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 FA Cup semi-final (10)


Backbone made of crisps

Spurs 1 Chelsea something something

A ghost goal and phantom tactics...


So basically, in conclusion, the ghost goal becomes less relevant after the fact with every goal that proceeds it?

Okay then.

I'm not going to bother about Cech and if he should have been sent off. Only way that would have happened is if Bale wasn't up there with Adebayor.  Also, I do love how players still call for the goal when they know it hasn't gone over the line. Nice one. John Terry appealing for it even though he has since admitted he knew it wasn't over. Same for Juan Mata.

If it takes a photo from a very specific angle to show the ball DID go over the line, does that excuse a referee giving it on a whim that it was over the line? Referee's ref on gut instinct now? How sure was he in that split second that the entire ball crossed the line? There is no such picture, but it's all a mute point now.

Aside from this pivotal game-influencing moment its nigh impossible to predict what might/might not have happened in its aftermath which is why it should always be imperative that no matter the injustice you just GET THE F*** ON WITH IT. We defaulted to the textbook once more where this is concerned.

Other scratches of head: I would have started Sandro or Livermore instead of Lennon. Friedel should have been between the sticks. We should not have changed shape to 442 and (as cited) we fell apart way too easily, apologetically surrendering space with some woeful defending (regardless of being punished by some superb strikes/finishes). That shift in formation ruined us. Don't think we got the ball out to the flanks as often as we could of either. Gallas was just...<insert what you're thinking here>. Our full backs dizzy. Got into some decent positions, final ball not always the best. Once more no cutting edge. Our fitness, questionable. In conclusion, a completely uninspiring and somewhat unforgivable (second half) performance. Leadership, anyone? Shrewd and patience tactics lacking (remember the Stamford Bridge game)?

That shape you witnessed is one of a pear. I'm not even knee-jerking here.

Thought we looked fairly ominous even though we played alright for an hour or so. It was an evenly balanced game which saw Chelsea get lucky/take their chances. We competed without being spectacular and arguably at times were quite unfortunate. But still a lack of sustained want and desire to really go out there and dominate and bully them. It then turned into 'shades of City at home'. When the third went in, we gave up accepting yet another cruel punchline from the footballing Gods joke book.


It's not in!

Or is it? Parallax error says NO

It was gift wrapped for Chelsea.

Hate the fact that the game changed at 2-0 thanks to  Martin Atkinson. Let's just get this one out the way. I know there are times when refs make genuine mistakes based on instinct, but ***king hell, how was that not cheating? That wasn't an honest mistake, that was a concious decision to make the wrong decision because it felt right for him to react in a dishonest way. Hate the fact there has to be controversy. Hate the fact we had to lose a goal in that manner to then react positively. Hate the fact that we still capitulated and when we do, five is the not-so-magic number these days. Hate the fact that as good as we can be, when we're bad we just melt away. Hate the fact and despise the fact we lost to them lot at Wembley for the first time ever. Hate that not even in my worst nightmare did I expect that scoreline.

I hate that we didn't deserve to win.

Regardless of the phantom goal and the effect it had on the game, it's tiresome that we failed again to contain and channel the anger in the right way. It's a trend against this lot also (decisions going against us) but that's no excuse to accept it and roll with the punches.

It's also a continuation of recent form. We've not had the belief for the best part of this year. Lost our way? That's an understatement. With much irony, have to admit we lack the right level of man-management and decisive responsibility. When there is a certain ilk of pressure, we can't handle it. In the midst of the blip we've been incapable of somehow galvanising (Christ I HATE that word) and recapturing that much required tenacity to fight our way through it. There was a weakness in our game that is sometimes so much stronger than our strengths. Our Adamantium backbone from the first part of the season has turned into one made from crisps. Much like Atiknson and his decision making. Brittle.

But you know what, **** it. I can't do much about it now. Semi-finals since '91 hate on us in this competition. How many is that now? If this is rock bottom its rock bottom because of the expectations we've built up this season. We're disappointed because even though most thought it would be difficult to compete for the top four at the start we've done just that and at times excelled. But we've managed to p*ss it away recently.

We're disappointed because once more we've allowed ourselves to be consumed by the occasion at Wembley. However, there are still five games left in the league, so excuse me for a moment, I'll hold off writing the post-mortem for a few more weeks where CL is concerned.

If this is rock bottom, the only way is up. As long as we have a ladder. We're screwed if anyone is still holding onto that God damn shovel. Last time we lost a semi-final and got written off, you know what happened.

We are Tottenham. I am Tottenham. I wouldn't change it for anything. There's a reason a straitjacket is white.



As for the Chelsea fans, are you really that shocked?

"We are extremely disappointed a very small minority of fans embarrassed the club [during min silence for Hillsborough]" - yet another official club statement from CFC.

It's not a minority though is it? It's at the heart of their support. It's the core of their support. It's always been there, it never goes away. I expect nothing less from them and I hope it taints the rest of their innocent fans because they are the ones that need to take responsibility for sharing a stadium with scum.

In addition, reports of the usual anti-Semitic abuse also. Stay classy.



Glory is football

Top four or silverware? It's a question that always gets asked and once upon a time the latter would have always won the majority vote without a seconds thought because nobody chronicles a top four finish in their history unless they've finished first. But modern football scoffs at such romantic notions that cup finals mean more than a place in the Champions League. I've got to be honest, in terms of sustaining growth and being able to build towards a title challenge many (along with Levy/ENIC) would favour qualification to Europe's elite competition because the fiscal out weighs the white and blue ribbons on a piece of silver. Even though the former will never make great reading in the next version of the Opus.

Lifting a cup is a moment. Perhaps these moments are not as magical as they once were and can not stand the test of time like Ricky Villa has managed to do. But then that's always going to be in the eye of the beholder. The Carling Cup isn't the League Cup but you'd hardly disputed Woodgate's ball-to-head winner.

Going back to Ricky Villa, think about how iconic that moment still is. Along with say Gascoigne's free-kick in the semi-final. Even the '87 Cup final was a majestic occasion, be it a disappointing one. But even though time has changed how we perceive this competition, it still shouldn't be scoffed at. Even though technically speaking when I've prioritised CL over cup silverware I've done just that.

We (football fans) have changed so much that we actually try to validate why finishing 4th or 3rd matters more. Sad really. I've fallen victim to it. I'd still argue about the importance of CL but this close to a final, how can I possible not contradict myself? Those moments; they should be far more important than a league placement. The moments are what make football so great.

I still want CL.

An easier way to deal with this is to just admit that the question isn't relevant. As a supporter you want your side to win every game. That isn't possible. You'll never turn the chance of silverware down but equally understand the importance of being able to compete for the very same silverware (which today means being a top four side). During the Sky Sports dominated Top Four era, nobody (hardly) got a look in, so far apart was the quality and power of the teams qualifying for CL every season. That ilk of superiority might not repeat itself again but thanks to the short term loyalty and stop-gap/stepping stone philosophy of footballers, its sometimes impossible to avoid transition and rebuilding.

Perhaps it's easier to just live for the moments without the crushing pressures of what modern football has defined as the acceptable normality for 'success'.

We spent a long time wondering around aimlessly but we now have stability to aim for consistency and to compete season in and season out. We shouldn't lose sight of that but we should also not be so dismissive of the bread and butter building blocks that made football so special in the first place.

It's a shame we've lost focus in the league. We could have had CL wrapped up by now. Instead we're having to struggle through trying to find the misplaced momentum (it's not behind the sofa). Whether its lack of mental strength, rotation or mismanagement, there should be no need for team talks and inspirational speeches before facing Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final.

Sure, we've faltered a few times in the past at this stage. It's been way too long since we last graced a final (for this particular cup). It's this simple: Play with heart, desire and spirit. Wonderfully clichéd but these are the traits that set players and teams apart when the quality is level pegging. There's room for pride and belief in there as well. Although I'm not naive enough to think these traits are not fuelled by the individuals themselves as part of a well drilled and managed collective. Best players in their best positions, best formation and patience and astuteness with tactics.

Football really does look easy on paper. Form on the pitch is where it counts. We don't have much of that at the moment. My hope is we treat the semi-final like a cup final, like any cup game should be treated.

I can not be disparaging against a team that gives it everything. I want them to play the game like I would play it if I was blessed to wear the shirt I love.

Heart on sleeve, Tottenham. And when you're done with this there are five equally important ones in the league.



Knees? Check. Trembling? Check.

Spurs 3 Bolton 1

I watched the FA Cup game against Bolton in a hotel bar in Swansea with a West Country Spurs fan on a big screen without audio but with the unwanted ramblings of a quiz master reading out daft questions and playing awful music from the 70s and 80s. Hardly borderline surreal but not my ideal setting to watch Spurs. Even so, for or all I cared I could have been tied to a chair and been subjected to Chinese water torture, it would not have distracted me from my enjoyment at witnessing a rebirth (of sorts) for team in Lilywhite who swaggered, swashbuckled and displayed the urgency, fluidity and sharpness in touch and pass that has been missing for several games.

Sure, okay, no need to point out that we lacked that clinical composure where it mattered but this is still a team, a group of players, attempting to climb back off the ground, dust off and gently jog to warm up those muscles before running at full speed again.

It might have felt ominous at times, I'm sure everyone watching flirted with the potential for us to be sucker-punched what with all the possession and chances we were carving out. But also you would have flirted with the thought that one goal would suddenly make more easier to come by. Rejoice, the latter was the satisfying conclusion.

Bogdan (Bolton's keeper) seemed to get his body/hands/finger tips onto everything kicked his way. Granted one or two opportunities should really have been buried past him beyond any doubt. But to return to the metaphor of getting ourselves off the floor and back up standing proud, in some ways the patience and perseverance probably worked out for the best because it now truly feels like we've exorcised the demons that have recently haunted us.

Harry got the starting line-up right and made the right change at the right time (although we're still far better with one upfront than two). Was impressed with Livermore. To be honest there was little not to be impressed about taking into consideration how we've lacked this ilk of tempo and now we appear to be have got it back. We scored from a set piece - surely that's deserving of smiles all round. In fact there's been a steady improvement of dead ball kicking recently, although that's hardly something to shout about when you check the stats and remind yourself of how poor we've been for seasons now.

What we need to do now is replicate it in the league. Can't think of a better way to do so than to go toe to toe with the tippy tappy free flowing Swansea side this weekend.

All to play for. Our season is alive.

We're going to Wembley. Not proper Wembley, but it's still 90 mins or so away from a Cup final.

I'm having some of that.



FA Cup Obituary

No massive analysis required. You'll have seen it for yourself. The way we worked the ball into the box wasn't crisp or decisive enough. Never truly with acute intent to find that killer ball or touch to lead to a certain chance on goal. I mean there were moments, but that’s all they were. And there were chances, plenty of chances, but untidy ones. Pinball football. Almost there but nowhere near. Clunky.

To compound things further, we were taken to extra time and over at the City of Manchester stadium, the blues spanked the blues 5-1 to take the lead in the goal difference stakes as well as remain 4 points clear in 5th.

An extra 30 minutes of football. And the potential of penalties. Oh dreary me. Always the hard way, the Tottenham way. In the dying seconds of the 90 it was almost avoided but alas of course it wasn’t.

Why would Spurs possibly conceive about winning the game in normal time when they're so close to dragging their tormented fans through more mire? Let's not buck the trend.

From the noise inside Wembley you'd think we were the ones going broke and relegated. Pompey lapping it all up. Brave and effective on the break. Always looking a little bit more likely to score, but when you think we'd be the ones with the superior quality in front of goal - it was more or less equal. In fact, they had far better clear cut chances that were mostly scoffed. We preferred to befriend the woodwork. Sure, we had more of the ball. But this was far from ever being a masterclass. It felt more like a chemistry lesson. Er...without the chemistry.

Then extra-time. And they score. Obviously. Thanks to the Wembley grass and slip by Dawson. It’s a gift. And it’s cheap. And then we score but not according to the ref who disallows it for a foul (Niko on James) when there was no foul to be given. Cheap. I’ve seen the image of James laughing. I’d have laughed. It's enough to make you cry.

Still cluncky in front of goal. Pompey break, and then Wilson breaks our hearts. Toe to ball, but enough for the ref to still award a penalty. Clumsy. 100% a penalty? Perhaps not. Who cares. It's given, it's given. Nothing anyone can do. And yes, that's a two match ban. So no Wilson for the Scum and Scummer games. All that hard work avoiding the yellows in prior games, imploding on the wet cutting Wembley pitch. KPB makes it two from the spot and our knees are no longer trembling. Instead they're making their way to the exits.

Cue: This was not meant to happen 'shrugs of despondency’.

Bale was great. Really really outstanding great. Everything else was just blah. And the ghosts of yesteryear heartbreaks from those other semi-final defeats swagger in to say hello. No smile for the Lilywhites from the footballing Gods who prefer (today at least) that the meek inherit the earth.

Congratulations to Portsmouth. Can't say many expected this, but as far as footballing stories are concerned, this one can only be applauded. I wish you the best of luck in the final. Jamie will be happy. And their fans a tad too. I expect. Irony irony...Harry won’t be sleeping well tonight. Couple of hours on the Wii to perhaps aid in tiring the eyes.

Grant outsmarted Redknapp – in parts I guess, or maybe I'm being kind on Pompey - because neither our manager or our players found a way through their congested midfield and at times struggled with their speed on the break. There was no spark. Just wasn't happening.

We might have been the better team, if you really want to delve into the technical aspects of the game but the better team doesn't lose 2-0. No club shop DVD. We botched it. But then you can't botch up a game of football you were simply never destined to win.

We sort of did what I was hoping we wouldn't do, and that's get all messy (not Messi) with our football. Half arsed urgency that turns to desperation when all that's required is a cool head at the end of a cool cool move. Clunky. The word of the day. We had what, thirty odd chances? Gomes was still busier. The ref was no Howard Web, but still equally poor. But that's the standard, so no complaints. No point.

Onwards then. No honestly, I mean it. The mongs are visiting next week and it's under the floodlights so there is no time to despair.

How many hours before the Wednesday kick-off?



History in the making

Portsmouth. Arsenal. Chelsea. Manchester United. Don't know about you, but I'm salivating. Exciting times.

For the most part of the season we've had key players out injured. We've been written off but we've always pulled our way back into it, even with the depletions. There's definitely a new-founded spirit at WHL. A backbone. But there's some unfinished business that plays on my mind, a reminder that we're not quite there yet. The tonkings we received from three of the above mentioned teams at the start of the season. Three games in which we allowed the occasion to overwhelm us. Including a textbook cameo from Howard Webb to help compound things further. We displayed some of that olde lack of mental strength and composure and self-belief. Apologetic in reaction. But other than the Sunderland defeat last week and the non-events at Liverpool and Wolves (twice)- we've been fairly consistent all season long, since that early season hiccup(s). But we've suffered shock results where we dominated but failed to score, and lost.

Frustratingly, we let ourselves down when expectancy is high. But this is no longer the disease it once was. Beating Arsenal and Chelsea to win the Carling Cup. Beating Chelsea at home twice in recent years. We don't always fail to turn up. We have the capabilities to do so.

But redemption is still required because the players were/are better than the results we suffered against the three aforementioned 'big 3' sides (and the other defeats too). But before the epic week and a half ahead, we have the small matter of the FA Cup semi-final against Pompey. And placing aside the battle for fourth, beating them and reaching the final is just as important as the on-going fight in the Prem. 

93, 95, 99 and 2001 need to be forever vanquished. That and the fact that once upon a time we were synonymous with this grand competition. And it's just been way way too long since we tasted some of that FA Cup final magic. I spoke about how back in 1991, as the underdogs, we upset the scum to go on and win the competition in a season where we on the brink of financial ruin. I dislike the parallels being made with Portsmouth mainly because it serves as a reminder that ANYTHING is possible on the day.

Cup games, we all know, inspires the unexpected. And considering this is quite possibly the last time Pompey will play at Wembley and the last time for a long time that the chance of silverware is within their grasp, I doubt they're going to choke. They have nothing to lose, having just lost their Premier League status, relegated on Saturday afternoon.

Pound for pound, it would take an exceptionally average performance from us to allow them to bully and beat us. And I'll be shocked and shattered if we fail to win. Okay, so I just explained that upsets happen - but that's not to say I'm without confidence. We need to be professional and match their effort and our quality will win through. If we choke, then facepalm and don't dare look up. But these games don't always match-up as you expect them to when discussing it on paper.

I guess part of me is attempting to mentally prepare myself for the potential consequence of defeat so that it's easier to live with if it happens. Part of the DNA I guess. Nobody want's to lose a semi-final.

                                   80's swagger required

There were a couple of 'moments' in our last encounter with them at the Lane where they could have / should have scored. We outclassed them in the end, but I'm confident that Harry has pointed that complacency is unacceptable on the day and that control and patience will be key. Control the game, carve out chances, and be patient and the goals will flow. That's the ideal scenario.

So yes, I'm fairly confident. Just not taking it for granted. Considering the plight of Avram Grant's side, it would be so FA Cup if they managed to get to Wembley a second time. 

They have injury and selection issues. So do we. King, Dawson, Huddlestone and Corluka all doubts. Lennon might be on the bench (and might even play - although Harry might think we can win without him and saved him for the NLD).

So going back to what I said earlier in this article, the reason it's so important is simply this:

People remember the games and the lifting of silverware because of the stage it's played on. Nobody will ever forget Villa weaving and twisting his way in the penalty area back in '81. Players, our players, have the opportunity to write history and become part of Tottenham folklore. You'll always talk about Cup finals and you'll talk about them even more if you see your side win one because it goes down into the history books forever. Finishing 4th won't.

That really should be inspiration enough.



What the Dicken’s? (A guide to Pompey)

by guest-blogger Tricky


Ok, so by now some of you know that I do not reside in north London, in fact my parents moved when I was a nipper to the sunny south coast. Subsequently, having moved and lived in different places along the coast, I am perhaps adequately placed to fill you in on the Pompey fans and what they have to live with which makes them, well, the way they are really.

The first thing to note is that they are faithful and local, faithful to the point of sectioning (I don’t think we need to mention any names or put any pictures up of anyone, but we all know who I mean. You know the one I mean, legend to the locals, the one with the bell, a sort of cross between a school teacher, the mad hatter and Cher) and local because there has to be a damned good reason for following a team that’s about as popular as a Geiger counter at a Sushi Bar in West London.

To be fair I find this aspect of their fan base to be properly admired, in a day and age when kids support the SKY4 across the land for the brand they hold, Pompey is at least a club of passionate and loyal fans, misguided of course, but very much a ‘local club for local people’.


                     You're welcome to come and visit, as long as you're one of us 

As an aside, I would also like to say at this point that every Spurs fan should have a mate who’s a Pompey fan. I have many (perhaps more than will be strictly healthy over the weekend) and there is always one who immediately springs to mind whenever asked what Pompey fans are like. This one in particular is a ‘god’ in my eyes, and when I say ‘god’ I mean ‘idiot’.

He is someone I can always look at in relation to my own messed up world and think ‘no matter how bad things are, I could have been born like him’. To be fair he's a decent honest sort of bloke, low ranking navy type, deckhand basically (although it does make me worry about how safe our country is exactly given that we’re an island, fortunately for us GB PLC is pretty much worthless before you worry too much).

Anyway, to know him is to love him, and to love him is to pity him, he is a ‘true blue’ through and through. An innocent, pure and stupid, would believe anything you said (say for example ‘your new billionaire owner is putting £200 million into the squad this year’) – now who doesn’t want a friend like that, I ask you, he’s like a loveable puppy that you can kick a few times and he’ll still come up to you with that glazed look in his eye and his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth.

In footballing terms, they have also recently been one of the ‘holding bays’ for players for / from north London, in case you’re wondering how closely we’ve been linked to them in the past consider this recent list of transfers between the clubs:

Noe Pamerot, Pedro Mendes, Wayne Routledge, Sean Davies, Michael Brown, Keving Prince Boateng, Younes Kaboul (twice),  Jermain Defoe (twice), Jamie O’Hara, Niko Krancjar and Peter Crouch (and I’m chosing to ignore those from the dark side for now).

Oh, and there is of course the minor matter of our acquisition of their previously much marmited manager. Subject of derision and admiration in a manner not unequal to our own supporters.

So you see, our lives and in some cases teams are interlinked, they aren’t really a team to dislike per se, ok they can appear a little bit bitter, but you can understand that as they’ve become victims of chairmen who were chasing money based on the ‘I’ll pay you tomorrow’ principal. The fans have paid dearly for the ineptitude and poor fiscal management by those in charge. It’s almost enough to make you feel for them, but then they were happy enough in the fizzy pop league before and they will be again.

And so to add to your knowledge and perhaps a few facts about Portsmouth, the surrounding areas and the local people / customs which may help you in some of the ‘eloquent and enlightened banter’ that no doubt some of you may become engaged in over the weekend please bear in mind the following:

  • Paulsgrove is one of the many delightful ‘estates’ in the surrounding area that became famous for hounding a ‘paediatrician’ out of his home (
  • Leigh Park, another delightful nearby local estate, appeared in the 'top 10 chav places’ on in 2005, (Cosham also appears quite high up on the list)
  • DO NOT inadvertently upset a Pompey fan accidentally by refering to him as a ‘saints fan’, should you do so to find that he objects, on no account suggest that both cities are pretty much interchangeable.
  • Gosport is a poor man’s Pompey, only people from Gosport will deny this.
  • Gunwharf Quays is a great place to visit if you want to buy all that Fred Perry and Ralph Lauren stuff that they could sell at full price in their ‘proper shops’. There is also, somewhat surprisingly a Burberry outlet there as well. Go figure.
  • Technically Portsmouth is an island, meaning that it can at any point in time be cut off from access by building a large wall to the north of the island. I’m just putting it out there.
  • Portsmouth people hate Southampton people due to a docker’s strike in the 1950’s, in fact the term ‘scum’ or ‘scummers’ used by Pompey fans stems from the ‘South Coast Union Men of Southampton’ who crossed picket lines. Since the 1950’s 5/6 generations (depending on which area of either city you’re in) on each side have passed and the hatred is still there, though no-one is really sure if the original reason is relevant anymore. It’s now simply written into birth certificates that each will hate the other.
  • The loving term that Southampton fans have for Pompey fans is ‘skates’, (think of fishermen / sailors at sea for a long time and you’ll work it out).
  • The fact that ‘Fratton Park’ backwards is ‘Krap Nott Arf’ is purely coincidental.
  • Oh yeah, and literary great Charles Dickens was born in Pompey, the irony of their current plight and it’s comparative to any number of his works of literature will be lost on many, this is an avenue best avoided with a great many Pompey fans, they haven’t read, anything, ever.

So there we have it then, a quick guide to Pompey fans 'The Dickensian Bunch' a mixture of Great Expectations, Hard Times and Bleak House.

They’re quite an eclectic mix, not unlike our good selves in some regards, but perhaps more like a mongrel offshoot of the family. Not really ‘one of your own’, but one of those relatives that seem a bit feral, the sort you can throw it a few bones every now and then and they’ll survive quite happily like the doe-eyed poor misguided trusting fools that they are.

As for the game itself, I don’t expect much, a win of course, and hopefully a comfortable one (if the league game is anything to go by). But goddamn it if this isn’t just tinged with the air of 'one of those FA Cup’ games that history is riddled with.

So enjoy the game one and all, or as they sign off in Pompey:  ‘Bob’s your uncle, and your dad’.


                                                     Bob's your Bob


Remembering '91 and all that schoolboys own stuff

1991. April 14th. Wembley.

Not the type of game you'll ever forget, more so if you lived and breathed the entirety of that day. Even if it was 19 years ago, I still remember my journey to the Twin Towers via Walthamstow (my not so posh residence at the time). I remember how ominous the build up to the game was. Before that day nobody really gave us a chance. Not underplaying that in any way. Gascoigne's fitness was questionable and leading up to the semi-final most believed he wouldn't make it having played an hour or so of football in around 4-5 weeks prior to the semi-final. Gazza was imperative to us and had arguably inspired our cup run with some majestic performances. But just how fit was he to play a key part?

Arsenal were favourites, a side that hardly conceded and hardly lost (one game in fact), running away with the title - the double in their sights. Their cup final song already recorded, was the whisper which was not true sadly but it was a wonderful urban legend at the time in an age where In The Know's converged in pubs and not internet message boards. Such was the expectancy that they would brush us aside.

At the NLD earlier that season, I stood in the East Stand lower in the corner near the away end and remember the scum waving sterling at us, lapping up the misery of our financial leprosy. Game finished 0-0, and if I recall correctly, Gascoigne came close to scoring. An own goal.

Our money problems at the time deemed the semi-final one where a miracle was required. Winning the FA Cup was perceived by many as the only way to save the club. If ever there was a do or die game, this was it.

My journey in however was not one of nerves and fear. There seemed to be an air of understated confidence. Belief. Okay, so everyone who went to the game will probably have a different story to tell. Mine is simply that the singing and the bravado was all Lilywhite. It was a proper 'fuck it, what will be will be' attitude that had our lot smiling and singing. The gooners were far more subdued, tentative. More to lose perhaps? In their eyes, no doubt. In our eyes it was far far more vital to win the derby and the day.

"If we lose, I'll hang myself from a tree on the Seven Sisters Road"
- joked one Arsenal fan on the tube to his mates, not a residue of humour to be found in his stern words.

"There once was a donkey named Adams, who played for Arsenal FC, they feed him on nothing but carrots, hee-haw hee-haw hee-haw-ee…" - sang one very drunk Spurs supporter, holding a massive massive can of beer (monstrous sized can) wrapped in a brown paper bag whilst other fans looked on. Some laughing, others giving daggers.

At the stadium, I was standing there hurling verbals towards the Arsenal coach that slowly drove through the crowd as the Arsenal players looked out of the windows smiling and waving. Me and several hundred other fans. All in good jest. Rude not to say hello.

Sitting high in the upper regions of the stand opposite the end we attacked in the first half, for the first time that day I began to brick it. This was it. Boring boring Arsenal against a team that lined-up up with Vinny Samways in midfield. Oh, and that Geordie who wasn't too shabby with his feet. This surely would be the most nerve-wrecking inducing game of football ever played, one that would shatter heartbeats leaving me gagging for air. The pressure tenfold. There is no possible way such a game can be enjoyed. No more understated confidence.

What followed was schoolboys own stuff. Fantasy football. The type of high impact tempo that must have played out in all our dreams the night before. What did I say about no way this game could be enjoyed?

The free-kick. That free-kick. The delirium was ridiculous. Before we had time to recover and pull ourselves down from the heavens, it was 2-0. This was now borderline orgasmic. Lineker with the second. Five minutes separating his poke from Gazza's 30-yarder. Arsenal pulling a goal back just before the break. We had them rattled but in no way was this done and dusted. Not yet. And conceding a goal just before half-time left us in a far less comfortable position than a 2-0.

Samways (yes Samways) alongside Gascoigne were both in wonderful form, and Howells (also just returned from injury) was having a good one along with one of the true heroes of '91, Steve Sedgley. There was some proper fully-charged effort, spirit and passion out there.

But the goons were not about to give up and got themselves back into the possession stakes in the second half. Gazza went off, replaced by Nayim, after and hour or so - shattered, but his work done.

Next goal, Spurs or Arsenal, match defining.

78 minutes. Samways combo with Mabbs, releasing Lineker who's shot squeezed itself through David Seaman's hands. 3-1. More delirium. To be relived countless times later in the evening on VHS with additional praise for Barry Davies and his timeless commentary.

Journey home was akin to a musical with a cast of thousands, singing and dancing in the streets and the trains back towards the north of London. No double for Arsenal. A life-line for Spurs. And an 8th FA Cup in memorable final.

I remember a chant of 'You've lost that double feeling…' to which one Arsenal fan screamed back abuse about us going broke. Not quite. Thanks to the victory over Forest. And Venables. Although what was to follow in the years to come dragged us backwards rather than forwards, stagnating whilst our enemy pushed forwards with an astute appointment and Sky Sports birthing the rise and rise of the monopoly.

But regardless, these types of days out are  forever written into history. A game of biblical significance and importance. One that won't be forgotten.

This Sunday, another cup semi at Wembley. Pompey the team in financial trouble, the ones seeking a miracle. Us, the overwhelming favourites. Not that I'm comparing this semi with that one back in '91. But let's not take anything for granted.

And following the Cup match, we've got Arsenal in the NLD at the Lane. On the 14th. Of April.




Jamie semi dream is pathetically limp

I know that commentating on something that doesn't deserve to be highlighted and discussed brings it further undue attention. But that hasn't stopped me before so I'll just come out and say what I have to say.

Tabloid soap opera non-stories. Ho hum.

I do giggle at those pesky tabloids. Who doesn't, right? And I hate as much as I laugh how they take something insignificant and practically craft it out of boredom and pretence into something almost tangible (because it gets repeated so many times it becomes a form of truth) and then proceed to drag it out like an Eastenders plot line, with no end in sight. In fact in this case, it was birthed from complete bullshit but got spoken about so often that Harry Redknapp has actually taken time out to comment on it (though he does work for the same newspaper that is spouting the latest episode in this weak weak drama). And our Harry never misses a trick to get a couple of extra words in. Bless him.

What am I banging on about exactly?

I am of course talking about the ridiculous coverage concerning Jamie O'Hara and how we've ruined any chance of him ever getting special dispensation to play against his parent club in the FA Cup semi-final for his loan family Portsmouth.

O'Hara, on loan, to play against Spurs in a Cup semi-final?

There's more chance of Dirty Den digging himself out of his encased concrete grave in the Queen Vic cellar and running naked around Albert Square bone naked sucking his finger and winking seductively at Mo Harris, who in-turn lifts up her skirt (she wears skirts in this demented fantasy) and reveals her crotchless panties to which Den nods back approvingly.

In case there is still some lingering doubt: THE FA RULE BOOK WOULD NEVER ALLOW IT.

That's Jamie O'Hara playing against Spurs. Not the Dirty Den thing. Not sure the FA would have an opinion on the latter, although if Pompey wanted to dress up the bones of Den Watts in their colours and play him in central midfield, they'd do good to do so. The poor bastards are struggling. And he would give then more options in the middle than Kevin Prince Boateng, IMO.

     'Mo Harris, you turn me on'

See the main gripe/annoyance I have is that some hack who was rubbing his hands together at the prospect of Fulham upsetting Spurs, thus allowing JOH to play at Wembley, was duly gutted when we stormed from behind to claim a win at the Lane. Jamie's tweets a week or two earlier where he suggested he wouldn't mind seeing us get knocked out was the required ammo (along with Pompeys plight) for this said hack to print a story (because that's what it was) that contained no quotes about how Grant would ask Harry for permission for Jamie to play against us.

I mean seriously, come on. Get me a web-cam quickly because I'm sucking my finger over here. My index finger. And it's directed towards Wapping with much intent. This 'story' has persistently and systemically been regurgitated in the press and in blogs and yes yes, re-read the opening sentence to this article, I'm fully aware of the irony but like I mentioned earlier, I just have to get it out. My grievance with it, not anything else, and definitely not anything on-line, on cam. Although I'm game for anything on a Friday night.

So when I hear Harry has commented how it wouldn't be possible, not because of the FA rules which he doesn't mention (I mean seriously, imagine if Jamie scored a genuine own goal in the game) but because it wouldn't be ethical, giving the impression that the decision made was a moral one decided outside any governing body code of conduct.

And as for The Sun, stating 'Harry Redknapp has destroyed Jamie O'Hara's Wembley Dream', please dry them.

You can't destroy something that has never existed.

It will just be my (our) luck to lose at Wembley and then have to read O'Hara's tweets about how he's getting his suit measured and the tabloids running accompanying follow-up exclusives about how Jamie won through in the end.

If we beat them, no doubt Jamie will eat a hamster, the attention seeking twit.


Breaking the heart of O'Hara

Now that's what I call Tottenham.

Still buzzing. The high octane swashbuckling football was nowhere to be seen first half, Fulham had our number, taken from under our pillow whilst we appeared to sleep. Head in palm of hands for most of it as they frustrated the fuck out of the players and the fans. BAE and Corluka seemed to both be obsessed with playing lackadaisical balls, and there was no authoritative swagger from the boys in Lilywhite.

Just efficient effort from Fulham and for the best part of the first 45 Harry was getting out-smarted tactically on the field. Ominous when they took the lead, Zamora of all people finding the net with a curling shot. They deserved it.

Football is always funny in about 1000 different ways. At half-tme you wondered what we would need to do in-order to get some kind of grip on the game. For starters, own the tempo. Said it in my match preview - make them worry about us rather than be concerned with trying to counter any spoiler-tactics directly. Hodgson is no fool. He did his homework, suffocated the midfield and had his players working their socks off on and off the ball. Made all the easier by a ghosting first half display.

Even though we pushed forward after going a goal down we still looked out of sorts. WHL wasn't exactly pumping positive pomp from the home support. Fulham had got to us. And we were concerned. It could have been far worse at half-time.

Then Harry Redknapp birthed a second half that was so majestic in difference, you'd have thought you had tuned into a different game. He must have had some words to say at half-time for a start. No doubt told them to forget about how Fulham were playing, slapped them about a bit and then made two quite simply superb substitutions. Yes - Harry Redknapp made impact-changing subs. Stick that up your bollox you non-believers!

On came Bentley and Huddlestone - both returning to the first team since taking time out injured. Off went Niko and BAE - both players well under par. All my hope was anchored on the first 10 minutes of the second half. You can tell what direction a game will go in from the tempo played straight after the break. Within minutes it's 1-1. Ace.

Bentley (first touch?) hit a stunning undefendable free-kick into the box that beat everyone (including a interfering-with-play-offside-Corkuka-if-he-touches-the-ball-which-he-doesn't) and it flys into the goal past a despairing Schwarzer. The Lane is rocking, and not for the first time this season, Bentley's foot is on fire.

The injury curse made a cameo, claiming Corluka as it's latest victim. And once more bold Redknapp played an absolute master-stroke (or perhaps out of desperation...sshh). Enter the Russian goal machine, Pavlyuchenko. Who just about made it on the bench and was never meant to play more than 20 minutes having survived a late fitness test. Seven minutes after coming on, he's off sliding in celebration. The big smiling show-off. 2-1 Spurs. Bentley again involved, crossing in, finding Pav who scores a sweet volley into the far corner. Schwarzer - no chance again.

What. A. Frigging. Turn-around.

For all of Fulham's guile and commitment to Hodgson's match strategy, it counts for nothing when we changed gear in this manner. Dictate the tempo, dominate the game. Inspirational stuff, proper full on FA Cup loveliness. This was more like it.

Obviously, being Spurs, you're not quite content until you get yourself 2 goals to the good. Six minutes after Roman's super-sub scorcher, we made it 3-1. And relax.

Playing it confidentially and with purpose, the ball finds Modric who (with deflection) threads the ball into the path of Gudjohnsen who takes the ball around Schwarzer (yep, despairing once more) with a touch and manages to get another to send the ball goal-bound. Happy days.

Fulham ended. Wembley again in our calender.

Kudos to Redknapp. Hodgson and Fulham were 1 up on him at half time. His man management skills coming into play, he mixes it up with some changes and the game completely changes course because of it. Great to see both Bentley and Hudd back - both involved and effective. And credit to the visitors for making it a painful first 45 minutes. It served a purpose. It showed we retain the backbone instilled since Harry's arrival at the club and the players believe in themselves and their ability.

Also - special mention to Gud. Class act, a player that oozes experience, patience and vision. He links the midfield with the forward line perfectly. Ice ice baby. He has mad skillz.

Pompey next in the semi. So so close now.

Tottenham Hotspur. Exclusive copyright on putting their fans through the mire every time.

Wouldn't have it any other way.


Additional: Villa drop two points, City lose.

What a night.

More post-match commentary tomoz.

One more time...



Pompey gives me a semi

Will shed tears if we botch up the replay. One game away from Wembley, be it a semi-final. I bet tabloid hacks across the country are busy sacrificing virgins in the hope that we beat Fulham and set up a triffic contest with Portsmouth. Redknapp slap bang in the middle of one massive journalistic clusterfuck of a story.

Harry up against the club he left behind, the club he returned to pluck the likes of Defoe, Crouch, Niko and whatshisname, the French dude with no eyebrows. The club in administration, practically gutted to the bone. There's still plenty of meat to get your teeth stuck into, and with Fulham about to enter a titanic fixture list of games, I would personally be devastated if we somehow managed to allow them to win through the replay and see them face the south-coast club instead of us.

Yes, 4th spot is important. But ffs, this is the business end of the FA Cup. And it's been an age since we got our suits measured. Silverware. You can stick it on a trophy cabinet.

Having said that, Pompey in a cup final is drenched in ye old FA cup magic irony. So expect the footballing Gods to be wearing their colours, ringing out a cowbell in that traditional annoying manner that grates eternally. Considering their plight it almost feels like destiny. Or probably does from their fans perspective. No doubt if this (us v them) is the game that does take place, most will be rooting for the underdog.

I'd happily accept our role as party-poopers/villains in this.