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07.05.2007

With the season coming to the crunch time for Tottenham, it has been one of contrasts.

It seems that the side have returned to their former reputation of being a cup side, while the league form has stuttered.  Martin Jol has said that the team have won more games than last season, but we have also lost more.  The performances have been inconsistent which is perhaps understandable when we will have played 61 games by the end of the season.  Most of the players are probably unaccustomed to playing twice a week (especially after last season with an all time low of 40 games) and therefore tiredness and injuries pile up.  One of which has hit Tottenham hard, with Ledley King missing from Boxing Day until the start of April. 

The team have had some trouble scoring goals and keeping them out at the other end.  This sees us going into the game against Charlton with a zero goal difference with 52 scored and the same number conceded.  The defensive side of the game has to be tightened up to ensure that the club moves forward.  While Berbatov and Keane both have 21 goals at the moment, a lot have come in the cup competitions, so the conversion rate of the chances we make must be increased.  Berbatov is exempt from criticism in this area, as he has made a definite impact in his first season and when you consider how many players fail to do so (Henry and Drogba spring to mind).  Others need to look at their ratio of chances to goals and the supply to the front two has dried up at times during the season.  This is partially due to the tiredness of Aaron Lennon, who looks to have played too many games this season.  It has been difficult for Jol to drop him, as our only wide man available, with this being something that needs to be addressed in the summer.  Had we kept Wayne Routledge, it would have been possible to mix and match the two throughout the season to get both through the campaign.

Of the other midfielders, Didier Zokora has come good as the season has gone on.  His surging runs from midfield commit teams and this creates space for others ... which is just as well, as he appears to be the new Steffen Freund when it comes to shooting !!  Jermain Jenas splits Spurs fans down the middle.  I am surrounded by people at the Lane who constantly abuse him and cannot see why he is on the pitch.  Unfortunately, they had all gone by the time he got the equaliser against the Gooners.  Perhaps they do not see what he does off the ball.  Perhaps they do not see the runs he makes ... like the one at Wigan to win the penalty from the edge of his own box and into theirs.  Perhaps they don't see the tracking back he does.  Perhaps they only see the free-kicks he strikes over the bar or the passes he puts astray.  Yes, he does that, but when other players in the team do the same, there is rarely the same level of derision.  I think we missed him when he was out injured and while Teemu Tainio is a whole-hearted player who gets stuck in and Steed Malbranque can move forward with a flicked pass and cross, neither has the engine that Jenas possesses.  Ghaly is an enigma.  He can turn in performances like he did away at Chelsea in the FA Cup or he cannot turn up at all.  He needs to gain the consistency that makes him a better player.

With Paul Robinson seemingly carrying a hangover from his England blooper in Croatia into the season, he bounced back well towards the end of this campaign with some very good saves, which kept Spurs in the points (saving from McCulloch and Viduka in the Wigan and Boro games spring to mind).  He ahs had his nervy moments, but every keeper will have them from time to time, but he has knuckled down and returned to form.  He has a long future ahead of him and I would prefer it to be at Tottenham than elsewhere.  And he is the first keeper to score in a meaningful match (at the right end) since Pat Jennings.  With a shot like that from 98 yards, imagine what he would be like from close range !!

The defence has starred Michael Dawson, who has been a pillar of strength.  It was an inspired signing when others were not willing to take chance on him, but he gets better and better.  Pascal Chimbonda has had a good first season, but in the latter stages appears to have lost a little pace, while Young-Pyo Lee is now being missed on the left of the defence, which I never thought I would say, as we are having to play players out of position to cover him.  I still think that this position needs to be strengthened in the summer transfer window though.  With Davenport gone and Gardner injured, it saw Ricardo Rocha come in and he has done well in settling in quickly.  A couple of slips apart and the tough game he had against Heskey, he has stuck to his task and won headers against bigger men.  He also reads the game well.

The big worry for Tottenham is the injury to Ledley which doesn't seem to clear up fully.  Hopefully, he is over it now, but the constant links with Curtis Davies keep resurfacing.  With only younger players in reserve, perhaps another central defender will come into the squad.

Off the pitch, the club enters it's 125th year, with a range of products (and that is what they are) to be launched to make you part with your hard earned cash.  A new kit will preview next week and it will probably echo one of the early kits to tug at the loyalty of the fans in parting with another 40+.  That will be on top of the new away kit, probably.

If you feel left out you can always shell out 7.99 for a limited edition casino ship with a player's name number and picture on it.  Only 30 chips to complete the whole set !!  That works out about one third of a season ticket.  but don't gamble your money away buying casino chips, you can buy the latest affiliated goods that Tottenham Hotspur are endorsing.  Insurance, car suppliers, water, financial services ... you name it Tottenham have got it ... and you can probably pay with your own Tottenham Hotspur credit card if you like (they will even give you a free cap (with last year's crest on) to entice you to sign up.  How long will it be before the club go down the route of the Premier League and have an official chewing gum ??  With season ticket prices being raised once more, which is out of line with almost every other Premiership club in the country, they still want you to put more money into the club.

Having paid Category A prices for all the UEFA Cup games this season and the other cup games when a top club has been drawn out against us, it is not surprising that the UEFA Cup quarter final against Sevilla at White Hart Lane saw empty seats around  the stadium.  This was something I thought was for the likes of Chelsea with their glory hunting fans or Middlesbrough with their little following who seemed to shun success.  I did not think European nights at the Lane would still have tickets available.

There comes a point when fans will say enough is enough.  The prices are high now, when Spurs have failed to put a trophy on the sideboard for eight years.  What will happen if we actually won something or ... heaven forbid ... qualify for the Champions League ??  A number of fans I speak to have said that they have not been able to afford to attend every home game this season, despite having a season ticket.  And some more have said that they will not be able to afford the price of that season ticket next season.  Tottenham do not care about that.  Their interest is in taking money for the seat ... not who pays that money.  But they should always be aware of history telling them that money is not the be all and end all.  Look at Leeds United.  Dropping down to League One, having gone into administration to give them a chance to re-align some of their debts.  They were in the Champions League semi-final not too many years ago, so remember that the fall from grace can be swift.

Despite the money we have had to pay out, I must say most fans have been great this season.  The atmosphere at White Hart Lane has seen a return to the electric nights of European football and the crowd have been right behind the team in most games this season in the league and other cups.  Where the club will end up playing is an on-going question which not many people know the answer to.  A rise to 50,000 capacity might be enough for the time being, as there are questions about selling out, especially if prices are hiked once more.  Whether it will be at the Lane or the new Olympic Stadium come 2012 ... who knows ?

Looking back, it has been a season of highs and lows.  From being roasted by Manchester United 0-4 at home (they are the best team in the league this season by some distance) to burying the hoodoo of the Chelsea losses.  From the high of being 2-0 up against Arsenal in the League Cup semi to being 0-2 down to Sevilla inside nine minutes in the UEFA Cup quarter final.  From being 3-1 up against Chelsea at the Bridge to being pegged back to 3-3 in the same game.  These moments show where we need to move to.  To be able to live with the Manchester United's of this world.  To be able to hold onto leads ... be it against Arsenal, Chelsea, Sevilla or Sheffield United or Newcastle.  To be able to contest matches on an even footing.  I don't expect this to come overnight nor do I comprehend why Martin Jol to have to go through periods of the season with fans questioning his ability to take Tottenham forward.  Yes, he has failings, but where were we three seasons ago ??  Jol might not be the man to take us right to the top, but there is a long way to go before we get there and he is shrewd enough and tough enough, with the knowledge of what needs to be done, to do that part of the job at least.

So, some things to ponder on and some things to take forward as positives ... which always seems to be the way with Tottenham.  But you know whatever happens, we will always ...

Keep the faith.


MY EYES HAVE SEEN THE GLORY OF THE CUPS AT WHITE HART LANE
MY EYES HAVE SEEN THE GLORY OF THE CUPS AT WHITE HART LANE
MY EYES HAVE SEEN THE GLORY OF THE CUPS AT WHITE HART LANE
AND THE SPURS GO MARCHING ON.

BRUCE CASTLE

 

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