it's now or never, dazza

This article first appeared in MEHSTG Vol 2. Issue 16 - September 2000

Now that the supersonic Frenchman no longer wears the shirt with the cockerel on it, this is a massive season for Darren Anderton. Anderton is now the only creative influence in an ordinary midfield, a lot is resting on his shoulders.  

The early signs are not clear as of yet.  Despite a quiet performance against Ipswich he still managed to produce a quality cross for Les to nod home.  Two more average performances away in the northeast and Darren is back in the England squad.  How ?  He has not done anything yet to deserve it. 

Anderton baffles me.  Me and many others I know have not been convinced by any of his rare outings over the last year or two.  Yet he always seems to get Star Man in The Sun on Monday mornings.  This very thing happened after the Ipswich game.  Steven Carr was clearly the best player on the pitch followed by Sergei Rebrov but Anderton got Star Man.  I was baffled when Anderton got into the '98 World Cup squad after playing a handful of games at the end of a miserable season for us.  He is also currently the highest earner at Tottenham.  Someone is surely looking down on him.  I as much as anyone would love to see an inform Anderton pulling strings and producing telling crosses week after week.  But this is not the case at the moment and we need him now more than ever.  We know he can do it, don't you remember ... 

Anderton arrived at Spurs from Portsmouth for around 2 million, this was following impressive performances in Pompey's cup run in '92.  The first few months of his Spurs career were ruined by a hernia but the turning point for him came in an FA Cup 4th round tie at Carrow Road in front of a live TV audience.  We ran out 2-0 winners against Norwich with Anderton supplying Sheringham's second goal.  This gave Darren a huge amount of confidence and our season took off from here.  It is no coincidence that Sheringham started to score regularly just as Anderton hit form.  Born was our famous set-piece where Samways raised his arm, Anderton swung in the cross and Sheringham headed in unmarked.  We reached the FA Cup semi-final but lost to you know who, but Anderton's performance was excellent and he was unlucky not to be awarded a penalty.  Anderton carried on this form through to the end of the season and began to get mentioned as an England prospect.  He played for the Under 21's that summer and won the Toulouse tournament. 

The 93/94 season was a bad season for us but it was easily Anderton's best since being at the club.  He missed the first five matches of the campaign but then went on to only miss one more which was the ill fated game at Old Trafford where Sheringham got injured and missed the next six months.  With Sheringham out Anderton was supplying the crosses but to no avail (like Ginola last season).  Anderton was playing well, earning the team vital points here and there, like the one at Highbury thanks to a great solo goal, and he won the goal of the month for his effort at Loftus Road.  This forced him into the England squad for Venables' first game in charge against Denmark.  It was an excellent debut for Darren nearly capped with a goal.  Spurs' season became a fight against relegation and I truly believe that had not Anderton been in the team we would have gone down that season.  A win at Oldham secured our safety. 

With the arrival of Klinsmann, Dumitrescu and co.  Darren wasn't so much at the forefront in everything we did at the start of 94/95.  He continued to play well and it was the loan departure of Dumitrescu that allowed Anderton more room to blossom.  This could be seen especially in the home match against Sheffield Wednesday where he nearly scored from inside his own half, such was his confidence at the time.  Anderton played well in our cup run, scored with a superb finish away at Southampton in extra-time, but was to lose his third consecutive FA Cup semi-final.  Jinx or what! Darren finished the season with a great long-range goal at Newcastle and a place in the England team for the Umbro Cup.  He scored twice in this tournament and gained rave reviews, he was seen as England's hope for Euro '96. 

As Gerry Francis constantly reminded us, we lost Jurgen, Gica and Barmby that summer.  The start of 95/96 began with attention back on our Darren.  Man U were reportedly now interested in him but he chose to stay loyal to Spurs, or did he ?  An injury picked up away to QPR wrote him off until the last four games of the season, this surely would have made Fergie think twice about signing him.  Spurs just missed out on a European place but Anderton was chosen for the Euro 96 squad.  Some people complained that he did not deserve to be included, they had a point but Darren was crucial to Venables' plans and had been the best player for England over the past two years until he got injured.  However, he played poorly for the majority of the tournament and his only significant contribution was to hit the post against the Germans in extra-time.  In a strange way I was kind of pleased that he had played crap so that none of the European clubs would have wanted to sign him.  Ruel Fox was somehow established as our right winger and with Darren having just played in a major international tournament he started to get strange ideas about playing in a central midfield role.  Why ?  His weakest attribute is his tackling and his best is his crossing. Darren had a patchy 96/97 as did the whole team.  This season was significant though, as it signalled a change in the fan's attitude to Anderton.  With our frustration at a boring mid-table campaign this began to be taken out on the out of form, always injured player.  Some of us questioned whether he was actually injured or if he was just content with picking up his wages whilst not doing anything. 

97/98 was another non-starter for Darren who only managed a handful of appearances towards the end of our fight for survival. His pal Teddy had left and we had adopted a new hero in Ginola.  He still managed to make it to France '98 though, as previously mentioned.  Darren's commitment to Spurs was once again called into question.  Similar to two years previous, he had missed the majority of the season for us but made sure he timed his comeback to coincide with a major tournament for England.  Many of us thought that this was too much of a coincidence. 

Gone was the shy young player who oozed ability and confidence, now he was (and still is) a player earning big bucks despite insisting on paying in an unsuitable role and missing far more games than he played.  I won't bore you with the next two seasons as they are still too clear in the memory and carry on in the same fashion with regards to Darren Anderton.  There are two roads which he can now take.  The first one is to play well for Tottenham and prove he can be the creator we so desperately need.  This will lead to a new contract here which he should sign to repay our loyalty and patience instead of leaving on a Bosman.  Or be can carry on the way he is currently and find himself out of contract at the end of the season with no big clubs willing to risk taking him on and only a move to a club like Everton or Middlesbrough where he will become a has-been. 

Darren, you have to produce this season more than any other, its now or never ! 

Lee Dumont

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