Tag Archives: Gareth Bale

Madrid Prospect Kanes Arsenal as Spurs Record Rare Derby Win – by Rob Atkinson

Plucky Spuds Kick Arse

Plucky Spuds Kick Arse

Young Harry Kane, the latest product to roll off the Real Madrid talent production line in London N17, is certainly making a case for being able to join Gareth Bale at Tottenham’s mother club sooner, rather than later.

Two opportunist second-half strikes were enough to sink a below-par Arsenal, the Kings of London never quite managing to get into their usual regal stride. Kane’s first goal was an object lesson in instinctive movement and being in the right place at the right time, as the ball zipped across Arsenal’s goal line. Kane found himself in space beyond the far post and finished adroitly. The winner was simply wonderful, a back-pedalling Kane somehow managing to rise to a steepling cross and punch the ball squarely with his forehead to drop into the Gunners’ net.

In the first half, Özil had given the Arse an early lead somewhat against the run of play. Arsenal had other chances, but lacked bite and cohesion. The result, in the end, was a fair one and Spurs now stand a point ahead of their hated rivals – something to look fondly back on at the end of the season when they have been eclipsed yet again by the Emirates men.

Spurs’ umpteenth failure to qualify for the Champions League may not – quite yet – cost them the services of Harry Kane. But the writing is already on the wall; Tottenham are simply not big enough for such a talent and Kane’s imminent international preferment will only make that more blindingly obvious.

For Arsenal, this was just a bad day at the office. They can and will recover; a glance at their remaining fixtures as compared to those of Spurs will make it clear that the Gunners are destined to finish as North London top dogs yet again. But that alone will not heal the wounds inflicted at the Lane today.

The Arse will be able to comfort themselves by winning the war despite losing this battle – and by the fact that they will not have to face local derby opposition that includes Harry Kane, the latest potential Wunderkind headed inevitably for the Bernebeu and the higher-class environment of la Liga.

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Sherwood an Aptly Mediocre Appointment for Fading Spurs – by Rob Atkinson

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Hmm, I’ve got the job, then. Now what?

The news of Tim Sherwood‘s appointment as Tottenham manager, some say until the end of next season, will come as a surprise to many, a shock to some and confirmation of Spurs’ continuing decline to the knowledgeable few.  To say that the response of the White Hart Lane faithful is unenthusiastic is to be extremely charitable.  The Spurs fans are trying to put a brave face on the whole matter, trying to understand what is going on behind Daniel Levy‘s petulantly dissatisfied expression – but you can tell that deep down inside, they’re glumly watching the big clubs disappearing over a distant horizon which, not so long ago, represented the tantalisingly attainable Promised Land for North London’s second club.

As I’ve previously written, the failure of Spurs to pip Arsenal to Champions League qualification was the death-knell to their immediate ambitions of being a truly big club themselves.  It wasn’t an easy opportunity to miss; Spurs had been in a great position – seemingly almost home and dry.  And yet, against the odds, they managed to achieve failure from out of the very jaws of success.  They contrived somehow to squander their best chance of dining at the top table, and thereby put the tin lid on any chance of Gareth Bale (or “Spurs” as he was widely known last season) wasting any more of his meteoric career yearning for a team to suit his talent.  So it’s likely to be a diet of crumbs for Spurs from now on, especially if they manage to miss out on Europe altogether next season – a distinct possibility for the envious mid-table outfit.  It’s this kind of losing habit that has seen an allegedly major club fail to win a League Title for over half a century.

There is, it appears, a subtext behind the appointment of Sherwood, and the gist of what’s to be read between the lines is: “Louis van Gaal (nod, wink) … after the World Cup, of course … keep it under your hat, old fellow.”  Quite why a coach with the reputation of van Gaal would want to move from a post with one of Europe’s better national sides, to take up the reins of a London club in the perpetual shadow of giants Arsenal, is not explained.  The additional niggle that Spurs will probably be Champions League onlookers again, with all the top players studiously avoiding eye contact when a move to N17 is mooted, is hardly likely to help turn fanciful ambition into blessed reality.  World-class coaches are hard to recruit for urchin clubs who have their noses permanently pressed up against the sweet-shop window, whilst the rich kids gorge inside.

Spurs may after all find themselves having to grant Tim Sherwood his desired longer-term contract, something that is currently causing Daniel Levy to wear an expression even more pained and long-suffering than usual.  Levy’s desire for a cheap stop-gap appointment, prior to a high-profile swoop after the summer’s shenanigans in Brazil, may well be thwarted by circumstances beyond even his control.  How ironic it would be if it turned out that AVB had been made to walk the plank, only for it to transpire that the newly-promoted 3rd mate can’t even navigate, causing the ship to founder for want of an experienced presence on the bridge.  3rd Mate Sherwood’s total lack of impressive top-level qualifications, or indeed any real experience, is worrying more than a few with the club’s best interests at heart – and I find it rather puzzling, too.

What seems certain is that Sherwood, for all his fighting talk of wanting to be at the helm for ten years, is in Levy’s confused mind very much of a short-term, dodgy quality option for the here and now – with the indistinct future more a subject for wishful thinking.  After all, a slightly scratchy win at Southampton seems an odd basis for what is a crucial appointment; there is an air of the knee-jerk about it, a feeling of sticking plasters being applied to an arterial gusher that threatens to bleed Tottenham’s season dry.  Arsenal’s current minor stumble is but cold comfort to any Spurs fan with clear vision and a nose for stormy weather approaching.   The Gunners still seem set fair for a continuation of their top four habit at the very least, whilst there is no sign of any significant improvement in Spurs’ own more modest possibilities.  Sherwood as boss is no more and no less than a chilling confirmation of those uncomfortable, unpalatable facts.  It’s not going to be a very Happy New Year for the fans of North London’s also-rans.

Time to Do Away With Megabucks Ownership and Let Fans Run Clubs – by Rob Atkinson

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Vincent Tan: clueless

The time is fast approaching when the people who know what the game in this country is all about, are going to have to stand up and be counted.  I mean, of course, the fans – and I write in the full awareness that too much standing up can lead to you being evicted from some of the more authoritarian clubs in the various leagues.  But this type of standing up would be symbolic.  It would send out a signal that we, the fans, have had enough of clueless owners and chairmen manking about with our game.

In the last week or so, it’s been carnage in the Premier League alone.  Steve Clarke of West Bromwich Albion has been sacked, a decision that makes lighting that extra boiler to get a few more leagues of speed out of the “Titanic” seem like a model of sober judgement.  Andre Villas-Boas has gone too, a victim of his club’s failure to hang on to their star performer from last season, Gareth Bale.  Anyone who saw the look on the face of Danial Levy during Spurs’ 5-0 demolition by Liverpool would not have given much for AVB’s chances of avoiding the pre-Christmas axe.  Meanwhile, up in Hull, battle-scarred old warhorse Steve Bruce is having to hide behind a sickly grin and pretend that it’s OK that Hull’s megalomanic owner, Assem Allam, is planning to trample all over the finer feelings of City’s support by forcing through a name change to Hull Tigers whilst inviting those who vociferously object to “die as soon as they like”. Tigers, Tigers, rah, rah, rah!

And now we have the news that Cardiff City’s clueless owner Vincent Tan has told his successful manager Malky Mackay – a hero to the Cardiff fans, and rightly so – to either resign, or be sacked.  Presumably Mr Tan feels that Mackay has been interfering too much in team affairs, and not listening to the vast wisdom of one V. Tan Esquire.  Who does this jumped-up little pro think he is, after all? Doesn’t he know whose toy Cardiff City is??

In truth, it’s beyond a joke already.  Good, honest pros are at the mercy of clueless amateurs whose only qualifications to be where they are in the football hierarchy are a stuffed wallet and a fool’s ego.  It’s way past time that somebody, somewhere, got a few people of common sense and influence together – or failing that, the likes of Bobby Charlton and Trevor Brooking would do – and set to discussing an alternative model for the game in England – before these spoiled, rich-kid charlatans ruin it beyond repair.

You wouldn’t have to look far to find that alternative model.  Go East, young man – cast your eye and focus your thoughts across the North Sea and look how things are run in the Bundesliga of good old Deutschland. Wonderful stadia with safe standing, reasonable ticket prices, a fantastic league nurturing a successful national team – and the fans involved at every level, helping make the decisions that ultimately affect them, for the good of all – not just some bloated plutocrat with a brain full of damp rot and the arrogant belief that wealth justifies autocracy.

Football in this country has a long history of being in thrall to a clutch of well-to-do local businessmen, but at least there was a hint of democracy in the old-style board of directors.  Now it’s CEO’s here and Directors of Football there, and all frantically knuckling their brows to whichever barmy billionaire sits on top of the whole creaky edifice.  They say with power comes responsibility, but not in English football.  No, sir.  These people delegate the responsibility whilst hanging on to the power.  They hire and they fire and then they do it all over again.  As the process goes on, so the credibility of the game diminishes – what’s the reaction of the fan in the street when he hears that an excellent coach like Steve Clarke has been sacked before the season is half-over?  Why, they laugh derisively, clearly unaware of the respect due to some stockbroker and investment banker who happens to own most of West Brom – despite being unburdened by any knowledge of the game.

Sadly, it looks nigh-on impossible to transform our game into anything resembling its efficiently-successful German counterpart.  Too many vested interests, too much money involved – and far too many tender, fat, sleek egos which demand to be stroked and adored whilst being party to amateurish decisions that would shame a Tory minister.  So it looks as though we’ll have to put up with what we’re reluctantly witnessing happen – and resign ourselves to the game here become ever more like the franchise system of American Football.  Yay.

When’s the next home Ashes series, anyone?

New Life in Madrid for Bale as Spurs Face Old Realities Nearer Home

Bale Bails Out

Bale Bails Out

The least surprising transfer of the summer has finally been completed as Gareth Bale secured his longed-for move to the Bernebeu to become Real Madrid’s latest galáctico and thus deprive Spurs of roughly 50% of last year’s total team effectiveness.  The price varies according to which source you read, but it’s an eye-watering figure which Spurs have already spent on half a dozen or so players in the hope that quantity may in some measure replace quality.  It remains to be seen how Bale will fare at a big club, but his is a spectacular talent which arguably deserves a much bigger stage.

Spurs meanwhile, having resigned themselves some time ago to the loss of their talisman, turned out at The Emirates yesterday with their friends in the media explaining to anyone who would listen that – despite their Bale-less attacking threat – they were now much better placed than opponents Arsenal to achieve success this season.  The new definition of success in these commercialised Murdoch days is, of course, a top four finish: gone are the days when fans might argue about who will win what trophy.  Now it’s all about whether your favourite club can qualify for the Champions League, and how many millions that will net.  That those millions will for the most part disappear into the bank accounts of their overpaid heroes is a point that apparently does not faze today’s Premier League fan.

The media as an entity appears to have a problem with Arsenal, and they seem disposed to address this by making more of a fuss of Tottenham than such a pallid power really merit.  The BBC in particular sound almost plaintive when they reflect on the fact that Arsenal’s recent Champions League qualifications have been at the expense of Spurs and their assertions that things might now be different – with a new-look Tottenham transcending tired old Arsenal – tend to be accompanied by a collective stamp of the foot and sullen pout. But all the media posturing in the world will not change a thing on the field, and it was on the immaculate turf of the magnificent home of Arsenal that Spurs yesterday received a lesson in how little things have changed where the balance of power in North London is concerned.

After an adrenalin-fueled bright opening, Spurs were never really at the races in this latest derby.  Once Arsenal had ridden out that initial flurry their own game took effortless control – helped by the fact that they had taken the lead while the tide was still slightly against them.  A gorgeous move from centre midfield across to the right found Tomas Rosicky in acres of space and he used it to full effect with a penetrating low cross into the box.  And there was Olivier Giroud darting towards the near post to beat Hugo Lloris with a sweet finish from the outside of his left foot, finding the tiniest gap between the hapless ‘keeper and the upright to give Arsenal the lead.

For the rest of the first half, Arsenal threatened to increase their advantage against a Spurs side knocked out of their early, optimistic stride.  After the interval, the away side began to make their presence more effectively felt, pressing Arsenal back in search of a point at least.  But although there were alarms, and despite quite intense late pressure as the the home team defended in depth, the breakthrough failed to appear.

Tottenham could have no real complaints about the result, and may reflect by way of consolation that at least they didn’t ship five this time, as on the last two visits to The Emirates.  Arsenal have an altogether more positive world view today; three derby points in the bag, ahead of Spurs in the table as they finished last season, and today they appear to have made a transfer statement as well, with the pending capture of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid – a transfer that may, ironically, have been made possible by Tottenham’s failure to hang on to Bale.

Players come and players go as millions upon millions change hands in the transfer market.  But a happy Arsene Wenger may well reflect today that some things are less susceptible to change, Arsenal’s dominance of North London being one among them.  Ozil will add considerably to the Gunners’ ammunition and firing power, just as the loss of Bale will inevitably weaken Spurs.  It’s been a good weekend after all for the Gooners.