The Blog that's not always wrong.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Opportunity knocks

Cancel the open top bus; Modric is injured. A victim of deliberate espionage by the Birmingham assault squad led by the fiendish Bowyerarti. Our most creative player out until Xmas just as we were about to win the league. Oh woe is us. What shall we do? Stiffen up people and don't feel so sorry for ourselves for a start

Because in case you didn't notice we actually we went on to win the game with the help of a substitute and the other ten players on the field at the time. It is after all a team game and we do have quite a good team. If we are to challenge for anything at all then it will be as a result of the squad and its deployment by Harry. His injury will certainly have an effect on our final position by perhaps a place or two but it won't result in a Hull like descent into the relegation zone or the end of the world as we know it. In fact it would be typical of Tottenham's luck for the great trumpet call to sound just as we were heading for the Champion's League.

Harry moved swiftly to resolve the injury crises at centre half and, as the transfer window is still open, will buy if he thinks it necessary. There is no like for like replacement readily available but we have plenty of options at our disposal already. The easiest would be to deploy Keane on the left of midfield and play Defoe/Crouch or Defoe/Pavlyuchenko up front. Bale, Lennon, and Rose can fill the left side when required and Jenas, Giovani, who I understand prefers the right,and Bentley can slot into the right hand side. Simple for me to say and even simpler for Harry. Keane fancies himself as a midfield general in any case and since he has lost his goal touch now is his chance.

Potentially the more serious setback on Saturday was the loss of King and unless Woodgate is available soon this might have a greater impact on our progress. I think we are getting more than a little paranoid about the thuggery of Birmingham in general and Bowyer in particular. I have watched the replay several times and can discern no pre-meditation in the tangle of legs that caused Modric's injury. It was an accident; they happen and good teams cope. We will cope.

I postponed my supplementry Xmas list until after the Birmingham game in case we slipped up and with a little luck, or more like, with new found persistance we did not. So it now reads:

1 A good start
2 A settled squad and Manager
3 Young and fringe players to be given a go.
4 Quick recovery for Modric, King and or Woodgate, Jenas, Bale and Dawson and Gomes.
5 Waterproof, shockproof, 'secret agent's watch with stop watch facilty, which
you disappointingly missed off last year's list.

Thank you Santa, the first three items were delivered by 'Express' Courier this month and I opened them in error. Similar service would be appreciated on items four and five.

We have now not only beaten a 'Top Four' side but scored five away from home twice, scored a last minute winner, come from behind to win, had our best start in almost fifty years and its not even September yet. I love Luka Modric but get some perspective friends. His absence will make a difference but it is not, repeat not, the end of the world.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man and now is the moment for somebody to step up. Huddlestone has done so already and now the stage is set for the next understudy to become a star. It could be Jenas or Bentley or Dos Sqantos who makes the great leap forward. I don't really care but one man's disaster is another man's opportunity and friends, 'Opportunity knocks'.

Friday, 28 August 2009

So far, so good

'So far so good ': the Spurs fan desperate to believe, frightened to hope and only ever cautiously optimistic. Were there people at the start of the 60/61 season half a century ago echoing this mantra? . I don't remember us being so uncertain in those days but there's a lot I don't remember I'm afraid.

So what at this moment do we know? That Harry is cleverer than most of his critics, including me. Most of you knew that already. He has bought sparingly and in response to the situation confronting him. Palacios filled a need and I'm sure he hadn't planned to buy another centre half but when he had to he did so decisively and both additions were Premiership ready.

Bent and Chimbonda would be top of most people's 'least wanted' list . Youngsters have been loaned and against Doncaster he was forced by the fixture rush at the start of the season to play some of the fringe players whether he planned to or not. No genuine prospects have been sold, or 'You Tube' child prodigies or Continental stars 'swooped' for despite constant Press speculation.

There have been no negatives so far and Birmingham at home gives us the opportunity to start to haul in the 11 consecutive wins that marked the start of the 60/61 Double season. Anyone still holding their breath? This is an elephant trap cunningly disguised as a stroll in the Park. These are the games we must win if we are to maintain our progress and where in the past we have slipped up.

The Doncaster game saw the re-emergence of Bentley and Dos Santos who both played well. Both the backup strikers scored and the midfield chipped in with a couple again, which is a welcome change from previous seasons. We rode our luck early on but a second 5-1 win away from home in three games was certainly beyond expectations. Key players were rested and with some of the extended squad breathing down their necks will want to reassert their claims. It wasn't exactly a Wengeresque 'kids' selection but it certainly explored the reach of the squad and we came up smiling.

I can't be too dogmatic about the Cup game because I couldn't find a stream for the match and had to listen to it on Spurs TV, commentary only, and even that packed up when we were 4-1 ahead. The formula on this seems to be 1/3rd. commentary; 1/3rd reminiscence; 1/3rd. 'humourous' badinage about whether the Doncaster mascot was a dog or a bear. Oh and 1/3 rd. cutting away to other matches. Only after reading the reports and seeing the highlights did I find out that apart from the early scares we played well and that most enhanced their reputations especially Cudocini.

I have had almost all my Xmas wish list already: firstly a good start; secondly a settled squad and manager; thirdly the youngsters and fringe players to be given a go especially Dos Santos. Other youngsters are hovering on the edges or out on loan. We had the benefit of the referee's doubts against W.Ham and the run of the ball too. The only player who has had a raw deal is Pavlyuchenko who could have been given more playing time at the expense of Crouch whose height seems to mesmorise Harry but who is an inferior footballer in my opinion.

So far so good Santa, my supplementary list is in preparation as we speak. I will post it after the Birmingham game as a few minor adjustments might be necessary. I am confident on this one though and a home win is not only vital but reasonably certain.But when were Spurs results ever 'reasonable'? Keep hedging your bets Jimmy. But I'm still enjoying it, aren't you?

Monday, 24 August 2009

Enjoy

Three games, three wins. Its taken us nearly fifty years to repeat that opening sequence. The last time we did that we won the Double. Now I have to be careful here because last time I mentioned these facts in a thoughtful and sensitive piece entitled provocatively 'Can we win the league this year? I stirred up a mini hornets' nest of people accusing me of selling the club down the river and of having the intelligence of a lobotomised wood louse.

Now the more astute amongst you will have noticed the question mark which means its a question. Its not a prediction. So to make it clear: we certainly could but we probably won't. There, relax everyone. However I refuse to be silenced on the matter in case other fans are insulted or put out. Nor do I believe that Bloggers or fan sites can affect the course of the season. I am not in short setting the club up for a fall, though I might be setting myself up for one.

Get a grip people; if you can't stand the heat support W. Ham or somebody. Three games in and we are top of the league. I love it and have waited too long for a start like this not to enjoy it and I'm going to make the most of it. That we are top of the league is a statement of fact not a prediction about how the season might end.

Frankly I don't care how other fans view us, I can live with it whatever they think. We go over the top; I admit it. We have delusions of grandeur; I admit it. We go on about the Glory Days; I admit it. But we did have them and have something to go over the top about. And now we've made a good, no perfect, start and I can look the supporters of other teams in the eye without blinking rather than avoiding eye contact like last year. And I love it.

Can it all go wrong? Think Hull last year. Of course it can. But let's paint that bridge when it turns into a different kettle of fish. Could our injury problems be our Achilles heel? Of course they could and if Palacios, Modric or Lennon were to be added to the list or Ledley not recover even to play one game a week we might struggle.

But enjoy the moment. No don't just enjoy it, revel in it, embrace it, wallow in it like a hippo in mud, because as many of you keep telling me it could be snatched away in an instant; at home to Birmingham next week for example. Now not even you faint hearts believe that. In war we are told that 'loose talk cost lives' but I don't believe that the frantic scribblings of Tottenham Bloggers like myself will cost us points.

We didn't play as well today: Keane dropped too deep and Defoe was left isolated. Huddlestone wasn't the creative force he has been and Modric wasted more passes than normal and one excellent scoring chance from a Lennon cross. We didn't get the ball out wide to Lennon often enough; we were unsettled by Cole's strength. But we went a goal down and battled back to win away from home.

Admittedly Lennon's resulted from the full backs lack of control and Defoe's from large wads of money in brown envelopes. What other explanation can there be for Cole's through ball to Defoe? That's a joke by the way. Its called a lucky break, the run of the ball or whatever and we took advantage of it which we need to do if we are going to make progress this year. Make progress I repeat, not win the league.

So don't go around apologising for making a good start, adopting a posture of false humility. Why should we? There's plenty who will give us grief if and when we do slip up. In the meantime enjoy, have a nice day and yes thank you everything is fine and keep the change.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Can we win the league this season?

Five goals away from home; top of the league; what's not to get excited about? Huddlestone stepping up; Defoe on fire; Keane and Defoe proving everybody wrong; several pinpoint crosses from Lennon; excitement is welling up. Maiden goals from Palacios and Ekotto, several key players missing; players brought in for specific roles; who wouldn't admit to being excited?

But who wouldn't also admit to that flutter of concern when Hull's goal sailed in from a free kick.That 'here we go again' moment even after we had virtually sealed the game within the first 15 minutes. It never really leaves me no matter how well we are playing. Its a feeling honed over many years as a Spurs supporter. You can't accuse us of being complacent. We always expect the worse and it often happens. Remember LasagnaGate.

So the 'so far, so good' and the 'next game will tell' tendency prevails and I am a member of it. Not by choice but through experience. Am I revelling in our current position? Of course. Have we achieved it by playing good football? We certainly have. Will it continue? I have no idea.

We have an excellent squad of quality players. Harry despite his reputation has ,so far, (there I go again ) been restrained and focussed on what we need. He has persisted with Defoe and Keane despite the universal opinion that they can't play together and it has paid dividends. Personally I like us to play with the ball on the ground, or reasonably close to it most of the time, and this pairing forces us to do so.

Once again I apologise to Harry who I did not welcome with my customary enthusiasm. His experience and pragmatism has enabled him to do more than a good job for us. A win on Sunday against W.Ham where he made his managerial name takes us way back into the glory days, although that year we won our first eleven games. Don't even think about it.

So having predicted a modest mid-table finish in order to keep my blood pressure down, on my doctor's orders( he advised many years ago that Tottenham were not a suitable team to support for people in my condition ) here we are after only two games thrust into the Top Four Maelstrom, Europe, Foreign Trips, Knighthoods for Daniel and Harry, World Cups for Defoe, Crouch, Lennon, Cobley and all and much, much more.

Are we getting ahead of ourselves? Well obviously. Man.Utd won the League last year from from 9th place after 6 games and in 04/05 from tenth. So its 'early doors' . Is it worth a tenner on Spurs at 80/1 for the top spot? Well Mrs JimmyG2 not only advises against it, she actually forbids it. Something about 'If you've got money to burn, I'll burn it for you on something useful'. Safe in the knowledge that she doesn't read Tottenham Blogs in general and this one in particular I can tell you that she's too late.

Do I actually believe we could do it on the evidence of two games? Win the League? I have already said that with this squad including some youngsters ready to step up and minimum disruption we could make progress. Without Europe this year we have some breathing space in the league and so the stage is set. A good start was essential for us if not for Man.Utd. and we have made the beginnings of a good start.

So do I actually believe that we can the league this year? Well with a little bit of luck with decisions and injuries, not looking so good on the injury front I have to say, you know what? I have absolutely no idea. However its not me that has to believe, its Harry and the players. And if Defoe is anything to go by, I think they just might.Probably.Well Maybe. Where's my lucky underpants?

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

But I'm not getting carried away

Well that's another of the top four to go into the 'Can we play you every week?' category along with Chelsea. That's more points already than we had when Harry arrived after.. Oh fill it in for yourselves. But I'm not getting carried away

I was surprised to see Keane paired with Defoe but at least it forces us to get the ball down and play. Harry will be pleased with the fact that Keane could, and perhaps should, have had a first half hat-trick as proof that the tactical plan worked. There is no evidence that they link together as a pair but they worked hard individually.

Modric seemed to struggle to get into the game at first, but still managed to set up Robbie twice and curl in the free kick for Bassong's winner. Liverpool were made to look ordinary. Torres, in particular, looked ponderous and Gerrard had to wait for an hour before he could orchestrate anything. We were so sorry for them that Gomes decided to give them a goal with a rash challenge on Johnson who popped up alarmingly in our penalty box . And we still won. But I'm not getting carried away.

Huddlestone was offered another opportunity to stake a midfield claim and this time he took it with some classy passes, vigorous challenges and good covering. His only error was in allowing Johnson to cut inside him in the lead up to the penalty. He and Palacios complimented each other well. The back four not only wrapped up the Liverpool attack but scored the goals as well. Bassong impressed and already looks sturdy enough to go out on his own at night. Ekotto scored what will certainly be a contender for our goal of the season and we were only 44 minutes in. But I'm not getting carried away.

Against Hull the back line will probably read: Hutton, who was on the bench today, Corluka, Bassong and Ekotto so that Ledley can get a week's rest before the W. Ham game. The front two are anybody's guess. Defoe and Pavlyuchenko probably as he was the only striker not to get a game. As its away against Hull O'Hara might start but personally I would stick with Huddlestone if he is up for it, but then I always would.

The two away games to come may well tell us more than this good all round team performance. We already know we're a good team but its spirit and mental attitude we have been lacking. Hull will tell us a little more about what sort of season this might turn out to be. At the moment I'm not getting carried away.

Its a lovely feeling, hot porridge on a frosty morning sort of glow, in beating a side tipped to challenge for the honours and in the first game. Its been a while since I had it and I'm going to nurture it. Palacios was adjudged man of the match but there were several contenders. Defoe ran tirelessly up front and kept their back line occupied but at times we were slow to support him. Corluka had an excellent game. Lennon was electric when he got the ball but we didn't manage to feed him often enough; hungry but unfulfilled. But he is still a threat, hugging the touchline and can never be ignored. But I'm not getting carried away.

We played some good football, calm and composed at the back, strong in midfield, and lively up front. We passed well until Crouch came on and then lumped the ball forward too often but its a useful tactic to relieve pressure when we are being pressed, if not overdone. So I'm not getting carried away.

We are already ahead of my modest pre-season predictions but if we lose to Hull we will be behind Six points from two games has an attractive flavour to it. I'm just rolling it round it my mind, but I am certainly not going to get carried away. If we beat Hull though then all bets are off and I might just get....you know.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

And we're off

To celebrate the increase of traffic since linking up with 'Newsnow' I have spent vast amounts of time and money re-painting the site and I hope you like the more 'Tottenham' effect. I tried yellow flashes but they didn't show up and I have settled for pale and dark blue. I have managed to freeze ticket prices for the second year running.

Anyway here we are once more, poised on the 10 metre board after splashing about in the shallows, belly flopping from the springboard and jumping in from the poolside holding our noses. Its the change from pre-season to the real thing.

We've moaned about being drawn away for the first game since the last century while Arsenal get drawn at home and this time the fates have nodded towards us and the good news is that we are at the Lane for the opener. The bad news is that we've drawn Liverpool. But given our performances last season this could be a good thing. Catch 'em cold without some of their key players: Gerrard and Torres, it is rumoured , might not be fit.

As if. We have problems of our own in the centre back department but Bassong teamed with Ledley could be up to the job. Up front we wait to see the shape of the season ahead and the front pairing will tell us a lot about Harry's intentions.

If Pavlyuchenko and two goal England 'hot shot' Defoe start that tells me that Harry has marked team captain Keane's card and is going for the form option. If Defoe and Crouch start that is Harry's comfort option but is unlikely unless he plays Keane in behind them which might weaken the midfield. Crouch and Keane would be a big put down for Pavlyuchenko; it didn't work against Olympiakos, and would suggest that Harry is taking the easy option and keeping his captain happy despite his loss of form and keeping Defoe as the impact sub from the bench. Defoe and Keane hasn't really worked in the past and there are other options to try.

However this clearly gives us a range of strike combinations and is why I admit that Crouch gives us more variety than Bent, although on the surface the change in terms of disruption hardly seems worth it. So far we haven't gambled on any foreign 'stars' who would be new to the club,the league and the country.

My team for the opening game would be:

Gomes, Corluka, King, Bassong, Ekotto/ Lennon, Jenas ( Huddlestone), Palacios, Modric/ Pavlyuchenko, Defoe.

At home, if Jenas isn't fit,I would prefer Huddlestone as the man most likely to find the foreward runs of the strikers. O'Hara or the much improved Boateng might provide a more combative option away from home or against the more physical sides. I would like to see at least two of our youngsters including the newly signed Naughton on the bench and for one of them to get some pitch time, Rose and Bostock look the most likely as most of the others are out on loan.

I think that the result will be a low scoring draw and that if Defoe is on the pitch from the start he will score in his present mood. A draw will probably suit both teams and a win at Hull on Wednesday will double our points tally from last season in a quarter of the games. Beating Hull is more important as an indicator to me than getting a point against Liverpool though I think both are likely.

To those who accuse me of being negative in my pre-season predictions ( see 'Topspurs' Vox Pop ) I am thinking of putting graphic photos of the scars and bruisings, endured over many seasons as a follower of Spurs, on here but they are not suitable for a family blog.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Remember Roma!

What did the game against Olympiakos tell us?
Firstly that you shouldn't draw too many conclusions from pre-season friendlies. Remember Roma!
Bassong
They weren't really bothered so its difficult to judge Bassong's performance. He didn't do very much because he had no pressure and he did it competently apart from one 'Newcastle' moment which he just about retrieved. He looked sound enough.
Ledley
How does he do that? Spends the whole summer in Levy's pool and comes on as smooth as the smoothest thing since Mr. Smooth put 'NappyRash Cream' on Baby Smooth's bottom. A top class act.

Newcomers
Naughton looks Premiership ready apart from the odd misplaced pass.
Rose could make the grade this season. Tricky and knows where the byline is.
Boateng seems to have calmed down and played some good passes.
Crouch A very tall person which seemed to encourage his team-mates to punt the ball up to him at a great height which was boring and ineffective.
See under tactics.
Livermore Going on a month's loan to Derby. Not far off squad standard.
Bostock Another that looks strong and capable. Could make the squad.

Old Hands
Modric The pick as usual. Pass inside the full back to Lennon to set up the first goal was a gem. Encourages others to play.
Pavlyuchenko Scored one, made one and showed for the ball well. Could be 'the man' this year.
Gomes and Cudicini Good stoppers though neither kicks well. This position seems sorted.
O'Hara Another good performance by this unfashionable and underrated player.
Defoe Lively, keen and determined to score which he did. Denied a clear penalty.
Keane I was not impressed as he and Crouch seemed to be trying to re-invent the old Berbatov/Keane dynamic duo. Important element missing there though. Didn't benefit from being partnered with Crouch. So that's two players he can't play with. Give it time Jimmy, give it time.
Huddleston Usual performance, slowed after half time ,some excellent passes and some poor.
Ekotto Always offers the goalkeeper and the centre halves an out, once they stopped whacking the ball in the general direction of Crouchy. Air controllers on full alert.
Corluka Usual. Looks slow but skill gets him out of trouble. Good goal from close in.
Bentley Wants to succeed tries hard when on the ball but doesn't quite have it for me. Been reading Zokora's shooting manual.
Chimbonda Could be a useful utility player this season. Should have scored.

Tactics
My fear was that the arrival of Crouch would lead to us playing the long, high ball game and though I was assured by fellow fans that this would not be the case it did pan out that way. Olympiakos just sat back and picked up the second ball.Whether this was on Harry's instructions or against his wishes I don't know.
In the second half with the arrival of Defoe and Pavlyuchenko, Lennon, and especially Modric we got the ball down on the grass, passed it sweetly at times and scored three good goals. Defoe and Pavlyuchenko look a more promising first choice pairing than any of the alternatives but with Keane as captain I am not holding my breath.
Hopefully this high altitude game will be stamped on by Harry. But as with the purchase of Bent you assume that there was some tactical purpose involved, perhaps just to give us a variation of attack but some tactics don't suit our playing style or tradition and just as Bent's transfer was a bad move for him and us, so too with Crouchy perhaps. He's better on the floor anyway.

But its early days and as the title suggests you can't read too much into one pre-season friendly can you?

Friday, 7 August 2009

Anything can happen

Well its not really what we intended, another centre half, to join the three decent players we already have and several defenders who can, and have played there in the past few weeks. But in the circumstances Harry and Daniel probably concluded that if a good start is the basis for a decent season then something had to be done.

Bassong is generally regarded as a decent player by Toon supporters; young, strong, good pedigree, but struggling behind a poor midfield to salvage something from the wreck formerly known as Newcastle FC. At the rumoured price in these over inflated times he is almost a bargain. If we treble his wages he will be the worst paid player in the squad and the happiest man on Tottenham High Rd.

He's probably no better than Dawson who is injured possibly, for a month, and will benefit as Dawson himself did from playing with Woodgate who may be out for several weeks and King who will be available for the Liverpool game but who cannot be relied to recover in time for every game.

By next season we will probably find that Dawson and Bassong are our regular centre halves, backed up by King who can't play every game now that we are back in Europe and Woodgate will have retired.

Or Bassong will be supporting Woodgate freshly returned from successful surgery alongside Ledley carrying on despite all the odds and Dawson will have been sold.

Or Ledley will have finally been forced to retire and Bassong and Woodgate, freshly returned from succesful surgery ,ably supported by Dawson will be the main men.

Or Bassong will be sold back to Newcastle, newly resergent and back in the Premiership under Alan Shearer, as we slip quietly into the Championship having started badly, 2pts in whatever games, Harry having been sacked and replaced by....... Oh for goodness sake; fill inyour own candidate . Do I have to do all the work?

As you can tell I am in prediction mode, staring fixedly into the swirling mists of the future to try to discern where we are going. The above scenarios indicate how difficult it is to predict what might happen but I would like to point out that not one pundit, expert, fan, ITK, clairvoyant or Blogger forecast the 2pts in 8 games disater last year. No-one even got near it. No-one even hinted at it. Nobody had us toying with both relegation and Europe in the same season. Some didn't mention either Europe or relegation and mumbled on about 'mid-table mediocrity'.

Well fair enough they were more or less right but for the wrong reasons. I am often wrong but for the right reasons;; an important difference as I'm sure you will agree. I am hesitant to reveal my predictions for last year but the phrases: 'good pre-season'; 'talented young squad'; 'top class manager'; 'challenging for the Top Four'; 'this could be the season', swim embarrassingly to mind.

Well I didn't get where I am today by not learning from my mistakes. And where am I today? Nowhere, that's where. So I am going to be more cautious, much more cautious, this year. So, in positive mode: we won't get relegated. In negative mode: we won't get into Europe. So mid table mediocrity it is then. Any more for the roller coaster? Or in view of the returning players is it a roundabout?

All the things I said pre-season last year were true but it didn't make any difference once we got on the pitch. Last year I leapt onto the barricades and shouted my defiance to the world and was shot down in the first eight games. This year with the addition of Palacios we are probably stronger but the centre half difficulties might be our banana skin this. This is my year of the hedgehog, rolled up into a ball so they can't get at your tenderer parts.

I've waited several decades for the renaissance at Tottenham so a few more years won't matter. Good football before success; success through good football is JimmyG2's slogan. Although at my age you don't want to be leaving it too long lads.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Farewell 'Benty'

Farewell Darren Bent. You were never our sort of player and as a consequence were never accorded the kind of respect which all players joining a club are entitled to .

Had you been a total failure, refused to put the cones out at training, been disrespectful to Harry or Sandra, then this could arguably have been justified. None of these appears to have been the case and you put up with being third or even fourth choice striker at times without complaint and when given the opportunity usually scored goals.

In fact last season you were our top scorer with 17 goals in all competitions from 42 starts, 14 of them as substitute. Even when you scored you were liable to start the next game on the bench and faced at times some derision from the fans on and off the pitch. No wonder you kept your earphones handy when sitting on the bench.

You were publicly humiliated by Harry in the famous Sandra incident. 'Hold the front page striker misses easy chance'. Its what strikers often do, score some; miss some. You needed to be judged on how many you scored not how many you missed. Ask Robbie Keane and Defoe.

You were a limited player but in terms of a striker an effective one. Your limitations were known to us when you were signed and as you don't fit into our preferred ways of playing it is a mystery to me why we bought you in the first place..

You were much maligned for the size of the fee that we paid but since its not you that set the fee this seems unfair. We seem to have more or less got our money back taking into account add ons, appearance and performance targets, cash back, loyalty points, Sunderland winning the Champions' league or whatever. So once again the people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing will be happy.

Am I sad to see you go? No, and I wish you well at Sunderland where you will, I suspect, do well. Hopefully that won't be against us. Crouch is not exactly an upgrade but he may bring more to our all round play and this may result in more goals being scored overall. I am cautious here as there is certainly an element of doubt and in the name of stability I wouldn't have bothered making the change.

What I am sad about is the way you were treated and regarded while you were with us. Loyalty and a good attitude unfortunately do not count in football today and because of this you were undervalued.

You blotted your record in the Twitter incident at the end but most of us would be more than irritated if, as we were settling down to an exotic pre-season trip to China, we were rudely ejected from the plane and sent to the North East of England only to find that it was all in vain. Or seemed to be at the time.

So farewell Darren, you didn't really fit into our image of ourselves, you were honest, decent, remarkedly good humoured and effective but in the end a square footballer peg in a round Tottenham hole but, in my view, very little of that was your fault.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

China Cup safely in the cabinet

It was only the China Cup but it still counts as silverware . But on the off chance that we win another trophy soon we will have to do some training on our acceptance routines. We were all over the place.

We played two matches against opposition that played poorly who by chance we play again within the month. We should be safe from relegation for another season if these games are anything to go by, which of course they are not.

It was a long way to go to play Hull and W. Ham but we used the trip to demonstrate that we can actually play good, controlled, possession football. I know that it was more about selling shirts, Universalising the Brand, Naming Rights, shirt sponsorship, finding a buyer or whatever but we could have played them closer to home for the Whamspurshull Chalice and bought a decent cup for £30 down at the trophy shop. A team from the London Chinese community could have internationalised the whole affair if it was necessary but we only played the English teams out there in any case.

Our shooting was off in the first game and passing in the second was either outstanding, Huddleston and Modric, or not very good at times, particularly Jenas, Palacios and Corluka. Modric showed again what a footballing gem he is whether jinking down the left or running the midfield from deeper. He was given the armband for a half against W. Ham and was obviously delighted.

The game against Hull was played at a slower pace and we relied more on the long ball because Hull played a suicidally high line against Defoe and Keane, who both played well forward and looked lively. In Huddleston and Modric we have two craftsmen who can exploit this situation and we nearly did on more than one occasion. Keane's goal from a accurate long ball by Modric was vintage Robbie Keane and should help him put last season's loss of form behind him . At the moment we have five strikers which seems a little greedy as some teams seem to struggle to field one

The difficulty is, what to make of it all. Were W. Ham and Hull really inferior sides? Or did we throttle them from the start and make them look poor? How then to explain away the Celtic defeat. Were they better than us or just further along their pre-season path and therefore more prepared for it than we were? They had a Champions' League game a few day's later and were quicker to the ball and faster on the ball. Might Hull and W. Ham make the same case?

But it is possible to take some positives from the pre-season without straying into 'Top Four ' speculation. O'Hara was our man of the match against W. Ham and will have silenced a few of his critics. Naughton and Livermore look to have made the step up to the first team squad and Naughton's ball across the six yard box to Lennon for our third against Hull was quality. The opportunities afforded to the youngsters was a big bonus and four or five of them looked ready to step up.

We were also missing our three first choice Centre Halves but Huddlestone, Chimbonda and Corluka coped pretty well with what was put in front of them. We have a flexible squad especially defensively with all three of the above able to fill in a variety of roles. This is essential for a long season even without European football this year.

Palacios still bothers me and I am aware that criticising him is worse than having a go at Saint Harry. His passes (Palacios, not Harry; I'm not sure about Sandra) are often over hit or misdirected and his 'foul' count even before the League starts in earnest is too high. Have a word Harry or our midfield destroyer will be in dry dock for a lot of the season and we don't have a support vessel yet.