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25.12.2011

As the team are in the midst of a good run, all Spurs fans of a certain age are probably asking themselves, "When is this going to come to an end ?"

Since the early days of August, when the Manchester clubs took us to the cleaners, the team have settled into a pattern of play which has been both effective and determined.  It is not only the pretty side of the game that Tottenham are now showing, but a steely mentality that has seen them bring back points from places where they might have crumbled in the past.  But for a late equaliser at Newcastle, the run would have been a perfect eight wins out of eight in the league and we would have been in fourth place ... with a game in hand following the postponement of the Everton game at the start of the season.   Now as we come to Christmas, we are in third thanks to a few more wins and just the one defeat at Stoke, with the same game in hand to come after the FA Cup Third Round.

With United not quite the force they were, but still picking up results and Chelsea aging, while Arsenal try to self-destruct with big defeat to the big clubs, it looked like the best time to try and win the title ... but that was before City started spending sums of money equivalent to that of the GDP of small countries and pay a wage bill that might easily wipe out the Greek debt.  There will be nobody who can compete with them this season, with a squad of top players, who Mancini has gelled together to produce a marvellous attacking outfit.  Whether their defence is up to it is yet to be tested.

But our flying wingers and the midfielders inside them have produced a platform for some excellent football and some meaningful results.  While Liverpool had two players sent off, we were already ahead and then rammed home our advantage, in contrast to the game at Fulham, when the side came under pressure, but stood firm and then hit the home side at the death with a killer third goal.  The game against QPR showed that there are still things to be ironed out, as the second half performance almost let Rangers back into it and Stoke's "in your face" attitude gave us problems that we had overcome in the last few meetings.

The understanding between the wing backs and the full backs has been a major improvement this season, but when the wing backs are missing, it does cut our attacking options a fair bit.  Blistering pace is difficult to live with and Lennon and Bale would be missed by any team, but we have another way of playing, utilising Modric's guile and van der Vaart's experience through the middle if that happens.  Rafa's hamstrings will be a problem and I think that is why Harry was keen to give him a rest when he could, despite the Dutchman's desire to play every game.

The defence has been ever-changing this season, with injuries hitting that part of the team particularly.  But, whichever partnership has been tried, excepting the first two games, have looked pretty good.  Ledley's record of never being on a losing side when he has played this season is remarkable, as is the fact that our captain turns out for the team, despite the pain he must suffer from playing on his dodgy knees.  His loyalty to the club over the years is truly being rewarded by the team coming good with a typically Tottenham way of playing and getting success with it. 

Younes Kaboul has done well and seems to have improved and perhaps making the step up to the French national side has helped him to focus during games, which he done admirably this season after the first two matches.  He is a tower of strength in the air, is reading the game better to get interceptions and if he could only acknowledge that he is not a goal-scorer with his wayward shooting, he will be a fine player !!

The signing of Brad Friedel looked an odd one, with perhaps an understudy role, but Harry has put him as his number one keeper and he has not disappointed.  With some outstanding saves and a lot more that he makes appear run of the mill, Brad has been as much of a major factor in the move up the table as any other.  I heard someone moaning at the Chelsea game that he had not held a couple of shots, both of which were more difficult to deal with than it may have looked to the complainer, but perhaps it is testament to his ability that he has spilled so few, that these two stood out.

Redknapp is a shrewd operator and off the field, so is Daniel Levy, so the two other summer signings might have taken a little persuading for the latter to agree to the former's choices.  Scott Parker is not a spring chicken in years, but that may be due to the fact that he seems to have been around for years having started as a teenager and moved around clubs.  But he plays like one, covering more ground than most Premier League players and I never really noticed his effectiveness when he was on the other side until you see him week in and week out.  His positioning is excellent most of the time and he reads the game well, giving him the opportunity to pick the ball off or to break forward or play a killer pass.  He is exactly what Spurs have needed for a long time and his play gives others the freedom to express themselves without worrying about the defensive side of their game.  In the Chelsea game, Kyle Walker went bombing forward and the ball ended up with Petr Cech, but Parker's first thought was to move into Walker's position until he could recover his ground.  A signing for the club that does not fall in line with the flair reputation of players, but without players like Scott Parker, the base for the flair players is not there.

The other transfer of the summer was the loan of Emmanuel Adebayor from Manchester City.  A controversial signing, having scored against us for Arsenal and Real Madrid, but one that gave Spurs an improved version of Peter Crouch.  The England man had done well for Spurs, especially in Europe last season and in his link up with van der Vaart, but there were occasions when you would expect him to score and he didn't.  In Adebayor, you have a version that is not as good in the air (when the ball comes across in the box in the air I will be pleasantly surprised when he heads one in), but his ability on the floor and to take a goal is much better.  However, his goals to chances ratio is still not high enough and it is a tribute to how many chances we are making that we have won games, producing some of the highest efforts on goal per match stats in Premier League history.  Adebayor has also fitted in well with the squad and while he may not make the move permanently, which would be a shame, he seems to be enjoying his football, which he wasn't at City.

And the whole team seem to be happy playing the way they are and Harry has done well to accommodate as many of the players as possible, while keeping the team spirit intact.  For us fans, I am sure you will agree it has been a joy to see them perform like this on a consistent basis, which has always been a failing.  But now the team and the crowd expect them to go out and win, which is probably why the draw against Chelsea was such a disappointment.

Harry's court case is due in January after four years of being put off.  The legal case against him dates back to his time with Portsmouth, when it is claimed that he avoided paying tax by paying money into a Monaco bank account.  How this might pan out I do not know.  It appears from a quick search on the net that the penalty is the amount of tax the person sought to have avoid paying, so in Harry's case about 180,000.  High profile cases like the late Lester Piggott (the former jockey) involved 3.5 million unpaid tax and he was sentenced to three years in 1987.  Sometimes there is a last minute settlement of the amount due, but Harry seems determined to go through the court  case on principle.  We await the outcome of the case to see how Tottenham go forward from there.

The Europa League campaign was a useful exercise for the fringe players to get a game at a decent level of competition.  For the youngsters, it was a great opportunity and most of them accepted it with good performances almost taking Spurs through, but I guess with another nine games to win it, it would have amounted to a third of a season on top of the domestic commitments had Tottenham gone all the way.  Harry will not be too upset by the exit at the end of the group stages, especially with the travelling and stringer competition in the Europa League after Christmas.  And for those reserve/youth team layers who have travelled, let alone played in the matches, it will be vital experience for them as they continue their development at the club.

The whole furore that surrounded the club's involvement in the bid to occupy the Olympic Stadium at Stratford has been an unmitigated disaster.  From what was intimated at the AGM, it appears that people at the highest level got Tottenham involved with the promise of a chance of being the new occupants after the 2012 games, but the criteria changed more often than a coalition's policy.  The fact that the running track has to be retained means that whoever takes ownership will be lumbered with a great distance to generate atmosphere over and West Ham United's latest plans to put retractable seats in will cost a fortune in retro-fitting.  Then there was the issue of Karen Brady's phone records  that dragged Spurs into the mire, but with no finding that they ordered the actions to be taken, only that the accountants acting for Tottenham had been given the bills by an anonymous person or persons.  The matter of members of the Olympic Park Legacy Company working for West Ham United or the London Borough of Newham came to light too, along with questions surrounding the legality of Newham's 40 million loan to West Ham United to secure the stadium's tenure, seemingly leaving the residents of the borough out of pocket should the Irons not be able to pay it back.  At a time when local authorities are cutting services to the bone, it seemed a strange move at the very least. 

The thing was not designed for after use and in not taking the longer view, the new occupants will be left with a longer view for their users ... whatever use that may be.

Spurs seem set now on developing around White Hart Lane and the demolition that went on over the summer and has continued apace, has changed the whole face of Tottenham High Road.  It feels like the right thing to do and following the summer's riots, the club are trying to lead businesses and the Mayor of London's office to regenerate an area that desperately needs it.  The new ground will not only make the area more attractive to investors, but it will further bolster Tottenham's ability to challenge at the top table.  Bigger capacity means bigger income and at a time when FIFA are about to introduce financial fair play rules, this is the way that the board have been looking at meeting them in the long run.

While rumours still circle about Harry Redknapp being the new England manager, both Daniel Levy and Redknapp himself have said that there is not an interest in the Spurs manager leaving ... at the moment.  Of course, the job does not become available until the summer and while Harry has the court case hanging over him and he has said he wants to win the Premier league with Tottenham, so whether he still feels the same if he is at liberty and is still wanted in the summer is another matter.

His transformation of the side, in conjunction with Levy's funding of his needs as Chairman, has been drastic.  From the side who had two points from eight game to a side who has dropped only thirteen points up to Christmas this season, after reaching the quarter finals of the Champions League at their first go last season.

With the team being turned into one that can be successful, the need for a ground that befits them is essential and it looks like Daniel is moving things in that direction.  The future looks good ... fingers crossed.
 

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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