The Return of the English manager
It’s often been stated that English manager’s don’t quite have what it takes to cut it at management’s top table, well with ol’ ‘Arry doing a great job to take Spurs to fourth, coupled with a very god cup run that surprisingly ended at Wembley at Pompey’s hands in the semi-final, Roy Hodgson taking Fulham all the way to the Europa League final and Schteve McClaren doing his best impression of Sir Bobby Robson down at FC Twente by clinching the Dutch league title in his first season, it would seem the times they are a changing.
They say you should never go back – Spurs do have a bit of an illogical transfer policy don’t they? They sign players from relatively obscure or smaller clubs, they come good, then they drop off a bit, they’re sold, they get good again at another club or fall out of favour, then Spurs buy them back again. They’ve certainly had mixed fortunes, Chimbonda hasn’t featured at all this term and has only made the bench just the once, Robbie Keane was shunted from pillar to post, even enjoying (or not probably in his case) a spell on the left wing away at Man Utd earlier in the season, before being sent packing off on loan to our kindly neighbours north of the border. A trailblazing loan spell followed at Celtic Park for his boyhood club (another one Robbie, that’s just being greedy) which rendered 16 goals in 19 games and was highly successful and mutually beneficial for all parties involved. Younes Kaboul came back to White Hart Lane for around £9m, making eleven appearances for the club in the process, mostly at right back and he looks a much improved player since his spell at Pompey. Perennial Redknapp favourites Peter Crouch and Jermaine Defoe returned for their first full season in their second spells at the club too and by all accounts have fared pretty well and have formed a decent understanding of sorts up top. It’s a mixed theory I’ll give you that – a work in progress.
What a difference a season makes – They say hypocrisy is common place in football, well roll up roll up, we have a contender, and who could it be I hear you cry….it’s everyone’s favourite rentaquote Harry Redknapp with his views on the abhorrent jeering of former player (in both Spurs and Redknapp regards) Sol Campbell.
Redknapp as Portsmouth boss on 3rd October 2008 “After discussions with Sol Campbell, we will be making an official complaint to the Football Association concerning the verbal abuse aimed at him during Sunday’s match against Tottenham. Both Sol and the club feel no player should be subjected to personal abuse of this nature and that it has no place in
Redknapp as Spurs boss on April 14th 2010 “I’m sure he will get some grief – it’s no good me sitting here and saying he won’t, but he has been through it all before and he is experienced enough to get on with the game. They pay their money and they are going to do what they want to do, aren’t they? I just hope they don’t shout anything silly. Sure, if they want to jeer him that is fine, but we saw trouble before at Portsmouth with people making remarks that ain’t right, and you don’t want that.”
Sure changed his tune didn’t he – no forthcoming complaint Harry, sure? Can’t tempt you?
Supporting cast step up – This season truly was a campaign for the supporting cast, or players that were previously perceived in that way by casual observers like myself at least. Tom Huddlestone has stepped up his game a notch or several in the middle of the park, dictating games with increasing regularity. Gareth Bale has gone from having never won a Premiership game with Spurs before this season to practically winning them on his own. David Bentley at least showed he cared when he had to be put into the side following a long-term groin injury to first choice Aaron Lennon and showed the class we all know he’s got on his day with 6 assists and 4 goals in 16 games. Roman Pavlyuchenko probably ends the season as Spurs first choice striker despite nearly being sold off in January and Michael Dawson, the fans player of the season, has gone from backup centre half donkey to an integral part of the side with his wholehearted displays at the back drawing admiring glances from a certain Italian.
M.I.A (Missing In Action) – If only Jonathan Woodgate wasn’t injury prone eh? I’m sure most of us would go into the World Cup resting a little easier at night at the state of our backline had the Alice-band wearing one been fit. Unfortunately he’s only made three appearances this term for Spurs, and has been missing for the majority of the campaign with rumours of a potential forced early retirement abound. Say it isn’t so? You’re gone but not forgotten Big Jon. Jermaine Jenas, rather stupidly tipped for England the other week by manager Redknapp has gone from first team regular to peripheral figure this term having made only 9 starts all season – the jig is up Jermaine, you’ve been found out.
Welcome to the Promised Land – No dodgy lasagne to blame this time eh? Spurs have finally done it, with a huge outlay on the squad, Harry has delivered Champions League football probably a full season ahead of schedule, the league table doesn’t lie, they deserve it. Increased revenues from Champions League football point to a brighter future down at White Hart Lane.
Palacios adds bite to midfield – Personally my favourite Spurs player, it beggars belief that Fergie didn’t dip into his pocket and try and sign the Honduran when he had the chance. He’s added some much needed steel to the Spurs midfield, something that it’s been crying out for since Edgar Davids departure for Ajax in the summer of 2007. He can be destructive, messy, cynical and driven, in short, everything Spurs need and he’s a snip at £12m and one of the main reasons for their sustained success this term and why they’ve been so hard to beat.
You can be slow or fast but you must get to the line – Spurs have a nicely balanced midfield when everyone is fully fit. Aaron Lennon has finally added a maturity and consistency to his game and his final product has been exceptional at time. He must go to the World Cup as England’s first choice winger, a really dangerous and explosive player cruelly cut short this term by injury, oh how Spurs have missed him so. Luka Modric has been a joy to watch now he’s fully accustomed to the rigours of the league and seems to have finally found his niche and is integral to their style of play. Whereas Niko Kranjcar will probably go down as one of the signing’s of the season with 6 league goals since signing in January, all for the paltry sum of £2.5m, excellent business.
Defoe only scoring in bunches – It’s been a funny old season for Jermaine Defoe, it all started so brightly too. Many were tipping him to be a regular starter for England off the back of some impressive form for club and country early on in the season. He scored 5 goals in his first 5 games, but 18 league goals in 32 league games, whilst a fine return in itself doesn’t hide the fact that he’s been disappointing for long spells of the campaign. Not quite the reliable goalscorer he’s often made out to be, 5 of these goals came in a 9-1 humbling of Wigan in February and a further 3 against Hull in the second game of the season back in August. Take these out of the equation and he has a less impressive return of 10 goals in 30 games in the league this term and goes someway to explaining his barren spell recently which has rendered only 4 goals in his last 14 league games. He needs to seriously step it up next term on a more consistent basis if he’s to truly break into the top bracket and push for a starting place in the national side after this summer’s World Cup, because he’s some way short of it at the minute.
Record against big four– Spurs traditionally have a stinker of a record against the Big Four, they haven’t won at Old Trafford since the Premiership’s inception, nor against bitter local rivals Arsenal in their last 18 games against them (don’t quote me on this) but this season has seen Spurs step it up when it truly mattered. They claimed all three points at home to Liverpool way back in August to get things rolling, two brilliant back-to-back wins at home to both Arsenal and Chelsea with depleted squad numbers in a matter of days last month followed much later on and a crucial double over nearest rivals for fourth spot Man City both home and away sealed their qualification. A big-game side? It would appear so to an extent based on the evidence towards the end of the season and the more the team began to gel, the better it got. For the first time in a long while sides began to fear going to White Hart Lane again. Fortress Spurs may still be a work in progress, but they’re getting closer to it. They still managed to lose three times to Man Utd over the course of the season though – it seems some things will never change.
Arbitrary marks out of ten? All in all a quite excellent season for the Spurs faithful – 9/10
Written By James McManus