The Blog that's not always wrong.

Thursday, 31 December 2009

Look to the Future

Look to the future now
Its only just begun (Slade)

But first a quick look at the past.
A fourth consecutive clean sheet for the first time since 2001; 10 points out of 12 over Xmas, our best Yuletide performance for,for, well ages. This could be the crucial launch pad for the third phase of the season.

Away to Fulham, who were fresh from beating Man.Utd 3-0, Harry was clearly wary and so were they. We traveled intending not to lose and turned in a determined performance by all concerned, particularly Dawson as captain and a match saving one by Gomes. But then that's what goalkeepers are for. A year ago here he dropped a Simon Davies' shot into the net and entered Goalkeeper Hell. He became the butt of tabloid and not a few Spurs 'supporters' jokes but proved over the past year that 'class is permanent'.

Against a poorly performing W.Ham side with both injury and financial problems we scored early but didn't manage to secure the game until Defoe's powerful strike in the 80th minute. But even at 1-0 there was no real danger as we out possessed them; out passed them; out cornered them and out shot them, on and off target. For the first time in years I wasn't even edgy with just a one goal lead. Ledley completed 90 minutes and Modric returned and scored. We played some sparkling football, Lennon was magical and nobody had a bad game.

Resolutions:

1)To carry on enjoying it whatever happens.
2)To continue arguing for as little change to the squad as possible in January.
3)To continue to believe that whatever I say, or hope, or believe does not affect the results. I may make a fool of myself but it doesn't actually damage Spurs prospects.
4)To believe with Sir Bill that, 'It is better to fail aiming high than succeed aiming low'

Heroes so far:

Dawson who has stepped into the centre half breach and staked a claim for the captaincy.
Gomes for his triumph over adversity and return to top form.
Kranjcar who almost made us forget that Modric was injured.
Lennon our fleet footed flier who can now cross, chew gum, and run all at the same time.

Villains so far:

David Bentley. Never has so much been spent on somebody for so little return.
Robbie Keane. More of a disappointment than a villain to be fair.

Predictions:

This squad can certainly break into the Top Four. It has the necessary quality and depth and is getting belief and consistency of performance.
Our next 13 games in the run up to the Arsenal game are crucial as we play 3 of the usual suspects in the last five games and need to be ahead of the game by then. At least our fate will be in our own hands.
But in this next batch of matches only Liverpool away and Man.City away are difficult (on paper). The other 11 are all winnable. I know, I know 'famous last words' and matches aren't played 'on paper'.
A Liverpool late run in the home straight cannot be discounted. Man.City with a new jockey aboard are perhaps more of a threat and have won their last two outings. Aston Villa don't have the pedigree to sustain their challenge. Birmingham's early show will soon peter out. Sunderland and Fulham are unsuited to this quality of race. Everton were non-starters this time out and are rumoured to be going out to stud.

My prediction is that Spurs will challenge with Man.City for fourth behind Chelsea, Man.Utd, and Arsenal. Aston Villa and Liverpool will compete for sixth.

Would I be disappointed if we lose out in the battle for 4th place? Of course, but that would still represent real progress. We are playing attractive, attacking football with more determination in the midfield and tightness in defence. The squad is young and can make further progress next season under Harry even if we fade in the run in this year.
Modric, Kranjcar, and the return of Woodgate might just tip the odds in our favour and good luck with injuries might just allow us to claim the 4th spot.

Its a pleasant change to note that with just one more win we are safe from relegation well before the end of January. I'm not sure whether to blog this or write it on rice paper and swallow it, just in case. Nope. See resolution 3)

Preview; Peterborough (F.A. Cup )

This kind of fixture over the years has produced more banana skins than a Chimpanzee's tea party but I'm not sure that even Tottenham can mess this one up.
Peterborough are bottom of the Championship and have won only three matches in 24 games, none of then away.
I would protect as many first choice regulars as possible so hopefully young Bale will play himself in for the Liverpool match, Dawson and Bassong and perhaps Hutton or Naughton will complete the back line. Jenas and Keane will probably start and whoever plays we should keep another clean sheet and score 3or 4 as we did against them pre-season.
You can get good odds on either Pavlyuchenko or Gio starting or even appearing, but I live in hope.

Happy New Year from JimmyG2.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Reasons to be cheerful

Reasons to be Cheerful.

We've reached the half way stage and I thought I would share some seasonal goodwill with you at this point in this exciting season with a quick look at the positives. More traditional fans of the 'Don't speak too soon' persuasion can no doubt provide the 'Reasons to be gloomy' side of the picture and you're welcome to do so.

Liverpool(H) Victory against a 'top four' side.

Hull City(A) First hat-trick of the season(Defoe). First 5goal haul.
First away win. Top.

W.Ham(A) Second away win. Came from behind to win. Still top of the
table.

Doncaster(A)Cup. Third away win. Second five goal haul.

Birmingham(H) Lennon scored late to win it.

Man.Utd (A) We scored first, but were well beaten.


Chelsea(A) Should have been two up but missed our chances.

Preston N.E(A)Cup. Third five goal win. 4th away win. Crouch hat-trick

Burnley(H) 4th 5goal win. Keane scores 4. Back in top four.

Bolton(A) Came from behind twice to get a draw. Back to 3rd

Portsmouth(A) 5th away win. Still 3rd

Stoke(H) Totally outplayed them but lost.

Everton(H)CUP Many players missing but no problems. Bale starts and
wins.(Not Prem. though)

Arsenal(A) 42mins of decent play then disintegration. Still in top Four.

Sunderland(H) Outplayed but won. Mark of a good team apparently. Gomes outstanding.

Wigan(H) Best score for 30 years. Defoe scores 5. Still in top four.

Villa(A) Came from behind to draw. Away from home against possible
contenders. 3rd.

Man.Utd(A)CUP Outplayed them first half but went in 2 down. Bale excellent.

Everton(A) Nothing positive comes to mind. Point away from home. Still in top four.

Wolves(H) Return of Modric. Brief appearance of Gio. Other results mean
we didn’t suffer as much as we might have. But I’m struggling
on this one.

Man.City(H) Best performance of the season. Lennon, Dawson, Kranjcar
outstanding.

Blacburn(A) Won with a solid performance where we might
normallylose.Clean sheet and Crouch back on scoresheet.4th
league away win

Fulham(A) Gomes brilliant. Poor game but a good point. King and Modric
made a welcome re-appearance. First three consecutive clean
sheets for five years.

Positives:
Winning away(5 total, 4 in league): goals from all over the pitch (15 different players so far): hat-tricks and more from three different players: coming from behind to win and draw: winning late on: most of the season in top four: despite key players being missing (Modric, King, Woodgate) the squad have stepped up and played with more grit and determination than previously.
Harry seems to have become more pro-active with his substitutions and to have sorted out the Keane as captain problem when he's not playing well by not making him an automatic choice.
Dawson has not only played well in the absence of his senior mentors but has thrived with the captaincy and has formed a sound partnership with Bassong.

W.Ham forecast

A win against W.Ham will start the second half of the season off nicely and we should be favourites to do so and perhaps to keep another clean sheet. W.Ham have only one once in nine games away whereas Spurs have won 6 out of nine at home. Anything can happen in a derby but I am tipping this to go with home advantage and form.

JimmyG2 official forecast is 3-0 to Spurs.

Review of Fulham and W.Ham games later in the week and my New Year resolutions and hopes.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Better than Sex

The 'Bloggers handbook' recommends using a catchy headline, so I have. We will see if it improves the hit count.

And now back to the football. Anyone who thought that their Uncle Jimmy would modestly refrain from pointing out that he forecast the two latest wins and even got the score spot on for Blackburn, and predicted the demise of Mark Hughes, does not fully appreciate the ego power of your average blogger. If we could harness it, Global Warming would be a distant memory instead of an even more imminent threat after Copenhagen.

Actually I've been saying that Hughes would get the sack for about 18mths, since he was first appointed in fact, a bit like the man who carried an 'End of the World Is Nigh' sign for 30yrs but died before his prophecy came true. It's all a matter of timing. Multi billionaires soon throw their toys and their managers out of the pram if their money doesn't bend the Laws of Nature. They haven't worked out yet that only one team can win the league.

Now I'm not saying that I actually caused these events, well not completely on my own obviously. The lads helped by matching their brilliance against Man.City with some determination against a Blackburn side that probably shaded us for possession. Gomes made at least four saves and Robinson made none, though he should have come for Kranjcar's cross for our first goal. Given our record up there this was a real signpost on the way to somewhere.

To put the match into perspective try listening to Sam's analysis or reading some of the Blackburn fan sites. The first goal was apparently out of time by, ooh, several seconds; Crouch fouled Nelson for the first; the second goal was offside; Benni McCarthy was man of the match and should have scored three and so on.

Now there might be bits of truth in there somewhere: Crouch is often penalised unfairly in those situations; we were deep into injury time; McCarthy played well and was unlucky with the attempt that hit Gomes and rolled across the goal off the post, but what about the other 89 minutes?

Once again this was a real team effort, with the fullbacks supporting their wing players; Dawson and Bassong covering each other and Gomes making the save when everything else had failed. We matched them in midfield for energy and grit and our attacking play was stifled partly by our inability to pass or shoot accurately and by Blackburn's covering. Nelson did play well against Crouch, apart from the goal,and they certainly had more chances than us.

But for the second time in four days we kept a clean sheet, and Crouch crowned an excellent week with two well taken goals. I have not been his greatest admirer but I am pleased for the boy. What's good for Tottenham players is good for Tottenham. He stepped up when Defoe, Lennon and Kranjcar were all slightly off key. Both Jenas and Keane looked lively when they came on and Jenas set up the second goal with an adventurous run and a nice touch through to Crouch.

I think the key is the variety of approach, Kranjcar and probably Modric when he returns, gives us balance and both are happy to shift inside when Lennon swaps wings. We seem to be resisting the temptation of playing it too long too often. Incidently I was pleased to see the return of the Gomes long throw which tends to retain possession because it is more precise than his kicking.

Next up are Fulham who are not to be underestimated : just ask Man.Utd. They have won six of their home games out of nine and only conceded 6 goals in doing so. Captain Danny Murphy is running the show and Zamora, yes that Zamora, Bobby Zamora, is now being cheered off the pitch instead of booed. He's being tipped for the England World Cup squad by his manager, but then you wouldn't expect him to say anything different. Both players failed to make any impact at Spurs. In fact some of you had forgotten they were ever here.

So, I can feel the tension out there building as you wait for the JG2 official forecast. Tottenham will win 2-0 and their manager will get the sack. No sorry that was last week. If we get a draw (1-1 is my prediction) I will tuck into the cold turkey with relish. Actually I don't like relish; make that pickled red cabbage.

And you know what, as I contemplate the events of the last week I think I was right in the first place. Two wins in a week, a sixth away win, still in contention for the top four: it is actually better than sex. Now Mrs JimmyG2 is claiming her right of reply here and I have assured her that I don't mean with her. Ah! wrong move as now she wants to know who it was with. But I 'm going to stop digging. So look out for next week's post by whichever of us survives.

Merry Christmas, have a drink for the lads as Harry has banned all alcohol until the end of the season. Yeah right. Are golf courses not open over Xmas?

Friday, 18 December 2009

Roll up, roll up.

Roll up, roll up. Please give a rapturous welcome to Harry Redknapp's famous Flying Circus.

Witness simultaneous Bungee Jumping by the whole squad from out of the Den of Wolves to the top of the Colin Bell stand.
Observe the world famous ex-clown Heurelho Gomes;
Regard the prowling tiger Wilson Palacios;
Behold the human projectile Aaron Lennon;
Observe the World's nearly Tallest Man Peter Crouch; The Stiltman who doesn't need stilts.
Clock the troupe of ball juggling Croatians;
Clap eyes on the Fighting Cameroon, Benoit Essou-Ekotto:
Eyeball the Flying Michael Dawson and his lovely assistant Sebastian;
Discern the human heavy roller Tom Huddlestone;
Spot the disappearing Irishman;
Catch a glimpse of the Welsh Boy Wonder;
Identify the fugitive Russian;
Make out the Fill-A-Skip heart-throb;
and our own, our very own Jermain Defoe the illusionist who conjures goals out of thin air.

No but seriously folks, our best team performance since Liverpool, including Wigan. We saw off the challenge of Man.City possibly terminally and in some style. Mark Hughes' arrogance in trying to swashbuckle away from home against the team that swashes its own buckle best against opposition that tries to take us on may have dealt a fatal blow not only to his team's ambitions but his own. One win in eleven is not likely to impress his Abu Dhabi masters.

He ignored the threat of Lennon by playing Robinho, not known for covering his defender and handed him the freedom of the right flank. Little was done to protect Sylvinho even when he was being driven to distraction by Aaron who wreaked havoc from the off.

On the other flank, Kranjcar, who gave us balance, scored two and could have had more. We didn't rely solely on the long ball to Crouch who was excellent for the first time since his hat-trick and he found his team-mates with his flick ons. Dawson was solid at the back and made another serious application for the vacant post of captain with the long term injuries to Woodgate and King and the fleeting appearances of Keane.

The third goal sums up the whole match. Three Man.City defenders advanced in a line to cut out the short corner by Kranjcar. He was ignored by them all as Lennon slipped the ball between them and he then performed the old schoolboy trick of pushing the ball past a static and mesmerised Adabeyor, ran round the other side and then nutmegged Given for his second goal.

If we could shoot we might have challenged the Wigan performance: Kranjcar, Defoe, Crouch, and Huddlestone all wasted good opportunities and all three goals were scored virtually from within the six yard box.

And so to Blackburn. Which phase of the bungee jump are we on? Buoyed up by this performance we should win but Stoke and Wolves suggest caution. Blackburn have got 15 out of their 19 points at home and conceded only 7 goals in seven games. A draw wouldn't be a disgrace but I am taking us to win and score two or three.

Last season Palacios was sent off and we then fell to two late goals having led. Chimbonda may face Lennon and David Dunn is unlikely to play. We are mentally stronger now, oh yes we are, and have the quality and the momentum to win this one. Lawrenson plays safe and predicts a draw, but, like Spurs, I'm on a roll so I am going for 2-0 to Spurs.

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Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Man.City Preview

End of World probably postponed: possibly.

The popular wrist slashing kits first launched at the beginning of last season are back in stock and on special offer ( 30% off, for one day only ) in the Spurs shop in readiness for the Man.City game tonight so make sure you order early. You can get a further discount on six or more so they would make the ideal Xmas present for your Spurs supporting mates.

They are packed in an attractive box with a picture of Daniel Levy, Harry Redknapp and the team on the top. The de luxe version contains a mini dartboard and darts so that you can cut out the pictures of Daniel and Harry or your favourite scapegoat, mount them on the board and vent your feelings before making the final gesture. Who knows it might just prevent you from making the ultimate sacrifice.

Sixteen games in, we are fifth in the most open Premiership ever. But confused by our fantastic start our response to the defeats by Stoke and now Wolves is to turn, once again upon ourselves. This is not just a Tottenham thing, all supporters do it, just have a look at their fan sites, but we do seem to do it with more relish than some others.

So for now: Redknapp is unable to take us to the next level; Robbie Keane is finished; Corluka beat Huddlestone in a slow race; Palacios was never as good as we thought he was; Jenas was responsible for the defeat against Wolves even though he wasn't even on the bench, and so it goes on.

A win tonight will sweep all these doubts back into a drawer to be dusted off and re-examined when we next lose, probably to Blackburn on Saturday. A draw might suit both sides but at home we surely have the edge. I said that against Wolves and Stoke but it still remains true. City's record at WHL is dire so we have history on our side. And what does History teach us? Correct: History teaches us that History teaches us nothing.

The back five picks itself as Woodgate and King are still not available. Modric definitely won't start according to Harry and the midfield depends on whether Jenas has recovered from the food poisoning that laid him low on Saturday. Up front Crouch will probably start with Defoe after Keane's poor display.

Personally I would like to see Defoe and Pavlyuchenko start. Why? To see if they can do better than Defoe/Keane or Defoe/Crouch did on Saturday. Another suggestion is for Kjranjcar to play in the hole behind Defoe, then Gio or Modric could replace Kranjcar at some stage. This is all a bit radical and while it is a bit premature to stock up on the wrist slashing kits in anticipation of the doom to come, we haven't quite reached the 'lets try something completely different' stage either. I have no doubt that Harry will proceed cautiously, for the moment anyway.

The defeats against Stoke and Wolves are worrying because of our inability to open up packed defences and to take our chances when we make them, but setbacks happen and we have time to overcome them with 22 matches to go. Defensively Man.City are as error prone as ourselves. They play attacking football which leaves them open to the rapid counter attack game which suits us better than playing against 'smash and grab' defensive outfits.

My feeling, is that we will edge it, possibly 2-1 and I am really looking forward to the game which promises to be fast and open. They, like us, have injury problems; Bridge is out; Wright Phillips is doubtful; Bellamy is suspended.

But if we should lose its not the end of the world. That's penciled in for after Xmas.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Blip-A-Dee-Doo-Da, Just a bad day

Blip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah
Just a bad day
Blip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah
Just a bad day.

(With thanks to Walt Disney's 'Song of the South'

Music hath charms to soothe the frenzied breast of Tottenham supporters who are starting to fear that the best is behind us and that the worst is yet to come. I find that Walt Disney is a great comfort in situations like this. Mickey Mouse outfits anyone? But let's not get carried away. Only a fool would think that we could match our starting sequence of games for the whole season. Well as we are on a musical theme here, as Elvis Presley put it:

'Every now and then, there's a fool such as I'

Realistically, I suppose, we were bound to have a sequence of poorer results. Every team seems to be doing it this season. We outplayed Villa who beat Man.Utd. at Old Trafford yesterday. Bolton scored three against Chelsea. We beat Wigan 9-1 who beat Villa and so on. We couldn't hope to maintain a 2 points per game average through the season. In our first 8 games we gained 18 pts. (five wins and two losses.) In the second 8 we got 11pts. (three wins and three losses ) 'From rags to riches' or visa versa. Another Elvis offering as it happens.

You will find the Wolves' result in the Desk Sergeant's book along with Stoke under 'muggings'. It puts the away draws against Villa and Everton into a brighter perspective. These teams came to spoil and not to play, and there will be others. We are going to have to devise better formations and strategies to overcome this 'park the bus tactic'. Once again we dominated possession( 70%/ 30%) and shots (18/4) but if you don't score, you can't win: and if you don't keep a clean sheet you might just lose.

Ideally we will escape this decidedly average run against Man.City on Wednesday or they and Aston Villa will threaten to leave us behind. The challenge from Liverpool is delayed by the Arsenal win today.

We had chances to win it. Kranjcar uncharacteristically missed a good one after some slick passing between Corluka, Lennon and Modric; Huddlestone drew a good save from Hahnemann; Defoe and Crouch could have done better with their opportunities. In the end we were not clever or sharp enough around a packed box to create enough clear chances.

Until Modric came on there was little buzz or inventiveness in the midfield. He allowed us to play the ball shorter and quicker and provided a link that Huddlestone and Palacios seemed unable to provide. It was good to catch sight of Gio again as he also offers some hope of quicker thinking although ten minutes was too short to see whether he might make a difference.

In general we passed the ball well but our build up was slow, deliberate and somewhat ponderous. Some very poor passing amongst the good ceded possession at vital moments and these stick in the memory. Keane, who made some good runs, seems to have completely lost his confidence and touch. Crouch was slow of thought and movement and not one of his flick ons reached a Spurs player. In the end we went route one with little success. Defoe seemed to be in a world of his own. Lennon was well marked again and rarely made the by-line on either flank.

Our next 17 games in the run up to Arsenal in April contain Man.City at home and away, Villa at home and Liverpool away. The other 13 games are against what you might consider 'easier' teams. You need to put the Stoke and Wolves results to one side at this point. That's a bit like saying that apart from the blizzards, the hurricane and the floods the weather has been quite settled.

By then we need to be more than in contention because our last five games involve 3 of the usual top four suspects. The way its going it might be all over by then. One game at a time Jimmy, one game at a time.

I finish where I started with Disney lyrics this time from 'Snow White' and this time in honour of our one true great, Luka Modric.

'When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true.

Modric is my star and my dream is of a top four finish, this season. In true Spurs fashion we are making it harder and less likely and the rest of the season is becoming unnecessarily exciting or perhaps depressing. I'm off now to browse the Walt Disney songbook again to find some cheeringful material for future columns. You have been warned.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Wolves preview.

Well, now its official: 'Spurs lack mental strength'. Despite my brilliantly argued and eloquent paper on the alternatives to the 'mental weakness' theory,( See previous blog) Mark Lawrenson has decided to abandon reason and go straight to bald assertion. In his Tottenham v Wolves preview he deals a mortal blow to my ideas by his pronouncement that we do, in fact, 'lack mental strength'.Fact.

So there you have it. Any waverers out there who were almost convinced by my arguments can stop worrying about it and relax. Clearly I was wrong, and any of you that subscribe to the 'mental' theory can bask in the knowledge that you are on-side with Mr. Lawrenson and that you correctly identified the root cause as to why we are only in fourth pace with long term injuries to three of our senior players and are having our best and most promising season for years. We lack mental strength and if we had it we might be, er, third.

However both he and Mr.Hanson predict a win for us on Saturday and there I think we can say that this is not controversial and I agree with them. You don't get to be a well paid pundit by sticking your neck out.

Spurs are 4th; Wolves are 18th. We have 27 pts from 15 games. Wolves have 13
Our goal difference is +14; Wolves is -14. We are strong at home, Wolves are poor away. A cast iron, nailed on, copper bottomed win then. But by how many shall we say? We are bound to concede one but we should score three or four. So let's make that a 4-1 home victory.

But 'Wait!' I hear you cry, ' What about the mental weakness factor?' Ah I forgot, sorry Mr. Lawrenson. Difficult one that. Nope, I spit in the face of 'mental weakness'; I expectorate in the countenance of the pundits; I......well I think you get the general drift.

Spurs to win then 5-1. Modric might get half an hour. Dos Santos might get 10 mins. And if Pavlyuchenko is sold Dos Santos could save us £10 million or more on a replacement striker.

Keane will probably start with Defoe; Captain Dawson and Bassong at the back with Lennon, Jenas, Huddlestone and Kranjcar across the middle. I assume that even 'Iron Man' Wilson will not have recovered yet. Three points and we go above Arsenal who might well get beaten at Liverpool, although a draw would suit us better. That draws a line under Everton and puts a smile back on all our faces.

So don't let me down now lads, I've gone out on a limb for you again. Don't saw the bloody branch off between me and the trunk. Stick your 'mental weakness' up Wolverhampton Wanderers and the pundits.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Mental weakness

'Mental weakness'. Can it be the cause of all our woes? It certainly seems to be gaining ground quite widely as the comprehensive explanation for our failure to hold a winning position, most recently at Everton. It is not a new accusation and we seemed to have overcome it recently. When we were constantly losing to late goals a couple of seasons ago it was the subject of some debate.

However as a theory it worries me, especially when so many people take it up like a slogan with such enthusiasm. As soon as people seize on any theory: Comolli or mental weakness or Gareth Bale or Harry or whatever to explain everything I get doubtful. Life thankfully, is never that simple.

This season we seemed to have overcome many of our previous hang-ups which is why we are doing so well. I list a few: scoring the second (and on occasions the third, fourth, fifth and even ninth) goal: coming from behind to win and draw; holding on to win; scoring late to win; winning five times away from home.

In general, keeping our nerve and seeing things out. Stoke and Everton were the exceptions rather than the rule. The games against Manchester Utd. Chelsea and Arsenal might be said to show mental weakness but it could be that we were beaten by better teams, or shot ourselves in the foot by individual errors.

So why this sudden attack of mental weakness in a season where we have generally been mentally strong? The idea that Spurs are mentally weak seems to suggest that it is something in our genetic make-up at Spurs. Even players that arrive mentally strong succumb. Is that the reason why a promising player like Gareth Bale loses it? Or why Wilson seems so jaded?

Easier explanations are available; injuries or personal problems in these two cases. If it is mental weakness its a difficult problem to address. Again I list some possible remedies: the appointment of a more uncompromising and experienced captain; the appointment of a team of sports' psychologists; late goal electric shock aversion therapy; severe fines for poor passes, tackles, and missed opportunities. If its a long-standing Tottenham problem then I am not hopeful of a cure.

Actually I am. The first cure is success: winning games breeds confidence and I think that this is true of this season. All the other remedies are football ones which are easier to implement than attacking 'head' problems even on an individual basis let alone as a team or club neurosis.

Lets start with better tactics. Trying for the third goal when you are 2-0 up on 59mins. is not unreasonable but the game plan changes when you are 2-0 up with 10mins left. If the players don't know this from their own experience then better and more comprehensive coaching is the answer.

Better and quicker substitutions in response to the situation and the tactical changes of the opposition. Giving the team a clearer understanding of what is required of them collectively and individually at different stages of the game depending on the situation. 'Visualizing possibilities and outcomes' I think they call it in modern coaching theory.

All these apply to the Everton game and they are down partly to Harry and the coaching staff not just the players. We dropped points at Everton in my view due to purely footballing reasons; poor positioning (Kranjcar Bale and Bassong) poor clearances (Palacios) failing to retain possession of the ball(everyone more or less), dropping too deep when under pressure( a perennial Tottenham habit). Was all this the result of 'mental weakness'?

These are all deficiencies that can be cured by better coaching at team and individual level, after all even Aaron has learnt how to cross. Better players and a new manager might cure most of these problems but I do not advocate either. We are, as many point out frequently, doing very well, so wholesale changes are not required.

Lack of leadership on the field is another possibility. The first step might be to appoint Dawson as captain given the uncertainties surrounding Woodgate and King's injuries and now Keane, who has been regularly subbed and has not started the last two games.

He is likely to become first choice centre half and plays with wholehearted enthusiasm and has improved as a player. At the moment he is fifth choice captain, after King, Keane, Woodgate and Jenas. He might lack experience but would grow into the role and certainly give leadership. He has scored twice in two games as captain and a settled back four pairing would certainly help.

Is it the answer to everything? Obviously not in the same way that even if there is an element of truth in the accusation of 'mental weakness' it is not the whole problem. 'Mental weakness' doesn't do it for me: it has a somewhat mystical element: 'The Ghost in the Woodwork at White Hart Lane' and ignores many more basic problems.

Monday, 7 December 2009

The Match of the Day(2) test

Let us apply the 'Match of the Day(2)' test.
Did you watch it? I didn't for the first time this season. Arsenal, Chelsea, Man.Utd: no problem we were beaten in the end by better teams and were never really in with a shout. Stoke: I decided that we played well enough even though we went down to a sucker punch. My disappointment for that match had worn off by 10.30.

But Sunday night? I'm afraid not. When I fall out of love with Tottenham I fall out of love with football. I still have that little knot of anger in my stomach two days later. I couldn't bear to watch the missed chances again, or the patronizing tone of the pundits patting ambitious little Spurs on the head and hinting that they doubted us all along. Perhaps they didn't adopt this tone. Perhaps they praised the grit and determination of Everton, all qualities that they would be implying we don't have. But remember I don't know because I didn't watch it. I couldn't run the risk of any further damage to my emotional system.

I knew, like every time-served Tottenham fan, that Defoe would miss the penalty and in truth by then we didn't deserve to win. We had been sidetracked in the first half into a physical confrontation and instead of playing football we attempted to show that we are 'hard enough'. Much to the delight of Everton who clearly had more to gain than us from such a battle and possibly from an element of our own supporters keen to show that we are not soft, southern, milk sops.

However this is to lose sight of the planet for the sake of a blade of grass. As a consequence of this diversion and Crouch and Defoe missing three good chances we went in level without a goal being scored.

In the second half we cleared the 'red mist' long enough to go two up and restored some sanity to the situation. But then we lost it again by not holding onto the ball and conceding possession at every opportunity. The fought and battled for everything, made it again a question of will, manufactured a couple of chances with help from Bale and Palacios and that was that.

Harry was slow again to make the changes we needed: Jenas for Kranjcar, Keane for Crouch perhaps. In the event Jenas came on after 88 mins. I'm not sure what that was about, to save the game perhaps. The penalty was a lifeline that we didn't deserve at that point but if it had gone in I might have watched Match of the Day but with a slight sense of shame.

A point away from home is never to be dismissed and in that sense this was not a 'must win game'. But on the day it was a 'should have won game' and they are the most likely to cause the Match of the Day audience to be at least one short. My head is telling me that we have gained two points from away matches against potential rivals for top four. That for most of the first game we played well, deserved to win both and that we are still on track

Nope. It doesn't work for me at the moment. This was four points that might just be useful during our difficult run in: two lost against Villa and two gift wrapped with bows and dropped into the skip against Everton who are more likely candidates for relegation than Europe.

Defoe's goal was well taken from another fine Lennon cross to the near post and captain Dawson scored a 'Boys Own' diving header from a Kranjcar corner. The first half was the poorest in football terms I have watched in a long time and we need a fight promoter for the next Everton game. What football there was we played it. Lennon was head and shoulders above everyone else which is quite hard when you're the smallest person on the pitch. Crouch was the tallest: draw your own conclusions.

Arguments over whether Keane, Pavlyuchenko, or Jenas should have started are irrelevant when you have done enough to win the game but throw it away by playing poor football. Results, apart from Liverpool, went against us for the first time recently and the gathering pack is poised to overtake us, especially a resurgent City. We remain in the top four and have a winnable home game against Wolves which I will preview when I have recovered my composure.

So the running order on 'Match of the Day(2)' is an evaluation of the quality of the game and the audience figures a measure of my emotional state on a Saturday night. Not bad for a football highlights programme. Were we on first? I didn't watch it, as I think I told you.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Now we can concentrate on the league

Plenty of moments of truth, turning points, markers, crossroads and possible jump-starts this week. Will Everton's progress in the Europa Cup jump-start their season? Was Liverpool's win at Everton a turning point? Could Chelsea's Carling Cup defeat at Blackburn prove a crossroads for both clubs? Will Man.City's defeat of Arsenal be a marker for a new assault on the top four? All of these are unanswerable questions, at this stage, and only determined in the long run by 20/20 hindsight, that crucial piece in the pundit's and blogger's tool kit.

How does Tottenham's defeat at Man.Utd in the Carling Cup fit into this speculative whirlpool? Well, a game of two halves really (is it too late to take out a patent on that phrase?) and you have to ignore the two superb strikes by Gibson that settled the match. We can take heart from the first half where we played confidently and imposed ourselves on a side prepared to take us at our own valuation: third in the table; nine goal winners over Wigan. They began apprehensively and allowed us to play, if not to score.

In the end we showed the ability but not the desire. Harry's declaration that the league was a priority before the match didn't help but our second half display was poor bordering on the abject. It lacked pace and belief. Checking through the box marked 'positives' only Bale's name leaps out. Hutton and Bentley combined well at times in the first half; Lennon is a threat whichever wing he plays on; Dawson was competent: Gomes was a bystander, even for the goals. The rest flickered like the flame of hope in the cold Old Trafford blast and went out. Bassong was slow to close down for at least the second goal, and for the Cuellar header that led to Villa's goal on Saturday.

In the 'If only' file Defoe's failure to convert Bale's cross or to roll it across the six yard box for Keane is the key exhibit. If he had scored then perhaps the psychological boot would have been on the other foot. Or the psychological foot would have been in the other boot. Whatever. The stress on golden boot awards makes strikers even more selfish than they already are by nature. Perhaps the big award of the season should be the 'Golden Shoehorn' for the most assists.

But we were not outplayed. We lost it in our heads rather than on the pitch. So as usual you can make of this what you like. It probably depends on your temperament. Take the positives from the first half and look forward with confidence, or take the negatives from the result and the lacklustre second half and fall into gloom and depression at the thought of a newly energized Everton at the weekend.

Personally I am a positive depressive and will quickly recover from the Manchester result. But its not really about me is it. You have to feed into your predictive computer the fact that Everton sustained further injuries, to Distin, Gosling and Jo, to their already depleted squad. We have already beaten Everton 2-0 this season and they are worse placed now than when we beat them. Crouchy says that the defeat to Man.Utd was a 'one off'.

So there you have it, almost certainly we will win but I await confirmation that Woodgate and /or King are available. Kranjcar will be back even if Modric doesn't quite make it. Defoe can't keep missing chances and we cannot fail to improve on our second half performance at Old Trafford.

At least we can fall back on the straw- clutcher's last hope that 'now we can concentrate on the league.'

Monday, 30 November 2009

There's people all over the media

There's people all over the media. They think its all over. Its not yet. Managers; ex-managers; managers about to become ex-managers; ex-managers about to become managers are all over Spurs like a rash. The latest is Sir Alex` but as we play them on Tuesday in the Carling Cup we have to examine this gift horse with care. Does he want us to play Huddlestone , our most gifted but most vulnerable player and Palacios, who has been off form for a while? Or not?

What sort of team will he put out? What sort of team will Harry put out? Given that this Cup gives maximum benefit for the minimum of effort will we go for it? If you have a clue drop me a line. I've no idea.

In the meantime after Villa its not just the managerial ranks who are auditioning to be in our backing group. Its senior pundits too. Hold the front page! Senior pundit says Spurs are favorites to take Top Four place ahead of Man.City and Aston Villa. (But don't write of Liverpool just yet, obviously) And who was this senior pundit? Well actually it was Alan Shearer on Match Of The Day, but let's not split hairs here. Be nice to those you meet on the way up you might meet them on the way down.

Do we need 'Our Alan' to tell us what we already knew after Saturdays game? Man.City, they of the award winning seven consecutive draws couldn't beat Hull at home, and we exposed Villa as mere 'pretenders' while establishing our own credentials as the real 'contenders' as the TV. billing had it.

We were put onto the back foot for 25 minutes by their early scrambled goal and they had six corners in this time, but by the end of the match they were hanging on and we had claimed every statistic. This included an astonishing successful pass tally of over 300 to their 170 and 64% possession. We played like the home team and on the front foot which is where I like us to play.

They defended well and got a grip on Lennon but last week against Wigan everything flew in and this week it didn't. We would have taken a point before the game and so would they but in the event we might easily have won it. More importantly we played as if we thought we could do so. This without our two first choice centre halves and Modric.

Dawson was captain and goalscorer and playing for the first time in the league with Bassong they gave a convincing impression of a first choice pairing. If Kranjcar hadn't turned in another classy performance I would have made Dawson man of the match.

Gomes did not have a single save to make in the whole game. Jenas came on for Palacios to confound his critics again, as he did against Man.Utd, to give a demonstration of forceful attacking midfield play. He immediately struck up a partnership with Huddlestone which threatened to win the game for us and we pressed for the winner until the end.

I was completely fooled by Harry's pre-match interviews and thought that Keane would start and that Jenas might be preferred to Huddlestone. I aught to know better by now. Tom has started every game this season and so far Palacios has been our midfield anchorman.

This was a statement of intent by Harry and the squad and added the element of belief to our play. And why not? We've been in the top four almost the whole season, we are well into the second third and there is clear blue Lillywhite water appearing between us and the rest. We are developing an attitude and the mentality to achieve success.

The return of Lennon and Defoe and the quality of Kranjcar have given us a lift and one wonders where Modric will fit in. Only joking Luka you can play where you like mate, we'll slot the rest in around you. Unfortunately I don't think we will see the best of him until after Xmas now. What price a cameo role for him or Gio on Tuesday in the Carling Cup where even the ghost of Pavlyuchenko might get a start. He wasn't even on the bench on Saturday.

We are the only team standing now between a return to the 'normal' Top Four. It makes us an objective for a new level of player and helps to keep our own top players happy to stay. If we slip up then the bloodhounds will be sniffing around and cocking their legs on Modric, Lennon and Defoe and marking out their territory on our key players.

Tottenham supporters as always are more circumspect not to say downright fearful that we are peaking to early, getting too much attention, putting our heads above the parapet and drawing the sniper's fire. All this praise is a Trojan horse designed to swell our heads and unbalance us from the high wire. Now you don't recall the Trojan horse episode but friends I was there. Its a load of balony. Remember Bill Nicholson
' Its better to fail aiming high than succeed aiming low.'
I'm with Bill on this one and I don't intend to keep quiet about it. 'Chutzpah' covers it.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Villa preview

'Not another 'must win, six pointer' this week is it?' says Mrs JG2 casting a glance at me poring over the OPTA statistics, Old Moore's Almanac, Russell Grant's star chart for August (Spurs first game was in August 1882)and fingering my worry beads. If the August predictions are not propitious I use my birthday (February) instead.

'Why did you score so many last week? You could have saved them for this game'.

She has a point in her peculiarly uninformed way, but I ignore her. I tell her every week that this is the crucial one, the real test, the game that might define our season, which of course it is until we lose it and then I start to explain how this one can be ignored. Just a blip.

Anyway I assume that everybody has arrived safely back down to earth and that I am not addressing an empty void. A sterner task faces us this week away to Villa. Their home record is good although our own away record has improved. We are flying after our thrashing of Wigan who, curiously, are the only team to have beaten Villa at home this year, but that was in the opening game of the season.

Where does this lead us forecast wise? I did a little in-depth research on a Villa website.
All crazy as coots: questioning the manager; criticising team selection; promoting their own favorites at the expense of team regulars. At least we we don't have that to put up with at Spurs where Harry is a God, Robbie Keane is a Saint and everyone supports the team, the squad, the club and the manager without dissent.

Anyway as result of my extensive 3 minute skim I find that although there was some reference to 'cocky cockneys' getting 'stuffed' on the whole there was sufficient nervousness after last week to take a draw if it was offered and I guess many of us would do the same.

However I am optimistic that we can get a narrow win. Even if Villa were to win by less than four goals we will remain above them and the rest of the chasing pack for another week. That's my cover story if we lose. I haven't explained this to Mrs.JG2 yet. I'm saving it in case. Both Hansen and Lawrenson predict a home win by a narrow margin so that gives us a slight edge to start with.

What team will Harry put out? Logically the same as last week, winning team and all that. But he has been defending Robbie Keane this week and decrying the hostility of the fans toward the man that he brought back and appointed captain and may well start him with Defoe as a demonstration of his support .

There is also a good football argument in playing him and Defoe up front as their mobility and speed will worry the Villa defense more than balls pumped up towards Crouch. But it must be admitted that we largely resisted this temptation last week. Villa are not likely to give us as many early Xmas presents as the Wigan back line did.

Kranjcar should keep his place and the only midfield change I can see is perhaps Jenas for Huddlestone as in an away fixture we might need his 'engine' to give us greater cover in defense and to get forward more quickly to support the attack when needed. Unless Harry has finally decided that Huddlestone is first choice in midfield with Palacios. At the back King will start if fit with Woodgate, and Bassong may well get the nod over Dawson if not.

A win will cement the gap that has opened up between us and Villa and Man.City. Everton who I wrote off some weeks ago continue to slide, losing at Hull in midweek, and look more likely to be fighting relegation than contesting the Europa places. That means that realistically there are only 7 teams contesting the top 7 places, with perhaps Sunderland and Fulham as outside bets.

It should be a good game tactically and technically as both teams try to play the right way but we have the edge in attack with Lennon and Defoe and a clean sheet might well be the key to winning this one. I am not expecting the openness that produced the 4-4 thriller of last year, nor am I expecting Harry to give Pavlyuchenko a start or even a cameo role. He couldn't even get on when we were 6-1 up with 20mins to go so what are the chances if it's tight.

For the record I predicted that we would win 3-1 last week and I got 2 out of three. Just a little underestimation of our score prevented me from being spot on. Long may it last.

Prediction: Villa 1:Spurs 2.( So that's 1-6 then in Wigan terms)

Monday, 23 November 2009

A day to remember

9-1, well played lads, 'nuff said.

Oh! The Blogmaster says I can't get away with that, check the small print in the Blogcontract. OK. then: very well played lads. Nope, still not enough. Remember, less is more, 'Brevity is the soul of wit' Blogmaster.

Anyway at half-time I was thinking 'Stoke again' even though this time we had got the early goal and Lennon was looking purposeful if not positively single minded. For 25mins. we throttled and harassed and bewildered them and could have been 3 or 4 up.

Then we relented and let them play with ball a bit and although their shooting was woeful we gave them the opportunity to get back into the game. We played as if we had forgotten what Harry had said as we left the dressing room, something about high tempo, attack and closing down the midfield.

He obviously repeated it with threats at half time because the game was transformed by Defoe's deadly finishing and Lennon's tormenting of ex-Spur Edman in his first return to White Hart Lane. He must have called him a 'hyperactive dwarf' or something at some stage in the first half because after that Lennon failed to extend him the usual courtesies.

This was a squad victory : no Keane or King our team and club captains; no Modric, our best player though Kranjcar was no mere understudy here; no Jenas, exhausted after marking Kaka against Brazil presumably.

But everyone stepped up including captain for the day Woodgate and especially Huddlestone, who has started every game this season. Even Bentley managed an assist and a goal in his fifteen minutes of fame. Goals flew in from everywhere and every mistake, and there were several, by the Wigan defence was punished. Palacios too although still giving away free kicks unnecessarily was more positive and searching with his passes. We were rightly punished by Scharner's goal which he clearly handled but there was not a man within five yards of him when he scored.

We go to Aston Villa in the top four as of right. No need to study the table or take into account games in hand. Even if we were to lose at Villa, thanks to Jermain, we would still be fourth(unless they win by seven goals). How much it means in terms of confidence and momentum is difficult to assess but clearly it can't be negative.

I stress a squad performance because we are approaching the perils of the January transfer window. This leads to the annual pleas for buying players to take us to the next level. Well friends at the moment we are already there, achieved by Harry buying frugally and well since he arrived and assembling a quality squad who deserve some stability, loyalty, and continuity.

Players who are better than what we have are unlikely to come to us mid-season and in any case may disrupt the team dynamics or may take time to settle into the team or the Premiership. I think that Harry should tinker and fine tune a little more, try a limited amount of the rotation which was forced on him against Wigan, recall O'Hara, and stick with the present squad. We don't need to replace Pavlyuchenko if he goes because we don't use him anyway.

The lessons of the 9-1 victory were that we played at a high tempo, had a balanced 442 formation, kept the approach play mainly on the ground, despite Crouch starting, and apart from the 20 minutes before half time closed down the midfield.

I always have that 'This could be the day' feeling at kick-off. Its ridiculous I know but yesterday was just such a day and one to remember. Let's hope we don't have to wait another 30 yrs for something similar.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Wigan preview

Seasoned Spurs fans will pick out with ease the errors in the following preview.

'Tottenham have a routine game against Wigan in the Premiership on
Saturday which should give them an easy win and three points to boost
their Top Four chances.
At home to an average Wigan side with a poor away record who have yet
to fully adapt to their new manager they will be boosted by the return
of speedy winger Lennon after injury and a choice of three centre
halves.

Prediction: 3-1 to Spurs.

Spotted them ? Well I gave you an easy one to start with; the game has been switched to Sunday by mutual agreement. But this has 'banana skin' scribbled all over it. In fact it is more like a bunch of banana skins written in 96 point font in bold and underlined.

Secondly, Spurs don't do 'easy' or 'routine'. If there is a way of making us suffer, they will find it with aplomb, in style and with irritating nonchalance. Think Stoke.

Thirdly mentioning 'Top Four' is apparently to poke the gods of football with a sharp stick and to anger them into turning their faces from us and staring fixedly in a North Westerly direction.

Fourthly 'average' sides are to us what cheese at supper-time is to a sound night's sleep. A nightmare.

A 'Poor away record' is the toreador's extravagant final pass challenging the desparate bull to raise itself for one last effort to impale his soft dangly bits on the end of its sharp pointy bits.

Finally making any guesses as to the availability of Tottenham's central defenders or its creative flankers is to indulge in the fantasy worlds of Dan Brown, Agatha Christie, and Enid Blyton all at the same time.

Wigan it should be remembered have beaten both Aston Villa (Away) and Chelsea this season and have one or two players capable of causing an upset. They were however beaten 4-1 by Portsmouth in their last game.

So there you have it. A game we should win. A win which would take us back to almost the two points per match average which would have secured a Top Four finish in the last ten years of the Premiership and in some a better finish than fourth.

If Harry goes 442, puts Defoe and Keane up front, instructs the boys to keep the ball on the floor and to feed Lennon, if he plays, all will be well, especially if we can score early. The rest, and Wigan, should be history.

But as the man said 'history teaches us that history teaches us nothing'. Following Spurs over many years leads me to agree. However this season we are beating the teams outside the Top Four rather than those within it which as a strategy is more points profitable than the other way round. So my prediction and my hopeful preview stand and I might venture a small wager on a 3-1 win. Very small though.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

If its not perfect it can be improved

(Article published on Spurs Community)

Let me start by paying my respects to Harry for all he has done for us and to Robbie Keane for the fine player that he is and his contribution to the club over seven years, off and on. Secondly I am happy with the position we are in and certainly prefer it to last season.

However I belong to the, 'If its not perfect it can be improved' tendency rather than the, 'If its not broken why fix it?' school of thought. Nor do I regard Robbie Keane as some sort of talisman who must play every game for fear the football gods might punish us.

I don't believe in conspiracy theories: 'must play' clauses in contracts; secret love children; incriminating photos of Harry and the like. They are the result of frustration and overheated imagination. I don't believe that Harry has favourites but chooses players for their perceived effectiveness.

We are in the Top Four but are clinging on by our fingertips. Games in hand might see us slip out out the Champions' League places. Clubs that might have been above us have made poor starts, Everton and Liverpool, or slipped up recently, Man.City and Aston Villa. We were lucky to beat Sunderland who would otherwise have gone above us. Its never a good sign when your goalkeeper is man of the match too often.

More important to me though is that we are not playing consistently well, either as a team or individually. And you cannot succeed over 38 games by riding you luck as we have lately. (Portsmouth and Sunderland spring to mind) Firstly there is the Robbie Keane situation. He is visibly off form but as captain starts every game and is then subbed regularly on the hour. Effective team formation is being sacrificed to the requirements of fitting him in.

Secondly there is the Crouch problem and though much debate on here centred around the usefulness of having a tall striker as a tactical option when required it has begun to affect the way that we play, particularly when he starts. He is like Darren Bent in that the style of football that we play is altered for the worse in order to fit him in.

Thirdly individual players are off form. Now whatever reservations you may have about Huddlestone and Jenas they have both, in general, stepped up and at the moment Wilson 'best thing since sliced bread' Palacios has not. He certainly adds an element that has been missing from the Spurs midfield but of late has appeared distracted.

His tackling is suspect, he gives away too many free kicks in dangerous positions and his passing has been poor. In a 442 formation he should play in the centre of the midfield, with Huddlestone to the left and Jenas to the right. At the moment the backup widely deemed vital to be purchased in January could well be his replacement.

Without Lennon and Modric who give us width and creativity we need Kranjcar to operate on the left, with Bale as a possible substitute if we need more pace. We seem more effective when we play 442 with Keane, if he has to start, up front with Defoe. Crouch should be an impact sub alternated with Pavlyuchenko while he is still here. Defoe and Pavlyuchenko could also be tried in order to establish the most effective partnership.

Dawson and Woodgate should be the first choice centre backs while Bassong is injured and King should be backup until his recent spate of injuries on top of, or because of his ongoing condition, is sorted out.

What am I trying to achieve? A more effective team, playing more fluent football securing even greater success. The table doesn't lie, we are doing very well but in my view with the team, the players and manager that we have we could be doing better and be more secure in our challenge at the top. With Modric and Lennon to return and a better balance to the squad this should certainly be possible.

What we need are minor adjustments, a little fine tuning, far less than the wholesale import of new players demanded by some in January who may or may not integrate into the team and the Premiership. We cannot just hope for the best or rest on our laurels.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Tweak it Harry

In 1965 my late father in law, an engineer by trade and a mechanic by inclination, was the owner of an immaculate, black Rover 100. He spent the weekends 'tinkering' with the engine. That was in the days when cars lasted for ever and scrappage schemes for a mere 10yr.old vehicles would have been met with derision. He adjusted, tweaked, modified and fine tuned until an already smoothly running engine was at peak performance.

You could of course actually access the engine then and not just plug it into a computer once a year for a diagnostic analysis.The football equivalent is the six monthly transfer window.Not so much Quick Fit as quick fix

Harry has done a wonderful job and continues to do so. But he is not perfect and not making the most of his assets and the team partly as a consequence is not playing well. But Harry is loyal, or stubborn, as some might have it, and can use the 'If it ain't broke' defence. Harry's attitude seems to be 'Well its got us half way there, why bother to open the bonnet and see what that irritating rattle is.

What does our last game teach us? That there ain't no justice. We outplayed Stoke and lost. We were outplayed by Sunderland and won. The three points puts an end to the losing run, papers over the cracks and puts us back in the top four. That is mainly because other results continue to go our way particularly those of Man.City who got their fifth consecutive draw and are two points behind us with a game in hand. Aston Villa are closing in. That's two six pointers before Xmas.

'What cracks?' Well we can't rely on Gomes to dig us out every time for a start.
You can't continue to start your captain in every game and then substitute him in every game because he isn't doing the job. You can't assemble a squad of decent footballers and then lump the ball towards Crouch and hope for the best. I know its not supposed to work like this but it seems to.

Meanwhile a successful International striker is ignored. You buy a quality player like Kranjcar as cover for Modric and then sit him on the bench, leaving the side unbalanced and without width. As soon as we went to 442 and Kranjcar came on the quality of the football improved and we made a few chances of our own.

Harry wonders why we don't play in a match like we do in training. Probably because training consists of short games on restricted pitches with the emphasis on limited touch and plenty of movement and passing. I would guess that they don't practice hoofing the ball half the length of the pitch onto Crouch's head very much. Even Dawson has cut out the 40yd heat seeking missile stuff.

Of course the return of Modric and Lennon promises both width and creativity and with luck we might just maintain our position until then. But in the meantime as we approach the lead up to the period, prior to the pre- mid season transfer window, fans and possibly Harry and certainly journalists start to link us with young hopefuls and old has- beens who might just fit in somewhere. For anyone decent we will have to wait until Chelsea, Man.Utd, Man.City, or any other team here or abroad who have money to burn have inspected its teeth.

At Portsmouth and Sunderland we came up against players we have discarded who might give us pause for thought; Reid, Malbranque, Boateng, and perhaps O'hara whose future looks uncertain before we plunge our hands into the Lucky Dip again. Bent, who we used poorly was replaced by Pavlyuchenko who we have treated in exactly the same way and who it seems is to be replaced in his turn.

Now Harry resisted the temptations of the summer sales and bought frugally and well. I argued the merits of stability before and after Harry's appointment and continue to do so. What we need is a tune up, Harry not a major overhaul. A little tinkering would probably do the job. My father in law would certainly approve. You might find that you already have a classic machine in your hands,check the spares. Recycling is the new shopping

Friday, 6 November 2009

A bad day at the office

A bad day at the office, is sometimes known as a ´blip´. I assume that this is a PR ointment designed to soothe the wounds sustained after a public humiliation. Both phrases have been uttered by the players and manager this week and I have used it myself on occasions to keep my spirits up after a loss or a disappointing performance.

But even as I say it I am aware what a pathetic get out it is. It is meant to conceal the true extent of the collapse in performance. In fact it suggests that there are no lessons to be learned; that except for an individual error by a player or the referee; a bit of bad luck; an own goal against the run of play, or an injury to a key player, we would have deservedly won. Just a blip, nothing happening here; nothing to see; move on.

Now Stoke maybe, but Arsenal? Now I'm not usually one to pick at old scabs but when Jenas, a player that I rate, acting as official mouthpiece, comes out with the 'bad day at the office' line I feel cheated and worry that no deep level probe in the true traditions of the Gestapo has not swung immediately into action complete with focused angle-poise lamps and dodgy foreign accents.

I can imagine JJ at the office, pinstripe suit and briefcase, neat and tidy, but he is no more likely to survive a week there than any other top level footballer. Especially when he discovers that he has to work for a couple of years for what he's getting now every week. At the Tottenham office last week it was more like going into administration than just minor mishaps which conjures up an over run on the weekly paper-clip allowance, a mild headache and the discovery that someone has not replaced the paracetamol in the first aid kit, and a shortfall of £1.89p. in the petty cash.

But on this particular bad day things were much, much worse: the head cashier, a loyal employee,with the firm man and boy, left the vault wide open and his password on a post-it note on his computer screen; the whole of the back office went home early; the security guard gave his pass keys to a well know local pickpocket; the Chief Executive Officer got his staff rotas mixed up, and his deputy spent so much time trying to check that everyone else was doing their jobs properly that he didn't leave himself time to do his own.

Now it seems to me that there is plenty to work on here for most of the training sessions this week and that 'Just a bad day at the office' is company speak for a code red swoop; a right roasting behind closed doors and compulsory viewing of the whole game, daily, with each player explaining exactly what he thought he was doing and in addition what he thought he was meant to be doing. And then writing out several hundred times 'I must not switch off'.

Next up its Sunderland where old Tottenham players go out to pasture, and where Darren Bent in particular has scores to settle. Lets hope he doesn't. He will welcome a direct comparison with Defoe in the competition for an England place. If we're hoping to at least threaten for honours, you would expect us to win a game in which we are faced by several players judged not good enough to play for us. If we do it would compensate for the loss last week in terms of points and demonstrate that lessons had been learnt and that a bad day at the office had turned a profit after all.

I am curious as to what the actual line-up will be, particularly at centre half, midfield and er...up front. Gomes, Keane, Defoe, Jenas, Dawson, Ekotto, Corluka and Palacios will probably start. Kranjcar, Bentley, Woodgate and Hutton are possibilties, Bale and Crouch are likely to appear at some time. We will hopefully play 442 and go out to win the game. Confidence returned, heads up once again. A loss is unthinkable, but I expect I'll cope.

They say that each game teaches you something and that you learn more from a loss than a victory. I hope we don't end the season with the most knowledgeable set of losers in the league.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Are we nearly there yet?

Whatever you can prove on paper about the relative strengths of the two squads, on the day, on the pitch we were out played, outfought, out thought and exposed as mere pretenders to the higher reaches of the league. We were not in the same league as Arsenal. Actually that is the problem: we are.

Now let's not get carried away. This was not one of those must win games on the points chart on the back of the kitchen door. That was last week against Stoke. We have two winnable games at home coming up and six points would put us very much back on track with 25pts from 13 games, only one off the magic 2pts per game tally. As I write we are still in the top four although Man. City could overtake us this afternoon. I said that last week when once again results went our way. But the pack is bunching up behind us.

But the manner of the defeat was disheartening. We came for a point and hoped to do a Stoke. We played O.K for 42 minutes and then led by Ledley King auditioning early for pantomime villain didn't just shoot ourselves in the foot but performed ritual hari kari. I'm not sure what Panto that is. We didn't get a shot on target in open play during the whole game and but for an early Gomes save from Fabregas and poor finishing from Eduardo it could have been much worse.

Fabregas was absolutely fabulous and ran the show. He scored an inspired solo goal when gifted the ball by Palacios, nipping between Jenas and Huddlestone, evading a trademark Palacios lunge and tempting Ledley into a uncharacteristic wild, last ditch tackle 30yds out to leave Gomes helpless. All this within 11 seconds of our own kick-off from the first goal, another tale of slack defending; no Bassong in place to cut out the cross and Ledley slow to respond to the near post ball that Van Persie converted.

We played the ball too often hopefully towards Crouch who only managed to lay the ball off twice and nothing came of anything we did. In midfield we were slow of thought and movement but with little signs of life up front there were only limited possibilities. The full backs were rarely able to make progress down the wings and crossed from too deep towards Crouch who was always marked by two or three strong defenders. Bentley forgot that he was our new saviour, again.

The third goal was the result of our defenders disobeying the first rule of football: ' Play to the whistle' and Gomes and King confused each other and gifted the ball to Van Persie. A catalogue of horrors right on cue for Halloween. Just as the lads were anticipating hot mugs of cocoa and warm words from Harry at half time the Nightmare on Ashburton Grove began. The villain is usually some extra terrestrial or malignant force but in this new age of computers this was more like an internal virus.

Blame who you like; Ledley, Gomes, Huddlestone, Bentley, Harry or pencil in your favourite scapegoat. We were without Modric our most inventive player and Defoe and Lennon our quickest and most threatening forwards. Draw what comfort you can from this but against the Top Four in four games we have lost three and scored three goals against ten.

'Are we nearly there yet?' Three errors do not a crisis make. Our season will be defined by the results against the teams beneath and around us but our performances against the top teams used to give us reasons to dream and hope. We will probably get into Europe this season which will be a sufficient sign of progress for me but Top Four is clearly revealed as a fantasy too far too soon.

Are we nearly there yet?'
We've clearly packed the car and filled up with petrol; we are heading for the motorway. But the SatNav is on the blink, the traffic is building up and according to that last signpost we have further to go than we thought.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Back on the road again

The Tottenham bus having temporarily run out of petrol against Stoke and been pushed into a lay-by got back on the road again in the Carling Cup by beating Everton. It was fortunate that after Stoke we had a home tie in our favourite competition and were playing opponents who were forced to play three times in six days and were, like us, missing senior players.

It reminded me of last year when we had a home fixture against struggling Middlesbrough after the Carling Cup final defeat and won 4-0 to send us scuttling up the league. I don't think that Everton will be a challenger for Europe this year, their squad is too thin and they already have some ground to make up. That just leaves Villa and Man.City with ourselves to compete for inclusion in the top four.

It was just what we needed as an appetiser for the Arsenal game on Saturday. I can't comment in detail as I could only get the radio commentary but Bentley apparently turned up to stake a claim for a starting role which is good timing because Lennon will almost certainly not have recovered.

Hutton and Bale advanced their cause but Pavlyuchenko missed a couple of chances and didn't do enough to displace who Crouch will almost certainly partner Keane if fit. Dawson was a rock and may well have put himself above Bassong in the pecking order at the sign of the cockerel. Pecking order, cockerel. Oh please yourselves. The signs are that Ledley and Woodgate will be fit to start this one.

Questions remain about the midfield. Did Huddlestone do enough to be picked ahead of Jenas or will they both play with Palacios? Did Bale show enough to leap over Kranjcar? My feeling is that Harry is more comfortable with the Croatian down the left and that Jenas was rested for the Arsenal game. If Bentley plays then Hutton might be used instead of Corluka to add some pace down the right hand side.

I was told recently that I was not a true Spurs fan because I don't hate Arsenal, or Ar5ena1, as it should be written apparently. 50yrs of mainly heartache, frustration, sorrow, expense, and the occasional high, doesn't count unless you hate Arsenal. I think not. Mrs.JimmyG2 says that I don't have time to hate Arsenal as I spend every second either loving or hating Tottenham. I think she's trying to tell me something there. I'll offer to switch on the dishwasher.

On Saturday we have the chance once again to not only make up for the loss to Stoke but to mark this season as 'the one'. Beat them at their place for the first time in a decade and we maintain our push and deal a rival a telling blow, apart from the psychological boost.

Keane has been bigging up the squad ahead of the game and faces the charge that I am familiar with that he is holding us up to ridicule and responsible for a negative result. But its all ritual stuff and if the captain can't indulge in some mind games who can. Its arguably true anyway that our squad is as good as Arsenal's. Unfortunately three of our best players, Modric, Lennon and Defoe will be missing.

After Stoke the team got back on the bus even if some of the supporters, thinking we had reached the end of the line, did not. But its the team that matters. We only go along for the sometimes bumpy ride.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Just one of those days

Stop kicking the dog and move away from the panic button. Now! We could have gone top if only for an hour or so and we missed our opportunity to do so. But we dominated the game and lost to the only chance they had in the second half. A performance in the classic Tottenham mode then: stylish at times, lethargic at times, enough chances to win easily and enough bad luck with injuries and goal line saves to last us until Xmas and beyond. If you don't appreciate this sort of scenario then I'm afraid you are supporting the wrong team.

We were short of pace in midfield until Jenas came on to unsettle a solid and determined Stoke defence and had too little movement in the box to open them up properly. 'Solid and determined' covers a wide range of qualities: 'ruthless', 'crude', 'over physical', and 'dirty' included but this was Stoke and we knew what we would get and we got it. Kranjcar, Palacios and Keane played well within themselves and we lacked any real sense of urgency.

Although we dominated the play our build up was too slow. The injury to Woodgate, concussed making a brave last ditch save from their only chance in the first half made little difference as Dawson stepped up well as usual. But when Lennon was injured in the closing stages we had already used up all our subs: Dawson for Woodgate; Jenas for Hudddlestone, and Pavlyuchenko for Keane.

If you don't like Jenas then he was rubbish but in fact he injected some much needed incisiveness into the midfield and since returning from injury he has played very well. We were sound at the back, though Ekotto was muscled off the ball for their goal; competent but one-paced in midfield and lacked invention in the final third. Stoke came for a point and nicked all three. Lennon, Crouch(twice), Keane and Kranjcar all went close or had attempts well saved and it should have been all over by half time.

Ten games in and we are still third but Man.City and Arsenal could go above us if they win today. I am disappointed, a tiny bit disheartened, but more than anything annoyed that we failed to make our superiority tell in a performance a little reminiscent of Spurs before the Harry revolution. I'm hoping that Lennon's injury is not too serious. He was our liveliest player yesterday and without him, Modric and Defoe we look a little short of attacking inventiveness.

Suddenly the Tottenham Tour Bus (2009/2010) has plenty of seats as quite a few, including Lady Luck, got off at the stop for faint hearts, the interchange for 'same old, same old' and for those that only bought the fair-weather and bandwagon tickets. Last week excited travellers were jostling for seats and even sitting on each other's laps. Its no surprise that the bus has seat belts and crash helmets.

Those of us aboard for the long haul realise that even the most scenic of views can be ruined by the sudden descent of mists and fog, the odd lightening strike and that tomorrow the sun will shine. But I always carry an umbrella just in case.

We will lose some games that we should have won and win some games that we might have lost. Coincidentally we have gathered exactly the same number of points from the equivalent eight games last year as we have this year. This does not include Burnley and Birmingham as they are newly promoted. If I were a statistician I would probably be able draw some conclusions from this.

Fortunately our bus driver does a fair impression of Michael Winner and today's motto is 'Calm down dear'. Or as Harry himself put it, 'It was just one of those days'. Next stop Ashburton Grove via the Carling Cup.

Friday, 23 October 2009

This could be the year. Couldn't it?

As self appointed President of the 'Enjoy it' campaign and the 'This could be the year' Fellowship I look on with a certain detachment at our new friends in the media who are climbing aboard the Tottenham bus. Hanson, Lawrenson, even Lee Dixon and of course ex players like Lineker and Ossie Ardiles who touchingly still refers to Spurs as 'we'.

As President I have given the non Spurs followers only associate membership in the 'Enjoy it; (while you can )' section because you just know that this is what they are thinking. And to be fair quite a lot of Spurs fans too. We are Spurs, foot shooting 'By Appointment'. The so far so good tendency who, when we do eventually win the league, celebrate by saying, 'Yes but can we sustain it next season?'

Well the tectonic plates have moved, the old order has at least been shaken up. Liverpool have never recovered from their opening day defeat at White Hart Lane and are confidently predicted to be out of the Champions' league places if they lose on Sunday at Old Trafford. If they don't make it who will? Under the perma frost a mighty Lilywhite mammoth is stirring and is threatening to rewrite the history of the Premiership. (editor: I'm not sure mammoths can re-write history Jimmy, even lilywhite ones.)

Early days, early days. We could have blown it at Bolton; but we didn't. We tried to blow it at Portsmouth; but we didn't. We haven't been swept off course by injuries to key players. We are winning the matches against lower teams, 'bullying' them as Lawrenson has it and I have already catalogued the key features of the 'new' Tottenham: winning away and showing resilience in adversity amongst them. Even Jenas is playing well: 'Ah yes but can he keep it up for the whole season?' I hear you ask.

On Saturday, at three clock, we have Stoke at The Lane. Another test of our resolve and our 'up for itness'. A strong team playing well in a Stoke sort of way. Another game we need to win if we are to maintain progress and our challenge. We can't take a draw, its a three pointer on the chart we all mentally, and some fanatics physically, map out. And this year its going to go on and on with mounting tension until we are mathematically out of the Top Four race.

There is a tiny part of me that yearns for this to happen. Make that a microscopic part of me. Even against Portsmouth when Defoe was sent off I thought 'Well that's it, back to normal, sit back and relax JimmyG'. But its still on, it can still happen. I know, 'Get back to me at Christmas.' ' Don't write Liverpool off just yet'. I'm not sure that I can stand the tension and the longer it goes on the worse the disappointment will be.

But as dual Chairman of the two newly formed bodies that I started with I am not allowed such thoughts. I'm in for the long haul: not only can we do it, we will do it. Beating Arsenal at Highbury, it will always be Highbury to me I'm afraid, would be a clear signal actually more of a sign assuming that we beat Stoke on Saturday. Which I am confident that we will.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Up Pompey

With more sub-plots than an Agatha Christie murder mystery we survived a hectic game at Portsmouth to emerge with all three points. Harry despite press rumours escaped the ordeal intact and only two of the six players with Tottenham connections were sent off.

Man.City failing to win at Wigan means that we maintain our third place for another week, the first time we have been in such a position after 9 games since 1984/5, 25yrs ago. We finished third that season in case you were wondering.

Our inability to close games down or come back from behind and the myth that we are vulnerable at set pieces are filed at the moment in a box marked 'not known at this address'. Only 4 of our 13 goals conceded have been at set pieces unlike Liverpool who have conceded 10 of their 13 from them, and one from a beach ball.

We had more than our share of luck in terms of their inability to put the ball in the net from inside the 6yd. box. A match winning performance from Gomes helped , especially when Defoe was sent off with half hour to go for a stamp on Mokoena's leg which seemed to be delivered more in regret than anger but tactlessly right in front of the referee. I forecast that we would win this easily and I was half right, although at half time it was looking as if I might have got it spot on.

Kevin 'Prince' Boateng with something to prove did just that, not only scoring but playing well in an aggressive attacking midfield role that perhaps had Harry wondering if he had done the right thing. If the Spur's fans were looking for some support for Wilson then we might just have let one slip through our fingers. If it gives us pause over Dos Santos and Taarabt then it might have been a mistake worth making.

Jenas played positively and combined well with Huddlestone to set up Defoe's goal on the stroke of half time. Ledley King scored the first, again from a Kranjcar corner. James came, changed his mind, and was retreating as Ledley's header sailed past him. On the positive side, Defoe hit the post with James beaten and Lennon should have scored at the end. I think the James for Gomes question was decisively settled.

Michael Brown, another Tottenham Old Boy, was sent off late on and comparing him with our current mid fielders is a measure of the massive improvement in the squad over the last three seasons. I have sometimes criticised Palacios for underwhelming performances and wild tackling but Brown gave a display of pointless aggravation and petty nastiness which makes Wilson a shoe in for the Nobel Peace Prize.

His reputation as 'Iron Man Wilson' was confirmed as he apparently only arrived back from Honduras shortly before the game and came on soon after Boateng's goal before jet-lag had time to fully take effect. No doubt a quiet word from Joe Jordan convinced him that he was fit to play.

So that's defending a lead with 10 men to add to the roll call of achievement so far this season, along with three hat-tricks; coming from behind twice to get a draw away from home; beating a 'Top Four' side; winning away three times; scoring 5 goals four times. And that's only after 9 League games and 2 Cup matches.

Did I doubt that we would hold on against Portsmouth? To be honest I did but I should have had more faith because we are not the same team nowadays in terms of attitude. The midfield trio of Huddlstone, Jenas and Kranjcar performed well in a hostile, excitable situation where football might well have come second best more than it did.

Progress then all over the pitch with Modric and Woodgate still to return.

(Statistics from Spurs Odyssey and The Observer)

Friday, 16 October 2009

The trouble with Nostalgia

The trouble with nostalgia is that there's no future in it. I don't really do nostalgia, probably something to do with the onset of senility. I'm more interested in the prospects for the team on Saturday and the possibilities for the season. There's plenty of nostalgia about of course as befits the supporters of a team whose future has been largely in the past.

But we are favourites to win away against Portsmouth which would cement even more firmly our place near the top. Both these elements, winning away and Top Four membership, are something of a novelty and run counter to the usual expectations of the Spurs fans over the past couple of decades. But we may well have to get used to it.

We are hard wired for disappointment, it pulses through our DNA. If the team don't self destruct, traditionally late in the game at a set piece, then the management do it for us and sack the manager in pursuit of some delusion or other, or buy the latest expensive 'must have' from abroad. That's after Man.Utd, Chelsea and Man.City, and shortly Birmingham have examined its teeth.

This season things are different and may well continue to be so, which is what disconcerts me. Usually you can relax and not worry about fixtures like Portsmouth. A point would usually be enough and a finish in the top half on the edge of the European places what we are used to. However if we are to maintain our challenge we must take three points in this type of fixture and the tension builds.

Palacios is already ruled out; there is no mention of Modric; Woodgate and King might be available but Dawson and Bassong had better 'dubbin' their boots just in case. Sorry I had a flashback there. We are playing good football and despite the injuries Harry has options. Jenas, Huddlestone and Kranjcar will come up against Kevin 'Prince' Boateng in midfield and this may or may not show us what we are missing. Up front the two ex Pompey players will be raring to go and I would start with them if Harry can get it past his captain.

Crowd hostility given the history of Spurs, Portsmouth and Harry might work to our advantage; it does with other successful teams and we can demonstrate our new found determination by winning this with ease. It would be good to win it without Modric and Palacios as there is an undercurrent of feeling that without either and certainly without both we are doomed.

Anyway I'm looking forward to the game but in a higher state of tension than I am used to. There are markers to be put down for starting spots especially in midfield and possibly in goal if Gomes returns where he will no doubt compete in the tabloids for the gaffe of the game; clown of the day competition. But not on here.

When you are not doing well nostalgia dulls the pain and it is a fact that we have all spent almost all of our lives in the past. But the trouble with nostalgia is that when you are doing well it takes the edge off success. There's always someone ready to make unfavourable comparisons with the past. My continued feeling is that we are building a new future at Tottenham; we are in the process of creating tomorrow's nostalgia.

The longest journey starts with a single step and we have taken several already. The next one is at Portsmouth at 3 clock.

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Monday, 12 October 2009

Internet intrigue

The claim by Croatia that we threw the game against Ukraine because we would prefer them to qualify just doesn't stack up. It might explain why Ferdinand appeared to be asleep at the crucial moment, and why the referee initially went to send him off , but Capello keeping Heskey on and Green completing the move by bringing down Milevski is a conspiracy theory too far. Clearly Shevchenko was out of the loop.

I watched it on the Internet for far less than I would have spent down the Pub. The picture was good: it froze every 4 minutes for about 20 seconds but with Sven's analysis and the England performance I hardly noticed. If it takes off, this internet thingy, I can at least boast that I was there.

Whatever Capello says they were better than us in nearly every department except perhaps goalkeeper. I say 'perhaps' because I don't think we tested Piatov once. In fact the exam paper got lost in the post.. We were pedestrian and no doubt some England players will claim that as we had qualified it didn't matter but I hope that they don't say so in the manager's hearing or in Modric's for that matter. Well at least the Tottenham players won't fall out about it.

Lennon was the innocent victim of Rio forgetting that this was a International football match and not a stroll on the beach and once he had been taken off our main chance of any spark disappeared. The game plan of using Heskey to make space for Rooney was like trying to clear the rain forest with a blunt hatchet. How long will it be before he works out that heading the ball on, which he does very well, is pointless if there is nobody ahead of you?

So when the question is asked, 'Where were you when the first England game was only available on the Web? I will proudly reply 'In front of my screen'. If it lowers expectations about our World Cup hopes this match will have been a vital part of our preparation. Spurs have a better chance of coming top of the Premiership. We were made to look pedestrian, particularly in midfield and they made good use of the extra man by keeping the ball and using the width of the field.

Our best player, as usual, was Rooney but he needs some proper support up front. Once Green was sent off I would have subbed Heskey and played four (edited) in midfield and hoped to catch them on the break. Rooney does the work of two men anyway and Lennon covers well and has the speed to support him quickly or threaten down either wing.

Conspiracy? I don't think so. But how do you explain the fact that it took Ashley Cole two attempts to concede the goal when he realised that James wasn't in on it, and that the authorities cleverly restricted the number of witnesses who viewed the match? Now of course one man's conspiracy theory is another man's poor performance and I predict that the truth will never be known.

So 'Fighting performance by 10 man England' it is then.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

What a lovely view!

I'm with Martin Luther King here. I've been to the mountain top and I've seen the Promised Land. The view from the heights of the Premiership is not bad at all. There seems to be a couple of teams down there already shaping up for a relegation battle, but that needn't concern us now. It appears to be a four team dogfight to be the best of the rest. Its not clear yet whether that includes us or whether we will remain above the Europa scrap. Could be a lack of oxygen at these giddy heights affecting my judgment here.

Its great to have another relaxed two week break without having to fret too much over our last performance and be desperate to put things right. The consensus is that it was a point gained rather than two points lost at Bolton and that we showed a resilience that will help us in the long Premiership slog.

We have shown that we can put the weaker teams away with panache, 'bullying' as Lawro has it. This ability coupled with a new found resolve should see us improve our league points tally against teams outside the top four and maintain our current challenge. We have two such games to come and four points from them will sustain our two points per game tally before we take on Arsenal.


Harry has plenty of problems or 'challenges' as the say in politics but they're mostly the kind that manager's describe as 'nice' one's to have. Apart from the centre half injuries that is. Huddlestone and Corluka have coped reasonably well as stand-ins so far but Bassong and Dawson looks like being the default setting in the absence of King and Woodgate.

Then there is the Keane, Defoe, Crouch dilemma up front, but whatever Harry does seems to pay off. In midfield there's the Huddlestone, Jenas, Kranjcar triangle to see who joins Palacios and Lennon, at least until Modric returns, sometime in November I would guess. In goal there's the Gomes/ Cudicini stand-off but I think that Gomes is only a mini- gaff away from a permanent recall.

On the edges there is the Hutton, Naughton challenge to Corluka on one side and the return of Bale on the other. In view of Harry's preference for a settled team and without the outlet of European football these challengers, and Pavlyuchenko too when fit, are going to have to be patient. Although Pavlyuchenko being with us after January seems unlikely.

So at the pivotal eight game marker, this year, we can relax just a little and look forward to the England games. I'm signed up for the online feed but having read the instructions on what to do if it doesn't play I'm not hopeful and have bookmarked the 'How to get your money back' section.

95% of Guardian readers have said in a poll in the Sports' section that they wouldn't pay for the match, presumably on the principle that England games even abroad should be on terrestrial television. But how last century is that? Online might well be the future here. I'm signed up early as one of my principles is that you don't pay £11.99 for something you can get for £4.99.

I accept that I am open to reproach here and your views are welcome on this, and not only from Guardian readers. It will serve me right if its as bad as some of the streams that I try to watch Spurs games on. I have offered mates and family round at a pound a head but I'm not showing a profit at the moment. In fact only my dad is coming and he's refusing to pay.

So enjoy the break ( Uzivajte u svan prekid: Lesson two in JimmyG2's free course 'Croatian for Spurs fans'). And please don't start getting carried away. That's my job.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Bolton 2: Croatia 2

Now this is quite a difficult one. Is it: battling Spurs come from behind twice to salvage a point at Bolton​​? Or is it: Spurs fortunate to rescue a point after a poor display which reminds me of too many occasions when we have failed to step up, away from home, especially at Bolton?

They scored before some of our defence had tied their laces, Ricardo Gardner running past three hesitant defenders to capitalise on a poor defensive header from a long throw after Cudicini parried the ball into his path. We struggled to make any impact on a robust Bolton side for most of the first half. Lennon hardly touched the ball, Keane was nowhere to be seen and we gave the ball away in a manner unsuited to the current economic climate.

I can't say that we worked our way into the game because we barely put two passes together for the first half hour. Eventually Kranjcar ran on to a Crouch knock-down and saved our half time blushes with a well taken goal on 33 minutes. So the question still hangs in the air like a Bolton long ball: is this the start of a return to normal for Spurs? Or is it a blip and a useful point?

In the second half we played better. Forced to come back again after Kevin 'Bloody' Davies scored his fifth in six games against us, we still insisted on giving needless free kicks away in dangerous positions. Defoe came on for Keane on 67 minutes and might usefully have come on earlier, but he made the difference and Lennon found his way into the match at last.

Their goal came not from a set piece but from some clever play ending with a ball stood up to the back post and while Cudicini and Ekotto looked hopefully at each other K.'B' Davies, never one to stand on ceremony, stole in unobserved at the far post.. They played some good football and fittingly it was us that scored from a set piece.

Crouch hit the bar when he might have scored; Lennon and Defoe had shots saved; but finally Kranjcar found Corluka with a corner to the back post and his compatriot scored. Cue Croatian folk songs and traditional dances. It was a good time for our Croatians to score their first goals for the club.

Kranjcar scored one and assisted the other and was probably our best player. His dead ball kicks are good and though not as quick and incisive as Modric in his running he is consistently reliable and not prone to the passing gaffes of others. So 'dobre uradjeno' ( well done) to him and 'po''zuri i naknaditi' (hurry up and return) to Modric. The translations are for those amongst you who don't speak Croatian, but I think that after today we should all make the effort.

I can only assume that Gomes and Dawson were not fully fit as their height and determination might have taken some of the pressure off. After the International break they and Modric could return and with Portsmouth (away) and Stoke (home) to come, another four points might just see us still in the top six averaging two points per game. We are briefly up to third place and have 14 points more than we had at this stage last year. I don't have to spell that out for you do I?

On reflection I am pleased with the point because on our first half display we didn't deserve any more. We were hassled and pressured out of our game and out-footballed at times. But last year we fought back and then lost to a goal by K'B'D : this year we went behind twice and drew. Progress? Definitely. But there were a few worrying signs of the Spurs of the recent past and at times instead of enjoying the game I was waiting for it to end.

But remember 'The road to Glory is paved with suffering' and Bolton recently is filed under that heading. Anyway 'Lijep ti dan zelim' (Have a nice day) and enjoy the break. My Croatian doesn't run to that yet but I'm working on it.