Gooood morning, Vietnam.
As you may’ve noticed, we don’t really do Old Trafford. Not in a fashion you’d wish to remember, anyway. We’ve been privy to a few terrific opening laps in recent years- one, two, even three-nil up- only for the wheels to ping off at the crucial moment and send us hurtling toward the embankment in a blaze of general wrongness. To make matters worse, our annual away day schoolings are usually always captured live on the telly box with the whole world pressing their nose to the window. Curiously looking in as the madness unfolds. What are they up to?
Sure enough- as many whizzing graphics will highlight on SSN in the coming hours- our record in the red half of Manchester makes for a ghastly read. In fact, of all the members of the ever-present club which operate in the top flight, we of Spurs are the only club never to have won at Old Trafford. Never. Not once. Well, we did kind of win a few moons ago, but in some bizarre turn of events, the linesman on duty that evening had mistaken the rule book for a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which, understandably, had very little on the ins and outs on goal-line rigmarole.
Terrible business, that.
The key here, then, is bedding demons (oo-er) and rising above the memories of continually ballsing it up against S’Ralex and his mob. You can probably still hear the screams of previous campaigns’ paltry surrenders, but they’ll not help us much today; mere blotches in the colourful pages of history that would do well to make themselves scarce for an hour or two. Better forgotten than dwelled upon, I say. The early signs are good. Players’ whisperings in the media this week have made it clear it’s a task that doesn’t particularly daunt them. Dawson, in typical stoutness revealed he was, in fact, relishing the prospect of taking on the Champions on their own patch. And why not? After two heavyweight knockouts on the bounce at home, there should be every reason to believe we can give their britches a damn good ruffling.
Much of the spotlight is hanging over the Bale/Neville match up. Should Ferguson decide to deploy him, there’s a real hankering among Spurs fans for the grubby little turd to cop a faceful of Welsh afterburner. Hopefully scorching that pre-pubescent moustache off in the same instance. Neville belied his years last week against Bellamy; by virtue of using brain power to outfox the putter yielding imp’s lick. As such, it’s likely he’ll be used in the same way against Bale today, rather than the oft erratic tendencies of Rafael. Or is it Donatello?
Anyway. Team news in our neck of the woods has a bit of intrigue about it. Lennon’s in the squad, *cautious applause* so too is the returning Sergeant- whose spell on the naughty step ended last weekend. Intriguing, mainly, in that there’s a spot of reshuffling to do with the Hondurans homecoming. Modric’s taken on central midfield duties in the last two outings- to wondrous effect- so there may be some reluctance to plonk him elsewhere to make way. Drop Huddlestone, then? I wouldn’t like to call it. Suffice to say, a fully re-charged Wilson is an option we would do well not ignore.
Right, a few hours until kick-off. I’ve a feeling in my waters this morning and it’s nothing to with the potency of the espresso I had with breakfast. (Seriously, it may as well been radioactive) The feeling’s a pleasant one; a boom in confidence from the previous fetes of giant toppling. I can honestly see us doing, well…well. A draw would be by no means terminal; a win would possibly cause the known universe to implode on itself.
3-2 it is then.
Before the impending pre-match raucous of our jolly up to Manchester this very weekend, I thought I’d give the back pages of the dailies a quick ruffle and see if anything of interest kindly falls out of the other end. Basically: I’m gonna find out what’s been gwarning. Ye get me?
Pick up most of the national rags this morning and you’d be forgiven for thinking we were in the midst of the slowest news day since the dawn of the printing press. At first glance, the most notable story appears to involve the travelling methods of some Madrid bound Scousers. They took a train, if you’re interest. A bloody great big train.
Elsewhere, however, the damning figures for Pompey’s gallivanting about the big leagues without a licence have finally been revealed. And the outlook is ball crushingly glum. An ice cool £120 million is the reported number in question. Double the original estimate. Whose, exactly, slipshod guesswork that was isn’t altogether clear; probably the same people whose idea it was to start paying agents with caskets of pirate treasure. Whatever the case, it’s a hefty bill.
Better start looking down the back of the sofa, I reckon.
Spurs gossip and our man from the volcanic isles has declared his love for the club. Try as he might to resist our beguiling charms, his heart has been inked blue and lilywhite and a contract is what he’s after. As quickly as the Epson printer will chug one out. One would hope- pending a green light from Monaco- the wheels for that would already be creaking into motion. He’s been splendid for us this term; so splendid, in fact, that the ‘pain’ of losing Celtic’s Player of the Year, Robbie Keane, has vanished with the completeness of an amnesia sufferer trying to remember his wedding day. Heck, don’t stop at a contract, give him the number ten shirt, too. Eidur said this:
‘It was a breath of fresh air coming here. I’m already tempted to stay if the offer is there.’
Oliver Holt from The Mirror reckons ‘Arry should be Manager of the Year. With still plenty left in the season’s tank, perhaps a little early to be handing out the accolades, but you can’t deny the sentiments. Redknapp’s done a remarkable job this campaign, whichever League position we find ourselves occupying. He’s turned us from basement hogging laughing stocks to crack Champions League hunters in eighteen turbulent months. Along the way, coaxing out the best football of Lennon and Defoe’s career, nurturing the brightest young talent in the League in Gareth Bale, and, even, resuscitating the corpse that was the careers of messrs Bentley and Pavlyuchenko. He made us fall back in love with F.A Cup again, too.
Not a bad shift, all things considered.
Manager of The Year?
Ooooh, go on then.
Bad news, everyone. After wrestling long into the night with the figures- nearly giving myself a nosebleed in the process- I’ve come to a demoralizing conclusion. Deep breath. We can’t win the title this year. I know, I know. It’s a hammer blow. But with only four games remaining, even with all the teams above us losing their remaining three, the maximum haul we can hope for is a paltry 76 points. No matter how imaginative you get with a calculator- or, as is likely, make it spell boobs- we are destined to miss out by a single, gut-wrenching point.
Okay, maybe I’m jumping the gun a little here. But isn’t it remarkable to think- with less than a handful of games left in the diary- we’re only just mathematically out of the race. I don’t know about you, but I get altitude sickness at the thought of us clinging onto fourth; lord only knows what would happen if we were to smash the bus even further into the party. Probably the same result as an astronaut taking his helmet off in space, I would’ve thought. My head would burst clean off.
Anyway, just a thought. It was in a terrifically buoyant post on here earlier that got me pondering on such things. As was suggested, when you cast your eye over the League table- and I’ve done little else this weekend- we’re really not that far off the big money. A few wins here and there- or specifically against Wolves and Stoke- who knows where we could’ve ended up. Dizzying, vertigo-inducing heights, indeed.
Moving on. Or backward, even, to the goings on at White Hart Lane on Saturday.
Another performance of the like everyone was hoping for, but few, in all honestly, could dare to expect. Chelsea had a day up on us from the mid-week rota; and I dare say exerted considerably less than we were in a frenetic North London Derby on Wednesday evening. And, as well, still carrying the extra baggage of Wembley heartbreak. You wouldn’t believe it it, though. Tottenham hurtled out of the blocks in a manner, had it been an olympic sprinter, you’d be conviced was about to be brought back for a false start. Instantly dangerous, instantly on the front foot. The Guardian said we ‘outclassed them,’ The Times that it was our ‘finest display of the season.’ I say right-on.
Chelsea just had no answers- or if they did- they were for questions posed moments previously. We were just too darn quick for them; in thought, endeavour and sheer pace of attack. Modric was a delight. Positively angelic in movement; pinging passes with more snap than a turtle’s jaw. Enough to make you go all gooey inside. Dawson, in front of Fabio Capello, was the embodiment of grit and refinement. In equal doses. Fearless, unruffled and probably winning more headers than most centre-backs do over the course of a season. No sooner had Drogba found his way out of Ledley King’s pocket last year, he went and slipped neatly into the dark recesses of Dawson’s this. And if he doesn’t go to the World Cup this summer, I’m supporting USA.
Gareth Bale’s fast becoming a good advocate for buying an HD television. I swear to god, I watched the highlights on my battered old 24” on Saturday and couldn’t make head nor tail of his whereabouts. Just a blur of white, blue and yellow, thundering along the touchline, no-one else even within shouting distance. An irresistible performance. As Bobby Robson said of Michael Owen during France ’98, we’re starting to run out of superlatives to describe this lad. How about a simple ‘thank our lucky stars he plays for us’ and leave it at that. Inter and Man City can kindly direct their interest elsewhere. I hear Downing’s available.
Right, I’m off to finish drowning my sorrows over another title bid slipping through our clumsy fingers.
Try and enjoy the rest of the-
-Oh what’s the point?
I hope someone’s packed a step-ladder in their luggage this evening; there appears to be a wealth of Tottenham fans who need scraping off the ceiling as soon as possible. They’ve been bobbing around the air vents since Wednesday; floating as lightly as the wispiest cloud. Carefree and very much at one with the world. How do I know they’re still there? Well, I’m up here with them, admiring the view, ceremoniously blazing a fat one every time another chorus of ‘F*ck Arsenal’ permeates through the ranks. I’m not sure I know how to get down, either. And I’ve got work on Monday.
Safe to say we’re all still on a bit of a high, then. A North London Derby- already assigned its own DVD- not likely to fade fast in the memory. Instant heroes, returning heroes, and those who we had a sneaking suspicion were just plain marvellous anyway. Back stinging slaps around. Hot dog.
But little time for navel gazing now; there’s further work to be done. It’s Chelsea, folks- the next date in our whistle stop tour of the Big Shooters. Wednesday may’ve been a veritable Woodstock as far as performances go, but this has every chance of turning into the Altamont Speedway, if our ‘A’ game isn’t to the table bought. And we don’t want to be dawdling on the tracks when that train comes hurtling out of the station.
Ancelotti’s lot have indeed added some yards to their stride in recent weeks. After a wobble- of which barely even caused a flutter on the seismometer- they’ve replied like a back alley slugger. Ten were smashed past Villa in less that a fortnight; in the midst of a run which saw them charge to the summit of English football and make the F.A Cup final- all with a few flicks of their sovereign coated fingers. Blip, indeed. Worse news for us is that their already formidable looking squad seems to be fixing itself at an alarming rate. Ashley Cole makes the bench tomorrow. The slag.
Can we trump that? Well, that you might ask. Word on the Napa Valley grapevine is that Aaron Lennon has set his sights on a return this weekend. Shirley not. Keen not upset the locals, though, I might keep schtum about this one. As many will testify, the last time I sounded the ‘Lennon’s Back’ siren, something got clogged in the mechanism and the siren turned quickly into an apologetic cough. Let’s all just pray we at least see something of the motor-footed wingstress come five o clock tomorrow.
Bale and Lennon?
Dear diary. We’ve not spoken in a while but I come to you with wonderful and exciting news. Arsenal- the vagrants from across town; possessor of the Wingnut, keeper of the turncoat- have been plundered. Do not waste time confirming the details; they count for nothing but the pair of digits which will be revealed in due course… Oh alright, it was 2-1. Two goals to their measly offering of one. Uno. Eins. Un. Spread the word, as quickly as you dare. I fear my nail bitten digits might not last the night.
F*cking nora. What a game. If we were looking for an antidote for Sunday’s painful misfire into the foot, then a victory against the Gooners was just the ticket. There’s hint of Red Stripe still surging through the bloodstream this morning, and keys are a little dizzy to the touch, but a successful North London Derby is enough to make even the groggiest first light a veritable shower of rainbows and sprightly steps. Hangover Shmangover. It was worth it.
A time for heroes? We’ve got ‘em by the skip load. Gomes may as well been wearing a cat-suit, such was the vivacity of his reflexes. A coiled spring, snapping like a mouse trap at the slightest hint of danger. Implausible. You could count the number of saves he made on his right hand, were he not using said hand to deflect yet another Arsenal effort skyward. Robin Van Go Home.
Danny Rose. Holy Moly. The entire build-up was fixed exclusively on the moisture build up behind his ears. He’s not played a game, Andy. Is he ready? Ready like warm Spaghetti. If it were possible to top Bentley’s thunder-crack from last semester, then Rose has done so with an almighty swing of the left bat. Retire now, son, you’re already etched into Tottenham folklore. Ruel Fox, he aint.
Too much to mention. Bale scores, Campbell’s still a fanny, Dawson’s going to the World Cup. Wenger sees everything.
Spurs beat Arsenal. I’m going for a lie down.
If the gods didn’t exactly smile down on us this weekend- barely even raising a smirk, in fact- at least they’ve afforded us little time to dawdle or dwell on two hours of football most of us would rather forget. Pompey, may still be clear in the memory- lingering around the table like Banquo’s ghost- but the small matter of a North London Derby just around the block, should be enough to deflect our attention elsewhere. And, make no mistake, we need it deflecting as far as humanly possible; preferably out of the solar system and into the nearest black hole. Never to be spoke of again.
That was a disaster. Words seem almost pointless. It’s the thousands of Spurs fans filling the stadium I feel for; sunshine and optimism at five o clock- the sense of glory at the tips of their fingers- gradually turning to desperation and heartbreak as the afternoon wore on. The collective face of supporters told you everything; it was like watching someone open a Youtube video of their dog being hit by an oncoming train. Gut-wrenching. I couldn’t even pin-point exactly what went wrong- nothing so glaringly obvious you could identify it with confidence. It just didn’t happen. We didn’t happen. Sure, the pitch was comprised of off-cuts from a greengrocer’s stall- a fiasco for a national arena- but Portsmouth appeared to be playing on the same stuff. No-one was immune to making a complete tit of themselves on it. All that was needed was some Benny Hill parp-parp music to be played over the commentary and it might’ve been quite an enjoyable experience; had it not been for the final, costly slip from Dawson which led to the goal. Again, though, we can’t blame the F.A and their incompetent groundstaff.
The two hogwash refereeing decisions were costly. One of which, the price may well yet be felt at a later date. Palacios got the ball- that was clear enough- but the choice to award a penalty wasn’t the whole story by a long shot. With a flimsy enough squad already heading into the NLD, the groans for the booking stretched much further than Wembley Way. He finally got the ban he’d been walking a tight-rope in recent weeks to avoid. Or, at the very least, postpone. So, Wiley had a shocker; Webb-esque. A wrongly disallowed goal and a ropey spot-kick in the space of ten minutes are not stats you’d wish to take home with you. But I’m not sure if we can even hurl the responsibility his way, either. I think we were beaten the minute the final whistle sounded. By then, with extra-time and penalties looming, there was a sense that Tottenham were on the verge of ballsing it up. As only we know how. The job was supposed to be done at a canter; not two hours of slugging with relegated Pompey. Goalless at full-time and you could literally see the belief draining out of players and supporters alike. What the hell is going on?
What confounded the bloody day- even more than David James’ goofy grin when Crouch’s goal was chalked off, even more than City thwacking five past Birmingham and levelling out our goal difference- was Jamie O’Hara’s appearance in the pundit’s box. What a ballbag. Funny that his most applauded quality as a player- the fact that he was ‘a proper yid’- is now the attribute he’ll never posses again. Now he’s just some turncoat midfielder we used to have, whose colours ran faster than a blue sock in a hot wash. Nice knowing you, Jim.
Right, I think I’m straying precariously into rant territory. Let’s at least finish with some fleck of a silver lining before we all just give up entirely. I turned/kicked the telly off just after Kevin Prince slapped home the decisive penatly, but I assume Gareth Bale got MotM for his efforts. That boy is a superhero- fully licensed with a cape and everything. If there was a who’s who of players I’d be devastated if they slipped through the net this summer- Modric, Lennon, Palacios, Dawson, Gomes, Defoe and a couple of others- then Bale would be edging closer and closer to the top of that list. You could call him a ‘phenomenal prospect’ but that would be misleading: he’s doing the business now, not in five years time. Arsenal have prospects. We have Bale. A vapour thin fissure of light in an otherwise miserable b*stard affair.
Roll on Wednesday.
Here we go, then. Tin helmets securely fastened, a blob of war paint smeared across the cheek and a last deep lungful of the good stuff before we charge out of the trenches and into the heart of battle. It’s the F.A Cup semi-final, dear reader. And it might just be about to get historic. Portsmouth. Wembley.
It. Is. On.
Not since 2001 have we found ourselves still lingering at the party at this late hour; when the lights are starting to come up and the bowls of Wotsits dotted around the kitchen have become noticeably chewy. 2001. Nine long seasons ago. I can’t recall who we lost to- there appears to be no record of it whatsoever- but it was back in a time when the ties were still shared between Old Trafford and Villa Park and Newcastle were a team to be feared rather than openly chuckled at. It was them, in fact, who put pay to our chances two seasons previously; one of very few flirts we’ve had with the competition in recent memory. Alan Shearer on that day- a million miles away from the MOTD sofa and shoulder lapelled shirts- scoring the winner. The clear favourites on that occasion.
Whizz forward to 2010 and it’s us who go into Sunday’s encounter as the critic’s choice for advancement. Pompey, still limping from the weight of a genuinely miserable season, have plenty of baggage. Injuries, relegation, financial obscurity. No Jamie O’Hara. There’s a feeling in some of the more cynical camps that the list may soon include ‘F.A Cup nearly men.’ The final heartbreak of a ridiculous campaign.
But things, as we’ve come to expect, are rarely that simple. The irony of Portsmouth actually beating us is enough for any sane fan to be guarded with their confidence. ITV will have an orgy in ramming these potential twists down our throats, should we be unclear of the implications of ‘Arry not making it to the final with Tottenham. But doing so with his former club. On paper, we’ve enough in the tank to obliterate them off the park. But in a game such as this- in a competition such as this- paper is a dead format. Like Betamax or Minidisc. It’s about twonking them for real. On the Wembley turf. A chance for glory.
Selection wise, both teams are in relative tatters. It’s been a long old road. For us the usual suspects adorn the missing persons record- Lennon, Jenas and the like- as well as one or two in the maybe pile. King, Huddlestone, Dawson and Corluka all doubts for the trip across town. The only reassuring thing to be garnered from this is that we’ve overcome sterner obstacles than Portsmouth with much less. No worries on that front, then. It’s never been about who isn’t playing.
Right. Let’s be having you. Predictions and all flavours of pre-match hustle, if you’d be so kind.
Neutrals and old romantics will probably want to see an upset here; a fairytale conclusion for the browbeaten princess who’s spent the whole time in the basement mopping flagstones and squirting polyfilla into mouse holes. F.A Cup magic? Not on my watch. I want to see her kept down there. Wallowing, grubby with little chance of a happy ending.
In short: let’s end them.
*another deep breath*
A hearty bonsoir to one and all. Humble apologies for the lack of words pinging their way to your screens in recent days; I’ve been away from the machine, you see, and however much I wished otherwise, this paving slab of a phone has more chance of sprouting legs and delivering it by hand than it does sling-hooking a post into the internet super highway. It can barely do Snake without chugging like an outboard motor. But hey-ho. Mustn’t grumble.
I’m sure you won’t mind if I tip-toe round the corpse of last weekend’s miserable outing up North. No, don’t try and remember it. Sigh. I told you. Not only have we bared witnessed to every conceivable reaction to the thing- sad, indifferent, mace-swinging, Harry-outing wrath- I’d prefer not relive what will surely go down as the worst call of the season, insomuch as I ever doubted the, verging on super, powers of that man Darren Bent. It took some thirty seconds to blow my predictions out of the water. And he did so like a bloomin’ sea mine.
Like all good tragedies, though, (oxymoron?) it’s all about how we move on.
And move on we shall. We’ve got an F.A Cup semi-final on the horizon.
Until then, let’s have a peek at what’s been happening in your world. News of Gareth Bale and some Old Lady has been bandying about the daily pages this week. I can only assume it’s got something to do with the Welsh wingstress visiting his Nan over Easter. Probably helping her whip up some juicy flapjacks or something equally twee. Juventus, you say? Apparently so. After the alleged interest of Roma and Milan (via Birmingham) surfacing in the warmer months of last year, it would appear Zaccheroni is the latest in a long cue of Bale aficionados fluttering their eyelids in the boy’s direction. On the last estimate, such a cue stretched from the gates of White Hart Lane to an abandoned oil rig in the Irish Sea.
Are we to believe such a story? Lord knows. He’s certainly been in scintillating form of late; form which could only have alerted the heavy-weights of Europe, eager to coax a healthy slice of fast-blooming talent under their wing. In all honesty, though, I don’t see Harry playing ball. It must be a gratifying- as well as exciting- experience for a manager; watching a player develop in front of their eyes like that. And at such a rate, too. Whether he’d risk binning all that promise, not to mention enduring the inevitable backlash from the fans, I’m not so sure.
I’d swap him for Messi, though. Any takers?
That’s it for me. I shall leave you with a quote I read in The Guardian today. It made me chuckle immensely. Take it away, Alex:
“Ribery’s a very talented player, a great dribbler, but I don’t think he’s any quicker than Gary Neville.”
** The winner of the ‘Spurs’ Cult Heroes‘ book is one David J. Fullman who gave the correct answer of £99,999 as the fee Tottenham paid for Jimmy Greaves. The nifty prize will be on its way once I’ve removed the ketchup stains from the sleeve and popped it in a suitable envelope. Well done, David!**
So Alan Hutton’s been going all gooey over Darren Bent, then. Apparently he’d quite like to see the oft fumbly forward give us the run around on Saturday afternoon; presumably while he sits in the stands waving his quilted handkerchief at him like an extra from Lark Rise to Candleford. ‘I can’t believe they sold him,’ he said, while wiping the drool from his lower lip. What a twot. Funny how he never mentioned this while he was still at Spurs. Not on many occasions did I see wee Alan sporting a ‘Team Bent’ shirt when the going got tough for our erstwhile hitman. Not a peep, in fact. Now, suddenly, those two have snuggled up and we’re supposed to be ruing the day we lost either of them.
Sour grapes? Sour like a urinal cake.
But let’s not get distracted. We’ve got work to do. Sunderland, so we’re told, are on the up. After a slide which looked ready to anchor them into some serious trouble, they’ve found a bit of form. Goals have been their problem- not particularly that they don’t score enough; just no-one apart from Sharon Bent seems familiar with the concept. Take him out the team and they look decidedly impotent (oo-er). Even Kenny Jones has confirmed what many of us praying he didn’t turn up at WHL in the summer were of the opinion; he’s not all that good. Not twenty million pounds good, at any rate.
From our side of things, news is a mixed bag. Defoe is allegedly raring to go after a spell on our congested injury list; a veritable who’s who of ailments and mishaps. Whether he’ll skip the bench and head straight for the turf come three-o-clock is uncertain- BBC Sport seemed convinced he will- but even as an impact sub he should have plenty to say about the final result. Less promising is the nonattendance of Dawson and Palacios; the former being a sure-fire absentee. That breeze you can feel is a gaping hole in the heart of our ranks. It’s fairly sizeable and not easily filled. The hope is, of course, that Sunderland don’t notice and instead are overwhelmed by our dazzling passing football and nifty haircuts.
I predict Darren Bent won’t be putting the score on Twitter come Saturday evening.
Dont forget there’s still time to win a copy of the ‘Spurs’ Cult Heroes’ book penned by Michael Lacquiere. Click for details.
I’ve never given anything away on this thing before- apart from juicy, nutritious shards of wisdom, that is. Why are you smirking? Fine. I’ve never given anything away on here before. It’s not that I’m stingy, I’m just rarely in possession of a prize worth coveting. I’ve tried looking in the shed but to be honest I’m not sure how much interest there’d be in a soggy box of nails and an old bike wheel. But hold the phone. What’s this?
I don’t believe it. Well start.
I know there’re a couple of these darting around the blogospheres at the moment; this generosity lark is spreading like wildfire. Don’t be confused by the fact they’re been given away, though: it’s a bloody good read. You’ll devour it, trust me. A prize which I’m sure is being posted off with some reluctance by those willing to do so. Did I mention there’re pictures, too?
But enough talk. How do I win one?
It couldn’t be easier. Just send the correct answer to the following question to: firstname.lastname@example.org
What was the transfer fee paid by Spurs to sign Jimmy Greaves?
Next week: ‘Win three-metres of hose pipe.’