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Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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Ahoy-Hoy & Toodle-Pip: Musings on Spurs’ Transfer Window

The dust may have settled, but it would be frightfully remiss to pootle along any further without casting a beady eye over the various to-ings and fro-ings of the transfer window. Step this way please…Welcome to the Lane… 

Curiouser and curiouser, we now somehow find ourselves bottom of the table yet with both of last season’s Players of the Year in the ranks. This one get a raucous slapping of the thigh, as in the absence of Sandro, and the now dearly departed Sergeant Wilson, our central midfield personnel have barely made a tackle between them. Like a cereal gone wrong Parker is all bustle, harry and snap. Moreover, for those of us still scarred by memories of Palacios misplacing six-yard passes, or ducking for cover as Steffen Freund shaped to shoot, Parker also has enough technical ability to look at home within a typical Tottenham midfield. Just as behind every good man is a woman, behind every Hudd and Modders we need a Parker.

A bonus point too to someone or other – probably Daniel Levy – for haggling for a price as low as £5 mil for Parker, on the grounds that his aged 30 year-old limbs merited no higher fee, while simultaneously purloining £10 mil (possibly to rise to £12 mil apparently) for 30 year-old Peter Crouch, a man who didn’t win Player of the Year last season…

Emmanuel Adebayor

As previously mentioned, AANP approves of this one too. Like or loathe the man we certainly need the player. A point of concern for the future is that come next summer we will presumably find ourselves without either Adebayor or Modders (and back in possession of Jenas once again), but many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip, so we’ll concern ourselves with that at a later date.

Brad Friedel 

Luka Modric

The swine. One jolly well hopes that after all the brouhaha he retains his undoubted ability to direct operations from deep, rather than transmitting his recently discovered dastardliness to on-pitch performances of apathy.

While I’m not sure I’d buy a used car from the man, I give credit again to Levy for sticking to his word on this, after being strung out by Berba in similarly unsavoury circumstances back in the days of yore. As well as raising a couple of choice fingers at players’ disregard for their contracts, £40 mil in the dying embers of the transfer window would have been of limited use, and even earlier there is only so much we could have done – our problem is wages rather than transfer fees. Rather than stock up with more Premiership standard players, we need world-class talent, and the £40 mil we would have gained would presumably have gone towards the former rather than the latter. A replacement of similar transfer fee and quality (eg Snjeider) simply would not have come. Far better that we retain Modders, at least for a year.

And Shunted Unceremoniously Toward The Exit Door… 

 

Robbie Keane 

Wilson Palacios

Having resembled a cross between Rambo and Robocop when he joined, poor old Sergeant Wilson seemed completely perplexed by the physics of the football by the end of last season, with the result that of every 50 attempted passes, 49 tended to find an opponent, all of which rather negated his tackling ability. The arrival of a new, improved model (in the shape of Sandro) has brought about his ruthless but entirely sensible culling from the fold. In the context of the £5 mil arrival of Scott Parker, the £8 mil sale of Palacios represents more frightfully good business from the N17 moneymen.

Peter Crouch

Ye gods be praised. No doubt he’ll loop a header into the Tottenham net later on this season, but for a chap of that structure to be quite so poor at heading was nigh on unforgiveable. The constant concession of free-kicks tended to be more the fault of the officials than Crouch, but nevertheless, aside from a purple patch in partnership with VDV, this chap contributes precious little of value as a striker. Poor in the air, possessed of a ludicrously weak shot and prone to grinning whenever he missed, frankly he riled us here at AANP Towers, a situation exacerbated by the dismissal against Real and own-goal against City last season.

Jermaine Jenas

Rejoice, rejoice and thrice I invite ye – rejoice. At least until the end of the season.

Once upon a time – about three years ago, Jenas threatened to make good on all that youthful promise. Alas, the rest rather besmirches the history of Tottenham Hotspur, AANP frequently shaking its head in wonder, and concluding that the lad must be magic in training, because his performances on the pitch hardly merited a regular starting berth. That unique brand of Sideways and Backwards will take the Midlands by storm this year.

In Conclusion

Some fine dabblings, in both directions. The grass is always greener, so we may well chunter away about the failure to nab young G. Cahill Esquire, but nevertheless, “Clear out the deadwood; bring in a midfielder with bite; and ruddy well stick a powerful striker upfront” were three fairly critical points on the summer to-do list at the Lane. AANP approves.

Scott Parker

Spurs 1-5 Man City: Looking Forward With Optimism. No, Really.

Optimism to follow, but it would be remiss to begin proceedings with anything other than the nasty business of a post-mortem…The Arnie Approach

In the absence of our recognised midfield enforcers, our glorious leader adopted the cunning tactical ploy of leaving the back-four without any protection to handle a City front-line so shiny and expensive they had Tevez on the bench, while the rest of our team was crammed with attacking types . While it is easy to denigrate in hindsight, I must admit that ‘Arry’s decision to go for a tackle-lite but flair-heavy central midfield combo of Kranjcar and Modders earned him a whole-hearted and meaty up-raised thumb from the denizens of AANP Towers pre kick-off, on account of its stirring levels of equally measured gung and ho. In an excited flurry of mixed metaphors we settled down to watch our heroes either live by the sword or go down in a blaze of glory, unable to criticise the manager for weighing up the likes of Jake Livermore or Kaboul for defensive midfielder vs the Nasri-Silva-Dzeko-Aguero combo, and instead deciding it would be a dashed sight more fun to watch our own Lennon-Kranjcar-Modders-Bale-VDV-Crouch combo try to out-attack City instead, while poor old Friedel et al simply sighed wearily, closed their eyes and prayed for mercy.

Alas, simply outshooting the other lot, re-loading and doing it again, until they all drop down dead and you rescue Chenny is a ploy that may have worked in wholesome Arnold Schwarzenegger action films of the ‘80’s, but in the nascent days of the 2011/12 football season such a ploy does not cut it, particularly against a City team whose gazillion pound summer outlay enables them to produce vastly superior triangles to ours. The slick little diagonal passes around our area, positional interchanging and off-the-ball movement of their front four sliced our slightly ponderous defence to ribbons. By contrast, our front-line did not have quite the same ingenuity, or speed of thought or foot, to cause similar damage. Put bluntly, our triangles just were not as good.

Poor Form, All Round

Who knows how the game might have panned out had Bale not aimed for the moon in the first half when it seemed easier to score? Crouch too might have changed the game had his flying header pinged the right side of the post, about 30 seconds before Dzeko scored his second. (The elongated one is excused criticism for that miss, for it was a jolly difficult one to have directed better – but if I see him one more time react to a miss by grinning, my lip will positively quiver with rage I tell ye).

However, the performance, as much as the result, was rather soul-destroying. Substitutes Livermore and Defoe at least showed some passion when they arrived, but of the rest possibly only Friedel emerges with any credit (although the goalkeeping pedants in this corner of the interweb think he might have done a mite better with Aguero’s goal). Worryingly, Daws produced a rather convincing Corluka impression, all lumber and awkwardness; while Kranjcar seemed to model his central midfield performance on Jermaine Jenas, with plenty of backwards passing and scant defensive cover; and the sooner Modders is given a slap around the face with a wet fish and told to jolly well buck up his ideas, the better.

Onwards. With Optimism 

And in this area I still fancy us to fare relatively well. The arrival of Adebayor will offer us a darned sight more in attack, while either or both of Parker/Diarra will add some of the bite so desperately lacking in the absence of Sandro (Parker in and Palacios out is a fine trade). Royally thrashed we may have been, but in both games so far we have shown glimpses of attacking ability that suggest we will still outscore the majority in this division, and therefore challenge for the top four again.

Hearts – Spurs Preview: VDV in a 4-4-2?

And so, finally, off we go, in the rather unorthodox settings of ITV4 and Edinburgh. It is a truth universally acknowledged that any Scottish team whose name does not rhyme with either “Beltic” or “Changers” is there for the taking, so first game of the season or not, this lot must be destroyed. ‘Arry has understandably  enough made noises about fielding kids and reserves in the Europa League, but while none of us want injuries ahead of the United trip on Mon, it would nevertheless make sense to field a full-strength side tonight. The players will hardly need a rest, a competitive game will probably do them good ahead of our Premiership bow and it would be nice to put this tie to bed tonight, and rest personnel for the second leg at the Lane.My spies inform me that Modders is amongst the absentees tonight. Whisper it, but this might be the last time the name of our tiny genius crops up amongst excited pre-match natterings, for alas ‘Arry’s latest musings suggest that he is willing to cash in if he can bring in various others (although our beady-eyed chairman is displaying admirable intransigency on the matter).

Not quite as devastating is the absence of Jenas, but the Lord of All Things Sideways and Backwards is joined on the list of absentees by the Hudd, Sergeant Wilson and Pienaar, while the official prognosis for Sandro reads “out for blinking ages”. Not quite sure who that leaves in central midfield – necessity being the mother of invention, we may even be treated to VDV within a 4-4-2, which would be greeted heartily at AANP Towers and, one suspects, Crouch Mansions and Chateau Defoe. Gallas, Hutton and, inevitably, Ledley, are also crocked, but I expect we’ll muddle through.

Ave Atque Vale 

But still. Let that not detract from some fine and noble contributions previously, notably in the 5-1 and Carling Cup wins, and the laudable feat of 100 goals for the club. Quite thrilled to see the back of him in truth, but good luck sir in the fulfilment of your latest boyhood dream.

Spurs – AC Milan Preview: Could This Be The Inaugural St Wenger’s Day?

Well if this doesn’t get your juices flowing I suggest you go and boil your head. Tottenham Hotspur vs AC Milan. It’s the sort of fixture that makes me want to don nothing more than a loin-cloth and go wrestle a bear, then save a small child – and svelte, scantily-clad brunette – from a burning building, before reducing Colonel Gadaffi to tears with a devastating best-of-five demolition in Scissors-Paper-Stone. Precisely that sort of fixture.Various Spurs fans – both of the flesh-and-blood variety and those tiny little men who live inside my computer box – wailed and gnashed their teeth when we drew this lot. By contrast, at AANP Towers the walls resounded with cheers and the fattened calf quite rightly wore a look of doom, for win, lose or – well, just win or lose really – Spurs vs Milan is the sort of glamour tie that makes the bad old days of Gross, Francis et al seem worthwhile, the sort of glamour tie that puts us back on the map of Europe’s elite. Moreover, from the moment the tie was drawn I fancied us to beat them at the Lane. I hold up my hands, clear my throat and give a sprightly, if tuneless, rendition of Mea Culpa in admission of the fact that I certainly did not anticipate the win at the San Siro, oh me of little faith. At home however, with the Lane absolutely heaving, we can beat anybody, the bigger the better.

That said, the last time we were in this sort of situation, protecting a lead in a crucial two-legged European tie, Sevilla were two goals up before the chap next to me had even found his seat, so complacency will be way down the list tonight.

The Champions League Does Funny Things To A Man

Last time, ahead of the trip to the San Siro, I was bemoaning the absence of Jermaine Jenas of all people. And today I petition my manager to allow alcohol consumption within the office, in order that I may raise a glass to the return to fitness of Corluka. I rather like the fact that Alan Hutton is essentially a winger trying to escape the shackles of the back-four, but we can darned well do without his weekly penalty-area yanking of an opponent’s shirt tonight. He may wobble rather than run, but Corluka has more of a defensive head on his shoulders, and given that we’ve conceded six goals in two games against Wolves and Blackburn, I would opt for him against AC Milan. Plus, I can’t get enough of those weighted diagonals he plays to Lennon. Weighted diagonals, I miss thee.

Other Team News 

VDV and Modders will get the chance to play their own little private game of Awesomeness in the centre, while Sandro gets the AANP vote for the final midfield spot, on the basis that he more closely resembles Wilson Palacios Circa Early 2009 than Wilson Palacios currently does.

Defoe’s goals have presumably given ‘Arry food for thought, but Crouch-VDV is his preferred European axis, and with good reason given the bewilderment instilled in foreign sorts by the gangly one.

Mind you, this will all be fairly academic if Gomes and the back-four indulge in any more of those spontaneous acts of lunacy. At the moment the entire back-line is typified by BAE, who on nights like this can either produce a masterclass in full-backery, or resemble a demented, risk-happy loon with not a care in the world for the cleanliness of the Goals Against column. Please, please, please chaps – no madness at the back tonight.

Happy St Wenger’s Day

Strictly – or rather chronologically –  speaking, we have already progressed further in the Champions League this season than that ‘orrible lot down the road, so happy St Wenger’s Day everybody. However, for all the gentle ribbing in the office this bright and breezy morn, it does not really count. Yet. Avoid defeat tonight though, and my goon-supporting chums won’t be able to avoid another attack of their silent foe, Ye Grin of Smugness.

Seven hours to go and I can barely contain myself, it really is that terrifically exciting. Fingers crossed one and all for the latest, Greatest Night.

Blackpool – Spurs Preview: Nail-Biting Victory Would Suffice Tonight

Spurs fans born yesterday – or at least since around 2009 – may disagree, but following up victory at the San Siro with defeat at Blackpool would not be the most unlikely turn of events at for the heroes of N17. Mercifully the current vintage seem just as capable of digging out tricky away wins to lower-table scrappers as they are of churning out a never-to-be-forgotten glory night in one of Europe’s premier arenas – which ought to prove jolly handy tonight, as our walking wounded leave a blood-stained trail from N17 to Blackpool pier.It’s three consecutive league wins for our mob, wins that are strangely all the more gratifying for being so unglamorous and low-profile. A fourth tonight would have Man City spluttering into their corn flakes tomorrow morning at the realisation that third spot has been sneakily half-inched from their grubby mitts, at least on a temporary basis. Fingers crossed it all works out swimmingly tonight then, or if not swimmingly than at least according to our fairly well-established routine of nail-gnawingly tense late winners.

Team News

“Don’t you forget about me,” warbled eighties Scottish beat combo Simple Minds, a couple of years before we all forgot about them. Anyone loitering outside the Spurs training ground would be familiar with the song, it being plaintively repeated ad infinitum by Niko Kranjcar as he stays behind each day to hone further his already darned-near immaculate shooting technique. Tonight however, he may yet have good reason to whoop “woo-ha” or the nearest Croatian equivalent. Gareth Bale remains out of action, and while Pienaar was preferred on the left last week at Milan, on account of his defensive qualities, Kranjcar’s recent form could well earn him the nod tonight.

Elsewhere in midfield ‘Arry is unlikely to opt for the safety-first option of Sergeant Wilson and Sandro, given that Jenas and Modders are available once more. VDV, Corluka and are the principal casualties from last week, while Woodgate is also back in his natural habitat of the treatment room.

Some tinkering will therefore be necessary – Gallas at right-back, a rare start for Bassong, two in attack – but nevertheless, the remaining personnel capable of walking unaided ought to have sufficient quality to garner three more points. Any fewer would frankly be a massive disappointment.

 

AC Milan 0-1 Spurs: Good Grief. Who Saw That Coming?

Come now, really – did anyone in their wildest dreams expect that? Really? That was not just a victory away to AC Milan, it was an absolute ruddy masterclass in the much-vaunted but rarely achieved art of Navigating Fiendishly Difficult Away Legs in the Champions League. Novices? Fie upon the very suggestion. Our lot look like they were born to play in this competition.First whistle to last our heroes stuck to the drill with a discipline that had me reaching for the whisky in disbelief. Like some super-computer sucking up knowledge at a rate of knots, ‘Arry demonstrated that the lessons of San Siro visits past have been learned, the days of “Just f*ckin’ run about” a distant memory as he adopted the most unlikely role, for one night at least, of tactical genius. Accordingly, our heroes carefully put to one side the gung-ho all-action approach they have spent the past couple of years perfecting, and instead donned monocles and mortar boards for a display of quite astounding maturity and bloody-mindedness. Witness Woodgate, not a cobweb in sight, clearing from a prone position on the floor in the final seconds; Modders orchestrating keep-ball in the dying stages; Corluka bearing a blood-stained ice-pack around his mangled foot; all of which left the Milanese stomping around with angrier and angrier scowls, like over-sized nursery kids, until one felt they might tear off their own limbs and beat each other with them, which admittedly very few nursery kids do these days.

Roll of Honour

Ah the good folk of Tottenham Hotspur FC. Heroes the ruddy lot of them. Sandro and Sergeant Wilson charged around to the strains of 90s one-hit techno wonder Kicks Like A Mule, stomping up to Milanese attacking types and positively screeching into their faces “Your name’s not down, you’re not coming in!” Not only did those two patrol the centre like Robocop and his less frivolous twin brother, but they also showed quite remarkable discipline in restraining themselves from diving in at any point, and avoiding the concession of too many unnecessary fouls.

For his next trick Gomes will presumably travel through time and reappear two days ago, but at the San Siro he settled simply for defying the laws of physics, those two second half saves worthy of Banks and tantamount to goals.

VDV’s every touch was a thing of beauty, the very antithesis of the Neanderthalic buffoon in the opposite ranks, for whom the ball was but a secondary detail. Too easy it is to forget VDV’s disguised chip that floated an inch wide while just about everyone in the stadium and the watching world was looking towards the far post area into which most mortals would have aimed a cross.

Lennon’s destruction of the left-back was almost inhumane (although not in a Matthieu Flamini sort of way), while out on the left the remarkably similar-looking BAE and Pienaar beavered back and forth indefatigably.

The back-four barely put a foot wrong, Daws looking every inch an international, and when all-out assault forced the reshuffle Woodgate slotted in with minimal fuss, and the drill was resumed. The other substitutes did precisely what every good wholesome substitute ought to do, Modric lovingly stroking the thing around for the final ten minutes and Kranjcar poking little triangles, as the enraged Italians looked for something, anything, to kick.

The Goal 

And the finish. Good grief for one horrible moment it looked like Crouch’s legs had assumed minds of their own and were about to sabotage the blighter’s moment, but he avoided tripping over himself in an unholy tangle of limbs – just – and the day was ours.

(Epilogue)

And then it got better. Lest any further evidence be needed that his shaggy mane hides only a great big vacuum between his ears, Gattuso then ignored the likes of resident lightweights such as Pav, Modders and Gomes, and made a beeline for one J. Jordan Esquire. “Nobody wants to see that,” droned Stelling on Sky Sports, rather missing a trick, for Jordan vs Gattuso would be one of the fastest-selling pay-per-view events in television history, even if it would only be a matter of seconds before Jordan tore the little man apart with his bare hands and then chewed on him with what teeth he has left.

(Second Epilogue)

And then it got better still, when all-round good egg and renowned gentleman of the game, Graeme Souness, was swamped within his own bile during the post-match natter and spat out a description of Gattuso as “just a little dog”. Ooh, you could almost reach and touch the hatred.

O

ne or two colleagues have pointed out that the tie is far from over and other such guff, only to be confronted by that most wonderful riposte, The Grin of Delight. Frankly, right now, I don’t care what happens tomorrow, next week or any time hence. After the turgid dross and embarrassment of the 90s and 00s, the last 18 months have provided enough lilywhite glory nights to last me a lifetime. AC Milan 0 – 1 Spurs. Ding dong.

Spurs – Bolton Preview: Dawson’s Mysterious Shrinking Ban

One down, seven to go – the dream of a run of eight consecutive League wins remains, at least within this particularly deluded little mind. This afternoon’s task will not be easy – Bolton outdid us on their patch earlier in the season, and in Kevin Davies have precisely the sort of striker whose presence makes me shudder from my Park Lane vantage point.Ye gods be praised then that some suit-wearing FA type is struggling to count beyond one. AANP often walks a disciplinary tightrope during its 8.30 – 5 daily office routine, and has long harboured the impression that should it be shown a red card then a three-match ban will follow pronto. However, for some reason, Michael Dawson is back in the reckoning today, despite what looked suspiciously like a straight red card just one week ago. Shhhhhh. Nobody say anything, and with a bit of luck it will go unnoticed that he has only missed one game…

Right-Footed Left Midfielders: Abundant At The Lane

We may be down to our last one and a half central defenders, and still be lacking that critical-if-overpriced striker, but by golly when it comes to right-footed midfielders playing on the left, few can shake a stick at our mob. Modders, Kranjcar and Bentley have all done their time on the left, with varying degrees of comfort, and while I’m not entirely sure as yet I suspect that young Master Pienaar may be inclined to lean rightwards – which did not stop him making his lilywhite (albeit sky blue) on the left a fortnight back, at Newcastle. Recent weeks have seen young Aaron Lennon, skipping infield from the left – and as ad hoc solutions go it may not exactly have the unborn leaping for joy within the wombs of their mothers, but it bore fruit in the dying embers of the game at Newcastle, and given the inconsistency of his crossing hte opportunity for in-field skippery seems to accentuate his major strength.

Second-guessing ‘Arry’s team’s selections is becoming increasingly difficult, but with Pienaar fit again today, I would guess that he will find himself in the centre (given the absence of Modders), alongside Jenas/Palacios, with VDV right and Lennon left. Whatever the teamsheet, this is one a fixture that a Top-Four chaser ought to win, and buoyed by the midweek success the mood around these parts is positively perky.

 

Spurs 0-0 Man Utd: A Delayed Match Report – And With Good Reason

Apologies for the delay –since the final whistle sounded on Sunday afternoon the denizens of AANP Towers have spent every waking minute traipsing the country searching for anyone – anyone – willing to buy Peter Crouch from us. It does not have to be the chairman of a football team. He could be bought by a British Basketball Association franchise, or shoved into a museum for small children to gawp at. In fact, since the finishing touches are being put to my latest abode, and I now scour the world’s furnishing shops for a tall lamp to stand next to the very sexy black glass shelving unit, I am considering pilfering Crouch myself and shoving him a corner with a candle in his ear. Admittedly it will not undo the entirely vacuous contribution he made against United, but it would probably ensure that ‘Arry buys the striker we’re crying out for, or at least that he next time picks Defoe, or Pav, or even Carlo blinking Cudicini in attack.I perhaps exaggerate the blighter’s ineptitude, but only marginally. The dust has been allowed to settle for several days, yet harking back to the match still fills me with mild apoplexy. If anyone on the pitch looked conspicuously short of Title-challenging quality, ‘twas he. Presumably included on the basis of his ability to tee things up for VDV he was exposed as woefully incapable of offering any sort of aerial challenge to the sinister Vidic, leaving me and several of those around me to wonder whether Defoe might have caused the United back-line more problems nearer ground-level. Crouch was also treated to possibly the clearest goalscoring opportunity of the match but, alas, used the moment to add to the ever-expanding body of evidence that he is anything but a natural goalscorer (or even, to quote the more acid-tongued, a natural footballer). According to the bespectacled, anorak-clad types at Opta Crouch’s pass completion rate was apparently 32%, suggesting an allergy to the ball rather than an ability to hold it up and link play. Damning stuff, when taken in its entirety.

Anyway, if Niall Quinn is wondering why he has had champagne and caviar delivered to him every evening, a gleaming new Lamborghini has turned up in his driveway and several bars of solid gold left on his doormat, all accompanied by notes reading, “With compliments, AANP”, it is because Sunderland are rumoured to have a passing interest in signing Crouch. Egads man, take him! Take him!

Elsewhere On The Pitch

Elsewhere we fared well enough, our heroes having the better of the game without ever really convincing anyone that a goal was imminent. There was imperious stuff from Modders and Daws, and adequate stuff from Sergeant Wilson; while BAE, fast making a career of flitting between sublime and ridiculous, opted for the former, shoving Nani into his rear pocket and keeping him there for the duration, presumably to the incredulity of Alan Hansen. One mildly disappointing aspect was that after the sending-off young Master Bale did not slowly turn to ad hoc right-back Darren Fletcher and give him the blood-curdling grin of a fully-blown psychotic type, before absolutely mutilating him. Fletcher got off rather lightly in those final 15 minutes, for no obvious reason, and a thigh-slappingly good opportunity to barge back into the title race – and, more pertinently, the top four – gently edged away.

Leaps and bounds no doubt, but the progress of the last couple of years is probably not such as to make us title-challengers yet. A couple of well-chosen signings ought to do the trick. On which note…

Pienaar

In all honesty he’s someone I know by hearsay and Match of the Day’s condensed highlights, rather than having scouted vigorously for the last few years. However, although not the rampaging striker for which we yearn, he seems a talented attacking sort, and can apparently play left, right or centre. Moreover, if his arrival shoves Jenas down the pecking order then I will happily lock myself away in a dark for several years while I grow my hair, before braiding it and tattooing “Pienaar 40” across my back. Bolstering the quality of playing personnel as we move into the second half of the season seems a noble practice, and increasing the competition for places ought to give a healthy edge to things. Finally, as a valedictory note I wish to applaud the young man for opting for Spurs over that odious bunch from West London. Bravo sir, may your stay be long and successful.

Spurs – Manchester United Preview: The Missing Scalp

Our heroes have made a pleasing habit of dispelling various hoodoos in recent months, and the latest to present itself is a ten-year drought against the eleven men of Manchester United and their various assistants in black. Over the last year or so we have torn apart some of the cream of Europe, with United’s the only scalp now missing, and while unbeaten our visitors have looked far from invincible to date this season.Traditionally we tend to use this opportunity to watch Giggs or Scholes run rings around us, but in terms of personnel we can fancy our chances of winning the midfield battle today, for VDV was born for precisely this sort of grand occasion, and Modders is in the form of his life. Moreover, aside from the glamour brought by these chaps, our cause has been bolstered no end by the return of Daws to defence in recent weeks. Was the ever a better set of reasons to rub one’s hands in gleeful anticipation?

‘Arry has been in bullish mood in the press conferences this week, but today’s teamsheet ought to give a clue as to quite how cavalier he intends to be this afternoon. Having stopped and started throughout the season so far Defoe is now back in contention, while Crouch for all his faults has turned into a regular manna-provider for VDV, so our glorious leader must decide between one or t’other. He might even, in the name of the most dreamy form of attacking kamikaze, pick both these two in attack, with VDV shoved into a midfield role somewhere, but one suspects that our approach will be a more conservative 4-4-1-1. The choice of central midfield partner for Modders will also give a hint of ‘Arry’s intentions, Sergeant Wilson representing the more cautious option, Jenas the more adventurous. L

Lose – or even draw – today and the semi-serious title chuntering will have to stop, but our heroes now tend to rise to these big occasions at the Lane.

Spurs 3-0 Charlton: Boxes Ticked

That was just about as straightforward as could have been hoped, just about every box ticked by 3.30pm. Key personnel rested; squad members got 90 minutes; home-grown youngster made Danny Rose-esque impact on debut (fingers crossed the next few months are a bit brighter for him than for the boy Rose); clean sheet; no injuries; no suspensions; opportunity for Defoe to return to sharpness; etc. The fact that we were forced to field Luka Modric for 45 minutes, rather than give him a complete rest, mercifully turned out to be fairly inconsequential.Modders, VDV, Hudd: Unlikely to be Losing Sleep

Admittedly this nice, neat box of all-round satisfaction was looking anything but after 45 minutes, in which Sergeant Wilson and Sandro were enlisted with the job of deputising for Modders and VDV in central midfield. One can only imagine the looks of horror on their faces when this task was put to them by ‘Arry prior to kick-off, not to mention the groans of despair from Kranjcar, Townsend, Defoe and Pav, each of whom would have been hoping for a slightly more creative platform in central midfield.

Bless them, Palacios and Sandro manfully attempted to fit their square pegs of destruction into the round holes of silky technique vacated by our regular central midfielders, but it was doomed to failure, particularly with Charlton adopting an understandable game-plan of defending deep. More used to slick one-touch triangles, the Lane faithful had to make do with Palacios’ laboured, telegraphed, multiple-touch passes six yards sideways. I like the chap’s attitude, and consider that his aggression still adds an important edge to the squad, but against a defensive lower-league opponent, this was anything but the stage for his talents. Sandro for his part stuck to safer ground and contented himself with picking up what is already becoming his obligatory yellow card.

So ‘Arry took the hint, replaced Palacios with Modders, and within a blink of an eye we were cutting Charlton to ribbons.

The Next Big Young Thing

The nation’s media are never slow to wallow in hyperbole, and Andros Townsend’s debut has consequently been feted a little too affectedly in some quarters, but even when moored safely to the steady surface of perspective this was a creditable performance. He sounds intriguingly like he could be the love-child of a Greek god and a faux-Irish wonky-nosed ITV commentator, but vastly more relevantly he showed the requisite pace and enthusiasm, and also managed to marry it to a degree of common-sense when weighing up his on-ball options. Nice goal too. With Aaron Lennon flitting between sublime and anonymous young Master Townsend may yet receive further opportunities, albeit from the substitutes’ bench.

Defoe: Sprightly

Here at AANP Towers we were also quietly thrilled to see Defoe doing what he does best. His flaws have been dwelt upon long and hard in various quarters, but having someone loitering around the squad whose sole joy in life seems to be derived from scoring is jolly well handy. Treasure the following ten words as they will never, ever be spoken again about Jermain Defoe, but there was something curiously George Best-esque about his first. Both goals, and the defending that accompanied them, were reminiscent of playground football, but no matter. Defoe is firing, and in effect his return for the latter half of the season is equivalent to a new and extremely signing.

It is worth reiterating: key personnel rested, squad members getting 90 minutes, no injuries, clean sheet and so on – everything panned out just tickety-boo. A slight shame, perhaps, that we were drawn away to a Premiership side next up, but that is for another time: this was a good afternoon’s work.

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