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Spurs Armchair Diary

Year 2008/2009   (Phespirit supports Tottenham Hotspur F.C. from the comfort of his armchair)

Spurs Armchair Diary, season 2008/2009. Since the last awful trophy-winning season, out go three goalkeepers (Robinson, Cerny, Forecast), three defenders (Kaboul, Chimbonda, Gardner), two midfielders (Malbranque, Tainio) and one-and-a-half strikers (Keane, with Berbatov to follow). In come Gomes in goal, Modric in midfield, plus Bentley and Dos Santos in midfield or attack. It looks a mess. Pre-season has been outstanding, but experienced Spurs-watchers know better than to trust it.
2008/2009 Final position:   F.A. Premiership - 8th

Saturday 20 June 2009   [14:30 BST]

The season ends with a 3-1 defeat at Liverpool (last season ended with a defeat at home to Liverpool; next season begins with a match at home to Liverpool) and so Spurs finish eighth, just a couple of points outside the Europa League qualification places. That stupid late defeat from a winning position away to Blackburn seemed likely to be costly at the time, and so it has proved.

1. Manchester United   (played 38, 90pts, +44)
2. Liverpool   (played 38, 86pts, +50)
3. Chelsea   (played 38, 83pts, +44)
4. Arsenal   (played 38, 72pts, +31)
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5. Everton   (played 38, 63pts, +18)
6. Aston Villa   (played 38, 62pts, +6)
7. Fulham   (played 38, 53pts, +5)
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8. Tottenham Hotspur   (played 38, 51pts, 0)
9. West Ham United   (played 38, 51pts, -3)
10. Manchester City   (played 38, 50pts, +8)

On a positive note, the club has come along way since the diary entry of 26th October 2008. That was not a gratuitously pessimistic sulk - things really did appear that bad at the time, with no solution seeming possible by any means. Grudging credit to Daniel Levy for recognising that his misguided decisions had brought the club so low, and for knowing that something dramatic had to be done; great credit to Harry Redknapp for coming in cold and quickly turning things around; unlikely credit to Heurelho Gomes, hero goalkeeper who started the season in such comically appalling form but ended with the best home defensive record in the club's history. Other good news stories were the return of Robbie Keane (albeit still to find the form he enjoyed alongside Berbatov), and Aaron Lennon and Luka Modrić finding their form.

Aside from the two fifth-placed finishes enjoyed under Marton Jol, this has turned out to be the highest final position for Spurs since 1995. Whoever would have thought it as 2008 came to a close? Nonetheless, there needs to be - and will be - significant changes to the squad during the summer. The rollercoaster ride continues .....

Sunday 10 May 2009   [14:44 BST]

Everton 0 - 0 Spurs : Same result as last year, a bit predictable really. It leaves Spurs eigth on 48 points, two behind Fulham in the last European qualifying place. With just two games to go, including away to Liverpool, it looks like they're just going to miss out. The three points lost at Blackburn last month were critical. A shame, but it's only a few months since the disappointment expected at this stage was relegation.

Wednesday 6 May 2009   [19:30 BST]

Last match another 1-0 home win, this time with West Brom the edged-out victims. The weekend before a 5-2 heart-breaker at Old Trafford after being 0-2 up at half-time. Morbidly reminiscent of being 3-0 up at half-time in a home match during the Hoddle era, only to crash 3-5. This latest episode was not helped by the referee gifting United the first goal with an utterly farcical non-penalty. Not much luck for Spurs with referees on this ground. Like a couple of seasons ago when Spurs had the ball a yard over the line in the last minute, and the ref and his linesman were the only people in the ground who couldn't see it. Not that the bitter taste lingers .....

Sunday 19 April 2009   [19:04 BST]

Spurs 1 - 0 Newcastle United : The record shows that Newcastle have been regularly turning Spurs over, home and away, averaging three goals a game in the last six meetings. How can that be? One time of day a home game against Newcastle was as good as three points in the bank. Happily this match saw normal service resumed. And following the 1-0 win at home to West Ham last weekend, it also seems Spurs have rediscovered the long lost art of being hard to beat. Had they not foolishly thrown away a 1-0 lead in the last ten minutes at Blackburn, it would have been four 1-0 wins on the trot.

Spurs are now ninth in the Premiership on 44 points, below Fulham on goal difference (by two goals) and just a point behind West Ham, who occupy the seventh and last European qualification place. Seventh place is very much in reach, and Spurs are the form team, but their last five games include fixtures away to Manchester United, Everton and Liverpool - not many guaranteed wins there.

Tuesday 7 April 2009   [18:26 BST]

Blackburn Rovers 2 - 1 Spurs : A Saturday afternoon result so monumentally depressing that only now can it be mentioned. Spurs go one up with a slightly dubious penalty on the half hour mark, and remain comfortably in control until Palacios picks up a soft second yellow card on eighty minutes. The ten men immediately lose their composure and Blackburn score on 82 and 89.

An awful, wretched, miserable result after so much recent progress.

Friday 27 March 2009   [18:40 GMT]

Spurs 1 - 0 Chelsea : The roll continues, not only current league form but also all form against Chelsea, home or away, league or cups.

Spurs now own Chelsea.

It's lovely.

Sunday 15 March 2009   [18:28 GMT]

Aston Villa 1 - 2 Spurs : Those are three points that hadn't been reckoned on. By all accounts Villa were running riot in the first half after Spurs' early opener but somehow they were held off until five minutes from the end, by which time - as it turned out - it was too late. It's typical of Spurs to pick up points in a fixture like this after having had that stupid run of successive defeats at Bolton, Wigan, West Brom and Newcastle in December / January.

The only bittersweet thing about this result is that it helps Arsenal, who are clinging to fourth spot ahead of Villa on goal difference.

So what does this mean now? Spurs are now eleventh on 35 points. West Ham are seventh on 39, having played a game less, and Stoke are eighteenth on 29 points. For the first time this season Spurs are nearer to Europe than the drop. Next up ..... Chelsea at the Lane.

Saturday 7 March 2009   [17:28 GMT]

Sunderland 1 - 1 Spurs : Bit fortunate there, to equalise in the 89th after being behind for 86 minutes. Not losing was the important thing, though, to keep the sense of momentum going. Especially after the excellent 4-0 victory at home to Middlesbrough on Wednesday. That's five games undefeated in all competitions, albeit with only two wins.

Now standing twelfth in the league on thirty-two points, five points clear of relegation and seven points short of a UEFA Cup place. The latter is pie in the sky as too many teams would have to slip up even if Spurs miraculously went on a run of picking up points three at a time. It's good for morale to look up from time to time, though.

Sunday 1st March 2009   [18:03 GMT]

League Cup final: Manchester United 0 - 0 Spurs (Man Utd win 4-1 on penalties) : That's a real shame. After so much effort, to lose on penalties. No European football next year either, just a whole load of injured, fatigued, cramp-ridden players who've got to somehow pull themselves together and try to get a win against Middlesbrough on Wednesday.

Credit to all Spurs' players and staff. It was an evenly matched game. Man Utd can't feel they especially deserved the win, so bollocks to the lot of them.

Sunday 1st March 2009   [14:17 GMT]

In such a diabolical season it seems extraordinary that in less than forty-five minutes Spurs will be kicking off in another Wembley Cup final. The club is unwaivering in its pronouncements that absolutely everything is secondary to moving further away from the relgation zone - even the UEFA Cup has been sacrificed, putting out sub-reserve teams against Shakhtar Donetsk and exiting 3-1 (0-2, 1-1) on aggregate - but a Wembley Final is not to be disregarded lightly. Who knows when the next one will come along? It's impossible to make a case for beating Manchester United, but ..... they will be putting half a team of reserves out, Spurs will have a good team on paper, Spurs have beaten Man Utd five times out of six League Cup encounters, so .....

Nah.

Tuesday 24 February 2009   [19:16 GMT]

Hull City 1 - 2 Spurs : (huge sigh of relief).

What else other than an away win could be countenanced here? Never mind that it would be their first of the year. Never mind that their last four games away in the league had all ended in defeat. Only victory could be considered. That it came in the 86th minute, the sort of period in which Spurs are more recently accustomed to throwing away results, is neither here nor there.

A very, very important result.

Sunday 8 February 2009   [17:22 GMT]

Spurs 0 - 0 Arsenal : Never really expected any better than this but it's a point from a fixture that's not been a three-pointer in a decade, so it's as good as it gets. Highlight is seeing miserable moaning Wenger, miserable and moaning at the end of the match.

Catch-up from the past fortnight: lost 2-1 at Man Utd in the F.A. Cup, beat Stoke 3-1 at home and lost 3-2 at Bolton, both in the league. Signed Keane back from Liverpool for £8m less than he was sold for six months ago, and signed Chimbonda back from Sunderland (why exactly?), and signed Cudicini as back-up or first-choice goalkeeper from Chelsea - a good keeper.

Still just two points outside the relegation places, sixth from bottom.

Friday 23 January 2009   [18:44 GMT]

League Cup Semi-final, second leg: Burnley 3 aet 2 Spurs : 3-0 down on ninety minutes - not even a surprise - Spurs have to score during extra time to avoid going out on away goals. Pavlyuchenko finally manages in the 118th minute; Defoe adds another on 120.

In last year's second leg, Spurs put a magnificent five on Arsenal. This is now a badly, badly struggling team.

Sunday 18 January 2009   [18:33 GMT]

Spurs 1 - 1 Portsmouth : Not good enough.

Saturday 17 January 2009   [18:10 GMT]

So Spurs find themselves rock-bottom of the Premiership again. Tomorrow they play at home to Portsmouth. A win would take them up to 12th in the table. Anything less would signal a return to the dreadful certainties of the early season. The match tomorrow is the big test. A home defeat now would be decisive. Please let it be a confident victory.

Wednesday 14 January 2009   [19:54 GMT]

Wigan Athletic 1 - 0 Spurs : Nauseating.

Wednesday 7 January 2009   [19:21 GMT]

League Cup Semi-final, first leg: Spurs 4 - 1 Burnley : Losing 1-0 at half-time it looked like Spurs would need at least three goals without reply in the second half to feel even remotely confident going into the away leg. A rocket from Harry did the trick and now the team is set fair for another Wembley outing, probably against Man United.

Small world, as Spurs will be away to Man United in the fourth round of the F.A. Cup - oh joy - having seen off Wigan 3-1 on Saturday. Highly unlikely to knock United out of both cups, but one would be nice. Ideally the League Cup, where beating them would guarantee silverware and a route into Europe next year.

Odds must be defied.

On the player front: no particular excitement about the return of Defoe; no interest in signing Downing; a bit worried about Bentley, who seems to have completely lost his touch; pleased with Pavlyuchenko's goal scoring.

Sunday 28 December 2008   [19:08 GMT]

West Bromwich Albion 2 - 0 Spurs : This one really is a bad result. Albeit the referee sent off Assou-Ekotto on 35 minutes, and then decided not to send off Albion's Morrison for what should have been a second yellow later in the match, and then didn't punish Bednar for pushing Dawson on his way to the first goal on 83 minutes, and then Spurs get suckered with a breakaway second in stoppage time. Albeit all those things, this is a bad result.

Half the season has now been played and Spurs are halfway to the forty points often presumed to be needed for safety, but there is much more to be done before safety can be presumed for this bunch of players. New blood is needed badly. Strength, experience, exuberance and skill are all needed with greater quality and in greater quantity to avoid a truly horrible 2009.

Happy New Year.

Saturday 27 December 2008   [17:42 GMT]

Spurs 0 - 0 Fulham : With Spurs failing to find the net in their previous two home games and Fulham drawing nil-nil in their previous three away games, a goalless draw for this Boxing Day fixture was always the most likely outcome. A far cry from the feel-good 5-1 home win in this fixture last Boxing Day. As per previous, a prolific striker or two can't come soon enough.

Sunday 21st December 2008   [18:34 GMT]

Newcastle United 2 - 1 Spurs : Always disappointing to lose to a last minute goal, but all the more so in this game as Newcastle had been played off the park for periods of the match. This game more than most has highlighted the importance of signing at least one proven goalscorer, preferrably one who is fresh and strong and not called Defoe, Crouch or Heskey (good lads but not the future), when the January transfer window opens.

On the plus side, a second-half recovery from two down on Thursday earned a 2-2 at home to Spartak Moscow in the UEFA Cup, which was enough to ensure progression into the next round. There the opposition will be Shakhtar Donetsk, with a prospect of facing either Aston Villa or CSKA Moscow in the round after that. It's unlikely there'll be any need to plan much further .....

Saturday 13 December 2008   [19:33 GMT]

Spurs 0 - 0 Manchester United : Not many punters would have backed this one to finish goalless. This nil-nil was all the more remarkable as it was reliant on Gomes having a stupendous game. Not many punters would have backed that either, a couple of months ago. All things considered, a very good point.

Tuesday 9 December 2008   [19:22 GMT]

West Ham United 0 - 2 Spurs : An important league win on the road to full rehabilitation. The Hammers are good value for six points more often than not, plus it irks the local rivals, so it's a win-win. It was all the more important following defeat at home to Everton and the less-than-promising prospects for picking up points against Man Utd at the weekend.

Wednesday 3 December 2008   [21:51 GMT]

League Cup Quarter-final: Watford 1 - 2 Spurs : A bit nervier than it ought to have been on paper, but that's been Spurs for years. The result is all, though, so it's back into League Cup semis courtesy of a first half stoppage time penalty from Pavlyuchenko and a near-post strike from substitute Bent with fifteen minutes to go. The full semi-final line up is completed by Manchester United, Derby County and Burnley. No prizes for guessing which of these Spurs will get drawn to play home and away against. Respect to Burnley, though, for having put out Fulham, Chelsea and Arsenal in the last three rounds.

Tuesday 2 December 2008   [20:14 GMT]

Spurs 0 - 1 Everton : This is the way it is likely to be for a while now. Harry's honeymoon is over and, whilst a return to relentness horror of the opening games is unlikely, there is almost certainly a period of mixed results to come. Narrow wins, stupid defeats, surprise wins, occasionally taken apart, creditable draws, tedious draws. Although Everton is not a bad side, this one probably counts as a stupid defeat.

Sunday 23 November 2008   [15:39 GMT]

Spurs 1 - 0 Blackburn Rovers : The bubble burst last week, 2-1 at Fulham, but today's fixture was one that should to have been won and quite rightly was won. Albeit by a much narrower margin than seemed strictly necessary after Pavlyuchenko's goal in the ninth minute, and with Rovers going down to ten men just before half time. It's another valuable three points, though, lifting the team up from second-bottom to a healthier fourteenth, four points clear of the bottom but only five points short of seventh. Better.

Thursday 13 November 2008   [19:18 GMT]

League Cup: Spurs 4 - 2 Liverpool : It's hard to know what to say, so unlikely is this current run of form. Liverpool must be rueful - they've had only two defeats all season, both at White Hart Lane. What are the chances? Plus, they bought Keane for £19 million, Spurs spent £15 million of it on Pavlyuchenko, and it's Pavlyuchenko's goals that have ended Liverpool's unbeaten league record and their participation in this season's League Cup. Ho ho.

A pattern has emerged now. In Redknapp's six matches in charge, Spurs' goals scored has been 2, 4, 2, 4, 2, 4. What chance Spurs scoring two at Fulham this weekend? It would suffice just to score more than the opposition, but Craven Cottage hasn't been a happy hunting ground in recent league meetings.

Monday 10 November 2008   [18:43 GMT]

Manchester City 1 - 2 Spurs : And on it goes, getting better and better. This Sunday result following the 4-0 win at home to Dinamo Zagreb in the UEFA Cup on Thursday night. Darren Bent has now somehow scored more goals in all competions than Berbatov and Keane put together. Much is being made of the confidence Redknapp has instilled in the players but a great deal of the improvement has come about through simply allowing the best players to play in their best positions. Bentley and Huddlestone have both been restored to the team and are producing some of the best play of their careers. Modric in particular has been a revelation in his dream role of roving creative influence behind the lone striker.

This can only be a bubble destined to burst - probably at home to Liverpool in the League Cup on Wednesday - but there's utterly improbable amounts of joy to be had while it lasts.

Saturday 1st November 2008   [19:49 GMT]

Spurs 2 - 1 Liverpool : Not much harder at all, as it turns out. My God, how on Earth can stuff like this be explained? A bad day for Liverpool, a good day for Spurs' woodwork, and the best day yet for Pavlyuchenko, who has just grabbed the winner in stoppage time. It lifts Spurs two places off the bottom of the table, and it brings an end to the Scousers' unbeaten run, leaving them behind Chelsea now at the top. And all this after the stunning 4-4 draw at Arsenal on Wednesday, having been 4-2 down going into the 89th minute. Lennon's 94th minute equaliser was the first true exhilirating, air-punching moment of the season. After the match, for the first time since the summer, Spurs players were ecstatic and partying on the pitch instead of moping around and hating it.

Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday: Harry Redknapp's first week in charge has brought two wins and a draw in the league, picking up seven points and eight goals along the way. Compare that with the previous eight matches - easier fixtures - with Ramos in charge: no wins, two draws, six defeats, with just five goals scored. The worst start to a season in Spurs' one hundred and fifty year history. Harry is in the honeymoon period of all time and there is still a huge amount of work to be done, but it's impossible to imagine anyone arguing that Ramos would have done as well if given more time.

Things were so bad that such a dramatic change of fortunes seemed utterly unimaginable. It's never been nicer to be wrong.

Sunday 26 October 2008   [17:41 GMT]

Spurs 2 - 0 Bolton Wanderers : Well, that's a good start. Blessed respite, even, but now it gets much harder .....

Sunday 26 October 2008   [11:55 GMT]

Sunday's 2-1 defeat at Stoke, with two sendings off, did nothing at all to ease the gloom. The assessment remained the same: Spurs are going down. Simple as that. No ifs, no buts, no 'just need a win', no 'bit more confidence', no 'too much quality', not even a change of manager or a winter spending spree.

It is the club's worst start to a season ever. They will still be well bottom by mid-November, and at best will still be in the bottom three come Christmas. Even if they manage an odd win here or there, they still look a long way short of picking up enough points to get close to the magic forty for safety. The only realistic chance of staying up would be if three other clubs went bust or had massive point deductions.

The midweek UEFA Cup defeat, 2-0 at Udinese, was an irrelevance.

Then came the big news this Sunday morning: everybody has been sacked. Comolli has gone, Ramos has gone, Poyet has gone, Alvarez has gone .....

The new manager of Tottenham Hotspur is Harry Redknapp.

He had been the only manager Phespirit could think of - English or not - that might be able to get the team motivated and playing above themselves in a short-ish amount of time. But it is surely too late even for Harry, just as it was too late when he was brought in to Southampton. The Saints were relegated, never to be seen again in the Premiership.

Desperate times have resulted in desparate measures. Almost the entire thirty million raised from the sale of Berbatov has had to be spent on compensating Portsmouth, the departed Spurs managament, and paying Harry his wedge.

Spurs must win at home to Bolton today as the next three fixtures - away to Arsenal, home to Liverpool, away to Man City - carry little hope of points, but the match has come to soon for Harry. Desperate measures alone do not bring a halt to desperate times. Spurs are still staring at guaranteed relegation, and it is so miserable to behold the slow suicide of a loved one.

Sunday 5 October 2008   [17:33 BST]

Spurs 0 - 1 Hull City : Going Down. Flirted with relegation for years, and now it's going to happen. This squad, this management team and these owners will make it happen.

Thursday 2 October 2008   [18:56 BST]

UEFA Cup: Wisła Kraków 1 - 1 Spurs : The team stumbles between abject and shaky, but most of the time is simply not good enough. Sunday's 2-0 drubbing at Portsmouth was predictably abject, whereas this draw in Kraków was merely shaky, but sufficient at least for qualification into the group stage of the cup. So that's something.

Friday 26 September 2008   [18:56 BST]

A diary hiatus - partly induced by vacation, partly by sheer depression at the state affairs at White Hart Lane. This is a club that, less than eighteen months, stood but one healthy meal away from Champions League qualification; and that, less than eight months ago, was lifting the League Cup at Wembley after trouncing its two greatest rivals in the semis and final. This club now languishes winless at the foot of the table. Shocking. All problems entirely self-inflicted, with no short-term fix even feasible.

Purely for the record, these are September's results:

24/09/2008 League Cup: Newcastle United 1 - 2 Spurs
21/09/2008 Premiership: Spurs 0 - 0 Wigan Athletic
18/09/2008 UEFA Cup: Spurs 2 - 1 Wisła Kraków
15/09/2008 Premiership: Spurs 1 - 2 Aston Villa

Next up, away to Portsmouth, whom Spurs have beaten six times and drawn against once in the previous seven meetings, and who have lost their last two matches 6-0 and 0-4. Only Spurs could start off as second favourites in such circumstances.

Wednesday 3 September 2008   [20:51 BST]

So, finally £30.75m from Man Utd for Berbatov, plus a year's loan of Fraizer Campbell. That's a good bit of business. It doesn't help the state of the first team but it wasn't being helped by Berbatov moping about the place. He was gone in mind so he might as well follow in body. In the absence of a player equivalent to take his place, a bumper cash equivalent will have to do.

In the other bit of business up front, it remains to be seen whether £13.8m for Roman Pavlyuchenko will prove good value. His reputation is no better nor worse than that of Berbatov when he came to the club for £10.9m in 2006.

Sunday 31st August 2008   [17:01 BST]

Chelsea 1 - 1 Spurs : That's better. Still no clue as to how the season will evolve, though. Still no sign of new strikers. Still no resolution to the Berbatov saga.

Saturday 23 August 2008   [18:19 BST]

Spurs 1 - 2 Sunderland : The bleak predictability of this result is as tedious as it is sickening, and things are not going to get much better at Stamford Bridge next weekend. There can't be Spurs fan who couldn't see this coming, so what excuse do the board, management and players have? All this time wasting and distraction over buying in some over-rated £20 million striker when other teams are doing quite nicely without the same fixations. £10 million can still buy centre-forwards plenty good enough to get in the current side.

Comolli needs sacking.

Sunday 17 August 2008   [15:54 BST]

Middlesbrough 2 - 1 Spurs : The depressingly predictable abysmal shambles of a start. Already it feels like a long hard season. New, fresh strikers are needed, full of goals and enthusiasm, but more than anything the team is crying out for a reliable midfield ball-winner to work in front of the defence, freeing up the midfield attacking options.

Next up: at home to a Sunderland team full of ex-Spurs players who were sold in the summer. The rest writes itself.