Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Comolli: No left winger (yet)

Sporting Director Damien Comolli has spoken of Tottenham Hotspur’s search for a left winger:

"They (Spurs fans) have wondered why we haven't signed a left-winger but they are difficult to find. Of the teams who reached the last 16 of the World Cup there was only one left-winger. It is not something we should concentrate on. We have enough quality to compensate. It's not so much of a problem and they should not worry."

The interesting bit there is the line “…not so much of a problem”. Meaning it is a problem, but we are going to work around it until we can find a solution. He is right of course about not many teams having left wingers. If you look at Chelsea or the side Arsene Wenger picks each week, neither of them pick a left winger as part of a four man midfield, which Jol uses. Rosicky, Ljunberg or Hleb tend to play wide and are not what you would call wingers, and Chelsea only play Robben as part of a forward three, with three central midfielders behind. The premise being that playing two wingers and two forwards is too attacking – you either play two with one forward, or play three tight central midfielders and one flyer. Which is what Spurs do with Lennon.

Spurs’ problem though is that the guy who plays on the left side of midfield is playing out of position. Whether it is Davids, Murphy or Tainio none of them would choose to play there, or regard it as their best position. What Spurs need to balance Lennon on the right is a left footed midfielder who works hard, can tackle and cross and in an ideal world have a bit of pace. Having a left footed Lennon on that side would be great at home, but away, or against a physical team, Spurs would get overrun. That is why Spurs are struggling to find this player, there are not many around of quality (Reto Ziegler and Johnnie Jackson technically fit the bill, but just are not Premier League players). Gareth Barry would work, and Downing does to an extent but not to the tune of £12m.

Spurs would also prefer not to buy foreign, which further limits the available pool of talent. Comolli said: "We will never do what Arsenal have done. When I discussed with the board last year about coming they told me that the club's philosophy was built on English players and I agreed with them. What we have been trying to do has not changed. We always try to sign British players, the second option is foreign players within the Premiership and the third is looking abroad. But we won't say we won't buy someone because they are foreign as we need to bring in quality players. Martin is right about having an English core. We lost only Michael Carrick in the summer (to Manchester United) but Tom Huddlestone is getting more involved this year as a result. Our policy now is to sign the right players. We are looking for top quality so the quantity will be less."

So don’t expect anything soon, but when we do get new players they are going to be great? Well OK that sounds like a reasonable policy. In the meantime, let’s hope Malbranque fits the bill, or Tainio comes back from injury a player reborn. If not, we may have to go for someone just below top quality, or break the bank on someone who is. Its simple economics Damien: demand high, supply low equals high price. Surely Mr Levy knows that?

The Waddler.

Firing Blanks

What can you say about Saturday? Spurs should have scored but didn’t, Watford did score but it was disallowed. They also missed a sitter and cleared a Robbie Keane effort off the line with a very fluky back heel. Therefore, maybe a draw was a fair reflection of the game.

The disappointing thing is that Spurs are still to score an away league goal themselves this season and yet to register an away win. The positive is that its yet another clean sheet, albeit rather more fortuitously earned than others this season, and it’s a point earned away, which is the standard expectation for an away team.

That’s about it really, not great, not all that bad either. It’s how we do on Thursday that will show whether this team have some mettle, and then onto Chelsea on Sunday where we will no doubt contrive to lose as usual. Let’s hope it’s not Rob Styles refereeing this year.

The Waddler.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Mind the Gap: The Watford Preview

Watford: Elton John, Luther Blissett, Graham Taylor and that Hoddle goal. These are the things that spring to mind when you think of Watford. They pop up to the top flight every so often and they quietly go back to where they came from without really upsetting anyone. Oh, and they hardly ever need to use their away kit, maybe if they play Norwich or Wolves. The current Watford side are not that bad, and in Aidy Boothroyd and Keith Burkinshaw the former UEFA Cup winning Spurs manager, they are well managed too. Ashley Young is being heralded as a bright young thing, and has looked impressive so far, and in Marlon King they have someone who can put the ball in the back of the net.

Having said all that though this looks like a game to break our away duct in the league this season, and take our unbeaten run to 7 games. Spurs are flying at the moment, confidence is high after beating Besiktas, West Ham and MK Dons all fairly straightforwardly, and Big Martin Jol has a rested Berbatov to bring back, along with the other big boys that didn’t feature on Wednesday night such as King, Chimbonda and Jenas. He now has a selection headache up front; as all four strikers have scored in their last match with Mido leading the way with 3 in his last 2 starts. You would suspect that it would be Keane and Berbatov tomorrow as it was Mido and Defoe on Wednesday, but then who knows, they say you shouldn’t drop an in form striker, and both the latter two seem to have worked themselves into some form.

It should be a good test as to how far this Spurs team has come, as most big teams will regard this as simply 3 points, and so should Spurs if we have ambitions to sit at the top table of English and European football.

Come On You Spurs!

The Waddler.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Spurs Whack Dons

It seems that it is obligatory to have a biting related headline this morning, such as “Defoe devours Dons” or “Spurs sink teeth into Dons” etc, etc. The Waddler has opted for the Godfather-esque route that most of the lazy hacks would have opted for had little Jermain not gone for an early dinner on Sunday. It was the score line that was wanted, and it was ideal for the strikers as all three that played scored, and it means that all have put the ball in the net during the last week, leaving plenty of selection headaches for Big Martin Jol on Saturday.

The line-up picked showed the strength of the squad Spurs have assembled as BMJ went for his B team. You can make a case for the entire line up being replaced for a more important match given a fully fit squad. For last night’s line up of Cerny, Stalteri, Davenport, Gardner, Ziegler, Ghaly, Davids, Huddlestone, Murphy, Mido, Defoe you could replace each one with a more likely first team member: Robinson, Chimbonda, King, Dawson, BAE, Lennon, Jenas, Zokora, Malbranque, Berbatov, Keane. That’s assuming you prefer Keane to Defoe, but the message is clear, Spurs have strength in depth these days, and that is without mentioning YP-Lee or Tainio.

MK Dons certainly matched Spurs in the first half, and there were one or two moments early on where the memories of Grimsby came flooding back. This time though Spurs held firm and class told in the end, as we were able to put the ball in the back of the net. The first goal emphasised the importance of wide players as Ziegler whipped in a perfect cross that Mido steered into the net with ease. Defoe then followed with a chip over the keeper and in the second half latched on to a lovely Huddlestone pass. He then set about going for a hat-trick, ignoring his team-mates along the way and one of his attempts re-bounded to Mido who slotted in it. The evening was rounded off well by Robbie Keane who finally scored in a one-on-one situation, slipping the ball through the on-rushing keeper’s legs.

The draw has also been kind to Spurs with Port Vale at home coming out of the hat for the fourth round. It looks then as if Spurs will find themselves in the quarter-finals without having to do much at all. That’s how we like it!

The Waddler.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Carling Cup Round 3 - MK Dons Preview

It’s the Carling Cup tonight, and a trip to Milton Keynes of all places to play some team called the Dons. Apparently Spurs are the first Premiership team to play there since they upped sticks and swapped South London for Buckinghamshire. Also in the interesting facts section is that their manager, Martin “Mad Dog” Allen, is one of Clive’s many cousins in football. Lets hope Clive hasn’t let out any secrets during a family christening or wedding lately.

Of course this team used to be Wimbledon, the Crazy Gang, the team you dreaded playing against because even though they were rubbish, they could always somehow find it in themselves to beat you. Those days are long gone of course, but Spurs beat Wimbledon last time we won this trophy in 1999, so if omens are needed, there’s a good one.

In terms of team news it seems Big Martin Jol is rather keen to avoid a repeat of last season’s Grimsby debacle, and is going to field a rather strong side. It would be a shock to see Ledley, but other than that it could be a fairly full strength side, with Berbatov back in the squad, and only the usual Tainio, Malbranque and Zokora unavailable. If that is the case then it should be a cake-walk so long as the players take it seriously. It could also be a good time for the strikers to fll their boots, and work themselves into a bit of form by scoring one or two a piece.

BBC London Radio this evening for those not going to the world famous English National Hockey Stadium – its always fun listening to Spurs on the radio. Lets hope this one goes with form, and we’re not splashed across all the back pages like the poor old Hammers were this morning. Lets hope no-one bites anyone as well.

Come On You Spurs!

The Waddler.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The lean, mean, biting machine...

The papers have all had their say, even the Sports Minister has chipped in with his two pennies worth, Harry Redknapp has defended him, so has Jol of course; it’s the topic that is dividing the nation in what must be a slow news week. Did Defoe really bite Mascherano, and if so why? Is he a child? Does he like biting men? It’s all very strange. In true Arsene Wenger fashion, The Waddler didn’t see it at the time from the posh seats in the West Stand, and TV replays have proved inconclusive. Surely its only a matter of time before Sepp Blatter, Pele and Kofi Annan all have their say and poor little Jermain is being tried for war crimes in the Hague.

The fact is though that the controversy has hidden a decent Spurs performance and taken pressure off Pardew that would have been turned up a notch after seven straight defeats. Spurs gave West Ham a good going over for about 80 minutes, and went some way for avenging the defeat on the last day of the season. Having only had one day to prepare, and on the back of a trip to the furthest reaches of Europe, it was a good performance, very solid, and with a little more composure in front of goal, mainly from the mean, lean biting machine it would have been more emphatic.

Aaron Lennon was back to his zippy best, and Paul Konchesky will be waking up in cold sweats at the memory of the little man whizzing past him like Road Runner. Tom Huddlestone seems to be growing by the game, adding little drag backs and flicks to his sublime passing skills. Mido started the game like he was wearing lead boots, with every pass being fizzed at a team mate’s chest or over his head. On the stroke of half time though he scored a goal out of the top draw, a beautiful flick up, twist and volley that went in off the post. He is a bit of an enigma, as he is a big guy, who is good in the air and gets labelled as simply a target man, but he is capable of subtlety when he wants and after the goal he became twice the player he was at the start of the game. He could have had a hat-trick with a header off the bar, and just failing to get on the end of a perfect Huddlestone cross.

Jol likes to hang on to a lead, and memories of the fixture from last season came flooding back with a series of corners towards the end that made for a nervy last few minutes. The result was different this time around though as Spurs hung on, and if Steve Bennett, the referee, was able to see beyond his nose, then Spurs would have had it far easier with Konchesky sent off for bringing down the biting machine, and a penalty when Robbie Keane was brought down in the box. It was not to be however, but alls well that ends well and Spurs should be able to send out a reserve team at MK Dons on Wednesday and concentrate on winning their first away game in the league this season at Watford on Saturday.

The Waddler.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Big Brother's Little Brother: The Wham Preview

Ah plucky little West Ham, they’re like a naughty little scamp that you can’t help but like – they’re not ever going to do you any harm, and in a funny sort of way you quite like their antics. That’s the sort of view the average Spurs fan has (or had) of West Ham, they play nice football, fairly inoffensive, basically a poor man’s Tottenham Hotspur. They’ve been our feeder club, and we’ve offloaded lots of our tat onto them – a little brother if you will. West Ham fans hate their older brother though, and for them the biggest game of the season, when they’re in the top league, is the game against Spurs. Spurs though are only interested in the lot in N5, so regard the ‘appy ‘ammers as simply 3 points.

That all changed a bit on the last day of last season, when most of the Spurs side were mysteriously taken ill, and subsequently lost a game that had they won, would have enabled them, at the expense of their real rivals, a place in the lucrative Champions League. The gloating, mockery and scorn showed that day by the fans, players and staff at West Ham will live long in the memory for all connected to Spurs, and revenge is very much on the menu this weekend. Even the usually quiet and reserved Ledley King has been issuing some fighting talk:

"I want to keep them silent this time. Last season West Ham were our bogey team. They scored in the last minute at White Hart Lane and beat us on the last day of the season. That defeat still hurts. We are all well aware of what happened last season and are all really hungry to win this game. I was at Upton Park, I travelled with the lads and knew a lot of them were ill. It was horrible sitting in the stands injured, watching what was happening and not being able to do anything about it. This time I want to do something about it. I heard their fans taking the mickey out of us for being ill, but I want to keep them silent this time. It was a disastrous day for us. They haven't got off to the best of starts but we have taken a lot of confidence out of beating Besiktas."

There has been a rumour flying around that the West Ham fans will turn up wearing Chef’s hats in homage to the Gooner Chef that cooked the meal that allegedly made Spurs ill in the hotel Spurs stayed in before the game. Presumably they had plenty of time yesterday to prepare, because they unexpectedly had a free date in the diary after embarrassingly tumbling out of the UEFA Cup in the first round.

In a way you can see why they don’t like Spurs, we go and nick Kanoute, Defoe and Carrick from them, whilst offloading Etherington, Zamora, Rebrov and Taricco, plus lending them Davenport for a few months to toughen up while they were in the second division. Its not our fault though that they secretly revere Spurs so much that they go and get Sheringham and Konchesky off their own backs as well. They just need to put a bid in to Bournemouth for Anderton, sack Pardew and replace him with David Pleat and they will be all set.

In terms of the team Spurs put out it will be a case of picking up the pieces from last night’s heroic victory in Istanbul, and see who is fit and raring to go. With Jermain Defoe sitting on the bench for most of last night, you would expect him to be selected to face his old club over the miss-firing Robbie Keane and likewise Didier Zokora should be ready to start ahead of Tom Huddlestone if he gets over his fever. Aside from that there shouldn’t be any real need to change a winning side, unless there are still knocks or tired limbs come Sunday. Aaron Lennon could start, but Spurs need to be careful about rushing him back too quickly.

West Ham have not been laying well lately, coming into this game on the back of four straight losses, with Pardew under real pressure. He comes across as an arrogant man when interviewed on TV, and you have to wonder what he has to be arrogant about after failing to take West Ham back up in his first season, sneaking through the play-offs in his second, fluking their way to a Cup Final and then losing in his third, before crashing out of Europe at the first attempt and leaving the club lurking in the relegation zone in his forth and more than likely last. To say that Tevez and Mascherano really wanted to join West Ham with a straight face was a bridge too far though, and for that he should be sacked anyway. Those two, undoubtedly world class players, must wonder what they have done to deserve their current fate, and they both must wish they could fast forward the clock to January 1st when they can get out of their nightmare. That said Spurs will need to be wary of Tevez, who is a special talent, and may just turn it on in what will be the biggest game he plays for his current club. Hopefully he and his fellow Argentine will continue to look as disinterested as they have since they found themselves stuck in the East End. “United? Ah yes we would very much like to join them. Hold on this isn’t Old Trafford, where’s Rooney? What’s this jellied fish you expect me to eat?”

Simply a must win game for Tottenham on Sunday. Let’s hope for more of the same from Thursday night.

Come On You Spurs!

The Waddler.

Brilliant Berbatov

A great performance by Spurs last night in Turkey, and a brilliant show from Dimitar Berbatov who capped off a fine night with a cracking individual goal. He also had an assist for the first goal, scored eventually by the impressive Hossam Ghaly, and really should have had a penalty and another assist when Robbie Keane somehow managed to hit the bar from 10 yards out. He was quite rightly singled out by both managers after the game.

"Berbatov showed some flashes of his quality.” Big Martin Jol said, “We've always said if our strikers can make a difference then we will be a good team. Berbatov is the extra quality we have up front. It was a terrific goal and, hopefully, it will break the spell as we have struggled to score this season."

The Besiktas football director, Jean Tigana, also felt Berbatov was the difference: "His goal was fantastic. When you have a player like that it is a lot easier to win. He can change a game by himself. Tottenham were very good.”

Neither of them were wrong either, as last night our new Bulgarian hero showed what he is about. His strength and ability to hold the ball up is excellent, and his composure and close control are a marvel to watch. With his goal he showed that you don’t need raw pace to beat players, just some skill and guile are enough to do the job, as he out foxed both the defender and the goalkeeper, before stroking it home. Robbie Keane needs to follow him around in training because he can learn a lot from this man. Robbie was woefully out of touch last night in terms of his shooting; hitting the bar, tapping a tame effort at the keeper and blazing one over the top during the course of the evening. If it wasn’t for his profligacy in front of goal, Spurs could have gone home with 3 or 4 goals without reply. It wasn’t all Robbie’s fault that didn’t happen though, with the referee ignoring a stick on penalty when Berbs was brought down in the box. If that had been up the other end with 36,000 Turks baying for blood, one suspects he may have given it.

Some good performances by Pascal Chimbonda, again, and Jermaine Jenas are also worth highlighting. Both men work tirelessly in their respective positions, and both have calmness under pressure and use their skill when the opportunity arises. It was also great to have Ledley back, he’s the type of player that you often don’t notice because he simply does everything well, and is always neat and tidy and gives the team a confidence in its defending. Tom Huddlestone also didn’t look out of place on the European stage, especially considering he is only 19 years old. He is a little slow when in possession, but he’ll learn, and Besiktas took to fouling him horribly in an attempt to threaten his midfield domination with JJ.

It was an excellent away performance, another great European night for Spurs to add to the collection, and a reminder for those younger fans what Tottenham Hotspur is all about - glory. After some Turkish baths no doubt last night, Spurs head home this morning, full of beans, ready to put the little brother West Ham back in their place on Sunday. Has that corner now been turned? Its looking good, the proof will be on Sunday.

The Waddler.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Turkey not just for Christmas – Besiktas Preview

Tottenham Hotspur travel to Turkey tomorrow for their first game in the UEFA Cup Group Stage to play Besiktas, a team from the European part of Istanbul. Beşiktaş Jimnastik Kulübü to give them their full name are the oldest club in Turkey, and were originally a gymnastic club, hence the middle name. They play at the Besiktas Inonu Stadium, which Pele allegedly once said had the most beautiful view in the world. It is also the only stadium in the world from which you can see both Europe and Asia - amazing. Anyway, the team are managed by Jean Tigana, formally manager of Fulham and Platini’s midfield sidekick for France. They sit third in the Turkish League with five wins, a draw and three losses from the nine games played, and have Kleberson the Brazilian World Cup winner and failed Man Utd midfielder in their squad. That’s all you need to know about the opposition, more importantly, how are Spurs looking?

Well, it’s the usual story of injuries as King, Dawson and Davenport are all doubts with knee, head and nose troubles respectively. The lack of our young French centre back Dorian Dervitte in the reserve squad the other night suggests that he is going get his first taste of action with the big boys, at least making the squad for the trip. He could be on the bench if only one of the aforementioned three pull through, with big Tony Gardner ready to step in for Ledders or Daws.

The midfield is starting to pick itself with Teemu Tainio, Hossam Ghaly and Steed Malbranque all absent for one reason or another. The main question will be whether Big Martin Jol starts Aaron Lennon, or holds him back on the bench. If it’s the latter then Jenas would play on the right, and the central midfield pairing could well be the same as our last European away game, with Huddlestone and Zokora holding fort. Another run out for Danny Murphy on the left also looks likely, as he slowly begins to look like the guy who won many trophies with Liverpool.

Up front isn’t that easy to call as Defoe and Berbatov started on Saturday, so it could be Keane and Mido this time out, particularly as West Ham’s biggest game of the season is on Sunday, which presumably Defoe would quite like to play in. Berbatov would also have played five games in two and a half weeks if he plays tomorrow, and given he is on the way back from injury expect him not to feature either tomorrow or Sunday.

This is all new territory as far as this Tottenham team is concerned, so a draw or better will be a creditable result. The crowd will be hostile, as the opposition will be, and Spurs will have to match their passion. Class tends to tell over a two leg tie, but this is different and there’s no concept of coming back with an away goal anymore, its points that are needed. The team played well against Villa last week, and there’s no reason why they can’t do the same tomorrow, just so long as we can score, which has been a distinct problem away from home all season.

Fair play to the 500 brave fans making their way to Istanbul, you are a credit to the club. The Waddler is going to have to make do with Channel 5 and John Barnes. Oh dear.

Come On You Spurs!

The Waddler.

THFC Power Brokers – Part One: Daniel Levy

The Waddler has decided to branch out into the murky world of investigative journalism in order to bring you, dear reader, the low-down on the men that really matter at Tottenham Hotspur. They are, in order of the power they wield, Chairman Daniel Levy, Vice Chairman Paul Kemsley and the mysterious man with the money, Joe Lewis. This will be a three part series that will attempt to dig deep(ish) into the lives and history of these three men, checking their Spurs credentials as well as their business acumen and maybe concluding whether they are the appropriate people to be controlling our football club.

Daniel Levy is 43 years old, Jewish, married, 3 kids, has a first class degree in Economics from Cambridge, and has apparently been a Spurs fan all his life. Together with Joe Lewis he owns ENIC, which stands for the English National Investment Company. The original aim of the firm was to be a holding company for various sports and entertainment enterprises. They at one point had a portfolio ranging from a stake in Glasgow Rangers to the UK chain of Warner Brothers stores. They began to diversify too much however and decided to focus on football, with the aim of owning a club in each of the major European leagues. However, in 2003 they took a controlling interest in Tottenham Hotspur from Alan Sugar, which became the jewel in ENIC’s crown and the other clubs were gradually sold off. ENIC also went private that year, when Levy and Joe Lewis bought out the remaining shareholders. As a result getting information on the firm is now difficult, but it seems clear that ENIC’s main focus is THFC, and to a lesser extent a holding in the Czech club Slavia Prague.

ENIC's ultimate owner is a company called Crailes Holdings, registered in the Bahamas, the tax haven where Joe Lewis lives and where it is not easy to find information about companies. The Guardian managed to get quotes from an ENIC spokesman who confirmed that Lewis is behind ENIC, with Levy, via family trusts, owning 29%. "It is very much a joint effort between Joe and Daniel," the spokesman said. "Daniel himself takes responsibility for the decisions at Tottenham." ENIC, according to the financial news service Bloomberg, own 32.7% of Tottenham, which means the Chairman effectively only owns 9.5% of THFC, less than Alan Sugar who has 14.7%. Lewis is therefore the man with the main financial interest, with over 23% of the club held through his holding in ENIC. The breakdown is as follows:

ENIC 32.7%
Amshold (Sugar) 14.7%
Hodram 9.9%
Schroder UK Smaller Companies Fund 0.8%
Small Shareholders i.e. fans 42%

Hodram Inc is a vehicle owned by the brother of EasyJet’s Stelios Haji-Ioannou. Both are mad keen Spurs fans who simply want a stake in the club. In a similar vein Andy Brough, manager of the Schroder UK Smaller Companies Fund is a big Spurs fan which no doubt played a part in his fund having that particular holding.

So despite Joe Lewis being the money man, it is Levy that calls the shots and would be a difficult man to dispose, unless he falls out with Lewis of course. Levy’s other business interest is in property and he, Kemsley and Lewis are again involved together in a company called Rock Investments, which is half owned by Lewis and run on a day to day basis by Kemsley. According to the Guardian, in the year to December 2004, Levy was paid £240,000 by Rapallo, the vehicle through which Lewis owns Rock; and in the year to June 2005, he was paid £525,000 by ENIC for his work as THFC Chairman. More on the property angle in THFC Power Brokers – Part Two: Paul Kemsley.

In many ways Kemsley and Lewis are more interesting as less is known about them. We have had Levy as Chairman for 3 and half years now, and have seen him make some tough decisions such are firing Graham, Hoddle and Pleat, and make some astute decisions such as hiring Arnesen and Comolli. There were some errors along the way of course, and no-one was especially happy to have Pleat in temporary charge for most of a season only to appoint Santini, who ran off after a couple of months anyway. He is still fairly new to the job, and history will be able to only judge him years down the line, particularly on areas such as the stadium and training ground. He is often seen by many as being too interested in driving a hard bargain in transfer dealings, but you can argue that he is only spending the money wisely, and after allowing Hoddle to persuade him to part with £8.1m for Dean Richards, who can blame him? The man has taken Spurs into European competition, spent millions on players such as Berbatov and Zokora, and extracted as much as he could in the sale of Carrick and the compensation for Arnesen. Abramovich aside, there are not many chairman that spend enough money for the fans liking, but most sensible Spurs fans would be happy to have Levy in charge rather than a Risdale or Bates, running up huge debts with their Jam Tomorrow attitude over paying it back.

So is Daniel Levy a good man to have in charge of Tottenham Hotspur? Yes, probably. He has great business experience, is obviously intelligent, has backing from the right man, and things are pretty rosy in terms of the squad that has been built. He has a good man in place on the football side in Damien Comolli, and whilst the jury is still out on Jol there can be no argument that last season was a success, at least on a relative basis. It is what he does with the stadium that could be his lasting legacy however, and on that, the jury is going to have a long wait before it can deliberate.

Parts two and three to follow over the next couple of weeks after Besiktas and West Ham are taken care of.

The Waddler.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Spurs “Reject” Olympic Stadium

In what was effectively an official statement, given the direct quotes attributed to Sporting Director Damien Comolli, Spurs have rejected the opportunity to take residence at the Olympic Stadium after the 2012 Games. Whether that chance was actually there in the first place is of course up for debate in itself, but either way it has been clarified as not being an option.

Comolli said:
"The way it is going with the Olympic Stadium they are to keep a running track so there is no way we are even going to look into moving there. I travel around the world and every ground that has a running track in the stadium has a poor atmosphere, the attendance is down and all the clubs say it was a mistake to play there. It could have been an option but it is not any more. We are looking at all possible options, including extending White Hart Lane, but we may go somewhere else. Whatever happens, it won't affect the financial stability of the club or the ability to invest in players. The board are determined that doesn't happen and we will be very careful about it."

Now given that there were rumours of some statement about the stadium issue coming out a couple of days before these quotes were seen in the press, this is certainly a premeditated action by Tottenham Hotspur. But what are they trying to achieve? It looks as if they are either putting pressure on the Olympic Bid people to change the plans for the stadium, which now seems a long shot, or they are posturing for a move to Wembley, either temporary or permanent. The line “…we may go somewhere else” seems like a veiled threat to Haringey Council and the Mayor, Ken Livingstone, who have so far not been forthcoming in terms of offering THFC help and assistance in redeveloping White Hart Lane and the surrounding area.

A temporary move to Wembley seems to make the most sense, as then White Hart Lane could be redeveloped without having to stage a match every other week, and the club wouldn’t have to put up with a reduced capacity while the work is going on. It would be a hard deal to organise though, as not only would you need the FA and the local council on board, you would also need some reassurance that transport links to the Lane are improved in the meantime.

In an ideal world of course you do what almost every other club that have built a new stadium have done, and find a nice plot of land, build yourself a stadium and carry on playing at the old one until its ready. That’s what Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Southampton all did, its what Liverpool are going to do, and most importantly that’s what the lot from Woolwich have done. The trouble is, most fans wouldn’t accept a permanent move out of the borough, that’s what the travellers currently residing in N5 did, its not something Tottenham Hotspur have ever done in 124 years. So it means finding somewhere in the Tottenham area – which isn’t exactly full of open areas of land, and the bits that are open suffer from the same transport issues as the Lane.

Presumably, Spurs have a plan, one more cunning than a Baldrick cunning plan, and this is merely a way of letting the fans know a bit of information without revealing all, whilst playing the long game with the authorities. This issue looks like it is going to run and run.

The Waddler.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Angel Gives Spurs Wings

Tottenham Hotspur still haven’t scored an away goal themselves this season, but the corner they are turning, ever so slowly, continued to be turned at Villa Park on Saturday. To come away with a draw was all that could be realistically hoped for pre match, given the form of the two respective sides, but if it wasn’t for some wayward shooting and a dodgy red card and penalty against Davenport, it could have been even better.

The first half was dominated by Spurs, and little Jermain Defoe was proving a real handful, putting in one of his best performances for a long time in a Spurs shirt. Maybe it was playing two games on the trot, or maybe it was because he has been linked heavily with a move to Aston Villa, who knows, but he was back to his old twisting, turning and dribbling self, albeit with the shooting radar still off target. He had many if not all of Spurs’ best chances during the game, and although for one he should have squared the ball to Berbatov, most were fairly close to finding the net. He needs a run of games, and a goal or two, and we could see him back to his best. Aside from JD, there were good performances from Zokora again, and Murphy on the left who seems to be benefiting from being picked every week, not just subjected to bit part roles. BAE and Chimbonda were again good, especially the latter who had to fill in at centre back when Dawson went off injured early in the second half.

The pre match loss of Ledley King was a cruel blow, as the Dawson and Davenport partnership looks very shaky in comparison with the Dawson-King combination. That said Davenport’s second half sending off was very harsh, as on the replays it looked like the precociously named Gabriel Agbonlahor miss-kicked the ball and fell on his backside. So it was very kind of Juan Pablo Angel to miss the penalty to compensate for the travesty of justice that had just been served. He took the generosity a little too far 60 seconds later though, when he headed Defoe’s woeful corner into his own net. That was manner from heaven for Spurs who now had something to defend for the last 20 minutes with 10 men. It only lasted 5 though as Villa upped the tempo and Gareth Barry unleashed an unstoppable shot into the top right of the net. There was nothing that Robbo could have done, and in fact was he excellent all game, putting his England troubles, and the moronic taunts of the Villa fans, well and truly behind him. In fact, according to Martin Jol, it was the sheer presence of Robinson that made Angel fire his penalty wide:
“Paul made him nervous because he knew exactly what he was going to do. He
always prepares 100 per cent and told me before the game that he knew what he'd done in the past and what he would do."
To come away with a draw, despite the loss of King before the game, Dawson half way through, and then Davenport with 20 minutes to go really showed some mettle from Spurs and is certainly a positive to take away. Another positive was the surprise return of Aaron Lennon who came on as a second half substitute for Hossam Ghaly. He looked a little short of match sharpness which is fair enough, but another couple of sub appearances should be all he needs to get back to his wing wizardry, and Spurs will be all the better for it.

Spurs have a busy week ahead, with a trip to Turkey in the UEFA Cup before playing little brother West Ham on Sunday, who will presumably be at home watching Eastenders on Thursday night. Hopefully Ledley’s fluid would have drained sufficiently to return for the Besiktas game, and that Dawson’s headache also disappears. Ghaly has done his hamstring, and Davenport also broke his nose to add injury to insult, so the Spurs physios will be earning their corn again this week.

Things are looking up.

The Waddler.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Revenge for Robbo? The Villa Preview

Poor old Paul Robinson, England’s number one splashed all across the front and back pages with pictures of “that” blunder under abusive headlines, Sky Sports News showing it over and over again, getting experts to analyse what went wrong. It was freak incident for gawd sake, get over it and stop hiding the fact that England were rubbish, Robbo was in fact their best player and Gary Neville’s backpass was played across the goal – a schoolboy error.

The character of the man will be evident tomorrow by his reactions to the fact that he will be the player that all the cameras will be on, ready to pounce on any error to crush him further. He needs to have the game of his life to show those hacks and doubters that he is the ENO, and the best keeper in the land. The Spurs fans up at Villa Park will let him know he’s still tops in their eyes and hopefully he will put it all behind him.

He needs to have a great game because Tottenham’s record up at Aston Villa isn’t the greatest, with one win since the Premier League began, the point at which time began apparently. With the usual injury list that looks like the available British troops after the Battle of the Somme, it’s a good job Martin Jol has an enormous squad from which to choose. The good news is that the fluid from Ledley’s knee has drained sufficiently for him to run out as skipper tomorrow (you can’t be squeamish and a Spurs fan), which is a massive relief. It was interesting to read quotes from Danny Murphy this week where he said that the reason Spurs hadn’t started the season well was because Ledley King wasn’t playing. A remarkable statement, but quite right in The Waddler’s opinion, we simply need the man to be fit and playing in order to play well. If Ledley has the knees of Paul McGrath though, it would be wise for Spurs to find a long term replacement for him sharpish, as the hole he leaves when he isn’t fit is just too large. Davenport and Gardener just don’t cut it.

Also potentially out are Pascal Chimbonda and Jermain Defoe. The more worrying of the two is Chimbonda, as he has been one of the stand out performers this season, and his absence could mean the return of Paul Stalteri, which would be a double blow. Hopefully though the Big Man will plump for YP Lee at right back if Chimbo doesn’t make it. The loss of Defoe isn’t that big these days, with Keane and Mido available to partner the main man, Dimitar Berbatov, up front. Teemu Tainio will be absent for six weeks apparently, but the good news is that Aaron Lennon is close to full fitness, and Steed Malbranque is back in full training. Spurs are close to being able to field a very strong side.

So what of Aston Villa? Their main summer signing and best performer this season is by far and away Martin O’Neill. As long as he is on the touchline then any opposition will have a battle on their hands. It was a massive coup by Villa to coax him out of his sabbatical, and they have got the real deal, one of the best managers there has been. What he did at Wycombe Wanderers was truly remarkable; he then went on to take Leicester into some of the best years in their history, before landing his dream job at Celtic. It was there that he really showed his worth, taking a team that had been completely in their neighbour’s shadows, turning them round into the dominate force in Scotland, as well as reaching a UEFA Cup final. Yes, it was only Scotland, and yes it was done with Hartson and Sutton up front which was not always easy on the eye, but success is success and this man brings it with him.

At bit like the Man United and Liverpool previews, its going to be a case of hoping for a draw, as we never do well there, and the opposition are flying, which Spurs are not. Of course Spurs have the players to beat Villa, man for man we are far better than them, but its not always how football works and O’Neill will have them fired up and Spurs will have to be up for it. Who knows what’s going to happen, it’s not an easy one to call, but The Waddler can’t see past a 1-0 or 2-0 to Villa sadly. Unless Robbo has the game of his life, and Berbatov nicks one at the other end of course. Either way Spurs look like they are turning a corner, albeit slowly, and we have more UEFA Cup action again to look forward to next week.

Come On You Spurs!

The Waddler.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Martin Jol and his remote controls

Poor old Martin Jol he will be sat at home this evening, flicking through the channels with his vast array of remotes that control all the satellite dishes attached to his Chigwell mansion, hoping and praying that his troops come back from foreign fields unscathed and ready for battle against Villa on Saturday. With the news that Ledley King has been sent home with his dodgy knee, it shows just how easily a manager’s plans can be unravelled by things beyond his control. The good news is that Ledders should be OK for Saturday, but it must be a worry that he can’t play more than one match a week at the moment, and if things continue Spurs will need to be buying a replacement sharpish.

So BMJ will be watching Croatia v England to keep an eye on Robbo, and maybe tune in towards the end to see if Jermain Defoe is unleashed, or JJ chucked on for another token cap. He will also have an eye on Robbie Keane in the Ireland v Czech Republic match tonight, hoping and praying he can find a goal that reignites his season. Now if he has a really big dish he may be able to pick up Bulgaria v Luxembourg, and have a look at Dimitar Berbatov hopefully filling his boots against the minnows of Europe. In many ways this is the most interesting game for the Big Man to tune into, as if Berbs can re-find his goal touch and come away unscathed it will be a real blessing for Spurs. A quick hat-trick and Bulgaria five or six up the manager can then withdraw our new hero and keep him wrapped up for Saturday. That would be nice.

With half the team in action tonight, and the other half hanging out in the treatment room it is going to be a nerve racking evening for the Spurs boss, and the fans.

The Waddler.

Monday, October 09, 2006

All quiet on the N17 front

There has been little going on in the world of Tottenham Hotspur in the last week, hence the lack of updates on Ledley King, Jermain Defoe and Paul Robinson were all involved in England’s dour 0-0 draw with Macedonia on Saturday with Ledley coming out with credit for a top quality performance. Whilst most Spurs fans would have been watching him with their hands over their eyes for fear of injury, it might do him some good in terms of building up match fitness. Rio Ferdinand replacing him on Wednesday against Croatia would be ideal, allowing him decent recovery time before Aston Villa on Saturday. Jermanine Jenas wasn’t involved after picking up a knock in training, so hopefully it was nothing serious.

Robbie Keane was involved in Ireland’s spanking at the hands of Cyprus, which would have done him no good whatsoever. Teemu Tainio has gone in for an operation on his hernia, which may explain his terrible performances this season. It’s never good to play with an injury, and Teemu’s performance levels and status with the fans as a result have taken a big hit. Hopefully he will come back stronger and fitter, and put in the sort of all action performance that was seen last season.

And that’s about it. International breaks are dull, but this one should have been a good time for BMJ to make some tweaks, and for the physios to work on Lennon and Malbranque, both of whom are needed desperately.

The Waddler.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

More Waddle Magic

This time its for Sheffield Wednesday and a 5-0 thrashing of poor old West Ham from the 93-94 season. A game that is apparently quite rightly known in Wednesday folklore as 'The Waddle Game'. The great man single handedly destroys the Hammers. Great Stuff.

Comolli Watch

So with the transfer window shut until January, Damien Comolli has to occupy his time somehow, and it seems that from snippets in the press over the last few weeks he is working very hard indeed. Apart for representing Tottenham Hotspur at the UEFA Cup draw yesterday, he is also busy snapping up top notch Scandavian youngsters to bolster the youth ranks, and hopefully provide for the first team in the future.

One definitely in is young Swedish keeper Oscar Jansson from Karlslund. The 15-year-old has had two trials with the club and passed a medical. Apparently regarded as one of the most promising keepers in Scandinavia, he is expected to join the Under-18 squad, when he arrives in January. Also on their way for trials are Hogaborg BK starlet Samuel Aziz, and Håvard Nordtveit a 16 year old Norwegian central defender.

Spurs also recently had a 17 year old Norwegian striker over for a trial called Dag Alexander Olsen, who we have apparently offered a contract. He is also being tracked by Liverpool and Bayern Munich, so we will do well to snap him up. Spurs may well have the upper hand though as apparently he got on well with the players in our youth set-up and also trained with the seniors before he went home. Edgar Davids and Ledley King took time out to speak with him and told him all about the joys of Spurs. If Edgar can’t convince him, then no one can!

Not just content with Scandanavia, Comolli has also been keeping tabs on Standard Liege's young centre back Marouane Fellaini who claims Tottenham are monitoring on his progress: "Tottenham spoke with my agent and they will continue to follow me," he said. "I would like to play with the biggest clubs in Europe." On a more speculative note, Spurs have also been linked with Gillingham striker Adrian Jarvis can either play as a traditional forward or operate down the wings and has been watched by Premiership scouts almost every week.

It is good to read news like the above, as it shows Spurs are thinking and planning about the future, and even if only one in ten of these youngsters makes it into the first team regularly it will be a job well done. Those that don’t make it at Spurs tend to go out on loan and are then sold on for decent money, much like Dean Marney was this summer, so it is not a meaningless exercise. The fruits of Comolli’s labours won’t be seen for some time of course, but if the youth and reserve teams win things it’s a good sign, as Man Utd’s youth team with Beckham, Scholes, Neville et al certainly did, as did the Leeds youngsters containing Woodgate, Smith, Kewell and our own Paul Robinson. The West Ham lot including Ferdinand, Defoe, Lampard, Carrick and Cole also had a lot of success at youth level. If the Spurs youngsters do the same in the next couple of seasons, it would be a good omen.

So with three months until the transfer window opens you would assume that Spurs are merely busying themselves with snapping up youngsters, but not if you believe the papers who have linked us with Chelsea’s Joe Cole and Celtic’s Aidan McGeady in the past couple of days. The Cole rumour can be put down to sheer paper talk, and more than likely it has come from his agent trying to put the wind up Chelsea before a new contract is offered. Spurs are unlikely to want to deal with Chelsea again after the Duff saga, and Cole is probably not keen on a move to Spurs anyway as an ex Hammer. The McGeady link is more intriguing though, as he fits the identikit Levy regime signing – young and cheaper than your average bear. He is a quick and skilful left winger, and despite being born in Scotland, sensibly opted to play for the Republic of Ireland, so hopefully Robbie will have a word in his shell and tell him what a great place Chigwell is. He represents a cheaper option than Petrov or Downing, and playing in Scotland would be used to the rough and tumble of the British game, so this one could have legs. Whether Celtic can be persuaded to part with one of their prize assets though who knows, but he could certainly follow the likes of Mackay, Gilzean, Archibald and Gough and make a step up in his career by coming south of the border and joining the mighty Tottenham Hotspur.

The Waddler.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

UEFA Cup Group Stage Draw

The UEFA Cup draw has been made and it’s a case of could have been worse for Spurs. Having not played in Europe during the previous 5 seasons there was no chance of the club being seeded, despite having won the competition 3 times (UEFA merged the Cup Winners Cup with the UEFA Cup after the 1999/2000 season), so the path to Hampden Park in May was always going to be a tough one. The dates are as follows:

Thursday 19 October - Besiktas (Turkey) (A)
Thursday 2 November - Club Brugge (Belgium) (H)
Thursday 23 November - Bayer 04 Leverkusen (Germany) (A)
Thursday 14 December - Dinamo Bucuresti (Romania) (H)

The stand out ties are the away games to Besiktas and Leverkusen, both of which seem quite daunting at this stage. The fact is though that the top 3 teams in each group go through, so six points should be enough to see us into to the next round, and that means winning the home games against Brugge and Dinamo. Anything gained in Turkey and Germany would therefore be a bonus, and a way of winning the group.

Each of those four teams would have been watching the draw thinking “not Tottenham Hotspur, please not Tottenham Hotspur” as we were by far the biggest team in pot 5, if not the competition itself, and it shows what a mockery the UEFA draw is. The bookies still have us as second favourites to win the trophy behind Seville, and in Dimitar Berbatov, we have a player that knows our main rivals for the group, Bayer Leverkusen, inside-out as that’s where Spurs plucked him from for €15m in May. Spurs should also have Lennon and Malbranque flying for a least the last two games, and so long as we don’t get struck down with further injuries, we should sail through.

Here’s to some more of those Glory, Glory nights.

The Waddler.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Controversy, Abuse and 3 Points

Lets deal with the controversy first, which surrounded the build-up to the game with Mido’s ill advised comments about Sol Campbell and then again during the game with Zokora’s dive for the first half penalty. Neither incident is the sort of thing that should, in an ideal world, be associated with Tottenham Hotspur. With the Mido thing, Jol rebuked him in the press and then dropped him from the side too. It was some good man management by the Big Man, who took the sting out of Harry Redknapp’s team talk and showed that Spurs are above that sort of thing. Mido can sit and stew over his actions, and will have to wait his chance in the team again to show that he can take his size 12s out of his mouth and put them to good use on the pitch.

The Zokora penalty is less clear cut. Yes, in an ideal world diving shouldn’t happen, and yes, THFC should be above that sort of thing. BUT, everyone else does it, Spurs are in a bit of bother at the moment and the guy comes from leagues where diving is part and parcel of the game. Zokora, and Spurs have got a bit of a caning in the press today over the dive and it shows the anti-Spurs bias that exists in the English media. Did they do the same when Henry chucked himself on the floor to win the free kick from which they scored in the Champions League final? How about when Gerrard and Owen fall over in the box playing for England to win penalties – is that OK? It is according to the Goon and Hammer loving journos who write for most of the papers based in London. So what should Spurs do? Well BMJ should have a word and say well done Didier, but if you’re going to do it again, try and make it look a bit more realistic next time. Spurs rarely get the rub of the green in these scenarios, and it is actually a refreshing change to see us get a decision like this. It is not something that should be seen on a regular basis, but a win was so badly needed yesterday that almost anything justified the means. We don’t want to get a reputation for it, and we don’t want to win all the time by cheating, but taking a tumble with a bit of contact in the box occasionally is not the worst thing in the world, and if means the difference between 1 and 3 points, then lets have a bit of it. Everyone else is doing it, why shouldn’t we?

It was also the annual return of the pantomime villain yesterday, and for the first time dear old Sol experienced defeat at the Lane since deserting the ship. The abuse is fine, and chants like “Campbell loves Barrymore” and the “…I wanna know oh oh, why you’re such a…” chant are acceptable and still reasonably funny but the one about him hanging from a tree steps over a line and should really be phased out. Likewise, it’s a shame that the way to let Ledley know our fondness for him is by first wanting to stick his predecessor somewhere painful. Campbell should never be forgiven for what he said and then did to Spurs, and it should be made clear to him that he is not welcome back to the club, but the sooner he retires and the sooner this annual charade is over, the better it will be for all concerned, as the fans don’t cover themselves with glory when he’s back. Having said that, some of his pained facial expressions were very amusing, as defeat was the last thing he wanted, and exactly what he got.

So, looking at the actual football it wasn’t a bad performance by Spurs considering how low on confidence they were, and all the chopping and changing of the line up required. The return of Berbatov up front was much like the return of Ledley at the back, a bit of class and an air of authority injected into the side. Within 30 seconds, Berbatov got closer to scoring than Mido had in the previous 5 games, with a header that David James parried and Murphy flicked into the net. It was a nice reminder seeing him back out there that he was where most of the summer transfer kitty went, and with it our hopes for the season. Watching him play you can see he just exudes class, and even though he clearly wasn’t fit yesterday his movement and awareness of where his team mates were was excellent. At one point you could see him telling Defoe to look at him, and watch the run he was making. Let’s hope JD listens, as it will make him a better player too. It was a surprise that Berbatov didn’t take the penalty, but Defoe needed a goal and looked like he argued the best in the discussion with Berbatov and Murphy as to who was going to take it. A 2-0 lead at half time would have been a good reward for a decent half of football, but it was a sloppy equaliser to concede, with Kanu scoring his customary goal against Spurs. An inquest will be needed as either King or Dawson let him go free, and that isn’t what we expect from the skipper and the future skipper.

The loss of Chimbonda at half time was a blow, as it interrupted Spurs’ flow and game plan, as it was he that was supplying the width on the right. Ghaly, who keeps on impressing did well filling in at fullback, but it wasn’t quite the same, and by the end BMJ felt the result was more important than anything else, as Spurs defended deeper with only one close call, an effort from Lua Lua, brilliantly saved by ENO. Jenas could have had a hat-trick in the second half though, with a shot well saved by James, a mazy run with a blast over the bar, and one which looked like a swing and a miss from about 8 yards out, turned out on the replay later, to have been affected by a bobble. JJ is some player, he’s got strength, pace, stamina and skill, he scores goals and never stops working, yet the crowd are clearly divided over him because his passing and shooting is occasionally off target. Hopefully a few more goals will turn them around.

Spurs now have two weeks to patch up the wounded, get some players out of the treatment room and work on some clever routines before a trip to high flying Aston Villa, followed by a tight schedule of UEFA Cup games, a home game against West Ham, a trip to the Milton Keynes football franchise in the Carling Cup and then away to Watford. This will be where the squad will comes into its own, and barring any more international related injuries, the team could be close to full strength with the return of Lennon, and maybe even the introduction of Malbranque.

Keep reading for reactions to tomorrow’s UEFA Cup Group Stage draw and any other Spurs related tit bits that follow throughout the week as usual.

The Waddler.