Monday Monday, Can’t Trust That Day…

It’s hard to get past that moment, round and round, an endless loop tape in my head. Looking down from behind the goal, the scene populated by characters who hit their marks, a denouement scripted by fate and played out in slow motion. Dawson slips and the net is open. In reality it passed in less than a second but time enough elapsed, from the losing of grip to opponent’s roar, for the entire story to play out in my mind.  Plucky underdogs had come this far through a combination of disciplined effort and an off-colour Spurs performance, our endeavours blunted by a lack of full fitness and a stodgy surface. Pompey had more of the ball than we would wish but apart from a few scares, nothing that Gomes, Bassong and Dawson couldn’t handle. Then our brave indomitable captain, as ever taking responsibility in the danger area, alert to the danger, moved to snuff it out and secure safety. He took an age to slip, limbs splayed like a steeplechaser falling after Beecher’s, eyes on the ball and still in his determination trying, desperately, hopelessly, trying to stop the ball rolling onwards.

Someone was due a major embarrassment over the weekend because of that pitch, but of all the people I wish it were not Michael Dawson. Destined to be shown endlessly on TV and Road to Wembley DVD’s, maybe even the ultimate indignity of What Happened Next? on a Question of Sport, no one is less deserving of being immortalised so. They all have a place in my hearts, but our captain epitomizes the spirit and commitment that Tottenham need. He’s an example for the whole side, with a single-minded focus on denying the opposition in the box, fierce concentration and above all he makes the most of his talent. Not the most gifted, he nevertheless plays to his strengths and I would rather have all of Daws than most of more naturally gifted footballers.

In my last piece I spoke of the Semi-final Moment, the time when in every semi-final, the tide of optimism turns to be replaced by a realisation that defeat is possible. Not likely necessarily, just an option. For me it came around the usual time, 15 or 20 minutes in, when Gomes easily saved a deflected shot. Remember this is about emotion not sober analysis. It was a reminder that although we had the better side and were on top at the time, all it took was one deflection, slice of good fortune or slight error in an otherwise strong position. But it was another, later incident, that a sent a cold shiver down my spine. It was around 70 minutes or so, we had a spell of superiority that resulted in a few near misses and several corners. Pompey moved up field but Gomes saved, as he did so often and with such authority all match. Swiftly he moved to distribute the ball from hand to launch a counter attack.

Nothing. No one wanted the ball. Trotting slowly upfield with backs turned towards their keeper, the message could not have been more clear. We were knackered. More than that, nobody wished to take on the responsibility of overcoming the dual effects of weary legs and formidably organised opponents, who spread out across the pitch and not only pressed and harried but also tellingly did not allow our wide men to reach the byline. I felt physically sick for the rest to the match.

To be debilitated by injury is a fact, not an excuse, so there will always be the what-ifs of our potential of the fully fit squad. However, although the cloying surface didn’t help, we made it look like quicksand. There was so much more that we could have done. Defoe never looked sharp whereas Pav was much brighter as soon as he came on and should have started. Corluka had gone well before extra time, while the match passed Hud by almost completely. Injuries obviously reduce pace and stamina but they also sow seeds of doubt in the minds of the suffering players. A half yard slower here, a fraction of second’s delay with a decision there, and your man is off form. For example, well before the end, Corluka, whose legs move anyway as if stuck in quick drying cement, hung back a couple of yards in the defensive line so by compensating for his lack of speed he gave Pompey’s forwards more room.

Huddlestone suffered the most. Apart from his near match-winning first half left footer, he was hugely disappointing yesterday. Just as he has reached the point where his value to the side is universally appreciated, he disappears. We want him to be available, to move it on, to sweep the passes and sometimes to lumber forward into the danger areas at the edge of the box. All this was missing. The fact is, whether it is the conditions on the pitch or in the mind, players have to adjust. There was enough time out there. Hud did not have to launch himself into tackles – if you know your footing is bad then stay upright and don’t slide in. More harmful for our hopes was that the surface took all the pace from the pass, yet Hud, master passer, could have taken this into account.

Modric played in fits and starts. His movement was better but finishing poor. He did well enough but only in short spells, then faded as he presumably took a breather. He did OK but we needed better. Moreover, he did not link well with Gareth Bale. This left side is of course our most potent attacking weapon, yet Bale cannot do it all on his own, although goodness he tried hard enough towards the end when his effort and desire could not be faulted. Most of our effective attacking came from him and though not at his best he deserves praise, but he needs some help. He needs options as he goes forward, targets in the box and someone to play one-twos with. Luka didn’t offer that frequently enough. To compound the problem, the same thing happened on the other wing where Bentley and Corluka behaved as if they had never been introduced. No combination play considerably reduced Bentley’s effectiveness because he can’t beat a man.

This was the decisive tactical element of the game. We seldom reached the byline and therefore delivered a series of innocuous crosses from deep, further and further out as the game progressed. Bentley also failed to put over a decent corner. Pompey stayed wide in midfield and made it more difficult. It was decisive because Harry had placed his faith in Peter Crouch. You could see why, towering as he did several inches above their tallest defender, but with lousy service for most of the afternoon, he, and we, got nowhere. Rocha was in his element. Not the greatest, he’s nevertheless a shrewd operator. He does not give ground in the box when challenged, so with his good upper body strength he did just enough to put Crouchie off. And let’s be honest, it doesn’t take a lot to put him off. Despite all of this, he had the chances to win this game and blew it. I’ve remarked before that what frustrates me most about him is that even when he rises high to win the ball he doesn’t do enough with it, but Wembley was not the time to provide further evidence for my theory. On my predictive text, ‘Crouch’ comes up as ‘crotch’. That says it all for me.

Another word of praise for Gomes – did everything that was asked of him and saved us on the few occasions that Pompey broke through.

At the finish the players sought the sanctuary of the dressing room with indecent haste but I was still there, as were others. They could have, should have come a little closer. We win and lose together, and a moment’s acknowledgement would have been kind. On the tube home, one of their fans, after starting to tease my daughter, derisively asked me how money I had wasted. ‘Nothing’, I replied, ‘Being there is what matters.’ This seemed to satisfy him so he and his mates resumed their verbal fisticuffs with a couple of other Spurs fans that we had inadvertently interrupted. I wish Pompey fans well, genuinely so and despite this brutish, racist quartet, they are pleasant, loyal and have had their club destroyed by the worst kind of owners. Their injury list was far worse than ours, but with admittedly limited ambitions, they performed admirably and their supporters will be justifiably proud of them this morning. Their club will survive because of the passion of their fans, who made so much noise yesterday, and I hope they do.

With a rested Arsenal on Wednesday and Man City rampant, suddenly this momentous week is in danger of turning rapidly into one of doom. Maybe that’s a reflection of my gloomy frame of mind this morning. We were poor but had more than enough chances to win.  But nagging away is a word that I threatened readers with on a regular basis earlier in the season,one which has disappeared from TOMM of late: resilience. Injuries, poor tactics, mistaken team selection, all are factors, but ultimately I fear that we were done for by the absence of mental strength in the biggest match this team has so far faced. With Arsenal, Chelsea, Man Utd and the fight for Europe head,  a bad Monday does not  not auger well for the next 7 days.

15 thoughts on “Monday Monday, Can’t Trust That Day…

  1. What annoys me the most is the totally frustrating predictability of our game when a team decides to flood the midfield and park the bus.

    Hopeful (hopeless) balls into the box to players that are useless in the air just won’t work, at least not all the time. It hasn’t worked in a good number of games this season; games that should have yielded more points, and it didn’t work yesterday. It’s a percentage game where the percentages aren’t in your favour if you’re looking to do more than just stay in the Premier League.

    Time and time again the ball went out to a wide player, then everyone just bombs into the box waiting for a cross. If this isn’t predictable enough for the Pompey defenders, if it’s coming from the right, they then have the benefit of having all the time in the world to position themselves while Bentley and Corluka saunter down the right (is there a slower right flank in the league?).

    Where is the movement and creativity? The blame lies squarely at the feet of Redknapp and his stuck in the mud 4-4-2 formation. He’s a meat and two veg man; the two vegetables in question being the beanpole and Defoe.

    I’m not against 4-4-2 per se, but there are times when we need to try something different. Barring Redknapp’s misadventure at an attempted 4-3-3 earlier in the season, which was more to do with trying to shoehorn his favorites into the same side, we’ve tried nothing else. Does he even know who our best two up front are?

    Redknapp was quoted in the paper defending his sole use of 4-4-2 by saying the club hasn’t got a striker who can play alone up top in games where we could do with another player in the midfield. Why not? He’s had three transfer windows to buy one.

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    • Yep.

      Those strikers are in short supply and the entire world is searching for them, but underlying Redknapp’s comments is a false assumption, namely that the flexibility has to come with only one up front. Whatever the numbers, movement and versatility is the key and is perfectly possible from a variety of formations.

      Our problem is that the majority of our players are best in a single defined role, e.g. Crouch up front with Defoe playing off him. Harry is good at putting those pieces together and it’s often worked this season but it is of limited use at the highest level.

      Thanks for the comment, TM. Al

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  2. Very well put and very true except you left a few home truths out firstly you forgot like all supporters do in the heat of the battle what conspired to beat a team on paper far superior in every department. The one thing all these shock results have in common both in England Scotland and Europe is The Energy levels and another observation is players can play in Midfield or at the back or in some cases having a depleted squad makes no different s to the overhaul performance. This has bean the case in all the teams that have beaten Spurs this year its sad to say but we where never going to win this game on the field or off the field . All week we have had to watch the soap opera unfold on sky with the sad grumpy face of Grant in charge of a team on death row every day the waters where getting muddier. Firstly we had the announcement that the price money would go to Pompy then we heard Dindane could play after missing both our game and Citys with this four Millon clause that disappeared then we are told most of the team wont be able to play in the final and to had insult we had Grant asking for Ohara to play and some of our players started making excuses for leaving Pompy by saying i never asked to leave Defoe Crouch and Kranjcar Kaboul all feeling sad and not in a ruthless mood to batter a wounded club with more sympathy than in reality they should not have bean given. That is just the off the field troubles we faced on it was a more murky affair firstly the Referee he had some previous with Spurs in the Leeds penalty and with our capt Dawson secondly he allowed Pommpy pumped up and full of Energey to savage all the players comming back from injury and if you had looked closer Huddlestone got some preety rough treatmen on his already weak ankle and he never fully recovered from Mr Nastie Browns tackles .After 30 mins i walked out and never watched another min till the last few of injury time just in time to see Boteng run like he had just started with a red scald looking body and face of Energy abuse the same reason i walked away and couldn’t watch the game .You see this is the year of High Tempo and is a major reason for blocks tackles saves that can stop the best teams winning and the Bookmakers rich .The real winners are the The Premier League who have bankroll Portsmouths survival the Fa who appointed the incompetent Referee Administrator who has played the sympathy ticket along with Grumpy Grant and the puplic who have bean conned by a fat Arab with no money that even i new had now money and was sacked by is own Company Mr Schofield this was a game we where never going to win even if we did have 62 percent of the play. The plot is still going on and City flyers have wiped the one thing that we could have helped us to fourth our goal difference. And we have another Referee who cant see a goal 3ft over the line for the Arsenal game the same man suspended for having a forty thousand Gambling dept in is locker. This is the Year no Money and Plenty of Money has ruined our Season sad mad DAVSPURS.

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  3. Probably largely agree with the belief that Rednapps lowered Pompey mk2
    with tints is not a blue print ever before seen at the Lane. He bottled
    it yesterday yet again and our boys only followed suite. Seeing the starting line
    up instantly had me cringing shrieking and pulling my hair out..the whole
    premiership even the seemingly derranged and retarted (commentry )teams
    know what to expect. besides the fact that Pav clearly showed his superiority
    inarguably he along side the masterful Eider start on the bench…Ohh while
    Im at it ….how good really is MOdric….though I feel the lack of tactical
    nouse from his manager hold’s him back. CRouch….is an complete and utter
    football outcast and reprobate, his footballing lacks an all roundedness
    like that of a fkin hexagonal cube. Yet on we go ….got lennon and co to
    come back. I now believe truely that Rednapp has reached the end of his
    offerings, he lacks real pedigree and class. Defoe is occasional at best..
    its not a coinsidence that he couldnt break the first team over the years…
    one of the best..no chance (One of the rest)more like. Lets get our prayer
    books out for tasks which lay imminently ahead.
    COYS

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  4. Interesting to note the behaviour of fans. I took my 11 year old son to the game and on the way we stopped at the 02 Centre on Finchley Road. The place was full of Spurs and Pompey fans and there was a lot of good natured banter and chanting. That was until a group of 6 Portsmouth idiots started chanting Woah Nazi Nazi, Nazi Nazi Nazi Nazi Germany, while all standing doing Nazi salutes. Obviously a response to the Spurs chants of Yid Army, but nonetheless, something I hadn’t witnessed from football “fans” for some considerable time.
    However, having told my son that these fellows from the South Coast probably didn’t have much of a life and certainly lacked his own intelligence, the group of Spurs supporters stood behind us at the stadium made me ashamed of our own. Referring to every black player on the pitch as “Coons” (even our own)and having a laugh about the best way to bring back racism at football, made me feel sick to be associated in any way with these inbreds. Every club has its idiot supporters I know and these incidents only confirm that – however, enough is enough. I will be reporting our own fan to our club and hope they will be able to identify him and cancel his membership.
    One other thing I noticed yesterday was wearing of colours. When we beat Chavski a couple of years back, more of our fans wore colours and we were clearly hungrier for the victory. A great day that was too. Yesterday, it was Portsmouth’s turn – a veritable army of blue. They were bloody lucky to win, but I genuinely believe that amazing support can make amazing things happen on the pitch. It was always a potential banana skin for Spurs and I can’t help thinking we may have got more joy out of Villa or 2he1sea. As others have noted, we haven’t done very well out of teams who flood midfield and park the bus. At least our next 3 opponents won’t do that (they don’t need to do they). If we can put this behind us and somehow live without Wilson, and if we can get 3 points from the next 3 games, it’s just possible we’ll still be in with a shout. Got to keep the faith.

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    • Thanks for dropping by, Mr Fish. My son was also in the O2 and sadly reported the same thing, but even sadder to hear Spurs fans coming out with this rank filth. Spurs have always avoided the worst of the racism, sure these are in a minority.

      Take care,

      Al

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  5. Just popped in for the wake Alan.
    Think you underestimate Modric and his contribution to the game.
    But now is not the time.
    Pass me a vol au vent and I’ll just sit here quietly in the corner and cuddle this lager.
    Thanks

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  6. Mental toughness; a much needed thing at the business end of the season and something that cannot be bought or i’d buy 2 tubs to help my golf game!

    Portsmouth played like they might win if they stuck at it we played like we would win because something would come along no need to dig deep and going looking. At the start of the game there are only 2 teams and 3 possible results (reduced to 2 yesterday). Either is possible. When will we learn this instead of thinking we’re better than them so it is our match.

    Roll reversal Wednesday but will Arsenal make that error? Let’s hope so.

    Let’s get behind Daws from the start to build back his confidence as he’s rebuilt ours in him this season.

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    • Hi Mac,

      In the end we weren’t tough enough, the mind was weaker event than the flesh. Play like that tomorrow and we will get slaughtered.

      Cheers, Al

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    • I know the doctor doesn’t interfere with human events, but let’s face it, you do, so can your sonic screwdriver fix it for us tomorrow..

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  7. I actually fancied our chances for once against the goons but without Wilson + Lennon I don’t think we have much of a chance. Pity because our first XI vs theirs would be quite a game and I think we would stuff them. Unfortunately there is not enough strength in depth in our squad to cope when the business end of a season comes around. Still, maybe tomorrow they will surprise me. Hope so.

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  8. I would give Pompy the Cup if we could get Lennon back this is more serious than the Energetic theory . Firstly them chemically damaged idiots ( drugs) Spurs Fans being racist .I said after Lennons performance in the England game and is body language after he has bean tapped up .Then this groin problem if this is real he should have is operation for is Hernia stroke groin injury and sadly miss the world cup. But if he makes a miracle recovery when our top four ambitions have receded then he will be hated more than Campbell and Berbatov who also stopped playing after January. Unlike my Energy theory i have evidence of that this is all down to speculation and Harrys statements to the press twice the little man has bean flying and then announced he is sore Harry then says he has had a little set back. I have spent years in Hospitals in Orthopedic Wards and i cannot believe Lennon has bean out for nearly six months and not improved one bit . We must have the worse Medical staff in Football we have scans yet we cant fix the little man and the way he gets tackled his future looks bleak and this looks hauntingly like our friend sick note mark 2 all over again. This injury started against Stoke and Harrys spat on the touchline and Lennon walking of and Harry criticizing him in is column inches and on Tv he later cooled of and backtracked from blaming Lennon . Football the great game is being ruined by Russians Arabs and Americans in there battle for Glory there is no weapons just Money and big egoes and Football is getting dragged into murky energized bad referring tapping up front page Waters Get our main man fit or we will fail to beat energized five man midfield’s and lose our team to oil money (120 liter )and we will be paying for it.Coys 3-1 if Clattenburgh is has generous has oil rich Chelseas ref Was las night

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