the richard kelly articles

In a fortnightly contribution, Richard Kelly's look at what is currently happening
 at White Hart Lane provides a thought provoking view on the club

        09.02.2009    How The War Was Won
        23.02.2009    When Sunday Comes
        09.03.2009    Like Mike
        23.03.2009    Arise Sir Bill
        03.05.2009    Shooting Boots
        21.07.2009    The Messiah, England's natural left footer, two right backs and the tallest man in the world
        30.01.2010    Plan A




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..2010

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Let us know what you think at mehstg@blueyonder.co.uk.

 

30.01.2010

PLAN A

The Tottenham Way.  Just the mention of that phrase should be enough to send a shiver down your spine, as it does mine. 

Tottenham fans should be schooled in the Tottenham Way; fathers should try to explain it to sons, fans should scour on-pitch moves for the signs of it, and players for the ability to create it.  It should be something aspired to at all times, rather than merely on occasion.           

From the Push-and-Run side through to the Double Winners; from Burgess and Harmer through Blanchflower, Mackay, White and Jones; consider Chivers, Hoddle, Ardiles, Waddle, Gascoigne, Sheringham, Klinsmann, Ginola, Keane, Berbatov, Lennon and Modric for that matter.  Tottenham have always had players who can play with the ball.  The press and other fans may label us as fickle supporters, but when it comes to those names, what they did and what they were about, we have memories as long as elephants.           

The Tottenham Way is part of who we are, of what our club is.  It is that special extra element that comes into play when discussing the merits of a Tottenham side; that is it not enough just to win, you must win well too.  Because, for Tottenham, it's about doing things in style, doing them with a flourish.  It's about going out to beat the other lot, and not waiting for them to die of boredom, isnít it ?  And this makes our club special, because there are only a handful of clubs whose fans require them to play in such an entertaining way, whilst providing the wins, something which has not always been true of our neighbours down the Seven Sisters.           

All of which brings me to Peter Crouch.  But first of all, itís cards on the table time.  I dislike Crouch, and Iíve done so since he first emerged on my radar.  To me, he lacks the technique that should be required at the very highest level.  I donít doubt he is an effective player, but he lacks physical strength, pace, finesse or clever interplay that I ask from a Tottenham player, especially of a forward one.  His biggest asset, of course, is his height, something which he uses to his credit very well.  But that, as far as I can tell, is it.  And yet somehow, he plays for England.  I have grudgingly come to appreciate that he does possess some worthwhile qualities since I have seen him play for Tottenham, but that does not mean he should play for Spurs.           

The early part of his career shows just what a journeyman he was.  Spells in the second tier with QPR and Portsmouth were followed by a few years at Aston Villa, yet it was at Southampton where he shot to prominence.  That was followed by three seasons at Liverpool, where he shined in the cameos he was given and established himself as an England International, before he returned to Portsmouth and now Tottenham.           

Letís briefly consider those spells at Southampton and Liverpool, which have forged his reputation as a top Premiership player, and an England International.  At Southampton, Redknapp arrived at the club in the first half of the season and put Crouch into the side, which at the time was deep in the relegation battle at the bottom of the league.  Whether he saw something in training or lucked upon it in matches is a moot point, but Crouch became the focal point of Southamptonís side.  Initially he was used as a target for long balls, and as a means to threaten to opponents who pushed forward, but Crouch quickly developed the knack of scoring goals in this style of play.           

Even so, they were relegated, and Crouch, at this point emerging as an England International, left for Liverpool.  Although initially struggling at Liverpool, he did establish himself within their squad, scoring goals, and generally being a nuisance.  But let us not forget that Benitezís Liverpool are fundamentally a workmanlike side with a couple of flair players, Gerrard and Torres, bolted on.  This, then, is what we have bought; not a thoroughbred ball-player, but an effective workhorse.           

Yet we knew all that already.  The main problem I have with Crouch in the Tottenham side is not him, per se, but what the rest of our team do around him when he plays; namely, that Crouch presents an obvious and inviting target for long balls.  The amount of times our defenders lump the ball up-field towards the looming head and shoulders of Crouch near the opposition penalty box is ridiculous.  Yes, he wins a lot of free-kicks, and yes, he causes a nuisance to our opponents, but our play dissolves into long balls, quick movements, and flick-ons.  Where is the build up ?  Where are the passing movements ?  They go out the window.           

Of course, what cannot be forgotten is that in the modern Premiership game speed is king, so there is a necessity in speedy play.  I can also accept that there is an element of directness in the modern English game than perhaps is palatable for the football purist, however, that does not mean Tottenham shouldnít persist in playing the game in the right way.  We all appreciate that winning is perceived to be more important these days than playing well, although Arsenal have succeeded in marrying pacy football to the Tottenham Way.  As you are no doubt aware, success, these days, is measured not in trophies, but in league position, but there is still a place to thrill, and there is still a place for fresh silver in the cabinet.  None of us can, boast about our clubís balance sheet in the school yard, office, or pub, after all.           

Against Leeds this was brought to a head.  Crouch started next to Defoe, and the plan appeared to be to pelt crosses into the box for Crouch, or pump balls forward for flick-ons from Crouch for Defoe, or knock downs for oncoming midfielders.  Any attempts to utilise the passing skills of Modric, Kranjcar, or Jenas seemed to go by the wayside.  For the first seventy minutes, our Plan A was unsubtle, and seemed more appropriate to our rivals from League One, than a side with supposed Champions League aspirations.           

When Pavlyuchenko came on, that immediately changed, and Tottenham began to play with some movement and desire to retain the football.  Better chances were created, the game swung back in our favour, and the players began to link up again; Tottenham showed signs of fluidity once more.           

In fact, every time Crouch plays, Tottenhamís play dissolves into this direct game.  Keane started the season in form, as did Modric.  At that point we played with the smallest attacking quartet of anyone, and were free-scoring and brilliant.  But when Modric got injured, and Crouch scored consistently after coming off the bench and in early-season League Cup matches, Crouch came into the side, and with that Keane went off the boil.             

To me that is probably because Keane was forced to do all the running for the immobile Crouch, dropping off and dragging his markers out as much as it was due to his form taking a dip.  In fact, since Modric has returned, the Croatian hasnít found his early season form either.  Only Defoe, Lennon and Kranjcar have continued to shine in the side since Crouch has played, and all three were playing well at the start of the season anyway.           

I like Redknapp, and I respect him as a coach.  And although he got his Portsmouth and West Ham sides playing football, there is a world of difference between that and playing in the Tottenham Way.  Fans of other clubs, by and large, perhaps wouldnít even dream of complaining about this, as we do in general play well, but to me that isnít enough.  Some would say our traditions weigh us down, but I believe rather that they should inspire us, like a beacon in the night, to play in the right manner.  My greatest fear is not that we might fail playing in the Tottenham Way under Redknapp, but that we might succeed playing these long balls to Crouch, that that method of play might be proved to be effective and vindicated, and his position within the Tottenham team be secured. 

Because should that happen, then the Tottenham Way might be brought to an end for good, and that, believe me, would break my heart.

 

Is Crouchy one of your favourites ?  Or is Plan A nothing more than Route 1 ?  Let us know what you think at mehstg@blueyonder.co.uk.

 

21.07.2009

THE MESSIAH, ENGLAND'S NATURAL LEFT FOOTER , TWO RIGHT BACKS AND THE TALLEST MAN IN THE WORLD

 

To the football fan in the summer transfers are a bit like cigarettes to a smoke; you spend all season saying to yourself you donít need any, but by May you start to think maybe you need one or two.  For the first few weeks of the summer you can cope fine and resist the urge.  But then the rumours come along, and every morning as you do the web rounds you vainly search for news of your own club.  Whoís leaving, but more importantly whoís coming.  At this point the outlandish deals surface, and you begin to dream, as though somehow your feckless but beloved club could ride into enemy territory and steal out a great prize.  And then Man City buy all the players you liked the look of, and you start to panic. 

Thatís the point where you reach the most desperate moment, searching for any rumour you can find like a quitter vainly breathing smoke.  In this state some very unattractive deals seem to hold some promise, and all the while youíre watching over the fence as your rivals seem to calmly go out and bring in whomsoever they choose, your manager seems to have either gone on holiday or decided that international  class forward was worth the bother.   

And then before you know it you have twenty-four little hours left, a wad of cash in your pocket, a handful of players you donít want, and a list of targets which one month before wouldnít have even popped onto the radar.  And at every door you knock on, cap in hand, the price is doubled or trebled.  And then the door slams shut, the fans must go transfer cold-turkey for another six months, and everyone looks at their squad, and imagines the players they missed out on and says; Ďwhat if ?í 

So far weíve been totally frustrated this summer.  Now we have a month left, pre-season is well underway, and the only significant move is Didier Zokoraís transfer to Seville.  Itís no good Harry coming out and saying we were in for Barry and Santa Cruz; you canít field a team of players who nearly signed. 

Whilst Real Madrid have gone off and signed a whoís who of World Football, Manchester City have come out to do business in a much less high-profile, but no less efficient way.  People can question the ambition of Barry and Adebayor all they like, but they forget that City could outbid anyone.  They will one day soon reach the Champions League, and once they do they will be unstoppable.  Getting in on the ground floor sounds like a wise decision to me.  Who, after all, would question Barry if he had a Championship medal or two in a few years time ?  Not Steven Gerrard, title-less at Liverpool after a decade, thatís for sure. 

Manchester Cityís signings have had a knock-on effect.  Our forays into the market have been rebuffed, but you have to ask yourself just how attractive a proposition we are.  Weíre not in Europe, and although we have a good side we clearly donít have all the pieces for the puzzle.  Manchester City seem to have stolen a march on us, and Villa and Everton both showed last season that they are capable of grabbing a top four spot if one of the big four has an absolute clanger.  Are we really in a position to tempt the Santa Cruzs or the Gareth Barrys of this world to the Lane ? 

That thought bothered me for quite some time.  If good players donít see our club as an attractive proposition and our tempted by our rivals we are in danger of slipping back into the arms of mid-table.  But then I realised something; when Arnesen, Santini and Jol first came to the club they began a policy of signing young British talent.  Players from the lower leagues were brought in and given the chance in the Premier League.  Players like Carrick, Dawson, Robinson and Defoe were brought into the club.  This was rightly praised by everyone, but more importantly it was the catalyst that drove Tottenham forward; the youthful British core set us apart, and following that young players such as Lennon and Bale chose to come to Spurs to progress, believing the club to be a promoter of young talent. 

Comolli did a lot of destroy that.  Berbatov, Zokora, Chimbonda, Rocha and Modric were all his signings, and regardless of the success of those players they did not fit into the young and British catagories which had propelled Spurs so dramatically forward.  Each big name signing from abroad diluted the English contingent in the club, so that what now remains is a shadow of the side at its peak. 

So is our chase for Crouch, enquiry for Joe Cole and brief flirtation with Stewart Downing really the right way to go ?  I canít think of a signing more under-whelming than Downing would have been.  I have never understood what the fuss was about, and Iím sure that at White Hart Lane he would have swiftly become a target of crowd hatred.  Crouch, on the other hand, is a much more difficult man to decide on.  He would score goals for us, I donít doubt that.  But to me heís not what a Tottenham player should be.  In fact heís not what a footballer should be at all.  He doesnít look like a footballer or have a footballerís poise, but more pertinently on the Tottenham front I want my forwards to do more than score goals.  Spurs play the game in the right way, we are upholders of the light; therefore the forwards we field should also have a verve and brilliance about them.  That is why I loved Berbatov and Keane; it wasnít just their deadly goal-scoring, it was their link up, as though their entire footballing lives they had been searching each other out, liking soul-mates, in a footballing sense.  It was beautiful, and I want to see that again.  Crouch wonít give me that.  Heís just a tall bloke who isnít particularly good in the air.   

I would literally jump for joy if Joe Cole signed for us, because he is a man who wouldnít look out of place in the lilywhite shirt at all.  But then you have to wonder if he is willing to drop down from a position in or around the Chelsea side to the Spurs team.  And more to the point, if Chelsea did agree a fee with us, would his head be turned by the inevitable approach by Manchester City ?

Thatís why this Sheffield United deal is taking up most of my interest.  Here are two full-backs who could go on to great things.  Bringing them in and building them up will inject that youthful ambition back into the team.  Hereís hoping that is the first of a number that give young, potential players their chance at the lane, because if we are going to once again climb the table and fight for position with City, Villa and Everton then these young players are the best way to do it.

 

Let us know what you think  of Richard's transfer hopes at mehstg@blueyonder.co.uk.  Do you win anything with kids ?

 

03.05.2009

SHOOTING BOOTS

 

Premier League

FA Cup

League Cup

UEFA Cup

TOTAL

PLAYER

App

G

Goals/ game 

App

G

Goals/  game

App

G

Goals/ game

App

G

Goals/ game

App

G

Goals/ game

Roman Pavlyuchenko

25

5

0.20

2

3

1.50

6

6

1.00

0

0

0.00

33

14

0.42

Darren Bent

32

12

0.38

1

0

0.00

3

1

0.33

6

4

0.67

42

17

0.40

Robbie Keane

11

3

0.27

0

0

0.00

0

0

0.00

0

0

0.00

11

3

0.27

Giovani dos Santos

6

0

0.00

1

0

0.00

1

0

0.00

4

1

0.25

24

2

0.08

Fraizer Campbell

9

1

0.11

1

0

0.00

4

2

0.50

7

0

0.00

21

3

0.14

Jermain Defoe

5

2

0.40

1

0

0.00

1

1

1.00

0

0

0.00

7

3

0.43

 

During pre-season I had a chat with some-time contributor to My Eyes Have Seen the Glory, Marc Keown.   The conversation revolved around Darren Bent.  At the time, Keane had already gone to Liverpool, Berbatov was kicking up a fuss on the sidelines and Pavlyuchenkoís arrival was yet to be concluded.  We had only Darren Bent as an established Premier League striker in our ranks, supplemented by the promise of Dos Santos, and the potential of the imminent Russian. 

Bent had had a stunning pre-season.  Twelve in six matches is phenomenal, and it seemed as though the 4-5-1 Ramos was seemingly about to employ would suit Bent.  Marc was adamant weíd see his true form this campaign, that he would show us exactly why we spent £16 million pounds on him.  I was less enthusiastic.  Iíd seen Bent play pretty often in the previous campaign, and he didnít look right for our possession based style of play.  Nonetheless, his goals in pre-season were obviously good enough for the club, who were happy to sell Keane without much of a fight, and willing to play the waiting game on the last day with Manchester United over Berbatov.   

So I said to Marc to in order for Bent to have had a good season, and impress me, he needed to score fifteen league goals, and/or twenty goals in all competitions.  If he did that, I would come onto this website and write a public apology to the striker.  At present, with him ruled out for the rest of the season, he has twelve in the league, and seventeen in all competitions.  So three short in both criteria.  That means no apology. 

But does that mean his season has been a poor one ?  At present it would seem Harry is more concerned about the impact Pavlyuchenko is having on the Premier League than Bent.  The Russian is most often linked to a transfer and seems the more discontented.  But that doesnít mean Bent has had a good season, just that he is having a better one than Pavlyuchenko. 

But then again, shouldnít a striker who has played for the last four seasons in the top division and is playing within his own domestic league be better adapted to that division than a man who has come from a different country and is in his first full season, after playing half a season of football in Russia?  You would expect Bent to be the more settled, you would expect him to emerge as the focal point of the side in the early stages of the season. 

And this is my point, that Bent should have been the first choice forward at the club at the start of the season.  It wasnít just that his pre-season was so good or that he was the only established Premier League striker, he was also the only striker to not be new to the club.  Since January 2008, Spurs had sold Defoe, Keane and Berbatov, three big personalities who had been ruthlessly potent.  Free-scoring and deadly, they scored over fifty between them in 2006/07.  Establishing himself amongst them, and in the process breaking one of the most potent strike partnerships in Premiership history in Berbatov and Keane, was always going to be a hard task. But the club had sold those players, so Bent should have taken the step up and made the first team spot his own.  Add to that that Ramos was employing only one forward, and that Pavlyuchenko couldnít play in Europe, and it seemed like Bent had ample chance to become the main goal threat. 

Yet Spurs werenít scoring, and that wasnít Bentís fault.  In fact, he was the only forward we had who was scoring at that stage.  Pavlyuchenko was still adapting, but he wasnít linking with Bent, and that was certainly an issue.  Added to that, was the role the Russian had in the side.  Bent is a direct, pacy, strong forward.  He hangs off the last man and chases through balls to score.  He doesnít drop deep to pick up play, and he doesnít hold up play like a Heskey, that isnít his game.  But what was expected of Pavlyuchenko. 

You only had to look on YouTube to see that the Russian was a poacher.  Most of his goals appeared to be opportunist tap-ins.  An asset for a striker, certainly, and Gary Lineker forged his career from it, but I donít think he was what Spurs were expecting.  Tottenham, Iím certain, were looking for the next Berbatov, and expected Pavlyuchenko to be that man.  There is also a desperation factor in Pavlyuchenkoís signing; the price we paid was high, everything was concluded very quickly, and then he was in.  I donít believe he was on Ramosí list of signings, although thatís not to say he wasnít on Comolliís radar. 

But at least Bent and Pavlyuchenko carried a goal-threat.  Dos Santos isnít a striker, and Iíd be surprised if the club see him as such.  He is a wide player, schooled in the three upfront system that Barcelona employ.  Itís not just about scoring goals in that system, that middle man does that, the wide players do more ... just look at Messi. 

The fourth man before the January window was Campbell.  His arrival at our club is nothing more than an embarrassment.  It is a monumental farce that we loaned him in.  Not only is it damaging to our prestige to have to loan a forward from a club we are supposed to be chasing, but we effectively had to take him because our chairman was more interested in squeezing an extra few million from United for Berbatov.  Campbell was unproven in our league; he was tacked on to the Berbatov deal in the final moments because we had to have another forward.  We were not held to ransom by Berbatov or United.  He wanted to leave, they wanted to sign him and offered a sizeable amount of money.  It was our chairmen who held on until the last moment, it was our chairman who left us with Campbell as our only option.  For £5 million pounds, he left us deep in trouble until Harry could open the cheque-book in January. 

And itís no surprise we are out of it now.  West Brom, Middlesbrough and Newcastle all have trouble scoring, and whilst we had the same problem we were down there too.  In come Defoe and Keane, and suddenly we are chasing Europe.  I donít need to tell you the strengths and weaknesses of those players; we all know that Keane drops and is a link man, and Defoe is a small potent forward.  At this moment, however, itís just nice to see forwards in our shirt who actually look like proper football players, which both of these men do. 

So back to the original question; did Bent have another poor season ?  Well, youíll see from the table at the top that he has scored more goals than anyone else in the League and overall, but in goals per game overall he is only third (although Pavlyuchenko and Defoe didnít play any European matches, which is where Bentís average lets him down).  Overall, and when you consider his game is all about goals, he got a respectable total, so I canít say he was a failure.

The broader question should be about our other forwards.  Keane and Defoe have more than justified their positions at the club, whilst Campbell is miles from first-team thinking and will be returned to United.  I expect Dos Santos to leave, purely because I donít think Harry is certain about what to do with him (he doesnít seem to fit into the Redknapp system).  Thatís a shame because in a few years he could become a very good player.  And that leaves Roman Pavlyuchenko.  His first season in English football has been solid.  I havenít been disappointed, but I have the strong impression that Redknapp isnít satisfied.  And these days, post-Director of Football, there is only one manís opinion that counts.

 

Of the strikers at Spurs, who would you keep and who would you let go ??  Let us know what you think at mehstg@blueyonder.co.uk.

 

23.03.2009

ARISE SIR BILL

If there is one name that should be synonymous with Tottenham Hotspur it is Bill Nicholson.  Associated with the club since 1936, he went from a boy on the ground staff, to professional footballer, to Second Division and First Division Championship-winning right-half, to a coaching role at the club, to manager, where he won one League Championship, three FA Cups, two League Cups, one Cup Winnersí Cup and one UEFA Cup.  He resigned from that position in 1974.  Following at two year gap where he was an adviser to West Ham, he returned to Spurs as a consultant to Keith Burkinshaw, a position he held until 1991, before he was awarded the title of Club President, which he held until his death in 2004. 

An association of sixty-six years with one club, encompassing six roles.  How many other men have won the First and Second Division Championships with one club in successive seasons?  How many men have won the First Division as both a player and a manager?  How many men have managed their clubs to the Double?  How many men have won three FA Cups at one club, or two different European titles?  He was also the English manager to be successful in Europe, and bring a trophy back, and the first to win the Double in the twentieth century.  A man steeped in the traditions of Tottenham Hotspur, he was a firm believer in good possession based football based around movement.  He believed the teamís job was to entertain, and he wasnít afraid of ruffling the feathers of some of the gameís top players.   

Arthur Rowe may have forged the Tottenham Way from the foundations of enterprise and attacking football that had always been present at the club, but it was Nicholson who set that belief in stone, and who proved again and again that it could succeed.  Every manager since has been judged against his perfect standards, everyone of them asked to match his record, just as every player is compared to one of his.  We compare our forwards to Greaves, Smith, Gilzean and Chivers, we compare our midfielders to Blanchflower, White, Jones, Peters and Mackay, we compare our goalkeepers to Brown and Jennings, and we compare our defenders to Norman, Knowles and England.  They were his players, signed by him when he was manager and the benchmark for all that has followed.  And plenty of those which have come after he was manager he discovered, Roberts, Ardiles, and Villa were all signed because of his endorsement, and Hoddle was a schoolboy at the club whilst he was manager. 

What I donít understand, considering all this, is two-fold; firstly, why the club donít make more of him?  And, why isnít he more renown in the wider footballing world?  As a manager, Nicholson won seven major honours, the club itself has only won seventeen.  Yet all they have to show for his record is the Bill Nicholson Way, a small road which leads to the west stand car park.  The vast majority of fans wonít even see this.  Anyone going to the other stands wonít walk past it if they come from Northumberland Park, and itís likely any visiting fans wonít spot this either, because London Underground tells them to get out at Seven Sisters and walk to the ground from there. 

And it is the wider footballing public I am concerned with.  If you ask most football fans, they will tell you that Shankly is Liverpool, Chapman is Arsenal, Busby is Manchester United, Clough is Forest and Derby, and Revie is Leeds.  Chapman aside, all the others come from the same era, when football first was shown regularly on television (although Chapmanís Arsenal were the first side broadcast, so that explains his notoriety).  Nicholson was respected by all of them, at worst their equal in the sixties and seventies.  Yet his name does not crop up so often, despite winning the Double and being the first English manager to win a European trophy.  Part of that no doubt stems from his suspicion of the media.  Nicholson spoke to the press rarely, and when he did it was grudging.  He didnít build up players in the same way the others did, but was dour (remember, this was a man disappointed in his team after they had beaten Leicester City in the FA Cup final to win the double because the team didnít play well enough).  But it also has to do with the way the club is viewed.   

Go to Old Trafford and there is a statue of Matt Busby, at Anfield there is a statue of Shankly, at Highbury there used to be the famous Marble Halls, with Chapmanís bust inside, at Leeds and Forest they have named entire stands after their best managers.  But we have one road for our greatest manager, a man who wrote more of the history of the club he was synonymous with than Shankly, Chapman or Busby, and yet a man honoured less.

There way we are perceived by the outside world is the way we present ourselves.  Making an impression is part of the process.  Away fans marvel when they get to Old Trafford, because of the scale of it, the sign on the way to the pitch in the tunnel at Liverpoolís ground reminds them that this is Anfield, yet we have nothing quite so iconic.  Our ground isnít enclosed behind gates.  It is accessible from the street on three sides, opposite houses.  In that regard it doesnít present itself as something mysterious and hidden, but it does show itself as a significant part of its community. 

Donít get me wrong, Iím not saying that we should parade our history for other fans.  Because, if they were true football fans they would know already, just as I know about the history of football in the wider context.  But it irritates me when I talk about Bill Nicholson and a fan of another club doesnít know who he is.  Revie may have won a championship and the FA Cup with Leeds, but he never succeeded in Europe, and he never built a side of such style.  Nicholsonís association with Spurs should be as well reputed as any of the others I have mentioned, yet it is not.   

Ultimately, it is our duty to make the world remember him.  Nicholson needs a grander memorial than a small road leading to the west stand car park, he needs something that tells every visiting fan that we are a club with a rich history, and this is the man responsible.  Our past as a club shouldnít be hidden away with the desire to build for the future, it should be celebrated.  We shouldnít wallow in it, but we should be proud of it.  A statue of Nicholson, something of permanence and a symbol of our brilliant past, would not just reflect the greatest man associated with Tottenham Hotspur, but our entire history.   

It is the least he deserves, and something which will cost the club a pittance, especially when you consider someone as insignificant to our history as Gilberto earns more in a week than it would cost to commission and place it in front of the ground.

 

I can't imagine that anyone would disagree with Richard's article, but let us know what you think the club could do to best remember the most important man in the club's history at mehstg@blueyonder.co.uk.

 

09.03.2009

LIKE MIKE

Speak to most Spurs fans, and they will give you more or less the same response about the League Cup final.  They were disappointed, yet proud of the team.  To run the champions so close at least showed we can compete with the best.  It goes without saying that if we took that work ethic and will to win into every game until the end of the season we would finish very strongly indeed.  Everton, in fact, have based their success around that hard working style Ė there is no reason why shouldnít do so in the future. 

Six players in particular can walk away from that game with their heads held high.  Aaron Lennon, who tormented Evra throughout the game, Luka Modric, who is increasingly making a greater and greater impact on English football, Jamie OíHara, who gave everything for the club, Didier Zokora, who ran himself into the ground throughout, and Michael Dawson, who suffered cramp in extra time but who battled for every ball and was the main reason why Manchester United could not break us down. 

Five players who you could build a side around.  Five players who gave their everything in the final for the cup, five players who didnít shirk from what was required.  Cramp on Palacios, Keane and Woodgate and it looks like finally, after years suffering without Carrick in the midfield, we are rebuilding the spine of our side well. 

But I want to talk about Dawson in particular.  Lennon will get the plaudits for the cup final, and deservedly so, but Dawsonís place in the team and his subsequent perform was well deserved for a player who has never complained about his lot at Spurs, and always done his best when called upon. 

When he arrived from Nottingham Forest in January 2009, it was largely assumed he was a player brought in as part of the protracted Andy Reid deal.  Reid failed to establish himself, but Dawson slowly came through, becoming the first-choice partner for Ledley King.  And the following season, where Spurs were within ninety minutes of the Champions League, he was brilliant.   

But then King was injured and Dawson struggled on his own at the back.  Gardner played there initially, but when he got injured it was the start of Zokora, Huddlestone, and Chimbonda playing at centre-back with him.  Who wouldnít have struggled with that ?  The defence leaked goals, it became a chronic issue, no matter what Dawson did, and slowly his form dipped. 

By the time Ramos arrived, Dawson was a nervous wreck, and the Spaniard did little to boost his confidence.  Woodgateís arrival pushed him out of the first eleven, and when he did come in, he looked very shaky.  And the crowd started to get on his back.  He was linked with Newcastle over the summer, but the move never materialised, and he stayed at Spurs. 

But Redknappís arrival has reinvigorated him, his confidence back to where it once was.  Presumably Harry has told him to do what he does best; play like a traditional English centre-back.  I think Ramos asked him to do more than he could.  Dawson isnít able to keep ball in the same way that Woodgate and King can, but he will fight and battle for every ball, a bit like John Terry. 

What is most interesting is that he was so heavily linked with a move away, and yet now he has firmly established himself in the centre of our defence.  I used to worry about who would come into to replace King, but now I feel he should be retired.  What impedes us most defensively now is the constant chopping and changing of our defensive line-up.  It canít help anyone if the four defenders and goalkeeper are altered every week, and a settled back line makes a tighter defence.  Perhaps retiring King is the summer is what is needed?  Then we could leave Woodgate and Dawson to it, and allow them to develop their relationship?  I certainly donít think that idea is as blasphemous as it was a year ago. 

And this is a case in point; Dawson was a player we could have got rid of, but either due to luck, lack of interest or suitable offer he has stayed at the club and established himself.  I think we are too quick to cast off some players, and this showed us how close we could have been to make just such a mistake.  Let us not forget that Keane was on the cusp of leaving us for Everton, Chimbonda and Defoe have been deemed surplus in the last twelve months only to be re-signed, Malbranque shipped to Sunderland after his best season, Murphy not given a run in the side, Mendes and Davis both sent to Portsmouth before having the chance to establish themselves, and Lee and Stalteri pulled out the side despite both being integral in the season where we almost grabbed fourth.   

And how many promising youth players have we seen sold off without being given a chance?  Barcham and Barnard spring to mind, both players who we fantastic for the reserves, and werenít given the chance in the first team.  I remember both players being brilliant against Arsenal reserves in 2005 when the reserve team would the Southern Premier League title, eclipsing Bendtner for the opposition. 

To my mind, players like Bentley and Bent have had their chance and failed to take it.  Bentley was given the position on the right-wing, and Lennon has totally eclipsed him, whilst Bent has failed to find favour with three different managers, failed to adapt to five different strike partners, and failed to make himself first choice upfront.  Neither of them are right for the club and neither deliver enough consistency to justify their price tags, although getting a decent fee out of an interested party will be a difficulty. 

Instead it is talk of Bale, Gunter, Dos Santos et all leaving that concerns me.  These players have got potential, and they show plenty of flashes of it.  The big four regularly deal out their youngsters around the Premier League and Championship, so I donít see why we canít do the same.  Bale is having a poor time at Spurs at present, although his potential isnít up for question.  He would certainly benefit from playing out of the media glare that surrounds White Hart Lane, and at a less demanding club, such as Wigan, he should get the run of games to make him consistent.  I really donít see why we donít do that; we have plenty of young players, all of whom could benefit from decent loans to improve their games.  And it is certainly better than having a Dos Santos or a Bale returning to our club in five years team in a Chelsea shirt and running rings round us because we sold them too soon, without giving them a chance.

 

Will Spurs capitalise on the potential among their players.  Or will they flog them off to get a quick return on them ?  Let us know if you think we can win anything with kids, by e-mailing us at mehstg@blueyonder.co.uk.

 

23.02.2009

WHEN SUNDAY COMES

 

History is against us.  Not only are Manchester United the form side in the country and the Champions of England and Europe, boasting a deadly attacking line up including the FIFA World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo, they also have the best defence in the country, that hasnít conceded a goal in the Premier League since Clement Atlee was last in office.  When you add into the mix that Tottenham are a shambles, that our attack will consist, at best, of Bent, Pavlyuchenko and Dos Santos, itís no wonder the bookies have us at 2/1 outsiders. 

Yet thereís more.  The last team to retain the League Cup was Nottingham Forest in 1990, and before that Liverpool in 1984.  Indeed, since Liverpoolís successes three teams have fallen at the last hurdle having succeeded the season before, those being Arsenal, Chelsea and Luton.  What that means is that the League Cup is incredibly difficult to retain.  Since 1990 all of the present top five have won the League Cup and none of them have managed to retain it.  And we are hopeful of doing so with the woeful Darren Bent upfront ! 

What particularly annoys me these days about the League Cup is that whenever one of the so-called big four reaches the final there is always talk of something greater that season, as though the chance to win the League Cup is about as rewarding as winning the Community Shield.  There are only three major English trophies, and there once was a time when winning any one of them would have been cause for celebration.  Now Manchester United disrespect them and all their rivals by talking about a quadruple, just like Chelsea did last season.  And Chelsea got what they deserved by such talk last year; absolutely nothing. 

A trophy is a trophy, and that should be the point.  If your club is fortunate enough to win more than one trophy in a season then you should be absolutely thrilled.  They shouldnít just see them as some consolation prize because the club failed to win the Premiership title.  Just ask Arsenal fans.  Those of them over the age of twenty-two, who can remember the days before Wenger, would surely take a League Cup if offered one. 

You would end the devaluing of the cup competitions at a single stroke by giving the winners of both competitions a Champions League place.  It is exactly the type of bold strategy which would reinvigorate both cups, as more and more teams field weakened sides and crowds dwindle.  It would force the likes of Arsenal to field a full strength side, it could open up the chance to grab a place in the elite, and it would make the cup final hell-for-leather, so that once more, the winners of the trophies get the accolades they deserve.  Of course, it will never happen, but the fact of the matter is that clubs would rather finish eleventh than risk their Premiership status to win a trophy, because finishing eleventh earns you more money. 

Nevertheless, the cup final.  And more to the point, how do you beat the currently best side in the world ?  Redknapp has a reputation as a bit of the specialist in knocking out Manchester United from cup competitions (he has done so with three different clubs) and Tottenham do have a reputation for rising to the occasion in cup finals.  But do we have any right to be confident ?  Well, although our forward line does look both questionable and threadbare, our defence still liable to concede the odd horror goal, a first-choice keeper who is susceptible to the odd gaff and a midfield lacking balance and any real drive or creativity (apart from Modric), we still have ... um Ö well Ö nothing much at all really. 

There isnít a single reason for us to be confident.  They are better than us man for man, they have more experience than we do across the board, they have a settled and successful side.  To be honest, they should beat us quite comfortably.  Yet we do have Modric, Palacios and Pavlyuchenko and we are capable, on our day, of beating them.  But it needs to be our day if we are to win on Sunday. 

You canít play a containment game against Manchester United, it wonít work.  But it isnít rocket science, you just have to work very hard.  I was at Reading vs. Bristol City on Saturday and what struck me was how hard working Bristol City were.  Reading are a very good side in that league and they were made to look ordinary because Bristol City fought for every ball, were well organised and worked especially hard.  Reading couldnít break them down or get into their rhythm, and they were beaten because of it.  That kind of attitude for us on Sunday will go a long way, and will be the bedrock upon which we have to launch our attempts to retain the trophy.

 

Hard work and Tottenham in the same sentence ?  Will it ever happen ?  Let us know what you think at mehstg@blueyonder.co.uk.

 

09.02.2009

HOW THE WAR WAS WON

 

We are fast approaching, what Alex Ferguson described as, squeaky-bum time.  This is not the time for recrimination, this is not the time for us to question who is to blame for this mess, or doubt those we have playing for, and in charge of, the team.  It is the time to get behind them, because we have thirteen matches left to save our skins. 

Relegation wonít be what it was in 1977.  Back then the club shed a number of older players who had been at the club for a long time, they blooded a number of youngsters, including a young Glenn Hoddle, and ripped up the Second Division, a brief wobble leaving them third in the standings when the title was not beyond them. 

These days there is a damn sight more to worry about than just losing a few players, and our club is a wholly different animal.  In our current first team squad we have twenty-plus international capped players, a number of whom will wish to leave the club should we be relegated.  Yet more than that, the club will lose a hell of a lot of revenue.  Although they will get parachute payments on being relegated, they stand to lose somewhere between £30m to £50m a season.  That is a huge amount to lose.  Further revenue will be lost because of a drop in sponsorship, lower ticket prices, reduced attendances and smaller transfer fees being received.  Make no mistake, relegation would break our club financially. 

And other big clubs have fallen foul of the relegation trapdoor.  Leeds went down with huge debts, yet they lost even more on arrival in the Championship.  Forest, Leicester and Sheffield Wednesday have all sunk, like Leeds, to the third tier of English football as their finances took a further turn for the worst.  Southampton are in such a bad financial state that in the summer they sacked Nigel Pearson and hired an unheard of Dutch manager and his assistant for the same money in place of him.  And then announced the reason publicly.  Charlton are bottom of the table and certainties for relegation, Norwich, Derby, Sheffield United and Palace are all struggling too.  All recent Premier League clubs, all struggling in the second tier. 

If we go down we are in big trouble, and the size of our club just compounds things.  Letís be honest, who amongst us wouldnít expect, demand in fact, an instant return to the top division.  And more than that, plenty of us would expect a title challenge with the kind of breathtaking football that the push and run side were capable of.  Yet how can you expect that to happen when upwards of fifteen members of the first team squad will leave, that those players who come in will be bought for a fraction of the price and the rest will be youth and reserve players coming into the team for the first time.  Those players wouldnít be used to playing in front of a big crowd, and like Wednesday and Leeds before us, home form would dip, as our own team are intimidated by our crowd and canít perform. 

Yes, relegation is a big issue, and one that for every Spurs fan should be terrifying.  I donít want to sit in White Hart Lane next season and watch Blackpool beat us at home.  I have enough problems accepting home defeats to the likes of Everton, let alone a no-mark seaside town whose entire history surrounds one cup final and one player.  We must not go down; the only route to recovery is to stay in the top flight, hold on to our best players, and build a side around them. 

So, a minimum of thirteen league games and three cup games remain.  Letís get the cups out of the way first.  Shakhtar Donetsk are a decent side, they have been bankrolled into Dynamo Kievís biggest rivals in the Ukraine, and they have an extensive experience in the Champions League.  Being as we are struggling in the table and the players we have registered in the UEFA Cup, I expect Redknapp to forget about this competition.  If we progress itís a bonus, but Iím not expecting to progress beyond this round. 

The League Cup is a different kettle of fish.  A one off match with silverware and European qualification is a fantastic opportunity.  And whilst itís against Manchester United, we did manage to beat Chelsea last season, and our team does tend to raise itself for the big games.  I think Redknapp will go for this, yet like the UEFA Cup, we canít expect to win this competition because Manchester United are such a good side.  Yet if we do, and grab another piece of silverware and another season of European football, it would be a fantastic achievement.   

The league, however, is something we canít fail in.  With away games at Hull, Sunderland, Villa, Blackburn, Man Utd, Everton and Liverpool, and home games against Middlesbrough, Chelsea, West Ham, Newcastle, West Brom and Man City.  Chelsea apart, all of those home games are winnable.  Equally, we must make sure we pick up points at Hull, Sunderland, and Blackburn, as they are the sides around us and we canít allow them to get away from us. 

On the fact of it, that would be enough to see us clear.  Yet those five wins and three draws would leave us on forty-three points, which wouldnít give us much breathing space.  And when you remember that I am an optimist when it comes to these predictions, and the fact that our side is struggling for a reason, we might well be in it until the last moment.  Man City, Newcastle and West Ham might present a more difficult prospect than we can expect, and we play Middlesbrough just a few days after playing the League Cup final so that could be difficult too. 

May is particularly tough, because we will be playing a desperate for the points West Brom side, a European chasing Everton, a resurgent City, and a title chasing Liverpool.  In effect, after the West Brom game we have to be clear of the drop zone.  That is a big, big ask. 

Redknapp has done some canny business in the window.  Palacios looks a superb player, although I only saw him against Arsenal and we know what to expect from Keane too.  I think the side he put out against Arsenal is his strongest XI, although Gomes might be marginally better than Cudicini.  And they played well too, bossing large parts of the match against Arsenal.  The only disappointment was that we couldnít win the game, although it is still early days for the side and the match at least served to show that we can, should we have the desire to do so, go on and survive in the league.  And eighteen more points would be enough for that. 

 

Will Spurs live up to Richard's plan ?   Will we suddenly start winning matches and if so, why didn't we do it before  ? Let us know what you think at mehstg@blueyonder.co.uk.

I tend to agree with Richard's report except I don't share his optimism on getting out of trouble.

I feel we lack confidence in front of goal.  If you look at Bent's miss against Portsmouth and Modric against Arsenal, had we taken them we would be on 29 pts now instead of 25. 

Also our total lack of defending for 90+mins - again against Wigan, Newcastle, WBA, another 3 pts chucked.  We could have easily been on 32 pts now but because of our own mis-doings we are no

Our lack of goals this year is very worrying - bear in mind we got four in one match and it looks even worse, with our lack of goal fire, against Man Utd who have only let in 10 goals in the Premiership I think it will take more then a miracle to beat them in the carling cup final (maybe on penalties will be our best chance), but in 90 mins forget it !  Though I think of Wimbledon 1988 and Sunderland 1973, so upsets can happen but very rarely.

We have to play to our full potential against Hull and Middlesbrough and a minimum of 4 pts from those two games.

Prediction for the end of season
Relegation = WBA, Stoke, Boro with Spurs finishing fourth or fifth from bottom

adam

 

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