The Blog that's not always wrong.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

The Cold War is over Harry

Berlin Is Europe's Third Most Popular City

Bolton were poor and we were quite good. They said, 'Go on then, strut your stuff' , so we did. They didn't close us down until it was too late and chipped in with a couple of own goals which was nice. Pavlyuchenko rubbed salt into Harry's wounds, which won't do either of them any harm, with two goals icily taken like a Russian assassin out of James Bond. Gudjohnsen came on and gave us an intoxicating whiff of the footballer he once was.

That was apart from some very sloppy passing in the first half when we tried in our usual sporting way to make the game a little more even. Fortunately their forwards were too inept to take advantage. Gomes evidently wasn't in on the fair-play scheme and insisted on saving everything. Otherwise it all went to plan. Ekotto popped up at right back in place of Corluka who was ill, and gave a very good impression of a man playing out of position. In fact a very good impression of a man auditioning for Long John Silver. He coped because Bolton didn't put him under any pressure.

Pavlyuchenko has scored 5 goals in the equivalent of a game and a half and will start against Everton if there is any justice or rationality in the world. Modric set him up for his first ,again,and he set himself up for the second after his initial header was well saved.. Dawson and Bassong kept yet another clean sheet, but will face a sterner test on Sunday, assuming that Ledley is not fit. The boy Gareth posed again as a left winger and it was his cross that O'Brien diverted into his own goal for our third.

So part one of the double- pronged examination of our cup and league pretensions has been successfully negotiated. Everton, knocked out of the Europa Cup on Thursday, are still struggling with injuries: Jagielka played his first game for nearly a year and Senderos, their latest import, went off injured. Cahill is not yet ready to return. At home with a newly revived Pavlyuchenko we should prove too much for them as long as we take a firm grasp of the midfield. If Palacios has not recovered this might prove a problem. Where's O'hara when you need him? Oh yes going down with the good ship 'Pompey'. Lets hope he swims ashore to join Kaboul a ship-mate that has already deserted the sinking ship.

Everton might regard a point as a bonus but we need to win as City and Villa have games in hand. We threw away the game at Everton with two late goals and a missed penalty. I think that we will win by a small rockfall rather than a landslide. All bets are off if the 'virus' that is working its way through our ranks claims any more victims. The Academy lads have been laid low and the training ground is closed. In fact if it spreads much further the game may be off too. Lasagna anyone?

Meanwhile Harry still has the pedal down to the floor on Roman. Apparently the Russian can't speak English very well. Well Harry nor can you but we still love you. First of all he wasn't passing Harry's training enthusiasm test and was therefor only eligible for the bench. Then he buckled down and qualified for a substitute's role. Finally he secured his starter's badge.' The rest is history' as they say. But perhaps not as he must now show that he can do it over the longer term. He can only do that if the Manager, that's you Harry, selects him. I hope he gets as long as Keane and Crouch did to demonstrate their qualities. I hope too that scoring goals is not the only criteria but that the focus is on forming effective partnerships with the other strikers.

It reminds me of the 'What did the BBC ever do for us' advert. Apart from the News, the Sport, the Documentaries, the Classic Dramas and so on. What did Pavlyuchenko ever do for us? What, apart from scoring within five minutes on his first appearance: apart from scoring two goals on his second appearance; apart from scoring another two goals on his third appearance and only start in the league this season. Harry, the Cold War is over. Bits of the Berlin Wall sit on the mantlepieces of a thousand student bed-sits. We're all on the same side now.

And now, apparently, Roman is everybody's favourite: name sung at the Lane; legend status guaranteed; last season now completely forgotten. Get off him I saw him first. Enough; I won't even mention his name again, unless he scores a hat-trick on Sunday. He couldn't: could he?

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Save the last laugh for me

Harry shows his delight at Pavlyuchenko's second goal.  I only said 'Go on and run around a bit. Where's that interpreter?'

I'm not one to gloat but Harry could have saved himself a lot of trouble by listening to his Uncle Jimmy. What's the Russian for 'I must not be so stubborn' ? Ask Roman when he finally comes down to Earth. If Harry fans want to claim that this just goes to show his managerial genius then I'm cool with that, he hasn't got a lot wrong since he rescued us last season.

Anyway I'm not one to gloat. He didn't start but he did get 20 minutes and scored twice, much to the evident delight of his team-mates. He oozed effort and class and did more than Crouch has done in six games. He has sat on the bench 15 times this season without getting his boots muddy and has made only 2 starts. But he now has the best goals per minute record of all our current strikers, here or abroad, (1/74) and looks a certainty to start against Bolton on Wednesday; fitness and training ground reports permitting.

This is beginning to approach the outer edges of gloating . We had some luck: Defoe's goal was clearly off-side but 'you win some, you lose some'; we coped well with the pitch which was awful, especially Modric who seems able to float on mud. I can only imagine what he's like on water.

Bale was less adventurous than usual perhaps due to the conditions but he still managed to run 50yds to overlap Kranjcar and supply the assist for Defoe. Fans are saying that Harry will have a problem when Ekotto is fit. It's a problem that's easily solved; 'the kid gets the part'. Defoe was taken off rather than Crouch because he had misread the instructions on his medicine and was in danger of seeing red.

Another clean sheet; back into the top four; whats not to like? I even felt a little sorry for Harry as he smiled his rueful smile when Pavlyuchenko scored his second. It was more 'Roy of the Rovers' than real life. To start two games and score 3 times fits better in a Hollywood bio-pic than on the Tottenham High Rd. He could have refused to come on, sulked, or put on a display of frenetic ineffectiveness.
'I feel gloaty. Oh so gloaty'. But it is Pavlyuchenko who clearly felt like running and dancing for joy.
We are poised precariously on top of the contenders for the Champions' League places and before Everton next week we have Bolton to dispose of in the Cup Replay.

It should be 'routine' at the Lane but that is one of those weasel words. A bit like 'quaint' , 'compact' and 'accessible' in Estate Agent speak which means a rat-hole on the main road in need of complete renovation. 'Routine' in Tottenham speak means decided by a last minute deflected goal for somebody, not necessarily us. Kranjcar is the designated penalty taker and Pavlyuchenko takes them for Russia, but let's hope that we have wrapped it up long before it comes to that.

I'm very much cheered up by the performance against Wigan. Bentley closed down like a man on a mission; the midfield was efficient and the back four largely untroubled. I t doesn't take much to cheer me up where Spurs are concerned: a Modric shimmy and I'm ecstatic. Ledley went off with a strain but hopefully that was just precautionary. You never know with Ledders.

The next two games could well define what sort of season we are going to look back on. Personally I would rather we beat Everton than Bolton but happily in this life we have the opportunity to do both. I forecast earlier in the season that Everton would be more likely to be facing relegation than the Europa placings but in my defence I will say that I was right about Pavlyuchenko.

Is he a lethargic trainer or even a lazy player? Unless some ITK can text us from his perch in the trees outside Spurs lodge we will probably never know the truth. We had all this with Berbatov: was he actually lazy or did he just look lazy? It's strange that these controversies should arise at the one club in the Premiership that has a proud history of cultivating flair under a manager that has a similar reputation.

I can see the problem from Harry's point of view. How do encourage them all to train hard as a squad if you select a poor trainer? Easy to me: you say to Crouchy; 'Look son I like you, you're hardworking, and nice guy but that idle Russian is a better player than you and he gets the gig. But keep trying you never know you might improve'.

I understand that we live in different times now, where you have to pass a fitness test before you can get on the stage and start pulling rabbits out of hats. But we can't all tear about like Tevez or Rooney. I like my players on the laid back side of hyperactive. Pavlyuchenko fits the bill nicely. As Bill Nicholson once said of Jimmy Greaves ' All he's done this afternoon is score four goals'.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

A pitch for Roman

A furrowed field

 Wigan away

Yes they're the ones we have to thank for our excellent goal difference, but this time its away, which might make a difference. Even the home side have complained about the state of the pitch. Without Lennon we're not quite the same team, having only won a single game since his departure in December and scored just 3 goals in the last six games.

The argument before Xmas was: we are doing very well so if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
But its not working very well at the moment so we might try some changes. With the going officially 'rough to ploughed' it looks as if Harry might have found a good reason not to play Pavlyuchenko again. His head's not right; he's not fit; other pairings are playing really well and now the pitch is unsuitable. The 'other pairings' argument won't wash as Defoe and Crouch are awful; Gudjohnsen isn't match fit as he recently demonstrated and Keane's fulfilling another of his boyhood dreams.

By process of elimination Roman should get a game but between him and his agent they seem to have seriously got up Harry's nose and I can't see it happening. Our game plan on a sub-standard pitch will be to keep it off the floor by playing cloud passes instead of wall passes to Crouch who will give it, one way or the other, back to Wigan. Modric in the meantime will wander about like Little Bo Peep in search of some sheep until he falls asleep under the haystack and gives way to Kranjcar. You've heard of mixed metaphors, well these are mixed nursery rhymes.

Why would an experienced manager whose career depends on results ignore a talented player? Because like you and me he is fallible and human. 'Harry not perfect shock' We all make mistakes and are distracted by personal feelings and I think that the assumption that Harry is acting irrationally is the most rational explanation. His approach to training doesn't fit in with Harry's old school approach which clearly doesn't help.

Pavlyuchenko came to us at a traumatic time and showed some spark amongst some lacklustre performances particularly when paired with Defoe. In 2008/09 he scored 14 goals and his goals to minutes played ( 1/150) was better than top scorer Darren Bent. This season his goals to minutes played (1/139)is better than that of Keane and Crouch and second only to Defoe. Statistics eh.You do the math.

I don't know whether he is the answer to all our current scoring problems but only that he should be given a go, with Crouch as the impact sub. I said last time that he should have started against Bolton and I think he should start against Wigan whatever the state of the pitch. The build up of games and the cup replay practically guarantees him a game in the coming weeks. We only have three front line strikers so Harry is going to have to mix it up even if we don't get injuries to Crouch and Defoe.

Perhaps the truth is that Harry doesn't rate Roman and his reported whingeing to the press just makes his return impossible. He keeps him on the bench purely as emergency back-up. He's like one of those kitchen fire extinguisher that you stick in the back of a cupboard somewhere but can't quite remember where. You know you're supposed to test them from time to time but never quite get round to it. Harry would quite probably be pleased to have sold him, whatever he says to the contrary, but Levy won't sanction the paper loss and an impasse has been reached.

Without Crouch we might at least get back to playing some decent football and give Modric a chance to influence the game. If Wigan can try to play football on it then so can we.. We are overdue a decent score and we might just get one on Sunday as they will be apprehensive whatever their motivation to avenge their crushing defeat

If Harry goes the other way we could even see Palacios and Kaboul patrolling the midfield up to their axles in mud and to hell with the football. Winning ugly I think they call it which is something apparently we've got to learn to do if we are to become a successful club. Funny sort of success it seems to me but I suspect I might just be in a minority. If he gets another chance I hope he takes it for Tottenham's sake, and for mine and Harry's too.

Monday, 15 February 2010

A game of two halves

A game of two halves. I'm sorry but why search for an original phrase when the cliche expresses Sunday's match with such precision; what more appropriate expression for the Cup game at Bolton is there? 'A sporting contest of two contrasting 45minute sessions' lacks pith, pips and peel to me. A team of cardboard cut-outs pretending to be a Spurs 11 spent the first hour chasing shadows and booting the ball high in the air, sometimes in the general direction of Crouch. Not that it made any difference because whether it bounced off him or not it still came straight back.

Their goal came at the end of a flowing 16 pass move; that's 16 opportunities to intercept, tackle or mark. When since Xmas have we constructed such a passing move, mainly on the ground, resulting in a crisply taken goal? Make that, ' when since the start of the season'. We are supposed to be the passing team and Bolton the long ball merchants. Not yesterday. I spent the whole of the first half with my head in my hands shouting, 'Get it down, get it down'. We picked up where we left off at Wolves: not a good place to start. Once again I exempt Bale from the general criticism. If Bolton, particularly Elmander, could shoot they would have been a speck on the horizon by half time.

Modric looked distressed either because of his own form and fitness or because he thought that the team had been taken over by a cast of Zombies straight out of 'Shaun of the Dead'. Harry denies that he injected the squad with an experimental serum to bring them back to life. However credit someone, perhaps Joe Jordan, sans teeth, with the electric nipple clamps, for getting them up for the second half.

Gradually I relaxed; the boys were sneaking back into town and now I was muttering 'That's better, that's better'. First Modric and then his replacement Kranjcar combined well with Bale and he eventually set up Defoe for a well struck goal. Before that we had hit the bar twice and later Huddlestone fluffed a penalty. I hope we don't have to settle anything in the near future by a penalty shoot-out.

Interestingly informants allege that Huddlestone got the poisoned penalty chalice by crashing the ball,and the goalkeeper, if he tried to intervene, into and through he back of the net in practice. But on his first day at work he opts for caution and placement.

Harry's refusal to play Pavlyuchenko  but his insistence on displaying him on the bench seems deliberate and personal. I think it demeans the player, who scored after 4mins.11secs. on his last appearance, the manager and the club. To substitute a clearly unfit Gudjohnsen against Wolves ahead of him was to add insult to injury. He should have started against Bolton.

Once again we had more corners(12) than any other team over the weekend but failed to get a shot or header on goal from any of them. I estimate that we average nearly ten corners per game and haven't threatened from any of them since early in the season. What exactly do we practice at training sessions if it's not penalties and set pieces?

We could easily have lost it in the first half and yet we should have won it in the second. Do we bemoan the dire first half performance or congratulate them for putting it right and getting another draw at a ground where we haven't won for years? Tough choice but the replay is at WHL and we have avoided Chelsea in the next round and have a winnable game at Fulham.

So we have a good chance to make the semi-finals of the Cup and are still in with a shout of finishing in the top six. The 'Harry out' bandwagon is getting steam up and is ready to roll but only if we fail to make either of these will it become a real force. I am not on board because changing the manager every 18 months, whatever his limitations, and they all have them, is the reason why we have achieved so little over the last two decades.

It's beginning to look like a season of two halves as well but we still have games and time to make some progress. Remember; we are Spurs; we don't do easy or predictable. Don't you just love them.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Candle in the wind

Goodbye Champions League.
' ' Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did'

I have been deluged by a request from a respected correspondent to try to find some nuggets of gold in the mountain of shale accumulated in the course of the Wolves fiasco. Now, like Ledley, I don't do knee jerk reactions but 48 hours later but I am struggling for the words that might ' lift' our supporters.
I can only conclude that we must be going for the Cup this year. Do you really want me to go through our performance at Wolverhampton Wanderers? No I thought not. Bale played well and that's about it. The rest were average to poor on a day when we needed to prove that the game against Liverpool was just a blip. Apparently it wasn't.
I did raise the possibility of us losing and the possible consequences but fortunately our old mates at W.Ham beat Birmingham; and our dear chums at Arsenal beat Liverpool. But we can't go on depending on our friends like this. There might be a few more twists to this story. We still have a third of the season to go and all you can say with certainty is that we won't get relegated but you couldn't honestly say we deserve anything.
Theoretically we could still win the League or finish mid-table. If we get it together for Wigan next week and play well for the rest of the season we might get fourth but can you see that happening? Wolves did the double over us for the first time since 1953 the year in which Norma Jean, now Marilyn Monroe, shot the iconic shot over the grill of the New York subway. They were not a better team than us individually, except for Doyle, but they certainly played better than us. I can only hope that these references to Ms. Monroe are having the requisite uplifting affect.
I can't say I'm angry: just resigned. The doctor said I wasn't to get angry at my age in any case. Defoe hasn't had a shot on target in two games. Harry gambled on Gudjohnsen who hasn't played a competitive game this season and lost. Pavlyuchenko scored within 5mins. of coming on in his last game and was left on the bench. I'm not pointing the finger here you understand. Actually I'm sitting on my hands but even so the cat has shot onto the sideboard; the dog is cowering under the sofa and the goldfish is hiding behind a rock.
Those people, including me, who have been asking for changes got what they wished for but not what they wanted. You obviously have to be more specific with your requests and draw attention to the small print. To look for individual players to have ago at would be like shooting fish in a barrel. Wolves didn't even park the bus. Their keeper made one save and our keeper didn't. 'End of story' as they say. Their midfielder David Jones swept the ball into the net unmarked, like a 20 goals a season striker hoping to go to S.Africa.
The candle I have held up for Jenas in the teeth of some quite scathing criticism over the past couple of seasons is flickering and will shortly, like me, be gutted.
So farewell Champions' League
'Our candle burned out long before
Our legend ever did'
And that's where we are I'm afraid this season, left with our glorious legend, as our assault on the Champions' League splutters and dies.
My pre-match plan to put some dead sheep in the centre circle to tempt out the Wolves badly back-fired as they not only feasted on the dead carcases but had a go at our midfielders too. They probably didn't notice the difference. If Harry has decided that we have more chance of winning the cup than finishing fourth then some will question more than just his judgment. We could easily beat Bolton and draw Chelsea away. Actually on Wednesday's performance we couldn't easily beat anyone.
Harry has surprised us before and might do so again. We miss Lennon but Bentley hasn't played badly and one player does not make a team. Recruitment during the January transfer window was unfocused, and our performance in the second third of the season patchy rather than disastrous which is why we are still hanging on in the top six. Other results have gone our way but we can't rely on this to continue. Harry seems to have has touching faith that anything that has 'a present from Portsmouth' stamped on it is a guarantee of top quality which is the only reason I can think of for Kaboul's selection.

Most of the players talk a good performance especially on the Official Site but that's not where it counts. It counts on a cold Wednesday, on a slippery pitch, against a team scrapping for its Premiership life. Once again we were found wanting.
I'm off to watch my DVD collection of old Marilyn Monroe movies starting with the 1953 classic 'How to marry a millionaire' which some desperate supporters may think is our only hope. So put the champagne on hold for another season. I've had a bottle in the fridge for years. I might use it to launch my electric wheelchair if I need one before we get into the Top Four.
Bolton on Sunday? I'm good but I'm not that good. We are back to second guessing Harry for the team formation although if its not Crouch and Defoe up front, I'll eat the goldfish wherever it's hiding. The score? If I could predict that I would concentrate on the lottery. I'm waiting to write the headline: 'Super Pavlo. gets a start: his impact is ferocious.' (Apologies to Mary Poppins)

Feeling better? No I thought not.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Good game . Shame about the result.

Every picture tells a  story
Good performance, shame about the result. That's the winner of the 'Write a gravestone inscription' competition for the Spurs post-mortem at the end of the season. Not that we'll be dead but we might not be living the high life as much as we all hoped. What more could we have done? Well, scored is the obvious answer against Villa,and on one or two other occasions, but you can only play well and see what happens. Visiting keepers are clearly on a banker's bonus when they come to WHL.

Harry got some stick for not changing it around with stalemate looming but I agree with him, which I don't always do. We could have scored at any time in the last 25mins and changing Crouch for Gudjohnsen might not have produced any more chances for us to miss than it did in any case. He has come unstuck more than once lately with substitutions and, as he did at Leeds, he left things alone. Another 12 corners without a goal says something about our training ground methods though.

We need to continue to play well and create chances and forget about where we might finish. It's largely out of our hands in any case. No forward misses chances on purpose, or runs offside deliberately. Villa defended well, which is what Villa do. Their quick counter attacks didn't really materialise and the only time they did Gomes made his usual early saves to keep us in the game.

Bale played well but Corluka was excellent. He not only proved that our decision to keep Bentley and not splurge another £15 million on the innocuous Downing was far-sighted. If he and Bentley ever reach some sort of understanding they will be a formidable combination. Lennon may well be back before then though. It's far too late for regrets for all those teams that declined to take our wayward winger off our hands. You had your chance.

We played well, always my first requirement; attractive attacking football against a team admittedly that didn't take us on. Ledley, playing his third game in 11 days, smoothly marshaled his back line,nearly scored twice and guarded the old homestead while young gad-fly Gareth set off on his escapades.

Now in the light of all this what will happen at Wolves? We will almost certainly out-class them and make several chances. We will probably, on the law of averages, score two or three and improve our clean sheet record. Arsenal will beat Liverpool; Manchester Utd will beat Villa and we will go back into the top four. Cue jubilation and regrets that we didn't beat Hull, Villa and all those other teams that we dominated.

If it all goes wrong we will be back in 7th. Cue even more regrets over lost points. Harry will be crucified for his substitutions or for his lack of substitutions. Not literally crucified of course: well probably not literally. My patented wrist slashing kits will sell like hot bagels again and revive the Stock Market almost single handedly. If we lose, and Birmingham beat W.Ham, which is not totally impossible, we will start to worry whether we will even make Europe.

OK,OK!: I'm just painting a worst case scenario and honestly don't care if I never sell another wrist kit again (available in three distinctive packs to match our home,away, and third kit colours at very reasonable prices). Defoe, like most strikers, scores in fits and starts and could probably do with a strike partner who fills in the gaps when he is in a lean spell. But at the moment we haven't got one unless Gudjohnsen proves to be a better buy than I think he is, so we can only sit back and enjoy the ride.

This is not complacency; like the graceful swan I am all elegant geniality on the surface and ferocious turmoil underneath. But it won't help the team convert chances into goals and its creating chances that matters. Even the places in the top four are a lottery and in the chasing pack with their inconsistencies even more so. Injuries, poor refereeing decisions, a missed chance, a brilliant save can all effect the final positions. We are in with a good chance and doing things the right way. I'm lovin it.

Talk of next levels and managers or players who may or may not get us there is an itch that is just out of reach. Like the toothache that disappears the moment you get an appointment, and like your teeth, it's all in your head. Take your mind off it, crack open a tinnie, and I'm talking lager here, not substances, and enjoy the game.

Friday, 5 February 2010

We came, we saw, we conquered

Julius Caesar

 Now that David Bentley has made three consecutive appearances for the first time since whenever I wonder how many fans are feeling just a little humbled. On the pitch last night were three players previously deposited into the 'shit folder' along with Jermaine Jenas everyone's favourite scapegoat : David Bentley; Heuralho Gomes and Gareth Bale.

I omit Tom Huddleston as Harry's consistent selection of him in our best season since a long time has largely redeemed him, though not with everyone of course. Dawson, likely to be our new captain, is still mistrusted in some quarters as naive; Crouch is disparaged not just because he lacks all the skills but because he invites us to play in an anti-Tottenham way; Corluka is regarded as disastrously slow; Bassong as too inexperienced and error prone. All these players have been widely criticised , the sub text being that they are not good enough for the next level, which I have to point out we haven't quite reached yet.

That only leaves Kranjcar and Defoe untouched in the team that beat Leeds last night in style and with some authority. However did they manage it? Some are raising the dilemma that Harry might face because Lennon and Ekotto might shortly be returning to fitness. You can see where I am going here because both these players were the subject of widespread abuse until Aaron 'can't cross' Lennon and and Benoit 'most improved player' Ekotto redeemed themselves.

Its not so much that these players were written off but it is the speed and hostility of the process that is shocking. There seems to be no half way house. If you are not world class then you are hopeless. It is also the viciousness and personalisation of the attacks. Some of the criticism of Bale seems to imply that because he is not good looking he can't be a good player. Though of course as with David Bentley you can be too good looking to play well. No allowance is given for age, experience or injury problems; this applies to Lennon as well as Bale.

Now I am not a great fan of Peter Crouch and have been critical of him for his influence on the way we play but I don't want him to fail to prove a point. I am surprised but delighted that David Bentley has escaped his demons to turn in a Man of the Match performance at Leeds. I have been critical of Harrry on several occasions but I don't ask for him to be sacked because instability has been the curse of the club for decades.

On Wednesday night in hostile fan and weather conditions we imposed ourselves quickly and effectively and should have been 'out of sight' again in the first 20 minutes. I think I have already copyrighted that phrase. Defoe scored a hat-trick and could have scored five or six.. Bentley concentrated on getting the basics right and provided two assists. We had our 'Oh no, not again' moment when they equalised just before half time but did not allow it to faze us and came out with even more authority in the second half.

Even Jenas was 'not as shit as usual', high praise in some quarters, and even without two of our top midfielders, Palacios and Modric, we were not really stretched. As Julius Caesar said ' We came, we saw, we kicked arse'. No sorry that was 'Ghostbusters'.  If we can win on Saturday we are almost back on track, and can start dreaming again as long as we don't actually fall asleep on the pitch.

Dawson needs to bring his back line out more quickly and not allow them to drop too deep. The penalty spot should be his last line of defence more often than the six yard box. Last night there was plenty of time to catch all four of the Leeds' attackers offside but we barely moved. He should concentrate too on directing his defensive headers as the vast majority go straight back to the opponents because he concentrates purely on getting distance.

Against Villa there are statistics favouring both sides and it would be easy to go for a draw. Defensively they have the best record in the Premiership but our own record at home is close. It will be tight but with Modric, Palacios and King rested and home advantage I think that we will win. We need to be careful not to get caught by a sucker punch on the break.

We need to cut Harry and the players a little more slack. I will continue to examine what we do as club and team with the slightly sceptical eye of a long term supporter without the blind fanaticism of some. 'Fanatic' is after all where the word 'fan' comes from. But it is done in the spirit of trying to improve the team, not slag it off into oblivion.

Perhaps it's the Danny Blanchflower position of equalising before the other team score. Getting your retaliation in first as they say in Rugby. Or calling ourselves 'yiddos' to defuse the power of the words before the opposition use it against us. You can't hate our own players more than we do so back off. Perhaps all this is understandable in the light of the history of Tottenham over the past few decades which could well happen again but its a misguided and unhelpful way to support a team.

I am a long term admirer of Michael Dawson and have advocated his captaincy for some time but it doesn't stop me making helpful hints for his improvement. It's a pity that he and Harry have better things to do than read this column.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

A well run club

Burke & Hare

Harry is not the first to be to be falsely accused of grave robbing. Burke and Hare (above) the notorious 19th murderers who sold body parts to hospitals were similarly accused. But they wanted their cadavers as fresh as possible and took to murdering their own. Harry can't be charged yet because Portsmouth might be in terminal agonies but they are not quite deceased.

Grave robbing was a messy business and after all they were only filling a gap in the market by supplying bodies for medical research. No-one is accusing Harry of supplying cadavers. That would be silly if he expects them to turn out in the Premiership regularly, although Keane has certainly been a ghost of his former self if not an actual corpse and Crouch looks and plays like something out of the Adams family at times.

We used to be mocked for our performances not matching our pretensions but that has been put on temporary hold. Our transfer dealings over the past two or three years have opened up a new line of attack. It can probably be shown that we have made a profit on all our dealings but the bottom line line is not everything.

Harry has a dodgy reputation at best and this kind of activity does nothing to dispel it. Who is holding the moral compass of the club? Clearly not Daniel Levy whose definition of a well run club extends only to financial matters. Harry's claim that he was only doing his close friend Avram a favour by bringing back Kaboul is laughable. Why did we sell him in the first place if he was capable of such improvement?

Chimbonda is a more curious case. Bought and sold, then bought and sold again within three years, his handling raises even more questions about somebody's judgement. The Keane saga is equally strange: sold; bought back, made captain and now loaned out in the space of 18mths. There are other exhibits in this displaced persons' catalogue. Defoe, bought by Harry at Portsmouth and then re- bought to join him at Spurs.

Now to lose one parent as Oscar Wilde said 'may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose both smacks of carelessness' He may have gone on to add that to sell and re-purchase four players and then to re-sell or loan two of them again sounds like mismanagement. Each of these transactions may make some sort of sense on its own but taken together they raise serious issues of judgement and policy. The regular supply stream to Sunderland also seems odd.

Our failure to make something of a number of players especially youngsters who showed promise raises issues of mishandling. Certainly in the case of Pavlyuchenko. Buying a once fine player, Gudjohnsen, who has not yet played this season and who scored only ten goals in 70 appearance in three years at Barcelona strikes me as eccentric, Although we tried for Van Nistelrooy who has a similar. record over the past two years at Real Madrid.

We still have no cover for Palacios unless Kaboul can do it; or cover at centre half unless he can step in there too; or cover at right back now that we have loaned out everyone we had except Corluka. Once again Kaboul might be the man. So he's gone from surplus to requirements to all purpose indispensable in 18mths. I don't know what he's like in goal but we don't have genuine cover there either. Allowing O'Hara to return to Portsmouth when he could do a job at Spurs is another question mark on the loan front. Perhaps Harry thinks it wont be long before Pompey collapse and he will be on his way back. I fully expect Boateng to re-appear shortly. The charge of 'grave robbing' might stick then.

With Pavlyuchenko and Gudjohnsen unavailable at Leeds we now have only Defoe and Crouch available up front. Perhaps they would have played anyway. My real question is do we have a plan or a policy in all this or is it just financial opportunism without real regard to the needs of the club? Don't we have a coaching staff whose job it is to try to make at least something out of the talent that we accumulate.

It's not so much that we bought these players back but why we sold them in the first place that puzzles me.