All Action, No Plot

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Burnley 4-2 Spurs: The Nostalgic Return of Some Old Tottenham Favourites

Maybe it’s just as well. For all the joy and excitement, it was actually a bit disorientating to see us churn out displays of such professionalism and efficiency week in and week out. Just as in the final episode of an American soap opera, when popular former characters are wheeled back in for nostalgic cameo appearances, so in tear-jerking style Spurs made sure that in the season finale we were given a final glimpse of former weekly regulars, the Soft Underbelly and Barely Fathomable Implosion. Thus, as would happen with regularity bordering on inevitability in the not-too-distant past, we were once again treated to our heroes managing to throw away a game of which they had appeared in complete control. Two up against a relegated side? Not a problem for the Spurs teams of yore, and for old time’s sake, here it was again, in all it’s former glory. Old Folk: Wise

The old-timer next to me in the pub may have had the right idea when he suggested at half-time that, on finding out that l’Arse were 3-0 up – and third place therefore gone – the Spurs players would ease up in the second half. It would certainly explain why our lot simply melted away in the latter stages. The wizened gentleman’s analysis was also a darned sight more accurate than the AANP retort, that we would push on for the 10-goal win we needed that would improve our goal difference in the event of an Arsenal draw. Ahem.

If It Hadn’t Been For The Four Goals We Conceded… 

Around these parts we’re thoroughly chuffed for young Modders. As I watched his goal get better with every repeat viewing, I could not help thinking that he probably does that sort of thing every day in training. If there is a criticism of him it is that he does not score often enough, but by golly they are always well worth the wait.

Thoroughly perplexing to see Ledley in action and fully mobile yet again. Perhaps with the names Carragher and Sol Campbell now bizarrely being bandied around for the World Cup squad, Ledley thought it best to ease everyone’s nerves by demonstrating that he can in fact play three times in one week, and that there is therefore no need for Don Fabio to go mental and start scouting the 2002 squad list for options.

2009/10: Better Than We Had Dared Hope 

Top six, or a trophy. Or both. The bookies make us sixth favourites for the title, and sixth spot is an aim that straddles the divide between “ambitious” and “realistic”. In more private confines we may peer hopefully towards fourth spot, particularly given the sales made by Wenger this summer, but there will be tough competition for that…” 

Many, many sincere thanks to all have this season supported AANP in the writing and publication of Spurs’ Cult Heroes. This modest tome is now available in the Spurs shop, and online (at Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play). You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

Liverpool – Spurs Preview Mk II: The Spurs Soap Opera Season Finale

After yesterday’s supposed Liverpool-Spurs “preview” morphed onto a completely different topic, I spent the entire night racked with guilt. (Actually, that’s a pretty blatant lie – I spent last night pickling my liver and hurling down shapes on various London dancefloors. That new Dizzee Rascal number is rather a toe-tapper).Nonetheless, I thought it best to look in a little more detail at today’s game – it is the last of the season after all. As with any soap-opera season finale, the madcap all-action-no-plot soap opera that is Tottenham Hotspur 2008-09 has its main plot, sub-plots and all manner of character developments.

Main Storyline 

Not that it will be easy. Far from it. While we’ve been stringing together one-nils, Liverpool have assumed the all-action-no-plot mantle, with four-goal salvos against Man Utd, Real, Chelski and l’Arse to name but a few. Even last week, after the title had been lost, their players gave notice of quite how psyched they were for a meaningless game vs Blackburn or someone by indulging in a spot of mid-match fisticuffs with one another. Golly.

Although a win for us is unlikely, it’s nevertheless pleasing to be going into the final day with a goal (that isn’t relegation-avoidance) for which to aim. It just about elevates us above mid-table obscurity. Just.

Sub-Plot

Then there’s Robbie Keane, a sub-plot containing levels of coincidence that could feasibly have been penned by a particularly predictable script-writer. A game which ought to have been about him making a point to his former employers now sees him rather needing to convince an increasingly cynical Spurs faithful that he does more than point and shout. The man’s stock has fallen this season, and while it would be fitting for him to grab the headlines with something spectacular, recent history suggests his contribution could again be muted. I’d suggest Jamie Carragher is more likely to score from us, at least from open play.

Another sub-plot, which is almost certain to stretch into next season, is Defoe-Keane. They get another run-out today, but it’s a riddle we’re no closer to solving.

Character Development

Some characters exit shows in pretty dramatic fashion, especially if they’re bald doctors in ER, but David Bentley’s likely exit will probably be without fanfare, perhaps just briefly alluded to in an episode next season. Departing characters are par for the course in the world of soap operas, but while some members of the supporting cast are likely to bow out (Bent, Giovani etc), the central figures ought to remain, thank goodness. None of the Berba-esque shenanigans of last time, thank you.

After respectively quiet and downright inauspicious starts, Modric and Gomes have become key members, around whom plotlines regularly centre. If an episode of the Spurs soap opera had opening credits, those two would feature, together with Palacios, Ledley, Woodgate and maybe one or two of the strikers.

(As full-backs, Corluka and Assou-Ek rarely get starring roles in any given episodes, but they’re background presence is reassuring.)

It would certainly be nice to end this season with a bang, and I’ll certainly have an eye, or ear, on the Fulham score, but realistically we’ll need as much luck as we had back at the Lane earlier in the season. Once more unto the breach, dear friends…

 

(nb AANP is now on Facebook and Twitter. Ruddy marvellous).

England – Slovakia Preview: Pleat on The European Parliament, Gerrard on The Left

A friendly against some generic Eastern European country will make for a pretty underwhelming Saturday evening. Slovakia, as with Slovenia, Estonia, Belarus and the rest of them, never has contributed anything to football, and probably never will. No-one can name a famous Slovakian player, they will all have rubbish haircuts and are basically the international equivalent of Bolton or someone. It’s likely to be tedious and eminently forgettable – yet is probably a smart choice on the part of the FA bigwigs, given that next week the players all have to make diplomatic noises about the qualifier against Ukraine.Actually, Slovakia might be half-decent, having once been part of a country with healthy footballing pedigree – Czechoslovakia (still part of them in fact, within the strange alternate universe that is David Pleat’s head, where there exists “the republic of Czechoslovakia”. Get that man his own seat in the European Parliament, and watch as history is rewritten.) However, it’s a long-shot. Slovakia might be have some talent, but the likelihood is that this will quickly descend into the archetypal big-boys-vs-lower-league fare.

Personally I quite hope that the game remains nil-nil well after the first half hour, and into the second half. If Slovakia stick eleven men behind the ball, and play the role of untalented spoilers an Rooney-baiters, they will provide a useful test of England’s patience and creativity. By contrast a couple of early goals would draw out the Slovaks, create space and lead to a rout – we would learn nothing. A long barren stalemate will at least give England the experience of breaking down stubborn opponents. With England cruising atop the group, the only potential obstacle to World Cup qualification is likely to be rubbish Eastern Europeans slamming the ball to halfway and inviting us to go again.

Mind you, failure to score an early goal against Absurdistan would probably have the Wembley crowd laying eggs and bottling one another. It’s probably just a minority, but I can honesty say I’ve never heard such a shamefully abusive and impatient bunch. Nevertheless, at the risk of enraging the Neanderthalic Massive, I’m hoping for a dour, goalless start to the game.

Gerrard On The Left 

Injury to the fantastic Joe Cole has again provided a handy escape route from the Lampard-Gerrard problem. Gerrard is fist-clenchingly annoying, but I can’t deny that he’s been awesome in that role behind the striker(s) this season. It seems a right waste to shunt him out left, even though our own wonderful Luka has demonstrated that this need not be a hindrance to a creative genius.

I hope that once Cole is fit again he assumes the left-hand berth, and Gerrard replaces Lamps as the attacking central midfielder. Cole has consistently been excellent for England on the left, provides balance and width, despite being right-footed, and is the only player capable of dribbling past his man.

Lampard is no mug, but just is not as good as Gerrard. If it comes to a straight choice between the two, I hope Capello opts for the scouser (as he think he has previously done on occasion). Lampard would certainly be an excellent player to have coming off the bench.

As mentioned, I’m hardly pushing to be secretary of the Steve Gerrard Fan Cub. Top player, but like that other squeaking irritant, Jamie Carragher, he seems far more concerned about his club than country. Like Carragher, I imagine he would have little hesitation in chucking in the international game if it dawned on him that he did not have a divine right to a place in the starting XI. Presumably he changes light-bulbs by holding them and waiting for the world to revolve around him. And, on top of everything else, he always bangs home the pressure pens for his club (vs Man Utd and Real) but messed up in the quarter-final shoot-out at the World Cup. Still haven’t forgiven him for that.

So hopefully we’ll learn a few things before the glut of second-half substitutions. Great opportunity for Lennon to stake his claim. One-Trick Downing will presumably continue the crime of the century by adding a further England cap to his collection in the second half. Yet another pretender will try on the gloves. Win, lose or draw, no-one will remember this once we’re at South Africa next year.

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