Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Rantings and Ravings of a Senile Swiss

Fifa President, Sepp Blatter, has this afternoon suggested that Gareth Bale should be suspended from playing for Tottenham for the duration of the Olympic Games Football Tournament. Blatter's reasoning? Because Bale has allegedly feigned injury to skip the Olympic Games to play for Spurs over pre-season.

Olympic Football ends on August 11th, so fortunately if the ban is applied it would not hamper us for any of our Premier League fixtures; our first game of the season is against Newcastle United on the 18th August. Nevertheless any ban could play havoc with our pre-season preparations and result in the first team going into the first few games without having gelled properly and some not adapted to a completely new and radical system from that which Redknapp exerted.

All of this fuss has arisen from Bale's appearance in the Tottenham starting line-up in the friendly between Spurs and LA Galaxy played in the early hours of the English morning. Three weeks ago Gareth dropped out of the Olympic training squad citing a back injury likely to take him out of action for at least a month. However it came as a surprise to most when he appeared to have fully recovered in time to face Robbie Keane's current club.

Pundits and ex-footballers alike rushed to social networking sites to berate the actions of both Bale and Tottenham in removing one of Team GB stars, only to see him feature at club level before the Games have even begun. Former Spur Gary Lineker expressed on Twitter, "Gareth Bale who pulled out of the Olympics through injury played for Spurs last night. Once in a lifetime opportunity thrown away. Baffled". Robbie Savage also had his say, stunned by Bales actions, "Wales captain Ramsey, Premier League's most decorated player Giggs, Premier League winner Richards...does Bale think he's better than that, even if he is class?".

Twitter has exploded with differing views on the story and it was only a matter of time before, as he always feels the need to do, Sepp Blatter made his feelings known. "The principle is that if a club does not release a player then this association can come to FIFA and we will then ban this player during the duration of the Olympics." Blatter blabbed.

Now it's my turn to have my say. Firstly I'd like to vent my frustrations at Messrs Lineker and Savage's comments. Mr Lineker should know better as a former Lane fan favourite than to comment on club business he does not have the full information on. When Bale pulled out three weeks ago, the Welshman was genuinely injured and couldn't train at all. Given a diagnosis by the Spurs Physios and Doctors, as well as Team GB's medical staff no doubt, agreement was made that it was in the best interests of the player to miss out. Players have been known to return from injuries faster than expected after all and that is what appears to have happened here. Does this mean he's snubbed Olympic selection? Don't be so ridiculous.

For Savage to believe that Bale missed the Olympics because he feels that he is above it is laughable. No player was more dedicated to Team GB bar David Beckham in the run up to the Olympics, and that is plainly an insult designed to slur Bale's integrity and affect his public image. Tell me Savage, when did Giggs, Richards and Ramsey pick up their injuries this summer?

However the misguided comments of Savage and Lineker are nothing in comparison to the views conveyed by FIFA's Head Clown, Sepp Blatter. The first error Blatter has made is in his belief that Great Britain has a United FA. I'm sorry to disappoint you Sepp but I'm afraid we don't, so the only complaint you could take seriously would be that of grievances from the Welsh FA. Somehow I don't think that will be happening considering their opposition to a Team GB.

Blatter's second error is that he seems to think that FIFA can simply ban a player whenever they want to, for any reason they see fit. Unfortunately for the Swiss, FIFA is a governing body and as a governing body it has to follow its governing laws. If Blatter can provide evidence of the law whereby players have to accept International call ups, despite holding an injury at the time of the call up, I'll take it all back. For some reason I don't think I'll need to.

The third and final error of his comments is that he has now shown himself up for the corrupt and hypocritical man that he is. If he is able to find proof of the above discussed law, I will understand any ban handed out to Bale. However I expect there to also be bans for previous offences where clubs have done the exact same. Crikey, Man United's Carrington training ground noise levels are going to resemble a morgue between now and August 12th. Players have been pulling out of International matches with niggles, only to miraculously recover in time for their next club game, for donkeys years.

If Bale and our club are punished for our part in this whole overblown saga, I'm sure we'll see Levy taking this one to the courts. And as we know from experience, our chairman doesn't back down easily. Good luck FIFA, you might want to think long and hard about your next move.

Follow me on Twitter: @Cjipps

Monday, 23 July 2012

Reunited with former friends

The Spurs lads are now out in the States and preparing themselves for the three game tour where they will take on LA Galaxy, Liverpool and The New York Red Bulls. Playing against the two American sides will give us an opportunity to see further how our club is progressing but also offers us the chance to take a look at two of our former Lane favourites.

Many of you will be aware of Robbie Keane's movements, with his LA Galaxy switch a large talking point and he'll come into our match in prolific form for the Galaxy having scored 6 goals n the last 3 weeks. What some of you may not be aware of is that our former utility man Teemu Tainio will also be facing us as the heartbeat of the Red Bulls side. Tainio has settled in well out in America and is said to be more key to their chances of success than the bigger names of Rafael Marquez and former Gunner Thierry Henry.

Looking back at when these two played for our club it got me thinking about the 2005/06 side that came so close to breaking our Champions League appearance duck. For those of you who don't remember this was our first team lineup when all were fit:





You look at some of the names there and can't help but wonder how we possibly could have gotten so close to achieving a Champions League place. You would think that the side side of last year must have picked up a lot more points than this lot, yet the season 11/12 squad picked up just four more points than their 05/06 counterparts. But for a chronic bout of food poisoning it could have been just one point difference. Yet how many of that Jol team would you take into today's first team?

Robinson of 2005 was a different animal to the Robinson of today. Whilst Brad has been solid this year it could be argued that Robbo has been our best goalkeeper of the last 20 years based on that season. So ok that's Robinson in.

If you compare the Ledley of 2005/06 to 2011/12 it's abundantly clear that Jol's Ledley was a more complete player. That Ledley King still had full mobility in his legs and pace to burn so King of 2005 also gets the call up.

As with Ledley you have to compare the old Lennon to the current Lennon to see which one stands up as the better player. Although the 05/06 Lennon had less maturity and inferior crossing ability, that Lennon was fearless and had all the left backs in the Premier League worrying about how to deal with his pace. Sadly Lennon now seems to be short of a trick to beat his man and such exciting performances occur less and less. Therefore 05/06 Lennon narrowly wins this contest.

There are other debatable decisions such as comparing Carrick with Modric and Keane with Van Der Vaart that do indeed show the quality of the 05/06 side. However whilst the decisions of the above positions are tight the other positions on the pitch are of no contest, with the 11/12 team winning hands down. So what were the ingredients of that side that led to such an overachievement?

Hunger was one of the strongest traits of that side along with Passion. The 05/06 side was packed with warriors, players who wanted to win and would put their bodies on the line to do just that. Davids, Tainio, Dawson and Stalteri even, all players with fairly limited capabilities but a never say die attitude.

That hunger stemmed from the man-management of one man. Big Martin Jol. He was tactically naive at times and would make the wrong substitutions but his ability to bring out the best in players and inspire them to do their best for the badge was something I've not seen at the Lane in my 20 years of following the club. Without Jol there would have been less of the hunger and passion we saw that season and we would have seen ourselves back in the familiar mid-table position. Competition might have been less tough back then but we have improved as a team at a quicker rate than the competition has in personnel.

When you look at what Jol did with a limited squad like that, it's fairly understandable to start dreaming of the possibilities for next year with our squad brimming with talent. If AVB can get his tactics right and improve the mentality of the players, the sky really is the limit for Spurs.

Follow me on Twitter: @Cjipps

Thursday, 19 July 2012

A legend in my time

Today we received the sad, but inevitable news that our most loyal player since Gary Mabbutt, Ledley King, is hanging up his boots for the final time.

Growing up as a youngster in the 90's, I idolised (past tense) a man by the name of Sol. Whilst I don't want to talk of this man in the same breath as our Ledders, it was the heartbreak of his departure that stemmed my admiration for King.

King broke into the first team picture at the age of just 19 years old, called up to play a strong Liverpool side in a central midfield role. Performing admirably as Spurs won 2-1, Spurs fans began to believe we had a talent on our hands. Just how good this young lad was, we didn't know but we were soon to find out.

Just a month later Ledley marked his place in the record books with his first goal for the club against Bradford City, scoring in just 9 seconds, a Premier league record for the fastest goal scored that still stands today. I still remember running around my garden trying to emulate the goal from distance. A new hero had stepped forward and this 9 year old had well and truly jumped on the Ledley bandwagon.

When David Pleat took over as caretaker manager Ledley was brought back into his favoured position at the heart of the Spurs defence. Whilst the club struggled in the early naughtiest for consistency, Ledley shone and eventually came to the attentions of the England Manager at the time, Sven Goran Erikssen. Dispossession the favoured duo of Terry and Ferdinand seemed unlikely but Ledley was handed his opportunity in a major match against France at Euro 2004. Stepping in for John Terry, King had many doubters before the game, but a man of the match performance, despite England conceding two late goals, hushed the critics and it looked like Terry and Ferdinand finally had some worthy competition.

Unfortunately in 2006 the beginnings of Ledley's injury problems began to surface stemming from a pre-season knee injury. King played less than half of all Spurs games that season and in his absence kept just 3 clean sheets.

From that season on Ledley's knees have been slowly declining in mobility as the muscle gradually deteriorated to the point last season where injections were necessary to build up enough muscle to get through a game.

Finally today on 19th July 2012, our club captain has accepted defeat in his battle with injury and moved into an ambassadorial role.

During his career he led Spurs to League Cup glory in 2007 and from a personal perspective picked up a total of 21 caps for England with 2 international goals to his name.

Thierry Henry is just one of his peers who has come out with strong words of praise, telling how 'he (Ledley) will get the ball off you without you even noticing'. He later went on to say King was the best defender he played against in his time in the Premier League. High praise indeed.

And if anyone is still not convinced of our former club captains ability, i'd like to direct you to a little known website called YouTube. If you type in 'King Robben tackle' you will see just one example of the superb defending King has shown in his time at the club.

Unlike Paul Scholes, there is no chance of a return to playing. We as a club need to now move on with a potentially exciting future set out ahead of us. Nevertheless Ledley has written his name into Spurs folklore and his legacy will live on for generations. Best of luck for the future Ledders.

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Player Ratings: Stevenage 0-2 Spurs

Yesterday evening Spurs took on Stevenage in a pre-season friendly in front front of a packed crowd of over 5,000 at the Lamex stadium. A repeat of last years FA Cup Fifth Round Tie, both sides came into the game on the back of transitional periods over the Summer.

Spurs struggled to break down Stevenage in the first half but our class shone through eventually in the second period with goals from new boy Gylfi Sigurdsson and Iago Falque sealing a routine win. Having been at the game to watch AVB's side for the first time, here are my player ratings for the match:
First Half
Carlo Cudicini - 6
Had very little to do. Only danger for the Italian came from back passes being chased down but these were handled with ease.
Kyle Walker - 6
Having missed out on the European Championships through injury, Walker was given an hour to get back into the swing of things. He looked fairly rusty with rare forays forward but defended solidly.
Younes Kaboul - 8
The beast at the back. Kaboul seemed to adapt to AVB's high defensive line tactics like a duck to water. Won all of his aerial battles and just generally looked extremely comfortable at all times.

Michael Dawson - 7
Coming back from a long term injury, he seemed to struggle for pace when balls were knocked over the top of the defence. Was a strong aerial presence however and retained possession well.
Kyle Naughton - 5
Impressed playing out of position at left back. Not afraid to get forward and displayed good control and first touch. Pace is evident and was used as an advantage to get back when defending.
Aaron Lennon - 5
The flying winger struggled to match up to his usual high standards and was largely ineffective. He may have struggled with with understanding his position as Pienaar and Bentley seemed to have been given instructions to roam.

Jake Livermore - 6
A few misplaced passes early on to gift Stevenage possession but grew into the game with some hearty tackles and improved passing.
Jermaine Jenas - 4
Game showed Jenas to be a fair distance behind his central midfield counterparts as his anonymity meant the game seemed to pass him by.
David Bentley - 5
Employed initially behind the front man, Bentley seemed confused with his position, similar to Lennon. Often drifting into Lennon's space which caused congestion. Looked determined to prove himself and worked hard but made no real impact.

Steven Pienaar - 7
Given more freedom in AVB's midfield system, Pienaar flourished with all decent attacks coming through the South African. Touch was good and barely misplaced a pass.
Harry Kane - 5
The youngster was handed a start with Defoe yet to return to training after the Euro's. Outmuscled and beaten to every header by the Stevenage central pair of Ashton and Roberts but came close to opening the scoring but for a good save from Boro's Chris Day.
Second Half
Brad Friedel - 6
Like Cudicini had very little to do between the sticks, but had to be aware to get his body behind a strike from distance early on in the second half.

Adam Smith - 6
Replaced the tired Walker and looked comfortable in nullifying Stevenage's left hand side. Showed desire to get forward and composure on the ball.
William Gallas - 7
Don't write him off just yet. Marshalled the defence well, keeping the back line organised and looked good on the ball.
Jan Vertonghen - 6
Our new Belgian centre back showed glimpses of his class with some good interceptions from a couple of Stevenage attempted through balls. One of the easier games he is likely to face for Spurs.
Sebastian Bassong - 6
Very little threat came to Bassong from Stevenage's right hand side so despite playing out of position he looked at ease.
Iago Falque - 7
Sometimes chose the wrong option but showed plenty of talent in his thirty minute cameo. Not afraid to run at defence and whilst his goal had a touch of luck about it through a deflection, his good work in running from the halfway line with the ball meant it couldn't be begrudged.

Tom Huddlestone - 5
Back from a major injury lay off, Tom understandably struggled in his 30 minute appearance. Made the easy passes well but long passes were over hit.
Tom Carroll - 7
The young lad will always have his doubters due to his size but he took the game by the scruff of the neck. Stung the keepers palms with a swerving shot from distance and kept the ball moving in Modric-esque style.
Gylfi Sigurdsson - 7
His class shone through, looking comfortable on the ball and composed. Took advantage of Townsend's good work to get his first goal in a Spurs shirt with a neat finish into the bottom right corner.

Andros Townsend - 8 (Man of the Match)
Ran the Stevenage defence ragged. Caused problems constantly and it was his good work, breaking down the left flank and bursting past the Stevenage full back that lead to the first goal. This season could see him breakthrough to the first team, similar to Livermore last year.
Souleymane Coulibaly - 6
Showed good energy, panicking Stevenage defenders into a few mistakes. Made good runs and experience will make him a more composed and accurate finisher.

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Monday, 16 July 2012

Is it tapping up when it's a 'lesser' player?

Many of us Spurs fans are consigned to the possibility that Steven Pienaar could be leaving the club after an underwhelming 18 months, and the likelihood is that should he leave, Everton will be the destination. Today Sylvain Distin, speaking to the Liverpool Echo, expressed that 'if we (Everton) can add Steven and maybe one other player that would be great'. What I want to know is whether this is tapping up a player contracted to another club?

Tapping up is a term with a lot of grey area in football. There are examples where there is no debate, such as when Chelsea purchased midfielder Gael Kakuta from Lens. Chelsea contacted the player without the clubs knowledge, offered Kakuta's parents a house in England and snatched away the youngster with a nominal fee charged to them. Subsequently Chelsea were sanctioned for their part in this saga and rightly so.

Beyond the obvious examples though is where we reach the part that cannot be controlled or governed. Players, unlike management and boards of control, are entitled to express their opinions on players movements freely without any punishment. They of course have no input in the transfer process, but a throwaway comment can, and has previously, unsettled players to the extent where they wish to leave their club.

Last pre-season the lot down the road were bombarded with news of Barcelona players discussing how great it would be to have Cesc Fabregas in the colours of Barca. Whether it be Xavi, Piqué or Iniesta, they all made sure they had their say.

Similarly this year we have received mirrored comments from Real Madrid first teamers Pepe and Alvaro Arbeloa regarding our midfield dynamo Luka Modric. Putting aside the rivalry, both cases are examples of poor showmanship from clubs who should know better. Only by the smallprint of the football laws is this not a case of tapping up.

Which brings me back to Pienaar. When Spurs signed Pienaar big things were expected of him but he has failed to deliver, albeit in a small cluster of appearances. However does the fact that Pienaar is not a star player of our team mean that it is acceptable for Everton players to already begin discussing his future with their club? Should the comments have been directed at first teamers such as Bale or Walker, we'd be up in arms at the nerve to attempt to nestle our players!

For all we know AVB's new plans could involve Steven Pienaar playing a key role, as when he's on form he's a game changer. With only rumours flying around of a departure from the club and no confirmed approach, Distin is firstly undermining AVB and then also potentially turning Pienaar's head even further than it probably already has been.

Sadly this will always be commonplace in football and we will continue to see it on a regular basis over the next month and a half. I may be barking up the wrong tree but to me tapping up is tapping up, no matter who the player is. So in my opinion Distin has stepped over the line. What do you think?

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Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Have we ever had it so good?

Call this premature if you like, but I have to say that right now I'm feeling more positive as a Spurs fan than I have done at any other point over my 20 years of supporting the club.

AVB's interview this afternoon carried an air of confidence and a commitment to new ideas and progression for the club. The focus was on building from the strong foundations and taking us to the next level, something that even the most loyal Harry fan would have to admit was outside of Redknapp's abilities.

The strongest evidence of what an impression AVB's earlier interview gave is evident in the media's reporting of the Press Conference. So quick to write off the Portuguese prodigy on appointment, Spurs fans knew that there would be a likely struggle to get the media on side, but the majority of news headlines appear to be positive, with many journalists backing down on their pre-conceptions to admit that the man has a plan.

Not only the media but the players seem fully behind Villas-Boas with Rose, Caulker, Vertonghen, Friedel and Sigurdsson all delivering public praise. Some would say this is to be expected as they try to get on the managers good side for their future benefit but all comments seem genuine with a realm desire to do well under AVB's guidance.

There will of course be those in the squad that preferred Harry's methods, such as Parker, Gallas, Van Der Vaart and Livermore, but none seem likely to kick up the fuss that Terry, Lampard and Co did at Chelsea. If they did, I have no doubt AVB would have no hesitation in getting rid, and I have to say that despite these players performing impressively in their spells at the club, all are replaceable by players of equal or better ability.

And then there's the players we're now being linked with. Lloris. Moutinho. Oscar. Adebayor. Damiao. These are top class players, players we could only have dreamed of signing previously but all realistic targets now with the pull of a well respected, globally recognised manager.

AVB will always have his sceptics, but all signs point towards progression, and a brighter future. Could we ask for much more?

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