In our final installment of Inside the Opposition: Tottenham, we welcome Jack Howes to Typical City. Jack is a brilliant, hilarious and absolutely prolific writer, who also tweets endlessly about Spurs and football in general. He writes for the Huffington Post, Soccer Lens, By Far The Greatest Team and The Daisy Cutter. I asked him the key questions, such as should Mancini be sacked, and what on earth is Gareth Bale’s celebration about.
Gareth Bale’s celebration continues to annoy me, even if his recent injury has provided some respite. What is it all about?
I have not the slightest idea what his celebration means, or why he does it. All I know is that I like to see it, because to be blunt, I like seeing Gareth Bale score goals for Tottenham. I wish he did it more. The actual reasons for the celebration though? Here are three possibilities:
-Bale is in fact, an alien sent from outer space. This would explain his odd appearance, the astonishing work done to his ears to have them pinned back in his last year, and also his brilliance as a footballer and freakish athleticism. His celebration is a way for him to tell his alien overlords ‘everything’s fine, it’s cool’. It’s a type of code. And when he does a celebration different to the current one, he’s saying to his fellow aliens ‘I wanna go home, I wanna go hommmmmmmmmmmmme, this planet’s a shithole, I wanna go home’.
-Gareth is, unlike the plethora of other footballers with shit tattoos, shit haircuts, an addiction to Nandos and a girlfriend who looks like she’s been tangoed, a nice man who does the celebration for a charity, or for a kid in cancer remission who asked him to do a distinctive celebration for him whenever he scored.
-In a sign of modern football going badly wrong, Bale one day spend an afternoon sitting with his agents, thinking of a celebration they could do which would turn Gareth Bale into Gareth Bale™. Alan Shearer had his Nazi Salute style lifting up of the arm, Bebeto had the baby rocking, Tim Cahill the punching of the corner flag, Robbie Keane the stupid roly poly, Roger Milla the brilliant dancing round the corner flag, and now Gareth Bale has his rather rubbish heart gesture.
Moussa Dembele is a player I like a lot. How important is he to this Spurs side?
Massively important, he is the beating heart that pumps blood to the vital organs (i.e other players). Tottenham’s bad runs of form this season have come when Dembele was either injured, as he was November time when Spurs lot four games in five, or when he was exhausted and devoid of form and confidence, like he has been recently.
There are very few things the man can’t do. He’s big, powerful, strong, fast, skilful, an excellent passer and strong in the tackle. While his physicality is something to behold, it’s his passing and distribution that have been crucial to Spurs this season in a team that has few genuine passers and which desperately misses Luka Modric. He’s a terrific player, who I’m amazed we signed when Manchester United especially could have done with him. We need him to return to form, and quickly. Otherwise the midfield battle on Sunday could turn into the Battle of the Somme – Dembele and Scott Parker running at the opposition, being shot down by Yaya Toure’s gunfire.
Vertonghen also looks like a top buy?
Oh yes, yes, yes. Jan is SuperJan, a superb defender who technically is just marvellous, someone who could play more than competently in any outfield position. He’d probably be half decent in goal if you chucked him in there. See the two goals against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium, when he both plays a lovely pass for Bale to score, and then in the manner of Dennis Bergkamp controls a Bale pass over his shoulder before finishing smartly. It was a finish that would shame many a centre forward, taken with aplomb by a centre half.
Defensively, he is excellent, quick enough to deal with most centre forwards and also a very smart reader of the game, more often than not in excellent positions, unlike compatriot and ex-Ajax graduate Thomas Vermaelen. If he has a weakness, it’s that he too often goes for the shirt pull when in trouble. It’s a reflex action, but one has to curtail for the good of himself and the team.
After some initial skepticism, AVB is winning over the doubters. Are you a fan?
Are you kidding? I love the man. Not only is he the most handsome male this side of Ryan Gosling, he’s done a terrific job with comparatively few resources to Arsenal, Chelsea and the Manchester clubs. Inheriting a side that was talented but which was tactically naïve and also shorn of confidence after the departures of Modric, Van der Vaart and King Ledley in the summer, he rebuilt the side to play some of the smartest, snappiest football in the league. The players seem to regard him highly, while his honesty in the press after the bullshit-fest Redknapp provided is gloriously refreshing. I love the guy. I’d do almost anything for him.
What’s the latest on Tottenham’s search for a new ground?
Who knows. Levy and the Spurs board have turned the area around White Hart Lane into a virtual ghost town by buying all the properties so they could knock them down and make space for the new stadium, then doing nothing with those empty properties while waiting for planning permission to be granted and funding to be agreed. In an area already suffering from high levels of poverty and unemployment, the lack of any regard for the city of Tottenham has been disgraceful.
While a new ground has been agreed and a stadium is set to be built for around 2016, no building work has been done yet, and Levy’s efforts to move to the Olympic Stadium show his desperation to not have to spend top whack on a new stadium which is desperately needed with 30,000 on the season ticket waiting list.
Daniel Levy is a man praised for driving a hard bargain, yet sometimes his strategy of holding out for a high fee leaves him with little time to find a replacement. The Berbatov deal springs to mind. Do you like the way Levy does business?
When Levy busts the balls of other clubs to obtain ludicrous fees for mediocre players, then yes I think the guy’s great. Anyone who obtains £20m from a bottom half club for Wilson Palacios and Peter Crouch without resorting to criminal means has one hell of a negotiating technique.
But then it’s him trying to get Champions League football on the cheap in recent years that is starting to rankle. Tottenham’s net spend over the last couple of the years is a minus figure, while the badly handled potential signings of Joao Moutinho and Leandro Damiao, players who could have taken the club to another level, have cost Spurs the services of two top players. Spending money on a new ground is fine, but with no diggers in sight, where is that money going?
This title race has been a bit limp. Who do you think will win the league next season?
The title race this season couldn’t have been limper if it had erectile dysfunction. For next season, until we see who manages Chelsea and Man City it’s impossible to tell. City and Chelsea have better players man for man than United, but are under inferior management and have also been distracted.
Basically whichever English club Mourinho takes over next season I think will win the league. If Richard Neville in War of the Roses was the Kingmaker, then Jose Mourinho in modern-day football (La Liga aside) is the Leaguechampionmaker.
Should Mancini be replaced?
Yes. I can understand why City fans are fond of him and don’t want him to leave – he’s taken them to glories you could only dream of a few years ago, and he also did it in dramatic, comic book style. He’s built a great team capable of beating any side in the world. He’s even turned Gareth Barry into a good midfielder, truly a mighty achievement.
For all the good work he’s done though, City could do so, so much better with someone else in charge. Mancini’s man-management appears to be poor, if not downright alienating. Tactically too he doesn’t appear to have a clear plan or philosophy, playing a 4-2-3-1 at the start then going to three at the back (a system the players plainly are clueless about). At the highest level, you need more flexibility. A tactically astute manager with a clear direction and good man-management skills, combined with the players they have and the money that’s behind them could achieve incredible amounts of success, much more than what they’ve achieved so far.
1-1, Spurs to fight like heck and scrap like pitbulls but to lack the quality to win. City will not be massively interested but will still grab a point.
Interview by Rob Pollard