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.’
Not quite the goal plundering masterpiece we’d set our hopes on- more like a few tawdry brushstrokes in the general direction of the canvas with aims to get the job done as swiftly and as casualty-free as possible. Yes, at times it was lacklustre; at others it was downright dreary. What’s crucial, however, is unlike the cowboys who did my mum’s porch last summer: we got the job done. And, at this buttock tightening stage of the season, we should count ourselves blessed that we managed that.
The fireworks can wait; points are what we’re after. And plenty of them.
Five League wins on the bounce, if you’d believe it. Portsmouth had a good go, but ultimately the gravity of their plight seemed to suck the life out of them and those associated. It’s all consuming. So much so that the travelling fans couldn’t even summon the energy to boo Harry Redknapp; where exactly they’d find grounds to jeer now, I’m not quite sure. Tax evasion? Pffft. Look who’s talking. Granted, they might still be raw about him leaving Fratton Park, but any mention of it this late in the day might just sound like pleas of a clingy ex-girlfriend. One who spends their time trying to figure out your password on Facebook or making effigies of you from toenails clippings and cat hair. You know the sort.
To give them credit, Grant’s men didn’t start like a team whose soul had been clawed out of them. Despite twanging a wayward ball into touch from the kick-off- to a chorus of groans and cheers- they opened with some purpose. Plenty of huffing and puffing, as well as some gun-ho stuff in the final third. Without suggesting they- at any point- had our number, they did at least have us creaking at the back. If only momentarily. Prior to Crouch nodding in the opener on thirty minutes, the game’s best chance fell at the feet of a man whose last successful escapades in front goal was half a decade ago. For Tottenham Hotspur, no less. Giddy with the sense of occasion, Michael Brown fluffed his lines with unerring proficiency. His reaction to the chance appeared to be performed by someone playing underwater. Such was his speed of movement, or lack thereof. If that wasn’t a sound byte for their campaign- then the body-count which piled up in the remainder of the game certainly was. (Actually, what might best sum up Pompey’s season is the image of a helicopter filled to the roof with bank notes, jettisoning into the sea in a ball of flames). Hreidarsson’s looked particularly nasty- apparently those in the vicinity could hear his Achilles go. It sounded like a gun-shot. Eesh.
At this point, though, the task was already a good’en. Kranjcar’s eighth of the season made damn sure of that; responding like a wasp as the ball pinballed its way into the six yard box. Bargain of any season, that one.
Kyle Walker looks like a good sort. There maybe still be a spot of dampness behind the ears, but he showed plenty of courage while bombarding into the opposition half; during our best spells, Walker could be found lurking somewhere with intent. Defensively suspect? Perhaps, but which full-back of that breed isn’t. Even Roberto Carlos had trouble remembering the finer points of his job description when the blood was rushing. He was too busy trying to score from the corner flag.
This particular mission complete, then. Spurs go trundling on, bulging with self-assurance going into the final string of games. Even the April death march doesn’t resonate with the same note of terror it may’ve done at the season’s start. And so it shouldn’t. The squad’s rebuilding- Defoe announced yesterday he’d be fit for the weekend- and those who’re filling in are doing mighty good turns. It’s all coming together nicely. And at just the right time.
Seven games to go.
Apparently ‘Arry’s ticker might not last the distance. To be honest, boss, I’m not convinced any of ours will, either. I’m still recovering from the festivities of midweek. The garden still looks like a minefield; the mines in this case being much smaller and looking remarkably like squat Heineken cans. It’s all a bit of a blur, really. All I can safely assume is: it was a performance worth toasting. Jen-yoo-wine Cup magic of the like we haven’t seen since…well, I don’t know when.
A great deal of credit must go to Redknapp; more than willing to juggle tactical hand-grenades when things weren’t going to plan, a trait that many of his critics would earmark as his most notable blind spot. No sign of it on Wednesday night, though, as he was positively rabid with his tinkering. Some brave decisions, too. A three-wired attack with Palacios filling in at right-back had a certain smell of lunacy about it- but it was exactly the kind of shift in dynamism that we and our hopes of advancement needed. Suffice as to say, Bentley and Pavlyuchenko changed the game.
Super Awesome Captain Dawson. If there was ever any doubt; the F.A Cup is one he fancies. You can hear the fire burning in his belly- it rumbles every time leaps skyward to win yet another header or throw himself in front of oncoming projectiles. That armband may as well be a tattoo now. You try and take it off him.
Spurs are on their way to Wembley. And we found ourselves some heroes. Rejoice.
But more of that later. For now, there’s other business at hand. Time to reel ourselves in from the edge of the stratosphere, and back into the brawl that is Champions League qualification. So what’s on the menu? Portsmouth as it goes. The team who could potentially reduce our season to rubble and mortar should they find form at just the wrong time. Saturday, as with the majority of the games remaining, is a must win. You should be used to that phrase by now- and we’re not about to stop saying it anytime soon. It really is crucial. Really.
Elation was increased ten-fold in midweek as results in the League went spookily in our favour. Villa drew while Man City found Everton to be particularly (apologies in advance) sticky customers. Mancini was so distressed he even took his scarf off; presumably with intentions of strangling David Moyes with it. Sidetracking entirely, I do like Everton’s away kit. It shouldn’t work- but somehow it does. Hmm.
Aaanyway. We all know we’ve got plenty in the locker to beat Pompey. If they’ve got bills piling up at home, then we, if asked, have the skills to pay them. Tight as a screw at the back and keeping the ball for longer periods than they do should be enough to see us through. Elbows to the side please, folks. I’m not sure I can bare another blood bath as we saw at Fratton Park on Wednesday. We’re not Chelsea.
Other than that, smash ‘em to pieces.
3-0 Spurs (Bale, Thudd, Bentley)
Deep breath; grab a lungful. We’re off again- an F.A Cup quarter-final replay with Fulham. The road to Wembley may not be entirely without its perils, but we’re being dragged along by the whiff of trophy polish, blood and glory. It’s intoxicating. It swims round our eyes and mouth and makes us giddy at the very idea. Like someone leaving a pie in an open window, while the scent of it hooks us by the nostrils and pulls us off our feet. Y’know, like in them cartoons. The promise of a May final, then, has become an irresistible thought.
But much to do first.
Little old Fulham, eh? Not likely. We’re small fry compared to some of the giants they’ve toppled this season; Man United, Juventus and the like. The ransacking of Juventus was- for want of a better word- mental. If nothing else, it may have single-handedly given the Europa Cup back its mojo. If it ever possessed it in the first place. Say what you want about the much maligned competition- for all its convoluted fixtures and daft teams- but who of you wouldn’t have sold their mother-in-law for a night like that at the Lane? No? Well, stop telling fibs and re-open your e-bay account. Craven Cottage may as well have been the Nou Camp, for all the atmosphere that was steaming into the West London sky that evening.
The hope is that they’ve burned themselves out. Peaked at just the wrong time. Watching their tie with Man City at the weekend- while I didn’t see the whole game- would have you believe just that. Clumsy mistakes, several defensive aneurisms. The kind of stuff you might not expect from a Hodgson side. Not one to write off an entire career, but that Chris Smalling is having a bit of trouble living up to his hefty transfer fee. It’s like he’s got an enormous, children-in-need-style cheque sellotaped to his head, and even the slightest gust of wind is causing him to stumble awkwardly. Having said that, he’ll probably play like Baresi tonight.
Right. I shan’t bore you with injury details or guessing formations. All I will say- with us much conviction as I can muster from here in internetland- whoever does take to the field tonight better play like they want it half as much as we all do. Fulham need rolling over without fuss. Preferably all in the space of forty-five minutes. Asking too much? I expect so, but I’m in a demanding mood.
A semi-final place is at stake.
Let’s hear you.
It seems we’ve got ourselves a squad. A colony, even. It’s been spread pretty thin over the past thirty games- numbers have been falling since day one- but the cogs have kept chugging and stand-ins found at almost every turn. The colony remains: sturdy, functional and hoovering up points like a god damn Dyson Powerball. We lost Modric in September but found Kranjcar; Lennon’s groin twanged over Christmas so Bentley pulled his socks up and charged headlong into our good books; BAE went to Africa, so Bale, without too much fuss, turned into Franck Ribery. We lost Bob Keane to the North but Pavlyuchenko made us forget all about him. And now, with Gudjohnsen, even the understudies have understudies. And they’re just as marvellous. The system works. The squad is pulling its weight.
More gritty away points for Tottenham this weekend. As gritty as they come, in fact. We’ve done what all our fourth place rivals have failed to do thus far and take a maximum haul from the Britannia. All this without Defoe, Lennon, Pavly….well, you get the idea. We were fairly short to say the least. As such, the initial signs were ominous. Plenty of brows furrowed when Redknapp divulged a team sheet missing Palacios’ name; even more so when the replacement was revealed to be Younes Kaboul. We’d been informed that the young Frenchman was a virtual renaissance man these days- a master of all positions- but up until Saturday, the only glimpse we’d seen of him away from his usual spot was a cameo at right-back, under the grim lights of the Molinuex. Which, as we know, didn’t go terribly well. But what could we expect from him as a combative midfielder? Truth be told, he did rather well. Nothing extravagant or anything likely to get you off your seat; but disciplined and solid enough all the same. Everything, in fact, you’d expect of the man he replaced.
Which is encouraging.
The most luminous stars, though, were the two whose names were burnt onto the score-sheet. Gudjohnsen and Kranjcar. The Icelander, slinking off the bench to replace Pav, was terrific. Oodles of clever running and link-up work from deep; as well as a thunderous effort just after the break, which looked straight out of the year 1999. His dummy for the second was the cat’s pyjamas. As was Krank’s winning thud at the end of it.
For now, then, the wheels are still firmly on their axle; fourth spot is very much in our hands. The question remains whether we have what it takes to tighten our grip on it, or let slip through our clumsy fingers.
F.A Cup quarter final tomorrow. Sandro’s on his way.
I’m not sure my nerves can take it.
Maul Britannia. I was at the reverse fixture of this. I remarked at the time that the most memorable thing about the encounter was the bloke relieving himself in the sink of the South Stand toilets at full-time. Cocking his leg like a spaniel, he hardly seemed to notice the stockpile of people cramming in behind him, cueing for the usual facilities. It was a traumatic day; I was in no mood to question his methods.
Footballing wise, the game took a similar route toward the gutter. Plenty of first half dominance, without- as was the trend back then- a goal for our efforts. Crouch missed a couple, Krank pinged one off the post and Bassong- who I had down as the first scorer at a cheeky 25-1- shinned one wide. As tension bottle-necked inside the ground, it was with travelling fans that it finally spewed over. A late Whelan winner and the first of several unlikely blunders against lower league chancers. I missed a wedding for that game. At the very least, those bastards owe me some stale finger food or a troop of drunk, giggly bridesmaids.
Three points would be fine, too.
And what of Stoke? As SSG said on here yesterday, we’re at the stage now where a few cunning slights of hand wouldn’t go a miss against this brand of opposition. Times are hard. Whether actual shin kicking is in the spirit of things, I’m not yet convinced, but something at least to keep Rory Delap out of the headlines. Unsettle him with mind games, stick Crouch in front of him, whatever. Just keep his, frankly, weird talents under wraps. If they score as result of him at the weekend, I’ll unplug this computer and hurl out the window.
They’re not a one man team, of course. On their own patch they’re veritably militant. Well-drilled, disciplined and more than capable of stringing a few passes together if the mood takes them. Having said that, I’m not sure we should let this prescribe our approach. They’re a physical team, no doubt, but to go toe-to-toe with them on that front, would be playing into their gruff northern hands. How much they’d allow us to do so, I’m not sure- but our best bet is probably the quick, punchy, one-touch stuff that has worked for most of the campaign. Engage in any gritty, trench warfare tactics, and we might find our boots get stuck in the mire. Persist with what we know, I reckon. Dazzle them before dispensing with a timely sucker punch. Right in the chops.
The first of nine crucial League games, then. We all know what’s required. Maximum points in whatever shape or form they may fall to us.
I’m sensing an unbearably tense 1-0 win. Bale, perhaps, to thwack home a free-kick in the second half and thus be crowned King of the Universe.
A slower week I can’t remember. We’re only half-way through and already I’m tempted to draw a line under it until Saturday afternoon. I think it’s the time of year. The closer we edge to the season’s finale, the quicker I want the ending revealed. Like the curious folk who thumb to the last page of a book, secretly hoping the author may’ve answered everything in one neat, all-embracing sentence. Or just slipped the DVD in the sleeve. You know, whichever’s quicker.
Either way, I think it’s important to be patient. Never wish time away; that’s what I’ve always been told. Stoke might seem like relative eons away at this point, but we’ll get there sure enough.
So what has been happening? Well, amongst all the tumbleweed, quite a bit actually. Away from White Hart Lane, the two clubs carrying the weight of the division, Portsmouth and Hull, have been dealt some gut-wrenching cards. Some more expected than others. No miracles on the South Coast as the F.A yank the tablecloth from under Pompey with dead-eyed accuracy. The expected nine-point penalty has been dished out, leaving them with little to look at but the last few tiny bubbles shooting toward the surface as they go down. They. Are. Oudda here. Elsewhere, the residents of Humberside are looking at a new face today, that of Iain Dowie; an experience I can only compare with unwrapping a box on Christmas morning only to find your long-since dead pet hamster nestled in the bottom. He replaces Phil Brown at the KC. Nice bloke, decent manager, but hardly the stuff dreams are made of. They probably deserve each other.
At our end, the illusive Sandro, at last, appears to be on his way. I was having serious doubts as to whether the young Brazilian actually existed, or just a figment of the media’s imagination; picking up tip-offs from Football Manager or the back pages of The Beano. I needn’t have worried as a fee looks to have been agreed between Internacional and ourselves- £6.5 million if you trust your sources- and the summer months will see his arrival.
Meanwhile, the immovable force that is Tom Huddlestone has been given a new contract. Just reward for an extraordinary about-turn in fortunes. This time last year, the only question left unanswered was how much we could convince Aston Villa to part with in ex-change for- what many people believed- a useless lump. Now we’ve got him until 2015 and no-one could argue this to be a bad move. Well done, that man.
That’s it from me.
Roll on Saturday, eh?
By thunder. I think we’re onto something here. Three wins on the bounce and suddenly we find ourselves making waves in the form book at just the right time. Whispers of an April death march can be put on hold for the moment; right now it’s Tottenham holding onto the elite’s coat-tails for all they’re worth, and- despite a few face reddening wobbles along the way- don’t look to be leaving the party anytime soon. Until next weekend, at the very least. We’ve hit another purple patch, dear reader, and we couldn’t have scheduled it better.
But what of Blackburn? Well, Sam’s rabble certainly didn’t make it straight forward- nor did the comedy stylings of Howard Webb- but in the end, the gritty Lancastrians found it difficult to keep up. Some, one would concede, more than others. Did anyone see Michel Salgado in the Spanish Football studio last night? He didn’t move much, did he? I know it’s not really essential for pundits to do their job quivering with wild abandon- ask Mark Lawrenson- but he looked like a man who needed a good lie down. Gareth Bale’s dazzling showcase on Saturday probably pushed the man’s retirement forward a good couple of weeks. I would’ve suggested taking a swing at him- but he never once got close.
What an exciting prospect that boy is.
Super Roman Pavlyuchenko. Some would have you believe his recent upturn in fortunes is at the cost of getting him a good spot in the summer shop window. He’s playing for a move, and, more than willing to cash-in as best he can on the want-away striker, Harry’s letting him do so. The goals have merely come as a pleasant windfall in an otherwise dastardly scheme to get shot of him. Here’s hoping there’s no truth in such talk. Who knows what Redknapp’s got planned for the Russian in the warmer months; maybe he’s not sure himself. All I can say is: when you see him twonking them goalward week in week out- clearly off his happy tits at the thought of doing so- you can’t imagine why he’d want him gone. I think it’s time our head honcho made his intentions clear. It would be a crime to let the man wander off into the sunset at the first hint of an offer.
A strange thought, but both Bale and Pavlyuchenko could be playing for Birmingham right now, had we allowed our first impressions to get the better of us. Doesn’t bare thinking about.
Anyway, on we go. Nine games left and we’re firmly in the mix-up, as we have been all season. Recent stumbles from all those around us have ignited yet more hope; here’s wishing Portsmouth do us another favour tonight and complete an unlikely double over Liverpool.
Thrilling times we live in.
We’re opening the show this weekend. No time for nerves or last minute dress-rehearsals; we’ve drawn the lunchtime shift. Blackburn Rovers. All told, a bleak proposition for such an hour. But at least we can take solace in the news that the fixture isn’t reliant on a grim expedition up north- as was the case in December- where the chances of losing a body in the snow are worryingly high. We’re at home. And the comforts of such should give us plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
Sam Allardyce has been in mischievous mood this week. Playground stuff, really. After some not altogether subtle comments about his outfit’s caustic methods, Papa Benitez has felt Big Sam’s icy hand of rejection. ‘I just don’t like him,’ he told us, while administering a head-lock to one of the boys in upper sixth. Benitez is said to be devastated.
Blackburn are a volatile bunch. Allardyce has fashioned them into a mould of his own image. Not always pretty to look at- rarely, in fact- but effective all the same. A Bolton 2.0. As such, they’ve had a relatively productive season; by no means lighting up the sky with fireworks, more holding a torch into the clouds and waving it around a bit. A stalemate with Liverpool and beating the likes of Fulham and Villa are not feats to be taken lightly. Suffice to say, we’ve come unstuck against flimsier opposition this season. At home, too.
Beware the Ides of March, then.
The body count in the medic’s tent is still a concern for us. Woodgate’s been ruled out for the season while he undergoes yet more treatment for his irksome groin; Lennon and his understudy, Bentley, are still MIA and King, Jenas and Huddlestone all look set to miss out. Put those in order of importance at your own leisure.
But Kaboul is available.
So we should be just fine.
2-0 for me. Pav and, let’s say, Dawson.
Place your bets, folks.
So Real Madrid give truth to that old saying about money and happiness. Anyone who thought otherwise need only to take a quick peek at the thousands of Los Blancos fans dry heaving into their paella last night as yet another quarter-final place eluded them. They certainly didn’t look very happy. In fact, they all looked pretty angry if truth be told. A number of them were thumbing cross-bows. 250 million euros later and suddenly you ask yourself why the hell they didn’t just buy Darren Bent. Heads will roll, I’m sure.
Elsewhere, ITV caused much dry-heaving of their own. Mainly thanks to the constant hand-jobbing of David Beckham throughout the course of the evening. I mean, really. Yes, we know, he used to play for United and now he’s back. Playing against them. Miraculous. But did we really need a three-course bumming from Drury and the team- cooing every time he so much as touched the ball or looked forlornly into the stands. I literally think he could’ve pulled a wrench from his sock and shanked someone, and still have Andy Townsend drooling over his jabbing technique. What a pallava.
Just realised that all sounded a bit euphemistic. Drooling over his jabbing technique? Christ.
Anyway, ITV, enough with the eulogising. He’s not dying.
Moving on. Wilson Palacios has been making his intentions clear this week; apparently he sees Tottenham as a mere stepping-stone in his grand scheme for world domination. Next stop? Well, Real Madrid, naturally. From the horse’s mouth, via The Sun:
“I am really happy at Tottenham but I will continue working for a future move to a bigger club. I would like to play for Real Madrid.
“Today, many people respect me in England. That’s because of my hard-working attitude.”
Don’t go Wilson. They’ll never appreciate you. Plus we know how to get to a quarter-final when we put our minds to it. Plenty of stumbles and replays along the way, but get there we undoubtedly do. Am I right? Yeah? Who’s with me?
Oh forget it.
Have a splendid day.