Spurs preview

Shakhtar – Spurs Preview: Another Game We’re Trying to Lose

Outwitted by a footballer. Not really the sort of thing to proclaim from the rooftops and highlight on my CV – for footballing folk are hardly regarded as the great intellectual giants of our time, no matter what David James and Tony Adams would have you believe. However, whichever way you look at it, ‘Arry Redknapp laid the simplest of traps, and with astonishing naivety I fell for it hook, line and sinker.The occasion was the build-up to the cup game with Man Utd. With a twitch of his head and a moan about his squad size, ‘Arry fed me the line that he would play his weakest possible team. I – still reeling from the news that  the word “gullible” had been removed from the dictionary – lapped this up a little too zealously and indulged in a typically tedious diatribe about the ignominy of it all, laying into ‘Arry, invoking the club’s 126-year tradition, the full works. Come kick-off and the “weakest possible team” did not materialise. While Woodgate was rested, the team sent out was of general, moderate-to-strong capability, boasting Modric and Pav, with not a Rocha in sight.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, and ‘Arry is making similar noises prior to our Uefa cup game. He’s bleating on again about how he’s stuffed the team bus with kids from the Acadmey squad – but I’m not buying it this time. As Dubya put it, fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me, you can’t get fooled again. ‘Arry reckons Corluka, Pav and Keane are all cup-tied – a likely story. He’s claiming that Lennon, Ledley and Three-Touch O’ Hara are all out injured – pull the other one. Jermain Defoe is apparently both ineligible and injured – the lady doth protest too much, methinks. And Woodgate, Cudicini, Palacios and Modric are all being rested tonight – oh you tease ‘Arry, you mischievous scamp. Not only have you played that ruse before, but to omit our ten best players against a team whose last competitive result was a win against Barcelona – well that would be the most suicidal plan since Bruce Willis did the honourable thing in Armageddon (or perhaps Deep Impact).


Alas, it’s actually true. It could be Alfie Patten and friends – and his kids – lining up in lilywhite tonight. There will probably be some recognisable faces on show (Dawson, Jenas, Hudd, Chimbonda, Zokora, Gomes etc) and it will be nice to see Dos Santos finally get a game, and reacquaint ourselves with Bent’s look of disbelief as he shins wide, but let’s not kid ourselves. Although Shakhtar are just returning from a winter break, our sub-strength team will struggle. Over two legs, we’re heading out. We’re doomed (which might well become the new subtitle of this increasingly morbid forum of woe). I know, I know – we have bigger fish to fry, with Premiership games mounting up (Hull away on Monday) and the Carling Cup final to come (a week on Sunday). Logic was never my forte in scholarly days, but even I see the sense in omitting key players tonight and next Thursday, in a Uefa Cup competition we’re miles away from winning.

But still. For years and years I’ve enviously watched as other teams – not least l’Arse – have gone on their merry midweek European jaunts, and yearned for the day when we could do the same. And when we finally made it into Europe, it was amazing. European nights at the Lane are awesome, they absolutely rock, and I shall happily slap in the face with a wet fish anyway who suggests otherwise. Successive seasons of it has me addicted. And now we’re just going to throw it all away? (If ever there was a time to become sufficiently tech-savvy to insert an audio clip of an anguished howl, this is it.)

Yes, yes, yes, YES – I know, it’s far more important that we stay in the Premiership, stop yelling that at me. But the all-action-no-plot devil on my shoulder continues to poke me with a stick and repeat to me – “What’s the point if we’re not striving to climb the table and get into Europe?” I’m aware that I’m displaying the all too familiar Spurs Fan’s Irrational Impatience™, far more harmful than good to the team, a wretched curse of generations up and down the High Road and many miles beyond. I’m aware that this all a means to an end, and that the Uefa is being sacrificed so that we can come back stronger next season – but here and now, in the build-up to Shakhtar away, it doesn’t soften the blow. Shakhtar over two legs is not insurmountable; I just hope that if we do lose we at least go out with a fight.

This season we’ll scramble free of the drop, lose the Carling Cup final and finish like all the rest of them – mid-table, no trophies. Why retain our Premiership status if that means existing in a dull rut, alongside Middlesborough and Fulham and all of the other most boring and soulless sides in the universe? What’s the point of surviving, if we then go on to live our lives in a dull void of unfeasible blandness and nihilism. We’re in danger of becoming Middlesborough I tell you. Middlesborough! Is there a more depressing thought in football?

The odds of us winning the Uefa this season were always a tad long, but at least we were in it. Who knows when we’ll next have the chance? By next Thursday night we’ll be out of the Uefa. Next Sunday we face the best team on the planet, in the best form in their history, in the Carling Cup final. After that we could well have become Middlesborough.

I feel like Ray Liotta at the very end of Goodfellas.

“And now it’s all over. That’s the hardest part. Today everything is different. There’s no action. I have to wait around like everyone else. Can’t even get decent food. After I got here I ordered spaghetti with marinara sauce…and I got egg noodles with ketchup. I’m an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.”


For Queen and Country - England matters Spurs transfers

Joe Cole – An Unlikely Tribute

Headgear readjustments this week, as I donned my England hat, carefully placing it alongside the Tottenham version. Although the defeat to Spain didn’t feature any Spurs players, the naming of One-Trick Downing on the left had me sharpening knives, practising my most caustic put-downs, and preparing once again to do battle with those who claim that he’d be a worthy addition to the lilywhite ranks.However, a couple of spanners appeared in the works. For a start, this is hardly new ground. Whether they agree or not, seasoned all-action-no-plotters can virtually lip-synch with me as I trot out my usual lines of argument (decent player but not £14 mil of special; and not exactly a little bundle of unpredictability either), and the responses are themselves fairly predictable too (a natural left-footer provides balance to the midfield; and early crosses for our often ball-starved forwards).

The other problem with revisiting the Downing debate was more practical in nature. If watching “soccer” while holidaying in Oz was pretty darned tricky, then catching a game in New Zealand was nigh on impossible. Just the goals for me then, and the case against One-Trick can be adjourned with no further questions from this particular prosecution.

However, the debate will rage on, particularly in the summer. Rather than just moan about what I consider to be the problem, I shall take the novel and proactive step of suggesting a solution. One other name very briefly linked with Spurs, probably by a gossip-mongerer with a penchant for the particularly tenuous, was that of Joe Cole.

Until around 2004 – 05 the left-wing had been a major headache for the national team, with the list of earnest but inappropriate players shunted into the round hole including Heskey, Gerrard, Barmby, Bridge, Scholes, McManaman and Alan Thompson. Enter Joe Cole, stage left, and the problem ceased to be. Despite being right-footed he seemed to balance the midfield by maintaining positional discipline; he crossed well with both feet; was willing to cut infield (admittedly perhaps a little too willing at times); chipped in with goals; and was (is) pretty much the only player in the national squad with the natural ability to dribble past opponents. He is also one of the few flair players I can think of who is willing to devote as much energy to the hard work of scrapping and harrying as to his dribbling.

And the counter arguments? He can frustrate by failing to impact upon games as much as he ought to; he sometimes dribbles when a pass is on; and he regularly exhibits that most obnoxious of traits – the dive. An undoubted further source of irritation is that he has a voice so high that wild dogs run for cover when a microphone is thrust towards his visage, but the impact of this upon his performances appears minimal.

Not perfect then, but if being compared with One-Trick Downing, “perfection” is a criterion that can be safely tucked away in a drawer and forgotten about until we reach a completely different topic of discussion.

So I’m firmly in the tongue-twisting pro-Joe-Cole camp. Although now out for the season with an injury, there were murmurs to the effect that Cole was not entirely enamoured with life at Stamford Bridge this season. Apparently he was substituted in a dozen consecutive games by Scolari, up until his injury a few weeks ago. With bids of £14 mil bewilderingly being faxed off to Middlesborough there would have been a strong case for redirecting those funds towards Stamford Bridge. It’s all a little academic now, for numerous reasons (transfer window closed, Cole out until the summer, managerial shenanigans at Chelski). However, with our left wing unlikely to solve itself before May, and presuming we don’t continue our buy-back policy and re-sign Steed, I’ll happily design, print out and publicise the bring Joe-Cole-to-the-Lane petition.

Spurs match reports

Spurs 0 – 0 Arsenal: Suppressing The Urge To Throttle A Small Puppy

Same old, same old. You’d think that after a couple of decades and probably the best part of a thousand games it would be a bit easier to stomach, but no, Spurs’ capacity to frustrate remains unparalleled. Yet again, come the final whistle I was left looking around for a small puppy or irritating child to throttle.A usual gripe of mine is that we are playthings of the footballing gods, as flies to wanton boys and all that. Yesterday however, the footballing gods even took pity on us and gave us a couple of helping hands – disallowed goal for l’Arse which other refs might have permitted, Adebayor and his hammie, Eboue and his red card (nb Oh the hilarity of Eboue’s red! After the ostentatious embraces and words of comfort for Modric, when Eboue thought he’d got away with it, then to see him summoned back and sent packing – genius!). It really was set up for us on a plate. In fact, it was being spoon-fed to us. By half-time I had ventured from my private little pit of pessimism and was actually rather looking forward to the second half. The footballing gods, their work done, put their feet up to enjoy the spectacle. The gooners in the crowd, captured on tv, looked suitably morose. All was right with the world.

Sigh. One esteemed custodian of the interweb describes it as a kind of purgatory. Personally I see Tottenham as similar to women – intensely frustrating, with an adamant refusal to do things the simple way. A breed that seem to delight in complicating things solely in order to drive me to madness. And yet, I keep going back for more torture.

Despite the lack of cutting edge, it was not a bad display from us. In the early stages, of eleven vs eleven we seemed to be a bit sharper than they, the work-rate and team ethic an improvement upon much that has gone before this season. ‘Arry recently pointed to the attitude of Carlos Tevez as an example our players would do well to follow – of constantly harassing their man in possession, until this possession is eventually surrendered. At times yesterday, in patches, something akin to this could be seen from our lot, even as I pinched myself. Maybe it’s the start of a brave new era, and the arrival of a more determined mentality. Or maybe it’s just the perennial improved attitude for the game vs l’Arse, to be replaced next week with the usual lethargy.

Much of the credit for the high tempo of the early stages in particular must go to soon-to-be firm crowd favourite Wilson Palacios. For many this would have been our first good look at him, and, whisper it, he showed enough to suggest that he might be, you know, the one. The answer. If White Hart Lane is The Matrix, this guy could be our Keanu Reeves. Unless he goes off the boil like the second and third Matrix films. Anyway, either Palacios is possessed off rather extremely impressive energy levels, or he reads the game particularly well (maybe a generous dollop of both), as every time an Arse midfielder broke with the ball in the first half he seemed to be ready to greet him with snarl, foam at mouth, barrel chest and crunching tackle. He rather enjoys a foray forward too, and one gets the impression that he’ll be a lot more effective in the final third than do-do-do-Didier. I should probably also add a disclaimer that the screen on which I was watching was a little short on brightness and visibility, so it’s quite possible that every time Jenas did anything useful in the centre I automatically attributed it to Palacios.

However, as with Keanu in the early part of the film, Palacios still has room for improvement. The odd misplaced pass, and a typical piece of shambolic Tottenham marking from a corner that ought really to have seen Song score. Still, it’s only a matter of time before he becomes the complete midfielder, turns us into a top-four team and sees everything as little columns of green numbers.

Until the final minute we didn’t create a clear-cut chance, but prior to that Lennon, Modric, Keane and Pav all had opportunities which weren’t too far off. Credit to Taarabt for playing in Modric in the final minute, he weighted the pass well. And Modric, ah Modric. No-one misses on purpose, I suppose, but one of these days I really will throttle a puppy, and have some difficulty explaining it to the constabulary (“I know I’ve got a dead puppy in my hand, but it was the last minute, he was clean through…”)


nb – Many thanks to Lee, for the venue recommendation for yesterday’s game. Home from home.

Spurs preview

Spurs – Arsenal Preview Mk II: Ominous Signs as Spurs Fan is Peed Upon

A Spurs fan is p*ssed on, barely 24 hours before the Norf London derby. It’s an omen I tell ye. Cracks will appear in the sky, four apocalyptic jockeys will saddle up and all hell will break loose at the Lane today, so run for the hills, God help you all. I sneer in the face of those who suggest I’m overreacting to the fact that my four month-old nephew urinated on me as I held him yesterday.And baby-related trauma is not the only portent of momentous significance to have emerged in the build-up to this one. All-action-no-plot etchings of Spurs cockerels have been mysteriously appearing across the sandy beaches of Perth. Alright, that’s not really so mysterious, given that I’m frequently to be found next to said etchings, with sand-encrusted finger. And while it may all be a bit tenuous, as the clock ticks down towards kick-off – and the search for a bar that will show the game out here in Oz becomes increasingly frantic* – I find myself preparing as if I’m in some way involved. Admittedly my preparations tend to comprise little more than retreat into a shell of pessimism, but it’s the same before every game, and exacerbated before a game against that lot. The fact remains that we fans do prepare, as if we can make a difference, even when on the side of the world. (Insert tedious comment about the contrasting attitude of the players around here).

Like anything I do will have the slightest bearing upon events at the Lane today. There’s some sort of mentalist theory that if a butterfly flaps its wings in London it causes a hurricane in South America. Personally I find that as believable as a profession of loyalty from a Premiership footballer, but nevertheless, the fact that I’ve been weed upon for the first time in my life, just a day before a North London derby – well, it must be some sort of prognostication of doom, no?

Possibly more relevant to the outcome of the game is the second debut of Robbie Keane. Penalty miss ’07 aside, he’s been something of a bête noire to the other lot, and the odds must be short on a roly-poly and badge-kiss celebration at some point today. For all the rights and wrongs of his departure and return I’m glad to have someone of his mentality in the team for a game like this. In other areas, headline-writers will be disappointed to note that ex-Gooner David Bentley will be viewing things from his beauty-parlour back home rather than the pitch, due to a one-game suspension; while lack of match-fitness may deprive l’Arse newbie Arshavin from crossing scimitars with national striking partner, but categorical non-friend, Roman Pav.

Should we triumph today, on the back of my urinary dousing, a new pre-match ritual may be born…


* = A more positive omen is that I might have found a place that’s showing the game live here in Subiaco, Perth, one of the sunniest, but least all-action places on earth. Fingers crossed.

Spurs preview

Spurs – Arsenal Preview: Idle Musings on ‘Arry’s Reign

This feels almost like the build-up to a cup match. Providing respite from the usual painful and laborious business of scraps against fellow relegation strugglers, we can all sit back on Sunday and marvel as our wondrous heroes miraculously forget how average they’ve been all season and suddenly improve their game ten-fold against l’Arse. The other lot are by no means invincible, or especially pretty these days, so we may indeed be able to secure the delusory yet priceless bragging rights for the rest of the season.The derby at the Emirates earlier this season was ‘Arry’s first official game in charge of us, so it would be tempting to view this return fixture at the Lane as a barometer of progress. However, a disclaimer is in order: win, lose or draw there’s not a lot that can be read into a game vs l’Arse. Should we win, or draw playing well, we’ll need to remember that l’Arse at home is never a true indication of our quality. Should we lose or draw luckily we’ll have to admit that there are still new faces in the team ‘Arry’s rebuilding. Any game vs that ‘orrible lot is something of an anomaly – much like a cup game.

However, as we face again his first opponents why not indulge in a spot of nostalgia, and hark back to that grainy black and white era when Ramos was jettisoned, ‘Arry was first installed and we skipped up to the Emirates for the start of a brave new ear. The bare statistics of ‘Arry’s reign to date do not look especially encouraging, as we’re still only a point of the drop zone. Tempting though it is to do the Spurs thing and leap to the nearest wildly inappropriate conclusion (in this case “’Arry’s useless, let’s sack him”, rather than “’Arry’s our saviour, give him the job for life”) it would be more useful – albeit rather dull – to adopt a measured approach.

On a general level, ‘Arry’s arrival has brought us a run of good luck and decent form in patches, but there have been enough insipid displays to serve as a warning that this season may yet end in disaster.

Credit where it’s due, one of the key problems appears to have been solved: goalkeeper. Let’s not forget quite how horrendous an issue this had become – once upon a time there was weeping and gnashing of teeth whenever we conceded a corner, so poorly judged and executed were Gomes’ forays off his line. He deserves enormous credit for his improvement, and ‘Arry probably merits a pat on the back here too, if only for brining in Tony Parks to work with the eternally wincing Brazilian. Meanwhile Cudicini has turned the position into arguably our strongest, an astute signing, even though it may, ironically, signal the end of Gomes’ Spurs career.

Other areas have been addressed rather less well. Amidst accolades of ‘Arry’s unique man-management technique, Bentley’s wonder-goal at the Emirates was supposed to catalyse the pretty-boy’s transformation into some sort of footballing deity, heir apparent to David Beckham as a fixture in the England team and terroriser of defences across the land. Fast forward three months, and for all the fancy flicks and brylcreem he’s put on display, we’ve yet to see the best of Bentley. A cross duly marked against ‘Arry.

Our esteemed manager continues to switch between 4-4-2 and 4-5-1, suggesting possible uncertainty about the approach he wants to adopt. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I guess he’ll settle upon a formation once he has his favoured personnel in place and raring to go. However, while he may blame the squad he inherited, I still think a good enough manager would by now have found a formation that works…

Sorry, I almost slipped back into “Sack-the-manager” mode. What I meant to say was that it’s still early days, an excuse we’ll probably have to accept until the summer, when ‘Arry really gets to shape the squad in his own image (ie ugly and with a twitch). Some of the problems having already been deemed insurmountable, he’s made a beeline for the transfer market, rather than try to use the players already at his disposal. Wafer thin midfield? Transfer market. No idea how to get Pav and Bent working together upfront? Transfer market.

While I think they’re all shrewd signings, it irks me a little that he couldn’t have squeezed more out of the crop of multi-million pound internationals he had at his disposal when he took over. Maybe that would have been asking too much of a full-time manager with several decades of experience in the English game.

However, these are just idle musings. It remains too early to pass judgement on the man’s time as Spurs manager, and one home game against the other lot should not colour opinions too much one way or t’other.

Spurs transfers

Spurs’ Transfer Window Doings Get The Thumbs Up

Believe it or not, back at the start of the transfer window most of the talk at the Lane was whether or not Stewart One-Trick Downing would dip his right shoulder, dart out to the left and pitch up in N17. Seems an age ago now, n’est-ce pas? And who would have possibly imagined back then, as we mixed over-strengthed home-made cocktails on 31 December 2008, that the mid-winter spending spree would end with Defoe, Keane and Chimbonda back in lilywhite? AANP peers back through the January transfer window and tries to make sense of the madness.Players In 

Pascal Chimbonda: Villainous human being, but versatile defender of good quality. Smart thinking, ‘Arry.

Wilson Palacios: Who knows? Haven’t seen enough of him to give an opinion, but hearsay suggests that this is a midfielder who can pass and tackle, pure and simple. As such, he ought to be the best thing since sliced bread, although on reflection, sliced bread really ain’t so special, presuming you possess your own knife. I digress. If the hype is true, Palacios will be our most important signing in years.

Jermain Defoe: Might not be the complete all-round striker, but by golly he can shoot – on target and with venom in his ickle size sixes. We need goals, he scores goals, value for money, QED. (see

Robbie Keane: Controversial. In purely footballing terms he’s a good buy – but it’s so much more than a purely footballing buy with Keane (see

Players out:

Hossam Ghaly: Probably in everyone’s best interests. We may be childish to hold a grudge for so long, but at least we can’t be accused of fickleness with this one. Unlikely ever to be re-signed.

Paul Stalteri: Served his purpose as a propaganda tool for ‘Arry, who gave him a squad number to show what a motivator he is, then never played him and sold him at the first opportunity.

Cesar Sanchez: Aka “that Spanish goalkeeper”. Might be world class for all we know, but I get the impression ‘Arry would have played Aaron Lennon in goal before picking this chap. He rather sums up the Wendy Ramos reign.

Still at the Lane… Just: Giovanni dos Santos: Alright, he’s only played about 5 minutes of football for us, but it would have been a mighty disappointment had his transfer to Pompey gone through. He’s young enough to improve, he presumably has flair (having come from some Spanish outfit called Barca), injuries have deprived him of a chance to prove himself and he’s supposedly a left-sided attacker. Commons sense suggests he needs another year to bed in and show what he’s about – so we can expect him to be jettisoned straight away in the summer.

Aaron Lennon: Ooh, I’d have caught a small tropical bird and strangled it if we’d traded off Lennon to Liverpool in a swap for Keane, as mooted in some circles. He may never be the player his promise suggests he ought to become, but he’s undoubtedly been one of our best in this season of general mediocrity.

Jermaine Jenas: Hilarious rumours of a move to Inter collapsed when it emerged that the basis for the story was that Jose Mourinho had picked him in his fantasy league team back in the summer. It makes much more sense.

David Bentley and his hair: Seems we can’t go selling off all the mirrors in the changing room just yet. Bentley was reportedly being offered as a slab of meat in any one of a number of deals (Keane, Jones, Downing) but with a loving flick of his fringe he’ll remain at the Lane for several months yet. His attitude has improved this month, it would be nice to see his form pick up proportionally.

Darren Bent: Despite his two-goal salvo at the weekend, despite the injury to Defoe, despite ‘Arry’s protestations that really he rated him all along , the feeling nevertheless persists that poor old Bent will be out the door first decent offer we get. That charming combination of an earnest, well-meaning attitude combined with chronic and almost comical displays of inability have started to remind me of Fawlty Towers’ Manuel.

Missed Targets 

Stewart One-Trick Downing: Was within a whisker of becoming ‘Arry’s first signing. His supporters claim he would give the side natural balance; his detractors – including yours truly – claim that he’s just not particularly good, and certainly not £15 mil worth of good.

Kenwyne Jones: Still yet to see him play (beyond MOTD highlights) but in theory he would have been a good idea, being a striker with a bit of physical presence. Sunderland boss Ricky Sbragia became so flustered he threatened to start crying and tell his Mum if we continued to pursue him, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this story re-emerge in the summer.

Stephen Appiah: Did I imagine all this? Does the guy even exist? Newspapers, magazines, websites and flies on walls were unanimous in claiming that Appiah was having trial after trial with us throughout January – yet deadline day came and went, and there was no news on the chap. Not a murmur. A bit like Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects – supposedly a bit important, but no-one’s seen him, no-one knows where he is, and like that… he’s gone.

Quaresma: Might have offered balance on the left, might have proved too much of a big girl’s blouse for the Premiership. Either way, he’s at Chelski now so we can all hate him.

The AANP Verdict 

In the style of Joaquim Phoenix’s character in Gladiator, on careful consideration I give this transfer window a thumbs up. Cudicini, Chimbonda, Defoe and (just about) Keane each represent good bits of business on their own criteria; while the failure to buy Downing strikes me as a lucky escape, and the retention of Giovanni (albeit by accident rather than design) pleases me. Having initially moaned about how difficult it is to buy decent players in January, it doesn’t surprise me that ‘Arry ended up splashing out the annual GDP of a small, third-world country, but I’m breathing a little more easily now than I was a month ago.

Spurs transfers

Robbie Keane Returns, Confused Fans Wonder Whether to Cheer or Jeer

The Tottenham transfer policy has begun to spiral beyond the realms of reason with the news of Keane’s return.  The policy of buying back players, which had seemed ironic and mildly amusing at first, now appears to be a dedicated strategy on the part of Levy and Redknapp, with predictable jokes now being made about the imminent return of Mido, Mabbut and Mullery.. However, while the return of Defoe was greeted in the wildly over-zealous manner of a human deity, Robbie Keane’s is likely to be a little harder to stomach for the N17 regulars. Opinion will, inevitably, be split between haters and slightly reluctant accepters, but there are arguments in both camps…“Tree Cheers For The Oirish Scamp!” 

He’s a worker. Yes, he moans, wags his finger and rather tediously blames everyone but himself – but he also buzzes around with the verve of a three year-old who’s been force-fed sugar and class A drugs. Such an attitude is vastly preferable in a relegation scrap to that of a prima donna more obsessed with keeping his shirt dazzlingly white and flicking his fringe.

We made an £8 mil profit over six months. Huzzah! Admittedly this is neither here nor there for the fans – it’s not like the entire sum will be poured into ticket-price reductions. In fact, the entire sum and more might one day be spent upon Stewart One-Trick Downing, but let’s not depress ourselves. Schadenfreude is one of the most wonderful things on God’s green earth, and the opportunity to laugh at Liverpool ought not to be passed up.

“That Treacherous Scoundrel Is Not Fit To Wear The Shirt…” 

He’s no target-man. Forgive my imbecility, but I had thought we were after a great hulking mammoth of a front-man? A Kenwyne Jones-esque beast of a striker, who eats small animals and children for his half-time snack, and who can’t be barged off the ball by a whole fleet of Soviet tanks. Robbie Keane has many, attributes, but being the long-lost twin of Emile Heskey is not one of them.  Having prioritised a big-man upfront, this concerted change of transfer policy is striking – and potentially flawed if ‘Arry remains unconvinced by Pav and Bent.

The Keane-Defoe conundrum. So how does this fit in with Jermain Defoe? Admittedly Defoe is now out for 10 weeks, so there was a very strong case for splashing the cash and bringing in another proven Premiership striker, and pronto. However, Defoe is not about to retire. He’ll be back one day, and when he is we can once again all twist our knickers and write reams and reams about the folly of trying to pair Keane and Defoe. History suggests that failure to solve this one, again, will lead to one of them throwing toys from pram and legging it out of the Lane. As a small child I would shrug and assume that someone, somewhere knew what was going on. Now I shrug and file everything that happens at the Lane under the heading “All Action, No Plot”.

And one final thought, to be mulled over at your leisure. Where the blazes is all this money coming from?

Spurs match reports

Bolton 3-2 Spurs: Ticking The Usual Boxes

It makes no difference that I’m the other side of the world, there’s no getting away from the same old Spurs. Week in, week out, the usual boxes can be ticked, just as they will be next week, and next year, and in 10 years time.Problem one. 4-5-1. Pav on his own, no support, no bite in attack – I feel like a broken record. Maybe it’s the personnel rather than the formation, but in the absence of a Drogba or a Shearer in attack, or the appropriate attacking midfielders, the infuriating 4-5-1 will not work.

Problem two. Set pieces. Yes, the element of the game perfected after a couple of 15 minute training sessions by schoolboy and amateur teams throughout the country, continues to flummox the multi-millionaires of the Lane. One can only imagine the looks of bewilderment on the players’ faces at Spurs Lodge in midweek as ‘Arry and co. attempt to outline the basic concepts involved. Furrowed brows all round, and incredulous whispers between players – “So he wants us to head the round white thing? Really? That sort of thing is really going to mess up my hair. And tell me again – the other team, it’s ok to let them get to it first, or…?” 

Problem three. Conceding the late winner. Gents, if you’ve gone ten, twenty or eighty-nine minutes without conceding a goal, you are not therefore rewarded with a two-minute break from defending as the clock ticks down to 90 and beyond. Goals conceded during these late periods do still count, no matter how pleased you are with yourselves for the good work of the preceding few minutes.

It is by no means an exhaustive list – these are simply the boxes that can be crossed off the card for last weekend’s Tottenham Bingo. Mercifully, one typical problem, which could be loosely termed “Why Can’t They Play Every Week As If They’re Playing Against Arsenal”, ought not to be an issue next week, when we entertain l’Arse and duly raise our game.

Back to the humdrum of playing the sides around us in the bottom half, and while the same problems occur each week little is done in the way of tackling them in order to prevent their recurrence. Instead, the team seems to have adopted a form of pseudo-martyrdom, whereby they gallantly accept the recurrence of such hindrances as inevitable each week. The mentality seems to be that nothing can be done to prevent goals from set-pieces, or that when adopting 4-5-1 there is no option but to leave the lone striker completely isolated and the formation completely impotent. If I were to pitch up at the training ground and suggest fighting tooth and nail to prevent conceding in the dying minutes I suspect the players would look at me as if I had grown a second head. They would shake their heads and insist that fate cannot be changed. Darwin would turn in his grave to observe such inability to evolve and improve.

Spurs preview

Bolton – Spurs Preview: A Total Lack of Perspective

A criticism often levelled at Spurs (and indeed England) fans is that life is always either a triumph or a crisis, without any middle ground or hint of perspective. It takes an impressive strength of character to accept criticism, and luckily I possess such humility in abundance (modesty is one of my many attributes). Therefore I can detect an element of truth in this charge. Indeed, I suspect that most Spurs fans would appreciate this line of argument. Win, and we’re world-beaters, on course for European qualification and en route towards the Champions League within two years (that’s winning the whole thing, as opposed to just qualifying), whilst playing the vintage brand that would have Jairzinho et al glancing enviously over their shoulders.The alternative to this blistering optimism is doleful, morbid pessimism, of the brand I’ve been perfecting in recent weeks. Lose a couple of games and the only possible solution seems to be wholesale changes. The players – whom we’ve never rated in the first place – aren’t fit to wear the shirt, they don’t care, they’re not good enough. The tactics are wrong, the management is clueless, the best thing for us would be relegation so that we can start from scratch.

Results and performances this season have naturally given us a good excuse to adopt the latter approach and become prophets of doom. Few players are exempt from criticism, second-chances are rare and “perspective” is a curious word from a bygone era, whose meaning no-one really remembers. Hence, despite the fact that Bent is often played in a formation badly suited to his style, he is now subject to rather wildly disproportionate abuse whenever he misses. Elsewhere on the pitch it is conveniently ignored that Hudd requires movement around him to strut his stuff. Instead, following the Burnley and Man Utd losses, queues have been forming of those keen to banish him to the bench or reserves.

I’m amongst the worst culprits here, all too easily and willingly swept up on a wave of short-term sentiment. It could be argued that in this multi-million pound industry there is little scope for the “patience” necessary to allow players to settle, squads to gel, formations to be tinkered with. It could also be argued that the club has had twenty-plus years to get out of the transitional period, so anyone lecturing me about patience ought to have DVDs of the miserable mid-1990s seasons shoved into every available orifice. However, this ignores the fact that, however we got here we are now, again, rebuilding, and the process will take time. And even as I type those words, I pointedly eject them from my mind, to make room for more completely unrealistic, short-term analysis.

In the build-up to the game against Bolton, the scales inevitably tip towards the side of buoyant optimism. Five consecutive away defeats, in all competitions, can be conveniently glossed over, because we have, finally, produced the champagne football of which our players’ CVs suggest they are so capable. It may be six months late, but our push towards European qualification has begun. Having done it once this week, there is no reason why we can’t continue in the same vein on Saturday, and twice a week every week thereafter.

Even Spurs fans claiming to have a sense of perspective will calmly insist on the back of four points from our last two games, and within such a tightly-congested table, that we’ll probably maintain this form and be pushing for the top six by May. What do you mean it was only 45 good minutes out of our last five games? What do you mean it was only Stoke at home? Are you blind, or mad, or a complete footballing imbecile? Was the evidence of that first half not enough to convince you that we are quite patently one of the biggest teams in the country?

The truth, inevitably and rather unglamorously, is somewhere in between. By all accounts the first half versus Stoke was indeed extremely impressive. Replicate this consistently, and we will steadily progress up the table towards the neon lights of the top six – as would any team which regularly played well.

A degree of perspective with regard to the players similarly throws up some rather unspectacular truths. Irrespective of the formation, Darren Bent’s finishing has frequently been hurried and inaccurate. While the limitations of his team-mates have done him no favours, Huddlestone needs to develop other aspects of his game (fitness, off-the-ball movement, tackling) in order to complement his passing ability and fulfil his potential. And so on.

Frankly I feel unclean to ponder Spurs’ situation in such a grounded and sensible way. The All-Action-No-Plot mentality is about the mindless pursuit of glory on the pitch, and the complete absence of perspective from the stands. Therefore, a draw away to Bolton would not be an acceptable step towards stability and security of Premiership status; it would be an opportunity for me to sharpen my knife and lay into Zokora/Bent/Bentley/Ass-Ek/Arry/all of the above (delete as appropriate).

(nb a vastly more reasonable assessment of our current plight, and the lack of perspective at the club, can be found at “The Game is About Glory” – The Core Problem With Spurs?)



Spurs match reports

Spurs 3-1 Stoke: Fist-Pumping in Perth

Having spent the best part of the last 48 hours imitating a battery chicken in various planes, trains and automobiles, I am now officially a Spurs fan in Oz. Worth noting that the arrival policy in Australia appears significantly more stringent than at Spurs, where anyone who has previously appeared is more than welcome to return.Trying to find out the Spurs-Stoke result was similar to one of those games in which you get the feeling we could play all night and into the morrow without scoring – for all the huffing and puffing, not much was being achieved. The game kicked off with me several thousand feet in the air, and and it quickly became apparent that attempts to access to any news from England were doomed to failure, let alone the result of what must unfortunately be classified as a relegation battle from the Premiership. Such delays certainly added to the tension though, and at around 1pm the following day there was an unobserved but hearty pumping of the fist in one small corner of Perth, as thescoreline finally filtered through.

Evidently we adopted 4-4-2, but I’m not convinced that such a game can be used as evidence in the great 4-4-2 vs 4-5-1 debate (see Sometimes, when Spurs are at home against weak opposition they score a couple of early goals and begin to purr. On such occasions the formation is rarely the decisive factor. Instead we are driven by a sudden confidence, which provides a conduit for flair, and is aided by the fact that the visitors need to push forward in search of goals of their own, giving us some space to exploit.

I can’t pretend to have any real idea what sort of performance we gave against Stoke, but I’ve certainly seen us become something approaching irresistible on those occasions when we’ve scored two or three early goals. However, it is an infuriating truth familiar to most Spurs fans that the exact same eleven can be almost guaranteed to produce a barely recognisable performance merely days later. Such inconsistency has been the bain of the lives of Spurs fans the world ove. It would surprise few if the reportedly impressive peformance against Stoke were followed by one of the more toothless variety on Sunday against Bolton.

I’ve ranted before about the incredible ability of sportsmen to let circumstance dicate their level of performance, rather than simply resolving to seize a game by the scruff of the neck. Hence, Spurs will wait until 3-0 down vs Burnley and facing elimination before taking the game to their opponents; or will wait until a half-time rollicking rather thanapplying foot to accelerator from first whistle; or indeed will produce a high-octane 90-minute bravura performance against l’Arse, but resort back to the insipid in the very next game, against lesser opponents. While lack of information means it is just conjecture, I’d be willing to wager that the period in between our third goal and half-time saw us produce some of our best football of the season. Why oh why can’t they do it every week, for 90 minutes?

However, I shall sign off in a spirit of unusual optimisim, and point out that whilethe routine demolition of a weaker team can often be followed by weekend defeat to similarly weak team, we nevertheless ought to fancy our chances of buidling on the Stoke win and putting together a run of points that would steer us well clear of the drop-zone.