The Blog that's not always wrong.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Meh

Came across a new word this week.'Meh' It was used in a reply to a comment of mine on a Spurs fansite.Its the equivalent of a shrug in body language. It can mean 'so what' 'whatever' 'perhaps but who cares' and so on.
First came to wider notice in a couple of episodes of the Simpsons and now ubiquitous on the web.
Some amateur etymologists on the web reckon 'meh' is derived from Yiddish, pointing to a 1936 song that uses it as the sound of a goat bleating. A poster on Artblog.net called it a "Yiddish interjection used to express disdain that borders on apathy", This was certainly how it was used in the reply to me.As a sometime student of language I find this quite interesting but then that peculiar event occurred when you something new occurs,it happens again.The next day in a Guardian column by Marina Hyde it was there again.
Being the Guardian and previously a fansite I assumed it was a typing error and I may well have come across the word before. Certainly I have come across it since. I havn't used it yet but I almost certainly will as it seems a useful rejoinder to a fans views that I want to dismiss.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Loyalties

It becomes clearer by the season,if not by the day that there is a move away from the concept of a football club as being a kind of family with links to the local community, players brought through the system,the club playing in a tradition and style recognised by fans ,managers and management and held in trust for the supporters past, present and future. Out goes too the idea of a loyalty bond between club and the player as the obscene amounts of money sloshing around the system turn the heads of players and management alike

But are there signs that Tottenham fans are having second thoughts. Have we reached a crossroads at Tottenham? Have we actually given up on our admiration for players who 'love the shirt' in favour of a new ruthlessness and made the decision to go for so called mercenaries as long as they are good enough. Because if so its farewell to the likes of Tainio,a good squad player who might have filled in as a defensive midfielder this season. Farewell to Malbranque who was many fans choice as player of the year,who covered well,ran his heart out and never complained though playing out of position for most of the season. Goodbye as well to Robbo,accorded 'true Yid' status for his choir leading cup efforts away in the Uefa cup and for his performances in his first two seasons. Many feel that we should have helped him more to recover his confidence and given him another season,though not as first choice.

The response to the departure of Tainio on some websites is quite sobering. On 'Spurs Community' for example there were upwards of 2000 viewings and over 80 responses mostly wishing him well, and many tinged with nostalgic regret. This is double the usual amount or responses and viewings. Ironically Robbie Keane awarded 'true Yid' status some time ago is deserting us for his boyhood dream team to almost hysterical abuse from the Tottenham fans. The more recent posting on Paul Robinson's transfer is similarly approaching these kind of numbers. So club loyalty has a part to play in the fans'view at least. The unease that I detect over Tainio and Malbranque's departure may be an indication that the fans are not quite as ruthless as many of them pretend. There is perhaps an element of guilt about it. They are not quite comfortable with this new brutalism.

Now some clubs,Chelsea, Man. U. Man. City have reached the crossroads, ripped up the signposts and driven straight across. It is hard to imagine a modern manager tasked with instant success or the
sack like Erricson and Avram Grant to worry too much about the views of the fans and the boyhood affiliations of the players. The criteria are (1) Is he good enough? (2) Is he available or can he be tapped up / (3) How much will he cost and how big are his wage demands? Hopefully the fourth one is 'Do we need him?'

Does it make the player a better player because he is playing for the team he loves? It may do but that begs the question how good is he in the first place. Bentley is allegedly a Spurs fan and despite being an ex Arsenal player is likely to be signing soon. But its his performances at Blackburn not his support for Spurs that are crucial to the deal. In all this there is an element of wanting the players to love the shirt and kiss the badge. Frank Lampard at Chelsea is an ardent badge kisser, tongues and everything, but wont sign a new four contract on over £100,000 per week. Per week!

Ghaly,Kaboul and Chimbonda have been heavily criticised,to the point of hysteria in Ghaly's case, for showing disrespect to the shirt,the club,or the manager and have been cheerfully wished on their way whatever their abilities or use to the club. Robbie Keane has been petulant on occasions when subbed but was seemingly forgiven for his long service record. But loyalty is a two way street and the reactions to the sale of Defoe after he had been messed about without complaint and the sacking of Martin Jol which was worthy of Abramovich and Thaksin Shinawatra on a bad day raise doubts as to how acceptable the new brutalism really is.

But is this the way we have to go. The way that Ramos has set about his squad in terms of discipline ,fitness and transfers indicates a man on a mission. Firstly to keep his job by bringing success to Spurs and secondly to achieve this by getting players loyal first of all to the manager . Loyalty to the club is an optional extra. But our love of Ledley King is not just because he is a good player who has probably missed out on greatness through recurring injuries but because he is one of ours, a one club man. There are not many of these in modern times. Scholes, Neville and Giggs perhaps if they see their careers out at Man.U.

So if Spurs fans are getting squeamish about the way some of their favourites are treated,worried about the wholesale changes to the team and its possible effect on our chances of Champions' League they had better toughen up or ship out. Personally I don't crave success and only want to be entertained. I don't want Berbatov to stay to enhance our chances of breaking into the top four but because he is a wonderful footballer who is a delight to watch. Nor am I arguing for a loyalty pledge for all new signings,backed up by a lie detector test . I don't know whether Modric is a modern mercenary or not but he is a top class player who is going to give me hours of enjoyment, I am not advocating loyalty above quality but am always hopeful that a balance can be struck.

Most fans however feel so starved of success at Tottenham that they seem prepared to bite the bullet and go for it. The demands for an 'enforcer in midfield to protect little Luka and Aaron were part of this new realism on the part of Tottenham fans. So far our new signings do not jeopardise our reputation for quality football and the retention of Huddleston is another good sign. We may be safe under this manager for a little while but the pursuit of success above all else is a slippery slope that I don't want to go down. The question is can we achieve success without compromising our values. Thats the crossroads we have reached unless we lost our way some time back and blundered across the junction in a fog of false hope,envy and despair.

Some of my best friends

I have never been entirely comfortable with the habit of some of Spurs most committed fans referring to themselves as 'Yiddos' or to proclaim that Keano or whoever is a 'Yid'.
In my experience 'Yid'is normally a term of abuse and has been used by opponents in this way. Historically the term has a pejorative aspect when used by people who are not Jews. But Spurs fans use the phrase 'Yid Army and chant 'Yiddo' as a battle cry and with pride. In Yiddish the word can mean 'mate' or 'fellow',so there is an argument for it being used in a more neutral way. But I'm not sure that Spurs fans derive their usage from this source. I believe that it is used defiantly in a pre-emptive attempt to rob the phrase of its ability to harm.

I understand that Ajax who have a largely non Jewish fan base use Jewish symbols as a mark of Amsterdam's historical association with its large Jewish population which was largely wiped out by the Nazis during the Second World War. This in turn has provoked opponents to use the chants against them and provoked some vicious scenes. Hissing to imitate the gas chambers has been reported at Ajax and Chelsea games and no doubt many others , and there are catalogues of bone chilling chants that are clearly anti semitic and plain ignorant racism. Now Chelsea have as many Jewish fans as Tottenham and have at present a Jewish owner and last season a short lived Jewish manager but it is Spurs that have adopted the mantle with pride and encouraged a response in the same way as Ajax but for different historical reasons. Arsenal in a similar way have adopted the phrase 'gooner' for themselves and this robs it of its power to wound. I would imagine too that there are as many Jewish supporters at Arsenal as there are at Spurs or Chelsea.

There are obviously positive and negative aspects to this. Tottenham fans and the club have been in the forefront of anti-racist campaigns and it reflects the club's supporters and managements Jewish connections. The Jews have a long history of persecution all over the world and an equally long and distinguished history of being able to use humour against themselves as a solace and a defensive posture. The adoption of the mantle of Jewishness as a pro-active weapon is a logical development.

Now I am not unhappy because I am not Jewish although technically as my mother was a non Jew I am not. My father ,who was a tailor in the East End between the wars ,was a Jew; my uncle was a rabbi . My father was killed in the war and I don't remember him at all. His family left Lithuania to avoid the pogroms of the 20's. They wound up in Germany in the early 30's and decided to keep moving, obviously in the circumstances a wise decision. The family ended up running a handbag stall in Petticoat Lane after the war. After the death of my father at El Alamein in 1943 my mother and I lost contact with the family who I believe emigrated to America.

So although I identify in some ways with my fellow supporters I am an outsider to the perennial outsiders: the outsiders outsider you might say. I am fearful that
they will bring down dire retribution by drawing attention to themselves and by not having the protection of being inside the stockade with my fellow Yids I look on with some trepidation for their well-being and perhaps in a strange way my own.

So being alone on the outside is perhaps the source of my discomfort and in fact should I be looking with admiration at my fellow fans who wear their Jewishness with pride or are proud to identify with a group much maligned and 'spat upon'; to identify with the proud history of the club and its stand against racism,and anti-semitism over many years. References to 'Yids ' have been traced back to the Mosley fascist marches of the late 30's in the East End and some date the adoption of the term by Tottenham supporters from these events. Certainly as many fans attest by the late sixties the practice of calling themselves 'Yids' was well established. The club itself investigated the use of these terms last year after incidents at half time at W. Ham much to the derision of the Spurs fans themselves. The results are not at all clear cut but there were some fears that Spurs supporters who used the phrase 'Yid Army' might be inviting anti semitic retaliation. Now although there are historical reasons for Tottenham supporters to embrace Jewishness it is evident that Jewish fans are in the minority at Spurs and that the 'Yid' and 'Yid army' labels are embraced by both Jewish and non Jewish supporters. When they use it it is clearly not racist or anti semitic: it means 'Spurs Fans' not Jews and it has a historical context.

I don't want to stop Spurs fans from using it and couldn't even if I wanted to. When blogging I use these phrases myself in the same way that Spurs fans use it. But I still feel anxious when I hear it or read about it. It has been a perennial topic on Spurs forums over the years and is largely unresolved and probably unresolvable. I am going to put down my anxieties to my own peculiar circumstances and trust in the good sense of my fellow fans to use the phrases in the wholehearted supportive context that they do now and not slip into abusive responses even when under pressure themselves.

Monday, 21 July 2008

A cunning plan

Well I'm sitting here staring into the interweb ether waiting for the dust to settle, but it looks as if Levy and Fergie have stirred up a veritable sand storm. Two weeks on holiday and nothing happened; now two weeks back and apart from shouts of 'fight,fight' from the far corner of the playground there is still nothing actually happening.

There isn't a word for the combination of depression and elation that all football fans feel at this stage of the non season.Not just Tottenham fans: think what Villa fans are feeling about Barry; Arsenal fans over Adebeyor ; Chelsea fans over Lampard; Man.U. fans over Ronaldo. We are all looking to the new season with excitement, new managers and new players but are bombarded every day with rumours about players who may be leaving.

On the websites Spurs fans are cheered by the photos of the lads in Spain and disconcerted by the rumours over Keane and Berbatov's attitude and behaviour. The easy answer is ignore it all and just refer to the official site,and I wish I could. Once the season starts its easier because you have the actual football to take your mind off the rubbish served up by the media. But until then there's nothing else to do but join your fellow fans in heated debate about what might be happening to our precious club.

And where is Ramos in all of this. Well he hasn't worked his magic on our dynamic attacking duo. To lose one top scoring foreward is unfortunate,but to lose two smacks of carelessness. Does he care ? Does it suit the Spanish Sopristos cunning plan? Perhaps he is happy to ship out two of the older lags especially if they are playing up . Perhaps they don't fit in with his tactics for the season ahead and he would prefer to assemble a younger squad who are more loyal to himself and Gus Poyet. He only now has to carry the support of Ledley and practically all the rest are Ramos men.

He is still in his honeymoon period with the Spurs fans and could almost get away with anything. He has bought himself time with the Carling Cup win and the certainty of Uefa cup football next season and may prefer to make his big changes in personnel early and bank on a good start to the season..Personally I think that this is a risky strategy as a team of strangers will take more time to settle. But Ramos is known to be a bit of a gambler with tactics and favour a bold attacking approach and his treatment of the players may echo this. The evident bonding on the trip to Valencia may be part of the process to accelerate the team building process.

Nobody wishes Ramos ill, that would be ridiculous,but Spurs fans are well known for looking a gift horse in the mouth.They examine its teeth,demand to see the dentist's bills and study the vet's report carefully.And why not. We have been sold many false prospectuses over the years and got up at ungodly hours to witness a lot of false dawns.

Of course it will come down to the results of the first few games. Our season could easily be defined by the first six games as it was last season. Twelve points or more and we are on our way,success generates success.Less than ten we might struggle to challenge for the top honours. Six or less and we are looking to the cups again.

Ramos knows he has more than next season to establish himself but I am doubtful that he will see out his five year contract. If he has any sort of success at Spurs it will not be long before Real Madrid , Barcelona or indeed the Spanish national team come knocking. So he could be a man in a hurry.Not that Spur's fans will begrudge him his promotion if he earns it it by raising our level of achievement at the same tim

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Et tu Keano

In some ways Berbatov going to Man.Utd will work to our advantage. I'll explain but stay with me.We only play them twice a season and rarely beat them. Berbatov will help them beat several teams who will be our rivals for a top six finish and therefor be more of an asset to us at Man.Utd than he would be if he stays, and we will have £28 million to spend .The point is that we will not ,this season,be serious rivals for the top two (probably Man.Utd and Chelsea ) so that the more damage these two do the better for us. Of course we usually beat Chelsea these days so that will work even more to our advantage.

Now this is absolute bollocks as you will have realised yet it does have a curious logic. What it shows is that a demented fan will go to any lengths to extract a positive from a negative. I am now resigned to Berbatov's departure and find that I am more upset by Robbie Keane's flirtation with Benitez. Berbatov has never really been a great badge kisser and winning the Carling Cup seems to have whetted his appetite for success rather than satisfying it.

Robbie has been a 'True Spur' for at least a couple of seasons and said that he would be proud to remain so for the rest of his career. Player of the year, vice-captain and all that and suddenly he apparently yearns to play for his boyhood dream team. Whether this Liverpool thing is a mere adolescent fumble down Penny Lane or a serious affair remains to be seen. If he found being substituted occasionly by Ramos irritating then wait till Benitez gets his rotation policy knife into him. Unlike Gus Poyet who has quickly moved to scotch the talk linking him with United nothing has been forthcoming from Keane about these rumours though Benitez comments seem to give them credibility. Although I concede that if players were to deny every rumour that surfaced then the rain forest would have been destroyed almost overnight.

However even if Berbatov leaves I will not change my view of him as the best player we have seen at the Lane for some years and my feeling that whatever his body language, facial expression or hand gestures his contribution to the team was a positive one in the only way that really matters, goals and assists. I would prefer him to go abroad as I don't believe the first paragraph, and it was ' me what wrote it' . The prospect of replacing a 40 goal a season partnership would daunt me but then I'm not being paid millions per season to sort it out.

There is a theory that Ramos will play with a single striker and three supporting offensive midfielders. This would play to Bent's strengths and could indicate the way tactics will go. Ramos has favoured a 4231 system with attacking full-backs in the past and could be setting Tottenham up to play this way. However I am not a great student of 'systems' and view football as a much more fluid game which is more about players than patterns of play. What makes a great manager is the ability to play the cards you are dealt effectively; to be able to think on your feet tactically,and to have at your disposal players with the ability to adapt to different situations.

In a match you may set out with a game plan,which might be different depending on whether you are at home or away. This will change if you go a goal down and be different again if you go a goal up and this will vary in relation to the timing of these events. You need a manager and players who can adapt and respond to the changing situation. I believe that this is the reason that Ramos replaced Martin Jol who generally speaking was too conservative, inflexible and slow to react. But let's not go down that rutted cart track again.

The truth is that we do not know who will be available for selection on the first day of the season, either because of transfers or fitness and though it is sort of fun to speculate and to respond to rumour it drives you mad in the end and you end up tying yourself in knots trying to prove that good is bad and bad is good. You want proof: read that first paragraph again.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Now where was I ?

You know that feeling that you get when you drive down your street after a couple of weeks holiday and the realisation grows that nothing has changed and you don't know whether to feel sad,relieved or elated.

Well I've just got that feeling from a quick survey of the Spurs websites. Two weeks without Sky, without internet access, without newspapers and you know what,its more or less the same. Barry is still at Villa; Ronaldo is still at Man.U;Bentley is still at Blackburn;and best of all Berbatov is still at Spurs. We haven't been bought by a foreign dictator. Ramos is still with us.White Hart Lane looks as if it will be our home ground for another season. The sun is in its heaven and all's right with world.

We seem to have signed a good goalkeeper who is so keen to dominate his area that he renders his own defenders unconscious and yet another young hopeful which seems to suggest that Ramos doesn't rate our home-grown contenders. But apart from that its as if time has stood still. Apart of course from the spotlight switching from Berbatov to Keane. I would have put money on Robbie staying and Dimitar going and this is still the most likely outcome. But just when you think its safe to leave the country with Keane the player of the year and a solid bet to be a Spurs hero next year you return to rumours of transfer(denied).

Of course the more speculation the alleged proper journalists post the more chance they've got of getting one right. They aught to have a league table like they do for racing tipsters showing the percentage of correct forecasts that each columnist and broadcaster achieves.

I was pleased to be in Spain when they won the European title, playing good attacking,skilful football and thought their victory was deserved and about time: perhaps its our turn next. We can hardly claim that we have many players of the quality of Villa,Torres,Fabregas,Senna,Ramos or Da Silva. Who from the current England team would make the Spanish side? Up front or in attacking roles nobody except Rooney on a good day. Midfield and defence perhaps Ferdinand and Gerrard. Senna would be a good call for our defensive midfielder but doubt he will be available to any club not in the Champion's League

Just seen pictures of the lads at training:Berbatov smiling and training with the other players,not as reported on his own; Ledley King running and/or kicking a ball. We are kept very much in the dark as to the fitness of Bale , King and Ekkotto and unless I missed it whilst on holiday we don't know whether any of these will be fit for the new season. Perhaps no news is good news.

Even the so called quality press seem to drop their standards when it comes to the football pages. In the Guardian today it categorically states,without quotes or sources, that we have offered Bent,Robinson and Gardner (and possibly Levy's missis) for Bentley, having previously offered Lennon and £7million. Now anybody could make this stuff up,but the mystery is why do we take any notice. The websites are full of frenzied speculation by Spurs fans as to the likelihood of these confident forecasts and their relative merits. Perhaps we know really that its rubbish but in the absence of football itself summer transfer speculation is the new sport. A little more hard information from the club would help, more updates and less guff from players about what their hopes are and what they plan to do, mostly designed to flatter the manager or ingratiate themselves with the club. You know who you are.

JimmyG2