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Shakhtar – Spurs Preview: Another Game We’re Trying to Lose

Outwitted by a footballer. Not really the sort of thing to proclaim from the rooftops and highlight on my CV – for footballing folk are hardly regarded as the great intellectual giants of our time, no matter what David James and Tony Adams would have you believe. However, whichever way you look at it, ‘Arry Redknapp laid the simplest of traps, and with astonishing naivety I fell for it hook, line and sinker.The occasion was the build-up to the cup game with Man Utd. With a twitch of his head and a moan about his squad size, ‘Arry fed me the line that he would play his weakest possible team. I – still reeling from the news that  the word “gullible” had been removed from the dictionary – lapped this up a little too zealously and indulged in a typically tedious diatribe about the ignominy of it all, laying into ‘Arry, invoking the club’s 126-year tradition, the full works. Come kick-off and the “weakest possible team” did not materialise. While Woodgate was rested, the team sent out was of general, moderate-to-strong capability, boasting Modric and Pav, with not a Rocha in sight.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, and ‘Arry is making similar noises prior to our Uefa cup game. He’s bleating on again about how he’s stuffed the team bus with kids from the Acadmey squad – but I’m not buying it this time. As Dubya put it, fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me, you can’t get fooled again. ‘Arry reckons Corluka, Pav and Keane are all cup-tied – a likely story. He’s claiming that Lennon, Ledley and Three-Touch O’ Hara are all out injured – pull the other one. Jermain Defoe is apparently both ineligible and injured – the lady doth protest too much, methinks. And Woodgate, Cudicini, Palacios and Modric are all being rested tonight – oh you tease ‘Arry, you mischievous scamp. Not only have you played that ruse before, but to omit our ten best players against a team whose last competitive result was a win against Barcelona – well that would be the most suicidal plan since Bruce Willis did the honourable thing in Armageddon (or perhaps Deep Impact).

Alas…

Alas, it’s actually true. It could be Alfie Patten and friends – and his kids – lining up in lilywhite tonight. There will probably be some recognisable faces on show (Dawson, Jenas, Hudd, Chimbonda, Zokora, Gomes etc) and it will be nice to see Dos Santos finally get a game, and reacquaint ourselves with Bent’s look of disbelief as he shins wide, but let’s not kid ourselves. Although Shakhtar are just returning from a winter break, our sub-strength team will struggle. Over two legs, we’re heading out. We’re doomed (which might well become the new subtitle of this increasingly morbid forum of woe). I know, I know – we have bigger fish to fry, with Premiership games mounting up (Hull away on Monday) and the Carling Cup final to come (a week on Sunday). Logic was never my forte in scholarly days, but even I see the sense in omitting key players tonight and next Thursday, in a Uefa Cup competition we’re miles away from winning.

But still. For years and years I’ve enviously watched as other teams – not least l’Arse – have gone on their merry midweek European jaunts, and yearned for the day when we could do the same. And when we finally made it into Europe, it was amazing. European nights at the Lane are awesome, they absolutely rock, and I shall happily slap in the face with a wet fish anyway who suggests otherwise. Successive seasons of it has me addicted. And now we’re just going to throw it all away? (If ever there was a time to become sufficiently tech-savvy to insert an audio clip of an anguished howl, this is it.)

Yes, yes, yes, YES – I know, it’s far more important that we stay in the Premiership, stop yelling that at me. But the all-action-no-plot devil on my shoulder continues to poke me with a stick and repeat to me – “What’s the point if we’re not striving to climb the table and get into Europe?” I’m aware that I’m displaying the all too familiar Spurs Fan’s Irrational Impatience™, far more harmful than good to the team, a wretched curse of generations up and down the High Road and many miles beyond. I’m aware that this all a means to an end, and that the Uefa is being sacrificed so that we can come back stronger next season – but here and now, in the build-up to Shakhtar away, it doesn’t soften the blow. Shakhtar over two legs is not insurmountable; I just hope that if we do lose we at least go out with a fight.

This season we’ll scramble free of the drop, lose the Carling Cup final and finish like all the rest of them – mid-table, no trophies. Why retain our Premiership status if that means existing in a dull rut, alongside Middlesborough and Fulham and all of the other most boring and soulless sides in the universe? What’s the point of surviving, if we then go on to live our lives in a dull void of unfeasible blandness and nihilism. We’re in danger of becoming Middlesborough I tell you. Middlesborough! Is there a more depressing thought in football?

The odds of us winning the Uefa this season were always a tad long, but at least we were in it. Who knows when we’ll next have the chance? By next Thursday night we’ll be out of the Uefa. Next Sunday we face the best team on the planet, in the best form in their history, in the Carling Cup final. After that we could well have become Middlesborough.

I feel like Ray Liotta at the very end of Goodfellas.

“And now it’s all over. That’s the hardest part. Today everything is different. There’s no action. I have to wait around like everyone else. Can’t even get decent food. After I got here I ordered spaghetti with marinara sauce…and I got egg noodles with ketchup. I’m an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.”

 

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Published in Thursday, February 19th, 2009, at 12:43 pm, and filed under Spurs preview.

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3 Responses

  1. Mike Rowe Says:

    You know it may turn out that a young hungry side could do the business for us tonight. SD are not a great side and the Barcelona win was against a side that had already qualified and had bigger fish to fry. They came third in their CL group and we have to be positive.
    lets hope we see some of the up and coming Spurs youth team out there and give them all the support we can. A win tonight would be great but a loss would not be so bad.
    Europen nights are I agree special but if we crash out of the premiership the financial costs are so great that we could wait a very long time before we are there agaain.
    Be patient with ‘Arry and I am sure he will give us the team we all crave.

  2. keith Says:

    be patient u must be joking lost patients when he turned up for first game
    fed up with excuses for injuries too many games not enough players
    fck off wats the point of turning up for the league cup final
    go back to portsmouth along with the rest !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    u win the league to get in europe and he treats it like cack wat was the point of beating chelski and now throwing it away on propagada by yours
    truely arry watching hoddle and ozzie and the rest from 1978-1987 relegted as well still playing football on shity pitches and 60games and league fa cup and eufa cup and all we get is bleating by the spammer
    all the plastic spurs are his dream believing him it was because of all u lot on the web wanting jol out then ramos now we a stuck with a geezer who talks a good game and is good with the media!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. leonardo Says:

    I’m with keith (but not quite so full on). Most of our players have had tons of rest due to international break, not being in FA Cup, injuries and suspensions. Why does it have to be either UEFA or staying in prem? Why cant we go for both?? I remember 20+ years ago us playing a weakened team (at Southampton the week before a Cup Final when we were safely in mid table and I think we got heavily reprimanded by the FA. Its an insult to the fans (especially those travelling) not to play the strongest possible team.

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