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20.05.2012

Saturday 19th May 2012 could not have been a worse day for Spurs fans.

Not only did West Ham regain their Premier League position by winning the play off in the last five minutes of their game against Blackpool, but Chelsea won the Champions League and with the last kick of the club season, they condemned Spurs to playing in the Europa League.  A competition akin to the Euro-Zone in that everyone is pressured into thinking they should take part as there are benefits to be had, but as soon as they are in it, they can't wait to get out of it.

But for Spurs, who finished fourth in a Champions League qualifying spot it has wider ramifications.

A new ground almost underway and with clubs around them crumbling, it was an ideal time to push into the top four and establish the club there, with the money that Champions League brings.  But the falling away in the early part of 2012 left Spurs scrabbling for fourth place in the end, when they should have comfortably been third or higher. 

The excuses of this don't really hold water.

Harry's court case was obviously a factor that affected him and maybe the future of the club (dependent on the outcome), but the others in the management team could have coped while Harry was away, much as they did while he had his heart operation.  The fuss over the England job was also cited as a distraction, but in reality, the decision was never that clear cut, with Harry not being the sort of manager that the self-styled "Team England" organisation could work with.

Admittedly, there were moments in the second half of  the season (as there were in the first half) that went against Spurs.  The Manchester City away game could easily have gone in our favour if Howard Webb was half the referee he thinks he is.  The last three minutes of that game was as bad as the last three minutes of Chelsea's last game.

Then there was the goal that never was at Wembley.  With Martin Atkinson showing judgement akin to that of the man who turned down the Beatles for Decca back in the 1960s.

But as Tottenham supporters we should be used to this.  We are still awaiting "things to even themselves out" from the Pedro Mendes goal.

But the interesting thing for me is that now there is not Champions League football again, some of our top players may seek moves away to ensure they get to play in this competition.  While Daniel Levy's stance with Luka Modric to make him stay at Tottenham looked beneficial to the Croatian for so much of this season, as the Pensioners self-destructed, in the end they won the Champions League and Modric might hold that against Levy when he comes back from Euro 2012 (or before as I am foreseeing his agent issuing come and get me statements while the tournament goes on).

Bale might be in the same position, although his agent has said that he is happy at Tottenham.

But these are a couple of the players who were part of the team that went through February and March only winning two games in the league.  They were part of the reason we didn't finish higher than we ended up doing.  So, what happens next is in the hands of the Spurs players who got us in this position.  some of the blame must shift to Redknapp for playing the core of the team week in, week out and when it came to the point when we had injuries and suspensions, he claimed the squad was not as strong as it should be.  The lack of spending this season also looks odd when viewed in hindsight.  Hardly anything (in comparison to previous years and maybe a result of making up the shortfall for not making the Champions League in 2011-12) spent on permanent signings, but with youngsters and free transfers brought in to supplement Scott Parker's cheap purchase.

Perhaps the reason was to balance the ridiculous amount spent on the fruitless pursuit of the Olympic Stadium.  Was there a real determination to move to a new ground that would have to be rebuilt for football or was it something to use as a lever against Haringey Council and the Mayor of London to get what they wanted for the new White Hart Lane ??  Whichever it was, it probably cost as much as we ended up getting out of the Northumberland Park development.  Permission was granted on most of the things Spurs wanted out of the scheme, but having a shiny new ground and a state of the art training ground does not a top team make.

It is what happens out on the pitch that counts.

Filling 56,250 seats will be difficult if the team fail to get back into the Champions League next season, as that might be the only way we hold onto Bale, as in my opinion, Modric will push even harder to get away this summer.  In my view, any "gentleman's agreement" that Levy should have with players is to say, "Get us into the Champions League and then you can go.  If we fail, you are part of that failure and you have to stay until you put it right."  Controversial, but surely, you should reward success and motivate players to perform.  That way, if you get Champions league football, you can say to players, "Do you still want to leave ?" or if they do, then it sends a message to other clubs that we can sell our best players at top prices, allowing significant replacements to be brought in while they have the carrot of top European football to tempt them to come to Spurs.

This summer, all those players who have been linked with us strongly so far since January (Loic Remy, Eden Hazard, Jan Verthonghen, etc), may be looking elsewhere, but in doing so, what will they necessarily be doing with their careers.  We have seen players in the past move to big clubs (Shaun Wright-Phillips, Steve Sidwell, lots of Arsenal purchases and to some extent, Scott Parker) and not fulfil their potential, so moves to the Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Arsenal will only see them play a peripheral role in their season, while transfers to Liverpool, Newcastle United and Everton could be balanced out by managerial or player movements in and out of the club.

Tottenham does offer something tantalising (as is often the case with this club !).  We are on the doorstep of a new era at the club and the investment in the future in the coming season is a very important one.  While Manchester City won their first title under the Abu Dhabi money and look set fair to dominate English football for a while, there are still treasures to be gained.  Shopping at Harrods is where City go for their purchases now, but while Spurs are not quite on Kensington High Street at the moment, the future looks solid.  That could be spectacular and with the Financial Fair Play rules coming in soon, Spurs are well placed to make the move at the right time.  The top clubs have all had their injections of cash and we are poised to suddenly get money coming into the club from the right income streams as far as UEFA are concerned.

Buying youngsters for the future is just part of the plan.  Getting capital investments out of the way now also helps generate more income in the longer term.  But there is always the need to be mindful of playing success and I am sure that Levy keeps his eye on that ball permanently.  The disappointments of this season show how close we are to being a very good club.  FA Cup semi-final (the score-line aside) shows that when we have a decent run, we can go close to winning domestic honours.  The league campaign was lost in that period of February and March, but perhaps as much with some timid away performances, whereas earlier in the season we went and played our game to impose ourselves on the opposition on their own grounds.  Bold play may not always get it's reward, but turning a couple of drawn games into wins this season would have put as third at least.  Easy to say on paper, but remember the club motto !!

Daniel Levy has done very well by the club during his tenure as chairman, although he has made some mistakes, but they can be forgiven if he gets the next step right.  Not only has he to think about the new stadium, but soon, he will need to sort out Harry Redknapp's position.  Of all the clubs he has been at, perhaps this is the one where he has been controlled the best by his chairman.  Levy is no Rupert Lowe or Milan Mandaric.  His profile is low, but his expectations are as high as any fan and releasing the money for Harry's transfers has not been a problem, but the next contract for the Tottenham manager is a vital one for the club.  At the end of it, we need to be Champions League regulars.  A high ideal, but when you are looking at replacements when Redknapp decides to call it a day (or Levy does it for him), we need to be situated in a position where we can call upon the top managers in the world .. otherwise, we will in a situation where we were when Harry was going through his court case and through the farago of the England manager's appointment.  We will be linked with the likes of David Moyes, Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez.  All good managers, but what "next level" would they take us to ?  Moyes would grind out results and perhaps end up around where we are now, while Rodgers and Martinez would play attractive football, but how would they cope at a club with the expectations of a fan base like Spurs have ??

Harry is right, it was a very good season and with the amount of money we have paid out, you could say that we are punching way above our weight.  But having been given a tantalising taste of what it feels like to make even a slight challenge at the top of the table, the fans will want much more of that next season and in season to come.

Have a great summer (transfer dealings aside) and it will be soon time to resume our league battles and the Europa League campaign.  Our youth team are probably excited at the challenge that poses and hopefully, the club will sensibly price the tickets for these games, otherwise they might as well be youth games, as they will be played out in a two thirds empty White Hart Lane.
 

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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