Inside the Opposition: Tottenham (Part 2)

After yesterday’s interview with Spooky, today I’m bringing you the inimitable Jack Howes, known as Debaser on Twitter. Jack is a Spurs fan, football writer, prolific tweeter, metaphor machine and all-round great man. I’ve asked him to pick his best City XI of his lifetime, as well as getting the lowdown on Spurs’ new signings

How would you rate Spurs’ start to the season?

Strange. We’ve not played very well, won three games 1-0 with dubious penalties and on that basis deserve to be seventh in the table. But then we’re just two freakish home defeats away from being top of the table, which is where we’d be if we’d beaten West Ham and Newcastle at home. And had we taken our chances we could easily have won both – even the West Ham game, if Defoe scores when one-on-one with the keeper at 0-0 we probably win.

As it is he misses, they score three times, and my tickets for the game (a 21st birthday present) became not loving birthday mementos but bits of paper that couldn’t be more sickening to look at if they had pictures of Sol Campbell on them.

Who’s been the pick of your new signings?

Difficult to say so early on, made harder by the fact all of our new signings have struggled to varying degrees. We’ve not sold Elvis but bought The Beatles, more sold Elvis and bought the Dave Clark Five. Roberto Soldado’s struggled to integrate into the team and his biggest current attribute is that he isn’t Jermain Defoe. Christian Eriksen was very good for a spell, was then very bad and is now injured.

Erik Lamela has barely played, Paulinho looks classy but also curiously lethargic at times, Nacer Chadli has done bafflingly little. The two who have done the best probably are the two least heralded – Vlad Chiriches doesn’t have just a super cool name but looks like a classy, assured centre back while Etienne Capoue looked superb before he got injured. I can’t wait to see him and Sandro partner up in midfield, those two are so physically strong you’d need a bomb shelter to cope with them, not some fancy dan playmaker who’s been assigned to pressure them on the ball.

For me, Lloris the best ‘keeper in the league. What do you make of him?

He’s by a distance our best player right now. His presence improves the whole team – when he’s playing, the defence is not only better but can play higher up the pitch, which means the midfield pick up the ball quicker which in turn leads to quicker, snappier movement which helps create chances for the strikers. Our defence on paper isn’t the best, especially at full back. The reason why despite that we concede so few goals is simply how good Lloris is.

Not only is he the best keeper in the league, but of all the keepers currently starting in the Premier League he is the most important to his team. Without him, we’re average. With him, we’re potentially a very good side.

Like us, you’ve had a lot of managers down the years. Who’s been your favourite?

Andre – I love him. Quite a few fans don’t like him, partly because they’re suspicious of his nationality and style of management (a legacy of Juande Ramos’s disastrous spell perhaps) but also the style of play has supposedly not been exciting enough.

Well for me that argument doesn’t wash. Watching Spurs as a kid, we didn’t play especially stylish football and we usually lost anyway. I don’t remember Christian Gross, George Graham or David Pleat presiding over glorious attacking football. Even under Martin Jol there were games where the defence spent matches hoofing it to those noted target men Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane. The ‘Spurs play good football’ belief that people still have has always been more myth than reality.

Yes this season, we’ve been worse to watch than usual. But I still love Andre. He’s honest, doesn’t deal in the half-truths and bullshittery his predecessor as manager revelled in and the fact newspapers and pundits have never been fans of his makes me like him more. Sod those twats.

Of other managers we’ve had, I loved Martin Jol for what he did with us. We were a right mess when he joined, and in not much time took us to the brink of the Champions League, playing decent football. Having Ledley at his peak, Carrick, Berbatov and others didn’t hurt. He’s certainly my second favourite.

Redknapp – I never fully trusted him. He was too matey with the press, there were too many games where we’d lose all shape and completely collapse defensively and also too many instances of him referring to ‘Tottenham’ or ‘them’ rather than ‘us’ and ‘we’.

However, in hindsight I appreciate him more than I did at the time. Beating Inter and AC Milan the way we did was extraordinary for a club of our stature. The football we played too was terrific at times. He was lucky to have Modric and Bale in his team, but the freedom he gave them meant there were games where as a fan I’d be purring over our passing and movement.

But at the end of the day, what a vain, egotistical arsehole that man is. A self-serving, hypocriticial, duplicitous snake in the grass. He’s a good manager, the best Spurs manager in my lifetime, still I think underrated by many who see him as a bit of a joke. But he’s a fundamentally bad human being who isn’t trustworthy.

Andre’s not hypocritical or untrustworthy or dishonourable. He’s the opposite of those things. That’s why I like him so much.

Your all time Spurs XI?

For my all-time Spurs XI, I’m judging the players I myself have seen, so from about 1998 onwards. These are the best players I have seen in their respective positions, not the best team per se.

Corluka  King  Woodgate  Assou-Ekotto
Ginola  Sandro  Modric  Bale
Berbatov  Sheringham

Kompany or King?

Ledley. Don’t be daft.

Pellegrini or Mancini?

As a manager and on a personal level, I prefer Pellegrini. He seems to be a nice, caring sort of chap whereas Mancini by the end had become a bit of a dick towards both the players and the press. Away from football he seemed to be pleasant enough and I can see why fans liked him, but there was an element of vanity and silliness about him (that scarf?!) which Pellegrini doesn’t have.

As a manager, he doesn’t upset his players like Mancini appeared to, and he doesn’t play five at the back which helps. I’m baffled why City can’t win away, or why they score loads of goals at home but can barely have a shot at goal against Sunderland. I can only presume it’s psychological, because whatever tactics City are using, their players are so good they should easily beat Sunderland, Cardiff, Villa etc. You don’t need loads of tactics to beat those teams. Just play well, don’t make silly mistakes and you’ll waltz to wins.

Best City XI of your lifetime?

The best City XI of my lifetime is basically the team they’ve had the last two or three years. I tried to include players from before then but couldn’t not even ironically. I couldn’t live with myself if I put Shaun Goater in there instead of Sergio Aguero.

I’m also judging by how good the players were for City – if it was just on the players, Peter Schmeichel and others would be in there.

Zabaleta  Kompany  K Toure  Clichy
Y Toure Barry
Tevez  Silva  Aguero


3-1 City.

Follow Jack on Twitter

Interview by Rob Pollard

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