Last night something clicked. Not only that but a slow, juicy revelation ensued that filled me with hope for the future of the mighty Spurs. But there’s a catch…
Frustrated with losing my pocket money at poker rather than watching MOTD on Saturday night I rounded up the losers and cooked a roast. The last time I attempted this meal we ended up with something only Birdseye would dare call meat: dry, lumpen and flavourless – much like ManCity. This time I let the joint sit on a rack for 10 minutes before serving and behold: It was more like a £20 fillet than the cheap silverside it really was. More than that, the shark who fleeced me the night before was on the phone this morning begging for an invite to the next losers table! (He didn’t put it that way).
You could say that a really good season is like cooking a big meal – it’s all in the timing. I would however add a fairly large caveat: If you want a truly great meal – it’s all in the maturation.
At the start of a season an average manager with an average team (Fulham) prepares his squad. He has some new people to blend in along with his old favourites but in short he’s left with the same old conundrum of trying to get as many results out in a set period of time. The same could be said of a chef at the start of his day – how to get as many high quality courses out with the ingredients provided. Similarly he has to be able to cater for between 4-5 courses: The start(er) of the season, the Christmas period (Main), the League, The run in (Dessert), the cups (Coffee/Cheese). He should also be well prepared having decided on the shape of the team (menu) during preseason (at the market). I could go on about the need to season, tenderise, knowing how and when to stop things boiling over and coping with disasters etc but you probably know where I’m going with this. Hopefully, at the end of the day (love those clichés), even if the starter was a bit limp, the main makes up for it and a decent slice of tart and an espresso leaves the customers feeling full and satisfied and, importantly, happy to come again.
But what if you aspire to more than just a good slap-up feed and want to get a couple of Michelin stars on your board? You basically do exactly what Spurs are doing right now. You make friends with your suppliers and ear-mark the finest ingredients early on, you have the courage to experiment with different ingredients and menus but you don’t rush it. This is exactly what we have done over the past 2 seasons since Jol took charge and since Commoli joined him.
Our older purchases who went straight onto the menu have performed well and have been a of a much higher quality than we’ve previously been used to. Davids, Zokora, Berbatov, Ghaly and Murphy have been served in some of the best resteraunts in Europe and they have been at least successful if not wildly so. But re-hashing old dishes is not going to win awards – new fresh ingredients will do that and that is what separates us from the competition. Be it Lennon’s Zest, Thudd’s Beef, Dawson’s bread and butter pudding as ingredients alone they are winning recognition from the critics on their own.
Yes, these chaps are great but they need careful handling if they are going to marry together to satisfy our craven appetites. The best steak in the world is served in New York and it takes 3 days of hanging before it is tender enough to be cooked and even then it takes a further 4-6 hours slow-cooking to reach perfection. Thudd is just such a steak – he really does have potential to be a world beater but he needs careful handling and, most importantly, time. And there is the almighty catch for any impatient Spurs fan.
Spurs youth policy needs time to mature. Thudd need’s to acclimatise to the pace of the premiership and learn to dominate his space, be more aggressive. Lennon needs to look up more – already we are beginning to see his crosses improve as he looks up before the final ball (possibly a result of being made to play on the left from time to time) but he needs to look up before he gets the ball and pass his way out of trouble. There is much, much more to come from each of these players and many more (taarabt, ifill, Dixon, o’hara, barnard) who are also coming along nicely. We are also missing a few key ingredients but I believe they will be sorted out by this summer – our priority being a Left Midfielder, someone a bit special, who compliments Lennon and who would also be hitting their prime at about the same time (I think Downing fits the bill). With any young team you also get the impatience of youth and that is the other trait that this slow process will temper.
I reckon (being neither a good chef, nor a good manager) that we need another year and a half before we are ready to serve Cordon-Bleu, but from the smells coming from the kitchen, it’ll be worth the wait! Far better than 20 years of Humble Pie.
Before I forget – a great meal needs a great wine and for that I give you Robbie Keane!
Sad I know but to extend the metaphor even further:
Chelsea - a meal in Turandot, Moscow. $50 dollars for a starter, all the finest ingredients served in the gaudiest, most nouveau surroundings to philistines . No wonder they are called Chavski.
Manu - A proper Sunday Roast with all the trimminigs. Served the way an englishman would like even if sniffed at by continental types.
Liverpool - Crepe Suzette. The world couldn't get enough of this cheesy dish in the late 70's and early 80's and then it faded badly out of fashion. Recent revival just a flash in the pan.
Arsenal - Nouvelle Cuisine. Fabulous presentation and flawless taste but basically unsubstantial and created by the gallic equivalent of Anthony Warrel Thompson
West Ham - Jellied eels. God knows why they like 'em but the do. Can be slippery customers though.
Fulham - Cottage pie. Thrown together and the mess hidden by a thin veneer.
Charlton - Meat and two veg. Dull, dull, dull.
Leeds - Souffle. "Ooh! look at it rise. Oh no, it's collapsed so you'll have to start again."
Watford - It's a service station on the way to somewhere better.
Newcastle - A cuzza. Fantastic spices, wonderfully presented but you know it just to hide the taste of donkey and it's a mess on the plate within seconds. Needs lager.