We stand on the brink of another
Premier League season and for Tottenham, there will be another period of
transition with a new manager and another campaign where they try to
seek a place in the Champions League.
The summer saga of Harry
Redknapp's removal from post and his replacement's appointment was
getting tedious, with some frankly unacceptable names being mentioned
before Andre Villas-Boas was crowned the new king. Coming from
Chelsea is not a great entry on his CV, especially when the record of
his time there was examined, but look beyond that and there will be more
of substance and perhaps that was what Daniel Levy was concentrating on.
A Europa League winner with Porto,
who he also took to an unbeaten season's championship win in Portugal.
OK, maybe not the same quality as the Premier League but to go through a
league season without losing is a major achievement. And AVB is a
young manager with new ideas that could push the club forward. The
fact that he was taken on at Chelsea with seemingly a specific task in
mind (i.e. to start playing attacking, entertaining football without the
core of the older players in the squad) was one which was doomed from
the start when the "dressing room" turned against him for dropping a
couple of them. For Roman Abramovich to bring him in with this
mandate and then not to support him, AVB was on a loser from the
beginning and he was the one to pay the price while the team went on to
double cup success.
However, the experience should
have made him a stronger character and made him able to deal with such
situations better in future. The mere fact that he had been Jose
Mourinho's "boy" at the club previously probably didn't help the players
retain a high opinion of him, but there is no such baggage at Tottenham.
A fresh set of players who are receptive to his new tactics and with no
core group who will conspire to confound his ideas means that this could
Many fans are apprehensive about
AVB following his "failure" at Stamford Bride and think that we should
have stuck with Redknapp. And Harry did very well while he was at
Tottenham, I can't think too many people would decry his fourth place
finishes and relative success in reaching the latter stages of cup
competitions, but when you look at AVB's CV, it is more comprehensive
than Redknapp's and the Portuguese has many more years on his side.
The whole England manager fiasco
didn't help the situation with Redknapp, but the failure to press home
the best chance we had in many years to challenge at the very top of the
table when being well placed also didn't assist his cause. Often
Spurs were found wanting and when the season turned in a game when we
were 2-0 ahead and ended up losing, the writing might well have been on
the wall. It will be interesting to see how AVB takes the team on
and he will have a big task, as Redknapp's legacy is one that will need
the momentum being kept up with.
But, I, for one, am willing to
give him a chance and I don't think English football has seen the best
of what he can do.
Another major reason why Levy has
probably brought him in, along with a backroom team who also have
similar traits, is their ability to bring young players through.
While clubs have academies, the production line form them is not truly
prolific. Some clubs have spells where a group come through
together such as Manchester United (Beckham, the Nevilles, Giggs,
Scholes, etc), Liverpool (Gerrard, Owen, Carragher) and Everton (Rodwell,
Coleman, Barkley), but more often teams are relying on big money
purchases to win them silverware.
That will come to a halt with the
Financial Fair Play rules and more emphasis will be put on growing your
own from local sources or from buying foreign players in young to
qualify them as home-grown. While the number of products of our
Academy have been few over the last ten years (mainly Ledley King), the
number that are now coming into the first team squad from the youth
ranks are increasing. With Jake Livermore becoming a regular last
season and winning his first England cap this week, we are seeing some
players getting their opportunity in the first eleven and staying there
on merit. You could say that the age that we bought Tom
Huddlestone, Danny Rose, Yago Falque, Kyle Walker, Aaron Lennon and
Gareth Bale, that these have all been developed at Tottenham, but the
likes of Harry Kane, Adam Smith, Steven Caulker, Tom Carroll, Andros
Townsend and David Button, as well as Livermore are all products that
have come all the way up the ladder with Spurs.
And there are many more below this
senior level who are talented and will be brought through in the coming
years, so the introduction of Luis Martins and Steffen Freund are
important additions to the coaching staff. Both have wide
experience of working with young players and this will be important in
the development of the youngsters as they come through the youth system,
into what is now a Premier League Under-21 league rather than a reserve
league and through the Tim Sherwood led Spurs XI development side.
It is a structure that is built to avoid the need to fins a rich
potentate or oil billionaire, but to rely on the quality of scouting and
the belief in the youth coaches to realise the potential in the players.
Some names are already being
mentioned from the younger ranks and these players shone in the Next Gen
series last season - a competition Spurs will be taking par tin again
and one which gives them experience of European football. The
likes of Alex Pritchard, Kevin Stewart, Jordan Archer, Nabil Bentaleb,
Souleymane Coulibaly, Jack Barthram, Jonathan Miles, Cristian Ceballos,
Ryan Fredericks, Massimo Luongo, Jack Munns, Cameron Lancaster and Jake
Nicholson will all be prominent in the U21 league, NextGen or on loan
this season, as they continue their development. Some further up
the ladder, such as Dean Parrett and John Bostock, along with a
smattering of the above will form part of the Europa League squad,
initially in the group stages if not later too.
So, the future looks bright, with
the new training ground still under-going some finishing touches and the
demolition almost done for the new ground to rise from the rubble.
So, what of the present ? Well, the two new signings are good
buys, with Gylfi Sigurdsson adding some attacking options and goals from
midfield as he proved last season, as well as being a provider of
chances too, as we have seen already in pre-season and Jan Vertonghen is
an experienced defender (or even midfielder), who is captain of his
country and may well lead Spurs one day. He has shown good ability
in bringing the ball out of defence and holding onto the ball may be one
of the aspects of our play that AVB will look at carefully.
Most of the players in the squad
have been give an opportunity to show AVB what they can do in pre-season
and he will have made a list of players he is willing to let go.
He will also have identified areas where Spurs need to stock up with new
signings and much of the possibility of ticking off his shopping list
will come from the eventual transfer of Luka Modric to Real Madrid.
His move to the Bernabeu has an
inevitability about it, but I just wished it had taken place earlier in
the summer and then we might not be already into the season before we
formulate our squad. I know that Daniel Levy has his price for
players coming in and going out, but by the time the transfer window
shuts, we will be three games into the season and those points are
crucial in getting a confident start to the campaign. A
replacement midfielder and a striker are probably now our top
priorities, with a goalkeeper another area where we might need to add a
body. But the chaff has to be sorted out from the squad and
players moved on if they are not going to play, both for our wage bill
and for their own careers. With players such as Gomes, Bentley,
Jenas and dos Santos sitting out most of last season when not in the
first team squad, they must be frustrated in not getting games, even
though they are being well paid for it. It is another reason why
younger players might be promoted into the squad, so that they are more
eager to force their way in on lower salaries.
But which players AVB might want
and how much they will cost is a defining factor in the way our season
might go. While I would love to see Joao Moutinho and Leandro
Damiao in the Lilywhite shirt, the fees being asked are almost verging
on the ridiculous and the fee paid by Paris St. Germain for Lucas Moura
is almost obscene. Writers for MEHSTG have said in the past that
it might be sensible to knock one "0" off everything in football ...
salaries (which would still be hugely inflated even then), transfer
fees, ticket prices, etc. and then football can return to reality and
maybe get a better press than it is currently having off the back of a
successful Olympic Games for Team GB.
There isn't a straightforward
comparison between the Olympics and the Premier League, but you can see
that football comes off second best when you look at the way the
successes of the last few weeks have produced a feel-good factor across
the country that football only produces in areas where teams have won
things (unless you are Manchester United and then the whole country
feels the love ;o)). But even then, look at the Games themselves
and it was not all sweetness and light. Drugs cheats, fencers and
boxers sulking when decisions didn't go there way, badminton player
playing to lose to get an easier route to gold and a runner who decided
that he didn't want to run one race as he would have a better chance in
another, so he just pulled out halfway through. So, even in the
greatest sporting contest in the world, we can see elements of cynicism
creeping in and while the Games are not totally professional
(footballers and tennis players aside, with boxers and golfers to be
included in the Rio Olympics), the "professional" desire to win at all
costs seems to be becoming part of the Olympians armoury.
Perhaps that was why, in the midst
of the Olympics, a night out watching our young players in the Spurs XI
demolish League Two Southend United was equally as refreshing.
Playing the game Spurs fans like it to be played and absolutely taking a
mature and established Southend first team apart was a joy to behold.
If Tim Sherwood is breeding these
players to take their places in the first XI playing this way, it won't
quite be like watching Barcelona, but it will be an exciting,
technically proficient style of attacking football that will win games
As Modric heads for the door
marked "Real Madrid's sub bench", full credit must go to Gareth Bale.
A player who has the world at his feet when he has the ball at his feet
and one who could easily have made the "I want to play Champions League"
statement quite easily, as he would have had the pick of Champions
League clubs who would have wanted to sign him. But to stay and to
sign a new deal shows both loyalty and a willingness to do his best for
Bale seems a level-headed sort and
alright, his new deal makes him a very, very well paid young man, but
how many others do we see chasing money and glory (no names mentioned
here, but you can fill in the gap yourself with your personal
preference) without a thought for the club they are leaving ?
While I do not expect Gareth to stay at Tottenham his whole career, he
might do well to look at a player who we have said goodbye to in the
Ledley King is that rare beast - a
one-club man. Yes, Ryan Giggs at Manchester United and Steven
Gerrard are other current examples, but it is easier to stay at a club
who is winning things (although that hasn't been true more recently at
Liverpool) and winning the big ones (Champions League). All Ledley
has to show for his time at Spurs is one League Cup winners medal.
But actually, he has a lot more than that and a lot more than many
players will ever have, which is the respect and appreciation of a set
of supporters who saw him grow up in a Spurs shirt and he knew what that
meant. Being captain and lifting the League Cup mirrored another
great club servant, Gary Mabbutt, who lifted the FA Cup with Tottenham,
but could have gone off elsewhere when he was at the peak of his career.
Long servants are a rapidly
disappearing species and King's performances will live long in the
memory, which is something for a defender, as goals tend to be the
things you remember these days, but the fact that he was putting his
well-being on the line and playing through the pain barrier until the
very end showed his commitment to the club. Ledley will have a
testimonial and while most footballers are well off enough already, it
will be a fitting tribute to a man who is and will be a Tottenham legend
through and through.
To gain that status, you either
have to serve a club for a lengthy period or be very successful.
If you do both, then all the better. If that happens at Tottenham,
we will share in that success. But while we have had a good spell
around the top of the table for a few years, it might be that with the
new coach and new ideas, coupled with other sides strengthening around
us, it might not mean a top four finish straight away. I am sure
that is what the club are aiming for and after last season, a
replication of the form we showed through the first two thirds of the
season might get us up there, but I expect there to be parts of the
season where things will go against us. It is how we cope with
that and how we do away from home.
While I hope that AVB can show
that he is a talented young coach with a talented young squad, I do wish
he would shut up about Chelsea. We all know about that and hope
that this doesn't become his "the club only had two points from eight
games when I arrived" sound-bite.
Just show us what you can do Andre
and that will show Chelsea too.
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.