Spurs are one of those clubs that haven’t really been on my radar over the past few seasons. Probably something to do with them seemingly always playing on a Sunday tea-time when I’m just about over the disappointment from the Saturday but not quite ready to convince myself I want to watch football again. I could say also that they’ve never really done anything to warrant attention for a while as well, but that might be a little harsh.
However this season they’re playing some good stuff – did they exit the Europa League early? I can’t remember, anyway, they seem more visible, more lively, more watchable, so it was with a fair degree of anticipation I settled down to watch them entertain Watford at home. And entertain they did, starting with a fantastic Dele Alli opener which he curled in from the edge of the penalty area.
But then in the usual flurry of celebrations there was something between Alli and Son that, had he been watching, David Attenborough would have described as ‘a flamboyant courtship ritual’. They looked like two signers for the deaf describing an explosion in a fireworks factory to each other whilst on speed.
And I know I’m out of touch on many things, but this was a handshake? And not only that, but it’s specific to Alli and Son (don’t you wish Spurs had a player called ‘Steptoe’?). If someone else scores, then Son has a ‘secret’ handshake for that individual too. In fact he has about twenty-seven of them apparently, and Spurs have released a special video showcasing some of them, no doubt so that you can practise at home. In the mirror one assumes.
But it’s not just Son and Spurs, they’re all over the place - Lingard at Man Utd is a fan, Ronaldo has one that seems to mimic the beginning of creation itself and really needs a supporting cast of thousands to do it justice and David Luiz has one with a Brazilian team mate that I swear is a derivation of the hokey-cokey. It’s fun and it’s quirky and I don’t have a problem with it, except maybe it does smack a bit of cliques in the playground type thing?
So yes, it fits in with a top Premier side playing with style and panache, it speaks of team spirit and confidence but what if Spurs are three down with two minutes to go and Alle scores. Does he get his funny handshake then? And if it’s Port Vale against Mansfield on a wet November evening in front of fifteen hundred people and Mansfield go one up against an atmosphere of deadening gloom, do they do it then?
I guess it’s what’s appropriate for the occasion....
And I make no excuses for reacting to comments from the top Premier League managers again, because they do spout the most outrageous drivel. Pep Guardiola, after his side beat Hull 3-1, listed the recalled Claudio Bravo as one of the 'best goalkeepers in the world' alongside Bayern’s Manuel Neur and Barcleona’s Ter Stegen.
This is the goalkeeper who had to move out of his way to let the ball go through him from a tame Hull attempt. A goalkeeper who out of the last seven shots he’s faced on target has let in seven goals. That’s not a great goalkeeper, that’s not even a goalkeeper - compared to Claudio Bravo, Kelvin Davis should have been inducted into the Goalkeeper’s Hall of Fame years ago.
Claudio Ranieri has gone on record saying that it wasn’t his players that got him the sack. No? Well, watch them play a game for you and then watch them play a game for Craig Shakespeare, and they may not have all countersigned the letter, but they may have been in the Chairman’s mind when he pulled the trigger. Anyway, who cares who did it, it’s hardly ‘Line of Duty’ is it?
And Arsene, as if he wasn’t in enough trouble, has issued a statement saying that letting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain leave would do “big damage” to the club. How would anyone know – he never plays him. He’s only started twelve games this season. ‘Big damage’ – how so? Does he get the coffees in at half-time?
Wenger then went on to stress that he wants to retain the club’s top young British players as he believes a ‘homegrown core to be an important quality to the squad’ - I think it’s called ‘Britishness’, and its importance is growing.
We have to keep them all. Ramsey, Chamberlain, Wilshere, Gibbs. All these players we have to make decisions and manage to keep them together.
Including the one he tried to keep together by sending to Bournemouth. And none of whom get a regular game for Arsenal – so who’s he kidding? They’re all coming up for contract renewal and Wenger wants to make them feel important and loved. He’s going to have to come up with some pretty special handshakes to keep those guys in a team that are going from bad to worse and where they can’t even get a full game.
Women’s football doesn’t get much press these days, which is a shame given that the England team are ranked fourth in the world, have just beaten Austria 3-0 and should do well in the Euros this summer. However, they’ve been drawn in a group against France, Switzerland - and Iceland, but it would be good to see the ladies team pull off what the men couldn’t.
But as we’ve seen, sex discrimination is rife throughout the world of football. This week UEFA unveiled their new executive committee with six new members:
.... it will help to rebuild our image, restore our credibility … No empty promises; no empty words; no scandals. Let’s act. With humility, respect and professionalism.
Amongst the new faces are John Delaney of the Irish FA, winning his seat two days after Ireland’s unpaid womens' team threatened to strike to secure €300 match fees and a set of tracksuits. Delaneys' pay for his part time role - €460k, plus €300-a-day expenses.
Also acting with humility, respect and professionalism is the head of the Polish FA, Zbigniew Boniek, elected two weeks after he stated:
Without exaggeration, when we talk about football, a woman’s input is useless.
So, a bright future for women’s football in Poland then, and just to confirm his suitability for rebuilding the image of UEFA and restoring it’s credibility, he’d earlier given his reasons for wanting the position:
It’s a bit about vanity, and it’s for convenience. When you’re on the committee, if you want to watch Real v Bayern, you just call and the next day you have plane, hotel and tickets.
Also attractive are the six-figure salary and part-time hours: “I like to have time for golf and horses.”
Well, isn’t he a catch. Further down the food chain, Alain Clément, president of French club Pollestres denied that having ‘Europe’s Top Brothel’ as a shirt sponsor for their women’s team sent the wrong message. In that case, why, one may ask, doesn’t the men’s team play with the same sponsor? Or the U13, U15 or U18 boys?
I think it’s a shame that women’s football doesn’t get the profile it deserves in this country, and a win in the Euros may go a long way to correcting that. However, on the wider stage I think it’s disgraceful that the game is still infected with the sort of ignorant, narrow-minded, distasteful, bigotry and discrimination that have been fought so successfully in other walks of life.
But, like other ‘sensitive’ topics, this is yet one more area that football will sweep under the carpet for as long as it can, and by doing so will attract just the sort of people who will seek to prolong those same prejudices.