Review of Spurs at the halfway stage

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My first article for SpursWeb was called “A review of AVB – so far” looking at how AVB was progressing etc. I then planned, after the last game over the Christmas period (against United), to do a follow up; to see how AVB has developed and progressed his team at the halfway stage. Unfortunately I can’t continue with that as he has become a dead parrot (i.e. removed from his post) and replaced by a novice. So I’ve had to re-jiggle the title and the article; never mind… it is all about Spurs successes and a top 4 spot at the end of the day and not major earthquakes created by the Spurs director; in the case of Levy I suppose the good news is that he is not Vincent Tan, the billionaire superstitious owner of Cardiff City who wanted a red and an eight rolled into one so it would spell; disaster!
If I remember rightly I ended my review with West Ham beating Spurs in the league and said; “So here we are now. If we were giving an infant school summary a little way through the year’s schooling we would say, “keep on track, be careful, not be too cocky and for Christ sake watch those that are struggling beneath you, because if shit is going to fly it will come from that end”; just ask Man City (Cardiff), Arsenal (Aston Villa), Chelsea (Everton, ok…maybe not the literal other end) and Man Utd (WBA), as they learnt to their cost. So AVB and his team of all stars have been warned and their cards marked.”

Since then, under AVB, we’ve won all our Europa early Cup stages and progressed a bit further in the League Cup. In the league we won 4 matches (Villa, Hull, Fulham and Sunderland), drew two (Everton 0-0 and Man United 2-2). But it was the spectacular defeats that did AVB in. Three defeats, two at home and one away; Manchester City beat us 6-0 on their ground, while Newcastle and Liverpool beat us 1-0 and 5-0 respectively at White Hart Lane. It was the Liverpool match that pushed Levy over the edge. In fact, according to reports, the next day he had a meeting with AVB and insisted that he use Emmanuel Adebayor if he wanted to save his job. No manager could work under that sort of pressure; he either picks the team, as he sees fit, or he should resign honourably. He resigned honourably. If Levy wants to manage the team then he should have replaced AVB with himself. Which beggars the question who is pulling Sherwood’s strings? It has already been reported that Sherwood has a frosty relationship with the director of sport for Tottenham Franco Baldini. Anyway, that is probably something to debate at a later stage.

Was it right to sack AVB? In my personal opinion; no. For a start we were still in a healthy position; about 6th. We were still in all the cup competitions. Our defeat against Newcastle was more to do with luck on their part than anything else. We had 13 shots on goal and were far the better team; as the Newcastle manager admitted. Newcastle had beaten teams like United at Old Trafford and Chelsea, both expected to be in the top 4. Against City we suffered our heaviest defeat; 6-0, on their own ground. A ground that no team has won there yet (in the league) this season. On top of that they beat the League leaders (Arsenal) 6-3, so putting our defeat into prospective it wasn’t that bad. The defeat that made Levy jump and overreact was our “humiliation” against Liverpool. I was at that match and up and until Paulinho was sent off (we were 2-0 down) I thought we were still in the game. Could we have come back? Who knows? But I don’t think it would have been as bad as it ended up. Apart from the City and Liverpool game our defence has been pretty good. Never conceding more than one goal (the exceptions were West Ham 0-3, United 2-2 and Hull in the Cup 2-2). The problem with AVB’s team was that the midfield/ wingers weren’t getting the ball to the lone striker up front. But I am sure that would have eventually been resolved. Another point that we have learnt since his sacking; four of the players that were bought in the summer was forced on to AVB (he had his own list of players he wanted). He would have preferred players that fitted into his thinking. Putting all that into the equation and what I had previously said, not only did Levy panic, but he might have lost the plot as well. I can understand that he wants success (don’t we all?), but is this really the right way?

Now he has been replaced by a greenhorn in top management stakes. So far he has had a brilliant start. Putting the West Ham cup game to one side (Sherwood was only pointed a couple of days before that cup match) he has won – impressively – against Southampton (away), Stoke (home) and United (at Old Trafford) and only drawing against WBA 1-1 at White Hart Lane on boxing day. Ten points out of a possible 12. A very remarkable and moving start. We will never know how AVB would have finished in the League and all cup fixtures; but his record was very good up and until he was sacked. If Sherwood finishes in the top 4 with possibly a trophy then AVB will sink into the abyss and be forgotten, if Sherwood doesn’t finish in the top 4 then the question that should be asked is why wasn’t AVB given more time? Getting seven new players – some he didn’t want – and then for that seven to be integrated into the team in quick succession is a big and almost impossible task and then to expected to be in the top 4 and a trophy or two as well is almost an impossible dream (no matter how wet that dream is). AVB must be given the credit for what he had achieved, under exceptional circumstances.

Of course we all wish Sherwood good luck and hope he goes on and gets us a top 4 placing and maybe a trophy or two on the way. But English league management is a bear pit, with no time for toleration or learning. To prove that point, even though he has been given an 18 month contract it hasn’t stopped Levy, if you believe the papers, looking for another manager. He must finish in the top 4 if he wants to keep his job or be history. That will go for anybody that might follow him as well.

I said, before the Christmas period, that we must show a good performance (i.e. win all our games, but definitely no losses). Low and behold we got 10 points out of 12. Our most impressive victory was at Old Trafford where we beat last year’s league champions 2-1. We now hope that Sherwood can build on that and only victories are in sight. Our next game is against the gunners, on their own ground and in the FA Cup. Followed by Crystal Palace at home, Swansea away and City (who beat us 6-0) at White Hart Lane. Get through that successfully and anything could be possible. But a word of warning; we’ve got a very long injury list. Now I read that Sherwood would be happy to rely on Spurs youngsters to fill the gap, rather than get somebody in, in the January transfer window. Good luck with that. But I will certainly be surprised to see him leading Spurs out at the beginning of next season. But if he does… well it will show that miracles can happen and there really is a man in the moon looking down on us weaklings (sorry) earthlings.

Even in our defeats I still expected Spurs to win under AVB; right up to the final whistle (with the exception of the Liverpool game). Under Sherwood I don’t have that feeling (yet). I was more optimistic with AVB in charge than I am with the novice Sherwood. In the United game I was expecting the home team to score at any moment; after being 2-1 down. Were we that good, or where they that bad? Were we just lucky or United just unlucky? Who knows? Only time will tell and I hope luck is on our side. There are seven good teams fighting for a top four spot; Chelsea, City, United, Everton, Liverpool, Arsenal and ourselves. It is a mountain that Spurs has to climb and whether we see Sherwood in the same position at the beginning of next season.

Hopefully all Spurs fans will be united behind Sherwood and sing his name and Spurs onto victory. The rest will be up to Tim Sherwood and the team he picks. COYS

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In the 90's, I was a writer for many of the top Spurs Fanzines (The Spurs, Spur of the Moment, MEHSTG and many others). A Spurs loyalist since the 60/61 season and now a season ticket holder (Premium). I run a Spurs Facebook page (“Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ voice” and co-run another one with Don Scully called “Tottenham Hotspur FC: Inside Track”). There is also a Spurs Twitter account (@HotspurVoice). I travel with Spurs to away games (including Europe). I have my a Blog (My blogging travels with Tottenham Hotspur Premium). The articles that appear on the blog also appear on SpursWeb and other applications.

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