Spurs preview

Spurs – West Brom Preview: Hoping For A Reaction

It’s been said that the measure of greatness is not how you react to victory, but how you react to defeat. I could not, even in my most wildly partisan moments, straight-facedly describe Spurs as “great”, but I ruddy well expect some sort of reaction to last week’s twenty-minute debacle at Old Trafford.No excuses – we ought to give West Brom a damn good thrashing today. We fans are owed an all-guns-blazing performance, to exorcise the humiliation of last week, and in terms of bouncing back and unleashing a bit of fury, we could not have asked for anything more suitable than a home fixture against the division’s bottom team.

Aside from the Man Utd mess last week, and the pretty unlucky defeat at Blackburn, we’ve been in decent form. There has been some zippy attacking, and generally pretty solid defensive performances. Play like we have been playing over the last couple of months, and we will win comfortably. A one-nil win and three points would be fine of course, but, perhaps because there’s still some pent up rage from last week, I desperately hope we dish out a real old-fashioned thrashing today. We’ve been making a habit of scoring first in recent weeks, so this week let’s score first but then kick West Brom while they’re down, and turn it into a rout.

Dad’s Birthday Treat 

“Who’s that chap?”
“That’s Fraizer Campell, Dad.”
Crazy Campbell?”
“FRAIZER Campbell.”
“Oh. Never heard of him. Who’s that chap?”

– and then listening to the frequent complaint that all our players are too small. Dad uses that line like ‘Arry uses Two-Points-Eight-Games.

”I like Keane. He works hard…”
“But he’s too small, right Dad?”
“…but he’s just too small. Ah Defoe. I like Defoe. He’s got an eye for goal, like Greaves…”
“But he’s too small, right Dad?”
“…bit small though. They need someone big in there, like Bobby Smith. [Pause] Who’s that chap?”

I therefore particularly look forward to the verdict on Wilson Palacios. ‘Arry has a big decision in choosing Wilson’s midfield partner, with Jenas his seeming preference, but Hudd making noises about pastures new. In attack, Bent’s out injured, poor blighter, and could well have played his last game for us. Not entirely sure what Pav’s status is these days, so we might get an early glimpse of next season’s big problem, with a Keane-Defoe partnership. Well if they can’t work together at home to West Brom…

Spurs match reports

Man Utd 5-2 Spurs: When A Glorious, Backs-to-the-Wall Defensive Operation Goes Wrong

Sven’s England. They’re the ones to whom we owe royalties for breach of copyright after that second half, now down on record as officially The Worst Ever Attempt To Spend A Second Half Defending A Lead. Sven’s England regularly tried this approach, after scoring first in a crucial game. It actually worked vs Argentina, but then failed abysmally against Brazil, France and Portugal. It’s an unattractive way to win a game and, more trenchantly, typically it just doesn’t work.I’m not sure if it was an official order from the top, or an automatic instinct from the players, but they trotted out in the second half showing absolutely no desire to get over the halfway line. After a bright and breezy first half, with Lennon and Modders respectively bettering their full-backs, we cleansed ourselves of any semblance of attacking intent, and duly set about trying to win in heroic, backs-to-the-wall Alamo style.

That presumably was the theory, but in practice half our team seemed to disappear for 30 mins, only occasionally resurfacing to stumble and tumble around in their own area as Man Utd’s forwards went beserk.

Palacios normally wears underneath his lilywhite a t-shirt emblazoned with a giant “S”. As the designated enforcer in our team, he ought to have been in his element in the second half. Instead, I wondered if the ref had at half-time retrospectively sent him off for that appalling early two-footer, because I’m not sure he was even on the pitch in the latter stages. Rather than enforcing anything the team crumbled like a pack of cards. No plot.

Naturally, there was no shortage of good old-fashioned apoplexy when the penalty was awarded (my instinct on first glance and full speed was that, as the ball ended up in front of Gomes and behind Carrick, it must have been won by the former). However, to attribute the defeat to a dodgy refereeing decision would be to miss the point. Our mentality had been to defend deep and for our lives throughout the second half. To survive, rather than compete. Once that strategy had been adopted, one way or another United goals were a-coming, whether or not the ref helped them out.

In recent weeks we’ve won a clutch of one-nils – but not by camping in our area and desperately trying to repel kitchen sinks being hurled in our direction. We’ve at least tried to attack, and work an opportunity for a game-clinching second, even if we’ve been rather shot-shy and pass-happy.

I’m not suggesting that a reckless, all-guns-blazing, kamikaze attacking mentality would have won the day (although we wouldn’t have fared much worse with such an approach). However, by demonstrating that we were still keen to score more we might have defended further up the field, and caused United some problems of their own – as we did in the first half.



Rare Praise For Bent, Slapped Wrist For Keane – And Normal Service Resumed By JenasBravo Darren Bent. Gosh it feels strange to say it, but after scolding him last week for not showing sufficient aggression in attack, I was rather impressed by the way he took his goal. He showed a willingness to muscle in and compete, against the two best centre-backs in the country. Fortune duly favoured the brave, and he banged home his chance. Given that there wasn’t a man in lilywhite within about five miles of him for most of the game, he did what he could.And yes, that last sentence was indeed an ill-disguised snipe aimed at you, Mr Keane. I caught him red-handed in the midfield yesterday, right next to Jenas, and occasionally deeper than Corluka. I presume the idea was for Keane to drop deep, in order to allow Palacios to pick up Berbatov, or some such tactical gubbins. Whatever. Keane’s a striker, so boot him out of the midfield and let him strike.

I’ve been back on medication this week, after my insane ramblings


last Sunday bemoaning the absence of Jermaine Jenas. Well, you’ll pleased to know that normal service has resumed. With all the fickleness of Danielle Lloyd in a players’ lounge, I now ditch that argument, and instead pick up one of my many “Get Rid of The Boy Jenas” placards.I had complained last week that no other midfielder shows any inclination to attack the penalty area, and that JJ should therefore be sprinkled in gold and given his own halo. However, as was pointed out to me in the interim, for all his willingness to push forward, no other player is quite as capable of slowing down a Tottenham move when in possession. How could I have forgotten? For yesterday, there he was, at it again, gleefully resuming the habit of a lifetime as if he’d never been away. Passes went sideways, backwards, to Man Utd players, out of play – anywhere but forwards. Maybe his sense of direction was thrown by the presence of Keane standing alongside him, some fifty yards from goal.

Another observation from last week was that

our midfielders rarely helped out poor old Bent by getting into the area. When Modric eventually dared to enter the precious eighteen-yard sanctum yesterday, he scored. Hmm. There’s a link there, somewhere, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.Sigh.( And I can assure you, these sighs are better than the foul-mouthed screams I was spitting out yesterday.) If we wanted

a gauge of how far we’ve come, we got it: we have goals in us, against the best, but we still lack experience and a killer instinct. Still a couple of positions that need improving.However, in the final analysis it was just one defeat. Four games left, and seventh is still manageable.

Spurs news

Spurs 1-0 Newcastle: Lamenting The Absence of Jenas (No, Really)

One of these days, watching Tottenham will be the death of me. They’ll score early and dominate, but then instead of scoring a second against submissive fatted calves bred specifically for the slaughter, they’ll spend the final hour earnestly faffing. I shall chew my nails, squirm and curse; and then swear and kick people; and finally become so wound up by the faffing that my heart will pop and I’ll keel over.It was another good win – some lovely, swift, counter-attacking, coupled with a solid defence, with the enforced reorganisation handled with minimum fuss. But my goodness it would have been so much more pleasant and sedate if we could have scored a second. That would have taken the game by the hand, dressed it in its pyjamas, read it a bedtime story and put it safely to bed. Instead it all became a tad nervy as the clock ticked down. Opposition more inspired than Newcastle might have made us pay.

Lack of Presence in Attack

I have a gnawing sense that we lack a real potent presence in attack. For all the possession, and some delicious one-touch build-up play, we regularly seemed to have only one man in the opposition area. It’s breeding a tendency to try to walk the ball into the net, and play increasingly intricate and precise short-passes around a crowded area. It’s good football, and against the largely impotent Geordies ‘twas sufficient – but a real beast of a man in attack might give a cutting-edge, and make life harder for defenders.

I’m starting to wonder whether Keane has developed a twinkle in his eye for one of our midfielders, as he’s been dropping deeper and deeper in recent games, doing most of his work in the area well behind the striker and generally spending more time than is healthy around the midfield. It’s usually good work – full of energy and awareness, but he rarely seems to be in the penalty area. To be honest I struggle to remember the last time he actually had a shot.

Bent just lacks the confidence – or maybe arrogance – in front of goal to lead the line, in a Shearer or Drogba-esque way. Bent has speed and strength, but rather than boss and bully defenders he seems inclined to keep them informed at all times of his whereabouts, and politely request permission to go running around their patch. This is lovely for any girl who wants to take him home to meet her parents, but rather less useful in the cut-throat trades of line-leading and net-bulging. Start shoving defenders out of the way man, and snarl and spit and demand their lunch-money.

Defoe does at least look willing to shoot when he gets the ball, but at three feet four does not exactly have the physical presence to scatter defenders and hold up the ball. Nice to see him back though.

A Truly Astonishing Admission

I can barely believe that I’m typing this, nor can the winged pig looking on, aghast, at my window, but in a way I missed Jenas today. Seasoned All-Action-No-Plotters will no doubt be scratching their heads and checking for naughty substances in my blood stream at reading this, for I’ve rarely disguised my exasperation at the man. However, a player’s stock often rises when he is absent, and with our midfielders seemingly waiting for parental permission before entering the opposition area, I did guiltily wonder if Jenas would have made a difference. It’s what he does (get into the oppo area), rather than how he does it (mis-hit his shot).

Palacios, understandably, and Hudd, less forgivably, preferred to loiter 5-10 yards outside the area and ping in the occasional long-range thunderbolts. Awesome technique, for sure. However, when we countered at break-neck speed it would have helped to have had someone arriving Jenas-like in the area to support Bent, especially with Keane ditching the day-job to give his top chat to Modric or whomever.

Obafemi Martins

I had been dreading the visit of Obafemi Martins all season. As I’ve previously noted, I remember Emile Heskey,

about 10-15 years ago, when at Leicester, just bulldozing straight through the middle of our defence and walloping the ball into the net. When Martins entered the fray I feared a similar performance, especially with no Ledley around to calm my fraying nerves. He may not be the most refined, but Martins duly set about bludgeoning defenders aside, in a manner that probably had Darren Bent running for the hills in horror. Mercifully, the bull-in-a-china-shop routine extended to his rather erratic shooting. When the transfer window re-opens, would Martins provide an answer to our lack of presence in attack? Not necessarily, but I wouldn’t mind buying him just so that he never plays against us again.Elsewhere on The Pitch

The Hudd was generously given the freedom of White Hart Lane by the Newcastle midfield. He duly enjoyed himself, with a range of passing so sumptuous that on listening  carefully I discerned that it was accompanied by the dulcet tones of angelic choruses, as if ordained by some celestial authority. This was all very wonderful, but I suspect we’ll barely notice him against Man Utd at Old Trafford next week. Still, right man for the occasion today.

It’s taken a while – the best part of a season in fact – but I have finally held up my hands, raided the AANP coffers and paid up for membership to the Assou-Ekotto fan club. I shall still eagerly monitor the Gabriel Henize rumours, but the Braided One is looking better and better each week.

Cruel luck for Dawson, having waited so long for a starting-place, but his injury opened the door for Hutton. He certainly impressed going forward, but sterner defensive tests probably await in the future. The Corluka-Hutton battle for right-back will make interesting viewing in future weeks. Personally I lean towards the Scot as a partner for Lennon on the right.

Modric – legend.

Palacios – legend.

Three more points, and well-deserved. Bravo lads, yet again. I maintain that if there is constructive criticism to be levelled it is that a second goal in such games will ensure a rather pleasanter finale, but all told this was a comfortable and well-deserved win.

Spurs match reports

Sunderland 1-1 Spurs: Unknown Territory

Confusion reigns amongst the great and good of Tottenham after yesterday’s draw, with no-one quite sure how to react. Typically, reactions at the Lane must be of massively unrealistic expectation or miserable pessimism and criticism, as previously articulated. There is never any middle ground.The draw at Sunderland has therefore baffled everyone.  A one-one draw, in a gentle, early-March, mid-table encounter simply does not incite any passion. It leaves us 5 points off both relegation and Europe. Neither here nor there. Confused middle-aged men have been forced to stifle their foul-mouthed tirades, because it really wasn’t such a bad result. Earnestly schoolboys have opted against delivering their deluded predictions of glory, because a serene draw with Sunderland does little to suggest we’ve evolved into world-beaters. Instead, worried children turn beseechingly to their parents for guidance, for there is no obvious wild over-reaction to give to yesterday’s result. This is unknown territory for a Spurs fan.

I’m as clueless as everyone else. I have season tickets on both the We’re-Doomed and the We’ve-Turned-The-Corner bandwagons, and am happy to alight one and hop onto the other with shameless fickleness. This time though I find myself stranded, in the middle of the road. On days like this it does not even feel right to lay into Jenas.

Whatever the expectations prior to kick-off, the team deserves credit for salvaging a draw away from home, having conceded such an early goal. The frustrating use of Modric on the left continued, with the presence of Steed in the opposition ranks heightening the irritation. Aaron Lennon maintained his record of drawing a yellow card from his opposing left-back, without producing any final product of particular menace. The incongruous combination of the lumbering Corluka and the fleet-footed Lennon on the right has me eagerly checking Alan Hutton’s rehabilitation programme. Gomes invoked the ghost of autumn 2008 with a good old-fashioned flap. Keane’s second goal in a week  continues to eradicate memories of that whole Merseyside foray, while dredging up again the issue of how he and Defoe will fit together.

Interesting to observe that so much of Sunderland’s creativity emanated from ex-lilywhites Steed Malbranque and the rotund Andy Reid, who appeared to have ambled onto the pitch directly from his seat at an all-you-can-eat buffet. In fact, Andy Reid struck me as what would happen if Steed ate someone whole. Kenwyne Jones, a Tottenham target past and, presumably, future was solid, aerially adept and generally unspectacular. In fact the whole game was rather unspectacular, but nevertheless left us all with smiles on our faces, the last-minute equaliser naturally feeling loosely like a victory.

In keeping with the peculiar gentleness of yesterday’s game, there now follows a brief lull until our next fixture. No midweek cup games, no ineligible players, no moaning from ‘Arry about how unfair it all is (although one suspects he’ll find a way). Ten games left, and with it still not obvious whether we’re moving into a European chase or relegation fight, the season continues to simmer away nicely.

Spurs match reports

Spurs 4-0 Middlesbrough: Humble Pie – Mmmm, Tasty…

I write this with crumbs on my lips and a napkin gently dabbing around my mouth, having merrily lunched upon several large helpings of humble pie. As I clicked my heels all bonny, blithe and gay, and playfully pinched the cheeks of bewildered small children like a modern-day Scrooge (post-enlightenment), I also began the quest for an edible hat – for Mystic Meg I clearly ain’t: 

Should a performance of similar quality [to the Carling Cup final] be produced against Boro tonight I’ll go buy a hat and eat it… While it would be lovely to see us produce one of those opening-20-minute-blitzes which occur at the Lane every few months, a dour, scrappy affair strikes me as far likelier… 

 – Me, yesterday.That screeching of tyres you hear is my credibility leaving the building and driving away at pace, never to return. Whilst pondering how best to digest a beenie I have taken time out to ponder how on earth was every other Spurs fan I know (and many I don’t) so sure that we’d follow up the Wembley performance with such an emphatic win? Admittedly it made a fair amount of logical sense – combining the confidence from an excellent display and the wrath of an unlucky penalty defeat, and taking that into a home game against one of the division’s more insipid outfits. But Spurs have never done it the logical way, and this season in particular we’ve failed to follow up strong performances against the top four with similar quality against the weaker sides.

It reminds me of a time about ten years ago when I sat watching l’Arse in a Uefa cup final, or perhaps semi, which had gone to pens. As Viera stepped up all the gooners in the room immediately flung up their hands in despair, conceded any hope of him scoring and assured us most confidently that he would hit the crossbar. A rather specific, and somewhat unlikely claim, I thought, as there were vast amounts of space into which to fire the ball – but sure enough he cracked it against the bar.

Yesterday, again, somehow everyone else knew. Most crucially, the players were also privy to this inside knowledge. Take that attitude, that fiery combination of smarting injustice and confidence in their ability, into the rest of their games and the relegation mix will be so far away we’ll be sending postcards and adjusting watches to a different time-zone.

It would be wonderfully typical of a Spurs supporter now to swing from the doleful pessimism of just 24 hours ago to a wildly over-optimistic assurance that seventh, and the Uefa (Europa? Whatever) cup is now within reach. I shall strive to resist quite such fantastical predictions, tempting though it is to get carried away after last night (allow me to indulge dreamily for just a moment though – did you see how many passes were strung together before the third goal? Champagne football, baby!)

Whilst mathematically possible, excited ramblings about European qualification probably ought to be stifled. We’re still a long way off, and while there is now clear evidence in black and white that consecutive league wins is good for your health, 8 points in 11 games is a big gap to close. Moreover, there’s no guarantee that we will avoid returning to the inconsistency of days recently gone by.  To be honest though, I’m not sure how long I can keep my lips sealed on the issue of making Europe. The more I look at the league table…

For now I think we should all just be happy to bask in the glory of last night. A 4-0 without actually hitting our highest standard. Thirteenth in the table, consecutive league wins and a goal difference that is no longer negative. As Sarah Connor so concisely put it at the end of Terminator 2 – “The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope…”

It was a bit of a return to the all-action-no-plot days of yore. Slightly shaky defence, but some lovely bits and pieces going forward, with Modric, Keane and Lennon to the fore. Palacios continues to improve the team. Three-Touch O’ Hara got a grand old ovation. All was right with the world. Plus, a special pat on the back too for ‘Arry, who, admirably, once again managed to slip his own personal catchphrase into the post-match interview – “We only ‘ad two points when I took over…”

Happy days. Humble pie has never tasted so good.

Spurs match reports

Hull 1 – 2 Spurs: Let’s Never Speak Of This Again

What a curious three-point haul. It was neither outstandingly good nor egregiously bad, just blisteringly average. Once upon a time Spurs played in an all-action-no-plot style, attacking with free-flowing, gay abandon, scoring four and shipping in three. In a parallel universe this probably continues. Last night I had duly sharpened a knife with which to attack the team and performance etc, but ended up repeatedly stabbing myself in the eye just to keep myself entertained.Such a strange game, a million miles away from the hyperactive entertainment of recent years. Hull would string two passes together, then one of their players would trip on his own laces, then Keane would have a moan, then the camera would cut to Dawson warming up and then we’d win a corner. And the process would begin all over again.  After 15 minutes I became distracted by the sight of some paint drying in the corner of the room. Glancing up I saw some huffing and puffing, players falling over, Bent giving that “Soooo-close” look and then we’d win a corner.

Each of the players seemed strangely hindered by their own particular demon, which prevented them, try as they might, from escaping the bog of gentle mediocrity and attaining something a little more eye-catching. Corluka’s demon, as ever, was the inability to find a different gear from “lumber”. Like a slowly falling oak he plodded up and down the right flank, and at the crucial moment, when nimbleness was required, he succeeded only in getting his entire torso in the way of the ball and conceding a needless corner. From which they scored.

Keane’s demon was an obsession with twisting and turning until he found himself surrounded by three or more opponents. I closed my eyes and saw the annoying kid in the playground, resolutely refusing to look up, instead just spinning around in little circles of three yards’ circumference, until swamped, like Hudson being dragged to his death in Aliens.

Bent’s demon, was the lack of talent, or a lucky break, or anything, to elevate him above his perennial in-built mediocrity. He’s earnest, by goodness he is earnest, and out of the blue he almost delivered a most un-Bent moment of brilliance – controlling, spinning and volleying like some sort of Berbatov. But realistically, it was never going to happen. It was not that sort of game, and he certainly is not the sort of footballer.  When everything else clicks into place the footballing gods simply won’t allow him to be amazing, as long as he’s a Spurs player.

Cudicin’s demon appeared to be gallons of oil smeared all over his gloves. Quite why he had an attack of Gomes-itis and resolutely refused to catch anything was baffling. He flapped and he slapped but he appeared determined that he would chop off his own head before he took the bold step of grabbing the round thing. In his defence he was not aided by the strangely liberal attitude of the referee towards attempted on-field-rape-of-goalkeeper by the Hull forwards, but nevertheless, it was the sort of unconvincing performance which makes the heart skip a beat whenever a set-piece is conceded.

Jenas’ demon was that he is Jermaine Jenas, and that his life is therefore full of Jermaine Jenas moments. A curious zen-like attitude has seeped into me in my old-age, to the extent that I no longer swear and curse and bludgeon to death with their own walking-sticks passing-by old ladies whenever Jenas goes anywhere near the ball. No, these days I roll my eyes as soon as he obtains possession, and scan the pitch for Palacios or Woodgate or someone to rectify the damage he’s about to cause. It’s very beneficial, you should try it.

There were the occasional, all too fleeting moments of style, flair and élan, which suggested that deep beneath the surface there does still lie a champagne football outfit. The glorious first goal for a start. Peach. The burst of pace from Ledley in the second half, to make a recovery tackle, rolling back the years. The early cross from Ass-Ek, and Woody’s swift rise up an invisible ladder to a height of around 18 feet, in order to head our second. And then there was that effort from Palacios, scientifically proven to be the hardest a football has ever been struck in the history of mankind. Fleeting moments, but just about enough to keep a flicker of optimism burning.

This is not meant to be particularly critical. I screeched like a chicken that had had his beak wrenched off when we scored the second, and will build a little cot in my bedroom to look after the three points we earned. All season we’ve played like that and then lost late on, so the players deserve credit for reversing that trend. Had Man Utd won in similarly scrappy style, observers would have trotted out clichés about the sort of performances that win titles.

It was all just strangely dour and scratchy. Ultimately I think we won because we were playing Hull. Back in the day, Marney and Gardner weren’t fit to wipe the excrement from the training boots of Ledley, Keane et al. Inevitably, the Tottenham rejects seemed to match our lot stride for stride for much of the game, but in the end they succumbed to the fact that they are Hull, and as such just not particularly remarkable. Cousin’s random volley was classy, but that aside they did little that had me running for the hills and cowering in fear. Much to the chagrin of their manager Phil Brown, whose blood swiftly boiled until he began to resemble a rabid dwarf.

I guess at the start of the season it would not have taken Einstein to pinpoint Hull away as a potentially scrappy game. One to be consigned to the annals, under lock and key, immediately after the final whistle, never to be spoken of again. Let’s keep it that way.

Bravo boys, now let’s bring home that tropy. And the Carling Cup (boom boom).

Spurs match reports

Spurs 0 – 0 Arsenal: Suppressing The Urge To Throttle A Small Puppy

Same old, same old. You’d think that after a couple of decades and probably the best part of a thousand games it would be a bit easier to stomach, but no, Spurs’ capacity to frustrate remains unparalleled. Yet again, come the final whistle I was left looking around for a small puppy or irritating child to throttle.A usual gripe of mine is that we are playthings of the footballing gods, as flies to wanton boys and all that. Yesterday however, the footballing gods even took pity on us and gave us a couple of helping hands – disallowed goal for l’Arse which other refs might have permitted, Adebayor and his hammie, Eboue and his red card (nb Oh the hilarity of Eboue’s red! After the ostentatious embraces and words of comfort for Modric, when Eboue thought he’d got away with it, then to see him summoned back and sent packing – genius!). It really was set up for us on a plate. In fact, it was being spoon-fed to us. By half-time I had ventured from my private little pit of pessimism and was actually rather looking forward to the second half. The footballing gods, their work done, put their feet up to enjoy the spectacle. The gooners in the crowd, captured on tv, looked suitably morose. All was right with the world.

Sigh. One esteemed custodian of the interweb describes it as a kind of purgatory. Personally I see Tottenham as similar to women – intensely frustrating, with an adamant refusal to do things the simple way. A breed that seem to delight in complicating things solely in order to drive me to madness. And yet, I keep going back for more torture.

Despite the lack of cutting edge, it was not a bad display from us. In the early stages, of eleven vs eleven we seemed to be a bit sharper than they, the work-rate and team ethic an improvement upon much that has gone before this season. ‘Arry recently pointed to the attitude of Carlos Tevez as an example our players would do well to follow – of constantly harassing their man in possession, until this possession is eventually surrendered. At times yesterday, in patches, something akin to this could be seen from our lot, even as I pinched myself. Maybe it’s the start of a brave new era, and the arrival of a more determined mentality. Or maybe it’s just the perennial improved attitude for the game vs l’Arse, to be replaced next week with the usual lethargy.

Much of the credit for the high tempo of the early stages in particular must go to soon-to-be firm crowd favourite Wilson Palacios. For many this would have been our first good look at him, and, whisper it, he showed enough to suggest that he might be, you know, the one. The answer. If White Hart Lane is The Matrix, this guy could be our Keanu Reeves. Unless he goes off the boil like the second and third Matrix films. Anyway, either Palacios is possessed off rather extremely impressive energy levels, or he reads the game particularly well (maybe a generous dollop of both), as every time an Arse midfielder broke with the ball in the first half he seemed to be ready to greet him with snarl, foam at mouth, barrel chest and crunching tackle. He rather enjoys a foray forward too, and one gets the impression that he’ll be a lot more effective in the final third than do-do-do-Didier. I should probably also add a disclaimer that the screen on which I was watching was a little short on brightness and visibility, so it’s quite possible that every time Jenas did anything useful in the centre I automatically attributed it to Palacios.

However, as with Keanu in the early part of the film, Palacios still has room for improvement. The odd misplaced pass, and a typical piece of shambolic Tottenham marking from a corner that ought really to have seen Song score. Still, it’s only a matter of time before he becomes the complete midfielder, turns us into a top-four team and sees everything as little columns of green numbers.

Until the final minute we didn’t create a clear-cut chance, but prior to that Lennon, Modric, Keane and Pav all had opportunities which weren’t too far off. Credit to Taarabt for playing in Modric in the final minute, he weighted the pass well. And Modric, ah Modric. No-one misses on purpose, I suppose, but one of these days I really will throttle a puppy, and have some difficulty explaining it to the constabulary (“I know I’ve got a dead puppy in my hand, but it was the last minute, he was clean through…”)


nb – Many thanks to Lee, for the venue recommendation for yesterday’s game. Home from home.

Spurs preview

Spurs – Arsenal Preview Mk II: Ominous Signs as Spurs Fan is Peed Upon

A Spurs fan is p*ssed on, barely 24 hours before the Norf London derby. It’s an omen I tell ye. Cracks will appear in the sky, four apocalyptic jockeys will saddle up and all hell will break loose at the Lane today, so run for the hills, God help you all. I sneer in the face of those who suggest I’m overreacting to the fact that my four month-old nephew urinated on me as I held him yesterday.And baby-related trauma is not the only portent of momentous significance to have emerged in the build-up to this one. All-action-no-plot etchings of Spurs cockerels have been mysteriously appearing across the sandy beaches of Perth. Alright, that’s not really so mysterious, given that I’m frequently to be found next to said etchings, with sand-encrusted finger. And while it may all be a bit tenuous, as the clock ticks down towards kick-off – and the search for a bar that will show the game out here in Oz becomes increasingly frantic* – I find myself preparing as if I’m in some way involved. Admittedly my preparations tend to comprise little more than retreat into a shell of pessimism, but it’s the same before every game, and exacerbated before a game against that lot. The fact remains that we fans do prepare, as if we can make a difference, even when on the side of the world. (Insert tedious comment about the contrasting attitude of the players around here).

Like anything I do will have the slightest bearing upon events at the Lane today. There’s some sort of mentalist theory that if a butterfly flaps its wings in London it causes a hurricane in South America. Personally I find that as believable as a profession of loyalty from a Premiership footballer, but nevertheless, the fact that I’ve been weed upon for the first time in my life, just a day before a North London derby – well, it must be some sort of prognostication of doom, no?

Possibly more relevant to the outcome of the game is the second debut of Robbie Keane. Penalty miss ’07 aside, he’s been something of a bête noire to the other lot, and the odds must be short on a roly-poly and badge-kiss celebration at some point today. For all the rights and wrongs of his departure and return I’m glad to have someone of his mentality in the team for a game like this. In other areas, headline-writers will be disappointed to note that ex-Gooner David Bentley will be viewing things from his beauty-parlour back home rather than the pitch, due to a one-game suspension; while lack of match-fitness may deprive l’Arse newbie Arshavin from crossing scimitars with national striking partner, but categorical non-friend, Roman Pav.

Should we triumph today, on the back of my urinary dousing, a new pre-match ritual may be born…


* = A more positive omen is that I might have found a place that’s showing the game live here in Subiaco, Perth, one of the sunniest, but least all-action places on earth. Fingers crossed.

Spurs transfers

Spurs’ Transfer Window Doings Get The Thumbs Up

Believe it or not, back at the start of the transfer window most of the talk at the Lane was whether or not Stewart One-Trick Downing would dip his right shoulder, dart out to the left and pitch up in N17. Seems an age ago now, n’est-ce pas? And who would have possibly imagined back then, as we mixed over-strengthed home-made cocktails on 31 December 2008, that the mid-winter spending spree would end with Defoe, Keane and Chimbonda back in lilywhite? AANP peers back through the January transfer window and tries to make sense of the madness.Players In 

Pascal Chimbonda: Villainous human being, but versatile defender of good quality. Smart thinking, ‘Arry.

Wilson Palacios: Who knows? Haven’t seen enough of him to give an opinion, but hearsay suggests that this is a midfielder who can pass and tackle, pure and simple. As such, he ought to be the best thing since sliced bread, although on reflection, sliced bread really ain’t so special, presuming you possess your own knife. I digress. If the hype is true, Palacios will be our most important signing in years.

Jermain Defoe: Might not be the complete all-round striker, but by golly he can shoot – on target and with venom in his ickle size sixes. We need goals, he scores goals, value for money, QED. (see

Robbie Keane: Controversial. In purely footballing terms he’s a good buy – but it’s so much more than a purely footballing buy with Keane (see

Players out:

Hossam Ghaly: Probably in everyone’s best interests. We may be childish to hold a grudge for so long, but at least we can’t be accused of fickleness with this one. Unlikely ever to be re-signed.

Paul Stalteri: Served his purpose as a propaganda tool for ‘Arry, who gave him a squad number to show what a motivator he is, then never played him and sold him at the first opportunity.

Cesar Sanchez: Aka “that Spanish goalkeeper”. Might be world class for all we know, but I get the impression ‘Arry would have played Aaron Lennon in goal before picking this chap. He rather sums up the Wendy Ramos reign.

Still at the Lane… Just: Giovanni dos Santos: Alright, he’s only played about 5 minutes of football for us, but it would have been a mighty disappointment had his transfer to Pompey gone through. He’s young enough to improve, he presumably has flair (having come from some Spanish outfit called Barca), injuries have deprived him of a chance to prove himself and he’s supposedly a left-sided attacker. Commons sense suggests he needs another year to bed in and show what he’s about – so we can expect him to be jettisoned straight away in the summer.

Aaron Lennon: Ooh, I’d have caught a small tropical bird and strangled it if we’d traded off Lennon to Liverpool in a swap for Keane, as mooted in some circles. He may never be the player his promise suggests he ought to become, but he’s undoubtedly been one of our best in this season of general mediocrity.

Jermaine Jenas: Hilarious rumours of a move to Inter collapsed when it emerged that the basis for the story was that Jose Mourinho had picked him in his fantasy league team back in the summer. It makes much more sense.

David Bentley and his hair: Seems we can’t go selling off all the mirrors in the changing room just yet. Bentley was reportedly being offered as a slab of meat in any one of a number of deals (Keane, Jones, Downing) but with a loving flick of his fringe he’ll remain at the Lane for several months yet. His attitude has improved this month, it would be nice to see his form pick up proportionally.

Darren Bent: Despite his two-goal salvo at the weekend, despite the injury to Defoe, despite ‘Arry’s protestations that really he rated him all along , the feeling nevertheless persists that poor old Bent will be out the door first decent offer we get. That charming combination of an earnest, well-meaning attitude combined with chronic and almost comical displays of inability have started to remind me of Fawlty Towers’ Manuel.

Missed Targets 

Stewart One-Trick Downing: Was within a whisker of becoming ‘Arry’s first signing. His supporters claim he would give the side natural balance; his detractors – including yours truly – claim that he’s just not particularly good, and certainly not £15 mil worth of good.

Kenwyne Jones: Still yet to see him play (beyond MOTD highlights) but in theory he would have been a good idea, being a striker with a bit of physical presence. Sunderland boss Ricky Sbragia became so flustered he threatened to start crying and tell his Mum if we continued to pursue him, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this story re-emerge in the summer.

Stephen Appiah: Did I imagine all this? Does the guy even exist? Newspapers, magazines, websites and flies on walls were unanimous in claiming that Appiah was having trial after trial with us throughout January – yet deadline day came and went, and there was no news on the chap. Not a murmur. A bit like Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects – supposedly a bit important, but no-one’s seen him, no-one knows where he is, and like that… he’s gone.

Quaresma: Might have offered balance on the left, might have proved too much of a big girl’s blouse for the Premiership. Either way, he’s at Chelski now so we can all hate him.

The AANP Verdict 

In the style of Joaquim Phoenix’s character in Gladiator, on careful consideration I give this transfer window a thumbs up. Cudicini, Chimbonda, Defoe and (just about) Keane each represent good bits of business on their own criteria; while the failure to buy Downing strikes me as a lucky escape, and the retention of Giovanni (albeit by accident rather than design) pleases me. Having initially moaned about how difficult it is to buy decent players in January, it doesn’t surprise me that ‘Arry ended up splashing out the annual GDP of a small, third-world country, but I’m breathing a little more easily now than I was a month ago.

Spurs transfers

Robbie Keane Returns, Confused Fans Wonder Whether to Cheer or Jeer

The Tottenham transfer policy has begun to spiral beyond the realms of reason with the news of Keane’s return.  The policy of buying back players, which had seemed ironic and mildly amusing at first, now appears to be a dedicated strategy on the part of Levy and Redknapp, with predictable jokes now being made about the imminent return of Mido, Mabbut and Mullery.. However, while the return of Defoe was greeted in the wildly over-zealous manner of a human deity, Robbie Keane’s is likely to be a little harder to stomach for the N17 regulars. Opinion will, inevitably, be split between haters and slightly reluctant accepters, but there are arguments in both camps…“Tree Cheers For The Oirish Scamp!” 

He’s a worker. Yes, he moans, wags his finger and rather tediously blames everyone but himself – but he also buzzes around with the verve of a three year-old who’s been force-fed sugar and class A drugs. Such an attitude is vastly preferable in a relegation scrap to that of a prima donna more obsessed with keeping his shirt dazzlingly white and flicking his fringe.

We made an £8 mil profit over six months. Huzzah! Admittedly this is neither here nor there for the fans – it’s not like the entire sum will be poured into ticket-price reductions. In fact, the entire sum and more might one day be spent upon Stewart One-Trick Downing, but let’s not depress ourselves. Schadenfreude is one of the most wonderful things on God’s green earth, and the opportunity to laugh at Liverpool ought not to be passed up.

“That Treacherous Scoundrel Is Not Fit To Wear The Shirt…” 

He’s no target-man. Forgive my imbecility, but I had thought we were after a great hulking mammoth of a front-man? A Kenwyne Jones-esque beast of a striker, who eats small animals and children for his half-time snack, and who can’t be barged off the ball by a whole fleet of Soviet tanks. Robbie Keane has many, attributes, but being the long-lost twin of Emile Heskey is not one of them.  Having prioritised a big-man upfront, this concerted change of transfer policy is striking – and potentially flawed if ‘Arry remains unconvinced by Pav and Bent.

The Keane-Defoe conundrum. So how does this fit in with Jermain Defoe? Admittedly Defoe is now out for 10 weeks, so there was a very strong case for splashing the cash and bringing in another proven Premiership striker, and pronto. However, Defoe is not about to retire. He’ll be back one day, and when he is we can once again all twist our knickers and write reams and reams about the folly of trying to pair Keane and Defoe. History suggests that failure to solve this one, again, will lead to one of them throwing toys from pram and legging it out of the Lane. As a small child I would shrug and assume that someone, somewhere knew what was going on. Now I shrug and file everything that happens at the Lane under the heading “All Action, No Plot”.

And one final thought, to be mulled over at your leisure. Where the blazes is all this money coming from?