All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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Wigan 0-3 Spurs: How Delightfully Un-Tottenham

Well we can postpone work on those “Sack ‘Arry” placards for the time-being at least. With a maturity that even they themselves probably did not realise they possessed our heroes adapted to the conditions better than the other lot, made better chances and saw out the game with consummate professionalism. While I braced myself for a late bout of insanity from someone or other, the players abandoned an age-old Tottenham tradition and instead navigated through to the end without any scares.The pitch hardly made for champagne football, and for a while it looked like our lot were under orders to bypass the mud by pinging long balls at every opportunity, but to their credit they persevered with the passing game as much as the conditions allowed. (Before Modders came and made it look like he was playing on a bowling-green.)

As well as their use of the ball and acclimatisation to the conditions, the willingness to roll up sleeves, slide through the mud and fight the attritional war was also most gratifying (in theory at least, although Messrs Defoe and Bale adopted dangerously dubious interpretations of the notion of “getting stuck in”). While we did not necessarily always win those 50-50 balls, neither did we look like we would shirk the challenges. Top marks, chaps.

The Opening Goal

I suspect even objective Wigan fans would admit that we were good value for the win, but there is no denying that the first goal went miles beyond the boundary of “fortuitous”, and ensconced itself comfortably in the world of the downright absurd. While Bale’s charge down the left merits thumping applause, Defoe had, as ever, clearly jumped the gun. He did at least have the grace to look suitably embarrassed by it all.

C’est la vie. Statistics may suggest otherwise, but AANP is of the train of thought that these things loosely even out over a season, and we have certainly been hard done by in recent weeks (off the top of my head Defoe’s disallowed goal against Liverpool, and penalty shout against Villa, in recent weeks). Moreover, for all the controversy surrounding it the opening goal did not make a huge difference to the general pattern of the game, throughout which manful efforts to plough through the quagmire were achieved better by our lot than theirs.

However, there is a counter-argument that that opening goal was crucial for us inasmuch as that breaking the deadlock has become something of a mental barrier for us in recent weeks. Time and again we have played well but failed to get that all-important first goal, with the result that we have ended up battering away at a ten-man defence. On Sunday, through outrageous officiating we found ourselves ahead – and were then able to play against a team forced to edge out towards us. Wigan did not exactly come at us all guns blazing, but nor were they able to pile bodies into defence. As a result, particularly in the second half, our forwards found themselves man-to-man against a defender, rather than facing two banks of four.

Triffic Substitutions 

Pav: Super

He is evidently a popular little bunny amongst his team-mates, but ‘Arry did not exactly look thrilled to bits with Pav’s little cameo, the camera close-up straight after the third goal capturing a particularly morose expression across the face of our glorious leader. However, there is now no avoiding the fact that our head honcho has a selection dilemma. An inspired twenty minutes as substitute is one thing, but can Pav produce the goods on a regular basis? Does he only play like that against weaker teams? How would he fare if given a regular run in a settled side (I discount the Wendy Ramos era in which he featured as not constituting “a settled side”)? Would he and Defoe work as a combo?

Such questions are unanswered at present, but he looked mighty darned classy on Sunday, the contrast with his gangling strike partner neatly emphasised when he scored precisely the sort of chance Crouch had missed moments earlier. Not many tears would be shed if the lanky one were dropped to the bench and Pav given a starting-berth alongside Defoe for a few games. Crouch is a jack of various trades but master of none, and the time might be right to lock him in a cage labelled “Plan B”.

Corluka: Not So Super 

All told however, it was a staggeringly professional display. Solid in defence; determined and creative as necessary in midfield; sharp in attack. That’s three consecutive halves of good football from our lot – so for one week at least the Prophets of Doom have courteously shuffled aside, to let the Top-Four Delusionalists make themselves heard.

 

AANP’s first book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, will be in shops from 6 March – but is available to pre-order now from Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith,Amazon , TescoWaterstones and Play 

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

And as ever, all are most welcome to leave memories – and browse those of others – regarding some of the players to be featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Danny Blanchflower here, Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Martin Chivers here, Alan Gilzean here, Pat Jennings here, Cyril Knowles here, Steve Perryman here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jürgen Klinsmann here, David Ginola here, Paul Gascoigne here

Arsenal – Spurs Preview: Good News and The Usual Grumble

Normally the points in this fixture are rather an irrelevance, but this time there is more at stake than just bragging rights. The sides go into the game separated only by goal difference, and the three points up for grabs could prove crucial come May. Ultimately, league position is the gauge, and this season for a change we have a realistic chance of finishing above l’Arse. Our squad is much improved, a degree of consistency has been added and player for player there isn’t much to choose between the two teams, even in the absence of our pint-sized attacking triumverate. Plus, unlike the last time we challenged them, Paul Stalteri is now nowhere near the squad. Irrespective of the result tomorrow, the gap has narrowed and come the end of the season we could well finish higher than them.I earnestly suggested all this to my l’Arse-supporting colleague at lunch today, and while he nodded politely enough he could not disguise a smirk. Which speaks volumes.

The Good News

The good news is that Ledley is back. “Good news” is an understatement, for these are almost certainly the three greatest words in the English language.

Woodgate may be available; Crouch – threatening a robot celebration if he does the business tomorrow – has a hat-trick to his name against l’Arse, in his previous incarnation as a scouser; while Bentley must have gazed at his reflection in the White Hart Lane mirrors even more adoringly than usual after his excellent performance as Lennon’s deputy on Tuesday, against Everton. Full-strength we may not be, but strong nevertheless.

The Usual Grumble 

Curiously, for a man so uniquely capable of inspiring a thousand foul-mouthed tirades from his own fans, Jenas has a rather impressive pedigree against l’Arse. A couple of years back he scored a lovely last-minute equaliser at the Lane; and a year ago almost to the day he produced an absolute blinder at the death in the 4-4 game, the sort of goal about which pundits and fans alike would been raving all season if scored by anyone who wasn’t Jermaine Jenas.

I also recall, with some bewilderment, that there was a brief period under Wendy Ramos when Jenas grew his hair and became awesome. He genuinely looked like he had indeed stepped up a level, and his feats included the first goal in the 5-1 spanking of l’Arse. It proved the exception rather than the norm in his career, but provides some cause for optimism.

Things I’d Like To See on Saturday: Absence of Kamikaze 

My wish-list for this week therefore comprises things I don’t want to see happening. Like Sergeant Wilson picking up two reckless yellow cards. Or Robbie Keane having a penalty saved. Or Gomes dropping a clanger. There would be something quintessentially Spurs about doing all the hard work and then gifting away the game on a plate, through one moment of madness.

I was going to end with a little SWOT analysis of our opponents, but then I realised I don’t actually care about them. Instead, have another viewing of Bentley’s greatest moment in lilywhite.

 

As ever, all are most welcome to leave memories – and browse those of others – regarding some of the players to be featured in forthcoming book Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann hereY

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

 

Boo Hiss – The Top-Ten Spurs Villains 2008-09

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.

All Action No Plot 2008 Awards…

What better way to fill a 31st December posting than with some end of 2008 all-action-no-plot awards?

Let’s not beat about the bush – the calendar year 2008 has been largely woeful. No plot, and only sporadic moments of action saw us go into freefall after the Carling Cup win and head towards 2009 just above the drop-zone. However, you can’t take the all-action-no-plot out of the team, so without further ado…

All-Action-No-Plot Performance of 2008
Even this mundane year has seen completely mental 4-4 draws against both Chelski and l’Arse. However, for all sorts of glorious reasons the outright winner, by four clear goals is the 5-1 win over l’Arse. To quote the song – even Jenas scored! To see us tear apart the old enemy, to see them implode to the extent that they started headbutting one another, to see Steed sweep home the glorious fifth – and watching it all with a gooner mate, before returning to an office full of gooner mates… bliss.

All-Action-No-Plot Haircut of 2008
David Bentley will throw a right strop if he doesn’t win this one, having worn out the mirrors in the dressing room, and openly dedicated more time to flicking his on-off fringe than fighting for the badge. Jermaine Jenas went through a Samson phase early in the year, growing his hair, miraculously becoming half-decent, only to cut it short and become rubbish again. The winner is therefore Jermaine Defoe’s brief flirtation with the Wembley arc – across his head.

All-Action-No-Plot Goal of 2008
Robbie Keane’s late equaliser vs Chelski springs to mind, and Jenas’ late strike vs l’Arse is likely to be forgotten despite its quality, but the one that really made me leap out of my seat was Brylcreem boy David Bentley taking time out from his hectic schedule of personal grooming to thoughtfullly silence the Emirates with a 40+ yard uber-volley.
As I blogged at the time: Coca-Cola once ran a bunch of posters, showing grown men who ought to know better getting rather carried away at football matches. The line was something along the lines of “One day you will see a goal so beautiful you will want to marry it, move to a small island and live there with it forever.” That’s Bentley’s goal, that is. I want to marry it and have lots of baby wonder-goals with it.

All-Action-No-Plot Celebration of 2008
With Robbie Keane dispensing with the intricate gymnastics, there aren’t too many stand-out nominees. Woodgate’s lumbering jog of exuberance in the Carling Cup final epitomised how we were all feeling, but the best celebrations came around 12 hours later, as Lennon, Jenas, Hutton and, most memorably, Ledley King stumbled out of Faces, with traces of blood barely detectable in their alchohol streams. Classy.

All-Action-No-Plot Moment of 2008
The look on the face of my gooner mate Hawthy as we spanked them 5-1 was priceless, but let’s face it, that would have counted for precious little if we hadn’t completed the job a few weeks later at Wemberley.  It might not have been aesthetically pleasing, but seeing Woody get punched in the face by the ball, which then apologetically stumbled into the empty net, as Woody himself and Berba went slipping and sliding around the turf – I just wish I had been sober enough to remember it more clearly.

All-Action-No-Plot Chant of 2008
Take a bow the Dinamo Zagreb ultras (and there won’t be many times in my life that I come out with that line). We didn’t understand a word of what they said – just as well, I’d imagine – but their song was so good that the Park Laners adopted it as their own, for 15 crazy minutes.

All-Action-No-Plot Manager of 2008
Sigh. This will have to be won by default. Wendy Ramos masterminded the 5-1 over l’Arse, and won us our first trophy in nine years – then undid all the good work and sold Steed. Whereas ‘Arry arrived on a chariot of media goodwill, somehow stumbled across a string of welcome wins, but has since rather lost the magic touch. So the All-Action-No-Plot Manager of 2008 award goes to my boss at work, for giving us wine on the morning of Christmas Eve.

All-Action-No-Plot Young Player of 2008
How old do you have to be to be “young”? I’d say, completely arbitrarily, that 27 is still quite young, so anyone born in the ’80s qualifies for this award. Therefore Ledley wins it, as he lifted the cup for us, which is more than anyone else can say this millenium.

All-Action-No-Plot Player of 2008
As hinted by the preceding award, we’ve not exactly been blessed with stand-out performances this year. Can’t really give it to Keane, after his dastardly exit to his “boyhood club”, Berba had an average year by his standards. Jenas had a bizarrely purple patch at the start of 2008, but normality was soon restored and he quickly became rubbish again. Therefore, the true “player” of 2008 was the man who played away on his stunning wife, the numpty – and got caught, the numpty. Ashely Cole, you dirty cheating rat, show your face and claim your award.

It makes little sense, it’s been manic and much of it beggars belief – 2008 has been quite an all-action-no-plot year. God bless ye merry folk, and all the best for next year. See you in 2009!

The Curious Incident of Juande Ramos…

This Juande Ramos affair just becomes increasingly surreal. There always was an air of mystery about him and his band of merry man – primarily because they all seemed to be mute – but this was compounded by the arrival of new faces and ever-changing tactics; followed by his reappearance at Real Madrid of all places; and now the press reports that he’s eyeing up Dider Zokora of all people! What the hell is going on? With the increasing number of loose ends, bizarre sub-plots and unanswered questions this is beginning to resemble one of those ultra-complicated episodes of The X-Files, which finishes without resolving anything, leaving you mildly irritated and wanting to kick the television (or in this case Damien Comoli).

 

I don’t particularly want to re-open the debate of whether or not he should have been sacked etc. There are strong cases to be made for both sides of the argument. On one hand he steered us out of relegation trouble last year, demolished l’arse and then won the Carling Cup, with some shrewd tactical moves during the final vs Chelski, whilst generally maintaining an attractive style. Given time he would probably (maybe) have settled down, created a team he liked and made us Uefa cup regulars. On the other hand, he let the players give up the season after the Carling Cup final, was to some extent responsible for a dubious summer transfer strategy, was unable to settle upon formation or personnel after the best part of a year in charge and oversaw our worst start to a league campaign since woolly mammoths roamed the earth. Nor could he be bothered to learn the language after a year, not even to the comical-but-endearing extent of Claudio Ranieri/Phil Scolari. I’ve even heard it suggested that his success in Spain was due more to the Director of Football he had in place at Sevilla. Who knows?

 

Instead, I watch his career from a distance, with respect and a certain degree of bewilderment. Did he really think that Modric, a man who weighs less than his own shadow, was right for the midfield holding role? Does he really rate Zokora as the best player at the Lane? Has he really ended up at the biggest club in the world?

 

I suspect that even the most restrained Spurs fans, and indeed English football fans, would have raised an eyebrow at that, but if you tilt your head to one side and squint a bit, it does make some sense. It’s mutually beneficial – once Real decided to sack Schuster they needed a fairly safe pair of hands just to see them through to the end of the season, while for Ramos himself it’s a pay-day a useful CV point after the Spurs debacle, with not much to lose and something to gain. If it works the contract could be extended, if not there’s no commitment beyond the end of the season. Think Joe Kinnear with paella.

 

In a parallel universe maybe it all made perfect sense, and the Carling Cup win simply catalysed bigger and better things for the club with Juande in charge. Here and now however, I feel drunk just thinking about it. Good luck to the man, but roll on Man Utd under ‘Arry.

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