If you’ve got yourself one of them new-fangled iPad contraptions, you’d not go too far wrong downloading this week’s edition of Football Week from Future Publishing. As well as a small contribution for me (did someone say, main event?), it’s got excellent work from Zonal Marking‘s and the Guardian’s Michael Cox about Big Phil Scolari, Brazil and the Confederations Cup and a round up of the latest transfer rumours from various blogs and the Press Association- plus loads of other cool stuff. Click here for all the particulars. Tally ho!
Afternoon, all. Here’s something I did for the Huffington Post last month. It’s about them bloody Belgians, coming over ‘ere taking our jobs- with their footballing talent and disarming good looks. Please skim over the entirely, definitely-on-purpose short change I gave their national team for tournament qualification. Poor show.
Hullo. Right, enough small-talk let’s get straight to it. Reports are emerging from the underworld that Gallic nouveau riche outfit, PSG, have made contact with the ‘people’ of fellow shorthand favourite, André Villas-Boas. The thinking is that after Carlo Ancelotti is eventually called to Madrid to snuff out the public relations tyre fire left by José Mourinho, an alluring managerial position will be left in his wake- and the Parisians want it filled by AVB.
Although I think Villas-Boas would loath to walk out on Spurs after one season- he genuinely looks like a man content and is being afforded plenty of love from the greater part of Tottenham fans- it does worry me that the French club wouldn’t baulk an inch in the face of the no-doubt colossal buy-out clause Daniel Levy will have attached to AVB’s contract. If they make Levy (and Villas-Boas) a head-spinning offer, then it’s possible we’ll be looking for a new manager in the coming months. Which would be totally sh*t.
There’s a good chance, of course, that the story is complete piffle in a ‘Press Make Up News’ shocker. PSG AVB S.O.S makes a neat headline (Hi, Antony!) but never before has a deal been settled on its acronym potential.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid’s pursuit of Gareth Bale continues afoot. I wasn’t initially aware that the ‘Special Relationship’ we’d formed last summer with the Spanish giants was a go-ahead for any bipedal life-form associated with the club to declare their uninhibited fondness for Welshman. He’s the best player in Europe, said Zidane. He was born to play for Madrid, blurted Florentino Perez. Terrible opinions, offered Steve McManaman, most of the time.
Well this all sounds rather promising. If you weren’t entirely convinced by the ‘feeling in my waters’ I spoke of yesterday then perhaps this might come as something a little more, shall we say, meaty. Word from the man himself, Gareth Bale, via Spurs TV Online. These things can change in an instant, of course, but it doesn’t sound too much like a man desperate to make a quick exit out the gift shop window with a bin bag full of replica shirts and cockerel-jazzed pillow cases:
“We fought hard this season, the team and the manager have been great,” he said.
“We have got the record points for the club in the Premier League.
“That would normally be enough to qualify for the Champions League, but it’s not meant to be again.
“It’s disappointing, but we will pick ourselves up again.
“We will just have to regroup this season and give it another go.”
It was great to get the win but the clouds just came over and made it a little bit duller, but it’s something we have to learn from, we are a young squad, and we will take it in to the future.”
Image courtesy of Russel Ford Movies.
So, dearest reader, here we are. The end of another season and for the second year on the spin May 19th goes down as a miserable day in the diary for those connected with Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. In any other context, in any other footballing universe, apart- rather inconveniently- from the one we find ourselves a part of, this would be a time for triumphant celebration; having just recorded our best ever points total in the Premier League and highest number of wins. Instead we look back on an otherwise tremendous campaign with a modicum of regret that we couldn’t squeeze out another bloody point from somewhere, somehow. Everton away, Fulham at home, QPR away. Don’t even torture yourself.
In the end I was quite thankful the final day wasn’t cast in some dreadful Spurs-brand melodrama or that we weren’t socked by some heartbreaking thump of irony. Apart from the phantom goal at St James’ (seen only by Alan Sugar) things ran as you might have expected. Andre Marriner’s exotic interpretation of the rules of football was infuriating but not ultimately to our cost (although you could suggest it would’ve ratcheted up the pressure on Arsenal had they’d known we were winning). There was no ex-Spurs keeper throwing the ball into an empty net (Ben Alnwick’s brother stayed on the bench) and no Tottenham players bent double in the penalty area trying to hold in the contents of their bowels. We did everything that was asked of us: it’s just the team above did likewise and we came up short by the slenderest of margins.
I’m largely delighted with Andre Villas-Boas’ work as a coach. The injuries and summer departures have been well covered, but it shouldn’t be underestimated what the Immense Dimensioned One achieved in his first year at the club without seven- eight, you could argue- of the players who were so vital for Spurs last season. In one guise or another Kaboul, King, BAE, Parker, Sandro, Modric, Van der Vaart have either left or been sidelined for considerable stretches of the year. You could probably throw Adebayor into the group too, who, up until about a month ago, was either injured, in a different continent or just being straight-up appalling at football. And, while new players have been recruited and in some cases been improvements- Lloris, Vertonghen- that’s still a sizeable turnaround of clientele and not a lot of time to make it work. But work he has made it.
The summer we’ll be treated to another exhausting transfer odyssey, pertaining to the multi-award-winning Gareth Bale. Rumours of a new contract won’t do much to p*ss on the fires of speculation but in my loins, I’ve a feeling he’ll stay on for another year at least. While we might not be able to offer the platform of Champions League football to exhibit his astonishing talents, he does seem to enjoy himself at Tottenham and in Villas-Boas he has a coach who’ll get the very best out of him. If Wing Commander Levy can club together all his Nectar points in the warmer months and buy a word-beater or two, then the decision might be made even easier. Hey, things are looking up already. COYS.
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While you shouldn’t rely on Alan Pardew this weekend to at least make life interesting for the subscription-paying neutrals (won’t someone please think of the subscription-paying neutrals!) one thing you can bank on, is when it comes to penning a good book, John Crace won’t let you down. Following his quite excellent Vertigo: One Football Fan’s Fear of Success comes his latest offering Harry’s Game: Inside the Mind of Harry Redknapp.
I’ve got a copy to give away to one of you lucky folk but first, a quick word with the author:
WFRF: Hello, John. It’s fair to say Harold Redknapp is a fairly divisive character. Does this make him an ideal subject for a book? In your own words he’s either the ‘the greatest manager never to have managed England since Brian Clough’ or, a less encouraging ‘bullet dodged’:
JC: Harry is the most absorbing character currently working in British football. Bar none. Fergie was much more successful but he was also much more straightforward. Given a choice of a night out with Harry and a night out with Fergie, you instinctively know with which one you would have more fun. Harry polarises opinion like few others. People either love him or hate him: often without very much good reason. Harry is a man who it’s very easy to misread: a man whom you think you know and understand when you don’t. People have made all sorts of claims for him, both about his managerial style and his character without really thinking about who he is and what he has done. In Harry’s Games I wanted to make sense of him and explain why it was possible for so many people to assume he was going to be the next England manager when there was still a chance he might go to prison. To do this I had to go back over his life and career to get beyond the standard Harryisms in which football pundits traditionally have traded to think about where his loyalties really lie, how greedy he is and how ambitious?
WFRF: As a Tottenham fan I warmed to Redknapp in the first two seasons- obviously all the winning and playing Real Madrid helped- but became exhausted by his knack of deflecting any kind of blame away from himself, whenever things went a bit awry. Instead of the loveable rogue, salt-of-the earth type, he became someone I imagined might point his own grandmother out in a police line-up if it meant he wouldn’t go to jail. Am I fickle? Do all managers do this to some degree?
JC: We’re all fickle. And all managers do this to some degree. But Harry is a past master at deflection. Nothing is ever his fault. He’s either got the wrong players or luck was against him. He’s been like this at every club he’s managed. I think the fans take it so personally and turn against him, because he encourages the view that he’s ‘one of them’ and so they feel the let-down more acutely. But it’s also true that he’s a manager whose strengths and weaknesses are so clearly mirrored in each other. He does have a good eye for a player and his teams often play wonderful football. But he doesn’t have a Plan B for when things aren’t working and neither does he have a Team B. So he seldom rotates the squad and when his favoured players get tired and injured things tend to fall apart because he is forced to bring in players who he doesn’t rate. And, as importantly, players who know they aren’t rated by him. Was it any coincidence that the player who ducked for the injury time freekick that cost QPR all three points against Wigan and effectively condemned the team to relegation was Adel Taarabt, whom Harry had rubbished at Spurs? I think not. The most frustrating part of watching Harry’s teams was that their form often fell apart in the latter half of the season.
WFRF:What’s your view of Harry’s famous blind spot for tactics? I think most people thought this was some kind of ruse, or at least a point overstated. There’re plenty of examples of him successfully re-jigging formations during the course of a game, but do you think he’s been left behind in that regard? His line about ‘bullsh*t baffling brains’ was, if nothing else, an odd comment.
JC: Harry is not big on tactics, but he’s no mug either. The 1-0 away win against AC Milan in the San Siro in the first leg of the Champions League tie was an object lesson in how to play the perfect away European tie. And he did it with a severely weakened team. But on the whole Harry is not quick on his feet to change things. At Spurs, many of his substitutions came at least 10 minutes after everyone in the crowd had seen what needed to be changed. Harry is at his best playing 4-4-2… and for this reason I think he could actually have been a really good choice of manager for the England side. There would have been no getting side-tracked in transfer speculation, he could have played his strongest squad as often as he liked because there’s no need to rotate, his powers of short-term motivation – he’s not good at lifting a team throughout a season – would have come into their own as competitions last five weeks at most and tactics are not nearly so critical to success at international level as they are in top club competitions
WFRF: After all your research and writing the book, has your view of Harry changed dramatically one way or the other. Is there anything about the man that surprised or affected you?
JC: Absolutely. He turned out to be a lot more complex than I expected. Harry has great personal charm and is brilliant at dealing with journalists and fans. By and large he tells people what they want to hear. I came to realise he wasn’t so much an arch-manipulator – though he can be that too – as an insecure people-pleaser. Harry never set out to be a football manager. He just wanted to make a living out of football. Survival, rather than glory, has always been all he has ever really wanted. Enough money and a job that allows him to commute from his home in Sandbanks. Management was something he fell into. Likewise, he is very hard to categorise. Sometimes he has shown exceptional loyalty to people, at other time he has ruthlessly stabbed them in the back. Sometimes he has been incredibly generous, at others a greedy bastard. To make sense of him, I had to go through the details forensically to work out why he could seem so capricious.
WFRF: And finally, are Newcastle going to do us any favours on Sunday? I’m guessing not.
JC:Wouldn’t that be nice… I can’t really see it. Newcastle have effectively been on holiday since last weekend. Pardew admitted as much when he said he wouldn’t mind if Arsenal beat them 4-0. Sunderland will also be demob happy after Wigan got relegated. So I see both Arsenal and Spurs winning relatively comfortably. Which leaves us precisely where we don’t want to be but could have predicted we would be on the first day of the season! Still if the Welsh Boy Wonder stays for another year then AVB will have done a decent job. I don’t Bale would have stayed – or played so well – under Harry.
**Rightio, if you want to win a copy of ‘Harry’s Games’ then follow @wfrfthetruth on Twitter and post #Harry. If you’re not on the old Twitterbox then simply post below the line. I’ll pick a winner at random in the next day or so. Good luck! **
Afternoon. I’ve been away from the old machine for a few days but luckily nothing of any real significance has happened since last contact so we can pretty much pick things up where we left them.
Oop…hang on…just been passed a note.
Right, well. That is interesting. He might retire, you say? And what about Gary? Sticking with Sky? Probably a good move. They like him over there.
Hot dogs and jumping frogs. What a week it’s been. The footballing landscape has endured seismic shifts from which we may never recover a toehold again; the end of a dynasty, a New World Order, the changing of the guard. Yep, all very well, Geoffrey, but if you could just keep the noise down for a second, we’ve got our own problems to worry about over here. Chief of those, trying to keep check of a Champions League dream that just plumb refuses to die. Why won’t you die!?
Bale’s eleventh-hour heroics against Southampton; the deadlock at Stamford Bridge, which, under normal conditions would be a respectable outcome; the late win against Stoke and Charlie Adam, the world’s first ironically professional footballer. Three results which’ve ensured it’ll go to the final day and the hope will consume us all.
Whatever the result tonight, I’d say it’s been an excellent first season for Villas-Boas, essentially operating with one arm gaffer-taped to his back; with injuries, the chairman’s muddled transfer policies and whatnot. To have equalled last year’s points total with a game to spare is fairly remarkable. Perhaps Wigan can do us a favour this evening (no pressure, chaps, but if you don’t I will hunt you down and do stuff to you. Weird stuff.) perhaps it’ll be one great escape too far. Whatever the case, whatever our final League position, I think we can all agree that Alan Pardew is one super cool dude.
This is it, then. The last hurrah. Eagle-eyed viewers will have noticed that the midweek game at Stamford Bridge is rather an important encounter, but the bleak reality for Tottenham is that if we decide to lay a steamed pudding in our trousers tomorrow afternoon and results elsewhere go awry, then the jig is up and Wednesday will be nothing more than a showpiece for the hopeless and socially abhorrent. Particularly if John Terry is within racializing distance.
Southampton will be without creative fulcrum Gastón Ramírez for the game; who’s carrying out a three-match suspension after Shane Long entertained the frightful business of socking his cheek into the Uruguayan’s elbow. As an aside, did you also know that Ramírez was born in Fray Bentos? Which, if nothing else, reminds me of a highly lucrative pastry and cigarette company I’d like you all to invest in. It’s called, wait for it: ‘Pie, Fags ‘R’ Us.‘
You know, like, Pythag… oh I give up.
Elsewhere Danny Fox is also suspended after he tried to atomise Steven Reid’s leg(s)/arm(s)/entire body.
For us the only doubt- apart from those clawing, soul-tugging fears that we’ll not qualify for the Champions League and all of our squad and manager will leave before White Hart Lane is swallowed up into a fiery, blazing sinkhole and the club is lost forever- is Moussa Dembélé, who picked up a hamstring tweak against Wigan. Adebayor is apparently fit. So there you go.
Here’s how Southampton might line-up:
Ahoy there, web-slingers!
Barely have we had a minute to disentangle our underpants from the neighbour’s satellite dish after a quite astonishing come-from-behind victory against the former Champions, the radar bleeps and twinkles again with the incoming of Roberto Martinez and Atletico Wigan. Who, as required to do so in their perilous situation, are fighting for their Premiership Lives.
Now, the usual protocol for Spurs following a hard-fought and unlikely triumph is to make an utter pig’s tit of the next, apparently weaker opponents. For every glorious evening under the lights beating Inter Milan you can bet your grandmother’s heating allowance that the next game at The Reebok or some such will be a miserable disappointment.
But these, as they say, are mysterious times and this, sir, is a different beast altogether.
If there’s one thing to admire about Andre Villas-Boas and his brief occupancy at Tottenham, it’s that he doesn’t appear to embrace the oh-mother-of-mercy-why-us brand fatalism that it’s easy to adopt every now and again as a fan. Early days, of course, but rather than play the victim card or feel hard-done by the inexplicable force of the footballing cosmos, the young Portuguese buck deals rather in the business of identifying problems and, get this, fixing them.
Conceding late goals? Use the training ground to work on specific defensive routines. Losing at half-time? Re-shuffle, tinker, make one or two cunning substitutions. Rubbish at penalties… well, early days, as we’ve said. To the chalkboard!
By the time the single-term Champions arrive at The Lane tomorrow it’ll have been a whole ten days since our semi-tragic parp-parp-whoops exit from the Europa League. In that period, Arsenal and Everton will have played thrice and Chelsea and City on two occasions. These things rarely boil down to the machinations of a diary, of course, but with just five points betwixt 6th and 3rd even the smallest scheduling advantage could be crucial for the teams involved. It’s all about the little things, as I’m often told by the good lady- with no regard for my self-esteem whatsoever.
As well as giving a rest to the world-weary lambs who were put through the extra-time ringer in Switzerland last week, the enforced sabbatical has allowed a sizable hunk of downtime for the recuperating trio of Defoe, Lennon and multi-award nominee, Gareth Bale. While risking all three from the start would be a dick move in the extreme, the noise from the camps is that all are in contention. Here’s some of that noise now, in the form of words:
“All of them are in with a chance of making selection.”
“Gazza has been training for the last two days with the team and on his own since the beginning of the week.”
“He has made good progress from the beginning of the week to training with the team, so definitely will be up for selection.”
“We recognise the impact he has had for us. With the run that he is on it can have that factor.
“It is good having key players around and players who have been decisive, especially in this last part of the season is always inspirational for everyone. It’s good to have him back”
Phew! Well this team picks itself: