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Man Utd 3-1 Spurs: ‘Arry’s Team Selection Gets The Hindsight Treatment

Watching a game on a pub’s big screen I typically squint to make out the match clock in the top left-hand corner, a sure sign that my eyes are failing me. My hindsight however, remains 20-20, thus allowing me to tut and cluck all weekend about the wisdom – or lack thereof – of shuffling the winning pack in order to accommodate the returning Sergeant Wilson. Shamelessly glossing over the fact that AANP could not decide beforehand whether the restoration of Palacios would have been a good or bad idea, it is fairly easy to conclude that neither that change nor the shunting of Assou-Ekotto to right-back was a roaring success.BAE – An Odd Fish

I don’t think anyone is quite sure what goes on in BAE’s head, but I get the impression that the little voices generally tell him to do some pretty sinister stuff. As such, I’m vaguely relieved that on Saturday he only went as far as the crude hack that resulted in a penalty, for that glazed expression suggests he might one day try something a darned sight scarier…

It was not his most auspicious day. He offered precious little attacking support for Bentley; and could hardly be described as “watertight” when carrying out his defensive duties. His doings at right-back are not helped by the fact has he has appears never to have been introduced to his own right foot, but whichever his preferred pedal, there was no excusing the recklessness of his penalty area foul.

After the limited success of Walker, Kaboul and now BAE as ad hoc right-backs, the worrying thought occurs to me that ‘Arry might even try Jenas in that position next. Someone slap some deep heat onto Corluka’s injury, and pronto.

Sergeant Wilson’s Off-Day 

However, it is only right to note that maintaining the status quo - of a Hudd-Modders central midfield and Kaboul at right-back - would by no means have guaranteed a better result at Old Trafford. The result indicates that ‘Arry’s gamble failed, but it was an understandable move.

Palacios’ performance may have elicited a few embarrassed coughs, but elsewhere there was better news as familiar faces returned to the fray…

Ledley’s Golden Minute

Our wondrous captain was awesome again, producing one particularly golden minute, midway through the second half. It ended with his headed goal, but began with, of all things, a casual drop of the shoulder on his own six-yard box, to completely wrong-foot Berbatov and shepherd the ball back to safety. I worship the ground upon which Ledley walks, the nightclubs out of which he stumbles and the vacuum in his knee that is bereft of cartilage.

Lennon and Bale – The Time is Nigh

I cannot quite bring myself to worship Aaron Lennon’s shaved eyebrow with similar fervour, but it was jolly good to see it and its owner once again. Lennon did not really have a chance to rev up and disappear past John O’ Shea in a puff of smoke, but his arrival and the subsequent reorganisation in midfield seemed to give the team a better attacking shape. His chums in lilywhite poked and probed for a chance to set him racing away towards the byline; United duly trotted men over to snuff out the threat; so we switched play to the left, for Gareth Bale to have a gallop. Nothing came of it on this occasion, but it was a glimpse of The Land of Milk and Honey. Keep those two fit, and all hell could break loose down the flanks.

Elsewhere On The Pitch 

Whatever the misgivings about the team selection and outcome, this is hardly the time for an over-reaction. Defeat away to Man Utd is far from disastrous, and in fact having somehow got to half-time on level terms, and then dragged it back to one-all with 10 minutes to go, we may well have gone on to pinch all three points.

Six points from l’Arse, Chelski and Man Utd remains a jolly impressive haul, and those two wins may yet prove to be season-defining. The showers at AANP Towers have been working overtime to wash off the general uncleanliness that came with cheering on l’Arse for 90 minutes yesterday, and while my back was turned Villa and Liverpool managed to pop up into view again, but the net result of this weekend is that fourth place is still in our hands. According to the AANP abacus, avoiding defeat to City and winning the other two would do the trick.

 

Gary Mabbutt will be signing copies of AANP book Spurs’ Cult Heroes for the masses atWaterstones Walthamstow - Saturday 8 May, 1pmSpurs’ Cult Heroes

, is now available in the Spurs shop, all good bookshops and online (at Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play).  

 

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

Man Utd - Spurs Preview: Gareth Bale’s New Goal Celebration

Writing off our chances at Old Trafford is something of an annual tradition here at AANP Towers. It was generally a pretty painless arrangement, and one to which I suspect many a long-suffering Spurs fan could relate – I would go into the game with what could at best be described as a spirit of defiant optimism, duly return empty-handed (albeit occasionally with a tale of indignant injustice to relate) and the following week would roll on. A thousand well-judged curses, therefore, upon Spurs’ current form, which leads me to believe that this time, maybe, just maybe, we might… you know.No doubt about our current form. The Wilson-less central midfield of Hudd and Modders has meant that we have ball-players galore for when in possession, while retaining the discipline to sit and protect when not in possession. While all and sundry leapt around and made merry during the l’Arse and Chelski wins, yours truly could be easily identified as the chap earnestly rubbing his eyes in disbelief as we won the midfield battle against two of the best teams in the country, before letting young Bale do his thing.

Decisions, Decisions

Should ‘Arry bring back Sergeant Wilson or resist the temptation to fix that which most definitively ain’t broke? Rather a pleasant conundrum upon which to dwell in the evening sunlight, although I hope our glorious leader realises that if we lose tomorrow his decision to restore/exclude (delete as appropriate) Palacios may well prompt a fresh chorus from the ‘Arry Out brigade, who have recently been kicking their heels in frustration. Either way, the potential option to restore Palacios, King and Lennon has me positively gibbering in glee.

After spending so darned long sorting out a song for the boy Bale, it seems we now have to teach him a thing or two about goal celebrations. A Roger Milla style pelvic wiggle gets my nomination, although after Gary Neville’s rather unsubtle display of affection for Paul Scholes’ efforts last week, I guess it’s possible we might be treated to something more forthright. The clash of Bale against Neville should make for cracking viewing. I vaguely recall Sir Alex Ferguson dealing quite neatly with the threat of Chelski’s overlapping full-backs a couple of years ago by deploying Park and/or Fletcher out wide, so no doubt he will have some similarly dastardly scam lined up for our handsome young Welshman.

Another virtuoso Bale performance, a late cameo from Aaron Lennon, and then an evening spent cheering on that ‘orrible lot from down the road, against Man City? It sounds crazy, but it might just work.

Book Signing in Stevenage Waterstones, Saturday 24th, 12pm

In case you missed that, I’ll change the font and add some detail: None other than

Gary Mabbutt will be signing copies of AANP book Spurs’ Cult Heroes for the masses this Saturday (24th April) at Watestones Stevenage (3 The Forum, Hertford SG1 1ES) from 12 noon. I make that just about enough time to meet the man, grab your book and settle down for the match… 

Spurs’ Cult Heroes, is now available in the Spurs shop, all good bookshops and online (at Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play). You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

Spurs 2-1 Chelsea: I Heart You Too, Gareth Bale

Someone at the club shop turn this week into a double DVD box-set with a snappy name, and pronto. Here at AANP Towers we considered our prognosis of four points from the visits of l’Arse and Chelski to be noble but sadly blinded by optimism. After last weekend’s debacle, who on God’s green earth ever envisaged a reality that saw us take six points from these two games, and with quite such élan? And all that with a team including the slightly terrifying sight of Kaboul at right-back?Performance Of The Season 

The opening exchanges - in which we pinged the ball around in neat little olé-style triangles – set the tone, with our vanquished opponents notably unable to handle the link-up play of Modders, BAE and (inevitably) Bale, and in fact barely able to touch the ball. Nor was Cheslki’s anticipated second half onslaught allowed to materialise, and I’m not even sure they created a clear-cut chance until the 93rd minute, itself an astonishing testament to our injury-hit defence.

And then there was the second most glorious sight in Christendom: the lightning-quick lilywhite counter-attacks that had us outnumbering them from the halfway line. These really ought to have seen us give the scoreboard a more memorable edge, but they did at least bring about the most glorious sight in Christendom, the sending-off of the ever-likeable John Terry.

Apparently Chelski recorded around twice as many completed passes as our lot. Bravo to them. If anything this stat reinforces the incisiveness of our play, for while they passed sideways and sideways again, in their vain search for a chink in our armour, our heroes scythed through them repeatedly with lightning-quick one-touch moves. We completed fewer passes because we needed fewer passes. Such was the confidence and quality of our football that within two or three passes we were bearing down on goal.

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Palacios?

It was the worrying question on our lips last weekend, the cause of several thousand furrowed brows trooping up the High Road. Sergeant Wilson’s two-match ban loomed at seemingly the worst time conceivable – but goodness me it was a problem addressed in quite astonishing fashion. When not in possession, Modders and Hudd did not try to mimic Palacios by rushing out and harrying opponents. Instead they kept their discipline and sat, a two-man barrier in front of the back-four, through which Lampard, Cole et al struggled throughout to fashion an opening. Absolutely ruddy marvellous.

Seasoned visitors to AANP Towers will now that here have not traditionally dwelt the Hudd’s greatest admirers. Against l’Arse and Chelski however he turned in remarkably polished performances. Not one Hollywood pass in sight, he just kept things ticking over with a glorious maturity, playing first-time passes with the air of a man who had had a quick look around immediately prior to receiving possession and therefore knew exactly where the ball would go as soon as it came his way. We kept possession like a team who truly cherished the little white orb, and for that much credit is due to the Hudd, although the contributions of our wide men, as well as Pav and, latterly, the Ice Man, also merit appreciative high-fives.

Modders too has given two of his best showings of the season this week, all slick passing, tight control, intricate dribbling and a determination not to be barged off the ball that belies his paperweight frame. Our little-and-large central midfield pairing have turned themselves into a most accomplished partnership, a feat all the more impressive as it has been achieved against a pair of teams deploying three in central midfield. Unbelievably, the problem now surrounding Wilson Palacios is how to accommodate his return. (The AANP solution is to move Modders to the left and Bale to left-back – a formation which to all intents and purposes works as a five-man midfield, once Modders tucks inside and Bale overlaps).

Other Points Of Note

I’m not entirely sure what any of Bale’s goal celebrations are about, but it’s about time we started to see them. No-one is more deserving of the headlines, but goals had been rather conspicuously absent from his series of bravura performances of recent weeks. I look forward to more curious hand-gestures in coming weeks, while bracing myself for a summer of speculation about his future.

Which unknowing observer would have correctly identified the established England centre-back from the candidates on show? Michael Dawson, I salute thee, even if Don Fabio does not.

As for the penalty calls, AANP considered that there were a couple of strong shouts – Terrys shirt-tug on Defoe, and a sliding challenge (from Malouda?) on Bale  - before the eventual penalty award (which, entertainingly enough, seemed from this vantage point a little harsh on Terry).

Sort out how to break down those deep-lying defensive teams and we could be aiming even higher than the top four. That is a conundrum for another day, however. Now is the time for making merry, and revelling in a quite astonishingly good couple of days.

 

Gary Mabbutt will be signing copies of AANP book Spurs’ Cult Heroes for the masses on the following dates:
Waterstones Stevenage - Saturday 24 April, 12 noon;
Waterstones Walthamstow - Saturday 8 May, 1pm

, is now available in the Spurs shop, all good bookshops and online (at Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play).  

Spurs’ Cult Heroes

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

Spurs - Chelsea Preview: Surely Not…?

Surely we couldn’t do it again… could we? After the 120 minutes against Pompey, and epic win on Wednesday night, I’ll be impressed if half of them even make it through the warm-up, but yet another Herculean effort is required today if we are to take advantage of the last-minute defeat of Man City this lunchtime. To be honest, after Wednesday’s three points, I see anything gained from Chelski today and Man Utd next week as a bonus – the critical game may well be Man City in a couple of weeks.Team News

Goodness knows what the team news is this week, our lot seem to be dropping like flies at the moment. It is certain that Sergeant Wilson is suspended, and Niko Kranjcar out for the season; while Jenas, Corluka and Lennon are apparently all unavailable today. Charming though it sounds, I simply cannot believe that Ledley might be available again today, although it would be a huge boost after his impeccable performance on Wednesday. On my idle moments I dream of a perfect world, in which there is no war or disease; Terminator 3 was never made; and

 

Ledley plays every week (with Lennon and Bale storming the flanks)…After this week’s exertions the players may need an extra swig of Lucozad before kick-off, but personally I can’t get enough of these crunch games at the Lane, and another atmosphere to rival that of Wednesday night. Bring it on.

 

Gary Mabbutt will be signing copies of AANP book Spurs’ Cult Heroes for the masses on the following dates:
Waterstones Stevenage - Saturday 24 April, 12 noon;
Waterstones Walthamstow - Saturday 8 May, 1pm 

Spurs’ Cult Heroes, is now available in the Spurs shop, all good bookshops and online (at Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play). 
You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here
 

Spurs’ Cult Heroes, is now available in the Spurs shop, all good bookshops and online (at Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play). 
You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

Spurs 2-1 Arsenal: Late Musings On That Glory-Glory Night

Apologies for the tardiness – busy times at AANP Towers. While it would have been nice to add my tuppence worth to the wave of euphoria in the 24 hours immediately after the Arse was spanked, the delay perhaps allows for a more circumspect few musings.AANP is classifying it a game of one half and two quarters.

First Half

For spells in the first half our lot barely got near the dashed thing, and with l’Arse hogging possession it threatened to be the opening scene of one of those Final Destination films, where the kid has a premonition of unabated carnage on all sides. With no Sergeant Wilson to roll out his little routine of charging up to opponents, stopping a yard off them, looking them in the eye and then daring them to pass him, our midfield pairing off Modders and Hudd looked initially like lambs to the slaughter, alternating between standing back or making woefully ill-timed lunges for possession.

And yet, as it turned out, we kept them at arms length. Other than a first-minute shot which BAE snuffled out on the line, I’m not sure l’Arse managed a shot on goal in the entire first half. By contrast, on the counter we created a couple of chances – and as for the opening goal… As the ball dropped from the skies, a montage of Gazza’s St Hotspur day free-kick and Bentley’s Emirates volley flashed through the mind, before the boy Rose took a punt and gained immortality.

Half-Time

Nice to see David Ginola (Cult hero! Cult hero!) at half-time, but I spent the interval cursing our lot for what they were about to put me through. 

One Quarter

As it happened, the first half of the second half (you follow?) was simply wonderful. I’m not just talking about the goal, gorgeous though it was (who knew Defoe had the defence-splitting diagonal killer pass in him?) It was the manner in which we gave l’Arse the run-around for twenty minutes or so thereafter, with a maturity I simply did not know we had. Watching Gudjohnsen and Modders play keep-ball as weary Arse legs chased shadows was one of the most satisfying sights of the season.

On the evidence of Wednesday night, the January re-shuffle of Keane-Out and Gudjohnsen-In looked a master-stroke. Admittedly Gudjohnsen fluffled a glorious chance to kill the game, but that apart his calm, shielding of possession in midfield was brilliantly executed, and exactly what we needed. Difficult to imagine Keane giving us that sort of input if added as a late sub.

Second Quarter

The inevitable nail-biting finale soon followed however, prompted by the arrival of Van Persie. It was desperate, last-ditch stuff at time, but by golly didn’t it make the chest swell with pride? From the front (Defoe racing around to execute sliding tackles) to the back (Ledley, an absolute Rolls Royce of a defender) they fought to a man, and when we ran out of men we were able to turn to a deity in goal. On my little Spurs Fixture List booklet, next to each result, I note down our goalscorers; for this game the notes read: “Rose, Bale, Gomes (3)”. His acrobatics and reactions defied belief.

Nerves shredded and fingernails chewed to the bone, my heart has now filed for divorce from me, on the grounds of persistent unreasonable behaviour – but it seems a price well worth paying. After the Pompey defeat, the lowest I have ever felt as a Spurs supporter, I tried to remember how the good times felt; not sure I’ll ever forget the feeling around 10pm on Wednesday night.

 

Gary Mabbutt will be signing copies of AANP book Spurs’ Cult Heroes for the masses on the following dates:
Waterstones Stevenage - Saturday 24 April, 12 noon;
Waterstones Walthamstow - Saturday 8 May, 1pm 

Spurs’ Cult Heroes, is now available in the Spurs shop, all good bookshops and online (at Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play).  

 

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

Spurs - Arsenal Preview: Reasons To Be Cheerful?

Well ‘Arry reckons everything is tickety-boo in the Tottenham camp after the Sunday afternoon nightmare. No-one tired, no-one too depressed - just one big, happy, upbeat family. Marvellous. Here at AANP Towers we have been moping around with the air of those who have just had the will to live sucked from their being. Admittedly ‘Arry can hardly pitch up to the press and declare that the whole lot of them are weeping into their bovril and marching the corridors of White Hart Lane waving placards proclaiming “We’re Doomed”.Whatever their mental and physical conditions after Sunday, the players have no option but to dust themselves down and try again tonight. Pushing aside all the mindless fluff and clichés about this being the perfect game to play on the back of the Portsmouth defeat, what exactly are the reasons to be cheerful?

No Deep-Lying Opposition – Huzzah!

If l’Arse stuck nine men behind the ball, held a line just inside their own area and spent the evening crowding out our lot every time they approached, I would weep tears of blood. Praise to the heavens then, for opponents like l’Arse, who will instead attempt to scythe through us with lightning-quick one-touch football, thereby sparing us the anguish of a 90 minutes spent camped in the opposition area without rippling the onion bag.

Moreover, with l’Arse defending relatively high up the pitch, our Welsh Messiah will have plenty of space behind them into which to gallop. Could make for interesting viewing – the handsome young Welshman is odds-on to be our most creative outlet once again.

No Fabregas – Huzzah!

AANP is notoriously bad at scouting opponents. Whenever I watch Spurs I tend to lump every opponent together as They Who Must Be Vanquished, and if a chum should remark that the opposition number 16 (or whomever) had a good game, I will present a face the very picture of blankness. Amongst the few exceptions to this bizarre blinkeredness are Messrs Scholes, Gerrard, Cahill and Fabregas (although this selection may have something to do with the fact that they typically come up against Jenas).  The point of this slightly tangential ramble is that AANP fears Fabregas, and rejoices in his absence. (The absences of Song and Gallas are also bonuses.)

Floodlights – Huzzah!

White Hart Lane by night might be a little eerie most nights of the week, but come match-night, with the floodlights on, the place crackles with atmosphere. If you’ve read this far the chances are that you too love floodlit nights at the Lane, and with that ‘orrible lot from down the road ambling onto our patch tonight we in the stands have the chance to scare the bejeesus out of them before the game even begins. The packed train on the way to the stadium; the booing of Sol’s name when it’s announced over the tannoy; the Star Wars theme as the players march out; and the cacophony of noise as the game kicks off – money cannot buy that sort of atmosphere. Our lot would have to live on different planets not to receive an adrenaline shot from these evening kick-offs.

So this may yet be a night to rival 5-1, or indeed the original St Hotspur’s Day, 19 years ago today. However…

Midfield Worries

I recall feeling mightily peeved at the injustice of it all when, at the very end of Carlito’s Way, having steered clear of all manner of unsavoury types and approaching gunmen, in just about the last scene of the film and within spitting distance of freedom, Al Pacino is gunned down by Billy Blanco from the Bronx. Similarly unjust was the Sergeant Wilson saga - having gone a good eight or nine games knowing that one more yellow card would see him banned, to pick up a caution in the dying moments of the semi-final – and unjustly too – was cruel in the extreme.

Personal injustice aside, it leaves us with a distinctly less menacing look to the midfield. The Hudd was miles off the pace on Sunday, and rarely rises to the occasion against the big boys. Kaboul – or even Ledley – might yet be given the holding role in midfield. Sometimes we can get away with the absence of Palacios in midfield (the league game against Pompey a couple of weeks ago being a case in point). A league game against l’Arse is not one such occasion. The AANP prayer mat has been rolled out and dusted down.

Other Team News

The target of much vitriol following Sunday’s defeat, evidence continues to mount in favour of Crouch’s use as an impact substitute only, and it would be surprising if he were retained in tonight’s starting line-up. Niko Kranjcar is the latest to join the queue for a band-aid, while Lennon has suffered a mysterious “setback” in his rehabilitation.

For various reasons, this should be a completely different kettle of fish from Sunday’s game – but as on Sunday, defeat is unthinkable. As on Sunday it is time to stand up and be counted. The spirit of Gazza and Lineker ’91 would do nicely.

 

Gary Mabbutt will be signing copies of AANP book Spurs’ Cult Heroes for the masses on the following dates:
Waterstones Stevenage - Saturday 24 April, 12 noon;
Waterstones Walthamstow - Saturday 8 May, 1pm
Spurs’ Cult Heroes

, is now available in the Spurs shop, all good bookshops and online (at Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play). You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

Spurs 0-2 Portsmouth: Unlucky? Or Actually Pretty Woeful?

Well we had better get cracking with the inquest then. The slew of instant reactions I have overheard in the couple of hours since meltdown have included “Sack Harry”; “Sell Crouch”; “Recall Keane”; and even “Get Jenas back in the team”. Okay, I made up that last one, but some of the opinions ventured do seem possibly to have been delivered a tad hastily. Over at AANP Towers the mood is bizarrely philosophical - indeed, the primary question being ruminated upon around these parts is whether we lost because we were unlucky or generally quite bobbins.Luck (Or Lack Thereof)

Might as well fly through these first, for administrative purposes:

Disallowed Goal – If there was a push on David James it was by his own defender (Rocha). Well might the goalkeeper have grinned afterwards, the offensively-attired rotter.

Penalty – Sergeant Wilson got the ball, dagnabbit.

First Pompey Goal – Curses upon the Wembley groundstaff, Michael Dawson’s stud manufacturers and the Gods of Soil and Turf.

And as an added bonus, ITV’s wonky-nosed analyst Andy Townsend later highlighted that the free-kick which led to the first goal was given against Dawson for the gentlest caress on the back of a Pompey forward.

On top of these there were spells when we laid siege to the Pompey net, racked up a blinking great big stack of corners, had efforts cleared off the line and saw several of our better chances fall to Corluka - a likeable enough trooper, but not one to whom the epithet “predatory finisher” is normally applied.

Nope, not much luck around these parts.

But Not Exactly Vintage Spurs Either… 

Our play would have benefited enormously from taking the lead and thereby finding some space behind Pompey, but it was not to be, and instead every foray into the Portsmouth penalty area was welcomed by a good half-dozen defenders. They came out elbows flying, and duly defended for their lives throughout. (Whatever happened to the real Ricardo Rocha is anyone’s guess, but his doppelganger, barely recognisable from the blighter who once wore lilywhite, put in a near-faultless shift). By sitting deep our conquerors denied us the space to get beyond them, and our passing game never really materialised.

They may have made it difficult for us, but a general lack of invention, coupled with the determination of our lot to avoid one-touch football, did not help the cause, and it seemed we might have played all ruddy night and not scored. Perhaps, then, this one will be filed in the AANP the folder entitled “Simultaneously Unlucky And Actually Pretty Woeful” (next to the 2001 Carling Cup Final defeat to Blackburn).

A Couple of Points of Note Regarding Personnel

“FA Cup Semi-Final” can be added to the ever-growing number of key games in which Hudd has failed to impose himself. He might not have been match-fit, and he did pick a couple of decent passes - and one delicious, controlled shot - but boss the affair he most certainly did not.

Inevitably then, we looked out left for inspiration. The threat of Bale was largely countered by Portsmouth’s deep-lying approach, but while perhaps not as effective as in previous weeks he still seemed our most creative outlet. The hour of Lennon’s return approacheth, which if nothing else will give Bale a chance to catch his breath between gallops.

Poor old Sergeant Wilson is pretty much exonerated from blame. Understandably enough he played throughout like a man already on one yellow card, and while this denied us the sight of any bone-crunching challenges he still bustled around pretty effectively (and energetically too, in a game in which I do declare I saw a Pompey player cramp up as early as the first half). It seemed pretty cruel that after all that effort he was then unjustly booked and we lost anyway. The guy must have been pure evil in his previous life, because karma seems to have it in for him.

‘Arry’s Input 

The replacement by Krancjar of Bentley also prompted a raised eyebrow at AANP Towers. He may not have been setting the world alight, but Bentley was whipping in the occasional cross from the right, which seemed a reasonable tactic with Crouch and Pav ambling around ahead. Instead, he exited stage left, while Hudd continued to crawl around in the centre.

11th April 2010: A Pretty Rubbish Day 

If the players mope around feeling sorry for themselves like we fans are doing the Premiership push will also be up in smoke this time next week. The evidence of today suggests that over the remainder of the season we will once again choke – but how nice would it be to see our lot pick themselves up and go hell for leather for fourth spot over the next few weeks?

 

Gary Mabbutt will be signing copies of AANP book Spurs’ Cult Heroes for the masses on the following dates:
Waterstones Stevenage - Saturday 24 April, 12 noon;
Waterstones Walthamstow - Saturday 8 May, 1pm

, is now available in the Spurs shop, all good bookshops and online (at Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play).  

Spurs’ Cult Heroes

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

Spurs - Portsmouth FA Cup Semi-Final Preview: Gearing Up For A Ruddy Marvellous Week

And so begins our biggest week since the last great big important week we had. Two wins from the upcoming three games? The feeling here at AANP Towers is that we’re certainly capable of winning at least one of the two home games against l’Arse and Chelski, and with one Aaron Lennon due for return at some point this week this really could tee us up for a ruddy marvellous finale to the season.First things first however, and frankly it would take quite a monumental effort from our heroes to fail to make the FA Cup Final from this position. Admittedly Tottenham Hotspur FC has quite an eye-catching history when it comes to un-winning the most winnable of contests, and FA Cup Semi-Final complacency is not unknown around these parts (see 1995 name-on-the-Cup, Klinsmann, Everton and all that) but even at my most pessimistic I can only envisage us churning out a sloppy first half, prompting ‘Arry’s twitch to go into overdrive at the break and our lot upping their game sufficiently in the second half.

Portsmouth are falling apart at the seams, and were unable even to bring a full squad of 18 players to the Lane a couple of weeks ago. While I sympathise with their off-field plight (as Best Man to a Pompey fan that’s pretty much in my contract), today is a day for kicking them while they’re down. The official company line is that there are no easy games, and Pompey will certainly apply themselves with a darned sight more commitment than in the League meeting a couple of weeks ago, but for all their willing we should have more than enough quality, particularly going forward.

Team Selection

The usual headaches apply to selection, particularly in defence. The absences of Kaboul and Walker would hardly be lamented if we were at full-strength, but with Daws, Corluka and, most curiously, Ledley all due for late fitness tests it is still possible that the likes of Palacios or Livermore may be shunted into the back-four, with BAE switching to ad hoc right-back. Hudd (I think) is an absentee; Lennon is not yet match-fit; and Portsmouth are no doubt quaking in their boots at the news that Jenas is also undergoing a late fitness test.

The outlook is far rosier going forward. All four strikers are match-fit, and we have the usual array of string-pullers from which to choose going forward. ‘Tis this abundance of attacking riches which provides the main grounds for optimism. Cup upsets happen, but if Pompey’s ramshackle bunch of reserves and kids can repel the combined might of Defoe, Pav, Crouch, Gudjohnsen, Bale, Modders, Kranjcar and Bentley for an hour and a half then they each deserve knighthoods.

Having recently held a public training session for supporters, our heroes have no doubt been informed that failure to win today will result in them being marched out in front of supporters and publicly flogged. AANP’s wish-list is straightforward – a win, by whatever means, and no mention of Sergeant Wilson’s name in the referee’s little black book. Enjoy the day-out.

 

Gary Mabbutt will be signing copies of AANP book Spurs’ Cult Heroes for the masses on the following dates:
Waterstones Stevenage - Saturday 24 April, 12 noon;
Waterstones Walthamstow - Saturday 8 May, 1pm
 

Spurs’ Cult Heroes, is now available in the Spurs shop, all good bookshops and online (at Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play).  

 

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

Sunderland 3-1 Spurs: Ruing The Stoke/Wolves/Hull Games

Never mind Saturday’s match, the games I find myself looking ruefully back upon are those at home to Stoke, Wolves and Hull, way back in the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Oh for those eight points now…Back to the Sunderland game, and something of a whimper with which to finish the five-game winning streak. With Sergeant Wilson passed fit and Defoe back in the squad, history will probably suggest that we ought to have fared a little better, but the first-minute goal completely befuddled our heroes, who appeared to spend the following 44 minutes just trying to stagger through to half-time. That first half was not far short of total gubbins, our lot trundling round with lead in their boots and a vacuum between the ears. While the Sunderland brigade were all over us like a rash every time we had possession, when roles were reversed we carefully kept a five-yard distance from them whenever the ball was at the feet of one of their number. Ignominy duly ensued.

The second half at least saw the Urgency and Inventiveness dials turned up a few notches, but let’s face it, clawing back two-goal deficits has never really been our forte. We can certainly throw away a two-goal advantage in some style, but I’m not sure anyone believed there was any way back at 2-0 down. All the more frustrating then that, having survived numerous Darren Bent penalties, Kenwyne Jones’ quite spectacular air-kick and the disallowed Ferdinand goal, we pulled one back and looked to have the momentum for an unlikely comeback. Hopes thus raised, they were duly dashed by the concession of that third goal, from straight out of the Van Basten scrapbook.

A Brief AANP Analysis of the Spot-Kicks

First penalty – A little unfortunate for the boy Walker, given that the ball flew at him at around 100 miles per hour, but his arm was away from his body, and as such the decision was understandable.

Second penalty – Ill-advised of Modders to leave his leg a-dangling like that in the area, but by jiminy Fraizer Campbell threw himself over it with some gusto.

Thrid penalty – Again, ill-advised of Sergeant Wilson to dive in thus, for any sliding challenge inside the area has to be pretty immaculately timed - but there really did not appear to be much in the challenge.

That said, Crouch’s hands appeared to be on the defender’s shoulders when he leapt for our goal. No complaint from the Sunderland mob, but I’ve certainly seen our beanpole penalised for that sort of leverage technique in the past.

Elsewhere On The Pitch 

All things told it was a pretty miserable day’s work. Curses. Five wins and a defeat from our last six games remains a decent record, but it’s not really about past form any more is it? Six games remain, and this is turning into a straight shoot-out with Man City, whose thrashing of Burnley smeared salt into the wound by denting our goal difference advantage. For added flavour it now looks increasingly like we need to win at least one of the games against l’Arse and Chelski. If we do make fourth we will have ruddy well earned it.

 

Gary Mabbutt will be signing copies of Spurs’ Cult Heroes for the masses this Thursday (8th April), from 12.30pm, at Waterstones Leadenhall Market, City of London.(If you can’t make this, fret ye not – further signings by Mabbutt will take place:
Waterstones Stevenage - Saturday 24 April, 12 noon;
Waterstones Walthamstow - Saturday 8 May, 1pm)

  

Spurs’ Cult Heroes, is now available in the Spurs shop, all good bookshops and online (at Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play).  

 

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

Sunderland - Spurs Preview: Will Another 12 Points Be Enough?

Not exactly sure what the lyrics are to the Champions League anthem (the telly-box at AANP Towers can only ever pick up unspecifiable high-pitched warbling, until that final chorus of “The Chaaaaaampions”) but while watching this midweek’s shenanigans, AANP dreamt the dream – the dream that next season I would not just try to fathom the lyrics from the comfort of my living-room, but actually at the Lane. Just imagine hearing that music blare out in our own little corner of North London. Imagine looking on with pride as our lot are torn to shreds by the cream of Europe. Admittedly we would need to negotiate Shakhtar or someone in the August qualifying round first, but the dream remains – a couple of months hence, it really could be us…12 Points?

‘Arry’s walking wounded have seven games left, and even AANP has entered into the fun and games of calculating potential points totals for the season’s end. Although the specifics are up for debate, my complex scientific methodology - involving the fingers and thumbs of both hands - estimates that around another 12-13 points ought to be enough.

Us (58 points)
Sunderland (a)
Arse (h)
Chelski (h)
Man Utd (a)
Bolton (h)
Citeh (a)
Burnley (a)

Citeh (56 points)
Burnley (a)
Birmingham (h)
Man Utd (h)
l’Arse (a)
Villa (h)
Us (h)
West Ham (a)

Liverpool (54 points)
Birmingham (a)
Fulham (h)
West Ham (h)
Burnley (a)
Chelski (h)
Hull (a)

Realistically, we should take six points from Bolton and Burnley; one more (at least) from City away; goodness only knows what the l’Arse-Chelksi-Utd triple-whammy will produce – but could we grab three more tomorrow?

In theory a win at Sunderland seems a manageable task, if a little tricky, but with the absentee list now including (deep breath) Dawson, Corluka, King, Woodgate, Lennon, Hudd, Jenas and quite possibly Palacios, AANP will personally hand a medal to somebody somewhere if we toddle back from the Stadium of Light with a nice shiny victory to our name.

Team News 

The midfield, potentially comprising Bale, Modders, Kranjcar and Bentley, ought to possess just enough technique and trickery to hold on to possession for the entire 90 minutes – handy, as there is not a ball-winner in sight. Fingers crossed that Sergeant Wilson’s abductor strain clears up by 3pm, but the prognosis, apparently, is not particularly rosy. If any of that midfield four knows how to tackle, tomorrow would be a marvellous time to give a few demonstrations.

All cobbled together rather hastily then, but in attack at least our cup runneth over, with Defoe now fit to join his three chums. AANP wonders if ‘Arry might be tempted to compensate for the lack of a midfield ball-winner by including Gudjohnsen in the starting line-up, to allow us to switch to 4-5-1 as necessary.

No time to feel sorry four ourselves about the injury-list – or indeed to congratulate ourselves on five successive wins. Tomorrow will not make or break the season, but the menality here at AANP Towers is that a team of Champions League standard ought to gain a draw at least from a trip to Sunderland. 

Gary Mabbutt Book Signing – Saturday 3rd April, 12pm, Waterstones Hemel Hempstead

Self-explanatory really - Gary Mabbutt will be signing copies of

Spurs’ Cult Heroes for the masses this Saturday, from 12 noon, at Waterstones Hemel Hempstead. 

(If you can’t make this, fret ye not – further signings by Mabbutt will take place:Waterstones Leadenhall Market, City of London - Thursday 8 April 12.30pm;
Waterstones Stevenage - Saturday 24 April, 12 noon;
Waterstones Walthamstow - Saturday 8 May, 1pm)

  

Spurs’ Cult Heroes, is now available in the Spurs shop, all good bookshops and online (at Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play).  

 

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

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