Spurs transfers

Cudicini Arrives, and The Reunion Continues With Chimbonda

This bewildering January transfer window looks set to become even more discombobulating, with the news that stroppy Pascal Chimbonda is on his way back to the Lane, gloves, leggings and all, just six months or so since being packaged off to Sunderland by Wendy Ramos et al. While opinion might be split on the wisdom of this move, there can’t be many Spurs fans who aren’t pleased to hear that we’ve also snapped up Chelski reserve ‘keeper Carlo Cudicini on a free.Although I’m generally reluctant to pass judgement on the character of a man I’ve never met, Chimbonda certainly came across as less than thoroughly likeable. The odd story of his mercenary antics was followed by a rather public and self-centred tantrum on being substituted during last year’s Carling Cup Final. Lucky then, that the point of football is not to make friends and invite neighbours around for tea, but is actually geared towards winning matches (although this may be news to some of our midfield). Whatever his personality traits, Chimbonda is a pretty handy defender. Not long ago he was being courted by  Chelski as one of the best right-backs in the country, as well as which he’s a versatile so-and-so, which could prove handy what with Ledley’s legs falling apart, Hutton out for the season and Corluka ineligible in Europe. The reported figure is likely to be around £3mil, and I can certainly remember times when we’ve paid more players of lesser quality.

The return of Chimbonda, hot on the heels of Defoe, has me wondering who else might renewing old acquaintances at N17. Robbie Keane was left out of the Liverpool squad on Sunday, and with admirable maturity responded by staying at home altogether. It’s not inconceivable that he could cast a nostalgic glance back down south, remembering the victory jig against l’Arse, the walk up the Wembley steps to lift the Carling Cup, and his legendary encounter with yours truly on Bill Nich Way, when he posed for a picture. Such memories were the stuff of dreams, and it would be only natural if he were to yearn for a return to such former glories. Indeedy, I’ve heard that ‘Arry has over the last 24 hours spoken of his admiration for Keane and how much he’d love him at the Lane etc etc, but then ‘Arry seems to say that about must Premiership players with a pulse. Of the other possible candidates for a reunion of Martin Jol’s (blessed be his name) class of 2005 – 07, I’d personally love to see Steed back at the Lane, but I suspect Sunderland boss Ricky Sbragia’s head would literally pop if we tried to sign any more of his squad.

The news of Cudicini’s arrival – on a free transfer moreover – has been greeted with vigorous nods of approval and murmurs of commendation at All-Action-No-Plot towers. Until Cech parked up in England, Cudicini was regarded as one of the best ‘keepers in the league. Gomes has become one of our best players since the weekly calamities of the start of the season, but there can be little argument that we needed cover in the department, and Cudicini goes beyond that by offering genuine competition. I also prefer that our reserve goalkeeper (if indeed Cudicini is to be the reserve) is an experienced head, rather than Alnwick, or, as has very occasionally been mentioned in months gone by, Joe Hart. With Shay Given being touted at upwards of £5 mil, Cudicini is a smart signing in just about every sense.

They may not be spring chickens, but both Chimbonda and Cudicini are proven quality in the Premiership, and in these days of inflated price tags, both have come pleasingly cheap. After the early January talk of Stewart Downing, the purchases of Cudicini and possibly Palacios, along with Defoe and Chimbonda, represent pretty decent business, on paper at least. Would you believe it, I’m actually feeling quite upbeat.

Spurs match reports

Man Utd 2-1 Spurs: Insufficient Contribution From The Hudd

Well first of all, an apology to ‘Arry Redknapp – I could barely disguise my displeasure yesterday at the twitchy one’s purported plan to field his weakest possible XI, instead of his full-strength team, in an effort to ensure defeat vs Man Utd and reduce fixture congestion as we battle relegation. However, it seems the cheeky scamp was playing us (meaning me) for fools all along. Play his weakest possible team? He had no such plan lined up at all. Oh how he must have chortled when he submitted his team sheet at Old Trafford, replete with Pav, Modric and Corluka, and not a Ricky Rocha in sight. How Alex Ferguson must have quaked in his boots when the cunning plan was unveiled. While Defoe was benched and Woodgate completely absent, the team was nevertheless fairly strong, at least if measured by salaries.Alas, it didn’t work. While an improvement upon the Burnley mess, we never really looked like winning and Man Utd were not required to hit top gear. There were some encouraging signs – the continued decent form of Dawson, the continued positive attitude Bentley, a better showing from young Alnwick – but there was also a pretty obvious difference in class, neatly epitomised by the build-up and finish to Berbatov’s goal. We struggled to put them under sustained pressure, and created few decent chances.

Thanks to the wondrous efficiency of the London Underground – comparable to Darren Bent in terms of value for money – I managed to miss the first ten minutes of the game. I therefore missed the goal (insert another Darren Bent gag here) – and also, it appears, the only worthwhile contribution of the last two games from the Hudd. Despite being given the platform of a 4-5-1 formation he created little over the 80 minutes I saw. I do doff my cap in his general direction in recognition of the sweet little pass for Pav’s goal, but he really ought to have been looking to pull the strings throughout. Instead, Man Utd won the midfield battle, while Hudd’s distribution was at best average, and his work-rate pretty woeful.

I may do him a disservice, in that he’s not a natural workhouse of an athlete, and therefore even if he is sincerely attempting to harry opponents and win tackles, the effect on the pitch is of a fat man lumbeing from point A to point B as if treading through quicksand. While nippy opponents scurry hither and thither, Hudd puffs and pants after them, apologetically sticking out a leg in the general direction of play, well after ball and opponent have passed him by. Given his limitations in winning the ball, much depends upon what he does with it – but when his passing radar is a little awry he’s more of a hindrance than a help.

The Hudd emerged in the team as the heir apparent to Michael Carrick, a player who was also a relatively weak tackler for a deep-lying midfielder, but who made up for it with his quite exquisite passing ability, not to mention the capacity to dip his shoulder and turn away from trouble, irrespective of how many opponents were crowding him out (a talent these days exhibited by Modric). Hudd’s passing can occasionally be of a similar, jaw-droppingly good level as Carrick’s was – but there’s the rub: it’s occasional. And typically, such occasions will see us already in cruise control in a game, and playing at the Lane. Cruise control hasn’t really been in operation this season, and the need for bite in midfield has been painfully obvious.

Still in his early 20s there is time for Hudd to develop his game, but how many more chances do we give him to prove he can boss a game from central midfield? Opponents of lesser ability but greater energy will continue to get the better of him, as Burnley did last week, and this might not be a risk we can afford to take given our current plight. It’s a tricky one, as his passing has at times had us drooling, and is very much in the stylish Tottenham mould. Rumour has it that Martin Jol (blessed be his name) is considering a bid to take him to Hamburg, and it’s certainly conceivable that he would thrive in a European league. However, too many more anonymous games and ‘Arry’s patience will snap, if it hasn’t already done so.

Spurs preview

Man United – Spurs Preview: The Game We’re Trying To Lose

Man Utd away, a hard task at the best of times, has now assumed difficulty of Herculean magnitude thanks to ‘Arry’s managerial masterstroke of slating all his players before they’ve even been selected, and announcing to the world and his wife that he intends to ensure defeat today. It’s a stance guaranteed to polarise opinion amongst fans, so what better way to see out a Saturday morning hangover than with an All-Action-No-Plot guide to the Pros and Cons of Giving Up a Football Match Before Even Taking To The Field?Prioritising the League: Hard to argue with the logic of this. Never mind how we ended up in this position, never mind the inflated wallets and egos of the players, never mind the fact that with our squad we ought to beat every other team in the bottom half of the table – the fact is we’re only out of the relegation zone on goal difference. All season I have shared the complacency of the players all season that we’re bound to avoid relegation, but it won’t take care of itself – the players need to do it. This task will become far more difficult if, say, Modric and Lennon were to pick up injuries in the Cup today. Elimination from the FA Cup would be bearable, relegation would be catastrophic. Rest the key players. It makes sense.

Our Cup Tradition: The counter-arguments, however, are plentiful. Not least, that this is the most glamorous cup competition in the world. We have a magnificent tradition in the FA Cup, from winning it as a non-league team in ’01, to the double-winners of ’61, the centenary winners in ’82 and the Gazza-inspired run of ’91. The FA Cup is a core part of the illustrious history of Tottenham Hotspur. Are we really going to give up on it this year? Is that not some sort of betrayal of our identity? It’s a romantic view, which doesn’t really hold logical weight against the spectre of relegation, and yet it’s a compelling argument.

A Novel Means of Coping With Fixture Congestion and The Relegation Threat: A whacky idea this, but how about we deal with the relegation threat by taking the left-field approach of actually winning games, rather than forfeiting Cup ties? This ludicrous notion would involve outfighting and outplaying opponents, on a regular basis, typically for a full 90 minutes. Madness I know. It’ll never catch on.

Disband The Team: If a team no longer strives to win, and admits even before taking to the pitch that it doesn’t want to win, it ceases to be sport. The team in question ought not to be there. The attitude towards the UEFA Cup is similarly odd, in that having strived so hard to get there for years, we’re now encouraged to view it as an unwanted extra burden, one we’d be better off without. If we don’t want to win any of the cups, why bother staying in the Premiership? We’re certainly not going to win that any time soon, so why bother? It’s just one fixture after another. We don’t want to qualify for Europe, as that creates too many games, so let’s avoid the problem by dropping down a division. In fact, let’s just avoid the entire problem of playing every week and disband the team. Let the players become full-time celebrities, without the hassle of this 90-minute malarkey. (Depressingly, I can think of a couple of players who might be genuinely taken with the idea…)

’Arry The Great Motivator: ’Arry, whose arm-round-the-shoulder confidence-building techniques were so highly spoken of when he joined, has been employing rather questionable motivational tactics of late. Publicly stripping Jenas of the vice-captaincy, publicly deriding reserve goalkeeper Sanchez (not even remembering his name), publicly laying into Bent after that miss, and now announcing that the players he picks v Man Utd will be those he considers the most rubbish at the club. Public criticisms of players are not necessarily bad things, they can often have galvanising effects, but this latest stunt prior to the Man Utd game seems poorly-judged.

The Mugs In The Stands: Last, and evidently least amongst the considerations – the poor mugs who shell out an arm and a leg for the tickets, and trek across the country and back to provide ill-deserved support. There is no question of Spurs doing them the courtesy of trying their damnedest in this game. At times, all to often this season, it seems the team should be paying us for our support.

I’d imagine the “mish-mash” weakened team of reserves today will put in a lot more effort than the prima donnas of Wednesday night at Burnley. It will be good to see the likes of Taraabt and Giovanni get a run-out, while Bale and Alnwick can pick up more experience, but I struggle to see us winning this one.

Spurs rants

“The Game Is About Glory” – The Core Problem With Spurs?

Levity to one side – temporarily – as this is an attempt to diagnose the core problems at Spurs…I read very recently (with apologies to the author, as I can’t for the life of me remember where) that there’s a problem with the very mentality at Spurs. It’s not just on the pitch, in games like Burnley away, but could be the air about the place as soon as players join. There’s a celebrity/pop-star/big-time Charlie mentality. Players think that once they’ve joined Spurs they’ve made it. They’ve signed for a famous club, with tons of money, a decent history and a strong fan base. It’s a high-profile platform to show off their flair. They’ve got huge wage packets and the glamour of London, with WAGs and tabloids following them around.

The attitude can seep through on the pitch, on nights like Burnley away, when they don’t fly into tackles like their lives depend on them, but instead assume that a goal will come one way or another, just because we’re the famous Premiership club. Burnley’s players are not technically better – if they were they’d be in the Premiership and have the international caps that our lot have. However, Burnley’s players treated the game like it was the highlight of their careers, a life-or-death issue – the sort of attitude a Premiership player should adopt every week, and the complete antithesis of the Spurs players.

At Man Utd, for example, just being at the club is not enough – it’s about winning the Premiership and Champions League. At Spurs, it seems to be enough to trot out every week, win, lose or draw, and enjoy the occasional slice of glamour. The glamour off the pitch, and the glamour of the occasional cup run or televised win against the top four.

There is a quote from our ’61 double-winning captain, Danny Blanchflower, that is part of folklore at the Lane, and is practically our second motto: “The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It is nothing of the kind. The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.”

We fans are very familiar with it, and I suspect the players and management may be too. However, I can’t help thinking it’s been misinterpreted over the years, as an excuse for not getting their hands dirty. Blanchflower was saying that the game is not only about winning – he was not saying “winning is unimportant as long as you play stylishly” (which we aren’t doing anyway).

Yes, we have a tradition, important to the identity of the club, of trying to play attractive football, but for goodness sake winning is also important, and winning will not be achieved without hard work. The two go hand in hand. We fans are as guilty of this mentality as anyone else. Spurs fans are notorious for impatiently demanding success, insisting that we’re still one of the big teams – and demanding stylish football.

I’m inclined to think that the players have the same mentality – maybe the backroom staff too. The club’s obsession with flair, glamour and revelling in glory has left them blinded to the fact that achieving this glory first of all requires hard work.

This badboy can also be found on, at: – Turning On Harry Houdini In Style… – Mailbox – Football365 News

Spurs match reports

Burnley 3-2 Spurs aet: The Twice-Weekly Ritual Humiliation

Wow. I thought my preview yesterday was pessimistic, but the players outdid themselves last night. 

“I foresee only a lethargic and complacent performance, until, perhaps, shaken out of ineptitude by the concession of goals… We’ll qualify, probably, but we’ll do it the hard way. I can certainly see us scraping through on aggregate by losing 3-1 or 4-2 on the night – it would be the Tottenham way.” – Me, yesterday (’m still too bewildered by it all to have a good proper moan. That feeling of incredulity and humiliation is becoming a twice-weekly ritual now. My immediate post-match summary, to whichever poor sod is within earshot on the night, that it was “Possibly the worst Spurs performance I’ve ever seen,” might as well be shaved into my head, so that when I bow my head in shame at the final whistle of each remaining game this season it is there for all to see and I can bypass the hassle of verbal comment.

Where to start? (I think, in honour of my intrepid heroes, I’ll wait 90 minutes-plus before starting). The game – Spurs’ season, so many of Spurs’ seasons – in a microcosm was the build-up to Burnley’s second goal. Some Championship player stumbled across the halfway line, ball at his feet. Zokora and Hudd backed off. The Championship player meandered to the right, Zokora and Hudd backed off. The Championship player stopped, had a cup of tea, checked his facebook page – Zokora and Hudd backed off, the fear of God in their eyes, treating the lad as if he were an entire pride of rabid lions, hungry for the meat of under-achieving, prima donnas. The Championship player eventually looked to his left, played in another Championship player (unmarked, naturally) and before you knew it half the Spurs defence had been turned inside out and the ball was nestling in the net.

I appreciate that for both Zokora and Hudd to have flown in with diving tackles might have been reckless and left yawning gaps behind them, but one of them could have seized the initiative, shown some desire and just shunted the lad sideways or something. I’m possibly being unfair now, as this might have meant a speck of mud on their nice shiny white shirts.

So, we’re off to Wemberley. Huzzah! With not a hint of dignity, the Spurs players celebrated the late escape almost as if they’d earned it. On this form, and against Man Utd, we could become the first team ever to lose a Wembley cup final by double figures. It won’t happen though. As it’s Man Utd, and Wembley, and a chance for glitz, glamour, celebrity status, a night-out in Faces, WAGs and generous tabloid exposure, the players will excel themselves on 1 March. They’ll be

unrecognisable. They might win it.As my brother said, at least they were entertaining last night.
They were awful, I countered.
Yes, he replied, but they’re comical.

More tactically…

Yes, the tactical bit. Any Spurs players, and quite possibly ‘Arry himself, will stop reading at this juncture, possibly confused by the connotations of the term, and its relevance to the celebrity lifestyle.

The Burnley players are not technically better than ours – if they were they’d be playing in the Premiership, and would have the international caps that our lot have. However, they played last night as if their lives depended on it. As if this was their cup final. Our players went if for the 50-50 challenges in perfunctory manner, because they had to.

At 18 stone and 6’ 5″ (or whatever he is) Hudd should be winning everything in midfield – he didn’t. He never does. As weren’t 2-0 and toying with the oppo, he was largely anonymous. Modric had some good touches, and didn’t seem to mind getting dirty. Bentley’s attitude was admirable, as on Sunday. Assou-Ekotto almost scored the best own-goal since Gary Doherty’s David Platt-style overhead volley vs Leicester in 2003/4. One game isn’t enough to judge Alnwick, especially as it was evidently the first time in his life that he’d played in goal.

The 4-5-1 formation ought to have brought some joy, stifling the Championship midfield, but succeeded only in leaving Defoe isolated upfront. Again, however, I commend his ability to shoot on target, and hard. Do it often enough and it will bring goals, whatever his limitations in other areas.

And one final rant, about The Mentality of The Common Sportsman. Why do players need to be staring defeat point-blank in the face, nose squashed up against its window, before they start competing? The fact that we were losing 2-0 to a Championship side didn’t fluster the Spurs players, because they were on their way to Wembley. Yes, yes, but losing 2-0? To a Championship side? Where’s your dignity, chaps? It’s the same with the England cricket team. Give them a target of 150 to chase down, and with 120 on the board they’ll be making heavy work of it. Yet, against the same oppo and on the same pitch two days later, when chasing 250, they’ll breeze past the 150 mark without any hint of difficulty (only to start falling apart at the seams at the 220 mark). Couldn’t the Spurs players have set out to win the 90-minute game last night? No chance. It wouldn’t be the Tottenham way.


Spurs transfers

Obama and Palacios – the Audacity of Hope

Remember the date. 21 January 2009 – it could be the first day of a very different future. On one man’s shoulders the hopes of an entire generation are pinned. Is change really coming? Or are we all just getting a little too carried away? Are we basing everything on optimism for the future, and forgetting how relatively unproven the chap is? Or does the fact that no-one has a bad word to say about him indicative of a man of history-changing talent?Well, like millions of others, I can’t even remember what it was like for Spurs to have a midfield ball-winner, but Wilson Palacios has now signed, subject to a work permit. If all goes to plan, he’ll provide the grit we’ve lacked for so long, freeing Modric, Lennon and, er, Downing to bomb on forward and cut opponents to ribbons. We’ll then haul ourselves out of the bottom half, somehow qualify for Europe, next season make the Champions League, attract Kaka and win every piece of silverware going. What’s that? Can’t we Spurs fans just for once observe a single day’s events with a tiny degree of perspective and restraint? Not on your life. Today is the day that history changes, for an entire generation. Change is coming, baby!

(Sometimes I like to watch some cricket, sip a good bourbon and pause to reflect upon activity in the all-action-no-plot universe. In such quieter moments I’ll probably observe that 14 or so mil is a heap of money, and that he’d better be good. I’ll remind myself that we’ve lacked a quality defensive midfielder for decades.  I’ll muse that my viewings of Palacios have, in the main, been limited to MOTD. I’ll also be aware that he is highly spoken of, and that Man Utd and Real Madrid, rather than, say, West Ham and Fulham, have been linked with him. And ultimately I’ll conclude that only time will tell. We can but hope.)

Spurs preview

Burnely – Spurs Preview: Qualifying the Hard Way

Unknown territory tonight – a three-goal lead with 90 minutes remaining is a thing unheard of at N17, where we’re more used to desperate attempts to retrieve a one-goal deficit with 20 mins (or indeed just injury-time) to go.A 4-1 lead from the first leg against lower-league opposition means that we could do things the simple way – adopt a professional attitude, match Burnley’s work-rate and aggression, and score once or twice before half-time to breeze through. Yes, this would be a delightful means of securing a route to Wembley, and would be adopted by most teams with a modicum of common sense, the merest concept of sanity and any inclination to inject plot as well as action into its doings.

However, this is my beloved Tottenham. This is the team that lost an FA Cup Final through an own-goal the first time I ever watched them; the team that began a season with a  5-0-5 formation; that went 3-0 up against ten-men at half-time and lost 4-3; that sacked big scary Martin Jol (blessed be his name) and that paid £16 mil for Darren Bent. Common sense and sanity renewed their passports and left the premises long ago. No plot here, just action.

So, I apologise, but the penchant for under-achievement and self-destruction displayed so far this season (and indeed, on a general basis over the last two decades), have left me fearing a nail-biting, cardiac-arresting drama tonight. Whereas our normally reticent and unemotional American cousins have not stopped babbling on about hope and optimism for the future, I foresee only a lethargic and complacent performance, until, perhaps, shaken out of ineptitude by the concession of goals.

Across the pond, the newly-canonised one has been recommending that I adopt a more positive attitude towards tonight’s game: “On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.” Evidently St Obama did not catch the first 45 minutes of our first leg vs Burnely.

We’ll qualify, probably, but we’ll do it the hard way. I can certainly see us scraping through on aggregate by losing 3-1 or 4-2 on the night – it would be the Tottenham way. Burnley showed in the first half of the first leg that they can produce a decent performance, and in front of their own crowd, an early goal or two would be a nightmare. You can barter for a mortgage and then bet the whole lot on the fact that Spurs will need to concede at least once before they wake up and start playing.

The injury front is also a cause for concern. No Ledley is par for the course, but the absence of the increasingly-dependable Gomes and Corluka leaves the defence looking vulnerable, while Lennon, one of our likeliest match-winners on current form, is also out. Crikey, I’m even ruing the absence of Jenas.

However, once we’ve conceded two goals, woken from our reverie and the contest actually begins in earnest, there will be grounds for optimism. The injury to Lennon means a start for Bentley on the right, his natural home – this after a highly encouraging cameo at the weekend. Three-Touch O’Hara on the left will provide balance and graft, having produced arguably his finest performance in a Spurs shirt in the first leg against these same opponents. Unbelievably I find myself welcoming the return of the absurdly-coiffured Assou-Ekotto at left-back, on the grounds that human-simian hybrid Bale was run ragged last time out by Burnely winger Eagles. Indeed, even the absence of Corluka is likely to shunt Zokora into the right-back berth, a position in which he excelled vs Man Utd a few weeks back.

Fingers crossed that debutant Alnwick can cut it in goal, and that Hudd, if restored to central midfield, has discovered hitherto unknown capacities for tackling, sprinting and generally beavering away like a man possessed, because otherwise Burnely will swamp us in midfield.

I doubt that even we could implode to the extent of letting slip a 4-1 semi-final lead, but equally, I’d be amazed if we make light work of this.

Spurs match reports

Spurs 1-1 Portsmouth: Denied by Philosophical Shot-Stopper

It was a pretty manic, all-action-no-plot match; a performance pleasingly high on commitment from every man in lilywhite; and, but for an irritatingly supreme performance from the Premiership’s self-styled philosopher-in-chief, David James, it would have had ended with three points in the bag.James had perplexingly taken to quoting completely irrelevant lines from Isaac Newton in the pre-game build-up, but appeared not to have neglected the day-job once on the pitch. Early on he was leaping at full-stretch to his left, to palm away a Ledley header. “Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination,” he could clearly be seen to mouth as he dusted himself off – “Oscar Wilde”. Moments later, as Defoe dived to head goalwards a Lennon cross, James tipped it over the bar, murmuring as he did so, “The luck of having talent is not enough; one must also have a talent for luck.”

In the second half James’ talent for luck became even more evident, with his snap-save to keep out a deflection from Lennon’s driven cross. “Illusory joy is often worth more than genuine sorrow,” whispered the Premiership’s resident academic , as the save led to a Pompey break which 15 seconds later saw Nugent score. “Kant!” screamed ‘Arry. “Descartes,” corrected James.

Although possession was frequently conceded, Spurs looked to have far better balance with Three-Touch O’ Hara out left, rather than Bentley and his hair-gel. Three-Touch’s presence also seemed to have a calming influence upon half-man-half-simian Gareth Bale, whose performance was less mistake-riddled than in recent weeks. No doubt having taken umbrage at the nickname ascribed to him at All-Action-No-Plot Towers, young O’ Hara did his best to dispel the accusation that he needs at least three touches when in possession – but alas, he seemed to have misunderstood the nature of the slight, and instead frequently resorted to five or six touches. Sterling performance, though, with generally decent distribution, and passion in the tackle.

Lennon’s willingness to cut infield as well as dip the shoulder and dart out wide caused problems for Belhadj, a very capable left-back. Encouragingly, Lennon’s performance also included a peach of a cross for Defoe, as noted above. Despite never lumbering beyond first gear, Corluka made a vital goal-saving intervention, as well as augmening attack to good effect.

The injury to Pav can apparently be filed under “Whingeing Foreigner” rather than “Out For The Season”, which will probably disappoint ‘Arry, who was no doubt straining at the leash for another excuse to bid £15 mil for more mediocre Premiership strikers. Meanwhile, the sight of Ledley limping off was dispiriting, but hardly surprising, for such is the plight of a man whose physique comprises feathers held together with blu-tac.

And so to Defoe. Bouyed by his success in the All-Action-No-Plot Haircut of 2008 category (see the young man made an early bid to retain his crown with a Craig David circa ’99 effort, and also turned back the clock with his shoot-on-sight policy. The man has his detractors, and is accused of limited ability, but I’m a big fan of his penchant for regularly shooting on target, and generally with some power. Forcing the ‘keeper to make a save invites success at any level. Today, he was unfortunate to come up against a full-time philosopher with a line in breathtaking saves, but oh that Darren Bent would adopt a similar hit-the-target-and-see approach…

Defoe’s efforts were ultimately rewarded with the equalising goal (leaving James to muse with sadness “If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same…”). Our pressure merited a winner, and but for Bent’s awful sense of geography would have done so, but the manner of the performance gives cause for optimism. Consummatum est, as David James no doubt mused at full-time.

Spurs preview

Spurs – Portsmouth Preview

Spurs – Pompey would ordinarily be deemed a rather tepid fixture, the sort assigned for commentary to Tony Gubba on a Saturday MOTD. Today however, the fixture carries the sort of needle more usually associated with a local derby.The return of big Sol to the Lane will have had N17’s finest clearing their throats in preparation for his usual pantomime villain treatment, and this week’s game neatly coincides with the arrest of 11 fans for singing anti-Sol songs at Fratton Park earlier in the season. While, mercifully, the homophobia will no longer be heard, rumour has it that a censored version of the Sol song is being fine-tuned in preparation for today, possibly including that most magnificent of derogatory monikers, “rotter”.

Moreover, today’s game will also be the first time ‘Arry and Defoe face their former employers, since shrugging their shoulders, eschewing loyalty and nonchalantly strolling up to the Lane with cheery one-fingered salutes at the great and good of Fratton Park, routines completed with faux astonishment at the heckling they receive from Pompey fans.

And on top of all that, just when you thought it couldn’t get any juicier, global bragging rights are at stake, as I have a mate in New Zealand who is a Pompey fan. Honestly, could the build-up to this game be any more dramatic?

While the police and clubs have officially pleaded for calm, the self-styled Descartes of the Premiership, David James, has rather stuck a spanner in the works by urging Portsmouth’s travelling support to give ‘Arry and Defoe some grief, a call to arms which will have security staff at the Lane rolling their eyes and cursing under their breath.

Ever since insisting he had Zidane’s last-minute free-kick covered and then freezing on the spot as it sailed past him, at Euro 2004, I’ve had an axe to grind with James. He probably is quite thoughtful and intelligent, but he acts in all sincerity like he’s a Nobel prize-winner. Memorably, on a Rio Ferdinand wind-up, he waxed lyrical about a painting of a house, and specifically the symbolism of its over-sized windows, before being told it had been painted by a 5 year-old. Why can’t he just stick to football? It’s like going to a U2 concert and hearing that Bono chap rant on about how in third world countries there are 18 dying kids living in a mud-hut with only a beetle to eat between now and Christmas. Fair point, but the punters are paying to hear Angel of Harlem and other late 80’s classics. If they wanted to save the world they’d stop washing and go on protest marches, not attend U2 concerts.

David James’ self-importance has rubbed off on his boss, Tony Adams, who also likes to try throwing in the odd philosophical platitude when being interviewed on his appalling managerial record. Heaven knows what the team-talks at Portsmouth are like. So in the build-up to today’s game James has gone and made the sort of remarks that would land Joe F*cking Kinnear with a disrepute charge – but being David James he’s got away with it. With his battle-cry ringing in the ears of Pompey fans, and Sol making his latest return to the Lane, the noise from the stands ought to be pretty fiery today.

Oh that the Spurs players would display that sort of frenzied aggression. How pleasing it would be if they picked up where they left off against Burnley. Instead I fear that we’ll be outfought and outfoxed in midfield by footballing luminaries of the ilk of Kaboul and Nugent, prompting ‘Arry to blame the players, stewards, groundstaff and any other remnants of the old regime.

Spurs transfers

Comedy Gold

Some Friday afternoon humour for you:Two goldfish are in a tank.
One turns to the other and says “So how the hell do we drive this thing?”

First man: Can you help me? I’m looking for a dog with one eye.
Second man: Trying opening your other eye. It will double your chances of finding him.


Inter Milan boss Jose Mourinho has confirmed to Sky Sports News that he is interested in signing Jermaine Jenas. 

Oh, the hilarity…

Oh, the hilarity…