Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oh God why?

Why did we spend a reported £9M on Peter Crouch? Seriously? He has a list of clubs played for about as long as his gangly 6'7" self, and unspectacular numbers at all of them.

That he broke into the England team is still something of a mystery, but then you recognize that he came into the team when Sven was picking players like Theo Walcott to play at a World Cup finals when he'd never played a Premier League match and it starts to make more sense.

Now, the idea of a 6'7" striker (the tallest outfield player in the Premier League, I might add) coming to Spurs would normally make me salivate... but Peter Crouch is effectively useless. He's tall, but he has trouble heading the ball efficiently. And as far as skills-by-foot go, well. See for yourself:

Yeah, that's Crouch. Missing completely (45 second mark). He was in acres of space against Trinidad and Tobago. He was alone, maybe 12 yards from goal. Centered perfectly. Lovely cross from Beckham. Crouch made contact with the ball. It went across the net to go out of play where the 18-yard box starts. Wow.

Now, don't get me wrong - his size does make him useful. He has the ability and length to get to poorly delivered crosses (you saw an example in the video above, about 2 highlights before his epic miss). But, unfortunately, he doesn't have the skill to finish those chances.

Crouch's greatest ability is holding the ball. He is spectacular at holding the ball and allowing others to get into scoring positions. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the skill to distribute the ball well enough to allow those scoring positions to be utilized effectively.

Maybe I'd be happier if this wasn't just our third (and most impressive) signing of the summer. I might also be happier if he didn't cost £9M. Absurd.

I agree, Peter.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Things I learnt while watching Spurs v Barcelona

Last night Spurs played Barcelona as part of the inaugural Wembley Cup. The Barcelona team that played was very much a B-squad, there was no Messi, no Henry, no Puyol -- though Gudjonssen and Touré played.

Anyhow, Spurs drew 1-1. Yay? Mmmm, not as such. I was really disappointed by what I saw on the field, and learned a few things about my team and what they need to do to go forward. Most of them stem from really poor managerial decisions by Harry Redknapp (yes, the same guy I was in love with about 6 months ago).

1. The team needs to be built around Tom Huddlestone, not Wilson Palacios*.
Tom Huddlestone was fantastic last night. He started off in center back (we have three injured CBs... why has Harry not thought about getting another one?) before moving into his more comfortable position of centre midfield in the second half. He was distributing the ball effortlessly, almost every ball he distributed was perfectly weighted, and fell right into the run of whoever he was hitting it to anywhere on the field. It was incredible. Wilson Palacios was the height of useless. Barcelona's goal** was largely his fault (he is number 12, watch him start running the wrong direction giving Touré a path to goal. Who's the only one whose challenge actually landed? My boy Huddlestone).
Turns out, he's not creative at all. He's a battering ram. But not a skillful battering ram -- his positioning is very poor, he's extremely gullible, and he spent most of last night getting in the way than he did doing useful things.

2. Why sell the Welsh international fullbacks and buy Championship ones to replace them?
Chris Gunter - 20 (born '89)
Gareth Bale - 20 (born '89)
Both are full internationals for Wales, Gunter plays right back, Bale plays left back. Both are incredible on the ball. Both are wonderful crossers, and excellent defenders. Bale is one of the best left-footed free kick takers I have ever seen. Both are incredible talents for the future. So Redknapp sells Gunter to Nottingham Forest and wants to sell Bale, citing lack of experience as their main problems. His idea for replacing them? Kyle Naughton and Kyle Walker, from Sheffield United.
Kyle Naughton - 20 (born '88)
Kyle Walker - 19 (born '90)
Walker has two matches with the England U19s under his belt, Naughton has played twice with the England U21s. They are not nearly as talented as the two Welsh internationals (Walker only just broke into the Sheffield first team last year)... but apparently they're what Spurs need to fill the lack of experience brought by Bale and Gunter. I had the distinct displeasure of watching Naughton last night - he's disturbingly gullible and made the right flank so unsafe that Corluka (who was playing centreback) wound up leaving the middle open most of the time to cover for Naughton.

3. Jermaine Defoe cannot operate as a lone striker
He just can't do it. The service he was getting was terrible (Huddlestone was playing centreback, remember?), Modric was not playing as an attacking midfielder, but a left winger, and no one was going forward, leaving Defoe with no options. It's not so much the fault of Defoe that he can't do it, it's the inability of the midfielders.

4. Our kids want it more than our seniors
The beauty of friendlies is that there are seven subs, and the halftime switches don't count toward that total. So last night we got to see a lot of Spurs' reserves playing the second half... and they were fantastic. While our seniors were largely standing around while they were playing, waiting for something to develop around them, the kids were on their toes and moving.
making things happen. It's how we wound up scoring (oh yeah, it was a reserve [Livermore, below] who scored our goal).

5. Harry needs to get his head out
Like I said, a lot of the problems right now boil down to Redknapp. Why does he want to buy Viera? Why did he/does he want to get rid of our Welsh internationals? Why have our only purchases this summer been completely unncessary? We have problems at the striker positions, sure. But before Redknapp came in, we were leaking goals but we were also scoring at will. Bring in Redknapp and Les Ferdinand as a striker coach? We stop scoring goals. I don't think it's a problem with the strikers, but their coach. We obviously have holes at centreback, why haven't we bought anyone? We have Huddlestone, but Redknapp wants to sell him. Palacios is useless, but Harry's building the team around him. Oh... and he wants to bring in the greatest has-been of the past decade. What's he doing!?!?!

* See the bottom
** I don't know how to mount videos

Friday, July 24, 2009

It's been awhile....

After moving, various (and ongoing) computer problems and (as Amrit pointed out) general laziness, I think it's time to post something.

Recently, my favourite baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays have begun exploring trade options for the best pitcher in baseball (indisputable fact), Roy Halladay. This seems contrary to common sense: you do not trade the best. But if Wayne Gretzky can get traded (twice), then anyone can get traded. Kobe Bryant was almost traded a few years ago, but he said no at the last hour because the players going the other way in the deal would have made the Chicago Bulls a really, really bad team, even with Kobe. Baseball is different, though. Each team has literally more than 100 players in their organization. You cannot trade draft picks, but you can trade prospects.

Now, I do not want the Jays to trade Doc because I do not want to see him in another uniform. But, his contract is up after next season, and he has told the Jays he will explore the free agent market, which he has never done before. He will be entering his age 34 season at that time, but could command a 5-year, $100MM deal, maybe even higher. If AJ Burnett can get a 5-year, $82.5MM, Doc can go triple digits. Trading Doc makes sense because the Jays have to maximize their returns. In a trade, the Jays can demand 2 sure-fire, can't-miss top prospects, plus 2 middling prospects and 1 hit-or-miss prospect.

But should the Jays trade him? I said it awhile ago, but 2009 is really about 2010. Even with the super fantastic hot start this season, the Jays year was and is 2010. This year is about figuring out who can contribute next year. Roy Halladay gives the Jays the best opportunity to compete next year. A rotation of Halladay, plus the emergence of Ricky Romero, the returns of Shaun Marcum and Jesse Litsch, and all the kids (Cecil, Mills, Rzepczynski, Ray...) can yield 5 solid starters. If JP Ricciardi thinks 2010 is not the Jays year, we will find out soon when he trades any asset he can (Scott Rolen, Marco Scutaro, Jason Frasor...) to get some prospects back. The Jays have little high-end talent at the top of the system (Snider and Arencibia), but boatloads of prospects way down the chain (Ahrens, Jackson, Tolisano, Moises Sierra, Yo Chavez, Gus Pierre, David Cooper*).

So JP has an option. Trade Roy and don't compete until 2012 or later, or go for it in 2010. I think he will go with the latter as JP's contract is also up next year. I won't be happy when Doc walks after next year, but he has earned the right to win, and the Jays might not be the best situation for that.

I hate being a fan of this team.

* I really hope that Balbino Fuenmayor, Moises Sierra, Yohermyn Chavez, Gustavo Pierre and Mark Rzepczynski are on the same team one day, just to give announcers nightmares.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How the mighty have plummeted uncontrollably

He led Swedish club Gothenburg (I cant do umlauts, so I'm spelling it the English way) to the Swedish treble in 1982; league, league cup and UEFA Cup. He then went to Portuguese club Benfica and won the league, the cup and finished second in the UEFA Cup. After a stint with Roma (where they won the Coppa Italia) he went back to Benfica, to win another league title and finishing second in the European Cup. He then went back to Italy to lead Sampdoria to a Coppa Italia, then won a crapload with Lazio. In 2002, he got the big job: England manager. He managed a stellar record in getting England to major championships, but could never quite pull of big-game wins. He left England in 2006, and took charge of Manchester City in 2007... that ended abruptly (mentioned in this article) . He followed that up with a stint with the Mexican national team... who politely asked him to piss off after one year at the helm. But, our favourite trooper of a Swedish manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson has landed on his feet. Oh yes, he has taken over as director of football at powerhouse club... Nottingham County.

If you're scratching your head trying to work out who Notts County are, don't be discouraged, you're not alone. Eriksson's name is probably the only one on their staff list you're likely to know. But, thanks to a takeover by a Middle Eastern conglomerate (they're taking over everything these days, aren't they? Those Middle Eastern conglomerates!) they can afford a big hitter like Sven. At any rate, Notts County were relegated last season from the First Division (one below the Championship, two below the Premier League) to the Second Division, where they will face stiff competition from Accrington Stanley, Dagenham & Redbridge, Grimsby Town, Port Vale and Rotherham United.

Notts County, whose stadium (Meadow Lane) boasts a mighty capacity of 20,300 (though most of those seats are typically empty), claim to be the oldest team in England, established in 1862... EIGHT years older than Maidenhead United FC! Damn, I thought the oldest team in the country was here. Ah well.

At any rate, Sven's really come a long way from England, hasn't he? At least the supporters of Notts County can count on their team never being picked by ability, but by fame and name. Oh wait... alright maybe Notts' teams will be picked by ability, unless you've heard of, well, any of these guys.

Oh. And Sven plans on taking them to the Premiership. I'm really excited to see how this one goes. Good thing Sven took his trusty right hand man Tord Grip with him as a "General Adviser", maybe he'll be able to keep a grip on reality for his five-year stint at the lowest point of his career before deciding to find a respectable Championship club to align himself to, or just deciding to call it quits altogether.

You've got a lot to ponder there, Sven.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

75 years is a longer time than you might think

Things that happened in 1934:
- Alcatraz becomes a prison
- Flash Gordon is first published as a comic strip
- Germany signs a 10-year non-aggression pact with Poland
- Bonnie and Clyde kill two highway patrolmen in Texas a month before they're killed in a shoot-out (seriously)
- Dionne quints are born
- Hitler becomes the Führer of Germany
- The Chinese Long March begins
- Persia becomes Iran
- Jean Chrétien, Hank Aaron and Ralph Nader are born

OH - and 1934 was the last (and first) time England won an Ashes test at Lord's Cricket Ground, the official home of cricket (yes, this sentence is what that string of random events was leading up to).

Enter 2009 - the second time in the history of the Ashes (a history that began in 1882) that England managed to beat Australia at Lord's.

How I would love to tell you about the drama of the event, the edge-of-your-seat cricket taking place as the Aussies edged ever closer to beating the seemingly impossible-to-match target score set by the English. How I would love to tell you of the relief that washed Graeme Swann's face as he bowled out the last Australian. How I would love to tell you the fantastic story of Andrew Flintoff, playing in his last 5-day series, taking five Australian wickets in his last Ashes Test at Lord's. How I would love to tell you about the simple glory in England winning at Lord's. Unfortunately, I can't. I didn't get to watch it.

You see, the BBC, who has aired The Ashes for at least the past decade, decided not to pick it up this year, letting it go instead to SkySports. Now, you're probably saying, "Amrit, I didn't want to read an article about cricket, but I am anyways because there's nothing else to read. Now you're subjecting me to another TV rant? Why do you keep doing this to me? Also, can I have your autograph?"

Well, reader, yes, you can have my autograph. But this is actually important, because it proves that my theory works, and could work in the UK too! Hurrah! Assuming you were too lazy to read through the hyperlinked article, I suggested that the CBC become an opt-outable tax (yes, I am a Queen's student, I love things that are opt-outable) for having programming that lots of watchers weren't remotely interested in (oh, they're dropping The Simpsons now as well).

Now, in the UK, in order to operate your TV, you have to pay an annual £142.50 (approx. $280) TV licensing fee, which is used to fund the BBC. For that, the BBC offers commercial-free programming which is supposed to strike the fancy of all its veiwers, while maintaining strong cultural identity in what it shows. And is there anything more British than (a) cricket and (b) competition with the Australians? I mean really, the British define themselves by sport and sporting accomplisments, and getting one over the Australians is about the only thing that could make a gentryman crack a smile (even for a second).

So while the most exciting test in the past 75 years of Ashes cricket was happening at Lord's... I was either watching The Open or any array of home makeover shows (they're interesting, don't hate). Meanwhile, that most interesting of cricket matches was happening on SkySports, a cable channel which costs anywhere from £16.50/month to £35.50/month.

And thus, the BBC has put British TV-watchers (sports fans specifically) in much the same situation as the CBC for Canadians. You pay taxes for TV you don't want to watch, while you pay extra to get the cable channels to watch the TV you do want to watch. I pray you governments, let people opt out! Let people choose to watch what they want to watch! Don't hold us subject to the whims of stuffed shirts sitting in their ivory tower of television! We beg of you a system of television which reflects the wishes of the people! (Okay, I might be getting a little too dramatic here). But seriously, that £16.50/month for SkySports (£198/year) wouldn't be so daunting if the TV license wasn't being forced on people. Allow people to opt out of the BBC, allow people to opt out of the CBC, and I can promise you a vast improvement in the quality and type of programming that would be on offer. And no more crap like Little Mosque on the Prairie.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Well... as hiatuses (hiatii?) go, this was one hell of a long one. But we can explain! I promise. I was doing a summer school program at Queen's castle in Herstmonceux (would recommend it to anyone who was pondering doing it), Phil's doing something important and Milway's extremely lazy.

But, I'm done my summer program, Phil remembered that he has opinions on things and Milway's still lazy, but also watching baseball, so this blog should get up and at 'em in short order.

On the docket for the near future:

I'll be talking about The Ashes cricket series between England and Australia (and will go on an Amrit-vs-CBC style rant... except about the BBC!!! DRAMA!), and who knows, maybe I'll delve into the Heatley thing... because that hasn't been done to death. Phil will be writing about the ridiculousness of the transfer window in football lately (non-Premier League too), and Milway might write something too. Who knows.

Anyways, once again - sorry for the extended break. I know all three of our readers have been pulling their hair out for months wondering where we went... well... we went to SchoolTown. Don't hate.

Expect new stuff tomorrow!

PS -- the picture. I typed "back from vacation" into Google Images and that popped up... it was so awesome I couldn't help but use it.