The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
There must be times when Damien Comolli, sitting on the side of his bed with one sock on and one sock off, drifts into a reverie in which excerpts from the Wikipedia page of Jonathan Woodgate come spinning toward him like nightmare newspaper headlines:
A serious injury saw him end his final season somewhat early…
Woodgate never really had an injury-free run in the team…
Woodgate signed for Real Madrid in August 2004 for a transfer fee of £13.4 million. This was to the surprise of many in the football world, due to his frequent absences through injury at his previous clubs, and indeed he was injured at the time of the transfer.
…further injury setbacks again stopped him playing…
He was considered to have an outside chance of making the England squad for Germany 2006, but due to surgery on his back was not named in the squad.
In July 2007, Woodgate was voted the worst signing of the 21st century by readers of www.marca.com…
I feel sorry for Comolli when I picture him like this, even though he’s a person whose main characteristic seems to be that if he were only 9% more attractive he could fulfill his spiritual vocation as a model for a line of men’s eyewear. Woodgate must have been too tempting to pass up: such a strong player when he’s healthy, not too expensive (£8 million isn’t what it used to be), the ideal fit for Spurs’ perforated back line.
Only now Comolli knows he’s signed a player to stand in for the continually injured Ledley King who is himself one long car ride away from leaving his shins to science. It’s either going to help the team significantly, or it’s going to lead to a “Tottenham Hospital” headline in the Sun and the shedding of honest tears by Daniel Levy.
It’s odd. But then, there’s been something paradoxical and brow-furrowing about Spurs’ entire approach to the transfer window this year. They’ve been the most intriguing combination of talent and debilitating structural deficiency in the Premier League for a long while now, and they’ve needed exactly the same things for most of that time: a couple of guys who can play on the left (maybe one, since Bale looks so promising) and a strong central defender for when King is hurt (for “always,” that would be). A cool head in midfield and a new right back wouldn’t be amiss, but Jenas has looked better in the former role recently and the latter isn’t a point of absolute desperation.
So how did they open the January window this year? By chasing Fred, a striker who may have once scored a goal 3.17 seconds into a match, but wasn’t exactly essential vitamins and minerals for a team that already had Robbie Keane, Dimitar Berbatov and Jermain Defoe, and couldn’t find playing time for the £16-million Darren Bent. They blew a deal for Tiago, a midfielder who could genuinely have helped them, and one for Stewart Downing, who probably couldn’t have, since being left-footed is only useful if you can use your left foot to take the ball past a defender. They showed interest in Wes Brown, which came to nothing, and Daniel Jarque, which was probably nothing to begin with.
Transfer windows are always tricky, but watching Tottenham this January was like seeing a bird fling itself repeatedly into a plate glass door. They looked a little dizzier and a little more frantic after each fresh collision.
Then, today, word came that Alan Hutton had finally signed from Rangers after a courtship that would have made Andrew Marvell leap to his death in frustration. It’s not clear whether Hutton really wants to go to Spurs, but he’s a clear step up from Y.P. Lee in any case. His signing has left me wondering if somehow, despite every misstep, Spurs might actually manage to help themselves this January. They’re still after Gilberto, after all, which means that with luck they could soon boast a back line made up of Bale/Gilberto, Dawson/King/Woodgate, and Hutton. That’s not half bad, right? Rebuild Paul Robinson’s confidence and they might actually manage a clean sheet.
The most interesting wrinkle for Spurs fans may be the news today that Kevin-Prince Boateng is bound for Aston Villa. I’m skeptical about whether this is really going to happen, because I can’t think of a reason why Martin O’Neill would want it to. But it’s interesting, if it’s true, simply because it’s known that Boateng was Comolli’s signing last summer and was brought to the club against the wishes of Martin Jol. If he’s being shipped out now, the implication would seem to be that Juande Ramos doesn’t want him, either. Again, it’s probably nothing, but if the news holds up it could be a sign that Ramos is wielding the real power in Tottenham’s transfer dealings, or at the very least be the indication of a rift between Ramos and Comolli that would lead to more interesting times for the club in the weeks and months ahead.
by Brian Phillips · January 30, 2008