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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.

First Impressions: FIFA 09

So I’m a few days into FIFA 09 now and I’ve had a chance to – excuse the pun – tackle a lot of what it has to offer and so far I am not regretting my switch from Pro Evo one bit.

From the traditional season through to the Be a Pro mode and on to Live multiplayer I can’t say I really have any complaints. Players are responsive, play is fluid and the game is another step in the series’ movement away from the high-scoring pinball football of its past.

There are moment when I forget myself and think I’m in a FIFA from a decade ago, trying to charge my way through defences or shoot from 30 yards on certain angle but never to any joy.

The biggest challenge I’ve found myself facing so far is that of the Be a Pro mode. I’ve chosen to be a midfielder in the current Spurs team and it’s proving to be a bit of a slog. Whilst I can track back and help out on the defensive side, the rest of my team seem unable to score or even willing to pull the trigger in front of goal. With my limited forays upfront and my lack of skill when faced with the onion bag I don’t think we’re going to push for the league title this season as so far out of seven games we’ve drawn six, won one with a debious penalty and only scored another solitary goal from open play.

My traditional season is fairing better with my team in a European spot. I still struggle in front of goal but this version of FIFA brings out what I loved about the Pro Evos of the past: it allows you to string together some swift, cutting play that you’ll want to watch again and again and again, or it’ll sit you back and let you lump the ball forward all day long for a lofty centre forward. What it won’t do is make it easy when under pressure so you do really need some space to make a difference, just like in the real game.

Of course, if you do have a moment of magic you can always capture it, upload it and then replay it again and again and again.



Pretty sweet finish, eh?

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.

UEFA 2008

For most of my life I’ve been a Pro Evo man. Compared to the FIFA series, it offered a greater level of realism and really made you work for everything that you did, which I found very rewarding. The gap over recent years, however, has been narrowing, with the recent outings for the behemoth EA steadily improving, leaving the more arcadey feel of previous titles behind.

The latest release, UEFA 2008, adds another string to its bow with the Captain Your Country mode, where you take choose a single player and then take control of him throughout the entire qualification campaign. Starting in the B-Internationals, you must work your way up through the ranks to first earn a squad place and then the captain’s armband.

Playing as a single position for the entire season may not sound inspiring but it brings a refreshing new dimension to the game as it allows you to think about how the game is played in a completely different fashion.

Man on!

Taking the role of a striker, you’ll no long have to rely on the computer starting to make runs for you, taking control only when you’ve slipped yourself a through ball from the midfielder you just sent on a scything run. Instead, you’ll be constantly watching the line, calling for the ball and doing your best to make space whilst the AI does the mundane defensive duties.

The added feature is that you are actually rated for everything you do and poor play will see your Man of the Match score slowly tick down. It definitely encourages you to keep your passes true and your shots on target as you can risk the loss of the captaincy if you put in a shocker.

As always in these situations, multiplayer takes a good idea and makes it even better. With four of you playing in this mode you get a sense of team play as never before as it is infinitely easier to keep tabs on what is going on without the flicking of cursors between different men.

In the couple of hours we put in post-palooza, some wonderful goals were carved out with defenses being pulled out of position and inch-perfect crosses. Furthermore, these Goal of the Month contenders can even be saved to Flash files on the game’s website so you can relieve that clinical finish over and over again.

If you like your football games and you can stomach the third high-profile release in the genre in the last six months, then UEFA 2008 is definitely worth your time.

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.