What better way to fill a 31st December posting than with some end of 2008 all-action-no-plot awards?
Let’s not beat about the bush - the calendar year 2008 has been largely woeful. No plot, and only sporadic moments of action saw us go into freefall after the Carling Cup win and head towards 2009 just above the drop-zone. However, you can’t take the all-action-no-plot out of the team, so without further ado…
All-Action-No-Plot Performance of 2008
Even this mundane year has seen completely mental 4-4 draws against both Chelski and l’Arse. However, for all sorts of glorious reasons the outright winner, by four clear goals is the 5-1 win over l’Arse. To quote the song - even Jenas scored! To see us tear apart the old enemy, to see them implode to the extent that they started headbutting one another, to see Steed sweep home the glorious fifth - and watching it all with a gooner mate, before returning to an office full of gooner mates… bliss.
All-Action-No-Plot Haircut of 2008
David Bentley will throw a right strop if he doesn’t win this one, having worn out the mirrors in the dressing room, and openly dedicated more time to flicking his on-off fringe than fighting for the badge. Jermaine Jenas went through a Samson phase early in the year, growing his hair, miraculously becoming half-decent, only to cut it short and become rubbish again. The winner is therefore Jermaine Defoe’s brief flirtation with the Wembley arc - across his head.
All-Action-No-Plot Goal of 2008
Robbie Keane’s late equaliser vs Chelski springs to mind, and Jenas’ late strike vs l’Arse is likely to be forgotten despite its quality, but the one that really made me leap out of my seat was Brylcreem boy David Bentley taking time out from his hectic schedule of personal grooming to thoughtfullly silence the Emirates with a 40+ yard uber-volley.
As I blogged at the time: Coca-Cola once ran a bunch of posters, showing grown men who ought to know better getting rather carried away at football matches. The line was something along the lines of “One day you will see a goal so beautiful you will want to marry it, move to a small island and live there with it forever.” That’s Bentley’s goal, that is. I want to marry it and have lots of baby wonder-goals with it.
All-Action-No-Plot Celebration of 2008
With Robbie Keane dispensing with the intricate gymnastics, there aren’t too many stand-out nominees. Woodgate’s lumbering jog of exuberance in the Carling Cup final epitomised how we were all feeling, but the best celebrations came around 12 hours later, as Lennon, Jenas, Hutton and, most memorably, Ledley King stumbled out of Faces, with traces of blood barely detectable in their alchohol streams. Classy.
All-Action-No-Plot Moment of 2008
The look on the face of my gooner mate Hawthy as we spanked them 5-1 was priceless, but let’s face it, that would have counted for precious little if we hadn’t completed the job a few weeks later at Wemberley. It might not have been aesthetically pleasing, but seeing Woody get punched in the face by the ball, which then apologetically stumbled into the empty net, as Woody himself and Berba went slipping and sliding around the turf - I just wish I had been sober enough to remember it more clearly.
All-Action-No-Plot Chant of 2008
Take a bow the Dinamo Zagreb ultras (and there won’t be many times in my life that I come out with that line). We didn’t understand a word of what they said - just as well, I’d imagine - but their song was so good that the Park Laners adopted it as their own, for 15 crazy minutes.
All-Action-No-Plot Manager of 2008
Sigh. This will have to be won by default. Wendy Ramos masterminded the 5-1 over l’Arse, and won us our first trophy in nine years - then undid all the good work and sold Steed. Whereas ‘Arry arrived on a chariot of media goodwill, somehow stumbled across a string of welcome wins, but has since rather lost the magic touch. So the All-Action-No-Plot Manager of 2008 award goes to my boss at work, for giving us wine on the morning of Christmas Eve.
All-Action-No-Plot Young Player of 2008
How old do you have to be to be “young”? I’d say, completely arbitrarily, that 27 is still quite young, so anyone born in the ’80s qualifies for this award. Therefore Ledley wins it, as he lifted the cup for us, which is more than anyone else can say this millenium.
All-Action-No-Plot Player of 2008
As hinted by the preceding award, we’ve not exactly been blessed with stand-out performances this year. Can’t really give it to Keane, after his dastardly exit to his “boyhood club”, Berba had an average year by his standards. Jenas had a bizarrely purple patch at the start of 2008, but normality was soon restored and he quickly became rubbish again. Therefore, the true “player” of 2008 was the man who played away on his stunning wife, the numpty - and got caught, the numpty. Ashely Cole, you dirty cheating rat, show your face and claim your award.
It makes little sense, it’s been manic and much of it beggars belief - 2008 has been quite an all-action-no-plot year. God bless ye merry folk, and all the best for next year. See you in 2009!
A dog is for life, not just for Christmas – but thankfully a rubbish foreign left-back can be offloaded in the January sales. Having already cast a beady, all-action-no-plot eye over the possible arrivals at N17 next month, here’s a cursory glance at those who might have pulled on the famous lilywhite for the last time…
Gilberto – This Brazilian international (I jest ye not) was publicly sacked by ‘Arry after the egregiously bad error vs Spartak. Seemingly the latest in a growing line of mediocre foreign full-backs jettisoned by Spurs, he’ll no doubt be picked up by a half-decent European team (a la Lee Young Pyo, Erik Edman, Timothee Atouba, Paul Stalteri…). Woudln’t be surprised to see him end up in the Champions League next season, because football’s a funny old game.
Jamie O’ Hara – Controversial one this. Young “Three Touch” O’Hara’s work-rate is appreciated down the Lane, but lack of first-team opportunities have prompted grumblings of discontent. While he’d be worth retaining for his fight (we’ll need it in the coming months) and just to keep squad numbers healthy as we compete on several fronts, I personally wouldn’t shed too many tears, if we sell him. Let’s face it, Three-Touch would attract the likes of Hull, Boro and Fulham, rather than Villa or the top four, so is he really good enough for us?
Kevin Prince-Boateng – Hard to believe this lad won German young player of the year a couple of seasons back. Given squad number 23 by ‘Arry, which is probably more than the minutes he’s played this season. It therefore seems certain he and his intriguing Mohawk and well-illustrated arms will be on show on someone else’s sub bench by February.
Ricardo Rocha – Is he injured? Is he in the reserves? Is he still alive? Will be sold to the first club that remembers he still exists. Unbelievably, he’s been capped by Portugal. Ricardo Carvalho he ain’t.
Adel Taarabt – Will be a shame to see young Tarbuck go, his cameos were always entertaining, and occasionally effective (eg West Ham away last year). Still only about 8 years old, it might pay to send him out on loan rather than sell him off. If he could cut out the excessive step-overs and work on the end-product, he’d step up from being the skilful kid in the playground to being an effective Premiership-level impact sub.
Hossam Ghaly – Not sure too many people have forgiven him for throwing away his shirt, the scoundrel. I certainly haven’t. How dare he. Good riddance in advance. (And more to the point, he didn’t set the world alight when on loan at Derby last year, so he can’t be that good).
Darren Bent – A Bentley-esque long-shot this, but there have been whispers that he’s on his way out. It wasn’t so long ago that he was knocking them in for fun at Charlton and other hopeless teams - personally I think that with some decent service and a strike partner to help him out he’d be more than adequate at Premiership level. However, he’s English which means that Aston Villa want him. Seven million is the number being bandied around, which wouldn’t be terrible business if we could bring in Defoe.
And some less likely movers and shakers…
Dider Zokora: Wanted by Real Madrid. Honest. I know this because a message announcing it was delivered to me by a flying pig.
Aaron Lennon: Another Real Madrid target according to some drunk, stoned tabloid writers with too much time on their hands. A few months ago he probably would have been on his way out, but several dips of the left shoulder and bursts towards the by-line later and he’s very much part of our plans. Not going anywhere in January.
Jermaine Jenas: Oh that someone would take him off our hands. I’d pay other teams to take him off our hands. Bless him he tries – he’s certainly trying – but the odd decent game in a dozen isn’t enough. Had a brief spell last year when he grew his hair and became amazing; but alas, like Samson, a haircut deprived him of his wondrous power, and he became rubbish again. Bizarrely rated by successive England and Spurs managers, surely there’s someone out there willing to stump up, say, £7 million for him?
Heurelho Gomes – A couple of months ago we couldn’t have bundled him out of the door fast enough, but since then he’s upped his game and been one of our most consistent performers – the team’s poor recent form has been despite rather than because of Gomes. They say form is temporary and class is permanent – and it’s still a bit early to discern the category under which Gomes’ good performances fall. However, he’s doing a sterling job at the moment, let’s not make him cry again.
Roman Pavluychenko and David Bentley – Alright, I’m being silly now, but neither of these guys have justified the inflated fees we shelled out last summer. We won’t sell them because we’ll make nowhere near the amount we paid for them, so like it or not, we’re stuck with both. Still, unlike Jenas, both have at least previously shown flashes of genuine quality – let’s hope 2009 sees them both rediscover such form.
Oh blinking heck. Defeat to the bottom team, one point from six over Christmas - this is just plain embarassing. I know this is supposed to be a politically correct age, but everyone knows that West Brom are rubbish, and vastly out of their depth in the Premiership. Losing to them today was humiliating. It’s like taking on a group of seven year-olds in a park, and losing. Oh, the shame.
Never mind our desperate plight at the lower end of the league (we’ll survive), I’m more concerned about the relentless stick I’ll get back in the office tomorrow. Having mouthed off pre-Christmas about how a string of wins would propel us towards the European places, we’ve taken one point from six, and lost to a bunch of seven year-olds. With Fulham at home and West Brom away, a six-points boast really wasn’t entirely ludicrous, but things have gone wildly awry over 180 mins of football. European football seems a distant dream now. Before we can think about that we’ve got to remember how to make mincemeat of the Premiership’s most unattractive and backward components.
This is not what the all-action-no-plot mentality is supposed to be about. All-action-no-plot is supposed to encapsulate the madcap nature of Spurs’ glory, glory attacking football, passing and movement, non-stop entertainment, and shots raining in. Not too much concern for defence, admittedly, but 4-4 is better than 0-0 (and if we ever sorted out the defence I’d have to call this all-action-neatly-rounded-plot, which really doesn’t have the same ring). No, the all-action-no-plot mentality ought really to have seen us beat West Brom 5-1, or thereabouts.
Instead we’ve forgotten how to score. We have no divine right to win these games, but we have the quality in attack to do so. Unfortunately, we’re not making chances, we’re not supporting the lone striker (abandon 4-5-1 ‘Arry, pretty please, with a cherry on top) and each time we pick two deep central midfielders (two from Jenas, Hudd and Zokora) we’re effectively lining up two men short. It’s nine vs eleven. No action, no plot.
The cause wasn’t helped today by the dismissal of Assou-Ekotto, but nevertheless - with Modric and Lennon both on form there is a basis for attacking potency. Somehow, with their misplaced passes and inability to tackle, Zokora, Jenas and Bentley are between them negating the good work of this pair.
The honeymoon is most certainly over for ‘Arry. Now it’s time for him to earn his corn as a manager, both tactically, with the under-performing and shorn of confidence rabble already at N17, and in the transfer market over January.
Alternatively of course, if we want a spate of good results, we could always sack ‘Arry, bring in someone new and watch the miraculous “new-manager-bounce” occur.
(I jest. )
Away to the team at the bottom of the league - exactly the sort of game in which Spurs will meekly surrender and die. The personnel changes, the kit changes - even the stadium is about to change, but Spurs remain the same, and I’ll be flabbergasted if we comfortably wrap up the three points as we ought to.
As we’re away from home it’s likely we’ll start with the wretched 4-5-1 again, and Bent/Pav will be starved of service, leaving ‘Arry bleating about the need for another striker. Au contraire, Mr Redknapp. My many, many years as a dedicated armchair football fan tell me that the problem is quite clearly the holding role. Bring in a midfielder with bite, who can win the ball and hold fort, and others will be freed to support the lone striker. Or better yet, if the holding midfielder is good enough, he alone can do the job and we can revert to 4-4-2. At the moment, two players (from Zokora, Hudd and Jenas) are being deployed to sit deep, and we’re suffering from a paucity of numbers in attack.
Here’s your Spurs bingo card for the traditional defeat to the bottom club tomorrow: “toothless”, “spineless”, “no confidence”, “tired”, “lacking urgency”, “outmuscled”, “no service”.
With the honeymoon over, the side struggling and reinforcements seemingly needed in every position, all-action-no-plot casts a wary eye over a handful of ‘Arry’s (supposed) shopping list…
Stewart Downing (Left winger, ‘Boro, £8-£12 mil) - Yegads ‘Arry, don’t do it! I’ve only ever seen him play well once (Eng vs Germany). He’s naturally left-footed, and as such would balance our midfield, but so is our Welsh simian Gareth Bale. Save around £10 mil and give Bale a chance. And encourage the midfielders to get into the area before investing in another crosser…
Craig Bellamy (Striker, West Ham, £6 - £8 mill) - Wrote on this one yesterday, and my opinion hasn’t changed overnight. Good striker, but a walking asbo, who has never settled at a club due, presumably, to his penchant for attacking team-mates with golf clubs.
Shay Given (Goalkeeper, Newcastle, Maybe £3 mil?) - Tempting, but this is like heading to the supermarket when hungry, and consequently buying food you just don’t need. Gomes is doing fine at the moment.
Lassana Diarra (Defensive midfielder, Real Madrid, £20 mil) - Out of stock.
Jermaine Defoe (Striker, Pompey, £10 mil give or take) - Pompey may sell if the debt stories are true, and the lad certainly knows the route to goal, but ineligibility for Europe might be offputting. Can’t really see it happening, much as I’d love to.
Peter Crouch (Striker, Pompey, £10 mil give or take) - ‘Arry bought him at Pompey, and might be tempted by a goalscoring target-man. Again, ineligible for Europe.
Emile Heskey (Striker, Wigan, £3 mil or less, as his contract’s running down) - Hardly a proven goalscorer, but has, over the last 12 months shown an ability to hold up the ball and buy time for languid supporting midfielders to amble into the area. Exactly what we need then.
Matthew Upson (Centre-back, West Ham, £6 mil or so) Only likely if West Ham are forced into a Woollies-style closing-down sale. Their chairman is Icelandic, so this may indeed happen. With King and Woodgate falling apart, and Corluka ineligible in Europe, we could do with a reliable centre-back.
The existence of a football fan can be a pathetic one - trudging around an empty room, pinning my hopes on a radio, staring pleadingly at it and willing it to deliver good news. The reception on it was so poor that match commentary was delivered with early afternoon orchestral performances on Radio 3 in the background. The commentator sounded like a gobby 15 year-old dragged out of his classroom, whose unique brand of humour amuses only the other hoodied teenagers who congregate at train stations on a Friday night to scowl, smoke and spit. This inanimate object, delivering to me first movements and teenage witticisms was the object of my undivided attention and longing for two hours on Boxing Day.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, this 15 year-old’s blow-by-blow account informed me, to the strains of Mozart’s Horn Concerto, that Spurs served up a woeful performance today . I need not really elaborate on the match details - all the usual boxes can be ticked: under-achievement from Bentley; lack of service and creativity from midfield; Bent swapped with Pav after 70. The usual suspects. Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons could not assuage my annoyance.
I regularly wonder if there’s anything more frustrating in life than being a Spurs fan. This marriage to 11 men in white frequently leaves me ruing that fateful day, back in 1987. Only minutes before kick-off this afternoon I wrote, full of optimism, about how Fulham at home could be the springboard to a run of wins which would fire us up the table. Looking back, with the benefit of just a few hours’ hindsight, I sneer at myself. How could I have been so naive? Why will I again be churlish in my predictions, in just 48 hours’ time? Nil-nil at home to Fulham is about as uninspiring and dreary-sounding a result as I can imagine, even if at half-time I caught random snatches of the rousing Superman theme tune on Radio 3. No result can be further from the all-action-no-plot team to which I signed my life away, two decades ago.
Make no mistake, the games coming up over the Christmas period and into January represent a great opportunity to push up the table, away from the drop-zone and into the chasing pack fro Europe.
In the league, Fulham at home, West Brom away, Wigan away, Pompey at home, Stoke away and Bolton at home on 31 Jan - all games which, individually, we could realistically envisage winning. There’s a Manager of the Month award in there for ‘Arry, particularly if he bolsters the squad shrewdly over January.
The table remains tight, with universal inconsistency seeing teams throughout the division picking up just four or five points from nine. As such, three or four consecutive wins will propel us up the table.
I realise that this is the sort of claim which will incur the wrath and/or mockery of non-Spurs fans across the land, exactly the sort of blind optimism which breeds pre-season mockery outside fo N17, as we babble on about this being “our season”. Indeed, I admit to making such gung-ho claims fro the ‘08-’09 campaign, not least on 15 August, the day before the season began. Back then, carried away with the prospect of an all-action-no-plot line-up so attacking it forced Modric back into the holding role, I saw us beating every team in the Premiership at home, bar the top four. Instead, we promptly lost to Boro, Sunderland, Villa, Pompey, Hull and Stoke, and were bottom after a couple of months. There is therefore, a possibility that this festive fixture-list could prove disastrous for us.
However, results (and performances) such as the 0-0 at home to Man Utd, minus King and Woodgate, and the win away to West Ham, have left hope springing eternal of a points blitz over the next few weeks. It all begins today at home to Fulham. ‘Arry will continue to insist that we’re in a relegation scrap, but I see neon lights, dollar signs and all-action-no-plot, glory glory football - we’re on our way to an unbeaten run! I’m sure of it!
‘Arry may have a good reputation in the transfer market, but I’m not sure that Craig Bellamy was what I wanted to pull out of my Christmas stocking.
As I indicated when waving goodbye to Paul Stalteri lsat week, being a nice guy has precious little to do with footballing ability. I nevertheless have my misgivings about Bellamy, the very antithesis of a “nice guy”, a man so charming that when on a team-bonding trip to Spain in his Liverpool days, he attacked a team-mate with a golf-club. The loveable rogue. Further evidence of Bellamy’s troublesome character is that he’s had about 45 different clubs during his 10-or-so-year career. Not sure that’s the sort of influence one would want in a dressing-room, although if he’s happy to lamp David Bentley for lack of effort it might not be a bad thing.
In terms of footballing ability he has his attributes - having played for both Liverpool and Newcastle he is undeniably a good striker at Premiership level, with pace to burn and an eye for goal, and he’s also eligible for Europe, which is handy in the absence of the cup-tied Pav.
A huge signing is unlikely in January, so cut-price strikers from hard-up clubs (Bellamy, or Crouch or Defoe at Pompey) or strikers on winding-down contracts (Owen, Hesky) would probably be top of ‘Arry’s attacking shopping list. Those eligible for Europe would be particularly keenly sought, which might rule out the Pompey pair.
The £6 mil bid for Bellamy is only the opening gambit in what is certain to be a highly entertaining transfer puppet show, particularly with ‘Arry pulling the strings. Who knows what our squad will look like a month down the line?
Around about the time of my earliest memories of the all-action-no-plot universe - I’d say approximately 1987 - all I wanted for Christmas was the toy truck thing from Thundercats. For John Bostock and other unfeasibly young Spurs players, Thundercats was the greatest cartoon ever. It followed the extremely action-packed lives of a bunch of heroic human-feline hybrids who were armed with a sword which grew bigger if swung around occasionally, and an absolutely brutal truck, with great big claws that could plough through walls and generally cause mass destruction en route to achieving a greater good. The truck rocked, and a toy version was exactly what any sensible, well-adjusted six year-old all-action-no-plotter would want for Christmas. However, that yuletide my parents rather perplexingly bought me a She-Ra*annual instead.
The Spurs management seem to pursue a similarly baffling transfer policy. As the January window approaches I can’t help but hope that the dream present will be bought, a modern-day Thundercats tank, to sit in front of our back four and boss the midfield. However, those with the power to buy will almost inevitably purchase something unnecessary, unwanted and completely inappropriate. Such as Younes Kaboul, the Premiership equivalent of a She-Ra annual. Like Kaboul, and indeed my She-Ra annual, the new signing will be peered at out of politeness, put on display once or twice in the following weeks, then left to gather dust.
For years, as long as I can remember, we’ve needed a defensive midfielder. The Premiership equivalent of a Thundercats tank thing, with great big moving claws, and the capacity to plough through walls and generally cause mass destruction en route to achieving a greater good - it’s exactly what Spurs need. Didier Zokora is not such a beast. He may have his moments, and a penchant for those Benny Hill-esque dashes upfield. He may occasionally offer an extra body in defence, causing confusion in opposition minds if not exactly instilling fear in their hearts. He may even, most surreally, be courted by Real Madrid and their fabulous new manager Wendy Ramos, whilst also catching the eye of that doyen of English management, Tony Adams, at Portsmouth - but Didier Zokora is not the defensive midfielder par excellence that Spurs have been crying out for since the days of the three wise men and the ad hoc duvet in a manger. Zokora really ought only to be keeping the seat warm for someone else.
Our need for a holding midfielder is hardly rocket science, yet it seems to have bypassed one manager after another. Instead, in recent years we’ve seen Bent, Bentley, Modric, Giovanni, Kaboul, Prince-Boateng and Pavluychenko brought in - all players of some quality, but none of whom have addressed the real problem area. To paraphrase Alanis Morissette, it’s like needing a spoon, and spending about one hundred million pounds on a set of fancy foreign knives. More idiotic than ironic.
A Thundercats truck of a defensive midfielder is not the only thing we need this Christmas - with ‘Arry seemingly unconvinced of Gareth Bale’s quality it seems we might pursue a left winger/midfielder, as well as another centre-back, striker, goalkeeper and possibly a couple of full-backs. A full team then. ’Arry has a good reputation in the transfer market, and has been at the Lane long enough to get an idea of the squad deficiencies - he certainly moans about them enough - so maybe, just maybe, we’ll get those things we truly crave this Christmas. Or, alternatively, maybe we’ll tear off the warpping paper and have to feign surprise as another unwanted player is brought into the squad, soon to be discarded, with Younes Kaboul and the She-Ra annual.
*She-Ra was He-Man’s female cousin
An early Christmas present from ‘Arry Redknapp and Daniel Levy has seen Paul Stalteri’s contract terminated, by mutual consent. That angelic melody you hear emanating from north London isn’t some choir putting in last-minute preparations for a festive performance of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, oh no – ’tis the sound of an exuberant all-action-no-plotter toasting the demise (not literally) of another one of our seemingly infinite line of inept full-backs.
Paul Stalteri appeared to be a thoroughly decent chap – not prone to diving, whingeing or fussing generally. He scored three goals, each of which, strangely, I remember well – a blinder in the FA Cup, a tap-in vs Man City and, most memorably, the late winner at West Ham, to cap a hugely satisfying comeback win last year. He hasn’t moped or mouthed off this season about being on the fringes and beyond – as such I wish him well, at his delightfully-named new German club, Borussia Monchengladbach.
And with the formalities out of the way, can I reiterate how glad I am to see the back of the latest in a long line of, at best, distinctly average full-backs. While showing sufficient co-ordination to be a sportsman, and being full of willing, the guy was of limited ability going forward, and made far too many mistakes to be a defender. Off the top of my head I remember him faffing around in the last minute v Sunderland a few years ago, getting caught in possession in his own box and conceding a goal that saw us lose 1-0. Then, when we were winning 1-0 at l’arse with five mins to go I recall him being shrugged off possession by Henry who galloped away and scored, while Stalteri pleaded for a free-kick. Those are just the first two which spring to mind, but there were several more - indeed I recall that season looking back over my fixture list and racking up the number of points he alone cost us. No plot, for sure, but not much action to compensate either. And why on earth was he wearing the number 7 shirt? The shirt of Best, Dalglish, Beckham and Paul Walsh – which idiot thought it would make sense to give it to a mediocre Canadian right-back?
Using the flawless, scientifically proven “who-would-buy-him” gauge of a player’s quality, it was telling that last season he went on loan to a relegation-battling Fulham, and this season is as likely to end up in the Championship as in the Prem. I reiterate, he seems a nice chap, but as we’re trying to win football matches, not host garden fêtes, I don’t think his niceness is too relevant. The sooner ‘Arry can get rid of the other sub-standard players in our squad, the better. Half-decent players may be sufficient for the likes of Middlesborough or Bolton, or any other team aiming to avoid relegation, play depressing football and occasionally scrap a win against one of the top-four. At Spurs however we want to be pushing towards Europe and winning silverware. As such we ought to signal our ambition by bringing in players who will be tempted to head off to Old Trafford in a couple of years.
There have been some encouraging signs in the last few days, with Gilberto already on his way out (huzzah!). Personally I’d like to see Ricky Rocha, Hossam Ghaly and Assou-Ekotto follow suit. Jamie “Three-Touch” O’Hara gets a reprieve, as he’s young enough to push on, as, perhaps does Kevin Prince-Boateng, although neither have ever really blown up my skirt over the last two years. Stalteri certainly meets all relevant criteria for ejection. He may be Canada’s national captain – and quite possibly their greatest ever player – but at full-back, being an established international is hardly a guarantee of supreme quality (Erik Edman and even Vedran Corluka spring to mind).
Over the last week I’ve written in celebration of the fact that Gilberto will never play for us again, and bemoaning the fact that in physics-defying fashion Assou-Ekotto has managed to cement his place in the team as a regular. What is it with Spurs and rubbish full-backs? As far back as I can remember – that’s around late-80s – we’ve always had useless full-backs. A seminal period of my youth was Brian Moore commentating - badly - on the Big Match on ITV on a Sunday, with its funky electric guitar theme tune, and Mitchell Thomas, back-pedalling as an opponent advanced, clumsily conceding possession and tripping over his own bootlaces. Fast forward twenty years, and where Mitchell once stumbled now we have Stalteri, Gilberto and BAE. We’ve always had flair midfielders, and we’ve always had sub-standard full-backs. It just seems to be a Tottenham thing. The likes of Carr were the exception rather than the rule. The rule was Austin and Edinburgh, Gilberto and Stalteri.
Some may argue that full-back is hardly the most important position, and there is something in that. If a good team is going to carry any mediocre player, full-back is probably the one (I should know, I was that mediocre full-back for a few years at school…). A full-back’s mistakes can be rectified in last-ditch fashion by the centre-backs and ‘keeper. However, a top-notch, defensively-sound, attackingly potent full-back can dictate the entire dynamic of the team. Whereas BAE does the bare minimum – and occasionally less – by paroling his touchline and not getting much further than the halfway line, the likes of Bosingwa and Cole bomb on, nullifying the oppo’s winger, creating width for his team-mates, whipping in inviting crosses and generally shoving the entire passage of play a good 20 yards up the pitch.
Such descriptions have rarely if ever been levelled at Stalteri, so I shed no tears as he wanders out of N17 for the final time. Frankly, I hope that we be the first of a number of departees, over the coming weeks.