The Blog that's not always wrong.

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.