The international break has arrived at an ideal time for Spurs; although break is perhaps misleading as twelve of our senior players will be dispatched across the globe this weekend to turn out for their respective Motherlands- and, judging by the performance on Sunday, what some of these chaps need is a breather in its more traditional guises. One which involves being marooned on a floating lilo somewhere with a virgin pina-colada; rather than jetting off to Macedonia for a sticky World Cup qualifier. Alas, the struggles of the modern footballer.
The Big Fear at the moment is that it’s all just a little bit of history repeating itself for the Mighty Hotspur. Not without form in conceding supposedly unsurpassable leads, it was about this time last year that the ship’s wheel was beginning to twirl out of control while the Captain dreamt of England and a better life. Similar to last season, too- and it’s perhaps symptomatic of our very DNA- the minute someone from the outside world starts sounding the I-can’t-see-Spurs-finishing-outside-the-Top-Four klaxon, the underpants find their way atop the head and the inmates begin to panic. It’s happening again, boss!
While there might be a good deal of truth attached to this, you’d have to imagine the Fulham result was somewhat of an anomaly. A rotten day at the office. European hangover is a tired old chestnut but for the two-hours of aimless ball-chasing and slapstick defending in Milan on Thursday night, it can only have been a physically and mentally taxing experience for all involved. The effort it took to play that badly must have been tremendous. Indeed, Vertonghen and Dembélé looked exhausted against BMJ’s men and Scott Parker, at times, genuinely appeared to have turned to stone. But it’s not his fault he’s been required to play every game to its bitter end.
The question now is, whether you have faith in André Villas-Boas to ignore the hyperbole surrounding this mini-wobble and focus on the task in hand: sayin’ nu-uh to the haters and guiding us to the Champions League Party. Personally, I think AVB’s just the man for the job; a serious operator for whom focus and calm comes as naturally as a gravelled voice and a shiny, auburn pelt. If you remember all the Spurs in Turmoil tommyrot being pedalled in the media in August, it was Ol’ Twinkle Eyes who kept an aura of Fonzie cool around the club when the odd result went astray and the players duly responded. Even going to the trouble of beating United at Old Trafford just to prove things were under control. No big deal. There’s no denying that the run-in is a certifiable stinker but you get the impression that Villas-Boas and the players are more than up to it. So don’t despair just yet.
**To say ‘thank you’ to football fans’ amazing support throughout the Capital One Cup’s first season, Capital One is going to turn 1,000 fans into mini football figures check the app out here: http://bit.ly/Xlppk2
Good morning. Well, not exactly good as such, but at least you’ve made it past ten o ‘clock without bursting into tears. That’s something, right?
Huh, big guy?
Heavens above. I think SSG called it right: Chelsea are going to bloody win this thing, aren’t they? Are they? The inevitability seems almost organic; a spirit-crushing finale to a practical joke that has been shaping up for some months. The courting of Modric was the set-up, the semi-final shellacking the delivery. Now, the most convoluted method of denying us Champions League football will be the ultimate, gut-wrenching pay-off. Oh the comedy. The laughs.
Is Gary Neville in on it, too? I wonder. The excitable squeal which imparted from his gob on Tuesday evening, when Fernando skipped merrily beyond Victor Valdes, might as well have been the sound of the brakes of our season screeching to a halt. Or perhaps that’s the noise of our hopes plummeting down a rather deep well. Sqweeeeeeeeeelosh! I can’t quite decide.
Still the important thing is, Arry will be pleased that the Russians have made the final. Those brave, brave lions.
Of course, in truth, we’ve only got ourselves to blame for the muck in which we’re now entrenched. In an extensive line of second-rate results, the defeat to QPR at the weekend was, for a reluctance to over-elaborate, merely more pish to go with the other pish that went before. Adel Taraabt scored; an event surpassed only in the ‘well of course that was bound to happen’ stakes by our own proclivity to do the square route of eff-all once he’d kindly left the field. QPR down to ten-men? That’s unpossible.
It’s been said many times but our chaps looked ruddy exhausted. Physically barren. It’s no shock that we’re failing to dominate games when we can scarcely muster the energy to take a throw-in. Who’s fault is all this? Our esteemed leader probably, or whoever’s idea it was to allow so many international stars to go on loan when, on closer inspection, the squad is uneven at best; downright threadbare at worst.
Kyle Walker has been super, for the most part, and I was delighted to see him get his paws on the Youngling’s Gong; but he’s twenty-one and playing his first full-season of top-tier kickball. Corluka might run like a goat with rickets but at least he could’ve given the young man a breather once in a while. This appears to be just one of numerous accounts of cataclysmic short-sightedness. The actions, perhaps, of someone not in for the long game.
Whatever the case, we’ve got metaphorical bills to pay. And only four games in which to provide the skills to pay them. Time to sort this mess out, once and for all. Before it really is too late.
Twitter and junk.
If ever there was a time to put into practice ‘Arry’s supposed finest attribute as a manager- that of being a devilishly good motivator of men- then perhaps this weekend is that time. Spurs are in a rut. And with very few weeks left of the season remaining, the burden is now not to discover exactly what has gone wrong with a campaign that had promised so much, but to pull the chaps out of this power-sapping funk and back into the rather useful habit of winning football matches.
Of course questions need to be addressed- most notably, how on earth we managed to exhaust a ten point lead and turn it into a five point deficit and why some of our best players appear to have been physically bankrupt through overuse- but this will have to wait for the warmer months. When, you get the sense, the winds of change will be a blowin’ riotously through the gates of White Hart Lane.
I am not going to cry.
Before that particular circus comes to town, however, there’s business afoot; Loftus Road, 5.30pm sharp. Be there or be… well, see if you can catch it on television or something?
QPR, a team who’ve irked out some memorable results in the last few weeks, appear to have been enlivened by those doomsayers who’d taken one look at their final run-in and insisted that it’d been an enjoyable ride while it had lasted and they’d certainly be sad to see them go. Now, home wins against Liverpool, Arsenal and Swansea and Mark Hughes has miraculously given Rangers a fighting chance. There are so-called experts who might suggest that the odds of survival would increase further, if they could keep eleven men on the field at all times. But I fail to see the fun in that.
For Tottenham it’s now very much everything or nothing. With Chelsea, Arsenal and Newcastle’s results all on the board before we’ve taken a whiff of the Spring evening air in West London, there’s every likelihood we could be trying to claw our way back from 6th. Which, when you say it out loud, is a rather miserable state of affairs.
So what’s the plan, then? I’m of the view that the idea of caution has become somewhat redundant. Home or away, with five games left, we ought to be trying to steam-roller this lot from the get-go, and all those that follow. You know, like the good old days. Off with the shackles, hope to god we’re not leaking like an old watering can at the back and release the bloody hounds, says this hopeful blogsworth. He’d also probably take a scrappy 0-1er but we shouldn’t get too bogged down with semantics. Five games, five wins. COYS!
Doing the Twitter-box like it’s going out of fashion. Which, by the time I get the hang of it, it almost certainly will be.
In the end, the more sympathetic brain-thinkers among you might say we did well to slug out a point against The Potters on Wednesday evening- a point’s better than squat under difficult circumstances and facing shall-we-say burlier than average opponents. Others, however, might argue that Tottenham are actually just making an enormous t*t of things and they ought to jolly well pull their Puma emblazoned socks up before it’s too late. The Champions League ship is pulling up anchor fast and preparing to leave port. I’m not sure which camp I’m pitching my tent in just yet. All I know is that it was a lot more fun when we were winning. Ho-hum.
I guess in the business it’s what they call, the thrill of the chase.
The crucial fact is that we stopped the rot- or, at least, swilled on a coat of second-hand emulsion that might cover up the smell of damp. We didn’t lose. Which would’ve seemed remarkable at ninety-odd minutes when all our ideas looked to have been dead-ended. Thankfully, some bright button had the thought of telling Gareth Bale to get on the left-wing and curl in a gem of a cross onto Van der Vaart’s beautifully formed brow. 1-1 and I’m relatively happy. It’s not vintage, it’s barely warm Cava with a shrivelled fag-butt floating in it. But it’s a start. Onward and upward as they say.
Well, actually a bit downwards but you get the idea.
I can also be found on Twitter. Quietly weeping.
First Paul Scholes and now bearded volleyball whizz, Terry Henry. Two mammoths of the game busting open the crypts of their Premiership careers for one last undignified waltz under the lights; with every possibility of coughing up something unsavoury into the laps of their adoring fans and making a mess of everything that was once good. So it got me thinking; perhaps there might be hope for us, too. Maybe there was some former Spurs hero out there; sat at home waiting for the Bat-Signal to zip through the night sky, (a cockerel in this case) waiting for that call from Redknapp to say: get your kit on, lad-we need you!
Then I realised Robbie Keane was at Villa and we’d rather been there before.
Everton at The Lane. That’s what the reports are telling me. Did anyone else feel a pang of sympathy for David Moyes yesterday after he spoke about his misery of watching Tottenham pull away from the Merseyside club? The Toffees have become unstuck from the teeth of the Champions League chasers in recent times and instead spiralled off into mid-table anonymity. Of course, a lack of bones was highlighted as the underlining cause for the club’s halted progress (there’s no denying the Scot operates with funds akin to that of a village hall’s pastry budget) but they struck me as words of a defeated man. I hope everything’s alright at home…
We’re not without our own problems, of course. Sure Tottenham are sitting high and handsomely as we speak but there’s definitely the whiff of crisis about our potential selection tonight. Sandro’s out, Parker’s almost certainly out. King, too, is buggered as is Gallas. Leaving us with a potential midfield pairing of Luka Modric and…erm. Well, let’s not dwell on the details, shall we?
Suffice to say, it doesn’t look good. I wonder if they’ll be any calls for some eccentric tinkering from ‘Arry tonight? Pushing Kaboul into midfield, perhaps, and slotting Bassong in beside Dawson? It’s risky- madness, some would say. But it’s exactly the kind of hair-brained genius that gets you noticed (not to mention the women). Alex Ferguson does this kind of stuff all the time. So, you know, it might just work.
In other news we drew Watford in the Cup. Not a bad little result, that. Not only did it see us miss some of the stickier trips of the round it’s also given me a tremendous scope with which to come up with some clever and more importantly hilarious headlines for the upcoming tie. Something about girls kicking hornet’s nests. It’ll need work but I’m pretty sure it’s a winner. Three points tonight, please.
Follow me on Twitter and I’ll stop listening to your answer phone messages
Welcome, all. A balmy 23 degrees in Madrid as I write this- so BBC Weather informs me- clear skies and cooler air on the way as the afternoon skips happily into early-evening. This, then, will be the backdrop of Tottenham’s biggest game for, well, ruddy ages, as it goes. No silverware or crystal vase awaits an encouraging result tonight. It’s no cup final or decisive League fixture; It’s possibly not even the most important leg of the tie. But as far as balls-to-the-wall thrills and pure magnetism goes, and as a method of embossing our club’s logo into the heart of mainland Europe like Bernard Matthews branding poultry, Real Madrid at the Bernabéu in a Champions League quarter-final doesn’t get much heftier. We’ve reached ourselves a giddy precipice, ladies and gentlemen, and it’s now time to figure out whether we march on or plummet limply into the abyss.
Team news, as I hear it, is consisted mainly of the auspicious reports that both Gareth Bale and William Gallas are available and the rather less so that Cristiano Ronaldo is, too. Mourinho with typical self-assurance deciding that so-called ‘doctor’s orders’ weren’t anything to be overly concerned about and duly pencilled him into his plans. Hamstring? PhD? Pfft. This boy’s playing tonight and you can stick your Hippocratic Oath up your trasero. He’s rumoured to start but I guess that depends on as much fitness as it does how anxious José feels about his attacking potency without him. With Ozil, Di Maria and Higuain- returning from back surgery at the weekend- one would imagine, not very. My heart says we’ll beat them; my brain that a score-draw or an away goal in any marginal result might not be all that disastrous. In fact it would be a minor miracle. 1-1 for me, then. Lennon to score. Cermonyouspuuuuuuurs.
Ding dong. You may be vaguely aware that it’s the draw for the Champions League quarter-finals tomorrow. Now I don’t know what the procedure is at this late stage but one would hope that the event was enshrouded with a bit more glamour than usual. Something with a bit more pizzazz than the doddery old ex-pro emptying bingo balls out of a sack. Or god forbid, Tim Lovejoy. No. What we need is a spectacle fitting of the occasion. Something to inspire those of us sat at home in our underpants; gawking at the television set like bibbling morons. Golden pellets of unicorn dung instead of balls. Teams to be drawn out of a priceless Etruscan vase instead of a tumbler. The exhumed corpse of Al Capone as MC. That should just about do it.
One thing’s for sure, how ever they dress it up, Tottenham are in there with the best of them on Friday, chafing the proverbial shoulder with Euro gentry. Barcelona, Madrid, Inter, United. We’ve come to a point now where it’s good stuff as far as the eye can see and all the way down. No easy games. Even the likes of Shaktar Donetsk- with whom we have a fleeting history- look like a tidy outfit these days, and went as far as shellacking Roma off the park last week. Shalke, too, with mister Champions League himself spearheading the attack, are anything you’d be inclined to call duck soup. And that’s before we’ve even talked about Chelsea.
So, anyone brave enough to call it?
Magical and marvellous scenes on Wednesday evening. Cynics out there will tell you that the lump you felt in your throat at the game’s conclusion was actually just your heart returning to more familiar territory- after spending the majority of the ninety minutes lodged nervously in your mouth like a warm pork pie, as wave after wave of Milan attack fell by the wayside. Or into the back pockets of messrs Sandro, Gallas or Dawson. And it’s probably not too far from the truth.
And yet, somehow, in spite of all the threadbare nerve-endings and hand-over-mouth gasps as our backs pressed further and further against the wall, Tottenham emerged triumphant against the seven times European Champions and into the last eight. Woo hoo, indeed. A staggering effort. By all involved.
Inconceivable to think that before our stalemate with United in January, the only other instance in which we’d failed to concede a goal was in the season’s opener against the Oil. Now, here we sit after keeping one of the most virulent strike-forces in Europe out for three long hours. How we managed it this time around is largely- and in some cases, solely- down to the aforementioned human bank vaults of Gallas and Dawson. Who were both just…behemothic.
And, of course, Sandro. Bloody hell, Sandro. What a machine. To paraphrase Barry Davies on the short-lived Actua Soccer series for the Sega Saturn: he read it so early, he’s already on the next page. And that was the key to his success. His reading of the game was, as suggested, uncanny. Carefully dismantling Milan’s forward thrusts with subtle, well-timed tackles; never one to wade in like a wrecking ball- just intelligent use of the ball and the space around him. If he can start playing like that in the League- and not just in games which arguably are more suited to his style- ie, at a slower tempo- then we’ll have quite a talent on our hands. One feels we already do.
So who’s next for Spurs? Some would suggest it hardly matters. In my mind it would be in our interest to avoid the English and the Spanish. One’s just not exotic enough and the other too much like bloody hard work. They can wait for the final. Ahem. While we wait to find out, then, it’s hats off to Harry and the team for creating a new piece of beautiful history not likely forgotten.
Little use doing anything but try and take a few positives from that. If we pick at the bones too much we might end up having some kind of panic attack when we line up against Milan on Wednesday. In the same way that someone can encounter a foreboding sense of vertigo when they start to have a bloody good think about their lives and what it all means. A bloody good, weird think. Asking yourself: is any of this actually happening? Did we really get into the Champions League last year? That was the sort of result that makes you wonder. Have we not just been living some bizarre parallel existence for the last few months of which we’re all delightfully unaware? Perhaps while we sit here with our high hopes and newspaper clippings of glory-glory nights at The Lane, we’re actually just still decked out in our Hewlett Packard replica kits, slogging away in mid-table, silently pleading with Gerry Francis to get his creepy mullet cut. I hear it’s how Philip K. Dick felt when he smoked too much opium and wrote about androids. These, as they say, are mysterious times.
Of course it did all happen- so my psychiatrist informs me- we really are playing AC Milan on Wednesday and we really did scrape a just-about-earned point from the Molinuex yesterday. It’s all as legitimate as the keyboard I’m typing on. And so back to my opening gambit: let’s look at some positives. Well first thing’s first, our strikers are making a bit of headway. Jermain Defoe especially; looking for all the world like a man embodied with the ‘spirit’ of Jimmy Greaves. Kicking the ball not once, but twice into- wait for it- the goal. Like one them centre-forwards or something. Super goals they were, too. Super like Super Roman Pavlyuchenko, who thundered one in himself just after restart. All very encouraging.
As too was the return of one Gareth Bale. I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt like an over-protective Daily Mail reading mother on Sunday afternoon; howling at Ronald Zubar to back off every time he got too close or a little too enthusiastic with his brand of rough-housing. Even the slightest of askew looks toward our Welsh Wünderkid was met with a healthy chorus of boos in the WFRF homestead. You touch him and I swear to god…
Thankfully he emerged unscathed.
Hang it all out to dry, though, and there’re certainly reasons to be less cheerful. Gomes looks terribly unconvincing at present- something that won’t have escaped the notice of future opponents; those who’re not too proud to shank a few long balls box-ward when the chance arises. Just to test the uncertain waters. I fear my left ventricle might burst if this is to be the way of it and we’ve still got two months to go. A couple of daft mistakes on Sunday. A more competent ref would’ve made sure they were both punished. And don’t get me started on Alan Hutton.
Well I tried to keep it positive, didn’t I?
Plenty left to play for. Don’t panic. Everything’s going to be fine.
So what’s the good word, I hear you ask. No? You weren’t asking? Oh well. Let’s just pretend you were. With Spurs off-air since last Tuesday’s seaside catastrophe, all eyes were on the race to be crowned the world’s thickest footballer; with Wayne Rooney and Ashley Cole storming into an early lead. While the jacket potato-faced Scouser was busy introducing his elbow to the delicate regions of James McCarthy’s jaw on Saturday- with the elegance of a cement-mixer being dropped through a mine shaft- it was Cole giving the tabloids plenty to think about with his gun-totting antics in Cobham. The England defender seeing fit to exhaust the contents of his boomstick into some unsuspecting intern; in what may well be remembered as the most euphemistic headline of all time. Oo-er, Ashley.
The winner, though, by quite a distance, is this scandalous waste of carbon. In my eyes, a fitting punishment would be to have him sexually ravaged by Bill Oddie. But, you know, I don’t make the rules.
Talking of animal cruelty. It’s Wolves this Sunday afternoon and there’s a widespread rumour going round that one of our strikers is due a goal. It’s quite an idea. Jermain Defoe just needs one- so we’re told- and the dams of profligacy will burst open and flood the place in no time. Just one, and more will surely follow. We can only hope. And by hope, I of course mean: put all your savings on him to score the winner.
I’ll see you in St. Lucius on Monday morning, then?