Spurs match reports

Villa 1-2 Spurs: Best Result of the Season?

I’m willing to make a placard, but a whistle and go on a little march along the High Road suggesting to the world that this was our best result of the season.Before you all go spluttering coffee over you computer screens and rolling in the aisles, consider the evidence. Sure, we have raised our game and earned draws against the top four – but those were fairly anomalous results, swiftly followed by apathetic defeats to teams that might well in the Championship in few months time.Wins against the teams at the wrong end of the table were always welcome, but frankly it’s a little embarrassing to get too excited about a win against a team of Sunday-leaguers and students. Like Hull, bless. For me, the real acid tests of our ability have been the games, particular those away from home, against Villa, Everton, and to a lesser extent Man City or even West Ham.

Bizarrely, we’ve taken maximum points from these away days so far. I’ll discount the Man City game, as that turned on a red card, and we haven’t yet travelled to Goodison, but the win at West Ham was a fitting result for a very impressive performance – and yesterday’s against Villa, falls under the same category, but with a bit more treacle on top. Solid defensively and creative going forward, against capable opponents. Far from just a backs-to-the-wall Alamo effort. Second half in particular we were in charge for long periods.  It bodes well for next season.

Where Did It All Go Right? 


Rocket Science

A stat popped up on the screen yesterday noting that in all four league games in which we’ve led at half-time we’ve gone on to win. That can now read five in five. Here’s the technical bit  scoring the first goal forces the oppo to commit men forward. Genius! Maybe they’ll try that every week. It leaves great big open spaces of green, upon which Lennon and Modric gaze with the greedy glee of the Hudd let loose in a cake factory. All wonderfully reminiscent of the all-action-no-plot days of 5-1 wins and the like. So rocket science it most certainly ain’t, but the fact remains that we look mighty impressive on the counter-attack – best facilitated by scoring first.

Jenas, Jenas, Infuriating Jenas

One of his better days, and it still had me screaming at the TV and searching for someone defenceless to strangle. The burst into the area for his goal was reminiscent of Scholes or Lampard, and reminded us all of how good Jenas has often threatened to be. Credit also for his role in the second goal – having lost possession he tracked back 30 yards to win the ball, thereby starting the move which led to Bent’s magnificently-executed finish. I happily acknowledge Jenas’ work-rate and attitude – both first-rate.

And yet, “Jenas” remains a modern-day byword for infuriating, exasperating and the senseless infliction of violence by the infuriated and exasperated upon passing simple-folk. Which Spurs fan hasn’t burst into a torrent of the most foul-mouthed abuse upon seeing the lad sprint 60 yards, do the hard work and get into position, only to pass instead of shoot, or miss an open goal, or miss the ball completely and tumble over?

As well as that, he simply concedes possession too often. I was on special Jenas-Watch yesterday, and although he had some excellent moments around the oppo penalty area, his ability to misplace six-yard passes around the halfway line remains frightening. As mentioned above, I think we’re benefitting from a settled team selection, but in theory I’d still prefer Palacios-Modric in the centre and someone else out left.

Defying Physics

Corluka. The lad defies physics. Visually, everything about him suggests that he’s as slow as an overweight sloth that’s been shot with horse tranquilizer. His legs just don’t move that fast. Watch Bent or Zokora – or, obviously, Lennon – and see how fast their legs move. One of the strange abiding memories in my head is of England-Switzerland at Euro 2004, when we scored our third – Beckham played the ball down the right, and Gary Neville shot into view, his little legs going like the clappers (0.25 on this clip). Corluka’s legs never move that fast. The dictionary defines the term “lumber” as “to move like Corluka”. And yet he’s always on hand to help Lennon on the right. They’re an amazing combo, and were brilliant yesterday. Trying to understand it is making my head hurt.

Date For Your Diaries

Credit to ‘Arry for taking off Didier. Yep, that’s right. On the 16th day of the third month, in the Year of Our Lord 2009, AANP Towers bestowed a shiny gold star upon the lapels of ‘Arry’s jacket.  Our glorious leader may put the “Ary” in “mercenary”, and may blame everyone else for anything that goes wrong, but his substitution was brave and possibly saved us the game.

Although I rather like do-do-do-Didier at right-back, he was being ripped to shreds by that pesky Ashley Young. If Zokora were a dog I’d have marched up to Villa Park myself, pulled out a gun and shot him (to end his misery, not just because I hate dogs). It took bravery – and a yellow card – for ‘Arry to yank him off the pitch a good ten mins before half-time. A pat on the back, sir. Pats on backs all round, in fact – although not for Jenas. I just can’t, I physically can’t.


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

Carling Cup Final – Spurs 0-0 Man Utd aet (1-4 on pens): Depressed, But Philosophical

First things first – credit to Three-Touch O’ Hara and Brylcreem Bentley for volunteering for the first and third pens. The execution from each was hopeless, but the sentiment was noble. Conspiracy theorists dredging up “ex-gooner” rants can go boil their heads.Second things second – the outcome was fair, and I emphasise that I have no ground for dissent, but I’ll maintain to my dying day that John O’ Shea should have been sent off in the second half of normal time. Irritatingly I was wearing my thoroughly partisan Spurs hat when the heinous offence occurred, so I really could not quote the minute, manner or general spatio-temporal area. However, having been cautioned in the first half he merrily scythed down Modric ( I think), and got away with little more than a moody glare from referee, and bottler-in-chief, Chris Hoy. Had he not been cautioned earlier O’ Shea most certainly would have been cautioned for the particular offence. Tottenham, being Tottenham, would undoubtedly have failed to break down ten men, so I won’t suggest that as an excuse/reason for our eventual failure to draw a bank against eleven men, but I nevertheless cantankerously grumble at Mr Hoy.

Third things third – I reckon the ref actually got the Ronaldo penalty claim right, albeit on a technicality. The first offence was Ronaldo executing the first part of a dive. The second offence was Ledley clipping him. I doubt that bottle-job Foy saw it that way – I presume he saw it as a dive from start to finish – but in the strictest sense I consider that Foy stumbled upon the correct decision, albeit by accident rather than design. The first offence was a dive. If Little Miss Ronaldo had stayed on his feet rather than looking for the dive then he ought to have been awarded a pen.

Fourth things fourth – did Woody really turn an ankle by falling down the stairs of the team hotel?

Those are moot points. Frankly, it struck me as a fair enough result. My gripe, again, tediously, is the damned insistence upon 4-5-fricking-1. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHY??? With no strikers on the bench it was always a slightly tough call, and Pav did not exactly have a blinder, but withdrawing him after 70, with extra-time looming, was madness on a par with David Icke’s push for celestial pre-eminence. The game-plan was working relatively well, following an excessively wobbly opening 25 mins, so why take off a striker? Switching from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1 simply removed any hope we might have had of bludgeoning down the fantastically-marshalled Man Utd rearguard.

Any attack we mounted thereafter left Bent on his own against three or more defenders. No logic to that one – Bent would struggle against a single defender with one leg and no eyes. Even when we were gifted possession and able to counter-attack we were nowhere near a numerical advantage. I’m blessed with a small forehead and a thick head of hair, and as such I’m unlikely ever to go bald. This allowed me to pull my hair out without any concern for long-term aesthetic devaluation, so I was able to yank out great big clumps without any obvious effect upon my unkempt mop. Mind you, several vital organs – including, notably, the heart – suffered considerable damage as one aimless ball after another was lofted hopelessly towards big, bad, misfiring Dazza, on his own, practising that Darren Bent look. You know the one – confused, hurt, hands half-raised towards the head.

I suppose it would have made little difference to a game that had “draw” tattooed across ever spare inch of it. Lennon and Modric, as expected, were the source of everything good in lilywhite. Bent had a half-chance of glory, but being Bent it simply was not ordained by the gods. Their ‘keeper, that Foster lad, played a blinder, irritatingly. Little Miss Ronaldo almost broke our hearts in the cruellest possible fashion after 92-and-a-half of the 93 minutes. But all told, it was pretty even.

A final point. Apparently, as the teams prepared for pens, United keeper Foster had a quick peek at an iPod showing Spurs players’ previous pens. The first of which was Three-Touch O’Hara thwacking one to the right – now there’s a coincidence. No idea what Gomes was up to at that point. Probably practising that stand-on-the-spot-and-stick-out-an-arm dance routine. Nothing wrong with a full-stretch dive, Heurelho. Maybe those are the margins.

Spurs match reports

Spurs 1 – 1 Shakhtar: Still A Bitter Pill


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.


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

Shakhtar 2- 0 Spurs: Mission Accomplished

So mission all but accomplished then ‘Arry? Elimination from Europe virtually guaranteed, and mercifully we can look forward to far fewer of those pesky football matches that just seem to get in the way of the manager’s true raison d’être (trying out his latest gags on the sycophants at press conferences), and the players’ weekly trips to Faces. 

Last night’s was not the worst performance I’ve ever seen – until the last 11 minutes it appeared that we would, unbelievably, return to the Lane as favourites to progress (‘Arry would have loved that – “More f*ckin’ games? I don’t f*ckin’ believe this…”). Neither, however, was it the sort of inspirational stuff that instils in a man the urge to beat a tiger to death with his bare hands and make love to fifty beautiful women before singing God Save The Queen and tucking into his fish and chips. No-one attacked that cross like their life depended upon it. In fact no-one went near that cross in any fashion whatsoever, and one-nil it was. The defence plumbed to new lows for the second, and while it had me turning green and bursting out of my clothes, the whole sorry incident seemed to encapsulate precisely the attitude of indifference being peddled all week by ‘Arry.

Somehow, the mentality has become one which accepts and commits to defeat in certain games, before they’ve even begun. ‘Arry has been banging this drum all week, and last night it was visible in the players on the pitch. Have these people no shame? Have they no pride, in themselves or the club? Irrespective of the competition, it’s a football match, a professional football match. It begins at nil-nil and the point, once upon a time, was to win it. We may and probably will stay in the Premiership, but its beginning to feel like we’re selling our souls to do so. We ought not to be resorting to this. What sort of professional sportsman decides, in advance, to settle for losing a contest? If this football business is too taxing for you then sod off to a golf course or bingo hall or something, but don’t destroy our club’s reputation and tradition.

Deep breath.’Arry’s chosen solution to the problem (I use the term loosely) of footballers having to playing football matches is to lose the knock-out ones. An absolutely ridiculous and wildly irrational alternative would be for Spurs to try winning such games – because, let’s face it, no-one complains about fixture lists when they’re successful.

A couple of years ago we reached the latter stages of the Uefa, semis of the Carling and finished fifth in the league – and by golly you’d have heard a mouse sneeze in the middle of a stadium-wide chorus of “I love Martin Jol” (blessed be his name) before you’d have heard anyone grumbling about the number of games we had to play. The explanation for this, bizarre though it is, seems to be that baffling, science-defying instrument that is The Psyche of the Common Sportsman. This is constructed such that more games just aren’t a problem when they are being won (see Man Utd for real-time illustration of this point).

For Spurs to implement this would admittedly require some degree of responsibility on the part of the management and players – undertakings such as non-stop graft on the training pitch, fitness work, repeated drills on set-pieces, shooting practice, tactical instructions… ah maybe ‘Arry’s right – it’s far easier just to lose games.

The counter-argument is that it is better for us to lose in the Uefa, minimise the risk of injuries from excessive games and preserve our Premiership status. I appreciate the point, but I don’t see the issue as so black and white. There is a straightforward middle ground – of doing our damnedest to win the Uefa games anyway, and still preserving our Premiership status. Willing participation in the Uefa need not necessarily mean that we’re automatically doomed to relegation from the Premiership. Another imbecilic notion this, but I reckon it might just be possible to try winning games in both the Uefa and the Premiership, without stretching the poor lambs to the point of mental exhaustion and physical breaking-point.

Players will pick up injuries, without doubt. However, our squad contains enough players who ought to be comfortable taking to the field as required. To spell it out, here’s one full team:

Cudicini; Hutton, Ledley, Woodgate, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Palacios, Modric, Bentley; Defoe, Keane.
Here’s another full team:
Gomes; Bale, Dawson, Chimbonda, Corluka, Three-Touch O’ Hara, Hudd, Zokora, Jenas; Pav, Bent.
(And just for a laugh here’s some more player names: Gunter, Campbell, Taraabt, Dos Santos, Ricky blinking Rocha.)
The squad is big enough, ugly enough and damn well expensive enough to cope. Good enough? On paper, yes. On grass – well, we’re one point off the relegation zone…

Shakhtar were ok, but they were hardly footballing gods either. They were beatable. They will be beatable in a week’s time. However, such is ‘Arry’s commitment to defeat that he’s already promising to drag youngsters from the Academy (and probably the Paxton Road) onto the pitch for their debuts. I think we can kiss goodbye to the chances of overturning a two-goal deficit.


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 match reports

Bolton 3-2 Spurs: Ticking The Usual Boxes

It makes no difference that I’m the other side of the world, there’s no getting away from the same old Spurs. Week in, week out, the usual boxes can be ticked, just as they will be next week, and next year, and in 10 years time.Problem one. 4-5-1. Pav on his own, no support, no bite in attack – I feel like a broken record. Maybe it’s the personnel rather than the formation, but in the absence of a Drogba or a Shearer in attack, or the appropriate attacking midfielders, the infuriating 4-5-1 will not work.

Problem two. Set pieces. Yes, the element of the game perfected after a couple of 15 minute training sessions by schoolboy and amateur teams throughout the country, continues to flummox the multi-millionaires of the Lane. One can only imagine the looks of bewilderment on the players’ faces at Spurs Lodge in midweek as ‘Arry and co. attempt to outline the basic concepts involved. Furrowed brows all round, and incredulous whispers between players – “So he wants us to head the round white thing? Really? That sort of thing is really going to mess up my hair. And tell me again – the other team, it’s ok to let them get to it first, or…?” 

Problem three. Conceding the late winner. Gents, if you’ve gone ten, twenty or eighty-nine minutes without conceding a goal, you are not therefore rewarded with a two-minute break from defending as the clock ticks down to 90 and beyond. Goals conceded during these late periods do still count, no matter how pleased you are with yourselves for the good work of the preceding few minutes.

It is by no means an exhaustive list – these are simply the boxes that can be crossed off the card for last weekend’s Tottenham Bingo. Mercifully, one typical problem, which could be loosely termed “Why Can’t They Play Every Week As If They’re Playing Against Arsenal”, ought not to be an issue next week, when we entertain l’Arse and duly raise our game.

Back to the humdrum of playing the sides around us in the bottom half, and while the same problems occur each week little is done in the way of tackling them in order to prevent their recurrence. Instead, the team seems to have adopted a form of pseudo-martyrdom, whereby they gallantly accept the recurrence of such hindrances as inevitable each week. The mentality seems to be that nothing can be done to prevent goals from set-pieces, or that when adopting 4-5-1 there is no option but to leave the lone striker completely isolated and the formation completely impotent. If I were to pitch up at the training ground and suggest fighting tooth and nail to prevent conceding in the dying minutes I suspect the players would look at me as if I had grown a second head. They would shake their heads and insist that fate cannot be changed. Darwin would turn in his grave to observe such inability to evolve and improve.

Spurs match reports

Spurs 3-1 Stoke: Fist-Pumping in Perth

Having spent the best part of the last 48 hours imitating a battery chicken in various planes, trains and automobiles, I am now officially a Spurs fan in Oz. Worth noting that the arrival policy in Australia appears significantly more stringent than at Spurs, where anyone who has previously appeared is more than welcome to return.Trying to find out the Spurs-Stoke result was similar to one of those games in which you get the feeling we could play all night and into the morrow without scoring – for all the huffing and puffing, not much was being achieved. The game kicked off with me several thousand feet in the air, and and it quickly became apparent that attempts to access to any news from England were doomed to failure, let alone the result of what must unfortunately be classified as a relegation battle from the Premiership. Such delays certainly added to the tension though, and at around 1pm the following day there was an unobserved but hearty pumping of the fist in one small corner of Perth, as thescoreline finally filtered through.

Evidently we adopted 4-4-2, but I’m not convinced that such a game can be used as evidence in the great 4-4-2 vs 4-5-1 debate (see Sometimes, when Spurs are at home against weak opposition they score a couple of early goals and begin to purr. On such occasions the formation is rarely the decisive factor. Instead we are driven by a sudden confidence, which provides a conduit for flair, and is aided by the fact that the visitors need to push forward in search of goals of their own, giving us some space to exploit.

I can’t pretend to have any real idea what sort of performance we gave against Stoke, but I’ve certainly seen us become something approaching irresistible on those occasions when we’ve scored two or three early goals. However, it is an infuriating truth familiar to most Spurs fans that the exact same eleven can be almost guaranteed to produce a barely recognisable performance merely days later. Such inconsistency has been the bain of the lives of Spurs fans the world ove. It would surprise few if the reportedly impressive peformance against Stoke were followed by one of the more toothless variety on Sunday against Bolton.

I’ve ranted before about the incredible ability of sportsmen to let circumstance dicate their level of performance, rather than simply resolving to seize a game by the scruff of the neck. Hence, Spurs will wait until 3-0 down vs Burnley and facing elimination before taking the game to their opponents; or will wait until a half-time rollicking rather thanapplying foot to accelerator from first whistle; or indeed will produce a high-octane 90-minute bravura performance against l’Arse, but resort back to the insipid in the very next game, against lesser opponents. While lack of information means it is just conjecture, I’d be willing to wager that the period in between our third goal and half-time saw us produce some of our best football of the season. Why oh why can’t they do it every week, for 90 minutes?

However, I shall sign off in a spirit of unusual optimisim, and point out that whilethe routine demolition of a weaker team can often be followed by weekend defeat to similarly weak team, we nevertheless ought to fancy our chances of buidling on the Stoke win and putting together a run of points that would steer us well clear of the drop-zone.