Thursday, 10 March 2011

Nil nil

The best 0-0 draw in Spurs' history without a doubt. I wish I'd been there; the crowd were awesome, and Tottenham's maturity as a football team was evident for all to see. It's very nice to see today how matches like that bring out the best in commentators. Prose that is a pleasure just to read, almost lyrical in places.

From the Guardian, 10th March 2011.

Phil McNulty on the BBC: "The demolition of holders Inter Milan on a thunderous night was a demonstration of Tottenham's threat but Redknapp may take even more satisfaction from the way Inter's neighbours were sent out of the tournament.... Who would have thought erecting a defensive wall of defiance would deliver such pleasure and provoke such scenes of jubilation?

"So it proved as Spurs survived a Milan performance that carried much of the pace and intensity absent from the first leg. As time ran out and Milan became even more desperate, the obstacles in front of keeper Heurelho Gomes grew bigger in stature and number by the minute....

"Life was lived on the nerves from first minute to last, with Redknapp standing sentry in his technical area almost permanently and joined on a regular basis by trusted lieutenants Joe Jordan and Kevin Bond. It was not a night, nor an atmosphere, for sitting serenely in the dug-out."

Steven Howard in the Sun: "FIRST, the agony. And then the ecstasy. It was another one of those rollercoaster nights for Tottenham fans. The agony of enduring 90 minutes where it seemed that at any moment the dream of attempting to match the historic exploits of the Glory, Glory boys of the 60s could go up in smoke...

"...the greatest sound of all was the final whistle. After four straight home wins and 14 goals, finally a goalless draw. And it tasted just as sweet. Spurs were through. Arsenal were out. And Spurs supporters were still in one piece. Just."

Jason Burt in the Telegraph: "There are still moments in the storm. There are moments when the release of tension simply results in a desire to stand motionless. Henry James Redknapp was a study in such behaviour on Wednesday....

"“Life is a roller-coaster,” Redknapp said when asked about how he would celebrate. “I’ve had my ups and downs”. And sometimes the ups lead to a more sober response than the downs - it’s a mark of many leading managers, including Carlo Ancelotti - and he followed that mould last night. In a quieter moment hopefully he also afforded himself a smile for he has transformed the fortunes of a club that was bottom of the Premier League table when he arrived three years ago. He deserves the praise....

"Spurs didn’t play particularly well, they weren’t allowed to, and maybe that is what caused Redknapp’s irritation. If so, it smacks of a professionalism also. Everyone is talking about the need to avoid Barcelona. But those left in this competition will also be privately whispering another team they would be keen not to face. No-one wants Spurs. No-one wants to face Redknapp."

Shaun Custis, in the Sun again: "Spurs' job has traditionally been to entertain and lose gloriously while Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United get on with the serious stuff. The times they are a changing. Redknapp claimed Spurs were not built to defend but he is conning us all. They have learned how to do it and they do it very well."

Richard Williams in the Guardian: "For Harry Redknapp there have been many big occasions in football but none, for a real football man, bigger than this night. Milan, seven times winners of the European Cup, under the floodlights at history-soaked White Hart Lane, confronted by the white shirts of the descendants of Blanchflower, Smith and Jones. A match with Brazilian artists, Dutch magicians, a Croatian wizard, stalwart Englishmen....

"Redknapp paced the technical area with his usual preoccupied air as a more purposeful Milan made the best chances of the half, drawing sprawling saves from Heurelho Gomes, watchful leadership from Michael Dawson and a clearance off the line from William Gallas. Against this barrage in a game of ceaseless movement and clattering energy, Spurs could point to little more than Rafael van der Vaart's bar‑skimming 30-yard free-kick.

"Milan huffed and puffed but by the end they were, in the words of the original Harry Hotspur, no more than dust and food for worms. Hotspur was dying at the time. Redknapp's Spurs could not be more full of life."

Prose to fit a sumptuous occasion.

Poppy burning

I can't say I agree with David Cameron on this. A member of Muslims Against Crusades burned two plastic poppies during last November's Armistice Day ceremony. Yesterday he was fined £50. In my view he should not have been. The act was outrageous to some; indeed it was intended to be. But outrage at such acts is the price we pay for freedom of expression, which is still one of the key characteristics that distinguishes this society from many others. In this particular instance we actually lag behind the United States where flag burning, despite Americans' veneration for their flag, is a constitutional right. You can't say that about many things where genuine freedom is concerned.

While we are right to pay homage to those who have fallen fighting for our freedoms, we also have to acknowledge that some of those who fell, particularly in recent years, have given their lives in much less morally certain ventures, and while their bravery should be saluted, the cause in which they fell should not. Opinion is genuinely and deeply divided on the merits of some of our recent wars. Outrage may be genuine, but, if outrageous acts are stifled through the use of the law, it only serves to block moral debate and make equally outrageous ventures more likely in future. We are currently considering whether and how to use force against Gaddafi's regime. A week ago Cameron was all too eager to commit our forces again in a gesture which would have made them risk death, being burned, maimed or humiliated and most likely given Gaddafi a perfect foil for uniting his people on his side. Reminders of the moral ambiguity of such ventures, as well as the possible human cost, serve to prevent them happening unnecessarily. I hate what Emdadur Choudary did, but he should never have been taken to court, let alone fined.