n17 nik

N17 Nik takes a look at the game today and Tottenham's part in it.

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atouba - my vote for the new cult hero ?

09.09.2004

Already I find Thimothee Atouba exciting - in a footballing kind of way.

As soon as he came on the pitch against Liverpool on his debut we scored (albeit nothing to do with him) and he then proceeded to run all over the pitch and in the process turned up in the right-back slot to stop Harry Kewell from scoring.  His goal against Newcastle was sublime and was on his supposed 'standing foot'.  I wonder what Steve Carr made of that ?

When the ball comes across to Atouba on the left-wing, I don't think even he knows what's going to happen. Will he mis-control it? Will he shoot? Will he power his way down the line? His build makes him look more like a Stuart Pearce-esque left-back rather than a left-winger but this appears to work to his advantage. I'm not sure many left-backs would want Atouba charging towards them. I'm also still unsure when he blasts a ball across the box if it's a shot or a cross?

He doesn't have the dribbling skills of David Ginola but I think he'll go on to have a successful Spurs career, just as long as he doesn't fall to the Tottenham injury curse. It's paramount that he doesn't as we are short of a quality replacement. Johnnie Jackson is still young but appears unlikely to ever offer much penetration down the left-wing.

I think that Atouba should become the new cult hero - he's already mine - and besides, he's already scored more than our last one.

 

predictions

11.08.2004

Another new season and yet another brand new start for Spurs. Here follows my first impressions of the new and my predictions for the forthcoming season.

Frank Arnesen certainly looks the business to me. He has a confident glint in his eye and seems the kind of chap to be successful in any walk of life. His black book appears to have helped bring in some new players from Europe and he has gone about bringing in players in a realistic manner. Hopefully he will give us the continuity that we've been lacking for years.

Jacques Santini was hailed as quite a coup when we got him but the doubters have already surfaced. A poor Euro 2004 for France and an even poorer pre season for Spurs have not instilled confidence. Injuries haven't helped to be fair but I'm not sure he knows what his best team is. He looks to me like someone's uncle who falls asleep in an armchair on a Sunday afternoon and not that inspiring. Maybe that's why big Martin Jol was brought in.

Paul Robinson was a great buy for the price. I think he'll be the first choice despite Keller's good pre season form. He is sizeable and this should help him dominate the box although it could lead to him putting weight on if he's not careful.

The three young defenders - Mills, Defendi and Muller - have been purchased as ones for the future. Fans have been given high expectations of young players before such as Blondel and so we'll have to wait and see with them

Like it or not, Spurs are now in the same bracket as Fulham and so getting Sean Davis is good business. He has a bit of everything and although he's unlikely to break into the England picture, I think he's about as good as we can do for now in central midfield.

I'm not sure about Pedro Mendes. He was only at Porto for one season and so you wonder why they sold him on and for such an economical price.  Whether he can cope with the hurly burly of the Premiership remains to be seen and I am sceptical.

I think Erik Edman will prove to be a good buy. Swedish players tend to be able to adapt to the English game and I'm sure he will also. He looks good on the ball and can get forward. He's also a natural left back - something we've not had for a few years.

Atouba was a surprising buy due to the fact that Edman and Muller were already in the bag. From being short of left backs, we now appear well stocked. I must confess to have never seen him play but hopefully Arnesen will have spotted a diamond.

I certainly hope that we don't sign either Bakari or Da Silva. Both players look like bad versions of Emile Heskey.

I was disappointed that we didn't sign Danny Murphy. I think he was undervalued at Anfield and whereas a bad game by Gerrard was accepted by the fans, one from Murphy wasn't. I'd rather have him in the side that Brown, Redknapp or Mendes.

Looking back at my squad assessment at the end of last season, the club have purchased players in most of the areas where I thought we were lacking. With Carr going, we're short of a right back but strong in numbers on the other side. Two central midfielders have come in also.

We're still short on the flanks though but the rumoured signing of Wright-Phillips would help here. With Postiga going also, we're short of a forward.

Danny Murphy aside, I think we've bought as well as a mid-table Premiership club can. The days of us signing the likes of Waddle, Paul Allen and Gascoigne are now over. The talent in the squad means that on paper we're capable of challenging for a UEFA Cup place and Aston Villa showed last season that a club can break from the pack and improve. We have a tricky start though and could well end up with no points from the first two games when a good start is needed to boost confidence. I think we'll enter the final few games of the season hoping to get enough points to finish in the top half of the league.

 

premiership xi

07.08.2004

Before musing upon the likely fortunes of Spurs this season, I thought I’d look back and pick my best Spurs XI since the inception of The Premiership in 1992/1993.

 

Goalkeeper 

Spurs have had three main goalkeepers in this time: Walker, Sullivan and Keller. 
Spurs fans appeared split between liking Walker because he came through our youth system and did have talent and disliking him for his often sloppy play and constant flicking of his hair behind his ears. His reflexes were first class but his failure to dominate his box eventually led to a replacement being signed. 
Neil Sullivan was purchased by George Graham from Wimbledon on a Bosman and this was good business. He was magnificent in his first full season and anyone who saw the FA Cup Semi Final defeat at Old Trafford would never forget his display. It was a mystery why his form disappeared almost overnight and he was replaced by Kasey Keller and never got back in the side. He was flogged to be an understudy at Chelsea and is now at Leeds – proof that his form doesn’t appear to be coming back.  
Keller has been the only player to be ever present in the side for the last two seasons. Since Sullivan’s departure there’s not been much competition until now but he’s still a Premiership standard keeper. There has been games when Keller has made save after save to keep Spurs in a game – normally he’d let at least one in though – but he also has kamikaze moments where he looks like his compatriot Sylvester Stallone did in Escape to Victory.

No 1: Neil Sullivan
Right Back 

Filling in aside, this slot mainly comes down to a choice between Dean Austin and Steve Carr. 
Carr has been a regular in the Eire side for many years and has also twice been voted in the PFA team of the year. Carr’s goal against Man Utd is often remembered but I have equally fond memories of his goal the same season against Sunderland where he somehow managed to keep the ball in play, ran half the length of the pitch and chipped the keeper. 
Austin didn’t get close to international honours, a PFA place or a great goal.

No 2: Steve Carr
Left Back 

Justin Edinburgh held this place for the early Premiership years before being overtaken by: Clive Wilson, Christian Ziege and Mauricio Taricco. 
Justin Edinburgh, like Austin, came from Southend at a young age. He was a combative defender who you couldn’t fault for effort and commitment but lacked finesse. 
Wilson was into his 30s when came to Spurs but had a calming influence on the side. He was composed, good with the ball and still had a bit of pace about him. Due to his age, he only lasted three years at Spurs – it was a shame we didn’t buy him sooner. 
Ziege played more as a wing-back under Glenn Hoddle. He was great going forward and set up and scored quite a few goals in his first season. His major fault was that he didn’t like defending and often switched off if play was going the other way – I don’t think him and Ginola would’ve made a good match. 
Taricco is good on the ball and an expert at one-twos. I feel that he was bought to fill in, but has spent more time in the team due to extensive injuries to Carr and Ziege.

No 3: Clive Wilson
Centre Backs 

Spurs have tried out many centre backs in the last twelve years and I’ve decided to ignore many who didn’t last long or do that well. I’ll never forget an early substitution of Colin Calderwood at home to Blackburn meant Spurs once had a back four of: Austin, Edinburgh, Cundy and Nethercott – needless to say we lost that game. 
Gary Mabbutt typifies the footballing term ‘stalwart’. I’m sure I don’t need to harp on about his merits but one of my fondest memories of him was in his final season in a game against Aston Villa. He came on as sub and was soon up against Dwight Yorke in a 50/50 race for the ball. No bets were likely to be taken but Gal stretched every inch of his body to slide in and win the ball. He wasn’t above gamesmanship either and often prodded opponents in the back whilst defending a corner – I think the shock of him doing this put attackers off. 
Calderwood didn’t have an easy start to his Spurs career but got his game together enough under Gerry Francis to become a consistent performer and a regular in the Scotland side. Of all the players we’ve had, he probably wins the most improved award. 
A certain Sol Campbell isn’t so popular in N17 these days but it has to be said he was a fine defender for us. Campbell had and still has everything that a modern defender needs and I doubt there’s a better centre back around right now. 
Ledley King is the heir to Campbell’s crown and he too has all the facets needed to be a top class centre back. The sticking points are his positioning and leadership but hopefully these will grow in time.

No 5: Sol Campbell

No 6: Gary Mabbutt (Captain)

Central Midfield 

I don’t feel we’ve had a single outstanding player in this area for the last decade or so. The early protagonists: Sedgley, Samways and Howells were all a step or two off international honours – Jason Dozzell was several more. 
Tim Sherwood was signed for big money from Blackburn and settled in quickly. He started well, slacked off, regained his form as Spurs reached Cardiff under Hoddle but then slacked off again. 
Steffen Freund has been the most popular midfielder for some time. His effort, commitment and winding up of opponents were legendary around the Lane. My favourite Freund game was when we bear Man Utd 3-1 at home. Roy Keane couldn’t handle him that day and ended up trying to kick lumps out of anything. When Carr scored his great goal, five or six Man Utd players surrounded Freund to have a go at him. He simply jogged away and laughed. 
Allan Nielsen will go down in history as the goal scorer against Leicester at Wembley. He had a good engine and the knack of scoring goals. His downsides were his passing was suspect and he often had trouble staying on his feet.

No 4: Steffen Freund

No 8: Tim Sherwood

Right Midfield 

Paul Allen was a fully committed player but was being edged out of the team as the Premiership began by Darren Anderton. Anderton got injured almost as soon as he joined us (a sign of things to come) but then showed the kind of form that brought him so many England caps. Anderton was at his best when keeping things simple: get on the outside, find half a yard, then whip a cross in. His career started to flounder when he decided he wanted to play central midfield. 
Simon Davies is probably Spurs best current player. He’s a busy player with an eye for goal and let’s hope he doesn’t follow in the footsteps of Anderton and be injury prone.

No 7: Darren Anderton
Left Midfield 

The bets really are off with this one. 
Andy Sinton nor Ronnie Rosenthal don’t match up to our most gifted player since Paul Gascoigne – David(e) Ginola. His critics say that he didn’t defend and this was true but he worked ever so hard going forward. He often left his wing and worked across the pitch and I doubt many players in the Premiership have had so much ball time. Despite being in an average Spurs side, he helped us to Wembley and also won the PFA player of the year award.

No 11: David Ginola
Centre Forwards 

Spurs have had many big money forwards in the Premiership and most of them have had one thing in common: injuries. Chris Armstrong, Les Ferdinand and Steffen Iversen spent more time on the treatment table than on the pitch. 
Even if they were always fit, none of them could budge the magical pairing from 1994/95 – Teddy Sheringham and Jurgen Klinsmann. Was it really only a year that they played together? If only it were longer…

No 9: Jurgen Klinsmann

No 10: Teddy Sheringham

 

 

spurs and euro 2004

06.07.2004

On the face of it Euro 2004 was disappointing from a Spurs point of view.  Not one of our players was a regular selection for any of the competing teams and our total pitch time was around 150 minutes – and a third of that was due to extra time.  Our manager-in-waiting also failed to guide the favourites to victory. 

Ledley King was seen by many as being the star of the show for his accomplished defensive performance against the French.  He proved that he can play at the highest level and it’s satisfactory to know that he came through our youth system.  Unless he gets snapped up by one of our Champions League chasing sides, Ledley should play at the heart of Spurs defence for the next ten years. 

Helder Postiga’s goal against England appeared to spark great interest in him.  Tottenham claim that Porto made a bid for the player that they sold to us less than a year ago, but this was turned down.  It’s true that his goal changed the game, but I wonder if the level of interest would’ve been shown in him if he hadn’t scored.  I also think that he mis-kicked his penalty and that he meant to chip the ball a lot higher, but still, he showed the kind of confidence in that moment that he was devoid of for most of the season with Spurs.  The goal brought some bold statements from Postiga that he wants to be a first choice striker otherwise he’ll look elsewhere.  I’d rather have Keane and Defoe in the team. 

Jacques Santini’s French side were hot favourites for the tournament, but only offered glimpses of why this was.  For the most part they looked arrogant and seemed to think that they only had to turn up to win the game.  The playing squad at Tottenham do have talent, but require the attributes that took the Greek side to victory in order to be successful: fitness, organisation and hunger.  A few ex-Spurs players have noted that many of our players thought pulling on the lilywhite shirt would be enough to guarantee a performance but we know all too well that this isn’t the case.  Santini’s French side appeared to have lacked motivation – the one thing that Spurs have showed little of over recent years.  The playing staff at Tottenham is talented enough to be chasing a UEFA Cup place and this will be the benchmark for Santini. 

Following any major tournament there’s always a glut of transfer activity involving many of the players involved.  Two big name players, Davids and Lizarazu, have both come out in the press to declare that they’re interested in joining us.  These declarations come with a warning though.  Big name players have used Spurs before in order to secure better deals elsewhere – remember Rivaldo ?  The fact that both players have mentioned that Champions League football is a factor obviously means that they are hankering from offers from other clubs and Spurs will be the fall back.  If no other offers are forthcoming, I’d gladly see both of the players at The Lane though.  We need a left back and a midfield general and these two fit the bill.  Davids would also be a dream for the marketers at Tottenham. 

We shall wait and see what changes are afoot at N17 over the next few weeks…

 

the summer sale

18.05.2004

The Great Summer Sale

 

David Pleat has claimed that Spurs are in good shape for whoever is appointed to take charge of the team. In terms of finance, support and location he’s certainly correct. Obviously Pleat was referring mainly to the team but is he correct? Below is my analysis of the current squad and some suggestions of realistic (no Morientes et al) potential signings.

 

Goalkeepers

 

To purchase the second choice England goalkeeper for £1.5 million is damn good business. Paul Robinson has many years ahead of him and should even improve. It’s true that none of the teams that qualified for the Champions League wanted him but he’s certainly one of the better keepers in the Premiership. Kasey Keller has had his critics this season but he’s also produced some outstanding performances. It’s likely that he’ll be number two and he’s certainly a strong back up.

 

Verdict: No need to strengthen here.

 

Full Backs

 

The future of Steve Carr is uncertain and it’s likely that he’d leave if a Champions League chasing club like Newcastle or Liverpool came in for him. He’s still one of the better right backs in the league but has under performed this season. If his heart is no longer at the club, it’s obviously better to part with him in the summer for a small cash sum rather than lose him to a Bosman. If he does leave, Stephen Kelly would be our only other right back and due to his inexperience, we would need to sign a replacement. Unpopular as he is, Danny Mills is going for an economical fee of around £1.5 million and could be an option. Spurs certainly need toughening up and with his London connections, he could well be worth a bid if Carr goes.

 

With Christian Ziege being released, Taricco is the only out and out left back at the club. Although he’s neat and tidy on the ball, I’ve never thought Taricco is a tight enough defender and so I think we need a new left back. I must confess that nobody springs to my mind but I’m sure there’s someone on the continent. Not Tremazzani though!

 

Verdict: We certainly need a new left back and a right back if Carr goes.

 

Centre Backs

 

Ledley King has been selected in the England squad for the European Championships and has the talent to be an international centre back. Anthony Gardner has also played for England this season and certainly has ability but perhaps also has a mental slackness. Talent wise, the King/Gardner partnership is fine but I worry that neither of them is a leader. Even so, I think they are worth a trial for a season. Doherty and Richards have both had their critics this season and could easily find themselves on their way in the summer but either is OK as back up. Let’s hope that Mabizela gets a chance to prove himself in the close season though.

 

Verdict: OK for now but an area to keep an eye on.

 

Wingers

 

This is certainly an area where Spurs are short. Simon Davies is probably our best player and hopefully will hold the right side of midfield for many years to come. All the other wide players in the squad are largely unproved. Rohan Ricketts is worth a close look preseason and Jackson and Yeates still have time on their side. Spurs could bid for two probable Chelsea cast offs: Zenden and Gronkjaer. It’s likely the pair could be purchased for around £5 million and would give the side good balance and squad depth.

 

Verdict: We definitely need a left sided player, possibly two and maybe cover on the right.

 

Central Midfield

 

I was surprised that Redknapp was offered a new contract and I would prefer Spurs to have two battling central midfielders. We’ve been linked with Van Bommel but whether he’d want to come with us is a different matter. One man who is surely available is Nicky Butt and I’d snap him up for £5 million. Another big name option could be Mendieta who has done well for ‘Boro and could command a similar fee. Matt Dawson from Nottingham Forest has been strongly linked but having not seen him play, it’s impossible to comment.

 

Verdict: Spurs are crying out for a midfield general.

 

Strikers

 

Spurs are well stocked in this area but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was some movement up front. Kanoute has had his differences with Pleat and Postiga is unlikely to be happy with being fourth choice. That said, if they all do stay, we won’t need to purchase anyone else.

 

Verdict: Our strongest area.

 

Conclusion

 

Potentially the squad is decent. We have a number of young English internationals that could form the nucleus of the side for many years to come. In order to form a UEFA chasing side, I think we’ll need to purchase four or five new players. What Spurs need above all are leaders both on and off the pitch.

21.05.2004

I was reading N17 Nik’s analysis of the team a little while ago and I remembered doing my own analysis a few weeks ago. It comes out pretty close to what Nik has said and I thought it would make an interesting back-up to his points. It was completed prior to the release of several players & the signing of Paul Robinson. 

Cheers
Enda McGuire

When you analyse the squad in fine detail it does show that we are nowhere near a top 4/5/6 side at the moment BUT the transfer policy of buying young is (I hope) building to that. 

Keller - decent shot stopper, distribution terrible, can't command his area: You're out of here. 

Carr - Below his best certainly from what I've seen this season but still in the top 3 or 4 RB's in the country. New Contract & Stay. 

Gardner - On the verge of becoming a superstar, is starting to add a bit of aggression to his game, poised, comfortable on the ball, reads the game well, the next Rio Ferdinand. 

King - I'm unique in that I don't think he's out of his depth in midfield, a great ball winner and has decent distribution, I am surprised though that with Jamie Redknapp fit he hasn't been reverted back to Centre Back. Another long term good bet. 

Tano - Honest(ish), always gives 100% but not really up to it, keep as a squad player as he can cover both flanks. 

Richards - Not sure 12 months ago was one of our best players, now we are consigning him to the scrap heap (fickle us??). I know he's had a shocking season but I think he may come good again. 

Doc - Similar to Tano, honest, Mr. 100% good in the air good on the ground but not top class, decent cover though. Keep as a squad player, for now. 

OJ - This boy could go one of 2 ways, if we don't give him a chance we'll never know. All I will say is look at Radebe. OJ is rated higher than he was in SA, youngest ever Captain of Bafana Bafana & Captained Orlando Pirates to the PSL title prior to joining Spurs. He has the ability, we need to trust in him a little bit. Also he is a Centre Back by trade and not a Defensive Midfielder. 

Ziege - the time has come, another injury prone player bought by Hoddle who hasn't contributed enough for me. Goodbye. 

Kelly & Marney - The only 2 of the youngsters I've seen. Marney looked lost against Man U but I don't think Pleats tactics helped him or the team. Kelly looked has looked solid from what I’ve seen and is very, very highly regarded in the Irish set up. 

In summary I like the look of our defence except for left back. Kelly seems right footed to me and this is an urgent purchase. We desperately need a new keeper and I’m far from convinced that Robinson is the answer. He may be better than Keller but he lacks that physical presence that all great keepers have. If there’s no one else then by all means get Robbo but I stand by my belief that we should have been in for Sorensen from Sunderland last summer. 

Davies – Put up or shut up time, like Carr behind him this boy has the ability but has been below par. A top class player in his day we need to hold on to him and get him back to the days of old. 

Brown – Great signing, no world beater but does the simple things well. If Hoddle had bought him 18 months ago we would be a different team now. 

Redknapp – Injury prone will never get more than a dozen or so full games a season. Time to go. 

Poyet – Should have been pushed last year.

Anderton – played well in patches early in the season but is now past his best and becoming even more (if that’s possible) injury prone, another one for the exit door.

Bunjy / Acimovic – Adios 2 examples of Hoddle's insistence on buying players incapable of making a tackle.

Jackson – Looks decent enough, another season as a fringe player beckons but it will give us an indication if he really is capable of making it.

Ricketts – Looked great early in the season appeared to be rested and then never came back!! Don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes but I had high hopes for this kid, hopefully he can come back strong.

Yeates – Another highly regarded Irish boy. Has apparently played exceptionally well in the reserves and seemed to do well when getting his chance against Wolves.

So Midfield, 2 players for the first team & 2/3 for the future. Sobering reading when you think we need 2 first team players and a couple of squad players. To be fair on Pleat I think this is why he persisted with King in midfield as he probably thinks we can’t possibly sign 4 midfielders in the summer, it’s also why he was trying OJ there in the reserve reports I’ve read?

Keane – I can’t believe there are transfer rumours about this man, he has been a shining light in very dark times. He is a quality player, okay he’s not Henry or Van Nistelrooy but he’s far better than Forlan, Wiltord et all. A must keep.

Defoe – What a signing, this lad is the next Clive Allen, looks a natural goal scorer and destined to become a WHL legend.

Kanoute – Fantastic prior the ANC but having lost his place looks lazy and methodical. An excellent striker with a better than you’d expect goal scoring record needs to be loved and is one to hold on to. Also gives us an aerial & physical presence up front which none of the other 3 do.

Postiga – Ah Helder, what high hopes we all had back in August. To be fair to the kid (and he is just that) he started the season well despite not scoring. I still think he has what it takes but I am concerned that he won’t progress without games and he is firmly in 4th place in the pecking order. Like Jackson & Ricketts in midfield has a make or break season coming up but I would definitely hold on to him for now.

 

 

the end is nigh

06.05.2004

Saturday sees the final home game of the season for Spurs and I expect all home supporters are happy about that.  I can’t really see the review of the season video selling well.  The bare facts are that we have a squad of players that are capable of getting us into Europe and have the finances to boot.  

So, what has gone wrong?

Our last game against Aston Villa says it all for me.  Player for player, be it in the team or squad, we are better than them.  Whilst they are chasing a Champions League spot, we’ve just about staved off relegation.  The finger of blame has been pointed at Pleat, Levy and the players and for me; the latter must take the majority of the blame.

The last two England man of the match awards have gone to Ledley King and Jermain Defoe: two international bright young things that play for Spurs.  Anthony Gardner has also made his England debut this season and joins the likes of Carr, Doherty, Keane, Postiga and Kanoute as being current internationals.  Couple that with: Anderton, Redknapp, Keller, Poyet and Ziege who are ex-internationals, the squad seems pretty healthy.

The squads of Birmingham, Charlton, Southampton et al pale into insignificance compared to the names in the Spurs squad, yet while they are chasing Europe, we’re relying on Leeds to lose so that we can stay up.  Watching Alan Smith chase every ball hits home what his club mean to him.  Can we say the same about any Spurs player ?

In a recent interview on the Spurs website, Chris Hughton told that if he could have any ex-player in the current team it would be Steve Perryman.  I’m sure many supporters would rather see Hoddle, Gascoigne or Ginola, but I take his point.  It appears that Chris knows about the lack of heart in the team, but does everyone else at the club ?  So much lip service is given to playing the Tottenham way, but this is complete rubbish.  We’ve not been attractive for years and the game has changed.  Spurs haven’t been successful for ages, but we’ve normally had players like Paul Allen, David Howells or Steve Sedgley who knew about the shirt.  Given our current predicament can the same be said of our current crop ?

Saturday’s game against Blackburn means nothing in terms of the result, but I wonder if the players will have the cheek to do a lap of honour ?  I would urge fans to leave the ground before the final whistle.  The end result is they get paid more than you, but they sure do care less than you.

 

pleaty

26.4.2004

At the end of this season, David Pleat will come to the conclusion of his caretaker-manager spell and will then revert back to his real job on the board of directors.  I think the club would be better off if Pleat left altogether.

Pleat re-joined the club to add football knowledge to the board.  At the time of his appointment, this seemed like a good idea.  Pleat had a brief, but attractive spell in charge of Spurs in the late 1980s and was one of football’s respected elder statesmen.

After the sacking of Christian Gross, Pleat had his first spell as caretaker-manager and many fans voiced their support for him to get the job rather than George Graham.  Despite steadying the ship, Pleat was overlooked and Graham got the nod.  Whatever Spurs fans thought of Graham, he was definitely his own man and didn’t take kindly to Pleat making waves about signing players such as Craig Bellamy and Robbie Keane that Graham didn’t wish to.  In retrospect, signing these players at that time would’ve been great business and also signings such as Anthony Gardner and Simon Davies were undoubtedly brokered by Pleat.  Probably due to feeling a little redundant, Pleat made several waves about ‘doing a Ron Atkinson’ and coming down from up high to try and save clubs from relegation.  No offers appeared forthcoming.

When Daniel Levy came in and sacked George Graham, no one could argue that Glenn Hoddle was the man to manage the club.  Pleat and Hoddle appeared to have had an uneasy relationship during Pleat’s spell in charge and when Hoddle was sacked, mutterings from Hoddle about Pleat’s interference surfaced.  Hoddle even suggested that Pleat be given the job to prove if he could do it or not.

Pleat started his second spell as caretaker-manager and things started brightly.  He spoke about the need for a continental system of a General Manager and a Head Coach: presumably, Pleat himself would be that General Manager.  However, when results started to suffer, Pleat began to back track and made it be known that he was simply the caretaker-manager and that he’d soon be back on the board.

Throughout Pleat’s time on the board, he’s always hinted that he’s wanted the manager’s job. Well, he’s had that now and has failed. Pleat obviously craved more involvement with the team during the spells of Gross, Graham and Hoddle, but all that produced was friction with the manager. Pleat is paid £300k a year for his football knowledge, but in his time at the club, it hasn’t moved a single step forward.  In any other industry, Pleat would’ve been sacked for failing to achieve his objective, i.e. to make the team more successful.

Daniel Levy has made great noises about the club bringing in a top-notch European coach and some of the names banded around are impressive.  If we do employ someone of the ilk of O’Neill, Capello or Trapattoni, do you really think they would want Pleat’s help ?  I can’t think of another club in the Premiership who have an ex-manager on the board purely for his football knowledge and I don’t think Spurs need one either.

 

lessons from rebrov

10.3.2004

For the second time in recent close-seasons Spurs splashed out a big sum for a relatively unknown European striker.  Sergei Rebrov arrived in 2000 from Dynamo Kiev after scoring many goals for them both domestically and in Europe.  Helder Postiga arrived last summer from Porto with a similar record, albeit over a shorter time span.  Like Rebrov, despite becoming a bit of a crowd favourite, Postiga has impressed few neutrals with his time on the pitch.  Worse still for him, due to the recent signing of Defoe and the form of Kanoute and Keane, he will be lucky to make the Spurs bench. 

In the games that he’s played, Postiga has certainly come across as a trier who has decent control, technique and passing ability.  However, he is a main striker and they are judged on goals.  He is not, for example, like Dennis Bergkamp, whose creative ability is probably more important than his goal ratio. 

Forwards are often described as confidence players and this appears to be Postiga’s biggest problem.  A miss from a striker is much like a mistake from a goalkeeper in that it gets remembered.  It has been Postiga’s main failing that he’s struggled in front of goal and therefore his confidence has dropped as his mistakes get a lot of attention. 

It appears great to have four big name strikers at the club but we’ve seen with Rebrov that an odd appearance or five minutes here and there simply don’t help a bit part player.  As discussed, forwards rely on confidence but they also need time to gel into the team: to get used to a partner and know what runs to make etc.  All this can only be gained by actually playing.  David Pleat can’t put Postiga in the team simply for these reasons as, however unlikely, there is still the glimmer of obtaining a UEFA cup place and so the other forwards must be selected as they are in good form. 

There is the suggestion that Postiga is ‘one for the future’ but he was purchased to be very much one for the team.  Even if the former statement is true, the three forwards ahead of him still have plenty of Premiership years left in them. 

Spurs are not in the Champions League and so there isn’t the need to rotate the players.  Some Man Utd players such as Forlan, Kleberson and Fortune seem happy to play twenty odd games a season because they are involved in trophy chasing.  Our first team squad is smaller and the big name players will be less inclined to be rotated as they won’t need a rest and they’ll also want to play in order to obtain international selection. 

We obviously have two choices with Postiga – keep him or sell him.  If we keep him, it’s unlikely he’ll get back in the team this season, unless we have an injury crisis, and so he won’t improve.  Ditto for next season too.  Also, the longer we keep him, the more his value decreases.  It’s likely that we’re going to get zero return on the £11 million we spent on Rebrov.  Can the club afford a repeat of this? 

If we decide to sell Postiga in the summer, he’ll still have some of his reputation in tact and so we may get a fair price for him.  We could also use him as bait like we did with Zamora for Defoe.  Spurs don’t have a limitless budget and one idea is to swap him for players in other positions where we are short, like central midfield or the left-hand side. 

It is true that there is the danger that if we sell Postiga, he could go on to do well elsewhere.  The club could protect themselves though by inserting clauses into the transfer based on more money if he scores X amount of goals, for example. 

You can talk all you like about building for the future but football is all about the now and I think needs must and so I’d seriously consider moving Postiga on if I were in charge.  I appreciate that Spurs do need four capable strikers but I see Postiga as a risk and I’m sure there are more sure-fire goal scorers around who could be purchased for less than half of what we paid for him. 

 

 

death of a passer

26.2.2004

When I first started watching football in the early 1980s all top league teams had at least one passer in the centre of midfield.  For example, we had Glenn Hoddle, Manchester United had Arnold Muhren and Liverpool had Jan Molby.  The job of these players was to receive the ball from their less technically gifted team mates and then attempt to conjure a killer pass.  If no such pass was on, they would ensure that their team kept possession: rarely did these players give the ball away.  Tasks such as sprinting up and down the pitch or flying into tackles were not in their job descriptions.  This was a certainly a relief for Jan Molby in particular.  

Despite the current comeback of 80s pop sensations Duran Duran, it’s unlikely the ilk of the passing sensations will be seen again in our top league.  The emphasis on central midfielders nowadays is much more on speed, strength and stamina and passing midfielders are rarely seen in the Premiership.  

Currently at Spurs, we have two senior squad members, Anderton and Redknapp, who could be classed as ‘passers’.  Both of them like to play central and both like time on the ball – although they rarely get it in the hurly-burly of the Premiership.  The change in midfield emphasis has evolved during the careers of the duo and to be fair both have tried to adapt.  However, Anderton and Redknapp are not blessed with great physical strength, pace, stamina or fitness.  I feel sorry for Redknapp in particular, as he’s certainly a trier and twenty years ago probably would’ve been one of the top midfield dogs.  

As we are about to move into yet another new era at Spurs it will be interesting to see if the new manager intends to play with two up-and-down central midfielders like the top Premiership teams do: Arsenal have Vieira and Gilberto, Manchester United have Keane and Neville and Chelsea have Parker and Makelele.  David Pleat is trying to mirror this with King and Brown, but it’s well recognised that King’s best position is centre back.  Brown is certainly a new-age central midfielder and looks worth persevering with.  With around £10 million in our transfer kitty, Nicky Butt is affordable and could well provide the answer.  The outlook for Anderton and Redknapp could well look glum, with the creative players mainly being the wide players these days.  

The current pace of the game has killed off the pure passers and I think this is a shame.  I doubt that Messrs. Hoddle, Muhren and Molby would’ve been as successful in the modern era and so I’m glad that I got to watch them in their pomp, in a time when they were allowed to play.

 

circles

15.02.04

They say that life goes in circles and so it appears in N17…

The news that Glenn Hoddle has been in talks with Rupert Lowe about the vacant Southampton post has been reported to have been greeted with divided opinion amongst their fans. I have many friends on the South Coast and I can tell you that a Saints fan who actually wants Hoddle doesn’t appear to have been found yet. The reactionary element doesn’t want him because he walked out on them to join us – the more thoughtful element doesn’t want him because he simply didn’t succeed at Tottenham.

Hoddle did have an immediate effect at Southampton when he took over. They were waning under Dave Jones and the results and the football were not good. With the exceptions of Kevin Keegan, Graeme Souness and possibly Peter Shilton, Hoddle was the biggest thing to ever walk into a home Southampton dressing room. The players probably couldn’t believe their luck and I expect that they hung on his every word. Results and performances vastly improved and Saints were on the verge of a European spot until Daniel Levy came calling.

If you ignore the tail end of the 2000/2001 season, Hoddle’s reign at Tottenham started well. Ziege provided goals and ammunition from the left and the cliché about Teddy being fine was true. However, at the business end of that season; things went wrong. How we failed to beat an average Blackburn team who had four key players suspended for the final beggars belief. The performances for the first three-quarters of that season mirrored that of Southampton under Hoddle.

Losing that final to Blackburn cost us a European place and the cash and prestige that goes with it. From that point on, with a few good performances apart, things started to decay. All of the leaders in the camp – Sheringham, Sherwood and Freund – fell out with Hoddle and they left chewing sour grapes.

And so it was that Hoddle was sacked in September of this season. The team looked leaderless both on and off the pitch and, adore him as we did as a player, the decision was the correct one.

It’s pretty clear that Rupert Lowe does want Hoddle at Southampton but whether he’s brave enough to go against the fans remains to be seen. Lowe obviously remembers well the bright start Hoddle made at Southampton but doesn’t appear to have paid close attention to the parallels of his Tottenham managerial career.

The pattern of having a good start and then tailing off is one that us Spurs fans know too well. Remember how under George Graham we won the Worthington Cup and got to an FA Cup semi-final in his first season but were then forced to watch stale football? George Graham wasn’t a popular choice to replace Christian Gross, a bit like Hoddle isn’t to replace Strachan. The antagonism can be quietened after a few good results but the pressure mounts if an unpopular choice doesn’t produce the goods – even if he has to face injuries etc.

Remember how under Gerry Francis we immediately rose up the league and go to an FA Cup semi-final in his first season only for it all to turn sour? Gerry Francis’ managerial career went in a perfect circle. He began at Bristol Rovers, progressed to QPR and then was elevated to Tottenham. After resigning from Spurs, he went back to QPR and then soon to Bristol Rovers.

Remember how Christian Gross won his first game away at Everton? He also won his last game at Everton.

The tales from our recent past should strike a note of caution to you all that, whoever Levy and Pleat have up there sleeve, if they have a good start it doesn’t necessarily mean it will last.

On a personal note, I hope that Hoddle doesn’t get the Southampton job. I never shouted a word against him when he was here because he was my hero as a kid: I even wore my shirt outside my shorts when playing junior football. However, I think the flaws in his communication skills, probably coming from his quiet self-arrogance, will mean that he’s unlikely to be a success in Premiership management. At a smaller club, like Swindon, he could well succeed as the players would be puppy-like in his presence. Premiership players are so up their own arse these days that they need an expert communicator as well as a tactician to make them tick…and even then it doesn’t always work. On the flip side, if things go well for him at Saints, they might beat us!

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