Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It's the Europa League NOT the Champions League

Tottenham Fans Face Up to Reality of Europa League

After the heady excitement and the unforgettable Champions League campaign that took in such places as the San Siro Stadium in Milan (twice) and the Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid with many outstanding performances from their team, Spurs fans are now facing up to the reality of this season's Europa League competition.

It was on Saturday after the win at Molineux that the reality of this season's European competition started to come into focus.  At his after match interview, the manager took up his anti-Europa League agenda once again, pointing out that not many of those who played on Saturday would be making the trip to Greece to play PAOK Salonika.  The competition was a 'nuisance' and he was more concerned with next Sunday's game against Liverpool.

He had, of course, made his views known very clearly during the summer, calling the competition a 'killer', having to play Thursday and Sunday and so the young players would get plenty of experience. (Out of interest - What's the difference between playing Wednesday and Saturday and Thursday and Sunday?)

The younger players at the club get little opportunity to get experience so there's no problem with playing some of them in the Europa League as long as it's a balanced team with experienced players who can support them.

However, the tone for the week had been set by the manager's comments - not the excited anticipation of the week ahead with the match as the climax.  Rather, a dread and a fear about how Spurs might look at the end of this youthful 'adventure'.  Any defeat goes into the record books and remains there as part of the club's history including the failed Intertoto campaign in the the summer of 1995 and the humiliating 8 - 0 defeat in Cologne with a 'non-team' comprised of reserves, youth team players and 'guests' including Alan Pardew, the current Newcastle manager.  As much as Spurs might try to delete the result from the club's history it's still there as part of UEFA's record of Tottenham's involvement in European competitions.  There'll be no footnote to explain that it was 'a young team' or 'Tottenham weren't interested in the competition that year'.  A team like Tottenham with a great history of success in European competition not really bothered about how they do in a European competition.  What would Bill Nicholson say about such an attitude?

The Sunday papers gave the next indication that it was going to be so different from last year.  No full page articles on Europa League games to peruse as there was for the Champions League matches.  The reality was  that in most papers they didn't get a mention although one did manage to include the date and time of kick-off.  Through the week this trend continued, with Thursday morning the only time there'll be a brief mention of each of the matches, if there's any room left after the match reports and analysis of the Champions League games.

Tuesday brought the possible team news delivered to a supporters messageboard - 'Youth team day out! Very weakened squad travelling.'  It would appear that Harry has kept to his intention of sending out a young squad to Greece - too many injuries and more important matches ahead is the excuse.

Tuesday evening and Wednesday evening and we're not on the television on high profile channels at 7.45pm - no, you might find us somewhere on Freeview on Thursday at 6pm - that's no time to play football.

Going to a European home game this season - well, that'll be no problem.  The Europa League has done away with queuing for tickets from early morning to make sure you're on-line before everyone else.  A quick visit to the ticket website, job done but at least the tickets are cheaper.

Then there's the away trips - no Milan this time to watch from the vast extent of the San Siro - rather it's a trip to Dublin and Shamrock Rovers' compact Tallaght Stadium - for those few who'll get a ticket.

Many supporters agree with the stance that Harry Redknapp has taken over the Europa League.  They regard all competitions, except the Premier League, as distractions from the main goal of getting into the Champions League.  However, for others, they feel that the club should be endeavouring to win every competition that take part in.  These supporters remember the 'glory' nights at White Hart Lane when Tottenham entertained European clubs enroute to success in the Cup Winners Cup and the UEFA Cup.

European Nights to Remember:
20th Sept. 1961 v Gornik Zabreze (h) European Cup Won 8 - 1 (Blanchflower, Jones (3), White, Smith (2), Dyson)

5th Apr. 1962 v Benefica (h) EC Won 2 - 1 (Blanchflower (p), Smith)

31st Oct. 1962 v Glasgow Rangers (h) European Cup Winners' Cup Won 5 - 2 (Norman, White (2), Allen, Opp.o.g.)

15th May, 1963 v Atletico Madrid (Rotterdam) ECWC Won 5 - 1 (Greaves (2), Dyson (2), White)

5th Apr. 1972 v AC Milan (h) UEFA Cup Won 2 - 1 (Perryman (2))

19th Apr. 1972 v AC Milan (a) UEFA Cup Draw 1 - 1 (Mullery)

3rd May, 1972 v Wolverhampton Wanderers (a) UEFA Cup Final (1st leg) Won 2 - 1 (Chivers (2))

12th Dec. 1973 v Dinamo Tbilisi (h) UEFA Cup Won 5 - 1 (McGrath, Chivers (2), Peters (2))

7th Apr. 1982 v Barcelona (h) ECWC Draw 1 - 1 Roberts

23rd May, 1984 v Anderlecht (h) UEFA Cup Final Draw 1 - 1 (Won 4 - 3 on pens) (Roberts)

2nd Nov. 2010 v Inter Milan (h)  CL Won 3 - 1 (Van der Vaart, Crouch, Pavlyuchenko)

Van der Vaart annoyed at being omitted from squad
At least one member of the playing staff considers playing in European competition important.  Rafael Van der Vaart was very annoyed yesterday to discover he was not included in the club's Europa League 25-man squad.  When it was submitted, Van der Vaart was expected to be out unjured for six weeks so missing much of the group stages and the club omitted him so that he could concentrate on keeping fit for the League.  if the club were to progress to the knock-out stages after Christmas, then he could have been introduced into the squad.  At the time this appeared a responsible decision to take but unfortunately, firstly, the manager didn't discuss the matter with the player and, secondly, Van der Vaart has recovered quicker than anticipated and targeting the game against Liverpool this weekend for his return. 


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