All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
"AANP - nobody knows what it means, but it's provocative."

QPR 0 – 0 Spurs: The Disappearance of First-Time Passing & Off-The-Ball Movement

We probably ought to pour ourselves a stiff drink and get used to this. Those of us who like a dash of rip-snort with our morning Weetabix and Brahms took to banging our heads against the nearest wall yesterday, as not for the first time this season there were embarrassed coughs all round as our heroes raided the ideas cabinet and finding it bare. (Before all hell breaks loose on keyboards throughout the land this would probably be a good juncture at which to ring a loud bell with some gusto and hire Brian Blessed to holler “Context good folk, what?” Our brave lilywhites are pootling along at a healthy rate of knots, ripple the net just about every week and are even quietly doing a healthy trade in clean sheets these days. Top Four seems likelier than not, and in the grand scheme of things, AVB and chums are fulfilling their side of their bargain.)

However… the one-touch, pulse-racing stuff of yesteryear ‘tis not, and it bothers the dickens out of me to see them labour so against these defensive opponents. Anyone who has scuttled to their White Hart Lane seat pre kick-off on matchday will have seen that just before they disappear down the tunnel to don their kits our heroes bound around like particularly exuberant lambs playing 5/6-a-side, one-touch stuff – how dashed maddening then that come the game itself they played as if their lives depended upon taking at least two touches, giving opponents time to reorganise and avoiding off-the-ball movement at all costs. Curiously enough, the only moment of first-time ingenuity I can really recall was from Scott Parker of all people, prodding a second half pass into the path of Bale in the area.

QPR understandably enough stuck just about everyone in the west London area behind the ball and inside their area, and also took the depressingly effective step of dropping their full-backs so deep that neither Bale nor Lennon had a bally inch of space into which to run down the flanks. Alas, faced with a hoopy wall as far as the eye could see, our heroes simply did not have the zip or ingenuity to carve out an opening. Oh for a cunning diagonal ten-yard pass in the final third (dare I mention VDV?) or a mischievous scally with dribble-dust in his boots (dare I mention even Taaraabt, or someone of his ilk, to be hauled from the bench for bothersome afternoons such as these?)

And breathe… There ends the rant.

(Actually that’s a lie, for one further target of AANP ire is presumably boarding a plane for the African Cup of Nations. He may not have been overwhelmed by quality service, but Adebayor did not have the air of a man dashing hither and thither as if the need to score for his employers bordered upon obsession.)

The good fight for fourth is being fought pretty well, but the lack of off-the-ball movement and first-time passing will remain a bête noire in this corner of the interweb for many an inebriated evening. Still, AVB presumably does not just wile away his hours mixing cigarettes and alcohol in the wee small hours in order to makes his voice disappear beneath the realms of human detection, but does actually give some thought to such things. It will probably look a jolly sight more attractive next week against United, such are the quirks of the game.

Gentle Musings on Spurs’ Summer

What ho, and how wonderful to reconvene in such happy circumstances, for glory be, the new season will up and runneth soon enough. Huzzah! Surging left-wing runs, infuriatingly aimless headers, goalkeeping howlers, near-suicidal-but-ultimately-ok left-backery, oodles of Sky Sports stats, European adventures on Channel 5 and, of course, madcap, all-action seven-goal thrillers and the like. Again I screech from the rooftops, glory be. Emerge ye, pale and emaciated from the interminable summer months minus football, and bask in the warm glow of lilywhite once more.In common with on-pitch exploits, things in this neck of the interweb rather tailed off at the end of last season – apologies – and by way of admonishment AANP now currently swims resignedly every day against a heaving tide of spam. Still, onwards and upwards. For season 11/12 our heroes look even more polished and shinier than before, like some sort of re-booted Hollywood film series.

Massive, Gob-Smacking Marquee Transfers 

Thus it transpires that despite needing a great big hulking brick outhouse of a striker capable of sticking out his rear-end, holding up the ball, elbowing aside various defensive types and thumping the little orb netwards, our transfer chiefs have instead tootled along in silence as Messrs Pav, Crouch, Defoe and even Keane return to Spurs Lodge to practise spraying the ball anywhere but the goal.

We have made one attacking signing, a whippersnapper by the name of Souleymane Coulibaly, who is reportedly fresh from scoring about 15 goals in five minutes at the U-17 World Cup. Underwhelming news for all those who have followed the careers of Tomas Peckhart, Adel Taraabt, Giovani et al.  While I have dropped down on bended knee to plead to the gods of football fate that this chap does in fact turn out to be the second coming of Drogba, I am tempted to stick a fiver on him going on loan to the Championship and popping up at Lyon in four years time, before randomly appearing for AC Milan in the Champions League. Either way, this is unlikely to be his season.

Elsewhere, ‘Arry’s commitment to signing sackloads of decent players we don’t really need has extended to the goalkeeping position. Hard not to like Brad Friedel, but I’m not sure he is the solution to anything in particular. Still, if the best way to stop Gomes flapping around is to employ a genial bald yank to wheeze down his neck then so be it.

Modric (Grrr) 

Back to the point. Difficult though it is to fathom, we would cope without him – we did a decent enough job following his early season injury vs Birmingham back in 09/10. As such, I would accept £40 mil plus Drogba, perhaps giving you all an insight into why my 9-to-5 job is a million miles removed from running a football club. However, rather than take the cash I would much prefer that Levy keeps his heels firmly dug in for the 27 days of the window, and the clean-shaven Jesus remains a lilywhite come September 1st. Just give us one more season Luka, and get us back into the Champions League…

New Kit 

Indeed, some would very persuasively argue that the launch of a football kit barely deserves comment anyway, but such has been the emptiness of these summer months. We seem to be in neither better nor worse condition than last season (aside from an injury to Sandro, which has me shaking an enraged fist at the screen on my computer box). Still time for changes in personnel, but for now the focus is presumably to get through 90 minutes against Deportivo without fresh injuries. Fingers crossed.

The Week’s Doings At Tottenham Hotspur…

It’s hardly been the most frenetic week in recent memory, but as the hour-glass gently edges us towards 2010/11, the look-outs atop the parapet of AANP Towers have assembled in the boardroom to deliver their findings on the week’s happenings.Young Boys (Snigger)

It’s the draw that had a nation of headline-writers treading mighty carefully. Whatever fates befall us over the course of the next nine months, we can weigh it up against the good fortune meted out on 6 August 2010, when the Champions League gods decreed in their wisdom that our path to the group stage depended upon conquering these relative minnows of Switzerland. The White Hart Lane dignitaries duly trotted out the usual platitudes (you know the sort of gubbins – “Any team at this level will be difficult” et cetera), while various straight-faced Spurs officials have also been at pains to point out that they beat Fenerbahce in the last round, so let that be a lesson to the lot of us.

The veracity of such points cannot be doubted, but the fact remains that this could have been a jolly sight more difficult. It is a glorious chance, and having beaten Chelski, l’Arse, Liverpool and Man City (home and away) last season, we ought to be capable of steering past this lot over two legs.

Fare Thee Well Adel Taraabt 

One or two may wistfully wonder what might have been, particularly if, say, injuries elsewhere had allowed him a run in the starting line-up à la Pav last season, but we at AANP Towers wish him well with a fairly ambivalent wave. I somehow suspect that in a couple of years time he’ll pop up in the Champions League for someone or other; however, for the time-being it’s the slightly less glamorous headlines generated by a £1 million move to QPR.

Giovani 

Eusebio Cup Champions 2010, Apparently 

‘Twas with a mixture of pleasure and relief that AANP noted young Gareth Bale galloping down the left in precisely the manner with which he ended season 2009-10; while on t’other flank Aaron Lennon was similarly lively. The brow occasionally furrowed at the ease with which Benfica every now and then scythed through our central areas, but we emerged victorious, and picked up a peculiarly shaped ornament at the end of it all, as is our pre-season wont. With Ledley putting in a 45-minute shift slightly closer to home, this week can probably be filed under the heading “Satisfactory”.

Stoke – Spurs Preview: There’s A Storm Coming

Boy: Viene la tormenta
Sarah Connor: What did he just say?
Attendant: He said there’s a storm coming.
Sarah Connor: I know.

 

She wasn’t wrong either. There’s a storm coming alright – no less than L’Arse, Chelski and Man Utd, as well as Man City away in the final week of the season. Our heroes won’t quite have to go galloping around town on the run from an indestructible shape-changing policeman with ruddy great big knives for hands, but the task awaiting them next month is still mighty daunting. Even the greatest optimists amongst us might concede that a point or two could be dropped in that run-in. (The upbeat AANP projection is that we’ll actually take seven points from those four games – but that’s a story for another day).So if there is a time to be amassing points, it is the next eight days or so: up at Stoke tomorrow, and at home to Pompey a week hence. We have taken nine points from our last nine, and could feasibly extend this to 15 from 15, which would amount to jolly handy preparation for the forthcoming tormenta. First things first however, and Stoke away will be testing– we imploded there last year (two red cards and a near-death experience for Corluka) and were frustratingly snuffed out by them at the Lane earlier in the season, when they stuck every man and his dog behind the ball, launched a few long throws and mugged us in the final few minutes. However, where there is Bale there is hope…

Defoe Crocked

Well the good news is that nobody in the treatment room will be feeling lonely. Lennon, Ledley, Bentley, Jenas, Woodgate, Cudicini and Hudd have some new company, as Defoe has pulled a muscle, while the boy Rose and Kyle Walker also amongst the walking-wounded. Crouch will presumably line up alongside Pav, while Gudjohnsen will be on high alert and we might even resort to dragging back Keane, kicking and screaming – and pointing – from his latest boyhood idols.

All a bit threadbare then, although our starting eleven still looks strong enough. However, one more sprained ankle or chipped fingernail and we will be turning to Younes Kaboul to carry the midfield through the final few crunch games of the season.

Hudd Contracted

He may not be available tomorrow, but Hudd has been in the news this week, having inked a brand spanking new deal to keep him at the club for a few more years, the lucky devil. Footballers’ contracts do not seem to be worth much these days, and if (hypothetically) Man Utd came sniffing in a year or two it seems a mite unlikely that the big man would resolutely refuse to listen to their overtures, and insist that he honour the remaining few years of his deal at the Lane. Still, even as a fully-qualified cynic I can appreciate that a new contract represents a more positive scrap of paper than a transfer request.

Other tittle-tattle suggests that that Sandro lad is on his way in, while Adel Taraabt may well have talked his way out. In a couple of months, these and other more pressing concerns will have been concluded. ‘Arry reckons another 16 points will do the trick this season. I cannot be bothered to check the veracity of this claim, but given his “Two-points-eight-games” mantra I will assume he knows his numbers. A point tomorrow would not be bad, but if we want to make the Champions League we ought to target three.

 

AANP’s first book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, is now available in the Spurs shop, all good bookshops and online (at Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play).All are most welcome to leave memories – and browse those of others – regarding the players 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. Also featured in the book are Sandy Brown and the late, great Bill Nicholson.You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

Birmingham 1-1 Spurs: The Adel Taarabt View

Apologies for the radio silence, been sunning myself in the land of Adel Taarabt and Noureddine Naybet over the last few days. Therefore, if you want a blow-by-blow analysis of this game, look elsewhere – as indeed I’m sure you have done, at some point since Saturday afternoon.Premiership goings-on are not top of the agenda in Morocco, but I did eventually ascertain the outcome of this one. Away from home, against a Birmingham team in pretty solid form of recent months, it struck me as decent enough. There have been a few too many draws in recent months, and the value of this one was certainly sullied by wins for Villa, Liverpool and Man City; but a draw at Birmingham was not bad.

A day later however I found out the timing of the goals, and the AANP brow, so untroubled during every preceding moment of my time in Morocco, immediately furrowed. A last-minute equaliser? Karma of sorts, some would suggest, following the mighty late steal against Birmingham at White Hart Lane back in August. I have lost track of the points thrown away by missed chances and last-minute mishaps now, which is a damning indictment in itself. The saving grace this season is that all our rivals seem to be dropping points with just as much gusto as we.

While there is precious little I can add, one line in an English newspaper I saw on Tuesday caught my eye, as it named one David Bentley as Man of the Match. C’est vrai? Less surprising was the news that Jermaine Jenas was introduced onto the pitch in the 89th minute, and the team promptly imploded, seeming victory instantly melting down to a draw. Just this once I’ll cut the blighter some slack, and presume that his entrance had little to do with the circumstances surrounding our concession of the equaliser. (Nevertheless, seasoned AANP followers will not be surprised to know that I find it mighty tempting to pick up the rubber stamp that reads “Scapegoat” and emblazon the word across his forehead…)

Short-Term Disappointment; But Long-Term Progress Continuing? 

 

AANP’s first book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, comes out on 16 Feb and is now available to pre-order from WHSmith,Amazon , TescoWaterstones and Play 

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 here

Spurs 0-1 Wolves: Personnel, Tactics Or A More Familiar Problem?

I’m not sure what the seven stages of grief are (or whether there are actually eight, rather than seven?) but the mood around these parts is encapsulated by nothing more than a wearied, philosophical shrug.This sort of shambles can no longer really be classified as just an isolated incident. We seem to be returning to the good old, bad old Spurs. Which is a shame, because over the first couple of months of the season I genuinely believed – fool that I am – that we might have turned a corner, and evolved into a team that routinely turned over the Premiership riff-raff and won all those “home-bankers”. Alas, not so.

Not for the first time a bunch of spoilers have turned up, defended for their lives, taken their only chance and scuttled off back up the High Road before we can even yelp “But just look at how much possession we had, dagnabbit.” When we score first (and early) in such games the floodgates tend to open, which is dandy. Generally however, that 10-man-defence-and-double-marking-of-Lennon routine is one that befuddles us. Plenty of encouragement then for other Premiership strugglers to adopt a similar mentality, and food for thought for our glorious leader, who needs to stumble upon a way to un-fuddle this problem pronto.

Despite this however, there is no particularly profound sense of morbidity at AANP Towers, just that philosophical shrug. The football we are playing is still decent, if not exactly scintillating. There was a slightly anxious resort to the long-ball once Crouch lollopped on, but generally we stuck to our principles, used the ball fairly intelligently (for this I doff my cap at Kranjcar once more) and made a handful of half-chances, against a side camping around their own penalty area. The defeat to Stoke earlier in the season, and also Man Utd a couple of months back, had me cursing far more angrily because on those occasions there seemed to be so little invention and movement. Losing at home to Wolves remains a horrendous result, but we have not become a bad team overnight.

The blow of yesterday’s defeat is also cushioned by the fact that our direct challengers generally seem to be matching us stride for stumbling stride. Villa may have overtaken us but their next faux pas is likely to be just around the corner. Man City and Liverpool both have the worrying potential to string a good half-dozen successive wins together, but neither have pulled away from us. We ought not to rely on others slipping up, but the fact is that everyone is doing it, even Chelski and Man Utd.

Disclaimer: As a fan, with no control over what happens on the pitch, I can get away with saying this. However, if any of the players adopt either of the sentiments voiced in the previous two paragraphs they ought to have limbs chopped off. Those guys ought to be busting a gut to win every time, because i ) it is within their control, and ii) they are paid to do as much.

’Arry’s Selections

As for matters on the pitch, ‘Arry sprung a bit of a surprise before kick-off. The absences of Bentley and Pav were understandable given the recent rumblings from the corridors of White Hart Lane, but while I searched high and low there was not a Jenas in sight. Interesting. Might we have benefited from the presence of his rarely-spotted alter ego – Genuinely Potent Attacking Jenas – in the second half, when Crouch was winning the occasional header but no-one was around to pick up the scraps?

Keane coming in for Crouch was an eye-catching selection. While the pointy-shouty tantrum he threw when not awarded a first-half corner was one which my two year-old nephew would have stepped back and observed in awe, that it was his most notable contribution says much.

At various points we had Defoe, Keane, Crouch, Modric, Kranjcar, Lennon, Giovani and the Hudd on the pitch, and still couldn’t score against a team that had kept only one clean-sheet all season. I am tempted to suggest that perhaps a genuine dribbler – a la Taraabt – may have helped to draw defenders and squeeze an opening (although dribbling is one of the assets Giovani supposedly brings), but the problem does not really seem to be a shortage of attack-minded personnel.

Tactically there were a couple of grumbles. We might have benefited from greater willingness from the central midfielders to get into the area for crosses, particularly when Crouch is on the pitch doing his nod-down routine. And a propos Crouch, bona fide crosses – ie from the wing, getting to the by-line – rather than long-balls from deep, might work better for the big man.

Generally however, although it’s a lazy conclusion at which to arrive, the principal problem was the same one we’ve had since the days of yore. A bloody-minded desire to accept nothing less than victory at any cost was conspicuous by its absence. Daws seems the only blighter with any leadership juices flowing through his veins. Somehow ‘Arry has to find the football equivalent of the Sword of Omens, to turn our poor lambs into a bunch of bad-ass commandoes with fire in their bellies.

 

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, or 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 forthcoming book 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, Jurgen Klinsmann here

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?

 

So long, suckers… Who might ‘Arry offload in January?

A dog is for life, not just for Christmas – but thankfully a rubbish foreign left-back can be offloaded in the January sales. Having already cast a beady, all-action-no-plot eye over the possible arrivals at N17 next month, here’s a cursory glance at those who might have pulled on the famous lilywhite for the last time…

 

Gilberto – This Brazilian international (I jest ye not) was publicly sacked by ‘Arry after the egregiously bad error vs Spartak. Seemingly the latest in a growing line of mediocre foreign full-backs jettisoned by Spurs, he’ll no doubt be picked up by a half-decent European team (a la Lee Young Pyo, Erik Edman, Timothee Atouba, Paul Stalteri…). Woudln’t be surprised to see him end up in the Champions League next season, because football’s a funny old game. 

 

Jamie O’ Hara – Controversial one this. Young “Three Touch” O’Hara’s work-rate is appreciated down the Lane, but lack of first-team opportunities have prompted grumblings of discontent. While he’d be worth retaining for his fight (we’ll need it in the coming months) and just to keep squad numbers healthy as we compete on several fronts, I personally wouldn’t shed too many tears, if we sell him. Let’s face it, Three-Touch would attract the likes of Hull, Boro and Fulham, rather than Villa or the top four, so is he really good enough for us?

 

Kevin Prince-Boateng – Hard to believe this lad won German young player of the year a couple of seasons back. Given squad number 23 by ‘Arry, which is probably more than the minutes he’s played this season. It therefore seems certain he and his intriguing Mohawk and well-illustrated arms will be on show on someone else’s sub bench by February.

 

Ricardo Rocha – Is he injured? Is he in the reserves? Is he still alive? Will be sold to the first club that remembers he still exists. Unbelievably, he’s been capped by Portugal. Ricardo Carvalho he ain’t.

 

Adel Taarabt – Will be a shame to see young Tarbuck go, his cameos were always entertaining, and occasionally effective (eg West Ham away last year). Still only about 8 years old, it might pay to send him out on loan rather than sell him off. If he could cut out the excessive step-overs and work on the end-product, he’d step up from being the skilful kid in the playground to being an effective Premiership-level impact sub.

 

Hossam Ghaly – Not sure too many people have forgiven him for throwing away his shirt, the scoundrel. I certainly haven’t. How dare he. Good riddance in advance. (And more to the point, he didn’t set the world alight when on loan at Derby last year, so he can’t be that good).

 

Darren Bent – A Bentley-esque long-shot this, but there have been whispers that he’s on his way out. It wasn’t so long ago that he was knocking them in for fun at Charlton and other hopeless teams – personally I think that with some decent service and a strike partner to help him out he’d be more than adequate at Premiership level. However, he’s English which means that Aston Villa want him. Seven million is the number being bandied around, which wouldn’t be terrible business if we could bring in Defoe.

 

 

And some less likely movers and shakers…

Dider Zokora: Wanted by Real Madrid. Honest. I know this because a message announcing it was delivered to me by a flying pig.

 

Aaron Lennon: Another Real Madrid target according to some drunk, stoned tabloid writers with too much time on their hands. A few months ago he probably would have been on his way out, but several dips of the left shoulder and bursts towards the by-line later and he’s very much part of our plans. Not going anywhere in January.

 

 

 

Jermaine Jenas: Oh that someone would take him off our hands. I’d pay other teams to take him off our hands. Bless him he tries – he’s certainly trying – but the odd decent game in a dozen isn’t enough. Had a brief spell last year when he grew his hair and became amazing; but alas, like Samson, a haircut deprived him of his wondrous power, and he became rubbish again. Bizarrely rated by successive England and Spurs managers, surely there’s someone out there willing to stump up, say, £7 million for him?

 

Heurelho Gomes – A couple of months ago we couldn’t have bundled him out of the door fast enough, but since then he’s upped his game and been one of our most consistent performers – the team’s poor recent form has been despite rather than because of Gomes. They say form is temporary and class is permanent – and it’s still a bit early to discern the category under which Gomes’ good performances fall. However, he’s doing a sterling job at the moment, let’s not make him cry again.

 

Roman Pavluychenko and David Bentley – Alright, I’m being silly now, but neither of these guys have justified the inflated fees we shelled out last summer. We won’t sell them because we’ll make nowhere near the amount we paid for them, so like it or not, we’re stuck with both. Still, unlike Jenas, both have at least previously shown flashes of genuine quality – let’s hope 2009 sees them both rediscover such form.

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