Posted in Uncategorized on November 1, 2010 by thfc4

I’m not going to discuss the result of Man Utd v Spurs this past weekend, I’m going to explain to everyone why Mark Clattenberg made several errors (talksport’s Adrian Durham, take note).

From the very first minute, when Nani challenged Ekotto for an ariel ball and fell clutching his leg and screaming injustice (replays showed Ekotto didn’t touch him) Clattenberg allowed himself to be worked by United’s infamous moaning. He booked two Spurs centre-halves for first challenges, neither particularly poor, one a dubious free-kick as the player got some of the ball. he did not book United players for similar/worse challenges.

And then came the moment.

Nani, who had been trying to work the officials all match (noted above) took a very animated tumble in the box. He looked incredulously at the referee for a penalty. He placed his hand ontop of the ball as he sat up looking like a hurt child. No penalty was given. Gomes picked up the ball, Clattenberg turned away and moved up-field. Everyone assumed a free-kick had been given. Nani get up, runs back upfield, sees Gomes has thrown the ball down and is stepping back to take a free-kick he thinks has been given, and looks at Clattenberg to see if the ball is technically ‘live’. Clattenburg shrugs his shoulders. Nani pokes the ball back into the net. The linesman raises his flag. Clattenberg goes to listen, waves Spurs players away. Rio Ferdinand comes trotting up and stands 3 yards from Clattenberg and his linesman, all the while yakking at them. He is ignored despite the fact he is clearly encroaching on the referee. Clattenberg runs back to the centre-circle and gives a goal. Spurs captain Modric goes up to complain and immediately gets a yellow card. This after having retreated to the centre-circle as earlier requested.

It was, at the very very least, a free-kick. Everyone thought it had been given it was so obvious.

Apparently, Clattenberg had ‘played the advantage’. Rubbish. It looks good after the fact, but there is no advantage when 5 of your players are in an around your own box and only two of the opposition remain. Plus note to Mark; there is no advantage in letting the player who dove in the box, handled the ball, then placed his hand on the ball again, get up, trot back, and turn around to kick the ball into the net. Thus a player who tried to con a penalty and then handled the ball twice has actually been the ONLY beneficiary? Mark, Mark, MARK! THERE’S NO ADVANTAGE FOR SPURS THERE!!! And further, the gesture for illustrating ‘play-on’ is not, as I know it, shrugging your shoulders. What is the point of the linesman making any contact with the referee if he’s not going to be heard? And why didn’t Clattenberg book Ferdinand for harrassment? While we’re at it, can I ask, why was Paul Scholes allowed to manhandle the referee when United didn’t get the penalty they thought they were due?

Clattenberg’s silence is both defeaning and telling. He allowed himself to get worked over from the first minute by a typical whinging United performance, and he ultimately got it wrong. And whatever talkshow pundits bark on about, whatever other media figures try to say to counter the moment, Mark Clattenberg made a series of errors which are consistent in nature with other errors he’s made at The Theatre Of Dreams.

He should’ve done everyone a favor and just given a penalty for the dive. At least he’d have had half a leg to stand on.

End of story.


Posted in Uncategorized on October 19, 2010 by thfc4

And so it came to pass. Wayne Rooney, the child from the streets, the chav from the estates, the right-proper scally, has finally proven that he could not shake the shadows of his upbringing. A child when he made his Everton debut, a youth as he made his way through the increasing thicket of fame and fortune, a fantastic footballer with the world potentially at his feet, Wayne Rooney migrated to Manchester United from the excellent tutelege of David Moyes.

It seemed inspired. A confused, raw, rough and ready child in need of greater nurturing from the game’s greatest Grandfather. Sir Alex Ferguson is exactly that. He has saved the careers (and lives) of more than a few young talents, and for those who didn’t want to accept the shelter (Lee Sharpe being an example) Ferguson was not afraid to let them go.

Certainly in his early United days, with the spectre of his sexual relations with granny-hookers foreshadowing his every teenage step, Ferguson quickly gave Rooney the sort of shelter and protection the young man craved and needed. Soon he was in the system. Soon he was in the mode, the Man Utd mode, the training mode, the focussed mode, the maturing mode. He engaged deeply in a long-term relationship with his childhood sweetheart Colleen, he seemed to be able to avoid the nightclubs and headlines. At the very least, he was able to avoid being in the papers for anything other than his increasingly superb performances. Even though I am a devout and die-hard Spurs supporter, Wayne Rooney was the player I coveted for my team, my favorite British player, my favorite player in world football.

He changed agents in there somewhere, early on as I remember, and there were lawsuits with both his former rep and Moyes, who took grave offence to something written in Rooney’s autobiography… come to think of it, this alone should’ve been a sign; 20-21 year olds don’t do autobiographies. Agents of 20-21 year olds do.

Endorsements came…money…attention for a young man who was always clearly uncomfortable with the off-pitch clamour and glamour. Agents and reps no doubt filled his phone, his ears, his head with offers and more offers on a daily basis; who knows what their commission is, but the standard is 15-20%.

As the end of last season approached, the main worry for Rooney and the public was his health; everyone wanted to make sure he was fit so as England could go and walk to the World Cup Final in South Africa. He was on a fantastic weekly wage, and doubtless a great series of bonuses. He was selling all sorts of products for all sorts of companies. He was a figurehead of Nike, who cheekily put together an advert which showed Rooney living in a caravan like a vagabond, his World Cup having been a disaster, his career and character decimated from the damage of a sensationally poor summer.

The advert must’ve been directed by Nostrodamus, or at the very least Dionne Warwick in her Physic Friends Network guise. Rooney had a bafflingly disasterous World Cup, and with him went any hope England had of doing anything significant. He looked irritated and sore, confused and unhappy, a proverbial bear with a series of thorns in it’s paw. The 23 year old, who’d already been at the very top level for 8 years, looked angry, frustrated, unhappy and tired. He looked all alone in South Africa. We watched and lamented how different it could’ve been if he’d had his Grandfather Fergie to put an arm around his shoulder and protect him.

What we didn’t know was that Rooney had found himself unable to shake old habits in the preceeding year or so, the old, immature habits of a young lad from a rough background who’d suddenly got a pile of money and was still surrounded by less-than-mature mates. He was formally accused of hiring hookers for sex romps in a Manchester hotel while his wife was at home, pregnant with their child. Gross indiscretion which Rooney would’ve happily continued to repel had the News Of The World not got hold of the story. The paper had reportedly been forced by the FA to gag the story until after the World Cup; such matters would be known by those closely involved. It would go a long way to answering where Wayne Rooney went last summer…

And then we arrived here. A world class player clearly out of sorts and clearly not always 100% fit. A world class player who’s ears must have been buzzing with all the static from agent phone calls. A world class player succumbing to the desire of others to maximize his commercial potential, yet a world class player who frankly hadn’t played like one for months and months.

His manager, his Grandfather, appears to have tried everything to bring peace to Wayne Rooney’s life. He has consistently offered him shelter from an increasingly furious and hostile world. He tried to protect him from the press and refused to discuss Rooney’s implied whoring around, despite the fact by it’s very factual definition it would go violently against Ferguson’s own moral code. Stepping back, it’s exceptionally hard to see what more Ferguson could’ve done for Wayne Rooney.

That caravan…oh how prophetic it was. Because now we are seeing that Wayne Rooney’s foibles stretch beyond his own curiously juvenile ideas of human relationships, and sadly extend to encompass rejecting help from people who care. His confusion appears to have hit a breaking point; how on earth could someone who performed so poorly in the summer do anything other than spend the next season with their head down, working hard and avoiding controversy or contract issues? He has listened to his battery of advisors who have doubtless told him of the riches he could get across the city. As if Rooney needs more money. No, what Rooney needs is to get a grip on his life, get a grip on his world, and I would suggest that leaving Ferguson is not the best way for him to achieve that right now.

I can see how this story, this career, will end up. A brilliant talent increasingly frustrated; injured more often than not, drifting into the night life more frequently as the injuries become more common. His anger will increase and his performances will drop off further. He will discover that in Ferguson he had a familial figure, that Ferguson was the Cus D’Amato to Rooney as Mike Tyson. And that Rooney is now allowing his career, his world, to be taken over by a gang of Don Kings…you can take the boy from the Northern chav estate, but perhaps you really cannot take the Northern chav estate from the boy.

He will never physically end up in the Nike advert caravan, but it is hard to see a happy ending for Wayne Rooney if he does not see common sense very very soon and make amends with the one man who can save him from himself and those around him…as a Spurs supporter, I hope he continues to make a mess of his life and career. As an appreciator of great talent, I hope Wayne Rooney sees the light before all he ends up knowing is darkness…


Posted in Uncategorized on April 13, 2010 by thfc4

I rarely venture into seas where I could be biased towards Tottenham. It’s not helpful for any of us really, but there comes a time when frankly, enough is enough. Spurs lost the FA Cup semi-final 2-0 after extra- time. That’s what the records will say and that’s frankly all anybody cares about, given that this isn’t a club who complains like, say, Arsenal or Man.Utd, and further given that Portsmouth are this season’s fairy tale club. So tally-ho and hip hip hooray to the plucky winners, and Spurs? Same old Spurs, don’t have the bottle, etc, etc.

Except it isn’t so.
On a pitch I wouldn’t walk my dog on for fear of injury ( if I had a dog that is) we saw one side try and bring the game, one side try and play football and one side carve open chance after chance against another side who basically came to defend and counter-attack. ‘The pitch is the same for both teams’ was repeated like some ancient truism, but I’ve never much cared for soundbites and that’s precisely what that was. Yes, same pitch for both sides, but when one side plays a game which relies on passing and creativity, then they will be the ones who suffer on a ‘surface’ resembling a mutation between ice-rink and clod-heap.

Spurs were patient, Spurs fashioned the chances, good blocks and saves were made, yet Spurs kept coming. Over and over. Attack after attack, instigated by some players who were not fully fit, yet kept on going. A half-penalty shout from Spurs for a ball off arm was turned down, and no-one would really argue that such a penalty would’ve been harsh. Of course, last week at Sunderland, a penalty was given against Spurs for an almost carbon-copy incident.

The referee, Alan Wiley, a man referred to by Sir Alex Ferguson as not fit to referee at this level (referring to his health not hid talent, though both must be questioned) had thus already shown an ominous portent as to what sort of game he was having. He furthered this by twice hauling back excellent, open situations for Spurs to award free-kicks for the attacking team. Brilliant advantages. Not.

But he saved his best for last.
First, the otherwise rock solid Dawson found the pitch betraying him at the worst possible moment, allowing Piquonne the easy chance to score.
And when Spurs responded in the best possible fashion, first hitting the post and then scoring an equalizer when James came for a ball he couldn’t get and Crouch hooked the ball into the top-right of the net, Wiley disallowed the goal for a foul that only he saw. We all caught the footage of Pompey goal keep James grinning through the back of the net with that wide-eyed ‘ I can’t believe it’ expression. That’s no slight on James, a thoroughly decent man who is a footballer to respect, but it further amplifies the size of Wiley’s gaffe.

You’d have hoped that might be the end of Wiley’s awful decisions. Kranjcar took the sort of disgraceful, injury-saturated challenge through the back of his legs from Michael Brown that sometimes sees a straight red card. Brown didn’t even see yellow. This morning, Kranjcar had a scan to see if he received a hairline fracture of the shin. And then when Palacios put in an inch- perfect challenge on Dindane, ball clearly caught first, Wiley gave a penalty. Not only that, he did not (as he was required to do) give a straight red card for the offence, given that Palacios was the last man back. Instead he gave him a yellow. Meaning that on this last day for accumulative yellow cards to stick, Palacios reached 10 and now misses matches against Arsenal and Chelsea. 3 minutes from getting through without a card, and then he gets booked for a fine tackle and a penalty is awarded. Had he been sent off, the card could’ve been appealed and the decision overturned. You cannot protest a booking.

I have read nothing from Alan Wiley today. He will be allowed to get on with his life and profession, seemingly unaccountable for three decisions which have not only changed a game but also potentially changed a season.
He does not have to speak about it.
He does not have to explain himself.

It is my opinion that Alan Wiley should not only be held publicly accountable for his poor performance, but that he should serve a suspension himself. As should the arrogant likes of Howard Webb. It’s no good crying technology. We don’t have it so everyone has to work harder to get on with things. And if the referee is in any doubt at all over a decision, then he should either consult with his linesmen or not give it. At no time did Wiley consult with anyone during the semi- final.

I was one of the Spurs supporters who felt it would be tough. I had predicted an extra-time win and had even predicted Pompey to go ahead. So there was never an illusion of grandeur here. No. But what I didn’t predict was such an awful refereeing performance. Who could have?

So frankly, I remain firmly of the opinion that Tottenham were robbed.
Trust me, I’ve seen us not work hard enough and throw away games this season.
But this wasn’t one of those. We went to an appalling surface trying to play football against a team of plucky cloggers, and the 12th man put his boot in. And to those who say ‘dominance counts for nothing if you don’t score’, well, we did. Score, that is. That this wasn’t recognized rather evokes memories of Mendes at Old Trafford, except this was more obvious even to the likes of Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles.

You can call it sour grapes if you wish, but I know what I saw.
And if you’re honest, so do you.


Posted in Uncategorized on December 23, 2009 by thfc4

The term ‘football man’ might seem like some anachronistic comment uttered by flat-capped luddites who still believe that football should be played in hob-nail boots on mudbaths, but in all reality it merely refers to people who’s lives have been spent living and breathing the game. You could be a football man (or woman for that matter). I AM a football man. And the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Harry Redknapp, like them or not, are proper football men.

Garry Cook is not a football man. He is a sports marketing man, primarily a US-created sports marketing man, who over 12 years with Nike ran the ‘Jordan’ brand. Yet it is Garry Cook (along with Brian Marwood, who probably does count as a football man, just not a very good one) who decided that Mark Hughes (most certainly a proper football man) was not going to get ‘the job’ done at City.

The executive chairman of Manchester City came bounding in from Oregon, USA some three years ago at the behest of another personal favorite of mine, Thaksin Shinawatra. Call me old-fashioned, but when an accused human rights violator of that magnitude offers you a job, it should fill the head and heart with anxiety that such a total and utter bastard wants to employ you. Not Cook. He leapt at the chance (money/power). He wasn’t there too log before City tried (and failed) to sign Kaka, a failure which Cook loudly proclaimed was down to AC Milan ‘bottling it.’ A true diplomat who was already showing a lack of class.

So having watched Mark Hughes sign a few of the players he appeared to want (Barry, Given, Bellamy, Santa Cruz, De Jong), deal with a few of the players Cook and his Master wanted (Robinho, Tevez, Lescott, Adebayor) with a couple signed who it’s frankly hard to assign responsibility to (Bridge, SWP, Toure) and have to sell the one player he didn’t really want to (Dunne – who was apparently informed there would be no testimonial and who was not given the contract he felt his service deserved) we watched with a mixture of laughter and horror as Hughes went from pillar to post trying to get this lot working together whilst constantly hearing how he had the club’s undivided support. I’m sorry, when they started saying that you could almost see Agent Marwood reporting back to Cook and his Master on how many more days the incumbant should get.

Cook found he had dropped more than one of his bollocks on the floor after Roberto Mancini’s appointment, when the latter casually let slip that the job had been his for longer than the 48 hour ‘offer-and-interview’ period Cook had suggested. Indeed, the word was that Mark Hughes had been a dead-man walking for three matches. And then it just got worse, with Cook yesterday coughing up the wonderful little gem that there had already been some ‘contingencies’ put in place during the close-season. Remarkable really. Especially when Cook then tried to justify such corporate stench-soaked activities by pointing out that Sven Goran Eriksson was replaced in the same manner.
“I seem to recall Sven was still our manager but he knew he was being replaced before the last game of the season,” parped the corporate executioner, “Weren’t they identical circumstances to the way we went about executing our decision to appoint a new manager?”

Cook has obviously not heard the cliche ‘two wrongs don’t make a right.’ Just in case there’s any confusion, let us be clear. Sacking two managers by plotting their replacements behind their backs does not make the action acceptable. It merely amplifies what a disgustingly souless corporation Manchester City has become. And briefly, for those who have sought to draw comparison with Tottenham’s treatment of Martin Jol, whilst undeniably shabby in it’s execution, the fact remains that Jol twice looked at other jobs behind his then-employers backs (Newcastle and Ajax). And as for the Ramos departure, it was as much in the interests of the outgoing manager as the club, thus a mutually-agreed situation. To the best of my knowledge, Mark Hughes never looked beyond Eastlands.

These are testing times for football. Players appear to have more money and more power but less brains and less integrity, supporters have the patience of a crack addict and the attention span of gnats (or crack addict again come to think of it), and big-money cowboys mill around prodding and poking at potential cash cows to strap with their debts or their dreams. It is a time when however much we might personally dislike certain ones, ‘football men’ should be respected and celebrated. That means the Harry Redknapps, the Sir Alex Fergusons, the Martin O’Neil’s, the David Moyes, Arsene Wengers, and Steve Bruces of the world. For it is men like these who understand. And behind them are the likes of Randy Lerner, Niall Quinn and Bill Kenwright who have all shown if not the old-school ‘football men’ gene, the ability to comprehend what the game means to those who love it. How to behave. How to ‘expect’ in the face of investment.

Garry Cook doubtless gets paid a handsome sum of money to behave as he does. And as such, his well-cloaked, but surely inevitable, obsequiousness to Sheikh Mansour takes him four steps away from the fundamental world of football before he’s even had a chance to stretch. When the boss holds your money, power and balls in a hand that doesn’t really view the ‘property’ as much more than a hobby, then you’re in trouble. Unless, of course, you yourself are driven by other motivations beyond the football club you represent.

“Roberto has been caught up in a language issue,” Cook bleated to The Guardian yesterday. “In truth, he has been shafted.”
No. In truth, Mark Hughes was shafted. Shafted essentially by the hand of a non-football superstar sportswear executive with little knowledge of football, a man who could really do with swapping out one of the ‘O’s in ‘Cook’ for a ‘C’.

I give Roberto Mancini 18 months if he’s lucky. And Roberto? Between now and then I’d edge backwards out of boardrooms after meetings with Cook and co if I were you. I give him 18 months unless he brings Manchester City the crown jewels…



Posted in Uncategorized on December 4, 2009 by thfc4

Sepp Blatter, the President of FIFA (whatever that’s worth these days) is considering a special award for Ireland in the wake of the Thierry Henry handball fiasco during November’s World Cup playoff second-leg match in Paris. I’ve never been too sure what a boggled mind looks like, but thanks to Sepp, I feel I might now. What, pray tell, could Sepp come up with in terms of a ‘special award’ to give the Irish some ‘moral compensation’ A small statue featuring a pair of hands shaking across a heart with the word ‘FRIENDS’? A leprechaun with it’s arms open wearing a t-shirt saying ‘Forgiveness is love?’ A gold-plated compass with Sepp’s smiling face at the northern point? Pathetic doesn’t even begin to cover the embarrassing journey Sepp and his backwards-only bicycle are taking. In fact, the Irish should now feel more insulted by this buffoon than ever. For having failed to show the necessary leadership in the moments after Henry hand-balled twice to hand the French their winning goal, he is now on a back-pedal mission so grotesque that it is actually making the Irish look smaller and smaller with his every word. What next we wonder? Will Sepp invite the Irish squad to the opening ceremony next summer? Perhaps to carry out some bright colored inflatable things, or maybe to even show the world the world cup trophy before handing it off to Charlize Theron? Maybe pick a couple of squad representatives could attend a press conference to discuss the importance of fair play and forgiveness before embracing Blatter in front of the world’s press and saying ‘all is forgiven.’ All expenses paid of course! You wouldn’t bet against it would you?

Yes indeed, in the pantheon of tools, Blatter is a giant spanner. Not only that, the man stands as strongly behind the concept of principle as a jello tower in Doha. Having overseen a frankly inexplicably skewed seeding process for the World Cup playoff matches, he then chose to react to the controversy by holding his chubby-fingered little hand up and pretty much saying ‘I don’t give a fuck because my fiancee, Michelle Platini’s happy and I’m not going to upset her as it will affect my chances of scoring later tonight.’ Just to reiterate, I am paraphrasing ever so slightly. And this is, of course, after he was actually found, because Blatter was conspicuously absent as the red-tops and sports shows went into frenetic overdrive. However once he realized this wasn’t going away and he couldn’t weasel out of commenting, as the incident became a YouTube hit, as Henry’s hand and forearm became God’s other one, Blatter appears to have looked down at his trousers and seen one of his bollocks falling towards the floor.

He was forced to eschew technology whilst pointing out the experiments taking place in this season’s Europa League (via Uefa, that is) with two extra officials, one behind each goal. He was then slowly forced to pass comment that there would be no replay despite various requests from the FAI and god knows who else. And then, he bizarrely revealed that the Irish had asked for a 33rd place at the finals next summer. The Irish retorted that they were insulted by Blatter’s admission, as it was meant to be a private request. Frankly, it’s such an absurd thing to ask for I’m not surprised the Irish were insulted, furthermore, perhaps the genius at the FAI who conjured that zinger should consider another line of work. With that being said, Blatter’s public comments on the matter were ridiculous, either completely lacking in the necessary nous to carefully manoeuvre around such a thing, or a calculated attempt to dump the Irish in the brown creek without a paddle. If the former, then I ask again, why is this buffoon in the job? And if the latter, then I ask again, why is this buffoon in the job? Because the only person who ended up in the smelly waters was Sepp himself, so spectacularly did he score a public own-goal.

Which has brought us to the ‘merit award’ and some hot-air about disciplining Henry. Now, I was absolutely outraged by Henry’s behavior, which to my mind superseded the ‘normal’ handball incident (Henry handballed it twice in the same move and then pretended it was all moving too fast to prevent the action). But the time to have acted was then. At that moment in time. While the iron was still hot, not now, weeks and weeks later with the flat metal surface as cool as cucumber. Instead, we have seen Blatter refuse to move any further with the true matters at hand (determining whether we take the path of extra officials or enlisting electronic aid) instead dragging this entire fiasco down a pathetically long path under the pretence of ‘justice.’

Listen. Don’t be fooled. Blatter is simply trying to remain popular, and is now dancing like a daisy in the wind. He, and by proxy FIFA, blew it big-time. And now, rather than heap further embarrassment on himself, Blatter should by all rights declare the matter closed.

Although in one sense I hope Sepp doesn’t. Because at the end of the day, I’m still intrigued as to what (exactly) ‘moral compensation’ is, and frankly, we have a right to know…


Posted in Uncategorized on September 15, 2009 by thfc4

IT was a site to behold for the home supporters, yet one to infuriate the traveling away fans. The tall, lithe striker had just scored a wonderful goal, and having exalted briefly with his teamates, suddenly decided to take off on a sprint towards the away supporter section, launching himself into a knee slide, arms prostrated in a demi-God-of-strength pose, a picture of taut taunt and almost sublime arrogance which could’ve caused a riot.

Now I have no way of knowing if Emmanual Adebayor was watching Thierry Henry on the telly back on Saturday 16th November, 2002, but there can be little doubt that Adebayor’s sprint up the Eastland’s pitch to knee slide infront of the small section of traveling Arsenal supporters bore a remarkable similarity to the precedent-setting celebration of that Arsenal legend. The response to Henry’s actions that day were relatively muted. Nobody really cared. Henry had just scored a marvelous goal and hey, what’s a little crowd baiting between foes?

I remember being consumed with anger at the time, shedding more than a few colorful adjectives at the mercurial French superstar, but a week later all was gone, done and dusted. Spurs supporters moved on, without forgetting mind, Henry continued to get the so-called ‘dogs abuse’ and thus continued to ‘enjoy’ his goals as and when they were scored – fair cop really. But the point is that we moved on, we accepted that when you boo players, taunt them, abused them, then no-one can really complain when a professional footballer occasionally gives it back; is there anyone who didn’t in some way sympathize with Eric Cantona when he decided to fight back against some moron who thought he was above reaction? Likewise, as much as I despise what Sol Campbell did to Spurs, and as much as I booed and jeered him on his returns, would I have complained had he turned around and offered a salute post-goal, or worse still, a celebration? Not really.

The guy heard songs which basically wished AIDS upon him. And death. Via depression or lynching, and whatever your take on ‘that’ song might be, the overall feeling here is that it’s a shockingly poor song and clearly steps over a moral line. Would I ban people from singing it? No. Do I get all sanctimoniously incredulous when Campbell decides to try and take a stand about it? No. That’s how it goes. Fair is fair.

Adebayor has always been an odd combination of class and classless. He fought with his own team-mates and sulked a lot, at the same time agitating for a move away from Arsenal. This is not the place to pontificate on why that might be (although I will say that Robin Van Persie, himself not the best-behaved footballer the world has ever seen, might be a hard guy to play alongside) but the end result was an increasing cacophony of displeasure towards him from his own supporters as the season wore on. The end result? He was sold, for damn good money too.

Spurs supporters feel the same way about Dimitar Berbatov. Indeed, their last seasons read like a comparison chart which checks out as the same. And Berbatov gets his share of booing whenever he plays against us. That Berbatov chooses to celebrate with his own team is his (more mature) decision, but were he to look at us and raise a celebratory fist, well, that’s the way it goes right? You give it, you take it, right? Right.

I am not defending Emmanual Adebayor. He was foolish. Childish. Uncontrolled. But it is understandable given the circumstances. So when Arsenal fans rise in one bemused, bruised and hurt wave of cacophonous protest, perhaps they should consider a few things. Perhaps they should consider that singing songs about people’s parents (elephant washers and prostitutes as the words suggest, and a song I personally have always despised) is not the greatest way to show displeasure. Perhaps they should consider that the throwing of bananas/banana skins is the sort of pathetic, ignorant and blatantly racist behavior that probably DESERVES such a response. And perhaps they should consider the behavior of some former Arsenal legends when it comes to ‘taunting’ the opposition; the V-sign-infused sprint along the Old Trafford touchline in front of the Spurs half of the stadium by Lauren as he followed Viera when the former had equalized in the 2001 FA Cup semi-final. The clearly insane behavior of Keown and his fellow-men at Old Trafford when Van Nistelrooy has missed a penalty. And the graceful, lightning quick sprint of Thierry Henry on Saturday 16th November, 2002, one which took him in-front of the Spurs supporters. Add to this the often inflammatory behavior of players such as Van Persie, and it actually becomes a possible case that Adebayor learnt his ‘ways’ as a raw youth being taught the ropes by a club which capitalizes the ‘p’ in professionalism and has often walked the fine line of abhorrent behavior. Indeed, as terrible as Adebayor’s stamp was on Van Persie, consider the initial challenge, consider the reports of said-player refusing to shake Adebayor’s hand before the match, consider the photos of them looking as though they were speaking after the match, and consider Van Persie’s subsequent ‘statement’ which sounded like a petulant, snot-nosed public school boy who lacks the courage and fortitude to deal with such things behind closed doors. In it’s own way, classless behavior from a player who’s no stranger to controversy.

You give it, you occasionally take it, you move on. Those are the rules. And if you can’t abide by them, then stay at home, sip your chardonnay and eat your prawn sandwiches in the recliner atop your axeminster and don’t bother ever abusing another footballer again. Indeed, were Arsenal’s bleating fan flock a little smarter (not to mention, wittier) they’d send Adebayor a fruit basket. His actions look set to cost him at least a three game suspension, perhaps more. And in the brutal world of the premiership, everyone, but Adebayor and Manchester City, will benefit from his absence.


Posted in Uncategorized on November 6, 2008 by thfc4

It has, by any stretch of the imagination, been quite a few weeks for Spurs. Prior to what can only be described as ‘the radical surgery’, it was impossible to see where the next goal, let alone point, was going to come from, and players made a mockery of the word ‘professional’ by showing less confidence than a one armed juggler. It was absolutely dire. Communication within the club seemed dead. And Spurs already had the shadow of a club on their way to the likes of Turf Moor next season.

Regardless of whether you think he’s responsible or not for what went wrong, chairman Daniel Levy made the sort of decision that requires balls the size of elephants; he sacked the manager, he sacked the coaches and he sacked the structure in place behind them. He cleaned house. And he brought in a man from whom the majority of Spurs supporters wouldn’t accept a free used car. Out with Juande, in wiv’ ‘Arry. Out with sophistication, in wiv’ a geezer. Out with the continental style, in wiv’ the ol’ knees-up ‘Ackney Marshes geddit it dun sun. And by proxy, for thousands of Spurs supporters, out with pre-conceived notions that ‘Arry Redknapp is the dodgiest man in football and in with the FACT that ‘Arry was exactly what we needed, is a messiah, is old-school genius and is the natural successor to Houdini. Football has always been a great place to find hypocracy, and I along with the aforementioned supporters can shamelessly tell you how brilliant the appointment of Redknapp has been despite mere months earlier wondering how much bird he might end up doing if the FA charges stuck.

Redknapp’s appointment coincided with the now-annual capitulation (albeit a little earlier than usual) of Arsene Wenger. Going on 5 seasons without silverware, Arsenal are once again displaying a curious inability to kill off games, or even win them, whenever the going’s a tiny bit tough. And by proxy, their manager continues his metamorphasis into Basil Fawlty with the sort of physical touchline gestures which reveal a petulant, spoilt and vulnerable child beneath the blue bench coat. It is, of course, everyone’s fault that Arsenal have stopped winning. People have been kicking them. Referees have been wronging them. And the players have been weak at vital moments. The manager, of course, remains blameless. His substitutions never come into question, his team selections are never open for debate. His choice of captain, Mary Gallas, remains untouchable, and his refusal to spend more than a few million at a time on necessary players has finally come home to haunt him; Mikel Silvestre, a Man Utd reject, will not bring solidity to your back-line.

‘Arry has brought with him the controversial Kevin Bond, ketchup back onto the canteen menu, and a coaching manual which sometimes totals ‘fucking run about out there’ amongst other things. But it is the language he speaks which has galvanized the first-team squad. To be fair, ‘Arry’s English is probably harder for the likes of Luka Modric to understand than Juande’s dialect, but this isn’t about vowels and consonants, it’s about verve and confidence. It’s about telling these highly-paid and highly-talented footballers that they’re actually pretty damn good. It’s about telling them that when they work together, they’re very very effective. And it’s about knowing who needs a hug and who needs a rollicking, who needs a reminder and who simply needs instruction. More than anything, it’s about imparting confidence IN THEM AS A TEAM. And as an ex-pro himself, ‘Arry knows how to do all of the above.

It is why players like David Bentley, previously struggling with the weight of expectation in foreign areas of the pitch, found themselves in a position to try the audacious and achieve it at the Emirates. His 40-yard goal had little to do with luck and everything to do with sublime skill and confidence; the amazing first touch will have informed that to any naysayers. It is why players like Modric are finally able to show their full range of talents, ‘Arry recognizing that you give players like this the ball in dangerous areas. It’s why forwards like Bent and Pavulychenko, previously rendered unplayable as a pair, combined sweetly in the final minute against Liverpool to fashion a cute and clever winning goal for the latter, though it took Bent’s persistence and pull-back to create the moment.

And the bounce-back through the entire club has been enormous. Everyone, from the trainers to the tea-lady, are ‘appy wiv’ ‘Arry’s vibe and personality. His bounce and his simplicity. His directness. His inclusion of everyone. Indeed, one of his first moves was to give squad numbers to the previously exiled likes of Ghaly, Taarabt, Stalteri and Kevin Prince-Boateng, something which not only lifted their spirits and that of their fellow team-mates, but made decent, logical practical use of players who the club are paying! Football is not a complicated game in this respect.

So when Aaron Lennon stabbed home a Luka Modric post-deflected re-bound in the 94th minute at the Emirates for Spurs 4th, and equalizing, goal, it was (on reflection) a triumph for simplicity and investment in the human spirit; ‘Arry had given them belief and ‘Arry got it back. And when Liverpool failed to bury Spurs in the first 70 minutes of last weekend’s match, everyone sensed that Spurs could (and would) snatch something. Because ‘Arry has remembered that however talented, however famous, however well-compensated, all you need is love. Which he gives each and every person he works with. And it is why this writer has found himself saying something he never, ever thought he’d day; that is that right here, right now, Harry Redknapp is the PERFECT manager for Tottenham Hotspur FC.

Long may it continue…


Posted in Uncategorized on October 25, 2008 by thfc4

And so it continues…Tottenham Hotspur’s nightmare season, a freefall the likes of which no-one anywhere expected, continues apace. Today’s 2-0 defeat at Udinese further underscored the central issue which has caused this situation, namely the lack of a proper forward. Darren Bent fooled this writer with a glowing pre-season, but said-scribe should’ve reverted to the skepticism he’s always held with regards to the player’s ability to play in more than one system. Because the proof has come that he cannot. Indeed, asking Bent to make creative runs, to drop deep and drag defenders out of position or to use his body like a classic hold-up centre-forward is futile. He cannot. It is the starting point of our problems, that and the loss of  (on average) 65-70 goals a season during both transfer windows of 2008.


The midfield has thus had it’s metaphoric balls chopped off by this rather large problem (along with having no natural enforcer/holding player), most notably because there isn’t a striking brain cell to be found in front of them. Which forces them sideways. Which makes us the easiest team in football to defend.


Once Modric was on the field, he again showed that Tottenham have the midfield ability to service any strikers who are prepared to work and who have some dimension to their game. And when Bent was given a golden chance to stick the ball home from 7 yards out thanks to a wonderful cross from Dos Santos, he contrived to ball-watch a split second too long, and rather than using a striker’s initiative to attack the chance, he instead waited for it to come to him. You know what happened next. Nothing.  Later on, just before Udinese’s breakaway second, he planted a strong header goalwards right at the keeper.


O’Hara saw red after two correct yellow card decisions for rash challenges, whilst Jenas blotted a copybook which had been filled with effort by unforgivably contriving to stop running to the goaline and thus fail to clear the second Udinese goal off the line before it trickled in off a post. He thought it had already gone in. Players like Owen Hargreaves or Frank Lampard don’t.


It is obvious that Daniel Levy’s transfer policy this summer messed things up drastically. That has been broken down already in this column. No, what now needs to happen at Tottenham is a miracle to arrest the freefall. And that miracle has to happen inside every single player and club employee.


It starts with simple stuff. What more can be done with regards to the blame game? This is what they’re stuck with until January, and by God, that is what will have to scratch out 20 points minimum before the club can buy a few strikers if they want to have any real chance of surviving. So it’s really time that everyone made sure they’re giving 100%. From the tea lady to the tacticians, from the programme sellers to the players, EVERYONE needs to pull together and give everything…of course, that’s the problem. Trusting that they can and trusting that they will. AND wondering if they trust EACH OTHER to work out of this mess. David Bentley’s Spurs career hasn’t amplified hopes of such things  (it hasn’t helped his cause that he’s drastically under-performed thus far) Woodgate’s comments post-Udinese weren’t hopeful, and Juande’s cryptic clues didn’t exactly offer a bucket-load of inspiration.


Perhaps the saddest thing about it all, is that nobody seems to know when the point will turn anymore. Something you teach your children is that however bad a situation gets, it will end. In the case of Spurs, no parent could say that with any degree of conviction, because the freefall appears so thoroughly entrenched.


It is going to take a special act, no, a special SERIES of acts, to save Spurs from slipping into the abyss. And as people go round and round trying to detail the exact reason it’s all gone so horribly tits up, the truth appears to be that there is no one specific reason more than there’s multiple contributing factors.

Yes, getting rid of people and buying safe passage would be nice, but it can’t happen (as mentioned) until January 1st 2009.

 By which time everyone will know if Spurs managed to sort it out or if they’re heading towards the championship…the optimist will always say that they’ll have proven themselves too good to go down by then, and the realists might not be invited just yet!


Posted in Uncategorized on October 3, 2008 by thfc4

When Newcastle Dis-United announced that they had dragged Joe Kinnear from suburban convalescence to sit in the hot-seat equivalent of a Mexican jumping bean for a whole 6 weeks if-lucky, the laughter rang out  from Tyneside to Tennessee. It was reasonable to assume that Kinnear’s doctor might have been the reason behind Joe taking the ‘job’, as working with Newcastle right now’s a sure-fire way to test your ticker, but truth be told, it likely had much more to do with the Dennis Wise connection than health. Oh, and also perhaps the challenge; Kinnear’s never been one to hide after all. But there was no mistaking the message this appointment sent-out; desperate. And behind the times. And even a little bit silly? Given the names being touted (Guus Hiddink for example), by the sheer misfortune of proxy, Joe Kinnear’s name was always going to be a let-down. Obviously, the press had a field day, especially when it transpired that Joe’s first day at Sid James Park clashed with a scheduled day off for the players. The unofficial argument amongst press and public was that they’d already had enough days off on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays, but no matter, pundits queued up to state that it was Kinnear’s fault, etc, etc. It was, in fact, a bit of an open season on the man. Ridiculed for a ridiculous job that he hadn’t even had five minutes to try and do. Thinking about it in those terms, we’re all guilty as charged.

Modern decorum dictates that unless you’re one of the big 4 managers, you keep your counsel and tread gingerly with the press, occasionally making sure to show you have a pair of testicles, but not in a particularly challenging or offensive way. Indeed, most managers try and butter up a journo or two so as they can do things like spread rumors, tap-up players and have a friendly word on their side if the proverbial ‘form’ hits the fan.

So when Joe Kinnear held his first official press conference yesterday, everyone could’ve been forgiven for expecting the usual empty rhetoric that wafts through the air like stale wind from a chili cook-off. What they didn’t expect was an introduction like this (all quotes come courtesy of The Guardian).

Joe Kinnear: Which one is Simon Bird (the Daily Mirror’s North-East football writer).

SB: Me.

JK: You’re a cunt.

SB: Thank you.*

A stunningly unfriendly and politically incorrect entrance, and one certainly not designed to have the snarling Fleet St mob covering your back when everything’s going to ruin. Of course, Kinnear realizes that it’s already pretty absurdly awful at Newcastle and that the phrase ‘on a hiding to nothing’ is becoming the new management motto, engraved as it is on the revolving incumbent’s office chair. What he did not realize was that in the nu- Premiership, in it’s rarefied air, you’re guilty and have to prove yourself innocent. Since Joe took a bunch of ragamuffin geezers called Wimbledon on the sort of carpet ride that Hollywood makes movies about, things have changed. And since he suffered a heart attack and subsequently had to go into semi-retirement, the behind-scenes politics have changed too. Managers? Only part of the equation. It’s as much about owners and chairman and PR value in the nu-Premiership.

So when Joe Kinnear called one of his perceived-smarmy detractors a ‘cunt’ within the first few minutes of his first official press conference, the air turned so unbelievably fresh that most of the journos in there nearly choked on the cleanliness. In one fell-swoop, Kinnear had decided to abandon protocol, to abandon the rules and to not only defend himself against criticism for a job he hadn’t started doing, but defend himself against the hoardes of mindless, clueless idiots in Fleet St who make a living peddling rumors that they leech from message boards and gossip moles.

Kinnear was, as must be clear, only getting warmed up. During the rest of the conference he told the assembled (both generally and sometimes specifically) that they were ‘fucking out of order’, that he was being ridiculed for no reason, that the press were doing it simply because they enjoyed the position Newcastle was in and that he had had enough. 

After rolling around with laughter at the sheer brazeness of Kinnear’s behavior, it’s very, very hard not to find a new, deeper respect for the man. Not because he got sweary, of course not, but because Joe Kinnear stood up for himself and his new club in the face of the usual, smarmy, two-faced smirk-handed Fleet St onslaught. He decided he’d had enough. He decided he wasn’t going to take it anymore. And he said exactly what he needed to say. In JFG’s book, this is nothing short of heroic, a proper stand against an increasingly large pack of unscrupulous bottom-feeders. Who can be sure what The Guardian’s motives are in printing an edited transcript of this nature, but if it was to further ridicule Kinnear, then it might well have back-fired. Because football is political but it ISN’T politics. Managers don’t have to adhere to fear-induced soft-shoe shuffles. Managers don’t have to concern themselves with behaving obsequiously towards the media they don’t wish to. And in the case of a Newcastle manager, it really isn’t worth the ‘politically-correct’ hassle. The liklihood is that Joe Kinnear does not have long left in a job he’s only just begun. New buyers will come in and pick their own manager. Which means even more that Joe Kinnear does not deserve the ridicule he got from everyone. JFG enjoys a good laugh at the expense of foolish work like the best of them, but the FACT remains that Joe Kinnear had not even had a chance to START the job before the journos were wading in to give him a good kick in. Kudos to him for having the brazen courage to say it EXACTLY as he felt it. Because at least the man will be able to look himself in the mirror and realize that he did not let a group of cheap, unscrupulous bastards drag him from pillar to post in their cowardly quest to ridicule yet another pawn in the nu-Premiership game. Perhaps the next time they consider arrogantly riding rough-shod over someone, they’ll now think twice.


*For the entire transcript, go to  http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2008/oct/03/newcastleunited.premierleague


Posted in Uncategorized on September 25, 2008 by thfc4

TOTTENHAM Hotspur supporters the world over rejoiced at Spurs finally finding their feet during one of the most turgid football matches ever at St.James Park in the Carling Cup. After slack displays infused with inner-turmoil and confidence-shorn, tentative steps suggesting a fear of grass and balls, watching them grit their way to a move which resulted in the sort of fluid, counter-attacking goal that Spurs have scored for fun in recent seasons was an enormous relief. And what a difference a small burst of confidence makes, as from that point on Spurs comfortably controlled the match, kept possession with supreme ability and could’ve scored a couple more than the two they ended up with in the 2-1 defeat of hapless Newcastle.

That Spurs are in their horrific position right now can be attributed to many things, but this writer will lay 95% of the blame squarely on the chairman Daniel Levy’s shoulders. It is imperative that a manager be given the tools he wants, and in a timely fashion, so as he can both read the instruction manuals and learn how to incorporate them into the shop already running. Aside from this simple premise, add the fact that as you strengthen the squad in areas identified by said- manager, you really should not be weakening it. And bluntly, when push came to shove, Daniel Levy failed. He might’ve got away with predominant tea and sympathy (especially with regards to the protracted sale of Berbatov)   had he not also so readily capitulated to the sudden complaints of honorary scouser (and former Spurs vice-captain/mouth-piece/joker/heartbeat Robbie Keane). Some will say that Ramos must’ve sanctioned the sale, told Levy to grab the 20 mill from Liverpool before it went away, but for that to have happened you can be damn sure that Ramos gave the board a list of strikers to put in place first. 

Which he did. Arshavin was there, so was Gabriel Milito, so was Sergio Garcia. Indeed, in the case of Milito, the name had first arisen last Spring. You thus have to wonder why NONE of them ended up at Spurs during the transfer window, why instead supporters were treated to the cryptic and woefully inept ‘hands-in-the-air-we-did-all-we-could-guv’ rubbish that was ‘we had two forwards lined up and ready but agents scuppered the deal at the last minute.’ (That also goes for the ‘targets’ lined up to fulfil Ramos’ requests for a left-winger and a proper holding midfielder.) Oh really? What about that whole notion of giving the manager what he wants at the START of the close-season, or at least a couple of weeks BEFORE the season starts?

Here’s what JFG reckons happened. Levy felt he could ride these ‘deals’ to the brink, to the final days and hours of the window, in order to make sure that the main priority (shareholders) were served as well as possible. After all, a price is a price is a price, and no sucker wants to pay the sticker fee, thus one of Levy’s more favored games over the years (brinksmanship) was deployed with fervor and resolve. The problem was that with the world and it’s Mum having seen Spurs get 20 million for Keane, the prospective sellers looked at Levy and collectively mouthed ‘you cannot have your cake and eat it.’ Which is actually rather fair. If you’re going to put up such little resistance in taking 20 mill for arguably the most important member of your squad (ESPECIALLY when you know that you will capitulate on selling his strike partner who has been agitating for a move since he signed) then it is absurd to expect others to willingly let go of their top assets without an equally large wedge of wonga. And when it comes to terms of payment, as it reportedly did with Arshavin, then it benefits the club to sort out their position quickly and diplomatically. Because nobody will ever convince JFG that Levy didn’t believe he could tell Zenit St Petersberg where to stick their renegotiation in the full belief that he could waltz back in on deadline day, up the ante and do the deed. ALL of which STILL means that the manager, Juande Ramos, spent the close season training a squad that was one fine Harrods ham sandwich short of a picnic. Great silverware, wonderful crockery, superb hors d’ouvres but lacking the final main-meal strike-force in the sort of abundance that it once had.

Levy will doubtless point to the fact that Spurs spent over 60 million in the transfer window, but JFG will equally point out that the in-comings actually meant that Spurs were exceedingly close the being ‘in the black’ on transfer dealings, an extraordinary thing considering there was reportedly a budget of some 25 mill before the Berbacash was even contemplated.

And so it has been that Spurs have been stuck with a young, talented, disconnected and bewildered side, one bristling with talent but bursting with naive insecurity, the sort that renders expression on the field dead and instead sees fearful rigormortis set in to every move. Thus when Pavulychenko dropped deep, won the ball, distributed, turned, ran back into the box and got his head on the end of an excellent Aaron Lennon delivery, you could hear the relief back in N17. The side is too good, and the manager too smart, for thing to get any worse, and for sure Spurs season will now inch back to some degree of normalcy and perhaps even potential. But it will be in spite of, and not because of, the board. The chairman. The money men.

JFG gave Levy the benefit of the doubt for the entire window. When other more seasoned and grizzly commentators were criticizing his dealings, JFG insisted that until the morning of Sept 2nd Levy should escape judgement, that perhaps he had learned his lesson, that perhaps we were about to keep our prized asset and copy other ‘big’ clubs who refused to sell, or that we already had the replacements signed up. Admittedly, JFG had conveniently ignored the ‘timely’ aspect of this, instead really wanted to give Levy the full benefit of the doubt. But then came the morning of Sept 2nd. And whilst JFG doesn’t doubt for one moment that Daniel Levy feels some of the Spurs supporters pain, when a man shows the same hand, when a man repeatedly plays the same poker, when a man keeps making the same mistakes at the same times in the same fashion, you have to stop calling them mistakes…