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Friday, 25 January 2013

Would signing Holtby now be a good move?

Guest Post - By @BringBackAtouba

The imminent capture of German playmaker, Lewis Holtby, is once again a masterclass in business from chairman Daniel Levy, signing the up and coming Schalke star on a Bosman free transfer, the only uncertainty being whether he joins now, for a cut-price fee, or in the Summer for nothing. Intense speculation on twitter and in the media has created a suspicion that the move will be completed within this window aswell as other creative youngster Iago Falque joining Almeria on loan, freeing up a spot in the 25 registered player list. Holtby's father, an RAF pilot stationed in Germany was an Everton fan and brought Holtby up an Evertonian, himself stating it's his dream to play in the Premier League. But with Schalke keen to re-gain as much money as possible the deal as to whether he joins now or later is likely to go right down to the wire, with Levy holding out for as low a fee as possible. 

The ex-German U21 captain who has made 3 appearances for the full national team at the age of just 22, is no doubt a class signing. His link up play at Schalke behind Klaas-Jan Huntelaar a natural finisher, like Defoe, has no doubt assisted to his call ups nationally and he has even proven to act as the scorer in the Dutchmans absence, scoring the winning goal and assisting two others in the sides thrilling 5-4 win over Hannover 96 at the weekend. His pace and craft behind the striker will no doubt help fill the creative void in midfield left by Modrid and VDV's absence as well as add another midfielder to the ranks should he join early, with Sandro ruled out for the season.

However with such intense speculation and excitement its easy to overlook, fellow playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson sitting on the Spurs bench. His appearances this season have been often limited to substitute appearances, starting only three times in the Premier League where he is yet to score. Aged similarly to Holtby, his performances on the pitch albeit limitied have often been impressive, yet AVB has often favoured Clint Dempsey in the CF role over the young Icelandic international. The signing of Holtby would push Sigurdsson even further down the pecking order and would be detrimental to his growth and potential, requiring persistent game time to progress into the top professional he has the capabilities of reaching something he wouldn't get at Spurs.

So the question begs; what now for him? Whilst its way too early to rule out a transfer elsewhere a loan move isn't the most unlikely scenario for someone who craves regular game time. A busy schedule up ahead, with FA cup, Premier League and Europa League matches will undoubtedly lead to game time for the playmaker and a chance for him to impose himself on the team and show AVB what he is capable of.

So what happened to the man we signed who at Swansea last season bagging 7 goals in 18 games as well as 5 assists? Most obvious would be the complete lack of game time. However, the enhanced level of competition has also hindered his chances, the lesser goal scoring competition he had around him at Swansea with only Sinclair and Graham outscoring him under significantly more appearances added an almost relaxed tone to his game, whereas at Spurs he is under immediate pressure to start and perform on a moments notice as seen earlier on in the season against Chelsea. Furthermore he has often been deployed on the wing at Spurs, in Bales absence as seen against Reading - not his natural position and hardly one that would guarantee goal chances every time he plays.

With competition fierce for a singular CF position at the head of AVB's triangle of three in the middle, it's yet to be seen were Sigurdsson fits in. Although he has the height to defend, he lacks the physical strength ruling out a defensive midfield role alongside Dembele or Parker in the absence of Sandro and isn't quick enough to provide realistic competition for Lennon or Bale on the wings.

The biggest problem Spurs made it seems was signing both Dempsey and Sigurdsson two players who crave game time in order to flourish at the club and then rotate them in a position that requires solidity and consistence as shown by the two respective players last year, both performing under consistent game time. Although we'd be stupid to reject a player of Holtby's class and ability it does raise questions about what role Sigurdsson has at the club, half way into the first season and failing to establish himself.

Guest Post - By @BringBackAtouba - Follow him on Twitter here

Monday, 21 January 2013

My life as a Spurs fan.

Guest post

(By Mike, Aged 26 and a Half)

I still recognise Martin Jol being sacked seemingly milli-minutes before the UEFA Cup match
against Getafe in 2007 [
7063013.stm] as being one of the most emotionally turbulent evenings of my life.

("Spurs in Europe? Really? Why would you ruin this, Mr. Levy? WHY?")

I remember standing in my parents' living room, holding the Sky remote, agog, staring
disbelievingly at the TV and feeling so confused and unable to comprehend the words
that were falling into my unreceptive ears. Having dragged an otherwise average Spurs
team from the doldrums of lower/mid-table into the respectability of second-tier European
competition - and playing football capable of inducing moments of doe-eyed ecstasy I'd
not experienced since a solitary night of assuaging libertinism at Sheffield Student Union
sometime in 2005 [] - my heart felt like it
had been ripped from my chest.

Ripped from my chest by some bald git in a suit who didn't understand comparative success
at a football club that hadn't tasted said success since the Worthington Cup win vs. Leicester
City in 1999 [] - a fair few years before tonight
- the football success equivalent of eating an out-of-date Happy Meal, cold and alone, in
a service station car park. NOTHING mattered that evening. Not the result. Not the future.
I felt, rightly or wrongly, that the club I loved had mistreated someone I felt had 'done us
right'. And for that I felt bad. Guilty almost. I doubted my loyalty to Tottenham. Things had to
change from here on, I thought. And change they did.

Juxtaposed with these comparative notions of success - and related to the final direction of
this piece about the football club I will love until the very day I die - preferably post-coital at
90mph, high on cocaine, whisky and Nandrolone [] -
Mauricio Tarrico [], rightly or wrongly, is one of
my all-time favourite Spurs players. I could relate to him - his on-and-off-field troubles and
his highly-unusual choices of hairstyle [
league-football-trading-card-18311-p.jpg]. Seemingly schizophrenic in his inability to
distinguish between making a fantastic bone-crunching tackle or undertaking a blood-
curdling Mortal Kombat finishing move on some poor unsuspecting Bolton youth team
winger, I loved the charisma and the flair that he offered a Tottenham team that contained
Tim Sherwood. Spurs have always been (to my eyes) a team who want to entertain. We
won't (ever reeeeally) play dirty. We don't finish teams off brutally - patting them gently on
the back whilst handing them the cyanide capsules. If we were a United Nations
ambassador, we'd be representing Switzerland. Scenic. Respectable. Classy. Completely
useless in Europe. We historically collapse under pressure from our bigger neighbours. But,
by God, we're beautiful [

Back to Tarrico. He was exotic - coming from Argentina, via George Burley's hay-munching
Ipswich Town of all places, to The Lane - my Lane, your Lane, our Lane. Being also from
the countryside (Worcestershire [
Worcestershire,%20Broadway,%20The%20Cross.jpg]), I was definitely more and more
convinced I could be the English Tarrico. Last I heard, he was a coach at Brighton & Hove
Albion, with another old friend, Gus Poyet. I always liked Gus Poyet, and his bicycle kick
slow-mo goal vs. Sunderland (99-00 season) on the old Match of the Day opening credits

But when you're a kid, you want to be a footballer - unless you're not allowed to stay up late
to watch Match of the Day. Or your parents' egos dictate that they want you - their beloved
offspring - to go to Oxbridge and chain you to your bookshelves and cut off your oxygen
supply to real life. Obviously, as you get older, this changes. You discover girls (or boys),
and cigarettes, and the joys of alcohol - and then you want to be a rock star. But then reality
bites, you and your friends go to university, your band(s) fall apart for whatever reason
and you accidentally end up working somewhere you didn't initially envisage and - dya
know what? - it's not actually all that bad. The rock star thing dies. And the footballer thing
definitely does. But way before that, way back when... I was THERE. In the "dream" stasis
zone. I was 13 years old and I definitely (one-million percent) wanted to be a footballer.

I was completely shit. Twice a week, I'd drag myself along to training, waiting for my John
Barnes at the Maracana-moment of genius to manifest itself [
jc], optimistically and patiently, sitting on the non-existent Sunday league subs-bench at
weekends, waiting for the moment I could "prove" to my knuckle-dragging, balding, fattening
manager that I was a footballing God. If I had any skill, perhaps I would've been idolised as
a footballing philosopher. A thinker with a sweet right foot. Kind of like Eric Cantona [http://]. Or Joey Barton, but not as much of a prat. But I didn't. I was shit.
So, I idolised Tarrico.

I'd just started getting into Business Studies at secondary school, and was desperate to do
it at GCSE level. I was quite sharp at school. After a bit of what I considered to be market
research, I decided that if I was going to market myself as a left back (and a fairly bad one at
that) this meant I had to replicate Tarrico's talents. This was a mistake.

Tarrico was brutal in the challenge [
8/6/image-20-for-gallowgate-gallery-newcastle-v-tottenham-gallery-429193764.jpg], often
to over-compensate for, and take attention away from, the mistakes made by the Wacky
Races centre back and defensive midfield combinations Spurs had during this period. Gary
Doherty, Goran Bunjevcevic and Anthony Gardner come immediately to mind. Therefore,
I had to market myself as a double-hard bastard and kick people, so they wouldn't try
to run past me like they did to poor Gary Doherty [
v=RXaTs5Zos9g] week after bloody week. I was just over 5 foot tall at the time. This wasn't
going to happen. But at least I tried - I had spirit and wide-eyed misdirected enthusiasm.
I got kicked in the shins by the taller lads for my sins, and got really used to keeping the
subs bench warm on Sundays. It was a dark time of my life. Formative. "Unknown Pleasures"
by Joy Division is now one of my favourite albums [
v=wVvoQIdD80U]. I bet Ian Curtis spent a few hours on the subs bench before he jumped

off that washing machine.

Things had to change (see third paragraph of this piece re: Martin Jol). I saw how
Tarrico could kick the ball REALLY hard (see his goal vs. Leeds Utd, in 2003 - https:/
/ I KNEW I could do that. I had to learn
how to shoot from distance, teaching myself 'the punt' (i.e. big toe, through the ball) -
the ethical equivalent of a girl kicking Muhammad Ali in the balls during a fistfight and
running off really really quickly. Not classy. But bloody effective. Punting was my thing. I
scored one magnificent 25-yard free kick and retired satisfied at the end of that season.
It was my Tony Yeboah moment []. I was 16. I was shit at
football. I wanted to watch Spurs play football, drink lager, talk to women and listen to the
Buzzcocks "Entertaining Friends" instead [
Friends-Live-At-The-Hammersmith-Odeon-March-1979/release/1106502]. No more football
for me. But my love for Mauricio Tarrico, and charismatic Spurs players with flair (Steffen
Iversen, Jose Dominguez, Giovani Dos Santos), remain to this day.

Tediously, in the same way that everyone seems to know, be or have had sex with a
Manchester City fan nowadays, even though a few seasons ago (pre-success) you couldn't
find them anywhere - much like Wigan fans, and also, curiously, in my experience, Fulham
fans - Manchester United used to be THE club that you would support at primary school
if you wanted to be popular. A few of the challenged subversive kids claimed to support
Liverpool, wearing their green and white 95/96 away kits [
img/shirts/10/liverpool-away-football-shirt-1995-1996-s_70_1.jpg] with "Babb 6"
and "McManaman 17" on the back with pride, but I always thought they were twats. I
quite liked Peter Schmeichel and the way he would bollock the hell out of his team-mates,
screaming fresh hell - or well-smoked [] sturm and drang - at
footballers that defined a generation (Cantona, Hughes, Giggs... and, uhhh... Steve Bruce).
I thought that I too could get away with it if I claimed allegiance to Man United. I felt dirty, but
in my pre-revelatory Tarrico years, I started masquerading as a goalkeeper in homage to the
Great Dane. I used to have fantastic knees ("lovely", my Mother would say) but knackered
them to such an extent - diving to make saves on frozen playground concrete during winter
break times - that they are now about as pert and attractive as Harry Redknapp's tax-
dodging jawline. Either way, I blagged a trial for Hereford United's youth team by impressing
at one of those fantastic Football In The Community summer schools (age 11 - true fact)
before the insightful Hereford scouts swiftly realised I wasn't very tall, and that outfield was
the safest place for me to be. This appealed to me. Outfield. Less responsibility. Goals.
Glamour. Peter Schmeichel left Man United. My cloak of deceit fell. I went back to being a
Spurs fan.

Being a Spurs fan, when not cripplingly frustrating, is absolutely brilliant. We've had some
fantastic players. I've never spent the time reading enough about the glory teams of the past
outside of my living memory (I respect them greatly - Danny Blanchflower, Jimmy Greaves,
Bill Nicholson et al - and will endeavour to read up on them all properly one day). However,
I've always been lucky enough to experience Spurs teams who always had at least one
world class player in their ranks (e.g. David Ginola, Luka Modric, Gary Mabbutt). Alongside
Tarrico, my favourite Spurs players are Jurgen Klinsmann (I love this guy and hope he
ends up managing Spurs one day, following his success with the USA national team,

Bayern Munich and Germany - and Paul
Gascoigne (I really hope he returns to full health soon - I
think my earliest memory is being stood in my grandparent's living room, surrounded by my
toy cars, watching the Italia '90 England v Germany semi-final descend into That Penalty
Shoot Out, and my grandfather swearing fantastically at the telly when England lost [http:/
/]. I recall that this confused me greatly, because my grandfather
was a great man who never ever swore, so what had just happened was obviously culturally
significant. I was aged 4. Whoever this Gazza person was, that my grandfather had just
sworn at so profusely, was someone I was inspired to find out more about as he had
provoked such a fascinating reaction. I received a 6" tall poseable plastic toy of Gary Lineker
around this time also, presumably from my grandfather (I sadly don't remember) in response
to my developing love of football. Cumulatively, I think this is where my assignation to
Spurs happened. I had been snared and was now locked in for life. I still have the Gary
Lineker toy and have kept it on my bedroom window sill ever since [

So, the modern years. What happened post-Martin Jol? And how did I feel about it - how did
I bring myself back from the brink of losing all faith in my beloved Spurs - the Ramos years
etc? The appointment of 'Honest' Harry Redknapp, and the chronology of love, tears and
cacophonous bloodshed that followed, certainly helped.

I almost lost my faith. Harry Redknapp became my Lady Macbeth, the voice in my head
telling me 'it'll all be alright at the Lane' - allowing me to leave the house on Saturday
evenings without snot-nosed kids pointing and laughing and saying to their disapproving
Arsenal-supporting mothers and fathers - 'look Mummy, a Spurs fan'. That 4-4 draw with
Arsenal [] let me know that everything would be ok. That things
could change. That we could challenge with the bigger teams in the League, hold our own
and then some. The development of some existing, and inspired, signings (Modric, Bale, van
der Vaart, Parker) into world-class first team players was an evolutionary process that was
brilliant to experience, and for that, I thank Harry Redknapp.

The cohesion within the squad looked brilliant under Harry. Yes, we struggled tactically at
times, and didn't utilise a "Plan B" against teams who would stick 10 men behind the ball
and batter us at corners (which is why I was so confused when we sold Peter Crouch (a
potential "Plan B") to Stoke). But we had a bit of style. For a brief fleeting few months, we
got into the Champions League. People wanted to watch Spurs play again, because they
knew there'd be goals, entertainment and, perhaps - most excitingly - our manager was FUN

Opinion-makers started saying nice things in the media about Spurs. Match of the Day
would refer to him as ''Arry' and generally be quite positive about Spurs. We had good media
relations, he always gave post-match interviews that were honest, incisive and entertaining.
Spurs were cool, with a cool manager. I was so glad he wasn't Sam Allardyce, or David
Moyes, or any of those other boring non-descript, permanently non-plussed managers, who
vent just enough of the same old spiel, week-in, week-out, to keep their Chairman and MOR
insurance salesmen fans happy. If I wanted to be spiritually inspired by a squeaky clean
leadership figure, I'd go on golfing holidays with my boss at work, or join a monastery. But I

don't. This is football and I want to be entertained. I want to hear interesting things. I want to
laugh. Harry had opinions and things to say and he said them. I liked that. I knew he wasn't
Spurs through and through (more on that in a bit) but he was evidently a fan - of the game if
nothing else - and that stood out. I really like(d) that side of him. A bit of heart on the sleeve.

Additionally, buried somewhere within this fairytale football themed-episode of Only Fools
and Horses, my appreciation for Mr. Levy and his way of 'doing business' began to develop.
He evidently didn't take prisoners (see my beloved Martin Jol). He (appeared to) want to stay
out of the limelight, letting his manager do the PR and talking. Mr. Levy bought players. He
spent money. And he also had the cold dead assassin's eyes of a Bond villain. I knew he
wouldn't be holding back in negotiations to bring in, and hold onto, the best players he could
[]. He had a reputation on the line, and he looked like someone
who wanted to protect that reputation. As with Martin Jol, and later with Harry Redknapp,
I realised Mr. Levy operated with a strong mindset: that sometimes you have to give away
some good stuff, in order to achieve some much greater stuff. Like Merlin football stickers.
So, without Jol, there would have been no Redknapp; without Redknapp, no Villas-Boas;
without Villas-Boas, no 4th place in early 2013.

Sadly, I now have mixed feelings about Harry. I have no doubts he is a great man, and a
fantastic manager, but there was something really disheartening about the England/Chelsea
job and tax-fiddling cases and how they all overlapped into a horrible sticky few months.
I'd love to speak with Harry and try to understand what his game plan was at the time. He
must've known what he was doing, right? Him and his legal team must have had a plan
or something up their sleeve that didn't quite materialise as they intended? I don't mind if
he wanted the England job - could you blame him? I'd have taken the England job in his
position [
England-job-after-tax-charge-acquittal-article862923.html]. It's the greatest honour you can
have as an English football manager (surely?). Sadly, Harry's statements and profile at the
time just didn't reassure me in a time of need - as a Spurs fan - about his loyalties and plans
for the future regarding Chelsea and England which Spurs could've operated around or

During all the tax dodging nonsense which we can now look back on and take the piss
about, despite it being genuinely worrying at the time, the Spurs fans were fantastic
to Harry. We knew he'd done something a little bit wrong, but we never thought it was
anything sinister; a little bit of the old Del Boy here and there perhaps, but, y'know, that
was absolutely fine []. You must have had the conversation
yourself, right? "Not to Harry? Little old Harry? Nah, good old Harry! He's a good bloke."
(and the "God, I do hope he IS innocent" you'd whisper into your pint, when your mate went
off to the bar/toilet etc). The support the Spurs fans gave him was superb and I think Harry
appreciated that. The problem is Harry's really charming. I know this and I'm still drawn in
even though he's now at QPR. I just can't be annoyed at him for all the nonsense last year
and the effect it evidently had on Spurs at the end of an otherwise "t'riffic" season. He's like
a puppy that is smiling expectantly at you, but earlier that afternoon left a turd on the carpet
in the hall. Deep down, you just want to give it praise and a Bonio (Rosie 47, anyone? [http:/
/]), but it probably
deserves a gentle boot up the arse and bed with no tea. Harry Redknapp is a good man, a

great manager and I'm gutted he left. But, going back to my earlier point, I trust Daniel Levy
99.999999% [].

And whilst we're on the subject of trust and warmth, one of the most memorable moments of
my football supporting life, for both good and bad reasons, was the Muamba game - Spurs
v Bolton game in the FA Cup last season []. With my birthday
money, I treated myself to a Spurs ticket (I was a student at the time, thus skint) in West
Stand and looked forward to a great seat at my first experience of an FA Cup match at the
Lane. What happened that day was both sad and incredible, and it remains such a relief that
Fabrice Muamba made it through ok. The warmth and ongoing applause of both the Spurs
and Bolton fans, and the wider footballing community post-match, was staggering and it
such a powerful experience - one I will never ever forget. On a lighter note, Paul Whitehouse
sat near to me for the replay game, and apologised for treading on my feet as he left just
before full-time. I think he felt obliged to apologise, as he may have been slightly scared
of me and the Dutch bloke I was sat next to, after having heard how loudly we had been
screaming at Rafael Van Der Vaart to track back and cover Chris Eagles for the past 85

Van Der Vaart, eh? That was a master-stroke at the time [
Rafael-van-der-Vaart.html]. A purchase I'd been dreaming of for years, but never for once
expecting to materialise. Us, involved in a business deal with Real Madrid! That doesn't
happen! But it did. Yet, try as we might, and resist it as much as we can, Spurs have been
a reluctant selling-club in previous years. Plateauing at a decent level (a Carling Cup, or a
UEFA Cup campaign) and then ending up flogging an integral player with ambitions bigger
than our budget. Look at Sol Campbell to Arsenal, Sheringham to Man United, Carrick to
Man United, Berbatov to Man United, Modric to Real Madrid, VDV to Hamburg. If we'd only
have hung on to those players, eh? This season especially. But we didn't and we've now
spent that money elsewhere. But there's always that "what if", isn't there? I hope this doesn't
happen with Gareth Bale, but - deep down - I know it probably will. This is because we don't
have £100 million to throw at squad players that could sustain a title challenge or European
campaign. Which is what would happen if Gareth left for Man City or Chelsea or Real or
somewhere similar - he'd become a squad player. So don't go, Gareth.

The man who I think can stop this happening, with performances instead of clever words,
and can inspire this current squad to continue to stick together, is Villas-Boas. Admittedly,
when he was at Chelsea, I thought he was a meddler, a lunatic and a bit of a berk. Mucking
about with formations and styles, undoing tried and tested systems. But despite all the
barracking he received, he kept his composure (classic Spurs material) and being part-
Portuguese (like me), I had a soft spot for him as a manager, even though he appeared to
be absolutely bloody useless in the Premiership. When he came in to replace Harry, I was
amused to say the least. This soon transformed into warm-hearted optimism, me crossing
my arms and thinking "come on then, what have you got?". And I guess I still feel a bit like
that. It's good fun at the moment under Andre. I haven't worked him out completely yet, but I
like what he's doing and am looking forward to seeing more of it.

So, the future. Well, wouldn't it be great if Spurs DID finally challenge for the title? Being
realistic, this won't be for a little while - sadly unless Mr. Levy throws lots of money at the
squad, like a Man City, Chelski or whoever Mark Zuckerberg may decide to invest in. We still
throw away points against the Stokes, Norwichs and Readings of the world (no disrespect
to them, but we're much better at football) - but then somehow manage to muster epic Old
Testament-style away wins at Man United [
manchester-united-tottenham-hotspur]. This kind of nonsensical horse-bollocks is frustrating
beyond belief, year-on-year, but all forms part and parcel of the joy of being a Spurs fan.
You need to have a sense of humour if you're a Spurs fan. Remember when everyone in our
first team squad got the trots against West Ham [
2336560/Spurs-dealt-devastating-blow-by-food-poisoning.html]? One of the biggest derbies
of our season. Sky Sports News has latched onto the story, and now the whole nation knows
we're necking Imodium and Dioralite to hold our arses together after eating a dirty lasagne
the night before. Great. Nice ego boost pre-match. And kudos to the club dietician (a waged
job) for having chosen that precise meal for the players, proving himself about as useful as
Sergei Rebrov's left bollock in this particular situation.

You need those highs and lows. For me, this means those Redknapp moments and the
Martin Jol moments. I'm overjoyed about Spurs (ever) getting into Europe. It gives us
something to get excited about mid-week, playing similarly reputable and optimistic (but
realistic, in terms of ambition) football teams. The ones who can string a few passes
together, you may recognise a couple of players from the last World Cup at and may
consider (once or twice) playing as them on FIFA. I love knowing I'm going to watch my
team play Lyon and have half a chance, rather than us playing Real Madrid and getting
smashed 5 nil. This is because I know Scott Parker is NOT as good as Cristiano Ronaldo,
but I will love him and his passionate devotion to the cause never-the-less. Why would I want
to watch something (Spurs) I love getting demolished in a competition we're not ready for?
It'd be like Roadblock from Robot Wars getting eaten by Sir Killalot and being thrown into
the fire-pit (when secretly we all know we wanted Mortis to lose. And lose really badly - http:/
/ Or those self-funding bands who take out a loan to buy a Transit
van, go on a tour, eat loads of Ginsters pasties, sleep in service station car parks and end up
playing to absolutely no-one. It all sounds so fun until it happens, and then you're there, and
it's miserable, and it's REAL.

So, let's be optimistic. Let's support Villas-Boas. I've loved his approach to managing Spurs
so far, rightly or wrongly giving us a breath of something fresh and different compared to
Harry's charisma and motivation-focused style of management. AVB brings that little bit
of European-minded experimentation, outside of the box thinking, real tactics, something
different to our style of play and (thank God) has managed to retain that bit of classic Spurs
flair. Let's remember AVB has won the Europa League, so deep down, there's no doubt
that this man knows his bacon (like Peter Schmeichel). Let's cross our fingers and see what
happens. And for God's sake, let's finish above Arsenal.


Michael D. Wynn (aged 26 and a half) - Follw him on Twitter here

I have a recurring dream where every evening I'm in France, and end up taking a dump in
Arsene Wenger's bed. I calmly replace the divan, neatly tuck the corners in (like the most
devout chambermaid you've never met) and shut the bedroom door with a gentle click,
before I wake back up in reality. I've absolutely no idea what the dream means, but it feels
really satisfying to have non-laterally shat in Wenger's bed and often cheers me up on the
commute into work in the mornings. Try it yourself.

My All Time Spurs XI (since 1986)
Erik Thorstvedt
Gary Mabbutt (c)
Mauricio Tarrico
Ledley King
Luka Modric
Paul Gascoigne
David Ginola
Scott Parker
Jurgen Klinsmann
Teddy Sheringham
Gareth Bale


Best kit:

Brad Friedel
Sol Campbell
Gus Poyet
Jose Dominguez
Giovani Dos Santos
Dimitar Berbatov
Steffen Iversen

4-4 draw with Arsenal-era Harry Redknapp - the world was his oyster.
First year with Autonomy home kit 09/10 - sharp as hell.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Another Disaster on the Horizon?

Broken Record Warning: I like reiterating my points, talking from as many different angles as much as I can. Change is no stranger to Tottenham Hotspur. We love it. Sometimes we embrace it - we changed from a pint of Carling, poured from a bottle left out in the warm, to an aged wine that you gleefully enjoy but know when enough is enough. Or, in Spurs terms, a Ramos to a Redknapp. I was apprehensive when we brought Redknapp in. I felt confident we'd survive but never did I expect we'd qualify for Europe's top competition. He was only ever a short-term appointment. He had a shovel big enough to dig us out the hole that Ramos had lead us into and the rope to climb us up the table.

Redknapp's time came to an abrupt end, although his era did feel like a generation and a half's worth. His head had been turned so far round by speculation that surgeons said they were unable tofix it. The consequences identified were repetitive sound bites, tourettes of the word 'triffic' and failing to use the windscreen whilst driving. To then ask for a, reportedly, increased wage and three year deal apparently sent Levy to hospital for Mild Traumatic Brain Injury; or concussion, as it is best known. Redknapp left Spurs and, with him, a squad that couldn't stop questioning 'if only'.

Mother nature will tell you Daniel Levy has balls. Appointing AVB will only add to assure this, for those in doubt. I remember apprehension was the feeling when Redknapp was appointed, I felt a different feeling when the Portugeeza came in as Head Coach at Spurs. Excitement was one. I'd put forward my case more times than I care to count as to why I felt Spurs would've been the right job for AVB. I woke up at my laptop, having put myself to sleep on one occasion.

A period of unrest saw our spine sold and, at one point, we barely had the capacity to stand on two legs. Papers had a field day of legless articles, sounding out the uncertainty and disillusionment in the Spurs camp. I'd almost pictured players refusing to eat at the same lunch table as AVB, leaving as he took a seat. A false smile hiding away the tears that were forcing their way out. In truth, AVB was up against it immensely more than most upon arrival. His passion to fight off the endless critics clinging to his ankles grew as he split Spurs supporters, this all before a ball had been kicked.

Redknapp was quoted, in June, as saying: "He's (AVB) got the players there to be a top four team every year and challenge for the Championship. That's my opinion". Whilst also emphasising that the key to this was keeping Luka at the Lane. Through the bitterness that seems apparent between the lines of this quote, Redknapp is claiming that any success would be down to 'his' team succeeding.

In truth, it's almost like a plastic surgeon's been at Spurs we look so different.

With the critics breathing heavily down AVB's back, every move he made was scrutinised. The summer didn't get any easier when the side AVB wanted was scuppered; the players he wanted didn't all arrive. Most notably was Moutinho's failure at securing a transfer from Porto. So, we were given Sigurdsson and Dempsey to fill the void. Modric and Van der Vaart were the most notable departures. Dembele was unveiled. Parker, Kaboul and Benny found themselves having an extended summer on the injury table. Ledley retired. Vertonghen came in. Lloris joined him. We finally remembered Kyle Naughton was also a player for Tottenham Hotspur football club.

This wasn't Redknapp's side anymore.

In truth we'd had more change than a busker working a Friday night in the Underground. This was inheriting a club name that finished fourth, but the spine and foundations in which it was built on was near enough an overhaul. We'd even moved training grounds. New players playing together rarely click in the short-term. This was reflected in our early results. I remember needing binoculars at Newcastle and also felt as though we were in the middle of the Sahara. We were bright, positive, we pressed well. We deserved a win and were unfortunate to lose. That's football, I was content upon returning home.

Two draws at home to seemingly more 'minute' opposition ensured we remained split upon whether to back AVB or not. I estimated, looking at external polls and running one myself, that only around 66% of Spurs fans were behind AVB. Of course, these numbers may not reflect the majority but, at the time, gave what seemed like a realistic indication. The booing at full-time cemented this for me. In truth, I remained fully behind him. Call it an intense level of stubborness and blind faith, but I appreciated the difficulty he had coming into a club like ours, the pressures and liked what he was trying to do. I felt the players we had at our disposal complimented his ideology of pressing and breaking at pace and believed, hoped, that this justice would be done.

On the morning of our trip away at United. It was reported that another 'Spurs crisis' had occurred. Players were 'unhappy', 'disillusioned' and AVB had 'three games to save his job'. Right. It brought us all closer. A 'them and us' mentality. The papers made out we were on a sinking ship. Although no one was seen fleeing it. In fact, we went away to United and won. AVB responded the best way he could've. He showed that we do have the belief in the side to achieve what seemed to be the impossible. Bale recently came out and said this victory gave the side 'belief', something, I feel, that has always fluctuated at Spurs. More and more though we seem to be integrating it into our DNA; our final league position will reflect its' level. It was obvious that this season would be a box of surprises in typical Spurs fashion - each week you didn't know what you'd get.

Last season we lost 5-2 at the Emirates and (correct me if I'm mistaken) only managed 4 league wins the rest of the season. It was evident that the defeat there was more than a blood wound and patch up job. The side were grabbed out the air and brought back to Earth - with more than a bang. Redknapp soon became unsettled and we seemed to play with trembly knees. Any mental strength was shot. We were left picking up the pieces come May of a season of what could've been. A tale of 'what if's' and 'if only's'. A record we'd heard time and time again.

We flew a similar flight this season. We found ourselves crashing at Arsenal and a forward that would miss the next three league fixtures. Inevitably, the haunting of last season returned. The pain and anguish routed its way back. The memories had never really left in all honesty. But something changed this year. The players picked up the pieces and pulled back together, and returned stronger, more brittle than last season. Since this disappointment we've gone on to lose just the 1 league game. A team of players that had only been playing together for a few months had already, seemingly, have bought into AVB's philosophy. He'd fed them on belief, building this mental toughness required to finish above strong opposition and into the top 4 positions of the Premier League. In the long run, our position in the league would tell you it was worth it.

We still have lapses in concentration, are prone to errors that lead to costly goals and, at times, look nervy. But, of late, we've pulled through. We've looked more assuring on the pitch and our game feels more natural when we play. The style and 'swag' we had last year isn't at it's peak, but we're seeing glimpses - and winning games. We've new players, new coaching staff and a fresh approach that we needed. The players (or the majority) seem to want to be there and believe we could achieve great things.

What excites me is that this is many players' first season at Spurs, with new team mates, coaching staff and Head Coach. I was/still am expecting transition. It's fair to say that our current form has been more than mind-blowing. Without being disrespectful, I was expecting our season to match Liverpool's. A slow start before slowly growing into our system and climbing the table - at a steady pace. Never did I think we'd be the one's being chased for 4th again. Or are we the one's chasing third? I've never seen a pint half full, I'm always up grabbing another round when it's half empty. That reflects my outlook.

Although, admittedly, the long-term excites me. Pre-season saw me content finishing within touching distance of 4th. I still am. We've found ourselves in a scenario in which we genuinely believe we are just that one forward short of securing another top 4 finish. A crossroads we've visited more often than we care to count. I feel we're slowly integrating this belief that we can defeat any side we're pitted against and this has been down to the players buying into AVB's philosophy.

Of course, we remain just 22 games into the season. These final 16 games could end up proving another great disaster as it proved last season. But, despite missing Modric, Vdv and Ledley, I feel more optimistic. I don't always agree with AVB's tactical changes (most notably away at Everton), but I appreciate that he tries to change it up and adapt. He'll try different things, and won't wait a season to try them. He's not as single-minded as he was made out in the past and has admitted previously this season he's open for change and he'll do it should he see fit. This has seen us revert from a more favoured 4-2-3-1 to a more (admittedly) flaccid 4-4-2.

Hopefully we can keep building, learning and remain behind Andre Villas-Boas. Both players and fans/supporters alike. We still haven't reached our peak but to be in the position we are in in AVB's first season is fantastic. The embroilment surrounding his appointment has calmed down. Feet need to stay firmly on the ground and I feel we have the right man at the top ensuring this. He bleeds class and reflects the perception that we have for Tottenham Hotspur.

Never (again) have I felt so much optimism and excitement for the train we're on. Let's hope this one doesn't derail.

Ben - Follow me on Twitter here

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Ade's departure a blessing.

I still remember when Mido was seen clutching a Tottenham Hotspur scarf above his head after completing a loan move to Spurs at the end of the January transfer window in 2005. Excited was an understatement. I'd seen this big kid partnering Drogba upfront at Marseille and had long craved to see him pulling on the Lilywhite. I pulled out my secret Daniel Levy-shaped teddy bear and gave him an extra hug that night -yes, they sell those.

Mido finished the 05/06 season with 11 goals in 27 games which rendered him our second top scorer in the that season. I remained in awe that we had a player of his ability, strength and goal-threat up front. My youth here fully ensuring I was naively hopeful. Bless. A top 10 finish was an achievement back then, not that we got a trophy for it though- unlike a top 4 finish this year,apparently. Mido chucked away his promise and his future in a Spurs shirt after returning from the ACON unfit and overweight. I'd even heard that newly acquired Tom Huddlestone had given him dieting tips.

Emmanuel Adebyor has slowly but incredibly surely reminded me a little of Mido. Without doubt, Ade had a fantastic season last year. Even the handful of optimistic Spurs fans that exist (or so I've been told) couldn't have envisaged the devastating presence he held in our side and the damage he could do to the opposition. Movement, pace, strength, creativity and positioning; the forward had it all. Ironically, possibly the one attribute that did hold him back was in fact his shooting. What I enjoyed was his eagerness and hunger to get involved - almost acting as an extra midfielder at times.

His record stood proud for itself with Ade accumulating 17 goals and 11 assists in the Premier league alone last season. Although, it wasn't just goals and assists he provided. He brought with him a new dimension of how we played the game. Our football was second to none in the top flight. The style we played suited his personal style and gave our midfield the freedom to express themselves further up the pitch. His incredible impact last year certified that expectations for this year, naturally, were to match the season forgone.

But things haven't been quite as smooth.

Defoe's almost rebirth and mould into the lone forward role has seen Ade's influence been far more modest this season. Adebayor has featured in 13 games for Spurs this year: We've won 5, lost 5, hold a win percentage of 38% and have averaged just 1.38 points per game. Compare this to without Adebayor and thing's look a lot brighter: Played 8 - won 7 - lost 1. A win percentage of 88% with an average points per game of 2.63. Who'd have guessed it eh? Ade's inclusion in the side has actually had more of a detrimental effect on the side this year. That 'swagger', for lack of a better word, has evaporated and the player himself seems to have lost that hunger that gave him - and us - so much joy and confidence. He's surfing a different wave length to the rest of the side, impeding rather than facilitating our attacks.

Maybe it's more of a blessing that Ade has had a change of heart and chosen to partake in this year's African Cup of Nations.

Statistics don't lie, but by no means do they tell the whole picture. In this instance, they do. We've looked far more fluent in possession and quicker in attack with just Defoe playing upfront by himself. Ade tends to hold up the ball, ensuring his first touch is back towards our own goal instead of that of the opposition. I don't knock the attempt, at times, to hold up the ball and bring others in to the game when we are breaking but, more often than not, you want to break at pace and get an attempt on goal.

It's clearer than day that the cracks emerging in our lack of depth up front will be that little bit broader now half of our strike force will depart for the ACON although, could this be the almost 'breakthrough' that may actually force Levy to dip into the market and see if we can emerge with a forward of greater ability than Louis Saha? Could this be the kick that we need to lay down our intentions and bring in the goalscorer we need to push us that little further? I know, I'm hearing the same broken record as well.

Hope for Damiao, expect a recall for Kane. That's how I'm thinking this January. We're likely to promote a younger forward to the bench for the trip to QPR (should Ade have already departed) and there's every chance that this occurrence will be a regular until the Togolese returns. Ade will miss, possibly, 4 games or so. If Defoe picks up a knock or suspension then Ade's return should be constantly 'around the corner'.

I mentioned at the start that Ade reminded me of Mido. Of course, Ade's achieved far more in his career and has amounted to a better player. Mido offered so much promise to Tottenham Hotspur at such a modest age yet drifted off the path to a successful career. Hopefully Ade's stint in Africa can enlighten him back onto that path he was so freely following last season.

But I won't hold my breath.

Ben - Follow me on Twitter here

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Tottenham's New Hope.

A lot of fine things originated in Belgium. Chocolate, waffles, beer and "fries". If you haven't had a taste of the life in Belgium or found yourself stumbling around intoxicated on their culture, then I strongly recommend you do. Recently, Belgium have also gifted us a flurry of incredibly talented footballers. They remind me of on an old talented Croatian side from a few years back, emerging on to the scene, synonymous to how Belgium have emerged. For a national side that can so often slip under the footballing radar they have at their disposal the likes of Simon Mignolet, Dedryck Boyata, Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen, Jan Vertonghen, Marouane Fellaini, Mousa Dembele, Eden Hazard, along with three forwards (the latter 2 of which look very promising) in Kevin Mirallas, Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku.

We're lucky enough to grace ourselves with two of those fine Belgian's in the shape of Jan Vertonghen and Mousa Dembele. Two players in two positions that we were desperate to fill. Desperate to repair that spine that was so ruptured with player departures and injuries prior to September the 1st. It's more than warranted to say that both have lived up to (and exceeded in my opinion) the fairly humble expectation that was initially placed on their shoulders. They've become a monumental importance to any chance we may have of finishing in the top 4 or winning a piece of silverware that we - and our dear old close neighbours - have struggled to win frequently over the last twenty years. Lifting that 4th place trophy didn't prove too satisfying come the end of May.

After Modric chose to venture into pastures new, Dembele came in with hopes of slotting straight into the Croats big boots. In all honesty, he's done more than that. He hasn't been a like-for-like replacement by any stretch of the word - but he's brought a new dimension to the Centre Midfield role. In the past, we'd had holding players that were never the complete 'package' so-to-speak. We've had an array of midfielders that compromised one or two attributes for 'excelling' - to a humble extent - in others. We'd have Palacios who could tackle and not pass, Huddlestone who can pass but struggles in the tackle, Jenas.. erm, Tainio who again operated as more as utility man. This naming a minority, of course. I love Sandro, he adds balance and solidarity to the side; the only real thing lacking in his midfield armoury is the ability to drive forward effectively, beat a player and finish off with a nice pass. This here is where Dembele compliments him perfectly.

The Belgian is a different type of midfielder to Modric. He's similar to Sandro in that both are good at keeping the ball and dispossessing opponents. Although, Dembele brings more drive to the side. His strength on the ball has seen him (up to 1st December 2012) dispossessed just once every 125 minutes. He has the ability and prowess to glide past players then the composure to, more often than not, play a clever ball to a more advanced player. He's one to start off moves, his turn of pace and ability to break quickly in the centre of the pitch is something we've lacked for a few years. It's almost like having the influence of Micheal Carrick again. Someone that possesses a wealth of attributes in a key area of the field. Our win percentage when Dembele has started in the Premier League is around 78%, it's just a blessing that he's walked in and not needed time to settle. Without him, Spurs have lost 4 and won just 1 premier league game in which he hasn't started.

Mousa himself declares he's not another Luka Modric. He's not. Although he'll probably end up finishing the season with similar numbers in the goals and assists category to the Croatian. I do feel there are similarities between the two though. Both bring composure and a sense of calmness when on the ball. Of late, Dembele has been replaced by Parker towards the end of the game and we suddenly look a lot more nervy. Typically, this was the case against Everton, Swansea and -more recently - Reading, in which the away side had a number of good late chances to equalise after the Belgian had been taken off. I've loved seeing Scotty back, but I won't hide the fact that I'd have rather seen our Brazilian Sandro make the seemingly endless walk to the dugout. I do think this feat is something that often goes unnoticed. A player that is able to put the rest of the side at ease are far more prone to getting the job done and remaining focused than to panic every time the opposition enter our final third. Modric offered a similar attribute. With minutes to see out a game you could trust him to keep hold of the ball for as long as he felt necessary.

We still lack that creative spark in the centre, for now. Hopefully Holtby can prove the influential number 10 needed in Rafa's old role to make the forward tick. The 4-2-3-1 when attacking and 4-4-1-1 when defending is a system that has grown into Spurs. A system that compliments so many players and the only way forward I can see for next season. For now, we've stuck with 4-4-2, offering both Ade and Defoe playing time. I was initially a fan of seeing two forwards. Adebayor's insistence on coming deep turned the 4-4-2 on paper into a 4-2-3-1 anyway. Although, it's effectiveness has been alarmingly lacking of late. Sigurdsson seems more settled in that number 10 role behind Defoe and deserves his chance to start more often as the games come thick and fast.

A midfield trio of Dembele and Sandro with Holtby in front could prove to have the balance we've craved. I trust AVB will make them all tick. We've began the rebuilding of a new Tottenham spine. The midfield of it is looking incredible brittle with the creativity required in the final third arriving from overseas in July. The importance of Dembele this year has been second to none, if Holtby can come in and have a similar impact then we could, could, maybe, possibly, have something to be optimistic about.

Ben - Follow me on Twitter here

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

AVB's Christmas Party.

2012 did what Spurs did best. Offer so much promise for it to only crash and burn. Any fond memories deceive me. I won't riddle you with finer details - what went wrong, who was to blame. Everyone has their own opinion  and mine has been available online for months now.

Although, what I have enjoyed, is a resurgent Tottenham Hotspur. We seem to be grabbing games by the scruff of the neck more as the season has worn on. Last year it was tough to identify a real problem area. Sure, another forward would've been nice - a convenience. The true strength in depth we'd craved for so long. But with Ade proving pinnacle up top and with JD waiting in the wings when needed, even then it would've proven more knit-picking than priority.

We've actually addressed our problem of conceding late and all credit to AVB for making changes when they were needed - and they have been needed. I put this down to the side growing into the pressing game that AVB has encouraged the side to pursue and, as a result, we find more and more sides falling into our offside trap. Earlier on in the season, we found ourselves sitting on the edge of our own 18 for large chunks of games. We gave the opposition an open invitation to enjoy possession at our own ground and, at the same time, giving them free access to lump balls into our box. Of late, I've noticed that we press the opposition in midfield far quicker and far smarter than we had. We've cut out their killer balls. We're quick to press opponents' first touch and force them backwards.  Previously, we'd allowed the opponent far more time on the ball before a lacklustre and disappointing attempt at shutting out said opponent. We've grown into this pressing game and are far more intelligent with it.

AVB was given Tottenham with the spine torn from the body. A retired Ledley King, an injured Kaboul, a Modric that fancied more Sun and trophies than wet nights away in Stoke, an injured Parker and - to begin - a missing Adebayor. Not one tear was heard (or seen) dropping from the glorious eyes of our newly appointed Portuguese boss and, instead, like great managers do, he adapted and worked with what he had given.

He redefined the lone striker role. The Portuguese convincing Levy to offer Defoe not only a two year deal but the confidence and belief that any forward craves. He's shown us that the one forward player doesn't need to be a big target man when you have both pace and an eye for goal. Given, Defoe has his faults. He'll one day admit to being born offside. Although standing on the shoulder of the last man is part of Defoe's game and, inevitably, offsides will come. Last year I remember the tirade many of us had with the side for seemingly being to shy to shoot and this is partly why I don't mind Defoe looking for goal before the pass. He will get it wrong, at times, but more often than not he'll find the target.

We find ourselves half way through the season and have enjoyed a successful Christmas that offers a fair summary of AVB's current tenure at Spurs. He's brought the best out in players who seem to be playing more as a unit and with far more belief than what the start of the season seemed to offer.

Aaron Lennon is one that has brought so much more to his game in the last 4 months than he has in the last season or 2. Not only has his crossing impressed but also his variety of crossing has been something that has impressed me. Whether a whipped in ball or a little 'dink' to the far post, he's put in more successful than unsuccessful crosses this year. He's also finding himself with far more space this year, roaming from left to right and, at times, in the centre, to drive at the opposition. He looks for the ball far earlier and constantly finds himself tracking back to help out at the back. Often unnoticed, this is something that can ease the pressure on the full-back and also offers a great opportunity in which to counter.

We'll have days in which the inevitable questions will be raised from those short-minded of you regarding AVB's position (again, oh and again) and, of course, Andre Villas-boas finds himself just 21 Premier League games into his Spurs season.

But, at the moment, he's smashing expectation - and we're loving it.

Ben - Follow me on Twitter here