Thank the deity that doesn’t exist it’s over. The Modric saga and Harry’s inability to pass by a camera without giving an interview meant the last few weeks have been excruciating. Let’s get on with it now and play some football. However, here’s no denying the backdrop of genuine tension on deadline day. I’ve talked of this being the watershed season, the last chance to build on the foundation of a fine group containing four outstanding footballers. Parker and Adebayor will enhance the squad greatly but I can’t escape the lingering sensation that at this crucial moment more should have been invested in the team and that the reasons why stunt our growth in the long run.
No question, this is a fine squad. Adebayor is strong, mobile and dangerous in the box, in short, just what the manager ordered.. It’s hard to work out what motivates him. Tough enough to carry on after lying on the floor of a bullet ridden coach as teammates died around him, a wet January Wednesday in Stoke shouldn’t be too much of a problem but at City and L’arse, his interest waned and form declined. The loan nature of his transfer doesn’t help. However, he knows he’s first choice and that’s significant for him. Bale and Lennon out wide, Luka and VDV through the middle, should give him plenty of chances.
Parker is an excellent buy. The criticism around the boards is based on West Ham’s failure last season but takes little account of what he can bring to our play. He links defence and attack, passes well short and long, makes space for himself and for others and will fit straight in to the side. What’s not to like. WHam went down through no fault of Parker, who at times tried to carry the entire team and often succeeded. Rumours say he rather than manager Avram Grant gave the half time team talk that led to the Hammers turning a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 away win, so here’s the on the pitch leadership we crave. He makes the men around him better players.
Above all, we’ve achieved my main target, keeping Modric, Sandro, Bale and Van der Vaart. Credit to Levy, unmoving and true to his word. So far so good.
But. Whereas I had hoped a loan striker plus experienced midfielder would be the basis of our planning for the future, they are the future. It’s who we didn’t sign that’s significant in the longer term, or more accurately, why. No fourth striker, bearing in mind we have only two other first team front men, both of whom are not quite what we want, and no centre half. Of the many players we were interested in, they either stayed with their clubs or went elsewhere. Why?
Taking last January’s window into consideration, I suspect that we have tried but failed to go for a host of players who fit our profile, i.e. talented players under 26 who are on the up and for whom a move to Spurs is a move up the slippery slope. In recent times, Berbatov and Modric are classic examples. Note that neither were cheap: Levy will spend if he feels we can get value. He doesn’t want to spend big on older players whose potential sell on value will plummet as they turn 30.
Unfortunately these men will not come to us, partly because we are not in the Champions League and partly because we don’t match salaries being offered elsewhere. Take Ageuro for instance. I believe the stories that we made a bid of £30m plus for him, maybe Rossi too, in January. City come in and we are nowhere. Same this window for Leandro – they have no incentive to move.
So we fall back on Harry’s old guard. If someone else is in for them, chances are our salary scale will be too low even if Levy will pay the fee. Bellamy for example – I’m assuming Liverpool offered to match or nearly match his giant pay packet. We have no chance. I’m assuming that Harry’s late night comment on Levy not being able to do the deal over Cahill also refers to salary not the fee. If I’m wrong, Levy is more foolish than I think he is.
I’ve said throughout the window that we didn’t have to sell in order to buy. Harry wanted to use 30 or 40 m from Modric to buy other players but we’ve emerged well over 20m up overall, including O’Hara for 4 or 5m. That’s not counting the CL income, so the availability of ready cash isn’t the issue. Levy being reluctant to spend because Redknapp will be gone by the summer, discredited either by his court case or by becoming England manager, doesn’t hold up either. Why not get rid of him now, or why let him have any money at all? Remember Levy was prepared to spend this window. Not perhaps as much as we would have liked but something nevertheless, and we still have a surplus plus Modric as an asset if the new man needs to rebuild.
There’s more weight behind the idea that the driver is the ‘I’ in ENIC. After all, as chairman Levy has a duty to shareholders and the owner Lewis to ensure there’s profit on that investment, for example if the club is sold. The new stadium is getting closer and we need money not only to build it but also to do so without destroying that investment.
In the end, Levy the consummate businessman is ignoring the forces that shape his working life, supply and demand. I admire his fiscal prudence on both a practical level, ensuring we have a sound financial foundation, and on a moral level, resisting greedy players and adroitly avoiding the insane business practice adopted by other club owners blind to everything but the pursuit of success on the field. And that includes keeping tabs on his manager.
However, Levy is fast becoming the King Canute of football. He cannot singlehandedly hold back the onrushing tide of improving salaries if he wishes to secure the club’s long term interests. His unbending response to the Modric transfer was admirable but the same quality is a potential disaster when applied to budgets. Retain by all means the sound budgetary principles of not paying fees and salaries over the odds for older players but the club’s entire salary structure must be revised upwards. Otherwise we won’t survive the rat race.
Now it’s down to Redknapp, the coaches and the players. Despite my concerns regarding long term planning, it’s worth repeating that this remains by far the best squad we’ve had at Spurs in recent times. Time to realise that potential. Opposing teams have sussed our formation so Harry has to come up with Plan B. Parker and Adebayor will give more options in that respect as we have to switch from an over-reliance on two wide men to a passing game, flexible and interchanging in the middle as well as width. Pienaar will be important here. Frankly he’s done nothing so far but that’s his game.
Luka and Harry aren’t best friends any more – put it to one side. We’ve got one more season, let’s make the most of it. Hud, that ‘stepping up’ phrase I hate, bit more from you and you could be a star. Each individual has their own targets but the team’s the thing. The pressure’s on, time to deliver.