I was once stranded in Birmingham after a midweek away game, must have been in the seventies. At the time, British Rail were trumpeting their wonderful new service from Euston to New Street – ‘an Inter City train every half an hour!’ Now you should know that I check and re-check everything. No stone is left unturned, no pocket left unchecked, timetables, back-up journeys and alternative routes, spare cash. The mantra of: ‘keys – money – handkerchief – glasses – season ticket (match days only)’ has served me well since childhood and I see no reason to change now.
But on this occasion, the advertising, the bright lights, the lure of the Inter City as the transport of the future, all lulled me into a false sense of security. I wasn’t expecting one every half an hour in the late evening but I did not anticipate that the last train left Birmingham at 9.35pm. Childhood illusions shattered and I’ve never trusted adverts since. I discovered this fact only when I arrived back at the station at 9.36, after a frankly edgy walk from the ground. After a couple of hours, BR kindly extended the last train originally destined for Northampton so I finally reached Euston in the early hours.
I bear Birmingham, the city, the club and its fans no ill will however. I’m sure they will be overjoyed to hear this. Even now the Mayor is breathing a sigh of relief. Mind you, Spurs will be in for a tough time tomorrow. Brum have maintained an excellent run, their defeat last Saturday notwithstanding, on the back of hard work, application and organisation. And the marshmallow boys don’t cope very well with all of that, now do we?
Since the home game the only time that I have seen more than their highlights was their home fixture earlier this season against Blackburn, which in fairness probably does not do them justice as it was a rotten game. They defended resolutely, with their centre halves not budging from well-protected fortifications at the edge of their box. They headed everything away with a frightening determination to be first to the ball. Bowyer and Ferguson will bristle in front of them and they may be happy to spend periods penned back, absorbing the pain and hitting us on the break.
If Kranjcar is fit then he should replace Bentley, and there’s always the question marks over King, but otherwise the team should be the same. The temptation to pair Keane and Defoe in an attempt to shift the defence around is offset by Keane’s lethargic form, so again my plea is for Luka and Nico to get on the ball, pass and move, knock it around and wait for the opening. More long balls and crosses like the first half against Fulham and Birmingham will treat it as heading practice. Bale’s strikes from deep could be pivotal, especially as the match goes on.
Opposing us will be a man who was once, like Bale, young, swift and carefree. Flying down the wing, Steve Carr was a fine overlapping full-back in his prime. He developed from a hesitant, callow youth into a terrific player, although he was probably better coming forward than defensively. He suffered from being part of an average team, but just as we hoped to reap the benefits of his maturity, he was injured and never the same player again. When he returned he was, well, big. As full fitness returned he never really lost that. He was muscled and strong, using his experience well, but had lost the pace that made him special.
He left us under a cloud, trusting that Newcastle would bring him the success he desired. And a giant pay packet, no doubt. We get a bit worked up when he returns to the Lane but in all honesty it’s rather half-hearted: he was hardly irreplaceable at the time of his departure.
Meanwhile, I’m sure that if I lived in the Tottenham area, I would at this very moment be preparing a streetparty to welcome Eidur Gudjohnson…..no I’m not exactly overwhelmed either. Still, it’s the sort of deal Harry loves, experience at a bargain price, and he has a history of getting the best from players who are slipping from the peak of their careers. Gudjohnson at his peak was a clever player, able to move around up front, use the channels and set up chances as well as take them. He could also interchange between midfield and the box as the flow of the game required. Sounds a bit like Robbie Keane really…. We can’t lose with this kind of deal. No fee, not tied into a long term contract and a reported £30k a week.
I would still keep Pav – as I’ve said before, I would not let any of the top players go until the end of the season with the possible exception of Bentley. The CL place demands 100% focus and I am increasingly frustrated with the effect Crouch has on our fluency. But I don’t wish to complain too much, and if he departs, Gudjohnson will be his replacement.
At the time of writing it looks highly likely that Kaboul will return, joined by the excellent goalie Bercovic (apologies if his name is misspelt). I always considered Kaboul to be a good prospect but he was red raw during his first spell with us. He’s improved since then and although I would have preferred more experience, assuming we will once again mug Portsmouth he’ll be value for money. A good deal for the two of them – Bercovic is impressive.