View From
The Shelf

28.07.2010

So, many of you might think it strange that there was not a "View" at the end of the season in which Spurs recorded their highest Premier League finish and qualified for the Champions League.

Well, we're not ones to jump on the bandwagon and raise the roof just because we finished fourth, even though it is a fine achievement for a team that only had two points from eight games the season before.  However, the much missed point by many is that Spurs have not qualified for the Champions League by finishing fourth.  They have qualified to qualify for the Champions League.  While the majority of Spurs fans are hopeful of getting to the lucrative group games, there are some very good and experienced clubs in the qualifying stages (Ajax, Zenit St. Petersburg, Fenerbahce, Dynamo Kiev) and it will need some good performances in the early part of our season to make sure the hurdle of qualification is successfully negotiated.

Spurs have done pretty well in European competition, even though we are not regular qualifiers.  But losing out in the qualifiers could mean that a place in Europe this season will be in the Europa League.  And getting into the Champions League the following season will be harder with more games in the Europa League and other Premier League clubs strengthening to challenge at the top of the table.  While the league battle will be harder, it might mean that Tottenham have to win the competition to be in it again in 2011-12 and with this season's final on home soil at Wembley, it would be a great occasion to do so !!

A format changing rule has been introduced by the Premier League requiring clubs to name a squad of 25 senior players by the closure of the summer transfer window, with eight of the squad being home-grown (trained by English or Welsh clubs for three years before the age of 21).  Clubs can have as many Under-21 players as they like as they are eligible to be in the squad with no restriction.  The 25 players included will not be able to be changed until January, while the winter transfer window is open to allow incoming signings to be included.  What the change means if that many players across the Premier League will go out on loan to get regular football.  At Tottenham, fringe players and those youngsters who are over 21 and not quite ready for the first team will be shipped out to the lower leagues for at least four months to ply their trade.  With no changes allowed until January for the 25 senior players, any kind of injury crisis will lead to a panic, with younger players having to be drafted into the side.  This could well lead to some clubs being seriously disrupted and some might find themselves in false positions.

It is thus obvious why Spurs have been cautious in the transfer market so far this summer.  There is no point bringing in players if you are not going to be able to use them and the talk surrounding a move for Croatian keeper Stipe Pletikosa is prudent as the need for an experienced third keeper as back up is vital should injury hit the glovemen.  Strikers have been touted as another area of possible interest to the boss, but with four strikers already at the club, it would mean that someone (or two) might have to be shipped out.  Robbie Keane's future has been under the microscope since being loaned to Glasgow Celtic and Roman Pavlyuchenko wanted away last season, but it appears that both might be among the 25, with Keane having done well in the US games and Pavlyuchenko's agent saying he wants to stay or go and play in Russia, where clubs do not seem to be able to come up with an acceptable bid for the forward.

Midfield is pretty well catered for, with Sandro coming in when the Copa Libertadores is over for his club Internacional, where they have reached the semi-final stage and they will finish on August 6th.  Again, without some room being made by a sale or two, there will probably not be an new arrivals there, but in defence, it is necessary to buy in one more central defender to cover for Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate (who seems to be no nearer sorting out his groin problem) and to add to Michael Dawson, Sebastien Bassong and Younes Kaboul.  Cover at left back might be an issue, with Bale likely to be deployed in midfield, where he can do most damage in the other half of the field and have Benny Assou-Ekotto behind him.

The World Cup shambles will hopefully not have had a detrimental effect on our England players who were out in South Africa.  Michael Dawson didn't get a look in and Peter Crouch hardly featured, with Aaron Lennon probably being on the pitch for about 90 minutes in total, while Defoe played only a little more than that.  Ledley managed half a game before getting a hamstring pull that ruled him out of the rest of the England matches. 

The problem with playing Defoe with Rooney up front is that they are too similar in style and the pairing did not work, with the midfield unable to provide enough service and Rooney being out of form.  Crouch's scoring record for his country counted for little as he rarely called upon and Aaron Lennon was a starter on a couple of occasions, but the way he stuck tight to the line seemed at odds with how he plays for Spurs and the passes he got scarcely gave him much opportunity to run at his man.

Fabio Capello watched Spurs on numerous occasions last season and it is odd that when he picks our players for the national team that he does not utilise them in the way they are for the club.  That is the basis that he has selected them on and yet, they are asked to play in a different manner and with little of the ball and still expected to produce.  Defoe got the goal that took England out of the group stage, but once there, Germany made England look inept.  At least we don't have to worry about it much more for another two years when the European Championship finals.

At least the three Spurs players in the England Under-19 side gave good accounts of themselves.  Steven Caulker was outstanding in the middle of defence and he might be promoted up the ranks at Spurs, having made rapid progress through the youth system.  Rumours of a loan to Leeds United were mooted, but if he can gain the requisite experience quickly after his spell at Yeovil Town last season, he could provide cover in his position.  Dean Parrett also did well in midfield for England, but picked up two yellow cards in three games and missed the semi-final, which saw the side lose to an excellent Spanish team 1-3. 

John Bostock was the other Spurs Academy player to feature and while he showed glimpses of what he could do, there were spells in games when he was on the pitch that he appeared to we strolling around.  He scored a very good goal in the semi and his passing looked good, but when he tried a "Hollywood" pass and it didn't come off, it looked bad and gave valuable possession away to a side who did not let go of the ball.  His comments after the tournament that he is not getting an opportunity a Tottenham because they keep buying foreign players, who will be played in front of him as they cost a lot of money, perhaps showed a little naivety, as we would have had to pay a lot of money (or a lot more) for him, had he not been the age he was and it is not entirely fair to claim that foreign players are played ahead of him, when the likes of Aaron Lennon, Tom Huddlestone and Danny Rose have all come the same route as Bostock and made their way into the first team more than him.  The key to making your way in the game is to show that you are worth a place in the team and the whispers about his loan spell at Brentford last season might indicate that it is not the amount of skill he has that is keeping him out of the first XI, but the amount of hard work he is willing to do to achieve that. 

Harry Redknapp's comments about Giovani dos Santos point to the need to put the hard miles in if you are to make the grade.  Many players with less talent than Bostock and Gio are probably plying their trade in teams across the country because they show it in training as well as on the pitch on a match day.  Giovani is a long way from home and has had his problems, but in the World Cup he displayed the sort of talent we hoped we would see him doing for Tottenham and although it was an injury that stopped him at the start of last season, I am sure he would be a hit with the fans if he can show the application to get into the 18 on a match day on a regular basis.

Harry has blasted the pre-season schedule ahead of the first game against Manchester City, which is quickly followed by our first game in the Champions League, which would mean entry into the group stages if they can negotiate the qualifying round.  A trip to the USA was said to be a good work out fitness wise with record temperatures in New York helping players re-gain their match sharpness.  However, a 1-4 defeat against Villarreal later, when they showed the Spanish style of holding onto the ball without any problem and the games are coming too quickly and the players are suffering jet-lag and why are England playing a game a week before the season starts and ... 

If the teams needs to be on the training pitch, then the manager has to make this clear to the board, although the fixtures may well have been arranged before Harry arrived, as I believe some pre-season arrangements are put in place two seasons ahead.  Other teams are doing just as much travelling as this mileage list from the Independent states ...

Blackburn Rovers 23,475

Everton 22,898

Birmingham City 16,561

Tottenham Hotspur 13,733

Manchester City 12,897

Manchester United 12,318

Bolton Wanderers 8,492

Arsenal 3,553

Sunderland 3,428

 

Some of those clubs will not clock up that much mileage during the season, as they have no European football to look forward to, but perhaps it will get the players used to playing Wednesday and Saturday.  We all know that they are over-worked, under-paid and get first class air flight, but two games a week isn't too much to ask from them, is it ?   
 

The news being reported about the new ground is conflicting.  Spurs seem to want to stay in Haringey, but having spent more money on a revised planning application, it looks like it may once more fail to seek approval.  The Police Commander appears to believe that there is insufficient separation of opposing fans, which may lead to trouble and the building of a Sainsburys supermarket at the Northumberland Park end of the ground will lead to traffic chaos (or even more traffic chaos) on match-days.  Wow !!  Who would have thought it ?  A Major Premier League football ground and a Sainsburys which looks set to be the biggest supermarket in the borough ... all on the same site !!  The main problem with Tottenham remaining at White Hart Lane lies out of their hands.  Not just in the planning authority wanting or not wanting a football ground in the borough, but the infrastructure around the ground. 

The new design has obviously been drawn up in consultation with Haringey, as a road will disappear as part of the scheme ... not something THFC could do without agreement.  The issue is around getting 56,000 people in and out of the area on match-days.  It used to be feasible to do the same for 50,000+ in the 50s, 60s and 70s, but nowadays it is more of a problem.  There are only three main roads that empty the area adjacent to the ground.  The High Road which takes traffic to Tottenham Hale one way and the North Circular the other.  White Hart Lane which links with the A10 and Northumberland Park that takes traffic towards the North-South route of Watermead Way (A1055), then on to Tottenham Hale, the A10, the M25, the North Circular and the M11.  Even with the CPZ around the ground, the traffic is very congested outside the ground in all directions with a capacity of 36,000.  Without any input from TfL and the local council, this situation cannot be resolved.

Grounds on the continent and new developments in this country have made the provision of access around the ground a priority, but then there are examples where getting away after a game is still arduous (cf. the new Highbury).  Proper transport links and more roads would be necessary to ease the clearance of the locality surrounding the ground, but the chances of that happening are less than slim.

That leaves the Olympic Stadium in Stratford.  With the Legacy committee now open to the prospect of a football club coming in after the Games in 2012, it will sit in a public park with excellent transport connections from central London and Europe and the world (City airport is not too far away and the links to Stansted are not too bad).  You can see why it would appeal to Daniel Levy, especially as it is there already, so thee would be no planning issues involved and although it would mean leaving the area the club currently reside in, it would not be a huge distance away and many fans would find it convenient to get to from the North and East.  Such a move might upset some fans, but more West Ham United fans would be upset by it and therefore, it would have that spin-off benefit.

The issues raised now by the Police and by heritage campaigners are ones which might be the defining criteria for moving on and out of Haringey.  If that did happen, I fear for what would become of the area, as the income generated in the locality by the club would lead to a loss of revenue for many of the businesses in Tottenham and could leave a black hole that would not be filled by such a similarly money-generating attraction.   There is also the other aspect of Spurs having already spent a considerable amount of money getting the plans together and paying for a revision, which may now have to be revised once (or maybe many times) more. 

There is not an endless pot of money for the redevelopment and having already secured the land on which the new stadium is set to be built, that might not be fully recouped should it be sold for non-footballing purposes.

 

So, at the moment, nothing has been achieved on the stadium front, nor in the Champions League and the new Premier League season will be tougher than last year.  However, the squad is still strong and I expect it to be stronger by the time the Premier League starts (or at least a few games in when the transfer window closes).  Pre-season friendlies count for little, as the season we began with a cleans weep, we ended up with two points from eight games (now who said that ?).  But then Spurs never believe in doing things the easy way ...
 

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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