All Action, No Plot

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Spurs 0-2 Portsmouth: Unlucky? Or Actually Pretty Woeful?

Well we had better get cracking with the inquest then. The slew of instant reactions I have overheard in the couple of hours since meltdown have included “Sack Harry”; “Sell Crouch”; “Recall Keane”; and even “Get Jenas back in the team”. Okay, I made up that last one, but some of the opinions ventured do seem possibly to have been delivered a tad hastily. Over at AANP Towers the mood is bizarrely philosophical – indeed, the primary question being ruminated upon around these parts is whether we lost because we were unlucky or generally quite bobbins.Luck (Or Lack Thereof)

Might as well fly through these first, for administrative purposes:

Disallowed Goal – If there was a push on David James it was by his own defender (Rocha). Well might the goalkeeper have grinned afterwards, the offensively-attired rotter.

Penalty – Sergeant Wilson got the ball, dagnabbit.

First Pompey Goal – Curses upon the Wembley groundstaff, Michael Dawson’s stud manufacturers and the Gods of Soil and Turf.

And as an added bonus, ITV’s wonky-nosed analyst Andy Townsend later highlighted that the free-kick which led to the first goal was given against Dawson for the gentlest caress on the back of a Pompey forward.

On top of these there were spells when we laid siege to the Pompey net, racked up a blinking great big stack of corners, had efforts cleared off the line and saw several of our better chances fall to Corluka – a likeable enough trooper, but not one to whom the epithet “predatory finisher” is normally applied.

Nope, not much luck around these parts.

But Not Exactly Vintage Spurs Either… 

Our play would have benefited enormously from taking the lead and thereby finding some space behind Pompey, but it was not to be, and instead every foray into the Portsmouth penalty area was welcomed by a good half-dozen defenders. They came out elbows flying, and duly defended for their lives throughout. (Whatever happened to the real Ricardo Rocha is anyone’s guess, but his doppelganger, barely recognisable from the blighter who once wore lilywhite, put in a near-faultless shift). By sitting deep our conquerors denied us the space to get beyond them, and our passing game never really materialised.

They may have made it difficult for us, but a general lack of invention, coupled with the determination of our lot to avoid one-touch football, did not help the cause, and it seemed we might have played all ruddy night and not scored. Perhaps, then, this one will be filed in the AANP the folder entitled “Simultaneously Unlucky And Actually Pretty Woeful” (next to the 2001 Carling Cup Final defeat to Blackburn).

A Couple of Points of Note Regarding Personnel

“FA Cup Semi-Final” can be added to the ever-growing number of key games in which Hudd has failed to impose himself. He might not have been match-fit, and he did pick a couple of decent passes – and one delicious, controlled shot – but boss the affair he most certainly did not.

Inevitably then, we looked out left for inspiration. The threat of Bale was largely countered by Portsmouth’s deep-lying approach, but while perhaps not as effective as in previous weeks he still seemed our most creative outlet. The hour of Lennon’s return approacheth, which if nothing else will give Bale a chance to catch his breath between gallops.

Poor old Sergeant Wilson is pretty much exonerated from blame. Understandably enough he played throughout like a man already on one yellow card, and while this denied us the sight of any bone-crunching challenges he still bustled around pretty effectively (and energetically too, in a game in which I do declare I saw a Pompey player cramp up as early as the first half). It seemed pretty cruel that after all that effort he was then unjustly booked and we lost anyway. The guy must have been pure evil in his previous life, because karma seems to have it in for him.

‘Arry’s Input 

The replacement by Krancjar of Bentley also prompted a raised eyebrow at AANP Towers. He may not have been setting the world alight, but Bentley was whipping in the occasional cross from the right, which seemed a reasonable tactic with Crouch and Pav ambling around ahead. Instead, he exited stage left, while Hudd continued to crawl around in the centre.

11th April 2010: A Pretty Rubbish Day 

If the players mope around feeling sorry for themselves like we fans are doing the Premiership push will also be up in smoke this time next week. The evidence of today suggests that over the remainder of the season we will once again choke – but how nice would it be to see our lot pick themselves up and go hell for leather for fourth spot over the next few weeks?

 

Gary Mabbutt will be signing copies of AANP book Spurs’ Cult Heroes for the masses on the following dates:
Waterstones Stevenage – Saturday 24 April, 12 noon;
Waterstones Walthamstow – Saturday 8 May, 1pm

, is now available in the Spurs shop, all good bookshops and online (at Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play).  

Spurs’ Cult Heroes

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

Spurs – Portsmouth FA Cup Semi-Final Preview: Gearing Up For A Ruddy Marvellous Week

And so begins our biggest week since the last great big important week we had. Two wins from the upcoming three games? The feeling here at AANP Towers is that we’re certainly capable of winning at least one of the two home games against l’Arse and Chelski, and with one Aaron Lennon due for return at some point this week this really could tee us up for a ruddy marvellous finale to the season.First things first however, and frankly it would take quite a monumental effort from our heroes to fail to make the FA Cup Final from this position. Admittedly Tottenham Hotspur FC has quite an eye-catching history when it comes to un-winning the most winnable of contests, and FA Cup Semi-Final complacency is not unknown around these parts (see 1995 name-on-the-Cup, Klinsmann, Everton and all that) but even at my most pessimistic I can only envisage us churning out a sloppy first half, prompting ‘Arry’s twitch to go into overdrive at the break and our lot upping their game sufficiently in the second half.

Portsmouth are falling apart at the seams, and were unable even to bring a full squad of 18 players to the Lane a couple of weeks ago. While I sympathise with their off-field plight (as Best Man to a Pompey fan that’s pretty much in my contract), today is a day for kicking them while they’re down. The official company line is that there are no easy games, and Pompey will certainly apply themselves with a darned sight more commitment than in the League meeting a couple of weeks ago, but for all their willing we should have more than enough quality, particularly going forward.

Team Selection

The usual headaches apply to selection, particularly in defence. The absences of Kaboul and Walker would hardly be lamented if we were at full-strength, but with Daws, Corluka and, most curiously, Ledley all due for late fitness tests it is still possible that the likes of Palacios or Livermore may be shunted into the back-four, with BAE switching to ad hoc right-back. Hudd (I think) is an absentee; Lennon is not yet match-fit; and Portsmouth are no doubt quaking in their boots at the news that Jenas is also undergoing a late fitness test.

The outlook is far rosier going forward. All four strikers are match-fit, and we have the usual array of string-pullers from which to choose going forward. ‘Tis this abundance of attacking riches which provides the main grounds for optimism. Cup upsets happen, but if Pompey’s ramshackle bunch of reserves and kids can repel the combined might of Defoe, Pav, Crouch, Gudjohnsen, Bale, Modders, Kranjcar and Bentley for an hour and a half then they each deserve knighthoods.

Having recently held a public training session for supporters, our heroes have no doubt been informed that failure to win today will result in them being marched out in front of supporters and publicly flogged. AANP’s wish-list is straightforward – a win, by whatever means, and no mention of Sergeant Wilson’s name in the referee’s little black book. Enjoy the day-out.

 

Gary Mabbutt will be signing copies of AANP book Spurs’ Cult Heroes for the masses on the following dates:
Waterstones Stevenage – Saturday 24 April, 12 noon;
Waterstones Walthamstow – Saturday 8 May, 1pm
 

Spurs’ Cult Heroes, is now available in the Spurs shop, all good bookshops and online (at Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play).  

 

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

Spurs 2-0 Portsmouth: Boom Boom Boom – Let Me Hear You Say Bale

Never mind the theory that Peter Crouch Can Do Anything – the 2010 product is Gareth Bale. When he sets off on a gallop down the left the world is his oyster. He has within his armoury the capacity to outpace just about any opponent slower than Usain Bolt; play an intelligent, 10-yard diagonal ball infield; or whip in a peach of a cross, as demonstrated for the opener yesterday. Add to that his Delap-style long throws, and a mean free-kick, and Gareth Bale really can do anything. (Although I suppose his defending occasionally remains fallible). At various points yesterday the humble Pompey folk were ganging up on him in their threes, and still struggling to stop him, as he turned in yet another Man of the Match performance. The concern here at AANP Towers is that Man Utd come sniffing in the summer.As noted recently on the top-notch Spurs Show podcast, Bale’s searing pace comes from his bizarrely long stride. Unlike, say Aaron Lennon, whose little legs move so fast they morph into a Scooby-Doo style blur of movement when he sets off, Bale seems to amble along at a reasonable yet unspectacular pace, and despite this goes motoring past every opposing full-back in the British isles, because he covers so much ground in each stride. Which is marvellous.

Entertainingly, a side-effect of Bale’s renaissance has been BAE’s decision to add a spot of attacking urgency to his game as left-back. As a result he can now be spotted pelting forward towards the opposition by-line to deliver a low cross or two of his own, having previously insisted on slamming on the brakes whenever he approached the final third.

Game Of Two Halves

The second half was so subdued as to arouse suspicion. My Spurs-supporting chum Ian is rarely short of a conspiracy theory, and spent our post-match pint peddling the theory that ‘Arry had ordered the players not to score any more because he retained a soft spot for his former club. Tongue may have been firmly in cheek at that juncture, but here at AANP Towers we do wonder whether the drill was to avoid any over-exertion and unnecessary injuries in the second half. If this were indeed the case it is rather a pity, for had we gone at it hammer and tongs in the second period we really could have done a Wigan. Evidently Chelski were not in a forgiving mood at Villa yesterday, racking up seven, and something similar ought not to have been beyond us.

The All-Action Minute

However, if the second half was a little sedate, ample compensation was offered in the first half by possibly the most exhilarating, all-action minute of football I have ever witnessed at the Lane, around the half-hour mark. Hudd almost snapped the woodwork in half; before we had time to catch our breath Crouchy achieved the extraordinary feat of looking elegant as he nailed the exact same spot on the frame of the goal; and from the resulting corner the beanpole’s Van Basten impressions continued with an overhead kick unfortunately straight at David James. Not since Sheringham and Solsjkaer won the Champions League in 1999 has one minute of football been observed with quite such breathless excitement here at AANP Towers.

A Few Words On The Boy Walker

90 minutes is hardly enough time to make or break a career, but young Kyle Walker did a decent job on debut. His was the vital contribution to our second goal, and although sometimes a little naïve going forward his general willingness and ability to go haring down the right gave Bentley the room to whip in a few delicious crosses. Walker will have sterner defensive tests, but he applied himself with gusto and aggression as appropriate. An encouraging start.

In the final analysis it was pretty straightforward fare, as expected. There were a couple of first half concerns, as Pompey sliced us open on one occasion, and we also had Gomes to thank for one vital save that was worth a goal. On balance of play however, we were well worth the three points. There was a gloomy inevitability about another of our number hobbling off, but fingers are crossed that Dawson’s removal was precautionary. Seven games to go, and we remain well-placed.

 

AANP’s first book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, is now available in the Spurs shop, all good bookshops and online (at Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play). 

All are most welcome to leave memories – and browse those of others – regarding the players featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Danny Blanchflower here, Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Martin Chivers here, Alan Gilzean here, Pat Jennings here, Cyril Knowles here, Steve Perryman here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jürgen Klinsmann here, David Ginola here, Paul Gascoigne here. Also featured in the book are Sandy Brown and the late, great Bill Nicholson. 

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

Spurs – Portsmouth Preview: Will ‘Arry Go 2-2-6?

A theory doing the rounds in some quarters is that the crunch games in our push for fourth is not the quartet against the big boys (Man Utd-l’Arse-Chelski-City) but the four against the less glamorous mob – Pompey, Sunderland, Burnley and Bolton. Anything less than three points against each of this lot, so goes the theory, and we really will throw away fourth spot.AANP rather struggles to get its head around all this truth be told, and is likely to be an equal bag of nerves immediately prior to kick-off in each of these games. However, whichever view one adopts, there can be no question that three points is absolutely essential today. (And preferably to be achieved without further injuries). For various reasons – form, quality, O’Hara ineligible – this a mismatch of fairly epic proportions, which ought to be viewed as a chance to fill our boots and add a little sheen to our goal difference.

Team News

 

 

 

 

AANP’s first book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, is now available in the Spurs shop, all good bookshops and online (at Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play

). 

 

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

. Also featured in the book are Sandy Brown and the late, great Bill Nicholson.

 

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

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

Portsmouth 1-2 Spurs: Complicating the Uncomplicated

Not so much a game of two halves as a game of two thirds and a third third. We seemed to be cruising serenely after an hour or so – but then that wouldn’t be the Tottenham way, would it? Cue a wild thump of the self-destruct button, the halving of our lead and a daft sending off. The three points were eventually achieved in slightly nerve-jangling, harum-scarum style. Not for the first time I mused at the final whistle that Tottenham Hotspur ought to come with a health warning.Comedy Gold

The game could have been wrapped up within the first ten minutes, as Defoe might have a had a hat-trick. It rather set the tone, as we were the better team in the first half, and not for the first time the presence of Ledley at the back made a world of difference. A couple of weeks ago away to Bolton, in the absence of Ledley the back-four resembled a bunch of strangers – all of whom were mightily suspicious of the round white thing – but yesterday, particularly in the first half, he had things well under control. There was one scare, when a Corluka mistake left our back-four badly out of position, but let that not distract from the resulting moment of pure comedy gold from the Portsmouth forward Dindane, blasting over an open goal from a yard out, the sort of chance even Sandra Redknapp would have snaffled up.

Other than that, Pompey were reduced to long-range shots in the first half, mainly from Boateng, who seemed determined to have a crack every time he touched the ball, no matter the angle, distance or scientific impossibility. Ledley looked typically regal in rising to head home the opener, and as mentioned, we sailed through the first half pretty serenely.

Hudd and Jenas 

Jenas did not run the show as he might have done, but ‘twas notable that on the one occasion on which he burst forward he set up Defoe’s goal. There’s a salutary lesson in there – I would like to see Jenas gamble like that more often. Just take a chance man, break into the opposition area and see what happens.

Complicating The Uncomplicated

Two-nil, and cruising. In a parallel universe there’s a Tottenham team who achieve such positions and proceed to see out the game with minimal fuss and flawless professionalism. Their fortunes are charted on the Spurs blog Generous Amount of Action, Strong Understanding of Plot. Back on planet earth, with half an hour to go we did a fine job of complicating the uncomplicated. Portsmouth scored through Boateng, inevitably (seems a shame to criticise Gomes after he made some awesome saves, but he might have done better with the goal), and where once Defoe might have bitten an opponent’s arm, this time he trod on his leg, and saw red. No real complaints about the sending-off – not the most vicious challenge ever, but daft and petulant, leaving the ref with little option – and ruling Defoe out of the North London derby in a fortnight.

For five minutes thereafter we actually upped a gear, but it soon turned into a bit of an Alamo, with Dawson and Palacios thrown on for security, and the cheery sight of five added minutes of injury time. Gomes produced three top-drawer saves, the first in particular, from Kaboul’s deflected free-kick, looks better on every viewing, while we could also be thankful for another piece of truly comical finishing from the boy Dindane.

In the final analysis it is a strange game to summarise – on balance, when it was eleven against eleven we looked good value for a win, and yet we had to rely on three brilliant saves and two missed open-goals from Portsmouth. Having had the game in the bag at half-time, we almost let it slip through sloppiness and lack of self-discipline. However, despite going down to ten men away from home we didn’t capitulate, and a quarter of the way through the season we remain comfortably ensconced in the top four. Whisper it, but the 2009/10 Tottenham vintage is really rather tasty.

 

Chris Waddle is the latest player to be featured in the forthcoming book Spurs’ Cult Heroes, and you are invited to share your memories of him here. As ever, all are most welcome to leave memories – and browse those of others – regarding some of the other featured players: Cliff Jones here, Glenn Hoddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann here
(If you fancy following the progress of Spurs’ Cult Heroes you can do so on the Facebook fan group just about here)

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