Filed: Friday, 15th August 2014
By: Preview Percy
We tried to find someone new to write these during the close season. We really did. Honest. Unfortunately, we seem to be lumbered with Preview Percy for another 10 months. Werther's at the ready then......
Welcome to 2014/15. Yes already.
The fixture computer operated by those nice people at Atos has thrown up an odd one a we start off at the Boleyn in the same manner as we finished there last season with the visit of Tottenham Hotspur. Kick off is the traditional 3pm this Saturday and, also in keeping with tradition, there are engineering works to cope with. No District line between Aldgate East & Bromley By Bow or between Barking & Upminster is the order of the day. Check afore ye leave.
Ah Tottenham. Our special needs acquaintances with dandruff from North London. Bless 'em. They tried to buy the Boleyn Ground last season you know. Now I'm all for people trying to better themselves and I know we're leaving the place but we do have a duty to the neighbours we're leaving behind. A straw poll of those living in the area showed that the idea of Spurs moving in came joint third alongside “Shrine to the wit, intelligence and honesty of Piers Morgan” in the list of potential options for the use of the place after we move out. (“Nuclear Waste Treatment Plant” and “Ebola quarantine centre” were numbers 1 & 2 in that list respectively if you're interested).
Spurs finished 6th last season, thanks in no small measure to Man Utd's spending of much of last year wandering around in a daze. They have therefore qualified for the qualifying stages of the poisoned chalice that is the Thursday Night League, where they face AEL Limassol in a playoff for the league stages. That's one half of Green Lanes empty that night then.
Usually at this point I sling in a few words about current form and league positioning. I guess they're joint bottom in what looks like a 20-way relegation battle at the moment. Eyebrows were raised at the first XI squad beating of Celtic 6-1 in a pre-season match in Finland a few weeks back. It seemed a remarkable result even allowing for the fact that Scottish football really is that bad. However, closer inspection showed that Celtic were too concerned with so-called Champions League qualifiers to send over more than a few first team players. The tournament sponsors were livid: “It was disrespectful to Finnish football fans to send over such a squad” they said, adding (possibly) “we weren't over happy with Celtic either”. Of course in the end it transpired Celtic could have sent their 1st XI over after all, thanks to Legia's paperwork faux-pas.
There have been a few changes at White Hart Lane since last season. These start at the top where Mauricio Pochettino became one of the thousands to have left Southampton during the summer. Pochettino replaced the hapless Tim Sherwood in the close season and becomes their third manager in a year, with Weirdbead The Strange aka Anders Villas Boas being in charge this time last year.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, given that all the space on every boat, train, car and tandem out of Southampton was booked by premier league footballers months ago, Spurs have been linked with refugees from whatever it is that is going on down there at St Mary's. The two biggest links involved defender Morgan Schneiderlin and striker Jay Rodriguez. Both have been told that they won't be allowed to leave the South coast so, at time of writing anyway, they join the long list of players that Spurs “nearly” signed over the years. Schneiderlin has, for his part, been doing his best to get away telling his employers that he is “mentally unfit” to play. An ideal candidate for White Hart Lane then.
They've looked abroad for the few signings they have brought in thus far - especially if you count Wales as foreign climes. Which most rational people do. The M4 has been a bit busier than usual of late as officials and players shuttled between London and Swansea. In came left-back Ben Davies whose transfer apparently cost Spurs one Gylfi Sigurdsson. I'd like to think that the swap took place in the middle of the Severn Bridge at 3am with glowering armed soldiers overlooking the swap, but I don't expect it did.
They also spent an undisclosed amount (possibly £3.5m) on Swansea 'keeper Michael Vorm. This seems an odd one to me. With Hugo Lloris – who was single handedly responsible for keeping the score respectable in the corresponding fixture last term - having signed a long term deal, Vorm seems to have signed up for a spell on Spurs' bench in between Thursday Night League and League Cup engagements. That transfer has caused a bit of a ruckus over in Utrecht who claim that they are owed 30% of whatever Spurs paid. Swansea haven't paid over anything and the argument continues to rumble, with Utrecht crying foul over what they claim has been some creative accounting on Swansea's part.
The third arrival is 20 year-old defender Eric Dier who apparently impressed in a friendly against our chums from Schalke at the weekend, gaining a few MOTM plaudits in the process. He has an odd back story. Born in Cheltenham he is the grandson of the late FA Secretary Ted Croker. He moved to Portugal aged 10 when his mum got a job out there and he came within radar range of Sporting Lisbon's youth set-up. When he was 16 mum and dad came home but he stayed behind in Lisbon where he signed professional terms. Bizarrely, at one point he was 50% owned by an outfit called “Quality Football (Ireland) Limited” one of a labyrinthine group of companies involved in owning the economic rights to various players across Europe. By the time he had been flogged to Spurs for a rumoured £4m, however, Sporting had bought back the 50% of rights to the player that they didn't already hold. Meanwhile, Quality Football (Ireland) Limited have denied any involvement in the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered, pointig out that the first name of the company is “Quality”.
The most recent deal involves the strangely-named DeAndre Yedlin. Yedlin signed for an undisclosed fee but won't arrive at White Hart Lane until next year, having been loaned back to Seattle Sounders whence he came. Yedlin's first club was Emerald City which of course is the capital of Oz. At a mere 5ft 8 tall he probably counted as a munchkin at the time. His time there should have prepared him well for joining Spurs, from whose fans the refrain “If I Only Had A Brain” is often heard. Usually seconds after pressing the “send” button on twitter.
This time last season of course they had spent something like £100m, about a quarter of which went on Roberto Soldado. Now I know every time I write one of these about Spurs you can guarantee that at least one of their supporters will add something to the comments bit at the bottom and make a tit of themselves. But nobody in their wildest dreams would have thought that the Darwin Award candidate for the corresponding fixture last season would do so by claiming that Soldado's 2013/14 season was some sort of rip-roaring success after I had the temerity to point out his appearance in one of the broadsheets' “10 worst signings of the season” list.
You see I'd got it all wrong. Soldado had scored 13 (actually 11 but let's nor split hairs). The reason that I (and the Telegraph) were so wrong was that this total was 11 (9 actually) more than our own main striker had managed. A quick run through the figures by our new work experience kid (this year's one is not spotty though she does have an inordinate number of rings through her lips) showed that of those 11 real goals, only 6 came in the league and of those only 2 weren't penalties.
So, to summarise, the player who wasn't a flop last season scored exactly the same number of goals from open play as a player who spent six months of the season injured. Or, to put it into perspective, Soldado scored one less league goal (including penalties) than our skipper, who isn't actually a striker. £26m well spent then. Meanwhile I'd like to deny that these previews are all about making Spurs fans look daft. They don't need my help.
Ok now for us. Pre-season is of course all about performances, building up fitness levels and bedding in the new boys. Results are always secondary, which is probably just as well. Our performances over the past few weeks have ranged from the encouraging (as against Sampdoria) to the dispiriting (Malaga).
We've been pleasingly active on the transfer front. In midfield we welcome Cheikhou Kouyate. The 24 year-old is a compatriot of Mo Diame with whom he might be said to be in competition for a start. Kouyate came in for an undisclosed fee from Anderlecht.
Full-backs were said to be a pressing need at the end of the season. We brought two in, those being Aaron Cresswell from Ipswich, and Carl Jenkinson, who arrived on a season-long loan from Arsenal.
Cresswell came in after three well-regarded seasons with the Tractor Boys, who he joined from Tranmere in 2011. The 24 year-old commanded a fee of £3.75m in the summer and should be available for selection despite a precautionary substitution in last week's friendly against Sampdoria.
Jenkinson, on the other hand, has succumbed to a traditional curse. I'm old. Very old. I go back a long way but even I cannot remember a summer which didn't include at least one new signing falling injured in pre-season. I suppose it just wouldn't be West Ham if that didn't happen. Jenkinson picked up a hamstring strain on the trip to Germany but it's suggested that he'll be ready in a couple of weeks.
In midfield we have seen the arrival of Diego Poyet. Poyet is the son of Sunderland boss Gus, who wound down his playing career at White Hart Lane and spent a spell on the management staff there as assistant to Juande Ramos. Although born in Spain, Poyet junior has represented England at junior age levels, though through family ties he can also play for the country of his birth (Spain) or that of his Dad (Uruguay). Junior came in at the expiry of his contract with Charlton and an undisclosed compensation figure was agreed with the Addicks, the player's age preventing him from coming in on a free in the same manner as older players whose contracts expire.
Further forward it's enter Enner. Enner Valencia to be precise. Valencia has come in from Mexican outfit Pachuca. We are rumoured to have shelled out £12.5m for the Ecuadorian, who scored three goals for his country in the World Cup. You may recall he was also on target for Ecuador in the 1-0 defeat of England in the warm-up match that took place in Miami. We haven't seen much of Valencia in pre-season with Mr Allardyce asserting that the player is some “three weeks behind” where he wants him to be fitness-wise. The player of course disagrees and is champing at the bit to play. At the very outside a spot on the bench may be the best we can expect of him this weekend. Probably just as well. If he annoys the visiting support, on past form the Mayor of Valencia could expect a few abusive tweets.
Also up front we have secured the services of Mauro Zarate. Zarate is familiar to SuGo and she who I suppose we must now refer to as Lady Brady from a decent loan spell with Birmingham City during their tenure there. At 5ft 9 ½ he's more in the Craig Bellamy mould than than the Andy Carroll. Regular readers will be aware of my opinion that we have never successfully replaced Bellamy so it is to be hoped that we use him in the correct manner. The pre-season footage that the work experience kid with an inordinate number of rings through her lips showed me on her computer suggests that playing him on his own up front would be a waste and, whilst his first half pairing with dear old Carlton Cole last weekend was far from what you might be able to call “a partnership,” it was clear that Zarate looked more effective with someone else up there with him.
We're still waiting on another striker, the deal for Sakho having gone pear shaped and with Sunderland wanting a small nation's defence budget for Wickham. Actually the work experience kid with an inordinate number of rings through her lips is earning the non-existent wages we pay her this week with the stop press news that Sahko has now signed after all. £3.5m seems to be the consensus amongst the papers. I do wish they'd make up their minds. It's a real pain when the signing occurs halfway through a paragraph. Mr Allardyce has a tendency to want his players to have put in a certain amount of pre-season work before he selects them – hence the doubts over the availability for selection of Valencia. So whether or not we see Sakho is going to be dependent on how much fitness he managed to get from the French pre-season.
Prediction? Well I believe that the accepted term for last season is that Spurs were our ”bitches”.There was a suggestion that for future matches against us they should merge with someone like GB&I did with Europe to make the Ryder Cup more competitive. However, Leyton Orient turned them down. Can they be as awful again this season? Possibly. Their signings have not been particularly inspiring and Defoe, their one genuine proven goalscorer of the last few years (that's Defoe not Solgado, Spurs fans) departed for a final payday in Canada earlier this year.
Against that it's the start of the season and we will be fielding a few players who won't have worked out how easy it is to beat Spurs yet. Pochettino will also have a bit more about him than the previous incumbent to the role, Sherwood's main tactical input each week being the big decisions on whether a) he should watch from the dugout or the stands; and b)whether he should cover his eyes completely or watch through his fingers.
Although there's no real form to go by I have a feeling that they'll raise their game for this one as lesser clubs often do so against their betters. I'm therefore going to put the traditional £2.50 out of the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered's collection to buy Spurs fans a twitter directory on a 2-2 draw.
Enjoy the game!
When last we met at the Boleyn: Won 2-0 May 2014. Apparently.They kind blur into one these victories but a Kane og and a Downing free-kick did the trick this time around.
Referee: Chris Foy Yup, the same person that Spurs supporters seem to think is a knight of the realm famed for propelling velocipedes about the place. Easy mistake to make. If you're simple. Talking of referees I see Howard Webb has been made technical director at PGMOL. That'll involve telling referees how to lie to save your own skin then. The appointment is a bit like making Tony Blair a Middle East Peace Envoy. That job's going well isn't it.
Danger Man:Harry Kane Young striker who will be wanting to score at the right end this time round.
Daft fact of the week: Spurs have won only once on the opening day of the season since 2003/04.That win came last season against Palace. When Tony Pulis heard about this he instantly resigned out of shame even though he wasn't actually Palace boss at the time.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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