All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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Leeds 1-3 Spurs: The Reason For David Bentley’s Resurgence?

In between various planes and trains back from Morocco I managed to catch yesterday’s goings-on at Elland Road, and jolly heartening they were too. One of my brothers, for whom the rigours of parenthood mean that Spurs-watching is less frequently indulged in these days, texted afterwards to note that, as the first full Spurs game he has seen in around a year, he was pleasantly surprised by our performance. He has a point, for it was an all-round performance of the sort to which we have grown accustomed in recent months – general neatness in possession, while creating a healthy number of chances. It is perhaps easy to lose sight of this amidst the frustrations of umpteen missed chances and haemorrhaged Premiership points, but on the whole these days we play an extremely attractive brand of football, and progress over the last 12 months has been exceptional.Interesting to reflect on how the team has evolved even within the space of half a season, partly through accident and partly through design. Having shot out of the traps back in August with Modric, Keane, Lennon and BAE in the ranks, last night we eased through with Kranjcar, Bale and Bentley each looking impressive. Whisper it, but recent weeks have shown that there really is a degree of squad-depth there, albeit still with a few bad apples in the White Hart Lane barrel.

This article, forwarded to me today by a particularly highly-regarded Spurs-supporting chum, makes the point that much of our progress has been due simply to the improvement of quality, on a player-for-player basis, over the last year or two. To borrow from the article:

Jermain Defoe is a better version of Darren Bent, Wilson Palacios is a better version of Didier Zokora, and the Spurs boss feels that Gudjohnsen is a better version of Keane. 

Bentley’s attitude in recent weeks has been admirable. Cynics may suggest that his motivation is personal rather than team-oriented, and personally I reckon his lip has been quivering with rage ever since Kranjcar arrived to steal his crown as Team Pretty-Boy, but whatever the reason I hugely approve of his approach. He has put his head down, slapped on even larger amounts of hair-gel and worked hard, producing decent quality both when delivering crosses and when cutting infield. He is by no means the finished article, and the smart-money remains on him heading elsewhere in the summer, but it is good to see him rising to the challenge.

Defoe 

Statistics could probably be reeled out to counter the “flat-track bully” claim (and from memory I can pick his goal against Man Utd earlier this season and a harshly-disallowed goal at Anfield, as well as a blinding strike against l’Arse a few years ago as examples of strikes against the top-four) but the little drum I’ll bang here is that even if he is deemed no more than a tormentor of English football’s less-refined urchins this is nevertheless a mighty handy quality to have at a club with Top-Four and trophy aims. Long may it continue. Given our struggles this season against those sides we ought to be demolishing, the occasional Defoe hat-trick against a weak defence is quite welcome, and if the moniker best describing him is that of “flat-track bully” that elicits little more than a shrug.

Honourable Mentions 

 

Some of the others however, still appear stuck permanently within cruise control. He probably can’t help it, but by smiling and sticking out his tongue each time he misses a chance Crouch gives the impression that settling for second-best is not a problem. Tottenham players should be cursing, swearing and ready to kill with their bare hands when they miss chances or concede goals, and by golly they should be busting a gut to make sure it does not happen again. In short, we need to see them reacting on the pitch with the same passion we show in the stands.

Jenas

Really, what’s the point?

Spurs Are On Their Way To Wembley

It was only Leeds, but it might have been a lot worse. Many Spurs teams of yore would have started timidly yesterday, given the venue and the weather, but to their credit our lot played well for all but the ten minutes or so prior to half-time. Removing foot from throttle after taking the lead does not rank too highly on the list of The World’s Greatest Sporting Ideas, but that aside it was a pretty professional performance. A nod of approval too for the none-too-subtle attitude towards closing out the game in the final minutes, all and sundry displaying a quite stoic determination to head for the corners and run the clock down. Bolton away is tricky but winnable – a description one might pin to the tournament as a whole.

 

AANP’s first book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, comes out on 16 Feb and is now available to pre-order from WHSmith,Amazon , TescoWaterstones and Play 

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

EXCLUSIVE!!!! Kind Of. Redknapp Off to Glasgow to Watch Scott Brown

How’s this for hard-hitting, bone-crunching, investigative journalism? AANP Towers can exclusively reveal, via its deep network of KGB-style informants who have brutally beaten the information out of their contacts, that our glorious leader ‘Arry, and his trusty sidekick Kevin Bond, are on a plane to Glasgow!!! Ahead of the Celtic – l’Arse game!!!

PRESUMABLY WITH A VIEW TO WATCHING SCOTT BROWN IN ACTION!!!!!!!If only I could fathom how to shift photos from my mobile to my pc I’d spoil you all with a frankly triffic picture of Redknapp asleep in his aisle seat. The fact that my mate has decided to endanger the lives of all on board the plane, by keeping his mobile turned on during the flight, seems a price worth paying for such earth-shattering news. You lucky things.Scott Brown. Not many people seem to know an awful lot about the chap. Descriptions currently being ascribed to him include “hard-working”, “dirty” and “a Scottish Zokora”. Good grief.

My avidly Celtic-supporting mate – the one endangering all on the plane – has previously described him as a “terrier” in the Roy Keane mould, albeit one who “needs to develop”. This suggests that he is possibly being eyed up as an understudy to sergeant Wilson, or maybe as an occasional partner, for those roll-up-the-sleeves-and-fight occasions. However, the jury at AANP Towers will remain out for the foreseeable future. Having exhausted myself unearthing such an exclusive scoop I’ll sit back and let everyone else argue amongst themselves regarding the quality of the lad. I guess we can all cast our beady eyes over him in tonight’s game. In the mean-time, watch this space for more dynamite, jaw-dropping revelations about Spurs. AANP Towers – where the mundane is dressed in unnecessary glitz, and months-old gossip is regurgitated as “exclusive”…

 

Jimmy Greaves. No two ways about it, a true Tottenham legend – and AANP wants to hear your memories of the man, from both on and off the pitch. Our record goalscorer is, naturally enough, one of the players featuring in Spurs’ Cult Heroes, the forthcoming book looking at players who achieved legendary status amongst us fans for what they did at the club. Not everyone was lucky enough to have seen him in action, but if you did, or somehow came into contact with him, please do share right here.
Memories of Jurgen Klinsmann also welcome, over here.

Spurs 2009/10 Preview – Ten Aims For The New Season

So, it’s once more unto the breach, for the new season is upon us. The friendlies are done, fantasy league teams picked – all that’s left is for AANP Towers to rustle up a list of top ten aims for season 2009-10, and then we can get cracking…1. European Qualification

Top six, or a trophy. Or both. The bookies make us sixth favourites for the title, and sixth spot is an aim that straddles the divide between “ambitious” and “realistic”. In more private confines we may peer hopefully towards fourth spot, particularly given the sales made by Wenger this summer, but there will be tough competition for that, from City, Villa and Everton as well as l’Arse. However, we ought to finish above a couple of those. Given the squad we now boast, and the absence of European distraction, anything less than Europa League qualification would be a disappointment.

2. 50 Goals From The Strikers 

3. Avoid Long-Ball Overkill 

4. Clean Sheets

 

5. Four-Four Draws 

6. A Song For Jenas 

7. Look After Modric And Palacios Like Our Lives Depend On It 

8. Hudd and O’ Hara to Come of Age 

9. Give The Kids A Chance 

10. Keep Ledley Fit 

11. More Insane Transfer Rumours 

 

Spurs’ Cult Heroes
Final opinions sought on the top 20 Spurs Cult Heroes – players who achieved legendary status amongst us fans for what they did at the club. The majority pick themselves, but still some debate over the final few – Waddle? Teddy? Gilzean? White? Freund? Conn? Lineker? Burkinshaw? Have a read here, and voice your opinion.

Zokora, Gunter, Dogtanian and the Scary Crouch Rumour

Ahoy-hoy. You may have noticed an eerie silence descending over AANP Towers in the last fortnight. Apologies – ‘twas initially intended as no more than a short break for an All-Action Stag Weekend (the impressive casualty list including A&E for the stag, a broken limb, a black eye, two lost phones, one lost wallet and a lost passport). It then morphed seamlessly into a full-blown two-week period of plain bone idleness on my part, at least in the world of Tottenham ruminations. All revved up now though, and with plenty about which to report, which makes a pleasant change this summer.Do-Do-Do Didier 

Plenty has already been said about Zokora’s departure on other corners of the interweb, and the consensus – that he was a headless chicken – is one with which I agree. His time in lilywhite was epitomised, for me, by his moment at the end of the 2008 Carling Cup Final – the adventurous dash forward, crowned by wild flailing shots when he sighted goal. His energetic style ought to make him a success in La Liga, where the game is typically a mite slower. A likeable enough chap, but the good folk of AANP Towers are not particularly bothered to see him go.

That is not meant to sound harsh, for Zokora was certainly committed to the Tottenham cause – which we all appreciated. It is more that the departure of players, even those for whom I feel great affinity, no longer bothers me, for such is the nature of the game. As a crestfallen whippersnapper, I desperately tried to maintain a stiff upper lip when Dogtanian waved goodbye to his parents and set off to seek his fame and fortune. The incident taught me a valuable lesson: that people in all walks of life – be they colleagues, animated Muskehounds or favoured footballers – inevitably move on, no matter how much they are cherished. Zokora was never a player I cherished particularly, and I therefore greet his departure with little more than a blasé shrug. Zokora was Premiership standard and Palacios is Champions League, so the business done in 2009 represents progress for Spurs.

Gunter to Forest 

Still, unlike Zokora, Gunter is young enough to improve. As such it would have made some sense to loan him out for another year, or at least collect a fee which reflected his potential for improvement.

This is hardly a cause that will instil in me the urge to make a placard, yell into a megaphone and upturn parked cars, but it certainly had me raising a surprised eyebrow.

Downing to Villa – Huzzah! 

Football is Back – Huzzah! 

Cheers too for the inclusion in the starting line-up vs Exeter of Danny Rose. While I accept that one Under-21 starlet does not a Busby Babes team make, we are nevertheless verging on notoriety for our reluctance to blood home-grown youth, so Rose’s presence in the first starting XI of the pre-season rather warmed the AANP cockles. He’s an exciting prospect, and I sincerely hope that one or two from Rose, Bostock, Obika, Livermore et al at least become regulars on our bench this season. Polite applause also for the disco feet shown from Livermore in setting up Defoe’s goal from Bournemouth.

Jeers, however, for the pairing of Keane and Defoe as our front-two for the Exeter game. Really? Is that the best strike pairing ‘Arry could muster of after a whole summer’s thought?

Crouch? Ye Gads No! 

(Interestingly, I last season heard either Graham Taylor or David Pleat mention on the radio that Crouch’s general uselessness in the air is due to the fact that, as an elongated teen, he rarely had to jump to win headers, and therefore never really worked his lower back, to develop a Les Ferdinand-esque leaping ability.)

AANP’s famous Who Would Buy Him? technique for gauging a player’s quality is already being implemented, with Sunderland and Fulham trying to lasso him. Champions League he ain’t, yet he is one of the few players in whom ‘Arry has gone on record to report interest this summer. I would rather persist with Pav, and have Obika on hand as our fourth striker.

The Week’s Tottenham Transfer Murmurings

Ruud van Nistelrooy – While I’ve always been keen to hurl down some funky shapes on the boogie floors of London’s finer night-spots on a booze-fuelled Saturday night, I’ve been honest enough to admit that I’m not a natural on the dance-floor. No, really. But by golly if I were, I would have danced an impromptu jig of delight at the news that we’re sniffing at Ruud van Nistelrooy. And I would have added a most inappropriate Michael Jackson-esque whoop at the news that this thoroughbred could be acquired for the thrifty sum of £1.25 million.£1.25 milion! No footballer can be bought for that amount these days. It’s like the football equivalent of 10p. Once upon a time 10p would at least buy a packet of chewing-gum, and £1.25 million would pick up a young but decidedly average English centre-back. Now, however, both sums are worthless in isolation and Anton Ferdinand costs £8 million. We could probably fund the RvN purchase by selling Gilberto. (Although RvN’s wages would presumably be astronomical.)

After the lamentable, waking nightmares that have been the Cisse and Kenwyne Jones rumours, the van Nistelrooy whispers are sounds as sweet as a Julie London solo. It may only be a short-term solution, but that’s fine with me – long-term contracts mean precious little these days anyway, and besides, who amongst us mere mortals can predict who will still be at the Lane 12 months hence? No, short-term is fine. We certainly need a physical presence to coax the best out of Keane/Defoe, and someone who is a proven goalscorer at Premiership level is all the better. I would quite happily see RvN, Keane, Defoe and young Obika as our four of choice in attack next season.

Sulley Muntari – Inter have rejected an ‘Arry bid for him, so sayeth his agent. Should this be true, the custodians of AANP Towers would nod in approval at ‘Arry’s wise judgement, but Jermaine Jenas may well furrow his brow, while T. Huddlestone Esquire would probably choke on his burger and chips, and nuggets, and sausages and beans, and onion rings, and dessert, in disgust. ‘Arry has said he’s targeting probably three key players this summer, and if one is a central midfielder it spells curtains for the likes of JJ and the Hudd.

Incidentally, there was also an extremely enthusiastic response chez AANP to the rumours of Mikael Arteta being snooped after; but alas, this is probably my fabled naivety coming to the fore once more – for, as has been pointed out elsewhere, such a rumour is probably the work of a dastardly agent angling for his client to get a pay-rise. There’s little chance of Everton selling the blighter. Would love to see him alongside Palacios though, would be like an improved version of JJ.

Didier Zokora – The futures of Jenas and Hudd may be uncertain, but that of do-do-do Didier appears to be gaining clarity, with the phrases “Sevilla” and “£5 million” being bandied around with care-free liberality. This seems mutually beneficial. He’s done a decent job for us, but with Palacios doing the business there is little scope for Zokora at the Lane, and he’s thinking about his international career, with the World Cup less than a year away (less than a year – huzzah!). It’s a decent sum for us to pick up too. (Apologies, I ought to have sprinkled in there somewhere the phrase “loyal servant”. Most remiss of me.)

David Bentley – Elsewhere, the brain-hurting sum being used to take Little Miss Ronaldo to Madrid has livened up what has, in truth, been a rather moribund football week, and given everyone a chance to demonstrate their knowledge – or lack thereof – of European footballers, by trying to name possible Man Utd targets to replace the little princess. I won’t bother explosing my own ignorance, but it did occur to me that, had this happened last summer, one David Bentley might well have been a name on a few lips. It’s a long time in football, is a year.

Sayonara Suckers – Who’s Leaving Spurs This Summer?

Like the Ferrerro Rocher Ambassador, we at AANP Towers are rather spoiling you today. Not only are we providing a hastily cobbled-together list of potential Lane departees, but we’re also implementing the flawless, scientifically-proven Who-Would-Buy-Them guide to the standard of team they would attract, thereby ascertaining whether they’re worth keeping.The Hudd
Primarily on this list because he’s yapped a few times about needing regular first-team football. Opinion may be split about quite how good he is, but I don’t think anyone in lilywhite would want to see him leave. Problem is, he needs more strings to his bow in order to command that regular starting-berth. He needs to boss games against the Premiership’s bigger teams. A bit of energy wouldn’t go amiss either. I suspect ‘Arry will stick with Jenas or bring in a new, first-choice midfielder, and such straws would break this well-fed camel’s back. Rather a shame.
Exit Potential: 6.5
Who Would Buy Him? Fulham, West Ham.

David Bentley
Don’t pelt me with rotten tomatoes, but I rather like the lad. He’s obviously got oodles of talent beneath all that hair gel, but from day one it just hasn’t worked. A regular (ie 10 consecutive games) on the right-wing may well have seen him crack it, but instead he’s had to sit on the bench and mutter curses to his reflection in his pocket mirror, as Aaron Lennon has gone from strength to strength on the right. Whenever he has had the chance he’s tried far too hard, the Pele impressions rather unnecessary when he just needed to keep it simple. We’ll rue his absence if Lennon gets injured next season, especially if we do bring in the sort of big centre-froward who would thrive upon Bentley’s crossing ability. However, ‘Arry himself has said

‘David is obviously going to think, “hang on, I’m not in the team even when Aaron Lennon’s not fit, and maybe it’s time I moved on”. Which rather spells things out.
Exit Potential: 9.5
Who Would Buy Him? Villa, Man City, EvertonDarren Bent
Poor sod. 17 goals in 42 appearances – precious few of which were 90 minutes in length – is a healthy record, yet we’ll probably remember him more for that miss against Pompey, and Mrs Redknapp comparisons it drew. He’s really not a bad striker, but neither is he the perfect foil for either Keane or Defoe, so it appears that another forward is on the shopping list this summer. Worth sticking a tenner on him to score against us next season.
Exit Potential: 8.5
Who Would Buy Him: Sunderland, Blackburn

Roman Pavluychenko
We’d all like to see him start at the Lane next season, refreshed and with a command of the vernacular that rivals Stephen Fry’s, but the straight-down-the-tunnel hissy-fit that accompanied his substitution vs Man City, at the tail-end of last season, left ‘Arry decidedly unimpressed. Whether or not he would be first-choice remains to be seen, but every now and then there have been flashes of class (Burnely at home, for example), and offloading him so soon would be a bizarrely impatient move.
Exit Potential: 6
Who Would Buy Him? Ooh, shiny foreign teams in the Champions League, that’s who.

Didier Zokora
The defensive midfielder’s position is now very firmly moulded into the barrel-chested shape of Wilson Palacios, and the Scott Brown rumours suggest that ‘Arry is looking elsewhere for an understudy. Do-do-do Didier is unlikely to want to stick around as fourth-choice right-back either, so it appears that the elusive goal will, like the contents of the briefcase in Pulp Fiction, remain tantalisingly unseen.
Exit Potential: 7
Who Would Buy Him? Monaco, Nancy. Or Wigan.

Jamie O’ Hara
Full-blooded, bulldog-spirit, never-say-die, heart-on-his-sleeve and other such tedious clichés are all well and good, but the scales tip rather heavily towards graft over natural skill with young Three-Touch O’ Hara. Not that I’d like to see the back of him – far from it. His energy, bite and left-footedness are valuable commodities in the Tottenham midfield, and his introduction vs Burnely in the Carling Cup, and goal vs West Ham, were indications of what he brings to the team. However, he is on this list because the Lennon-Palacios- Modric-A.N.Other midfield will leave little scope for regular starts, and this young man’s feet may soon start to itch.
Exit Potential: 5
Who Would Buy Him? Sunderland, Wolves

Giovani dos Santos
Would love to have seen him given a chance – Giovani left, and Modders in the centre would have been interesting – but ‘Arry doesn’t seen to fancy him, and he was apparently one fax away from joining Pompey in the January transfer window. Having all drooled over the Barca way in midweek, it seems a shame to let a Nou Camp alumnus wander merrily out the exit door, but such is the Tottenham way.
Exit Potential: 9
Who Would Buy Him? Villarreal, Deportivo. Or Ipswich.

 

Shameless Plugs: The AANP 2008-09 awards are here, and if you’re really suffering you can join the AANP Facebook group or follow the lifestyle on Twitter.

Tottenham Hotspur 2008-09: The All Action No Plot Awards

Suffering withdrawal? Desperately seeking an unnecessarily nail-biting one-nil win? Confused by the absence of someone at whom to scream “F*ck sake Jenas”? Then knock yourself out with the All Action No Plot Awards, and re-live Tottenham Hotspur, season 2008-09Two-Points-Eight-Games Award For Completely Turning Around His Season
Step forward Heurelho Gomes. Firmly established as our number one now, but by Jove not so long the streets of White Hart Lane were filled to bursting with fans tripping over one another to hold the exit door open for him. As well as an almost vampiric inability to deal with crosses there was the fumble v Villa, the suicidal dribble vs Udinese and the hot-potato-style nadir vs Fulham. However, a jolly impressive comeback has seen him become central to our record-breaking defensive form at the Lane, and saves such as those vs West Ham away, and Chelski and West Brom at home, were each worth goals. Although he was rubbish in the Carling Cup Final penalty shoot-out.

The Manuel Que? Award For Not Understanding A Ruddy Word of English
While the passport-wielding likes of Corluka, Assou-Ekotto and Modric seem to understand what’s going on, and are presumably sufficiently au fait with the English language, poor old Roman Pavluychenko has all season wandered the pitch with the air of a man who has absolutely no idea what anyone is saying to him. Indeed, in one of ‘Arry’s first games in charge, Pav’s translator was instructed by our glorious leader to tell him “Just f*cking run about”. Mercifully, he has a sound understanding of the game in general, hopefully will lead to better things next season.

The Big Girl’s Blouse Award For Wearing Female Accessories On A Football Pitch
Not so much an award as a naming and shaming. Aaron Lennon in tights is one thing, as one can – just about – see the medical reason for this. However, Jonathan Woodgate and Luka Modric ought to be docked half their wages for that alice-band nonsense. Man up, for goodness’ sake. (Corluka escapes this ignominy, by the skin of his teeth, for doing the decent thing and getting a haircut.)

Defender-Who-Looks-Most-Like-That-Croatian-Doctor-From-ER Award
Only really knew Vedran Corluka by name when we signed him at the start of the season, but although a little one-paced, his rapport with Aaron Lennon on the right has bordered on the psychic at times. None of which has anything to do with his most uncanny resemblance to some chap called Goran Visnjic of the tellybox. He plays a doctor in ER, and apparently auditioned for the role of James Bond too (Visnjic, not Corluka).

The Fat Frank Lampard Award For Eating All The Pies
The Hudd
, by a country mile. He could give Luka Modric a few tips.

The Louis Armstrong Award For Jazz-Hands
A simple one, this. His go-faster eyebrow stripes may make him down wif da kidz, but little Aaron Lennon’s jazz hands routine, every time he revs up, is straight out of the 1920s. Further dainty effect is added by that delicate hop and skip of anguish, whenever he loses the ball. Bless.

The Oliver Reed Award For Fondness Of The Bottle
I have to admit that a piece of me died when news broke of Ledley King’s arrest for getting tanked and trying to lamp a bouncer, or whatever it was. At the risk of sounding like my own mother, he always seemed so quiet, mild-mannered and well-behaved. Such a nice boy. We all turned a blind eye to the post Carling Cup-win celebrations, and even when tabloids printed other pictures of him stumbling out of clubs, we tried to ignore it. Bit difficult to ignore now though. It’s always the quiet ones, eh?

Most Likely To Get Away With Murder Award
Let’s face it, Robbie Keane has been near-enough getting away with murder in the last few weeks anyway – picking up more in a week than we do in a year, for generally loitering around the centre-circle, pointing and shouting, and doing his damnedest to stay away from the opposition area. No matter what he does (or, perhaps, doesn’t do) it seems he can’t be dropped or substituted – which has me wondering quite how far his shield of immunity stretches.

The Chris Bridges Award For Most Ludicrous Haircut of The Season
Mercifully, not too much competition here, if you exclude the long-haired alice-band pansies. Jermain Defoe dabbled in a dubious Maltesers-on-the-head Craig David-esque effort for a few weeks, but then got injured and reappeared with an eminently more sensible short back and sides. Young Bostock may offer some competition next year with that spikey Mohawk thing, but as he’s only 14 or whatever he can get away with it. However, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, we salute you. Unbraid your braids, and give us more of that frankly awesome afro.

Michael Ballack Award For Being The Biggest Loser Of The Season
Last year Herr Ballack captained the losing team in the Euro Championships final, lost on penalites in the Champs League final, was runner-up in the Premiership and lost the Carling Cup final. However, Gareth Bale would probably settle for any of those, having now failed to win a single league game with us in the two seasons since he joined us. (Honourable mention here to Jamie O’ Hara, who was in tears at last year’s Carling Cup Final after being left out of the squad, and then missed in the penalty shoot-out of this year’s final).

Begbie From Trainspotting Award For Being A Truly Terrifying Scot
Joe Jordan’s inscrutable stare reminds me of the more ferocious breed of militant teachers from back in the day, but I think Alan Hutton wins this one, for reportedly beating up his own Dad or some such business. Cripes. Rather looking forward to seeing him lose the plot on the pitch one day, and batter the life out of some random unknowing opponent.

Christopher Columbus Award For The Most Directionally-Challenged Player At The Club
Assou-Ekotto almost scored a 30 yard, volleyed own-goal away at Burnley, but as regulars will know, we at AANP Towers were only ever going to award this title to one person. He passes backwards, he passes sideways; he passes sideways, he passes backwards (even though he’s actually a pretty talented footballer); inevitably, it’s Jermaine Jenas.

The Karaoke Award For The Player Who Most Deserves His Own Song
6 November 2008. White Hart Lane. Darren Bent has just scored his first hat-trick for the club, and whose name are we singing? Jermain Defoe’s, even though, at that time, Defoe was still a Portsmouth player. And when the “Defoe” choruses finished, our salutes rang out to John Bostock, who at that point still hadn’t yet made a senior appearance for us.
 
However, poor old Bent doesn’t actually receive this award. In a momentous act of goodwill and peace, I award it to your friend and mine, Jermaine Jenas. One of the problems with JJ is the lack of the confidence-bordering-on-arrogance that inspires an attacking player to take a gamble and try to be a match-winner. He’s capable, as he occasionally demonstrates, but all too often he’ll take the safe option (as ranted about above). Maybe if he had his own song he would be a bit more adventurous? And start passing forwards?

Terminator 3 Award For Being Expensive And Eagerly-Awaited But Ultimately A Complete Letdown
There are a few contenders here, which is testimony to the misjudgement of Comolli and his clowns last summer. Pav will hopefully come good eventually; Giovani is unlikely to be given a chance in lilywhite; but the most disappointing has been poor old pretty-boy David Bentley. Not really his fault, as he’s not been given too many games in his own position, but he’s hardly helped himself by trying Maradonna impressions every time he’s been on the pitch and received the ball. Just keep it simple lad. At £15 mil or so, and with that reputation, we expected more.

Jurgen Klinsmann Award For Being The Signing Of The Season
Corluka has been steady, Gomes has found his form and Defoe has looked razor-sharp in the handful of games in which he’s featured. After a brief teething period, Luka Modric has become our creative hub, and is rightly revered at the Lane, but in a photo-finish the barrel chest of Wilson Palacios gives him the award. He’s what we’ve needed for years – and whatever criticism we level at ‘Arry, there can be no doubt that this was an inspired signing.

Ole Gunnar Solksjaer Award For The Most Inspired Substitution Of The Season
This may raise a few eyebrows, as ‘Arry would generally stick with his starting XI even if his life depended on making a change or two. However, cast your minds back to Sunday 15 March, away to Aston Villa, when poor old Didier Zokora’s blood was turned inside-out by Ashley Young. Do-do-do Didier had already been booked, when he was brutally but rightly hauled off by ‘Arry. Corluka kept Young quiet, and we went on to win 2-1, an away day which, at the time, ranked amongst our best results of the season, and was part of our run of tip-top spring form.

The Saving Private Ryan Award For The Most Mental, 20 Minute, All-Action-No-Plot Sequence Of The Season
What the hell happened in the second half against Man Utd? Admittedly the penalty awarded against us was harsh, but that was just one goal. Yet the entire team took it as their cue to stumble around like headless chickens as the champions ran riot, and a 0-2 lead became a 5-2 deficit in under half an hour. (An honourable mention should also go to the team that pitched up away to Burnley, although that torment was dragged out for a good 90 minutes.)

Nelson Mandela Award For Humility and Modesty
Truly a man for others, our glorious leader ‘Arry Redknapp has, since the day he arrived, made sure that everyone understands that our turnaround is entirely due to the players. Never short to sing their praises, the frequent references to Two-Points-Eight-Games™ are always followed by the conclusion “And it’s to the players’ credit that they’ve achieved this”. Unfortunately, the scandalous editing processes of Sky, Setanta, the BBC et al, mean that these closing sentiments tend typically to be edited out.

 

More fond reminiscences on season 2008-09 are imminent. Meantime, by all means do the Facebook thang, or follow the AANP lifestyle on Twitter.

Liverpool – Spurs Preview: What’s So Special About Home Advantage?

Eighth is looking likeliest, which I think we’d all have accepted after Two Points Eight Games™. While AANP could not be bothered to work out exactly how well we’ve done this calendar year, I’d expect Spurs would be somewhere near the top of any table based solely on 2009 form. Home form all season has been spot-on, the record of only conceding ten goals in nineteen games mildly astonishing.Liverpool’s home record is similarly impressive – unbeaten in the league at Anfield all season – adding a few inches to our already tall order of European qualification (which requires us to win and Fulham to lose at home to Everton).

A Digression Which Rather Hijacks The Entire Article 

So does home support make all the difference? There certainly is something to be said for the full-blown, cacophonous atmosphere of White Hart Lane making the hairs stand up on the back of the neck. Never been to Anfield, but the Kop’s reputation is presumably well-earned. For sure then, the players ought really to get a kick out of that sort of atmosphere. Indeed, even at amateur level, just having a few hot lady-friends chirping in with the occasional squeal can add a little motivation. (Me, shallow? Never.)

However, the cynic in me has been motoring away all season, and is unwilling to yield any ground now by simply accepting that “home advantage” is some sort concrete phenomenon we all accept without demur. It only seems to be a concept, existing solely in people’s minds, much like the notion that ugly people are actually beautiful inside. Home advantage seems to equate to having more bald fat shouty men than the opposition, which might add an extra dose of adrenaline, but doesn’t strike me as a good reason to drop a striker and play five in midfield.

I can appreciate that it would be rather intimidating to play at a ground of 30,000 people, all of whom are screeching abuse – but it’s not a fist-fight. The good souls in the stands don’t get to set foot on the turf, and therefore their contribution ought to be limited.

Star Trek definitely gains something from the big-screen experience, but would still be a cracking action film if watched on dvd in a mate’s living-room. One suspects that the dvd version will have the same plot. And yet, venue influences a team’s game-plan. It’s an unspoken agreement before a match that the onus will be on the home team to have first crack at wresting the initiative. The away team sets out its stall to “soak up the pressure”, “silence the crowd” and other clichés from the beaks of parrots.

It’s not a particular complaint, more an idle musing on a hungover Saturday afternoon. Still, as with suggesting to parents that new-born babies actually look shrivelled and hideous, I imagine it’s not an argument I’m going to win. Accepting that away form will typically be worse than home form is just one of those quirks of life we accept and work around.

(Nevertheless, while some people yearn for nuclear disarmament and an end to third-world poverty, I idly dream of the day when teams dismiss the concept of “home advantage” and instead do their damnedest to come out of the traps all guns blazing every game, irrespective of location.)

The Little Matter Of The Football Match 

The curious question of whether Robbie Keane would have been allowed to play against a Liverpool team for whom he stood to win a Premiership medal is now irrelevant, so we can instead watch again for clues as to what strike-force ‘Arry will adopt next season.

And a scary final note – in 24 hours or so the three-month break begins. Not sure I’m quite ready to go cold-turkey.

Spurs 1-0 West Ham: Defeat of A Faceless Henchman

Really not sure about this whole business of enmity with West Ham. I’m supposed to loathe that lot, but it just seemed like too much effort to scream abuse at them until my face turned purple, or go wandering the High Road afterwards armed with a deranged stare and a machete, or whatever the kids are using these days.I don’t want to sound disloyal, and their fans certainly become rather excitable – but I just don’t care about them enough to hate them.

They’re not based particularly close to us. Their manager is quite likeable. They will end up selling the best of their players to us anyway (before we in turn sell them on to Man Utd). I only know one Hammers fan and he’s a decent fella. I guess what it boils down to is that they just aren’t any real threat to us. Even if they finish above us they’re no real threat to us – in terms of history, fan-base, financial backing or long-term prospects.

With this in mind I didn’t bother antagonising them when previewing the game (they nevertheless bit anyway). And now I can’t be bothered to gloat about victory. West Ham are no ?ber-villain to me; they’re just another faceless henchman to be despatched, en route to a bigger showdown. Another game ticked off, another three points in the bag. That’s as much vitriol as I can muster I’m afraid.

And so to some things that caught the eye on Saturday.

1. Ankle

I only really began to notice how many times per day I pivot on my ankle once I’d sprained it. Admittedly this has little to do with Saturday’s game, but as it’s been my Thought Of The Day for a record seven consecutive days I figured I’d mention it.

2. Too many of our midfielders require Palacios alongside them to look good 

The Hudd continues to polarise opinion. Did he play well or not? To be honest, judgements on this were probably made prior to kick-off. The Hoddle-Reincarnated camp point to his catalogue of gorgeous passes; the Fat-And-Lazy camp point to his general lack of mobility and life-depends-on-it energy. Mind you, the thought of unleashing a Hudd-Palacios midfield combo against Newcastle next week does rather set the pulse racing.

(Some have naughtily suggested that Hudd’s inclusion on Saturday was just a means of advertising him to potential summer suitors. Honestly, as if our glorious leader would be so cynical. Tsk tsk.) 

Zokora’s performance reinforced my opinion that if we really are to mount a serious challenge to the Top Four next season we’ll need to bring in a better understudy for Palacios.

3. Top Dollar Can Buy Top Class 

By contrast our Pav cost £14 mil and has shown he can cut it on the international stage. He had his back to goal and was offering no obvious threat, but put on his dancing shoes, turned his man and scored a peach of a goal. Out of nothing. Reminded me of his goal vs Burnley at home – just a little flash of class, which separates men from boys. It’s the bit of quality you can get when you pay top dollar (or, bearing in mind that Bent cost more than Pav, when you spend top dollar wisely). He still cuts a frustrating figure a lot of the time, but those moments remind that form is temporary, but class is permanent.

4. Modric – So Good He’s Biblical 

So a happy Easter. A win against West Ham, but it might as well have been West Brom for all I cared. Anything less than three points vs Newcastle next week would be pretty shoddy. Thereafter things could get tricky, but we’re definitely safe from the drop, and Europe is still possible. Bring on the next of the faceless henchmen.

Spurs – West Ham Preview: Cheer Up Chaps

Well this is awkward. Somehow this week I find myself in the unusual, and to be honest, plain uncomfortable position of having to raise everyone else’s spirits. This is foreign territory. Generally more at ease as a pessimistic misanthrope.However, a curious role-reversal now sees me rather looking forward to the season finale. Meanwhile Spurs fans all around me have been sighing melancholy sighs and eyeing steep cliffs over which they might hurl themselves.

The reason seems to be one bad match – in fact, one bad ten-minute spell. Seems strange to me, but the ten-minute meltdown against Blackburn has got Spurs fans tripping over themselves to write off our season and slap the wrists of anyone who cheerfully drops the phrase “European qualification” into conversation.

Curious this, as it’s usually the reverse – i.e. it’s normally one good ten-minute spell, which has us all screeching away about Champions League qualification. For whatever reason though, it’s been sackcloth and ashes this week rather than deluded optimism. The defeat to Blackburn has deflated the masses.

Reasons To Be Cheerful

Galling though it was, the Blackburn defeat did not strike me as a return to the bad old (not so old, really) days of widespread sloppiness and a marshmellow-soft spine. I honestly think that if we keep playing like we did against Blackburn we’ll do fairly well in the last few games. Beginning on Saturday at home to West Ham, who currently occupy the seventh spot we should be eyeing.

Admittedly, should we lose on Saturday  we’ll be nine points off the pace with six to play – it will be game over. Win it though, and we’ll be three points off Europe with six to play. Game on, n’est-ce pas?

The Blackburn finale aside, our recent league form has been mighty impressive – four wins, two draws and good performances. Add to that 70 or so good minutes against Blackburn, and we actually remain one of the form teams in the division.

Moreover, our competitors for seventh are hardly the giants of contemporary European football – Wigan, Fulham and Man City, as well as West Ham. Achieving seventh would not mean punching particularly high above our weight, if at all, as this motley crew are all liable to stumble a couple of times en route to the finish line. This is more of a scrap to be less bad than several other harmless mid-table drifters – seventh is a fairly realistic aim, particularly if we can win on Saturday.

So I’m therefore quite perky about the prospect of this end-of-season run-in, even if every time I say as much the music stops and tumbleweed rolls by.

Reasons To Be Depressed

Mind you, it hardly takes much effort to slip back into pessimistic mode. For a start, as well as costing us three points last weekend, that wretched second yellow card for Palacios means he’s suspended for this Saturday. Replacing him would be like trying to replace Mr T as B.A. – there just isn’t anyone else cut out for the role. With no B.A around, Face Man (Modders) will find it a lot harder to pull, if you don’t mind me wandering a little off-course with the analogy.

Presumably do-do-do Dider will take the place of Palacios, but although they start the game on roughly the same patch of turf, Zokora and Palacios are vastly different beasts. We should therefore not expect too much midfield enforcing from the Ivorian, who rather prefers a long meandering gallop to a raw-leg dinner in the centre . I guess it will be a useful exercise, as Palacios’ penchant for a tasty challenge is likely to bring him his fair share of cautions, and therefore suspensions, in the future. There will be more days like this. Gives some food for thought as the summer transfer window creeps up.

Not quite sure how West Ham have found themselves in seventh. Last time I bothered to check they were in a bit of a mess down the rear-end of the division, with Zola’s beaming pearly whites firmly locked behind a worried frown. Now they’re in pole position for the last European spot. Madness, I tell you.

As mentioned, win this one and we’ll be right back in the hunt for Europe. Plenty to play for.

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