Saturday, April 30, 2011

For legal reasons.......

An interesting online insight from today’s Assistant Referee Mike Cairns.

What is the best game you have officiated and why?

“8th May 2002, Manchester United v Arsenal and my first visit to Old Trafford. What made the occasion so memorable was the whole season hung on this one game. Manchester United needed victory to take the title race to the last game of the season and should Arsenal win then they would be crowned Champions at Old Trafford. Arsenal won the game 1-0 and the title on the night.” (

Presumably, Spurs’ contentious defeat at Stamford Bridge on Saturday will not be knocking Arsenal’s 2002 title win off top spot. Cairns’ memory is clearly sharper than his 20/20 vision.

I was perfectly placed behind the right side of Heurelho Gomes’ net on Saturday and surrounded by Spurs fans genuinely celebrating when the big Brazilian recovered from another gaffe. The ‘goal’ was somehow awarded. There was genuine shock. Were we naive?

You may remember that a ball several feet over the line was not deemed a goal for Spurs at Old Trafford in 2005. Both officiating errors took place at the homes of the two most successful teams of the last decade. What are the odds? It has been 21 years since Spurs last won at Stamford Bridge – is it any wonder why?

For legal reasons, it’s hard to articulate what most Spurs fans were feeling after one of the most controversial games I can ever remember attending. That the second ‘goal’ was clearly offside detracts from a positive Spurs performance and another wonder show from Sandro.

For all the millions lavished on Chelsea, there is little difference between the teams, just a few suspect officiating calls and that’s nothing some Specsavers vouchers can’t cure.

In a positive development, there were suggestions tonight that technology will be in place next season. The goalline will be marked out in Braille.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Sixth Sense

I can see dead people. Or rather Spurs’ defenders with dead legs wheezing into a sixth place finish. I’d burn my season ticket if it wasn’t made of plastic.

I'm joking, of course, but an element felt that way after a 2-2 draw against a useful West Brom side. If they tossed a season ticket on the barbie, they might benefit from the toxic fumes. The Baggies’ late equaliser was, without question, sublime and unsaveable.

Spurs have had more draws than a Spaghetti Western, but somehow lost only twice in 22 league games. Yet it feels like the worst run in living memory. There is an overreaction now to every result, good and bad, that makes me pine for the football-free summer months.

Today’s scoreline was disappointing, but a poor result can often be overcome by a good one in the next game. Should Spurs win at Chelsea next weekend (as likely as a Katie Price marriage lasting, but not impossible), then fourth is still on. Believe or, at least, enjoy the delusion while it lasts.

Any of Tottenham's likely final positions carries an upside. If Spurs finish fifth they could realistically win the Europa League in 2012; if they falter and finish in sixth behind a resurgent Liverpool, the lighter schedule might lift the club into nosebleed territory next season.

West Ham, meanwhile, cling desperately on to football's trap door. Sometimes it pays to look down to raise a smile.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Benoit Assou-Ekotto appreciation society

He looks like he should be shifting crack vials on The Wire, but you will only find forwards in Benoit Assou–Ekotto’s pocket. The only product he deals in is world class performances.

Benoit was simply magnificent against Arsenal, replicating his outstanding display against Real Madrid last week with a display of pace, timing and guile. His exquisite throughball released football whippet Aaron Lennon for the crucial equaliser.

When Spurs’ pedestrian backline was caught flatfooted by the pace of headless chicken Theo Walcott in the first half the nimble Cameroonian was always there to cover. He grew in stature in the second period, adept in defence, incisive in attack; the complete defender and, without question, the best left-back to play for Tottenham during my tenure as a Spurs fan.

We used to fold like origami against Arsenal, but no more. They are a psychologically brittle outfit, flat-track bullies who excel when a game is tipped in their favour, crumble at the first sign of resistance. Tottenham have gobbled up three two-goal deficits in 2.5 years against the red and white infidels from around the corner and I always felt we could claw the game back at 1-3. An eel has more backbone.

Our latest revival was aided by the renaissance of Rafael Van der Vaart. For the first time in months, the Dutch master was fully fit and he conducted Spurs’ attacking forays with swagger and verve. Only a superb display by Polish builder Szczesny in the Arsenal goal staved off another stirring Spurs victory like November’s 3-2 triumph at the Emirates*.

When Arsenal fail to win the league in May by a handful of points, it will be these games they remember. Theo....shhhhhh.

*The Emirates is the nation’s designated quiet stadium (please refrain from using mobile phones, personal stereo equipment or talking loudly when seated).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Being there

It’s all about being there. To make the most of life (and football), you have to grasp and appreciate the moment before it passes. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend all 12 of Tottenham’s Champions League games this season and I wouldn’t have missed this ride for the world.

We’d gone through too much to be here. Spurs were on the verge of Champions League qualification in 2006 when an ‘accidental pre-match poisoning’ barred our path. So we waited. We hoped. We dreamed. And then, guided by Harry Redknapp, everything fell into place.

Competing against billionaire owners in the Premier League and established giants, Spurs qualified for the world’s elite club competition and took on the continent’s finest with a refreshing, swashbuckling style of play and a never-say-die spirit that won admirers and games. More fancied teams underestimated us and were duly eliminated.

There were moments of breathless magic; Gareth Bale’s one-man crusade at the San Siro against holders Inter before dry-roasting Maicon in the return game and steely defiance; epitomised by William Gallas’ critical goal-saving clearance to deny seven-times champions AC Milan at White Hart Lane.

New stars were born (Sandro, Van der Vaart) and old heroes barely featured (King, Keane). There were four clean sheets, three red cards, two missed penalties and one plastic pitch.

The odyssey started there at the wonderfully named Wankdorf Stadion in Berne. At 0-3 down in 28 minutes against the unfancied Young Boys, my dad, who has a heart condition, was slumped face forward in his seat cradling his head in his hands. The dream seemed over in the starting blocks. But it wasn’t. The adventure had just begun.

Tottenham Hotspur, 2010/11 Champions League quarter-finalists, we salute you.

See you there next season?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

'Adventures' in babysitting

Like Jermain Defoe, I missed the Stoke game (due to essential babysitting rather than missing sitters).

It’s weird not to be sat at White Hart Lane on a matchday (and without mobile coverage). You imagine the worst…Ben Alnwick is playing after Carlo took Heurelho out for a spin on the Ducati….Benoit’s hairdressers’ appointment overran….Tom Huddlestone entered Chicken Cottage and failed to return.

But something more improbable took place in N17….Tottenham scored T-H-R-E-E (III in ‘Pavlyuchenko’ numerals) goals. Cue five crows in funny outfits dropping down from the branches and singing ‘When I see an elephant fly’. Who would have believed it after blanks in the previous four games?

It was fitting that Peter Crouch scored twice and was a key figure at the other end in repelling Stoke’s desperate search for a late equaliser. Two-metre Peter gained a small measure of redemption after the madness in Madrid and it was great to see the positive reaction he and the team received from the White Hart Lane faithful after Tuesday’s 0-4 snafu at the Bernabeu.

The national press had predicted a hostile reception. But boos from armchairs don’t count. Just ask a babysitter.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The devil of Madrid

To protect the innocent, the identities of some people have been changed in the publication of this story.

A devil walks among us. This master of the dark arts is responsible for the greatest debacles in Tottenham history. I pray you do not know him. His name is 'Satan Spur'.

I was introduced to this bad omen during Tottenham’s bleakest years. For some reason, Satan would often be sitting next to me at away games. He would always be moaning. The weather, the motorway, the team, the price of Farah slacks...he droned on without pause. I took a noose to the Britannia Stadium to alleviate my pain (it was sadly confiscated and is now a fixture at Staffordshire Police’s annual tug of war event).

Whenever I saw this man, Tottenham lost and lost badly. Surely this was a coincidence? I paid attention more closely. My suspicions were soon confirmed - every matchday sighting of Satan Spur resulted in a Tottenham defeat (and another of his mind-numbing monologues). Bizarrely, if our paths did not cross, Tottenham won or drew. The conclusion was obvious. Avoid this man. So shortly before Juande Ramos’ sacking, fellow Yido ‘Person A’ and I formed a desperate plan with Spurs hurtling towards the Championship.

'Person A' rang THFC ticket office to request we be moved as far as humanly possible from Satan at away matches. The effect was immediate and astounding. With Satan Spur nowhere to be seen, Spurs were rejuvenated and within two years the team achieved the unthinkable and qualified for the Champions League.

But then this week, of all weeks, horror showed its face once more. On Tuesday, ahead of the first leg versus Real Madrid, we turned a corner tower at the Bernabeu and there he was....the angel of Tottenham death, his grey cowpat hairstyle gleaming in the Madrid sunshine.

“That’s it....we’re fucked!” exclaimed 'Person A' as Satan Spur ran towards us, armed with more tales of bore. He had been out of the UK guessed it...Spurs' poor run started.

Our Champions League dreams were over. Anyone know a good exorcist?

*Those who doubt Peter Crouch was targeted by Real Madrid need only look at the telltale photo in yesterday’s Metro. A crestfallen Crouch is shown the red card while the 'injured' Marcelo is sitting on the ground pumping his fists with a broad smile on his face. The immediate reaction of every injured player (please imagine sarcastic tone). Give the Brazilian mop head a good ‘waxing’ next week, Spurs fans.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Joe Jordan statement

Tottenham’s striker crisis has been solved by veteran forward Joe Jordan’s shock return to football aged 59. The former Scotland and Manchester United hardman, currently a coach at the North London club, decided to come out of retirement after watching misfiring Spurs draw 0-0 with Premier League strugglers Wigan.

Jordan made this brief statement shortly before headbutting a low-flying bird.

“Aye, the tartan big man willnae take this goolless crap lyin’ doon, ah tell yae. Ah’m back yae drizzlin’ shites. Nae longer will ah watch dose mincers fannae aboot in frontae gools. I cannae wae tae mix it wit dose Stoke boys. Ah’ll wear that Shawcross leek ah mink scarf. Huth? He’ll havetae.

“Delap cannae throo long balls innae box if tha fooker got nae hands. Aye Pulo, ahm’ comin’ for youse southern shite-tasters. That cap willae beh sticking oot youse bum cheeks next Sat'day tae time. Shite mae troosers! A fookin’ bird!”