June 12, 2014

The Fighting Cock Fanzine

I’m proud to say that I was asked to write again for Tottenham’s only printed fanzine, The Fighting Cock, and that it is now available for pre-order.

Free 1882 & The Fighting Cock stickers with the first few orders – Limited stock​

My article – Football Is Family – is a sentimental effort, something quite new for me, but hopefully it’ll strike a chord with some. A sample of some of the terrific artwork is below.

FiF

I hope you’ll buy it and, if you do, I hope you enjoy my article.

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April 22, 2014

Ode to Tottenham Hotspur’s 2013/14 Season

The summer didn’t go quite to plan,
Or certainly not to the boss’,
We took the wonga – lost a key man,
Daniel Levy protected his losses.

Goodbye and thankyouverymuch, Elvis Presley,
“Ahoy there!” to The Beatles,
Alas David Villa – wanted by AVB -
Couldn’t agree on the finer details.

Another Spaniard arrived instead,
And a prospect from Argentina,
Plus crop of players who, it was said,
Would make our midfield meaner.

The football began in earnest,
On the pre-season trip to the East,
Sunderland were a stern test,
Cabral (who?!) looked like a beast.

Palace first up in the Prem,
A solid 1-0 kept us sweet,
Bobby off the mark with a pen,
And Paulinho seemed to find his feet.

Onwards we marched – Swansea, Norwich,
And in Europe we were winning as well,
We ignored the little Arsenal glitch,
‘Cos the new boys needed to gel.

When West Ham caught us asleep,
We worried there was something awry,
But Townsend was earning his keep,
And we beat Hull in a cup tie.

Then Newcastle came to the Lane,
Escaped with a cheeky one-nil,
Their goalkeeper – Krul – was to blame,
But AVB took the flack still.

It seemed to go downhill from there,
Manchester City made sure of that,
Poor Andre and his lovely facial hair,
Seemed to be struggling to adapt.

He won some, he drew some, he lost some,
Until the Liverpool game,
Where we were outfought, out-thought, “outdesired”,
And the dreaded axe prematurely came.

The new man – Tim Sherwood – was promoted,
From the Academy set-up, from within,
And before too long fans were cawing:
“InterTim”, “Dim Tim”, “4-4-Tim”, anyone but him…

“Back to basics”, he shouted – and it was,
4-4-2, two wingers, goals,
But defensive midfielders were doubted,
And our midfield clearly had holes.

Adebayor came back in from the cold,
And Eriksen came to the fore,
But when we came up against Norwich,
We seemed even worse than before!

More thrashings against big clubs did follow,
First Chelsea and then Liverpool,
Whilst the European campaign ended in sorrow,
With a draw over in Portugal.

So here we are out of the top four,
With just a few matches to go,
Some players seem disenfranchised,
Vertonghen, Capoue and Sandro.

The big summer signing, Lamela,
Is still injured and nowhere to be seen,
Maybe it’s the English weather,
Or maybe he wants a new team.

As for Soldado – he from sunny Spain,
He’s been goal-shy and short on mojo,
Now he finds himself behind Harry Kane,
As Tim tries to give youth a go.

It’s not been the greatest of seasons,
For the players, managers, and fans alike,
But there are a couple of reasons,
Why the star men shouldn’t get on their bikes.

The squad is strong, and will be stronger,
We’ve good players, good facilities, great fans,
So listen up Lloris and Vertonghen,
And Eriksen with your ‘secret plan’.

This is Tottenham Hotspur FC,
A club that 16… 15… 14 (?) Premier League clubs fear,
And just ‘cos you’ve not won a trophy,
As us fans say, there’s always next year.

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April 13, 2014

Spurs, Make Me Your Opposition Scout

Tottenham Hotspur’s slow starts are less of a ‘common theme’ under Tim Sherwood than a ‘worrying pattern’. The phenomenon is illustrated perfectly by a stat that was doing the rounds yesterday: that Spurs have now conceded the first goal in each of their last six games. Being 2-0 down to West Bromwich Albion with just four minutes gone on Saturday was an extreme example of what we have almost come to expect.

It is certainly an encouraging sign that our players have shown the spirit and desire to come back from losing positions so often, but giving the opposition such a head start is asking for trouble. It means that games like yesterday become draws when they are games that we should win – and deserve to win, on balance.

Whether the team are unmotivated, unprepared, unfocused, or all of the aforementioned, it certainly feels like there is something missing. And, frustratingly, there are many actions that can be taken to mitigate against such starts.

André Villas-Boas employed Daniel Sousa as Head of Opposition Scouting – a role that he undertook himself at Chelsea. There are many ‘modern football’ jobs that could be seen as ‘nice to haves’, but this seems ancillary. Even if there is a not a dedicated role to carry out such activities, surely someone on the coaching staff must do the bare minimum research.

Even just showing the players the thought process – that we are preparing for the opposition team in detail – would surely better focus their minds. The laid back behaviour visible in the tunnel against Liverpool might have been replaced by some much-needed intensity.

Tim Sherwood’s comments prior to the match against Liverpool - “To be honest, I’ve not watched them that closely.” – seemed to suggest that this isn’t something he believes in; that he is more concerned with what his team can do, and how they can make the opposition react to them. But given that he also seems to feel that games are decided by who has the best technical players (and his later reality check that we are punching our weight), this is like admitting defeat before a ball is kicked against the top teams.

Likewise, it would imply that we should be rolling over teams like West Brom, because we are technically superior in most areas of the field. There has to be a balance, though. In the Premier League the cliché that ‘anyone can beat anyone’ is oft-repeated for good reason; respect must be given to every opposition team, and research must be carried out.

Had I been asked to provide a dossier on ‘West Brom under Pepe Mel’ it would have contained a cover sheet with key points, such as:

- High tempo; quick start.
- Wingers pressing high.
- Sessegnon in the hole.
- Rejuvenated Dorrans.

It is fair to say that all of these had some impact; although there were individual errors (again), the goals were preventable had there been some planning.

Both full backs had a disaster. Within twenty seconds, Danny Rose – who had his worst game in a Spurs shirt – committed himself in the corner, and missed the ball and the man. Morgan Amalfitano wriggled clear and sent in a cross which Spurs half-cleared, and Matěj Vydra finished well.

Just a few minutes later, Brunt pressed high and decisively on Kyle Naughton, won the ball and was instantly joined by a swarm of teammates. As the ball was switched to the right, Christian Eriksen missed an opportunity to clear. Then, he and Rose could not prevent a cross coming in, and the defence was utterly disorganised in the centre.

1

With Naughton coming into the centre to pick up danger men, Aaron Lennon simply has to come back to cover…

2

…but instead he is not even in shot when the unmarked Chris Brunt slams home a lovely volley at the back post.

How do you play against teams that start games like this? Stay compact. Get bodies behind the ball. Use your wide men to protect your full backs. Do not dive into challenges. Feel your way into the game. Did we do any of these? No. In fact, we went one step further for the third goal as we left Stéphane Sessègnon one-on-one with Vlad Chiricheș – a suicidal move even when chasing a game.

We played well for long periods, dominated and probably created enough chances to win two games, but we ended up taking just a point. So I say to you, Tim: make me your Opposition Scout – make anyone your opposition scout – and make sure the team are prepared for the remaining games.

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April 1, 2014

Breaking down Spurs’ attacks

Rather than focus on some of the shambolic defending that we witnessed from our team on Sunday, I wanted to look at another area in which I found myself very disappointed.

Despite being one goal and then two goals down relatively quickly due to individual errors, we managed to find our creative players in some good areas. However, a lack of movement around them allied with some poor decision-making meant that a number of good opportunities were passed up.

At 1-0 down, after 5 minutes or so, Christian Eriksen receives the ball and plays it square to Aaron Lennon. He continues his run in behind Daniel Agger and receives a clever pass from Nacer Chadli. Note Roberto Soldado, though: he is totally caught on his heels, and fails to make himself a viable option for Eriksen to pick out. Lennon is the only other player that gets into the box, but the angle he creates for the pass is narrowed by Flanagan, meaning that Eriksen’s cross has to be perfect – it isn’t, and is instead cleared.

EriksenCross

On 20 minutes, Chadli bursts past a couple of Liverpool players into a useful pocket of space. Lennon initially runs away from him, and only cottons on when it’s too late that Skrtel is going to have to close the ball. A natural goal scorer would dart into the gap that Skrtel’s going to inevitably leave far sooner and at maximum pace; Lennon does not score many goals, and this is a good example of why. Chadli is forced to check and has just the one option. His decision to try to force the pass is a poor one – instead he should probably hold the ball up and wait for support, but he was not helped by Lennon’s poor movement.

ChadliBurst

Just prior to the second goal, Chadli gets down the right and initially does well to hold the ball up and protect it from Gerrard. Lennon gets forward in support and makes a run inside Flanagan. Chadli’s pass, though, is terribly loose and he wastes another opportunity to create. What’s more frustrating is that Liverpool score just seconds later, after Dawson’s error.

ChadliBeforeGoal

Eriksen has a great chance to pull a goal back just after Liverpool have taken the lead. Naughton forces his way into the box, and cuts the ball back. It’s hit hard at Eriksen, but his first touch is immaculate. His second, though, is a poor one – his strike is straight at Skrtel when he would probably have been better off curling the ball towards the near post. However, he’s once again not helped by the movement around him – he needs support on the outside, either from Chadli or from Rose, but there’s nothing forthcoming on that side.

Eriksen Chance

Naughton’s desperately wasteful shot just minutes later is just one example of how bad his use of the ball is in the final third. Lennon’s free to his right via a simple pass and they can create an overload in this area relatively simply, but instead he decides to take on a stupidly ambitious shot, and hits the first man.

NaughtonShot

Chadli, Naughton and Sigurdsson create a nice triangle and give Chadli the opposition to set Lennon free one-on-one against Flanagan. Instead, Chadli attempts an elaborate pass for Soldado, who has really made the run to create space for Lennon, rather than receive a pass.

ChadliPass

Seconds later, Eriksen receives the ball between the line but a lack of intelligent movement around him means his options are limited, and his attempted pass is easily cleared.

EriksenPass

A neat move in the 40th minute sees Rose set free down the left after an intelligent reverse pass from Sigurdsson. Sigurdsson and Lennon are the only players who really bust a gut to get into the box though, with Eriksen dallying on the edge of the box and Soldado barely keeping up with play. The ball eventually comes to Soldado who, with team-mates up in support, tries an overly ambitious curler.

RoseCross

Spurs had plenty of possession in useful territories in the first half without benefitting, and it just felt that there was a lack of belief or attacking cohesion. Having gone 1-0 down against one of the most in-form teams in Europe, this was probably understandable. Could this be due to a lack of attacking game-plan, with a reliance on players to just go out, express themselves, and make their own decisions?

Walker missing didn’t help, either – his constant runs forward on the right generally mean that the opposition full-back has another threat to consider, and can open up space for others. Naughton, on the other hand, does not venture forward as regularly.

More brave running, more intelligent passing, and better decisions could easily have brought us back into this game, despite our suicidal defending.

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March 31, 2014

It’s not all bad

After getting a few things off my chest yesterday, I wanted to breathe some positive vibes onto the front page of the blog.

The good news is that, despite the incohesive fan-base, the lack of strategic vision from the top of our club, and significant issues within our first team coaching staff, there are reasons to be cheerful.

On Friday night I watched an Under-21 side comprehensively beat Arsenal. Some of those involved were playing well above their age level, and the performance was encouraging (and, in truth, it could have been 4-0).

Then, on Saturday morning, I saw our Under-18s put in a controlled performance away at Liverpool to record a 1-0 victory. This group of Under-18 players (including Onomah, Miller, Oduwa, Ogilvie and Winks, none of whom played in this match) are without doubt the best I’ve seen over the past decade. And supposedly we have more hot prospects ready to step up next season too.

The first team squad has been a bit of a shambles at times this season, but some intelligent player recruitment and an experienced managerial appointment could quickly turn things around. Contrary to the belief of some, we do have plenty of talent at our disposal, and the new signings will no doubt find their second season far easier.

And, of course, we have 1882. Another brilliant night on Friday showed why 1882 is the envy of other clubs. This season, 1882 has been a beacon of light and the 1882 matches have been by far my most enjoyable experiences of being a fan.

COYS

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