So, a season of promise was realised
and only a dose of vomiting and diarrhoea stopped Spurs grabbing the
fourth place in the Premier League table. Perhaps it was not a bad
thing, as the UEFA Cup will see Tottenham make a step back into European
football and go about building up a reputation that has, for too long,
been holed by the club's inability to regularly qualify for one of the
Martin Jol has shown in his first full season that he has the ability to build a team, without fear of damaging big egos, as it is for the good of the team. With Keane being dropped for the start of the season, he came back with an inspired run of form that kept Jermain Defoe out of the side, which resulted in his omission from the England World Cup squad. But perhaps Jermain should look at the bigger picture rather than focus on the lack of first team action at Spurs this season. The majority of his playing time for his country has been patchy and in his 16 appearances, Sven has never allowed him a full 90 minute run-out with the side. The nearest he came was 87 minutes in the World Cup qualifier in Poland, where he scored the opener and played very well. In those 16 matches, he has played a total of 516 minutes and often in a team where he has not received the best of service from his team-mates. For all of Sven's regular selection in the squads over the last two years, he has not been a first pick nor has he been a player who the manager has regularly turned to first when a sub was needed. Perhaps Eriksson does not think he has what it takes at international level. I hope that Jermain stays to show that he will be a regular scorer at European level, as we will need a wider range of players next season in the four competitions we will participate in. Anyway, he has the last laugh, as England could do with him out in Germany now Owen is crocked again.
Rumours abound, as always, about who Spurs are trying to bring in and many focus on forwards. Dimitar Berbatov is already lined up as long as he gets a work permit (the last player we had to go cap in hand to the DTI about and failed to get the required paperwork is now starring in the World Cup Finals for the US ... Bobby Convey). Two other purchases so far have been defensive with Dorian Dervitte and Benoit Assou-Ekotto are from the French league with the latter having more experience, with Dervitte being one for the future. This provides cover at the back and one will replace the departed Stephen Kelly, but the issue of a left sided wide player and a combative defensive midfielder (with Didier Zokora of St. Etienne and Ivory Coast the hot tip) being the areas that might be requiring strengthening. I think the defensive positions have had Wayne Bridge and Matthew Taylor mentioned as possible purchases, but if Jol had his way, he might bring in Khalid Boulahrouz of Hamburg and Holland, who played under him in Holland. The French Connection through Damien Comolli seems to be kicking in, with Dervitte's signing showing a knowledge of the French game as he is a strapping six footer who captains the national Under-18 team. The link with Zokora probably stems from his work with him at St. Etienne. The lack of Champions League football has made the list of targets change, with it being a pre-requisite for many footballers choosing to join a team these days, but there are still many out there (including Berbatov), who are willing to join Spurs as they see the club are on the up.
One matter of concern is the media's reporting of Manchester United's interest in Michael Carrick. Now, Martin Jol has said that Spurs gave Carrick the opportunity to show what he can do and it is time for him to repay that by staying with the club. While I understand what Jol means, football is not often like that and if a player wants to leave, then he will. I see Martin's comments as putting pressure on Carrick to say that he wants to move on, rather than just letting him go. The current bidding seems to be up to £14.2 million (if you believe the Sun) and although Tottenham put a price of £20 million on his head, you wonder if they will take a lesser figure rather than lose out. How much a replacement would cost or who it would be is a problem I hope we don't have to face. I am heartened by the "We will not sell Carrick" proclamations coming out of the club.
So far, there have been no outstanding performances by Spurs players at the World Cup. Robbo has looked shaky on crosses, but I was a bit disappointed with the criticism he got in the Sweden match. He made a fantastic reflex save to push a shot up onto the bar from very close range and generally did well, with the problems caused by the Swedes from set-pieces being a result of the England defence dropping back onto their own six-yard line and leaving Paul with no opportunity to come for balls, as he would crash into the melee of players in front of him. The way they defended like that might have been as a result of Rio Ferdinand going off, but it was happening before that and it needs to be addressed before tomorrow's game against Ecuador. I am pleased that Carrick will feature in that match, as I feel his gives England a better creative option from the deep lying midfielder, which Owen Hargreaves lacks. Hargreaves does his job effectively, but the passing ability that Carrick possesses allows the team to switch into attack quickly and in a game which might be played at a slower pace than the Sweden match, this could help them make a breakthrough.
Aaron Lennon showed how his pace is a vital weapon when he came on in the Trinidad and Tobago match, but his final ball needs to be a bit better. Over-hitting his crosses might be part of a wider problem that seems to have been caused by the lighter ball that is being used. When players of the quality of Ronaldinho and Beckham do it, then perhaps some leeway can be given to Aaron. I am sure he will be called on from the bench should the situation arise where England need to get back into a game and his pace will provide an attacking option lacking elsewhere in the squad.
Lee Young-Pyo had a torrid time playing for South Korea against Switzerland, France and Togo, before his country left the tournament in third place in their group having four points and losing out to the Swiss in the game that decided which side would progress. Ex-Spurs players Kasey Keller (USA), Helder Postiga (Portugal), Sergei Rebrov (Ukraine), Erik Edman (Sweden) and Jurgen Klinsmann, the manager of Germany, have all been in World Cup action in Germany.
Off the field, it looks like the club are taking steps to put a number of things right.
The report that four members of the ticket office staff might face charges for supplying ticket touts is good news and with Alex Inglethorpe, the highly rated Exeter City manager seemingly set to join on the coaching staff, another quality member of the back-room team is added. While it seems to be a built-in fault at the club that they sometimes shoot themselves in the foot when things are going well, now, things appear to be considered and put in place to improve what is already there, rather than change things wholesale just for the sake of it.
As with all things, the Spurs side will not start to take shape until the season is underway, with three games to be played before the end of the transfer window. This means that new arrivals might not be in place until the action has started. This is not ideal, but the players identified by the management will be brought in as soon as possible to gel together in pre-season.
Having seen the cream of the world game, we will have the opportunity to see some of Europe's sides ... something we look forward to with great relish. Long may it continue.
Keep the faith.
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