Tuesday, August 24, 2010

William Gallas of Tottenham Hotspur

Gallas - Spurs new signing
Photo: from Daily Mail
Welcome, William Gallas of Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs fans would never have expected to be saying or reading that and for some it is just too much to accept. A former Chelsea and Arsenal player playing for Spurs – what will they do when he is presented to a packed White Hart Lane at the Champions League qualifier on Wednesday evening – boo, cheer, jeer or ignore him?

William Gallas, a former Arsenal captain is a Spurs player – accept it and move on. For too long Spurs fans have been their own worst enemy – hidebound on hating Arsenal and anything to do with that club rather than supporting Spurs and accepting something that could be beneficial for the further development and progress of Tottenham Hotspur.

Gallas isn’t the first player to move from Arsenal to Tottenham but he is certainly the most high profile – a former captain who has also played for Chelsea. How we loathed him when he was a member of those teams as they have got the better of Spurs for much of the past decade, how we detested him as he celebrated scoring vital goals against us, how we jeered him as a member of the Chelsea and Arsenal teams which lost 5-1 in those fantastic League Cup semi-finals at White Hart Lane, how we mocked him when he had his sit-down strop and cried in the pitch at Birmingham a couple of years ago – but that’s all in the past – he’s a Spurs player now. He knows what’s happened in the past, he knows our feelings about him as an Arsenal player and he’s still prepared to sign for Tottenham.

Previous players to move to Tottenham from the near neighbours have brought little to the club – Laurie Brown was a defender who occasionally tried to play as a striker and for some reason Bill Nicholson thought he could play a part in the rebuilding of the ‘Double’ team – a task that was beyond his capabilities. David Jenkins was a reserve who was swopped for Jimmy Robertson and remained a reserve at White Hart Lane. Rohan Ricketts was a young player who didn’t make the grade at Arsenal or Spurs while Jamie O’Hara and David Bentley a former Arsenal player signed from Blackburn Rovers have failed to become big players at either club. Bentley’s goal at the Emirates in the 4-4 draw is possibly the greatest contribution any of those former Arsenal players has contributed to the Tottenham cause. So, from a Tottenham perspective nothing good has ever come out of Highbury or The Emirates and that includes the two former managers, Terry Neill and George Graham. What were the Tottenham directors thinking about when they appointed Neill to replace Bill Nicholson? Even Graham’s Worthington Cup success wasn’t enough to win over the Spurs faithful.

However, over the years the Highbury clientele quickly took to the former Spurs who made the journey south – Jimmy Robertson, Willie Young, Steve Walford, the legendary Pat Jennings and Sol Campbell. The greatest hostility surrounded the defection of Campbell and continues to this day but all had greater success with Arsenal than any of the players who made the opposite move.

When I first read of Harry Redknapp’s interest in signing Gallas who was a free agent having turned down Arsenal’s offer during the summer, I wasn’t impressed and presumed it was just media talk. However, as the rumours persisted and the manager became more determined in his comments about signing the player, it became obvious that this was going to happen especially as the Spurs defence could not rely on a season’s contribution from either Ledley King or Jonathan Woodgate due to their continuing injury problems.

And so it has come to pass and Spurs have signed Gallas. His background, with Arsenal and Chelsea connections, may not be as Spurs supporters would want but the club has signed a player with vast experience in the Premier League, in the Champions League and internationally on the world stage with France. He is a versatile player who can play along the back four and he is a winner who has known success at club and international level. He may be nearing the end of his career but he has shown he is still capable of performing at this level and his experience will be of great benefit to the Spurs defenders. Michael Dawson, Vedron Corluka, Sebastien Bassong and Benoit Assou-Ekotto are all prone to errors when under pressure and they will look to learn from Gallas who has been there, done it and has the t-shirt.

In previous seasons there were rumours of Spurs trying to sign former Arsenal players, namely Emmanuel Petit and more recently Patrick Vieira. Neither of them did I want at Tottenham. I e-mailed the club to tell them of my dissatisfaction at the suggestion that they would sign Petit. He had snubbed Tottenham Hotspur previously in a most unsatisfactory way by going straight from a Tottenham interview to sign on at Highbury. To have signed him would have been unacceptable and when Vieira wanted to return to the Premier League, in my opinion, his best days were clearly past him and he would have brought little to the Tottenham cause.

However, with William Gallas, it is different as he can bring something to strengthen the team and assist in the improvement of the players around him. Remember how Ledley King developed and benefited from playing beside the experienced Noureddine Naybet earlier in his career and Spurs infamous ‘soft-centred’ defence has since become a great deal tougher. Gallas has spoken wisely in his first interview about wanting to play for Tottenham and what he hopes to achieve with the club. He deserves the support of the fans for his brave decision to travel up the Seven Sisters Road to Tottenham, especially as he has experienced at first hand the Spurs supporters’ hostility to all things ‘Arsenal’.

All around the football world players have signed for clubs which are the bitterest of rivals and they have been accepted by both sets of supporters. Tottenham fans can step away from their past narrow, parochial view and move forward into a broad new world by accepting William Gallas as a Spur and how appropriate it would be to show that acceptance and support when he is introduced to the crowd at Spurs most important game in decades as they strive to reach the group stages of the Champions League for the first time and make it a true Glory, Glory European night under the lights of White Hart Lane.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Stoke City 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2

Saturday, 21st August, 2010
Victory Over Stoke Highlights Progress Made by Tottenham and Bale
Gareth Bale - two goal hero

The win at Stoke City was an important victory for Spurs as it displayed their newly-found appetite to battle away from home against difficult opponents. It was vital to get their first Premier League victory after their encouraging performance against City a week ago and before the early season optimism wavers through pressure and doubts when results don’t go as expected. The battling display showed that Spurs are focused on campaigning on all fronts and not just being selective in the matches where they turn on a performance.

This match was set up for a Spurs’ failure sandwiched as it was between the two European qualifiers against Young Boys of Berne and in previous seasons it would have done. All the ready-made excuses were there – tiredness after travelling to Switzerland, injuries following the disappointing defeat on the artificial pitch, resting players ahead of the vital return game next week, the players distracted by the importance of the next match and Stoke are a big, strong, direct and difficult team to play against – especially at home.

Two years ago, in Stoke’s first season back in top flight football, Spurs and Gareth Bale limped away from the Britannia Stadium battered, bruised, disillusioned and defeated in what turned out to be Juande Ramos’ last league match as Tottenham manager. It was their lowest point – bottom of the league, three points adrift and as Harry Redknapp continually reminded us throughout the remainder of the season – “Spurs only had two points from eight games when I took over.”

As a team, Tottenham were in disarray, the players had lost all confidence and it was impossible to predict where the next win would come from and although it was only October, Spurs looked like a team destined for relegation. In his report on the match Matt Lawton wrote in the Daily Mail, commenting on Tottenham - ‘From the boardroom to the boot room the place is in a shambles; a sorry excuse for a football club that actually fooled itself into thinking it was on the verge of breaking into the top four of the Barclays Premier League.’

As a player, Gareth Bale was struggling as were quite a number of his colleagues. Early in the first half against Stoke Bale was caught in possession on the edge of his penalty area, conceded a rash penalty as he tried to redeem the situation and was sent off. He had yet to win a game in Tottenham colours and after an encouraging start to his Spurs’ career he was struggling to overcome the injury that had curtailed the previous season. On his comeback he was finding it extremely difficult to re-find the form that had had a host of clubs interested in signing him from Southampton. He was struggling to meet the demands of the Premier League and it was so bad that there was media speculation over how long he would remain at the club.

Twenty two months on from that depressing day, Spurs have made tremendous progress under Harry Redknapp who was unexpectedly appointed just ahead of the following weekend’s match against Bolton Wanderers. It brought Spurs’ first win of the season, although Clive Allen was officially in charge for the game. Over the two season’s Redknapp has moved the team forward. His priority in that first season was to avoid relegation and that was achieved although there were hiccups along the way. He has brought in players to strengthen the team, even if at the times they seemed unusual – including re-signing a host of former players – Jermain Defoe, Robbie Keane, Peter Crouch, Pascal Chimbonda and Younis Kaboul. Last season the manager built on that to secure fourth place in his first full season in charge and Spurs’ highest ever finish in the Premier League has brought the team to the verge of Champions League football.

Redknapp now has a squad of players which has made it possible for Spurs to rotate players and play an under-strength team which has had the organisation and ability to give a good account of itself and take three points away from home. The team for the match against Stoke was a selection that took account of injuries and the need to preserve players for the forthcoming Champions League tie. It did not fill one with confidence so shorn, was it, of important players but they played together as a team and earned their success. The football wasn’t pretty to watch but having gained the initiative in the first half all the players worked hard after the interval to preserve their lead and get the win. In previous years that would not have happened – in the past the team would have eventually succumbed to the pressure and taken nothing from the match. Never before have Spurs been in a position to field weakened teams and still win matches. In the pre-season matches it was clear that Spurs had an array of talent available as they sent out a different team for each half and both were able to give a satisfactory account of themselves against top class opponents. It is pleasing that that has now been carried forward into the league games and will enable Spurs to compete at all levels this season. Spurs showed such consistency last season that with additional European games it was going to be difficult to achieve such levels this year but the team have shown that they are capable of producing a result against difficult opposition on the weekend following the European competitions.

If Gareth Bale thinks back to that early match in his struggle for fitness and form in 2008, he will be doubly delighted at the result against Stoke and his contribution to it. From a player surrounded by doubts he has become the most exciting left sided midfield player currently playing in the Premier League. Since getting back into the team early in the year he has displayed the talent and skill of which he is capable. To date, teams have been unable to find a way to cope with his pace and direct running to score and create opportunities for the team. His two goals were at either end of the spectrum – for the first, he was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time as the Stoke defender’s clearance hit him in the face and rebounded into the goal. The second showed his ability to strike the ball perfectly with his left foot. He met the sublime cross from Aaron Lennon and dispatched the shot past the goalkeeper into the far corner of the net. No goalkeeper would have saved that shot.

Bale is an integral part of Spurs’ newly acquired belief and resilience under Harry Redknapp. He is a member of an exciting team and if successful I mid-week against Young Boys there will be further opportunities for Tottenham, Redknapp and Bale to test themselves at the highest level against top class opposition. It will be an interesting challenge.

Team: Gomes, Corluka, Dawson, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon (Walker), Huddlestone, Palacios, Jenas, Bale; Crouch.  Subs: Alnwick, Naughton, Bassong, Kranjcar, Rose, Livermore,


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tottenham Hotspur Champions League Qualifier

Tottenham Learn Lessons from the ‘Double’ Team

Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham Hotspur team 2010 did their utmost to emulate Bill Nicholson’s great ‘Double’ winning team in their first foray into European football’s top club competition for forty nine years. Unfortunately, it was not one of that team’s outstanding performances that they tried to copy but rather one of their poorer and most surprising defeats.

In season 1961-62 as reward for winning the 1st Division title for the second time in their history, Spurs took part in the European Cup, the fore-runner of today’s Champions League, which had been in existence for only six years and had been the preserve of Real Madrid who had won the first five competitions.

13th September, 1961
European Cup (1st Round 1st Leg)
Tottenham were drawn against Polish champions, Gornik Zabreze with the first leg away from home. In front of a hostile 90,000 crowd Nicholson played his full strength ‘Double’ winning team and to their horror they were three goals behind at half-time. In the opening seconds the home side hit the bar and then were gifted the lead after eight minutes following a defensive error leading to an own goal. Gornik attacked at will and Spurs made numerous errors and went further behind on twenty minutes. Mistakes continued and a third goal came just before half-time. Two minutes after the interval, having failed to learn from the earlier mistakes, Gornik were presented with their fourth goal. The hostility of the crowd increased with Tottenham’s robust tackling which saw their team reduced to ten men as one of their players wentoff injured.

Twenty minutes from time the Tottenham revival started with the battling Dave Mackay making a run and cross that enabled Cliff Jones to head a goal to reduce the arrears. Four minutes later Mackay created a second with a cross that Bobby Smith knocked down for Terry Dyson to score. With no substitutes in those days Gornik Zabreze were reduced to nine men when their young centre forward went off injured twelve minutes from time.

As Spurs left the pitch to booing and whistles, the Zabreze coach said that they had played many foreign teams but this Tottenham side was the hardest he had ever known. However, Bill Nicholson was confident Spurs would overhaul the Zabreze miners in the second leg at White Hart Lane. Desmond Hackett in his match report for the Daily Express wrote: ‘This was Super Spurs reduced from champs to chumps in ninety uneasy minutes.’

Team: Brown; Baker, Henry: Blanchflower (Capt), Norman, Mackay; Jones, White, Smith, Allen, Dyson.

17th August, 2010
Champions League (4th Qualifying Round 1st Leg)
After waiting so long this was Spurs’ opportunity to make a positive start towards the new world of the Champions League group stages. But what a start – inside four minutes Tottenham had seen Young Boys of Berne hit the post with Heurelho Gomes beaten, had Benoit Assou-Ekotto booked for tripping and conceded a goal which encouraged the Swiss team and their vociferous supporters to even greater efforts. Unable to settle on the artificial surface the Spurs players were tentative in their passing, unsure of their movement and looking in some disarray. This increased after thirteen minutes when a defensive error from Michael Dawson allowed the Berne striker through on goal to finish coolly past Gomes. After half-an-hour Spurs were three down when the defence was caught out by a through ball and Gomes had no chance. This was not in the script as perceived by the Spurs faithful many of whom had anticipated a safe passage past the ‘no-hopers’ from Switzerland. However, it was very much in line with the copycat performance of events in Poland forty nine years earlier.

Harry Redknapp introduced Tom Huddlestone before the interval and this brought an element of control to the Spurs play and for the first time in the game they weren’t chasing around hopelessly but started to exert some pressure in the match which resulted in a number of corners ahead of the break and from one of them Sebastien Bassong atoned for this defensive short-comings by heading the first Spurs goal.

The second half showed Spurs with more control but despite early possession they were unable to add to their goal tally. The Swiss continued to be dangerous on the break and could have increased their lead but this time, fortunately for Tottenham, they were not as clinical in their finishing. Then with seven minutes remaining Roman Pavlyuchenko who had experience of playing on a similar artificial surface with his former club but had had a very poor evening in Berne, received a pass from Robbie Keane and hammered an unstoppable shot inside the goalkeeper’s near post. Now, only a goal down Spurs settled for what Harry Redknapp described as a ‘great defeat’.

Team: Gomes; Corluka, Dawson (Capt), Bassong, Assou-Ekotto (Huddlestone); Dos Santos, Palacios, Modric (Kranjcar), Bale: Defoe (Keane), Pavlyuchenko.

Lessons Learned
In 1961 against Zabreze Bill Nicholson was unable to make any immediate change in personnel as no substitutes were permitted but he realised that for the away European Cup games he couldn’t afford to play the same style of football that had brought the ‘Double’ team such success in domestic competitions. In future away ties he introduced Tony Marchi as an extra defensive security. He had played football in Italy and his experience played a vital role in Spurs future progress.

Harry Redknapp was fortunate that with a bench of experienced players he had the opportunity to try to correct the failings identified early in the game against Young Boys. Huddlestone contributed greatly to the control that Spurs took of the game after his introduction and the other changes saw the manager work with a narrower midfield rather that the more extravagant wide players of Giovani Dos Santos and Gareth Bale. With Luka Modric and then Nico Kranjcar on the left of midfield they came inside much more and allowed Bale to attack from defence.

The Outcome
In 1961 the return leg introduced the football world to one to the first of those great ‘Gory, Glory European Nights’ at White Hart Lane. In an electric atmosphere, Spurs hit the bar inside thirty seconds and took the lead on nine minutes with a Danny Blanchflower penalty. Cliff Jones terrorised the Gornik defence and scored a first half hat-trick in seventeen minutes but the visitors also managed to grab a goal to keep their hopes alive. Before half-time Bobby Smith scored and Spurs were 7-5 ahead on aggregate. In the second half Smith added his second, Terry Dyson scored number seven and John White completed the scoring with a minute remaining to make the score 8-1 for Tottenham.

Having followed the 1961 script so closely for the away match, it is to be hoped that Tottenham 2010 will get their lines right in a similar fashion next week to ensure the club make it into the lucrative group stages of the UEFA Champions League and that the fans don’t have to wait another forty nine years to experience competition at the highest level in European football.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Spurs in Switzerland

Tottenham Hotspur face Swiss opponents, Young Boys Berne, as they strive to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League for the first time in their history.  Spurs supporters will of course point out that their club did appear in the European Cup, the fore-runner to today's Champions League, in season 1961-62 when they were unfortunate to lose in the semi-final to Benfica.

This is only the second occasion in all their European ties that Spurs have been drawn against a team from Switzerland.  The previous meeting with a Swiss club was in 1973-74 in the 1st Round of the UEFA Cup when Spurs played Grasshopper Zurich.  The aggregate win was 9-2 in Spurs' favour which suggests a very comfortable passage for the north London team but this could not be further from the truth as Spurs endured a very difficult evening in Zurich for the first leg.  It was the goalkeeping talent of Pat Jennin which kept Spurs in the game as he produced save after save.  Spurs took an early lead from a Martin Chivers' header but then Grasshopper created chance after chance only to be thwarted by Jennings.  On the half-hour Ray Evans added a second for Spurs, very much against the run of play.  Just before the interval the home side finally beat Jennings from the penalty spot to reduce the arrears. 

In the second half Jennings continued to deny the Swiss with a succession of outstanding saves and then Chivers scored his second while Alan Gilzean added two more to add insult to injury and produce a quite extraordinary score line.

Team: Jennings; Evans, Knowles, Coates (Holder), England, Beal; Pratt, Perryman, Chivers, Peters, Neighbour (Gilzean).

The second game was much more comfortable - Mike England, Martin Peters (2) and an own goal ensured a 4-1 victory at White Hart Lane.

Team: Daines; Evans, Knowles; Pratt, England, Beal; Gilzean, Perryman, Chivers, Peters, Coates

Previous visits to Switzerland have included a tour in 1966-67 following Spurs FA Cup success.  The second game of the tour saw then play Young Boys Berne.  Spurs won the three games they played:

FC Zurich - Won 2-0 Robertson (2)
BSC Young Boys - Won 3-2 Greaves (2), Bond
FC Servette - Won 4-1 Greaves (2), Venables, Saul

In season 1957-58 Spurs went to Basel to play a match against the Swiss National XI.  They won the game by 5-4 with Bobby Smith scoring four goals and Dave Dunmore getting the fifth.

In May, 1914 Spurs undertook an end of season tour of Germany, Italy and Switzerland.  Two games were played in Switzerland - a 6-0 win over Zurich and a 3-0 success against St Gallen.

The next tour that the club undertook was eleven years later when they played seven games in Switzerland in May, 1925.  Again they were successful in each match:

v Basel Old Boys Won 3-0
v Zurich Young Fellows Won 2-0
v Wintherthur Won 4-0
v Lausanne Won 6-1
v La Cheux de Fonds Won 8-1
v Berne Won 5-0
v Basel Won 1-0

In March, 1955 Spurs played FC Servette in a friendly at White Hart Lane.  They had a 5-1 victory with goals from Gavin (2), Brooks, Duquemin, McClellan.   

Players from Switzerland:

Spurs have had two players from Switzerland on their books in recent years - Ramon Vega and Reto Ziegler. 

Ramon Vega
Vega made 64 appearances for Spurs and was a member of the Worthington Cup winning team in 1999 which defeated Leicester City 1-0. He scored 7 goals in his four years at White Hart Lane. He went to Celtic on loan and then signed for Watford after being released by Tottenham.

Ziegler was a young player who made 23 League appearances, scoring once, under Martin Jol and is now playing for Sampdoria.  Both players represented their country in full internationals.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tottenham Hotspur 0 Manchester City 0

Saturday, 14th August, 2010
Tottenham Miss Chances to Turnover City

The early lunch time kick-offs matches tend to lack the atmosphere that is generated with an afternoon or evening start.  Whether they're too early in the day for fans and players alike, I don't know, but add the additional matter that it was the opening day of the season so you usually finds both sets of players testing each other out tentatively and cautiously.  So to be told that this game between Spurs and City ended goal-less, one's immediate thought would have been 'Boring.'  (in fact, when I told an enquiring Chelsea supporter the score - that was his first thought)

However, this couldn't be further from the truth as both sets of fans were up for the game and both sets of players set to with an endeavour and energy that belied the fact that it was a hot, humid August day and pre-season training was only just completed.  It was a match that Spurs should have won by a clear number of goals and would have done so had it not been for Joe Hart.  The newly selected England 'number 1' was all that stood between Spurs and a landslide victory or to put it another way, Hart was all that prevented the expensively acquired City team from suffering an opening day defeat of some magnitude.

During the ninety minutes, Heurelho Gomes made one comfortabe save while Hart rescued City on a number of occasions and Gareth Bale hit the post in the first half.  Spurs started the better and put City under immediate pressure with their midfield quartet, Aaron Lennon, Tom Huddlestone, Luka Modric and Bale, controlling the game and creating opportunities for themselves and for the strikers, Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch.  On numerous occasions Hart was required to make vital saves to keep his side in the game.  Twice he denied Defoe and also saved a 25-yard drive from Huddlestone.  It was a matter of when would Spurs score but throughout the game it wasn't to be.  In the second half, Hart saved shots from substitute Palyuchenko and in added as Spurs put together a good move on the right, Pavluchenko fired in a cross towards Keane and as the ball was blocked it dropped in the centre of the penalty area to Bale who should have scored but fired wide.

On another day, against a different goalkeeper, Spurs would have won.  It's two points dropped from spurs view, especially as they have reaped points so abundantly from City in past years, but forCity it's like a win so little have they taken from Spurs over he past decade.  As long as the top teams take points from each other as Liverpool and Arsenal have just done, this result confirms that Spurs are carrying on from where they finished last season and there is certainly much to look forward to in the next nine months.  If a clinical goal scorer could be acquired before the close of the transfer window then Spurs might not suffer so many frustrating afternoons as today proved.

'Results on the first day of a football season are no guide whatsoever to how a campaign will pan out.' - Jim Holden (Daily Express)
A very positive start from Spurs - now it's that very important Champions League qualifying game against Young Boys, Berne on Tuesday evening.

Echoes of Glory 1960-61
At half-time Spurs paid a fitting tribute to the 'Double' team. Players from the team or representatives of the former players and manager were introduced to the crowd at half-time to mark the 50th anniversary of the satart of that famous season, 1960-61, when Spurs won the League and FA Cup double.

Those present were Peter Baker, Maurice Norman, Mel Hopkins, Dave Mackay, Cliff Jones, Les Allen, Terry Dyson and Terry Medwin.  Tribute was paid to the 'late' Bill Brown (goalkeeper) - Ron Henry who was too ill to attend was represented by his son, the 'late' John White was represented by his wife and Bobby Smith had intended to attend but was unwell.

The 'late' Danny Blanchflower was represented by his son who carries out the FA Cup while the 'late' Bill Nicholson's daughter brought the Football League trophy to the proceedings.

All received a tremendous reception from the fans most of whom stayed during the interval to watch the tribute.  It was quite a moving experience and brought a tear to the eye.

Team: Gomes, Corluka, Dawson, King, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon (Dos Santos), Huddlestone, Modric, Bale; Defoe (Keane), Crouch (Pavlyuchenko).  Subs: Cudicini; Kaboul, Palacios, Bassong.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Spurs' Goals for the New Season

Another summer anticipating new signings at White Hart Lane draws to a close with nothing to show, as yet, but expectations for the new season remain high. It will be difficult to maintain the level of consistency shown throughout the greater part of last year when European games are added to the fixture list but that’s what Tottenham have been striving for over the past number of years. It’s fitting that Tottenham embark on their first season in the Champions League in the year that marks the fiftieth anniversary of Spurs’ greatest ever year and team – the 1960-61 ‘Double’ side. The team that earned Spurs a place in the European Cup and did so much to emblazon the name of Tottenham Hotspur across Europe and worldwide.

As the legendary Bill Nicholson said, “It's magnificent to be in Europe and this club - a club like Tottenham Hotspur - if we're not in Europe, we're nothing.”

Once again Spurs have that chance in Europe’s top competition and the opening matches of the season will go a long way to define the success or failure of the season that lies ahead. Failure and we could repeat the Everton scenario of their Champions League year, while success opens up bold, new horizons. There are the crucial qualifying games against Young Boys Berne to reach the group stages of the Champions League and three vital Premier League games before the end of August. Last year Spurs took nine points from the corresponding fixtures and to maintain a position in the top four that level of consistency is going to be vital. To fail in these games could really dampen the spirit of optimism surrounding the club and spectators as the season opens.

To date, transfer activity for Spurs has been limited to rumours of possible targets and probable departures. Presumably, the Chairman will be activating his usual ‘last-minute.com’ policy once he is aware of Spurs European status in the last week of August – Champions League or Europa League.

Spurs immediate goal for the season must be to reach the group stages of the Champions League with a long term objective of building on last season’s progress by maintaining their top four position. However, that will not be an easy task with Manchester City signing players for fun and lavishing excessive salaries upon them while Liverpool are determined to revitalise their flagging fortunes under Roy Hodgson and are fortunate to have retained their star players. If Spurs are unable to achieve these short and long-term targets Daniel Levy may regret his unwillingness to speculate in order to strengthen the team this summer.

There is much to look forward to this season and there is a great buzz of expectation around the club at this moment in time. Spurs are in their strongest position for many years and it is to be hoped that they will progress to an even higher level and by next May will have some silverware to show for all their efforts.

50 Years Ago today - Saturday, 13th August,1960

Spurs 'Double' winning team - 1960
It was 50 years ago today that Spurs supporters had the first glimpse of the greatest team in the club's history which was about to embark on a season that would never be forgotten and would set the standards for every other Tottenham Hotspur team, standards which, to date, none have ever reached.
On the second Saturday of August the Public Trial Match was played at White Hart Lane.  In those days there were no pre-season tours or friendly matches played, the final preparation was the annual match between the 'Whites' (1st Team) and the 'Blues' (Reserves) and the public had their first opportunity to see the team ahead of the new season.  There were no new players on view and the first team only showed one change from the team which had finished the previous year - Les Allen replacing Tony Marchi. The matches were always very competitive as players tried to catch the manager's eye with an impressive performance that would ensure their place in the team for the first League game to be played the following Saturday at 3.00pm.
Reporting on the game in the match programme for the Everton game it was noted that the players had completed three weeks training at Cheshunt and 11,677 spectators were present to see a 4-4 draw with all the proceeds donated to charity. 
The match was evenly contested but midway through the second half the 'Whites' had taken a 4-1 lead and looked to be on their way to a comfortable win.  The 'Whites' went ahead from a Cliff Jones penalty half way through the first half and this was followed a few minutes later by a goal from Dave Mackay who having 'joined in a left-wing attack and from almost the bye-line lashed a fierce drive just inside the near post' - one of the highlights of the afternoon.
Early in the second half Terry Dyson scored the third after a shot from Les Allen hit the bar.  Immediately, the 'Blues' pulled a goal back when Terry Medwin scored from Frank Saul's cross with a flying header.  Immediately, Les Allen restored the three goal margin.
The 'Blues' staged a late comeback as Jimmy Collins and Frank Saul scored to reduce the arrears and then Collins added his second in the final minutes following a defensive mix-up.
Bill Nicholson obviously knew his best team as the 'Whites' team was composed of all the players who are most closely associated with the 'Double' team and who were to appear in the final 'Double' clinching match at Wembley the following May.
'Whites': Brown; Baker, Henry; Blanchflower, Norman, Mackay; Jones, White, Smith (R), Allen, Dyson.
'Blues': Hollowbread, Hills, Hopkins; Smith (J), Ryden, Marchi; Medwin, Harmer, Saul, Collins, Aitchison.

Michael Dawson's Wembley Jinx

Michael Dawson's Wembley
In the past playing at Wembley Stadium was often regarded as the pinnacle of a footballer's career when the only opportunity to tread the hallowed turf came through a Cup Final appearance or an international match.  However, in this modern era there are so many games at the stadium - internationals, FA Cup semi-final and finals, League Cup finals, the Community Shield, Football League play-offs, random minor Cup finals and even pre-season tournaments, that to make an appearance there is not so highly regarded and for the top players it is common place.
However, for Michael Dawson, Tottenham's Player of the Year for last season, the new Wembley experience must be something of a disappointment.  Over the past three seasons he has had four opportunities to play there but they have not been as memorable as he would have hoped for and if he were a superstitious person he might be starting to feel that the place was jinxed as far as he was concerned.
2007-08 Carling Cup Final
Having helped Spurs reach the Final against Chelsea, appearing in four of the five games on the road to Wembley, including the famous 5-1 semi-final victory over Arsenal at White Hart Lane, Dawson cruelly missed out on the final through injury.  Two weeks before the final, he sustained an injury early in the league game at Derby County and was sidelined for a month.  However, as the team celebrated their stirring extra time success over Chelsea, Dawson showed his character and his pleasure for his colleagues and the club as he watched from the side-lines with a great smile, obviously enjoying the moment and not being overwhelmed by his own sense of disappointment at not being in the team that day.
2008-09 Carling Cup Final
Twelve months later as Spurs endeavoured to retain the trophy, Michael Dawson made it on to the pitch, partnering Ledley King in central defence.  This time he played his part as the defence held firm against the strike power of Manchester United but after extra time the match remained goal-less and Dawson could only watch helplessly as United took the game on penalties.  Another disappointment at Wembley for Dawson who had again played in four of the five games on the way to the final.
2009-10 F A Cup Semi-final
Spurs were looking good for another FA Cup final appearance, their first since Gazza and the 1991 success over Nottingham Forest, especially as they were playing Portsmouth whom they had defeated twice in the Premier League and who were facing relegation and were in serious financial difficulty.  However, the match didn't go as Spurs would have hoped and Portsmouth displayed much commitment and determination and were proving difficult opponents.  With no goals after ninety minutes the match went to extra time and looked to be heading for a penalty decider when the highly criticised Wembley turf played a crucial role in proceedings.  Unfortunately, it was Michael Dawson who was to suffer as he slipped at a vital moment when he was about to clear the ball in the centre of the penalty area.  The ball fell invitingly for Portsmouth who accepted the gift and went on to secure a two goal victory.  Once again Dawson was left to rue his Wembley experience.
August, 2010 - England Debut 
After enduring a long summer in South Africa, without getting a game at the World Cup, Michael Dawson finally made his long awaited England debut.  Having appeared in a number of England squads, Fabio Capello gave Dawson his first full cap as a second half substitute for John Terry in the friendly against Hungary.  In the early moments of the half Dawson looked nervous but with the game goal-less he was settling into the match when he moved to intercept a through ball but missed it allowing Hungary to progress into the penalty area.  As the England defence covered the attack, Dawson recovered to try to make amends and when a deflected shot came across the goal, Dawson stretched to clear and prevented it from crossing the line.  It was a close call but then the French referee's assistant decreed that the ball had in fact crossed the line and a goal was awarded.  Television evidence shows that the ball didn't fully cross the line but Dawson had made the initial mistake which had allowed Hungary to create the goal scoring opportunity. Of course, he was wearing the England shirt with number '13'.  Fortunately, as it was a friendly international and as England recovered to win the game, the press didn't make too big an issue of Dawson's blunder on his debut and hopefully he will have the chance to add to his international appearances in the future and avoid being a 'one-cap wonder'.

A great former Spurs stalwart, Gary Mabbutt, endured Wembley heartache before being able to enjoy the sweet taste of success at the stadium.  Mabbutt had appeared at the ground on a number of occasions both for Spurs and England - he actually made his Spurs debut in the 1982 Charity Shield defeat by Liverpool.  Howver, his greatest disappointment will have been the memory of the own goal which enabled Coventry City to wn the FA Cup in 1987.  In extra time a cross came into the Spurs area, the ball hit Mabbutt on the knee and looped over the reach of Ray Clemence.  Spurs had been clear favourites and it was the first occasion that Spurs had suffered defeat in an FA Cup final.  David Pleat's team had come so close to success in all three competitions but in the end had fallen at the final hurdle.  It was not until 1991 that Mabbutt avenged this disappointment when he held aloft the FA Cup as captain of the victorious Spurs side who had overcome many difficulties both on and off the pitch to secure their trophy and possibly the very existence of the club.  Ironically, it was as Mabbutt challenged for the ball from a corner that Des Walker headed into his own goal to put Spurs ahead.

Hopefully, in the not too distant future Michael Dawson will be able to set aside his Wembley disappointments and have some exciting memories to tell his grandchildren in the years to come.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Spurs' Summer Expectations Shattered Once Again.

Ardiles - World Cup Winner

The early summer expectations of a World Cup that would throw up a host of foreign players who would enhance the Premier League were quickly dashed as the realisation dawned very early in the competition that South Africa 2010 was a rather poor and disappointing vintage to offer to the world.  Tottenham Hotspur have benefitted in the past from World Cup signings - they set high standards when Keith Burkinshaw returned to Argentina to sign World Cup winners, Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa.  In 1984 Alan Sugar pulled a rabbit out of the hat with the unexpected signing of Germany's Jurgen Klinsmann but on other occasions the stars of the World Cup have disappointed when faced with the rigours of English football.  This year there were few who did themselves much good in the shop window of the World Cup.

Every summer Spurs fans hope for an early resolution to all transfer negotiations as the manager, with the Chairman's assistance, endeavours to strengthen the Tottenham team for the following season.  The reasoning being that on the resumption of training all the new players will be in place and the work of preparing for the new season can commence in earnest.  However, sadly, once again, this has proved to be a forlorn and false hope as, to date, no new signings have appeared at White Hart Lane.  The only signing of note has been the acquisition of the young Brazilian midfield player, Sandro, but he remains in his homeland and is not expected to be available until September. 
The rumour mill has once again been in full swing with Spurs centre field for every conceivable target but no-one has signed on the dotted line and held up the lilywhite shirt at White Hart Lane.

For many years as Spurs have chased possible transfer targets, the lack of first, European football, and then Champions League football has always been held up as a reason why players have been reluctant to commit themselves to Spurs.  But now with Champions League football beckoning, players still show a reluctance to come to Tottenham.  In past years all we could do was watch as our star players went off to pastures new to fulfill their dreams of playing for the top clubs in the top competitions - Sol Campbell deserted Tottenham for our closest rivals, Arsenal, Teddy Sheringham, Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov couldn't wait to get to Old Trafford while Robbie Keane had to sign for his boyhood team, Liverpool.  Spurs couldn't offer those players the opportunity to play at the highest level so there was nothing the club could do but release them with their best wishes and accept the transfer fees to swell the coffers while we, the fans, felt betrayed and disconsolate.  However, now things have changed, Spurs have access to the Champions League while Liverpool are consigned to the Europa League, that should make a difference.  But No - Spurs are still struggling to make those important signings while Liverpool have managed to hold on to their stars - Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres and have persuaded Joe Cole to move north to Anfield rather than move to Tottenham.  So as Manchester City and Liverpool have proved, players aren't just interested in the playing opportunities, they're very interested in the money on offer and will go to wherever they get the best salary.  Perhaps, Mr Levy will have to reconsider his financial restrictions where transfer fees and salaries are concerned if Tottenham Hotspur are going to become one of the big players in the Premier League as well as in Europe.  No-one wants Spurs to spend foolishly or offer extravagant salaries but to achieve greatness there will have to be a loosening of the purse strings to attract quality players to the club.

With less than three weeks remaining of this very quiet transfer window, it is to be hoped that any signings will improve the quality of the team and not just be a signing for the sake of it - in the past Spurs have suffered through Mr Levy's desire to shop at 'last-minute.com'.  Late, hasty purchases rarely achieve great success.  Spurs need better than that if they are to maintain the progress achieved by Harry Redknapp in the past two years.


Spurs' Goal Scoring Debutantes in Premier League

Sixteen players have scored for Tottenham Hotspur on their debut in the Premier League. New signing Tanguy Ndombele joins an interesting group of players - some who are fondly remembered at the club, while others have been long forgotten. 
(Up-dated: Aug. 2019) 

Sol Campbell: (Dec. 1992)* In the first season of the Premiership Campbell made his debut as a late substitute against Chelsea at White Hart Lane. His goal was a late consolation in a 2-1 defeat. Campbell went on to captain Spurs to a Worthington Cup success at Wembley against Leicester City in 1999 but he will never be forgiven by Spurs fans for the way he left the club in 2001 on a Bosman free to sign for their near neighbours and greatest rivals, Arsenal.

Ronnie Rosenthal: (Feb. 1994) Battling against relegation Ossie Ardiles signed Rosenthal to bring some experience to the team which was struggling to score goals due to a long-term injury to Teddy Sheringham. In his debut at home to Sheffield Wednesday Rosenthal scored but it didn't prevent Spurs losing 1-3. The highlight of Rosenthal's career with Spurs was the hat-trick he scored against Southampton in the FA Cup in 1995. Spurs were two down at half-time but Rosenthal came on as a substitute and scored twice to take the game to extra time. He completed his hat-trick (three tremendous goals) to give Spurs an improbable 6-2 victory.

Jurgen Klinsmann: (Aug. 1994) (pictured) Spurs were in deep trouble having been severely punished by the Football Association for financial irregularities. Chairman, Alan Sugar had managed to persuade Klinsmann to join Spurs and his presence gave Spurs an immediate boost and an opening day success against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough. Klinsmann scored in a 4-3 victory, introduced his 'dive' celebration and was carried off injured on his debut. Klinsmann formed an exciting goal scoring partnership with Teddy Sheringham but unfortunately it didn't produce any silverware for the club and he departed at the end of the season. His later return was not as effective although he scored four vital goals against Wimbledon to save Spurs from relegation under Christian Gross.

Dean Richards: (Sept. 2004) Signed from Southampton by Glenn Hoddle, defender Richards scored against Manchester United as Spurs took a three goal lead in the first half. However, that was as good as it got as after half-time United stormed back at White Hart Lane to win 5-3. Richards career at Spurs was blighted by injury.

Fredi Kanoute: (Aug. 2003)* Signed from West Ham United during the summer he made his debut at home to Leeds United. His substitute appearance in the first home game of the season ensured Spurs' 2-1 victory. A player of great technique, Kanoute's languid style divided supporters but he scored many important goals before his departure to Seville in 2005. After his departure some supporters came to realise what he brought to the team.

Mbulelo Mabizela: (Oct. 2003)* Signed by Spurs following their summer tour to South Africa, Mabizela made his debut as a late substitute at Leicester City. He scored the winning goal in the 2-1 success but failed to build on that promising start to his Spurs career.

Jermain Defoe: (Feb. 2004) Signed from West Ham United, Defoe was an instant hit scoring early on his debut against Portsmouth at White Hart Lane as Spurs won 4-3. A regular goal scorer he left for Portsmouth in January, 2008 but returned a year later and was part of the team which took Tottenham into the Champions League under Harry Redknapp. By the time of his departure in February, 2014, he had made 363 appearances, scoring 143 goals in all competitions. At that time he was Tottenham's 5th highest goalscorer and their highest scorer in European competitions. Harry Kane has since overtaken him in both of those rankings.

Mido: (Feb. 2005) A loan signing Mido made an impressive debut against Portsmouth, scoring twice. He became an important member of Martin Jol's team which just missed out on a Champions League place. When his application and effort were right, Mido was good and scored vital goals but he struggled to maintain his fitness and this endeavour.

Gilberto: (Mar. 2008)* A disappointing signing, the Brazilian rarely showed his true ability but scored in a 4-0 victory, having come on as a substitute against West Ham United at White Hart Lane. He had played his first game for Spurs in a UEFA Cup tie against PSV Eindhoven in mid-week but it was his error which had given the visitors the only goal of the game.

Sebastien Bassong: (Aug. 2009) His headed goal against Liverpool on the opening day of the 2009 - 10 season made him the tenth Spurs' player to score on their Premier League debut.

Danny Rose: (Apr. 2010) He made his league debut against Arsenal, scoring the first goal of the match after ten minutes as Tottenham won 2–1 in the Premier League on 14 April 2010. The goal was subsequently described as "a volley so thunderous that you could hear the whack off his boot above the din of the raucous crowd" in The Times. Rose won Goal of the Season, with votes run by Sky Sports and by the Tottenham website.

Emmanuel Adebayor: (Sept. 2011) Having joined Spurs on loan from Manchester City, in the 67th minute of his debut for Tottenham against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux in September, 2011, Adebayor collected a through ball from Scott Parker and coolly scored his first goal for his new club. This set Spurs up for their first Premier League win of the season and made him the twelfth Tottenham player to score on their Premier League debut.

Moussa Dembele: (Aug. 2012) A match in which Spurs were struggling came to life in the second half when substitute Moussa Dembele scored from the edge of the penalty area. Unfortunately, it wasn't a winning debut as battling Norwich City levelled the scores with a few minutes remaining.

Roberto Soldado: (Aug. 2013) A second half penalty as Spurs visited London rivals, Crystal Palace, secured the points for Tottenham. The penalty came four minutes after the restart when a cross by Lennon was handled. Soldado stepped up confidently to score on his debut and set Spurs on their way with the only goal of the game.

Eric Dier: (Aug. 2014) Having joined Tottenham less than two weeks earlier, the 20-year-old Dier made an immediate impact at the club – impressing in central defence and also with his coolness when scoring the late goal. Played in by Harry Kane in the 92nd minute, Dier took the ball wide of the advancing West Ham goalkeeper and placed the ball into the open goal. With the goal coming so late in the game it was guaranteed to grab the headlines as it provided Mauricio Pochettino with a winning start to the season for Spurs.

Tanguy Ndombele: (Aug. 2019) Tottenham's record signing, costing £55m, made his debut against Aston Villa on the opening day of the season at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. A goal behind from the 9th minute and looking set to lose their first game, it was in the 73rd minute that Ndombele received the ball from Lucas Moura and fired in a shot from outside the box, to equalise and calm the worried Spurs' supporters. This lifted the team and the fans as Tottenham went on to win 3-1 with two goals in four minutes from Harry Kane as the game drew to a close.

* Players who made their debut as a substitute

Pre-Premier League Goal Scoring Debuts

Many players have scored on their debut prior to the creation of the Premier League. That list of players include many legends:
  • Jimmy Greaves (a hat-trick against Blackpool (h))

  • Martin Chivers (2 at Sheffield Wednesday)

  • Colin Lee (4 in a 9-0 demolition of Bristol Rovers at White Hart Lane in Spurs last season in the old Second Division)

  • Ricky Villa at Nottingham Forest

  • Garth Crooks against Nottingham Forest