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

Spurs – Man City Preview: Ten Point Wish-List For Season 2010/11

Cripes, it’s upon us. No longer a blurry speck in the distance, the new campaign approacheth sharpish – and as such a wish-list for season 2010/11 is, if nothing else, rather timely…1. Finish Fourth 

2. Gareth Bale to Keep Eating His Greens 

3. Some Top-Class Signings 

4. Bring In An Older Head

I was moved to stand and applaud when Eidur Gudjohnsen was signed in January, not only because of my borderline-unhealthy obsession of the Sheringham role in any given football team anywhere, but also because an older, experienced head seemed like a jolly good idea as we approached a season’s conclusion in which retaining-possession-in-the-dying-stages and general nerve-holding became increasingly important. Ours is not the most boisterous gaggle of young men, and an older head like Gudjohnsen, or indeed Davids and Naybet before him, could potentially prove a handy investment, imparting the odd morsel of wisdom on the training-pitch and in the changing-room, and adding a touch of nous on the pitch. (nb No idea what has happened on the Gudjohnsen front, but I presume, alas, that he won’t be returning to the Lane).

5. Rediscover Sergeant Wilson’s Sparkle 

6. Continued Improvement From Daws (And Hudd) 

7. Be More Clinical In The Crunch Games 

8. More 5-1s and 9-1s 

9. Nurture At Least One Of The Kids 

10. Hit The Ground Running 

First up it’s the paupers of Man City. Strictly speaking it is only three points, but hark back to 16 August 2009, and victory over Liverpool was the perfect start to the season, immediately sprinkling around liberal quantities of belief that we were capable of challenging the Top Four, as well as injecting a most pleasant sense of bonhomie around N17, upon which we toddled off and sat atop the table for a few weeks. Something similar tomorrow against another key rival would be tickety-boo.

I half expect that if City’s owners find out that I write a football blog they’ll make a bid for me too, as their spending spree is verging on the ludicrous, but to be honest if some billionaire foreign sort offered to swan into White Hart Lane and invest several hundred million on new players I’m not sure too many South Stand punters would object. However, for all City’s spending they can only stick 11 on the pitch at any given time, and mano e mano our heroes are certainly capable of three points. Here we go again then…

Spurs 2009/10 Preview – Ten Aims For The New Season

So, it’s once more unto the breach, for the new season is upon us. The friendlies are done, fantasy league teams picked – all that’s left is for AANP Towers to rustle up a list of top ten aims for season 2009-10, and then we can get cracking…1. European Qualification

Top six, or a trophy. Or both. The bookies make us sixth favourites for the title, and sixth spot is an aim that straddles the divide between “ambitious” and “realistic”. In more private confines we may peer hopefully towards fourth spot, particularly given the sales made by Wenger this summer, but there will be tough competition for that, from City, Villa and Everton as well as l’Arse. However, we ought to finish above a couple of those. Given the squad we now boast, and the absence of European distraction, anything less than Europa League qualification would be a disappointment.

2. 50 Goals From The Strikers 

3. Avoid Long-Ball Overkill 

4. Clean Sheets

 

5. Four-Four Draws 

6. A Song For Jenas 

7. Look After Modric And Palacios Like Our Lives Depend On It 

8. Hudd and O’ Hara to Come of Age 

9. Give The Kids A Chance 

10. Keep Ledley Fit 

11. More Insane Transfer Rumours 

 

Spurs’ Cult Heroes
Final opinions sought on the top 20 Spurs Cult Heroes – players who achieved legendary status amongst us fans for what they did at the club. The majority pick themselves, but still some debate over the final few – Waddle? Teddy? Gilzean? White? Freund? Conn? Lineker? Burkinshaw? Have a read here, and voice your opinion.

Spurs Sign Young Full-Backs – But Will We Ever See Them?

So, our first signings of the summer are announced – and rather curiously they are more full-backs. The trendily-named Kyle Naughton and Kyle Walker – 20 and 19 respectively – may sound like characters from Starship Troopers, but they are now lilywhites, plucked from Sheff Utd for anywhere between 5 and 10 mil, depending on which website you trust.In theory it’s rather a charming idea – buying up the cream of young English talent, and watching with paternal pride as they break into our first team and blossom into seasoned internationals. It’s vastly preferable to the dastardly Wenger’s any-nationality-but-English policy, or Man City’s excitement-sapping approach of buying up every striker available. I’m also rather illogically chuffed that we snatched Naughton and Walker right from the paws of Everton – suckers.

In practice however, this makes little sense. We collect full-backs like train-spotters collect – well, whatever it is train-spotters collect. Anoraks or something. Corluka, Hutton, Assou-Ekotto, Bale, Chimbonda – anyone I’ve forgotten? O’ Hara could probably do a job at left-back. Gilberto might still be at the club. With the best will in the world, I really cannot see Naughton and Walker leap-frogging all this lot to get anywhere near the first team in the next couple of years.

Actually, the Walker business might work, as he is being loaned straight back whence he came, to Sheff Utd. Smart move. He’ll get regular first-team action, in a team with which he is already au fait, and hopefully he will progress accordingly. If he does so, we can merrily pluck him back.

Naughton however, has effectively put his career on hold for a couple of years. He may have made the PFA Championship Team of the Year, but his career is almost certainly about to regress. ‘Arry has not shown any inclination to blood our youngsters, other than when he was trying to write off our Uefa Cup campaign last season. Cast your minds back to the end of last season, and a mystifying aspect of his tenure was his absolute refusal to make substitutions. Even when we were imploding towards a 5-2 defeat at Man Utd, despite having internationals on the bench, he would not make a change until the game was up in the final 5 minutes or so.

’Arry won’t introduce our kids as subs, and he most certainly won’t throw them into the starting line-up. He has shown little willingness to gamble on the likes of Taarabt and Giovanni, and I would be mightily surprised if Rose, Obika or Bostock were given decent runs in the team at any point this season. The likes of Hudd, Lennon, Carrick and even Jenas are examples of how young talent can break into the first team – if given an extended run. However, there is little to suggest that this will happen under Redknapp, particularly in Naughton’s position as full-back.

I’m not exactly renowned for the accuracy of my prognostications, but I’m willing to stick my neck on the line and predict that for Naughton’s Tottenham career we need look no further than Chris Gunter. To be honest I give Gunter credit for escaping before the staleness got to him and withered him away. After 18 months and 16 appearances he has seen enough and taken off, leaving us none the wiser as to whether he would have made the grade at Spurs. It pains me to write these words, as I still recall the quite stupendous start to his Spurs career, but I see Bale similarly either being pushed or jumping from the good ship Tottenham, due to lack of opportunity.

I very much hope to be proved wrong in time. I would like to see what this Naughton chap can do for us. More broadly, I would love to see us become a club that develops young talent. And I reiterate – in theory, the signing of these promising youngsters, and the willingness to spend big money on English talent, is a cracking idea. The nagging suspicion remains, however, that in practice we are not the sort of club (and ‘Arry not the sort of manager) to blood these kids, and that neither they as players nor we as a club will benefit. Which rather begs the question – why has Redknapp signed Naughton and Walker?

 

Zokora, Gunter, Dogtanian and the Scary Crouch Rumour

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

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

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

Gunter to Forest 

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

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

Downing to Villa – Huzzah! 

Football is Back – Huzzah! 

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

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

Crouch? Ye Gads No! 

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

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

The Week’s Tottenham Transfer Murmurings

Ruud van Nistelrooy – While I’ve always been keen to hurl down some funky shapes on the boogie floors of London’s finer night-spots on a booze-fuelled Saturday night, I’ve been honest enough to admit that I’m not a natural on the dance-floor. No, really. But by golly if I were, I would have danced an impromptu jig of delight at the news that we’re sniffing at Ruud van Nistelrooy. And I would have added a most inappropriate Michael Jackson-esque whoop at the news that this thoroughbred could be acquired for the thrifty sum of £1.25 million.£1.25 milion! No footballer can be bought for that amount these days. It’s like the football equivalent of 10p. Once upon a time 10p would at least buy a packet of chewing-gum, and £1.25 million would pick up a young but decidedly average English centre-back. Now, however, both sums are worthless in isolation and Anton Ferdinand costs £8 million. We could probably fund the RvN purchase by selling Gilberto. (Although RvN’s wages would presumably be astronomical.)

After the lamentable, waking nightmares that have been the Cisse and Kenwyne Jones rumours, the van Nistelrooy whispers are sounds as sweet as a Julie London solo. It may only be a short-term solution, but that’s fine with me – long-term contracts mean precious little these days anyway, and besides, who amongst us mere mortals can predict who will still be at the Lane 12 months hence? No, short-term is fine. We certainly need a physical presence to coax the best out of Keane/Defoe, and someone who is a proven goalscorer at Premiership level is all the better. I would quite happily see RvN, Keane, Defoe and young Obika as our four of choice in attack next season.

Sulley Muntari – Inter have rejected an ‘Arry bid for him, so sayeth his agent. Should this be true, the custodians of AANP Towers would nod in approval at ‘Arry’s wise judgement, but Jermaine Jenas may well furrow his brow, while T. Huddlestone Esquire would probably choke on his burger and chips, and nuggets, and sausages and beans, and onion rings, and dessert, in disgust. ‘Arry has said he’s targeting probably three key players this summer, and if one is a central midfielder it spells curtains for the likes of JJ and the Hudd.

Incidentally, there was also an extremely enthusiastic response chez AANP to the rumours of Mikael Arteta being snooped after; but alas, this is probably my fabled naivety coming to the fore once more – for, as has been pointed out elsewhere, such a rumour is probably the work of a dastardly agent angling for his client to get a pay-rise. There’s little chance of Everton selling the blighter. Would love to see him alongside Palacios though, would be like an improved version of JJ.

Didier Zokora – The futures of Jenas and Hudd may be uncertain, but that of do-do-do Didier appears to be gaining clarity, with the phrases “Sevilla” and “£5 million” being bandied around with care-free liberality. This seems mutually beneficial. He’s done a decent job for us, but with Palacios doing the business there is little scope for Zokora at the Lane, and he’s thinking about his international career, with the World Cup less than a year away (less than a year – huzzah!). It’s a decent sum for us to pick up too. (Apologies, I ought to have sprinkled in there somewhere the phrase “loyal servant”. Most remiss of me.)

David Bentley – Elsewhere, the brain-hurting sum being used to take Little Miss Ronaldo to Madrid has livened up what has, in truth, been a rather moribund football week, and given everyone a chance to demonstrate their knowledge – or lack thereof – of European footballers, by trying to name possible Man Utd targets to replace the little princess. I won’t bother explosing my own ignorance, but it did occur to me that, had this happened last summer, one David Bentley might well have been a name on a few lips. It’s a long time in football, is a year.

Spurs Reserves – By Far The Greatest Team The World Has Ever Seen. Honest.

The official Spurs website is astonishing, a propaganda machine almost Orwellian in its slant on life. On tottenhamhotspur.com the sun always shines, the good guys always win and there is no third-world poverty. In fact, there’s probably no third-world at all, in this planet of fuzzy smiles and merry unicorns. There is just White Hart Lane and the Spurs Megastore, in which FIRST TEAM PLAYERS make GUEST APPEARANCES (fans please note – only two pieces of memorabilia per person may be presented for autographs).Earlier this week Spurs reserves beat Chelski reserves, and our official club website practically wet itself with excitement. I say Spurs “reserves”, but this was not the usual selection of earnest young kids who will eventually be shunted off on loan to Orient before being tossed aside on free transfers without getting a sniff of the first team because we’re too busy blowing £14 squillion on some sub-standard midfielder from Middlesbrough.

No, this reserves team consisted largely of our subs bench from the last couple of weeks. Chimbonda, Bale, Hudd, Bentley, Pav, Campbell (with a guest appearance from Rocha, who not only is still alive, but is still, apparently, making a living as a footballer).

An objective observer might regard the 4-0 win (by our multi-million pound team, against a Chelski XI featuring such luminaries as Ofori-Twumasi, Ahamed and van Aanholt) as perhaps not such an amazing feat. Not that this minor detail – the truth – was going to stand in the way of whichever crazed zealot is in charge of tottenhamhotspur.com.

However, whilst deciphering the newspeak I raised an unhappy eyebrow at some of the finer details of our GLORIOUS WIN – for two of the goals were scored by young Fraizer Campbell.

Campbell in the Reserves: The Case Against 

But the reserves? That should be the place for our own, permanently-contracted players, to get up to speed. For example, playing Campbell meant denying a chance to young Obika, who looked rough around the edges but pretty darned promising on debut vs Shakhtar a few weeks back. The reserve game vs Chelski, in which the result really did not matter, would have been a great chance for Obika to learn alongside Pav, Hudd et al. Instead, a Man Utd striker, for whom we have little further use, was given the full 90 minutes. I’m typing this with just one hand, because with the other I have made a small clenched fist of displeasure. Not full-blown rage, but definite displeasure.

“? ???? ????????” 

However, I can’t help feeling that Pav, Bentley and Hudd would have muttered sullenly under their breath when informed of team selection for this game. When Pav was banging them in for the Ruskis in the shop window of Euro 2008, he would not have been dreaming of a Monday night reserve game in an empty Leyton Orient stadium. Leaves me wondering what the Russian is for “transfer request”. Google translate might have the answer, because tottenhamhotspur.com sure as hell won’t.

It’s the flip-side of having a (relatively) settled first XI which is producing decent results. The non-starters, while together comprising a mighty fine (and expensive) subs’ bench, will get little more action than ignominious reserve games. No matter how ecstatic the reaction of tottenhamhotspur.com, I don’t think those guys will be too chuffed about it, and the exit door could therefore see a lot of activity come the summer.

Spurs 1 – 1 Shakhtar: Still A Bitter Pill

Dammit.

One would think this sort of thing would become easier to swallow, after over two decades, but it’s just as bitter a bill as ever. This, presumably, is how a man feels when jilted on the altar. Or a four year-old receiving a fluffy, wide-eyed rabbit for his birthday, only to see it savaged by a Rottweiler as soon as the hutch is opened.I should be used to this. Should have known better than to dare to dream. For goodness sake, the very first time I ever watched Spurs, as a whippersnapper who still had his hair cut by his Dad, they lost a Cup final through an own-goal of all things. That should have taught me. It should have taught me that sport, football, Tottenham lifts you up, gives you a glimmer and then callously crushes you with four minutes remaining. And yet yesterday, just like everyone else, I let myself get far too carried away as Giovanni let rip, and the ball grew to love its new home in the Shakhtar net. For thirty minutes thereafter, as I became inappropriately excited at the possibility of what might unfold, I thought that maybe, just maybe…

As an aside, while there’s a certain amount of pride to be derived in glorious failure, it’s a dangerous sentiment to cultivate. No sportsman ought to settle for defeat, and console themselves that, given the circumstance, it is acceptable. The world’s best – Federer, Woods et al – certainly don’t subscribe to this mentality. As an England supporter I’ve spent too long revelling in our status as a nation that goes down in a blaze of glory (and woefully-directed penalty kicks), complete with unjust refereeing decisions and conveniently foreign pantomime villains at whom to whinge. Our boys then receive heroes’ welcomes on their return, and we all congratulate ourselves, and revel in glorious failure.

The notion that it’s the taking part that counts stopped holding water at AANP Towers shortly after my sixth birthday, when I realised that Mabbutt and co would not get to hold aloft the big shiny thing after that wretched ’87 cup final. Who the hell wants to be remembered as a glorious loser? Which aspiring sportsman grows up wanting that? Which schoolboy daydreams in his classroom, which distracted employee wastes company time sitting in front of a pc, thinking about watching his heroes climb the Wembley steps to collect their loser medals, all glum faces and insincere handshakes?

And despite it all, with the bitterest disappointment, I can’t help but feel proud of the team. They showed a bit of passion, pride in the badge – it was a glorious failure, complete with near misses and infuriating, crucial refereeing decisions. That Obika, though understandably rough around the edges, is a brick outhouse of potential (although I worry that, finding himself behind Keane, Defoe, Pav, Bent and Campbell his next professional appearance will be in something other than lilywhite). The much-maligned Gilberto turned in a performance which, although by no means flawless, few would have thought him capable of. Giovanni showed glimpses to suggest that he may be worth a run of games on the left. And so on.

In truth we did not get knocked out of the Uefa Cup last night. We were knocked out back in August when stumbling to defeats against Boro and Sunderland; and later when Gomes gifted points to Villa and Fulham; and when Jenas ducked out of a header to allow Wigan the late points in January. Tally up those points. They have been blithely haemorrhaged, leaving us scrambling for survival in late February. They’ve left us sacrificing a first-choice eleven, in a two-legged tie we could realistically have won. Moreover, with Milan and Villa tumbling out last night, the entire competition remains one at which we could have had a jolly good stab, had we been free from survival concerns and devoted all energies accordingly.

(There’s a strong argument to the effect that, whatever our league position, top-six chasing, mid-table or our current status bringing up the rear, ‘Arry would have dumped the Uefa cup firmly at the bottom of his priorities list, and fielded a weakened team anyway. C’est possible, but my word, had he sacrificed the Uefa Cup for anything but Premiership survival he’d have incited a riot amongst the better half of North London, with baseball bats and knuckle-dusters freely distributed at AANP Towers).

So no more Uefa cup – possibly for a while yet. It’s not just been fun this campaign, it’s been a three-year adventure. Beginning way back with Slavia Prague on Channel Five, and then, gloriously, back at the Lane and under the floodlights in September 2006; through the various, mental legions of foreign fans and their songs, to words I didn’t understand and tunes I didn’t recognise; via the emotionally draining exit at the hands of Sevilla, the memory of which still quickens my pulse even now; taking in Berba’s ridiculous impudence in front of goal; the Jenas penalty saved by some lanky ‘keeper called Gomes; a Bent hat-trick that still had us singing Defoe’s name; and finally the second-string last night, and that most horrendous but apt phrase, glorious failure.

Who knows how long it will be until we sip that continental elixir once more? With a bit of luck and a psyched-up, leash-straining performance at Wembley our passports could be sent for renewal as soon as Sunday. Or, if that all too familiar spirit of under-achievement seeps back into the club, it could be several years, and quite possibly as many managers. Dammit, I should be used to it by now, but it’s no easier to take.

 

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