Well, all that goodwill towards the national team didn’t last long, did it? Widely lauded for squirming out of his tactical straight-jacket and giving youth, exuberance and Andros Townsend a chance against Montenegro and Poland, things were all of a sudden coming up Hodgson and coming up England. World Cup qualification in the bag, the chop-wobbling foghorn Redknapp put in his place and Uncle Roy is suddenly Lord of the Football. We’re going to BROOZIL, the tabloids declared, triumphantly. Huzzah!
And then the racisms happened.
Falling just short of apportioning blame for allowing Townsend to face the bit iffy sounding Montenegro last Friday, or for having the gall to once manage a club with word ‘black’ in their name, the redtops have courageously found evidence to suggest that Roy Hodgson is in fact one massive, walking hate-crime. Don’t be fooled by the urbane, continental demeanour, ladies and gentlemen, this man- this man- is worse than Killroy.
Meanwhile back at the ranch. Premier League kickball is happening later today; Aston Villa the hosts for our resplendent heroes in lilywhite. I’m told that everything should go like clockwork providing we don’t suffer any flashbacks from the last encounter with a claret and blue brigade, which, you might remember, didn’t go quite so well. No need to go into the specifics of the afternoon other than to mention that the machine which provided me the stream for the match exited my living room window like the last helicopter from Saigon.
We’ve already rumbled with Villa this season, of course, in the League Cup third round last month- a game remembered warmly for the cosmic performances of Lewis Holtby and Jermain Defoe and that surprising instance in which Jan Vertonghen revealed the undercrackers of Nicklas Helenius in a daring- and let’s face it, cheaty- last-minute foil. One imagines that if Vertonghen attempts any short-removal shenanigans on his compatriot Christian Benteke today- who’s back from his hip-twang- he’d likely pull his arms off.
TO THE CHALKBOARD!
No great dugout rumpus; no touchline eye-pokery, hair-pulling or my-fringe- is-neater-than-your fringe fisticuffs from the Portuguese coaches. Instead, squirming against the tide of convention, it was the football that took centre-stage and a game of two markedly different halves was enjoyed by all. Points, goals, laughs shared; everyone getting on famously
Well, not really everyone- but, you know.
In a game cleaved neatly down the middle, a half of relative dominance each; it was Tottenham who took the early initiative. Andros Townsend typified the early ascendancy, with a succession powerful, super-charged runs from deep. And not just forays into the abyss, either. Or predictable cut inside, left foot, kick it out of the stadium routines that we’ve bared witness to in previous fixtures. This was a performance with added brain. The slip to Paulinho which eventually skimmed off the post was, to use a technical term, phwoaar!
In the early exchanges, Christian Eriksen floated and popped in dangerous areas, brilliantly occupying the space between Soldado and the deeper-lying Paulinho and Moussa Dembélé. Gylfi Sigurdsson marked another fine half with a well-taken goal, fashioned from good work from his Scandinavian cousin and the nimble feet and marshmallow-light touch of Bobby Soldier. All very much deserved and with the run of play. At this juncture it’s a shame Spurs didn’t hammer home their early control. 2-0 would’ve made the three points seem a darn sight safer bet. (Check the latest prices at http://sports.williamhill.com/bet/en-ca)
Mourinho, though, not to be undone, made the change at half-time. Michael Owen in the BT commentary called it a work of genius but I’d say it was just a classic Bring on Your Best Player scenario which, shock of shocks, improved Chelsea’s fortunes. However you’d care to label it Juan Mata’s presence turned the thing about face. Paulinho and Dembélé were suddenly reluctant to bomb forward for fear of leaving too much acreage for the Spaniard to operate in and Christian Eriksen no longer exerted the same kind of authority he had in the first half. As a result Chelsea began to take charge. John Terry’s headed equaliser was not only a terrible thing for football in general (no-one and I mean no-one likes to see that) it was all rather inevitable.
A curious subplot of the afternoon was Fernando Torres and Jan Vertonghen’s ongoing playground scuffle. Faces were scratched, shirts pulled and lunch money stolen. All stuff that we’re told no-one likes to see, when in fact, there’s a chance we do. The former striker eventually received his much sought after red card but, in all honesty, a lunchtime detention and a letter home to his mother would’ve sufficed.
Onward. To Russia!
You’ll have to excuse the dearth of posting on here in the next few weeks, as this old site wanders lonely as a cloud in search of a new home. Wheels are in motion, pixels are being re-jiggered and we should be back at full-strength next month…
In the meantime let’s look ahead to Gameweek 4 of this white-knuckle-ride of a Premier League season and, in particular, Tottenham’s home encounter with Norwich City on Saturday afternoon. Woo! Yeah! Football!
With young Gareth having vamoosed to the Spanish capital in exchange for the contents of Walter White’s storage unit, the burden now is on his former teammates to avoid slipping into any kind of post-Bale funk. 1-0, 1-0, 0-1 mightn’t sound like a string of results that should trigger unnecessary alarm- except with binary enthusiasts- it is somewhat of a concern that we’ve not scored from open play yet and Roberto Soldado has looked ominously unserviced.
Fear not, however. The outrageous triple-signing Daniel Levy coordinated at the end of last month included two players for whom creativity is very much their bag. Having looked robust enough but unimaginative in the final-third at the Emirates, the introduction of Lamela and Eriksen against Norwich should bear some chance-creating fruit for Soldado to feast upon and a charge up the table ought to follow. Lamela is doubtful to start after a demanding international schedule with Argentina but Eriksen could well feature from the off. Elsewhere Vlad Chiriches is work permit-less so won’t be involved.
Here’s how we might line-up…
Wow, this is how Liverpool must feel.
Oh, Willian, we hardly knew ye. Just hours after slipping out of the hands of Spurs’ medical team with some questionable daywear and smiles aplenty, the Brazilian finished off his whistle-stop tour of the Capital by agreeing to sign for Chelsea. Which isn’t quite what we had in mind when telling him to go out and see the sights. But there you go. His antics shouldn’t come as too much of a shock, of course. This, remember, is a man who, at 24, chose the Russian Premier League as the best location for his footballing gifts to flourish. No doubt Chelsea have plenty of appeal (they make nice banners?) but let’s not pretend his motivations as a player aren’t centred acutely on the amount of zeroes pencilled into his contract.
Anyway WHO NEEDS WILLIAN? was the question posed on the internet machine last night after young Andros Townsend tore the Dinamo Tbilisi defence asunder with his remarkable cunning and fleet-footedness. And who needs Gareth Bale, too, for that matter? Gareth Who, huh? Who’s this Gareth Bale guy I’ve been hearing about? Nope, not buying it either, but it is nice to know Townsend’s career is moving in the right direction after a season at QPR. Maybe there’s hope for Danny Rose, too.
Swansea, then. Laudrup’s lot were also abroad in Eurofoot action last night but I’m not sure if South Wales really counts compared to the 2,000 miles to the heart of Georgia that Spurs were required to wind up for their tie. Still, I’m sure we can expect slightly altered line-ups from both coaches. Here’s how we might line-up. Feel free to post your thoughts below. Gadzooks!
August rumbles on, then. Just shy of a fortnight now until the season opener at Selhurst Park and the mood in the Tottenham camp is that Daniel Levy is not messing around. After the belt, braces and quick hide the chequebook years of ‘Arry Redknapp’s reign, the suits upon high have seemingly found two men they can entrust their considerable funds to: André Villas-Boas and his loyal advisor, Fun Time Franco.
Back him, was the call at the end of last season, after the young Portuguese coach guided Spurs to an alarmingly decent 72 point finish on Levy’s economy package and with injuries aplenty. And back him he has. To the point now where AVB and Baldini must feel like requesting transfer funds is as easy as walking into Mr. Burns’ office while he’s bombed on ether and asking him to sponsor their bowling team. Seriously, Frankie, ask him for anything. I think he’s gone mental.
Anyway, here’s a knockabout look at our incoming business thus far.
Paulinho (Hail Upon)
The Confederation Cup’s third best player and a man whose Wikipedia page once recorded ‘extreme levels of mental toughness’ as a notable attribute. Just how extreme is not clear. Seventeen million pounds worth of Brazilian prime fillet and a more well-rounded midfielder you couldn’t hope to discover. Fast, strong, aerially dominant- you name it, he’s in possession of it. A competent sliced backhand? Now you’re just being silly.
Nacer Chadli (Anarchic Led)
The kind of ambidextrous forward Villas-Boas writes excited scribbles in his notebook about. Apparently we’ve met before in Spurs’ 2010/11 Champions League blowout, but there’s a good chance I wasn’t paying attention. What’s clear is that the former Twente man isn’t inhibited by any strain of goal-phobia, as he managed twenty-three in all competitions last season. In addition to providing much needed competition for Aaron Lennon on the right, Chadli could well make the left-sided forward berth his own if Bale continues to play in a more liberated role/abroad.
Roberto Soldado (A Robot’s Doodler)
Ah, yes. Soldado. At last, I hear you cry, a proper striker; a bonafide number 9, a first-rate onion bag ruffler, a penalty-box sheriff, a crafty goal-witch… a centre-forward. Bobby Soldier arrives at White Hart Lane with quite the burden of expectation on his shoulders. I mean, this is The Guy. The reward for all those Spurs fans who did their best to get behind Frazier Campbell, Peter Crouch and Louis Saha; the subject about which a billion words have been bashed hopelessly into keyboards and discussed ad nauseam in the stands and in watering holes. We’ve told friends, our colleagues, written to the council; told complete strangers with absolutely no interest in Tottenham Hotspur Football Club or football in general. We’ve yelled at stray dogs, bus drivers, double-glazing salesmen: we’ve even talked to our parents. Dad, why haven’t Spurs signed a good striker yet?
‘Sorry, who is this?’