The Blog that's not always wrong.

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.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Bullies, Bolton and Bollocks

'Tottenham tend to bully teams lower in the table' says Lawro. Well that's all right then because we play Bolton, who are below us in the table, on Saturday and it should be an interesting spectacle if he's correct. For 'bully' read 'out play, out pace, out pass, and out score' the other teams but never mind O pundit wise we know what you mean.

This vision of Tottenham as 'bullies' will please those Spur's fans who think that no team is complete without a midfield destroyer; who tear their hair out when those two wussies Big Tom and Mary Anne Jenas are pussyfooting round the pitch and who believe that the height of Spurs achievements was Dave Mackay lifting up Billy Bremner by the collar.

All our recent success is attributed, almost solely by some, to the recruitment of Wilson Palacios and nothing to do with a more talented, more settled squad, under an experienced and clever manager.Oh yes and little Luka. The last time this topic was raised it was claimed that no successful team existed without a hard man or two in midfield as protectors, but many correspondents rattled off dozens of teams who won major honours without them.

Some no doubt regret that we have the smallest team in the Premiership and feel that it somehow undermines their manhood. 'My Dad's smaller than yours' is not a threat heard often in the playgrounds or likely to strike fear into the hearts of real bullies anywhere. However I view football mainly as a game of skill, you know the 'beautiful game', the result of preserving an image of Spurs at their best in my mind, and that adverse weather and opponents who set out to obstruct that concept are really a challenge to skilled players to play better.

Yes you have to have some balance; yes this is the Premiership, the toughest blah blah blah league in the world and the most overpaid, but the emphasis should be on skill regardless of size and I wouldn't pay a penny to watch Bolton or Stoke or (insert your own least favourite here) every week. It might be effective to a certain level but its not good to watch.

Considering 'hard men', my thoughts turn to such as Vidic who are more thugs than hard men, and I cannot see how his habit of turning round and hauling down a player that has just skinned him is not an immediate red card offence anywhere on the pitch just as a studs up tackle is. It negates the whole idea of football to me. It says 'Yep you're too good for me but I have ways to make things even'. He's already perfected the elbow jab, just ask Crouch, and perhaps he has a patent on the Rugby inspired two handed grab.

It will be interesting to watch Kevin Davies tomorrow although I'd rather the referee did, because his behaviour in particular at corners: obstruction, pushing, pulling and general mayhem has gone on virtually unchecked for years. All the fans are aware of it but not apparently the referees.

Action has been taken over the years to protect talented players but depite the macho groans of ex-pros, Lee Dixon for one, who hint darkly that tackling might be outlawed soon there is still progress to be made to preserve the best features of the game. Certainly players need to have some balls, there is a physical element to the game I accept but talking bollocks on the subject is not the same thing. It needs to be kept in its place and not allowed to dominate.

Crouch, Gomes and Dawson will probably play tomorrow, they are quite tall after all, and I anticipate us winning by a couple of goals. Bolton haven't scored in open play once this season so height at set pieces might be useful. More on Sunday.