as good as us.

But, it was the position we were in before the match and the comments after the match that were of more concern to most Spurs fans.

Before: We went in knowing that even a win probably wouldn't do us much good. And that, as we all know, is down to a litany of poor results against poor sides.

Important: That's not to say it's been a terrible season, or that we're an awful side, or that Harry's done a bad job judged across his full spell in charge. It's merely to acknowledge that we've had a run of poor results against poor sides, which means we've got less points at this stage than we could reasonably have expected - and that, not City's extravagant spending, is why we're not qualifying for the Champions League.

After: Harry's 'suicide' comment is rapidly gathering the sort of infamy previously attached to Burkinshaw's 'There used to be a football club over there'.

For anyone that missed it, a journalist mentioned that the result meant we'd missed out on Champions League football, and Redknapp replied: "I'm going to commit suicide, it's so sad."

Now, I'm not sure this was said on camera or into a mic. Few of the more reputable media outlets are running it. But, it does sound like the sort of thing he'd say and fits his pattern of incredulously mocking any fan or pundit that dares suggest we've had anything less than a stellar season (or, according to Harry, in fact "the best Spurs have had in God knows how long").

He simply doesn't accept or understand any level of frustration. He thinks gratitude is a far more suitable default setting. Stop me if you think that you've heard this one before, but we only had two points from.... oh, you have head that one.

He's also taken to regularly pointing out City's spending levels. The subtext is basically someone who's lost a fight saying, 'But have you seen the size of them?!'

I've already had my say on Harry. More than once, in fact. And discussed who the next manager just might be.

So I won't regurgitate it all here. But, two contiguous points.

1) Twitter proved an interesting barometer of emotion on the night. There have obviously been grumbles about Harry before, concerning the team's performance and his attitude, but on Tuesday there was something more than grumbling. There was anger. There was vitriol. And there were calls for change.

There was also some pretty robust defending of Harry. Indeed, there was anger on the pro-Redknapp side as well, anger at the perceived audacity of his detractors. There was even, whisper it, some unfollowing.

This could escalate. There could be a horse on fire and someone might get killed with a trident.

It's also a bit unseemly. And, surely, unnecessary, because...

2) Surely every Spurs fan can agree that Redknapp A) deserves praise for his achievements in the last couple of years, but B) isn't exempt from criticism ad infinitum.

There are shades of grey in terms of the praise and criticism, but there are no absolute positions. (Except, of course, there are).

I hate to sound like Rodney King with his 'Can't we all just get along' thing, but, really, Harry doesn't deserve the sack and the last two months have been fucking abysmal. Those two stances are not mutually exclusive.

In a more nuanced world, the interesting scenario is that, without being sacked, he still might not be in charge at the start of 11/12.

He could be in jail or, if he's really unlucky, he could be at Chelsea. Harry doesn't have to be sacked to part company with us. Actual, 'clear your desk you useless fuck' sackings are very rare in the modern game.

But, his departure could still come about - engineered either by him, by the club, or by a bit of both. And the question then is, would you be sorry to see him go and would you be confident we'd get a manager who could do a better job? For me, the answer is yes and no. But not necessarily in that order.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Oh Manchester, so much to answer for*


I can see us getting properly turned over tonight. A team weakened by injuries looks further hampered by flagging morale and growing uncertainty surrounding our future.

We are drifting, rudderless and listless (leaderless?) into summer's harbour. We will have no Champions League football to look forward to, probably no European football of any sort and, according to Harry, very little chance of qualifying for any next year.

We have no solution to our stadium conundrum. No word at all on our stadium conundrum, in fact. Just silence. Maybe they're going for some clever reverse-engineering solution. The current ground isn't big enough to match our ambition - so we've lowered our ambition; the aim now is to become a club that only needs about 36,000 seats. Problem solved.

(Edit: not silence, just a series of stark statements approved by lawyers revealing a dogged but baffling determination with regard to a battle that most fans don't want us to enter, let alone win)

We all know it shouldn't be like this. Arsenal and Chelsea aside, we've picked up seven points from seven of the worst teams in the league. The only one we've beaten, in fact, was Stoke, who are actually playing pretty well at the moment. So, make that four points from six of the very, very worst teams in the league. Four out of 18 when, reasonably and realistically, we should have expected 12-18.

Where Harry is right is in his assertion that top four qualification won't get any easier. Man Utd and Chelsea aren't going anywhere. Man City will spend and spend until they win the lot. And Arsenal, despite a few comedy collapses, remain a side of true quality that haven't finished outside the top four for, what, a decade at least, right?

And then there's Liverpool. There wasn't. But now there is. Again.

That's why we need to shake off this fug with some goals, some wins, some points and some panache. It's what we called for against Blackpool at home - and instead we got another miserable performance, plus a particularly nasty injury to Bale.

We all know, and if we don't Harry is 'happy' to remind you, that Spurs have had darker days than these and been in worse positions than this. But you can't ignore context. You can't keep harking back to a blip under a manager who the team had stopped playing for, or to a time when our playing staff was demonstrably inferior to the current crop.

Right, that's it. In a modernist tribute to the way our season's finishing, this preview's just going to peter out. It's not even going to be a preview. It's going to fail and disappoint. And if it could, it would probably blame you.


* Could just as easily been 'I Know it's Over'. Or 'You Just Haven't Earned it Yet, Harry'.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Anyone for seventh?


Blackpool are a beach ball. Colourful, bouncy, lightweight, fun.

So what are Spurs? Spurs are something that can't even puncture a fucking beach ball. Which makes us something blunt, or floppy, I guess - or just plain useless.

And this match report? It's Dennis Wise - short and angry.

We were lucky to get a point. They had the better chances, while we relied on Jermain Defoe doing one of his casual and all-too-rare 'Oh yeah, I remember, I can drill it in the corner from 25 yards with minimum backlift and maximum power' things.

Apart from that, fuck all.

Earlier, when Everton's second goal went in and the fourth pint slipped down, we were all set for quite the game and quite the day. We could have set ourselves up to head to Eastlands knowing a win would put us one point behind Man City who remain, frankly, shit.

Instead we carried along on our path of relentless and intensely frustrating mediocrity. Actually, mediocrity's too generous; nine points from nine games, when seven of those opponents are virtually the seven worst teams in the league, well that's miserable form.

A draw was a mean little result. I would probably have been happier if they'd have bagged all three points and made themselves something like safe - although I did feel a little less benevolent towards them when I saw Charlie Adam's 'tackle' on Gareth Bale.

Look, it's astonishingly kind of Arsenal and West Ham to try and lift our spirits most weeks with a series of undeniably chucklesome results, but the truth is that the last third of this season has been thoroughly depressing.

And what must the mood be within the squad? Okay, we've fucked up our chances of a Champions League finish, and now look certain to slip to sixth, but a run of comfortable wins and confident performances would surely have gone some way to suggesting that Spurs are worth sticking with - and that next season holds some promise.

As it is, Modric (and whoever else) will go into the summer break despondent not just at a lack of achievement but at a lack of spark, ambition, quality or hope. So, when the league champions and European Cup finalists come calling...

This season's had some pretty high highs, but it's ending on a very low low - and results like this could cost us more than points.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Prediction



7-1

Vodka on the cornflakes, you can't beat it.

Oh, and the 5th/6th poll has closed, revealing that 4 in every 10 Spurs fans would rather we finish 6th. Astonishing.

So, when my not entirely serious prediction is proved woefully wrong by a late Charlie Adam thunderbolt, I expect there'll be substantial cheers from all four sides of the ground, right?

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Blackpool - but not exactly The Big One


This should have been fun. Or at least exciting.

We should be relishing the prospect of these gaudy seasiders breezing into town for an end of season fixture which, if we'd played decently in the last eight games, would have been an irrelevance in a race for fourth that we'd already won. Or, if we'd just played half-decently, the perfect fixture to at least put some distance between us and City ahead of the Eastlands clash.

As it is, the game is an irrelevance and there is plenty of distance between us and City, but, well, you know the punchline...

The Blackpool away game was actually where our season started to unravel. Before then (and after that fucking embarrassment in the FA Cup at Fulham) we'd actually managed to win three league games in a row - and beat AC Milan away.

Then we went to Bloomfield Road and, somehow, lost. Since January 15th, Blackpool have won precisely one game. That game. The one where we had three times as many shots as they did.

It turned out to be the start of a run of eight games from which we've picked up eight points. When it started, we were on a par with Chelsea. Now they're virtually in a play-off for the title, while we're in an unseemly scramble for sixth.

It should have been fun for Blackpool, too. They had 30 points before Christmas, didn't they? Not far off, anyway. Now they're 2/7 to get relegated.

And so both teams head into this fixture in maudlin, regretful mood, but with no one but themselves to blame.

The only thing we can get out of the day is a swaggering, confidence-boosting, never-in-doubt win. Goals galore. A reminder of how good we can be - how good we will be next season, hopefully - for the fans and maybe also for the players, especially those who maybe think they're on the wrong train and are looking to change at the next stop.

We don't need any huffing or puffing. Just swashing and buckling, please. Let's see Modric and Sandro in tandem and Bale and Lennon in full flight. Let's see strikers scoring goals and defenders mainly chatting amongst themselves.

Let's secure fifth, let's rescue something from this custard pie of a season and let's start putting in performances - against relegation candidates and top four rivals - that convince us all the trend is still upwards and the future's still bright.

(Plus, I'm getting to the High Road about four hours before kick off for a few drinks so, seriously, if it's boring, I'll be asleep within 20 minutes. And boy do I snore).

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The ten greatest moments of my Spurs supporting life - No. 1


10)

9)

8)

7)

6)

5)

4)

3)

2)

1) Tottenham 3 - Arsenal 1
FA Cup Semi-Final
Wembley
14/04/91
Spurs scorers: Gascoigne, Lineker (2)

I genuinely had trouble sleeping before the 1991 semi-final with Arsenal. Not the night before, the week before.

It all meant far too much, I'm afraid.

It was my first year as a season ticket holder. I'd been to all the games, home and away, in the cup run to date. Arsenal were romping away with the league. Paul Gascoigne had become the best player in the world. Spurs were on the brink of collapse and/or greatness. It was the first ever semi-final at Wembley. It was the first ever semi-final between Spurs and Arsenal. It was Terry Venables Vs George Graham. It was the rebel alliance Vs the evil empire. It was post Italia '90 and football was probably more popular than it had ever been.

People, I cannot overstate what a fucking big deal this game was.

Now, perhaps, it might not seem so big, or so special. We've played Arsenal in two more semi-finals since then. All semi-finals are held at Wembley. And, thanks to the Premier League and Sky, a Bolton throw-in gets its own theme tune, but in 1991, this was uncharted territory.

I remember when it was announced where they were staging the match. We were wide-eyed with wonder. They couldn't, surely? But nowhere else could take us, nowhere else could cope with or do justice to the occasion. The only alternative was space.

The game. When we were awarded that free kick, I said to a friend, 'He won't shoot from there'. What I meant was he shouldn't shoot from there. I knew he was hyped up, I knew he believed anything was possible, but here was a chance to float a decent ball into their box and see if we could maybe sneak something.

Boom.

And one of the great pieces of commentary, courtesy of Barry Davies: "Is he going to have a crack? He is you know. Oh I say. Brilliant. That (pause) is schoolboys own stuff. Is there anything left from this man to surprise us?"

Sadly, of course, there was. But that would come another day. Gazza wasn't finished with this match yet.

A few minutes later he darted, dummied and feinted down the right wing before slipping Paul Allen in. His cross caused a scramble and Lineker poked home.

Before the break, Alan Smith pulled one back. A boring man with a boring voice scoring a boring goal.

The second half was the most nervous I've ever been at a football match. At one point as they attacked, everyone stood up in anticipation of a shot coming in, I stood up too, I had to, just to see, but as I did my legs shook so violently that I had to sit straight back down again. Torture.

And then Gary Mabbutt, genial, lion-hearted, Gary Mabbutt fed Lineker just inside their half, Vinny Sideways made a run (yes, sideways) to take away a defender, allowing the future Match of the Day anchor to burst into the space and fire a really rather weak shot into the far corner.

'And David Seaman will be very disappointed about that', said Davies, once again surpassing himself. The phrase actually became the title of a single by indie supergroup The Lillies, comprising Spurs-supporting members of The Cocteau Twins, Lush and Moose. It was given away as a flexi-disc on the cover of The Spur fanzine.

Merson, I think, hit the bar late on and the rebound fell to... Campbell, possibly, who dragged his shot wide. At that moment, I knew we'd done it. Joy was unconfined.

It was a fantastic game and a great result, but the truth is, we shouldn't (have to) hark back to it as much as we do. We should have done better since then. For a start, we should have won another semi-final - we've played five and lost five.

It tops my list, though, not because it was a great achievement or because it was against Arsenal, but because it came at a certain time and was the last real roar of a certain Spurs spirit. In the late '80s, under George Graham, Arsenal had started to pull away from us. They'd had the better of the head-to-heads and had started to pick up trophies as well.

But they were still Arsenal. They were still a prosaic and yeomanry bunch who worked hard for their wins and ground out results. They hadn't had their makeover yet. They weren't pretty.

Spurs weren't as pretty as they had been in the mid-80s. No side with David Howells in it can ever be described as really pretty. They weren't even a patch on the '87 team, when the five-man midfield plus Clive Allen up top threatened to win the lot.

But we still at least played the part of the swaggering cavaliers. We still believed our own hype and tried to live up to it. We still signed players like Paul Gascoigne and built a team around him. Arsenal would never have done that.

Hey, they were probably right. And we were probably wrong. But at least we were who we were. We were still playing our respective parts, before those fuckers chucked away the script away and stole our costume.

Two years later, when Arsenal got their revenge, I took solace (though not much) in the 'style' of their victory and the contrast with ours. They pinched it 1-0 thanks to a Tony Adams header from a set-piece: an ulgly win, an ugly match, an ugly player. We'd lit Wembley up, attacked from the off, scored three, conceded one and been inspired by the most skillful player in the world. We'd both won according to type.

That's all changed now, of course. Everything's changed. My relationship with Spurs has changed. Back then, everything seemed possible. Winning three or four major trophies every 10 years seemed feasible. I was young, dammit. Maybe that's what I miss most. Maybe that's what gives this match its golden glow.

I hope this isn't number one forever. I hope it is easily and gloriously eclipsed by the current crop or by some heroes we've yet to see wearing those famous white shirts. But even if it does sink down the rankings, it will never fully fade, because:

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Chelsea needed assistants - and our season's crossed the line marked 'disappointing'


You know when you take a tumble or get into a scrape, it's often not the first pain you feel that turns out to give you the most trouble?

Maybe you initially wince at a cut on your knee, or feel the sharp sting of taking some skin off your hands. That fucking hurts. You fucking curse. That's definitely the fucking problem. And that's what you focus on.

Then a day or even a week later, that pain's gone, and what's actually bothering you is the dull, nagging ache in your ribs. That's what you really need to get checked out. That's the real damage.

Yesterday we all initially raged and cursed against the injustice of two goals that should never have stood. They were both close calls, but only one was an understandable mistake from the linesman - the offside decision. The ball had ping-ponged around a bit, and Kalou was only fractionally off. It happens.

The first, however... surely you can only give it if you're sure? And, seeing as the ball didn't cross the line, well, he can't have been sure, can he? It's an inherent contradiction.

Fair play to both managers, though. Ancelotti immediately said Chelsea were lucky and Redknapp refused to lambast the officials. Not sure Wenger or Ferguson would have been so magnanimous if they'd have been given either end of the lollipop.

That was the grazed knee, though. The morning after, we have worse wounds. Gomes, for a start. These howlers are becoming too regular. One a season? Okay, maybe, but, what, three or four in the last month or so, plus a couple of near misses.

As Danny Baker (@prodnose) said on Twitter yesterday: "To be fair, I think most officials these days start signaling for a goal as soon as the ball heads towards Gomes."

He's become a punchline. And f0r Spurs fans, that joke isn't funny anymore.

Also, for the rest of the game we didn't really threaten - but, Chelsea weren't exactly swarming all over us, either.

Sandro was, of course, excellent, and showed he's got a Thud-style thunderbolt in the locker, whilst, alongside him, Luka continues to make us tick. They look like being our first choice pairing from now on.

(Plenty of talk about Scott Parker in the papers this morning, but centre midfield is surely one department where we're overly blessed).

Pav was immensely frustrating and gave the ball away too easily too often. He's not far away from being a brilliantly effective striker who could take the Premier League by storm. But far enough. And perhaps we've given him long enough.

So, 4th is off the menu. Just the two vegetarian options remain, 5th or 6th. With a trip to Anfield to come and morale in the toilet, 6th looks most likely (although I absolutely don't subscribe to the school of thought that says it's most desirable).

We will end the season (as we've ended most seasons in the last 20 years) with no trophy and no European football. This time, though, it be a real punch in the guts - and the pain will be felt deeper and last longer than yesterday's grazed knee.