Friday, 30 November 2012

Fulham Vs Tottenham: Some things are more important than the result

Spurs have a rare opportunity to right a wrong this Saturday against Fulham. And it is one they must seize.

The football world was appalled recently when Shakhtar Donetsk's Adriano flouted the conventions (if not the laws) of the game by cynically pouncing on of one of those tiresome 'After You, Claude' free kicks, banging the ball in the back of the net and then twirling his waxed moustache in celebration. Disgusting.

It (the football world, remember; think of a world, but marked out in black and white hexagons) was then further outraged when UEFA punished this black-hearted transgression of the spirit of the game (stop giggling) with a paltry one match ban rather than the far more appropriate removal of the testicles.

On Saturday, though, a similar situation will play out. Dimitar Berbatov has, of course, already scored against us in this game. An old-fashioned linear approach to the concepts of time and space means we haven't seen it yet, but he has scored. It is done. The goal exists. Just not in this moment.

So, to save everyone time, to allow our still-dreamy ex-striker to enjoy the moment and, more self-servingly, to give us the time to equalise, the Tottenham team should do the decent thing on Saturady, do what Shakhtar should have done after Adriano's villainous transgression: simply allow the Fulham to kick off, let Berba dribble up to our goal unchallenged and slot home. Personally I'd like to see him drop down onto his tummy and head the ball over the line, schoolboy style.

It's what that game needs. It's what the game demands. And it's a damn site better than him notching a winner in the 93rd minute.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Why tonight's game is the biggest of the season so far

This is the big one; the bellwether, the true test.
Until now there have been a few routine results, the odd stunner and a few stinkers. But this is the one.
After a run of swings and roundabouts, this is the see-saw game. Pivotal, see? Cheers.
The reason is because for the last few years we have been a better side than Liverpool. And in order to achieve anything, we need to remain so.
Actually, let's not skip on so fast. Let's read that again: For the last few years we have been a better side than Liverpool.
For anyone of my generation, that is a staggering collection of words - especially in that order.
When I first became aware of football Liverpool were just embarking on a breathtaking era of domination at home and abroad.
As a child I remember thinking that them winning the league simply didn't count. Only other teams could win the league; win it off Liverpool, to whom it belonged - and then apologetically give it back.
A season that ended with Liverpool on top was like a dot ball or a safety car lap. It meant nothing had happened. The status quo (also huge at the time) had been maintained.
The idea of Spurs being better than them was frankly ridiculous.
But now we are. And have been for a while. It's rather unsettling. It really hit home a couple of years ago when we casually popped up to Anfield and very calmly cruised to a routine 2-0 win. A routine 2-0 win, people!
I think Ledley may have zipped back into the office for the afternoon to do a bit of tidying up. Didn't tax him too much, as I recall. Pretty sure he had a tea break at one point.
We are, of course, perfectly capable of losing to them tonight. And that won't necessarily make them a better side than us, or indicate that they'll finish above us.
But it we win, and we play better than them, and finish higher than them, then it certainly won't be a bad night or a bad season.
And then we'll start being disappointed and rather surprised when we don't beat them and don't finish above them. At which point I will be excited about the arrival of time travel but perturbed by the recent invasion from Mars.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Spurs' season so far: the definitive guide

We've beaten some cannon fodder. Failed to beat some other cannon fodder. And played really rather flippin well at Old Trafford for 45 minutes.
Actually that doesn't look right. 'Cannon fodder', I mean. Too redolent of The Other Lot. But then if you transpose our crest for theirs in that phrase, it becomes cock fodder. And that doesn't look right either. That doesn't look right at all.
The first three games, especially the two home games, were extremely frustrating. But they were the first three games. For the manager, for some of the players, for a new system, etc. So, whilst it wouldn't have been outlandish to expect seven points, it wasn't a disaster to get two. (Try telling that to the cat, though. My cat. Not Peter Bonetti; I didn't kick Peter Bonetti twice. Although I'm not saying I wouldn't if given the opportunity)
Since then, to quote John Le Mesurier, it's all been rather wonderful. 
(Peter Bonetti, John Le Mesurier, this really is one for the teenagers)
And now here come Chelsea. The Blue Meanies (another bang up to date cultural reference point, thanks very much) of modern football. They'll most likely field a front four that cost around £140m and are probably paid, between them, about £40m a year. God how I admire their pluck and commitment.
Paragraph here about what a loathsome cove John Terry is, obviously. Although, actually, what's best, is the way Chelsea fans (and officials) continue to laud him and happily hail him as some sort of club totem. Which is fair enough, actually, because he so is.
Anyway, I can't be bothered doing the 'research', but I'm figuring it's unlikely we'll put out an entire team that cost half that amount this season.
If we beat them we will definitely win the league. I say that with absolute certainty and a blood/alcohol reading of 0.45.
Actually I kind of hope Chelsea and Man City occupy the top two places in the league at the end of the season. And stay there. Forever. Occasionally swapping places. Eventually fielding teams of billionaires against each other. Spending more and more and more and more...
And then in a few years time they'll look behind them and see that we've all packed up and gone away. And it'll be like the bit where Wile E Coyote looks at the camera, realises he has actually hurtled off a cliff, and plummets to the floor. Because there is nothing solid underneath his stupid whirring feet.
Oh, and Moussa Dembele is my new favourite player, since you ask. He's dreamy. I like him so much I looked up how to spell his name. I even considered trying to work out how to put acute accents on the 'e's. Actually I BET HE'S GOT A CUTE ACCENT. Hahahahaha.
That is all.

Monday, 27 August 2012

So farewell then, Luka

One of the chaps in the row behind us at White Hart Lane was once attempting to extol the virtues of Luka Modric. Fumbling for the words to express his admiration, he eventually said: 'He just, I dunno, when he has the ball at his feet, he just… he glides'.

'Glides' is quite an unusual word for a football fan to use. And so, of course, it was seized upon. For around a year, whenever our number 14 got the ball, this bloke's fellow season ticket holders would all gleefully shout 'Go on Modric, glide, my son, glide!'

They did it to rib their mate, of course, but they also did it because they knew he was spot on. Luka did glide. He beat people through touch and movement. He didn't look to stepover, or nutmeg or purely outpace. He lost markers simply by being more aware of space, of his own body, of the position and likely next movement of an opponent – all combined with sublime control. 

He had the ability to execute the spectacular: there were raking cross field balls, the odd thunderbolt; but mostly, entirely appropriately, his brilliance came in small, subtle packages.

(The only drawback, he was appalling in front of goal; the guy finished like an asthmatic in a marathon.)

Now he's gone. Thankfully, I can't muster myself to care. I would have done, a while ago. Luka was my last footballing crush; a footballing crush defined as a player I watch above all others and long to perform and impress because in doing so he validates my love for him; I believe that he represents something about my club, about the way football should be played, and about me, probably.

It started with Hoddle, then Waddle, then Gascoigne, I even had a bit of a thing with Anderton in the early '90s, but neither of us like to talk about it. Since then, I've fallen in love less easily. There was Berbatov, of course, but I think that may have been lust. I knew he'd treat me badly in the end. And I'm still not sure if I enjoyed it or not.

Then along came Luka. Skinny, scruffy, little Luka. He looked as if he should play with his socks round his ankles. He was pretty much perfect for me. And I was in love again. Unlike all the other affairs, though, this one didn't end when he left me/us, it ended because, well, you can't love a woman if you don't love women. So when football suddenly seemed bleak and soulless and the scales fell from my eyes, Modric and me were just a casualty of that break-up. Now jog on, rat face.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Beautiful Games - and the return of Clive Tyldesley

I didn't need the unadulterated wondrousness of the Olympics to throw the grubbiness and sheer wrong-headedness of the Premier League into sharp relief.

Watching under/hardly paid, decent sportsmen and women compete honestly and ferociously, then accept their fate and finishing position with humility, equanimity, tears and smiles has, of course, been a delight. But I already knew the modern day footballer was in another world. Similarly, I don't need to stick my head in a bowl of pot-pourri to know that sh*t stinks. Talking of which...

On Sunday, I caught maybe 10 minutes of the Community Shield. I saw the multi-millionaires (paid by multi-billionaires) strut their stuff, I saw close-ups of the snarling, baying crowd, I heard their chants and their boos, I heard Clive Tyldesley's voice,  I was even unlucky enough to catch a celebration: all clenched fists and preening machismo. And I thought, Jesus football, you're just so... ugly. So unappetising, so out of tune and out of touch.

I still love football. I still love kicking a ball more than I love running round things, throwing things or jumping over things. My favourite sporting memories all revolve around football. I still have more admiration for the skill of a great player than I do for any other sporting prowess. But do I admire or like the player executing that skill? These days, almost certainly not.

I also know football, in terms of its fanbase (its most active and vociferous fanbase), is a working class sport in a way that, say, rowing, is not. And that it inspires a different type of passion, one that lasts a lifetime rather than burns and fades in time with the Olympic flame. These are both good things. But no, this isn't about class. Well, maybe it is, but not that type of class.

The Olympic athletes were the best of us. They performed, won and lost with the values and spirit that we hold dear and like to think we carry in our real lives. Premier League players are on Planet Football. They breath a different air. They are not the best of us. They are not even the worst of us. They are simply not of us. They are other. We don't understand them. And we don't particularly like them.

There are exceptions, of course. There are honest, decent, inspirational footballers. But not many (The upcoming book by The Guardian's Secret Footballer will, I fear, bear this out in plenty of gory, gaudy detail). And there are athletes who cheat and bitch and think their money and status excuse them from the 'binds' of everyday morals and mores. But, again, not many.

As I said at the start, though, the Olympics didn't influence my feelings for football one iota. Like most people, over the last two weeks, I fell in love with these amazing games. But I fell out of love with football way, way before the B of the Bang.

Friday, 15 June 2012

What's this? Harry's left?! Why didn't anyone tell me?...

I wasn't overjoyed when Harry was appointed.

I wasn't dismayed, but I didn't see it as a great choice or huge step forward.

I considered his managerial record (one very streaky cup win in 30-odd years) to be far from stellar - and thought his kudos was based as much on a 'one-of-the-chaps persona' allied to media smarts as much as footballing achievements.

But, he took us from bottom to eighth, and then to fourth, and then to the quarter finals of the Champions League. I must be a convert, right? And gnashing my teeth and the sheer lunacy of sacking a manager with such an impressive record?

Well, certainly I'm not celebrating his departure, and I'm not sure that whoever we get next will take us forward. Forward would be third. And third would mean finishing higher than two out of Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and a more expensively–assembled/better paid Chelsea squad than ever.

But I'm not mourning his departure either. I don't think many Spurs fans are.

For a start, his achievements have to be put in perspective. Yes he got us into the Champions League, but we weren't exactly miles off before. Martin Jol was an extra 30 seconds in the microwave from cracking it. And Harry had a much better squad at his disposal. The best Spurs squad since 86/87. And the best Spurs midfielder since Paul Gascoigne.

So let's maybe not overstate his record. And let's not forget playing like absolute puddings in an FA Cup semi-final against a broken Portsmouth, or letting a 12 point lead (and possible tilt at the title) slip away.

(I actually think Harry's right when he says Spurs fans should view finishing fourth last season as an achievement. Considering where we were in February I think it's an absolute miracle)

But, if we didn't bend a knee in gratitude at any given moment, if we dared question decisions or demand slightly more, then we were always likely to cop a bit of flack from Harry and his cronies in the media.

And that's one of the reasons why I won't miss him: he just seems so consistently and suspiciously defensive when he talks about fans: Spurs fans, Portsmouth fans, Southampton fans, West Ham fans...

He shakes his head and incredulously asks what 'they' expect, insinuating that 'they' should think themselves lucky to have him - and implying that what went before and was pretty paltry compared to the riches he's delivered.

In Spurs case, of course, when in this mode, he always referred to the club (not just the fans) as 'they'. As in his sarcastic, 'Yeah, cos they were always qualifying for the Champions League before I got here weren't they?'

Like rival fans and some sections of the media, he saw Spurs supporters as arrogant and deluded, warped by a weird and inexplicable sense of entitlement; impatient for success and angry about 'under-achievement'; unaware, basically, of their actual position in the modern game and, therefore, unable to gauge what is and isn't success - unable, in fact, to recognise it let alone enjoy it when it comes along, because it's not the sort of success we think we deserve.

But that's not my view or my experience of fellow fans at all. All that nonsense about the Carling Cup being Mickey Mouse? Strap some big ol' ears on me and tell Minnie I'm coming home drunk. I loved winning it and want some more.

I think most of us know what level we're at, how easy it would be to sink considerably lower and how hard (maybe impossible without Chelsea/City money) it's going to be to inch up just a little higher.

Harry, on the other hand, believed the slack-jawed, loud-mouthed, arrogant and ignorant cliche. And that was pretty insulting.

(And, yes, we do have those types, so does ever club. But the majority of 'us' are realistic, sanguine and generally pretty stoic after decades of, largely, disappointment).

Anyway, he's gone now, and once again I am not overjoyed and I am not dismayed. The only question that really matters is who's next? The answer, I think, is obvious: we appoint Tim Sherwood, call him Interim Coach, win the title and then just wait for John Terry to turn up and lead the celebrations. COYS!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Flippin Fulop - far from 'armless

Wise football folk will always say your team's fate isn't decided on the final day. They also say there is no point in looking back over a season of iffy decisions, glaring misses and last minute equalisers to work out either where you blew it or how different things would be in a 'fair' universe.

They're right, of course. So let's not do that. Let's definitely not dwell on being robbed away at Stoke (and rotten at home to Stoke), or getting precisely no points from consecutive games against Norwich and QPR. Let's not linger over having efforts cleared off the line at the death in both games against Chelsea. Or THAT moment away at Man City (followed almost immediately by THE OTHER MOMENT away at Man City)

But can we, perhaps, take just a minute or two to gape open-mouthed and broken-hearted at the performance of Mr Martin* Fulop - once of this parish, more recently of West Bromwich, and now, presumably, of a brand new palace made of gold and crushed unicorn horns in some far-off island paradise (how he afforded it, I guess we'll never know).

I heard on Sunday evening, via Twitter of course, that he had had a shocker, but couldn't be bothered to check it out. I then accidentally saw the goals on SSN the next morning. Oh my word. That's match-fixingly bad.

That was Hooveringly bad. As in a proper noun nearly became a verb ('Ooh, he's fuloped that right up') and a common noun ('The lad's had a fulop') in just a matter of minutes.

West Brom would surely have done better to play one-armed washer-upper Albert Riddle from Robin's Nest between the sticks. Ah, you might point out, but the actor that played him, David Kelly (obviously), died early this year.

I know. And?

(Oh, by the way, no, I don't think for a moment there was anything crooked about his performance; and I think if you had to pinpoint any one factor in us finishing fourth rather than third, it would be Arsenal winning six points in injury time within the space of five games or so, by grabbing winners against Sunderland, Liverpool and Newcastle. As far as I know, that's perfectly within the rules)

*Actually Marton, but it looks so much like a typo...

Monday, 16 April 2012

Spurs - masters in the art of disappointment

(I was asked to write a piece on the semi final by Sabotage Times. 'Funnily' enough, the morning after, I didn't much feel like it. But I did. I did this, in fact. The main theme, as you'll see, is disappointment. It was tapped into my phone on the train to work, filtered through a hangover)

Over the years I've been consistently surprised and impressed by Tottenham's ability to find new ways of disappointing me.

The 90s were a bit grim as we relied too heavily on just 'being rubbish', but lately we've rediscovered some real panache and yesterday was vintage Spurs.

True we had a little help from a referee who sensed we were struggling to lose convincingly and so bravely decided to make a big call that less imaginative officials might have shied away from.

No, the ball didn't actually cross the line, but there's far too much emphasis placed on that aspect of 'goals' in the modern game – and it did tick an awful lot of other boxes (no one was offside, there wasn't even a suspicion of handball), so I think it was probably, on balance, the right decision. And it gave us a real platform on which to build.

From then on it was all about us. We rallied, scored a fine goal and introduced the key element in all truly epic disappointment: hope.

What the casual observer will have missed, though, was that even in the scoring of the goal, we secured defeat. When Adebayor goes round Cech and is brought down to deny what, even by our on-loan striker's iffy definition, must be classed as a goal scoring opportunity, we have a penalty and they have 10 men. That would have left us a mountain to fall off.

Bale, instinctively sensing the danger, rolls the ball into an empty net and, unnoticed by everyone but the most seasoned Spurs fans, nullifies the threat of us actually winning. He's got the potential to go on and become one of our most disappointing players of all time, that lad; just a question of how much he wants it.

Oh and then Chelsea scored what seemed like dozens of goals, some of which were rather good.

As an added bonus we're now free to concentrate on securing a particularly disappointing end to the league campaign.

Ever since the Man City away game in January it's been a masterclass in 'the Spurs way': Are we going to win it? No! Are we going to rub shoulders with the Manchester clubs and look smugly down on Chelsea and Arsenal scrapping for fourth? No! Are we going to finish above Arsenal for the first time in 846 years? No! Are we going to secure Champions League football? No! Disappointment upon disappointment. The only question now is what will be more disappointing: qualifying for the Europa League or not qualifying for the Europa League? I'll leave it to Spurs to decide - they're the experts.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Triffic tactics - from Daniel, not Harry

I see what we're doing. I get it.

What's clearly happening is that in the build up to each of our last eight games, Daniel Levy is allowing the manager of the opposition to be linked heavily with the Spurs job, thereby causing them to stop and think, at least sub-consciously, do I want Champions League football or not?

It worked on Brendan Rodgers. There wasn't a booking, barely a tackle, hardly any shots and their goal was just an unhappy accident. And they then spent the next ten minutes defending so badly that we looked dangerous from set pieces.

Smart move, Danny boy, smart move. Not sure he's thought it through, though.

I mean it'll work this week against Sunderland. Might work against Norwich. Can even give it a go against Bolton and QPR.

But then we play Blackburn. Steve Keane for Tottenham? Not seen a headline quite as unbelievable since that World War II bomber was found on the moon. The Metro will probably go with it.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

I'm with Cherie Lunghi

At the nail-biting denouement of pioneering '80s drama The Manageress, one of the players has to take a penalty which, if he scores, means the team, called, er, something or other, will, um, I dunno, get promoted. Or avoid relegation.

Look I was mainly (only) watching for Cherie Lunghi. But what I do remember is that, her character, The Manageress, just before the kick is taken, turns her back and walks away. She is so disillusioned with... sorry, again, I'm not quite sure, it was either drugs or match-fixing... anyway, she was so disillusioned with something that she could no longer actually bring herself to care whether or not the pen went in.

I know how she feels.

(Just reading that again and really wishing it was true)

But, no, I empathise. Honestly, if Cheri Lunghi's so hacked off with football that she fancies an early bath then I see no good reason why I shouldn't join her.

As Tony Hancock would have said: Honestly, I ask you, what's the point? What is the point?

I mean we'll have those all or nothing moments between now and the end of the season, sure, in the league and in the cup, but they're just blinking lights in a vast dark sky. A vast dark sky that's falling in. So it's time to get philosophical and go Lunghi.

Either that or I'm sulking.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Supporting Spurs is for lunatics

Essayist, bon viveur and garish jazz enabler George Melly wrote that one of the 'benefits' of growing old was that as your libido dissipated then disappeared it was 'like being unshackled from a lunatic'.

A similar effect can be achieved at a far younger age, of course, simply by getting married.

I wonder, though, how similar the effect would be if we could just turn off the part of our brain that cares about football? The bit that supports Spurs and still, despite what much smarter bits of the brain keep telling it, harbours hopes of glory. It would, I am certain, be wholly joyous.

The wild mood swings; the emotional dependency; the regular outlays of serious cash for no tangible or lasting return; the breakdown of relationships with friends and family who just don't understand that this week, unlike last week, when it was apparently a life affirming laugh riot, Harry Hill's TV Burp is deserving of nothing but grumpy, sweary disdain (clue: we lost): this is nothing short of a debilitating and damaging addiction.

It must stop.

Maybe I'll wander into one of those Alpha Course churches, with their posters that constantly ask you what's missing from you life. Or maybe there's an Allen Carr-style guru especially for our type of affliction who can prescribe some sort of programme. Is there a patch, maybe?

It's not the first time I've thought this. As long ago as the 1991 FA Cup semi final with Arsenal I remember being retrospectively horrified at the prospect of having lost. How much would it have hurt? Was it healthy for something so far beyond my control to matter so much?

Two years later, of course, we did lose, and I found out exactly how much it hurt. I hadn't kicked the habit in time. I still haven't. But I surely must.

(And yes, whenever you're reading this, whatever the next home game is, I'll see you at White Hart Lane; at what is more a support group than a group of supporters. Which is precisely why this blog is called Such Small Portions.)

Monday, 12 March 2012

This bears no relevance to Tottenham's current season

It also contains no information or insight concerning any matches we've just played or will soon play. It does not purport to tell you what we should have 'learned' from the Everton game or what we need to do against Bolton, Stoke or Chelsea, or why Harry... etc.

So, if you're the type of reader who likes a 'point' to things, you'll probably want to give this a miss. Because what it is, in fact, is:

Some things I noticed whilst recently watching the first leg of the Spurs v Anderlecht UEFA Cup Final of 1984...

1) A brilliant hand-scrawled banner in the Spurs end that just says, in massive letters, 'CHELSEA ARE ALL MOUTH'.

2) Pretty relentless monkey noises when Danny Thomas gets the ball. It still happens, sadly, but here the commentator makes no mention of it whatsoever.

3) Lack of replays. There must be less than half a dozen in the entire game. And when they are used they have that strange light quality that Brian De Palma used in the last scene of Carrie. At one point Mark Falco misses an open goal. No replay. Then again, it was quite a familiar sight in the mid-80s, so maybe wasn't deemed worthy of a second look.

4) Fans leaving on stretchers. Quite a lot of them. And they ain't moving. Again, the commentator doesn't make much of it. It seems to be just part of the 'occasion'. And is very much linked to...

5) Snarling Alsatians patrolling the perimeter of the stands, straining at their leashes to get a good bite of hooligan flesh. (They have handlers, I should add. Things were different back then, but dogs didn't run their own division of continental police forces.)

6) The TV cameras just watch the game, much like you or I would do. There are hardly any cutaways to the crowd or to the bench. They assume, quite rightly, that we would rather see players playing than a manager chewing or some buffoon in the stands showing 'passion'.

7) The game hardly ever stops. Players take knocks, but when they go down the ref doesn't stop the play, the physio isn't waved on, so they tend to get up, rub their legs, maybe hobble for a bit, and then they're fine. I'm not saying this makes these 'the good old days' or that players were tougher, the game was more manly etc., it's just the way it was.

There, that was a nice diversion, wasn't it? Now, as for Gareth Bale playing on the right...

Monday, 5 March 2012

Tottenham: Where did it all go wrong?

This is a classic 'Where did it all go wrong?' moment.

You know the story, of course; it practically defines George Best. One afternoon, injured or AWOL, our man, instead of slogging away at the training ground, is 'relaxing' on a hotel bed surrounded by swathes of bank notes, bottles of Champagne and a Miss Universe (or two, depends who you believe).

A waiter walks in to deliver some room service, assesses the scene, shakes his head ruefully and asks, 'Oh George, where did it all go wrong?'

And here we sit, third in the table, with a run in that, apart from one or two exceptions is more or less strewn with petals, - oh, and home games against Stevenage and Bolton between us and an FA Cup semi final.

So, where did it all go wrong?

Well, we lost away at Arsenal and at home to Man Utd. For about 90 minutes across the two games we were pretty woeful, for the other 90 minutes, we were probably just about the better side but failed to really capitalise.

Win our next two league games and we should still be fine. It would mean we couldn't come out the other side of Chelsea away any worse than a point ahead of Arsenal. And from then on the average league position of our last eight opponents is about 15th.

So, Everton away becomes, inevitably, the most important game of the season so far.

Remember though, the thing about that George Best story is that the joke's supposed to be on the waiter. We're meant to laugh at him for asking such a dumb question. But he was right, wasn't he? Things had started to go wrong for Best.The causes and the symptoms of his decline were indeed all present in that hotel room - his very presence there being one of them.

Which means we actually learn nothing from it. Except, maybe, how to console ourselves on Saturday night after Tim Cahill bags a late winner.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Tottenham's list of shame

Been a while, hasn't it? Anything happened?

Well, yes, loads, obviously. There was that ridiculous see-saw game with City, the bore draw with Liverpool, Redknapp told the world he couldn't read or write, but was cleared of swerving tax payments, Capello quit, Harry was suddenly in the frame rather than being framed, and we knocked seven shades of hype out of Newcastle.

But forget all that. Let's look forward. Forward to the end of the world. Because that's what it will be if we lose to Stevenage on Sunday. Cupocalypse.

I know we're having a rather jolly time in the league, but defeat on Sunday would bring everything tumbling around our ears (including mountains and suchlike). Surely it's not just me that can sense the portents of doom? You see the vultures, right? The boiling seas? The angry skies? Tomorrow is Hell in a New Town. Or, as they call it in Stevenage, Sunday.

So, whilst we're talking FA Cup and looking on the bright side, I thought I'd share a shameful list of teams that have been finalists since we last made it in 1991:

Liverpool (three times)
Arsenal (six times)
Sheffield Wednesday
Man Utd (seven times)
Chelsea (seven times)
Everton (twice)
Newcastle (twice)
Aston Villa
West Ham
Portsmouth (twice)
Manchester City

Rubbish, isn't it?

Here's another equally appalling list:


Those were our opponents in five consecutive losing semi finals. Surely no other club in history has lost five semi finals in a row?


Still, it won't matter tomorrow, when the world ends.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The wisdom of Jim Royle and the future of Spurs

In one of the heart string-tugging Christmas episodes of The Royle Family, Denise is pregnant, they all watch a bit of telly, then her waters break.

It famously ends with Jim and his daughter alone, upstairs. The drama of the moment heightened by the unfamiliarity of the surroundings and their rare removal from their emotional and actual comfort zone. He talks to her movingly about the joys of parenthood and what she's meant to him over the years, before checking: 'Are you sure it's not just a bloody great p*ss?'

The same question applies to Spurs: Have we made a significant breakthrough, or have we just been on a bloody great run?

Since losing, heavily to Man Utd and Man City, we have, basically, won games we should have (yes, I'm pleased to say that includes Arsenal), failed to beat Chelsea at home, failed to beat Wolves at home, lost to Stoke, conceded late equalisers to Newcastle and Swansea...

Look, it's been great, obviously. We've played some fantastic stuff. And to baldly state we've 'won games we should have' dismisses just how many of them we've won and how hard it is to actually do that.

But, it is a very real possibility that we're about to not win a whole load of games that we shouldn't, get overtaken by Chelsea and find ourselves in a scrap for 4th with Arsenal which, really, isn't that far from where we've been, on and off, for a few years now.

You see, against Wolves, we apparently, 'wobbled', or 'showed signs of feeling the pressure', or even 'reverted to type'.

But I think we played more or less as we did against West Brom and Sunderland, only without the odd bounce of the ball/favourable decision.

The media fitted the result to a narrative that casts us as title challengers who bottled it a bit. But it looked an awful lot to me like Spurs. Has there been what marketing types might call 'a paradigm shift'?

If we win away to City tomorrow, the answer's going to have to shift from 'probably not' to 'quite possibly'. Which is ridiculous in itself, because winning away at City used to be a matter of routine.

So, are Redknapp and Levy birthing a glorious new era at White Hart Lane, or have we just been having a bloody great p*ss? Cross your fingers - and your legs - because we might be about to find out...

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Tiresome media hysteria and rival fans' wilful idiocy

Media (when Spurs are doing quite well): Harry, is it possible for Spurs to win the league?

Harry: It's 'possible', yes.

Headline: 'We can win title, roars Spurs boss'.

Other teams' fans: Ha, look at them getting carried away

Media (when Spurs inevitably drop points): So, Harry, do you still think you're going to win the league?

Harry: I never said I thought we were going to win the league! You asked me if I thought it was possible and, to avoid lying, I said yes!

Headline: 'Harry cools Spurs title talk!'

Other teams' fans: Ha, what an embarrassing climbdown.

Reality: We were never likely to win the league, but it remains 'possible', I suppose. What's probable is a battle for third and fourth with Arsenal and Chelsea (worse news for them than us) and, it seems, most of the Premier League officials. (Sorry, can only be rational for so long)

Thursday, 12 January 2012

The Coming Second - a nightmare scenario

Such Small Portions: Hello Such Small Portions from 2006.

Such Small Portions from 2006: Hello Such Small Portions. How are you?

SSP: Huh?

SSPF2006: Sorry, how am I?

SSP: Yeah, not bad thanks.

SSPF2006: Did that rash clear up?

SSP: Let's talk about that later.

SSPF2006: Yeah, all right, no problem, it's just that...

SSP: Look, aren't you going to ask me about Spurs?

SSPF2006: Well, hang on, I might want to start with my wife, my kids, their health, their welfare, how did they do in their exams, are we all still happy together...


SSPF2006: Ha, just messing with ya. So, go on, how are we doing?

SSP: Well, in the season 2011/12, we have just finished above Chelsea...

SSPF2006: You're kidding?!

SSP: Above Arsenal...

SSPF2006: Oh thank the Lord for that.

SSP: Above Liverpool...

SSPF2006: Well, duh.

SSP: And... above Man Utd.

SSPF2006: We won the league!

SSP: No, we didn't. We came second...

SSPF2006: But that's not possible. How can? Who can? What can?

SSP: Man City

SSPFF2006: Oh come on. I'm prepared to go with the time travel thing, with you/me existing in two different places at the same time, or two different times at the same place or whatever. I'm even prepared to believe that rash cleared up. But Man City?! We finished above all of The Big Four...

SSP: *Makes aggressive 'wrong answer' buzzer noise* No such thing anymore.

SSPF2006: Okay: We finished above Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, and we still didn't win the league? Because of Man City?

SSP: Well, it's true I'm afraid.

SSPF2006: Whatever. You'll be telling me next that Simon Cowell's gay

SSP: Ah, awkward, I'm SSP from 2012, you want SSP from 2013 for that gag.

SSPF2006: Oops, sorry.

SSP: One more thing, you've got six years to think of a punchline, or at least an elegant ending for this little skit.

SSPF2006: Six years; punchline; elegant; got ya.

SSP: And?

SSPF2006: Eh?

Friday, 6 January 2012

A stupid and ungrateful Spurs fan writes...

This is utterly churlish and wholly unreasonable, I know. But now and again, when I'm feeling especially idiotic, I do wish we hadn't just written off the first two games of the season.

If you measured the league over of the top three's last 17 games, the top three would look like this:

Tottenham 42
Man City 39
Man Utd 36

The reality's not quite as awesome. Pretty damn good, but not 'oh my god we might actually win this thing' good.

And the reason is those first two games - games we didn't just lose, we sacrificed.

Now, obviously, they were pretty tough fixtures, and we may have lost them both anyway. But we just wrote them off. We didn't give ourselves a chance.

Harry clearly decided that he wouldn't have the players he wanted until the end of August, that Modric wouldn't be 'in the right frame of mind' until the window shut, etc. So we went in half-hearted and patched-up.

Could we have sorted these issue out sooner? Did the start of the season sneak up on us? Did no one on the coaching staff buy the Sunday papers on August 7th? They all very prominently displayed the entire 11/12 fixtures...

Could Proper Spurs, the Spurs we've come to know and love since then, have done better than no points and a goal difference of -7? You'd hope so, wouldn't you? Even two points would have made all the difference. And when I say 'all', I mean this much:

Man City 46 from 20
Tottenham 44 from 19
Man Utd 43 from 20

Which would mean we'd need to beat Everton at home next week to go top with more than half the season gone.

So, yeah, nice one Tottenham; thanks very much. Honestly, I don't know why I bother sometimes.