season review 2004-05
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 months previously.
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 effective.
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 Steve Harper.
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 Online.co.uk)
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