A criticism often levelled at Spurs (and indeed England) fans is that life is always either a triumph or a crisis, without any middle ground or hint of perspective. It takes an impressive strength of character to accept criticism, and luckily I possess such humility in abundance (modesty is one of my many attributes). Therefore I can detect an element of truth in this charge. Indeed, I suspect that most Spurs fans would appreciate this line of argument. Win, and we’re world-beaters, on course for European qualification and en route towards the Champions League within two years (that’s winning the whole thing, as opposed to just qualifying), whilst playing the vintage brand that would have Jairzinho et al glancing enviously over their shoulders.The alternative to this blistering optimism is doleful, morbid pessimism, of the brand I’ve been perfecting in recent weeks. Lose a couple of games and the only possible solution seems to be wholesale changes. The players – whom we’ve never rated in the first place - aren’t fit to wear the shirt, they don’t care, they’re not good enough. The tactics are wrong, the management is clueless, the best thing for us would be relegation so that we can start from scratch.
Results and performances this season have naturally given us a good excuse to adopt the latter approach and become prophets of doom. Few players are exempt from criticism, second-chances are rare and “perspective” is a curious word from a bygone era, whose meaning no-one really remembers. Hence, despite the fact that Bent is often played in a formation badly suited to his style, he is now subject to rather wildly disproportionate abuse whenever he misses. Elsewhere on the pitch it is conveniently ignored that Hudd requires movement around him to strut his stuff. Instead, following the Burnley and Man Utd losses, queues have been forming of those keen to banish him to the bench or reserves.
I’m amongst the worst culprits here, all too easily and willingly swept up on a wave of short-term sentiment. It could be argued that in this multi-million pound industry there is little scope for the “patience” necessary to allow players to settle, squads to gel, formations to be tinkered with. It could also be argued that the club has had twenty-plus years to get out of the transitional period, so anyone lecturing me about patience ought to have DVDs of the miserable mid-1990s seasons shoved into every available orifice. However, this ignores the fact that, however we got here we are now, again, rebuilding, and the process will take time. And even as I type those words, I pointedly eject them from my mind, to make room for more completely unrealistic, short-term analysis.
In the build-up to the game against Bolton, the scales inevitably tip towards the side of buoyant optimism. Five consecutive away defeats, in all competitions, can be conveniently glossed over, because we have, finally, produced the champagne football of which our players’ CVs suggest they are so capable. It may be six months late, but our push towards European qualification has begun. Having done it once this week, there is no reason why we can’t continue in the same vein on Saturday, and twice a week every week thereafter.
Even Spurs fans claiming to have a sense of perspective will calmly insist on the back of four points from our last two games, and within such a tightly-congested table, that we’ll probably maintain this form and be pushing for the top six by May. What do you mean it was only 45 good minutes out of our last five games? What do you mean it was only Stoke at home? Are you blind, or mad, or a complete footballing imbecile? Was the evidence of that first half not enough to convince you that we are quite patently one of the biggest teams in the country?
The truth, inevitably and rather unglamorously, is somewhere in between. By all accounts the first half versus Stoke was indeed extremely impressive. Replicate this consistently, and we will steadily progress up the table towards the neon lights of the top six – as would any team which regularly played well.
A degree of perspective with regard to the players similarly throws up some rather unspectacular truths. Irrespective of the formation, Darren Bent’s finishing has frequently been hurried and inaccurate. While the limitations of his team-mates have done him no favours, Huddlestone needs to develop other aspects of his game (fitness, off-the-ball movement, tackling) in order to complement his passing ability and fulfil his potential. And so on.
Frankly I feel unclean to ponder Spurs’ situation in such a grounded and sensible way. The All-Action-No-Plot mentality is about the mindless pursuit of glory on the pitch, and the complete absence of perspective from the stands. Therefore, a draw away to Bolton would not be an acceptable step towards stability and security of Premiership status; it would be an opportunity for me to sharpen my knife and lay into Zokora/Bent/Bentley/Ass-Ek/Arry/all of the above (delete as appropriate).
(nb a vastly more reasonable assessment of our current plight, and the lack of perspective at the club, can be found at “The Game is About Glory” - The Core Problem With Spurs?)
Having spent the best part of the last 48 hours imitating a battery chicken in various planes, trains and automobiles, I am now officially a Spurs fan in Oz. Worth noting that the arrival policy in Australia appears significantly more stringent than at Spurs, where anyone who has previously appeared is more than welcome to return.Trying to find out the Spurs-Stoke result was similar to one of those games in which you get the feeling we could play all night and into the morrow without scoring – for all the huffing and puffing, not much was being achieved. The game kicked off with me several thousand feet in the air, and and it quickly became apparent that attempts to access to any news from England were doomed to failure, let alone the result of what must unfortunately be classified as a relegation battle from the Premiership. Such delays certainly added to the tension though, and at around 1pm the following day there was an unobserved but hearty pumping of the fist in one small corner of Perth, as thescoreline finally filtered through.
Evidently we adopted 4-4-2, but I’m not convinced that such a game can be used as evidence in the great 4-4-2 vs 4-5-1 debate (see http://www.allactionnoplot.com/?p=294). Sometimes, when Spurs are at home against weak opposition they score a couple of early goals and begin to purr. On such occasions the formation is rarely the decisive factor. Instead we are driven by a sudden confidence, which provides a conduit for flair, and is aided by the fact that the visitors need to push forward in search of goals of their own, giving us some space to exploit.
I can’t pretend to have any real idea what sort of performance we gave against Stoke, but I’ve certainly seen us become something approaching irresistible on those occasions when we’ve scored two or three early goals. However, it is an infuriating truth familiar to most Spurs fans that the exact same eleven can be almost guaranteed to produce a barely recognisable performance merely days later. Such inconsistency has been the bain of the lives of Spurs fans the world ove. It would surprise few if the reportedly impressive peformance against Stoke were followed by one of the more toothless variety on Sunday against Bolton.
I’ve ranted before about the incredible ability of sportsmen to let circumstance dicate their level of performance, rather than simply resolving to seize a game by the scruff of the neck. Hence, Spurs will wait until 3-0 down vs Burnley and facing elimination before taking the game to their opponents; or will wait until a half-time rollicking rather thanapplying foot to accelerator from first whistle; or indeed will produce a high-octane 90-minute bravura performance against l’Arse, but resort back to the insipid in the very next game, against lesser opponents. While lack of information means it is just conjecture, I’d be willing to wager that the period in between our third goal and half-time saw us produce some of our best football of the season. Why oh why can’t they do it every week, for 90 minutes?
However, I shall sign off in a spirit of unusual optimisim, and point out that whilethe routine demolition of a weaker team can often be followed by weekend defeat to similarly weak team, we nevertheless ought to fancy our chances of buidling on the Stoke win and putting together a run of points that would steer us well clear of the drop-zone.
All-Action-No-Plot is going to spend the next three weeks in Australia and NZ, topping up its tan and teaching its baby nephews about the glory days of Bent, Doherty and Mitchell Thomas. The postings will continue by hook or by crook, but do bear with me as AANP does a Zokora and goes charging off into the unknown with little clue about how to deliver the end product.
This post was written prior to kick-off vs Stoke, at several thousand feet in the air…Having spent much of last week proving that we are not, in fact, much of a Cup team, we now return to the bread and butter of making a mess of league games. As ever, it’s a game we ought to win on paper, against a team in a similar league position, and in a situation whereby a win would practically push us up into the top half of the table. The pessimism I’ve been carefully nurturing all season is threatening to hijack yet another pre-match post, so I’ll abandon a prediction, and instead mull over the ongoing formation conundrum. At the risk of sounding like Carol Vorderman (or the blonde lass who’s replaced her): 4-5-1 or 4-4-2?
Seasoned all-action-no-plotters will know I regularly attend protest marches around Westminster waving a placard that says “4-4-2 – it gives us more up-front, dagnabbit”. It’s by no means a rock-solid argument, but I consider that we’re marginally more potent - or at least less toothless - in attack when we’re fielding two strikers. Cast your minds back to the laboured 1-0 win vs Blackbrun. Lennon robbed their left-back, and started whizzing forward on the counter-attack. Looking up he already had two strikers supporting him (Bent and Pav that day, I think) - as a result the Blackburn defence was a little stretched, and we scored. Compare with the night of a thousand 4-5-1’s, when we’ve managed to swing in a cross, or more typically punted a hopeful long-ball from deep, to see our lone striker jump with two (or more) defenders and possession conceded. Even when counter-attacking we find the oppo defenders outnumbering our attackers when it’s 4-5-1.
4-5-1 definitely works when wide midfielders become auxiliary strikers in a 4-3-3, a la Little Miss Ronaldo at Man Utd, but ours rarely tend to get that far forward or that central. 4-5-1 does tend to give Modric a bit of licence to get forward and cause mischief in dangerous areas, freeing him from defensive duties, but he’s hardly a second striker either.
I suspect 4-5-1 would work a lot better given more capable personnel in the central midfield positions, but between them Hudd, Zokora and Jenas do not seem capable of bossing a scrappy game. Against particularly generous opponents, such as Dinamo Zagreb, they’ll look like Brazil 1970, but when pitted against the might of Burnley it seemed we could have had all 11 in central midfield and we’d still have spent the evening chasing shadows. In a Premiership dog-fight, when up against relegation scrappers, increasing the numbers in midfeild seems to make little difference - we tend not to receive the time and space to play as against Zagreb.
While the early Redknapp days of 4-5-1 brought some good results, several of these were rather fortunate to say the least (last-minute goals vs l’Arse and Liverpool, benefiting from sending-off vs Man City). Admittedly our central midfield hardly bosses games when we play 4-4-2 either, but at least then we’ve got a bit more bite in attack.
I repeat – my arguments are hardly rock-solid, and while I go on my pro-4-4-2 protest marches I’m often heckled by students of the School of 4-5-1, many of whom make very valid points. There is no right or wrong answer to this, and if the personnel were good enough I suspect the formation would not matter too much. Perhaps the soluton is about £14 million of Honduran – a midfielder who can allegedly pass and tackle. Until then, fingers crossed for an improved performance against Stoke tonight.
This bewildering January transfer window looks set to become even more discombobulating, with the news that stroppy Pascal Chimbonda is on his way back to the Lane, gloves, leggings and all, just six months or so since being packaged off to Sunderland by Wendy Ramos et al. While opinion might be split on the wisdom of this move, there can’t be many Spurs fans who aren’t pleased to hear that we’ve also snapped up Chelski reserve ‘keeper Carlo Cudicini on a free.Although I’m generally reluctant to pass judgement on the character of a man I’ve never met, Chimbonda certainly came across as less than thoroughly likeable. The odd story of his mercenary antics was followed by a rather public and self-centred tantrum on being substituted during last year’s Carling Cup Final. Lucky then, that the point of football is not to make friends and invite neighbours around for tea, but is actually geared towards winning matches (although this may be news to some of our midfield). Whatever his personality traits, Chimbonda is a pretty handy defender. Not long ago he was being courted by Chelski as one of the best right-backs in the country, as well as which he’s a versatile so-and-so, which could prove handy what with Ledley’s legs falling apart, Hutton out for the season and Corluka ineligible in Europe. The reported figure is likely to be around £3mil, and I can certainly remember times when we’ve paid more players of lesser quality.
The return of Chimbonda, hot on the heels of Defoe, has me wondering who else might renewing old acquaintances at N17. Robbie Keane was left out of the Liverpool squad on Sunday, and with admirable maturity responded by staying at home altogether. It’s not inconceivable that he could cast a nostalgic glance back down south, remembering the victory jig against l’Arse, the walk up the Wembley steps to lift the Carling Cup, and his legendary encounter with yours truly on Bill Nich Way, when he posed for a picture. Such memories were the stuff of dreams, and it would be only natural if he were to yearn for a return to such former glories. Indeedy, I’ve heard that ‘Arry has over the last 24 hours spoken of his admiration for Keane and how much he’d love him at the Lane etc etc, but then ‘Arry seems to say that about must Premiership players with a pulse. Of the other possible candidates for a reunion of Martin Jol’s (blessed be his name) class of 2005 – 07, I’d personally love to see Steed back at the Lane, but I suspect Sunderland boss Ricky Sbragia’s head would literally pop if we tried to sign any more of his squad.
The news of Cudicini’s arrival – on a free transfer moreover – has been greeted with vigorous nods of approval and murmurs of commendation at All-Action-No-Plot towers. Until Cech parked up in England, Cudicini was regarded as one of the best ‘keepers in the league. Gomes has become one of our best players since the weekly calamities of the start of the season, but there can be little argument that we needed cover in the department, and Cudicini goes beyond that by offering genuine competition. I also prefer that our reserve goalkeeper (if indeed Cudicini is to be the reserve) is an experienced head, rather than Alnwick, or, as has very occasionally been mentioned in months gone by, Joe Hart. With Shay Given being touted at upwards of £5 mil, Cudicini is a smart signing in just about every sense.
They may not be spring chickens, but both Chimbonda and Cudicini are proven quality in the Premiership, and in these days of inflated price tags, both have come pleasingly cheap. After the early January talk of Stewart Downing, the purchases of Cudicini and possibly Palacios, along with Defoe and Chimbonda, represent pretty decent business, on paper at least. Would you believe it, I’m actually feeling quite upbeat.
Well first of all, an apology to ‘Arry Redknapp – I could barely disguise my displeasure yesterday at the twitchy one’s purported plan to field his weakest possible XI, instead of his full-strength team, in an effort to ensure defeat vs Man Utd and reduce fixture congestion as we battle relegation. However, it seems the cheeky scamp was playing us (meaning me) for fools all along. Play his weakest possible team? He had no such plan lined up at all. Oh how he must have chortled when he submitted his team sheet at Old Trafford, replete with Pav, Modric and Corluka, and not a Ricky Rocha in sight. How Alex Ferguson must have quaked in his boots when the cunning plan was unveiled. While Defoe was benched and Woodgate completely absent, the team was nevertheless fairly strong, at least if measured by salaries.Alas, it didn’t work. While an improvement upon the Burnley mess, we never really looked like winning and Man Utd were not required to hit top gear. There were some encouraging signs – the continued decent form of Dawson, the continued positive attitude Bentley, a better showing from young Alnwick – but there was also a pretty obvious difference in class, neatly epitomised by the build-up and finish to Berbatov’s goal. We struggled to put them under sustained pressure, and created few decent chances.
Thanks to the wondrous efficiency of the London Underground – comparable to Darren Bent in terms of value for money - I managed to miss the first ten minutes of the game. I therefore missed the goal (insert another Darren Bent gag here) – and also, it appears, the only worthwhile contribution of the last two games from the Hudd. Despite being given the platform of a 4-5-1 formation he created little over the 80 minutes I saw. I do doff my cap in his general direction in recognition of the sweet little pass for Pav’s goal, but he really ought to have been looking to pull the strings throughout. Instead, Man Utd won the midfield battle, while Hudd’s distribution was at best average, and his work-rate pretty woeful.
I may do him a disservice, in that he’s not a natural workhouse of an athlete, and therefore even if he is sincerely attempting to harry opponents and win tackles, the effect on the pitch is of a fat man lumbeing from point A to point B as if treading through quicksand. While nippy opponents scurry hither and thither, Hudd puffs and pants after them, apologetically sticking out a leg in the general direction of play, well after ball and opponent have passed him by. Given his limitations in winning the ball, much depends upon what he does with it - but when his passing radar is a little awry he’s more of a hindrance than a help.
The Hudd emerged in the team as the heir apparent to Michael Carrick, a player who was also a relatively weak tackler for a deep-lying midfielder, but who made up for it with his quite exquisite passing ability, not to mention the capacity to dip his shoulder and turn away from trouble, irrespective of how many opponents were crowding him out (a talent these days exhibited by Modric). Hudd’s passing can occasionally be of a similar, jaw-droppingly good level as Carrick’s was – but there’s the rub: it’s occasional. And typically, such occasions will see us already in cruise control in a game, and playing at the Lane. Cruise control hasn’t really been in operation this season, and the need for bite in midfield has been painfully obvious.
Still in his early 20s there is time for Hudd to develop his game, but how many more chances do we give him to prove he can boss a game from central midfield? Opponents of lesser ability but greater energy will continue to get the better of him, as Burnley did last week, and this might not be a risk we can afford to take given our current plight. It’s a tricky one, as his passing has at times had us drooling, and is very much in the stylish Tottenham mould. Rumour has it that Martin Jol (blessed be his name) is considering a bid to take him to Hamburg, and it’s certainly conceivable that he would thrive in a European league. However, too many more anonymous games and ‘Arry’s patience will snap, if it hasn’t already done so.
Man Utd away, a hard task at the best of times, has now assumed difficulty of Herculean magnitude thanks to ‘Arry’s managerial masterstroke of slating all his players before they’ve even been selected, and announcing to the world and his wife that he intends to ensure defeat today. It’s a stance guaranteed to polarise opinion amongst fans, so what better way to see out a Saturday morning hangover than with an All-Action-No-Plot guide to the Pros and Cons of Giving Up a Football Match Before Even Taking To The Field?Prioritising the League: Hard to argue with the logic of this. Never mind how we ended up in this position, never mind the inflated wallets and egos of the players, never mind the fact that with our squad we ought to beat every other team in the bottom half of the table - the fact is we’re only out of the relegation zone on goal difference. All season I have shared the complacency of the players all season that we’re bound to avoid relegation, but it won’t take care of itself – the players need to do it. This task will become far more difficult if, say, Modric and Lennon were to pick up injuries in the Cup today. Elimination from the FA Cup would be bearable, relegation would be catastrophic. Rest the key players. It makes sense.
Our Cup Tradition: The counter-arguments, however, are plentiful. Not least, that this is the most glamorous cup competition in the world. We have a magnificent tradition in the FA Cup, from winning it as a non-league team in ’01, to the double-winners of ’61, the centenary winners in ’82 and the Gazza-inspired run of ’91. The FA Cup is a core part of the illustrious history of Tottenham Hotspur. Are we really going to give up on it this year? Is that not some sort of betrayal of our identity? It’s a romantic view, which doesn’t really hold logical weight against the spectre of relegation, and yet it’s a compelling argument.
A Novel Means of Coping With Fixture Congestion and The Relegation Threat: A whacky idea this, but how about we deal with the relegation threat by taking the left-field approach of actually winning games, rather than forfeiting Cup ties? This ludicrous notion would involve outfighting and outplaying opponents, on a regular basis, typically for a full 90 minutes. Madness I know. It’ll never catch on.
Disband The Team: If a team no longer strives to win, and admits even before taking to the pitch that it doesn’t want to win, it ceases to be sport. The team in question ought not to be there. The attitude towards the UEFA Cup is similarly odd, in that having strived so hard to get there for years, we’re now encouraged to view it as an unwanted extra burden, one we’d be better off without. If we don’t want to win any of the cups, why bother staying in the Premiership? We’re certainly not going to win that any time soon, so why bother? It’s just one fixture after another. We don’t want to qualify for Europe, as that creates too many games, so let’s avoid the problem by dropping down a division. In fact, let’s just avoid the entire problem of playing every week and disband the team. Let the players become full-time celebrities, without the hassle of this 90-minute malarkey. (Depressingly, I can think of a couple of players who might be genuinely taken with the idea…)
’Arry The Great Motivator: ’Arry, whose arm-round-the-shoulder confidence-building techniques were so highly spoken of when he joined, has been employing rather questionable motivational tactics of late. Publicly stripping Jenas of the vice-captaincy, publicly deriding reserve goalkeeper Sanchez (not even remembering his name), publicly laying into Bent after that miss, and now announcing that the players he picks v Man Utd will be those he considers the most rubbish at the club. Public criticisms of players are not necessarily bad things, they can often have galvanising effects, but this latest stunt prior to the Man Utd game seems poorly-judged.
The Mugs In The Stands: Last, and evidently least amongst the considerations – the poor mugs who shell out an arm and a leg for the tickets, and trek across the country and back to provide ill-deserved support. There is no question of Spurs doing them the courtesy of trying their damnedest in this game. At times, all to often this season, it seems the team should be paying us for our support.
I’d imagine the “mish-mash” weakened team of reserves today will put in a lot more effort than the prima donnas of Wednesday night at Burnley. It will be good to see the likes of Taraabt and Giovanni get a run-out, while Bale and Alnwick can pick up more experience, but I struggle to see us winning this one.
Levity to one side – temporarily – as this is an attempt to diagnose the core problems at Spurs…I read very recently (with apologies to the author, as I can’t for the life of me remember where) that there’s a problem with the very mentality at Spurs. It’s not just on the pitch, in games like Burnley away, but could be the air about the place as soon as players join. There’s a celebrity/pop-star/big-time Charlie mentality. Players think that once they’ve joined Spurs they’ve made it. They’ve signed for a famous club, with tons of money, a decent history and a strong fan base. It’s a high-profile platform to show off their flair. They’ve got huge wage packets and the glamour of London, with WAGs and tabloids following them around.
The attitude can seep through on the pitch, on nights like Burnley away, when they don’t fly into tackles like their lives depend on them, but instead assume that a goal will come one way or another, just because we’re the famous Premiership club. Burnley’s players are not technically better - if they were they’d be in the Premiership and have the international caps that our lot have. However, Burnley’s players treated the game like it was the highlight of their careers, a life-or-death issue - the sort of attitude a Premiership player should adopt every week, and the complete antithesis of the Spurs players.
At Man Utd, for example, just being at the club is not enough - it’s about winning the Premiership and Champions League. At Spurs, it seems to be enough to trot out every week, win, lose or draw, and enjoy the occasional slice of glamour. The glamour off the pitch, and the glamour of the occasional cup run or televised win against the top four.
There is a quote from our ‘61 double-winning captain, Danny Blanchflower, that is part of folklore at the Lane, and is practically our second motto: “The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It is nothing of the kind. The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.”
We fans are very familiar with it, and I suspect the players and management may be too. However, I can’t help thinking it’s been misinterpreted over the years, as an excuse for not getting their hands dirty. Blanchflower was saying that the game is not only about winning - he was not saying “winning is unimportant as long as you play stylishly” (which we aren’t doing anyway).
Yes, we have a tradition, important to the identity of the club, of trying to play attractive football, but for goodness sake winning is also important, and winning will not be achieved without hard work. The two go hand in hand. We fans are as guilty of this mentality as anyone else. Spurs fans are notorious for impatiently demanding success, insisting that we’re still one of the big teams - and demanding stylish football.
I’m inclined to think that the players have the same mentality - maybe the backroom staff too. The club’s obsession with flair, glamour and revelling in glory has left them blinded to the fact that achieving this glory first of all requires hard work.
This badboy can also be found on football365.com, at: Football365.com - Turning On Harry Houdini In Style… - Mailbox - Football365 News
Wow. I thought my preview yesterday was pessimistic, but the players outdid themselves last night.
“I foresee only a lethargic and complacent performance, until, perhaps, shaken out of ineptitude by the concession of goals… We’ll qualify, probably, but we’ll do it the hard way. I can certainly see us scraping through on aggregate by losing 3-1 or 4-2 on the night – it would be the Tottenham way.” – Me, yesterday (http://www.allactionnoplot.com/?p=276)I’m still too bewildered by it all to have a good proper moan. That feeling of incredulity and humiliation is becoming a twice-weekly ritual now. My immediate post-match summary, to whichever poor sod is within earshot on the night, that it was “Possibly the worst Spurs performance I’ve ever seen,” might as well be shaved into my head, so that when I bow my head in shame at the final whistle of each remaining game this season it is there for all to see and I can bypass the hassle of verbal comment.
Where to start? (I think, in honour of my intrepid heroes, I’ll wait 90 minutes-plus before starting). The game - Spurs’ season, so many of Spurs’ seasons - in a microcosm was the build-up to Burnley’s second goal. Some Championship player stumbled across the halfway line, ball at his feet. Zokora and Hudd backed off. The Championship player meandered to the right, Zokora and Hudd backed off. The Championship player stopped, had a cup of tea, checked his facebook page – Zokora and Hudd backed off, the fear of God in their eyes, treating the lad as if he were an entire pride of rabid lions, hungry for the meat of under-achieving, prima donnas. The Championship player eventually looked to his left, played in another Championship player (unmarked, naturally) and before you knew it half the Spurs defence had been turned inside out and the ball was nestling in the net.
I appreciate that for both Zokora and Hudd to have flown in with diving tackles might have been reckless and left yawning gaps behind them, but one of them could have seized the initiative, shown some desire and just shunted the lad sideways or something. I’m possibly being unfair now, as this might have meant a speck of mud on their nice shiny white shirts.
So, we’re off to Wemberley. Huzzah! With not a hint of dignity, the Spurs players celebrated the late escape almost as if they’d earned it. On this form, and against Man Utd, we could become the first team ever to lose a Wembley cup final by double figures. It won’t happen though. As it’s Man Utd, and Wembley, and a chance for glitz, glamour, celebrity status, a night-out in Faces, WAGs and generous tabloid exposure, the players will excel themselves on 1 March. They’ll be
unrecognisable. They might win it.As my brother said, at least they were entertaining last night.
They were awful, I countered.
Yes, he replied, but they’re comical.
Yes, the tactical bit. Any Spurs players, and quite possibly ‘Arry himself, will stop reading at this juncture, possibly confused by the connotations of the term, and its relevance to the celebrity lifestyle.
The Burnley players are not technically better than ours – if they were they’d be playing in the Premiership, and would have the international caps that our lot have. However, they played last night as if their lives depended on it. As if this was their cup final. Our players went if for the 50-50 challenges in perfunctory manner, because they had to.
At 18 stone and 6′ 5″ (or whatever he is) Hudd should be winning everything in midfield – he didn’t. He never does. As weren’t 2-0 and toying with the oppo, he was largely anonymous. Modric had some good touches, and didn’t seem to mind getting dirty. Bentley’s attitude was admirable, as on Sunday. Assou-Ekotto almost scored the best own-goal since Gary Doherty’s David Platt-style overhead volley vs Leicester in 2003/4. One game isn’t enough to judge Alnwick, especially as it was evidently the first time in his life that he’d played in goal.
The 4-5-1 formation ought to have brought some joy, stifling the Championship midfield, but succeeded only in leaving Defoe isolated upfront. Again, however, I commend his ability to shoot on target, and hard. Do it often enough and it will bring goals, whatever his limitations in other areas.
And one final rant, about The Mentality of The Common Sportsman. Why do players need to be staring defeat point-blank in the face, nose squashed up against its window, before they start competing? The fact that we were losing 2-0 to a Championship side didn’t fluster the Spurs players, because they were on their way to Wembley. Yes, yes, but losing 2-0? To a Championship side? Where’s your dignity, chaps? It’s the same with the England cricket team. Give them a target of 150 to chase down, and with 120 on the board they’ll be making heavy work of it. Yet, against the same oppo and on the same pitch two days later, when chasing 250, they’ll breeze past the 150 mark without any hint of difficulty (only to start falling apart at the seams at the 220 mark). Couldn’t the Spurs players have set out to win the 90-minute game last night? No chance. It wouldn’t be the Tottenham way.
Remember the date. 21 January 2009 – it could be the first day of a very different future. On one man’s shoulders the hopes of an entire generation are pinned. Is change really coming? Or are we all just getting a little too carried away? Are we basing everything on optimism for the future, and forgetting how relatively unproven the chap is? Or does the fact that no-one has a bad word to say about him indicative of a man of history-changing talent?Well, like millions of others, I can’t even remember what it was like for Spurs to have a midfield ball-winner, but Wilson Palacios has now signed, subject to a work permit. If all goes to plan, he’ll provide the grit we’ve lacked for so long, freeing Modric, Lennon and, er, Downing to bomb on forward and cut opponents to ribbons. We’ll then haul ourselves out of the bottom half, somehow qualify for Europe, next season make the Champions League, attract Kaka and win every piece of silverware going. What’s that? Can’t we Spurs fans just for once observe a single day’s events with a tiny degree of perspective and restraint? Not on your life. Today is the day that history changes, for an entire generation. Change is coming, baby!
(Sometimes I like to watch some cricket, sip a good bourbon and pause to reflect upon activity in the all-action-no-plot universe. In such quieter moments I’ll probably observe that 14 or so mil is a heap of money, and that he’d better be good. I’ll remind myself that we’ve lacked a quality defensive midfielder for decades. I’ll muse that my viewings of Palacios have, in the main, been limited to MOTD. I’ll also be aware that he is highly spoken of, and that Man Utd and Real Madrid, rather than, say, West Ham and Fulham, have been linked with him. And ultimately I’ll conclude that only time will tell. We can but hope.)