Posts Tagged ‘Tottenham Hotspur’

Does Rafa lose on Robbie after the dust settles at Liverpool?

Friday, February 6th, 2009

The school of thought says: Rafael Benitez must have faith in the abilities of David N’gog – the Liverpool striker he is left with as cover after the departure of Robbie Keane – else he has made the management error of the century and blown The Red’s best chance of a title in years.

Keane returned to Tottenham Hotspur to a captain’s welcome – although one wonders if the fans will have something to say on that, we know how they treat players they see as Judases – and Rafa was left with a striking problem that seemed symptomatic of a wider discontent off the field at Anfield. It is turmoil – we are told – and Benitez has failed sign a replacement losing between £8m and £5m on the player who is now Spurs’s gain.

Spurs are back tracking in a bid to avoid relegation. There is an irony in that Keane, Jermaine Defoe et al benefited from the North Londoners actually sticking with a manager for once in Martin Jol and moved forward towards the top of the Premiership but their attempts to stay in the division revolve around changing as many things as possible and they will be ignoring the desperate laughter that comes from Southampton when they talk about Harry Redknapp and avoiding relegation, and the second attempt at a last laugh that comes from Portsmouth’s Fratton Park.

In Keane they have (re)signed a player who spent most of the last few months trying and failing to fill the not inconsiderable boots of Ferndando Torres and seemed only to justify the idea that while Keane was good he was never worth the £20m paid for him. Keane was not a player without his advocates while at Spurs – especially in the National media who are often accused of being infatuated with all things White Hart Lane – and one can only suppose that Benitez took a chance that those advocates were correct. It was graduation day for the Liverpool number seven but unlike the “load of rubbish” signed from Scunthrope or the guy who came down from Celtic with the usual questions marks over differences in the English and Scots game he did not make that step up and this cost Benitez some £5m/£8m.

Has it cost his title aspirations? That is doubtful. Keane has proved – in so much as we assume he would get no better at Liverpool – that he is no replacement for Torres and that should the Spaniard get injured or require resting then the Irishman is no more able to replace him than N’gog and the title is lost. The £5m/£8m then is more of a damage limitation exercise with Benitez having bet on Keane making the grade and lost, but he only lost the £5m/£8m and not the £20.3m, nor the £12m/£15m which Spurs have paid.

Thus we have context for Keane: That he is not good enough for a team that aspires to the top of the Premiership. If we know he is not worth £20.3m, do we think he is worth £15m? Rafa has lost £5m/£8m by buying high but he has – in Harry – found the sucker to take on what he has found out is not fit for purpose and at a price which minimises the deficit Liverpool suffer. To give that a context Liverpool are Manchester United buying Juan Sebastian Veron for £28.1m and Spurs are Chelsea allowing them to minimise the loss by paying £15m for someone who goes on to prove that he was not good enough in the first place.

Benitez and Liverpool are left with egg on their faces after a transfer gamble went wrong, but Harry Redknapp and Spurs are left with the meal that does not taste quite right.

Why can’t Spurs fans sing about Sol when other fans can sing about disasters?

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Four men have been charged with singing what is a very offensive song about Sol Campbell after a unified decision by “people in football” that things had gone “too far”.

Harry Redknapp led the charge against Spurs fans – how ironic – and he was right to do so, His comments about not being able to understand the mentality of a Father who sings a racist, homophobic and generally nasty song in front of his son is echoed through out the land. Almost no one outside of a football ground will understand the reason why such chanting is necessary, as will a good few people inside it.

All of which is right and proper – although raises interesting questions – but why was the line drawn at Sol Campbell and Spurs?

As a Bradford City fan I have this season had to sit in a football ground listening to home fans singing mocking songs about the fire of 1985 on more than one occasion – in fact I can tell you having ill advisedly sat at Huddersfield Town with the collection of supporters who sit on the river bank side closest the away fans delight in it – so why is it that no one has been arrested, cautioned, questioned, accused of behaviour likely to cause affray or any of those other laws which – rightly or wrongly – are being used against the Campbell chanters?

I’m no legal expert so I’m not able to answer that question returning to Redknapp’s bafflement at the mindset of people who would engage in such chanting and adding my own belief that some self-policing in the form of right-minded fans booing the offenders would not go amiss. After all football fans seem capable of booing almost anything else.

It seems that the Campbell chanters are guilty of committing an offence at the wrong place and the wrong time and to be made an example of – they get no sympathy from me – but how much the lessons will be learnt by fans the length of the land, and what those questions are, is debatable.

Will the police be arresting Huddersfield Town supporters in the situation out lined above? Would they have moved in against the Bradford City fans who sang songs about cockle pickers at Morecambe last year? Will they arrest the guy behind me who shouted that Barry Conlon was a useless twat and should be substituted on Saturday?

What chanting is acceptable? David James believes that anything not racist or homophobic is allowed while others would suggest it is anything legal but the morality of grown men screaming swears until faces turn red at kids barely out of their teens troubles me greatly. I would suggest the people singing songs about the fire are worse than those swearing, being racist to or homophobic towards players but I’d say they were all under line of what should be acceptable.

I wonder about football when it has to look for law and browbeating debates on manners to decide whether or deliberate offence of these kinds are socially acceptable.

Look away from White Hart Lane, the sights are too ugly

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

Harry Redknapp has been installed at Tottenham Hotspur for a week now and this evening he sees his Spurs team face Liverpool with the North London side buoyant following a 4-4 draw at Arsenal. The Reds have the best start to a Premiership season ever which is the sort of position which chairman Daniel Levy wants to catapult his side into.

Redknapp’s appointment has raised mostly applause anywhere except the South coast where they seem to have tired of their club becoming his to toy with. Harry wants to leave because of a Director of Football, Harry joins Southampton, Harry comes back. The soap opera drama of Fratton Park always centres around Harry and now he has walked away saying he wants to go to a bigger club they seem to have got bored of his machinations.

So they should. It is not two months since Harry was speaking with the voice of Portsmouth to condemn the supporters who racial, homophobic and fairly horrible abuse at Sol Campbell. At the time Harry said of Spurs fans “How do you do that in front of your kids? What kind of a nutter must you be? What kind of human being must you be when you take your little kids to football and shout filth? It can’t be right”.

Are we to think that Harry has changed his mind? Was Harry wrong about the fans who he now needs to back his revolution at The Lane? Only a fool would say he was.

However Harry is not dishonest. Far from it his approach to the the game with one of the straightest bat around. He shows a disinterest – if not a contempt – for the opinion of supporters.

As Hitchcock said of actors supporters to Redknapp are cattle and what they think and what they say is either objectionable in the case of the Spurs fans or ignorable. Spurs area big club – he says – but virtue of the size of the support but those supporters are to pay up and shut up and allow him total control of “their” club.

None of which is a criticism of Harry Redknapp, of Daniel Levy, of Portsmouth or of Spurs just that in this footballing world where we as supporters increasingly believe that the game is being run for the benefit of drifting TV viewers and big companies looking for brand alignment Redknapp’s hypocrisy and his attitude to the fans who watch his clubs that reduces them to serfs is typical of the relationship that supporters now have with those who they support.

It is the demand not for support but for fealty. That relationship is an ugly one.

Perceptional problems lead Spurs down the wrong path once again

Monday, September 29th, 2008

It is with heavy heart that we say goodbye to the Saturday evening ritual of watching the deluded try convince Simon Cowell of X Factor that if only he would put them through they would be able to convert out of tune screeches into being the next Mariah Carey.

That competition reaches a more refined stage while the Premier League’s version of the auditions continues. Newcastle United have been covered at length elsewhere but in 19th they sit above Tottenham Hotspur.

Two pieces of news are seeping out of Spurs at the moment. On the one hand they talk of the future of manager Juande Ramos, on the other chairman Daniel Levy is rumoured to be holding out for £400m to sell the club.

Ramos must wish at this point that he could wake from the slumber caused when he was struck by a missile thrown from the crowd and find he was still a manager in Spain and had never heard of Spurs.

Like many managers at White Hart Lane before him he is asked to do much but given too little of the one resource a manager needs most to do anything. He has no time.

With a picked over strike force he needs to build again but very few now believe he will make the next transfer window to make changes. He is stuck between the rock of damaging his reputation and the hard place of Spurs’ crushingly misplaced image of self.

Spurs are a club living on glories which are long since past but unlike the St James’ Park trophy room no dust settles as occasional a door is opened and a League Cup put in. This is not to say that they are not successful or that the League Cup has no value just that they are a club that looks are those returns and does not equate it with the being the same return as the likes of Oxford and Norwich once claimed. They see it as a sign of a deserved greatness.

The club – inside and out – differs from Newcastle mostly in geography rather than attitude. The Spurs fan believes Ramos is underperforming but over the course of his time in London his record is comparable with other inhabitants of the hot seat. At time good, at times not so. All very Spurs.

Spurs are not one of those warblers who cannot hold a tune that Cowell and Co laugh out of the auditions. They are one of those good but no better than many people who fall just before the live show begins. The sort that tells Simon how much they want it and why he should not kill their dream without realising that the people ahead of them have done more hard work, have shown more commitment or in some cases are simply more talented.

The same impatience that sees managers replaced that is commonly levelled at supporters at St James’ Park is in evidence at Tottenham Hotspur and like the Magpies the issue is not underachievement but rather a failure to recognise that the fifth of Spurs and the top threes of Newcastle are superbly creditable over-reaches.

In the end Spurs are Newcastle with better PR that stops them being labelled as the tumultuous club they can be. Both are are Leeds without the meltdown because as with Sir Bobby Robson and Martin Jol pushing out David O’Leary under the belief that another manager would take the club on was a misjudgement based on the idea that the club was not over-performing at the time.

Is quality of football an issue in the age of airchair support?

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

He knew that saying it would wind me up and, to my own frustration, I let it. I was sat on his settee with another friend, watching the League Two round-up on The Championship when he happened to walk by from cooking our breakfast to see Rotherham’s Alex Rhodes mishit a cross which flew into the net, so let rip.

“God, the standard of football in the lower leagues is terrible!” He is a Manchester United fan, me Bradford City. He follows his team through the power of his Sky+ remote, I use my worn-out car to travel around the country in support of mine; he will moan to me that Darren Fletcher doesn’t always convince, I will just smile and nod, knowing talking about the merits our new right back would be of little interest to him.

His forceful assessment of lower league football was not said purely to provoke a response from me – it’s how he feels. The Premier League chose to distance itself from the rest of us 16 years ago and its followers, including the national media, would struggle to name all 72 clubs underneath them, never mind which division they occupy. A few weeks earlier I’d heard a Tottenham fan call BBC 5Live’s 606 to tell Alan Green he’d bought a season ticket at Barnet and was impressed at how little it cost. In response, Green questioned its value given the “the low standard of football” he must be watching. True, Barnet followers might struggle to argue against this ignorant assessment after a poor start to the season, but the BBC commentator would probably replied in the same manner had the caller taken out a season ticket for Crystal Palace.

So can a league’s quality be judged by the standard of its goals? It’s true that, since demotion to League Two, Bradford’s games have featured a higher number of poor ones in our matches – from us and the opposition – but the quick round-up of goals that The Championship grudgingly makes time for cannot tell the full story. As a comparison I watched the weekend’s Premier League goals and, while Man United’s opener against Chelsea featured build-up play of a standard you won’t find at Valley Parade, the defending for Chelsea’s equaliser was no less clueless than what I’d endured from my team 24 hours earlier. Sunderland beat Middlesbrough 2-0 with the second a result of an inept attempt to play offside resulted in Michael Chopra been left free to fire home. Had Hartlepool scored exactly the same goal, would people watching it later on TV be tutting at the poor standard of lower league football?

My friend’s uncomplimentary viewpoint of the Football League was not aided by the only game of it he’s attended, a Doncaster Rovers v Nottingham Forest League One fixture at Belle Vue two seasons ago that was apparently so boring away fans resorted to chanting at the ball boys; but it’s again questionable if a considered judgement can be formed from one experience. On the same day he was winding me up we could have flown in an alien from the Planet Zog and taken it to the Man City v Portsmouth game, where it would have undoubtedly been left with a great impression of the Premier League. Yet equally they could have attended the Spurs v Wigan game and concluded the whole thing’s a bore-fest.

With football on TV every day of the week there is less incentive to bother watching the Coca-Cola Leagues, but attendances remain healthy large due to loyalty but also the alternative it can offer to the soap opera of Ronaldo believing he’s a slave. If football was the same as the cinema, lower league clubs would be art house or independent offerings. Sure, the production values won’t be as glossy, there’s less chance you’ll have heard of the actors, but it can be a rewarding experience far removed from the Hollywood comforts where, increasingly, we can all predict how it’s going to end.

The argument over the qualities of lower leagues ends and the Sky+ remote is used to change the channel to Goals on Sunday. A sudden blast of profanities come hurtling out of my friend’s mouth in the direction of new West Ham manager, Gianfranco Zola, and I sit there, aghast, wondering why he has so much hatred towards one of football’s nice-guys. “Just because…” is his non-to-convincing reply, “But you’d love him if he’d have played for Man U” I argue, “Stop saying that, it’s a crap argument!”

He’s right, not about it been a crap argument, but that I kept saying it. I said it after listening to him rant in disgust about Adebayor for the way he “prances about on the pitch” and after slagging off John Terry for “dubbing himself ‘Mr Chelsea’”. And herein lies a major difference in attitudes, not necessarily between Premier League fans and the rest of us, but armchair supporters and the rest.

My friends sees football through his Sky box and finds a full of hostile theatre of hyped up rivalry, where every opposition player or supporter is a bad guy. It’s a lot harder to maintain such feelings of hatred if you’re at the games finding those rival players have similar qualities – and flaws – as your own, or that opposition supporters are capable of making intelligent and informed opinions. Sure, we go to games and chant not very complimentary things about each other, but we also chat to them in the pub before kick off. It’s not just a lower league thing either; I can recall, during our ill-fated Premier League days, experiencing the friendliness of Chelsea supporters outside Stamford Bridge, though I daren’t bring that up with my friend now in case he throws me out for conspiring with the enemy.

When I told him about the time I stood up and applauded Paul Scholes’ famous volley-from-a-corner goal in 2000 at Valley Parade he looked at me in disbelief, as though sportsmanship was as an outdated a concept as right-halfs; but there’s a difference to how he watches the opposition. He sees far more of Man United’s rivals than I do Bradford’s and he does so with only his wife and baby in the room to despair at his ridiculous tantrums when Frank belts one in from 20 yards.

Few would argue against TV as a great way to watch football; otherwise we wouldn’t bother tuning in to games where our own team isn’t playing, but the over-hyped Premier League world is creating some unhealthy distortions and neglecting some of the values of The Game.

Still at least I needn’t worry about winding up my friend in retaliation – Adebayor’s already doing it for me.

We worry about who is running our clubs when we should be worrying about how

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

It is hard to imagine a sight less dignified than the public hawking of Newcastle United by Mike Ashley as he tries to off load the Geordies attaching the sale rider that the club requires a bottomless pit of money.

Ashley contests that only wealth at the level Manchester clubs now enjoy will bring silverware and happiness to the supporters although the evidence of Spurs and neighbours Middlesbrough bringing back prizes suggests this to be a misjudgment on someone’s part. Unfortunately all football seems to buy into the idea that the richest wins all despite Chelsea’s two years of running up. It is more accurate to say that the biggest wins unless they mess it up and that biggest is at Old Trafford with Newcastle not that far behind.

Regardless the Magpies are shopped around with the idea being – and the worry that – they will be the latest club to fall into the hands of overseas investment.

Each time there is a purchase of a club by non-English investors alarm bells are sounded do the future of our game so much so one could be forgiven for thinking that we have a monopoly on good governance in football. With almost half England’s professional clubs having used bankruptcy protection in the fifteen years since the formation of the Premier League that supposition would seem to be far from the truth.

English ownership covers Risdale and Richmond just as much as it does any examples of the better run sides and the likes of Randy Learner and his slow, deliberate building of Aston Villa is as valid an argument as any for the idea that it is not who owns clubs that is problem so much as how they are owned.

Learner probably has the best manager in the business in Martin O’Neill – he got him in place before he arrived – and backs him up with sensible signings. James Milner, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young probably take home the same combined as Robinho and unless the situation in England’s second City is out of focus the club is run within the remit of having huge out goings met by the huge income of a Premier League club. Morally one might question the size of the figures but from a business point of view there seems to be equity which one simply cannot say about Manchester City or Chelsea.

Distressingly one would thank that outside the realms of the mega-rich clubs at Eastlands and Stamford Bridge the thinking would veer more towards a model of attempting to balance the books or when attempting to advance the club investing soundly but the experiences of those down the leagues suggest that in most cases this is anything but. The well run teams are accused of a lack of ambition and those who overspend seem to do so in the assumption that when the chickens come home to roost they will be long gone. Any sympathy one could have for the likes of AFC Bournemouth or Luton Town is not shared by supporters who have seen their teams lose out on promotions and progressions in cups to a team bought on the hock.

The Football Association has recognised the need for control of finances starting running the Football Conference as a tight ship but the Football League struggles to do the same unwilling to douse the flames of passion that come to the game via investors in their local club but incapable of ensuring these new investors behave in a way that even guarantees a long term future.

The popular perception of football investment is that it is done in the transfer market and by paying higher wages and one would be niave to suggest that was not a factor in the improvement of clubs. Squads are important but so are supporters and the recruitment of the next generation of fans which is failing at lower levels with the jump between the child’s rate and that for teenagers being simply too steep. A wise investor looking at trying to create something other than a season or two on the field would do well to look at subsidising or creating a way that will build the fan base for a generation or more.

Likewise facilities are a way of ensuring revenue streams for clubs and it is telling that while Gillett Jnr and Hicks continue to fund Liverpool’s squad a section of support are bitterly opposed to them on the grounds that they are not building the new stadium putting the future success of the club at risk.

On the whole football chairmen fail to understand the best way to invest in clubs because they do not grasp genuine value in clubs. They look at playing squads and imagine how much a player could be sold for but more acute book keeping would render Robinho’s £120,000 a week as a liability from which the business suffered and his resale value as windfall payment rather than a reason to value the club more highly.

The real assets of football clubs are position in the league set up and the sponsorship and television deals that bring, good will – in the support and in the brand – and facilities. The league position is temporary but the contracts it bring in are easily read, the facilities can be assessed with some ease but that middle element – good will – is harder to put a value on.

However Mike Ashley values Newcastle United as twice what he paid for them because he understands that what Freddy Shepherd sold him at the value of a mid-range debt ridden Premiership club is actually one of the league’s strongest with a permanent tradition of support and a strong brand. His hawking of the club around is undignified for sure but having bought the club on the cheap he is not so much trying to get rid of it quick as realising the value of his investment. Shepherd’s last cock up at Newcastle was to not understand the value of what he had.

Too many chairmen are the same. They have a thing of value but have no idea how to augment that value and end up spending the club’s resources on things of no value – players – and not the assets they have got – good will.

We worry so much about who owns football clubs and where those investors come from yet we do not worry at all about how those clubs are run or even if the people who own them even know what they have bought and how much it is worth.