All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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Kaka for £100 million, Adriano for Bale… All-Action-No-Plot Transfer Talk

What the blazes? For the last couple of weeks the January transfer window has provided a view into a serene and rather bland British landscape, with the return of Jermain Defoe the best on offer, and other gossip being limited to moves for the likes of James Beattie and Dean Windass. Within the last 24 hours however, the window has turned into a portal into the All-Action-No-Plot universe, as the football world and everything in it has suddenly become completely mental.

Kaka to Man City for £100 million? Adriano on loan to Spurs from Inter – with Gareth Bale going the other way? Pick your jaw up from the floor, for I jest ye not – these are the rumours doing the rounds today. And they’re not just rumours either – representatives have been holding clandestine meetings. Clandestine meetings! Actual negotiations are taking place!Kaka 

 

However, this isn’t Lucas Neill or Cashley Cole we’re talking about – this is Kaka. Filthy lucre is not going to turn the head of this man, not even the brain-frying sum of £250k per week. (Per fricking week!!!). This is a man who famously wore a t-shirt proclaiming that he belonged to Jesus. This is a man who gives one tenth of his weekly wage to charidee, and who probably spends his spare time helping to build orphanages for one-legged, rabid kids in the world’s poorest countries.

Kaka currently plies his trade alongside Maldini, Ronaldinho, Gattuso, Beckham, Pato and Inzaghi. On offer is the prospect of weekly shuttle runs alongside Micah Richards, Darius Vassell and Stephen Ireland (actually, that Ireland is pretty slick, but you get the point). One suspects that even sums of money so large they need to be delivered to his pad in a wheelbarrow each week might not be enough to lure him away from the San Siro. 

 

Adriano – Bale 

 

However, I suspect he’s better than Fraizer Campbell and poor old Darren Bent, and as such I’d welcome him, particularly on a loan deal. It’s the Gareth Bale part of this rumour that has me desperately grasping for some semblance of reality. Adriano for Bale? Who dreamt that one up?

Inter boss Jose Mourinho presumably is thinking of the Gareth Bale from the start of last season, the all-action-no-plot teenage left-back with a burst of pace and an eye for goal. He’s clearly unaware of the amazing regression that has taken place, Darwinism in reverse, that sees the lad quiver every time the ball goes near him and time his tackles with all the nous of a blind giraffe on stilts.

Still, if Inter are willing, why not? And why stop there – let’s see who else they want to trade. Jenas for Zlatan Ibrahimovic? Bentley for Javier Zanetti? Three-Touch O’ Hara for Cambiasso? Bale for Adria- oh wait, hang on a moment…

(Amidst all this madness, spare a thought for Darren Bent. Having had barely a sniff last season, he became first choice at the start of this campaign, only to be left out to dry in a 4-5-1, then saw Pavluychenko arrive, followed by Defoe, with ‘Arry now in talks for another striker. Bent must wonder what he’s done in a previous life, or who is manufacturing the voodoo dolls in his image. Knowing his luck, next time he walks out of the tunnel at the Lane a grand piano will probably fall out of the sky and land on him. Poor blighter).

A Rant Against The “Romance of the Cup”

If I hear one more person bang on about the “romance of the cup” I’ll be forced to grind my teeth and shake a clenched fist in rage, God help you all.

 

I do all-action-no-plot, not romance. My favourite romantic film is Die Hard (the whole Ms Holly Genaro/Mrs Holly McClane sub-plot has me choking back the tears). Come FA Cup 3rd/4th round weekend each year I’m forced to chop down the nearest tree, turn it into a paper bag and vomit into it, as pundits, commentators, ex-pros and even ex-blinking-amateurs go all dewey-eyed at memories of Tesco AFC of the Salted Peanuts Division South knocking out the mighty Aldershot on a muddy bog in January 1972, accompanied by Motty’s tedious screeching.

 

I guess it’s nice if you’re the lad who scored the winner for the non-league lot back in the days when Martin Jol (blessed be his name) had hair – and a kick-ass beard as it happens –  but I’m not that lad. Nor am I a member of his family, or anyone else who cares.I’m a Spurs fan. Therefore, come the FA Cup I want to see all the big teams knocked out, thus smoothing our progress so that we play Burnley in the semi-final, rather than Man Utd in the 4th round. However, if Spurs have already been knocked out I want to see all the big teams left in to play each other in the final stages, free and accessible on terrestrial. Last year’s semi-final line-up comprised Pompey, Cardiff, West Brom and Barnsely, and was consequently watched by eight people across the country. I watched the final between Pompey and Cardiff, and it left me yearning for a flux capacitor which would enable me to go back to my settee at 2.59pm and stick on a dvd of 5-1 vs Germany instead.

 

 

 

The Champs League final between Man Utd and Chelski, by contrast, was a game of cracking quality. I realise that two top teams can play each other and produce a rubbish game, and having caught the Gillingham-Villa game on Sunday I realise that lower-league-vs-Premiership can provide some excitement. I realise too that the windfalls from such glamour ties can keep the rubbish teams going, and that I sincerely support.Indeed, if I were trying to construct a logical, scientific proof that the romance of the cup is worthless and moribund, such counter-claims would be pretty damning – but I’m not trying to do that. I’m just venting my spleen, in a fit of uncontrollable rage, and communicating to the all-action-no-plot world my hatred of the sickening notion of the “romance of the cup”. I’m rallying against those who seem to assume that I should go weak at the knees at its mention, in much the same way as it’s assumed that I should love Nelson Mandela purely on account of my membership of the human race. To quote Rodney Trotter, no way Pedro. Read my lips – I LOATHE THE ROMANCE OF THE CUP, AND MR T IS MILES BETTER THAN NELSON MANDELA.

 

Spurs 0-0 Fulham: Dreariness to the strains of Vivaldi

The existence of a football fan can be a pathetic one – trudging around an empty room, pinning my hopes on a radio, staring pleadingly at it and willing it to deliver good news. The reception on it was so poor that match commentary was delivered with early afternoon orchestral performances on Radio 3 in the background. The commentator sounded like a gobby 15 year-old dragged out of his classroom, whose unique brand of humour amuses only the other hoodied teenagers who congregate at train stations on a Friday night to scowl, smoke and spit. This inanimate object, delivering to me first movements and teenage witticisms was the object of my undivided attention and longing for two hours on Boxing Day.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, this 15 year-old’s blow-by-blow account informed me, to the strains of Mozart’s Horn Concerto, that Spurs served up a woeful performance today . I need not really elaborate on the match details – all the usual boxes can be ticked: under-achievement from Bentley; lack of service and creativity from midfield; Bent swapped with Pav after 70. The usual suspects. Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons could not assuage my annoyance.

I regularly wonder if there’s anything more frustrating in life than being a Spurs fan. This marriage to 11 men in white frequently leaves me ruing that fateful day, back in 1987. Only minutes before kick-off this afternoon I wrote, full of optimism, about how Fulham at home could be the springboard to a run of wins which would fire us up the table. Looking back, with the benefit of just a few hours’ hindsight, I sneer at myself. How could I have been so naive? Why will I again be churlish in my predictions, in just 48 hours’ time? Nil-nil at home to Fulham is about as uninspiring and dreary-sounding a result as I can imagine, even if at half-time I caught random snatches of the rousing Superman theme tune on Radio 3. No result can be further from the all-action-no-plot team to which I signed my life away, two decades ago.

This time next month, we’ll be pushing for Europe…

Make no mistake, the games coming up over the Christmas period and into January represent a great opportunity to push up the table, away from the drop-zone and into the chasing pack fro Europe.

In the league, Fulham at home, West Brom away, Wigan away, Pompey at home, Stoke away and Bolton at home on 31 Jan – all games which, individually, we could realistically envisage winning. There’s a Manager of the Month award in there for ‘Arry, particularly if he bolsters the squad shrewdly over January.

The table remains tight, with universal inconsistency seeing teams throughout the division picking up just four or five points from nine. As such, three or four consecutive wins will propel us up the table.

I realise that this is the sort of claim which will incur the wrath and/or mockery of non-Spurs fans across the land, exactly the sort of blind optimism which breeds pre-season mockery outside fo N17, as we babble on about this being “our season”. Indeed, I admit to making such gung-ho claims fro the ’08-’09 campaign, not least on 15 August, the day before the season began. Back then, carried away with the prospect of an all-action-no-plot line-up so attacking it forced Modric back into the holding role, I saw us beating every team in the Premiership at home, bar the top four. Instead, we promptly lost to Boro, Sunderland, Villa, Pompey, Hull and Stoke, and were bottom after a couple of months. There is therefore, a possibility that this festive fixture-list could prove disastrous for us.

However, results (and performances) such as the 0-0 at home to Man Utd, minus King and Woodgate, and the win away to West Ham, have left hope springing eternal of a points blitz over the next few weeks. It all begins today at home to Fulham. ‘Arry will continue to insist that we’re in a relegation scrap, but I see neon lights, dollar signs and all-action-no-plot, glory glory football – we’re on our way to an unbeaten run! I’m sure of it!

Berba the pantomime villain: Spurs – Man Utd preview

So it looks like Berba is chickening out of a return to the Lane tomorrow, the big girl’s blouse. There is also some talk of Carrick possibly missing out through injury, although I suspect he’d be due less vitriol than the Bulgarian swine. Loyalty means nothing to players, nothing new there, but everyone loves a pantomime villain, especially at Christmas, and should Berba play he can expect to be roundly booed for the manner in which he upped and left. Of sulky demeanour at the best of times, his departure was conducted in such a surly manner he didn’t even bother to make the usual polite utterances about how grateful he was for the opportunity and support at Spurs etc. There’s probably a sense in which his honesty is refreshing, but I missed it in the midst of my indignation that anyone would dare to leave the amphitheatre of N17, or that, contrary to the song, there is actually another team around which is by far the greatest the world has ever seen.

 

Some players will always be warmly received at the Lane – Waddler, Ginola, Klinsmann et al. Guys, mi casa su casa. The criteria are pretty straightforward – play the sort of champagne football that the Lane regulars love, show that you care for the badge and, possibly above all else, don’t leave acrimoniously. Getting shunted out by an unscrupulous chairman/manager tends to assist the returning player in the popularity stakes.

 

By contrast, declaring that you’d rather leave Spurs and join some other lot, who have handily become the club you supported as a boy, will grant you the sort of treatment that even Emmanuel Eboue would consider a tad harsh. And leaving to join l’arse on a free, after you’ve been club captain for years – well, suffice it say that ten years on and that’s now become a matter for the polizei to investigate.

 

With Rooney and possibly Evra also missing from the Man Utd line-up tomorrow, and our bizarrely impressive record against the top-four so far this season, there may even be grounds for optimism ahead of the game. I think we’ll get stuff myself, but personally I’d rather lose this one and win the Carling Cup final against them.

The Curious Incident of Juande Ramos…

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

King reigns, Modric arrives: West Ham 0-2 Spurs

A bunch of positives from last night – a clean-sheet; cracking double-save from the much-maligned Gomes at 1-0, that was worth a goal (although a draw would have been harsh on us); little Lennon’s final ball matching the quality of his initial scampering; and the sight of the team generally bossing the game for much of the second-half. Personally though I was most chuffed with our little midfield fairy Lucy Modric.

 

Some context first – he was hardly Pele out there last night. In the first half in particular his tendency to drift wide and stay there left poor old Pavluychenko trudging around the penalty area with no white-shirts anywhere near him and only that nasty Lucas Neill for company. However, even in the first 45 Modric started to look like the flashy Hollywood midfielder we’d all heard about over the summer. A couple of neat step-overs, some twinkle-toed dribbles and the odd cheeky nutmeg – he suddenly appeared to fancy English football, and to believe that he really was a better player than Parker, Behrani et al. Then, for 20 or 30 mins in the second half, we began to dominate the game and Modric seemed to be at the hub of most things good. While maintaining a fairly central position he made himself available for a pass, and regularly took the opportunity to swagger towards goal and pull a few strings. It would be stretching it to say he bossed the game, but for the first time since arriving he seemed to enjoy conducting things, and occasionally he delivered the end product of a pleasingly incisive through-ball (we Lane regulars like that sort of thing). Finally it seems, Modric could be finding his feet in this Tottenham team.

 

Bless him, he still seems to be made of talcum powder and string. A gentle nudge doesn’t just knock him off balance, it sends him hurtling about ten feet across the pitch. At times it seemed he was sent tumbling by a gentle breeze in the East End night, or the blast of air carrying from the ref’s whistle. More cunning teams will work out not to give him too much time on the ball, and instead just kick, as he’s liable to snap, but cunning didn’t appear to be the West Ham way last night. Admittedly there was not much to which it can be compared, but I’d say Modric’s performance last night was possibly his best in a Tottenham shirt, which bodes rather well – I particularly look forward to seeing him dominate some Uefa cup games, where he has more time on the ball

 

Elsewhere on the Pitch…

 

Modric looked the sort of player that Bentley would love to become – ie a class above and he knows it. Bentley still doesn’t look entirely comfortable. It’s as if the whole business of getting stuck in on the pitch is a rather irritating distraction from living out his dream of living the celeb lifestyle in London.

 

Elsewhere, Assou-Ekotto continued to amble around in auto-pilot with that curious, expressionless stare of the undead, before doing his best to concede a penalty (relax Hammers fans – yes it was a pen, but we should have had a blatant one at the other end).

 

Corluka looked like a big lumbering bear, with little pace, and generally preferring to exercise pragmatism over guile whenever in possession.

 

Zokora did a decent job defensively, but conceded possession too often in the first half when going forward. Almost got his goal in the second half, mind.

 

And good old Ledley capped a solid display with a goal he can now drink to, stumble to and get in a fight at Faces to. His goal celebrations looked surprisingly sedate for a man whose celebrations were so heart-warmingly captured by the tabloids earlier this year.

 

First half we were as sloppy as I’d expected we’d be, second half we were much improved, a really impressive, controlled and inventive performance. Also nice to see us (generally) sensibly play the game out in the last few mins, just keeping possession, aside from the needless concession of a couple of free-kicks. But even those had a silver lining, as Gomes was able to enjoy his moment in the sun. Take a bow lads.

Cliches and Aaron Lennon’s leggings – West Ham-Spurs preview

I’m not a fan of footballing clichés – my dislike of them was suitably exacerbated when l’arse went and signed one (with a girl’s name) – so if you’re similarly riled by them perhaps briefly avert your eyes at this juncture: I’d rather have points in the bag than a game in hand.  However, the fixture-gods (ie the tv money-men) have decreed in their wisdom that this weekend we sat at home and twiddled our thumbs, waiting until Monday night while everyone else notched up another point or three on the Saturday and Sunday. Thus we go into tonight’s game at West Ham just one point above the drop zone. While it would be a bit dramatic to say that there is daylight between the mid-table gang and our humble selves, the three-point gap (from us in 17th to West Ham and Man City in 15th and 14th) could start to stretch if we get nothing from our game in hand tonight, especially as we’ve got Man Utd next up…

The possible return to fitness of the waif-like Modric could prove timely, as he would allow us to revert to a five-man midfield, whilst also providing a bit of craft and guile in the final third. Even if Modric isn’t fit, the return to the team of Jenas will add some energy to the midfield – and will also handily give the travelling Spurs support someone at whom to vent their spleen if things aren’t going well (http://www.allactionnoplot.com/?p=71). West Ham’s recent win at Sunderland was their first Premiership victory in ages, and while the draw at Anfield last week was also an impressive result, they’re hardly in red-hot form. They certainly look beatable – but then I think that of most teams we face… We for our part have looked sloppy recently, but I’d hope that the derby atmosphere and evening kick-off will be sufficient to impress upon the players the need for some urgency. Won’t make a prediction – the Premiership is far too tight and inconsistent this season to be laying money down – other than that Aaron Lennon will wear gloves and possibly even those dubious legging things, the big girl’s blouse…

 

 

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