is drawing to a close and what an incredible season it has been yet
again. Not incredible in terms of achievement but incredible in terms of
everything that has happened and the changes that have taken place in a
short space of time.
The season began with the usual fresh
optimism that greets every new campaign. Jacques Santini was working
alongside his assistant Martin Jol with Frank Arnesen taking a Sporting
Directors role in a totally new continental management system that
pundit Alan Hansen insists would never work.
The club had welcomed the arrival of an
abundance of new faces to go alongside the new men in charge. Excellent
young English talent seemed to be a key feature in the recruitment
policy with the introduction of Sean Davis and Michael Carrick to add to
Jermain Defoe and Paul Robinson who had joined the club a few
July and August saw the club focus on
purchasing foreign talent most notably Eric Edman, Reto Ziegler, Pedro
Mendes and centre back Noureddine Naybet. This heavy recruitment gave
the Spurs side a crucial injection that was needed to inspire the side
in the new season.
Santini started impressively at the helm
and Spurs were soon riding high in the Premiership whilst making
excellent Carling Cup progress crushing the lower league opposition that
stood in their path. This form came after a bad string of results in
pre-season friendly matches that had perhaps concerned some Spurs fans.
Defoe was on target on the opening day of
the season to hit the equaliser against a good looking Liverpool side.
Atouba's spectacular strike on the road gave Spurs a huge win at
Newcastle and this was followed by a 1-1 draw at West Brom before
another good win, this time at home to Birmingham. Tottenham were
grinding out results with a very defensive strategy that was certainly
Tottenham then suffered disappointing
defeats to both Portsmouth and Bolton and this resulted in the club
dropping down to mid table from the top eight position they had
been maintaining. The tide soon turned back in Tottenham's favour with a
breathtaking Carling Cup victory in which Defoe's brace handed Spurs a
4-3 extra time win at the Reebok Stadium.
The attention then turned back to the
Premiership with a visit to Craven Cottage to face London rivals Fulham.
Here, Spurs slumped to there third league defeat on the bounce which
prompted Jacques Santini to resign as Spurs coach. Inevitably Spurs fans
were stunned by the seemingly rash decision. Personal reasons were
apparently the key to his decision although reports since indicated a
fall out with staff within the club.
Spurs fans went into a stage of
bemusement and concern. Would the club have to find a new manager
literally weeks after appointing Jacques Santini ? The club decided to
put there faith into Santini's highly respected Dutch assistant Martin
Jol. The Spurs faithful responded warmly to the decision and were keen
to give him a chance.
His start as coach could not of been much
worse. Although he hadn't been officially named as Manager at the time,
the team was booed of the pitch as Charlton took a 2-0 lead into
half-time at White Hart Lane. Matters soon deteriorated when 2-0 quickly
become 3-0. Cries of 'your not fit to wear the shirt' from vast sections
of the ground created a nightmare atmosphere and was probably the lowest
point of the season. Thankfully, Spurs pulled two goals back and the
team had restored some pride.
Jol was officially revealed as coach soon
after, despite the bad start. An impressive away win in the Carling Cup
against Burnley kept the Cup hopes bubbling nicely below the poor league
form that was cracking the surface. Jol was clearly relieved after
picking up his first victory.
The fixture list then conveniently threw
up the small mater of the North London derby at White Hart Lane. In an
enthralling match that contained everything from the sublime to the
ridiculous, Spurs just fell short in a 5-4 defeat despite continuously
pegging back Arsene Wenger's side. This defeat was followed by a poor
defeat at the hands of Aston Villa.
Martin Jol certainly hadn't made the best
of starts to his Tottenham career but was managing to win the fans over
with his general attitude and comments in front of the cameras. He
seemed to be the kind of character that the fans wanted in charge of
their club. The faith that fans had in the manager was soon to be repaid
in emphatic fashion over the coming games.
An incredible run of five successive
league victories shot Spurs up the table and sent a wave of euphoria
around White Hart Lane. A 5-1 demolition of Southampton being the
highlight as Defoe notched up a hat-trick. Somewhat ironically, this
great run coincided with a painful exit from the Carling Cup in a
penalty shoot-out against Liverpool on home soil.
The incredible unbeaten run continued
with a draw against Crystal Palace and Man Utd at Old Trafford - the
game that Spurs fans will never forgot because of the Mendes half-way
line stunner that was not given. Prior to this, Dean Marney had welcomed
himself into the Premiership bagging two goals in the game of the season
that saw Spurs thump high-flying Everton 5-2. The second goal was an
absolute gem and condemned David Moyes' side to a rare defeat as they
were pushing for a remarkable Champions League position due to
Liverpool's disappointing league form.
Spurs now had the chance to progress in
the FA Cup following the Carling Cup exit. A super solo effort from
Robbie Keane secured the win after a below par performance against a
spirited Brighton side. Chelsea then visited the Lane and recorded a 2-0
victory in controversial circumstances after penalty decisions seemingly
went against Spurs.
This defeat was maybe expected, after
Chelsea's excellent run and dominant position at the top of the table.
However, the next result was a huge shock and dashed the hopes of a top
six finish. The team visited Selhurst Park and came away with a
3-0 defeat with three second half goals.
This poor result led to a lack-lustre
display in the FA Cup although Spurs managed to force a replay with the
1-1 draw at West Brom. Tottenham's league form failed to pick up as they
slumped to a 3-1 defeat at Bolton were they had recorded that terrific
cup result earlier in the season.
Spurs picked up were they left of in the
transfer market during the January window. Highly rated Egyptian striker
Mido was signed on an extended loan deal and Spurs were given a much
needed boost by the signing of young Irish winger Andy Reid from
Nottingham Forest. Other young signings were made during this period as
Michael Dawson joined alongside his Forest team-mate and Derby's
youngster Huddlestone agreed a pre-contract agreement.
On the pitch, the tide once again turned
in Tottenham's favour. A crucial home win against Portsmouth got the
side going thanks to a dream two goal debut from Mido. The momentum was
maintained and progress was made in the FA Cup winning the West
Brom replay before convincingly beating Nottingham Forest once again at
the second time of asking after failing to take the home advantage when
Gary Megson's side visited the Lane.
Martin Jol now became a hunted man as
Dutch side Ajax were reportedly keen to bring the Spurs coach back to
his homeland. Another management change would have been a disaster but
thankfully Martin Jol reiterated his intention to carry on in charge and
complete his objectives in North London.
At the same time as the cup run was
moving along nicely, a good home win against Fulham was secured to keep
Spurs in the top half ready to pounce on the top six if they could keep
the run going. Instead however, Spurs took a downhill path in dramatic
fashion losing three consecutive matches - one of which ended the clubs
FA Cup dreams. Spurs were largely unlucky and performed well at St
James' Park and didn't deserve the 1-0 defeat. The league defeats to
Southampton and Charlton either side of the cup were less acceptable
however, and were responsible for the club slipping back down the table.
Results have since picked up and a
scrappy 2-1 win over Man City was followed by a satisfactory draw away
to Birmingham City. Last Sunday was a big day for the club as they
pushed aside Newcastle to overturn that FA Cup defeat of just a few
weeks ago. Spurs moved into that elusive seventh place in the
Premiership thanks to Defoe's goal capitalising on a goalkeeper error by
With just a few matches remaining in
another topsy-turvy season at White Hart Lane, Spurs are capable of
obtaining a top six finish that fans have been crying out for.
Good cup runs in both competitions will make the 2004/2005 season
relatively successful if a UEFA Cup place can be secured. If not, the
cup runs will be a stark consolation to another unsuccessful campaign.
Big money signings have been promised in the summer and this could set
up the 2005/2006 campaign nicely now that the club has a manager firmly
in charge and managerial stability has been secured.
David Soanes (Editor THFC