All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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Spurs Sign Young Full-Backs – But Will We Ever See Them?

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?

 

Zokora, Gunter, Dogtanian and the Scary Crouch Rumour

Ahoy-hoy. You may have noticed an eerie silence descending over AANP Towers in the last fortnight. Apologies – ‘twas initially intended as no more than a short break for an All-Action Stag Weekend (the impressive casualty list including A&E for the stag, a broken limb, a black eye, two lost phones, one lost wallet and a lost passport). It then morphed seamlessly into a full-blown two-week period of plain bone idleness on my part, at least in the world of Tottenham ruminations. All revved up now though, and with plenty about which to report, which makes a pleasant change this summer.Do-Do-Do Didier 

Plenty has already been said about Zokora’s departure on other corners of the interweb, and the consensus – that he was a headless chicken – is one with which I agree. His time in lilywhite was epitomised, for me, by his moment at the end of the 2008 Carling Cup Final – the adventurous dash forward, crowned by wild flailing shots when he sighted goal. His energetic style ought to make him a success in La Liga, where the game is typically a mite slower. A likeable enough chap, but the good folk of AANP Towers are not particularly bothered to see him go.

That is not meant to sound harsh, for Zokora was certainly committed to the Tottenham cause – which we all appreciated. It is more that the departure of players, even those for whom I feel great affinity, no longer bothers me, for such is the nature of the game. As a crestfallen whippersnapper, I desperately tried to maintain a stiff upper lip when Dogtanian waved goodbye to his parents and set off to seek his fame and fortune. The incident taught me a valuable lesson: that people in all walks of life – be they colleagues, animated Muskehounds or favoured footballers – inevitably move on, no matter how much they are cherished. Zokora was never a player I cherished particularly, and I therefore greet his departure with little more than a blasé shrug. Zokora was Premiership standard and Palacios is Champions League, so the business done in 2009 represents progress for Spurs.

Gunter to Forest 

Still, unlike Zokora, Gunter is young enough to improve. As such it would have made some sense to loan him out for another year, or at least collect a fee which reflected his potential for improvement.

This is hardly a cause that will instil in me the urge to make a placard, yell into a megaphone and upturn parked cars, but it certainly had me raising a surprised eyebrow.

Downing to Villa – Huzzah! 

Football is Back – Huzzah! 

Cheers too for the inclusion in the starting line-up vs Exeter of Danny Rose. While I accept that one Under-21 starlet does not a Busby Babes team make, we are nevertheless verging on notoriety for our reluctance to blood home-grown youth, so Rose’s presence in the first starting XI of the pre-season rather warmed the AANP cockles. He’s an exciting prospect, and I sincerely hope that one or two from Rose, Bostock, Obika, Livermore et al at least become regulars on our bench this season. Polite applause also for the disco feet shown from Livermore in setting up Defoe’s goal from Bournemouth.

Jeers, however, for the pairing of Keane and Defoe as our front-two for the Exeter game. Really? Is that the best strike pairing ‘Arry could muster of after a whole summer’s thought?

Crouch? Ye Gads No! 

(Interestingly, I last season heard either Graham Taylor or David Pleat mention on the radio that Crouch’s general uselessness in the air is due to the fact that, as an elongated teen, he rarely had to jump to win headers, and therefore never really worked his lower back, to develop a Les Ferdinand-esque leaping ability.)

AANP’s famous Who Would Buy Him? technique for gauging a player’s quality is already being implemented, with Sunderland and Fulham trying to lasso him. Champions League he ain’t, yet he is one of the few players in whom ‘Arry has gone on record to report interest this summer. I would rather persist with Pav, and have Obika on hand as our fourth striker.

Reminiscing About Former Kits – Another Quiet Week At Spurs

So it’s official. The new Tottenham kits have been unveiled, the home shirt being white with urine-like streaks of yellow across the chest. The away shirts are relatively inoffensive, but if the home kit were a player it would be David Bentley – trying too hard to look flash, when keeping it simple would do the trick.As is fairly universally acknowledged, we won’t care too much what the kit looks like if the players wearing it can deliver the goods next season. Nevertheless, in the absence of anything more interesting about which to pass opinion this week, the new home shirt is something of a disappointment, the yellow bits and pieces a rather curious and certainly unnecessary addition.

I no longer buy these kits – if anything I’ll purchase a retro number, a sure sign that I’m getting on a bit. Once upon a time however, as a whippersnapper in a classroom literally across the road from White Hart Lane, I and various peers would spend hours designing Spurs kits, presumably to the bewilderment of our teachers. Even then it was pretty obvious that every flash and streak added would make the thing look proportionally worse.If I could pick a favourite Spurs kit it would probably be from those halcyon schoolboy days – the Umbro number in which we won the ’91 Cup Final. Relatively plain, smart collar, and an entertainingly old-school baggy feel – with the solid Holsten logo providing the p

 

ièce de résistance. (Rather embarrassed to admit that at that time I also quite liked the away kit that complemented it – a yellow number with what, at the time, seemed achingly cool jagged blue diamonds on one shoulder.) In the final analysis however, it’s only a matter of opinion – feel free to have a browse here.Robbie Keane and Ray Liotta

Good grief, did I really manage to write that many words about clothes? It’s indicative of another week in which precious little has happened at the Lane. The rumour of choice over the last seven days has been the one linking Robbie Keane to Sunderland. As happens in many a classic gangster film, what ought to have been the zenith of Keane’s career appears instead to have prompted his downfall. Recall Ray Liotta and chums in Goodfellas considering the Lufthansa heist to be the big one, that would have crowned their careers and made them millionaires. Indeed, they pulled it off, but the immediate aftermath unravelled everything they had built up, and saw them all end up dead or in jail.

While Keane’s from grace has not been quite so bullet-riddled, it was also sparked by the move that ought to have been the pinnacle of his career. Having been half of one of the most potent strike partnerships in the country, he moved to a Liverpool side that were regulars in the Champs League and itching for a title challenge – and his career has gone steadily downhill since. Now he’s allegedly on the brink of a move to a club that only just avoided relegation.

Elsewhere there has been talk of Bassong in, and Hudd out, but while the lack of concrete action makes for dull reading, it actually rather pleases me. Our team only needs tweaking in order to challenge for Europe and possibly even fourth, so wholesale changes would be unwelcome. We don’t need another season of transition, in which a host of new names take time to bed in. The squad as it stands is not bad. Therefore, every day that passes without anything happening suggests that our spine will be kept, and only minimal changes will be made.

The Week’s Non-Events at Spurs

My goodness it’s an arid, barren football landscape at this time of year. Admittedly there is the Confederations Cup (what the devil is that strange buzzing noise at all the South African stadia?), and the Under-21s are doing a sterling job for Queen and country, but once again at White Hart Lane the week has been characterised by the ethereal presence of rumours rather than any concrete developments.The Fixture List – So no action, no plot, and instead the highlight of the week has been the release of the fixture-list. It’s vaguely akin to getting excited about a weather forecast, but beggars can’t be choosers, so before the TV companies had a chance to stamp their filthy lucre all over it we at AANP Towers had a perusal. Liverpool first up elicited a rather fatalistic eye-roll, and April looks a tad tricky, but the fixture-gods have been strangely benevolent in their choice of final fixtures for us, with Bolton and Burnley standing in our way should we be mounting an end-of-season charge for Europe or better.

The most striking feature of the list is probably what is not included – namely European fixtures. I was a dedicated champion of the drive towards European qualification last season, but there is without doubt a silver lining to our failure to qualify, in terms of fewer games this time round. As well as the general benefit to players of reducing the likelihood of fatigue-induced injuries, this also gives us Ledley for the best part of the season, and ought generally to be conducive to a settled starting line-up, as we were able to produce to such good effect in the final months of last season.

Huntelaar, Robben, Heinze – Still nothing concrete in terms of transfers, but it is little secret that Daniel Levy was heading a delegation in Spain during the week, with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is reportedly topping the list. Following the debacle that was Ramon Vega, we at AANP Towers are aware that a cracking name counts for nothing in the Premiership, but his parents still deserve a pat on the back for naming their son “Klaas”. Although I’m a little too apathetic to offer serious comment until this is upgraded from rumour to fact, I would be happy to see Huntelaar brought in before the season starts, rather than, say, Cisse.

Arjen Robben is another name on the list. I recall with bemusement the hullabaloo that surrounded his first few games in a Chelski shirt, when he was lauded by some as the best player on the planet, a commendation which probably said more about the introspective nature of the Premiership and its commentators than the player himself. There is undoubtedly good trickery in his feet, but admiration for his talent is largely negated by my disdain for his histrionics. Admittedly just about every top-flight player has a dive and a roll around the floor these days, but Robben really is one of the most odious offenders.

Gabriel Heinze was the other name supposedly on the list. A top-notch left-back in his pomp at Man Utd, frankly I’m not sure if he’s still got it now in his early-thirties. Nothing wrong with a little competition in the squad I suppose, but I’ll be mightily disgruntled if his appearance at the club prompts Gareth Bale’s departure.

Ashley Young for David Bently plus Jenas/Hudd/cash – As left-wingers go, on a scale of one to ten (or Downing to Joe Cole) I guess Young would get a seven. Very good player, with the pace, trickery and youth to do on the left what Aaron Lennon does on the right, but after a blistering start to last season he rather tailed off towards the end, in common with his Villa team-mates. Still, we need a left-winger (assuming Modric goes central), and frankly if this puts to bed the Downing rumours I’ll stump up some cash for it myself.

Roman Pavluchenko Pav – or more accurately, Pav’s agent – has been making noises about a departure from the Lane. No-one would claim that he has been an unqualified success as yet, but the lad has shown glimpses of class, and I’d be pretty peeved if he were sold off after just one season, particularly if the likes of Cisse or Jones are brought in to replace him. Not reading too much into it at the moment, as it’s probably just his agent whipping up some mischief to pass the time. The devil making work for idle hands and all that.

And that’s all for this week really (which is actually a mild relief at AANP Towers, given that the real world is proving so darned busy – those estate agents can be a smarmy breed…). With the best part of two months to go until the season starts, it seems that the new kit launch will follow the fixture-list publication as the next non-event of the summer. I can barely wait.

The Week’s Tottenham Transfer Murmurings

Ruud van Nistelrooy – While I’ve always been keen to hurl down some funky shapes on the boogie floors of London’s finer night-spots on a booze-fuelled Saturday night, I’ve been honest enough to admit that I’m not a natural on the dance-floor. No, really. But by golly if I were, I would have danced an impromptu jig of delight at the news that we’re sniffing at Ruud van Nistelrooy. And I would have added a most inappropriate Michael Jackson-esque whoop at the news that this thoroughbred could be acquired for the thrifty sum of £1.25 million.£1.25 milion! No footballer can be bought for that amount these days. It’s like the football equivalent of 10p. Once upon a time 10p would at least buy a packet of chewing-gum, and £1.25 million would pick up a young but decidedly average English centre-back. Now, however, both sums are worthless in isolation and Anton Ferdinand costs £8 million. We could probably fund the RvN purchase by selling Gilberto. (Although RvN’s wages would presumably be astronomical.)

After the lamentable, waking nightmares that have been the Cisse and Kenwyne Jones rumours, the van Nistelrooy whispers are sounds as sweet as a Julie London solo. It may only be a short-term solution, but that’s fine with me – long-term contracts mean precious little these days anyway, and besides, who amongst us mere mortals can predict who will still be at the Lane 12 months hence? No, short-term is fine. We certainly need a physical presence to coax the best out of Keane/Defoe, and someone who is a proven goalscorer at Premiership level is all the better. I would quite happily see RvN, Keane, Defoe and young Obika as our four of choice in attack next season.

Sulley Muntari – Inter have rejected an ‘Arry bid for him, so sayeth his agent. Should this be true, the custodians of AANP Towers would nod in approval at ‘Arry’s wise judgement, but Jermaine Jenas may well furrow his brow, while T. Huddlestone Esquire would probably choke on his burger and chips, and nuggets, and sausages and beans, and onion rings, and dessert, in disgust. ‘Arry has said he’s targeting probably three key players this summer, and if one is a central midfielder it spells curtains for the likes of JJ and the Hudd.

Incidentally, there was also an extremely enthusiastic response chez AANP to the rumours of Mikael Arteta being snooped after; but alas, this is probably my fabled naivety coming to the fore once more – for, as has been pointed out elsewhere, such a rumour is probably the work of a dastardly agent angling for his client to get a pay-rise. There’s little chance of Everton selling the blighter. Would love to see him alongside Palacios though, would be like an improved version of JJ.

Didier Zokora – The futures of Jenas and Hudd may be uncertain, but that of do-do-do Didier appears to be gaining clarity, with the phrases “Sevilla” and “£5 million” being bandied around with care-free liberality. This seems mutually beneficial. He’s done a decent job for us, but with Palacios doing the business there is little scope for Zokora at the Lane, and he’s thinking about his international career, with the World Cup less than a year away (less than a year – huzzah!). It’s a decent sum for us to pick up too. (Apologies, I ought to have sprinkled in there somewhere the phrase “loyal servant”. Most remiss of me.)

David Bentley – Elsewhere, the brain-hurting sum being used to take Little Miss Ronaldo to Madrid has livened up what has, in truth, been a rather moribund football week, and given everyone a chance to demonstrate their knowledge – or lack thereof – of European footballers, by trying to name possible Man Utd targets to replace the little princess. I won’t bother explosing my own ignorance, but it did occur to me that, had this happened last summer, one David Bentley might well have been a name on a few lips. It’s a long time in football, is a year.

Sayonara Suckers – Who’s Leaving Spurs This Summer?

Like the Ferrerro Rocher Ambassador, we at AANP Towers are rather spoiling you today. Not only are we providing a hastily cobbled-together list of potential Lane departees, but we’re also implementing the flawless, scientifically-proven Who-Would-Buy-Them guide to the standard of team they would attract, thereby ascertaining whether they’re worth keeping.The Hudd
Primarily on this list because he’s yapped a few times about needing regular first-team football. Opinion may be split about quite how good he is, but I don’t think anyone in lilywhite would want to see him leave. Problem is, he needs more strings to his bow in order to command that regular starting-berth. He needs to boss games against the Premiership’s bigger teams. A bit of energy wouldn’t go amiss either. I suspect ‘Arry will stick with Jenas or bring in a new, first-choice midfielder, and such straws would break this well-fed camel’s back. Rather a shame.
Exit Potential: 6.5
Who Would Buy Him? Fulham, West Ham.

David Bentley
Don’t pelt me with rotten tomatoes, but I rather like the lad. He’s obviously got oodles of talent beneath all that hair gel, but from day one it just hasn’t worked. A regular (ie 10 consecutive games) on the right-wing may well have seen him crack it, but instead he’s had to sit on the bench and mutter curses to his reflection in his pocket mirror, as Aaron Lennon has gone from strength to strength on the right. Whenever he has had the chance he’s tried far too hard, the Pele impressions rather unnecessary when he just needed to keep it simple. We’ll rue his absence if Lennon gets injured next season, especially if we do bring in the sort of big centre-froward who would thrive upon Bentley’s crossing ability. However, ‘Arry himself has said

‘David is obviously going to think, “hang on, I’m not in the team even when Aaron Lennon’s not fit, and maybe it’s time I moved on”. Which rather spells things out.
Exit Potential: 9.5
Who Would Buy Him? Villa, Man City, EvertonDarren Bent
Poor sod. 17 goals in 42 appearances – precious few of which were 90 minutes in length – is a healthy record, yet we’ll probably remember him more for that miss against Pompey, and Mrs Redknapp comparisons it drew. He’s really not a bad striker, but neither is he the perfect foil for either Keane or Defoe, so it appears that another forward is on the shopping list this summer. Worth sticking a tenner on him to score against us next season.
Exit Potential: 8.5
Who Would Buy Him: Sunderland, Blackburn

Roman Pavluychenko
We’d all like to see him start at the Lane next season, refreshed and with a command of the vernacular that rivals Stephen Fry’s, but the straight-down-the-tunnel hissy-fit that accompanied his substitution vs Man City, at the tail-end of last season, left ‘Arry decidedly unimpressed. Whether or not he would be first-choice remains to be seen, but every now and then there have been flashes of class (Burnely at home, for example), and offloading him so soon would be a bizarrely impatient move.
Exit Potential: 6
Who Would Buy Him? Ooh, shiny foreign teams in the Champions League, that’s who.

Didier Zokora
The defensive midfielder’s position is now very firmly moulded into the barrel-chested shape of Wilson Palacios, and the Scott Brown rumours suggest that ‘Arry is looking elsewhere for an understudy. Do-do-do Didier is unlikely to want to stick around as fourth-choice right-back either, so it appears that the elusive goal will, like the contents of the briefcase in Pulp Fiction, remain tantalisingly unseen.
Exit Potential: 7
Who Would Buy Him? Monaco, Nancy. Or Wigan.

Jamie O’ Hara
Full-blooded, bulldog-spirit, never-say-die, heart-on-his-sleeve and other such tedious clichés are all well and good, but the scales tip rather heavily towards graft over natural skill with young Three-Touch O’ Hara. Not that I’d like to see the back of him – far from it. His energy, bite and left-footedness are valuable commodities in the Tottenham midfield, and his introduction vs Burnely in the Carling Cup, and goal vs West Ham, were indications of what he brings to the team. However, he is on this list because the Lennon-Palacios- Modric-A.N.Other midfield will leave little scope for regular starts, and this young man’s feet may soon start to itch.
Exit Potential: 5
Who Would Buy Him? Sunderland, Wolves

Giovani dos Santos
Would love to have seen him given a chance – Giovani left, and Modders in the centre would have been interesting – but ‘Arry doesn’t seen to fancy him, and he was apparently one fax away from joining Pompey in the January transfer window. Having all drooled over the Barca way in midweek, it seems a shame to let a Nou Camp alumnus wander merrily out the exit door, but such is the Tottenham way.
Exit Potential: 9
Who Would Buy Him? Villarreal, Deportivo. Or Ipswich.

 

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Joe Cole – An Unlikely Tribute

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spurs’ Transfer Window Doings Get The Thumbs Up

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

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

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

Jermain Defoe: Might not be the complete all-round striker, but by golly he can shoot – on target and with venom in his ickle size sixes. We need goals, he scores goals, value for money, QED. (see http://www.allactionnoplot.com/?p=196)

Robbie Keane: Controversial. In purely footballing terms he’s a good buy – but it’s so much more than a purely footballing buy with Keane (see http://www.allactionnoplot.com/?p=307).

Players out:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missed Targets 

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

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

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

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

The AANP Verdict 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cudicini Arrives, and The Reunion Continues With Chimbonda

This bewildering January transfer window looks set to become even more discombobulating, with the news that stroppy Pascal Chimbonda is on his way back to the Lane, gloves, leggings and all, just six months or so since being packaged off to Sunderland by Wendy Ramos et al. While opinion might be split on the wisdom of this move, there can’t be many Spurs fans who aren’t pleased to hear that we’ve also snapped up Chelski reserve ‘keeper Carlo Cudicini on a free.Although I’m generally reluctant to pass judgement on the character of a man I’ve never met, Chimbonda certainly came across as less than thoroughly likeable. The odd story of his mercenary antics was followed by a rather public and self-centred tantrum on being substituted during last year’s Carling Cup Final. Lucky then, that the point of football is not to make friends and invite neighbours around for tea, but is actually geared towards winning matches (although this may be news to some of our midfield). Whatever his personality traits, Chimbonda is a pretty handy defender. Not long ago he was being courted by  Chelski as one of the best right-backs in the country, as well as which he’s a versatile so-and-so, which could prove handy what with Ledley’s legs falling apart, Hutton out for the season and Corluka ineligible in Europe. The reported figure is likely to be around £3mil, and I can certainly remember times when we’ve paid more players of lesser quality.

The return of Chimbonda, hot on the heels of Defoe, has me wondering who else might renewing old acquaintances at N17. Robbie Keane was left out of the Liverpool squad on Sunday, and with admirable maturity responded by staying at home altogether. It’s not inconceivable that he could cast a nostalgic glance back down south, remembering the victory jig against l’Arse, the walk up the Wembley steps to lift the Carling Cup, and his legendary encounter with yours truly on Bill Nich Way, when he posed for a picture. Such memories were the stuff of dreams, and it would be only natural if he were to yearn for a return to such former glories. Indeedy, I’ve heard that ‘Arry has over the last 24 hours spoken of his admiration for Keane and how much he’d love him at the Lane etc etc, but then ‘Arry seems to say that about must Premiership players with a pulse. Of the other possible candidates for a reunion of Martin Jol’s (blessed be his name) class of 2005 – 07, I’d personally love to see Steed back at the Lane, but I suspect Sunderland boss Ricky Sbragia’s head would literally pop if we tried to sign any more of his squad.

The news of Cudicini’s arrival – on a free transfer moreover – has been greeted with vigorous nods of approval and murmurs of commendation at All-Action-No-Plot towers. Until Cech parked up in England, Cudicini was regarded as one of the best ‘keepers in the league. Gomes has become one of our best players since the weekly calamities of the start of the season, but there can be little argument that we needed cover in the department, and Cudicini goes beyond that by offering genuine competition. I also prefer that our reserve goalkeeper (if indeed Cudicini is to be the reserve) is an experienced head, rather than Alnwick, or, as has very occasionally been mentioned in months gone by, Joe Hart. With Shay Given being touted at upwards of £5 mil, Cudicini is a smart signing in just about every sense.

They may not be spring chickens, but both Chimbonda and Cudicini are proven quality in the Premiership, and in these days of inflated price tags, both have come pleasingly cheap. After the early January talk of Stewart Downing, the purchases of Cudicini and possibly Palacios, along with Defoe and Chimbonda, represent pretty decent business, on paper at least. Would you believe it, I’m actually feeling quite upbeat.

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