New Dawn? Just That Same Old Feeling

The media have taken a solemn and binding oath never to say a bad word about Harry Redknapp. He’s teflon-coated, surrounded by a legion of sycophantic pundits who at the slightest hint of a problem adopt Roman strategy and surround their man with an impenetrable wall of shields. Spurs fans ringing the phone-ins who dare speak his name in vain are showered with ridicule, for example.

I was going to write about this at the end of the season, when we can properly and soberly reflect on a season of wildly fluctuating emotions, but suitably deflated after West Brom’s equaliser, this seems as good a time as any to bring the subject up. It’s a remarkable achievement in an era where the media covers football as never before, not merely examining their subjects with a fine tooth comb but individually picking out each and every head-louse, then sticking that under a microscope. If they can’t find a louse, they’ll invent one.

Yet Redknapp is immune. I can’t recall the last time I read or heard any sustained critique of his managership at Tottenham from a professional pundit. Any suggestion of negativity is met with snorts of derision, not even examined but immediately and forcefully ruled out of bounds. No other manager has such protection, not even Alex Ferguson. Nothing sticks, rather like Pav trying to trap the ball yesterday.

How did the ball get over there?

I am genuinely and sincerely grateful for the progress made by Tottenham Hotspur under Harry Redknapp. Harry bless him has obviously been told to stop intoning his mantra but for once I’ll save him the trouble: I have not forgotten that we did have 2 points from 8 games. To me that seems like if not yesterday, then only last week. The tilt at fourth place, the Champions League, the players, the football, all of this I’ve loved and will never forget. Building  a team takes time and I’m not impatient. I’m not expecting overnight success. However, Harry’s mantra can’t hide the problems and in the midst of the final few games that will define the season as one of success or failure, the old problems that we hoped had gone away have bubbled back to the surface.

Redknapp had a bad game yesterday. Starting with the team selection, he ignored the evidence that the pairing of Crouch and Pavyluchenko had worked pretty well. Now this was Harry’s selection in the first place and he deserves the credit: TOMM regulars will know that whilst I love each and every one of my lovely boys, Crouch is not my favourite son. Yet it’s been good so unless there was an injury, I saw no reason to break it up.

Harry will say, of course, that the job of a striker is to score goals and both did yesterday. However, there is no hiding from the reality that both were downright awful. Our problems stemmed from the fact that JD was never in the game (if he touched the ball at all in the first 20 minutes then I missed it) and Pav’s ball-control was a comic tour de force worthy of top billing at the Edinburgh festival. Leading the line is not his game, there’s been plenty of evidence over the years. He’s fine if he can push the ball a metre ahead of him. Do that, suddenly he’s a world-beater, as he was against Chelsea at home and yesterday he took his chance superbly. Then, as West Brom closed us down and left us no room in the box, he and Defoe looked so ordinary and ineffective. Time and again we played the ball to him, only to see it ping back from his rubber boots. When they call strikers ‘spring-heeled’, this is not what they had in mind.

It was odd not to see Benny up and down that wing. He’s been injured before but his presence is reassuring somehow. I missed him after he went off and so did Gareth Bale. He was at fault to some extent for the early goal, giving the player too much room inside him. However, he managed to get back, as he so often does, and the slip/injury did us in. Well-taken but so much room. Old failings.

Pav's boots are made of revolutionary new material

Sandro came on and had an excellent game, adding attacking drive and bounce to his defensive work. However, to fit him in required our two best players, Modric and Bale, to move out of position. This weakened our team more than if we had brought on Bassong, not a full-back and certainly not ideal but a quick and competent defender. Luka’s body language when he heard the news was a picture. He visibly slumped.

Taking of body language, an expert on Radio 4 said that tugging or touching the neck was the surest sign on a person that something was up. Feel free to use that in your next poker game or contract negotiation. As the game wore on, my neck resembled that of a turkey in early December. We never kicked on after our equaliser. It was one of those ‘nearly’ performances. Lots of good passes or touches that nearly came off but not quite. The pass looked a good one but was just cut out, or the flick opened up the defence – almost. In games like these, what begins as promising and inventive becomes over-optimistic and downright naive, as time after the moves broke down. Credit to West Brom here. Even though we pushed them further and further back towards their own goal, their defensive shield did not crack and they were always able to break quickly.We ended up trying to pass through the eye of a needle. Nothing to aim for up front because nothing was going on.

My neck

We needed a change but were treated to a mystifying substitution. For better or worse, usually better, throughout the season we’ve played with two wide men, Lennon and Bale, and this is the shape where we feel comfortable. Not only that, the combination of width and extra pace was ideal to stretch and break down the resolute WBA defence, so for the life of me I can’t see why Lennon stayed left. I can only presume that Harry wanted to double-team our opponents who had Brunt filling back to protect the full-back from Bale’s runs. Instead, it cluttered everything up and neither player was half as effective as they might have been.

Moreover, it left Kaboul unprotected on our left, as VDV was cutting inside at every opportunity. Several times WBA exploited this themselves. They found it easier to get two on one than we did. Kaboul did well enough in the circumstances but WBA had several opportunities, scoring from one, an admittedly excellent shot from deep but still Cox had plenty of room. He may well never score another like that in his career but that’s not the point. We were unbalanced by the formation.

On 5Live, after the obligatory ‘it’s been a great season’ Harry muttered something along the lines of, ‘I suppose we could be more defensive but that’s not how we are’, then he let the sentence trail away. This isn’t a precise quote as at the time the topical storm over east London had turned the North Circ into a tributary of the Ganges, not the best moment to discover that there was something wrong with my windscreen wipers. Well actually Harry, that’s precisely how we should be at times like that. Fair play again, in the bad old days we would not have fought back to go 2-1 up and that is much of the manager’s doing. However, even if we had had Lennon back on the right we would have been not only more solid to protect the hard fought lead, we could have still attacked on the break.

Rafa had a fine second half. Coming off his wing he worked tirelessly, prompting and probing, looking for an opening. Much more effective when he doesn’t drop deep, this is his position, in the area in front of the back four. However his and the runs of others were too often lateral rather than penetrating. The West Brom midfield shield pushed them across. No width and they weren’t stretched out of shape. Kaboul could not attack because he was occupied with defensive considerations. Luka had a decent rather than commanding game. Tiring towards the end, even slightly off colour and out of position he remained inventive, but there was so little room.

So Rafa ran hard but he did not run back. Two up front plus Rafa, that’s three out of the reckoning when they had the ball and that’s too much, especially at a time when we were a goal up. I enjoy the cavalier football but there is a time and a place for caution. Unbalanced and unprotected, West Brom could get at our back four all too easily. One on one, Dawson did very well and Gallas was OK. However, left one on one, unprotected, they are left with an invidious choice. Dive in and there’s no one behind. Stand off and our opponents have space to create, or in this case line up a curling shot that they wouldn’t have the time to do in training. The midfield are there to protect, and survive, but they were absent. Redknapp should have reorganised.

Same old story. Weak up front and not converting our superiority into goals and points. midfield not defending. Without taking anything away from a well-organised and determined West Brom team, these points dropped against teams we should have beaten have virtually done for our hopes of the CL. Never mind that, now we are looking over our shoulders and the key match of the season is now the trip not to Manchester but to Anfield. What a waste.

28 thoughts on “New Dawn? Just That Same Old Feeling

  1. you lot are pathetic. What happened to the being graceful when you lose? we’ve had a magic rollercoaster season and have come up just short. Yes we have had disapointments and in hindsight we wonder what would have happened if we had done this or that but its utterly pointless. We should simply say well done and thank you to teh team for a superb cha,pions league experience and a good effort in the league. Now we go away, strenghten if we can and go again next year. What did you lot expect anyway?? City have spent a fortune and will do until they overtake us, we were always on borrowed time. Some of you need to wake up to reality. We are a top 6 team, no more, no less. With our ground sixe and wage stucture we have no right to be any higher than 6th. You are delluded and you make me sick.

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  2. My sentiments exactly. And if you, I and ( I am sure) many others, could see the lopsided formation with Bale, Modders and Lennon on the left coupled with Van der Vaart cutting in off the right wing and right across the pitch, I am amazed – no, make that outraged – that our managerial lot didn’t see or did nothing to address this schoolboy situation. Up 2:1 and final 15 minutes: Sit and hope time? Surely not at this level!

    What a waste!

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  3. Good analysis. I think we will look back on this season as a very costly one in years to come. I think Harry made a few mistakes yesterday but he has tried all sorts of combinations against weaker sides and we continue to drop points which suggests to me, it’s the players rather than the manager. Too many easy chances to kill games off missed. I’m sure I heard a fat lady burst into song behind me just before fulltime!

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  4. Can’t argue with that really.
    You articulate the point well that while we are grateful, and it is not “Arry Out” we are entitled to ask questions of the Dear Leader, and we do have more expectations than he seems to now.

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  5. A well constructed piece but please explain this to me Story a failed defender for Aston Villa Meite a failed defender was he at Bolton Reid a Midfielder failed ex Blackburn and injury prone Olson never heard of him according to you stopped us from scoring more goals. Why have we faced teams on paper there for the taking yet when the enter the field they turn into a brick wall full of blocks tackles bundles of energised players who defend in numbers for the whole game without tiring. If you learn the secret then you may just be less critical of Harry and you are right about Liverpool but when they play teams with a D before there name they will also lose points the D is for teams who are desperate for points. You are right about Harry sometimes he makes the mistake of underestimating teams energy levels and desperation fo points Lennon should have started Gomes should have bean benched after the Wolves game he has turned into a flat footed octopus with shrunken tentacles and its him who helped us lose these games Madrid Wolves West brom Arsenal with shocking foot work and limp hand saves and this is Harry s biggest mistake. Gomes mind and is his legs are not on the same wave length and this is why Nasri Ronaldo and Cox tried a long shot in the first place the same thing happened to Paul Robinson and Jol tried to remedy this by letting him play his way back into form he failed and we concede a record amount of long goals by players who had not scored and Gomes is in the same form that seen Robbo sold . Harry should remember this Cudicini is a better shot stopper than Gomes and Gomes was better at commanding his area but lately Gomes has lost this part of his game and can now be seen wandering from is area and also flat footed both goals could have bean saved by a keeper on his toes and alert something at the moment is missing from Gomes and a rest will cure this last year injury helped him regain his form now its got to be Harry leaving him out.

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  6. Playground football will win nothing at this level.

    Tactically, Redknapp is stumbling around like a punch drunk bum. What exactly are Bond, Jordan, Allen, Sherwood and Ferdinand doing. We have regressed.

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  7. harry is out of his depth. he may well be a good motivator but his tactics are very poor. even against arsenal when it was 3-3 he took a striker off and put a midfielder on when he knew we really had to win the game and at that point we had the better of the play and was asking questions of arsenal.

    as for yesterday his team selection was wrong, left both lennon and crouch on the bench which made no sense as lennon only played for around half an hour at arsenal and crouch always wins headers and brings others into the game. JD was terrible yesterday the only thing he done right all day was score but his overall game was probably one of the worst i have seen of him since his started playing football he wasn’t involved in the game at all. as for pav he took his goal well but his touch was poor and struggled to hold the ball up.

    it was obvious that our strikers are not good enough, redknapp had the whole of the january transfer window to bring someone in and failed to do so. yet he was trying to being in another midfielder in charlie adam who wouldn’t get in the team for 1 and 2 we already have about 10 midfielders.

    on a positive note sandro was top draw again yesterday. how harry picks tom huddlestone over sandro is beyond a laughing matter, sandro is twice the player of huddlestone. he is quicker, more athletic and is much stronger in the tackle and is a better box to box player. the game yesterday seemed to pass tom by as it seemed the pace was too quick for him.

    i would also like to point out harrys subs, when he brought lennon on he put him on the left. everyone knows that lennon don’t have a left foot and he can hardly cross with his right let alone his left. But what was strange is that we had bale already on the left that was causing trouble yet on our right we had nothing at all. VDV wanted to cut in all the time and so did modric when he was on the left, not only is it a waste of a players ability playing them out of position but it makes it easy for teams to mark us as everything was very narrow.

    liverpool are now only 3 points behind us and we still have to play them away, if they manage to finish above us many questions will be asked if harry is the right man for the job

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    • Great point about Huddlestone and Sandro. We have to play with at least one defensive player in midfield to stand a chance of winning any game. Huddlestone is not a defensive player. This has been such a glaring error in Redknapp’s starting selections, I’m beginning to wonder if he should be replaced sooner rather than later if a successor can be found.

      His inability to realise foolish mistakes and accept criticism is really beginning to grate. Yes, he has done a good job to get us into the CL and then on to the QFs, but there has to come a time when that relative success is no longer used as an excuse for unacceptable league form against teams which have much less resource.

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  8. Oh dear, we’re back to assuming that sides must read the script and play accordingly. WBA played well and deserved the draw. Pav and Defoe were awful (goals apart). We looked jaded and in the last 15-20 ,out on our feet. I had enough trouble getting myself ‘up’ for this game after Weds high, I fully expected an equal low and wasn’t wrong, its football, there is no science, its sometimes just the way it pans out. If we fail to qualify for the CL, its because of 38 games, not the final 10 or so. As for Harry, well he’s coming to terms with managing a big club. He makes mistakes, plenty of them IMHO, but he has also worked a minor miracle once and perhaps twice simply isn’t feasible. We need new blood, especially up front, but we also need funds and ‘streamline’ our outgoings.For those romantic think that money grows on trees or there’s a Santa Abramovic is waiting in the wings, its reality time!. Its cost Chelsea 75 million to retain their place and City 150 million to take ours!

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    • While you’re are wandering around all doughy eyed at the miracles Redknapp has performed, the team has won one game in the last 10. Don’t worry about that though, just bury your head in the sand, eh? Much better idea,

      No one is assuming that we should win every game, but this team is under performing in the league and it’s not all down to the clowns we have in place of forwards. Some of the tactical decisions have been bizarre.

      Also, if two teams are on equal points challenging for a top 4 place come the final 10 games, of course the outcome of those games will decide who plays CL football or not. Ridiculous to suggest otherwise.

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        • And you were the same bloke who wanted mediocrity by remaining at Lane and not moving to increase our revenue stream?. Mm-mm, well you’ve almost got it, and obviously dont like it?

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  9. Some of you will probably know that the most important factors in a football team are primary the players and then the coach/trainer.
    But always those who have to execute on the field the oral or written instructions of the coach are the players.
    A proper player next to a high level ball technique and physical strength (where we can include speed, stamina etc.) must have also those qualities which make the difference and contribute to the highest degree on having a WINNING team:
    intelligence, strong personality/ego, winner’s character and mental strength.
    Back to Spurs, someone who knows those crucial qualities and is able to track them on a player would know that most of Spurs players don’t have them.
    Spurs also don’t follow always the right tactics.
    But this is something that it would take a lot of time to analyse.
    Miracles can happen only once.

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  10. i agree we r a top six side !! two many average players who think they r better then they are!!! yes we need two new strikers but our strikers both scored yesterday and yes were very poor but we still conceded 2 goals along with 3 v blackpool 4 at fulham 3 at wolves etc is dawson so awesome?? huddlestone wouldnt get in any of the top sides so why is he picked ahead of sandro who has proved what a very good player he is!! i thought huddle stone was embarrassing yesterday!!hes too slow in the centre of the park,its a myth about his passing cause he gives the ball away far too much hes better suited for a mid table side!! and as for lennon not starting i was shocked strange strange decision… havnt seen too many good games in the league at whl this season!!

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    • The guy has been laid low by injury and it takes time to get back to speed, that’s pretty obvious, but as for ’embarrassing please grow up,.I agree and always have done about Dawson however. For me he’s good, but not great with anyone other than King, who seems to marshal him and cover for his occasional bouts of rashness.l Thank heaven we’ve got Gallas though, who without we’d have been in dire straights considering our long injury list.. Many fans have not accounted for the injuries we’ve suffered and all at crucial times I may add. OK its not great, and in all honesty I’d prefer to finish 8th and out of Europe altogether, than participate in the Europa League, which is both time consuming and pointless to warrant playing in!

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  11. Why are you all blaming the attack we where winning 2-1 Cox tried a shot past a keeper stuck to the grass just look at Odenwinges goal he only had 3ft to aim for and Gomes never covered it its simple if you are on your line the goals are 8ft by 8ft if you start to leave your line it gets bigger by the yard. Just look at Ronaldo Nasri Fletcher Adebyor goals and two things are common he his off is line and flat footed and the stupid statement he made by saying he is prone to gaffs has told every footballer to have a shot at goal no matter where you are this is like a boxer saying he has a glass jaw. I was a fan when we first signed him and there is no doubt on his line he is excellent but hen he wanders he is a clown in the making Cox ix goal was struck right in the top corner Having said that the angle of the shot was savable if Gomes was on his line and his toes and his attempt was a sure indication he was neither expecting a shot nor on his toes flat footed once again. We have scored 5 and let five in and there lies the problem last year King and Gomes forced rest through injuries helped Gormless solve is problems this year he his getting picked even when he drops clangers..

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    • How about this then? almost every goal we concede emanates through the centre of midfield .We were in desperate need of a ball winner and passer which was why Parker’s name kept cropping up but now we’ve a brilliant ball winner in Sandro. Then it’s supposedly a goal scorer, yet we’ve banged in eight in the past three league games, so that’s not a current problem. According to many BAE is the best left back we’ve had for ages, so we’re OK there and Bale, VDV and Modric are the best midfield going, with a supercharged Lennon adding to the array of fantastic, triffk players, we’ve got, so where s the problem?, and who exactly are these two or three ‘world class’ players that we’re getting in?. In my honest and humble opinion, its more a question of tactics and balance, but I’m not paid millions to work it out, although it looks pretty obvious!

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  12. Great analysis. I am hoping that this season would not turn out to be to costly for the club’s future. And if the club wants to go to the next level, then there is a definite need to engage a top class forward and more importantly a top class manager (which Harry unfortunately isn’t).

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  13. Lat season i feel we were lucky as no Eiropean football to distract us and unexpected wins over Arsenal,Chelsea and Man City in the run in llifted our expectations.

    We have done well this season but two things worry me. The clubs supposed bids on players over the winter transfer window. We apparently put bids in on Forlan £25, Rossi £30 mil, Mata £30 mil.Benzema,Bojan, this all from the board saying no one wanted to sell. yet the only two that were public was the derogatory offer we made for Phil Neville £250k and some last minute bid for Adams which had no chance of being completed in the 20 mins until the window closed.

    Loved Harry makig the board cringe when he says we asked about Rossi but they quoted £30 mil and thats way beyond our means.lol At least thats some honesty as even if we had the Fee. the wage cap of £80k means very few top stars will come.

    Also what will happen if Chelsea sack Carlo will Redknapp say i love Spurs on ya bike Roman…Nah He will be thanks for the memory and expressing his love for Chelsea.

    2nd thing that worries me is if we have no European football, will we be able to keep the stars we have got…somehow i dont see Van Dar Vaart sticking around, Modric will he be able to say no to one of the big giants of Europe? Is it worth the risk if a big offer comes for Bale to not accept it. say he loses form or suffers along term injury. should we cash in and buy two or three win the fee.

    If we dont strengthen will we have the chance of Champions league again. Chelsea, Man City and Man Utd wont be as inconsistent as they were this season. Liverpool look like they are coming back and Arsenal maybe forced into strengthening. Lets hope the board do something or i can see us being happy finishing top ten.

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    • Agree mikey, although perturbed that you have just written my end of season summary – damn you!

      The key is keeping our current stars and with Liverpool on the charge there’s now the hideous prospect of no European football at all.

      I don’t have any real access to privileged info but from what I understand the big bids for a few of the strikers in Spain were genuine (not all but a few) but the players/clubs were against a move.

      Regards,

      Alan

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  14. Good debate. As the more perceptive of you spotted, I’m not a ‘Harry out’ merchant, but there’s no doubt in my mind that he had a bad afternoon. I’ve also pointed out that he did things differently from the way we’ve played, and played well – two wide men, Pav and Crouch up front.

    Harry’s a good rather than great manager. I’m patient – teams need time to build and if the mythical needastriker exists, then it will make a hell of a difference.

    Regards,

    Al

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    • “Harry’s a good rather than great manager.” Agree totally, Al. We’ve seen his talents and we’re grateful but we’ve also seen his limitations and we’re frustrated. And who would replace him at this point, anyway? To change managers again, right now, would set the team/club back years again.

      It’s also totally acceptable to criticize the manager and still support Spurs. Harry’s team selections have been all over the place. He’s back to square pegs in round holes, and ignoring so-called fringe players like Niko. Would it have been so crazy to take off Defoe, move VdV up front and put Lennon on the right? Too bad Rose wasn’t on the bench to take the left wing spot on Saturday.

      As for the “mythical striker” I think everyone is thinking too hard about this. We don’t need a “world class striker” we just need an above average one (two would be even better). Two above average strikers would have us sitting pretty in 4th or 3rd by now. I don’t think it’s having too high of expectations to expect to beat at least *some* of the mid and lower table teams. Here’s to hoping City blow it somehow!

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      • I think we’ve all forgotten that we may have no option other than replace him if he gets the England gig. I really am loathe to see yet another overseas face at the Lane, but who else is out there that could build on the English spine Harry’s created with comparative success?. I believe also that the willingness to spend and be shafted by England prevented any major purchase or departure during the winter break. Perhaps the situation will also affect any summer dealings also, so for me the sooner Capello ships out the better for all concerned

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      • interesting comment re striker, as I was thinking the same thing. We don’t need a worldbeater, we need a certain type of player, not necessarily a 20 goal a season man but someone who can bring others into the game, bit of pace maybe and run the line on their own up front.

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  15. yea maybe embarrassing was over the top but i was very disappointed with his selection of huddlestone in the middle of the park and leaving a player like sandro on the bench!! too push on and be a top four sides u cannot have [players like thud in there hes not good enough when hes fit !! i truelly believe we had the players too finish top four but some of harrys tactics and selectios have cost us!! just think sometimes at home to west ham wolves etc he could adopt a 4 3 3 and really go for it cause this season has been there for the taking..we have been poor for a good part of the season and still have an outside chance of finishing 4th.. not sure about gomes he wins us more matches then he loses but yea if theres a better keeper on the market then we should get him..if we can just push on and get 4th it will be great ,can invest in some quality then hopefully push on coys!!!

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  16. Don’t forget that Ramos was a ‘blip’.
    Harry is not our saviour,
    He got us back on track with a decent squad
    for which service much thanks
    but we had already had two fifth place finishes
    and but for ‘lasangagate’ MJ might still be with us.
    Well perhaps not.

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