Looking Back – Spurs Revisited, Looking Forwards – Onwards To Pompey

Posted on March 10, 2008 
Filed Under Matches

The last week has been a good one, hasn’t it? I’m still over the moon about the Tottenham game although I haven’t had time to blog about it. I’ve started several articles but after about three paragraphs I usually end up selecting ‘Ctrl + A’ and then hitting ‘Delete’ because I need to look after a sick relative, do some proper world work, answer someone on the phone or  have something significantly more interesting than Blues on offer!

The result deserves some sort of recognition here although I’m sure Spurs fans won’t appreciate this oddity popping up on their NewsNow stream, especially considering they comfortably won their last game. Still, they’ve got some silverware in the bank this season so sod ‘em.

Jake, the kindly soul who usually offers home match reports couldn’t do the Spurs game so John Baker, an exile who runs the excellent Blues Muse website, offered up a match report after having watched the game live … sort of. Here’s what he had to say:

Here’s what I observed through my big telescope this week as we put a 7th goal past the England Goalkeeper this season…

A PREMIERSHIP TEAM
We looked like a decent team for most of the match, and despite our lowly league position looked more like a mid to upper-mid position Prem team for much of the match. We’re now unbeaten in 4, so that sounds about right.

THE STATISTICS DON’T LIE
Along with that 4 game unbeaten run, we’ve also prevented Arsenal from taking an additional 4 points of late, and done the double over the League Cup winners.

OK, so before I start wetting mesen, let’s work from the back . . .

DA KEEPER
Taylor did little or nothing wrong between the sticks. It seems that a change of ‘keeper coach has really improved Taylor’s game as he now picks more crosses out of the air than I’m used to seeing from him.

Talking of conspiracies, that ex Aston Vile keeper and coach, Nigel Stink, must have been on an Aston Villa salary until he left recently. I think we were being conned.

THE BACK LINE
Kelly and Murphy, just awesome – sorry about the Americanism – plus Jaidi and Ridgewell also shone. OK, so the Ridge gave the ball away just over the half way line, but that’s hardly a defensive blunder. At the back he is cultured, and is a ‘little giant’ as he frequently wins balls in the air. He also had a hand in our first goal from McSheffrey’s corner by the way.

MIDFIELD
Johnson motored and motored, Muamba motored and gave the ball away too often, McSheffrey was improvement on his Prem self, and Larsson did all the things we expect of him and more. Oh yeah, right, he also scored a beauty of a free kick.

Muamba is in his first Prem season, so he will only get better in terms of composure on the ball, and Johnson, as his seasons wane, almost repeated his goal against Robinson when getting our first Prem win in 2002. McSheff I can only hope is on his way back. I think he’s become a bit of an enigma, but I’ll let you know about that once I’ve looked up the word in the dictionary.

UP FRONT
Oh my giddy [Aunt]! We, ahem, McLeish could be on to something here! As much as I’d like to see DeRidder and Zarate used more, I thought that McFadden and the Forss worked well together. We as a Club and set of fans are possibly about to be rewarded with the Forss of old it seems. What’s that? He’s signing for Stoke City in the summer you say?!

SUPER SUBS
Parnaby acquitted himself well as did Jerome, but that Zarate fella, well, he’s a bloody genius! His value has been estimated at 20 million quid, so I can only assume that Big Mac prefers to work mostly with the players he knows he WILL have come next mid-August. But my McFriend, Zarate has stated that he appreciates the Premiership chance given to him by Birmingham City, and would love to give the Club fist dibs when the season is over. That said, should we go after him, can we afford him, and where would he slot into the scheme of things? He’s too damn talented to leave on the bench every week! Zárate, por favor no te vayas!

THE MANAGER/COACH
Having my Welsh inclinations [leave it], I was pleased to see the tartan one wearing a Daffodil during the game. In case you hadn’t realised, it was St. David’s Day on Saturday! In my opinion Big Mac is the signing of the season, and if we can keep him, I can see us doing very nicely next season thank you very much!

McFADDEN
Tell me, when the ball breaks from defence, have you noticed how comfortable he is on the ball, how infrequently he loses it, and how the opposing defenders stand off him? This guy is a class act, a canny laddie, and is starting to fill the role that McLeish had him earmarked for. I don’t care what anybody says, he’s worth every penny of the transfer fee, plus a can of Irn Bru and Scotch Pie and beans. Mmmmm.

By the way, if anyone disagrees I’ll break yer legs Jumma! [phrase copyright of Roger Hynd, circa 1972]

THE BANANA CUSTARD CREW [Tottenham]
Playing in their away strip of all yellow – see the connection now? – they were dominated by the boys in blue. I rate Berbatov, but no team wants to carry a prima donna who sucks his thumb at the slightest adversity. Thing is though, we contributed greatly in making Spurs look very juvenile is so many ways on Saturday, and I’m sure I’m only one voice to say, long may it continue.

It’s one of those results that puts a spring in your step for the next week and only now the slog of another working week has started has it begun to rub off. Although the sight of an FA Cup Semi Final with no clubs inside the big three – or Liverpool (I stole this one from an Everton supporting internet acquaintance, I know it’s going to make me laugh for a long time) in the semi has made it seem as though football has collectively gone some way to healing itself, albeit probably temporarily.

Going back to Spurs though, it felt like the justification of steadfastly sticking by and supporting Big Eck through of a string of good if unfortunate performances meriting fewer points than we should have had paid off and was offering us a glimpse of what’s on offer if we continue to do so. So what if they have two world-class centre halves injured? So what if they’re still pished from celebrating too hard? You can only beat what’s put in front of you and Alex McLeish’s brilliant riposte that Spurs caught us on a good day when questioned about this very fact by one of the BBC crew was sublime.

It was also great that we could simply sit and bask in the glory of a very good and comfortable win for a few days since we weren’t due to play for another 11 days. Articles praising the Forss were thrown up across the web and he looked fantastically happy in interviews on local TV. I had hoped to blog one or two of the articles involving him but the links are well and truly buried in the bowels of the internet now and whilst I’m dedicated to both Blues and this blog, there’s certain places that go above and beyond what I expect of myself! There will be no digging in bowels. In short: Forss, feeling good, looking sharp, everyone’s delighted.

McFadden… When we were linked with James McFadden, I said that Toffees fans would be dancing in the street the day we signed him for £5m. Well, all they’ve done is succeed in making themselves fitter and not proving any sort of point because this guy’s going to be a good un for us. He has that intelligence to play against the very top teams and be able to have a positive impact on the game and we’ve already seen his ice cool side in the free-kick situation against Arsenal (we’ll skip over his one on one with the ‘keeper) and the penalty at West Ham.

I’m excited about a potential long-term partnership between him and the Forss. Both have footballing brains and Larsson seems to be on a similar wavelength – watching the three of them celebrate time after time against Spurs was fantastic. I’m just eager for us to get Kapo back now since he’s also the type who can see things that other players can’t. Worryingly for defences in the Premiership, Kapo also has the talent to make these things happen.

I liken the four of them to McSheffrey and Bendtner last season. Both were a class above anything in the Championship and it was intelligence as much as natural ability that saw them stand out. Jerome has all the attributes to be an absolutely top class player (first touch aside?) but since the day he turned up, I’ve had doubts about his footballing brain. I’m not sure he can read his team mates and I’m not sure that he can instinctively see when a team mate is planning an outlandish or difficult pass. I feel that the Forss and McFadden are both likely to see a gap or see a potential move 3-4 seconds before it actually happens and will react accordingly.

Jerome is very raw. He has pace, he has power and over time, his finishing has improved (see: ‘Goals against Derby, Tottenham and Newcastle’). His first touch is still cumbersome and he still can look awkward in possession but the essential ingredients are there. Now I wonder if McLeish – or anyone – can turn good ingredients into the finished article. A footballing brain is a gift and when coaches and ex-players say that 90% of football is between the ears, it’s players like Cameron Jerome I worry about. Great ability but ultimately unsuccessful when it comes to the level that they could potentially play at.

And getting back on topic, it was nice to see the performance being recognised by those in the game when Big Eck was handed the LMA Performance Of The Week. Any recognition is good recognition although does it bother anyone else that Sir Alex Ferguson gets a say on who gets the performance of the week in a league that he manages in? Surely an independent panel should vote? Is it Fergie every week or does everyone get a say? If it’s rotated, we’ve got no chance when Wenger has his say! Meh, whatever. Well done Alex, well done Blues.

Onwards and upwards, we travel to Portsmouth on Wednesday night. I’ll do a full preview tomorrow (probably, assuming a meteorite doesn’t fall from the sky or ‘THE STORM!’ hasn’t wiped me out – the news programmes are doing my head in with the coverage. It’s bad weather, it’s not World War III. A huge inconvenience for some, worse for a few, but let’s not treat it as if it’s an impending apocalypse, eh?) but can’t pass up the opportunity to talk about a subject that was brought up by another exiled Bluenose who joins in on the Joys & Sorrows forum.

Before the weekend, what result did you hope for with Pompey travelling to Manchester United? Did you want United to hammer them to reduce confidence, did you want a draw and a juicy draw for Pompey in the next round to get them focused on the replay instead of our game, a Pompey win to hopefully see them ‘do a Spurs’ and lose focus out of achievement?

Portsmouth aren’t great at home – played 13, won 4, drew 7, lost 2, 16 for (7 in one game) 10 against. My logic was that I wanted Pompey under as much pressure as possible from an expectant home crowd. A win at Old Trafford would certainly provide that and now it’s gone and happened. An early goal from Blues could really put the home crowd on edge and ruin a party atmosphere (Pompey were drawn against West Bromwich Albion in the cup semi earlier today – both semi’s to be played at Wem-ber-lee) and it’s not as if we’ve been playing badly lately.

Many others said that they wanted a United win and judging by the sheer amount of chances created by the home side, that should’ve been exactly what happened. You could argue that any club that goes to Old Trafford and wins is a side to be feared but on another day, Pompey could’ve been on the end of a 6 or 7-0 beating. It’s the way the cookie crumbles and I’ll certainly be backing us to go down there and nick at least a point on Wednesday. Although, if any Pompey fans have read this far, I will say that, regardless of the fact that we’re playing you lot this week, I was delighted to see you put United out.

The good thing is that we go into Wednesday night not being in the bottom three and a win could see us set ourselves up nicely for a gigantic tussle with Newcastle United on Monday night. A win there – regardless of our result at Portsmouth – would spring board us above the hapless Geordies.

And by the way, who – outside Newcastle – thought that Keegan was a good appointment? When I first read that he was interested, I really wanted it to happen. In an amusing “That would be a world class – but stupid and ultimately tragic – story!” kind of way. In the same way that it would be mightily funny if say, Robbie Savage was run over by a Sauerkraut truck. It had a ‘Highly Unlikely’ stamp on it and when it actually happened… well, my laughter cup runneth over.

The next two games are beyond words in terms of importance. 4 points – 3 against Newcastle, please – could see us really begin to shoot up the league. With Wigan still in reasonable form and Reading finally beginning to pick up the points that they have perhaps deserved, it’s important to not be left behind. Derby have gone and Fulham are pretty much on their last few gasps of Premiership air bar a miracle which leaves one space available for a team up to Middlesbrough in 12th. Newcastle are looking the favourites at the moment with their run of form but looking at their squad, you would have to say that eventually, they’ll scrape enough points together to stay up.

Whatever. Anyone but us will do and with the good feeling bobbing around the pit of my stomach at the moment, I have a feeling that it won’t be.

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