Spurs transfers

Zokora, Gunter, Dogtanian and the Scary Crouch Rumour

Ahoy-hoy. You may have noticed an eerie silence descending over AANP Towers in the last fortnight. Apologies – ‘twas initially intended as no more than a short break for an All-Action Stag Weekend (the impressive casualty list including A&E for the stag, a broken limb, a black eye, two lost phones, one lost wallet and a lost passport). It then morphed seamlessly into a full-blown two-week period of plain bone idleness on my part, at least in the world of Tottenham ruminations. All revved up now though, and with plenty about which to report, which makes a pleasant change this summer.Do-Do-Do Didier 

Plenty has already been said about Zokora’s departure on other corners of the interweb, and the consensus – that he was a headless chicken – is one with which I agree. His time in lilywhite was epitomised, for me, by his moment at the end of the 2008 Carling Cup Final – the adventurous dash forward, crowned by wild flailing shots when he sighted goal. His energetic style ought to make him a success in La Liga, where the game is typically a mite slower. A likeable enough chap, but the good folk of AANP Towers are not particularly bothered to see him go.

That is not meant to sound harsh, for Zokora was certainly committed to the Tottenham cause – which we all appreciated. It is more that the departure of players, even those for whom I feel great affinity, no longer bothers me, for such is the nature of the game. As a crestfallen whippersnapper, I desperately tried to maintain a stiff upper lip when Dogtanian waved goodbye to his parents and set off to seek his fame and fortune. The incident taught me a valuable lesson: that people in all walks of life – be they colleagues, animated Muskehounds or favoured footballers – inevitably move on, no matter how much they are cherished. Zokora was never a player I cherished particularly, and I therefore greet his departure with little more than a blasé shrug. Zokora was Premiership standard and Palacios is Champions League, so the business done in 2009 represents progress for Spurs.

Gunter to Forest 

Still, unlike Zokora, Gunter is young enough to improve. As such it would have made some sense to loan him out for another year, or at least collect a fee which reflected his potential for improvement.

This is hardly a cause that will instil in me the urge to make a placard, yell into a megaphone and upturn parked cars, but it certainly had me raising a surprised eyebrow.

Downing to Villa – Huzzah! 

Football is Back – Huzzah! 

Cheers too for the inclusion in the starting line-up vs Exeter of Danny Rose. While I accept that one Under-21 starlet does not a Busby Babes team make, we are nevertheless verging on notoriety for our reluctance to blood home-grown youth, so Rose’s presence in the first starting XI of the pre-season rather warmed the AANP cockles. He’s an exciting prospect, and I sincerely hope that one or two from Rose, Bostock, Obika, Livermore et al at least become regulars on our bench this season. Polite applause also for the disco feet shown from Livermore in setting up Defoe’s goal from Bournemouth.

Jeers, however, for the pairing of Keane and Defoe as our front-two for the Exeter game. Really? Is that the best strike pairing ‘Arry could muster of after a whole summer’s thought?

Crouch? Ye Gads No! 

(Interestingly, I last season heard either Graham Taylor or David Pleat mention on the radio that Crouch’s general uselessness in the air is due to the fact that, as an elongated teen, he rarely had to jump to win headers, and therefore never really worked his lower back, to develop a Les Ferdinand-esque leaping ability.)

AANP’s famous Who Would Buy Him? technique for gauging a player’s quality is already being implemented, with Sunderland and Fulham trying to lasso him. Champions League he ain’t, yet he is one of the few players in whom ‘Arry has gone on record to report interest this summer. I would rather persist with Pav, and have Obika on hand as our fourth striker.

Spurs preview

Spurs – Shakhtar Second Leg Preview: What’s The Worst That Can Happen?

Given that this season I’ve needed so little encouragement to bow my head in despair and slip into a straitjacket of pessimism whenever the Tottenham circus rolls back into town, it is strange and vaguely ironic that today’s most hopeless of situations finds me at my most optimistic. A two-goal deficit would be tricky enough for us to negotiate at the best of times. Throw into that a polyglot mix of overweight (Hudd), comically inept (Jenas) and internally-loathed (Gilberto) reserves, alongside a bunch of kids so young that they need parental permission to stay up for kick-off, and the tricky task ought to become Herculean in its magnitude.And yet somehow, I genuinely do feel upbeat. With the tie just about over already, the burdensome dread that I normally carry on my shoulders as kick-off approaches is strangely absent today. We’re two down, and sending out our kids and deadbeats – what’s the worst that can happen?

Actually, that might be a rather dangerous rhetorical question to bandy around. I close my eyes and the worst-case scenario unfolds… Start listlessly, concede a couple of early goals and the floodgates open. The heaviest aggregate defeat in our European history, or some such statistic. If it really does all go spectacularly wrong it could have catastrophic effects upon the careers of Obika and Townsend and the rest of our “triffic” kids. ‘Arry, and any other watching scouts summarily pass judgement upon them and their one chance at the big-time dissipates in 90 minutes of ignominy. They’ll go back to their academies battered shells of their former selves, psychologically scarred for life, and without a cat in hell’s chance of making the grade at the Lane, destined instead for a lifetime of ignominy in the footballing no-man’s-land that is Leyton Orient. (Not that any of this will have the slightest impact upon Spurs’ long-term future, as we never ease home-grown talent into our first team if we have the option of splashing out £14 mil on someone from a struggling Premiership side instead).

However, I really do remain optimistic that no such nightmare will unfold, and that, instead, we’ll put on a ruddy good, fearless, attacking performance tonight. Admittedly I can’t really see us winning the tie, as concession of one goal would leave us needing to score four. Nevertheless, after a season in which our underachieving first-choice rabble have been epitomised by Darren Bent – plenty of huffing and puffing without ever displaying real class – it would just be a typically illogical Tottenham thing to see our second-string of wastrels and street urchins produce a dazzling, energetic, motivated performance tonight. Before disappearing back to the substitutes’ bench, reserve team and youth league, rarely to be seen again.

Moreover, the whole attitude of the camp is a little different. Last week the game was lost before a ball had been kicked, so belligerently did ‘Arry insist that the match did not matter. The actual starting eleven selected last week, while weaker than normal, really was not the selection of inbreds and pre-pubescents many had anticipated. Gomes, Dawson, Zokora, Hudd, Jenas, Bentley – there ought to have been enough there to keep the tie alive. Rather than the choice of personnel it seemed to be the defeatist attitude that cost us. This week, inevitably, soundbites have been trotted out by the likes of Gomes and Giovanni about how determined the players are to fight their way back into the tie and so on. Vacuous untruths for sure, but, if repeated sufficiently frequently, I faithfully believe that the players might just lack the intelligence to realise that it’s all a lie, and instead go out there all guns blazing tonight.

There is no pressure upon the team to deliver. Young Three-Touch O’ Hara is likely to return, which should inject a bit of life into proceedings. And should we grab the first goal, the atmosphere will bubble up, and pressure will most certainly mount upon our Ukrainian guests…

While tonight is a chance for the youngsters to shine – aside, annoyingly, from Taraabt, inexplicably omitted from the Uefa list by Wendy Ramos – spare a thought for any older heads called into action. With Carling Cup final just three days away, 90 minutes tonight would pretty much guarantee omission from the side that trots out at Wembley on Sunday.  Gunter, Jenas, Hudd and especially Dawson are amongst the likely candidates for selection tonight – and disappointment at the weekend.