‘Nurse, how are the patients vital signs?’
‘They are very weak doctor, I think we’re going to lose him….!’
‘Wait a second, I’ve got it…organisation, commitment, self-belief…yes, I think we’re going to save him!!!!’
‘Doctor Graham, you’ve staved off disaster! Congratulations…’
Ok, so what am I talking about? I’m talking about the ressurrection of Tottenham Hotspur FC. We are currently eight games into the well-dressed Scotsman reign at White Hart Lane and already Spurs fans are talking about the greatest comeback since John Travolta.
The proof of the football is in the results and so far Graham has managed some good ones. Wins in the league have been a bit sparse, only one win over Newcastle since early October, but there have been some impressive performances in draws with Arsenal and Charlton and in defeat against Leicester and Aston Villa. The more exciting thread though has come in the League Cup where Spurs overcame a difficult game away to division two side, Northampton and a comfortable win over fallen legends, Liverpool in the next round. Their path to the semi-finals are blocked by Man United Reserves.
Most fans expected tight rigid 4-4-2 line-ups and plenty of 0-0 and 1-0 results. But Graham has experimented successfully with three at the back, Ramon Vega finally looking more comfortable on the pitch, and Spurs have scored 12 goals in the last 6 games.
Team selection has been limited with some niggling injuries. Ruel Fox and Ramon Vega looked set to be frozen out for good when they were dropped for the game with Charlton, but they wriggled their way back in when injuries hit.
The most impressive performances have come from likely sources, Sol Campbell and Darren Anderton, and unlikely sources, Steve Carr, Allan Nielsen and Steffan Iversen.
Iversen has been leading the line well in the absence of Les Ferdinand and Chris Armstrong while Nielsen has patrolled the midfield with vigour and determination. It could be that the Dane has turned the corner even though his erratic play could persuade Graham to dig into the coffers in the summer. Steve Carr has been one of the most consistent performers this season and although he needs to work on his passing, is fast becoming one of the better full-backs in the Premiership.
The buying has begun and the first signing is a sensible one. Twenty five year old full-back Mauricio Tarrico has been brought from Ipswich for £1.75m. David Pleat raised interest in Tarrico a few months ago and Graham has followed through on the deal. The Argentinean was highly rated at Portman Road and with Justin Edinburgh, Clive Wilson and Paolo Tramezzani all rated from mediocre right down to crap, Tarrico looks set to covet the full-back position.
Work to be done
There is a lot of work to be done at the Lane and no one is in any doubt of that. About 3-4 new players are needed in key positions and Graham will probably bring them in for the start of next season. I personally hopes he goes back to Leeds and gets Lucas Radebe and Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink but with David O’Leary off to a decent start at Elland Road, the stars are likely to stay put for now.
My previous estimation was that Spurs would be in the top half by Christmas but would finish in the bottom half next May. I still go along with that but I do think that Spurs fans will be quite pleased about this season. The basis for a good future has been laid and the finishing position will not be too important once the obvious signs of improvement are there.
Arsenal fans had a good time slating George Graham on his return to Highbury with Spurs. He weathered chants of ‘Judas’, constant booing and even endured a sign held by 11 people in the stands that read ‘J-U-D-A-S G-R-A-H-A-M’. It would be hypocritical of me to criticise the Arsenal fans for this show of ‘passion’ as I was a bitter and twisted hater of Teddy Sheringham when he returned to White Hart Lane in a Man United jersey.
But this is George Graham. This is the man who one numerous trophies for Arsenal and lifted them out of the doldrums in the 1980s. And it’s not like they are unsuccessful now – they’ve just done the double. They shouldn’t be so petulant about George Graham. This is the commercial world of football where rivalry cannot influence the jobs you choose or you will never reach the top. Look at Everton and Liverpool. Players have been moving smoothly between those two clubs for decades.
But that’s just a personal hangup I have about the obsessive nature of the North London fan. I think the Arsenal fans stepped over the invisible line of common sense and decency this weekend. The irony is that this has probably further spurred George Graham on to pull one over on his former employers. And I think he will…