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 forward conundrum (24)



0-1 Wigan (h)
1-1 WBA (a)
1-0 West Ham (a)
1-1 Birmingham (a)
1-1 Newcastle (a)
3-1 Blackpool (a)
3-3 Wolves (a)
0-0 West Ham (h)
0-0 Wigan (a)

9 games, 4 points. Not the best return against clubs we should be punishing. I say should, but you'll be quick to point out in the past we've hardly had the best record against the lower placed teams. But in the present, we've got more than enough quality to compete and beat. Right? Or not quite?

Dropped the ball on this again, haven't we?

Recent form; L, D, D, D

No goals scored in last 3 games (all comps).
No goals conceded in last 3 games (all comps) - possibly the only positive out of this run.

Would be way too easy to cite the Jan transfer window and the need for a world class forward. Would be even easier for some of you to cite me who decided to take pro-positivity by the scruff of the neck and then embrace with much love as I looked to forget about the chairman's mishap early year and instead look forward, literally, to our forwards and place faith in them getting the job done. Like last season.

Asked for too much, didn't I?

Not that it's completely their fault. We've not done ourselves any favours or any justice by virtue of under-performing when its come to application. As a team. The manager, as much as you can praise him for everything (especially in the continental adventure) has possibly made the wrong decision once or twice with league selections.

The issue at hand therefore far more relative to the way the season has shaped up coming into the run-in with us still involved in the Champions League. The fabled one game at a time mentality is AWOL. Everyone far more focused with a dream. Our players, more Tottenham it would seem than the majority of pragmatic supporters.


Is it our players that lack the focus with one eye on the next game? Always on that next game? Is Harry placing all eggs in one basket? Personal agenda at hand? Too soon for England, surely?

Are we perhaps asking for too much? Are we still 2/3 players away from sustaining a top 4 place? Or is that an excuse to mask the fact we need to be a tad more shrewd. The bastard DNA missing from the Tottenham template. Missing or rather yet to be genetically added.

One thing is for certain - this is the season that simply doesn't know when to start giving. Everybody in the top five can reference what's gone wrong with their consistency this term - all can put forward a valid case that they could have performed far better than they have. More points for all, in various potentialities.

So, in that scenario, we might still have found ourselves where we currently stand. But the reality is, what you see is what you get. And what we've got are far too many regretful performances. Across  team and management. Perhaps the learning curve here is too great for the gaffer and the players. It's not angry fisted criticism this. Just a knowing look and shrug that we could have been far more comfortable.

As always, that's not quite how we do things in N17.

We are five points adrift now. It's not impossible to make up. But even I, someone who has banged the drums of drama all season long chanting 'top 4, top 4' at the top of my voice know that this is truly
backs to wall territory for us now. My throat has gone hoarse. I'm long in the face.

But I haven't quite given up yet.

I also believe its because of our progression in the CL that we are suffering the domestic lulls. Obvious analysis. Perhaps that's why I don't want to be too harsh but still the evidence suggests it could have all been avoided. How exactly do we struggle not to get going away to Wigan? What's that? Real Madrid on Tuesday? Understood chief.

I'm thankful we have bigger fish to fry in the run-in because we tend to turn up for the 'derby' games. Let's hope it goes to the wire. It's our only chance now.

We've dropped enough points in the past month or so to banish us to finishing outside a CL place for next season. If that happened, if...they'd have to be a call to arms and next season would be title push time. Don't scoff. Look again at the fixtures at the top of this article. The reason we're not in the top three is because of results like that. The margin, it's a river we can swim across. Hardly the ocean it was five years ago.

I don't like the table and the way it looks at the moment. I hope the players are irked by it too. I'd rather be in the CL and challenge for the title rather than not in it. Mainly because of the issue of player retainment, in this oh so impatient modern game. But as we're in the CL currently and some might argue we could have had that title shot this season too - it illustrates that it's all in the head. Belief, courage. Take a look at Manchester United. Not playing well. And on their way to their 19th. We'll find out next season if a world class forward is truly the difference of whether there's still more to be done.

As of this second, there is a lot that needs doing, and it's best focused on as this season isn't dead in the water just yet.

If we want to play with the big boys, then let's start behaving like one.

Every game should matter. Momentum. AWOL too?

There's a lot to be said for Alex Ferguson and the manner in which he instilled the never say die attitude into his teams philosophy. I don't expect us to quickly flip over 15 or so years of calamity into a catalyst for success over night. We're on the right track. We just cant afford to step off the gas because we can't control how improved other clubs around us will be next season, the season after next and so on.

Here's hoping momentum will be re-birthed on Tuesday night and we can import some of tenacity back to England and the mundane task of the Premier League.

As ever, onwards we march.



Thanks to Jack via email for the telling screengrabs of Harry.


Der Vaart


Forward thinking should not hold us back

With the transfer window now a distant memory along with the additional depressing low ebb that consumed us in the aftermath, what with Jim White’s head failing to fully explode in decapitating HD, how best to look back with the aid of hindsight and pose the question: Could we have done better in our endeavours had we bulked up our forward line with far more assured and proven quality?

I think, probably not. I know, I know, considering I was spitting blood for an injection of the world class to lead our march forwards in Europe and our gleeful skip and trip domestically. The first apparent flaw is that for all the hype and stories at the time, there was no definitive true target. Even the players the club might have pencilled in as possibilities were not (looking back at it all) the type of players we perhaps should have been flirting with. Forlan has hardly been in inspired form this season and his price tag is perhaps too steep for his age.

The other targets appeared like after thoughts and misinformation disguised as apparent bids and keen interest. Which the club might have allowed the media to play out to make us look busy, a suspicion you could easily agree with when you delve deeper into the supposed bids for half of La Liga’s strikers when the reality was, at least in the case of Sergio Agüero, that football politics at Atlético Madrid was the main reason behind the story unfolding in the manner it did.

Roman Pavlyuchenko was once upon a time meant to be the answer, out of desperation from the failure to grab some Arsh(avin) from Zenit. Looking at how that one panned out (the Russians wanted £20M in the end having over-stepped the mark countless times during negotiations asking for more each time) with the player finally going to Arsenal for a snip and hardly proving to be the dynamic tongue show-off he was expected to be – I’d say lucky escape.

That’s lucky until you count the pennies spent on Roman who spent the first year tired and struggling with his English and every year since playing the role of the cameo. And still struggling with the English. Hardly worth the £14M in terms of how we’ve (not) implemented him into the side. The white Darren Bent. Scores goals, actually scores far better goals technique wise that Bent, but doesn’t play consistently enough for us to truly know just how good he could be. Did score important goals last season. An expensive super-sub, hardly the answer.

When you do look back, it appears to hurt less now that we failed to sign a forward back then when we were quite obviously not one hundred percent in love with one. Other targets were hardly fitting into the required template. We have a template, right?

Luis Suarez wasn’t quite the type of footballer we needed when we were looking for a striker rather than a partner for a striker. Although with the way we play (ideally with vdV pushing up into the pen area) you could say players like Suarez and Agüero would complement our style. Complete clever crafty inter-linking with the forward running midfielders. But then again, we play with width mostly and simply want a player that can knock’em into the onion bag without a seconds thought.

Yeah, so no template.

Andy Carroll, I fancied a bit and is a candidate for the one player that the club might have wanted above and beyond all others. Love or lust for Andy? He's sort of old school Bobby Smith battering ram with ponytail. Direct, touch of skill, but plenty of physicality. Can shoot, can get on the end of a cross and can head. Questionable balance, but thankfully no bar stools out on the pitch at the Lane. Questionable transfer price too. I cite Kenwyne Jones as evidence. The Trinidadian Andy Carroll. £20M Sunderland wanted for him. Now if we’re talking lucky escapes that’s a peach. But something tells me Carroll won't disappoint disappear and end up at a lower level side.

I’m not suggesting taking a risk is the wrong thing to do. Considering we usually just splash the money out without thought (Bentley anyone?). Some of our risks have been stunning with success. Modric and Berbatov in the season he used us to display all his worth to Ferguson. I’m not sure what I’m suggesting. Other than perhaps some type of tangible focus on the exact ilk of forward we actually want/need that can adapt to perhaps playing up front on his own or as one part of two.

A Lineker. A Greaves. A Bobby Smith. A Klinsmann.

Brilliant players who would fit into any side with minimal fuss simply because of the talent they possess.

Okay, so we’re screwed. But if our scouts can find a composed unfazed kid like Sandro for our midfield (be it a kid that has experience in the robust Copa Libertadores de América) then surely we can find a hungry marksman that can spearhead the swashbuckle?

This doesn't need to be complicated, yet somehow it is.

The players I cited are obviously all Spurs legends. All different in their manner and footballing style but all the same when in front of goal: Ruthless. And all sadly unavailable.

The new Berbatov was quite obviously Dzeko if you wish to compare goal scoring antics in the Bundesliga. Neither were unknown commodities when they transferred to their new clubs. But what chances of us competing with City and their hordes of riches? Although looking at his first touch, you wonder again - lucky escape - or maybe just another foreigner finding the grass in Blightly a little tricky to play on (but will come good in time).

Perhaps all our targets could have fitted into the side without too much trouble, if you are in agreement that each target was an upgrade to the players who have at the minute. Maybe I'm the one complicating things and that our apparent erratic money flashing policy to just bid for anyone would result with a quality signing - no matter the one signed.

Yeah, that doesn't quite stick does it?

What is unquestionably evident, as predicted and known amongst all, is that upgrades are needed. Agreed? Players to match the likes of Modric, van der Vaart and Bale in impact to give us more options than a hoof and a knock-down. That isn’t a dig at Crouch, he serves his purpose and does so well. But we need something more to edge closer to the sides above us. We need a defined Plan A to go with the collection of Plan B's we have.

At the moment we are doing our very best with one boot lace untied, losing our footing every so often with said boot left behind stuck in the mud trying to kick the ball with a sock. Could we have done better in our endeavours had we bulked up our forward line with far more assured and proven quality? You’d like to say yes to that question, but we’ll never know because there’s no real way of knowing how the signings would have turned out. Out of form, injured, new country – plenty of potential hiccups for the bedding in period for most of the players we were linked with.

Tactically, Harry has changed the way we play a few times to accommodate a player, famously with vdV. The way we line-up in Europe tends to be different to the way we’d prefer to line-up in the league. A new player up front that was like-for-like in style (but an improvement) than our current crop might not have given him any further headaches. Say we lined-up with a fit Carroll up top. Or say an in-form Torres (just pretend) or a twenty-six year old Drogba (really pretend). We'd hardly need to change our style of play. I guess our desperation in wanting a new forward (just sign someone for the Love of God!!) was because new blood would most probably give us a refreshing rejuvenation and goal revival because that type of thing happens. Probably. Maybe.

Hindsight is hardly helping me here.

There was no such luck with a galvanising last minute shock signing. You tend to forget our gaffers more favoured signings (Bellamy, Parker, Cole) when the opportunistic one out shined them all. The great thing is, Harry always finds a way even if it sometimes feels like he gets away with a wing or two. And perhaps issues concerning money and progression at both at home in the Premier League and away in Europe has left the chairman thinking about other battles that need to be fought first in the summer to retain key players before building on key areas.

So, like I said at the start. Probably not, no, in reference to 'could we have done better?'. We’d probably be sat where we are sat at the minute. Fifth within touching distance of fourth and in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Not bad considering our deficiencies, which are only such because of our new founded ambitions. That's just my opinion. You might disagree and suggest a top drawer forward would have scored the goals to have us sitting in third. Or better.

Conclusion from this messy ramble of thoughts? No massive shocker: the right player has to be available for the right price. Consolidation is always a risk if you spend big in the belief that the seduction of a new striker would equate to success on the pitch. That and there’s always the argument that if our current strikeforce took us to the Champions League and that same threesome remain present then that same three can perhaps strike their lightning emphatically a second time. Even if they are doing their utmost to be out-scored by the midfield.

My personal thoughts are that we need to sign a young player who we can truly blood in at the deep end. ‘The future’. We need to sign a world class technically gifted striker who has enough savvy and intelligence to link up with the midfield as well as goal-poach and goal-create. There has to be someone out there for the Lilywhite shirt.

At the moment, I’d say Roman is the player the club will let go. Leaving us with Defoe, Crouch and <someone new> + <young kid for the future>.

Upgrades on Defoe and Crouch can follow post-Harry for England.

For the moment, much like when the the Jan window shut, all we can do is support the players we have and hope that Harry has his best players available for selection and that he mixes it up a bit in the run-in and the quarter final. Let’s not pretend that a side with a full-pelt of Bale, Modric, van der Vaart and Huddlestone wouldn’t carve out goals for anyone of the players we have.

Defoe has had a stop-start season what with his injury and his red card and the fact that we don't play a consistent forward line-up in terms of one or two leading from the front. Crouch does a job, one that is much maligned and confusing and frustrating because of his not so amazing goal ratio. Pav continues to flatter to deceive. A scorer of great goals, not a great goal scorer.

We'll see how it pans out in the coming weeks because if there was ever a time for someone to lace up that second boot, it's now.

I have faith, as ever.





Anyone for a goal?

Is it safe to come out now? Everyone recovered from the debacle at Blackpool? No irony lost on me as I was ravaged and harassed much like our backline was. Rather illness than DJ Campbell witnessed me waste away (I lost 7 pounds). Offside indeed. Arguably a more damaging week for Spurs losing three points that cannot be recovered. I can at least eat a couple of doner kebabs and apply the lost weight in ample time.

What lessons can we take from the defeat? Other than the routine complaints that our forwards are not up to scratch?

1) Our forwards are not up to scratch.
2) Aided by the naivety of pushing forwards in numbers and allowing us to be punished on the counter.

On another day we might have scored a bundle. Oh for that other day.

JD hasn’t been on form for what seems like forever. Perhaps since the 9-1. Injuries aside, he has now taken an almost Pavlyuchenkoesque aura with his under-performing.  

“He’s only just back in the side”
“Needs to rediscover his touch”
“Trying too hard”
“Thinking too much instead of being instinctive”
“Lashing it when he should place it, placing it when he should be lashing it”


In his defence some of his performances have been selfless in terms of sacrificing traditional goal-hanging virtues for more workman like defensive-forward qualities with JD running back into midfield, working the channels and generally doing all the donkey work with movement and pulling defenders away that many would over look because there’s no glam or end product. In these games you could also look towards the lack of creativity in supplying options to the forwards to strike at goal.

Such is the complexities of the current Spurs side that we’re almost performing to paradoxical levels week in week out.

We have spirit and guile and tenacity and most importantly we have team unity and belief (well, apart from Alan Hutton who is apparently in Goa with some old bloke with a white beard claiming to be Lord Lucan). We also have genuine balls deep world class players. In fact, in some ways we have the ilk of player(s) that transcends the accepted quality we usually enjoy at the Lane. We have players who are wonderfully talented as individuals but work majestically well as part of the team – with no determent for their inclusion. The paradox is, us sitting in fourth, could have been third, with hardly a reliable forward to be found. Ours can be easily located in Dubai.

I’d say ‘Crouch’ but I’d be shot down for mouthing it. But at least he tucks into his continentals whilst others choke on their full English. Although, I guess, he also chokes on his English. All a bit over-cooked then.

The only consistency has been the excuses we’ve all discussed post-match as reasons for our failures to see our midfield and attack combine to score goals (rather than goals being scored from midfield).

Apparently, it’s because of van der Vaart. When he plays everything goes through him (via Luka). Hence why it works with Crouch up top as a foil to the movement and endeavour of the Dutch maestro. If he’s missing, we fall back to a more traditional 442 set up. And we make hard work of it when we do. For example, the 3-1 loss to the Tangerines.

It’s pretty obvious stuff. We need something, someone special at Spurs. A player at the same level of a Modric or a van der Vaart. A forward, robust and intelligent who can play it on the ground and isn’t too shabby in the air. Some who can also link up play and allow others to flourish. Equally so, if there is no Drogba out there available then all we need to do is find a Lineker. No wonder we fail at each transfer window, eh?

Nothing new here, hardly a revelation. But all is not lost.

The paradox still has us in the top four with only a couple of recent gut wrenching defeats in the league that have seen us falter.

We have a striker who doesn’t score much, other than in Europe, but does assist.
We have a striker who has forgotten how to score.
We have a striker who seems to perform better as an impact player and can finish the ridiculously sublime but not the ordinary.

In fact, all three of our forwards are probably more suited as Plan B’s from the bench. But we still have to make do with what we have. We have no choice. Nothing we can do about wishful potential signings either. Whether it’s one up front or two, we’ve only got three to choose from.

I know that it’s all very dependent on the availability of vdV in how we line-up and from one game to the next and Harry likes to swap and change, but it’s time now to stick and pray. I don’t just mean with the forwards, but in other areas.

We need cohesiveness from one game to the next. Play the best players in their best positions and if they’re on-form let them retain their place. Sure, tactical reshuffles are a necessity for certain games (Milan) but if we want the midfield to link up with our rouge strike-force then a particular line-up needs to retain its shape. Appreciate squad rotation for freshness and injured players has to be accounted for. But sometimes I don't grasp the reasons for the shuffles. But then I'm just a fan not a coach.

It’s not ideal all this. If you have an in-form striker, someone you have faith in who you can stick up front and you know he’ll give you not just 100% but a little bit of composure wouldn’t complain. Even the best have off days and you’d accept that. What’s frustrating is we’ve seen little in the way of movement in terms of improvements from any of our players other than say Crouch who does impress in those European one-offs.

Pav has never been in the zone. Always fleeting on the edge.
Defoe is a confidence player, scores in bursts, and when he doesn’t is maligned for offering little else.
Crouch is hardly prolific, great foil for vdV or an in form Defoe. But can’t be relied on to notch up the goals.

You can’t be too shocked that were not producing the goods. But even with this motley crue, we’re still someone how in the hunt. Thanks to the strengths of our midfield and the fact that we don’t actually lose that many, so our defence must be doing equally good. That’s the defence that also never remains the same from one week to the next.

We need to be better to consolidate. We have to in order to remain in the fight. To suggest we can’t is the type of pessimistic hoodoo we can do without. Last season we had key midfielders missing. We got on with it.

We’re stuck with the intangible again. So based on blind faith I’m placing hope on our trequartista threesome simply because...we have absolutely nothing else to place our hopes on.

Zonal marking, eat your heart out.



Anyone for a t-shirt?

Entrepreneurial webcomic illustrator/blogger/founder of the Studs Up empire (and all round nice guy) Chris Toy has followed up from his simplistically joyful football culture tee ‘2 points, 8 games, 1 hero’ and ‘Taxi for Maicon’ shirts with another essential must-have.

Oh yeah.

You know you want to.



Well that wasn't how I expected things to pan out

War cry back in your box. We've got the hiccups again, although by all accounts the performance illustrated that lady luck will look the other way if there isn't a world class forward up top to serenade her. Didn't peel the tangerines. Got three chucked hard and painfully to our mid drift.

How many clear cut chances did we have? A lot. Lack of defending and naivety in pushing up in numbers (come on Spurs, we know we're more than capable of being patient and mature) allowed for the sucker punches that ended any possibility of a win whilst a reconstruction of the Alamo played out the other end. So I'm told, via text messages and a brief phone call.

I was (yesterday late afternoon/all evening/all night) experiencing my own misery, on my death bed with a virus so potent, you could have stuck it in Lilywhite in a forward position and watched the opposition tremble with the runs. On my death bed indeed. Should have known something was wrong when I woke up to find Harry Redknapp alongside me.

Gone a bit pear-shaped


I guess I need to admit defeat. The only way is the hard way is the Tottenham way. To think we can make it easier for ourselves was/is an incorrect assumption that simply can not co-exist in this particular universe. We function best when obstacles (self-made usually) remain directly ahead of us. When a miracle is required.

We've had a great set of results, and it's come to an abrupt end. It wont matter if we bounce back in the next game. We're likely to go on another run. At least, you hope we will. That's what happened after the Everton loss. Another defeat (following a defeat) and it suddenly all becomes that much harder. At some point it will be a loss too many. But something tells me we'll be fine.

Faith. Doesn't tend to disappoint. Our players on the other hand. But hey, just a bad day at the office, right? Right?

So, over to you now. This is a DIY match report. It will be easy to knee-jerk so I'm hoping you won't. But then I'm sure some of you will. Looking forward to reading your write-ups, player ratings and conclusions when I next get out of bed.






The Spurs way is the hard way is the only way

Everyone feeling a little better now that deadline day is only accessible by time travel? I'm sure the ones that choose to watch Sky Sports News in the aftermath have braved a pure red assault on their senses, what with one hell of a Liverpool love-in consuming all that dare to leave the remote out of reach. Green-eyed, I've decided to avoid it altogether. I'm still gutted that Jim White's head failed to explode. The window was disappointing in more ways than one.

Quite a bit has been said, in recent guest blogs and in the comments section, so I'm going to avoid another epic waving of arms in the hair, spitting blood and growling at the moon in protest of what looked on the surface (which is what matters because it's the only thing we get to see) to be a massive error of judgement/poor negotiating/ non-existent scouting or perhaps nothing less than a schooling dished out to us for the purpose of deflection/propaganda.

Firstly, Levy. Ignoring all the N17/Stratford agendas and also side-stepping the suggestions that some of our more fanciful bids were superfluous - we did try to sign players. The question marks remain in the manner we want about our business and the almost desperate approach to capture some of La Liga's finest. With the added bonus of Neville and Adam - that still make no sense to me in relation to the time left in window and the fact they appeared to be attempted 'bonus' signings to appease the disappointment of no forward.

All a bit messy, no? Hardly a clear and concise strategic plan. On the surface.

I'm also wondering how much truth sits in with some of those La Liga bids, as there's a suggestion in Spain that Atlético Madrid's president was building up hype to show strength to their supporters that they would not accept bids from anyone. Unless I'm thinking of one of the other clubs subjected to one of our bids. Perhaps off the back of that claim, we went from denying making a bid for Sergio Agüero to 'playing the game' and pretending we actually did. But that's just me reading way too much into it.

The point is, we all know/knew a forward was required because our forwards simply don't score enough and our system requires something a bit special to lead it up top. We tried, not very well, and failed.

But what's done is done. And as if by (dark) magic, we find ourselves now without our talismanic Croatian crafter for a few games thanks to an almost ridiculously timed 'op' that has nothing to do with football (injuries). Kaboul is out. King has been out since forever. Dawson serving a suspension. Huddlestone breaking down. (edit...and Bale...and Pienaar).

Bare bones, backs to wall, two points eight games.

You know, we can all sit here - at home, in the stands, wherever - and complain and bite our nails and generally puff out cloudy negativity like a depressive locomotive smoking sixty cigarettes a day.

Or we can cite last season. Injuries aplenty. Hardly ever starting our 'best eleven'. Disappointing pockets of results that inflicted pain and sorrow and statements as deceive as 'that's it, we wont finish fourth now'.

And yet, we dug deep. We overcome what many though impossible on-paper fixtures. And players, including those that are much maligned, out fought opponents in one superb battle of tenacity after another. Strength as a team, as a unit.

Now last year, we were chasing something we've never got before. So the hunger, the determination - it was specially moulded by each test presented and passed week in week out. This year, this season...the Premier landscape has changed a little and with it, so must we.

Time to forget the past and just look forward with one thing in mind. Belief. Even if we are disgusing that perhaps we don't have the tools in key areas. We've done it before, we can do it again. Even with our limp attack.

I'd take every word Harry shares with this bestest mates in the media with pinch of salt in terms of his complaining about lack of this type of player and lack of that type of player. I'd also just forget about the whole 'we need a forward' thing because as much as a forward would have given us renewed impetus - the fact is, we never signed one.

It's a great testament, for me anyway, that I can look at our team and find myself preferring that the more difficult the task looks, the more comfortable I am with the belief that we can finish in a top four slot. Gone past the half way stage and we've still not quite hit that form. I'm placing a lot on faith, but that's the building block that made last season so epic.

Still wholly dependent on the players recapturing that guile and spirit that saw us victorious last time round. The message is therefore rather simple.

Wakey wakey, cock-a-doodle-doo.





We've got our Tottenham back

I'll get around to writing up my own opinions on the the recent 'activity' (scoff) relating to the transfer window once I've returned from my travels. Will not be around to preview/watch/report on the Blackburn game either, so when I'm back I might just ask you lot to let me know how badly we played.


Ah, don't fret, I'm kidding, I'm kidding. We'll do just dandy with our strike-force, I promise.

Talking of which, I will say this about the January Transfer window; Not resolving the fabled forward conundrum will only make finishing in the Top 4 that ever so sweeter.


Just work with me, nod and pretend you agree.

So, moving swiftly on, I've got another guest blog for you this evening. Having received a number of emails that consisted of people going mental over our apparent inability to target a player with genuine belief of signing him rather than appear scatter-gunned and desperate, this particular piece speaks up for the all the frustrated. We all know sometimes (considering we don't actually know what goes on behind the scenes, well, until 'arry let's us know) it's not as black and white as it looks when you're watching SSN or reading news updates. Sometimes, it's best turn up the colour and just see red.

Insert Andy Carroll joke here.

Enjoy the rant/knee-jerk. Agree, disagree, throw rotten fruit.




Dear Mr Levy (and indeed Mr Redknapp),

On behalf of the supporters of Tottenham Hotspur FC everywhere, thank you. Thank you for giving us back our Tottenham. Thank you for bringing back to us what it is to follow Spurs. Once more we can feel like we’re used to feeling, when thoughts of that cockerel-adorned crest come to mind, so again I say thank you. Thank you for re- introducing us to those familiar experiences of disappointment, wasted opportunities, expectations of mediocrity, and that gentle whiff of embarrassment. It’s clear that you realised we were starting to forget what success felt like, so the feelings had begun to be less raw. Less intense. We needed that glimpse of the promised land to remind us what we were missing. But now you have returned our club to us.

This transfer window, you could have led us down a path that would leave us uncomfortable, nervous and twitchy. A path of hope; not a path we were familiar with, prior to the last couple of years. But you saw our confused little faces, and said ‘No - this cannot go on’.

Despite our recent comparative success, certain flaws in our team have been evident to all but the most blinkered of observer. For example, the lack of specialist cover at left-back is one area which patently needs addressing, yet due to the flexibility of players like William Gallas and Younes Kaboul this is an area that could wait until the Summer. There is, however, one area that could not wait. Not if we were to stand any chance of retaining our position among the Champions League elite next season. Not if we were to stand any chance of winning any silverware in the short-to-medium term. Not if we were to avoid a decline from which it will be very difficult to return. That area; the one of greatest importance and urgency; is in the forward line. The strikers.

Firstly, let me illustrate my point using some statistics about our strikers. The combined number of league goals that have been scored this season by the three senior strikers currently on our books totals six. That is less league goals between them than Gareth Bale has scored on his own. One third less league goals between them than Rafael Van der Vaart has scored on his own. Aaron Lennon, about whom it has often been said (incorrectly in my opinion) that he lacks a final ball, has managed half as many goals on his own as our entire strike-force. Even Alan Hutton, our full-back, has managed two league goals. All of these players have scored more league goals this season than either Peter Crouch or Jermain Defoe. At the moment, Crouchy couldn't introduce a banjo to a bovine posterior if they both had name-badges and a bloke at the door announcing them like one of those Cinderella ballroom scenes.

I think this point needs even greater context. At Chelsea, the attacking line of Drogba, Anelka and Kalou have managed 20 league goals, and this is considered to be a poor return this season. They have just added to this strike-force to the tune of £50 million. At Manchester City, Tevez and Balotelli alone have 19 league goals. They too have gone to significant expense to secure a front-line striker in this window in the form of Edin Dzeko. In the red half of that city, the combination of Berbatov, Hernandez and Rooney (in a tricky season for the England striker) have managed 28 league goals. And our natural enemies from up the road have seen 21 league goals scored by Chamakh, Van Persie, Walcott and Bendtner.

Even Liverpool, who have had a woeful first half of the season by their standards, have seen 15 league goals scored by Torres, Kuyt and Ngog. They may have subsequently lost Torres to Chelsea, but they have replaced him with Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez. Remind me, weren’t both of those players linked with us during this transfer window? And how have we enhanced our striking options during this oh-so-important period? By getting rid of Robbie Keane and Giovanni Dos Santos.

Just for a one further reference point, in the 2007/2008 season, our four strikers managed 40 league goals. I’ll say that number again. 40. See the difference?

I don’t think I can make the point any clearer than this: without a first-class strike-force, you will not achieve anything in football. Even if your defence is water-tight (and ours has been anything but this season), it takes goals to win games. It takes wins to achieve league success. It takes league success to maintain European football. And it takes European football to maximise turnover and attract top players. Success breeds success. And it all grows from scoring goals.

And what is the core reason for our failure to secure a top class striker in January? Because we persist in playing this ridiculous game of chicken with other clubs at the transfer deadline. Quite frankly, it’s pathetic. Other fans laugh at us. The BBC Live Text used the following simple phrase to sum up our desperate last-minute scramble to secure Charlie Adam: So near. So far. So Tottenham.

Does it give you some kind of buzz to see how near to the final second you can push it? Is it the gambler in you? Is it the chance that a last minute deal can open opportunities for a bargain? Because let me clarify this for you. Rafael Van der Vaart was a one-off. It was the exception, rather than the rule. It was a freak of modern football, and was rightly lauded as such.

If you leave it too late for other clubs to find a replacement, or so late that administrative problems can scupper the deal, you are left with nothing. You are standing empty-handed; with a pile of cash burning a hole in your pocket; cash which you will be simply throwing away in May when we finish 5th in the League. Or even worse, 8th. And let’s be clear, missing out on European football next season altogether is far from out of the picture.

Congratulations. You have gambled away tens of millions of pounds of Champions League revenue for the chance of saving one or two million. Sound business sense? I think not. It’s like me heading to the bookies and putting a grand on a bet that might return a hundred, but at ridiculously bad odds.

Stop this. Stop it now. When you have an opportunity, do the deal. Secure the players we need to take us to the next level, or even maintain us at this level. Make sure of our future success, rather than throwing it away.

And just out of curiosity, what were we going to do with Charlie Adam? He’s a great player don’t get me wrong. But is he simply cover for Huddlestone? Cover that is so much better than Jenas, Palacios, Sandro, O’Hara or any of the other multitude of centre-midfielders we have, that it is worth concentrating on that deal rather than making one last push to get a forward in? And what do we do when Thudd is fit again? Consign Adam to the bench? Drop Huddlestone? Or shift to an even-more centre-heavy formation of 4-6-0? Hell, why not? The strikers aren’t delivering anyway.

According to the press, we have been linked with Dzeko, Suarez, Carroll, Aguero, Fabiano, Forlan, Llorente, Rossi, Lukaku and countless others in this transfer window. It’s clear that you thought about the problem. But this is one of those cases where it’s NOT the thought that counts. To dare is to do. We didn’t think you’d dare pass up this chance to save the season and cling onto Champions League football. But you did it.

So yeah, thanks a lot.





Also, catch up on Chris King's guest blog on the same subject here.





The many that got away

guest blog by Chris King


Picture the scene.

On a Volcanic Island, thirty years from now, a group of shrivelled, hangdog men are sat round a table chatting. It is the third annual conference of the “Failed Evil Genius” club, and the members are starting to recount their near misses in life.

“I almost killed Superman.”

“I almost caught that pigeon.”

“I did bring the Labour Party and British economy to its knees, but it cost me my job.”

And then, from a darkened corner of the room; a slight, rasping voice speaks up

“I almost signed Diego Forlan, and Giuseppe Rossi, and Charlie Adam, and……”

Dear Mr Levy last night reaffirmed his position within the ranks of a multitude of Spurs’ Chairmen and Managers who nearly clasped their hands around the final piece of the jigsaw. Before, as in any end to an Indiana Jones movie, the piece crumbled to sand, drifting off in the air to sign a contract extension with their current club.

Spurs is now a clear byword for a failed transfer coup.

The image most fans will have from yesterday is of Levy watching reruns of Revisita la Liga, with his ENIC cheque book and pen, frantically shouting “Want, Want, Need, Got” at the TV, as a myriad of stars caught his eye. Offers were submitted before renegotiated contracts were confirmed with existing clubs.

Forlan, Rossi, Aguero, Llorente. Four players that could have shined in the Lilywhite kit yet either chose, or were made to choose their current club over a last minute, 11th hour offer from Mr Levy. Now it may be unfair to say the planning was all last minute, but it is clearly how it played out. Would things have been different with Forlan or Rossi if we’d have tried to agree deals pre-Transfer window opening – as in – before Rossi signed a new contract extension?

The whole issue yesterday smacked of the failed attempts to get Luis Fabiano, Fernando Morientes and Rivaldo. The only time we’ve had any lucky dealing with Spanish clubs is when Van der Vaart fell in to our hands, but you have a feeling that it was the selling club that thought they got the best from that deal.

It’s not just foreign stars we struggle to capture. Carroll was on the radar before everyone took leave of their senses and made him the most expensive Englishman ever. Gareth Barry was supposedly a target of Harry’s; as was Craig Bellamy, Joe Cole and Micah Richards in the summer. All average players, which – just like Robbie Keane – may have had a moment in the sun before being, relegated to yet more squad roles on the fringe of missing the cut for the final 25.

Either clubs fear us and our potential, or more likely – they don’t respect us, don’t believe we will go through with the deals, or more importantly – like with Carroll – they can use us as patsies to get more loyalty or money elsewhere.

The other, more worrying aspect to our current transfer “policy” is the panic bids for players that have had attention from elsewhere. If another club wants a player, like Charlie Adam, then when those talks breakdown (also read Gareth Barry to Liverpool), we seem to find a pot of money to make a last ditch bid – knowing that there isn’t the time, nor interest to get the deal through. What did the Adam bid signify? What does it say about us as a club, or Levy as the chief negotiator? He is quoted as driving a hard bargain – but to what end, the death of our ambition?

Finally, for January at least, there was the derisory bid for Phil Neville – can we really afford £30m for an attacker, but have to pay £500,000 in two instalments – or the desperate attempt to get Beckham onboard to a) sell shirts, b) build prestige or c) talk to Seb Coe? The latter is now more likely to be seen in the stands at the Emirates with his boy than for Spurs to send out more glamour shots of him in our training kit.

Who do we trust in all of this? Since Comolli’s departure – and hold any view you want of him, at least he gave us “direction” – there is no clear view as to who orchestrates the transfer moves, nor who has final say in the type of player we need. All we have is Harry playing out every child’s* Football Manager Fantasy via the Sky Sports’ reporters. Telling the world who he wants, before playing dumb when everything has gone pear shaped. Is it possible to apply a gagging order to your own manager?

It is the current players you have to have a momentary sense of compassion for. Pav appears to have been used as a make weight in most of our deals. He polarises the fan base like no other in the squad, yet it’s hard to see where his motivation will come from now? Is he our fourth choice striker behind Van der Vaart, Defoe and Crouch? Will he be rotated as the big man du jour? Will he end up being Spurs’ very own “Humphrey” Bogarde, running down his contract before moving on for nothing? It is clear that Harry sees a future without him, but then only if Levy gets the right price in return.

Even the flawed Hutton must have woken up this morning realising he is Harry’s second choice right back; the first currently still employed by Everton.

Though I doubt any of this is really new or news to you. When a previous chairman claims our biggest rivals were mugs for buying Carlos Kickaball** – who turned out to be one of the best players to play in the Premier League – then it shows, Champions League qualification aside, we’re still on a different level, in terms of transfers, to the clubs we’ve been chasing for years.

Roll on the next window – I hear Maradona is available and still has an eye for goal.


*some adults also play Football Manager and other well know computer games

** Bergkamp explodes the myth he was a Spurs fan, rather a Hoddle fan in the current Four Four Two.



Chris King almost signed for York Railway Institute Amateurs Bowls Club, but stayed with his current side Holgate out of loyalty last season.






Sideways Spurs need fantastic forward

The one definitive observation from Saturday’s draw at St James Park was the one we always discuss in the aftermath of another ninety or so minutes of frustration. You know exactly what it is I’m referring to. Regardless of all the tippy tappy possession and the undoubted Barcelona brilliance of Modric (just call it Lukalona football) who you just have to stand back and applaud when remembering the slow but necessary process of his gradual but now explosive return to complete form.

Even if his performance at Newcastle was not full pelt thanks to the physicality of the opposition, pushed and barged throughout the game, but refusing to be bullied and was desperately unlucky what with the woodwork rudely getting in the way from a shot that deserved net.

So regardless of all that...we still don’t quite manage to make it count up top, we don't seem to create the clear cut chances that the build up play deserves, mainly because when the ball gets up top in and around the box, we are let down by either lack of composure, wrong decisions or poor ball/cross. So that vital bit of the build up is where it sort of falls flat.

Plenty of guilty touches shared by many. Lennon, on the left (having started off in his traditional right) got his foot stuck under the ball once or twice when a cross might have resulted in a goal. On the left, crossing with his weaker foot. Not going to work really.

There was a patch in the second half where we knocked on their door constantly. Well actually, we were practically kicking the door down even though we had the keys in our hand, however dropping said keys walking away from the door back towards the start of the driveway before running back and kicking the door...again. Never really breaking through it. There was an easier way.


Lennon did do quite well trying to get in via the window (that’s cutting in onto his strong(er) right foot and what with him being so small, perfect fit for it). Along with Modric, Azza was our best player on the day. Even with his final ball hiccups. His goal was deserved. For his effort and for our effort with not giving up. Even though we might look back in regret at some fundamental issues that aided Newcastle into the lead and for most of the game likely to hang on to it. I under-rated them post-match. Shame on me.

As for us - we made hard hard work of grabbing a point.

Their goal, awful really from our perspective. Hutton’s slow and slower footwork the first facepalming moment, Cudicini’s attempted save the second. The latter redeemed himself. The former is fortunate he’s decent going forward. His positioning remains awkward at the back, along with his lack of instinctive quick thinking defending with additional ball and player watching. Can we try Charlie again at RB again? Or Kaboul?

Before this, should have been 1 up at half time (JD miss) but 1-0 down in the second it was, and the day continued to run with the ominous theme of despair. What with BAE out injured, Bale in at LB from LW and then out early in the game with a back injury. And then 1-0 down and lacking punch.

Dawson, talismanic on his return bringing with him some clean sheets to replace the dirty old ones found himself hiding under the blankets avoiding the big scary hairy monsters. He got turned, badly on one occasion. I still love the big smiling lad to bits but a day to forget for the most part. Could have easily been 2-0 once or twice when we pushed forward only to be countered.

Jenas was like a goldfish swimming in shark infested waters. Talks a good talk does JJ. Talks. Pienaar didn’t look sharp or completely 100%. Did have one or two worthy moments of intent, but he’s come straight into the side so we can hardly start having a go. He did okay, we’ll expect better over time if he’s going to be more than just a squad player (which is what I think he is). Bassong did fine considering it’s the first time he’s slotted into LB this season.

Other mentions. Defoe should have had it just before the half time whistle, as mentioned. Buzzed about but his decision making sometimes has me eating my fist. I dislike the way he always seems to fall down after a poor first touch in front of the pen area. I know it was physical game, but it happens too often. van der Vaart? You sort of forgot he was playing at times, what with dropping back in deepest midfield to help out Luka and sort of getting stuck there. And please Rafa, stop allowing gravity to pull you down with such comparative ease.

Also found a lot of our play was down the middle, forever smacking into a cluster of Newcastle players. Lost the balance of width and as the game progressed (three at the back) we still seemed to get to their pen area and lose impact due to a loose ball or whatever. Ref was as messy as our final third effort.

When you cry out for Crouch (which is what five of us were doing as we watched the game on a plasma – the wonders of streaming from lap top to tv) you just knew the day was now totally engulfed in ominous-ness. When he came on we hardly managed to us his tallnessness. Lack of width, lack of crosses. But he did get his head onto a flick-on once or twice which is either deemed as constructive to bringing his team mates into the game or the only thing he does which is hardly reason to depend on him.

In the end, Lennon worked his swagger and from the jaws of defeat yadda yadda yadda. He made the right decision and finished splendidly. Two points dropped, no? Well actually probably not. Because that observation from the game once more illustrates that if you have no consistency up top you’re not going to produce consistent performances. This is not an issue with the 4411 formation. Well it is, I guess, because we’ve not got the player to compliment vdV and especially the magic of Modric. But I prefer this step up to a more traditional 442 as with the right players it will work better than say having JD and Crouch starting. Will being the operative word.

Our midfield has remained more or less the same and when Huddlestone returns we’ll be even stronger in terms of creativity. Pinged balls and disguised passes aplenty from Tommy.

But the forward conundrum continues to plod along.

Recent games, recent partnerships:

vs. Newcastle - Defoe/VDV
vs. Man Utd - Crouch/VDV
vs. Fulham - Pavlyuchenko/VDV
vs. Newcastle - Pavlyuchenko/VDV
vs. Aston Villa - Defoe/VDV
vs. Chelsea - Defoe/Pavlyuchenko
vs. Birmingham - Defoe/Crouch

(thanks to Mumorn, GG)

And the stats:

Crouch - 1 goal in 1315 minutes, or 1 goal per 14.6 games
Defoe - 0 goals in 548 minutes
Keane - 0 goals in 226 minutes
Pav - 5 goals in 801 minutes, or 1 goal per 1.8 games.

Our strikers - 6 goals in 2890 minutes, or one goal per 5.4 games.
6 goals in 23 Premier League games

Our Midfield - 21 goals in 9580 minutes, or 1 goal per 5 games.
21 goals in 23 Premier League games

(thanks to...not sure, if stats are not correct – let me know)


Now, take the team as is and stick a prime time Dorgba-esque player up top. Much like the Dutchman and Croatian galvanise our midfield, so will a top drawer centre-forward.

We don’t test the opposition keeper enough, when we do we don’t score enough from chances created. It’s almost there, the design, the workings. I know we struggled with the final ball but it’s all limp where it matters. None of the penetration deserving of some of our football.

Was a time when we were scoring goals for fun (circa Berba/Keane era). This team just needs that spark. Because the moment we click and we're clinical and ruthless, we’ll be dangerous. We’ll kill teams off and we would win games that ‘Top 3’ teams are expected to kill off. The reason we are once more thinking more about the 'battle for fourth' is because we are probably sort of better than last season but not massively improved to compete with the other sides who are churning out the results.

Final word:

Don’t fret at the Prem table. We got completely written off last season, countless times. We’ll still finish fourth. But it will go down to the final week(s) again.

Also, I have a question about our scouting system. I've discussed this a few times already this past weekend with Lilywhite supporting family and friends and it's something a number of you have probably scratched your heads about plenty of times. Why do we let it drag out, re: signing players? Is there no smart decent striker somewhere in world football we could pick up for a relatively good price or are we are about to enter the usual last gasp bid and win transfer bingo of deadline day? Do we not have people working on potential transfers in the months leading up to the opening of the window so we can just make bid on the first day - 100% it's the player we believe will better us?

Behind the scenes, we might well have two or three players that fit the bill. But you can't quite believe that's the case. Hope I'm wrong.






Spurs away, hopefully no broadcast on Cartoon network

Newcastle away. It’s the type of fixture that historically always had me half-thinking about what excuse I should have at the ready on return to work on a Monday morning. We hardly win up there. Timothée Atouba wonder-strike and that God awful Cup match where Pav scored the winner, just about the only highlights I can remember off the top of my head. My last visit to the mecca of football was the FA Cup game which we lost 1-0 after going behind minutes into the game, and then proceeding to attack attack attack only to have Given give away nothing.

In fact, the only way to get one over Newcastle was to go out on the town post-match. Get one over, get leg over, don’t hate me for the clumsy word play.

So, Newcastle away. Not quite as daunting a task as it once was mainly because the bogey team element has somewhat been extinguished thanks to their relegation and our growth in mental strength. They’ll work their socks off, so we’ll have to match the tenacity on show but with no Carroll you would hope our quality will be classy enough to soak up the blood and thunder and strike them down with a swagger of this and a swagger of that. That’s if we don’t repeat our performance level we witnessed at Goodison Park.

Looking at the table (here we go again for the 1000th time) this is a musty-winny type of game in that we need to play catch-up with the teams just ahead of us otherwise, these dropped points will start to hurt our push for another CL place. In fact, I’m tagging this game with a ‘show us your intent’ label with an additional ‘make a statement’ badge.

We need to be polished, professional and penetrative.

Easy now.

Team news at time of writing has BAE possibly out with injury so I guess this is an opportunity to welcome Stevie Pienaar into the fold. Bale will/should slot back into the left-back position with Pie at left-midfield. Unless Bassong make a make-shift appearance at LB. Which I doubt. No point considering we’ve splashed the cash for the new boy, may as well throw him into the action. I’m sure Gareth will be just dandy over-lapping.

Modric to conduct as per usual. van der Vaart will probably have far more freedom to get involved (United did an excellent job in suffocating his ability to impact the game in the space between midfield and the area just outside the box – by the time he was in the box there was about twenty United players standing in his way).

How we shape up, up front is where it will count. It’s Newcastle. It’s away but the game will be open (as I don’t expect them to sit back) so we need to be offensive, take the game to them, make them chase the game to stretch it further.

Honestly, this is proper Football 101 right here.

Spurs to drop out of Top 4 race?


No reason to complicate matters. Possession football, smart counter-attacking and clinical ruthless utter utter b*stardness in front of the onion bag.

So Crouch and Pav up top then.

Calm down, just jesting. Defoe up top with vdV behind him. Middle bunch of Lennon, Modric, Jenas and Pienaar (I’m going on the assumption that Wilson is also apparently doubtful so JJ in for energy-bursting runs and box-to-box industrious blood and sweat and Niko completely out of form so doesn’t make sense to see him at LW).

What? Oh, the JJ description? Let’s just pretend, right? His comments this week about him being happy and loving the squad, he knows he’s a squad player so I’m cutting him another slice of slack. If Wilson is out, then Harry has to instruct him to donkey-work and bite opposition ankles a plenty.


Oh just ignore this bit if you don’t like it.

Okay, so that leaves the back four that will consist of Hutton, Dawson, Gallas and Bale. Nutter in goal. Seen a suggestion for Kaboul at right-back, leaving Bale in his trusted LW position and then either JJ or Pie in the middle. Like I said. Let’s just keep it simple. Like this Friday afternoon lack of substance blog.

We should be just fine. We bloody well better be.

We just need to contain 'best midfielder in England' Barton and potenial bane in the arse, Nolan.

In addition, the Toon are not only missing Carroll but also Tiote, Gosling, Smith, both Taylors and sadly for us Sol Campbell is not available. Leg injury apparently. I think he tried to eat it.



Listen to Newcastle v Spurs on Absolute Radio extra - on DAB Digital Radio, 1215AM and online in the UK from 1.30pm as programming kicks off with Russ Williams for pre-match build up, followed by full live commentary from Jim Proudfoot at 3pm, while Ian Wright takes care of post match analysis at 5pm featuring player and manager interviews, fan phone ins and a healthy supply of banter. Tune in for the full Danny Simpson interview.

For more go to



WANTED: One top class striker. Requirements: ruthless eye for goal, sublime first touch, clever movement and a bit of a swagger

Tottenham 0 Manchester United 0

If Manchester United were toothless, Spurs were limp. Neither side had cutting edge. Both sides defended resolutely. And yet there is no disguising the disappointment that we didn't carve out more clear cut chances. Ball seemed to get stuck under feet once or twice. When a quality ball was crossed in, there was no quality at the end of it to finish it off.

Perfect illustration that we can go up against the teams that are meant to be on another level to us, compete and feel regretful for not quite grasping the initiative and punishing them.

Sure, we're not title contenders. Mainly because we lack that extra punch in the side that probably would have seen us take more points than we did against Man City (D), Chelsea (D) and now Man Utd (another D). The concern is that other sides might have that punch aplenty, either from seasoned experience of from splashing out £27M for the privilege.

We need to turn these almosts and if onlys into three points at home and dig deep away. Regardless, let's face it, even if Man Utd are hardly the beast of old they are one that has to be respected and very much admired for their spirit and their annoying doggedness. They battled and they could have nicked it, at least their fans would argue they had players with the potential to do so. But much like us, the game (end to end as it was) lacked that final third slick pass and movement to get past the bricks in defence.

Rooney and Berbatov hardly had me biting my nails. Apart from perhaps two efforts on goal by 'Wazza', but hardly heart-stopping. But alas, unbeaten they remain. The red card (not that it's helped in the past) was hardly fruitful in terms of possession in our favour. As we didn't quite make it count down the flanks and through the middle. A day for defenders indeed. Still think we're going to finish top four, got the players for it just need that ruthlessness in the key forward area. So yeah, top four ‘if’ we get that ruthlessness in the key forward area.

Crouch, no doubt, is going to be much maligned in post-match discussion, I'm certain of it. Nothing to suggest we would not have discussed the same 0-0 result had Pav started or even Defoe.

The Russian probably would have given us little movement or bad first touch (depends what variant of Roman would have turned up, but can't have seen him troubling Rio and Vidic much). Defoe also might have found himself lacking the cunning to get behind the Utd centre backs. Although, arguably, both Pav and Defoe could lay claim to having better shooting boots than Crouch.

Just that Peter can hold the ball up and head it down know, stuff, for a big man. Crouch 'should' have scored from that delicious Hutton cross. In another parallel dimension. Not to single out Crouch, so I won’t, also worth noting vdV was not quite crisp with his efforts either.

And let's be honest, regardless of the forward(s), it would have taken something special to unlock the United defence on the form they were on. Trend developing here, with the reoccurring references re: defenders.

Don't think too much was wrong with our performance and our intent. Modric was supreme again. World class? Yeah, go on then. Stick that on the back of his shirt. He makes us tick, he conducts and dictates. Fergie licking his lips on the touchline.

Palacios played well in parts, but also doing his best at times to remind us of his erratic composure when attempting to pass, but he was effective with defensive duties. Not so bright in offensive positions. And please someone have a word with him regarding shots on goal. Jenas the alternative. Pienaar the alleged transfer target (Chelsea to nick him). Huddlestone, no doubt, the preferred choice of partner for Modric. Having him back in the side might actually feel like a new signing. You felt for all the majesty of Modric, with vdV not quite claiming a stranglehold on the game like he usual does, Hudd's pinged balls into and around the box are missed in games such as this where chances are not quite crafted with ease not for lack of invention – just needed a different type of question to be asked when moving towards the United goal.

Moving away from their defenders to ours...

Hutton and BAE worked tirelessly. And Dawson is beginning to be a tad talismanic at the back. What's that now, one goal conceded in our last five games? And that other bloke at the back, whathisface, the old bloke. Quietly quietly, he's proving one or two of us wrong with his composure and experience . What with Ledley stuck on the sidelines.

Other minor talking points?

Our set pieces remain utterly pants. Last decent free kick was taken back in 1991. More conversations required on the training pitch with D-Beck please.

The red card? Well it was hardly a Mendes or Nani or Webb incident. And petulant as Raphael was/is (the second ‘foul’ was probably meant rather than being accidently) he probably should have got away with just the one yellow. The first tackle, clumsy.


In the end, not enough, when enough was not that improbable but neither likely. United, needing the point more than risking the requirement of all three. They contained us. I guess we should take that as a compliment?

In a season where nobody is head and shoulders above the team just behind them. In a season where Chelsea are showing signs of mortality and weakness, City spending more to consolidate and improve, Arsenal ruthless against the lesser teams and Man Utd, not playing with swagger but not getting beat either. It’s a soap opera with many unmissable story arcs and sub plots. We are stronger but with the ‘top four’ becoming ‘five’, so is the top end of the league which means we need to evolve further, and quickly. Twists and turns guaranteed, no doubt, before the finale.


Five of our next six games in all competitions are away. Backs to wall, wouldn't have it any other way. Well, other than being ten points clear of 4th spot looking down at it.





Answer to forward conundrum must not take us backwards

Spurs down to 5th. Harry out.

In all seriousness (because I’m in a serious kinda mood), we are creeping ever closer to our old friend, the January transfer window, amidst all the hullabaloo of Harry and that marquee signing he (and Daniel) are apparently desperately itching to sign. It’s been the theme of the season, the slow brooding arc hiding in the shadows whilst the players we do have, parading with pomp in Lilywhite, get on with swaggering, swashbuckling and spurring their way onwards.

I’ve got a lot of time for Harry and what he does. He takes players, some broken others forgotten, and rejuvenates them. BAE and Bale two perfect examples. And even Hutton what with this recent realisation that discipline and positioning is vital to Lennon up ahead of him. He works his magic, via hugs I guess. Broken players are fixable. However, some of his transfer targets have at times been questionable. I cite Joe Cole, but then who knows what Cole would have brought to the team. Hardly a thing I expect as he tends to spend most of his time on the sidelines. van der Vaart was on ‘the list’ but you get the feeling we got lucky thanks to circumstance. Not that I’m complaining. I’m certain even on form Cole would not have come anywhere near producing what vdV does. Rafa is not just about the skills with his feet but more so about the mental strength and focus he brings to the side, which rubs off on other players. Master-stroke signing. And a lucky escape. Even though the fact of the matter is - it wasn't our first choice.

Goes to show what one world class player can bring to the table. And how others begin to click because of it. So what about the arrival of new blood in the new year?

We’re going to sell players, I’m sure of it. Decrease the wage bill, earn us a bit of wedge. What is certain is that consolidation is positively screaming out for attention. The Prem is wide open and what with our strength in depth, another player of similar ilk to vdV playing, dare I suggest, up front ahead of the Dutchman sitting in the hole – well, this would surely dilate the pupils and make hairs stand on back of neck, jigging and smoking Cuban cigars.

Momentum (sorry, I’m boring myself with repeatedly going back to this) is the key. There is no runaway leader(s) or packs. Other than a slight, ever so slight, gap beginning to appear just below us which might suggest last season’s top five will be repeated this season. But in what order?

If we’re going to stick around in the upper tier then we need to be clinical. We are doing so much right at the moment in terms of the midfield scoring a decent quota of goals. And sure, we need to keep more clean sheets and continue to win more games at home. But we certainly need to be scoring more as a general rule. And I know it’s the chicken and the egg in terms of actually creating the chances in the first instance, but place a world class striker in the team and watch how much easier it will be to do just that. It’s nothing that needs deep theoretical thought. Imagine say a twenty five year old Drogba up top for us. Woof, no?

Don’t ask me who our saviour will be because I don’t know (Carroll the most likely). I will say this – Spurs, Levy and Harry will sign the right player if we are looking for the right player in the forward position. It’s an assumption we are all making based on what we all know. Keane is spent, Pav scores but can offer too little at times and Crouch is better in defence than attack.

Harry has mentioned names in the past, but I tend to associate any talk at press conferences as the usual misinformation/deflection tactic. The recent Dzeko comments make me wonder if Harry is playing games and perhaps looking at one of Eastland’s ‘rejects’ (if City want to play ball this time round). Hopefully not on both accounts.

Regardless of all the forward talk, the one constant has been midfielder Scott Parker. Not a forward, a midfielder, obviously. Not a defensive midfielder (we have a couple of them already) but a robust ‘engine room’ type of box to box blah blah blah...haven’t we already got Jenas? So why the continuous linkage with the supposed Spurs fan who has already rejected us twice?

And here’s the conflict I have with this in terms of our gaffer and his initial stance on his first choice transfers. Harry does things, you scratch your head and question it and in the end he justifies it. If he thinks Parker could do a job then why question it? Even if all logic points to our already quite congested midfield pool. Personally, I don’t want us going anywhere near the player. And West Ham feel the same and he’s hardly ‘marquee’. But much like the Joe Cole saga before he did us a favour and signed for Liverpool, you wonder what Harry is looking for and how much of it is reactionary as opposed to planned (i.e. vdV and 451). If he doesn't get his man it's hardly been a disaster, has it? But this time round we need to be absolutely certain that the player(s) we sign is a perfect fit that doesn't cause ripples of regret when we look to fit him into the team.

So we await. In an ideal world, I’d sign a forward and another DM. Even with the wealth we have already in that congested middle order, even though I’ve downplayed the Parker obsession and even though Wilson is picking up form. Two world class players to our current side and, pinch yourself, we could even finish top three. And that ain’t the rum talking.

Of course, some might say why spend money on yet another forward that is meant to be the answer but might turn out to be a little too apologetic in performance (much like a certain Russian). But then Harry and Levy are more than aware that second best is not going to be a satisfactory option if there are viable targets out there that we could sign to take us to that next level.

Next month is going to be massive for us. No pressure then. But I won’t obsess too much. For me, and probably for you too, all we can ask for is continued form in the league and more points (cause they mean prizes).

New blood will only make us stronger. We're unlikely to make a wrong judgement with so much at stake. I have faith. So it's all good. Roll on 2011.



Spooky recommends...All-conquering Englishman spurs his way across Europe

Capital Punishment by Kris Mole - Ebook available here


Having blagged his way into a Barcelona FC press conference...

"My fantasy interview was cut short by someone entering the room talking on a mobile phone. I turned to see who it was and couldn’t believe my eyes. Xavi, all 5’7” of him (he’s a littl’un) was standing beside me having a chat to someone, probably his girlfriend, telling her he would be home for dinner soon and could she make sure there were a few San Miguels in the fridge. He glanced at me with a look that said,

“Who the **** are you?” and I nodded a greeting his way. He then looked down at the cockerel on my chest and sighed the kind of sigh that I knew meant, “If only they would put in a bid for me. I would love to play for Spurs one day.”

He finished his conversation and left me alone once again."


Spurs drop two points and then gain one

Spurs 1 Chelsea 1

Should have won the game. Arguably could have lost it. The emotion that sits alongside me post-game is one of regret and frustration. Go on, hands up if you're gutted we didn’t collect the three points? Gutted, but hardly surprised at the final result. Yet another perfect illustration of just how small the margin is from pretenders to something a bit more than just pretenders.

Let's review.

Our opponents

For all their possession (especially in the second half) they still lacked any sustained cutting edge up front (sound familiar?). Passion wise, they rediscovered some much needed form, but then it was a derby so you expected them to play a lot better than they have in recent weeks. But even now looking back, if this is Chelsea trying to rediscover full pelt it was hardly punches to the back of our neck. When their missing and returning players return to full fitness they'll probably shift gear. Thought we contained them first half and they had pockets of pressure in the second half. Wasn't easy but I was hardly biting my nails either.

Their stand out player, was (pains me) John Terry. Made some point-saving interceptions.

I'm struggling to remember the last time they beat us at the Lane. Just in case you wanted another example of evidence of how we've dragged ourselves out of that horrific hoodoo that haunted us for so long.

Chelsea are as fragmented as we are.


It's simple really and it’s the same conclusion discussed at the end of most games these days. Forwards. It's not quite right up top, is it? But then it's not just about our lack of clinical pomp in the final third from our front two. It's the movement and decision making that is a few per cent off from resulting in two or three goals rather than the one - which on Sunday would have had the game wrapped up at half-time (although I prefer to theorise on prior games that we would have wrapped up - let's not forget that we were playing the Champions, poor form or not).

That final ball, that early ball, the required movement into space. It's not quite silky and instinctive.

There were a number of occasions when I felt Bale and Lennon could have played in a pass releasing Defoe/Pav. A top class forward would make an obvious and effective difference. Equally so if Modric did not have to spend too much time on chasing/defending he'd possess far more freedom to carve and craft. Then again - two DM's with Modric behind the front two and Bale on the left is hardly balanced on paper and with Hudd and vdV out it's about making the most of what we have. Which isn't half bad considering our recent unbeaten run of games.

Even with the slightly (ever so slight) off-key decision making, we'd probably have survived had we not made one or two errors at the back to allow Chelsea a share of the points.

1st half - could have punished them further. 2nd half - could still have punished them on the break and when we reclaimed some possession in offensive positions, but lucky not to lose in the end, amazingly, with our finger on the self-destruct button.

It was in our hands and we dropped it. Rather than being battered into submission.

The Goals

Brilliant touch and movement from Pav.

Ball in from JD in front of the practically static Chelsea back-line, Pav then touches the ball taking him away from Terry and co, creating time and space to thrash the ball in for the 1-0. Considering some of the Russians 'first touches' littering the game you might wonder if he actually meant the touch that set himself up for the goal. But that's harsh. Probably. It was a class finish. From the very top drawer.

Drogba's goal was altogether a different ilk of beast. Okay, so we all know Gomes is a loopy loon of a tune. Expert shot-stopper, instinctive reflexes when there is hardly time to think. So why exactly did that shot go through him with such ease? Much like I'd even expect Superman to be downed by a bullet made of Kryptonite, with Gomes it felt more like a pie to the face of a clown. And yet perhaps his only mistake was to think he could have saved it by allowing gravity to pull him downwards, rather than standing tall and taking the ball in his face.

Alas, this pie had a brick in it, and the power of the shot was just too damn powerful for his girlie wrists. Did he have time to work his positioning before the shot flew towards him? No matter, he should have done far better than he did.

Sure, Drogba hand-balled it, quite blatantly, and Dawson was a second or two slow to react (because of that second spent looking across for the flag). Defensive errors cost us dearly here. It was a soft goal to concede. But for all their possession, they scored a goal from almost nothing. Not quite gift wrapped. Drogba still had to take his voucher to the shop and select his prize.

The Penalty

Madness. Why goalkeepers go charging out then hold their hands up proclaiming innocence…dear oh dear. But like some demented twist and turn of a screenplay, fate would have him give the penalty away so that he could save it and reclaim some lost dignity, even though this was a mess he created. Because of how it played out, during the time it took for the ball to be placed on the spot and be taken - it felt like we had lost the game. So the save made it feel like we had won a point. Crazy. Poor penalty helped matters. Lovely irony what with Fwank on the pitch.

In Defence of Gomes

Yes. He's fruit-loop. He's also an outstanding keeper and let's not forget the amount of times he has saved us playing with a forever changing back four in front of him. Does need a good slap in the face every now and again (gentle slap, don't want him crying) but he showed character. He guessed which way to go with the dive for the pen, going opposite to where Drogba tends to place them. Homework or luck, what does it matter. He redeemed himself for this particular last gasp dramatics.

Who is this Wilson?

Not that Chelsea were formidable in the centre of the park, but let's still stand and applaud Wilson Palacios for a performance which had bite and some much missed intensity returning from a long sabbatical. And in addition, a refreshing lack of misplaced passes. He did his job perfectly, got himself involved, closing down players and laying it off with a simple ball to feet. Not quite the destroyer of his early Spurs form, but one game at a time, right?

The Redknapp Substitution

Defoe is taken off. On comes Peter Crouch. Why?

Well that all depends on a couple of things. If it was about JD, he might have been subbed to preserve some juice as he's only recently returned from his injury. Don't think he picked up a knock. If it wasn't that then it has to be tactical. Knowing Redknapp, I'd hazard a guess he wanted Crouchie to lend a hand (head) at the back to defend set-pieces. But it didn't quite work, at least that's the ranting going on in Harry's direction over this tactical reshuffle.

Defoe and Pav worked well. JD's work-rate was very decent. There was a partner-ship there, be it one that still requires a few more games to click. But if we suddenly need to change it because of the opposition asking questions deep in our half, do we do so to the detriment of our forward play?

Would it have been more apt to sub Pav (no pace, not great in the air) and bring on Crouch to knock the ball down to JD? Crouch did very little, did get his head on the ball a few times but nothing more. Was okay but with Defoe off the pitch, we lacked an outlet of pace. Crouch and Pav is hardly the most dynamic combo. Then again, for all of Defoe's work-rate, he didn't have enough about him to get in behind the Chelsea defence. So perhaps this was a fitness issue after all.

Not sure what the point of bringing Keane was other than hope he could produce something from that long lost forgotten locker. Needs to find the keys first.

Dawson's Return

Great to have him back. Superb, got caught out for the goal, but for him to play in this game as a return to the side game do so with some comfort wearing the captains armband - that makes me smile.

Player Ratings Score-Card

Gomes - 6 - The good, the bad and the ugly.
Hutton - 7 - Far more disciplined than usual defensively and didn’t nullify Lennon. Still think he's positional sense and intelligence is not great.
Dawson - 8 - Early Christmas present. We might finally see our back four settle down now.
Bassong - 7 - Reliable and focused. Made some telling contributions.
BAE - 8- Cracking performance.
Lennon - 8 - Continues his rehabilitation, proving what a little confidence can do. 2/3 games from his best if he continues this form.
Palacios - 8 - Still on the subject of confidence, perhaps it was the responsibility bestowed due to the occasion. Can hardly fault him.
Modric - 8.4 - Really beginning to tick. Shame he can't shoot for toffee.
Bale - 7.2 - Quiet but still had opportunity to create with a few marauding runs down the flank, probably should have released the ball early once or twice, got cluttered and marked out by Chelsea. It's a transitional stage for him this, learning to adapt to the adaption our opponents are having to adopt.
Defoe - 7 - Worked hard, assisted for the goal. Still not 100% but he'll get there.
Pav - 7 - Brilliant finish. When he starts he scores. Was detached from play second half.

Crouch - Header here, knock down there. Not much of an impact but then the subs came late in the day to truly influence proceedings.
Keane - Spent a lot of time in the middle. Not sure I can remember much else.
Sandro - Hardly enough time to make an impact.

The ref - 5 - Made plenty of mistakes, let one or two obvious fouls go without yellows. Neither side will be best pleased. But at least he didn't ruin the game like some.

Forward Conundrum

World class forward up front and we'd be laughing right about now, yeah? The lack of guile at times and the obvious lack of testing their goalkeeper is what births the pressure on our back four the longer the game goes on. Ground-drog day. Perhaps with a vdV in the side and a Huddlestone we'd have created one or two more chances that could have left us in a far more comfortable position. When either or both return, we're back to Harry and his tweaks. It's going to define our season this. A new forward won't work out if our midfield isn't set up to maximise opportunities. I'm talking about decision making with the final ball and movement from all concerned.

Very obvious stuff this.

Our Form

Think it's just four wins out of nine so far this season at the Lane. Which on the face of it is not great. But then when you delve deeper it's one Premier League loss at home during the last year (1-0 to Wigan).

It's also six defeats in all competitions in twenty-six games played. Shame we were so abjectly bad away to West Ham and allowed Wigan to win at the Lane.

Race for 4th, 3rd, go on then why not…race for top spot

Another stat-attack for you - we are three points behind our total from the 2010 season, if you wish to compare.

09/10 - 17 games, 30 points
10/11 - 17 games, 27 points

Not the perfect benchmark I know (different season altogether, can't really compare game to game) but the more telling total is how far off the top we are. Because that's more relevant. Five, at the time of writing.

That's not shabby.

Harry, Levy - take note of the niggling repetitive quirks to our play that need fixing. January - it's imperative. But more so are the games from now until then.

Onwards. As ever, onwards.