Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bent to Sunderland... done (in Bent's own words)

Well all done, bar the medical.

No posts for months and then two in a few hours... it's like London buses here.

Darren Bent has just posted on Twitter (or should that be "has just tweeted") that:

"Just seen crouchy at the training ground wish him all the best. As for me Medical at sunderland tomorrow. Can't wait to get started"
I also wish Bent all the best. Spurs never really worked out for him so it's no surprise that he's moving on. Shame though as I do think he's the sort of player that will bang in 20+ goals season after season as long as he starts regularly.

What I learnt from the Wembley Cup

I know it’s been a while since I’ve shared my opinions, but with a new season looming I guess it’s time for me to pick up the pen again (or at least let my fingers touch the keyboard). Last season’s finish wasn’t too bad considering and so we reach that time again when hope springs eternal…

Until Sunday we had a pretty good record in pre-season friendlies. Although judging by our failure to set the world on fire over the last few years and the regular changes in manager, I’m not sure it counts for anything. So to lose against Celtic on Sunday was no big thing as far as I’m concerned, although it did get me thinking about the relatively more common phenomenon of pre-season tournaments.

I understand that the Wembley Cup (and countless other similar summer events) brings in additional TV revenue for the clubs involved that a normal pre-season friendly would not necessarily generate. And I understand that it can be glamorous and exciting for fans to see their favourite teams pitched against foreign giants. Well, I thought that when I watched the Makita International Tournament aged 14, but bearing in mind I didn’t make it to Wembley, or Roma last season, or Torino or Inter Milan or Porto in previous years, I don’t think I’m in the target audience of those that create the pre-season fixture list.

Anyway, enough of that. Although I wasn’t sat at Wembley enjoying the tension of our first hunt for silverware of the season, I did watch both the Spurs games from the comfort of my sofa. And what did I actually learn from the inaugural Wembley Cup?

Firstly, the Wembley Cup was neither a ‘round robin’ tournament (where all teams play all other teams) or a knock-out competition. From a competitive point of view it was therefore pointless, as Barca and Celtic got to play some useless team from Egypt, whilst both of our games were against well-known footballing opposition. Hardly fair and therefore we were never likely to win the prestigious trophy.

Secondly, results in pre-season games are meaningless. Thrashing Roma 5-0 last summer really helped us in the early part of the season, didn’t it? The fact was, Celtic have their first competitive match of their season tomorrow night, our’s is in a few weeks, and Barca’s is even further off. After a summer break it takes a while to get the team and players functioning at their best, and our two opponents this weekend were at different stages in their preparations.

So assuming we all agree that the results were irrelevant, did we actually learn anything useful?

I think Chimbonda and Dervite are destined for the exit. Even though we’re missing Ledders, Woody and Daws, I would rather Harry asked his Sandra to play at centre back when the real business kicks off next month.

With a whole month still to run of the transfer window Harry has already proved what we all know: he’s a wheeler dealer addicted to buying and selling for the sake of it. Replacing Gunter with Naughton and Bent with Crouch… that will hardly take us much further forward. Although many blogs are raving about Naughton, I have to say I thought he looked distinctly average this weekend (and all this talk of off-loading Hutton makes no sense to me. as I think he’s our best right-back and one we should be hanging on to). As for Bent, I think he has the potential to score far more goals in a season than Crouch can, but he just needs to play regularly. I assume he’ll be joining Sunderland and I wish him well as he never really had the opportunity at WHL – let’s just hope he doesn’t come back to haunt us.

I still believe 4-4-2 is the way to play, and I don’t enjoy watching when we only have one player upfront on their own. I know this causes a conundrum when it comes to Modric, but I think he’s a talented enough footballer to slot into a 4-4-2 formation. The interesting question this raises is how many strikers do we need on our books? My view is that in a season with European competition where you might end up playing 60 matches, four top strikers is ideal (although one needs the mentality to put up with playing second fiddle, whilst the other three can be rotated enough to keep them happy). But without a place in Europe, can we justify having four strikers or can we make do with Crouch, Defoe and Keane with, say, Obika knocking on the door? And talking of Keane, what is his role for us, as I do think it’s a little unclear? I don’t think he’s the bench-warming type, but it seems clear that Defoe is preferred by fans and manager alike.

What else did I learn from our weekend’s exploits? Well, it was great to see a number of the youngsters get a run out this weekend and I thought Rose and Livermore both looked good. Oh, and I don’t think yellow really suits Kevin or Joe!

So another hugely (un)important pre-season tournament is up next, the Barclays Asia Trophy. At least this one’s a knock-out competition and three of the four competitors all start their proper season at the same time though. And we get a chance to record a pre-season win against one of our big rivals… roll on tomorrow I say…

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hangovers and pitches

The best thing about yesterday was that when I took my seat in the East Stand the sun wasn’t in my eyes. No this isn’t another rant about a poor Spurs performance, because I was reasonably impressed with yesterday – especially all the pretty, deft, dare I say, sexy, one-two’s we witnessed in the first half.

No the reason for my joy was the pain I was suffering in my head. And in every muscle of my body for that matter. My Saturday night involved far too much alcohol, my Sunday morning was almost non-existent, and as the game kicked off yesterday I was pleased to realise that the time of year and time of day meant I had another hour before the sun would be staring me in the face and the alcohol would start to sweat out of every pore.

Whilst I was in this uncomfortable state before we kicked off against the Bar Codes, I was mesmerised by the pitch. We’re into the latter half of April and it still looks so green and full of life. With a brain only functioning at 50% of its capacity, I sat there transfixed with this superb ‘carpet’ in front of me. No-one ever seems to thank groundsmen, only criticise them, so I’d just like to thank the team at WHL who have done an impressive job this year… and not for the first time I should add.

So after overcoming the biggest team in next season’s Championship I ventured home to catch the end of the Everton-ManUre semi-final. Boy did the pitch look crap! And then this morning I see that both Wenger and Fergie have somewhat of a hangover themselves… it was “a disaster”, “laughable”, “really embarrassing”, “spongy and dead”, “poor playing surface”, etc. Need I go on?

Whatever, they’re just bad losers. I’m glad ManUre lost yesterday because they didn’t deserve to go through with the team they put out. On the subject of ManUre and the new Wembley Stadium, it might be interesting to note that Fergie’s team have now managed just a solitary goal in their five appearances there (Giggs scored in the 2007 Community Shield). And the fact that Berba missed a penalty crucial penalty? Well, there is some justice in this world it would seem.

Wembley’s pitch might not be up to scratch, but the FA is taking measures to address the issue. The fact that two managers are using it as an excuse after two poor semi finals is simply a way of deflecting blame from their own short-comings. But if anyone is truly worried about the state of the Wembley pitch, maybe they should seek the advice of the Tottenham grounds-staff.

Monday, March 16, 2009

No-one is ever going to be as good as I was

It's been a tough few months on and off the pitch for Spurs, but things are definitely looking up. Yesterday's win at Villa Park was arguably the best result of our season so far, and although we're not out of the relegation dogfight just yet, we are the highest we've been all season. And mathematically we're now closer to European qualification than relegation, although that's not a debate for right now.

Today's Spurs related news is something far more important than one result, however good that was. Former Tottenham legend, and a player who is regularly mentioned in this blog, is back in the news but in a more positive light than when we last saw him. Paul Gascoigne has given an exclusive interview to Sky News (shown below) in which he talks about some of the struggles of the last few years.


I don't intend to repeat all of the horror stories here, but the video (and elsewhere on the web) goes into plenty of detail. The important thing is that Gazza is getting better. He may have been through rehab countless times, but this time I sense something is different. That's easy for me to say from afar, but I'm really hopeful this time. It strikes me that he is more settled in a place he feels comfortable, with the family members that really care for him. The last time he was on TV, which was that horrific documentary about Sheryl and the kids, left me thinking Gazza might not be alive by his next birthday.

But all that has changed... my three favourite bits from the interview are:

  • Gazza pretending to be Peter Beardsley whilst playing football on the beach.
  • His Dad stating that Gazza's best goal was the free-kick against Arsenal in 1991.
  • And Gazza's tongue in cheek comment that no-one will ever be as good as he was at football!
Brilliant. Well done Sky News for a positive news story about a living legend and my all-time hero...

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Are things on the up?

Last season’s trip to Wembley signalled the beginning of the end for our previous management team. After our cup final victory over Chelsea we managed just three wins and a measly 15 points from our remaining 12 matches of the season and it obviously wasn’t long before we said, “AdiĆ³s,” to Senor Ramos and co.

A similarly miserable finish to this season and we could be staring relegation in the face. Now I for one don’t think that’s going to happen and after last night’s result we’re a little closer to surviving. In fact, following our 4-0 rout Lennon told the Evening Standard that, “Someone said after the game that we weren't far off seventh and it would be unbelievable if we could get that, especially after the start to the season when we had two points from eight games.” It would indeed be unbelievable and we should calm that sort of talk before we set ourselves up for another disappointment. As a reminder, we were probably thinking the same thing after we hammered West Ham 4-0 last March. We ended 2007-08 in eleventh place and a similar finish wouldn’t surprise me this season. Anything more than that and we're kidding ourselves.

The key point that Lennon made though is that we are playing better than we have done for a while. We weren’t amazing last night; we were just up against an extremely poor defence that made us look good. But individually, our boys did well. And on Sunday it was not just a number of good individual performances but a resolute team showing too. Manchester United may have been missing a few of their stars, but so were we (although that wasn’t our choice). I thought we played well, deserved to win the game and should reflect on it with pride. Let’s not forget that for the second time this season the reigning Premier League and Champions League holders failed to break us down.

I still can’t figure out whether things are on the up or not at Spurs as we seem to have been pretty inconsistent since Harry’s honeymoon ended. But after the last two games I feel more optimistic than I have done for three or four months. We have exciting players like Modric and Lennon (the latter who is playing the best we’ve ever seen him), an improving defence, and some new talent like Palacios to add some bite to our midfield. Perhaps this season’s trip to Wembley is also a turning point, but unlike like last year this time it’s the start of a more positive era.

Harry now needs to ensure we survive this season, have a productive summer in the transfer market (as he did do in the January window) and then start next season much better than his two predecessors. If he can do that who knows, maybe we can have another cup run next season or a decent push for European qualification (assuming Harry actually wants to play in Europe again). For the first time in ages, I actually think the answer might be, in the words of the new US president, “Yes we can!”

Friday, February 20, 2009

Please can I have my money back?

After last night’s setback in Ukraine, I felt compelled to write to our beloved club:

Dear Mr Levy,

I am writing to you in my capacity as season ticket holder, shareholder and most importantly, lifelong supporter. Along with all other Spurs fans I am troubled by our league position, but am confident that we have what it takes to stay up this season. We have a good manager, good players, a large squad, and a fixture list that should enable us to pick up enough points to retain our Premier League status. We can then build on the above and move forward in a, hopefully, more positive way next season.

What concerns me though is the disregard shown by our manager to the UEFA Cup. Not only is this a trophy that is reasonably prestigious (it might not be the Champions League, but it helps attracts quality players, gets plenty of TV coverage, and is a wonderful opportunity for fans to participate in football beyond these shores), but it is a trophy held dear to the hearts of Tottenham fans. We were the inaugural winners of the competition back in 1972 and it also proved to be our last taste of European success 25 years ago this season. We have a proud tradition in cup competitions and with our league troubles this season, the cup competitions have proved a pleasant distraction from the ‘bread and butter.’

Last night our team selection was disrespectful to Tottenham fans the world over, not to mention the 190 that actually travelled all the way to Ukraine. Yes we had players that were cup tied and injured, but to rest other first team players was unnecessary. We have one of the larger playing squads in the Premier League and should be able to cope with midweek cup games. Yes we have plenty of fixtures coming up, but not an unreasonable amount. We have a game virtually each weekend and one midweek for the next few weeks. What’s unusual about that? We all saw the fixture list at the beginning of the season. If things are that scary why didn’t we bring in additional players in the recent transfer window?

I purchased tickets for next week’s return leg in good faith. However, I’ve now been told that we’ll be playing more youngsters than we did last night. It seems to me that the club has given up on the UEFA Cup and to me that’s a travesty. Why not take the competition seriously? We talked about qualifying for Europe enough, then when we finally achieved that aim again we act like it’s a nuisance and something we could do without. If the club are happy to write it off, why should the fans spend their hard earned money on attending the games?

All this talk about preserving our squad for crucial league matches is all very well, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that right now we need players to play with confidence. A win last night would have been the perfect springboard for a busy few weeks ahead. Instead, we’re on the back foot again and will no doubt head off to another away game on Monday worrying that if we’re not at least two goals clear going into the last ten minutes or so there’s a pretty high risk we’ll throw the game away again by conceding late goals.

Other than a couple of big setbacks (namely the way you treated Martin Jol and the fact that you allowed Damien Comolli to keep his job for as long as you did), I’ve been a fan of the way you have run the club. But now is the time, when things are difficult, that you need to stand up and do what is expected of someone in your position. You are considerably fortunate to run one of the biggest and best supported clubs in the world. Please pull rank, have a word, and sort out our manager’s approach to such an important competition. And if you’re not going to do that, I’d like to get a refund for the two tickets I’ve purchased for next Thursday’s second leg. Whether we’re in a recession or not, I think paying £70 for two tickets to a youth match is way over the odds.

Yours sincerely,