I’m getting on a bit now. April next year, my 50th anniversary at White Hart Lane. Football’s changed, watching the game even more so, but I haven’t, not really. Lose and it affects my mood for several days. A good win in a big game, nothing like it. Nothing, because this is a grand old team to see. If anything my connection with Spurs is deeper than it’s ever been. It’s not a fashionable view, because fans are drifting away from the game, and I get it, I see why. It’s just that I’ve had my crisis of faith several years ago when logic demanded I should loosen the ties, but I couldn’t, instinctively couldn’t, and wouldn’t.
I’m old. I don’t have unrealistic expectations or the sense of entitlement that characterises a generation of support brought up on Super Sunday, the holy grail of the anointed Top Four or a history that begins in 1992. I just want them to give a right good go, league and cup. Be contenders, be something, win something. And I’ve been let down.
Last night Spurs slipped out of the Champions League, unnoticed and unmourned, not with a bang but with a whimper. Monaco beat us home and away. They are a neat, decent side well set up to make the most of their talents and, in both games, Tottenham’s deficiencies. But that’s not the point. What matters is, it didn’t matter. Not apparently to the players who did not give of their best not just last night but in the whole tournament, nor to the manager.
Pochettino expressed anger about the performance in his post-match quotes but throughout he has been unwilling to put out a full-strength side. Yesterday in a match we had to win to stay in the CL, he left out Vertonghen, Eriksen and Walker, Sissoko too, compounded by fiddling around with the formation to a sort of 4-3-2-1. He didn’t want it and this fed through to the players.
I don’t like it and I don’t get it. Well, I do, in that the manager’s message is that the Premier League is the main target and nothing else matters very much. Bu this is the Champion’s League. We toiled long and hard to get there, surely it’s worth more than this. Prestige. Money. Glory. Choose any one of those and you have a reason to be motivated. We opted for none of the above.
Stay in the competition at least to the knock-out stages and even more money comes rolling in. Far be it from me, old-fashioned, living in the past, to say that glory in taking on Europe’s best is motivation enough. Giving supporters a treat, those supporters who formed the biggest ever British crowd for a club game and promptly beat it three weeks later, far be it from me to suggest we could have some fun, get behind the team, all in white and take them all on.
I admire Pochettino and his team hugely. They are as committed and as motivated as any Spurs side I have ever seen and the manager has worked wonders at the club. With this decision, he is wrong. It’s a waste. This is the Champions League not the League Whatever It’s Called This Year Cup 2nd round. Never mind the good old days of Europe under lights at the Lane, Benfica, Gornik, Anderlecht, Barca, Milan, I’ll take those memories to my grave with me and alongside them will be the outstanding football this young side played last season. I love this team. And for what? Losing I can deal with, the lack of interest I cannot.
So what’s the plan? Finish on the top four to qualify for a tournament we won’t try in because we want to concentrate on finishing in the top four to qualify for a tournament we won’t try in. Repeat to fade.
Last night Lloris played them on his own. Heroic Hugo saved a penalty and produced a string of top class saves including one astounding reaction leap than defied the laws of nature. Sadly it failed to inspire those in front of him. The back four was constantly stretched. Although Wanyama dropped in between the two centre halves, the full-backs had no protection from the midfield and were exposed, or rather the space behind them was, a fertile breeding ground for opposition attacks.
From one cross, our back four lined up on the 6 yard box as if they were zonal marking for a corner. The Monaco attackers stood off and were all unmarked. One headed it in, the others had the freedom of the box. Back in the game after Kane’s penalty, we conceded straight from the kick-off. What were they thinking? Nothing, apparently. This was a mug’s goal. Spurs stalwart and friend of the blog Adam Powley tweeted that the team of the early 80s, after they scored they either got possession or fouled within three opposition touches. We need some of that nouse.
One more example sums up the game. Loose ball, edge of the box. Wanyama takes a wild slice, misses. On Saturday, I praised Dier for the immaculate way he shepherded Payet to safety, nullifying a dangerous break without even tackling him. Yesterday he too took a wild clumsy heave at this same ball, nowhere near it and conceding a penalty. It’s all in the mind and their minds were somewhere else.
I’m disappointed and numb. This is so out of character. This is the team that gives everything, 100% commitment, that’s their trademark. I know Spurs weren’t going to win the Champion’s League but I wanted Europe to see how good we are, to see some of that flowing, effortless football, how we take the game to the opposition and don’t sit back and wait for the other side to die of boredom. I wanted people to see proper Tottenham because I’m proud of them. Even that was denied me, me and all the other proud Spurs supporters. Newsnow filter out articles containing swearwords, so here is reader participation – insert your expletives of choice here. I’m truly hacked off.
25 thoughts on “Feeble Spurs Exit the Champions League Without A Whimper”
I must say, given the last 18 months under Poch, last night’s fey performance has left me feeling very perplexed. Although, even under Poch in the EL, and this season’s CL, we don’t seem the same side, playing at a much lower level of intensity (where’s the energy and pressing game in Europe) than in league games.
I cannot believe that the players weren’t fully committed or didn’t hurt after last night’s garbage, as it makes no sense on the evidence of the past season or so. Worryingly, both Monaco and BL, who I do think are good sides, look faster and sharper, more tactically aware, more cohesive and more composed than we do. Last night wasn’t a one off, in four halves against these two sides, we’ve only played well in one half, at BL. So we can do it, for a bit at least.
On Saturday we may well have to play Dier and Wimmer together, so I could see the logic, if not agree with it. But last night was the must win and Saturday could wait, although Verty, Walker and Eriksen have all played in the CL this season, with little or no difference in terms of performance.
Rather than one of personnel. As ever, there are many reasons rather than one single reason for last night’s disappointment as Adam Powley said on Twitter (he had a good night on there, unlike our Spurs on the pitch), but I think the main problem is one of not knowing how best to play in Europe. We seem to be caught between at least two stalls, in terms of team selection and approach, and it is a stodgy, lacklustre mess.
Mind, more experienced English clubs than us have struggled or failed to get out of the group stage in recent seasons, looking every bit as forlorn, perplexed and one dimensional against European teams as we have.
The only good thing that might come out of this in the short term is that Poch values the FA Cup and even EL, if we sink into that, rather than completely fold against CSKA, much higher than in the past.
Alan, mine is similar age and history. Your thoughts and disappointment reflect mine.
I just hope the embarassment, disappointment, gut wrench, that last night gave all Spurs fans is felt by the players and the coaching team. Something is up at Hotspur Way. I wish I could put my finger on it. It could be the players relationship with Poch, his methods (or lack of them) or Poch’s relationship with Levy. Any ideas?
Injuries to key players hasn’t helped but the whole squad playing like they’ve never played together? Did none of them fancy CL?
Too many questions but not many answers. They can start to answer by giving us a proper performance with guts and passion on Saturday. If not, the last two years momentum will stall.
Last night’s performance was no different to the last 7/8 matches. Even when we beat city i didnt feel that the team was anywhere near the level of last year. Something has changed and poch needs to find the answers. Nokando & Shitsko are a joke , Jansen needs 2 seasons before he’s up to speed , wanyama is very boring and is prone to mistakes. The reality is we need to get toby back this could free up dier to prove his worth to regain his midfield slot, this might WAKE UP dele alli who needs to find his feet again. Lamela needs to get back in and harry needs game time for fitness. As for Eriksen he needs to have a little word with HIMSELF. The guy has BOTTLED challenges which is totally unacceptable.
The players are unrecognisable from last season. #fearful4saturday
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Completely agree. If we can see this surely the coaching team can which begs the question why are they repeating the same mistakes. I think Poch is playing to a different agenda this season. He is the Manager, not the Coach, and his player purchases have not improved the squad or our play.
The players now need to show us they care or the atmosphere at WHL will turn. We know how that usually ends up.
I would also like to add that the team has no width or no pace. This makes us very easy to play against. we knew in the summer that we could not rely the whole season on walker & rose’s excellence so i think our recruitments have been poor as clearly if we would have had 2 good additional players last year to help the squad we probably would have won the title. We need a BIG name playmaker and an experienced fast winger in the jan window. #letsnotgobackwards
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What great article sums up everything how I feel
Thanks for your article Alan and as above I share your pain being a Spurs fan from 60’s, it always affects me in the same way.
I do not know what is happening mentally with the team at present compared to last season, why they are under performing, but I think they all want to do well emotionally.
Eddie Jones on Saturday said the England Rugby team needed 3 players for each position, able to step in when asked, to be able to think of winning the World Cup. I don’t blame Pochettino for squad rotation in order to be able to compete on more than one front – it worked last season. The only thing I don’t like to hear from Pochettino are his constant references to playing with more passion. It reminds me of Kevin Keegan’s ill fated days at Newcastle and England, and it needs more than that to play well.
There needs to be more to getting players ready mentally and feel confident, which comes from success through tactical awareness and positional play. Each player has to know what is expected of them in every formation they are asked to play, and to be astute enough to adapt play on the pitch when the manager is not there. We need a Danny Blanchflower, but he is not there at present.
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Whimper is right Alan. I barely care about the scoreline, I only care about the heart and soul of the players and the critical intelligence of the manager and his man managing skills.
Need I say more?
We have had a couple of good moments this season it’s true. But not enough. If we have consistency it’s not a very great one.
Nothing that I can get excited about. We do need a leader on the field and a motivator. I mean if the manager can’t do it we need either a player who can or a manager who can.
We can’t be this bad surely?
Thanks Alan. I have just had my 50th anniversary at WHL and also just finished ‘A People’s History’, which I much enjoyed. I feel good about the club I support. Last night was bad, although half expected, and left me with the same empty feeling as the Newcastle capitulation and other disastrous efforts over the last 50 years (Derby 8-2, L’pool 7-0, Arsenal 0-5 to name but 3). There have been times under Poch that I really thought we had changed but it seems perhaps not… I think niggling injuries have harmed us (like all clubs) but I don’t detect that we can rise above setbacks. Yes we do quite often come from behind like Saturday, but there is something wrong and I sense it is a lack of natural on-field leadership when we are under par and/or playing a very good side. Of course they are all superb footballers and athletes, however the best teams have two or three who through sheer desire, guts and bloody mindedness force the rest on. I simply don’t see it with our current players, with possible exceptions being Hugo and Kane though I wonder if they are both too ‘nice’. Where are the players the others feel scared to let down? The winners, the hard men, the leaders…
Up the Spurs!!!
Ronwol! 👋🏼,. It appears HH’s spell checker is more to blame than your fingers n thumbs for the new language of ronglish 😆👍🏻✌🏻️
Borris my new bkook has been reduced from $19.95 to 3 and sixpence
It gives the actual answer to the question ‘What has happened to my Glorious Team?’
Borris I think Harry as been attacked by Putin, Trump and Arsenal
No Glory here, I fear. Lacking 4 of the 5 Ps (pressing, pace, passion and progress) the only P we had going for us, what we’ve always got going for us, was possession. Dull unimaginative possession.
I felt for the Spurs fans who went to Monaco (although it’s not the worse place to end up in, if your team has let you down) and I was embarrassed because of the millions of neutrals watching on TV ..many wiling us to do well. Personally, like most Spurs fans, I wanted to (like Poch at the end of last season) ‘kill them’.
But you’re right, Alan, we’ve treated this campaign as though it were the Europa League, and Poch must bear much of the blame. If the team lacked a mental strength ..then that’s his fault.
We’re not going to win the PL with this squad, but we aim (as our rivals do) for Top 4 ..and what do we do when we achieve it? Treat the reward as an unwanted distraction in our quest to make Top 4 again!
You could see they didn’t want it last night. No Glory night in Monaco! ..as there was just 5 years ago in Milan (against both clubs) and a quarter final against Real Madrid. And yes, I remember many Glory nights from 1963 onwards, if not those great ones before that (being too young).
Harry’s side also had pace and width, while this team (Walker and Rose apart) have none.
Let’s go through the team last night.
1 Lloris. Do you think this fantastic goalkeeper will hang around with Spurs when he sees the team wilt like that in front of him? By far our best player ..and most of the team should look at him and feel shame, and echo the cries of the Walt Whitman poem about Lincoln with this rallying cry ..’Oh, Captain, My Captain!’ Remembering last season, the togetherness and desire that took us to many victories.
2 Rose. Not one of his best games to put it mildly. I thought, by missing the Chelsea game, Danny would really show Europe what a fine left back he is. Caught napping for the 2nd goal, lacking his usual pace, and out of position (and sync with other defenders) many times, he’ll not reflect on this game well.
3 Trippier. Did you count the times he got forward on the flank only to receive the ball and pass back, slowing momentum? Walker was needed for this game (blow Chelsea ..he’d have recovered in time anyway) while Trippier showed he’ll never be first choice at Tottenham. To be fair, he is a better defender and crosser than he showed last night, but he needs good and willing players around him.
4 Dier. He accidentally(?) found his best position as a holding midfielder and sweeper-type distributor of the ball, and that’s where he should be. Vertonghen should have partnered Wimmer.
5 Wimmer. Not shown this season what made him such a good substitute partner for Alderwereld last season, during Verts’ lengthy injury absence.
6 Wanyama. Am I really alone in thinking this player over-rated? To be fair, he’s had some good moments, and has obviously contributed to our defensive record in the PL ..but I believe we would have won more games with Dier in that position.
7 Dembele. A shadow of the player involved in much of last year, and now resembling the lumbering player of two seasons back. Turning 180 degrees like some oil tanker, his desire to shield/hold and run with the ball at the expense of getting the attack moving, is crippling our play in the final third.
He still has a part to play, but needs to regain form and fitness quickly. Like so many others he’s finding it hard to get a shot in on goal, let alone occasionally backing up the scoring stats!
8 Winks. Nothing bad to say about this lad. He manfully tried to the end, and deserved to be playing with more positive team-mates around him!
9 Dele (the emperor has no clothes) Alli. He’s young and he WILL fulfill his promise, but he too is a shadow of last year. During and since the Euros he has, apart from the odd glimpse of real talent, floundered around in midfield and attack, achieving little, and getting easily knocked off the ball. Still, hopefully some good games will turn his confidence and form around.
10 Son. The inscrutable Korean. I’m at a loss with this bloke. His play last night reminded me of Martini (Danny De Vito) playing basketball with McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. If you’ve seen the film ..you’ll know what I mean. Apart from the odd brilliant cameo, and times where he puts his pace to work properly, he looks like he’s playing in someone’s park side, which has just been cobbled together out of a bunch of misfits.
11 Kane. Still lacks the cutting edge of last season, but he had no support last night, and he’s just coming back to fitness. He’ll be concerned about where help is coming from in the final third.
Jannsen – another tryer whose effort you can’t fault. But it’s becoming worrying. Again, you can’t blame him too much considering the way the team played last night.
Eriksen – another shadow of the player he was last year, and the year before. This is possibly the most worrying aspect of all for this team and squad. We’re not endowed with great creators in the final third as are Liverpool, Chelsea, City, Arsenal and even Man U, so to have a player like Eriksen misfiring on all fronts is deeply concerning. Every time he shapes to take a free kick, I shrink, knowing what’s coming ..while last year I sat on the edge of my seat in anticipation!
and finally, Sissoko – it’s not his fault that Levy/Poch spent that panic-buy money on him. It’s not his fault that he’s being paid a fortune for being such a misfit of a player. We’ve made similar mistakes before. But the worrying aspect is how Sissoko’s presence is affecting this squad’s all for one, and one for all, mentality. No wonder Kane wants parity at least, money wise ..as all our best players from last season do ..with this man. Sissoko hasn’t added to our squad, he’s diminished it ..and I believe he’s affected our spirit and togetherness.
I’m afraid that when Poch said he’ll only bring in players that can add to our squad, and the team strength and mentality, it hasn’t come true. Wanyama is the only case you can make, and like I’ve said, he should be cover for Dier, not the other way around.
OK ..I know we’re unbeaten in the PL. A superb achievement, but cracks have shown horribly since the Man City (pressing) game, and I fear for us. We need to get the desire, the fitness and that pressing game back ..and quickly. Especially as we have no Plan B (liked the set-up against Arsenal tho’).
I shall be going to Wembley on the 7th with my daughter. An unwanted and meaningless ‘friendly’ and an irony that Spurs will never ever again (surely) play a match that means so little at the home of world football. But dammit ..we’re determined to have fun and cheer them on.
We didn’t Dare so we didn’t Do. No Echo of Glory in that abject failure.
Before the game, and not for the first time, Poch said along these lines that Spurs had to win but shouldn’t go out full tilt, hung-ho. The players just followed orders.
Wembley will be half empty for the CSKA game….
I can sense an emotional fragility, almost a fear, that wasn’t there last season. There is no swagger. We seem to be paying opponents too much respect.
Sissoko was supposed to provide us with thrust and power in the final third. Where are those thrilling bursts from deep he made for France at the Euros? To say that he has been lacklustre and timid is an understatement. I know it’s not ideal but I would fast track the kid, Nkoudou. He has looked (aside from one costly slip at Anfield) very tasty indeed. Give him proper game time. Let him hug the touchline and go straight for the jugular. Anything to inject some vigour into the team. John Chiedozie anyone?
Wanyama has been immense this season. What a fantastic start to his Spurs career. Now that he is established, maybe he could start to project his personality more on the pitch. I don’t know his personality, if he has it in him. Maybe Graham Roberts can get to work on him.
As has been said by many of us, this malaise has come from nowhere and is totally baffling. I assume they have specialists working with the players on the mental side of things. Hopefully some adjustments can be made and we can rediscover our mojo.
One thought screams at me (if that’s not stupid sounding) all day – Harry Kane is looking for an improved contract, he probably wants CL football too; don’t they all. Levy seems reluctant to pay top dollar to anyone, although what I’m hearing about Sissoko may disprove that point. Back to my screaming thought. Harry wants more money, he probably wants CL – so we’re possibly looking at goodbye Harry sometime soon. Dear God.
There are an awful lot of negative comments above here so I thought I’d say something positive about last nights game. H’mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Okay, nothing positive to say so just a quick observation
If the manager can’t be bothered to put out his best team, why should the over paid, over rated, lazy so and so’s (gosh, that was polite) be bothered to try
Up the Spurs
Totally agree Al. What is the effing point? For years we have striven for top 4 finishes and Champions League football.
The Harry Redknapp adventure validated this aim. It was fun and glorious. We’lol talk about it for years to come.
This time the let down has been the wrong-headed attitude. I’m pretty sure that after the Monaco game at Wembley Eric Dier said that the Champions League was a distraction.
From what exactly?
I’d have loved to see us playing one of the big European teams at Wembley. And give them a run for the money.
Last night’s team was picked with next Saturday’s game in mind. How Chelsea have got into our heads.
I admire the manager and this team but he has got this one wrong. I wonder if he is under orders from Legy to prioritise the League to qualify next year. Or his own decision. We’ll never know.
As good as Poch is he needs to win something. We’ve thrown the League Cup and now the Champions League. I hope he gives the Europa League and FA Cup a good go.
I doubt it tho – too 4 will mean a good season again. But for what I don’t know.
I too am of a certain age, although I cannot match Alan’s record of attendance over the 50 years, I still try to go as much as I can and indeed went to Wembley for the first match vs Monaco. I cannot remember being so down, even when Spurs were relegated in the last century. Perhaps ‘Poch’ has reached the limit of his ability, perhaps we need some older hands mixed in with the youngsters (and that excuse of a young team is starting to get a tiresome excuse), perhaps they all need paying a little more to match players of other premiership teams and then they might feel their equals? I don’t expect superhuman effort every week, just that they put on a display that makes us all proud to say that we have and always will support Tottenham Hotspurs and the football performance does all the talking, no after match interviews required. I still hope to go one more time to White Hart Lane before they finally pull the old ground down. I think I should choose a game vs one of the relegation candidates because any higher expectation that they will compete with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United are almost dead. I know that I will be look silly when Tottenham win the Premiership, but as Alan said what’s the point of achieving that goal. What we need is more depth in the squad, spend more on the squad of players available, Levy’s salary cap is not realistic in this day and age. God knows there’s enough money sloshing around in the premiership and although I know he has done a good job overall, sometimes one has to ‘push the boat out’ and spend a little more to achieve your ambitions. We are not considered to be in the elite of the premiership, only a supporting role for us, especially when big names consider their next move, we simply don’t get a mention.
I don’t think Alan implied there was no point in winning the PL, Stephen. God forbid. It would be the greatest achievement for us in over 55 years. And if we capitulated in the CL the following season, then we would still have that wonderful (3rd) trophy of being Champions of England. No ..what Alan meant, and I agree with him, was that finishing in the top four (ie 2nd to 4th) in order to achieve CL qualification, is pointless if we don’t embrace the CL in all its glory and wonder (just as Leicester and most other teams are doing now). The CL is the reward for the endeavors of a long hard PL season, and it’s a privilege (not a chore) for teams who haven’t won their own league, to take part. It’s not some sort of distraction to be fitted in between PL games the following season, when, once again, the aim is for top four (in order, erm, to get into the CL again).
That way is the madness of a roundabout with no end reward at all.
We have to stay positive but we only look a shadow of last years side which was aggressive with and without the ball.
As someone said, we can now concentrate on the league and Fa cup without the distraction of CL.
Here’s hoping and thanks Alan
Funny game, football. We are talking about a team unbeaten in the league this season, but we are also a lot wiser about the gap between duffing up Villa last season and tackling Europe’s best a year later. There is a common denominator in this and I’m not hiding behind devil’s advocate but Poch guided us through a mediocre Europa Cup run last season and now a fairly disastrous Champions League experience. He’s learning on the job, too, and it’s rich for him to point the finger at the lack of true quality in the team. If I was unkind I’d say Poch has the tools to get us into the top four but lacks the smarts to compete with the big boys. Most of the first team picks itself and they are all seasoned internationals, but Poch has failed to deliver on his end to motivate these quality players behind a recogniseable game plan. So it is a collective failure of manager and team. I accept that you cannot legislate for one of your recognized forwards to even get a strike on goal when one on one with their keeper, but for a game which he billed as a ‘must win’ to produce just two strikes on goal – one of them a penalty kick – shows how far we have fallen behind the standards of last season.
I’ve always believed Tottenham were a cup side. Much better suited to tournament football, than the slog of winning the League. Now it seems they cannot/will not manage cup football (I’d love to think they’d have a go at the FA Cup, but who honestly thinks they will?). Do they think they will win the PL? If not, what are they trying for?
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Were I a politician, I’d be saying how I was ‘shocked and appalled’ at the performance of Spurs in the CL this season. I’m not sure the reason – injuries to key players, not playing proper home games, CL inexperience, fatigue – all of these may have been factors, but ultimately they all boil down to excuses. We weren’t good enough, and we’ve been knocked out. I really was shocked at how bad we’ve been, I fully expected to snatch qualification in the usual Spurs ‘do it, but do it the hard way and put our fans through the ringer’ fashion, but the team were unable to get anywhere near what was required.
So many areas about which to complain, but not much point! Still, just like after Leverkusen at Wembley, I was probably as much amazed as I was disappointed at the level of incompetent defending on show from players of such quality.
It’s hard to put the finger on what’s wrong, and even the impressive record of no defeats in the league has masked an all round lack of quality in all but one or two games. The team just seem to be wading through treacle, the flair and instinctive play of last season is largely redundant, like they are waiting for a collective switch to flick. It is my opinion though that the entire PL season thus far has seen the same problems, everyone has looked pretty mediocre for the most part, although the likes of Liverpool have clicked impressively at times. No matter how much Sky and BT have hyped it and no matter how much the ridiculous wages have increased, the standard has been poor and I don’t recall a genuinely exciting game so far. Maybe it’s because so many players had tournament football last summer, I don’t know, but the hype is not matched by the product.
Anyway, enough moaning, after the Leverkusen game I’d said I’d a feeling we’d get something from the arsenal game and for once was correct in a prediction. This time I’ve no such feeling but am clinging to the hope that a desperate reaction to Tuesday may see us beat, or avoid defeat at least, against Chelsea.
Finally, to end on a positive, probably the reason I started supporting Spurs was because of Pat Jennings, though his departure not long afterwards left me devastated. And possibly still does! While (just!) too young to see it at the time, a Jennings save I’ve seen on YouTube – a header at point blank range from Chelsea’s Ian Hutchinson during a relegation dogfight in 1974 (I think) – is my favourite save of all time. It is the save I’d be taking with me to the desert island alongside the eight songs and one book, but I must say it could well be only sentiment and Northern Ireland bias that sees it retain top spot after Hugo’ s amazing reaction save on Tuesday night. Fantastic. We are very blessed to have him, even though his kicking causes an occasional tirade from me!
Once again, rubbish performance, great column.