Merry everyone! I trust the festive period has handled you well? Upon hearing the rumours on Christmas Day that contract rebel Wesley Sneijder was about to join Spurs, the thought occurred to me that someone may have spiked the bread sauce with anti-freeze. Then the sobering but inevitable quotes from Camp Wesley immerged yesterday and the dream cough, spluttered and finally met its maker. There is nothing, absolutely nothing true about that, said one of his representatives, with what sounded like genuine contempt for the very idea. Ho-hum.
It was with flawless timing, then, that Gareth Bale and chums made us forget about Rivaldo/Kaka/Moutinho MK2/3/4 and be thankful for that which we already have- as is customary this time of year. A walloping fine win on Boxing Day was both the ticket and just what the doctor ordered.
The first half at Villa Park was an exercise in sterile domination; gluttonous amounts of possession and corners- lots and lots of corners- but very little in the way of actual chances fashioned. The set-pieces and minutes racked up and still Brad Guzan looked reasonably comfortable with what we were hurling at him. Defoe had a decent one-on-one scuppered, Bale pop-shotted on occasion but the breakthrough didnae come and every man, woman and child could see where this might be headed. As long as it remains 0-0, the dangerous watchwords of the hopeless.
And the Midlanders were hopeless for the most part. A spirited flurry just after the break was the best it got for them before JD and Gareth began sending out invites to the goal banquet. Naughton’s lip-smacking assist started things off; when Spurs were yelling out for a bit of final-ball smarts from the midfield, it was from a rather unexpected source that the lock was finally jimmied. It’s a bloody Christmas miracle!
Then it was all about Bale. His second hat-trick for Tottenham, first in the League. Pace, power, composure and precise finishing. The boy is no more a one-trick winger than I am an astronaut. So numerous are the components to his game that it would be no surprise to learn that he can do a nine dart check-out on demand and has a formidable badminton serve. Multi-talented, multi-layered and genuinely world class. Let’s not take him for granted, shall we?
Sunderland up next.
If you’ve ever seen that time-lapse bit in Lord of War when swarms of Ugandan villagers take apart Big Nic Cage’s cargo plane- every last bit is pilfered; from windscreen wipers to landing-gear- you’ll be somewhere close to imagining what kind of summer might lay ahead for our dear little club.
We’re royally sha-pooned, right?
Well perhaps not.
Fresh from the declaration of commitment (of sorts) by one Emmanuel Adebayor on Monday, reports suggest that young Gareth Bale might well be towing the party line, too.
From an ‘inside source’ (via The Sun) this morning:
“Gareth wants to stay for next season.
“To say he is happy at the club right now is a bit of an understatement.”
Yeah. Now I can feel feelings again!
I do more of this on Twitter.
Good Friday to you. And if you can’t manage good then how about no worse than usual? These are austere times we live in, after all.
A hectic Easter weekend of football ahead, then. First up this very Saturday lunchtime it’s Martin O’Neill’s rejuvenated Athletic Club Mackems. I’ve been harbouring somewhat of a soft spot for the former Villa man in recent times, since he was flown in to sort through the wreckage on Wearside. If nothing else, by hauling them out of the turd-festooned mire they were wading in- and even having the temerity to give the locals something to cheer about- he’s debunked the myth that Steve Bruce was in any way a capable football manager.
Sure enough, if buying ex-United players is a bankable attribute – or, for that matter, being a purveyor of turgid, meat and gravy-brand anti-football- then Master Bruce is up there with the best of ‘em. Here’s the Geordie Chancer, in typically humble mood this week:
“Martin O’Neill is currently getting the pats on the back for what he has achieved. He’s a good manager and he has undoubtedly motivated the players,”
”But what is now being seen is the players I brought in bedding down and proving how good they are.
“James McClean and Stephane Sessegnon are the headline stealers but we signed them, of course.”
Classy, classy stuff.
He’s right in certain respects, of course. Stéphane Sessègnon is rather a menace for the Black Cats these days and, indeed, embezzles a headline or three. In truth he’s just one prong of a triple-threat which counts the very direct James McClean (zero appearances under Bruce) and the dependable right bat of Sebastian Larsson among its number. Nicklas Bendtner is enjoying a purple patch recently, too, by his standards, and may just feel he has something to prove on Saturday. Not least of all for the woeful offerings he dished up in the reverse fixture in December. I was almost hit square in the chops by the hilarious spliced volley he attempted in the second half.
Keeping the Black Cats under house arrest could be quite the task, then. In the last eight games at the Stadium of Light they’ve won six and beaten Man City, Swansea and Liverpool along the way. Yes they’ve beaten Swansea and Man City along the way.
For the mighty Tottenham it’s a case of steady as she goes, captain. A repeat performance of the type we saw against Swansea wouldn’t put us too far wrong. The full return of Lennon will certainly spice things up a notch; though if it’s at the cost of the extra protection and dynamism that Sandro offers, for a tough away fixture such as this, it mightn’t be the worst idea to keep the hot-heeled winger on the bench for emergencies only. Either way, I see us sneaking a win.
How do y’all see it?
Follow WFRF? on Twitter. Jesus would’ve wanted it that way.
I’ll give you a second to let that headline sink in. It’s strong, you can’t deny that. Where one might take issue, though, is in the folly behind stumping up twenty-odd million pounds for a winger, when the last we heard was that dross would very much need to be shipped out before we could start thinking about players coming in the other direction. Particularly when those in the frame are likely to twonk the living daylights out of our club transfer record and at the same time fill a position we’re not altogether short on. Did they not get the memo? Gareth Bale’s quite a handy left-winger these days and it’s a bloody striker we’re after. Holy highwires, Batman.
Still, the story made its way out there and you couldn’t deny the Spaniard’s got some serious game on his hands. Anyone who followed Valencia with any interest last year or happened to catch any of his stuff at the U21s tournament, would agree that he’s a player you’d be only too happy to have knocking about the place. The Guardian’s Guru on all things España, the excellent Sid Lowe, gave word of the chase yesterday:
“According to an agreement reached when Mata last renewed his contract, Valencia are obliged to sell to a foreign club that matches the €21m bar before Monday. Spurs have made an offer that exceeds that minimum fee in order to strengthen their hand.”
Interesting. In its own pointless, slightly depressing way. No doubt he’ll be an Arsenal player before the week’s through.
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.
Roberto Martinez’s Wigan, then. A team not so much nailed to the foot of the table as secured there with a length of ragged old Velcro; still favourites for the drop but by no means cut adrift. It’s tighter than Mickey Rourke’s face down there at the moment, with just a single three points enough to jettison the Latics into 13th or somewhere awfully close. And their form’s not what you’d paint as relegation, either; undefeated in three out of the last four and conquistadors of fellow strugglers Blackburn and Birmingham along the way. Yeah, that’s right. Stats coming at you like hot sauce.
For us it’s the conundrum of knowing that a win is vital in the hunt for 4th while keeping half a peeper on midweek’s impossibly glamorous trip to Madrid. To rest or not to rest. Not, is the answer. Señor Roberto might insist that any moth-eaten Tottenham side could show up tomorrow and cause considerable mischief, eagle-eyed viewers among you will have noticed that League exploits this season haven’t exactly been master classes in flat-track bullying. Wolves, Blackpool, West Ham, Wigan. All supposed cake walks, all made devilishly hard work of. Squad rotation is not quite a luxury we can yet employ, with regret, so it’s full-strength all the way. Kranjcar in for the injured Bale, Bassong in for the likewise Gallas; job’s a good ‘en. Worry about Los Blancos later. What say you?
This, as they say, is it. Or something very close to it at the absolute least. Spurs against AC Milan. White Hart Lane. And if the sound of that doesn’t get your soul creaking like an old floorboard then, frankly, I don’t know what will. Your innards must be comprised of pulped bone and bits of tin. Yeah. So deal with that. Robot!
The good news from the weekend is that Boy Wonder’s unruly back didn’t show any sign of relapse- moreover the Welshman looked positively radiant in his brief shift on the potato fields of Molinuex. Bursting into a trademark lung-popping run after what felt like a few seconds. Whether that will prompt ‘Arry into starting him is another matter. Unlikely, you say?
More of what we saw in Milan, then. Plenty of guts and positive action; whilst doing our best not to get enticed into any funny business, should the Rosseneri decide that their best mode of attack is surgical strike. I’m looking at you, Flamini. Big hearts, big perfomances. We’ll do fine.
Whether or not you can put too much faith in a list which earmarks Darren Fletcher in the loftiest echelons of world football, I’m not entirely sure. But it does make for an interesting read all the same. The ruddy good FourFourTwo magazine released their annual 100 Best Players in the World feature this month; a countdown of the planet’s finest exponents of the oft beautiful game. From Messi to Milito to…er…Joe Hart, it’s a veritable who’s who of footballing glitterati. And Darren Fletcher.
And what of the glorious Hotspur, I hear you ask? Well, among the celebrated centurions, our very own Luka Modric (61), Rafael van der Varrt (42) and Gareth Bale (31) have played their way aboard. Newcomer Bale outslugging Ibrahimovic, Kaka and Sergio Ramos along the way. Fancy that. I’d have them higher, personally. But then I guess I would, wouldn’t I…
We knew they were in there somewhere. Just a little prod of encouragement and a necessary re-shuffle of formation and the real Tottenham look to have finally arrived at the party. Regular hell-raising animals on the continent- with the majority of time being spent in the kitchen hammering beer bongs and chatting up loose women- at last, we’ve transferred the good times to our domestic crusade. A stirring afternoon’s work.
Do I smell a new feature? Heck yes, is the answer. It’s the snappily titled ‘Things That Were Good and Other Things That Were Not All That Good.’
Well, that might need some work but here goes.
Good Will Hunting…
Firstly striking extraordinaire, Peter Crouch, at last managed to chalk his particulars onto the score sheet. Making a decent fist of catching Alan Hutton in the merit tables, the robot sauntered into the box like a gazelle being released into the wild. And onto a loose ball he pounced and huzzed it passed Robinson’s left ear. It was as well-taken as it was much-needed. There’s hope from some that this might kick-start the big man onto greater things; others would much rather he remained the utility-player-in-reserve his limited skills often point toward. All the same, he didn’t make me want to self-harm at any point during the afternoon, so that’s an improvement right there.
Once again Bale was dynamite. The bods at Sky Sports seemed almost a little embarrassed to give the MOTM to the Welsh wonder; as if doing so would just be too much of a cliché. But whom else could have such an impact on the result of a football match? Two goals, endless, indefatigable running, blistering cross after blistering cross. A constant threat all the way up until Saturday tea-time. As Bobby Robson said of Michael Owen during the ’98 World Cup, I’m running out of superlatives for this kid. Just mega.
Jermain Jenas played well. And I type this without smirking or fingers betwixt. He had a worthwhile, decent shift. Lively, used the ball effectively and engaged his brain to that of a smart box-to-box midfielder. Like Lampard, or summink. Close to being our best player. Of course playing well every so often should be water off a shmuck’s back for a boy being paid the earth to do just that. But there you go. It’s encouraging by any stretch- particularly with the news that the mighty Tom Huddlestone is out until February. Balls.
Not too much to go in this bit. The two goals conceded in the closing stages marred the festivities somewhat. Ten minutes of rather dopey defending meant that, in the end, the score-line didn’t really reflect the disparity of the two teams. At no stage were Blackburn ever really in this one. Not with our midfield at its swashbuckling finest. Four-two doesn’t really do the performance justice and certainly made the final few minutes rather more nervy than they ought to have. Counting the days for Dawson’s homecoming.
Pavlyuchenko’s penalty. And his one-on-one. I’m certain on both occasions, at the crucial moment, he had spotted a traversable wormhole out of the corner of his eye and was simply trying to send the ball into another dimension. In the intrests of scientific progress. So one can forgive him for that. As well, he made up for it with fine use of his cranium for the second and was generally the cat’s pyjamas from start to finish.
Where on earth do you start? The week of this blogsworth’s 250th transmission into the nether regions of internetland and it’s hard to think of a better time it could arrive. Being a Tottenham fan is, well, good at the moment. Really good. Eurovision winners thoroughly shellacked off the park, topping a group we were told we’d be lucky not to finish bottom of, the same number of goals as Real Madrid and United combined in our inaugural season in the competition. As far as testing the water in the Champions League goes, our beloved Hotspur have taken a running jump off the highest diving board and bombed straight into the deep end. A deliriously exciting performance on Tuesday evening; one already verified by scientists, academics- or just anyone blessed with the gift of sight- as mega super awesome. One which has the whole of this lonely planet peering in and wondering what all the fuss is about. One which epitomises everything right about this team and its imperious desire to entertain the pants of us. Fearless, adventurous. Attack, attack and more attack.
That boy Bale has been at it again. Every newspaper in the land has had its back-pages festooned with the sight of the Welsh wingstress in full gallop. And always just behind; bent double, hands on knees, wheezing, looking like he’d had the misfortune of trying to flag down a bus with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock at the wheel, Maicon. As much as the Brazilian full-back is never stopping a fifteen ton hunk of metal doing eighty in a built-up area, he was never stopping Gareth Bale. The occasional swipe of a leg was all he had to offer; that and the odd imploring look toward the bench, as if to say, what the heck am I to do? Taxi. Bus. Private helicopter. Maicon would’ve happily taken any of them to get him the Jiminy Cricket out of there.
On the surface, Bale’s greatest means of attack looks like a glorified version of the hoof and run- push it past the man, motor into the space left behind- but it’s much more than that. He finds the best route and thunders along it, invariably posting a dynamite ball at the journey’s end. It’s the decisions he makes as a winger that renders him so effective. When to knock it early, when to cut inside, when to cross it. When to hold it up and wait for others to join in. He nearly always makes the right choice. Which, in this case, was hurtling toward the cavernous gaps Inter had left between their backline and goalkeeper. When asked after the game what he’ll do in the likelihood of teams doubling (or even trebling) up on him in the future, his answer was thus:
“I’ve got to think of other ways to get past them. I’m going to have to keep learning in training and in games and try things and hopefully improve as a player which will allow me to continue to thrive.”
The sky’s the limit for this kid. Unless, of course, he outruns that, too.
Elsewhere, Modric was back to his charming best. His teaming-up with Van der Vaart for the first goal was the type of stuff our mind’s eye had been daydreaming about since the Dutchman’s arrival. Clever movement, quick feet, killer pass. Tidy finish. I don’t want to heap too much pressure on the success of this partnership, but if it’s half as good as I’m hoping, it could, I don’t know, be better than Jesus or something.
For everything that was on the money at the business end of things, there was equally good work going on further down the ranks. Carlo Cudicini, for the most part, provided a solid pair of mitts throughout. I do like our Italian stopper. Despite being on the peripherals for much of his time here, he looked thrilled to be a part of such an occasion. Bear-hugs, smiles at the end. Some fine saves during, too. At the back Kaboul was immense, BAE, unflustered and utterly fabulous. Huddlestone offered guile and industry in the centre of midfield; never looking a touch out of place amongst the beau monde of Sneijder, Muntari and the like. He never looked lost. Always made himself an option. Always looked entirely comfortable at this level. Same goes for ‘Arry Redknapp- as his willingness to take the game to the European Champions from the get-go will testify. He’s a f*cking football manager, don’t you know. And quite one at that, too, it would appear.