Probably best we all purchase a good sturdy pair of wellies and an umbrella in the next couple of weeks; the weather maybe turning for the better but there’s a storm brewing of a wholly different kind. The transfer window’s open. And, as has become customary, there’s a veritable cyclone of gossip gathering about our dear little club which won’t rest until someone’s had the good sense to shut it again. Yes. It’s that time of year again. Where, seemingly, anything goes.
Joe Cole’s been the name on everyone’s lips in the last few days. As the blue open-top-bus veers back into its dock and all the hubbub of Chelsea’s domestic triumphs calms, the small matter of a new contract for the cockney cherub is still hot news. I just wants to win the World Cup, he told us last weekend, barely out of breath. A club to play at next year might be nice, too, you’d imagine. Chelsea don’t appear to be in any kind of rush to make sure that club is them, so I guess that puts us in the frame. The burning question, if there ever was one, is if we did sheppard hook Cole N17 way, where exactly would we find room for his once luminous talents? I’m of the opinion that we’d find room and he’d do just dandy. Who knows, we could probably even coax a bit of a renaissance out of the erstwhile Upton Park midfielder – given the right placement of ‘Arry’s arm around his shoulder. And Champions League experience doesn’t come free, you know. Well, not really…
Arda Turan. I’ll be perfectly honest: I’ve not seen much of this lad- bar the few Youtube directed links floating around internetland. Youtube, as we’re all aware, isn’t an entirely water-tight method of judging a player’s potential clout. In fact, I’d wager you could dig up the neighbour’s cat, pull a Celtic shirt over him and compile a video decent enough for the Parkhead boss-in-waiting to look twice at Robbie Keane and wonder whether he was worth all the bother. Turan, though, is a left-winger of considerable repute; subsequent to a ruddy good Euro 2008, he was voted 8th in a list of The 100 Best Young Players in the World Football. Or so Wikipedia tells me. Something akin to the dog’s delicate nether regions, then. Is he the type of thing we’re after? On top of the benefit a left-sided midfielder would be to the squad- in terms of balance and whatnot- he’s has the notable advantage of not being Stewart Downing. But I say that about everybody.
There you go then. Just a small dusting of transfer hearsay you already know about. In the spirit of the season- an idea plucked from the keen mind of WFRF? poster, Aran- I’m going to be devoting an entire page to the wonderful bonanza we call the summer transfer window. It’s still in its infancy as yet, but it could prove a useful go-to in which to make sense of all the potential wheelings and dealings going down at White Hart Lane. If such a thing were possible. With a bit of tinkering, you’ll be able to post homemade videos of your most-wanted until you’re blue in the face.
Now where’s that cat?
**The winner of a copy of ‘Superfan: The Amazing Life of Morris Keston’ is none other than JamieSpurs, one of the many folk who correctly named the nineteen different League scorers for Spurs this season. Which were as followed…*deep breath*… Defoe, Crouch, Kranjcar, Lennon, Modric, Gudjohnsen, Bale, Bassong, BAE, Jenas, Keane, Palacios, King, Dawson, Corluka, Pavlyuchenko, Rose, Bentley, Huddlestone. Well done, Jamie!**
Tap…tap…tap… Is this thing on?
Ahem. Welcome one and all. I hope you’re all clad in your best frocks this afternoon, and, equally, that you won’t be spending the entire time swarmed around the punch bowl. *hic* Because I think you’ll find it quite empty. It’s award season, folks. The WFRF? End of Season bash. The most talked about event since the Wooten Courtney raffle last Sunday. Grab a flute of champagne from the many waiters dotted about the place- see if you can spot Robbie Keane in a penguin suit- and feel free to heckle at any point… Let’s give out some love.
Goal of the Season
Danny Rose vs. Arsenal (April 2010)
The bar was set pretty high from day one. BAE opened the season with the hum-dingiest of hum-dingers against The Scouse and we’ve been gorging on comparable fetes of net plundering ever since. Huddlestone’s pile-driver against Bolton; Kranjcar twanging one past Stoke; Bentley’s dubious free-kick in the bombing of Wigan. All bloody marvellous, all from the chaps in Lily-white. It’s one thing to have such an array of potential goal-scorers in your midst- nineteen in total- but something else altogether when their efforts alone make you grateful for the gift of sight. The winner, though, perhaps just for sheer impact more than anything, is the boy Danny. Debut. Thirty-yards from goal. First-time volley. Off-balance. Against the Enemy? Oooh, don’t mind if I do. Would a goal by any other Rose smell as sweet? I doubt it. Instant hero.
Assou-Ekotto vs Liverpool (August 2009) Defoe vs Hull (August 2009) Modric vs Everton (February 2010) Modric vs Burnley (May 2010) Kranjcar vs Stoke (March 2010) Bentley vs Wigan (November 2009) Huddlestone vs Bolton (May 2010) Bale vs Chelsea (April 2010)
Most Improved Player of the Season
Southampton fans would probably argue that he was the cat’s pyjamas long before it finally dawned on us. Before we decided to throw bin-liners full of cash at them for his services only to plonk him on the bench and furrow our brows at his simian features and inability to finish on a winning side. It was only last season that a Saints blogger implored me to keep the faith with the Welsh wingstress: be patient, he said, and Bale will do the business. Well, we did. And he did. And how. If the fuse was smouldering away in the first half of the campaign- quietly hissing, occasionally showing sparks of life in the League Cup- then it set off a rocket at the turn of the year. His rise has been meteoric. Quite comfortably the player of 2010, he terrorised fullbacks on every outing. From Champions League winning Spaniards to relegation fodder, defenders have been left standing befuddled in his wake. Trying to tackle the thin air that used to be Gareth Bale. Bale. Bale.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Jermain Defoe, Tom Huddlestone
Game of the Season
Man City vs Tottenham (May 2010)
For spectacle, drama and sense of history, there could be no other game that encapsulated our entire season in the course of ninety- minutes. Everything we’d heaped in up until then- the nine against Wigan, the NLD, beating Chelsea- all could’ve been footnotes in a another trying venture of underachieving had we not done a number on City. The game itself may’ve been as comfortable to watch as root canal work, but the joy at its resolution was one unlikely to be forgotten. For days afterwards the world was a better place; stars fell out of the sky, birds suddenly appeared. All thanks to the gawky loveliness of Peter Crouch and his well placed head. One night in Manchester. A million prayers answered. Glory be.
Tottenham 9- 1 Wigan (November 2009), Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal (April 2010), Tottenham 2-1 Chelsea (April 2010) Tottenham 2-1 Liverpool (August 2009), Tottenham 3-0 Man City (December 2009)
Buy of the Season
Sebastien Bassong (Newcastle, £8 million)
Say whaaat? Surely Nicholas Kranjcar- at two and a half million- has to be the embodiment of bang for your buck. Agreed. But quietly going about his work, while the defence crumbled and rebuilt around him in the opening months, the young Cameroonian went out like an old pro. Strong, quick, intelligent on the ball; at twenty-three, Sebastien has the makings of a bona-fide star. Perhaps even enough of one to fill the King shaped hole which will eventually be left gaping in our backline in years to come.
Niko Kranjcar (Portsmouth, £2.5 million) Eidur Gudjohnsen (on loan from Monaco) Peter Crouch (Portsmouth, £9 million)
Player of the Season
Michael Dawson and Heurelho Gomes
I ran this a couple of weeks ago.
Plenty of mad love, then, for our World Cup bound stopper. And rightly so. By those semtiments, Gomes should win by a landslide. But it’s Dawson for my money. While the Brazilian’s unfathomable saves against The Arse probably kept us in the hunt, it’s Dawson who’s been the lifeblood of our final leg assault on that Champions League place. When we were looking for someone to turn to- a leader- who would drag us through those closing minutes of a narrow two-one lead- thumping his chest, snarling, pulling up his captain’s armband- Dawson was there to take bullets and see us home. Courageous, spirited, a winner of every ball in the air- he’s the real deal. Showing every bit of his form pre-2006. And then some. If he doesn’t go to South Africa- and, say Carragher does- I’m pulling that effigy of Tony Adams of out of the loft and slapping Capello’s face on it.
Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon, Tom Huddlestone, Ledley King, Luka Modric, Jermain Defoe, Wilson Palacios…Harry Redknapp.
That’s it from me. Your thoughts, as ever, are more than welcome. Nay, encouraged.
Part two to follow…
This just fell into my inbox…
Are they for real? Hmm, I dunno, Scoob. But if they are, that’ll do just fine. WFRF? poster, Ooh Aah Klinsmann, reckons they’re on the level.
Welcome to flavour country. I hope this finds you all well. The season may only just be getting off its weary feet and toeing into a good pair of slippers, but things are still all very much go in the world of the humble blogger. An epidemic of transfer hearsay is almost certainly just around the block; made doubly frantic, I’m sure, by the decent fist we made of getting into the Euro pot qualifiers this year. Nothing too bonkers just yet- aside from murmurings of us on the trail of Fabiano- but rest assured, just as there’s a whiff of anything remotely juicy, hoards of agents will be clambering over each other to get to the front of the cue. They might need to move out of whatever cave they’ve been inhabiting for the last few months, of course, if only to give their eyes a chance to adjust to the daylight. Hold onto your hats. It could get weird.
There’s a World Cup chugging toward us, too, so I’ve heard. That’ll be a hoot. As long as the tabloids don’t get too carried away with the thought of England winning it. I’m talking Photoshopping Capello’s phizog onto the side of the trophy minutes after stumbling to a 0-0 draw with the good folks from across the pond. That said, I’m awfully excited. So much so that I’ve rustled together a little section for the thing in some faraway ebb of this site.
Elsewhere, I had a chance to speak to Morris Keston yesterday; co-scribe of the terrific book Superfan: The Amazing Life of Morris Keston. As such, the man- positively bursting with great football and showbiz anecdotes- was kind enough to answer the handful of questions I’d pinged his way, via my inbox and Morris’ partner in crime, Nick Hawkins.
I’m hardly David Frost, but hey…
WFRF: Good afternoon, Morris. It’s safe to say you’ve watched a fair few Spurs game in your time. But which, of all of them, has been the most memorable?
Morris: “Tough question. When you’ve seen almost 3,000 Spurs games it’s nigh on impossible to pick just one! One of the most memorable was the match against the Polish side Gornik Zabrze in the European Cup at White Hart Lane in 1961. We were trailing 4-2 after the first leg and the atmosphere inside the stadium that night was like nothing I’d ever heard before or heard since. Cliff Jones says the same. It was the first ‘Glory, Glory Night’ and the team absolutely murdered the Poles 8-1 on the night. Cliff Jones scored three – the perfect hat-trick, one with his right foot, one with his left and one with his head. I’ll never forget that match. Likewise, I’ll never forget the match against Benfica in the semi-final. Trailing 3-1 after the first-leg (a match I also went to), we won 2-1 at the Lane, but were robbed by a Danish official, a Mr Hansen, who gave Jimmy Greaves offside in the first-half after Greavsie had scored a good goal. Jimmy still talks about that now. We’d have won the European Cup if it wasn’t for that terrible decision.’’
WFRF: Who’s the best Spurs player you’ve had the pleasure of watching?
Morris: “I can’t pick just one. Jimmy Greaves is up there as his goals won more games for Spurs than any other player. Tommy Harmer probably had the best ball control of any Spurs players that I’ve seen. Ronnie Burgess was a superb player and had the lot. Hoddle, Ardiles, Mackay, Ditchburn and Jennings were also very special. I didn’t rate John White as highly as some people. Terry Venables rates him as one of Tottenham’s greatest, but for me he drifted in and out of games a bit too much. If Paul Miller was still married to my daughter I’d rate him highly, but he’s not – so I don’t! (chuckles)”
WFRF: Heh. Fair enough. You’ve met plenty of big names over the years. Who’s the nicest guy in football?
Morris: “Bobby Moore. I mixed a lot with Bobby socially and was the chairman of his testimonial committee in 1970. Bobby always found time for fans and their kids. He’d sign endless autographs and always made sure that everyone left happy. Like many players of that era, Bobby also did a lot of unseen work for charities. Pat Jennings is an equal to Bobby in the ‘nice guy’ stakes. Pat joined me for a ‘Superfan’ book signing last weekend and it was great to see so many people turn up to see the big man. Pat is brilliant with the supporters and one lady in the queue was almost in tears after getting the opportunity to meet her idol. Pat’s Irish charm melts all hearts. A true legend.”
WFRF: What do you make of the current side?
Morris: “Harry has moulded a great team in a remarkably short space of time. We don’t really have an outstanding individual, like a Gascoigne, Hoddle or Ardiles, but they seem to have a great team spirit. Once you’ve got that in a side, you’re almost there. They
battled for everything in the final weeks of the season and it was great to watch. They are certainly capable of winning a trophy next year.”
Morris: “Yes, with the exception of the Portsmouth defeat. The FA Cup is my favourite trophy, so to lose that game hit me hard. The wins over Chelsea, Arsenal and Man City made up for it though. I was so proud of them after those victories. Now they’ve proved they can beat the top sides, I hope they do even better next season. I want to see us win at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge! If they believe in themselves a bit more, I’m sure they could push United and Chelsea for the title in 2010/11.”
Rightio. If you’d like to get your hands on a copy of the book, then you’ve stumbled into just the right place. I’ve got one of the little suckers to give away. All you need do is answer the following question by means of an email to the usual address:
Tottenham managed 19 different scorers in the League this year- a Premiership record- can you name them all?
Best of Luck and stand-by for a bumper-sized End of Season edition in the coming days.
Aren’t I good to you?
It seems like a fair stretch ago that we were last seen pottering about at Turf Moor; twas a dreary old evening back in early 2009, making a decidedly ham-fisted attempt to book ourselves a Cup final. We did it, if I remember correctly. But with all the grace and conviction of a back alley slugger. Nerves were the problem that night. A comfortable first-leg win back at ours began to look remarkably less so as the Clarets raided goalward, chinking steadily away at our advantage. A three goal lead- after what only felt like a few swigs of lukewarm Rosé – very quickly became an aggregate deficit. A complete shower of faeces, the whole thing.
Thankfully, plenty has changed since then. Nerves shan’t be a worry tomorrow and neither should the threat of the erstwhile cup experts. Burnley are no longer the thorny, giant-toppling bastards they were in Owen Coyle’s day, rather more of a tepid version who’ve long since whimpered back to the Championship under genial everyman, Brian Laws. They had a decent bash it- trumping United along the way- but ultimately, eighty goals conceded were enough pelts in the hull to sink her. Some conciliation, though, we may well yet see Burnley in Europe next term, should Fulham do a number on Atletico in the week. Who knows, they might even bump into Roberto Mancini on their travels.
So what can we expect from our lot tomorrow? I’m fully predicting an avalanche. The thought of us leap-frogging The Arse on the final day of the season- with even more dastardly cheek than they snuck past us in 2006- will be all the incentive they need to reek havoc on Burnley’s nets. Bale, Lennon, Modders, Thudd and Defoe- quite likely feeling indestructible right now- should make this last lap in sunny Lancashire one to remember. Sign out in style. Give the fans something to remember. And let Arséne Wenger sweat the stitching out of his polyester suit over at The Emirates.
No fooling, mister.
One last time for the season…
It’s been a delightfully frenzied couple of days. So much to take in. There’s the fear that if I think too much about the permeations of what Tottenham have achieved, and, of course, what they might yet achieve, I may well be tempted to ring up my boss on Monday and tell him I won’t be coming in for a while. Fourth place secured, Arsenal in our sights, new contracts, talk of new arrivals. I tell you it’s almost all too much. By the time I’d watched Cliff Jones on SSN yesterday talk earnestly about the chances of a title push next year I was all but ready to squeeze that little red button on the remote and hope it was the same one that alerted the nurse to crank up the morphine. Never a dull moment.
Wednesday night was one heck of a night to be a Spurs fan. The best in recent memory. The domestic pots of the nineties and noughties were splendid trinkets enough, but never quite the prize our lofty ambitions were willing to settle for. I’m not even sure the F.A cup would’ve been enough this season. (Lucky that, really) This is what we’ve been after all these years. Champions League football. A shot at the big time.
The game itself is somewhat of a blur. The opening twenty minutes made a wreck of me. Every occasion City ventured forward I kept forcing my eyes out of focus so that the screen became a haze of colours; praying with every fibre I wouldn’t hear the home fans explode into celebration. All that kept leaping into my mind was the thought of Bellamy, Adebayor and Co. jigging about like tits with scarves tied around their heads while our lot collapsed around them. Vomiting disappointment. I fully expected Viera to come on and score the winner just after Fulop had saved at least two penalties. Maybe even three.
But this is a different Tottenham team to the one that has consistently crushed my spirits in recent years. We seemed to have escaped that dooming sense of irony which followed us everywhere we went; Viera didn’t score, Fulop didn’t thwart us, Adebayor didn’t slide fifty metres on his knees to bogle in front of the Spurs fans. Nothing of the sort. We didn’t get overawed by the sense of occasion: we bloomin’ well rose to it. Like Peter Crouch ascending through the night sky like a salmon in a superhero’s cape. Beautiful.
King and Dawson were just colossal. It’s become almost a cliché now, but it actually pains me to imagine just how good Ledley could’ve been if his knee wasn’t held together with blobs of blu-tac and masking tape. Probably captaining United with more medals than Mark Spitz, I’d imagine. For my money- and I don’t have a lot- he’s one of the best centre backs in the League. Perhaps even Europe. And Dawson…well, we all know the rhyme.
So, drink it in, folks. This kind of thing doesn’t happen very often. Especially to the likes of little ol’ Spurs. Keep watching the reports on the tellybox, keep reading the hype in the daily rags, keep reliving the footage. It’s all beautifully mad and amazing at the same time. We should try and enjoy it. Oh yes.
**If you’d like to join in on the debate for Player of The Season, then you’re just one click away**
All roads lead to Eastlands. As much as we’ve tried to ignore it and concentrate on the games at hand, this elephant’s been in the room for sometime now; crouching in the corner, lampshade plonked atop his head in a hopeless attempt to blend in and go unnoticed. We had a feeling it’d be a big one. All the drumming of calculators and fluctuating, wafer thin goal margins had convinced us of that. But now it’s finally here, in the full light of day with the rest of the challengers smoked out on the hard shoulder: it could scarcely be any bigger.
Man City against Tottenham. Winner takes all.
It’s been some journey to get here. Barely seems like a week ago that our season was up on its feet; that summery afternoon back in August where yellowy underarms caused much debate and Liverpool’s title challenge all but soiled itself at the first time of asking. Skrtel and Carragher clumsily bumped noggins while our man from Africa pinged the net from a distance you’d struggle to read a number plate from. By the power of greyskull we were up and running. And we’ve hardly looked back since. A handful of minor hiccups- we don’t need reminding of those – as well as the odd schooling by the early, and indeed, late pacesetters. Chelsea, United and Arsenal formed a cue in the opening months; one by one exposing us to the underside of their boot with cold efficiency. That aside, there’s been plenty good stuff in there; enough to make certain the scrap book was one to be cooed over rather than blotted with snot and tears. Twenty beautiful wins; some hard-fought, some a long time coming. Others already packaged and on the shelves in DVD format. Sure enough, we’ve got some memories. Boy howdy.
But now it all comes down to this. By Thursday morning we could wake up- apart from a hangover which could well be declared terminal- with the knowledge that Spurs can plunge no lower than fourth. Beat City and we’ve done it. It’s ours. Eight months of slogging it out with our Champions League pursuing counterparts and we could secure the whole caboodle in ninety minutes under the gradually dwindling light at Eastlands. You simply couldn’t write such drama. Sheer madness.
News of The Arse’s blunderings on Monday probably haven’t helped our cause much. Suddenly there’s talk of us rocketing past Wenger’s men should Fulham take their all-conquering underdogs act to the domestic scene. The truth remains that, with two wins from us and one from Hodgson, we’ll overtake Arsenal, but baby steps are what we’re after. Well placed, City crushing baby steps.
But can you imagine if… No. we mustn’t.
Gomes and King occupy our biggest doubts this evening; each of them exerting rather more than we could’ve expected against Bolton. King, who was destined to be rested for the weekend, was an absolute titan in his dealings with Davies and Co., and, as such, might not be safe to take the knee for another spin tonight. I’ve a sneaking suspicion he’ll make it, though. It’s too big to miss. Same goes for Gomes. Unless his inner leg is hanging by a strawberry bootlace, I would’ve thought the stakes were high enough for his services to be risked upon. Suffice to say, they’re ones we could ill afford to be without.
Here we go, then. One of the biggest fixtures of our recent history awaits. A potential game changer in the light of what might happen if City win. Things may never be the same again. The world is watching. Let’s please, for the greater good, put this thing to bed.
It’s in our hands.
A time for heroes.
Good afternoon, morning or, indeed, evening- depending on which part of this old globe you join us from. A mighty big week ahead. Tottenham on the verge of acquiring their most bounteous points haul since the Premiership’s inception- 2005/6’s effort of sixty-five is creeping into the radar- and what’s more, at the start of a three game sequence, which, should they hit jackpot on each occasion, will ensure Champions League football for next season. One week, three games, nine points to play for. And my nerves are shot to absolute faeces.
Bolton are up first, then. The last home game of the campaign. Not wishing to endorse the philosophy of the kamikaze pilot- but the mission here is to sign off with an ear-pummelling bang. Not an explosion of limbs and general surrounding matter, you understand, more of goals, noise and perhaps the odd flurry of ticker-tape should the score remain favourable. The Lane residents have had a lot to shout about this year- for the most part- baring witness to some of the most thrilling, sexy, pingiest attacking football seen for an age. ‘Arry promised cavalier stuff at the season’s start and that’s precisely what we’ve been given. Bolton, for all their meat and gravy style approach, should be handled no differently. Attack, no mercy, attack.
To aid our cause tomorrow there’s whisper of a long overdue start for Aaron Lennon. No. Seriously. I saw it on the telly and everything. I think it’s a testament to ‘Arry and the squad how they’ve handled this ultimately frustrating episode. The number of occasions talk of his return has surfaced, only to be squished down again like a troublesome mole, is not worth remembering. Is he fit? I heard he’s fit. Patience, on their part, and the capacity of those filling in have seen us through a potentially season wrecking saga.
But my won’t it be good to have him back.
Right. I must cut it short there. I’ve a train to catch. All above board, I assure you.
I’ll leave you with some predictions (3-0 me thinks, with Lennon to get at least one of ‘em) and a quick snap of our lot in what looks a heck of a lot like next year’s kit. Or uniform, as my humble web-brain often refers to them as. God bless him.
The finish is in sight.
Really, come on.
Have a mosey down the sports aisle of any good book shop these days and it won’t be long before you fix eyes on a whole gallery of po-faced- often barely old enough to drive-footballers staring back at you. Autobiographies, biographies, picture books; no-one, it seems, is without a story to tell and they don’t mind who’s around to listen. Whether you’re a twenty-one year old ex-Southampton striker- I was buzzin’ when I got that phone call from Wenger- or a World Cup winner, it’s likely you’ve had your mug plastered on a hardback with a ‘buy one get one free’ sticker fastened to your chin.
Not often, though, does a book come along where the content is so lively and genuinely interesting that even a single anecdote could be stretched out into a volume all of its own. All killer, not an ounce of filler. Even more remarkable, when the star of the show during the two-hundred odd pages, isn’t a player or a manager…but a fan.
One extraoridnary fan.
Superfan: The Amazing Life of Morris Keston is just such a thing…
”Starring: Bobby Moore, Jimmy Greaves, Geoff Hurst, Terry Venables, Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra and many, many more…
Superfan is a collection of wonderful anecdotes and stories from one of football’s – and England’s – great characters.
Morris Keston was once just a regular football fan, but then he started befriending the Spurs players (sometimes by following them out of the ground and sitting next to them on the bus!). By the time the 1966 World Cup came around Bobby Moore and Jimmy Greaves were popping round for tea between training sessions, and when Spurs reached numerous cup finals in the seventies and eighties the players from both teams would flock to his wild after-match party instead of the club’s official dos.
Beyond football he became friends with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Muhammad Ali. He regularly travelled to Vegas in Sinatra’s private jet and still goes into a cold sweat when recalling the time Stirling Moss gave him a lift and reversed down a narrow street at 90mph.
He had a whole chapter devoted to him in Hunter Davies’s classic sports tome The Glory Game, but now the amazing adventures of Morris Keston at last have a book of their own.’’
I really couldn’t recommend this book enough. It’s a terrific read. And, as our friend over at JimmyG2 often says: I’m not always wrong.
The co-author, Nick Hawkins, has kindly had the publishers send me an advance copy which will be up for grabs next week. As well, Nick’s given me the chance to throw a few quiestions toward Morris, which, I’m told he’ll be happy to answer.
Bloody good eggs, the pair of them.
So, our recent record at Old Trafford continues to be a grisly chapter in the club’s history. Try as we might to wriggle free of those damning statistics, it’s one hoodoo that’s determined to make itself at home. Twenty-one long years and not a sausage. Not even one of those crinkly little wieners that get squashed into the carpet at the office Christmas party; not even a scrap of the cold, greasy brown casing. Not even… well, you get the idea. Leaving empty handed, it seems, has become second nature. There’s every temptation now to block the fixture from the mental roster entirely. Tear the page out of the diary, book a holiday, get as far away as possible from a day which will do its best to disappoint.
Hardly our worst offering by a long shot. Plenty of gun-ho endeavour at times; helped in no small part by the returning Lennon, who, while never venturing into any of his high gears, looked a terrific threat. Sadly, what could’ve been a chance to juggle the midfield into a virtual plethora of pace and industry– with Bale and Lennon occupying each flank- it wasn’t ever quite realised. As Bale, for large parts of the game, was restricted to his boooring defensive duties. (Boo!) It wasn’t our usual capitulation, then, the actual content of the ninety minutes was fairly even. The tie was lost courtesy of a double-act of numbskullery in the penalty box after the break. BAE and Wilson- who between them looked ready to do something daft at the merest suggestion- both chose to ignore the voice of reason twittering in their lugholes. Don’t clatter anyone in the area, for god sakes. They did and Giggs was only too happy to put his left foot to good use; converting from the spot either side of a rather splendid individual effort from that nubbin, Nani. Same tired old story.
But fear not. Despite our latest away day bumblings in Manchester, the mood about camp appears to be one of bubbling optimism as we get in sight of the final few hurdles. It’s a feeling likely bred from the assumption that this fixture wasn’t ever going to be the one that decided it. With City stepping into an ear-splitting boo circus later in the day- nearly all of which propelled toward Adebayor’s ‘you’re asking for trouble’ haircut- there was every chance our vapour slim advantage would remain at the weekend’s conclusion. And that it did. Thanks to our earlier good work against the teams wedging United into second place, we’ve kept in front with three games remaining. And, while a triple slap of the Sky3 would’ve been remarkable, it’s hardly a task you’d want your season hinging on. Six points from nine are stats, had you been offered at the end of March, you’d happily have bitten a hand off for. Perhaps not even stopping at the hand- maybe even gnawing your way up to the shoulder, too. We’ve done awfully well. Sure enough, you might not be able to squeeze a Rizla paper between the gap we’ve fashioned, but there’s daylight there nonetheless.
It’s all terribly exciting.
What I’m saying, I guess, is that this month we’ve stumbled into a hedgerow as thorny as you’re likely to find around this little ol’ League and emerged in one piece. Our shirt may be ruffled slightly and a modicum of blood may be visible about the collar (some, not all of it ours) but we’re still looking pretty dapper. Fourth is very much in our hands. And, after a pile up of games of that ilk, I’m not sure we could’ve asked for much more.
We should be mighty proud.
Bring on the Bolton.