Through the Round Window, Little Harry’s Gone Bonkers Children

I thought the point of this window was to leave the squad, a squad that should be geared towards a full-scale assault on 4th place, stronger when it shut than when it opened.

Now we have no cover at right full back and have let go a striker and captain, one who is albeit off form but form can return. Pav is not fit, clearly, because he thought he was off. The cover for two experienced and able centre halves is promising but has a lot to learn.

No back up keeper

And we are 4th.

There’s always action around Spurs in any window. As the Sky reporters jockey for seniority, surely the real mark of achievement is who gets to wear the badge of honour and stand outside the Lodge on transfer deadline day. “I can tell you exclusively, Jim, that here at Chigwell absolutely nothing is happening. WHATSOEVER!!! Just look at that – it’s a car park!! With cars!” Rolling news, thank goodness for the 21st century.

Closer to the real action, Spurs fans are accustomed to the strange and mysterious, with the peak (or trough) coming a few years ago with a frantic midnight search for a striker, any striker, which culminated in equipping Juande Ramos for his charge at the league with a Manchester United reserve. That combination of mismanagement and absurdity will never be surpassed (please…) but yesterday’s events were bewildering.

I know I have said this before, but whatever the relative merits of players, why at this point do we need to let any of our first team squad go anywhere? So Hutton, Keane and Pav stew on the bench, with limited opportunities. So what? They will have chances to play as the pressure builds towards the end of the season. They provide different tactical options, either from the start or during the match. Or they don’t play at all. So what?

Naughton can gain experience elsewhere, fair enough. But already there is serious consideration being given to Kaboul, a centre half who is talented but very much a work in progress, at full back or midfield. He’s the cover, but if we had kept established internationals who can play there if needed, the cover is totally unnecessary except in dire emergency.

Keane is a good player who occasionally showed flashes of greatness but ultimately his technique does not equip him for the very top. Sometimes when it all flows, or when men like Berbatov were combining effortlessly with him, Keano was the perfect modern striker, able to drop deep and link front and back, pick out the pass with a touch or canny flick, and strike like a rapier in front of goal. At other times, sadly exhibited so often this season, he needs that extra moment or three or unleashes that clumsy airshot like an unco-ordinated 10 year old trying to be a parklife Messi.

Now he has his dream move. No, hang on, that was Liverpool, or wait, back to the Lane…Well anyway, he’s off to Celtic but it could have been West Ham or Sunderland. Obviously Harry has said he’s surplus to requirements, at least for now. I knew that something was not right when he came over to the Shelf late on against Fulham. The brightness in the eyes of this wholehearted competitor had dimmed. Sad to see him off-form, but form returns. Captain, goalscorer, international – there is no reason to let him go at this point in the biggest season for years and years.

Pav’s a good player who has played in Spurs teams where the tactics did not fully utilise is talents. He’s no lone target man, for sure. His mobility could be very handy, but maybe that is as much a reflection of my frustration with Crouch as it is of his skill.

But my assessment is less important (amazing, I know) than Harry’s, and so  what has happened in the last few weeks to turn him from an unfit lazy no hoper on his way out, with the club touting him around, to suddenly a crucial element of our strikeforce for the rest of the season? That description is not mine, it’s how Harry perceived him and how Harry talked about him, openly dismissive only comparatively recently. I assume that no one came in with the right offer so we are left with him and I hope he takes his chance, but having destroyed him, is Uncle H now going to put his armround his shoulders? Not long now until Harry takes full credit, saying that he always knew Pav had it in him and that he wanted to give him an opportunity.

The whole thing smacks of a lack of planning or consistency. Keane’s departure will save us around 250k a month, so in the absence of any other coherent strategy, this could be a sign that we need to watch the pennies. Maybe Levy is just being prudent, but on the field this is our chance. None of this is about who is better, Defoe or Keane, Crouch or Pav, Corluka or, um… There is no imperative to weaken our efforts to achieve fourth place. No reason at all.

Five Live last night, Harry – 3 youth teamplayers on the bench for Leeds, I don’t have a very big squad and Naughton, Hutton and Keane have gone. Even allowing for Harry’s Big Gob, words fail me. Not a good thing for a blogger, but hey, I haven’t time to worry about that. As a lifelong atheist, I’m off to find a deity and pray night and day that Gomes does not get injured. Join hands everyone….

Let’s Hurry Up and Play Them….

So it would have been a good time to play them after all….. The Liverpool game has been rearranged for next Wednesday, where with injuries they might still be forced to turn out at less than full strength. Playing sooner rather than later will help us maintain our momentum and also enable us to not fall adrift in the race for the CL places just because we are without a fixture. The biggest boost of all will be victory against Hull on Saturday, so one game at a time.

There’s a bit of real activity in the window too, rather than the equivalent of one of Harry’s twitches. The forthcoming purchase of Sandro is no real surprise as it has been heavily touted for some time, the deal allegedly having been done a few months ago.

I can safely say, without fear of contradiction, that I know next to nothing about him. I’ve not seen him play so I’m not going to comment. One cap for Brazil at 20 years of age indicates that he has something going for him, although let’s not read too much into that because they play a large number of internationals in the course of an average season, many of them friendlies and where they might be short of some of their Europe-based players.

I don’t expect him to be an automatic starter when he arrives, or make that if he arrives as the work permit has still to be granted. He’s touted as a hard working central midfielder but even so it will take time for the young man to adjust to the English game. I look forward to seeing him play but we should not ask too much too soon.

Harry’s interesting comments this week about needing four central midfielders provide an insight into his plans for the squad. It is the absolutely crucial position in Premier League football, and men who can run, pass, tackle, attack and defend are precious commodities. Such a portfolio of qualities looks absurdly unattainable but that’s what we not only expect but also what we see in other successful teams. No other position requires so many varied attributes.

Discounting the rubbish from websites writing splash sensationalist headlines to improve their traffic and the ego-manic attention-seeking so-called ITKs, our interest in Scott Parker appears genuine, which makes five central mids. A fine player, he will organise well, cover and enable us to build from the back, but he’s not going to cover every blade of grass and he’s suffering from injuries. He may come if the price is right – a few million and a reasonable salary will not necessarily make a huge dent in our resources. The salary could be a problem as West Ham agreed silly money to a few players signed under their last regime in order to get them to sign. Desperate is the word, and now how they are suffering…

The same might be said for Matthew Upson’s value to the squad. Another decent player, experience is invaluable but I would prefer someone quicker to play alongside Dawson, and certainly not to replace him. And only Harry knows how bad Woody and Led are, so if a quality centre half is available at the right price, then H will be in there like a Jack Russell after a rabbit.

And so to the dearly, nearly departed. Hutton, Bentley and Pavlyuchenko will generate some funds but in the case of the latter pair will represent a financial loss. More about them if and when they go, but in terms of the squad it is very dangerous to weaken it in any way as the fight for the fourth CL place develops. Bentley is superfluous because Luka and Niko can play wide ride right, a different wide right but highly effective nonetheless. If we need four central midfielders, then surely we need four quality strikers too. The suggested £10m from Zenit is as good as we will get (he should not be sold to an English team) but it would be foolish to sell Pav without a replacement.

And now the good news. Whisper it, but nothing around about clubs sniffing round our stars. Shhhhh……

Harry v the Taxman – Battle of the Titans

Following Friday’s headspinning crisis (what crisis?), the news that Harry Redknapp is being investigated for tax avoidance rather than fraud came as welcome relief for many Spurs fans. However, there’s more than enough to suggest that a world of murky dealings and undisclosed payments are about to be exposed. If not a criminal act, then it’s more than enough to cast a shadow.

This blog’s views on the non-crisis are here in last Friday’s blog piece I certainly have not got it in for Harry: his rescue act has been a virtuoso performance. However, it’s the club I care most about and there’s no doubt that there will be unwanted attention on Harry and the Lane in the weeks and months to come, although his media friends will protect him and us from the worst tabloid excesses.

Whatever took place, and we will probably never know the full story, happened well away from Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs are not culpable, thank goodness. It would be interesting to know if the topic came up when he was offered the job, though. Wonder what he told Levy, and how Levy checked that out. The appointment all happened very quickly, so did Levy just take him at his word? If so, that’s a risk.

Redknapp vehemently denies any wrongdoing. He states that the sum in question is money due to him as part of his contract at Portsmouth, where he took a cut of the income from outgoing transfers, and he has paid his taxes. This comes after extensive investigations into underhand payments in football, provoked by the Panorama programme that pointed an accusing finger at several high profile figures in the game and then further pursued by the police and Operation Quest, the F.A.’s own inquiry. No prosecutions have as yet resulted. Many feel the whole thing has been a damp squib, with these bodies unable to penetrate the twin walls of silence and conspiracy that protect those in the game. However, it’s emerged that action is on hold until the tax investigations have been completed.

One idea that comes to mind is: they can’t get him on fraud so they’ll have a damn good go at tax. Normally in these circumstances, I understand that the Revenue negotiate a cash settlement with the individual and then, provided that that individual has divulged all his income, the matter is closed. However, I fear that Redknapp may be used as a scapegoat and therefore this option will not be left open for him. Under this line of reasoning, the powers that be will use him as an example because they want to send out a warning to the game at large and they do not want all their investigative efforts to go unrewarded. Let’s hope I’m being overly pessimistic, because any proven wrongdoing and Levy will have no alternative but dismissal. Otherwise, the club will hold off on action until the case is resolved.

Leaving aside what it means for Spurs, it sheds further light on the shady world of football contracts and transfers. If a manager gets cash for selling his own players, one inescapable implication is that at the very least if a bid comes in, his own interests (i.e. the possibility of cash) might conflict with those of the club for whom he works. Would his decision on who to sell be influenced by the size of his cut?

Incentive bonuses are part and parcel of modern business, but this particular arrangement has no place in football. I work in social care for a charity, a world as far away from the business of Premier League football as could be. Colleagues who work for some private companies are on performance related pay. In my world, this means increasing the number of children who are placed with carers. The more children, the more money they get.

They could do this by working hard to get more good carers. Or they could drop standards, have anyone as a carer and still place the child. They get more money, their company gets more money, but it does not necessarily mean that they provide a better service to children.

It’s the same thing in football – the manager gets more, maybe the club gets money but in the long run it does not necessarily mean that the team does better. Harry may or may not have done this in the past; certainly in the highly unlikely event of any West Ham fan reading this, they would at this point chuckle at some of the players he bought and sold who frankly did not have a major impact on the club’s fortunes…

If any manager has a provision such as this in their contract, I as a fan would be concerned about even the possibility that standards would be compromised. The good thing for Spurs is that I’m convinced Levy would not countenance such a clause. I’ve been extremely critical of him in the past over the lack of direction at the club but he’s having a good season. His probity and business acumen leaves us in a strong financial position and also protects us against this sort of dodgy dealing. In the transfer market, he successfully used all our market advantages to lever a couple of good deals. We had cash, Portsmouth needed cash and quickly, so we get first Crouch and then Kranjcar at decent prices. With the Kyles, we had cash plus players Sheffield United might want to loan, and crucially our main rivals in that deal, Everton, had neither. Finally, I’ve written several pieces praising his involvement with the wider community and with disadvantaged groups.

Redknapp himself believes he can sort it out this week, and the sums involved are small, given that by his own admission he’s paid the Revenue £10m over the years, so a settlement is likely, unless there are more skeletons in the cupboard. It’s nothing to do with Spurs, but no off the field troubles should get in the way of our progress on the pitch.

Add to: Facebook | Digg | | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Furl | Newsvine

Is It Safe?

The transfer window is closed and Tottenham Hotspur have concluded their business.

Our new Director of Football

Our new Director of Football

Is it safe? Is it safe? I detest the window, or more accurately the hullabaloo that surrounds it. I love the banter and camaraderie of the messageboards, so why is it that as deadline day nears, everyone goes mental? The bloke who texts the Sky Sports News ticker that his cousin’s best mate’s dad is a taxi driver and he’s been told to pick up Van der Vaart from Heathrow to take him to White Hart Lane is not telling the truth. Yet these and other similar rumours have been picked over and debated for the past few weeks on the boards. Oh, and is it too late to mention Van der Vaart was in the Dutch squad for an international at the time???

I am currently holidaying in not-sodding-sunny Cornwall and mercifully have been spared the ghastly spectacle of Sky Sports News on deadline day. Oh these gorgeous Cornwall villages and their cottages, oak beams, slate floors, roses growing round the window and only 5 T V channels – so delightfully quaint! I am therefore indebted to the Guardian online for the information that SSN knew big things were in store for Spurs today because, “Normally Harry Redknapp gives us a wave when he arrives at the training ground.”

I expect it was a full day of Standing Outside in the Cold news. Why do they have to stand outside a training ground or stadium to tell us what is happening? That is actually the last place to be, not only away from where decisions are being made but also out of  touch with other news-gathering sources. I’ll tell you what is happening outside the grounds – nothing. So then they spend several minutes telling us in excited, conspiratorial tones that nothing is happening.

As technology goes, Teletext will in years to come be regarded as the media equivalent of betamax. I never really mastered the knack of going back one page without it going through every page over again, and then missing out the one I wanted. But oh how I miss the humble page 302 now. Information. Plain and simple. This has happened. That’s all I needed to know. If the chief teletext reporter had a moustache like Ned Sanders, it was hidden from view. Irrelevant.

Pass the oil of cloves, deep breaths, HOLD and relax. The last few days have been good for Spurs. Kranjcar is a superb player, technically gifted, good on the ball and highly astute. Good for a passing game and for retaining possession, links well with the strikers, does things at set pieces. A steal at that price: this blog is unreservedly delighted at his arrival.

This is no short-term over for Modric’s injury nor squad-building, although we do have strength and quality in depth. He could initially slot in on the left but could play anywhere in midfield. Maybe Luka will settle into centre midfield, probably his preferred position, or we adopt the flexibility of the Croatian team, where they have a hard working, fluid midfield who support the man on the ball and use the space without having totally fixed positions across the field. Palacios will enable them to play. The prospects are genuinely exciting.

O’Hara’s loan looked at first glance as a sign that he was on the way out, but now it’s more like a sweetener to seal the Kranjcar deal. Portsmouth needed to bring players in before any could leave, because their squad looks well sort of Premier League quality. They will struggle and Boeteng will not help their cause. In 40 years of watching Spurs, I have never been so underwhelmed by a substantial signing. His brief performances proved only that he was a liability, full of hasty late tackles, conceding possession and positional naivety. Being skilful and promising takes you only so far. 4 million – thank you very much.

Finally, kudos to Daniel Levy. I’ve been extremely critical of his work in the transfer market in the past. This time last year he was desperate to buy any striker at any price and still failed, whilst letting Arshavin slip through our fingers is a cardinal sin. However, in the past he has shrewdly played clubs who he feels are weaker than us. Taking Keane and Lennon at the last minute from Leeds is a case in point, as is our ability to come up with cash for Sheffield United and the Kyles, and thereby outmanoeuvre our rivals Everton. All three deals with Portsmouth have been perfectly judged.