Going to be lonnnggg day at work after hitting the hay at 4.30am but worth it for these guys. We’ve been through so much together. When I started supporting the Spurs, we hadn’t won any NBA titles. Now we’ve got five and this is the sweetest yet with revenge for last year ‪#‎NBAChamps‬

Going to be lonnnggg day at work after hitting the hay at 4.30am but worth it for these guys. We’ve been through so much together. When I started supporting the Spurs, we hadn’t won any NBA titles. Now we’ve got five and this is the sweetest yet with revenge for last year ‪#‎NBAChamps‬

Stunning Suburban Skyline

Stunning Suburban Skyline

Literary Crime Fiction Interview: Charles Lambert

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     Matthew: It is rare for a writer to get truly under the skin of several male and female characters in one novel like you have in A View from the Tower. Have you always taken extra care to fully develop both genders or did the nature of this novel mean you had to dig deep across each character for extra impact?

     Charles: My first novel to be published, Little Monsters, had a woman narrator, something I only realised after having written the first few pages. My second, Any Human Face, was focused on two gay men, while The View from the Tower, as you say, sees events through the eyes of both male and female characters.

     I’m not aware of any purpose - political or otherwise - behind this. It’s just the way the narrative dice seems to have rolled. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I find myself imagining a situation and then listening to the character at the heart of it to hear what they have to tell me, and their gender is only one aspect of many: age, nationality, sexuality all play their part.

     The third novel in the Rome trilogy, The Folding World (due out later this year), is also choral, with male and female, gay and straight, old and (relatively) young characters each taking central stage at various points in the story. My aim is always to get as deeply into the character as I can, which requires a mixture of empathy and ventriloquism!

     You explore, in great detail, the bond between a powerful Italian mother and her son. Do you think the current generation of Italian mothers have as strong a hold on their sons as before? How much do you think this type of relationship shapes the decisions of influential Italian males in the realm of politics, media and the like?

     Italian mothers! Where do I start? I don’t have one myself, and I’ve never had to deal with an Italian mother-in-law either (though I believe they can be even more forbidding – and that’s certainly Helen’s experience in The View from the Tower).

     The Italian mothers I know are my friends and contemporaries, and I see them as embattled, often single parents, dealing with offspring whose aspirations can be depressingly low-key and materialistic after a childhood spent in the long and glittering shadow of Berlusconi-controlled media, obliged to provide a home for their sons and daughters long after adolescence in the absence of suitable housing and work. Not an easy place to be.

     I’d say that Italian mothers these days have far less control over their children than they once did, but that’s intuition rather than data-based. It’s true, though, that my students at university still frequently interrupt lessons to take calls from their mothers, and then defend themselves by saying that they haven’t spoken to each other since breakfast!

     The number of grown men who continue to wear vests beneath their T-shirts at the height of summer is also surely a legacy of motherly anxiety. Italy is both profoundly conformist and profoundly individualistic, and this combination places the family and the traditional authority of the family firmly at the heart of many other spheres of action. Including, obviously, politics.

     Berlusconi certainly played the Mamma Rosa card with shameless abandon, and has continued to do so since her death, although I imagine some of his recent antics would have brought a blush to her maternal cheek.

     As far as The View from the Tower goes, I see Giulia as the descendant of a long line of formidable Roman mothers - Volumnia in Coriolanus is a good example. She’s unusual, though, in that she places reasons of state on an even higher pedestal than the one she’s erected for her son.

     Tobias Jones explores the judicial inertia that exists in Italy extremely well in The Dark Heart of Italy. Do you think that the system will forever be bogged down in red tape and corruption or are there signs that the country is moving towards a quicker, more transparent system in the wake of Berlusconi’s misdemeanours?

     I wish. Or magari, as we say in Italy. Like so many things here, the idea of a garantista judicial system, in which the accused is innocent until the third and final verdict is reached at supreme court level, is excellent: it’s the execution of it that’s so hopelessly inadequate.

     We’ve all been witness to the farce of the Knox-Sollecito trial, as it gets bounced back and forth between the second and third levels of justice, with what might actually have happened all those years ago increasingly unobtainable except as anecdote and possibly unfounded suspicion, neither of which encourages a just verdict.

     Not all magistrates are as impartial or as honest as they might be – and this is true in all walks of life and in all countries – but the vast majority of them seem to me to be doing a difficult job with dedication and, in many cases, personal courage, and deserve our admiration. I certainly wouldn’t choose to be an Italian magistrate myself. It’s a thankless task. Apart from anything else, the state doesn’t even provide them with office space.

     A magistrate friend of mine drags the documentation she needs around with her in a Holly Hobbie trolley case. I was in court myself once, some years ago, when I refused to pay a bill, and I saw the feeding frenzy of wheedling lawyers surround the magistrate as she started to work in an effort to have their case heard first.

     Some of them actually tried to rearrange the files on her desk, until she slapped their hands away. I was also amazed to see that the only record of the hearing was hand-written by the magistrate herself! These things don’t lend themselves to efficiency or impartiality.

     Whether the situation will improve is anybody’s guess. The kind of legal reform proposed by Berlusconi has an obvious appeal to the man himself, but it’s not self-evident that it’s the kind of reform the country needs. There have been moves by the current government to introduce a greater transparency in judicial matters, particularly with regard to some of the so-called terrorist attacks that scarred Italy in the 1960s and 1970s. This is certainly a step in the right direction. In the end, though, it’s a question of speeding up the legal process without depriving people of their right to a fair trial. No easy matter.

     Why do you think the potential for anarchy and rebellion is so heightened in Italy? This intense form of communism and fascism.

     There is a very weak sense of the collective here, with people tending to keep their own doorsteps clean by sweeping the rubbish into the communal space beyond its confines. This has repercussions at every level. It makes the idea of tax evasion, for example, not only appealing – which, let’s face it, it is – but morally justifiable, a sentiment that unscrupulous politicians have been known to pander to!

     People think they know better than the state, and they’re often proved right when they have dealings with bureaucrats and authority in general. When the state does provide for citizens in need, through disability pensions for instance, the provision is often abused at an industrial level.

     And then there’s the organic arbitrariness of the system. Some laws are enforced in the north and centre, but rarely in the south. Seat belts? Crash helmets? Using mobiles while driving? Decidedly optional south of Rome.

     Your question concerns a politically channelled refusal to recognise the state, but I’d say that Italy’s propensity for rebellion was rooted in this fundamental indifference to social units larger than the family or, failing that, the city/province/region. The state doesn’t get a look in; it’s seen as untrustworthy, duplicitous and fundamentally indifferent.

     Unfortunately, this is often the case. When the rebellion is more than individual and physiological – as it was briefly during the Genova G8 summit – the state’s reaction to it is immediate, brutally heavy-handed and, in its own way, a further symptom of the basic unmanageability of Italian society.

     On the other hand, Italian individualism has also tempered what might easily have been a much more virulent reaction to the recent wave of illegal immigrants into the country. Despite the efforts of parties like the Northern League, many people still regard the new arrivals as poveri Cristi rather than potential drains on the welfare state. They see them, in other words, as individuals. This may have something to do with the fact that so many Italians were themselves emigrants a generation or so ago, or it may be more deeply engrained in the Catholic culture that still underpins Italian society.

     Do you think the younger Italian generation are tiring of Catholicism or are passionate about redefining it in a more positive light in the wake of the revelations of the last decade or so?

     My experience as a university teacher tells me that most young people are indifferent to the church, although I suspect Pope Francis may change this. In a typical class of 30 students one or possibly two will have gone to church on Sunday. There is an evangelical element but it’s small.

     I’ve never heard anyone mention the issue of paedophilia, but there’s a limit to the range of things that can be profitably discussed in a classroom. The children of my friends, as far as I know and with one exception, are as irreligious as their parents.

     Why does Rome have such a strong hold over the country?

     The usual stuff. Money, and its dissemination. Centre of political power. The Vatican, which should never be underestimated. The establishment or Il Palazzo as it’s known.

     In many ways, of course, Rome is only nominally the capital, despite the ranting of the Northern League. Right now, in terms of seriously large-scale kickbacks, Milan is the throbbing heart of the country, as it has been in so many other ways – licit and not – over the past few decades.

     What are the big changes in Italian life that you’ve seen in your thirty odd years there?

     Since 1976, when I first came to Italy, I’ve moved from Milan, to Turin, to Modena, to Rome, to Fondi, in a general drift south, so it’s hard to tease out the changes that are simply geographical from more fundamental differences but I’d certainly say that people seem more isolated than they used to be, and less attentive to the other.

     There’s a famous sketch from an early Candid Camera, directed by Nanni Loy, set in a bar and showing strangers dipping the tip of their cornetto into the cappuccino of the people next to them. The cappuccino owners tend to be startled, perplexed but not hostile; some of them even offer the cornetto-dipper a cappuccino of his own.

     It’s hard to imagine anyone getting away with a free bit of froth these days. In Rome anyway, and on the regional trains I’m forced to use – unpunctual, overcrowded, filthy - there’s a seething irritation beneath the surface that doesn’t require that much provocation to break through.

     Talking of trains, and I’ve blogged about this elsewhere, commuters have started to bring something to cover the seat with, a shawl at the least, more often a carefully tailored-to-fit protective skin, as though the previous presence of someone else had soiled it.

     This in a country where twenty or thirty years ago people would routinely share any food they had with strangers in the same carriage. What hasn’t changed is a taste for strong leaders, in a country where strength is often fatally compromised and where the level of literacy, in the widest sense, is often low. Another thing that hasn’t changed is that Italian food is still pretty special, with substantial regional variation, although eating out, unfortunately, is nowhere near as cheap as it used to be!

     Which other writers do you seek out in the crime genre and books as a whole?

     The crime writers I read with pleasure include Fred Vargas, Simenon (always), C.J. Sansom, my fellow Rome resident Conor Fitzgerald, Anya Lipska and Joanna Leyland. But most of my reading is outside the genre, to be honest.

     Favourite contemporary writers – and the first names that come to mind - include Andres Neuman, Gerard Woodward, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Gerbrand Bakker, Helen DeWitt and Ivan Vladislavic. I like books that surprise me and teach me something I wouldn’t otherwise know, and the number of translated authors in the list above is a sign of that. I’m also a big fan of pulp writer Duane Swierczynski.

     Your book straddles the line between literary and crime fiction. Is this a place you are happy to operate in or do you want to be seen more as a writer that specialises in one genre or the other?

     I start a book with a situation that intrigues me, and then see what happens. I’m drawn to plots that set up their own momentum, partly because this gives me space to concentrate on what really matters, the inner lives of my characters, who they are, and how they react to one another. As a result, my work often tends to fall between two stools, but they’re only stools in the eye of the marketing department.

     My first novel was classified as literary fiction and implicitly aimed, by Picador, at a woman reader. It was even a Good Housekeeping Pick of the Month!

     The second and third were marketed as literary thrillers, which is as good a description as any, although some people would have liked more thrills and some people haven’t read them because they don’t read thrillers. Pazienza.

     My latest book, With a Zero at its Heart, is entirely different: 241 numbered 120-word paragraphs, classified as autobiographical fiction and produced with great care and at great expense by The Friday Project. It does have its thrilling moments though!

     Do readers need to have read Any Human Face to get the maximum effect of what you set up in A View from the Tower?

     No. In fact, I’d prefer them to read Tower first, and then move on to Any Human Face. That’s the order in which they were written, despite their publication history, and it respects the chronology of the events they describe. And by the time they’ve finished, The Folding World should be just about ready to hit the bookstores!

Find out more about Charles. Follow on Twitter

Icelandic Film Life in a Fishbowl Conquers Four Hollywood Blockbusters

After slaying Hollywood blockbusters Godzilla (2014) and X-Men: Days of Future Past, critically acclaimed Icelandic film Life in a Fishbowl has followed up by conquering two more Tinseltown juggernauts to retain top spot at the box office during its third week.

Writer/director Baldvin Zophoníasson aka Baldvin Z’s massively popular €2.7m drama (Icelandic title Vonarstræti) easily beat A Million Ways to Die in the West and Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow with Kisi/Icelandic Film Company producers Ingvar Thórdarson and Júlíus Kemp rewarded for nurturing Baldvin’s exceptional filmmaking talent.

The film, inspired by true events, stars Thorsteinn Bachmann (The Deep), Hera Hilmarsdóttir (Anna Karenina, Da Vinci’s Demons) and Thorvaldur Kristjánsson (Black’s Game, Dracula Untold) in a tale of three different worlds which collide violently.


Composer Ólafur Arnalds (who won a BAFTA award for UK TV series Broadchurch) wrote the score with Solar Films in Finland, Czech Republic’s Axman Production and Harmonica Films from Sweden co-producing.

Thórdarson, who already has 101 Reykjavík, Jitters and Frost on his impressive CV, said: “The movie will surprise people and put Baldvin Z’s name on the map.”

Audiences have been so gripped by the five-star movie that cinemas have been freeing up extra screens all over the country to try and accommodate the hordes of people desperate to see the engrossing drama.

Social media has also exploded with conversation surrounding the film across young and old, while influential Icelanders such as 101 Reykjavík author Hallgrímur Helgason have praised it highly.

He revealed: “I spent last night in a full screening room, alone among people I had never seen before, watching an Icelandic film, the like of which one has not seen before. There is something new going on, some new sentimentality, a new approach, a new level. Go see Life in a Fishbowl. Magnificent film.”

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Lilja Katrín Gunnarsdóttir from Fréttablaðið, the biggest newspaper in Iceland, declared: “Not only is it the best film in Icelandic film history, but the movie is fully competitive with international blockbusters. 

"To all those who worked on the film - to achieve something like this everyone needs to get together and do their very, very best. I want to thank you for treating us audience to this movie. I will never forget it.

"With this film, director Baldvin Z joins the rank of our elite film directors."

Journalist Ragnar Trausti Ragnarsson added: “Baldvin’s style is reminiscent of Lukas Moodysson. And that is not a bad comparison! The script is exceptionally well executed and the characters are fully fleshed out.

"I hope Baldvin will set a standard for Icelandic films. The golden age of Icelandic filmmaking has started!"

Finally Hjördís Stefánsdóttir, writing for Iceland’s oldest and most established daily newspaper Morgunblaðið, claimed: “This new hope for Icelandic cinema paves the way to a bright future.”

Press: Contact Ingvar for more info - ingvar@kisi.is

Piece I wrote combining two of my big interests in life.

Why Spring is my favourite season… Kew Gardens, London

Why Spring is my favourite season… Kew Gardens, London

Blog piece I wrote on the best session I took in during the week featuring Will Greenwood and Stephen Allan.

Love this abandoned/decay genre of photography

Giant Wheel, Hyde Park, London

Giant Wheel, Hyde Park, London

Alpine Dream

     I reckon hardly anyone outside Italy could put their finger on the map and point out the charming town of Livigno. High in the Italian Alps nestled up against the Swiss border, this Lombardy gem is made up of just over 5,000 people. When I was looking for a place to kick back with my wife for a couple of days in between Bolzano and Lake Garda, I took a punt on it and, boy, am I glad.
     Known primarily as a breeding ground for Italian Olympic skiers, we were not sure what to expect with the snow melted off the landscape when we drove down the mountain into the valley. Thankfully a warm welcome at the Alexander Charme Hotel soothed any doubts we might have had. With the summer season winding down in early September, there were only a few other guests nevertheless the service remained impeccable. The huge family room we were given looked out over the valley to the south with a balcony that soaked up the best of the afternoon sun.
     A walk down to the southern end of town would probably have been better conducted by bike, as the hustle and bustle is concentrated in the north of the town, however it showed a pleasant, sleepy side populated by proper locals. Venturing into the busier centre of town, we managed to fit in a hearty late lunch of pizza at one of the no frills restaurants. What better way to while away the rest of the afternoon than a visit to the luxurious hotel spa. Chock full of more contraptions than a Victorian sanitarium, it cooled us off ahead of a much needed nap.
     Our first day was capped off with a visit to the heart of Livigno’s evening scene, Bivio. Our host for the night was no less than former Olympic skier Luca Moretti, now the town’s point man for all things tourist related. A fascinating dinner companion, he ensured we were treated to the very best the menu had to offer with a shot or two of the strong local digestif Taneda to bring it to a close.

     Rising the next morning with fuzzy heads, we tucked into a delicious mammoth breakfast gazing out over the stunning western slopes we were aiming to hike. One hour later, the cabin car had dropped us off on top at Costaccia under perfect blue sky. I wish I could say we took the beautiful ascent in our stride, but I would be lying through my teeth. Monitored by suspicious mountain cows, cattle and horses, we huffed and puffed our way up the snaking path to Carosello where a brief pit stop for lunch primed us for the walk back across the lower slopes. Straying off the path at some point, we made it way more difficult than it should have been, a lone marmot poking his head out of a hole lifting our spirits for the home stretch.

     Thankfully the serene kayak trip we undertook next in separate boats allowed us to get our breath back in jaw dropping surroundings for a relaxed hour or so…

     One of the main reasons for our visit was to take a look at the Nine Knights Festival on the eastern entrance to the town on our last night. Having made our way up the mountain on the free shuttle bus, we grabbed a tasty no nonsense schnitzel dinner and walked over to the hoopla. Never having been to an extreme sport event, we watched in awe as young daredevils on BMXs flew through the air in a sequence of acrobatic moves that defied logic. Knowing full well we would have crashed face down just heading down the first ramp, let alone zooming up the next one, we doffed our caps and headed back.

     Another great breakfast the following morning and, sadly, we waved goodbye from our Fiat Punto. Not for long, though, I hope as the winter wonderland the town serves up is supposed to be just as appetising for snow junkies, if not more so. Grazie mille, Livigno.

Check out the Livigno website for more info

I pretty much fell out of love with top-flight English football last season, tired of the exorbitant wages paid to players, ridiculous coverage given in the press and the worst Premier League in quality since it began. It’s not all doom and gloom, though, and looking forward to the new season for the first time in a while as you can read above.

TOUR DE FRANCE IS BACK SOON. BRING IT ON!

Here’s something to whet your appetite for the big one in a couple of weeks. New Tour documentary focusing on the legendary riders of old. Froome looks in great shape this year with Nibali, Contador and Evans waiting to pounce. Right that last year’s runner-up gets chance to shine.

Click here to buy/pre-order

Tottenham 2012/13: Scores on the doors

     Two listless 1-0 home defeats to Wigan and Fulham cost us a Champions League spot for next season - not giving up one-goal leads on both visits to Merseyside in a season where we prospered on the road and showed a soft underbelly at fortress White Hart Lane.
     Make the Lane a psychological 12th man again next season and we can push on in Andre Villas-Boas’ second full campaign. The wily tactical tinkering that saw us score in all but one away games en route to an impressive haul of 34 points was the primary reason we collared a Premier League best of 72.
     You will not find many people outside the club, who would have predicted that when AVB took the helm. The gravel-voiced Portuguese has kept a low profile, of that we are thankful following Harry Redknapp’s tiresome quote happy tenure towards the end.
     Generous in praise when faced with victory or defeat, he deserves plaudits in much the same way as Hugo Lloris. The Frenchman came with a glittery reputation that existed outside the rough and tumble of the Premier League. One season down, after seeing off rugged Brad Friedel, he can justifiably claim to be our unsung hero.
     Gareth Bale and Jan Vertonghen may have grabbed the spotlight, but ask Spurs fans who they were quietly impressed with and Lloris will be the answer. Much in the same way that Aaron Lennon has fostered a fan favourite reputation, the former Lyon custodian looks set to follow suit. What better place to start my end-of-season ratings then than Lloris himself…

Hugo Lloris - 8
We could have done without the arrogant Didier Deschamps ultimatum at the start of the season, however when Lloris did finally get a run of starts he showed why he was so highly rated for France and Lyon. Even if his punches make us nervous, his impeccably timed dashes from the line to snuff out danger and imperious shot stopping soon won us over. Real class act.

Brad Friedel - 7
Brad could have spat the dummy big time when Deschamps and Lloris were questioning his place in the team at the start of the season, but he didn’t. A true pro, the American just got on with his job and when replaced cheered on from the bench. Lloris is an upgrade, nevertheless Brad did us proud and happy to have him.

Kyle Walker - 6
Kyle was living the dream after a great season last time out, but all good things come to an end. He has been found out this season, much to his own disappointment. His ability to highlight his own mistakes and work harder, rare in a professional footballer, has made him a fan favourite. His displays improved in the second half of the season and he will benefit from a settled back four next season.

Jan Vertonghen - 8
With our rock Younes Kaboul sidelined, Big Jan came in from Ajax and took the Premier League by storm. He got found out in a few games with tricky opposition attackers, however his tough tackling, surges forward and pitch leadership mean he will provide a fearsome pairing when Kaboul returns. Capable of rocket free-kicks.

Michael Dawson - 7
How the club ever thought of getting rid of him, I don’t know. The spiritual heartbeat of the side in Ledley’s absence and best role model I can see in present day for kids in terms of attitude on and off the pitch. Hugely underrated centre-back too, who prospers when playing alongside class like Vertonghen but struggles when paired with dross like Gallas. Around for a while yet.

Steven Caulker - 7
Seventeen Premier League starts for the England international this season. How AVB picked Gallas ahead of him for key Europa League games, we will never know. Still maturing defensively and slow on the turn occasionally, one to keep for next season if part of a rotation with Jan, Daws and Younes. Bright spot off the bench this season.

William Gallas - 4
He did a job when Redknapp first brought him to the club, but looked shot last season and put in three of the worst defensive displays I have ever seen at home to Chelsea and Basle, then away to Inter Milan. Much like Adebayor, a former Arsenal/Chelsea poison that needs removing.

Younes Kaboul - NA
One Premier League start is all we got out of Younes this season and, boy, did it show at times. The rock upon which we had become too reliant last season, his absence put too much pressure on Vertonghen. A fierce competitor and superb all-round athlete, his presence next season will be paramount to mounting a charge in all four competitions.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto - 6
I have defended him in the face of his detractors for a few years now. Sadly for Benoit, the sublime performances we saw last season have not been repeated this time around. Obviously injuries haven’t helped, but he does not look the same player. His careless play suggests Danny Rose or a world class replacement could see him sold or benched.

Kyle Naughton - 5
He tries hard, but just doesn’t have what it takes to stake a permanent place. His defensive performances alongside Gallas were the essence of comedy at times. Again, the fact he was played out of position at left-back should go in his favour nevertheless he just doesn’t look good enough to be part of a side looking to challenge the top three. His gun photo antics suggest he’s not at the races mentally.

Aaron Lennon - 7
We do not look nearly as potent when Azza misses games, simple as that. His defensive work tracking back should be held up as the template for wingers worldwide, even if his attacking end product sometimes disappoints. He keeps defenders on their toes and his crossing was incisive this season. Few more goals and we’d be even more happy.

Clint Dempsey - 6
Seven goals and four assists from 22 Premier League starts. The jury is still out on Clint for me. He can disappear for long stretches of play, which you simply can’t get away with in a side looking to win every game they play. Big game player who has a nose for goal and a cute touch at times, however he needs to step up his impact in lesser games and ditch the often grumpy attitude.

Sandro - 8
He was near enough the best central midfielder in Europe statistically before he got injured, so you can imagine how much we missed him for the second half of the season. An absolute monster around the pitch, he let Dembele focus on what he does best and protected the back four too. He is key in terms of how we fare next season on all fronts. His Tweets of support before and after games highlights spirit.

Scott Parker - 6
Fifteen Premier League starts for Scotty, however not the same player as last season due to a combination of fitness problems and no Luka to help him shoulder the load. Honest as the day is long, he should find himself benched next season if AVB wants us to mix with the big boys.

Mousa Dembele - 6
New midfield maestro or second coming of Jermaine Jenas? Difficult to tell with the Belgian hit by niggly injuries all season long. When paired with Sandro and fit, he looks the real deal. When paired with anyone else and looking scared to dribble, let alone tackle, he is a complete passenger. Hopefully the former wins out and he can produce way more end product in the final third and belters from that lovely left peg of his.

Gareth Bale - 9
Whatever anyone may say, he played for himself last season and it cost us time and again in big games like City, Liverpool and Arsenal away. This season he has been the ultimate team player, while boosting his own stock in the process. The strong bond with AVB and his team-mates is there for all to see. Bring in someone to take the load off the left flank next season and he can roam to devastating effect again hopefully. Must not be allowed to leave.

Gylfi Sigurdsson - 7
Classic confidence player who shrinks away when the team is packed full of players on top of their game, but steps up when others are under par and he can be the star man. He had a poor first half of the season but, arguably, our most improved player in the second half. If he can get used to being a squad player, then the sky is the limit. Gutsy worker, who should try his luck more from distance.

Tom Huddlestone - 5
T-Hudd has had more than enough chances to stake a claim over the years. He looked like he had finally cracked it during our Champions League campaign a couple of years back, but injuries have set him back physically and emotionally again. Like Jenas, thinks he can just turn up to get plaudits instead of getting stuck in and making best use of his talent. Would not be unhappy if he moved on this summer and AVB played Carroll more.

Lewis Holtby - 6
Too early to tell with our German bit part player. You cannot fault his enthusiasm, however needs a run of games with a properly identified role to show his talents. Just like Gylfi, might have to be happy with an impact squad role unless he ups his game considerably attacking wise.

Jake Livermore - 5
Feel for Jake. Whenever he was asked to step in for Scotty last season, he did so with aplomb. Sadly this season he missed the boat on all fronts and I think a permanent move away might be the best solution as his loan days look behind him as a full England international. Combative.

Emmanuel Adebayor - 5
World class one minute, Sunday league the next. Injuries have taken their toll, but it does not excuse the lousy attitude and sitter missing throughout the season. His sending off at Arsenal sums up why we would be better off without him. His Chelsea away display suggests he still might have it in him. If AVB can find a buyer, the temptation to let him lope off could be too much to resist especially with his big wages spent on younger, hungrier strikers that would score more goals.

Jermain Defoe - 6
I have a soft spot for JD. He’s never complained when he hasn’t been in the side during his spells and he knows where the onion bag is. He came out of the traps this season superbly and looked the arch poacher we know he can be at his best. On the flip side, he showed on his injury return how infurating he can be when his radar is off and he refuses to pass to team-mates in better positions.

Tom Carroll - 6
He is a delightful player on the ball, of that there is no doubt. Modric showed how you can succeed with a slight frame once he hit his Premier League stride and there’s no reason why Tom can’t follow suit. We lack a possession player in midfield with a glint in his eye for a crafty through ball. Would prefer to see him used next season.

Andros Townsend - 7
Along with Gallas’ continuing selection, the January loan to QPR was a rare mistake for AVB this season. As he showed when he came on in his substitute appearances and subsequent starting role for Redknapp in west London, he finally has the application to add to his pace and trickery. His attitude has been ropey before, and his gambling problem is a worry just when we thought the penny had dropped, but he should be welcomed back.

Ones for the future

Adam Smith
Great back-up for Kyle Walker and should be on the bench at all times. Loves to get forward and superb long shot.

Ryan Mason
Not sure Ryan has what it takes to shine at the very top of the game, however would be nice to see AVB let him try.

Yago Falque
Looks like falling behind Cristian Ceballos in the pecking order, despite a cute Spanish passing game.

Jordan Archer
Hugely impressive on loan at Wycombe, surely Lloris’ deputy the season after next when Brad hangs gloves up.

Cristian Ceballos
Has the talent learned at Barca, now lets see him get games off the bench to show his midfield trickery.

Harry Kane
Willing forward worker off the bench at most in a team looking to hit the heights like Tottenham.

Shaquile Coulthirst
Why not give him a try off the bench in pre season and see if he can stake a permanent squad place. Bundles of pace.

Jonathan Obika
He is a curious one, Obika. He can look unstoppable one moment and pedestrian the next. Worth giving a look.

Alex Pritchard
Already showed he can impress at Peterborough, exactly the type of midfield schemer needed to unlock defences.

Overall

No reason why we cannot challenge for the top four again next season now we have got rid of our Old Trafford hoodoo and improved our away performances. Two, hopefully three, world class additions and dead wood removal would give us even more impetus. Steffen Freund’s infectious enthusiasm off the bench is a big plus, while Daniel Levy needs to buy early this summer. COYS!

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