Posts Tagged ‘Tottenham Hotspur’

Yes this is a bit late and you’ve already read everyone else’s summation of the Premier League season by now, but time is money, and nobody pays me shit for this. But these are always fun to do and read, to see the opinions of other people and compare notes. So indulge me a little, why don’t you?

It was another thrilling season in England, even though it all came to an end a bit soon and we were left with a fairly non-descript final day of the season, with very little to play for.

Still there were plenty of talking points to come from the season, and in the interest of fairness to every club in the division, I shall be dividing up these awards into one for the top six, and one for the rest of the league. Poor Everton, I honestly had no idea which section to put you in initially. But you end up in the rest for this season.

 

TEAM/MANAGER OF THE SEASON

Top Six – Chelsea/Antonio Conte

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Not a bad start to life in England for Conte

Some might put these as two categories, but I fail to see why you would treat manager and team performance as separate things as they are somewhat co-dependent. Some might have fancied Spurs to edge this award as their ‘success’ was far less expected than that of Chelsea, but Conte’s achievements have been fantastic in his first season in English football.

This was a largely similar squad last season finished down in tenth and was in all sorts of disarray. Conte deserves credit not only for turning around the fortunes of these players, helping them rediscover their form, but realising that changes could and should be made and simply implementing them with little fuss.

He changed English football’s way of thinking from insisting on a flat-back-four, with his switch to a back three system helping Chelsea overcome a shaky start to go on a 13-game winning run, which essentially had the title wrapped up by the turn of the year, regardless of how game Tottenham’s pursuit of them was.

The Rest – Bournemouth/Eddie Howe

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Eddie Howe enhanced his burgeoning this reputation this season

There was often little to choose between the remainder of the teams in the division, given they all had runs in the season where things were good, and then a subsequent slide down the table. Everton basically matched expectations to be the bridge between the two, Southampton managed top-half again, but were largely uninspiring, and West Brom (the runaway winners of this award for a while) simply hit 40 points and we went back to forgetting about them.

Bournemouth by no means had a fantastic season, but a final position in the top-half, despite many (including myself) worrying that second-season-syndrome would kick in and relegation could be in the offing.

With key players repeatedly being laid low with major injuries and results faltering, that fate did look a distinct possibility at one point, but Howe marshalled a still relatively inexperienced team at this level away from danger and led the side to their finest ever league finish. You can’t say fairer than that.

 

PLAYER OF THE SEASON

Top Six – N’golo Kante (Chelsea)

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The best player in the Premier League. Another sterling season for Kante

The choice between pundits was between Kante and Eden Hazard for the gong, but I’ll plump with the majority and go for the little French midfielder, who was the difference for Chelsea and has won back-to-back titles with different clubs, which is impressive on its own.

His energy has allowed the likes of Hazard to focus on wreaking havoc in attacking positions instead of being coaxed into defensive duties, and helped improve the previously flagging performances of Nemanja Matic.

Plus, his arrival was probably key in John Obi Mikel no longer playing Premier League football anymore. These are always things to be celebrated.

The Rest – Romelu Lukaku (Everton)

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It is surely a matter of time until Lukaku ends up at a top club

I wouldn’t call it a cop out. You might, but I wouldn’t, as Lukaku has not just continued to motor along at a level that is honestly beneath him, but improved his record and reputation even further by enjoying his finest ever goal-scoring season.

Goals may not be everything and he still has plenty of detractors wondering if his all-round game is yet good enough for the move up he clearly so desperately craves, but 25 goals is not an easy tally to record in the Premier League and he would have claimed the Golden Boot were it not for the crazy late-season form of Harry Kane.

Lukaku was the standout player of the sides outside of the top six. How long that is the case remains to be seen.

 

MOST IMPROVED

Top Six – Ander Herrera (Manchester United)

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Captain in shithousery. Future captain of Man Utd?

Sure some might call for Christian Eriksen at this point, but it’s only this season that people have actually begun to notice how much he does for this Spurs team. Plus as a fan, I’m far more aware of what he has been doing, so he’s just motoring along just nicely for me.

Instead I’ve gone for Herrera, who has gone from popular yet flawed midfielder struggling to hold down a place under Louis van Gaal, to being probably the most important player in this Manchester United team.

Having been underappreciated by management staff since his arrival from Athletic Bilbao, Jose Mourinho has seen him as the ideal partner to help Paul Pogba shine – only to complete outshine his more illustrious teammate.

He might be an awful shithouse of a player for fans of the opposition and his tendency to flop to the ground does grate somewhat. But you can’t knock what he’s doing in general and try to enjoy the other, more pleasing aspects of a game that has come on leaps and bounds.

The Rest – Joshua King (Bournemouth)

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King’s improvement have seen him linked with a big move

No contest here, as quite frankly this time last year, I had serious doubts about Josh King making a long-term career as a Premier League footballer, with the inkling being he would be more at home in the Championship.

Even a few months into the season I could have been forgiven for harbouring that point of view as he struggled to break into the first-team at Bournemouth, but once he took his chance, he really broke into a fine footballer.

Nobody doubted his desire or his running, but there seemed to be an issue with the final ball, the final pass and for an attacking player his returns previously were just not good enough to warrant a regular place in a top flight side.

This season it all appears to have come together for him and a leap from six to 16 Premier League goals is a testament to the work he has done away from the pitch. Plus a man with such a basic English name being a Norwegian international can only make you more endearing.

 

BEST SIGNING

Top Six – Victor Wanyama (Tottenham Hotspur)

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Wanyama’s success at Spurs has surprised a lot of people

“No Kante? But you made him your player of the season!” I hear you cry. But I’m not on board for the same player winning two awards, and this is my page and I’ll do what I want. So there.

Anyhoo, Wanyama’s arrival at Spurs was met with very little fanfare really, more an acknowledgement that he would be a useful addition to the Tottenham squad with the added burden of Champions League football and Eric Dier having been quite frankly run into the ground over the course of the previous campaign and European Championships with England.

So few people expected Wanyama to essentially oust Dier from a midfield spot he had suddenly looked extremely comfortable in, with many at Spurs putting the Kenyan powerhouse among their star performers throughout an impressive season that saw many steal the headlines.

At just a reported £9m, Wanyama was nearly a third of the price of Kante, and was just as important to another side that exceeded expectations to leave the Manchester clubs in their wake, despite all pre-season talk of the title heading back up north.

Acknowledgements to Sadio Mane and Zlatan Ibrahimovic who certainly exceeded expectations as well, but it’s Wanyama who gets the nod here.

The Rest – Joe Allen (Stoke City)

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Allen continued his good form over from Euro 2016 with Stoke

I really wish I could bend my rules and include January signings. But they only played half a season, so I can only apologise for not including Wilfred Ndidi or Kamil Grosicki. This goes double, because the summer transfer window last year was tragically bad, making it rather difficult to pick a winner for this ‘award’.

There’s a sense that if some of the sides in the division hadn’t twisted so much last summer, we may not have been talking about half the division as serious relegation candidates at some point in the season. Because there was an awful lot of crap signed, and for a lot of money as well.

Fernando Llorente did fairly well, but annoyed people for not sprinting much. Christian Benteke finished with a decent tally for Palace, but yet we still expected more from him. Few others jumped out.

So it’s Joe Allen that wins this one. Humble upon arriving with that price tag despite never really impressing at Liverpool, with his stock boosted once more by an impressive showing at the Euros with Wales.

He did pretty well, became an integral part of a Stoke side a lot of us forgot were in the Premier League and improved his goal-scoring record. Hilariously, only Peter Crouch scored more goals for the Potters this season. Allen even got a brace in one game.

 

WORST SIGNING

Top Six – Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal)

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We thought Mustafi would be a big player for Arsenal. We were wrong

Remember how I mentioned last summer’s transfer activity was a bit rubbish? This goes for the top six as well, with a gluttony of candidates available for this. Claudio Bravo, John Stones, Vincent Janssen, Moussa Sissoko, Michy Batshuayi, the list goes on. This is just the ‘bad’ ones, let alone those that just didn’t live up to expectations.

While many would expect Sissoko to win this, there was always a sense that he was brought in to bolster an already strong squad, replacing Nacer Chadli more than any first-team regular.

Mustafi on the other hand was supposed to – along with the equally disappointing Granit Xhaka – be the final works in the Arsenal puzzle, the expesive, established stars that bounced them into a serious title tilt, with the gold up for grabs following Leicester’s unexpected success.

Finally a competent partner for Laurent Koscielny had arrived in the form of Mustafi. Well, that was the thinking anyway, as the German was cumbersome, clumsy, slow and just looked all over the place as Arsenal’s defence looked worse, not better for his arrival.

For £35m, you expect so much better. You at least expect him to not end the season potentially as fourth choice, with youngster Rob Holding and the returning Per Mertesacker looking far more composed at the back for the Gunners.

The Rest – Ahmed Musa (Leicester City)

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It has not gone well for Musa at Leicester. Pitifully bad, in fact

The first signal of Leicester’s intent to not simply slip away into the pack once again after their shock title win. Also the first signal as to why they did.

Musa was the first player Leicester broke their transfer record to sign last summer. Islam Slimani came next, another striker in a team with a couple of stars already in their attack, with Shinzi Okazaki hardly disgracing himself either. So you already you wondered how things were going to fit together.

Slimani at least grabbed a handful of goals when he managed to be fit, but Musa on the other hand was an unmitigated let-down. Like, to the point where you forgot he was even there come the end of the season. Never before has a black player wished they were back in Russia.

 

YOUNG PLAYER

Top Six – Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur)

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When will Alli get a challenge for this award? He should be a shining example

We all know how good Dele Alli is. We all know what a good season he had. Want to know why he won this? Because no other young player was quite frankly given anything that could be deemed a regular chance.

Gabriel Jesus may well be fantastic when he gets a full season behind him, and Hector Bellerin could well get back to his previous levels, but there are very few opportunities being offered to young players of any nationality, let alone English.

The success of England’s under 19s at the World Cup will hopefully lead to change, but with all the money going round in the game, clubs are always more likely to sign established stars than give a youngster a chance. They will keep signing promising kids, loan them out a tonne and eventually they’ll be able to toddle off somewhere in their 20s, failing to have kicked on and disillusioned with a nomadic lifestyle and a lack of chances at the place that was supposed to be home.

The Rest – Tom Davies (Everton)

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Davies is evidence of what can happen when faith is put in youth

It’s not just the money men by the way. The rest of the division is not much better for giving young players a chance, with only a couple of clubs seeming like a place to be given that chance to impress in the Premier League.

Southampton have developed a reputation for it, and Everton have also thankfully taken it upon themselves to give their impressive academy a chance to shine, with Tom Davies being the pick of the bunch.

The youngster has taken to life as a Premier League regular like a duck to water, pouring shame on Ross Barkley in the process. Davies looks comfortable and willing to kick on, with a number of Everton fans now happy to see Barkley moved on if it means Davies can be the main man driving forward from the midfield.

Alfie Mawson deserves a mention as well, but frankly the pool is still far too small to choose from. Given the disaster of last season’s transfer window, it is perhaps more pertinent to look to the academies for ways to improve the squads.

Danny Rose

It’s been a phenomenal season for Tottenham Hotspur this year, punctuated by a vast number of high quality individual performances.

While the campaign looks likely to ultimately end in disappointment as they have found themselves eclipsed by the wonder story that is Leicester City, Spurs fans will be thrilled by a number of their squad, full of optimism for the years going forward under manager Mauricio Pochettino.

With the PFA award nominees coming out this week, nods have been given to Dele Alli as a Young Player of the Year, and Harry Kane straddling nominations in both awards.

Other notable players who have received a high amount of praise have been Eric Dier for his shift from utility defender to one of the best holding midfielders in the division, and Toby Alderweireld for almost single-handedly turning the Spurs defence around into the meanest in the league.

 

One player who has perhaps flown under the radar (as there are seemingly a finite amount of players who can be praised per team) is Danny Rose, who has been steadily improving since the arrival of the Argentine at White Hart Lane and is their true big-game player.

In a first summer that saw very little incoming transfer activity from Pochettino, one of the few signings he did make was to bring in Ben Davies from Swansea City, seemingly spelling the beginning of the end for an erratic Rose who had thus far done little to convince fans he was a long-term answer to what has always been a problem position.

It’s now six years since Rose burst onto the scene with that wonder goal against Arsenal – instantly putting himself into folklore in North London – and he is longer at an age (25) where ‘potential’ can still be discussed. Despite Theo Walcott offering evidence to the contrary.

Starting that game actually as a right winger, Rose was soon shifted to left-back by Harry Redknapp and despite some promising initial performances as a stand-in for Benoit Assou-Ekotto, the form of a rejuvenated Gareth Bale pushed him down the pecking order and out of the first-team picture until the Welshman moved further up the pitch.

It was a loan spell at Sunderland where Rose was really able to cut his teeth, managing to impress in a struggling side and convincing Andre Villas-Boas to give him his chance at White Hart Lane.

Rose Sunderland

It was his spell at Sunderland that earned Rose his chance to impress at Spurs

A season in which he was the only recognised left-back at the club did little to convince supporters he was the long-term option for Spurs going forward in a season of transition, with his performances in the thrashings by Chelsea and Liverpool raising serious questions about his suitability for the role.

The arrival of Davies suggested incoming manager Pochettino thought likewise despite a new five-year deal being signed, but this merely seemed to galvanise Rose and drive him to a new and unexpected level.

For Rose seems to blossom when challenged by absolutely anything. A loan spell in Sunderland saw him thrive as he looked to prove himself to his parent club. Competition from a fine player in Davies saw him take his game even further to cement his place in the squad. And it is no surprise to see that when Spurs take on the bigger sides in the division, the Englishman is frequently one of the better players on the pitch.

Davies Tottenham

The arrival of Ben Davies was supposed to push Rose towards the fringes of the first team once more

Pochettino’s system is potentially one of the biggest factors in his rise in importance, supporting his natural instincts to bomb n forward knowing that Eric Dier is deep enough in his holding role to cover should the gaps be left.

He does not slack on the defensive side of games either as he and Kyle Walker cover an enormous amount of ground per game. Without wanting to dip into superlatives here, I do not recall a pair of full-backs who get up and down the pitch so frequently since the likes of Cafu and Roberto Carlos in that Brazil side of the turn of the millennium.

It can perhaps be of no coincidence that Rose’s worst games over the past two years have come against the lesser clubs in the division, where perhaps complacency sinks in, or a defensive line-up on the part of the opposition stifles his desire to get forward, with less space available.

It can also be of no coincidence that of the four games in the Premier League this season that Spurs have lost in the Premier League this season, Rose missed three of them, with his sole experience of being on the losing side coming in the shock defeat at home Newcastle in December.

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Rose celebrates after scoring in Spurs’ 5-3 victry over Chelsea last season

In the victories over Chelsea and Arsenal last season, Rose was phenomenal, thundering into challenges in big London derbies and proving a constant menace going forward, while he was also instrumental in the comeback draw against West Ham as well.

In those games again this season he has also enjoyed superb games, with victory at Manchester City being another game in which he excelled. The weekend’s thrashing of Manchester United also saw him enjoy a fine game, combining his attacking prowess with defensive solidarity to put him alongside Erik Lamela in the running for man-of-the-match.

Rose is far from a polished gem of a player, but nobody has adapted to Pochettino’s philosophy as well, or embodies it as much as the newly-capped England full-back.

Full of endless running, a never-say-die attitude, tactical flexibility and a belief in himself to compete against anybody in the division, Rose is Tottenham’s forgotten general and embodies a Spurs side that has risen against the odds to find a place among the elite.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Newcastle United v Portsmouth - St James' Park

For years we have been told that the Premier League is the greatest league in the world by the marketing force of Sky, with the best fans to go along with it.

Nothing is quite the same as the group of fans who have had football thrust upon them since the day they were born, with generations of ‘bleeding’ the colours of their kit imprinted on their DNA in the same manner as an heart disease or hairline deficiency will one day catch up with them.

“There is no atmosphere in football like in England,” we are told. “Can (insert foreign player here) adapt to having a stadium of grown men tunelessly warble simple ditties, or insult referees? It’s not quite like home,” they tell us, as though tuneless ditties do not exist anywhere else in the world.

I, among many others have had experience of football in foreign pastures. The Nou Camp is a fairly quiet place, watched in an almost theatrical sense, with food being passed out around the ground during the action and any noise being a murmur that grows into a crescendo the closer the ball gets to the opposition’s goal.

Both Spain and Italy have this reputation for having a small contingent of ‘ultras’ who do the singing and chanting, while the rest of the crowd simply sit back and enjoy what unfolds before them.

Germany has recently garnered a reputation for having a lively in-match atmosphere to finally rival England, with their low ticket prices making the game easily accessible for people of all working classes to go and enjoy the experience.

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The Camp Nou is a different experience to watching football in England

For despite all the talk about how great English football is for atmosphere, the persistent inflation of ticket prices has in fact damaged it heavily, and there appears to be a real lack of identity to the fan-base within the grounds.

The working classes will now find it harder and harder to afford to make top flight games in particular and quite frankly we as a nation have become somewhat more placid of late, our interest mainly on being entertained by what we have paid through the nose to see, rather than be part of the show ourselves.

The worst part about the English football for what I have noticed however, is that we actually seem to revel more in the misery of others, rather enjoy our own victories and accomplishments. That tribal aspect of completing a hunt is diminishing by the day, as we instead taunt the carcass of our prey, instead of feasting on the flesh that was the goal in the first place.

Take Monday night’s fixture between Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa for example. Now as a Spurs fan, I can testify that White Hart Lane has definitely lost some of the atmosphere it became renowned for over the past few years.

This is most likely a consequence of Spurs becoming a better side and therefore being expected to win most of their matches on home soil, with it surely no coincidence that the best sounding atmospheres of last season were the home victories over Chelsea and Arsenal; two games which were far more intense and had no real guarantee of a win (if there ever is such a thing with Spurs?).

With an early goal helping settle a contest against the weakest side in the division currently, there was little for the travelling Villa fans to get their teeth into, or extract any hope, while any Spurs nerves were put to bed and they relaxed into what was now expected to be a comfortable victory.

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Kane & Lamela celebrate the final goal in Spurs’ victory over Villa on Monday

This in turn saw the noise levels among the home fans drop significantly early on. With now ample opportunity to inflict their own decibels into the night sky as the numbers game decreased, we should have expected a number of pro-Villa songs from the away end, urging their side to overcome the odds stacked against them and mount a comeback.

Instead, they took solace in the fact that they were the only ones singing, with the majority of their chants referencing the quiet around them. “Is this a library?” “We forgot that you were here.” That sort of tired rubbish. Instead of attempting to play a part (no matter how small) in a Villa comeback, they simply bragged that they were willing to make more noise than their counterparts, despite being greatly outnumbered.

Now this is no sleight at either Villa or Spurs, but an example of the norm these days. Home fans will largely only have a small pocket of fans who believe chanting is part of their matchday experience. Away fans will be expected to attempt to make a greater noise to mask their numerical disadvantage and will revel in doing so. Especially if their team is losing and they need to attain some form of one-upmanship.

This is by no means restricted to the money-orientated Premier League either, with little Bournemouth hardly adding much noise following their promotion. Last season I spent plenty of time down at Griffin Park watching Brentford and found little to differentiate between the strange atmospheres generated at the top.

Both sides would often claim to “sing on our own,” leading me to feel there must be some acoustical problems within the ground, as people from either end would often do this in tandem, again failing to bother singing about their own side and/or players.

Goals are rarely so much celebrated among the group, but met with rude hand gestures towards the opposition fans, goading them in their disappointment. The initial songs following a goal are not to triumph that success and will their side on further, but to revel in the misery of their counterparts, questioning, “who are ya?” reminding them that they are no longer signing, or informing them that they could potentially be relegated on the back of this potential result.

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This Vardy strike appeared to provoke an angry reaction from one West Brom fan

Beyond simply singing mocking and/or offensive songs there is also the truth that outside of South America, Great Britain is the only place on earth you appear to see grown men careering down the turnstiles to ‘get at’ an opposition player who has just netted.

On Saturday, one such example arose as pictures just caught the image of a West Brom fan seeming to be being restrained by a steward, as Jamie Vardy celebrated near the crowd after scoring Leicester’s third goal in their victory over the Baggies.

It is something we see fairly consistently, and a fairly mild-mannered friend of mine has admitted to doing so at a Cambridge United match previously. Lord knows what would actually happen if they were allowed to get there; most likely they would baulk at the confrontation if it were allowed to happen. Fortunately this isn’t South America.

It just seems weird that we in England cling to this ‘best fans in the world’ idea of ourselves. It may well come from the fact that we are no longer a major force on the international scene and once again need to establish some form of dominance somewhere.

But the truth is we are not. We are bound somewhere in the purgatory that exists between pacifism and outright violence, seemingly unable to find any form of solace being between the two extremes.

For we as a people and as a fan-base are drawn purely to misery, more so than any accomplishments. And the only way we can find true happiness anymore is by finding people more miserable than us, in one way or another.

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Some people are just born leaders. They exude that aura around them that really makes others take notice and feel compelled to follow them.

Other people simply believe they should be leaders, talking the talk in the hope that somebody, anybody, will buy into the message and follow them down a road that has yet to be decided as yet.

People like Sir Alex Ferguson fit into the former, a man who just commanded respect from his peers and peons alike. Some may have questioned some of his decision making in the latter part of his career, but there was never any question as to whether people would follow him to the end of the earth, such was his character.

For the latter, read Tim Sherwood. A man who has managed to carve out a career in management based on little else than bluster, constantly talking up his own ability without ever doing anything to back up his credentials.

Sherwood is not a man who dropped down the divisions to hone his skills as a leader like so many before him, instead believing that his ‘experience’ working with the youth teams at Tottenham Hotspur made him ready to take the top job.

His self-confidence got him a crack at the top job at Spurs, taking over from Andre Villas-Boas and spending six months as a caretaker before being informed he had not done an adequate enough job to be given any longer.

Sherwood’s record at White Hart Lane was not bad, as he will constantly inform you, with talk about win percentages. But this was a Spurs side that, while shorn of the talents of Gareth Bale, was still packed with talent and should have been a match for any side in the division.

Sherwood will point to victories that continued to be narrow over the lesser lights of the Premier League, but when it came to pitting himself against the best sides in the division, the sides Spurs were trying to catch, his record was pitiful; losing games against top three Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea by an accumulated scoreline of 13-1.

Adebayor salutes Sherwood

Getting performances out of Adebayor has been Sherwood’s biggest success as a manager

He will claim to have resurrected Emmanuel Adebayor from the recycling bin at Spurs, but in truth, Sherwood is potentially as much to blame for the failings of many of Spurs’ ‘Magnificent Seven’ signed in the wake of Bale’s world record transfer to Real Madrid.

Eril Lamela was cast off with an injury that was never described as anything more than a ‘back injury’ for six months, whilst Nacer Chadli was another player made an outcast, with his performances the following season making a mockery of Sherwood’s treatment of him.

Paulinho, Etienne Capoue, Vlad Chiriches and Roberto Soldado have all now left the club and they fared little better under Sherwood, whose love of honest, hard-working English players can only have belittled their confidence further, with Soldado’s failure to emerge as a success the biggest craw in the throat of any Spurs fan.

With talk claiming Spurs players had given their verdict on Sherwood to Levy, the Spurs chairman offered no continuation to Sherwood in his current role and offered him another back in the backroom staff in North London, which was never to be of interest to man who had developed such a high opinion of himself like the former Blackburn captain.

Not only that, but the offer of taking the West Bromwich Albion job also proved of little interest to Sherwood, with Sherwood feeling that was too much of a step down for a man already eyeing the England job in the back of his own mind.

So nine months went by before Sherwood was convinced to end a sabbatical that lasted longer than his time in the game, with Aston Villa finally losing patience with the turgid ‘entertainment’ Paul Lambert was offering and giving Mr Personality an opportunity to cache those cheques his mouth was writing.

Sherwood Villa

It seems a long time ago that it all started so positively for Sherwood at Villa

There can be no doubt Sherwood had an initial revitalising tonic effect on a Villa side that were struggling to so much as score goals or launch meaningful attacks under the previous manager, but the wheels had already appeared to be coming off at the back end of last season.

Having secured survival, Villa went on a run of defeats to ensure they finished in 17th come the conclusion of proceedings, before being soundly thrashed by Arsenal in the FA Cup final, with the Midlands side barely posing even the faintest threat to the Gunners.

A summer in which we watched to see how Sherwood would handle his first proper transfer window (he was technically in charge throughout one at Spurs) was of great intrigue, and one that left us on the outside a little puzzled.

Sherwood called for Premier League ‘experience’, something he confused with has-been footballers, and doubled that up with a host of untested players mainly plying their trade in France, with few really exciting the imaginations of the fans.

With Swansea snatching up Andre Ayew on a free transfer, Villa opted to sign his less-talented younger brother Jordan for a figure reportedly close to the £10million mark, while people much more learned than me in regards to Ligue Un affairs were somewhat puzzled that either Idrissa Gueye or Jordan Veretout had attracted the attentions of the Villains.

Rudy Gestede was signed by Sherwood as ‘the best header of the ball’ in the league, but then either sat on the bench or played in a system that included no wingers, showing him up for the limited striker he is, able to dovetail well with Jordan Rhodes at Blackburn, but ineffective as a lone striker, especially when lacking any service.

Only £10m left-back Jordan Amavi could potentially be described as a success from the summer acquisitions, but Sherwood even found room to drop him to the bench, with Kieran Richardson once again shoe-horned into a defensive role, with the emphasis taken away from being defensively resolute, but needing an extra attacker.

Jordan Amavi

Amavi has probably been the only success of Sherwood’s first proper transfer window

One can sympathise that Sherwood was shorn of the spine of the Villa side over the summer, with Christian Benteke, Fabian Delph and Ron Vlaar all leaving the club, but just one success from the raft of players he did coax into joining is a pitiful response to losing your three top talents.

In addition to that, the final part of that spine Brad Guzan appears to have lost an awful lot of confidence since the arrival of Sherwood, having once been one of the finest goalkeepers outside of the elite six in the division.

But having won their opener in perhaps fortunate circumstances against newly promoted Bournemouth, Villa have picked up just one point since, a home draw against an equally hapless Sunderland side, losing eight fixtures, including a home derby defeat to West Brom.

Sherwood always spoke voraciously about his belief in himself to turn things around, but this was so frequently contradicted by other statements, such as being bored by his side, seemingly ignoring that it was his duty as manager to make his side entertaining to watch, if not to actually win games of football.

And so the axe has fallen on Sherwood, with the club languishing at the bottom of the table, with just one victory and four points on the board, with little sign of life within a luck-lustre squad.

His initial effect to keep Villa up last season has quickly dwindled, and it was perhaps telling that the statement from the club on releasing the news to the media only thanked him for his efforts last season, not quite as willing to offer any gratitude for his start to yet another torrid start to the season at Villa Park.

For a man so enamoured with win percentages after his dismissal from Tottenham, it would be remiss not to bring up a 26% win rate during his time with Villa, emerging victorious in just six of the 23 Premier League games he took charge of.

Sherwood Villa Stats

Sherwood’s stats with Villa don’t make for pretty reading

So what next for Sherwood? Rumours have linked him with the vacant managerial post at Swindon Town, and that might actually be a wise move for him, giving him a chance to actually hone his abilities as a manager away from the spotlight of the Premier League and build his way back up.

His reputation among the elite his damaged and now is the time for Sherwood to develop some humility and earn his credentials, instead of relying on the worry over a lack of British managers among the press to force him into the reckoning of any top flight job, knowing his gift of the gab may well talk himself into another high-profile failure.

Sherwood’s management career so far has focused on being all heart and very little head. It’s now time for him to take some time away from the high-pressured world of the Premier League and actually learn the skill of management before he makes any sort of return.

Mauricio Pochettino

What would constitute succes for Pochettino at Spurs this season?

The football season is back! Rejoice! The tedium that is the close season and the rubbish that fills our newspapers and websites desperate to fill column inches is finally at an end, and we can focus on the football itself. Well, nearly. I’m looking at you Daily Mail.

The Premier League has opted to kick-off at the same time as the other divisions in England this season due to a major tournament appearing next summer and it looks set to be potentially the most interesting season in a while, with a number of teams well equipped to mount a title challenge and nobody looking quite weak enough to be dead certs for the drop. 

Thus I have compiled a quick preview of every side in the division, rated and/or slated their summer transfer activity and attempted the fools’ game of predicting where they will end up. Enjoy and feel free to add your own comments at the bottom! 

We conclude our season preview with part four, taking us from Swansea City to West Ham, via Tottenham:

Garry Monk

Can Monk replicate last season’s success at Swansea?

Swansea City

Last Season: 8th

Transfers In: Andre Ayew (Marseille), Franck Tabanou (St Etienne), Kristoffer Nordfeldt (Heerenveen), Eder (Braga), Ollie McBurnie (Bradford)

Transfers Out: Jazz Richards (Fulham), Gerhard Tremmel (Released)

I’ve already apologised for writing off Garry Monk as a manager last season and i will not be making that mistake again, despite the Swans form tailing off slightly after losing Wilfried Bony up front.

They have now brought in two players to fill that void and provide support for Bafetembi Gomis up front and the free transfer signing of Andre Ayew stands out as something that could be one of the finest pieces of business done in the Premier League this summer after snatching him from the clutches of Marseille.

However, I just don’t feel it is enough to realistically improve on last season’s performance and there are other clubs who have strengthened even further to potentially knock them back a place or two. Mid-table and a cup run will suit Swansea fans for now and we’ll see how they look in a year.

Prediction: 10th

 

Harry Kane

All eyes are on Harry Kane to prove his credentials all over again

Tottenham Hotspur

Last Season: 5th

Transfers In: Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid), Kevin Wimmer (Koln), Kieran Trippier (Burnley)

Transfers Out: Lewis Holtby (Hamburg), Paulinho (Guangzhou Evergrande), Benoit Assou-Ekotto (St Etienne), Etienne Capoue (Watford), Benjamin Stambouli (PSG), Younes Kaboul (Sunderland), Brad Friedel (Retired), Vlad Chiriches (Napoli)

Another summer of upheaval at White Hart Lane, with three of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ of two years ago being shipped out and Roberto Soldado looking set to follow them into the scrapheap after unimpressing since arriving in North London.

Aside from Christian Eriksen and belatedly Nacer Chadli, most of Spurs recent promise has come directly from their youth system, with Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason forming their midfield partnership of late to join Harry Kane as stand-out graduates from the academy.

Defence was without a doubt a major problem for Spurs last season as they shipped more goals than relegated Hull, but work has been done to amend that, with deadwood flogged to make room for some impressive signings, with Toby Alderweireld able to bring his international understanding with Jan Vertonghen to the domestic game.

The worry is with so many attacking players already removed and the likes of Soldado, Aaron Lennon and Emmanuel Adebayor all deemed surplus to requirements, Spurs are very light up top, with little to no support for Kane; a man people are all waiting to see whether he will turn out to be a one-season wonder.

People are essentially unsure as to what would count as success for Mauricio Pochettino this season. He can’t be expected to break the top four with what he has currently, but Spurs can’t afford to lose too much ground either. Tough season awaits with some of the mid-table getting stronger again.

Prediction: 6th

Quique Sanchez Flores

Sanchez Flores joins in what has been a topsy-turvy summer for the newcomers

Watford

Last Season: 2nd (Championship)

Transfers In: Etienne Capoue (Tottenham), Sebastian Prodl (Werder Bremen), Giedrius Arlauskis (Steaua Bucharest), Matej Vydra, Allan Nyom (Udinese), Jose Holebas (Roma), Valon Behrami (Hamburg), Miguel Britos (Napoli), Jose Jurado (Spartak Moscow), Steven Berghuis (AZ Alkmaar)

Transfers Out: Juanfran (Deportivo La Coruna, Loan), Lewis McGugan (Sheffield Wednesday), Diego Fabbrini (Middlesbrough, Loan)

The last of our new additions to the league and quite frankly the toughest of the lot to predict what might happen, given their ownership structure. Their being one of three sides owned by the Pozzo family (Udinese & Granada the others) has seen them benefit heavily in the Championship, but Premier League restrictions over loanees makes things a touch more difficult.

That being said, Watford have still managed to recruit heavily from around Europe to bolster their squad and it is an approach that can backfire heavily. A short trip to QPR will tell you how that scattergun approach to the transfer market can go wrong.

The Likes of Holebas and Behrami appear to be good signings, with the latter having impressed in the Premier League before with West Ham, while maybe Capoue can come good without the weight of expectation that is Tottenham hanging round his neck.

It will be interesting as to whether Troy Deeney can make the step up in the manner that Charlie Austin and Danny Ings managed last season, but Watford as a whole could just as easily finish comfortable mid-table as they could suffer relegation.

Prediction: 17th

 

James Chester

They paid how much for James Chester??

West Bromwich Albion

Last Season: 13th

Transfers In: James McClean (Wigan), James Chester (Hull), Rickie Lambert (Liverpool)

Transfers Out: Graham Dorrans, Youssef Mulumbu (Norwich), Chris Baird (Derby), Jason Davidson (Huddersfield), Sebastian Blanco (San Lorenzo, Loan), Gareth McAuley, Giorgios Samaras (Released)

West Brom are in a period of their existence where they are simply forgettable in the grand scheme of things. Too good to go down, not good enough to muster a top half finish and with Tony Pulis at the helm, they sure as hell aren’t going to play any pretty football either.

Their summer signings say exactly that about them too, though they at least manage an eyebrow raise for paying £8m for James Chester. All decent enough players that will help keep things ship-shape, but hardly the sort of acquisitions that promise any threat to the likes of Swansea, Stoke and Southampton.

If they can perhaps add another player or two with a bit more dynamism to their play, they could improve on last season’s final position, but the likelihood is that that they will muddle around in the middle of the bottom half without realistically being in too much trouble.

Prediction: 15th

Slaven Bilic

Slaven Bilic is back at Upton Park with a big job on his hands

West Ham United

Last Season: 12th

Transfers In: Darren Randolph (Birmingham), Pedro Obiang (Sampdoria), Dimitri Payet (Marseille), Angelo Ogbonna (Juventus), Carl Jenkinson (Arsenal, Loan), Manuel Lazini (Al Jazira, Loan)

Transfers Out: Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough), Carlton Cole, Guy Demel, Jussi Jaaskelainen (Released)

A new direction for West Ham this season, with Sam Allardyce ditched after a very poor second half of the season, with Slaven Bilic recruited to improve results and the style of football on show at the Boleyn Ground.

These things will not happen overnight, but at least they won’t have the distraction of the Europa League. And they have made some impressive signings that could influence things positively, with Dimitri Payet coming with a reputation of being a very talented player, if he can find any consistency.

The arrival of Angelo Ogbonna will aid their defence as well, so it merely remains to be seen whether thay can find the attacking talent to turn those narrow defeats into draws and those draws into victories. The Hammers can’t afford to lose their Premier League status just before their move to the Olympic Park, but, like Watford, they could potentially finish anywhere within the bottom half of the table currently.

Prediction: 12th

Redknapp Future?

Does Redknapp have a future after QPR debacle?

Few people have personified the Premier League era like the enigma that is Harry Redknapp.

Only the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger can perhaps claim to have had a more profound effect on England’s top flight since the dawn of Sky Sports, with only Jose Mourinho perhaps now at a point where he can stick his oar into proceedings, as far as managerial figures can go.

Redknapp has endured a fascinating career that has spanned over three decades now, undertaking roles at West Ham, Portsmouth, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur and most recently QPR, becoming a very popular figure among the country’s sporting media due to his approachable nature in a world that is slowly becoming more and more closed off in the search for genuine football news. The Daily Mail’s sidebar of shame does not count in that regard.

Redknapp Car Window

Redknapp in his famous interview position from his car window

This however has surmounted in continued river of gushing tributes for us in Joe Public to suffer, with Redknapp’s abilities and triumphs in the game being repeatedly built up to be more than he ever truly deserved.

The campaign to see him get the England job ended up seeing Roy Hodgson unfairly victimised when he was offered the post instead, with Redknapp seen further as a victim after his hounding after the role saw him axed from Tottenham Hotspur after demanding improved terms following his failure to lead his country, despite the club having stood by him in his heavily publicised court case for tax fraud.

His time at Spurs remains his biggest accomplishment (arguably alongside his sole FA Cup victory with Portsmouth) as he led the North London side to their first ever Champions League campaign, during which he steered Spurs to a famous victory over AC Milan to reach the quarter-finals.

It was his failure to build on this side that featured Luka Modric and Gareth Bale already that ultimately contributed to his demise at White Hart Lane, with his own signings failing to really cut the mustard and improve the side from Champions League qualifiers and into genuine title challengers.

Redknapp’s business throughout his managerial career has always been chequered anyway, with some of his signings from abroad at West Ham among those considered some of the worst ever made in Premier League history (Marco Boogers anyone?).

Marco Boogers is considered one of the worst signings in Premier League history

Marco Boogers is considered one of the worst signings in Premier League history

His man-management skills are supposedly the key to his continued work at the top level, but this has only seemed to be a case of whether you are liked within his band of brothers, with many players having been publicly embarrassed by a manager only too keen to take his dirty laundry into the public eye.

The likes of Roman Pavlyuchenko and Darren Bent were mocked in public by their manager at Spurs, and Shaun Wright-Phillips has recently aired his grievances with being outcasted at QPR without ever being given a reason, let alone a chance to prove himself.

His first half season at QPR saw him conveniently have the previous regime to blame for the Super Hoops’ eventual relegation, despite Redknapp having made a series of ill-advised signings after taking over from Mark Hughes, with the big money signing of Christopher Samba the pick of the bunch after reports of his £100k-a-week wages emerged, only to be packed off back to Anzhi Makhachkala as soon as demotion was confirmed.

Christopher Samba

Christopher Samba is one of Redknapp’s biggest mistakes at QPR

Despite having a string of experienced Premier League players and big wages and a chairman in Tony Fernandes still willing to invest in the squad, QPR struggled to make an instant comeback, as they ended up narrowly remaining in the play-off places in the Championship, eventually defeating a superior Derby County side to sneak back in.

Further investment followed over the summer only to hear Redknapp once again bleating about a lack of numbers up front, despite having Eduardo Vargas available only to be played on the wing, while Adel Taarabt was consistently frozen out despite a lack of any other quality in the creative side of QPR’s game.

A decision between him and advisor Glenn Hoddle saw QPR attempted to field a three man defence that included veterans in Richard Dunne and Rio Ferdinand to see a 4-0 thumping at Spurs, the first in a record breaking 11 successive defeats away from home that saw QPR without a single point on their travels by the time Redknapp stepped down.

That despite having an impending ‘knee operation’ on the horizon, Redknapp then saw fit to crawl through the latest transfer window with QPR in desperate need of (yet more) new faces to avoid yet another relegation, waiting until the day after the transfer window slammed shut to announce his intention to leave Loftus Road, having failed to bring in anybody to freshen up the squad.

With his ability to motivate his players appearing to be on the wane and his failure to keep up with the evolving world that is football (he still claims to be barely able to read), it’s time that the wall of support from the media stepped aside and realised the continued defence of their mate is a foolish campaign that only serves the public to question their own motives and abilities.

As for Redknapp himself, despite his insistence that this is not a departure from football altogether, it is perhaps time he realised that the game has moved on in ways that he can never hope to keep up with, while other positions in the game barely make sense given his problems with basic skills.

For all his flaws and faults, Redknapp will always be remembered as one of the key characters that helped shape the first three decades of the of the Premier League era. But the time has now come for him to step aside and allow the next breed of managers to come through, as his flaws now outweigh his qualities innumerably.

Will Wonga’s sponsorship deal really see Newcastle fans taking out loans?

How much does advertising in sport really affect us as fans and consumers?

So much fuss has been made of two sponsorship deals recently, with Newcastle United and Manchester United at the forefront of attentions.

Newcastle signed a sponsorship deal with morally-questionable money lenders, Wonga.com, causing a hootenanny of outrage among the nation’s media, as the immorality of this company could have severe repercussions on the supposedly poorer area of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

The first point to make is that there was a shortage of hysteria of when Wonga emblazoned their names upon the shirts of Blackpool, due to them being a smaller club. This all despite Blackpool being listed as a generally poorer area of the UK than Newcastle.

It’s the idea that due to Wonga being plastered all over the famous black and white shirts of the Magpies, that Geordie fans would instantly dash to using the company and landing themselves in a heap of debt.

I’ve heard no stories of Wonga owning Blackpool Tower by now, so I can only assume this is false. So honestly how much does sponsorship play on the minds of football fans?

I can only speak as a Spurs fan, but I don’t feel that the sponsorship of my club has ever played a part in my decision-making as a consumer.

Looking back at our list of shirt sponsors in my memory and I can honestly say only Thomson affected my family’s choices, but purely on the basis that Tottenham membership holders received a discount on their holidays.

We had a Hewlett Packard printer, but they seemed to be the only printers in existence at the time. In the current clime, I was never tempted to sign up to Mansion for a spot of gambling and I’ve researched Autonomy a few times and still am unsure of what they actually do.

If anything, I feel personally that my decisions are affected in a more negative way by company advertising.

I still won’t use the O2 network due to their past association with Arsenal, and dodged a bullet by not asking for a Dreamcast as a kid for exactly the same reason. A Samsung phone would be boycotted by my fine self, while I also will never Fly Emirates, especially since they’re emblazoned all over Arsenal’s stadium in Ashburton Grove.

I would be interested to find out how many people in the Liverpool and Leeds area subscribed to Vodafone over the past few years.

So why do companies constantly throw millions of pounds at football clubs for the sole purpose of having their logos emblazoned on the fronts of the clubs’ shirts, or in DHL and Manchester United’s case simply the training tops?

They do this surely knowing that it could potentially detract people from their business as it will attract fans of the club. It’s essentially millions and millions of pounds on what can be little more than an ego trip.

In Spain, many clubs go without shirt sponsorship, as companies decide that it is not worthwhile for them to essentially throw money away at teams who could potentially harm their business.

Perhaps rivalries in Spain are so much fiercer than England that it could be detrimental to their hopes to sponsor a club that holds such local ties.

Maybe I’m a cynic and treat every advertisement campaign with a great deal of scepticism. Maybe I’m one of a minority who doesn’t feel his actions in the consumer market is affected by what I see and hear on television, or on the street.

But it feels to be as though the money being pumped into football by companies to advertise their business is of an obscene amount, especially considering what they can realistically expect to get back.

I may be wrong. But for what I’m aware, more people respond in a negative fashion to an opponents’ sponsor than they ever will respond positively to their own shirt sponsors.

So consider unlikely that Wonga will suddenly take a stranglehold on the Geordie nation due to their name appearing on the front of their shirts.

How many Newcastle fans currently bank with Virgin Money after all?

So far their only plans having included taking the naming rights of the stadium and changing it back to St James’ Park. It’s a lot of hysteria for nothing.