With transfer tittle-tattle still entrenched in the realms of fantasy and silly-speak, I thought I’d gaze all teary-eyed and nostalgic at the season gone by, and offer a final few reminiscences. The Top-Ten Mistakes and Top-Ten Goals of the season are imminent, but for now gorge yourself – in reverse order, no less – on a veritable gaggle of pantomime villains from 2008-09, at the madcap world that is Tottenham Hotspur FC.10. Fulham – Technicallly, we’re probably better off not qualifying for Europe, as it will almost certainly increase our chances of a top four finish next season. However, this was an argument I blindly ignored in the final few months, as all other contenders fell by the wayside, but the Cottagers consistently kept their noses in front. Gallingly, if Gomes hadn’t blundered back in November, we might well have avoided a 2-1 defeat to Fulham, and would now be dusting off our passports once again.
9. Gareth Bale – An Arsenal conspiracy in human(ish) form, Bale has gone something like 20-plus league games for us, over two seasons, without tasting victory. I’d be mightily disappointed if we flogged him off this summer, as he made a quite blistering start to his Tottenham career, but it has now reached the stage where opposition players high-five one another when they see his name on our teamsheet.
8. Peter Walton – “Who?” cry a thousand voices in unison. “The ref from the Blackburn game in April“, replies the scribe at AANP Towers, before receiving a good kicking for being such a smart-arse. We were cruising at one-nil, as has been our wont (see above) when Walton thought he’d spice things up by sending off Palacios for sneezing in the wrong direction or something similarly innocuous. Grist to Big Fat Sam Allardyce’s mill, it allowed Blackburn to lob long balls into orbit and back down to earth in our area, and two late goals gave that lot an ill-deserved 2-1 win.
7. Robbie Keane – A slightly strange one this. Rather suddenly upped and left for his “boyhood heroes”, which left the more restrained folk of White Hart Lane shaking their heads and tutting, and the rest of us shrieking invective at him until blue in the face. And then he came back, which left us slightly embarrassedly shuffling our feet and changing the subject. Nobody is yet quite sure whether we ought to be cheering for or grumbling at him.
6. The Entire Spurs Team At Burnley – One of the most embarrassing, disgraceful performances any Spurs fan can remember, we contrived to throw away a 4-1 first leg lead, to a team in the division below us, a display every bit as bad as that sounds. Frankly, it left us plain embarrassed to be heading to Wembley, but that’s where we ended up
5. Dimitar Berbatov – Easy to forget that the incredible sulk was a lilywhite at the start of the season. Decided he was way too cool for school last season, hung around to make himself a dressing-room nuisance in pre-season, and didn’t bother with to make any respectful noises on the way out. Some people depart the Lane to a hero’s ovation; Berba we’d have happily kicked all the way down the High Road and far beyond.
4. Failing to Increase One-Nil Leads – Became a particular trend in the second half of the season, when we’d routinely score in the first-half, stack up lots of possession but develop an allergy to a second goal. The result was a slew of unnecessarily tense finales to games that should have been wrapped up, sung lullabies and put to bed, in the process giving kids like Obika and Bostock a chance to shimmy on with the game sewn up. Instead, those collective final ten-minutes of games have been knocking several years of my life. Three points is three points, but this is something to improve upon for next season.
3. Howard Webb – A two-nil lead in the second-half at Old Trafford, and although we were dropping deeper and deeper we just about had the Champions at arms’ length. Cue a pretty dodgy call from the FA’s finest, and Man Utd had a penalty, and a springboard back into the game. We ought not to have fallen apart thereafter, and there’s no telling whether we’d have hung on for victory otherwise, but few dispute it was the turning-point of the game.
2. Rubbish Pre-Season Preparations – Not sure precisely who is responsible for this, but presumably Wendy Ramos ultimately takes the blame. A pre-season that saw us beat everyone we came across, scoring about a trillion goals in the process, counted for absolutely nothing because all those opponents were lower-league Spanish reserve teams or undercooked continentals about three weeks behind us in terms of pre-season. Preparation for the rigours of the Premiership it most certainly wasn’t – something we should have realised when we saw Darren Bent banging them in left, right and centre – and Two-Points-Eight-Games duly followed. Incidentally it’s a mistake now being replicated by the England cricket team ahead of the Ashes.
1. Damian Comolli – Ooh, it makes my blood boil just typing his name. Dodgy signings at inflated prices, and an insistence in interfering in the manager’s role, the blighter darn well almost got us relegated. And how the hell was he qualified, in his mid-thirties and with no decent experience, for the role as Director of Football, or whatever it was, at a Premiership club? Rumours of an Arsene Wenger conspiracy burn brightly here at AANP Towers. Kicked out in October, he’ll be mortified to know that he remains firmly off the AANP Christmas card list.
The AANP 2008-09 end-of-season awards can be found here, and you can join the AANP facebook group here or follow on twitter here-ish.