While Tottenham Hotspur fans were loathsome to lose Ledley King the club legend during the summer, in terms of Ledley King the club captain, it wasn’t thought to be necessarily the end of the world.
It’s difficult to attach too many words to the feelings of sadness that mired supporters following the revered No26’s decision to finally hang up his boots, but the school of thought was that King wasn’t Spurs’ only natural leader.
English football is often perhaps a little overzealous in the importance that it places upon the captain’s armband, but back in August fans were left with little cause for concern about finding a safe pair of hands for the title that King had left behind.
Michael Dawson may not possess the unique set of defensive gifts that King was blessed with, but nonetheless, the former Nottingham Forest man has always been viewed as the natural successor to King as club captain. Courageous, unnerving and willing to put his body on the line for the cause; you can throw all manner of cheesy leadership clichés at Dawson, but the fact is the 29-year-old oozes all these qualities in abundance. And he’s not half a bad defender, either.
Yet fast forward the five months since Andre Villas-Boas first hinted his desire to make Dawson captain, and the captain’s armband is facing a far more uncertain future than many could have possibly envisaged.
Despite being named the de facto replacement for King as club captain, Dawson has of course spent more time on the bench than he has commanding his team from the back. The would-be skipper has started only six games in the Premier League and despite suffering from a hamstring problem, the feeling is that Villas-Boas simply doesn’t fancy the Frank Arnesen-signed star as a long term option at the back.
As something of a fan-favourite, the decision to shun Dawson hasn’t sat well with some sections of Spurs fans but it’s been the performances of the man who’s replaced him as both skipper and in the starting line up, that have really left supporters scratching their heads.
As admirable as William Gallas has performed this season – and it’s fair to say that some have been far too malicious in their critique of the Frenchman – from what we’ve seen so far, his days as a top-flight defender are numbered. But at 35-years-old, his days as a long-term captain seem even fewer. And it’s when you look past Gallas that you find a somewhat interesting list of candidates to step up as a long-term successor to King as skipper.
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With Michael Dawson’s future at the club continuing to look uncertain and William Gallas reaching the twilight of his career, who else do Spurs have to turn to carry the captain’s armband? Brad Friedel would seem a sensible option, but since loosing his place to Hugo Lloris, that’s now no longer viable. The pairing of Gareth Bale and Mousa Dembele are Spurs’ two most gifted performers, but do they really have the prerequisite skills to be made captain?
The outstanding candidate that’s yet to be mentioned is of course Scott Parker. But while supporters are delighted to have their player of the season back, for all the England man’s outstanding merits in the centre of the park, the performances of Sandro suggest there can be no guarantees he’ll regain his place in Villas-Boas’ line up. And it’s the man that’s keeping Parker out the team that offers us the real wild card for the Tottenham captaincy.
If 2012 was the year that saw Sandro finally make a permanent break into this Tottenham XI, than 2013 can be the year in which he makes it his own.
Perhaps the outstanding performer of Andre Villas-Boas’ side this season, Sandro’s rise from an eccentric enigma to a White Hart Lane’s fan favourite has been imperious. But for all the kung-fu kicking, the penchant for a bit of musical indulgence and jovial atmosphere he seems to have brought to the table, it’s his performances on the pitch that have seen fans waxing lyrical about the Brazilian.
In what’s quickly becoming one of the closest Premier League seasons in recent memory, Sandro may well have been the difference for Spurs. Whether it’s his combative tackling, unnerving work ethic or literal will to put anything on the line for his team, Sandro has come of age for Spurs this season. So why not make him captain?
Yes, the biggest issue here may well be his patchy linguistic skills, but this isn’t something that should prove an insurmountable road block should he be made skipper. He might not have a big enough vocabulary to hold down a conversation about the fiscal cliff over lunch, but you don’t need to be a master of the English language to cope on the football field. He can clearly speak enough to get along just fine to communicate with his teammates and from the snippets we’ve seen, he has no trouble initiating a bit of banter in the dressing room, either.
At 23, his White Hart Lane career is in some ways, still only just beginning and although it’s the sort of comment feted about with an all too cringey frequency, the road is set for Sandro to become a real hero in N17. He’s got the skillset and the attributes needed to be captain. Why not make him one?
The superb Jan Vertonghen would represent an equally safe pair of hands when Villas-Boas eventually looks to appoint a long-term figure to sport the armband and few supporters would begrudge the Belgian the role. But in appointing Sandro as captain, Villas-Boas would be giving supporters a skipper who leads by example, thrives upon confrontation and someone whom simply has that dashing of je ne sais quoi.
It might not be to everyone’s tastes and it might not be the most orthodox of choices. But making Sandro captain could be the making of both club and perhaps most importantly, the making of the player, too.