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Entries in away win (15)


It's on the way

So'ton 1 Spurs 2

Feels like I'm writing up the same match report and analysis for every game at the moment. Comfortable, slick first half followed by an uncomfortable ugly second. Or vice versa. Or bit of both mixed in.

We destroyed them in the first half, yet we were not comparable in the second. That's Tottenham, making you work for it on and off the pitch. Whether it was thanks to tired legs that we spent the second half sitting back and inviting Southampton on - this remains to be seen how often it's repeated post-Europa League. Full pelt pressing followed by unavoidable downtime is a good tactic, only if we take our chances. A two goal lead is not quite enough. Leadership not always evident on the pitch to ease up on the tempo and claim some composure. There are methods of pacing ones self that does not always follow with the 'survival' tactic of just dropping back and hoping we don't concede. There's an instinctive missing ingredient, something in there to balance things out. Then again maybe it's as simple as having Dembele back in the thick of it. Bolster the midfield. Still, there has to be some admittance that in some games you'll surrender possession because the home side finally decide to wake up.

For want of better finishing (JD and one of those days or is that any given day?) we might have gone in at half time so far ahead that it would not have mattered what level of performance was displayed second half. Instead, we wasted chances and Southampton we're able to find a way back into the game. This led to all sorts of last ditch defensive heroics including yet another ridiculous slice of action from Sandro that saw him rise to block-deflect a torpedo off his head. You'd imagine if the world was ever in perilous danger from a monster meteorite, they'd send Sandro up into space to stop it.

Much like the WBA game from earlier this season (and patches and pockets of other matches) we've not buried the opposition and instead find ourselves time and again having to fight them off with the shovel. We have to boss games with complete conviction and leave our opponents eating dirt in a shallow grave. Easier said than done. I'd worry about our prospects for the season if we don't have a solid style by the 20th game mark. For the moment, you can't dispute the points accumulated and the manner in which they're being won. It's that second level of performance we're waiting for, that 90 minutes of pulling a side apart and blowing them away.

Instead we go from fluidity to the frenzy, with heavy reliance (this past weekend) on old man Gallas to steady the ship. No mistakes from him this week. Sandro an equal colossus, with his feet as well as his head. It's that same format of reactive football we have to endure thanks to, I'm not sure what. Why is there such a monumental difference in the two halves? Is it mental or tactical? Or simply down to that aforementioned opening blistering forty-five and those weary shattered legs thanks to the Euro hangover? Southampton upped the tempo, they were more urgent with their pressing. We just sat back and soaked it up. Perhaps because that's all that remained in the tank.

Goal one. Tom Huddlestone sends the ball in with a delightful dink for Bale who curls his header into the corner. Doesn't celebrate by celebrating subtly. Is there actually a difference? Next memorable moment was him taking his shirt off post-match. Goal two, Dempsey there to make sure it goes in after another superb Lennon run and a far too delicate finish by Defoe (trickled towards goal) which was cleared off the line. Rodriguez with the So'ton goal after a brilliant save and then cometh the second half of torment. Positives? That first half of wonderful overlapping and pace, ooh, we'd be salivating at the scoreline if we kept it up.

Couple of nice touches; Villas-Boas dedicating the win to football administrator Alex Carroll (following the death of his mother), the players throwing their shirts into the crowd at the end (AVB covering the cost) and for comic relief two Spurs fans tugging at Brad Friedel's shirt, waiting for the other to let go first. Laughed when the 'winner' offered the loser money. Classy.

Post-match musings?

The one thing that stands out for me when I stare at the Premier League table is the number nine. That's the amount of games played so far this season. Muscles being flexed, gentle jogs with the odd sprint. Still feels so early in the season yet give or take another five to ten games and the table will truly begin to take shape. We still can't report conclusively on Andre Villas-Boas as this Spurs team remains a team in progress. We've yet to dazzle White Hart Lane and aside from perhaps one game, we've yet to boss a match convincingly. We remain better away from home where we find exploitation of space so much easier to embrace. That missing creative craft in the games in N17 is an area that will be imperative for us to find to remain anchored to a top four position. That foot on ball away from home also essential to take the sting out of the hosts.

We're having to dig deep at times and make do without the likes of Dembele, BAE, Adebayor, Kaboul and Parker. VB citing lack of depth 'for all the competitions we want to do well in'. Because that's what we want. We want to challenge. It's the best way to build momentum. We'll have to hope some of those players are back as we look towards November as the fixtures creeping up could prove to be the impetus to see those sprints turn into a forceful run as we gear up for a marathon.

Wigan at home next, much like our gaffer has stated, it's a must win in terms of preparing for what follows. NK Maribor at the Lane and some squad rotation but almost certainly a must win if we wish to see ourselves progress to the next stage. Then it gets real. It's on the way. The month of heart in mouth.

City away.
Woolwich away.
Lazio away (Europa rest-bite).
West Ham home.
Liverpool home.

A defining part of the season as we head towards the festive period. One that will require an uplift of intensity especially at Eastlands and the Emirates. At the moment (famous last words) there still appears to be no change to the past couple of seasons in that nobody at this stage looks to be a class apart. Although granted, the money of City and the experience of Utd always allows them to pull away when it matters. Chelsea offensively remain a massive threat and the more games played the better Hazard, Mata and Oscar get. Arsenal have a variety of questions marks littered over them, much like we do.

For the moment, we continue to look at the return of Dembele. Try to work out what when exactly Adebayor will be ready to play football before he's lost to the Africa Cup of Nations. And look towards to our coach for clarity on the goalkeeping situation. A situation that for many doesn't actually exist and for some remains mystery. Before you know it, the January transfer window will be open and the same tired story arcs will be talked to death.

The season doesn't quite feel it's truly started, but it's about to.


Monkey claims to fall off back. Wasn't on it in the first place.

Thrown some thoughts on the game together. It's been a long tiring day, hassled through out it. So excuse the lack of craft. But who cares when Tottenham displayed so much of it on Sunday. Badum tish.

Reading 1 Tottenham 3

Well that was nice. Fluid, effective football with some ample finishing to see off opposition that we probably should have blown away in the first half. This game wasn't just about picking up the three points but doing so with a bit of style and structure. Which we did. Can’t really sit here and complain about not scoring enough goals or not making it look even easier than it was when the reality is, the side is still adjusting under Andre Villas-Boas. Monkey off back. Then again, there wasn't a monkey on it in the first place. Onwards we go with two successive games at the Lane. That momentum is fluttering her eyelids at us, it would be rude to ignore her advances.

There was no Livermore or Benny, both injured, the latter out for a month and replaced by Naughton. Dembele started alongside Sandro – the combo we all wanted to see and although it was up against a weak side, it was very reassuring to witness some life after Luka Modric. Dembele was progressive with movement, looking for the ball from Sandro. Both playing in tangent and protecting each other’s space and making sure availability to receive the ball was always evident as we looked to move higher up the pitch. Dembele, effortless when attacking space. Sandro dominant pressuring opposing players, intercepting and tackling with supreme belief that he owns that patch of grass in the middle.

Did Dembele start because Livermore was injured? He probably would have started regardless, especially as VB stated he wanted us to be more offensive against Reading. Sigurdsson, the third part of the midfield trio, and responsible for a killer ball splitting the defence for Lennon to cut back for Defoe to score for the 1-0. So much to like about this. The fact it almost seem to play out in slow motion even though it was over in seconds. The vision from Sig. Lennon’s awareness to receive the ball. Defoe’s scuffed effort perfectly beating the defenders and keeper. Striker’s scuff the ball on purpose, right?

Defoe starting ahead of Adebayor might have raised some eyebrows. I guess he's in form now, so you can’t drop him out of the side although as per usual we have to weigh the good with the bad and if JD can repeat this type of bullish performance against a better class of opposition then we still have good options up front (or at the minute, from the bench). Isolated, this was a cracking performance. His second goal (for the 3-1) was very well taken. Although given the freedom of the park he still had to retain composure which he did. He had other chances including a majestic take down and outside of the foot shot that deserved to go in.

Because of the comparative ease of playing against Reading, having the midfield trio behind him, the team was able to play to Defoe’s strengths. They supported him, he delivered (he had several shots at goal). Against sterner teams that make the midfield congested and turn it into a battlefield, he won’t be able to lead the line in the manner he did on Sunday. Which is why Adebayor will always be the better fit because he can drop back and work the channels effectively. However, this is a side coached by someone with Powerpoint slides. It’s quite possible that Defoe will improve his game, his awareness and positioning under Villas-Boas. You can’t change a player that is driven on by pure instinctive play but you can attempt to control the areas of the pitch he attacks though far more ticky to improve his link up play. Can’t fault his effort though. And he's scoring goals so I expect the same against QPR.

gifs by Eperones

An improved Defoe is better than one that just runs around a bit and waits for a chance to fall at his feet. However, not sure he can bring the midfielders into the game as effectively as Adebayor. This is going to be very interesting. How VB handles the two players in rotation and how effective each player is against lesser sides and the stronger ones.

Naughton did well. Gave away a couple of needless free kicks but seemed to be quite disciplined and solid in possession. Vertonghen was brilliant at the back, might well be one of our best signings in recent years and makes the retirement of Ledley King a little easier to deal with (best to avoid dreaming about the fantasy line-up of Vert and King at the back though if you want to sleep tonight). Sigurdsson wasn’t as influential as I’d have liked him to be, but can hardly complain what with the ball played for the first goal. Once Sig slots into his role he'll have more impact on the game.

Bale was quiet first half. Better in the second. Scored (another scuffed shot, there’s got to be skill in this) and looks to be slowly improving. Just a case of him finding his groove. Better he slow starts than fades away later on. He needs a pulsating home display. Can’t help feel that his responsibility and effectiveness will start to take shape in the next few games. Has to be used more as an outlet and he has to run that flank with authority. With so much more reliance on tactics these days, I’m still struggling to see a definitive change in what he’s meant to be doing. With Lennon it’s clearer that he’s beating opposing full-backs by finding space rather than ball at feet attempting to beat them time and time again. But sometimes people expect explosions from Bale when it’s the subtle stuff he does that needs a nod of approval, like the dummy run he made that allowed Defoe to do the damage for his second.

Huddlestone, Dempsey and Townsend all on as subs. Add Scott Parker, Michael Dawson and Hugo Lloris to the fold and our squad depth doesn’t look too shabby. All those players likely to be used in the coming weeks as opposed to simply warming the bench. Lazio on Thursday, QPR on Sunday – there has to be a little rotation.

Conceding late on was disappointing. It keeps happening. There was a batch of pressure in the second half where we struggled to clear the ball convincingly and it looked more like panic than tactical instructions. Leadership is something else that needs to stranglehold the latter stages of games. We have to retain the ball, take the sting out of it and boss it rather than sit back and invite. In addition, if you go back to the early stages – we can really put games to bed if we are clinical. That cut-throat side of our game has to be worked on. Not just up to the striker – the midfielder need to get in the mix more. I’m confident this will happen with Sig and can pretty much guarantee Dempsey will relish the opportunity. We could be one more goal to the good each game.

As for the host? Reading are not very good. At least on this display they allowed us far too much time on the ball and let us dictate practically from start to finish. But that is really not relevant. Cliché: beat the teams you face. We did that and there's still so much room for improvement. Improvement that will come by virtue of this side understanding the new system more with each passing week. Confidence will see to it. Application was spot on, as was pace and tempo. Players all looked like they had an understanding of what they were required to do and when in possession players seeking the ball made themselves available either in support or by attacking space with intent. Less pressure away from home? Do we feel the pressure back in N17? We'll find out soon enough.

Feet firmly on ground. We had a job to do, we did it.

Other footnotes.

The kit. It's not terrible but it's not really Spurs. Aside from the fact that it is Spurs because we were wearing it. Just not very traditional.

AVB on the touchline. Adore the way he celebrates goals. Looks no different to a supporter in the stands. Looks better in fact, what with that beard and that suit.


Rafa refuses to dance to Samba beat

Rovers 1 Tottenham 2

I keep waiting for us to explode into rampant action with devastating consequences. The sort of performance that has our players swinging from the chandeliers holding bottles of champagne whilst the opposition sit in the corner, shaking, slowly moving backward and forwards foaming at mouth whispering to themselves...make it stop, make it stop, make it stop.

In my pre-match comments I eluded to the fact we are rather good. At least we should be rather good when up against a side like Blackburn that are struggling. We were good in patches and had enough quality to see the game through. Our luck will run out at some point if we don't resolve the centre-back injury crisis (by resolve, I guess all we can do is muddle through) and other key players don't re-discover their mojo. What is most definitely good is the fact that we continue to be capable of playing average football away from home and still come away with all the points. Luck or basic survival instincts, either way, we're 5th and our excellent run since the Manc spankings continues.

Due to the manner of the victory and the once more fragmented tempo to our game its tricky to delve too deep into whether we have learnt anything new from this performance. Have we? Go on then, you pushed me into it. Although I still don't think we've learnt anything new. Just echos of old. Taking observations made solely on Blackburn away I'd probably go with:

van der Vaart. Four opening goals in four games. Love him. The finish for the first goal was classy stuff and his second equally majestic and impossible to stop. You might sit there and debate what else he does on the pitch and how his wandering is detrimental to the side and whatever, shut your mouth and just look at the facts. He's a born winner and no matter the opposition he gets the job done. After years of complaining that we lacked true fighters, men who know how to win and have the desire to, now we finally have such a player we should just sit back light up a Cuban and enjoy. Top drawer. It's just dandy to have a player that can sometimes not play out of his skin and still score a brace and win us the three points.

Was it just me or did Friedel look a little unconvincing at times? Even so, if this was an off day for the big man, then I'm happy. Didn't cost us but could have. But didn't. Just seemed to notice a lot more in this game that he does love to stay on his line more often than not, which means the onus is on the centre-backs to attack the ball. Have a word Harry please. With the physios. Bassong struggled here (high balls) because that's a weakness to his game. Still, some very decent saves from Brad when called upon.

The problem with not having King available is that we don't have King in the side and can therefore spend large portions of the game looking like we've got the Queen playing at the heart of our defence with a corgi by her side. Was no surprise that Rovers pressured us with high balls and physicality. Samba was a handful. A brute (and given the freedom of the pen area) which led to their equaliser. We don't look convincing at the back but then what team would if they had three seasoned centre-backs 'watching' from the sidelines? Samba does love to make us dance around at the back.

Kaboul was vocal. I like that in a player. But much like Bassong he struggled with the aerial assaults Blackburn bombarded us with. You almost felt like Rovers could have scored more because we slacked way too much. The pressure we were sometimes placed under mostly down to the lack of a telling partnership with Bassong and Kaboul (who seemed to struggle when in possession).

If Sandro is not fully fit, then I look forward to when he is because (as cited pre-match) a midfield with Sandro and Parker in the middle would allow the South American to dominate and boss, cleaning up and chasing down whilst Parker can slot back into his more accustomed role of box to box football. Scott is hardly built like a Brazilian Bane and can be out-fought in the middle of the park. No amount of 1950s hair flicking is going to scare the opposition. It's difficult to lead on the pitch if you're being consumed by a couple of heavy duty responsibilities. He needed more help in the middle. He can handle himself, he can get stuck in but he needs a partner in the thick of it.

Don't be too harsh on Lennon. He needs game time and he needs more of it. Tracked back okay on occasions.

Love Walker. There was me thinking he'd be providing cover for Corluka this season. His effort and determination going forward is an inspiration. If he was a boxer he'd bring it to you, punching relentlessly, always looking for the haymaker. Brilliant run for the opener which deserved the goal.

Adebayor still looks like he's playing with that hamstring worry. Subdued. Did drop deep a lot, fairly frustrated I would imagine. Still, he was involved rather than disinterested. I hope.

Modric looks like he's worked out how to shoot at goal with menace. Decent game, bit more bounce in his play this week but not the best circumstances to dictate.

Bale. His form continues to bubble along at luke warm temperatures. He's a left-winger, pulsating at best when released down the flanks...but something, that edge that spark, it's not quite there. Harry has to take some responsibility here to get Bale back to his best. Man management is fine, but tactically out on the pitch Harry has to perhaps focus on how best we utilise him to get him back up to boiling point. A bit of freedom perhaps? Instructions to cut inside (ala Modric back in the days when he stood out on the left)? He's not exactly been woeful. The standards he has set himself is what magnifies his lack of impact. He'll get back to it, no doubt. I guess Harry has to ask himself, how best to galvanise Bale? At the moment its all very bog standard.

Overall, its time this 'luck', this scraping through a game and surviving to hold on is brushed off and we start to brush off our opponents with more pomp and splendour. Not just Bale that needs galvanising.



Three points. Clean sheet. Mid-table. Come on you Spurs.

Wolves 0 Spurs 2

Okay, so this was hardly vintage. You scratched your head when Bale started on the right then knowingly screamed out at Redknapp when he was swapped back into his traditional left-sided position allowing for more balance and (not so) coincidently a far better second half team performance, which included two solid debuts from new boys Parker and Adebayor.

Seems in the wake of a victory some of us are still not that content about proceedings. I can’t really fathom why anyone would even contemplate complaint and mark down player’s performances. It’s obvious we are in need for rediscovery. The groove and confidence of a side that’s bursting with pomp and perfection is still lost out in the wild, but the search party is not that far off. Got to dig deep to find it rather than waste time looking for it at the end of a rainbow. Hard graft and no misconceptions or fantasy.

Look, put it this way, if this was the opening game of the season and we played like that and won 2-0 at Wolves, we’d all be ‘ooh, we got the job done’. But it wasn’t the first game, it was the third, and the opening two were in some ways devastating (when you look at the score line on paper). They were not anomalies, but rather harsh reminders that our form (went missing back end of last season) is still AWOL. Shovels at the ready. Time to find that treasure otherwise it’s a shallow grave for our own funeral.

The point I’m making (placing aside the messy metaphor) is that both the Manc defeats looked and therefore felt a lot worse than they actually were. United punished us for being limp and City ruined us for being defensively lapse. This isn’t just about a lack of midfield in the opening two games and injuries and the apparent inability to muster up fire in the belly from manager and players alike. It’s obvious we need a reboot and one or two players need to wake up from their slumber. We need focus too but more importantly, we needed to win and claim our first points for the season. Which we did.

Winning 2-0 away at Wolves? Both result AND performance was above the level of basic acceptance. It was warranted and deserved. First half was well below par. The unbalance of Bale on the right-wing (let’s be done with this please) and our general manner in defending and bringing the ball forward – it felt wrong, it lacked a meaningful cohesive pattern.

Perhaps the fact that its new blood in with misfiring players and emergency selections? Sounds like too much of an excuse that.

This meant that players like Modric, Bale and Kranjcar struggled to find fluidity in the middle which is why people are pointing at the likes of Luka and saying the word ‘ineffectual’. Yes, but no. If you’re not set up accordingly, it’s not going to be easy marking the game with your presence. So perhaps there is an excuse hidden behind all the shrugs.

In addition, the wantaway Croatian has plenty of work in front of him and his own personal journey of self-discovery to get a grip of himself and reclaim the type of industry and spark we all know he is more than capable of achieving. It will come in time. He's got no choice.

Defensively, we were sound with Ledley King back in there (you almost forget he’s still knocking around The Lodge). Parker gave us that workman like dimension we have craved for – so even though we spent the best part of an hour struggling for that fluidity, he made sure we ticked in a game that lacked that creative edge. He broke up play and got into forward positions. Bit of get up and go about him, just a subtle hint towards leadership.

When Bale swapped back to left-wing and the game opened up in our favour, we started to own possession. Midfield worked better and from defence to attack to defending, we looked and worked like a unit, rather than the fragmented and frustrating opening 45 mins we endured.

Adebayor proving what a quality forward can bring to a side. Although I refuse to believe the Bale flank swap was tactical astuteness (it was a mistake put right) I do think we won because we simply had more quality and the longer the game went on the more evident this was. Wolves had very little to offer in return. So again, I can't be dishing out pats on back for astute tactical stuff. We'll need the clever stuff against better opposition (and redeem the mistakes of the first two games played).

Ade gave us that missing cutting edge. He’s robust, strong and can work the turf intelligently. Cool calm finish for the 1-0. Defoe equally clinical for the second. Props to Niko, even if he isn’t too comfortable in the side (positionally not always prominent) he stuck in a good shift and assisted for a goal. Parker had a superb debut. Also assisted, worth ethic etc etc. An on-form Parker with an on-form on-it Modric – that would be something to see. Although equally, so would Sandro + Modric. We’ll be spoilt for choice once our wounded ‘nine’ are back.

Big Bad Ade teamed up well with all concerned, giving players options and galvanising JD (I did predict this). He looks the player we needed to sign. I'm sure he'll be elevated against the scum when we play them. Nothing to prove he says, but I'm guessing he might have a slide or two in store.

Bale has to get his head down and just do the simple things again. We keep saying this, we keep waiting for it. Gaffer - earn your wage.

Was impressed by King, not because he played particularly brilliant. He was more than decent, but any player that starts in Lilywhite that has not trained, got one knee and yet still command a presence of  supreme authority and inspiration – credit to him. Players around him, other defenders, they seem to anchor into Ledley and not lose their head as they would commonly do when he's not in the team. We do need to grow up a little here as we can’t rely on the great man to always play. We don’t know how long left we have him for. At some point, the club and the player will need to make a decision. For the good of both the club and the player.

Also, applause for Freidel and his saves. Looks like I got my pre-season prediction here wrong. Saw Brad walking out of my local Tescos on Sunday. Nice tracksuit. Gomes appears to have disappeared. More soundbiting from Redknapp today about the player not being happy/potentially moving. Shame.

Next two games in the league (at home), Liverpool then Arsenal – these will be defining (as early as this season still is). If we win both, watch how the media’s perception will change. Witness the growth in belief and desire from our fragile-minded players morphing back into monsters. And see the positive knee-jerk from fans online and in the stands.

This is Tottenham. Nothing ever changes. But for now...

Three games. Three points.




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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.



True Grit and its supporting cast of Spurs (no cowboys included)

Challenge Spurs™ 2011: Thou Shalt Not Lose

Sunderland 1 Tottenham 2


Bare bones. Three points. Saddle up.

And if you like numbers, then smother yourself in these:

32 points from 45.
1 defeat in 15.
2 points behind Man 'they were challenging for the title before Saturday' City with a game in hand.

Quietly, quietly, Tottenham. Ssshhh.

From the match preview:

Churn out a result at Sunderland. Go to Milan, keep it tight (yeah right) and come back with at least an away goal and a score draw or even a damage limited 2-1 defeat. Then drown them at the Lane in the return fixture with a down pour of glory glory superlatives.

So that's part one done and dusted.

Churn probably the most apt word although dug deep and gritty are a couple of other qualities I don't mind throwing at the 2-1 result at Sunderland. A place we hardly ever win at and not easy for most others to do the same.

First half was fairly diabolical. Even with the missing army of first-teamers (for an assortment of reasons) we still appeared flat-footed, lots of backwards going forwards. Painfully slow in midfield and harassed, allowing Sunderland to press and bully with the added bonus (for them) of conceding a goal that could only be birthed in Tottenhamland. Gallas, off the pitch changing his boots with Dawson admiring Gyan's control and shot, scratching his chin in awe.

I have this saying, a simplistic philosophy, an outlook a game that's about to start. It simply goes something like, "The first ten minutes will tells us all we need to know about the game". And after ten minutes it was ominous. Disjointed and without any signs of a coherent pattern to our play. We all go through the same journey in games like this, high and low emotions and knee-jerks as we process the threat of a loss, no matter how early in the game. Many of us are drama queens without the cool, calm, collected Clint Eastwood stare. It's more Woody Allen than Clint. But, like the players on the pitch, you persevere.

The equaliser was like a magical hangover cure. One glug and the pain is gone. Just before the break too. Another goal birthed in Tottenhamland. The two players at 'fault' for the Sunderland goal (okay, Gallas was off the pitch and you could argue he wasn't at fault because others should have covered him in defence) involved. Dawson, this time the one blessed with the freedom to connect with the ball, accepting the Keys to Bramble, headers the ball towards goal and Gallas dancing in front Gordon, his legs shifting to allow the ball to go through them and then through the keepers. Crisp. Stick that on a DVD.

Second half was for the best part a role reversal, although the home side continued to have a go, hitting the woodwork. We were far far better as a unit. Our mindset tuned into a more robust tempo. Not the best pitch, not the best performance if you picked out individuals and critiqued them in isolation. Doesn't quite work like that though, does it? There was a work ethic evident through the team that elevated the performance to a far more acceptable standard.

Defoe, will no doubt split opinions. He's forgotten how to score, probably trying to hard and let's himself down with his touch at times and his sudden reluctance to just blast the ball without that aged old footballing weakness some of the more instinctive players don't always require (thinking). Sure, he needs to pass the ball towards the goal at times but you sense he lacks edge at the minute.

But he covered ground, worked the channels. Our lack of any creativity would not have helped either of the two front men. Hence the reason why it's quite easy to compound the negative energy towards the little man based on previous games included.

Pav was also ambiguous in performance depending on how you perceived the game. Personally thought they both stuck in a hard days work. Although won't argue that at times both players let themselves down with lack of composure. But some decent link up play from the Russian with the midfield and plenty of free-kicks won makes him the better of the two - and arguably the closest of the two regarding tangible form (if Harry decides to persist with him).

Roman, by the way, is unbeaten in the ten Prem games he's started this season. Ooh. Play him more often, yah? Roman Publyuchenko on the Hackney marshes, not quite.

Interesting stat I stole about the missing man yesterday (Crouch). The Sunderland win was the first time in 63 league game he has not featured in (that's as a starter or sitting on the bench and coming on).

As a unit, we pulled together. And that's what matters. But if you wish to rain down the abuse, you sort of hope for a lot more from our two front men. It's tricky to gauge on just one watch of the game if Defoe, for example, was never in it or simply tirelessly working his way through it in a selfless way without swagger.

Regarding JD's seasoned selfishness of past glories. Has to be in a position to receive the ball. And it simply wasn't that type of match where the midfield could provide him with the chance. Pav slightly better in attempting to create space for a shot on goal.

Re: Meelan. Start Pav over JD.

The winner was sweetly struck.

The Corluka through-ball to Sandro which resulted with the Niko sexytime was understated yet majestic. Kranjčar, from the far reaches of despondency on the sidelines to hero, two games on the trot. We keep changing our minds when it comes to discussing squad depth. We say we have depth and then  dismiss it when the players that are not first teamers fail to impress when given cameo opportunities.

But then on days like these, when you see the likes of Bale, Modric, van der Vaart, Lennon, Crouch, Kaboul, Huddlestone (throw in King and Woodgate to make it look even more impressive) all missing because of injury or rested because of Tuesday - you have to accept that more than a little man-management is required to get the balance and focus spot on. Even if it takes half a football match to get there.

We are still miles away from our best line-up and our best level of performance. It's still hard to self-doubt when we keep chipping away at the top to try and remain anchored there. Squad depth? Seems there's something in that after all.

If you want to pick out negatives (go on, you're Spurs you know you will), you could perhaps once more groan at the lack of set-piece quality (ignoring the goal).  Talking of which, once upon a time JJ wasn't too shabby at them. And still on Jenas, loved his epic tackle (think it was edge of pen area around the 85th minute mark) and his BAFTA winning turn when he protested his innocence after blatantly fouling an opposing player. Who me? Break a leg Jenas. Yours, metaphorically, not one belonging to one of their players*.

*more of a pole-axe, granted.

Talking of acting...Gomes. Honestly, what a fruit loop. Love him to bits but it's embarrassing to watch him cry on the field of play, especially when he was hardly touched. Ooh look I'm going to almost fall over, then scream at the player who punched me in the gut then cry a little then I'll be fine.

Because Gomes is eccentric (cliché) you sort of laugh it off with 'oh look there he goes again', but you'd berate any other keeper that done that (or player) and just because he's got such a comical face doesn't mean he should be allowed to get away with it. Quiet word in his ear, gaffer.

Dawson has had a wobble or three in recent games after that outstanding return. Not sure why. I've been impressed with Gallas so there's every reason to be confident with that back two, but still...? Improved second half - but then again, everyone had to. Did win everything in the air, but at times you worry about his reactions on the ground.

Wasn't pretty, was very gritty. Three more points and further character building proving a success. On the surface, didn't look the best midfield from Harry, but it worked, eventually. Hoping all these rumours of Bale and vdV not making the Meelan game are deflections. Have to wait and see who travels. We need a far more evident buzz in the middle and more width. As well as vdV who can (word of the season) galvanise the forward play.

Positives? Sandro got better as the game progressed. He's been unfortunate at times when starting (and scarified) so glad to see him take to the game after an untidy first half. The kid has mental strength, doesn't seem to be fazed too much. Although Harry should let him know this is not Brazil and you don't tend to have 10 seconds to stand on the ball. Probably did just that at half-time.

So onwards with Challenge Spurs. Two games, six points. Perfect record.

Team cohesiveness - Non-existent first half thanks to so many erratic performances and a lack of control in midfield, but the players dug deep again to grind it out. Doesn't have to be easy on the eye every time.
Leadership - Present by virtue of belief to turn it around.
Work ethic - It's easier when eleven players are a unit. Once players pulled together to retain the ball and use it effectively, confidence grow and the more of the ball you're going to see,'re more likely to carve something out.
Craft and creativeness - Lacking up top which meant Pav and JD we're never going to get themselves into goal scoring opps, but no questioning Niko's movement and passing. Important when you consider we are lacking the likes of Luka, Rafa and Tom. But against better opposition, we need the keys to the front door rather than waiting for someone to leave a window open.
Clinicality - Wayward free-kicks, but when it mattered, two goals. Brilliant finish from the Croatian. Again. Not many more clear cut chances on goal.
Tactical astuteness - The second half proved there was little wrong with the selection Harry stuck out there. Need to start these types of games with the same level of commitment and composure as displayed after the HT.
Fighting spirit - 10/10. These types of results go a long long way.

Spurs. Nowhere near full-strength. Away from home. Three points. Niko and Sandro the stand-outs.

The good? Second half. The bad? First half. The ugly? You call three points ugly?

In a word, resilient. Just need the gunslingers back.





How did we do?

Home again. Spent a couple of days up norf, within spitting distance of Old Trafford (tested and proved). Highlight, on the delayed journey back, was sitting within stalking distance of Kaya Scodelario. I'm practically twice her age. I disgust myself. But not as much as I disgust the o2 network and it's weak 3G connection. Following the football on Twitter whilst travelling on route from Manchester to London whilst salivating is hardly the best way to get my THFC fix.

So what have I missed during my bout of cold turkey?

Luka out for three games including the first leg of the monumental double-header against Meelan.

King delays op because he can't find his passport (you can't make this sh*t up).

Harry is still telling everyone stories about the almost/nearly signings in this past transfer window which saw us fail to resolve the ongoing forward conundrum saga.

Spurs win. Away. Gritty I'm told, not perfect and not vintage but some highlights including the performances of our fullbacks, Gallas, vdV and Jenas. Crouch scored. Defoe has forgotten how to.

And apparently if we beat Bolton on Saturday, we'll be one point better off than we were this stage last season. Not to shabby, even though some of us are struggling to stay afloat in a sea of negativity.

The arguments are aplenty and I'll formulate my take on all the deadline day mishaps when I've had nine hours worth of sleep.

Would appreciate some honest 'reports' of the game against Blackburn. Fill ya boots (i.e. the comments section).

DIY blog for this early early morning.





The Theatre of Tears

Continuing on from this, United truly wind me up. But equally, so do Spurs on occasions (so many occasions) when they allow self-defeatism to drag them towards the inevitable empty points haul that we leave Old Trafford with.

The last time we won there can probably be found in the depths of the Spurs Shop store room on a dusty Betamax in a damp corner. Long forgotten about other than the mouse chewing away at the tape. Until said mouse notices a far more appetising VHS.

So with no Howard Webb in the equation, what will give way and will it give way our way?

Potential scenarios (based on historical depression):

1) We start brightly, pressure United, score, United come back into it, make it 1-1, we go on the back-foot and then go 2-1 down, and then United score a third to kill us off.

2)  It's a scrappy match, both teams struggling to get a stranglehold on the midfield, United get a penalty which they score, the game continues to be scrappy, United get another goal, this one a screamer from about 30 yards out. Misery. Heads down. Still nothing since 1989.

3) United steam-roll us, we never get into the game. They turn it on. Tabloids proclaim the return of majestic form for the biggest club in the universe.

4) We score a legitimate goal which gets disallowed for no apparent reason other than incompetence. And lose 1-0 to goal from a defensive lapse.

5) We start brightly, take the lead, then take a position that suggests there is simply no way back for them and then we…choke. Textbook 'flatter to deceive' performance which sees United shove us aside nonchalantly as we fall back to our textbook position - on our arse at OT. Four or five home goals. Match of the Day removed from Sky+ series link.

6) We turn up. Boss the midfield. Play with confidence and belief. Score. Score again. Remain strong. Make clever tactical substitutions. United get a goal back. But it's too late. We win. We end our miserable away to a 'top 4 side' record. Spurs fans across the forums and blogs of the internet rejoice with suggestions that one striker in Jan will mean = title contenders. Fans in the away end French-kiss. I get a tattoo on my back of Harry eating the Champions League trophy. Man Utd fans in tears, Bale signalling to the home crowd 'I will never join Utd, you prawn loving losers', whilst Modric plants a flag in the centre-circle of a Cockerel and ball.

I've stuck £1000 on number 6. This is the best chance we've had in years of getting something up there. Sure, I'm not naive enough to believe United are suddenly worthless, far from it. They have enough players of quality on their day to beat anyone - even with their light-weight midfield and lack of Rooney circa 2009. The difference is, we've improved. Probably not massively this season in terms of stepping up a gear, but this game on Saturday, its one that can define our season for sure.

Step up Harry. Step up Bale, Modric, Huddlestone, van der Vaart, Lennon. Sandro. No matter who starts. Step up Crouch or Pav (I've sort of ruined the speech now haven't I?). Step up not just guile and tenacity - but for once, let's see some of that relentless never say die we're going to beat you any which way we can belief that them in the Red we face churn out season after season.

Get in their faces. Invade their personal space. Show no respect. Dish out to them what they routinely dish out to us. And never - not for a second - take a single moment for granted, no matter the score.

Want to play in the big boys playground? You need to kick 'em in the nuts first, show them you can handle the pace. Make their eyes water.

To dare is to stick it up the bollix of Berbatov. COYS.



4 points, 2 games

Stoke 1 Spurs 2

Was it over the line? I guess it doesn't matter. Them the breaks Top 4 sides get, innit?

Nah, let's not sell-out just yet with that one.

I guess lady luck continues to hump our leg, be it frantically (is there a better way?) and I for one will just shrug and patronisingly point out how unfortunate Stoke were not to share the points today. But that's just me being diplomatic.

I'm all for clubs like Stoke, fighting tooth and nail, bullying and hassling opposition - especially opposition that in the past had a habit of crumbling and falling apart. Why should they pay respect to visitors? But we are made of sterner stuff these days, as witnessed by our sitting-back-and-taking-it-like-a-man performance in the second half. Much like last seasons visit, we did enough. And at this point in the season, before true form is found, I'll happily take three points at places like the Britannia. Shaky moments and everything.

I'm going to hazard a guess and say the 3-2 loss v Young Boy and the manner in which we went 3-0 down has hurt our mental strength some what. Panic, not quite of the catastrophic ilk, has crept back into our play. The sooner we get this play-off out of the way (and win it) the quicker Harry can settle with some consistency with his selection, and focus from the players on our immediate target: EPL points. So, I'm made up we left Stoke with all three points. King rested, Crouch the only available 'fit' forward, Kaboul in for Bassong, no Modric and the return of Jenas. 4-5-1. Crouch the lone man (Keane injured or dropped?). Depth. Even if we might be critical of the likes of JJ and Kaboul, I applaud their shift today. Can't really fault the team performance or Harry's selection.

The first half was decent enough. Azza slowly beginning to reclaim some of that lost end product. The opener, a clearance off the line, hitting Bale in the chest, and ending up in the net. 1-1, Gomes all dizzy in the box. But not too worry, 2-1, Bale again, and this time with a goal that you could watch endlessly. Giggesque, volley from the heavens. Lennon provider. Let's not be forgetting this won us the three points. Well, that and the officials reluctance to signal a Stoke equaliser in the second half.

First half though had us easily winning the possession percentages, passing the ball around with much confidence. And JJ could have made it three, unlucky not to.

So Bale sublime, all good, no complaints no massive concerns. Even though I couldn't help but think our defence was still susceptible to collapsing if pressure was applied. So I guess I did have concerns. I was wrong. But only just.

Second half, Stoke had a right go at us. I don't really want to bang on about the fact that we let them have a right go at us, because for me, defensive frailties and all, we still survived. We battled. Even Jenas got stuck in and worked hard off the ball. Tuncay asked a few questions. Gomes answered them by placing his hands over his ears and shouting 'lalalalalalalala'. Have to say though, that on closer inspection, our mad Brazilian was at times tripped and impeded (first goal anyone?). It wasn't an easy afternoon for him. But he seemed to experience a re-lapse with dealing with crosses. And if I take my blinkers off, I have to admit that Gomes was nowhere near being dominant in his area, and thus, sort of brought it on himself, falling over people and flapping.

Back to what I mentioned early, re: credit to clubs who might lack depth in quality by making it difficult for the likes of us to settle down and play. And although I have no intention of going all Wenger with the complaints, I did find Stoke tiresome, especially Shawcross, the dirty cheating bastard, kicking out petulantly at times. Gomes made a fine fine save from Tuncay, tipping over the bar. Stoke continued with their physicality, we continued to weather the storm. Harry makes a tactical switch (Walker on, Lennon off) and then its OMG time when a header is saved onto the underside of the crossbar, is then headed back in and appears to go over the line, hitting Crouch (chest? arm?) before being cleared off the line.


It's not required. Well, not required until the same thing happens to us. Karma, that's what I'm going to go with here, what with Stoke's WWE tactics. We might have made hard work of it, but we stuck in there. We dug deep. I got it wrong pre-match, but I don't care. Swashbuckling can be left for Wednesday.

Loved Phil Thompson's remark about how the foul on Gomes in the build up to the 'goal' was not relevant because the referee did not give it, and yet talked up about how Stoke should have been awarded the goal and taken a point from the game. But the ref didn't give that either. So using Phil-logic™, is it not equally irrelevant also for the same reason?

It all sort of fixed itself up, one mistake following another, cancelling each other out. Discussions that will no doubt continue into the new week. Let's hope that's that, and we don't have any controversy in the play-off.

Being tested like this is fairly invaluable at this early stage. A reminder that new-look Spurs of 2010 is sticking around for 2011. I'm hoping now, with three points up on the board, the players can relax and look forward to the game that will truly define the next few weeks and months.

Tottenham, not quite brilliant, definitely resilient.


Rule Britannia: Spurs v Stoke

Domestic bread and butter first up before we return to the caviar of Champions League. Hoping we're not left with an egg and humble pie combo by the time next Wednesday closes shop and Thursday greets us when we walk into work dejected devastated delighted.

Stoke away. Never easy, wasn't last season, but the game was a perfect illustration of the guile and tenacity we became very much accustomed too on our travels. We had injuries, we battled hard and dug deep and showed some rather tasty moments of class (Iceman, where aut thou?). It will be no exaggeration, and no disrespect meant to our hosts, that I will be rather upset if we lose all three points. I might even knee-jerk in the aftermath. I don't want any deep digging this time round. I want us to win comfortably. I'm that frigging greedy.

Pushing on is what the Spurs directive should be for this 2011 season. I know that comparing results like-for-like from one season to the next is a redundant exercise, but there are certain games I would tag with a massive 'three points ta very much' label and this is one of them. It's a banana skin game only if we believe it is. So the players have to firstly forget about Wednesday and get our season kick-started, with hopefully a firework or two, by displaying the very same qualities that have made us want for more.

Over-achieved they say. Not a chance. We've got more left in the tank. Last season was no fluke.

Harry will no doubt make changes again, a tweak here or there, with Wednesday in mind. So, I guess the Young Boys return leg is nigh impossible to completely isolate in the back of the players minds. But they should do their best to momentarily forget.

We all know that confidence breeds results which breed form which means if you play well and win one game, you go into the next with a buzz.

The crux here is mentality. Last season, many of us were probably nervous about going away to Stoke. In fact, we tend to be nervous away full stop as fans - purely from an analysis and pre-match perspective (our away support is altogether a different kettle of fish, flying fish, with brass band and sopranos bursting the ear drums of native folk for miles around). We once upon a time had woeful away form, have made some improvements, but finally can say we should be far happier travelling than we once was.

Oh Noes ! Stoke away ! Yes, Stoke. It's Stoke. It's not Manchester United. We went there last term and were superbly professional, dispatching them, be it not always pretty. It's beyond just believing, it should now be expectancy and delivery of said expectants. The players frame of mind should be 'we're going to win because that's what teams like us do to teams like them'. Rather than worry about their long throw-ins and physicality, and their own brand of loud support etc etc

Arrogant? Nope. It's not about being big headed or thinking 'look at us, the mighty Spurs, we deserve to be beating the ickle teams'. It's nothing of the sort. We only deserve what we get based on what we do on the day. And the likes of Stoke and one or two others (think of the teams we battered and lost to at home last season) have to be brushed aside with confidence and swagger, and if in the away games (like the one we face this Saturday) it turns ugly then we adapt, remain composed and take the game by the scruff, allowing for our quality to shine through the brutal tackles and infuriating hassling.

If we lose games like this, then there's a chink in the armour that will cost us dearly in the long run. Again, this is no disrespect to Stoke. It's about us and our ambitions and responsbilities to continue to progress and better ourselves.

Making a statement by proving we are above the level we sat in 2 years ago. And above the level we were in last season. The fact I have to blog about this actually does prove (oh how ironic) that its still something that plays on our minds. I doubt Chelsea, Arsenal, Utd fans 'worry' about Stoke (although again with the irony, even the seasoned elite clubs slip on skins now and again). Not to say that's an excuse for us if we happen to land on our bums.

There's no major deep tactical ploys, selection questions or formations I want to discuss. Spurs, the Spurs that took us into 4th with that never-say-die attitude is the Spurs I want to see on Saturday and the very same I want to see on Wednesday. Whether it's Stoke or Man Utd. Our backs are not quite on the wall, it is only game number two of course, but if we treated every game like it was a must-win at Eastlands...well, you get the picture.

Three is the magic number for me. Three on Saturday, three on Wednesday.

If you're not at the game, stick on Absolute Radio for the Rock 'N' Roll Football Live show (they've got exclusive rights to a ton of Prem games so worth checking out there rota for the weeks ahead) and tune into the full match coverage of the Stoke v Spurs game (on 1215AM, online or on DAB Digital Radio). Click on this for more info. 

Russ Williams with the pre-match and build-up, Jim Proudfoot commentating and Ian Wright for post-match (yeah, Ian Wright, don't let that put you off, he's harmless these days).



Down to the wire

Three points away to Stoke. With Kaboul in midfield. And Pav off injured.


Now that’s what I call digging deep. Was not a perfect performance by any stretch of the imagination. And even though we lived dangerously at times, we deserved it in the end. Crawl, walk and then run.

Massive selection gamble but one that Harry was forced into thanks to Wilson Palacios and his collection of yellow cards. Younes Kaboul slotting into central midfield. And it worked. Wouldn’t want to see it that often but with no other obvious options, YK did a job and did it just better than okay without it being exceptional. Less said about his shooting boots the better.

With each game, we seem to lose a player and yet we continue to overcome.

Losing Pav early on (having lost Defoe to injury in the week) has me thinking that somewhere in the upper regions of the stands hides a sniper, with a rifle armed with bullets forged with disdain for our beloved club. Fired by a crack marksman from a clandestine organisation. His mission objective? To shot down Tottenham players to aid the retention of the Sky Sports Four. So enter the Iceman, Eidur Gudjohnsen. Bullet-proof. And once more, we overcome.

First half was a little non-descript. Delap throwing the ball in from distance. Gomes dealing with most of them by scrambling them away (cue missed heart-beats) which made the game a tad more exciting - although quite clearly the wrong type of excitement. Bale had a decent run at goal, defended well by Stoke (Faye getting the tackle in). I can’t say I remember any other worthy goal mouth incident for us. It was crying out for some sort of breakthrough to kick-start the game. It was physical, as expected. Just needed to see us do more than what we were doing. Which at half-time was simply dealing with the home side. Stoke were textbook, set pieces their main weapon.

Second half, different story. 20 seconds in and Eidur thumps the ball in having received it from a Crouch assist (yes, Peter Crouch, don't playa hate) showing strength to make it 1-0. Fantastic effort. That was the breakthrough moment.

Inspired we changed gear and tormented Stoke, piling on the pressure. Whitehead goes off for a second yellow and we continue to dominate play. This is more like it. Playing the game to OUR tempo. Eidur in the hole, looking the part. Modric showing similar guile and influence in the middle that we are usually accustomed to seeing from the left. It was now quality V effort and we were destroying them.

Then a commercial break interrupted proceedings.

Corluka has words with BAE, something about leaving his defensive duties behind whilst going forward. There’s a few expletives exchanged, and Benny pushes Charlie in the stomach. Obviously not accepting the criticism/advice from the Croatian. A man must have a code. Assou-Ekotto’s is ‘don’t mess with me’.

Thankfully it ended there. Well actually no. Seems it was still playing out in Bennys head. Having failed to take down Corluka,  BAE decides to go one better soon after, giving away a clumsy penalty by climbing all over Kitson. Obviously our left-back was in need for more touchy-feely action. The ref points to the spot. It's a balls-up, Spurs style.

Up steps Etherington (the git), and it’s 1-1. Having absolutely battered them since going one up we're pegged back. ‘We’re gonna throw this away’, the collective thought of thousands of Spurs fans no doubt. I had such fuckin’ hopes for us.

                                                        'It's all in the game'

Here is where there is still room for improvement. Call it a crisis of leadership. We – the fans – can see the quality of the players we possess in the side, injuries or no injuries. Add to it the fact that even at 1-1 we were the better team, so composure was required. Take the ball back and control the game. I just think we're still missing a player of the ilk of a true captain. Someone to just shake the players up a bit and get them to react instantly, rather than perhaps live on the edge for a bit before finally (sometimes) rediscovering the stamp of authority to win through.

Better than Stoke and yet it could have been 2-1 to them had Ricardo Fuller scored. Don’t care how he managed to spoon the ball over from six yards out, but well done that man. The 10 men started to look the ones more likely to edge ahead. So much for that extra bit of quality in our side, another obvious collective thought shared amongst plenty.

And then, as if by magic. 2-1 Spurs. And the game changes again. BAE released by Bale, crossing it in and the superb Gudjonsen, full of Viking strength and smarts, steps over the ball allowing Niko Kranjcar to smash it into the goal. Happy now, bitch? No idea if Benny shared a smile with his team-mates, but I wasn’t alone in punching the air and grinning from ear to ear. Don’t matter how many times you get burnt, you just keep doin’ the same. Faith, patience. It pays off in the end. Right?

So into the final 10 minutes we go. Tuncay on for the home side. And I’m begging Spurs to play intelligent keep-the-ball football. Instead we give free-kicks away in and around the box. Defended well – how great was Crouch in stopping the bombardment through-out the game? – but we still managed to almost fuck it up again. Sidibe failing to get to the ball before Gomes, Dawson and Bassong the culprits who seemed to forget the art of defending in what could have been a soul-destroying few seconds. The Gods will not save you. But at least on Saturday they smiled in our direction.

2-1, full time. Three points. GTFI.

There was character and heart and some tasty football – as a unit of players and from individuals. And we rode our luck, as you need to on occasions. That’s now four wins on the trot with around five or so guaranteed first team players out. Credit where it’s due. Well done to Harry and the players. I’m proud and you should be too. If I hear music, I’m gonna dance.

I did enjoy seeing the players celebrate at the end. They knew how important it was and how tricky the Stoke away fixture is. The big plus was Gudjohnsen. We finally got to see why he was signed. And just how effective he can be, dropping back and allowing the midfield to push forward. The clever interchanging of passes between Eidur and the midfield adds an important dimension to our play. He's like a refined version of Robbie Keane without the countless boyhood clubs and pointy shouty antics.

Going by Harry’s points-required-total, we now need 13 from the remaining 8 games. Four wins and a draw. Let’s just round that off to five wins then.

It’s a thin line between heaven and here. Liverpool lost, Villa stuttered. Tottenham, still 4th. Two points ahead of 5th spot City (winners today at Fulham) who have a game in hand and are probably considered the favourites to claim fourth. No doubt, with each passing week - it will keep on changing. Pressure on them. Pressure on us. Pressure on us all.

Dope on the damn table.


Everton 2 Spurs 2 Autopsy: Cry me a river

Decided not to blog post-match on Sunday evening, mainly because I was waiting to see if I was about to be consumed by the knee-jerking that took place on various message boards. Specifically the knee-jerking on the Glory Glory board. Anyone browsing in would think the Mayans got their prediction about 2012 a couple of years off. Absolute melt-down of the highest order. Half the players were being slated, everyone was suddenly writing off any chance of a Top 4 challenge and Harry was the culprit responsible for our downfall. Bedlam. People should stay away from football forums during and just after a game as emotions tend to over-take sensibility.

Regardless of the fires and riots, I still found myself conflicted. I was struggling with the notion that perhaps the knee-jerking was the correct response to losing a two-nil lead and then missing the opportunity to take all three at the death. Perhaps not knee-jerking is nothing more than a delusion, a form of denial and that brushing off the reality of the two points lost was the easy way out. Brush it under the carpet, tag it under 'learning curve', place it in the bottom drawer and close it shut.

"One of those days"

Even though we tend to suffer one of those days every time we're meant to be witnessing the necessary move up to the next level. You sort of kind of can't blame some peoples reaction.

And that's the crux of it. The reason why everyone despondently frowned as they turned the pages of the 'How to throw away points by Tottenham Hotspur' manual and in unison sighed at the predictable outcome at the final whistle. This was textbook. But then why do people act so surprised when it happens?

Pre-match, I was confident. Teasing and (tongue in cheek) asking for a 4-0 away win. I wasn't alone, although being a Spurs fan, you almost know that in the type of games you're expected to win you usually falter. Everton, depleted, but perhaps not unconscious in a shallow grave as most assumed. I called for 'mental strength'. And once again, Miss Irony lashes out and slaps me across the face. How dare I insult her.

"This season is going to be tight, and these are the types of tests we need to pass with flying colours"

Famous last words from me.

Congratulations to Everton on their victory. However, had Defoe taken the penalty with any sort of ruthlessness then the aftermath wouldn't be half as dramatic as it is at the moment. We'd have won, and there would have been the same questions about certain areas of our play but I guarantee you there would also have been plenty of 'this is what Top 4 clubs do, they win games no matter the obstacles they face' types of bravado. And yet, the miss means that we are suddenly not good enough. The logic used with some of our fans is based on a game-to-game template. The expectations are complicated, rather than simplified. And everything that has come before is rendered redundant based on the 90 minutes of football just played.

We fucked up. There's no doubting it. 19 attempts on goal, we (again) looked like the home side in an away match. 4-0 would have been the outcome had we been a touch sharper. The match was lost not on the Everton comeback or the penalty miss but the lack of clinical finishing. Up until the final 20 minutes Everton were plucky and physical and bullish but had little to offer in the way of goal opportunities. That was until we gladly allowed them the time and space to score.

Rather than assert ourselves we let them progress forwards. Wave and wave of ugly snarling effective football. Ominous it was.

And this is where my conflict sat and why so many knee-jerked after the game. Why oh why do we always allow sides back in when we've bossed the game? Answer? No leadership. Imagine a Roy Keane in the middle of the park barking out orders. Harry has come in for some slack for not motivating from the touchline or making substitutions that make no sense. I'm waiting for the theory that he hypnotised Wilson Palacios and forced him to spread the ball out to Coleman (lovely player) who was left with space ahead of him and the next time we touched the ball was to take it to the centre of the pitch to kick-off.

Bale was slaughtered by most, but how many noticed Niko drifting into no man's land and leaving Gareth alone to face two Everton players? He stood little chance. Although that's not to say he looked comfortable at left-back (brought on because BAE was losing his head). Bale is probably more suited for the left-midfield position anyway, as it appears our coaches have done little to improve his defensive qualities.

It's amazing that from a position of complete authority and control, I was willing on the final whistle towards the end. Again, here festers my conflict. We've seen this so many times. But once more, I call lack of leadership on the pitch as the main reason for the inept surrendering of two points. Losing shape and concentration is proof that mental strength is still lagging desperately. As though we had switched off at 2-0 up and decided the game was done, rather than perhaps step up a gear and score a third.

Wilson, who had an indifferent game (very untidy at the start, but introduced a little bite later on) won us the penalty and was then carted off to hospital. I'm certain I was not alone in thinking JD would miss. But then most people would think that (regardless of the team/player) because it was one of those matches full of twists and turns. And it's Tottenham and making us suffer is what they do best.

Then the knee-jerking hellmouth explodes releasing all manners of over-reactions and ridiculous analysis, including a personal favourite where some people thought Harry should have got Keane on the pitch to take the penalty. The same Keane that most prefer to have sitting on the bench…forever. Another gem was the question that asked whether Defoe is over-rated. Yes he is. Because he missed a penalty. Send him back to Pompey the useless git. He only ever scores when it doesn't matter. Fabio should drop him from the England team.

So, am I still conflicted? No. Not really. I'm still gutted. More so than the home defeat to Stoke. Could have been worse, we could have been two-nil up to West Ham and let it slip. But it's Monday morning, and I'm still pissed that we failed to kill the game off. And in the past we'd have been happy with a point. But times have changed. The frustration is that times need to be changing further. It's in need of some tweaking.

Whether you blame Harry for this (killing a game off) inability is dependent on how patient you are and how long you believe a learning curve should last for. There's that old chestnut about how no matter the players no matter the staff no matter the manager - the same reoccurring problems exist. Years and years of devolution (with the occasional spike) can not be fixed over-night. When Harry took over we had a mixture of good and bad players who were all under-performing. He's got us up to where we should be based on the squad we have. The underlining problem still at large is that we are still lacking that little bit extra. That mental resolve comes with belief and if you don’t have players on the pitch who led by example and scream and shout orders to others then it's easy for the complacency to creep back into a performance.

Of course, you might deem my conclusion to be optimistic. Denial? No massive massive knee-jerk? Sorry to disappoint.

We're in good shape. And had that pen gone in, we'd be third. We are still top 4 and we've got Wolves at home next. And if we manage to beat City in the following game, watch how a single 90 minutes once more changes opinions from one side of the spectrum to the other. Because Villa and City have suddenly woke up, some of our fans are citing how this is not good news because we faltered and thus we have shown a weakness too great to overcome. Regardless of the fact City drew 7 on the trot and Villa have been a little inconsistent in places. The fact both won means their 90 minutes of football out-weighs our, and therefore they are in a stronger position because they are about to improve tenfold. It's wonderful logic.

This season hasn't even got started yet. Nothing has change from 4 weeks ago to now. We still need a new midfielder. Other clubs around us will drop points. At some point we will have to step up to that fabled next level, the level where we would have beaten Everton. Next time out, in a similar situation, if we lose our heads again in the same fashion - then rather than knee-jerk, we should just admit we don't quite have it in us and Harry/the players have failed to learn from prior lessons.

You might pose the question that there's no room for this type of complacency and that points dropped now are irreversible damaging our season. I guess opinions on this will remain divided.

My confliction is now resting deep in its own shallow grave. Don't compare the disappoint of this game to games of similar ilk from past seasons. We tend to react positively nowadays. We learn and move onwards. We're not about to implode.

The reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated.  

Get a grip and dry them.