In common with more than of you I blinked and thereby missed most of the ITV highlights of this one, so the AANP analysis will this week consist of no more than verbose but ultimately vacuous generalisations, and the occasional laboured piece of wordplay. Not that different from normal then.
From the point of view of one whose observations were so minimal as to radically redefine the term ‘objective’, this appears a job satisfactorily done, with ticked boxes as far as the eye can see. Such fixtures can prove tricky (admittedly less so at home), and given this we ought probably to be grateful for being reduced to the 30-second highlights slot, it representing a distinct lack of tabloid-friendly shock-and-awe fodder. Credit then to our heroes for doing the honourable thing and ending the thing as a context before the floodlights were lit, and a nod of approval also for breaking with tradition both in scoring a couple from set-pieces and in turning early dominance into more than just the solitary goal.
Elsewhere Scott Parker was unleashed to scuttle manically from the off, Benny had a first opportunity to rediscover his groove and the handsome young Welshman at one point apparently skinned five opponents before shooting wide (although, regrettably, I have since been reliably informed that the term was but metaphorical. Shame that.)
Marvellous. Elsewhere however, the giant, unavoidable engine of January transfer doings is gently creaking into action, with the news that Herr Lewis Holtby has rather charmingly cocked a snook at that ‘orrible lot down the road and pledged his future to the lilywhites of N17, from Summer ’13 onwards. Smart chap. Now AANP is not about to pretend that it is any sort of expert on footballers plying their wares on foreign fields – or indeed domestic ones, or any other topics really, other than mindless action films and a good whisky – but the resident l’Arse supporter around these parts has somewhat dolefully informed me that the boy Holtby impressed for Schalke against his lot in the Champions League. As such, someone somewhere in the corridors of power at the Lane probably ought to pat themselves on the back and flash a knowing wink in the direction of Daniel Levy.
And for those who like their lamb skewered even more excitement awaits in Transfer Land, for it emerges that the implausibly-named whippersnapper Zeki Fryers is pootling in a lilywhite direction with a spring in his step and tearful adieus ringing in his ears from chums at Standard Liege. (And also apoplectic warbling from Sir Alex Ferguson apparently, but that particular kettle of fish is one for the FA to huddle over). Legend has it that Fryers defends and Holtby tries his luck further up the greenery, so hearty welcomes to both - but hopeful murmurings will no doubt continue that some brain-meltingly good, established, attacking types will be unveiled imminently. Toodle-pip for now.
Hudd to StokeWEEP! Weep - and while you’re at it wail and gnash your teeth – for Hudd is a lilywhite no more! Admittedly the veracity of the above does depend on a technicality, as the blighter has departed only on loan for now, but apparently AVB deems him too slow for this post-Corluka era.
Whether or not he returns seems fairly questionable, for while the loaning of younglings is generally geared towards ripening them for First XI action, loans for more established 20-somethings are typically more akin to a commercial on the tellybox - designed in no uncertain terms to entice viewers to part with tuppence ha’penny.
So weep then, for possibly the silkiest stroker of a leather sphere witnessed on N17 turf since Hoddle has now seemingly munched on his last doughnut from the White Hart Lane canteen. Admittedly Moutinho may still be on the radar, but otherwise it seems jolly uncanny that AVB cannot find room for Hudd within a 3-man central midfield, particularly with Modric still persona non grata, Scott Parker injured and Jermaine blinking Jenas hovering in the background with evil grin on visage and custom-made sideways-and-backwards-passing boots slung over shoulder. Thus, however, does our esteemed leader roll. AVB likes his troops to scuttle around the ankles of opponents like a troupe of particularly sprightly monkeys caught up in the excitement of the mating season, and alas, such a description will never, ever befit Master Huddlestone.
To add to the pain of it all, the marriage of a technician extraordinaire such as Hudd, with an elbows and long-ball outfit like Stoke, seems the very paradigm of incongruity. Should he be travelling to the Britannia in the capacity of Champagne Football Evangelist one can only hope he fares better than our distant cousins who first attempted that preaching lark. Would be a dashed shame if he were mauled to death by lions.
Daws to QPR
Big and brave and inspiring though he regularly is, our heroes are not peddling a production of Henry V so there is a limited need for Dawson’s qualities. In particular, his penchant for roaring at the Paxton end and sticking his head where boots swing fails to mask the fact that in the act of Paxton-roaring and head-sticking he has wandered out of position, about-turned with the nimbleness of an embarrassed elephant and flicked his switch to Clumsy-Last-Ditch-Challenge mode - and at 28 the problem was hardly about to remedy itself. In Kaboul, Gallas and (admittedly the little I have seen of) Vertonghen we have three centre-backs who are better, or at least his equal, while Caulker is developing well and is young enough to improve.
A fine servant to the cause, and the goal vs Chelski circa 2006 remains one of my favourite lilywhite memories of recent years, but on this one AANP concurs with AVB, and a mooted sum of £9.5 million would be fairly health business.
Adebayor to the Lane
Glory be. It had got to the stage where Steven Fletcher was being mentioned in dispatches, so to have dotted t’s and crossed i’s on this is a blessed relief.
For added chortle-value it appears that in order to rid themselves of him, Man City have hit upon the novel idea of paying him the sizeable lump of wage that we poor and needy White Hart Laners could not afford. While it may furrow the brow of one J. Defoe Esquire, at £5 million this is a reason to doff the cap in the general direction of Master Levy.
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.
Apologies for the delay –since the final whistle sounded on Sunday afternoon the denizens of AANP Towers have spent every waking minute traipsing the country searching for anyone – anyone – willing to buy Peter Crouch from us. It does not have to be the chairman of a football team. He could be bought by a British Basketball Association franchise, or shoved into a museum for small children to gawp at. In fact, since the finishing touches are being put to my latest abode, and I now scour the world’s furnishing shops for a tall lamp to stand next to the very sexy black glass shelving unit, I am considering pilfering Crouch myself and shoving him a corner with a candle in his ear. Admittedly it will not undo the entirely vacuous contribution he made against United, but it would probably ensure that ‘Arry buys the striker we’re crying out for, or at least that he next time picks Defoe, or Pav, or even Carlo blinking Cudicini in attack.I perhaps exaggerate the blighter’s ineptitude, but only marginally. The dust has been allowed to settle for several days, yet harking back to the match still fills me with mild apoplexy. If anyone on the pitch looked conspicuously short of Title-challenging quality, ‘twas he. Presumably included on the basis of his ability to tee things up for VDV he was exposed as woefully incapable of offering any sort of aerial challenge to the sinister Vidic, leaving me and several of those around me to wonder whether Defoe might have caused the United back-line more problems nearer ground-level. Crouch was also treated to possibly the clearest goalscoring opportunity of the match but, alas, used the moment to add to the ever-expanding body of evidence that he is anything but a natural goalscorer (or even, to quote the more acid-tongued, a natural footballer). According to the bespectacled, anorak-clad types at Opta Crouch’s pass completion rate was apparently 32%, suggesting an allergy to the ball rather than an ability to hold it up and link play. Damning stuff, when taken in its entirety.
Anyway, if Niall Quinn is wondering why he has had champagne and caviar delivered to him every evening, a gleaming new Lamborghini has turned up in his driveway and several bars of solid gold left on his doormat, all accompanied by notes reading, “With compliments, AANP”, it is because Sunderland are rumoured to have a passing interest in signing Crouch. Egads man, take him! Take him!
Elsewhere On The Pitch
Elsewhere we fared well enough, our heroes having the better of the game without ever really convincing anyone that a goal was imminent. There was imperious stuff from Modders and Daws, and adequate stuff from Sergeant Wilson; while BAE, fast making a career of flitting between sublime and ridiculous, opted for the former, shoving Nani into his rear pocket and keeping him there for the duration, presumably to the incredulity of Alan Hansen. One mildly disappointing aspect was that after the sending-off young Master Bale did not slowly turn to ad hoc right-back Darren Fletcher and give him the blood-curdling grin of a fully-blown psychotic type, before absolutely mutilating him. Fletcher got off rather lightly in those final 15 minutes, for no obvious reason, and a thigh-slappingly good opportunity to barge back into the title race – and, more pertinently, the top four – gently edged away.
Leaps and bounds no doubt, but the progress of the last couple of years is probably not such as to make us title-challengers yet. A couple of well-chosen signings ought to do the trick. On which note…
In all honesty he’s someone I know by hearsay and Match of the Day’s condensed highlights, rather than having scouted vigorously for the last few years. However, although not the rampaging striker for which we yearn, he seems a talented attacking sort, and can apparently play left, right or centre. Moreover, if his arrival shoves Jenas down the pecking order then I will happily lock myself away in a dark for several years while I grow my hair, before braiding it and tattooing “Pienaar 40” across my back. Bolstering the quality of playing personnel as we move into the second half of the season seems a noble practice, and increasing the competition for places ought to give a healthy edge to things. Finally, as a valedictory note I wish to applaud the young man for opting for Spurs over that odious bunch from West London. Bravo sir, may your stay be long and successful.
At the time of typing it seems that the i’s have not yet been dotted, t’s crossed and funky Icelandic symbols inserted, but nevertheless it seems that Eiður Smári Guðjohnsen is heading to the Lane imminently. The AANP verdict? Instinctive reaction is a thumbs-up. Admittedly I haven’t seen him play for a few years, other than the odd Champions League cameo, but he’s only 31 so I’d imagine he’s still got it. “It” in this instance is a Sheringham-esque ability to play thoughtfully with his back to goal. Back in the day I thought he was a cracking little player - smart, able to pick passes that few others spot and technically excellent. I fancy that he and Modders will find each other’s wavelengths without too much difficulty, which is a lip-smacking prospect.We’ve tried to use Keane in that withdrawn role, helping out the midfield, but few would suggest that it has been an overwhelming success this season. Crouch does a noble job of dropping deep and laying off the ball for team-mates, but he could not be described as a hub of creativity. Gudjohnsen, I hope, will be able to do that job with a lot more élan and inventiveness.
This does essentially leave us with five strikers, so the welcoming handshakes offered by Messrs Keane and Pav might be a little firmer than is could strictly be deemed friendly, but if it improves performances I won’t complain. A half-season loan is hardly high-risk either.
West Ham’s new owners seem rather miffed at our conduct here, spookily suggesting that karma will have its wicked way with us. Personally I have no bone to pick with that lot – as with every other team I just hope we beat them twice a season, so there is no underlying sense of vitriol when I suggest that we do not seem to have done anything wrong here. The guy was available for transfer; West Ham have tried to get him; before he signed for them we too have courted him; and it appears that, with impeccable judgement, he is opting for us. All seems above board, and if anything the man himself should be incurring their wrath.
Should we seal the deal AANP Towers will clink a glass to Gudjohnsen tonight. As has been suggested in other quarters, other areas of the team may be a higher priority, but as a cheap short-term deal this is fine. And the name Gudjohnsen already has its place in White Hart Lane history – if you just bear with me while I don my anorak I’ll tell you that Eidur’s Dad (and agent) Arnor was the chap whose crucial penalty was saved by Tony Parks, in the 1984 UEFA Cup Final shoot-out.
AANP’s first book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, comes out on 16 Feb and is now available to pre-order from WHSmith,Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play
You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here
And as ever, all are most welcome to leave memories - and browse those of others - regarding some of the players to be featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Danny Blanchflower here, Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Martin Chivers here, Alan Gilzean here, Pat Jennings here, Cyril Knowles here, Steve Perryman here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jürgen Klinsmann here, David Ginola here, Paul Gascoigne hereAnd as ever, all are most welcome to leave memories - and browse those of others - regarding some of the players to be featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Danny Blanchflower here, Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Martin Chivers here, Alan Gilzean here, Pat Jennings here, Cyril Knowles here, Steve Perryman here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jürgen Klinsmann here, David Ginola here, Paul Gascoigne here
I feel like Mr Pink after the dust settles in that brief, but oh-so-memorable shoot-out. I’ll just tip-toe around the bloody mess, pick up the case full of loot and hot-foot it out of here.The bloody mess is Bentley to Man City, Petrov the other way, David James splattered all over the place, and even Anton Ferdinand, sitting lifelessly on a chair minus an ear. Transfer rumours shot to pieces, in the blink of an eye.
The case full of loot is Niko Kranjcar. Okay, maybe not a case full of loot, but it’s the first time the club has really personally apologized to me for selling Steed. I graciously accept the apology. It’s not perfect, but it’s a valid offering of peace.
I quite like Kranjcar, from the bits and bobs I’ve seen over the years. He’s not amazing, but he’ll do his best to fill the gap left by Luka, and thereafter he’ll be a cracking option in the squad. Instinct is to go forward rather than back or sideways (sounds logical, but remember ye Jermaine Jenas?); more of a
bona fide left-side man than Keane; eye for goal; cheap and cheerful. That’s a lot of boxes ticked. Triffic signing.Pardon me while I indulge in a personal whim, but I particularly like the fact that he isn’t a traditional, touchline-hugging winger. It’s just a little guilty pleasure of mine, but I much prefer “wingers” who cut inside and play a short ball on the floor. Before you know it the whole pitch seems to be alive with movement. Everyone is making cute little diagonal runs, interchanging positions, giving defenders ten things to think about all at once.
I probably ought to confess that I’m no I’m no Kranjcar expert, so feel free to storm in here, thump an irate fist down on my table and start righting wrongs I’ve just written, but the occasional MoTD highlights of him pleaseth me.
Truth be told, I’m also rather glad that we didn’t sell Bentley and didn’t buy James. (I have no opinion on Petrov). However, there remains an itch, mid-way down the back that is impossible to scratch, and it will continue to bug me for months on end. If something happens to Palacios we’re in trouble. All other eventualities we will cope with somehow, but Palacios is the cornerstone of this operation. ‘Arry has made all the right moves in the transfer market so far – not least in signing Palacios in the first place, and even in bringing in Chimbonda at a time when a real defensive crisis threatened – so I’ll just tell myself that he does have a plan for life without Wilson…
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…
How’s this for hard-hitting, bone-crunching, investigative journalism? AANP Towers can exclusively reveal, via its deep network of KGB-style informants who have brutally beaten the information out of their contacts, that our glorious leader ‘Arry, and his trusty sidekick Kevin Bond, are on a plane to Glasgow!!! Ahead of the Celtic – l’Arse game!!!
PRESUMABLY WITH A VIEW TO WATCHING SCOTT BROWN IN ACTION!!!!!!!If only I could fathom how to shift photos from my mobile to my pc I’d spoil you all with a frankly triffic picture of Redknapp asleep in his aisle seat. The fact that my mate has decided to endanger the lives of all on board the plane, by keeping his mobile turned on during the flight, seems a price worth paying for such earth-shattering news. You lucky things.Scott Brown. Not many people seem to know an awful lot about the chap. Descriptions currently being ascribed to him include “hard-working”, “dirty” and “a Scottish Zokora”. Good grief.
My avidly Celtic-supporting mate – the one endangering all on the plane – has previously described him as a “terrier” in the Roy Keane mould, albeit one who “needs to develop”. This suggests that he is possibly being eyed up as an understudy to sergeant Wilson, or maybe as an occasional partner, for those roll-up-the-sleeves-and-fight occasions. However, the jury at AANP Towers will remain out for the foreseeable future. Having exhausted myself unearthing such an exclusive scoop I’ll sit back and let everyone else argue amongst themselves regarding the quality of the lad. I guess we can all cast our beady eyes over him in tonight’s game. In the mean-time, watch this space for more dynamite, jaw-dropping revelations about Spurs. AANP Towers – where the mundane is dressed in unnecessary glitz, and months-old gossip is regurgitated as “exclusive”…
Jimmy Greaves. No two ways about it, a true Tottenham legend - and AANP wants to hear your memories of the man, from both on and off the pitch. Our record goalscorer is, naturally enough, one of the players featuring in Spurs’ Cult Heroes, the forthcoming book looking at players who achieved legendary status amongst us fans for what they did at the club. Not everyone was lucky enough to have seen him in action, but if you did, or somehow came into contact with him, please do share right here.
Memories of Jurgen Klinsmann also welcome, over here.
Bassong, eh? Well first up, if you’re looking for an in-depth Strengths-Weakness-Opportunities-Threats analysis of the chap, then look elsewhere. We at AANP Towers spent most of last season watching Spurs, rather than Newcastle, which I would suggest is a fairly pardonable offence.Word on the street is that he is quite handy. He comes highly-rated apparently (don’t they all?), and a toon-supporting friend of a friend has had some pleasant things to say about him – closer to Lennon than Corluka in terms of pace; one of the few players to keep his head up until the bitter end in Geordie-land; proved himself equally capable at full-back as at centre-back; generally a ray of sunshine in a world of black-and-white grey. While there is something vaguely ominous about buying a defender from a club that has just been relegated, the consensus is that it seems a reasonable buy.
However, to repeat, my dossier on the blighter is rather bare at the moment, so I’ll turn my attention instead to a few hypotheticals. It’s academic now I suppose, but I do wonder whether we would have gone fishing for Bassong had all three of our centre-backs been fit – that is, was it always ‘Arry’s masterplan to have a juicy selection of four dedicated centre-backs from which to choose this season, in the hallowed name of Squad Depth? Or alternatively, have we just spent £8 mil on an ad hoc defender to see us through the next month or two, until everyone is up and running again?
The last time we splashed out on someone to see us through an injury crisis was in January, when Defoe broke his foot and Keane was bought. Back then £10 mil or so struck me as an awful lot of money for a short-term solution, but the proof of the pudding was in the eating, and in the absence of Defoe in early-2009 the pointy shouty Irishman did his job, and as such justified the outlay. (Thereafter Keane went a little weird, all midfield-running and an allergy to shooting, but by then we were safe from the drop).
Back to Bassong. If he was bought with the season-opener vs Liverpool in mind, it was a rubbish idea, as he is suspended for that and the next game. More pertinently though, might ‘Arry even be viewing him as Ledley’s long-term replacement? Possibly too early to speculate about that.
In the shorter-term, I wonder what the pecking order will be when King, Woodgate and Dawson are all fit. Admittedly, “when King, Woodgate and Dawson are all fit” is possibly an assumption too far, but assuming they are all patched up and good to go at some point, I would guess that Bassong will be first reserve, ahead of Dawson. It’s hard not to like Daws, and after a dodgy 2007-08 he was largely back on form last season, but there are still flaws in his game. For all his willingness he does tend to act first and think later, prone to rushing out of position in gung-ho manner and leaving a Dawson-shaped gap behind him. He will get his opportunities this season, but at 25 he is unlikely to take too kindly to a stop-start season mainly spent warming the bench.
Those are just some idle musings to welcome young Bassong to the White Hart Lane fold . What we have, by all accounts, is a young, pacy centre-back at a fairly reasonable price in the current market. Broadly speaking, it gets the much sought-after nod of approval from AANP Towers, as it is further indicative of a sensible summer spending policy at the Lane, something we haven’t had in years. It’s another signing that bolsters the squad, and will make us a tougher nut for opponents to crack in 09/10.
Spurs Cult Heroes
Opinions still sought on the top 20 Spurs Cult Heroes - players who achieved legendary status amongst us fans for what they did at the club. The majority pick themselves, but still some debate over the final three – Jennings? Teddy? Gilzean? White? Freund? Conn? Lineker? Burkinshaw? Have a read here, and voice your opinion.
There is a scene in 80’s thriller Black Rain in which the character played by the cracking Andy Garcia gets himself into a rather bad-tempered war of words and finger-wagging with some rather devious Japanese gangsters. In fact, the situation escalates a tad worryingly for Garcia, who soon finds himself defenceless, and faced by one of the said gangsters who is now tootling around on a motor-bike whilst wielding a great big samurai sword. As the gangster approaches him, sword a-flailing, Garcia’s angry expression turns to one of peculiarly calm resignation. Not panic, nor terror; more a philosophical acceptance of his fate. The deed is duly done, and Garcia’
s head and body part ways, but that expression he wore has rather stuck with me.It
’s the expression I now wear on learning that we have now signed Peter Crouch, for an undisclosed fee of presumably around £10 mil, give or take. Buying Peter Crouch leaves me feeling a little bit like I’m about to have my head chopped off by a gangster on a bike with a sword – it ain’t great, but there’
s nothing I can do about it. (Sign Patrick Viera and I reckon I’ll have the expression of John Hurt when the alien nipper came a-popping out of his chest – but that’s an argument for another day…)Peter Crouch is a decent player. Good touch, pretty quick feet. While he has a curiously prolific scoring record for his country, he is not really a goalscorer - nor is he being bought for that purpose. Bent scores more goals, Pav is probably a more skilful player, but Crouch is being bought to bring the best out of Defoe. He will probably do so a fair degree of success, judging by their time together at Pompey, and indeed Defoe has been notably fulsome in his praise of the freakish one.
It is also worth noting that he is presumably a striker against whom opposition defenders would not particularly relish playing, due to his sheer gangliness
– and doing what the opposition don’
t want you to do is generally regarded as a good thing. (I am reminded of the fantastic England-Argentina friendly in late-2005, a cracking contest of opposing styles, with South American technique and English bustle slugging it out toe-to-toe. 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.)Yep, Peter Crouch is a decent player – but then this is precisely the reason I wear my look of philosophical resignation. He’s a decent player, and not much more than that. Not in the Palacios/Modric class, that will push us forward a step or two. He is Premiership standard. The top four in the country did not express any interest in him – instead we fought off Sunderland and Fulham for his signature. Morevoer, as I noted last week, he’s not as good in the air as he ought to be (didn’t work his back muscles enough as a teen, apparently), and he can encourage teams to resort a little too willingly to a long-ball game.
Still, we have him now. These, on the faceless forums of the interweb, are the times to grumble, moan and generally peer at the other side of the fence where the grass is always greener. Once Crouch’s comical frame goes lolloping across the hallowed turf at the Lane, on 16th August, we’ll give him a raucous cheer and hope that ‘Arry has got it right. He has, by and large, got it right so far.
So, our first signings of the summer are announced – and rather curiously they are more full-backs. The trendily-named Kyle Naughton and Kyle Walker – 20 and 19 respectively – may sound like characters from Starship Troopers, but they are now lilywhites, plucked from Sheff Utd for anywhere between 5 and 10 mil, depending on which website you trust.In theory it’s rather a charming idea - buying up the cream of young English talent, and watching with paternal pride as they break into our first team and blossom into seasoned internationals. It’s vastly preferable to the dastardly Wenger’s any-nationality-but-English policy, or Man City’s excitement-sapping approach of buying up every striker available. I’m also rather illogically chuffed that we snatched Naughton and Walker right from the paws of Everton – suckers.
In practice however, this makes little sense. We collect full-backs like train-spotters collect – well, whatever it is train-spotters collect. Anoraks or something. Corluka, Hutton, Assou-Ekotto, Bale, Chimbonda – anyone I’ve forgotten? O’ Hara could probably do a job at left-back. Gilberto might still be at the club. With the best will in the world, I really cannot see Naughton and Walker leap-frogging all this lot to get anywhere near the first team in the next couple of years.
Actually, the Walker business might work, as he is being loaned straight back whence he came, to Sheff Utd. Smart move. He’ll get regular first-team action, in a team with which he is already au fait, and hopefully he will progress accordingly. If he does so, we can merrily pluck him back.
Naughton however, has effectively put his career on hold for a couple of years. He may have made the PFA Championship Team of the Year, but his career is almost certainly about to regress. ‘Arry has not shown any inclination to blood our youngsters, other than when he was trying to write off our Uefa Cup campaign last season. Cast your minds back to the end of last season, and a mystifying aspect of his tenure was his absolute refusal to make substitutions. Even when we were imploding towards a 5-2 defeat at Man Utd, despite having internationals on the bench, he would not make a change until the game was up in the final 5 minutes or so.
’Arry won’t introduce our kids as subs, and he most certainly won’t throw them into the starting line-up. He has shown little willingness to gamble on the likes of Taarabt and Giovanni, and I would be mightily surprised if Rose, Obika or Bostock were given decent runs in the team at any point this season. The likes of Hudd, Lennon, Carrick and even Jenas are examples of how young talent can break into the first team - if given an extended run. However, there is little to suggest that this will happen under Redknapp, particularly in Naughton’s position as full-back.
I’m not exactly renowned for the accuracy of my prognostications, but I’m willing to stick my neck on the line and predict that for Naughton’s Tottenham career we need look no further than Chris Gunter. To be honest I give Gunter credit for escaping before the staleness got to him and withered him away. After 18 months and 16 appearances he has seen enough and taken off, leaving us none the wiser as to whether he would have made the grade at Spurs. It pains me to write these words, as I still recall the quite stupendous start to his Spurs career, but I see Bale similarly either being pushed or jumping from the good ship Tottenham, due to lack of opportunity.
I very much hope to be proved wrong in time. I would like to see what this Naughton chap can do for us. More broadly, I would love to see us become a club that develops young talent. And I reiterate – in theory, the signing of these promising youngsters, and the willingness to spend big money on English talent, is a cracking idea. The nagging suspicion remains, however, that in practice we are not the sort of club (and ‘Arry not the sort of manager) to blood these kids, and that neither they as players nor we as a club will benefit. Which rather begs the question – why has Redknapp signed Naughton and Walker?