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.