Too friendly by half

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This weekend’s Wembley Cup will bring back bad memories to Spurs fans of a certain age. The last time we played in a preseason tournament at the national stadium was August 1988 where Terry Venables’ first full season in charge got off to an inauspicious start as we got firmly tonked by George Graham’s gooners. Liverpool’s famous last minute collapse at Anfield in May of the following year meant that we’d lost to the season’s eventual champions, that doesn’t ease the discomfort at the memory of the 4-0 defeat, though it was a preseason friendly after all so I’m sure we weren’t that bothered really…

Our other game in that year’s Wembley International Tournament was against AC Milan. We were two nil down in that one after quarter of an hour before nicking a consolation in the second half. The fact that Terry Fenwick was on the same score sheet as Marco Van Basten lends the fixture a comical touch in retrospect even if the players were taking it seriously at the time.

We should see a stark improvement in results this time out. Yes, we’re playing the European champions but a look at Barcelona’s website seems to suggest that this is their first game of the preseason (are we their Exeter?) and as we’ve found when playing Inter and Roma in recent years, we don’t always get to see continental sides at their peak this early in their preparations. The Spanish league season doesn’t kick off until the last weekend of August. Last season we passed Celtic to death in Rotterdam and should be capable of doing the same again, but we’re all aware what an inaccurate predictor for the season our run of unbeaten friendlies turned out to be a year ago.

So no matter the results, what we’re going to get out of this weekend is probably very similar to what we got out of those games in 1988, i.e. a bit of money and a bit of brand awareness raising. That’s what these games are about as much as anything and I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that but given our poor starts over the past few seasons, every one of which has followed on from a successful preseason, I’d prefer it if we somehow found ways to organise more competitive & meaningful games. I know you’d risk the odd knock but we always seem to pick those up anyway (the scything down of Bentley at Bournemouth for example) and we’d stand a better chance of not starting the season looking off the pace and having to play catch up from the word go. Easier said than done I know but I’d guess that say, 30 minutes each way against a full strength Fulham or Villa, or a game of 9 of us against 11 of Orient or Gillingham would do us far more good than the couple of strolls in the sun/rain/hail we’re going to get this weekend. How about a game of Possibles v Probables where some of the reserves could get to put their case in public? Just an idea.

Not easy as I said but it seems to me that there must be a way of upping the pace and intensity of the friendlies. Combine this weekend with the impending Asia Cup & visit to Hong Kong and by the end of it more people in Beijing, Barcelona and Glasgow will be able to point to Tottenham on a map (and hopefully not put it in Honduras or Croatia) than before we started but how much that’s going to help us hit the ground running against Liverpool in a few weeks time is open to doubt.


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