All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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The Week at Spurs – Musings on Sherwood & Levy

Credit to Tactics Tim for managing to appear genuinely shocked and enraged when he bounced into work earlier this week and found the locks changed on his office door. ‘Twas a move that one suspects had been planned by Daniel Levy within nanoseconds of hiring him, and accordingly, barely had the lights been switched off after Ledley’s marvellous testimonial before the team of burly sorts were yanking Sherwood from his chair and flinging him headfirst through the nearest window and out onto the High Road.

Seasoned visitors to AANP Towers will doubtless be aware that around these parts we greet Sherwood’s removal with a cheery wave and care-free whistle (even if it has had the regrettable side-effect of him popping up in every dashed nook and cranny to wave his fist and rant about how well he would have done if he had just been given more time. Someone gag the chap and hide him behind a boulder until after the World Cup.)

The epithet on his N17 tombstone ought probably to capture that his pointed observations about the fighting spirit – or lack thereof – amongst our heroes did briefly locate a very pertinent nail and bash it squarely on the head. Alas, painfully under-qualified, seemingly incapable of filtering his thoughts in even the crudest fashion before they tumbled out of his mouth and without any tactical masterplan beyond ‘Pick Bentaleb,’ the blighter fairly quickly drifted into caricature, seemingly finding fault with everyone but himself.

Sherwood’s points tally may suggest a fairly successful tenure, but the statistics can be interpreted in various ways, and while I have the floor I bang drums, ring bells and wave placards at the fact that we ended up more points adrift of the Top Four at his departure than we were at his arrival.

On top of which performances swayed between fairly mediocre and downright awful, we continued to take ritual drubbings from any team with the faintest inkling of quality. My particular bête noire about the whole dashed thing was the absolutely maddening tendency to fiddle with personnel and tactics on a weekly basis (bar that almost religious devotion to selecting Bentaleb), seemingly just to prove a point to anyone who cared. It all seemed rather apt that in his final match Sherwood plucked a lucky chappie from the crowd and popped him into the hot seat, for his own managerial career at the Lane could not have been more neatly summed up.

Levy – The Opposite of the A-Team

So as sure as the seasons ping along in well-ordered fashion, we find ourselves looking for a new manager. Back in the ‘80s, if you had a problem and no-one else could help you nipped off to the Los Angeles underground to bring on board a ragtag bunch of soldiers of fortune. Daniel Levy however seems increasingly determined to style himself as the opposite of the A-Team, with no inclination to see whether a plan will come together, and seemingly precious little patience to invest in a plan in the first place. Hannibal and chums would presumably have been out on their ear before their first fist-fight had Levy hired them.

With each passing day the £100 mil shopping spree, removal of AVB and hiring of Sherwood seem less like part of a prepared strategy, or even a considered contingency plan, and increasingly like the teenage AANP flexing his muscles for the first time on Championship Manager. Quite what Levy will do next is anyone’s guess, but in the decade or so that he has been in charge it has not been massively clear what, if anything, the chap is getting at. Directors of Football, plain-speaking English rogues, European tacticians, bright young things, gnarly veterans – Levy no doubt wants us in the Top Four, but there is now something reminiscent of a crazed general adopting increasingly extreme behaviour as all around him things go awry, before finally placing a gun to his own head and giving one final, manic laugh. Crumbs, he had better get the next appointment right.

Spurs 2-0 Newcastle: How Beauty Killed The Beast

Irresponsible uncle that I am I cannot quite recall how the fairytale pans out, but I presume that in the end Beauty slays the Beast, and thus it transpired yesterday, life imitating art at the Lane.My north-east spies tell me that Messrs Tiote, Barton and Smith are normally the very models of chivalry, but the other day (Saturday? Sunday? This post-Christmas period is dashed confusing) they cunningly disguised themselves as the most vulgar types of hoodlum, all aggression and faces contorted with rage, as the barcode mob sought to stop us playing. And for the best part of an hour they succeeded, turning our trademarked beautiful game into a fairly forgettable procession of long-balls, intercepted passes and tumbling bodies, albeit punctuated by Pav’s physics-defying dalliance with the woodwork.

With Newcastle seemingly content to kick people and snarl at the ref, safe in the knowledge that none of them would be sent off, the game very much needed a Tottenham goal, just to open things up and force the other lot onto the front-foot. As such I am quite sure that even our vanquished opponents were secretly pleased that we did eventually break the deadlock, for it was a triumph for football. Lovely opening goal it was too, Lennon’s impertinence in just doing the whole bally thing himself screamed “What ho! Over here! It’s me, Aaron Lennon, shaven eyebrow and all, and I’m back on form – huzzah!” while Bale’s was yet another in our ever-growing catalogue of textbook counter-attack goals executed from start to finish in the twitch of a managerial head.

It cannot be too often that the ever-wonderful Modders is cast as “Beauty”, and he would no doubt greet such news as he greets every piece of news he ever hears, good or bad – by nervously pushing his hair behind his ears. The man is a vertically-challenged genius, and he was at it again on that indefinable day earlier this week, at the hub of everything, and with the most able ally nearby in the form of a similarly-wavelengthed VDV. The Beauty-Beast analogy may be a little over-stretched but you get the gist, and yet again Modders did not really care who was snapping at his heels, he just shoulder-dipped his way past them and picked out a pass. Lovely stuff.

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

Rather like the A-Team getting locked in a shed before bursting out in a home-made tank to round up the bad guys and save the day, our heroes have seemed determined all season to embed themselves knee-deep in adversity before shimmying away with victory. Ten men is evidently the new two-goal deficit, but I suppose it matters not, as the current Tottenham vintage seem quite capable of passing their way out of any given situation. This latest, surprisingly serene ten-man victory can be added to that at Villa Park a couple of days earlier, and indeed to against Twente several months back, after VDV’s sending off. Evidently then, red cards do little to impede us in the course of a match, but Monsieur Kaboul deserves nevertheless to be labelled “Buffoon” and pelted with rotten fruit, for his three-game suspension drags us ever closer to the ghastly doomsday scenario that is Vedran Corluka at centre-back.

Still, this remains wonderful fun. Successive Christmas wins, some unfamiliar specimen known as “a clean sheet”, an unbeaten run as long as a Peter Crouch limb and the added bonus of staying up all night to see the Ashes retained have made the return to office-work eminently bearable. Sooner or later the bubble will burst I suppose, but as we shimmy off into 2011 the Spurs just keep marching on. Happy new year one and all.

(Back Catalogue) Spurs 1-4 Arsenal: Never Mind The Kids, What About The Grown-Ups?

Due to the horrors of the real world (new flat! new flat!), a near-lethal bout of man-flu and, most pertinently, a mightily ropey wi-fi connection, the AANP ramblings of recent weeks have been trapped, like the three evil types inside the glass prison in Superman 2, on a usb stick, unable to make it to the interweb. However, to ease the pain of the international break, this back-catalogue of previews and match reports will now finally see the light of day – which means that you lucky things will be able to relive all the hundred-miles-an-hour excitement of the past three weeks or so! Huzzah!

 

22/9/2010: I guess this is what it would be like if the A-Team were locked in a shed, constructed their usual tank and burst out of said shed – only for it to break down immediately and for all four of them to be dragged out and shot to death. Having rather hung on for 90 minutes, extra-time promised some sort of rousing finale, so there was an unfortunately anti-climactic feel to the manner in which the game so swiftly became a lost cause, with the best part of half an hour left to play. (That said, pats on backs to all those who hung around to sing their hearts out in the dying minutes – oh that those on the pitch might have shown the same passion…)

 

The Kids

 

Rare starts for Livermore and Naughton, and a debut at centre-back for Caulker. Each of them did just about what you would expect: some slick technique, plenty of youthful enthusiasm, some false bravado and a few moments of panic when hairy situations arose. None had me salivating in frenzied anticipation, nor cursing the day they signed up as lilywhites. Good luck to all three.

 

The grown-ups however ought to have known better. In the first half in particular there was a lack of leadership, with Sergeant Wilson – now resembling a poor man’s Zokora, of all things – Giovani, Bentley and Pav a little too willing to let the buck be passed, rather than leading by example.

 

Aside from the personnel, the first half formation was a mite curious. ‘Arry seemed to go for three deep midfielders, in Sandro, Livermore and Palacios, and they spent much of the first 45 getting in each other’s way; while Bentley was stationed out on the left, and Pav moped around waiting in vain for some service or some company up top. All generalisations you understand, but in general the tactical approach of the first half seemed rather a muddle, and we also spent rather a long time learning that precious little damage can be done if we don’t have the ball.

 

However, the second half brought more purpose, most obviously through the introduction of Keane, who bounded around with an enthusiasm that put several of his team-mates to shame, and the reversion to a more orthodox 4-4-2. Given l’Arse’s curious penchant for trying to win through looking pretty rather than outscoring the opposition, we actually created the better chances over 90 minutes. For all their possession, including that three or four-minute spell in the first half where we simply could not get a touch of the ball, we actually defended in sufficiently organised fashion to prevent them making many clear chances.

 

Kranjcar?

 

Thrown on when we went 3-1 down and the game was officially being stamped with the big red sign that reads “Cause: Lost”, I did rather scratch my head and wonder why ‘Arry opted against his inclusion from the start, particularly having made all sorts of noises beforehand about giving him some game time. True, he hardly covered himself in glory during his 20 minute shift, but the chap is still a mighty useful player, and I would purse my lips in frustration if he were shunted out of the door come January.

 

Silver Lining

 

A damn shame to get knocked out like that, and the baiting from my Arse-supporting chums was an unwelcome throwback to the days of yore, but it is fairly undoubtedly a measure of how far we have come that the Carling Cup, the trophy that was the pinnacle of our season just two and a half years ago, is now this far down our list of priorities. Having taken a hammering at home to that ‘orrible lot from up the road, the sentiment on the train back up to Enfield was one of only mild annoyance, for this was very much a match played with the bigger picture in mind.

Wolves – Spurs Preview: More Frustration Beckons

On the back of yet another ten-man shut-out, the prospect of Wolves tonight hardly has the AANP heart leaping in unbounded joy. Wolves boss Mick McCarthy earlier this season threw in the towel in one fixture, by resting his entire team, in order to save their juices for a more winnable fixture a couple of days later. Hardly the attitude of a man about to send his troops out hell for leather in search of victory tonight. A 10-0-0 formation and further frustration therefore beckon, rather ominously, to the extent that I am considering sticking an unhealthy proportion of my weekly earnings on a goalless draw, just to numb the pain.Meanwhile, without playing particularly well at any point this season, our rivals have caught us, overtaken us and, with games in hand, threaten to disappear over the horizon and far away. Fail to win tonight and we really will be drifting from the land of milk and honey, with fewer points in the bag but more games played than our rivals. Fingers firmly crossed over here that this proves the most wildly inaccurate preview of modern times, and that we instead score a couple of early goals, exhale in relief and settle back for a good old-fashioned thumping, as in those halcyon days at the start of the season; but in the countdown to kick-off this one seems to have “Frustrating Goalless Draw” stamped all over it in the emphatic chunky font they use in the A-Team logo.

Team News

No Ledley, although I doubt our back-line will be over-worked tonight. Bassong and Kaboul will therefore be in line to partner Daws, but more interesting will be ‘Arry’s selection up the other end. Pav is apparently back in contention, while Gudjohnsen awaits a debut. After 90 minutes of goalless huff and puff on Saturday, ‘Arry will be sorely tempted to try something different in attack tonight, and possibly even tinker further by accommodating Gudjohnsen somewhere in midfield. He can stick him in goal as far as I’m concerned, as long as one way or another we trundle back to North London with three points in the bag this evening.

 

AANP’s first book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, comes out in early March and is now available to pre-order from WHSmith,Amazon , TescoWaterstones and Play 

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

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

Fulham – Spurs Preview: Straightforward? Winnable?

While two games in three days is no simple task, the double-header of a visit to Fulham and the hosting of West Ham ought to be stamped with the words “Cracking Opportunity” in great big bold font, like that used for the A-Team logo. For a team with Champions League aspirations these are both eminently winnable games. Straightforward? Non. Winnable? Bien sur. In a season in which dropping points has been the nationwide vogue, six points a–laying would be a marvellous end to this festive season, and is not beyond the realms of possibility.By thrashing Man Utd last week Fulham pointedly established that they will be no walkover, particularly on their own patch. They presumably will have a spring in their step going into this one, but the memory of away days at Villa Park and Goodison linger long in the memory here at AANP Towers, serving to remind that we have it in ourselves to dominate teams away from home.

Conventional wisdom has it that games are won and lost in central midfield, yet if anything this has been our least solid area. That less-domineering doppelganger of Sergeant Wilson continues to mis-place passes as frequently as he wins possession, while Hudd continues to drift out of games as often as he dictates them. It’s not a critical problem, given that everywhere else on the pitch we have players hitting the form of their lives, but the placard that reads “By Golly How We Bossed Things In Central Midfield Today” is currently gathering dust at AANP Towers.

As we’re not exactly blessed with a cornucopia of riches in central midfield – Jermaine Jenas being first reserve – the Hudd-Palacios pairing will presumably start again today (although to his credit JJ does play the role of impact-sub surprisingly well). There may yet be some chop-and-changery in the coming days however, not least because of the condensed fixture-list, but also because all three of these chaps are one caution away from suspension.

How, if at all,

‘Arry juggles his squad for these games will make interesting viewing, and not just in central midfield. It appears that the wise men of the Tottenham treatment room are bearing two of the loveliest gifts imaginable, in the form of fit-again Modders and Ledley. These mumblings about Daws moving to Sunderland seem spectacularly poorly-timed for an April Fool’s prank, but if he is relegated to the bench in order to make way for Ledley, worry lines will start to crease the foreheads of the faithful. This ought to be academic though, Ledley-for-Bassong a likelier scenario.We’re in good form, have top players returning and two winnable games lined up. Bouncing around with all the giddy excitement of a kid on Christmas morn over here.

 

You can become a Facebook fan of forthcoming book Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here – or pre-order the ruddy thing here. Cripes! 

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

Another Mental All-Action Week At Spurs!!!

No transfers. Not even any rumours. And this following a record number of clean sheets at home, and a seemingly endless run of one-nil wins. “All action”? Really?

Once again there is nothing to report from the Lane, so I’m just going to ramble away a little stream of consciousness – by all means duck out now and go youtube a Michael Jackson song or something.Once Upon A Time…

Once upon a time the title “All Action, No Plot” made perfect sense for a Spurs blog. Alright, you pedants, maybe not perfect sense – I suppose “Spurs-Tottenham-Hotspur-White-Hart-Lane-Yiddo-COYS-Two-Points-Eight-Games-Blog” would probably be statistically more suitable for search engines. But you get the point. All action, no plot – we’re that sort of team.

Or rather, we were that sort of team. Once upon a time, not so long ago. When I’m a millionaire I’ll build a Sistine chapel-style ceiling at AANP Towers, decorated with Mabbutt’s own-goal in the ’87 Cup Final to commemorate the first game I ever watched (or remember watching). It was a suitably mad-cap game, and rather set the tone. There is no shortage of other moments that can be immortalised in blue and lilywhite (and yellow) on my ceiling – Gazza and Lineker destroying l’Arse; Jurgen spearheading a 5-0-5 formation; the night of a thousand thrown away half-time leads; and more 4-4 draws than you can wave a stick at. Plenty of action there, and precious little plot.

Off the pitch, it’s similarly mental – squillions of pounds flung at managers on limited time, while the good folk of N17 relentlessly bay for champagne football and the blood of Jermaine Jenas.

Thus, the name “All Action, No Plot” was decided upon in a few milliseconds with a couple of mates in a foreign bar, allowing us to get on with the more pressing business of casting a modern-day Hollywood remake of The A-Team*.

Times Are A-Changing

However, that madcap act-first-think-later mentality at Spurs is now seemingly being replaced by something far more thoughtful and considered. The settled back-four, the consistent team-selection, the growing confidence that we will win at home.

I never thought the day would come, but I readily admit – this maturity is being welcomed with open arms at AANP Towers. It’s a seminal moment, rather like that point in Rocky IV when the Soviets start jeering Dolph Lundgren and cheering Stallone. Or the moment in Escape to Victory when the Nazis cheers Pele’s overhead kick. There is less action and more plot at the Lane – and AANP likes it. Cripes.

It’s not that we’re turning into one of the dull, boring, soporific also-rans of the Premiership, a George Graham Arsenal. Not at all.  We still have bundles of creativity, and play football that is pleasing on the eye. None of that long-ball nonsense. In fact, precious few goals from crosses either – which suggests that our strikers really ought to work on their heading. No, the football looks fine, and, especially on the counter-attack, can be quite breathtaking, but is complemented by a sturdy defensive platform.

And now as the summer stretches out, behind the thick curtain of rumour, it transpires that there is actually precious little happening. Again this lack of action, and hint of plot, is viewed with approval at AANP Towers. I’d have bought a tennis racket and smashed it on some grass if we’d gone through another summer of ripping up the spine of the squad and bringing in squillions of pounds worth of unproven attackers (although I’m well aware that this might yet happen).

So far however, the approach seems relatively circumspect – no wholesale clearout, yet, and no heinous sum splashed out on an unknown foreign striker. It suggests that the management know what they want to do this summer, and are primarily aiming to maintain stability.

The title of this little corner of the internet will remain the same, and in all other walks of life the all-action-no-plot mentality remains the breathless approach of choice, but it pleases me to note that by gently turning down the all-action-no-plot meter at Spurs we seem to be making progress.

 

* = I’d have gone for George Clooney as Hannibal; Jim Carrey as Murdock; some generic pretty-boy – possibly Johnny Depp – as Face; and B.A. is a tough one. Vin Diesel? Ving Rhames? Anyone else whose name begins with “Vin”?

Issues For Next Season: The Keane-Defoe Problem

Things We Need To Sort Out, Preferably Before The Start Of Next Season

is likely to be a slightly intermittent series, for, as I’ve mentioned previously, we’re only in need of some gentle tweaking here and there, rather than a full-blown overhaul. However, near the top of the agenda is a problem that is both white and black, English and Irish, has four legs, and can be seen sometimes waving and shouting around the halfway line, and other times shooting on sight around the area.Defoe and Keane. Keane and Defoe.

With Pav last seen disappearing down the tunnel in a stropski and Darren Bent spending more time practising his hands-half-raised-to-head-can’t-believe-I-missed-that look, rather than his goal celebration, there are likely to be changes in attack over the summer – and the problem is compounded by the fact that one of Keane and Defoe will need to make himself at home on the bench next season.

We’ve been rather trying to ignore this, but there’s no doubt it’s a full-on, certified, official problem. It’s been gestating, and by the start of next season could well burst from ‘Arry Redknapp’s chest and go on the rampage, destroying the rest of the team.

Entertaining though it undoubtedly is to see over-paid and over-privileged grown men throwing a good old-fashioned toddler’s tantrum because life is so unfair, it won’t be particularly helpful to us. Discord from within we can do without.

Somehow, both these chaps need to be kept happy. Ordinarily, the gift of the entire DVD box-set of all five series of The A-Team would be more than enough to keep a grown man content, but these two fussy chaps need more. It’s not rocket-science to us at the Lane – each needs a bigger man alongside them. Only then will they feel loved and deliver their best, but such a solution obviously precludes a partnership between the two themselves. It’s one or t’other.

(The issue of who should partner Defoe/Keane is a completely different kettle of fish. I’ll sink confusedly into that one on another occasion.)

Tantrums

 

More recently, the fling with Liverpool turned sour hilariously quickly once he realised that his place in the first XI wasn’t sacrosanct. More strops are a-coming if Keane isn’t in the starting line-up.

Defoe does not have the pedigree of Keane when it comes to whingeing, but we hardly need reminding that failure to start regularly saw him amble off to pastures new 18 months back.

It’s not just that these two need to appear regularly, or even make 25 starts next season – they each need to know that they’re first choice, and will start game after game after game. Neither will be content with regular 60th minute introductions, or starting berths once every three games. We would undoubtedly regret selling one of Keane or Defoe (we need at least three – preferably four – decent strikers at the club) but whichever is not playing regularly is likely to get itchy feet.

The Curious World of Robbie Keane

 

The plot thickens and mystery deepens given ‘Arry’s intransigent refusal to drop or substitute him. This might be because he wears the captain’s armband – a move which did make sense when he arrived, but slightly complicates matters now. There are more rational explanations – ‘Arry may simply have reasoned it made more sense to withdraw a rusty-looking Pav, against West Brom and Man City. Nevertheless, the selection of Keane on left midfield last week was a strange one, and not for the first time had me wondering if there is some sort of “I’m Precious” clause in Keane’s contract, which simply states “Don’t even think about dropping me, Pedro.”

All Rise For The AANP Verdict:

On present form I’d have Defoe. In recent weeks we’ve looked most threatening when Defoe’s been on the pitch. The build-up play might not necessarily be any better (in fact, if Defoe played instead of Keane the build-up would probably be worse), but Defoe has a single-minded and fairly selfish determination to shoot whenever there’s a sniff. I love that about him. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King, and in the land of the shot-shy Spurs of recent weeks Defoe’s willingness to shoot earns him the place on the throne.

Curiously, although it’s fairly commonly acknowledged that they as partnerships go they’re no Stan and Ollie, we’ve probably had our greatest cutting-edge in recent weeks when they have been paired up. Such a combo, lacking a target man, has seen Keane push further forward, whilst Defoe has looked far sharper than any of the other strikers. However, this is more of an indictment upon the Bent-Keane and Pav-Keane partnerships than a recommendation of Defoe-Keane.

So this is one for ‘Arry to sort. Injury to Defoe since the January re-signing of both has meant we’ve been conveniently able to sidestep the problem so far in 2009, but there is no point ignoring it any further. The club badge features a cockerel standing on some sort of basketball, not an ostrich with its head in the sand. Two quality strikers fighting for one position is probably a good problem to have as a manager, but a problem nevertheless.

 

 

 

 

By the by – AANP has now got its own Facebook group and Twitter, um, thing. Amazing what these new-fangled computer boxes can do.

Jenas Rant Shows He Cares

Rather gloriously, Jermaine Jenas has got his knickers in a twist regarding referee Howard Webb’s moment of glory on Saturday, and has now been asked to explain himself by the FA. (nb that’s Jenas who has been asked to explain himself, rather than Webb…)Anyway, back to the barely controllable fury of our sideways-passing warrior.

 

“One thing which struck me about it was that he [Webb] didn’t even think. It was like he’d already made his mind up when he came out for the second half that he was going to give something,” quivered our intrepid hero.”I think it was a case of a referee crumbling under the pressure at Old Trafford really. The atmosphere, the occasion, the importance of the match, a lot of factors take their toll when making decisions.”

Well huzzah for JJ, the most unlikely of heroes. Unfortunately, the powers that be have taken a rather dim view of these comments, asking Jenas for “an explanation”, but I’m proud of the guy. It reminds me of the nerdy, goody-goody kid at school suddenly snapping and going beserk at his headmistress while awestruck classmates watch on, brimming with a new-found admiration for the blighter.

Admittedly it’s hardly on a par with Lee Bowyer starting a fight in an empty room, or Roy Keane yelling “Take that, yer c*nt” before snapping the legs of a toddler who’d sneezed in his direction. Nevertheless I warmly applaud Jenas and give him my full support on this one, as he queues up for a detention slip alongside Bowyer, Keane, Bellamy and the rest of the school trouble-makers. Not that I condone criticism of the ref – no matter how ignorant, biased, blind, dim-witted, retarded and inbred a ref has to be to drop a clanger like Saturday’s penalty award, I refuse to criticise him. However, just the fact that Jenas was sufficiently flustered by the affair to talk his way into trouble really warms my heart. It shows he cares.

My schoolboy gullibility long ago faded away, and has now been replaced by the overly bitter and twisted cynicism of a bile-filled old man. As a result I know longer believe in the existence of Father Christmas, the A-Team or footballer loyalty. No matter how many times they kiss the badge, and no matter how long their contract, it just seems beyond the boundaries of credulity to expect footballers genuinely to care about their team. They’re on a limited career-span, so they’ll make their money with whomever coughs up. It’s a different world from fans. Rather than bemoan lack of player loyalty I just accept it, even when they stick two fingers up at the club then come crawling back six months later.

Hence, I’d figured that after the final whistle on Saturday they all just trotted off to the players’ lounge to fight over Danielle Lloyd and sort out the Faces guest list. The notion that the penalty decision still rankled with one of them is a flabbergasting but enormously welcome development.

More so as we’re such a soft-touch team anyway. I’ve been brought up on a diet of pretty passes and fancy flicks from Hoddle, Redknapp (Jamie) and Modders. I still eye Palacios with confused fascination, as if he’s a creature from another world, so unaccustomed am I to a player in lilywhite putting himself about. All the more reason then, to pinch myself as I read and re-read Jenas’ tirade. Well, it’s more of an apologetic clearing of the throat than a full-blown tirade, but the point is that he cares. Like we do. Winning means something to him, and losing hurts. His talent may be questionable, he has me tearing my hair out every week, but by golly he’s committed to the cause. Good on you, fella.

 

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