After experiencing trips to Madrid and Milan last season Tottenham Hotspur fans will this year have to familiarise themselves with places like Thessaloniki, Kazan and Dublin ahead of visits as part of Tottenham’s Europa League campaign.
However while Spurs fans may care about the European competition, it is appears that Harry Redknapp does not and instead he sees it as a hindrance and nuisance to the clubs progress in the league especially in trying to gain a top-four finish that would again secure Champions League football. In Redknapp’s eyes finishing higher in the league is far more important than winning the Mickey Mouse cup of European football. But by doing this are Spurs missing a great chance of European success by concentrating on the league or does it make financial and business sense?
Last week, Redknapp choose a relatively strong 25-man squad for this season’s Europa League group stages after earlier suggesting that he would give the kids a run out this year. There are only two major absentees in Van der Vaart and Freidel in the squad but I expect to see a much changed first eleven when it announced for the game against PAOK Salonika after a number of first team players did not travel with the team. By playing such a young and inexperienced side Harry could be jeopardising any chance they had of success in Europe.
The money that a club like Tottenham can earn from just qualifying for the Champions League group stages completely dwarves what they what get from reaching the final and even winning the Europa League. So more resources go towards the league than winning a trophy that doesn’t mean too much to club despite the fans obvious desire to win another trophy. It is certainly harder to attract the best players to White Hart Lane with just the Europa League to offer them rather than the prospect of playing against the world’s best players in the Champions League and if Spurs were to go another year without the huge draw of Champions League football, it is possible that they would find it hard to hang onto to some of their star players like Modric and Bale. So I can understand why Redknapp has put the Europa League level with the Carling Cup as a chance to play some of his fringe players so he can focus on the league and last year Tottenham’s league progress was certainly affected by their Champions League campaign.
It was therefore somewhat of a surprise this week to see Rafeal Van der Vaart make it clear that he was unhappy at being left out of the Spurs 25-man squad for the Europa League group stages. However it was a breath of fresh air to see a footballer care so much about a much maligned trophy and I think that perhaps English clubs should take the trophy more seriously as Fulham did two years ago, eventually losing in the final to Atletico Madrid. If Tottenham were to win the Europa League but miss out on the top four, would that constitute a good season?
I believe that Spurs should not take this year’s Europa League too lightly as there is a lack of top clubs in the competition until the Champions League drop-outs join in at the knock-out stages. Instead Harry should use it as a chance to see the players who are on the fringes of the first-team which will surely become useful in the later stages of the season and give some of the young kids like Tom Carroll and Harry Kane some much needed experience. If Spurs can get the balance right between youth and experience then I think this will benefit the club in the much harder knock out stages. Only then can we expect Redknapp to think about taking the competition seriously and that is not a certainty especially if the race for the Premier League top four hots up. For now bring on the mighty Shamrock Rovers.
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