The clue is in the title - the first all-action book on Spurs is imminent, and all lilywhite fans are most warmly invited to pitch in.A list of 20 fans’ favourites is being compiled, and frankly, for a team as steeped in history as ours, there just ain’t enough room for everyone. Some names effortlessly pick themselves – true Lane legends such as Blanchflower, Perryman, Mabbutt, Greaves and Bill Nick. Numerous others had more fleeting Tottenham careers, but by golly left an indelible imprint – Gazza, Ginola, Klinsmann et al. So feel free to hurl your suggestions this way – each and every one will be pored over by the tireless scribes at AANP, as we look to whittle down the list to 20. The planned tome will eventually chart each player’s Tottenham career, examining why they became a fans’ favourite. It will be heavy on anecdotes and reminiscences - so by all means include your own memories of your personal cult heroes, from both on and off the pitch.
To set the ball rolling, here’s a provisional list, of not-quite 20:
Other names to be considered (in no particular order) include Martin Chivers, Mike England, Len Duquemin, Sandy Brown, Neil Ruddock, Ted Ditchburn, Ralph Coates, Arthur Grimsdell, Jimmy Dimmock, Ron Burgess, Eddie Baily, Alan Mullery, Nayim, Robbie Keane, Ledley, Ronnie Rosenthal, Garth Crooks, Steve Archibald, Ray Clemence, Erik Thorstvedt, Gary Lineker.
There is a scene in 80’s thriller Black Rain in which the character played by the cracking Andy Garcia gets himself into a rather bad-tempered war of words and finger-wagging with some rather devious Japanese gangsters. In fact, the situation escalates a tad worryingly for Garcia, who soon finds himself defenceless, and faced by one of the said gangsters who is now tootling around on a motor-bike whilst wielding a great big samurai sword. As the gangster approaches him, sword a-flailing, Garcia’s angry expression turns to one of peculiarly calm resignation. Not panic, nor terror; more a philosophical acceptance of his fate. The deed is duly done, and Garcia’
s head and body part ways, but that expression he wore has rather stuck with me.It
’s the expression I now wear on learning that we have now signed Peter Crouch, for an undisclosed fee of presumably around £10 mil, give or take. Buying Peter Crouch leaves me feeling a little bit like I’m about to have my head chopped off by a gangster on a bike with a sword – it ain’t great, but there’
s nothing I can do about it. (Sign Patrick Viera and I reckon I’ll have the expression of John Hurt when the alien nipper came a-popping out of his chest – but that’s an argument for another day…)Peter Crouch is a decent player. Good touch, pretty quick feet. While he has a curiously prolific scoring record for his country, he is not really a goalscorer - nor is he being bought for that purpose. Bent scores more goals, Pav is probably a more skilful player, but Crouch is being bought to bring the best out of Defoe. He will probably do so a fair degree of success, judging by their time together at Pompey, and indeed Defoe has been notably fulsome in his praise of the freakish one.
It is also worth noting that he is presumably a striker against whom opposition defenders would not particularly relish playing, due to his sheer gangliness
– and doing what the opposition don’
t want you to do is generally regarded as a good thing. (I am reminded of the fantastic England-Argentina friendly in late-2005, a cracking contest of opposing styles, with South American technique and English bustle slugging it out toe-to-toe. With England trailing 2-1 Crouch was slung on for the last few minutes, and managed to make a sufficient nuisance of himself at crosses for Michael Owen to steal in with a couple of late goals.)Yep, Peter Crouch is a decent player – but then this is precisely the reason I wear my look of philosophical resignation. He’s a decent player, and not much more than that. Not in the Palacios/Modric class, that will push us forward a step or two. He is Premiership standard. The top four in the country did not express any interest in him – instead we fought off Sunderland and Fulham for his signature. Morevoer, as I noted last week, he’s not as good in the air as he ought to be (didn’t work his back muscles enough as a teen, apparently), and he can encourage teams to resort a little too willingly to a long-ball game.
Still, we have him now. These, on the faceless forums of the interweb, are the times to grumble, moan and generally peer at the other side of the fence where the grass is always greener. Once Crouch’s comical frame goes lolloping across the hallowed turf at the Lane, on 16th August, we’ll give him a raucous cheer and hope that ‘Arry has got it right. He has, by and large, got it right so far.
So, our first signings of the summer are announced – and rather curiously they are more full-backs. The trendily-named Kyle Naughton and Kyle Walker – 20 and 19 respectively – may sound like characters from Starship Troopers, but they are now lilywhites, plucked from Sheff Utd for anywhere between 5 and 10 mil, depending on which website you trust.In theory it’s rather a charming idea - buying up the cream of young English talent, and watching with paternal pride as they break into our first team and blossom into seasoned internationals. It’s vastly preferable to the dastardly Wenger’s any-nationality-but-English policy, or Man City’s excitement-sapping approach of buying up every striker available. I’m also rather illogically chuffed that we snatched Naughton and Walker right from the paws of Everton – suckers.
In practice however, this makes little sense. We collect full-backs like train-spotters collect – well, whatever it is train-spotters collect. Anoraks or something. Corluka, Hutton, Assou-Ekotto, Bale, Chimbonda – anyone I’ve forgotten? O’ Hara could probably do a job at left-back. Gilberto might still be at the club. With the best will in the world, I really cannot see Naughton and Walker leap-frogging all this lot to get anywhere near the first team in the next couple of years.
Actually, the Walker business might work, as he is being loaned straight back whence he came, to Sheff Utd. Smart move. He’ll get regular first-team action, in a team with which he is already au fait, and hopefully he will progress accordingly. If he does so, we can merrily pluck him back.
Naughton however, has effectively put his career on hold for a couple of years. He may have made the PFA Championship Team of the Year, but his career is almost certainly about to regress. ‘Arry has not shown any inclination to blood our youngsters, other than when he was trying to write off our Uefa Cup campaign last season. Cast your minds back to the end of last season, and a mystifying aspect of his tenure was his absolute refusal to make substitutions. Even when we were imploding towards a 5-2 defeat at Man Utd, despite having internationals on the bench, he would not make a change until the game was up in the final 5 minutes or so.
’Arry won’t introduce our kids as subs, and he most certainly won’t throw them into the starting line-up. He has shown little willingness to gamble on the likes of Taarabt and Giovanni, and I would be mightily surprised if Rose, Obika or Bostock were given decent runs in the team at any point this season. The likes of Hudd, Lennon, Carrick and even Jenas are examples of how young talent can break into the first team - if given an extended run. However, there is little to suggest that this will happen under Redknapp, particularly in Naughton’s position as full-back.
I’m not exactly renowned for the accuracy of my prognostications, but I’m willing to stick my neck on the line and predict that for Naughton’s Tottenham career we need look no further than Chris Gunter. To be honest I give Gunter credit for escaping before the staleness got to him and withered him away. After 18 months and 16 appearances he has seen enough and taken off, leaving us none the wiser as to whether he would have made the grade at Spurs. It pains me to write these words, as I still recall the quite stupendous start to his Spurs career, but I see Bale similarly either being pushed or jumping from the good ship Tottenham, due to lack of opportunity.
I very much hope to be proved wrong in time. I would like to see what this Naughton chap can do for us. More broadly, I would love to see us become a club that develops young talent. And I reiterate – in theory, the signing of these promising youngsters, and the willingness to spend big money on English talent, is a cracking idea. The nagging suspicion remains, however, that in practice we are not the sort of club (and ‘Arry not the sort of manager) to blood these kids, and that neither they as players nor we as a club will benefit. Which rather begs the question – why has Redknapp signed Naughton and Walker?
Ahoy-hoy. You may have noticed an eerie silence descending over AANP Towers in the last fortnight. Apologies – ‘twas initially intended as no more than a short break for an All-Action Stag Weekend (the impressive casualty list including A&E for the stag, a broken limb, a black eye, two lost phones, one lost wallet and a lost passport). It then morphed seamlessly into a full-blown two-week period of plain bone idleness on my part, at least in the world of Tottenham ruminations. All revved up now though, and with plenty about which to report, which makes a pleasant change this summer.Do-Do-Do Didier
Plenty has already been said about Zokora’s departure on other corners of the interweb, and the consensus – that he was a headless chicken – is one with which I agree. His time in lilywhite was epitomised, for me, by his moment at the end of the 2008 Carling Cup Final – the adventurous dash forward, crowned by wild flailing shots when he sighted goal. His energetic style ought to make him a success in La Liga, where the game is typically a mite slower. A likeable enough chap, but the good folk of AANP Towers are not particularly bothered to see him go.
That is not meant to sound harsh, for Zokora was certainly committed to the Tottenham cause - which we all appreciated. It is more that the departure of players, even those for whom I feel great affinity, no longer bothers me, for such is the nature of the game. As a crestfallen whippersnapper, I desperately tried to maintain a stiff upper lip when Dogtanian waved goodbye to his parents and set off to seek his fame and fortune. The incident taught me a valuable lesson: that people in all walks of life - be they colleagues, animated Muskehounds or favoured footballers – inevitably move on, no matter how much they are cherished. Zokora was never a player I cherished particularly, and I therefore greet his departure with little more than a blasé shrug. Zokora was Premiership standard and Palacios is Champions League, so the business done in 2009 represents progress for Spurs.
Gunter to Forest
Still, unlike Zokora, Gunter is young enough to improve. As such it would have made some sense to loan him out for another year, or at least collect a fee which reflected his potential for improvement.
This is hardly a cause that will instil in me the urge to make a placard, yell into a megaphone and upturn parked cars, but it certainly had me raising a surprised eyebrow.
Downing to Villa – Huzzah!
Football is Back – Huzzah!
Cheers too for the inclusion in the starting line-up vs Exeter of Danny Rose. While I accept that one Under-21 starlet does not a Busby Babes team make, we are nevertheless verging on notoriety for our reluctance to blood home-grown youth, so Rose’s presence in the first starting XI of the pre-season rather warmed the AANP cockles. He’s an exciting prospect, and I sincerely hope that one or two from Rose, Bostock, Obika, Livermore et al at least become regulars on our bench this season. Polite applause also for the disco feet shown from Livermore in setting up Defoe’s goal from Bournemouth.
Jeers, however, for the pairing of Keane and Defoe as our front-two for the Exeter game. Really? Is that the best strike pairing ‘Arry could muster of after a whole summer’s thought?
Crouch? Ye Gads No!
(Interestingly, I last season heard either Graham Taylor or David Pleat mention on the radio that Crouch’s general uselessness in the air is due to the fact that, as an elongated teen, he rarely had to jump to win headers, and therefore never really worked his lower back, to develop a Les Ferdinand-esque leaping ability.)
AANP’s famous Who Would Buy Him? technique for gauging a player’s quality is already being implemented, with Sunderland and Fulham trying to lasso him. Champions League he ain’t, yet he is one of the few players in whom ‘Arry has gone on record to report interest this summer. I would rather persist with Pav, and have Obika on hand as our fourth striker.
No transfers. Not even any rumours. And this following a record number of clean sheets at home, and a seemingly endless run of one-nil wins. “All action”? Really?
Once again there is nothing to report from the Lane, so I’m just going to ramble away a little stream of consciousness - by all means duck out now and go youtube a Michael Jackson song or something.Once Upon A Time…
Once upon a time the title “All Action, No Plot” made perfect sense for a Spurs blog. Alright, you pedants, maybe not perfect sense – I suppose “Spurs-Tottenham-Hotspur-White-Hart-Lane-Yiddo-COYS-Two-Points-Eight-Games-Blog” would probably be statistically more suitable for search engines. But you get the point. All action, no plot - we’re that sort of team.
Or rather, we were that sort of team. Once upon a time, not so long ago. When I’m a millionaire I’ll build a Sistine chapel-style ceiling at AANP Towers, decorated with Mabbutt’s own-goal in the ’87 Cup Final to commemorate the first game I ever watched (or remember watching). It was a suitably mad-cap game, and rather set the tone. There is no shortage of other moments that can be immortalised in blue and lilywhite (and yellow) on my ceiling - Gazza and Lineker destroying l’Arse; Jurgen spearheading a 5-0-5 formation; the night of a thousand thrown away half-time leads; and more 4-4 draws than you can wave a stick at. Plenty of action there, and precious little plot.
Off the pitch, it’s similarly mental – squillions of pounds flung at managers on limited time, while the good folk of N17 relentlessly bay for champagne football and the blood of Jermaine Jenas.
Thus, the name “All Action, No Plot” was decided upon in a few milliseconds with a couple of mates in a foreign bar, allowing us to get on with the more pressing business of casting a modern-day Hollywood remake of The A-Team*.
Times Are A-Changing
However, that madcap act-first-think-later mentality at Spurs is now seemingly being replaced by something far more thoughtful and considered. The settled back-four, the consistent team-selection, the growing confidence that we will win at home.
I never thought the day would come, but I readily admit – this maturity is being welcomed with open arms at AANP Towers. It’s a seminal moment, rather like that point in Rocky IV when the Soviets start jeering Dolph Lundgren and cheering Stallone. Or the moment in Escape to Victory when the Nazis cheers Pele’s overhead kick. There is less action and more plot at the Lane – and AANP likes it. Cripes.
It’s not that we’re turning into one of the dull, boring, soporific also-rans of the Premiership, a George Graham Arsenal. Not at all. We still have bundles of creativity, and play football that is pleasing on the eye. None of that long-ball nonsense. In fact, precious few goals from crosses either – which suggests that our strikers really ought to work on their heading. No, the football looks fine, and, especially on the counter-attack, can be quite breathtaking, but is complemented by a sturdy defensive platform.
And now as the summer stretches out, behind the thick curtain of rumour, it transpires that there is actually precious little happening. Again this lack of action, and hint of plot, is viewed with approval at AANP Towers. I’d have bought a tennis racket and smashed it on some grass if we’d gone through another summer of ripping up the spine of the squad and bringing in squillions of pounds worth of unproven attackers (although I’m well aware that this might yet happen).
So far however, the approach seems relatively circumspect – no wholesale clearout, yet, and no heinous sum splashed out on an unknown foreign striker. It suggests that the management know what they want to do this summer, and are primarily aiming to maintain stability.
The title of this little corner of the internet will remain the same, and in all other walks of life the all-action-no-plot mentality remains the breathless approach of choice, but it pleases me to note that by gently turning down the all-action-no-plot meter at Spurs we seem to be making progress.
* = I’d have gone for George Clooney as Hannibal; Jim Carrey as Murdock; some generic pretty-boy – possibly Johnny Depp - as Face; and B.A. is a tough one. Vin Diesel? Ving Rhames? Anyone else whose name begins with “Vin”?