The Blog that's not always wrong.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Just when you thought it was safe.

portrait of a young man asleep on the couch after drinking too much beer

                                     He'll be all right, its only Wigan.

Let's take the positives first. Right that's that sorted. What about the negatives. How long have you got? In brief we were awful and were lucky to get away with a 1-0 defeat. Now of course it might be just a blip, a bad day at the office after a sensational midweek brain storming seminar that might alter the course of history for the firm, the country and indeed the Universe.

It's not the End of the World is it? We're still spinning away in the wastes of space. An apt phrase in some ways you might think. We hoped that this sort of performance was behind us but actually we knew deep down that it wasn't. Not that deep down either.

No-one can accuse Harry of being a tinkerman. He doesn't really do rotation. Find your best eleven and your most effective set up and stick with it. The only changes today were forced by injuries to Gomes and Corluka. Generally speaking it has worked but it didn't today,. Nor did the 442 in the first leg at Young Boys. I think that he is going to have to be a little more flexible with squads and tactics for the rest of this season.

Fighting on four fronts without some kind of variation of team and set-up is unlikely to succeed. Kranjcar, Gio or Keane, Pavlyuchenko and Jenas could all have started this game.Fresh legs, fresh minds, squad players with something to prove.

We were too impatient today and played the ball forward too quickly. Dawson as usual was the worst offender and he does it because he can whether it's effective or not. Nobody dropped short to link up with Huddlestone and faced with a hard-working defence that closed us down and got men behind the ball we were not inventive enough in and around the box to break them down. The same problem then as last year; dominant but failing to defeat.

In truth we didn't even dominate that well. We had early warnings: Ekotto twice played himself into trouble and Gohouri hit the bar unmarked in the six yard box. At the end they could have scored three. The goal that won it should have been saved but the back four melted away for the last 15 minutes like the Polar ice caps.. Crouch was ineffective as he often is under close scrutiny, Lennon and Bale were closely marked, Palacios wandered about without focus and Tom lacking any support in midfield joined him.

Credit Wigan, they came to try to erase the memories of last year and having conceded 10 goals in their first two games could not have been looking forward to their trip down Bad Memory Lane. They did this with gritty defending and their on loan keeper Al- Habsi replacing the no doubt demoralised Kirkland played very well and we gave up three points that most fans had already banked to a late goal.

Harry got his retaliation in first by reminding the fans that they should be grateful for what he had brought them. This in response to a hypothetical question about the fans' response by a reporter.
No-one is calling for his head, certainly not me but I am disappointed, unhappy, even angry and a little depressed, though not clinically. By midweek I will have rationalised it all, got it in perspective and be up for the next game. This time the qualifiers break will give me and the boys time to regroup and reflect.

The problem is only time will tell whether this is indeed just a temporary setback. Last week all that could be heard was the popping of champagne corks and bubbles, now the sounds are deeper and more ominous, more like the bursting and deflating of balloons.

Supporting Spurs has been a lifelong passion for me and I make no excuse for being temporarily irrational in my response to the highs and lows. I feel it: its ridiculous for a more than grown man and I will soon recover. It is a heady mixture of geography, family history, the success in the sixties and identification with a club that embodies an ethos and way of life to me, a belief system that transcends individual managers, chairman, and players, no-matter how gifted. The history the tradition, the achievements all add up to something that goes beyond the actual game.

Wives will be apologised to, pets stroked, children smiled at again and no actual suicides have been reported. But it is surely understandable that we moan, whinge and lash out. It's more than a game otherwise we wouldn't bother following a particular team. The fans are in it for the long haul and if they don't feel it they wouldn't bother. The performance was bad on a collective and individual basis, only Kranjcar brought some late spark on with him.

Was it the after effects of Wednesday? Over confidence and underestimation of our opponents? Was it a one off, a temporary aberration? Was it, sorry Harry, some of this must be down to you, poor team selection and formation? One, some or none of the above. Was it the wake up call we need? Should we just shrug and move on, or rant and get depressed?

Some of these questions will be answered by the next game and some will take a little longer. I'm going to try a little ranting and then some shrugging. I hope that someone in a position to actually affect things does some critical analysis before they do their hopeless gesturing. It's not a matter of life and death as we all know but for a few hours it certainly feels like it.


Thursday, 26 August 2010

Well qualified

Pouring Champagne
                             Oh go on then, just a little one at this stage.

I had predicted that the stress of having to win at the Lane, the missed chances; the refereeing blunders; the clock ticking down; the possibility that they might score a goal; the dread of extra time and perish the thought: penalties; might all conspire to finally send me to the great defibrillator in the sky. But last night neither me nor the boys broke into a semblance of perspiration.

A controlled, routine win against what turned out to be in the end a very average side. The chants along the lines of 3-0 and you made a mess of it give the clue to the open pantry window through which we forced our late entry in the first leg and their defence and goalkeeper were found to be dozing on the porch as we slipped past them again without setting off any surveillance equipment. Don't they have any tall strikers in Switzerland?

I should post an apology to Mr. P J Crouch at this stage for any disparaging comments I may have uttered in frustration in the past. He was given space and used it well, little cushioned headers instead of flick ons and strong and accurate headers when given the chance. In the Premiership he is usually under strong challenge and doesn't do so well. Apart from Dawson who has 'long ball' in his DNA we didn't overdo the upfield punt and got the ball to Tom Hoddlestone as he is beginning to be known,

We scored early, got a fortunate second just as we were losing the initial momentum and ran out easy winners. Fortune and referees are smiling upon us at the moment. Huddlestone, Bale, and Crouch were exceptional: Ledley, Ekotto,and Lennon were merely excellent. Defoe, threatened with a scalpel in his delicate parts, was livelier than he has been for months Drama queen Gomes had actually seen a wolf this time but Harry stuffing the velvet glove into his jacket pocket showed him only the iron fist. The whole thing passed off like a training ground exercise, no alarms, no excursions, except, hopefully, to hot sunny locations in Spain and Italy, no sweat, no worries. It was so unTottenham like it was positively disconcerting.

They couldn't even pressurise our one legged Brazilian keeper and Cudocini dealt competently with the little that Young Boys threw his way in the second half. The only clouds on the horizon were the continuing sloppiness of Palacios who seems to be playing in a daze and the lack of urgency of Corluka.

I hope that the Champions' League proper is more exciting than this. We finally came of age in the Premiership era, confounding our critics and delighting our fans. After the 'Death by Plastic' last week where we obviously didn't fancy it at all, we got it all together, parceled it up, and sent it first class to Monaco for the draw for the group stages. As the message booms around the world that Tottenham Hotspur are through to the Champions' League proper I expect the High Road postman to be staggering into Bill Nicholson way with sacks of applications from the World's finest, pot hunters and mercenaries included.

Our wage structure should sort the ambitious from the last chancers, the needy, and the greedy. Harry is taking Sandra to a seminar on far post finishing where she is I think the main speaker and claims nothing is happening on the transfer front. Daniel is going to have to do it all on his own. Her Brazilian near namesake arrives any day so Wilson's days could be numbered in the January window if he continues to disappoint.

We qualified well and are well qualified to progress. Of course this is all in the euphoric glow of the sunrise on the pleasant uplands of Hindsight. At 4-0 with 5mins.to go I was calculating whether it was possible for them to score the 3 goals needed to win the game. Only as a Sudoku, Guardian Crossword type of intellectual exercise you understand not because I really thought it might happen. Not really.

So we reach the shores of the Promised Land and now have to hack our way through the jungles or at least the undergrowth of Italy, Germany and Holland to get to the knockout stage and then on to the National Stadium of, well bless me, England. So as long as it's some outfit from overseas we will have home advantage for the final. Everything to play for then.

What effect this will have on the mundane Premiership fixture against Wigan in the minds of our heroes is difficult to judge. Are we expecting a repeat of last year's goalfest? You bet we are. The CL qualification should inspire the boys and give them confidence for the domestic season to come although fixture congestion might cause problems later if we progress in the domestic cups. But these are better problems than worrying about relegation and survival, or even mid-table mediocrity.

Winning is a habit, an attitude, a mentality that we are slowly acquiring. We are more likely to finish in the top four than win the Champions' League so we must not sacrifice our Premiership or cup performances. Wigan, the first in a run of very winnable fixtures, is a game that we need to win, should win, and will win, probably by a margin if we have any ambitions for the Champions' League.






Sunday, 22 August 2010

Winning Ugly

CLOSE UP LEFT EYE 8 Y/O CONSTRICTED PUPIL
                       We're watching!
We hear a lot these days about Tottenham having to learn to ' win ugly'. Apparently all the best clubs do it. Well I saw the future at Stoke and I think we've got it, by jove we've got it. We played a little bit ugly too but don't let's confuse the two. Winning ugly is about getting the run of the ball; the luck of the draw; the rub of the green; the benefit of the doubt, the lucky deflection, and most of all winning when you are not playing well.Its not what you set out to do. Playing ugly is what Stoke do and I hope we never succumb to that temptation.
We rode our luck at both ends of the pitch and with a little help from our friends in black secured the three points. There's not much else on offer at Stoke and we came away with a win that sort of compensates for last week.
We played proper football in the first half. We had a stroke of luck following Crouch's brave knock back into the goal mouth, the goal line clearance hitting Bale and going in. No luck about the second goal though: set up by Lennon again looking more like his old self, and a superb volley by Bale into the far corner. I forecast that he would be our highest scoring midfielder even if he played at full back. At this rate he will be our highest scorer: full stop.
The second half was straight out of the nightmare I had assumed was in the past. Up and under from Stoke and kick it anywhere from us as we got deeper and deeper in defence. We enjoyed the fruits of our top four status when the referee disallowed a reasonable claim for a goal and probably a handball on the line.
You thought refs. were biased towards the Champions' league elite? Now we have seen it with our own eyes. Mmm Champions' League Elite. Not that you would have recognised us as the team that finished last season. But as on Wednesday we showed a new grit and determination which is a vital addition to out armoury. Winning ugly? No problem.
Crouch was our one remaining striker after the 'Curse of the Plastic Peril' for one night only at the 'Berne Horrordrome' and we relied on the wide men to support him. When we managed to get the ball down and pass it to Huddle stone as against Young Boys the game took on the appearance of a Premiership football match: but not that often in the second half. Stoke have players that can hurt you, Etherington, Fuller and Tuncay for a start but they rarely stopped lofting the ball forward and Harry had stationed Kaboul alongside Dawson to repel all comers and it just about worked.
Those of you that don't have first hand experience of the London Blitz will have got a good idea from the aerial bombardment suffered by the Spurs defence in the second half. Picture Harry in a fawn duffel coat with binoculars staring out from a watchtower. 'Stand by number one, its going to be a close run thing'. But London stood firm as the doodlebugs rained down.
Persistent fouling in the penalty area on Gomes was ignored and he was clearly auditioning for Jekyll and and Hyde at the Rio de Janeiro Gaumont next Christmas. In the end we got away with it but I don't think they will be rushing out the DVD. Credit to everyone for surviving, they all worked hard but some were more ineffectual than others. Crouch was more useful in defense against Delap's long throws than he was up front today.
Harry seems to have discovered his inner Mother Theresa, attempting to round up the football world's anger management challenged and forming them into a 'Cuckoo's Nest X1. First Bellamy and now Gallas. Jack Nicholson will play up front, with Harry as Nurse Ratched on the touchline.
Where a player comes from is of no interest to me whatsoever. You are not born at a club . You arrive there by a set of accidents. My objection to Gallas and more so Bellamy is in terms of personality, or personality disorder in his case, temperament and character. They are both more than decent footballers but what else do they bring to the club? Will they be an example to our young squad? Gallas may well bring leadership but where will he lead them to? Hopefully not to the centre circle at the end of a game.
My fear is that he will be more trouble to Harry than he is worth.
'Here you are Gio just watch this highlights video of key moments of the career of William Gallas and learn how top professionals behave.'
Perhaps he's mature enough to ignore it: Giovani not Gallas. We have recaptured our Tottenham style but need to preserve our Tottenham attitude to the game and the spirit in which it is played.
Once he signs however he will have my support as does everyone who pulls on the shirt.
But we'll be watching William: Bill, Danny and me; we'll be watching.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Down but not quite out

Boxer Knocked Out
                                            I didn't see that coming

New supporters start here. Our heroes having encountered hailstones and high winds on the first part of their return to the high wire have slipped and are hanging over the ravine by their fingertips. Welcome to the stressful world of following the Mighty Spurs. You wait half a century for a bus to come along and when it does it sails straight past. But all is not lost. I'm not sure how but 1-0 at The Lane would do it. We replaced our slick passing and teamwork of the City game with grit and determination and retrieved a 3-0 deficit after our worst half hour of football for some time. Ever? Those with better memories than mine will easily refute this.

Young Boys, at home on a difficult surface that they are used to, rode their luck and took their early chances well. We played a very high line and Dawson and Bassong were exposed by penetrative passing and pace. We looked uncertain and tentative perhaps due partly to mistrust of the surface but mainly due to the confidence and speed of our opponents. They caught us cold and we looked to be hanging onto the ropes: down but not quite out.

The selection of Palacios was logical for the away tie but Harry was quick to make a tactical change when it wasn't working. After Huddlestone came on we won the remainder of the game 2-0. Modric and Tom are our creative heart but they can't play every game in a 60+game season. We have a strong squad and are going to have to use it.

Pavlyuchenko whose movement was good but control was poor would certainly have been replaced but for Defoe's injury. His step-over and one/two with Keane was football of the highest class and his superb strike keeps us in the tie. He's 28 and is not going to change now. Take him as he is or not at all. He is a frustrating and irritating player but can give you golden moments. A powerful header by Bassong before half time gave us hope but few dared to dream that we would get up off the canvas and land a couple of body blows ourselves.

Huddlestone changed the game for us and his calm control of the midfield gave us a secure base from which to operate. It is a wonder how attitudes and opinions can change. Huddlestone, though playing in the exactly the same way as before, has gone from being criticised for statuesque immobility to praise for his zen like calm. The change of Huddlestone for Ekotto seemed tactical to me because though Bale is by no measure a better defensive full back he does offer Harry more attacking flexibility.

For the first half we played like something out of Shaun of the Dead and Young Boys could and perhaps should have had a couple more. We didn't chuck in the towel but we were bemused by their footsure passing and were slow to pick up on their example of the way to play on this surface. To judge players making their debut starts, Palacios, Bassong, Giovani and Pavlyuchenko on this tricky surface is harsh.

The opposition were better than we anticipated and we did well to stay in the tie. It was proof if we needed it that there are no easy games at this level and might help to focus our minds for the replay and hopefully beyond. Young Boys at the Wankdorf Stadium some joke, but it's on us at the moment.

So like some serial Dick Barton adventure mystery, now being repeated after 40 yrs on BBC Radio , we leave our heroes hanging over the ravine and will only find out next week whether they fall or clamber back onto the wire and make it to the other side. The second half of the journey should be easier than the first but we are Spurs: we don't do routine, predictable or boring. If you can't take the tension, the disappointment, the highs and the lows you are supporting the wrong club. But I often feel like that.

We need to beat Stoke to generate momentum after this faltering start and the return of Ledley should bring calm to the back four. Actually I'd save him for the replay which is now a must win game. For this reason I would play Palacios against Stoke and keep Modric for Wednesday. Up front I think we will see Crouch and Keane. Defoe is likely to be out for a while as he seems to be carrying the injury through from last season.

So here you have images and cliches for all ages and tastes: boxers on the ropes or high wire artists hanging by their fingertips. Another week though and I'm sure that our season will be back on track.
For sure.




Monday, 16 August 2010

A rest is as good as a change

Aug. 14, 2010 - 06322581 date 14 08 2010 Copyright imago Roberto Mancini of Manchester City and Harry Redknapp of Tottenham Hotspur Shake Hands Barclays Premier League Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City 14th August 2010 PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUK Football men England Premier League 2010 2011 Vdig 2010 horizontal Highlight premiumd.

                                   How many you wanna swap Harry?

They used to say that a change is as good as a rest. Tottenham, this close season, showed that the reverse could also be true. Starting the season with the same management, manager and squad after admittedly a short break we picked up just where we left off. Unfortunately in more ways than one. The confidence, pace and team play were there in abundance, but so too was the ability to create chances and not take them. Although the fact that the opposition keeper was the 'man of the match' tell its own story.

I am delightedly disappointed in the sense that we didn't actually miss many chances but were thwarted by exceptional saves and a defensive set up that put plenty of bodies in the way of the ball.

A fine performance then that points to a promising season on all fronts. Familiarity here breeds teamwork rather than contempt and this was an excellent display from all the players. City came out determined not to lose and passed well but without penetration until Wright Phillips should have scored from a ball over the top. Ekotto played him onside but then redeemed himself with a saving tackle which could easily in his rasher moments have resulted in a penalty. A shot from Tevez that cannoned off King and went just wide with Gomes stranded was the only other scary moment.

We beat them in every department except fouls conceded, possibly thanks to the absence of Wilson. Modric and Huddlestone ran the show apart from a 20 minute period after half time when they came out fighting but we matched them even at their best and slowly dominated the game again. In the end Bale who again played well hit the post and should have clinched it late on but sliced his shot wide. Huddleston, Ekotto, Lennon, Bale, Pavlyuchenko,Crouch and Defoe all had shots on target which were well saved or blocked.

A performance then to savour. The covering and closing down were excellent, the passing and movement were accomplished, and the defence solid. Make no mistake City will be formidable opponents for fourth place if they can settle such a large squad of expensive talent and the pundits who said that it might be a good time to play them were right. Critics who say that we have a good but not exceptionable strike force will use this match as evidence that we need a a top class finisher although today we were thwarted by England's new number one.

With no place on the bench for JJ or Kranjcar and only Gio of our ascendent youngsters this is a strong squad. Gio, Pavlyuchenko and Keane came on and like the rest looked lively. Gio might well be in the starting line-up soon. Although Crouch started we kept the ball down in the main and were the more effective for it. Of all our strikers he is the first on my replacement list followed by Keane whose enthusiasm will probably wane if he is not a regular starter.

The starting eleven for the away leg of the Champions' League game will be interesting. I can't see a lot of spark in the Crouch/Defoe partnership and we could go one up front with Keane or Gio as support striker to Pavlyuchenko. The possible combinations of Defoe, Pavlyuchenko, Crouch, Keane and Giovani are to this innumerate commentator infinite though I expect the mathematically talented amongst you could put a finite value to it. Defoe still seemed to be carrying an injury before he went off. If we set up more conservatively in midweek then Palacios might appear. Bassong will probably replace Ledley as the Astro-turf surface, in the experts' view, is decidedly Ledley unfriendly. Kaboul might get a run out at full back.

So it could be a season of two squads though I was surprised not to see at least one of our young hopefuls who are not on loan get at least a taste of the big occasion. With so much nostalgia around: a new biography of Sir Bill; the occurrence of one's in the year and the parading of the 1961 Double squad for the 50th anniversary celebrations at half time. it would be nice if we can get ourselves up to date with a really successful season. It would give another generation of Spurs supporters their own glories to recount and help me as the years fade to have something more recent, concrete and literally memorable to hold on to.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Pre season 2010

Peter Crouch Celebrates with 5th Goalscorer Robbie Keane Tottenham Hotspur 2009/10 Tottenham Hotspur V Burnley (5-0) 26/09/09 The Premier League Photo Robin Parker Fotosports International

                                         Will they stay or will they go?

What have we learned from pre-season and what light does it shed on our opening games?

Robbie Keane
A calmer more focused and more effective Robbie Keane has washed up at Spurs. He has either made himself unsellable or increased his value tenfold. I was absolutely certain of his departure but now I'm absolutely not so certain.

Giovani
Not really a revelation to many but has shown clearly his pace, skill, awareness, work rate and unselfishness. Certainly one to keep. Unless we keep Robbie instead. Could we keep both?

Pavlyuchenko
If we keep Keane then he might be the one to go as Crouch is almost certain to stay unless of course he goes back to Liverpool or Everton. ITK rumour mill is in overdrive but only because it enables them to repeat his marital problems. Roman only does tap-ins but, as Jimmy Greaves will affirm, it's not tapping them in that's difficult, Sandra could that, but getting into position to tap 'em in.

Palacios.
You have to admire a man that only takes 3mins.2secs to get a yellow card in his first game since the World Cup. In a friendly too. A simple hello and a handshake would have done Wilson. You'll have to get them calling cards reprinted. He and Jenas, who had played well at Benfica, battled for supremacy for the mid field's most ineffective player award and JJ just shaded it. Let's hope that his disciplinary record doesn't cause us problems later in the season as it might have done this year.

Defoe
His hand in the Bale goal that beat Benfica was a glimmer of a better player that surfaces occasionally. Ran the channel, held off the opponent, cut ball back to Gio, flick on to Bale. Result a fine goal. There is so much stress on the silver plimsoll that it doesn't tempt strikers to look up and Defoe would be a better player and still our top striker if he did.

Centre half
I predicted that this might be a problem at the start of last season but Huddlestone and Corluka stepped in and then Dawson and Bassong did well. Now we have Walker and Kaboul and of course Ledley so it shouldn't be too bad. No good news of Woodgate so I am discounting him until January. This should be enough.

Mid Field
We haven't seen much of Modric but enough to know that he is going to be our driving force this season even if he can barely see over the steering wheel. The second half of the Fiorentina match showed clearly that Tom Huddleston will be his co-pilot. They will be the key to success at home and abroad especially if they can get on the score sheet more often.

Mr.Gareth Bale
Our secret weapon wherever he plays. Not the best kept secret I admit but he has been outstanding in pre-season and I am expecting him to be our player of the season again. From hoodoo to hero in twelve months.

New Signings.
Apart from Sandro, whose reputation gets more fabulous the longer we wait, nothing. If we keep all our current strikers with the addition of Gio in the hole then Harry or rather Daniel might think we are sorted. But we don't have a free scoring hold up player amongst them and this might restrict us tactically in Europe .

If a couple more youngsters can step up to join Gio, Rose and Walker we might not bother which would suit the suits.

Leavings.
Jenas and Hutton have probably come to the end of their probation periods, and will leave if offers come in. Taraabt left for QPR and ran the show on Saturday but I doubt if this will come back to haunt us but his kind of flair is an unpredictable commodity.

Other than minor shufflings on the fringes very little more is liable to happen. Go on Harry make me look really silly, I dare you.

If Keane leaves all sorts of mayhem might erupt; Young or Bellamy or Heskey (I'm joking, I'm joking) could arrive. If he stays all sorts of mayhem might erupt in any case as mentioned previously. So it's all down to Keane then. Hasn't he left us twice already?

Opponents.
We need to avoid teams that pass the ball and have technically excellent players. That's Spanish sides basically. Against strength and speed , as long as it not too fast, or too strong, we can hold our own. Augers well for the Premiership but not so well for the Champions' League. (Do I not like typing that phrase) We should qualify for the Champion' League (there it is again) proper, beyond that, who knows.

Man City
Before the Champions' League game (Stop it Jimmy you're just gloating now) we need to put down our marker for the Premiership. Dawson has already got out the hymn sheet saying that this is a 'must win' game. It is in terms of confidence and attitude and it is the right message. But we all know that any individual game is irrelevant over a 38 game season. It would set us up nicely for the Champions' League (sorry) fixture.

We are at home and they are half beaten before they start after their disappointments at our hands last season.. If they go into a huddle you know its just a cover for a round of introductions of the 'Who the hell are you?' and 'Where are you playing?' variety.

Summary
We don't know much but what little we know is positive, and I stand by my optimistic 2010/2011 predictions. We haven't jinxed ourselves by doing too well in pre-season, Villarreal springs to mind, but have battled well against decent opponents, coming from behind twice to beat Fiorentina. The future's bright and the year ends in two ones. What can possibly go wrong??






Saturday, 7 August 2010

Season Predictions 2010/2011

The Champions League Trophy (European Cup) Bayern Munich V Inter (0-2) 22/05/10 UEFA Champions League Final in Madrid Photo Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

                                                 We're getting closer

OK let's see: good pre-season; bad start; result, mid table mediocrity. Bad pre-season; good start; result,Champions' League. Simple innit? I've gone from the depths of depression after the runaround administered by Villarreal and on to Cloud 10 after an impressive performance against Benfica so I should be back on an even keel by the time I post this. It doesn't make any sense to base the season's prediction on whatever happened in the last game but I'm afraid that's as scientific as it gets following Spurs.

But pre-season matches, I'm reliably informed, are just training ground games that they charge fans to watch. Not if you win they're not. They are another milestone on the road to ultimate world domination. They don't matter if you lose perhaps but against Benfica we won the Eusabio Cup, don't ask, and played well, which will give everyone a boost. Such are the scraps we have to feed on. Fiorentina was a game of two halves and is difficult to base much on except that Huddlestone looks a class apart. It was the right result in the end and Keane, calmer, and better for it, might not be leaving us after all.

The highlights of the summer season have been new kits, sponsorship and medical updates on Woodgate's groin and Ledley's knee which will be posted on the railings at Buckingham Palace in future. No signings apart from Sandro who will come to us like Pavlyuchenko without a break and will probably not surface until nearer Xmas. No sales either apart from the new Zidane pioneering a new route to Madrid via QPR. As soon as I post this there will no doubt be a flurry of signings.

However there are sensible footballing grounds to think that a settled squad under a stable management automatically improves by continuing to play together. Add on youngsters making the move up and the possible emergence at last of Giovani and you have a squad that can at least maintain last year's levels of performance and achievement.

Liverpool are desperately trying to convince themselves that they are not going into free-fall under Roy Hodgson. Man. City will probably implode under the stress of all those egos. Aston Villa are slowly falling apart. Man.Utd are a waning force with an aging squad whose hour has passed. Everton are strapped for cash and won't be able to mount a serious challenge. Arsenal have kept their key man and could be in with a shout.

So there you have it; real value for money here. Chelsea to win the league, Spurs or Arsenal for second. Man. Utd or Man.City for fourth and and Liverpool or Everton for sixth. This has a pleasing city symmetry about it. They don't call me the ITK's ITK for nothing.

On the other hand with a jet-lagged, heat exhausted squad already suffering from injuries to Modric, Pavlyuchenko, Jenas, Keane, Defoe and Bentley at various times we could find by the end of August that our season is over: out of the Champions' League, floundering in the Premiership, Harry in prison, new stadium blocked and Autonomy in receivership: what they call the 'post Villarreal trauma effect'. However a kindly draw in the play-offs should ensure that the first of these bear traps is avoided, apart from the AstroTurf and the fact that Young Boys knocked out Fenerbache.

I've re-read all of last year's Vox Pop ( You live your lives and I'll live mine thank you) and being hard-bitten Spurs supporters we were a very cautious lot. Only Greg Meyer and his troop of Mummers and Morris Men at the Kent Pub correctly predicted a 4th place finish. I believe that Jim sent them a firkin of good ale as a prize. Since then we have proved we have the ability,confidence and determination to make the step up, much to everyone's delight and most people's surprise.

So taking a leaf out of Greg's book I'm erring on the optimistic side this year. no bet hedging, fudging or double talk. This is known as the 'Eusabio Cup exhilaration effect'. We will qualify for Champions' League proper; we will come 4th at least in the Premiership; throw in a Cup run; Harry will still be manager this time next year and I can put two fingers up once again to those who believe in keeping a low profile in case optimism, not to say over confidence, upsets the Gods. The Gods don't read 'Spurs Musings': fact.

So sit back and hold on very tightly; keep your hands inside the car and remain seated at all times. Is that a one I can see in the date? Two in fact.Must mean something.

Written for 'Topspurs' annual Vox Pop survey