To be truthful, although Tottenham is always on my mind, I have paid more attention to other matters this week, mainly how to avoid sliding under a German artic on the M25.
The Liverpool game, should it go ahead, provides a wonderful opportunity to strike at one of our main rivals for the one Champions League place that is available. We should grab that with both hands, taking a positive and bold attitude to Anfield without being reckless. That mindset has not come naturally to us in the past but a run of decent football plus five clean sheets could not leave our confidence any higher, and it would be a telling indictment should our motivation fall short in any way when tested.
Much has been said in the media about Liverpool’s over-reliance on Gerrard and Torres but when you have two players that good, I’d rely on them too. King and Dawson will probably start in central defence, although there’s a slight chance Bassong could replace Dawson because his mobility might be better suited to combating Torres. I don’t think changes will be made.
Bassong could be in the frame for left back too, where a more defensive minded player, away from home, could be better protection. Harry has used centre halves in this role very effectively at other clubs, although I would like Bale to have a chance with a few games to prove himself.
Redknapp seems to be adopting his protective paternal approach, which has always seemed to be the right way for young Gareth. Listening to the radio is not the best way to judge a player but a while ago 5Live provided an insight into how his lack of confidence affects his game. The commentators sit at the back of the press box and when Bale was brought on as sub in a midweek game against lesser opposition (can’t recall who, I’m afraid) on his way back from injury, they reported that the Spurs bench were repeatedly screaming at him to get forward, but he was not responding. This uncertainty has been apparent and an arm round the shoulder will work better than scaring the living daylights out of him.
Gerrard does his business in front of the back four, an area where we do not close players down or track the runners as well as we should do, so here is where the match could be won or lost. All the signs are that Palacios is playing his way back into form, and Hud will have to be on his toes. Not a ballet dancer is the big boned one, so first instinct should be to drop right back when Liverpool threaten. Their 4-2-3-1 means they do well in midfield but can be stifled closer to the box.
Liverpool in defence could be vulnerable down their flanks – I would have liked to have seen Lennon take them on – but Modric and Kranjcar do their best work linking in the centre. If the fullbacks can get forward, dangerous against that formation, they could link up too. In summary, so much is in the balance but keep up our form and we can do well.
Last Saturday we held the distinction of the highest crowd of the day, a healthy 35,000 plus. Much has been made of the poor attendances elsewhere, an indication so the argument goes that the Cup is losing its magic.
In comparison with other clubs, our figure was artificially inflated because it was the second of the two cup ties included on our season ticket. I don’t think this was the case at places like Middlesbrough and Wigan, whose paltry crowds were embarrassingly low. However, the loyalty of our fans would ensure bigger gates whoever we played. We also had a sensible pricing tariff and credit is due to the board for not unduly cashing in on the Leeds game, arguably the tie of the round. £30 and £25 with £10 for kids is fair enough.
Although the Cup’s appeal is in danger of being strangled by the all powerful tentacles of the Premier League, it is deeply embedded in the psyche of football fans, certainly those of my generation. Younger people, I’d be interested to hear your comments. This is less about the Cup and much more about money. Being a supporter is so expensive these days, fans have to prioritise and if the cup games are extra then obviously they will be the ones to fall by the wayside.
I’ve done so myself in recent seasons, for the first time ever. I am fortunate in being able to stump up for the season ticket, so I’m not asking for any sympathy here. I have a reasonable income but like everyone the outgoings are substantial too. I estimate that watching football takes up 95% of the total amount of money I spend on entertainment in the course of the year. Going to the pub or to gigs, buying music etc, all of these interests have been sublimated to the ticket credit card bill.
The Premier League clubs have less need than ever for the cash from a cup run, because their income is generated primarily from TV rights. Put a little in the way of the fans and keep down cup tie prices to fill grounds, provide a still decent income and perhaps most importantly allow the new generation of young fans to experience the joys of live football, just as I did at their age. And here I still am. It’s an investment.