26/03/11 Tottenham Hotspur U18s 1-0 Arsenal U18s, Spurs Lodge

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Jordan Archer (17)
Callum Tapping (17) Olumide Durojaiye (18) Kevin Stewart (17) Jack Barthram (17)
Jack Munns (17) Ronnie Hawkins (17) Laste Dombaxe (16*) Paul McBride (18)
Lee Angol (16)
Kudus Oyenuga (18)


Alex McQueen (16*) for Laste Dombaxe, 10 minutes.
Jesse Waller-Lassen (18) for Ronnie Hawkins, 60 minutes.
Freddie Champion (17) for Lee Angol, 80 minutes.

Not used:

Jonathan Miles (17)
James Yeboah (17)

*age unknown, so best estimate given.

In case anyone is interested, Arsenal lined up in a 4-1-3-2:

Charles-Cook (16)
Hajrovic (17) Boateng (18) Monteiro (17) Meade (18)
Edge (17)
Wynter (17) Bunjaku (16) Ebecilio (17)
Monakana (17) Ansah (16)

Some alternative match reports:

Spurs Odyssey report (if you have any interest in our youth players, I strongly urge you to read the other reports on Spurs Odyssey)
Arsenal site report
Arsenal Youth blog report

Spurs started kicking from right to left, with a 4-4-1-1 formation – Lee Angol starting again in midfield, with Ronnie Hawkins coming in for Massimo Luongo, who is one of a few young players called up to the Australian national side’s training camp, and Olumide Durojaiye in for Ramil Sheriff to add a bit of experience and physical presence in this important game. Arsenal went with a fairly narrow 4-1-3-2, with the full backs playing high up the pitch, and Jamie Edge sitting so deep that it almost resembled a 3-5-2 at times. Arsenal picked a physically strong line up, and their centre backs in particular dwarfed the majority of our players. They seemed to have the physical advantage all over the pitch, so Durojaiye was a good pick at centre back.

The game started in a fairly scrappy, scruffy manner, as you might expect from a local derby. Neither side kept the ball for any length of time, and the flow of the game was not helped by Dombaxe injuring himself when going to ground in a challenge. He tried to run it off but had to be replaced by Alex McQueen, with Munns moving into the middle of midfield.

Arsenal’s stand-in goalkeeper, Reice Charles-Cook, looked quite nervous throughout the game, and gave Spurs some hope with a fumbled claim in the first twenty minutes. Later in the half, he made another error when pressed by Angol. The ball came out to McQueen, who shot at the goalkeeper – it came out again to Angol, Charles-Cook went to ground, Angol rounded him, but fired over the bar.

Shortly after this, Munns had an excellent strike parried wide well by the goalkeeper, and Munns put the resulting corner right on McBride’s head; totally unmarked, he should have buried it, but he nodded it wide at the back post.

Arsenal had a half chance through Ebecilio, before Spurs nearly went one ahead just before the break. Barthram played a clever ball over Hajrovic for McBride to chase. Right on the byline, he hooked over a fantastic first-time cross which McQueen seemed to be about to bury – he either didn’t quite get to the bounce, or slightly misjudged the flight – either way, he didn’t make contact and it was a let-off for Arsenal.

Arsenal were greatly improved in the second half and had a couple of decent efforts through Wynter (who drifted in and out but looked quite useful), and Ebecilio again from distance. Archer tipped that effort wide, and the resulting corner probably should have been put in, but instead was headed weakly straight at Archer.

Spurs went to a more definite 4-3-3, with McBride and McQueen pushed high up the pitch, Munns to the right of Hawkins, and Angol to the left. The best chance of the game soon came, when another decent Munns corner was cleverly headed into the danger area by Kevin Stewart, and McBride volleyed over the bar from the edge of the six-yard box.

Jesse Waller-Lassen came on for Hawkins and went to the right, with Munns moving into the holding role.  McQueen went to the left, and Angol and McBride flanked Munns.

Arsenal’s best chance came when Hajrovic and Wynter combined to present the impressive Bunjaku with a one-on-one, but he was so keen to go with his right foot, when a left foot strike looked the best option, and he toe-poked wide. Shortly after, Spurs had a superb counter attack, with Kudus Oyenuga twisting and turning the defender. Jesse Waller-Lassen made a fine supporting run, and just needed the ball played through for a one-on-one, but Oyenuga hung on far too long, failed to get his head up, and the chance was lost.

The only goal of the game actually came from the game’s low point. Kyle Ebecilio’s touch was heavy, and in trying to make up for it (or, more likely, out of frustration), he went in two-footed and very late on Lee Angol in the Spurs half. It was a really dangerous challenge which had Durojaiye shouting at the referee that “it wasn’t an accident, he did that on purpose” – he was spot on. Ebecilio was booked but, in most other games, would probably have received a red (in my experience referees are very lenient at this level). Justice was done from the resulting free kick. Durojaiye launched the ball forward hopefully, Jernade Meade totally misjudged a header across his own goal and, at the opposite side of the box, Boateng too got his header wrong, and the ball looped over Charles-Cook. Callum Tapping charged in to volley home on the line – it may have been already over, but Tapping claimed it.

Waller-Lassen scuffed a shot wide of Charles-Cook’s right hand post, and then was at the heart of a wonderful move, where he turned cleverly around his man, ran at the defence, timed his pass to Oyenuga to perfection, but Kudus’ chipped cross was just ahead of McQueen, and Arsenal cleared. This was the one time where Oyenuga probably should have been more selfish, as he seemed to have a sight of goal.

Arsenal then had a couple of half chances and a penalty appeal when Durojaiye went to ground to block a cross and, as the winger cut back, the ball seemed to brush against his arm. It would have been a harsh decision – it was totally unintentional, and his arm was close to his body. Durojaiye then made a fantastic saving challenge as an Arsenal player was about to pull the trigger inside the box, and responded by chest-bumping Archer (!).

Throughout the match, some of Arsenal’s approach play was good, but they lacked cutting edge in the final third. They seemed to want to dominate game through their physical presence, whereas Spurs were the pacier and more technical side, which made a nice change.

It’s also worth noting that, in true NLD style, there were a few tasty challenges throughout the match – at one point Arsenal’s right back Sead Hajrovic had a kick out at Hawkins right on the touchline in front of us, and followed it up with some verbals directed at someone from the crowd who had complained about the challenge. Kyle Ebecilio was booked for a two-footed lunge but, as I say, would have been given a red card in a Premier League match .

Archer 7 – Dealt with everything that came his way – punched well from corners, and threw the ball out quickly and often, starting a couple of meaningful attacks.
Tapping 7 – I previously saw him as a more defensive player – perhaps making the holding role his own. This time, he changed my mind. He got forward really well from right back, showed a deft touch, a real tenacity, and the ability to find a pass inside the full back (often finding McQueen, who is very quick). He also got the goal by following in when more natural forward players didn’t.
Durojaiye 7 – Whether or not he has the subtlety or technical ability to “make it” at a high level, I’m not sure, but there is absolutely no doubt that he is a rock in this side – a really important, reliable player for the team, who came to the rescue on a number of occasions. A real character too – always good value!
Stewart 7 – Won plenty of aerial challenges against the physically bigger and stronger forward, Monakana, showing an ability to get up early. He’s a full-back by trade, but I really liked the look of him at centre back, where he has often been used this year – he has composure and is prepared to play out. As long as we accept that he will make the occasional error, I think it’s worth persisting with him at CB.
Barthram 5 – A right back playing on the left, he showed good willingness to use his left foot. Showed plenty of enthusiasm, but didn’t have a particularly great game – he got beaten a few times and didn’t offer too much going forward. That said, he did play one fantastic pass over the top to McBride, which we arguably should have scored from.
Munns 8 – My MOTM – a strong, committed, “in your face” type player, but with a decent touch and an eye for a pass. He played in three positions in this game – starting on the right, moving into the centre of a 4-4-1-1, before finally becoming the holding player/pivot in a 4-3-3. In all three roles, he showed a good understanding of what he needed to do and when. His set pieces also caused a lot of problems.
Hawkins 6 – I like the look of Hawkins – he’s my kind of player. That said, if I was Alex Inglethorpe, I’d want to see more from him. He does tend to drift in and out of games, and can be a little weak in the tackle. Has clearly got stronger since I last saw him, though, and he does have a very good range of passing. I would expect him to be a regular next season.
Dombaxe – Unfortunately had to come off very early in the game having gone to ground in a challenge. Looked like a muscle injury, so it’s difficult to say how long he will be out.
McBride 6 – For me he doesn’t impose himself on games enough. At 18, he is one of the senior players in this side, but he seems very timid. Clearly has some ability, though – illustrated when he volleyed a lofted Barthram pass first time into a dangerous area, and McQueen probably should have scored.
Angol 6 – My first proper look at him and, although he seems raw and quite slightly built, he seems to have a bit of pace and guile. He probably should have scored in the first half, when he chased a lost cause, and hurried the goalkeeper into an error – McQueen followed up, the ball came out to Angol again, he rounded the keeper, and then put the ball over the bar, leaning back and with players rushing back on to the line.
Oyenuga 6- Nobody could doubt this guy’s work rate, but he really needs to learn when to release the ball. At times he plays like a bulldozer, forcing his way through defenders and into gaps that he shouldn’t get into, so if he could just add some awareness to his game he could make a decent career for himself.

A McQueen 7 – Always looking to spring the offside trap and get in behind, he gave the much more experienced Jernade Meade a difficult game. At one point, he beat his man easily and got hacked down, requiring lengthy treatment. This didn’t put him off, though, and he continuously linked well with Tapping. If he can find a more consistent final ball, he will be a good player for the U18s next year.
Waller-Lassen 6 – His pace and touch frighten teams, and give opposition players a decision to make – do they stand off him, or do they get tight, and risk him nicking the ball past them? He was heavily involved in our best move, turning brilliantly around a player, before playing in Oyenuga, who couldn’t quite find McQueen.
Champion – Came on on the right and looked to come inside and pass with his left foot. Made a couple of positive contributions, but also gave the ball away in a dangerous area.

Overall there was a huge improvement from when I last saw this team at Readingin November, which is encouraging. We have a good mix of players, perhaps the one thing lacking is a bit of physical presence. Only Oyenuga, Munns, Dombaxe and Durojaiye seem to offer genuine muscle, and Munns, whilst strong and well-built, is quite short. Having said this, the majority of our players are always committed to tackles, and very tenacious. They seem to be developing nicely as a team and as individuals, with growing technical ability and good awareness.

Striking a balance

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Much has been made of our lack of “big name” striker signing, going back four transfer windows (although strangely, more from fans than the mainstream media). Levy and Redknapp’s failure to acquire a top class centre forward has been attributed to lack of funds, lack of effort, lack of knowledge of who is available, and a lack of need (i.e. they are happy with what we have). The reasons, in truth, are probably a combination of one or more. In the meantime our rivals have been busy, with the likes of Carroll, Torres, Dzeko and Suarez moving in the last few months alone.

It is so tempting to dwell on this and continue to think “if only…”, but we are stuck with what we have got for another few months, so who should we use, and why?

Defoe took many of the headlines for all of the wrong reasons after the West Ham game; he looked lethargic, wasteful, and lacked any sort of sharpness/striking instinct. His reasonable career record, his 18 league goals last season (by far his best tally in a league season) and the “natural finisher” tag that has often been attributed to him have covered up what has been a disappointing twelve months in front of goal.

For Spurs this season, he has scored against:

Young Boys
FC Twente (2)
Charlton (2)
Wolves (2)

In his other 17 matches (started 13, and played 45 minutes or more in 15) he has failed to find the net. In the league, he has played 1070 minutes and scored just 2 goals.

Defoe’s bad run of form is not a recent phenomenon – at the end of last season he went 4 games without scoring, only scored 1 (a penalty) in his last 8 games and 2 in his last 12.

I tend to not want to blame Defoe too much – all strikers go through bad patches, and he has been relatively consistent for most of his career. However, Redknapp’s decision to stick with him through his rough patch, however laudable, is costing us, especially when there is a viable alternative waiting in the wings.

I wrote in mid-December on ‘Why Pavlyuchenko should be first choice in the league‘, and statistics still back up my opinion that, whilst he is not perfect, he is the best that we have to partner van der Vaart, at least for the time being.

The difference in the average points gained when starting is particularly striking, but it is also worth noting that Pavlyuchenko is now 6th in the Premier League in terms of average minutes per goal scored (of those who have played 900 minutes or more) – the top 10 is:

Robin van Persie (87.18)
Dimitar Berbatov (98.90)
Javier Hernandez (100.6)
Carlos Tevez (119.3)
Theo Walcott (141.1)
Roman Pavlyuchenko (146.6)
Andy Carroll (147.7)
Rafael van der Vaart (149.8)
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake (169.7)
Salomon Kalou (170.3)

Pavlyuchenko is far from the perfect striker – he sometimes gives the impression that he is not totally bothered, his first touch can be heavy, he tends to take on some silly shots, he is not particularly good at holding the ball up, he is not particularly strong in the tackle, and he’s not particularly great in the air. But he scores goals at a rate which is currently better than that of any of our other strikers and, at a time when we’re struggling to put the ball in the net, that should not be under-valued.

Spurs loanee update 08/03/11

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Currently we have the following players out on loan:

Mirko Ranieri – Basingstoke Town (18th March)
Nathan Byrne – Brentford (21st March)
Ben Alnwick – Doncaster Rovers (9th April)
Andros Townsend – Millwall (season)
Paul-Jose M’Poku – Leyton Orient (season)
Harry Kane – Leyton Orient (season)
Tom Carroll – Leyton Orient (season)
Steven Caulker – Bristol City (season)
David Button – Plymouth Argyle (season)
Adam Smith – Bournemouth (season)
Kyle Walker – Aston Villa (season)
Kyle Naughton – Leicester City (season)
David Bentley – Birmingham City (season)
Ryan Mason – Doncaster Rovers (season)
Jamie O’Hara – Wolverhampton Wanderers (season)
Robbie Keane – West Ham (season)
Giovani dos Santos – Racing Santander (season)
Jonathan Obika – Swindon Town (season)

Now returned:

Oscar Jansson – Northampton Town
Dean Parrett – Plymouth Argyle
Ben Alnwick – Leeds United
Ryan Mason – Doncaster Rovers
Andros Townsend – Ipswich Town
John Bostock – Hull City
Kyle Walker – QPR
Jonathan Obika – Crystal Palace
Jonathan Obika – Peterborough United
Jake Livermore – Ipswich Town
Danny Rose – Bristol City
Andros Townsend – Watford

Andros Townsend starts this evening for Millwall against Watford, having joined them on loan this week. This loan follows an unfortunate spell at Watford, where he only made two starts and one sub appearance. According to the Watford Observer, Watford sent him back to us, rather than us recalling him.

It was the Hornets and not Tottenham Hotspur who ended Andros Townsend’s loan spell prematurely, the Watford Observer understands.

Townsend was signed on loan until the end of the season on January 20 but only made two starts and one substitute appearance in his month at Vicarage Road.

The 19-year-old was left out of the 18-man squad completely in the last two matches and the Hornets decided to send the winger back to Spurs.

Watford manager Malky Mackay said: “We’re very grateful to Harry Redknapp and the Tottenham staff for their help in arranging this loan.

“It is a shame it hasn’t worked out for either us or Andros and we wish him well for the future.”

Having shone in our FA Cup match against Charlton, scoring a fantastic goal with his weaker right foot, Redknapp was quick to send him out on loan again, after a relatively unsuccessful spell at Ipswich.

Hopefully Millwall will be a better fit for Andros, and he will get some game time. 

Mirko Ranieri, our Italian U18 international, recently joined Basingstoke Town on loan until 18th March. He made his debut in a 3-1 defeat at Ebbsfleet Town. Basingstoke site report:

The Dragon’s injury crisis hit fever point in this game. With no goalkeeper available Manager Frank Gray was able to bring in 19 year old Mirko Ranieri who has had experience internationally at Italian Youth level.

A quick free kick saw the ball played forward and Smart failed to track Michael West as he calmly slotted past Ranieri.

‘Fleet responded with Ashley Carew, a constant thorn in the Dragons side, playing a neat move with Tom Phipp, Ranieri spilled the shot and Gasson was able to scramble clear.

As Town were adjusting to the changes once more, the Dragons were on the end of a harsh decision. With the defence failing to clear the ball Ranieri was adjudged to have brought down Gareth Williams although there seemed to be little contact between the two players. Carew converted the resulting penalty decision.

Ranieri who had done little wrong all afternoon made a fine save from Williams but Callum Willock was on hand to smash home the rebound.

Nathan Byrne recently joined Brentford on loan until 21st March and made his league debut coming on in the 77th minute as Brentford beat Bristol Rovers 1-0. Congratulations to Nathan! Brentford site report:

Rovers missed another chance when Rene Howe shot across the face of goal while Nathan Byrne shot wide at the near post at the other end.

Diagouraga shot over when well placed and Logan kept out a Saunders shot before the keeper got down low to deny Byrne.

Nice comments from Nicky Forster:

“Nathan has been fantastic in training. I thought when he got into the game he got involved. He has played with a smile on his face in training and has scored goals and plays with an intensity which we`re trying to do.”

An interview with Nathan:

SPURS youngster Nathan Byrne admitted it was a dream come true to make his professional debut on Saturday.

The 18-year-old loanee came off the bench as a second-half substitute in Brentford’s win over Bristol Rovers, and almost capped his day off with a goal, only to be denied by Conrad Logan.

However, the former St Albans City star insists it will be a day he remembers forever.

He said: “I’ve been playing football since I was five, so it was always a dream of mine to play professionally.

“I’ve been waiting for this day and am happy it came at Brentford.

“I did some good things and some bad things but it’s all a learning curve.

“I went through on goal a couple of times and lost it, but all in all it wasn’t bad.”

Ben Alnwick joined Doncaster Rovers on loan last week, and will be there until the 9th April – he was an unused sub for them this weekend.

Paul-Jose M’Poku has found himself in and out of the team at Leyton Orient lately as one of his positional rivals, Dean Cox, has probably been their player of the season, making 15 goals for them. M’Poku has impressed their fans, though, and the majority want him to return next season (see comments below).

Harry Kane has made himself a first team regular for Orient, having scored four goals in three starts and five sub appearances (315 minutes – minutes per goal an impressive 78.75). Orient fans seem impressed with his goal-scoring, and see potential in him (again, see comments below). Unfortunately he missed the return leg of the Arsenal game, after getting a red card for two bookable offences in the match before.

Tom Carroll too has forced his way into the Leyton Orient side, making his debut against Bournemouth at the start of February, a couple of other late substitute appearances, before coming off the bench against Arsenal and playing very well. Since then, he has started three times, and is attracting glowing praise from their fans:

“Carrol was very good, always looking to pick the ball up and make things happen. Only minus for me, was that he did give up possesion a few times, but this is to be expected when you are trying positive things. Will go on to be a excellent player.”

“I thought he really stood out tonight with his quality. If he was a few inches taller he’d probably already be getting a run-out for Spurs.”

“Carroll wouldnt have looked out of place in an arsenal shirt last night apart from giving the ball away for there third goal. When i first saw him he looked about 14 years old and not big enough but he is gonna be some player.He is perfectly suited to playing arsenal type football.”

“Carroll was probably our best player last night and clearly has a real class about him which belies the average 12-year-old. Definitely destined for better things than us.”

“I would love to see Carroll start a few games now. The kid is absolutely class. As Sharky says, perhaps cost the third, but he did more than enough to deserve a run in the side.”

Prior to the second leg of the FA Cup tie with Arsenal, Alex Inglethorpe also lavished praise on Tom:

Spurs U18 coach Alex Inglethorpe told the club’s website: “I thought Tom changed the game when he came on in the second half of the original tie. He got on the ball as much as he could and I thought he gave Arsenal something to think about.

“I think he’s an outstanding talent and it’s fantastic that he has the stage to go out and prove it. Now he has a real possibility of playing 90 minutes against Arsenal at the Emirates and that will be a great experience for him.”

 Well worth checking out this thread on a Leyton Orient forum. Some of the comments make great reading:

“We’ve surely got to try and get all three on season long loans again next season.

I really think we’ve got a chance of gettin Carroll and Kane next season on loan due to their age. At only 17, another full season at Lge 1 level can only benefit them. If they were to be loaned out to the Championship somewhere, they could well struggle to get into a team.

M’Poku i’d love to see return again, but i’ve got the feeling that Spurs will send him into the championship like they did with Townsend. I think it would be a mistake to do so. I think they’d be better of sending him to us where they know he’ll be in the first team all season, wouldn’t have to live away and would be very easy for them to keep tabs on his progress.

I’ve been very impressed with all three players so far.

Kane – Great eye for goal and is improving with every game
Carroll – Superb ability, always wants the ball and has a great eye for a pass
M’Poku – Skillful and will win any team some many points throughout the season”

“M’Poku had already shown flashes of brilliance and is always a handful and Harry Kane is starting to show that he can be a decent addition – strong, pacey etc, but the one I have been most impressed with is Carroll.

When he first joined us and sat on the bench he had the look of a “make up the squad” player. His height and build looked a concern for first team Div One football but the kid has been a revelation. Last couple of games he has almost had to take a senior role as such a tender age. His skills, confidence (without being arrogant), passing and general reading of the game has been very very classy. Whats more he doesn’t look the sort of player afraid to get stuck in.

The final thing is that although they are not “our” players all three look to have a passion for playing in red, not white, enjoying it and proving their worth.

A season long loan for all three might be pushing it, but if we could get one or two of them that would be fantastic”

And finally, here are some pictures of the three of them from this weekend’s game:

Pictures taken from Leyton Orient website.

As a small addition on Carroll, here are some of my reports on his appearances for our U18s:

The first time I saw him, vs West Ham.

November 2009, vs MK Dons:

“Carroll – after a slow start he showed plenty of good technique. At one point he brought down a difficult ball before curling a beautifully weighted reverse pass with his left foot in the same movement. Will struggle physically as he’s very small, but deserves another start in midfield on this showing. 7/10″

September 2010, vs Chelsea

“Carroll 8 – calm, clever on the ball, with neat close control, and a great range of passing. A player I enjoy watching.”

Steven Caulker continues to impress for Bristol City, but has suffered from injuries in recent weeks. He went off with a hip injury on 14 minutes as Bristol City beat Scunthorpe 2-1, but was back in the team for their next game. Unfortunately he struggled again, and only lasted 34 minutes. He has now returned to Spurs to be assessed:


Steven Caulker is being assessed by Tottenham Hotspur ahead of tomorrow night’s clash with Portsmouth.

The on-loan defender suffered a recurrence of his hip problem in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Coventry and had to be substituted just after half an hour.

Steven spent Sunday back in North London with the Spurs medical team, and City still harbour hopes he could be fit to face Pompey at Ashton Gate tomorrow.

“He’s obviously a doubt at the moment,” said manager Keith Millen on Player. “He went back to Tottenham so they could see the extent of the problem.

“It was obviously a risk playing him on Saturday but we don’t believe the problem has got any worse. We should know late today whether he’s ok to play.”

The manager says there are other “bumps and bruises” in the camp which will be assessed ahead of the game.

Caulker has had another superb season, and you can see from this thread on a Bristol City forum that he is leading the race for their Player of the Year award.

David Button is finding life slightly tougher at Plymouth Argyle, and has recently been demoted to the bench following a 4-0 drubbing at Brighton. From the Plymouth site report it doesn’t sound like he had the best of days:

Argyle were caught, if not cold, then certainly a little bit chilly by the oozingly confident leaders and David Button did well to block a shot by the speedy Elliott Bennett after the Pilgrims had fluffed a free-kick routine in the Brighton half.

Button was beaten by Barnes as the Bath boy climbed at the far post to head a right-wing delivery back across goal, but the ball dropped the right side of the post. From Argyle’s point of view, of course.

Brighton’s second came from out of the blue and white stripes as Wood took advantage of some space carved out by his colleagues’ imaginative movement to firedrive past Button.

Barnes missed a sitter after Button spilled Bennett’s shot at his feet, lifting the ball over the overworked Spurs goalkeeper and the crossbar, before Carl Fletcher sent his team-mates into the break on a high with a curling free-kick that Ankergren tipped around his goalpost.

They were brought down to earth within two minutes of the re-start when Murray ripped in another long-range shot that was riffling the goal netting before Button had completed his despairing dive.

He has, however, received words of encouragement from goalkeeping rival Romain Larrieu:

“Everybody who has actually watched us play this season would have to say he has done brilliant for us.

So he shouldn’t bang his head against the wall now, and I know he won’t because he’s positive and he’s clued up.

Before I got dropped last January, when (David) Stockdale came in, I had played 18 months behind a struggling team.

We just about stayed up one season, and we were then in a relegation fight again.

It’s not easy when you are a goalkeeper and the ball goes in the net all the time.

Experience gets you through it, but when you are young like Butts I could see he was asking himself 20 questions, when he wasn’t at fault for anything.

When you lose goal after goal, your confidence goes down.

Larrieu admitted Button had been very supportive of him on Saturday, as he had expected. “You see the character of people when they get dropped, or when it’s getting tough,” said Larrieu. “There was no doubt in my mind the way he would react to it.”

Adam Smith continues to be a mainstay in the Bournemouth defence, where he has now started 27 games (and come on at half time in the cup game in which he was rested). This has been fantastic experience for him, and the Bournemouth fans have really taken to him. This weekend he had another good game in a 3-0 win against Oldham. The Bournemouth site report describes how he nearly broke the deadlock:

“Despite that early pressure, Bournemouth took the ascendancy as early as the seventh minute when Adam Smith came so close to opening the deadlock. A free kick from Marc Pugh was cleared to the on loan full back and he took a couple of steps forward before unleashing what at first appeared to be a cross but it almost caught Amos out. The on loan Man Utd keeper had to be at full stretch to tip over the crossbar.”

And on a Bournemouth forum, a fan gives a review of his performance:

“Smith 7 – Great energy and good range of passing today”

Kyle Walker has now made eight appearances for Aston Villa (and one sub appearances in the cup game with Man City) and continues to receive nothing but glowing praise from all who have seen him play. He has scored two pretty spectacular goals (debut goal) and just this weekend he got an assist.

Walker interview:

On-loan defender Kyle Walker admits he is enjoying his time at Aston Villa and claims it is the “ideal” place for him.

The 20-year-old right-back has been sent out to get some first-team experience under his belt by parent club Tottenham, and so far has made seven appearances since his arrival, scoring twice.

Walker spent the first half of the campaign on loan at Championship side Queens Park Rangers but has turned in some fine performances at Villa.

The former Sheffield United man is relishing the challenge under Gerard Houllier and is focused on the task in hand.

“A lot has happened over the past couple of years but now I have a job to do here,” he told Villa’s official website.

“I just want to play football and it’s ideal for me at Villa.”

On how he sees himself developing as a player, Walker added: “The modern day full-back gets forward a lot. I believe the best form of defence is attack because wingers have to track back to mark you.

“But I’d rather pass and set someone else up than score myself. My thing is to defend or to set goals up.

“I’m happy to do my job by setting up chances as long as someone else is scoring. For me, asking a full-back to score is like asking a joiner to do some painting.
“It doesn’t make sense. I would prefer someone like Darren Bent to get the headlines.”

Villa take on Manchester City in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Wednesday, hoping to earn a place in the quarter-finals against either Everton or Reading.

Walker admits it will be a tough task to earn a win at Eastlands, but he is keen to collect some silverware even at this early stage of his career.

“Manchester City are a very good team so it’s going to be difficult. But there’s a belief in our dressing room that we can beat anyone on our day,” he remarked.

“Everyone wants to win things, and I hate losing. I’ve been told I qualify for a medal if QPR win the Championship – it would be nice to have an FA Cup medal as well.”

If you want to see what the Villa fans think of Kyle, this thread on a Villa forum is well worth a skim read. Some of the comments are very interesting:

“I’d be prepared to pay up to 14 million because i don’t know many other players at his age who can offer so much, i’m sure if he was needed to he could play as a winger too, similar to the role bale has taken on.”

“We collectively as fans should make a massive banner saying “please stay Kyle we love you” and hang it from the Holte End on the last day of the season.”

“We need to sign Walker asap permanently.
Walker, Clark and Albrighton are the most talented players in our squad in terms of potential.

Walker is James Milner transformed to RB, great energy, four lungs, good technique and bravery to go forward. I would pay over the odds to get him.”

“Walker has been consistently good for us over the 8 games hes played for us, and gradually his defensive skill has increased. he kept Blackburn’s LW shut up when we played them, and was forcing Petrov up the field, there was a reason our right flank was unassaulted against Bolton, because Albrighton and Walker forced them back, and LYoung helped out when they needed to!

Walker IMo will be one of the best RBs in the country in 4 years time. I’ve seen enough from him to show he’s only going to get better.”

Kyle Naughton, our other right back loanee, is having a fantastic run at Leicester City. He has now played 27 times for the Foxes, scoring four times, including this stunner vs Coventry. According to this thread, he didn’t have one of his better games vs QPR, but still got decent ratings from those contributing. The fans really seem to rate him, and see him as a well balanced full back, capable both defensively and offensively.

I still have a feeling that Naughton will move on in the summer but, at the very least, this loan spell will have done his price tag no harm.

David Bentley has been playing regularly for Birmingham City since joining in January. He has now started all seven league games, one cup game, and been a sub in another cup game. He scored a fantastic goal vs Coventry in the FA Cup.

Bentley gave an interview in the Star this weekend where he suggested that he has “burnt his bridges” at Spurs:

“We [he and Redknapp] did row at times. That’s part of football. It was probably down to me and my frustration because I wanted to be playing.

I left Blackburn for Tottenham because I wanted to force on my career. I thought it was a match made in heaven but it never worked out.

I went there with big ideas, wanting to be part of a team on the up. Not to be a part of that was very difficult to take.

I don’t know if I’ve played my last game for Spurs but a lot of bridges have been burnt. Whether they can be repaired, I don’t know.

But I don’t want to sit at Tottenham until I’m 30, doing nothing. I could do that in north London with everything there for me but I want to play every week. That’s why I came here.”

Ryan Mason has had a really difficult season with injury, but rejoined Doncaster Rovers in January, having recovered from a back problem which kept him out for over three months. Since he returned to Rovers, he has started once and made two substitute appearances. Unfortunately he recently picked up another injury, which has kept him out of a few matches. He has returned to training now, and is on the bench this evening against Coventry.

Jamie O’Hara has had a wonderful start to his career at Wolverhampton Wanderers, where he is expected to stay beyond his loan spell. He has played behind the front man in a 4-2-3-1, and has managed two goals in his four starts and one sub appearance, including goal vs Blackpool and goal vs West Brom.

Mick McCarthy has signalled his intention to keep O’Hara, saying:

“He has already made a difference to us and it’s great to have him around the place as well as in the team.

He makes us play, he gets on the ball and you can see why he’s been a Tottenham player. Hopefully he will be a Wolves player for a long time.

I see him as a bit of a throwback. He’s like an old-fashioned footballer.

He loves playing, he’s chirpy around the place and has always got a comment about something.

He’s brought a lot to the club. He’s a player I want to keep and a player who wants to come here as well. He’s helped us already.

The Express & Star have suggested that we value O’Hara at over £5m, and some Wolves fans don’t seem too unhappy with that:

“If we stay up, O’Hara will be worth every penny. A class above.”

“He’s got the potential to be a Wolves legend. Passionate, classy, gets goals, wants to play for Wolves.

I haven’t liked a midfielder this much since Alex Rae, and as brilliant as he was, we signed him too late in his career for him to be a “legend”.”

“For the record, i would sign him at the drop of a hat for the price spurs want….and like Penk says will be that first step of the next phase of our growth.”

Robbie Keane played two games for West Ham (scoring on his debut vs Blackpool) before he picked up a calf injury, which is expected to keep him out for two more weeks. Keane will join West Ham permanently for £6m should they retain their Premier League status.

Jonathan Obika has had a funny old season. Since I last wrote, he moved to Peterborough, where he made two substitute appearances, scoring twice. When Darren Ferguson took control at Peterborough, though, he cancelled Obika’s loan deal (along with that of Everton’s Kieran Agard). Jonathan then moved to Swindon Tow, and made three starts and come off the bench twice. Swindon currently lie third from bottom, and are really struggling – Obika has struggled to make an impression, and is yet to find the net. Manager Danny Wilson seems to think that he needs a strong strike partner, saying:

“He needs somebody outside of him. We’ve said that before – he needs a strength with him.

He’s got great pace, he’ll go in behind you but he needs people around him and he needs people who can give people a bit of a hit and we haven’t got that at the moment.”

Giovani dos Santos joined Racing Santander on loan in January, and was initially a substitute for them. He scored an excellent goal coming off the bench against Villareal, and was awarded with a start in their last game, playing 81 minutes against Real Madrid.

Finally, Danny Rose is back at Spurs after being recalled from Bristol City. He picked up an injury just after Christmas, and did not seem to be healing quickly. I get the impression that a decision was taken that we would be able to monitor him better if he were back with us permanently. Within a few days of being recalled, he was on our bench for the game against Blackpool. Overall Danny made 13 starts and four sub appearances for City.

Analysis of the goals conceded against Wolves (6/3)

Follow me on Twitter – @WindyCOYS.

I’m starting to get tired of analysing shambolic defensive performances like that – having started the game so competently, we suddenly started giving away needless free kicks, and conceding corners; before we knew it we were 1-0 down, after Doyle had got away from our defenders and Gomes made a real mess of the save. The second goal was quite ridiculous, with Hutton focussing on the ball, and not the man running off his shoulder, and the third probably more down to an excellent Jarvis cross than anything else. A disappointing defensive showing nonetheless.

Apologies for the picture quality.

Doyle’s first goal.

The ball comes back out to Milijas following a corner. He is closed down by Pienaar.

Pienaar stops as the ball is played in, rather than continuing to close and attempting to block the ball. Notice Gallas in the box – the deepest man.

Doyle drops off Sandro and Jenas, whilst Gallas is pre-occupied with Elokobi, so he is left with a free header – totally unacceptable in the 6-yard box. All three of our defenders should share responsibility.

Whilst he has a free header, all he does is help it on, and it literally goes straight at Gomes. It almost goes through his hands in the end – he should do much better.

Doyle’s second goal.

It’s almost as if Hutton didn’t learn from Fulham.

Doyle has the ball in a wide area, and looks to thread it through to Jarvis.

Hammill takes it off Jarvis’ toes. Notice Hutton marking Milijas.

 Hammill shuffles the ball inside, and it runs kindly to Ward (I think) for a strike.

Ward’s touch is heavy, but it drops nicely for Doyle, who lines up a shot. Milijas takes a gamble, whilst Hutton is totally unaware (he is ball watching, a common Hutton error).

 When the ball deflects into Milijas’ path he has stolen ahead of Hutton.

Hutton grabs Milijas out of desperation, meaning that he is not able to strike the ball cleanly. The penalty is rightly awarded, but Hutton is only yellow carded (he should be shown a red card for the denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity).

Doyle waits for Gomes to move, and slots the ball into the opposite corner.

Fletcher’s goal.

Having won a header in the centre of the pitch, Hutton is slow to get out to Ebanks-Blake as the ball is played out to him.

This means that Ebanks-Blake has time to look for the on-rushing Jarvis, tracked by Sandro.

Hutton is not close enough to influence play, and Jarvis is quicker to the ball than Sandro.

Jarvis faces Sandro up, and I think Sandro could do more to stop the cross coming in.

He doesn’t really get close enough to block the cross – he is probably nervous about committing himself against the diminutive winger.

Wolves have two forwards in the box against our three defenders.

But the ball is an excellent one and Fletcher anticipates it brilliantly, getting up early above Dawson, who is beaten by the quality of the delivery.

Gomes has little chance with the header, which is well angled back across him.

Analysis of the goals conceded against Blackpool (22/2)

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Better late than never…

A bizarre game in which our lack of top-class (or at least in-form) striker seemed to be the difference, although all of the Blackpool goals were frustratingly avoidable.

Blackpool goals

Adam’s goal.

Eardley receives the ball, and has time to take a touch before Pienaar closes him down.

He swings in a cross before Pienaar can get to him; Bassong is marking Campbell in the penalty area.

Kornilenko cleverly holds off Dawson, and chests the ball to Campbell, who has made a run off Bassong.

As Campbell takes a touch, it looks as though he’s going to strike first time, with Bassong not in touching distance.

Bassong actually does quite well to get back to him, but then stupidly attempts to swing a right boot at the ball, and his momentum takes him into the back of Campbell, who goes down for a penalty.

Adam takes the penalty – a good height for the goalkeeper, as they say, but far enough into the corner to make sure that Gomes can’t get to it.

Campbell’s goal.

Blackpool look to launch a counter from deep in their own half, with the majority of our players caught up field.

Quick, slick, one-touch passing means that Campbell receives the ball beyond two Spurs players.

It’s now effectively two on two, as Assou-Ekotto tries to catch Campbell, who has Dawson (out of shot) to beat, and Kornilenko is on the half-way line, with Bassong (out of shot) beyond him.

Dawson commits himself, and it seems that Assou-Ekotto has a chance to clear the loose ball. Difficult to tell from this shot whether that is the case or not, but either way, Campbell keeps hold of the ball and goes beyond both defenders.

Campbell finds Kornilenko, who faces Bassong up.

He comes inside, and Beattie (disappointingly untracked) makes an excellent overlapping run. Assou-Ekotto is in a reasonable position to deal with Campbell.

Kornilenko finds Beattie with a clever back-heel, totally taking Bassong out of the game. Campbell has pulled off to the back post, and Assou-Ekotto’s position is now not good enough.

That said, it’s a good ball from Beattie, but Campbell is clearly offside.

So when he tucks the ball in at the back post, the flag should go up. Still, an excellent break from Blackpool (although we made it easy for them with some poor defending).

Ormerod’s goal.

Southern has the ball in a relatively “safe” area of the pitch, but Campbell’s dart away from Gallas, followed by his first time pass opens things up.

Campbell receives the ball and finds Phillips in one motion, totally beating Gallas is the process.

Phillips is up against Assou-Ekotto, who uses his strength to manouevre the winger off the ball.

He passes up the chance to clear with his right foot, and instead tries to turn on to his left – clearly suicide, as Ormerod has taken a gamble.

As Assou-Ekotto flounders, Ormerod pounces.

And he slips the ball past Gomes.

It seems our defenders only know extremes right now – the sublime, as in the Milan game, or the ridiculous, as in the Fulham game and now this. It was a risky strategy from Redknapp to make two changes, with only one enforced; by moving Gallas out of the centre he unsettled the entire defence. I would personally have started with Palacios at right back in order to minimise the changes.

Our back four should have a more familiar feel to it for the Wolves game – let’s hope that they put in a better performance.