Spurs Head for the Beach In Trunks And A Sash

When it’s time, know when to let go with a smile and slip away peacefully. The final home game of the season took place in hot sunshine but couldn’t work up a head of steam and certainly didn’t fire up the fans.

Even relegation-threatened Hull did not display the expected passion. In the end they succumbed meekly to two fine Spurs goals completely out of keeping with the leaden mediocrity of the rest of our performance. 2014-15’s time had come, and judging by the way the team have faded since the League Cup Final, it’s unlikely to be lamented.

Spurs trotted out resplendent in their new shirts, now on sale at the club shop. I haven’t bought a team shirt since promotion in the Admiral top with a collar and nasty cheap knitted polyester, but think I am right in saying that in recent years it’s not been available until early September and several games into the season. However it does mean that to keep up, fans have had to buy two different designs in one season.

Oozing PR blather like pus seeping from a blackhead, designers Under Armour say it’s part of our heritage, inspired as it is by the six lines below the cockerel on the emblem atop the West Stand. The six lines that are ENGRAVED ON THE HEART OF EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US. I think it’s hideous and inspired by a tin of Tesco Value Baked Beans but then I’m old and see Spurs in white shirts and navy blue shorts, nothing else. I don’t even know the squad numbers off the top of my head. In some ways I’d prefer if they just came out and said, “Look, we’re trying to flog as much schmutter as we can and what can you do with a farkuckter white shirt?” At least that’s honest. Leave the heritage stuff o when it matters.

Everyone’s ready for the beach. Even the ‘lap of appreciation’ was over in a trice and we strolled back to join the ‘queue of frustration’ at White Hart Lane station. The players nipped out, followed by excited kids holding a banner saying, “So long suckers, thanks for the cash.” Most people had left by then already. Except three Hull fans. Why do three away fans always stay behind for our lap of honour?

Every year I’m cynical about it, and every year I stay so the only sucker is me. It’s part of my end of season ritual. Endings have to be done properly and so I wait until the very last player has disappeared down the tunnel before taking a last look round the old ground and turning for home. Glad this season is done but wondering how I’ll spend the summer without it.

As the stewards came out near the final whistle as they do for every game, I chuckled that they were ready for the pitch invasion. Looking towards the Park Lane, the numbers of high-vis jackets meant it looked as if they really were. More like the brightness would wake a few people up. I can confirm there was no hysterical emotional surge towards the front as the players trooped round. I know it doesn’t matter in the slightest but they could make a bit more effort. Half of them chatted amongst themselves paying little notice to the stands. They used to kick a few footballs into the crowd and give out some tut from the shop, corny but why not. Adebayor posed for selfies last year (absent this by the way as was the club captain and the manager), again it’s corny but it’s some rare and precious interaction between fans and players.

Only Hugo at the head of the column and Kane proudly bringing up the rear really tried. Harry didn’t want to get off the pitch in a season that he will never forget. He will stay but this could have been Lloris’s last lap. I can’t see him starting next season, not even because he’s inspired by the new goalkeeping jersey. A sad loss but glad I could bid him farewell.

We bade farewell to another Spurs keeper, Brad Friedel. Spurs gave him a new lease of life as his career looked to be on the slide. Not only grateful for the chance, he fully repaid us with much-needed reassurance at the back. The respect and influence he engendered behind the scenes was shown in the way the substitutes joined in the applause at the beginning and end of his half-time interview.

Through these soft-focus, misty lenses of my specs, more nostalgia. Or maybe they just needed a clean. Michael Dawson received a standing ovation from all four stands on the final whistle in appreciation both of what he gave us and what we have lost. I know what he could and could not do. I don’t see that what we bought was a significant upgrade and we could have sorely done with his spirit and heart.

Ah yes, there was a match. Spurs’ early intent was not matched by cohesive football. Several moves ended prematurely. At the back we looked unsteady but Hull like many opponents this term missed the chances that came their way. As the game went on, Hull appeared to be stiff with nerves and never showed the urgency I was expecting.

Into the second half, much of the same. Chadli and Lamela were reasonable in roving roles. It suits them, but other teams much better than Hull have exploited the gaps they left behind. Yesterday they combined to produce a fine goal. Lamela’s rabona brings me less joy than his ability to slide in a diagonal pass from 25 yards out. We’ve seen it several times this season. Here, it took out the whole defence and Chadli’s clever run took him past the keeper and he rolled it in.

That was my favourite but Rose followed close behind. He and Mason both had decent games. Their turn to combine, Mason chipping over the back four to Rose whose slightly mishit volley sailed in. Runs and through-balls that found the runners. Take note.

End of season and time for big changes. More about this over the next couple of weeks in the usual summaries of the season, but the essence is: these players are not good enough. Tactics, motivation, manager: all relevent but Pochettino has spent the last nine months discovering how thin this squad is, both in terms of talent and how their skills fit the way he wants to play. The optimistic post-League Cup Final articles saying we had the spine of a team in our youngsters were sweet but wrong. I like Mason, Kane, Dier and Bentaleb, Rose has come on leaps and bounds, but at a conservative estimate we need two centre-halves, one DM, wide midfielders who can defend as well as attack and two strikers to join these young men and create a strong squad with options. And that assumes Lloris, Eriksen and Vertonghen stay. But let’s worry about that another time.

Spurs Sink Without A Trace

A game to illustrate the difference between supporters and players.

Supporters: end of the season but there’s still something to fight for. Europe, well, on balance yeah, a few trips, better than nothing, good to bring players in come summer. Anyway, 6th is better than 7th, isn’t that enough? Pochettino wants to finish above Saints, must mean something. We pay to watch the shirt so you can play for it, bit of pride.

Players: nah.

Yesterday Spurs continued their relentless pursuit of mediocrity in dogged fashion, contriving to produce one of the worst performances of the season. Try as we might, we still can’t fall below 6th place. Simply awful. We bucked up a bit last week against City ( sorry no article last week, I was at the game but work pressures got in the way of writing. Feh!) but folded at the first provocation versus a determined Stoke team, who really do have nothing to play for but you would not have guessed.

Faced with the absence of Rose, not for the first time this season Pochettino not only brought in another player, Chiriches in this case, but shifted the whole defence around. Vertonghen and Fazio are hardly an impenetrable barrier but they are the best centreback pairing we have available. We might even be thinking ahead and giving them more playing time together in preparation for next season (although I think Verts will go if he gets a good offer).

Yet Jan was switched to left-back where he’s not so super and Chiriches came into the centre. Dier is a good prospect but inexperienced and also out of position. We can’t defend anyway and more disruption was meat and drink to Stoke, who gorged themselves until they were full and could eat no more.

Poch says Yedlin isn’t ready for the PL yet. On this showing neither are the rest of them. A poorly cleared cross let Adam in for a header on the quarter and that was pretty much that. The latest in a long line of defensive cock-ups saw Dier and Lloris get in a total mess, leaving an open goal. It’s precisely the sort of error that comes from not playing together as a defensive unit often enough. Hugo pulled out a few decent stops in the second half, in between thinking about his transfer to, well, anywhere where he doesn’t have to see Fazio and Chiriches standing in front of him.

Chiriches made life difficult for everyone by being sent off for two bookable offences, fouls that smacked of the desperation of a player who knows he’s out of his depth. Vlad the Bad sums up the Tottenham transfer policy that has seen a once in a lifetime windfall of the cash for Bale almost completely wasted. When he joined Spurs, you could see why we bought him. A ball-playing centreback with the ability to pinch the ball off an opponent in the box, we could mould this youngish man, already an international, into a very modern mobile defender. As it turned out, he has contributed precisely nothing over two seasons. He’s a mistake waiting to happen who appears bewildered by the pace and physicality of the Premier League. Never has a player more often made me shout, “No!” in that fraction of a second when he’s about to try something nifty on the edge of our box that everyone in the ground knows is doomed to failure.

Kudos to supporters of both sides who gave Jimmy Greaves a rousing get-well-soon round of applause. Jim, all the very best.

That’s it really. No pointers, no judgements, just some finger-pointing at players who could at the very least put more into this game. Like our season, this article ends not with a bang but with a whimper.

You could pass the time with this new football trivis app, written by Justin, a ST holder in the Park Lane. Happy to help a fellow Spur https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/knowfootball/id966503621?ls=1&mt=8

Lamela’s Prayers Answered As Spurs Fight Back Twice

Your correspondent missed the first half of this one. Saturday, a nice day at that, so all thoughts turn to clearing up the compost heap. What else could you possibly do? So as we kicked off I was METAPHOR KLAXON on the way to the dump with a stinking heap of decomposing vegetables. Nothing like the first team, what are you thinking….

And before Monty Don dives into the Comments Section, I know compost is supposed to decompose but this was too wet because it hadn’t properly drained. OK? We had kept some of the material too long and it had gone bad, no use to anyone…oh never mind…

There’s nothing new to be said as the season tails away. On the plus side, Spurs showed enough desire and spirit versus Southampton to twice pull back a goal deficit. While this sounds like scant praise, it’s more than can be said for the lamentable efforts against Villa and Burnley.

Southampton are a well-organised team, easy on the eye. There was never much in it but they looked the better side for extended periods. We gifted them an opening goal but in return they missed a couple of good chances, better than anything we created, so I guess that evened it up.

We also saw the value of possession. A few years ago possession stats were all the hipsters needed to write an article. Now, they are regarded with more suspicion because, and this is revelatory stuff, turns out you can score goals without having the majority of the ball! Incredible. It does however have a defensive value. Spurs are frustrating in the way we fail to look consistently dangerous despite having the ball for a while but when we are not playing that well, it prevents the opposition from doing their worst. Yesterday Saints for the most part looked sharper when they attacked so keeping the ball was an effective weapon against them.

Comparisons between the two sides are inevitable and not just because we nestle snugly next to each other in the table. Pochettino made his reputation in England on the south coast and in both teams he’s played a similar style and formation as well as bringing on younger players. This was Koeman Day at St Mary’s, a reflection of their fans’ gratitude for the work their manager has done in establishing a decent side when by the end of the window last summer it looked as if the club was throwing itself off a cliff. Seems a bit much though for a guy who has been there for so short a time.

Southampton looked better in defence than Spurs. Also, while Saints lost close to half a team, Koeman was allowed to spend some money and his purchases have contributed more than anyone who came to White Hart Lane in the summer, demonstrating the value of a manager being allowed to bring in players of his choice. I hope we receive similar impetus in the summer, because it’s sorely needed.

One signing, Pelle, nearly did for us. After a mediocre start, we contrived a major cock-up that would be worthy of more note except that it’s not exactly unusual this season. Mason probably didn’t know he was not under immediate pressure as he tidied up at the edge of our box, but unsure of what was around him, he dithered, slipped then could only poke the ball in the vague direction of his keeper. Davies in for the injured Rose was on hand but he was easily muscled off the ball and seemed astonished that the Italian should have the nerve to poke the ball past him and Lloris. When these things happen, Hugo as always looks hurt rather than angry.

Lamela’s equalizer should cheer him up – he celebrated like he’d won the Double. Kane flicked on Dier’s right wing cross. Lamela had space behind him – credit for taking up a good position. He reacted to the chance by crossing his arms in front of him, which I interpreted as a quasi-religious gesture to assist him in his task of shooting, because frankly these days he needs all the help he can get. Less charitable souls wondered what on earth he was doing but whichever god he was praying to came up trumps. The ball hit his arm and went in, nothing given. The confidence might give him a boost although that wasn’t especially apparent in his second half performance.

Back to better defending and signings again – Fazio came from Spain as the defensive lynchpin. I’ve developed a strange fascination for him. I’ve always been fond of a big centrehalf and a little suspicious of the mobile play-anywhere centrebacks I know we need. Their ungainliness in the physicality of modern football is endearing.

Fazio should be our rock, except most of the time he moves like one. He’s a seventies throwback, determined to stop forwards getting past him oblivious of how much the interpretations of fouls and repeat offences have changed. He would be comfortable kicking all and sundry in some European battles of that bygone era, shrugging as the whistle blew against him and caring not a jot.

It’s hard sometimes to see exactly what we bought. It must be there somewhere. At Seville he was a leader and later in the game when as last week he cleaned up a few crosses he suddenly burst into life, shouting the odds as a rallying cry to his team-mates. He’s crafty one on one, mostly doing just enough to get the ball, often without actually touching it. But he has the mobility of a tower block. In the team to deal with big centre forwards, last week and this he was flat-footed as the man he was marking slipped inside him to head home. Last week Benteke, this week Pelle.

Spurs came back again with a fine finish by Chadli. Dier again with the pass, this time down the right. The Belgian’s touch took him past one defender and he slotted expertly across the keeper into the far corner. More please.

In terms of motivation, it doesn’t look as if the Europa League is setting us on fire. Everyone did OK, nobody stood out, but, and you’ve heard it before, in the past we would not have come back twice as we did yesterday.

My view of the EL is unchanged. It should become an old-style home and away knockout to generate excitement and the possibilities of upsets. UEFA have plenty of cash to subsidise clubs for whom the group games are a financial bonus. It won’t happen, so Spurs should play a strong team at home and train a second string for the away ties, and I mean play together in advance so they are a proper team rather than defend as if they have never met as we have seen in some sorry ties over the past few years. Then go all-out after Christmas in the knock-out.

The real issue is not the EL but whether we are planning and playing for next season, and there is an inescapable sense of us marking time, waiting for a clear-out and an influx of newcomers, rather than doing much that’s constructive.

Spurs Not On The Beach Just Yet

Doing enough to beat Newcastle is the very definition of damning with faint praise. Spurs did most of the right things in a performance that improved on our last three efforts, but saying that and we’re back to not saying very much at all. Hard work throughout the side, pressing in midfield, decent movement up front especially on the break. None of this was accomplished with any consistent conviction, apart from Kane’s fabulous final goal on the break but we were the better side and deserved this win.

It goes without saying that Spurs set up with a 4–2–3–1 – has Pochettino ever started with something different? A few much needed tweaks though. Lamela on the right to have another go at discovering some form while Paulinho came into midfield to give Mason a rest. Fazio again started at the back. This latter was an interesting choice because the Newcastle centre forward Perez is small enough to nip between his legs. Their tiny striker of course scored a header earlier this season at White Hart Lane, which says more about the value of positioning for a centre half than height or muscle.

Their darting runs looked to unsettle the back four early on but apart from a few scares the early period was more about Spurs in possession and stifling Newcastle attacks at source by pressing intensely in midfield. Possession was the key to this one. The stats show 60–40 in our favour and while we could have done more in attack when we had the ball, it meant we gradually edged our way on top. Newcastle’s increasingly sporadic attacks became the exception to Spurs’ rule.

Bit of a nothing match until our pressing earned a goal assist. Gouffran delayed too long and Chadli picked up the loose ball, ambled forward unchallenged and shot past the keeper from 20 yards. It bounced and dipped, awkward for Krul but everyone, including Chadli, expected him to save it.

Credit to Chadli, repaying some of his manager’s faith where many supporters had lost ours completely. Was it my imagination or did he work harder on Sunday? Pochettino gave him a little peptalk as he was substituted later – maybe words had been said during the week and the Belgian had responded. Or perhaps Poch wanted some company.

In the home game earlier this season, Spurs were at their infuriating worst, on top then failing to spot the arrival of a Very Big Player on the left at the start of the second half and conceding straight away. This time, a small man but the same outcome, an equaliser in 15 seconds of the restart. When I plead for consistency, this is not what I had in mind.

It looked like another wasted opportunity to grab 3 points against an average team. Lamela was atrocious for the first hour, playing with the vision of a man with a bag over his head. However, after a stuttering fightback of sorts, Eriksen’s curling free-kick tempted many but no one got a touch, not even the keeper, and it sailed into the net at the far post.

Newcastle didn’t have the spirit to motivate themselves to push hard for an equaliser and Spurs were increasingly strong on the break. Kane’s piledriver volleyed corner bounced on the line but did not cross it, then he sealed it near the end, running on to a Lamela pass, controlling it perfectly and shooting past Krul, a fine goal to wrap up an average day.

Kane was unobtrusively excellent up front, available and drifting wide to make space in the middle, although Paulinho won the TV man of the match for a workmanlike midfield effort. No coincidence that his best game of the season (not that he has given himself much competition) came when he was played in his natural position. He instinctively covered the gaps when Bentaleb moved forward.

My frustration with him has been plain in this column this year. I defended him for a long time after his early form subsided because he was played too far forward or not at all. I commented at the time that he looked as if he would rather be anywhere in the world than on the WHL pitch. Will he stay? Doubt it, but playing him does not put him in the mythical shopwindow because his value lies in is reputation pre-Spurs.

Of the others, Rose did well and Fazio came strong in the last 15 minutes. He is someone who we should play now with next season in mind. To bring out the leadership qualities he showed in Spain, I’d put him in charge of the back four for the rest of the season. Give him a chance to be a leader, maybe his form will come back.

So good to see that compared with the last three games, we’re not by the pool just yet although the bags are almost packed. Albeit against unmotivated and disjointed opposition, we put in more application and effort on Sunday. I’m not thinking about what Man City can do to our defence, enjoy this win and Kane’s 30th goal of a season than effectively began for him in November.

A group of Newcastle fans organised a boycott of this match in protest against owner Mike Ashley’s regime that has ripped the heart and soul from a club which depends on passion to see it through the bad times. Suddenly the much reviled Alan Pardew looks a better manager than we thought. The policy of bringing lesser known signings through and developing them appears threadbare if progress stalls and the system doing that development falls apart. By all accounts Ashley is content to secure his investment at the expense of securing the future well-being of the team.

It’s fashionable in some quarters to jeer at fans who style themselves as the best in the land. Not me – I feel for Newcastle supporters, long-suffering but still willing. Their attachment to figures from their past as saviours, like Shearer or Keegan, leaves them open and I still chuckle at the Geordie who without apparent irony celebrated Keegan’s return by parading a packet of Special K outside an empty St James’ Park.

Look closer and we have something in common. Spurs fans don’t have that attachment to the city that I envy where club and city are inseparable in identity. However, the last but one paragraph serves as a warning as to what could go wrong if Spurs’ declared return to a policy of developing upwardly mobile talent does not work because there is no consistent support for manager and development staff/scouts. It’s not all about the money.