Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Some questions for Sam Allardyce

This, from Sam Allardyce in the Evening Standard, yesterday:

“The fans at Tottenham thought it was going to a breeze for them, a nice comfortable three points. But the Premier League will tell you that if you think like that then you are going to get your backside kicked, and they got their backside kicked.”

Okay, so, like I say, a few questions:

Does he really mean "the fans"?

If so, does he believe that this collective arrogant attitude from the terraces was the chief contributing factor to our defeat?

And it was "the fans" that got their backsides kicked? By his players?

Or does he mean our players? Were they the ones that were too confident and too casual? He must mean the players, right?

(But if he does mean the fans, do we, the fans, have a manager? And if so, could that manager not have torn into us at half time? Got us a bit more focused, maybe made a couple of changes?)

Let's go back to assuming he means the players: what was their attitude for the previous 14 home games against West Ham? Were they fearful of a terrible hiding every time the boys in claret and blue came to town - and so raised their game in order to prevent this mauling?

Or were they equally casual and just got lucky - 14 years in a row?

Is that sarcasm drifting dangerously close to wildly misplaced arrogance? And if it is, have I already cost us three points next season?

Has he ever met  a Spurs fan? Okay, I mean Spurs fans like me. Okay, I mean me. I never think we're getting a nice, comfortable three points. 'Nice' and 'comfortable' are not words that match my Spurs experience or expectations.

Can 'the Premier League' talk?

What does it sound like?

Is it true that you're the most brilliant and underrated manager in the history of football?

There are two things beyond question: West Ham beat us fair and square and all managers are effortlessly irritating, especially just after they've beaten us.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Come on football!

I didn't see the game as I was doing horrible adult things in Brighton.

I should rephrase that. It involved forms, sofas and progeny, not dungeons and drag queens.

Anyway, I saw the score after the event, read a couple of reports and only the next day saw brief highlights, including Chelsea 'celebrating' their goal.

Gosh they seemed angry. Such a lot of shouting and pointing and snarling: players to each other, players to fans, fans to players. None of them seemed to be enjoying themselves very much.

Also saw Mourinho's post match interview which, like a multi-storey car park next to a clown convention, was ridiculous on so many levels. Silly preening child-man. I was bored before he even began.

I mentioned all this to a friend and they said, You know, maybe you just don't like football. Maybe I don't. I'm not sure. I hope I do, but I'm really not sure. I don't think I like footballers. I definitely don't like most football managers. I doubt I'd like many football club owners. I don't like football supporters much. I don't like football commentators or football pundits. I don't like football phone in shows - the people who host them or the people who call them. I don't like football journalists. I don't like football debates or football banter.

Maybe I just like the football. I mean the actual thing. Maybe if everything else could be muted and whited out I could watch it pinging about, being manipulated, arcing through the air, rifling into the net. Whose net? Dunno. Don't care. It's all about the football. C'mon football!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Yid

"They're beginning to get on my nerves. Who are those guys?"

So says Butch to Sundance in the classic 1969 buddy Western as they are chased by a relentless six-strong posse during the central sequence.

Didn't end well for them, did it?

And so Spurs look over their shoulder. And there are our dogged pursuers. Tracking us at an almost perfectly constant distance. Getting on our nerves. Except we know who those guys are.

It's a horrible feeling. And it makes you do stupid things. Like look at the remaining fixtures and work out how many points we'll end up on. People treat this like an exact science. Newspapers run features showing who's going to pick up and drop points when and where – and print 'final' tables based on those 'results'. (I've just done it, and I reckon 67)

What you're actually doing there is trying to predict the outcome of 12 football matches. If you could do that, you would, within a week or two, win enough money to buy Tottenham Hotspur and ensure we finish above Arsenal and everyone else every single season.

Back to Butch and Sundance. What can we learn from them? Well, in the end, the pressure of pursuit caused them to throw themselves off a cliff and into a ravine. I think it was a ravine.

Anyway, that kind of worked, and then they moved to Bolivia, and then they died in a hail of bullets. The film ends, famously, on a freeze frame of them in their last moments of life. With a happy ending still possible.

Spurs' equivalent will be a close-up of of Danny Graham's face, a study in cold concentration, the electronic scoreboard in the back ground showing three numbers: a 90, a 2 and a 1. He is clean through on goal, Lloris has come out to narrow the angle, but Graham looks like he knows what he's about to do, he looks certain.

And the sound? In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid it's gunfire, in Spurs' season it will be the sound of 30,000+ plastic seats clacking back into the vertical position for another restless summer.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

The day I met Paul Gascoigne - naked

(So, this was written almost exactly two years ago, when I was concerned about Gascoigne. Today, concern doesn't begin to cover it. But I still met him, we were both still naked,  and he's still my favourite player)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Noel says Gazza had everyone in stitches, just through trying and failing over and over again to say Hamilton Academical. Was there a punchline beyond that? Probably. Did anyone care? Of course not.

There's a bit of a performing monkey aspect to the story, sure, and maybe it tells us more than we want to acknowledge about how Gazza was viewed and treated.
But the way Noel tells it it's clear that Gascoigne was still inherently and artlessly charming. And that he had huge reserves of goodwill amongst the general public. To paraphrase Homer Simpson, they weren't laughing at him, they were laughing towards him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 3 January 2013

I've become THAT supporter

Who's that supporter? Well me, obviously, the clue's in the title. But that's a recent development. He's actually been around for ages and until this season I thought he was just plain weird and not a little wrong.

He's the guy who you see in the crowd after we score, just sort of casually clapping his hands (he's usually wearing quite big gloves, I think), smiling, standing still, maybe swapping a couple of cheery words with his equally relaxed mate standing next to him. Enjoying the moment but not engulfed by it.

I never understood this guy. He bemused and, frankly, kind of annoyed me. I didn't get why he wasn't hurling himself around, celebrating 'properly', going nuts. Clapping? I never clapped a goal. Goals were celebrated by screaming, by jumping, by falling over four rows of seats, by hugging, by punching (the air), then more screaming.

When Robbie Keane scored the opening goal against Arsenal in our last match against them at Highbury, I made a noise so loud, so inhuman and so troubling that over in Africa a dying wildebeest fell silent, pricked up his ears, sought out the medical treatment he needed and learned to use a mobile phone just so he could text me and ask if I was okay.

Arsenal equalised, of course, and the season, like that match, ended in disappointment. And maybe that was when I started to become that guy. It wasn't immediate, but I think it's now nearly complete.

Goals are great, but they're not full stops. The narrative continues. Same goes for wins. Same goes for trophies, in fact. Chelsea won the European Cup very recently but are, sporadically, still something of a laughing stock and their internecine struggle intensifies week by week.

There's an argument, certainly, for being what I believe people call 'in the moment', and I will, obviously, be sound tracking Sir David Attenborough's new series, rather than clapping, should we do something crazy, like win the FA Cup, or get three points at Stamford Bridge.

But there's also an argument for, most of the time, being that guy: for enjoying and appreciating the goal, and then not really enjoying the equaliser. Then going home and doing something else. A slight swing rather than a manic lurch.

That said, by the end of our game against Sunderland I had turned off the TV and was pacing the kitchen, because, I thought, with the logic of the lunatic, that if I watched the game it would 'invite them onto us'; but if I didn't, nothing would happen, time would simply pass and we would win. Oh I don't know. I think it had something to do with trees falling in forests, or maybe cats locked in boxes. Anyway, it worked, didn't it?

And all the time my heart was, to quote Dr Peter Sellers, going Boom Boody-Boom, Boody-Boom, Boody-Boom, Boody-Boom, Boody-Boom, Boody-Boom-Boom-Boom.

That guy wouldn't have been such an idiot, or so close to death. He'd have been 'enjoying' the last five minutes. Of a Spurs game. I'm not quite that mad/sane yet. But I will buy some gloves.