The Blog that's not always wrong.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

I want my granny back

.You can always tell what sort of match it was by where it comes on the Match of the Day running order. I watched the Fulham game and knew we would be on last even though there was the traditional full programme, just like the good old days on Saturday afternoons.
A 0-0 draw is almost certain to be last anyway, even Hanson, a defender, still finds it hard to appreciate the qualities in a goalless encounter, though not as much as Lineker and Shearer obviously.
But to be fair to them not only was it goalless , it was almost totally lacking in excitement, had very little flair and precious little to put a warm Boxing Day glow in the stomachs of either set of fans. Sherry and mince pies this was not.
Fulham had limited ambitions but in the event could have nicked it late on but for the bravery of Gomes who had already made an outstanding save earlier on from an overhead kick by Dempsey.
We had one shot from Bentley and another by Lennon which were well saved; a glancing header by Ledley could have sneaked in and another by Modric which was just off target. All the accolades went to the back five and apart from Lennon the rest were unmemorable.
Even Modric normally our best player was wayward with his passing. Jenas played like a man who wasn't expect to play after coming on for Huddleston who turned an ankle early on. Bent seemed to be still suffering from the flu and worried about passing something on to his team-mates, including the ball, kept well away from everybody.
The Harry effect has evaporated and the players we are being associated with smack of desperation. Bellamy would be a disruptive influence on our young squad, ignoring his merits as a player which are mainly in the past. Don't let Giovani go for a round of golf with him whatever you do Harry. Downing might well turn out to be another Bentley and you can only carry so much baggage on a misfiring vehicle. He would at least give the attack a better balance and allow Lennon to play where he is most effective, on the right.
We are above the relegation zone, sorry to go on about it, on goal average only. I am beginning to be as doubtful about Harry's team selection as I was about Ramos. What does O'Hara have to do to get a starting place? Or Gunter for that matter. Bale isn't going to improve on the bench. And what about our talented youngsters and reserves? Taarabt, Ghaly, Boateng, Mason, Smith, Obika, Parratt, Rose and Dervite have only mustered about 20 minutes between them all season, although we are still in all the cup competitions.
If Harry regards these competitions as a 'nuisance' in the effort to get clear of 'The Zone' then surely we should have seen more of these players. This is from a manager reputed to be good with young players. I would give any or all of these a try before considering Bellamy. If we only get a point at West Brom on Sunday we could be back in the bottom three, having taken only two of the nine points available over Xmas.
Ledley is another worry. Not only is he only available once a week at best, his mobility looks suspect. He gave the ball away to Duff for their late winner at Newcastle with a weak defensive header; committed a series of uncharacteristic fouls against Fulham, some in dangerous positions, and was nearly undone by Johnson who fortunately tripped himself up before Gomes made the crucial save.

And so we went to W.Brom for another 'must win' game. Aren't they all? Anyway make that one point out of nine .We controlled the game without making any chances until Ekotto, trying a fancy stepover tackle with twist was given a red card for his trouble. Harry said it was a fair decision and Tony Mowbray said it wasn't.
After that the game was predictable. West Brom. slowly saw more of the ball and got a goal eventually despite a push on Dawson by Bednar. With only ten men and Bent on his own we needed to hold onto the ball instead of playing it upfield too quickly. We went for the equaliser and conceded another.
Gomes made several good saves, and a couple of flaps, and the back four were again competent: Modric and Lennon are both playing well but we didn't have an effective striker to capitalise on any chances, not that we made many today. With only ten men the team worked hard, closing down and covering, but West Brom made hard work of beating us and we should have at least held out for a draw. The game was spoilt by poor refereeing and my mood reminds me of the dark days towards the end of Ramos.
I make no apologies for saying that I still have that sinking feeling and no doubt if this poor sequence of results continues more will be joining me. We may be able to bring in some reinforcements in the transfer window but in our current position and with Harry's lack of pulling power I am not confident that they will good enough to save us. Negative thoughts perhaps but one man's negativity is another man's realism.

Harry certainly rescued us and gave us hope and full credit to him for that, but we are still on the edge of the relegation places and the bottom clubs are closing in. I keep hearing that we would have sold our grannies to be where we are today after Ramos left, but, if we do get relegated, I want my granny back.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The return of that sinking feeling

A comment by 'Gibb' in the Newcastle match thread made me realise that I too was feeling the same disappointment, verging on anger that I felt in the days of Martin Jol when we were chasing a top four position and lost to late goals or failed to convert possession into winning scores. Seen in the light of our current travails those were indeed 'Happy Days '.

Lately I had become quite serene about the Juande Ramos implosion and was quite philosophical about the possibility of an impending nose dive into the Championship. The poor results at the end of last season were hidden beneath the euphoria of the Carling Cup victory and the 5-1 defeat of Arsenal. Finishing in the bottom half below West Ham could be shrugged off with thoughts of the season to come. 'Nothing to play for' except pride and the fans of course.

The early arrival of Modric compensated for the probable loss of Berbatov and the early hopeful signs under Juande in pre-season offset the unforeseen departure of Robbie Keane. I look upon some of my predictions pre-season with a wistful realisation that I had fallen for the hype and my own hopeless optimistic streak again. This could be the season!

What could possibly go wrong? What indeed. The start of this season was so disastrous, of Titanic proportions as the press were keen to remind us , that I steeled myself for the worst. In the meantime I adopted the Mr.Micawber defense that 'Something will turn up' . Believing that Ramos and the squad were good enough to 'gel' and turn things round I maintained a defiant belief that changing managers might further unsettle the team and the Club.

Something did turn up: Harry Redknapp. Without a doubt he has turned things round and apparently Levy's instincts were better than mine.We have hope where there was very little before and the individuals and the squad are playing better and showing some spirit. We are unbeaten against the 'Top Four' . Its a sobering thought that our reject ended up as manager of Real Madrid.

And Yet and yet. We are hovering above the relegation zone, clear, if you can call it that, by a single point. If results go badly from now until into the New Year we could be sitting in the bottom three once more. Now I know that the Premiership is very tight this year and that back to back victories could send us into the top half, but we are not getting back to back victories; its two steps forward one, or two, steps back.We have only had consecutive victories once this season.

So why am I,and others , suffering a return to these feelingsof anxiety and rage? Because, like the run in under Martin Jol, results matter again.This time its to avoid relegation: then it was to secure a top four place. Harry has given us hope and as they say 'Its not the disappointment that kills you, its the hope'.
Harry keeps repeating that we are in a scrap at the bottom, but the players, Gomes, Modric, and now O'Hara are still talking about a top six finish. The first two can be excused, they are new to the Premiership and the country, but O'Hara should know better. Take it one match at a time lad in the time honoured tradition.
Now I watch, holding my breathe and reacting to every misplaced pass, mistimed tackle on the edge of the box, failure to connect with one of Lennon's improving crosses as if it really mattered. And that's because it does. Before, I could cooly analyse Juande's tactics, smile indulgently as one of Zokora's runs petered out, or tut benignly when Jenas got caught in possession. Now I can't bear it and Duff's last minute winner brought all the old feelings and memories back.
The pre-historic cave paintings depicting a successful hunt were meant to overcome the fear of the hunted animals and influence the forces of nature to deliver up a life saving meal for the whole tribe. Thats what my embracing of relegation was meant to do. In declaring that I did not fear the Big Drop I was hoping that the Gods of Football would look elsewhere for a pathetic fan to destroy.

It worked because they took an Away Day to Manchester. But we mustn't laugh at the richest club in the world lately arrived in the bottom three, the Gods might hear us and turn in our direction again. Their fans, after all, are no different to us.

So in answer to Krafty's question 'So where are we ?' The team are much improved in spirit but have not yet successfully made up for the loss of our two strikers. There is improving quality all over the pitch but its not playing consistently well. Modric is a big step in the right direction and we need to get ourselves up the league if we are to keep him and attract players of his quality next Summer. In the meantime we need some back-up signings to make sure we continue to progress. A centre-forward at least, and in the light of the fitness worries over King and now Woodgate a centre half. We haven't got the luxury of time to bed another imported player in so they need to be home grown and experienced.

I am back in the emotional turmoil of Martin Jol's regime; fearful again of the threatening storms which threaten to blow Harry and the good ship 'Hotspur' off course. But I will suspend all this negativity until Boxing day and Fulham, and hope for a relaxed Xmas for myself, the team, and of course all of you.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Snakes and Ladders

Last season it was Roller Coasters: this season its Snakes and Ladders. It certainly was this week; we got four points to go up the ladder, but lost Woodgate and Jenas to possible serious injuries. We gave an excellent team performance to take a point off Man. U but with Newcastle winning at Portsmouth we slid down the snake again to hover one point above the relegation places. At least it looks as if W. Brom and Blackburn are losing touch at the bottom but we cannot relax yet. Its all bunched up in the table still with 8th to 18th covered by 5pts.
We have three winnable games to come and ladders sway into view but none can be taken for granted. Away to Newcastle is not the walkover it was when we last visited and it comes after a midweek game against Spartak Moscow which is tricky because of injuries to Woodgate and Jenas and Bent's illness and because Ledley will have to be kept for Sunday. We could come a cropper in this competition if we lose this by two goals and NEC beat Udinese. However if we win it and NEC beat Udinese we could top the group. Or something like that.
Fulham at home on Boxing day should be easier but they are an awkward team to play against as we have already found .Although they haven't won away so far this season, it is not a forgone conclusion. Away to W. Brom rounds off 2008 and should launch us into the new year with a win. I would settle for a throw of 5 on the dice. That's more of a step-ladder than a fireman's turntable but even this is welcome if it helps us climb towards safety.
The Man. U game threw up a number of positives: Gomes was widely deemed man of the match; Dawson put in a vintage performance and the whole defence responded well to the absence of Ledley and the injury to Woodgate, who could be out for some time, after only ten minutes. Modric and Lennon were skilful, both caused problems and were unlucky not to score. Bentley sparkled occasionally but Pavlyuchenko and later Bent were out gunned on their own up front against Ferdinand and Vidic.
So far we've held or beaten all of the Top Four this season, though I note that Arsenal are in fact fifth. Certainly a better vantage point than when Harry arrived but we are still only 1 point from the bottom three, and yet only two wins from the Uefa places.
It looked as if Modric was part of a 5 man midfield rather than a support striker but this was perhaps forced upon us by Man. U. pressure rather than being tactical. At least the curse of the returning player didn't strike and Berbatov though showing his talents at various times in the game was not a significant factor. Although Man. U dominated the first half we had the clearer cut chances. Gomes was the star in the second half with two fine saves from Park and Giggs and competent handling throughout.
I played Snakes and ladders recently with my six year old grandson and he didn't get it at all. He went up the Ladders and up the Snakes as well. If only we could, but then again perhaps he's not as silly as he pretends. A useful tip there Harry.

What to make of Harry's apparent 'blasting' of the current first team squad? Well looking at Harry's words in the context of our current position and ignoring the inevitable newspaper slants you cant argue with a lot of it.
We are in a relegation battle still and we need some strengthening and backup to make the team a viable top four challenger. He has certainly improved the performance of the squad but by 'proper' players I assume he means 'better' players. It sounds as if he is following the advice of Danny Blanchflower who famously advised 'equalising before the other team scores' , putting the blame for possible failure on Levy's lack of investment.
Whether this apparent undermining of the squad, a change from his arm round the shoulder approach, is wise at this delicate time is debatable. I would argue that the constant changes of manager and the consequent influx of new players has done much to unsettle the club over the past few years and might explain our poor starts particularly in the past two seasons.
Recent write-offs ,Gomes and Dawson were heroes on Saturday; Ekotto has been re-instated and is playing well and it won't be long before Bale returns to the form of last year. In fact this is a far from poor squad and is playing more to its potential since Harry arrived than we were entitled to hope. Thursday is an opportunity to see what youngsters we have on the books with Bostock and Parrot rumoured to be in line for call ups.
If we had got 12 points rather than 2 from our first 8 games, not an over ambitious target, we would be one point below Arsenal. Playing mind games with Levy at the expense of backing his players is perhaps not what we expect of Harry. But his words were in the context of where we are now in the league and what our ambitions for the future are. I'm not sure that they applied to the January transfer window no matter how much the media would like it to or in fact will try to make it.

And so to Thursday against Spartak Moscow where all sorts of permutations of young or fringe players are possible. Whatever he might say I don't think Harry will want to miss out on another round of Uefa matches and although he wont risk Ledley he might have Lennon and Modric nicely placed on the bench in case. A one nil defeat would see us through, whatever happens between Udinese and NEC, but we should be alright to go through without too much difficulty by winning our own tie.
Oh and thank you Santa for the little extra Xmas present I asked for last week. It came on Saturday. I suppose the large size was out of stock but never mind I don't want to be greedy.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Relegation: its behind you.

I'm not sure how I got cast as Scrooge in the Tottenham panto and I take no pleasure in it, but I still feel the need to ask the question 'Are we making any progress under Harry?' In terms of league position a little but every time we have the opportunity to climb out of danger we slip up and slide back down again. Who asked Santa for 'Snakes and Ladders' for Christmas?
At Fulham we were very poor and at home to Everton we were merely poor and perhaps a little unlucky with their goal. In the meantime we avoided a banana skin dressed up as Watford, in what could be portrayed as a patient, professional performance but which looked a scrappy affair in the cold light of day.
Away from home on a cold night, on a hard pitch, 1-0 down, it had all the makings of an upset but Spurs are more resilient under Harry and show more belief and in the end our better quality ground them down.
Without Jenas and Modric while Huddleston is playing poorly or being crowded out in a five man opposition mid-field we are short of attacking guile and dependent on the trusty boot of Bent and solid defensive performances. Lennon is the star on the top of the Xmas tree at the moment in attack.
It cannot be denied that we have more spirit and the expectancy levels under Harry are considerably raised in both players and fans. We have certainly benefited generally by the largess of the Fairy Godmother and a better run of the ball, apart from the Everton goal, but in part that was our own fault for switching off the fairy lights before the party was over.
We beat Liverpool, but no-one can really explain how, and the comeback against Arsenal was equally inexplicable by the known laws of nature. I think they posted their Charity cards well in time for Christmas. However I cannot deny that the players showed tenacity and resolution and many of those other qualities that usually get missed off Tottenham's Christmas list.
But we have given ourselves a chance in the League, when we arguably had none and should make the next round of Uefa cup and the finals of the Carling Cup assuming we beat Burnley. No doubt Fulham, Chelsea and Arsenal thought the same. I think that this will be one London scalp too many for them.
This all makes tonight's game at W.Ham even more important than usual. A win takes us above the Hammers in 15th place. A draw or a loss ,with Man. U at the weekend, leaves us possibly in the bottom three again in the run up to Xmas. Not a festive place to be. I have written to Santa , and provisionally booked the wishbone on Xmas day so as to cover all the angles but Tottenham in the bottom three at Xmas is not the novelty item I want to find in my cracker.

However we won! W.Ham were short on ideas and although they held their own in the first half, only Bellamy was a threat. Actually he was more of a nuisance than a threat. Actually he was more of an obnoxious irritation than a threat. We cleared the ball aimlessly out of defence at times and allowed W.Ham to put us under pressure. We also persisted with the long ball down the middle which was ineffective against Everton and similarly so tonight. It usually concedes possession and puts us immediately on the defensive. If we are going to play with two wingers then we need to work the ball out to them more consistently.
Even so Modric had a good chance after a couple of minutes and Pavlyuchenko was unlucky just before half time when he hit the post at full stretch from a driven Lennon cross , one of several chances that he created. We could have easily gone in at half-time 2-0 up.
Then Ledley scored his first goal in three years with a coaching manual downward header from a Lennon cross and Gomes preserved the lead with two excellent saves before O'Hara finished it off with a fine shot from 25 yds. We played out time in style.
In truth W.Ham were poor and we improved as the game went on. Jenas was better in the second half and there were good performances from Zokora and Corluka. Bentley gave an improved performance but is not quite there. He spends too much on flashy wrapping paper at the expense of the gift.
It was a toss up for man of the match between Lennon and Modric, who though out for several games returned to play a central role. In the first half he was forced too deep and was unable to give Pavlyuchenko the support he needed. Our second half performance in which we passed with more precision and kept the ball well was a glimpse of what the Ghost of Xmas Future might look like with Jenas and Modric playing well.
I am slowly undergoing the change from a miserable 'Humbugger' to a relaxed, benign and contented white whiskered old gentleman on my way to Bob Cratchitt's with a turkey in one hand and a 'get out of relegation free card' in the other. The answer to my original question as to whether we are making progress under Harry is a qualified 'definitely'.So I hope that relegation is well behind us and not still just behind us.
So thank you Santa for the early Christmas present. Any chance of another one on Saturday?

Monday, 1 December 2008

Icebergs ahead

I have one word to say to those amongst us that are getting carried away with the Redknapp Revolution. As President Elect of the Getting Carried Away Fellowship I am having it tatood on my arm in that new semi permanent tattoo process, guarranteed to disappear when we get out of the bottom half. That word, fellow sufferers, is 'Fulham'.
We were awful and it was obviously designed to give Harry a 'heads up' as to the real nature of the task he has taken on. Since then we have easily beaten, but only just, two weak sides or sides that could have tested us more but didn't. More than that we kept two clean sheets, which has cheered up Heurelho no end and led to an outburst of optimism amongst fans and players alike.(See official site for evidence)

However I am not so easily fooled now and nor is Harry. I burnt my boats in the pre-season Vox Pop predictions and am still up the creek without a paddle. Do we have enough petrol to keep the Redknapp outboard motor going until we are safe in mid-stream or will the fresh impetus splutter and die and leave us in the shallows? I think that this image has taken us as far as it can and I'm going to jump ship now. I reserve the right to return to it later.

We are playing OK, better defensively, and just doing enough to pick up the points or make progress in the UEFA cup. But even that is an improvement on our form since the Carling Cup until the arrival of Harry. In the last 6 Premiership games we have secured 13 points out of 18 but we are still only 1 point from the relegation places.
So put the champagne on ice for a few more games and lets see what happens today at home to Everton, who have beaten us twice at The Lane recently. Am I just a miserable old sod that insists on looking a gift horse in the mouth or a time served Spurs fan that has experienced gift horses turning round and biting us on the bum?

Old I may be but miserable sod definitely not. I am always anticipating that the next game will be the one where we thrash somebody 4-0 or 5-0. However when we do score 4 we seem to let our opponents score four as well, Cup games excepted. I note that only once this season, in the league have we been beaten by more than a single goal (Portsmouth) and only once have we won by more than a single goal (Bolton)

And yet in those silly prediction league thingies I rarely predict a close encounter and have us down for 3-0 even away from home. Obviously I won't be winning a season ticket or David Bentley's boots. Its just the old hope over experience syndrome.

Now please don't blame me for the Everton result, I did warn you all to calm down.. The defence was sound including Gomes and they won with a lucky deflection that gave him no chance. But Everton were strong at the back and Bent and Pavlyuchenko didn't really get a look in. They soaked up the long ball and without Modric or Jenas we lacked ideas in trying to break down a packed midfield, a tactic which a lot of clubs will adopt at The Lane. Zokora worked hard but Huddleston was out of sorts again and we gave the ball away too often.
We are out of the relegation places, just, on goal difference so the excitement that is the 08/09 season continues. Do I hear 'roller- coaster' anywhere? Or even Yo-yoing? In the next ten games we've got Arsenal and Man. U but both at home and a run of fixtures against beatable teams: W.Ham, Newcastle, W.Brom. Wigan, and Bolton away: Fulham, Portsmouth, and Stoke at home. If we can get 15 points from these we will be nicely placed to get out of trouble in the run-in. But that's as far as I go. A cup run or two would be a bonus and Harry is rightly focussing on avoiding relegation.
. We were a bit unlucky today with the goal, although both Lennon and Corluka turned their backs on the ball as the free kick was quickly taken, but I can't say that we played well, or that we have played well even under Captain Redknapp. The odd game maybe, an occasional passage of play, individuals have shone fleetingly but as a team its been a faltering set of performances. Bent has gone off the boil and Pavlyuchenko showed poor control today.

And so the proud ship 'Hotspur' sails into choppy waters. Indulge me. Its off the bottom, successfully re floated but there are icebergs ahead and other dangers to avoid. If we can make our home port a fortress and repel boarders at sea we might make it to the promised land me hearties. But that means staying in the Premier-ship and nothing more.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The road not taken

'The road not taken' is the title of a poem by Robert Frost that looks at whether we can ever know whether an action was the right one when faced with alternatives like which path to take at a fork in the woods.You reach a crossroads, you make a decision and you stand or fall by the results. You never know what would have happened had you made a different decision and you rarely, if ever, have the chance to go back and take the other turning. If we get relegated we can say that Levy chose the wrong path. But he will say that we were going to get relegated anyway and he has, by his boldness , given us a chance.

The fact that we are still so close to the bottom three even after the turnaround achieved under Harry makes it clear to us all how close we were and still are to disaster. On current form over the last 6 matches we are third in the table (played 6,W4,D1,L1 ) and yet still only 1 point from the relegation positions.

I maintained a defiant belief that under Ramos we would not be relegated and that the kind of bold or rash action eventually adopted by Levy would further destabilise the club. Well, at the moment, this has not happened and some argue that because of our post Carling Cup form and the poor attitude of the players he might have acted earlier.

The truth is we simply don't know. Apparently Harry was approached two seasons ago but because he would not work under the DOF system he declined. Where would we be now if Harry had come earlier? Would we have won the Carling Cup? Would we be flirting with relegation or smooching with the Top Four?. Would we be looking for another new manager because results by now under Harry were deteriorating and he was not fulfilling Levy's criteria for success? Will this be the position this time next season assuming that Harry guides us to mid-table and perhaps some success in a cup?

We don't know. After the trauma of Martin Jol's and Juande Ramos' sacking Harry might get a little longer to achieve something, but I said that about Ramos. He might, but I am not putting much faith in Levy's patience or underestimating his drive for Tottenham success for whatever reasons.

You might argue that a little more research should have been done before Jol, our most successful manager for some time was sacked in so cavalier a fashion for Ramos. Juande had no experience outside Spain and could not speak English at the time of his appointment. Hindsight, hindsight wherefore art thou hindsight?

What might Jol or Ramos have achieved given more time? What would have happened if we had refused Keane or Berbatov permission to move? Would we have done better to stand by Robinson? We don't know and never will. So far Levy's actions have been justified by events and the path he put us on appears to be leading us out of trouble.

Certainly the attitude of the players has improved, at least in interviews. On the pitch, the Fulham game shows how little we have changed in effort and spirit. But there has been a gradual improvement in the standard of performance, signs of which appeared under Ramos: against Chelsea, Stoke and Hull for example. Bent,Lennon,Modric and Huddleston have all been transformed and attribute it to Harry. Bale and Bentley have yet to respond, but as the individuals improve so, hopefully, will the team.

Against Blackburn according to Ledley we 'ground out a result' but in fact they offered little and it was more a case of us not taking our chances to make the game safe. It was the tension of the fans because of our precarious position and our uncertainty about Gomes that made the game seem closer than it really was. A situation that you would think Spurs fans had become accustomed to over the years.

So the Jury is still out on whether Levy was bold and decisive over the appointment of Harry Redknapp or rash and impetuous. Unfortunately, for my nerves, it might still be out until after Xmas. Please Santa send us a few more points, well quite a lot more actually.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Sorry Harry

Dear Harry
Sorry about last Saturday against Fulham. We forgot to turn up again.What with the credit crunch and us not knowing where our next Ferrari is coming from, and the friendly Internationals it just slipped our minds.

Tom is particularly annoyed as he was thinking of playing a blinder but while he was thinking about it you subbed him and he never got a chance really. Luka strained every fibre, literally, to score and now he's out for a fortnight so you see you can't be too careful. Jermaine realised the urgency and ran nearly half the pitch with the ball, but it was all too late. Ledley says that it definately said Sunday on his pre-match briefing sheet. This chopping and changing of days, and captains, is very confusing for us.

Its very difficult to play against teams with so many ex-Spurs players. Old mates and all that. Of course they have a point to prove and we clearly don't. That Danny Murphy eh, he never played like that when he was at Spurs. Perhaps in January we could ….no perhaps not.

Heurelho is particularly upset now that you've sacked the only man in the club, apart from you, that was talking to him. He saw the shot from Simon Davies all the way, into the net unfortunately, and says he doesn't get enough credit for the saves he does make. He says you told him to stay on the line and rely on his defenders to head the ball away but when Balesy couldn't beat Davies to a high ball we knew we were doomed.

The thing is Harry it was only Fulham,a moderate team at best. The lads seriously question whether there are enough top class sides in the Premiership to make it worth their while turning out week in week out. Linda Evangelista once famously said that she wouldn't get out of bed for less than $10 thousand dollars a day and the lads agreed.When it was pointed out that this was at 1986 prices and with the current exchange rate she was on twice as much as most of them they went very quiet One said something about getting into bed with Linda for that amount but thought that 45 minutes was plenty if not more than enough.The rest said Linda who?
What we want to say though,Harry, is that it was definately a one off. With the confidence you've instilled in us, putting this behind us we can go from strength to strength now, with no excuses and no turning back. We are really going to show you the effort and resolve you deserve and prove to you and all the fans that we are determined to...We cant read the rest of this PR media briefing but you get the drift.
The lads have asked me to say that we like this Tottenham family idea, you know bringing in all the old players to help us make the most of our enormous potential.One of the boys made a silly, crude and juvenile joke at this point which I won't bother you with. But with so many being recruited ,Tony Parks today we hear, we are getting a bit worried.Another 3or 4 and you will have enough to replace us completely, which is obviously not the idea.

Frazier is enjoying his stint with us although if he scores any more goals like the one at Fulham we won't be able to afford him even if he was for sale,which he isn't. David said that now he has had a proper one to one with his hair management adviser he should be back on track and ready to run fast even when its raining or windy without doing too much follicular damage.The lads were having a laugh drawing up a list of bald players we might sign in January to overcome the sort of problems that afflict David,Gareth,and even the mighty Berbatov. We will send it to you when we've got a few more players down.

It doesn't really matter, Harry, it was a long way across London to Fulham and we've got two home games coming up. We'll definitely be up for those, your £4million bonus is as safe as houses, although we note that house prices in London are predicted to fall 30% over the next two years and with negative equity. Only pulling your leg Harry just the lads' little joke. Seriously though, we don't think you should spend it just yet.

Yours as ever in hope

The lads

Monday, 17 November 2008

Let them eat cake

Welcome, Harry, to the real world of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. I expect you thought you´d cracked it after our second squad thrashed Liverpool´s second squad 4-2 in the Carling Cup. Bent has been on fire and then both our support strikers scored two, three in 7 minutes to overwhelm Liverpool. Of course we conceded a couple from corners but hey four goals is plenty for most games.

Against Fulham a strong team at home this season and not one of our bankers like Arsenal, Chelsea and Man. City( and now Liverpool of course) I bet you thought we would walk it, with Ledley, Jenas, Woodgate and Modric returning to the team how could we not.

But the thing is Harry we don´t do bread and butter. Its a bit like Gomes really. Give him a Bullard screamer arrowing its way into the top corner and he will fly like a bird and tip it one-handed over the bar. As he did against us for PSV in the Uefa cup, last minute against Keane as I remember. Give him a Davies flat shot come cross which takes a minute deflection off Woodgate and he spills it into the net.

So Gomes so very Tottenham. Give them top four opposition ,a selection of petit fours if you will, or semi finals, an almond croissant, or finals, a selection of profiteroles and eclairs, and they will rise like ticket prices to the occasion. Give them a run of the mill match against a solid but basically ordinary team, but with a sprinkling of ex-Spurs to give them added motivation and the result is a forgone conclusion. Wigan, Stoke, Hull, Middlesbrough, Sunderland, all from Hovis country ,and we play like my cat. We inspect the fare on offer, sniff a little and sit waiting for something more delectable to turn up.

Yes, yes Gomes gifted them the opener and yes Modric our brightest spark went off with a groin strain at half time but, apart from our late goal which was a thing of beauty, and very well taken by Cambell, and which made the rest of the performance even more puzzling , we offered little. Huddleston had one of his more contemplative games and was rightly substituted; Bale and Zokora were enthusiastic but ineffective; Jenas tried and made the goal with a good run from halfway; Woodgate and Ledley apart from a rush of blood when he tried to set up Zamora with a back header were sound enough.

But truthfully Fulham were dominant in defence, bossed the midfield and Zamora and Johnson gave us problems all the afternoon. How many of the Fulham team would get into the Spurs squad? Well four of them were ex-Spurs to start with. On the performance I suppose you would have to say most of them, but really would we sign any?

We would have gratefully accepted our current position when Harry arrived and the new manager bounce was bound to wear off soon, but who would have thought it would be at Fulham after our performances against Liverpool , Arsenal and Man.City. Well most Spurs fans would probably and now Harry can join the real Tottenham.

Truthfully this is really how we like it. Bread and butter is such stodgy fare, it fills you up but really doesn´t satisfy all those secret urges and longings. Cakes are so much more romantic, they have so much more style and panache. Think chocolate almond torte and you are closing in on the qualities of Tottenham. Bread sustains over the long term, you know like a grinding 38 game league programme but its the excitement of special occasions and major games that gets our creative juices flowing. We don´t do bread and butter, haven´t for years. Let them eat cake Harry, let them eat cake.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Heading on up

I´m not sure whether to comment on Spurs recent progress at the moment. After all it was my over optimistic evaluation of our season´s progress that caused the disaster of our first eight games in the first place and despite my pleas the departure of our highly rated manager, and his assistants, and our Director of Football, and probably the tea lady though this last didn´t make the headlines.

Two weeks on and we are progressing in the Uefa cup and at last climbing the league. Another couple of wins and we will be talking Top Four again and we all know where that sort of talk leads.

Harry Redknapp, in future referred to as Árry, has made minor but telling adjustments: Modric playing behind the striker: Huddleston a fixture in midfield, no joke intended: he has caused Ledleys knees miraculously to improve, and bigged up every man jack of them so that they seem capable of walking on water, which given the weather conditions is a useful attribute. The biggest impact has been on Darren Bent who has turned into a goal machine, reproducing his form of pre-season. To which subject I must not refer as that was the beginnings of our downfall.

The league is very tight this year and with another winnable game next week at Fulham we could be close to the top half of the table. By the same token we can, with a couple of pre-Árry performances, be back in the relegation zone. It is too soon to breathe normally yet and disentangle the crossed fingers.

What exactly has happened to change things around is difficult to precisely define. Confidence is obviously the big factor and Lady Luck has noticed our presence and nodded in our direction. We over-ran Zagreb, a team that looked quite good on paper but out on the pitch didn´t really seem to want to play. They offered little in attack ,Gomes had only one shot to save. Huddleston , given time and space , played as we all know he can, setting up Bent for a couple and scoring a contender for goal of the season himself. Modric was again influential .

Against Man.City we went a goal down early on: then they had a man sent off; Bent scored a couple; they had another man sent off and we won 2-1 just as we did against Liverpool. We also had a man sent off to make it the second game with three sendings off in a fortnight. Ledley also got his second yellow card in three games to add to his career tally of less than 10 bookings. One of them was the pointless obstruction of the goalkeeper which Woodgate had obviously demonstrated in a special training session. Are refs getting tougher or is it the wet conditions ? We have obviously given up on the Fair Play league for this season.

However the truth is that we are not yet playing really well. If Bent stops scoring we could be in trouble again. It is interesting to note that he has scored more than Berbatov and Keane put together and is, at the moment, more than earning his transfer fee. But things are improving: we are keeping the ball better and moving it more purposefully; the long ball is applied more thoughtfully and with Bent and Pavlyuchenko willing runners more effectively. As the confidence improves so will the performances.

` Arry has given the squad a new Tottenham family to shower them with the love that is White Hart Lane and to help them recover from the culture shock and language deprivation that was Juande Ramos. Uncle Tim, Sir Les, Teddy et al have been roped in on a part time basis to cuddle the team back to success.

Personally I think this is a ´Arry ploy to comfort the fans rather than the players`because I´m not sure what a couple of sessions with Sir Les will do for Darren Bent or Pavlyuchenko. The language difficulties are on the same scale as the United Nations during an interpreters strike.

It´s all part of the feelgood factor and if it works I´m all for it. However confidence is a bubble that is easily burst especially for a team that has looked into the abyss of relegation.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

The Harry Effect

There must be more to it than changing the manager surely. I like Harry Redknapp in many ways but Big Phil Scolari he's not. He has a reputation for doing clever things with average players and small budgets but the transformation of Spurs is breathtaking. One thing I have discovered this week: its very hard to type when you are holding your breath.

I have argued for the retention of Ramos in the name of stability and long term team building but Levy decided to short circuit the whole process again. The DOF system was seemingly a step too far but in view of our turnover of managers was arguably an enlightened approach to achieving greater stability. With different personnel it might have worked , who knows. But since the inept sacking of Martin Jol, perhaps for the best of motives, things have been in free fall apart from the performances on the way to the Carling Cup final and in the final itself.

Trying to apportion the blame between Levy, Comolli and Ramos is an inexact science at best. The response to the new regime is however clear, and would suggest that all was not well between the players and Ramos. Ledleys expressed relief and his apparent ability to turn out three times in a week gives us a clue. Perhaps the rumours of the deputation to Levy of senior players is true. The inclusion of several 'rejected' players into the first team squad; the re-appearance of Huddleston and Bentley; the emergence of Modric as a key player and the banishing of ever present Zokora to the bench all give pause for thought about the way in which Ramos handled his resources.

That he was sold down the river by the sale of Berbatov and Keane and the failure to replace them adequately is obvious. The signing of cup-tied players in what was for Ramos a priority was clearly incompetent but the resurgence of the team cannot solely be attributed to Harry Rednapp. Its as if a weight has been lifted from their shoulders.'Free at last; free at last'

Was it a communication problem because of the language barrier; the training regime; the diet; the personality of Ramos himself ? Or none of the above ,or all of the above? Harry's down to earth approach, supportive manner and his appreciation of attacking football and skilful players has worked wonders.You would have thought that Harry's techniques were too well known to be effective. Surely highly paid proffesionals need more than a verbal cuddle to make them play

The defending against Arsenal and the nervy performance of Gomes was little changed but the team spirit and the individual determination required to come back from a two goal deficit with a minute to go to full time was something not seen since the Carling Cup final. A clean sheet and a competent team performance against Bolton, no red cards or penalties except for our opponents and most importantly our first win certainly steadied the ship but in no way set up our expectations for the thrilling comeback at the Emirates or the fighting determination against Liverpool.

Against Liverpool we were outplayed for long periods and lucky not to be two down early on. We came back with a bit of luck for the equaliser and a fingertip Gomes save to keep us in the game. Then Bent showing his predatory instincts was quickly onto Reina's excellent save from Bentley to set up his partner Pavlyuchenk for the winner. Harry, incidntally, ignoring the conventional wisdom that Bent and Pavlyuchenko can't play together was again rewarded with his substitutions.

Something has happened to Spurs in this last week Our luck has changed along with the manager. We are not quite a fully functioning team but individuals have begun to shine. We are not yet safe but we are off the bottom and heading in the right direction.This time last week everyone wanted to play Spurs and now nobody does.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Wake me up when it all kicks off

I going to wake up soon and discover that the season hasn't started yet. I mean, three red cards and three penalties in two games. Well if that were to happen we would be well out of the Fair Play running for a start. Worst start ever in our history under a dynamic new manager with quality international signings from Croatia, Mexico, Brazil and everywhere.

Don't be ridiculous, its not going to happen, trust me. Neither is the ensuing panic, obviously, nor the screaming for heads to roll, as many and as quickly as possible. Nor the calls for the appointment of Roy Keane. I think that many other people must be dreaming too. Why would any employed, reputable manager come to Spurs if this scenario was true.

The other strand of nightmare is the baying for midfield destroyers and players with 'heart'. Presumably in place of the people that can actually play football, Jenas, Modric, and Giovani, for example. In my dream two of the committed , passion players, Dawson and O'Hara, have both been sent off in consecutive matches.

Hopes are being pinned on the January window if its not too late by then. But again the question arises who of quality would come to us, or wouldn't quality matter any more, as long as they have muscles bigger than their brains.

Not only am I convinced that I must be asleep but nasty conspiracy theories are swirling around in my head. The players have been brainwashed by an elite Arsenal team of counter intelligence agents, led by the 'sleeper' Comolli into committing acts of self destruction in order to bring the manager down. Bale, Dawson, Gomes and Ohara in the last two games alone, and Bentley taking a leaf out of the Ghaly, Kaboul songbook entitled 'Dis the manager and close the door behind you'

This theory is supported by the kind words in support of Ramos that Arsene Wenger uttered last week. I had my suspicions at the time and now its all falling into place. Berkamp is doing his coaching badges and would like to return to England. Asian billionaire beware when his CV arrives on your desk. Oh and Roy Keane's boyhood team was Spurs and my Mum had that Alan Sugar in the back of her cab last week.

No its obviously a dream, well alright, a nightmare but clearly the season is yet to get under way. We've just beaten Roma and I'm looking forward to the first match against Middlesbrough. I have confidently predicted that we will win by three clear goals and other hostages to fortune that could be embarrassing when we are a few matches down the line.

But how can it go wrong,with this team, this manager, and a terrific pre-season. I went to bed last night drooling with anticipation at the promise of it all.

Wake me up when it all kicks off.

And when I woke up it was late October ; we were bottom of the league; Ramos, Comolli, Poyet, and Alvarez had been sacked ; Harry Redknapp was manager and we beat Bolton 2-0 for our first win of the season. Ledley King played twice in four days. Levy had written a long love letter to the fans and nearly apologised.
I've seen the future and its Harry Redknapp. Oh well this time next year it will be 13 managers in the 13 years that Arsene Wenger has been manager down the road, but hopefully we will still be in the Premiership.
I switched off the alarm and went back to sleep. Must have been something I ate.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Help!

Being upbeat and positive is really getting me down: backing Ramos; supporting Jenas; praising Modric whenever he makes a pass; raving about about Gomes as he tries single handedly to wipe out our defence; finding excuses for Bale and Dawson; its all wearing me out.

Would it be easier to join the Levy, Comolli, Ramos, Jenas and Zokora 'out' brigade, join the protesters, and tear up my virtual season ticket? It might be more fun and at least I would have a few friends.

Trying to talk up our chances of survival and facing up to the 'R' word as even the Governor of the Bank of England and Gordon Brown have at last done is 'doing my head in'. Of course they are, in the famous phrase talking about, recession and not relegation. If only Spurs fans had Gordon's problems life would be so much easier.

Now even the Guardian has printed a whole page of recycled jokes about our plight, many revamped from West Ham's predicament of two years ago. As a Guardian reader of 50yrs, a little less than my support for Spurs I have nowhere to hide. We've even taken the heat off Newcastle. Who would have guessed that 'Joe' could be the answer to the question we dare not even ask, 'Who will save us from this nightmare?'

As Shakespeare said this has changed from a ' tragi-comedy ' into a 'comi-tragedy'. I misquote loosely of course. Well comrades we are not going to get any help. Fans who demand a human sacrifice may get Comolli's head but we're stuck with Levy who can't get his price having been struck by the double whammy of the falling Spurs share price and the falling Spurs league position. At least we can't fall any lower, until the end of the season anyway. Ramos is unlikely to be sacked as even Levy must realise that the last thing we need is more upheaval.

So positivity it is then. We wont go down although we could, obviously. I will snatch at each tiny sign of revival: 25 minutes of joined up football after we went down 1-0 down at Stoke; Lady Luck giving Bent an offside goal; I will look forward to each game believing that this one will be the turning point. That the manager and the players have the skills and experience to survive. That the catalogue of horrors that pretended to be a football match at Stoke cannot possibly be repeated. A match we surely would have won if Bale hadn't been sent off, wouldn't we?

My advice to fans is to stop whingeing, moaning, baying, feeling sorry for ourselves and thrashing about looking for someone to blame and get supporting. Starting of course with Bolton where what the team needs is a non stop barrage of support. They don't need a half cock, cock-eyed demo against Levy or booing at half-time, or at any time come to that. Don't play into the hands of the media who are loving it, this is a top story that they don't even have to make up.

No distractions in other words. Between now and January points on the board are all that matter and that will be decided out on the pitch with Ramos and the players we have. Levy and Comolli are irrelevant now. The players we sold and the ones we didn't buy are not an issue , important as they may seem on fan sites.

In some ways today's Uefa Cup game against Udinese is a side show except that it offers an opportunity to build momentum for the weekend with a good performance or even a win.

At the moment its not about what makes the fans feel better but what might make the team feel and hopefully play better.

Monday, 20 October 2008

The R word

Before the Stoke game

Firstly let me start by saying that I do not think that we will be relegated. Let me say it again to avoid any misunderstanding. I do not think that we will be relegated. Again? No,I think that's clear.

However we might be and we are certainly in for a scrap in the bottom half of the league whatever we may achieve in the cups. I am eternally optimistic but cannot deny that results and some performances have not been of the highest order. We may get drawn into a 'relegation dogfight' as the tabloids love to say, in fact they already are. However for a dog fight you need more than one dog and at the moment we have the ring to ourselves.

Nobody is too good to go down but in my opinion we have too much quality in the squad to perform at this level for much longer. But there are other factors at work: confidence and luck are important; so are the improvements in other teams and the determination of the newly promoted teams. All this could work against an immediate and sustained revival.

But luck and confidence could change at any time, perhaps today against Stoke. A lucky goal, or a dodgy refereeing decision in our favour could be crucial in putting three points on the board and giving us something to build on.

Obviously it could go the other way but in general we have played better than our points tally suggests, against Hull for example. Nobody has beaten us by more than one goal and luck on the whole has not shone its warming rays upon us.

After the Stoke game.

Well it all went wrong at Stoke, but we have no-one to blame but ourselves. Bale was sent off for a clumsy last ditch tackle that followed from his failure to control the ball and Stoke were one up and we were a man down.

We then played our best 25mins of the season, Bent scored through the legs of the keeper, again, and Lady Luck ignored the fact that he was offside. Modric showed some control in midfield and Lennon again looked dangerous but we couldn't get the second goal.

The second half was a catalogue of errors with little continuous play which suited Stoke who played better than we did in every measurable way. Corluka was stretchered off to be briefly replaced by Dawson who made an unnecessary lunging tackle and though he got the ball followed through to the man and should know better. Woodgate conceded a second penalty, which hit both posts and the follow up by Delap hit the bar, and there were 11 minutes of injury time.

Stoke's winning goal came from a good cross along the edge of the six yard box that eluded everyone except Delap at the far post. In truth they could have gone further ahead and not just from the penalty. Pavlyuchenko came on to demonstrate that he can't play with Bent and the game fizzled out .They had more chances and corners than us. We were dire at set pieces and Bentley rightly subbed.

Now where do we go? I began this piece reflecting on relegation. I'm going to have to say it again,'I do not think we will get relegated'.

Nor do I think that this is a moral judgement on our treatment of Martin Jol, although the fact that he is top of the league with Hamburg may give some people pause for thought on this. Obviously the Gods would not have let us win the Carling Cup if they had it in mind to punish us.

It might be a judgement on the posturing of Levy and our failure to replace Keane and Berbatov. It might be just reward for our wholesale clearance of players and trying to bring in too many new faces at once. Put simply, we are not playing well as a team and too many individuals are not performing at their expected level.

Ramos doesn't know what's hit him and keeps looking at the cards he's been dealt like a poker player on a bad streak. He's hinting that the dealer is crooked and that the deck is stacked against him. He's waiting for a change of cards but the Head Croupier may have him ejected from the casino before then as he's nearly run out of chips and his lines of credit, from a foreign bank, are doubtful.

I do not expect relegation but nor do I fear it. Whatever division we are in we will still be Tottenham Hotspur a great club with a fine history and a tradition to be viewed with awe and which most clubs would die for. We have been relegated before, in 1976 under Keith Burkinshaw, who remained in post and took us straight back. Ardiles and Villa were recruited soon after and the next 5/6 years were some of the most exciting in our history. Ashes and Phoenixes and all that.

So despair not, support the team on the pitch, moan on the fan sites and look forward to better days. Ignore anyone at work, or in the pub who looks like an Arsenal or West Ham fan, don't read the papers and don't carry a gun.Nobody is safe ,not even yourself, in your current mood.

Did I mention that I don't think we will be relegated?

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Comolli : the facts

Featured column on 'Spurs Community'

Should Comolli be sacked? He seems to be the main object of Spurs fans wrath, in tandem with the general dissatisfaction with the DOF system. Second of course is Levy and third usually is Jermain Jenas.

I publish below (with kind permission of Jim Duggan of 'Topspurs from the 'Topspur' Archive) the list of all our signings since Comolli replaced Arnesen in September 2005. Since then 31 players have been signed and 29 sold or released.

Ramos became manager in October 2007. Since then 13 players have been signed and 8 released or sold.

I have included the fees involved where available so that you can have fun deciding whether we got value for money. Again we don't know precisely the Levy input at this stage.

2008/09 Frazier Campbell Manchester United Sep-08 loan

2008/09 Vedran Corluka Manchester City Sep-08 £8,500,000

2008/09 Roman Pavlyuchenko Spartak Moscow Aug-08 £14,000,000

2008/09 Cesar Sanchez Real Zaragoza Aug-08 Undisclosed

2008/09 David Bentley Blackburn Rovers Jul-08 £15,000,000

2008/09 John Bostock Crystal Palace Jul-08 £700,000

2008/09 Heurelho Gomes PSV Eindhoven Jun-08 £9,000,000

2008/09 Giovani dos Santos Barcelona Jun-08 £4,700,000

2008/09 Luka Modric Dinamo Zagreb Apr-08 £15,800,000

2007/08 Gilberto Hertha Berlin Jan-08 £1,900,000

2007/08 Alan Hutton Rangers Jan-08 £8,000,000

2007/08 Jonathan Woodgate Middlesbrough Jan-08 £7,500,000

2007/08 Chris Gunter Cardiff City Dec-07 £2,000,000

2007/08 Kevin-Prince Boateng Hertha Berlin Jul-07 £5,200,000

2007/08 Danny Rose Leeds United Jul-07 Undisclosed

2007/08 Younes Kaboul Auxerre Jul-07 £8,200,000

2007/08 Darren Bent Charlton Athletic Jun-07 £16,500,000

2007/08 Adel Taarabt Lens Jun-07 Undisclosed

2007/08 Yuri Berchiche Athletic Bilbao Jun-07 Undisclosed

2007/08 Gareth Bale Southampton May-07 £5,000,000

2006/07 Ben Alnwick Sunderland Jan-07 Undisclosed

2006/07 Ricardo Rocha Benfica Jan-07 £3,500,000

2006/07 Mido AS Roma Aug-06 £4,500,000

2006/07 Pascal Chimbonda Wigan Athletic Aug-06 £4,000,000

2006/07 Steed Malbranque Fulham Aug-06 £3,500,000

2006/07 Dorian Dervitte Lille Jun-06 Undisclosed

2006/07 Didier Zokora St Etienne Jun-06 £6,000,000

2006/07 Benoit Assou-Ekotto RC Lens Jun-06 £3,500,000

2006/7 Dimitar Berbatov Bayer leverkusen £10,000,000

2005/06 Hossam Ghaly Feyernoord Jan-06 Undisclosed

2005/06 Danny Murphy Charlton Jan-06 £2,000,000

We don't know precisely the distribution of authority within the management team: who initiates the process; who has the power of veto and under what circumstances; who conducts the negotiating process and where Comolli's role starts and ends in relation to Levy.

A wider question is of course the players we have not signed and the positions we have not filled. How far this is down to Comolli is again unclear. Were some players lined up and vetoed by the manager on playing criteria or Levy on financial ones?

I don't think that Comolli can be held responsible for the sale of players as the initial decisions on this would presumably be the manager's or Levy's responsibility.

You can obviously pore over this and draw your own conclusions. I hold no brief for Comolli but I am always suspicious when so many people are quick to attribute blame, especially at a time of collective stress and disappointment.

Of the 31 signings only 5 it seems to me are doubtful.(Gilberto,Boateng,Kaboul,Rocha,Murphy) and of these Kaboul's transfer was probably premature. You can add Taarabt and Zokora if you like, but Zokora has been our best player on several occasions and has useful flexibility. Taarabt is only 19, and Boateng 21 and should be given time before final judgements are made.

Ghaly and Chimbonda are on many fans' hate list but neither in my view were poor footballers. Their temperaments perhaps should have been an issue in the scouting process.

But if you include all these that makes 9 out of 31. I have ignored all the ITK stuff about Jol spotting Berbatov before Comolli arrived, he'd been with the club 7 months before Berbatov was signed and we just don't know.

If you are going to blame Comolli for all the bad signings and praise the manager and Levy for all the good ones you are clearly not going to be swayed by sensible argument.

My view of this is that it is by no means a poor record, particularly since Ramos arrived. I would only question, on playing merit, Murphy, Gilberto and Rocha, in the sense that we could have signed better quality players. Some might want to add Bent but mainly on the grounds of the fee paid.

Other players are young or have not had time to settle and I include Bentley,Giovani Corluka and Modric in this category. Others have been bought for the future; Rose, Dervitte, Alnwick,,Bostock
Berchiche.

But, fellow fans, there are the facts make of them what you will.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Sol Campbell,another view

Written in reply to a column on 'Topspurs' and published on there
http://www.topspurs.com/thfccol-slabber.htm )

I don't normally challenge the views of the 'true' fans who represent me at White Hart Lane. They spend the money and put in the time that we supporters from afar do not or cannot . But this matter goes beyond the 'terraces ' and and I think it is wrong to let the world outside of Tottenham High Road be left with the idea that 'Slabbers' view is the last word .

I accept that the intention of the chant is not racist and 'Slabber' argues that case well. But we don't have the luxury o f close textual analysis when the chant is heard on the terraces especially in a televised match. Supporters, visitors and the press will be under the impression that it is. The phrase 'hanging from a tree' in connection with a black player has too many racist overtones, as The Guardian rightly says.

But 'Slabber' exposes his argument with the phrase 'its no-ones business but ours'. The world doesn't end at the boundaries of White Hart Lane and when such abuse is chanted, whatever the provocation, then the outside world has every right to question and demand answers. What does it say to the listening public,through radio,television and newspapers about the state of mind of a section of Spurs supporters. More importantly what does it say about the values of a club that allows them to say it.

Then we have the assertion that homophobia is the last great taboo that is acceptable. It is not. You may think it is acceptable on the 'terraces' but you and like-minded fans do not live on the' terraces'. Your actions impinge on the world outside to your own and the club's detriment.

By way of defence you assert that 'Its playground humour' Some defence to say that you have the mentality of kids in the playground. In any case its particularly unacceptable in the playground and in a school would lead to severe sanctions. To describe it as 'teasing' is to deny the vehemence of some Spurs fans in their attitude to Sol Campbell and to attempt to deflect serious scrutiny of your actions. The fact that Campbell is not gay doesn't excuse the charge of homophobia because you are using the idea in a negative and demeaning way. But you have admitted that charge in any case.

You are right to raise the Wenger slurs and to ask why the press has not exposed these as well. They probably will now they are on our case and these are not acceptable either; they are equally disgusting about a man who happens to be the manager of a rival club. They are obviously slanderous. I'm not sure that it advances your case to say that something else that Spurs fans do is much worse.

Whether the chant is racist or not it is certainly demeaning to you and the club. Its completely out of proportion to any offence; its a disgusting outburst in a public place and out of keeping with the traditions, values and history of the club.

It is too late to ask , in such a dismissive way, for the Guardian readers, muesli eaters, Peter Tatchell and the gay rights brigade, people who can see that free speech has limits,The Daily Mail and all the other idiots and hypocrites, in your words, to leave you alone. But whose fault is it that they are on your case? Don't shoot the messenger: address the problem. In a free society we depend on everyone showing restraint in their words and actions and showing respect to their fellow citizens.

What Sol Campbell did was wrong, no argument, but the response is way over the top and your anger should have subsided by now. In fact I think it has; its only generated by the camaraderie and safety of the stands. Its become a habit, a ritual and by now a meaningless gesture and to us that don't sit in the stands, and to many that do, a slur on the good name of Tottenham.

You are in a hole of your own making: stop digging; let it go; move on.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Wake up Grandad and smell the coffee

Another day another bank collapse. As billionaires become millionaires overnight and mere millionaires queue up at the soup kitchen on Wall Street I return with renewed hope to one of my concerns: can football escape the seemingly inevitable slide into the world of big business.

Some argue that its too late ; its already happened and reply to my threads with the words, 'Wake up granddad and smell the coffee'. I'm not entirely sure what this means but take it that they think I'm out of touch and swimming against the tide.

But Iceland's banks are disappearing faster than the polar ice caps with serious repercussions for West Ham. AIG and many other shirt sponsors are going down the tubes with possible adverse effects on a number of Premiership clubs, and who knows how many rich sponsors and owners are caught up with our very own Joe Lewis in the financial meltdown.

Take another sniff my friends, is that coffee or what. Uefa are threatening to exclude clubs who have large debts from the Champions League possibly in as little as two years time. Talk of wage caps hangs in the air like, well like the lingering aroma of Nescafe. Transfer cap talk drifts up from the Fairtrade African Rich Roast Special Blend I have just poured from the pot. Greater scrutiny is promised of would be investors and more intrusive investigation of both foreign and home grown benefactors.

Clubs expenditure will be related to their assets and apparently their debt ratios will be capped. Clubs wont be able to buy up players as Chelsea did with Shaun Wright Phillips for ridiculous sums and bank them for future use like gold bars in a safe deposit vault. It could be the end of 'to the richest shall be given and from the poorest it shall be taken away' culture in football.

As the recession bites and unemployment increases more and more Sky and Setanta subscribers will
cancel their subscriptions or not renew their contracts. As advertising revenue falls commercial television will be unable to maintain the dizzying sums poured into sport. Players shirts will read 'Sponsored by Barclay's: on loan from HM Government.


The Premiership will be one of the first and one of the largest victims. Wages will not just be capped they will fall to reflect the new financial realities. Soon there may be no need for restrictions on foreign players imposed from above or rules about 'home-grown' players. The free market that got us in this mess may, as it collapses, get us out.


Most objectors to my wish for a level playing field in these matters were not because others didn't want it too but that it was not possible in the current climate. Well people climate change is not just a distant threat: it just became an imminent promise. Those who are praying for this alleged Asian billionaire to save us from ourselves may get their wish just in time to be too late. The reception and the honeymoon could well be over; pass the Yellow pages, now let me see 'Divorce Lawyers'.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Should Juande Ramos be sacked?

Should Juande Ramos be sacked? The fans are enraged and are demanding some red meat to be thrown to them as a sacrifice. Ramos,Comolli,Levy, and of course Jenas are all in the firing line..Its our worst start since the Titanic sank nearly a hundred years ago as the press are delighted to keep telling us. You can see where the fans are coming from: Martin Jol is top of the league with Hamburg; Hull City are more likely to get into Europe than Spurs; Defoe,Berbatov and Keane, late of this parish, are all doing the business elsewhere. They demand a human sacrifice and soon.

Now this is after seven games with thirty one to go. We are still in four cup competitions. On Saturday we played with heart, especially Jenas and outclassed Hull in every department but one. So will Juande Ramos be sacked? I don't think he will and given the size of the pay-off is not likely to quit. Comolli ,who to many fans struggles under the twin disadvatages of being ex Arsenal and French , might be chosen as fall guy but is closely identified with Levy who isn't going anywhere. Jenas has just been picked for the England squad by Capello a man not known for not being able to spot a good footballer when he sees one.

So nobody is going anywhere. But the question asked was 'Should Ramos be sacked?' or anyone else for that matter. Again the answer is 'No' The real question is 'What would it achieve?' apart from soothing the ruffled feathers of the fans and giving us someone at least to blame. Does the scapegoat philosophy reap any dividends. Apart from destabilising the club and the team it will achieve nothing. We are where we are and no amount of forensic analysis of our transfer policy will alter it. Comolli's record is patchy but is arguable, little of that can be laid at the door of Ramos and we all know that Levy is quick to lead from the rear when it gets sticky.

Ramos' team selection and substitutions have been difficult to fathom at times but we seem to be on an upward path though too slowly for most. Ramos came to us with agood reputation and solid achievments and just as good players don't become bad ones overnight nor do managers. In any case who of any standing would come to us at the moment? Poyet is deeply involved in all that has gone on and with the same squad would probably fare no better.

I firmly believe that Ramos, Poyet,and the players will turn this round and we might still make a cup run and finish mid table. Not what we set out to achieve at the start of the season but acceptable to most right now. We have had too many managers and too many newcomers in recent years and need to stick with this one as I believe he has the right credentials and the qualities to bring out the best in this squad. The squad needs some strikers in January and possibly a defensive midfielder but the main thing it needs is support.

It should be made clear to Ramos and the fans that he will be given the rest of the season to get it right and that should we go down he will be be responsible for getting us back up again. Let's have some continuity and trust. Keep yor fingers crossed if you like but Ramos' head in the basket will please only the old women knitting in the front row and will be counter productive. Changing the manager is a knee-jerk reaction that rarely improves the situation in the long term.

Fiddling while Rome burns

Wed 1st October.
The world financial system is in meltdown; the Conservatives could win the next election; Senator McCain could win the U.S. Presidential race and here we are worrying whether Tottenham could go out of the Uefa cup this afternoon and whether Hull....Hull! might beat us on Sunday. Fiddling while Rome burns or what. I think its called displacement activity. At least we know a bit more about Spurs than either of the other two.

Or do we. I am reasonably well educated and a keen student of the politics of the Western world but cannot for the life of me even guess why Gilberto was preferred to Modric against Portsmouth. So perhaps Tottenham is more of a mystery than the world's financial and political systems after all.
There are some good omens: Berbatov and Keane have broken their ducks proving that quality will triumph in the end. By this logic we will sail out of the doldrums quite soon, maybe today, and the crisis will be over. A clean sheet and the Wisla tie is ours and look out Hull.

Against Wisla we were nervy and disjointed. Individuals flickered occasionly but rarely at the same time. We were lucky, if signing a top quality goalkeeper can be termed 'lucky'. Bent and Zokora went close and Frazier Cambell again looked lively. In my view nobody played badly apart from Woodgate and King being caught out for their goal. Gomez came when he probably should have stayed but that's how he is and it is a fault on the right side as he will save more than he lets in by doing so. We were not a cohesive unit and rarely played 'joined up' football as they say in politics.

However we won so all the dramatic scenarios about a new manager have been temporarily postponed,although the papers are awash with stories of Avram Grant or Terry Venables replacing Comolli. The part time journalist Phil Space seems to have taken up a permanent role these days. My how we'll laugh when we look back after we've won a few matches.

Against Hull on Sunday we should pretend that its a fifth round cup tie and go for it as if it was all or nothing. In fact we should play all our remaining fixtures in cup tie mode because if we don't start 'gelling' soon our fixtures will in fact become make or break occasions.

Sunday 5th.October.

Well we made a bit more effort; won all the statistics and went down to a Geovanni special. Lennon was substituted when playing well; Bentley was a sort of right back. Our best player was Jenas and whatever some fans think the England manager agrees. Ironically it was probably our best performance of the season in terms of chances and effort.

Will Ramos get the sack? I don't think so as it will achieve very little and leave Comolli and Levy very exposed after their Martin Jol coup of a year ago. They are all going to hang together when the time comes and it won't be until Xmas at the earliest.

Who would take Ramos' place? Poyet as caretaker presumably but why would the monkey be an improvement on the organ grinder? He is an integral part of what is happening at Spurs. Kinnear isn't available for at least two months; so Terry Venables it is then. I still think that Ramos, Poyet and the players will turn it round and that relegation is unlikely.

As the season progresses I am obviously finding it harder to hang on to this belief and to rationally explain why I believe it. Its something to do with the quality of the squad and the pedigree of the manager, but I have expressed doubts about the magical qualities of Ramos before and our league performance and record since the Carling Cup win is abysmal. The case against Comolli is arguable, you can prove whatever you want . Levy isn't going anywhere until he cashes in his chips and we are where we are. Sacking Ramos may feel like justice for our poor record but it would destabilise the club and the team.

In my view he should be given a full season and should be told this by Levy. If we were to get relegated he should be tasked with the job of getting us back up again. It would not be the end of the world, or of the club. Disappointing,embarrassing, inconvenient,humiliating maybe but not the end of the world.

Monday, 29 September 2008

The view from the bridge

At the risk of getting my head bitten off at this depressing moment let's look at this from Ramos's standpoint. This is not what I think and I don't necessarily agree with his attitude if indeed it is his attitude. I am a flimsy supporter by nature, depressed one week and elated the next though I continually exhort my fellow fans to be positive and supportive at all times. What's the point of living if you are not. But that's only a point of view and I find it hard to maintain in real life. I manage to get it all under control only when I sit before my keyboard.


He is prioritising cup games because when they come up they have to be won.
This particularly applies to the Uefa cup because that again offers us the chance of qualifying for Europe whatever our league position.

We have made a disastrous start but with over 30 games to go he will believe that this can be turned round and mid table if not better is still achievable. He is drawing attention to penalty decisions at Portsmouth and his mindset at the moment is that although we have not played well we are in the midst of a run of bad luck and bad form by many of the squad.

He will also draw attention to injuries,Hutton,Bale and Modric which have worked against his game plans and the need to nurse his captain and talisman Ledley King through the season.

He will also believe that at this early stage he is right to try different combinations of players and tactics. This has been forced upon him by the late arrival of players and the late sale of others.

He will say that to prioritise the league at this early stage is to leave us by Xmas possibly out of all competitive competitions just as we start to pick up league points and leave ourselves with nothing to play for.

If he is sacked he will blame bad luck,injuries and Comolli for failing to produce the players he needed and Levy for playing management games when he should have been signing players.
He will leave with his reputation tarnished but with a several million pound pay-off and with open arms by several Spanish clubs who will be only too pleased to commiserate with him.

He will maintain this stance until at least the end of October,and maybe November, by when things will have improved and us panicking fans will be made to look rather silly. If they have not he will be sacked if he hasn't been already by Levy who is just as flaky under fire as me.

So what's my point. My point is that although this kind of start was not quite what he had in mind his perspective is longer and wider than ours. We want good performances and wins and we want them now. If things improve over the next few weeks he knows that he has at least a season to shape the team and its progress his way. The short term is not his priority and if it doesn't work out he is well covered in his own mind and it won't in the long run affect his future.

He will chalk it up to experience: he had a go in England, it didn't work out, he returned to Spain. Its not his club, its not his problem and he doesn't live and work with Arsenal and West Ham fans day to day and he can loftily survey the scene from above.

Now comes the positive me: I do think that it will improve and that over the longer term he will be proved right. I don't understand his team selection, substitutions and tactics most of the time and defer to his judgement as the man who works with the players day to day. He must know a lot that we don't know and there must be a sensible reason for selecting Gilberto before Modric.

The negative me questions his failure after the Carling Cup to motivate the team and lead us to our worst start for half a century and to a points ratio that's worse than Christian Gross.

Crisis; what crisis?

Thursday28thSeptember.
So what's all the fuss about. Three games unbeaten; a clean sheet; Lennon makes an excellent cross; Pavlyuchenko scores a good header and we are on our way. To where I'm not yet sure. If a week is a long time in politics then its even longer in football taking midweek fixtures into account.

At Newcastle ,who were more tentative and gave the ball away even more than us, we played well in the second half,speeded up the play and kept the ball better. You can work out from this what was wrong in the first half. A bonus was the combative edge of O'Hara who showed good anticipation and composure for his goal which made the match almost safe . Gomes continues to impress, Woodgate was imperious and Ledley though struggling a bit looked a little more composed. Giovani and Lennon looked sharp and caused panic in the Newcastle defence although panic seems to be their default setting. I liked the look of Nzogbia who is rumoured to be on our radar. But then who isn't.

The team played nervously in the first half: Zokora misplaced passes; Jenas was caught in possession a few times; Lennon ran so quickly he forgot the ball or fell over but overall we did the job and should be able to build on this performance. People keep asking whether Ramos knows his best team or his best formation. The answer to this is obviously 'no' . But the team have put themselves under pressure by their poor start and very few players are performing consistently, if at all, at their best and this makes it difficult to get a settled team and into a settled rhythm or style of play.

The negativity in the team is matched by similar feelings in the supporters and they seems to feed of each other. Who has the responsibility of breaking this deadlock?

Bentley has been hugely disappointing but it does seem to have inspired Lennon. The welcome return of Modric is balanced by the loss of Bale with another foot injury. Dawson has gone back to his old habits, all heart and little brain. Huddleston hasn't really been given a chance yet but has not looked comfortable. Perhaps he needs to start a game.

The game at Portsmouth will have a more competitive edge: they have just conceded ten goals in two games and will want to make amends and they could have at least five ex-Spurs players on display who will want to make a point. A win will announce that we are getting back on track and set us up for the return game at Wisla Kracow and for a run of winnable Premiership fixtures. But that would be too easy wouldn't it.

Sunday28th. October
Yes folks it would be, and the answer to my question, 'Crisis,what crisis?' Is 'This crisis'. Not so much for the result at Portsmouth but for the lethargic and uninspired way in which we played. We are still playing like strangers which to a certain extent we are, and eleven individuals are not a team. The build up is too slow and the long ball ineffective unless there is quicker backup for the lone forward. Individual performances were not bad but the game hinged on the two penalties,the first needlessly conceded by Jenas and the second not given to us by the referee.

Team selection was again a mystery. Lennon and Giovani, two bright sparks from Wednesday were on the bench. Gilberto was preferred to Modric one of the best midfielders in Europe. Substitutions even more so. Zokora and Pavlyuchenko ,who were playing well, were substituted. Gunter again sat out the match when Corluka could have been paired with Woodgate rather than Dawson, who incidently I felt played quite well,but I seem to be on my own in that.

Now we've got the added distraction of the 'super-rich Asian billionaire represented by the 'super agent Pini Zahavi' in Spurs takeover talks. His main reason for buying Spurs according to the 'Observer' is the 'fact that they are in London. This point is very important'
We are obviously talking land,property and development here and not football.

So don't hold your breath people and remember that for every Randy Lerner there are ten Thaksins out there. The crisis we have on our doorstep is a football crisis and can only be solved on the pitch by the manager and the team,not in the boardroom by super rich billionaires. Its too late for that this season,though I still assert that Levy's efforts to balance the books have resulted in an unbalanced team.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The best of times: the worst of times

Why don't we keep our heads down and keep quiet? Why do we have to keep mentioning Top Four,Champions league,Cup runs and so on? I've been a Spurs supporter now for a very long time and been through some good times,some very good times, and some bad times,some very bad times. Thats what this is; a bad time. It's not one of the very bad times,but it might be. We don't know yet. Its not likely,the team is talented and young and we have a good manager. I thought we would do well this season, but then I always do.

So why don't we keep quiet and wait for things to take a turn for the better. This applies to the players too. They are either talking public relations platitudes on the official website, or caught in the headlights of a reporters microphone spouting rubbish. See this week's performances by Jenas talking about 'playing ugly' and Bales woeful meanderings about 'video nasties'. Although I'm not sure that he actually said these words.

Well we don't keep quiet as fans because we follow a great club,with a fine record and a history and tradition to be proud of. We have a right to expect better and to look towards the future with optimism. We may get relegated. There's no law the says that Tottenham have to stay in the Premiership. So be it. We are still a great club,with a fine record and a history and tradition to be proud of. The fair weather supporters will melt away and the true fans will remain.

There is an obstinate,awkward streak in most fans and certainly amongst Spurs fans that insists on talking top four as we lose yet another winnable game. Good for them I say. That's what supporters do: they support. Sometimes its hard and the boos at the end of the Wigan game are not helpful to the team. We were pretty quiet during the first half too as nervous as the players it seemed. Perhaps if we had given them a tumultuous welcome and cheered from the start it might have made the difference. But probably not. The place for our forensic analysis and even for withering criticism of the players is on fansites which hopefully the players and manager do not read.

If we don't stand up and back them who will? I think its fair to say that we are the laughing stock of the Premiership,at the moment, well apart from Newcastle of course and by a neat coincidence we play them tonight. But we often are of late because of some over inflated delusions,not only by us, but by the media. Fans always hope and perhaps think that their team will win the Premiership every year. And so they should. Thats what fans are for. Let our opponents run us down, don't do their job for them.

I think that Levy has mishandled the replacement of Berbatov, Keane and Defoe. I think that we have performed with a lack of spirit and the longer a poor run goes on the harder it is to reverse it.I think that Ramos has been wrong in some of his team selection and placement of players. But in general the Board has backed the manager and the team is better and has more potential than in previous seasons. It needs time to settle,or gel, as the current term has it. But gel it will,probably sooner rather than later. But if it doesn't hang in there. All these problems and mismanagements are temporary blips in the long and wonderful history of our club.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

After all tomorrow is another day

This time last year the Tottenham Board were fanning out across Europe seeking to replace Martin Jol. They don't really have that option this season even if we have made an even worse start and arguably a worse finish to last season as well. No-one however should underestimate the ruthlessness of a chief executive in search of a scapegoat. Ramos has moved quickly to lay the blame elsewhere and it could well be Comolli that takes the fall. Not that Spurs fans will worry too much about that, he never really survived being an ex Arsenal man.

I caught the Aston Villa game on an average internet link and didn't see much to lighten the gloom. Team selection against a lively counter attacking side was again questionable,though obviously Thursday's game against Wisla Krakow was part of the equation. Ramos has apparently sacrificed league points for cup glory at Seville but you can only do that when you have league points to play with and at the moment we don't . Jenas when he came on showed how much we miss him and Corluka would have been better alongside Woodgate instead of Dawson who was back to his worst. Huddleston made some good passes but the pace of the Villa attack seemed to leave him stranded.

This is of course with the benefit of hindsight. Giovanni looks to have played himself into a starting role and Bentley should play on the right. I assume that King was being saved for the Uefa game. Gomes made two brilliant saves and then let a weak Young shot though his gloves for their second which proved to be decisive. Remind you of anyone? Pavlyuchenko didn't do anything to suggest that he would be a success in the near future and Bent continued his knack of being in the right place at the right time to benefit from a Jenas shot that was going well wide. We also lost Modric early on and he is unavailable for Thursday. Pavlyuchenko and Corluka,who also did little to suggest that at fullback he is an improvement on what we have already got, are cup tied.

So the problems multiply and I am keeping my head well down. Wisla Krakow are possibly one of the weaker teams in the competition and a win might get us up for the Wigan game .We certainly weren't raring to go against Villa and the Setanta commentator wondered whether we thought it was an 8.30 kick-off. Team selection was dubious, positions were arguable, Bentley on the left for example. Ramos has a great reputation but I find him unconvincing and I am so ready to be convinced.

He certainly cannot be blamed for the failure to replace Berbatov, after all he has been leaving for a year now, or the insult to the supporters that the signing on loan of Frazier Campbell without a buy option as a desperate make weight in the Berbatov deal represents. The breakdown in the Arshavin deal can be squarely laid at Levy's door. But the main problem seems to be in the attitude of the players though I did predict that trying to fit another intake of new players into the squad might take some time .Our record since the Carling Cup win is dreadful and we are playing as if we don't really care. This is down to the manager and it needs sorting out soon. Very soon. At least as the games come thick and fast we have an opportunity tomorrow night to set things right. Will we take it? As I said last time 'the next game will tell'.

And you know what? It did. We scored a couple and won a game against a team that played well; they broke quickly,defended solidly and found each other accurately. We were unlucky not to go to Poland with a bigger lead as our best move of the night ended with Bent scoring again but the goal was disallowed, wrongly, for offside.
Positives: the boy Frazier has talent and skill and set up Bent for the goal that gave us a narrow advantage. I hope that there is no call back clause in his loan contract. Levy couldn't be so silly as to not have this covered as well as being unable to sign him at the end of the season, could he?
Negatives:the chaos in defence that led to their reply within a minute of us taking the lead. Zokora made the initial error but four or five Spurs defenders stood off,or didn't track the runners as they ran through us to score;Ledley left the field limping and was not his normal assured self at times.

Now for Sunday at home to Wigan. Well it didn't go pear shaped , more a knobbly potato shape. I listened to the game on THTV and can't be too authoritative. It sounded as if we played without heart and there were muted boos at half time and less muted boos at full time. Lennon was the bright spot and we kept a clean sheet. Campbell failed to live up to his performance against Wisla, Bentley was awful and Corluka was better than Dawson. I'm not sure where the spark is going to come from to get our season started. We are playing like a man with depression and the longer it goes on the the more nervous the players and fans will become. We will surely beat Newcastle won't we?

Incidently a ridiculous interview with Jenas on Sky Sports where he says we need to play 'ugly'
He couldn't play ugly if he tried and I mean that as a compliment. We are not losing because we play too much football but because we don't play enough. Too many long balls, too little linked up play, too little understanding in midfield, poor crossing and dead ball kicking,including Bentley.
Our best move of the night which was well finished by Bent on Thursday was wrongly ruled offside. But not only was it the best move it was almost the only occasion when we put six or seven passes together in an incisive attack.

Ramos has put the emphasis on skilful players(Modric,Giovani,Lennon,Bentley,Jenas,Bale)and we should concentrate on playing football and outplaying the opposition.
I'm not sure what 'playing ugly means and I don't think Jenas does either. If it involves more effort, as displayed by Cambell and Ohara when they came on then I agree. If it means closing down the other side more quickly,I agree. If it means long balls and more fouls then no thank you. 'Make it scrappy' is a nonsense phrase,we are doing that already by misplaced passes and lack of co-ordination. Lets play football,with more energy, decisiveness and skill. Let's give more options to the man on the ball. Let's support the front men more quickly.
'Playing ugly' I ask you. We don't have the players .Thank God!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The Thinker

I think that I think we are going to be ok, I think. After getting carried away with my predictions for pre-season and too depressed after our first game I decided not to post too soon after matches and leave it until after the Chelsea game and the end of the transfer window to gather my thoughts.

Berbatov has gone and we are a little short on proven quality in the Premiership on the striking side until the January window when it all starts again. But Bent scored on Saturday and we played well defensively and tried to play football. We also had more than a little luck but we deserved it. Still ticking off my pre-season predictions: Zokora celebrated his new contract with an excellent performance; Gomes made one top class save and several competent catches; Modric was increasingly effective,and finally Ramos read my comments and altered the team in line with my suggestions.

I admit that Berbatov leaving blows another hole in my predictions but I did say it was a fervent hope rather then a real belief.The situation had gone past the point of no return thanks largely to the papers.Why Berbatov gets more hate mail than Robbie Keane I'm not quite sure. Levy's posturing on his high horse was hard to take and but for late bids by Man.City the whole thing would have been an embarrasing disaster.We were prepared to take Arshavin whose attitude towards his club was exactly the same as Berbatov's .But then I am an innocent in the ways of big business and all the better for it

On Sunday the team was better balanced and players started in their most effective positions. Gunter was played at full back and apart from a couple of aimless punts down the line to no one was sound . This enabled Zokora to play in front of the back four and though he too misplaced the odd pass had one of his best games for Spurs. Bale seemed up to speed and made up a tight back four in which Ledley King made two consecutive appearances and played a lot better than last week. Bentley and Lennon were played consecutively rather than together making us more effective in midfield. Jenas though played as if the responsibility of being vice captain was a burden rather than an inspiration but I think he was under very restrictive orders for an away game against the probable champions. He was a little too anxious in wanting to move the ball forward at times.Woodgate was his usual vigorous and reliable self.

Now I explained to Ramos after the first game that he had got it all wrong over selection and placement of players but he took no notice and duly lost the second game which I only heard on a radio commentary in the car and cannot comment on in detail.But he showed himself to be a big enough man to admit his errors and against Chelsea put things right. Although the pre-match talk was of attacking at The Bridge we played one up front and at times had six across the mid-field. We rode our luck and Bent was alert enough to fasten onto a ricochet to score an equaliser in the moments before half time..Shut up shop, park the bus, job done.Well more or less.

Between defending well, in depth and in numbers we played some good football and didn't allow Chelsea to dominate too much for too long, Bent was a willing front man and though he won a number of flick ons he was the only man available to profit from them.Whoever comes in I hope that Bent gets further starting opportunities as with support he is an effective goalscorer as he showed in pre-season. Ah! Pre-season, but I must not go there again. Move on,move on. Ramos must take the accolades for good tactics and substitutions. The squad worked hard, Jenas like Zokora before him was effective at full back and Huddleston, Lennon and Ohara slotted easily into the formation.This is a sign to me of a well coached team. Everyone seemed to know what was required of them and to be fair I think we had limited ambitions for this crucial game.

So I am not down after tha transfer window. Keane was a shock but Berbatov was always on the cards.We have back up for King in Corluka; we are sorted at goalkeeper and back four generally; we have plenty of left side options; Zokoro played well enough on Sunday to suggest that with Huddleston we can cover the defensive midfield. Modric and Bentley are quality signings, Pavlyuchenko and Campbell remain to be seen. We are building a team which won't come to fruition this season but I prefer that to a cheque book side of International All Stars who happen to play at White Hart Lane. I want something to identify with, something thats ours. Signing a contract does make you a True Spur in any real sense.At least even on Sunday we look as if we might play some good football which is my first requirement.

So back to what I think At the beginning I only thought that I thought that we were ok. Having written this I'm pretty sure I certainly think we are back on track. That comes with the usual Spurs supporters' caveat that the next game will tell.