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 hoodoo (4)


Spurs in turmoil

Manchester United 2 Tottenham Hotspur 3


Someone, please hold me.

I swear, hand on heart, before the game kicked off, in the build up to it I was not in the slightest bit nervous. I guess because it’s Old Trafford and the memories of the past twenty-three years have turned the occasion into a foregone conclusion. We know the script, we’ve read through it dozens of times before. It's a seasonal tradition. At full time I was a complete mess of a man. Why? Because of that oh so common anomaly that can sometimes crop up when we play them. On those rare occasions, perhaps two or three times in amongst the twenty-six games without a win in their back yard, there is sometimes an inclining of hope. That moment when you almost believe because you think the players believe.

On those rare occasions we’ve had that cruelly and sometimes brutally and many times comically snatched away from us, without remorse. It’s in these moments of hope where you suddenly care so much more. Not that you never care about what transpires for Spurs but you care more so because the very thought of losing is soul destroying because you believe you've got a grasp on victory. Hope is the unequivocal reason. Hope, hope takes you, grabs you by the throat and drags you to the very brink of hell, pulling you down, making you experience all you witness in slow motion. You suffer every second, it becomes unbearable. This is what it feels like to be a supporter of any club. For us it’s pretty much the standard.

We have had to endure being out classed, losing to dubious referring decisions and a variety of capitulations that were birthed from the fact that for all the desire to believe, there was nothing to truly back it up when it mattered most. Why was that? Probably because we allowed that negativity to become synonymous with playing them. 'United, they’re bound to beat us', and they do, every time. Thinking it is enough to constitute believing it. A single shred of doubt is enough. In my match preview I said that for all the years and games played, in many ways, none of it should be of any relevance to the present day and the game to be played next. Why should it be? Fact is, bad luck and decisions aside, we have never been good enough to beat United at Old Trafford. Tactically and mentally. On this occasion we got it right and to make certain of the three points, a footballing God up in the heavens decided that there would be no thunderous rain to drown us in. They looked away for once.

This is a new Tottenham Hotspur, in its infancy in terms of maturity of system and tactics but eager, hungry and willing to impress. It’s still early days. There’s still plenty to improve on, but you can take a performance and a result like this and you use it as evidence of squad harmony. It feeds into boosting morale, confidence. Also, it adds to the justification of the faith placed in the coach and in being patient. The great fallacy about football is that if one person says something another believes this to be true simply because it’s been said. One person says 'pressure' therefore another believes there must be pressure. What pressure? Who cares? The word is sometimes nothing more than a commercial commodity to make money from the hyperbole it generates. Villas-Boas isn't under pressure, he's just probably irritated. His emotional celebrations are a release. No doubt the frustrations and experience at Chelsea still need to be worked out of his system along with one or two other bug bites that need to be scratched.

The game itself was fascinating because it illustrated just how juxtaposed when comparing one half to the next.

The first half was exceptional. 1-0 up in no time at all. Half man half amazing Jan Vertonghen bursting into the box to score. It was easy, too easy. Too earlier? Was hope planning to drag me down kicking and screaming within the opening couple of minutes? We continued in good form. Bossing the game. More pace, more power and some beastly performances in midfield and on the break. Sandro starting a move with a brilliant tackle on van Persie, playing the ball out to Dembele who released Bale for the second. 2-0 at the break. The most telling aspect of our play was the intensity of our movement, always looking to hurt United. Composed and effective passing. Confidence in abundance. Which is where that ominous whisper makes its appearance, that voice in your head, pulling you back from being overcome with excitement and bravado. Hope.

“We’ve been here before”, it whispers, "...You know what happens next, don't you?"

Would have been naive to expect United to come out second half and not attempt to claim some type of stranglehold on the game. We were deeper, sitting back too much and not defending the flanks but then we never got hold of the ball enough to dictate tempo. One stat I saw shared on Twitter was that we only completed around 35 passes in the second half, such was United’s dominant pursuit with making a breakthrough. You expect them to make that breakthrough too. Regardless of our past history with them, it’s United, they’re famous for it. It’s what they do.

From being in control with splendid work ethic and intelligent movement in the first half, we chased down shadows and surrendered that intensity to the hosts in the second. We got teased and slapped around by hope once more, as she loves to do. That anomaly, that rarity. Once more into the heart of darkness we stared.

Perhaps there is a solution to being pegged back like that. Something VB noted for future reference. The ball, when sent forward, was instantly lost and United pressed on over and over again. We failed to take the sting out the game, we failed to slow it down. This resulted in a variety of emotions and cursing and praying. But we did not collapse or give in or lose focus and concentration. Yes, the wood work saved us a couple of times. Yes, there was a decision in there that might have, could have gone United’s way. Yes, they missed a couple of chances that they could so easily have buried. But these are the very same incidents that all clubs suffer but sometimes succeed with, week in week out. Just because we’re the benefactors of luck this time, doesn’t demean it. Justice for Pedro, right?

That second half was more to do with Manchester United waking up than it was to do with our tactics. Much like United's first half performance was influenced by our dominance. Tactics aside, the players had to dig deeper than ever to find that resolve and that belief, which is usually nothing more than an empty shell at Old Trafford but this time was fleshed out the size of Godzilla fighting off an army of attacks.

At 2-0, after the second forty-five kicked off, I made a dash to the toilet. Butterflies in my gut had morphed into piranhas. I returned and stared with sheer amazement that the score was now 3-1. I had time to blink and it was then 3-2. No no no, not this I cried out. The game, in the space of 140 seconds had gone clinically mental. For all of that structure of the first forty-five, the game had opened up massively. As games do. Tactically, the game had relaxed. Loosened up. You can argue the way things panned out initially is how we had planned. We set out to attack and pressure and hassle United and it worked. The second half was probably going to be the same from us but perhaps with looking to turn defence into attack, on the counter. Yet it become a game where United were always in the ascendancy and we became reactive to everything they threw at us. We lost the remote behind the sofa and had to endure forty-five minutes of a tv show we didn't want to watch. Aside from luck, it’s here that mental strength can come in quite handy.

Tottenham believed. And for once it was not false or deluded or misplaced. For once it wasn't an empty shell.

For all those years, I’ll be damned if I wasn’t ecstatic about this. United might not be the team of previous seasons but this is more about the team we can become rather than the state of the teams we play. They still have the experience. We still have to earn it. This win goes some way to setting the foundations for future victories.

Friedel – Did his job. Held onto the ball when it was imperative to do so. Safe hands.

Walker – He still hasn’t got a grip on positioning which means we’ll be punished for it, inviting pressure on. More discipline required.

Gallas – Experienced. Proving a fair few wrong. Looked suspect earlier this season, almost felt last year was his last run out and yet he’s managed to retain some influence and composure at the back for us. With no Ledley there, it’s perhaps fortunate we kept Gallas.

Caulker – Didn’t panic, but he’s hardly a Premier League fledgling. Gallas by his side helps.

Vertonghen – Did I see a Superman celebration? Keep this form up and he’ll easily be our Player of the Season. Brilliant in defending as he is bringing the ball out. Risky with the shirt pull, but his run in the early minutes was deserving of the goal he got. Not too shabby at left-back.

Sandro – This might well be the season we see him mature. Beastly as ever, and much like Bruce Banner, in control of the monster within. A vital element to the way the side sets up. Holding midfield, defensive midfielder, brick wall. Call his role what you want, he doesn’t just defend. By virtue of winning the ball he can spark an attack with a simple ball. That tackle on Robin van Persie.

Dembele – Another powerful performance but struggled a little with his passing in the second half.

Dempsey – Scored. Still finding his groove, still has to work on his awareness and movement with new team mates. He'll score a few by attacking the penalty area.

Bale – Much more like it. Scores and assists.

Lennon – I’d like to see Villas-Boas to work on how he can use his runs more effectively. Honestly, at full pelt, running at defences, he can be unplayable. Doesn’t happen enough, but he’s started this season in superb form. 14 key passes so far this season.

Defoe – Worked hard. Will always struggle a little with holding up the ball when were up against it (something we desperately needed in the second half) but can’t fault his performance and link up play when we attacked. Was involved in two goals. He’s a much better footballer under VB. His run left Ferdinand and Evans in no mans land for Bale's goal and he held the ball up wonderfully well in the build up to Dempsey's.

Sig, Huddlestone and Dawson – all helped out when coming on. It was hardly the easiest of games at the time of arrival. Chris Hoy will be able to tweet without any repercussions concerning mistaken identity. Sir Alex will still be complaining, as officially 'Fergie Time' isn't due to finish until Monday morning.

As for our coach? Top marks. Let the haters keep on hating, let there be a siege mentality if necessary, but everything outside of Tottenham that only exists to criticise is hardly of any true relevance any more. Most of it is borderline fantasy mixed with unintentional parody. Such is the lack of substance. Club in crisis. Villas-Boas wins the three games he had to win to save his job < insert canned laughter here >.

We won the game because of the first half. United were only as good as they were in the second because of the performance we put in. The spirit and survival instincts displayed our character isn’t one dimensional like past teams that flattered to deceive. We can be bullish and we can be bullied, but we can still come out on top. It’s just one game, but its testament to the work being done at Spurs. A fantastic result for a club in turmoil, where players hate training and dislike their coach by refusing to play for him and then mockingly hug him after the final whistle.

The game left me both physically and mentally exhausted by the end of it. But utterly joyful at the same time. Only our fifth away win in eighty games against the old traditional top four. Another hoodoo gone. But more importantly, twenty-three years aside, justification in support of our coach.

So onwards to the next test and the next step. Where no doubt hope awaits once more to suffocate our beating hearts.


We eat Uruk-hai for breakfast

W.B.A away. It's hardly the Mines of Moria. You won't find Orcs but you'll probably stumble over Lilywhite skeletons of fallen soldiers. As for confronting a Balrog and falling into an abyss? No time for such improbable mourning. We've already lost and made our brilliant white return. Fleeing the Hawthorns however with grim faces will be no victory. Unless the precious points are gripped in our hand. It's going to be tricky. When is it ever anything less? Would hardly be an adventure if it was only made up of a skip and a song in a field. Dead Marshes aplenty up ahead for our Fellowship.

This journey was never going to be an easy one. We continue to fight against our insecurities and question whether we have the perseverance to last. Even with our good form, I ask myself what if we lose say one or two to injury? Or if we're beaten, how will we react? Same old same old? Defaulting to in-fighting and disarray? Bare bones, backs to wall, Helms Deep? Sometimes you need that reminder to dig that deeper and against the odds claim the win.

W.B.A away. It's not Helms Deep. It's more like The Shire with the odd scary firework display. No epic battle expected.

Still, we don't have the best of records there. If that isn't inspiration enough to turn up, turn on and turn them inside out I don't know what is. This is another test of our resolve. Of our patience. Every battle we face in the coming weeks, regardless of how comfortable it may look in the build up, should be faced with the same tenacity we'd show to a more powerful enemy. Regardless of the opposition, a win equates to a trilogy. Every battle should retain the same level of importance as the last. Even if some are more final than others. We've still got Mordor to contend with and their Army of the Dead. But that's still a while off.

For now, focus. No complacency. Take nothing for granted. Display desire.

There is no hiding place. You wont find any Eagles to hitch a ride with either.




How to defeat your enemies and be successful at table football

A few years back there was this bloke, an acquaintance rather than a friend. He was the sort of person who grated on you because he took much pride (of the gloating variety) in shouting from the rooftops about his personal success. Sort of person who would take great pleasure in the misfortune of others and hardly cared much if something he did happened to leave you feeling a little downbeat. Dog eat dog world, right? Why should he care about me, you or anyone else?

Why should he indeed.

The way he would patronise and condescend was gut wrenching. Happens in the work place. There's always one. Spring in his step, swagger in his stride. Full of himself.

You're sort of green-eyed, not in a depressive self-deprecating 'why can't that not be me' way. Because it's not his fault if you don't have the skills, inclination or ambition to achieve at his level. Not that you didn't have the potential. It was just never fulfilled. But his presence begs the self-doubting questions you'd prefer not to have sparking in the brain. 'Why can't that not be me'. Okay, so yeah, self-deprecating.

He was supreme in his application in the office and he was also stupendously good at table football. Whether it's controlled passing of the ball, knocking it between the footie players on the table before smashing it in or generally just smashing it in from one end to the opposite side, opponent after opponent was obliterated out of sight.

And yes, before you ask, his girlfriend was fit. Not just fit, with her slinky frame and world class chest, but also intelligent. Street smart. Trendy. Considering everything else about him, you lingered desperately to the hope that if his other half was not that great to talk to or look at then it wouldn’t matter too much about everything else because you'd be comforted by the fact he was going out with a melting pot of ming and stupid. But that was not the case. Far from it.

Like a Greek tragedy with relentless plate smashing, his girlfriend was lovely. Gorgeous. You know how usually if you (a bloke or woman) sees someone who's attractive, you flirt with the fantasy of sleeping with them. Go on, you know you do. God made us weak. Well his girlfriend was of the ilk that had you thinking of marriage and growing old with her by your side. And plenty of bedroom action too, before the old bit. Okay and after the old bit.

Her smile, her mannerisms. Her sense of humour and razor sharp wit. You would tremble at the knees with each flick of hair. Had to be something amiss with her, couldn't be completely unequivocally perfect. But she appeared so. And you hated the git she was dating even more because of it. Which ruined it all and made you question the cruelty of life and why it choose to make you feel like crap, constantly with the mocking. Mocking with a cherry on top.

All the pain would however aid with inspiration in attempting to better him at least the once for all the emotional upheaval he caused by just being there. In your life. At work. Christ, you'd try to best him you really would. In conference calls, meetings, projects and then at the fabled table football. But he was just, well just too good. Too focused. Too comfortable at something you had to work ridiculously hard at just to be decent whilst he was very good without breaking sweat.

You'd huff and puff and he'd just pick you off, every time. Plucky you would be. Plucky until you'd choke and capitulate whilst he scoffed and shrugged nonchalantly, as though he knew he'd win again no matter what. And you sort of knew you'd lose anyway. His entourage of hangers on, people who wanted to be associated with his success would fluff and kiss his ego. They would be particularly annoying during bouts of table football, siding with him whilst you protested that he span the handles too quickly, turning all the footie players in the row around, full circle before shooting.

"Nah mate, never happened"

He'd score whilst you complained. And you'd lose. Again.

I'd lose again.

It was tiresome. Hard enough trying to get one over on him without others fighting his corner. Ganging up on me you'd tell yourself. All very apologetic, always an excuse at hand to explain why you've failed to again. Easy way to avoid confronting the real reasons behind defeat. This guy irked me. And I was so drilled with my hatred for him it was far more of a distraction than a tangible strategy. The inspiration and the belief was misplaced every single time, with a reflex 'here we go again' when he showed you up in front of others.

That's until one day I decided to be shrewd with my approach. Getting one over someone doesn't have to be just about the winning, it should always be tinged with a touch of glory. Because people tend to be far more interested in how you beat someone, the manner in which you've gone about it rather than the end result. Because a result has no story. It's just a fact, a stat. But that's still no reason not to embrace the philosophy that a win is a win is a win. Don't just turn up an play to the best of your abilities. Play to your best with their weakness in mind and take advantage, without remorse or thought of failure.

Do to him what he does to you.

An opportunity came up. I took a massive risk. And the plan rolled into motion. The essence of it based on the simplistic template that if it worked, he'd be weaker for it and that psychological barrier would crumble a touch meaning next time round, he would hardly be the immovable object of disdain that had driven most of us in the office insane, specifically me.

I knew I had it in me. Much like he went about his business, I simply focused and retained complete faith from start to finish. Not a second wasted on complacency.

All that was left was to revel in the finale, that moment where victory would be embraced.

On that fateful day I was eight - nil down on the table football, whilst he showboated (danced whilst he played), I appeared disinterested quite on purpose. Just me and him on a Friday afternoon in the chill out area of the office. The only sounds coming from his mouth as he chewed and snapped gum and twisting of the handles of the table, smacking the ball hard. I then spoke.

"So...", I said.

"Nine - nil", he replied.

I shrugged then walked away from the table and into the small stationary room out of sight of the rest of the office. He followed me there, with bursts of confused fake laughter, not quite sure why I had just randomly trotted off.

"What are you doing? You can’t walk away from the game. You'll forfeit".

I placed my finger to my mouth and politely asked him to hush the **** up. I then spoke.

"I've been shagging your missus. Birthmark on her thigh. Completely shaven apart from a strip of hair. Loves her high pitched screams. Don't fret mind, our little secret. Talking of little..."

I then smiled, pointed at him and winked.

Okay, so he kneed me hard between the legs and with gritted teeth grabbed me by my neck and explicitly stated he would kill me. It took a good ten minutes to get myself up from the floor after he walked back to his desk. I had to tell people I had stomach cramp and proceeded to spend a good thirty minutes in the disabled toilets attempting to recover, dipping my balls into a basin of cold water. Dodgy Indian the night before I told everyone when I reappeared.

I slept with his missus having found out from her that she hadn't slept with him for almost ten months. Some relationship. Apparently they were not as strong as they once were. All that bravado in the office, all that brash alpha male b*lls**t. All a sham. And between himself and myself, exposed.

Obviously I forfeited and lost the table football. Shame that. But you've got to take some punches (kicks) for the team and still come out of it standing tall (with slight awkwardness in the midsection). But after that day he wasn't quite as boisterous and in my face as he was prior to my revelation. Sure, he was still successful at what he did at work and still swaggered around the office. But he knew I knew that I could, on my day, get one over him and had one over him, which shifted power a little towards me. I knew that he knew that I knew I had found him out. Finally found him out.

When we went head to head on anything, he was never guaranteed to come out on top like before.

When I played table football I made sure he couldn't refuse by making a point of challenging him in front of others. He displayed traits of mortality in the game he once dominated. Mainly because of my in-game ambiguous banter that had him a touch nervous I would spill the beans to everyone crowded around the table that I had relations with this other half.

His concentration was off-key because he was more than aware it was no longer an easy brisk walk in the park for him. It hardly mattered he span the handles a few times during the game or had his 'mates' distract me whilst I attempted to defend. I didn't bother with the protests because I would make sure I won. His mates can hardly do anything if I'm wiping the floor with him where it mattered. On the table. Didn't always win of course. But won enough games to keep me content and keep him irate. His arrogance no longer grating. A victory for him no longer a forgone conclusion. Suddenly, everything about him that made him such a bane was inconsequential. I had the beating of him.

All thanks to his girlfriend and her needs. They had a wobble, a prolonged wobble, I was a b*stard, I made a move. Just the once. They didn't break up. He knew she cheated on him but didn’t have a clue who with. And I assume they sorted out their issues because they were still together up until I left the company. And he was hardly going to do anything more than knee me because God forbid people found out what I did. And killing me would have been detrimental to his lifestyle. He disliked porridge.

So in order to secure one or two wins on the table and restore some personal equilibrium in the office I did something that was both beautiful and ugly. Something not that becoming of a true gent. Arguably over the top and cruel. Just so I could have one victory. Because I wanted too. Because things just had to change. Pretty much the type of thing he did week in week out to me and other people. Screw people. Getting kneed was acceptable collateral damage.

The moral is simply this; if you want to come out smiling get balls deep.




The Theatre of Tears

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

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

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

Potential scenarios (based on historical depression):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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