Monday, April 8, 2013

Lustdoctor signs for ‘The Fighting Cock’

The Lustdoctor has accepted a bid from to join its team of feisty and uncompromising wildfowl. The fee is believed to be in the region of ‘half a can of Tyskie’. An initial bid of ‘a crate of Fosters’ was flatly rejected. In a separate deal, Jonathan Obika has joined the Lustdoctor until the end of the season and is currently dusting my blinds.

In future, you can capture my leftfield Spurs musings on The Fighting Cock website. Keen followers of this blog may have noticed an absence of er, actual blogs in recent weeks. Rest assured, the mad Spurs love still remains and breathes fire in my soul. Yet a combination of business, personal and travel commitments – with a dash of baby mama drama – have meant that regular post-match blogs are now virtually impossible in the short-term.

This blog has always intended to be a witty and hopeful antidote to the stale and guileless negativity that seems to accompany every Spurs performance on social media and beyond. Even with an injured ravaged, striker-free squad, we follow a team that should pump our fast-beating hearts with lilywhite pride and provide a genuine sense of hope for the future. Keep the faith.

Less regular insights will now continue elsewhere, but with no less passion and commitment. I hope you’ll follow me there. Like the streetwise bear in that old Hofmeister advert. I will be wearing a silky bomber jacket of similar quality.

Friday, March 29, 2013

How to (almost) disappear completely

The following is the first chapter from my novel 'Players' Restaurant' available on Amazon here and via the Kindle apps for iPhone, iPad, Android and PC. The normal Spurs blog (hey, that's why you're here) will be back next week for the Basel game after my sunkissed sojourn to Miami and this weekend's mandatory trip to York.

1) How to (almost) disappear completely

She dazzles in child Gucci. Emma Nova read the line once more with wry satisfaction and lit another Marlboro Light. Old habits die hard. She didn’t need the fags to suppress her appetite these days, but still she kept smoking, drawing the wisps of nicotine in to her throat wearily, like a familiar lover’s kiss. The fear was still there, even if the fat was not.

Emma wasn’t slim, she was fashionably skinny. She slid into couture clothes with effortless ease; in a light breeze a Size 8 fluttered like a windsock on her bony frame. The editor of Celeb Hot Body magazine had the luxury of cherry-picking her wardrobe from the cream of the catwalk as fashion PRs tossed designer clothing her way like handfuls of confetti over a skeletal bride.

Her ‘stunning’, sub-waif look was regularly celebrated and debated throughout the mainstream media. One fashion scribe quipped how she had transformed herself from ‘ice cream to waifer’. Emma’s stock had skyrocketed from mid-profile editor to celebrity in her own right due to a phenomenal drop in dress sizes, six in as many months. She had arguably become the world’s most noted slimmer. “Thank God, Karen Carpenter did not live to see this,” observed another wag darkly.

The increased notoriety and new-found skinny worship was an absolute thrill to Emma; she hired a ballsy, no nonsense agent and flimflamming publicist to cope with the endless demand for interviews and slimming endorsements. The editor was now a bigger deal than her magazine, but that was the only respect where she was larger.

Emma’s life had been radically transformed through a simple smoothie. This foul tasting product had broken the slimming mould. It was the diet craze that actually worked, more in demand and valuable per pound than gold or cocaine. The curious concoction sustained Emma like a camel’s hump in the desert, to the extent that she could miss meals without effort. Her constant cravings for food had disappeared. She still dined at fashionable restaurants, for appearances sake; it was crucial to be seen eating so her transformation was deemed truly effortless through the blinking lenses of the paparazzi. And if, as was often the case, Emma didn’t feel hungry, she could nurse a starter without consuming more than a few forkfuls. Naturally, she always skipped dessert.

Insecurity about her weight and physical appearance had tormented Emma since her youth. Her two sisters had been historically thinner and over the years revelled in taunting their podgy sibling, but they were barely on speaking terms since Emma’s dramatic weight loss; the family dynamic had been flipped on its head. They were unable to get their hands on the exclusive smoothie whereas Emma, the product’s great PR vehicle, received an unlimited free supply and, according to her sneering sisters, an ‘unfair advantage’.

The seismic shift in their relationship delighted Emma and, slowly, she exacted childhood revenge through her media; frequently referencing her sisters in interviews as ‘plus size’ or ‘plump’ with a weary, almost compassionate, sigh. They were a UK Size 6 and 8 respectively. These cutting remarks were heavy payback for years of sustained abuse and crippling eating disorders; for being made to feel less of a woman by weighing more.

The three sisters rarely talked on the phone (Emma could barely speak to either for more than two minutes without hanging up in a blind rage) so to stay in touch they would arrange irregular dinner dates via text. These were often disastrous affairs that left Emma weeping in the toilets. During the meal, her siblings provided regular updates of how full they were; every mouthful of food would be accompanied by a running commentary as Emma contemplated hurling her fork across the table like a vengeful Poseidon.

They thrived on making their elder sister feel enormous and, of course, there was the ongoing competition to see who could leave the most food on their plate. Her sisters would generally push away at least a third of their main course and remark how stuffed they were, how bloated, how their tiny stomachs were unable to take any more of this hideous punishment. Should they make it unscathed through the main course, a single dessert was ordered and shared between them and the perverse sight of three grown women frantically digging their spoons into the same tiny ice cream was not uncommon in London eateries.

The attending waiter was always far too professional to comment on this unorthodox method of dessert consumption. Skinny women and their tag-alongs were capable of almost any food-related madness in their experience. How Emma dreaded those sibling meals. Laura was a ‘rising fashion designer’ (her own words) while Lily worked in PR (exact role unspecified) and their gigantic egos were frequently massaged by a shower of male compliments. Her sisters’ faith in their own appearance was rock-like. They did not cry, they did not vent, they were always having a fabulous time, always having incredible nights out, always gaining promotions and recognition, always enjoying the attentions of rich and gorgeous men. Everyone noticed them, it was as if they owned the world and it revolved around them wearing a big goofy smile upon its face.

As with most anecdotes, there was a fair degree of exaggeration. The sisters were not having quite the marvellous time they suggested, but the downtrodden Emma believed every boastful word and she could see with her own eyes that their claims of weight loss, at least, were genuine. How did they always manage to stay so skinny while she toiled on the scales without progress?

Each sister employed a different slimming modus operandi. Laura enlisted a £250-a-week personal trainer and worked feverishly to maintain her well-toned Size 6. She ran three times a week with her ex-army fitness coach who had developed a successful weights regimen that kept her arms ripped like an athlete’s while she performed Pilates at an advanced level three other days at the local sports centre. Laura had recently started cycling to work through rush hour prompting numerous ‘cors’ and ‘look at thats’ from lazy-eyed white van men as they fixated on her pert behind to the detriment of other motorists and absent-minded pedestrians.

Any compliment, however ribald, was gratuitously related back to Emma with a naughty giggle. Laura painstakingly dieted every day, bar Saturday, where her man of the moment would be allowed to treat her to a luxurious meal at a high end restaurant. She never digested carbohydrates at any other meal time, other than breakfast. Porridge oats, chicken salad (no dressing obviously), salmon fillet and a sparse arrangement of green vegetables was a typical breakdown of her daily calorie intake. In tandem with such an intensive exercise regime, the extra pounds never got a look in.

Lily, meanwhile, was a naturally bony type, borderline androgynous, and therefore more attractive in the way she appeared to weight conscious women than men who preferred their eyes to linger on more feminine forms. She compensated by being an outrageous flirt – no man below 40 was safe from her advances, regardless of marital status and availability, even so-called friend’s boyfriends, past and present, were open season on a horny whim. And every one of these dalliances was regaled to Emma with lurid colour while Laura listened conspiratorially with almost ghoulish delight.

Few of Lily’s beaus lasted long, they tended to be short-term engagements as she was incapable of forging a non-physical connection, and this was Emma’s first form of attack if her own weight issues were highlighted too aggressively. Once, the two had to be physically pulled apart by their sibling as a catfight ensued. “It’s not a fair fight,” sneered Laura as she stood growling between them at Mezo, “You’re not even in the same weight class.” The fat sister clenched her teeth to prevent tears flooding down her swollen cheeks.

In her misery, Emma’s weight swelled to over 14 stone after she ‘ballooned’ on endless boxes of junk food and orange cuisine. Late night kebabs, KFC, McDonalds, fish and chips, she gobbled them all with gusto, often busting past the 3,500 calorie-a-day mark, according to her ill-fated calorie counting campaign. Using Weight Watchers, Emma regularly bypassed the 40 point limit; her three weekly visits to the gym were, therefore, simply pissing in the wind. The weight hung around like an obsessed stalker.

Emma was grimly aware that the weight of Celeb Hot Body magazine’s editor was under continual scrutiny and she could ill afford to lose herself in dietary freefall. No-one demanded her to be a Size 0, it was (for obvious reasons) not in her contract, but over Christmas drinks the CEO verbally insisted she not resemble an elephant in a peanut butter factory. Thinner, more glamorous women were always waiting in the wings to replace an errant editorial blimp.

A ‘chance’ meeting during Milan fashion week arrested the slide. She had little desire to attend the Prada Show while resembling a woman in the early stages of gigantism, but her presence was mandatory. Emma felt like an oak trunk in a forest of twiglets. She was the only Size 16 in the room. Even the wizened, hawk-like Italian fashionistas with their pinched, nipped and tucked faces had somehow managed to retain their slender forms, if not the flower of youth, into near senility.

Emma had been uncomfortably taking notes, trying to inconspicuously brush away the sweat beads forming on her temples under the callous glare of the lights, and not shoot envious glances at the elfin Victoria Beckham and annoyingly cute Sienna Miller, stoically casting their eyes across the latest fashions, when she was approached by a slender Hepburn clone in a painted-on black dress who stepped out from behind a couple of Size 10s grazing on complimentary bruschetta.

As Emma waited grimly for a catty remark or thinly-veiled putdown, she was greeted with a disarming smile and an intriguing proposition. Despite her lack of pounds, the tiny, dark-haired girl made no allusions to the editor’s rapid weight gain. Instead, she gushed about Emma’s achievements in the media, including her notable invention of the term ‘anorexchic’, and how she, and the company she represented, would love to have the esteemed editor of Celeb Hot Body magazine on board to endorse a new ‘can’t miss’ dieting product. Emma, who had tried and failed every imaginable weight loss fad over the years, required little persuasion. She was desperate to shed the small rolls of fat she had collected after her long-term relationship with an Italian boyfriend had turned sour, abusive and ended abruptly with her being ditched at Sharm El Sheikh airport, sunburned and crying without her suitcase after the holiday from hell.

With Emma’s spirits at an all-time low, and her career at stake, she willingly grasped the lifeline extended to her by a shadowy unknown, not caring to see where it led, looking enviously at this stick thin girl who might blow away in a strong gust of wind and wanting what she had, whatever the moral cost.

Emma remembered the first time she held the precious smoothie in her hands. It didn’t smell great, like a liquidized, day old Bolognese, but she closed her nostrils and pictured the end result, her being skinny and marvellous and the absolute envy of her sisters. She made a silent wish over the 20ml dosing cup, like a birthday cake, having no idea of the repercussions to come. And yet the transformation that followed was so sudden, so remarkable, that she reeled in shock the next morning when she placed her naked feet upon her digital scales.

The excess weight fell off effortlessly, pangs of hunger subsided, tight fitting clothes became roomy, tent-like. Embarrassingly, her work trousers fell down when she stood to address an editorial meeting and Emma was forced to commandeer a nearby bulldog clip to keep herself decent for the rest of the day. She arrived home in a giddy, almost feverish joy and ferreted through the right side of her wardrobe where all the smaller clothes had been shoved to one side. In a frenzy, she tossed her work attire on the wooden floors and, in a quiver of expectation, tried on clothes from three months and a size ago. They fitted like a dream. She could breathe without her waist feeling under attack by abdominal strangulation. Emma Nova felt invincible, reborn in miniature.

She now Googled herself every morning without fail; it was the new self-love for egocentrics. Emma Nova’s name was featured on every dieting messageboard, female-oriented website, celebrity or media column without exception; pictures of her smiling cheesily on the arm of influential TV producers, banking millionaires and bachelor oligarchs sprung up like proud new saplings across the internet. In an anti-skinny rage, a pro-chubby website photo-shopped her emaciated face on to a blade of grass and this ludicrous image became a cult t-shirt phenomenon for sarcastic anorexchics and camp Nova idolators alike.

Emma noticed that a new story had popped up on the search engine in the 12 minutes since her last online investigation. The Guardian was referencing her radical weight loss, but chiefly highlighting fresh concerns surrounding the ethics and ingredients of the smoothie. She took a deep breath as the story loaded and crossed her fingers for gushing praise and more jealous references to her rake-like form.

The article’s principal angle concerned the mysterious contents of the smoothie rather than hailing its astonishing success. Everyone knew the concoction was meat-based, but what was the origin of the ingredients? The Guardian speculated. “Leading conservationists fear the endangered okapi is the secret ingredient in the Smoochie Smoothie diet craze and have called on women to consider the moral implications. They have also appealed to the diet-obsessed media to stop championing the genocide of a species for superficial reasons.

“Campaigners have demanded answers from the smoothie’s creators SS Dietary Ltd who have, so far, refused to comment while the company’s outsourced PR department Ha Ha PR! refused to allow our phone calls past an incomprehensible work experience receptionist. However, The Guardian was told by one former SS employee, off the record, that the rare okapi was not the main ingredient in the smoothie, but admitted it did originate from an ‘unorthodox’ source.

“No doubt SS Dietary is buoyed by the strong sales of its product; the basic starter pack alone costs an initial £500, but despite this prohibitive cost, during a worldwide recession, these diet aids are flying out of their warehouses in record numbers with supply unable to cope with the unprecedented demand. As such, (possibly counterfeit) starter packs have sprung up on eBay and are selling for over £1,000 in some extreme cases of panic bidding.

“Renowned fashion designer Caterina Umbrian recently stated in an interview with this paper’s ‘Style Guide’ that the incredible dieting results of the smoothie may mean ‘the death of Size 12 and above’ and hinted that retailers could stop making larger sizes as women shrink across the globe. A sensational statement from someone so respected in the fashion industry.”

Accompanying the article was an inset photo of an unassuming okapi peacefully grazing in the Congo Jungle while the main shot featured a beaming Emma in all her tiny glory, hamming it up for the cameras in a miniscule Stella McCartney white strapless dress. The caption read ‘How to (almost) disappear completely’: Emma Nova, the poster girl of Smoochie Smoothie and queen of the ‘minus size’ look, is the slimming world’s belle du jour having been the first high profile user of the product. She has incredibly dipped from a US Size 10 to a US Size -2 in under six months.’

So what were the mystery ingredients? Emma knew the smoothie involved a meat content; she could taste it, anyone could, but when she grilled SS Dietary’s CEO Mike Williams over a light dinner at Claridges he became evasive. After a few more glasses of Bollinger, he sheepishly confessed it was ‘something exotic’ they had discovered in central Africa and maintained it was not on the endangered list, at least, not yet.

Emma Googled okapi. It resembled an exotic brown deer with a zebra’s bottom, but she discovered, after greater research (two more clicks), that it was, incongruously, part of the giraffe family. She wondered if they might start serving this delicacy at The Ivy. That would be fantastic. Emma made a mental note to request a slice of the hoofed animal the next time she dined there.

An additional benefit of the smoothie was the effect it had on the user’s sex drive. Emma’s libido had shot into orbit since she started using the supplement. She found herself actively seeking sex with random, multiple partners to sustain her rising needs, but she had to be careful, given her profile, not to tarnish her professional reputation. Kate Moss had managed to retain her mystique, and enjoy the benefits of serial dating, but despite her rapid drop in size to model-ready clothes Emma was no Kate. She was painfully thin, not a fashion icon, nor gorgeous, for that matter.

Rather, Emma was a ‘handsome’ 35 with a fashionable black bob and killer heels and it was her air of control, rather than her femininity, that made her attractive to members of the opposite sex with judgment issues. Not everyone was interested. She had been shunned by a low-ranking graphic designer who resisted her advances while they worked late on a deadline. He had backed off in mild horror and uncharitably labelled her ‘a Gucci-sporting cougar’. She might have been a MILF, if she had produced kids and not prioritised her career over family and personal relationships, but she was definitely not a cougar.

She did, however, enjoy similar appetites. Emma had maintained a string of boyfriends since falling under the smoothie’s intoxicating spell, but her suitors’ valiant attempts at pleasuring this insatiable, tiny woman could not sustain her escalating needs. She contemplated joining an x-rated adult dating site to satisfy her considerable desires, but the fear of negative publicity held her back and left her ravenous sexual hunger gnawing away at her soul, miserably unfulfilled.

She felt the itch particularly hard that night, steam almost rose from her hungry crotch, but none of her latest boyfriends returned her repeated text requests for sex. Inexplicably, she fantasized about the young Romanian porter in her apartment building, he was friendly and wholesome and always smiled at her through gapped teeth as she clip-clopped through the lobby, and then she scolded herself. Surely, she was not that desperate? She would just have to relieve herself tonight.

Emma gazed longingly at the skinny person in the mirror and wished she could reach out and touch this vision, stroke its perfect cheekbones and run her fingers over that svelte body like a hungry, new lover. The thought made her shudder to near climax.

Returning to her online diversions, Emma clicked to enlarge a photo of her looking exquisite on the red carpet at the premiere of the new Anne Hathaway movie ‘She’s All Fat’. In the background, members of the public were crammed behind security barriers, their arms spread out in desperation, autograph books, glossy pictures, marker pens and fashion magazines clutched tightly in their extended fingers.

They were calling out to her, frantically hoping that she might turn and notice them, acknowledge their humble worship with a smile or a wave.

Emma nimbly moved her fingers southwards as she stared at the beautiful girl in the picture.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Bale steps out of 'the shadow of Walcott'

At approximately 6pm, a small but very fast boy was pronounced missing in Tottenham. Frantic searches at the local Poundland and popular Ozdiller Supermarket proved fruitless. The parents of Theodore James Walcott, who lifted the prestigious Young Sports Personality Award in 2006, expressed their concern as the little lad disappeared under the bright lights of North London after CCTV footage placed him at White Hart Lane stadium at around 4.01pm.

The 'world class striker', who has scored 37 goals in 174 games for the occasionally popular South London club (club motto: bring a bin bag just in case it's a crap result), was an odd absentee as his midfield played out of their skins but succumbed to the guts and fire of an irrepressible Tottenham. At 4.37pm, Gareth Bale was witnessed performing a heart celebration and screaming into a camera, but by this time poor Theo's whereabouts were sadly unknown.

In a mad, crazed, frequently breathless match, Spurs illustrated the new defiance coursing through the club to hold on to a gutsy 2-1 win and triumph in the North (vs Old South) London derby. Tottenham have now lost one game in approaching four months. An insane, barely believable statistic. A quarter of a season remains, but take a time out, sip a satisfactory Kronenbourg and enjoy this sweet moment while you can.

For some inexplicable reason, my dad attended the game clutching a bright red carrier bag which caught the eye of a mob of Spurs fans who reacted angrily, chanting: "Gooner! Gooner! Gooner!" Unperturbed, my 66-year-old father scampered over to the baying crowd and shouted: "I've been supporting this team for 51 f**king years!" Half a second of silence. "Yido! Yido! Yido!" chanted the Spurs fans. It was that kind of day. Humour and good company and, most of all, the result that truly matters.

Granite-like centre backs Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen fought like dogs of war and formed a human wall to withstand the inevitable pressure from Arsenal's human centipede who (once again in this fixture) played like it was their cup final. For periods, the away side were quite excellent in possession though (if I may quote my good friend Brendan Rogers) Tottenham 'won' the all-important possession battle 54%-46%. Were I follower of London's third best team, I might wonder where such spirited performances have been in so many other games this season.

Whatever our differences, the red and white nomads are a slick and savvy outfit when the mood takes them and they posed Tottenham significant problems though in the second half Spurs squandered three gilt-edged chances to put a tense game to bed via Bale, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jermain Defoe. Pure, unadulterated Tottenham football and, er, 'part of the fun'.

For the first 25 minutes, Arsenal unequivocally bossed the midfield areas via the highly-skilled triumvirate of Wilshere, Arteta and Cazorla, frequently threatening without forging clearcut opportunities. The game was played at a skittish, frenetic pace with Spurs on the constant backfoot, Scott Parker and Mousa Dembele were perpetually overwhelmed and speed demons Aaron Lennon and Bale seemingly shackled by the sheer weight of the occasion.

As if by magic, a switch flicked and the jet heels of Lennon kicked into gear and Spurs rose from their dozy slumber to cause the transplanted Woolwich-ites problems at the back. Lennon was suddenly fizzing about like a Barocca tablet that had somehow flipped out of the glass and Tottenham probed for an unlikely opening as Arsenal's backline broke into a bout of inadvertent body-popping.

The breakthrough came with Spurs' first genuine effort on goal. An insightful Sigurdsson pass picked out Welsh wonder Bale, who, er, found the time to step out of Walcott's (cough) shadow, to break the offside trap and calmly stroke past static Pole Szczesny. White Hart Lane went ballistic. The bloke in front of me broke into a strange, almost wookie-like dialect as we thrust our triumphant fists to the sky and then bundled into all-comers.

Within two minutes the bedlam intensified. Parker played a superb and (no insult intended) very un-Parker like pass that dissected a flatfooted Arsenal backline and afforded the rampaging Lennon the time and space to steady himself and roll the ball nonchalantly past the flailing Szczesny. Pure, mind-bending, Aldous Huxley style joy. The doors of Champions League perception flew wide open.

Spurs don't do clean sheets in this fixture and Arsenal inevitably pulled a goal back early in the second half via human statue Mertesacker who glanced home a free-kick off Bale for the Welshman's second own goal of the season. He scores when he wants and when he doesn't, too.

Yet Spurs held firm despite sustained opposition pressure and a number of contentious officiating decisions that caused predictable consternation in the home trenches. But the best teams always find a way to win through adversity and even the most myopic Arsenal fan would have to agree that, after years of mediocrity, Tottenham Hotspur are now one of the top teams.

Just don't Google 'Arsenal human centipede'. It's positively inhuman.

* This week my existential horror novel 'Players' Restaurant' finally hit the streets. It's about a revolutionary dieting craze that promises women astonishing weight loss. In a matter of months, Size 16s become svelte size 6s as the new slimming commodity is deemed more valuable than gold or cocaine. Its formula is a mystery, but after women worldwide gleefully overhaul their wardrobes and play hide and seek behind lampposts…the deadly side effects become apparent. If you enjoy this blog (and want to support a fellow Spurs fan), the book is available here for the Kindle or Kindle apps for iPad, iPhone, PC or Android. Thanks for your support.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The brilliance of Bale vs the betrayal of Moore

More Gareth Bale brilliance elevated Spurs above a spirited West Ham stoked by the memories of the legendary Bobby Moore. The Hammers may have lost their ‘cup final’, but I understand premium horsemeat lasagne was available at David Gold’s post-match banquet. The meat passes better than Guy Demel.

To quote a twisting Peter Griffin, ‘third is the word’. Tottenham battled back from a 1-2 deficit to nudge ahead of Chelsea and maintain a four point gap over Arsenal before Sunday’s crunch north London derby. Inevitably, our old friend Howard Webb played his part in the drama, but an elite side usually finds a way to negotiate adversity rather than reach for excuses. Silently and impressively, Tottenham now resemble a team of that description.

Spurs have negotiated 27 league games without winning a single penalty as our rivals inch towards double spot-kick digits – it took Webb a mere 25 minutes to allow West Ham to surpass our non-existent total. Was it a penalty? I think so. Returning ‘hero’ Scott Parker certainly followed through after winning the ball despite the initial reaction that this was more jiggery-pokery from Yorkshire’s least popular ex-copper. Undoubtedly, the kick would not have been awarded the other way. There were at least two penalties within a second before Gylfi Sigurdsson’s prodded equaliser. Most of us were just grateful that the former Right Said Fred impersonator allowed the goal!

But for the fly-squatter palms of Jussi Jaaskelainen it might have been a baseball score. The oddly under-appreciated Finn was, again, sensational between the sticks involved in repelling 25 shots on the hammered goal. West Ham sweated blood for seventy minutes, but eventually they ran out of fuel like a second hand banger and true (Aston Martin) class told.

Andre Villas-Boas’ selections and substitutions were immaculate. The Portuguese wisely opted for a more physical back four to cope with the wayward arms and papier-mache legs of Andy 'Caravan' Carroll. His removal of the influential Mousa Dembele (who the home side were doing their level best to remove ahead of Sunday’s crunch derby) was a relief, but the introductions of the energetic Sigurdsson and clever prompting of Tom Carroll provided unexpected dividends. Suddenly, Spurs dominated a tiring Clarets midfield who began blowing bubbles from the wrong end.

To his credit, Webb did allow the critical advantage that enabled the felled Bale to right himself before taking Carroll’s neat pass to stroke home the ridiculous last minute winner. The 'spirit of Stalteri' was reborn.

The embrace of Bale and Villas-Boas in the euphoria following the Welshman’s winner illustrated a special relationship not evident with the previous manager. Not long after Harry Redknapp’s ungrateful removal, the world class Welshman signed a new four-year contract and, grinning, remarked upon the new tactics and modus operandi of his replacement. One cannot help but suspect a certain ‘method’ in Daniel Levy’s ‘summer madness’. This is a bold, new Tottenham and, with due gratitude to the past, I’m delighted to witness the revolution.

* Bobby Moore was, for most of us, the greatest footballer ever to pull an England jersey over his head, a true gentleman and credit off the field. The world class, consummate defender almost joined Spurs, Bill Nicholson certainly wanted him, but sadly that move never came to fruition. My admiration for the man is boundless and it is a great source of pride that my dad and dear, departed uncle were present at Wembley to watch Moore, Peters and co lift the World Cup in 1966.

But it is a pride tinged with sadness. So much of the adulation for Moore’s achievements and defensive grace came long after his passing. This is modern football where a misty-eye, black armband and minute’s applause apparently erase the sins of the past.

Where was the support from West Ham, and more notably England and the FA, when the legendary Moore was scraping a living doing minor, 'fish and chip’ commentary for Radio Essex?

Bobby died in relative poverty and these after-the-event eulogies and the belated, mind-crunching hypocrisy carry a heavy sting in the tail. Another reason why I am ‘against modern football’.

The likes of Paul Gascoigne and others need this help and appreciation right now. For the love of god, let us learn from the mistakes of the past and not wait for these grand heroes to be buried six feet underground.

** Spurs fan and prolific author Norman Giller has written a timely book on Bobby Moore 'The Master' where all profits go to the most worthy 'Bobby Moore Fund' set up by the great man's widow shortly after his passing. Norman knew Bobby throughout his storied career and the book is a wonderful way to learn more about his mistreatment and pay respect to his legacy of helping to find a cure for cancer.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bollocks, we’re out….aagh, Dembele! See you in Amsterdam!

For Spurs, the end of one European dream could mean the beginning of another. It’s a perverse fact that elimination from the Europa League presents our club with a ‘clear run’ at third/fourth place and that ‘valuable’ Champions League spot without the ‘distraction’ of the cups. Wait a beeping minute…Dembele bloody scored! Tottenham are headed to Amsterdam, baby!

Mousa Dembele’s brilliant and timely intervention gave Tottenham a merited pass into the last 16 against an uber-defensive Lyon side intent on stealing a win via a set-piece and a prolonged, rearguard action. ‘Throw your fromage in the air, throw it up like you just don’t care. And if you knocked out an ex-Gooner’s team, I wanna hear you scream. Oh yeah! Oh yeah!’

It was perhaps a bullet dodged for Andre Villas-Boas. The Portuguese has overachieved in his first league season as Spurs boss, and disproved the doubting media vultures, but his cup selections have often been as ill-judged as Nicky Minaj’s. FA Cup and League Cup progression were needlessly discarded with ill-conceived line-ups against Norwich and Leeds, and for old school fans this still rankles. Spurs are a cup team after all.

The omission of the returning Hugo Lloris set the early alarm bells ringing and deprived the former Lyon star a true hero’s welcome as well as robbing Spurs of that cat-like presence in the box. Tottenham also missed Michael Dawson’s lion-like roar at the back.

The sight of Brad Friedel rooted to his line for the Lyon opener was grimly predictable. He is the Pete Doherty of goalkeepers. The American is an excellent back-up between the sticks and admirable pro, though this felt like the wrong call if Spurs are in the competition to win it. But the AVB gamble was ultimately unpunished and Friedel’s double-fisted response to the Lyon fans at the final whistle clearly felt like a vindication, given his two alert stops in the second half.

For the most part, an unexceptional but highly-organised Lyon sat back and looked to capitalise on set-pieces. Some of the early foul awards from the German referee were generous at best including the swan dive of the paper-ankled Lisandro Lopez that led to Lyon’s opener. As soon as the home side had their noses in front, they defended en masse and started to resemble a French version of Stoke City. The presence of Lyon striker Gomis, a Kenwyne Jones lookalike, did little to disprove the comparison.

The sight of Lyon players biting the turf was commonplace. Kyle Walker brushed Umtiti’s arm and the full-back collapsed like a malnourished Gillian McKeith. Walker was yellow carded for the challenge which would constitute mild foreplay in most bedrooms across Britain. But Spurs were too often toothless and bereft of creativity in the final third. A speculative Lewis Holtby shot that hit the post was a rare, incisive moment in the opening half. Lyon were exceptionally well-drilled. If only the French had shown such resistance between 1939-45. It would have saved a lot of trouble.

A sumptuous, swinging centre from Emmanuel Adebayor presented Gareth Bale with an excellent second half opportunity but he drilled agonisingly wide. As circumstances dictated, Spurs committed greater numbers forward and pushed gamely for the equaliser. A Bale free-kick was parried and the bar was clipped as Tottenham methodically cranked up the pressure. A Lyon tumble in the box after a Friedel miscalculation and recovery was thankfully waved away by the referee. In the absence of an extra striker, Dempsey and Sigurdsson were cast into the fray, but failed to conjure an opening and the Euro-prayer beads were out.

Suddenly, the exit door loomed for Spurs. But then out of nowhere Belgian wonder Dembele cut in from distance and powered a dramatic last minute equaliser (and winner on aggregate). Bollocks, the added fixture congestion means Tottenham are now destined for fifth.

Or maybe our co-efficient in next year’s Champions League has been significantly improved :). Both adventures continue.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bale my Valentine

Sod a fistful of droopy roses and a half-eaten box of Milk Tray, the real romance was at White Hart Lane. Gareth Frank Bale was, again, the focus of a shower of manly lovehearts.

Two exocet free-kicks in first and second half stoppage time brought rare and delightful light to a mostly scrappy encounter. The Europa League dream continues for another week at least.

The decision to rest ‘sweeper keeper’ Hugo Lloris against his old club was predictable, but as disappointing for fans as for the ex-Lyon player. Goalkeeper is the one position where a rest is not required, especially given Spurs’ light schedule of two Europa League games in 16 days. It was a needless tinker by Andre Villas-Boas. I hope to see Lloris back on his old stomping ground in the second leg next week. He’ll be needed.

Lyon showed commendable defensive resolve and threatened rather than alarmed Spurs. They were good value for a draw before that man Bale wrote yet more headlines with his third free-kick goal in two games. Previously, every Spurs set-piece goal was synced with Halley’s Comet.

The home side often looked leaden in position as if no-one had told them they weren’t playing on the Sunday. With his wild new hairstyle, Emmanuel Adebayor resembled Chirpy’s crazed Togolese cousin. The unkempt strands of hair frequently found themselves in an offside position, but they did provide a much needed focal point for Spurs’ rare forays into the final third.

Early on, Lennon and Walker dovetailed efficiently and one surging Walker run and slotted pass picked out Bale perfectly with the net gaping like a Z-List Towie celebrity. Somehow he contrived to miss – clearly it was too close for a Gareth Bale goal.

The ball rarely left a packed midfield, but then as the first half drew to a close the Welsh maestro stroked in a precocious 36-yard free-kick to take the edge off Spurs nerves.

In the second half, Lyon responded well with a fierce Umtitti strike that left Brad Friedel looking more flatfooted than usual. Those unfortunate enough not to be at the game and with a faulty mute button were subjected to the inane ramblings of Clive Tyldesley and fake Irishman Andy Townsend. Tyldersley, who treats a Manchester United defeat like the passing of a terminally ill child, was hysterical on the Lyon equaliser.

Spurs looked off the pace and found it difficult to forge clearcut chances though veteran Friedel made a sharp save on the rare occasion where Lyon found space in the Spurs' rearguard.

Yet just when it seemed the game would peter out into a draw, Bale stepped up to steer another free kick ludicrously past Lyon keeper Vercoutre. He's so overrated.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The understated contribution of Michael Dawson

After his two-goal salvo against Newcastle, Gareth Bale inevitably stole the headlines, but further down the field another hero maintained a silently successful season. Michael Dawson is the antithesis of the modern footballer; you won’t find him stumbling out of a celebrity-endorsed nightspot or mocking opposing supporters, when the opportunity for ludicrous wages presented itself Dawson left his car keys by the door and chose to fight for his place.

The likeable defender’s Spurs career was inexplicably on the rocks in August. Uber-rich QPR had a bid accepted by Daniel Levy (ever the businessman when an over-the-odds offer is received), but unlike many of his peers Dawson turned his back on the money. Professional pride and ambition, and perhaps a love of Spurs, for once trumped the lure of multiple pound signs.

The majority of the Tottenham faithful were delighted by Dawson’s extended stay. There are few defenders better suited to an aerial bombardment against the likes of Stoke or Sunderland and Dawson’s cheerful and ever-gracious demeanour has always endeared him to fans of all ages. He’s also a bloody good defender.

But this season, in the face of intense competition and an initially sceptical new manager, Dawson has risen to the challenge and added new poise to his game. And his persistence has been rewarded. The outcast is now the Spurs captain redux.

In the under-the-radar, three-month run which has seen Tottenham lose only ONE league game (in injury time at Everton), Dawson has been a constant, seizing upon Younes Kaboul’s long-term injury, veteran William Gallas’ nagging fitness concerns and the greenness of emerging hope Steven Caulker. He has been the surprise star of Spurs’ revolving backline.

The stats stack up in Dawson’s favour. Spurs have yet to lose a Premier League game when he has started (7 wins 4 draws) and his record stands at 9-4-1 in the league games where he has featured - with the lone defeat as a sub in the 10-man loss at Arsenal which inexplicably kick-started the lilywhite season. Five goals have been conceded in Dawson’s last eight starts. Who needs a striker?

Dawson’s unheralded contribution illustrates how this over-achieving Spurs team is a sum of its parts. The phenomenal Bale is rightfully receiving plaudits as a world class player, but Aaron Lennon is in the form of his career, Hugo Lloris has been nothing short of cat-like between the sticks and Mousa Dembele has consigned the deft midfield promptings of Luka Modric to memory.

But for fine goalkeeping by Tim Krul and a touch of Bale profligacy, Tottenham’s latest victory would have been far more comfortable. Despite being haemorrhaged of midfielder enforcer Sandro, stalwart Kaboul and depth in the striker department due to Jermain Defoe’s injury and Emmanuel Adebayor’s absenteeism, Spurs have a four point cushion in fourth and are competing against limitless foreign billionaires and teams of more established pedigree.

And at the foundation of this success is the unsung Michael Dawson. The troubles of Loftus Road must seem a world away.