The Blog that's not always wrong.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Reflections

Woman screaming in bed at night
                                 Aagh! We just sold Modric!

Do you wake up at night worrying about things that probably won't happen, or that you can do nothing about? Do you keep checking the final Premiership League table? Do you scour the headlines to see if we had accidentally played 12 men against Man.City? Welcome to the wonderful world of Tottenham Hotspur, the club whose fans can never sleep. I was beginning to relax and enjoy the prospects of a summer of football, thinking warm thoughts of 4th place and of beating Arsenal, Chelsea and Man.City within 10 days. But now I've moved on and found new sources of concern eager to wake me up in the early hours in a cold sweat. Remember friends it's never too soon to start worrying

. Suppose some of our large International contingent get injured?. Will Luka go to Inter or Man.Utd or, even as I type, to Chelsea? Who will come in? Will they upset the balance of the squad? Will Joe Cole be content to play second fiddle to Modric if he stays? Who will we blame if JJ goes? Will the new stadium be built before I join Bill Nick in the sleep that dreams can't disturb?

I've recovered from Burnley and starting to get things back into perspective now. The whole season was played under the shadow of our 'difficult run-in'. The computer and fixture changes had thrown up the three top teams in succession and what turned out to be our rivals for 4th in the space of our last five games. I thought that we would need to be well ahead of the chasing pack by that point or we would be facing the prospect of scaling an Icelandic volcano in full flow.

This turned out to be a completely wrong assessment and we were propelled by the adrenaline of success, desire and hurt pride to win 9 of our last 11 eleven games including Arsenal and Chelsea in the same week. By the time we came to our last supposedly easy fixture it was all over. We beat Man.City in the pre- Champions' League qualifier for the play off round of the Champions' League and Burnley, already relegated, beat us in style but it didn't matter. It still irritates, but let it go Jimmy, let it go.

The defeat in the Cup semi final served to galvanise rather than depress us and the wounded animal analysis applied. Instead of retiring to our lair to die alone and in shame or to be torn apart by the bigger beasts in the Premiership jungle we bared our teeth and sent them all packing. Well most of them . There was Burnley of course but I'm over that now. Seriously, I am.

My confident belief that we would make 4th or even higher was certainly tested to breaking point by injuries to key players and lapses against what might be regarded as inferior teams particularly those that haven't yet been introduced to the concept of football. Our ability to fill the gaps left by the periodic absence of Ledley; the long term injury to Woodgate, the injuries to Modric and Lennon; the late season absences of Corluka, Jenas, and Ekotto were all overcome by players stepping up or rediscovering their form, especially Gomes. In turn Bassong, Bale, Bentley, Kranjcar, Kaboul, Gudjohnsen and Pavlyuchenko, three of whom were inspired signings by Harry, all made light of our difficulties and gave credence to the strength in depth, strongest bench in the league, theory.

However we go into the close season with one or two potential problems. Firstly all our strikers have mislaid the scoring touch; secondly Palacios, who with Huddlestone was at the core of our midfield for most of the season, lost form in the final weeks of the season; thirdly uncertainty about who might come in and who might leave could destabilise the squad under the constant deluge of rumour and gossip. I fear another sleepless night.

The solution to the first two might just be the summer break though a large number of our players are involved in the World Cup. The Champions' League play offs coincide with the start of the season in mid August. There will be little chance for our key players to rest apart from the Croatians, Bale and Bentley. Injuries sustained on National Service are another worry. Insomnia beckons.

Of course we want all our players especially our sizable English contingent to have a successful World Cup but it is more important that we make the Champions' League proper and make a good start in the Premiership as well. By the third week of the season it could all be over. Another wakeful dawn looms.. It's going to be an exciting early season but that's exactly what we wished for and you know what they say about being careful what you wish for. Clearly we need to bolster the squad but without undoing the good work and steady progress of the last few years and particularly the last 18 months under Harry.

Sandro has already signed and Cudocini seems to be making good progress. If Bale is going to play left mid-field we need back up for Ekotto. If Woodgate doesn't recover possibly another centre- half although Corluka, Huddlestone and Kaboul can all play there if necessary as back-up to King, Dawson and Bassong. If Jenas, O'Hara, Gudjohnsen and even Keane stay, we seem to have enough mid-fielders of decent quality hanging around the place.

Our key need is for an experienced striker who could give us the tactical flexibility of playing 451 away from home or against certain types of opposition. Many exotic names have been proposed and no doubt many more will follow during the summer transfer window. I make my plea once again to go for a Premiership ready signing rather than a player new to the country who will take time to settle. Time is not on our side at the start of the new season.

We don't want Darren Bent back and Milito after last night probably won't commit.. However there is one player who had a very good season for a club which though not our equals beat us twice. Gentlemen, I give you Kevin Doyle. Skilful, hardworking, able to hold the ball up while support arrives, with International experience, a strike rate of 1/3 and at 26 ready to step up to the big time. We could do a lot worse and possibly will. I bid you all good night and sweet uninterrupted dreams.

Monday, 17 May 2010

JimmyG2's season's round-up

Cattle drive
 
What a season. Great opening and an even better final sequence which shattered the 'difficult run-in' theory. So much to consider and so little time, but here goes for an overview.


Best performance.
Plenty to choose from: Arsenal or Chelsea in the run in or the two games against Man.City which clinched the points and gave us the moral authority to claim top four. I go for Chelsea who were Champions in waiting but were forced to waita little longer. An excellent all round performance of style and grit.

Worst performance.
Again plenty of choice which gives a clue to the emotional roller coaster we have been on. Liverpool or Sunderland away or the semi final against Portsmouth. Oh and there was Burnley of course. I go for Liverpool away when we seem to have given up before we even arrived at Anfield. Technically knownas a 'failure to turn up'

Best player
Gomes or Bale, both players who have came back from the dead or the ever dependable Dawson. Modric King and Lennon missed too much of the season to qualify. In the end I go for Gomes whose performances probably earned us more points than even the boy Bale managed. His absence at Burnley gave a clue to the impact he has made. Helped us into 4th and himself into the Brazil
squad.

Best goal
Modric didn't score many but the two at Everton and Burnley were fine strikes Huddlestone doesn't do tap ins either. Danny Rose gets the vote though for the impact of his strike against Arsenal on our season and possibly his career. Imagine scoring the best goal of your life after only 10 minutes on your debut

Most improved player.
Bentley certainly bucked his ideas up but Kaboul was the big surprise at the
end of the season. Just a pity that Harry didn't trust him against Man.Utd.

Most Disappointing player
Wilson Palacios, who never quite fulfilled the expectation and hope placedupon him by those willing him to be the new Dave Mackay. But then who could? Perhaps the arrival of Sandro, or whoever, will enable him to re-focus his attention. At the moment barely an upgrade on the much maligned Zokora.
Wilson Palacios with pace.

Best Assist
This is a new award and goes to Jermain Defoe for his master-pass for Bale's winning goal against Arsenal. I make this award in the hope that it encourageshim to try it more often.

Absent friends award
Robbie Keane our Friend in the North; Jonathon Woodgate dragging his groin round the medical centres of the world; Carlo Cudicini head over handle-bars probably into football oblivion: our thoughts are with you all at this time.

Enigma Award
Now referred to as the 'JJ Trophy'. Peter Crouch is the clear winner this season. With his awkward style, few but often critical goals, his bad influence on our playing style he makes me eat my words every time I write him off, which is quite often.

JimmyG2 Special Award
This year goes to Roman Pavlyuchenko, a player I really like and who I petitioned Harry about for some months before he stopped doing whatever it was that upset Harry and got himself back into the team where he proceeded to make a fool of all his critics. Unfortunately he caught the same non scoring virus as all our other strikers and might well leave us rather than Crouch, this summer. There I go again.

Manager's Award
Goes to Harry Redknapp. Obvious really. We have improved considerably ever since Harry arrived. He inherited a good squad and by simple strategies has led us out of relegation to edge of the the Champions' League. Two from eight to the verge of great'. Blips and errors on the way but hey this is
Tottenham. Nobody's perfect, but I have changed from a doubter to a true believer in 18 months. As with all the best magicians I am not quite sure how he does it.

More thoughts later as they occur to me. Got to put in some brownie points work now as the World Cup and the Champions' League qualifiers eat into gardening, decorating, shopping, holidaying and generally pretending that there is actually another world out there beyond the pitch.

I will once again pledge to ignore transfer speculation though this promises to be more hyper than usual and just as irritating and frustrating as ever. Happy non Tottenham time to you all.













Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Not quite dead and buried

Boo! with monster


I had that Lady Macbeth in the back of the cab on Sunday night, wringing her hands and going on, as she does, about never getting rid of the stain, never being able to remove the evidence of her crimes. I sympathised and asked if she had ever thought of becoming a Tottenham supporter.

After the Burnley game we'll never remove the stigma of our final day's defeat by the weakest team in the league either. It's there in the record for all time; another cross we have to bear; another Football Trivia question for the dark winter nights; another 'What happened next?' for 'A Question of Sport'. It might have taken her mind off helping to murder her old man. She didn't take any of it in of course. In a world of her own that one.

But just when you thought it was safe to go back into the woods and to assume that Spurs had put all that lack of bottle and metal toughness behind them, the Burnley worm turns and leaves some nasty bite marks on our bums. Worms? Bite marks? Not an image that really works but you know what I mean.

I don't want to read too much into this feeble end to our season when it has in fact been a triumph and nothing can quite dispel the euphoria of Wednesday night. That was the game that really mattered and when it really mattered we performed. But all our fellow TOP FOUR comrades, and how good it feels to write that, all our fellow elite went out with a bang and we barely managed a whimper. True they all had something to play for and we apparently had not.

Why then put out our strongest team except for the injured Gomes ,and put Ledley through the unnecessary stress of his third game in a week if we were not setting out to prove something to ourselves and our fans. Harry might as well have given Jenas and a few of the supporting squad a run-out and then we would have had a real scapegoat and some genuine excuses. It raises lurking suspicions that the old Spurs are not as deeply buried as we all had hoped. A ghostly whiff of human remains hovers around leaving a remembrance of things that we hoped had passed.

Credit Burnley if it makes you feel better; blame young Alnwick; call it a dead rubber, but for 42 minutes we dominated, and then at half time when we found out that Arsenal were not going to let us slip through into 3rd we went on holiday early. Burnley the weakest team in the league put more goals past us than Man.Utd, Arsenal, or Chelsea could manage What a way to finish our wonderful season, with our heaviest tally of goals conceded

Once again our goals were scored by the midfield and I was delighted that Bale and Modric got onto the score-sheet. But the inability of our strikers to score, and all four had the chance again, is getting to be a real concern.. Defoe departed early and Harry apparently was less than impressed. One goal in open play from any of our quartet of strikers in 7 matches makes a new striker an inevitability in the summer. Probably one that can play up front on his own to give us a little more tactical flexibility.

These are not the thoughts I had hoped to be exploring . This was meant to be a triumphalist rant which will have to wait now until more positive feelings re- surface. Every game is important for pride, for reputation, and for the fans, especially those who represent us all; that carry the banners and raise the roofs in the far flung corners of the Premiership grounds. There are no games that can be thrown away or written off as unimportant. Top teams, and we are one of those now, always have something to prove if only to themselves.

Some of you may find it reassuring to know that we are still the same old Spurs; that we have upgraded our performance but that our DNA remains the same. I find it just a little frightening and it feeds the neuroses built up over more years of following Tottenham than I can actually remember. It's a reminder that I can frankly do without.

Does it ruin our best season for 40yrs? Of course not. Does it throw our challenge for Europe into question? Obviously not. But it throws a shadow over the season and leaves an indelible stain that as Lady Macbeth discovered no amount of scrubbing can remove.

We have broken up the top four cartel in some style and to the relief and benefit of the whole of the football world. Traversing the high wire of the Champions' League qualifiers without the benefit of a Europa safety net will probably bring out our best qualities.

But Burnley is a reminder that the old Tottenham lurks in a very shallow grave, still breathing, and ready to leap out and frighten us even in the middle of the day with the sun shining brightly. Not quite dead and buried I'm afraid. Perhaps this thought will prove to be an added motivation at times when we think we have no particular need to perform.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Back where we belong

Roberto Mancini Manager Manchester City 2009/10

             We know just how you feel Roberto. But not tonight.

.We did it. I didn't doubt it for a moment, honest. But the strain of being optimistic and up-beat for a whole season from the first game when we beat Liverpool to the City clincher last night has really left me emotionally drained. The whirlwind opening that opened up the possibilities; the defeats by Arsenal, Chelsea and Man.Utd that seemed to put us firmly back in our box; the late surge following the defeat at Wolves to finally clinch it with 9 wins out of 11 to earn our best ever points haul in the Premiership.. Was this just one season? It seems longer.

The sobering thought is that every season might be like this for years to come as we take our rightful place amongst the big boys. Are we up to it? Not the team obviously, but the supporters. Some of us have mental and physical conditions that won't tolerate such levels of constant stress or happiness. Oh well like Ledley and Gomes I'll just have to risk it. They were either both drugged up to the eyeballs or so high on adrenalin that they didn't notice the pain. Either way they were magnificent and Dawson too when we were under pressure in the first half. This defensive solidarity has been the improvement that has been missing in the last few seasons. Once again a clean sheet and the ability to close out a match when required,

We are already benefiting from the Top Four reporting bias because the BBC report used the phrases Tottenham were the 'vastly superior' side and that Manchester City 'at no point exerted any authority'. We shared possession and made as many clear chances but we were by no means 'vastly' superior and City certainly dominated the first 20 minutes and a lot of the first half..

They started brightly but we resisted with some character and grit. By the second half they began to lose heart and we asserted more control of the match. If it hadn't been so important it would have been a really enjoyable game with both sides looking to win and reap the rewards. Kaboul's strength created the chance that fell to Crouch and both had particularly good games. Not too much escaped the full-backs and when it did both Dawson and King cut out the crosses.

This was a superb all round team effort, including the substitutes. Congratulations to Crouch who atoned for an earlier miss and for Harry who called everything right once again. Not capable of taking us to the next level? Well it looks as if he just has.

Another Hanson phrase along with 'you never win anything with kids' that can be assigned to the cliché dustbin is his banter with Lineker about Spurs 'always letting you down in the end'. Not this time Mr.Hanson, not this time. And kids can win anything if they are good enough. The same fans who knew that Defoe would miss the penalty against Chelsea were probably the same ones that knew we wouldn't make fourth. All wrong.

I felt curiously deflated following the win, being hugged by complete strangers, albeit from Stamford Hill, in an Irish bar in Madrid. I don't think I quite realised that we had actually done what I have been saying we could do. City fans were gracious in defeat more than you can say for their owners looking foolish in their City scarves and trying to work out who suggested investing in the wrong half of Manchester instead of Mexican taco futures, or Mid Western pork scratchings. With so much money available their time will eventually come. But not this time and not at our expense.

But since then I keep remembering it with some excitement and pride. After a long wait we are back in the top rank where we belong. It's a poke in the eye for the money men and a tribute to a club that has done it the right way. No financial risks, the steady development of a quality young squad who came to us not because we promised them pots of gold but as an attractive footballing side with a great tradition and history. Lets hope we all reap the reward we so richly deserve. I said earlier in the season that my dream was Champions' League football at the new stadium. We can cross the first one of the list.

Now the fun begins. The smile that Bellamy gave Harry after the game which seemed to say 'I'm all yours mate' is a sign of things to come. All the bounty hunters, or their agents will be bending Harry's ear . But this is the time to stick by the players that have got us where we are and with a couple of judicious signings to make further steady process. Bellamy is one of those players we need not look to now. The time of second best has passed. You made your bed Mr. Bellamy. Enjoy!

If there is any justice both King and Dawson will make the World Cup squad and with Crouch ,Defoe, Lennon, and Huddlestone we might just win it. I think I'm getting into the swing of this new found status. I could get to like it.

While there is an outside chance of finishing third I don't think that Harry will field a radically different team on Sunday. If Arsenal draw against Fulham we need to win 11-0 at Burnley. Fulham have a Europa final a few days after so even at my most optimistic I can't see it happening. But stranger things have happened. Tottenham making 4th for example. We couldn't get to third and enjoy automatic qualification for the Champions' League could we? Watch this space.

Monday, 3 May 2010

We did it our way

Football - Tottenham Hotspur v Bolton Wanderers Barclays
Premier League

Tonight Mathew I am Frank Sinatra and I'm going to sing 'Our Way'

'And now the end is near
And so we face the final curtain'

A win is a win is a win. But we don't do things the easy way. We only do it the Tottenham way, our way. Early goal, seal it with a second before half time, outplay them and do our goal average a bit of good was what I asked for. We did the 'outplay' part and made several chances but it took an absolute scorcher from Huddlestone,who was outstanding, to clinch it and we had to wait 35 minutes for it.

Everybody worked hard but our strikers seem to have completely misplaced their goal touch. Kaboul was possibly the man of the match and it makes you wonder what last week's reorganisation was all about. Palacios sat out the match on the bench and his combative contribution was not required or indeed much missed. Bale took a little while to get into the game but though double marked was our main attacking threat. Modric, unable to find the space in a hectic midfield to play a really telling role, held his own. But it was Huddlestone who was our creative outlet today and his goal was the kind of strike that he often threatens. A goal worthy of winning any game. Do I need to say that Ledley and Dawson were outstanding?

We've lived a life that's full,
We've travelled each and every highway.'

Dedicated supporters who follow the boys on the road will vouch for that.

So now for the big one at Eastlands as Aston Villa and Liverpool fall by the wayside and make it a two horse race. We have our noses in front with two to go. A draw would leave it all on against Burnley. Goal difference might come into it. What a finish to the season. It's not a nail-biting affair because no Spurs fans will have any nails left by then. We will have to make do with finger chewing and on Wednesday it will be stump nibbling unless of course we get an early goal. Early goal? What am I thinking?

We've loved, we've laughed and cried
We've had our fill, our share of losing'

Amen to that: it's been that sort of season.

Our  best points total (67) so far, since the Premiership began ,and our best points per game tally since forever. We have won the last 8/10 Premiership matches. Our defensive record particularly at home is a revelation. Yesterday was another clean sheet, and we closed out another close game without too many alarms. Well one or two but Gomes dealt with anything that got through the defensive shield. Worryingly he was carrying a groin strain at the end but given his drama queen tendencies I would be amazed if he isn't available for Wednesday. Harry said he might put in for a substitute keeper as we've only got four on the books. Tactics and satire in one attractive package.

Now a win is a win and a goal is a goal but without Huddlestone's wonder strike this would have been another game where we dominated, made chances but couldn't score. Every attacking player, Defoe, Pavlyuchenko, Bale and Gudjohnsen and Crouch when they came on had decent scoring opportunities but didn't take them. Once again the midfield came to the rescue and it's seven games since a striker has scored in open play. Perhaps the flood gates will open against City. Sorry, I've moved from 'Our Way' to 'Dream the impossible dream' now.

Not only did they spurn their own chances but, apart from Lennon who tried to set up Gudjohnsen, ignored team-mates in better positions. This obsession with Golden boots and Titanium Trainers is making strikers obsessive. But this is a problem from the playground to the World Cup. Our defensive strength is hiding the weakness of our misfiring front men.

.'Regrets we've had a few'

Fill in your own list: I'll give you Wolves at home and away as your starter.

The City game is, as Harry says, more like a Cup Final and I hope we keep the same team and formation and play the only way we know how by taking the game to them. They are vulnerable at the back and have now in place of Given only an average keeper in . Ledley is unlikely to be fit before the Burnley game but Lennon should start if possible. I can't see it being cagey or cautious and its very openness will suit us. We easily beat them at home and can do so again. If we do, the last game won't matter as they won't be able to catch us. It won't happen like that of course, so expect a draw and everything resting on the last game of the season. Is there any other way for Spurs?

Seeing Palacios and Jenas unused on the bench is an indication of the ascendancy of Modric and Huddlestone as our midfield generals. Huddlestone championed from the start by Harry and promoted to a central role in the team in every sense and Modric whose tenacious presence and creativity are what makes the team run are a step up in the quality and creativity of the team.

Jenas, a player I like, though I admit he is the perennial enigma wrapped in a disappointment, may prove to be expendable now. Palacios who promised to supply what we thought we had been missing for years looks too limited a player for the exciting team we have become. Sandro may provide the incentive for him to step up his game.

So let's sing-a-long with Frank Sinatra, still doing his very last final performance somewhere on the Celestial Circuit. Stand by Harry for the Big Finish.

''The record shows we took the blows
And did it .our way.'

Whatever happens now we surely did.