The blog has moved. Just browse to


the fighting cock podcast
blog best viewed on

Firefox, Safari, Chrome and IE8+.

Powered by Squarespace

Entries in europe (6)


This is hardly the Europe Bill Nicholson spoke of

A while back on the podcast, the question of 'Top 4 or silverware' was put forward. Crops up a lot. No matter the quote or the belief you embrace when discussing priorities in football, there is no argument that football has changed so much in the past twenty years that such a question is rendered redundant because it's easier to just wait and see if you're knocked out before assigning the tags on what matters and what doesn't.

The title > Champions League > Domestic cups > Europa League

Not everyone has the privilege of challenging for the first two and very few are interested in the lesser European competition because it feels like its only there to appease the clubs knocked out in the group stage of the elite competition. Would change if they awarded the winner with a spot in the CL proper and perhaps didn't allow losers from it to drop into the Europa. That's hardly going to happen when football is structured to make the rich richer.

Now I know it's ironic that we want a piece of the pie and want back in, but from a purists point of view we want another bite, perhaps a feast this time - going pound for pound with the top tier teams the continent has to offer. So does that mean it's okay to devalue one competition for another? It's what we've done this season playing a mish-mash of second teamers and youth players whilst our first team concentrate on the Prem games.

I think if you strip it all away, even Bill Nicks quote on Spurs and Europe, you would simply want your club to win every game. To always look to be competitive and to have a mentality that every competition is winnable. Go back to the 80s, that was pretty much the way it was. But that romantic notion can not be stretched through the decades to the present day.

I've felt empty and fairly disillusioned and disinterested with Europe this season because although we did manage a level of competitiveness it was hardly the Glory Glory Tottenham I know, all in white, under the floodlights giving it the style and grace we have come to expect. Europa League is not the Champions League. Its an after thought, the League Cup of the continental stage. You start to take it seriously the further you progress. That chance was missed when the Greeks visited the Lane.

It's a shame that the younger players and the rest wont get any extra game time. That in its self sums up the experience we've endured on Channel 5 and ITV4.

Nicholson's Europe is not the Europa League.

I'd love to see us line-up with strength and the desire to beat our opponents in every single game, but it's not going to happen. This competition was sacrificed. It hurts, but it won't kill.

That question, 'Silverware or Top 4'. I answered Top 4. That's not to say finishing in a CL spot is in any way glorious or defining as any cup competition win. Not a chance. But, in the long term, for this club and the players we currently possesses in Lilywhite it is just as important as lifting a bit of silver with white and blue ribbons.


I don't particularity want us to become the next Man Utd. I don't want ten years of dominance or anything like that. I don't actually believe that will happen again and can see the Premier League being a far more open competition. What I would like is another chapter in our history akin to the one in the 60s and the early 80s. Another glory side. We were once synonymous with the FA Cup.

In addition, if we finish top four or higher. If we consolidate and build on the squad, it's not a case of just finishing in the 'Top four' and being happy with another adventure the following season. It's about growing stronger from one season to the next to be able to aim for the very top.

We would never have had this conversation a few years back. Testament to how much the landscape has brighten from a dull dark sky to a blue one punctured with the odd white cloud.

We can't ignore the position we're in and the potential the side has and the club, players have to believe that a small sacrifice here or there is for the greater good.

If you continually finish in the top then those trophies, that silverware that is far more satisfying (and historically noted) will be far more tangible options in the short and long term.

That's my belief and in some way, my sacrifice.



Greek tragedy

Spurs 1 PAOK 2

If this was a must win game, Harry should have played our strongest side. The fact he didn't more or less tells you the importance of it. That's been the problem from the very start. It's not a priority. It's an after thought. It's something that's there that can't be ignored so it's patronised. Placing aside the emotive aspect of Europe and a cup run, the actual competition is hardly geared towards aiding you domestically due to the sheer volume of games to be played. I guess if our aspirations were different, say we sat in 8th - 6th place and that was the best we could hope for we might have sacrificed more for the it rather than simply play youth and fringe players.

Last night, what with it being a 'must win', Harry added Modric, Lennon and Defoe to the starting line-up. Bale and Walker also made appearances. Was of no consequence when the defence appeared to freeze frame on a couple of occasions in truly calamitous fashion early on in the game rendering it game over before we had a chance to make any worthy impact. I guess proving that if you call upon players that sit on the bench most days, their lack of focus/first team action can prove to be devastatingly ironic. We lost the game in the opening twenty minutes. Got to be honest. I could have walked through the Spurs defence with a kebab in one hand and an Essex bird on the other. No shocker to see an average side do the same (minus the dodgy meat and bint).

The penalty, fortunate as it was, also went a long way to suggest it was going to be an ominous night in front of goal. I could not shake off the feeling that we would dominate possession and still not hit the target convincingly - and that's basically the story of the second half. Even with 10 men, the Greeks contained us. With ample help from the officials that disallowed an equaliser for no apparent reason other than complete incompetence. Player goes down injured. Nobody (officiating) are concerned for said player, play continues, Defoe scores, the assistant referee starts to run back towards the half-way line and the other bloke (that stands by the side of the goal) hardly made an effort to gesture anything. So the ref, in his infinite wisdom, gave a free-kick to PAOK. If it was for the foul, why the delayed reaction? If it was for offside, it quite obviously wasn't offside. All very bizarre and idiotic.

It's a shame, but the reality is - Harry never believed the squad had the necessary depth to take this competition seriously. Hindrance is the vibe I get. Perhaps he thought we could get away with playing the likes of Corluka, Gallas, Bassong, Pienaar etc as they are/were first team players. But once more, if you lack recent competitive game time, it doesn't matter what the name is on the back of your shirt. It was all disjointed and mish-mashed with very little sustained quality (Modric was decent enough).

All down to mathematics now. I think Harry and co will not care too much about the formulas as they are far too tricky to contemplate. The league is the only challenge of importance to this side and retaining our current position, to be awarded with a far more attractive European prospect. Perhaps the FA Cup can give us a much missed run towards silverware.

We tried to get away with it in the Europa League. We didn't. Looking back at the group, we really should have walked it. But if you don't really want something you're not going to be scared or fearful about losing it. That was apparent through-out the group stages.

Onwards to Bolton at home. Quite obviously a game of far bigger importance to most.



Spurs try Greek. Doesn't hurt.

Thanks to outside interference (baby, missus) watching our 'shadow' team play the first of our group games on an internet stream (10 seconds behind the actual live coverage) was proving to be as tricky as a eunuch auditioning for a porno. Decided it would be nigh impossible to write up a match-report myself. Considering I spent 15 minutes thinking we were 1-0 down thanks to a penalty, I thought it best to ask Twitter if anyone would be able to review. Couple of people stuck their hands up, so thanks to @DDDL_MSainsbury for this entry. I might have another match report available to share too, so in the interest of fairness will post that later if its fired across.

From a personal standpoint, the game (in the moments I caught it) hardly looked spectacular (other than Pav's shooting) but was surprised at the 0-0 scoreline. Did we get away with it or was it a shrewd selection? I can't comment. You can, so go ahead and do so.



PAOK Salonika Vs Tottenham Hotspur by @DDDL_MSainsbury

One of the more FUN things about the Europa League UEFA Cup campaign this season is going to be mid-afternoon/early-evening kick-offs. Did I say ‘Fun’? Make that annoying! After a Kamikaze blitz home from work in the Mini there is barely enough time to swap into my new (hopefully lucky) cup shirt.

The build-up to the game and pre-game coverage has mostly centred on our ‘inexperienced’ travelling squad, which makes a good story but is not entirely accurate. Our starting XI contains Cudicini, Bassong, Corluka, Gio, and Pav who are all experienced internationals, as well as Livermore and Walker; who have started 1st team games for us this season, Carroll, Kane and Townsend; who all debuted in the Hearts match. The only real newcomer to the side is Falque, but to be honest I’ve been viewing him as more of a new signing for the first team, as opposed to a ‘developmental’ player. He makes his first team debut here.

The dressing room does throw up some interesting visuals though, in shirts numbering as high as #59 and #60! Out of all of these though I’d be keeping an eye out for #54 Alex Pritchard. I was really impressed with him in the Barnet friendly at the start of this season. Tidy midfielder, comfy on the ball, though so short my mate Easty and I were convinced he was a mascot at first!

Our team prepares to walk out, as the strains of AC/DC’s ‘Hell’s Bells’ blare out of the PA. This has to be a sign surely? My favourite band? Can’t fault the Greeks for their taste in anthems anyway.


1st Half:

Team starts as a 4-4-2 with Townsend at LB (out of position technically but he’s played there in friendlies and the Hearts game). Gio starts on the left wing with Falque on the right. The first 5 minutes pass almost like a training match for us, with our second/third-string side knocking the ball around and coming under very little pressure. Thought some of our shirt numbers were high, but I see that their goalie is rocking #91!

PAOK start to get into the game, bringing down Townsend in possession in our half. A period ensues of the Greek team’s players going in with lots of niggley challenges, repeatedly fouling, breaking up the game. Possession passes back and forth but there are no real clear-cut chances on either side. Our ‘makeshift’ team is performing better than I had expected us to, tidy passing, particularly between the defence and young Carroll.

A word about the Greek fans: MENTAL! Firecrackers going off, massive flags and replica shirts are being waved around in the air instead of being worn. Need to have a bit more of that at the Lane maybe? Well the shouting anyway. Doubt we’d get the firecrackers past the turnstiles? And for that matter I’ll pass at seeing many of my fellow Block 23 occupants topless as well! Come to think of it I like the match-day atmosphere at home as it is!

Kane has the first real clear-cut chance of the half, being released into the penalty area and brought down. Referee chooses to book him for simulation however? Replay shows that contact was made. Isn’t that what the 4th and 5th official is there for in these games?

Almost immediately after this travesty PAOK are down our end and win a penalty. It’s really Cudicini’s fault for coming out and stretching for the ball when the attacker was running away from goal. When are we going to learn not to commit to challenges in the box if the player is running away from goal? Lino (their LB I believe) steps up and buries the ball in the back of the net. He sprints off to celebrate enthusiastically with his team-mates BUT THE REF CALLS THEM BACK FOR A RE-TAKE. Replay shows that Lino’s stuttering approach meant that his team-mate encroached in the box before the ball was kicked. He drags the re-take wide with Carlo covering it. It's still 0-0 and a lucky escape for him and us.

Our best chance of the half follows; we win a free kick roughly 20 yards out and left of the goal. Pav sizes it up and hits a strong shot, which curls up, over the bar to land in the top of the (slightly sagging) Greek net. A cheer from our fans who think it’s in! It’s our only real shot at goal though; half time and a very even match so far even for all the penalty drama.


Half time thoughts:

I’ve been quite impressed with Tom Carroll, he’s been sitting deep and linking Defence and Midfield, as well as being comfortable in possession. Easty told me after the Hearts game that he reminded him of McEachran of Cheatski, have to say he looks a similar sort of player and hopefully can grow into a first-team role.

Gio has been full-of running and working hard for the team. He’s been swapping flanks with Falque, who has looked tidy in possession himself. Indeed they seem to link up with one another well (I know that they’re on separate flanks, but they’ve conspired to link up a few times with Falque drifting inside and Carroll filling up the space left out wide). It’s refreshing to see Gio in the team, last season I felt he might have a breakout year after his impressive pre-season? Was sadly not to-be.


2nd Half:

Uneventful start to the second half, besides the commentators referring to our away-kit as ‘violet’? Very macho? We’re also treated to a close-up of the red Summer-Moon in the night sky, which cuts to the graphic of the Europa League logo…all this time the ball is in play? Let me see the match damn-it!

Our two full-backs have impressed me, Townsend and Walker are both getting forward in possession and offering lots of width, though Walker has been caught out once or twice out of position up-pitch. In defence though they are well marshalled by Corluka and Bassong, keeping a high line playing an effective offside-trap. Impressive for players who have never played in that particular combination before? Charlie has played well at CB. Early in the 2nd-half he tracks back, shields the ball from an attacker at the byline and calmly slips the ball to Bassong for the clearance. Didn’t Harry say he’d never play him there again, as he wasn’t good enough?

Kane appears to have switched out to the left-hand side. Think we’re playing a more 4-2-3-1 with Pav up top and Kane/Gio/Falque supporting him. Unfortunately this takes Gio out of the game a bit; he’s certainly not as involved as in the first half?

Our first real chance on goal from open-play comes from Pav chasing down the keeper and winning possession from him on the right-hand side of the area, going away from goal, he plays in Falque on the right, who skips inside and hits a curling left-footer in at goal. A bit more pace or curl on it could have got us off the mark, as it is the ball goes wide.

PAOK have looked more dangerous this half, more possession in our half but no final ball thankfully. When we attack they defend deep and effectively, getting bodies behind the ball.

What follows is a pretty exciting period of play however. Best described by my notes:
60: Free Kick Pav shoots low but wide. Not enough curl. Followed by the 1st real chance for PAOK; cross from right blasted over. Close.

71: Pav goes down and looks injured? Not good! Not been spectacular but led the line and he’s held-up the ball well. He’s back up and staying on for now.

75: PAOK free kick - left of area. Tense. Low cross but Contreras balloons it over with the outside of his right foot.

80: SUB – Falque off for Fredericks

Fredericks is playing well up the right-wing. Not a bad turn of pace and fairly dogmatic when it comes to chasing lost-causes. Needs to work at getting his cross away though, he’s getting in good positions but not pulling the trigger.

82: 2 good short range efforts from PAOK. 2 good saves by Cudicini. Resulting corner marshalled out of our area. We make a quick-counter but Pav puts his shot wide.

86: free kick won by Townsend – left-hand side of the PAOK area about 25 yards out. Harry Kane fires it in hard but the shot goes over, never low enough to trouble keeper.

Maybe time to make some subs to break up play Harry?

Ref is very card happy. Books Carroll for taking Free Kick too quickly. Re-take is crossed into box but doesn’t beat the first man.

90: good save from Cudicini. More pressure from PAOK, a header off the bottom of the bar! Hanging onto the point by a thread at the moment!

Finally a sub; Parrett on for Gio. This will hopefully take up some time!

90+2: Whistle blows. Points shared.


Full-time thoughts:

The draw is a good point for our opening group game, particularly away from home, I can see the other teams in the group struggling here. We need to take advantage of our rested first team against Liverpool though or 'The Great Experiment’ will have been for nought! Not sure if I’d pick any of this side for the Liverpool game. Livermore, Gio and Falque would probably be good options from the bench for me? I’d be looking to bring them on if we look to be struggling creatively on Sunday.

Man of the Match is a hard one: Livermore played well, unspectacular but kept the engine-room ticking over. I’d pick Cudicini though. Without his saves this would have been a wasted trip, as it is we go back to London with a point from a tricky away game. COYS.




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…”





Twente quid on Spurs to win


You'll have to excuse me today. Had no pre-written blog posts from the night before scheduled to go live this afternoon, due to other commitments. Mostly sleep. So no mentalist battle cry or in-depth over the top unnecessary formation chit chat, mainly because it's all been done to death already. And let's be fair, if our players fail to turn up tonight, may God have mercy on all the knees within White Hart Lane. And not forgetting the broadband pipes that will explode with bandwidth misery as fans across the country and the world punch-type their keyboards with despairing post-match anger.

But they won't, will they, not with Huddlestone rallying the troops post-game.


It's a mid-week game. It's an evening kick-off. It's Europe. It's got all the necessary ingredients for a Glory Glory night with that added spice of being the first ever Champions League group game in N17.

As long as that other all important ingredient gets added to flavour it all up nicely, we should be a-ok.

So, over to the 11 Lilywhites and the chef. Stir it up. I want to feast and feel bloated with happiness. And not left starved, ending the night with a migraine.

It's in your hands, THFC.


P.S. Got something lined-up for future match-days and events. Embedded updates. Sexy. Something for all you peeps that like to interact when watching dodgy internet streams and read my minute-by-minute match updates. Slicker than just updating blog articles like I did here. There's about a 5% chance of testing it during tonight's game. Depends if I get a spare second before going out.



Champions League Fixture Build-Up

by Fox Mulder

NOTE: After drafting this entry, Spooky enlightened me on a quite ridiculous rule that basically states that he isn't allowed to publish a premier league fixture list without paying a substantial fee. It goes something like this:

Fixtures from the four Leagues (Premier League, Football League, Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League) are copyrighted to the Leagues and again cannot be reproduced without the relevant agreement in place. The license fee for showing the Premier League fixtures on your website within a club by  club order is £5,320 + VAT per season. Further fees can be identified on our website,

What delightful people.

So with that in mind, I hope the following makes sense to most of you.....

The other day I was flicking through the Mirror's fixtures pull-out and performing the annual ritual of working out where our good runs might happen, checking when we've got the goons and Chelsea, seeing which away games I could make it to, how many points I expect us to have by Xmas etc. You know the drill.

But this year I found myself doing something totally alien yet pleasantly exciting (matron!)

A glance across the page showed the schedule of Champions League fixtures for 2010/11.

Apologies if this is massively tempting fate and jumping the gun a little. But by christ this world cup has been pretty depressing so far. Not least because I'm living in Ibiza with my girlfriend at the moment and she won't let me watch all the games. "This is supposed to be my break from football" she decries, happily drowned out by the monotonous drones of 60,000 vuvuzelas.

Anyway, SUPPOSING we make it through the qualifiers, here's our fixture list intertwined with the Champions League group stage fixtures (i've stopped short of the knock-out rounds - if we get that far you won't need me to spell out the fixtures for you):


14 The team from Manchester that aren't as good as the other ones (H)

17/18 CL play-off 1st leg

21 Long-throw merchants that play in red and white (A)

24/25 CL play-off 2nd leg

28 We beat them 9-1 (H)


11 Not East Bromwich (A)

14/15 Group matchday 1

18 West Midlands dog-like creatures (H)

25 Dirty East End Pikeys (A)

28/29 Group matchday 2


2 Claret and Blue Brummies (H)

16 Formely Harrods FC (A)

19/20 Group matchday 3

23 Scousers that play in Blue (H)

30 The team from Manchester that are better than the other ones (A)


 2/3 Group matchday 4

6 Notlob (A)

9 Darren Bent and his new mates (H)

13 Dull Northern team managed by a fat bloke with delusions of grandeur, initials S.A. (H)

20 Trophyless foreign team based off Holloway Road (A)

23/24 Group matchday 5

27 Scousers that play in red (H)


4 Brummies that play in Blue (A)

07/08 Group matchday 6

11 Double-winning scum (H)


You often hear Fergie/Rafa/Arsene moaning about how they have a tricky away game after a champions league match blah blah blah so how does it pan out for us?

First the play-offs:

Stoke away after the first play-off leg having played man city only a week before - very tricky baptism of fire stuff.

Wigan at home after the second leg - a bit easier but will be the 5th game in 14 days, although you'd hope a few of the league games will get shunted back a day or so to accomodate.

Then (hopefully) onto the group stages:

Game 1 - followed by Wolves Home - about as kind as it could get provided we take them a little more seriously this time!

Game 2 - Villa Home - thankfully another homer but villa will be hard. hopefully they'll have also played in europe that week

Game 3 - Everton Home -  Another home game? The gods are smiling. Although Everton are another very tough and physical side to play after midweek european exploits

Game 4 - Bolton Away - well we never win there anyway and won't be fun if the lads have just flown back from somewhere like Russia

Game 5 - Liverpool Home - hopefully we'll turn them over again but the fact we have Arsenal away 7 days previous may take it's toll on the players. I guess it depends on if they decide to revel in the succession of massive games or shrink like Frank Lampard in an international tournament.

Game 6 - Chelsea Home - another massive test but a lot will depend on whether we've long been knocked out/qualified from our group or if it goes down to the final game.

So presumption aplenty then.

5 home games following midweek Euro exploits and an away trip to an average side. Sounds good on paper. It's enough to get Ol' Red Nose's cheeks a burning. But then consider that 4 of those teams are all rivals to the top 4 places this season.

But what is plainly obvious is that dining at European football's top table may leave us with a little bit of indigestion when it comes to the bread and butter of league football and trying to equal/better that fourth spot. Obviously we can't truly judge the fixtures until we know who we might play and where, but it doesn't take a genius to see that we are going to need to add a lot more real strength in depth to the squad in key areas. 

Exciting times.

RIP the Carling Cup...