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Entries in AC Milan (8)


Milan, revisited

Was meant to write up a match report of the Milan game but alas, I’ve been too busy celebrating the best 0-0 ever. Touring the saunas and lap dancing clubs of London can take its toll. And to be honest, in retrospect I’m not sure too much can be read into the manner of the game in terms of tactics and especially in terms of it being any form of marker of improvement or further maturity. It was one of those games that did not go the way we wanted it to, but adapted by digging deep. We might have to do that again, and perhaps next time find a way to turn up the tempo in our favour.

This side, under Harry Redknapp, is more than capable. They’ve proven that. It’s beyond dispute. Amazing considering how it all started with our Bambi foot-work away in the opening qualifier of our campaign. It was always about that gradual learning curve having to tap the vein of belief and inject confidence until our eyes rolled and we flew as high as a kite.

We’re equipped but we’re not going to win it are we? Actually scrap that question. What I meant was, we’re not the best equipped to win it are? So it won’t be humiliating or laughable when we get knocked out because we’ve made the quarters. Sorry playa haters, but as much as your bitterness drives you towards wanting us to fail, but virtue of our progress – it’s now impossible to do so.

Do I want the journey to end? Of course not. I want more. I want more twists and turns and more chronicles in the making. Only two games away from the semi-final. I guess that’s where Spurs fans irk the other fan bases, by being dreamers, by believing the unbelievable. Heart on sleeve, might be too giddy for some but for us it’s the way we live our football. Two games from the semi. Four from the final. So be it. We’re not going to be found out, just out-classed when/if we get knocked out. And there will be no shame in it. 2006 seems so long ago now.

As for the game. I’ll try and cover everything I had planned to in the match report.

Milan – Okay, so they turned up and played like the home side. Controlled possession with good passages of play. I’ve sat down and re-watched the game and for all the time they had with the ball at their feet and their desire to get forward and test us – they didn’t do that much. Two or three chances? Arguably none of them were clear cut. The Gallas clearance? That wasn't even clear cut thanks to how the ball travelled towards goal. I’d go as far as saying that a side with three better forwards would have punished us. I’m going to firmly state they flattered to deceive. Big whoop. The Zlatan Zeppelin burning to the ground in flames. Robinho is not that good and Pato, when in a good position fluffed his efforts on goal.

Now they might cry injustice, but they're in denial. We expertly mugged them at the San Siro in a game where they failed to truly make home advantage count. Gomes the hero in that game, our patience the key with our counter and away goal. At the Lane the only injustice is the suggestion that Ibra calls himself the best player in the world.

Now in terms of how we lined up and how we played, it’s tricky to gauge. Other than perhaps forming your own opinion and taking the sage of Harry in his post-match. We don’t sit back and soak up the pressure in Europe. We appeared to do so against Milan because I’m not sure we had much of a choice. The lack of genuine fitness from van der Vaart and no Gareth Bale from the start meant a couple of outlets of our play were not present. Lennon was doubled up on (personally thought he came through and produced some quality balls into the box the longer the game progressed). And because Crouch will eternally give away free-kicks simply because he’s tall meant that the olde knock-down double act with vdV wasn’t going to have a productive night.

All made more difficult thanks to Seedorf and his excellence and Milan’s midfield and their work ethic. We failed to hassle them back in an attempt to regain sustained possession and instead built a wall out of Brazilian bricks and named it Sandro, the Beast of the Lane. The graffiti clearly stating ‘not tonight, I'm going to give you a headache’ with Milan attempting to get past it and failing time and time again, reaching for the paracetamol with the tick tock of the clock as the game worked towards its conclusion.

As pointed out by a keen follower of South American football, we hardly signed him from a team of Sunday leaguers. He played for a top side in competitive games, not unlike the ilk of Champions League. The kid has taken time to adapt to the pace of the Prem (I say adapt, it’s still early days with a handful of appearances) but even during the appearances made he looks assured, confident and believable as a defensive midfielder who can play the ball a bit (no Huddlestone) can tackle and can get stuck in. He’s robust and simply doesn’t look unfazed by much.

Our performance, our initial drive towards how we wanted to play might have been to hit Milan down the flanks and put them under pressure but having been placed on the backfoot, I think we dealt with them pretty well because the players wanted it and were therefore completely focused at completing the task. If we were not going to score, neither would they. Even with the odd error or scrappy clearance thrown in for extra nail bites. What we didn’t do is change it or attempt to change it, not until late on with the substitutions. Risky, but it worked out.

Gallas, Dawson also excellent on the night. Gomes, ignoring his walkabout, handled very well. Corluka was calm which makes me less nervous than having Hutton at right back. BAE did a job too. Modric had one of his ‘quiet’ games, it’s the type where you might at first glance think he was ineffective. But once more he recycled possession (when we had it) and worked hard covering plenty of ground. 90% pass completion from the Croation. No major link up play with vdV, a player I long to see at even 85% full fitness, something I’m not sure we’ve witnessed yet. Piennar, not box office but another hard working display. Would Niko have worked on the left in a game where grit was required because there was no apparent time for spark? Lennon our main outlet, even when constrained by the double-up, gave us some rest bite.

It was not an offensive Spurs performance by any stretch of the imagination. It was a forced defensive one. Crouch could have should have headed that second half chance at goal rather than across goal. Not enough of the ball out on the flanks which meant not enough of anything in forward positions. High hoofs to Crouch, one dimensional, at the sixth and seventh attempt but one out of desperation to get the ball up top to release the stress at the back – only to give the ball back to Milan.

As mentioned, Harry made the right subs late on. And also, as mentioned, Milan for all their posturing did nothing decisive when it mattered. Other than fall to the ground hurt time and time again. Nice one KPB and Robinho. The ex-goon also showing more of his class with another trademark lunge.

Team unity got us through it.

We have dismantled teams, bossed it and scored goals in abundance at home in the CL. This time out, it a test of character and perseverance. No matter how you wish to analyse, the fact remains, two games against one of the best sides in Italy – and they couldn’t score past us. Luck? It wasn’t luck that saw us finish top of our group was it? Doesn't matter if Ibra is over-rated or that Italian football struggles when played at a Prem rate of pace. We out smarted them in the first leg. That's what won it. That's what they can't get over.

I'm still smiling.




My eyes have seen the glory

Here we go again.

Eyelids stapled open. Heart removed by Mola Ram and placed into mouth. Lilywhite straitjacket on. Legs and arms strapped into the roller-coaster carriage with no means of escape for a minimum of ninety minutes or so before ride ends. FAO the faint hearted; please refrain from queuing up.

As the ticker-tape entrance sees ripped up recycled paper and copies of the Evening Standard thrown up towards the North London sky whilst the teams walk out to rapturous ear-drum bursting noise, all our hopes will be focused on Spurs doing their own tear up of a Milan back-line, recycling some of that Glory Glory football, copyright to White Hart Lane N17 on any given European night.

So much is being discussed in the build up. Mostly all from Milan about how they’re going to win. We are left to wonder what team Harry will select, mostly based around the availability of key players. Bale and van der Vaart both in the squad. The latter far more likely to start if you believe the press coverage with Gareth on the bench. Corluka also fit. King has been training with the first team but is apparently not available. Best thing is to simply wait and see. Thanks to the art of mind games and second guessing.

You would expect Crouch to start, vdV to slot in behind him, Modric in the middle and possibly Sandro lining up there too. I refer you back to the mind-teasing whether Bale is fit to start. Considering the forceful Spurs is the one that includes the Dutch galvaniser in it, I would not expect him to be benched. Corluka in for Hutton at the back. If Bale doesn’t play then Pienaar most likely on the left. Defoe to play up front with Crouch if vdV is not quite fit to start.

Something like this (ideally):

Corluka Gallas Dawson BAE
Lennon Sandro Modric Bale


I did say it was best to wait and see.

Milan are either over-rated or old (or both) depending on which critic you prefer to listen to. I expected them to score in the first game. You look at their line-up and you imagine there’s goals in there. They’ve had their way against plenty of Serie A opposition this season but there was a lack of spark, imagination when they faced up to our strong, determined and high energy tireless work ethic. Patience saw us counter and score. Gomes perhaps our shot-stopping saviour at the back. We can't afford to risk the the time and space to test him, more than twice.

They will have to attack us at the Lane. Question is – can they over power us? Can they win the midfield battle, control possession and hit us for two or three goals? They have selection headaches too. They’re also an Italian club and you can argue it’s not quite in their nature to be gung-ho or cope with 100% Prem style attacks. Any form of attack from them however will (should) play into our hands. We need to be switched on from back to front to be able to turn Milan inside out.

Spurs in Europe, Spurs in Europe against a top top side – it’s not quite the same version as an off-key Tottenham at Wolves or Blackpool. Perhaps we are geared up more for Europe than consolidating a second Top 4 placement on the spin simply as a consequence of being part of the Champions League.

Perhaps that ethos of Glory and that desire to make history and live in the moment for the moment has consumed our players and club that they have consciously and subconsciously prioritised the Champions League. Not so much with a caveat stating ‘we’re in it to win it’ but rather to simply take it one game at a time, learn from our mistakes and evolve. But do so with refreshing swagger and accumulated belief.

Suddenly, on the eve of a game of this magnitude, you start to feel that old sentimental romanticised flutter of butterflies in your gut about how football, at it's purest level, is about the games. The moments. About being able to look back and pin point a time when your team created a piece of history that can never be taken away. Because it is about the moments. It should be about the moments.

Suddenly progressing in this Cup competition is actually more important than bread and butter league games. Perhaps that is naivety on my part thanks to the pumping of blood in my veins as the hour nears. Perhaps its a small team mentality that I've anchored myself onto our pretenders/underdogs tag because of the whispering pessimistic voice that tells me we might not quite make it back next year via the league. Perhaps that caveat simply needs revision to something akin to 'we might not win it but we might as well have a right go at it'. Because otherwise, what's the point? Where would you find those cherished moments otherwise? Echos of glory, right?

If we get through, we’ll be in the quarter-finals. That’s not too shabby for a side that was meant to be humiliated in the group stages. I’d say we’ve done what we’ve set out to achieve in making a very Lilywhite statement to all concerned. And the very fact that I’m sitting here thinking I will be disappointed and gutted if we go out more or less sums up the progress made by this club in such a short span of time. Some of the games have been pure box office. Made in Tottenham. Is there any other conceivable way?

(Okay, I do appreciate the importance of qualifying again in order to sustain the progression before you start on me)

I guess the last time I felt this tingle in my spin was the return leg against Sevilla. That tingle was replaced by a spasm very early on. Lessons. But that was a different Tottenham in a very different time.

Milan, over-rated or otherwise still have players capable of shocking us. I genuinely believe that whether they can or whether they believe they will - it's of no relevance if we display the same type of tempo and tenacity that we dished out to Inter when they were duly spanked 3-1. The visitors do not travel well having won just the once in fourteen away games in Blightly, losing the last nine. I pretty much hate stats like this because they are there to be broken up with an anomaly. But we would have to turn up with boot laces tied if we wanted to make this easy for them. Because anything less than making it difficult would be disappointing.

Go for their jugular. Ruin them.

I say, who cares for the side they select and the players that play. For me, it’s in our hands. It’s down to us. No crazy choke or nervous reaction to the occasion. No unnecessary dramatics. Play to our strengths. Play to win and play to win well. The last ten minutes of the game have to be beyond the reach of our opposition rather than having thousands of Spurs fans biting their nails off and eating into their fingers.

Pin-point their full-backs and set to destroy. Score an early goal. Do not concede an early goal. Show the same type of spirit that resulted with the 1-0 away win. Unlike Milan who played cautiously and without pomp, we at Spurs are of a different ilk – so please bring it Spurs.

Bring the bravado and the brilliance and knock out the Rossoneri and onwards we march.

Come on you Spurs.





Taxi for Meeeeeelan

I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say that I'm a tad excited about tomorrow. That other Tottenham. The uber-focused swaggering with intent Spurs will hopefully take to the stage to entertain, swashbuckle and consolidate on the 1-0 away leg lead. The only choking I want to see is from a fan in the West Stand biting too deeply into a bagel whilst attempting to scream out in joy at another marauding Bale run into the box.

Hopefully the game will produce a storming performance that can perhaps be captured in threads via another epic Studs Up t-shirt. Much like the last time a team from Milan visited White Hart Lane. Our Welsh wizard rampant. Maicon destroyed. Oohs a plenty.

The memories still warm the cockles of our Hart. Maicon might have been dispatched, but we still have a job to do on Wednesday night. In the mean time, click on the above to get the best-selling (re-stocked) Taxi for Maicon tee.

Glory glory.



Five minute update

Had to take the day off work. Not spent that much time on-line other than fleeting looks here and there. I've been dealing with projectile vomiting and diarrhoea. Baby isn't well, bless her. And having projectile vomited myself listening to the verbal diarrhoea of the resident workplace Arsenal fans yesterday, I thought it best to remain home today and sing Spurs lullabies to my daughter. And whilst she sleeps off the virus spend the time constructively, removing items of ghastly clothing from her drawers, as the missus still doesn't quite grasp the concept of 'never red'.

No Spurs game this weekend, thanks to the capitulation at Fulham that appears to have sent Alan Hutton into exile. If you're wondering, he's currently on a remote island with no means of escape punching in numbers every 108 minutes.

Talking of the Cup, good luck to Harry Kane and co over at Brisbane Road. There's a match going on there that our loaned trio are involved in. Apparently.

Blackpool up next for us. And I guess its all eyes on the fabled European Hangover. Something we've hardly suffered from and shouldn't really look to fall back on it as an excuse considering the 'rest' we have until we play them.

Sandro and Palacios in the middle again? Not for this game. Attack, relentlessly attack. No need for clever, cultured and canny dismantling here. Look to score more than them, although it would be equally mature to go there and win 1-0 or 2-0. Doubt we'll keep a clean sheet, simply because of the type of tempo the game will be played at. And we're going to concede from a set-piece, right? Ian Holloway's men fighting for the lives. Pound for pound, we need to show our quality and out box them. Knock-out punch. Although if we do happen to underestimate their plucky resistance, then happy to slug it out to remain in the top four. Make the ones looking up at us sweat a little more.

Back to the midweek win, at this rate a DVD box-set of our CL adventures could probably go towards funding a viable version of the NDP. Or perhaps we could build one or two of the new stands out of unsold copies of The Opus and save on cost. You'll have noticed the quiet removal of all the Northumberland rhetoric from the official site. Northumberland what you say? I don't know. Never happened, did it?

At least the 'S' word has crawled back into it's spacious cave in East London. I can't even recall a single sound bite from Brady in the past week or so. Happy days. However, have had one or two Hammers iron out an opinion in my direction.

"We're moving into a 60k all seater", they smugly tell me.

I guess they're make up the numbers by inciting Orient fans from across the road. Perhaps they could even look to start the migration a little early, get them in the mood. All those unsold tickets and half-season tickets, no need for empty seats at Upton Park. Not while there's Prem football on offer.


Gattuso 'afters' continue to dominate most of the post-Milan chat. Joe Jordan denies he said anything racist to provoke the hairy Italian. Still loving the footage of him punching the pitch. No, hold up, you've mis-read that. I'm not suggesting Jordan punched Gattuso. Although I'm not alone in thinking the Milan captain behaved like a female dog.

Ibra apparently lifted Bassong up with one arm in the tunnel in more post-match face-offs. Too hot to handle off the pitch. In Dawson's back pocket on it.

Champions League final prices have been released. £26 admin charge on tickets that will range from £150 - £300. Doubled the prices of last seasons final. Football: The peoples game. UEFA deny rumours that a large Coke will cost £79.

Connor Wickham. He scored a hat-trick. In the Championship. Tag him with a £15M price and link him with Tottenham. Don't shoot the messenger but I reckon there's a probability of him joining. I'll confirm the percentage after the press conference for the club he signs for towards the start of next season.

More BAE positivity. Waiting on Hansen to review his opinions. Heads up, interview on this weeks Football Focus with the coolest man in the game (Ekotto, not Alan).

Bale's return. His proper return. Meant to be AC Milan at home. I just wet myself. The good type of wet. The Italians will no doubt come with a game plan to score an early goal. No need for us to contain and counter. Width with Lennon and Bale. Trickery with Luka. Leadership with vdV. Take the game to them. No fear. Something we should make them regret after their reluctance to go for our jugular in the first leg. They are no mugs, even though they behaved like mugs at the San Siro. We should take nothing for granted. Attack them as if we're the ones losing one nil on aggregate.

Corluka. Not as bad as it looked when he was stretched off. Back in training soon. Someone not back in the side any time soon is Huddlestone. Apparently, not fit to run yet. Massive shame.

Woodgate. Out injured (shock horror) after his cameo. As if the footballing Gods were ever going to allow us to have another CB available for selection.

And finally, Jenas has tweeted. Got a white Bentley for his birthday. Giving 'em away, those Bentleys. Just giving 'em away.


Peace. Out.


Facebook discussion
Twitter musings





We made the Italians cry

After watching this, you'll never be able to sit back and enjoy Gillette Soccer Saturday again, simply because it pales in comparison. Genius television. Even though I don't understand a word of Italian. Then again, you don't need to.

I dare you not to find this entertaining. Especially when Spurs score and when Ibra's is disallowed. If you don't have time to watch it all, forward to the 4:40 mark and then the 7:00 mark.






To Dare is to do 'em

Meelan 0 Tottenham 1


Football at the best of times is unpredictable. Expect the unexpected and such. It’s mostly unpredictable when attempting to assess how a game might pan out based on, well, based on form and selection and tactics and formation – which all stem from plenty of pre-match discussion in the build up to kick-off.

Myself and quite a few of you made a series of assumptions, much like we always do before a game. In this case, it’s AC Milan away and we’ve got a long list of missing players. I won’t talk about you here and instead concentrate for a moment on my preview of the game for a moment. Rather than attempt a zonal marking styled deep thinking analysis, I just opted for the subtle war cry based on the power of belief, emotion. You know, the fluffy stuff. With some controlled attacking football and plenty of heart and tenacity. It’s the easy way to write up a preview. Just ask and hope that the team stand strong together and give it some.

I was naive with my predicted starting eleven but then I hardly care for my foolishness. Because Harry Redknapp, that’s tactically astute Harry Redknapp, got it completely on the money, so much so that perhaps some of the non-believers will nod a gentle acknowledgement in his direction as a way of a thank you for leading the team out in the San Siro in possibly the most unexpected of circumstances in terms of performance and end result. Mature, disciplined and unequivocally focused from start to finish. What’s that? Magnificent? Go on then, and throw me a superb and a great to go with it.

Perhaps part of the misconception pre-match was spending too much time on those assumptions made about how the game would play out. A lot was made of Milan and their defensive and offensive qualities in their domestic campaign. Plenty of superlatives were made of their forwards and their experienced Champions League seasoned performers. Whilst most of us took extracted moments of indecisiveness and weakness from our league games and continued agendas against players we either dislike or don’t rate simply because of inconsistency and frustration back in the bread and butter of the Prem.

Equally so, many critics and neutrals cited our swashbuckling ‘we’re gonna score one more than you’ mantra from the group games and the additional possibility of a re-occurrence of stage fright.

So many potentials. Which is why I kept it simple before the game. Show some heart and some intent without playing over elaborate football that would leave us open to punishment.


‘Would still rather get knocked out giving it a right proper go than conceding defeat by allowing fear to consume us’


What we did instead, and kudos to Harry, is set the team up to be highly competitive in the middle – the foundation to build on for the rest of the side to retain the ball, work tirelessly off it to regain it when lost and endeavour to push into forward positions to possibly carve out an opportunity.

I’m not going to be critical at all at the lack of massive chances/shots on the Milan goal. Let’s just remember nobody gave us a chance of winning, most of us thought we’ve do good to lose 2-1. The application and delivery of the team and instructions the gaffer gave them is testament to what we can achieve when we are completely focused – no matter who is missing.

Doesn’t matter if one of the assumptions made was over-rating the Italians or even under-estimating Harry. This was no fluke 94 minutes of football. This was a set of players proving to themselves, to us, to everybody that they compete at the very top level. I’m sure if we were full strength and Milan had their best side, we’d have witnessed an absolute humdinger. Instead, we got a top class display of character and concentration, frustrating the home side to the point of petulance (go on then Gattuso, have a go if you think you’re hard enough, Jordan eats hairy cavemen for breakfast, turns his milk hairy) and half-chances and cheating.

Tottenham, going all weak at the knees from fear when bullied by Young Boys to standing tall (in one case that extra bit taller) and executing a clinical whack to the back of the head of one of the dons of the European family.

How did we achieve it?

Gomes between the sticks. No dramatics. Just acrobatics. Two brilliant saves, the first game-saving. Did nothing wrong. When this Brazilian is on this type of form you’d let him sleep with your...well, you probably wouldn’t but it’s the thought that counts.

Corluka and BAE both linking up superbly with Lennon and Pienaar down the flanks. Charlie a victim of former scum, always scum Flamini. How he wasn’t sent off for his two-footed tackle is beyond most of us. Big of him to apologise post-game. Wondering how many flowers he would have had to bring to the hospital bed of Corluka if he had broken his leg. Hoping it’s not too serious, he’s (Charlie) a class act and he’s about 1000 times more reliable at the back than Hutton.

Benny was also a class act, as he’s been all season long. Doesn’t care about football, hey? Wish players cared as little as he did. 21 mis-placed passes apparently. Best drop him to the bench then.

Dawson and Gallas were also bang on it. It’s strange how leading up to this game Daws seemed out of sorts, erratic. Both were solid and without error, always in the right place to tidy-up. The whole backline suffocated the Zlatan Zeppelin, burning the big balloon of hot air to the ground. Hardly any time for Ibra, Robinho and the harassed (mostly by Wilson) Seedorf to play clever intricate balls. And even though Pato introduced an improved dimension to Milan’s play in the second half, it still wasn’t enough to generate any ilk of nerves and knee-jerks.

Sandro. Palacios. Our two defensive midfielders in the middle tirelessly biting at ankles. Wilson perhaps over enthusiastic at times and still occasionally too slow to move the ball on when in possession – but enough negatives. His first half performance was part of the catalyst that saw us nullify any threat. Milan’s midfield had no time to think or create and simply failed to take a stranglehold allowing us to dictate our own comfort. Talk about taking responsibility. Well done.

The selection of Sandro was a master-stroke. Pre-match (assumptions) you wondered if it was fair, the baptism of fire. Some doubt lingered, to do with playing him alongside Wilson. It worked perfectly. He’s always struck me as a player that remains unfazed and mentally strong. Just off the Prem pace at times as he finds his feet in England, but in this clash – top drawer. Showed glimpses of the future. Positioning and movement, quick on his feet when using his brain and his tackle (ooh). Just ace. He's going to be a beast. But the type of beast that never looks he's going to break sweat beasting it. Well done Spurs do exist afterall.

Outlet of Lennon on the wing and Pienaar on the opposite flank chasing down balls as well as aiding when moving it forward. Azza (with no Bale) was always going to be key to crafting out a chance - what with us set-up with just the two dimensions (Lennon, on the flank, Crouch up top with his head). Got into some great positions, not always the best cross and sometimes not used and found when perhaps his team mates should have looked towards him to pass. But how simple and cool and calm was the only pass that mattered, off the feet of Aaron to the feet of Crouch?

Pienaar, pre-match, spoke about European football being just like a game of chess, and once more, some of us scoffed that this would mean Harry would perhaps look to sit back, defend, soak it up and counter. Not quite sit back and defend with complete lack of ambition, but counter we did – and it was worthy of bishop taking queen, chess board knocked to ground with the opposing player trying to head butt the victor.

van der Vaart, intelligent on the ball, off it, led by example. This guy cost £8M for the love of God, we should write up a cheque to Madrid for an extra £25M because the guilt must be killing us. Cracking effort with the chip, just sublime, just not quite perfect for what would have been the ultimate. What was so brilliant about his role, his responsibility out there, was his link-up play was practically seamless when he left the field of play to be replaced by Modric.

Both players, obviously not 100%, yet both imperious to making it tick, what with the overwhelming physicality of our DM’s allowing pockets of freedom to roam. Luka, armed with remote control (the ball has an electronic chip in it) hardly ever losing possession, dinking here there and everywhere – always looking for a touch and a pass, always making sure we didn’t stagnate and remain motionless. Earlier in the game, especially the first half, I kept thinking had he started I would not have been anywhere near being nervous. The game was so made for him to dictate. It was just good to have him back and no surprise he was involved in the goal.

Sandro interception, Modric releasing Lennon, Lennon running full pelt, finding Crouch, superb finish. 0-1. Bask in a classic counter-attack. What I thought we couldn't do, we did. Soak it up, hit 'em on the break.

And what of Mr Majorly Maligned? Did not expect him to be fit (I guess that was the closet thing to kidology we got pre-match), possibly wasn’t completely in prime condition (sorry if I missed it but I’m guessing he took injections to play?) showed us that on the right stage and most definitely in Europe’s elite competition, he is imperative to how we line-up. It just works. Doesn’t matter how or why, it just does. Diagonal balls to his head (not that he got many of them thanks to the panic marking), the flick-ons, the chest downs and holding up of the ball, his touch and his composure when handed the golden opportunity for that all important away goal. Yet another player who did not stop working till the final whistle. Also did well to keep the dog on its leash. Plenty of bark, no bite. And no problem for Peter to laugh off.

They all worked their socks off. What topped it all off was Woodgate coming on (still having to rewind and’s him, it’s not CGI, I’m certain of it). Niko also impressive when taking to the field.

All of it, the way the script unravelled itself, just perfectly. Selection, temperament, tempo and belief. Confidence simply oozed.

Sure, we had one or two heart in mouth moments, great call at the death from the assistants who disallowed the Ibra bicycle kick. Would have been tragic to draw, even though that would have been more than acceptable before kick-off.

The first half – one of the best 45 minutes I’ve seen in terms of how we conducted ourselves. Owning their patch and dominant in application.

The second half – Milan asked more questions, but just fumbled and stuttered as they attempted to make a statement. Spurs making paper aeroplanes out of the crumbled paper-thin attempts. And on the occasions they did manage to be concise and to the point, we (Gomes especially) countered it with a sterling comeback, faltering any chance of a sustained argument.

Meelan, not having Pirlo in there was very much detrimental to how we all expected them to perform. I guess, perhaps in some way, they were disjointed (something I would have tagged us with when witnessing Sandro and Wilson starting) and they struggled to get to grips leaving us to take the initiative. Even on the back foot we remained tight and crowded out their attacks. Gattuso summed them up. Uncertain, erratic and nervous. He's also apologised for his actions. He'll miss the return. Says he and Jordan were both talking Scottish to each other on the touchline, during their fiery incidents. What's Scots Gaelic for 'you're missing with the wrong man son'?

So, in conclusion, I wanted us to have a go. And we did, but we did so with an unexpected twist. We birthed offensive play from the sheer gritty defensive qualities we displayed from start to finish. Even if it was partly one-dimensional. It was enough to come away victorious. We did not allow anything to rattle us. Even when it got a little tasty and dirty. Although I found myself laughing at Gattuso punching the ground (if that’s meant to rile up the home support perhaps we can get one of our players to run out with a spade in the home leg and dig a hole for the Milan players to hide in).

Wasn't pure Tottenham in terms of exhilarating pulsating expansive football. But it worked. And kudos again to the gaffer for it. Milan, out-smarted. Defensively, flawless. Italy's top side contained. Clean sheet – what more can you ask for? Away goal? Got that too. Every man a hero. Would dearly like to understand the psychology behind how teams can produce football performances like this. I dare us to perform like that week in week out. We won't, but then if we continue to play like this in the CL, our adventure might yet continue into the quarters.

Professional and mature Tottenham. What happened to the 4-3's then?

English clubs have a habit of getting results in the San Siro. Looks like we've gatecrashed yet another party. Outstanding performance. This team proved on their day they can compete with anyone. No fear. Belief, it transcends individuals and players to the next level. We have to win games like last night to breed that winning mentality. The further we get into this competition the better we'll be for it. Take this attitude to the Prem please.

Our evolution continues.

As for the return leg? Harry has to make sure that the players understand this is far from over, backs to wall regardless of last night. We should play out the return leg like we're a goal down. Some of that Spurs v Inter intensity. Bale should be back. Modric and vdV might start. I expect us to revert back to a more traditional controlled attacking style, marauding down both flanks with devastating pace. Refer you again to the dismantling of Inter. That’s how we should set up to play. It’s only 1-0. And even though the likes of Ibra and Robinho flatter to deceive and tend to disappoint, both are more than capable of scoring something out of nothing. Especially as many now would pencil us the favourites to get through.

We can worry about that in three weeks time.

Football, it’s about moments. So please do stick this one in your history books. Until we meet the The Rossoneri again, go get drunk on the fumes of yet another Glory Glory night.


To Dare is to do 'em.



European dreams

guestblog by Chris King


It’s the 23rd May. The Year is 1984.

A nine year old boy is watching his mates run around on the stage at the Curzon Cinema on Shaftesbury Avenue. His Mum leans in to him, nudging him on the arm. She asks why he is not up there playing with his mates; why he looks so serious, on this his birthday. She offers popcorn, sweets and a sip of fizzy pop, but nothing seems to wake him from his near trance.

“Come on” she says. “Don’t be sad, do you not want to see the film?”

“It’s not that Mum”

“Well, what is it then?”

“Mum. How are we going to stop Enzo Scifo?”

Some of that has been Hollywoodized for the narrative to introduce this piece, but I did spend the afternoon of my ninth birthday watching the Fox and Hounds at the Curzon. I can’t really recall much about the film, it wasn’t until I saw it on video some months later that I realised the fox…. Well, I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it.

Only one memory burns bright from that day, and “If you know your history” the opening sentence to this piece will tell you everything you need to know.

It’s been all too easy to think of negative things to write about Spurs for my contributions to this site over the last month or so. I don’t get down to as many games as Spooky, so compiling match previews or reports is a bit of an ask, given that we often have to rely on the incomprehensible ‘Mers’ on Soccer Saturday, to fill in the blanks in the wilds of the North.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t change tack. To look both forwards and back; to be like a nine year old again – both anxious and giddy with emotions at the prospect of another massive European night of football for the Spurs.


"It's magnificent to be in Europe and this club - a club like Tottenham Hotspur - if we're not in Europe.... we're nothing. We’re nothing."

That quote comes directly from Bill Nicholson. He’s right. Some would say he was always right where Spurs were concerned. The year after that majestic night in 1984, we had another good run – falling agonisingly short to the eventual champions Real Madrid by the odd goal in the Quarter-Final. We’ve had some moments since then, including the Inter Milan game at home this year – but they have been all too few and far between. We’ve been hopeless in both getting in to Europe, and re-establishing our place once we get there. But it used to be all so different.

There will be people reading this that weren’t born in 1984, let alone got to see that penalty shoot out – who will remember Tony Parks the player rather than the goalkeeping coach. A player, much like Newcastle’s Steve Harper, who spent eight fairly unproductive years as back up keeper – amassing the sort of game time Gomes will do in a less than a season this term. But no one cares about that. All those that saw the game can remember is his one great game. The sight of him diving to his right, getting both hands to substitute Arnór Guðjohnsen’s penalty and pushing it out towards the west stand; reeling off with both hands in the air, before being mobbed by his team mates.

It was our third major cup success in four years (to add to the 1981 and 1982 FA Cups) and I couldn’t imagine it being any different as a Spurs fan. How wrong could I be? Thanks first to Heysel and then one poor mid-table side after another, we only managed two further appearances in Europe in the nineties – neither of which amounted to much; especially given the own goal Stephen Carr conceded in the last minute to send us out away to Kaiserslautern.

Since then we’ve had a couple of decent runs in the now defunct UEFA Cup; but the Jol era aside, it has never really felt as though we were really 100% committed to the task in hand.

That is until this season.

A terrible start to the campaign seems to have shaped our season a touch – hopeless in the opening phase of the first half away from home. But at home, in front of our fans – what a joy it has been to watch European football again at the Lane. Young boys, Twente, Internazionale and Werder Bremen - all blown away by the sort of attacking, entertaining and heart lifting football we’ve craved since those Glory, Glory nights of the 60s, 70s and 80s. We’ve played with a spirit that shows we fear no one, even during those calamitous passages of play – but do pray to whatever sporting or religious deities you hold dear, that no on dives in for a reckless challenge in our box in the opening 10 minutes tonight.

To have the chance to play AC Milan, at the Giuseppe Meazza on one of our biggest European nights since that fateful birthday back in 1984, I can’t but help paraphrase Bill Nicholson’s quote. For it is magnificent to be in Europe, and this club – a club like Tottenham Hotspur to be playing the Italian league Leader in Europe without fear proves we’re something. For even though the internet appears to have written our chances off for tonight at least, especially with the absence of key players – for once, we as fans still all seem to believe. How great is that!

So today, as I sit at work – slightly fed up, slightly distant – looking south east out of the window towards Milan I can’t but help being transported back to that cinema seat in 1984. As my mum leans in, nudges me on the arm and asks why I’ve not completed the Project Plan I should have had done by lunch time…

“Come on” she says. “Can’t you do your work?”

“It’s not that Mum.”

“Well, what is it then?”

“Mum. Let me tell you how we’re going to stop Zlatan Ibrahimovic…”





Vaart in the face of the Zlatan Zeppelin

Simply put:

Go to Milan. And attack.

I'm going to hazard a guess that they won't expect us to be that cheeky, all things considered (when you look at some of our away day performances and momentary hiccups). Defending away from home in Europe doesn't quite work out for us in terms of being negative and withdrawn to combat the home sides offensive. The aim is probably to soak in the pressure and counter. Theoretically it works. But we're a main man down on the flanks. And all-out defending is not the Tottenham way. Very much illustrated by the manner we go about our business when we play at the cauldron of White Hart Lane. Need to take it to them.

The benchmark should be that first half against Bremen. But the opposition this time round are just a bit better. And they have The Zlatan.

Let's just take a moment...

They said we wouldn't challenge for a Top 4 place.
They said we wouldn't finish in the Top 4.
They said we would choke.
They said we'd go out in the qualifying round.
They said we'd get thrashed in the group stage.
They said we'd...

You know what? Who cares what they said or continue to say. We have stormed it plain and simple. Sure, naive and at times calamitous, but it's been a stunning and refreshing journey of discovery for the players, the club and the fans.

Honestly, hand on heart, if you don't feel pride for what we've achieved in this campaign then you're a miserable git. We've done it the Tottenham way all the way. From the sublime to the ridiculous.

The whole point of finishing Top 4 - if you break down the dynamics of what it gives you by way of qualification - appears to be based around being part of a monopoly because traditionally, the 'top 4' rule the roost in terms of attracting world class players. The top end of the Prem is in a state of flux and nobody can quite predict how things will pan out over the next season or two. We might find that with each year it changes. No longer the same four clubs entering Europe's elite competition, but a time-share between five or six.

Regardless of the future, the present has some people already dismissing the knock-out stage double trouble fixture with AC Milan with the tagged on suggestion that finishing in the Top 4 is more important so that we're part of the adventure again next season. Apparently, we're not going to win so let it be and concentrate on making sure we find ourselves in the same position next time out.

Scratching your head like me, right?

Surely if you're going to be pessimistic you might as well just be damned with it all and proclaim to go down in a blaze of glory trying to beat every team you come up against. Tis a cup competition you know. Upsets, shocks. They happen. Destiny? It's in the hand of the one who believes the most.

Okay. I get it. Being part of the group stages sort of (hopefully) guarantees that your best players won't leave and status continues to grow. And if you consolidate a top four place you weaken someone else and it gradually builds towards possibly creating a gap of class in our favour with the unlucky team(s) that don't make it looking up at us. It's happened and it wasn't fun on the outside looking in.

But football is about these types of games. Meelan.

Back last season when we dropped points away to Everton and got beat away to Sunderland and the side just kept coming back..was it the dream of finally achieving a top four place or the dream of playing against Europe's top sides that made your heart skip beats? Back last season when Crouch scored that goal at Eastlands...all of it, the derby wins against the red and blue scum. The run-in. It gave us the keys to the door that opened a world of swashbuckling learning curves a breathtaking voyage of discovery. We just can't lose, what with it being our very first season in the competition. It's been a test to see exactly how we, the Champions League virgins, went about losing our cherry. And boy did we slut it up.

It's all about feeling pride and spin tingling excitement when the troops march out to that dizzying theme and into battle. It's no different tomorrow. And regardless of the obvious quality of Milan, I'd still be fairly gutted if we lose/go out of the competition.

We're contenders again for the top four, and if we were perhaps more fortunate with injuries and even signed ourselves a top class forward (if if if) it could have been a little more comfortable a challenge. Plenty of hard work to be had domestically, but that adrenaline you get from momentum, it's golden.

Top four is important. But tomorrow, nothing else will really matter other than the ninety minutes ahead of us. We are involved because we are deserving of it and we I'm sure the players understand the importance of carving out yet another magical footnote to the 2011 season.

We've done superbly well to get out of the group stages. Even the neutrals have loved our participation and our mantra to entertain (be it not always planned). Plaudits here plaudits there plaudits everywhere.

Nobody expects us to get past Milan (few do). Plenty of chat that pin points the fact that we are no longer an unknown entity. Teams know what to expect. I have not a clue how the Italians plan to line-up (in terms of tactics) against us but would guess they will go for the jugular. Strong hard-working midfield, creativity up front. It's tasty. Don't want to see us on the back-foot for 90 minutes, so the work rate of our middle four will have to match theirs.

Away goal anyone? We might remain depleted (Bale out, JJ suspended, Modric - not sure, vdV - expected to play) in key areas. We might be outclassed by the simplistic virtue that they have a better standard of players. No standing back and watching in awe please Mr Dawson. Get stuck in.

Hoping to see the ilk of performance we displayed at home to Inter. Not so much with the type of oomph you would possess as the home side taking the initiative, but more the discipline and concentration that might aid us in frustrating and upsetting the hosts whilst applying ample pressure on them. Making them defend enough to turn it into a contest rather than a mauling ala first half capitulation last time out in Italy (4-0 down).

Will be fascinating to see self-proclaimed greatest player Ibra and Pato up against Dawson and Gallas. The there's the experience of Flamini, Gattuso and Seedorf up against Palacios, Modric (fingers crossed) and Lennon and Niko. Milan likely to play three in the middle and three up top (Ibra, Pato, Robinho). Doubtful we'd start with Sandro and Wilson - that would encourage the wrong attitude. Pienaar in with a shout in place of Niko another possibility, but why drop someone bang in form?

Rafa's return, imperative. Modric equally so. Two out of three will have to do.

Attack. Controlled and focused. What's the worst that can happen?

Okay, right, where's the Imodium?

Would still rather get knocked out giving it a right proper go than conceding defeat by allowing fear to consume us.

It's the Champions League. We know, on our day, we can turn it on. I'd expect us to do just that back at the Lane. As for Tuesday, don't sit back, go for their jugular. No Gareth to bale us out this time, hoping we get to unleash him in the return. Might work out in our favour. The unexpected. What with all the pre-match hype usually geared towards how to defend against the Welsh juggernaut.

Width is going to be an issue (if I return to the painful truths of reality) so here's hoping they don't double-up on Azza. They probably don't rate him much like Fabio.




Kranjčar  (Pienaar)

van der Vaart
Pav (Defoe)


They've got players missing too (injuries and cup-tied) but it's hardly going to make the task any easier. Much like us, their defence is not as great as their attack. Although if I'm honest, it's been a stalemate this season when deciding whether we're offensively or defensively best. Milan, they can be got at.

So, heads high, chin up, chest pumped out. Belief and tenacity. It's 90 minutes. Then it's a Glory Glory night in the cauldron back in N17. I'd take the score draw. I'd even accept a 2-1 loss. I'd rather have the moon on a stick.

Best team wins. Show some heart Tottenham.

To dare is to do 'em.