So, dearest reader, here we are. The end of another season and for the second year on the spin May 19th goes down as a miserable day in the diary for those connected with Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. In any other context, in any other footballing universe, apart- rather inconveniently- from the one we find ourselves a part of, this would be a time for triumphant celebration; having just recorded our best ever points total in the Premier League and highest number of wins. Instead we look back on an otherwise tremendous campaign with a modicum of regret that we couldn’t squeeze out another bloody point from somewhere, somehow. Everton away, Fulham at home, QPR away. Don’t even torture yourself.
In the end I was quite thankful the final day wasn’t cast in some dreadful Spurs-brand melodrama or that we weren’t socked by some heartbreaking thump of irony. Apart from the phantom goal at St James’ (seen only by Alan Sugar) things ran as you might have expected. Andre Marriner’s exotic interpretation of the rules of football was infuriating but not ultimately to our cost (although you could suggest it would’ve ratcheted up the pressure on Arsenal had they’d known we were winning). There was no ex-Spurs keeper throwing the ball into an empty net (Ben Alnwick’s brother stayed on the bench) and no Tottenham players bent double in the penalty area trying to hold in the contents of their bowels. We did everything that was asked of us: it’s just the team above did likewise and we came up short by the slenderest of margins.
I’m largely delighted with Andre Villas-Boas’ work as a coach. The injuries and summer departures have been well covered, but it shouldn’t be underestimated what the Immense Dimensioned One achieved in his first year at the club without seven- eight, you could argue- of the players who were so vital for Spurs last season. In one guise or another Kaboul, King, BAE, Parker, Sandro, Modric, Van der Vaart have either left or been sidelined for considerable stretches of the year. You could probably throw Adebayor into the group too, who, up until about a month ago, was either injured, in a different continent or just being straight-up appalling at football. And, while new players have been recruited and in some cases been improvements- Lloris, Vertonghen- that’s still a sizeable turnaround of clientele and not a lot of time to make it work. But work he has made it.
The summer we’ll be treated to another exhausting transfer odyssey, pertaining to the multi-award-winning Gareth Bale. Rumours of a new contract won’t do much to p*ss on the fires of speculation but in my loins, I’ve a feeling he’ll stay on for another year at least. While we might not be able to offer the platform of Champions League football to exhibit his astonishing talents, he does seem to enjoy himself at Tottenham and in Villas-Boas he has a coach who’ll get the very best out of him. If Wing Commander Levy can club together all his Nectar points in the warmer months and buy a word-beater or two, then the decision might be made even easier. Hey, things are looking up already. COYS.
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Welcome back, web-slingers. I hope the trauma of Please Don’t Get Broken week hasn’t withered your spirits too much. In the name of fun it might be handy for Tottenham if Swansea took the same casual, post-cup-winning attitude to the rest of the season as King, Jenas & Co. did back in 2008. That is: this football lark is all very well, chief, but it does rather get in the way of me tanking cava in an up-market discothèque while speculating whether flip-flips or sandals might be the way to go this summer. Not so much foot off the gas as parked up on the hard-shoulder and whipping out the egg sandwiches.
Indeed, Birmingham City took the whoopla a step further in 2011 and got themselves relegated- which is a bit over the top if you ask me.
Whether they’ve mentally signed off for the day or not- two losses out of three since Wembley- the Welsh have been magnificent this campaign. An imminently likeable bunch whose sharp-as-a-tack passing game has gained them many an admirer and steamrollered many an opponent. Heck, this blogger- perhaps hypnotized by the exotic Eurosexy charisma of Michael Laudrup- went as far as to suggest they could be regarded as Champions League contenders: before they inconveniently got pulverized by Liverpool and there the harebrained theory was taken out back and shot.
Good old fashioned winning is the name of the game for Tottenham and Andre Villas-Boas this weekend. Chelsea and Arsenal are treated to a decent but beatable Southampton and a flat-lining Nigel Adkins’ side respectively- so anything but maximum points could see us slip into 5th before the day is through. The trick to beating this lot- something we’ve managed twice in three games since their promotion- is squeezing the blighters like John Goodman squeezes frogs. Allowing the Mighty Swans time on the ball is an explicit negatron and, as such, the line-up should reflect a willingness to close down and hassle the home side’s ball-hogging stars. Plenty of energy and legs, then. Lewis Holtby, a fresh Scott Parker, Sigurdsson perhaps even Tom Carroll should be chewed over and considered for selection. Here’s how I’d line the chaps up. But what say you?
Cook a cat! It’s the final group stage matches of the Europa League proper. Spurs, god bless ‘em, are unbeaten so far and go into this eve’s game against Panathinaikos with a two point buffer betwixt themselves, 1st and 3rd. Which, when all the highly complex algorithms are processed, checked and checked again, means a draw will be enough for delightful progress into the knock-outs. And if we can’t manage at least a point against this rabble of Hellenistic Herberts, then perhaps this is the station we ought to get off at anyway.
We’ve fielded a pretty competitive line-up in each of the group games up until now, so the expectancy is that Villas-Boas isn’t about to change tact at the crucial moment this evening. From the start, at least, the team’s going to look reasonably fierce. Tom Carroll will likely start and what an ideal occasion for him to rock the Kasbah with an assertive midfield performance. European tie, pulling the strings in the centre, under the lights. This could be the making of the young man.
Meanwhile I’d fancy Adebayor to play on his lonesome up front. Injuries, suspension and the remarkable- admit it, surprising- form of J-Dizzly aside, it’s maybe time the smiling Togolese hitman stopped fannying about and got on with the business of doing professional kickball. When all’s said and done, you’d have to concede, it’s what he does best.
Anyway, here’s how I’d line the chaps up. But what says you?
A seven-goal North London derby it was, then. Regrettably five of those goals went to our fiendish neighbours and just two…well, I’m sure you can do the numbers. There’s much to be learned in defeat, of course, if you’re an open-minded sort: first, this kind of nonsense would’ve never happened under Harold James Redknapp’s stewardship and second, writing in a notebook is the hallmarks of a man with the last thread of sanity sprouting from his ear.
Making notes, according to The Mail, is an act of bibbling lunacy. Terry Connor makes notes. Certainly not a credible manager wishing to be taken seriously. You wouldn’t catch Mourinho making notes. Or even a good British manager like David Moyes.
Away from all the tabloid stink-palming of Villas-Boas, the game was a grim but perhaps avoidable catastrophe. That’s not to say Spurs wouldn’t have buckled under the weight of an Arsenal comeback had Adebayor not gone all Chopper O’ Braindead on Cazorla- we were pegged back by City the week before- but at least we’d have had a firmer base on which to defend our lead or even send out more invites to the goal party. They looked fairly whiffy at the back, it has to be said.
Villas-Boas’ second-half tactics were brave in that he didn’t just put blind faith in trying to contain Arsenal and keep the score from spiralling out of control and into I’m-not-going –outside-for-a-month territory. Switching to three-at-the-back was a courageous move in light of the home side already having put our defence under considerable pressure in the half’s final throes. The temptation to limit the damage must’ve been great so we must doff our caps for that. Clint Dempsey probably had his best game for us, too, so the only way is up.
And up we must go. The reality now is that we’ve lost four out of the last five in the League and we need to show some of this much fangled character to turn the tide. Mitigating circumstances aside- injuries, red cards, Presidential elections- Spurs and Villas-Boas have some work to do. Starting in Rome. Which, I hear, wasn’t built in a day.
We’ve got your back, Andre.
Morning, campers. The news we’ve no choice but to file under Definitely Not Helpful is that of Moussa Dembele’s impending and continued absence. Now, we’ve only seen Germinal Beerschot’s finest export on a handful of occasions this season; it’s perhaps a rather worrying indictment of our situation that for every game that passes in which he’s not on the team-sheet, I want to stand fully-clothed under a shower and weep. Spurs were given a gift at the end of August, and far too soon after unwrapping and seeing what cool stuff it could do, it’s been taken from us. Oh ye footballing gods. Deliver us from Tom Huddlestone and I’ll be sure to sacrifice as many goats as ye see fit.
Arsenal aren’t without their own problems. After the miracle of Steve Bould Defensive Guru™ turning out to be just some rather unpleasant gastric wind, the Gooners look as ropey and indecisive as ever. Worse than us at times. Like Spurs they’ve had injuries to key men (For BAE and Kaboul read Sagna and Szczesny) and like us they’re perhaps having teething problems with the exuberance of youth (for Walker and Caulker read Jenkinson). Where they might not have expected the backline frailty to stem, however, is at the calamitous feet of one Thomas Vermaelen, who’s been terrible for some time now.
It’s not all bad for Mr. Wenger. In Santi Cazorla he’s got quite literally a super footballer, and thanks to the catastrophic money-haemorrhaging of his former employers, came at a nice, Eurozone-friendly price. He’s going to look dashing in a Man City shirt I’m quite sure.
Moving away from the NLD for a minute. Ever one for the well-timed bellyache, Didier Deschamps has been stamping his feet this week, like the petulant man-child he is. I’ll not bother with the quotes; they read much like the ones he made last time…and the time before that. Hugo Lloris isn’t getting the minutes and there’re plenty who think he should be- myself included- but sacre-bleuing yourself silly every time the boy’s benched isn’t helping. If anything it’s making a delicate situation worse. In short, Monsieur Water-Carrier, you need to make quiet your noise-hole and get H2Over it.
Now, the trifling matter of besting those rotten neighbours. A great deal, you’d imagine, will rest on the burly shoulders of Emmanuel Adebayor, who ought to start after last weekend’s all-action masterclass in lone-strikerism- and AVB has suggested as much. For an hour against City, he held the ball up well, ran the channels and bought others into play to good effect; three boxes the modern solo frontman is obliged to tick these days. Scoring goals: nice also. Trolling Zabaleta: all part of the service.
With significant absentees, there’s no denying that our midfield has a bit of the Diet Cokes about it, rather than the robust, full-fat version a Parker or Dembele might elevate us toward for a tricky away game such as this. Being on the lighter side of lightweight, then, Sandro is utterly vital. Key also, will be the chaps jogging alongside him in matching shirts. The Brazilian will pull up trees until team-time but he sure as heck can’t do it without friends. Whether it’s Huddlestone, Carroll or Sigurdsson in there: they’ve got to share the burden of putting Arsenal’s midfield through the meat grinder evenly.
There Will Be Goals.
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Ding dong the witch is dead. Wake up – sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed. International football is off our tellies now for at least another month* and I’m not sure you’ll find many complaining about the wait. As James Richardson said on Football Weekly last week, it’s like paying to watch a film at the cinema only for it to be segued halfway through with a documentary short. You wouldn’t mind seeing the short at a later date- say, at the end of the season- just don’t interrupt my bloody film with it.
But hey, let’s not be a complete stick in the mud. Here’re a couple of Spurs-themed highlights from the last few days, in amongst all the tumbleweedery and widespread ennui…
Bale’s ThunderBork versus Scotland
Yes, the collapse for the winning penalty was dubious. Yes, Shaun Maloney sounded like a brainwashed Soviet drone when he told reporters that he didn’t think he’d fouled Bale but probably must’ve done because how else could he have fallen on the floor like that? And, yes, the whole diving thing is getting a little tiresome. But my, that was some goal. Scotland backed off and backed off, Gareth accepted the invitation and RSVPd with an absolute whallop into McGregor’s top right-hand corner. Sizzle me timbers.
Adebayor Sends Togo to the ACN
The only footage I found of this appears to have been filmed on a Casio Illuminator. From what I can gather, in front of a large, bestirred crowd at the Stade de Kégué, Adebayor stretches one of his elongated limbs from a deep cross to fire home Togo’s second, thereupon taking them to the African Cup of Nations in January. Bad news for Spurs, of course, but genuinely heart-thawing to see the big man celebrate (pre-planned dance-routine as standard) with his teammates. Heaven knows they’ve had a tough couple of years.
And In Other News..
It’s not all been good for the heroes of Tottingham this international interlude. Not like this. Last night Danny Rose was embroiled in some rather ugly goings-on in Serbia as the England U21s qualified for Euro 2013. Sent off for having the temerity to be offended by some fairly blatant racial abuse, the young left-back must wonder where FIFA’s regulatory priorities lie. Kicking a football into a crowd or, well, you get where we’re going with this. Paul Ince is understandably shooting fast and loose with his call for Serbia to be banned for the next five tournaments (his son Tom was also present) but clearly them in Zurich need to do something that’s actually going to mean something and not just hand out an inconsequentially small fine.
* Not strictly true, of course. Look, I wrote this before last night’s torrential downpour, how was I supposed to know they’d reschedule the bloody thing for today? I’M JUST ONE MAN!
This fixture from last season will be most fondly remembered for Alex McLeish’s quite spellbinding teamsheet; riding fast and loose with Emile Heskey and Alan Hutton on the wings and four whole centre backs. It was the kind of morbid tactical blunderbussery that had become synonymous with the Scotsman’s reign in the Midlands. Adebayor knocked in two and appeared genuinely troubled that he didn’t get more. The possession stats were more lop-sided than pair of trousers hand-stitched by Mr. Magoo. Glorious times.
With Big ‘Eck long gone, it’s unlikely we’ll be afforded such a pre-emptive surrender from Villa today, which is a shame. Though the football is far from, well, good (Lambert’s a bright coach, yet have I seen any evidence he’s a miracle worker) they at least play with a degree of positivity- ie; endeavour to pass the thing- and the young chaps he’s drafted in appear committed, fearless and a darn sight easier to love. Banishing Alan Hutton to the nether worlds would’ve helped in this regard, also.
Adebayor might well get a chance to continue his Villa-themed scoring bluster this afternoon, having netted three in his last two against them. According to the vigilant folk at PhysioRoom.com, he’s a late fitness test away from being de-hamstrung, which will take some of the pressure off the boy Defoe should things not go swimmingly early doors. Even from the bench and half-fit, it’ll be nice to have options.
Anyone care to make a prediction? A prize for the closest guess. I think we should have too much for ‘em.
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So the weekend came and went without the acquiring of any actual points as such; but in their stead an oddly cheerful sense that Tottenham did pretty okay considering the less-than normal circumstances of the occasion. Tough away game, new manager, new approach, new squad numbers, new haircuts, new, new new. It’s all new. And, while defeat triggered that familiar pang in my innards that any other loss would’ve, the hope that we’re at least on the right track (baby) is one that’s keeping me from unravelling like a cheap Pony tracksuit. We played well and on another day might’ve won.
As if just discovering that the season had in fact started, and, that, points in August do count- despite an unyielding belief to the contrary- Daniel Levy appears to have come to his senses early this week. First bit of business, the signing proper of one Emmanuel Adebayor. Plenty to marvel at with the deal; and not just the absolute rock-bottom price the chairman has eked out. Astonishingly, it also looks as if Man City will still be subsidising a portion of Togolese striker’s eye-watering income. Which is bloody decent of them, if you ask me. We must shop there again.
Going in t’other direction, it seems all most inevitable, is certified ‘ace bloke’ Michael Dawson. QPR the potential suitors, who’re willing to vomit up nearly ten million bones for the England international. A fine servant to the club, a super defender. Dare I say it, almost the complete…package?
I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing him all the best for the future.
Other incumbents of the departure lounge in this busy of busy weeks include Seb Bassong (he’s scarpered to Norwich) and, medical pending, Big Tommy Huddlestone. Who looks to be going to Stoke on loan. Rotten luck, that.
The wheels are starting to turn.
The good times, they just keep on a-rollin’. André Villas-Boas delivered his first interview for Spurs TV on Wednesday, after which he held a delightfully brief Q&A for a select group of press-types, who’d also taken the opportunity to get their peepers on our new, state-of-the-art training centre at Enfield; a seventy-three acre sprawl of modernity and mortar which, from the outside, looks like it tumbled out of the brain of Isaac Asimov. It has a swimming pool, too, don’t you know. Which’ll mean Daniel Levy can have a dip of a Monday morning in relative peace.
It’s not so much that what AVB said was all very encouraging or that his performance was polished (a brain damaged horse could be talked up by a good salesman) it’s that he has the steely-eyed look of a winner. I believed him when he talked of titles and silverware. I believed every word.
Here’re some choice excerpts from Sky Sports News:
“I think my career has been steadily going up and I see this as a step forward.
“The club is very solid in the way they support the first team, there is much more emotional warmth in this club, and this is important.”
“It’s all very well put together for the last five years and looking into the future – there is going to be a new training ground that we will move in to that soon and it will be a massive step for this football club, as you can imagine.”
Yes, André, I can imagine.
“We have the new stadium project and we have this feeling, mainly from last season, where we know we are very near in terms of winning trophies,”
“We go into four competitions next season and we go into them with the maximum ambition of trying to win them.”
Making Sinatra Look Like a Hobo
With the onus very much on the new and excititng, the latest shipment of Tottenham Hotspur apparel arrived on our doorstep yesterday. Under Armour, for my money, (well, perhaps not my money as such) look to have done a rather splendid first job with this lot. And, for a multi-million pound uber-brand, they appear to have a good grasp of the funnies. Not only does their Twitter timeline make for a light-hearted read (more than willing to virtually mingle with us lowborn peasants) they managed to coax the entire first-team squad into pulling ‘mean’ faces for the official launch. The result is an odd mix of expressions, ranging from the ‘let’s have some!’ look to the less menacing ‘I appear to have soiled myself.’
The start of a beautiful friendship? I do hope so.
Meanwhile, an agreement looks to have been struck between the Oil Barons and ourselves, for one Emmanuel Adebayor. As you might well recall, at the end of May, the Togolese striker said this:
“Loved my spell at Tottenham. We are working hard with the chairman to make it permanent. Will keep you informed”
Indeed, someone has been working hard. Namely, Daniel Levy and his trusty negotiation mallet, who between them have managed to panel-beat the fee down to a reported six million of your English pounds. My word.
Behold the glorious work of WFRF reader, Kaybee. But be warned, it’s not for the feeble of heart.
In the same way one should eat carefully in the aftermath of a nasty stomach bug, for fear of upsetting the gastric balance, I’ll be treading the airwaves with caution this afternoon. The memories of Saturday night still linger in the gut like a urinal cake and I’ve little interest in aggravating it further. Nothing too spicy from this corner of the internet. There’ll be plenty of time for all that.
Let’s just all agree that things haven’t turned out exactly as we’d planned (ignore Harry’s retrospective sang-froid; in February he told the BBC anything less than 3rd would be a disappointment) and take stock in the fact that John Terry wore shin-pads under his Cup Final suit.
Think about that for a second.
Now for what appears to be some good news.
Emmanuel Adebayor has given off the air of someone enjoying his football since joining from the Petrol Barons last summer. Such a ripping time he’s had, in fact, he’d quite like to make the movement a permanent one. Here’s the latest from his Twitter feed, the last bastion of truth and exclamation mark overuse:
“Loved my spell at Tottenham. We are working hard with the chairman to make it permanent. Will keep you informed!!”
Well, how lovely.
Now if we can just find a spare, ooh I don’t know, every penny we’ve got (!) in the coffers we should be able to meet his wages demands.
Oh I give up..
**The winner of the WFRF? Fantasy Football League was James OShaughnessy and his team Norfolk & Goode. Get in touch, James!**