from the bishop's fingers ...
the iain bishop column
not good enough
24.02.2009 favourite spurs player
17.03.2009 atmosphere - the old firm experience
26.03.2009 one day at the lane
28.03.2009 the international break
05.03.2009 we will follow the tottenham
22.05.2009 wide boys
30.05.2009 should they stay or should they go now ...
02.08.2009 great expectations
09.09.2009 can we gatecrash the top four ?
16.10.2009 our best midfield ?
04.11.2009 robbie keane - what do we make of him ?
13.01.2010 perception of the club and why a top four finish is so important
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If one thing stood out for me more than anything in the build up to this week’s game at Anfield it was the media’s repeating of THAT stat – we haven’t won away in the league to a so-called big four team since 1993.
Now whatever way you look at it, that is a statistic which is shocking and amazing in equal measure and points to there being a problem of lack of belief going back to long before Harry’s tenure. Sure you’d expect us to lose most games away to the Sky Four – but no league win since 1993?! You’d expect at least the occasional one – Villa for example have won at both United and Pool this season and their squad is no more talented (less so IMO) than ours.
For me the performances away to Chelsea, Arsenal and in particular away to Liverpool this season point to there being problems which go way beyond the ability of our squad. Quite simply I think that we lack belief that we can win there.
The Liverpool game is instructive. Sure we went there without Lennon, Thud and Assou-Ekotto but only Lennon would have been likely to have made a major difference and Liverpool lacked their three best attacking players, Torres, Gerrard and Benayoun, and have been in ordinary (or even poor) form. If ever there was a time when they were there for the taking and an opportunity for us to cement fourth place and lay down a marker to our rivals for top four this was it. But what happened – well we didn’t really turn up. No belief and none of the drive and desire of an unexceptional Liverpool.
It was very interesting that IMO only two players in lilywhite looked undaunted by the occasion. The first was Wilson Palacios who obviously has (through the tragic loss of his brother and the difficulty in forging a career at the top level when coming from a relative backwater in football terms such as Honduras) an awareness that there are many more daunting things in life than a trip to Liverpool. He wasn’t at his best on Wednesday but there was no lack of drive and belief from him and he wasn’t helped by those around him giving him little support. The other player who was undaunted by the occasion was the sub Alan Hutton who grew up at Rangers, whose mentality is similar to that of the Sky Four in England – they are expected to win every game and be overawed by no-one. Sure the current standard of Scottish football is nothing like as high as that of the Prem but what I’m talking about is attitude – when you have faced up to the cauldron of an Old Firm game a trip to Anfield won’t daunt you. When he came on for Corluka he showed a drive and commitment to the cause (and no little ability when linking on the right that many of us had thought he had lost altogether) which was singularly lacking in most others in lilywhite on the night.
Obviously you cannot give the other players at Spurs the sort of background which Palacios and Hutton have, but somehow Harry has to instil in them the belief and drive which so many so obviously lacked at Liverpool. Partly of course it comes from carrying the millstone of that 1993 statistic and I do believe that if we can win once at a sky 4 team we could go on to do so semi-regularly. And to some extent we do need the help of a bit of luck at right time which can just turn things – if the Defoe goal had not been wrongly disallowed who knows what the sudden infusion of belief may have done for us and how the game may have then unfolded? But to a great extent you make your own luck and if you play with as little belief and drive as we did at Anfield then you don’t really deserve good luck to come to your rescue anyway. If we had really gone at them and made chances then we wouldn’t need to focus on one bad decision as we’d probably have won in spite of it.
All we can hope is that Harry can instil the necessary self belief and maybe bring in one or 2 more players (we looked very lightweight in midfield aside from Wilson on Wednesday) with the requisite belief and attitude. Maybe a couple of experienced players who have won things in the game to supplement our talented team but one lacking many players who have enjoyed real success in the game or experience at the biggest clubs is what we need. RVN up top and another enforcer in midfield ? Well I can dream !
The players who took to the filed on Wednesday should have been capable of winning at Liverpool – Harry’s biggest challenge is to ensure that there is no failing of belief or attitude when we are in similar circumstances in the future. Whether that means changing the mentality of the existing squad, bringing in some players with the requisite attitude in the hope that it rubs off on the others, or both – he somehow has to ensure that if we lose in future it will purely be down to the other team playing better football, not us having a collective failure (with a couple of notable exceptions) of self-belief, drive and determination.
Is it vital to finish top four and what will the end of the season bring ? Do you think Tottenham can do it ? Let us know at email@example.com
Perception of the club and why a top four finish is so important
As Spurs supporters we all quite naturally take the view that we are a big club.
But the problem is that in the Champs League world that we now live in, the wider football world only takes you seriously if you are a top four club and involved in that competition. Indeed in order to look to fulfil your ambitions as a top club you really need to break into that top four cartel.
I actually hate the way that football has come down so much to finishing in the top four rather than winning trophies – for me winning the FA Cup or even the Carling Cup should always mean more than coming fourth. But unfortunately finishing fourth would mean a lot more to the club for six reasons –
1. Obviously because (at least if we then get into the group stages) Champs League qualification is directly worth massive amounts of money to the club – TV money, prize money, gate receipts from more big games.
2. The greater ability flowing from Champs League involvement to keep and attract top players. If we are to push on as a club we need not only to keep the likes of Defoe, Lennon and Modric, but to attract more top quality players to the club; and many top players have not considered joining us to date as we are not in the Champs League.
3. Increasing the profile of the club. Two examples here just from my own experience. Locally (I don’t live near WHL) lots of football merchandise is sold in garage shops and other outlets but it is nearly always just merchandise of the self styled big four. The retailers clearly take the view that the top four is all that matters in marketing terms.
Also, when on holiday last year in Lanzarote I was much of the time wearing Spurs gear of some description but apart from a few fellow Spurs who recognised it (and fans of other British teams who obviously recognised it but chose not to comment), the only Spaniards who recognised it (or at least chose to talk to me about it) were interestingly not fans of Barca or Real but a Deportivo la Coruna fan and an Atletico Bilbao fan – both big clubs with proud histories but, like us, Champs League wannabes. But they struck me as real fans, which is probably why they know about Spurs – both were actually very interested in whether I thought we could make top four, which shows that even in Spain this appears to be the focus. The problem is that while we clearly exist in the universe of such proper fans and clubs we need to move into the world inhabited by likes of Real and Barca if we are to look to achieve the ambitions that we as fans have for our club. And indeed our perception of being a big club. And this is before I bring in all the marketing in places like the far East (Asia, not West Ham!).
4. The greater ability for the club to attract investment (e.g. new sponsor, investor in club, and even - while as a traditionalist I loathe the concept - investment in naming rights for the new ground).
5. The effect on one of the usual four top four finishers of not qualifying for Champs League which could do them long term harm and increase our chances of building on our own top four finish. If the Arse or (more likely) Liverpool fail to finish in the top four this makes them much less attractive to their own top players like Torres and Gerard as well as to potential recruits and to potential big investors in the club (even potential new owners). The infrastructure and projections of the normal top four must be predicated on a top four finish as that is the norm for them. Dropping out of it could be catastrophic.
6. Partly related to 5. – there will never be a better opportunity to break into the top four. Liverpool are in turmoil and Citeh are only starting to benefit from the massive money that their new owners are pumping in – both are likely to be stronger next season. Pool could have new owners who will spend big and quite probably a new manager; while Citeh will have even more top players. If we don’t break into the top four now it is likely to get much harder to do so.
Bearing all of the above in mind the importance of finishing in top four this season cannot be exaggerated. When we were in this position before my recollection is that we didn’t go for it in the January window and then of course lost out on fourth by the narrowest of margins. So I really hope that in the January window we pull out all the stops to try to bring in at least another central midfielder (Wilson is the only dominating physical presence type player we have in that area) and another striker if at least one goes as, while Defoe has been outstanding this season, none of the others have really convinced me – albeit that Pav has barely played as Harry has clearly written him off. Oh and before I end a massive thanks to Harry Redknapp and his backroom team for transforming Spurs in just over a year of their management. We really have taken massive strides forward in that year and it is a sign of our progress that I can write an article about our aspirations to be a top four club without it seeming pie in the sky.
A very Happy New Year to all of my fellow Spurs supporters out there.
Is it vital to finish top four and what will the end of the season bring ? Do you think Tottenham can do it ? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Robbie Keane – what do we make of him ?
A contentious one for my latest article as Keano is a player who divides Spurs fans, especially since his return from Liverpool.
This is a player who is a player who is one of only 15 Spurs players to have scored over 100 goals, and is our 12th highest scorer on the al time list. He has scored some 90 league goals in 222 appearances (183 of them starting ones) and this season has scored five league goals.
So why are Spurs fans so divided about Robbie Keane ? Well in his first stint at the club between August 2002 and July 2008 the division came about to a great degree as part of the Keane v Defoe debate after the latter’s signing in 2004 as most took the view that they couldn’t play effectively together. There were also questions over not delivering in many of the bigger games and over him in the view of his critics slowing the pace and momentum of our attack, but I think it’s fair to say that most of the debate regarding his meriting a place in the team arose from the Keane v Defoe debate, even though they are actually very different players. Keane is best in my view playing deeper linking with and feeding balls through to his co-striker and linking play, while Defoe is more a pacy finisher. It is fair to say that neither poses much aerial threat! Keane had his best spell for Spurs in my opinion in the 2007-08 season before he departed for Liverpool when he linked very effectively on many occasions with Dimitar Berbatov and memorably scored a stunning goal v Chelsea, and by the end of that season the Keane fans would certainly have been in the majority among the Spurs support. Indeed with the departure of Defoe in the January window that season everything seemed set for Robbie to have an unassailable place in the team and the potential to become one of the club’s all time greats.
What happened next of course is that he found out that Liverpool wanted to sign him and he asked Spurs to let him go there as they were the team he’d supported as a kid in Dublin. This from a player who had increasingly cultivated the image of Mr. Tottenham and who was enjoying more popularity than ever before in his Spurs career shocked most Spurs fans and my impression is that many, in spite of his return in the January 2009 window, will never feel the same about him again. That said goals and good form can rapidly transform fans’ attitudes.
The problem for Robbie (and also for Spurs while Harry continues to select him ) is that his form since his second coming has in the main been poor. The rot really started I think in his brief spell at Liverpool when he missed numerous chances and only scored seven goals in 28 appearances. In fairness to Keane though most observers don’t think that he played well and he didn’t score many goals from when he rejoined Spurs in January 2009 to the end of the 2008-09 season, the team in this spell did enjoy a dramatic upturn in fortunes and he was a part of that team – indeed Redknapp made him team captain. Many think that the arrival of a midfield ball-winner in Palacios in that same window was more significant in the upturn than Keane’s return but at least the team was doing well with him in it, though again he (but not only he) didn’t show much in some of the biggest games most notably v Man United, though at home to Chelsea Keane was part of a good team effort. Defoe (who had also returned to spurs in same window as Keane but then got injured, in the view of many his injury prompting the Keane signing) was also missing for almost the whole of the run-in of 2008-09 season and none of the other strikers played consistently well so Robbie’s place in the team was assured.
So to this season and in our blistering start Defoe was fit again and on fire and we were getting results. Keane apart from the Hull game and his remarkable four goal haul v Burnley has not been playing well or scoring but while we were winning this didn’t matter. The problem is that in recent game we haven’t been playing as well and drawing (Bolton) or losing (Stoke and the Arse) and Robbie’s own poor form has become a much greater concern. In fairness he has moved between playing up top and deeper or on the left but pretty universally he has simply not been playing well. Also, while he was never the fastest, he always had an initial burst of pace that often gave him just enough space and time to get a shot away - lately the impression is that he has lost that and can’t get away from defenders and get his shot away. Has he lost it ? At 29 he should be at his peak as a striker, but last season and this he has looked a shadow of the player he was before. Regardless of how good we think Keane was first time round he clearly contributed a lot as his goal tally alone vouches. But that was then and this is now.
The other question is, if everyone in the squad is available, where in the team does Keane fit in if at all ? For me Defoe has been the opposite of Keane – he has looked a better player in his second coming as a Spurs player - and I think that him in tandem with Crouch is our best strike pairing and of course they linked well together at Pompey.
So Robbie on the left then ? Not for me as I think that when fit Modric is best there coming in from left to centre when appropriate and while he’s still out I’d probably play Kranjcar there. Robbie can also of course play the advanced midfield role but can we afford that as well as two strikers ? And I’m not a fan of one up top with Keane in the hole, not least because I don’t think that any of our strikers are suited to the lone striker role.
While Defoe was out suspended I think that Robbie had to start but with Defoe’s return – and in particular when Modric also returns - I really don’t think that there is now a place for Robbie in our strongest starting line-up and that if Harry continues to try to find a place for him somewhere in the tem it could well hold us back. Of course this could all change depending on form but I have seen nothing overall in his many games since his return from Liverpool to suggest that Robbie Keane is remotely the player he was before he left and unless that changes I just don’t see a place for him in a Spurs team looking to maintain a challenge for top four or six. Controversial I know, but all the signs for me point to us having seen the best of Keane and that the time for him to be dropped has arrived. He just hasn’t been bringing enough to the party recently. It’s also possible of course that stint on the bench coming on as an impact sub might help him find some form and make me amend my view about us having seen the best of him but that is the way I see it just now.
So what does everyone else think ? Let us know at email@example.com
Our best midfield ?
Well here we are in mid October so have we any clear idea now of what is our best balanced and most likely to be effective midfield selection ?
Of course one factor is the opposition – horses for courses and all that. Personally I’m a great one for letting the opposition worry about us and playing to our strengths but then the composition of the opposing midfield could mean that it is a game for say a midfield with much physical presence or alternatively with much mobility .
So who should be in our best midfield ? For me, Palacios with his sheer physical presence, ball-winning and covering of ground is a must start. Similarly Modric is far and away our most inventive player and until his injury was excellent so for me he too must be in there if fit. Then there’s Lenny who is such an effective outlet when we break and whose pace and trickery are great assets. Again I’d have him in there so assuming a four man midfield that leaves just one vacancy which depending on where we play Modric will either be in the middle or on left.
In my opinion, in the ongoing absence of a genuine left winger we are best balanced with Modric on the left as his movement is very intelligent – he knows when to stay on left and when to cut in and is very effective when he does drift in from there.
So the question then is who partners Wilson in central midfield. I am not totally convinced by any of the options and hope that we buy another central midfielder in January (Sandro ? Muntari ?). But in the interim the contenders to partner Palacios are Thud, Jenas and Kranjcar. This is the one of the four midfield berths where I think it could really come down to who the opposition is. If he’ll get the time to play I’d probably go for Thud for his great range of passing and shooting. But form and the opposition would play a big role. I’ve been impressed by Niko from the limited amount I’ve seen of him so far and he’s certainly a real contender and his eye for goal is a very useful asset in a midfielder . As for JJ – probably as talented as almost any midfielder in the country. I think that the problem with him is more in his head (i.e. with his temperament) – how else can it be explained that he is so infuriatingly inconsistent, often within one game never mind game to game. Great for ten minutes, then can disappear for the next ten and seldom if ever really takes a game by the scruff of the neck. Just can’t rely on him to deliver but on his good days he can be very effective. Doesn’t have enough of them though and I think if he’s not done it by now he’ll probably never fulfil his potential at Spurs.
For me Thud or Niko are the better options – more often a case of what you see is what you get, though Thud at time scan also be prone to let games pass him by largely because of his lack of pace and mobility, though he has improved in the regard and his passing can be so good that if on form I’d just about prefer him to Kranjcar but it would be a close run thing and much would depend on the form the players are in and if it is a game where a more mobile midfield is needed or there’ll be no time to dwell on the ball I’d go for Niko. Also if Thud is having one of his off days I wouldn’t hesitate to throw Niko on as early as half time. Logically Thud with his build should give us more presence and better balance with the more lightweight options of Lennon and Modric on the right and left respectively but he doesn’t always seem to have the presence which you’d expect from such a man mountain. So all in all a very difficult call between him and Kranjcar in terms of who to start, but I still think that I’d on whole just about go for Thud who has often done well beside Palacios this season. And an additional factor is a more adaptable midfielder who I could see cover for most of the others pretty effectively if needed off the bench.
Of course Harry has on occasions gone with Keane on the left, adding another selection conundrum if he doesn’t play him up front. But I don’t think Robbie is that effective on the left – ok maybe as an impact sub or cameo there but not for 90 minutes.
Finally there is the question of whether we should at times go with five in midfield and one up- top. Personally I wouldn’t as I don’t think the personnel at our disposal are suited to that – in particular I don’t think we have a striker suited to the lone striker role and that our scoring options are diminished with one up top.
So for me it’s a four man midfield with Lennon on the right, Palacios and Thud in the middle, and Modric on the left for most games if all are available and on form. But I’m only very narrowly favouring Thud over Kranjcar and in some games could see the latter as the better option. Indeed with Thud being drafted in as an emergency central defender recently the decision could be taken out of Harry’s hands on occasions. And I would (as I said earlier) like to see at least one more midfielder come in in January. I’ve given up on us signing a left winger (lol) so another central midfielder with presence (Wilson is the only one we have) would be what I’m looking for to come in January to give us more options and cover.
But that’s for the future. In the present what does everyone else think should be our starting midfield for most games ?
COYS, Iain Bishop.
What would your midfield line-up be if all were fit and raring to go ? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can we gatecrash the top four?
Far be it for me to disagree with our esteemed editor who predicted a seventh place finish for us in his excellent season preview. But having had time to digest the comings and goings at the various clubs in the summer window together with the (admittedly still very early) stages of the season, I really believe that a top four finish is not beyond us.
In my last article I said t I expected us to challenge for top six and in optimistic mode by end of article tat I expected a top four challenge. Well now I’m taking it a step further and saying that I really think that we are capable of getting top four.
A big factor in determining my view was the summer window – in my view; while I’d have loved us to get another dominating central midfielder to support and provide cover for Wilson; we had a much better window than last season’s top four. Our squad is IMO now better balanced, has more quality and more options than it had at end of last season. Crouch, Bassong, Kranjcar and Naughton all look to me like good additions. I’d have liked us to have kept Zokora who was the most natural replacement for Palacios if the latter were to get injured or suspended, but we were never likely to keep a player who could be a first team regular at other big clubs. Bent? Will score goals for Sunderland IMO but I view him as someone who will score a lot for a mid-table team but isn’t quite good enough (poor touch) for a team hoping to regularly challenge for top 4-6 so a move was sensible. Chimby? Again a sensible departure as we have at least three other guys who can play right back effectively.
Contrast our window to that of the self-styled big four. United have lost Ronaldo who is a huge loss and Tevez who was another good option. Owen is injury prone and has not performed consistently for a long time now – a gamble that may or not come off. Valencia I rate and they’ve got some French kid in too but overall I don’t think they’ve done enough in the window to compensate for what they’ve lost – I also think that the limitations of thei midfield may be more evident with Ronaldo not there to bail them out. Still a lot of quality in squad but can’t see them being as good as last season. Liverpool? Have relied too much on Gerrard and Torres for some time and badly needed to bring in another top striker to support Torres and provide cover/options. Haven’t done so and haven’t brought in a better wide player either. Alonso’s passing will be missed, especially as his replacement isn’t going to be fit till October and has an awful injury record. Glenn Johnson may add something but a right back won’t improve you that much. Think he’s better going forward than at defending anyway – a rich man’s Alan Hutton ! I think that last season is as close as Pool will get to winning the league under Rafa and that they’ll fall back significantly this time. Chelski ? Look good so far – kept their strong squad intact and their one big signing hasn’t even played. But long season and it still remains to be seen how well Ancelotti adapts to the Prem when we’re getting deer pinot the season. Haven’t had a really tough fixture yet. The Arse ? Good start but still look like trying to pass teams to death and that at crunch against difficult opponents there’s not enough end product – they outplayed United but lost which is never a good sign. Bringing in only one central defender (who is really a replacement for Toure) when they cry out for more presence in midfield and another striker to replace Adebayor is not enough to push on IMO.
Apart from the normal top four there is of course Moneybags Citeh. Have brought in enough quality to be taken seriously as top four challengers but still a huge ask to mould a new team to do that well more or less from scratch. And I don’t think they have the cover in a few areas – notably defence - if they get injuries.
Others are decent shout to challenge for top six (Villa and Everton in particular) but I think that in terms of top only last season’s top four plus Citeh and ourselves are serious contenders. Of course most supposed experts still don’t take us seriously – had to laugh when MotD last week on back of us winning our first four league games focused on weaknesses in our defence. Unbelievable! Not saying it will be easy to gatecrash top four but I think that our squad and the balance of that squad compares with almost all of them – our bench v Liverpool was much stronger than there’s. Of the five other teams that I’ve mentioned apart from ourselves as top four contenders, only United and Chelski IMO are pretty certain to finish above us. I read somewhere that from last November the Arse have only got one more league point than us. I can really see us challenging them, Pool and Citeh for the final two Champs League places and having enough in our locker to finish above two of them and get that elusive fourth place. We have lots of good options in defence and up front. If we’re to fail it will be down to the midfield. Modric is of course a big loss, but then he will be back (hopefully before too long), and we have got Kranjcar as another option now. As I said earlier, I’d have loved to see another dominating central midfielder brought in, but maybe in January we will and all the top teams (bar possibly Chelski) lack in at least one area.
Overall I think that we have the manager (our record since Harry took over is outstanding) and the squad (quality, depth and the player options to let us play different tactical formations) to break that top four monopoly. I really think that top four is not pie in the sky but a realistic target this season. COYS!
Do the numbers add up for you ? Will two plus two equal top four ? And will Spurs be one of the two ? Let us know your view at email@example.com.
So it’s that time of year again when we look forward to the long season ahead. So what are our expectations this year as Spurs fans ?
Basically I hope that we’ll challenge for top four, but I expect that we’ll challenge for top six and have a nagging fear that we won’t even do the latter.
Ok the transfer window is open till the end of August and we are still linked with numerous players, but ten so are our rivals, so I think in assessing we have to expect maybe a little more strengthening, but then our rivals might do likewise.
As I type this on 2nd August we are IMO pretty strong and our record last season from when Harry took over compares with that of almost anyone. I was not overly excited by the Crouch signing when our hopes had been built up by all the talk of the lies of Huntelaar (are we still after him ?) but in the cold light of day I think that he is a good signing – not a great one, but a good one. He offers something different from our other strikers – holds the ball up well, aerial threat (albeit that he’s not as good in the air as you’d expect for a big man), links well with the midfield and linked well with Defoe at Pompey. Crouch I think will improve us, maybe not as much as we’d like – not sure he’ll take us to top four, but improve us nonetheless.
Naughton also looks a good signing from the little I’ve seen of him in the friendlies, albeit that I was surprised that we targeted a right back as I thought that we were fairly well covered there. I suspect that his arrival means the likely departure of Hutton and/or Chimbonda.
Modric has been our most impressive performer pre-season and hopefully we will now see him really taking games by the scruff of the neck more often as he’ll have benefited from the experience of a season in the Prem. He has the ability to do so. Likewise I’m hopeful that the already impressive Palacios will go from strength to strength.
My big concern as things stand – and obviously this could change before the window closes – is that we are just two or three good players short in terms of our options. We have too many injury prone central defenders and need at least one quality player brought in there.
I think that we also need another combative central midfielder with presence, especially if we have a lot of lightweight players elsewhere. It looks likely that Modric will again play on the left but drifting in from there as we haven’t signed a left winger (I’d have loved us to get Young or Robben but I can’t see it). Lenny and either Defoe or Keane will almost certainly also figure so we need more presence in midfield beside Wilson to support those three fairly lightweight players.
None of our current midfielders IMO quite fits the bill – THud has a great range of passing and a good shot but needs time on the ball and has little mobility or presence – he’d be ok maybe in a midfield five (though that can create it’s own problems by being congested and leaving our striker isolated), but not in a four. JJ is just way too inconsistent for me – can disappear when going gets tough. O’Hara is combative but not good enough on the ball and lacks pace. Palacios is great but needs a partner with similar attributes - maybe not for every game but certainly against teams with very combative midfields.
Don’t get me wrong – I think we are a ‘good’ team as our results under Harry showed. But we are not ‘very good’ and to make that step up we need at least two more quality players to increase our options in central midfield and central defence. Ideally I’d have liked to see us getting a left winger in too (it was always thus !), but central midfield and central defence are the big priorities for me.
My bottom line is that with the squad we have to day I expect us to challenge for top six, but with another quality central midfielder and quality central defender added I think that we could actually challenge for top four. I’m not saying we’d get it – clearly it is big thing to break the top four logjam of same four clubs who are well established there with the Champs League money rolling in year after year (though I think that the Arse are increasingly falling off the pace and vulnerable to challenge) and of course there is the Man Citeh phenomenon, though they’re coming from a long way back and will have to gel quickly and keep all the star forwards who can’t all play at one time happy. The likes of Everton and Villa, if they continue to improve, may come into the equation for top four (and certainly for top six) too.
But it is the time of year when hope always overrides realism, so by the time that I’ve finished penning this article I’ve decided that I’m expecting a top four challenge from us – well, where are we if we can’t hope ? lol.
I just hopes that Mr Levy loosens the purse strings a bit to speculate to accumulate, as a few more quality signings could IMO make all the difference to our prospects this season.
What do you all think – do you think like Iain and expect Spurs to be top four ? Or will Man City jump the queue with a pile of cash to buy almost whoever they want. Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Should they stay or should they go now....
... to paraphrase the pop classic. The subject here being which Spurs players we should be saying ‘adios’ to this summer.
Of course, this is intrinsically linked with who we can bring in, as I think that one of the main mistakes last summer was not just in selling players, but in the lack of sufficient or adequate replacements. Aside from the quality of playing staff (which is obviously critical), we need to have depth to the squad and IMO we sold too many not just of our top players last summer, but also of our squad players leaving us with a squad lacking any depth and also hopelessly imbalanced (e.g. lots of decent right sided options but very few on the left).
So I wouldn’t be looking to offload too many players, as even if we make the three additions which Harry talks about, we need to have depth in the squad. But I’d sell some, focusing on players who either aren’t good enough for a team aspiring to push on next season (hopefully) towards top four or who are likely to be bad influence in dressing room and a distraction from the matter in hand if not playing regularly. For me Jamie O’Hara for all of his 100% commitment comes into the first category - my bottom line is that he just isn’t good enough (too slow, passing of variable quality, lacks real Prem quality). Harry seems to have decided that at Spurs at least Bentley ain't up to it – maybe due to combination of not doing it on pitch and attitude – so I think he’ll go too.
Harry’s biggest conundrum will I think be over JJ and Thud. I think that if we sign another central midfielder at least one of them and possibly both will go. If we don’t sign anyone in that position, then I’d keep one, though to retain depth in squad and on balance I’ve come round to keeping Thud more than JJ, with the proviso that he’ll need to change his attitude about demanding a regular starting place as Harry clearly can’t guarantee that. If he won’t change his attitude, he’d potentially be too big a distraction - and one maybe with questionable attitude - to keep. If it comes down to a choice between the two, the reasons why I’d keep Thud ahead of JJ come down to his ability to win you a game with a great pass, shot or dead ball. I’ve always had big concerns regarding his lack of pace and mobility, but he’s shown a lot more IMO in his Prem outings in recent times. JJ is, of course, more mobile, but for me is just too inconsistent, hardly ever dominates a game and seldom does it against big teams. I think he has ability, but not the temperament to really cut it consistently against the best. Zokora may well go, but unlike many Spurs fans I like him (and yes I know his passing is at best only OK and he never scores) and thought he’d a good season before losing his regular place and he’s versatile and never hides – good squad player, again unless he’s not happy to be that in which case with reluctance I’d sell him.
The other interesting area in terms of possible departures is the strike force. My gut feeling is that Harry just doesn’t really rate either Bent or Pav and one will definitely go and maybe both; much depending (as with midfield) on who he can bring in. I think Bent will score a lot of goals for someone – just don’t think he’s ever quite fitted in at Spurs. Decent scoring return, but his touch is so often poor and he seldom has looked the part against the bigger teams.
Pav has ability and personally I’d keep him for another year as, while his Prem goal return (and many performances) was poor, he showed flashes of what he can do and there are the mitigating circumstances of him not having a break since Euros and Russian season. If we keep only one of the two, I’d just about keep Pav ahead of Bent, though Bent’s work-rate is the better. I’m not a Keane fan (think his form in main has been poor since he returned) and have worries long term regarding him and Luka in same team (both like to play in ‘the hole’), but clearly Robbie will stay.
Bale hasn’t impressed me at all since his very bright start to his Spurs career, but we have so few options on left and he’s so young (so could improve) that I’d probably keep him for now.
Central defence ? Some talk of Dawson being offloaded, which I’d only do if he was really pressing for a move on account of lack of first team football. Otherwise, I’d keep him as I thought his form was much improved in the season just finished and I like his attitude. Again it could come down to who we bring in.
Right back ? Would keep Hutton and Corluka to vie for that position and also Chimby as he’s versatile. I would offload Gunter, as we’ve lots of better options in that position.
GDS ? Just don’t know- it really depends on whether Harry thinks he can get much out of him on a consistent basis. Same goes for Taarabt.
Keeper ? Happy with Gomes and while not a big fan of Carlo, he is decent enough back up, though both have same element as weakest in their respective games (often poor on crosses).
So there you have it – much as I say depends on who we bring in but I’ll be amazed if there aren’t at least two or three high profile departures partly just to free up wages and transfer fees for incomings. I just don’t want too many outgoings as we need to learn from last summer and retain options and squad depth.
What do you all think – do you agree with my views on who we should contemplate selling ? A good subject for debate this one as no two Spurs fans I’ve spoken to have the same views on who we should sell. Let us know at email@example.com.
As we’ve just voted a winger (Aaron Lennon) as our player of the year, I thought it would be topical to devote my latest column to wingers, where they fit in and what they contribute, especially with reference to Spurs past and present.
Being Scottish I have always had the traditional Scottish appreciation of wingers and good wing play. But this isn’t just a nostalgic thing or a Scottish thing - I believe that effective wing play is still the best attacking weapon of all. A good winger who gets to the by line and crosses a dangerous ball from there is the best sources of chances you will get, with the possible exception of the once in a generation Hoddle type player who will play great through balls on a consistent basis.
We at Spurs have been blessed with some great wingers over the years, going way back to legends such as Jimmy Dimmock and not just so far back to Cliff Jones in the Double winning team. I’m not old enough to have seen Jones play (yes honestly), but well remember the wingers we’ve fielded since then including Jimmy Neighbour who recently sadly died at far too young an age. Tony Galvin was very effective on the left for us in the successful Spurs teams of the early '80s with his pace and work-rate down the flanks being a great outlet for other players such as Hoddle. One of my favourite memories of wingers was us going with the two young wingers Richard Cooke and Ally Dick during the European run in the early '80s. Nowadays, with packed, very competitive central midfields, it is difficult to get away with two genuine wingers playing at the same time (you’d need two ultra competitive mobile and fit central midfielders before you could attempt it IMO).
Later in the '80s we fielded my favourite winger in my time supporting Spurs - Chrissie Waddle, who, after a ropey first season, was outstanding and deserved better than being only an FA Cup runner up with us in '87. The only other winger who has made the same impression on me comes from attending some Scottish games as a result of my Scottish roots - the late Davie Cooper of Rangers, who, like Waddle, on his day could be simply mesmeric in his close control.
Since the '80s we’ve continued the trend of great wingers – no not with Ruel Fox(!) – most notably with David Ginola, who, when in the mood, could win a game single handed. Coming up to the present day we have of course Aaron Lennon, who had a great breakthrough season as youngster, lost his way a bit, but for me was better than ever this season (my Spurs player of the year). Sure he can frustrate with his final ball, but I think some Spurs fans have become a bit fixated on that and that he has provided many good crosses and good balls this season as well as unsettling defences with is pace and trickery and chipping in with some goals (notably at the New Library). He has for me been our most effective attacking weapon and even good defenders like Cashley Cole have struggled to contain him (e.g. in our 1-0 win v Chelski).
I must say, that like most Spurs fans, I had high hopes of David Bentley when we signed him and until Harry’s comments last week I still had some hopes that if even a great winger like Waddle could have a poor first season at Spurs there could yet be hope for him, even if there would have to be a heck of an improvement from the player next season. It is usually more difficult to make an impact as a winger if you don’t have the pace of say a Jones or a Lennon, though John Robertson in the great Forest team was a striking exception to that general rule. And one David Beckham didn’t do so badly for a player with no pace. Indeed, Bentley himself did well at Blackburn so just maybe he could come good for us ... but, it now looks unlikely that he will be given the chance and on current form can we really see him displacing Lennon even if he stays ?
Harry seems to be moving away a bit from the idea that we need a natural winger on the left as well as the right and Modric, playing nominally on left but cutting in a lot, has generally worked well partly due to the mobility and great strides made by our left back Assou-Ekotto. If we were to go for a genuine left winger and Lenny on the right I think we’d need a second mobile competitive presence in the middle of the park alongside Palacios (say Muntari who we’re linked with). But be that as it may, I’m pleased that in Lennon we’re continuing the proud Spurs tradition of good wing play and think he has consistently been our biggest attacking asset and outlet for the defence as we’ve climbed the table.
How do you think Spurs could best develop their attacking threat ? Is it with wingers or with mobile midfielders ? Stewart Downing or Adam Johnson perhaps ? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will follow the Tottenham
After a day like today at Blackburn when Spurs somehow snatched defeat from the jaws of victory I got thinking about why I subject myself to the all too often masochistic life of supporting Spurs – how often have the team let us down, how many false dawns have we had since the Glory Days ? And yet we still come back for more.
Well the following are some of my own reasons for being Tottenham – some of them you may share, some you won’t, but for what it’s worth these were off the top of my head my own reasons for being Spurs and for always coming back for more no matter how down I feel after a particular game.
· What Spurs stand for – good football, flair, tradition. Bill Nicholson’s ‘Double team’ of 61, though they played nearly half a century ago now, still encapsulates the sort of qualities and tradition that are intrinsically Spurs and which the Spurs teams since have aspired to emulate. The Tottenham teams and players of that era had a quality which other clubs (even big clubs) have struggled to emulate – Man U even resorted to stealing one of our most famous anthems (Glory Glory) and pretending it is there’s. The early 80’s was the closest that we’ve got to following the Double team since and in it’s own way that era too was special and is in the folk memory.
· The great successes of my own Spurs supporting lifetime, especially the ones where I was lucky enough to be at the match in question. For me top of that list would be the 84 UEFA final second leg v Anderlecht at the Lane and the 91 FA Cup semi win v Ar5ena1 at Wembley. I wasn’t fortunate enough to be at the Carling Final v Chelsea last season or it too would figure but it is almost as happy a memory from viewing on TV.
· The hard won league games, especially against good opposition, which while not being in the folk memory with the likes of the games above represent success in the bread and butter games which means in a different way almost as much as the showpiece wins like cup final successes. The likes of the league win at Anfield in 1985 (first league win there since 1912) when I was there and spoke to Spurs fans who had been going to Liverpool for a lifetime without seeing us win till then. Even the win against Chelsea last week after all the hurt of so many league defeats to them in recent years and the millions which have been spent in trying to turn them into a big club. That too meant a lot to me.
· The camaraderie of the Spurs fans and the good friends that I have made through supporting Spurs, and in recent years being able to share this with my 12 year old son whose first Spurs game live (the 4-3 v Pompey when Gus got last minute winner and the lead kept changing hands) prepared him for the ups and downs of supporting Spurs, if not the disappointments.
· For all the criticisms of the commercialism of the club, the club itself – Spurs have almost always been really helpful when I’ve say written to try to get my son mentioned in the programme when he was attending a game for a birthday treat. And – albeit that they were less commercial times – when I turned up at the Lane on spec back in the early 80’s I got free tour of the ground and some mementoes of the visit (programmes, pin badge).
· The wonderful memories of great Spurs moments which always come back into my head – Gazza’s free kick at Wembley in 91; from my vantage point near the touchline at the same match seeing Gazza dribbling with the ball down the wing with a broad smile on his face; Ricky’s own special Wembley goal (only saw that one on TV unfortunately); Tony Parks’ penalty save v Anderlecht that won us the UEFA Cup; us putting five past Chelsea and Ar5ena1.
· The very special place that is White Hart Lane – the wonderful atmosphere, especially at the big games; the closeness to the pitch which makes you feel part of the occasion and almost of the match itself.
· The great players who I have seen play for Spurs – Gazza, Hoddle, Klinsmann to name only three.
· Yes even the bad performances and results (e.g. a recent memory is of a 5 a.m. start and midnight return home to travel to Spurs last season only to see us lose 4-1 to Newcastle) and even the dodgy players that we’ve all moaned about over the years (Ramon Vega come on down!)– it’s all part of what makes us Spurs. Who said it was ever going to be easy supporting this great club of ours?
· Most of all while other clubs have had more success and some might even have more fans, I believe that Spurs are quite simply the greatest club of all – we’ve had great successes, we’ve had disappointing failures but we’ve never forgotten what we are and what we stand for, something quite unique in football . In a way all the disappointments make us stronger and more rounded fans and a club (well that’s what I tell myself anyway !). We are Tottenham super Tottenham from the Lane and a defeat like today is just another disappointment that we’ll bounce back from – we’ve had plenty of practice. But hey no-one appreciates the good times like us. And we’ll always keep believing, even sometimes against all logic (if there is any logic in football!), that we’ll one day be back at the very top of English and European football – under Harry just maybe we will be. It’s that hope which keeps us going and makes us Spurs.
Great European nights to start with defeating A C Milan 2-1 in April 1972 - two Steve Perryman blockbusters to see us through.
In 1983 Glenn Hoddle outshining the great Johan Cruyff in the 4-2 defeat of Feyenoord.
Micky Hazard's free kick to defeat Hadjuk Split in the Semi final second leg then the final against Anderlecht when first Graham Roberts scored with six minutes left to tie things up on the night, then the heart stopping penalty shoot out 4-3 thanks to Tony Parks.
Through the years there have of course been many famous league and domestic cup ties played here. Beating Arsenal 5-1 in that unforgettable semi final second leg ... seeing Arsene winger face at the end was almost worth the entrance money alone; those spectacular 4-4 draws against Aston Villa and big time charlies Chelsea.
The International Break
OK, the international break promised some interest for us:
- Would Lenny start for England and if so how would he do ? Were England looking to earn a place in the Guinness Book of Records by fielding the fastest right winger in the world in the first half and the slowest in the second half ?
- Would Alan Hutton start for my beloved Scotland not having played a first team game since returning from injury, and would Scotland score a goal in Amsterdam ?
- Would Gareth Bale show that there is still a footballer in there despite all the evidence to the contrary this season ?
- Would Harry Redknapp wake up with a horse’s head in his bed ?
- Would Keane score in a big game ?
But in spite of the interest generated by the above questions I continue to have a big problem with these international breaks in the middle of the club season and with this one more than most. Just when the big issues (destiny of the league title, Chumps League places, Europa places, relegation and promotion) are coming to the boil why the heck do we have to have an international break ? Prem managers must be investing in new pairs of underpants or considering turning to religion every time one of their key players plays for his respective country, risking injury in a match of no consequence for those managers and the clubs who play the players’ wages.
Also, have the fortunes of the home countries improved since things were changed and instead of international being fitted into a midweek and Saturdays remaining sacrosanct for club football, players going off to their countries for over a week with games on Saturday and the midweek either before or after it ? I don’t think so.
I like my international football as an occasional nightcap after indulging in a splendid meal of club football but I (and I think most committed fans of a club) much prefer the bread and butter of club football. As a Scot I’m delighted when Scotland do well (yes I can remember how that feels!), but Spurs is my staple diet – it is Spurs who play week in week out and whose fortunes determine my mood to a quite ridiculous degree for a 50 year old man. Basically, I hate international breaks and yearn to get back to Spurs playing.
Would I feel differently if Scotland were say Spain (i.e. ever so slightly better than they are) ? Maybe I’d look forward to their games a bit more, but essentially I think I’d feel much the same as I do just now about club v international football. To a very great degree l only derive real enjoyment from international football when club football isn’t on (i.e. in the summer when the Euros or World Cups take place).
As for the interminable qualifying competitions against mainly dull and uninteresting teams and even more so that terrible creation the international friendly – I could cheerfully see them all far enough.
I only hope that no Spurs players were injured today or get injured in midweek playing for their country and that the week flies in, letting us get back to the real stuff – the game at Blackburn.
I know I agree with Iain about international football these days. Nobody used to be too tired to play or retired from international football, as it was an honour then. Now it is little more than a sideshow to the real action involving clubs. What do you think about the international break at important time sin a season ? Let us know at email@example.com.
One day at the Lane
How was your day at the Lane for the Chelsea game ? One of the best ? Did the atmosphere match that of the Celtic v Rangers game ? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Atmosphere - The Old Firm Experience
I have long held the view that the atmosphere at the Lane is as good as almost anywhere - relatively compact ground, close to pitch, noise going inwards and passionate fans.
Well, on Sunday, I attended the Old Firm CIS final at Hampden Park in Glasgow. It has always been an ambition of mine to attend an Old Firm final - though I’m first and foremost Spurs, I was born in Glasgow. Rangers were the first team my late Dad took me to see and I’ve always retained a soft spot for them. I can only say that the atmosphere at the game was better than any I’ve experienced for many years. I’m not saying it was better than say the 84 UEFA final second leg at the Lane or the Gazza semi at Wembley (both of which I was lucky enough to attend and had outstanding atmosphere), but it was certainly the best I’ve experienced in a very long time. Hampden is a very good venue and the chanting from the two sets of fans was incessant and at times deafening.
The match itself has been widely criticised for the standard of football, but I enjoyed it and while the quality was variable the second half of the 90 in particular was compelling viewing with both teams going for the jugular and some moments of fine skill and drama with Celtic winning it dramatically in extra time. Celtic were the better team over the 120 minutes and deserved to win - our old favourite Mendes has generally been having a very good season but apart from second half on Sunday had a poor game for Rangers. Not long back from injury though, so maybe lacking a bit of match fitness.
I can fully understand why the Old Firm encounter is widely regarded as one of the biggest and most intense rivalries in the work – we all know that unfortunately there are sectarian/religious aspects to the rivalry (though both clubs have done a lot to distance themselves from those attitudes in recent times), but I didn’t witness any trouble at all and there was a lot of banter. But the atmosphere is really what makes the match special – in particular in a Cup final where the two sides had the same size of support. I’ve been to the likes of Anfield (to see Spurs there), but the Old Firm experience really was special for the colour, incessant noise and sheer vibrancy of the occasion.
This Saturday I’ll be at the Lane with my son for the Chelski game. It will be interesting to compare it with the Old Firm though, as I always tell any Chelski fans who I encounter, they are not our real rivals or even a genuine big club ! lol
Do you think Iain has a point ? Does the Bishop's view of atmosphere over quality of fare make for a better experience ? Let us know your opinions at email@example.com
Favourite Spurs player
So who is your favourite Spurs player and why ? And do you have an all time favourite from matches you’ve attended ?
My own favourite player from the current squad as anyone who knows me will be all too well aware is Jermain Defoe. Reasons ? Well, his was a signing (first time round) which really excited me based on what I’d seen of him at West Spam. I have always liked pacy direct strikers with good touch and goal threat and he fitted that bill. The deal was sealed for me when I was at the Lane for his debut when he scored in a memorable last gasp 4-3 win v Pompey, which was also the first Spurs match which my son attended.
He’s been my favourite ever since through periods of indifferent form or spells on the bench – I’ve always had the view that if starting regularly he’ll score regularly and his career record I think bears that out. I was delighted when we re-signed him and just hope he’s back to fitness and in the team soon as he’s immediately clicked on his second coming and Harry has always got the best out of him.
My all time favourite based on seeing him play live is Gazza – the biggest factor being his contribution in THAT 3-1 FA Cup semi success v the Arse in 91. I was lucky enough to be at Wembley that day and have never before or since seen a player running down the touchline with the ball with a broad smile on his face. And as for his free kick !!!!!!
Some years later I was also lucky enough to attend - and see him give a virtuoso performance in - a 5-1 Scottish cup final success for Rangers v Hearts in the Scottish Cup final. Some player ! Didn’t see much of Hoddle live or he could have run Gazza close – also think that Mickey Hazard was a very under-rated player in that era and I was a big fan of Danny Thomas, whose career was cut so tragically short through injury. And as a Scot, I’ve always liked good wing play and was a big fan of Waddle. But Gazza all time and Defoe currently are my favourites.
My greatest regret is not seeing the Double team – though I’m old(ish!), I’m not that old. Would love to have seen that team and also the team of the following season with Greaves added.
Do any of our readers go back further than Iain ? Let us know who your favourite is by mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Not Good enough
We are a club whose tradition and support have us up there as one of the biggest in the country, and we and the Arse have always been the biggest clubs in London by some distance.
Without going right back to the early 20th century, if we analyse Spurs’ history since the Second World War we’ve won trophies in every decade – indeed league titles in the 50s and 60s, as well as, of course, that historic first double of the 20th century. In the 1950’s we won the league for the first time; in the 60’s we won no fewer than five major trophies including being the first British team to win a European trophy. The 70’s saw us win three more major trophies and the 80s another three. But since then, instead of pushing on, it’s been downhill - two trophies in the 90s and thus far one in this decade. This season represents our last chance to win a second in this decade and even if we do achieve that it is likely to be two League Cups (i.e. the least prestigious of the major trophies).
Some may disagree but for me while there had certainly been a decline in our fortunes before they took over, much of the tailing of in our fortunes in recent times is down to the advent of ENIC as our owners. Whatever we thought of the appointment of Gooner Graham, he led us to a trophy and had us in the semi of the FA Cup when ENIC sacked him largely IMO as a populist gesture by bringing in the Spurs legend that is Hod. To be fair Hod had a decent enough managerial track record and if that appointment had come off great and everyone can get one appointment wrong. But it’s not been just one appointment which hasn’t worked out has it ? Since ENIC took over and Daniel Levy became chairman in 2001, we’ve been the very definition of instability – numerous managers (Graham, Hod, Pleat, Santini, Jol, Ramos and now Redknapp), two Directors of Football (Arnesen and Comolli) before Levy abandoned the DoF system which he had long espoused as the only way forward. Oh, and after all these changes, we are flirting with relegation, have just re-signed three players who we sold only last year and still haven’t got beyond the plans stage of the proposed new ground leaving us trailing the likes of the Arse in terms of gate income.
Sure we’ve spent money on the team under ENIC’s stewardship, but we’ve also turned into a selling club who were quick to sell when top four clubs came calling – Carrick and Berba to United and Keane to Liverpool. Sure we’ve brought Keane back, but only as Liverpool were happy to off-load him at a cheaper price because he flopped there – we wouldn’t have got him back if he’d done well. We’ve had our moments in recent years – two fifth place finishes in the first of which we came agonisingly close to fourth and a Champs League spot. We also won the Carling Cup against a good Chelski team last season, but then undermined the manager who delivered it by selling off key players (most notably the world class Berbatov) without adequately replacing them. OK, it’s hard to keep players who want to go, but the impression was that Messrs. Levy and Comolli concentrated on maximising the sale price rather than in getting quality in as replacements.
My bottom line is that the stewardship of our great club over the last 20 years has too often been poor and that it has been particularly bad in under ENIC’s ownership since 2001. Yes, money has been spent but a lot has been wasted – how much have we spent on compensation to sacked managers and on bad or over priced purchases (e.g. Boateng, Kaboul, Bent), and we’ve also lost out on players through not paying the going rate or haggling over often small sums. Ashley Young is just one player we needlessly lost out on.
We deserve better from the owners of Tottenham Hotspur. Daniel Levy may be a good businessman, but the evidence suggests that he doesn’t know much about football. All those years telling us how great the DoF system was and undermining managers who couldn’t work with the DoF and then he just abandons it. The right decision IMO, but how much harm did Comolli in particular do when DoF system was in place ?
How does Iain's view of things Tottenham sit with you ? Agree ? Disagree ? Don't care any more ? Let us know at email@example.com
Well, it might be two more trophies than they have had up the end of Seven Sisters Road. I know that now that is not the be-all and end-all of success, as Champions League qualification is the prime objective each season for any club who wants to be great, but surely, it is something we have to build up to (without knocking it down from within) ?
It is not disputed that the DoF system can work, as it is the norm on the continent, but maybe it is not for England, where things have always been done differently (not that this makes it right). I think it needs the right men in place to get the best from the system. It seemed to work reasonably well with Jol and Arnesen, but I am not sure that Comolli was the right man for the job and some of the people he worked with seemed to have a problem with his work. There is no doubt that a lot of money has been spent on players who are less than top class, but then Wenger has had his duff buys too. Francis Jeffers and Sylvain Wiltord anyone ?
Nobody has a perfect purchasing record. Even Alex Ferguson bought that Prunier bloke and the dodgy Italian keeper. What needs to be done is to make sure the scattergun approach is stopped and we target players where we need them and then go out and get the best we can. We can't contest signings with Man. City, as they have a bigger pot of money to dip into and we can't offer Champions League football, so we need to build towards that.
At the moment the first step towards being a bigger club is staying in the Premier League.
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