the fisher "king" column
|Alan Fisher is a long time supporter of
Tottenham Hotspur, who has seen a lot of things in football (although some
he wouldn't mind seeing again !!).
In his column, Alan will take a regular
look at how he thinks things are going down the Lane and he welcomes your
feedback on his comments.
a warm, safe place - 15.03.2008
that window - 13.02.2008
telling transfer tales - 05.01.2008
route map -
spurs appoint caretaker manager - 31.10.2007
side - 10.09.2007
running the wrong race - 22.08.2007
starting afresh - 08.08.2007
previous and more fisher king articles ...
warm, safe place
... one cup in the bag, out of
another and still a future to play for.
youíre still feeling blue after Wednesday nightís penalties, fear not,
help is at hand, courtesy of the Guardian earlier this week:
ďAustrian psychologists are offering fans courses on 'despair
management' ahead of Austria's expected Euro 2008 humiliation. 'Fans can
turn defeat into internal joy,' says course leader Henriette Wursag.
'It's about avoiding the sense of catastropheí.Ē
to this sporting nirvana is surprisingly straightforward. ďFans must
breathe deeply,Ē urges Frau Wursag, ďall the way from the stomach.Ē
Thatís all there is to it, apparently, although in my case I had better
give nature a helping hand and have an extra couple of puffs on my
inhaler, just to be on the safe side.
few seconds for calm relaxation. Visualise the moment when JJ hit
that penalty and you realised, a fraction of a second before it reached
the keeper, that it was a dud. Now breathe deeply.
working, is it.
joy ? Frau Wursag, every Spurs fan can provide the very definition
of internal joy, it was when the ref blew the chuffing final whistle at
the end of the League Cup Final. That was internal joy with huge
helpings of external thrown in for good measure, the first manifestation
of which in my case could be observed in crazy jumping up and down and
insanely hugging everyone within, well, hugging distance for at least
the next half an hour, continued down Wembley Way and has persisted in
the form of a self-satisfied grin ever since.
this is the reason why our exit from the UEFA Cup has not required me to
seek professional help. I feel strangely numb and disconnected
from it all. Disappointed certainly, unquestionably rueful of
missed chances and the inequities of penalties deciding a game we
undoubtedly deserved to win, but not despondent or especially
downhearted. For me this is a decidedly unusual reaction.
Even after all these years I still take football far too seriously and
continue to get into a lather about every Spurs match. During the final
it all became a bit too much. Halfway through extra time I started
to feel a bit wobbly. The blokes in front of me couldnít watch,
they spent half the time judging what was going on by looking at my
reaction, but I must have been bad because they were helping me calm
down. Mind you, they were totally pissed, the stewards missed the
hip flask on the way in. At my age I should know better, but I
wanted to win so much. At least I have the distinction of being
the only person at Wembley doing relaxation exercises.
self-delusion that the Birmingham game didnít matter lasted until
Saturday evening, when an involuntary and spontaneous rant at the
defensive shortcomings exposed in the brief MotD highlights suddenly
surfaced, as well as being reminded by my son, who went by coach to the
game, that he and many others did not invest considerable time and money
to watch the players take it easy. Even against the most appalling
West Ham side that Iíve ever seen, my stomach was in knots during the
second half, fearing that we were but one Robbo ricket from throwing
away an easy three points.
some reflection, Iíve concluded that in addition to the lingering
Wembley joy, the main reason behind my untypical reaction is that the
UEFA defeat does not have any great significance for our future.
It cannot dilute the enormous impetus of winning silverware and the
lessons learned, namely that we have to adapt to different opposition
and not make silly mistakes (the first leg), finish teams off (the
second leg), improve our overall team play (both legs) and secure better
players in certain positions were all things we knew already. We
have a quality squad and above all, an extraordinarily astute and driven
manager who will undoubtedly lead us to bigger and better things.
we trust and I sincerely trust that any complacency in my attitude does
not mirror the playersí reaction. They need to find motivation for
the rest of the season. Despite their recent liking for the number
Ďfourí, the Hammers are still five points ahead of us and it would be
easy for us to fade into mid-table mediocrity. Ideally, the simple
desire to win everything will be sufficient, but this is a cynical old
world. So, if I were Levy, I would offer to spread around some of
the prize money for a higher placed finish and then ask Ramos to
forcibly remind them that many are playing for their places next season.
through the current squad, in my view the following are certain to
figure prominently next year, barring injury and assuming we can resist
multi-million pound offers (a big assumption but weíll leave that for
King, Woodgate, Bale (and while we are about it, would you swap that
back four for any other in the Prem Ė I wouldnít) Jenas, Keane and
rest, itís unlikely that Huddlestone, Zokora and Malbranque would be
sold (and neither should they be) and the recently acquired Gunter and
Gilberto will surely be around too and these players have a real
incentive to cement places in the starting line-up.
have a shorter shelf-life. Until now Iíve acknowledged Robboís
downturn in form but have been reluctant to chastise him unduly. I
like the guy: heís done well in the past, is loyal and respectful of the
fans and seems a thoroughly decent bloke. But heís run out of
chances for me. Against West Ham, in a game we totally dominated
we were never entirely safe because of the anxiety every time the ball
came near him. His positioning for free-kicks was exposed against
Chelsea and Birmingham, and even in the penalty shoot-out he was
committing himself so early that by the time the PSV players made
contact with the ball he was virtually lying on the ground. These
may seem trivial compared with the other mistakes in his wretched
season, but they are significant because at dead-ball situations he has
the time to think and plan, and indeed take heed of coaching advice, yet
he is making terrible decisions even then. With Cernyís contract
up, they will both leave.
with no future here are Gardner, Rocha and Lee. Chimbonda doesnít
want to play for us, so the only comment I have is Ė goodbye.
Ďpromisingí youngsters. Kaboul displays ability and immaturity in equal
measure, while Taarabt, hugely skilful, has yet to find a niche in the
style and pace of English football. I wonder if he is best suited
to a roving role playing off a main striker. Boateng has done
absolutely nothing for me, but the manager wanted him. OíHara has
come from nowhere (well, Millwall ... same thing) and has hugely
impressed as much for his attitude as his talent. Dervitte and
Rose will surely improve, but Assou-Ekotto may never recover from his
serious injury. So they will probably all be around next year, but
Kaboul and Boateng are the most vulnerable.
have the incentive not only to start but to stay at the club.
Lennon could, and perhaps should be classed as a Ďpromising youngsterí,
to free him from the burden of expectation and allow him to develop.
But whereas Hudd and OíHara have moved forward, Lenny has become
increasingly frustrating to watch, especially with his final ball.
Iím willing to be patient, but Ramos may not be so tolerant and a big
offer could be accepted. Another vulnerable player is Dawson.
Again, I would keep him, no question, but the point here is that from
what Ramos has seen during his tenure at the club, he cannot be overly
impressed. Daws was awful pre-Christmas and although he has
improved since then, heís still making one or two mistakes in each game.
Tainio provides excellent balance in centre midfield (witness Arsenal
and ManU), heís willing and energetic and I would keep him, but heís
another who may fall well down the pecking order.
thereís Darren Bent. Promising, a proven premiership goalscorer,
an international and an injury victim, but whatever anyone says, that
huge fee is a millstone round his neck already. I think Ramos will
see him as a challenge and can make something of him.
this is conditional on whether or not better players are available in
the summer, and the likelihood is that Ramos and Levy will be able to
improve the squad by the addition of a top-quality keeper and defensive
midfielder, another centre half and striker, and perhaps another wide
player with a strong work ethic and high passing/crossing ability, as
opposed to Lennonís dribbling and pace. So whatever the potential
of, say, Lennon, Bent, Dawson or Kaboul, if we can buy someone better
then we will take the money. At least they have an incentive to
pull their finger out for the rest of this season, which hopefully will
not peter out after all.
Comments always welcome,
... after the sales are over.
stand up straight, up on your toes and a deep breath in, hold it there,
feel the oxygen working through your body, exhale and down Ė and relax.
Soothe your fevered brow and sleep soundly in your beds; the transfer
window frenzy is over, at least until the summer. Sadly I have no such
remedy for the apoplexy caused by conceding injury time goals from
diligent soul calculated that in January the media linked us with 157
different transfer targets, proof, if any were required, of Uncle Alís
message to you all last time Ė itís all lies. In the end weíve done very
well. Hutton and Woodgate were terrific against ManU, Gunter is one for
the future while a player of Gilbertoís pedigree must bring something to
the club. Stalteri, Gardner and Routledge are not good enough to achieve
the heights to which we aspire, and my only worry is that Everton will
discover how poor Tony G is before the time comes to stump up a fee in
people, Iím surprised Defoe left the club, at least without a
replacement being signed. I suspect both sides played out their hands to
the last. Ramos gave him not only the captaincy but every opportunity to
sign the new deal, while JD made all the right noises about wanting to
stay. Notice how in particular he loved the club and especially loved
us, the fans, we were the reason he wanted to stay. Oh, but wait a
moment, heís left and now Portsmouth have great fans and thatís one of
the reasons he wanted to move there. Money has nothing to do with it, I
suppose. Perish the thought.
to see him go. If he wonít sign for a few more years, then I understand
and wish him well, but it gets my goat how these players always take the
fansí name in vain. If you want the money, then take it Jermaine, but
donít drag me into it.
the central significance of the transfer is as much how we bought
players as who we bought. Before the start of this season, I
wrote a passionate piece claiming that success was likely not just
because we had a strong squad, but mainly because the three key people
at the heart of this club, manager, chairman and director of football,
were united, working as one in the pursuit of glory. This quickly turned
out to be a triumph of optimism over reality. Several months on, if
nothing has changed then we are merely storing up problems for the
future rather than raising the club to the status of serious challengers
at the very peak of English football.
Everything that Ramos has done since he arrived contains a single
message Ė this guy is his own man. This guy is in charge. Even when his
team selections and daring substitutions have not come off, which so far
is thankfully rarely, what stays with you is his decisive, bold and
commanding persona. Heís supposedly close to the players and spends time
with them on an individual basis, but you sense that no one is going to
argue with him.
And so it
is with the transfer window. Here he is in his own words from the
has sought to clarify his position regarding transfer business. Under
his predecessor, Martin Jol, the sporting director Damien Comolli had
the power of veto over potential signings but Ramos insisted he had
similar authority within Spurs' committee system. "I've already said no
[to a player] on various occasions, maybe six to eight [times]," he
said. "They have been players that I don't like and that aren't right
for the team. The decisions at the moment are taken communally. There is
a consensus on whether a player can come related to his quality, price
and availability. We take those decisions together. It is not only one
person that decides."
happy with the present situation. If he says no, then no means no. This
was simply not the case when Jol was in charge of team affairs. The guy
who manages the team must in my view have ultimate authority over the
personnel at the club, and Ramos has that. The main evidence to support
this is simply that Ramos is here; I do not believe that he would have
accepted the job if it did not come with a guarantee of a right of veto
searching for further evidence of the clubís renewed organisation and
purpose, I was drawn to a series of posts on various message boards by
someone using the alias Devonian. I have no idea who he is. Maybe heís a
MEHSTG regular. What he has to say is a thought-provoking insiderís view
that may make you revise your ideas of the way Spurs go about their
is a long-standing supporter who is also a major investor in the club.
To safeguard his investment, he treats the club as he would any other
business, namely he combines information in the public domain with a
carefully cultivated contact list in order to make informed decisions
about his money. He concludes that Spurs are an extremely well-run
business. In particular, our ratio of salaries to income and turnover is
one of the best in the Premier League. As a result, we are financially
sound whereas many other clubs will over the next few years be
desperately seeking to cut unfeasibly high salary bills, or else they
will face serious financial problems. Clubs like Man U and Liverpool are
in an even more fragile position because of the huge interest payments
on the loans taken out as part of their recent re-financing. Liverpool
pay £20m a year just in interest. Even Chelsea are scrambling to cut
Spurs, our parent company ENIC set a ceiling for the total wage bill,
which we have not yet reached, but there is no cap on the salaries of
individual players. The commonly held belief that this salary cap means
we miss out on players is false. Simply not true. Keane was on 60k a
couple of years ago, and the bonus system can take his wage over the 80k
a week mark. No wonder heís stayed loyal.
this, Levy has the freedom to pay what he likes. For each transfer, a
group of four men weigh up the pros and cons of each transfer, set a
value on the importance of the player for the club, then decide what to
offer in terms of fee and salary. These four are Levy, Ramos, Comolli
and John Alexander, the club secretary, who has no input on the
footballing side. Ramos has a veto on purchases for the first team
squad. Comolli has overall charge of the purchase of up and coming
talent, i.e. not quite ready for the first team. He also manages the
scouting network. His role is either to recommend players he has seen,
or to take as his brief a certain type of player that the club needs and
then to go out and find them. Ramos will then make his own mind up about
the selections, having seen them himself. No first-teamer is bought
without Ramosí specific agreement.
fits neatly with Ramosí statement. The club is well-run and solvent,
with money available to improve the playing staff still further but not
prepared to cave in to the unreasonable demands of players with an
inflated view of their value for the club. We can match high wages if
end much of this is a judgement call. In the summer we allegedly lost
out on Elano and Petrov, both of whom were offered considerably higher
salaries by Manchester City. However, a few months on, itís fair to
question whether these able players would have pulled their weight as
part of the Ramos inspired work ethic. Elano has faded after a bright
start, while Petrov will not track back. These players are luxuries we
could afford but decided not to bother. In my view, thatís a good call.
season-opening piece stressed that success depended on everyone in the
club pulling together. These sources of evidence prove (as far as we can
ever really know of course) that the harmony, drive and purpose of the
Ramos era are being replicated off the pitch. For me, thatís the biggest
success of this transfer window.
Comments always welcome,
... gossip columns in January.
Itís fashionable in
football circles this New Year for managers to whinge about the iniquity
of the transfer window, which if you have only just emerged from your
post-Christmas feast of the ĎBest 2734 Spurs Goals Everí, or indeed the
new Spurs Opus (does anyone know anyone who has actually bought one of
these?) is suddenly upon us. Coppell, Warnock, Allardyce and Curbishley
have all been doing their duty on behalf of the poor downtrodden and
misjudged minority group that are football managers.
Iíve no sympathy. They
know what the rules are before the season starts, itís a level playing
field for everyone (except Yeovil) and if they could screw the very last
penny from one of their colleagues desperate enough to judge their 3rd
reserve striker as the new messiah, then they will do so without
If thereís sympathy to
be had, it should come the way of fans exposed to the endless repetitive
and ill-informed round of rumour and innuendo. We know what awaits us
every January, yet we are drawn in irresistibly, like Brittany Spears to
boundless humiliation or Robbo to punching a cross. We scour the back
pages and wear out the F5 button in a desperate trawl for information on
this weekís Spursí saviour.
The only thing you
really need to remember about the transfer window is that 99% of it is
rubbish. Managers lie. Agents lie. Players lie. Clubs lie. Whatever is
going on, you will not find out about it in the media. To be fair, and I
donít feel like being fair but Iíll try really, really hard, some tell
barefaced porkys while others merely mislead, offering tantalising
glimpses of the truth but never letting slip the full story. The media
sometimes make things up, but mostly they perpetuate the sham by
regurgitating other peopleís deceptions and misrepresentations without
making any effort to independently verify the information. No matter,
the end product is, how shall I put it, bollocks. That will do. New
Yearís resolution Ė improve the vocabulary. But bollocks is precisely
the word to convey my true and precise meaning, so bollocks it is.
Letís take some
examples from our wonderful, glorious club. Transfer gossip - easy.
Spurs have a crap defence. Ramos is Spanish. Therefore we want to buy a
Spanish centre half. Surely this will get me a career on the Daily Mail
site, which according to Newsnow appears to have a new Spurs story at
least every three quarters of an hour. It worked for the guy who writes
As I write, two main
transfer sagas are unfolding Ė they may well be over by the time you
read this. Iím talking about Alan Hutton, the Rangers full-back and
supposedly accepted a bid of £8m, which, depending on which report you
read, Hutton has either turned down or is thinking over. Berbaís agent,
meanwhile, states that he wants a move to a club that Ďmatches his
ambitioní. Hutton turns us down, cue gnashing of teeth and wailing from
Spurs fans, if we are not already overwhelmed with grief at Berbaís
Yet these two stories
tell us nothing new. Right now there is precious little at Spurs to
attract or keep players of the highest quality. The comments of Berbaís
agent are designed to raise his profile amongst the few high quality
teams who want and can afford him, or at the very least to remind Levy
of his clientís worth if and when his contract is re-negotiated.
One consequence is the
procession of hacks and ex-pros who indulge in lengthy
Tottenham-bashing, and frankly they seem to enjoy it. The same pundits
who praised our squad in pre-season now solemnly intone that we are not
a big enough club to keep Berba, who, it is said, is clearly not happy.
The level of analysis is puerile and superficial, based not on the
merits of his footballing talent but rather on the angle of his head and
shoulders in relation to his torso.
The result? Itís open
season on Spurs. We are surrounded by stories of our problems and are
left with reminders of past glories and dashed hopes. Sky Sports News
are particular culprits.
reality? The Hutton episode is not a commentary on the trials and
tribulations of our club in 2008, itís a normal transfer negotiation. Of
course the guy needs time to think things over. Rangers will be foolish
if they don't float the boat to see if they can get a higher return on
their investment. If ManU are interested, it's obvious Hutton would at
the very least want to see what's on offer, so his agent has told him to
In all of
the media coverage that I have read and heard, nothing has shed any
further light on the reality. Fergie says he wonít buy anyone in this
window. This is a lie. Of course he will, if it is the right player at
the right price. Smith says Hutton will stay. This is a lie. He will
stay if he wants to but will be sold if, and hereís that key phrase
again, it is at the right price.
know that already. So why bother with the media.
are the comments from Berbaís agent doing any additional damage. He's
just telling the truth, however indigestible it may seem to us, and the
football world can see this for themselves. We as a club have constantly
promised more than we have delivered. The reality is that we have plenty
of potential but once again we are in a phase of rebuilding. This one
will not take as long as previous 'transitional seasons', because we
have a decent squad and a determined, shrewd manager, but that's where
rebuilding may have to take place without the most charismatic player to
be seen at the Lane for many a long year. After a slow start it soon
became apparent that this was a precious, unique talent, then, the
instant we gloried in our new star, the clock started ticking. Berbatov
was prepared to wait, but it was only a matter of time before he and
other high quality players would become restless in an understandable
search for glory and riches before their short career petered out. We
had to invest in a team to lift us into the top four and to challenge
for honours, but 18 months on, time is fast running out.
rumours raise our hopes, and thereís no problem is aiming high when we
seek the right players to take us onwards and upwards. After all,
Berbatov came, didnít he. Beware of the downside, however, and donít be
downcast because our hopes are more than likely to be dashed, because in
most cases other, bigger clubs have the scent of the chase too. The
unpalatable but realistic conclusion is that that if a Champions League
club makes a serious offer for a player, they are not going to come
here. As fans we take these rejections to heart but I repeat, these
stories tell us nothing that we donít already know.
pleased that Spurs are acting decisively to go for quality players like
Hutton early in the window. Every quality player will be in demand and
we've shown our hand early, but these risks are worth taking. There's a
message to these footballers that they are wanted by us.
Otherwise, Iíve had it up to here with the wretched window. Iíll flick
through MEHSTGís White Hot Lines and a couple of decent fan sites, and
thatís the lot. Poyet has said that we know who we want and that we will
be doing business early in the window this time. Fine by me, now letís
leave them to get on with it. And donít lie to me any more.
Comment always welcome,
... getting there in the end.
If life is a journey,
then supporting Spurs is like going from Landís End to John OíGroats on
the B roads. You get there in the end, and along the way youíll meet
some nice people and see a few of the sights, but if you arrived earlier
you could have spent more time enjoying the view. Having taken yet
another wrong turn, another driverís tipped up to take the charabanc of
us happy campers a little further towards our destination, whether that
may be the Champions League, the UEFA Cup, something, anything, shiny.
Are we nearly there yet ?
A throwaway remark in
my last column, referring to Jolís impending demise, Ďit may be
happening as I write thisí became eerily prophetic. It was. The
following day he was gone, apparently the last one to know, the crowd,
the media, the watching TV audience all prioritised ahead of Jol and his
hapless assistant. Much has been said in the interim about Jolís
departure and I donít intend to pick over the bones. I wish him well,
and if he ever returns to the Lane in any capacity he will receive a
genuine, warm welcome, but while the mess was not entirely of his own
making, heís left us in a parlous state and undeniably action was
The boardís dogged
pursuit of Juande Ramos has brought us a man with a proven track record,
most recently at Seville where he elevated a mid-table club to the
status of serious contender. He strikes me as being driven; never a top
class footballer, heís paid his dues in the Spanish lower leagues and
when given the opportunity to shine in the spotlight, hell will freeze
over before he lets slip that chance of glory. That single-mindedness
had been missing in the more relaxed atmosphere cultivated by Jol, and
it is the single most important quality that needs to be instilled in
our players. Until January at least he will have to make do with the
same squad that has performed so poorly this season. How will he go
about sorting out the rabble ?
For Ramos, it is all
about organisation. The team is the thing, the whole is greater than the
sum of its parts. Rather than the flexible vision of total football Jol
espoused but seldom achieved, the Spaniard gives each player a clear
role. They know what is expected of them, what they are supposed to be
doing and where they are supposed to be. Already the players look more
confident in their work.
There is an
unambiguous injunction to pass and move. Players are working harder off
the ball in order to obtain space and thereby remain available to
colleagues. Our attacks are built quickly, usually via a series of swift
passes or runs. Under Jol, our strikers were encouraged to stay well
forward when we held possession, the intention being to create space
within which the midfield could work, but in reality too often it led to
undue separation between the lines and opposition defenders comfortably
marking the strikers. It encouraged a longer passing game which suited
Carrick. Groomed to take over his mantle, Huddlestone has been banished
to the reserves while he loses a stone, but even if he earns the Slimmer
of the Year Award, Ramos will take some convincing that his undoubted
talents can be accommodated in this style.
Ramosí Spurs line up
with two defensive midfielders. Either can go forward, and so far Jenas
has been the man most likely, but not both, and neither will do so
until the ball is in a safe area, far enough forward to minimise the
dangers from an opposition counter attack. Lennon has been told to stay
wide, stretching the play and maximising the creation of space. The
flanks are where we launch many attacks and the full-backs will be
instrumental in our offensive strategy. Bale will be used extensively in
the coming months as Ramos learns what we know already, that this young
man is a footballer of the very highest quality.
In defence the centre
halves stay tight together and one covers for the other. Itís a shame
the message hasnít quite reached Kaboul, who needs to quickly learn that
in the Premiership you donít have as much time as you would necessarily
wish. On the plus side, Dawson is emerging from the doldrums, a good
example of how perceptive coaching can release potential. Heís still
young, and without Ledley beside him, he tried to do too much and as a
result managed very little.
Finally, a powerful
message to keep possession has been conveyed. Particularly against
Wigan, admittedly not the sternest test of the new system, we moved the
ball around from defence to attack and from side to side, before
achieving an opening. These tactics tend to be unwelcome amongst British
crowds accustomed to the ball being played quickly into danger areas, so
patience can be our contribution to the Ramos revolution.
In his first game as
coach against Middlesboro, Poyet could allegedly be heard to bellow,
ĎItís only 4.20, why have you stopped running?í Iíve omitted other words
he added for extra emphasis as you may be reading this before the
watershed. It may merely be confirmation of long held suspicions, but
the poor fitness levels remain a scandalous indictment of the previous
regime. Modern Premiership teams have at their disposal a staggering
array of technology to measure and evaluate fitness. I read recently
that Milan monitor their playersí metabolism, fat levels, endurance etc
several times a day, whereas we let our men carry 110kg of
superfluous blubber around with them. Our lack of ability to get forward
and then back to cover has long been a complaint in this column, and
hereís the reason why Ė they couldnít run.
Most impressively of
all, Ramos has already stamped his authority on the shape of the team.
He exudes the air of someone who is most definitely in charge. The
players are feeding the media positive images of the work he does,
including the fact that he spends time with the players as individuals,
but the impression is that no one would dare mess with him. Equally,
they know the consequence if they fail. Ramos is decisive and bold.
Substitutions are made earlier so that they may have an influence on the
game and he showed not a trace of compunction in hauling off Kaboul
early in the second half on Sunday. We had no ready made replacement on
the bench but something had to be done, and it was.
Early days, but the
signs are highly encouraging. Hard work and structure are the order of
the day, but for Ramos these virtues enable an attacking approach,
rather than as is so often the case in English football, these being
euphemisms for excruciating negativity. I donít anticipate too many
personnel changes this January. Good players are in short supply until
the summer, so unless he has stupendous contacts, Ramos will be content
with an experienced defender and maybe defensive midfielder.
Already he appears to
have invigorated the existing squad. JJ is responding particularly well,
Steed is unusually bouncy and Zokora, given a clear role, is looking a
better defensive midfielder all the while. Itís a pleasure to see Lennon
flying down the wing again Ė he lost his way for while. Last year I read
how Burnleyís player of the year (stay with meÖ) was a full back
transformed into an effective attacking left midfielder after he
repeated training sessions where he crossed between 500 and 1000 balls
at a time. Take note, and get down to the training pitch forthwith, my
man. Bent has really impressed me in the manner in which he has taken
the few opportunities that have come his way. Keano is un-droppable
while he keeps scoring, but a partnership of Bent and Berbatov is an
exciting prospect. Both can take chances and make them, can be effective
in the box and make runs wide, and are decent in the air. The defence
has however to be the main and urgent priority. All the attacking
prowess in the world means diddly if we continue to concede bad goals.
always welcome, I even reply you know -
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
exclusive - spurs appoint caretaker manager
... a new hot seat occupier just
warms it for .. ???
exclusively reveal that Spurs have appointed a new caretaker manager in
response to our poor start to the season. Well-regarded in his native
country of Holland, he already has two years managerial experience in
the Premiership, a league he knows well from his playing days at West
Bromwich Albion. A tough, no-frills defender and defensive midfielder,
he should bring some order and stability to a Spurs team woefully short
of confidence after their worst ever start to a Premiership season, with
only one win in ten games.
Said the new man,
íConfidence is short but Iím sure the boys will respond to me. I may
only be temporary but I already know the club and the players. All we
need is a win to turn things around and for Ledley King to bring
experience back to the defence. We must cut out silly goals at set
pieces. We are brimful of attacking talent Ė I donít know who to chose
and Iím bound to offend someone, but theyíre professionals. Itís a good
problem for a manager to have !í
Asked about how this new
appointment relates to Spurs well-publicised and rebuffed summer
approaches to top Spanish coach Juande Ramos, Spursí chairman Daniel
Levy said, Ď The new boss has the total backing of the board.í
Thatís what Martin Jol has
effectively become, a caretaker manager. Spurs have always been
trailblazers Ė push and run, the first double winners, now the first
Premiership club to turn a successful manager into a caretaker, rather
than the other way around. The scenario is fictional but the quotes are
pretty much an accurate account of what Jol and Levy are saying at the
moment. Levyís mealy-mouthed bluster is intended to pacify us into the
soothing illusion that all is stable and secure inside Bill Nicholson
Way, that the summer was merely a misguided hiccup and his masterplan
leading to the Champions League holy grail is back on track. For Jol
meanwhile, itís fluster not bluster. Utterly bewildered by his teamís
performances, heís reduced to lame excuses and ill-concealed frustration
at his keeperís and defendersí inability to use any means possible to
propel the football away from the goal. When heís not bemoaning missed
chances, he chants the comforting mantra, ďLedley will back soon, Ledley
will be back soonÖĒ Except heís not, weíre in the relegation zone, with
little apparent prospect of immediate escape and Jol is feeling sorry
for himself. ĎIf only..í Ė the final refuge of a doomed manager.
I feel for him. This is the
sort of language and behaviour that he has conspicuously avoided in the
past, unlike the majority of his Premiership counterparts who are only
too ready to blame the ref, linesman, lack of technology, pitch, media,
the weather, the ref (again) for each and every defeat, anything and
anybody but themselves. Heís been royally shafted, everyone knows it,
the media are constantly on his back and heís crumbling under the
strain. No wonder he feels sorry for himself, but this will not produce
the major action required to motivate and reorganise a demoralised
Jolís on borrowed time. Literally
every day I turn on the news expecting to hear that he has finally been
put out of his misery. It may well be happening as I write this. In
normal circumstances I would argue that the significance not so much of
single games but of short sequences. In the next month or so, our
fixtures include Getafe, Blackburn, Wigan, Boro, Birmingham and
Blackpool. In normal circumstances these are all matches that we could
reasonably expect a win or at the very least secure 80% of the points.
Our reality is now that it has become impossible to predict anything,
except that however well we graft, make or take chances, a simple ball
into our box or any dead ball within 40 yards of our goals will induce
fear and panic into our defence. Contrast our current plight with
Blackburnís form. On Sunday they will come to the Lane well-drilled and
disciplined, with muscular defenders and strikers able to turn the few
opportunities they create into goals. Player for player we are largely
superior. As a team, they excel at everything we perform poorly. We are
weak, they are strong. Champions League? Europe? We fear Blackburn at
Having succumbed to the
fatal hubris of assuming Ramos would leave high-flying Seville and rush
to join an average Premiership team, Levy further compounds his blunder
by returning to the caretaker regime so disastrous in 2003. Whether that
caretaker is Jol, or Clive Allen when Jol is sacked, or an outsider to
tide us through until a top class manager becomes available in the
summer, we will labour under a caretaker regime until the end of season.
However able the incumbent, this creates inertia and uncertainty. Itís
often said that football is a business like no other, but all successful
organisations require a clear hierarchy with defined leadership who in
turn have the confidence of the workforce. That direction, motivation
and confidence can be provided in a number of ways. Ferguson and his
disciples Bruce, Keane and Hughes, use a combination of stern,
unquestionable authority and an arm round the shoulder. Wenger offers a
quieter, more cerebral and caring approach. All have the unquestioning
loyalty of their players.
None of these methods are
available to a caretaker. The very temporary nature of the appointment
means players have little incentive for loyalty and ultimate effort.
However well they perform, when the real boss arrives their face may not
fit and they are out the door. Itís absolutely true that players should
play for the club, the fans, their own pride and of course because they
are paid handsomely. But the reality is that for most, and this goes for
employees in any business, this is not enough to produce the ultimate,
their very best, and this is what required to ensure success in the
ultra-competitive Premiership. Nothing less. For some this may be
deliberate, for most itís sub-conscious, but the end result is similar.
Commitment and loyalty to one or two key individuals, thatísí what turns
any good business into the best, and that is totally lacking at THFC
Itís not as if Levy does not
know this from personal experience. The 2003 season was an ignominious
catastrophe. Never mind flirting with relegation, we wined, dined,
seduced and bedded it, before jilting it at the altar. Obviously this
means nothing Ė to be a poor leader is one thing, but to fail to learn
from the past is a fundamental, irredeemable flaw. Itís completely
If this comes over as a
bleak and dank vision of the future, that is exactly how I feel right
now. This isnít the start of the season, this is the season.
Hopes and dreams dashed, again. Actually, not dreams Ė we were genuine
contenders at the start of the year and itís been thrown away. Faults in
the leadership and coaching have been cruelly exposed by the
irresponsible actions of the board. We are not set up for a fight
against relegation. Our young squad do not have the experience or
character to cope, whilst the more mature players were enticed by the
glory of Europe, not the hustle, graft and grime of the lower reaches of
the Premiership. Make no mistake, we are in deep, deep trouble.
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory Ė still keeping up that old
Spurs tradition after all.
Comments more than welcome,
... which way will Levy come down
in favour of.
lull in the Premiership fixtures provides a natural pause for thought as
the fledgling season gathers pace. For Spurs fans this is thrown
into sharper relief as Arsenal provide our next opponents, traditionally
a key benchmark in our fortunes. Too much can be made of this.
It is not the be all and end all of the season and I donít subscribe to
the often heard view that itís a good year if we have a decent run and
beat Arsenal. Having said that, we all want desperately to win,
except perhaps one Spurs fan who as he walks to his seat high in the
West Stand may entertain equivocal feelings regarding the outcome, and
that man is Daniel Levy.
short weeks ago, just as the vast majority of Spurs fans around the
globe were eagerly anticipating the start of the new season, Levyís
assessment of our prospects was infinitely more gloomily. Not
content with the prospects of a fighting chance, he staked the house,
car and the kids on what he thought was a winning hand. His hubris
led him to believe that Ramos would leave behind two UEFA Cups and a
place in the Champions League to come to North London. This
astonishing miscalculation has caused immense damage: whatever the final
outcome it could set us back years.
And it is
scant consolation that in the long run Levyís reputation has been
irrevocably undermined, because in the process our club suffers too,
along with its millions of loyal supporters. Me and you.
Weíre used to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory on the field,
but now itís the same off it.
exaggerate Ė his biggest mistake was to get caught. I have no
doubt this sort of thing goes on all the time behind the scenes.
Jol himself has been linked with Ajax and Newcastle in the last year.
However, even if I maintain this uncharacteristically generous approach
for a moment longer, the lack of a contingency plan remains a fatal
flaw. All in for the big pot; lose and thereís nowhere to go, not
even the bus fare home.
the media are treating the club with a mixture of amusement and disdain.
The Private Eye style front cover of ĎWhen Saturday Comesí pictures
Keane and Bent in conversation. ĎWeíre ready to make the big push..í
declares Robbie, his thought completed by Darren, ĎÖ.into the top half
of the table.í Too easy, far too soft a target.
been away this past week, itís a sad commentary on the state of my life
that one of the highlights of a holiday is reading the paper, but weíll
let that pass. Being the wishy-washy pinko liberal old Labour
bleeding heart that I am, itís the Guardian for me. Bearing in
mind that the Ramos affair took place a few weeks ago and is distinctly
chip-paper news, every day someone in this bastion of damn bloody
reasonableness still sees fit to have to have a go at Spurs. We
have become a byword for footballing incompetence. Even the
Professor of Communications at the University of Westminster for
goodness sake has been given half a page (it could only be the Guardian,
bless Ďem!) to properly get stuck in. A supporter all his adult
life, apparently, our good football enticed him to return to the Lane
but no longer. How could we behave like this, never again will he
set foot etc., etc. Mind you, he has a useful turn of phrase,
describing Levyís actions thus: Ďyour grasping, disloyal, short-term,
ungrateful cynicism is the Spurs Ratner moment.í Now why didnít I
think of that ?
predicted in my last column, every single article, interview and match
report has but a single angle Ė how long will Jol last ? So in
response, do we embark on a charm offensive to at the very least attempt
desperately to limit the damage ? Of course not Ė this is
Tottenham, and we ban the Evening Standard because of the views of one
columnist. I do not know what he said and I donít care. Heís
entitled to his opinion and unless he was downright libellous or
mendacious his invective could not have been any more damaging that the
actions of the board. The surest way of guaranteeing unsympathetic
press is to attack the papers. If Levy feels he cannot publicly
justify his decisions then it is an admission that they are worthless.
It is the response of a coward, afraid to hold up a mirror to his own
search of the clubís website fails to reveal the names of those dealing
with the clubís public relations (typically we have a company who deals
solely with financial PR for the PLC). Whoever it is, I
suggest that they leave and donate their salary to the one thing the
club have got right these days, our contribution to charitable giving.
Even Michael Barrymore could get better press.
which is bad enough, but Levy still has the problem of what to do next.
His carefully worded statements of mealy-mouthed appeasement clumsily
mask a series of threats with a thin veil of false unity. Nothing
less than Champions League will keep Jol safe. During the season,
the only way this can be achieved, presumably, is if we race clear by
the end of the month and stay 15 points clear of fourth for the entire
season. And that simply is never going to happen, however well we
perform. The media have Jol as a dead man walking, and the manager
is left in no doubt that he is not wanted and is living on borrowed
time. He looks visibly shattered Ė after the Fulham game his face
was ashen and puffy, sagging bags beneath haunted eyes.
moment the vast majority of fans are behind Jol, almost touchingly so.
Most of us recognise his faults but prize his achievements. However, a
run of poor results will undermine that confidence, and Levy knows this.
Any match against Arsenal focuses our attention wonderfully. A
defeat at home could provide Levy with the ammunition he needs to pull
that Jol will turn things round, so runs this scenario, will be crushed
not just by the vulnerability of our defence but by the weight of
expectation. It seems an age away now, almost part of another era,
but in fact it was only a few short weeks ago that many of us
confidently predicted that at last we would catch and overtake our
bitter rivals. As our rebuilding took us onwards and upwards we
would pass them on the their way down, the organisational and
motivational skills of their manager no longer sufficient to counter the
loss of their talismanic striker, their boardroom chaos and financial
burdens imposed by the Emirates theme park. Just writing this now,
a mere five games into the new season, it sounds like a crazy fantasy,
but only a few weeks ago I could gather more than enough evidence to
write a considered piece to that effect. How times have changed.
At least WSC went for a top half finish.
follow this logic through to the inevitable conclusion, an Arsenal win
is in the interests of Levy and his co-conspirators on the board.
Nothing short of Jol running off with the chairmanís wife, the proceeds
of Carrickís transfer and Dimitar Berbatov could possibly justify Levyís
decisions, but at least defeat provides some pretext for rightful,
reasonable action. The fans will begin to turn against Jol as yet
another failure against the old enemy crystallises the anger and
frustration. His dismissal will be greeted in some sections
warmly, in others with mere indifference. Either way offers
protection to the board.
reality I doubt that Levy will be actively rooting for the away team on
Saturday. However, perhaps the defeat will not have quite the same
emotional impact as it will on you, me or for that matter Martin Jol.
I suspect that BMJ will be given more time but if something is required
to hasten his departure, an Arsenal defeat would undeniably be handy.
is that the defining factor shaping Jolís future is not so much our
league position but the availability of a suitable replacement. At
this stage of the season, the number of able candidates willing to leave
their clubs must be distinctly limited. Iím not going to dignify
this speculation by listing names. To borrow the stock phrase of
all managers linked with other jobs, we have a manager and until that
situation changes thereís nothing more to be said. Anyway, I want
Jol to succeed despite, and now also because of, everything he has had
to face. Letís hope that in his desperation to save face, Levy
does not panic and go for someone who is not good enough or
over-the-hill, just because they possess the attribute of availability.
The fact is, I no longer trust his judgement, so goodness knows how he
will approach this. Remember this is the man who appointed a
caretaker manager for half a season, in order to wait for the right man.
Surely not again Ö
Iím looking forward to the Arsenal game, naturally, but mainly I feel
bewilderment and sadness, rather than anger. Talking to people
about whatís happened to our club, I find myself swiftly lapsing into
wordlessness, accompanied by a shaking of the head and much shrugging of
shoulders. Who knows what the hell is going on ? You know
what would put that right Ė a thumping good win on Saturday.
Comments always welcome,
... the Tottenham board show their
In the space of a few
short days we have gone from being the model of a club that is well
organised off and on the pitch, whose blueprint for finding a way out of
the mid-table swamp is being copied by many others, to being a laughing
stock. The clubís prudent strategy for developing a top four team, much
praised, has been chucked out of the window precisely at the point where
it might all come to fruition.
Itís not as if we are
able to rewind a few days and just get on with things again. Jolís
position has been irredeemably undermined. The board can issue as many
carefully worded statements as it likes; the message is loud and clear,
they believe Jol is no longer good enough to achieve our aspirations. At
a stroke the goodwill between club, manager and board, a powerful force
for progress seldom seen in modern professional football, has been
Predictably the rumour
mill is humming with innuendo and conjecture, claim and counter-claim.
The key fact is crystal clear, however. Last week Ramos met with a Spurs
director and the company secretary in Spain. It is inconceivable
that the main topic of conversation was anything other than the
managerís job. Whether a formal offer was made or not is
irrelevant. The board wanted Ramos and he left that meeting safe
in the knowledge that the job was his if he wanted it.
Once this decision was
made, Levy wanted to move quickly. A clean, decisive thrust to
remove Jol, accompanied by the wringing of hands but little blood on the
floor. He reckoned without Ramos, who understandably now sees
himself in a position of some strength. The Spaniard, who remember
is not a member of the footballing elite but has worked his way up to
the top with hard work over many years, has options, and he wants to
consider them, thank you very much. Maybe he stayed with Seville
because heís loyal to the team he is building, or because he used the
Spurs offer as leverage for an improved contract, we will never know,
but the outcome is that he is staying put, at least for a while.
I have no personal
knowledge of Daniel Levyís character. He presents as fairly
discreet and mild-mannered, but no one who achieves his success in
business is truly like that. Whatever, one suspects that his rage
and fury on hearing the bad tidings matched and perhaps exceeded the
ferocity of Hurricane Dean. Because, of course, meanwhile news had
got out. Levy has no Plan B, so itís back to Jol with a patronising
ticking-off and the dreaded vote of confidence. A club statement will
make it all better again.
To the rest of us it
is simple; board lets manager spend in close season, panics after two
bad results, gets turned down by Ramos. Levy does not know what he
is doing. His judgement is flawed, a fact now exposed to the
world. Make no mistake, that is what will hurt most. For a
successful businessman, the effect on the team or the share matters, but
it pales into insignificance compared with this crushing hammer blow to
his ego. In commerce you live or die by your decision-making ability.
To the world of football, Levy is a fool.
What on earth were
Levy and the board thinking ? Even his supporters (I am one) would
readily acknowledge that some of Jolís decisions about team selection
and substitutions have been puzzling, and his learning curve has
included distinctly lacklustre periods, e.g. our away form at the
beginning and later during last season. He has yet to instil the
ruthlessness that allows us to kill off matches or sweep aside weaker
teams, and as I noted in my last column a few question marks remain
about his coaching ability.
Surely, however, the
evidence of his success far outweighs the doubts. Successive fifth
places. The most successful Spurs manager for donkeys years in
terms of win percentage and points per game average. A stylish,
attacking approach. The confidence of the players. The
ability to unearth young talent. Loyal, committed, passionate
about our club. Above all, things were slowly, gradually but
incontrovertibly getting better. Pleat, Graham, Hoddle, Gross Ė do
we forget that easily how awful most of that period was. Add
We will never know
exactly what was the trigger for the decision to remove Jol.
Sources suggest that the board queried his transfer judgement this
summer, that he wanted to swap Lennon for SWP, or sell Berbatov to
strengthen the rest of the team. I suspect strongly that the
context for all this was that the board were actually far less patient
than was apparent to the outside observer. Perhaps last seasonís
rumours that he was saved by the Fulham cup victory held more substance
than I gave them credit for at the time.
Whatever, the question
remains Ė if the board were not confident, why did they allow him to
spend so much money in the summer ? Even if these were players
bought by Comolli (which I donít believe), even if the actual outlay is
less than the £40m quoted (because the payments are spread over several
years and are in part contingent upon success) any new manager likes his
own people, who fit his style. The conclusion is inescapable: this
was a rushed, ill-thought out decision.
have expressed their support for Jol in an almost touching fashion.
I believe this sort of protest is essential if the club is going in the
wrong direction, now and in the future, because we the fans are the only
true representatives of the club's heritage and culture. However,
in this case I don't believe the board gave diddly squat for our
opinions. Jol is still the Spurs manager because Ramos turned Levy
down. That's it.
So Jol is
still our leader but he holds a poison chalice. He
has been completely
undermined. Every point dropped, the media will question how long he
will remain at the club. Every interview from now on will hold the
question, however it may be phrased, ĎMartin, how long will you be at
the club ?í The players will feel he is on borrowed time, his
authority damaged beyond repair. Already we are hearing that Berby
is unhappy, Defoe is unhappy. Itís not a question of whether or
not this is true Ė players have gripes and niggles all the time - it is
why these things appear in the media whereas by and large they have been
conspicuous by their absence thus far in Jolís reign. Again this
focus on our private business is the boardís fault for drawing attention
But maybe thatís part
of it. In issuing yesterdayís statement in the way they have, the board
have deliberately set Jol up. Itís obvious they want rid of him.
By their criteria, itís now almost impossible for him to succeed
totally, so in their eyes all they have to do is wait, then remove him,
saying that itís a sad day for THFC but Jol has not met their
expectations. I suspect theyíve already written the statement ...
That said heís a
strong man, and so maybe he can rally the players behind him, manager
and players united against the world, stick it to everyone who gets in
our way and sod the board. Iím with you on that one, Martin.
genuinely thought the club were over this serial cock-up management
style. We had a plan, and we were going to stick with it. Or so I
thought. Last night, I was drawn to the words of a wise old sage and
seer, which for me summed this all up rather well. On Nickelodeon,
Daffy Duck looked solemnly at the camera and said, ĎObviously Iím
dealing with inferior mentalities.í
He was referring to
Elmer Fudd, but in all honesty, right now, Daniel Levy in comparison
looks the more incompetent.
want to hear if you think I am talking sense (or not)
or the main
... a new season and new hope
Step up: intensify,
deepen, enhance, beef up, give a boost to, -a notch, -a level,
accelerate. You donít need a thesaurus to know what Iím getting
at. After successive fifth places, we now aspire to becoming more
than merely the best of the rest. Apparently, the vision statement
on display at the training ground states our ambition for the coming
season Ė qualify for the Champions League. In my piece last week,
I empathically argued that everything was in place for the Great Leap
Forward. Much has been made of our activity in the transfer
market. This new blood will undoubtedly refresh and invigorate the
team, but the critical factor lies off the pitch, or more accurately by
its side. Coaching is the key, and the place to start is at the
Manager of the Season
is predictably bestowed upon the man in charge of the Premiership
Champions. The true definition of a top manager, however, is a man
who obtains the very best from the players at his disposal, where the
team is greater than the sum of its parts. Surely it is a greater
achievement to, for instance, gain promotion on a zero budget or keep a
poverty-stricken club out of the conference than win the league with
American or Russian billions safely tucked under the mattress.
By that criterion, I
have always rated Venables very highly, dodgy character though he may
be. A team with a back four containing Edinburgh, Sedgley and Van
den Hauwe had no right to compete for honours, let alone finish third
and win the FA Cup, back in the day when that actually meant something.
Or how about the three card trick that transformed a dyspraxic centre
forward like Paul Stewart into a commanding midfielder. And those
of us who were there will forever cherish the memory of Paul Gascoigne
in his golden years, alternately nurtured and cajoled towards the finest
football of his career.
That defence was of
course marshalled by the incomparable Gary Mabbutt. However, in a
Fantasy Top Trumps competition Iíd take a back four of Chimbonda,
Dawson, King and Bale any time, even allowing for the latterís
inexperience. Yet last season I contorted in paroxysms of anxiety
whenever the ball came into the area; while this is entirely justified
if Anthony Gardner is playing, otherwise that was pretty irrational, but
however a top of the table team is supposed to defend, we didnít.
As individuals they
have talent in abundance; itís how they perform as a unit that will be
the difference between success and failure this year. King just
improves all the time. Fast becoming a Tottenham legend, I revere
his calm, unostentatious security. Dawson reminds me of the old
style centre half, unyielding, dominant in the air, perhaps not the
quickest, never gives up the struggle. Yet too often last year we
were undone on crosses that found an opponent in between our two centre
halves. This basic flaw has to be sorted out. The defender,
Dawson in particular, must not allow the opponent to come between him
and the ball. If he comes across to mark, the full back must
similarly shuttle across. If this leaves us short, a midfielder
must track back to mark the runner or cover at the far post. The
coaching team has to instil discipline, organisation and a 93 minute
concentration span into that defence.
Jol and Hughton were
both defenders, and Jol also played defensive midfielder, so they have
knowledge aplenty to share. Our failure to respond raises some
questions about the effectiveness of their coaching methods. Jol
is the public face of the footballing side of the team; as outsiders
itís harder for us to gauge the impact of Hughtonís role. He must
be highly rated within the club and the broader game; heís outlasted
Hoddle, Pleat and Santini, and was for a time the coach of the Republic
of Ireland too. My idea of a coach, as opposed to manager/head
coach, is that he is responsible for the details within the broader
tactical shape defined by his gaffer, specifically in this case the
defence, and for working with the players day in day out on the training
pitch. As a defender himself, he must convey the message.
Similar demands must
be made of the midfield. Last year we were pretty good at turning
defence into attack, especially in the latter stages of the season, and
whilst we have to become consistently incisive in the final third, we
will score bags of goals. What must develop is the midfieldís
capability as a defensive unit, shielding the back four and dominating
that crucial area immediately in front of our own box. We
performed this task majestically against Bolton, when the role was
clearly defined Ė two banks of four and caution with the attacking Ė but
if greater individual flexibility and decision-taking (forward or back,
cover or attack the space?) is required we sometimes flounder.
attacking options represent a mouth-watering prospect, but in
identifying my players to watch for the coming season, Iím sticking
largely with the defence and last seasonís squad. Please would the
following step forward so THFC can step up:
keeper, fully committed to the cause. He must learn to dominate
the box. Great keepers are more than good shot-stoppers, they
marshal their defensive colleagues and rule their area. Robbo
looks uncertain when he comes off his line Ė that infects the whole
defence and itís got to stop.
prediction for player of the season 2007-8. After a stop-start season
due to injury and illness, a run in the team, fully fit and aware at
last of what is required of him in the Premiership, demonstrated his
value to the team. His role is to pick the ball up from the
defence and/or to be available if his fellow midfielders are under
pressure, then distribute it on to launch attacks. So much of our
play will flow through him. If he makes one of his trademark forward
surges, someone must be alert to cover. He has great ability in my
view, and will live up to these high expectations.
last year I implored JJ to step up and show us his true worth on a
consistent basis. No other current Spurs player is the subject of
so much disagreement as to his value to the club. Iím a fan Ė he
has great running power that he exerted in the last twenty minutes of
several games, his runs into the box are increasingly effective and if
you need cover for Zokís forward surges, he should be your man.
However, doubts remain Ė his passing could improve and heís not done
enough to dispel the lingering doubts that he surrounds himself in a
comfort zone. Lose it and you will become a great player, JJ.
many of us, Iím optimistic about the season to come, several seasons to
come for that matter. However, these defensive problems require
intensive surgery to expunge them. If not, no amount of shrewd
transfer dealings, electric strikers or vision statements can make up
the shortfall, and we will fail. Danny Murphy was interviewed on
Talksport today. He had nothing but good things to say about BMJ.
The players all relate to him and heís a good motivator. He also
praised Chris Hughton, particularly in his role as the link between
players and manager. Murphís days at the club can probably be
counted in single figures, so maybe heís trying to keep everyone sweet.
On the other hand heís not had many opportunities, Jol canít be his
favourite, so on balance take this at pretty much face value. If
the coaches have the confidence of the team, thatís half the battle.
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