All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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Doncaster – Spurs Preview; Plus Some Tottenham Transfer Musings

Well truth be told I’ve found this all a little unsettling so far. Top of the league, three wins in three – and looking good value for it too. This is not the Tottenham I grew up with. The Tottenham I know and love would consistently let me down. Capitulate from positions of seeming invulnerability. Turn calamity into an art-form. Naturally then I’m unsettled by our new approach – destroying all challengers, that sort of thing. Been anxiously peering out of the windows of AANP Towers checking for cracks in the sky and the rumblings of four horsemen.Blessings upon the gods therefore, for bestowing upon us the Carling Cup second round, and an opportunity to return to the far more familiar and comfortable surroundings of humiliation. Top of the league; finalists in the last two seasons; team stuffed full of internationals; and Doncaster away on a Wednesday night. Perfect ingredients for a cup upset.

Our glorious leader is almost certain to play our second-string eleven, and quite rightly too, given the rigours of the opening week of the season. However, I hope that any sense of indifference conveyed by this decision does not permeate down to the players. After the blistering start to our league campaign the game against Doncaster is being viewed as a breather from the rigours of the Premiership. I just hope the players, and indeed management, don’t let our Premiership start obscure the fact that the Carling Cup represents a great chance of silverware, particularly as we have no European campaign this year. I’ll only whisper it, but sooner or later we’ll probably be toppled from our perch atop the table. A trophy this season is realistic – but it won’t be that one we saw Rio waving around last May. Therefore, maximum effort in the Carling Cup please chaps, starting tonight.

The chaps in question might well include Hutton, Naughton; Rose, O’ Hara, Bentley, Giovani; Crouch and Pav. Our squad is unusually solid this season, with two decent players competing for just about every position, and this lot ought to be too strong for Doncaster – but then player quality has never really been the problem at Spurs

Transfer Gubbins

Curious transfer talk doing the rounds at the moment, although nothing concrete (’twas ever thus, I suppose).

Modric – Carrick Swap 

Pav Back to Russia

I would rather like to see him given a run of games, but the Keane-Defoe thing is working at the moment, and Crouch is evidently ‘Arry’s first reserve. Listen to him field any questions about our strikers, and he’ll lavish praise upon the diddy-men, tell everyone how triffic Crouch is… and then almost as an afterthought add “…and we’ve also got Roman Pavluychenko, so that’s four top quality strikers…”. He doesn’t seem to rate him, and with a World Cup at the end of the season, I’ll stick a rouble  or two on Pav taking offski in the search for first-team football. Shame.

Honduran Chap On Trial 

Pardon my cynicism. I know nothing about the lad. He’s on trial, he’s a centre-back, ‘Arry’s having a look at him – such are the facts, but I have nothing to offer in terms of opinion. Also eyeing up Sandro Ranieri apparently, a £14 mil defensive midfielder. Seems a lot for a probable Palacios understudy (or maybe occasional partner) but I like the idea of having a ready-made Palacios replacement in our ranks. However, as with all these rumours, official judgements in these parts will have to be suspended until something actually happens.

Chimbonda to Blackburn 

 

The invitation is still open to share your memories of Spurs’ Cult Heroes, for a forthcoming book. This week we’re looking at Clive Allen, so please do share your thoughts– first impressions, favourite goals, crowd chants – as well as any meetings you may have had with the man off the pitch, right here. Memories of Jimmy Greaves here and of 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?

 

Spurs Reserves – By Far The Greatest Team The World Has Ever Seen. Honest.

The official Spurs website is astonishing, a propaganda machine almost Orwellian in its slant on life. On tottenhamhotspur.com the sun always shines, the good guys always win and there is no third-world poverty. In fact, there’s probably no third-world at all, in this planet of fuzzy smiles and merry unicorns. There is just White Hart Lane and the Spurs Megastore, in which FIRST TEAM PLAYERS make GUEST APPEARANCES (fans please note – only two pieces of memorabilia per person may be presented for autographs).Earlier this week Spurs reserves beat Chelski reserves, and our official club website practically wet itself with excitement. I say Spurs “reserves”, but this was not the usual selection of earnest young kids who will eventually be shunted off on loan to Orient before being tossed aside on free transfers without getting a sniff of the first team because we’re too busy blowing £14 squillion on some sub-standard midfielder from Middlesbrough.

No, this reserves team consisted largely of our subs bench from the last couple of weeks. Chimbonda, Bale, Hudd, Bentley, Pav, Campbell (with a guest appearance from Rocha, who not only is still alive, but is still, apparently, making a living as a footballer).

An objective observer might regard the 4-0 win (by our multi-million pound team, against a Chelski XI featuring such luminaries as Ofori-Twumasi, Ahamed and van Aanholt) as perhaps not such an amazing feat. Not that this minor detail – the truth – was going to stand in the way of whichever crazed zealot is in charge of tottenhamhotspur.com.

However, whilst deciphering the newspeak I raised an unhappy eyebrow at some of the finer details of our GLORIOUS WIN – for two of the goals were scored by young Fraizer Campbell.

Campbell in the Reserves: The Case Against 

But the reserves? That should be the place for our own, permanently-contracted players, to get up to speed. For example, playing Campbell meant denying a chance to young Obika, who looked rough around the edges but pretty darned promising on debut vs Shakhtar a few weeks back. The reserve game vs Chelski, in which the result really did not matter, would have been a great chance for Obika to learn alongside Pav, Hudd et al. Instead, a Man Utd striker, for whom we have little further use, was given the full 90 minutes. I’m typing this with just one hand, because with the other I have made a small clenched fist of displeasure. Not full-blown rage, but definite displeasure.

“? ???? ????????” 

However, I can’t help feeling that Pav, Bentley and Hudd would have muttered sullenly under their breath when informed of team selection for this game. When Pav was banging them in for the Ruskis in the shop window of Euro 2008, he would not have been dreaming of a Monday night reserve game in an empty Leyton Orient stadium. Leaves me wondering what the Russian is for “transfer request”. Google translate might have the answer, because tottenhamhotspur.com sure as hell won’t.

It’s the flip-side of having a (relatively) settled first XI which is producing decent results. The non-starters, while together comprising a mighty fine (and expensive) subs’ bench, will get little more action than ignominious reserve games. No matter how ecstatic the reaction of tottenhamhotspur.com, I don’t think those guys will be too chuffed about it, and the exit door could therefore see a lot of activity come the summer.

Sunderland – Spurs Preview: Not Good Enough for MoTD

A bit of a bonus game this. Somehow, amidst the hurly-burly of all those cup excursions, we’ve earned ourselves a game in hand – and the opportunity to haemorrhage blood from the nose by hitting the dizzy heights of tenth, within five points of West Ham in the likely Uefa spot of seventh. Even more excitingly, with ours being the only Premiership fixture tomorrow, does this mean that we get an entire Match of the Day to ourselves? Crumbs, they can show the entire game! Sunderland-Spurs would normally be tossed out to Tony Gubba to paint a tedious shade of grey, but if we’re the only game we’ll get the brilliant Steve Wilson, and his impeccable combo of excitement and reason!Alas, it’s not to be. They’re not giving us Steve Wilson. They’re not even giving us Gubba. There will be no MoTD at all this Saturday. They don’t deem our game sufficient to keep the programme on air this week. The ignominy.

More mundanely, the match itself – nigh on impossible to predict. This season, and indeed just the last few weeks, has seen on display every one of the multiple personalities of that strange schizophrenic beast that is Tottenham Hotspur 2008-09. Woeful defeats to Burnley and Shakhtar; creditable draws against l’Arse and Man Utd; impressive wins against Stoke, Hull and Boro. Gazing into my crystal ball the only words that appear are “confused.com”.

The trip to the north-east will throw up some friends past, present and quite possibly future. I personally vetoed the summer sale of Steed, but unbelievably it went ahead anyway, and he might well offer a pointed reminder of what we’re lacking on the left. Teemu Tainio I expect to make less of an impact, if he’s even fit, while Chimbonda is unlikely to be the most popular man in the stadium come kick-off. Nothing new there, then. The most interesting sub-plot will be about eight foot ten and playing up-front for Sunderland. A good chance for all of us to get 90 minutes of Kenwyne Jones and make some snap-judgements about whether he’ll be worth the £14 million odd we’ll probably bid for him in the summer. Don’t’ strive too hard to impress us, will you Kenwyne?

And Now For Something Completely Different… 

Little Miss Ronaldo (to Taylor): “You’re rubbish.”
[Pretty subjective, but if anyone is entitled to make that call it’s probably the World Football of the Year]

Taylor: “Yeah? Well you’re ugly.”
[Genius! Talk about touching a nerve. Take a bow son]

Little Miss Ronaldo: “You’re still rubbish.”

Taylor: “And you’re still ugly.”

Impossible to read that without smiling. I can’t help thinking Ronaldo went home and cried all night into his pillow after that. Heart-warming stuff.

Spurs’ Transfer Window Doings Get The Thumbs Up

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

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

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

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

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

Players out:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missed Targets 

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

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

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

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

The AANP Verdict 

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

Cudicini Arrives, and The Reunion Continues With Chimbonda

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

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

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

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

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