So it’s official. The new Tottenham kits have been unveiled, the home shirt being white with urine-like streaks of yellow across the chest. The away shirts are relatively inoffensive, but if the home kit were a player it would be David Bentley – trying too hard to look flash, when keeping it simple would do the trick.As is fairly universally acknowledged, we won’t care too much what the kit looks like if the players wearing it can deliver the goods next season. Nevertheless, in the absence of anything more interesting about which to pass opinion this week, the new home shirt is something of a disappointment, the yellow bits and pieces a rather curious and certainly unnecessary addition.
I no longer buy these kits – if anything I’ll purchase a retro number, a sure sign that I’m getting on a bit. Once upon a time however, as a whippersnapper in a classroom literally across the road from White Hart Lane, I and various peers would spend hours designing Spurs kits, presumably to the bewilderment of our teachers. Even then it was pretty obvious that every flash and streak added would make the thing look proportionally worse.If I could pick a favourite Spurs kit it would probably be from those halcyon schoolboy days - the Umbro number in which we won the ’91 Cup Final. Relatively plain, smart collar, and an entertainingly old-school baggy feel - with the solid Holsten logo providing the p
ièce de résistance. (Rather embarrassed to admit that at that time I also quite liked the away kit that complemented it – a yellow number with what, at the time, seemed achingly cool jagged blue diamonds on one shoulder.) In the final analysis however, it’s only a matter of opinion – feel free to have a browse here.Robbie Keane and Ray Liotta
Good grief, did I really manage to write that many words about clothes? It’s indicative of another week in which precious little has happened at the Lane. The rumour of choice over the last seven days has been the one linking Robbie Keane to Sunderland. As happens in many a classic gangster film, what ought to have been the zenith of Keane’s career appears instead to have prompted his downfall. Recall Ray Liotta and chums in Goodfellas considering the Lufthansa heist to be the big one, that would have crowned their careers and made them millionaires. Indeed, they pulled it off, but the immediate aftermath unravelled everything they had built up, and saw them all end up dead or in jail.
While Keane’s from grace has not been quite so bullet-riddled, it was also sparked by the move that ought to have been the pinnacle of his career. Having been half of one of the most potent strike partnerships in the country, he moved to a Liverpool side that were regulars in the Champs League and itching for a title challenge – and his career has gone steadily downhill since. Now he’s allegedly on the brink of a move to a club that only just avoided relegation.
Elsewhere there has been talk of Bassong in, and Hudd out, but while the lack of concrete action makes for dull reading, it actually rather pleases me. Our team only needs tweaking in order to challenge for Europe and possibly even fourth, so wholesale changes would be unwelcome. We don’t need another season of transition, in which a host of new names take time to bed in. The squad as it stands is not bad. Therefore, every day that passes without anything happening suggests that our spine will be kept, and only minimal changes will be made.
My goodness it’s an arid, barren football landscape at this time of year. Admittedly there is the Confederations Cup (what the devil is that strange buzzing noise at all the South African stadia?), and the Under-21s are doing a sterling job for Queen and country, but once again at White Hart Lane the week has been characterised by the ethereal presence of rumours rather than any concrete developments.The Fixture List - So no action, no plot, and instead the highlight of the week has been the release of the fixture-list. It’s vaguely akin to getting excited about a weather forecast, but beggars can’t be choosers, so before the TV companies had a chance to stamp their filthy lucre all over it we at AANP Towers had a perusal. Liverpool first up elicited a rather fatalistic eye-roll, and April looks a tad tricky, but the fixture-gods have been strangely benevolent in their choice of final fixtures for us, with Bolton and Burnley standing in our way should we be mounting an end-of-season charge for Europe or better.
The most striking feature of the list is probably what is not included – namely European fixtures. I was a dedicated champion of the drive towards European qualification last season, but there is without doubt a silver lining to our failure to qualify, in terms of fewer games this time round. As well as the general benefit to players of reducing the likelihood of fatigue-induced injuries, this also gives us Ledley for the best part of the season, and ought generally to be conducive to a settled starting line-up, as we were able to produce to such good effect in the final months of last season.
Huntelaar, Robben, Heinze - Still nothing concrete in terms of transfers, but it is little secret that Daniel Levy was heading a delegation in Spain during the week, with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is reportedly topping the list. Following the debacle that was Ramon Vega, we at AANP Towers are aware that a cracking name counts for nothing in the Premiership, but his parents still deserve a pat on the back for naming their son “Klaas”. Although I’m a little too apathetic to offer serious comment until this is upgraded from rumour to fact, I would be happy to see Huntelaar brought in before the season starts, rather than, say, Cisse.
Arjen Robben is another name on the list. I recall with bemusement the hullabaloo that surrounded his first few games in a Chelski shirt, when he was lauded by some as the best player on the planet, a commendation which probably said more about the introspective nature of the Premiership and its commentators than the player himself. There is undoubtedly good trickery in his feet, but admiration for his talent is largely negated by my disdain for his histrionics. Admittedly just about every top-flight player has a dive and a roll around the floor these days, but Robben really is one of the most odious offenders.
Gabriel Heinze was the other name supposedly on the list. A top-notch left-back in his pomp at Man Utd, frankly I’m not sure if he’s still got it now in his early-thirties. Nothing wrong with a little competition in the squad I suppose, but I’ll be mightily disgruntled if his appearance at the club prompts Gareth Bale’s departure.
Ashley Young for David Bently plus Jenas/Hudd/cash – As left-wingers go, on a scale of one to ten (or Downing to Joe Cole) I guess Young would get a seven. Very good player, with the pace, trickery and youth to do on the left what Aaron Lennon does on the right, but after a blistering start to last season he rather tailed off towards the end, in common with his Villa team-mates. Still, we need a left-winger (assuming Modric goes central), and frankly if this puts to bed the Downing rumours I’ll stump up some cash for it myself.
Roman Pavluchenko Pav – or more accurately, Pav’s agent - has been making noises about a departure from the Lane. No-one would claim that he has been an unqualified success as yet, but the lad has shown glimpses of class, and I’d be pretty peeved if he were sold off after just one season, particularly if the likes of Cisse or Jones are brought in to replace him. Not reading too much into it at the moment, as it’s probably just his agent whipping up some mischief to pass the time. The devil making work for idle hands and all that.
And that’s all for this week really (which is actually a mild relief at AANP Towers, given that the real world is proving so darned busy - those estate agents can be a smarmy breed…). With the best part of two months to go until the season starts, it seems that the new kit launch will follow the fixture-list publication as the next non-event of the summer. I can barely wait.
Ruud van Nistelrooy - While I’ve always been keen to hurl down some funky shapes on the boogie floors of London’s finer night-spots on a booze-fuelled Saturday night, I’ve been honest enough to admit that I’m not a natural on the dance-floor. No, really. But by golly if I were, I would have danced an impromptu jig of delight at the news that we’re sniffing at Ruud van Nistelrooy. And I would have added a most inappropriate Michael Jackson-esque whoop at the news that this thoroughbred could be acquired for the thrifty sum of £1.25 million.£1.25 milion! No footballer can be bought for that amount these days. It’s like the football equivalent of 10p. Once upon a time 10p would at least buy a packet of chewing-gum, and £1.25 million would pick up a young but decidedly average English centre-back. Now, however, both sums are worthless in isolation and Anton Ferdinand costs £8 million. We could probably fund the RvN purchase by selling Gilberto. (Although RvN’s wages would presumably be astronomical.)
After the lamentable, waking nightmares that have been the Cisse and Kenwyne Jones rumours, the van Nistelrooy whispers are sounds as sweet as a Julie London solo. It may only be a short-term solution, but that’s fine with me – long-term contracts mean precious little these days anyway, and besides, who amongst us mere mortals can predict who will still be at the Lane 12 months hence? No, short-term is fine. We certainly need a physical presence to coax the best out of Keane/Defoe, and someone who is a proven goalscorer at Premiership level is all the better. I would quite happily see RvN, Keane, Defoe and young Obika as our four of choice in attack next season.
Sulley Muntari – Inter have rejected an ‘Arry bid for him, so sayeth his agent. Should this be true, the custodians of AANP Towers would nod in approval at ‘Arry’s wise judgement, but Jermaine Jenas may well furrow his brow, while T. Huddlestone Esquire would probably choke on his burger and chips, and nuggets, and sausages and beans, and onion rings, and dessert, in disgust. ‘Arry has said he’s targeting probably three key players this summer, and if one is a central midfielder it spells curtains for the likes of JJ and the Hudd.
Incidentally, there was also an extremely enthusiastic response chez AANP to the rumours of Mikael Arteta being snooped after; but alas, this is probably my fabled naivety coming to the fore once more – for, as has been pointed out elsewhere, such a rumour is probably the work of a dastardly agent angling for his client to get a pay-rise. There’s little chance of Everton selling the blighter. Would love to see him alongside Palacios though, would be like an improved version of JJ.
Didier Zokora - The futures of Jenas and Hudd may be uncertain, but that of do-do-do Didier appears to be gaining clarity, with the phrases “Sevilla” and “£5 million” being bandied around with care-free liberality. This seems mutually beneficial. He’s done a decent job for us, but with Palacios doing the business there is little scope for Zokora at the Lane, and he’s thinking about his international career, with the World Cup less than a year away (less than a year - huzzah!). It’s a decent sum for us to pick up too. (Apologies, I ought to have sprinkled in there somewhere the phrase “loyal servant”. Most remiss of me.)
David Bentley - Elsewhere, the brain-hurting sum being used to take Little Miss Ronaldo to Madrid has livened up what has, in truth, been a rather moribund football week, and given everyone a chance to demonstrate their knowledge – or lack thereof – of European footballers, by trying to name possible Man Utd targets to replace the little princess. I won’t bother explosing my own ignorance, but it did occur to me that, had this happened last summer, one David Bentley might well have been a name on a few lips. It’s a long time in football, is a year.
Well this is yer lot for 2008-09, which is now being definitively wrapped up in newspaper, shoved into cardboard boxes and locked away in a great big wooden crate like the one containing those ghost things that melted the Nazis in Raiders of The Lost Ark. Entirely subjective, not necessarily listed in strict order of merit and cobbled-together in the least-scientific manner possible, it’s the All Action No Plot Top Ten Spurs Ruddy Marvellous Goals of 2008-09. Compiled with special thanks to a tattered 2008/09 fixture-list and several JD and cokes. Feel free to dispute any/all of these.10. Pav’s Winner vs Liverpool Not a particularly well-crafted goal, and by golly an ill-deserved win – but memorable for precisely that reason. Having been fairly pummelled for much of the game, with little more to do in the pouring rain than boo Robbie Keane (we still hated him at this stage of the season), we rode our luck, thanked the woodwork and then equalised through an own-goal. Pav then popped up with a last-minute winner and I got unlikely bragging-rights over half my 5-a-side team.
9. Third Goal in Hammering of ‘Boro We gave Middlesborough a pasting that night, and the third goal was particularly good, crafted in the finest Tottenham tradition. Lots of possession, passing and movement, and a little bit of final-third trickery had us purring away, and provided a bit of a fillip as we morphed from relegation scrappers to European hopefuls. Lennon’s name went on the scoresheet, but more than half the team was involved in the build-up.
8. Jenas vs West Brom If Modders had scored this we’d still be yapping about it. Twenty-five yards out and with nothing on, Jenas switched the ball from left foot to right and was about to complete the issue by turning 180 degrees and passing backwards, when the spirit of Hoddle suddenly made a timely appearance, possessing the body of our number 8 and inspiring him to curl it into the bottom corner. Random, but really rather good.
7. Modric Assist vs West Ham The finish from Pav was slick enough, but hardly spectacular. The assist from Modric however, was celestially-ordained, a ridiculously impudent pass through a gap which seemed small enough only for a golf ball. Mere mortals should not be allowed to achieve such feats.
6. O’ Hara Away To West Ham Back in late December our survival was very much still in the balance, and the New-Manager-Bounce had just ended, with defeats to Fulham and Everton. The win away to West Ham was therefore our best result of the season at that point, a cracking performance, highlighted by Gomes’ razor-sharp save at 1-0, and O’ Hara’s peach of a long-range goal moments later to wrap up the points.
5. Modric Goal vs Chelski Delicious technique from the little man, this goal was all the more special for being the winner against that ‘orrible lot. We at AANP Towers also thoughtfully doff our caps in the general direction of Jonathan Woodgate, for intelligently picking out Lennon with his header in the build-up to the goal, when it would have been easier just to bang the ball into no-man’s land.
4. Hudd vs Dinamo Kiev – A few years ago Beckham took a corner and Scholes volleyed in first-time from outside the area. Hudd’s may not have been quite as crisp, but lovely technique nevertheless. Not many players could pull off this sort of thing.
3. Lennon Equalising vs L’Arse – Sometimes it’s the situation rather than the aesthetic quality of the goal itself. Last-minute equaliser vs the enemy, when moments earlier all had been dead and buried, in both the first game of the Redknapp reign and the AANP ramblings. While a draw ought not to get us too excited, it was a cracking finale, and thoroughly satisfying to deliver the footballing equivalent of a rude hand gesture to that ‘orrible lot, on their own patch.2. Gomes Save vs Chelski Admittedly this was not a goal, but my goodness it felt like one. Confirmed Gomes’ transition from “much-maligned” to goalkeeping genius, a save as timely and important as it was acrobatic and photogenic. Beating Chelski is always sweet, and coming in the dying moments at 1-0, this was worth a goal.
1. Bentley vs l’Arse The one bright spot in Bentley’s otherwise miserable season – but by jiminy, what a goal. As remarked 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.
The real world has rather inconveniently got in the way of things at AANP Towers in the last week or so, but it’s proved fairly exquisite timing, as precious little has happened beyond some rather dubious rumour-mongering. Just to keep things ticking over here are a couple more lists, the last vestiges of 2008-09, beginning with Spurs’ 10 Worst Mistakes of 2008-09.10. Gilberto Clanger vs Spartak - Having dribbled into trouble just outside the area on his Spurs debut the previous season, Gilberto’s apparent unfamiliarity with the tactical basics were evident again this cold and crisp December evening, as he politely unfolded a napkin, blew off the steam and spoon-fed a goal to our Russian visitors. A second-half comeback rescued the tie, but only after the Brazilian had been withdrawn and effectively placed on the transfer list.
9. Fraizer Campbell As Our Third Striker 9. Fraizer Campbell As Our Third Striker
8. Ledley’s Post-Match Pint
7. The Signing of David Bentley
6. Gomes v Udinese
With transfer tittle-tattle still entrenched in the realms of fantasy and silly-speak, I thought I’d gaze all teary-eyed and nostalgic at the season gone by, and offer a final few reminiscences. The Top-Ten Mistakes and Top-Ten Goals of the season are imminent, but for now gorge yourself – in reverse order, no less - on a veritable gaggle of pantomime villains from 2008-09, at the madcap world that is Tottenham Hotspur FC.10. Fulham – Technicallly, we’re probably better off not qualifying for Europe, as it will almost certainly increase our chances of a top four finish next season. However, this was an argument I blindly ignored in the final few months, as all other contenders fell by the wayside, but the Cottagers consistently kept their noses in front. Gallingly, if Gomes hadn’t blundered back in November, we might well have avoided a 2-1 defeat to Fulham, and would now be dusting off our passports once again.
9. Gareth Bale – An Arsenal conspiracy in human(ish) form, Bale has gone something like 20-plus league games for us, over two seasons, without tasting victory. I’d be mightily disappointed if we flogged him off this summer, as he made a quite blistering start to his Tottenham career, but it has now reached the stage where opposition players high-five one another when they see his name on our teamsheet.
8. Peter Walton - “Who?” cry a thousand voices in unison. “The ref from the Blackburn game in April“, replies the scribe at AANP Towers, before receiving a good kicking for being such a smart-arse. We were cruising at one-nil, as has been our wont (see above) when Walton thought he’d spice things up by sending off Palacios for sneezing in the wrong direction or something similarly innocuous. Grist to Big Fat Sam Allardyce’s mill, it allowed Blackburn to lob long balls into orbit and back down to earth in our area, and two late goals gave that lot an ill-deserved 2-1 win.
7. Robbie Keane – A slightly strange one this. Rather suddenly upped and left for his “boyhood heroes”, which left the more restrained folk of White Hart Lane shaking their heads and tutting, and the rest of us shrieking invective at him until blue in the face. And then he came back, which left us slightly embarrassedly shuffling our feet and changing the subject. Nobody is yet quite sure whether we ought to be cheering for or grumbling at him.
6. The Entire Spurs Team At Burnley – One of the most embarrassing, disgraceful performances any Spurs fan can remember, we contrived to throw away a 4-1 first leg lead, to a team in the division below us, a display every bit as bad as that sounds. Frankly, it left us plain embarrassed to be heading to Wembley, but that’s where we ended up
5. Dimitar Berbatov – Easy to forget that the incredible sulk was a lilywhite at the start of the season. Decided he was way too cool for school last season, hung around to make himself a dressing-room nuisance in pre-season, and didn’t bother with to make any respectful noises on the way out. Some people depart the Lane to a hero’s ovation; Berba we’d have happily kicked all the way down the High Road and far beyond.
4. Failing to Increase One-Nil Leads - Became a particular trend in the second half of the season, when we’d routinely score in the first-half, stack up lots of possession but develop an allergy to a second goal. The result was a slew of unnecessarily tense finales to games that should have been wrapped up, sung lullabies and put to bed, in the process giving kids like Obika and Bostock a chance to shimmy on with the game sewn up. Instead, those collective final ten-minutes of games have been knocking several years of my life. Three points is three points, but this is something to improve upon for next season.
3. Howard Webb – A two-nil lead in the second-half at Old Trafford, and although we were dropping deeper and deeper we just about had the Champions at arms’ length. Cue a pretty dodgy call from the FA’s finest, and Man Utd had a penalty, and a springboard back into the game. We ought not to have fallen apart thereafter, and there’s no telling whether we’d have hung on for victory otherwise, but few dispute it was the turning-point of the game.
2. Rubbish Pre-Season Preparations – Not sure precisely who is responsible for this, but presumably Wendy Ramos ultimately takes the blame. A pre-season that saw us beat everyone we came across, scoring about a trillion goals in the process, counted for absolutely nothing because all those opponents were lower-league Spanish reserve teams or undercooked continentals about three weeks behind us in terms of pre-season. Preparation for the rigours of the Premiership it most certainly wasn’t - something we should have realised when we saw Darren Bent banging them in left, right and centre – and Two-Points-Eight-Games duly followed. Incidentally it’s a mistake now being replicated by the England cricket team ahead of the Ashes.
1. Damian Comolli – Ooh, it makes my blood boil just typing his name. Dodgy signings at inflated prices, and an insistence in interfering in the manager’s role, the blighter darn well almost got us relegated. And how the hell was he qualified, in his mid-thirties and with no decent experience, for the role as Director of Football, or whatever it was, at a Premiership club? Rumours of an Arsene Wenger conspiracy burn brightly here at AANP Towers. Kicked out in October, he’ll be mortified to know that he remains firmly off the AANP Christmas card list.
The AANP 2008-09 end-of-season awards can be found here, and you can join the AANP facebook group here or follow on twitter here-ish.