I’m so excited
It seems like ages since we all talked. How you been? Good! Well I’ve been pretty good too (my apologies to those who have been having a shit time of it recently). The most recent developments was of course the cementing of Spurs first cup final in 8 years. The feeling of relief and joy that fans of Manchester United and Arsenal take for granted is too much to describe right now without having to censor things considerably.
The night in question was one I was not too confident about. Two weeks prior Spurs had drawn 0-0 in the Worthington Cup semi-final first leg game with Wimbledon. Even though we were playing pretty well and had just got a good 1-1 FA Cup result at Elland Road, I had my doubts over whether we could get the away goal that would enable us to reach Wembley again. In recent seasons Spurs have always dropped the ball when on the verge of something reasonably considerable. I remember Christmas 1996 when a victory over Bolton would have put Spurs second in the league. Such heights had not been achieved since 1987 and when leading 2-1 against the Premiership strugglers, it looked like it would be a very proud weekend.
However the inevitable happened and former Spur Gudni Bergsson popped up to deny Spurs the morale boosting result near the end of the game. It all seemed to go pear shaped that season as Spurs slipped slowly out of European contention compounded by a final day sting as Blackburn grabbed the last remaining European place.
How could this time be different I mused to myself as the teams prepared for battle? But different it was. It wasn’t the prettiest performance ever but it sure was effective. A 39th minute winner from Steffen Iversen was enough to send Spurs to Wembley and the Spurs fans into ecstatic rapture. It might only be the Worthington Cup (or the Worth Nothing Cup as it has been dubbed by the big clubs’ fans) but it could well have been the Champions League Final as far as fans were concerned.
This performance in particular helped demostrate exactly what has happened to Spurs over the last 4 months or so. George Graham has taken a team of qualifed under-achievers, added a few of his own ingredients (Steffen Freund, Mauricio Tarrico, Tim Sherwood) and turned them into a side that is capable of beating any team in England. It’s five years since that could have been rightfully declared.
As a unit, the defence has improved immeasurably. This is mainly down to a marked improvement from Justin Edinburgh and Ramon Vega, the continued consistency of Steve Carr and the emergence of England Under-21 defender, Luke Young. Funnily enough it is Sol Campbell who has loooked shaky in the last while and it could only be interpreted as a bit of a rough patch. Of course, even when Campbell is shaky, he’s still as good as most defenders.
The midfield has changed since Christian Gross’ departure. Ruel Fox has been relegated to reserve football and Darren Anderton has been re-instated on the right-wing. It’s the middle of the park where the big change has been implemented. Steffen Freund is the ball-winner that Tottenham have long required. David Batty, Roy Keane, Patrick Viera and Paul Ince might be the noted midfield hard men at the moment but Freund will soon step into the limelight too. His never-say-die attitude, tough tackling, incisive distribution and agressive spirit are the type of qualities that all top teams need in order to be successful. Freund may turn out to be one of the buys of the season.
Tim Sherwood was a somewhat controversial purchase. The near-£4m paid to Blackburn Rovers for the 30-year-old raised a few eyebrows. But Sherwood, while ineligible for the Worthington Cup, has played his part in the Spurs revival in the League and FA Cup. He definitely has the mark of quality that the erratic Allan Nielsen can fail too deliver a little too often.
The big problem is up front. Steffen Iversen is beginning to frustrate me. He seems to be a jack of all trades and not really a master of any. Many elements of his game are average and he is not the goal poacher that we hoped he would be. Les Ferdinand has certainly improved ten-fold in the last month but his 32-year-old frame will be surplus to requirements next season by my reckoning. The saddest sight is that of Chris Armstrong. The former Crystal Palace hot-shot has been decemated by injuries in the last two seasons and he now seems to be lacking pace and confidence. The writing is on the wall for Armo.
What’s for desert?
If the Worthington Cup win was a starter, then the FA Cup fifth round replay win over Leeds was the main course. While lackluster in the first half, the second half exploded in to life with two of the finest goals you are likely to see in the same game. Darren Anderton continued his rehabilitation (and his shaking of the title ‘Sicknote’) with a 33 yard piledriver. David Ginola was in great form and he scored with an immaculately precise volley.
So what is for desert? Victory at Wembley seems likely and the key man will be David Ginola, who should give Leicester a torrid time on the vast space that the pitch will provide him. I’d predict a 2-0 win with goals from a couple of our midfielders.
The FA Cup will be tougher of course. The quarter-final tie away to Barnsley will be no walkover, but if they get them back to White Hart Lane, then the semi-final beckons. With Chelsea, Manchester United, Everton, Arsenal and Newcastle all remaining in the tournament, it certainly will be tight. What odds George Graham getting another shot at his former employers?
The league form needs to be picked up for sure. Spurs are undefeated since the 0-2 reverse at Chelsea on the 19th of December but there have been too many draws and the magic 40 points total needs to be reached in the next 4 weeks or so. I still predict a mid-table finish.
The Premiership is described as a marathon, not a sprint. Never a truer word spoken. You only have to see how time has exposed teams like Middlesboro, West Ham and Aston Villa to be lacking in the class to sustain a constant challenge. Cast your mind back to two seasons ago when the Ravanelli/Emerson/Juninho/Barmby connection at Middlesboro was being heralded as the one that would maintain a challenge for the title. It was not to be and an incredible after-Christmas slump saw ‘Boro relgated back to Division One. That slump has begun again with Boro failing to win a game so far in 1999!
Plenty of ‘Boro fans were proclaiming that they were real title contenders after the first 12 games or so this season. We all groaned and said ‘yeah, right’. As expected it has all caved in. They are not good enough and belong in a relegation battle, no matter how impressive their stadium is. I’ll raise a smile in May if ‘Boro are fighting for their lives…