The Blog that's not always wrong.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Villarreal-ity check

Man kissing football
                                                Learn to love that ball

 We won the World Cup in 1966 and have never looked back since. The trouble is we were facing the wrong way. The periscope got jammed and we forgot to take the lens covers off the binoculars But as recent events have shown at every level we need to start scanning the horizon. Pre-season eh! In theory a carefully planned series of work outs to ease us gently back from the beach designed to achieve an outfit strong in mind and body in peak condition for the first game of the season. In fact a globe trotting, exhausting, jet lagged trawl around the Corporate high spots.

Villarreal was more of a full body pummeling for which we may feel better, eventually. Friendly? It didn't look like it. Unless you have the sort of mates who set fire to the curtains and chop up the furniture when invited round for a pleasant social evening. Next time they come round the invitations should be more explicit: a draw is acceptable; drubbings are not permitted. So just when you thought it was safe to start dreaming again its back to the drawing board.

I know all the excuses: some of our best players missing; first time the boys have all got together;
youngsters being given a run out; still working out game plans and formations; difficulties at centre-half; new signings to come in; dead wood to be cleared; and finally: 'Its only pre-season. Chill'.
Yep I've been through them all but it still leaves me with that nagging doubt whether we can build on last year's success and push on. A bit like the after effects of Burnley, but I'm over that now.

Lets take the positives; and there's always positives. As the man on the steps of the gallows remarked , 'At least it's not raining'. Some youngsters have appeared and by and large have shown some talent. Last night, Rose, Parrett and Walker in particular. Giovani surfaced and was as good as some of us always thought he was. The final pass of two of their goals should have been cut out and their third was deflected past a stranded keeper. Huddlestone and Bale maintained their form and none of our returning stars got injured.

For the first 20 minutes of the second half we put some pressure on them and scored an excellent goal. At 2-1 it could have gone either way and their fortunate third clinched it. However we were outplayed for most of the game by a team that have another month to go before their season starts. Outplayed by the current Spanish style of play demonstrated by the Spanish National team, the Spanish U.19 team, and Barcelona. A style that we have the tradition and talent to espouse. Clearly the world has moved on since 1966. We won the World Cup and set ourselves back 50yrs. We won't win it again until we turn our backs on the past, reject our traditional attitudes, forget power and strength and learn to love the ball. Even with some of the Worlds' most skilful players in the Premiership the emphasis is still on physicality and speed.

In British football by and large the ball is not our friend. When it comes our way we treat it like a stranger in a dark alley asking for a light. The Spanish World Cup squad love the ball. The Under 19's who beat us recently treat it like a brother. Villarreal, who are not even in the top ranks of La Liga nurtured it like their first born; they caressed and cherished it; they wanted it so much they pleaded for it when they hadn't got it; they looked lost without it.

Even at Spurs a talent like Taarabt is a figure of fun. We don't know what to do with him: he's an embarrassment. When he gets the ball newcomers in the crowd think his name is Gerrid. We don't know how to integrate him into the the team. Surely a failure of coaching as much as anything. Put him on for 10 minutes and all he can do is go through his repertoire of tricks in a desperate effort to catch the eye.

We have to start making friends with the ball and put the 'welcome home' mats out for it. We need to embrace it, take it for walks, marry it in a civil ceremony or whatever it takes. When a Spaniard passes the ball he expects it back. It's a loan not a gift.

At Tottenham where we have a tradition of keeping the ball on the ground, pass and move; where following the team is a pleasure as well as a duty born of family history or geography we at least should appreciate these 'continental' fads. We of all people should be grateful that the rugged efforts of Holland were eventually overcome by the passing style of Spain. It would have been a disaster for the beautiful game if the Dutch had won. Generally speaking we have courted this type of approach although occasionally in times of managerial stress it has disappeared from view.

Parking the bus and 10 man defences are going to be the norm next season especially at home. This is a reflection of our new Top Four status but also an acknowledgment by most teams that if they take us on they will lose. We have to out-think and out-skill them and we have the players to do it. We don't have the mentality or the tradition to do anything else.

So let's get hold of the ball and learn to love it. Keep it, protect it, love, honour and obey it. Give it to Modric and Huddlestone when we can; play through the midfield; fine anybody except Tom who passes it more than 30yds.Villarreal didn't allow the ball to travel much above head height or more than 20yds away in case it got kidnapped out there all on its own. Let's not ignore the timely Villarreal-ity check we were given. We can't just live in hope that we don't meet any Spanish sides in the Champions' League.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

JimmyG2's pre-season miscellany

WOOKEY HOLE, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 18:  Mince pies are stacked as competitors participate in the Wookey Hole Big Eat 2008, the annual mince pie eating contest, at the Wookey Hole Show Caves on November 18 2008 in Wookey Hole, near Wells, England. Handpicked competitors, eating professionals and members of the public alike attempt to eat as many mince pies as possible in the space of 10 minutes for a prize of 1000GBP and the chance to compete in one of the biggest speed eating events of the year in the United States.  (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Miscellany: a mixture; a medley. Medley: a mixture, a miscellany.

So there you have it, that's what this is. It's a word they use especially at Xmas to describe a book which is a rag-bag, a hotch potch, of unrelated topics with no theme or organisation. A weasel word that covers a multitude of sins. It's the odds and sods left over but too good to throw away. It's how stuffing, gravy and mince pies came to be invented.

'Not much different to any of your other offerings Jimbo' I hear you mumble unkindly. Well don't blame the messenger love, there's bugger all happening. And so to prove you wrong firstly I'm going to put all these tit-bits into alphabetical order, ever the poor man's thematic structure, and secondly, I'm going to rank them in order of likelihood; the bookmaker's configuration. Actually it's impossible to do both at once so I'm going for the second option.

Keane to Celtic or Aston Villa. Odds on racing certainty. Bet your house, wife and kids on it. If you haven't got any kids adopt some. 1/10

Gudjohnsen to return to England but not to Spurs. Very probable. Evens

Spurs to make marquee striker signing. Suarez probably. Now I don't know what a marquee signing actually is unless its so newsworthy that you have to put up a big tent to accommodate the press. Almost certain. 2/1

Pavluchenko, Defoe , Crouch and at the very least a Wigwam or a Yurt signing to be our starting strike force. Pretty probable 3/1

Bellamy to sign for Spurs. Unfortunately very likely. Harry likes a challenge. 5/1

Including Sandro Spurs to sign 3 or less senior squad players despite Harry's wheeler dealer reputation. Looking likely thank god. 6/1

Gareth the Bale to be our top scoring midfielder even if he plays at full back. 8/1

Torres and Joe Cole to get into double figures for appearances together next season. Probably get well acquainted in the physio room but unlikely on the pitch. 10/1

. Autonomy to go down the tubes before they cough up for their shirt deal. Their share price has plunged more than 10% this week. In Daniel we trust. 50/1

Daniel Levy keeping a straight face when they banned the vuvuzela on 'safety grounds' No chance 100/1

Raul to sign for Spurs He's more likely to sign for Barcelona than Spurs or become Real Madrid Manager, or Spain's Prime Minister. Extremely highly unlikely. 200/1

Joe Cole's agent keeping a straight face when he told Joe that at nearly 30 after two seasons disrupted by injury he'd negotiated a 4yr. Contract on £90,00 a week. Absolutely no chance 500/1

Spurs totally blowing it in the first month of the season, falling out of the Champions League and sacking Harry who is in prison anyway by then. Nah, no chance. 1000/1

How do I arrive at this accurate and precise analysis of the ongoing Tottenham situation?
A heady cocktail of ITK forensic analysis based on my network of contacts within the Tottenham organisation (cleaners, kitchen staff, decorators and groundsmen mainly). I also have a birthday card signed by Ledley King which I hold horizontally in front of me and absorb the vibe; a copy of the Daily Mail whose predictions I reverse, but in the main guesswork pure and simple.

But it seems to work. Remember that prices can go down as well as up and that past performance is no guarantee of future success. Which brings us neatly to Tottenham's prospects for the coming season. Man city are going to be a hybrid assembled from bits falling off other vehicles and probably won't start first go. Liverpool are desperately talking up the signing of Joe ”football reasons”Cole as the key to preventing total meltdown and Spurs are waiting patiently on the rails for their moment to strike.

We had another Stateside workout in which we came from behind to win. Keane had plenty of chances and managed to put one away. But until pre-season takes shape with the return of our World Cup heroes and some actual signings I am holding fire with the chrystal ball, chucking the tea leaves straight into the compost bin and have put the Tarot cards away in a locked drawer. Harry and Ossie say we can challenge for, and even win, the league but I would put this as unlikely: 50/1. Remember friends I'm not always wrong.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

No news is good news

Man in yoga position by swimming pool at hotel

                         And before you ask: No it isn't and no I can't

So here I am practising my deep breathing exercises, studying 'New Yoga positions for the well past it' and listening to the fridge as I wait for the season to start. Or something to happen. Here in the trenches we wait patiently for a signal to send us over the top, seizing on every little tit-bit of news and study its entrails for its impact on our season. And I mean hard news not gossip, rumour and tittle-tattle. And 'going over the top' is an apt description of Spurs fans in this becalmed state of the doldrums that we call pre-season. We are going stir crazy and liable to over-react when something, anything, actually happens.

So where are we exactly? Harry has taken up the extension to his contract and will be with us for at least another two seasons. This is possibly the best news we could have on top of the contract extensions to key players. Continuity and stability, the twin towers of our progress of late.'Twin Towers', hmm Better make that twin underpinnings. Harry is still finding confetti in his turn-ups but
he would only have to lose to Martin Jol's Fulham and to be behind them at Xmas for us to be in wife swapping territory as the worms start turning. Jol's return to the Premiership is only an unconfirmed rumour at the moment and there must be troubles at Ajax for him to leave. If its true.

Our new Premiership sponsor has been announced. 'Autonomy' was unknown to 99% of the population at large and unknown to even more of the Spurs faithful. No matter, their millions are as spendable as anyone else's. We still have another sponsor to come for Cup games so that's another first for the wily Levy ; split competition sponsorship. Not so much a 'fox in the box', more a 'hound for a pound' or even 'a bunny for the money'. It's a shorter contract for less exposure, for more money. Recession? What recession?

The new kits have been announced and are basically horrible: too over designed, too fussy, too busy, too distracting. Less is more people but you might just be able to hear the football doing the talking above the chatter of those shirts and shorts. It's Puma's last year and their designers felt the need to out in a blaze of glory. They seem to have given a class of 6yr.olds a packet of felt tip pens and let them loose. Don't we have a veto on the finished product?

However most people hated the yellow on last year's shirts but this was forgotten in our successful pursuit of fourth place. Perhaps the same will apply: win the league and the kits will not be derided, rejected and forgotten but purchased in their millions. It's like having to play well in pink boots, you just don't dare to play badly. We shall see. The all white kit against San Jose didn't look too awful.

A mixed squad, or two mixed squads had an away day at Bournemouth, an old stomping ground of Harry's and fared pretty well, scoring four and not conceding. Good things were reported of Townsend and Caulker; Pavlyuchenko scored a couple: Robbie Keane is still with us; Cudocini is fully recovered and a good time was had by all.

Even the rumour mill is only firing on three cylinders. No Torres, Gerrard, or Barcelona stars coming in: no high profile players getting the chop. Not even JJ is seriously rumoured to be leaving. Gossip ain't what it used to be. Perhaps it's just post World Cup tittle-tattle overload.

Personally I'm grateful for it and wouldn't be totally unhappy if we started next season with all the old faces and Sandro. But that takes us into the 'next level' debate which is tedious without concrete news within which to frame it. Aston Villa have replaced Sunderland as the rumoured destination for all our rejects and this is a step up of sorts. Meanwhile we are being linked with rejects from a higher level. Harry has a good squad with solid achievements behind it and has no need to duck and dive to keep the team or club afloat. So his wheeler dealer qualities are surplus to requirements at Spurs and I'm sure that Harry is as relieved as we are.

Last night Harry revisited another of his old haunts, America, where he was player coach of the the Seattle Sounders in the 70's. It was what they call a good work out and we looked as if we needed it.
They found plenty of space in midfield and Cudicini made three good saves. Several youngsters, Obika, Mason, Butcher, Smith, Townsend, Naughton and Walker made appearances; only Townsend caught the eye but he shot when he should have crossed and crossed when he should have shot, but that will come: remember Lennon. Keane missed a couple of chances and had a goal ruled offside. Bale, Huddlestone and Krancjar and Modric in the second half were the pick of the senior players. It ended in a goalless draw which was about right. Obika looked lost and should have scored with a header.

At the moment that's about it for hard news but no doubt when it starts it will all kick off ,if you'll pardon the expression, in a rush. In the meantime it's the sound of not very much not really happening. It could be worse; we might have signed Bellamy the Welsh wind up merchant.
It's the sound of silence and it will do me fine. For now.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Strike up the band

Soccer fans blow vuvuzelas while awaiting the start of the 2010 World Cup Group F soccer match between Paraguay and New Zealand at Peter Mokaba stadium in Polokwane June 24, 2010.       REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP)
Now far be it from me to blow my own vuvuzela but it was 'Spurs Musings' wot won it. I stuck with the Spanish boys even after they lost their opening game against the Swiss. Admittedly there was some hope in there along with the expectation. In the end football was the triumphant winner against a Dutch team that claimed to have a plan to thwart the abilities of the Spanish.

We soon saw what it was: kick the Spaniards off the pitch. Van Bommel, who has made a career out of whacking proper footballers in the back of the legs, was still inexplicably on the pitch at full time and De Jong who had been banned for the semi final somehow escaped a lifetime ban for a chest high karate kick on Xavi Alonso.

Howard Webb was suckered into trying to maintain a full complement of Dutchmen for the sake of this showpiece game. That should have been the responsibility of the Dutch team and their management and in any other game they would have been down to a maximum of nine by the end. However justice was done and the best team won and, as far as the final goes, the only team that was trying to play in a football style that reflects the 21st Century.

I have to admit Spanish connections and may have been influenced by the fact that one of my daughters' income will have been significantly improved by the continued presence of the Spanish team in the competition. But my real concern is the way the game is played. Spurs to me are in the camp of Barcelona, Spain, and, dare I say it, of the current Arsenal team who strive to play the beautiful game in a beautiful and entertaining way most of the time.

The Dutch last night, and several teams in the Premiership, threaten this whole concept and it is satisfying to see skill triumph over physicality. Ironically it was Johan Cruyff who played for and managed both Ajax and Barcelona who brought the current manager Guardiola to Barca and who the Dutch will claim brought this idea of football to Spain. He must have despaired at the tactics of his countrymen.

Last season Spurs played some entertaining football and made it to the Champions' League. Like Spain and Arsenal they can be frustrating at times but virtue was rewarded with success. Spain proved that if you play the game properly you can not only compete but win. I hope that Spurs in their best traditions of pass and move, keeping the ball on the ground, retaining possession, respecting your opponent, fair play and dignity in defeat will persevere with these noble intentions and sweep to success next season.

Tom Huddlestone and Luke Modric don't need minders like Van Bommel. They need intelligent colleagues to play with them. Rather Joe Cole than another midfield destroyer in the Palacios style who incidentally was absent when we outplayed Arsenal Chelsea and Man.City, but played in the loss to Manchester Utd. and when we capitulated in the second half against Burnley. But I'm over that now, seriously.

Palacios along with Huddlestone was a key player in our success last season but he could be so much more with a positive focus. Who do you drop for another such player? Spain can be rugged at the back but they and Barcelona apparently prosper without this kind of negativity in midfield. It's just part of the dream I have for Spurs.

How much did I make on the Spanish win? Nothing, zilch, nada, diddly squat. Mine was a purely disinterested devotion to the game devoid of all commercial considerations. I have jinxed Tottenham many times with hopeful wagers and Del Bosque had begged me not to bet on his boys, so I let them win it on their own.

Let the vuvuzela's sound, the Stadium horns buzz, the lepetata deafen to acclaim a triumph for Spain, for South Africa, and for football.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Home thoughts from abroad

Man sunbathing in deckchair at ocean, rear view
Oh to be in England now that its all about to kick off again. Been away, in Spain which is a lovely place to be when their National team are doing well. Coming back now: fit, tanned, toned and rarin' to go. No time to dwell on the triumphs of last season: now is the time to focus on the season to come. Nil activity in the transfer meerkat which suits me fine. Rumours galore of course but I am ignoring them all, though some are more ridiculous and ignorable than others. Good news on the Woodgate, Kranjcar, Gudjohnsen and Bale fronts but these are rumours or gossip too so forget I even mentioned them.

Just a few thoughts on the World Cup. Capello made a complete fool of himself by laying down a whole set of hard man rules and then breaking every one of them. No unfit or out of form players; no Wags, no drinking, no leaving the table until everyone finishes. All that Public school bonding claptrap. The naff M&S suits were the final straw. This is not flexibility, this is chocolate spoon territory. Every rule broken except the table manners bit and they are probably still sitting there waiting for someone to eat up their greens. Greens! Geddit? Oh please yourselves.

Ledley was the main beneficiary and I am delighted that if this is to be his last season at least he got to the pinnacle before drowning in bandages and embrocation. Under the Capello law about fitness he should never have gone and the bravado of Harry in playing him in the dead game against Burnley just to prove a point probably did for him. But he got his 45 minutes of fame and good luck to him.

How will the World Cup affect our precious boys in the coming season? What effect will not going have on Huddlestone?; what effect will going and not playing have on Dawson?; what effect will playing second fiddle to Heskey have on Defoe?. We can only guess. Playing Lennon with an attacking full back who can't defend was another example of the genius of El Capo and it will come down in the end to their individual temperament and the soothing words of the banks of backroom psychologists, psychoanalysts and soothsayers. They will either be so pissed off they will never play well again or come out fit, tanned, toned and rarin' to go. No sorry that's me.

Am I disappointed with the England performance? Well that implies that I expected any better. Regular readers will know that I did not and that I tipped Spain to win it. Even if Spain go down in the final then at least they have been entertaining to follow. It's curious that they too have a talismanic centre forward in Torres who, like Rooney, has been injured, off form, unfit, knackered or all four but who wasn't swiftly dropped by the manager. Another Capello clanger.

England finished the tournament with the decidedly average Upson, Heskey, Wright Phillips, James and my favourite non footballer John Terry on the pitch so crashing out was no real surprise. £180,000 thousand a week, it would be laughable if it wasn't so obscene. The gilt has certainly been knocked off the 'Golden generation'. How Capello kept his job is down to finance rather than anything else. Banks too big to fail and England Managers too expensive to sack. I'm quite surprised that 'Psycvho' didn't get the chop as fall guy in chief, tossed to the baying fans as a sacrifice .

Spain could be the first team to win the World Cup after losing their first match. Much is made of their sparkling midfield passing and cleverness up front but their back four make Terry look like a seven stone weakling with sand in his eyes. A reference from before your time perhaps. They have a tendency like Arsenal to overdo it but they can play proper football in the Spurs tradition. You know: control the ball at the first attempt; pass it to someone in the same colour shirt; move; retain possession; that sort of thing. Of course the Dutch might be the first team to win it by winning every game but I hope not. It will once again prove that JimmyG2 is not always wrong.

JimmyG2 fact of the day; a new feature in my tireless search to widen the world of Spurs blogging to ever higher levels of educative influence:
Spain are in the finals of the World Cup and over 70% of players in La Liga are Spanish.
England are not and less than 40% of players in the English Premier League are English.

Mrs JimmyG2 is worried that this European thingy will leave even less time for shopping, decorating and gardening especially after a whole summer of pathetic excuses beginning with the words: 'There's just the two matches tomorrow.' She's seems to think that I've organised the Spurs Champions' League adventure personally to spite her.. I haven't told her about our interesting and varied pre-season games from Benfica to Bournemouth: Lisbon to Leyton Orient. No point in alerting the chicken before the hatchet is raised.

The 'Musings' are in the 'mulling over' stage at the moment. We look like keeping all the players we want to keep, even Dos Santos and Pavlyuchenko are not entirely ruled out. We won't be losing Harry for the England job, so all is stability and steady development. Hopefully with the confidence that should come from having 10 players at the World Cup we should play at least as well as last season. Liverpool will need time to settle again under Roy; Manchester City might be as disorganised as last season with so many new signings and general disruption in the camp. Fourth is looking a probably definite possibility.

The European qualifier is a bit of a lottery but I am verging on the very brink of optimism which is usually fatal in my long relationship with Spurs. I was cautious at the beginning of last season but upbeat and positive once we got under way. When the mulling over congeals into actual musing I will report again.

But in the meantime we are but hours away from the start of hostilities, well the friendlies anyway. So fasten your seat belts we're off on the roller coaster ride once again. As usual with Spurs it will have a touch of the ghost train and the rocky horror show to keep you on the edge of your seats whilst hiding behind the sofa, a position that only Spurs fans can manage. Other fans are advised not to attempt this at home.