The Game is The Game

March 12, 2011 — by John Lally1

The Baltimore Waterway
So that's where you keep the sugar

**WARNING** – This article – teased a long time ago here – contains spoilers for all 5 seasons of The Wire. If you haven’t watched The Wire yet, go to; buy the complete set, watch all 60 hours, then read this. You’ll thank me for it (probably more for having seen The Wire than for this article, but still).

Non-Spurs Fan: “If you know they’re going to end up disappointing and frustrating you, why do you keep supporting them?

Me: “Got to. This Tottenham, man

As my wife would attest, I have a special way of watching Tottenham’s games – leaned forward, literally on the edge of my seat, with a nervous look on my face and the occasional nail being bitten – similar to how I used to sit in  the Paxton Road end of White Hart Lane, now transferred to our sofa in Brooklyn.  The only other thing that has brought me to this viewing position, this physical display of angst, nervousness and sense of impending doom, was the greatest television show ever made, The Wire.

Each season of The Wire is set up very much like one for Tottenham Hotspur: first you have to get used to a new cast of characters and squad members; the story of the season then unfolds with various highs and lows; the penulitmate act brings some type of heartbreak and you then lick your wounds, wrap up and look to see where it will go next year.

Ever Expanding/Changing Cast

The Wire was unique in the way it approached it’s story telling with such a large number of characters – introducing many new ones through the years and trusting that the audience would keep up. In the same way, many a time I’d arrive at White Hart Lane one January and have to try and figure out who the Japanese player wearing number 4 in our midfield was (turns out it was Kazuyuki Toda…no, I have no idea what happened to him either).   Take a look at the major characters introduced through the five years of The Wire (listed as when they became involved in the plots not based on first appearance, cf. Prop Joe is in Season 1 but his significance becomes more apparent from Season 3 onwards), and the players who signed for Tottenham in that same time period (2002-2008)

Tottenham: (2002) Redknapp, Acimovic, Blondel, Ricketts, Hirschfield, Keane. (2003) Toda, Postiga, Zamora, Mabizela, Kanoute, Dalmat, Konchesky. (2004) Brown, Defoe, Robinson, Fulop, Defendi, Mendes, Sean Davis, Leigh Mills, Reto Ziegler, Erik Edman, Timothee Atouba, Naybet, Edson Silva, Pamarot, Carrick, Davenport.  (2005) Mido, Hallfredsson, El Hamadaoui, Radek Cerny, Dawson, Andy Reid, Stalteri, Lennon, Huddlestone, Tainio, Routledge, Young-Pyo Lee, Rasiak, Jenas, Davids.  (2006) Danny Murphy, Ghaly, Berbatov, Assou-Ekotto, Zakora, Dervitte, Malbranque, Chimbonda. (2007) Rocha, Alnwick, Bale, Taarabt, Bent, Kaboul, Rose, Boateng, Gunter. (2008) Woodgate, Hutton, Gilberto, Modric, Dos Santos, Gomes, Bostock, Bentley, Pavlyuchenko, Corluka.


Spurs win in Milan

February 15, 2011 — by John Lally

Gattuso needs his meds increased (or decreased)...

Some quick thoughts on Spurs’ triumph at the San Siro, just as soon as I try and stop an Italian from headbutting a 59 year old Scot…

First and foremost, that was a fantastic performance from pretty much everyone on the Spurs team.  Gomes made some crucial saves, the defence looked more solid than ever and the midfield linked up well with Crouch, creating numerous chances.  Special mention must go to Van der Vaart, who was able to only play for 60 minutes as he was coming back from a hamstring strain, but with better luck he could have two goals at least.  His invention and dynamism in the middle of the park galvanised the whole team and it showed how much we now rely on a player who was not even with us in the first few weeks of the season. Lennon and Pienaar on the wings worked really hard at both ends of the pitch, frustrating Milan who could not find any way through.  Crouch led the line fantastically and took his goal with great confidence, not to mention managing to keep up with Lennon who looked like Road Runner as he gave Yepes a serious case of twisted blood.  It was great to see Modric back also, his sure passing helping us quell any late comeback from Milan, who deserved nothing more than a defeat.

I have so many negative feelings about the Milan performance, the kindest of which is that they just were not very good.  The worst of it was their petulance and dirty play – typified by Flamini breaking Corluka’s foot, not being sent off and then complaining that Spurs were time-wasting as the Spurs medical staff were picking up all the pieces of bone that had come off the Croatian’s leg.  Gattuso took it to a whole new level though, fouling everyone in sight and then going head to head with Joe Jordan, our 59 year old Assistant Coach.  He continued to kick his way through the night, eventually picking up a yellow card which rules him out of the second leg, but even after the final whistle he was not done – sizing up to Jordan again and clearly head-butting him.  A lengthy ban from competition should be coming for him, though my preference would be to get him in a ring with the Scot, who, even at an advanced age, I’d back to come out on top.

The biggest compliment to Spurs superiority came at the very end of the game though.  Watching the corner from which Ibrahimovic thought he had scored, after a clear push on Michael Dawson, I noticed that Milan had sent their keeper up in a desperate attempt to get a draw…in the first leg of a two-legged tie. That said a lot about their confidence in being able to get a win at White Hart Lane on March 9th, that they would risk being caught on the break in a last ditch attempt at equalising.

One final note, in several of the match reports I have read about Spurs getting the “Crucial Away Goal”.  This is not actually the case – an away goal can only come into  effect if the home team also scores – there is no result at the Lane that could result in Spurs going through on away goals.  For years there has been a basic mis-understanding of what the “Away Goal Rule” means and the effect it can have.  The crucial part of the Spurs goal, was that it gave us a 1-0 lead going into the home game.

But what a result – Come On You Spurs!


Spurs return to the San Siro

February 14, 2011 — by John Lally3

Some of the lads with the UEFA Cup, 1972

This week marks the return of Champions’ League football to the European calendar, with the first night featuring Tottenham going back to the San Siro, this time to take on A.C. Milan.

Last time they were in Milan, Spurs started out about as badly as is possible, being 4-0 down at half time and down to 10 men against Internazionale (a position they enjoyed so much, they repeated it against Fulham in the FA Cup last month).  A second half hat-trick from Gareth Bale gave Tottenham some confidence, which led to them beating the reigning European Champions at home and they ended up qualifying for the last 16 top of their group.  Inter, though, have been on a downward trend this season and Spurs must now take on an A.C. Milan team who have been leading Serie A since the beginning of the campaign.

A.C. Milan have a host of attacking talent which will really test out the quality of our defence.  The trouble is, all season that defence has looked like it will collapse quicker than a Middle Eastern government once protesters hit their capital’s main square.  Three times in cup competitions this season, Spurs have been three goals behind within the first half an hour of play (the aforementioned Inter and Fulham games, plus the away leg of the Champions’ League qualifying tie with Young Boys of Berne). With Robinho, Pato and Ibrahimovic likely to start for the Rossoneri, we are going to need concentration for all 90 minutes from our starting centre backs, Dawson and…Sorry hang on a moment, just need to change my shoes…hope I didn’t miss anything important…right where was I? Oh yeah, William Gallas.

(On that incident, where Gallas was changing his boots while Sunderland scored on Saturday, there’s a half-hour period before the game where players can get used to the turf and warm up their muscles, why didn’t Gallas know which studs he should be wearing before the game, rather than 10 minutes into it? Or was it the shade of yellow that he was intent on changing?)

Spurs will be missing possibly both of their main talismans (worst.plural.ever) of this season – with Gareth Bale definitely out and Rafael Van der Vaart struggling with a calf strain – as well as the mercurial Luka Modric – who is missing both this game and, as of two weeks ago, his appendix.  These absences have definitely had an effect on recent performances, though hard fought wins over Sunderland, Bolton and Blackburn have kept us in the hunt for qualifying for next season’s Champions’ League, it raises major questions as we reach the knockout stages of this year’s competition.  If Tottenham were going in with Bale, Van der Vaart and Modric, as well as other absentees Huddlestone, King and Woodgate, I would be very confident in their ability to match up with most other sides.  Without them? It’s a tough call.

I expect Spurs to come out and attack Milan, who will respond in kind.  Milan’s once fabled defence is no longer as rock-solid as those teams of the mid-90s, but they have still only conceded 19 goals in their 25 league matches this season.  Sitting in front of the back four, Gattuso is nowhere near the player he was in 2006 during Italy’s World Cup triumph, and, should we have Van der Vaart available, I’d expect him to be able to enjoy time and space in that part of the pitch.  There are areas of opportunity to Tottenham should they come out and play well, but Milan will punish anything less than our best performance.

Given the second leg is not until March 9th, when Tottenham will be back to some semblance of full strength, I hope Spurs can at least stay within a goal of Milan and give them a good game at the Lane.  My prediction: Milan 1-1 Tottenham; Tottenham 3-1 Milan. Well, I can dream…

Other ties:


The Olympic Stadium Decision–and Leyton Orient

February 11, 2011 — by John Lally

Today, the Olympic Park Legacy Committee selected West Ham United as the preferred bidder to become the new tenant of the Olympic Stadium, beating out competition from Tottenham Hotspur.  This decision will have a severe negative effect on an historic London club, formed in the early 1880s – not Spurs, but Leyton Orient.

The London skyline and 2012 Olympic Stadium (via

The Olympic Stadium is just a mile away from Brisbane Road, Leyton Orient’s stadium, and a tenant like West Ham will have a severe impact on their ability to attract new local fans.  Having been in existence since 1881, Orient have enjoyed just one season in the top flight in their history, back in 1962-3.  Despite this, they have a hardcore group of fans, attracting just over 4000 fans as an average attendance, and invest in the local community and in a youth program which gives opportunities to local kids.  West Ham, though they currently get around 30,000+ fans, will have 60,000 seats to try and fill for each home game (they don’t currently sell out Upton Park for some of the less high profile games).  To do this, they will be offering low price tickets to school children and families to encourage people to come along.  As a bigger club, with a more high profile name and more historical success, it is likely that new young local fans that otherwise might have been going to see Leyton Orient, will instead choose to go and see West Ham – more fame and a bigger stadium being obvious selling points.

The owners of West Ham are not doing this because they are fans of the club who want to see them succeed; Gold and Sullivan are in this purely for profit and know that having the Olympic Stadium plan will make the club have a higher resale value.  The legacy of the 2012 Olympics could now be that one of the oldest community clubs in London could be put out of business, while in the process, two speculators manage to flip a club for profit using the stadium as leverage.

I am so happy that Tottenham were not the preferred bidder for two reasons.  Firstly, we are not from East London, our roots, history and place is in the N17 region of North London.  To franchise ourselves in the way that MK Dons did when they moved away from Wimbledon, would be tearing apart our history and telling the fans that the desire for more (money, success, profile) was more important than the neighbourhood and community that has supported them for over 125 years.  It hasn’t escaped me that it’s not through choice Spurs are not moving.  I sincerely hope this was gamesmanship on the part of Daniel Levy to try and encourage the local council to improve transport links to White Hart Lane; I’m just not convinced at this point it was.  Secondly, I’m relieved that we will not be doing to Leyton Orient what was done to Tottenham back in 1913, when Woolwich Arsenal uprooted from South London to the Islington area of North London – previously a Tottenham stronghold.  This set in place a fierce rivalry between the two clubs, as we believe they had encroached on our territory – something fans remind them of to this day with their suggestion they should go back to the other side of the river (Okay, we sing “F$@& off back to South London”).  If we had made this move, my support would have gone to any local team that the supporters created, in the style of AFC Wimbledon.  I do not know any Spurs fan that was in favour of this move, all of us would accept less success in exchange for not moving. Bigger is not always better, and greed definitely is not good.

I went to one Leyton Orient game, they were the closest team to where I used to live in east London, and I saw them take on Chester, my Dad’s local team when he was growing up.  I sat in the away fans on a cold Tuesday December night back in 2005 and experienced the quintessential football experience, a scrappy 1-0 win for the away team in a low quality game, but completely enjoyable because of the banter between the two sets of fans and a fantastic coffee and meat pie at half time.  My favourite moment from the whole night was a chant inspired by a new residential building that had been recently finished and allowed residents a clear view of the stadium, and vice versa – “We can see you washing up”.  Since then, Chester have gone out of business due to years of financial mismanagement and are being forced to start again from the lowest rung of non-league football, I just hope that Leyton Orient do not follow suit  because of another team’s greed.


Qatar 2022

December 2, 2010 — by John Lally1

Let me get something cleared up straight away, this is not sour grapes about England not winning the bid.  While I think it would’ve been great for the country, the downside of England hosting the 2018 World Cup would have been huge – potential hooliganism and terrorism, and inevitable jingoism of how the home side would win it again “just like in ’66”.  Good luck to Russia and their 2018 World Cup, I hope they do a fantastic job and the development of the infrastructure and stadiums helps provide jobs and an economic boom to their people.

Now, Qatar 2022, that’s a completely different story.  Remember how their national team performed in the last World Cup? What about the one before that? Oh right, they’ve never been in it before. The last hosts to have not been in the tournament before? That would be 1934 Italy, who hadn’t travelled to the first World Cup in Uruguay in 1930 as it took a month to get their by boat at the time.  Unless their team has a radical turn around in the next 8 years, the first time Qatar qualify for the World Cup it will be as hosts.

Maybe it was picked for the environment it would provide.  Okay, it may only be the size of Connecticut, but at least Qatar’s average high in June is well over 100 degrees. Throw in laws against the public consumption of alcohol and this sounds like a must-go-to destination for the Budweiser sponsored FIFA World Cup.  They have promised to air-condition their stadiums, so at least for those 2  hours fans are at a game, they won’t feel quite so uncomfortable.  FIFA clearly also doing their best to help combat global warming, by sending everyone to a country that needs outdoor air conditioning.

FIFA always want to go to new frontiers and have the World Cup in new places – but they had the option of the Australia bid for them to do justthat.  The Olympics in 2000 in Sydney were an overriding success and the mild winter they would be having during the World Cup would have been perfect weather wise too.  I’m also dubious on how this fits the rotation of contintents the World Cup visits too, Russia is technically Europe but geographically (and Time-Zonally) Asia, just like Qatar.  Returning to the USA could have seen a continued growth of the sport there also, a country with many more potential fans than Qatar –  Doha, the capital of Qatar and its biggest city, has less than half the population of Brooklyn.  Even if “soccerball” has never been the biggest sport in the US, they at least still have history to it, having competed in the first one in 1930, provided one of the biggest upsets by beating England in 1950, were unlucky to be knocked out in the quarter-final stage in 2002 by Germany, and provided one of the most exciting moments in the 2010 World Cup with their last minute win over Algeria.

My biggest concern, however,  is the history of human rights abuses of migrant workers there. (  This is the bed FIFA have chosen to lie in, I hope they do their part to affect social change in Qatar and protect those who will be helping prepare for the spectacle of the 2022 World Cup – somehow, I doubt it.


Spurs Triumphant at the Emirates

November 20, 2010 — by John Lally3

Someone is getting his drink on tonight

Maybe this is how it has to happen.  Maybe you have to plumb the depths before you can scale the mountain.  Maybe this was our game-changing moment, just as the Red Sox coming back from 3 games down against their biggest rivals in 2004 changed everything.

All I know was that at half time, I was ready to throw in the towel – two nil down, bloody typical Tottenham.  We hadn’t played particularly badly, just individual mistakes had cost us.  Assou-Ekotto not following through all the way to the ball going out of play allowed Nasri to open the scoring.  Then a break away from Arsenal resulted in their second, when a still winded Alan Hutton (who’d been taken out by Clichy when Spurs were pushing forward) failed to close his man down and Chamakh was given an easy chance to double the home team’s lead.  Allowing Arsenal to take a 2-0 lead was one thing, that the second came from Chamakh, a man who looked like he had no confidence with the ball at his feet and appeared to be wearing a full on Snuggie under his shirt, left me completely despondent.

But then, everything changed.  It all started with Defoe coming on at half time.  Spurs have really missed his pace and direct style of play while he’s been out injured, and his presence gave them a whole new outlet for attacks.  The first goal was a result of that directness, the short Defoe winning a headed flick on to guide the path to the brilliant Van der Vaart, who deftly set up Bale who finished nicely.  The equaliser came after a free kick on the edge of the box was handled by Fabregas in the wall who, despite his claims to the contrary, had raised his arm well above his head to block the shot, giving away a penalty which Van der Vaart converted.  After that, it looked like Spurs might throw it away again as they sat back too far allowing Arsenal to attack.  All through this game, Fabregas was given far too much time and space in the middle of the pitch, and time and again it looked like he would punish Spurs.  Gomes did well to turn a shot from him around the post, and then Tottenham again got away with leaving players unmarked as Koscielny headed over from 5 yards out.  Inevitably, it was Van der Vaart who again set up the winner, his free kick perfectly measured to Kaboul, who headed into the far corner.

And that was it, Spurs finally won at Arsenal, and away at one of the “Big 4” of Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal.  17 years and 68 league games away from the Lane against those opponents without a win, numbers I’d heard far too many times in recent days, all banished with a come-from-behind win.  Hopefully, this will push us on to better league form and we can get back into the Champions’ League place.  Maybe next time we go to Stamford Bridge, Anfield, Old Trafford or the Emirates, we’ll have more confidence and look to attack from the outset.  But whatever happens after this, I’ll enjoy today. I’ll enjoy the win over our arch nemesis.

Is that the Pacific Ocean I can see…?


Why I Hate Arsenal

November 18, 2010 — by John Lally2

It’s coming you know.  I’ve been trying not to think about it, but now it’s unavoidable. The North London Derby is this Saturday (7:45am ET, ESPN2).  Some Spurs fans look forward to this match in the fixture list, some of us dread it – I’m very much in the latter group.

It’s hard to decide which one I fear more: the away fixture, where, in all likelihood, we’ll lose; or the home fixture, which brings with it the pain of hope.  This week, the game is at the Emirates, a stadium we have never won at. Our record is worse than that though – Spurs haven’t won away at Arsenal since May 1993, when I was 11 years old.   That game came a month after we had lost the F.A. Cup Semi-Final to our arch-rivals and they rested players ahead of the Cup Final.  Last year, we finally beat Arsenal in the league at home, but still finished below them.  It has been years and years of being overshadowed by them.  We just can’t win – even when we do win, we end up losing overall anyway.

The rivalry started in 1913, when Woolwich Arsenal moved (invaded!) North London, and got more bitter in 1919, when a vote saw Arsenal elected to the First Division, having finished 6th in the old Second Division, with Spurs relegated, after finishing 20th in the top flight.  Nearly a century later, both sides still hate each other.  Sure, I have friends who are Arsenal fans, but there will always be that divide when the conversation turns to football.  When former Arsenal player Theirry Henry was making his debut for the New York Red Bulls, he described his first opponents, Tottenham, as “a team I will not even name, that’s how much of a rivalry it is”. I couldn’t agree more –  I  only just about cheered Spurs that night more than I jeered Henry.

Honestly, I just hate Arsenal.  I hate playing them, cos we normally lose.  And if we win, I’ll be inundated with e-mails from Arsenal fans with pictures of the “Commerative DVD” Spurs release to celebrate winning a game.

I hate the fact that as we get closer to the game, our players, managers and my fellow fans, will be saying about how we can finally “make the step up” or “overtake” Arsenal.  That players such as Bale, Modric and Van der Vaart are evidence that we can really take the game to them this time.  Suddenly we forget that our defence is so porous, we conceded four goals against a mediocre Bolton team in our last away game, so goodness knows how many Arsenal could put past us.

I hate that their fans celebrate St. Totteringham’s day every year, to recognise the point where Spurs can no longer mathematically catch Arsenal in the league. I hate that they’ve been celebrating that day every year in recent history.  I hate their stadium and the terrible atmosphere they have in 2/3rds of their home games.  I hate it when they win, I love it when they lose.  My second favourite team is whoever is playing Arsenal, even when it’s Chelsea or West Ham.  I hate Wenger, Fabregas, Van Persie, Arshavin, Campbell, Toure, Henry, Ian Wright,  George Graham and everyone else associated with the club.  I hate that they are now lauded as playing some of the best football in Europe, when for years it was “Boring, Boring Arsenal”.  I hate the begrudging respect I have for pretty much everyone I listed there as being talented.  I hate that Spurs constantly measure themselves against Arsenal, and come up short all the time.

What I really hate, though, is that I care about this fixture so much.  It will bother me all weekend, and most of next week, if/when we get thrashed – but why?  When we play against Manchester United, I know the inevitable outcome.  We haven’t beaten any of the “Big 4” of Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United or Chelsea away from home in the league since 1993, we’re not going to start this weekend.  Why do I get my hopes up?

The Pacific Ocean? That’s just a shitty pipe dream.

But hey, Andy Dufresne found his freedom through a shitty pipe…dammit, there’s that hope again.


Premier League Preview for the Chilean Miners

October 14, 2010 — by John Lally1

David Villa signed jerseys going down the shaft.

On August 5th, 2010, 33 Chilean miners got stuck in a mine and were down there for 69 days. While their story has been covered in depth, one aspect has not been mentioned anywhere else…Chile is a nation of football fans and these 33 guys have completely missed the first seven matches of the Premier League season. Just for them, here’s a look at the weekend’s fixtures with a Chilean Miner’s view (i.e. what you would have expected had you not seen anything in the last 69 days) weighed up against how the rest of us see the games.

Arsenal v Birmingham

Miners’ View: Arsenal too strong at the Emirates and won’t have any trouble dispatching with a middle of the table team.

Rest of us: Having slipped up at home to West Brom, followed by a loss away at Chelsea, Arsenal will be intent on not suffering three straight league defeats.  Birmingham have not started well, however, and lost at home to Everton last time out.

Prediction: Miners will prove to be right and that West Brom game will (unfortunately) be a minor blip on Arsenal’s otherwise formidable home form.

Bolton v Stoke

Miners’ View: Bolton tough to beat at home, Stoke not so good away from the Britannia.  Likely to be a narrow home win.

Rest of us:  Bolton have played three home league games so far, and drawn all of them.  Stoke started poorly, but have won 4 and drawn 1 of their last 5.

Prediction: An inevitable, scrappy, bore draw: 0-0. A game so dull that you’d almost consider going back in the mine rather than sit through it. Almost.

Fulham v Tottenham

Miners’ View: Fulham always good at home, Tottenham now resilient away from home under ‘Arry. A must watch game (even Chileans love Tottenham, in my world view at least)

Rest of us: Van der Vaart has shown he can win any match almost single-handedly, but the rest of the team might be distracted with a trip to the San Siro in midweek to look forward to.  Fulham are actually unbeaten thus far this season, but have also only won once.

Prediction: I can’t decide who will win but I feel confident the score line will be 2-1 to somebody.

Man United v West Brom

Miners’ View:  West Brom will be cannon fodder for United and will not put up much of a fight in an away game at one of the top four teams.  Coule be the sort of game where Rooney is rested, with Berbatov given the chance to impress.

Rest of us: Man Utd’s strike force has been the complete opposite of what you would have expected. Berbatov back to looking more like his old self from his Tottenham days, Rooney struggling with “injuries” and personal issues. West Brom won at Arsenal in their last away game and are level with the team from Woolwich and Spurs for fourth place.

Prediction: United to win, but in a close game.