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How Spurs Are Like England

Photo by kelp1966

As I was watching Spurs play Real Madrid, the missus wandered in the room and sat down. She knows little about football and could care less about it. But like all Geordies, she knows the basics having been weaned on Newcastle United’s bitter tears along with mothers milk.

Without paying much attention she says, ‘Is that England playing?’

‘No it’s Spurs,’ I say, pointing to the top left of the screen which was reading 2- 0 to Real Madrid at the time.

‘Oh, well it looks like England. They seem to be thrashing around and panicking just like England.’

Out of the mouths of babes and non-football partners do some truths emerge.

I fear this was a sub-conscious prophecy for the days when Harry Redknapp takes over as England manager

After she’d said this, I couldn’t shake the idea.

Inability to hold the ball? Check.

Desperate last-ditch defending? Check.

Limited tactics? Check.

Panicking when on the ball? Check.

Booting the ball long just to clear it and losing possession? Check.

Players losing their cool and needlessly, stupidly getting sent off? Check.

Totally outplayed and dominated by a superior side? Check.

It was EXACTLY like watching England play a top side, the gulf in technique and class all too evident. Having an English manager, such an obsession for many of Capello and Eriksson’s critics, makes no difference when your players are not good enough. But then throw in some baffling tactical choices such as Bale on the right, Jenas on the field at all and then knocking it high and long for the tiny Defoe to try and hold it and you had a recipe for disaster.

It proved, if proof was needed, that when you’re not good enough, you’re just not good enough, regardless of how good a man-manager or ra-ra merchant the manager might be. Real Madrid had better players and a much better manager; a manager who is a tactical and motivational genius…..the gulf in class on the pitch and on the bench was huge. Had Spurs been England under Capello, the Italian would have been murdered by the media. Redknapp, by contrast, got away with barely any criticism at all. It may well be different matter when he manages England to a similar defeat in a couple of years time.

Editor’s Note: Johnny’s new book: “We Ate All The Pies: How Football Swallowed Britain Whole” is available via Amazon US or Amazon UK.

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  1. Thomas

    April 7, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    The Bale decision was a bit of a head scratcher. But then again, it makes sense considering that he was trying to pin Marcelo deep.

    A better alternative probably would have been to shift Modric wider and let Jenas/Palacios/Sandro make up a more defensive MF 3.

  2. Luka Van Der Bale

    April 7, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Spurs have been poor for weeks now.
    VDV gone off the boil. Bale, Gallas injured on and off for weeks. Lennon sick.
    Way too much to overcome.
    Then to give a way such a soft 1st goal and have Crouch sent off.
    Not a Fn prayer.
    Shame, but we were never gonna win it all.

    More of a shame that Arry thru 4th spot away. Sooner he F;s off to the Engaland job the better.
    Summer must bring in 2 quality strikers and a massive clear out of the
    fringe players.

  3. Guy

    April 7, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    I always enjoy your articles, John, simply because they are from the other side of the pond. Doesn’t mean you’re always right 😉 but they certainly have an immediacy to them with which we Yanks may have difficulty fully appreciating. After all, you are ON the island! 🙂

  4. jameseps

    April 7, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Madrid payroll – 180M; Spurs payroll – 75M. Crouch mistakes, Harry having a bad day (bollixing 3/4 of the mid-field’s players naturual positions), a poor showing from Gomez on the fourth goal – all made it worse. But Spurs was not winning down there in the best case. Still did better than L’Arse with about half the payroll by all accounts.

  5. JMTate

    April 7, 2011 at 10:42 am

    I’m a Spurs supporter – I just didn’t see them out there representing themselves well vs. RM. The entire team looked tentative. They had energy, but it was a nervous type, not a well focused type. To me, it seems that the team needs a confidence boost. Compare this team to the team that played Inter – this was a Spurs team that was absolutely flying. I know they’ve had injuries, but all teams do. To me, they seem to have lost their “swagger”.

    This team, like so many in the EPL, have great talent – they just need to play to their strengths and have the confidence to attack teams on their own terms. Let’s hope they get a booster shot soon.

    • MennoDaddy

      April 7, 2011 at 10:44 am

      Okay, I see your point. They did start out very tentative — and that tentativeness led to an early goal. But once Crouch got sent off, it’s pretty damn hard to play with any composure away to Madrid.

      And I think Schalke proved pretty convincingly that Inter is NOT Madrid.

  6. spurslegend

    April 7, 2011 at 10:32 am

    I agree and disagree in almost equal parts with the article and the comments. I think a lot of the similarities is down to team selection and coaching. Last June Capello chose people by their name and reputation, not by who was fit or made for the best team. Rooney was not playing well and wasn’t fully fit, but as one of Capello’s favorites, he stayed on the pitch and Defoe got the shaft. Capello has learned his lesson (too late) and now selects more English players from across the whole league instead of just from the top four.

    Harry too has his favorites and it also limits him. Why on earth would Jenas get a start above Kranjcar? Kranjcar is not a Harry favorite and keeps getting overlooked in favor of Pieenar, or basically anyone else, just so long as Harry does have to play him (he’d rather play two middle men on the wings, than one Kranjcar. See:Wigan match). Why else does Defoe come on in the second half against Real instead of bringing on Hudd and Niko and going with a stronger five man middle? Because Defoe is a favorite.

    I don’t want to end this on a downer. I’m a huge Spurs fan and like Menno said, Spurs should get credit for making it this far and I’m grateful to Harry for getting the team into the quarter finals. Hopefully they learned from this and bounce back for a strong league finish.

    • MennoDaddy

      April 7, 2011 at 10:42 am

      Kranjcar by all indications had a foot injury suffered in training earlier in the week. That’s why he wasn’t selected. But yes, I have long wondered why Niko doesn’t get a chance out wide.

      • spurslegend

        April 7, 2011 at 8:59 pm

        I had no idea he had an injury. He was listed on the team substitutes list for the match. I assumed he was fit. Bad sports coverage by FSC or Harry just thought, what the hell, I’ll put him on the bench?

        • The Gaffer

          April 7, 2011 at 9:10 pm

          Fox Soccer Channel didn’t say anything about Lennon being injured before the game started, but as soon as the match started, Alan Parry mentioned that Lennon had been pulled out of the team after having a late illness.

          The Gaffer

  7. MennoDaddy

    April 7, 2011 at 9:37 am

    I don’t like this article, and it’s not (just) because I’m a rabid Spurs fan.

    #1 — Tottenham’s good… but this was MADRID. In Madrid. The (arguably) second-best club team in the world behind Barca. Spurs overachieved to get here in the first place, and so to expect them to realistically get a result at the Bernabeu is folly at best. Sure, we all HOPED that would be the case, but show me a Spurs fan who really believed we could escape Spain with a win.

    #2 — See above. Now try to do the same with ten men. All the things you listed above — the last ditch defending, the panicking on the ball, the long clears — can be rationally attributed to an outclassed side playing in a hostile stadium down a man. Crouch was a bonehead, true.

    England has its problems, sure, first and foremost being that national side isn’t nearly as good as what they think they are (or should be). That’s not the case here. Considering the spate of injuries going into this match, and the manner in which Spurs had to play with one (metaphorical) hand behind their backs after Crouch went off to eat his nachos, I don’t think the analogy fits. At all. If you’re holding Spurs up to the same standard that the British media holds the national team, then you’re doing Spurs (and England) a great disservice.

    Spurs are a better team than they showed yesterday. And even so, I thought they defended heroically. Gallas and Dawson were pretty solid the entire match, as was Gomes, under immense pressure. I wish Spurs would have gone out against Madrid with a full-strength side playing their best against Madrid’s best, but as disappointed as I am behind the results on Tuesday, this has been a glorious European campaign for Spurs and they deserve plenty of credit for making it this far.

    • El Tri 2014

      April 7, 2011 at 12:12 pm

      This was an ultimate match up for Spurs, not because it was Real but because they had the second leg in this tie.

      Einstein’s game plan, yeah, we’ll never win at Madrid, but we can tie, or keep it a 1-0 or 2-0 game. Maybe even just 1-1. And Aloha baby, a fantastic Weds. night in London, they Spurs fans rabid and spinning in their seats, with Bale, Van der Vaart and Lennon ready to wrest the second leg from Real’s short and stubby fingers.

      Alas, Lennon was too ill to start and Crouchy threw a monkeywrench into Einstein’s plan but it was good while it lasted. Then came the pain.

  8. Carmello

    April 7, 2011 at 9:37 am

    Leave it to me to botch up that whole message.

    It shouldn’t say “bad at him”. It should say “mad”…

    Comedy fail.

  9. Carmello

    April 7, 2011 at 9:35 am

    I thought I’d share a hysterical couple of text messages my cousin Tyler, and fellow Spurs fan, sent me the morning after the big debacle.

    Tyler: “I was so angry at Crouchy, I couldn’t believe what he did. How could a pro do that?”

    Me: “I think it was frustration over going behind so early. But right when he did it, I knew he was done. Loved Jose consoling him. But how about Marcelo cheering at Crouch’s send off?”

    Tyler: “Yeah I have never liked Marcelo. But like you can’t do that, you’re a forward. You can’t get sent off in fifteen minutes, it’s impossible. He gave us no chance and I’m so bad a him Hahahahahaha it’s personal!”

    Cracked me up how worked up he got hahahaha.

  10. Evan

    April 7, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Spurs are sh*t and always will be

    • SpursUSA

      April 7, 2011 at 10:43 am

      Very nice gooner did that take both your brain cells to write.

  11. brn442

    April 7, 2011 at 9:12 am

    Teams have bad days – ask Internazionale, the defending champions. Spurs making it this far in their CL debut with some entertaining displays and scalps along the way was a joy to watch.

    The comparison with England is simply off. The major mistake Harry made was bringing Defoe on at the half; he should have put Spurs in a more defensive shape and try to get back to England with a salvable tie.

    The irony is, you are doing what the English Press in their hubris, are usually criticized for doing. Expecting an admittedly inferior team to be entitled to a result because they are English.

  12. Jake

    April 7, 2011 at 8:48 am

    jenas has never been good enough and never will be.

  13. alabamabob

    April 7, 2011 at 8:46 am

    please someone explain to me why Bale was on the right?

    • Carmello

      April 7, 2011 at 9:30 am

      Absolutely baffling. I can’t tell if this was Harry compensating for Lennon’s last minute absence, or Harry trying to fool Jose. Either way, it was a terrible decision.

      • Dave C

        April 7, 2011 at 11:48 am

        Trying to pin back Marcelo. Marcelo is much more of an attacking threat than Sergio Ramos, so I think the idea was to give him something to worry about defensively so that he would gallop forward with such ease. Unfortunately, Bale can’t really play on the right, so playing him there was a waste (hence Harry put him back on the left eventually).

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