spurs in the noughties

30.12.2009

Tottenham Hotspur 2000-2010

Honours: Football League Cup Winners 2008.

                 Football League Cup Runners-up 2002 and 2009.

 

Highest Premier League finish: 5th (2006 and 2007)

Lowest Premier League finish: 14th (2004)

European campaigns: 3 (UEFA Cup 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09)

Player of the decade: Ledley King

 

Highlights:

- League Cup semi-final 5-1 thrashings of both Chelsea (2002) and Arsenal (2008)

- Back-to-back fifth place finishes.

- The return of European football at The Lane.

- Beating Chelsea to win the 2008 League Cup Final.

- Recording only the second ever nine goal haul in the Premier League against Wigan Athletic.

 

Low Points:

- The defection of Judas.

- Losing the 2002 League Cup Final to Blackburn.

- The passing of Bill Nicholson.

- Lasagne-gate and the consistent failure to progress to ‘the next level’.

- The sacking of Martin Jol and the failure of the ‘Ramos Revolution’

 

The so called ‘up-and-down’ nature of Tottenham Hotspur is reflected perfectly when looking back over the past decade. Spurs during the Noughties have produced glory and despair in equal measure; for every cup final, there has been a brush with relegation. A period of managerial stability and three years of progress was brought crashing down in just two months. Spurs teams boasted players like Sheringham, Berbatov and Modric, and the not-so-greats such as Ricketts, Postiga and Rasiak. And we seemed to concede as many goals as we scored.  Despite being another decade of underachievement, the performance of Spurs, particularly the latter half, gives the impression that even better times are just around the corner. Maybe.

During the Noughties, Spurs been graced with some great players. We enjoyed the tail end of David Ginola’s Tottenham career, Teddy Sheringham came home, Edgar Davids looked the business (for half a season!), and Michael Carrick was (briefly) the heir to Hoddle. More recently the likes of Lennon, Modric, Krancjar and Defoe have all been hailed as the players to take Spurs to ‘the next level’. Ledley King, our only home grown player this decade, has been our most consistent performer, despite his progress being hampered by a chronic knee injury. Robbie Keane, who has been at the club since 2002, has been the face of Spurs this decade, although he has seriously blotted his copy book by both turning his back on the club and performing terribly on his return. Keane’s best years came during his partnership with Dimitar Berbatov (neither of whom had captured that kind of form before or since), which heralded a two year goal fest at the lane. The downside was that it coincided with some of the worst defending we have ever seen. When it comes to Spurs, you can’t have everything!

Great matches include the obvious 5-1 wins over both Chelsea and Arsenal, the Carling Cup Final win over Chelsea in 2008, the recent 9-1 thrashing of Wigan Athletic and crazy 4-4 draws against Aston Villa and Arsenal (for the neutrals). A particular favourite of mine was the 4-3 win over West Ham, when unlikely Paul Stalteri forever etched his name in Spurs folklore. This decade has also seen a fair few stinkers, and a running theme has been Spurs’ inability to kill a game off (see Man Utd 5-3 and Man City 4-3). Worryingly Spurs have had a terrible record against the so called ‘big (Sky) four’.  Just one win over Arsenal in 10 years, in all competitions, says it all.

Significantly the start of the new decade coincided with a change in the club’s ownership. Unfortunately, the instability endured during the Sugar years was continued enthusiastically by ENIC’s Daniel Levy, who has fired and hired no fewer than seven mangers in nine years, the best of which (before the arrival of Harry Redknapp), Levy stumbled upon by accident. In terms of the club’s finances, Levy has done an excellent job, but he has consistently failed when interfering in the football matters of the club. Levy’s first act as chairman was to sack George Graham, who was out to prove his former club wrong, on the eve of the FA Cup semi final against Arsenal. Whether or not you believe that Graham should have ever been Spurs manager in the first is debatable, but the timing of his sacking was ridiculous. The ensuing instability encouraged Judas to stall on a new contract and eventually move a mile down the road on a free transfer.

A running theme, Levy’s employment of a director of football consistently undermined the position of each of Graham’s successors, most obviously in the case of Martin Jol. It took near relegation for Levy to finally realise that his hierarchical method of club management was flawed and he duly disposed of it to secure the services of Harry Redknapp. Following the experiences over the last decade I sincerely hope that Levy has learnt that a successful club is built over several seasons and that success cannot be bought overnight (unless you are Chelsea).

Once the decade got going things looked bright under Levy’s first appointment, Glenn Hoddle. In February 2002 a top six finish and silverware looked a real possibility. Unbelievably, following that fantastic 5-1 thrashing of Chelsea in the second leg of the semi-final, Spurs blew the League Cup final against un-fancied Blackburn. Following the unexpected defeat our form dipped and we finished, as usual, in the comfort of mid table. As the following season wore on, Hoddle’s elderly squad, which included the likes of Sheringham, Poyet, Ziege and Jamie Redknapp, began to creak, as did the manger’s relationship with his players. Following Hoddle’s dismissal, the 2003-04 season was played out under the stewardship of David Pleat, a season where Spurs had the whiff of relegation about them.

If Daniel Levy were to be believed, then the glory days of Spurs would return with new broom Jacques Santini at the helm, assisted by Martin Jol, a coach Santini had never worked with before, and a new director of football Frank Arnesen. Seeing as Santini was probably Levy’s fourth choice as manager (after Lippi, Hiddink and O’Neill), and never really looked like he wanted to be at Spurs, it wasn’t a surprise that he left the club. What was a surprise was that he left after just 13 games in charge, and that his his assistant, the little known Martin Jol, took over and performed so admirably during his three years in charge. Taking over as manager just when we were mourning the death of our greatest, and one of English football’s greatest ever managers, Jol’s Spurs team was the first in years to deliver the kind of football we demanded. The feel good factor during Jol’s tenure was fantastic. Even just as a spectator I felt that I was part of something special, if only for a brief period.

Denied Champions League football by a freak ‘virus’, Jol’s side still delivered Tottenham’s first European campaign in six years. A second top five finish was achieved the following season, as well as progression to the semi finals of the League cup and quarter finals of both the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup. Compared to the previous thirteenyears in the Premiership, where Spurs had averaged a poor eleventh in place in the league, the team under Jol had made significant and swift progress. For some, however, the progress was not significant or swift enough. The great tragedy is that Jol’s time at the club will remain as one of the great ‘what if’ moments in Spurs history. Who knows what Jol would have achieved had he not been undermined by both an over demanding chairman and weak director of football in Damien Commoli. With goals galore from Keane, Berbatov and Defoe, all Jol asked for were better defensive cover and a battling central midfielder, yet he was denied both. And what was even more disappointing was the failure of Jol’s successor, Juande Ramos, to take Spurs to ‘the next level’. Despite initially improving the team’s performances and leading the Spurs the League cup final, as time wore on Ramos looked increasingly like a fish out of water. His failure made the undermining of Jol look even more pointless and frustrating.

If anything positive came out of the Jol/Ramos debacle was the indication that perhaps Levy has finally learnt his lesson. With Harry Redknapp, seemingly in full charge of football matters, Spurs have quickly made up on the ground which was lost over the last two seasons. If the nineties was the decade where Spurs were seemingly in mid table limbo, the noughties has been the decade where Spurs have emerged into a team of promise. It remains to be seen whether Spurs can fulfill their potential, however the future looks bright for now.

But when it comes to Tottenham Hotspur, who knows ?

Here’s to the next 10 years !

COYS.

marc keown

 

How do you think the last ten years have gone for THFC ?  Let us know by e-mailing us at mehstg@blueyonder.co.uk

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