Spurs preview

Man Utd – Spurs Preview: A Team of Younes Kabouls

Rejoice, all ye fellow lilywhites. Admittedly it is also with a degree of trepidation (Old Trafford will do that to a Spurs fan) but goodness me it is wonderful finally to be able to look forward to Spurs in Premiership action tonight. ‘Tis with delight therefore that I invite you to gather round and peruse with me the permutations of team selection for the evening’s festivities.Goalkeeper 

Right-Back? Kaboul?

BAE at left-back and Daws as half of the centre-back combo pick themselves; thereafter it becomes a bit tricky. Kaboul would be the obvious partner for Daws, given the absences of Gallas and Ledley, but what of right-back? Kyle Walker began against Hearts, but a Europa qualifier is a vastly different kettle of fish from a Premiership game away to the champions. Although I’m not quite sure where he was hiding last Thursday, I suspect that if fit Corluka will get the nod, so we can all enjoy the sight of him waddling along in the puff of smoke that Ashley Young leaves behind. Personally I’d go with Kaboul over any of the others at right-back.

Holding Midfielder? Kaboul?

No doubt ‘Arry, Joe Jordan and chums have been chuckling away to themselves at the irony of the fact that we possibly have more central midfielders in our squad than any other team in the Premiership, yet not a single one is fit for tonight. Ah, the hilarity! Livermore and Kranjcar then, I suppose. However, if ‘Arry wants someone with a bit of snap in central midfield the options are either sticking a jersey on Joe Jordan’s back and shoving him out there, or going with… Kaboul?

No Modders tonight, apparently “his head isn’t right”, which is an excuse I must try with my boss next time I just don’t fancy a day at the office. Still, where there is Bale and Lennon there is hope.

Attack? (Maybe Not Kaboul This Time) 

The Other Lot 

Moreover, United have thrown oodles of cash at a new goalkeeper who at best looks like he’d rather not be the chap hovering between the two big white sticks. De Gea will presumably prove his worth soon enough, but in his two appearances so far this season, as well as looking a few weeks shy of his 14th birthday and committing a crime against facial hair, he has displayed what appears to be a rather untimely allergy to ball. Apparently the lad also conceded a dozen or so goals from outside the area last season – and on a marvellously serendipitous note I read this morning that we scored more than any other team from outside the area last season…

It would be rather stretching the facts a mite to suggest that United are therefore there for the taking, but circumstances might be more favourable tonight than usual. Let the madness begin.

Spurs match reports Spurs transfers

Spurs 0-0 Man Utd: A Delayed Match Report – And With Good Reason

Apologies for the delay –since the final whistle sounded on Sunday afternoon the denizens of AANP Towers have spent every waking minute traipsing the country searching for anyone – anyone – willing to buy Peter Crouch from us. It does not have to be the chairman of a football team. He could be bought by a British Basketball Association franchise, or shoved into a museum for small children to gawp at. In fact, since the finishing touches are being put to my latest abode, and I now scour the world’s furnishing shops for a tall lamp to stand next to the very sexy black glass shelving unit, I am considering pilfering Crouch myself and shoving him a corner with a candle in his ear. Admittedly it will not undo the entirely vacuous contribution he made against United, but it would probably ensure that ‘Arry buys the striker we’re crying out for, or at least that he next time picks Defoe, or Pav, or even Carlo blinking Cudicini in attack.I perhaps exaggerate the blighter’s ineptitude, but only marginally. The dust has been allowed to settle for several days, yet harking back to the match still fills me with mild apoplexy. If anyone on the pitch looked conspicuously short of Title-challenging quality, ‘twas he. Presumably included on the basis of his ability to tee things up for VDV he was exposed as woefully incapable of offering any sort of aerial challenge to the sinister Vidic, leaving me and several of those around me to wonder whether Defoe might have caused the United back-line more problems nearer ground-level. Crouch was also treated to possibly the clearest goalscoring opportunity of the match but, alas, used the moment to add to the ever-expanding body of evidence that he is anything but a natural goalscorer (or even, to quote the more acid-tongued, a natural footballer). According to the bespectacled, anorak-clad types at Opta Crouch’s pass completion rate was apparently 32%, suggesting an allergy to the ball rather than an ability to hold it up and link play. Damning stuff, when taken in its entirety.

Anyway, if Niall Quinn is wondering why he has had champagne and caviar delivered to him every evening, a gleaming new Lamborghini has turned up in his driveway and several bars of solid gold left on his doormat, all accompanied by notes reading, “With compliments, AANP”, it is because Sunderland are rumoured to have a passing interest in signing Crouch. Egads man, take him! Take him!

Elsewhere On The Pitch

Elsewhere we fared well enough, our heroes having the better of the game without ever really convincing anyone that a goal was imminent. There was imperious stuff from Modders and Daws, and adequate stuff from Sergeant Wilson; while BAE, fast making a career of flitting between sublime and ridiculous, opted for the former, shoving Nani into his rear pocket and keeping him there for the duration, presumably to the incredulity of Alan Hansen. One mildly disappointing aspect was that after the sending-off young Master Bale did not slowly turn to ad hoc right-back Darren Fletcher and give him the blood-curdling grin of a fully-blown psychotic type, before absolutely mutilating him. Fletcher got off rather lightly in those final 15 minutes, for no obvious reason, and a thigh-slappingly good opportunity to barge back into the title race – and, more pertinently, the top four – gently edged away.

Leaps and bounds no doubt, but the progress of the last couple of years is probably not such as to make us title-challengers yet. A couple of well-chosen signings ought to do the trick. On which note…


In all honesty he’s someone I know by hearsay and Match of the Day’s condensed highlights, rather than having scouted vigorously for the last few years. However, although not the rampaging striker for which we yearn, he seems a talented attacking sort, and can apparently play left, right or centre. Moreover, if his arrival shoves Jenas down the pecking order then I will happily lock myself away in a dark for several years while I grow my hair, before braiding it and tattooing “Pienaar 40” across my back. Bolstering the quality of playing personnel as we move into the second half of the season seems a noble practice, and increasing the competition for places ought to give a healthy edge to things. Finally, as a valedictory note I wish to applaud the young man for opting for Spurs over that odious bunch from West London. Bravo sir, may your stay be long and successful.

Spurs preview

Spurs – Manchester United Preview: The Missing Scalp

Our heroes have made a pleasing habit of dispelling various hoodoos in recent months, and the latest to present itself is a ten-year drought against the eleven men of Manchester United and their various assistants in black. Over the last year or so we have torn apart some of the cream of Europe, with United’s the only scalp now missing, and while unbeaten our visitors have looked far from invincible to date this season.Traditionally we tend to use this opportunity to watch Giggs or Scholes run rings around us, but in terms of personnel we can fancy our chances of winning the midfield battle today, for VDV was born for precisely this sort of grand occasion, and Modders is in the form of his life. Moreover, aside from the glamour brought by these chaps, our cause has been bolstered no end by the return of Daws to defence in recent weeks. Was the ever a better set of reasons to rub one’s hands in gleeful anticipation?

‘Arry has been in bullish mood in the press conferences this week, but today’s teamsheet ought to give a clue as to quite how cavalier he intends to be this afternoon. Having stopped and started throughout the season so far Defoe is now back in contention, while Crouch for all his faults has turned into a regular manna-provider for VDV, so our glorious leader must decide between one or t’other. He might even, in the name of the most dreamy form of attacking kamikaze, pick both these two in attack, with VDV shoved into a midfield role somewhere, but one suspects that our approach will be a more conservative 4-4-1-1. The choice of central midfield partner for Modders will also give a hint of ‘Arry’s intentions, Sergeant Wilson representing the more cautious option, Jenas the more adventurous. L

Lose – or even draw – today and the semi-serious title chuntering will have to stop, but our heroes now tend to rise to these big occasions at the Lane.

Spurs match reports

Man Utd 2-0 Spurs: In Defence Of Mark Clattenberg

First things first – in the sprit of Mark Clattenberg’s fairly liberal definition of the term “advantage” I thought it apt to mislead the public by using the phrase “In Defence of Mark Clattenberg” when really there is no such thing. Should anyone look towards me for clarification I shall merely shrug, in an exasperating and ever so slightly arrogant manner, which really clarifies nothing for anyone. Play on!The Preceding 83 Minutes

Rather a shame that our lot collectively drifted off for the free-kick that brought about the opening goal, for that aside we traded blows fairly evenly – no mean feat at Old Trafford. Various theories have been bandied around regarding whether the blame lay with Kaboul or BAE, or whether we marked zonally or man-for-man. Whatever the conclusions, this moment, rather than the Clattenberg farce, was the crucial moment.

The Van Der Vaart Conundrum

In the first half in particular Modders and VDV were afforded more space than was entirely wise by the United mob, who came within a post’s width of paying, but life became a darned sight trickier in the second as United tightened up. The disappointing truth is that when we needed to increase our urgency levels we were simply unable to, and while we defended well enough on the whole it is difficult to remember our forward line ever actually penetrating the sacred environs of the United penalty  area. The deployment of VDV in a 4-5-1 certainly gives our midfield a healthy glow, but brings with it the problem of a lack of presence in attack, and it hardly a personal criticism of Robbie Keane to note that he is not the man for a 4-5-1.

Elsewhere On The Pitch

Lennon started fairly brightly, but diligently pinged his final ball straight into the first man in red time and time again, and retreated back into his shell thereafter. Out on the left Bale was shackled fairly effectively, although a frisson of excitement did work its magic on yours truly when the Welsh demi-god went storming forward on his right foot rather than his left, in the second half. If it turns out that the lad is actually two-footed I may just pop from the sheer excitement of it all. The counter-balance to any excitement engendered by Bale is the feeling somewhere in between apathy and rage generated by Jenas, who seemingly deployed in a holding role, was his usual fairly anonymous self.


It was of course all overshadowed by the farce of the final few minutes, but for all the incredulity and expletives I would much rather we receive that sort of decision away to Man Utd, in a fixture from which we never really expect much anyway, than from a fixture against rivals for fourth spot.

Spurs preview

Man Utd – Spurs Preview: Doom-Mongers Gather Hither

By nature we are fairly optimistic, cheery sorts here at AANP Towers, but I assure ye that nothing fills ours hearts with pessimistic gloom quite like the prospect of a day out at Old Trafford. By hook, crook or absurd refereeing we always lose at that blasted place, and frankly just the thought of it puts me in a mood sufficiently foul to aim a sharp kick at passing cats and old women. This sentiment is hardly lightened by the thought of Sir Alex Ferguson casting his beady eyes over our prized assets, Messrs Bale and VDV, with a view to a spot of Christmas shopping. As ever pre kick-off there exists at least a glimmer of hope, and come kick-off I suspect I will truly believe; but at the moment I fancy that when the lucky monkey does eventually hammer out Hamlet on his keyboard, Spurs will still be waiting for an Old Trafford victory.


Midfield New


It appears that there are various midfield permutations over which our glorious leader can twitch tonight. Ankle mischief apparently rules out the Hudd, and it is a measure of his progress that his absence tomorrow is being dolefully lamented around these parts.


Eyebrow-arching news from the left wing, with ‘Arry reportedly toying with the notion of resting the boy Bale. Although the impending visit of Inter looms large, Man Utd away nevertheless seems a slightly peculiar choice of fixture on which to grant dispense with the services of our resident pointy-looking superhuman. As such I suspect our glorious leader may have been bluffing when he trotted out this line in the pre-match press conference, the rascal.


Attacking Concerns


Those of a particularly civilised bent ought probably to cover their ears if our gangly-limbed hero is unleashed in attack, for poor old Peter Crouch has been subjected to some pretty fearsome vitriol over the last seven days, following his less than entirely lethal showing in attack last week. Alas for the rack-stretched blighter, the winner against Man City and hat-trick against Young Boys currently seem a lifetime ago, for he has now become the principal target of our ire.


While it must not be overlooked that he continues to provide fodder for VDV in his own awkward way, there was unfortunately much to chastise in his performance last week. Not for the first time his heading was so lacking in power and direction as to suggest that he simply closes his eyes and prays as the ball approaches; while closer to ground level his fiercest shots resembled little more than overhit back-passes. We are hardly drowning in attacking striking options, but opportunity may knock for Pav.


For all my finely-tuned pessimism ahead of this one I can at least appreciate that we are actually as well-placed now as we have ever been during our seemingly infinite Old Trafford barren patch. Frankly, this is as strong a Tottenham team as there has been for years, and I am quite happy to predict that we will triumph over Inter on Wednesday. Moreover, while rumours of United’s demise have been exaggerated in various quarters, they are not quite as formidable as in days of yore. A point is therefore quite feasible, but all those fans of chapter 20 (verses 24  to 29) of St John’s gospel can eat their hearts out over here, for until I can put my finger on the TV screen that confirms we have won at Old Trafford I will dolefully refuse to believe it possible.




Spurs match reports

Man Utd 3-1 Spurs: ‘Arry’s Team Selection Gets The Hindsight Treatment

Watching a game on a pub’s big screen I typically squint to make out the match clock in the top left-hand corner, a sure sign that my eyes are failing me. My hindsight however, remains 20-20, thus allowing me to tut and cluck all weekend about the wisdom – or lack thereof – of shuffling the winning pack in order to accommodate the returning Sergeant Wilson. Shamelessly glossing over the fact that AANP could not decide beforehand whether the restoration of Palacios would have been a good or bad idea, it is fairly easy to conclude that neither that change nor the shunting of Assou-Ekotto to right-back was a roaring success.BAE – An Odd Fish

I don’t think anyone is quite sure what goes on in BAE’s head, but I get the impression that the little voices generally tell him to do some pretty sinister stuff. As such, I’m vaguely relieved that on Saturday he only went as far as the crude hack that resulted in a penalty, for that glazed expression suggests he might one day try something a darned sight scarier…

It was not his most auspicious day. He offered precious little attacking support for Bentley; and could hardly be described as “watertight” when carrying out his defensive duties. His doings at right-back are not helped by the fact has he has appears never to have been introduced to his own right foot, but whichever his preferred pedal, there was no excusing the recklessness of his penalty area foul.

After the limited success of Walker, Kaboul and now BAE as ad hoc right-backs, the worrying thought occurs to me that ‘Arry might even try Jenas in that position next. Someone slap some deep heat onto Corluka’s injury, and pronto.

Sergeant Wilson’s Off-Day 

However, it is only right to note that maintaining the status quo – of a Hudd-Modders central midfield and Kaboul at right-back – would by no means have guaranteed a better result at Old Trafford. The result indicates that ‘Arry’s gamble failed, but it was an understandable move.

Palacios’ performance may have elicited a few embarrassed coughs, but elsewhere there was better news as familiar faces returned to the fray…

Ledley’s Golden Minute

Our wondrous captain was awesome again, producing one particularly golden minute, midway through the second half. It ended with his headed goal, but began with, of all things, a casual drop of the shoulder on his own six-yard box, to completely wrong-foot Berbatov and shepherd the ball back to safety. I worship the ground upon which Ledley walks, the nightclubs out of which he stumbles and the vacuum in his knee that is bereft of cartilage.

Lennon and Bale – The Time is Nigh

I cannot quite bring myself to worship Aaron Lennon’s shaved eyebrow with similar fervour, but it was jolly good to see it and its owner once again. Lennon did not really have a chance to rev up and disappear past John O’ Shea in a puff of smoke, but his arrival and the subsequent reorganisation in midfield seemed to give the team a better attacking shape. His chums in lilywhite poked and probed for a chance to set him racing away towards the byline; United duly trotted men over to snuff out the threat; so we switched play to the left, for Gareth Bale to have a gallop. Nothing came of it on this occasion, but it was a glimpse of The Land of Milk and Honey. Keep those two fit, and all hell could break loose down the flanks.

Elsewhere On The Pitch 

Whatever the misgivings about the team selection and outcome, this is hardly the time for an over-reaction. Defeat away to Man Utd is far from disastrous, and in fact having somehow got to half-time on level terms, and then dragged it back to one-all with 10 minutes to go, we may well have gone on to pinch all three points.

Six points from l’Arse, Chelski and Man Utd remains a jolly impressive haul, and those two wins may yet prove to be season-defining. The showers at AANP Towers have been working overtime to wash off the general uncleanliness that came with cheering on l’Arse for 90 minutes yesterday, and while my back was turned Villa and Liverpool managed to pop up into view again, but the net result of this weekend is that fourth place is still in our hands. According to the AANP abacus, avoiding defeat to City and winning the other two would do the trick.


Gary Mabbutt will be signing copies of AANP book Spurs’ Cult Heroes for the masses atWaterstones Walthamstow – Saturday 8 May, 1pmSpurs’ Cult Heroes

, is now available in the Spurs shop, all good bookshops and online (at, 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

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Man Utd – Spurs Preview: Gareth Bale’s New Goal Celebration

Writing off our chances at Old Trafford is something of an annual tradition here at AANP Towers. It was generally a pretty painless arrangement, and one to which I suspect many a long-suffering Spurs fan could relate – I would go into the game with what could at best be described as a spirit of defiant optimism, duly return empty-handed (albeit occasionally with a tale of indignant injustice to relate) and the following week would roll on. A thousand well-judged curses, therefore, upon Spurs’ current form, which leads me to believe that this time, maybe, just maybe, we might… you know.No doubt about our current form. The Wilson-less central midfield of Hudd and Modders has meant that we have ball-players galore for when in possession, while retaining the discipline to sit and protect when not in possession. While all and sundry leapt around and made merry during the l’Arse and Chelski wins, yours truly could be easily identified as the chap earnestly rubbing his eyes in disbelief as we won the midfield battle against two of the best teams in the country, before letting young Bale do his thing.

Decisions, Decisions

Should ‘Arry bring back Sergeant Wilson or resist the temptation to fix that which most definitively ain’t broke? Rather a pleasant conundrum upon which to dwell in the evening sunlight, although I hope our glorious leader realises that if we lose tomorrow his decision to restore/exclude (delete as appropriate) Palacios may well prompt a fresh chorus from the ‘Arry Out brigade, who have recently been kicking their heels in frustration. Either way, the potential option to restore Palacios, King and Lennon has me positively gibbering in glee.

After spending so darned long sorting out a song for the boy Bale, it seems we now have to teach him a thing or two about goal celebrations. A Roger Milla style pelvic wiggle gets my nomination, although after Gary Neville’s rather unsubtle display of affection for Paul Scholes’ efforts last week, I guess it’s possible we might be treated to something more forthright. The clash of Bale against Neville should make for cracking viewing. I vaguely recall Sir Alex Ferguson dealing quite neatly with the threat of Chelski’s overlapping full-backs a couple of years ago by deploying Park and/or Fletcher out wide, so no doubt he will have some similarly dastardly scam lined up for our handsome young Welshman.

Another virtuoso Bale performance, a late cameo from Aaron Lennon, and then an evening spent cheering on that ‘orrible lot from down the road, against Man City? It sounds crazy, but it might just work.

Book Signing in Stevenage Waterstones, Saturday 24th, 12pm

In case you missed that, I’ll change the font and add some detail: None other than

Gary Mabbutt will be signing copies of AANP book Spurs’ Cult Heroes for the masses this Saturday (24th April) at Watestones Stevenage (3 The Forum, Hertford SG1 1ES) from 12 noon. I make that just about enough time to meet the man, grab your book and settle down for the match… 

Spurs’ Cult Heroes, is now available in the Spurs shop, all good bookshops and online (at, 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

Spurs preview

Man United – Spurs Carling Cup Preview: Selling My Soul

Ah, Man Utd versus Spurs. Two giants of the game, under the floodlights, in a one-off knock-out contest. It reminds me of when England played Brazil in the 2002 World Cup quarter-final. Then, the meeting of two sides with so much history behind them provided a unique buzz of anticipation, and seemed to epitomise precisely what the competition was about. And now, Manchester United play Tottenham Hotspur. It’s a classic Cup tie.Except it isn’t really. It’s the Carling Cup, by far the lowest of Alex Ferguson’s priorities, and now a sideshow at White Hart Lane.

Wellbeck and Gibson

Man Utd sent out the minions for a Champions League game last week, so a Carling Cup quarter-final is unlikely to herald the appearance of the big guns. In fact, even when we met in the Final last year, they had such household names as Wellbeck and Gibson in their starting line-up. Nevertheless, they still beat us, and their second-string tomorrow is likely to be pretty strong again. (Nor should we expect too many favours from the officials, this being Old Trafford…)

’Arry for his part has also pledged to empty the contents of the substitutes bench out onto the turf. Keane, Pav, Bentley, Bale, Jenas and Hutton could all feature – which is fine by me, to be honest. They are all capable enough, having all been first-team regulars at some point or other.

Dawson and Bassong will presumably start again in defence, which is a silver lining to the murky cloud under which Ledley and Woodgate hobble around. The Daws-Bassong combo worked well on Saturday, in only their second game together, and another 90 minutes will give them a chance to develop further. It could be the start of something beautiful.

The in-form Kranjcar is cup-tied – curses – but my main concern is that we may well start without both Defoe and Lennon, both of whose pace and sharpness in recent weeks have given us a real cutting-edge going forward. Many a time and oft these days I can be spotted gazing misty-eyed into the distance; on such occasions it is a fairly safe bet that I’m wondering what might have been if we had had these two for the visit to the Emirates last month…

The Days of Yore: Over 

The lure of silverware is still strong of course, for all the usual reasons (another etching on the honours board; another reason to crow over l’Arse; and it’s just plain ruddy marvellous to win trophies), but now the situation is undoubtedly different. We are not just pushing for UEFA Cup qualification any more; the days of yore are over. They ended around the time we beat Sunderland and moved into fourth by more than just goal difference. The sentiment at AANP Towers has now altered, as we have begun to look genuine contenders for the fourth Champions League spot. It’s like leaving behind the blissful innocence of childhood – but discovering the wondrous joys of the liquor.

Not only that, but we are in the driving-seat for fourth. And this isn’t one of those anomalous late-August League tables, where we top the pile but only on goal difference from Stoke – a third of the way in, and we are as well-placed as anyone to take fourth. I have to admit, I would trade quarter-final Carling Cup elimination if it would help our Premiership campaign.

I Feel Unclean 

An involuntary shudder passes down the spine as I type that, for I do feel sordid in admitting it. Out, damned spot. We are Tottenham Hotspur, and as such we have a glorious tradition. Winning the FA Cup in 1901, the first post-war team to win the Double, the first British team to win a European trophy… and so on. [**Shameless plug – our glorious tradition will be lovingly covered by AANP in forthcoming book

Spurs’ Cult Heroes, out next Feb**] Preferring to finish fourth in the League over winning a trophy – my own family would struggle to recognise me. It’s selling my soul. ‘Tis a dark, dark day at AANP Towers.Still, that’s one man’s opinion. “Judge me not by the heights to which I aspire, but by the depths from whence I’ve come” (if you pardon a little vulgarisation of the quote) – for we’ve already shown we can master the dark arts of the Carling Cup, over the last two seasons. This certainly represents firm progress from a decade ago, when our heroes seemed unable to put one foot in front of the other without stumbling over, while the other lot racked up trophies like they were going out of fashion. We are finally moving in the right direction, having won the Carling Cup and gained European experience. Now we have an opportunity to take the next step forward. Success in the Carling Cup once again would be cracking, but qualifying for the Champions League is now the target, and much though it pains me to admit it, anything else would seem a mite anti-climactic.

Still A Cracking Chance For Glory 


You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, or 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 forthcoming book 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, Jurgen Klinsmann here

Spurs match reports

Spurs 5-0 Burnley: Keane Sticks Four Fingers Up At Doubters

Curiously, our most emphatic win in recent years was achieved without us ever really hitting top gear. There were some moments at the end of the first half when we played true champagne football, and Defoe might have finished off a couple of moves so pleasing on the eye they ought to have been put on canvass and stuck in a gallery. Aside from that however, it was generally a little sloppy and lacking in fluency. You know the sort of thing – mis-placed passes and lack of movement. It was most noticeable in the slightly lethargic start to the second half, which might have been punished by better teams.Ah, who else but a Spurs fan could find room for complaint after a second five-goal salvo in a week? We may not have hit top gear, but there was no real need. While Jenas’ goal had a touch of fortune about it, we scored four others and created plenty more chances besides. The third goal effectively ended the contest, but I suspect we would have raised our game if it had been necessary to do so. Winning 5-0 when playing within ourselves is quite an achievement.

Keane Silences The Bloke Behind Me Who Was Laying Into Him In The First Half

Robbie Keane’s doubters have been given some food for thought. Scepticism about his finishing ability – much of which has emanated from AANP Towers, I must confess – was fairly emphatically addressed today, albeit after he had had saved a first half one-on-one. Another concern since he rejoined us has been that he spends too much time dropping into midfield, where he mixes industry with incessant moaning at anyone in his line of vision, rather than operating as one of a pair in attack. Indeed, at times in the first half he was at it again, buzzing dementedly around midfield areas; but this seemed to change once Defoe went off. Thereafter we were treated to the welcome sight of the Irishman rolling back the years and scampering straight up the middle at the head of the attack whenever we broke forward.

Fear not however, all ye Keane critics – while I’m not sure of the extent of Defoe’s injury, it can be assumed that he will retain his place in the team when fit, meaning that Keane will presumably revert back to his slightly deeper role, and there will be opportunities anew to moan, grumble and raucously curse the man. Hopefully though, he’ll never be stuck out on the left again.

First Impressions of Kranjcar

Our first chance to cast beady eyes on the boy Kranjcar. First impressions are that he is decent enough, without threatening ever to blow up anyone’s skirt. More Corluka than Modric, notably in that lumbering running style of a man attempting to get around while a rope around his waist drags behind him a set of tyres. He certainly seems happy enough to get forward, but his phobia of the touchline might need to be addressed, and his right-footedness leaves the team still looking a little lop-sided sans Modric.

Elsewhere On The Pitch…

I was pleasantly surprised to see Bassong start at the back. When he was stretchered off last week he looked so badly beaten up he seemed for all the world a man about to be euthanized – yet he was full of beans today, and from my vantage-point did not appear to put a foot wrong. Nor did Assou-Ekotto, although it was disappointing to see there was no foundation to rumours that he was once again sporting the ‘fro.

The Hudd just about coped with the rigours of central defence. Although culpable for the disallowed Burnley goal in the first half, he rather appeared to enjoy himself in the latter stages, bringing the ball out of defence with aplomb. I hesitate to suggest that he would handle the likes of Drogba and Torres with any comfort, but for the next few weeks he ought to do the job.

Cudicini had a rather wobbly moment however, his loss of concentration almost gifting Burnley a goal. With Gomes back to fitness, Cudicini’s every move will be under the microscope now. That said, ‘tis pleasing to note our first clean-sheet of the season.

By the closing stages it had turned into something of an exhibition match. Hudd started rolling out his Beckenbauer impressions. Bale was brought on to break his non-winning Premiership hoodoo. Dawson was ushered back into the fold. (Bentley was nowhere to be seen). Chas’n’Dave were honoured in fittingly unmelodic fashion. News of the Chelski result prompted another celebratory cheer. It may not have been a bravura performance, but we natives departed contentedly enough.

How The Blazes Did Burnely Beat Man Utd A Few Weeks Back?

Finally, a word or two on our vanquished opponents. A couple of weeks ago Man Utd came to town and were sublime; Burnely were ruddy awful. Quite how they beat the champions last month is beyond me, because at times they displayed basic technique so bad they resembled a pub team. If there was an opportunity to mis-kick they mis-kicked; if a pass could be mis-placed they duly pinged it miles off target. Presumably they are a much better team than they showed today, and we can expect a much tougher test at Turf Moor later in the season, but their efforts did much today to lull us into a quite appropriate sense of security. Still, our players had to trot out there and beat them, and did so with plenty to spare. Top-six form, at least.


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Barca – Man Utd Champions League Final Preview: All Action, Please

Ah The Champions League. That inescapable anthem. The meaningless group games. The same teams each year – some of whom actually are indeed national champions. And money, everywhere. Advertising money. TV money. Salaries. Transfer fees.The All-Action Way

With this thick layer of cynicism building up around the Champions League I find it genuinely refreshing to look forward to tonight’s game. Two teams who generally play the right way. The all-action way, full of movement, interchanging and technique that has grown men drooling.

It’s all action for sure, but, at least in Man Utd’s case, there is a darned good idea of plot too, in the form of Rio and the Serbian psycho, protected by the beaverish midfield three. The excellent Radio 5 Live preview last night made an interesting point, namely that in the absence of their suspended, ridiculously over-attacking full-backs – Abidal and Alves – Barca will be forced to field a couple of understudies at right and left-back, and therefore might be more cautious, and consequently a darned sight tighter at the back than they usually are. Interesting point.

Other sub-plots of note: Van der Saar has gone all Obi Wan Kenobi – an old man, whose powers are waning. His flaps and fumbles are increasing in frequency. I’m not convinced that Giggs is an adequate understudy to Fletcher in the role of midfield hustler-and-harrier. Barca’s insistence on passing to death outside the area rather than have a pop from distance (an affliction which curiously hampered Spurs in the spring months) has generally proved detrimental to their cause against English opposition. Pretty to watch though.

Early Goal, Please

Naturally, there is the worry that after all the anticipation, this game degenerates into a dour, disappointing affair. However, an early goal ought to do the trick, and really open up the game. Although last year’s final was watched through an increasingly hazy cloud of alcohol, I do recall it being a generally entertaining affair – thanks, in no small part, to the early-ish opening goal. A pleasant contrast to the FA Cup Final between the same two teams the previous year.

Rooting For Man Utd. Sort Of.

I won’t particularly mind who wins, as it doesn’t concern Spurs, but I suppose I’ll be edging towards Man Utd. As with many of the greatest arguments of mankind, my reasons are threefold:

1) The patriot in me always likes to see English teams win European trophies. (Unless it’s l’Arse. Or Chelski).

2) Rooney. The man’s a genius, and I’d love to see him boss the game of games.

3) Generally a fan of the Man Utd style of play. Liquid football. In last year’s Champs League Final they produced one of my favourite pieces of football ever – Rooney picked up the ball at right-back (!), motored forward 40 yards, then pinged a diagonal cross-field peach of a ball to Ronaldo, who pulled it back for Tevez (I think) to diving head, saved by Cech, before Carrick blasted the rebound goalwards, where it was headed clear by a defender. Or something like that (alcoholic haze, remember). Absolutely awesome football. I just stood there ogling, as if it were a svelte brunette tying knots in a cherry stalk with her tongue.

Then in the semi vs l’Arse there was something similarly mesmeric in Ronaldo’s second goal – the backheel, Park’s burst, Rooney’s perfect pass, and Ronaldo again, sixty yards from his starting-point, finishing it.

More of the same tonight please.