Admittedly there is a vague whiff of pointlessness about musings on a pre-season friendly, but what else to do while swinging from the AANP hammock?
Starting at the top, the lad Soldado seems to know his right from left and other requisite basics. The upper-body strength he showed in shielding the thing from opposition defenders met with a decisive nod of approval from this corner of the interweb, and his movement was also suitably nifty. He will presumably face penalties under greater pressure than yesterday, but nevertheless it was good to see the lad adopt the Shearer approach of blasting the thing into a corner, as opposed to, for example, the Adebayor jig-and-spoon.
The AANP Verdict: Jigging merrily on the threshold of striking eminence.
The cut of Paulinho’s jib is also to be tentatively admired. The imp had the air of a Rottweiler that had actually gorged itself on raw human flesh but three hours previously, and was therefore content to lurk and snap with menace, without ever fully committing to the unspeakable acts of clinical savagery of which he is no doubt capable. He also displayed enough technique and attacking intent to elicit excited murmurs of “a complete midfielder” from the sages of N17.
The AANP Verdict: Looks entirely capable of holding his own when the club’s midfield contingent engage in high-stakes Scissors-Paper-Stone
Of young Master Chadli the prognostications are a little less ecstatic. The excitable bounder did seem decidedly happier with life cutting in from the left, as opposed to his more central role in the Monaco debacle last week, although the trick of cutting onto his right foot did wear a little thin after its umpteenth production. It may not therefore be the worst idea in the long and illustrious history of the club to bend the young whippersnapper over the knee of Brad Friedel and give him half a dozen hearty lashings, as a means of conveying in a friendly and constructive manner that gazing around and occasionally flicking the ball towards a fellow lilywhite is a viable alternative to keeping his head down and trying to take on everyone.
The AANP Verdict: Not yet the irrepressible dandy one would hope is being primed for a full season in one of the triumvirate of attacking roles, but that glint in his eye is encouraging.
Beyond the new arrivals there were also frequent opportunities to charge glasses and toast the returns of a veritable gaggle of highly-esteemed luminaries.
Monsieur Kaboul was released from his year in captivity looking older and wiser, but every inch as capable of cracking open skulls by the mere puff of his chest as he ever was pre-injury. So giddy am I at the prospect of Kaboul and Vertonghen undertaking central defensive matrimony this season that another dram of bourbon is absolutely in order tout de suite.
Spirits also soared, and no doubt unborn infants leapt for joy in their mothers’ wombs, when Sandro bounded back onto the turf and looked around for an unsuspecting Spaniard to crunch. The winning combination of boyish enthusiasm and gladiatorial aggression remains undimmed, and he earns a bonus point for that engaging Beard-Bald combo.
Young Master Rose has never ingratiated himself into the inner circle of AANP favourites, and considering that said inner circle is now populated by several dozen bodies it says much of the askance eye with which I view him. All momentum and dubious ball-control, rumours of his improvement last season at Sunderland do not wash with this particular Park Laner.
The Townsend cameo, for a second successive week, had the juices flowing. As with Chadli he does not necessarily always pick the Distribute option when Dribble ‘Til The End Of Time remains on the table, but the lad has sparkle-dust in his boots, mistake ye not, and I rather hope that his contribution in 13/14 extends to more than just a flurry of fleeting substitute appearances.
The rarely-vaunted AANP Pre-Season Wishlist will follow in the coming days, but until then a hearty adieu.
My goodness these have been busy times at N17. A striker has finally been brought into the fold, seemingly only two and a half years too late, and reportedly a bit more in the poacher mould than the brick outhouse we have craved, but this is not the time to pick nits. Young Chadli has also arrived, and although the assembly instructions that came with this lad suggest that he is for squad depth rather than tearing up the Premiership week in and week out, he being of the jolly handy coterie of Belgians currently invading our shores we can probably express some optimism.
These young folk and their peccadilloes. Rumour has it that young Master Bale is toying with the quite preposterous notion of plying his trade elsewhere, as if the prospect of weekly Europa League action is not enough for the hottest young property in British football. Someone talk some sense into the lad.
Still, heart-warming consolation has been offered in recent weeks by witnessing the fruits of that ‘special relationship’ of bonhomie and understanding with Madrid, which was struck up a year or two back as part of the Modric sale. Those fun-loving rogues have injected much-needed humour and amity into the summer’s proceedings with the decorum of their enquiries. On a frivolous note however, I do sometimes wonder if the prestige of Real slightly obscures the reality that they have not won the Champions League for over a decade. Something like a more glamorous version of Liverpool, over-dependent on reputation and history? Just an idle thought.
Back o the Bale nonsense, for here at AANP Towers we men of honour consider such parchment as Four-Year Contracts – of the ilk signed by Bale last summer – to be more than the mere fashion accessories, and as such I am all in favour of Messrs Levy and V-B politely clearing their throats and bluntly refusing to let the lad scarper. This coming season I want to see our heroes make the Champions League, and this seems a darned sight likelier with Bale than without.
On the subject of £80 mil, I can hardly see us using it to bring in a player worth £80 mil, or for that matter two worth £40 mil. In fact were we to sell Bale this very evening I would be amazed if we brought in two £25 mil players by the end of the transfer window. No matter how many bags of cash are flung in our direction, the players brought in will not be as good as Bale, because we have neither the lure of CL football nor of sky-high wages. The party line in this neck of the interweb is therefore to reject all offers, hang on to Bale and make the Top Four next season, which might at least then give us another bargaining chip when attempting to bring in top-notch purveyors of the trade.
This was a rummy one. Admittedly Caulker trails Vertonghen, Kaboul and possibly Dawson in the centre-back pecking order, and at present he has the flaws in his game one would expect of an Under-21, but with Europa games flying at us from all angles and Caulker a work in progress there would have been a fairly solid case for his retention. Still, one presumes the Brains Trust have a something up their sleeve on the central defensive front.
My Spurs-supporting chum Ian was not presumably not alone in expressing a sentiment nearing full-on delight that we will no longer be treated to any more 20-yard volleys looping off the Dempsey shin and into the North Stand. A little unfair on the blighter I appreciate, for if nothing else he had the knack of poaching jolly important late goals against Manchester clubs. However, his exit is vaguely akin to the demise of a minor supporting cast member within the first 30 minutes of a half-decent action film. And when we have Hudson, Vasquez, Hicks et al manning the barricades, who particularly cares about the various nameless marines who were dragged to their doom in that early carnage scene?
Tactically however one might raise an eyebrow at the Dempsey sale. Goodness knows who fits where within our attacking axis, what with Bale potentially thither rather than hither, and Adebayor potentially extending that languid stroll all the way to the exit, but between Lennon, Chadli, Sigurdsson, Holtby, Townsend and potentially Dembele I suppose we ought to have enough bodies to fill those attacking spots, albeit not necessarily of the quality of title challengers.
The Monaco Defeat
Somebody somewhere is presumably banging on the door of the N17 ticket office and demanding a full refund for their season ticket following yesterday’s muddle in Monaco. Precious little can be read into a game that had the look of a Europa qualifier at kick-off, and went downhill from there, with one of the few seniors (Defoe) limping off early, and AVB seemingly plucking lads from the travelling lilywhite support to scurry around as subs by the time the clock ticked to 90.
Lloris, Walker, Lennon and Dembele played most of the game - but Daws and Vertonghen were injured, as was Holtby; Sandro and Kaboul are not yet fit; Paulinho and Soldado are apparently still too sparkling new to be allowed to run around and get dirty; while all sorts of intrigue surrounds the non-appearances of Bale and Adebayor.
For what it was worth, Livermore and Zeki Fryers found themselves promoted to first-choice centre-back pairing, and looked suitably flummoxed, the poor lambs having to contend with £50m of that Falcao chap amongst others. Further up the pitch the new lad Chadli pottered around a little forlornly, and Harry Kane’s legions of admirers will have been thrilled to observe their hero for almost the entirety of proceedings, even nabbing himself one of those goal things. But ultimately the whole episode was fairly pointless. I’m rather impatient for the real thing to begin now, truth be told.
With a month or so until the new season lollops into view ‘tis a tad disconcerting no doubt that the Ghost of Transfer Windows Past is beginning to make disconcerting noises, for yet again there is no real sniff of a new striker, which already suggests that this is veering into final-hours-of-the-window territory. Hopefully one that will be more successfully revisited in the next few weeks, but until then we have one or two matters to pop into a Petri dish and pore over.
Paulinho (and Indeed Dembele)
Welcome to the fold Master Paulinho, a masterly career-move and not just because membership of the lilywhite elite earns you the right to an honorary bourbon at AANP Towers any time you jolly well please. A Brazilian axis of Sandro and Paulinho looks likely to bulldoze everything in its path, and while that may not fit the stereotypical image of his twinkle-toed samba-dancing compatriots it ought nevertheless to equip our heroes swimmingly for the hurly-burly of Premiership jousting.
On an equally exciting note, the arrival of this particular bounder potentially allows AVB to flash a knowing grin and, at the opportune moment, play The Dembele Gambit. Regular visitors to the AANP abode during the sepia-tinged era that was Season 2012/13 will be aware that snorts of displeasure were regularly to be heard in response to what was at times a mighty disconcerting lack of creativity in the final third. Admittedly the derring-do of the marvellous young Bale often papered over this particular crack by virtue of his subtle delivery of 30-yard howitzers to net, but the issue remained: our heroes lacked the requisite nous to thread camels through needle-eyes and defence-carving diagonal six-yard passes into the area. As a result the orb was typically shunted sideways – or popped out to Bale – while envious glances were shot at the likes of Mata and David Silva elsewhere. Holtby and Sigurdsson fought the good fight with plenty of willing, but without necessarily quickening the pulse (or, indeed, scything to ribbons opposing defences), while Dempsey’s 20-yard contributions tended to consist of volleys gently looped into the stands.
For such reasons then should we allow ourselves no more than an understated nod of satisfaction at the prospect of The Dembele Gambit being effected, for while he may not be high priest amongst footballing conjurors he nevertheless has a penchant for dipping his shoulder, beating his man and thrusting deep into the fleshy underbelly of a newly-promoted defence.
On a less salubrious note, alas, the arrival of Paulinho could result in a quivering of the upper lip and firm valedictory handshake with young Master Hudd. Whether or not Scott Parker features next season Hudd will certainly not be first choice in a squad already including the Sandro-Paulinho-Dembele triumverate, and one presumes that at 26 he will want to spend his time doing more than absent-mindedly twiddling his locks on the bench. Debate has raged since dinosaurs roamed the earth as to whether Hudd’s immobility renders him baggage (and dashed heavy baggage at that), or whether his Hodd-esque passing ability merits regular involvement, and at AANP we have been ticking the box marked ‘Hodd’ for years and years. However, murmurs around a move to Sunderland or Fulham have been increasing in volume, and the presence in the ranks of another pass-picker extraordinaire, in the form of youthful urchin Tom Carroll, would soften the blow of a Hudd exit. Frankly though, I could tap away at this keyboard for a further aeon and ‘twould make minimal difference, for the chap’s fate will almost certainly be decided by those residing beyond the four walls of AANP Towers. A shame.
The other development of note at N17 has been the release of a new kit. Not altogether unsurprising, for the young rascals could hardly take to the pitch minus any apparel whatsoever. Nor indeed is the choice of colour a huge shock, what with lilywhite upper-body wear seemingly have been in vogue amongst our heroes for well over a century. Nevertheless, it would be remiss to let proceedings end without casting an austere eye over the latest sartorial choice. And exhale with relief, all ye kit-designing interns of Under Armour, for the home kit at least gains an upturned thumb from this corner of the interweb. (A mild untruth actually, for initially the dawning of a new kit was greeted with an unconcerned shrug and forty winks). A return to blue shorts is certainly preferable, but a whole heap of further brownie-points has been gaily sprinkled around for the choice of blue socks, for a man adorned thus seems to carry the authoritative air of one who knows how to tame a lion and fling a distressed damsel over his shoulder. The choice of away kit blue I can comment on but briefly, having had the retina scarred by that first glimpse, but as has ever been the case, if they ensconce themselves within the Top Four this season it will matter little what knitwear they select while so doing.
What ho, and how wonderful to reconvene in such happy circumstances, for glory be, the new season will up and runneth soon enough. Huzzah! Surging left-wing runs, infuriatingly aimless headers, goalkeeping howlers, near-suicidal-but-ultimately-ok left-backery, oodles of Sky Sports stats, European adventures on Channel 5 and, of course, madcap, all-action seven-goal thrillers and the like. Again I screech from the rooftops, glory be. Emerge ye, pale and emaciated from the interminable summer months minus football, and bask in the warm glow of lilywhite once more.In common with on-pitch exploits, things in this neck of the interweb rather tailed off at the end of last season – apologies – and by way of admonishment AANP now currently swims resignedly every day against a heaving tide of spam. Still, onwards and upwards. For season 11/12 our heroes look even more polished and shinier than before, like some sort of re-booted Hollywood film series.
Massive, Gob-Smacking Marquee Transfers
Thus it transpires that despite needing a great big hulking brick outhouse of a striker capable of sticking out his rear-end, holding up the ball, elbowing aside various defensive types and thumping the little orb netwards, our transfer chiefs have instead tootled along in silence as Messrs Pav, Crouch, Defoe and even Keane return to Spurs Lodge to practise spraying the ball anywhere but the goal.
We have made one attacking signing, a whippersnapper by the name of Souleymane Coulibaly, who is reportedly fresh from scoring about 15 goals in five minutes at the U-17 World Cup. Underwhelming news for all those who have followed the careers of Tomas Peckhart, Adel Taraabt, Giovani et al. While I have dropped down on bended knee to plead to the gods of football fate that this chap does in fact turn out to be the second coming of Drogba, I am tempted to stick a fiver on him going on loan to the Championship and popping up at Lyon in four years time, before randomly appearing for AC Milan in the Champions League. Either way, this is unlikely to be his season.
Elsewhere, ‘Arry’s commitment to signing sackloads of decent players we don’t really need has extended to the goalkeeping position. Hard not to like Brad Friedel, but I’m not sure he is the solution to anything in particular. Still, if the best way to stop Gomes flapping around is to employ a genial bald yank to wheeze down his neck then so be it.
Back to the point. Difficult though it is to fathom, we would cope without him – we did a decent enough job following his early season injury vs Birmingham back in 09/10. As such, I would accept £40 mil plus Drogba, perhaps giving you all an insight into why my 9-to-5 job is a million miles removed from running a football club. However, rather than take the cash I would much prefer that Levy keeps his heels firmly dug in for the 27 days of the window, and the clean-shaven Jesus remains a lilywhite come September 1st. Just give us one more season Luka, and get us back into the Champions League…
Indeed, some would very persuasively argue that the launch of a football kit barely deserves comment anyway, but such has been the emptiness of these summer months. We seem to be in neither better nor worse condition than last season (aside from an injury to Sandro, which has me shaking an enraged fist at the screen on my computer box). Still time for changes in personnel, but for now the focus is presumably to get through 90 minutes against Deportivo without fresh injuries. Fingers crossed.
It’s hardly been the most frenetic week in recent memory, but as the hour-glass gently edges us towards 2010/11, the look-outs atop the parapet of AANP Towers have assembled in the boardroom to deliver their findings on the week’s happenings.Young Boys (Snigger)
It’s the draw that had a nation of headline-writers treading mighty carefully. Whatever fates befall us over the course of the next nine months, we can weigh it up against the good fortune meted out on 6 August 2010, when the Champions League gods decreed in their wisdom that our path to the group stage depended upon conquering these relative minnows of Switzerland. The White Hart Lane dignitaries duly trotted out the usual platitudes (you know the sort of gubbins - “Any team at this level will be difficult” et cetera), while various straight-faced Spurs officials have also been at pains to point out that they beat Fenerbahce in the last round, so let that be a lesson to the lot of us.
The veracity of such points cannot be doubted, but the fact remains that this could have been a jolly sight more difficult. It is a glorious chance, and having beaten Chelski, l’Arse, Liverpool and Man City (home and away) last season, we ought to be capable of steering past this lot over two legs.
Fare Thee Well Adel Taraabt
One or two may wistfully wonder what might have been, particularly if, say, injuries elsewhere had allowed him a run in the starting line-up à la Pav last season, but we at AANP Towers wish him well with a fairly ambivalent wave. I somehow suspect that in a couple of years time he’ll pop up in the Champions League for someone or other; however, for the time-being it’s the slightly less glamorous headlines generated by a £1 million move to QPR.
Eusebio Cup Champions 2010, Apparently
‘Twas with a mixture of pleasure and relief that AANP noted young Gareth Bale galloping down the left in precisely the manner with which he ended season 2009-10; while on t’other flank Aaron Lennon was similarly lively. The brow occasionally furrowed at the ease with which Benfica every now and then scythed through our central areas, but we emerged victorious, and picked up a peculiarly shaped ornament at the end of it all, as is our pre-season wont. With Ledley putting in a 45-minute shift slightly closer to home, this week can probably be filed under the heading “Satisfactory”.
What ho! A most warm welcome back to AANP Towers (which, if particularly eagle-eyed, you may notice has had a lick of paint since last time out). Apologies for the radio silence of recent months, but after a full season of blogging, plus one book a brief hibernation seemed appropriate. Truth be told however, in the interim period not a great deal has happened in the glorious all-action world of eleven men and a pig’s bladder.
THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH!!!
Or so we all anticipated, but once we had separated our Kevin-Princes from our Jeromes we quietly concluded that the World Cup was actually a pretty underwhelming affair. From a lilywhite perspective there was not too much reason to wave our flag in South Africa. Messrs Bassong and Assou-Ekotto achieved the impressive feat of starring in the very first team to get knocked out of the tournament, while elsewhere our various other representatives did pretty much as expected. Defoe poached; Sergeant Wilson got booked; Ledley got injured; and in the green of Mexico young Giovani looked fairly unrecognisable from the lad who occasionally dons a Spurs shirt.
Post World Cup there is bad news for all students of burst ear-drums at the North Middlesex Hospital: the powers-that-be have decreed that all vuvuzelas spirited into the Lane will be promptly confiscated and snapped over the knee of the nearest wild-eyed steward. A decision met with a gentle nod of approval by the folk of AANP Towers, who have been brought up to celebrate the good times with no more than a slight tipping of cap, sincere handshake and possibly a celebratory post-match bourbon.
Wasn’t Fourth Place Meant to Attract All The Big Names?
Ahead of our Champions League jamboree the expected flurry of comings and goings at N17 has not quite materialised. Our glorious leader has made clear that he only sees need for three new faces, to sharpen things up - a sentiment with which I‘m inclined to agree. In terms of squad depth the White Hart Lane garden already looks rather rosy, for the injuries came thick and fast last season yet we managed a fourth-placed finish, testimony to the fact that we have at least two Premiership-standard players for each position. Ahead of our brave new dawn, the sentiment around these parts is that the rigours of the Champions League require a couple of top-notch additions, to add some world class quality and give us an edge.Now AANP may not necessarily be the sharpest tool in the box, but I think – I think – that ‘Arry had something of a passing interest in signing Joe Cole. Apparently though, Liverpool came up with ninety thousand reasons a week why he should opt for Europa League football instead, at which news yours truly pursed his lips in disappointment. It has been pointed out on numerous occasions that we have enough quality in the attacking midfield positions, and that adding Cole would only have created unrest, leaving someone to stew in their juices on the bench. For what it’s worth I’m not entirely convinced by that argument, as injuries and whatnot meant that everyone got plenty of game-time last season, in just three competitions. Moreover, as noted earlier, the Champions League campaign probably requires someone or other who can sprinkle some stardust over us.
Alas, rather than Cole and Luis Fabiano, it appears that our big summer signing will be some Croatian goalkeeper, lined up as understudy to Gomes and Cudicini. It does not quite carry the glamour any of us had in mind when Crouch headed us into the top four last season, but there is still plenty of time before the blinds are pulled over the transfer window.
Erm… Scott Parker?
Otherwise it seems the transfer priority is to feed off the scraps thrown from Man City’s table, with Bellamy, Richards and Ireland amongst those ‘Arry regards as triffic little players upon whom he could not possibly comment.
Pretty quiet on the transfer front then, but as we’re not haemorrhaging our star players I’ll take that for now. It’s been nice to see various key personnel putting pen to paper in the name of the good ship Tottenham over the course of the summer. Messrs King, Bale and Modders have all committed, which makes a pleasant change from being nabbed by the dastardly Man Utd. Our glorious leader has also signalled his dedication to the cause, agreeing to a new contract just as soon as it became clear that the England job would be unavailable for another two years.
In Other News…
The other development of note this summer has been the official unveiling of our new kits for 2010-11. We at AANP Towers are rather partial to a splash of retro in our morning fruit-juice, and as such nod approvingly at the blue shoulder-flash, and the memories of Crooks and Archibald it duly inspires. Rather less enamoured of the great big daub of white across the thigh, but if that’s what the kids are doing these days who am I to object?
Forgive and forget – that’s the new motto at Spurs as injuries and suspensions leave ‘Arry with little choice but to draft the dastardly Hossam Ghaly back into the squad.
I have to confess that I didn’t actually boo Ghaly when he prepared to come on vs Wigan. This is primarily because I wasn’t even at the ground. However, as I listened to the jeers on the radio, I nodded my head in agreement, and as such I’m guilty by all-action-no-plot association. Mea culpa, folks.I’ve never really been one to boo my own player. I’m happy enough to dish it out to an opponent, in panto-villain style (Berba, take a bow son), and I guess I’ll boo the entire team off the pitch if they’ve been useless. I’ve sure as hell flung up my hands in exasperation and turned the air purple as the likes of Jenas and Doherty have repeatedly conceded possession and missed from inside the six-yard box. This however, merely confirms that I am a Spurs fan and I have a pulse.
If I were a player myself I’d be chuffed to hear the fans sing my name, a little nonplussed to hear the fans sing their hatred of a different team and pretty darn annoyed to hear a team-mate getting booed by his own. With a big cup game tonight, and whole-hearted support needed a la Seville 2007, the moral of the story, kids, is clear: let’s not boo Ghaly any more.
That said, I’m hardly about to roll out the red carpet for the lad. Aright, the whole episode was 18 months ago or more, and nobody died. However, in these days of minimal loyalty and over-paid players, I don’t think it’s asking too much for 90 minutes worth of effort and respect towards the fans. Ghaly certainly forgot about the latter during his strop, in front of thousands of people who shell out a hefty amount each week for the club. He’s made the right noises with his apologies, and hopefully he’ll put in some good performances for us – but does anyone really think he cares about Spurs?
I’ll politely applaud his name tonight, I won’t give him stick – or nod approvingly if others do so – but if he expects a hearty pat on the back and songs in his honour he can go buy a hat and eat it. No chance, sonny-jimbo. I’m just doing this for the good of the team. (No doubt the lad will be mortified to read this. That’ll learn him).
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!
‘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?
Around about the time of my earliest memories of the all-action-no-plot universe - I’d say approximately 1987 - all I wanted for Christmas was the toy truck thing from Thundercats. For John Bostock and other unfeasibly young Spurs players, Thundercats was the greatest cartoon ever. It followed the extremely action-packed lives of a bunch of heroic human-feline hybrids who were armed with a sword which grew bigger if swung around occasionally, and an absolutely brutal truck, with great big claws that could plough through walls and generally cause mass destruction en route to achieving a greater good. The truck rocked, and a toy version was exactly what any sensible, well-adjusted six year-old all-action-no-plotter would want for Christmas. However, that yuletide my parents rather perplexingly bought me a She-Ra*annual instead.
The Spurs management seem to pursue a similarly baffling transfer policy. As the January window approaches I can’t help but hope that the dream present will be bought, a modern-day Thundercats tank, to sit in front of our back four and boss the midfield. However, those with the power to buy will almost inevitably purchase something unnecessary, unwanted and completely inappropriate. Such as Younes Kaboul, the Premiership equivalent of a She-Ra annual. Like Kaboul, and indeed my She-Ra annual, the new signing will be peered at out of politeness, put on display once or twice in the following weeks, then left to gather dust.
For years, as long as I can remember, we’ve needed a defensive midfielder. The Premiership equivalent of a Thundercats tank thing, with great big moving claws, and the capacity to plough through walls and generally cause mass destruction en route to achieving a greater good - it’s exactly what Spurs need. Didier Zokora is not such a beast. He may have his moments, and a penchant for those Benny Hill-esque dashes upfield. He may occasionally offer an extra body in defence, causing confusion in opposition minds if not exactly instilling fear in their hearts. He may even, most surreally, be courted by Real Madrid and their fabulous new manager Wendy Ramos, whilst also catching the eye of that doyen of English management, Tony Adams, at Portsmouth - but Didier Zokora is not the defensive midfielder par excellence that Spurs have been crying out for since the days of the three wise men and the ad hoc duvet in a manger. Zokora really ought only to be keeping the seat warm for someone else.
Our need for a holding midfielder is hardly rocket science, yet it seems to have bypassed one manager after another. Instead, in recent years we’ve seen Bent, Bentley, Modric, Giovanni, Kaboul, Prince-Boateng and Pavluychenko brought in - all players of some quality, but none of whom have addressed the real problem area. To paraphrase Alanis Morissette, it’s like needing a spoon, and spending about one hundred million pounds on a set of fancy foreign knives. More idiotic than ironic.
A Thundercats truck of a defensive midfielder is not the only thing we need this Christmas - with ‘Arry seemingly unconvinced of Gareth Bale’s quality it seems we might pursue a left winger/midfielder, as well as another centre-back, striker, goalkeeper and possibly a couple of full-backs. A full team then. ’Arry has a good reputation in the transfer market, and has been at the Lane long enough to get an idea of the squad deficiencies - he certainly moans about them enough - so maybe, just maybe, we’ll get those things we truly crave this Christmas. Or, alternatively, maybe we’ll tear off the warpping paper and have to feign surprise as another unwanted player is brought into the squad, soon to be discarded, with Younes Kaboul and the She-Ra annual.
*She-Ra was He-Man’s female cousin