All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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Spurs – Reading Preview: The Looming Spectre of Balelessness

Curl into a ball and stick your heads in the sand, fellow believers, for yet another bout of Balelessness looms large. When previously this curse has struck us we did at least manage to eke out victory against Swansea, but the soulless display sans Bale against Everon  was rather hard to stomach – no doubt about it, our heroes look a darned sight more mortal without the handsome young Welshman on the gallop.

That said, while the capacity to take on half the opposition single-handedly is very much the sole preserve of Bale, consistent selections have now given our midfield a rather imposing look, with the two-pronged juggernaut that is Sandro and Dembele doing a pretty handy job of bulldozing everything in their path in recent weeks. Guile is still rather lacking, ‘tis true (oh for some truth in the Snjeider rumours this January) but the general record of Reading to date this season suggests that a half-decent showing from our lot will suffice.

AVB’s aversion to tinkering, beyond the back-four, will presumably continue, with Dempsey/Sigurdsson for Bale the only likely change amongst the goal-getting clan, but pleasant murmurings have been made in recent hours about a return to the squad of BAE, which is heartening stuff. One probably also ought to take this opportunity to chime ‘Toodles, and much obliged’, to Cudicini as he makes his way off to Hollywood, best of luck to him.

We have been outfought and outfoxed a number of times at home already this season, on top of which Reading appear to have got their act together in recent weeks – but nevertheless, one would expect the usual second half onslaught to send us home happy today.

Spurs – PAOK Preview: Unleash The Muskehounds

Switching from the all-conquering, award-winning, glitz-laden superstars of our rollicking Premiership campaign to the prepubescent kids and want-away squad members on our midweek Europa jaunts is somewhat akin to putting down the Dumas novel in order to tune in to Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds – nobody in their right mind would dispute that it remains quite magnificent entertainment, but the whole forum is perhaps a little more frivolous.Thus we march into battle tonight knowing that defeat will do all manner of nastiness to our European campaign, but victory would all but see us through. None of which can really be taken seriously when one considers the red-hot Saturday/Sunday frolics of our first-choice mob in the League.

Still. There is still a cockerel on the shirt, pride at stake and a trophy to be won, eventually. Kane, Carroll, Livermore and Townsend will get their usual opportunities to impress, while Cudicini, Corluka, Gallas, Pienaar and Pav (if fit – and if not, then presumably Defoe) will add sprinklings of élan about the place. The reverse fixture against this lot was jolly hard work, but thus far on our home nights in Europe we have muddled through, so another three points ought to be the target once again tonight. All for one, and all that continental gubbins.

Rubin Kazan 1-0 Spurs: Bassong – Bad For Your Health

More dedicated followers of  AANP will be well aware that when I do eventually conclude fighting the good fight and prepare to meet my doom, ‘twill not be in a hail of bullets or blaze of glory, but coronary failure sustained while watching our heroes. While cheering the news that the various pokes and prods to ‘Arry ‘s cardiac area proved successful, I rather fear for him if he observed on the telly-box the inept tomfoolery of Monsieur Bassong in contributing to our downfall. On an evening when the more experienced, international types needed to lead by example, his ill-judged amble out of defence and straight into trouble inevitably led to a goal, as well as a booking, which may or may not have been officially awarded for jaw-dropping imbecility. I don’t mind admitting that when Gallas went off and the armband passed to the arm of Bassong, I could barely suppress a tut, so enraged was I. One rather hopes that someone averted ‘Arry’s eyes as the incompetence unfolded.

That Cudicini was in fine form says much about our performance, but this is hardly a slight upon the kids, whose brows were, as ever, furrowed with determination and effort. Of offensive threat there was none, Defoe and Pav given so little service and space that every time the ball did make its way to them they celebrated by charging into offside positions. In truth, the most notable developments of the night were the worrying sight of Gallas withdrawing injured, and the quite brilliant pun delivered by yours truly upon the arrival into the fray of young Parrett.

A win and defeat against this Russian lot, with no particular violation upon the equanimity of the goal difference between us, is probably what most of us expected. Progress remains likely, and the kids are learning, so there is therefore sanguinity in defeat, at least at AANP Towers.

Rubin Kazan – Spurs Preview: Dashing Back for Kick-Off

Rarely do I expect our heroes to lose – away to the Manchester clubs are about the only fixtures this season in which I would regrettably project nul points – but to that roll of dishonour let the epithet “Rubin Kazan. Away. And With Kids” be added. Those Russians can rightly feel a tad aggrieved at having to slop back off to Siberia with nothing but commemorative THFC thermal underwear, for they had the woolly mammoth’s share of possession and chances that night, and are likely to cause us a fair degree of bother on their own patch.Our midfield looks particularly light tonight, with Sandro and Parker spared the air-miles, understandably enough, a blessing similarly bestowed upon Modders, Bale, Lennon, VDV and Adebayor. However, Gallas and Pienaar will gingerly tiptoe onto the 90×120 for the first time in a while; Livermore will head up the usual troop of Boy Scouts; and Gomes/Cudicini, Bassong, Defoe and Pav are also involved. Much will rest on the young shoulders of Livermore to win the midfield battle, but all things considered a draw would represent a decent achievement, while the 5pm kick-off time finally lends some point to the existence of ITV4+1. The dash back to AANP Towers commences imminently…

Spurs 3-1 Shamrock Rovers: Shredding One’s Season Ticket

Presumably there were some onlookers last night so enraged by our inability to score as the game wore on last night that they tore up their season tickets at half-time, their apoplexy no doubt reaching such levels when we actually fell behind that they chopped off their own feet and howled for the entire team to be sacked. All things considered however it was fairly satisfactory stuff.For all our inability to score we plugged away in commendable fashion, boxes were ticked, pressure was applied, shots were shot. Indeed, that we fell behind was hardly due to any failing on our part (although I suppose Cudicini might have palmed away the free-kick in a manner less inviting of trouble).

Defoe and Giovani (just about) toddled off with ticks against their name, Lennon and Rose got used to the whole concept of green stuff underfoot and small white sphere once again, and, perhaps most pleasingly, Livermore and Carroll trundled through in fairly steady manner. It was not quite as smooth as a well-versed line delivered by a lounge-suit wearing silkworm at 9pm on Friday night, what with going behind to the Irish part-timers and all, but in the rich tapestry of Season 2011/12 it will be delineated as a fun, relatively low-key step in the right direction. Which, let’s face it, is tickety-boo. Roll on the big one.

Newcastle 1- 1 Spurs: Testing Times at FC Hotspur

All in all this has been a bad few days for us fans of FC Hotspur of Tottenham, or whatever the inevitable spin-off movement will be called once our heroes have moved off to Stratford, or Geneva, or the moon. One point for our lot, but wins and goals galore for the other Top Four-ites (bar Man City, sunk by Darren Bent, most entertainingly) means that the 50th anniversary of the Double won’t end in a Disney-esque finale with Ledley emulating the great Danny Blanchflower, hoisted aloft team-mates’ shoulders, gleaming trophy in his mitts. Unless we win the Champions League I suppose. Wonderful though it was to see a late, late equaliser, once the roar of approval had died down it fairly swiftly became evident that one point was not enough from this sort of generic Away-To-Mid-Table-Side fixture. In fact, even three points would not really have been enough; what we need right now is a win so magnificent that the FA in their wisdom spontaneously award us ten points. Failing that, or the only marginally more plausible scenario of, say, a ten-game winning streak, I think it is safe to put the Title dream to bed, and those who fancy can now also officially enter Panic Mode with regard to qualification for next year’s Champions League.Close, But Cigars Conspicuously Absent

The Geordie mob’s current boss Alan Pardew (a former Spur, as you Intertoto Cup aficionados will recall) threw quite a few compliments in our direction post-match, sounding very much like one taken aback by quite how slick our passing and movement is these days. All very charming stuff, the sort of football a young lady would introduce to her parents without any qualms about ill behaviour, but when it come to the muckier business of getting down and dirty our heroes again fell short, leaving the frustrated grumbles about towering behemoth strikers to continue.

Back Problems: Not Uncommon

My lovely Nan, God bless her soul, was not Welsh, did not possess the lungs of a particularly energetic racehorse and in all probability was not left-footed, but one thing she did have in common with young Master Bale was a troublesome back. One fervently hopes that Bale’s affliction is a lot less severe than the osteoporosis that ultimately left her unable to master the right-foot-left-foot routine, but barely had the game begun before he was contorting his curious visage into all manner of winces and grimaces. Aside from the brow-furrowingly worrying longer-term implications, this also put to waste a jolly good plan to raid Newcastle down their right, where they were tucking in and keeping things narrow. Curses.

Elsewhere On The Pitch

On a brighter note, Steven Pienaar demonstrated that he has sneakily spent the last 18 months or so perusing the book of Lovely Little One-Touch Passes and Neat Triangles that has become essential reading for anyone wishing to join the technique-fest that is the Tottenham midfield. The chap had a relatively quiet debut, but he appears to have taken to the Tottenham way as if to the manor born. Next door to him Modders’ star shone brightly as ever, and Defoe’s pace and movement offered more threat than Crouch has in recent weeks, but he fairly promptly undid any good work by spurning our best chances.

There were however some jolly worrying signs at the back. Daws appeared strangely discombobulated by a fairly standard aerial bombardment, while Cudicini’s mishandling of the goal was the worst of a couple of errors, and Hutton got himself into a pickle that lasted from just about first whistle to last.

Mercifully, cometh the 90th minute, cometh the man. Aaron Lennon is turning the Crucial Late Goal into something of an art-from, if one can describe a blur of skippy tip-toes and frantic jazz-hands as “art”. No doubt that we deserved a point, but that is hardly the stuff of which a top four finish is made. Alas, with that Awesome Striker-shaped hole still very much evident in our line-up the odds are lengthening.

Spurs – Charlton Preview: Squad Player Bingo at the Lane

And now for something completely different. At third (and, later fourth) round stage the FA Cup hardly constitutes fixture congestion, so the question of where it stands in our list of priorities can probably be deferred to another day.Bingo cards out then, as we look to cross off the names of various squad members last season posing merrily in the club photocall back in August. Participation from Bentley seems unlikely, as a loan to Birmingham looms, while the current status of Robbie Keane is best summed up by a big fat question mark, but Cudicini, Corluka, Bassong, Sandro, Kranjcar and Pav are amongst the candidates for promotion. Crikey – as reserves go that particular mob are a jolly competent bunch, representing probably the strongest substitutes’ bench in the country. In theory then making half a dozen changes ought not to be catastrophically detrimental to our quality, but be warned all ye purveyors of complacency, for the memory still lingers a little painfully of our much-changed line-up putting in a blisteringly ordinary display at home to l’Arse in the Carling Cup a few months back.

Modders, VDV, Bale (and Hudd) – Can We Manage Without The Lot of Them?

A strong case could be made for excusing from duty Messrs Modders, VDV and Bale this weekend. Admittedly they all had a break before Christmas, when they picked up their wages for hurling snowballs rather than chasing footballs. Nevertheless, this is shaping up to be a long old season, and as well four games in the last couple of weeks, Bale has played just about every League and European match this season. The whippersnapper does appear darned well indefatigable, but it would be a slightly pointless experiment to grind game after game out of him, just in order to see how long it would be before he breaks down completely and turns to dust. Moreover, his back problem in midweek suggests a further reason to give him a breather.

VDV is a fragile little lamb, bless, who rarely completes 90 minutes at the best of times, Modders is another from whom we like to wring every last drop of energy during the League and European campaigns. Conclusion? Drop the lot of them.

However, while the medical arguments probably point towards resting these leading lights, I do fret that a midfield shorn of VDV and Modders, as well as Hudd, would be a few cans short of a six-pack when it comes to bossing, creating and generally playing that slick brand of attacking football to which we have become so accustomed over the last couple of seasons. Jenas and Sergeant Wilson between them do a decent job of slotting in alongside the regulars, but the prospect of these two and Sandro taking charge of affairs hardly leaves my gasping fro breath in excitement.

The Niko Kranjcar Fan Club

This could also be a big day for Niko Kranjcar, who effortlessly earned himself status as a firm favourite at AANP Towers last season, but who has been limited to a couple of completely impotent substitute appearances this season. Noises have been made at various points about him pootling off to pastures new, but his career in lilywhite is not necessarily irretrievable, for the efforts of Bale and Hutton over the last 12 months have illustrated that it is quite possible for a couple of strong cameos to earn a player a regular berth at Spurs, such are the vagaries of circumstance and fickleness of our glorious leader.

All things considered, our mob, reserves and all, ought to be strong enough for any time featuring an aged Gary Doherty. After the disappointment of midweek let’s just have a nice, serene injury/suspension-free cruise into the fourth round.

Spurs 1-1 Chelsea: Make Sense of That If You Will

Dashed confusing from start to finish. Two points lost or one point gained? What the devil is Gomes playing at? And what the dickens inspired BAE to perform thus?First Things First: Two Lost or One Gained? 

Gomes: Return to the Bad Old Days? 

Time for ‘Arry, and indeed Tony Parks, to earn their corn. We do have a pretty able deputy in Signor Cudicini, but dropping Gomes would probably be a tad over-reactionary. In his defence shot-stopping is generally the strong part of his game, and the mistakes today (and indeed so far this season) have not been due to ineptitude, but rather spasms of mental meltdown. One suspects it would now be in his interests as much as anyone else’s to go through the Christmas period in nice, low-key manner, rushes of blood to the head locked well out of reach for a few weeks.

Daws and Palacios: Returns to the Good Old Days?

On a brighter note however, there were some most encouraging offerings from various others of our clan. Michael Dawson was absolutely ruddy awesome throughout, barely a hint of rust on his broad shoulders. (AANP is quite happy to add its name to the petition to exonerate him from blame for the Chelski goal, on the grounds that he was outwitted by a rogue Ivorian arm.)

Rather spiffing stuff too from Sergeant Wilson, whose performance was a wonderful throwback to those giddying days of early 2009, when he stormed into the Lane and went about mauling any opponent who toyed with the idea of crossing the halfway line in search of our net. With barely a misplaced pass and crunching tackles a-plenty, in conjunction with Gomes’ aberrations, it was like a charming sepia-tinged memory from yesteryear.

As if Sergeant Wilson’s brief renaissance was not sufficiently mind-boggling for one afternoon, further treats were in store behind his left shoulder. Having spent the best part of the season ranting at BAE for his unparalleled capacity for creating trouble where there be none, as he bestowed upon us all the gift of going completely mentally AWOL at the least appropriate moments, I could scarce believe my beady eyes yesterday afternoon, as he delivered a veritable masterclass in left-backery. Heaven knows what got into him, but I would not mind a swig before tonight’s 5-a-side. As with Sergeant Wilson, fingers are firmly crossed that every last details of this performance can be carefully memorised, then transferred identically to next week, and every week thereafter until the end of days. Or at least May 2011.

Pav: Good Day and Bad Day All In One Neat Package

One eye-catching piece of news emanating from the Lane this week indicated that the sinister agent of Pav has been keen to invite Tottenham representatives into his office for vodka shots and contract discussions, regarding his employer. Should any such new deal be inked, I presume that one clause certain to be retained would be the stipulation that Pav is only allowed to score spectacular goals. No tap-ins. No penalties. In addition to scoring spectacular goals it seems he is also permitted to whinge about being bundled over, but nothing else. As such, anyone wondering why he rocked on his heels rather than galloping forward in the second half, when Crouch flicked a header into his path, presumably  needs to be directed to his contract and the stipulations contained therein.

All in all a slightly mixed bag, but I suppose we should be grateful for the point, and concentrate on thrashing Blackpool next week. The unbeaten run is now half a dozen league games, which is far from shabby, considering that they have been juggled with midweek commitments. Moreover, with Daws and Defoe fit again, and various others presumably likely to amble gingerly back into contention, the outlook this Christmas is quite merry.

 

“Spurs’ Cult Heroes”- A Christmas Stocking-Filler

With the Christmas season upon us this seems as good a time as any to reminder ye good folk that AANP’s first book, “Spurs’ Cult Heroes” is on sale now – on Tottenhamhotspur.com, Amazon, Play and WHSmith, as well as in Waterstones and the Spurs shop.

As well as cheerily reminiscing over the Tottenham careers of 20 of the club’s most popular fans’ favourites (Greaves, Blanchflower, Hoddle, Gazza, Klinsmann and the like) the book also covers some of the most fabled traditions etched into Spurs’ history: big European nights, magic Wembley moments, exotic foreign arrivals, questionable musical offerings, dodgy mullets etc. Quite the stocking-filler for the fellow lilywhite in your life.

Birmingham 1-1 Spurs: How to Lose Two Points in 45 Minutes

Curses. There has been some debate across various corners of the interweb, but here at AANP Towers we had rather been enjoying the exalted status of title dark-horses, and accordingly mark this down as two points lost. No catastrophe, but if we can win at the Emirates we should be able to win just about anywhere, especially after giving the opposition a one-goal first-half thrashing, if such a thing there be.Everything looked fairly tickety-boo in the first half. While Birmingham occasionally reminded us that they were taking part, flapping around in their own area and occasionally placing half a foot on the little round thing, we generally bossed proceedings. The usual suspects were summoned and duly earned their corn. Modders dictated matters in between nervous flicks of his mop; Lennon occasionally surfaced to race past his man, before racing just as quickly out of the limelight; and Bale continued his search for new and exciting ways to escape the ever-growing army of deviants sent to contain him.

One-way traffic, which ought to have been reflected by a half-time scoreline greater than one-nil, but such are the hazards of operating with Crouch in attack. He seemed hell-bent on getting all his limbs under control before attempting to shoot. Reasonable enough I suppose, but it made for typically infuriating viewing at times, when the ball itself seemed to beg him to be thumped into the net.

In our official capacity as Kings of the Second Half Comeback we really ought to have known better than to wither away and gently die after the break, but that we did. Irony abounded in fact, for not only were we this time on the receiving end of a late fightback, but Birmingham even used against us that very Plan B to which we assumed we had exclusive rights. On came their giant striker, the aerial bombardment began, the goal arrived. The introduction of Birmingham’s very own slightly inept beanpole as we defended a one-goal lead with ten minutes remaining might have been the cue for ‘Arry to reinforce things with the introduction of Michael Dawson, but such a call is easy to make after the event, and as caution is not exactly in the Tottenham DNA the only substitution ‘Arry plumped for was Princess Pav for Defoe.

Elsewhere On The Pitch… 

Gallas continued to lead by example, and Sergeant Wilson’s ongoing malaise does not really show much sign of abating, but one of the most eye-catching aspect of proceedings was on the bench rather than the pitch. Egads – two substitute ‘keepers! This injury business really is veering wildly out of hand, and with those marvellous FA suits deciding that squads this season are limited to 25 we are only a couple more groin strains from the sight of Cudicini showing Palacios how it’s done in midfield, or even an appearance from Niko Kranjcar.

Elsewhere Off The Pitch… 

Monsieur Bassong has also hinted at a move over the weekend, on the not unreasonable basis that he wants first-team football. He certainly does a handy job as sixth-choice centre-back, but presuming Daws and Kaboul return to fitness (Ledley and Woodgate represent a different kettle of fish) young Bassong’s chances will remain limited, and “adieu” it may well be.

Back to the game. An unfortunate weekend to drop points, with l’Arse and Man City both winning, but it hardly signals the end of our season, and there will be weeks when we profit and others slip up. Six points off top-spot – and on a four-game unbeaten run – represents fairly healthy going, particularly with a decimated squad, so I urge ye to pause before creating those “’Arry Out” placards. Victory against Chelski next week – and we can jolly well fancy our chances – would put us right back in the thick of things and banish the memory of the two points lost here. Silver lining? That our progress is such that we now consider a draw at Birmingham two points lost, while looking forward with confidence to the visit of Chelski.

“Spurs’ Cult Heroes”- A Christmas Stocking-Filler 

 

As well as cheerily reminiscing over the Tottenham careers of 20 of the club’s most popular fans’ favourites (Greaves, Blanchflower, Hoddle, Gazza, Klinsmann and the like) the book also covers some of the most fabled traditions etched into Spurs’ history: big European nights, magic Wembley moments, exotic foreign arrivals, questionable musical offerings, dodgy mullets etc. Quite the stocking-filler for the fellow lilywhite in your life.

Spurs – Arsenal Preview: Plenty in Reserve?

A good bourbon. Terminator 2 with surround sound. Scantily clad nubile young women prancing around AANP Towers. Just a selection of some of the finer things in life, which get the juices flowing here at AANP Towers, and to this exalted list can be added an evening kick-off at home to l’Arse. Some of the sheen of the occasion may be spoilt a little if the two managers, understandably, decide to mix and match with their team selections, but a rip-roaring atmosphere ought nevertheless to whip up beneath the floodlights.

 

Rare Opportunities Knock

 

I neither know nor care particularly who Wenger picks, but amongst our lot there could be a couple of eye-catching selections. Amidst all the drooling over the arrival of VDV, poor old Niko Kranjcar has been left to fiddle with his alice-band from the sidelines. I feel mighty sorry for the blighter, as he is a cracking little player, about whom I suspect all and sundry might rave were he English. A bargain at £2 million not so long ago, his days may be numbered if his path to first-team football continues to be obscured by a couple of Modric and VDV-shaped obstacles, but tomorrow he has a chance to go out and impress.

 

The morrow will also signal a debut for young Sandro and his sensational beard. High hopes around these parts, not least because of the gradual decline of Palacios, who looks more rookie foot-solider than Sergeant these days, but who will nevertheless also be on show.

 

Elsewhere, injuries mean that Hutton is likely to start at right-back, while I imagine that l’Arse will be spared torture at the hands of Bale. ‘Arry has already suggested that the worryingly unfit Gallas will not reacquaint himself with former chums, while Ledley will be up in the stands somewhere, firmly ensconced in cotton wool.

 

Cudicini; Hutton, Bassong, Hudd, BAE; Giovani, Palacios, Sandro, Kranjcar; Pav, Keane.I guess that the starting XI may look vaguely like this, but whoever the personnel I jolly well expect that they go at the other lot hammer and tongs.

 

 

RIP Bobby Smith

 

Tomorrow night should also give us an opportunity to pay our respects to Bobby Smith. Presumably I am not alone in being too young to have seen him in action, but any member of our Double-winning team deserves to be regarded as a hero, and Smith was an integral member of the class of 61. Many a time and oft my old man, AANP Senior, has lamented the absence within the Spurs team of “a great big striker, like Bobby Smith”, and his 200 plus goals for the club merit the highest adulation.

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