All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
"AANP - nobody knows what it means, but it's provocative."

Another Mental All-Action Week At Spurs!!!

No transfers. Not even any rumours. And this following a record number of clean sheets at home, and a seemingly endless run of one-nil wins. “All action”? Really?

Once again there is nothing to report from the Lane, so I’m just going to ramble away a little stream of consciousness – by all means duck out now and go youtube a Michael Jackson song or something.Once Upon A Time…

Once upon a time the title “All Action, No Plot” made perfect sense for a Spurs blog. Alright, you pedants, maybe not perfect sense – I suppose “Spurs-Tottenham-Hotspur-White-Hart-Lane-Yiddo-COYS-Two-Points-Eight-Games-Blog” would probably be statistically more suitable for search engines. But you get the point. All action, no plot – we’re that sort of team.

Or rather, we were that sort of team. Once upon a time, not so long ago. When I’m a millionaire I’ll build a Sistine chapel-style ceiling at AANP Towers, decorated with Mabbutt’s own-goal in the ’87 Cup Final to commemorate the first game I ever watched (or remember watching). It was a suitably mad-cap game, and rather set the tone. There is no shortage of other moments that can be immortalised in blue and lilywhite (and yellow) on my ceiling – Gazza and Lineker destroying l’Arse; Jurgen spearheading a 5-0-5 formation; the night of a thousand thrown away half-time leads; and more 4-4 draws than you can wave a stick at. Plenty of action there, and precious little plot.

Off the pitch, it’s similarly mental – squillions of pounds flung at managers on limited time, while the good folk of N17 relentlessly bay for champagne football and the blood of Jermaine Jenas.

Thus, the name “All Action, No Plot” was decided upon in a few milliseconds with a couple of mates in a foreign bar, allowing us to get on with the more pressing business of casting a modern-day Hollywood remake of The A-Team*.

Times Are A-Changing

However, that madcap act-first-think-later mentality at Spurs is now seemingly being replaced by something far more thoughtful and considered. The settled back-four, the consistent team-selection, the growing confidence that we will win at home.

I never thought the day would come, but I readily admit – this maturity is being welcomed with open arms at AANP Towers. It’s a seminal moment, rather like that point in Rocky IV when the Soviets start jeering Dolph Lundgren and cheering Stallone. Or the moment in Escape to Victory when the Nazis cheers Pele’s overhead kick. There is less action and more plot at the Lane – and AANP likes it. Cripes.

It’s not that we’re turning into one of the dull, boring, soporific also-rans of the Premiership, a George Graham Arsenal. Not at all.  We still have bundles of creativity, and play football that is pleasing on the eye. None of that long-ball nonsense. In fact, precious few goals from crosses either – which suggests that our strikers really ought to work on their heading. No, the football looks fine, and, especially on the counter-attack, can be quite breathtaking, but is complemented by a sturdy defensive platform.

And now as the summer stretches out, behind the thick curtain of rumour, it transpires that there is actually precious little happening. Again this lack of action, and hint of plot, is viewed with approval at AANP Towers. I’d have bought a tennis racket and smashed it on some grass if we’d gone through another summer of ripping up the spine of the squad and bringing in squillions of pounds worth of unproven attackers (although I’m well aware that this might yet happen).

So far however, the approach seems relatively circumspect – no wholesale clearout, yet, and no heinous sum splashed out on an unknown foreign striker. It suggests that the management know what they want to do this summer, and are primarily aiming to maintain stability.

The title of this little corner of the internet will remain the same, and in all other walks of life the all-action-no-plot mentality remains the breathless approach of choice, but it pleases me to note that by gently turning down the all-action-no-plot meter at Spurs we seem to be making progress.

 

* = I’d have gone for George Clooney as Hannibal; Jim Carrey as Murdock; some generic pretty-boy – possibly Johnny Depp – as Face; and B.A. is a tough one. Vin Diesel? Ving Rhames? Anyone else whose name begins with “Vin”?

From Iniesta To Jenas In The Blink Of An Eye – (Tardy) Champs League Musings

Well how on earth did that happen? Ten minutes after the Champs League final had ended I found myself ranting to my Dad about Jermaine Jenas. As is becoming an increasingly essential modus operandi here at AANP Towers I shall take a leaf out of Craig David’s book, and rewind a tad. Bo indeed.As expected, Barca had everyone purring. The Iniest-Xavi love-in is becoming a tad sickly, but I’ll give them a couple of hundred words (which, after winning the league, cup and Champions League, will no doubt put the icing on their cakes). These chaps seem quite happy to keep possession for the sake of keeping possession. Rather a contrast to the English style, whereby gaining-possession immediately equates to going-on-the-attack. And, lest we forget, ‘tis this English style which makes the Premiership so ruddy entertaining. I mean that in all seriousness. It’s flawed for sure, but I love the gung-ho English mentality. Just look at the title of this blog.

Having a lead with which to play, the Barca style had Man Utd chasing shadows. Few players in the world are capable of simply playing keep-ball the way their midfield does. I guess it’s immaculate touch, married to wondrous balance. The ball seemed to be glued to their feet at times – and this meant that even when in trouble, even when no pass was available, they could simply turn and shimmy out of trouble until a pass was available. I presume Iniesta and Xavi have vision to die for as well, but it does not particularly matter, because they both have such good close control that they can afford to take the time to look up and find someone, without losing possession.

Why, I moaned, can’t we do this at Spurs? And this, my friends, is how I ended up ranting at Jenas. He does not have the touch of a Barca midfielder. Consequently, he needs several touches to get the thing under control, and when he gets his head up he spends so long looking for someone that he gets robbed of the ball. The most sensible option for him, therefore, is to pass five yards, backwards or sideways.

However, even I can admit that this is stretching things to a ludicrous extent. To chastise Jenas for not being as good as Iniesta/Xavi/Messi is ridiculous. It would be tantamount to criticising All Action No Plot for not being some sort of flawless amalgam of Wodehouse, Austen, Chandler and Hunter Davies, or knocking Terminator 2 for its lack of realism and absence of romantic sub-plots.

I’m not even sure I would want Spurs to play the Barca way, if it means performances like those in the Champs League semi-finals of both this year and last year, when their intransigent refusal to shoot had me tearing my hair out. (That said, they got the balance right in the Final – the first goal saw them eschew any semblance of faffing, and sweetly get inside the area in the blink of an eye; moments later Messi even had a shot from outside the area; and rubbing my eyes and blinking in disbelief, I saw the third goal created by an early cross from outside the area).

So Jenas is off the hook this time. Instead, I look forward to the season after next, when we get the opportunity of a keep-ball master-class from Barca, in the Champions League.

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.

Liverpool – Spurs Preview: What’s So Special About Home Advantage?

Eighth is looking likeliest, which I think we’d all have accepted after Two Points Eight Games™. While AANP could not be bothered to work out exactly how well we’ve done this calendar year, I’d expect Spurs would be somewhere near the top of any table based solely on 2009 form. Home form all season has been spot-on, the record of only conceding ten goals in nineteen games mildly astonishing.Liverpool’s home record is similarly impressive – unbeaten in the league at Anfield all season – adding a few inches to our already tall order of European qualification (which requires us to win and Fulham to lose at home to Everton).

A Digression Which Rather Hijacks The Entire Article 

So does home support make all the difference? There certainly is something to be said for the full-blown, cacophonous atmosphere of White Hart Lane making the hairs stand up on the back of the neck. Never been to Anfield, but the Kop’s reputation is presumably well-earned. For sure then, the players ought really to get a kick out of that sort of atmosphere. Indeed, even at amateur level, just having a few hot lady-friends chirping in with the occasional squeal can add a little motivation. (Me, shallow? Never.)

However, the cynic in me has been motoring away all season, and is unwilling to yield any ground now by simply accepting that “home advantage” is some sort concrete phenomenon we all accept without demur. It only seems to be a concept, existing solely in people’s minds, much like the notion that ugly people are actually beautiful inside. Home advantage seems to equate to having more bald fat shouty men than the opposition, which might add an extra dose of adrenaline, but doesn’t strike me as a good reason to drop a striker and play five in midfield.

I can appreciate that it would be rather intimidating to play at a ground of 30,000 people, all of whom are screeching abuse – but it’s not a fist-fight. The good souls in the stands don’t get to set foot on the turf, and therefore their contribution ought to be limited.

Star Trek definitely gains something from the big-screen experience, but would still be a cracking action film if watched on dvd in a mate’s living-room. One suspects that the dvd version will have the same plot. And yet, venue influences a team’s game-plan. It’s an unspoken agreement before a match that the onus will be on the home team to have first crack at wresting the initiative. The away team sets out its stall to “soak up the pressure”, “silence the crowd” and other clichés from the beaks of parrots.

It’s not a particular complaint, more an idle musing on a hungover Saturday afternoon. Still, as with suggesting to parents that new-born babies actually look shrivelled and hideous, I imagine it’s not an argument I’m going to win. Accepting that away form will typically be worse than home form is just one of those quirks of life we accept and work around.

(Nevertheless, while some people yearn for nuclear disarmament and an end to third-world poverty, I idly dream of the day when teams dismiss the concept of “home advantage” and instead do their damnedest to come out of the traps all guns blazing every game, irrespective of location.)

The Little Matter Of The Football Match 

The curious question of whether Robbie Keane would have been allowed to play against a Liverpool team for whom he stood to win a Premiership medal is now irrelevant, so we can instead watch again for clues as to what strike-force ‘Arry will adopt next season.

And a scary final note – in 24 hours or so the three-month break begins. Not sure I’m quite ready to go cold-turkey.

Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona: Supernanny Discovers Her Next Assignment

Real classy from Chelsea. It probably started with Mourinho, instilling arrogance in them, but after the final whistle they just morphed into four year-olds in need of that Supernanny lass. John Terry probably has a right as captain to have a quick word with the ref, but not to scream in his face and finger-jab. The England captain really ought to have some vague notion of decency. That gentle tremor causing the crockery at AANP Towers to shimmer is the sound of Bobby Moore rotating, six feet under. Hiddink acted far more decorously – quiet word, made his point, walked off. As did Lampard, to be fair.Drogba Promotes Schadenfreude 

I honestly didn’t understand why he got involved, having been subbed off long before the final whistle – it’s not as if he was still pumping from having been playing. He would have calmed down on the bench. Struck me almost as if he wanted a bit of limelight. Maybe to distract from missing the easiest chances of both legs (after all, no-one’s talking about that now, are they?)

Mind you, it was mighty impressive that he had the energy to get so involved, having been hacked, beaten, stabbed and shot so frequently by all those phantom challenges, bless him. I do rather wonder what the poor old Chelski physio makes of it, having to run on straight-facedly in front of millions of TV viewers every ten minutes when Drogba goes down, then having to go through the motions of checking he’s not actually hurt, then having to help him limp off the pitch – all the time knowing that it’s just another act.

Curiously, the one thing I did understand – not really condoning, but understood – was Ballack’s fantastic mentalism in the final minutes. Didn’t think it was a penalty, and he put his hands on the ref, which could have been a straight red card – but in the heat of the moment, on the pitch, I can understand instinctively turning around and shrieking at the ref. Thereafter however, is the time to shut up and get on with the game. The instinctive sweary bit I can understand, but once the moment has passed, there is no real excuse.

When Does A Team “Deserve” To Win? 

Not sure who deserved to win – Barca were miles better technically, short-passing their way out of trouble. Whenever Chelsea tried to triangle-pass their way through the move tended to break down. But… what’s the point of Barca’s pretty football if they don’t create one decent chance in 90 mins? It’s not ballet. You don’t “deserve” to win by looking pretty. In the crudest terms, you deserve to win by sticking the round white thing in the net more than the other lot. Barca rather seemed to miss the point, passing to death. Without a Drobga-esque target-man to work around they didn’t have a presence right in the middle, to occupy the centre-backs. All rather reminiscent of last year’s two-legged semi against Man Utd. Chelsea created three or four clear-cut chances, and should have won comfortably – despite being technically inferior. Strange game.

As a neutral though, I had splendid fun – a clash of styles, dodgy reffing, pantomime villains, tense finale. The entire tie might have been more open and entertaining if Barca had scored early at the Nou Camp, forcing Chelski to abandon the six-men-in-their-own-area approach and be a bit more adventurous. Still, the final ought to be cracking fun now, with two teams fairly committed to the all-action-no-plot approach. I back Man U, on the basis that Barca are so determined to walk the ball into the net, coupled with the absence of both full-backs and Marquez from their defence.

Auf Wiedersehen Paul Stalteri, another useless Spurs full-back

An early Christmas present from ‘Arry Redknapp and Daniel Levy has seen Paul Stalteri’s contract terminated, by mutual consent. That angelic melody you hear emanating from north London isn’t some choir putting in last-minute preparations for a festive performance of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, oh no – ’tis the sound of an exuberant all-action-no-plotter toasting the demise (not literally) of another one of our seemingly infinite line of inept full-backs.
 

Paul Stalteri appeared to be a thoroughly decent chap – not prone to diving, whingeing or fussing generally. He scored three goals, each of which, strangely, I remember well – a blinder in the FA Cup, a tap-in vs Man City and, most memorably, the late winner at West Ham, to cap a hugely satisfying comeback win last year. He hasn’t moped or mouthed off this season about being on the fringes and beyond – as such I wish him well, at his delightfully-named new German club, Borussia Monchengladbach.

 

And with the formalities out of the way, can I reiterate how glad I am to see the back of the latest in a long line of, at best, distinctly average full-backs. While showing sufficient co-ordination to be a sportsman, and being full of willing, the guy was of limited ability going forward, and made far too many mistakes to be a defender. Off the top of my head I remember him faffing around in the last minute v Sunderland a few years ago, getting caught in possession in his own box and conceding a goal that saw us lose 1-0. Then, when we were winning 1-0 at l’arse with five mins to go I recall him being shrugged off possession by Henry who galloped away and scored, while Stalteri pleaded for a free-kick. Those are just the first two which spring to mind, but there were several more – indeed I recall that season looking back over my fixture list and racking up the number of points he alone cost us. No plot, for sure, but not much action to compensate either. And why on earth was he wearing the number 7 shirt? The shirt of Best, Dalglish, Beckham and Paul Walsh – which idiot thought it would make sense to give it to a mediocre Canadian right-back?

 

Using the flawless, scientifically proven “who-would-buy-him” gauge of a player’s quality, it was telling that last season he went on loan to a relegation-battling Fulham, and this season is as likely to end up in the Championship as in the Prem. I reiterate, he seems a nice chap, but as we’re trying to win football matches, not host garden fêtes, I don’t think his niceness is too relevant. The sooner ‘Arry can get rid of the other sub-standard players in our squad, the better. Half-decent players may be sufficient for the likes of Middlesborough or Bolton, or any other team aiming to avoid relegation, play depressing football and occasionally scrap a win against one of the top-four. At Spurs however we want to be pushing towards Europe and winning silverware. As such we ought to signal our ambition by bringing in players who will be tempted to head off to Old Trafford in a couple of years.

 

There have been some encouraging signs in the last few days, with Gilberto already on his way out (huzzah!). Personally I’d like to see Ricky Rocha, Hossam Ghaly and Assou-Ekotto follow suit. Jamie “Three-Touch” O’Hara gets a reprieve, as he’s young enough to push on, as, perhaps does Kevin Prince-Boateng, although neither have ever really blown up my skirt over the last two years. Stalteri certainly meets all relevant criteria for ejection. He may be Canada’s national captain – and quite possibly their greatest ever player – but at full-back, being an established international is hardly a guarantee of supreme quality (Erik Edman and even Vedran Corluka spring to mind).

 

Over the last week I’ve written in celebration of the fact that Gilberto will never play for us again, and bemoaning the fact that in physics-defying fashion Assou-Ekotto has managed to cement his place in the team as a regular. What is it with Spurs and rubbish full-backs? As far back as I can remember – that’s around late-80s – we’ve always had useless full-backs. A seminal period of my youth was Brian Moore commentating – badly – on the Big Match on ITV on a Sunday, with its funky electric guitar theme tune, and  Mitchell Thomas, back-pedalling as an opponent advanced, clumsily conceding possession and tripping over his own bootlaces. Fast forward twenty years, and where Mitchell once stumbled now we have Stalteri, Gilberto and BAE. We’ve always had flair midfielders, and we’ve always had sub-standard full-backs. It just seems to be a Tottenham thing. The likes of Carr were the exception rather than the rule. The rule was Austin and Edinburgh, Gilberto and Stalteri.

 

Some may argue that full-back is hardly the most important position, and there is something in that. If a good team is going to carry any mediocre player, full-back is probably the one (I should know, I was that mediocre full-back for a few years at school…). A full-back’s mistakes can be rectified in last-ditch fashion by the centre-backs and ‘keeper. However, a top-notch, defensively-sound, attackingly potent full-back can dictate the entire dynamic of the team. Whereas BAE does the bare minimum – and occasionally less – by paroling his touchline and not getting much further than the halfway line, the likes of Bosingwa and Cole bomb on, nullifying the oppo’s winger, creating width for his team-mates, whipping in inviting crosses and generally shoving the entire passage of play a good 20 yards up the pitch.

 

Such descriptions have rarely if ever been levelled at Stalteri, so I shed no tears as he wanders out of N17 for the final time. Frankly, I hope that we be the first of a number of departees, over the coming weeks.

Anyone fancy a game? Spurs – Spartak Moscow preview

The build-up to tonight’s game with Spartak reminds me of our office 5-a-side team. We too would reach the day of the game with only four guaranteed players, from an initial pool of several dozen. And so it transpires that Darren Bent can’t play because he has a cold, Ledley and Woodgate are injured, Pav has a prior engagement with his missus, Corluka is helping a mate move into a new flat, Hutton is probably too hungover, Giovanni will no doubt have a deadline looming and can’t get out of the office in time, and as a result ‘Arry is going to have to phone around the players’ mates to try and find a couple of ringers.

As in fact he has already done – step forward Bostock and Parrett. I watched Bostock come off the bench to become our youngest ever player vs Dinamo Zagreb, he seemed to have a decent touch and was left-footed, which is pleasing, but he looks like he should be wearing a hoody and sitting at the back of the bus playing his music out loud. As for this Parrett chap –  I saw a photo of him in the paper and he looks about eight. Maybe the picture is actually 12 years old and he’s really 20, but this still annoys me. I’m not old, but people like him make me feel old. It seems like five minutes ago that I was a teenager, and dreamed of being the young kid thrown off the bench at Spurs. Admittedly I couldn’t even make the school starting XI, but still, I dreamt that dream because I was young enough. It was about the same era that Southgate and Ince were playing rather than managing.

And now? Now Southgate is a manager, Ince has just been sacked from his third managerial post and some damn eight year-old who hasn’t started shaving is going to play for Spurs tonight. How can someone born in the 90s be a better footballer than I am? How can someone still at school be better than I am? I’ve got over ten years on these kids – surely I must be fitter, and stronger, if not necessarily faster? Go back to Pokemon and recorder concerts Parrett, leave the football to grown men. That kid is going to get a right kicking tonight. I’d kick him if I were playing – even if I were his team-mate – just because no-one ought to be a better footballer than me if they’re not old enough to remember Thundercats. There’s a natural order of things here, sonny. Still, as long as Ryan Giggs continues to play, I’ll always feel young. He represents a whole era – my era. Don’t you ever dare to retire, Giggsy.

We only need a point to progress tonight. Fingers crossed for Bostock, Parrett and the rest of the High School Musical cast.

Time waits for no manager – Ince gets muscled off the ball

I feel a little sorry for Paul Ince. Admittedly the multi-millionaire side of things will probably soften the blow for him, but the guy was a legend for England, and the sort of midfielder I yearned for Spurs to buy. When England were at one of their best periods (Euro 96, le Tournoi 97, France 98) he was at the hub of it.

Still, there’s no escaping the fact that Blackburn were in freefall, and weren’t about to improve under him. It’s all very well to hear ex-pros say he should have been given more time – I think the Blackburn faithful would beg to differ. More time would have seen them exit the league. As Wendy Ramos – and indeed the wondrous Martin Jol – found out, time is a commodity a Premiership manager simply does not have. The Premiership doesn’t work like that. There’s so much money flying around that relegation is an absolute disaster – as is failure to qualify for the Champs League, if the team is that way inclined. This is no secret, so Ince really ought not to use that as an excuse. No Prem manager ought to – if he’s so dense that he thinks that his club will wait to be relegated, just to suit his personal career prospects, he ought not to have been hired in the first place. 

Time waits for no manager, but Heurelho Gomes might just have been saved by it. With no transfers until Jan, and no obvious replacement in goal, Gomes has had the chance to redeem himself and restore his reputation, and he’s fairly literally grabbed it with both hands. He’s certainly turned in some top-notch performances – his ability to pull off the spectacular saves has never really been in doubt, and he now looks a lot more assured coming for crosses, even if he does annoyingly tend to punch every time. However, it remains to be seen whether that will be enough to convince ‘Arry to stick with him until the season’s end.  Bless him, I fear that Gomes could have another 29 consecutive faultless games, but if number 30 features another clanger that’ll be the one we all remember. Call it David James syndrome.

Are Wenger’s latest kids really so special?

Christmas approacheth. Lights are being lit in shopping centres, adverts are being aired on broadcasting stations and pundits are getting over-excited by the performance of Arsene Wenger’s latest crop of youngsters in the Carling Cup – all sure signs of the imminent commemoration of the birth of our Lord. So how good are l’Arse’s latest crop of young gunners? I’d better make clear right now – I haven’t seen them in action (I hate that lot, why would I see them?), so this isn’t really a debate about their quality. I caught the goals in their 3-0 win over Wigan, as I did their 6-0 win over Sheff Utd in the previous round. Well done, very pretty, not particularly impressed. Casting my mind back a few years, Arsene’s kids are regularly trotted out in domestic cup competitions, invariably destroying lesser-rate opponents, but they came a cropper (4-0) vs Man Utd in the FA Cup, and were rather gloriously destroyed 5-1 by my lot in the Carling Cup. Furthermore, lest anyone has forgotten, the 6-0 demolition of Sheff Utd earlier this season was promptly followed by a defeat at home to Hull, or someone similarly nondescript, three days later.

However, there are many (not least the whinger-in-chief himself) who insist that this year’s crop really is something special. I suspect that that Vela character is indeed a bit of a talent, as he’s had the odd cameo in the Premiership, with some degree of success. I’ve also heard particularly good things about Wilshere, and as he is an Englishman with a left foot, there is a sense in which I temper my innate hatred of l’Arse, and watch his career with interest. There may well be a couple of others who make it at the other lot, one or two who go on to the international stage. On the whole however, I’m happy to laugh cynically in the face of all those bleating about what a golden generation this is. Yes, admittedly a sizeable proportion of such guffawing can be attributed to my white-hot anti-l’arse bias – I can admit that my perspective on the red half of north London might occasionally be influenced by two decades of bile and hatred.

However, more broadly, it seems to be a footballing fact, quite possibly supported by the law of averages, that of the plethora of teenagers who debut amidst a blaze of optimistic publicity at a given club, only one or two, if any, go on to establish themselves at that club or a better one. Inevitably, the media fanfare which accompanies the entrance of said youths onto the scene includes the phrases “precocious”, “wonder-kid” and “the boy’s got a big future ahead of him”. But look more closely, my action-indulging chum, and you shall see also phrases synonymous with “shows great potential”, “one for the future” “destined for great things”. And there’s the rub. It’s not sufficient for these whippersnappers simply to break into the first team at 16 or 17. Andy Turner did that at Spurs. (To answer your question – exactly). They need not only to make an instant impact, they need then to progress and improve. Fabregas did it. Rooney did it (although some even dare to question whether, really, he has improved that much, the heretics). But for every Fabregas who made it at 16, nailed his place in the team and carried on improving, there are a bucketload who had their 15 mins of under-age precocity and disappeared into the footballing equivalent of that flat glass thing which whisked away the baddies in Superman II. If a player is at the same level at 22 as he was at 16, or even the same at 26 as he was at 21, he’s not really going to make it. I’m thinking of Caskey, Turner, Austin, Edinburgh, Marney, Gardner, Davies and Etherington – all apparently “wonderkids” from Spurs teams gone by. I fear Lennon is going the same way, as is, less depressingly, Jamie “three-touch” O’Hara. They might make it as good honest pros, maybe even win a medal and a handful of international caps along their journeymen careers. But the hype surrounding Wenger’s latest hoarde of ear-studded, excessively-gelled and already cliché-spouting kids would have you believe that a fair number of them will rise to the very heights of the game. I make no attempt to disguise my scepticism.

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