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Posts Tagged ‘football review’

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR RETURN TO GLORY DAYS

In sport on September 10, 2013 at 7:55 am

I suppose you’ve all been wondering — come on, I can see you, yes, one, two — why I haven’t broken my silence on the great 100 million euro daylight robbery of Gareth Bale from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid: until now! It’s because I didn’t think of it. [Insert note of humility here] Besides, there are literally millions people (but not literate writers) around the world, estimating conservatively, who know more about true football than I do — and I don’t mean rugga or grid iron codes. One significant fact to note here: Just a couple of seasons before Bale was hailed as a superstar, enough to make Spurs’ enemies put them down as a “one-man team”, he was a lot less celebrated as a jinx — NEVER appearing in a winning Spurs team in 26 matches.

"The face that launched a thousand shits" on his tantrum to get away from Tottenham, August 2013

“The face that launched a thousand shits” on his tantrum to get away from Tottenham, August 2013

Besides, he’s ancient history in terms of Spurs fans so I won’t mention him again. The fact is, in exchange for the 86 million pounds sale price Spurs have been able to draft in striker Roberto Soldado of Spain, winger Nacer Chadli of Belgium (formerly Morocco), utility forward Erik Lamela of Roma, Denmark playmaker Christian Eriksen from Ajax Amsterdam, midfielders Paulinho of Internacional in Brazil and Capoue of France, and centre back Vlad “The Impaler” Chiriches (pronounced “Kiri-kesh”) of Romania/ Transylvania. All are either world class or on the verge of it, and were added to the Spurs mix already enriched by almost-as-recent imports: attacking midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson from Iceland, ditto Anglo-German Lewis Holtby, box-to-box midfielder Moussa Dembele of Belgium, and also from Belgium, ball-playing centre-back Jan Vertonghen of Ajax. So they are now far from the “one-man team” derided by over-stuffed Premier League clubs backed by multi-billionaires: Manchester Utd, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, who pick themselves each season for the top 4 positions, aided by the media, referees (who awarded 11 penalties to Arsenal last season to Spurs’ none), and others collaborating in the cartel. Coincidentally, with all this collusion Arsenal, Spurs’ virulent North London rivals, have “defeated” their neighbors by a whole one point the past two seasons after initially falling far behind.

Soldado, one of a plethora of great Spanish strikers in the world, is 28. The others were all 24 or younger. The two greatest prospects, Lamela of Argentina and Eriksen of Denmark, are just 21 and both already have oodles of experience at top club and international level representing their countries. Lamela by himself is claimed by many to be almost a like-for-like replacement for that Welsh fella who left (given that he’s three years younger and still has plenty of room for development), and Eriksen a replacement for that Croatian who left last season for Real (so-called Royal) Madrid to set the precedent that threatens to deepen into a well-worn path.

Readers might be forgiven for thinking Spurs have become a “feeder” club for Real Madrid, who lately (though inferior to Barcelona and workers’ favorite Atletico Madrid) have been acting like you’d expect of the pampered pussies of abolute rulers, including long-time hated fascist dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco (1936-75). Under a gentleman’s friendship agreement between the two clubs forged two seasons ago, Real has, against FIFA rules, pressured Spurs into giving up their prize players — lovingly nurtured from nobodies into superstar players by Spurs training staff — by “touching them up”, approaching the players outside of proper channels and promising the earth. At the beginning of the past two seasons these two key players (in turn) disrupted the first month’s program of matches for Tottenham Hotspur, refusing to play for their own team — Spurs — and digging their heels in until let go to Real, said to be the dream destination of all professional players worldwide, more than Manchester United. Rather incongruously, Real Madrid happens to be the wealthiest club in the world, lording it over mere peones, who are the Spanish people. To rub it in this year, Real sold its best forward, the Turkish-German Mesut Ozil, to Spurs’ arch-enemies Arsenal instead of giving its supposed “friend” first option. With friends like this who needs sworn enemies? Somewhat less than junior partners in this arrangement, Spurs fans have begun to conclude that they are the fall guys to strong-arm fascist tactics in an unconsenting bondage-and-discipline tryst, to put it politely; otherwise, royally screwed by sneak attack.

Having been a Spurs follower (not quite fanatic enough for a fan) since the mid Sixties, I am here to report that the outflux of bad blood and influx of new has revitalised the team squad into the strongest I have ever seen it since that time half a century ago. And the speed is close to a miracle: two months during the transfer window closed Monday 2nd September 2013. This compares to the classic latter 1960s team (compiled slowly after the famous 1960-61 Double Team “died overnight”) when it took two to three years for a stonking good team to gather around striker superstar Jimmy Greaves and legendary halfback Dave MacKay, in and out of the team with two broken legs: goalie Pat Jennings; fullbacks Cyril Knowles, Joe Kinnear and Phil Beal; centre-half Mike England, wing-half/capt Alan Mullery; goal-scoring inside-forward Alan Gilzean. The wing conundrum never was fully solved, plugged for many years by ageing flying Welshman Cliff Jones with part-timers like Jimmy Robertson and Frank Saul, and inconsistent inside-forward Terry Venables; and great classic centre-forward Bobby Smith was never even half replaced until Martin Chivers came right in the early Seventies.

Over the past seven or eight seasons Tottenham Hotspur have only finished out of the top 5 in the 20-strong English Premier League once or twice, but all but one time have been cheated one way or another out of competing in the Champions League — the prime showplace for top European teams. This is about to change.

Congrats to head coach Andre Villas-Boas, technical director Baldini, chairman Daniel Levy and controlling shareholder Joe Lewis, all of whom have contributed to make this possible. This article has been written without reference to notes or research sources so apologies for any omissions.

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SPORTS REVIEW — ENGLISH FOOTBALL (SOCCER): THE BEAUTIFUL GAME?

In art, sport, television on August 15, 2011 at 10:41 am

After watching last year’s World Cup on tv, I could swear English soccer is a different game. Having just seen several of the opening games of English Premier League (2011-12), featuring its top teams, I am already beginning to regret signing up for Sky Sports (at a steep extra $26 a month). And it’s not all because the first home match of my favorite team was postponed due to the ‘Tottenham’ Riots of August 7th.

I can see why the English Premier League is called the toughest in the world. Any number of brilliant players from overseas are forced to play the English way — faster, more physical, and less skilfull, typically pushing the ball and running in hope. Or lofting the ball far upfield, often to no one in particular as a (low) percentage shot. Of the ones who choose to tone down their skills for the English game, many still never adapt and end up labeled failures — until they are sold back to any one of approximately 200 countries where The Beautiful Game is played.

Of those who stay on and “tough it out”, injuries lasting three to five months through the prime of a nine-month season are becoming more and more the norm. Of course, English players too are more prone to injuries in the modern game. There’s only so much punishment week in, week out, that flesh and bone can stand. Even a moderately successful Premier League side will play the required 38 league games, plus a run of up to half a dozen FA Cup games, the same number of Carling Cup games, and maybe up to ten or a dozen games in European competition.

Under these conditions it is no surprise that, for example, Tottenham Hotspur, that rarely faces European competition, has no less than 22 full international players in its squad of 33, quality players from an array of countries — most of whom will spend months on the bench, loaned out to other teams, or injured, without the fans getting to see them. A sighting of these top-quality international players — Spurs fans can name them from Mexico, Russia, Croatia and Brazil — in a Tottenham jersey is about as rare as a 14-year-old virgin.

So having watched the opening games of Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal on the first day, from whom great things are expected this season, there was no beauty on display, rarely even any excitement. It was 31 minutes, as told by the commentators before Chelsea’s $100 million superstar (Torres of Spain) lodged his team’s first serious shot at goal. Manchester Utd’s game, that was at least energetic and worthwhile to watch (thanks mainly to their opponents West Bromwich Albion), though I didn’t manage all of it, was won by a fluke goal that ricocheted in off a defender. This most famous football team in the world has many ways of being favored — and will probably win again this year, just because it’s expected. How powerful in the everyday ways of the world is the devious power of suggestion… Thanks be to the gods of football that when they came up against Barcelona a few months ago to play The Beautiful Game it was outside of England and with a non-British referee. Manchester Utd had no answer, just as the England team never does in the World Cup, all things being equal.

A day later I have watched Manchester City’s opening game, to confirm that this ‘ennui’ is a trend in English football. Sure enough, this most expensive team in Europe — from whom such great things are dreamt — in a home game took an hour to score against Swansea City, in their first first match ever in the Premier League. Highlight of the game — the magnificent performance and cat-like reactions of the young Swansea City goalie!!!

PHOTO: The better to ward off increasingly common season-long injuries. The future of English football with its physicality?

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