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Entries in Sandro (22)



Just a few thoughts from the Spurs/Chelsea game (following up from the match review here).



Beast. The more game time he gets the better. Has adjusted to the Prem's tempo and will improve (for us, with us) over the next season or two as he continues to tally up on appearances. He sees the ball, does not care for much else when looking to reclaim it. He'll protect it and win it and brush off whatever player had it momentarily before him. But he's not just a brick wall. He can play too. An absolute superstar in the making. Okay, so he's naive and makes mistakes and lacks composure at times. His passing needs to improve, but then that's a given considering his age. Has everything and more to surpass Parker and claim the role of defensive king-pin. In time. Sandro is The Future.


Hungry. I rate him. Can't be alone in thinking that. Things would be different if Torres was worth his weight in gold. Would be more so different if City didn't feel the need to splash out several tens of millions of pounds on marquee names.

John Terry

His footballing credentials were never in doubt. So can idiots in the media please stop using sound bites alluding to 'hero' and 'proving a point'. There is something surreal seeing him being applauded by the away support almost in defiance of the accusations made against him. Surreal that is until you remember its Chelsea fans applauding him. Then it all makes perfect sense.




It's like Giacomo Casanova not bothering to go out on the pull and sitting indoors browsing porn because he knows he could pull he just can't be bothered with all the chit chat he has to do when seducing.

Gareth Bale

We don't tend to accept diving or play acting at the Lane. I've cringed at the antics of Zokora in seasons gone by. It's not becoming of us. Bale has a habit of staying down when fouled. I've at times allowed this to not irk me mainly as a means for the kid to protect himself. Why not make certain all is okay before jumping back up? Hardly the ethos of a Dave Mackay, but these modern footballers...they're a delicate bunch. However, adjusting body mid-air to allow for an extra bounce or twist when kicked - unacceptable. This is not La Liga. Equally so, we're not Chelsea. Let them retain the dramatics and time wasting. Keep the moves for the goal celebrations.


In the middle. Play three at the back with wing-backs if necessary in a five man midfield - just retain Luka in the middle. Once upon a time he dinked in from the left with much acclaim but he's masterful in a central role. The side has to be built around him (from one game to the next). Seems like we hand the opposition an advantage when he's pushed wide because we're unable to sustain a cohesive pattern to our play. Easier said than done I'm sure, what with our reliance on pace down the wings to compliment the Croatian's deep play making.



Fancy a Ruby?

Rubin Kazan. Not related to Keyser Söze. Pretty certain unlike the latter, they most definitely exist. Yet I have no idea what to expect. They're hardly a team you would dismiss out of hand thanks to their adventures against the mighty (under-strength/not bothered at the time?) Barcelona. I would expect them to play a strong side, but then I'm guessing and I haven't googled or checked the sports sites to find out. Research, not something I can do much of during my lunch break. Speaking to other Lilywhites, they don't seem to know a lot either. Shame on us.

Honestly? I'm hardly gripped by the Europa League group stage but rather far more interested and perhaps just slightly (every so slightly) excited by the prospect of seeing a 'second eleven' take the field to what will probably be a White Hart Lane with the odd empty seat. I'm holding back on the sarcasm as much as I possibly can here. Perhaps I'll have my gob shut later on this evening, but if this game isn't a capacity filled occasion (which it wont be) then it begs the question about how such a game would play out in a 60+ stadium. I guess people who usually struggle to get tickets can't be arsed when its reserve football. To bring it full cycle, when season ticket holders can't be bothered to go either than I guess we need to appease all by not playing in this competition next season.

So, yeah, interested and a bit excited mainly because of the team news Spurs released in the build up that will see Aaron Lennon and Sandro return to the side along with Danny Rose. Equally of interest (nervous not excited) to see how we cope by the lack of centre-backs and the fact that those injured are apparently not going to be available for Sunday.

Pav and Gio will start which is always something you force yourself to watch just so you can angry the blood and inject some emotion into the game (as it's hardly nail-biting territory).

Looking forward to seeing man child Carroll in action.

The fact is, can't quite grasp what to expect. Will Rubin be up for it? Will they be cautious? Will our players be up for it? Will the back four be cohesive and will the formation have fluidity? Are we perhaps over-rating the visitors and under-rating our second string? Vice versa? Will Pav strop or show-off?

Lennon/Sandro fitness and their performance is key for the Prem games ahead of us. Gio is pretty much like a Kinder Surprise. Much expectation but in the end the anticipation is far more satisfying than what you end up with.

It's Tottenham. It's a proper game of football regardless of how much it's value has been diminished by other priorities and the lack of grade A first teamers. I never want to see us lose and I always want to see us win. Let's hope we win then.

Don't forget to wrap up nice and snug and get comfortable on the sofa.

Love the shirt.


Midfield majesty

Continuing the season review from here.

It’s the midfield’s turn now.



Strange how things can turn out. One persons misfortune can lead to someone else coming to the forefront unexpectedly. Happened with Bale when BAE was injured. Happened with Sandro when Huddlestone was out. Might struggle to get back in now.

It’s been a mixed season for big Tom. A few seasons back, I discussed his merits and the fallacy of his immobility and his under-rated work ethic (he can occasionally boss games). His got the mad skillz with an array of volleys and thunderbolt shots and elegant passing that has a touch of the Hoddle about it. The dirty, darker side to his play needs to be policed as there’s nothing worse than seeing one of your own lash/kick out with studs.

Hudd offers something different to Sandro, but in a 442 (with vdV playing behind a lone striker) you would probably prefer the defensive qualities of the Brazilian to the offensive play Tommy has to offer. Mainly because he (Sandro) protects Modric who is then free to dink and dictate. What I do like, in terms of our squad, is that we have a rich variety of talent within our midfield pool – all players giving us something different.

The new conundrum (worth revisiting separately) is how best do we line-up to accommodate them?  2-6-2 anyone?

The bigger conundrum might actually belong to Hudd who might feel he needs to play week in and week out to truly maximise his potential.



I love Luka. So good you might not even notice him. His peers obviously didn’t. Although everyone else watching football from the stands or on television did. You can hardly miss his non-stop energetic coverage of every blade of the midfield grass. Always looking to play a pass or get on the end of one. Always recycling the ball with an almost Barcelonaesque presence. He is the control centre of the side, everything goes through him. The tempo, the possession. He’s imperative and quite simply irreplaceable. Because how would you go about replacing a world class player when perhaps signing one would prove to be a task of impossibility in this current climate of CL demands and ridiculous wages.

Luka spoke out recently, he’s an honest down to earth man. He’s happy at the club and isn’t looking to move on. We won’t sell him, we won’t look to sell him. Levy has already said this. Although money is money and if a bid came in for him that sat around the £35M-£40M and his agent whispered ‘150k per week’, an honest man wouldn’t lie to himself when questioning his loyalties to his own self being.

If you’re better than someone who is earning twice as much as you elsewhere, scratching your head you will.

I’m a romantic and with Spurs being in good nick with several top drawer players, I hope as a team they all have ambitions to stick together and achieve something at the club that works against what we’ve come to expect from history.

He might not score many goals but he’s magical with the ball at his feet. The fact everyone will be looking across to the Lane this summer speaks volumes about his quality. He would turn any midfield in this country into a better one.



This is what Tottenham is all about. Sign a young talented player, mishandle him through development and injury blips, almost destroy him and almost send him out on loan and then end up with one of the most iconic moments in our recent history: Bale, in the Champions League, destroying the reigning champions.

Okay, so yes there is plenty of style hype to run alongside the genuine substance. Gareth Bale is technically gifted, physically strong (or not – more later) and possesses great speed and agility. He’s also got an eye for goal. Unknown quantity in the CL meant he had a field day on occasions. Back home, one or two did their homework on the lad and nullified him. Although it’s hardly disparaging if you note how many times the opposition placed two men to mark him.

People who prefer to linger on the negatives are missing the point. There are no negatives. Just varying degrees of positives, some of which need nurturing to full bloom. He’s young. He’s learning. He’s had to deal with plenty, especially with regards to expectations and the extra attention after that hat trick.

‘Doesn’t do it in the league’ some have muttered. Well, sure, he’s not devastated opposing teams week in week out. But then his opta stats along with memorable moments might have been doubled had many of his brilliant crosses to head and across the six yard box found a forward. Not his fault movement from our frontline in and around the box let us down on numerous occasions.

He will improve, he’ll learn new tricks and his manager has to continue to play a part in progressing him. He’s a target, as we all saw with the tackle from Adam. He goes down easily, probably because he wants to protect himself. You can hardly blame him, it’s not like he isn’t being fouled. He is. He just takes a moment’s pause to make sure he isn’t broken. Someone still needs to toughen him up as it’s all in the head.

Modric might be the trigger, but Bale is the bullet. And he needs to remain in our gun.



Whether it’s because of the bench warming or loss of form and focus, Lennon has not been at his best. Sacrificed by Harry, I get the feeling that Aaron is at times disillusioned. He’s shown glimpses of what he can do but as cited by Tom over at thfc1882, we’ve never seen the best of him at the same time as Bale and you wonder whether an opposition could live with all the questions fired at them if both our flankers were at full pelt together. I’m not suggesting one is detrimental to the other. It’s probably just bad luck and circumstance. But much like Bale needs development and a word in his ear, someone at the club has to drill home to Azza when best to cut in and when best to cross. He still possesses the pace. He’s a weapon that won’t do much damage loaded with blanks.

Harry has to stick him on the right and the coaching staff have to work on his decision making. At full pelt, it’s hairs on back of neck dancing time. We need him rejuvenated and not wasted, much like how Fabio managed to do within the England set-up.



If you remember his first few appearances, the main criticism would have related to Sandro’s lack of comfort with the pace of the English game. Understandable. Which is why Harry slowly introduced him, what with pressures of moving to a cold country and settling into our way of life. But what struck me was the kids apparent unfazed demeanour and the manner in which he went about his business on the pitch. He made mistakes, he picked himself up and he got on with it.

Mental strength in abundance and therefore not a concern in my mind that we had found ourselves a winner. A player who believed in his ability to succeed for us. It’s early days but there is nothing to suggest otherwise. He’s a gem. But then he hardly arrived to Spurs from a nothing club. He starred for Internacional in their 2010 Copa Libertadores win.

No more mistakes, no more mis-reading of the games tempo and no more clumsy tackles and yellow cards (well, almost). In the Champions League he was quite simply superb. The pick of the bunch his performance away to AC Milan. His general defensive awareness as good as we’ve had, probably since Carrick. He allows others to flourish forward as he sits back and protects.

I’m excited at the prospect of seeing him in the team from the start of next season.


van der vaart

Just when the transfer window was about to shut, we were gifted a world class player at a steal. You can hardly say no. What you can say is, ‘how best to fit him in?’

I’m uncertain whether we’ve figured that one out. With a more robust centre-forward up ahead of him, perhaps we’d have seen more goals in our favour. He creates, he assists and he scores and he isn’t/wasn’t even 100% at any given moment during the course of the season. I hope his summer and pre-season is a great one because if he returns at the top of his physical peak, it will feel like we’ve signed him all over again.

I must have used the word galvanised a thousand times this season. It’s what Rafa does. His self-belief has proved vital and he’s practically dragged us up from the ground screaming and shouting in games, scoring all important goals and leading from the front – even though he’s not playing up front and can sometimes lose himself in deep areas between the defence and midfield that would leave Robbie Keane blushing.

Fourteen goals in a season of tinkering. Again, if Harry works out how to accommodate our key players in a formation that befits their talents and ability you’d be hard pressed to find a more attractive, pulsating midfield in the country.


Not to end this part of the review on a downer...

Palacios/Pienaar /Kranjcar/Jenas

Palacios has never fully recovered from his lowest ebb. A destroyer in his first season, he’s lost that intensity and with the emergence of Sandro and the inclusion of vdV and Bale on the left wing with Modric in the middle makes it extremely difficult and unlikely that he can work his way back into the side. A crying shame at £14M. I like him. He’s a good hard working lad who has lost his way and has failed to reclaim his past form. Again, we’ve been here many times before with players who we have written off and they’ve come back stronger. Just have a feeling that won’t happen for him at Spurs. Especially if we do end up signing another midfielder in the summer. Which I hope we don’t (other than perhaps a right-winger to cover Lennon).

Pienaar has been subjected to countless shrugs of despondency since his arrival. I’ll just say this: He was Everton’s player of the season. He’s no mug. Squad players should not be dismissed and he can and will do a job for us. He’s been here 5 minutes, give him a chance. Yes, he’s South African, and I would be dismayed if he was signed simply as a commodity (Khumalo anyone?) to aid with our SA fanbase. Okay, I admit he hardly fitted into the criteria we needed – but then when do we ever sign the right type of player? Charlie Adam – where would he have fitted into the side had he arrived during Jan? I think Pienaar is essentially a ‘Harry’ signing. Nice and cheap (wages excluded) and doesn’t quite make sense but does when he can offer cover. I'm trying to remain upbeat on this one. I'm probably in denial.

Kranjcar. Last season so so vital. This season, marginalised. Don’t think Harry utilised him enough and can’t see him at the club next season. Beautiful footballer and not too bad with the skills (boom boom). Rotation could have been slicker from the gaffer and Niko should have played far more minutes. Can’t remember what game it was now, but he was awful (along with one or two others) when given a start...but you wonder how much of that was down to man-management on the training pitch and sheer frustration.

Jenas? Injured for the best part of the season other than one decent cameo spell. He seems to be the perpetual squad player, always in and around the first team. But this season we’ve hardly had time to make disparaging comments because he’s hardly had the time on the pitch to live up to our low expectations of him. It’s not quite fair to be honest to say anything negative about the lad. He’s not been at the races. Another player who might be on his way in the summer. Because I can’t see how he’ll fit into the team any time soon. It's either him or Pienaar.


Next up, the forwards (or lack of).




4 wins. 99 years.

Spurs win at Anfield. Arsenal lose again. 10,000 travelling claret and blue fans watch West Ham United get relegated. Oh and what’s this? Jessica Alba naked in my bedroom, seductively requesting I join her for frivolous antics between the bed sheets. What a sensational weekend. Almost makes you want to daydream about the performance against City with an alternative ending. What if, what if. Such a fine line between loving/hating the gaffer these days. But at least we've got ourselves a pocket of pride after a painful run that's lacked it in abundance.

From a CL play-off to a Europa League variant at the home of the best tannoy system in the land (not working on Sunday, hence the lack of home support vocals). Post-match Harry has admitted scaring the team to victory, reminding them the passage into Europe via Fair Play would mean a very early start to pre-season. Shame a similar ploy wasn't used pro-actively during the past couple of months to inspire avoidance of the far from sexy Europa League. You live and learn.

Immaculate performances of beastly awesomeness from the likes of Sandro, Modric and Rose. And Ledley King. Seven months out and he basically owned the pitch. Such was the comfort of his display. Okay, perhaps he wasn’t 100% slick and styled but seven months months! He has not right, surely?

Of course he has the right. He's the King, he can do whatever he likes.

There’s no doubting the fact that if Ledley did not suffer from the degradation of his knee he would be one of the world’s best. He’s still one of the world’s best if you wish to take note of his performance by games played ratio.

He hardly plays. When he does, he oozes unparalleled ability. Little surprise then that he also brings the best out of Dawson (to the right of King in central defence). The man is a colossus. And a conundrum. We don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors and whether he’s finally been advised to consider retirement. King himself is looking forward with positivity, as ever. He never wants to give into his reoccuring plight. What his performance does illustrate is the importance of having some of his quality at the back throughout the season.

Stats tell us that we’ve conceded 66 goals in the 44 games that Ledley has not been present. That equates to an average of 1.5 goals conceded per game. Compared to the six conceded in the eight games he’s started, which is an average of 0.75 per game.

As much as we all bang on about needing a forward we equally need to do some hefty work to sign someone of similar ilk to King. Not an easy task. I’m thinking long term here (Gallas has another season with us at the very least and wont be ever present next term through-out all comps). Steven Caulker might be the answer. We’ll know more post-summer transfer window (that’s a hope rather than a prediction).

So, what of the game?

I was surprised Liverpool were so limp in terms of offensive pressure. Granted, they had chances. Wasted ones. Carroll doing his best to appease my disappointment we didn't sign anyone back in Jan. And any of the pre-match hullabaloo about not signing Suarez was washed away thanks to a rather inept performance by the player who spent most of the game reminding us of those other qualities. The ones Howard Webb preferred to ignore. I bet if that was Daws kicking Suarez, the Uruguayan would still be rolling around now with Daws reflecting on a red card. Suarez probably would have rolled all the way to Albert Docks. Regardless, Dawson had him comfortably set to ineffectual. All that was left for him and his mate Maxi was to periodically dive their way through the ninety minutes.

Webb’s inconsistency did however award us a rather soft penalty. Not sure, are we allowed to accept such generosity in the back garden of one of the original Sky Sports Top 4 clubs? Feels dirty. The penalty made it 2-0. The first goal was a wonderful effort (aided by deflection) by van der Vaart who kissed his badge in celebration. A sure sign he’s had a contract offer delivered via Old Trafford. Good solid performance from the Dutchman before going off injured.

Rose, again impressive in another left-back cover-role. Kid might have a future as BAE's understudy. Based on three games. No, no. I'm certain we're onto something here and we are not an over-excitable bunch of fans who will not turn on him when he eventually does make a mistake. Which he will. Human, after all.

We didn’t create too much else in clear cut chances (Crouch and Defoe up front). We didn’t over-power Liverpool. We simply contained them and played out the game in relative comfort. Clean sheet people, clean sheet.

Sandro (got a yellow when others in red shirts deserved them more but got away with it) proving our scouts can get it right. The perfect partner for Modric in the middle, who continues to make us tick (70 out of 74 passes completed, that’s 95% accuracy - destroy all carrier-pigeons leaving Manchester and heading towards N17).

For those taking notes, that’s also another hoodoo beaten by Redknapp (Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge the only two battle fields left to conquer). First win there for 18 years. First double over Liverpool since ’87. But then I’m sure you’ll counter it by reminding everyone that Liverpool are still in a state of flux (be it in a good state currently), requiring additional new blood to improve to even consider competing for a top four place. Our away form continues to impress. Our home form is where we’ve stuttered. I'd still be looking up at City and the rest rather than looking down at Liverpool and...nobody else.

Liverpool finishing below us might hinder them in the transfer window or it might not. Europa football not as appealing as that other competition. Guess it comes down to whether we are far more decisive in the transfer window than Comolli is who will no doubt spearhead the project at hand (the enticement of history on their side, see Joe Cole for example).

It's a fine line, regardless of what you might think of Harry and his mouth and the other issues of potential transfer targets (please no West Ham rejects please) – we’re still in good health. I’m right, am I not?

For all his contradictions and his relentless protection of his ego and the half-truths, his record still remains impressive. Just not as impressive as it could have been. And he knows it. And he's not doing a good job managing the fallout. Although it will no doubt be forgotten about with the summer almost upon us and Harry will want to prove the doubters wrong with yet another positive twist. Perhaps top four and a cup. Come on, it's hardly the moon on a stick.

Will be interesting to see if we start next season as the underdogs or he comes out and states clearly and without confusion: Top 4 is the target. Aim high Tottenham.

Talking of the summer, Harry according to Harry, has already started to scout (he was recently in France). I'm sure you'll all be inspired by this gem in reference to strikers: "It's very difficult finding better than what you've already got"

Oh crap, Jessica’s head is morphing into Harry’s ala Aphex Twin ‘Windowlicker’ video. I knew this was too good to be true.

One game left. 5th spot, in our hands to lose. Much like 4th spot was. Onwards. To dare is to get three points at home in the final game of the season and continue the 'run' into the 2012 season.





Milan, revisited

Was meant to write up a match report of the Milan game but alas, I’ve been too busy celebrating the best 0-0 ever. Touring the saunas and lap dancing clubs of London can take its toll. And to be honest, in retrospect I’m not sure too much can be read into the manner of the game in terms of tactics and especially in terms of it being any form of marker of improvement or further maturity. It was one of those games that did not go the way we wanted it to, but adapted by digging deep. We might have to do that again, and perhaps next time find a way to turn up the tempo in our favour.

This side, under Harry Redknapp, is more than capable. They’ve proven that. It’s beyond dispute. Amazing considering how it all started with our Bambi foot-work away in the opening qualifier of our campaign. It was always about that gradual learning curve having to tap the vein of belief and inject confidence until our eyes rolled and we flew as high as a kite.

We’re equipped but we’re not going to win it are we? Actually scrap that question. What I meant was, we’re not the best equipped to win it are? So it won’t be humiliating or laughable when we get knocked out because we’ve made the quarters. Sorry playa haters, but as much as your bitterness drives you towards wanting us to fail, but virtue of our progress – it’s now impossible to do so.

Do I want the journey to end? Of course not. I want more. I want more twists and turns and more chronicles in the making. Only two games away from the semi-final. I guess that’s where Spurs fans irk the other fan bases, by being dreamers, by believing the unbelievable. Heart on sleeve, might be too giddy for some but for us it’s the way we live our football. Two games from the semi. Four from the final. So be it. We’re not going to be found out, just out-classed when/if we get knocked out. And there will be no shame in it. 2006 seems so long ago now.

As for the game. I’ll try and cover everything I had planned to in the match report.

Milan – Okay, so they turned up and played like the home side. Controlled possession with good passages of play. I’ve sat down and re-watched the game and for all the time they had with the ball at their feet and their desire to get forward and test us – they didn’t do that much. Two or three chances? Arguably none of them were clear cut. The Gallas clearance? That wasn't even clear cut thanks to how the ball travelled towards goal. I’d go as far as saying that a side with three better forwards would have punished us. I’m going to firmly state they flattered to deceive. Big whoop. The Zlatan Zeppelin burning to the ground in flames. Robinho is not that good and Pato, when in a good position fluffed his efforts on goal.

Now they might cry injustice, but they're in denial. We expertly mugged them at the San Siro in a game where they failed to truly make home advantage count. Gomes the hero in that game, our patience the key with our counter and away goal. At the Lane the only injustice is the suggestion that Ibra calls himself the best player in the world.

Now in terms of how we lined up and how we played, it’s tricky to gauge. Other than perhaps forming your own opinion and taking the sage of Harry in his post-match. We don’t sit back and soak up the pressure in Europe. We appeared to do so against Milan because I’m not sure we had much of a choice. The lack of genuine fitness from van der Vaart and no Gareth Bale from the start meant a couple of outlets of our play were not present. Lennon was doubled up on (personally thought he came through and produced some quality balls into the box the longer the game progressed). And because Crouch will eternally give away free-kicks simply because he’s tall meant that the olde knock-down double act with vdV wasn’t going to have a productive night.

All made more difficult thanks to Seedorf and his excellence and Milan’s midfield and their work ethic. We failed to hassle them back in an attempt to regain sustained possession and instead built a wall out of Brazilian bricks and named it Sandro, the Beast of the Lane. The graffiti clearly stating ‘not tonight, I'm going to give you a headache’ with Milan attempting to get past it and failing time and time again, reaching for the paracetamol with the tick tock of the clock as the game worked towards its conclusion.

As pointed out by a keen follower of South American football, we hardly signed him from a team of Sunday leaguers. He played for a top side in competitive games, not unlike the ilk of Champions League. The kid has taken time to adapt to the pace of the Prem (I say adapt, it’s still early days with a handful of appearances) but even during the appearances made he looks assured, confident and believable as a defensive midfielder who can play the ball a bit (no Huddlestone) can tackle and can get stuck in. He’s robust and simply doesn’t look unfazed by much.

Our performance, our initial drive towards how we wanted to play might have been to hit Milan down the flanks and put them under pressure but having been placed on the backfoot, I think we dealt with them pretty well because the players wanted it and were therefore completely focused at completing the task. If we were not going to score, neither would they. Even with the odd error or scrappy clearance thrown in for extra nail bites. What we didn’t do is change it or attempt to change it, not until late on with the substitutions. Risky, but it worked out.

Gallas, Dawson also excellent on the night. Gomes, ignoring his walkabout, handled very well. Corluka was calm which makes me less nervous than having Hutton at right back. BAE did a job too. Modric had one of his ‘quiet’ games, it’s the type where you might at first glance think he was ineffective. But once more he recycled possession (when we had it) and worked hard covering plenty of ground. 90% pass completion from the Croation. No major link up play with vdV, a player I long to see at even 85% full fitness, something I’m not sure we’ve witnessed yet. Piennar, not box office but another hard working display. Would Niko have worked on the left in a game where grit was required because there was no apparent time for spark? Lennon our main outlet, even when constrained by the double-up, gave us some rest bite.

It was not an offensive Spurs performance by any stretch of the imagination. It was a forced defensive one. Crouch could have should have headed that second half chance at goal rather than across goal. Not enough of the ball out on the flanks which meant not enough of anything in forward positions. High hoofs to Crouch, one dimensional, at the sixth and seventh attempt but one out of desperation to get the ball up top to release the stress at the back – only to give the ball back to Milan.

As mentioned, Harry made the right subs late on. And also, as mentioned, Milan for all their posturing did nothing decisive when it mattered. Other than fall to the ground hurt time and time again. Nice one KPB and Robinho. The ex-goon also showing more of his class with another trademark lunge.

Team unity got us through it.

We have dismantled teams, bossed it and scored goals in abundance at home in the CL. This time out, it a test of character and perseverance. No matter how you wish to analyse, the fact remains, two games against one of the best sides in Italy – and they couldn’t score past us. Luck? It wasn’t luck that saw us finish top of our group was it? Doesn't matter if Ibra is over-rated or that Italian football struggles when played at a Prem rate of pace. We out smarted them in the first leg. That's what won it. That's what they can't get over.

I'm still smiling.




Sandro > you

It wasn't pretty. To be honest, it was unexpected. I didn't think the balance and tempo would be so one sided. Be it plenty of hot steam rather than a pummelling. Didn't think the game would be orchestrated by a Milan side that decided to actually turn up and play.

This was not vintage. It was Glory Glory, in the end, tinged with spirit and guile rather than assured swagger. Altogether a different facet to this quite extraordinary European journey. Backs to wall, defending our lead. Mindset: You shall not pass. Actually more like you'll pass but you wont get past.

Some things didn't quite work out on the night. We rode our luck. Grinded it out. But amongst men stood giants. We never stopped believing, even with the uncharacteristic lack of swashbuckle confidence.

Heart in mouth. Nerves ruined. That sick, gut wrenching feeling that consumes you. You don't enjoy everything that came before until the final whistle is blown. That sick gut wrenching feeling we all endured for ninety or so minutes? It's the emotional side-effect, the relentless desire to avoid the devastation of defeat. The tension engulfing. And yet somehow, it makes you feel completely alive. I could get use to feeling this sick.

Gallas. Dawson. Sandro. My God.


Sandro. Sandro. Sandro. Sandro. Sandro. Sandro. Sandro. Sandro. Sandro. Sandro. Sandro. Sandro. Sandro. Sandro. Sandro. Sandro. Sandro. Sandro. Sandro. Sandro. Sandro. Sandro. Sandro. Sandro.

Beast. What a prospect.

How many superlatives have we produced in performance during this competition? Memories, moments.

Goodbye Milan, your sister awaits you. She also left North London broken hearted.

They said we wouldn't qualify. They said we wouldn't get out of the groups. Out of our depth they said. The Rossoneri would be too strong. Not quite.

0-1. 0-0. Cancelled out. Apart from that one gem of a counter in the San Siro.

Love this club. Best Champions League début ever.

Lest we forget Defoe the philosopher. He predicted this.




Full match report in the next day.





Simply put; beat Blackpool, finish Top Four.


Last season, on a number of occasions, we dropped points but never lost sight of the target. It still took a monumental effort to take us into that must win game at Eastlands, makers of our own destiny if we chose to dare. Which we did. This season the trend has been one surrounding the quality of our form, and that we have yet to truly blossom into a free-flowing rampant goal-getting beast humping our way through the herd never asking for phone numbers or bothering with breakfast. But neither has anyone else. Not a b*stard to be had.

To continue to play this shy game of step aside that everyone seems to be partaking in remains one of great risk.

There is something very Spursesque about us doing it the hard way, written off by our own as well as the press. It's the fuel we consumed during the drive through the 2010 season. You half sort of give up hope because it's easy(ier) to prepare for dejection than it is to build yourself up for an even bigger fall because the height will hurt you even more if said hopes tumble. And climbing that ladder is for some, too much to cope with.

Been there, done it, didn't fall down. We've even moved onto a taller building. Ladder is fairly stern too.

Someone once said something about aiming high and something about an echo. Words mean little without action. We lived the words through our actions which is why, even if it's hardly 'glory' to finish fourth it was a necessary step that had to be fought for and celebrated when achieved.

Plenty believed our season was over at least four or fives times. Just when I thought I was out...they pull me back in. Agony, followed by glee, followed by agony. Would rather this time there was no debate around being anything but in.

Mind your step on the ladder.

Don't care if it's ugly, pretty or lucky. We have to win at Blackpool. I wont go as far as suggesting it would kill any ambitions we have to reclaim a Champions League position. Simply because of how this season has panned out and with the end in sight, nobody has yet to take a stranglehold with their consistency.

Yet. The key word. The same tired excuse to protect the dream.

It's time for us step it up and let others concern themselves with the catching up stuff. The less pressure we have on retaining a top 4 (screw it) a top 3 position as the weeks fly past the better. Our form is actually very good. We've been consistent, accumulating a healthy tally of points. What's required is avoidance of those occasional blips, hiccups that can cause hope to rise in others.

Harry claims (tonight) it's as big as the Milan game. It's not, but it is. It's the most important game we're going to be involved in this evening.

Of course it's frigging important.

What we've achieved in Europe has been nothing short of, well, Tottenham. Our unique brand of swash buckle, heart in mouth comebacks and unexpected (and devastating and patient) dismantling jobs - we've done it all. And nobody can pretend we've not made an impact on the continent. We have proven, without a shadow of a doubt, that we can compete at the very top level. Our learning curve has been one of fizzy refreshment in the usually bland and stale group games and maturity (thus far) in the knock-out stage. Perhaps next season we'd have to adapt further as we'll no longer be unknown entity. If there is a next season.

Blackpool and Wolves away, on paper, easy. In reality, hardly. We all know how the Wanderers have faired this season against the 'big' sides. And we all know how tireless and spirited Blackpool can be. But in paying respect, there's an admittance of the possibility of defeat.

We've yet to cement ourselves as a side that will finish top 4 season in season out. The landscape of the Prem might not allow another monopoly to exist. Others are expected to awake (Chelsea) and take (Man City) what is suggested to be rightfully there's based on the norm and money spent.

And what do I want? All I care for is the monopoly of one. The Tottenham paradox. Even the critics who were scoffing a season and a half ago are now drowning themselves in Lilywhite drenched plaudits. Bizarre but acceptable. But not enough, more is needed. The very thought of defeat pains me. Not that long ago it was almost a bi-weekly emotion. Spent most of the 1990s accepting its inevitability.

And in the present we've been written off more times than I care to count but now expectancy weighs down on us. Time for us all to just admit that we are now a very good side and that when hiccups are suffered, they're just that. And not throw-backs to a disease that still might plague us. We don't choke. We just sometimes, individually or collectively under perform. Like the vast majority of sides. Which is why we have a Spanish Inquisition when it happens.

No under performing tonight please. Let's under perform when we play West Ham and only beat them by three clear goals instead of five.

I know what you're thinking. It's only Blackpool away, get a grip of yourself you drama queen.

It's bread and butter and we need to eat it up. If we're going to truly elevate ourselves onto that next level of competitiveness then we need to show reinforced tenacity, as displayed in the last couple of Prem outings. Every game is a must win, right? But not every game is winnable and there are some games where less than three points (that being quite obviously a draw) is acceptable in the grand scheme of thirty eight games.

I've used that 'excuse' to defend my belief we would finish fourth last season. I've used it once or twice this season. Faith and all. I'm scrapping it for the purpose of our next two games.

This time, I'd rather not do it the hard way. Even if the hard way is the Tottenham way. Even if the hard way is more nail biting, exciting and entices that never say die attitude that makes us perform on an electric level of intensity that can sometimes give ample juice to the adrenalin that drives us beyond limited expectations*. And breathe.

*Best illustrated by the run-in last season which was and still is 'special'.

Belief was the key last time. Momentum, the buzz word for the present. Our progression, evolution - it doesn't stagnate. It hiccups, it's an annoyance, we down a glass of water, it sometimes works, we move on. Not always solving it the same way the next time it happens. But we don't look back. And we always move on.

We are spirited and driven. The culture of comfort at the Lane is long gone and we have players who play for the team, for each other and for the club. Hungry for success. Wanting to better themselves.

We might still lack a cutting edge and perhaps (arguably) there remains doubts on the consistency and delivery of Harry Redknapp's astuteness with tactics. We have key players missing. But yet here we are. In amongst it domestically and swaggering continentally.

Time to prove we can switch on for those wet wintry mid-week games as well as the high profile glamour ties (equally wet). Not just tonight, but Wolves in the next away game too. I have no more nails to bite and my heart is whimpering from the relentless emotional pulls.

The metamorphosis from plucky lucky pretenders to sustained genuine gritty yet silky contenders has to start somewhere.

This rallying war cry is probably going to fall on deaf ears, what with Redknapp citing 'miracle' for us to finish in the top four again. Backs to walls, bare bones. It's how he works his magic. Perhaps the hard way is the only way and I need to stand down from painting myself navy blue and white and screaming at the dodgy internet stream of the match like Mel Gibson in Braveheart. He failed (William Wallace) in the end. Aimed very high. However, even in his failure there was an echo of glory.

Hanged, disembowelled, drawn and quartered. Let it be the ones in Orange not the ones in Lilywhite.

Hiccups? Hold your breath.

Either way, I'm still going to need a heart transplant.







To Dare is to do 'em

Meelan 0 Tottenham 1


Football at the best of times is unpredictable. Expect the unexpected and such. It’s mostly unpredictable when attempting to assess how a game might pan out based on, well, based on form and selection and tactics and formation – which all stem from plenty of pre-match discussion in the build up to kick-off.

Myself and quite a few of you made a series of assumptions, much like we always do before a game. In this case, it’s AC Milan away and we’ve got a long list of missing players. I won’t talk about you here and instead concentrate for a moment on my preview of the game for a moment. Rather than attempt a zonal marking styled deep thinking analysis, I just opted for the subtle war cry based on the power of belief, emotion. You know, the fluffy stuff. With some controlled attacking football and plenty of heart and tenacity. It’s the easy way to write up a preview. Just ask and hope that the team stand strong together and give it some.

I was naive with my predicted starting eleven but then I hardly care for my foolishness. Because Harry Redknapp, that’s tactically astute Harry Redknapp, got it completely on the money, so much so that perhaps some of the non-believers will nod a gentle acknowledgement in his direction as a way of a thank you for leading the team out in the San Siro in possibly the most unexpected of circumstances in terms of performance and end result. Mature, disciplined and unequivocally focused from start to finish. What’s that? Magnificent? Go on then, and throw me a superb and a great to go with it.

Perhaps part of the misconception pre-match was spending too much time on those assumptions made about how the game would play out. A lot was made of Milan and their defensive and offensive qualities in their domestic campaign. Plenty of superlatives were made of their forwards and their experienced Champions League seasoned performers. Whilst most of us took extracted moments of indecisiveness and weakness from our league games and continued agendas against players we either dislike or don’t rate simply because of inconsistency and frustration back in the bread and butter of the Prem.

Equally so, many critics and neutrals cited our swashbuckling ‘we’re gonna score one more than you’ mantra from the group games and the additional possibility of a re-occurrence of stage fright.

So many potentials. Which is why I kept it simple before the game. Show some heart and some intent without playing over elaborate football that would leave us open to punishment.


‘Would still rather get knocked out giving it a right proper go than conceding defeat by allowing fear to consume us’


What we did instead, and kudos to Harry, is set the team up to be highly competitive in the middle – the foundation to build on for the rest of the side to retain the ball, work tirelessly off it to regain it when lost and endeavour to push into forward positions to possibly carve out an opportunity.

I’m not going to be critical at all at the lack of massive chances/shots on the Milan goal. Let’s just remember nobody gave us a chance of winning, most of us thought we’ve do good to lose 2-1. The application and delivery of the team and instructions the gaffer gave them is testament to what we can achieve when we are completely focused – no matter who is missing.

Doesn’t matter if one of the assumptions made was over-rating the Italians or even under-estimating Harry. This was no fluke 94 minutes of football. This was a set of players proving to themselves, to us, to everybody that they compete at the very top level. I’m sure if we were full strength and Milan had their best side, we’d have witnessed an absolute humdinger. Instead, we got a top class display of character and concentration, frustrating the home side to the point of petulance (go on then Gattuso, have a go if you think you’re hard enough, Jordan eats hairy cavemen for breakfast, turns his milk hairy) and half-chances and cheating.

Tottenham, going all weak at the knees from fear when bullied by Young Boys to standing tall (in one case that extra bit taller) and executing a clinical whack to the back of the head of one of the dons of the European family.

How did we achieve it?

Gomes between the sticks. No dramatics. Just acrobatics. Two brilliant saves, the first game-saving. Did nothing wrong. When this Brazilian is on this type of form you’d let him sleep with your...well, you probably wouldn’t but it’s the thought that counts.

Corluka and BAE both linking up superbly with Lennon and Pienaar down the flanks. Charlie a victim of former scum, always scum Flamini. How he wasn’t sent off for his two-footed tackle is beyond most of us. Big of him to apologise post-game. Wondering how many flowers he would have had to bring to the hospital bed of Corluka if he had broken his leg. Hoping it’s not too serious, he’s (Charlie) a class act and he’s about 1000 times more reliable at the back than Hutton.

Benny was also a class act, as he’s been all season long. Doesn’t care about football, hey? Wish players cared as little as he did. 21 mis-placed passes apparently. Best drop him to the bench then.

Dawson and Gallas were also bang on it. It’s strange how leading up to this game Daws seemed out of sorts, erratic. Both were solid and without error, always in the right place to tidy-up. The whole backline suffocated the Zlatan Zeppelin, burning the big balloon of hot air to the ground. Hardly any time for Ibra, Robinho and the harassed (mostly by Wilson) Seedorf to play clever intricate balls. And even though Pato introduced an improved dimension to Milan’s play in the second half, it still wasn’t enough to generate any ilk of nerves and knee-jerks.

Sandro. Palacios. Our two defensive midfielders in the middle tirelessly biting at ankles. Wilson perhaps over enthusiastic at times and still occasionally too slow to move the ball on when in possession – but enough negatives. His first half performance was part of the catalyst that saw us nullify any threat. Milan’s midfield had no time to think or create and simply failed to take a stranglehold allowing us to dictate our own comfort. Talk about taking responsibility. Well done.

The selection of Sandro was a master-stroke. Pre-match (assumptions) you wondered if it was fair, the baptism of fire. Some doubt lingered, to do with playing him alongside Wilson. It worked perfectly. He’s always struck me as a player that remains unfazed and mentally strong. Just off the Prem pace at times as he finds his feet in England, but in this clash – top drawer. Showed glimpses of the future. Positioning and movement, quick on his feet when using his brain and his tackle (ooh). Just ace. He's going to be a beast. But the type of beast that never looks he's going to break sweat beasting it. Well done Spurs do exist afterall.

Outlet of Lennon on the wing and Pienaar on the opposite flank chasing down balls as well as aiding when moving it forward. Azza (with no Bale) was always going to be key to crafting out a chance - what with us set-up with just the two dimensions (Lennon, on the flank, Crouch up top with his head). Got into some great positions, not always the best cross and sometimes not used and found when perhaps his team mates should have looked towards him to pass. But how simple and cool and calm was the only pass that mattered, off the feet of Aaron to the feet of Crouch?

Pienaar, pre-match, spoke about European football being just like a game of chess, and once more, some of us scoffed that this would mean Harry would perhaps look to sit back, defend, soak it up and counter. Not quite sit back and defend with complete lack of ambition, but counter we did – and it was worthy of bishop taking queen, chess board knocked to ground with the opposing player trying to head butt the victor.

van der Vaart, intelligent on the ball, off it, led by example. This guy cost £8M for the love of God, we should write up a cheque to Madrid for an extra £25M because the guilt must be killing us. Cracking effort with the chip, just sublime, just not quite perfect for what would have been the ultimate. What was so brilliant about his role, his responsibility out there, was his link-up play was practically seamless when he left the field of play to be replaced by Modric.

Both players, obviously not 100%, yet both imperious to making it tick, what with the overwhelming physicality of our DM’s allowing pockets of freedom to roam. Luka, armed with remote control (the ball has an electronic chip in it) hardly ever losing possession, dinking here there and everywhere – always looking for a touch and a pass, always making sure we didn’t stagnate and remain motionless. Earlier in the game, especially the first half, I kept thinking had he started I would not have been anywhere near being nervous. The game was so made for him to dictate. It was just good to have him back and no surprise he was involved in the goal.

Sandro interception, Modric releasing Lennon, Lennon running full pelt, finding Crouch, superb finish. 0-1. Bask in a classic counter-attack. What I thought we couldn't do, we did. Soak it up, hit 'em on the break.

And what of Mr Majorly Maligned? Did not expect him to be fit (I guess that was the closet thing to kidology we got pre-match), possibly wasn’t completely in prime condition (sorry if I missed it but I’m guessing he took injections to play?) showed us that on the right stage and most definitely in Europe’s elite competition, he is imperative to how we line-up. It just works. Doesn’t matter how or why, it just does. Diagonal balls to his head (not that he got many of them thanks to the panic marking), the flick-ons, the chest downs and holding up of the ball, his touch and his composure when handed the golden opportunity for that all important away goal. Yet another player who did not stop working till the final whistle. Also did well to keep the dog on its leash. Plenty of bark, no bite. And no problem for Peter to laugh off.

They all worked their socks off. What topped it all off was Woodgate coming on (still having to rewind and’s him, it’s not CGI, I’m certain of it). Niko also impressive when taking to the field.

All of it, the way the script unravelled itself, just perfectly. Selection, temperament, tempo and belief. Confidence simply oozed.

Sure, we had one or two heart in mouth moments, great call at the death from the assistants who disallowed the Ibra bicycle kick. Would have been tragic to draw, even though that would have been more than acceptable before kick-off.

The first half – one of the best 45 minutes I’ve seen in terms of how we conducted ourselves. Owning their patch and dominant in application.

The second half – Milan asked more questions, but just fumbled and stuttered as they attempted to make a statement. Spurs making paper aeroplanes out of the crumbled paper-thin attempts. And on the occasions they did manage to be concise and to the point, we (Gomes especially) countered it with a sterling comeback, faltering any chance of a sustained argument.

Meelan, not having Pirlo in there was very much detrimental to how we all expected them to perform. I guess, perhaps in some way, they were disjointed (something I would have tagged us with when witnessing Sandro and Wilson starting) and they struggled to get to grips leaving us to take the initiative. Even on the back foot we remained tight and crowded out their attacks. Gattuso summed them up. Uncertain, erratic and nervous. He's also apologised for his actions. He'll miss the return. Says he and Jordan were both talking Scottish to each other on the touchline, during their fiery incidents. What's Scots Gaelic for 'you're missing with the wrong man son'?

So, in conclusion, I wanted us to have a go. And we did, but we did so with an unexpected twist. We birthed offensive play from the sheer gritty defensive qualities we displayed from start to finish. Even if it was partly one-dimensional. It was enough to come away victorious. We did not allow anything to rattle us. Even when it got a little tasty and dirty. Although I found myself laughing at Gattuso punching the ground (if that’s meant to rile up the home support perhaps we can get one of our players to run out with a spade in the home leg and dig a hole for the Milan players to hide in).

Wasn't pure Tottenham in terms of exhilarating pulsating expansive football. But it worked. And kudos again to the gaffer for it. Milan, out-smarted. Defensively, flawless. Italy's top side contained. Clean sheet – what more can you ask for? Away goal? Got that too. Every man a hero. Would dearly like to understand the psychology behind how teams can produce football performances like this. I dare us to perform like that week in week out. We won't, but then if we continue to play like this in the CL, our adventure might yet continue into the quarters.

Professional and mature Tottenham. What happened to the 4-3's then?

English clubs have a habit of getting results in the San Siro. Looks like we've gatecrashed yet another party. Outstanding performance. This team proved on their day they can compete with anyone. No fear. Belief, it transcends individuals and players to the next level. We have to win games like last night to breed that winning mentality. The further we get into this competition the better we'll be for it. Take this attitude to the Prem please.

Our evolution continues.

As for the return leg? Harry has to make sure that the players understand this is far from over, backs to wall regardless of last night. We should play out the return leg like we're a goal down. Some of that Spurs v Inter intensity. Bale should be back. Modric and vdV might start. I expect us to revert back to a more traditional controlled attacking style, marauding down both flanks with devastating pace. Refer you again to the dismantling of Inter. That’s how we should set up to play. It’s only 1-0. And even though the likes of Ibra and Robinho flatter to deceive and tend to disappoint, both are more than capable of scoring something out of nothing. Especially as many now would pencil us the favourites to get through.

We can worry about that in three weeks time.

Football, it’s about moments. So please do stick this one in your history books. Until we meet the The Rossoneri again, go get drunk on the fumes of yet another Glory Glory night.


To Dare is to do 'em.



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

Challenge Spurs™ 2011: Thou Shalt Not Lose

Sunderland 1 Tottenham 2


Bare bones. Three points. Saddle up.

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

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

Quietly, quietly, Tottenham. Ssshhh.

From the match preview:

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

So that's part one done and dusted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re: Meelan. Start Pav over JD.

The winner was sweetly struck.

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

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

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

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

*more of a pole-axe, granted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Chewbacca for Spurs in £23M deal?

Huddlestone collects the ball deep...oh that's a lovely cross field ball to the feet of Lennon, Hoodlesque from the big man…Lennon twists and turns out on the flank, cuts in, cuts back, plays it across to van der Vaart, van der Vaart dummy - the ball through his legs - collected by Modric who lays it first time to Bale. Bale...still Bale, past one man, past two, past three, crosses and ...Chewbacca with the run....CHEW-BAAAACAAAA !!

4-0. Beauty and best football by the home side.

Brilliant movement from Spurs, brilliant finish from Chewbacca who smashed the ball home with brutal ferocity after some quite majestic play from his Lilywhite team-mates. That's his second of the game, and this Tottenham side are positively inspired. Clinical and relentless.

And that's the whistle. Rampant display.. And it's only half-time. Park Lane are in full swing, chanting the name of their new hero...Chewie, Chewie, Chewie...Stewards are selling half-time dvd specials to the home crowd. Hedonistic scenes in N17...

I'm privileged to be commentating on this game, and although you can't see me, let me tell you, the big gold cockerel up on the East Stand is not the only thing to be standing proud and erect this Saturday afternoon.

The above is fantasy.

I mean seriously, four-nil up after 45 minutes? That and signing and starting Chewbacca might prove somewhat tricky, what with him apparently killed off in the serialised Star Wars novels. That and the fact he was birthed from the imagination of George Lucas and is thus a fictional character. Damn you, technicalities, damn you to hell.

But you just know that if we had him up front, rampaging and destroying opposition defences with his mere giant presence in both stature and personality, the rest of the team would need to find a new level of performance just to appease his big hairy feet. Because to not, would be beyond the realms of disrespect. Angry Wookie = trouble. If you thought Berbatov could sulk…

Chewie would no doubt need about a dozen storm-troopers marking him, and he'd be the one forcing them to run away in fear. In the unlikely event of us someone how signing Bellamy and covering him head to toe in super-glued grizzle bear fur, we're going to have to look at other options. And Craig is a touch short for the job in terms of height. Sorry Craig.

There's the possibility of out-sourcing. Comolli to scout the Dagobah system, perhaps? No Wookiee's to be found there, but I'm sure Damien would unveil Yoda as one for the future with the ability to elevate the team. Cue various dodgy grainy taken photos via mobile phones of Comolli, Yoda and agent sitting in a Burger King at the airport in plain sight agreeing terms.

Alas, back in the real world we have Jar Jar Binks leading from the front. So when exactly will the Tottenham strike back? Ah yes, an article full of lame Star Wars references weaker than a venomous Crouch shot.

Chewbacca signing for Spurs in a £23M deal? It aint happening. Some amongst you it wouldn't resolve our problems due to Chewie being slightly susceptible of a wandering mind and placing way too much emphasis on his heart than his mind. And much like that Bulgarian, God damn, can he be depressive. Russians are hard enough to manage, and the language barrier is going to be a nightmare. Then again, if players can just about make out what Robbie Keane bangs on about then perhaps I'm being a tad too harsh.

Having checked, Boba Fett and Darth Sidious are both unavailable and don't fancy the 50% tax with moves to England.

I've already touched on the necessity for a world class forward with an abundance of swagger in the previous blogs, and it's an echo of what we're all saying and hoping for. With van der Vaart arguably world class in terms of mental strength, technique and impact - if we had someone of similar ilk up front...and here we go's ground-hog day. Close your eyes and imagine, and it will make you drool. Until January, if something does give way in terms of filling the gap, we still have to make do with what we have until the window re-opens.

So, what do we have exactly?

We know what Rafael gives us in terms of application and guile. We need him to give it to us away from home too. Luka is still on this perpetual road of mend to recapture the form we know he is capable of. Crafting and creating, starting the move from deep and playing killer balls in and around the box. When he does hit form, and he will soon, this will be huge for the team. Don't underestimate the difference between a 65% Luka and a 95% Luka. 100% Luka…and I'll be needing the smelling salts.

Bale has been granted a holiday, which is a cracking idea. Burn out, not an option - and with Manchester United away up next, we need him to be at his very best if Levy is going to rinse Fergie for £70M (Gareth's valuation goes up with each DML article that references him). Seriously though, Bale to United? You can't possibly believe the never-ending looping news articles covering this? Can you? Can you?

I find your lack of faith disturbing.

Lennon is continuing his rehabilitation, but his angry eyebrows would suggest he would much prefer Charlie behind him than Alan.

Crouch sort of doesn't but does assist vdV almost in an apologetic manner of just being there in the box. Basically, if he doesn't give away a free kick for simply breathing in the box, the ball might hit him or one of the defenders climbing up his legs and fall into the path of vdV. The Everton game, a perfect example. vdV expertly smashing the ball into the net from the magnetic ball to feet sent his way with the aid of the magical aura of Peter.

Any old excuse to re-post this.

One thing is for certain. It's not ideal having Crouchie up front in a 451. I'll admit it. Even if vdV has notched up five goals thus far. It's not Crouchie getting the goals. Whether it's hoof up to the lanky forward or to feet, it's not a tactic that is allowing for swash-buckle and that missing ingredient of intensity.

For the sake of hypothetical's, stick a Drogba, a Bellamy (hate to keep referring back to this git) or Chewbacca himself - and you just know that this would produce something extra. Something tangible in the way of a target. Because these ilk of players have plenty of ammunition and facets to their personality on the field. Drogba is a complete forward. Bellamy has tenacity and relentless annoyance (ironically, not a personal option due to his brittle bones, he's always injured, or at least it seems like he's always picking up knocks). And Chewbacca, cool and calm when required, but when required he simply doesn't give a sh*t and will f*ck you up.

Find the player, no matter the system, who can do the job. And the conundrum is surely solved. It is, isn't it?

Pause for thought.

And we're back again to the start. Ground-hog day.

Like I said, until Jan...we wait and in the mean time we hope we can find a rhythm and plenty of goals. It might come in the way of Defoe and his comeback. With his trademark power shots at goal. With vdV playing just off him. JD is more Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs than C-3PO waddle, so it's going to be interesting to see how it pans out.

As a footnote to all this (off the back of the Everton game), I should give a special mention to Sandro who really does look the part. Tidy player, knows his way around the pitch, effective and once he hits his stride, he's going to be very good for us. In time. He does appear to have the composure (in his head) to be a success for us and the Prem. Might not be flair, but has substance.

As for our former defensive man of unbreakable bricks, Wilson?

Palacios is a bit like the Death Star in Return of the Jedi. It's there patiently waiting with the power to destroy, but not quite turned on. Is it operational or isn't it? Is it a trap? An attempted trap? Or just a really bad attempt at controlling the ball? And time. Its a ticking. And if we don't get a move on, it could go belly-up as quickly as you can say 'fire a laser at that unguarded thing over there to blow it up, seriously, it's that frigging easy'.

We want our Wilson back. In fact, we want our Tottenham back. More of that Star Destroyer swagger than slow-brooding AT-AT.

And finally, having dragged the Star Wars franchise through the mud kicking and screaming (hey, it's just like being George Lucas!) if Bale needs a rest in future and there's no time for a beach holiday, then I have two words for ya. Just two words. Two names in fact. A first and second name.

Niko. Kranjčar.

He's not a jedi. He's a Croat.

Thanks for your time, and may the facere be with you.


Sandy signs

Transfer sagas. We do them better than anyone. During the duration of the deal that appears to have taken Sandro from Internacional to White Hart Lane (pending medical and the dreaded work permit) we've done little talking out in the open. Other than Harry's rehearsed sound-bites to questions from the media about how he thinks 'the chairman' is working away at it, we've not given much away. It's been impressive from our side. No need to be in the know until everyone is made to know.

All the hullabaloo that has kept the guessing at Richter scale 8.0 has come out of Brazil (not quite epic - that honour belongs to The Sock aka Diego who hit around 10.0) with the deal - on the surface - yo-yo'ing from collapse to maybe from one week to the next. I even got distracted with suggestions that Real Madrid were sniffing around, which is believable considering the noise made was loud enough to attract their limitless pot of money and acquisition greed. That and someone saw some documents, but let's not talk about that.

As per usual we all take every written word as variants of gospel. Sort of. Not always believing it to be factual but still deeming it worth of commentary and making assumptions based on the half-truths (gospel) in the aftermath.

Politics, deflection, mis-quotes, lies, guesswork…whatever you want to tag them as, you never quite knew how far-gone the progress of signing this young rough diamond midfield player was because of all the hype. I'm sure a representative from Internacional (or was it their chairman, I forget?) suggested that the clubs partnership (to loan players to us) was not even finalised. There was always a lopsided viewpoint which for the rest of us translated as: This is a difficult transfer. Even the player got involved and in the end the clue was in the statement about learning English in preparation for a possible move. The words 'done' and 'dusted' finally whispered quietly for the first time.

All very colourful and erratic. Which is what you come to expect from the boys from Brazil. Regardless of how we've got here. We are here. And if you strip away all the message board discussions and red top twist and turns, you might find yourself believing that this deal wasn't as tricky as it looked.

We showed interested. We signed him. Months later, but still, signed.

73 appearances for his club. Three goals. And one full international cap (and has captained the Brazilian U-20 side). I've not seen enough of him to form a true opinion. I'm sure most of you are in the same boat, and tbh, when it comes to players from abroad there is always a risk element, mostly around adapting to the culture and EPL. And the types of Brazilians who travel over here are never the sexy types. But then we don't want that. What we need is more steel.

So, who is Sandro?

He's young. He's athletic, very strong but perhaps not the best passer - so they say. We wanted an understudy for Palacios - we've got one. Uncanny. And to bring in a player of this ilk means that he must have some potential because we're going to have to be patient (look up the word in a dictionary) for him to bed in. Unless his mental strength and confidence is such, that he will be happy to be thrown into the deep end and come to terms with English football quickly.

Does give us options in the middle now, and quite possibly spells the end of Jenas. Yes - JJ is a different type of player (not sure what type he is - I'll let you know the day he reaches his potential) but with Huddlestone, Palacios, Modric and now Sandro - we have enough in the middle to swagger it up even more than usual. New cult hero in our ranks?


The more cynical amongst us might think this deal is part of the relationship we have with Internacional and them loaning youth players to us in preparation for any potential move they make to Europe. Is this a sweetener? A long term deal? Does the player see the next five years of his career at Spurs? Does his former club get any % of any future transfer?

The even more cynical amongst us would go one further and question why the likes of Kleberson, Denilson and Lucas are supposedly ahead of him in the defensive midfield pecking order for his country.

Where's that dictionary?


Talking of cult heroes check out Spurs' Cult Heroes - the first published book from All Action No Plot blogger and writer Michael Lacquiere. I'll give it a proper review when I get my copy delivered. Be sure to check it out anyway, available from the Spurs official site, WHSmith, Amazon, Tesco, Waterstones and Play…to name a few. Shop around.

Blanchflower, Mackay, Jones, Chivers, Gilzean, Jennings, Hoddle, Perryman, Greaves, Mabbut, Ginola, Nicholson, Gazza…list is endless. Well, it's not exactly endless because he'd never have been able to get the book out, but its jam-packed with legends.

Will be giving away a copy soon. Stay tuned.


Bored of the Taarabt

Afternoon Sports fans.

If you haven't read my latest letter to Daniel Levy then shame on you. Just click here if you missed it.

As for this article, quick run-down of today's news. Nothing fancy, straight to the point.



He's obviously content with his form and he's now talking about the possibility of staying at the club and even shown some belief in challenging for 4th between now and the end of the season. Keep on scoring and it's win win. I still don't think Redknapp fancies him much, and he'll still claim the credit for the rejuvenated Russian in what was a clever reverse psychological trick to inspire the Russian back into first team duty, innit Harry? Even though desperation called upon his selection. I'm just happy it's positive translated quotes we are reading rather than sulking about being bullied/ignored/not allowed to leave. I still see him moving on in the summer. Him talking about staying just aids Spurs in adding an extra million or two onto his transfer fee.


Might be back for the Chelsea game. This news has me salivating. Would give us an additional edge to be able to re-introduce Aaron back into the side. Realistically, might take a few games for him to get back to full match fitness which means Bale still has a massive job for us to do. But just imagine Bale on the left and Azza on the right. I'm salivating again. Just not out of my mouth.


On his way, so say the Brazilians (press/clubs president). So I guess we have another not-the-finished-article player on his way as an alternative CM option. He's highly rated. So there's a good chance we'll follow tradition and half destroy his career. I jest. I think we can all agree that when dealing with South Americans, the transfer negations are always prolonged and ridiculous - jam-packed with conflicting quotes and denials. But the only thing we need to concern ourselves with relates to whether this is a huge gamble on our part considering there are better options (just too expensive) and if we are perhaps nothing more than a stepping stone for him to use as a shop window to then move onto Spanish or Italian football. Although France and Portugal has been a far more common destination for South Americans in the past for new arrivals. Guess we would feel blessed.

I'm shocked and surprised this is actually going to happen. But I'm going to hold on until he's at the Lodge holding up a Spurs shirt before I raise a glass. I hope he lives up to the hype. Talking of which...


We always over-rate our youth players, whether they are Academy or signed young. It's because we've had little success in promoting kids and developing them to first team squad members. We've got plenty of young players at Spurs that are highly rated, players who have enjoyed success in prestigious youth tournaments around the world and represented their club at youth levels. And yet no one knows just how good Bostock really is and if the rest of the 16-18 year olds genuinely have what it takes. Perhaps we expect too much too soon.

Taarabt, bless him, thinks he's the bollocks. Yes, he has the fancy tricks and is quite obviously confident and has self-belief in his abilities, but he's raw. He has produced some worthy cameos for QPR, but hasn't held down a place consistently. I just don't think he has the right attitude or temperament. It's easy to be critical of Spurs and say its another example of the player not being developed and looked after. But if the kid has no footballing brain - i.e. doesn't do the simple things first before the fancy stuff - then there's little hope of getting through to him. He never wanted to go on loan, so either Harry is lying when he says he rates him and just wanted rid, or Adel wants what Adel wants and nothing less.

He says he regrets signing for us and should have gone to Arsenal. I'm sure he'd have lasted 5 minutes there much like that other arrogant self-important twat, Pennant. Remember the hype surrounding him?

Off you trot Adel, you silly little boy. I know there's talk amongst some of the Spurs faithful that he should be thrown into the side and be allowed to express himself, but I've seen nothing yet to suggest he could handle the responsibility. He's all talk, no action. He's not bothered with football in this country. He'll do well in Spain no doubt, probably because he'll apply himself accordingly to suit his ego. Although there are plenty of elements in La Liga that are not to dissimilar to the EPL. He'll continue to blow hot and cold and frustrate for years to come.

That is all.