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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.

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?

Do you “FIFA”?

So what did you take away from TGS? Anything monster?

Back home I’m still without a Xbox hard drive and I’m twiddling my thumbs, relying on a storage device that is only just large enough to hold my profile and a Halo save game. It’s a good job my copy of FIFA 09 appears to be lost in the post as I don’t think I’d have room to save out a season’s campaign even if I wanted to.

Why are they using

This year the classic choice of FIFA or Pro Evo has swung in EA’s favour, for once. It’s been a good few years since I’ve bought into their highly polished version of the beautiful game but with all their leaps and bounds forward, compared with Pro Evo’s continuing insistence to neglect to fix up niggles that have plagued the series for years, I’m happy to invest. Play seems smooth and natural, and for as much as I have the greatest respect for Konami’s efforts they just haven’t evolved enough, in my opinion.

Continuing on from my enjoyment of UEFA 2008’s multiplayer, FIFA brings with it what can really only be described as a clan system. A whole squad of you and your friends can get together, form a “club” and then up to ten of you can play online at the same time in the same team. Obviously this could be disastrous and I initially had visions of a school playground where players would flock after the ball like birds in migration, but when executed well with a group of competent team mates it does have tremendous potential.

The sticking point may be which team we adopt as I’ve seen one friend obsess over Cheltenham town, we have a Cardiff support in our ranks and Spurs aren’t exactly setting Europe alight this season. We may have to go for some neutral ground… Spain or Brazil, maybe, as a compromise.

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.

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.