Opinion: The world’s greatest

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Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

A rare Saturday 3 O’clock kick-off, strong teams from both managers and a near capacity St Mary’s.  Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Southampton really was a nod to the halcyon days of the 1980’s when Ossie’s dream came true and Spurs were perennial visitors to latter stage of ‘the World’s greatest cup competition’.  All my reminiscing however was knocked out of me when the thoroughly modern and horrible VAR denied Son the opener after 28 minutes.

While a number of Spurs Supporters seem to be highlighting his various faults, one thing you can’t accuse Jose Mourinho of is taking cup competitions lightly.  This has been a feature of his managerial tenure at all teams and perhaps a reason for his vast trophy count.  Make no mistake.  Jose wins trophies.

One of the few criticisms aimed at outgoing manager Mauricio Pochettino was seemingly prioritising the blue ribbon competitions of the Champions League and the Premier League over the arguably more winnable FA and league cups.  (Albeit we were close to one of the most unlikely Champions League victories of all time!)  With the benefit of hindsight, I’m sure Mauricio may have played a different side at Colchester in the league cup in what proved to be a large nail in his coffin.

There is no doubt that Spurs fans would relish a return to their former home in May and victory would go a long way to the Portuguese Manager winning over the Spurs faithful.

During the week the media, always eager to pounce, published a story claiming that Mourinho had lost the dressing room and players were bored of his training methods (The Sun).  I have two issues with this.  Firstly this would suggest to me that there is a bad apple in the squad with a hotline to the media. 

Even if the training is an issue, a tabloid story isn’t a way to resolve.  Hugo Lloris and Toby Alderweired both dismissed the story with the latter claiming that he wouldn’t have signed a new contract if there were squad divisions.  I suspect there are, and have been for a while some characters to be moved on.

Secondly if this is true it just goes to highlight the massive divide between the modern professional footballer and the man on the street.  Bored with training while earning £60k a week…………

There is also the suggestion that players don’t like the way that they’ve been ‘singled out’ at press conferences.  While I am not a fan myself, there must be players that this approach does work for by giving them extra motivation and putting fire in their belly.  The true skill is knowing the players that respond and the ones who need an arm round them.  You’d like to think Jose wouldn’t have been successful as he has if he didn’t possess this.

Today was the perfect chance to banish any rumours of a behind the scenes rift.  For the most part I felt that Spurs were solid and competitive and played their part in a good cup tie.  If ever a draw was a fair result this was it.

Spurs, opting to give Lloris minutes rather than the standard appearance of the reserve goalkeeper, were second best in the opening exchanges with Southampton having a lot of possession and looking sharp.  Indeed Southampton went on to have the lion’s share of the possession over the whole 90 minutes.

Spurs best chances of the half were on the counter attack with Son having a goal ruled out for offside and Moura succumbing to an excellent save by Angus Gunn when he probably should have scored. 

Southampton had their own chances and should have scored on 34 minutes when Tanganga cleared off the line after Lloris came out rather recklessly.  Tanganga is raw but he has shown that he is a real defender who just loves to defend.

As has been case recently the introduction of Erik Lamela on 55 minutes for the ineffective Gedson Fernandes seemed to spark Spurs into life.   No criticism of the young Portuguese midfielder here though as his age and lack of experience must be taken into account.  The positive is another 55 minutes in English football.

On 57 minutes a driving run by Lo Celso presented the ball to Son (via Lamela) who finished with aplomb.  Hopefully this is a catalyst for Son to start producing his best.

The celebrations were temporarily cut short by the Russian roulette that is VAR for a 50/50 involving Dele Alli and a possible offside in the build-up. 

With the exception of a close range volley by Son following a pinpoint pass from the excellent Lo Celso, Southampton always looked the more likely to get the next goal.  Spurs seemed to be pegged back after their goal and their ability to pose further problems to Southampton or hold on to the lead perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the afternoon.

It was therefore no surprise when Boufal thumped the equaliser past Hugo Lloris to earn the Saints a replay with three minutes to go.  Perhaps the only surprise being that the goal didn’t come from Danny Ings who worked tirelessly leading the line for Southampton and missed guilt edged chances on 79 and 82 minutes.

Ings showed the benefit of having a true centre-forward and produced the sort of display that Spurs are sorely missing.  They could do worse than try to prise the England striker away….

All eyes will now be on Daniel Levy to see who he is able to sign before the deadline.  Spurs fans will be peering round the curtain fearing another Grzegorz Rasiak.  (I always feel it’s slightly unfair for former Huddersfield striker Andy Booth not to be mentioned with the same regularity and fondness as the Pole.)

With the preference of loan players with an option to buy I have a growing feeling that the sale of the Club may be a distinct possibility.  One of the best Stadia and training facilities in the world must make Spurs a genuine target. If this is the case though we can’t afford to stagnate in the meantime with a lack of meaningful investment on transfers.

The last time Spurs won the FA Cup in 1991 the run to Wembley featured an odd goal victory on the South Coast at Portsmouth.  Although we looked for long periods that we would repeat this today sadly it wasn’t meant to be.  However the important thing is we are still in the hat and still daring to dream.  COYS.

 

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