Edgar Wright’s irrepressible ‘BABY DRIVER’ (2017): MOVIE REVIEW

BABY DRIVER (2017) – MOVIE REVIEW

DIRECTOR:            Edgar Wright 

WRITER:                Edgar Wright

CAST:                    Ansel Elgort, Jamie Foxx, Eiza Gonzales, John Hamm, Lily James, Kevin Spacey, John Bernthal.

**CONTAINS MINIMAL SPOILERS**

If there is a better and more precisely directed genre film in the last few years than Baby Driver (2017) then I have not seen it. Edgar Wright should take several bows for turning a familiar B-movie-heist-plot with nods to The Getaway (1972), Drive (2011), The Driver (1978), True Romance (1994) and many, many more into an exhilarating, high-octane, funny and dizzying heist thriller.

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The story concerns Baby (Ansel Elgort) who is in deep trouble with crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) and being the superlative driver that he is works off his debt by assisting with meticulously planned bank jobs. Baby is out of place amidst the rogue gallery of career criminals which feature great character actors such as: John Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Eiza Gonzales and the bruising masculinity of John Bernthal. Baby is a laconic and sensitive soul who lives in his own world, cares for his elderly foster father, has a dry sense of humour; and just loves listening to music!

Not only is Baby Driver a passionate paean to the heist movie but it also serves as a personal playlist for all of Edgar Wright’s musical delights. We get some incredible rock tracks supporting the action notably those by: The Damned, John Spencer Blues Explosion, T-Rex, Queen and many more. In fact, way back in 2003, Wright produced a prototype of Baby Driver for a promo video for the band Mint Royale featuring the comedians and actors: Michael Smiley, Julian Barratt, Nick Frost and Noel Fielding. You can watch it here:

Ansel Elgort was brilliant in the lead and his performance was so fresh and naïve and likeable that you could not help but root for his character despite Baby’s criminal activity. His driving is awesome though and the stunts and manoeuvres that Wright has designed had my heart in my mouth throughout. At times the camera moves and quick cutting become so breath-taking the dips in action are a welcome relief. Conversely, the character work from Lily James as Baby’s romantic interest Debora is very cute; while Hamm, and Foxx especially, bring an impressive unhinged alpha-male brutality to proceedings.

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In the non-robbery-less-musical-quieter family, heist-planning and romantic moments Edgar Wright’s script is so full of punchlines, witty retorts and character detail that you cannot fail to enjoy them too. As such I had a lot of fun with this film and Wright proves once again that while thinking and planning  every shot and cut and move and punchline he is able to energise the most simplest of B-movie crime narratives. One could argue that the characterisations of supporting characters, such as Gonzales and Spacey could have been filled in a tad but the fuel-injected pace covers such cracks brilliantly.

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My only real criticism is minor. It is that there’s mild repetition in the car action and there’s an antagonist switch and slight plot-hole during the finale which jarred momentarily. However, Edgar Wright certainly deserves a very big gig soon because he directs the hell out of the movie.  His arsenal of: long takes, quick cuts, swooping camera moves, canted frames, Steadicam, camera holds, frame switches, pans, scans, tilts, low-angles, metronomic editing, point-of-view and god’s eye view shots are all a joy to behold.

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Overall, it’s a story we’ve seen done many times before but as with Spaced (1999), Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007) and World’s End (2013), Wright brings such a balletic rhythm, musical verve and kinetic drive to the movie it becomes simply irrepressible. I hope he gets a James Bond film or something similar to showcase his enormous filmmaking skills because while I really enjoyed Ant-Man (2015) you have to wonder how good his version of that material would have been.

(Mark: 9 out of 11)

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(In mild defence of:) THE MUMMY (2017) – MOVIE REVIEW

THE MUMMY (2017) – MOVIE REVIEW

Is The Mummy (2017) an original movie?  No! Is Tom Cruise’s latest attempt at a movie franchise a good film? Not particularly!  But is it an entertaining-take-your-brain-out-popcorn movie?  Yes!  Now, of course, film reviews are all about opinions and The Mummy is an average film at best, but compared to some of the blockbusters of recent years such as Batman v. Superman (2016) and Suicide Squad (2016), it at least makes sense and has a decent through-line narrative.

The Mummy

I mean, I watch a lot of films, some great, some okay and some not-so-great and every now and then a film receives a critical pasting it deserves. But sometimes films get a kicking they don’t deserve. I think that bloggers and critics, professional or hobbyists, love the sound of their own voice, keyboard-tapping and ego passing judgement. Indeed, I am no different. To give the thumbs up or thumbs down can be empowering; it’s a lot of fun. Yet, at times one can get so caught up in their higher ideals of film critique and actually apply intelligent analysis to the wrong films. Either that or they just thought the film was crap! But in The Mummy’s case I don’t think it is.

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The film kicks off at a fantastic pace and aside from a mid-act breather for some exposition from Russell Crowe’s Dr Jekyll, keeps up the fast action relentlessly. Because, essentially this is all plot, action, jokes and monsters and is NOT MEANT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY! The story is pretty simple and mirrors the Brendan Fraser movies from the late 90s/early 2000s; and any number of Mummy monster films where a hidden tomb is opened up and releases unimaginable horror upon the world. The old Universal Boris Karloff classic from 1932 was a moodier, low-budget and atmospheric affair while this is an altogether whizz-bang-rollercoaster-ride-affair.

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The main protagonist is Tom Cruise’s Nick Morton. He is basically an Indiana Jones meets Ethan Hunt type soldier, who along with his partner Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) is looting Iraq for Saddam’s hidden treasures. Of course, things don’t go according to plan and he and his partner, along with Annabelle Wallis’ fill-in-the-history-dots-archaeologist, unearth a monstrous and murderous Egyptian princess called Ahmanet (striking Sofia Boutella). In recent films such as Kingsman: Secret Service (2014) and Star Trek: Beyond (2016), Boutella has proved herself a physically commanding performer and once again she stands out here.

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I don’t know but maybe I was in a good mood but I really enjoyed the bone-snapping ghouls; heart-stopping plane crash; Ahmanet’s sensual yet suspenseful pursuit; car chases through the murky woods; underwater zombies; duality of man versus monster theme; plus a great little homage to An American Werewolf in London (1981). I would say though that Tom Cruise probably unhinged the story slightly with his “superstar” persona and a less well-known actor may have added a bit more suspense. However, his characters’ arc was actually quite interesting as a cursed thief questioning his morals and actions. Plus, the final pay off, suggesting further adventures, was actually quite satisfying too.

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In fact, while it’s very generic with haphazard plotting it is no worse than blockbusters like A Force Awakens (2015) or Fast and Furious 7 (2015) or Mission Impossible 6 (2016); which I enjoyed but are all very surface and style-driven, while remaining entertaining action films. Overall, The Mummy was totally unoriginal and I would’ve preferred even more horror and gore! But if, like me, you sometimes don’t want to think too much it works as a silly bit of monster entertainment with some brilliant action stunts thrown in. An alternative title perhaps could have been The Mummy: Romancing the Bones – and ultimately it is nowhere near as bad as many critics have stated; in my humble keyboard-tapping opinion that is.

(Mark: 7 out of 11)

 

 

 

 

FIX FILMS RETROSPECTIVE #5 – ELEPHANT TRUNK (2008)

FIX FILMS RETROSPECTIVE #5 – ELEPHANT TRUNK (2008)

“Matt’s about to have a night he wishes he could forget!”

TITLE:                         ELEPHANT TRUNK (2008) – short film (15 mins)

DIRECTOR:                 GARY O’BRIEN

PRODUCERS:             ROBERT WARD, PAUL LAIGHT, GARY O’BRIEN

WRITER:                     PAUL LAIGHT

CAST:                          TOM FREDERIC, LUCIA GIANNECHINI, CHRIS CROCKER, MIA AUSTEN, HARRIET JEFFREY

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If you didn’t know, as well as writing reviews of films, TV, Tottenham Hotspur FC, South Park and Doctor Who, I also write and produce short films that will one day be watched by at least sixty-four people on YouTube! Hopefully anyway! Although having said that my last Star Trek fan film called Chance Encounter has over 30,000 views and counting! Not quite that cat playing Gangnam Style on a piano but not too bad. Anyhow, the 5th film I wrote and produced was a dark, romantic comedy called Elephant Trunk.

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Elephant Trunk – which if you didn’t know is cockney rhyming slang for drunk – came into production before The Hangover (2009) was released in the cinemas the following year. While not precisely the same story it still involves varieties of drunken mishaps as all manner of chaos ensues that destroys our hero Matt Sherry’s life as he attempts to get home while pissed. It’s a work of fiction but grounded in the many drunken nights I attempted to get home while hammered and follows the basic comedy rule that what can go wrong – WILL GO WRONG!!

I, and director Gary, could not have made this film without the help of my very good school friend Robert Ward, who for some kind reason, offered to put up the budget for the film; which as I recall was around £1000. As is usually the case myself and Gary smashed the script around building the protagonists’ journey as he lurches from one disaster to another; and looking back it remains a fun film to watch. We were also assisted by friends and family who got involved in the production and lent their time, bodies and properties throughout.

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Again, we cast the film very well with some excellent talent and much praise to everyone involved. I think Tom Frederic in the lead was absolutely brilliant! His young executive “everyman” has a simple arc in terms of the story. Tom brings a fantastic bemusement and physical commitment to the role, as his character falls, flails and fails over the course of the night. Amidst the slapstick there is some romance too as this story was an attempt to demonstrate our range in terms of writing and directing. Indeed, much of the production was shot guerrilla style (without permission) on the streets of London and on public transport. The urgency in the handheld camerawork and fast paced editing really enhances the “drunken” state of the hero during his plight.

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My two major regrets for this very entertaining short film was we had to cut (due to budget constraints) one very strange and creepy scene where Matt found his way into a house where a “sex party” was taking place involving a Gimp-like character. Also, that my distribution skills were absolutely terrible and, asides from one riotous screening night back in 2008 at the Exhibit Bar in Balham, I did not get Elephant Trunk the festival screenings I think it deserved. Anyway, maybe you think differently – here’s the film:

CLASSIC COMEDY REVIEW: SIX HILARIOUS MONUMENTS FROM PSYCHOVILLE

CLASSIC COMEDY REVIEW: SIX HILARIOUS MONUMENTS FROM PSYCHOVILLE

Following the third season and movie version of the League of Gentlemen, Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, Mark Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson would find a cornucopia of acting and writing work on radio, film, TV and the theatre. In fact, their respective talents would make them very much in demand as they appeared or wrote for work such as: Doctor Who, Sherlock, Whitechapel, Marple, Benidorm, Poirot, Happy Valley, Ghost Stories (stage), Spaced, A Field in England (2013), The Widower, The World’s End (2013), High Rise (2015) and many, many more.

On top of that Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith collaborated on a fraternal relation to the League of Gentlemen called Psychoville. Here they committed another gruesome set of original characters each with their own mysterious past. They brought together, over the crooked path of two seasons and a Halloween special,  programmes involving all manner of murder, comedy, telekinesis, mental illness, mistaken identity and disgusting deeds.

If you haven’t seen it then I urge you to do so as it is insanely clever and darkly funny. Here are SIX clips which highlight the genius of the show. You can still catch all the episodes on Netflix, if you have the stomach for it.

**THESE CLIPS CONTAIN SPOILERS**
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SEASON 1 – MURDER MYSTERY SCENE

David takes the Murder Mystery evening a tad too far!

 

SEASON 1 – “ROPE” PARODY

This is an insanely clever and silly homage to Alf Hitchcock’s masterful “one-take” thriller.

 

SEASON 2 – CREEPY LIBRARIAN

Reece Shearsmith plays an obsessional librarian perfectly!

 

SEASON 2 – TINA TURNER KARAOKE

Probably one of the funniest and bizaare impressions of Tina Turner ever!

 

SEASON 1 – THE JOY OF BIRTH

Unhinged midwife Joy speaks very honestly about the “glory” of birth.

 

HALLOWEEN SPECIAL – MR JELLY ORDERS A PROSTITUTE

Bitter clown Mr Jelly calls a lady of the night who does “specials”!

 

 

 

 

 

CLASSIC COMEDY REVIEW: TWELVETY MEMORABLE SKETCHES FROM THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN

CLASSIC COMEDY REVIEW: TWELVETY MEMORABLE SKETCHES FROM THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN

Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, Mark Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson are utter geniuses! Having won the top comedy award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1994 they successfully took their surreal and grotesque character comedy from the radio to the TV. Thus, in 1999 they brought an array of wonderfully drawn comedic characters, both funny and horrific in equal measures, to the small screen.

The show ran for three brilliant seasons and here are some the best moments I could find on YouTube. If you’ve never seen the show then you should as it retains its ability to shock, horrify and more than anything else make you piss yourself laughing.

Please note: these are the best sketches I could find online and there many more throughout the show, so do catch up with it on Netflix if you’ve never seen it. Once you start watching the inhabitants of Royston Vasey – YOU’LL NEVER LEAVE!

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“YOU’RE MY WIFE NOW, DAVE!”

The circus comes to town with strange occurences!

JED HUNTER’S COMMERCIAL AUDITION

An audition doesn’t quite go according to plan!

ATTACHMENTS DATING AGENCY

A dating agency with a less than tactful interviewer.

GO JOHNNY GO GO GO

The weirdest card games known to humanity.

LES MCQUEEN

“It’s a shit business!” Poor Les just can’t get a break!

IRIS AND MRS LEVINSON DO “BATTLE”

The duelling cleaner and “boss” continue their bickering!

“I WON THE MUMS”

Jeff gives the worst “best-man” speech ever!

KES PARODY

Mr Chinnery releases a Kestrel into the wild!

“THEY’VE GOT PENS!”

Pauline meets a vicious nemesis!

“WE’LL HAVE NO TROUBLE HERE!”

Tubbs “cracks” under questioning!

HELL IS. . .!

Bernadette’s damning sermon!

“SEEN! SEEN! SEEN!”

Morons at the local video store!

“WAS IT SOMETHING I SAID?”

A very awkward confrontation!

 

 

SIX OF THE BEST #6 – ACTORS TO PLAY THE NEXT DOCTOR WHO!

SIX OF THE BEST #6 – ACTORS TO PLAY THE NEXT DR. WHO!

In my occasional series called Six of the Best, I select six of something or other which I like the best. So here goes with six of the best actors who I personally would love to play the next Doctor Who!  Obviously, they won’t play the Doctor at the same time but if they were chosen they would be great choices.

As a big Doctor Who fan I reviewed the show many times on this blog and the next choice of everyone’s favourite time-traveller will be an interesting one. The new showrunner will be Chris Chibnall of Broadchurch fame so I look forward to his choice. The bookies odds are currently:

Latest Doctor Who Betting

Phoebe Waller-Bridge – Evens
Natalie Dormer – 4/1
Kris Marshall – 5/1
Tilda Swinton – 5/1
Michaela Coel – 7/1
David Harewood – 8/1
Richard Rankin – 10/1

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Personally, I’m not warming to any of these choices other than Tilda Swinton that is. So, these are my preferred choices:

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  1. REECE SHEARSMITH

The star of:  The League of Gentlemen (2000), Psychoville (2009), Inside No. 9 (2014), Chasing Shadows (2014) and many many more, is my number one pick. He has the humour, versatility and dark spirit needed for the role of Doctor!

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  1. OLIVIA COLMAN

Given her experience of working with Chris Chibnall on Broadchurch, Colman would be an appropriate choice. She has a wealth of acting roles behind her in both comedic and dramatic roles and is just a brilliant actress.

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  1. HELEN McCRORY

An actress of immense quality and charisma, McCrory would bring a sophistication and Gothic heart to the role of the ancient Gallifreyan. She has also been a villain in a previous Doctor Who episode but I can forgive her given she has an excellent acting CV.

Rory-Kinnear-Doctor-Who

  1. RORY KINNEAR

He was bookies favourite in 2013 before Capaldi got the gig. While Capaldi has put in some fine performances I still think Kinnear would have been better. He has great acting experience, vulnerability, intelligence and steel which could serve the role well.

Doctor-Who-Into-the-Dalek-Zawe-Ashton

  1. ZAWE ASHTON

Fleabag star Phoebe Waller-Bridge has been offered up and would be an okay choice but if the producers wanted to be adventurous then Zawe Ashton is a better pick in my view. She’s funny and quirky and has a cool irreverence as seen in the comedy Fresh Meat.

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  1. RHYS IFANS

The laidback Welsh actor has been delighting us for years with his insouciant performances in indie and blockbuster movies. He can play intelligent, complex and simple characters; but it’s his sly wit and stoner charm which I think can take the Doctor in an interesting direction.

Anyway, they are my choices. Here’s a video from What Culture with their picks:

 

 

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR F.C. – PREMIER LEAGUE REVIEW (2016 – 2017)

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR FOOTBALL CLUB LEAGUE REVIEW (2016 – 2017)

“Alright, I know I’m gonna lose here. But I’ll be the best second you’ve ever seen.”

From the film McVicar (1980)

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KICK OFF

I love football. I love Spurs football club! I have followed and supported them for over 35 years and have tasted glory and despair; well mainly despair. However, of late, with the current squad and manager we have been really quite good. So, here’s my view on the latest 2016/2017 season.

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THE NEARLY TEAM

Well, let’s address the elephant in the room first!  Tottenham Hotspur FC did not win any trophies during the last football season. However, Mauricio Pochettino’s team were one of the most exhilarating performers, coming closest of all the teams to catch the Chelsea machine managed by effervescent Italian Antonio Conte. Manchester United, under the guidance of dour millionaire whinger Jose Mourinho, professionally ground out respective wins in the Europa League Cup and English League Cup; while Spurs’ bitter North London rivals Arsenal found some form to beat an on-the-beach Chelsea in the FA Cup final. Yet, while Spurs finished trophyless for another season there were a great many wins for the team and I remain very optimistic for the future.

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SCORES ON THE DOORS

We had a cracking season overall despite not winning anything.  Here are some statistics and finishing positions for the season

  • 2016/17 Premier League season as runners-up.
  • 2nd place finish was the clubs’ highest league position since 1962/1963
  • 86 points was highest total Spurs gained since 3 point introduced for a win.
  • Unbeaten at home in the League for the first time in over 50 years.
  • 86 goals was the highest scored by any team in 2016/2017 season.
  • 25 goals conceded was the lowest number by any team in season.
  • +60 was highest goal difference for any team in season.
  • Harry Kane won the Golden Boot – 29 goals in 2016/17 season.
  • Christian Eriksen with 15 assists was 2nd in the 2016/2017 season.
  • 7-1 win against Hull FC was a record away win in the League.
  • 85,512 – Highest attendance ever (at Wembley) against Bayer Leverkusen.
  • FA Cup: Semi-finals
  • EFL Cup: Fourth round
  • Champions League: Group stage
  • Europa League: Round of 32
  • Finished above Arsenal for first time in 22 years!

Despite the abject displays generally in the Champions’ League and Europa League the young team I believe will learn from this experience and hopefully we will give a better show next season. In the Premier League we were on fire, however, with sterling victories over the likes of Champions’ Chelsea, scumbags Arsenal, Guardiola’s show ponies’ Manchester City and boring Manchester United confirmed us a team of the highest quality in regard to results against the top teams. Klopp’s Liverpool were the ones who gave us the toughest matches, beating us at Anfield and drawing at the Lane 1-1 earlier in the season.

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Spurs confidently swatted aside most of the lower teams in the division both home and away and lost only four games to Manchester United, Chelsea, West Ham and the aforementioned Scousers. Obviously, the losses were disappointing, but if anything it was the 8 draws which cost us most of all really as we found Chelsea 7 points too good by the end of the season.

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THE PLAYERS

How do you choose a player of the season when we’ve had so many consistent performers? Hugo Lloris was once again, a couple of rash out-of-the-box situations aside, formidable between the sticks. The fluidity of the three/four at the back system found Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker providing a solid white wall in defence. Even when Rose and Walker were injured Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier deputized with some aplomb. In midfield Moussa Dembele and Victor Wanyama were both powerful and athletic beasts, stomping and controlling games, especially at White Hart Lane.

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Adding silk to their steel was the mercurial Dane, Christian Eriksen, who continues to impress with his passing range and incisive crossing. In the forward positions Heung Min Son added a serious amount of goals to his pace and skill scoring 21 goals in all competitions. Then the dynamic headline-stealer Dele Alli, who at the age of twenty, won the young PFA player of the year and was named in the PFA Team of the Year. I really hope we can hang onto him as he is just an incredible talent as his 22-goal season testifies. Two headers against Chelsea were superb and his goal against Watford from outside the box was a beauty amidst a stream of wonderful goals.

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Finally, with 29 goals in the Premier League alone Harry Kane was once again phenomenal!  His strength, movement, skill and dead-eye shooting skills in front of the goal means he was arguably our player of the season. Wanyama, Eriksen, Alderweireld and Alli were equally valuable in a fine team effort, but without Kane’s goals we would have been lower in the league. Two separate injuries during the season prevented even more goals being scored and his injury in October 2016 coincided with those draws which possible cost us the title. Nonetheless, what a player Kane was for us, leading the line with sheer genius.

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THE MANAGER

What can you say about Mauricio Pochettino that has not been said? Perhaps inexperience in European competition caused a slight blight on his 2016/2017 managerial season overall, but that is being very critical. Because overall his Spurs team in the Premier League were just exhilarating. It’s one thing creating a steely and measly defence but to then craft a structure to allow the team to bolt forward and destroy teams the way we did throughout the season was incredible. We hunted and crushed teams with sheer energy and force of will. Of course there were defeats but we bounced back with strength and determination and finished unbeaten at home going on an amazing nine game winning run which got us close to Chelsea.

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More than any player Tottenham Hotspur need to hang onto Pochettino as I think he is destined to be a managerial great as his ability to structure, coach and motivate players is second-to-none. Given our wage structure and lower net transfer spend, compared to other Premier League clubs, Spurs are punching well above their weight and for me Pochettino is performing a minor miracle at White Hart Lane. Long may it continue too!!  Here’s a musical tribute to Mauricio!

 

THE FUTURE

White Hart Lane is gone! Long live the new White Hart Lane!  The Chief Executive Daniel Levy has overseen a resurgence of Spurs on and off the field. For the 2017/2018 season Tottenham Hotspur FC will be playing all home games at Wembley Stadium and while our record hasn’t been great there recently I’m hoping we can make it a formidable place to come next year.

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It was a wonderful day to witness Spurs beat Manchester United 2-0 on the last game to be played at the old White Hart Lane and the future looks very bright for the new state-of-the-art stadium currently being built. The tribute to past players and games was tremendous and so many memories came to light. My blog item from a year or so ago echoed many of the sentiments of the day. Check it out here:

Also there was a fine tribute video narrated by Kenneth Branagh no less.

In terms of the playing staff for next season I think we, most importantly, need to hang on to the players who have done us proud this year. Some will inevitably leave as surplus to requirements, while others will possibly be the subject of bids from other clubs. Indeed, Kyle Walker, our dynamic right-back is being looked at by Manchester City I believe. However, I’m confident we should hang on to most of our players and if we do get bids clubs will have to negotiate with Daniel Levy; a man who drives a very hard bargain.

In terms of purchases our modus operandi is usually to buy hungry, younger players rather than make huge purchases. Our record signings are the currently injured Erik Lamela and disappointing Moussa Sissoko. If both of those players were to find top form it would worth keeping them. These are big IFs though. I would like to see us get another striker to back up Harry Kane, however, if Vincent Janssen develops positively that may not be necessary.

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The 2016/2017 season was a tremendous one for Tottenham Hotspur FC on the pitch and I really hope we can push for more glory next season and perhaps even win a cup or incredibly win the Premier League. As usual for a Spurs fan hope springs eternal!