Well that, frankly, was pretty disappointing. I know it shouldn’t matter – far wiser heads have been calmly pointing out the various reasons why:
· Context – We spent the first half of the season avoiding relegation. Anything above 18th was to be welcomed. Moreover, while victory would have taken us into Europe, today’s game was hardly the must-win affair that other teams found themselves facing. The guaranteed mid-table spot was fine.
· Not Qualifying For Europe – Pride aside, this will undoubtedly benefit our League campaign next season, when top six should be mandatory, and top four could be guiltily whispered about behind the bike-shed. The benefits were exemplified this season, after our exit from the Uefa Cup, when Ledley became a regular and we went one-nil crazy.
· To Be Fair, It Was Liverpool Away – I guess we’ve been spoilt by impressive form in the last three or four months, coupled with something approaching a hex on the top four, but let’s not forget that this was the Premiership’s form-team (ten wins in eleven) and probably one of the top four or five teams in Europe. On top of which they have been unbeaten at home all season.
· Injuries, Absences, No Absolutely Urgent Need To Win – All mitigating factors. A full-strength Spurs team, with more at stake than a last-day procession, would arguably have made a better fist of it.
Yes, yes, all very good points, probably all quite true – but being sore losers, we at AANP Towers have been in no mood to buy any of it, and have instead moped angrily around the place today, stamping on old ladies’ feet and furtively elbowing small children in the head.
· Completely Outplayed – Gallingly, it was one of our most lacklustre displays for some time. The game highlighted quite how important Wilson Palacios is to us, and how important it is that we bring in a decent understudy. The Scott Brown rumour has gathered momentum, and my one Celtic-mad chum has given the boy a vote of confidence, which we AANP Towers are tentatively happy to endorse – a “terrier” apparently, in the Roy Keane mould, although “he needs to develop”, which is a slightly worrying disclaimer. Having waited so long for a midfield enforcer it seems greedy to demand another, but with no Palacios doing the rottweiler act in front of the back four we looked a shadow of our more recent, late-season selves, and scarily similar to our early-season Two-Points-Eight-Games selves.
· Completely Outplayed – Admittedly it’s not particularly inventive to use the same sub-heading twice in a row, but let that be a warning – I’m so irritated by today’s shoddy showing that I’m even eschewing literary decorum. This time I mean “completely outplayed” in the sense of embarrassment rather than tactics. Losing narrowly after a good performance is gut-wrenching, but does at least leave a sense of pride. By contrast, rather tamely capitulating, as today, leaves me clenching my fist in something approaching anger, and has the old ladies and young children of North London running for the hills. There didn’t seem to be a huge amount of pride in the shirt, more a weary and longing glance towards the Departures lounge at Heathrow. Yes they’ve done well to revive a season that started on life-support, but it’s a 38-game season, and today too many of them were trying to skive off work.
· Gap in Class – Being a Spurs fan, delusion is in my DNA, so over the last few months I’ve been gradually peddling – to myself – the notion that we really are going to have a jolly good stab at the top four next year. Really. Today’s game unceremoniously highlighted the fact that there is a gulf in class between Liverpool and us. This sets some sort of record, as May 24th is probably the earliest I can ever remember having my perennial pre-season delusions of grandeur shattered. (That said, in the interests of objectivity, I should note that we only have to catch l’Arse, rather than Liverpool, to hit the Champs League, so the top-four delusion can be merrily pieced back together. And, the gap in class will surely narrow once Palacios and Lennon return).
· Fulham Lost! – Dagnabbit, unlikely as it seemed prior to the game, victory would have seen us into Europe. Instead, the players looked for all the world like they’d been told at kick-off that Fulham were actually five-nil up, and accordingly just shrugged their shoulders and mooched around in auto-pilot.
· Last Game of the Season – Some say that a team is only as good as its last game, and as a supporter, I’m only as happy as my team’s last performance. This feeble amble in the Merseyside sun is the memory I’ll be taking with me into the summer.
Elsewhere, I rather hope young Gareth Bale doesn’t take his football as seriously as we at AANP Towers, because he’s now gone two seasons without a league victory for us, which would have weaker men scribbling notes entitled “Goodbye Cruel World”. Local media outlets have been inundated with reports of sightings of UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster and David Bentley on a football pitch – the brylcreemed one entering the fray in the first half after Jermaine Jenas broke a fingernail. Neither Bale nor Bentley made particularly compelling cases for their regular inclusions. Instead, as often happens, ‘twas the absentees whose stocks rose today.I suppose I was rather hoping that we would end the season with a bang, and it could barely have whimpered more if it were a sick puppy that had just seen its parents shot. However, it was one tired performance, with not too much at stake, at the end of a decent season, which has included a particularly impressive final few months. It would be unnecessarily pedantic to criticise too harshly – so do as I say kids, not as I do, and while biting our lips at today’s limp showing, let’s cheerily applaud their efforts for the season.
And don’t you all go scuttling of for the summer, because All Action No Plot will keep the flag flying – as well as general transfer ramblings, the Champs League final and England’s match against Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, the next few days will see the unveiling of the All Action No Plot Awards 2008-09. Is AANP really going to have something positive to say about Jermaine Jenas? Who will win the much-vaunted Defender-Who-Looks-Most-Like-That-Croatian-Doctor-From-ER Award? And will the players us it as an excuse to tumble into Faces afterwards? It’s the award ceremony that has people across the land literally shrugging with apathy.
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