SIX OF THE BEST #21 – MAURICIO POCHETTINO’S GREATEST GAMES!
Obviously, this blog is mainly a film and television review site, but from time to time I write about my support of Tottenham Hotspur FC. Usually, I do an annual review of the season, however, I am now writing this short piece because we have let our manager, Mauricio Pochettino, go.
Now, we have a new manager in the legendary serial-trophy winner, Jose Mourinho. To be honest, I am not surprised at Pochettino’s dismissal because, notwithstanding the incredible Champions League run, our Premier League form has been really bad since the beginning of 2019. Most recently we have been thrashed 7-2 by Bayern Munich in the CL, embarrassed 3-0 by Brighton in the League; and dumped out of the League Cup by Colchester. Something probably had to give.
Yet, Pochettino was one of our greatest managers and we played some exhilarating football during his five-year tenure. We finished second and third in the League, but alas, we did not win any trophies. It remains to be seen whether Mourinho will change that and redeem the miserable end he had at his last job with Manchester United. I certainly hope so. I would love it if we won something!
In tribute to Pochettino and his staff I would like to pick out SIX of the BEST games we had during their reign. We had many more highlights, but these are six which stand out for me. Thank you, Mauricio Pochettino, for all you did at Spurs and good luck in the future.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMI-FINAL v AJAX – 3-3 WIN ON AWAY GOALS – APRIL 2019
Dead and buried and facing a 3-0 aggregate defeat at half-time, Spurs were certainly out barring a miracle. That miracle occurred by way of Lucas Moura’s second half hat-trick and a last gasp injury time winner. Cue incredible scenes from Spurs players, coaching staff and fans. Unbelievable! Probably one of the best games I have ever seen Spurs involved in for sheer drama alone!
PREMIER LEAGUE v EVERTON – 6-2 AWAY WIN – DECEMBER 2018
Our luck laden run in the Champions League aside, this pulsating victory over Everton at Goodison Park was probably our best performance of last season. Indeed, goals from Son (2), Kane (2), Eriksen and Alli produced one of the last great away wins in the League for Pochettino’s team. Since then we have struggled badly away from home.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GROUP STAGE v REAL MADRID -3 -1 WIN – NOVEMBER 2017
I was at this game and Wembley was rocking that night. We played an absolute blinder against the legendary Real Madrid with Cristiano Ronaldo in their team. Dele Alli scored twice as we drew Real Madrid on, and then struck on the break for a 3-1 home win.
PREMIER LEAGUE v MANCHESTER UNITED – 2-1 WIN – MAY 2017
Not only did we secure second place in the Premier League with this win against Manchester United, it was also our final game at White Hart Lane. A party atmosphere ensued in the ground and a fine performance was a fitting finale to life in the old stadium.
PREMIER LEAGUE v MANCHESTER CITY – 4-1 WIN – SEPTEMBER 2015
During Pochettino’s managerial reign one of the joys came from our aggressive pressing game. At times we were hungry and virtually unplayable. Overwhelming Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City side 4-1 was one such game. Finding ourselves 1-0 down and being outplayed, we showed great energy and resilience to batter City in the end.
PREMIER LEAGUE v CHELSEA – 5-3 WIN – JANUARY 2015
This was the game that made me sit up and notice the change Pochettino had brought to the Spurs team. We feverishly pressed and tore Chelsea apart, scoring five goals and creating even more chances too. Harry Kane was outstanding and won man of the match. After which Kane never looked back and is now one of the world’s greatest strikers.
2018-2019 – TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR F.C. – SEASON REVIEW
This year I have really tested my discipline by embarking on a sober year of not drinking alcohol. This is a personal challenge for health, financial and for-the-hell-of-it reasons. One thing I have noticed from this experiment is that drinking alcohol and the level of enjoyment when watching football are inextricably linked.
High or drunk on booze can heighten the enjoyment of football to riotous levels. Although, it can also create lows of soul-crushing despondency in the face of my teams’ defeat. Ultimately, while sober a football game becomes more a cerebral dissection rather than an emotional rollercoaster.
Thus, being a Tottenham Hotspur F.C. fan I have found that since being sober my support has been more logical and Mr Spock-like. That isn’t to say I haven’t enjoyed a fantastic season of giddy high and the occasional lows. Here’s a little review of how Spurs season went for 2018/2019.
SCORES ON THE DOORS – 2018/2019
Premier League finishing position: 4th
Premier League total points: 71
Premier League goals: 67
Champions League: THE FINAL – IT WASN’T A DREAM!
FA CUP: 4th round
Carabao Cup: Semi-final
Top Scorer: HARRY KANE – 24 goals in all competitions.
Most Assists: CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN – 16 assists in all competitions.
Highest Attendance: 81,332 v. Arsenal – Premier League – Wembley, March 2019.
SEASON HIGHLIGHTS – 2018/2019
Where do I start? The Champions League, of course! While we would ultimately lose in an underwhelming game to Liverpool in Madrid, Spurs had a charmed and gutsy run to the final. I mean who could ever forget needing three goals in the second half to beat Ajax away and coming back to win. LUCAS MOURA’s last minute goal in injury time is one I WILL NEVER FORGET! Allied to that incredible night, Spurs almost got beaten by Manchester City in the previous round, when a last-minute offside goal was correctly ruled out by VAR. Lastly, we almost went out against Inter Milan and Barcelona in the group stages too, but last ditch goals saw us through.
Overall, throughout the season we mainly battled and scrambled to many results in the Premier and Champions League. We rarely hit the performance heights on the pitch compared to previous seasons. While we were very solid, it was only in games against: Everton (6-2 away win), Bournemouth (5-0 home win), Chelsea (3-1 home win) and Borussia Dortmund (last 16 Champions League win), where we really demonstrated total dominance throughout games.
Sadly, our indifferent performance standards, were not helped by key injuries to: HARRY KANE, DELE ALLI, HARRY WINKS and JAN VERTONGHEN, led to THIRTEEN DEFEATS in the Premier League. Thankfully, we held onto fourth place due to our rivals being a bit rubbish too.
The other major highlight of the season was the new stadium was FINALLY completed at White Hart Lane. I have not been yet as tickets have always sold out, but I look forward to going next season! Wembley was great and I went to some amazing games, but there’s no place like home – and what a home it is!
MANAGER, PLAYERS AND TEAM
Firstly, MAURICIO POCHETTINO and his coaching staff, in my view, are incredible. For whatever reason, by choice or Chairman Daniel Levy’s decree, we did not SIGN ANY NEW PLAYERS! I think this was a mistake. Our squad, while of high quality, became very stretched due to injuries and a fixture list pile-up. This meant Pochettino was forever juggling the players at his disposal; so it is full credit to his management that we had the season we did.
There were many fine players for Spurs. Some were not as sharp due to injuries and those jaded by England’s almost glorious World Cup campaign. HEUNG-MIN SON was voted our PLAYER OF THE YEAR for his buccaneering attacking play. He was brilliant throughout, scoring goals and scorching defences with his wicked pace.
MOUSSA SISSOKO was very close to winning best player of the season with a series of revelatory performances in midfield. TOBY ALDERWEIRELD was outstanding in defence, while HUGO LLORIS was so solid too; even saving a couple of crucial penalties during the season. Despite some terrible ankle injuries HARRY KANE was our top goal scorer and CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN, despite his form deserting him at the end of the season, remained our most creative midfielder.
Special mention must go to LUCAS MOURA who scored vital goals throughout the year. He was SO unlucky not to start the Champions League Final, especially after his heroics in Amsterdam. I mean, he was the player that SCORED A HAT-TRICK IN THE SEMI-FINAL. He definitely should have started in the final.
THE FUTURE AND BEYOND. . .
I have come to accept that Tottenham Hotspur F.C. is a proud and high quality team to support. It is a shame we are very much a nearly team though on the pitch, finding opponents with that bit more quality or luck when it matters most. But, we are a very well run business with an incredible new stadium. Indeed, the T.H.F.C. brand has never been shinier and the future hasn’t been brighter.
I would expect rather than hope we can purchase three or four top class players to add to our squad because the manager cannot fire us to glory without the ammunition on the pitch. There is only so much magic MAURICIO POCHETTINO can perform year after year.
I will never forgive the show Hamilton! For one it just wasn’t my thing. Clearly it was a brilliant mix of hip-hop history; with incredible choreography allied to a fascinating “founding fathers” narrative. But a freak diary clash caused me to have to miss Spurs last 16 second-leg tie against Juventus. My wife insisted I go to watch Hamilton as the show was booked months in advance. Anyway, I found out that Spurs lost at Wembley via the BBC Sports website and it was a crushing blow. Having to sit through two-and-a-half hours of musical theatre was bad enough, but Spurs going out of the Champions League, when in control of the tie, was a very bitter pill to swallow.
Indeed, I’m not afraid to say that this season I lost faith in football, not Spurs as I generally keep my expectations steady, but rather football as a passion. It’s rather pathetic and narcissistic I know but my obsession with Spurs and football got so ridiculous that I ended up smashing plates up in the kitchen when they lost to Manchester United in the 2018 FA Cup semi-final. I was very drunk on beer but that’s no excuse. I mean emotional outbursts in over-reaction to things one cannot control are, to quote a famous Vulcan, illogical.
Perhaps it was because a friend of mine had passed away recently and it came on top a bit, but losing that semi-final to Manchester United was devastating for all Spurs supporters. It was especially difficult to watch us take the lead through Dele Alli’s goal and then see us ground down mentally by Mourinho’s Red Devils. In my view it shouldn’t happen. Not the actual loss but getting upset at football. It’s just a hobby and I have no control over what eleven strangers do on a football pitch. Ultimately, supporting Tottenham Hotspur FC should be a pleasurable and fun thing to do and on the main the season was relatively positive. But how did we do?
SCORES ON THE DOORS
Premier League Finishing position: 3rd
Premier League Total points: 77
Premier League Goals Scored: 74
Champions League: Round Last 16
FA Cup: Semi-finals
Carabao Cup: Fourth round
Top scorer: HARRY KANE (30 goals)
Most Assists: DELE ALLI / CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN (10 assists)
Record Premier League Attendance: 81978 versus Manchester Utd – Wembley Stadium
Premier League Highest Placed London Team
Tottenham finished the 2017/18 Premier league season in third place, booking a spot in next year’s Champions League. They almost made the quarter-finals of the Champions League but the clinical Italian team Juventus unpicked their defensive locks at crucial times to steal the match away from them. With the incredible Manchester City smashing all ahead of them in the Premier League, I felt the FA Cup was our best chance of silverware, however, Ander Herrera’s winning goal and an lacklustre second half display did for us in that game against Manchester United.
Overall, I think 3rd was a creditable finishing place in the league. We could have nicked second but there was no stopping Pep Guardiola’s light-blue behemoth breaking the hearts of the other teams. Spurs did well, given they played all their home games at Wembley. But for some early stutters against Chelsea, Burnley, Swansea and West Bromwich Albion our form there was excellent. The highlights were of course defeating Manchester United and Liverpool as well as thumping victories against Southampton, Stoke and Everton. Our away form was pretty consistent too although, some unnecessary draws, plus defeats to Manchester City and Manchester United were disappointing due to the poor team shows. However, we FINALLY we beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge – FOR THE FIRST TIME IN ONE HUNDRED YEARS! Or so it felt (it was 28 years!)
I guess the major highlights of the season were our Champions’ League group stage victories over Borussia Dortmund and the mighty Real Madrid. I was at the Madrid game at Wembley and the atmosphere was beyond words. We managed to beat Ronaldo and Madrid’s Galacticos 3-1 at Wembley on an electric night. The sad thing is Real Madrid are now in the Champions League final and we again end the season with nothing but the glory of our memories.
Once again HARRY KANE had an incredible season. He scored 30 goals in the Premier League; only Mohammad Salah’s amazing skills and finishing stopped him winning the Golden Boot. CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN in midfield consistently proved himself a master of passing and delivery with some wonderful goals and assists. Indeed, his goal against Chelsea was a thunderbolt to behold. Dele Alli, received some ridiculous criticism during the season for not being as devastating as previous seasons. Yet, Alli scored some valuable goals as did our South Korea winger Heung Min Son, who constantly proved a valuable asset in attack.
In defence, Toby Alderweireld, so outstanding the previous two seasons, got injured in November so our record signing Davinson Sanchez, a young Columbian bought from Ajax, stepped up and showed maturity beyond his years. He, I think, will only get better. Along with Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen I would say that JAN VERTONGHEN was Spurs player of the year. He had an incredibly consistent season in the back four and hardly missed a game. He protected Hugo Lloris’ goal with a strength and intelligence which again made us a difficult team to beat.
Of all the wonderful goals that were scored this season, a special mention goes to VICTOR WANYAMA’S goal against Liverpool at Anfield. It was a powerful strike from over 30 yards out which burst the back of the net and got us back level in one of the most dramatic league games of the season.
I think, once again, MAURICIO POCHETTINO and his backroom staff have worked wonders with the squad. The team are always very fit and energetic although during some games we were very slow starters. Also, switching off against Juventus cost us badly. But, finishing 3rd and having decent cup runs was probably what we deserved. We just need to get that killer instinct to finish teams off. That mental “win-at-all-costs” attitude and steel is needed on top of the attractive football we have become known for.
Again we did not spend hundreds of millions on our squad and aside from Davinson Sanchez and Lucas Moura (in January); signings were relatively low-key compared to the teams from Manchester. I think given the tools such as a world class midfielder and another top striker to compliment Harry Kane, then Pochettino could deliver a title. But let’s be honest Manchester City will be difficult to catch and other teams such as Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United will also be in the mix.
Spurs will move into their brand spanking new stadium for the beginning of the 2018 / 2019 season back at WHITE HART LANE. It is a state-of-the-art facility with incredible technological features and extras. I really hope we will have a team to do the stadium justice. If we could just push the boat out and buy a couple of “world-class” players, if available, then I reckon we could challenge the very top. But, I for one will back the team yet should they lose and falter will never be smashing the kitchen up again. After all it is just a game; a beautiful silly game of football.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR FOOTBALL CLUB LEAGUE REVIEW (2016 – 2017)
“Alright, I know I’m gonna lose here. But I’ll be the best second you’ve ever seen.”
From the film McVicar (1980)
I love football. I love Spurs football club! I have followed and supported them for over 35 years and have tasted glory and despair; well mainly despair. However, of late, with the current squad and manager we have been really quite good. So, here’s my view on the latest 2016/2017 season.
THE NEARLY TEAM
Well, let’s address the elephant in the room first! Tottenham Hotspur FC did not win any trophies during the last football season. However, Mauricio Pochettino’s team were one of the most exhilarating performers, coming closest of all the teams to catch the Chelsea machine managed by effervescent Italian Antonio Conte. Manchester United, under the guidance of dour millionaire whinger Jose Mourinho, professionally ground out respective wins in the Europa League Cup and English League Cup; while Spurs’ bitter North London rivals Arsenal found some form to beat an on-the-beach Chelsea in the FA Cup final. Yet, while Spurs finished trophyless for another season there were a great many wins for the team and I remain very optimistic for the future.
SCORES ON THE DOORS
We had a cracking season overall despite not winning anything. Here are some statistics and finishing positions for the season
2016/17 Premier League season as runners-up.
2nd place finish was the clubs’ highest league position since 1962/1963
86 points was highest total Spurs gained since 3 point introduced for a win.
Unbeaten at home in the League for the first time in over 50 years.
86 goals was the highest scored by any team in 2016/2017 season.
25 goals conceded was the lowest number by any team in season.
+60 was highest goal difference for any team in season.
Harry Kane won the Golden Boot – 29 goals in 2016/17 season.
Christian Eriksen with 15 assists was 2nd in the 2016/2017 season.
7-1 win against Hull FC was a record away win in the League.
85,512 – Highest attendance ever (at Wembley) against Bayer Leverkusen.
FA Cup: Semi-finals
EFL Cup: Fourth round
Champions League: Group stage
Europa League: Round of 32
Finished above Arsenal for first time in 22 years!
Despite the abject displays generally in the Champions’ League and Europa League the young team I believe will learn from this experience and hopefully we will give a better show next season. In the Premier League we were on fire, however, with sterling victories over the likes of Champions’ Chelsea, scumbags Arsenal, Guardiola’s show ponies’ Manchester City and boring Manchester United confirmed us a team of the highest quality in regard to results against the top teams. Klopp’s Liverpool were the ones who gave us the toughest matches, beating us at Anfield and drawing at the Lane 1-1 earlier in the season.
Spurs confidently swatted aside most of the lower teams in the division both home and away and lost only four games to Manchester United, Chelsea, West Ham and the aforementioned Scousers. Obviously, the losses were disappointing, but if anything it was the 8 draws which cost us most of all really as we found Chelsea 7 points too good by the end of the season.
How do you choose a player of the season when we’ve had so many consistent performers? Hugo Lloris was once again, a couple of rash out-of-the-box situations aside, formidable between the sticks. The fluidity of the three/four at the back system found Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker providing a solid white wall in defence. Even when Rose and Walker were injured Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier deputized with some aplomb. In midfield Moussa Dembele and Victor Wanyama were both powerful and athletic beasts, stomping and controlling games, especially at White Hart Lane.
Adding silk to their steel was the mercurial Dane, Christian Eriksen, who continues to impress with his passing range and incisive crossing. In the forward positions Heung Min Son added a serious amount of goals to his pace and skill scoring 21 goals in all competitions. Then the dynamic headline-stealer Dele Alli, who at the age of twenty, won the young PFA player of the year and was named in the PFA Team of the Year. I really hope we can hang onto him as he is just an incredible talent as his 22-goal season testifies. Two headers against Chelsea were superb and his goal against Watford from outside the box was a beauty amidst a stream of wonderful goals.
Finally, with 29 goals in the Premier League alone Harry Kane was once again phenomenal! His strength, movement, skill and dead-eye shooting skills in front of the goal means he was arguably our player of the season. Wanyama, Eriksen, Alderweireld and Alli were equally valuable in a fine team effort, but without Kane’s goals we would have been lower in the league. Two separate injuries during the season prevented even more goals being scored and his injury in October 2016 coincided with those draws which possible cost us the title. Nonetheless, what a player Kane was for us, leading the line with sheer genius.
What can you say about Mauricio Pochettino that has not been said? Perhaps inexperience in European competition caused a slight blight on his 2016/2017 managerial season overall, but that is being very critical. Because overall his Spurs team in the Premier League were just exhilarating. It’s one thing creating a steely and measly defence but to then craft a structure to allow the team to bolt forward and destroy teams the way we did throughout the season was incredible. We hunted and crushed teams with sheer energy and force of will. Of course there were defeats but we bounced back with strength and determination and finished unbeaten at home going on an amazing nine game winning run which got us close to Chelsea.
More than any player Tottenham Hotspur need to hang onto Pochettino as I think he is destined to be a managerial great as his ability to structure, coach and motivate players is second-to-none. Given our wage structure and lower net transfer spend, compared to other Premier League clubs, Spurs are punching well above their weight and for me Pochettino is performing a minor miracle at White Hart Lane. Long may it continue too!! Here’s a musical tribute to Mauricio!
White Hart Lane is gone! Long live the new White Hart Lane! The Chief Executive Daniel Levy has overseen a resurgence of Spurs on and off the field. For the 2017/2018 season Tottenham Hotspur FC will be playing all home games at Wembley Stadium and while our record hasn’t been great there recently I’m hoping we can make it a formidable place to come next year.
It was a wonderful day to witness Spurs beat Manchester United 2-0 on the last game to be played at the old White Hart Lane and the future looks very bright for the new state-of-the-art stadium currently being built. The tribute to past players and games was tremendous and so many memories came to light. My blog item from a year or so ago echoed many of the sentiments of the day. Check it out here:
Also there was a fine tribute video narrated by Kenneth Branagh no less.
In terms of the playing staff for next season I think we, most importantly, need to hang on to the players who have done us proud this year. Some will inevitably leave as surplus to requirements, while others will possibly be the subject of bids from other clubs. Indeed, Kyle Walker, our dynamic right-back is being looked at by Manchester City I believe. However, I’m confident we should hang on to most of our players and if we do get bids clubs will have to negotiate with Daniel Levy; a man who drives a very hard bargain.
In terms of purchases our modus operandi is usually to buy hungry, younger players rather than make huge purchases. Our record signings are the currently injured Erik Lamela and disappointing Moussa Sissoko. If both of those players were to find top form it would worth keeping them. These are big IFs though. I would like to see us get another striker to back up Harry Kane, however, if Vincent Janssen develops positively that may not be necessary.
The 2016/2017 season was a tremendous one for Tottenham Hotspur FC on the pitch and I really hope we can push for more glory next season and perhaps even win a cup or incredibly win the Premier League. As usual for a Spurs fan hope springs eternal!
“Icarus flew too close to the sun, but at least he flew.” Jeremy Robert Johnson
As the paint dries on the end of the Premier League season my team, Spurs, finished in third position; having flown high for so long they ultimately imploded in orbit before sadly crashing and burning. However, I am a very proud Spurs supporter today as finishing third in the league guarantees us Champions League football next year, and for a moment, just one split-second moment our young team, under the progressive management of Mauricio Pochettino, just flew; we really flew!
Okay, Leicester’s incredible Premier League win was the sporting story of the year, plus we didn’t win anything and failed to hold on to second to our bitter rivals Arsenal. Still, at least, when compared to the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, and the under-achieving Mancunian teams we got off the runway and soared. Yes, we burnt out spectacularly in the last two-and-half-games but the future for Spurs remains sonic-powered and solar bright!
While I would have taken third position at the beginning of the season, getting so close to title glory meant failure was a bitter, jagged pill to stick down one’s throat. But we were scintillating throughout the season with some fantastic performances in the Premier League. Fair enough, an unlucky 3rd round loss to Arsenal in the League Cup, unnecessary loss to Palace in the FA Cup and waving the white flag to Dortmund in the Europa League condemned us to a lack-lustre cup exits, we, more often than not, totally smashed it in the League.
During a fourteen game unbeaten run early doors we smashed Manchester City 4-1 at home, Bournemouth 5-1 away and West Ham 4-1 at White Hart Lane. Even after blippy defeats to bogey teams Newcastle United and Leicester at home we strung together a series of wonderful wins including SIX in a row, which would propel us to title contenders. After being out-hustled by West Ham (1-0) we actually were, for fourteen minutes, top of the table when leading against ten-man Arsenal. But the scum equalised and we never hit the top again.
Nonetheless, Spurs continued to battle and chase and harry the formidable leaders Leicester and put real pressure on them when winning 3-0 against Manchester United and smashing sorry Stoke 4-0. Alas, the win in the Potteries was our last of a brilliant season and the ‘Battle at the Bridge’ against Chelsea saw the wheels of our title challenge career off in a pulsating, yet ill-disciplined, performance. Two crushing defeats to Southampton and Newcastle meant our young lions had won hearts and minds and flirted with glory but sadly fell short in the title and runners-up spot.
Spurs had many stand-out players in a highly consistent season. Hugo Lloris was, overall, one of the best goalkeepers in the league saving us many, many times through the year. His form, arguably fell off, like the rest of the team in the last few games but, David DeGea aside, I would not want another keeper in our box. Our defence was mean like a junkyard dog with Rose and Walker bombing up the wings and covering tackles and crosses like demons. In fact, Danny Rose, under Pochettino, is one of the most improved players at the club, embracing the derring-do, action and pace the manager has instilled.
Centre-back, Toby Alderweireld was deservedly voted Spurs player of the season by the fans as his cool, calm persona plus brilliant tackling and exquisite passing range made him the signing of the summer. But, special mention must go to a great young defender, who I thought was unlucky to be dropped for Vertonghen, called Kevin Wimmer. I would make him first choice next year as Jan, while a fine defender, has looked somewhat jaded and short of pace since coming back from injury.
Arguably our most valuable player of the season, along with Harry Kane, was Belgium midfielder, Moussa Dembele. Box-to-box there was not a better footballer in the league in my opinion. Because of his ability to hustle opponents and rarely lose the ball, Spurs struggled when he didn’t play. Another revelation in midfield was Eric Dier, who having been promoted from the back four provided, for the most part, rock-like protection, snarling commitment and also some valuable goals.
Attacking midfielders Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela were also excellent throughout. Great Dane Eriksen especially provided an unprecedented number of assists and often derided Lamela really found his passing and goal scoring range. Find of the season though in a Spurs shirt was the mercurial teenager Dele Alli who scored a series of brilliant goals. Bought for an incredibly low price of £5 million he deservedly won PFA Young player of the Year and what a talent he is! The only criticism that can be aimed at him is his lack of discipline; yet it’s that aggression which drives his winning mentality and something I’m sure he will channel into becoming a world-class player for Spurs and England.
Going forward Harry “He’s one of our own” Kane has provided the fulcrum for a brilliant attack-minded team. In the Premier League alone he scored TWENTY-FIVE goals and pretty much played every minute on his own up front. If he’d been injured I’m not sure Spurs would have been able to challenge as high as they have. He is single-minded in his pursuit of goals, possessing great ability in the air and on the ground. Kane’s skill in tight spots, powerful strength and dead-eye accuracy made him my Spurs player of the year; followed closely by Alderweireld, Dembele and Alli.
An incredible amount of goals to choose from but my top FIVE Premier League goals of the season in date order:
Christian Eriksen – brilliant free kick against Swansea – 4/10/2015
Dele Alli – incredible finish versus Crystal Palace – 23/01/2016
Christian Eriksen – ice-cold winner against Manchester City – 14/02/2016
Harry Kane – amazing strike against the Arsenal – 05/03/2016
Dele Alli – sublime thru ball & finish versus Stoke City – 18-04-16
This youthful Spurs team, most of them in their twenties, played with high-line intensity, hunting in packs, defending in numbers and breaking teams down with a ferocious passion and jugular-gripping power. When they had their best eleven on the pitch they were virtually unplayable and had many Premier League managers and football pundits praising our impressive attacking prowess and miserly defence. While the romantics were rightly willing Leicester FC to win the league, Spurs were a credit to football and it was a damned shame they could not hold onto the runners-up berth their scintillating play richly deserved.
In Mauricio Pochettino (and his backroom staff) Spurs have a fantastic manager who, while still gaining experience, as a Premier League boss is moulding a young, speedy and hungry team capable of challenging for top honours. Pochettino carries himself not only with dignity but also quiet power and determination. You can see a keen football brain ticking over and his passion is undeniable. I admire his ability to get a tune out of an inexperienced team and create a winning spirit which will hopefully lead us to greater things in the near future.
NEXT SEASON – 2016-2017
With Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool under-achieving plus Manchester City being below par generally throughout the season, next year will be tough for Spurs to maintain a top four place. Also, who’s to say another team won’t do a “Leicester” and come from nowhere to win the Premier League? Indeed, Leicester themselves won’t want to give up their title easily.
Obviously, we will need to bolster the squad as we severely lacked strength in depth when our first-team eleven were not playing. Plus, the intense, closing-down football we play, and the Europa League campaign, meant we were stretched mentally and physically by the end of the season; thus culminating in our final game draws and capitulations against West Bromwich Albion, Chelsea, Southampton and sadly, Newcastle.
By shaving some of the players Pochettino deems surplus to requirements and bringing in, at the very least, another quality defensive midfielder, top-draw midfield playmaker and a couple of strikers, Spurs can take the overall positivity of this season to new heights. Moreover, tactically I would like us to add a bit more match-play nous to our speed and skill next year. We threw away points from a number of advantageous positions and feel with better discipline and tactical ability to close a game out we would have been even higher up the table.
It was ultimately a brilliant season from a marvellous young squad who did the Spurs supporters proud throughout the year. I thank the players and manager for giving me an enormous amount of footballing pleasure and excitement this season. It’s true to say that Icarus flew too close to the sun but at least he flew; as did Spurs this year.
2015 – 2016 – STATISTICS (select)
Premier League Top Scorer – 25 Goals – Harry Kane
Premier League Best Goal Difference – 34+
Premier League Longest Winning Streak – 6 games
Premier League Most Assists – (2nd place) – 13 assists – Christian Eriksen
A TRIP DOWN WHITE HART LANE: MY FAVOURITE SPURS MEMORIES by PAUL LAIGHT
Audere est Facere: To Dare is to Do!
The new Premier League season is upon us and just to take a break from my usual cinematic blog nonsense I would like to write a bit about my ongoing support for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.
Spurs have a great history being the first Non-League club to win the FA Cup and the first team to do ‘the Double’ in the 20th century. Since those glory days they have successfully won the FA Cup several times, the Cup Winners Cup, the League Cup and UEFA Cup. They have always prided themselves on playing sweet attractive passing football with a history for flamboyant flair players. In the 1976/77 season they suffered relegation but soon bounced back to the top division. Under Keith Burkinshaw they almost won the league title and enjoyed some league success and further FA Cup glory under Terry Venables stewardship in 1990/91.
Since the 1990s they have had mixed fortune in the league and have flirted with relegation as well as having a bit of an open-door policy when it comes to managers. Of late, Spurs could be classed as a ‘nearly’ club pushing the top four but usually cementing a respectable top six or so position. Under Harry Redknapp they reached the dizzy heights of the Champions’ League quarter-finals and were unlucky not to qualify again BUT Chelsea’s jammy Champions’ League win in 2012 prevented this.
I have followed Spurs since the start of the ‘80s and while I have attended several games down the years , if I’m honest, I could be described as a classic “armchair/watch down the pub” supporter. Having said that I am very passionate about the team and while there are ups and downs I consider it a privilege to follow them as they have always been in the top division trying to challenge despite them not winning the league for some time.
What’s great about supporting Spurs is the unpredictability. They are very much an “Icarus” team. They promise much and occasionally fly high only to somehow burn up spectacularly when they get too close to the sun. The “Lasagne Gate” episode of 2006 is a case in point where Martin Jols’ Spurs were so close to finishing 4th in the Premier League; before an alleged batch of dodgy pasta knocked the team sideways. They would be beaten 2-1 by London rivals West Ham and get pipped to 4th by dreaded North London rivals Arsenal.
Anyway, I thought it nice to take a trip down memory lane and pick out my favourite Spurs moments, goals, matches and people. They are in date order and of course very subjective but I hope fellow Spurs’ supporters enjoy these memories.
GLENN HODDLE – (1975-1987 – 377 apps – 88 goals)
Arguably the greatest ever Spurs player in regard to longevity and sheer entertainment value. So much skill, power and vision and I got to meet him recently at a Spurs’ supporter football event. This YouTube tribute says it all really.
1981 – RICKY VILLA – GOAL AGAINST WOLVES – FA SEMI-FINAL
This is my earliest Spurs’ memory. Our mercurial bearded Argentinian midfielder cutting in from the wing and launching a thunderbolt left foot drive. Sweet!
1981 – FA CUP REPLAY SPURS V MAN CITY – 3-2
This is still one of the greatest games of football I have ever seen. Both teams were up for it and the game was a see-saw classic. Steve Mackenzie’s volley for City was spectacular but Villa’s goal that won it was pure genius. And never forget a great tackle by Graham Roberts which helped set-up the winning goal.
THOSE GLORY GLORY DAYS – FILM (1982)
It would be remiss of me to have a blog piece without mentioning a movie and I loved this film when I was a kid. It concerns a group of schoolgirls who are obsessed with Spurs and the legendary Danny Blanchflower. It’s a sweet, touching and funny coming of age football story with a gender twist.
GARY MABBUTT – (1982-1998 – 477 apps – 27 goals)
If you cut Gary Mabbutt in half he would bleed white and blue and also most likely die. But this is a man who literally put his life on the line for Spurs given he overcame diabetes to become a Spurs legend. Mabbutt was an incredibly consistent defender who led by example and was deservedly capped by his country too.
1984 – TONY PARKS SAVES PENALTY TO WIN UEFA CUP
The UEFA Cup was a big deal then and Spurs had won through some tough rounds including beating Bayern Munich. The final against Anderlecht went to the wire and Tony Parks stepped up to save the last penalty and become a Spurs hero!
1986-87 – CLIVE ALLEN SCORES 49 GOALS IN ONE SEASON
Despite scoring so many goals, and with a midfield including Hoddle, Waddle and Ardiles’, Spurs trophy cupboard was empty at the end of the year. They finished 3rd in the league and lost to Coventry in the FA Cup Final. Yet, Clive Allen, playing up front on his own, had the mother of all purple patches under manager David Pleat scoring a shedload of goals in one season.
1991 – PAUL GASGOIGNE V ARSENAL (FA CUP SEMI-FINAL)
Gazza was one helluva player for Spurs. An electric, skilful and powerhouse of a performer on the pitch. Yet, his Spurs career came to an abrupt end when he lunged at Gary Charles in the 1991 Cup Final. He had some stunning games for Spurs but his legendary free kick against Arsenal is ‘Roy of the Rovers’ stuff; a belting exocet missile which smashed the corner of the net and broke Arsenal hearts. Terry Venables’ led Spurs were outstanding on a day to remember at Wembley.
PETER COOK – (1937-1995)
Peter Cook was one of the funniest people that ever walked the Earth. Satirist, comedian, writer, actor, drunk, raconteur and famed Spurs fan he formed a wonderful double act with Dudley Moore after rising to fame as part of the Cambridge Footlights including Moore, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett. His very rude and naughty ‘Derek and Clive’ tapes were essential listening while I was growing up as they took filth to a whole new level of piss-up artistry.
1994 – KLINSMANN CELEBRATORY “DIVE”
Oh, Spurs fans were never more optimistic than this season. We saw Klinsmann, Sheringham, Dumitrescu, Barmby and Anderton going forward; however, we also had Calderwood and Nethercott at the back. So, for all our attacking prowess we could not defend for toffee and struggled under Ardiles. Klinsmann’s celebration was wonderful though; sending up his reputation as a diver gained during the World Cup.
DAVID GINOLA (1997-2000 – 100 apps – 13 goals)
The word mercurial was invented for the likes of Ginola. Spurs were a pretty ordinary team from the mid-90s onwards. One of their shining lights was flashy Frenchmen Ginola who played so well in a struggling team 1999 that he was awarded the Writer’s and Player’s Footballer of the Year. Without him Spurs could’ve gone down. He was outstanding and it was such a pleasure to see him twisting and turning on the Gallic flair for the Lilywhites.
2006 – LEDLEY KING tackle against ARJEN ROBBEN
Loved Ledley King. Loved him. The Lane has seen some great defenders and Ledley was definitely one of the best. Pacy, intelligent and a great tackler, he read the game brilliantly. Sadly his career was blighted by injury but Sven Goran Eriksson rated him so highly he took him to the World Cup even though he only had one working knee. Such a lovely guy too. This tackle on speedster Robben just demonstrates how good he was.
2008 – SPURS BEAT ARSENAL 5-1 in the CARLING CUP
Spurs have kind of closed the gap on Arsenal in the last decade and results like this really brightened up every fans existence. We didn’t just beat them we wiped the floor with them. Of course, Arsenal have got their own back on us since but we don’t remember those.
2008 – SPURS CARLING CUP WIN OVER CHELSEA
Our last bit of silverware was won by with manager Juande Ramos in charge. Alas it turned out to be his one and only glory as he was sacked early into the next season with the team floundering at the bottom of the league. It was a battling performance from the team and a Berbatov penalty and Woodgate header late on sealed it following a mistake by the Chelsea goalkeeper. Ramos went to Real Madrid temporarily afterwards but then got banished to Siberia or some other godforsaken place.
2009 – ARSENAL 4-4 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (2008/09)
Aahh… for every great player Spurs have had they’ve had their fair share of those who have ultimately failed to deliver. David Bentley was one of these. I felt he had SO much potential — as seen in his wonder goal against Arsenal. This was Harry Redknapp’s 2nd game in charge and what a game it was! An 8 goal thriller! In Robert DeNiro’s film The Bronx Tale (1989) one character said, “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.” Sadly Bentley fits into this category but Spurs fans will always have his thunderbolt against the Arse.
To think the Welsh wing wizard played 24 games for Spurs before being on the winning team and he almost got loaned out or even sold to Birmingham or Nottingham Forest. Thankfully Spurs persevered with this incredible talent and he went from left-back to left-wing to all-out attacking phenomenon becoming a force majeure for Spurs and one of the most exciting players we have ever had.
Without him the team may have gone out of the 2010 Champions League early doors. Moreover, under Andres Villas-Boas he almost single-handedly dragged us into the 4th place spot just missing out to Arse again. Spurs would get a massive fee from Real Madrid and last season he at times lit up La Liga the way he lit up the Lane.
LEST WE FORGET…
Since supporting Spurs’ from the 1980s we have had so many great players play for us and I haven’t been able to mention them properly in the piece but much kudos goes to:
Ray Clemence, Steve Perryman, Darren Anderton, Teddy Sheringham, Luka Modric, Dimitar Berbatov, Paul Allen, Rafael Van Der Vaart, Gary Lineker, Robbie Keane, Jermaine Defoe, Chris Waddle, Garth Crooks, Graham Roberts, Ossie Ardiles and many more. Plus some right jokers who I’d prefer not to mention: Paulo Tramezzani anyone?
2014/2015 – ????
Who knows what the new season will bring? But under Mauricio Pottechino I just hope for some consistency of performance and maybe a bit of flair. A good top six finish and decent cup runs at least is required I would say. If we can build a team around Eriksen and perhaps hang onto our star performers rather than sell them off over the next few years who knows – we could get into the Top Four again. However, misguided it may be I always have blind optimism with regard to Tottenham Hotspur F.C. After all, it is better to aim high and burn in the sun than keep your feet on the ground. Or is it? To dare is to do! To dare is to do!
(At time of writing Spurs are 0-0 away to West Ham…)