Friday, July 27, 2012

Why can’t Tottenham buy a striker?

Someone put Daniel Levy on a conference call with Bob Crow; the bolshy union boss doesn’t have a problem locating strikers.

While the AVB revolution promises a brave new world for many Spurs fans, other more predictable traits remain difficult to shake; in the last 4.5 transfer windows Tottenham have still failed to buy a striker.

In a Shakespearean mixture of farce and tragedy, Spurs only have one ‘goalscorer’ (forgive the highly liberal use of the term) available in rookie Harry Kane for the remainder of the club’s US tour following another heartbreaking bereavement for the Defoe family. Our thoughts and condolences are obviously with Jermain at this sad time.

With the Adebayor deal dragging like a thalidomide dog, preseason preparations have that familiar sense of imbalance. Is there another club in the football world approaching a new season with a solitary (senior) striker on its books? Does Daniel Levy have a goalscorer allergy? If so, break out the antihistamine; we need to score goals.

Certainly, two new frontmen are a prerequisite ahead of the new campaign. I may be a lone voice here, but the sale and misuse of Roman Pavlyuchenko continues to bemuse when the club’s only other striking options were a high maintenance loan striker (Adebayor) and a player with just two years left on his contract (Defoe). The Russian’s goals-per-minute record was exemplary. Sell by all means, but only when a replacement with working limbs is available.

On Thursday night, I was lucky enough to view two potential striking options for Spurs in Hulk and Leonardo Damaio whilst attending the Brazil-Egypt Olympic match at the Millennium Stadium. While Hulk is a handful, he does not represent value in the £35 million bracket and lacked the nous one might expect at such a hefty price tag. Damaio, meanwhile, looked highly suited to the English game with his physicality, touch and instinct for goal. Obviously, this was just one match, but on the basis of their respective price tags (Damaio retails at £25 million) and age (Hulk is three years older) then Damaio is a far more savvy target.

With the new season a mere three weeks away, Spurs can’t allow a(nother) genuine striker crisis to limp to a closing transfer window. It remains the most important piece of the puzzle. Yet still we wait for a solution. Is Leon Knight available?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ledley Brenton King (Tottenham Hotspur 1999-2012)

Ledley Brenton King was arguably the finest English centre-half of his generation; a remarkable feat given some of his early co-stars in Spurs colours.

Ultimately, only injury could defeat this Rolls Royce of a defender who defied physical logic by not training during the week yet excelling in the heart of the Tottenham defence come matchday.

Over the last few years Tottenham fans have been blessed by a team with swagger and rare steel, in which Ledley played a starring role. But it wasn’t always this way. When the East Londoner from the celebrated Senrab boys club made his pro debut as a left-back in a 2-3 end-of-season reverse at Anfield in May 1999, Spurs were a mid-table outfit at best.

Yet with the emergence of this talented defender from Tottenham’s underperforming youth system, the cockerel once more raised its head with pride.

He was a rare centre-half who could win the ball without clambering over an opponent or grabbing a handful of shirt on the referee’s blindside. As a footballer, King was as clean as he was smooth. He had less bookings than Gary Glitter. Only 10 yellow cards flashed in a 13-year career. Thierry Henry once remarked that Ledley was the only defender who could win the ball off him without fouling.

Who could forget Ledley suddenly shifting through the gears to nick the ball off Arjen Robben’s feet in front of the Park Lane stand? That intervention proved crucial as Spurs broke their Chelsea hoodoo with a 2-1 victory that left Jose Mourinho irritated and bemused in the away dug-out.

King's poor performances were so few that I can virtually name them on one hand. When an opposing defender peeled away into space it was a near cast iron certainty that Ledley would retrieve the ball if in the near vicinity. He brought a rare sense of calm to the traditionally jittery Spurs backline.

When the club qualified for the Champions League with that emotional 1-0 win over Man City at the Etihad Stadium in May 2010, King was a human wall. It was as if the ball was magnetised to his frame.

Only a recurring knee injury could hamper King’s progress and this, and other ailments, limited his Spurs appearances to a relatively modest 323 including 14 goals alongside 21 matches and two goals for the England national side. But what memories he gave us.

Watching the Spurs skipper hobble up the famed Wembley steps to collect the League Cup in 2008 after the magical triumph over Chelsea brought a lump to the throat. I was fighting back the tears. Every Spurs fan knew what he’d been through to arrive at this moment. It was to be Ledley’s only trophy as a Spurs player but the image of him grinning broadly and lifting that cup is etched in our collective conscience.

Injury was to be Ledley King’s only master. But the majesty of his performances will live on in our hearts and minds forever.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Modric ado about nothing

Luka Modric hasn’t signed for Madrid, Man Utd or a modelling contract with Matalan. But every other day the same quote-free, unsubstantiated stories surface and are then repurposed as stone cold fact by an increasingly lazy, feckless media.

On 8th June, The Sun’s Neil Custis wrote with cast-iron certainty that little Luka had signed a four-year deal with Man Utd for a paltry £26m. The cut-price fee only made possible by Sir Alex Ferguson’s two billion unredeemed Nectar points.

Presumably, Mr. Custis had recently returned from a mind-bending peyote session in the Mojave Desert because this highly trumpeted ‘EXCLUSIVE’ bore no truth in the world of the substance-free.

And so it continues. Every few days, coincidently during a slow hour of news, a fresh ‘Modric agrees terms with [insert name of Champions League team}’ piece appears in a puff of smoke like an overworked genie. For around 36 hours that same non-story is shamelessly plagiarised, cut-and-pasted and pumped out as undisputed truth by desperate newshounds. Want to know the Croatian’s price of the day? Simply roll two dice and add the total in millions to £24m and you have the transfer fee. Gospel.

The level of industrial strength BS involved is placed into sharp perspective by’s highly recommended ‘Luka Modric Daily’ which adroitly dissects the Modric transfer lie du jour. Late last week, Croatian rag ’24 Sata’ claimed that Modric had agreed terms with Real Madrid. Done deal. This story was seized upon with glee by Europe’s sporting media and, within minutes, tributes to the mercurial midfielder were appearing across the social media from misty-eyed Spurs fans.

Yet the following day, showing more front than Lucy Pinder squeezed into a B Cup bra, ‘24 Sata’ shamelessly reported: ‘…as stated by the international media during Friday, it looks like Modric has agreed personal terms with Real Madrid.' Jaw-dropping.

Seminal rap ensemble Public Enemy once opined: ‘Don’t believe the hype’. Until a club meets Daniel Levy’s inevitably inflated Croatian valuation, I suggest you follow that sage advice. An exquisite talent like Modric’s will undoubtedly be missed, but not before he’s left the building.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

‘How Andre Villas-Boas destroyed Spurs’

The football obituary of Andre Villas-Boas has already been written. Draft copy of his failure is sitting in the laptops of Martin Samuel, Colin Mafham and Harry Redknapp’s pals at The Sun. And now the press wait like coiled cobras, wound-up and venomous, ready to strike.

An affable, rent-a-quote manager is no longer on the end of a journalist’s mobile phone. Instead hacks will have to prise comments from an aloof young coach who at Chelsea responded tetchily in the glare of intense media scrutiny.

Whatever your position on Redknapp’s tenure at Spurs, his carefully-crafted, geezer persona won the club many allies in the media. Tottenham’s failures were often handled with kid gloves in comparison to the ire of the past. The press regard Harry as one of the boys whereas Villas-Boas’ studied approach and cool personality fails to engage. He won’t be buying scribes a round of Sagres anytime soon.

One would hope those Spurs fans who were so agitated by the reign of Redknapp will employ greater patience with Villas-Boas. A glittering career at Porto and progressive coaching methods bode well for a Tottenham side steeped in attacking promise. But the club cannot afford a fifth successive botched transfer window and more senseless deadline day brinkmanship. Daniel Levy authorising the purchase of two new strikers is a prerequisite for another season of Premier League contention.

Star player Gareth Bale’s freshly-penned four-year contract sends a bold message to potential transfer targets and those key players who remain at the club. A new, state-of-the-art training ground with a greater emphasis on emerging talent could mean an immediate integration of Stephen Caulker who thrived at Swansea yet seemed oddly destined for another loan spell under the outgoing Redknapp.

Now all Spurs fans must put aside past petty grievances and unite to back the new regime. And be realistic about our immediate future. A top six place, free-flowing Tottenham football and a serious approach to all cup competitions are par for the upcoming season. Odds are already being taken on Villas-Boas not lasting the campaign. Let’s hope the pre-scripted media obituaries are premature and we end the season AVB positive.

Bem-Vindo ao Spurs, Andre. Não chame os fãs idiotas!