What ho! That all happened in rather a flash of Euro gubbins and fuzzy Olympic bonhomie, no? For those still drawing breath at the madness of it all I advise a jolly swift inhalation, for that clattering of hooves without is Season 2012/13, entering stage right at a gallop.Ave atque vale
Changes elsewhere as well, if the rumours are to be believed. A new kit has been launched, to a collective shrug across the land from those who only ever really cared about the Umbro ’91 effort. Truth be told I can barely muster the enthusiasm to comment on the switch to white shorts, for they are welcome to play in bin-liners if it helps them outscore all and sundry.
More interestingly, in a cunning bid to bring to the dressing room that sultry female physio from Chelski, Daniel Levy elbowed ‘Arry down the High Road and into the sunset, replacing him with the alarmingly young acronym AVB. Few at AANP Towers sniff at ‘Arry’s achievements at the Lane, but a suspicious eyebrow was raised at his shimmying and hip-swinging over the England job, as well as the Pontius Pilate-esque washing of hands at our tired limp along the final furlongs of last season. While there is a degree of apprehension around the appointment of the new chap it seems only right to bid him welcome and let him crack on with life, and as such he has an AANP hand placed quite firmly underneath his posterior for support.
Central midfield ought to be a forte, as between Parker, Sandro, Livermore, Hudd, Sigurdsson and VDV we seem fairly well-stocked in ball-caressing possession hogs, and the back four are sprightly enough to adapt to AVB’s high defensive line. Indeed, the prospect of a Kaboul-Vertonghen pairing, with Daws and Caulker (plus Gallas, if retained) feverishly twiddling thumbs in anticipation from the bench, helps to assuage the pain of Ledleylessness.
Erm… a centre-forward?
Out the exit door marches Master Pienaar, upon whom we have somehow made a profit. Elsewhere, Ms AANP has hurtled up the list of AANP’s Favourite Croats, by virtue of the rather rummy conduct of Modders (now edging perilously close to a stern talking-to from AANP), as well as the exits of his turbo-charged compatriots Kranjcar and Corluka. Doviđenja chaps. One suspects that fond farewells may also be sobbed by Gomes, Bentley, Gallas, Giovani and, if the footballing gods are feeling particularly benevolent, The Lord of All Things Sideways and Backwards.
Further signings will presumably be signed, and mercifully the injury-list is currently limited to Parker, but nevertheless it appears that once again our heroes will trundle out for the first act a few 80s action heroes short of a Hollywood blockbuster. So be it. The time for daring and doing approacheth.
Oh good grief, now this is awkward. I had only just made myself comfortable in readiness for a lengthy period of smugness, gloating and absolutely unbearable braggadocio. And why the devil not – our lot produce the most jaw-dropping eye candy since that lady from the Sean Connery days emerged from the sea to jiggle about in her skimpies in frightfully uncouth manner.Alas – and brace thyselves, this may rather cause an eyebrow or two to leap uncontrollably – but it is being whispered in some quarters that our very own glorious leader, ‘Arry ‘imself, is being eyed by the unscrupulous types charged with overseeing the national team’s failures in the next two or three tournaments. Egads! What becomes of the mighty Hotspurs of N17? A new, even gloriouser glorious leader is required.
Now AANP may have zero experience in these matters, and have a global football knowledge based solely on the odd Champions League game and ITV coverage of a few World Cups, but by golly I have a keyboard and a bottle of John Daniels (as the man said – when you’ve known him as long as I, you call him “John”), which by my estimation more than qualifies me to lob a tuppence worth into the ring…
The principal criterion at AANP Towers has not changed that much since the days I donned unfeasibly short shorts and made merry with my Thundercats figurines, in the 80’s - quite simply, play nicely. (And have some experience of Europe too, come to think of it - which admittedly was less of a consideration when orchestrating the make-believe demolition of Mumm-Ra by Panthro in the living room back in ‘89.) However, the principal notion was play nicely. Silky smooth passing faster than the eye can follow, with movement a-plenty off the ball. And in this context of one-touchery, when talking heads of various sorts tout Jose Mourinho as our next manager I do rather baulk. Successful, for sure; but dreamy slick football upon which the ghosts of Bill Nich and Danny Blanchflower look down approvingly? Cue an embarrassed clearing of throat and shuffling of feet.
Honest, earnest younglings like the Swansea boss - Buck Rogers or some such – certainly play the right way, but for all his space- and time-travelling exploits the chap has never even sniffed the Intertoto Cup, so taking the helm for a Champions League clash at the Bernabeu may be a tad premature. David Moyes is similarly eyed askance around these parts – neither pleasant on the eye (his teams, as opposed to his own semi-gargoyled visage) nor experienced in European matters.
In terms of football with a bit of dash, and experience at a fairly high level, my eye wanders greedily towards one Herr Klinsmann – a man who, as a handy bonus, already knows his way around the corridors and history books of 748 the High Road. He managed Germany with some aplomb at the 2006 World Cup, and must know a thing or two about hte lilywhite all-action-no-plot mentality, having spearheaded Ossie’s famous five-man attack - how could he possibly fail at Spurs? Admittedly however, his CV is not quite so bright and sparkly when it comes to club management…
AANP would also brave the smoke-filled hazes that are the “coffee” shops of Amshterdam, in order to locate Frank Rijkaard. Good enough for Barcelona? He may therefore suffice for Spurs.
Others to whom I would graciously grant an audience would include Hiddink and possibly O’ Neill. And the dream scenario? All four of the above – Klinsmann, Rijkaard, Hiddink and O’ Neill – working collaboratively as coaches. With AANP as general manager. And that foxy lady from Chelsea as our new physio. Roll on the new dawn.
The dust may have settled, but it would be frightfully remiss to pootle along any further without casting a beady eye over the various to-ings and fro-ings of the transfer window. Step this way please…Welcome to the Lane…
Curiouser and curiouser, we now somehow find ourselves bottom of the table yet with both of last season’s Players of the Year in the ranks. This one get a raucous slapping of the thigh, as in the absence of Sandro, and the now dearly departed Sergeant Wilson, our central midfield personnel have barely made a tackle between them. Like a cereal gone wrong Parker is all bustle, harry and snap. Moreover, for those of us still scarred by memories of Palacios misplacing six-yard passes, or ducking for cover as Steffen Freund shaped to shoot, Parker also has enough technical ability to look at home within a typical Tottenham midfield. Just as behind every good man is a woman, behind every Hudd and Modders we need a Parker.
A bonus point too to someone or other – probably Daniel Levy – for haggling for a price as low as £5 mil for Parker, on the grounds that his aged 30 year-old limbs merited no higher fee, while simultaneously purloining £10 mil (possibly to rise to £12 mil apparently) for 30 year-old Peter Crouch, a man who didn’t win Player of the Year last season…
As previously mentioned, AANP approves of this one too. Like or loathe the man we certainly need the player. A point of concern for the future is that come next summer we will presumably find ourselves without either Adebayor or Modders (and back in possession of Jenas once again), but many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip, so we’ll concern ourselves with that at a later date.
The swine. One jolly well hopes that after all the brouhaha he retains his undoubted ability to direct operations from deep, rather than transmitting his recently discovered dastardliness to on-pitch performances of apathy.
While I’m not sure I’d buy a used car from the man, I give credit again to Levy for sticking to his word on this, after being strung out by Berba in similarly unsavoury circumstances back in the days of yore. As well as raising a couple of choice fingers at players’ disregard for their contracts, £40 mil in the dying embers of the transfer window would have been of limited use, and even earlier there is only so much we could have done – our problem is wages rather than transfer fees. Rather than stock up with more Premiership standard players, we need world-class talent, and the £40 mil we would have gained would presumably have gone towards the former rather than the latter. A replacement of similar transfer fee and quality (eg Snjeider) simply would not have come. Far better that we retain Modders, at least for a year.
And Shunted Unceremoniously Toward The Exit Door…
Having resembled a cross between Rambo and Robocop when he joined, poor old Sergeant Wilson seemed completely perplexed by the physics of the football by the end of last season, with the result that of every 50 attempted passes, 49 tended to find an opponent, all of which rather negated his tackling ability. The arrival of a new, improved model (in the shape of Sandro) has brought about his ruthless but entirely sensible culling from the fold. In the context of the £5 mil arrival of Scott Parker, the £8 mil sale of Palacios represents more frightfully good business from the N17 moneymen.
Ye gods be praised. No doubt he’ll loop a header into the Tottenham net later on this season, but for a chap of that structure to be quite so poor at heading was nigh on unforgiveable. The constant concession of free-kicks tended to be more the fault of the officials than Crouch, but nevertheless, aside from a purple patch in partnership with VDV, this chap contributes precious little of value as a striker. Poor in the air, possessed of a ludicrously weak shot and prone to grinning whenever he missed, frankly he riled us here at AANP Towers, a situation exacerbated by the dismissal against Real and own-goal against City last season.
Rejoice, rejoice and thrice I invite ye – rejoice. At least until the end of the season.
Once upon a time – about three years ago, Jenas threatened to make good on all that youthful promise. Alas, the rest rather besmirches the history of Tottenham Hotspur, AANP frequently shaking its head in wonder, and concluding that the lad must be magic in training, because his performances on the pitch hardly merited a regular starting berth. That unique brand of Sideways and Backwards will take the Midlands by storm this year.
Some fine dabblings, in both directions. The grass is always greener, so we may well chunter away about the failure to nab young G. Cahill Esquire, but nevertheless, “Clear out the deadwood; bring in a midfielder with bite; and ruddy well stick a powerful striker upfront” were three fairly critical points on the summer to-do list at the Lane. AANP approves.
Well that’s why it’s called All Action, No Plot.Away for one little weekend break, in the land of Erik Edman (note to eligible bachelors the world over – do Stockholm. No ifs, no buts – do Stockholm) and 48 hours later I return to find that all hell seems to have broken loose at White Hart Lane.
Luka has broken a bone. Cancel everything. This is serious. No surgery needed – apparently he will be fixed by wearing a magic boot for the next six weeks - but anguished weeping and gnashing of teeth nevertheless echo around the walls of AANP Towers.
Only a couple of weeks ago I hastily cobbled together a ten-point wish-list for the season, and while most of the issues included were streams of consciousness rather than absolute ruddy imperatives, one point rather leapt from the page:
Look After Modric And Palacios Like Our Lives Depend On It
Our squad is looking impressive this season, with a couple of players competing in every position. However, Modric and Palacios are simply a class above, and as such are irreplaceable.,,, great lengths must be taken to avoid so much as a bee sting befalling them.
Not exactly rocket-science I admit, but I still wish extreme measures had been taken to preserve his fitness. Instead, rather than setting up an orb-shaped force-field around our Luka, some bright spark let him go near Lee Bowyer of all people.There is still plenty of creativity in the side – Lennon, Keane and the Hudd all contribute in their own special little ways – and we will still pick up points in his absence. There are also plenty of possible replacements out on the left – Keane, Giovani and Bentley spring to mind, and it’s possible that by the time you read this we might have yanked in Man City’s Petrov as an ad hoc replacement. So we will definitely take to the field with eleven players next time out, which is nice to know - but that’s not really the point.
Modric is that bit better than the alternatives and understudies, and most other players in the Premierhship. While he can still be slightly peripheral in that left-sided position, even though given carte blanche to wander infield, he is nevertheless always capable of sparking something every time he gets the ball. To be without him for the Man Utd and Chelski games is particularly galling. If something were now to happen to Palacios as well, I think those passing by AANP Towers will be treated to the undignified sight of a grown man openly weeping.
O’ Hara to Pompey
The move to Portsmouth was announced at just about the same moment as the lad penned a new contract keeping him at the Lane until 2013, so he evidently remains part of the longish-term set-up. I am inclined to think that he might therefore have instigated the loan move himself, just to keep the blood circulating until the new year.
It appears that the Hudd has won the fight for the central midfield spot alongside Sergeant Wilson, at least until Jenas returns to fitness. O’ Hara would therefore have spent most weeks at Spurs twiddling his thumbs on the bench, with only the odd ten-minute cameo here and there. And so on; to repeat, it makes sense for him. In theory quite like the idea.
However, in practice it now leaves us suddenly a touch light in midfield. With Modric now joining Jenas in sick-bay, and Zokora long-gone, one more injury and somebody somewhere will have to thump the red alert button. As the transfer window ticks down, I suspect the issue may have been pointed out to management at the Lane.
Kevin Prince-Boateng Also to Pompey
Spurs 2-1 Birmingham: Not A Match Report, I Didn’t See It
So amidst all the madness, there was also a football match. By all accounts the win was just about deserved on balance - apparently we made and missed more chances than they. I’m rather chuffed to hear that Birmingham set out to counter us with a nullify-and-frustrate 4-5-1. That’s the sort of treatment reserved for the big kids in the playground.
News of a ninety-fifth minute winner also prompted a cackle of satisfaction. Every game this season I have found myself harking back to the not-too-distant past, and remembering how Spurs teams of yore would have done so much worse than the current lot in an identical situation.
This week: Spurs teams of yore would have indeed undone the hard work of over an hour, by conceding an equalizer just minutes after taking the lead. However, previous Spurs sides would then probably have conceded a scrappy second in stoppage time. (Which we nearly did, admittedly). For us instead to go gamboling up the other end and pilfer the winnings ourselves suggests, yet again, that we’re getting the hang of this football lark.
It’s still early, but if at the end of the season we find ourselves challenging the top six or more, this is the sort of game at which we will all earnestly point as an example of how much steelier we are this year.
’Arry rarely needs an excuse to bang the Peter Crouch drum, and since Saturday he’s been making the quite valid point to Don Fabio Capello that the gangly one is a great option from the bench. Very fair point. He does indeed add something different, and one can well imagine how his arrival as a second half substitute must be greeted by tiring defenders who have spent all afternoon chasing the shadows of Keane and Defoe. As I noted when we signed him, his value as an impact-sub was perfectly illustrated in the fantastic England-Argentina friendly of late-2005:
With England trailing 2-1 Crouch was slung on for the last few minutes, and managed to make a sufficient nuisance of himself at crosses for Michael Owen to steal in with a couple of late goals.
Crouch as Plan B – no problem with that. However, there is a rumour gathering momentum that he is about to become Plan A. Not so sure about that.With Modric out, it may actually be forced upon us – Keane switching to left midfield would naturally open a door for Crouch. However, if it means we starting pinging long-balls into orbit from the off, I’d rather not.
The invitation is still open to share your memories of White Hart Lane legends, in anticipation of Spurs’ Cult Heroes, a forthcoming book that rather does what it says on the tin. Feel free to add your memories of Jimmy Greaves here, of Jurgen Klinsmann here and Clive Allen here…
Well this is yer lot for 2008-09, which is now being definitively wrapped up in newspaper, shoved into cardboard boxes and locked away in a great big wooden crate like the one containing those ghost things that melted the Nazis in Raiders of The Lost Ark. Entirely subjective, not necessarily listed in strict order of merit and cobbled-together in the least-scientific manner possible, it’s the All Action No Plot Top Ten Spurs Ruddy Marvellous Goals of 2008-09. Compiled with special thanks to a tattered 2008/09 fixture-list and several JD and cokes. Feel free to dispute any/all of these.10. Pav’s Winner vs Liverpool Not a particularly well-crafted goal, and by golly an ill-deserved win – but memorable for precisely that reason. Having been fairly pummelled for much of the game, with little more to do in the pouring rain than boo Robbie Keane (we still hated him at this stage of the season), we rode our luck, thanked the woodwork and then equalised through an own-goal. Pav then popped up with a last-minute winner and I got unlikely bragging-rights over half my 5-a-side team.
9. Third Goal in Hammering of ‘Boro We gave Middlesborough a pasting that night, and the third goal was particularly good, crafted in the finest Tottenham tradition. Lots of possession, passing and movement, and a little bit of final-third trickery had us purring away, and provided a bit of a fillip as we morphed from relegation scrappers to European hopefuls. Lennon’s name went on the scoresheet, but more than half the team was involved in the build-up.
8. Jenas vs West Brom If Modders had scored this we’d still be yapping about it. Twenty-five yards out and with nothing on, Jenas switched the ball from left foot to right and was about to complete the issue by turning 180 degrees and passing backwards, when the spirit of Hoddle suddenly made a timely appearance, possessing the body of our number 8 and inspiring him to curl it into the bottom corner. Random, but really rather good.
7. Modric Assist vs West Ham The finish from Pav was slick enough, but hardly spectacular. The assist from Modric however, was celestially-ordained, a ridiculously impudent pass through a gap which seemed small enough only for a golf ball. Mere mortals should not be allowed to achieve such feats.
6. O’ Hara Away To West Ham Back in late December our survival was very much still in the balance, and the New-Manager-Bounce had just ended, with defeats to Fulham and Everton. The win away to West Ham was therefore our best result of the season at that point, a cracking performance, highlighted by Gomes’ razor-sharp save at 1-0, and O’ Hara’s peach of a long-range goal moments later to wrap up the points.
5. Modric Goal vs Chelski Delicious technique from the little man, this goal was all the more special for being the winner against that ‘orrible lot. We at AANP Towers also thoughtfully doff our caps in the general direction of Jonathan Woodgate, for intelligently picking out Lennon with his header in the build-up to the goal, when it would have been easier just to bang the ball into no-man’s land.
4. Hudd vs Dinamo Kiev – A few years ago Beckham took a corner and Scholes volleyed in first-time from outside the area. Hudd’s may not have been quite as crisp, but lovely technique nevertheless. Not many players could pull off this sort of thing.
3. Lennon Equalising vs L’Arse – Sometimes it’s the situation rather than the aesthetic quality of the goal itself. Last-minute equaliser vs the enemy, when moments earlier all had been dead and buried, in both the first game of the Redknapp reign and the AANP ramblings. While a draw ought not to get us too excited, it was a cracking finale, and thoroughly satisfying to deliver the footballing equivalent of a rude hand gesture to that ‘orrible lot, on their own patch.2. Gomes Save vs Chelski Admittedly this was not a goal, but my goodness it felt like one. Confirmed Gomes’ transition from “much-maligned” to goalkeeping genius, a save as timely and important as it was acrobatic and photogenic. Beating Chelski is always sweet, and coming in the dying moments at 1-0, this was worth a goal.
1. Bentley vs l’Arse The one bright spot in Bentley’s otherwise miserable season – but by jiminy, what a goal. As remarked 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.
The real world has rather inconveniently got in the way of things at AANP Towers in the last week or so, but it’s proved fairly exquisite timing, as precious little has happened beyond some rather dubious rumour-mongering. Just to keep things ticking over here are a couple more lists, the last vestiges of 2008-09, beginning with Spurs’ 10 Worst Mistakes of 2008-09.10. Gilberto Clanger vs Spartak - Having dribbled into trouble just outside the area on his Spurs debut the previous season, Gilberto’s apparent unfamiliarity with the tactical basics were evident again this cold and crisp December evening, as he politely unfolded a napkin, blew off the steam and spoon-fed a goal to our Russian visitors. A second-half comeback rescued the tie, but only after the Brazilian had been withdrawn and effectively placed on the transfer list.
9. Fraizer Campbell As Our Third Striker 9. Fraizer Campbell As Our Third Striker
8. Ledley’s Post-Match Pint
7. The Signing of David Bentley
6. Gomes v Udinese
With transfer tittle-tattle still entrenched in the realms of fantasy and silly-speak, I thought I’d gaze all teary-eyed and nostalgic at the season gone by, and offer a final few reminiscences. The Top-Ten Mistakes and Top-Ten Goals of the season are imminent, but for now gorge yourself – in reverse order, no less - on a veritable gaggle of pantomime villains from 2008-09, at the madcap world that is Tottenham Hotspur FC.10. Fulham – Technicallly, we’re probably better off not qualifying for Europe, as it will almost certainly increase our chances of a top four finish next season. However, this was an argument I blindly ignored in the final few months, as all other contenders fell by the wayside, but the Cottagers consistently kept their noses in front. Gallingly, if Gomes hadn’t blundered back in November, we might well have avoided a 2-1 defeat to Fulham, and would now be dusting off our passports once again.
9. Gareth Bale – An Arsenal conspiracy in human(ish) form, Bale has gone something like 20-plus league games for us, over two seasons, without tasting victory. I’d be mightily disappointed if we flogged him off this summer, as he made a quite blistering start to his Tottenham career, but it has now reached the stage where opposition players high-five one another when they see his name on our teamsheet.
8. Peter Walton - “Who?” cry a thousand voices in unison. “The ref from the Blackburn game in April“, replies the scribe at AANP Towers, before receiving a good kicking for being such a smart-arse. We were cruising at one-nil, as has been our wont (see above) when Walton thought he’d spice things up by sending off Palacios for sneezing in the wrong direction or something similarly innocuous. Grist to Big Fat Sam Allardyce’s mill, it allowed Blackburn to lob long balls into orbit and back down to earth in our area, and two late goals gave that lot an ill-deserved 2-1 win.
7. Robbie Keane – A slightly strange one this. Rather suddenly upped and left for his “boyhood heroes”, which left the more restrained folk of White Hart Lane shaking their heads and tutting, and the rest of us shrieking invective at him until blue in the face. And then he came back, which left us slightly embarrassedly shuffling our feet and changing the subject. Nobody is yet quite sure whether we ought to be cheering for or grumbling at him.
6. The Entire Spurs Team At Burnley – One of the most embarrassing, disgraceful performances any Spurs fan can remember, we contrived to throw away a 4-1 first leg lead, to a team in the division below us, a display every bit as bad as that sounds. Frankly, it left us plain embarrassed to be heading to Wembley, but that’s where we ended up
5. Dimitar Berbatov – Easy to forget that the incredible sulk was a lilywhite at the start of the season. Decided he was way too cool for school last season, hung around to make himself a dressing-room nuisance in pre-season, and didn’t bother with to make any respectful noises on the way out. Some people depart the Lane to a hero’s ovation; Berba we’d have happily kicked all the way down the High Road and far beyond.
4. Failing to Increase One-Nil Leads - Became a particular trend in the second half of the season, when we’d routinely score in the first-half, stack up lots of possession but develop an allergy to a second goal. The result was a slew of unnecessarily tense finales to games that should have been wrapped up, sung lullabies and put to bed, in the process giving kids like Obika and Bostock a chance to shimmy on with the game sewn up. Instead, those collective final ten-minutes of games have been knocking several years of my life. Three points is three points, but this is something to improve upon for next season.
3. Howard Webb – A two-nil lead in the second-half at Old Trafford, and although we were dropping deeper and deeper we just about had the Champions at arms’ length. Cue a pretty dodgy call from the FA’s finest, and Man Utd had a penalty, and a springboard back into the game. We ought not to have fallen apart thereafter, and there’s no telling whether we’d have hung on for victory otherwise, but few dispute it was the turning-point of the game.
2. Rubbish Pre-Season Preparations – Not sure precisely who is responsible for this, but presumably Wendy Ramos ultimately takes the blame. A pre-season that saw us beat everyone we came across, scoring about a trillion goals in the process, counted for absolutely nothing because all those opponents were lower-league Spanish reserve teams or undercooked continentals about three weeks behind us in terms of pre-season. Preparation for the rigours of the Premiership it most certainly wasn’t - something we should have realised when we saw Darren Bent banging them in left, right and centre – and Two-Points-Eight-Games duly followed. Incidentally it’s a mistake now being replicated by the England cricket team ahead of the Ashes.
1. Damian Comolli – Ooh, it makes my blood boil just typing his name. Dodgy signings at inflated prices, and an insistence in interfering in the manager’s role, the blighter darn well almost got us relegated. And how the hell was he qualified, in his mid-thirties and with no decent experience, for the role as Director of Football, or whatever it was, at a Premiership club? Rumours of an Arsene Wenger conspiracy burn brightly here at AANP Towers. Kicked out in October, he’ll be mortified to know that he remains firmly off the AANP Christmas card list.
The AANP 2008-09 end-of-season awards can be found here, and you can join the AANP facebook group here or follow on twitter here-ish.
Suffering withdrawal? Desperately seeking an unnecessarily nail-biting one-nil win? Confused by the absence of someone at whom to scream “F*ck sake Jenas”? Then knock yourself out with the All Action No Plot Awards, and re-live Tottenham Hotspur, season 2008-09Two-Points-Eight-Games Award For Completely Turning Around His Season
Step forward Heurelho Gomes. Firmly established as our number one now, but by Jove not so long the streets of White Hart Lane were filled to bursting with fans tripping over one another to hold the exit door open for him. As well as an almost vampiric inability to deal with crosses there was the fumble v Villa, the suicidal dribble vs Udinese and the hot-potato-style nadir vs Fulham. However, a jolly impressive comeback has seen him become central to our record-breaking defensive form at the Lane, and saves such as those vs West Ham away, and Chelski and West Brom at home, were each worth goals. Although he was rubbish in the Carling Cup Final penalty shoot-out.
The Manuel Que? Award For Not Understanding A Ruddy Word of English
While the passport-wielding likes of Corluka, Assou-Ekotto and Modric seem to understand what’s going on, and are presumably sufficiently au fait with the English language, poor old Roman Pavluychenko has all season wandered the pitch with the air of a man who has absolutely no idea what anyone is saying to him. Indeed, in one of ‘Arry’s first games in charge, Pav’s translator was instructed by our glorious leader to tell him “Just f*cking run about”. Mercifully, he has a sound understanding of the game in general, hopefully will lead to better things next season.
The Big Girl’s Blouse Award For Wearing Female Accessories On A Football Pitch
Not so much an award as a naming and shaming. Aaron Lennon in tights is one thing, as one can – just about – see the medical reason for this. However, Jonathan Woodgate and Luka Modric ought to be docked half their wages for that alice-band nonsense. Man up, for goodness’ sake. (Corluka escapes this ignominy, by the skin of his teeth, for doing the decent thing and getting a haircut.)
Only really knew Vedran Corluka by name when we signed him at the start of the season, but although a little one-paced, his rapport with Aaron Lennon on the right has bordered on the psychic at times. None of which has anything to do with his most uncanny resemblance to some chap called Goran Visnjic of the tellybox. He plays a doctor in ER, and apparently auditioned for the role of James Bond too (Visnjic, not Corluka).
The Fat Frank Lampard Award For Eating All The Pies
The Hudd, by a country mile. He could give Luka Modric a few tips.
The Louis Armstrong Award For Jazz-Hands
A simple one, this. His go-faster eyebrow stripes may make him down wif da kidz, but little Aaron Lennon’s jazz hands routine, every time he revs up, is straight out of the 1920s. Further dainty effect is added by that delicate hop and skip of anguish, whenever he loses the ball. Bless.
The Oliver Reed Award For Fondness Of The Bottle
I have to admit that a piece of me died when news broke of Ledley King’s arrest for getting tanked and trying to lamp a bouncer, or whatever it was. At the risk of sounding like my own mother, he always seemed so quiet, mild-mannered and well-behaved. Such a nice boy. We all turned a blind eye to the post Carling Cup-win celebrations, and even when tabloids printed other pictures of him stumbling out of clubs, we tried to ignore it. Bit difficult to ignore now though. It’s always the quiet ones, eh?
Most Likely To Get Away With Murder Award
Let’s face it, Robbie Keane has been near-enough getting away with murder in the last few weeks anyway – picking up more in a week than we do in a year, for generally loitering around the centre-circle, pointing and shouting, and doing his damnedest to stay away from the opposition area. No matter what he does (or, perhaps, doesn’t do) it seems he can’t be dropped or substituted - which has me wondering quite how far his shield of immunity stretches.
The Chris Bridges Award For Most Ludicrous Haircut of The Season
Mercifully, not too much competition here, if you exclude the long-haired alice-band pansies. Jermain Defoe dabbled in a dubious Maltesers-on-the-head Craig David-esque effort for a few weeks, but then got injured and reappeared with an eminently more sensible short back and sides. Young Bostock may offer some competition next year with that spikey Mohawk thing, but as he’s only 14 or whatever he can get away with it. However, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, we salute you. Unbraid your braids, and give us more of that frankly awesome afro.
Michael Ballack Award For Being The Biggest Loser Of The Season
Last year Herr Ballack captained the losing team in the Euro Championships final, lost on penalites in the Champs League final, was runner-up in the Premiership and lost the Carling Cup final. However, Gareth Bale would probably settle for any of those, having now failed to win a single league game with us in the two seasons since he joined us. (Honourable mention here to Jamie O’ Hara, who was in tears at last year’s Carling Cup Final after being left out of the squad, and then missed in the penalty shoot-out of this year’s final).
Begbie From Trainspotting Award For Being A Truly Terrifying Scot
Joe Jordan’s inscrutable stare reminds me of the more ferocious breed of militant teachers from back in the day, but I think Alan Hutton wins this one, for reportedly beating up his own Dad or some such business. Cripes. Rather looking forward to seeing him lose the plot on the pitch one day, and batter the life out of some random unknowing opponent.
Christopher Columbus Award For The Most Directionally-Challenged Player At The Club
Assou-Ekotto almost scored a 30 yard, volleyed own-goal away at Burnley, but as regulars will know, we at AANP Towers were only ever going to award this title to one person. He passes backwards, he passes sideways; he passes sideways, he passes backwards (even though he’s actually a pretty talented footballer); inevitably, it’s Jermaine Jenas.
The Karaoke Award For The Player Who Most Deserves His Own Song
6 November 2008. White Hart Lane. Darren Bent has just scored his first hat-trick for the club, and whose name are we singing? Jermain Defoe’s, even though, at that time, Defoe was still a Portsmouth player. And when the “Defoe” choruses finished, our salutes rang out to John Bostock, who at that point still hadn’t yet made a senior appearance for us.
However, poor old Bent doesn’t actually receive this award. In a momentous act of goodwill and peace, I award it to your friend and mine, Jermaine Jenas. One of the problems with JJ is the lack of the confidence-bordering-on-arrogance that inspires an attacking player to take a gamble and try to be a match-winner. He’s capable, as he occasionally demonstrates, but all too often he’ll take the safe option (as ranted about above). Maybe if he had his own song he would be a bit more adventurous? And start passing forwards?
Terminator 3 Award For Being Expensive And Eagerly-Awaited But Ultimately A Complete Letdown
There are a few contenders here, which is testimony to the misjudgement of Comolli and his clowns last summer. Pav will hopefully come good eventually; Giovani is unlikely to be given a chance in lilywhite; but the most disappointing has been poor old pretty-boy David Bentley. Not really his fault, as he’s not been given too many games in his own position, but he’s hardly helped himself by trying Maradonna impressions every time he’s been on the pitch and received the ball. Just keep it simple lad. At £15 mil or so, and with that reputation, we expected more.
Jurgen Klinsmann Award For Being The Signing Of The Season
Corluka has been steady, Gomes has found his form and Defoe has looked razor-sharp in the handful of games in which he’s featured. After a brief teething period, Luka Modric has become our creative hub, and is rightly revered at the Lane, but in a photo-finish the barrel chest of Wilson Palacios gives him the award. He’s what we’ve needed for years – and whatever criticism we level at ‘Arry, there can be no doubt that this was an inspired signing.
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer Award For The Most Inspired Substitution Of The Season
This may raise a few eyebrows, as ‘Arry would generally stick with his starting XI even if his life depended on making a change or two. However, cast your minds back to Sunday 15 March, away to Aston Villa, when poor old Didier Zokora’s blood was turned inside-out by Ashley Young. Do-do-do Didier had already been booked, when he was brutally but rightly hauled off by ‘Arry. Corluka kept Young quiet, and we went on to win 2-1, an away day which, at the time, ranked amongst our best results of the season, and was part of our run of tip-top spring form.
The Saving Private Ryan Award For The Most Mental, 20 Minute, All-Action-No-Plot Sequence Of The Season
What the hell happened in the second half against Man Utd? Admittedly the penalty awarded against us was harsh, but that was just one goal. Yet the entire team took it as their cue to stumble around like headless chickens as the champions ran riot, and a 0-2 lead became a 5-2 deficit in under half an hour. (An honourable mention should also go to the team that pitched up away to Burnley, although that torment was dragged out for a good 90 minutes.)
Nelson Mandela Award For Humility and Modesty
Truly a man for others, our glorious leader ‘Arry Redknapp has, since the day he arrived, made sure that everyone understands that our turnaround is entirely due to the players. Never short to sing their praises, the frequent references to Two-Points-Eight-Games™ are always followed by the conclusion “And it’s to the players’ credit that they’ve achieved this”. Unfortunately, the scandalous editing processes of Sky, Setanta, the BBC et al, mean that these closing sentiments tend typically to be edited out.
More fond reminiscences on season 2008-09 are imminent. Meantime, by all means do the Facebook thang, or follow the AANP lifestyle on Twitter.
Things We Need To Sort Out, Preferably Before The Start Of Next Season
is likely to be a slightly intermittent series, for, as I’ve mentioned previously, we’re only in need of some gentle tweaking here and there, rather than a full-blown overhaul. However, near the top of the agenda is a problem that is both white and black, English and Irish, has four legs, and can be seen sometimes waving and shouting around the halfway line, and other times shooting on sight around the area.Defoe and Keane. Keane and Defoe.
With Pav last seen disappearing down the tunnel in a stropski and Darren Bent spending more time practising his hands-half-raised-to-head-can’t-believe-I-missed-that look, rather than his goal celebration, there are likely to be changes in attack over the summer - and the problem is compounded by the fact that one of Keane and Defoe will need to make himself at home on the bench next season.
We’ve been rather trying to ignore this, but there’s no doubt it’s a full-on, certified, official problem. It’s been gestating, and by the start of next season could well burst from ‘Arry Redknapp’s chest and go on the rampage, destroying the rest of the team.
Entertaining though it undoubtedly is to see over-paid and over-privileged grown men throwing a good old-fashioned toddler’s tantrum because life is so unfair, it won’t be particularly helpful to us. Discord from within we can do without.
Somehow, both these chaps need to be kept happy. Ordinarily, the gift of the entire DVD box-set of all five series of The A-Team would be more than enough to keep a grown man content, but these two fussy chaps need more. It’s not rocket-science to us at the Lane - each needs a bigger man alongside them. Only then will they feel loved and deliver their best, but such a solution obviously precludes a partnership between the two themselves. It’s one or t’other.
(The issue of who should partner Defoe/Keane is a completely different kettle of fish. I’ll sink confusedly into that one on another occasion.)
More recently, the fling with Liverpool turned sour hilariously quickly once he realised that his place in the first XI wasn’t sacrosanct. More strops are a-coming if Keane isn’t in the starting line-up.
Defoe does not have the pedigree of Keane when it comes to whingeing, but we hardly need reminding that failure to start regularly saw him amble off to pastures new 18 months back.
It’s not just that these two need to appear regularly, or even make 25 starts next season – they each need to know that they’re first choice, and will start game after game after game. Neither will be content with regular 60th minute introductions, or starting berths once every three games. We would undoubtedly regret selling one of Keane or Defoe (we need at least three - preferably four - decent strikers at the club) but whichever is not playing regularly is likely to get itchy feet.
The Curious World of Robbie Keane
The plot thickens and mystery deepens given ‘Arry’s intransigent refusal to drop or substitute him. This might be because he wears the captain’s armband – a move which did make sense when he arrived, but slightly complicates matters now. There are more rational explanations – ‘Arry may simply have reasoned it made more sense to withdraw a rusty-looking Pav, against West Brom and Man City. Nevertheless, the selection of Keane on left midfield last week was a strange one, and not for the first time had me wondering if there is some sort of “I’m Precious” clause in Keane’s contract, which simply states “Don’t even think about dropping me, Pedro.”
All Rise For The AANP Verdict:
On present form I’d have Defoe. In recent weeks we’ve looked most threatening when Defoe’s been on the pitch. The build-up play might not necessarily be any better (in fact, if Defoe played instead of Keane the build-up would probably be worse), but Defoe has a single-minded and fairly selfish determination to shoot whenever there’s a sniff. I love that about him. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King, and in the land of the shot-shy Spurs of recent weeks Defoe’s willingness to shoot earns him the place on the throne.
Curiously, although it’s fairly commonly acknowledged that they as partnerships go they’re no Stan and Ollie, we’ve probably had our greatest cutting-edge in recent weeks when they have been paired up. Such a combo, lacking a target man, has seen Keane push further forward, whilst Defoe has looked far sharper than any of the other strikers. However, this is more of an indictment upon the Bent-Keane and Pav-Keane partnerships than a recommendation of Defoe-Keane.
So this is one for ‘Arry to sort. Injury to Defoe since the January re-signing of both has meant we’ve been conveniently able to sidestep the problem so far in 2009, but there is no point ignoring it any further. The club badge features a cockerel standing on some sort of basketball, not an ostrich with its head in the sand. Two quality strikers fighting for one position is probably a good problem to have as a manager, but a problem nevertheless.
By the by – AANP has now got its own Facebook group and Twitter, um, thing. Amazing what these new-fangled computer boxes can do.
Rather gloriously, Jermaine Jenas has got his knickers in a twist regarding referee Howard Webb’s moment of glory on Saturday, and has now been asked to explain himself by the FA. (nb that’s Jenas who has been asked to explain himself, rather than Webb…)Anyway, back to the barely controllable fury of our sideways-passing warrior.
“One thing which struck me about it was that he [Webb] didn’t even think. It was like he’d already made his mind up when he came out for the second half that he was going to give something,” quivered our intrepid hero.”I think it was a case of a referee crumbling under the pressure at Old Trafford really. The atmosphere, the occasion, the importance of the match, a lot of factors take their toll when making decisions.”
Well huzzah for JJ, the most unlikely of heroes. Unfortunately, the powers that be have taken a rather dim view of these comments, asking Jenas for “an explanation”, but I’m proud of the guy. It reminds me of the nerdy, goody-goody kid at school suddenly snapping and going beserk at his headmistress while awestruck classmates watch on, brimming with a new-found admiration for the blighter.
Admittedly it’s hardly on a par with Lee Bowyer starting a fight in an empty room, or Roy Keane yelling “Take that, yer c*nt” before snapping the legs of a toddler who’d sneezed in his direction. Nevertheless I warmly applaud Jenas and give him my full support on this one, as he queues up for a detention slip alongside Bowyer, Keane, Bellamy and the rest of the school trouble-makers. Not that I condone criticism of the ref – no matter how ignorant, biased, blind, dim-witted, retarded and inbred a ref has to be to drop a clanger like Saturday’s penalty award, I refuse to criticise him. However, just the fact that Jenas was sufficiently flustered by the affair to talk his way into trouble really warms my heart. It shows he cares.
My schoolboy gullibility long ago faded away, and has now been replaced by the overly bitter and twisted cynicism of a bile-filled old man. As a result I know longer believe in the existence of Father Christmas, the A-Team or footballer loyalty. No matter how many times they kiss the badge, and no matter how long their contract, it just seems beyond the boundaries of credulity to expect footballers genuinely to care about their team. They’re on a limited career-span, so they’ll make their money with whomever coughs up. It’s a different world from fans. Rather than bemoan lack of player loyalty I just accept it, even when they stick two fingers up at the club then come crawling back six months later.
Hence, I’d figured that after the final whistle on Saturday they all just trotted off to the players’ lounge to fight over Danielle Lloyd and sort out the Faces guest list. The notion that the penalty decision still rankled with one of them is a flabbergasting but enormously welcome development.
More so as we’re such a soft-touch team anyway. I’ve been brought up on a diet of pretty passes and fancy flicks from Hoddle, Redknapp (Jamie) and Modders. I still eye Palacios with confused fascination, as if he’s a creature from another world, so unaccustomed am I to a player in lilywhite putting himself about. All the more reason then, to pinch myself as I read and re-read Jenas’ tirade. Well, it’s more of an apologetic clearing of the throat than a full-blown tirade, but the point is that he cares. Like we do. Winning means something to him, and losing hurts. His talent may be questionable, he has me tearing my hair out every week, but by golly he’s committed to the cause. Good on you, fella.