The final piece of four wrapping up the season, delayed by a few mishaps but here finally
So let’s pull this all together. I’ve looked back at the players, the team and the manager. It’s been a positive season with unforgettably cracking football and the blazing thrill of the Champions League tainted by the frustration of what might have been. The goal is to keep the positives, learn from our mistakes and put them right next year. Get it right and the prospects take the breath away. This is the best squad we’ve had for twenty or thirty years. Well placed financially, without the riches of the the top four but unencumbered by debt, the potential is staggering.
This summer is a watershed period for the club. Lurking in the background are the imperatives of history – Spurs’ saga of unfulfilled expectations and the unerring capacity to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Chairman Daniel Levy and manager Harry Redknapp have momentous decisions ahead of them that could cement the foundations of a top class team for years to come or signal a slide back to midtable mediocrity. It’s that big a deal:. the season ahead of us isn’t just about rebuilding, certainly not another transitional season. This is a once in a generation opportunity that we must seize with both hands.
The most significant decision in the transfer market is not the purchase of a new striker, despite our desperate need for goals. It’s keeping four top class footballers: the divine Luka Modric, one of the finest midfielders I’ve seen at Spurs, Gareth Bale, Rafa van der Vaart and Sandro. Europe may have given us glory: it was also one long advert for the brilliance of these players.
There’s no irresponsible ITK in these pages but this summer there will be an auction between Chelsea and Manchester Untied for Modric. Accounts vary: some say he’ll stay, others that he wants to go. The reality is both are true: I believe he is happy here but every player in the world would consider CL football at double the salary, which is what both clubs would give him. And that’s not including the rest of Europe.
Some say Bale is at his peak and think what we could do with the inflated fee. Madness: no reason at all to dispose of talent like his whose career has only just begun. VDV is not so much in demand but again there’s quick profit to be had with a sale. Sandro is the dark horse that few are mentioning. However, his best games have been against Milan, therefore in full view of Europe’s top clubs, he’s young and to my mind has got the lot. The star of the new era of Brazilian football will be in demand.
As ever Levy is the key. How he deals with that auction and whether he bites will determine the future of the club. £30 or £40m could revitalise our buying power but I would not sell any of them under any circumstances, for this quartet are the bedrock of our future. They are here now, they know each other’s game, they know the club. Build on this continuity, not destroy it. Sadly, I give some credence to the rumours that Modric and Bale have been touted around. I sincerely, desperately hope I’m wrong. Both are so wonderful they make the game a thing of beauty and awe.
The money for new players has to come from elsewhere and not necessarily by reckless firesales. We have to take the hit on Keane, Hutton and Bentley but I would not sell players like Kranjcar, Jenas, Palacios and Bassong, back-up men currently, without ensuring we have replacements in the bag. If they left, I wish them well but won’t lose any sleep. What this does mean is that Levy must decide soon about our own Big Four. Wait until deadline day and we could be left with nothing.
Next, Redknapp has to decide how we are going to play then buy players who fit the bill. As Modric blossomed and VDV arrived unexpectedly, HR’s oh so English big man-little man combo looked old-fashioned. We have to get two pacy, alert strikers who can both score and bring others into the match, not necessarily bag a hatful of goals, the assists total is almost as significant. They may not play together often. This season people have said Rafa doesn’t fit in but I would play around his skills, so that’s a free role off a single striker with another attacking midfielder to cover for him. Kranjcar would be ideal despite my misgivings about his efforts but looks like he’s on his way. Lennon may not have the luxury of being both a winger and a regular starter. However, variety and variation are essentials in what could be a season of over 60 matches in very different situations. Whoever, we must score more from midfield.
Another centre half is likely, preferably one with a bit of pace. Kaboul could well make a breakthrough into top class. Friedel is a decent signing. Free, solid, capable, he’ll either give Gomes a gee-up or compete with a replacement as well as providing cover. Again I’d be in no rush to sell Gomes: we must avoid the mistakes of L’arse and ensure that if we buy, it’s a genuine upgrade.
Whoever we buy, they must have two qualities: the ability to keep possession and the bloody-minded focus on being a winner as epitomised by Willy Gallas. This is what we’ve learned during our travails in Europe and at the top of the league.
Finally, let’s not forget the overall plan that got us here. Several years ago more out of necessity than design, we started to identify, buy and nurture talent for the future. It’s not been smooth by any means and many have fallen by the wayside but here we are with Bale, Modric, Hud, BAE, Lennon and now Rose. We must think now about the next crop. it takes time and no little agony as we watch their growing pains but it’s worth it.
So it could be a momentous window as make our plans, but ironically not in the way I envisage because two crucial matters totally beyond our control could scupper the whole voyage. Redknapp’s tax case could at best leave him tainted, at worst a criminal, while if Capello keeps this up, England could come calling sooner rather than later. Whatever happens, I’m looking forward to it already.
Tottenham On My Mind will be here during the summer as and when. Many thanks to everyone who has visited the blog this past season, especially those of you who have taken the time and trouble to make the comments section so vibrant. Can’t tell you how much I appreciate your comments