Monday, August 27, 2012

Luka Modric: A strange goodbye

With more spin than a revolving football, Tottenham finally announced the departure of Luka Modric to Real Madrid in bizarre circumstances.

Under the headline ‘Club announcement’, Spurs trumpeted a new partnership deal with Real Madrid and ‘the transfer of Luka Modric’.

"The partnership agreement will see the two Clubs working together in respect of players, coaching, best practices and commercial relationships," announced the club. Translated on the goobledigook search engine, this means, "Real Madrid now have preferred buyer status in respect of our best players.” The ‘partnership’ received a passing mention on the official Real Madrid website.

But this does, in fact, represent progress. Four years ago, the slightest flirtation from Manchester United or Liverpool would precede a star player's exit.

Competition for a Champions League place over the last three seasons has raised the club’s profile and stature and allowed Chairman Daniel Levy to play greater hardball (a role he relishes) with Premier League rivals.

Selling to a foreign football giant means that Modric will have no direct effect on Spurs’ achievements (or lack thereof!) in the coming years. The Croatian might have fetched more money if sold to Chelsea last summer, but the sale of one of our best players to a cash rich rival would have sent out an ominous message about the ambitions of the club.

Unlike our friends on the other side of north London, there will be no burning of shirts or hate directed in Modric’s direction. He was never a ‘badge kisser’ playing up to fans' loyalties with false statements of devotion (cough Van Persie), but a wonderful player and key cog in Spurs’ progression from also-rans to contenders.

The best of luck to him.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

It was all Jenas’ fault II

False economy has, again, cost Spurs (five) points at the start of a new season. Credit goes to a battling West Brom who ably soaked up Tottenham pressure and pot-shots in the first half, to capitalise when a series of skittish substitutions in the second saw the home side cave in alarmingly.

The shadow of Daniel Levy’s tiresome transfer brinkmanship loomed large over proceedings. The (drawn-out) signing of Emmanuel Adebayor (Spurs’ first purchased striker in three years) was tempered by his inevitable lack of match fitness, allied with the unresolved future of Luka Modric and unpopular casting out of fan favourite Michael Dawson.

The match followed an all too familiar pattern for seasoned White Hart Lane watchers. A well-drilled away side sitting back, content for a battling point or joy from a fast counter or set-piece while Tottenham try to walk the ball into the back of the net. Of course, it wouldn’t be a home game without the now standard brace of disallowed ‘goals’. Had Spurs been wearing an all blue strip, they might have counted.

Spurs resembled a cohesive outfit under AVB’s starting 4-2-3-1 formation restricting West Brom to one effort of note in the first 62 minutes yet when the lacklustre Adebayor was introduced for Rafael van der Vaart the balance was lost and a large hole opened up in the midfield, exacerbated when Sandro was frustratingly substituted on 73 minutes.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s speculative opener brought joy, relief and optimism on 74 minutes, but the goal papered over fast appearing cracks. Within two minutes, Jermain Defoe who had held the ball up surprisingly well was off and replaced in favour of a dreadful Jermaine Jenas cameo. West Brom launched a full-on assault and the Spurs back-line buckled with reduced protection. As the game entered injury time, it looked as if Spurs might hold out for the win but when the ball fell kindly for James Morrison in the box he drilled in a merited equaliser for the visitors.

A few knives were out for Andre Villas-Boas at the final whistle but those holding them had drawn their weapons before the season started. Poor old Jenas, responsible for Spurs not being Champions League winners as well as common cancer, was another easy target, but an unsettled and disjointed first team was the true villain of the piece. Will Levy ever learn that the points thrown away at the start of the season carry a heinous implication at the end of it? The day the transfer deadline is brought forward to before the first game of the season I will cartwheel in ecstasy.

There were positives; the continuing emergence of Jake Livermore in midfield, a competent debut from Jan Vertonghen as well as a heartwarming reception for recently retired legend Ledley King. Those with a tendency to knee-jerk or panic will undoubtedly be on suicide watch tonight, but as a steely-eyed on-site veteran of hundreds of Spurs games (I am heavily scarred inside and out), I can assure the faint-hearted that fortunes will improve after the close of that pesky window. Remember, this time last season we had no points in the bank. One point from two games? Nosebleed territory.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Spurs sign striker, the end of the world begins

When I gazed up at the rapidly darkening clouds I realised something strange was happening. What had been a sunny early evening in north London suddenly took upon a dark and ominous turn. Shuffling, lobotomised figures emerged from the side streets, mumbling incoherently while dragging their spasticated limbs forth to the local bookmakers.

Small fires broke out sporadically in the local high street as if conjured maliciously by sinister and evil magicks. I looked down wide-eyed and noticed the rubber soles of my Nike trainers were burning and stamped furiously to extinguish the tiny flames. A hideous, banshee-like wail sliced through the air causing a mid-pavement collision between Bugaboo prams. Two babies shot out like pop tarts and appeared to high five in mid-flight before landing effortlessly in the opposite buggy.

From the newly-formed shadows, a shrivelled woman in an Arsenal shirt grabbed my hand in one snake-like motion and started babbling in tongues. “Are you all right, lady?” I enquired, foolishly engaging the demented woman with misguided post-Olympic spirit.

“Manubuyorcomintatottinhemshittyounort,” she garbled before scuttling off on all-fours backwards in the direction of the Emirates Stadium. What was this devilry?

Ignoring the strong aroma of brimstone (possibly a new Starbucks coffee flavouring), I stepped over a large crack that had formed in the pavement and found myself drawn to the flickering window of the local television store.

Two TVs, in particular, caught my eye. Each featured a yellow news ticker racing across the screen at breakneck speed. One switched to Sky Sports News said: ‘Adebayor signs for Spurs’. The other fixed on BBC News stated, ‘Rapture begins in north London…’

Aware of a looming presence standing alongside me, I turned sheepishly and looked up into the crazed yellow eyes of a large winged demon with rubbery, lobster red skin and curling ram-like horns on either side of his bulbous head.

“What’s happened?” said the winged satanic beast, pausing briefly to barbecue a passing Chelsea fan with a flaming burst of his fiery breath.

“Levy’s signed a striker,” I gasped, slightly distracted by the hellish legions slowly congregating around us to gaze blankly at the two televisions. The look of sheer bewilderment on their faces was a sight to behold.

“Ah, so that’s why it’s the end of the f***ing world!” laughed the demon. “Change of plan, my demonic brothers. I think we’ll head back to hell for another nine months. I want to see how this season ends.”

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Newcastle 2 Tottenham 1: Spurs tick without Modric

Like the flirtations of a beautiful deaf woman, there were encouraging signs about Spurs’ first game of the season at the Sports Direct Arena.

A creditable, high energy performance brought no reward in terms of points, but instilled sufficient faith that the Villas-Boas blueprint may find a far more coherent execution in his second foray into Premier League management.

Perhaps most heartening of all was watching a Spurs side tick without the midfield promptings of absent conductor Luka Modric. The team still requires reconstructive surgery in the form of emergency striker enhancement and squad liposuction, but I saw enough at first hand in the Tyneside sunshine to suggest an entertaining and potentially successful season in the noble half of North London.

Myopic FA Cup semi-final referee Martin Atkinson’s involvement was about as welcome as a honeymoon STI, but despite a liberal sprinkle of home decisions (notably soft bookings for Sandro and Jake Livermore) Spurs’ endeavour was undone by a sumptuous strike from Demba Ba and a softly-conceded penalty following Jermain Defoe’s predatory equaliser.

Ever the unfortunate, Spurs conceded the decisive spot-kick with just ten men on the field (with Sandro temporarily waved off by Atkinson following treatment) having, in the finest Tottenham tradition, mentally switched off after the restart. The dual, uneducated lunges of Aaron Lennon and Rafael van der Vaart arguably merited two penalties.

Spurs had previously hit the post through the livewire Defoe and bar via Gareth Bale’s looping header and pressed Newcastle deep into their own half with a high octane tempo that augurs well for the games to come.

Yet in the dying embers of the game, AVB’s only remaining card was to introduce rookie Harry Kane for his Premier League debut; insufficient firepower for the task in hand and never likely to bring a merited Spurs equaliser. One can only hope (or pray to any listening god or deity) that the wheezing moths are finally released from Daniel Levy’s tightly-zipped wallet and a high end frontman arrives in time for the first home game of the season against Steve Clarke's buoyant West Brom.

Otherwise, it's time to convert Heurelho Gomes to a striker and wave in a new era of chaos.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Kanu solves Spurs striker crisis, implements new loyalty point system

Somewhere in a dimly-lit basement below Spurs ticket office, a tired looking Nigerian is crunching numbers. A door suddenly opens, revealing a burst of near-blinding light that causes the middle-aged man to recoil and shield his bloodshot eyes.

A Tottenham employee descends the flight of stone steps and extends a friendly, welcoming hand to Spurs’ new international striker.

“Hello Kanu! They told me you were down here.”

“Aaagh! Your grip, so strong, like five coiled snakes around my fingers.”

“Sorry mate. Welcome to Spurs. We hope you can follow where Louis Saha left off.”

“When I signed for the Chairman, I was told I would play a significant part in the new season. But here I am, adding up loyalty points. We had a gentleman’s agreement.”

“The deal suited all parties. Portsmouth were delighted with those Greggs vouchers. Can I have your autograph?”

“It is hard… hold a pen these days. Can I sign with a rubber stamp?”

Kanu dips a rubber stamp into some blood red ink and marks the Spurs employee’s autograph book alongside his prized Andy Booth signature.

“It says ‘legal immigrant’.”

The experienced striker shrugs innocently and rolls a couple of dice.

“So how are the new loyalty points working out?”

“Still adding them up using the new formula. Number of years a season ticket holder…14…multiplied by the roll of two dice…11… equals….123 loyalty points.”

“I’m no Vorderman, but I think your maths is a bit off there."

“Numbers…..never my strong suit…except when it comes to wages. Then I am the African Rainman.”

“You okay for Saturday at the Sports Direct? You look a bit…tired.”

The Nigerian picks up three arthritis tablets and washes them down with a glass of cloudy water.

“I’m a strong man, heart of a lion. 47 ye…27 years old and (cough) ready for (splutters)…another new season. Bring on (cough) the Geordies. I can hold the ball up like away tickets in the post. Why (cough) is it so dusty down here?”

“We had to sack the old cleaner Vedran because he was so slow, I mean prehistoric. But we’ve got a new guy now. Luka! Luka! Get your arse down here.“

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Help Emmanuel Adebayor, make poverty history

As legendary wit and Spur Peter Cook once famously opined: “I have learned from my mistakes and I am sure I can repeat them exactly.”

Daniel Levy, take note.

With the season opener at Newcastle less than two weeks away, our beloved Tottenham tread familiar ground, a third consecutive summer transfer window without the purchase of a leading striker and a second with our midfield playmaker agitating for a move.

Luka Modric has ‘joined Real Madrid’ so many times that the merest mention of the Croatian’s name has rendered sleeping pills redundant. Whisper ‘Luka Modric’s advisors have agreed terms on a £28million deal to Real Madrid’ in an insomniac’s ear and watch them black out and fall face first into a pillow.

Meanwhile, ‘The black Bono’ Emmanuel Adebayor has simultaneously been ‘signing for Spurs’ for eight weeks. The deal only being held up by the mad-haired striker’s heartfelt wish that Manchester City pay him to solve world poverty.

Both situations, it now seems, will rumble on inevitably to August 31st or ‘St. Levy’s Day’ as it is known in less salubrious parts of Edmonton (widely known as Edmonton).

New coach Andre Villas-Boas has become a curious co-conspirator at ‘striker light’ Spurs : "In this market it's important to make good, sound bids, not just to do anything for the sake of it,” parroted AVB this week. “We are hopefully moving in the market in the next couple of days or weeks.”

Days? Weeks? We’ve been trying to buy a striker for three-and-a-half f***ing years, Andre. Let’s not rush into anything!

A venerable Spurs fan sent me an email today highlighting the obvious folly of Levy’s transfer brinkmanship. One quote, in particular, deserves a wider audience.

“What Daniel Levy seems oblivious to is that the points lost during a dodgy start to a season may be sufficient to deny Champions League qualification at the end of it; so hanging on to August 31st in an effort to hammer down a fee might save ‘x’ pounds in the short-term, but a much greater sum ‘y’ turns out to be lost later on. I can never see the economic sense in that. And, of course, having new recruits in place well before the opening fixture makes so much more sense in terms of team preparation.”

Small wonder that Spurs often start the season with slug-like urgency and pay so dearly at its conclusion.

The Adebayor transfer, given his ludicrous wages and possible detachment from reality, was always going to be a tough one to seal. The lack of traction in an alternative deal is as disappointing as it is unsurprising.

For all Adebayor’s personal quirks, there is little denying he fits the Spurs system and was a major contributor in Tottenham’s best performances of last season.

His signature could solve the club’s neverending striker crisis and potentially thwart world poverty. But expect neither to happen before the Newcastle game.