All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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Burnely – Spurs Preview: Qualifying the Hard Way

Unknown territory tonight – a three-goal lead with 90 minutes remaining is a thing unheard of at N17, where we’re more used to desperate attempts to retrieve a one-goal deficit with 20 mins (or indeed just injury-time) to go.A 4-1 lead from the first leg against lower-league opposition means that we could do things the simple way – adopt a professional attitude, match Burnley’s work-rate and aggression, and score once or twice before half-time to breeze through. Yes, this would be a delightful means of securing a route to Wembley, and would be adopted by most teams with a modicum of common sense, the merest concept of sanity and any inclination to inject plot as well as action into its doings.

However, this is my beloved Tottenham. This is the team that lost an FA Cup Final through an own-goal the first time I ever watched them; the team that began a season with a  5-0-5 formation; that went 3-0 up against ten-men at half-time and lost 4-3; that sacked big scary Martin Jol (blessed be his name) and that paid £16 mil for Darren Bent. Common sense and sanity renewed their passports and left the premises long ago. No plot here, just action.

So, I apologise, but the penchant for under-achievement and self-destruction displayed so far this season (and indeed, on a general basis over the last two decades), have left me fearing a nail-biting, cardiac-arresting drama tonight. Whereas our normally reticent and unemotional American cousins have not stopped babbling on about hope and optimism for the future, I foresee only a lethargic and complacent performance, until, perhaps, shaken out of ineptitude by the concession of goals.

Across the pond, the newly-canonised one has been recommending that I adopt a more positive attitude towards tonight’s game: “On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.” Evidently St Obama did not catch the first 45 minutes of our first leg vs Burnely.

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. Burnley showed in the first half of the first leg that they can produce a decent performance, and in front of their own crowd, an early goal or two would be a nightmare. You can barter for a mortgage and then bet the whole lot on the fact that Spurs will need to concede at least once before they wake up and start playing.

The injury front is also a cause for concern. No Ledley is par for the course, but the absence of the increasingly-dependable Gomes and Corluka leaves the defence looking vulnerable, while Lennon, one of our likeliest match-winners on current form, is also out. Crikey, I’m even ruing the absence of Jenas.

However, once we’ve conceded two goals, woken from our reverie and the contest actually begins in earnest, there will be grounds for optimism. The injury to Lennon means a start for Bentley on the right, his natural home – this after a highly encouraging cameo at the weekend. Three-Touch O’Hara on the left will provide balance and graft, having produced arguably his finest performance in a Spurs shirt in the first leg against these same opponents. Unbelievably I find myself welcoming the return of the absurdly-coiffured Assou-Ekotto at left-back, on the grounds that human-simian hybrid Bale was run ragged last time out by Burnely winger Eagles. Indeed, even the absence of Corluka is likely to shunt Zokora into the right-back berth, a position in which he excelled vs Man Utd a few weeks back.

Fingers crossed that debutant Alnwick can cut it in goal, and that Hudd, if restored to central midfield, has discovered hitherto unknown capacities for tackling, sprinting and generally beavering away like a man possessed, because otherwise Burnely will swamp us in midfield.

I doubt that even we could implode to the extent of letting slip a 4-1 semi-final lead, but equally, I’d be amazed if we make light work of this.

Spurs 1-1 Portsmouth: Denied by Philosophical Shot-Stopper

It was a pretty manic, all-action-no-plot match; a performance pleasingly high on commitment from every man in lilywhite; and, but for an irritatingly supreme performance from the Premiership’s self-styled philosopher-in-chief, David James, it would have had ended with three points in the bag.James had perplexingly taken to quoting completely irrelevant lines from Isaac Newton in the pre-game build-up, but appeared not to have neglected the day-job once on the pitch. Early on he was leaping at full-stretch to his left, to palm away a Ledley header. “Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination,” he could clearly be seen to mouth as he dusted himself off – “Oscar Wilde”. Moments later, as Defoe dived to head goalwards a Lennon cross, James tipped it over the bar, murmuring as he did so, “The luck of having talent is not enough; one must also have a talent for luck.”

In the second half James’ talent for luck became even more evident, with his snap-save to keep out a deflection from Lennon’s driven cross. “Illusory joy is often worth more than genuine sorrow,” whispered the Premiership’s resident academic , as the save led to a Pompey break which 15 seconds later saw Nugent score. “Kant!” screamed ‘Arry. “Descartes,” corrected James.

Although possession was frequently conceded, Spurs looked to have far better balance with Three-Touch O’ Hara out left, rather than Bentley and his hair-gel. Three-Touch’s presence also seemed to have a calming influence upon half-man-half-simian Gareth Bale, whose performance was less mistake-riddled than in recent weeks. No doubt having taken umbrage at the nickname ascribed to him at All-Action-No-Plot Towers, young O’ Hara did his best to dispel the accusation that he needs at least three touches when in possession – but alas, he seemed to have misunderstood the nature of the slight, and instead frequently resorted to five or six touches. Sterling performance, though, with generally decent distribution, and passion in the tackle.

Lennon’s willingness to cut infield as well as dip the shoulder and dart out wide caused problems for Belhadj, a very capable left-back. Encouragingly, Lennon’s performance also included a peach of a cross for Defoe, as noted above. Despite never lumbering beyond first gear, Corluka made a vital goal-saving intervention, as well as augmening attack to good effect.

The injury to Pav can apparently be filed under “Whingeing Foreigner” rather than “Out For The Season”, which will probably disappoint ‘Arry, who was no doubt straining at the leash for another excuse to bid £15 mil for more mediocre Premiership strikers. Meanwhile, the sight of Ledley limping off was dispiriting, but hardly surprising, for such is the plight of a man whose physique comprises feathers held together with blu-tac.

And so to Defoe. Bouyed by his success in the All-Action-No-Plot Haircut of 2008 category (see http://www.allactionnoplot.com/?p=161) the young man made an early bid to retain his crown with a Craig David circa ’99 effort, and also turned back the clock with his shoot-on-sight policy. The man has his detractors, and is accused of limited ability, but I’m a big fan of his penchant for regularly shooting on target, and generally with some power. Forcing the ‘keeper to make a save invites success at any level. Today, he was unfortunate to come up against a full-time philosopher with a line in breathtaking saves, but oh that Darren Bent would adopt a similar hit-the-target-and-see approach…

Defoe’s efforts were ultimately rewarded with the equalising goal (leaving James to muse with sadness “If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same…”). Our pressure merited a winner, and but for Bent’s awful sense of geography would have done so, but the manner of the performance gives cause for optimism. Consummatum est, as David James no doubt mused at full-time.

Spurs – Portsmouth Preview

Spurs – Pompey would ordinarily be deemed a rather tepid fixture, the sort assigned for commentary to Tony Gubba on a Saturday MOTD. Today however, the fixture carries the sort of needle more usually associated with a local derby.The return of big Sol to the Lane will have had N17’s finest clearing their throats in preparation for his usual pantomime villain treatment, and this week’s game neatly coincides with the arrest of 11 fans for singing anti-Sol songs at Fratton Park earlier in the season. While, mercifully, the homophobia will no longer be heard, rumour has it that a censored version of the Sol song is being fine-tuned in preparation for today, possibly including that most magnificent of derogatory monikers, “rotter”.

Moreover, today’s game will also be the first time ‘Arry and Defoe face their former employers, since shrugging their shoulders, eschewing loyalty and nonchalantly strolling up to the Lane with cheery one-fingered salutes at the great and good of Fratton Park, routines completed with faux astonishment at the heckling they receive from Pompey fans.

And on top of all that, just when you thought it couldn’t get any juicier, global bragging rights are at stake, as I have a mate in New Zealand who is a Pompey fan. Honestly, could the build-up to this game be any more dramatic?

While the police and clubs have officially pleaded for calm, the self-styled Descartes of the Premiership, David James, has rather stuck a spanner in the works by urging Portsmouth’s travelling support to give ‘Arry and Defoe some grief, a call to arms which will have security staff at the Lane rolling their eyes and cursing under their breath.

Ever since insisting he had Zidane’s last-minute free-kick covered and then freezing on the spot as it sailed past him, at Euro 2004, I’ve had an axe to grind with James. He probably is quite thoughtful and intelligent, but he acts in all sincerity like he’s a Nobel prize-winner. Memorably, on a Rio Ferdinand wind-up, he waxed lyrical about a painting of a house, and specifically the symbolism of its over-sized windows, before being told it had been painted by a 5 year-old. Why can’t he just stick to football? It’s like going to a U2 concert and hearing that Bono chap rant on about how in third world countries there are 18 dying kids living in a mud-hut with only a beetle to eat between now and Christmas. Fair point, but the punters are paying to hear Angel of Harlem and other late 80’s classics. If they wanted to save the world they’d stop washing and go on protest marches, not attend U2 concerts.

David James’ self-importance has rubbed off on his boss, Tony Adams, who also likes to try throwing in the odd philosophical platitude when being interviewed on his appalling managerial record. Heaven knows what the team-talks at Portsmouth are like. So in the build-up to today’s game James has gone and made the sort of remarks that would land Joe F*cking Kinnear with a disrepute charge – but being David James he’s got away with it. With his battle-cry ringing in the ears of Pompey fans, and Sol making his latest return to the Lane, the noise from the stands ought to be pretty fiery today.

Oh that the Spurs players would display that sort of frenzied aggression. How pleasing it would be if they picked up where they left off against Burnley. Instead I fear that we’ll be outfought and outfoxed in midfield by footballing luminaries of the ilk of Kaboul and Nugent, prompting ‘Arry to blame the players, stewards, groundstaff and any other remnants of the old regime.

Comedy Gold

Some Friday afternoon humour for you:Two goldfish are in a tank.
One turns to the other and says “So how the hell do we drive this thing?”

First man: Can you help me? I’m looking for a dog with one eye.
Second man: Trying opening your other eye. It will double your chances of finding him.

 

Inter Milan boss Jose Mourinho has confirmed to Sky Sports News that he is interested in signing Jermaine Jenas. 

Oh, the hilarity…

Oh, the hilarity…

 

Luke-Warm Transfer Gossip – Palacios In, Jenas Out?

Since picking up a troublesome back injury last year, I seem to have lost a yard of pace, and as a result I’ve rather struggled to keep up with the transfer gossip this window. However, it takes more than the imminent onset of paralysis to stop me from moaning about Spurs, so here for your visual delectation is the most comprehensive guide to transfer rumours at N17 on any site called All Action, No Plot:Kenwyne Jones (Sunderland): Levy’s transfer policy seems pretty simple: pick a half-decent player, double his realistic value, add £5 million – by this time you’re likely to be waving a cheque for £15 million at the chairman of an occasional Premiership club – and hey presto! After 16 mil for Bent, 15 mil for Pav, 15 mil for Bentley and 15 mil for Defoe we’ve now had a 10 mil bid for Jones turned down, with eavesdroppers reckoning that 15 mil should be enough. Sigh. I don’t spend every spare minute studying the form of random Premiership players, but if Jones were really so special he’d be setting the goalscoring charts alight/a household name/sought after by the big four/all of the above.

 

Wilson Palacios (Wigan): Another one in the magic £15 mil bracket, but merrily this guy has been eyed by Man Utd and Real Madrid – which makes him a darn sight better than Bent or Bentley. Rumour has it that he might be the holding midfielder we’ve been crying out for since the dawn of man, but I know better than to get my hopes up, and fully expect him to materialise as a worse version of Didier Zokora, should he sign. The guy’s autobiography is truly all-action-no-plot, with his 15 year-old brother having been kidnapped and held up for ransom in his native Honduras, poor blighter. Might well be a Spurs player by the time you read this.Stephen Appiah (free agent): Earlier this week I read that Appiah had completed his medical… and returned home. What the blazes? What the hell sort of denoument is that? That’s like watching two hours of Terminator 2, getting to the bit when the evil Terminator corners Sarah Connor in the steelworks factory… and then she wakes up. It would have been a rubbish ending. However, it turned out not to be the ending at all, as Appiah has reportedly reappeared at the Lane to partake in more training sessions and practice matches. Free transfer, which will disappoint Levy, who won’t be able to dish out a further £15 mil.

Craig Bellamy (West Ham): With Man City dithering over whether to go for Bellamy or Kaka, it appears Spurs might yet swoop in for the loveable golf-club-wielding cherub, leaving the red-faced northerners with no option but to splash out on the best Brazilian since Pele. Hahaha, that’ll learn ’em.

Stewart Downing (Middlesborough): Mediocre? Worth not much more than £5 mil? Then Spurs will bid £15 mil for him. I celebrated like we’d won the Carling Cup when I heard that Boro were refusing to let him go. Be warned however – the transfer window still has two weeks to run, so with a dip of his right shoulder and dart out to the left young Downing could yet be heading to the High Road. Would rather stick Three-Touch O’Hara or even Gareth Bale out left for the rest of the season, and then pursue Joe Cole in the summer.

Antonio Valencia: Hmmm, yes, another right winger. Exactly what we need. Smart thinking chaps.

And possibly going the other way…

Jermaine Jenas: Huzzah! How wonderful it is to wake of a morning and, for a change, be greeted by news headlines bearing glad tidings. The report of the successful plane landing on the Hudson River was indeed such positive news, but barely compares to the best rumour of the millenium – that Jermaine Jenas could be on his way out of Spurs. Could it be true? Well, let’s not kill the fattened calf just yet – it seems efforts to add him as a makeweight in any of the above deals have stalled, as none of the clubs in question want him. If only these clubs were managed by any of the Spurs and England managers of the past five years, he’d be an automatic starter… Maybe I do Jenas an injustice here – his effort and attitude has always been admirable, and he was a key component of the team that dismantled l’Arse and Chelski in winning the Carling Cup. He’s still gut-wrenchingly awful though, and his departure from the Lane would make the all-action-no-plot universe a better place.

Darren Bent: Bless him, he can earnestly bleat on all he likes about getting his head down and making the most of his chances, but he’ll never cut it at the Lane. More likely to be mentioned in the same breath as Postiga and Raziak than Greaves and Lineker, it seems that Levy will pretend the whole £16 mil thing never happened, and just chuck him in as a sweetener for Jones or Bellamy, or someone. Worth sticking a fiver on to score against us at some point in 2009.

 

This article also appears on the cracking Spurs blog The Proud Cockerel: http://www.clubfanzine.com/tottenham_hotspur/index.php

Kaka for £100 million, Adriano for Bale… All-Action-No-Plot Transfer Talk

What the blazes? For the last couple of weeks the January transfer window has provided a view into a serene and rather bland British landscape, with the return of Jermain Defoe the best on offer, and other gossip being limited to moves for the likes of James Beattie and Dean Windass. Within the last 24 hours however, the window has turned into a portal into the All-Action-No-Plot universe, as the football world and everything in it has suddenly become completely mental.

Kaka to Man City for £100 million? Adriano on loan to Spurs from Inter – with Gareth Bale going the other way? Pick your jaw up from the floor, for I jest ye not – these are the rumours doing the rounds today. And they’re not just rumours either – representatives have been holding clandestine meetings. Clandestine meetings! Actual negotiations are taking place!Kaka 

 

However, this isn’t Lucas Neill or Cashley Cole we’re talking about – this is Kaka. Filthy lucre is not going to turn the head of this man, not even the brain-frying sum of £250k per week. (Per fricking week!!!). This is a man who famously wore a t-shirt proclaiming that he belonged to Jesus. This is a man who gives one tenth of his weekly wage to charidee, and who probably spends his spare time helping to build orphanages for one-legged, rabid kids in the world’s poorest countries.

Kaka currently plies his trade alongside Maldini, Ronaldinho, Gattuso, Beckham, Pato and Inzaghi. On offer is the prospect of weekly shuttle runs alongside Micah Richards, Darius Vassell and Stephen Ireland (actually, that Ireland is pretty slick, but you get the point). One suspects that even sums of money so large they need to be delivered to his pad in a wheelbarrow each week might not be enough to lure him away from the San Siro. 

 

Adriano – Bale 

 

However, I suspect he’s better than Fraizer Campbell and poor old Darren Bent, and as such I’d welcome him, particularly on a loan deal. It’s the Gareth Bale part of this rumour that has me desperately grasping for some semblance of reality. Adriano for Bale? Who dreamt that one up?

Inter boss Jose Mourinho presumably is thinking of the Gareth Bale from the start of last season, the all-action-no-plot teenage left-back with a burst of pace and an eye for goal. He’s clearly unaware of the amazing regression that has taken place, Darwinism in reverse, that sees the lad quiver every time the ball goes near him and time his tackles with all the nous of a blind giraffe on stilts.

Still, if Inter are willing, why not? And why stop there – let’s see who else they want to trade. Jenas for Zlatan Ibrahimovic? Bentley for Javier Zanetti? Three-Touch O’ Hara for Cambiasso? Bale for Adria- oh wait, hang on a moment…

(Amidst all this madness, spare a thought for Darren Bent. Having had barely a sniff last season, he became first choice at the start of this campaign, only to be left out to dry in a 4-5-1, then saw Pavluychenko arrive, followed by Defoe, with ‘Arry now in talks for another striker. Bent must wonder what he’s done in a previous life, or who is manufacturing the voodoo dolls in his image. Knowing his luck, next time he walks out of the tunnel at the Lane a grand piano will probably fall out of the sky and land on him. Poor blighter).

Wigan 1-0 Spurs: Lack of Vortex Leaves Jenas Red-Faced

To whom could ‘Arry possibly have been referring when he talked of the need for “men” in the squad, and fighters for the relegation scrap. Actually, you don’t need to be Einstein, or even Murder She Wrote’s Jessica Fletcher, to piece this one together (side note – what was it with that woman? Wherever she went, someone dropped dead within 24 hours. If she turned up at my place I’d run a mile…).Ledley, Woodgate, Dawson, Three-Touch O’Hara and Zokora were singled out for praise by ‘Arry, as those you’d stick your life on to win a header. Fair enough, by that criterion. By implication therefore, the rest need to thump a clenched fist to their chests a bit more regularly in order for ‘Arry to stop twitching. 

Who better to pick on than everyone’s favourite fall-guy? Jermaine Jenas, take a bow son. As Wigan’s last minute corner looped into the area, rather than stick to his man, jump and challenge for the round white thing, Jenas rather optimistically banked on a vortex into another dimension spontaneously opening up a yard behind him and swallowing up both the ball and

Maynor Figueroa. Surprisingly enough, the space-time continuum trundled along in that same, predictable fashion of the last several million years, and Figueroa used the freedom of the six yard box well, sending a bullet header into the net.

I realise it’s unfair to knock a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes, so I can’t possibly testify to the rigours of marking someone at a set-piece at Premiership level. However, my basic experience of a million cold Saturdays at amateur level has taught me that marking someone offering no movement, from a set-piece, ain’t the hardest part of the game. Get in-between him and the goal, get yourself close enough to smell his ear-wax and at least let him know he’s got a very special friend as he tries to get his head on it. If you do this and he still scores, at least you’ve done your best. Don’t, however, lost sight of him, wander a couple of yards in front of him and let the ball sail over your head (before heading back home and collecting your thirty-grand-a-week wages). If Jenas ever again wonders why he has no song at the Lane, I’ll add yesterday’s shocker to the three-part dvd of Jenas Being Useless (The Highlights) and shove said dvd box set down his throat.

More tactically…

I was unable to catch the game yesterday, due to a family engagement, and it was no doubt in retribution for this act of betrayal that the players lost the game in the last minute. My viewing was therefore limited to MOTD 2 in the evening, which hardly places me to comment.  However, ‘Arry’s team selection was puzzling to say the least, a sentiment I’d have expressed even without the benefit of my impeccable 20-20 hinsdight. King in the midfield holding role was surprising but just about comprehensible – but Zokora wide right? We’re not exactly short of qualified right midfielders, so this one certainly had me arching a quizzical eyebrow. Presumably the deployment of Zokora, King and O’ Hara across the middle was aimed at providing a platform of gritty ball-winners upon which Modric would be allowed a bit of freedom to pull strings, particularly within a 4-4-2 rather than 4-5-1. Can’t say it’s the sort of line-up which has me leaping off my seat and dancing atop my desk in joy, and evidently it didn’t have us thumping down on the Wigan door either. Wendy Ramos, one suspects, would have been pilloried for such a team selection…

Wigan – Spurs preview: Selection Dilemma for ‘Arry

‘Arry Redknapp would moan about his squad size even if were able to choose from the entire population of China, so he’s not going to admit that he’s got a bit of a selection dilemma ahead of Wigan away on the morrow. Jermain Defoe will ditch the Dick Van Dyke cap, gawd bless ya, pull on the lilywhite once more and waltz straight back into the starting eleven, presumably alongside Pav upfront. After Sheringham and Klinsmann, and Keane and Berba, everyone bar Darren Bent will hope that this proves another top-notch striking combo.Defoe and Pav upfront will mean 4-4-2, rather than 4-5-1, which in turn means only two in central midfield rather than three. With Jenas back from suspension, ‘Arry has to choose whether Modric remains in the centre and Jenas on the bench, or Jenas in the centre and Modric out left.

A propos the left flank, will Bentley be retained, or will he have to preen himself on the bench rather than the pitch? His form has been woeful, but ‘Arry has persisted, and as we’re not at the Lane  – away from the increasingly loud and frequent groans (and worse) of dismay – Bentley and his tubs of hair gel may be offered another chance. Should that happen, young Three-Touch O’ Hara may well storm out of N17 never to return – his second-half left-midfield cameo on Monday night was inspired, and he will, with some justification, feel he’s merited a place in the starting XI.

Tottenhamhotspur.com, one of the great propaganda machines of the 21st century, has pointed out that we’ve won every game we’ve played this year, and with that line in irresistibility how could Wigan possibly cause us trouble? Alas, the Wigan of tomorrow will be vastly changed from the Wigan we beat in the cup a couple of weeks ago. They’re in form in the league, and their impressive striking pair of Heskey and Zaki are both fit to play.

Defoe to continue his penchant for debut goalscoring, but a draw at best, I fear.

Spurs 4-1 Burnely: Belated Four-Play

How must David Bentley feel this morning? Bless him, he can’t really be faulted for effort, but nothing he tried came off, whether a 5-yard pass, whipped in cross, fancy flick or long-range effort. Presumably when he got to the dressing-room at half-time for a swig of Lucozade he squirted it into his eye. He’s a right-winger playing on the left, and apparently he’s ill at the moment (begs the question of why he was played) but all the mitigating circumstances in the world can’t hide the fact that it’s just not happening for him at the moment, no matter what hairstyle he adopts.

While few at the Lane would agree with me, I see him coming good in the long-term. Dawson, Gomes and Lennon have each had their woeful spells in lilywhite, but all seem to be back on form (although Lennon’s perennial inability to deliver the final ball continues to frustrate), suggesting that these bad runs come and go. While Bentely’s not everyone’s particular brand of cognac, he has in previous seasons shown himself to be a very good performer at Premiership level. Poor form, yes; poor player, no.

However, he may be facing a spell on the subs bench after last night. After huffing and puffing to no avail for 45 mins, who knows what he said to his reflection as he gazed lovingly into a mirror at full-time, having witnessed his replacement, Three-Touch O’Hara, mastermind a four-goal salvo within just 20 minutes.
Seasoned all-action-no-plotters will know that young Three-Touch has never been a favourite of mine, due to the fact that he’s a bit heavy on graft and short on natural flair, but my goodness he injected exactly what was needed last night. Flair players won’t do much if they don’t have the ball, and at a time when no-one had the stomach for a fight, Three-Touch rose to the challenge of getting his hands dirty against the lower-league scrappers. His set-piece delivery was also spot on, and he even bagged himself a one-touch goal. Blinking heck.

 

 

So, as if by magic the soulless rabble, outfought and outpassed in the first 45 mins, banged in goals like they were going out of fashion in the second half. I’ll have whatever was in their half-time cuppa. To be honest, a foul-mouthed tirade from ‘Arry would not scare me anything like as much as one of those death stares from his assistant Joe Jordan, a man whose terrifying demeanour has “psycho-waiting-to-be-unleashed” etched all over it. The  performance won’t have Man Utd quaking in their boots, but it at least smoothes our passage to Wemberley. Job all but done.
More tactically… 

What the blazes has happened to Gareth Bale? The human-simian hybrid was our best player for the first few months of last season, but can’t defend to save his life at the moment. His distribution was woeful too. If the suspended Assou-Ekotto were capable of anything other than a blank stare of the undead, he would probably allow himself a smug smile in light of his replacement’s abysmal performances.

Merrily, the back-four looked nice and solid in the second half. Corluka deserves credit for ditching the alice-band, but needs to find a pace beyond lumbering and lumbering-more-animatedly if he he’s to be a genuine attacking option from right-back.The midfield certainly looked better for the presence and tenacity of Three-Touch in the second half. Much though I like 4-4-2 it remains to be seen whether a central midfield combo of Modric and Zokora can cut it at Premiership level – the pair were overrun in the first half.

Also notable was a much improved use of the ball in the second period. There were counteless aimless upfield punts in the first half, but the ball was treated far more lovingly in the second. Why they couldn’t play like that from the start I don’t know. 

And a word for Pav – that goal oozed class. They’re still glimpses, but every now and then he looks a £15 mil (or whatever it was) pound striker.

Spurs – Burnely preview: What an Opportunity

What an opportunity this is. While pundits, players and ‘Arry will trot out one cliché after another about the risks of playing a rubbish team in a cup blah blah blah, there’s no escaping the fact that Burnley over two legs is a glorious opportunity for us to get to Wembley. Yes, they knocked out Chelski and l’Arse (kids) en route to this semi; and yes, we’re an underperforming outfit these days. Nevertheless, this is a team in the division below us. Moreover, should we have a bad day, or should they produce a particularly inspired performance, we have a safety net by virtue of the fact that this is a two-legged tie. Even at my most pessimistic I can’t see us messing this up, not over two legs.Defoe is to be paraded before kick-off, like some sort of circus attraction, which ought to whip the crowd into a frenzy. I’m also confident that this spirit of goodwill will give birth to a ripple of applause when the dastardly Hossam Ghaly’s name is read out, which ought to be sufficient to drown out the odd isolated boo. If we get a goal in the first 30 mins the roof will come off (I know, I know – there is no roof) and we’ll produce a breathtaking, all-action-no-plot display to give us a six-goal cushion for the second leg (or, more realistically, both crowd and players will settle back into a dangerous level of complacency which we’ll come to regret in the return leg in a fortnight’s time). Either way, I’m confident we can put the tie beyond doubt tonight, especially if Burnley commit men forward in search of an away goal.

Team news is that Assou-Ekotto and his blank stare and mentalist afro is suspended, as is Jenas. I can think of worse news in the build-up to a game. More worryingly, Ledley is stuck together with safety pins and sellotape again, but Dawson has rediscovered his form in recent weeks, and Woodgate completes a sturdy looking centre-back pair, while Gomes is in tip-top form in goal. The absence of Bent leaves us with limited striking options, but with Modric and Lennon looking dangerous we’ve got goals in us.

A little depressingly, this is the highlight of our season, and as such I expect a very strong performance – and hopefully something like a two-goal win. Or is that too optimistic?

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