Everton 0 Tottenham Hotspur 0


As we vainly looked for a decent ending to the preview we fell back on the tried and trusted ‘should be a cracker’, a statement that managed to be simultaneously trite and completely misguided.

This game, between two sides who could have moved into second place with all three points, was essentially a load of old cobblers but the polite interpretation of events would probably be that they ‘cancelled each other out’.

Everton were grateful to be level at half-time on the strength of Tottenham’s possession during the opening 45 minutes. The visitors absolutely bossed midfield, where Sandro and Paulinho never gave their Everton counterparts a kick, while Jan Vertonghen was the most impressive centre-half playing at left-back seen at Goodison since the days when Joleon Lescott was keeping Leighton Baines on the bench.

The problem for Spurs though is that Roberto Soldado looks unsuited to the role he’s been given and his teammates, realising there’s no value in crossing the ball into the box for him, passed the ball around with seemingly no idea what they were going to do with it once in the final third.

For their part Everton were once again pressurised fairly easily at the back, and while the forwards could argue they got little service they never exactly covered themselves in glory in terms of offering themselves as targets for the beleaguered defenders and deep-lying midfielders.

However, it’s probably just fair to observe that any side is going to struggle against this Tottenham team filled with so many very good but not really great players. To use the acid test, how many would get in our team? You could probably make a case for the majority of them. That said, you can also see why the fans are a bit frustrated as Andre Villas-Boas does seem to have gone down the route favoured by so many continental managers who come to the Premier League and become almost obsessed with the physical side of the game. The likes of Jose Mourinho and comfy kecks Rafael Benitez before him certainly had a lot of success with teams built around very muscular midfields – as if they saw Dunga’s Brazil as the perfect blueprint – but they also received their fair amount of criticism too for producing teams that could often appear more functional than people expected given the amount spent on recruiting players. They just look a bit ‘stodgy’ for want of a better term.

On the other hand, the tight-trousered Portuguese could also argue that it’s early days for his post-Bale team and, as already mentioned, they could have moved into second place here had they actually bothered to trouble Tim Howard.

There was a bit more incident in the second half as Everton finally got back into the game. In fact the Blues had one of the few decent chances in the game when substitute Gerard Deulofeu tricked his way through the Spurs’ defence only for Hugo Lloris to smother his shot from close range.

To give Roberto Martinez his due, he introduced both Deulofeu and Ross Barkley in an attempt to try and take maximum points when plenty of other managers might have been tempted to simply preserve the stalemate against such strong opposition.

The game had two real talking points and the first was Lloris getting knocked clean out in an accidental collision with Lukaku’s knee but then continuing to play once he was up on his feet. The Frenchman is obviously made of sterner stuff than you would think given that he looks like the camp café owner off widely unwatched Jack Dee sitcom Lead Balloon.

Everton also had a big penalty shout denied when Seamus Coleman kept going and tried to shoot after a trip by Vertonghen. Apparently both players were also involved in what looked like a penalty claim for Tottenham in the first half but in all honesty without watching Match of the Day 2 – and why would you? – it’s hard to actually recall.

So we’ve decided that it must have been fuck all.

All in all then it was a dull game between two sides who demonstrated that they still lack certain qualities needed to compete for the top prizes. On this evidence Spurs do look closer than Everton – the ease in which they dominated in the first half was alarming at times – but the usual suspects are probably not too worried just yet.

So, finishing yet another of these pieces, especially after such a drab encounter, continues to be troublesome. Perhaps we should take inspiration from one of our all-time favourite television sh

Tottenham Hotspur Preview

Sport. Football. Italy August 1961. Jimmy Greaves of AC Milan.

In a completely transparent bid to drum up interest and provoke controversy in a publication that nobody really reads we approached Russell Brand to guest edit This Is Not Football but the skinny-scarf wearing Herbert declared, rather bluntly, ‘You talk enough shite already. And I support West Ham’. So you will have to put up with our distinctly less glamorous approach for a bit longer, or at least until we can get Robert Webb to write us a really odd missing the point type article – perhaps something about Alex Ferguson never owning a pool table.

Going back to Brand, we were initially excited when we realised that we shared some common sexual ground with unlikely swordsman, so imagine our disappointment when it was revealed that Lynne and Katy are in no way related.

Anyway, we’ll plough on regardless towards the Spurs preview portion of all this – we’ll maybe even try to come up with some segue about flighty Londoners who get more media attention than their achievements deserve. Well, that was it really.

Before we start going on about their team it’s always quite interesting to delve into the philosophical minefield that is the ongoing ‘Yid Army’ debate at Tottenham. You will always know when this subject has reared its head again because it’s the only time you will ever see David Baddiel’s face on your television screen. In fairness to Baddiel, whenever he sets his well-rehearsed points out against some normally not Jewish Spurs fan he is hard to argue with. The best they can ever come up with in reply is ‘It’s not offensive’ to which he replies ‘But lots of Jewish people are offended’ which leaves only the rather weak ‘Well they shouldn’t be’.

Everyone seems to get tied up in knots about the whole thing, with the likes of the FA, the police and even the Prime Minister all offering different viewpoints. In reality though not a lot happens because, for all the hand-wringing, the practicality of the situation is it’s easy to arrest or eject handfuls of away supporters shouting anti-Semitic remarks at White Hart Lane, but stopping entire stands full of Tottenham fans from singing ‘Yid Army’ is another matter altogether.

When shouting about ‘Yids’ as well it’s the one time that someone being asked to stop doing something that they see as their ‘right’ can legitimately argue that they would have been allowed to do it in Nazi Germany.

Speaking of all things London Jewish brings to mind the old sitcom Never Mind The Quality, Feel The Width ­– ok, it doesn’t really, as it was rubbish and you are probably far too young to recall it, but for the sake of moving on to discuss how Andreas Villas Boas has strengthened his squad with the money from selling Gareth Bale it kind of works.

There’s a well-held belief that having a massive squad is what you need to win the league, but when you look at the likes of Tottenham, who have sold one extraordinary player and replaced him with about seven lesser ones, it looks like what they have actually done is improved their chances of winning the League Cup. If your first eleven, or at least first 14 or 15, aren’t stronger than your rivals then how can you expect to surpass them in the competition that’s taken most seriously? Clearly you need to have a degree of strength in depth in order to make decent substitutions and cover for injuries, but having essentially another full set of fellas who should really be playing first team football somewhere else, and who can only really be placated by their immense wages, must surely breed its own problems.

School prefect Villas Boas has bought some decent players with the Bale money, but at the moment at least they haven’t had the same sort of impact that Roberto Martinez’s new Fellaini-funded faces have had on the Everton team. Roberto Soldado, for instance, is clearly a great finisher, but he appears to offer very little in terms of all-round play, which makes you wonder whether they might have been just as well persisting with Jermain Defoe and saving the fat part of £30 million.

Similarly Tottenham laid out £36 million on Erik Lamela and Naser Chadli only to find that the best disconcertingly tall winger on the books is the one that was out on loan at Queens Park Rangers last season.

Managers are quick to plead poverty and settle into ‘back me or sack me’ mode when it comes to transfers, but when you see what they are likely to do when given free rein with the chequebook you wonder whether they need to be saved from themselves. Often their best work is done, like in art or engineering, when there are limits and constraints that force them to use their imagination and be a bit more creative.

They won’t thank anyone for pointing it out, but you only have to look at Arsene Wenger who has kept faith in players like Aaron Ramsey and resisted the urge to spend for the sake of it until someone came along who he thought could make that real difference to his team. Or Everton even, who Tottenham have barely outperformed over the last 10 years despite being considerably better off money-wise.

In short then, Spurs spend a lot of money to qualify for the Europa League and occasionally finish fourth, and that spending creates the expectancy that has led to their fans grumbling and the manager making comments questioning the atmosphere at White Hart Lane. In fairness to his team,  we could have told them that Hull City were going to be a tough side to beat, as they were half decent at Goodison the other week.

Like most of the less well funded sides in the division Hull go away to the bigger clubs determined not to get shredded on the break. Thankfully the unique atmosphere at English grounds, and the fact that we’ve never really learnt how to defend that well in this country, means that these nullifying tactics have yet to reach mid-90s Serie A levels, but still the more illustrious teams can often find themselves frustrated in front of their own supporters. That shouldn’t be the case on Sunday though, as Tottenham will surely come to have a go and that means there’s every chance we will have an open and entertaining game.

That’s another shocking ending but it’s quarter to eight and some of us have got to get to work so there’s not even any time to go back and check the spelling and grammar, that’s just how it’s going to have to be.

Deal with it.

Everton 2 Tottenham 1

When he doesn't have to think about it...

When he doesn't have to think about it...

With the crowd poised on the B of boo, and Spurs about to open a six point gap in fourth place, Everton turned their season on its head.

In the final minute, with Andre Villas-Boas’s compact and efficient team leading  through a deflected Clint Dempsey drive that dipped over Tim Howard in the 75th minute, it looked as if we would once again be reflecting on Everton’s well documented deficiencies.

Despite playing some decent stuff in spells, especially before the returning Kevin Mirallas was withdrawn at half time, there was always a feeling that Tottenham were doing well at keeping the Blues at arm’s length. They controlled long stretches of the game, pressured from the front and always looked ominous on the break. If we played like that at White Hart Lane we would have reasoned that we deserved the lead and called the performance ‘professional’.

Everton’s best spell apart from the crazy finale came before half time when the visitors were forced into some desperate defending and had to ride their luck. In particular, Dempsey and then William Gallas appeared to get away with a couple of handballs that looked like Wailing Wall penalties. They are the ones that aren’t awarded against clubs with a support that is often characterised as containing a higher than average contingent of Jewish members.

During that frantic spell, Leon Osman also saw a goalbound shot blocked by Steven Caulker following great play down the left by Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar.

After that though, the sides were evenly matched for most of the second half, with Everton missing the pace of Mirallas who never reappeared after the break – he looked as if he aggravated his troublesome hamstring following a mazy run across the edge of the Tottenham box.

Jan Vertonghen’s piledriver from a free-kick forced Howard to tip the ball over the bar but, despite the quality of both sides, neither keeper was really too busy before Dempsey’s strike took a nick off the superb Sylvain Distin and put Tottenham in front.

As David Moyes admitted afterwards, the last 10 minutes or so of normal time then marked the Blues’ worst spell of the match. An equaliser never looked on the cards, and Spurs could have doubled their lead when substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson curled a beauty over Howard and onto the crossbar.

Then it happened. In the final minute, Steven Naismith, who had a decent game in place of Mirallas, fed a loose ball out wide to Seamus Coleman. The Irishman has had a tough time recently but this match saw him back to his best – he certainly did brilliantly in this instance, resisting the temptation to lash the ball into the heart of the packed defence and chipping the ball back towards the edge of the box instead. One of the reasons we struggle to open sides up is because we never seem to have anyone arriving late in the penalty area any more, but this time little Pienaar left his former teammates flat-footed as he steamed in and planted a header low past the incredibly French-looking Hugo Lloris.

Mayhem. And incredibly there was more to follow.

With Villas-Boas still standing stunned on the touchline – with his now familiar expression like a man who has realised that the person he has let on to was actually talking to someone behind him– Everton took all three points and squeaked above Spurs into fourth place.

Darron Gibson launched a cross towards the edge of the box where substitute Apostos Vellios threw himself at an overhead kick that was ambitious to say the least. The Greek striker made only the faintest contact with the ball, but it was enough to put it into the path of Nikica Jelavic who instinctively stabbed home a winner that had seemed all but impossible only a couple of minutes earlier.

How the fuck the Croatian knew to be on the move when and where he was, and then stick out his leg when he couldn’t have even seen the ball coming past the defenders, will forever remain a mystery.

He seemed quite happy with the goal though.

It was a remarkable comeback against a good Tottenham side. Moyes, looking resplendent in a suit and cardigan combo, said that we were due something like that and he’s not wrong.

It’s hard to foresee a season when qualifying for the Champions League will be more achievable for Everton than this one. We kept our best players this summer, and indeed strengthened the squad, and a number of the massively moneyed clubs who normally bar entry to the Euro money pit are struggling with problems of their own. If the people at the club who say they want to play at the highest level – and would love to do it with Everton – are really being sincere, then they have to build on this result and start being more ruthless against the majority of sides in the league who are nothing like as good as the last three we’ve faced.

After all, it needs to be remembered, we’re talking about finishing fourth here.


Don’t Adjust Your Sets

This is just a test to see if the thing works that automatically sends out a tweet and updates the Facebook whenever there’s a new piece on the site.

But while we’re here we might as well indulge in some red hot sporting chat.

First of all, it’s been reported everywhere that Everton have agreed a fee with Tottenham Hotspur for the return of Steven Pienaar to Goodison Park. That’s good news, clearly, however agreeing the price for new players doesn’t tend to be the real stumbling block for the Blues in the transfer market.

The whole ‘How much do you want for him? Yeah, that’s seems reasonable given the circumstances’ to-and-fro more often than not goes pretty smoothly – everyone has general idea of what a player’s value is anyway – it’s the ‘Well where are we going to find the cash to pay that then?’ stage of proceedings that generally contains all the obstacles.

That said, Pienaar hasn’t travelled with the rest of the Spurs squad for a tour of America, which has led to suggestions that he will finalise a move by this Tuesday. To Everton, presumably, and not QPR, who seem to have adopted the Sunderland approach of hoovering up the best-paid fringe players from the squads of the major clubs.

The very nature of the transfer window makes every deal a tortuous affair, with the balance of negotiating power shifting back and forth as both clubs put on their best poker faces and try to work out who is most prepared to risk walking away from the table. It’s often suggested that it would be better to to scrap the window like in the good old days, but perhaps the opposite approach could also work: allow deals to take place on one day only, four weeks before the season starts.

It could be staged like the NFL draft in America, in a big conference centre, sponsored by Monster Energy Drinks and the Daily Star, and shown live on Sky Sports. Can you imagine the excitement it would generate? You only have to look at the wholesale battiness that goes on during the final day of the present window to realise what an event it would be.

Just imagine, Alan Smith commentating: ‘And that looks like Mike Phelan there heading across the room. Where’s he going? Where is he going? He’s stopped at the Everton table! Is he asking about Leighton Baines? That’s been the big rumour. Bill Kenwright has certainly greeted him warmly enough. That could mean anything though. David Moyes is now whistling and frantically trying to catch the eye of someone over at Spurs. Fascinating stuff here…’

Apart from the fact that you wouldn’t be able to include players from lower league sides in this – or foreign ones either – due to space restrictions if nothing else, it is a flawless idea and it’s a disgrace that it’s not been implemented already.

If it did happen, the Internet would probably blow a gasket – it would possibly even dwarf – are you getting on this seamless segue here? – the Twitternami that was unleashed during Friday’s opening ceremony of the London Olympics.

As has already been said by everyone but braying Tory oafs, the whole thing was amazing. It was a triumph of imagination and positivity in the age of the sneering and snidely cynical. Danny Boyle and the rest of his team showed how it is possible to take limits and restrictions – primarily budgetary in comparison to Beijing – and turn them to your creative advantage. It was punk rock.

The whole thing was full of surprises, especially in some of the video montages. Repeated viewings on the iPlayer showed the following little nuggets:

The fried breakfast scene from McVicar

Donal McIntyre celebrating a Chelsea goal in Copenhagen

Court drawings of Barry Bulsara

The vandalised Blue Peter garden

Tommy Cooper refusing to get up off the floor

The ‘watersports’ bit in the video for Relax

Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown doing the ‘back scuttle’

John Prescott gobbing that farmer

A pack of scooter-riding paperazzi

Incredible stuff, made even more memorable by the fact that serial gobshite Aidan Burley, MP for Notmuchlonger, let the mask slip and revealed what the privileged really think of the NHS when he objected to its celebration in the ceremony, along with the rest of the ‘multi-cultural crap’.

This is a fella who thinks he can get away with attending a ‘Nazi-themed stag party’ – he’s more hard-faced than one of those mings who ‘smokes’ an electric ciggy in the alehouse and constantly looks around, just defying anyone to fucking say something, anything.

Note that Burley’s problem here wasn’t with ‘waste and inefficiency’ in the health service, which is the usual Tory line, but rather the actual NHS itself. That’s because, just below the surface, the idea of ‘free’ healthcare is an absolute affront to the sensibilities of his sort. They believe that the serfs could be paying for services – and more specifically buying them from companies owned by the ruling classes. They all think it – you only have to look at their policies – but this barmpot just happens to be the drunken uncle of the party, the one who blurts out that one of the kids is adopted.

Burley’s mainstream political career looks under threat now though – it has to be when a celebrity is threatening to go up against you in the next election. And not even squeaky-clean war reporter Martin Bell, but mentally fragile woman-beater and maniacal retweeter Stan Collymore.

Rumour has it that his first bit of business will involve dealing with the street lighting and CCTV around public spaces and car parks around Cannock. He wants it all removed.

And on that cheap shot, we bow out for now.

Stay hungry.