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Spurs 0-2 Portsmouth: Unlucky? Or Actually Pretty Woeful?

Well we had better get cracking with the inquest then. The slew of instant reactions I have overheard in the couple of hours since meltdown have included “Sack Harry”; “Sell Crouch”; “Recall Keane”; and even “Get Jenas back in the team”. Okay, I made up that last one, but some of the opinions ventured do seem possibly to have been delivered a tad hastily. Over at AANP Towers the mood is bizarrely philosophical – indeed, the primary question being ruminated upon around these parts is whether we lost because we were unlucky or generally quite bobbins.Luck (Or Lack Thereof)

Might as well fly through these first, for administrative purposes:

Disallowed Goal – If there was a push on David James it was by his own defender (Rocha). Well might the goalkeeper have grinned afterwards, the offensively-attired rotter.

Penalty – Sergeant Wilson got the ball, dagnabbit.

First Pompey Goal – Curses upon the Wembley groundstaff, Michael Dawson’s stud manufacturers and the Gods of Soil and Turf.

And as an added bonus, ITV’s wonky-nosed analyst Andy Townsend later highlighted that the free-kick which led to the first goal was given against Dawson for the gentlest caress on the back of a Pompey forward.

On top of these there were spells when we laid siege to the Pompey net, racked up a blinking great big stack of corners, had efforts cleared off the line and saw several of our better chances fall to Corluka – a likeable enough trooper, but not one to whom the epithet “predatory finisher” is normally applied.

Nope, not much luck around these parts.

But Not Exactly Vintage Spurs Either… 

Our play would have benefited enormously from taking the lead and thereby finding some space behind Pompey, but it was not to be, and instead every foray into the Portsmouth penalty area was welcomed by a good half-dozen defenders. They came out elbows flying, and duly defended for their lives throughout. (Whatever happened to the real Ricardo Rocha is anyone’s guess, but his doppelganger, barely recognisable from the blighter who once wore lilywhite, put in a near-faultless shift). By sitting deep our conquerors denied us the space to get beyond them, and our passing game never really materialised.

They may have made it difficult for us, but a general lack of invention, coupled with the determination of our lot to avoid one-touch football, did not help the cause, and it seemed we might have played all ruddy night and not scored. Perhaps, then, this one will be filed in the AANP the folder entitled “Simultaneously Unlucky And Actually Pretty Woeful” (next to the 2001 Carling Cup Final defeat to Blackburn).

A Couple of Points of Note Regarding Personnel

“FA Cup Semi-Final” can be added to the ever-growing number of key games in which Hudd has failed to impose himself. He might not have been match-fit, and he did pick a couple of decent passes – and one delicious, controlled shot – but boss the affair he most certainly did not.

Inevitably then, we looked out left for inspiration. The threat of Bale was largely countered by Portsmouth’s deep-lying approach, but while perhaps not as effective as in previous weeks he still seemed our most creative outlet. The hour of Lennon’s return approacheth, which if nothing else will give Bale a chance to catch his breath between gallops.

Poor old Sergeant Wilson is pretty much exonerated from blame. Understandably enough he played throughout like a man already on one yellow card, and while this denied us the sight of any bone-crunching challenges he still bustled around pretty effectively (and energetically too, in a game in which I do declare I saw a Pompey player cramp up as early as the first half). It seemed pretty cruel that after all that effort he was then unjustly booked and we lost anyway. The guy must have been pure evil in his previous life, because karma seems to have it in for him.

‘Arry’s Input 

The replacement by Krancjar of Bentley also prompted a raised eyebrow at AANP Towers. He may not have been setting the world alight, but Bentley was whipping in the occasional cross from the right, which seemed a reasonable tactic with Crouch and Pav ambling around ahead. Instead, he exited stage left, while Hudd continued to crawl around in the centre.

11th April 2010: A Pretty Rubbish Day 

If the players mope around feeling sorry for themselves like we fans are doing the Premiership push will also be up in smoke this time next week. The evidence of today suggests that over the remainder of the season we will once again choke – but how nice would it be to see our lot pick themselves up and go hell for leather for fourth spot over the next few weeks?

 

Gary Mabbutt will be signing copies of AANP book Spurs’ Cult Heroes for the masses on the following dates:
Waterstones Stevenage – Saturday 24 April, 12 noon;
Waterstones Walthamstow – Saturday 8 May, 1pm

, is now available in the Spurs shop, all good bookshops and online (at Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play).  

Spurs’ Cult Heroes

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

Kranjcar to Spurs – A Triffic Transfer

I feel like Mr Pink after the dust settles in that brief, but oh-so-memorable shoot-out. I’ll just tip-toe around the bloody mess, pick up the case full of loot and hot-foot it out of here.The bloody mess is Bentley to Man City, Petrov the other way, David James splattered all over the place, and even Anton Ferdinand, sitting lifelessly on a chair minus an ear. Transfer rumours shot to pieces, in the blink of an eye.

The case full of loot is Niko Kranjcar. Okay, maybe not a case full of loot, but it’s the first time the club has really personally apologized to me for selling Steed. I graciously accept the apology. It’s not perfect, but it’s a valid offering of peace.

I quite like Kranjcar, from the bits and bobs I’ve seen over the years. He’s not amazing, but he’ll do his best to fill the gap left by Luka, and thereafter he’ll be a cracking option in the squad. Instinct is to go forward rather than back or sideways (sounds logical, but remember ye Jermaine Jenas?); more of a

bona fide left-side man than Keane; eye for goal; cheap and cheerful. That’s a lot of boxes ticked. Triffic signing.Pardon me while I indulge in a personal whim, but I particularly like the fact that he isn’t a traditional, touchline-hugging winger. It’s just a little guilty pleasure of mine, but I much prefer “wingers” who cut inside and play a short ball on the floor. Before you know it the whole pitch seems to be alive with movement. Everyone is making cute little diagonal runs, interchanging positions, giving defenders ten things to think about all at once.

I probably ought to confess that I’m no I’m no Kranjcar expert, so feel free to storm in here, thump an irate fist down on my table and start righting wrongs I’ve just written, but the occasional MoTD highlights of him pleaseth me.

Truth be told, I’m also rather glad that we didn’t sell Bentley and didn’t buy James. (I have no opinion on Petrov). However, there remains an itch, mid-way down the back that is impossible to scratch, and it will continue to bug me for months on end. If something happens to Palacios we’re in trouble. All other eventualities we will cope with somehow, but Palacios is the cornerstone of this operation. ‘Arry has made all the right moves in the transfer market so far – not least in signing Palacios in the first place, and even in bringing in Chimbonda at a time when a real defensive crisis threatened – so I’ll just tell myself that he does have a plan for life without Wilson…

 

The invitation is still open to share your memories of White Hart Lane legends, in anticipation of Spurs’ Cult Heroes, a forthcoming book that rather does what it says on the tin. Feel free to add your memories of Jimmy Greaves here, of Jurgen Klinsmann here and Clive Allen here

Spurs’ Top Ten Mistakes of 2008-09

The real world has rather inconveniently got in the way of things at AANP Towers in the last week or so, but it’s proved fairly exquisite timing, as precious little has happened beyond some rather dubious rumour-mongering. Just to keep things ticking over here are a couple more lists, the last vestiges of 2008-09, beginning with Spurs’ 10 Worst Mistakes of 2008-09.10. Gilberto Clanger vs Spartak – Having dribbled into trouble just outside the area on his Spurs debut the previous season, Gilberto’s apparent unfamiliarity with the tactical basics were evident again this cold and crisp December evening, as he politely unfolded a napkin, blew off the steam and spoon-fed a goal to our Russian visitors. A second-half comeback rescued the tie, but only after the Brazilian had been withdrawn and effectively placed on the transfer list. 

9. Fraizer Campbell As Our Third Striker 9. Fraizer Campbell As Our Third Striker

8. Ledley’s Post-Match Pint

7. The Signing of David Bentley

6. Gomes v Udinese

5.

 

England 2-1 Ukraine: If It Ain’t Broke…

It wasn’t particularly broke, it didn’t need fixing. Curious then that Fabio suddenly came over all Norman Bates, picked up an axe and started swinging wildly until something was indeed broken.Lennon was doing a decent job on the right. He had not set the world alight, but there was always a threat, a bit of a buzz, whenever he got the ball and ran at his man. “Menacing” might be the word I’m after. That part in a horror film where the delectable and scantily clad young jezebel finds herself on her own in a dark house – you get the feeling something worth watching is about to happen, even though it might be a red herring.

Lennon on the right offered a genuine attacking threat, balancing (albeit asymmetrically) the Cole-Barry-Gerrard-Rooney combo from the left. At least, that’s how it was in the first half. The withdrawal of Lennon ten mins into the second half robbed England of their only pacy outlet, and coincided with the drop from “urgent” to “perfunctory”.

The introduction of Beckham ought to imply a general shoring up of things, with the game in the bag and 15 mins to go. Instead he was brought on with only a one-goal lead and 35 mins to play. Beckham didn’t get within 30 yards of the Ukraine by-line.

However, Beckham did provide the cross for the winner, which is basically his raison d’être in the team these days, and is something Lennon generally can’t do (certainly not from deep). So was Fabio right after all to withdraw Lennon? The case in his defence – Beckham’s assist – has been made; the prosecution argues that his introduction of Wright-Phillips once Ukraine had equalised indicates that Capello recognised the need for pace missing since Lennon’s withdrawal.

I guess the conclusion is that the whole bally lot of them rather lost urgency in the second half, and the replacement of Lennon with Beckham was a contributory factor – but, when it was needed, Beckham offered an attacking threat, albeit in a vastly different way from Lennon.

The Rest of Them

Elsewhere, it’s broken-record time, as Gerrard’s performance for country was again patently less impressive than his typical displays for club (which is the cue for all Liverpool fans to create life-size models of All-Action-No-Plot Towers and then burn them down in incandescence). Gerrard remains a square peg in a round hole for England. He is most effective behind the front man; but this would negate Rooney, who in a different sort of way is also most effective behind the front man. The bar ain’t big enough for the two of them.

Gerrard on the left is fine against Slovakia, but one wonders if he’ll be quite as effective on the left in the latter stages of a World Cup. Personally I’d go with J. Cole left, and Gerrard-Barry in the centre, with Gerrard having more licence to attack than Lampard currently does. The whole business of Lampard playing a more “disciplined” – i.e. defensive – role had me flailing my arms and muttering in frustration all night.

My man-crush on Rooney continues, but that darned red mist enveloped him once again.

James – calamity.

Ashley Cole – strangely beset by an identity crisis that had him thoroughly clueless as to his nationality, with the result that he spent most of the game passing to Ukrainians. Someone dig out the boy’s passport and talk him through it.

Terry – good assist, and smartly-taken goal, but reckless in conceding the free-kick for their goal. Oh that Ledley’s knee was healthy.

Crouch’s goal was also smartly-taken, but the celebrations for both goals were rubbish. Crouch at least had the decency to look thoroughly embarrassed by whatever the hell he was doing. The Terry-Rooney routine was as appalling as it was perplexing.

However, the bright and breezy take on the game is that we were excellent in the first half, patient and dangerous; and when we absolutely had to raise our game in the second half we did. Three points is all-important in qualifying. If/when we make the World Cup Finals, no-one will care about that dodgy half 30 mins in the second half vs Ukraine in April.

Spurs 1-1 Portsmouth: Denied by Philosophical Shot-Stopper

It was a pretty manic, all-action-no-plot match; a performance pleasingly high on commitment from every man in lilywhite; and, but for an irritatingly supreme performance from the Premiership’s self-styled philosopher-in-chief, David James, it would have had ended with three points in the bag.James had perplexingly taken to quoting completely irrelevant lines from Isaac Newton in the pre-game build-up, but appeared not to have neglected the day-job once on the pitch. Early on he was leaping at full-stretch to his left, to palm away a Ledley header. “Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination,” he could clearly be seen to mouth as he dusted himself off – “Oscar Wilde”. Moments later, as Defoe dived to head goalwards a Lennon cross, James tipped it over the bar, murmuring as he did so, “The luck of having talent is not enough; one must also have a talent for luck.”

In the second half James’ talent for luck became even more evident, with his snap-save to keep out a deflection from Lennon’s driven cross. “Illusory joy is often worth more than genuine sorrow,” whispered the Premiership’s resident academic , as the save led to a Pompey break which 15 seconds later saw Nugent score. “Kant!” screamed ‘Arry. “Descartes,” corrected James.

Although possession was frequently conceded, Spurs looked to have far better balance with Three-Touch O’ Hara out left, rather than Bentley and his hair-gel. Three-Touch’s presence also seemed to have a calming influence upon half-man-half-simian Gareth Bale, whose performance was less mistake-riddled than in recent weeks. No doubt having taken umbrage at the nickname ascribed to him at All-Action-No-Plot Towers, young O’ Hara did his best to dispel the accusation that he needs at least three touches when in possession – but alas, he seemed to have misunderstood the nature of the slight, and instead frequently resorted to five or six touches. Sterling performance, though, with generally decent distribution, and passion in the tackle.

Lennon’s willingness to cut infield as well as dip the shoulder and dart out wide caused problems for Belhadj, a very capable left-back. Encouragingly, Lennon’s performance also included a peach of a cross for Defoe, as noted above. Despite never lumbering beyond first gear, Corluka made a vital goal-saving intervention, as well as augmening attack to good effect.

The injury to Pav can apparently be filed under “Whingeing Foreigner” rather than “Out For The Season”, which will probably disappoint ‘Arry, who was no doubt straining at the leash for another excuse to bid £15 mil for more mediocre Premiership strikers. Meanwhile, the sight of Ledley limping off was dispiriting, but hardly surprising, for such is the plight of a man whose physique comprises feathers held together with blu-tac.

And so to Defoe. Bouyed by his success in the All-Action-No-Plot Haircut of 2008 category (see http://www.allactionnoplot.com/?p=161) the young man made an early bid to retain his crown with a Craig David circa ’99 effort, and also turned back the clock with his shoot-on-sight policy. The man has his detractors, and is accused of limited ability, but I’m a big fan of his penchant for regularly shooting on target, and generally with some power. Forcing the ‘keeper to make a save invites success at any level. Today, he was unfortunate to come up against a full-time philosopher with a line in breathtaking saves, but oh that Darren Bent would adopt a similar hit-the-target-and-see approach…

Defoe’s efforts were ultimately rewarded with the equalising goal (leaving James to muse with sadness “If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same…”). Our pressure merited a winner, and but for Bent’s awful sense of geography would have done so, but the manner of the performance gives cause for optimism. Consummatum est, as David James no doubt mused at full-time.

Spurs – Portsmouth Preview

Spurs – Pompey would ordinarily be deemed a rather tepid fixture, the sort assigned for commentary to Tony Gubba on a Saturday MOTD. Today however, the fixture carries the sort of needle more usually associated with a local derby.The return of big Sol to the Lane will have had N17’s finest clearing their throats in preparation for his usual pantomime villain treatment, and this week’s game neatly coincides with the arrest of 11 fans for singing anti-Sol songs at Fratton Park earlier in the season. While, mercifully, the homophobia will no longer be heard, rumour has it that a censored version of the Sol song is being fine-tuned in preparation for today, possibly including that most magnificent of derogatory monikers, “rotter”.

Moreover, today’s game will also be the first time ‘Arry and Defoe face their former employers, since shrugging their shoulders, eschewing loyalty and nonchalantly strolling up to the Lane with cheery one-fingered salutes at the great and good of Fratton Park, routines completed with faux astonishment at the heckling they receive from Pompey fans.

And on top of all that, just when you thought it couldn’t get any juicier, global bragging rights are at stake, as I have a mate in New Zealand who is a Pompey fan. Honestly, could the build-up to this game be any more dramatic?

While the police and clubs have officially pleaded for calm, the self-styled Descartes of the Premiership, David James, has rather stuck a spanner in the works by urging Portsmouth’s travelling support to give ‘Arry and Defoe some grief, a call to arms which will have security staff at the Lane rolling their eyes and cursing under their breath.

Ever since insisting he had Zidane’s last-minute free-kick covered and then freezing on the spot as it sailed past him, at Euro 2004, I’ve had an axe to grind with James. He probably is quite thoughtful and intelligent, but he acts in all sincerity like he’s a Nobel prize-winner. Memorably, on a Rio Ferdinand wind-up, he waxed lyrical about a painting of a house, and specifically the symbolism of its over-sized windows, before being told it had been painted by a 5 year-old. Why can’t he just stick to football? It’s like going to a U2 concert and hearing that Bono chap rant on about how in third world countries there are 18 dying kids living in a mud-hut with only a beetle to eat between now and Christmas. Fair point, but the punters are paying to hear Angel of Harlem and other late 80’s classics. If they wanted to save the world they’d stop washing and go on protest marches, not attend U2 concerts.

David James’ self-importance has rubbed off on his boss, Tony Adams, who also likes to try throwing in the odd philosophical platitude when being interviewed on his appalling managerial record. Heaven knows what the team-talks at Portsmouth are like. So in the build-up to today’s game James has gone and made the sort of remarks that would land Joe F*cking Kinnear with a disrepute charge – but being David James he’s got away with it. With his battle-cry ringing in the ears of Pompey fans, and Sol making his latest return to the Lane, the noise from the stands ought to be pretty fiery today.

Oh that the Spurs players would display that sort of frenzied aggression. How pleasing it would be if they picked up where they left off against Burnley. Instead I fear that we’ll be outfought and outfoxed in midfield by footballing luminaries of the ilk of Kaboul and Nugent, prompting ‘Arry to blame the players, stewards, groundstaff and any other remnants of the old regime.

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