All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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Spurs Summer Musings – Baldini, Fixtures & Folk Released

Out yonder on the horizon there has been barely a flicker of action since the end of the season, not even a new kit over which to pore. Mercifully this sorry circumstance changed ever so slightly this week, as there has now been some semblance of news, so pour yourself a bourbon, make yourself comfortable and join me for a perusal.

The Fixture List

It’s official. Next season we play every team, both home and away.

In an effort to make things slightly more exciting I did scour the final six fixtures or so and note the absence of any of the likely Top Four challengers – but was unable to decide whether this should be categorised as blessing or curse. And re-scheduling gubbins probably means that there will be additional fixtures haphazardly sprinkled in anyway.

Baldini Arrives

If ever proof were needed that this has been a grey, barren wasteland of a Spurs summer it is in the fact that the biggest – nay, only transfer summer so far has been neither a player nor even a manager. After his fairly impercetible contribution as Assistant to Fabio Capello with England, Franco Baldini has joined the Lane as Technical Director or some such business. Quite what difference he will make to the 11 who trot out onto the pitch each week is questionable, but I suppose if he can see to it that deals are done a little earlier than 23.59 on August 31, or whenever the window closes, then he will have achieved some purpose.

Bale Trademarks His Finger-Heart Celebration

Oh the ignominy. Mind you, it looks a lot less awful when produced 5 seconds after one of his blinding last-minute winner wondergoals.

Released Players

Gallas and Bentley were amongst the slew of players inevitably released a week or two back. In the case of the former it is just as well – frankly he had become a liability, even in the gentlest of Europa League ambles, and with Kaboul to return we should be fairly well stocked in the centre-back department.

The case of Bentley is viewed with a little sadness here at AANP Towers. Full of potential, a willing tryer and capable of the occasional moment that prompted a murmur of approbation, things simply did not click for the lad, despite the fairly regular need for an able right wing deputy. Admittedly for that 40-yard moment against l’Arse if nothing else, he will be remembered with a certain curious fondness around these parts.

And amidst the flotsam and jetsam, it pained me to note that also amongst those released was one J. Bostock Esquire. Signed in something approaching a frenzied hype, he genuinely was touted as the next big thing in English football, but had even fewer moments of lilywhite glory than Bentley. One wonders to what extent that was our fault as well as his; but alas, ‘tis done, as if it barely even happened at all.

Until the next piece of action of the vaguest substance, toodle-pip.

Spurs 2009/10 Preview – Ten Aims For The New Season

So, it’s once more unto the breach, for the new season is upon us. The friendlies are done, fantasy league teams picked – all that’s left is for AANP Towers to rustle up a list of top ten aims for season 2009-10, and then we can get cracking…1. European Qualification

Top six, or a trophy. Or both. The bookies make us sixth favourites for the title, and sixth spot is an aim that straddles the divide between “ambitious” and “realistic”. In more private confines we may peer hopefully towards fourth spot, particularly given the sales made by Wenger this summer, but there will be tough competition for that, from City, Villa and Everton as well as l’Arse. However, we ought to finish above a couple of those. Given the squad we now boast, and the absence of European distraction, anything less than Europa League qualification would be a disappointment.

2. 50 Goals From The Strikers 

3. Avoid Long-Ball Overkill 

4. Clean Sheets

 

5. Four-Four Draws 

6. A Song For Jenas 

7. Look After Modric And Palacios Like Our Lives Depend On It 

8. Hudd and O’ Hara to Come of Age 

9. Give The Kids A Chance 

10. Keep Ledley Fit 

11. More Insane Transfer Rumours 

 

Spurs’ Cult Heroes
Final opinions sought on the top 20 Spurs Cult Heroes – players who achieved legendary status amongst us fans for what they did at the club. The majority pick themselves, but still some debate over the final few – Waddle? Teddy? Gilzean? White? Freund? Conn? Lineker? Burkinshaw? Have a read here, and voice your opinion.

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?

 

Tottenham Hotspur 2008-09: The All Action No Plot Awards

Suffering withdrawal? Desperately seeking an unnecessarily nail-biting one-nil win? Confused by the absence of someone at whom to scream “F*ck sake Jenas”? Then knock yourself out with the All Action No Plot Awards, and re-live Tottenham Hotspur, season 2008-09Two-Points-Eight-Games Award For Completely Turning Around His Season
Step forward Heurelho Gomes. Firmly established as our number one now, but by Jove not so long the streets of White Hart Lane were filled to bursting with fans tripping over one another to hold the exit door open for him. As well as an almost vampiric inability to deal with crosses there was the fumble v Villa, the suicidal dribble vs Udinese and the hot-potato-style nadir vs Fulham. However, a jolly impressive comeback has seen him become central to our record-breaking defensive form at the Lane, and saves such as those vs West Ham away, and Chelski and West Brom at home, were each worth goals. Although he was rubbish in the Carling Cup Final penalty shoot-out.

The Manuel Que? Award For Not Understanding A Ruddy Word of English
While the passport-wielding likes of Corluka, Assou-Ekotto and Modric seem to understand what’s going on, and are presumably sufficiently au fait with the English language, poor old Roman Pavluychenko has all season wandered the pitch with the air of a man who has absolutely no idea what anyone is saying to him. Indeed, in one of ‘Arry’s first games in charge, Pav’s translator was instructed by our glorious leader to tell him “Just f*cking run about”. Mercifully, he has a sound understanding of the game in general, hopefully will lead to better things next season.

The Big Girl’s Blouse Award For Wearing Female Accessories On A Football Pitch
Not so much an award as a naming and shaming. Aaron Lennon in tights is one thing, as one can – just about – see the medical reason for this. However, Jonathan Woodgate and Luka Modric ought to be docked half their wages for that alice-band nonsense. Man up, for goodness’ sake. (Corluka escapes this ignominy, by the skin of his teeth, for doing the decent thing and getting a haircut.)

Defender-Who-Looks-Most-Like-That-Croatian-Doctor-From-ER Award
Only really knew Vedran Corluka by name when we signed him at the start of the season, but although a little one-paced, his rapport with Aaron Lennon on the right has bordered on the psychic at times. None of which has anything to do with his most uncanny resemblance to some chap called Goran Visnjic of the tellybox. He plays a doctor in ER, and apparently auditioned for the role of James Bond too (Visnjic, not Corluka).

The Fat Frank Lampard Award For Eating All The Pies
The Hudd
, by a country mile. He could give Luka Modric a few tips.

The Louis Armstrong Award For Jazz-Hands
A simple one, this. His go-faster eyebrow stripes may make him down wif da kidz, but little Aaron Lennon’s jazz hands routine, every time he revs up, is straight out of the 1920s. Further dainty effect is added by that delicate hop and skip of anguish, whenever he loses the ball. Bless.

The Oliver Reed Award For Fondness Of The Bottle
I have to admit that a piece of me died when news broke of Ledley King’s arrest for getting tanked and trying to lamp a bouncer, or whatever it was. At the risk of sounding like my own mother, he always seemed so quiet, mild-mannered and well-behaved. Such a nice boy. We all turned a blind eye to the post Carling Cup-win celebrations, and even when tabloids printed other pictures of him stumbling out of clubs, we tried to ignore it. Bit difficult to ignore now though. It’s always the quiet ones, eh?

Most Likely To Get Away With Murder Award
Let’s face it, Robbie Keane has been near-enough getting away with murder in the last few weeks anyway – picking up more in a week than we do in a year, for generally loitering around the centre-circle, pointing and shouting, and doing his damnedest to stay away from the opposition area. No matter what he does (or, perhaps, doesn’t do) it seems he can’t be dropped or substituted – which has me wondering quite how far his shield of immunity stretches.

The Chris Bridges Award For Most Ludicrous Haircut of The Season
Mercifully, not too much competition here, if you exclude the long-haired alice-band pansies. Jermain Defoe dabbled in a dubious Maltesers-on-the-head Craig David-esque effort for a few weeks, but then got injured and reappeared with an eminently more sensible short back and sides. Young Bostock may offer some competition next year with that spikey Mohawk thing, but as he’s only 14 or whatever he can get away with it. However, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, we salute you. Unbraid your braids, and give us more of that frankly awesome afro.

Michael Ballack Award For Being The Biggest Loser Of The Season
Last year Herr Ballack captained the losing team in the Euro Championships final, lost on penalites in the Champs League final, was runner-up in the Premiership and lost the Carling Cup final. However, Gareth Bale would probably settle for any of those, having now failed to win a single league game with us in the two seasons since he joined us. (Honourable mention here to Jamie O’ Hara, who was in tears at last year’s Carling Cup Final after being left out of the squad, and then missed in the penalty shoot-out of this year’s final).

Begbie From Trainspotting Award For Being A Truly Terrifying Scot
Joe Jordan’s inscrutable stare reminds me of the more ferocious breed of militant teachers from back in the day, but I think Alan Hutton wins this one, for reportedly beating up his own Dad or some such business. Cripes. Rather looking forward to seeing him lose the plot on the pitch one day, and batter the life out of some random unknowing opponent.

Christopher Columbus Award For The Most Directionally-Challenged Player At The Club
Assou-Ekotto almost scored a 30 yard, volleyed own-goal away at Burnley, but as regulars will know, we at AANP Towers were only ever going to award this title to one person. He passes backwards, he passes sideways; he passes sideways, he passes backwards (even though he’s actually a pretty talented footballer); inevitably, it’s Jermaine Jenas.

The Karaoke Award For The Player Who Most Deserves His Own Song
6 November 2008. White Hart Lane. Darren Bent has just scored his first hat-trick for the club, and whose name are we singing? Jermain Defoe’s, even though, at that time, Defoe was still a Portsmouth player. And when the “Defoe” choruses finished, our salutes rang out to John Bostock, who at that point still hadn’t yet made a senior appearance for us.
 
However, poor old Bent doesn’t actually receive this award. In a momentous act of goodwill and peace, I award it to your friend and mine, Jermaine Jenas. One of the problems with JJ is the lack of the confidence-bordering-on-arrogance that inspires an attacking player to take a gamble and try to be a match-winner. He’s capable, as he occasionally demonstrates, but all too often he’ll take the safe option (as ranted about above). Maybe if he had his own song he would be a bit more adventurous? And start passing forwards?

Terminator 3 Award For Being Expensive And Eagerly-Awaited But Ultimately A Complete Letdown
There are a few contenders here, which is testimony to the misjudgement of Comolli and his clowns last summer. Pav will hopefully come good eventually; Giovani is unlikely to be given a chance in lilywhite; but the most disappointing has been poor old pretty-boy David Bentley. Not really his fault, as he’s not been given too many games in his own position, but he’s hardly helped himself by trying Maradonna impressions every time he’s been on the pitch and received the ball. Just keep it simple lad. At £15 mil or so, and with that reputation, we expected more.

Jurgen Klinsmann Award For Being The Signing Of The Season
Corluka has been steady, Gomes has found his form and Defoe has looked razor-sharp in the handful of games in which he’s featured. After a brief teething period, Luka Modric has become our creative hub, and is rightly revered at the Lane, but in a photo-finish the barrel chest of Wilson Palacios gives him the award. He’s what we’ve needed for years – and whatever criticism we level at ‘Arry, there can be no doubt that this was an inspired signing.

Ole Gunnar Solksjaer Award For The Most Inspired Substitution Of The Season
This may raise a few eyebrows, as ‘Arry would generally stick with his starting XI even if his life depended on making a change or two. However, cast your minds back to Sunday 15 March, away to Aston Villa, when poor old Didier Zokora’s blood was turned inside-out by Ashley Young. Do-do-do Didier had already been booked, when he was brutally but rightly hauled off by ‘Arry. Corluka kept Young quiet, and we went on to win 2-1, an away day which, at the time, ranked amongst our best results of the season, and was part of our run of tip-top spring form.

The Saving Private Ryan Award For The Most Mental, 20 Minute, All-Action-No-Plot Sequence Of The Season
What the hell happened in the second half against Man Utd? Admittedly the penalty awarded against us was harsh, but that was just one goal. Yet the entire team took it as their cue to stumble around like headless chickens as the champions ran riot, and a 0-2 lead became a 5-2 deficit in under half an hour. (An honourable mention should also go to the team that pitched up away to Burnley, although that torment was dragged out for a good 90 minutes.)

Nelson Mandela Award For Humility and Modesty
Truly a man for others, our glorious leader ‘Arry Redknapp has, since the day he arrived, made sure that everyone understands that our turnaround is entirely due to the players. Never short to sing their praises, the frequent references to Two-Points-Eight-Games™ are always followed by the conclusion “And it’s to the players’ credit that they’ve achieved this”. Unfortunately, the scandalous editing processes of Sky, Setanta, the BBC et al, mean that these closing sentiments tend typically to be edited out.

 

More fond reminiscences on season 2008-09 are imminent. Meantime, by all means do the Facebook thang, or follow the AANP lifestyle on Twitter.

Anyone fancy a game? Spurs – Spartak Moscow preview

The build-up to tonight’s game with Spartak reminds me of our office 5-a-side team. We too would reach the day of the game with only four guaranteed players, from an initial pool of several dozen. And so it transpires that Darren Bent can’t play because he has a cold, Ledley and Woodgate are injured, Pav has a prior engagement with his missus, Corluka is helping a mate move into a new flat, Hutton is probably too hungover, Giovanni will no doubt have a deadline looming and can’t get out of the office in time, and as a result ‘Arry is going to have to phone around the players’ mates to try and find a couple of ringers.

As in fact he has already done – step forward Bostock and Parrett. I watched Bostock come off the bench to become our youngest ever player vs Dinamo Zagreb, he seemed to have a decent touch and was left-footed, which is pleasing, but he looks like he should be wearing a hoody and sitting at the back of the bus playing his music out loud. As for this Parrett chap –  I saw a photo of him in the paper and he looks about eight. Maybe the picture is actually 12 years old and he’s really 20, but this still annoys me. I’m not old, but people like him make me feel old. It seems like five minutes ago that I was a teenager, and dreamed of being the young kid thrown off the bench at Spurs. Admittedly I couldn’t even make the school starting XI, but still, I dreamt that dream because I was young enough. It was about the same era that Southgate and Ince were playing rather than managing.

And now? Now Southgate is a manager, Ince has just been sacked from his third managerial post and some damn eight year-old who hasn’t started shaving is going to play for Spurs tonight. How can someone born in the 90s be a better footballer than I am? How can someone still at school be better than I am? I’ve got over ten years on these kids – surely I must be fitter, and stronger, if not necessarily faster? Go back to Pokemon and recorder concerts Parrett, leave the football to grown men. That kid is going to get a right kicking tonight. I’d kick him if I were playing – even if I were his team-mate – just because no-one ought to be a better footballer than me if they’re not old enough to remember Thundercats. There’s a natural order of things here, sonny. Still, as long as Ryan Giggs continues to play, I’ll always feel young. He represents a whole era – my era. Don’t you ever dare to retire, Giggsy.

We only need a point to progress tonight. Fingers crossed for Bostock, Parrett and the rest of the High School Musical cast.

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