View From
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24.01.2009

I must say I have not improved my mood since the last "View" as it seems that football along with a number of other professional sports no longer are determined by what happens on the pitch/track/road, but by things that are determining who will be the best off it.  And in some cases the worst.

The money being pumped into Manchester City from their Abu Dhabi owners is beyond reality and the 110 bid for AC Milan's Brazilian midfielder Kaka is obscene.  But none more so than the 500,000 a week wages he was being offered for playing for the team a few places above us in the Premier League.  FIFA really need to step in now and do something about transfer fees and wages, with a cap for both payments to stop the sport spinning out of control and becoming a rich man's plaything.

Coming in when they did, it was obvious that the real business of strengthening their squad would come in the January transfer window.  Signing Robinho just before the summer window slammed shut was just a sign of intent.  But when Harry Redknapp has come in at Tottenham and now makes an assessment of the talent available to him that it lacks the quality he thought there was is really quite frightening.  Some of this side were among those who took the club to two fifth place finishes, so have they become bad players over the space of a couple of years ?

Perhaps Redknapp's modus operandi is not to get the best out of other people's players, but to bring in his own.  He has been known as a wheeler-dealer when it comes to buying players and although the two signings he has made so far (Defoe and Palacios) make sense, we have had to pay well over the odds for them and some of that has been due to Hughes' millions that he has to offer for seemingly every player Tottenham go after.  Thank goodness we made an agreement that they could have Bellamy - a player that Harry said was what Tottenham needed, but do we really need a trouble-maker, who will allegedly go on strike when he can't get his own way ?  We have seen what Bellamy is capable of and it tends to be the off-field headlines which make essential reading.

With Manchester City being flooded with oil dollars, it means that each season fans hope to win a trophy, but now, it will see supporters reaching every August wishing for a moneyed benefactor to make sure you are among the wealthiest and thus able to compete for the silverware.  The whole situation is unstable with the City owners already talking about making a bid for Chelsea, which will probably leave the Mancs in schtuck, as they can't own two clubs at the same time and obviously, with a team in the top echelons already, it will make the Pensioners a more attractive proposition to spread the owners name across the globe.  With such finances being pumped into clubs, it is not level playing field for everyone.  Once the "People's Game", football is rapidly becoming the game of only the most wealthy.

Interestingly, the FourFourTwo magazine piece about who the most wealthy men in football are saw Tottenham Hotspur owner Joe Lewis come in fourth with a personal wealth of 2.5 billion.  First was the Manchester City owners with 15 billion; in second place was Lakshmi Mittal of QPR who is worth 12.5 billion and Roman Abramovich had slipped to third with 7 billion.  Close behind Lewis was Bernie Ecclestone with 2.4 billion.

Now, I know that this is how much they are worth and not their stake in clubs, but it indicates the proportion of their own money they have put into clubs.  While he gets stick for not making Newcastle United a world super-power in the game of football, it is reported that Mike Ashley has put in 100 million at St. James Park, just to keep them afloat.  I am of the opinion that Tottenham are a well run club when it comes to finances and that they will not over-stretch themselves.  It was therefore a bit of a surprise that the club said that they would freeze season ticket prices for two years (what could be the last two at the current ground).  Never slow to seize on an opportunity to bump up the cost of going to matches (in and out of the ground), it is a welcome recognition that football is entertainment and not an essential (although it is for many and that is what football clubs capitalise on).  The empty seats around White Hart Lane for several matches this season indicate that the financial crisis that is gripping the world is making people make decisions on what they can do without and with the team not excelling this season, it has made it a less enticing option when it comes to spending cash.  I never thought I would see empty seats at the Lane on a European night, but then I suppose I never thought that I would see Woolworths disappearing from the High Street.

Away from the money side and onto the pitch, it was interesting to see Joey Barton once more in the headlines.  Having served a term in prison for assaulting team-mate Ousmane Dabo when at Manchester City, he had turned up at a meeting with his probation officer by driving through a red light and cutting up other drivers and more recently got involved in a contretemps on the pitch with one of his defenders, who Barton thought should have done better in preventing a goal against Newcastle.  There appear to be more players like this infiltrating the game, who should be grateful they are in such a privileged position and not back on the street, as anyone who did half the things they do would be banged up in prison without being given chance after chance.

Newcastle should have shown some gumption in sacking Barton, but the reason they didn't was because he is worth more to the club, even soiled by his reputation, than if they let him go.  Surely people in most other walks of life would have been dismissed from their employment if they had beaten up a work colleague and then found it hard to find work again.  In football, Bolton Wanderers and Portsmouth were both awaiting the outcome of his situation to see if they could could sign him up for nothing.  When Kaka is worth 110 million and Barton moved to St. James Park for 5.8 million, it makes you wonder if football has lost all sense of worth, let alone what is right or wrong and in mind, Barton is all that is wrong about football these days.

The FA's Respect campaign is gradually being swept under the carpet.  I was surprised to see Middlesbrough being charged with not being able to control their players when they hassled Mark Halsey for sending off Didier Digard recently, as no other side has been brought to book for such actions of late.  In some respects (no pun intended), referees do not help themselves in demanding respect from players and officials, with their over-officious attitude and refusal to apologise for mistakes they have made.  It was quite refreshing to hear Howard Webb say sorry for getting in the way of play in the Wolverhampton Wanderers v Birmingham City FA Cup tie, leading to a goal for Wolves.  That was only him being in the midst of the action and as the laws state "the referee is a part of the field of play" in such incidents.  Webb also said that he wouldn't have given the penalty in the same match had he seen it in slow motion, so admitted that he was only human, as all refs are (allegedly), which will gain him more respect from players than those officials who refuse to review sending offs or say they made a mistake.

Having bumped around the bottom of the table for most of the season, Spurs are in desperate danger of being sucked into the bottom three places as the end of the season approaches.  No team is too good to go down and with the lack of tenacious players in the side, they will all need to produce their talented best to get us out of the position, with wins needed sooner rather than later, as our last three games are away to Everton, home to Manchester City and away at Liverpool.  So I want Spurs to be well clear of the bottom three by then.  But that will mean wining the games against clubs around us in the table, which we have generally been unable to do this season.

The loss of a three goal lead against Burnley in the League Cup semi-final second leg seems to have been an indication of the state the club is in and came as a shock to many.  Maybe, not for me, as I have seen it before.  Losing away cup games at Notts. County, Bradford City and Port Vale in the past, I am well experienced in Tottenham being the subject of upsets.  And anyway, we have lost three goal leads at HOME in the past to Manchester United in the league (3-5) and Manchester City in the FA Cup (3-4 against ten men).  So, it was not too distressing.  And what did most people expect ?  Burnley to lay down and roll over just because they were three goals down.  they were always going to have a good go and with the rain and wind, they probably knew that if they got after Spurs, the players wouldn't fancy it.  With a changed side out, perhaps Harry thought they couldn't relinquish a three goal lead, but without much retention of possession, Burnley had the opportunity to pressure Tottenham. 

What has not been mentioned is that we had the mental strength to keep playing until the 120th minute.  Two late goals are not our trademark, so it was nice to see the team keep going even though the previous 117 minutes had been poor.  Even then, two goalkeeping mistakes contributed to our downfall, but a player in his first game for the club might be a little nervous, for all the training he has had.  Saying that Gomes on leg had to play because we had no back-up does little for the confidence.  In a way I was well pleased with the win over Burnley on aggregate for a number of reasons. 

Firstly, I am getting to an age where I can't take too much excitement from Spurs matches, so just the three minutes at the end was fine by me.  Secondly, we have been done in the last minute of semi-finals before, so now it was our turn to get the rub of the green.  Thirdly, if you watched when Defoe laid the ball off to Assou-Ekotto in the build-up to the first goal, Clarke Carlisle took him out with what appeared to be a forearm smash.  So it was nice that it ended with the goal that saw us through.  Finally, all the Gooners, Irons and others who were lapping up our demise must have been gutted when Pavlyuchenko and Defoe scored at the death to knock Burnley out.  They were all getting ready to crow about the way we lost out on a place in the final, whereas they had to be content with the criticism at work the next morning about it being a Mickey Mouse competition.

The league is the greatest concern at the moment.  Having reached the League Cup Final, the last thing we need is players pulling out of tackles so that they are not injured for the Wembley meeting with Manchester United.  It is a game that the Red Devils will probably field a shadow side, with some experienced players on the pitch and some on the bench.  Unfortunately, the only one of the three games we have left against them this season (or four if we draw in the FA Cup) that they will field a strong side for is the one we need to do well in ... the league game at Old Trafford. 

A lot of what had happened this season can be laid at the feet of United striker Dimitar Berbatov.  From the start of the season, the team was destabilised by Berbatov's moods and his determination to move was held up until the last minute as we tried to squeeze the last penny out of United.  That left us with no chance of signing a replacement and left us short up front.  Pavlyuchenko has done well and I think he is worth sticking with, but the fact we do not play to Darren Bent's strengths and he lacks confidence, means we need to bolster the forward department.  We still need experienced cover at centre half, a ball-winner in midfield and the left side needs to be sorted out, with Assou-Ekotto wanting a return to France and Bale not playing his best at full back, with midfield a better option for him.

With the malaise in league matches going back to last season's League Cup victory, Ramos did not address the issue then and it carried on through this season until Daniel Levy moved to make a change to stop the rot.  Brining in Redknapp was a surprise, but one which might have been expected, as it resolved the Sporting Director role too.  Comolli has not been up on transfer dealings and whenever Tottenham decide to replace him in a like for like role or appoint a Director of Scouting, they need to bring in someone who will make the best use of our money.

Too many player shave not been playing to their potential and it took a long time for players to settle in, so by the time they had, we were sitting bottom of the table.  Getting away from it is proving more problematical, as it seems every time we do pick up points, so does everyone else.  A good run is needed and soon.

The current issues about Spurs fielding an under-strength side in the FA Cup tonight against Manchester United is of little consequence to me.  While appreciating that I always want Spurs to win, this is one competition that we were unlikely to progress much further in, being drawn away at Old Trafford for the second season in succession at the same round of the competition.  With Man U missing ten players injured, they are in the same boat.  Also, for Tottenham, there are more important issues to consider.

The league position is one which the team needs to focus on.  We face upcoming games against Stoke City and Bolton Wanderers.  Both teams who have got results from their hard graft rather than willing to rely on skill and finesse.  Unfortunately for Tottenham, we are not set up like that and Redknapp's criticism of players for not being up for the fight will not really change things.  We have the squad of players as that was the way the previous Head Coach wanted to play and he is no longer in that position, because it didn't work.  Yes, Harry has to run with what he has got, but he must motivate them to play up to the level that they are capable of rather than de-motivating them by saying he was going to bomb a lot of the out of the club. 

Maybe it is time to bring in a new manager and get a few good results on the back of the new man coming in !!

Claims we should be punished by the FA for fielding a weakened team is a bit rich when other clubs have been doing it for a number of seasons now.  The injuries we have - however small they might be - means we can't risk players from being out of our league team when those games come along.  It would have been easy for the manager to couch his terms differently to make it an opportunity for the fringe players to stake their claim rather than making it a chance for them to shine in the shop window before showing them the out door.  It can only be a matter of time before Hangdog trots out his favourite all-time saying that we are "down to the bare bones" !!

But spending 12 million on a player worth 550,000 a year ago and one who rarely has registered on many fans radar before now is a big gamble.  How much more he will spend in the transfer window will be determined by exactly how many places in the side he thinks he needs new recruits.  With his penchant for hulking great midfielders, it might soon become the "Valley of the Giants", which I wouldn't particularly like to see.  Rather than accusing the players of sulking, he should turn their dissatisfaction into a spur to impressing him more, like when he first arrived.  I fail to see how Tom Huddlestone turns into a poor player in the space of a few weeks, but you have to accept that he is not going to be a box to box player, so play him for his strengths and work on his weaknesses.

These days money talks.  No that's not true ... it shouts and whoever shouts loudest gets to gain all the attention.  While Spurs don't have the most money, I just hope that they can spend it wisely and that anything we do say in public is thought out rather than said off the cuff.  Oh, and that we get a finishing position in the league that is anywhere above 18th.

...

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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