The Summer Before and Transfers
Coming off the most successful season Spurs have ever had in the Barclay’s Premier League, where they proved all their critics wrong, beating the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City on their way to locking up the 4th spot and entry into the Holy Grail of competitions, the Champions League, expectations were high. Knowing that teams like City and Liverpool were going to be gunning for their position, while dark-horse candidates such as Villa and Everton might sneak up and cause some concern, Tottenham knew they had their work cut out for them. A quiet summer with only Sandro signed seemed like we were reluctant to spend. Then came two bombshells in the names of Van der Vaart and Gallas. Rafa, with a pedigree of some of the top-clubs in Europe, and William, with a wealth of experience in the PL and Champions League, both looked like masterful signings by Daniel Levy and Harry Redknapp. Needless to say, both of these players brought a variety of emotions. Gallas was met with open arms by some and a cold shoulder by others. Personally, as long as he gave his all in the Lilywhite of Tottenham, all would be forgiven, which it has. Rafa, meanwhile, was touted as the new king of White Hart Lane, which at times has been justified. Overall, the players brought in could be listed as some of the signings of the season in the PL, if not all of Europe.
The season started with a bit of a whimper. A disappointing draw with those Citizens from Manchester and a loss to Young Boys in our Champions League qualifier. Being on the wrong end of a 3-2 scoreline in Bern would be considered a beautiful defeat as those two away goals came after we fell behind 3-0 inside the opening 30 minutes. A quick thought: A plastic pitch, really? We are in the 21st century right?
Traveling to Stoke for our next league match, we weren’t expected more than a draw as the Potters prefer the more physical aspect of the game. Luckily, thanks to a wonder strike from Gareth Bale and a refereeing decision in our favor, we escaped with 3 points in the bag. Returning home to the confines of White Hart Lane, we welcomed Young Boys for the 2nd leg of the Champions League qualifier. Let’s just say it was a beautiful thing to watch. We took the game to them from the get-go and won by a comfortable scoreline of 4-0, Crouch with the treble and Bale with the accolades.
Welcome to the Champions League Group Stage Tottenham
What a wonderful statement. Happy times ahead! Well, not yet. Wigan at home, three points surely? Oh irony, how do I loathe thee. Getting beat by a Rodellega goal against the run of play after dominating possession for the entire match. Meh, one could say we were not focused. This won’t be the last time we speak of this. Off to The Hawthornes to face West Brom. Modric opened the scoring with a some nice play, but had to be subbed off later. His loss really affected our play and we conceded the equalizing goal and in fact, we were lucky to leave with 1 point.
During this month, the groups for the Champions League were drawn. And who do we get matched up with, holders Inter Milan, German powerhouse Werder Bremen and Dutch Champions FC Twente. The first thing out of my mouth at this time was, well I can’t repeat it on here but it consisted of a barrage of curses and other choice words. We’d be lucky to snag third in this “Group of Death”. So off to Germany we went. Our first Champions League proper match against Bremen. I remember hearing the music and almost crying. It did, and still does, get me going like no other song. I swear, the hairs on my arms stand straight up and to my girlfriends horror, my 6 month old loves it. Score one for me! But I digress, Spurs went up 2-0 within the first 20 minutes, via an own goal and a classy header from 2 meter Peter. In true Spurs fashion, we conceded right before the half and then lost our mojo. The second half, Bremen was unlucky not to snatch the winner after an equalizer by the diminutive Marko Marin. Never the less, a point was a good start for our European campaign.
Back to the league. Those pesky Wolves at the Lane. Our bogey team from last term. And what happens, you guessed it, we fell behind right before the half thanks to a loss of concentration. There was to be a happy ending, though as a penalty by Rafa, a deflected cross which fell right to Roman Pavlyuchenko, who clinically slotted home (Defoe are you watching?) and a mix-up in the usually stout Wolves backline which allowed substitute Alan Hutton to chip in a third. 3-1 to the Spurs and 3 points in the bag. A Carling Cup matchup with “Le Arse” from up the way was next on the agenda. A second string squad with mostly players under the age of 22 including Steven Caulkner, Kyle Walker, Kyle Naughton and Sandro was outplayed by an almost full-strength Arsenal side yet we were 1-1 after 90 minutes. In the extra periods, we got caught looking tired and lost 4-1, but at least the kids got a chance to play. Spurs may have been knocked out of the Carling Cup but we had bigger fish to fry, next on our menu was West Ham. According to script, we outplayed them yet ended up losing by a scoreline of 1-0, helping the Hammers to their first league win of the season. Two London derby’s in a short time, two losses.
Champions League time at the Lane against FC Twente. Right from the whistle, we went at them hard and earned a penalty, which was missed by the usually reliable Rafa. A side thought: How is it the whole team misses penalties on the regular? Back to the second half. We continued attacking and got our reward, a great volley from Rafa who went from villain to hero, yet later would be back to villain after a Pav penalty put us 2-0. Twente responded with a scrappy goal and the ever mentioned Rafa had a rush of blood to the head and got booked a second time and given his marching orders. Normally Spurs would crumble after something like this but this time, another Pav penalty (a cheeky one at that) and a Bale goal saw us pick up our first Champions League proper win by a score of 4-1. Hooray!
Villa at home could have be seen as the perfect banana-peel and it looked that way when Marc Albrighton put the Midlanders up 1-0. Spurs, playing as the comeback kings, got a brace from Rafa to take all three points. No slip up there. A trip to Craven Cottage beckoned. We fell behind again (do I really even need to write this? It’s like clockwork) but came back and claimed all three points thanks to some refereeing help on a Tom Huddlestone strike. Yes, Gallas was offside, yes, he may have obscured the keepers vision, but hey we will take it. Off to Italy to face champions Inter Milan.
Within 2 minutes we were down 1, within 5 minutes down a goalkeeper and another goal, by the half it was 4-0. Boy, oh boy, not the way we wanted this story to go, but then there was a shining light in the form of a Welsh wizard. Playing down a man, Gareth Bale turned it into a one-man show as he stormed down the left, past almost the entire Inter team and got 1 halfway through the second frame. In an almost mirror image of the first, he grabbed a second and then with almost the final kick of the ball, took a pass from Aaron Lennon and hit the back of the net. Yes we lost, yes we played horribly in the first half but a message was sent to Milan, “At the Lane, be prepared, for a warning has been served”.
Returning from Italy, we were paid a visit from the blue half of Mercyside, Everton. Leighton Baines with a free kick, an absolute beauty of a goal. One that must be appreciated even by the opposition. But again, we come storming back, Rafa getting on the end of a Crouch knockdown which leveled the score. A good point gained, or is it two points lost? Regardless, on to the Theatre of Dreams known as Old Trafford. Falling behind again via a Vidic header, but the real moment came much later in the match. Gomes, thinking he won a free kick for Nani clearly handling the ball, puts the ball down and allows Nani to nip in and score the simplest of goals. Controversy at it’s best. A decision against the Spurs which totally deflated the team. Gomes, I must ask, did you hear a whistle jackhole? So why would you put the ball down? Oh right, cause you must make a mockery of modern goalkeeping on one of the biggest stages.
Vanquishing the Demons
November started with a bang, Inter Milan came a knocking and aimed to take 3 points that would cement them in first place of the group. Little did they know we had a couple of extra rounds in the chamber. We went ahead in the opening 20 minutes through some excellent play between Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Luka Modric, who then chipped the ball over the Inter defense to Rafa, barely onside, and he made no mistake about the finish. WHL erupts! Spurs didn’t let up though, and kept up their swashbuckling. It was mostly one way traffic as Bale, Modric, Rafa and Lennon kept the holders pinned back in their half. And then, 60 minutes into the second half, another breakthrough. Bale racing away from Maicon, for the umpteenth time, sends in a perfect cross for Crouchie to tap in for the second. It was now looking like Maicon was not the world’s best right back, it looked like he wasn’t good enough for the Championship. After a nice finish by Samuel Eto’o to make it 2-1, Spurs kept at it and got the final blow, another incredible run by Bale past one of the best defenses in the world who then centered it for Pav to tap in again. What a match this was. 3-1 to Spurs and now we sat upon the top of the group standings.
After that high, it was understood that we would come back down to earth, mostly by a 4-2 thrashing at Bolton followed by a dull 1-1 draw at home to Sunderland. Blackburn was next up at the Lane and we put them to the sword by a scoreline of 4-2 but it should have been more than 4 and they shouldn’t have even had 2, mostly due to some suspect goalkeeping….again. A short visit up the road to our hated rivals Arsenal was viewed as an almost guaranteed Gunners win. And it looked that way after a first half where we allowed them to cut open our defense time and time again which left us 2 nil down going into the half. Of course, seeing how this was an unpredictable season, of course we came back. Bale with a nice feed from Rafa, the Dutchman with a penalty and finally a free-kick headed home by Younes Kaboul. The end of the hex! A massive win for Spurs in their neighbors backyard and Arsene Wenger taking his frustration out on a water bottle. Classic!
Qualification to the Knockout Stage
Wins over Werder Bremen and Liverpool, in the final minute, made it a great month for the club. December started with a whimper with draws at Birmingham City and in Holland against FC Twente. But with the draw against the former Dutch champions, we locked up the top spot in our group and were assured a draw against the one of the runner-ups in the other groups. While Chelsea may have come to the Lane on a run of bad form, they still presented a dangerous foe. Roman opened the scoring with a sublime shot from the edge of the box but once again, Gomes makes a mess of things. Allowing a shot from Drogba, although struck well, get through him for the equalizer. And then in the final minute, brought down Ramires in the box, but then saved the resulting penalty. One may say a point gained, but again, 2 points lost when in the position to win.
So after 3 straight draws, the Christmas fixtures came fast and furious. Big wins at Aston Villa and home to Newcastle and Fulham gave us some real momentum, only for it to be lost at Goodison Park. Our first loss since the Bolton fiasco. Time to get ourselves back on track with an FA Cup match against fellow Londoners, Charlton Athletic. A 3-0 scoreline and we were rolling again. Just in time as Manchester United was next. Like so many other matches this season, we dominated preceedings yet even being a man up, could not breach United’s goal. Another opportunity missed. A bad performance in Newcastle and we only salvaged a point through Lennon’s last-gasp tally. FA Cup time again, this time on the road to Fulham. Let’s just say it would have been less embarrassing if Spurs had stayed home. Suicidal defending, a man sent off, penalties, the fact we only lost 4-0 was due to Fulham not going for it in the second half.
False Dawn or Was it?
Right about here is when I started thinking everyone was going wrong, we were destined to blow all our chances due to our pathetic strikeforce, players kicking the crap out of Bale and Lennon or just a joke of a keeper. A trip up to Lancashire to face Blackburn seemed like they could pile more misery onto us, but 2 meter Peter had a different idea, score with a header. From that point on, we took a siege mentality and barely made it out of our half, yet we walked away with all 3 points. An ugly win, but just what we needed…a bit of momentum. This helped us grab late winners against Bolton and Sunderland, both by Niko Kranjcar (who I really wish would have gotten more time on the pitch this past season after being so instrumental last term) and we boarded the plane to Italy, once again, to the stadium we visited earlier, to face Inter’s rival, AC Milan.
The critics all waited for us to falter, Milan would tear us apart with Ibrahimovic, Robinho and Pato running riot they all said. Too bad Harry had a plan. Use Wilson Palacios and Sandro to clog up the lanes and cut all supply lines to their front-men. This may have been one of the most brilliant tactical changes I have ever witnessed. Milan could even be considered lucky not to have conceded any goals in the first half as it was one-way traffic. And then the moment in the second half when it seemed like Milan would finally break us down. Sandro steals the ball, gets it to Modric who feeds it to Lennon and he is off. Running full clip with Crouchie pulling the second defender out of the way, jukes out his marker, squares it in front for Peter and he finishes with clinical ease. 1-0 for Spurs and the most brilliant defensive effort I have ever seen from Tottenham.
The Cruelest of Fates
Of course, this was the beginning of the end of our season. A bad loss to Blackpool and then pathetic efforts against Wolves, West Ham and Wigan all but assured us that there would be no Champions League football played at the Lane next season. The only bright spot in that run was a dull 0-0 draw with Milan that advanced us to the next knockout round, where we were drawn with Real Madrid. And to make it even better, if by some miracle we could get past Jose Mourinho’s men, we would more than likely face Barcelona. Hooray!!! I mean c’mon, WTF? What our first season wasn’t tough enough? Inter, Milan, Werder Bremen, Twente and now Madrid? Stupid friggin lottery balls.
Off to Spain where we would match up with Real Madrid in the quarterfinals. Again, thanks to some poor goalkeeping and a 10 minute spell where Crouch received two yellows, we ended up on the wrong side of a 4-0 drubbing. It was effectively the end of our European adventure at the hands of Jose Mourinho. Yes, we still had the second leg at the Lane but realistically it was just for pride. A win against Stoke at home helped our domestic form but that was followed by a 1-0 loss to Madrid, where Gomes let a tame Ronaldo shot slip underneath him….again. So that was the official end of our Champions League dream. Put to the sword by a clinical and ruthless Madrid side led by the masterful Mourinho. It was a hell of a ride though, and we got farther than I had ever imagined. Maybe somethings could have worked out better but it was not to be.
So we left looking up the table at City who seemed to only drop points when we dropped them, which meant that we would require some kind of minor miracle to grab the 4th spot again. Arsenal stopped by the Lane and together we produced one of the matches of the season where both teams, intent on attacking and careless in defense, served up a hell of a show. The 90 minutes flew past and when the dust settled the scoreline of 3-3 was fair. A point, but not enough as this represented our game in hand. What followed was a disappointing draw at home to a stubborn West Brom team which all but sealed our fate. But hey, who knows? Maybe we could get a win at Chelsea to put us right back into the thick of things. Nope, thanks again to some poor goalkeeping (I am really getting tired of writing about this) and some dubious refereeing. Did the ball cross the line and was Kalou offside when he scored the goal? Really it doesn’t matter but no it didn’t and yes he was. And it ruined a wonder strike from Sandro. Bastards, all of them, Gomes and the refs.
The final four matches looked like something could happen if everything worked out, but again, Gomes. Saves a penalty and then knocks down a Blackpool player for another penalty, which Charlie Adam duly converted. Only a late Jermaine Defoe strike spared our blushes, but too little too late. Harry finally replaced Gomes with Carlo Cudicini (who I feel could be our number one next season as he is very solid and commanding in the box) when we traveled to Manchester to face the Citizens.
What is that old saying, “He giveth and taketh away”, well “He” was Crouch as the same man who fired us into the Champions League, gave a goal to Mancini’s men which sent them to the promised land. Again, we completely dominated the match yet couldn’t get anything in the final third. A striker would be nice, you know one who actually makes runs, onside that is (Defoe I’m talking to you). Only pride to fight for in the final two matches. We ended the season with a memorable win at Anfield which represented Ledley King’s first match in god knows how long, and he looked like he had never been away. Playing like the champion he is, Leds, together with Daws stopped everything thrown at them. 2-0 for Spurs. The final day saw us welcoming relegation-threatened Birmingham City where they knew anything but a win would have them needing other results to work their way. Tottenham, showing a ruthless streak, sent them down to the Championship after two marvelous strikes from Pav. Say what you want about his work ethic, he can hit the crap out of the ball. And so that ended our season. Out on a high, the memories of a fantastic European adventure still fresh in our minds and hearts. A great season, no matter what some “Idiots” think.
Questions to be Asked
Why did all of our players have to get injured on international duty?
How can we beat the likes of Inter, Milan, Arsenal and Liverpool yet lose to Wigan, Blackpool and West Ham?
What happened to Gomes?
How does Jenas get a match?
Why didn’t we buy a striker in the January window?
Since when did all of our strikers become absolute crap?
Is Harry leaving?
What about Bale, Modric and VDV? Are they leaving too?
How come Carlo Cudicini wasn’t given a lengthy run after the blunders Gomes produced?
I thoroughly enjoyed all the highs and lows of the season. This is why one follows a football club like Spurs. One minute, top of the world, next bottom of the barrel. It really requires great character to be able to support a club that has as many ups and downs, it makes you stronger. It makes you sing your hearts out and read every piece of news related to your club. They aren’t just your club, they are your brothers in arms. Players who give their all for the shirt and respect the fact that while it may just be a game, it is the beautiful game and it should be played as so.
Thanks to everyone for reading, I know it was long but I really enjoyed writing this. I guess one could say this is my thesis of the season. I am just glad that I had all these memories, good and bad, to share with you. I honestly appreciate the support this past season and trust me when I say, there will be more fantastic adventures next term. Much love everyone!