1. The H List Humbles Heavyweight
There are people out there (infidels) who draw a direct correlation between the absence of H List articles and the on-field success of our team, coincidentally evidenced in the last few weeks.
As it happens, this most recent hiatus has been due to behind the scenes wranglings with Sunderland who are a bit miffed that we doubtless contributed to the resignation of their manager.
Roy Keane has cited our Sunderland preview as one of the direct reasons for his recent departure:
“I have never encountered such incisive, sardonic ramblings. Their ability to deconstruct the very fabric of the game, and indeed my character, is spooky. I’m going to have to re-evaluate everything” – he may have said.
2. The Opposition
Urgh… Sorry, I just had to swallow a little bit of sick in my mouth then.
tottenham cross town this week replete with their superiority complex, reptilian chairman and misguided belief that they constitute a ‘big club’.
I could essentially copy and paste this same section from last year, or any of the previous few: huge outlay of cash, ill-founded expectancy of top four finish, cataclysmic start, new manager, rally to midtable obscurity, claim that next season will be the one.
Spurs have again made a huge investment in an array of attacking options, all of which fail to mask the defensive fragility which will always scupper any hopes of finishing in the top few places.
They have enjoyed a few results under Redknapp (ungh… there’s that sick again) but also had more than their share of good fortune and look no less likely to concede than they ever did under Ramos.
3. Big Four Or Poorhouse?
As sure as eggs is eggs, as sure as Christmas comes but once a year, as sure as Barack Obama sits in the Bobby Moore Lower quaffing sausage rolls, so every year we are all subjected to the laughable if fervently held belief from tottenham fans that this is the year they will break the dominance of the Big Four.
Only Newcastle can rival Spurs in the delusion stakes. This season, as last and the many before that, tottenham were convinced that their huge summer spending would see them dissolve the monopoly at the top of the league. This despite the fact they sold their three best strikers in the space of six months.
Juande Ramos was the man with the plan and a man they had very publicly courted, much to the chagrin of former manager Martin Jol (currently doing a fine job with Hamburger SV in the Bundesliga). Ramos was jettisoned with equal haste after tottenham’s worst start to a League campaign since 1912, drawing more than one parallel with the ill-fated Titanic.
Prior to his sacking, Ramos was given vast amounts to spend and brought in the likes of Croatian Luka Modric, David Bentley and Russia’s Roman Pavlyuchenko - rumoured to be the biggest boozehound in Eastern Europe, which is saying something.
Having spent largely on players of an attacking nature, bar a Scottish defender (which is something of an oxymoron), Spurs were quickly found to have a brittle core and promptly sat rooted to the bottom of the table for much of the first 3-months of the season.
Despite this, despite the fact Man Utd took their most talented performer since Gazza in his pomp, despite Michael Dawson’s dry rot-afflicted wooden frame being in dire need of another coat of Ronseal, rest assured that come July we will all be forced to hear the myriad reasons why next season will be the one when Spurs make it big.
Michael Dawson pops out for a pint of milk
4. Case For The Defence
You wait eight months for a clean sheet and then three come along at once.
Recent shut-outs at home to Portsmouth and away to Sunderland and Liverpool have provided our defenders with a much needed tonic and a platform on which to build.
Matthew Upson has looked very solid at the back, particularly since his integral display for England in Berlin. James Collins is getting a consistent run in the side and thereby the chance to prove that he is the kind of sturdy defender many of us thought he could be.
Robert Green has been in tremendous form over recent weeks, pulling off a number of world class saves, most notably against Yossi Benayoun at Anfield and surely cementing a place in the England squad - although the next friendly is not scheduled until the end of March.
tottenham are among a few clubs currently in the market for a ‘keeper and with Alan McKnight now retired, Green will be at the top of a few shopping lists in January. One must hope that Zola’s repeated assurances that “none of our best players will be sold" rings true.
Unrequited love can be tragic and Herita Ilunga’s reported outburst last week that we are “a second-rate club” whom he wishes to use as a “stepping stone” to bigger things was like a dagger to the heart.
For the time being I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and cling to Zola’s belief that his answers were misinterpreted, but if Ilunga isn’t careful he could well see the link to his official blog removed from these pages, or at least moved down a few notches.
If I were Zola, I’d smear some mayonnaise on the back of Ilunga’s shirt so that Lucas Neill’s unheralded and feverish attention scares our left back into staying.
A very painful drubbing at White Hart Lane last season was preceded by a 1-1 draw at Upton Park, a draw that felt like a victory for reasons exclusive to football.
Having taken the lead through Carlton Cole, we managed the near impossible feat of allowing an immobile wooden trunk with a deep-seated complex root system to score, as Michael Dawson headed in from a corner.
Frustrating as this was, it set up a near-perfect conclusion as Jermaine Defoe came on to win a penalty in the last minute, only to see Robert Green deny him. It felt almost as good to see Defoe miss as to witness a last minute Hammers winner.
The stadium reverberated to the sound of a particular chant whose lyrics are too blue even for these pages, but the sentiment was spot on.
Recent encounters between the two sides have provided memorable moments for right or wrong reasons. Shipping four goals, Defoe’s penalty miss, Anton Ferdinand’s last minute equaliser or Yossi Benayoun’s late winner to deny tottenham Champions League football (which they’ll probably get next year anyway).
Hopefully Monday night will provide more good memories as opposed to the sight of Luis Boa Morte trudging towards the tunnel having been sent off. Or indeed trudging from the tunnel towards the pitch.
To be fair to Luis, he did have 8inch stilettos on and I’m not one for booing him for the sake of it. He has put in the effort this season, which is more admirable when done amidst several dozen vocal idiots booing before he even gets a touch of the ball. His mistakes are lambasted considerably more than anyone else, but that miss against Liverpool – Jesus!
6. Speculative Nature
Unfortunately, we now have something undeniably in common with tottenham. The recent confirmation of the open secret that SBOBet are to be unveiled tonight as our new sponsor means that both clubs now exhibit the emblems of online betting agencies across their chests.
The new deal sees SBOBet confirmed as our sponsor until the end of the 2009/’10 season in an agreement which incorporates The Bobby Moore Fund, whereby the latter will appear on the shirts of all Academy teams as well as children’s replica kits.
While a few of the more diminutive adults may try to squeeze into a 12-year old’s shirt, the rest of us will be granted the opportunity to return our old XL-emblazoned tops and have the new sponsor “applied” free of charge.
If you ask me, the new look is rubbish and if I find out that some bright spark was actually paid to “design” this affront, I shall have no option but to write a very strongly worded letter to the Daily Mail. I am now more, not less enthused to wear my shirt promoting a now deceased travel firm.
Much more appealing would have been this version, drawn up by a contributor to Knees Up Mother Brown who unlike the masterminds behind the reality, obviously has some talent and imagination.
Considering that few new kits are likely to be sold thanks to the club’s ‘Tony Hart on skag’ effort, I can’t help but feel that West Ham missed a trick here by failing to issue the current shirts in the interim minus any sponsor. They surely would have made a killing on that one.
Still, I don’t suppose we can expect fiscal prudence from an organization who remain happy to pay Nigel Quashie a wage as a professional footballer.
7. Heart Of Darkness
As if Spurs don’t have enough problems with Michael Dawson enduring a very real threat from Dutch Elm disease, they now have a man at the helm with all the scruples of a Robert Mugabe figure who’s just sold his kids on Christmas Eve to feed his mistress’s crack habit. If you can imagine such a thing.
A shameless mercenary at best, tottenham manager at worst, Harry Redknapp has once again proven his ability to walk out on a club for whom he professes his love as soon as a better offer (bigger paycheque) comes along.
Worryingly, ‘Arry has yet to field a losing side at Upton Park when in the opposition dugout having bested us on the handful of occasions he has returned since his acrimonious departure in 2001.
Not content with his new Faustian pact, Harry Redknapp has also seen fit to invade our TV screens along with his fatuous son and banal daughter-in-law (plus some other bloke) in advertisements for the Nintendo Wii.
The only thing missing from this nauseating ‘at home with the Redknapps’ commercial is the Fraud Squad bursting through the front door with flash-bang grenades.
8. Positive Panacea
Goals goals goals. We need some.
Despite reports in the media, we had enough chances to nick a win at Anfield last week and have an increasing need for someone, anyone, to start converting a few of these nicely set-up opportunities we are creating.
There’s a chance that once Bellamy gets one, he could go on a run. There’s more of a chance of Carlton Cole going on the run from the Police than getting one.
A few efforts notwithstanding, goals from midfield have largely appeared little more than an abstract theory this season.
Set pieces? Moving on….
If we can maintain our newfound steadfastness at the back and garnish it with a goal or two, we could really make some strides in the division as things are still largely close knit, even after our calamitous recent run.
It’s a sure thing that the crowd tonight will be well up for it for at least the first half an hour and that, combined with a repeat performance of the work-rate against Liverpool, gives us every chance of victory. Although I’d be a lot more confident if we had a striker on show in the midst of a goal-scoring streak.
Lee Chapman anyone?