striking differences

This article first appeared in MEHSTG Vol. 2 Issue 25 (January 2002)

With the goals Tottenham have scored this season coming from a number of sources, are the club still looking for a 25 goals a season man ?  Sterling Performance looks at the need for such a mythical player.


The Tottenham forward line of Ferdinand and Sheringham has gathered many column inches about the combined age of the pairing, but they have contributed to the success Spurs have had this season so far.  But with Les still getting his head in where it hurts and his ankle too, there is a reliance on his fitness, which has been pretty good this season.  That could be because Hoddle is nursing him through the week to get him fit for games rather than making him train when he was already injured, like some Spurs coaches of the past were rumoured to have done.  As a player gets older, they need more recovery time from matches and from the knocks they pick up in each game.  Teddy’s fitness has not been in question after he overcame the injury that ruled him out of the first game of the season.  His recently enforced rest could actually benefit Tottenham as Glenn was looking to give a break to the old boys when he could.  With some important games still to play (at the time of writing), there could be a fresh Sheringham coming back to face the opposition.

The link-up play between the two has been well documented and Ferdie has looked like the player who gave Spurs so many problems when he lined up against us for Queens Park Rangers and Newcastle United.  The goal against Everton was Sir Les at his best.  A fine cross from Leonhardsen on the right and Les rose 12 yards out to get in front of David Weir to power a downward header out of the goalkeeper’s reach.  Classic.  But then, like has happened so many times before, he clashed heads, was told he was Pelé when asked where he was and was substituted at half-time.  News that he would be having brain scans were not unexpected as one of our other forwards, Steffen Iversen, had also been giving concern to the Spurs medical team about the amount of times he had suffered from concussion.  Between the two of them, they must have been knocked out more often than Frank Bruno !!

With the reliance of the club’s goal-scoring thrust coming from a player who’s fitness is always on the verge of failing, who is left to come in and fill his boots (so to speak).  Well, the other prime suspect would be Sergei Rebrov.  The Ukrainian has found himself out of the side as Hoddle obviously does not fancy him, but the way that he could link up with Teddy are surely worth persevering with ?  He is nippy, knows where the goal is and can provide as well as score.  Admittedly, he is not the target that Les offers as an outlet, but he is more mobile and given a chance to play in the same side with Sheringham, they could no doubt develop an understanding.  The goal Rebrov scored at home to Fulham showed that the two players are more than capable of getting things worked out.  But why has Hoddle so regularly overlooked him ?  There is a lot of what goes on in a manager’s mind that goes along the lines of go with what you know.  With Glenn taking over at Spurs and inheriting someone else’s side, he would want to make it his own, but surely when he assessed the potential there he must have noticed that Rebrov was a class apart from the other strikers at the club.  Not a poacher, but one who could fit into the side and play “in the hole”.  But then, when Teddy couldn’t agree terms with Manchester United over a new contract, he came to Tottenham and stole the position that Sergei would have filled.

It has been plain to see recently, when Rebrov has played, that his confidence is shot to pieces.  When he has a chance to shoot, he invariably looks up for a colleague to pass to and often the moment has gone.  With goals chances being at a premium for Tottenham in the second half of games (or even the acceptance of them in the first half of quite a few), the half-chance needs to be converted into a goal.  While he may be being unselfish, the goal-scorer who will need up with a hatful of goals is the one who takes those chances.  Perhaps that is why Hoddle has been linked with Kevin Phillips.  A striker of similar stature to Sergei, but one who instinctively takes any opportunity that comes his way.  Personally, I am not convinced that Phillips is the best of his breed and if we are going to spend big money, then we had better do it tight this time, as the club may not recoup the money they shelled out on Rebrov.

Perhaps more worrying is the other names that the media have linked Spurs with.  Namely, Nicolas Anelka, who will just be a disruptive influence that causes more problems than he solves.  Namely, Jonathan Carew, the lanky Norwegian mate of Steffen Iversen and recent buy of Valencia, who has also caused trouble at the clubs he has been at in the past.  Then comes Tore Andre Flo, who has not been a Glasgow Rangers regular and so wants to move on, just as he did at Chelsea when not selected on an often enough basis for his liking.  So, a bunch of trouble makers, who, despite their relative merits, have not stayed at any club very long since leaving the one that made their reputation.   While Anelka’s pace will be an asset to any side and the other two possess great height and decent skill for players of such build, there are small odds that they will end up at White Hart Lane.  Perhaps more likely from what we hear, is the little (in comparison) amount that might have to be shelled out for Bobby Zamora (right).  This lad’s past is interesting as he was considered not good enough for Bristol Rovers and moved to Brighton for peanuts.  Since then he has been scoring freely and his goals took them to promotion to Division Two last season.  An unknown quantity to some extent, but a £4 million buy would be a drop in the ocean and if he hit it off, then the money would repay itself very quickly.  If he didn’t, then we did pay £4 million for Ruel Fox and nearly that much for Ramon Vega after all !!

So, what lies ahead for Armstrong and Iversen ?  Armstrong has been out for the best part of two seasons with his latest injury and failed comebacks.  While it is desperately unlucky for him to lose such a big part of his career at his age (30), should he regain fitness, will he still possess that blistering pace that set him apart from others when he first came to Tottenham ?  Those days might have passed by, but his partnership with Teddy was a good one when he first came from Palace, despite them getting off on the wrong foot.  If he resumed playing regularly, it might be that this pairing could work, but I think that it is more likely that Hoddle would again go for his won man and bring someone in.

As for Steffen Iversen, there is a split in the Spurs supporters over him.  Having been played in midfield for country and club, perhaps that might be an optional role for him, but the reason he was bought was for his goals.  Now a peripheral player in the team, has his potential never properly been realised and therefore, would he be better off being sold ?  He was highly regarded by previous managers for his athleticism, but that has to be turned into an outcome and his goalscoring record has been patchy since he joined in 1996. 

The problem in the forward department for the club is that there is little in the reserves coming through.  With Rebrov and Iversen recently needing competitive matches to get match-fit, there has been little chance for others to stake a claim.  Yannick Kamanan (left) has been in the squad for Spurs this season, but has yet to make his senior bow, which now could seem unlikely after comments made by David Pleat in the programme for the home match with Everton.  Saying Glenn has to decide if the French youngster will be a first team player over the next few seasons or to release him is not the talk of one for whom there are great hopes.  He looks a good player, with decent skill and he holds up play well when playing as a lone striker, but whether his lean build lends itself to the type of front man Hod might want is another question. 

John Sutton, brother of Chris, is a youngster who is set for a future.  He is strong for his age, can finish and is not afraid of hard work.  With his family pedigree, he obviously draws comparison, but there is no real similarity in their play, apart from them both scoring goals.  There is a way for John to go yet, but there is hope amongst the management that he will go a long way.

Perhaps in front of him in the queue to take a place in the first XI’s starting line-up is Steven Ferguson.  One of Pleat’s astute signings from East Fife, the young lad has impressed when I have seen him.  Powerfully built, unlike a lot of the players who used to come through our ranks, he would be compared to a young Viduka.  He doesn’t quite have that touch yet, but his ability in timing of runs and cool finishing could see him promoted up to the squad should there be a need, as he was when Hoddle first arrived last season.  Hit by injury this term, he has had few chances to show what he can do, but is on the way back now and must maintain the progress he made in his first nine months at the club.  Having featured in a number of pre-season friendlies last summer, Hoddle must feel that there is something about him and he didn’t disappoint with two goals in the first game at Stevenage Borough.

Another who has played in the forward line in the reserves is Lee Barnard (right) and he looks to have a great amount of skill.  Fleet of foot, like Ferguson, he is slight, but isn’t afraid to get stuck in and can produce a startling finish on occasion.  A youngster who can still develop in the second string, he might be a Sheringham in the making, as he has a nice touch and good vision too.

But back to the main question and what will be Hoddle’s assessment of his striking riches ?  Well, in three or four years time, he might not have these worries, as there is a rich vein of young forwards with differing skills coming through, but now, he probably thinks that we need someone to knock the tap-ins home to get Tottenham up the league a bit.  So, expect some movement soon, especially as there have been reports that he has to sell before he buys during this season.  While it will be a shame to see Sergei go, as I believe he has a lot to offer, particularly if we get into Europe, there is no point for him to hang around not getting a game and no point for Tottenham not using him.  He will become another player we never saw the best of and one would hope that whoever is brought in to replace him would be bought with a view to a specific role within the team. Only then would we see the best of them.


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