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Happy 131st Birthday Spurs

October 6, 2013 Leave a comment

On this day in 1882 a group of bible class students set in motion the forming of the club that we have come to love and occasionally loathe.  Perhaps after a depressing weekend many of us don’t feel like celebrating, this however is the reason why we need to make a fuss of Spurs.

hp

Today is a day of celebration, a day to salute those young men who created not only a club but a way of life for many of us. This is the perfect opportunity to take stock of what we have and wish Spurs a happy 131st.

Hugo, Jan, Paul and Bobby

There was a time when we would cast our eyes across the capital and covet what our neighbours had built. We had some great players, but we lacked a foundation, a solid base from where to begin. Tottenham were forever building from the top down, a classy winger, an attacking midfielder and occasionally a striker, but never the areas that mattered most, the centre of the team.

Today though as Spurs prepare to blow out 131 candles, we have a spine to our team that can challenge most of Europe.

Last summer we signed Hugo Lloris and Jan Vertonghen, two players whose standout performances were unfairly eclipsed by the Los Merengues badge kisser. This summer we have added strength to their number in the form of Brazilian Paulinho and Spanish striker Robert Soldado. Through the middle of our team we have four top international class players.

Take a minute to ponder the spine that Spurs currently boast, even when we had the little Croatian, the Welsh winger and Rafa Van der Vaart, the core of our team was never this strong.

Franco Baldini

It is of course too early to judge his recruits, but the fact that Spurs moved quickly and decisively in the transfer market shows promise. The Director of Football in this country is a position that always creates confusion. Certain native managers refuse to work with them, whilst some sections of the press love to  report on supposed fall-outs, or a clash of ideas. Franco Baldini this summer though, made the DoF the new must have in football.

As Man United and others spent the day, and pretty much all summer striking out in various transfer deals, Spurs and Baldini passed Transfer Deadline Day with their feet up enjoying the wide-spread panic. It has been a long time since the close of the transfer window has been so quiet for Tottenham fans.

 On this day we should be happy that we have Franco Baldini, and praising every God in existence that he isn’t Joe Kinnear.

#ILike Under Armour

When the players smashed through the polystyrene wall wearing the new kit many of us immediately cringed at the Americanisation of our club. The use of smoke machines, #IWill  and veteran Brad Friedel all seemed wrong. Why couldn’t we just release our kit? Why did it need to be dropped? What’s with the #catchphrase?

As time passed though and the event slowly faded from our minds, we were left with a kit, something ironically that had been forgotten in all the razzmatazz. A kit that in all honesty, is pretty nice.

We have our navy shorts and socks back, there’s no flappy collar and the shirt has some nice subtle details which make it stand out. The logo may be a different shade of blue, but at least its not a red, or a short term loan company.

The shirt also manages to look good whether painted on to a strapping Nacer Chadli, pulled over a 40 year olds beer belly in Park Lane concourse or worn seductively by a lady boasting a flattering figure. It is essentially a shirt for all occasions.

At Spurs we have had to endure a few dull and down right dreadful kits, but this one thankfully isn’t. Good work Under Armour, just please tone it down for next time.

AVB’s Blue and White Army

On this day of celebration we should be happy that we have a man of undoubted class at the helm. This is the decisive season of AVB’s managerial career, this is the first time he has started a second season at a club and the first time in England where a team has been built to his specifications.

AVB is under unbelievable pressure, added to this he has had the biggest transfer saga in the history of football playing out at Spurs.  Where some managers might have cried, thrown a strop or charged out of the press conference, AVB handled himself impeccably all summer.

There is no doubt that the transfer saga had an affect on the Spurs team, but AVB to his credit never allowed the fallout to affect the clubs preseason preparations. Sunday’s result aside, Spurs have integrated seven new players, a new system and the loss of a focal point remarkably well.

In comparison to last season we are currently +2 in points and +1000 in positivity. The boos and jeers that marred the end of our first few games have gone, in their place is a faith in our manager and his beliefs. AVB had overtures from PSG and Real Madrid this summer, but unlike some he turned them down because he believes in Spurs and wanted to finish what he started.

Happy 131st Birthday Tottenham! COYS!

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The Team That Bale Built

August 31, 2013 Leave a comment

As the curtain came down on the 2012/13 season, the overriding emotion was disappointment. We had missed out on lucrative European nights, by a single point. As the late spring developed into summer though it was the feeling that had it not been for Gareth Bale, those evenings under the floodlights would have been a pipe dream instead of an enticing smell coming from an open window just out of reach.

bale

The thought of Bale disappearing was one that most of us didn’t even come close to contemplating. Finally he had thrown down the shackles of being an albatross, his ears had been pinned back, the hair restyled, the YouTube Channel created and the celebration trademarked, on there own they meant nothing but together they pointed to an exit, but surely not this summer. Bale had more to do before he was the complete brand, until of course FIFA, BT and NBC got hold of his image.

Suddenly Bale was the poster boy of anything to do with the round ball. His marketability although still miles off Cristiano Ronaldo, Leo Messi and the now retired David Beckham was growing. Real Madrid wanted this new phenomena and Daniel Levy was only to happy to secretly sell the dream.

As Spurs fans we have been here before. In my lifetime of Spurs supporting I remember Chris Waddle and Paul Gascoigne leaving and more recently the departures of Dimitar Berbatov and Luka Modric, star players sold but never replaced. The money recouped was and in fairness to the club, mostly reinvested, but it was spent by gentlemen out of touch with how to recreate and fill a void.

 This summer at Spurs credit must go to Daniel Levy and Franco Baldini, although the sale of Bale must have been a reality since before the Confederations Cup started, we were left thinking this was nothing more than SKY stirring things up. The ITKS’, the sensationalised reports, were it appears true after all. While we guffawed at suggestions Bale was distressed, and pointed to the posters and PS3 games as proof of him staying, he was in reality secretly saying his goodbyes. It was a tremendous bluff by Spurs and one that has enabled us to dip so successfully into the transfer market.

Across London whilst that team in Red proudly announced that they had, and still do have, £70 million to spend, at Spurs we remained quiet. Instead we haggled, bartered and delayed with various chairmen and agents across the globe. The narrative was the same for weeks, with Bale staying we didn’t have a war chest, we had to fight for the right price. Had Bale disappeared to Madrid in July, then effectively every player bar Roberto Soldado (we met his release clause) would have been more expensive.

Its quite incredible to think that whilst Spurs have been spending on credit, Real Madrid are about to sign the most expensive footballer that has ever existed and he hasn’t even had a pre-season. Pressure better be something Bale thrives on because if he thinks the media glare this summer was bad, he is walking into a city obsessed with football, boasting its own newspaper, dedicated radio shows and 80,000 fans who think nothing of burning a Ferrari or two.

Thankfully though Bale’s state of mind is something that we no longer need to contend with. Instead we need to focus on his legacy at Spurs.

 Nacer Chadli, Paulinho, Etienne Capoue, Roberto Soldado, and what looks like Vlad Chiriches, Eric Lamela and Christian Eriksen. If with Bale we were a one man team, without him we are one squad of terrific potential and potency. What the Welshman failed on the pitch to achieve, off it he may just have created a legacy.

In previous windows, especially those in the summer we have signed two, possibly three players who have taken us forward. Bale’s inflated price has enabled us to reconstructed our core. Add the names above to the those that are already at the club and is anything but our own pessimism holding us back from a title tilt?

Bale left the building seconds after the final whistle blew at Newcastle and the Geordies failed to win a £1 million bonus for their tea lady and other backroom staff. He wanted something he along with the rest of the squad were unable to give. Bale though has given us something we have waited a lifetime to see, an exciting, young and motivated squad with a manager at the helm we unanimously believe in.

I am going to miss Bale, as a player he was at times perhaps the finest I have ever seen. I wish we could have had Bale and the team he has enabled us to buy, but greed is a vice I try to steer clear of. Instead I will wish him well and I hope Madrid is everything he wants and needs. I along with every other Spurs fan now turn my attention to what has remained at White Hart Lane.

Tottenham is the club that Bill Nicholson built, but this is the team that Bale built. As it stands the greatest thing Bale has ever done for Spurs, is leave.

Levy Learning The Hard Way

July 25, 2013 Leave a comment

The blinds had only been part way closed and the sun streaked across the office straight on to the face of Andre Villas-Boas. Behind his mahogany desk, Daniel Levy smiled as he pushed a plastic cup of water towards his manager. It was the oldest tactic in the book, divert sunshine into a mans face and they would be yours. Even though he had deployed this to great affect recently, he couldn’t help but shudder recalling that time in Blackburn it had been done to him.

Daniel+Levy

It will be £16.5 million for the next Beckham.”

Could you please close the blinds?

Ah northern sunshine, crisp day eh? Here’s the pen, let me close that for you, sign it first though.”

From that moment Levy had vowed to learn from his experiences, to take what ever happens to him and use it to his advantage. This morning he had intended to break the news to AVB that JD and Emmanuel Adebayor were class strikers to drive the club forwards, but he couldn’t form the words and there was something about AVB this morning that didn’t quite add up.

The Portuguese man had an air of confidence around him; despite sitting in a chair with one leg shorter than the rest, the light across his face and the slight change in air temperature. His posture exuded belief, a posture very few could master in a chair that didn’t balance and he looked cool and totally unperturbed, a far cry from the boy who had arrived 12 months earlier.

It seemed to Levy that AVB thought of himself as a man in power. A feeling three weeks ago in that very office, Levy had once had.

Three weeks ago

The Spurs chairman’s phone was alive. The LED’s were flashing uncontrollably, his inbox was full and his spam filter dealing with any agent from Internacional was creaking. It was a good day if only he had some hair so he could stand there and run his hand through it.

Being follically challenged he instead opted to show his power by summoning his son into his office. Wrapping his arm round the boys frame, Levy put on his best Mufasa like impression as she showed his young cub the territory.

Look how they flock to me, look at my importance; this is the dawn of the new Spurs.

That day though had proved to be a mere one off. Since then his phone had not rung, his secretary had been sent home and White Hart Lane was deathly quiet.

The strikers, agents and offers had all gone, the watering hole that was Tottenham had dried up. Paris, Manchester, Madrid, Monaco, Turin and pretty much every European city had sucked up all the players previously desperate to sign. From a position of power, Spurs were looking at a rather troubling end to the close season.

Levy consoled himself with a sip of water and the thought of the interest £25 million nestled safely in the bank would generate. The drink though didn’t help in the way he expected. His throat seemed even drier, so he poured himself another glass and drank it in one go. The liquid did little to sate his thirst, so he downed two more.

The water was cool and Levy enjoyed the sensation it gave him, but still he felt peculiar, his thoughts turned towards competing in the Premier League. Surely JD and Adebayor wouldn’t be as bad as last season again? So the squad number 9 would have no takers again, Madrid haven’t had a number 11 in two years. That thought stopped him in his tracks.

What if Bale goes? What if Ade doesn’t play again, JD is 30; can I pick up a Dempsey this year?

Levy’s stomach had dropped, sweat formed across his brow, his pulse rate quickened, the room seemed to stand still and his peripheral vision blurred. The images of legendary Spurs figures, hung so proudly on his egg-shell white walls stared at him intently.

What’s happening to me?” He gasped.

He moved painfully slow to his Hewlett Packard laptop, hit the on button and waited an age for it to power up. Finally he opened IE and googled his symptoms.

Panic. The sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior.

As his breath continued to get shorter and the sweat beaded on his dome shaped head, before sliding down into his eyes, he sensed movement. He peered towards the door, but the salt from his sweat, combined with his continual eye wiping, blurred his vision. The pain stung and briefly broke him free of his panic, before he was thrown back in.

Cold air then swept across the office; falling to floor he crawled towards it, seeking its respite.

Daniel, you have wronged many believers. You mocked the Gods of football, you had your opportunities to claim a success through many different phases, but instead you chose greed.”

Lifting his head towards the sound he could only make out a figure robed in white. The light around the figure was beautiful, yet terrifying and enchanting at the same time, his heart lifted at the sight, but dread was still his overriding emotion.

What is this?

I am here to inform you that you must seek alternate methods in which to lead this club, you can no longer keep crossing your palm with client’s silver without returning gifts.

You continue to sell assets and fail to replace them. Modric, VDV and Berbatov, think of how we could send others into downward spirals with them, but instead you sell to mercenaries to feed your own and your bosses coffers. This must stop.”

But I give back, Stub Hub, shiny cards and free Spurs TV…..”

Daniel, do not mock me. They want North London for years, not an afternoon. They want European Glory, they want their pride back. They need a striker.”

The feeling of nausea continued and his heart beat so ferociously that he was afraid it would burst from his chest. He wanted to move, to do something, but the slightest turning of his head made him feel uncomfortable.

I understand, I will try.”

Do or do not Daniel. There is no try.”

Ok I will.”

Excellent, now drink plenty of water.”

As the figure backed away and the light dimmed, Levy began to feel slightly better. Down the hall he heard murmurings, but he was unable to focus on the words, with his head resting on the lush carpet sleep crept upon him.

Back to the present

So Andre, I have been thinking, perhaps we could do with a striker.”

That’s uncanny, both Franco and I have had the same thought.”

Good, I am glad to see we are thinking alike. Now I have something to show you, where is it?

Levy starts searching through various pieces of paper on his desk, when a yellow invoice catches his eye.

Oh look yours and Franco’s first expense report. Industrial fans, pharmaceuticals, lighting and a voice magnifier.”

Franco’s idea, he done something similar at Roma. Worked a treat there, seems to be having some affect here also. I’ll let you get on with your work.”

With that AVB stood and walked out, from down the corridor Levy could make out some familiar murmurings, but as he felt the sweat starting to form on his head again, he picked up the phone.

Shelia, get me Valencia.”

Franco Baldini: Do We Need Him?

June 11, 2013 Leave a comment

When it was announced that Franco Baldini had agreed to terminate his contract at AS Roma, optimism washed over Spurs supporters on Twitter and other social media platforms. He may not have been a striker, but at least we were about to sign someone, even if it is a Director of Football.

Franco-Baldini

However, with the initial excitement starting to settle its time to finally look at the man himself and ask is this what we really need now?

In English football the appointment of a Director of Football, has generally signaled that a chairman is about to sack a manager. From the North East to the South Coast of England, whether you are Jose Mourinho (at Chelsea), Kevin Keegan or Harry Redknapp, having a man put in place above you has caused discord.

At Chelsea, the appointment of Danish man Frank Arnesen, formerly Tottenham’s DoF, was one of the reasons why Mourinho’s successful reign came to an abrupt end. Relations became so strained that Mourinho, referred to the Dane as “The Dutchman.” For a manager used to the DoF system, something had gone very wrong.

At Spurs the falling out between Damien Comolli and Martin Jol, was cited as one of the reasons why Jol was ousted in favour of a Juande Ramos, a manager more attuned to working with a DoF. However, when Ramos led Spurs to their infamous two points from eight games start to the 2008/09 season, Levy pulled a Ned Stark not only on his manager but his DoF also.
Since then Spurs have operated reasonably well without one. Redknapp became, in league position terms, one of the most successful managers in our history and AVB despite losing key players and suffering unfortunate injuries, has managed to sustain an air of promise around the squad.

Therefore why are we moving towards this system once again?

What makes Daniel Levy think it will work?

The first guide we have that it’s the right move for Spurs is the positive reception from AVB. The former Porto boss said:

It is a position I am used to working with and ideally it is someone that will help us to move forward. Since the first day I told the club that it’s somebody who is extremely important in my view to the structure of the club.

However, we must remember that AVB has shown before a reluctance to rock the boat, or attempt force Levy’s hand. In January when Spurs obviously needed a striker the former Porto boss stated:

We have always believed in Dempsey as a striker. We have always thought that was an alternative. It is highly unlikely we will do anything.

For a team that were pushing for CL qualification and Europa League glory, it was a bizarre statement. It leads me to question some of the comments from AVB, does he really want a DoF, or is he just going along with it?

Regardless though of his wishes, its seems that Levy is ploughing on.

So who exactly is Baldini and what kind of experience in a DoF role does he have?

As a professional footballer, Baldini was mediocre at best. He enjoyed a short spell in Serie A with Bologna, before spending the rest of his career in Serie B. The highlight of his playing career was an un-capped call-up to the Italian Under 21 set-up in 1981.

After hanging up his boots he took up a role at Roma in 1998 and oversaw the signings of Gabriel Batistuta, Emerson and Walter Samuel. In 1999 when Fabio Capello joined the duo steered Roma to their first title in 18 years.

Capello however jumped ship when the financial wheels came off at Roma, and after two season with Juvents landed at Real Madrid in 2006. Baldini followed Capello across the Mediterranean and swapped the Italian capital for that of Spain. The duo enjoyed a successful season in Madrid, leading Los Merengues to the 2007 La Liga title. However as is the way in the Spanish capital, he was axed for failing to win in style.

This sacking coupled with England failing to qualify for Euro 2008 opened the way for the duo to lead England to the World Cup in 2010 and then secure passage to Euro 2012. Their time in England though ended thanks to the fallout from the John Terry captaincy/race row. The duo then went their separate ways, Capello to Russia, Baldini back to Rome.

The former Bologna man was once again appointed DoF, though this time by the clubs new owners who sought to install the “Barca Model” system.

However, despite promising beginnings and a great deal of positive PR, the wheels started to come off. You would be hard pressed to call Baldini’s return to Rome a success.

Former Barca and Spanish international Luis Enrique was appointed as manager, then sacked after one season. Roma then tried to bring back the glory days of Zemanlandia by reappointing Zdeněk Zeman. The Czech manager this time however, couldn’t repeat the success of his first stint at the club and after a run of bad defeats, he too was fired.

Two managers in a season and a half, for a man who was appointed to help introduce a Barca system, Roma had gone all Madridista.

There have been some bright moments in his second spell at Roma. There has been the emergence of Erik Lamela, Fabio Borini being sold at a profit, Mattia Destro maturing and the purchase of Michael Bradley, however the rest his signings have yet to shine. Baldini clearly puts a lot of emphasis on youth and youth development, but Roma have yet to reap the rewards of his philosophy.

The Giallorossi with Baldini in place as DoF have finished 7th and 8th, and have only a Copa Italia runners up medal to their name. Unlike Man City’s new DoF, Txiki Begiristain, the man who helped implement the real Barca system, Baldini isn’t arriving with a résumé bursting with silverware.

There is no doubting that Begiristain was Levy’s first choice, but nevertheless Baldini may prove to be clever acquisition. @WindyCOYS stated on Twitter recently: It’s what AVB has wanted all along; bridges the gap between training pitch & boardroom, takes burden off AVB.

The role of Baldini is clear, however does he have the aptitude for it? He has proved himself at England and Madrid to be a competent assistant but what about a DoF?

His signings at Roma in the cash flush late 90’s of Serie A are hardly the unearthing of gems. Batigol, Emerson, Christian Chivu et al were all pretty established stars. Roma rode the money train to the title, before it derailed spectacularly. As a DoF he arrives at White Hart with very little to boast about.

His appointment reeks of settling for second best after we failed to employ Bergiristain.

Time will of course tell, but I doubt even 1000 Baldini’s will loosen Levy’s grip on the purse strings. We can only hope that appointing Baldini is the right move, but one thing he must be given, is that precious commodity…time.