Here at AANP Towers we are inclined to pay short shrift to those who shuffle our way with puppy-dog eyes and quivering lower lip, complaining of bad luck. “You makes yer own luck,” we have been known to roar, with such ferocity that the aforementioned puppy-eyed, lip-quivering urchins have literally exploded into a ball of flames before our eyes; or else we invoke the barely perceptible murmur of a true testosterone-fuelled hero like that chap Stallone, and instruct “Take it like a man”; or indeed we sagely impart the sporting wisdom of some aged American golfing chap, and intone with zen-like calm “The more I practise the luckier I get”.
Between me and you however, such declarations have rather died in my throat the last few weeks. Lady Luck has taken quite the dislike to the lilywhite heroes of N17 in recent weeks. If it’s not Adebayor having goals disallowed left, right and centre it’s everyone’s favourite Italian rogue merrily crushing the skull of poor old Scott Parker underfoot, and waltzing away scott-free (ahem), before no doubt placing a whoopee cushion under the seat of ‘Arry unbeknownst to the officials, and then hanging, drawing and quartering every unused sub on our bench whilst Howard Webb’s back is turned.
All of which has earned our lot plenty of sympathy, and, coupled with our Veuve Cliquot brand of one-touch football, made us just about everyone’s second favourite team. Marvellous, but if major decisions keep robbing us of points all the sympathy in the world won’t be of much use. So I hereby offer a personal plea to Billy Bowden, or whomever is in charge of the rub of the green these days – for the love of all things wondrous, dish all the good luck back our way, and pronto.
There’s A Game Tonight Apparently
Not that we ought necessarily to need too much luck tonight against Wigan, who, for those who care of such things, are apparently bottom of the table. I fancy that this could prove another of those tortuous, one-sided-yet-laboured narrow victories, but if that be the case then so be it - we might as well gather up all the points we can and bury them deep beneath the turf, because the upcoming glut of fixtures will most certainly require our heroes to polish their shoes and sharpen their muskets.
Fare Thee Well…
Following the width-less experiment in the Cup last week ‘Arry and chums will presumably revert to the same old same old tonight, although they will have to do so without Corluka, who has apparently been loaned out to Bayer Leverkusen or some similar (and who can therefore, given his current mobility levels, be expected to pitch up in Germany some time in 2014). Some are murmuring that Louis Saha of all people is to tip-toe his way down the High Road tonight, but for now all thoughts of transfer windows ought to be shelved, and the Wiganers despatched. One point from two games is practically relegation form, so what better time to host the worst time in the division? Strut thine funky stuff please chaps.
So here we go, without doubt the biggest game since our last eye-catching fixture for which three points were at stake. While the win over a pretty inept Everton had all and sundry proclaiming this lilywhite vintage the greatest thing since Danny Blanchflower sliced a loaf, the draw with uber-negative Wolves had Hansen imploring all Spurs-supporting MoTD viewers to find their nearest cliff-top and hurl themselves in anguish – so whatever the outcome against table-topping City the reaction will presumably border on the apocalyptic. Win, lose or draw, somebody somewhere will explode in a cloud of uncontainable hyperbole.
In truth however, “phlegmatic” is the word of choice at AANP Towers ahead of this one. Winning the title would be quite a bonus (never, ever in my wildest dreams did I anticipate writing those eight words), but we are third favourites for a reason, and defeat on Sunday would make that whole jamboree far less likely. What seems absolutely paramount is that we finish in the Top Four (preferably the Top Three), and this is ours to throw away. For that reason my uncontrollable shivers break out at the prospect of the impending games with l’Arse, Chelski, Liverpool and Newcastle. “Six-pointers”, as the sages knowingly intone, and if they speak thus then it must be so.
That said, if the closing rounds of the Rocky Balboa – Ivan Drago clash taught me anything it was that the best time to play a well-financed foreign giant is when he is sweating buckets and he’s taken such a hammering that his eye is beginning to swell. City are without the gloriously named Yaya chap, which should make Modders’ life a tad easier, and my spies tell me that they’re also missing a handy centre-back. Time to charge into battle with a cry of “Adriaaaan” methinks.
Being owned by one team whilst playing for another could potentially lead to quite the philosophical quandary on the halfway line when the two outfits meet, but alas we will be spared the sight of Adebayor slowly degenerating into madness on the centre-spot as he ponders his obligations and liberty, for he is ineligible. This may mean ‘Arry takes a punt on Pav producing his standard 1 minute of magic amidst 89 of standing about whingeing, or, as is the AANP preference, he lets Defoe off the leash to shoot from all angles and then look in disbelief as he is flagged offside.
Otherwise, for better or worse, our lot pick themselves. Dawson, Kaboul, Ledley, Sandro, Parker – jumble them up, name a few injuries and you get the gist. We are underdogs for this one, but in a season in which we just keep doing the unexpected by golly this would be some feather in the lilywhite cap. Fingers crossed
So finally this much-vaunted “Game in Hand” is upon us. Truth be told, I will be a little sad to see it go. It has practically become part of the family, like a scruffy, uncouth urchin discovered in the wreckage of the summer riots, and adopted by the cheery folk of White Hart Lane. And let’s face it, this Game in Hand has proved more useful than the Sword of Omens when it comes to pointless bickering with fans of l’Arse, Chelski, Liverpool and the like. Whatever they say, I have smugly bleated “Game in Hand! Game in Hand!”, occasionally pointing to a copy of the Premiership table, and repeated this process ad nauseum until they storm off in a fit of pique to count their injured full-backs.
But alas, today is the day. Fond though I am of Game in Hand, ‘tis time to lead it unwittingly to the altar of Three Valuable Points For Our Ongoing Top-Four Push (Or Even – Whisper It – Title Challenge). Tonight, Game in Hand, shall ye be sacrificed, never to be seen again; but be proud to note that ye shall not die in vain. Unless we lose, I suppose.
Irritatingly, when Game in Hand does finally depart this mortal sphere for the great Premiership table in the sky, he shall be bade farewell by a midfield disturbingly lacking in bite. Sandro is out, and Parker is not far behind him, if ‘Arry’s gloomy murmurings are to be believed (although that is quite a sizeable conditional, I acknowledge). This may leave us with a central midfield combo of Modders and VDV, or possibly even Krancjar, chaps who might as well just form a guard of honour through which Everton can bear down on our goal whenever they pick up possession in the midfield. Should young Livermore be thrust into the fold, much would be expected.
On a cheerier note One Aaron Lennon is primed to return, and it turns out that both Cameroon and Togo somehow failed to qualify for the African Cup of Nations, so Adebayor will continue to stick his derrière into opposing defenders, and BAE will continue to perform shoulder-drops and Cruyff-turns in thoroughly inappropriate areas.
Elsewhere Michael Dawson is set to ease himself into the Ledley-shaped hole alongside Kaboul, while our resident blond with no knowledge of the offside rule may begin glancing towards the transfer window, if demoted to the bench again.
And that ought to be that. We have waited half the season for this – for goodness’ sake let’s make it worthwhile.