If rumours are to be believed, 2013/2014 will see a season of change at Tottenham Hotspur. New players coming in, old players moving out and possibly even a title challenge in the not too distant future.
Tottenham Hotspur FC are one of the oldest club sides in the football league and are a team steeped in rich history; Eight FA cups, four league cups, two UEFA cups and one European Cup Winners Cup. Yet, in 130 years Tottenham have won the league title just twice in 1951 and 1961 respectively. In 50 years since the famous double winning side of ’61, Spurs have been known mainly for their success in cup competitions. On the surface, numerous cup victories have given a continued image of success at the football club. However, the reality is that since the days of Bill Nicholson, Dave Mackay and Danny Blanchflower such success has simply paved over the fact that Tottenham have been unable to mount a genuine title challenge.
The Lilywhites have enjoyed numerous successes and have seen some fantastic players ply their trade at White Hart Lane. Names like Gascoigne, Linekar, Greaves, Hoddle, Klinsmann, Sheringham, Ardilles and Ginola have all passed through the club and won trophies but not one was able to deliver an ever elusive championship. As a result, Tottenham are often forced into selling their best players and starting once again from scratch.
Since their last title, Spurs have been in constant flux in the top flight of English football, even being relegated once but promoted immediately. In all that time, Spurs have won the FA Cup in 1962, 1967, 1981, 1982, 1991, The League Cup in 1971, 1973, 1999, 2008 and the UEFA cup in 1972 & 1984. Many football clubs would be extremely with happy such a return, but for a team that often promises so much Tottenham regularly fall short. From 1980-1991, Spurs enjoyed a successful period. Three third placed finishes and two fourths were the best the team could muster in the league, but three FA cup successes and a UEFA cup victory capped a successful time for the club. From 1992-2005 Tottenham were not quite as prosperous. Spurs became a mid table side and one league cup victory in 1999 barely saved the fans blushes. Since the appointment of Daniel Levy at Tottenham in 2001 Tottenham have slowly built teams and squads year on year that generate genuine excitement rather than mid table mediocrity. However, when success draws near the larger more prosperous teams simply acquire Tottenham’s best player/s and they must build once more. Names such as Carrick, Berbatov and Modric are but the start of a vast list. Therefore, in yet another season where Tottenham are set to lose their best player Gareth Bale, why are the fans so optimistic?
Harry Redknapp led Tottenham to the Champions league in the 2009/2010 season and ever since Tottenham have built upon a squad full of genuine talent. Redknapp was fired following a heavily publicized flirtation with the vacant England manager’s job and failing to deliver Champions League football once more. His replacement was the Andre Villas Boas. With him, AVB hired fan favourite Steffen Freund as assistant head coach and kept many faces from the Redknapp era including Tim Sherwood and Les Ferdinand. Fans were seemingly optimistic as Tottenham’s Enfield Training complex was unveiled and a new 56,250-seat stadium in the form of The Northumberland Development Project (seen below) gained pace. Following a torrid spell at Chelsea, AVB had much to prove at Tottenham and enjoyed a largely successful first season in charge. In the 2012/2013 season Tottenham amassed a club record 72-point haul in the Barclays Premier League. Unfortunately it was not enough to usurp long-standing rivals Arsenal for 4th place and the much-coveted Champions League berth. AVB was hired to succeed where Redknapp had failed, yet there are few fans that would like to see him leave the club. Although AVB's playing style can be frustrating at times, you cannot argue with the results. 11 away wins (another club record), which include a first away win over Manchester United for 23 years, is a fantastic achievement. AVB was courted over the summer by both PSG and Real Madrid, but has since decided to stay and create success at Tottenham Hotspur.
As previously mentioned, following success in the past, Tottenham have been forced to sell off their prized assets. This summer has been no different. The Gareth Bale saga has plagued Tottenham Hotspur this summer and could have potentially thrown the season into disrepute. I have previously stated that the sale of Gareth Bale will actually improve the team. Too often last season the team looked to Bale for a moment of magic (with him supplying on numerous occasions). Bale regularly saved the teams blushes and proved the difference, generating no less than 26 points as a result of his goals. Bales performances paved over the cracks of what was actually an average side. Many made the joke of Tottenham's 'one man team', but I have to admit they were right. Without Bale's performances, Tottenham would have struggled to finish above 8th and AVB's career, as a football manager could have been finished. However, as can be seen in many tabloids over the past few days, the sale of Bale could create a much more rounded team and squad. It is still extremely early, and I am not saying Tottenham will win the title this season. But, it is the first year I believe that a title challenge could genuinely be on the horizon for Spurs.
Acquisitions such as Jan Vertonghen, Hugo Lloris and Moussa Dembele were fantastic for the club last season. However, the team were severely lacking in numerous departments. The loss of Younes Kaboul and Sandro to injury was crucial, whilst Scott Parker and Michael Dawson lacked the quality to adequately replace them. Tottenham's lack of a consistent striker was evident for all to see. Whilst the last minute signing of Clint Dempsey went some way to compensate, he did not fit the profile of signings at the club and has subsequently been sold. The transfer policy of buying young and proven internationals rather than ageing bargains under Harry Redknapp is particularly refreshing. The signing of the summer in my opinion has been Tottenham’s new director of football Franco Baldini. Baldini has already brokered the deals of Etienne Capoue (£8.6m), Roberto Soldado (£25.8m), Paulinho (£17m) and Nacer Chadli, (£7m) for a combined £58.4m. With the main difference being the early nature of the deals. Hopefully long gone are the days of last ditch deals on deadline day and Harry Redknapp hanging out of his car window. Tottenham are building a team of athletes capable of playing attractive football that could be involved in the side for years to come, and according to Andre Villas Boas; “We haven’t finished, we are looking further”.
Personally, I believe the Bale deal has been completed for some time. Tottenham have simply been postponing the sale in order to recruit replacements before being quoted ludicrous prices for players when other teams know they are financially flush. If reports are to be believed, these have been found in the form of Willian (£35m), Erik Lamela (£30m), Fabio Coentrao (£15m) and Toby Alderweireld (£6m), which would take Spur’s spending to an enormous £145 million. However, offset these against the sales of, Tom Huddlestone (£5.25M), Steven Caulker (£8m), Clint Dempsey (£5.8m), Scott Parker (£2m) and the prospective sales of Gareth Bale (£86m) Emmanuel Adebayor (£5m) and Benoit Assou-Ekotto (£5m) that would total £117million and it is extremely viable. Tottenham’s numerous sponsorship deals for the season will offset the remaining spending and they will amazingly remain in the black this season. The only negative I have seen is the loss of numerous English names players without replacement. However, this will be quickly forgotten should success follow.
Although Tottenham’s likely loss of Gareth Bale is a massive blow, it will fuel the formation of the greatest Tottenham squad I have seen as a fan. Compare the team we are potentially looking at to years where Simon Davies was our player of the season and you can begin to understand. Anyone who would rather Bale stay and the transformation not occur is simply deluded. Add to that a state of the art training facility and a 56,250-seat stadium on the way, and Spurs are a team to be feared this season and for seasons to come. Two seasons ago, many ‘experts’ tipped Spurs for a title tilt, but we they never even came close. In my opinion this season will see Tottenham finally usurp Arsenal, for fourth place and a title challenge could well be on the horizon. Simply put; it has never been a more exciting time to be a Tottenham Hotspur fan, or player for that matter.