Monday, 3 September 2012

Lessons learnt from last week (27/08 - 02/09)

As many a pundit will tell you, a week is a long time in football. Whilst that may not seem the case at times, it certainly has been for Spurs over an extremely hectic last seven days.

We've seen the transfer window shut at long last and once again Spurs were in action the weekend just gone, but what have we learnt from this weekend?

Let's start with the transfer window. It has now become evident that Spurs are able to attract players of high calibre at long last on a regular basis, following the signing of French captain Hugo Lloris on Friday. Whilst the deal for Joao Moutinho fell through (by 4 minutes according to Pedro Pinto of CNN), the player had clearly bought into the plans for the clubs future and it is yet another indication that the club is moving forward.

Acquiring the former Fulham pair of Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele for a combined total of £20 million represented sound business also, despite neither being star names. At the time of Dempsey's signing I commented that it felt anti-climactic following the links to Willian, Llorente, Damiao and Moutinho, but having slept on it, at such a low price the player is great value for money. You don't score seventeen goals in a Premier League season if you're a chump. Dembele is a player that has received endless plaudits since arriving in England for his dominating midfield showings and that could be vital to our season as we look to replace the irreplaceable Luka Modric.

Departing the club this week was Rafael Van Der Vaart, returning to Hamburg in Germany and his missus. Rafa's two seasons at the club have provided us with great memories but his determination to be reunited with his family forced our hand in letting him go. Nevertheless his attitude has been first class at the club and if he ever returns to the Lane for Hamburg he deserves a huge round of applause. The position that Van Der Vaart has left will now hopefully be filled by Gylfi Sigurdsson who has the ability to take up the mantle if he is capable of realising his potential.

Joining Rafa in leaving the club is Giovani Dos Santos who will be leaving behind an unfulfilled part of his football career. Watch Gio for Mexico and he's an unbelievable player. Everything goes through him in attack and his goal scoring record is excellent. In the Premier league however it's been a completely different story. Some may say it's a lack of opportunities and that is understandable, but when Harry Redknapp criticises someone for too many public appearances you know something's not right. Sadly for Spurs, Dos Santos has wasted his talent at the club when he could've instead established himself as a key squad member. All the same £1 million is a minute figure to sell for, so unless there are some clauses that could really knock up the value, surely we'd have been better off keeping him to run out his contract?

Danny Rose and Harry Kane have made Premiership loan moves to Sunderland and Norwich respectively and from a selfish point of view it is perfect for Spurs. Both seem slightly inept at this stage of their careers so taking a chance on them at Spurs was a risk to take. By loaning them to fellow Premiership sides we'll be able to grasp whether they have any chance of making an impact at our club. It certainly didn't do Kyle Walker any harm.

My feelings on this weeks transfer deals are mixed. Whilst we have acquired some genuinely talented players, losing Van Der Vaart gives the impression that we are trying to change things too fast from a side that finished one point shy of Champions League qualification. Missing out on Moutinho was truly gut wrenching but a product of Levy's tough negotiating stance. Fans will be disappointed with the chairman but have to remember that it is because of the man that we have been able to attain such quality previously. For every Deadline Day Moutinho there is a Deadline Day Rafa. Sometimes we have to take the bad with the good.

In other news Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon were both tied to longer contracts keeping them at the club until 2015 & 2016 respectively. As Matt Law of The Sunday Mirror suggested, it may have been as a result of Levy's failure to acquire adequate replacements, but it showed financial common sense to nail down potential assets for the future to long term contracts to retain player value. Whether either are good enough is another question but it means we will continue to have funds to spend when/if they do eventually move on. We therefore know now, if we didn't already that Levy won't let players run down their contracts like they do at the Emirates.

And so we move onto Saturday's game at the Lane. Norwich were the visitors and it was a welcoming return to Tottenham for Chris Hughton, a legend in our clubs history. Disappointingly we were only able to take a point away from the game, but it was not the result that will have proven most frustrating. The team performance was lethargic to say the least and many players will need to take a long, hard look at themselves after less than impressive showings. If we're honest the draw was more flattering to us than Norwich, despite them leaving it late to equalise.

Firstly i'll focus on the positive lessons learnt from player performances. Despite his rising age, Friedel continues to roll back the years and prove he's not ready to give up the Spurs jersey to Hugo Lloris just yet. Many said before the game, including myself, that this game would most likely be his final Premier League game for Spurs, barring an injury to Lloris; Even if you didn't say it you were probably thinking it. Now it seems ludicrous to even entertain the idea of dropping the American for Reading away, following an outstanding display between the sticks. Excellent saves from Snodgrass and Pilkington particularly showed the agility the 41 year old still is capable of, and Norwich's goal was without fault from Brad.

Also impressive, Moussa Dembele's introduction to the Spurs fans couldn't have gone much better from an individual point of view. His goal was a perfect example of the class he is capable of producing whilst his second half cameo impressed, proving it no coincidence that his introduction upped our ante. Unlike the departed Modric, Dembele is a direct-to-attack style of player, which in a system of high energy pressuring could tire out opposition quicker as it doesn't allow players teams to get back and sit, holding their position whilst regaining their energy levels. I can't help but be excited by the prospect of seeing more of Moussa.

Now i'm afraid it's the negatives. Everyone loves his infectious personality, but if we're honest Assou-Ekotto always has a mistake in him. The constant regularity in which he allowed Snodgrass to switch the ball on to his favoured left foot was alarming and indicative of a player who is not aware of who we're set to play until the day of the game in some cases. It's easy to blame AVB for not alerting Benny, but the left back should have seen a common trait emerging and nullified the threat. As for the shirt pull, he's lucky he didn't give a penalty away for a completely unnecessary tug. With limited backup available we need to rely on a left back who sadly is fairly unreliable.

Jake Livermore is simply not good enough either. He's bought himself extra time at this club and greater fan support with his comments after scoring aginst Barcelona in a pre-season cup (Commentator: 'How does it feel to have scored against the best team in the world?', Jake: 'I play for them'), words even the best PR Gurus would've been proud of. This has elevated his stature amongst Spurs fans I feel and led to a blind spot in the way many of us view his game. Highly energetic and gritty determination are the main traits bandied for Livermore, but are they not the exact same traits as Jamie O'Hara? A player who couldn't be kicked out of the door quick enough in some people's eyes.

Our star player is meant to be Gareth Bale, but right now he is looking far from a star. Admittedly he is unfortunate that many teams have identified him as a threat and doubled up on him, but a top player is able to negate his way out of these tricky and tight situations to put their team on the front foot. Sadly even Maicon won't fall for the same tricks again. If Benny continues his poor form, would it be worth dropping the Welshman back to Left back? I know i'll get slated for it but people are quick to forget that he was a very capable Left back when Benny was away on African Cup of Nations Duty four years ago and it was that position that he was able to re-establish himself in in the team. Taking the ball on from a deeper position when attacking is nigh on impossible to defend against unlike starting from a stand still position on the left wing. Defensively would we be any weaker than with Assou-Ekotto?

Those are my thoughts on the players but what about the system? First half it simply didn't work and there were two clear to see reasons why. Firstly the two defensive midfielders, Sandro and Livermore were sat too deep. In a system where AVB wants to play a highly pressurised game, surely the best form of defence is to push forward and encourage opposition mistakes? Not only that but playing two players with such little creativity between them heaps the pressure on the front four to make something happen, making marking up a hell of a lot easier for defenders, as they select those that are clearly more of a threat.

The second reason was Defoe up top alone again. It worked reasonably well against Newcastle admittedly but West Brom showed him up to lack the skills the position requires and that was once more evident on Saturday. Defoe is more of a finisher and a get behind your man type striker so playing the ball to his feet is as helpful as a chocolate teapot. Admittedly Adebayor appears rusty and so this decision was slightly more understandable but let's hope this experiment is finally ridden of by the Reading game.

The final lesson learnt, and it is somewhat of a gripe also, is that fans have a part to play. I'm proud to be a Spurs fan, as I'm sure everyone of you reading this is, and I feel we have the best fans in the league. So why ruin our reputation by hissing and booing in our third game of the season? Our current position is not ideal but what good can such action do? If it is directed at Levy, shame on you. The man has made mistakes this window admittedly, but short memories you have if you cannot see the progress his financial stewardship has brought us. If it is directed at AVB, again shame on you. We are not Chelsea fans, we do not get on the back of a manager after just three disappointing results. As is painfully clear to many Spurs fans, this is a long term change and so short term deficiency should unfortunately be expected. Judge the man on 30 games, not 3. And if it is directed at the players, well just go and support another team.

The performances have been lacking it is clear to see, but the negativity that goes through a players mindset when he hears the criticism at 0-0 must be hard to shelve at the back of the mind. At a time when football is said to contain endless mercenaries, surely booing will just eradicate any care the player has for the club. There simply are no players left, bar Defoe and Dawson, who have a deep affinity with the club. Watch a club escape a bad patch of form and you'll notice the fans will have helped them through it, not barraged players with abuse.

Football is changing for the worse, but our Club has always been a beacon of professionalism. Fans need to take responsibility in this sense and support the team. What is done is done, and nothing can change that now, so let's move on and back AVB's Blue and White Army.

Follow me on Twitter: @Cjipps

Monday, 13 August 2012

Adebayor's signing will ease Transfer Window fears

I have received confirmation from a source close to the club that tomorrow there will be transfer activity at Tottenham. As anybody who has followed me on Twitter or read my blog, I'm not the type to write unfounded gossip so I have faith that this is a real likelihood.

With all the negotiating that has been going on between Spurs and Man City over the summer all signs point to the signing being Adebayor. What rules out the likes of Moutinho, Damiao, Remy and Lloris, amongst others, is two things; 1) Deals with foreign clubs regarding major signings very rarely slip under the radar of the media and barely a concrete peep has been heard with the above names and 2) Any of the above transfers would be dependant on the transfer money from the Modric sale. Because of the cost of improving the stadium, all purchases will be dependent on sales most likely.

With Adebayor, unlike the others who will come no cheaper than £14 million, the Togolose striker will come fairly cheap at a cut price deal of around £4 million with Mancini keen to rid of the wantaway striker. Wages have been an issue but the two clubs and player appear to have finally agreed a deal that suits all parties after months of uncertainty.

Many of us Spurs fans have been disappointed by the slow procedure of attaining a striker this transfer window and I'm sure quite a few were worrying that we'd be going into our opening game with Defoe and Kane to choose from, but if the signing of Adebayor does come to fruition tomorrow, the club will be in a great position heading in to the opening game.

Of course Ade has missed pre-season training at Spurs and may be slightly short of match practice, but unlike the other striking options mooted he comes into the squad with a good understanding of the style of play and last season formed a particularly strong partnership with Gareth Bale.

Like I said it's a source I trust and one that I have witnessed get the majority of transfer stories correct, so it looks like Adebayor will once again be pulling on the Lilywhite jersey. Does this excite you Spurs fans or are you still feeling apprehensive?

Follow me on Twitter: @Cjipps

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Two Strikers needed, but who?

Only a fool would struggle to see that we are currently a bit light on strikers at this moment in time. With the release of Louis Saha and Emmanuel Adebayor returning to City after his successful loan spell, we are left with just Jermain Defoe, Harry Kane and Souleymane Coulibaly as options to lead the line.

Ultimately it is too soon for Kane and Coulibaly to be expected to step up with both still teenagers and developing their games and Defoe is not of the standard required for a first team aiming for a top four finish. But what are the realistic options available? In my opinion it must surely come down to two of the following three strikers.

Emmanuel Adebayor

Love him or loathe him, the Togolese striker was a vital component of the Spurs machine that excelled through the majority of last season. With 17 goals and 11 assists in the Premier League, Ade contribution to the cause was just short of a goal a game.

The problem with signing Adebayor is the financial aspect. A transfer fee of £6 million has been agreed, with City desperate to get him off their wage bill. Unfortunately the wage demands are proving the main stumbling block with Adebayor prepared to take a wage cut, providing Man City donate the amount he's dropping down in wages to the various charities he supports across Africa.

At 28 years of age, Adebayor should be at the peak of his career and it was certainly evident at times last season. Premier league experience makes his signing a very attractive proposition. We now have to wait to see who will back down first, City or Adebayor. This one could go right to the end of the Summer window.

Leandro Damiao

The Brazilian that we seem to have been linked with for every transfer window over the last two and a half years. Leandro has been playing in the Olympics over the last few weeks and currently lies in second place in the goal scoring charts having picked up two more goals in Brazil's 3-2 quarter final win over Honduras. The first goal of that game showed superb reactions to pounce on a loose ball and the second fantastic technique to tuck the ball away.

The problem with Damiao is that he is unproven in a major European League and it has been a 50/50 gamble for British sides purchasing South American stars previously. For every Sandro there's a Kleberson. For every Hernandez there's a Boselli. What differentiates Leandro from the Kleberson's and the Boselli's however is his confidence. Some would have struggled leading the Brazil line alongside the astronomically rated Neymar but Leandro has looked every bit as good as his Samba counterpart. At 6'2 the Brazilian has all the attributes to head the attack for Spurs.

A £20 million price tag appears to be desired for the striker and Daniel Levy is unlikely to want to pay such a large fee (Let's not forget it would break our transfer record). If we are able to get the player for an agreed fee, wages should be a lot cheaper than Adebayor and at just 23 years of age Leandro has bags of potential.

Giovanni Dos Santos

Not strictly a new signing like the above two, Dos Santos has been with the club for 4 years now having signed under Juande Ramos but has struggled to make an impact. The Mexican has famously fallen out with Juande Ramos and Harry Redknapp for an alleged lack of professionalism towards training but us Spurs fans have never really been able to see what Dos Santos can do in a Lilywhite shirt.

Performances for Mexico have shown the talent that the youngster has and he has already attained over 40 international caps, a very commendable achievement for a player just 23 years old. Appearances have been limited to the Europa League for Spurs with impressive performances in some games, but anonymous displays in others.

With just one year on his contract, it is time for the club to make a decision on the Mexican's future. Whether we keep him or not, he is definitely too good a player to let slip out of grasp without a single penny changing hands. With a new manager heralding new beginnings he could be an exciting wildcard choice for the 2012/13 season.

As Spurs fans we are all aware of the tight purse strings our chairman Mr Levy keeps so the likelihood is that two will go through, we just have to wait and see which two. If your asking me I'd have to prioritise:

1) Adebayor
2) Damiao
3) Gio

But that's just me. What do other Spurs fans think?

Follow me on Twitter: @Cjipps

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

What have we learnt from our American tour?

Well a lot, I think it's fair to say.

Let's start with the new boys Jan Vertonghen and Gylfi Sigurdsson. In Vertonghen there has been clear signs of quality, although it is clear to see he still needs time to adapt to the squad. His mistake against New York Red Bulls, giving away a clear penalty showed rustiness but better the mistakes are ironed out early in pre-season than during the domestic campaign.

Sigurdsson on the other hand seems to have bedded in like a duck to water, hitting the ground running. Looking assured and composed his performances have filled this Spurs fan with confidence going into the new season. The goal he scored against the Red Bulls last night took exquisite skill and that flair will definitely improve the squad. Players can disappear from games, but even when Gylfi does he always seems capable of producing a moment of class as he did with his cross for Gareth Bale's goal against LA Galaxy in the first game.

Another noticeable thing is that AVB is doing what Redknapp seemed scared to do and is offering the young players a chance to stake a claim for the first team squad. Harry Kane, Andros Townsend and Tom Carroll in particular have all been afforded valuable playing time and Carroll in particular has impressed with his passing range. Whether these players will continue to get their chance to stake a claim when the season begins, it remains to be seen. However for the first time in a long while it seems our academy is finally producing players capable of competing at the very least.

One thing that has been evident from the three match tour is that we have missed the midfield trio of Scott Parker, Sandro and Luka Modric. With Parker out for the beginning of the season it would have been nice to see Sandro in action but the Olympics have put that ideal to bed. With the absence of the forceful ball winner in the midfield we have looked a bit lightweight at times, none more so than against LA Galaxy. This means more pressure on the defence something that probably isn't helping with them only just getting used to the new high line system.

Love him or loathe him, Modric was a key cog in the free-flowing machine that produced such silky attacking football over the last three years, and his influence has been missed out in the States. If we are able to replace him with Moutinho or Sahin, players able to take control of a game, then it's happy days for all concerned. Should he go and we don't replace, don't be surprised if we become a less cohesive passing unit.

Nevertheless I trust AVB to be working on any faults we currently have in our team. Early indications are that he has learnt to deviate from the specific tactics he would follow so rigorously at Chelsea, seemingly without a Plan cB. There has been a gradual improvement in the performances of the team as the tour's gone on, looking like a much better side against the Red Bulls than we did against the Galaxy where we were lucky to come out with a draw realistically.

Finally the absence of a top class striker is worrying. Harry Kane has shown in glimpses the talent he possesses but it is far too soon to throw him in at the deep end. With a free scoring hit an up top, with supply from Sigurdsson, Van Der Vaart and Bale, the team can only thrive in the attacking third.

Lessons most definitely have been learned from my point of view. Now it's time for AVB to prove all the critics wrong and improve on the little mistakes to take us to the level the players we currently have are capable of playing at.

On a side note I must say a fond farewell to the departing Steven Pienaar. The South African struggled to recreate his Everton form in a Lilywhite shirt but remained a consummate pro until the end. I'm sure you'll agree after the comments made on Twitter last night regarding the end of his Spurs journey:

"All the best to AVB and the team for the new season

Just a shame didn't workout for me at the club but will cherish every second I spend at Spurs was a great experience thank you guys"

Best of luck for the future Steven and make sure to get one over on the thuggish Charlie Adam in the Merseyside derby!

Follow me on Twitter: @Cjipps

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Rantings and Ravings of a Senile Swiss

Fifa President, Sepp Blatter, has this afternoon suggested that Gareth Bale should be suspended from playing for Tottenham for the duration of the Olympic Games Football Tournament. Blatter's reasoning? Because Bale has allegedly feigned injury to skip the Olympic Games to play for Spurs over pre-season.

Olympic Football ends on August 11th, so fortunately if the ban is applied it would not hamper us for any of our Premier League fixtures; our first game of the season is against Newcastle United on the 18th August. Nevertheless any ban could play havoc with our pre-season preparations and result in the first team going into the first few games without having gelled properly and some not adapted to a completely new and radical system from that which Redknapp exerted.

All of this fuss has arisen from Bale's appearance in the Tottenham starting line-up in the friendly between Spurs and LA Galaxy played in the early hours of the English morning. Three weeks ago Gareth dropped out of the Olympic training squad citing a back injury likely to take him out of action for at least a month. However it came as a surprise to most when he appeared to have fully recovered in time to face Robbie Keane's current club.

Pundits and ex-footballers alike rushed to social networking sites to berate the actions of both Bale and Tottenham in removing one of Team GB stars, only to see him feature at club level before the Games have even begun. Former Spur Gary Lineker expressed on Twitter, "Gareth Bale who pulled out of the Olympics through injury played for Spurs last night. Once in a lifetime opportunity thrown away. Baffled". Robbie Savage also had his say, stunned by Bales actions, "Wales captain Ramsey, Premier League's most decorated player Giggs, Premier League winner Richards...does Bale think he's better than that, even if he is class?".

Twitter has exploded with differing views on the story and it was only a matter of time before, as he always feels the need to do, Sepp Blatter made his feelings known. "The principle is that if a club does not release a player then this association can come to FIFA and we will then ban this player during the duration of the Olympics." Blatter blabbed.

Now it's my turn to have my say. Firstly I'd like to vent my frustrations at Messrs Lineker and Savage's comments. Mr Lineker should know better as a former Lane fan favourite than to comment on club business he does not have the full information on. When Bale pulled out three weeks ago, the Welshman was genuinely injured and couldn't train at all. Given a diagnosis by the Spurs Physios and Doctors, as well as Team GB's medical staff no doubt, agreement was made that it was in the best interests of the player to miss out. Players have been known to return from injuries faster than expected after all and that is what appears to have happened here. Does this mean he's snubbed Olympic selection? Don't be so ridiculous.

For Savage to believe that Bale missed the Olympics because he feels that he is above it is laughable. No player was more dedicated to Team GB bar David Beckham in the run up to the Olympics, and that is plainly an insult designed to slur Bale's integrity and affect his public image. Tell me Savage, when did Giggs, Richards and Ramsey pick up their injuries this summer?

However the misguided comments of Savage and Lineker are nothing in comparison to the views conveyed by FIFA's Head Clown, Sepp Blatter. The first error Blatter has made is in his belief that Great Britain has a United FA. I'm sorry to disappoint you Sepp but I'm afraid we don't, so the only complaint you could take seriously would be that of grievances from the Welsh FA. Somehow I don't think that will be happening considering their opposition to a Team GB.

Blatter's second error is that he seems to think that FIFA can simply ban a player whenever they want to, for any reason they see fit. Unfortunately for the Swiss, FIFA is a governing body and as a governing body it has to follow its governing laws. If Blatter can provide evidence of the law whereby players have to accept International call ups, despite holding an injury at the time of the call up, I'll take it all back. For some reason I don't think I'll need to.

The third and final error of his comments is that he has now shown himself up for the corrupt and hypocritical man that he is. If he is able to find proof of the above discussed law, I will understand any ban handed out to Bale. However I expect there to also be bans for previous offences where clubs have done the exact same. Crikey, Man United's Carrington training ground noise levels are going to resemble a morgue between now and August 12th. Players have been pulling out of International matches with niggles, only to miraculously recover in time for their next club game, for donkeys years.

If Bale and our club are punished for our part in this whole overblown saga, I'm sure we'll see Levy taking this one to the courts. And as we know from experience, our chairman doesn't back down easily. Good luck FIFA, you might want to think long and hard about your next move.

Follow me on Twitter: @Cjipps

Monday, 23 July 2012

Reunited with former friends

The Spurs lads are now out in the States and preparing themselves for the three game tour where they will take on LA Galaxy, Liverpool and The New York Red Bulls. Playing against the two American sides will give us an opportunity to see further how our club is progressing but also offers us the chance to take a look at two of our former Lane favourites.

Many of you will be aware of Robbie Keane's movements, with his LA Galaxy switch a large talking point and he'll come into our match in prolific form for the Galaxy having scored 6 goals n the last 3 weeks. What some of you may not be aware of is that our former utility man Teemu Tainio will also be facing us as the heartbeat of the Red Bulls side. Tainio has settled in well out in America and is said to be more key to their chances of success than the bigger names of Rafael Marquez and former Gunner Thierry Henry.

Looking back at when these two played for our club it got me thinking about the 2005/06 side that came so close to breaking our Champions League appearance duck. For those of you who don't remember this was our first team lineup when all were fit:





You look at some of the names there and can't help but wonder how we possibly could have gotten so close to achieving a Champions League place. You would think that the side side of last year must have picked up a lot more points than this lot, yet the season 11/12 squad picked up just four more points than their 05/06 counterparts. But for a chronic bout of food poisoning it could have been just one point difference. Yet how many of that Jol team would you take into today's first team?

Robinson of 2005 was a different animal to the Robinson of today. Whilst Brad has been solid this year it could be argued that Robbo has been our best goalkeeper of the last 20 years based on that season. So ok that's Robinson in.

If you compare the Ledley of 2005/06 to 2011/12 it's abundantly clear that Jol's Ledley was a more complete player. That Ledley King still had full mobility in his legs and pace to burn so King of 2005 also gets the call up.

As with Ledley you have to compare the old Lennon to the current Lennon to see which one stands up as the better player. Although the 05/06 Lennon had less maturity and inferior crossing ability, that Lennon was fearless and had all the left backs in the Premier League worrying about how to deal with his pace. Sadly Lennon now seems to be short of a trick to beat his man and such exciting performances occur less and less. Therefore 05/06 Lennon narrowly wins this contest.

There are other debatable decisions such as comparing Carrick with Modric and Keane with Van Der Vaart that do indeed show the quality of the 05/06 side. However whilst the decisions of the above positions are tight the other positions on the pitch are of no contest, with the 11/12 team winning hands down. So what were the ingredients of that side that led to such an overachievement?

Hunger was one of the strongest traits of that side along with Passion. The 05/06 side was packed with warriors, players who wanted to win and would put their bodies on the line to do just that. Davids, Tainio, Dawson and Stalteri even, all players with fairly limited capabilities but a never say die attitude.

That hunger stemmed from the man-management of one man. Big Martin Jol. He was tactically naive at times and would make the wrong substitutions but his ability to bring out the best in players and inspire them to do their best for the badge was something I've not seen at the Lane in my 20 years of following the club. Without Jol there would have been less of the hunger and passion we saw that season and we would have seen ourselves back in the familiar mid-table position. Competition might have been less tough back then but we have improved as a team at a quicker rate than the competition has in personnel.

When you look at what Jol did with a limited squad like that, it's fairly understandable to start dreaming of the possibilities for next year with our squad brimming with talent. If AVB can get his tactics right and improve the mentality of the players, the sky really is the limit for Spurs.

Follow me on Twitter: @Cjipps

Thursday, 19 July 2012

A legend in my time

Today we received the sad, but inevitable news that our most loyal player since Gary Mabbutt, Ledley King, is hanging up his boots for the final time.

Growing up as a youngster in the 90's, I idolised (past tense) a man by the name of Sol. Whilst I don't want to talk of this man in the same breath as our Ledders, it was the heartbreak of his departure that stemmed my admiration for King.

King broke into the first team picture at the age of just 19 years old, called up to play a strong Liverpool side in a central midfield role. Performing admirably as Spurs won 2-1, Spurs fans began to believe we had a talent on our hands. Just how good this young lad was, we didn't know but we were soon to find out.

Just a month later Ledley marked his place in the record books with his first goal for the club against Bradford City, scoring in just 9 seconds, a Premier league record for the fastest goal scored that still stands today. I still remember running around my garden trying to emulate the goal from distance. A new hero had stepped forward and this 9 year old had well and truly jumped on the Ledley bandwagon.

When David Pleat took over as caretaker manager Ledley was brought back into his favoured position at the heart of the Spurs defence. Whilst the club struggled in the early naughtiest for consistency, Ledley shone and eventually came to the attentions of the England Manager at the time, Sven Goran Erikssen. Dispossession the favoured duo of Terry and Ferdinand seemed unlikely but Ledley was handed his opportunity in a major match against France at Euro 2004. Stepping in for John Terry, King had many doubters before the game, but a man of the match performance, despite England conceding two late goals, hushed the critics and it looked like Terry and Ferdinand finally had some worthy competition.

Unfortunately in 2006 the beginnings of Ledley's injury problems began to surface stemming from a pre-season knee injury. King played less than half of all Spurs games that season and in his absence kept just 3 clean sheets.

From that season on Ledley's knees have been slowly declining in mobility as the muscle gradually deteriorated to the point last season where injections were necessary to build up enough muscle to get through a game.

Finally today on 19th July 2012, our club captain has accepted defeat in his battle with injury and moved into an ambassadorial role.

During his career he led Spurs to League Cup glory in 2007 and from a personal perspective picked up a total of 21 caps for England with 2 international goals to his name.

Thierry Henry is just one of his peers who has come out with strong words of praise, telling how 'he (Ledley) will get the ball off you without you even noticing'. He later went on to say King was the best defender he played against in his time in the Premier League. High praise indeed.

And if anyone is still not convinced of our former club captains ability, i'd like to direct you to a little known website called YouTube. If you type in 'King Robben tackle' you will see just one example of the superb defending King has shown in his time at the club.

Unlike Paul Scholes, there is no chance of a return to playing. We as a club need to now move on with a potentially exciting future set out ahead of us. Nevertheless Ledley has written his name into Spurs folklore and his legacy will live on for generations. Best of luck for the future Ledders.

Follow me on Twitter: @Cjipps

Player Ratings: Stevenage 0-2 Spurs

Yesterday evening Spurs took on Stevenage in a pre-season friendly in front front of a packed crowd of over 5,000 at the Lamex stadium. A repeat of last years FA Cup Fifth Round Tie, both sides came into the game on the back of transitional periods over the Summer.

Spurs struggled to break down Stevenage in the first half but our class shone through eventually in the second period with goals from new boy Gylfi Sigurdsson and Iago Falque sealing a routine win. Having been at the game to watch AVB's side for the first time, here are my player ratings for the match:
First Half
Carlo Cudicini - 6
Had very little to do. Only danger for the Italian came from back passes being chased down but these were handled with ease.
Kyle Walker - 6
Having missed out on the European Championships through injury, Walker was given an hour to get back into the swing of things. He looked fairly rusty with rare forays forward but defended solidly.
Younes Kaboul - 8
The beast at the back. Kaboul seemed to adapt to AVB's high defensive line tactics like a duck to water. Won all of his aerial battles and just generally looked extremely comfortable at all times.

Michael Dawson - 7
Coming back from a long term injury, he seemed to struggle for pace when balls were knocked over the top of the defence. Was a strong aerial presence however and retained possession well.
Kyle Naughton - 5
Impressed playing out of position at left back. Not afraid to get forward and displayed good control and first touch. Pace is evident and was used as an advantage to get back when defending.
Aaron Lennon - 5
The flying winger struggled to match up to his usual high standards and was largely ineffective. He may have struggled with with understanding his position as Pienaar and Bentley seemed to have been given instructions to roam.

Jake Livermore - 6
A few misplaced passes early on to gift Stevenage possession but grew into the game with some hearty tackles and improved passing.
Jermaine Jenas - 4
Game showed Jenas to be a fair distance behind his central midfield counterparts as his anonymity meant the game seemed to pass him by.
David Bentley - 5
Employed initially behind the front man, Bentley seemed confused with his position, similar to Lennon. Often drifting into Lennon's space which caused congestion. Looked determined to prove himself and worked hard but made no real impact.

Steven Pienaar - 7
Given more freedom in AVB's midfield system, Pienaar flourished with all decent attacks coming through the South African. Touch was good and barely misplaced a pass.
Harry Kane - 5
The youngster was handed a start with Defoe yet to return to training after the Euro's. Outmuscled and beaten to every header by the Stevenage central pair of Ashton and Roberts but came close to opening the scoring but for a good save from Boro's Chris Day.
Second Half
Brad Friedel - 6
Like Cudicini had very little to do between the sticks, but had to be aware to get his body behind a strike from distance early on in the second half.

Adam Smith - 6
Replaced the tired Walker and looked comfortable in nullifying Stevenage's left hand side. Showed desire to get forward and composure on the ball.
William Gallas - 7
Don't write him off just yet. Marshalled the defence well, keeping the back line organised and looked good on the ball.
Jan Vertonghen - 6
Our new Belgian centre back showed glimpses of his class with some good interceptions from a couple of Stevenage attempted through balls. One of the easier games he is likely to face for Spurs.
Sebastian Bassong - 6
Very little threat came to Bassong from Stevenage's right hand side so despite playing out of position he looked at ease.
Iago Falque - 7
Sometimes chose the wrong option but showed plenty of talent in his thirty minute cameo. Not afraid to run at defence and whilst his goal had a touch of luck about it through a deflection, his good work in running from the halfway line with the ball meant it couldn't be begrudged.

Tom Huddlestone - 5
Back from a major injury lay off, Tom understandably struggled in his 30 minute appearance. Made the easy passes well but long passes were over hit.
Tom Carroll - 7
The young lad will always have his doubters due to his size but he took the game by the scruff of the neck. Stung the keepers palms with a swerving shot from distance and kept the ball moving in Modric-esque style.
Gylfi Sigurdsson - 7
His class shone through, looking comfortable on the ball and composed. Took advantage of Townsend's good work to get his first goal in a Spurs shirt with a neat finish into the bottom right corner.

Andros Townsend - 8 (Man of the Match)
Ran the Stevenage defence ragged. Caused problems constantly and it was his good work, breaking down the left flank and bursting past the Stevenage full back that lead to the first goal. This season could see him breakthrough to the first team, similar to Livermore last year.
Souleymane Coulibaly - 6
Showed good energy, panicking Stevenage defenders into a few mistakes. Made good runs and experience will make him a more composed and accurate finisher.

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Monday, 16 July 2012

Is it tapping up when it's a 'lesser' player?

Many of us Spurs fans are consigned to the possibility that Steven Pienaar could be leaving the club after an underwhelming 18 months, and the likelihood is that should he leave, Everton will be the destination. Today Sylvain Distin, speaking to the Liverpool Echo, expressed that 'if we (Everton) can add Steven and maybe one other player that would be great'. What I want to know is whether this is tapping up a player contracted to another club?

Tapping up is a term with a lot of grey area in football. There are examples where there is no debate, such as when Chelsea purchased midfielder Gael Kakuta from Lens. Chelsea contacted the player without the clubs knowledge, offered Kakuta's parents a house in England and snatched away the youngster with a nominal fee charged to them. Subsequently Chelsea were sanctioned for their part in this saga and rightly so.

Beyond the obvious examples though is where we reach the part that cannot be controlled or governed. Players, unlike management and boards of control, are entitled to express their opinions on players movements freely without any punishment. They of course have no input in the transfer process, but a throwaway comment can, and has previously, unsettled players to the extent where they wish to leave their club.

Last pre-season the lot down the road were bombarded with news of Barcelona players discussing how great it would be to have Cesc Fabregas in the colours of Barca. Whether it be Xavi, Piqué or Iniesta, they all made sure they had their say.

Similarly this year we have received mirrored comments from Real Madrid first teamers Pepe and Alvaro Arbeloa regarding our midfield dynamo Luka Modric. Putting aside the rivalry, both cases are examples of poor showmanship from clubs who should know better. Only by the smallprint of the football laws is this not a case of tapping up.

Which brings me back to Pienaar. When Spurs signed Pienaar big things were expected of him but he has failed to deliver, albeit in a small cluster of appearances. However does the fact that Pienaar is not a star player of our team mean that it is acceptable for Everton players to already begin discussing his future with their club? Should the comments have been directed at first teamers such as Bale or Walker, we'd be up in arms at the nerve to attempt to nestle our players!

For all we know AVB's new plans could involve Steven Pienaar playing a key role, as when he's on form he's a game changer. With only rumours flying around of a departure from the club and no confirmed approach, Distin is firstly undermining AVB and then also potentially turning Pienaar's head even further than it probably already has been.

Sadly this will always be commonplace in football and we will continue to see it on a regular basis over the next month and a half. I may be barking up the wrong tree but to me tapping up is tapping up, no matter who the player is. So in my opinion Distin has stepped over the line. What do you think?

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Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Have we ever had it so good?

Call this premature if you like, but I have to say that right now I'm feeling more positive as a Spurs fan than I have done at any other point over my 20 years of supporting the club.

AVB's interview this afternoon carried an air of confidence and a commitment to new ideas and progression for the club. The focus was on building from the strong foundations and taking us to the next level, something that even the most loyal Harry fan would have to admit was outside of Redknapp's abilities.

The strongest evidence of what an impression AVB's earlier interview gave is evident in the media's reporting of the Press Conference. So quick to write off the Portuguese prodigy on appointment, Spurs fans knew that there would be a likely struggle to get the media on side, but the majority of news headlines appear to be positive, with many journalists backing down on their pre-conceptions to admit that the man has a plan.

Not only the media but the players seem fully behind Villas-Boas with Rose, Caulker, Vertonghen, Friedel and Sigurdsson all delivering public praise. Some would say this is to be expected as they try to get on the managers good side for their future benefit but all comments seem genuine with a realm desire to do well under AVB's guidance.

There will of course be those in the squad that preferred Harry's methods, such as Parker, Gallas, Van Der Vaart and Livermore, but none seem likely to kick up the fuss that Terry, Lampard and Co did at Chelsea. If they did, I have no doubt AVB would have no hesitation in getting rid, and I have to say that despite these players performing impressively in their spells at the club, all are replaceable by players of equal or better ability.

And then there's the players we're now being linked with. Lloris. Moutinho. Oscar. Adebayor. Damiao. These are top class players, players we could only have dreamed of signing previously but all realistic targets now with the pull of a well respected, globally recognised manager.

AVB will always have his sceptics, but all signs point towards progression, and a brighter future. Could we ask for much more?

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Monday, 25 June 2012

Modric off, ........... In

During Croatia's short spell in the Euro 2012 Championships, Slaven Bilic had the nation playing slick possession football that was almost the undoing of the masters of one touch football, Spain, with Ivan Rakitic just inches away from knocking Torres and co out of the tournament. Unfortunately it wasn't to be but the game will have had a huge impact in Spain, in particular with Madrid fans. Matching, if not bettering the performances of Barcelona's Xavi and Iniesta, was a midfield maestro by the name of Luka Modric.

Since that game the rumour mill has gone crazy with stories of the Croatian's departure with Man City, United and Chelsea also said to be interested but all signs point to Madrid. Realistic Spurs fans would've accepted the likelihood of Luka moving on and with Madrid forming little competition to us as a club, maybe it is time to let him go and look to strengthen our team with the fee we receive. But who can fill the gaping hole set to be left by the potential departure?

One of the rumours that has been going around regarding the Modric to Madrid situation mentions the possibility of a part exchange deal, with youngster Nuri Sahin being mooted in particular. Sahin moved to Madrid from Borussia Dortmund last summer having lead Dortmund to the league title. Voted player of the season in the Bundesliga, Madrid were quick to snap up the Turkish international on a six year deal but injuries and strong competition have left him with few opportunities to shine for the Galactico's.

Sahin's style is very similar to Modric's, playing in a deep lying playmaking position with a fantastic passing range and a good engine. In his final season at Dortmund he also chipped in with 8 goals and 13 assists, an astonishing record for a player of his position and at the tender age of 21. The stumbling block could be Madrid's reluctance to let such a talented player go, but should he become available we'd have a potential star on our hands.

Another name that has recently been suggested is Hoffenheim's Gylfi Sigurdsson. He made his name initially at Reading under Steve Coppell and Brendan Rodgers showing enough potential to be snapped up by Hoffenheim for £7 million, despite having dropped down to the Championship with Reading. Having struggled for form however out in Germany, Sigurdsson made his way back to England last season with Swansea, again under Rodgers. In 17 games for the Welsh side he returned 7 goals and 3 assists, helping to propel the club to a secure mid-table finish. A very different player to Modric, Sigurdsson may struggle to adapt to a similar position to Modric but could be an alternative option.

Sigurdsson's team mate last year, Joe Allen is another player who could prove an attraction to Levy and the new manager. Unlike Sigurdsson, Allen tends to play deep in the midfield dictating play and is a key component of Swansea's quick, fluid football. Last year the young Welshman was a regular in the side with 4 goals and 2 assists to his name, and is much in the mould of Modric. However he is still inexperienced at this level and Luka is still a class above meaning we'd be arguably weakening our side.

Lest we not forget however two options that could come from within our squad however. In these European Championships Van Der Vaart struggled to pick up appearances for the Dutch side, but when given the opportunities, Van Marwijk tended to favour him playing in a deeper midfield role than he is accustomed to with Spurs. He possesses all the qualities to slot back a little further back, with good energy, a fantastic passing range and a goal in him to boot, but could this be too much of a risk? And could it hamper our goal threat?

Big Tommy Huddlestone suffered horrendously with injuries last season but now looks to be at a stage of recovery where he could be fit for the start of the season. If Modric was to leave, there are very few better passers of the ball than Huddlestone. He lacks pace, which is of course a flaw but his reading of the game and quick thinking more than make up for this. Let us not forget that Tommy was a key component in the season we achieved Champions League qualification and if he can perform at the same level as pre-injury, the loss of Modric could certainly be stemmed somewhat.

Maybe it's wrong of me to already be planning for life without Luka, but I would bet my last dime that Mr Levy will have already done so.

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Saturday, 16 June 2012

International Round Up Pt 2

With the second round of group games now completed, I thought I'd revisit the International Round Up and look at how our players have looked in their most recent appearances.

On Wednesday the Dutch took on the Germans in a much hyped contest featuring our Rafa. After the last game against Denmark where Holland failed to pick up any points I predicted Van Der Vaart may get the nod ahead of The disappointing Afellay but Van Marwijk named an unchanged line-up. With Germany two up at half time Van Der Vaart replaced Afellay for the second half. Whilst he failed to pull up any trees whilst he was on the pitch, there seemed to be a greater urgency and attacking threat after he'd been introduced and the Dutch managed to pull one back. Unfortunately for them they could not find the second goal and found themselves leaving empty handed once again.

Most teams to have lost their first two games of a major tournament would already be out, but Holland are still in with a chance of progressing to the next stages as runners up. With Germany to face the Danes and Portugal providing Holland's opposition, they will need to get the 3 points in their match and hope that Germany can also win. If this is the case it'll then come down to goal difference so a two goal win would be enough. Though I was wrong last week about Rafa starting versus the Germans, I believe that Van Marwijk will play him from the start this time around with the need for goals desperate.

In Group C the match between Italy and Croatia featured two Spurs players with Corluka and Modric both on show. Corluka was assigned the role of keeping Cassano and Balotelli quiet and did an admirable job as Italy's goal came from a free kick in the 1-1 draw, with nothing Vedran could do to stop it. Modric came up against Andrea Pirlo in a much anticipated match up, but his performance seemed to come up short compared to Pirlo. Fairly anonymous in the first half he upped his game a bit in the second half.

Next up for the Croats is a crunch game against trophy holders and tournament favourites Spain. With both teams on 4 points and Italy back on 2, either team could lose and still go through if the Republic of Ireland managed to take something away against Italy. After Corluka's performance this week, he is a certainty to regain his place at centre back for the tough test. Key man Modric will certainly start and will have to be at his best to try and match the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Silva.

England went into their game with Sweden with an unenviable record against the Scandinavians having failed to win against them in 7 attempts at major tournaments. Scott Parker and co were looking to put an end to the run and took the lead when Carroll nodded in. The Swedes then got back into the game with an equaliser which was then quickly followed by their second as slack marking at the back post allowed Olof Mellberg in to head past Hart. With the introduction of Theo Walcott, England looked a lot more hungry and goals from Theo and Danny Welbeck gave us the win so desperately needed. Parker put in his usual shift and even forced Isaakson into a good save in the Swedish goal early on. Unfortunately for Defoe there would be no appearance this week.

The final game of England's campaign is against hosts Ukraine and England will now that a point will be enough to take them through to the knockout stages. However with Spain likely to top Group C, England will want to beat Ukraine to give themselves a chance of topping Group D. Parker, barring injury, will no doubt start and have to watch out for the talented Yarmalenko. The youngster has failed to shine yet in the tournament but is a talented player and Ukraine's dangerman. With Rooney's return from suspension, Defoe will likely sit through the Ukraine game on the bench with Welbeck and Carroll also ahead of him in the pecking order.

With no teams guaranteed their place in the knockout rounds the next four days are certain to contain many twists and turns and it will be interesting to see how our lads fare under the pressure.

Finally on a side note, it's great to hear the news that Spurs legend Dave Mackay has been released from hospital. I know I speak for all of us when I wish him the best in his recovery.

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Thursday, 14 June 2012

Lack of respect from Charlie

It's boring being a Spurs fan. Just when you thought that the FA's appointment of Roy Hodgson had closed the whole Harry Redknapp saga, Levy decides to wield the axe and we now move in to the process of a finding a new man to take the club forward.

With the majority of Spurs stories understandably covering the departure and it's fallout, I thought I'd look at another story that seems to have got lost amongst the masses. In an interview with The Sun this morning Vedran Corluka fired a warning shot at us regarding our midfield talisman Luka Modric and his future.

"We all know it will be very difficult for Spurs to keep Luka" and "Not getting into the Champions League will cost Spurs next season" were just a couple of the quotes that stood out from the interview. Now I know Corluka has no love for the club having fallen out of favour this year, but should an employee really be talking like this about their current employer?

We are all aware of the interest Modric has received across Europe and it is common knowledge that he wished to leave last summer. Whilst I don't like the constant rumours of his departure, they can be understood as it is journalists with no ties to the club trying to sell a few papers. To have a player on the inside spouting off about another player's future however is unacceptable.

Last year Modric was severely affected by the reports to the point where he missed a couple of games at the start of the season. If a teammate is commenting on him, surely this will unsettle even more? We all know why Corluka is talking like this as his bitterness at not receiving the appearances he felt he deserved last season has brought out his petty side on regular occasions, but with Spurs holding all the cards over his own future, a smart move this does not seem.

Corluka served this club admirably and effectively in his first couple of seasons and it would be a shame for him to leave with a poor rapport with the fans, but it seems like this is the way he wants it to be.

As for Harry, whilst the end of his spell was tarnished by the disappointment of missing out on the Champions League, I hope I speak for everyone when I say thank you for what you achieved at our club in pushing us to the level we are at today. Only time will tell whether Levy is proven correct.

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Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Is Moyes the man for the job?

David Moyes has allegedly been short listed by Levy & co to take over the managerial position should Redknapp get the chop, the London Evening Standard has reported tonight.

Last night social media websites, in particular Twitter, exploded with news that Redknapp was in crisis talks with the Spurs board and Harry was set to quit. Harry was quick to quash rumours, claiming the stories to be an 'outrage' and a 'liberty', declaring 'There is not a chance I will resign'. However after the disappointing end to the season crisis talks have been called between Levy, Redknapp and Redknapp's agent Paul Stretford to discuss Harry's future at the club.

If this evening's story regarding Moyes carries any credibility, it looks as if the Everton boss is top of our wanted list, if only because Brendan Rodgers is no longer available. So is Moyes really the man to take Spurs to the next level?

Looking at the job he has done at Everton, the man must be applauded for his ability to get the best out of a team that has punched hugely above it's weight on a shoestring budget. With limited funds he has managed to bring in the likes of Tim Cahill, Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka among others for a combined cost of less than a David Bentley. These three are now the fulcrum of the Everton side and Baines alone has recently been valued at £20 million.

Moyes teams, going back to his managerial beginnings back at Preston North End, have always carried a doggedness and determined attitude. Bar the few exceptions in our squad, this appears from the outside to be something that the majority of Spurs players struggle to show, especially towards the business end of the season. A table based on results over the last 15 games of the season showed Spurs to be in the bottom half whilst Everton flew high near the top.

Where questions have to be asked is whether Moyes would be able to adapt to a different mentality with an alternative club culture. At Spurs, Moyes would be able to look at potential signings from a much wider pool of players than were available to Everton with a higher transfer budget. Sometimes this can breed mistakes with less worry of a higher valued transfer failing because there is the safety net of more money in the coffers. At Everton the fact that he had limited money meant that when Moyes spent, he had to be sure the player was worth the punt. And on the rare occasions that he has spent big, it seems that his judgement has been accurate with high priced Fellaini and Jelavic enjoying the best spells of their career at the Goodison club.

I'm not writing off Redknapp here either as the club needs to look at whether Redknapp's achievements have been reasonably strong enough to keep him in the job and also look at whether any other attainable manager could have achieved more in Harry's time at the club. His 4 years have been trophy less but have contained the highs of Champions League Qualification, strong Cup showings and an unbelievable Champions League run beating Italian giants Inter and AC along the way.

If I'm honest I don't know what to think of the situation. If Harry stays we keep a good manager who has definitely pushed us on to the next level. If he goes there is an alternative available with good pedigree that may just want to take up the challenge of managing our wonderful club. Whatever decision Levy makes the fans have to back the man in the dugout and get behind our team again come August.

Just as a final point, if we were to appoint Moyes at the helm, do you think we'd see the best of Pienaar or could we potentially see the first Player/Manager swap in Premier League History? Would certainly eliminate the compensation if this was to happen. Just throwing it out there.

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Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The Spurs Euro Campaign

Ding Ding. There's the bell and it's the end of the first round of games for Euro 2012 with all teams now having given an indication as to what we can expect from them for the rest of the tournament. So I thought it was worth looking into the performances of our players over the last few days.

First in action representing the Spurs was Rafael Van Der Vaart as The Netherlands took on Denmark. Bert Van Marwijk decided that two defensive midfield players was the way to go so Rafa was sacrificed to include City's Nigel De Jong. With The Netherlands falling behind and struggling to get through Denmark's defence Van Der Vaart was brought on but to little avail as the main shock of the tournament gave Denmark the three points.

Where does this leave Van Der Vaart for the next game against Germany? With Germany likely to also play five in the midfield, I would expect Van Marwijk to stick with the two combative midfielders in De Jong and Van Bommel. However after proving to be fairly disappointing against the Danes, there is a chance that Ibrahim Afellay could make way leaving a place up for grabs that Rafa will surely be desperate for.

Next up on Sunday night were Luka Modric and Vedran Corluka (He's still one of ours) as they lined up opposite ex-spur Robbie Keane with Croatia taking on The Republic of Ireland. Croatia picked up all 3 points in a routine win and much of the credit had to go to Modric, who controlled the tempo of the game, moving the ball around quicker than the likes of Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews could handle. Corluka however seemed to be struggling against the physicality of Doyle and then Walters after his introduction, making a couple of basic errors. In saying that he was out of position at Centre Back and alongside a partner he'd played with only once beforehand.

Next up for Croatia are Italy and they are going to need to expect a lot tougher a test, especially for Luka who will be going toe to toe with Pirlo and Marchisio, players who will not be as easily shaken off as Andrews and Whelan. Croatia have little options defensively so it would be a huge shock if Corluka wasn't selected, but he'll have to be on his game to give Croatia the opportunity to pick up a result.

And so we come to England. With Walker watching the tournament from home we were left with just one representative in the starting line up in the form of the battling Scott Parker. Scott's task was simply to do as he normally does and anchor the midfield. This meant nullifying the fluidity of Cabaye and skill of Malouda in the central midfield. Slowly growing into the game Parker began to gain the advantage in the battle making some stunning blocks and interceptions before being taken off after running himself into the ground. A good game on the whole though maybe could have done more to block Nasri's shot for France's goal. It was great to see Jermain Defoe back out on the pitch after the recent sad news of his fathers passing, but ultimately he had little time to really have any effect on the game as he saw out the 1-1.

Parker's combatitive display surely guarantees him his place for the next game where he will have to stop the creative talents of Seb Larsson, Rasmus Elm and Anders Svensson. Parker has to be fancied to come out on top here as they are not of the standards of Cabaye. Jermain will hope to get some game time again but after Welbeck's display it's fairly unlikely, bar possibly a late substitute appearance.

Finally I have to just sit back and despair at the decision to rid of Pavlyuchenko back in January. Whilst his time at Tottenham was inconsistent and disappointing it looks like he could have another decent European Championship. So often a decent appearance at a major international tournament has sent a players value rocketing. Will we regret selling Pav so soon?
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