So here we are again. All those well-intentioned promises came to very little in the end. The World Cup, Spurs history, World Cup Conversations…although it’s time has passed, I must tell you about the waxing woman some day soon….
I enjoyed the World Cup but in the end, it had all been said about England, and anyway as I’ve shared before, dear reader, I don’t get as worked up about the national team as I do about Spurs. Other people with a better feel for the international game were doing a fine job. The Guardian Fans Network was great fun and if you haven’t checked it before, Zonal Marking – phew! Great site. www.zonalmarking.net
It was a reminder of my motivation for writing this blog, which is about a year or so old now. After all these years, I feel so close to the club. In a small way, I’ve been part of its heritage over the last 40-odd years, and the club is as much a part of me as the air I breathe. Inseparable, heart and soul. Some who know me might say that is a bad thing, but frankly it’s too late to turn back now. Always on my mind, so I write about what I know and feel. I don’t feel it for England, so I can’t write. Lots of ideas and just-begun pieces, paragraphs tailing off. Haven’t the heart to finish them.
Although many of you are clamouring for the start of the new season, I enjoy the break. I need it. To not anguish over the last game and plutz over the one to come is a blessed relief. Peace and quiet encourages reflection and a sense of perspective that does not come easily amidst the plethora of pundits during the season itself.
But as always, the world turns and seasons change. Never mind the summer solstice or the calendar – the arrival of the note that my season ticket is ready is my personal springtime. New beginnings, the promise of better things to come.
It will be interesting to see how the World Cup affects the Premier League in general and Spurs in particular. The often-repeated statement that the Prem is the best league in the world may still hold good in terms of excitement and competitiveness but if England’s finest can be so readily put to shame, our tactical and technical backwardness has been ruthlessly exposed.
This may not matter to most punters, but by charging inordinately excessive admission prices, clubs put themselves under increasing pressure to deliver. Fans have a tendency to become more disgruntled more quickly than ever before, and consciously or subconsciously one factor is surely a demand for value. We blanch at the credit card bill but it’s all worth it if we are watching top quality football. If it falls below that standard, the tetchiness begins and can easily overflow into anger.
The same goes for Sky: if they had their way it would be Super Sunday every day of the week but over the summer we’ve seen for ourselves how unsophisticated and technically deficient our so-called top league has become, even with foreign players. Sky’s publicity behemoth can’t fool all the people all the time.
The World Cup is bound to influence tactics in the coming season. The main message is: the team is the thing. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This of course has always been the case, but this summer in particular we saw a tournament where there were few individual stars. Rather, we purred at the combination play of, say, a young-ish German team who supported each other phenomenally well or marvelled at the passing and ball-retention of the Spanish.
Two up front has been severely discredited. The search around the leagues of Europe will intensify for the lone striker able to do, well, everything. Hold it up, run into space, drop back and chase, finish with lethal precision. For Spurs, does anyone fit that description? Not for me. Interestingly, Keane has been tried there. Friendlies this early in the season have no significance whatsoever in the outcome of the season but they do sometimes shed light on the manager’s thoughts. Keane at his best does fit the bill but he’s not exactly dynamite in the air, essential for the Prem. We can’t tell – it may that he’s up there simply because Crouch and Defoe hadn’t returned to training and Pav had a knock.
Harry is keen on 4-4-2 and has set up our squad accordingly, but if the rest of the league have five in midfield, like England we will be outnumbered. We had enough trouble against the likes of Hull, Stoke and Wolves last season.
Finally, two defensive midfielders is the fashion sweeping the metaphorical catwalks of European football. I say defensive: again, they require the whole gamut of skills. The familiar traditional midfield destroyer will take you only so far if he can’t pass. Here we are in better shape. Huddlestone, Modric and Palacios (but the passing…) are good for a start, and whilst we shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations of a young Brazilian not used to the league, Sandro is by all accounts a quality player in precisely this mode.
Our offer for Scott Parker has been declined but to me he’ll fit in just fine in the centre of midfield. He has plenty of skill, energy and experience, great positional sense, is a fine passer of the ball, shrewd, a leader on the field who can take over a midfield. Hudd and Luka will fit right in around him, he’ll help our developing players. Last season he carried West Ham and with better men around him he’ll look great.
A sound buy for the right price. And that’s the issue. He’s had injuries in the past that have disrupted his career, so we can’t go over the top. Sullivan’s public determination to keep him is all about creating a tough guy image with his fans. For him, everything on earth has its price and he’ll sell his grandmother’s kidney if the offer was right. I’m not inclined to become sucked into a bidding war. 5 or 6m, then leave it.
Otherwise, it’s early days. We are probably making lots of enquiries but there’s no need to rush. High quality men will take some persuading to come to Spurs because other mad chairmen will agree unrealistic salaries that we won’t match. Also, the market will unblocks itself once one big deal has been done, likely to be James Milner. We are keen on Young and Agbonlahor, they like the look of JJ, Bentley and Keane, City might like our cash for Richards….and so it goes round.
Whatever, don’t sell anyone until we have someone better signed up. Where that top class centre forward will come from, well, this will stretch all of Harry’s powers of talent-spotting and then persuasion to get him to come to the Lane.
The Premier League will provide great entertainment again next year. The trend towards 4-5-1 will continue but we may see teams adopt a more containing frame of mind. In the World Cup, the best teams used that formation to flow and pulsate, many used it to frustrate and minimise risk. If so, Spurs may have to discard our faithful 4-4-2, in which case we will require at least one new striker with different skills. Harry’s way forward could be pace and mobility. Bellamy, the two Villa players, plus Bale and Lennon – it may not happen but it could be an indication of his thinking.