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Entries in tommy huddlestone (28)


If it was the 1980s, he'd be a superstar

Huddlestone did alright last night. We all know he's not on top form, nowhere near it. But then would you be if you spent a season sidelined? We also know he's hardly the most aggressive player which means the midfield battle can sometimes pass him by. Maribor got in our faces, hassled and pressured, Hudd tried to make things happen but he had little to aim for. Don't want to be seen as scapegoating and my comments in the after match musings was a reference to that one single incident when he casually watched a player float past him. If you were stuck on social media at the time, you'd understand the dart board mentality. Let's remember, he almost went out on loan (to regain fitness elsewhere).

Once he's fit, we'll move onwards with that never shifting conundrum as to whether a player of his style can settle and dominate in the fast paced modern game that expects offensive players to partake in box to box action. Hudd next to Sandro with perhaps Dembele pushed into a more offensive position? That won't work as Dembele is not a marauding attacking midfielder, he's one that runs from deeper positions and gets his boots dirty with his beastly work ethic. Hudd isn't a Sandro or a Parker. If you want to compare him to player-makers of old, he's also not a Modric who would recycle possession magnificently, working the ball forward, passing and moving and then looking to unlock the defence with an acute touch. That latter one is something Tommy can do. A smart piece of jigsaw he is but will he ever fit into our puzzle?

All this conjecture reminds me of something I wrote back in March, 2009. We didn't have the answers back then either.


From March, 2009.


Deconstructing the Tottenham midfield conundrum - Part III


Incredible or just plain ordinary?

The supervolcano under the Yellowstone Park has been fairly consistent, erupting on schedule every 600,000 years or so. Considering the caldera is the size of the park itself, when it’s erupted in the past, to say that it bestowed apocalyptic disaster upon Gods green earth is putting it mildly. It's been 640,000 years since the last time it coughed up lava, so we are due another one pretty soon if you go on its timetable from the past three million years. Although geologists don't actually know with any certainty if it will happen again because apparently the molten below is cooling off and the reoccurring eruptions might have reached the end of their schedule. If so, it might be a million years or more before Mother Nature wakes it up. It might never erupt again.

Tom Huddlestone is a supervolcano.

He's big, doesn't move much but when he does he melts the oppositions defence with devastating consequences. But it doesn't happen often. You might be lucky to witness this marvel once every 10 games or so. When the next one is due, I couldn't say.

Actually, scrap this particular analogy. I've no idea where it's going, and I'd rather limit the amount of Partridge-isms I'm guilty of from one week to the next. So let's try this again.

Tom Huddlestone is a fat Glenn Hoddle.


Tom Huddlestone is like a lighthouse. Stationary, but manages to light up all before him.

No, no.

Tom Huddlestone is our Dr Manhattan. Big and powerful, but understated and misunderstood.

No, no, no!

Ok. Analogies scrapped. Stick to facts.

Tom Huddlestone is not the most mobile of players.
Tom Huddlestone is a very decent passer of the ball.
Tom Huddlestone has a cracking shot.
Tom Huddlestone is technically good.
Tom Huddlestone is versatile.

But is Tommy too slow, cumbersome and defensively a liability? Or is that an unfair description for the player, where his strengths are of a more offensive nature? If you stick him in the middle of the park and the Spurs midfield are under pressure, can he step up and get stuck in, much like the maligned Jenas is capable of doing (when he's on song) by running up and down the pitch and hassling opposition players?

It's the job of Palacios or Zokora (shudder) to bite the ankles of the opposing players and break down their attack or reclaim possession. But that doesn't mean other players shouldn't pull their weight (ouch). Lennon is superb at times, in nicking the ball back for us. It's not so much a case of getting stuck in though, is it? He's played centre-back in the past and he's got involved turning defence into attack, with a touch here and a 30 yard pass there. You can defend brilliantly by sending the ball across one side of the pitch to the other with the outside of the foot, releasing your winger or forward and giving the defence time to re-organise.

But what happens before the ball is back in our possession and we are on the backfoot? And there are questions around consistency. There is an argument that Tom does put in a shift, it's just that compared to others, it doesn't resemble one.

The problem with Tom is that he is far less dynamic than many players of similar ilk (creative/playmaking midfielders). Which means he is far weaker in less offensive areas than any other midfielder we have. Carrick could defend well, wasn't exactly fast, but was mobile. Pace, or more so mobility, is important. He doesn't have any. Or more to the point, to quote about a thousand websites, he turns slower than the QE2.

Tom is quite similar to Jermaine Jenas in the way of potential. Both highly rated as youngsters, both possessing qualities that are admirable. But are both over-hyped? Or do they excel in some areas, but not enough in others to be considered complete?

Tom is a regular for the U-21’s and performs well, chipping in with a goal every now and again. But he’s not a regular for Spurs. But does chip in with plenty of assists and a few goals when he does turn out in Lilywhite. Why? Just because he can deliver clever balls and Hoddlesque passes, does this warrant an inclusion in our starting line-up? And if it does, what would it mean to the structure and balance of the team? Well, for starters, the team would have to be built around him. Or at least compensate for his deficiencies. So Palacios responsibility would be to clear the area allowing Tom to play Quarterback.

Now, this might work if, let’s say, Tom was as talented as Hoddle. To make a player the main creative outlet of the team he has to be something a bit special, and I’m not sure he’s that good, potentially or otherwise. Comparing anyone to Hoddle is blatantly unfair, so to re-word the above, I'd say that to build the team around one player they have to be, unquestionable, class - if not 'world class'.

Not to say I would not like to see him given a chance. But it’s asking a little too much for someone like Tom to 'carry the team'. It’s a bit like asking us to build the team around Bent by playing football like Charlton Athletic did in the days they resided in the Premiership - just because we all know he can score goals when on the break. Bent has a knack of doing so, but doesn’t offer enough to slot into a variety of forward roles which is required depending on the opposition. He’s a bit one dimensional. But what of Huddlestone? (not one dimensional, I'd go with a beefy 3D figure, tbh).

Even little Modric (did take his time to adjust which is understandable) gets involved with some of the dirty work – but he’s no defensive midfielder. So unless Huddlestone actually has an overwhelming negative influence on the team, there is no reason why he can’t play centre-midfield in a role that takes full advantage of his vision and skills.

Yes? Or no?

It’s a conundrum this one for the simple fact that he doesn’t play often enough. Let’s say Jermaine Jenas did not exist (I’ll give you a moment to climb down off your desk and pull your pants up and compose yourself........). Huddlestone would possibly get a more sustained opportunity to impress. The more games, the bigger the confidence, the better the communication on the pitch is with team mates. Coming off the bench, he’ll always be a decent impact player simply because of his sharp passing. But from his personal perspective, he’d want more than that. I want more than that. We all do.

Imagine if you will (I'm in fantasy mode today), Tom Huddlestone in Claret and Blue. Easy now. It's just a fantasy. He’d probably play every single week. That’s just an opinion, and West Ham fans might accuse me of over-rating him and that he’d never get into their team. Maybe. Possibly. But I guess that’s the point. He’s good enough, but good enough for whom? He is definitely good enough for someone. At some point in the next year or two, he'll need to be far more involved otherwise his progression will stagnate. Unless of course, what you see is what you get. Maybe there is no improvement coming. So, would you argue that his passing is that good, we can't afford to lose him? Or that the only thing he has is his passing ability and it isn't enough to claim a centre-midfield pairing - arguably one of the most important positions in the team.

Tactically, a manager will want his strongest 11 starting every week. Let’s say that includes Palacios and Jenas in the centre. If Jenas was unavailable, would Huddlestone slot in and give us the same type of thing, or more to the point, would he give us something that amounts to the same positive for the flow of the side?

Much like Jenas, he is good at some things, and not so good at others. Much like, well, most players. The trick is to maximise his abilities, getting the best out of him which will benefit the team. Harry has managed to do this with Lennon, a player who had an outstanding season, followed by a low-key one, and his now back to the type of form his potential has been screaming out for.

So how do we maximise Tommy boy?

Huddlestone - the quarterback? Sat in the middle laying off balls to both wings or dinking them forwards, with Wilson in the role of fullback, protecting him. Sounds immense on paper. And we've seen it in patches. I remember, when he first really started to push for a place at Spurs I considered him and Cesc Fabregas as the brightest midfield talents in the UK. Compare the two now. Ok, so Fabregas is a horrible arrogant piece of classless muck, but his ability as a footballer is unquestionable. But sadly the difference is fairly astronomical. The mucks influence is superior as is his general mobility. But one plays every week (when fit) the other is not first choice and excels (much like Jenas) against lesser opposition. But has done epically against the bigger teams too. Just not as often as, let's say, the scum that is Cesc.

Our midfield has always lacked spin. Palacios has brought us that. Lennon outstanding on one wing, Modric covering the other. So does Huddlestone - passing abilities aside - give us enough strength and assurance down the middle? Can he adapt to the pace of the game and the quality of the opposition? When he dictates, he is superb. And its those moments that have us asking the questions about his worth to the team. When the emphasis is with the opposition, that's when the concerns creep in.

If Huddlestone is around 60% of what we need from a player and Jenas is about 68% , then possibly both are nothing more than squad players and that we need to look at bringing in a more complete player, someone who is around the 80% mark and above. Someone like Carrick who gave us more than enough of everything. Or someone better. That’s no easy task. So an option would be to stick him in the team and run with it and just see where it takes us. If the talent is there and needs developing then first team appearances will answer the questions.

There’s also the option of playing Modric in the middle. But if we did, how would this improve on a Palacios-Jenas combination or a Palacios-Huddlestone pairing?

In conclusion, Hudd does offer us something but if a player doesn't scream out 'FIRST TEAM REGULAR' just by looking at him, and you have to pose questions, then it's likely that he isn't quite what's required - simply because of the doubts. To counter that, if a player isn't given a chance, then he won't be any nearer to proving he can do the job. Sometimes players do not fit into certain teams because of the way the team plays. Which is why Tommy is as a luxury.

If Jenas and Zokora can play so often for us and be considered first team regulars - with all the doubts and concerns around their abilities (or lack of) then maybe it is only fair to give Tom a chance.

If it was the 1980s, he'd be a superstar.


Hello Goodbye

Like a hellmouth erupting in Sunnydale, it's all kicking off. Except there's no Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Just a bald headed bloke armed with a shrewd grin on his face and some pound notes stuffed in his pockets. Stakes are high. Everyone is holding their hands up to their beating hearts. It's not all done and dusted just yet.

Bassong to Norwich. Not unexpected. A player that cost us £8M and has gone for considerably less. Did not have the best of times at Spurs. Started well, faded, didn't really get a look in. Not a shocker his career in Lilywhite amounted to cameo appearance and grunts of frustration. Marginalised and now gone.

Dawson leaving for QPR (bid accepted) for £5.5M / £7.5M / £9M (depending on source) is one that leaves me with a heavy heart. I love big Daws. His smile, his endeavour. The way he played so majestically alongside Ledley King. Not so great alongside others. A confidence player that many of us wanted to see cement that centre-back position and armband. He came close.

The fact he was the make-weight in the deal that saw Andy Reid sign for us is wonderfully ironic. A great servant to the club, I know that's a cliché, but he was. Struggled with injuries, not the quickest player but one with heart and effort and a player that wore the shirt with pride and celebrated like a supporter when we won. I will miss the bloke dearly. He lives local to me. Last time I saw him in my local Boots I just gave him a knowing glance. Next time, I'll risk a restraining order and hug the big lug. Good luck Michael. Loyal to Spurs. Shame we're not as loyal to him as he has been to us. I guess with Vert, Kaboul and Caulker (and the experience of Gallas) along with the high line pacey tactic, he doesn't fit into the new system. Villas-Boas putting the team first, sacrificing sentimentality for progress. Which is a good thing, but equally a little sad. I said good luck already, I'll say it again. Let's hope we're covered then, what with 38 league games and Europa League and domestic cups. That good luck stretches to Villas-Boas also.

Moving on...

Adebayor finally signs. Yes, it's not a dream. It's happened. He even tweeted about it. Unless his account was hacked again. But no, it's done. For £5M. With City set to fork out the same amount in wages to the player. Modern football is very confusing and very expensive. For some. Levy seems to enjoy the game. It means we have strength up top for WBA on Saturday. Adebayor gave us assists and goals last season. We'll have to wait and see if VB was serious about having Harry Kane as his 3rd choice. If so, then we have our three strikers for the season. Except when you look at them, it still feels weak in depth. We need another forward. A striker, a more robust intelligent poacher. Okay, so now I might be dreaming.

As for midfielders, Huddlestone and Jenas linked with loan moves away although these persisted as rumours with no follow up after the 'stories' broke. Luka Modric mean while first made an appearance in Spanish football newspaper Marca, only to then be revealed as a three year old photograph that had been photo-shopped. Then an appearance on the Madrid official website, hidden away but discovered before being removed. Image below (courtesy of Sibs who was quick to screen-grab it):


We await for official confirmation. Then the only thing that matters. Movement for a replacement.

Good day for the chairman. Good window in fact if you add up the money so far which you hope goes back towards supporting the coach as an ample war chest - Corluka £5M, Niko £4M, Pienaar £4.5M, Bassong £6M, Daws £9M (tbc) and Modric, £35M with any luck.

A step forward for the club, moving closer to fixing up the squad but still plenty of question marks. All to be resolved, answered with time.

Ten days time. Tick tock.


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).




Not Tonight Sandra, I've Got A Headache

guestblog by chrisman


Sandra Redknapp is going to have a lot of time to catch up on her knitting over the next few
nights, because her husband Harry has a case of what's commonly known as 'selection headache'. Usually he's a sexual tyrant, but recent events have given him a bit of a 'narky miff' and left him unable to 'smash it' with any real conviction.

Now that we've all calmed down and had a chance to think about Tuesday's Triple Epic-Burger, a few things are becoming clear. One fact, lost in the ethereal San Siro mist, was that it was our first away win in this season's Champions League. Actually, it was only our second away win in the competition, ever (the other being over Feyenoord in 1962-63).

More importantly, the win was based on the defensive stability that served us so well in reaching the Promised Land in the first place. These may not seem like things that would normally give you a headache, but when Harry starts thinking about why we were suddenly so solid, he might come to some troubling conclusions.

So what was different from the away days of Bremen, Enschede and Milan last year? The obvious answer is that the Gallas-Dawson axis is now in full effect. But that doesn't explain the often-frantic defending and lack of shape and discipline against Sunderland, Blackburn and Everton (to name a few). Nor does it explain it's absence in Milan on Tuesday.

Sure, the players raised their performance levels for the big one, but if there is one thing you can't really accuse Spurs of these days, it's lack of effort in the 'smaller' games. The commitment is there. But the stability of last year is not. King has been a big miss, but we have a good replacement in Gallas. Huddlestone's absence has been more keenly felt, simply because no one has been able to adequately fill his shoes. Until now.

Sandro, please step forward. You are the man to pick up the gauntlet laid down by Big T's vastly-underestimated defensive displays. People tend to throw around, in a willy-nilly manner, all kinds of comments about Tom's defensive abilities, or lack of them. 'He's slow, lumbering, lazy, a big girl's blouse'. Well willy this nilly - he's a bloody good defender.

We sometimes forget that he started life as a centre half. He has an ingrained defensive nous that other midfielders will never have. He instinctively knows where the centre-half wants him to be. He knows how and where an attack is going to develop. He knows when to tackle and when to jockey. And as well as Wilson and JJ have played at times this season, neither of them will ever have any of these abilities. Physically, they have it all. Technically, they are excellent. Mentally, they lack that extra couple of percent of discipline, concentration and decisiveness that separates very good players from great ones.

JJ and Wilson are both at their best when they are running, and using their fantastic pace and athleticism. But when your main role should be as a shield to the back 4, it's often best to restrict your movement to a few square yards. To really work effectively as a unit with your 2 centre-backs, you have to be close to them and move with them. JJ and Wilson are too erratic and spasmodic with their positioning and movement. Both could potentially work well in a 2 or 3 man midfield, but with someone to sweep up behind them and allow them to maraud around the pitch.

Sandro on the other hand is at his happiest about 5 yards in front of the centre-backs, ready to make a challenge outside or clearance inside the box. When people talk about the Makelele role, they usually associate it with passing and starting attacks. What they often underestimate is the selfless and disciplined nature of the role. Rarely should you pass the halfway line (an attitude people criticize Big T for having). Even the full backs can get forward more. Sandro loves doing that grimy, filthy defensive work.

Against AC Milan, with Sandro match-fit, bedded-in and playing well, we comfortably repelled their attacks. Ok, there were a couple of headers, but we followed the tried and tested template of last season - sit back, let the defenders defend, and hit them on the break. Apart from the 2 headers, Gomes was untroubled. We kept them at arms length on the edge of the box. Calm, controlled, clinical. The compact triangle of CBs and DM could not be penetrated by the trio of Ibra, Robinho and Pato.

So where from here? The easy answer is 'straight ahead', with a simple tweak of swapping Palacios for Modric. But will Harry be willing to effectively have Sandro do a double-leapfrog over Wilson and JJ? Or will he be a bit sly, and with a nod to pragmatism 'rest' van der Vaart and go with JJ or Wilson in the middle with Modric, and Sandro behind?

In reality, if we're only playing 1 up top, van der Vaart needs to be in the team - if fit. That leaves 1 space in the midfield alongside Modric and van der Vaart, and considering  you want the magical pair to have as much freedom as possible, it makes sense to play a disciplined, selfless player with them. That player is Sandro. There are, however, other options....

One idea I'm sure Harry has toyed with is playing van der Vaart in a wider role. Van der Vaart excels most when he has space and time, and he doesn't always find that when playing in the congested central area with big bruising PL players. So moving him to a wider starting position may give him more room to pick up the ball and use that murderous left foot. He played wide right in some games earlier in the season and it worked. It could easily work again.

Another positive for this formation is that Lennon is apparently pretty comfortable switching flanks and cutting inside with his dribbling. So you get 2 great creators out wide, and 3 solid men in the middle (Sandro, Modric, JJ/Wilson). Essentially all you are doing is swapping Pienaar for JJ or Wilson, and in doing so are giving yourselves more speed and power in the middle to give your match-winners more freedom to win matches.

Despite all of this, I'm sure it's also going to be hard for Harry to resist the temptation to re-unite Crouch and Defoe up front. Blackpool will obviously come forward and leave us lots of space. Defoe could bag a couple and get his confidence back in time for the run-in. But will loading the strikers and leaving the midfield relatively bare (Lennon-Sandro-Modric-VDV) play right into Blackpool's hands?

The pragmatist in Harry surely will not allow him to be so gung-ho, and that means dropping one of the seemingly undroppable trio of Modric, Lennon and van der Vaart. All logic therefore points towards a 5-man midfield, but then again Harry's feelings for the Defoe-Crouch partnership have always been about more than mere logic. It's just something he feels comfortable with. But on recent performances, both from the team and Defoe individually, it seems the days of the 4-4-2 may be numbered, especially away from home. And since the next 2 games are indeed away from home, Harry is going to have to make some tough, emotional choices.

Sandro, Palacios, Jenas, Modric, Pienaar, Kranjcar, Lennon, VDV (edit: not so fit). That's 8 fit and on-form midfielders. Good luck Harry, and me.





Spurs: 'top 4' side, top 4 decisions

Fulham 1 Spurs 2

I've had pockets of time since the final whistle on Saturday afternoon to attempt to write up a structured match report of our splendid away win (and second successive three point come from behind reward), but alas, no such luck. I'm still sick. Epically tired and somewhat detached from creativity, but still I'm managed to muster up some tweets today whilst laying across the sofa watching the continued demise of Liverpool FC and then Man City trying to do their best impersonation of the Jose version of Chelsea by spending the vast majority of their game against Blackpool boring the very essence of my soul from my fever stricken body. I still don't rate them. Yes, they are lucky, yes, they don't lose often, but something about them just screams out 'CHOKE'. I guess with Man Utd doing their very best to tread the line of ordinary, this season could see a further shake-up to the one we introduced last time round. So perhaps discounting the billionaires from Eastlands would be a tad dangerous.

Okay, so Fulham v Spurs, I'm going to free-style it. Then just hit the publish button.

Saturday and Fortress Fulham. In yer face Mark Hughes. And Lily Allen. In the context of the game, we deserved to win. Some of our defending at times was not best and against better players (Eto'o) we might be left scratching our heads. But that's out of context. Which is not a concern, not until Wednesday.

First half, opening exchanges, thought we played very well. Slowly and obviously, Fulham got themselves back into the possession game. Sandro put himself about. Bit too eager, I guess he still has to get to grips with the pace of the game and the fact that clumsy challenging won't warrant too much other than a yellow card.

Was very content with Harry's selection. Strongest side, be it with one or two minor tweaks, but this games was vital in terms of needing to win - whereas the CL game on Wed isn't. Because we get to play Inter again, at the Lane. Which will be important. I'll talk more about the CL game in a later blog.

Fulham took the lead, Kamara scoring. Bit of a mess from all concerned in terms of positioning for this one. It's easy to point and shout at Gallas who showed a lack of awareness of where the Fulham forward was (behind you!) but you could also lay scorn on Hutton who run into a central position, practically clashing with Kings space and the cross/ball going through the both of them into the path of Kamara who tapped it home.

Did Gallas think someone (in Spurs colours) was tracking the forward? No matter, organisation here was left wanting. All too easy. Needs to be worked on in training. School-boy mistake tbh.

But this is brand new Spurs, feasting on Dutch cake, of the Amsterdam variety. Relaxed and giddy, as you were. We go down the other end and equalise. From the kick-off. Brilliant skill from vdV to turn and chip onto the bar, ball falling down to Pav who had a simple tap in, but made sure he pointed out his name on the back of his shirt just in case anyone was in doubt of the clinical polished ball-pushing over the line touch off his boot.

Have to say, I'm still lol'ing at the Fulham fans (bless 'em) who didn't even had enough time to finish their rendition of 'you're not singing any more'. So the Spurs away support did the polite thing and finished the song off for them.

Other mentions. Gomes pulled off a save or two. King went off injured, Bassong replaced him. I know that with Ledders, I sort of half expected him not to play and be rested for Inter, in what many expected him to play a damage limitation role. I'm glad Harry started him, it's a shame he limped off and won't be available for the Everton game next weekend (as well as no Italian away day). But it's a statement made. We didn't take the game for granted or displayed signs of looking ahead to mid-week.

It's part and parcel of the risk we take with King. Get well soon. Once more, we re-visit the age old conundrum of the centre-back pairing and what we need to be doing in terms of looking ahead for the future. Once Dawson is back, we might place said conundrum back onto the back-burner again. Which isn't ideal, what with us still not knowing for sure if Woody is going to be 100% again.

Second half, Sandro off. Subbed, not sent off, which he might have been not out of malicious play but from untidy tackling. Azza replacing him before the kick-off. Lennon was good. Again. Off the bench appears to have given him a gentle kick up the bum in terms of desire to impress. Cracking
movement with BAE finding Pav who played the ball inside to Lennon - weak shot, but good to see all round. He seems to have direction rather than losing himself cutting into central midfield positions or running out of steam down the flanks.

More assured second half from start to finish I thought from us. Not perfect, Kamara spoiling chances which I was happy to see spurned. Wasn't so much about individuals today, but more about the unit. vdV, Bale, Modric...all relatively quiet. vdV had his moment with the first goal. Moddle is still slightly off the pace, his touch not Lukaesque just yet, but he's made it clear he knows he's struggling a little. He'll get there. Bale was definitely quiet compared to the beastly performances he usually produces. Did pulsate forward creating a vdV chance. But as a unit, the lads did enough, which was worthy of three points. So no shrugs of despondency from me.

Other bits and pieces off the top of my head. Hutton and Gomes getting in each others way, a Hutton effort on goal, Crouch on for Pav. Oh yeah, almost forgot. The goal for 2-1.

First time in history I've ever agreed with Alan Shearer (with his MotD assessment). Hansen obviously disagreeing with him and baiting Lineker. So very very bitter. Always let you down the Spurs don't you know.

If you want to start playing the game by the letter of the law - at the time of the Hudd shot, their keeper was in sight of the ball leaving the boot. Gallas, offside position, not interfering with play. Ball takes a deflection, still not interfering. Gallas tries his best to put any doubt in the refs mind about disallowing a potential goal by attempting to kick the ball, still not interfering because he didn't touch the ball.

Ball crosses the line. 1-2 Tottenham.

Lino however decides to flag, so good on Hudd for making sure the ref took note of the journey taken by the ball into the Fulham goal. Mike Dean, giving us the decision. I'm sure I would have complained about it if it was the other way round, but deep down, even though you could argue it is interfering because the player was trying to become active - he wasn't active because he didn't change anything (i.e. the ball was still on course with going in after the deflection, so Gallas could have stripped naked and slapped a haddock on his backside, it would not have made a blind bit of difference - although no doubt it might have made it onto Soccer AM's third eye).

Active, not active...ambiguous, no? The authorities would not have it any other way.

Good performance. We're 5th. 14 points. A few off the top, and obviously regretful of the points dropped against a couple of sides this season which might have had has even higher. But this season will be more open and closer than the last, so it's a case of staying in amongst it again - and aiming for bigger scalps in the way of our 'Top 4' opposition and doing something about the lack of wins away to them in 60+ games. Also feel we need to start to destroy sides at the Lane again.

Mentality should be about maximising our potential against the supposed weaker sides at home and continuing to dig deep away. Stick the pressure on the other contenders by pulling away. At the minute, everyone appears to be very evenly matched (there's four or so tiers in the Prem itself).

Momentum = confidence = belief = success.

Simply put, get through to the Jan window in a top 5 position. Then consolidate the f**k out of it.

Back to bed I go.


63.02%, triffic

What with real life getting in the way, I've not quite done a match report on the Young Boys game and our safe passage through to the CL proper. So, here's some belated bits and pieces and some post-match commentary.

The performance (4-0)

Wasn't vintage Spurs by a long shot but there was no necessity for anything more than what was given. We did enough, and enough was more than enough. We all know that deep down we have a deficiency as fans to think of the worst case scenario. It's a defensive mechanism to aid in appeasing any potential disaster, but it's also something that has engulfed our match-day psyche. Plenty of people thought they might nick an away goal. I thought we might be in for a tough night. In the end, the true difference in class was more than evident. They were hardly the plastic fantastics of the first game.

We might not have been 100mph or swash-buckled our way through them in the pouring rain, but we were professional. Rode our luck (Defoe goal) and just got it done. There were pockets of tension thanks to the sheer importance of getting through, for the first time ever, which meant it was all a bit tense until the fourth goal went in.

Good solid performance. Happy days. Soz to all the trolls. You can now move onto your 'you're gonna get smashed in the group stages' one-liner.


Anyone still got doubts on this one? He was superb. Is superb. We all know he can pass and now we are seeing him take control and dictate. For all his lack of mobility, his intelligent moving (off the ball) makes up for the lack of pace. And he's only a youngster. We have ourselves a giant, one that can sit in the middle of midfield and ping balls out to the wings without even having to look up, retaining possession when required (although he has to be careful with spending too much time caressing the ball). His technique is sublime and there is evidence that although his weakness with defensive duties has been a bugbear in the past, he's displaying far more composure and positional awareness. Which can only help the team when under pressure. European football will suit him just dandy.


I love this guy. He's not perfect. The way he flirts with the offside trap does my head in, but he's a pure finisher. What he has to add to his game (which is going to be difficult considering how instinctive he is) can be illustrated by what should have been the 3rd goal. He missed the target when it was easier to lay the ball off to Crouch or Palacios. Against top drawer opposition, we might not get an abundance of chances. So cool head please Jermain.


I heart you Gareth. You, your barnet, your marauding runs down the wing. Your confidence and belief that you can beat a man. Your class technique and touch, the way you smash past the opposition. And the fact that you can have a fairly average quiet game in terms of lacking beastly front-line destruction, but still get four assists. Bale v Maicon? I'm positively drooling.


Our current much maligned forward, because he's not prolific. Not sure why there's persistent stories linking him with moves to Stoke and Everton when Peter appears to be that awkward styled option that will cause one or two defensive problems for our CL opposition. He's going to score a few for us in Europe. Harry loves him. I can't see him leaving.


A&E. Not actually heard anyone call him this at Tottenham or anywhere else other than in the comments section of this blog and on one or two other blogs. He's meant to be reckless. A bit maverick with his positioning. And yet, all I see is continued improvement. He's got a bite about his play. We don't need to fret about this position.


Hasn't regained his form, has games where he's on top of it and then several games where there is a distinct lack of concentration. Not sure what the answer is here. Sandro will gradually be introduced and there are whispers (as ever) of potentially signing another midfield for further depth for the games ahead. Wilson might end up being marginalised because of the competition, and his confidence continue to degrade. Harry needs to hug him harder. To me, he still looks like he's hurting, and to be honest, I don't blame him. But if he's detrimental to the side, then we've got to make the sacrifice and get him fixed up. On form, he's a revelation for us. At the moment, he's a risk.


Nutter. I know he was probably genuinely injured the other night (pulled out of the Brazil squad), but f**king 'ell, how soft is he? I was actually pleasantly surprised he didn't start crying when Harry waved him to stay on the pitch. Looked like Harry was more annoyed than anything.

The Champions League Draw

Group A
Inter Milan, Werder Bremen, Tottenham, FC Twente.

Happy? Can't say there's an easy group at this stage. I mean come on, this is the premier competition in world club football. And what's the point in wanting to avoid certain teams? Arguably, its not a sexy group we could have got. It's not quite as glamorous as facing the White Storm or Barca and you could also argue that as a spectacle, playing Inter might be a touch overly defensive (on their part) but, who cares. This is what it's all about. We've got a chance. Can't wait to see how we get on and how Harry intends to compete against Rafa and his inherited champions of Europe.

So, can we now play the kids in the Carling Cup?

Transfer 'targets' and Redknappology

I don't think Harry is about to come out and say who we might be after or how close we are. It's all a bit messy what with him telling us we need 3 players to challenge (a few weeks back) to now saying we don't need to improve the squad. It's all part of the game, but its one of many contradictions. But what does it matter, as the stories that get printed never seem to refer back to any original statements any ways, so with every day, it's something new when in fact its something old and re-churned.

Of course we want to improve the squad. Consolidation is now imperative. Just no need for any massive massive changes. Two new arrivals is more than likely. I've got my fingers crossed for a major signing 'upfront' which will also involve the departure of Robbie Keane. Quite an obvious prediction there, but its one that sits well with me at the moment.

Harry Redknapp

The 4-0 win was Harry's 50th with Spurs, 96 matches into his THFC tenure.

P96 W50 - D21 - L25 - F163 - A103

Winning Percentage: 52% Overall Record: 63.02%




No Theo? That's fab

You must know deep down something is wrong somewhere when the media lead with the story (genuine shock it would seem) that Theo Walcott has not been included in Fabio's 23.  Surprise omission they called it. We then had to endure various ex-players tell us how for example Theo deserved to go to SA (Really? Based on what? That hat-trick 2 years ago?) and other gems like Kenny Samson explaining he was pleased for the young lad Warnock. That's 28 years young Stephen - three years older than the unlucky (and better) Baines. And Heskey has been included because he's a battering ram. And we all know that if want to win the WC you need a battering ram upfront as a Plan B, to you know, work your way through the best defences in world football when Plan A comes unstuck. Although I won't joke too much here because we lack world class players in forward positions. Rooney being the only one. Would be a bit scary if he got injured in the first group game.

But hey, it's all about opinions. And the persistence on Walcott and the apparent shock must be all part of the pantomime, because anyone following football would point out what is already quite obvious to all. He's not been that good for a while.

I know I'm in broken record mode with this, and I'm not screaming 'I told you so' standing on a soap box pumping my chest out, because everybody knew this already. Well, apart from Walcott himself who is apparently very disappointed. And the people who seem to take to all this shock horror he's not going to SA BS. I'd say he would have been as lucky as he was 4 years ago to have made it in this time round. At least the BBC (news at ten) had a more realistic report on all this citing his inconsistent form. I guess all this hype was created the day David Dein had words with Sven. They created a monster, which has since nested under the bed.

So minutes silence then for the broken hearted and the delusional.

Moving on. Congrats to JD, Crouchie, The King and Azza.

Elsewhere, no room for Tommy or Daws. Experience being the reason at a guess, as Dawson has been superb this season and is arguably a better player on current form than Upson - but Upson has been there before (England setup and selection) and as discussed earlier in the week, some risks - it would seem - are far too big to take. Same with Hudd. Although has Carrick performed better than him this season? Oh yeah right, soz, that's not relevant, it's all about experience. If you want to validate it all, I guess you could say you wouldn't want a newbie ballsing it up and as our mentality (the English) is one that perhaps lacks the natural confidence and bravado to select a 'youngster' and throw them in at the deep end, maybe we should trust Fabio with his final selection. We took a 17 year old to the WC four years ago and never used him. This time round, no wildcards.

So, Heskey WC final brace anyone?


What did we learn from the England game?

Practically nothing.

Sure, it's a friendly and okay Fabio selected an experimental side and some of the more senior players were applying little assertion to avoid big injuries. And post-match, for Fabio to state he knows his final 23 players already would suggest that regardless of what happened against Japan, there wasn't a lot of importance bestowed on the game, other than perhaps one or two miracles to make him scratch that chin and re-think. Which is fine considering how casually inept the game was as a whole from our standing point. I mean for starters, our two goals were scored by Japanese players. Heskey might have nabbed one all for himself from 3 yards out, but the ball really needed to be 2 yards out for him to stick it away with conviction. Bit unlucky there.

Elsewhere, Huddlestone played well without being exceptional. He did what he did, passing the ball around neatly. Not really a test and not the type of game where he could perhaps show the gaffer he is a better bet than say Carrick. Our back four were pretty much woeful for large periods. Johnson was all over the shop. Again. I bet he's gutted King wasn't on the pitch to take the blame.

And then there's Theo Walcott. I know he's young, and I know two years back many had reservations about Lennon and his (lack of) end product, but why exactly we persist in a player (a confidence player with no confidence) when it's obvious that waiting for him to recreate the type of magic he's created 2 or 2 times before (that many) seems to be quite desperate from an England perspective. He has pace, and if the plan is to use him as a late sub, it still doesn't fit well considering he struggles to influence the game in any meaningful way when given more time on the pitch to impress.

He's had a poor season, has suffered from injury layouts. Still living off that hat trick, that run against Liverpool and that chipped goal for Soton. Is he even a winger? If he played for anyone else, he'd be nowhere near this squad.

Which brings me back to the point of this game. If it was one last chance (to follow on from the whole bundle left behind him) then he failed to impress. SWP did more in his appearance than Walcott has managed for countless England games. This is not a 'Aaron is better than Theo' propaganda piece. This is more of a 'let's drop the dead donkey' awareness campaign. Azza was placed on the left, obviously to accommodate Theo's inclusion. So we hardly got much from our wing-man thanks to Ashley Cole and his marauding runs on the left. That and the fact that the ball spent most of it's time going out to the right hand side, before the players got a little bored of nothing happening. I'm hoping Fabio is well aware that Lennon works better running down the wing, with a man up head to skip past - which is why he is better suited to the right-wing and no Cole. As for Theo, he's better suited at home watching the WC on his wide-screen. Although I'm sure if he doesn't travel, he'll still manage to get a mention (ask ITV and Gareth Southgate who described a Walcott shot on goal which the keeper saved, when it was Lennon who had the effort).

Okay, so it is a propaganda piece. I'm just bored of repeating myself here. And before any gooners latch onto this, there's a fair view who agree with me. If there is room in the squad for a 'wildcard' then I'd probably go with Adam Johnson. He's had a far better season. If TW does go, and proceeds to go on a mazy 50 yard run and scores the winner, then most of us probably wouldn't care if he doesn't do anything again for five years. Seems an awfully big risk and ask of the kid. He has time on his hands. Let him claim stake to true form and end product by developing and improving, rather than us forcing the issue, over and over and over again.

So, over to Fabio for that one. And for the sake of England, Walcott is better off out on loan at a club with less pressure and with no bog-standard requirement for Henry mk II posturing.

As for the rest of the game, there's not that much more to comment on. No tempo from England, all far too ordinary and predictable and pedestrian with (thankfully) some fine moments from Rooney and Hart to keep as mostly awake. We didn't use the wings - but then I've already explained why. It was all pretty much a bore, and I'm sure we'll improve tenfold when we play the USA. At the very least, it will be a more balanced side - so perhaps we'll have some form of tempo to excite us and give us hope. Might actually be a blessing, playing the USA. Could turn out to be a EPL type of encounter.

I expect Hudd and Daws to be tuning into the game with the rest us. Both lack the experience and can't be risked. Although the irony of someone like Dawson (who has arguably had a fairly fantastic season) missing out, is then not so hurtful when you consider the experience that stands before him for those central positions. Even with the likes of Rio and Terry looking a bit shaky at times. You can't honestly see him going because every CD has more England experience than him (although I don't rate Carragher or Upson above Daws - but the former is (apparently) more versatile).

It's all come a bit too late for Tommy (Joe Cole a shoe-in), so perhaps next time round. For the both of them. Crouch, Defoe, Lennon and King - dead certs.

England expects.


The Huddlestone Proxy

He is perhaps the player that has elicited the ‘ahh I get it now’ response from the crowd (as the season itself unfolded) and from fans alike, and over the course of the season has grown in stature. But there are still question marks for some.

Spooky has previously mentioned the conundrum, in that whilst he appears to some to be immobile, lacks pace, is a luxury player, goes missing in big games, needs to play alongside a strong defensive player (basically Sergeant Wilson) to play to his own strengths or indeed lay off the Tommy K, he is not without his merits. And all of these have been common consensus opinions, since joining the club and a lot are, to be frank, not without merit (although the Daily Snail clearly haven’t heard of Photoshop).

      Huddburger anyone?

As some of you here will know, for the last couple of years I have been banging the drum (to the extent that I have been accused of acting as his PR agent) that Huddlestone is the closest we have had to replacing Carrick, to the point where those that have not been converted to my way of thinking have been silently assassinated and I carry on in my crusade. And as much as I’d like to now sit back and say ‘I told you so’, that wouldn’t tell the whole story.

But taking a step back it is easy to see that Huddlestone is also an anomaly in the bigger picture. It would seem the media has consistently pushed for an altered view on the game in England and with so many opinions out there by ex-professionals it is easy to see how it happens.

We are told time and time again about how great the English Premier league is, how tough it is and how the pace of the game is so much more intense than our European counterparts. And so in this frenetically paced environment we see an increasing number of waif like players, athletes who can ‘kick a ball a bit’, as opposed to the more skilful ‘guile and craft’ type players whose numbers appear to dwindle year on year, a perfect example of which is the increasingly frustrated Berbatov (who’s love for squirrels may see him moving to the continent).

And yet I can still (just) remember my Saturday morning’s as a nipper being told to pass the ball because ‘the ball can move quicker than I ever could’, this was relentlessly drummed into me (not in a Roman Catholic priests way) and yet amongst the myriad of opinion from ex-players it never gets commented on. Instead we are simply told that it is ‘pace’ that is so dangerous to teams and that these days they are all highly toned ‘athletes’.

Well Hudd doesn’t really have pace, I’ll grant you that, but he does put in some good leg work (often not noted or indeed commented on). So does that make him a ‘luxury player’? What exactly is he? Is he an attacking central midfielder? As he’s not your ‘box to box’ engine that get’s tagged onto so many other central midfield players (notably Lump-o-lard, Gerrard and more recently Fletcher for United). So maybe he’s not the player you want at ‘the top of the diamond’ or pushing forward. However he does have one hell of a strike on him when he connects. Conversely, he seems not to score very many from the positions he gets in, he doesn’t drive into the box to get onto crosses, in fact if anything he sits off waiting for the counter attack (good in my opinion, others find it frustrating).

So is he a defensive midfielder? Well there are some who say he can’t tackle, that stats from the last season alone will contradict that one, but actually this is where one of the subtlety’s of his game comes in. If you position yourself correctly and make it difficult for an opponent to get round you, you can stop them advancing without actually making a tackle. Helps If there’s a lot of you to get round of course, but it slows the attack and will force the opponent to rethink his attack. Does this appear on the ‘stats’ that get poured over each week? After all clearly there someone somewhere sat at every game with an abacus marking down every half-tackle, half-chance, along with the incomplete passes? Again you only have to look towards the media for their views on all manner of stats and indeed opinions. 

Well I have yet to see a specific column for ‘defending well without making a tackle’, but I have noted that Hudd has done this to great effect in some games (not all, and this is where the criticism is valid), most obviously in games where he shepherds the player into the brick wall that is Wilson.

But this whole ‘quarter back role’ that he’s been saddled with, does that make the best use of the fact that he can score a cracker right out of the top draw? And it relies on Wilson doing the tackling and passing to him to make the pass. Surely if you had the one player who could do both it would be more effective, wouldn’t it? And a quarterback dictates play, Hudd even at his best never really seems to ‘dominate’ oppositions, he just gets about his job without the shouting and ref surrounding that the aforementioned ‘box to box’ players all seem to have in common. He’s not a vindictive or terrier type player whose attitude commands the middle of the park like a (Roy) Keane or a Dennis Wise.

So he can’t beat his man for pace, he can’t really tackle (allegedly), he doesn’t have a ‘big lung bursting engine’ on him, and he doesn’t appear to outwardly have the big game attitude, so what is he? This ephemeral ‘luxury player’?

Or maybe he’s just a straight forward central midfielder, no ‘makalele’ or ‘quarterback’ tags. Just a simple player, where all he has to do in the middle is receives the ball and makes a pass. Well yes, but then anyone can do that, right? Wrong!!!! I refer back to one of the most frustrating and loveable players to have watched in recent times, Didier Zokora, who would run 30 yards to make a 5 yard pass, rather than simple make the 35 yard pass in first place. Was it because he couldn’t complete a pass over 5 yards, or that he was simply a headless chicken? I don’t know, I loved his heart and attitude, but it was never really matched by his play as it slowed down our attacks and allowed the organised teams to get back into their ‘two blocks of four’ an expression Messrs Hanson and Dixon seem to have patented.

So Hudd can make a pass, course he can. But that’s not the simplistic beauty of his play, no it’s always been far more subtle than that. He has two of the ‘gifts’ that others are not graced with, the ability to place the ball on a silver platter in any position on the pitch and more importantly the vision to see the movement by his team mates. Combined these give speed of thought and execution of a pass that turns defence into attack, and can split the most resilient of defences, or catch out players who have pushed out of position. For me, if the ability to create a goal from a single pass is a luxury, then in my humble opinion it’s a luxury every team could do with.

So I will now say that Huddlestone is the best midfield player we have had since Carrick, for me even better than Wilson (a sacrilege for some for me to even suggest that) and has the potential to be greater still. Sure with age and experience comes the ‘dominating’ aspect of the game, but he can tackle, and does, he puts in some of the hard yards and he ‘sees’ the game when he is on song.

He is versatile as well, he can sit back and make his passes allowing a more ‘craft and guile’ (Modders) or even our own ‘pace merchants’ (Lennon and Bale) to benefit from his ability. Or he can push on and dictate play higher up the pitch (alongside Wilson), as he seldom loses possession and so he allows a higher line of attack and defence. He brings the Balance to both our attacking and defensive play the likes of which we have not seen for some time.

For me he was my player of the season, admittedly this is mostly because I am biased towards wanting him to do well, but also because he has come on so much that we really missed him when he was out more than any other single player (I’m discounting the King as he was always likely to be out regularly).

Sure he’s not the exciting Welsh winger or goal poaching Russian that we love to love, and he’s not the ‘headline grabber’, nor will he get the crowd out of their seats. But, in terms of his overall ability, the effect he has on the game and just as importantly our balance and style of play, it looks like we’ve finally got a young English central midfielder around whom we can base a free flowing game of passing and movement – well passing anyway.

Hey, he might yet make the cut for the final 23 this summer. And I for one am hoping so for England’s sake, Rooney thrives on service and is often acknowledge for his ‘off the ball’ movement, just imagine what he could do with the sort of service that Hudd could give him from deep positions (now’s there a quote for some of you). Lennon (and Tottenham) has already benefitted this season, maybe England can too.

And to all those that wanted him sold 18 months ago I can only say ‘ner, ner, na, ner, ner’! Childish I know, but hey.......... 

.......Go forth and consider the above.


Anglo-Spurs backbone

King. Dawson. Lennon. Defoe. Crouch. Huddlestone. Six of the best. All called to the provisional England squad by Fabio. Out of the six, I'd say two are certain. Two deserve to go. One of the remaining two should be awarded with the honour of being part of the final 23. Leaving just the one who will miss out, but might well be a candidate for the future.

Rewards for all regardless for a fantastic season. Tottenham Hotspur, the club with the English backbone. And bionic knee. It's a bit early doors, what with the season only just ending (well, almost - still the FA Cup to play out and Pompeys certain win over Chelsea) but I'm beginning to get the itch for the World Cup. I always do. Not that I'm ever obsessed with qualifying matches, but when we're involved in the main show it's fairly difficult to ignore it. As much dislike as I have for the likes of Terry, Gerrard, Lampard etcetc, I'm hoping the Tottenham contingent do us  proud, to prolong the wide smile on my face through the summer and into next season.

King - Utterly deserves an England swansong. Proved his knee can survive 4 consecutive games on the trot. Colossus of a player and the best we have at the back.

Dawson - No pace. But makes up for it in the way of determination and bravery. A sort of raw version of John Terry. Just without the **** qualities. Proper 110 percenter is our Daws.

Lennon - Only just back. Has to go because he's best at what he does. He's no speed merchant (unlike Theo). He can pass and cross (unlike Theo). He doesn't have a book out and doesn't have his photo plastered over the celeb pages of tabloids (unlike Theo). He's a player who has improved and developed and terrorised sides prior to his injury (unlike Theo). And now he's back, granted he's only had a couple of appearances, but rather than be nothing more than an option asked to run directly at tired legs (Theo) in the final stages of a game, he can start and be used effectively over 90 minutes. Does concern me though, this nations obsession with Walcott. Johnson, SWP, Walcott, Lennon. Decisions, decisions, hey Fabio?

Defoe and Crouch - The best of the rest that England have available to them. Which isn't a lot. Heskey? Rather Crouch. Bent? Okay, let's repeat ourselves again - he feeds off scraps and counter-attacks, loose balls in the box. Ask him to play as part of a cohesive unit, inter-linking, intelligent chance. So yeah, JD and Crouch are far superior options. Even if JD has gone off the boil, and tbh lacks the ability to play himself onside at times.

Huddlestone - Mobility. Lack of adaptability. He'll only be able to play one way and we'd have to accommodate him. In the right game though, he could ping the ball about Hoddlesque. And he has proven more than capable at times, but arguably lacks the top level experience and 'testing' to be worthy of a risk in a high-pressured game. Does deserves his place in the final 30 though. Just think he's the most obvious to be left behind.

Good luck to all of them. In Fabio we trust, right?

Brings me nicely onto the below youtube clip. New Carlsberg advert. I must be more easy than a Sunday morning, because the hairs on the back of my neck stand up watching this. And I can't be the only person who gets a little choked up with the lovely Bobby Robson touch.


Paying the penalty, over and over again...

I asked for swagger. What we got in the first forty five minutes was not swagger. It was a hellmouth of atrociousness. No shape, no fluidity, no composure. Granted Bolton are spoilers, a side that will get in your face and stop you from playing, but let's not exaggerate. This is no longer Big Sam's anti-football on show at the Reebok. It's a far more timid version and regardless of our poor record up there you'd hope we’d at least attempt to match their tenacity. But oh no. This is Tottenham and once more we failed to see any of our esteemed players capture that early to mid season form which was spent chasing down opposition players, applying pressure and generally bossing teams and picking them off with comparative ease. I'm not even exaggerating, we looked the part back then. But with each passing week we appear to be forgetting how to play as a unit. Granted, no Lennon means we lose a vital dimension to our play. But this goes beyond not having the little man in the side because our decline began when he was fit and playing.

So we got battered for 45 minutes, looked absolutely lost and lacked any sort of spark. They're calling it a game of two halves and that's just about the best tagline you can give the match. Although it wasn't until the 60th minute that we awoke. Two moments that saw the ball hit the woodwork (for any other team, it would have sneaked in but we seem to will the ball over safely thanks to our desperation for relying on any anything that resembles luck). But when the goal did come (Defoe lashing it in) I almost felt a moment of over zealous confidence. We're going to win. The assault continued, can hardly remember Bolton doing that much in the second half so when the penalty was awarded, I jumped up and punched the air in delight, dancing a jig of joy followed by some break-dancing.

I'm fibbing, that wasn't how I reacted. I infact feel to the ground (Wengeresque) with my head in the palms of my hands. Because I knew, I just knew that more misery would be compounded on us. That it's not enough that its taken one hour to get going, we're now going to see victory wave a fleeting goodbye and disappear, to be seen next under floodlights.

What? You telling me you honestly thought we'd score?

When Huddlestone stood there ready, there was a moment, half a second, that had me thinking he would drill the ball towards the goal. The fundamental issue with penalties remains one of mental strength. If there is 1% doubt in your mind, you're likely to over-think how to take the kick and probably fail to simply rely on instincts and the natural obvious method.

i.e. Decide where to strike the ball before you put the ball on the spot, then strike it with power to the pre-determined target area.

The moment Tommy started to do the shuffle I laughed. If that wasn't a 'I don't know how to take this penalty' moment, then I don't know what it. He placed his shot. Placed it. Tommy 'I have a thunderous thunderous shot on me and can't half it hard' decided to softly softly place the ball allowing for a comfortable save. Yes, I know, its 50/50 with pens. Had the keeper guessed wrong we'd have scored. But why leave it to percentages? Pick a far corner of the goal, left or right, doesn't matter. Then drill the sonofabitch towards it. Damn it, Tommy, we know, you know…you can hit a ball with venom. It's usually moving. Here, it’s a dead ball and what do you decide to do? Caress it.

I say give the next one to BALE BALE BALE.

Anyways, if we get past Bolton we've got Fulham away. So we go from one bogey away side to another.


COYS. In it to win it.


Heroes and Villains - Part II

Continuing a casual look at the players achievements in 2009 and what we'd like to see in 2010.

Crouch - Hero (but not like Bruce Wayne, bit more like Rodney from Only Fools and Horses dressed as Robin)

I like Crouchie. He's a decent down to earth bloke with his head in the clouds. He's not a dreamer, just very tall. He knows his limitations and strengths and makes it work, as a foil, even if people shrug about his lack of goals. If Defoe is banging them in by virtue of playing up front with Peter, then it's the partnership that works and matters more than who is sticking them away - as long as someone is. Still, would be nice if he bagged a few more for himself. But we sort of knew this would be the case prior to him signing. But I'm not going to complain about something that makes me happy. And he does. He's not been out of his skin unbelievable, but he's done a good job and can play up front with whomever. He's a good option to have in there, although you do wonder  if we didn't would Pav have stepped up and settled into life in the Prem? You know, Pav being a £14M investment that wasn't fit to start in his first season and doesn't appear to be an option in his second.

Fact is, we have a variation of types as far as our forwards are concerned. And having someone who has tight foot control and causes panic in opposition areas is a good thing. The rest of our team have to remember to play to feet rather than hoof it up to him. Also, I live in the hope that one day a ref will work out that just because someone is tall, doesn't mean that every time he jumps up for the ball with an opposition player it’s an automatic free kick against him.

Do more in 2010: Over-head kicks. Have we had one yet?
Do less of in 2010: Hoofing the ball up to him. Everyone knows, robots can't jump.

Defoe - Hero

Cracking player. Has matured thanks to that loan spell at Pompey and he's in the form of his life. This guy has a love affair with Spurs. It's his spiritual home. He's a goal-scorer. He's hungry for it and he has a point to prove and in World Cup year he is not only in complete control of his destiny, he's in the front seat driving at speed towards South Africa. Essex police, catch him if you can.

Offside? Offside I hear you cry? Jermain Defoe is never offside, he's so fast he creates an illusion that he's moved before the ball has and the assistant referee reacts to it by raising his flag. Whether JD lashes them or flicks them past, his form has validated Harry and the decision to let Darren Bent go. We need one goal scorer and we need him to be able to play a part in a footballing side, rather than just run onto balls over the top.

We've been waiting for a while to see JD step up a level. And he's finally done that. 20 goals would be a good target.

Do more in 2010: Remain focused. Don't take it for granted.
Do less of in 2010: Lay off the c-list celeb WAGS.

Kranjcar - Hero. Sexy Hero

Not that long ago we had a player at Spurs. He was top drawer. Had that shirt tucked out socks rolled down swagger about him. Tottenhamesque in every way. Flair, magic on the ball and an understated arrogance. An almost likeable arrogance. None of that third-rate stuff you get from the Arsenal players who posture like the universe was a stage created for their fronting. No. This is altogether a different type of arrogance. A 'hey, look, I just did something amazing and I hope you liked it, because I liked doing it, and it was done for you' arrogance. Ginola.

And then we found ourselves with Berbatov. A would-be-king who renounced the throne in spectacular fashion to became a court jester in a far away land (harsh, but fair).

Niko could be the next in-line. Some scoffed when he signed, concerned he was too inconsistent and lacked fight. Okay, so defensively he won't offer too much - but neither did Ginola or Berbatov. In a team where we will always look towards Modric for that little piece of magic, we have someone else who can take responsibility. Another unlocker of doors. The wonderful thing for me here is that when he was signed he wasn't fully fit. And as he worked towards regaining match fitness he played his part with cameos, with many impatient. Harry guided him into team affairs with care and attention. And he's slotted in near perfectly. This is what we like at the Lane. A player with class, oozing with every touch. And if continues to play and score we might just have a goal-scoring outlet from midfield.

Do more in 2010: Swagger, creation and craft. And more goals.
Do less of in 2010: Sit on the bench.

Huddlestone - Incredible Hero

Love him or hate him, Harry has done what most of us have wanted. He's stuck Hudd in the midfield and practically started him for every match. We've always banged on about whether Tommy is cut out for a central midfield job. He's not mobile enough, he's easily bullied, he's too slow. And yet there he stands. And whether we like it or not (some people take it personally) he isn't doing too bad of a job. I find myself swaying between opinions. Much like Jenas, he promises a lot. But then it's easy to forget that Tom has only just turned 23. He's a kid. Feels like he's been around for an age. So, for someone so young, arguably he is doing more than just fine. Note the improvements to his defensive game. I've seen it, with my own eyes, Carrickesque nicking of the ball off players. He gets given the ball (often from the likes of Dawson) and as a deep lying midfield turns defence into attack with a forward pass, spread 30 or so yards to feet.

Okay, he can sometimes get lost in the middle. But development wise, there is no better place for him than starting against Wilson. If this kid is going to make it, best he does playing in Lilywhite and best he does so playing week in and week out. We are 4th. At the half way stage. And he's a first team player. I guess the reality of it is this: Huddlestone works.

He's got a triffic shot on him, so a bit of target practice and we might just have another goal-scoring midfielder on our hands.

On the flip side, as mentioned, he gets lost in the middle. If the game doesn't suit his style. If he has no time on the ball. This is actually a problem, because if the opposition are in his face up-tempo then he is practically rendered redundant. Hence the reason why there is both love and hate for the boy.

So, when the game suits him - he's brilliant. When it doesn’t, its best not spoken about. From incredible hero to incredible zero.

Do more in 2010: Score. Brilliant volley skillz. Needs to hit target more often. And has to show signs of adapting.
Do less of in 2010: Mayo and ketchup.

Pavlychenko, Bassong, Corluka, King, Assou-Ekotto, Woodgate, Bale, Lennon, Keane, Modric, Giovani, Hutton and Dawson to follow...

Read the concluding part here.