MUTV continue to hire racist Ron Atkinson – my correspondence with Manchester United

I sent Manchester United an email a month ago about Ron Atkinson’s appearances on MUTV. They’ve just replied.

From: Jack McInroy

Sent: 23 April 2013 13:28

To: mutv@manutd.co.uk

Subject: Ron Atkinson on MUTV

 

Dear Sir/Madam

Yesterday was a glorious one Manchester United Football Club. The club clinched a record 20th title, but I can’t help feeling that for anyone watching MUTV’s coverage the day was tarnished by the presence of Ron Atkinson. I am curious why Manchester United Football Club/MUTV think it is in any way acceptable to hire Atkinson as a pundit.

Ron Atkinson was fired from ITV in 2004 when he referred to Marcel Desailly as a ‘f**king lazy nigger’. I’m sure this is not news to you.

Plenty of people live with a degree of prejudice, much of which is deeply ingrained by their upbringing and living in a society where for many years racist attitudes and language were accepted, even encouraged.
Ron Atkinson said this in 2004, a time when the derogatory use of the word ‘nigger’ had been universally accepted as offensive and socially unacceptable for decades.

Atkinson’s outburst shows that he believes that black people are inherently lazy and unintelligent and not worthy of anything other than offensive language. It is not unusual for people to have racist thoughts, express racism in the privacy of their own home and espouse ignorant casual racism, but in this case, a man in the presence of others in the workplace, called someone the most hate-loaded word in the English language. Not only that, but he thought of a sentence and two adjectives to put in front of it before saying it, showing it was not a slip of the tongue. There can be no doubt it’s a word he uses regularly when the microphones are off.

Atkinson apologised, in the process suggesting he was some kind of civil rights pioneer for picking non-white players to for his teams. He said the incident was ‘an aberration’, and that he isn’t a racist man, but the apology cannot be accepted until he admits that the opposite is true – he is a racist man. Until he is openly ashamed of what he is (or was) as well as what he said and there is evidence he is a reformed character, he must not be forgiven.

Since the incident he has been broadcast and/or employed by Sky, William Hill, Channel Four, Swindon Town FC and most unsettling of all, the BBC. The fact that these companies have chosen to hire Atkinson after his vile statement is no excuse for Manchester United to follow suit.

What type of message do you think this sends out about Manchester United and MUTV’s attitude towards racism? I’ll tell you – it says that club allegiances and viewing figures are more important to Manchester United than the feelings, rights and progress of ethnic minorities.

What would someone have to say to be vetoed from presenting on MUTV?

“F**king lazy nigger”. If you are a decent human being reading those words will give you a feeling of unease deep in your stomach. Those are the ones he consciously uttered. Is this the type of person you’re happy to have on the club’s payroll?

Yours faithfully
Jack McInroy

From: mutv@manutd.co.uk

Sent: 20 May 2013 10:51

To: Jack McInroy

Subject: RE: Ron Atkinson on MUTV

Dear Mr McInroy

Thank you very much for your email.  We take our viewers’ opinions very seriously.

We currently use Ron Atkinson as a studio guest when he is relevant and as the last Manager here before Sir Alex, and as an experienced television pundit, we consider him a valid option for our programming.

No-one would ever condone what he did but equally we don’t think any reasonable person would condemn him to a life in exile for a mistake for which he has expressed sincere regret and that he has paid for many years.

Yours sincerely

Stefano Bozzi

Head of Programmes, MUTV

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Chelsea v Spurs pre-match chat with Mowing Meadows

I spoke to Ramon Isaac who writes the Chelsea blog Mowing Meadows. He’s also well worth following on twitter – @MowingMeadows. Unlike most Chelsea fans, he knows what he is. 

Jack McInroy: Hello, Ramon. Sunday’s win against the Manchester United players who needed a few more appearances to get a medal makes it highly unlikely Chelsea’s dreadful season will end on a bum note. 

How do you think Chelsea v Spurs will go on Wednesday and would you agree that regardless of the result Chelsea will qualify for the Champions League?

How has it happened that Chelsea are battling with Tottenham and Arsenal, two clubs with relatively meagre budgets, rather than challenging the other super rich clubs for the title?

Ramon Isaac: Hi Jack. I owe a debt of gratitude to Sir Alex for allowing us to play against a weaker United side.

My head tells me Chelsea should win, I mean STATS are on our side! The fact we have Juan Mata also helps and the potentially returning Eden Hazard. My heart, the ever pessimist, says you might sneak away with a victory and to make matters worse it will probably be a 90th minute screamer from the one with the heart celebration. Football is cruel like that.

I think we will qualify now regardless and maybe you winning might knock Arsenal out the Champions League and take away the only solace Wenger still clings on to.

We’ve spent a lot of money badly for starters and sold/loaned players out that had more to contribute than some of the deadwood that still lingers, riding the coat tails of our three amigos. Secondly, Fernando Torres. The final part might be to do with management or lack of it. Benitez has though finally realised that playing your best team can result in wins, often. Who knew?!

Speaking of managers, witnessing the magic of Harry Houdini at QPR must make you glad that you have Villas-Boas as manager? You’ve been plagued with injuries to the midfield pair of Sandro and Dembele, will it be a case of  ‘what if’ come the end of the season?

Jack: There’s a been a big Redknapp backlash over the last couple of years. I don’t quite have the ill feeling toward him a lot of Spurs fans do, but neither do I have much affection for a man who referred to Spurs fans as ‘idiots’. But I’m not particularly enamoured with nouveau riche West London clubs, so seeing QPR go down has been a pleasure regardless of Redknapp’s involvement.

I’m reluctant to blame injuries for Tottenham’s shortcomings. Sandro and Younes Kaboul are two of our best players, but other than those two the injury situation hasn’t been awful. All clubs get them. We’ve had Bale fit all season, which is the main thing.

Andre Villas-Boas has done an excellent job so far. He’s did extraordinary work at Porto but poorly at Chelsea and for the first couple of months of his Spurs career it looked like it could go either way. The fact that this squad, which has probably four (fit) players that the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United might covet, has Champions League qualification in its own hands a couple of weeks before the end of the season is as good as we could have hoped for.

Chelsea’s squad is far superior, as I alluded to earlier, we really have no right to be neck and neck this late in the season. I think we’re capable or a win at Stamford Bridge, certainly getting a draw, but given the rest of the fixtures any hope of finishing above your lot has gone out the window with that United game.

Seeing how Spurs have done this season under AVB are there any regrets about getting rid of him? How much blame should the Chelsea fans shoulder for Rafael Benitez’s results? I think Benitez crimes against Chelsea were minimal and to be so unsupportive from day one is hugely counterproductive, essentially an act of self-sabotage, but not a surprise given the collective personality of the Chelsea fanbase.

Ramon: Are you suggesting you don’t like Chelsea? I’m hurt.

I always had a soft spot for Villas-Boas, the fact Mata looked like his love child perhaps played a greater role than it should have in my estimation of him, but I was really fond of that Porto side for the season it had under him. I don’t regret getting rid of him because we became ‘Champions of Europe’! Although I, like yourself towards Redknapp, have no bad feeling towards him as some do. He was put in a difficult position and his inexperience led to his downfall. He is a good manager though. Also, he’s a suave character.

I personally think he’s got a fair chunk of the blame to shoulder. The players at times have under performed to an extent and yes the board made a monumental $#!% up by ignoring the fans and appointing Benitez for a club hero in Di Matteo, they also left the squad with not enough depth to cope with our busiest schedule ever. Yet, at the end of the day it isn’t the board’s fault that after employing him, he decided to not play our three best players in the same side till about a couple months of ago. He’s pissed off multiple players in his time here and that is a sign of poor man management. Materazzi will confirm this.

The negativity towards him was counter-productive but it was necessary. Chelsea fans felt distanced from the club and responded, there are plenty of people who understand our feeling and feel they would have done the same if placed in our position. He had a pop at our fans as the manager of a rival team and that simply wasn’t on. I wish him no ill but I can’t wait till he is far away from Chelsea. The recent trend of praising him is all the more bemusing. We were 4 points off the lead and now struggling to guarantee Champions League football. He’s praised for recovering from his own mistakes. A bit like Kyle Walker.

Tottenham’s struggles have striking similarities to Chelsea this season and that is a lack of attacking options, with that in mind, would you rather have Adebayor and Defoe or Torres and Ba? Just how good is Gareth Bale and is he staying beyond this season?

Jack: I agree that Benitez doesn’t deserve all this credit that’s suddenly been thrust upon him. The Chelsea squad is far superior to Arsenal’s and Tottenham’s and he’s had more than enough time to get them playing. The fact that he has led Chelsea to the Europa League final should not be regarded as any kind of achievement. Roy Hodgson, Martin O’Neill and Steve McClaren have all done the same in the last decade with much lesser squads, which gives you an indication of the competition’s credibility. 

To your sly dig at Kyle Walker I say fair enough. Last year he was in the PFA team of the season, but he’s been nowhere near this time round. Adebayor has also failed to replicate last year’s form. It’s like having two of your best players leave. 

How dare you compare Tottenham’s lack of attacking options and Chelsea’s! Adebayor and and Defoe are literally all we have up front. If we’d have Romelu Lukaku at the club he certainly wouldn’t have been loaned out. Obviously Torres has been a disastrous signing, but Demba Ba’s great (how about that goal in the FA Cup semi-final!). As good as Defoe is, if he doesn’t score he contributes nothing else and Adebayor seems to be the opposite this season – lots of unselfish running, but very few goals. If Bale hadn’t moved his game up to to a ridiculously consitent level we’d be down there with Everton and Liverpool. 

Bale is an explosive footballer. His ascendancy to the very top of world football is no surprise to me. He was a complete player in his teens. His final ball, the most important indicator of how good a young player is, was lethal when he joined the club. There’s no chance he’ll stay if we finish outside the top four and even if we do an offer from someone like Real Madrid or Manchester City may be too tempting to resist. He deserves to be winning major trophies and even if he stays, Spurs won’t be doing that. 

Chelsea owe all their success to Roman Abramovich, which is fitting for a club that were not formed by workers or choir boys, but by a rich man with an empty stadium. Do some Chelsea fans geniunely want their Chelsea back? With the money your chairman will no doubt spend, is a return to success inevitable? Who do you want to be the next Chelsea manager?

Ramon: Woah, woah, woah! I am not including Lukaku in this conversation because he is quite clearly our best striker. Much like Defoe, Ba offers very little in terms of footballing ability and cannot do much else but finish. That being said, he is a player that scores incredible goals.

The idea that we want our Chelsea back isn’t to do with a pre-Abramovich period but just to feel connected with the club. It isn’t really that much to ask for. It is the least any fan would ask for, it isn’t an insult towards Roman, we owe everything to that Russian Oligarch but being considered in his decision making is hardly an outrageous view to take. I want my Chelsea back but I want my Roman to stay. They aren’t mutually exclusive. If a Chelsea fan realistically wants Abramovich out the club, are they willing to sacrifice the joy they felt when Drogba scored in Munich? Not a chance.

Is a return to success inevitable? Hmm.. Considering our team is based around potentially the three best attacking players in the Premier League it would seem that would be true. Although winning a league requires strength in depth if you are competing in Europe and a good slice of luck, frequently. I think it is inevitable if we keep Mata/Oscar/Hazard they are unbelievable together and provide so many problems for defenders but they need a top quality striker to compliment them.

There really only is one realistic answer for Chelsea fans and who they want as their next manager. The Special One has to return. I’m a full blown hipster but the reality is Jurgen Klopp is happy at Dortmund and unlikely to move to West London. At the same time Mourinho is arguably the most successful manager in recent history and it would be foolish to consider anyone over him. He commands respect and more importantly he brings success.

Whilst we are talking about success… What area do Tottenham need to improve to challenge for the title? You’ve become fairly infamous as a Tottenham fan on twitter for that comment about Arsenal finshing ahead of you in the league for countless years, will finishing ahead of them bring more joy to you, personally, than the feeling of finishing in the top four?

Jack: We have probably the best goalkeeper in England, a couple of very good centre-backs in Younes Kaboul and Jan Vertonghen and a cracking midfield of Mousa Dembele, Sandro, Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon. We could do with some more creativity – perhaps Holtby will be the man, but as I said previously, we’re desperately lacking up front. We don’t have the depth for a title challenge and that won’t be rectified over the summer. 

I do have a few Arsenal followers based on that tweet, but I stand by it. We’ve been inferior to them since I was a child and I’m sick of it. Last season took a lot out of me. We were so far ahead of them and playing much better football and we completely blew it, losing Champions League football and local pride at the same time. It’s in our own hands to make amends and get the double crown of finishing above them and qualifying for the Champions League. After all this time, it’s the former that’ll give me the greater thrill. 

Nice talking to you, Ramon. We’ll chat some more after the game.

Betting on the Spurs to come 4th in the Premier League

Well, it looks as if the top of the Premiership is just about settled, and indeed it has been for some time. With 27 games played and just another 11 to go, Manchester United is sitting pretty at the top of the league on 68 points given that they have only lost three games all season. Manchester City is also almost assured of ending the season in second place; the club currently has 56 points, which is not that far ahead of Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, which have 49 and 48 points respectively. Currently Arsenal are in fifth place on 47 points. In reality should spurs finish in the top four, then their most likely position would be fourth place, and the current odds of them doing this are around 4/5. The odds on Chelsea finishing in the top four are 1/6; Arsenal is priced at 3/4 and Everton is priced at 7/1. The guys at www.bettingoffers.org have got some great offers to claim which can seriously boost your winnings.

So, is a bet on Spurs finishing fourth a value bet? Looking at the table alone would make it appear a bit of a casino type of bet, especially as Everton is trailing Arsenal by only five points. This could suggest that the real value bet is on Everton rather than Spurs, but that depends on your attitude to football betting as well as your club loyalties. Jan Vertonghen, who was signed for Spurs in the summer, is totally convinced that his team will finish in the top four, but he really has his sights set on a third place finish.

If the tension is all too much for you, then perhaps you might care to take a break from the ups and downs of your favourite club and try your hand at some football related online casino games such as the Soccer Safari online slot machine. A broad selection of slots games, poker, roulette and blackjack games can all be found at slotsites.org.uk. Technically the Soccer Safari game is a five reel video slot with 30 pay lines. It was created to honour the last World Cup which took place in South Africa, though this football tournament obviously took play in the jungle as all of the players are wild animals. You can bet anything from 30 pence right up to £120, and if you are lucky then you might win the top jackpot of £25,000.

Tottenham v Manchester City – Match preview for typicalcity.org

This week I spoke to Manchester City blog Typical City about Sunday’s match. 

The appointment of AVB was met with skepticism by some, including many Tottenham fans, yet he seems to be doing an excellent job. What are your feelings towards the manager?

Very positive. He did so well at Porto and then so badly at Chelsea (with some caveats), so there was an element of risk in the appointment.

Initially he made some questionable decisions – selling Rafael van der Vaart, trying to sell Michael Dawson, making William Gallas captain, picking Jake Livermore, staggering Hugo Lloris’s introduction to the team – but he’s got the results and has generally realised and rectified those errors.

Challenging for third place as late as April is as good as we could have expected from this squad. I’m excited about what he’ll be able to do when he’s made a couple of signings and has a full season at White Hart Lane under his belt.

Spurs struggling to fill Sandro-shaped hole

Injuries happen, and even when they come as an indirect result of an already overused established international being forced to play in an under-23 tournament, you grin and bear it in the understanding that all clubs suffer them. As long as you don’t get them all in one position (as we did in the centre of defence in Autumn 2010 for example), a serious Premier League squad should be able to cope with an absentee or two.

As great and important as Sandro is, it looked on paper like we’d be able to cope without him. After Gareth Bale he’s probably the most valuable player in the squad, but with Scott Parker having recently come back from five months out we appeared to have a more than adequate replacement to take over and lead the charge from January to May. He’s not the stallion who will mount the world, but he is tenacious and undeniable.

But upon his return Parker has looked much more like the tired workhorse always chasing play at Euro 2012 than the writers’ footballer of the year. He’s not been the colossal disaster Wilson Palacios was in his final months at the club, but his failure to keep hold of the ball is reminiscent of the Honduran and is spanner in a machine that Andre Villas-Boas is trying to keep well-oiled.

The lack of fluency in midfield is so problematic that it’s lead people to question whether this is an even bigger issue for Tottenham than the striking situation.

(It isn’t. It’s getting harder and harder to make a case for Adebayor returning to last season’s form and Jermain Defoe’s seems unlikely to break the habit of a lifetime and score regularly for a full season. Clint Dempsey continues to be our worst performer and all the young forwards on our books, none of them particularly promising anyway, have gone out on loan.)

What is Andre Villas-Boas to do? Parker is 32 and is hopefully just making a slow return to full fitness rather than showing signs of an irreversible decline. Either way, Tottenham need someone in play the holding midfield role effectively now and Parker is emphatically not that man.

There is a player in the squad who once would have been a credible alternative, but is also currently playing the worst football of his life. Tom Huddlestone’s abominable form is perfectly symbolised by a hairstyle that reminds us how long it’s been since he was making a positive impact on top-flight matches. He bravely decided not to cut his hair until he’d scored a goal, with all money raised in the interim being donated to Cancer Research. He got injured immediately and he’s only come marginally closer to breaking that duck with his return to action.

In 16 months, a period in which he’s earned in excess of a million pounds, he has raised a paltry £10,924 for charity, a kitty that matches his pitiful showings on the pitch. His less athletic than ever and no amount of long range passes makes up for the lack of completing the short ones.

Villas-Boas reportedly turned down an offer from Fulham, but this season is surely his last at Spurs. The red card he received in the opening game of the seasons was rescinded, but the image of Huddlestone hurtling uncontrollably along the turf like a derailed train remains. The scrapyard beckons.

Against lesser opposition we might be able to get away with having Jake Livermore as the deepest midfielder (as we occasionally did with Jermaine Jenas), even though it’s not his natural game. This won’t work regularly though, as keeping possession is not something Livermore excels at and no amount of enthusiasm and energy can hide the fact that he is not good enough for a team in the top third of the table.

Villas-Boas needs to reshuffle the pack.

While Gylfi Sigurdsson is undoubtedly a talented footballer,  in hindsight signing him doesn’t seem like the best use of limited funds, given we bought Mousaa Dembele a month later and Lewis Holtby in January. Despite that, Sigurdsson could be the man to bring life to a team on the verge of going stale. He has a role to play this spring.

Either Holtby or Dembele will have to be shackled to a more disciplined defensive role, while Sigurdsson and the other play further forward. With Bale regularly drifting toward the centre too, it’s a formidable midfield even if not everyone is in their favoured position.

If the goals dry up there’s not a great deal that can be done to stop it, but the dysfunctional midfield can be fixed.

Scott Parker returns to lead Tottenham back to the top 4

At some Premier League clubs it seems they have more captains than armbands. Rio Ferdinand, for example, had international captaincy and was not even deputy at Manchester United. This has not been the case at Tottenham for a long time.

Ledley King wore the armband by virtue of being the best player at the club and playing at the back. He led by example rather than vocally, meaning we didn’t have anyone else.

Then came Scott Parker. His arrival was not greeted with universal joy, but the incumbent Footballer of the Year started at Spurs in scintillating form and was one of the driving forces behind our best half season in Premier League history.

Things started going off the rails in January and in May we had nothing to show for our efforts. The squad was stretched thin and Parker, an action hero unwilling to give anything short of his all, got tired and sloppy. His presence went from being the catalyst for victory to a reason for defeat.

After the mess that was England’s 2010 World Cup campaign, Parker emerged as the answer to one of England’s problem positions, but he came home from the European Championship having been schooled by Andrea Pirlo and dismissed as die-hard English workhorse unable to keep hold of the ball rather than an exceptional midfielder suffering from burn-out.

Tottenham started this season without him and, domestically and in Europe, haven’t played well enough. There is something intangible missing. Spurs need a leader.

With King having retired in the summer, Parker out injured and Michael Dawson considered not good enough, Andre Villas-Boas turned to William Gallas to be his representative on the pitch. That he picks Gallas at all is baffling, the Frenchman having been one of our worst players last season, but to give him the armband is even more strange.

AVB looked at his squad and decided the two-time Premier League champion, two months his senior, was the right choice for captaincy. That his experience would be pivotal. But Gallas never inspired anyone in his life. He doesn’t carry junior team members and the team doesn’t work better as a unit because he’s in it. Gallas will be remembered as the man that sat in the centre-circle sulking while Arsenal’s title challenge fell apart around him. That or when he threatened to score own goals if Chelsea continued to play him at full-back.

Perhaps the desire for seniority also explains the prolonged presence of old man Friedel at the expense of the superior Hugo Lloris.

Spurs would be top if goals in the last 10 minutes of games were not counted. This hypothetical statistic has little relevance to the real world, but it does indicate that when mental toughness is needed to get us over the finish line we’ve been sorely lacking someone to drum up some spirit and ensure robustness.

In football terms, there is an issue. Sandro is an exceptional footballer and has been one of our best performers this season. Him and Parker have rarely been good together, but the qualities they both possess must be utilised.

It is up to AVB to find a system that fits them both. A 4-2-3-1 with Moussa Dembele just ahead of them would make for a midfield packed with raw power. Too much perhaps, but the flair comes from the wings with Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon.

Yesterday Parker made his first appearance of the season, with a couple of stoppage time minutes of against Swansea. There are 21 league games left (as well as shots at the FA Cup and the Europa League) and we are far better for having him among our number and wearing the armband.

Parker back in a Spurs shirt is a thing to savour. With his gelled hair, narrow shoulders and effeminate jog, leading us to victory.

The Spurs Miscellany “The club lives and breathes in these pages” – book review

Tottenham Hotspur was founded in 1882, won the FA Cup in 1901 as an amateur club, was the first team to do the double in the 20th century, first British team to win a European trophy, won some more FA Cups, League Cups and UEFA Cups. We know all this.

As an adolescent football statistics enthralled me. I was no Angus Loughran, but I could tell you our record win was 13-2 v Crewe Alexandra, our record defeat 7-0 at Anfield, Clive Allen scored 49 goals in 1986-87 and Jimmy Greaves was signed for £99,999.

As an adult, and one with varied interests and few social issues, these things no longer thrill me. Going in to the Spurs Miscellany I feared there’d be little more than the dry facts, an honours list with the mediocre years fleshed out.

Fortunately the book is much, much more than a mere chronology. It is packed with facts and factoids to the point of being comprehensive, but it’s the text in between that makes it so essential.

The club’s 130-year history is presented in bite-size chunks with anecdotes, pen portraits, lists, quotes and even song lyrics. Whatever fits.

Martin Cloake and Adam Powley capture the spirit of the club, the essence of what it means to be a Tottenham Hotspur supporter. The book has an unmistakable personal touch and only very occasionally veers into unbridled fandom.

It is utterly engrossing. From the tale of the club’s formation under a street light on the corner of Park Lane and Tottenham High Road, to a tribute to current cult hero Benoit Assou-Ekotto, it’s a thoroughly entertaining (and light) read.

Anyone familiar with the writing of Cloake and Powley won’t be surprised by the wit, warmth and passion in the writing. The book is thoroughly researched too, some wonderful gems of trivia turned up. Roy Keane and Bruce Foxton were boyhood Spurs fans. In 1977 Spurs, in the second tier, had the best attendance in the division by 8,000. Terry Venables, while a Spurs player, had a bet on Chelsea to win the FA Cup (we beat them in the final).

Fellow Tottenham supporters will feel an immediate kinship with the authors as they recall the hard times and the good.

Bookshops will sell it as a stock filling for football types, but it’s more than that. The club lives and breathes in these pages.

Jake Livermore adapts to role of ‘new Jenas’ with aplomb

Three months short of his 22nd birthday, with six unspectacular loan spells under his belt and only 75 seconds of Premier League football, Jake Livermore looked every inch the failed academy graduate destined for lesser things, albeit one that had hung on a year or two longer than most.

His inclusion in the squad for Tottenham’s first game of the 2011-12 season was a surprise, and the central midfield partnership he formed with Niko Kranjcar at Old Trafford looked the like the most short term of solutions.

With Sandro injured, Luka Modric trying to push through a move to Chelsea and Tom Huddlestone and Jermaine Jenas lacking fitness, the makeshift replacements lined up against champions Manchester United and, for an hour, matched them.

Eventually United found another gear and went on to a flattering 3-0 win, but Livermore had enhanced an almost non-existent reputation.

Scott Parker arrived a fortnight later and Modric was forced to stay, but Livermore’s job wasn’t over. Jenas’s was. He was sent to Aston Villa on loan for the season.

Jenas’s most notable attribute is his anonymity. He has blended into the White Hart Lane terrain many times, disappearing in front of 36,000 witnesses.

Jenas has a discernible impact on a football match as often as Lionel Messi doesn’t.

He is a cog. A part that taken in isolation you wonder what its function is.

He doesn’t have the range of passing of Huddlestone, or the ability to lead and inspire like Parker. He can’t unlock defences with a swivel and a touch like Modric and he doesn’t make the goal-stopping interceptions Sandro does.

What he does is run around a lot and keep the game moving. His short passing is excellent, his stamina never even comes close to running low and when he finds himself in possession he generally retains it. Relieved of the burden of being the team’s primary creative or defensive midfielder he is liberated and at his most useful. In 2010-11 he was at his best when he had Modric and Huddlestone or Sandro in the team with him. The former linked with Rafael van der Vaart and the strikers, the latter broke up opposition play and Jenas filled in in the spaces between.

Football fans are known for fickleness, but the opposite is too often the case. So steadfast are some supporters in their dislike of certain players, they won’t recognise any positive contribution (outside of a match-winning goal). Jenas, like Peter Crouch, was the subject of that blind prejudice, and even if you were of a mind to appreciate his worth it was hard to find the motivation to jump to his defence.

Against Inter last year, in the return match at White Hart Lane, Jenas’s introduction after the break gave the team an energy boost and increased stability in the middle of the pitch. He was a key component in outplaying the European champions and turning them over 3-1.

That isn’t enough, and paying the fifth best central midfielder in the squad £45,000 a week doesn’t make economical sense for a prudently run football club. Villa are playing at a different level and first team chances are easier to come by there, but an injury after less than two hours of football put him out for the season, costing them over £2 million.

Back in north London, Livermore has featured in 31 of Tottenham’s 41 games this season, a stat loaded by the manager’s blasé attitude to the Europa League. Even still, the five starts and 20 appearances on the bench in the Premier League are more than anyone expected from him and are testament to the faith the manager has shown in him.

He had another good game against Manchester United the Sunday before last and went down to another unfortunate defeat.

He’s the same height as Jenas (within half an inch), the same build and a similar skin tone. He does the same unremarkable things that occasionally tip the balance of a match. From the top of the north stand or on a particularly low resolution internet stream you might not even notice Jenas has been replaced. Add a goal here and there and the transition will be complete.

At the beginning of March headlines read ‘Redknapp backs Livermore for England’, but the truth is on being asked by a journalist if the midfielder was capable of playing international football the Spurs manager replied that ‘he could be’. It’s an aspiration rather than an expectation. If Redknapp gets the England job for the European Championship he’s unlikely to take Livermore to Poland and Ukraine ahead of Parker, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverly, Jack Wilshere, James Milner, Jack Rodwell, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard or Gareth Barry. Even Tom Huddlestone would be preferred if he managed to get back to fitness by June.

Jenas scored the first goal of Fabio Capello’s reign, but he’s only got four caps in the last four and a half years. Something to put on the mantlepiece rather than a significant international career. Livermore would do well to match that.

Livermore signed a new contract in December and will be at White Hart Lane next season. He will remain a decent squad player, but if Spurs stay in the top four (or even the top six) it’s almost certain he won’t be there for the full four years. He’ll want to play every week and that will be at a club in the lower two thirds of the top flight.

By then Tom Carroll will be of age. The hope is that he will be the next Modric. If he doesn’t turn out to be quite that good, at the very least, he’ll be the new Livermore, AKA the new Jenas.

Harry Redknapp must keep his mind on the job at hand

This has been a monumental season for Harry Redknapp, and the fact that he is managing the most successful team of his career is almost incidental. In November he underwent heart surgery, in January he went on trial for cheating the public revenue and on the day he was found not guilty the job he has coveted his whole life became available.

That was three and a half weeks ago. The post of England manager remains vacant, Redknapp is the overwhelming favourite for the job, but the FA characteristically are in no hurry to appoint Fabio Capello’s successor.

Last Sunday, in the post he currently occupies, Redknapp saw his team defeated 5-2 by their bitterest rivals and closest challengers.  Wherever we finish the game will leave a stain on our best season for two decades. Even in a season where everyone in the top six (bar Manchester City) has conceded at least five goals in a game the  scoreline was a shock. Broadly Tottenham’s lack of shape and sharpness and poor defending are to blame, but the score and performance was anomalous enough to look for factors beyond the players’ ability.

Not long before half-time, with Spurs two-nil up, Redknapp called for steward intervention when a fan sitting behind him in the Emirates’ West Stand shouted something abusive. (I rather enjoyed a tweet from an Arsenal fan using the hashtag #grass). The offender was not removed, but Arsenal have since announced they are reviewing CCTV footage.

When asked about the event Redknapp described it as, “Nothing really. Only someone swearing behind me.” Without knowing the specifics we can assume that Redknapp’s facial tick and/or tax discretions were probably alluded to. Whatever it was Redknapp seemed genuinely hurt. He sank into his seat and stayed there for most of the match, looking particularly glum even before Arsenal came back and trounced us. Given that Redknapp’s forte is his ability to motivate players we were hamstrung. The half-time team talk wouldn’t have been his most rousing.

Probably best to remind indignant Spurs fans at this point that thousands of our number join voice to accuse Arsene Wenger of sexually abusing children. 

In the period of Redknapp’s trial and the England speculation our form has been up and down. Against Wigan Athletic and Newcastle United we looked like the best team in the country. He missed the match against Liverpool when his late flight was cancelled and we could only manage a dour 0-0. In the FA Cup we were pitiful in our narrow win over Watford and our draw with Stevenage Borough.

Meanwhile the FA have temporarily put the England team under the charge of Stuart Pearce, a man with much experience and little discernable ability. The European Championship starts in four months and, poison chalice or not, Redknapp wants to be there with England.

This is the one and only time in 29 years of management that Redknapp has been in pole position for his dream job. He’s a 65-year-old with heart problems. Turning it down now would likely be turning it down permanently.

Whether or not Redknapp should take the England job is a question for another day. He hasn’t even been offered it yet. He has to focus on Spurs. There’s a job to do from now until May.

Win the FA Cup, qualify for the Champions League, then he can do what he likes.

Tottenham Hotspur 3 Wigan Athletic 1: Modric and Bale put Wigan to the sword

It was one of those games where Spurs look like the best team in England. The opposition were lowly Wigan Athletic, but we killed them nonetheless.

Gareth Bale opened the scoring after half an hour. Luka Modric crossed, Bale took the ball on his chest and got his leg high with the flexibility of a gymnast to poke the ball past Ali Al-Habsi.

Modric buried a half-volley in the bottom corner from the edge of the box to double the lead and in the second half Bale got our third with another strike from range similar in its precision.

Wigan put us under pressure for periods and with Jake Livermore moving to cover Kyle Walker at right-back we were vulnerable and conceded a consolation goal, James McArthur’s shot deflecting off Scott Parker and looping over Brad Friedel and into the net.