Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tottenham WILL qualify for the Champions League (okay, MIGHT)

Like a paternity test on The Jeremy Kyle Show, one win in nine games does not lie. Maybe Tottenham should scout the programme for new talent, at least those shifty geezers still have some battle left in them.

Spurs’ insipid 0-1 reverse at QPR epitomised the second half of the season; dominating possession without forging enough clear cut chances, no mistake unpunished and that ever-present thankless luck. But as Tottenham fans worldwide descended into a foggy, alcohol-fuelled madness and jammed The Samaritans’ phonelines in search of salvation, it’s worth remembering that Spurs still have a realistic chance of Champions League football.

Newcastle’s remaining fixtures are teak tough; plucky Wigan (away), Chelsea (away), in-form Everton (away) and title-chasing City at home. The true threat remains Chelsea (still somehow one point behind Spurs) who have three routine-looking home matches and an away game at Liverpool whose concentration will be focused solely on a second cup triumph this season. In contrast, Tottenham have winnable home games against Blackburn, Fulham and away fixtures against out-of-sorts Bolton and Aston Villa. But Spurs don’t look like they could win a game of Top Trumps at the moment, the birds from Bend It Like Beckham would probably turn them over (oh how Jermain Defoe would love that scenario).

Yet a win against Blackburn next Sunday via fluke or fantasy football and suddenly the game’s archetypal fancy dans are back in the hunt again. Surely this dire run has to end? This is the best Spurs team for decades…managed by the future England manager, right? I’m not so sure ‘Redknapp to England’ is a sure thing (cue groans and hurled beer cans). Harry is at least partly responsible for transforming a talented Tottenham outfit from Champions League certs to ITV4 also-rans in nine weeks while his increasingly bizarre press conferences have illustrated, yet again, with crystal clarity that he’s a loose cannon in front of the media. Does that fit the profile of someone the FA, renowned for its control freakery and ‘safe’ managerial appointments, will opt for as the next man to lead the national team into the footballing abyss?

Among many Spurs fans, Harry has borne the brunt of the criticism for the club’s dramatic downward spiral. Certainly, the shellackings against Arsenal and Chelsea rank alongside our worst results of recent years, but it’s worth noting the players’ part in this sudden downfall. They have been psychologically brittle in the face of mild pressure and almost laughably shot shy in front of goal (four blanks in the last four away games make grim but telling reading).

Farcically, the club only have one recognised striker on their books beyond the end of this season (Defoe who, at his age, is understandably eyeing one last big contract elsewhere) and Chairman Daniel Levy’s reluctance or inability to buy a proven scorer through four consecutive transfer windows is hard to defend. His tedious transfer window brinkmanship does not lend itself to stability. The ease with which Newcastle picked up the prolific Papiss Demba Cisse mid-window clearly illustrates that this path is avoidable and unnecessary.

Maybe we should take inspiration and solace from Fabrice Muamba’s miraculous recovery. Effectively dead for 78 minutes, the Bolton midfielder was coaxed back to life at White Hart Lane, an illustration that no-one should ever stop fighting until the curtain finally falls. Fabrice didn’t give up with less favourable odds and neither should we.

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