Mood Swings at Spurs

One of the finest Spurs strikers of modern times tips a bucket of cold water over a man in a chicken suit. Another Glory Glory night at White Hart Lane. For those of you who missed it, the half-time entertainment against Limassol was Chirpy doing the ice bucket challenge, having been nominated by Goonersauraus. People videoed it or rather videoed the video on the big screen. Not quite sure what they expected – Chirpy’s expression didn’t change, surprisingly.

The match itself was decidedly ordinary, just the way I like it when it comes to these early rounds of the Europa League. Get through it, bit of decent football along the way, no other expectations. And that’s praise by the way – the team were confident, kept their shape and maintained the pressure throughout. Kane scored one but missed several – he seems better when he doesn’t have too much to think, his one and two touch play is better than when he has time on the ball. Developing well but not yet ready to lead the line.

Slightly bizarre to see the AVB attacking set-up with Lennon and Townsend as inverted wingers and Paulinho in the centre. Poch now knows it’s not effective but he could have asked me and saved himself the trouble. My only gripe was that this was a match crying out for width and wingers taking defenders on. In the end our goals came from exerting pressure – twice the Cypriots gave the ball away, the third a penalty – but we created that pressure and well-taken by Kane and Paulinho.

Good to see so many children with their families, benefiting from reasonable prices in the school holidays. To me a routine win, to them a special occasion that could mean they are fans for life. Spurs are keeping prices down for the Forest cup tie too – I’d designate an area that is even cheaper, just for families. WHam get stick for not filling their ground but they do kids for a quid for some games. It’s an investment that will pay off in the long-term.

When Spurs played Keflavik in the early seventies, I bumped into several pupils from my school, not regulars like me or even Tottenham fans as far as I could tell, who had travelled from west London in the hope of a goal avalanche. No live football on TV in those days, of course, so this was the only way to see the Spurs stars and europe held some magic even if the opposition were part-timers. They weren’t disappointed – Spurs won 9-0. Times have changed. Sides with limited skills like Limassol are impressively well-drilled and dangerous from set pieces but we broke them down without being at our most fluent.

The game may linger in the memory, however, as the final time we see several players who once, not so long ago, represented our future and a healthy one at that. Sandro the beast bossing midfield and terrorising his opposite numbers into submission. He did well enough on Thursday night and let’s not be too presumptuous but the feeling persists that a succession of injuries have permanently deprived him of that precious half a yard that makes the difference between the average and the good, the good and the great. The manager has had a good look at his new charges now and placed Capoue higher up the pecking order with other more mobile players alongside him. Levy will be excited by the fee so that may be that. A shame – I really thought he could be one of our best buys, powerful, skilled and committed. DM for a decade.

We’ve barely got to know Chiriches but rumours of his departure are rife. A ball-playing defender able to turn defence into attack as well as time a tackle perfectly, centre-forwards can out-muscle him too easily when the ball is in the air. I worry though that Kaboul is not fit enough for a season. He’s lost the supple pace that made him stand out. Welcome Favio but with Daws gone we still look short there so maybe Vlad the Paler will stay.

Holtby too – he must know his time is up if he can’t get into the EL home leg starting line-up. He could do with thinking more and running around less but he’s seldom played. I’ve remarked before that in his first year with us, he played only 4 games for 90 full minutes. He came with a good reputation and looked like he had a place in the squad at least but interesting that 4 managers, including Magath at Fulham, were unimpressed. Whether there’s a place for both Lennon and Townsend I’m not sure.

Spurs have gone old school when it comes to transfers – players we know little or nothing about arriving with little or no warning. It’s refreshing to look forward to judging Stambouli, who signed today, on his merits and on the evidence of our own eyes.

It does feel as if he and Favio were not first choices, if the rumours about Schneiderlin and Musacchio have any substance. That’s no bad thing. Pochettino has a clear idea of the type of player he wants. If we can’t get our first choice, try hard then move on. It is an approach that largely seems to have been accepted by the fans and this marks a singifcant change of mood. Since Pochettino took over, I have seen very few comments from supporters along the lines of ‘where are the big signings, Levy get your cheque book out, we need stars to take us to the next level.’ In that respect I can’t recall a transfer window like it and it’s all for the good. There’s a willingness to have realistic expectations and allow an able manager to mould a team where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Fans are prepared to buy into that, which has not been the case recently.

Perhaps it’s relief and gratitude after Sherwood’s caretakership. It’s gone well so far but the mood may darken if results turn against us. I do sense however that many are looking beyond just the next result. The problem is that with all the upheavals, yet again the manager has to rebuild the side with new players who need time to get to know each other. Let’s get the window out of the way and get on with it. I’m looking forward to it.

A fond farewell to Michael Dawson, our warrior with a heart. Dawson was a much better defender than most give him credit for. His finest hours were in Europe, backs to the wall and penned deep inside the box versus Milan, he refused to give ground and marked Zlatan out of the game. One late late tackle saved the game.

To play to his strengths, he needed protection from the midfield that seldom came. Not an excuse, just fact. Look at how Terry and Kompany are vulnerable when deprived of a midfield shield. Coming as a makeweight in the deal to bring Andy Reid to transform our midfield, he saw his chance and took it rather than just a hefty pay packet, working hard on his game and in the process developing a genuine loyalty to the club that sadly few have matched. I couldn’t believe the criticism he has recently received from some fans because he wanted to stay and fight for his place.

His time has come. His lack of pace on the turn left him and Spurs exposed too often, although that long cross-field pass he is derided for – 4 managers all encouraged him to do it so I reckon it can’t have been that bad. It’s a shame none of the other players appear to feel the club’s heritage and bond with supporters so deeply. When he made an error, he used to give himself a good talking to and slap his thighs in part punishment, part encouragement. I loved him, never forgotten.

For more tributes, Adam Powley’s love letter, Windy and Martin Cloake have said it more eloquently than I could.

 

 

What Do Gomes, Dawson and Bale Have In Common?

I’ve been reflecting on this tumultuous week past for Tottenham Hotspur. I say reflecting: what I really mean is, I’ve been thinking of little else. Work has suffered, naturally. Days like today, when I have been office and computer based, have passed in a giddy and unproductive haze, just remembering. From my office window I’ve not been dissuaded by the slice of daylight above the large breezeblock wall, even though it frames the twin chimneys of the cement factory, and still I gaze dreamily into space.

Talking with people, the other major component of my role, has however been a belter. I’ve been on scintillating form, even if I say so myself. On the ball, sharp as a pin, empathetic and witty, where logic has failed to win the day, sheer charm has taken over. Perhaps work would fund a portion of my season ticket, if not in gratitude then as an investment in my future performance levels. I’ll run it past the chief exec and let you know what he says.

I can’t recall a week quite like it since I’ve been a fan, which is 1967 onwards. Not one with both the sheer joy of the victories against Arsenal and Chelsea but also containing such extremes of despair and elation. All suggestions welcome. One that comes to mind is the ’81 cup final, when the replay was on the Thursday following the first drawn match. The anticipation of what was my first final gave way to the realisation at some point in the second half that actually we were going to lose, then the ecstasy and overwhelming relief of our fortunate equaliser. Then that goal at 2-2 in the replay, the absolute pinnacle of being a Spurs supporter.

But of the all the things from this remarkable special history-making sodding brilliant week, one provides a glow so warm you could toast your marshmallows on it – the performance of players who in many quarters had been written off. Not good enough for Spurs, won’t take us to the next level, total waste of money. Get rid. At one time or another, these and other charges were levelled at the three supernovas in a galaxy of stellar performers, Gomes, Dawson and Bale.

Less than three weeks ago the mighty brains of the Sky pundit panel solemnly identified Gomes as Tottenham’s weak link. We who knew differently had faith, but the image lingered of the kindly face of this gentle and loving family man contorted into a rictus grin of terror every time he emerged from the safety of his line to deal with a cross. It was not so much the fumbles,  although they were agony enough, it was the look of sheer bewilderment that followed that truly worried us.

So we roared our approval at his gravity-defying leaps into the top corner, gasped as his reactions palmed away goal-bound shots, cheered with gratitude as, one on one, in the tangle of long limbs the ball bounced to safety. Above all, in all this was the element of delight and pleasure that he had become one of ours, his struggle to demonstrate his skill and determination complete, and all this on our behalf. Show them, son, you show them all, every last one who sniggered as we suffered, you’ve shown them.

Dawson’s mask of devoted concentration broke towards the end of the Chelsea game. Ever alert and steely-eyed, he bent to pull up his socks, necessary as his mental exercise to gather himself and stay focussed, and he grinned. He finally took pleasure in his own performance as well as that of the team, as his name was belted out from all four stands. From a gawky clumsy and ungainly oaf to John Terry’s replacement. The Park Lane spotted it first, then the football media have followed this week.

We can only imagine how hard he has worked this season. Recovering from injury is difficult enough, but then he found himself out in the cold and watching from the sidelines as without him we secured a low goals against tally. He waited, and when his chance came, he made damn sure that he took it. Nothing was going to be left in the dressing room. In the past he’s held something back for fear of making a mistake, but his wholehearted approach is precisely his biggest strength. He let rip in a series of fearless performances, the background to which must have been not only the need to avoid jeopardising the team’s success but also the worry that this could be his final opportunity, with five centre halves in the squad and a manager impatient for progress. He is nothing short of outstanding.

And Bale, the terrified hesitant youngster or scourge of the best defences in the league, a rabbit stuck in the headlights or the most dynamic full back around? This force of nature was comparatively recently in danger of being consigned to the dustbin of Spurs history, the overflowing section labelled ‘Promising youngster – Failed’.

I’ve mentioned before a 5 Live commentary of a cup match when he came on as sub. The commentators could hear the bench screaming at him to get forward, in a game that carried little pressure, but he was immobile, unsure about how to react. Again he has suffered the pain of serious injury that for young players can leave emotional scars more lasting than the physical damage, but given the chance presented by BAE’s injury, he was determined to take it.

One of the things about writing on the net is that your opinions hang around in the ether for eternity and come the day of reckoning, all will be taken into account. A couple of years ago on MEHSTG I described Bale as a world class prospect, but I never realised that he was this good, and frankly, neither did he. We’ll gloss over the ‘this is JJ’s year’…for two years running…

Three magnificent footballers, who I dearly love and cherish, who should never leave us. They’re ours – we’ve watched them grow and mature, now as part of our family we can marvel at their talents.

In closing, a reappraisal. We were awful against Portsmouth but perhaps in the light of subsequent events my verdict that they lacked the resilience to perform at the top was harsh. They could have done more, should have taken hold of that game without playing well. However, in hindsight many of them were not fully fit yet they gave everything in terms of energy and commitment. Corluka was obviously totally gone but he kept moving and tried his all. I don’t believe that the Arsenal and Chelsea performances emerged solely from the motivation of defeat at Wembley. Deep down, it came from a commitment to doing their very best for Tottenham Hotspur, and you can’t ask for anything more.