As another disappointing season comes to a close, there is one major question that is on the lips of some Spurs fans – well me anyway.
Glenn Hoddle – do we rebuild with, or without him?
There have been a lot of excuses made for Glenn, and some might say that he deserves to be cut a bit of slack. No support from the board, terrible injuries, bad refereeing decisions – and he is on course to deliver Tottenham’s best league performance for 1996. But there’s only so far that the ‘former Spurs legend’ moniker can go before the patience are stretched too far.
Be under no illusions that this season has been poor despite the seemingly (relatively) good league position. How many times have you heard Glenn come out with the ‘I have no idea where that performance came from’ speech. It all began with the 2-3 loss to Fulham where Spurs showed their vulnerability and Hoddle chose to leave Robbie Keane on the bench. Then came a string of dismal performances – Middlebrough and Blackburn at home, Arsenal, Sunderland, West Ham, Bolton, Middlesbrough and Man City away. Even home wins over West Ham, Bolton, Everton and Man City were far from impressive.
And don’t forget the dismal cup exits to Burnley and Southampton. The Southampton performance was possibly one of the worst in recent memory.
It seems a bit perverse that after two years in the job, Hoddle needs to rebuild already. You would expect that considering we are 40% of the way through the five year plan, that we would have a confident and fairly consistent team. Instead we have a team full of jaded stars and mediocre talent.
It’s not Dean Richards fault that he cost £8m, but despite some improving performances, who can say that the money could not have been better spent elsewhere? Christian Ziege has enjoyed a season on the treatment table and even when he has played, he’s not exactly been highly motivated. Jamie Redknapp, a decent but hardly top notch player, has been pocketing huge wages from the sidelines. Again, it’s not his fault that he’s injury prone.
While the point is made that Spurs would be top six if all their stars were fit, what were the chances of that happening? You take a gamble on players like Ziege and Redknapp and you must face the consequences if they spend the season out of the team. Why will next season be any different?
Steve Carr has had enough and if his body language were a newspaper article, it would read “Carr Driving to Highbury”. Maurico Tarrico tries hard, but he’s just not good enough. At 1.75m, he was a decent buy, but after five seasons, surely we must be setting our sights higher than him.
And if Robbie Keane keeps up his good form next season, we better be in with a shout of Europe, or he’ll be on his way too.
We could realistically see the back of Carr, Poyet, Freund and Sheringham this summer. The likes of Toda, Acimovic and Bunjevcevic are a waste of space – all Hoddle signings (although I wonder just how much he had to do with the signing of Toda). Why is Steffen Iversen still in the first team frame? Why hasn’t he been told to get a new club?
If we line up with a back-four of Carr/Richards/Gardner/Tarrico next season, we’re going nowhere.
What about a midfield of Davies/Anderton/Redknapp/Ziege. Do you really think that these players will dominate the likes of Gerrard, Vieira, Keane/Butt?
And as usual we are bereft of players up front in the wake of Sheringham’s inevitable (and timely) departure.
Will Hoddle get the money to strengthen? Sadly, no. There is only about 8m to play with, and although the transfer market is depressed, good players are not cheap.
So who do we buy?
Well I think we need to target a replacement right-back for Carr. Personally I would have liked his Irish-counterpart Steve Finnan, but it looks like there are far bigger ponds for him to swim in such as Liverpool (although frankly with Houllier at the helm I’d debate that).
In midfield, Crystal Palace left-winger Julian Gray would be an excellent addition. He’s only 23 and has been hugely effective in a mediocre team – and he’s a former Arsenal player! A fee of 3-4m would secure his services. We could continue the trend on the right-side of midfield with a £3-4m bid for Irish international Steven Reid. Supremely talented, creative and with a terrific shot, Reid is surely going to end up in the Premiership in the next twelve months.
Up front presents us with the most interesting options. Freddie Kanoute looks likely to go down with West Ham this season and surely a 4m offer will tempt West Ham to let an unhappy player wander over to North London.
And how about Darius Vassell. For 4-5m, he might be willing to escape the lower-reaches of the table with Aston Villa and try his hand at a heady, mid-table life-style in London. With 31 goals in 72 starts, he’s got an excellent goal record and is only 23 years old. Failing that a more relastic target is Bobby Zamora, but he’d cost the same as Vassell and doesn’t have the Premiership experience.
Recall Sullivan in goal and this could be next season’s line-up:
That team could be built for about an 18m outlay. Is it good enough? Well yes it would be good enuogh for top six. The midfield and attack would be pacy and creative. No more 35 year old Poyet and 37 year old Sheringham, or a decrepid Anderton for 90 minutes. Ziege would have to get used to playing at left-back and that is of course a big question mark. Inevitably he’ll spend most of the season injured anyway.
But the question is, is Hoddle good enough to manage it?
The answer I think, is no.
After twenty years as an ABU (Anyone But United for those who are in the dark), I finally swung around to supporting Manchester United in their battle for Premiership supermacy. I’ve never been particularly anti-Arsenal – in fact I cheered them on 1986 when I attended Arsenal/Manure at Highbury, and again in 1989 when they pipped Liverpool to the title – but this season was different.
Maybe it was scumbag Judas mf’er, Sol Campbell. Maybe it was Arsene Wenger’s phenomenal French arrogance. Perhaps it was the scoffing Arsenal fans who were proclaiming themselves Champions-elect in March. I’d say it was all of these things.
Never have I got so much amusement from seeing something go badly wrong. Apart from John Hartson’s hair transplant I suppose.
But when it came to Europe, I swung back to my ABU principals – well, you have to be consistent.