Spurs news, rants

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.

Spurs news, rants

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.

Spurs news, rants

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 ( 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…



Spurs news, rants

I jest ye not – Jenas made the difference: Watford 1-2 Spurs

Hmm – I honestly think that we owed our win last night in large part to the presence of Jermaine Jenas.

Alright, alright – I’ve clearly gone mad. Too many booze-fuelled late nights, not enough sleep, not enough oxygen to the brain – these have all contributed to some severe form of dementia. I’m obviously crazy. I’m obviously talking the gibberish of a lunatic. No team on the planet can benefit from the presence in its ranks of Jermaine Jenas.

However, continuing the crazy-talk theme – I began to appreciate him once he was absent, injured. As mentioned previously on these pages, in his absence our central midfield comprised two deep-lying types, in Thudd and Zokora. Last night, Jenas was back and the midfield seemed to have a better balance. Unlike Thudd and Zokora, Jenas is happy to assume a position some 10-20 yards in advance of the halfway line, with his midfield partner sitting deeper. As such, whenever we won position we tended to have an attacking option in addition to the strikers, and this helped to drag the oppo around a bit.

Returning to sanity, Jenas’ return to the team did also remind us all of why he is so reviled by his own. Bless him, he works his socks off, makes lung-bursting runs, occasionally dribbles past midfielders, generally does the difficult part – and then always, always messes up the finish. This would also be why he doesn’t have his own song ( There was one notable jinking run in the first half yesterday which ended in a shot so tame you wanted to feed it berries from your hand. Then in the second half he caused panic in the oppo ranks by picking up the ball from 20 yards and determinedly burrowing towards goal – only to scuff his effort into a pathetic dribble that barely had sufficient momentum to make it into the arms of the goalkeeper. Honestly, to paraphrase from Bruce Willis’ wife in the first (and best) Die Hard, only Jermaine Jenas can make you that angry. Bizarrely, the only time he’s complemented the effort and determination of the build-up with a suitably successful end-product was away to l’arse earlier this season, when he scored an absolute peach. Any other time, that shot would have been so mis-hit and weak it would have stopped rolling out of embarrassment.

However, his presence and positioning improved the shape of the team. I assume that ‘Arry hastily read my last blog posting just prior to kick-off, because as well as addressing my concerns about the midfield balance he also addressed my point about resting key personnel, by picking a pretty darned strong starting XI.

They began with all the energy and verve of a moribund sloth, and the nightmare scenario of conceding early and away from home to a lower league team duly materialised. (The goal encapsulated our early sluggishness in a microcosm – Lennon beaten to the ball by a far hungrier opponent, Jenas and Woody wrong-footed and lumbering with the turning speed of a pleasure cruiser while the oppo striker swivelled and buried it). However, this had the pleasing side-effect of sparking us into life, and also prompted Watford to give us possession on halfway and sit back in their own half. We duly attacked, Lennon in particular looking good, O’ Hara not so, and the goals duly came. Pav, Bent, yadiyadayada, job done.

Rants on the Beautiful Game

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