• Archive by category "Sport"
Header

Blog Archives

Tennis

In tribute to the efforts of Andy Murray in the Australian Open, I thought I’d take a look back through some of my favourite tennis games. Quite worryingly this list spans some 26 years but begins with a classic.

Tennis (NES)

Although simplistic, allowing only a simple stroke or a lob, I garnered many pleasing hours from this blocky classic as it was how you used these basic controls that mattered. Timing proved crucial; hit the forehand early and your shot would pull left, leave it a little longer and you’d push it wide to the right, allowing for a lot of variation. This was quite a revelation to my young self and the experience was only bettered by a portly plumber sitting in the umpire’s chair.

Mario Tennis (N64)

Another Nintendo entry onto my list but it sits here not just on my behest but also thanks to the three other people I used to live with at Uni. Along with Pro Evo and F-Zero X, this four-player beauty sucked up many an afternoon that should have probably been spent revising or writing up coursework. An array of characters, power-ups, silly sound effects, it had everything to keep us hooked and shouting at the telly. My only complaint was that the colourful court coverings often meant that the ball could be lost from view, like dropping a pound coin on the carpet of a pub last decorated in the Seventies.

Top Spin (Xbox)

Looking back, I have very mixed feeling about this game. Even though I used to play it obsessively I seem to remember hating it by the end of my time with it, the problem being that I became too good. As conceited as that sounds, my doubles partner and I edged up to being ranked 8th in the world, an achievement wrought from sheer effort and teamwork. Sadly in our closing weeks we encountered far too many glitchers and standbyers for the fun to continue and my last loving memory of it is swearing loudly down the headset and shutting off the Xbox in a huff as we were cheated for the final time.

Wii Sports (Wii)

Returning back to the Nintendo platform and we find possibly my favourite tennis game on any platform. If anything, this portion of Wii Sports must have shifted millions of consoles on its own for it exhibits just the same properties that Tennis did back in the early Eighties. For those that wanted to do no more than take part they could swing the racket and see their on-screen Mii mimic their actions and thwack the ball back gracefully across the net. Those who probed deeper discovered with a twist of their wrist or a flick of their hand that they could pull off slices, top-spin, lobs and a great deal more that turned a seeming tech demo into something wondrous.

Pong (and all its clones)

Some time ago I may have baulked at putting this on a list of favourite tennis games, calling the decision too clichéd and cheesey. A couple of years ago, however, I went to an exhibition entitled Game On where dozens and dozens of arcade cabinets and old systems were on display and playable. Having played through things I had only ever touched via Mame I became incredibly sentimental and touched by the entire thing; each time I stood at a new cabinet I felt waves of heritage sweep over me. Asteroids and Missile Command were among my favourites but having gotten to grips with a Pong machine I found something delightful about its basic nature as it almost embodied a time where gameplay had to win out over graphics.

Turnover

There’s something eerily strange about playing old sports games. Picking up and putting in an EA game from a couple of years back is tantamount to rubbing shoulders with the ghosts of the past, with names and faces that are both familiar and at the same time disconcertingly out of place.

I’m not quite sure what it’s like for your own team, but down at White Hart Lane there has been a reasonable amount of player turnover during the last few seasons. As new managers come in so do players that suit their style, and a broom is swept through the dressing room to remove those that don’t have a place in the new regime. Last minute transfers can play havoc with a developer’s nicely tuned roster but a season’s worth of change leaves it a mere shadow of its former self.

Spurs seem to have it worse than most, though. Despite only being FIFA 09, last year’s edition, our default starting line-up was ajudged to be Darren Bent and Giovani Dos Santos, strikers who are now plying their trade at Sunderland and Galatasaray respectively. The Sunderland connection continues with appearances from both Fraizer Campbell and Alan Hutton making the squad, with Didier Zokora, currently playing for Sevilla, playing alongside them.

The squad is completed with Chris Gunter (now of Notts Forest), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Portsmouth), John Bostock (Crystal Palace), Jamie O’Hara (Portsmouth), Adel Taarabt (QPR), Ben Alnwick (Norwich), Hossam Ghaly (Al-Nassr), Ricardo Rocha (Portsmouth), Paul Stalteri (Borussia Mönchengladbach) and Dorian Dervite (Southend). In fact, out of the whole squad of 30 players, only 11 are still with us this season. And do bear in mind this is only last year’s game.

When so many changes have been made, it’s hard to take the team seriously. The sense of playing a part in your club’s virtual success is soured by the history that has since been made with the players you are now making dance to your will. That star striker that left you citing his intentions to “take his career to the next level” is more likely to be plunged into dubious and red card inducing challenges. That defender with the now dodgy knee might just skirt the edges of the action as you resisting to urge to send him into the heat of battle for fear of recreating that career ending tackle.

Play as a team from a foreign clime and all might be well, but it seems easier to pick up SWOS and examine the Totttenham Hotspurs line-up of the early Nineties than it is to turn the calendar back just 12 months. It’s all too easy to see how EA keep making their money.

The returning masses

From the highs of watching a great game of American Football last night I am brought back down to earth with a bump this morning when faced with our own domestic version of the beautiful game. The transfer policy at Spurs is now irking me. It seems as though we are on a mission to bring back to White Hart Lane everyone we have sold in the last twelve months. Defoe has been a welcome returnee but seeing Chimbonda waltz back in followed by the possibility of Keane makes me want to raise my arms to the skies and scream in protest.

I can understand the mindset that would have seen Chimbonda as a required asset in our fight for survival but why we need another striker is beyond me. Defoe, Bent, Pav and Campbell are all doing reasonably well, even if Defoe is crocked, and another high profile player who will expect to play week in week out might rock the boat rather than stabilise our sinking ship.

What those up front are missing, however, is supply. They cannot be expected to score if the ball never reaches them and Keane isn’t going to be any different. Keane was a wonderful servant to Spurs and I would love to welcome him back with open arms but I would also love to see the £15m put to better use. Still, I’m the bloke who thinks Zakora’s done alright for us this season.

Come on you Spurs!

On our way to Wembley

The script writers at The Lane are being paid overtime this season. Somehow the mighty Tottenham find themselves embroiled in a relegation fight on one front, whilst on another have booked their place in a major final at Wembley for the second time in two seasons.

Another excuse to trot this picture out.

Last night’s performance against Burnley was downright shocking. With all due respect, we were turned over by a Championship level club and only saved ourselves in the last three minutes. However, that for the moment should be put aside as the sniff of silverware is once again in the air. Only four clubs at most a year can do that so it’s something for Spurs fans to hold their heads high over. It doesn’t matter how we have reached the final, what will be remembered is the performance on the day.

In almost equally dire form we managed to turn over Chelsea and so I do have hope and belief that no matter what is going on in the league we can do it on the day in the cup. To make that happen, a few players need to roll their sleeves up and for god’s sake put some service into the frontmen.

Quite which Spurs side will turn out, though, is anyone’s guess. The season has seen three different types of teams turn out: the batch that played cluelessly under Ramos; the rejuvenated and inspired XI that Harry first presented; or the side we currently see that seem to have a hangover from the initial jubilation that met Redknapp’s arrival. Here’s hoping for a fourth version where a stern talking to, a boot up the backside and the balance that is so often spoken about actually appears and turn our season around.

Come on you Spurs!

All change, please

Just last week I was bemoaning my precious Spurs’ situation and suddenly over the weekend it seems that a much needed dose of hope has been injected into the club. In one crazy eighteen-hour period we sacked four prominent backroom staff, appointed a new manager and then turned Bolton over by two goals to nil for our first three points of the season.

Only that very night, just hours before it all kicked off, I was mulling over the dismal season so far with other football fans and so to return home to find the news of Redknapp’s appointment breaking was quite surreal. Part of our debate had been who could replace Ramos should he be given the push and Redknapp never even entered our consideration given how he had previously turned down other jobs and had stated how happy he was on the south coast.

Quite frankly, I don’t think I could ask for anyone better to help us dig ourselves out of the hole we find ourselves in. Harry has a proven track record with pulling teams up by their bootstraps, Portsmouth being an excellent case in point, and I believe he can get the players going and playing to their potential. Just seeing how he and Clive Allen handled the team on Sunday after only a couple of hours together has at least got me considering that Modric might be worth his price tag after all.

It’s a long way to go and we have a very difficult run coming up but at least we now have that English grit that I was looking for – he just sees to be in the dugout and not the midfield, that’s all.

Less points than a triangle

Currently, there appears to be an impending and inevitable sense of doom at White Hart Lane as Spurs have made their worse start to a season ever. Earning only a pair points from their first eight games and after losing to the two of the three newly promoted sides I struggle to see how this sort of form can be turned around.

As Dawson saw red on Sunday, reducing us to to nine men and flushing away any chance of salvaging something from the game, I have to admit to launching my joypad angrily across the room. This was a team that finished fifth two years running, lifted the Carling Cup last year and are now prime candidates for Championship football.

Glancing at the Bundesliga only serves to darken my mood further as our former manager is sitting pretty at its peak with his new team.

This seems a very long time ago.

When it comes to assigning blame for Tottenham’s situation, fingers can be pointed to many quarters but I think it would be foolish to start sacking people on mass at this stage. This is the same board that helped us to the success of recent seasons and we have a proven European manager at the helm. I do believe that unstabilising the club further would only make matters worse. That is at the moment, anyway.

What we do need is to gain some grit and stability on the pitch. The heart of the team has been ripped out over the last ten months and replacements have seemingly been chosen by sticking pins in the transfer list. We have flair players coming out of ears but many are finding it hard to settle into the English game and what we truly need is a presence in the defensive third, our own Gareth Barry or Owen Hargreaves to cut out the constant pressure placed upon on the back four.

The phrase “too good to go down” is a load of tosh. Over the years many Premiership stalwarts have dropped down to the second tier and beyond and I can assure you that no team is untouchable.

What we possibly are, though, is too rich to go down. The last couple of seasons have seen us go on spending sprees only rivaled by Chelsea. When it comes to January I can only hope that the cheque book is opened wider than ever and, just like West Ham, we spend our way out of trouble. Of course there is no pride to be taken in using that route or guarantee that that tactic will even work, but it looks as though that maybe our last roll of the dice.

England rules Europe

Congratulations to Manchester United. They dominated the first half, survived the second and held their nerve in the shoot out.

I may be a loyal Spurs fan but in Europe I do admit to cheering the other English teams along too. After all, I don’t think Tottenham are going to be making in roads into last night’s competition any time soon.

Shiny.

Prior to kick-off I was edging towards preferring a Red’s win, but by half-time I was resolutely supporting them. Seeing the way that Chelsea again show nothing but contempt to the officials and sportsmanship I think that justice was done on the night. Manchester are of course not exactly whiter than white when it comes to that but Chelsea sink it to a whole new depth and I think they’re a disgrace to the sport.

Thanks for losing last night, boys, you made Spurs the most successful club in London; the most trophies of any team in the capital.

Trophy Thomas

I am known by many names – JT, BIGsheep, occasionally even James – but during my time at work I have somehow earned the tag of Trophy Thomas. This may have something to do with my overly competitive nature and my magpie-esque love for anything shiny and cup-like, but who’s to say.

Whatever the truth, one of my boyhood dreams came true at Memorabilia yesterday as I got to lift the FA Cup: the greatest trophy of them all. Given Spurs’ attachment to the competition over the years I almost wet myself at the chance to hold it aloft, shunning the more disappointing European Cup standing right to its side.

So. Very. Happy.

Just look at that grin; I could not have been happier.

With the exception that my blue had faded for the show, that really was the highlight for me and possibly the best money I’ve ever spent in my life; the only thing that could top that for me would be actually walking out at White Hart Lane wearing Lillywhite.

Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspurs

Glorious, absolutely glorious. Spurs’ victory over Chelsea yesterday is a result that has put me over the moon, to use a footballing cliché.

Not only were we the underdogs, not only did we come from a goal behind but we also managed to lift the cup against those lovely people from Stamford Bridge.

Grin.

The whole afternoon was a bit surreal as I was round a fellow Tottenham supporter’s house watching the game on German television with a slightly delayed radio commentary from Five Live.

All in all, this lead to a slight confusion around our penalty; for a whole minute we thought one of our players had been flagged offside or had been done pushing. It wasn’t until Berbatov placed the ball on the spot we realised what was going on.

There was no doubt about the final whistle, though, and it was a touching moment to see King and Keane lift the cup together. For their services to the club, I don’t think two players deserve a medal more than those pair.

Well done lads; well done Ramos; and well done Big Martin Jol, whose efforts should not be forgotten.

And the Spurs go marching on.

Hut hut hut

For about fourteen years now I’ve enjoyed the captivating mix of tactics and savagery that is American Football. Back in the day, Channel 4 used to have a weekly show highlighting the sport but since then it has retreated onto obscure time slots on random channels and only really pops out when one of the terrestrial broadcasters celebrate their capture of the Super Bowl. Like with the BBC this week.

I stopped up late last night/this morning to catch the New England Patriots take on the New York Giants for Super Bowl XLII and it was very much worth the tiredness I am now succumbing too. After last year’s final where the Colts scored from kick-off and made the proceeding hours a bit of a procession, this was a tight contest between the creative Patriots’ offence and a well drilled Giants’ defence.

There is something about the way that each play can be different and each has its own nuances and pressures that makes this version of football a sport I could quite happily watch all day long.

It is indeed very shiny.

In the end, an amazing play by the Giants’ quarterback evading four onrushing tacklers, dodging out of the pocket and lobbing a 40-odd yard pass on the run to his receiver, who caught it way off the ground and surrounded by opponents, was worth stopping up for alone. The fact that the underdog Giants then snatched it with a touchdown when only 35 seconds were left on the clock simply topped it off with a cherry.

The big problem with not getting regular access to coverage is it always creeps up on me that my team the 49ers still suck. It appears as though no matter what country or sport my choices fair the same.