Spurs match reports

Spurs 3-1 Wigan: More jeers for Ghaly, Cheers for 4-4-2

Football fans are often accused of fickleness, but there is a rather unfortunate consistency about our treatment of Hossam Ghaly.

It is well over a year since he pulled off his Spurs shirt and flung it on the ground, incurring the wrath of fans throughout the stadium and beyond. Yesterday, as he readied himself for his first substitute appearance since, the N17 regulars began spitting feathers at the sight, and ‘Arry thought better of it. It appears that young Ghaly may have played his last game for Spurs. 


I’d imagine that there was nothing malicious in Ghaly’s act of throwing away the shirt. Bear in mind that he had just suffered the ignominy of being substituted having only himself entered the fray as a substitute. He must therefore have been most irked at life in general and his manager – Martin Jol (blessed be his name) – in particular. In front of 36,000 people, that’s pretty humiliating.Oh, that he had instead vented his displeasure by grinding his teeth, or kicking a water bottle, or burning a small annoying child. We’d have understood that, maybe even sympathised and surely moved on.
But pulling off the legendary lilywhite shirt and tossing it to the dirt, proud cockerel and all, could diplomatically be described as an ill-advised move. In an age in which fans pay astronomical prices for their 90 minutes of torture, and in which working-class supporters  feel increasingly distanced from the multi-millionaire prima donnas who take to the pitch, the lack of regard for the badge, the very identity of the club, was a pretty poorly-constructed plan of action from one of the players. 
Understandably, many will regard the booing of fans over a year later, as a childish over-reaction. Fair point. But offensive it ain’t. It’s an expression of disapproval, to which, I think, fans are entitled.

Having spent every spare minute of his press conferences over Christmas twitching and complaining about the size of his squad, ‘Arry will now presumably have to do without Ghaly. I can’t really say that my heart bleeds for the player – he presumably feels hard done-by, but the oodles of cash pouring in every week will soften the blow, my sympathy dwindling in direct proportion. If he wants a sympathetic ear, he should pop down to the south coast and have a nice warm cuppa with one Sulzeer Campbell esquire.

More tactically…

 Every time ‘Arry’s played 4-5-1 I’ve bemoaned the lack of support for the lone striker. Yesterday it was 4-4-2, and he entrusted holding duties to Zokora alone, with Modric the attacking half a central midfield pair. Now a slightly cumbersome win against a second-string Wigan team will have very few (outside All-Action-No-Plot Towers) singing from the rooftops, but I’m much encouraged.

Whether or not Zokora and Modric are a sufficiently strong central pairing to cut it in the Premiership is an entirely different kettle of fish, and frankly I suspect they’re not. Still, the tweaked formation, and its success, give ‘Arry food for thought.

Not too pleased about the emergence of yet another alice-band in the ranks though. Lose it, Luka.



Spurs preview

Spurs – Wigan preview: Alas, we’re a cup-team once more

I suspect I wasn’t the only one waking up on New Year’s morning with a horrible sense of dismayed realisation. As I tried to figure out whose flat I was in, and get rid of the sickly sweet taste of JD-cointreau-lemonade in my mouth, the terrible truth slowly dawned in me – Spurs have once again become a cup team. 

As far back as I can remember Spurs had always been better in the cups than the league, but under big scary Martin Jol (blessed be his name) it looked like things were about to change. Two consecutive fifth-placed finishes, and phrases like “consistency”, “top four” and “Champions League places” were being bandied around. It was all so tantalisingly close… 

On New Year’s morning however, with the sounds of my first ever Hogamanay still pounding around my head, it occurred to me that those two seasons were the exception rather than the norm. As I gasped for water and scrolled quizzically through the photos on the digital camera (where was that? who was she?) I realised that it simply isn’t becoming of an all-action-no-plot team to boast a strong defence, produce consistent performances and grind out single-goal wins. Instead, we’ve left that approach to Villa, who have also purloined our blood-the-young-English-talent approach. For our part we’ve reverted to the occasional blitzkrieg performance amidst a slew of moribund defeats to the division’s lowliest, a habit far more typical of a cup-team. Mid-table mediocrity, and the occasional trophy – it should be our motto.  Never mind audere est facere, let’s go with “Purgamentum in medii mensae, aliquando tropaeum 

Wigan at home is a game we ought to win, irrespective of the competition, venue, year or alignment of the planets. Quite why we’re playing on a Friday night is anyone’s guess. As if I wasn’t already sufficiently confused by the whole business of waking-up-in-a-strange-flat-and-coming-back-into-the-office-for-one-day-which-feels-like-Monday-but-is-actually-a Friday. I get the feeling ‘Arry wouldn’t be entirely dismayed if we got knocked out tonight, given our current fixture list (his twitch will go into overdrive if it goes to a replay) but having seen Cardiff and Millwall make the final in recent years I’d like to see us take it seriously

Spurs news, rants

All Action No Plot 2008 Awards…

What better way to fill a 31st December posting than with some end of 2008 all-action-no-plot awards?

Let’s not beat about the bush – the calendar year 2008 has been largely woeful. No plot, and only sporadic moments of action saw us go into freefall after the Carling Cup win and head towards 2009 just above the drop-zone. However, you can’t take the all-action-no-plot out of the team, so without further ado…

All-Action-No-Plot Performance of 2008
Even this mundane year has seen completely mental 4-4 draws against both Chelski and l’Arse. However, for all sorts of glorious reasons the outright winner, by four clear goals is the 5-1 win over l’Arse. To quote the song – even Jenas scored! To see us tear apart the old enemy, to see them implode to the extent that they started headbutting one another, to see Steed sweep home the glorious fifth – and watching it all with a gooner mate, before returning to an office full of gooner mates… bliss.

All-Action-No-Plot Haircut of 2008
David Bentley will throw a right strop if he doesn’t win this one, having worn out the mirrors in the dressing room, and openly dedicated more time to flicking his on-off fringe than fighting for the badge. Jermaine Jenas went through a Samson phase early in the year, growing his hair, miraculously becoming half-decent, only to cut it short and become rubbish again. The winner is therefore Jermaine Defoe’s brief flirtation with the Wembley arc – across his head.

All-Action-No-Plot Goal of 2008
Robbie Keane’s late equaliser vs Chelski springs to mind, and Jenas’ late strike vs l’Arse is likely to be forgotten despite its quality, but the one that really made me leap out of my seat was Brylcreem boy David Bentley taking time out from his hectic schedule of personal grooming to thoughtfullly silence the Emirates with a 40+ yard uber-volley.
As I blogged at the time: Coca-Cola once ran a bunch of posters, showing grown men who ought to know better getting rather carried away at football matches. The line was something along the lines of “One day you will see a goal so beautiful you will want to marry it, move to a small island and live there with it forever.” That’s Bentley’s goal, that is. I want to marry it and have lots of baby wonder-goals with it.

All-Action-No-Plot Celebration of 2008
With Robbie Keane dispensing with the intricate gymnastics, there aren’t too many stand-out nominees. Woodgate’s lumbering jog of exuberance in the Carling Cup final epitomised how we were all feeling, but the best celebrations came around 12 hours later, as Lennon, Jenas, Hutton and, most memorably, Ledley King stumbled out of Faces, with traces of blood barely detectable in their alchohol streams. Classy.

All-Action-No-Plot Moment of 2008
The look on the face of my gooner mate Hawthy as we spanked them 5-1 was priceless, but let’s face it, that would have counted for precious little if we hadn’t completed the job a few weeks later at Wemberley.  It might not have been aesthetically pleasing, but seeing Woody get punched in the face by the ball, which then apologetically stumbled into the empty net, as Woody himself and Berba went slipping and sliding around the turf – I just wish I had been sober enough to remember it more clearly.

All-Action-No-Plot Chant of 2008
Take a bow the Dinamo Zagreb ultras (and there won’t be many times in my life that I come out with that line). We didn’t understand a word of what they said – just as well, I’d imagine – but their song was so good that the Park Laners adopted it as their own, for 15 crazy minutes.

All-Action-No-Plot Manager of 2008
Sigh. This will have to be won by default. Wendy Ramos masterminded the 5-1 over l’Arse, and won us our first trophy in nine years – then undid all the good work and sold Steed. Whereas ‘Arry arrived on a chariot of media goodwill, somehow stumbled across a string of welcome wins, but has since rather lost the magic touch. So the All-Action-No-Plot Manager of 2008 award goes to my boss at work, for giving us wine on the morning of Christmas Eve.

All-Action-No-Plot Young Player of 2008
How old do you have to be to be “young”? I’d say, completely arbitrarily, that 27 is still quite young, so anyone born in the ’80s qualifies for this award. Therefore Ledley wins it, as he lifted the cup for us, which is more than anyone else can say this millenium.

All-Action-No-Plot Player of 2008
As hinted by the preceding award, we’ve not exactly been blessed with stand-out performances this year. Can’t really give it to Keane, after his dastardly exit to his “boyhood club”, Berba had an average year by his standards. Jenas had a bizarrely purple patch at the start of 2008, but normality was soon restored and he quickly became rubbish again. Therefore, the true “player” of 2008 was the man who played away on his stunning wife, the numpty – and got caught, the numpty. Ashely Cole, you dirty cheating rat, show your face and claim your award.

It makes little sense, it’s been manic and much of it beggars belief – 2008 has been quite an all-action-no-plot year. God bless ye merry folk, and all the best for next year. See you in 2009!

Spurs transfers

So long, suckers… Who might ‘Arry offload in January?

A dog is for life, not just for Christmas – but thankfully a rubbish foreign left-back can be offloaded in the January sales. Having already cast a beady, all-action-no-plot eye over the possible arrivals at N17 next month, here’s a cursory glance at those who might have pulled on the famous lilywhite for the last time…


Gilberto – This Brazilian international (I jest ye not) was publicly sacked by ‘Arry after the egregiously bad error vs Spartak. Seemingly the latest in a growing line of mediocre foreign full-backs jettisoned by Spurs, he’ll no doubt be picked up by a half-decent European team (a la Lee Young Pyo, Erik Edman, Timothee Atouba, Paul Stalteri…). Woudln’t be surprised to see him end up in the Champions League next season, because football’s a funny old game. 


Jamie O’ Hara – Controversial one this. Young “Three Touch” O’Hara’s work-rate is appreciated down the Lane, but lack of first-team opportunities have prompted grumblings of discontent. While he’d be worth retaining for his fight (we’ll need it in the coming months) and just to keep squad numbers healthy as we compete on several fronts, I personally wouldn’t shed too many tears, if we sell him. Let’s face it, Three-Touch would attract the likes of Hull, Boro and Fulham, rather than Villa or the top four, so is he really good enough for us?


Kevin Prince-Boateng – Hard to believe this lad won German young player of the year a couple of seasons back. Given squad number 23 by ‘Arry, which is probably more than the minutes he’s played this season. It therefore seems certain he and his intriguing Mohawk and well-illustrated arms will be on show on someone else’s sub bench by February.


Ricardo Rocha – Is he injured? Is he in the reserves? Is he still alive? Will be sold to the first club that remembers he still exists. Unbelievably, he’s been capped by Portugal. Ricardo Carvalho he ain’t.


Adel Taarabt – Will be a shame to see young Tarbuck go, his cameos were always entertaining, and occasionally effective (eg West Ham away last year). Still only about 8 years old, it might pay to send him out on loan rather than sell him off. If he could cut out the excessive step-overs and work on the end-product, he’d step up from being the skilful kid in the playground to being an effective Premiership-level impact sub.


Hossam Ghaly – Not sure too many people have forgiven him for throwing away his shirt, the scoundrel. I certainly haven’t. How dare he. Good riddance in advance. (And more to the point, he didn’t set the world alight when on loan at Derby last year, so he can’t be that good).


Darren Bent – A Bentley-esque long-shot this, but there have been whispers that he’s on his way out. It wasn’t so long ago that he was knocking them in for fun at Charlton and other hopeless teams – personally I think that with some decent service and a strike partner to help him out he’d be more than adequate at Premiership level. However, he’s English which means that Aston Villa want him. Seven million is the number being bandied around, which wouldn’t be terrible business if we could bring in Defoe.



And some less likely movers and shakers…

Dider Zokora: Wanted by Real Madrid. Honest. I know this because a message announcing it was delivered to me by a flying pig.


Aaron Lennon: Another Real Madrid target according to some drunk, stoned tabloid writers with too much time on their hands. A few months ago he probably would have been on his way out, but several dips of the left shoulder and bursts towards the by-line later and he’s very much part of our plans. Not going anywhere in January.




Jermaine Jenas: Oh that someone would take him off our hands. I’d pay other teams to take him off our hands. Bless him he tries – he’s certainly trying – but the odd decent game in a dozen isn’t enough. Had a brief spell last year when he grew his hair and became amazing; but alas, like Samson, a haircut deprived him of his wondrous power, and he became rubbish again. Bizarrely rated by successive England and Spurs managers, surely there’s someone out there willing to stump up, say, £7 million for him?


Heurelho Gomes – A couple of months ago we couldn’t have bundled him out of the door fast enough, but since then he’s upped his game and been one of our most consistent performers – the team’s poor recent form has been despite rather than because of Gomes. They say form is temporary and class is permanent – and it’s still a bit early to discern the category under which Gomes’ good performances fall. However, he’s doing a sterling job at the moment, let’s not make him cry again.


Roman Pavluychenko and David Bentley – Alright, I’m being silly now, but neither of these guys have justified the inflated fees we shelled out last summer. We won’t sell them because we’ll make nowhere near the amount we paid for them, so like it or not, we’re stuck with both. Still, unlike Jenas, both have at least previously shown flashes of genuine quality – let’s hope 2009 sees them both rediscover such form.

Spurs match reports

West Brom 2-0 Spurs: I’ll get stick in the office for this…

Oh blinking heck. Defeat to the bottom team, one point from six over Christmas – this is just plain embarassing. I know this is supposed to be a politically correct age, but everyone knows that West Brom are rubbish, and vastly out of their depth in the Premiership. Losing to them today was humiliating. It’s like taking on a group of seven year-olds in a park, and losing. Oh, the shame.

Never mind our desperate plight at the lower end of the league (we’ll survive), I’m more concerned about the relentless stick I’ll get back in the office tomorrow. Having mouthed off pre-Christmas about how a string of wins would propel us towards the European places, we’ve taken one point from six, and lost to a bunch of seven year-olds. With Fulham at home and West Brom away, a six-points boast really wasn’t entirely ludicrous, but things have gone wildly awry over 180 mins of football. European football seems a distant dream now. Before we can think about that we’ve got to remember how to make mincemeat of the Premiership’s most unattractive and backward components.

This is not what the all-action-no-plot mentality is supposed to be about. All-action-no-plot is supposed to encapsulate the madcap nature of Spurs’ glory, glory attacking football, passing and movement, non-stop entertainment, and shots raining in. Not too much concern for defence, admittedly, but 4-4 is better than 0-0 (and if we ever sorted out the defence I’d have to call this all-action-neatly-rounded-plot, which really doesn’t have the same ring). No, the all-action-no-plot mentality ought really to have seen us beat West Brom 5-1, or thereabouts.

Instead we’ve forgotten how to score. We have no divine right to win these games, but we have the quality in attack to do so. Unfortunately, we’re not making chances, we’re not supporting the lone striker (abandon 4-5-1 ‘Arry, pretty please, with a cherry on top) and each time we pick two deep central midfielders (two from Jenas, Hudd and Zokora) we’re effectively lining up two men short. It’s nine vs eleven. No action, no plot.

The cause wasn’t helped today by the dismissal of Assou-Ekotto, but nevertheless – with Modric and Lennon both on form there is a basis for attacking potency. Somehow, with their misplaced passes and inability to tackle, Zokora, Jenas and Bentley are between them negating the good work of this pair.

The honeymoon is most certainly over for ‘Arry. Now it’s time for him to earn his corn as a manager, both tactically, with the under-performing and shorn of confidence rabble already at N17, and in the transfer market over January.

Alternatively of course, if we want a spate of good results, we could always sack ‘Arry, bring in someone new and watch the miraculous “new-manager-bounce” occur.

(I jest. )

Spurs preview

West Brom – Spurs preview: We’re doomed

Away to the team at the bottom of the league – exactly the sort of game in which Spurs will meekly surrender and die. The personnel changes, the kit changes – even the stadium is about to change, but Spurs remain the same, and I’ll be flabbergasted if we comfortably wrap up the three points as we ought to.

As we’re away from home it’s likely we’ll start with the wretched 4-5-1 again, and Bent/Pav will be starved of service, leaving ‘Arry bleating about the need for another striker. Au contraire, Mr Redknapp. My many, many years as a dedicated armchair football fan tell me that the problem is quite clearly the holding role. Bring in a midfielder with bite, who can win the ball and hold fort, and others will be freed to support the lone striker. Or better yet, if the holding midfielder is good enough, he alone can do the job and we can revert to 4-4-2. At the moment, two players (from Zokora, Hudd and Jenas) are being deployed to sit deep, and we’re suffering from a paucity of numbers in attack.

Here’s your Spurs bingo card for the traditional defeat to the bottom club tomorrow: “toothless”, “spineless”, “no confidence”, “tired”, “lacking urgency”, “outmuscled”, “no service”.

Spurs transfers

‘Arry at the January sales

With the honeymoon over, the side struggling and reinforcements seemingly needed in every position, all-action-no-plot casts a wary eye over a handful of ‘Arry’s (supposed) shopping list…

Stewart Downing (Left winger, ‘Boro, £8-£12 mil) – Yegads ‘Arry, don’t do it! I’ve only ever seen him play well once (Eng vs Germany). He’s naturally left-footed, and as such would balance our midfield, but so is our Welsh simian Gareth Bale. Save around £10 mil and give Bale a chance. And encourage the midfielders to get into the area before investing in another crosser…

Craig Bellamy (Striker, West Ham, £6 – £8 mill) – Wrote on this one yesterday, and my opinion hasn’t changed overnight. Good striker, but a walking asbo, who has never settled at a club due, presumably, to his penchant for attacking team-mates with golf clubs.

Shay Given (Goalkeeper, Newcastle, Maybe £3 mil?) – Tempting, but this is like heading to the supermarket when hungry, and consequently buying food you just don’t need. Gomes is doing fine at the moment.

Lassana Diarra (Defensive midfielder, Real Madrid, £20 mil) – Out of stock.

Jermaine Defoe (Striker, Pompey, £10 mil give or take) – Pompey may sell if the debt stories are true, and the lad certainly knows the route to goal, but ineligibility for Europe might be offputting. Can’t really see it happening, much as I’d love to.

Peter Crouch (Striker, Pompey, £10 mil give or take) – ‘Arry bought him at Pompey, and might be tempted by a goalscoring target-man. Again, ineligible for Europe.

Emile Heskey (Striker, Wigan, £3 mil or less, as his contract’s running down) – Hardly a proven goalscorer, but has, over the last 12 months shown an ability to hold up the ball and buy time for languid supporting midfielders to amble into the area. Exactly what we need then.

Matthew Upson (Centre-back, West Ham, £6 mil or so) Only likely if West Ham are forced into a Woollies-style closing-down sale. Their chairman is Icelandic, so this may indeed happen. With King and Woodgate falling apart, and Corluka ineligible in Europe, we could do with a reliable centre-back.

Spurs match reports

Spurs 0-0 Fulham: Dreariness to the strains of Vivaldi

The existence of a football fan can be a pathetic one – trudging around an empty room, pinning my hopes on a radio, staring pleadingly at it and willing it to deliver good news. The reception on it was so poor that match commentary was delivered with early afternoon orchestral performances on Radio 3 in the background. The commentator sounded like a gobby 15 year-old dragged out of his classroom, whose unique brand of humour amuses only the other hoodied teenagers who congregate at train stations on a Friday night to scowl, smoke and spit. This inanimate object, delivering to me first movements and teenage witticisms was the object of my undivided attention and longing for two hours on Boxing Day.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, this 15 year-old’s blow-by-blow account informed me, to the strains of Mozart’s Horn Concerto, that Spurs served up a woeful performance today . I need not really elaborate on the match details – all the usual boxes can be ticked: under-achievement from Bentley; lack of service and creativity from midfield; Bent swapped with Pav after 70. The usual suspects. Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons could not assuage my annoyance.

I regularly wonder if there’s anything more frustrating in life than being a Spurs fan. This marriage to 11 men in white frequently leaves me ruing that fateful day, back in 1987. Only minutes before kick-off this afternoon I wrote, full of optimism, about how Fulham at home could be the springboard to a run of wins which would fire us up the table. Looking back, with the benefit of just a few hours’ hindsight, I sneer at myself. How could I have been so naive? Why will I again be churlish in my predictions, in just 48 hours’ time? Nil-nil at home to Fulham is about as uninspiring and dreary-sounding a result as I can imagine, even if at half-time I caught random snatches of the rousing Superman theme tune on Radio 3. No result can be further from the all-action-no-plot team to which I signed my life away, two decades ago.

Spurs preview

This time next month, we’ll be pushing for Europe…

Make no mistake, the games coming up over the Christmas period and into January represent a great opportunity to push up the table, away from the drop-zone and into the chasing pack fro Europe.

In the league, Fulham at home, West Brom away, Wigan away, Pompey at home, Stoke away and Bolton at home on 31 Jan – all games which, individually, we could realistically envisage winning. There’s a Manager of the Month award in there for ‘Arry, particularly if he bolsters the squad shrewdly over January.

The table remains tight, with universal inconsistency seeing teams throughout the division picking up just four or five points from nine. As such, three or four consecutive wins will propel us up the table.

I realise that this is the sort of claim which will incur the wrath and/or mockery of non-Spurs fans across the land, exactly the sort of blind optimism which breeds pre-season mockery outside fo N17, as we babble on about this being “our season”. Indeed, I admit to making such gung-ho claims fro the ’08-’09 campaign, not least on 15 August, the day before the season began. Back then, carried away with the prospect of an all-action-no-plot line-up so attacking it forced Modric back into the holding role, I saw us beating every team in the Premiership at home, bar the top four. Instead, we promptly lost to Boro, Sunderland, Villa, Pompey, Hull and Stoke, and were bottom after a couple of months. There is therefore, a possibility that this festive fixture-list could prove disastrous for us.

However, results (and performances) such as the 0-0 at home to Man Utd, minus King and Woodgate, and the win away to West Ham, have left hope springing eternal of a points blitz over the next few weeks. It all begins today at home to Fulham. ‘Arry will continue to insist that we’re in a relegation scrap, but I see neon lights, dollar signs and all-action-no-plot, glory glory football – we’re on our way to an unbeaten run! I’m sure of it!

Spurs news, rants

Spurs bid rejected for nice-guy Bellamy

‘Arry may have a good reputation in the transfer market, but I’m not sure that Craig Bellamy was what I wanted to pull out of my Christmas stocking.

As I indicated when waving goodbye to Paul Stalteri lsat week, being a nice guy has precious little to do with footballing ability. I nevertheless have my misgivings about Bellamy, the very antithesis of a “nice guy”, a man so charming that when on a team-bonding trip to Spain in his Liverpool days, he attacked a team-mate with a golf-club. The loveable rogue. Further evidence of Bellamy’s troublesome character is that he’s had about 45 different clubs during his 10-or-so-year career. Not sure that’s the sort of influence one would want in a dressing-room, although if he’s happy to lamp David Bentley for lack of effort it might not be a bad thing.

In terms of footballing ability he has his attributes – having played for both Liverpool and Newcastle he is undeniably a good striker at Premiership level, with pace to burn and an eye for goal, and he’s also eligible for Europe, which is handy in the absence of the cup-tied Pav.

A huge signing is unlikely in January, so cut-price strikers from hard-up clubs (Bellamy, or Crouch or Defoe at Pompey) or strikers on winding-down contracts (Owen, Hesky) would probably be top of ‘Arry’s attacking shopping list. Those eligible for Europe would be particularly keenly sought, which might rule out the Pompey pair.

The £6 mil bid for Bellamy is only the opening gambit in what is certain to be a highly entertaining transfer puppet show, particularly with ‘Arry pulling the strings. Who knows what our squad will look like a month down the line?