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Idle Musings on Tottenham at the World Cup

Don’t mind AANP breezing through your Sunday evening with a few musings on the lilywhite brigade busting their respective guts at the marvellous World Cup…

Paulinho, Brazil

Like Djimi Traore proudly keeping a Champions League Winner’s medal stuffed alongside the small change in his pocket, and Ian Bell possessing one hundred caps for the England cricket team, there is something that makes me shed a small tear and wonder if there but for the grace of God about the notion that, should the hosts go on and win the whole bally thing, then Paulinho will be a World Cup winner.

Perhaps precisely because Paulinho is the heartbeat of said team do they look like they need a pacemaker and possibly some bypass surgery at present. The blighter has so far looked every inch the impotent midfield passenger, which has actually been vaguely comforting for those who like to watch their World Cup without worrying that the very fabric of the universe will collapse under the weight of absurdity of seeing him suddenly become some sort of footballing genius.

One never knows I suppose. The chap may be Pele incarnate in training, and simply under managerial orders to bob around the pitch like a man tasked with chasing his own shadow once the action gets under way.

BAE, Cameroon

Controversial though it may be, I have never particularly subscribed to the school of though that Benny deserves extra sprinkles on his ice-cream for being some sort of kooky, anti-establishment hero. Call me old-fashioned but I prefer my footballers to switch off their phones and concentrate on playing football first and foremost, with the notable addendum that full-backs jolly well ought to prioritise defending, with absurd haircuts and own-area Cruyff-turns a long way down the list.

So seeing BAE let his man drift away from him, ‘track back’ a good 15 yards behind play, fail to close down attackers as they prepared to shoot and then languidly dangle a leg whilst turning away as the aforementioned shot pinged in, was all a little too much for one of my delicate constitution. Nor was I amongst the throngs howling in delight as he aimed an idiotic headbutt at a team-mate, of all dashed things. Absolutely hollow of head, that chap.

Lloris, France

Mercifully the fine qualities of sanity and solidarity were waving merrily at us from between the two French sticks, where Monsieur Lloris had gone about his business mopping up the dregs in suitably dignified fashion during the two French wins. Not that he was required to do an awful lot, but as he has managed to go 2 games without assaulting the nearest team-mate he qualifies as one of our most successful lilywhite ambassadors.

Vertonghen & Chadli, Belgium

Appallingly enough, the day-job prevented AANP from the serious business of casting a discerning eye over the assembled lilywhite hordes in the Belgium-Algeria match. However, there was something dashed predictable in flicking to online text commentary to learn that Chadli had been withdrawn from proceedings at the halfway stage, on the grounds of invisibility.

A penalty conceded by Vertonghen in the same game suggests that, at least in terms of headline-making, this was a slightly underwhelming day for the great and good of N17’s Flemish contingent, and Vertonghen was duly relegated to the bench for his sins, appearing for around half their second game and hardly covering himself in glory there either.

Bentaleb, Algeria

As mentioned, no comment on Algeria’s first game, but midway through their second and young Bentaleb seems to have been rotated 90 degrees by his national manager, a masterstroke that has him passing sideways and sometimes even forwards, as opposed to the usual backwards thing peddled ad nauseam at the Lane.

Palace – Spurs Preview: 8-Point Wishlist For Spurs This Season

What ho, and welcome to 2013/14. With our season now literally minutes away this seems as appropriate a juncture as any to push away the second helping of kippers, retire to the favoured reading chair, stuff a pipe and consider the (by no means exhaustive) AANP Towers Eight-Points Wishlist for the new season.

See Rose Bloom

Do you see what I did there? Do you get it? It’s a play on the lexical duplicity of the name… Anyway, we at AANP Towers have never been particularly enamoured of this particular chunkster, primarily because, one wonder-goal aside, he has generally resembled a Kabaddi player who has been tossed a pair of football boots and told to fit in. Previous appearances in lilywhite have seen him pound around the pitch constantly looking as if he is about to lose control of the ball, his balance and his very limbs, typically making skin-of-the-teeth interceptions by the force of accident and momentum rather than design.

Still, last year by all accounts he had a rollicking time of it at Sunderland, and while I found this dashed difficult to comprehend, it would be no bad thing if some vaguely robust competition were offered to the present incumbent, given that Benny is hardly the very paragon of defensive solidity.

Kaboul On Fire Once More

In truth he is neither poor nor old, but it nevertheless seems jolly rotten luck for the poor old blighter to have missed the entire season through no fault of his own. By a most curious quirk of nature however, the steaming behemoth of two seasons back seems to have been forgotten by just about everyone everywhere, with common discourse now marvelling at how lucky we were not to have sold Daws to QPR after all last season. Such garbled musings baffle me no end, for whole-hearted though he is Daws has failings aplenty. Kaboul is faster, stronger, has better technique and is generally the Six Million Dollar Man to Dawson’s mere mortal who got bashed up in the pilot episode. Whether instead of or alongside Daws, Kaboul should be immense this season – providing he stays fit.

Set pieces

I am not sure what diabolical dark arts are involved in this ‘Zonal Marking’ sorcery, but at AANP Towers we nervously drain our whisky tumblers and gasp for more every time the whistle blows around our area. There presumably are iterations of the Zonal Marking system that work absolutely tickety-boo, but already in pre-season there have been groans from all sides as our heroes have diligently stuck to their allocated zones, allowing cunning opponents to saunter unopposed into the gaps in-between, rending poor old Lloris (again, neither poor nor old) and his ear-piercing shriek of “Awaaaay” little-to-no chance.

There seems to be a fairly basic flaw of physics around the concept of allowing opponents a running leap, while our lot try to defend from standing starts, but while never again conceding a corner or free-kick in our own half would be one solution, a potentially simpler and more feasible approach would be to find a better way to defend these set-pieces.

Lennon’s final ball

Time, it would appear, waits for no man, and hot on the heels of the jettisoning of Hudd, the awkward realisation is beginning to dawn that neither is young Master Lennon the spring-chick he once was, and that the time for fulfilling his youthful potential has now begun to slip by. Where once he shaved go-faster lines into his eyebrows – an emblem of the carefree insouciance of youth if ever there were one – now the speedy imp is cultivating a hirsute visage, a more traditional badge of advanced years. Where once it was easy enough to assume that Lennon would eventually learn to deliver his final ball once he matured, the uncomfortable truth is that the bounder simply has not mastered that particular art, despite season after season in which that particular failing slapped him repeatedly in the face with a wet fish. Skinning the opposing full-back is manageable enough, but whether his cross makes it to the danger-zone seems to be largely a matter of chance. Get that final ball right and he will be a world-beater – as we have all been murmuring for years.

Hang on to Bale

He might have his uses, and as the laughing-stock down the road have illustrated all summer, oodles of cash is no substitute for having a chap actually kitted up and scuttling around on the greenery.

The Delivery of Defence-Splitting Passes Around the Edge of the Area

No arguing with the spine of our team, which now consists entirely of genetically-engineered monster-beasts, but here at AANP Towers a drum we’ve been banging throughout the ages has been around the merits of that most cherished of footballing gifts, the Defence-Splitting Pass Around the Edge of the Area. Often – though not necessarily – delivered via the medium of diagonality, ‘tis the sort of tool that can unlock any defence, and prove particularly useful against those infernal weaker teams who arrive at the Lane to set up camp on the edge of the area. Behind Soldado our creative trio will be formed of three from Lennon, Dembele, Sigurdsson, Holtby, Townsend or Chadli – each of whom are blessed in their own particular way, but none of whom are necessarily cut of the Mata/David Silva cloth. While the sideways-and-sideways-again approach does reflect admirable patience on the part of the players, all too often it ends with a cross from wide or reversion to the Bale gambit. The occasional, devastatingly cunning defence-splitter would most certainly not go amiss.

Tom Carroll to Establish Himself

Sackcloth and ashes are being worn, and a flag and flagpole have been hastily created in order that aforementioned flag can be flown at half-mast –all in doleful commemoration of the passing of Hudd and his dreamy brand of passing. Discreetly glossing over the subjects of his weight, immobility and speed (or lack thereof) the AANP bottom lip has positively quivered at the thought of that impeccable technique no longer being the lawful property of THFC. However, a pint-sized phoenix might yet rise from the Huddlestone flames, for in his brief cameos young Tom Carroll has done enough to suggest that he has the vision and technique when pinging a pass that elevates him above the mere mortals of the Premiership. He is highly unlikely to dislodge the man-machines of Paulinho, Sandro and Dembele, but with Cup games of various sorts coming out of the goddam walls in the coming weeks this might yet prove to be Carroll’s season-long moment.

Hit The Ground Running

The start of last season appeared to take all concerned in N17 somewhat by surprise, featuring as it did a renegade Modric and unwanted VDV, and a paltry point was gleaned from the opening three fixtures (I think) as a result, as our heroes a little too gradually awoke from their summer slumbers. Alas, that wretched start had cost us dear come mid-May, when we missed out on the Top Four by a single point. It may not be rocket-science, but a marginally more sprightly start this time round could make a world of difference later on in proceedings. Player-for-player newly-promoted Palace represents the sort of three points we need to wrap up to make the Top Four, so opportunity rather bangs on the door today for a fast start to 2013/14.

Stoke – Spurs Preview: Lessons From Last Time Out

Stoke away is traditionally the cue for an AANP diatribe against the merits or otherwise of the long-ball game, and assorted elbows, long throw-ins and whatnot. This time however there are bigger fish to fry, and by golly our heroes need to be at the ready with chef’s hats tipped just so.

The curious goings-on of Wednesday night leave some food for thought. In defence there was the tale of two full-backs, with Benny again believing his own hype, repeatedly attempting moments of trickery closer to ridiculous than sublime and consequently getting himself and the team into pickle after pickle, a performance that had AANP murmuring that he needed to be taken out the back and shot (the common means of dealing with transgressions here at AANP Towers). On t’other flank by contrast, young Master Walker looked suspiciously like a whippersnapper who had stumped scientist types the world over by growing a third lung. The lad looked unstoppable whenever he bombed forward, and if Lennon is below par again today his interventions will be jolly useful.

Glory be, Dembele is reportedly back to fitness for today’s encounter, for the Parker-Hudd combo was painfully lacking in verve. Understandably so, for they are third and fourth choice, but no less galling for that. Hudd’s passing range swung bizarrely between scrumptious and plain awful, while Parker simply no longer looks good enough for games against the country’s finest. He might fare well enough against Stoke however.

And as for attack, head-scratching all round. Bale did his best to shake off the ‘One-Man Team’ tag on behalf of his team-mates (credit to Chelski for the shackling job, but AVB might hav countered this by moving him into the centre). Meanwhile, the suspicion grew that Adebayor is a 5 year-old trapped in a set of limbs too long for his control. As with AANP’s pre-school nephews, when things went well for him his spirits rose and he became amazing; when things go less well he dons the invisibility cloak. Fingers crossed then that he scores or assists approximately every 15 minutes today, as that would probably be enough to maintain an unplayable performance level throughout (as well as providing us with six goals).

Traditionally a point away to Stoke would be acceptable enough for our heroes, but anything less than victory today would almost certainly blow things for the season. No pressure then chaps.

Lyon 1-1 Spurs: Discombobulation Rules

Discombobulating stuff. Once upon a time our heroes would have folded like an origami swan being trampled underfoot by Rambo as he ripped open the throat of a nameless foe with his bare hands. However, the days of Vega and Nethercott, under the watchful eye of Gerry Francis, appear to be long gone. Yesterday, eschewing the Limp Capitulation technique honed so professionally in years gone by, they beavered away, flinging on attacking substitutes and ending up with just about everyone piling forward to occupy every vacant spot of greenery in and around the Lyon area – and before you could say “Well dash it all, if we can’t rely on Bale to save the day we jolly well need somebody else to dip his shoulder, beat his man and thump the dickens out of the ball, leaving the opposition goalkeeper to adopt a mildly comical pose while prostrate on the ground”, we were treated to a marvellous last-minute about-turn. Huzzah!

On top of all of which – and this, the eagle-eyed (and awake) of you will note, is the discombobulating bit – this Skin-of-Our-Teeth late goal spectacular has happened before. Last week, this week, against Man Utd a couple of weeks ago – whisper it surreptitiously, but it is on the verge of becoming a habit. Make of it what you will, but this certainly is not the wretched Tottenham with which I spent many a miserable afternoon in my formative years. Heavens above, before long this new breed will be winning trophies and all sorts. Discombobulation hath made its masterpiece alright.

That said, one or two of the chaps out there adopted a pretty rummy approach to business earlier on. Young Master Walker may have included passport and foreign currency but he forgot to pack his brain cell, and a variety of ill-advised decision resulted, principally around kicking opponents rather than the ball. Out on t’other flank Benny’s zany solo routines veered swiftly from entertaining to mighty irritating as we chased the game, while there was also rather a mixed bag from Friedel, and although the bawdy howls of exasperation hurled in his direction are a mite unfair, the presence of Lloris stage-right does rather highlight the elder statesman’s failings. I would certainly feel a lot more confident fastening the cuff-links when Inter come to town if I knew Monsieur Lloris were limbering up between the sticks.

till, the second half in particular was a hearty effort, particularly as breaking down a ten-man defence has never exactly been a forte around N17. On top of which, qualifying through a last-minute goal may take a few years of our totals on this mortal sphere, but it is still a mighty satisfying way to finish a game and usher in the following day’s hangover.

Spurs – Newcastle Preview: The Latest Big Selection Dilemma

It’s that time of the week once more – AVB’s latest Big Selection Dilemma is upon us. The gravel-voiced one has shown with Lloris and Benny that he is something of a tease when it comes to awarding regular starting berths, but Holtby-time presumably now beckons. It may have only been two substitute appearances against middling opposition, but the lad has already proved himself as good as Pele, Mandela and that Matrix chap combined, so one hopes he manages to oust Dempsey from the starting XI.

The only certainty is that Defoe is out, so AVB will be donning a blindfold and sticking pins upon one or two from Holtby, Adebayor, Dempsey and possibly even Bale. A similar approach will presumably be used at the back, but marvellous news reaches these parts that Monsieur Kaboul is about to resume training.

As for the opposition, a fiendishly deceiving basket of wriggly elks if ever I beheld one. Be not fooled, ye lilywhites, by Newcastle’s laughably low rung on the ladder, this lot just trumped the European Champions no less. A whiff of garlic and fromage now emanates from the black and white corner, and Newcastle’s newly-acquired French clan appear to know their way around a pitch, so a challenge et un demi is to be expected. Still, our lot tend always to snatch at least a point these days, and on home turf, against a team not resolutely set on defending for their lives, we ought to have enough about us for all three.

West Brom 0-1 Spurs: Man-Love For Holtby

Has the good ship Hotspur ever enjoyed such a serene voyage? From the moment that angry lad spat and walked this eased into an absolute stroll – one-way traffic throughout the second half, and even though the lead was but one goal there was none of the usual frenzied panic that accompanies the final five minutes. Most odd. Topping, but odd.

He Plays On The Left…

AANP will graciously leave the superlatives to others for now, but chin-stroking a-plenty in these parts after seeing the impact of our handsome young Welshman over the last week, when unleashed and allowed to gallop wherever he jolly well pleased. I suspect there is nary a lilywhite in the land who has not at some point grumbled that Bale plays on the left and on the left he should stay – but by golly when the urge grabs him he certainly knows how to leave a trail of destruction down the centre, what?

The young blighter is capable of spontaneously laying match-winning eggs from any position, but 90-minute match-bossing is a dish best served from the centre, and frankly just about anything at which it was worth tipping one’s cap on Sunday emanated from Bale’s careering frame. On top of which, this whole can of worms rather gets inverted and painted an odd shade of green when one considers our general paucity of strikers. The mind boggles.

A New Man-Crush

But never mind Bale – old news, and the lad will be off in a year or two. The future is Herr Holtby. Those boy-band looks are actually quite irritating to one growing old as grumpily as AANP, but the work-rate of Parker, coupled with the delightful attacking awareness and defence-bisecting first-time passes of some sort of VDV-Sheringham hybrid, most certainly strike the right note. With Dempsey putting every ounce of effort into assuming the Jenas position of Most Infuriating Lilywhite On The Payroll, the arrival of Holtby goes a long way to putting the ‘ahoy-hoy’ in ‘geronimo’, if you know what I mean. A Bale-Holtby-Lennon triumvirate merrily interchanging the night away behind Defoe/Adebayor suddenly turns the evening drink from one of fretful concern to blithe inebriation. And huzzah to that.

Elsewhere On The Pitch

Other points of note were distracting rather than particularly important. The first half West Brom aerial bombardment may have contained about as much subtlety as a spade to the back of the head, but it still had me yearning for Kaboul (and also prompted a bit of wondering around these parts as to what the future might hold for the overly-vowelled Lukaku).

Back in that era when our back-four were still being posed problems – an era referred to in the annals as ‘The First Half’ – there was a suspicion that Messrs Walker and Assou-Ekotto had but one brain cell between them, and were not using it particularly wisely, as they repeatedly made a mess of the offside trap and short passes and basic goal-side marking. No real harm done however.

Naturally enough, the Defoe injury was greeted by the sound of about a million exasperated Spurs fans slapping palms to foreheads and muttering in no particular order the phrases “Transfer window… strikers… injuries… Levy… Bother”. Mercifully, the all-singing, all-dancing virtuoso display from Bale, coupled with the charming start offered by Holtby and Togo’s ANC elimination, suggests that this may be a bullet dodged. All a tad precarious though.

However, all things considered (two away games, striker shortage, Sandro injury) this could reasonably go down as the footballing equivalent of a chap jauntily going about his business, with his lips emitting a cheery whistle no less. Toodle-pip for now.

Leeds – Spurs Preview: Look After Lennon

Naturally enough, murmurs will be murmured and chins stroked about the various merits or otherwise of our heroes going hell for leather at the FA Cup. The opinion that matters most is that of our shrill-voiced leader AVB, and in a far-from-straightforward gambol such as this, team selection will say much of his priorities.

The drum being banged at AANP Towers this weekend is to forget about the children and instead please think of Aaron Lennon. While the handsome young Welshman remains tormentor-in-chief, Lennon has added Sagacity in Decision-Making to the already well-established qualities of Feet Moving At A Blur, Left-Back Left Gasping and Jazz Hands Whirring. However, while Bale is quite the physical specimen these days, I do hold my breath every time Lennon winds up and sprints off, for fear that one of his hamstrings might roll their eyes and just give up on him. For an FA Cup 4th Round tie I would dare to recommend that Lennon and his little legs are spared the rigours of a full 90 minutes, or even a full 45. Give the blighter the day off.

The choices at full-back will be of interest, with Walker below par and Naughton not really in his comfort zone on the left – if he is feeling particularly adventurous might AVB put Benny on the left and Naughton on the right? Hudd, Dempsey and Sigurdsson might also expect some game time, and Friedel will presumably be in goal. It has been mentioned that our heroes have a squad strong enough to field two distinct and quite capable starting XIs, and while choice of strikers in the second XI would be of interest, the gist of it is clear enough. Time for our heroes to give a pointed reminder of aforementioned squad depth.

Spurs 1-1 Man Utd: The Joys of Fergie-Time, & A Thought On Dembele…

I suspect glasses were raised and chortles sounded across the country at that particular moment of karma, the dying seconds of Fergie time creating quite the poetic moment. By all means do pause a moment, and indulge in another snigger.

Aside from the general national moment of Schadenfreude, and observing through spectacles of a lilywhite hue, it was jolly encouraging to see our heroes plug away in the second half with a bit more cunning and purpose than in previous matches (and the first half) against massed ranks of deep-lying defenders. Where last week we were soporific and desperately short of ideas, this time we did at least fashion some chances, and show a little variety in our attempts to wriggle our way netwards. Glory be, there was movement around the edge of the area, and sneaky diagonal passes, and Lennon as likely to cut infield as go wide – but most eye-catchingly of all from this vantage point was the sight of Dembele jinking his way through a couple of challenges before feeding Dempsey in the area (for that second half chance saved by De Gea). There followed much chin-stroking at AANP Towers, for there in a microcosm was the idea, occasionally mooted but quickly suppressed like some dissident voice in a totalitarian state, that maybe Dembele could play… whisper it… further forward…?Back in the real world ‘tis unlikely ever to happen, for the AVBmeister appears not to roll thus, but having rolled my eyes so forcefully that the dashed things flew from their sockets and landed in the snow as Dempsey dribbled in the wrong direction for the umpteenth time, before turning back the way he came, running into more traffic, circling a single blade of grass and eventually imploding while United emerged with the ball to counter-attack, I did rather wish that Dembele could be shunted upfield to orchestrate matters in the hole. Instead, the onus on tearing forward from midfield fell upon Scott Parker in the first half, and various cul-de-sacs were duly entered.

 

Still, the thing ended cheerily enough, and richly deserved it was too. As noted, a tip of the cap to Lennon, the font of most things good today, and the late introduction of the left-footed Benny at left-back had me wondering why he was not selected from the off, but in general our heroes deserve credit for hammering away so insistently in the second half. Just a single point to add to the pile it may be, but in the grand scheme of things this was quite a noteworthy step.

QPR – Spurs Preview: Any Personal Motivation For ‘Arry?

The keener students of history amongst us no doubt recall that it was around this time last year that our whole bally season began to unravel faster than you can say “Not entirely convinced by these January transfer signings – and a spot of squad rotation hither and thither might not go amiss either, what?” An important time off the pitch then for the AVBmeister (particularly with Adebayor giving his latest display of that rock-solid commitment and dependency we have all come to know and love), but rejoice all ye of lilywhite persuasion, for on-pitch matters have panned out in rather topping manner in recent weeks. Indeed, word reaches this corner of the interweb that our glorious leader was even awarded December’s Manager of the Month gong, presumably by a team of genii who succeeded where AANP failed by erasing from memory the blasted late capitulation against Everton on 9/12/12.

Onward we gambol then, ensconced in third, but many a slip ‘twixt cup, lip and May 19th. There may not be an ‘i’ in ‘team’, nor indeed in ‘QPR’, but there are a handful in ‘Arry Redknapp’, and one imagines that for all manner of personal reasons our erstwhile leader will have been burning the midnight oil in his attempts to mastermind a final rude hand gesture in the direction of Levy and chums. This lot are therefore not to be taken lightly – although one nevertheless fancies that if we can get our noses in front at Loftus Road only complacency will let our hosts back into it (which is a rather ironic sort of statement, if you think about it).

The usual suspects will presumably line up to hand me the keys, supplemented now by fit-again Benny and Scott Parker. Some sort of valedictory gift from Adebayor would be nice, but as ever the eye-catching performances are likely to emanate from the size nines of Vertonghen, Bale and Dembele, in their own respective ways. Get this right – as they jolly well ought – and a little extra pressure will sit upon the shoulders of the other mobs by the time AANP’s Soccer Saturday Imbibing Spectacular kicks off at 3. Chin chin!

Spurs 3-0 Coventry: A Phantom Victory, Plus New Arrivals

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.)

Transfer Shufflings

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.

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