I used to have a big ravenous appetite. I mean I would eat until the cows came home, put on their slippers, watched some TV and went to bed. It was scary. But now I have a new diet, eat less, and eat better. So this is not easy for me -I’ve got a lot of words to eat in this column.
Apology #1: Glenn Hoddle
I won’t pretend I have a lot of time for Hoddle, but I admire his achievements at Spurs thus far. Putting behind the poor performances from earlier on this season, he has begun a not so quiet revolution of a team that has struggled for the past few years. I say ‘not so quiet’ because you can barely turn on a news report or listen to a pundit who doesn’t remark on the quality of football that Spurs now play.
Not known for giving young players their chance, he has helped develop Ledley King into a regular first choice player and looks set to grant players like Simon Davies, Gary Doherty and Tony Gardner their chance to shine as well.
Although patchy early on, the football is becoming more fluent more of the time. The team tend to tail off during the second half of games but with players like Poyet, Ferdinand, Anderton and Sheringham either ageing or unable to last a full game, this is not surprising. My main criticism of Hoddle so far would be that he seems unwilling to use Davies and Rebrov earlier in games. Both are excellent players and deserve a decent run during a game.
If he can get the team to maintain concentration and effectiveness for 90 minutes, and bring in some better quality players in addition, there is no reason why Hoddle cannot actually claim a top six position this season. The league is quite poor, and Spurs should have the beating of teams like Newcastle, Villa, Sunderland and Blackburn.
Apology #2: Christian Ziege
Man, did I go off on this guy. Following some rather unprofessional behaviour at Middlesbrough and Liverpool, I was dismayed to see Spurs shell out around 5m for him. I never even rated him all that highly, so even without his tantrums, 5m seemed a massive investment. But surprisingly he has settled in well after some really poor games early on. His performance against Everton was shockingly bad, but in the games against Sunderland, ManUre, Derby and Newcastle, he has shown immense improvement.
I still have a niggling doubt that he can produce form consistently as I think he gets a bit moody. Hoddle reckons he has him sorted and can make a top player out of him again. Despite my reservations, I’d rather have a potentially top class player in my side than a youngster of the ilk of Thelwell or Piercey right now.
Apology #3: Steffen Freund
Ok, I’m just back from the Spurs/Middlesbrough game. Sitting amongst Shelf regulars, I managed to get an insightful look at what they really think of players. Some illicit groans (Ferdinand), some illicit disappointment (Gus Poyet) and some just cult adoration. The latter refers to Steffen Freund, a player who must distinguish the cries of ‘shoooooot’ from the roar of ‘booo’ that some fans think he is getting.
IT was another competent display from the former German international who was named as one of the worst Premiership players by a major football website last year. Nothing could be further from the truth right now (well have you seen Vladimir Smicer?). He plays with composure, passes the ball with more accuracy and consistency than last season and seems to have cut down the the hounding of refereees and opponents that made him so unpopular with opposition fans and players.
Freund, at 31, is not a long term answer to the holding role in midfield, but he will probably serve Tottenham well for the rest of the season and will be a sufficient reserve should Spurs be able to sign a more talented midfield scrapper in the close season.
It’s amazing how the world turns sometimes. Four years ago, White Hart Lane was practically united in booing former player Teddy Sheringham on his return to the club where he made his name. His defection to Manchester United confirmed Spurs as has-beens, second-rate at best, a feeder club to the big boys. One lasting memory from the game, a 2-0 win for Manure on the opening day of the 97/98 season, was the joyous venom on Sol Campbell’s face as a Sheringham penalty missed the target. Campbell publicly declared that he had no problem with Sheringham and that he was just happy that United had not scored from the opportunity. Spurs fans declared Solman as the new hero of the Lane and he became a new talisman for the club.
In 2001, it has all changed. Teddy is back, playing the best football of his Spurs career, and former talisman Campbell, has become the greatest turncoat in the history of the club. His summer move to Arsenal has been greeted with universal disgust by Spurs fans for well documented reasons.
When Arsenal visit White Hart Lane on November 17th, Teddy will be receiving the adulation while Campbell will face an unprecedented torrent of abuse and genuine hatred. Well, he would…if he showed up. Currently injured, the defender looks unlikely to make the game, some say the injury is an imaginative creation designed to keep Sol out of the Lions Den on the day. Surely he wouldn’t go to such lengths to avoid facing the 30,000 fans he let down only months ago?