August 29, 2009

29/08/09 Tottenham Hotspur U18s 1-3 Manchester United U18s, Spurs Lodge

A sunny but chill morning for Spurs U18’s first home game of the season against Manchester United. Last week Spurs lost 3-2 at Boro, whereas United lost 3-1 to Southampton.

Nice to see Tim Sherwood again watching the Academy side (and giving the ref some stick!), and Dawson and Woodgate, presumably in for some treatment, giving the young lads some support too.

Note: my timing’s may be slightly off, I was trying to keep track on my phone.

Still experimenting with the new intake and coping without the best players from last season, Inglethorpe set up his team in a 4-4-2, with M’Poku in an unusual role for him – central midfield. In these games, clubs are allowed to name three “overage” players, and so Spurs were able to include Janssen, Cox, and our summer acquisition from Arsenal, Blackwood.

Jansson (18)
Durojaiye (16) Blackwood (18) Cox (18) Francis-Angol (16?)
Byrne (17) Parrett (17) M’Poku (17) McBride (16)
Oyenuga (16) Kane © (16)

Subs:

Fredericks (16) for M’Poku, 55.
Ekim (17) for Francis-Angol, 70.
O’Neill (17) for McBride, 75.

Not used:
Nicholson (17)
Butler (17)

The game started with Spurs kicking from right to left, and it didn’t take long for United to settle, playing crisp passes (often first time) and moving the ball across the pitch with ease, rather like Spurs managed to do last season. With only 2 minutes on the clock, Anton Blackwood totally misread a pass and, in trying to recover, was beaten for pace and strength by the United forward, John Cofie, who finished low through Oscar Jansson’s legs.

On 7 minutes Spurs had their most encouraging attack so far, with McBride breaking well, but firing a rather tame cross-come-shot safely into the arms of Conor Devlin, the United goalkeeper. Unfortunately on 13 minutes, another Blackwood error was punished by a superb finish from the left side of the box by their skipper, Robbie Brady.

Parrett, for the second time in the match, showed some responsible defending in the corner, tracking a runner before taking control of the ball and winning a throw.

United’s Norweigian striker, Josh King was absolutely dominant in the air and, in fact, dominant on the ground too. Cox obviously isn’t the biggest, but Blackwood must be close to 6 foot, and King seemed to be a foot above him in the air at times – he had the ability to get up early and just hang. His first touch was generally imamculate too, and he was really giving our lads the runaround.

With just over 20 minutes gone, Jansson came out to smother a through ball, but ended up handling just outside the box – although we felt that he released the ball in time. The referee decided that a free-kick was punishment enough (with covering players around), and so no further action was taken. The free-kick led to a corner, and at this point M’Poku absolutely bellowed at the Spurs boys to get organised, using the phrase “flipping heck”, which tickled me.

Spurs had 5 or so minutes of better possession, but nothing really came off any of our attacking moves. We did win a free kick, which Kane rather weakly curled into the keeper’s hands but, shortly after, the game was effectively over as a contest. United sprang a Spurs off-side trap and, with Blackwood effectively stood with his hand in the air waiting for the whistle, Josh King rounded Jansson calmly and slid home.

Spurs nearly responded immediately – Harry Kane pulled away from the United centre backs and curled a beauty of a shot on to the angle of post and bar.

On 37 minutes, Paul-Jose M’Poku, to this point by far our most effective player, went down under a heavy challenge, screaming in agony. He came back on and limped heavily through the rest of the half.

There followed a fairly even passage, and McBride showed signs of getting the better of the huge full back, Reece Brown (brother of Wes). He beat his man, and was brought down on the left of the box. Dean Parrett whipped a free kick into the near post, but it was well defended.

Spurs ended the first half with Blackwood moving to right-back, and Durojaiye partnering Sam Cox at centre back.

Inglethorpe didn’t make any changes at half time, meaning that, amazingly, M’Poku returned for the second half, still limping heavily, and Blackwood continued at right back, where he could do less damage. Straight from kick-off, United’s industrious midfield player Ryan Tunnicliffe, burst forward powerfully, running to the edge of the box where he was brought down. The free kick was struck low and hard and, when it took a deflection, it was fortunately straight at Jansson.

What turned out to be a consolation goal for Spurs came about when a Parrett corner was easily cleared. McBride quickly gave it back to Dean, he beat two men between the corner flag and the goal, before his shot crept over the line, seemingly helped in by Oyenuga.

Spurs were living dangerously, though, and United slipped a great chance wide 8 minutes into the second half, with just Janssen to beat – not the first clear cut chance that they’d failed to get on target. Fredericks came on for M’Poku, clearly still struggling with the injury he’d picked up earlier. Kane moved into central midfield, with Fredericks partnering Kudus Oyenuga up front.

Spurs were playing better at the start of the second half. Parrett showed some terrific skill – having been bundled to the floor, he carried on, beating a player with quick feet before getting back up and eventually shooting on goal, the shot deflected straight into the keeper’s hands. McBride had a useful run and cross down the left, and Oyenuga also had a run and shot which came to nothing.

Unfortunately for Spurs, they didn’t manage to score again whilst they were on top, and the game became fairly scrappy as we let it peter out. Ekim came on for Francis-Angol and, at this point, Kane moved back up front, with Byrne moving to left back, and Fredericks coming over to the right hand side. The final change saw O’Neill come on for the tiring McBride.

Overall a poor performance from a much-changed Spurs team. Last season’s best performers have gone out on loan, and Inglethorpe is still experimenting with team shape, and with the positions of one or two players. I think it’s important to remember how different this team is to the last one that played at Spurs Lodge back on the 2nd May – a 4-1 win over West Ham. Strange that Calum Butcher, who is one who hasn’t gone on loan, didn’t play as an overage player – we could have done with his commanding presence at centre back.

Jansson – wasn’t as busy in goal as he perhaps should have been (United put a lot of chances off target) but when he was called upon he was slightly clumsy. His kicking was poor – one was smashed straight up in the air, one sliced behind him for example. He charged out a couple of times to clear his lines, and this was successful once, but on the other occasion he gave away a dangerous free-kick for handball (although to us this looked a little harsh). 5/10

Durojaiye – he struggled to get forward from right-back (which I gather is his natural position), but looked OK at centre back. Didn’t win too many aerial battles but, against two strong players like John Cofie and Josh King, I don’t think he stood much chance. Interesting that at 16 he was the one offering instructions to Blackwood for periods of the second half. 4/10

Blackwood – it was a nightmare of a game for him but, most worryingly, it wasn’t the first time I’d seen him perform like this. I hope there’s more to come from him and that he wasn’t just signed to make up the numbers. 2/10

Cox – slightly odd seeing Cox play at centre back, but he did OK, particularly on the cover. He was also one of the most vocal Spurs players, giving plenty of encouragement. Naturally he struggled to compete in the air, but he was a lot more solid than either of his defensive partners. 6/10

Francis-Angol – again, it’s important to remember how young he is but, given that he’s a natural left back and so was playing in a familiar position, I didn’t see much to fill me with hope. Always willing to receive the ball, but often he’d just pass it straight back to where it had come from. Struggled defensively to cope with Nicky Ajose on United’s right, and also didn’t get foward to support Paul McBride. 3/10

Byrne – I was really disappointed with Byrne, probably more than any other player, since I’d seen him play so well against West Ham in May. He actually looked weaker than he did last year, and a less willing runner. Yes, he didn’t get much support from either Blackwood or Durojaiye, but he pretty much offered nothing all game. 3/10

Parrett – if he had showed the guts, drive, and ability that he showed in a twenty-minute spell in the second half for the rest of the game, I would have been delighted with his performance. As it is, I’m still left wondering what his best position is, and what his exceptional qualities are. As I say, for those twenty minutes, he really stamped his authority on the game and looked like one of the best players on the pitch. I was also pleased to see him track back twice in the first half to good effect. 6/10

M’Poku – easily Spurs’ best player going forward, and it was a shame that he picked up a knock, as he looked our most likely route to a goal. I’d not seen him play centrally before, and I don’t think the balance was at all right with him and Parrett in there, but he looked (physically and technically) our best player by a margin. 7/10

McBride – the most impressive of the players I’d not seen before. He needs time to fill out and develop, but he was keen to try to beat his man, and looked to have a few tricks up his sleeve. Without much pace and strength, it’s hard to know whether he’ll ever make it as a genuine winger, and perhaps he’ll end up playing centrally, but I look forward to following his progress over the course of the season. 5/10

Oyenuga – it’s hard to know what to say about his performance. Whilst he, at times, looked like he may get the better of the United defence with some physical play, he never actually managed it. His first touch is not yet good enough to allow him to hold the ball up successfully, nor does he really have the burst of pace to get in behind. 4/10

Kane – Harry’s been given the armband this year, but he doesn’t seem particularly vocal. Another one where I’m really not sure what type of player he is – he seemed to drop off a lot today, almost as if he’s been asked to play the Mason role but, to me, he looks better pulling wide, or playing further up the pitch so that he can get into the box and get on the end of things. When moved into central midfield he looked cumbersome and uncomfortable. 4/10

Fredericks – in fairness to him, he didn’t see much of the ball. He showed a couple of nice touches, but didn’t create anything or trouble the United backline.

Ekim – again, it’s important to remember how young these lads are but, at the moment, I think he has a long, long way to go. Doesn’t seem quick enough in terms of thought and feet.

O’Neill – didn’t really influence the game in any meaningful way but, like Fredericks, showed some neat touches. Wanted to drop his shoulder and come inside but, the way the United central midfield players played, that was a mistake.

So plenty of room for improvement for our lads and, given that they are so young, they could learn a few more tough lessons this year. I have faith in Inglethorpe to find more balance – I don’t think Parrett and M’Poku in the middle is right but, without the physical presence of Kasim, it’s easy to understand why he maybe wanted the more physical M’Poku in there to combat the power of Tunnicliffe. Oyenuga and Kane need time to gel, and we have plenty more first year players to come in where necessary.

A quick word on the United side. Really accomplished performance from them overall – Josh King was the star of the show, and I imagine he may make the bench this year. Looks a really talented player, and has a bit of everything. Ryan Tunncliffe is a hard-working, driving midfield player, with a strong upper body and a good attitude. His midfield partner, Etzaz Hussain, who is only 16, played the game the way I like to see it played – did the simple things well, worked hard defensively, andshowed a decent range of passing. With Reece Brown very strong and quick at right back behind Nicky Ajose, very much a flair player, they look a team capable of beating anyone on their day. Worth noting that, like us, United have a few players who started elsewhere elsewhere, and also interesting to note their ages:

Devlin – 17
Brown – 17
Fryers – 16
Wootton – 17
McGinty – 15, signed from Charlton this summer.
Hussain – 16, signed from Langhus IL in January.
Ajose – 17
Tunnicliffe – 16
King – 17, signed from Valerenga a year ago.
Cofie – 16, signed from Burnley two years ago.
Brady – 17, signed 18-months ago from St Kevins Boys in Dublin.

After the game, we got talking to a confident young guy called Omar, who told us that he had been on trial at Spurs for three weeks – he said that he’d scored two and made five in a high-scoring win against Stevenage in the week, but that due to “politics”, he wasn’t playing today and, instead, that he would be taking up the offer of a trial at Chelsea on Monday.
I asked him if he knew the two South African players, Masibusane Zongo and Kamohelo Mokotjo, who had been on trial with us. It turned out that he knows them, and he recommended Zongo in particular as a direct winger with an eye for goal (actually he said, “he gets the ball and BANG! goal”!), but said that they didn’t like it here, and therefore won’t be signing. He said that Dean Parrett was the most impressive of the Spurs players and that Fulham, his old club, had a better Academy side than Spurs.

Official Site report.
Spurs Odyssey report to follow here.
United perspective – I’m quite encouraged that they picked out the same star men for United as me!

NB: Forgot to mention that Bostock was there, on crutches, and with his foot/ankle in a cast.

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August 27, 2009

Hypocritical Wenger?

It was interesting to hear Wenger’s take on Eduardo’s dive last night, especially when he’d previously made rather different comments when Eboue dived to win them a free kick (from which they scored) in the Champions League final in 2006:

“It is clear there was no foul. I condemn and regret the attitude of Eboue.”

“I have always risen up against cheating.”

“Eboue cheated by simulating the foul. I detest simulation.”

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August 24, 2009

Two improvements I want to see during this season.

Before I dive into this, I ought to comment on the start to our season: three wins out of three – our best start since 1960-61, the year in which we won the double. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s a fantastic start but probably just as well, as we have a tricky run of games coming up – in September we play Man Utd at White Hart Lane, Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, and Burnley at White Hart Lane, and we have a tricky Christmas period, and a horrible run-in too. I’d still anticipate us battling for 6th/7th come the end of the year – Everton should not be written off, Man City look to have gelled more quickly than I (and others) anticipated, and the top 4 from last year will be strong again this year.

Despite the good start, there’s still plenty of work to do, and there are two key areas where I’d like to see improvement throughout the season:

1. Set pieces (attacking)

Ignoring Stephen Hunt’s rather fortunate goal against us last week, I think we’ve generally improved at defending set pieces under Redknapp (and especially since Gomes regained confidence and became more decisive). However, we have long been poor at attacking set pieces, and I’ve seen little or no improvement under HR.

I think we struggle with:

  • Delivery
  • Timing of runs
  • Attacking the ball

Bentley and Bale are probably our most natural set piece “specialists” but, with both out of the team for different reasons, Modric takes the majority, and his deliveries from corners are often floated, rather than fired in. I’d hope that two or three players are working on their set piece delivery for an extra half-hour in training, particularly Huddlestone, who strikes the ball so well when it’s moving, but seems less able when it’s not.

Delivery aside, we don’t have many players that attack the ball well. Crouch is an obvious target when he plays, and he attracts defenders, which should free up Bassong, who seems our best bet – he’s probably the best attacker of the ball that we’ve had since Kaboul. Bassong’s header against Liverpool was excellent, and he also went close against Hull.

I’d hope that Bassong’s aggressive attacking of the ball will rub off on other players, and we can aim to do what Villa did last season – a huge proportion of their goals coming from set pieces. It would be such a useful string to add to our bow, especially when we’re otherwise not creating chances.

2. Closing out games

We conceded too many late goals last season (I’m thinking Blackburn, West Brom, etc etc), and I had concerns against West Ham yesterday. We were let off the hook – partially thanks to the Faubert/Defoe incident – but here is an example to illustrate my point:

In the 87th minute, Defoe busts a gut to chase a lost cause and makes sure that West Ham have a throw-in near to the corner flag, rather than a goal kick. He then turns his back on the man taking the throw and allows them to come out easily. We press them back into the corner, and Defoe makes a needless challenge and gives away a free-kick. You just know that had that been Chelsea or United, their players would be intent on keeping the ball in that corner for as long as possible.

Harry does like to waste time/break things up with late substitutions, which I think work well, but this approach needs to be used in tandem with a general team effort to keep the ball in the opposite half, and to use the ball sensibly when we do have it. Ideally I’d like a Didi Hamann style experienced, passing midfield player to come on for the last 10 minutes of games when we’re leading to frustrate the opposition, but since we haven’t got that, the team as a whole need to focus on staying switched on.

I feel these are two areas where the top teams tend to outdo us and, if we do have real ambitions of cracking the top four over the next few years, we’ll need to improve.

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August 22, 2009

Spurs loanee update

Currently we have the following players out on loan:

Andros Townsend – Leyton Orient (until 6th September 2009)
Adam Smith – Wycombe Wanderers (until 6th September 2009)
Jake Livermore – Derby County (until 10th September 2009)
Ben Alnwick – Norwich City (until 24th October 2009)
Jon Obika – Yeovil Town (until 11th November 2009)
Ryan Mason – Yeovil Town (until 14th November 2009)
Steven Caulker – Yeovil Town (until 14th August 2009)
Troy Archibald-Henville – Exeter City (until December 2009)
Tomas Pekhart – Slavia Prague (until 2nd Feb 2010)
Adel Taarabt – QPR (until May 2010)
Kyle Walker – Sheffield United (until May 2010)

Now returned from loan:
David Button – Crewe Alexandra (until January 2010) – RECALLED 20/08/09 due to injury to Gomes.

Steven Caulker has now made four appearances in the league and one in the cup for Yeovil, playing 90 minutes in all four matches. He took the MOTM award on his debut (although wasn’t able to collect the champagne, being only 17!), but has had a more mixed time since, playing in a slightly unstable Yeovil back-line. From reading the Yeovil forums, though, it seems that the majority are keen for him to be one of the starting centre backs while he is there.

Ryan Mason has had a slightly more stop-start beginning to his league career – he has missed two games with knocks – the League Cup thumping against Norwich, and this week’s match against Leyton Orient. He has, however, managed two excellent goals in his three appearances – especially impressive considering that he has played as a central midfield player. He has also won two consecutive Man of the Match votes on Yeovil fan-site Ciderspace.
Goal from free kick (1:26 in).
Brilliant goal from distance in the 1-1 draw with Exeter.

There’s an interesting article here where Skiverton comments on why he has so far resisted from playing Ryan up front:

“I think he’s doing a very good job in coming from central midfield and scoring two in three games, so why change it?

“We knew all his attributes, we knew his goalscoring record and we knew all of the positions that he can play. We did try him out in three or four so far this year.

“It’s just a case of trying to get him further up the pitch at the moment in a solid formation, without sacrificing our shape.”

Jon Obika has joined Steven and Ryan at Yeovil, and scored today on his second start of the season for them. He’s also made two substitute appearances but, with Dean Bowditch out injured for a while, it’s expected that he’ll be leading the line from now on, perhaps even with Mason playing off him (remember that they played this way very successfully for the Spurs U18s).

Andros Townsend today scored his first goal for Leyton Orient – against Yeovil! Apparently it was an excellent goal (the Orient official site call it “a stunning solo goal”), so hopefully I’ll be able to link to this tomorrow. This was Townsend’s first league start for Orient, although he’s made two sub appearances in the league, and started their cup win against Colchester.

Adam Smith was an unused sub for Wycombe today, but has played a part for them, making three league starts – he came off injured in his third start, so could just be getting back to full fitness. Hopefully he’ll get back into the team and get some much needed games under his belt.

Ben Alnwick has made two league and one cup appearance for Norwich City, today conceding two in a 5-2 win against Wycombe – it doesn’t sound as though there was a lot he could do with either goal, and I think he’s been relatively steady for them so far.

Jake Livermore made his debut for Derby County after completing a suspension from last season. He played 85 minutes, and caught the eye of the guy who runs the Derby Match centre – “I’ve been quite impressed with Livermore, who grew in confidence as the first half went on.” and “I thought he had a good debut. Started slowly but grew into the game as it went on. Good passer of the ball and looks like he can look after himself in midfield.”

Troy Archibald-Henville completed another 90 minutes for Exeter City – his third start of the season. It sounds as though he’s carried on where he left off last year. Today they kept a clean sheet, so he can be pleased with his day’s work.

Adel Taarabt has had a mixed bag at QPR – he’s been chopped and changed, played at left midfield, and up top, and has so far started each of their games. Today he played on the left, and it sounds as though he had a busy afternoon.

From the QPR Official Site’s report:

“At the other end, trickery from Taarabt after a clever pass from Gary Borrowdale saw the Spurs loanee beat two men before setting up Leigertwood on the edge of the area, but he could only shoot high and wide.”

“The Icelandic forward then played a first-time pass to Taarabt, who in all fairness, had more time than he realised when being put through on goal, and could only snatch his shot wide.”

“Rangers were now having the greater say in terms of possession, and after super work from Taarabt saw him find Routledge out wide on the right, he crossed dangerously into the box.”

“It was the ever-present Taarabt who, after driving down the middle, played the ball to Routledge, who was quick to react and play Pellicori in down the left. The Italian forward went close, but could only see his shot hit the side netting.”

Kyle Walker started again for Sheffield United today – his fifth game since re-joining them on loan. There are only a few mentions of him on Sheffield United’s Official Site report, but it seems he’s been playing at right-back.

David Button
has now been recalled from Crewe (as cover for Gomes) but he started three games for them in his short spell there, keeping two clean sheets.

Poor old Tomas Pekhart is not getting games for Slavia Prague – I do wonder whether he’ll be recalled early, as there’s no point in letting him rot in their reserves.

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August 11, 2009

Academy pre-season so far

With thanks to the brilliant Spurs Odyssey.

Our Academy side started their pre-season with a friendly against West Ham at Spurs Lodge:

Sat 25 Jul (Spurs Lodge) Tottenham U-18s 3-2 West Ham U-18s
Our scorers: Kane (2), M’Poku

Ranieri (17)
Waller-Lassen (16) Durojaiye (16) Francis-Angol (??) Nicholson (17)
Fredericks (16) Ekim (17) Carroll (17) McBride (16)
Oyenuga (16) Kane(16)

Subs:
Butler (17) for Ranieri, 46
M’Poku(17) for McBride, 46
Lancaster (16) for Francis-Angol, 46
O’Neill (17) for Fredericks, 46
Pritchard (??) for Ekim, 52
Byrne (17) for Carroll, 62
Fredericks (16) for Oyenuga, 83

NB: Rolling subs were allowed, hence Fredericks coming off and back on!

Match report from Spurs Od.
Match report from Young Guns.

The following players then jetted off to the Eurofoot tournament in Belgium:

1 BUTLER Jamie 18/05/1992
2 McBRIDE Paul 13/09/1992
3 BYRNE Nathan 5/06/1992
4 BLACKWOOD Anton 18/08/1991
5 DUROJAIYE Olumide 20/10/1992
6 NICHOLSON Jake 19/07/1992
7 SMITH Adam 29/04/1991
8 PARRETT Dean 16/11/1991
9 EKIM Coskum 17/11/1991
10 CARROLL Thomas 28/05/1992
11 FREDERICKS Ryan 30/10/1992
12 RANIERI Mirko 8/02/1992
13 LANCASTER Cameron 5/11/1992
14 KANE Harry 28/07/1993
15 OYENUGA Kudus 18/03/1993
16 WALLER LASSEN Jesse 26/12/1992
17 M’POKU Paul Jose 19/04/1992
18 O’NEIL Chace 1/11/1991

As you can see, a very young squad, and there aren’t too many names there that people will be familiar with. This was because players had either joined the first team squad in China (Obika, Bostock, Rose), or were out on loan (Mason, Caulker).

We drew our first game 1-1 with Club Brugge – Harry Kane getting our first goal of the tournament. Later in the day we beat Sao Paulo, with an own goal settling things – 1-0. The Official Site’s report is here.

In our third game, we won 2-0 against Willem II, with Kane and Oyenuga getting the goals. We then met Anderlecht in our last game, a win meant that we would win the group, but unfortunately we lost 1-0.

So in the battle for 5th place in the tournament, we played Standard – we thumped them 4-0, with Ekim, Lancaster, Oyenuga and O’Neil getting on the scoresheet. The Official Site’s final round-up can be found here.

This weekend, we sent a very young side to Arsenal in another friendly.

Sat 08 Aug (London Colney) Tottenham U-18s 0-2 Arsenal U-18s

Butler (17)
Byrne (17) Durojaiye (16) Blackwood (17) Carroll (17)
Waller-Lassen (16) Mokotjo (??) Parrett (17) Zongo (??)
Kane (16) M’Poku(17)

Subs:

Nicholson (17) for Byrne, 26
Byrne (17) for Blackwood, 46
Ekim (17) for Parrett, 46
Oyenuga (16) for Waller-Lassen, 56
Lancaster (16) for Zongo, 63
McBride (16) for M’Poku, 76
Ranieri (17) for Butler, 76

NB: Rolling subs were allowed again.

The on-trial South African pair of Masibusane Zongo and Kamohelo Mokotjo played for us.

Match report from Spurs Od.

“Next week they are off to Eindhoven to take part in the Otten(Moore) Cup playing the first of three group games on friday against FC Twente. Then the other group teams Heerenveen and Pao de Acucar on Saturday. There are then play off games on Sunday for the final placings. On the 22nd August they open their Academy League programme with a trip to Middlesbrough.”

English version of the Otten Cup web-site – we play our first game on Friday.
Matches
FC Twente/Heracles – Tottenham Hotspur 14-08-2009 16:20 – 17:30
Tottenham Hotspur – sc Heerenveen 15-08-2009 11:00 – 12:10
Pão de Açúcar – Tottenham Hotspur 15-08-2009 13:40 – 14:50

The squad list will be announced on the tournament web-site on Friday.

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