I’ve been catching up with Carnivale, the US series about a carnival travelling through the dustbowl during the Great Depression. It’s compelling television but frankly not one to come home to after a bad day, evoking as it does a picture of poverty and suffering that places little value on human life. By heck it’s grim up mid-West.
In a recent episode, the carny folk are caught up in a dust-storm that envelopes them in a dark cloud of dirt and fear. Now I know a decent metaphor when one comes along and slaps me round the chops like a wet mackerel, but just in case we didn’t get it, one of the characters talked us through the plot even though the person she was speaking to was clearly aware of what was happening. ‘Dark clouds of black topsoil stripped from the surface of a thousand farms…the ruined hopes of families like yours, your mother’s bones uprooted and dumped three hundred miles away…’ Think Mystic Meg crossed over to the dark side. But if you want a metaphor for my feelings about Spurs right now, (and of course you do, don’t you?) watch out for the dust-cloud, dark, foreboding and heading our way.
A month ago I was not only optimistic but above all patient. That’s the way I should be still, because little has changed. And therein lies the problem. Nothing’s happening. As I write, no signings have been confirmed although Adebayor on loan seems highly likely, but more on that when it happens. Harry has been conspicuous in the stands at Loftus Road and in Holland. However, if we are contemplating spending a fortune on players in the next week or so, surely they have been scouted thoroughly and there’s nothing to be learned from the manager watching another 90 minutes, less in Holland yesterday where apparently he left the ground at half-time thus missing Ruiz’s goal.
It seems certain that our top-tier targets either do not want to move or have gone elsewhere. Not even Uncle Harry’s charm can’t outweigh the lack of Champions League football. A nice fat salary could do the trick. Except Levy has a wage structure. Some sources say he’s willing to bend if not entirely break that, and in the past to make up some of the shortfall we have offered lump sum performance incentives that have not proved exactly tough to achieve, like staying at the club. However, it confirms my view that if the big names won’t come, our scouts had better be at the very top of their game to get the best of the rest.
Being patient involves managing anxiety over time and now that the season has started, time is catching up on us. Tomorrow we play Hearts in a crucial two-legged tie. I can’t claim to know much about the Scots, although my fellow bloggers THFC1882 and What a Fantastic Run can help you out. All I know is that this is our first game of the season, whereas Hearts are well into their league campaign, and we don’t have any fit midfielders, apparently. We were caught cold this time last year against Young Boys, when the European dreams became a nightmare after 30 disorganised and depressing minutes.
It’s the not knowing that gets me. I have no idea how we are going to line up tomorrow, let alone how well we are going to play. Pre-season should have sorted all this out but our own particular footballing coitus interruptus could leave us frustrated and begging for more. It’s essential we play our strongest possible team in both legs of the Hearts tie to make up for a lack of match fitness if nothing else. If the midfield injuries are as bad as Harry says, and he’s lied before, we might see Kaboul as defensive midfielder in a cautious hit them on the break set up.
So it’s down to the last week with the window. Again. At least we have Levy’s ability to make a deal plus the assets to back it up, in the form of both cash (including income of £31m from the CL run) and players to exchange, should the need arise, which puts us in a stronger position than our rivals. We’re used to the brinkmanship, whether we like it or not. What concerns me is that our team-building is falling even further behind schedule. New arrivals won’t bed in for a while and we need to get going with Hearts and both Manchester teams on the way.
Carnivale is one of those programme where you’re sure something really profound is happening without being entirely sure what exactly that is. Like I said, I know a good metaphor when I see one. The central character appears to have mystical life-giving powers. Maybe that’s Daniel Levy in our little drama, but I fear it’s beyond him.
So farewell then, Robbie Keane, gone to develop his semaphore on acid routine in the States. These days it’s unfashionable amongst Spurs fans to like him but he deserves great credit for his prominent role in years that can best be described as a transitional period for the club.
He was never the striker you could bank on to score. Especially in one on ones, my abiding memory is relief rather than joy when the ball went in. However, he’s 9th on our all-time goalscorers list. Off the top of my head, 2 stand-out goals bookend his career. Early on at home to Leeds, outside of the foot from the edge of the box, taken early, then later a dazzling long-range equaliser in the mesmeric home draw against Chelsea. More of a curio, I also recall him sneaking in to surprise the Birmingham keeper as he played the ball out, then nipping in to score.
For a time Keane looked to be the perfect modern forward, equally comfortable in the box taking chances and also in deeper positions, making them. His partnership with Dimitar Berbatov made both better players. Derided for having any number of clubs in his boyhood dreams, he was nevertheless fully committed to Spurs when he played and his urgency was welcome on the many days when others seemed dozy and distant.
In the end, Keane was a bit too clever for his own good. Praised by pundits for his running off the ball, too often he took up positions that made it very difficult for team-mates to pass to him. Running between two defenders or into tight angles away from goals is all very well but there’s seldom room for the ball to be played into. Also, his technique was fatally flawed. At the end of last season he missed a crucial chance for West Ham, near post about 3 yards out. The pundits were amazed but Spurs fans weren’t. That ungainly shank or air-shot was all too familiar.
Genuinely overjoyed at our League Cup win, he led the celebrations then left to join Liverpool. Seemingly at the peak of his powers, it signalled the beginning of the end. From then on he became unsettled and despite helping us to safety after Redknapp took over, he was never the same player. It’s a classic case of the psychology of footballers. He was the last one to know it, but something at the Lane suited him. He disrupted the pattern and it was downhill all the way.
Given the gags about boyhood dreams, I was staggered to see him quoted as saying the move to the LA Galaxy was ‘a dream come true’. And they say Americans don’t get irony. It’s a sad recognition that his mind’s gone. At 31, captain of his country, the only option is the soft option. He had a good few premier league years in him, not withe Spurs because we are upgrading and had left him behind, but wherever he ends up, he does so with my thanks and good wishes for the future.