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Must win

Pocket-sized match preview. Time is against me today.

Banana-skin, they call today's visit of Sunderland. I prefer to call it a 'test' of character. We have to retain focus and make a solid statement of intent and continue the level of performance we displayed second half against Stoke. We're hardly out of form. We suffered a blip. A wake up call, a gentle nod towards avoidance of complacency.

With Chelsea visiting us on Thursday, this game is equally as important in terms of winning all three points as we drive towards the festive period and the new year. January will be season defining. We've got plenty of home games and that game in hand against Everton. Whatever happens in the transfer window, is pretty much irrelevant for now.

Stand strong Tottenham. Bully your opponents. Boss the midfield and the tempo and take your chances with supreme confidence (you hear me Adebayor?). Take nothing for granted. Play to win like your lives depend on it. That's simply the only attitude to have.

We're going to be missing a few players today. I don't want to be citing that as an excuse come the final whistle.


Love the shirt.


This is hardly the Europe Bill Nicholson spoke of

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

The title > Champions League > Domestic cups > Europa League

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

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

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

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

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

Nicholson's Europe is not the Europa League.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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



Running up that hill

So there stood the general with his army at the foot of the hill. Memories of a past glory in battle which was fought gallantly and won. Having returned to reclaim the land for a second time, his tired troops look up at the steep hill and frown. For it's not an easy task to climb and fight and then stand at its peak victorious, then do it all again.

Their foes, they are more prepared this time. The element of surprise, no longer a factor.

"Onwards we shall charge", the general commands.

Dissent in the ranks.

"Onwards? Charge? Again? Why can't we just go around the hill? Then come up the other way and surprise them? Fight from the top and push them back down", say the tired troops.

"We don't have enough men to do that", some say to each other.

"We don't have the right type of men", some dare to whisper.

"Onwards!" Screams the general.

"This just about worked last time, we've been stuck at the foot of the hill all year, it's too late. We should have attempted something different from the offset. They can see us coming", say the tired troops, dismissing their generals strategic know-how.

"Onwards! Let us claim what we deserve!" The general commands as he begins to lead his men forward on horseback.

And onwards they march, for they are soldiers and they obey their orders.

Once more. Running up that hill, battle cry from all.

And if they were to be pushed back once more by the barbaric hordes that await them then surely the general will admit defeat and return to the foot of the hill and await for reinforcements from the emperor. And then perhaps another tact will have to be embraced to once more reclaim the land and plant the flag of victory in it's peak.

The hill will always be there. The fight will always be a tough one. And if it's been done before, it can be done again. Perhaps next time, by taking no prisoners.





And...we're back

Is it safe to come out? International break is over, right?

Thank God.

Other than Bale and Lennon being pulled out of their squads due to 'injury' it's been a decent week having not lost anyone on a more permanent basis with the additional bonus and return of Tom Huddlestone to training. Woodgate is apparently injured again. Conspiracy theorists might tell you otherwise. Although that may simply be desperate optimism rather than kidology. Harry capable of the latter? van der Vaart did say our gaffer is like Jose. Probably meant they're both suave and sharp dressers.

But before the glamour of Madrid we play the role of visitors to bottom club Wigan. The fixture has less sex about it than an orgy hosted by eunuchs. Can we tag this with the must-win label? Goes without say, doesn't it? Back to basics here. Keep it simple, keep it traditional. 442 please. Nobody expected them to win in the game at the Lane, what with memories of the 9-1 still buzzing around our heads. Upsets still do happen and they tend to get dished out to us when we're feeling all apologetic in performance. They're bottom, but they're still fairly organised and plucky and they're fighting for their lives whilst once more (as ever) we have one eye on another game that might well distract.

Even with players rested, if we line-up up with a decent spine and attack and we don't wear t-shirts underneath the Lilywhite, we'll be just dandy. We could have decimated Blackpool a few weeks back and ended up losing 3-1. Wigan won't pose the type of threat we encountered on that particular evening. But anything resembling complacency or lack of focus from our lot will be disheartening and dangerously encouraging for them.

Momentum Spurs. It's easier to win the next game if you've won the one before and the one before that and the one before...etcetc.

Cohesive, clinical, cutting edge. Stand tall please. Show some heart.

It's every game is a cup final time. Hold onto your flat caps.




The Spurs way is the hard way is the only way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wakey wakey, cock-a-doodle-doo.





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

Tottenham 0 Manchester United 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving away from their defenders to ours...

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

Other minor talking points?

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

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


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

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


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





This is what it's going to be like now...all the time 

We have ambitions and we’re in a position to push on so there are no longer any insignificant games. Which means no matter the points or the position, every game is vital/imperative/high pressured. At least it should be and our gaffer should instil that type of attitude, because intensity is the winning ingredient. That and lack of fear. Something we have in abundance in Europe.

So are you nervous? Are you of a certain weak disposition, struggling to get a stranglehold of how games involving Tottenham are now existing on a different playing field, one where expectations and pressure embrace you but can so easily crush you too. That’s the risk you take with the hug. But you’re rather be hugged then left standing alone, right?

Okay, so City were very much displaying efficiency and authority, granted against a fairly poor side (who beat us 1-0). They did the same to Fulham, punishing them effortlessly. But we’ve been here before right? Comparing ourselves with the competition. And it’s hardly a worthy exercise. This week City win, next week they might lose. Every time a side competing up top with us win a game our next one is suddenly the be all and end all and if we happen to lose it there’d be another knee-jerking session until the following week when the results are reversed and we’re suddenly back in it or out of it or whatever.

We might have obvious problems, but so do they. They being a number of clubs up top.

It’s been the pattern of the season, with our fans see-sawing between disaster and delight. Remember last season? If you do then you should have more faith. Everything is reviewed with microscopic analysis, exaggeration the result. So emotions tend to be pulled apart leaving one or two of us completely spent one day and ecstatic the next.

Utd are meant to be playing below par, yet they’re unbeaten. Arsenal have no defence, but are top. City are not a unit yet can perform like one.  And Chelsea have gone from title winners to crisis club in the space of weeks. As for us, we have no decent strikers and no consistency with our back four and yet we’re still in there. Mercy on all if we signed a player or two.

Bossing games, clinically finishing crosses and maintaining momentum. All key discussion points, all arguably related to the apparent solution involving new blood. But this new blood, this new’s not due to start until the back end of January 2011.

So what of the present? Do we need to win on Sunday? Of course we do. It might not be us placing a marker down thanks to the rather confusing state the Prem finds itself in but we’re playing the blue scum. And a win is a win is a win. And it takes us closer to where we want to be and turns attention to others in terms of stress.

I have no time for the ominous omens relating to their (Chelsea) form and that they are apparently due a performance because pundits can’t see how Chelsea could positively degrade any further. Our fixtures are rolling in thick and fast and that fabled January consolidation window should be forgotten about for now.

It's time to get a grip of things in this bewildering perplexing present and forget about a future which is not guaranteed to play out as we wish it too.

London derby. No love lost. This is what it’s all about. Remember the days when you couldn’t possibly look forward to this fixture because you knew, unequivocally, what the result would be? Now those nerves you feel, it’s not because of the knowing acceptance of how hurtful defeat is but it’s the unacceptable prospect of tasting said defeat.

That expectancy, that pressure – it’s just a teaser of what the future might hold for us if we went that extra mile or two and truly challenged. It’s a consequence of wanting to be better and to continue progressing. It’s the pressure felt by the sides we aspire to stand next to.

No vdV. Modric is on form. Defoe has his goal-scoring boots back on. Azza is hungry once more. Bale v Ferreira. Both defences are capable of lapses. Both can produce moments of quality going forward. Drogba thinks they can win. We’re still reading recycled quotes about a  title push and Harry to England. Tight affair? Or free scoring? We’ll see. Will be despondent if we failed to go for their jugular. If we failed to turn up.

I still don’t think this season is going to start until AFTER January. It’s gentle with its transition. And as much as I keep saying to ignore everyone else and concentrate on winning and improving and getting ahead, it’s not a trend we appear to be owning – much like the rest. But we have to endeavour to dare.

Sunday is about beating Chelsea. One game at a time. I’ll gleefully accept a goal off the left bum cheek of Jermain Defoe in the 94th minute if it gets us the three points.

Beating Arsenal hasn’t laid ruin to their season. Neither will beating Chelsea result in their death. But it will add another badge of honour onto our chest for another battle won, onwards, in the war.

Still nervous? This is what it's going to be like now, all the time. Deal with it. It's for the best. It's what we aspire to be, as fans and a club. At some point someone is going to step up, someone has to.

To dare is to do.


We all agree, vdV is better than Cole

Bale out on the left, plays it to Huddlestone, Hudd to Cole, Cole step-over, loses the ball...

One two between BAE and Bale, Bale cuts in, drags ball back, plays it to Cole, Cole skips and dances around with the ball, loses possession...

Cole on the ball, fancy footwork, tricky trick, comes to nothing...

Imagine that.

In another parallel universe what you just read is playing out to a disgruntled White Hart Lane, every other week whilst Rafael van der Vaart is galvanising some other club with his superb work rate and excellent goals to games ratio. It’s a disturbing reality, I know. But shake off the concerns and be content that it’s not you experiencing it. Just another version of you. A depressive mess of a version. The poor bastard. Having to live with the misery of his club signing Joe Cole and not the Dutch maestro with the magical mojo.

Now we might be the ones living in the universe where Arsenal moved from Woolwich to North London (in that other one their bribes fell on deaf ears and they were never handed promotion to the first division post-war, just about survived financial melt-down and are currently third division – West Ham United are considered our main’s a pretty f*cked up dimension for sure) but at least we’re not living in the one where Harry knocked back the chance to sign the Real Madrid ‘reject’.

For all of Joe Cole’s vision and touch there was always something dodgy about him for me. Five years back, the exact type of player we would have moved the earth to sign and fans would have been more than happy with it – but times have changed. We need something more than a luxury. Sure, he’s talented and on his day he can spark life into a team, but like most of the Tottenham teams in my generation, he’s inconsistent. Not the type of player who can play badly but still impact the game. Something Rafa can and has done for us.

Cole is a marquee player and in a side where everything clicks, he can get away with it. World class? Not quite. Doubt he ever had any intention of joining us and I do appreciate we got lucky with the vdV signing in that although the player was one we apparently looked at – he obviously wasn’t first choice.

Harry’s magic hug might have rubbed off positively on Cole in Lilywhite, we’ll never know. Not unless you happened to open up a worm hole and slide into that other universe where he stars for us in midfield along with Anton Ferdinand, rock in central defence and Andy Reid out on the left...because we can’t move him off the left he’s so f*cking fat. Doesn’t matter what universe you visit, there is no slim version.

At the time of writing, Rafa is 50/50 for the game against Liverpool and Cole is probably going to start on the bench. I think van der Vaart is still four weeks away from his best form for us. Couple of more pounds to lose, more work on stamina/fitness to be had. He’s doing everything he’s doing on 70%. Salivating at the prospect of him being fully fit in terms of physicality.

Regardless of my discounting of Cole and the fact that I genuinely believe that a full strength Spurs side with a new midfielder and striker (and go on then, a backup for the left-back position) would not be far off from something special – I still think we have one major bugbear to overcome.


We need it in abundance. Discount Cole, but discounting Liverpool would be dangerous. Shadow of the side from a couple of years back, but regardless of their ordinary workman type style, they still have one or two players of genuine quality. You know who. And we need to remember we’ve come unstuck against sides of lesser quality overall who have out worked us to claim the points.

Still, you know if Mark Lawernson isn’t backing his club this week, it’s not quite right at Anfield. I’ll be massively disappointed if we lose. vdV or no vdV I would like a DVD type performance, except with no actual release in the club shop on Monday week, because that would be unbecoming.

City are doing their best to encourage ourselves and Boltonlona. Time to place down that marker. If there has ever been a time to swagger and swashbuckle, this is it.

Hodgson might well set his team out to frustrate us. We have to show belief. I know, it's tiresome the amount of times we refer back to this belief thing, but if the players actually took time out - just for a moment - to grasp the fact they're actually pretty damn good we might see sustained confidence which will breed sustained consistency which would turn into mighty momentum.

Dawson not far off from returning. Lennon rediscovering lost form. Defoe back. Timing is perfect if we can make it count with points leading into the new year.

vdV is also, obviously, important to us. Winning without him in the side equally so.

Show some spirit and intent Tottenham.

Go for the jugular.

COYS, please.




Are we there yet?

When we lost to West Ham United 2-1 and Arsenal danced on the Highbury pitch in celebration its no exaggeration to describe the day as one of extreme dejection and pain. It wasn't to be. It was all very Tottenhaming, what with the vomiting on the pitch and the illness and conspiracy stories (It was Dein!) and the fact we gave that particular part of east London a proper knees up and another folk tale to sit alongside stories about the Kray Twins and Phil Mitchell's latest breakdown.

We couldn't just go there and lose, we had to do it with a sprinkle of drama and quite frankly ridiculousness. I mean seriously, did we somehow bring it upon ourselves? Subconscious manipulation of fate and destiny birthed from fear of failure, allowing for self-destruction? It was ours to lose and we lost it. That night, just to top it all off, I suffered from chronic food poisoning and was basically sick for 3 days (well, it took me that long to recover). Talk about a sympathetic reaction. Pathetic.

How people scoffed (not at me, I didn't share the details of my personal hell because after my recovery I spent months locked inside my home writing depressive poetry and staring at a canvas with a brush and black paint). They scoffed at Spurs for the blatant choke. And Arsenal in the mean time told everyone who'd listen that their 4th spot finish was never in doubt. Back in your box you go, you silly Lilywhites, dreaming of such things that are beyond your reach. How very dare you. The one chance we had, was apparently gone and that was that. None of the Top 4 would slip up again. Fluke, luck, punching above our weight. All labels tagged onto our backs as we fell back in amongst the pretenders.

What we didn't know at the time was that the EPL elite would begin to slowly falter. No need to wait for further slip ups. The rest were going to catch up because the teams at the top were going to stagnate a little bit. Not in any drastic way, but we've covered this before. The gap between the pretenders and the challengers shifted and shortened. There are probably still only 3 clubs who can genuinely challenge for the title, but its no longer an impossibility to work towards challenging for it. The first step is to be good enough to get yourself into the exclusive private party for four in the penthouse apartment.

We thought we'd push on from that 5th spot finish, and did sort of but not really, finishing 5th again without really challenging for 4th. And then internal politics meant it was goodbye to Jol and hello Ramos. And then one dizzy headache later, Ramos is gone and Harry arrives.

Another hefty sprinkle of drama. And then enter the re-birth. See whilst all the haters sat around pouring scorn on our continued ambition, regardless of what soap opera engulfed our every day existence, we never lost sight of what we wanted.

Okay, so we all wanted 4th spot and CL and people would purposely translate this as a statement that we believed we were good enough each and every season, but again whilst the haters continued to laugh, we started to believe. Not exactly a delusion if you get there in the end. Granted, we spent a lot of money (within our means) but the right balance was never there. The all important ingredients were missing. But if you're not going to aim for something, you'll never going to make the steps in the right direction.

We all know the story after Harry arrived, turning it around from two points from eight games, to one of complete ecstasy up at Eastland's at the back end of last season. All the anguish of the past couple of fragmented decades and we finally kick-start what might be, just might be, a new cycle. As others look like ending or stalling of just petering out, we need to avoid giddiness and continue to push on.

Years of completely shambolic non-progression (see the 1990's) and plenty of stop start transitional seasons (the 2000's) has finally been wiped away with a fairly superb achievement, guided by Harry Redknapp and his hug-and-kick-the-ball-about man management.

We over complicated things for so long. Too desperate for success, without pragmatism, and far too many romantic notions what with our obsessions with the past. The culture of comfort is now gone, replaced by a hunger to want more, to better ourselves. A winning mentality at White Hart Lane. The eternal dreamers have finally woken up to find a lucid reality.

And this is just the start of it. We've got a lot of improvement to be had and experience to earn. And even some of the haters through gritted teeth are now grudgingly accepting that this Spurs side is not quite cut from the same cloth as the ones from our recent past. We're a good side. More than decent.

Not that I want to stand starry-eyed, mesmerised by the CL anthem and our inclusion in the draw for the group stages, but damn, you sort of have to still pinch yourself because the memories of past struggles and misguided hopes (let's face it, at times we wasted faith in teams and players who simply didn't have it in them) are still quite fresh in my mind.

And this isn't a positive knee-jerk based on the comfortable spanking we dished out to the bewildered Young Boys in what was a very wet evenings entertainment.

This is just another statement of intent.

So, let the ones who prefer to continue to pour scorn on us, continue to do so. They said we'd never get out of mid-table, they said we'd never finish high enough to get into Europe, they said we'd not get anywhere near 5th spot, they said we'd never finish 4th, they said we'd bottle it, they said we'd never qualify for the group stages.

Well, stick it up ya. All we have ever been guilty of is wanting more for ourselves, and for once, our team has reciprocated our ambitions.

Lap it up people. There's no shame in smiling.


We have arrived.



4 points, 2 games

Stoke 1 Spurs 2

Was it over the line? I guess it doesn't matter. Them the breaks Top 4 sides get, innit?

Nah, let's not sell-out just yet with that one.

I guess lady luck continues to hump our leg, be it frantically (is there a better way?) and I for one will just shrug and patronisingly point out how unfortunate Stoke were not to share the points today. But that's just me being diplomatic.

I'm all for clubs like Stoke, fighting tooth and nail, bullying and hassling opposition - especially opposition that in the past had a habit of crumbling and falling apart. Why should they pay respect to visitors? But we are made of sterner stuff these days, as witnessed by our sitting-back-and-taking-it-like-a-man performance in the second half. Much like last seasons visit, we did enough. And at this point in the season, before true form is found, I'll happily take three points at places like the Britannia. Shaky moments and everything.

I'm going to hazard a guess and say the 3-2 loss v Young Boy and the manner in which we went 3-0 down has hurt our mental strength some what. Panic, not quite of the catastrophic ilk, has crept back into our play. The sooner we get this play-off out of the way (and win it) the quicker Harry can settle with some consistency with his selection, and focus from the players on our immediate target: EPL points. So, I'm made up we left Stoke with all three points. King rested, Crouch the only available 'fit' forward, Kaboul in for Bassong, no Modric and the return of Jenas. 4-5-1. Crouch the lone man (Keane injured or dropped?). Depth. Even if we might be critical of the likes of JJ and Kaboul, I applaud their shift today. Can't really fault the team performance or Harry's selection.

The first half was decent enough. Azza slowly beginning to reclaim some of that lost end product. The opener, a clearance off the line, hitting Bale in the chest, and ending up in the net. 1-1, Gomes all dizzy in the box. But not too worry, 2-1, Bale again, and this time with a goal that you could watch endlessly. Giggesque, volley from the heavens. Lennon provider. Let's not be forgetting this won us the three points. Well, that and the officials reluctance to signal a Stoke equaliser in the second half.

First half though had us easily winning the possession percentages, passing the ball around with much confidence. And JJ could have made it three, unlucky not to.

So Bale sublime, all good, no complaints no massive concerns. Even though I couldn't help but think our defence was still susceptible to collapsing if pressure was applied. So I guess I did have concerns. I was wrong. But only just.

Second half, Stoke had a right go at us. I don't really want to bang on about the fact that we let them have a right go at us, because for me, defensive frailties and all, we still survived. We battled. Even Jenas got stuck in and worked hard off the ball. Tuncay asked a few questions. Gomes answered them by placing his hands over his ears and shouting 'lalalalalalalala'. Have to say though, that on closer inspection, our mad Brazilian was at times tripped and impeded (first goal anyone?). It wasn't an easy afternoon for him. But he seemed to experience a re-lapse with dealing with crosses. And if I take my blinkers off, I have to admit that Gomes was nowhere near being dominant in his area, and thus, sort of brought it on himself, falling over people and flapping.

Back to what I mentioned early, re: credit to clubs who might lack depth in quality by making it difficult for the likes of us to settle down and play. And although I have no intention of going all Wenger with the complaints, I did find Stoke tiresome, especially Shawcross, the dirty cheating bastard, kicking out petulantly at times. Gomes made a fine fine save from Tuncay, tipping over the bar. Stoke continued with their physicality, we continued to weather the storm. Harry makes a tactical switch (Walker on, Lennon off) and then its OMG time when a header is saved onto the underside of the crossbar, is then headed back in and appears to go over the line, hitting Crouch (chest? arm?) before being cleared off the line.


It's not required. Well, not required until the same thing happens to us. Karma, that's what I'm going to go with here, what with Stoke's WWE tactics. We might have made hard work of it, but we stuck in there. We dug deep. I got it wrong pre-match, but I don't care. Swashbuckling can be left for Wednesday.

Loved Phil Thompson's remark about how the foul on Gomes in the build up to the 'goal' was not relevant because the referee did not give it, and yet talked up about how Stoke should have been awarded the goal and taken a point from the game. But the ref didn't give that either. So using Phil-logic™, is it not equally irrelevant also for the same reason?

It all sort of fixed itself up, one mistake following another, cancelling each other out. Discussions that will no doubt continue into the new week. Let's hope that's that, and we don't have any controversy in the play-off.

Being tested like this is fairly invaluable at this early stage. A reminder that new-look Spurs of 2010 is sticking around for 2011. I'm hoping now, with three points up on the board, the players can relax and look forward to the game that will truly define the next few weeks and months.

Tottenham, not quite brilliant, definitely resilient.


Rule Britannia: Spurs v Stoke

Domestic bread and butter first up before we return to the caviar of Champions League. Hoping we're not left with an egg and humble pie combo by the time next Wednesday closes shop and Thursday greets us when we walk into work dejected devastated delighted.

Stoke away. Never easy, wasn't last season, but the game was a perfect illustration of the guile and tenacity we became very much accustomed too on our travels. We had injuries, we battled hard and dug deep and showed some rather tasty moments of class (Iceman, where aut thou?). It will be no exaggeration, and no disrespect meant to our hosts, that I will be rather upset if we lose all three points. I might even knee-jerk in the aftermath. I don't want any deep digging this time round. I want us to win comfortably. I'm that frigging greedy.

Pushing on is what the Spurs directive should be for this 2011 season. I know that comparing results like-for-like from one season to the next is a redundant exercise, but there are certain games I would tag with a massive 'three points ta very much' label and this is one of them. It's a banana skin game only if we believe it is. So the players have to firstly forget about Wednesday and get our season kick-started, with hopefully a firework or two, by displaying the very same qualities that have made us want for more.

Over-achieved they say. Not a chance. We've got more left in the tank. Last season was no fluke.

Harry will no doubt make changes again, a tweak here or there, with Wednesday in mind. So, I guess the Young Boys return leg is nigh impossible to completely isolate in the back of the players minds. But they should do their best to momentarily forget.

We all know that confidence breeds results which breed form which means if you play well and win one game, you go into the next with a buzz.

The crux here is mentality. Last season, many of us were probably nervous about going away to Stoke. In fact, we tend to be nervous away full stop as fans - purely from an analysis and pre-match perspective (our away support is altogether a different kettle of fish, flying fish, with brass band and sopranos bursting the ear drums of native folk for miles around). We once upon a time had woeful away form, have made some improvements, but finally can say we should be far happier travelling than we once was.

Oh Noes ! Stoke away ! Yes, Stoke. It's Stoke. It's not Manchester United. We went there last term and were superbly professional, dispatching them, be it not always pretty. It's beyond just believing, it should now be expectancy and delivery of said expectants. The players frame of mind should be 'we're going to win because that's what teams like us do to teams like them'. Rather than worry about their long throw-ins and physicality, and their own brand of loud support etc etc

Arrogant? Nope. It's not about being big headed or thinking 'look at us, the mighty Spurs, we deserve to be beating the ickle teams'. It's nothing of the sort. We only deserve what we get based on what we do on the day. And the likes of Stoke and one or two others (think of the teams we battered and lost to at home last season) have to be brushed aside with confidence and swagger, and if in the away games (like the one we face this Saturday) it turns ugly then we adapt, remain composed and take the game by the scruff, allowing for our quality to shine through the brutal tackles and infuriating hassling.

If we lose games like this, then there's a chink in the armour that will cost us dearly in the long run. Again, this is no disrespect to Stoke. It's about us and our ambitions and responsbilities to continue to progress and better ourselves.

Making a statement by proving we are above the level we sat in 2 years ago. And above the level we were in last season. The fact I have to blog about this actually does prove (oh how ironic) that its still something that plays on our minds. I doubt Chelsea, Arsenal, Utd fans 'worry' about Stoke (although again with the irony, even the seasoned elite clubs slip on skins now and again). Not to say that's an excuse for us if we happen to land on our bums.

There's no major deep tactical ploys, selection questions or formations I want to discuss. Spurs, the Spurs that took us into 4th with that never-say-die attitude is the Spurs I want to see on Saturday and the very same I want to see on Wednesday. Whether it's Stoke or Man Utd. Our backs are not quite on the wall, it is only game number two of course, but if we treated every game like it was a must-win at Eastlands...well, you get the picture.

Three is the magic number for me. Three on Saturday, three on Wednesday.

If you're not at the game, stick on Absolute Radio for the Rock 'N' Roll Football Live show (they've got exclusive rights to a ton of Prem games so worth checking out there rota for the weeks ahead) and tune into the full match coverage of the Stoke v Spurs game (on 1215AM, online or on DAB Digital Radio). Click on this for more info. 

Russ Williams with the pre-match and build-up, Jim Proudfoot commentating and Ian Wright for post-match (yeah, Ian Wright, don't let that put you off, he's harmless these days).



Promised's up ahead

Consistency. It's the most important, vital factor of our journey to the promised land. And by promised land, I am not referring to the Champions League Group Stages. For that will hopefully be our quite frequent seasoned holiday from our domestic plights and challenges. The promised land I'm referring to is the level that the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United bask in. I'm talking elite here. I'm talking certified bona fide Sky Sports Top 4. I do not believe that the EPL is about to structurally alter itself into a far more open league. This, what we have at this present moment regarding Premier League hierarchy, is nothing more than a transitional period. Over the next two/three seasons a new elite will be birthed from the ashes of the old one.

Quite frankly this is the promised land, because once the doors shut, 5th spot and below will return to the dark days watching four clubs dominating and the rest of the chasing pack so far behind that they'll have to squint using binoculars to see them.

The Champions League adventure we wish to have this season is, make no mistake about it, important to our stature and will force others to take note and pay respect. But it has to be earnt, and we have but 90 minutes to do so. If we do, which I believe we will, then even more focus and consistency will be required to guide us through our domestic season to claim another place in amongst the elite next season.

And as for the domestic season, Chelsea and Utd will not fall out of their thrones in the heavens. Arsenal are a curious creature. Proud they don't spend extravagantly on players (apart from untold millions upon millions on player wages). Although many of their fans would point out that if the money was available for them to buy big, they'd be able to perhaps fix one or two positional headaches. But alas, their debt is a far more important objective. It's something to behold, their philosophy, to be one or two steps ahead of everyone else in the league, apart from the top two sides without the necessity of splashing the cash. But it's not going to be enough unless they do something drastic and do it soon. The fallacy? Their youth policy. And empty trophy cabinet. Wenger's commitment to his beliefs should be admired, but in these modern times, it's not enough. Which suits me just fine.

Liverpool, Manchester City. The other two contenders. I will discount both Everton and Villa, and let you work out the reasons, such is their obviousity. I wouldn't say anyone else has the foundations to throw down the gauntlet.

We do. But it's not quite the full package. The right parts are there and the desire and belief components still require a touch of fine tuning. The question is, we discovered a new level last season, can we find a new one this season? Can we take that extra step because the risk of achieving the same performance overall this season, as last, might not be enough if the likes of City or Liverpool perform better than they did. Which they might well do. But they, in my opinion, should not be the ones to concern ourselves with. We need to aim for something, someone of genuine consistency.

I am a keen admirer of Levy and completely back him for not wanting to go down the road of offering players ridiculous wages. Speculate to accumulate you might say. We'd done plenty of that investing in players like Modric and now Sandro. Redknapp made a mockery of previous Spurs landlords, quickly resolving the issues and moulding the team into one that could damage the aspirations of others. We have the players, the balance and the teams above us historically are very much now in our sights, without the need of binoculars.

Consistency. This team has to grow, learn from mistakes and continue to blossom. But has to do so quickly and therefore take risks. So perhaps on this occasion, Levy should look to sign whomever Harry requires as long as the investment is one of quantifiable merits. Gallas? You might think its wrong for a number of rather obvious reasons. But this will be master-stroke. Not of the same quality he was say 4 or so years ago but still enough about him to provide ample experience when required. As for his tears and tantrums, playing in red and white is enough to break anyone.

A tweak here, a tweak there. No need to unbalance the Facere.

City will buy their way into the Top 4. Which means Arsenal are the favourites for the other position. They are the ones of genuine consistency. They are the team we aim for. They might not win silverware, but they finish top 4 each and every season and never truly look like losing out, even when they supposedly struggle. Meaning this:

Finish above Arsenal, and our job will be done. Finish above Arsenal twice and so forth, you do the math. One cycle ends, another begins. There is no guarantee finishing above Liverpool would result in the same thing.

The attitude can only be do or die. It's us or them.


by guest-blogger schrodinger's cat