Yes it’s a tad late, but quite appropriate for Spurs’ transfer window, n’est ce pas?
I’m not normally one for piping up about the comings and goings. Largely because one just ends up speculating, and then looking rather an oaf when the chappie one praised to the heavens turns out not to know his right foot from his left when he eventually trots out onto the field. Better to lay low, I’ve found, and let the various cast members pickle their own insides. Much easier to cast judgement on a fellow with the benefit of hindsight after all, what?
This time, however, I do feel moved to act. Not to such extremes as penning a violently-worded letter to The Times, you understand – there is, after all, a time and a place. But dash it all, packaging off Bryan Gil? Forsooth! Erasing from existence Matt Doherty because of a last-minute administrative error? What the devil?
Not to distract from the fact that we’ve ended up making a couple of natty moves, but one does sometimes look at our lot and find there’s no other thing to do but scratch the loaf and goggle a bit.
1. Pedro Porro
First the spiffing stuff. He may sound like the headline act of a nursery rhyme, but young Pedro Porro ought to be precisely the cog this particular machine has been yelling for. No need to insult anyone’s intelligence by banging on about how Conte-ball absolutely positively must, as a matter of the utmost urgency, deploy fizz-popping wing-backs in order to work. The problem has been staring us all in the face for months now, but finally the great purse-string holder in the sky has flung a bit of money at the problem.
Not that a thick old wad of notes is any sort of guarantee to solve this sort of frightful mess. After all, upon flogging Kyle Walker we threw half of the winnings on Serge Aurier of all people.
But in this instance, I’m willing to go out on a cautious limb and suggest that we haven’t necessarily bought ourselves a complete dud. (Which is pretty high praise around these parts.) Two Champions League games doth not a comprehensive dossier of a chap’s abilities make, but I do remember thinking when he played against us something along the lines of “Golly, I’d rather have that bounder than Emerson plugging away on the right”.
Admittedly the chap may not know the first dashed thing about defending for all I know, but on the front foot he seemed rather handy, and goodness knows our lot our screaming out for that sort of muck from a wing-back. Indeed, the notion of Messrs Romero, Bentancur, Kulusevski and – if he lives up to the billing – P.P. all ganging up together to cause a spot of mischief on the right, makes the AANP heart sing a bit.
Porro (Pedro? Some ludicrous nickname?) appears blessed with a burst of pace and a rather fruity right foot, which ought to help. On top of which he gives the air of one of those old boys who was rather miffed to be cast as a Defender when the jerseys were being handed out back at school, and has spent every day since pointedly charging forward into the final third in an ongoing act of pique.
There is, naturally, a Bissouma-shaped disclaimer here. For no matter how competent a laddie looks when coming up against us in days gone by, there’s a fair old chance that on arriving in N17 and donning the lilywhite he will immediately morph into an incompetent charlatan who is not entirely sure what shape the ball ought to be.
But nevertheless. We needed a right wing-back who a) is well acquainted with the do’s and don’ts of the wing-back trade, and b) Our Glorious Leader could actually tolerate. We now have the aforementioned. Time to get down to brass tacks.
I feel something of a fraud here, as there’s not much I can add about Danjuma that I didn’t rabbit on about at the weekend, following his Preston jolly. In short, never having set eyes upon him before, I was happy enough to witness him roll up his sleeves and muck in. No shirking from this one. He waded into the thick of things from the off, seemed nimble of foot and bludgeoned himself a goal by virtue of insisting that he ought to have one rather than any particular finesse.
Positionally, he appears to be rubbing shoulders with Sonny and Richarlison in the little tub of bodies marked “Kane’s Backup”, and apparently can also wander off to the left if the need arises.
With Conte evidently deeming young Gil the sort of egg whose exit from the premises couldn’t come soon enough (more on that anon) we seemed to need an extra pair of attacking legs, and in sharp contradistinction to the unfortunate young Gil, Danjuma seems to come with a few additional slabs of meat and muscle plastered about his frame.
I’ll be honest, the whole thing has more than a whiff of the Bergwijn about it, but that, I suppose, is no bad thing.
3. Bryan Gil
At this point, however, things take a turn for the rummy.
A couple of potentially handy signings (or, more specifically, one potentially crucial signing and one potentially handy one) is all well and good, but for Conte to haul up Gil by the ear and kick him out of the country seemed a bit thick. I liked Gil. Gil made the pulse quicken. In a team that too often lapsed into endless sideways and backwards passing, Gil seemed forever gripped with the notion of simply tearing around the place and seeing what good works came of it.
Still, for all his fine efforts and endless energy, Gil did rather lack in the physique department. Conte, slippery eel that he is, had given the impression post-World Cup that he was actually coming round to the young pill – consecutive starts and whatnot – but it was all a spot of dastardly misdirection. All along Conte had him down as no more than skin, bone and hair, so off he bobs.
Mercifully it is but a temporary arrangement, and with a bit of luck the young specimen will return in the summer beefed as well as bronzed. But the element that really grates is that he is returning to his former digs, at Sevilla.
No concerns there, one might think – until recalling that in order to obtain the chap in the first place, we gave the very same Sevilla one serviceable Erik Lamela plus somewhere in the region of £25 million. And now, as a result of this latest spot of jiggery-pokery, Sevilla find themselves in possession of Lamela, approximately £25 million – and Bryan Gil, dash it! I mean really, what the hell sort of deal is that?
4. Matt Doherty
If the mechanics of the Bryan Gil deal seem to be slathered on a bit thick, it’s a mere bagatelle compared to the absurdities seeping from every orifice of the Matt Doherty fiasco.
On the face of it, the release of one of multiple right wing-backs, in order to facilitate the serene entry of a new, more advanced model, seems about as neat and tidy as they come. Firm handshakes all round would seem to be the order of the day.
Peel back the layers however – and one really doesn’t have to peel back too many, the top layer here will suffice – and a spot of mind-boggling incompetence takes shape. The rub of the thing is that the original plan was to slap a sign saying ‘Loan’ on Doherty’s forehead and bundle him onto a plane bound for Madrid, where he would stay until the summer, by which point a state of perfect equanimity and sense would have engulfed the running of THFC.
This being Spurs, however, such a straightforward course of action was never going to land. It turns out that, loosely speaking, these days clubs are not allowed to loan out more than 8 players at a time. A new one on me, I admit, but then I’m not a major European football club, for whom the loaning of players is part of the routine. For any such club, this ought not really to have been an issue as long as they were able to grasp the basics. Our lot, however, seemed to sally along blissfully unaware that such a rule existed; or perhaps fully aware, but not staffed by anyone capable of counting above 8.
Either way, the upshot was that with literally an hour or two until the deadline passed we found ourselves in possession of one excess Doherty, and at a bit of a loss as to how to shift him. At this stage I would have thought that, having only last season spent £15 million to bring the fellow in, simply cutting the cord and letting him drift off elsewhere would pretty much be the nuclear option. I mean to say, the chances of us recovering a full £15 million for him might have been thin, but the chances of us recovering something for him seemed middling-to-fair.
Incredibly however, the grands fromages of the club – presumably the same mob who are down in folklore for haggling into the wee small hours of deadline days gone by for a pittance here and a desultory payment there – just casually wiped off this £15 million asset in its entirety, tearing up Dhoerty’s contract, one imagines with a gay old smile and cheeky wink, and elbowing Doherty out of the club’s existence without much more than a muffled “Adio– ah, Pedro!”
My mind, which until then had been boggling away like nobody’s business at the combination of incompetence and absurdity, at this point gave up and simply melted away. It was simply too much to wrap the bean around. Irrespective of Doherty’s virtues or otherwise as a player and employee, I simply couldn’t fathom how a professional establishment could be that unaware of a key regulation; leave until literally the eleventh hour that for which they’d had a month to prepare; and then write off a multi-million pound asset with little more than a shrug.
As for the footballing side of all this, it certainly crept up from behind and shouted ‘Boo!’, but with the dust – and, more pertinently Pedro Porro – settling I’d qualify this as one I can stomach comfortably enough.
Poor old Doherty never really got to grips with things, for which he only takes a small portion of the blame in truth. There was a point, towards the end of last season, where he seemed to find his straps, and went on a run of half a dozen or so consecutive games at right wing-back, during which he did a decent impression of a chap who knew what he was about. Cutting in towards the area, popping up at the far post as an auxiliary attacker – that sort of good, honest muck.
Alas, that was all ended by the footballing equivalent of being attacked by a maniac with an axe, against Villa I think, and thereafter the chap never really managed more than an hour here or a ten-minute stretch-of-the-legs there, before being written out of the script in most peculiar fashion. Curious stuff, if no great loss.
5. Djed Spence
The other major outgoing was the no doubt pretty bewildered Djed Spence, a young flower to whom Our Glorious Leader seemed to take an instant dislike, and then made it his mission to ensure everyone knew it too.
A little green behind the ears he may presumably have been (I say ‘presumably’ because the lad never got to play long enough for anyone to find out), but given that Conte worshipped at the altar of attacking wing-backs it seemed pretty dashed rummy that he should have had quite such an aversion to the chap.
As far as anyone could make out, Spence was one of those coves who thinks that if he’s on a football pitch he might as well be attacking the opposition’s goal, and in each of his little cameo appearances he pretty clearly lived by that mantra. In the absence of anyone else doing much better at RWB, his repeated omission certainly made one remove the hat and give the hair a contemplative ruffle, but there we are. At least until the summer, young Master Spence is no longer of this establishment.
(As an aside, I admire his beans in opting for Rennes, rather than some more glamorous locale. The young bounder wants minutes; and, one imagines, at Rennes, minutes he shall have.)
6. Deals Not Done
While I suspect a few of us could debate long into the night the wisdom of ditching Doherty and Spence while retaining Emerson ruddy Royale, by and large this seemed a transfer window in which the stated aims were more or less met, and as such it’s one of those Satisfactory Enough type of gigs.
That said, however, AANP is the sort of chap who, on being gifted a dozen gleaming sports cars, would pause and question why it wasn’t a dozen and one. And as such, I’ll happily pop a hand on each hip and bleat about the wisdom of ending the transfer window without reinforcements in key areas. Viz, a goalkeeper, a centre-back, a creative midfield sort and another centre-back.
I know the official party line, of course. We all do. There was no way Monsieur Lloris was going to suffer some Doherty-esque ignominy and be cast aside mid-season with nary a mention on the club website. Severely in need of a goalkeeping upgrade we might be, but it is not happening any time before the clocks go forward.
Similarly at centre-back, Eric Dier will get to make as many more bizarrely off-kilter attempted clearances as he likes, because Conte seems taken by him, and that is sufficient. The Davies-Lenglet hokey-cokey will continue likewise. Come the summer, one would expect some serious signings in these areas to be discussed (before those targets head elsewhere and we settle for second-best); but for now, we’re stuck with what we’ve got.
Such is life. In truth I’m grateful that some new blood was brough in at all, particularly at right wing-back. And with Conte’s future still up in the air it may be just as well not to bring in too many of his acolytes. A dashed peculiar transfer window, then, but all told, one that was not too shabby. On we bobble.