By the time the single-term Champions arrive at The Lane tomorrow it’ll have been a whole ten days since our semi-tragic parp-parp-whoops exit from the Europa League. In that period, Arsenal and Everton will have played thrice and Chelsea and City on two occasions. These things rarely boil down to the machinations of a diary, of course, but with just five points betwixt 6th and 3rd even the smallest scheduling advantage could be crucial for the teams involved. It’s all about the little things, as I’m often told by the good lady- with no regard for my self-esteem whatsoever.
As well as giving a rest to the world-weary lambs who were put through the extra-time ringer in Switzerland last week, the enforced sabbatical has allowed a sizable hunk of downtime for the recuperating trio of Defoe, Lennon and multi-award nominee, Gareth Bale. While risking all three from the start would be a dick move in the extreme, the noise from the camps is that all are in contention. Here’s some of that noise now, in the form of words:
“All of them are in with a chance of making selection.”
“Gazza has been training for the last two days with the team and on his own since the beginning of the week.”
“He has made good progress from the beginning of the week to training with the team, so definitely will be up for selection.”
“We recognise the impact he has had for us. With the run that he is on it can have that factor.
“It is good having key players around and players who have been decisive, especially in this last part of the season is always inspirational for everyone. It’s good to have him back”
Phew! Well this team picks itself:
Ho, ho and indeed ho. Tottenham are up against footballing Renaissance men Stoke this afternoon; a team who if they were represented by the medium of architectural design, would be a pile of breeze blocks thrown into a dirty skip.
Tony Pulis. Man’s man; man’s manager; manager’s manager. Man. Great worth does the Newportian place in safeguarding the values of the game we call soccerball. Doing things, in a manner of speaking, the right way. Which approximately translates as: them perfume PONCE foreigners go down too easily and there’s no amount of stamping, shirt pulling or wallops about the brainbox that a firm handshake couldn’t resolve between men.
To recap: bone-shuddering two-footed challenge followed by a dusting off and a sturdy meeting of paws= good. Unhindered tumbles (unless performed by Charlie Adam) = very much bad.
Meanwhile for Spurs, that injury list which threatened to run longer than Methuselah’s beard is beginning to recoil. Parker last week, Disco Benjamin with every chance of making a return this. A lad name Gareth Bale, still riding high on the buzz of reaching 200k Twitter followers this week, is also in contention for a start. Which’ll go down well with the locals.
Hamstring pending, this is could be a game for Michael Dawson to savour, like a hog frolicking in his own swill. Call it team selection of the putting tab B into slot B variety (Stoke like twonking into the mixer, Dawson is adept at propelling it out) but you can’t help but feel this would be just his kind of afternoon. I’d also fancy bunging Parker AND Sandro in midfield today, if only to see how the Brazilian operates when his defensive chores are reduced. There’s more to his game than grinding adversaries to bone-marrow: he’s a joy to watch going forward, too. As for the rest of ‘em…
West Ham walloped, then. You’d have forgiven Spurs for approaching this with some degree of caution. Having lost four of the last five in the league and facing that dangerous animal of a newly promoted side buoyed by good form and travelling support stricken with Cup Final Fever- amongst other, less savoury afflictions- this could’ve easily turned into one of those afternoons where things didn’t quite click into place. With the WHL inmates becoming increasingly tetchy with every goal-free minute.
Instead it was reassuring to have them get behind the team as they went merrily about the business of out-scoring the hapless Hammers and the 10th Most Expensive Player of All Time . All very nice indeed.
Defoe’s finest goal in Lilywhite? Not many can I think of which exhibited so many of his attributes in one go. Speed, power, tricky feet and a shot like a goddamn champion. The thwack against Arsenal in the 5-4er of a few years ago was rather fabulous, but I’d wager this one surpassed it. Ker-plunk!
Is that the Hugo/Brad debate put to rest, then? Preferably nailed shut in an air-tight casket and buried under thick concrete. Friedel has done little wrong in his time at the club, other than be closer to an expiry date than the competition. It’s no conspiracy, just a bit of forward planning. The circle of life and whatnot.
And it’s some keeper Lloris appears to be. A confident pair of hands who can snuffle out the air of potential threat much quicker than the average bear. He races from his line, flinging himself on danger like a war hero smothering a grenade. One of West Ham’s best moves, a two-on-one breakaway in the second half, was dealt with before anyone realised it was a thing.
Praise be, Clint Dempsey had a game. Far from the ponderous lunk we’d somewhat resigned ourselves to seeing each week, this was a performance of great encouragement. Decisive on the ball, tidy in possession and a recurrent goal-threat. This was retrograde Dempsey. Old School, to use a more fitting vernacular for a man of his talents. More please.
Liverpuddles tomorrow. Philosophy FC. If you’re terribly unlucky I might be live-blogging it.
Pray for Mojo.
Well, apart from all the reports of hate-filled violence, racism and excessive amounts of Alan Shearer, it’s been a rather enjoyable affair so far, I would say. In the entertainment stakes, the Italians were certainly good value on Sunday. With Cassano and Di Natale up yonder, the Azzurri couldn’t hope for a more talented or likeable front pair. And Gianluigi Buffon; that commander of cool was wearing a stylish little hairclip in the Gdansk sun yesterday; the type of which I usually find in the hoover bag after the good lady’s been to visit. Those crazy Italians!
Meanwhile, the ongoing dual between Balotelli and Torres- as to who’s the most dysfunctional striker- was eagerly watched. I would think Mario just about edged it this time around, with the fitful punch-combo on thin air; as well as that bizarre moment in which I can only assume he thought someone had slowed down time for him, (a reasonable request for a man of his talent) enough to walk the ball in the net unheeded. The Chelsea frontman on the other hand. Well, sometimes the laughter stops and it just becomes uncomfortable, doesn’t it? No-one even had the heart to be angry with him, for fear of snapping his fragile spirit like melba toast.
If the man’s lacking in confidence, one fellow whom never seems to be short of the stuff- despite being told he’s either too lazy or too fat by his national team manager- is erstwhile Spurs favourite, Super Roman Pavlyuchenko. The Russian ripsnorted this delicious effort in Wraclow on Friday, to the delight of many.
Sign him up, Harry!
So now it’s over to those Brave Lions, England. Mediocre, technically lacking and extremely difficult to love. If it weren’t for J-Dizzly and Parker, you’d seriously consider backing the French. I am warming to the idea of seeing Scotty bulldoze Samir Nasri, mind.
And they say patriotism is dead.
Twitter is where ma’ dogs at.
This could be an eventful day. And then again, no- as Elton John would say. I’m not sure what the implications will be of having a whole round of Premier League fixtures on the same evening as the transfer deadline, but to me it sounds like a mess. For managers looking to get shot of a bit of dead wood, I suppose, it’s probably ideal. In that they can give the unwanted space-wasters one last, thoroughly depressing waltz in the shop window in the hope that they can find a willing buyer. I can see it now. Arry patching Pavlychenko up with a bit of blusher and rouge before sending him on with ten minutes to go.
Go on, run around a bit and look lively. We’ve got Fulham watching.
There’s been plenty of frantic gossip so far- well, gossip at least- but it all smells a bit desperate. Nothing’s quite ringing true. It’s as if the ITK and tabloid rumour mills are just plucking names out of thin air and blurting them out with the kind of spazzy enthusiasm that, frankly, makes me rather nervous. And as we all know, that’s very much not their bag at all. Defoe to Liverpool is trending on Twitter, we hear. Pavlyuchenko is off to Russia with Hugo Rodney coming in from Wigan. Last minute bids for Loic Remy.
What’re the odds of us ending up with Emile ‘The Ram’ Heskey and Phil Neville?
In the ‘done deal’ section, one Vedran Ćorluka has jumped ship to Bayer Leverkusen for the remainder of the season. Fair thee well, sweet prince. We knew him well. Which, I guess, is part of the problem. My only concern is that we might be heaping an awful lot of pressure on young Kyle Walker’s shoulders. Don’t break and don’t be sh*t, ever. Please. Maybe there’s some cunning plan…
Anyway, feel free to chat amongst yourselves. Heck, we could even talk about the game of football we’re partaking in this evening. Or just follow me on Twitter and watch me have a breakdown in front of your eyes.
The boys done good, as the adage goes. It might have been a distinctly unexotic first step into Europe’s junior competition yesterday evening, but they were steps plenty big enough for Jim Jefferies and his half-baked Jam Tarts. In fact, you might even say: we proved to be rather…sticky customers? Hmm? No?
Needless to point out, this wasn’t premium rate opposition standing between us and the group stages, or, indeed, was it what you might call a glamorous night of continental football. Of the like we were happily tucking into last year. No sign of those towering stands rammed with bonkers, flare-wielding Ultras; no Ronaldos, Ozils, Maicons or Patos; no adapted Zadok the Priest blaring through the speakers. No need for a passport, even.
But it was Tottenham in Europe. And it was rather brilliant.
Here’s some highlights. In case you missed it.
Before we descend perilously into the abyss of mindless gossip, half-truths and hearsay that can only be the silly season, there’s the small matter of finishing the actual season this coming Sunday. Birmingham at home, folks, and a Europa League spot to peg down like an old weather-beaten tent. Or, not, as the case may be.
Through no-one’s fault but theirs, we enter this last day as bit-part players in a bloody relegation dogfight. Things are looking grim for the Blues, and, while I wish them no particular harm- in the same way I wouldn’t want to see a wounded cat drag itself onto my lawn and expire in front of me- I feel the best approach is to look after one’s own. All guns-a-blazing is the only way we can end this campaign. If only to emboss into the minds of our biggest stars that this is still the place to be. Where the future’s bright and the prospects oh so rosy.
And if not…we’ll lie.
Injuries are, as usual, rife. Gallas, Bale, Huddlestone, Palacios and Jenas (cross them off at your own leisure) all victims of various leg ailments. One man hoping for a start will be the Beckton Bomber himself, Jermain Defoe. In case we hadn’t noticed, Defoe’s not been playing much of late- despite being remarkably average since his homecoming off the treatment table- and it would seem this is just not on for the England striker:
“When you feel like you are training hard and being professional and then for some reason you are not playing, it is difficult.”
Some reason, eh? Yes, it really is a mystery.
Anyway, let’s be having them. Three-nil to the Tottenham or something awfully close. If you’d be so kind.
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?
It’s been little over three days since the universe burst from its centre on hearing that Tottenham had finally outdone one of the Sky4 on the road. Three short days and already a game of more significance than a NLD is lolloping into the cross-hairs with promise of more history in the making. Time flies when you’re f*cking awesome. Werder Bremen at The Lane and the last sixteen is but a victory away. Don’t mention the ‘H’ word. This site’s resident automaton might look like he’s been spreading a bit too much cheer about the place since Saturday, but that’s no reason for anything other than a focused showing against one of Deutschland’s finest.
I say finest. Their form is awfully close to awful. Bottom of the pile in Group A and limping off the back of two weighty defeats in the Bundesliga. The latest of which, at Shalke, courtesy of one-time-Spurs-target, Raúl González Blanco. Whom struck thrice. And here was me thinking his days in Gelsenkirchen would be spent tethered to a post with his head in a feedbag. Put the gun away, Herr Schmidt, there’s life in this one yet. Back to Bremen and our own Herr of Hotspur is wary of that old mother, complacency. Even with a wounded list reading like a Bavarian phonebook, the Germans remain an unpredictable bunch at worst. They’re a good side, pleaded Redknapp yesterday. He says that about everyone, I know, but tonight there’s no use thinking otherwise. There was a time when Wigan Athletic were presumed cannon fodder. And on last look at my Rothman’s Football Yearbook, they didn’t have Marko Marin in their ranks.
As ever, Spurs have one or two of their own flock in doubt. Van der Vaart’s victim of a twangy ankle- to use its official diagnosis- while Bale is thought to be suffering with one of his wings. ‘Arry rather airily brushed this one off in his press conference yesterday, so let’s hope it’s one to be filed under precautionary. Defoe’s fit, so they say. In line for the first Champions League game of his career. Buzzing, no doubt. If he has a hand in getting us three points later this evening, I dare say we all will be too. Two-nil to the Tottenham, says me.