Burnley, Redknapp, Fletcher

I have just watched Spurs lose 3-2 to Burnley, but make it through to the Carling Cup final on aggregate. The scoreline is deceptive. Spurs were leading 4-1 from the home leg, meaning that Burnley needed to score at least 3 goals to make it to the final. And they did. After 90 minutes they were leading 3-0, having comprehensively outplayed Spurs. I had assumed before the game that a 3-0 scoreline would mean that Spurs would be eliminated on the away-goals rule, but it turns out that rule only comes into effect after 120 minutes. Which is lucky for Spurs, because having failed to create any chances for the entirety of the match, they scored after 118 minutes. Burnley’s heads dropped and we got another goal.

The result should not mask the fact that we were appalling. It was a performance as bad as anything under Ramos in the first 10 games of this season but was sadly not much worse than recent performances in the league against Portsmouth, Wigan, West Brom and Fulham. At the moment Spurs are fifth from bottom in the league, with all the teams below on the same number of points.

I am a fan of Harry Redknapp’s and was pleased when he was appointed. He has experience fighting relegation (mostly successfully), has an eye for a bargain (a pleasant change from our policy of big money marquee signings)  and his teams generally play good football. When he was first appointmented, I marvelled at his man-management and his ability to boost the confidence of struggling players. He boasted about how this was the best squad he had ever inherited, with quality throughout the ranks. Suddenly, a collection of strangers looked like a team.

In the last six weeks, however, we have seen the other side to Harry’s character. The shrugging, hangdog, nothing-is-my-fault Harry. As results fell away, he has ridiculed the strength of the squad, saying we are lacking in most areas (we aren’t), he has singled out players for criticism (Bent, who thrives on confidence) and has generally acted as though the events on the pitch are nothing to do with him. Let’s be honest: Spurs have a very good, expensively assembled squad. Not good enough for the Champions League, but good enough to finish in the top ten. We are lacking a decent defensive midfielder, a striker who can hold up the ball (someone like Heskey was more of a priority than a poacher like Defoe, much as I like him) and goalkeeping cover. We could also do with a left-winger, but I don’t want to be greedy.

What is most galling about our current performances is our refusal to play football. We are hoofing the ball. I’ve seen more long balls in the last month than in the whole of last season. The long-ball has its place, but when you have the players Spurs have, you should be keeping the ball on the ground and letting the quality on the pitch do the talking. Tonight, Burnley outplayed us. They didn’t bully us or foul us, they just passed us off the pitch, moving the ball quickly and decisively. Harry can whine all he likes about the depth of the squad, but he cannot pretend that he is not responsible for the team he puts out on the pitch and the tactics they employ.

I haven’t given up on Harry. His job was to keep us up, and if he acheives that, he will have been successful. But if we do go down, he will have to accept that the blame lies squarely at his feet. So let’s see if he can stop blaming everyone else, and start getting Spurs playing some decent football and winning some games.

For those of you more interested in rubbish celebrities than football, I spotted a porky Dexter Fletcher on Oxford Street today.

Heurelho Gomes

For those of you who aren’t Spurs fans, the strange fact is that for the first five games of the season, Heurelho Gomes was our best player. When we drew 1-1 at Chelsea, he was fantastic; calm, assured and commanding his area. And now he’s a crazy liability who gifts the opposition goals and injures himself and his team-mates in the process. He is seriously very very bad. He’s basically become Paul Robinson. I don’t understand it. It’s like there is the spirit of an alcoholic madman inhabiting the goalmouth at White Hart Lane, and whichever keeper plays there for long enough gets possessed by him. It’s the only logical explanation.

The problem with keepers is that once their confidence has gone, they become useless. I still believe that Gomes has the ability to be an excellent keeper, but once a keeper’s mind goes loopy they rarely recover. They have to find a new club or get a cocaine habit.

Still, we beat Liverpool and I put a fiver on that Spurs would score at least two goals. I won £12.50. It was easy, really.

A Spurs week

What a week to be a Spurs fan. I awoke last Saturday to see that Spurs had sacked Ramos, Comolli and all the backroom staff and that Harry Redknapp was our new boss. Normally when a manager is sacked, there’s a period of a few weeks before the new boss is installed, but this was different. We went into the Bolton match with Clive Allen officially picking the team, but with ‘Arry on the sidelines screaming and looking like a melted waxwork of a bulldog.

We won 2-0. And looked like an actual team.

Still, I didn’t expect us to get anything from the midweek game at Arsenal. I could have watch the game in a pub, but had a prior engagement at The Boogaloo film quiz with some mates, and they don’t have a telly there. Nonetheless, I kept up to date with the game on my mobile. I cackled when Bentley scored, but suspected that we’d still lose. I remember the same match last season when we took the lead through a Bale free kick but then lost 3-1. So I wasn’t too surpised when we did end up 3-1, but was heartened when we pulled a goal back. Then, in typical Spurs fashion, we conceded, and I accepted defeat. And then, in three mad minutes we scored two goals. When I saw the final score was 4-4, I leapt onto the floor and did a little impromptu running-man dance, much to the delight/disgust of my team-mates on the quiz. I dashed outside to phone my mum to tell her to watch Match of the Day.

For the Liverpool game I was in Cambridge on a weekend break with my girlfriend. We didn’t want to spent the evening glued to the telly, so we compromised and watched the first half in a pub. I found myself sitting in front of a couple of Arsenal fans who spent the first 30 minutes saying: “I fucking hate Tottenham,” every two minutes. They crowed like fishwives when Liverpool scored. I bit my tongue and resisted to temptation to point out that Arsenal had just lost to Stoke. But we were happy enough – we chatted to some lovely Irish people and then went off to dinner. There was no reception on my mobile so I assumed that Spurs had lost. We were playing badly and Liverpool were creating hatfuls of chances. A home loss to Liverpool wasn’t the end of the world.

We got back to the B&B, wet and tired and I managed to get a signal on my mobile. We had won 2-1. I did my little dance and postponed any romance so I could watch Match of the Day. My God, we were lucky. Liverpool may as well have gift-wrapped the game and handed it to us with a little card saying: “With our sympathy in these difficult times…”

Everything at Spurs has happened so quickly that I haven’t had a chance to think about what this means for the club. In fact, the whole season has taken on a slightly dreamlike quality. I keep on expecting to wake up to find that Jol is still in charge. As for Ramos, the speed at which he has been consigned to the dustbin of football history is incredible. His reign seems like a distant memory despite the fact that just over a week ago he was in charge. Even as a Spurs fan, used to turmoil and upheaval, I’m amazed at how rapidly everything’s happened. I feel a little sorry for Ramos – he was a decent man, but found himself out of his depth. Had things been handled differently with Berbatov and Keane, he might have made a better start to the season and clung on. But he never looked properly equipped for a relegation struggle.

As for the rest of the season, we’re still in a relegation battle, and right now I’d settle for securing our Premiership status and forgetting about cups. Things may change, but right now our priority is the Premier League.

Dark days at White Hart Lane

I can’t very well continue with this blog and not mention Spurs, much as I’d like to avoid the subject.

For those of you who don’t follow football, here’s a brief resume: A couple of years ago Spurs had a lovely manager called Martin Jol. I loved him. And under his stewardship, we finished 5th two times in a row, scoring lots of goals, which was very good for Spurs. But some people at the club didn’t think Martin was good enough, so after a poor start to last season he was sacked and replaced by Juande Ramos, a granite-faced Spaniard. We recovered enough to avoid relegation and did remarkably well in the Carling Cup, beating Chelsea in the final to win our first silverware in a decade. Hooray. Despite this, our form in the league under Ramos wasn’t great. Then in the close season, we sold our two main strikers, Berbatov and Keane to Manchester United and Liverpool, for good money. Berbatov had been itching to leave for a year, and Keane claimed that Liverpool were his dream club. Alongside them, we also sold lots of key players like Malbranque, Tainio and Chimbonda. We spent big as well, buying big name players from Croatia, Russia and even England. In pre-season we looked quite good. Then the season started. Whoops. Spurs have played 8 games, and have won none of them, with two draws to show for our efforts. We have rarely looked like scoring goals, and the team looks uninvented and uninspired. There is little leadership on the pitch and Ramos doesn’t look like he knows what he wants the players to do. If things continue like this, it is fairly likely that Spurs will be relegated, which would be a disaster for a club that size. Oh, and as a pleasant afterthought, Martin Jol has just steered his new club, Hamburg, to the top of the German League.

On Sunday evening I popped by my mum’s for dinner and told her that we’d lost to Stoke. Worse still, we’d had two players sent off, conceded two penalties and had a player knocked unconscious. We both shrugged. It didn’t really surprise either of us.

Over the last few months I’ve written thousands of words on the subject of Spurs on the messageboards at spurscommunity, and I’ve read thousands more words on who is to blame: from Daniel Levy to Damien Comolli to Juande Ramos and even the fans. It’s exhausting. And I can’t be bothered with foaming at the mouth and chanting “LEVY OUT!” or calling for the manager’s head. None of it will change things.

I’ve passed through the various stages of grieving: denial, anger, bargaining… and acceptance. Not an acceptance that we will get relegated, but an acceptance that the club I loved under Martin Jol has gone. And it has been replaced by a team in which reputations count more than substance, where a love of the club has been replaced by an celebration of mediocrity. At the moment, even the thought of relegation doesn’t horrify me as much as it should, because there is almost no-one in the team that I care about. There’s no-one I’m rooting for. I don’t have a favourite player, because most of the players I loved now play for other teams, and have been replaced by empty superstars signed by people who spend their days watching goal compilations on YouTube.

There have been a litany of woeful errors by both the board and the manager. The chairman has been short-sighted and greedy and Ramos inspires no confidence in me. I look at the team and can’t even bring myself to hate the players – I just feel a pathetic sense of indifference and contempt. I hope we don’t go down. But most of all I want my Spurs back.