Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tottenham Hotspur Sign Scott Parker

At the Fourth Attempt

Scott Parker - signed by Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur have completed the signing of Scott Parker from West Ham United on the final afternoon of the Transfer Window after months of speculation.  Since West Ham's relegation at the end of last season Parker has been one of a number of players the Upton Park club has been trying to sell in order to reduce their wage bill ahead of their first season back in the Championship.

The England midfield player is someone that Harry Redknapp has been keen to sign but Chairman, Daniel Levy, has been reluctant to buy a thirty year old on a long contract with a high salary who would have little sell on value.  He has held off negotiations with the east London club, with whom relations are not good after their run-in over the Olympic Stadium bid and subsequent legal challenges, until the last days of the transfer window.

Scott Parker made his name at Charlton Athletic where he played for seven years.  He was consistently linked with a move from Charlton and Tottenham was one of the clubs linked with him but Parker decided to go to Chelsea in January, 2004 for £10 million.  In eighteen months at Stamford Bridge he had few opportunities to show his worth and played only fifteen League games, scoring one goal.

In the summer of 2005 Parker was again linked with a transfer to White Hart Lane but he opted to travel north to join Newcastle United for £6.5 million.   Two years later he was part of transfer speculation again with Spurs touted as an option but on returning to London he signed for West Ham United.

Parker made his International debut for England in 2003 but has made only six appearances over eight years, with three coming last season.  After 113 appearances for West Ham, Parker has left the club for a fee of £5 million having had his best season which lead to him winning the Football Writers' Player of the Year award.

Parker was aware of the need to play in the Premier League to strengthen his claims for a place in the England team and Spurs would appear to bean ideal choice for him as he will be assured of a place in their midfield alongside Luka Modric who appears to be remaining in north London.  Tottenham need a presence in midfield and Parker can be the leader that Spurs have needed for some time.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pat Jennings to be Honoured

Pat Jennings with his UEFA award at Windsor Park, Belfast
Tottenham Hotspur's legendary goalkeeper, Pat Jennings, is to be honoured by UEFA at Friday night's Euro2012 match between Northern Ireland and Serbia at Windsor Park, Belfast.  Jennings is among a number of players to be honoured by UEFA in recognition of winning over one hundred international caps for their country.

Jennings who signed for Spurs in June, 1964 from Watford for £27,000 had already made his International debut for Northern Ireland against Wales, the previous April.  At the age of eighteen he made his debut in the same team as George Best and helped Northern Ireland to a 3 - 2 victory in the Home International Championships.  He made 119 appearances for his country and played in two World Cup Finals in Spain in 1982 and in Mexico four years later.  In Spain, Northern Ireland memorably defeated the home country to top their group and progress to the next stage.  He retired from club football in 1985 but continued to play for Northern Ireland until the completion of their participation in the 1986 World Cup finals.  His last match was on his 41st birthday against Brazil.

Jennings played for Tottenham for thirteen years and made 472 League appearances for the club and 118 in Cup competitions.  He made his debut in August, 1964 against Sheffield United at White Hart Lane on the opening day of the season in a 2 - 0 win.  He won the FA Cup in 1967, the League Cup in 1971 and 1973 and was a member of the successful UEFA Cup winning team of 1972.  He is remembered for his ability to go out to catch the ball with one hand and for his numerous match winning saves.  He saved two penalties at Anfield to earn Spurs a point and won the Football Writers' Player of the Year Award in 1973 and the PFA award in 1976.  In the 1967 Charity Shield game at Old Trafford he scored for Spurs with a long kick down field which deceived Alex Stepney.  Spurs and United drew 3 - 3.  He was out through injury in season 1976-77 when Spurs were relegated and at the end of the season manager, Keith Burkinshaw, inexplicably decided to release Jennings who went to Arsenal where he performed heroically for another eight years.  He returned to Spurs in 1985 as cover for Ray Clemence but primarily to stay fit for Northern Ireland's World Cup campaign.

Pat Jennings
Since retiring he has worked at Tottenham as a goalkeeping coach/consultant and on the hospitality side on match days.

Jennings has been a great ambassador for Tottenham Hotspur and Northern Ireland and thoroughly deserving of this award from UEFA.

It was a great disappointment to Spurs fans that he was released back in 1977, made worse by joining Arsenal, but he was such a hero and so highly regarded by everyone at Tottenham that he has always been respected and was welcomed back warmly at the end of his career.

Thank you Pat Jennings and congratulations on receiving this award.


What a Difference a Few months Makes for Spurs and City

Tottenham and City Moving in Opposite Directions

Look back over the  past twenty months and it is clear to see that Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City are two clubs moving in opposite directions.

December, 2009  Tottenham Hotspur 3 Manchester City 0 
Spurs came back from a disappointing home defeat against Wolves the previous Saturday to comprehensively defeat City and take the upper hand in the race for fourth place and a Champions League spot.  Roberto Mancini had only recently taken over as City manager from Mark Hughes who many thought had been harshly treated by the mega-rich City owners.

May, 2010  Manchester City 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1
Tottenham continue to maintain their dominance over City in what amounted to a play-off for the Champions League with a goal from Peter Crouch giving Spurs the coveted prize and the opportunity to play at the highest level for the first time in fifty years.

August, 2010  Tottenham Hotspur 0 Manchester City 0
With the two clubs having battled it out for the Champions League throughout the previous season, the fixture computer decreed that they should meet again on the opening day of the season at White Hart Lane.  City introduced a number of their new signings but it was Spurs who dominated the game and City were relieved to leave with a point thanks mainly to the performance of Joe Hart in goal.  Spurs created the chances but couldn't score while City were happy to play defensively as they did for most of the season.  Spurs were less satisfied with the result, knowing they deserved to start the season with a win and three points.

May, 2011  Manchester City 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0
Another Champions League play-off but it was City who took the spoils thanks to a Peter Crouch own goal.  City deserved the success but Spurs battled bravely in their quest for another opportunity in the Champions League.  In spite of their many expensive signings, City were a team who had relied heavily on their talisman and leading scorer, Carlos Tevez, for inspiration throughout the season.

August, 2011  Tottenham Hotspur 1 Manchester City 5
FA Cup winners Manchester City played with confidence and produced a display of flowing, passing football with clinical finishing from their start striker.  It was a team performance that brought them their first League victory at White Hart Lane since 2003 and left Spurs looking outclassed.  For half an hour Spurs had competed and created their own chances but City always looked the more dangerous and once the second goal went in just before half-time, the writing was on the wall for Spurs.  No longer were City a team reliant on one player, Tevez was now relegated to the substitutes bench wondering if he would get into the team, they had a team of players working together who had shaken off their defensive shackles and had free rein to attack with pace and their high class signings were displaying their full range of talent and skills.  

Manchester City are joint top of the Premier League with nine points from three games, Spurs are bottom with no points from two matches.  How things have changed in a short period of time.  City with millions to spend on transfers have paid top prices and high wages for quality players to ensure success, Tottenham have signed a forty year old goalkeeper on a free transfer, have finally taken Emmanuel Adebayor on loan from City as long as the Manchester club continue to pay a high proportion of his salary and are still negotiating on a number of fronts trying to winkle a bargain or two for a top player at a knock down price in the final hours of the transfer window. 

Unhappy Players
Both clubs have experienced similar problems this summer.  They have had to deal with a player who has been looking to leave.  Carlos Tevez stated his desire to return to his home country for family reasons while Luka Modric indicated that he wanted to go to Chelsea to play Champions League football.  The clubs due to their different financial situation dealt with the matter in opposite ways - City went on strengthening their team, regardless of the unhappy player but Spurs have had to spend the summer fending off offers from Chelsea repeating their intention not to sell Modric who has become less and less inclined to turn out for the club with whom he signed a six year contract last year.  Spurs have been unable to sign any quality players, uncertain what the final outcome would be with Modric.

Unwanted Players 
They have both had a number of players who have been surplus to their manager's requirements for some time and have been trying to sell them on but with limited success.  City have agreed to allow Adebayor to join Spurs on loan for the season but at a cost - they are continuing to pay a portion of his salary.  Other players have not been easy to move out because of their high salaries - any interested clubs have just not been able to reach agreement on terms with the player.  A similar problem exists for Spurs who have a number of players who are have been on loan and do not figure in Harry Redknapp's future plans.  Alan Hutton, David Bentley and Giovani Dos Santos have all been on loan and the club is trying to move them on while Wilson Palacios, Jermaine Jenas, Peter Crouch, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Sebastien Bassong and Heurelho Gomes are all players who could be sold if an acceptable offer were received.  Spurs have been trying to reduce the size of their squad and wage bill ahead of making any new signings but with little movement from White Hart Lane, they have been reluctant to complete the much needed new signings to strengthen the team.  The only significant departures have been Jonathan Woodgate who left on a free having only played for fifteen minutes in his last eighteen months at Tottenham and Robbie Keane who went to LA Galaxy. 

Lack of signings at Tottenham
On first impressions at the start of the new season, the two clubs have moved poles apart.  Since December, 2009 when Spurs were in the ascendancy, City have used their financial strengthen to improve their team with the goal of challenging at the highest level and winning trophies on a regular basis.  Spurs, having qualified for last season's Champions League, failed to strengthen their team last summer.  When the club was not  in the Champions League, fans were told that top players were unwilling to sign without the opportunity to play at that level.  However, it didn't prove an incentive to top stars last year when Spurs were linked with numerous players but no signing transpired.  The only signing of note was the very,very late acquisition of Rafael Van der Vaart from Real Madrid in a cut price deal.

Since January, 2011 when Spurs were in a strong position for a top four finish the club seems to have been distracted by other issues and failed to push on to advance themselves in the highest echelons of Premier League football.  The early part of the transfer window was dominated by the David Beckham, 'would he, wouldn't he sign for the club?' only for the club to be pleased to announce that he was going to train for a few weeks ahead of returning to America.  The transfer window closed again without any key signings, especially a goal scorer who was required with the Tottenham strikers so lacking in goals throughout last season.  The attempt to acquire the Olympic Stadium rather than continue with the Northumberland Park Development was another unnecessary distraction at transfer time and the subsequent rows and legal challenges must have taken time and attention from the main purpose of the club - winning football matches.  This window has again been full of names and rumours about top class players whom the club has been trying to acquire but nothing has happened yet.  Other clubs completed their transfer business early, particularly Manchester United and Liverpool, along with City, and the benefits have been obvious as these three clubs currently occupy the top three positions in the Premier League with Chelsea in fourth.

Missing Out Again, Spurs
It has always been preferable to do transfer business early to enable the manager to work with his new acquisitions and to allow the players to settle into their new team but this is a policy which Daniel Levy, always with an eye for a bargain, has failed to achieve once again.  As City and Tottenham at present appear to be moving in opposite directions Spurs may rue missing the opportunity to firmly establish themselves as a club at the top table of English football.  Their precarious financial position in the early nineties prevented them from getting established as a top club at the introduction of the wealth associated with the Premier League, surely they are not going to miss out again.



Monday, August 29, 2011

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Manchester City 5

Sunday, 28th August, 2011

Spurs Discover a Difference in Class

A disappointing start to the new season - two consecutive defeats to the two Manchester clubs who would appear to be the teams who have set their sights on dominating English football this season.  Both have strengthened their team and have shown clinical finishing to round off their confident, passing football.

Team: Friedel; Corluka, Dawson, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon (Defoe), Modric (Livermore), Kranjcar (Huddlestone), Bale, Van der Vaart; Crouch.

Tottenham started brightly and for half an hour were competing with City although their passing and movement was looking much slicker.  Then City scored two excellent goals inside twelve minutes but immediately prior to both Spurs had a good opportunity to score but spurned the chance.

After thirty minutes Aaron Lennon's cross was flicked on by Peter Crouch to Gareth Bale, unmarked at the back post, but his volley across goal went past the far post.  Almost immediately, Nasri, making his debut, confused Vedran Corluka and Lennon to deliver a cross which Dzeko got to ahead of Younnis Kaboul.

Ten minutes later, Bale delivered a wonderful cross but the diving Crouch's header shaved the far post - chance gone.  In less than thirty seconds, City had the ball at the other end and Nasri's hanging cross found Kaboul flat-footed but Dzeko managed to rise to meet the ball and put back past Brad Friedel.

Two down, Tom Huddlestone replaced Niko Kranjcar at half-time but it made little difference as City were in total control.  Lennon who had taken a knock went off and was replaced by Jermain Defoe.  Two minutes later Dzeko completed his hat-trick, knocking in a cross from close range and on the hour Aguero out-paced, out-witted and out-powered Michael Dawson to hit the fourth past Friedel who had made it easy by going down early.  From a corner Kaboul headed in for Spurs.

 Spurs then went down to ten men for the last fifteen minutes, Rafael Van der Vaart going off injured as Jake Livermore had come on for Luka Modric.  With the final kick of the game Dzeko hammered the final nail in the Tottenham coffin with a thunderous shot from the corner of the box after Spurs had lost possession in midfield.

How things have changed in twelve months - in the opening match of last season City defended in depth and only the heroics of Hart earned them a point.  Spurs were unfortunate that day not to take all three points while todat they got nothing and deserved nothing.  The only consolation from a Spurs' perspective is that they've played two of the strongest teams in the Premier League and that they are only one point down on the the same two games last year but the nature of the capitulation is a major concern.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Spurs 'Lost XI'

Tottenham's Missing Players

Concerns are mounting over the number of highly paid international players who have been lost at Tottenham Hotspur Football Club for some considerable time.  These players continue to receive their highly exorbitant salaries without having to kick a football in anger - we'd all be up for a job like that.

Before the announcement of today's team, a few words of thanks to some former members of the Spurs 'Lost XI' who have gone off to pastures new.  First, the captain and founder member of this illustrious team, Robbie Keane who after many years of service and goals took off to his 'boyhood team', Liverpool, where they destroyed him and returned him six months later, as damaged goods.  His days became numbered when he masterminded the infamous Christmas 'golf' trip to Dublin.  Harry Redknapp was not best pleased so Robbie went off to his other favourite team Celtic on loan, became a Hammer but with even less success and is now plying his trade with David Beckham for LA Galaxy.

Vice-Captain, Jonathan Woodgate has been an outstanding member of the 'Lost XI' for much of his time with Tottenham.  Most consistently over the last eighteen months when he managed to play for only fifteen minutes in Milan in the Champions League.  Having travelled the world, possibly at Tottenham's expense, in search of a remedy for his numerous injury problems, he has now taken up service with Stoke City in both the Premier League and Europa League.  In a short period of time he has managed appearances at such exciting places as Aldershot, Stoke, Split and Norwich.  Perhaps he'll appear at a ground near you, any day soon.

Team News:
Heurelho Gomes is a recent recruit for the 'Lost XI'.  Last seen sitting on the bench at Old Trafford following his uncertain display in the Europa League game at Hearts.  Not seen for the return match when Carlo Cudicini played with Brad Friedel who had made his debut in the defeat to Manchester United, among the substitutes. One wonders, nay speculates, if Gomes is to be long with us or is he destined to return to Holland where his idiocincracies are less problematic.

Alan Hutton, a combative defender, is a long standing member of this squad.  He first appeared surplus in early 2010 when he went off to Sunderland but returned and while making an impression with a couple of goals, all was not well.  A few appearances for Scotland later, rumours persist of his imminent departure but he's still 'lost' at Spurs.

Ledley King
Ledley King has been part of this team for long periods of his Tottenham career.  For the past number of years he has struggled to play regularly due to numerous injury problems and operations but he did manage to captain Spurs to their Carling Cup success against Chelsea at Wembley in 2008.  Unexpected appearances in the final two games of last season saw Spurs win at Liverpool and against Birmingham to claim a Euopa League place.  Another operation and he has gone missing again but is the newly appointed captain of Spurs 'Lost XI'.

William Gallas is a new recruit for this team.  Having signed from Arsenal last year he put in many stirring performances in the face of seeming injury difficulties.  Hardly a game passed without Gallas limping off for running repairs only to return a few minutes later,  bandaged and strapped up ready for action.  Many commendable performances followed and they were greatly appreciated by the Spurs faithful.  Eventually, the injuries caught up with him and he missed the final two matches of a long season.  Now missing at the start of the new season, he takes his place in the 'Lost XI'.

Sebastien Bassong had a commendable debut season for Tottenham but on occasions last year he looked lost all over the pitch, especially on a cold evening in Blackpool last February when Tottenham's claims for a top 4 finish started to unravel.  Still looking unsure and uncomfortable, it looks as if his future at Spurs could be short as talk continues of a central defender arriving at White Hart Lane.

David Bentley has been a member of the Spurs 'Lost XI' for most of his Tottenham career.  A few short periods of action on the pitch have been followed by spells of inactivity.  Last season spent on loan at Birmingham didn't help and talk of inauspicious performances for the Spurs XI seems to guarantee his regular availability for our little team.

Jermaine Jenas
Jermaine Jenas is a happy member of our team who is frequently absent through injury for some time each year.  He failed to impress on-lookers when given a sudden opportunity on the big-stage against Real Madrid last April.  Injury once again has reduced him to sitting on the bench as the new season starts with younger players eager to show their worth.

Wilson Palacios, like Bassong made a commendable start to his time at Tottenham but in recent seasons he has found it more difficult to hold down a place in the team.  Even the intervention of his mother failed to inspire him and he has become more isolated as Sandro has become accustomed to Premier League football. With limited opportunities, he may prefer to forgo the pleasure of appearing for the 'Lost XI' to turn out in the Potteries.

Luka Modric, the recipient of the members Player of the Year award in May, has become an unexpected member of the 'Lost XI'.  He has either had his turned by Chelsea or has sustained a convenient injury, depending on which story you believe, as Tottenham's season has got off to an unconvincing start.  How long he will remain part of the squad is uncertain.

Giovani Dos Santos was last seen starring for Mexico with wonder goals in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in the summer.  He had a half season on loan with Racing Santander last year but has seen little action for Spurs in spite of his fine credentials on signing from Barcelona.  A move away to a team in Europa may be more may appropriate for his talent.

Peter Crouch is another newcomer to this select squad.  After making a goal scoring appearance in pre-season against Athetic Bilbao and with his understanding with Van der Vaart and his usefulness against Continental defenders, it appeared that he would continue to play a part at Tottenham for the foreseeable future.  However, after three games he has failed to appear and speculation of future dalliances with the Potteries continues.

Ben Alnwick signed from Sunderland in a swap for Marton Fulop - Spurs didn't do well in that transaction.  He has spent most time on loan around the lower divisions of the Football League and will probably be off again on his travels very soon.

John Bostock came as a young player from Crystal Palace but has failed, to date, to live up to his early hype.  He became Spurs' youngest player when appearing in a European game in 2008 but has failed to impress in subsequent spells on loan at League clubs.  A young player who at present seems to have lost his way.

All clubs are facing the problem of players who are surplus to requirements, but for top clubs with big squads paying high salaries it is becoming more difficult to move players on as they see out their long contracts.  Tottenham have a squad of players who are earning high salaries but are not having to give anything to the club in return - it must be a great life for them, as long as they don't mind not playing football regularly.  It's something Tottenham have been trying to remedy in this current Transfer Window by removing some of them but now into the final few days of August, it would appear that there will be quite a number of them still available for selection for the Spurs 'Lost XI' in the coming months.


What To Do With a Player Like Roman Pavlyuchenko?

Roman Pavlyuchenko - 'Super SuperPav!'

Roman Pavlyuchenko
On reflection, you've got to fell sympathy for Birmingham City - that Tottenham's inconsistent, unpredictable striker, Roman Pavlyuchenko would choose that afternoon, the final day of the 2010 - 11 season to score two stunning goals which would play their part in the club's relegation.
The Russian signed for Tottenham from Spartak Moscow in September, 2008 for £14 million but he had first come to the notice of fans in England a year earlier when he scored the two goals, past Paul Robinson, for Russia in the qualifying game against England for Euro 2008.  He then scored three goals and produced some worthy performances in the Finals as Russia progressed to the semi-finals before losing to eventual winners, Spain.

Early Difficulties
So when Tottenham signed him, they were recruiting a player with international experience who had scored goals at the highest level of international competition.  However, Pavluchenko found it difficult to settle into the demands of Premier League football.  He scored his first goal in a Carling Cup win over Newcastle United in late September and his first league goal was against Bolton Wanderers at the end of October, Harry Redknapp's first game in charge.  A week later he scored a late, unexpected winner against Liverpool at White Hart Lane to end the visitors undefeated start to the season.  He continued to score in Cup games and was at his best against Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup 3rd Round game.  He scored twice and he showed a level of performance not previously seen from him during the early months of his time at Tottenham.  His link up play and distribution was good and it seemed that finally Spurs fans were seeing the true player in Pavlyuchenko.  They responded with their 'Super, Super Pav, Super, Super Pav, Super, Super Pav, Super Pavlyuchenko' song from the stands.

However, it was not to last and his inconsistency became apparent as he only scored another five goals before the end of the season, two in League games and three Cup goals.  Which was the true Pavlyuchenko?  Harry Redknapp seemed confused and uncertain.

The following season Pavlyuchenko had difficulty getting into the team with Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane appearing to be selected ahead of him for the striker's positions.  In the first half of the season he was restricted to appearances mainly in Cup games but was given an opportunity as a substitute against Wigan Athletic in February.  He scored twice and scored again in subsequent games over the next few weeks which helped Spurs to end the season in fourth.  Many fans regarded him as the best striker at the club but the management still had issues over his overall contribution.  He had again only scored 5 League goals from 16 appearances with another 5 from 8 Cup appearances.  At each transfer window there was talk of him leaving the club and returning to Russia but nothing materialised.

With Tottenham's strikers have a collective difficulty with finding the net in season 2010 -11, Pavlyuchenko produced his best League return with 10 goals from 28 appearances and another 4 goals in Champions League games.  However, he was never certain of his position in the team with Crouch preferred in the European games and Defoe and Pavlyuchenko vying for a starting place in the team alongside Rafael Van der Vaart who had signed from Real Madrid at the end of August.  This signing brought a change in formation, as Van der Vaart was more suited to playing a support role to a lone striker rather than with two strikers, the system which Spurs had previously employed.

Striking Partnerships
Pavlyuchenko seemed unsuited for this role as his link up play was poor and he often looked lazy through an apparent lack of effort.  He is very much his own player and while other strikers have developed understandings with those around them, this was alien to the Russian and at no time has he developed such an understanding with another striker at Spurs.  Keane linked well with Dimitar Berbatov and Defoe, Crouch and Defoe had worked well at Portsmouth and Spurs' history is littered with examples of a striking partnership which was mutually beneficial - Bobby Smith and Les Allen in the 'Double' team, Jimmy Greaves and Smith, Greaves and Alan Gilzean, Gilzean and Martin Chivers, Steve Archibald and Garth Crooks, Teddy Sheringham and Jurgen Klinsmann were all fine examples of how the team prospered with two strikers working together.  In the current squad Cruoch seemed to quickly develop and understanding with Van der Vaart and many of the Dutch man's goals are due to Crouch heading the ball down to him to finish off.  This lack of understanding with those around him in the team has made it difficult for Pavlyuchenko to get a regular starting position in the team.

Europa League 2011 - 12
This has proved to be the same again this year as he appears to remain fourth choice.  Even with Keane having left and Crouch injured, Defoe and Van der Vaart have been entrusted with the strikers role.  Pavlychenko in pre-season games was described by commentators as being 'disinterested' and in the Europa League game at home to Hearts when he started with young Academy player, Harry Kane, he proved less than successful.  His best effort which brought an early save from the Hearts keeper, came after good work by Kane.  It was mostly downhill from that point - he did little to support the young player making his debut - Kane actually created more for him than he did for the youngster.  His first touch was so poor it was like playing to a barn door.  His link up play with team mates was poor and little understanding has been developed with them as to where to move for a pass.  His shooting was wayward.  When he gets the ball near goal he has only one thought, a shot, but on these occasions the fans high up in the stands were in greater danger than the Hearts goalkeeper.  Or, as on one occasion in the second half, the shot was so poor and was sliced so wide that it became an excellent pass to Ryan Fredericks on the right wing.  It was not a good night for Pavlyuchenko and with the signing of Emmanuel Adebayor announced, it will be even more difficult for him to claim a starting place in the team.

Making the Most of Pavlyuchenko's talent
Pavlyuchenko is player with talent but it is so rarely seen that he is often on the fringes of the team to be used as third or fourth choice.  Throughout his time at Tottenham, Harry Redknapp has been unable to find a way of using his ability to best purpose and the club has constantly been looking to sign new strikers over the past two seasons - a search which continues.  In contrast, Guus Hiddink, during his time as manager of the Russia football team, appeared to coax or cajole Pavlyuchenko into producing his best performances in international football.  

So as another season commences the Tottenham manager is left asking the same question, 'What to do with a player like Roman Pavlyuchenko?' and going on the evidence of past times, it'll be more  of the same - the occasional flash of the player he can be, shown by a stunning strike for goal, surrounded with mediocrity of poor passing, limited link up play and the impression of being disinterested.  Confidence in Pavlychenko's ability to produce regularly is low at Tottenham and so the player's confidence has taken a knock which never helps in these situations.  Fans have tried with their 'SuperPav' song but it's not made any lasting impression on Pavlyuchenko's performances.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Tottenham - Europa League Group Stage

The draw for the group stages of the Europa League was made in Monaco this morning.  Having successfully, negotiated the qualifying round against Hearts with an aggregate win of 5 - 0, Spurs were among the top seeds and were placed in Group A.

The second seeded team in the group was Rubin Kazan from Russia, the Greek team PAOK FC were in the third group with Shamrock Rovers from Ireland as the minnows when they became the first Irish team to reach the Group stages of any UEFA competition. The meetings between these teams will be Spurs first encounter with any of them.


Thursday, 15th September: v PAOK (a)
Thursday, 29th September: v Shamrock Rovers (h)
Thursday, 20th October: v Rubin Kazan (h)
Thursday, 3rd November: v Rubin Kazan (a)
Wednesday, 30th November: v PAOK (h)
Thursday, 15th December: v Shamrock Rovers (a)


Totenham Progress to Europa League Group Stages

Tottenham Hotspur 0 Heart of Midlothian  0 (Agg. Won 5 - 0)

As expected Spurs reached the Group Stages of the Europa League as a youthful side saw out a scoreless draw against Hearts.  Both managers made numerous changes to the teams who played last week and by the end Tottenham were glad to reach the next stage without overly exerting themselves while Hearts was satisfied to have restored some pride with this performance.

Hearts had an early strike against the bar and Tottenham's opening attempt on goal saw Roman Pavlyuchenko bring a save from the Hearts keeper following good work from Harry Kane.  The young striker had brought the ball across the edge of the penalty and was just preparing to shoot when Pavlyuchenko pulled rank and fired in the shot.  A further run from Kane brought a shot across goal and then came his big moment.  He received a lovely pass from Tom Carroll in the penalty area and when  the goalkeeper brought him down the referee awarded a penalty.  Kane stepped up to take it himself but his shot was saved as McDonald dived to his right.  I hope in years to come young Mr Kane will not be thinking, 'If only.'

Both teams played out the second half without creating too much danger, although Carlo Cudicini had to be alert on a couple of occassions.

Team: Cudicini; Corluka, Dawson (Kaboul), Bassong, Townsend; Fredericks (Krankjar), Huddlestone, Livermore (Nicholson), Carroll; Kane, Pavlyuchenko.

Making an Impression

Tom Carroll made his debt and worked tirelessly throughout and was always wanting the ball and was the outstanding performer of the young players on view.  He seems to be quite pacy and played with confidence throughout, dropping deep to collect the ball and looking to make forward passes.  His passing and movement were good and he covered a lot a ground.

Andros Towsend played at full back with a freedom to attack down the left which he did willingly.  He started brightly and caused problems for the Hearts defence but he faded as the game went on as defenders frequentlty dispossessed him before he could do any damage or his cross failed to reach a white shirt.  He needs to improve his final ball although it was difficult for him last night in trying to play in two positions.

Ryan Fredericks also making his debut, showed good pace on the right side of midfield and looked dangerous when running with the ball.

Jake Livermore had another composed game in central midfield with younger players around him.

Jake Nicholson in his first senior appearance, played for the last fifteen minutes in midfield and seemed comfortable in possession and willing to work for the team.

Harry Kane was the player many were wanting to see, having heard good reports of his goal scoring for youth and Spurs XI sides.  In his debut, he worked hard and showed a willingness to cover back to help in defence.  Even in the final minutes of added time he came back to help out and having won the ball in the penalty area, he set off up the field.  He had little support from Pavlyuchenko and few chances on goal.  He created more for Pavlyuchenko than the Russian international did for him.  He seems willing to learn as he showed early in the game.  Corluka bawled him out for not moving onto a through ball but after that he made himself available with runs into space to receive the pass and from one he got behind the defence to shoot across goal.  He also looked to Cudicini for guidance when he went back in defence to defend at a corner, ascertaining where the keeper wanted him to stand for his defensive duties.  After that at every free-kick and corner he took up his delegated position.  He should benefit from this experience and be stronger the next time.

Tottenham can now look forward to the draw to see who they will meet in the next stage of the Europa League.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tottenham Continue to Talk Tough Over Modric

Luka Modric is NOT for Sale!

Luka Modric - Transfer Struggle
The Luka Modric saga has dragged on all summer since he made it known in a newspaper interview just before the end of the season that he might be open to a transfer for the advancement of his career by playing Champions League football.  It wasn't a direct, forceful comment about wanting to leave Tottenham but it had the desired effect among interested clubs.  From the outset Tottenham have made it clear that the player is NOT for sale but that has not put off either the player, his agent or interested clubs, particularly Chelsea. 
However, Tottenham have previous in this field so this has probably encouraged continuing interest in Modric.  Daniel Levy, the club Chairman, issued a very strong statement of his intent to keep Modric at the club but he has also done this before with Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov who eventually left the club and joined Manchester United when an acceptable offer was made.  Many thought he was employing the same tactic to increase the transfer fee and would then succomb when it became obvious that the player was becoming a distraction at the club.  However, this year knowing that Modric signed a six year contract with the club last summer he as rejected increasing offers from Chelsea and maintained his stance that he will not sell the player. 

So with the new season two weeks old there is an increasing impasse - Modric has not played in either of the club's competitive matches - he was either injured with a slight strain or in the words of Harry Redknapp, 'His head wasn't in it.'

Tottenham play Hearts in the Europa League but he is unlikely to play in that as they have a five goal lead and it would cup-tie him for other Europen competitions so they are looking to introduce him to the team for the vital game on Sunday against Manchester City.  Spurs can't afford another heavy defeat on top of their loss at Old Trafford so they are increasing the pressure on Modric by taking a tough stance on his availability for international duty with Croatia next week.

They are quite correctly taking the view that if Modric isn't fit enough to play against City then he certainly won't be able to play for his country in the European Championship qualifying games.

With Spurs increasing injury problems in midfield it is vital that they have every available player on the field.  It is only ten days ago that Redknapp when commenting on the injuries to Wilson Palacios, Sandro, Tom Huddlestone  and Jermaine Jenas - he was contemplating devising a system with only one midfield player as Luka Modric was the only one who was fit at the time.  Now that the season has started Modric has developed a convenient 'injury'.

Tottenham have taken a firm stance on this throughout and with a week to go to the close of the 'Transfer Window' they are hoping to sign a number of new players but they are also hoping to retain the services of their most skilful midfield player, Luka Modric.  Most fans will support the club in this matter, fearing that if the player goes the club will once again be regarded as a selling club or a 'feeder' club for the 'top 4' teams.  To sell the player at this late time would do a dis-service to Harry Redknapp because there would be no time to replace a quality player like Modric.  Such a move is unthinkable and Danile Levy would lose ace on this matter and any credibility that he had and his future comments  would never be taken seriously.

An interesting few days lie ahead to see who holds firm the Chairman or the player.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Harry Redknapp Confirms Youth to Get Chance Against Hearts

At his press conference ahead of the Europa League game against Hearts at White Hart Lane, Harry Redknapp has confirmed his intention to give some of the younger players an opportunity to gain some experience in competitive football for the first team.  Supporters will be pleased to hear that Harry Kane and Tom Carroll who were on loan with Leyton Orient last season will make their debut at some point in the game.  Andros Townsend is also set to get an opportunity to build on last season's goal scoring debut FA Cup appearance against Charlton Athletic.

Andros Townsend
Townsend is a speedy wide player who had loan spells at Millwall, Watford and Ipswich Town under Roy Keane last season.  Previously he had turned out for Yeovil, Leyton Orient and MK Dons.  He is a confident player who was a member of Tottenham's strong Academy side two seasons ago.  He is prepared to take on defenders and can deliver good crosses into the box and is confident enough to shoot with both feet.  In total he has 75 League and Cup appearances during his loan spells, scoring 8 goals.  He has the FA Cup appearance and goal for Spurs and a substitute appearnace against Hearts at Tynecastle to his name as well.

Tom Carroll
Carroll had an impressive season with Orient and was a member of their team which progressed in the FA Cup before losing to Arsenal in a replay at the Emirates.  A hard working midfield player, although lightly made up, he has good distribution and wasn't out of place in the hustle and bustle of League 1 last year when he played 14 times.

Harry Kane
Kane turned eighteen in July but spent part of last year with Orient and was also a member of their successful Cup team although he missed the Cup game at the Emirates through suspension having been sent off in a previous match.  He scored scored five goals from eighteen appearances and has already scored a number of goals for the Spurs XI this season, including a hat-trick against Chris Hughton's strong reserve side.

Supporters will be keen to see these young players in a game that is almost a 'dead' rubber with Tottenham taking a five goal advantage to White Hart Lane.  Sadly, it is one of Tottenham's failings that so few young players come through the Academy/youth set-up to amke a mark in the senior team.  the last player to come into the team and make a telling contribution to the club's fortunes is Ledley king who is so badly missed in central defence due to his on-going injury problems.


Europa League - Tottenham Hotspur v Hearts

Opportunity for Young Players and Squad Members
With a five goal advantage going into the second leg of their Europa Cup tie at White Hart Lane against Heart of Midlothian, Harry Redknapp should have the opportunity to rest some of his first team squad and replace them with younger players and those members of the squad who haven't played so far this season.  It was his stated intention to use the Europa League for this purpose and this would seem to be the ideal opportunity.  Development Squad manager, Tim Sherwood, also indicated that some of his players would be used in these games.

Following the draw which paired Spurs and Hearts, a journalist based in Edinburgh who covers the Scottish club's matches was speaking on Talksport and he indicated that Hearts aimed to put in a good performance but realistically regarded the tie as an opportunity to make some money as they knew that there was a difference in class between the two clubs.  He couldn't have expected his words to be proved so accurate in the first game where Spurs were so in control for all but the opening minutes of the second half.

Hearts will come into the second game determined to make up for their lacklustre performance at Tynecastle and as they play for their pride they will give Spurs neither the time nor the space they afforded them in the opening match.  Redknapp will look to put out a balanced team with younger players supported by some of the experienced members of the squad.

Possible Team Selection
Having lost out to Brad Friedel at Old Trafford, Heurelho Gomes could return in goal behind a back four which could include Michael Dawson as captain.  Sebastien Bassong who looks set to leave the club before the end of the transfer window will probably partner him.  Danny Rose could replace Benoit Assou-Ekotto at left back and look to build on his promising performances in that position at the end of last season.  At right back, depending on Kyle Walker's recovery from sickness which required him to be substituted at half-time on Monday evening, Vedran Corluka or Alan Hutton could come in to replace him.  Hutton who is likely to leave would have the opportunity to play against his fellow countrymen.  Unfortunately, on the team news on the official THFC site, Rose is listed as injured with an ankle problem.

In midfield Jermaine Jenas and Tom Huddlestone may get some time as well as Jake Livermore who has looked comfortable in the team and may look to add to his experience with another game against Hearts.  Dean Parrett, the England Under-20 player who ended last season on loan at Charlton Athletic may make another European appearance to add to his two games in 2009 against Shakhtar Donetsk.  Andros Townsend who scored on his debut for Spurs in the FA Cup against Charlton Athletic will probably replace either Gareth Bale or Aaron Lennon in the team.  John Bostock and Tom Carroll will hope to get some game time having been on loan during recent seasons.

Bostock, has made three substitute appearances for Spurs in UEFA Cup games and when he made his debut in November, 2008,  against Dinamo Zagreb at White Hart Lane he became the youngest ever First Team player in a competitive match.  At the age of 16 years, 295 days, he beat the previous record held by Ally Dick since 1982.

Harry Kane
Roman Pavlychenko will probably be given his first start of the season and many hope that young Academy player, Harry Kane will get some time in this game.  Kane has just turned eighteen and has been a prolific goal scorer at every level of youth football.  He has had experience on loan with Leyton Orient and has scored regularly for the Development squad and Spurs XI teams this season.

Spurs look sure to progress to the Group stages of the Europa League and the young players will want to take this opportunity to show their ability and to impress so they will want to do it in style by winning the second leg and not limping there on the back of a defeat to their Scottish visitors.  A win would lift morale following the disappointing defeat against Manchester United and prepare everyone for more difficult games in the next few weeks.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

United Score - Game Over for Spurs

Manchester United 3 Tottenham Hotspur 0

Aaron Lennon
Well, the answer to my last question in my previous blog is a resounding 'NO'.  The date of 22nd August was not to be added to these few occasions when Spurs won at Old Trafford.

For an hour it was looking quite positive.  In the first half Spurs had withstood United's early dominance and had then started to make an impression on the game.  Satisfied at half-time but after that United started to build up a period of sustained pressure which reduced Spurs' forward forays to almost nothing.  However, Aaron Lennon had one great opportunity to create an opening for Spurs when he got past the full back to the line but as he moved towards goal, with both Gareth Bale and Rafael Van der Vaart waiting for a pass, he froze and did nothing.  He lost the ball, at that moment he was like a rabbit transfixed in the headlights of a car, and Spurs best chance was gone to the very evident displeasure of Van der Vaart on the pitch and his manager off it.

In spite of their possession and pressure United were not causing any real problems to the Spurs defence where Brad Friedel was making his Tottenham debut at the age of forty, Tottenham's oldest player since the war.

Unfortunately, it was following a poor United pass that they scored their goal.  Rooney saw his pass cut out by Benoit Assou-Ekotto but his poor clearance gifted the ball to Cleverly and from his cross Wellbeck headed the opening goal.  Game over.

The goal gave United confidence and they poured forward in search of a second.  Tottenham faded and the inevitable happened.  It was only after conceding the second goal that Spurs managed to mount a dangerous strike on the United goal.  From a cross, challenged by substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko in the air, United's young goalkeeper flapped at it and the ball fell to Jermain Defoe who volley crashed against the woodwork.  That was the end as far as Spurs were concerned and Rooney scored a third towards the end.

Team: Friedel; Walker (Corluka), Dawson, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Livermore (Huddlestone), Kranjcar (Pavlyuchenko), Bale, Van der Vaart; Defoe.

Horrendous Record at Old Trafford 
Tottenham went into the game hoping to overturn years of history surrounding their games against United but in the end had to accept they were second best and would have to wait for another year to end their losing sequence of games at Old Trafford.

P 22 W 0 D 4 L 18 Goals For 9 Ag 46

Tottenham have now conceded 13 goals in their last four League visits to Old Trafford and 7 in three Cup games there since 2008.

Pointless Tactics
Tottenham had a stated intention of targeting United's young goalkeeper who has made mistakes in his first two games for the club.  A valid idea which was an obvious tactic to anyone prior to the game but this was taken to such an extent that Van der Vaart was shooting on sight from ridiculous distances which wasn't going to trouble any keeper and also saw him, along with Bale and defoe shooting or trying to shoot when other were in a better goalscoring position.  This selfishness cost the team dearly when a pass could have been more productive and played into United's hands and actually took the pressure off the keeper who was dealing comfortably with the shots.  It was only after they went two goals down did they get any joy against the keeper when challenged for the cross which led to Defoe's shot against the woodwork.  From free-kicks and corners Spurs should have tried to put pressure on the keeper to unsettle him with Michael Dawson and Younes Kaboul to aim at but instead we had a series of ineffective shots which caused no alarm to United's defence.  

For an hour Tottenham were able to compete against United but throughout the second half both Bale and Lennon were mostly anonymous.   For Spurs to have any chance of progressing in such games they need both these players playing their part in a 'big' performance.  Similarly with Van der Vaart he needs to play more as a team player and not constantly looking to score an 'out of this world' goal - you don't get any more points for such a strike, a tap-in will still bring three points.

Friedel looked comfortable in goal as you would expect from a player of his experience.  He did everything efficiently and effectively and there were no heart stopping moments of which Gomes is prone.

Walker was comfortable at full back but was taken ill at half-time.  Corluka played as he does, coping admirably with Young's pace.

Dawson and Koboul were comfortable in central defence for an hour but then as the team became stretched so they lost some of their composure and found it more difficult to pick up their men as United came forward in numbers against a tiring central midfield.

Jake Livermore had a comfortable debut in difficult circumstances and combined well with Kranjcar who did well until United increased the pressure and gained some movement and momentum.  They got pulled out of position as time went on and this enables United to prosper.  Spurs missed more defensive central midfield player like Sandro or Palacios.

Lennon and Bale worked hard especially in the first half but faded after United became more dominant and didn't do enough to keep the United full backs in defence allowing them time to push forward in support of their midfield.  Both should be contributing more in big games like this and were wasteful when in possession either running into trouble or wasting crosses or shots.  Disappointing that they didn't make a more meaningful contribution in the second half.

Van der Vaart worked tirelessly in trying to create something from just behind the striker.  He came deep to collect the ball and plyed across the pitch.  He looks much fitter and lasted the whole game.  In trying to score a spectacular goal he can forget that there are others in the team who might be in abetter position.  how to harness his talent and skill to the team is Harry Redknap's difficulty.

Defoe worked hard but never got behind the defence with a clear chance on goal.  The best came from the cross but when he was running at goal, like Van der Vaart, he had only one thought - a shot on goal but he didn't trouble the goalkeeper.

Tottenham lost but the Manchester United team are not as good as commentators are trying to make out and a more robust team (not the 'Tottenham way') would have caused them problems.

Following this defeat, hopefully, the Chairman will see the need for some new signings in appropriate positions (ie. striker, central midfield and defence) to help Spurs close the gap on the top teams.  Otherwise it could be similar to last year with an unfruitful attempt to get into a Champions League position and other top players will decide they need to find pastures new.  If Luka Modric does go to Clhelsea this August, it will be even more difficult to keep Bale, Van der Vaart, Lennon, Sandro and others in January and next summer.  The star players may go but the Huttons and Bentleys of the squad might still be there.

The next few days are important days for Tottenham Hotspur - it could determine the season that lies ahead.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tottenham CAN Win at Old Trafford

Lineker Scorer at OT
Right, let's get the horrific statistics which commentators just love to bombard us with out of the way.  Spurs haven't beaten Manchester United in the Premier League and are on a winless run of twenty League games, twenty four if you include Cup games.  The last time Tottenham won at Old Trafford was in December, 1989 so for the last twenty one seasons they have failed to win at Old Trafford.  On only only four occasions have Spurs returned with a point - the last goal to count for anything for Spurs at Old Trafford was a Jermaine Jenas strike in October, 2005.  Looking at the overall record of League visits to Manchester to play United, Spurs have won on only ten occasions with fourteen draws from 74 games.

There's no way to put it but Spurs' record against United is atrocious and getting worse, not helped by some dubious refereeing decisions, disallowed goals and questionable penalties given against them.

However, Tottenham Hotspur can win at Old Trafford - they've done it before.

16th December, 1989
Gary Lineker gave Spurs supporters an early Christmas present with the only goal of the game.
Team: Mimms; Thomas, M., Howells, Mabbutt, Van den Hauwe; Allen, P., Samways, Gascoigne, Sedgley; Stewart, Lineker.

This followed an impressive 3 - 0 success over United in the Littlewoods Cup the previous October, when Lineker, Vinny Samways and Nayim scored.  How times have changed - that season Spurs finished third while United lanquished in mid-table mediocrity of thirteenth.

4th September, 1976
Spurs were relegated at the end of this Keith Burkinshaw's first season as manager and there was little for supporters to cheer in the early part of the season.  They had one point from their opening three games - a dull scoreless draw at home to Middlesbrough prior to visiting Old Trafford.  Their first win of the season came courtesy of goals from Ralph Coates, John Pratt and Ian Moores.  The star was Barry Daines who had an outstanding game in place of Pat Jennings and that started media speculation about how long could Spurs keep their young reserve goalkeeper happy when he was second choice to Jennings.

23rd March, 1974
Ralph Coates scored the only goal which enabled Spurs to complete the 'double' over United who were relegated at the end of the season.

28th October, 1972
A memorable day for Spurs and Martin Peters.  He scored the four goals at Old Trafford which gave Spurs a 4 - 1 success.  Playing on the right side of midfield in place of Alan Gilzean, Peters commented after the game that he was simply in the right place at the right time - four times.  United finished 18th in the League and Bobby Charlton who had scored their goal that day was their leading scorer in season 1972 - 73 with six goals, retired after a distinguished career.

Between 1963 and 1971 United won nine home games in a row against Spurs.

9th March, 1963
Frank Saul and Cliff Jones scored Spurs' two goals without reply.

Even the 'Double' winning team failed to carry their success to Old Trafford but three seasons earlier  Spurs enjoyed a resounding victory.  

12th September, 1959
Dave Mackay, Tommy Harmer, Bobby Smith (2), Dunmore scored the goals in a 5 - 1 victory

21st August, 2011
Can this date be added to the select list?
Spurs have enjoyed success at Old Trafford and on occasions it has been in the most unlikely of circumstances.  At other times it has been a resounding success so there is no reason why a team which includes players with the pace and skill of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon, the guile of Rafael Van der Vaart and the goal scoring inclination of Jermain Defoe can not bring back three points tomorrow evening.  It needs teamwork, concentration and endeavour to deny United and to put them under pressure.  

There have been times in recent years when success against United at home and away has been so close but slipped away at the last moment.  Spurs demons have been allayed in the recent past - defeating Chelsea, winning against Arsenal and at the Emirates and defeating Liverpool at Anfield.  This team has managed to break down those barriers so now it's time to knock over another one and secure a win at Old Trafford to get the season off to the best possible start.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Tottenham Outclass Hearts in Europa League

Defoe scored and looked sharp
Hearts 0 Tottenham Hotspur 5

Tottenham took only two minutes to silence the home supporters who had made Tynecastle an intense and intimidating place for Spurs ahead of the game.  The home team could not respond in kind and allowed Tottenham too much time and space as they started the game at a high level of endeavour and skill.  Rafael Van der Vaart put Spurs ahead after he worked his way through the centre of the home defence with a series of passes and a slice of luck thanks to poor defending.  When faced with only the goalkeeper, he made no mistake.  That was exactly the start that Tottenham needed in their first game of the season.
In spite of his earlier comments and insistence that the Europa League would see young players given a game, Harry Redknapp selected a strong side with only Kyle Walker and Jake Livermore being new to the team.  This experience and skill enabled Spurs to settle quickly into their game and they completely outplayed Hearts with a series of one-two passes and flicks.  A good passing movement led to the second goal as Lennon sent the ball into the path of Jermain Defoe to put Spurs further ahead after ten minutes.

There was no let up for Hearts as they continued to allow Spurs to play at will and rather than it being the 'Battle of Britain' between the 'Auld Enemy' of England and Scotland, it was like a training game for the visitors.  So much so that after half an hour Jake Livermore strode into the penalty area to score the third goal of the night.  It was all too easy for Tottenham whose supporters were making the most of mocking the home team.  This was in total contrast to a year ago when Spurs were three goals down after thirty minutes against Young Boys of Berne in their first experience of Champions League football.  They had learned well from last year's mistakes and made rapid progress.

Early in the second half Hearts responded to their manager's half-time talk and immediately put Spurs on the back foot.  This opening period was Hearts only time of dominance in the game.  Tottenham found it difficult to clear from a series of corners and free-kicks and Heurelho Gomes was looking uncomfortable under the pressure.  However, Tottenham survived and when substitute Tom Huddlestone played the ball forward it enabled Gareth Bale to get past the keeper to score number four.

The final goal came from Aaron Lennon who knocked in a cross from Defoe after Tottenham had broken quickly from defence through Andros Townsend whose lovely pass gave Defoe the space to cross from the left.
Tottenham opened their season with n impressive display but Hearts were very poor and can't be looking forward to the trip to White Hart Lane next week although the scoreline will enable Harry Redknapp to rotate his team with squad members and younger players.

Team: Gomes; Walker, Dawson, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Livermore, Kranjcar, Bale (Townsend); Van der Vaart (Huddlestone), Defoe (Pavlyuchenko).

Questions Answered

Prior to the game in the Europa League, there were a number of unanswered questions which were concerning Tottenham supporters.  The emphatic victory over a disappointingly poor and uncompetitive Hearts team went some way to providing answers to a number of the questions. 
How seriously will Tottenham take the Europa League?
Harry Redknapp realised that he needed to play a strong team to ensure Hearts didn't get the upper hand in the tie.  Tynecastle is a notoriously intimidating place and he needed experienced players who would re-act to the intensity of the pressure.  His team responded immediately to this challenge and had quietened the home support within the opening minutes by starting the game with purpose and pace.  The early goal meant that the home side never settled and in the end Spurs had a comfortable win and a good workout ahead of their first Premier League of the season at Old Trafford on Monday evening.  The manager showed that in spite of his earlier words of concern directed towards the Europa League format that his team had to put up a good performance to ensure qualification for the group stages.

Will Modric leave Spurs this August?
Luka Modric and Peter Crouch were absent from the game which leaves the thought that they may not be at the club much longer.  They both were reported to have injuries but that always brings suspicion to supporters who are constantly following transfer rumours in the media.

Who will be Number 1?
Gomes started in goal but in a game where he kept a clean sheet and was only required to perform for a short period at the start of the second half, he didn't fill onlookers with confidence that he has put his troubles of last season behind him.  He looked uncertain under the Hearts' pressure from corners and didn't look assured when coming to collect high balls.  The jury is still out as to who will be the first choice keeper and it wouldn't be a total surprise if Brad Friedel made his Tottenhan debut against Manchester United.
Will our strikers score this season?
First indications are that Defoe and Van der Vaart are looking sharp and pleasingly they linked much better last night than at any time last year.   Both took their goals well and were involved constantly in the game.  Defoe turned provider for the final goal when he crossed for Lennon and looked much more confident that last season.  He tends to start the season well but last year having looked bright in early games and scoring the hat-trick for England, he was seriously injured for the first half of the season and never seemed to recover from that setback.  Hopefully he will continue to show good application and score a few early goals to build on that confident start.  Van der Vaart struggled with niggling injuries last year so again if he can avoid these he will continue to be a vital element in the team.  Pavlyuchenko found it difficult to make a telling contribution in the short period that he played after replacing Defoe for the final ten minutes.

Unasked questions answered.
Kyle Walker started at right back and may well be ahead of Corluka for the start of the season.  He looked composed and wasn't intimidated by the hostile surroundings of Tynecastle.  H e attacks with pace and uses that pace when tackling back in defence.

Young players had an opportunity in this game and both showed up well.  Livermore played throughout in a composed, competitive manner and he deserved his well-taken goal.  He has developed since his disappointing performance in last season's Carling Cup defeat to Arsenal when he was substituted at half-time having looked out of his depth.  Townsend replaced Bale in the second half but used the opportunity to show that he deserves more time in the team.   On a couple of occasions he worked himself into shooting positions and he used his great speed to set up the break and a lovely pass which led to the final goal.  An encouraging night for these young players. 

Nico Kranjcar took the opportunity to show that he can play in central midfield.  If Modric were to be transferred, Kranjcar would be a useful additional to the central midfield play.  He worked hard and controlled the game, received praise from Harry Redknapp after the game for his performance.

The result was very pleasing, ensuring progress to the group stages, barring an unlikely miracle for Hearts, and will ease the pressure on Spurs' difficult opening to the season.  The manager should be able to use squad players for the second leg ensuring that the best players are ready for the home game with Manchester City on Sunday week.  The matches in the group stages will also allow some of the youngsters to get valuable European experience, vital if their development is to progress.  

The performance was excellent and all the players looked confident and the movement and passing was crisp and accurate throughout the team.  That five different players scored is a bonus and will boost their confidence for more demanding games in the coming weeks.