Tottenham Hotspur – the winners and losers of 2004
What a year for Tottenham. I suppose what I mean by that is that it was the usual, mid-table, boring, predictable year for Tottenham. Just like every year there were some good and bad points, some heroes and villains – some winners and losers.
1. Jermaine Defoe
When he joined from West Ham for a hefty £7m in January, I wonder if he could have imagined himself in with a shout of England’s Euro 2004 squad that summer? As it was he missed out ever so slightly (Kieron Dyer chosen ahead of him for tactical reasons, I can only imagine). But domestically Defoe has gone from strength to strength. Linked inevitably to Chelsea for twice or three times his value of 12 months ago, the next twelve months is critical for both he and Tottenham.
2. Ledley King
Another man who has emerged as a genuine England player. This one did get to go to Euro 2004 and he played staggeringly well against France before being dropped for a returning John Terry. King’s form at the start of the season as Spurs went six games unbeaten, was outstanding. Since then King suffered along with a team who couldn’t buy a win. We’ve seen a hint of a return of the famous King Klangers that made his selection at centre back a puzzle over the years. But finally he looks to have made progress that will make him a corner-stone of a successful Spurs team…or maybe another team.
3. Martin Jol
It’s early days for Jol, but five wins and a draw in six games is a rather nice way to go in to the new year. Jol was the man who should have gotten the job in the first place. He was a successful manager in his own right in Holland, and this convoluted set up that involved a Holy Trinity of himself, Jacques Santini and Frank Arnesen, was always going to struggle to be tenable. The team looks sharper, more flexible and progressive with him at the helm. It will be interesting to see what he does in the transfer window.
4. Paul Robinson
The third of Spurs new breed to make the England squad. Robinson’s impressive performances have catapulted him to first choice for the national squad ahead of poor old David James. Robbo has pulled out a string of excellent performances this season and even the most sceptical of Spurs fans have to admit that he’s an improvement on the lethargic Kasey Keller. Let’s hope he doesn’t go the way of Neil Sullivan.
5. Michael Carrick
Plodding around disinterested for 18 months in the second tier of English football. Discarded by England. De-motivated after failing to reach his potential. Then Arsenal show an interest for about five minutes. He’s in dreamland until the whole thing starts to look like a charade and Arsenal back off as Vieria commits himself to them. It gets worse – Portsmouth approach him. But thankfully he’s rescued by Frank Arnesen at Tottenham. After doing sod all for a year and a half, he’s now probably at least doubled his salary, avoided Portsmouth and managed to be an unwitting part of the great Jacques Santini Mystery. For a limited player, he can count himself very lucky.
6. Jamie Redknapp
How can someone so utterly useless be rewarded with a nice forty-thousand pounds a week to ease the pain? How? Whatever about Hoddle’s initial madness in signing him, we had a chance to get rid of him in the summer but for some reason, Santini or Arnesen or whoever it was who made the call, decided that our club captain could make a vital contribution to something other than the treatment table. Redknapp has remained fit, but mainly because he hasn’t played. Jeered in a couple of games when subbed, the chances of him starting again on a regular basis are below nil. But once the club don’t mislay his account details and sort code, what does he care?
1. Jacques Santini
His resignation after about 13 games in charge was hilarious on one level and deeply depressing on another. Santini won’t be fondly remembered by many. He seemed affable enough but after first claiming that personal matters were to blame for his departure, he soon changed his tune, claiming that he just didn’t like the set up at Spurs. The very same set up that every newspaper columnist critiqued and the very same set up that was clearly laid out in his contract according to Daniel Levy. Let’s face it – we all knew what the deal was, so what had suddenly spooked Santini? His dull football was no loss to the Lane anyway.
2. Gary Doherty
Poor Gary. Johnny Giles calls him ‘a game lad’. At least I think he said ‘game’. And frankly with that bouffant, you’d never know with Gilesy. Vilified by Spurs fans for mistake after mistake, his gradual development in to something of a cult figure at White Hart Lane was abruptly ended by Santini moving him out to Norwich for a nice £2m. Things haven’t gone so well there. He started up front, moved to the back and had a nightmare against Chelsea recently. A slide down the divisions and the salary scale is inevitable.
3. David Pleat
He pushed and shoved his way to the front of the line, undermining manager after manager over the years. And when the Director of Football got there, he was rubbish. Pleat took over on a “caretaker” level constantly fielding questions about whether or not he would take the job full time. When things were going ok, he was quite happy to grin and accept plaudits and refuse to rule out becoming full-time manager. When things were not going so well (ie most of the time), he distanced himself, stating that he was only a caretaker and was doing the club a big favour. Yeah, thanks. Got booted out in the summer and spent the next six months bitching and moaning about foreigners. Xenophobic little twit.
4. Sergei Rebrov
After 86 goals in 125 starts at Dynamo Kiev including scoring for fun in the Champions League (28 goals), 30-year old Rebrov became unloved at Tottenham and unwanted at his loan-club Fernerbahce. Now playing at Championship side West Ham, he has made just nine starts, scoring one goal. I suppose if Gary Doherty wants to look in to a metaphoric crystal ball he should look no further than Sergei.
5. Maurico Tarrico
I never liked Tarrico all that much. Great goal against Leeds early last season and a couple of big scraps but generally speaking he was a very limited, nasty piece of work. With Edman, Atouba and maybe even Johnnie Jackson and Stephen Kelly ahead of him at left-back, Spurs released him to West Ham (naturally). A week later he unselfishly offered to tear up his Hammers contract due to suffering a hamstring tear in his first game. His act of selflessness will hopefully be rewarded with a new club very soon but the Argentine is out of contract and faces a battle to play again at the top level, poor sod.
6. Kasey Keller
The delusional American seems unaware that his patchy form and fundamental errors have cost Spurs numerous points over the last couple of seasons. He claims that he has never let Spurs down but perhaps he is forgetting the poor positioning and hesitation that we’ve come to expect from him. Keller has pulled out some great performances as well, but he’s not consistent enough and his demotion to the bench at the expense of Robinson (and on loan to Southampton for a time) is of no surprise to regular fans.
But it’s not just Spurs who have been home to some rather dejected and pathetic figures. Check out this list of the sad and the mad.
1. Bobby Robson
How can you sack a 71 year old man? It’s like telling your grandfather that you don’t really have any use for him anymore and that maybe it’s time he found another family. Bobby got booted out of the club he loves by chairman Freddie Shepherd who spent months undermining Robson in any way he could. A run of poor results and a lack of off-field discipline maybe justified the decision, but you cannot say that Newcastle are any better off with their chosen replacement, Graeme Souness.
2. Scott Parker
You can’t really blame Scott Parker for wanting the move to Chelsea. His manager at Charlton, Alan Curbishley, made sure Chelsea paid top dollar (namely £10m) to get their man but since January Parker has started 8 games. He’s now out injured with a broken foot. A breakthrough at the club looks unlikely (and indeed you could throw Joe Cole in to this too), and I wouldn’t be shocked to see Parker move on again in the summer. Charlton might take him back for a third of the fee they received for him but I can’t say the fans will be too impressed and willing to forgive what they saw as a cynical act of betrayal.
3. Louis Saha
Similarly Louis Saha is hardly going to arrest his decline at Old Trafford by moving back to Fulham. Although he has shown a great deal of potential at times since his (read it and laugh/cry) £12.8m move, he finds himself behind three other strikers and maybe not that far ahead of the maligned David Bellion. Fulham boss Chris Coleman, like Curbishely, played a great game in the media when Saha dug his heels in about a move. Refusing to sell the Frenchman enabled him to raise the stakes and force Fergie in to one of those frequent madness signings (read £8m Barthez, £26m Veron, £6m Forlan, £6m Kleberson – and one might say £12m for Ronaldo was way over the top). Saha now faces a possibility of a return with news of Van Nistelrooy’s injury but after splashing out on Rooney, Ferguson might decide to recoup money in the summer or even in January on Louis.
4. Glenn Hoddle
Hoddle is a loser every year! No, seriously, the man is fast becoming the greatest object of ridicule since Micky Quinn’s moustache. His application for the French job was brave but ultimately unsuccessful. The much mooted return to Southampton didn’t happen much to the delight of the fans. But Wolves are now the current pedestal for his ego and after four draws in a row, he doesn’t look capable of lifting them up the table this year. With a contract only signed until the summer, a lack of progress could result in GH walking and effectively the end of his career.
5. Leeds United fans
It’s a very sad state of affairs to see how far the mighty have fallen. Ever since the retrospectively silly decision to relieve David O’Leary of his duties in 2002, Leeds have free-fallen from a top six Premiership side (and former European Cup semi-finalists) to a potential Championship relegation battle. O’Leary is statistcally Leeds most successfuly manager outside of Don Revie and his relative success at Aston Villa in the last year or so indicates that it was not a fluke. Peter Risdale is the man who must shoulder the blame for the club’s rapid fall. The decision to hire managers like Venables and Reid hammered further nails in to the Leeds coffin and if he hadn’t given O’Leary £100m or whatever offensive amount that it was, Leeds wouldn’t have had so much to lose and wouldn’t have fallen like they have. At the moment Leeds have gone from 40,000 capacity sell-outs to roughly 27,000 per game. Expect that to fall off further the longer that Leeds spend swimming with the small fish.
6. Bertie Vogts
As Scotland tumble down the world rankings faster than Justin Gatlin on roller skates, Bertie McVogts managed to wash his hands of the whole episode. Resigning after being subjected to what he called ‘disgusting personal abuse’, Vogts oversaw an amazing downturn in Scotland’s fortunes. I know it’s been publicised but check out the countries now ahead of 86th placed Scotland in the convoluted and complicated FIFA rankings: Guinea, Syria, Burkina Faso, Thailand, The Democratic Republic of Congo. I’m not finished yet. Cuba, Guatemala, Angloa, Mali. Here’s the funniest one – Wales. At least they are not Northern Ireland (in 107th – behind El Salvador, Lebanon, Vietnam, Botswana and Rwanda). The abuse that Vogts took from the uneducated scumbags that are inexplicably allowed to interact with other humans was out of order and truth be told they are bigger losers than someone like Vogts – a decent human with guts and dignity. But the bottom line is that his managerial career is now forever tainted and I won’t be surprised if it’s the last we of him.
Oh, Rupert Lowe. I really wanted to finish on you. Believe me, when I scan the list above you are in my eyes still the biggest loser of them all. When Loser #4, Glenn Hoddle, walked out on Southampton for Tottenham, you cried foul. You called his new club “north London yobbos” for stealing your under-contract manager and have directed bile at them ever since. Yet Rupert, man of the people, you did the exact same thing when you brought Paul Sturrock from Plymouth. Then of course you sacked the poor sod after five months – hiring Paul was ‘a mistake for us and for him’ according to the not at all self-absorbed Chairman.
The revolving door that is the manager’s office at St Mary’s has sent Southampton from top-half club to relegation-candidates in 18 months. The hard work of Gordon Strachan (who inexplicably decided to walk away from the manager’s job after bringing European football to the south coast) has been chipped away by the appointment of the hapless Sturrock and Steve Wigley – the latter sacked after 17 games.
Lowe has no plan. He chances his arm like a three year old trying to find the square hole for the square peg. No matter how big a loser Lowe is, the biggest losers of all will be the honest-to-God supporters that maintain his caviar lifestyle for him.