Cardiff will present a difficult barrier. In drawing 2-2 at Plymouth last Tuesday evening they extended their unbeaten away run and went to the top of the League. I am personally delighted, not only for Sam Hamann who went from hero at Wimbledon for so many seasons to a much maligned fixture in the last couple of years after taking on the difficult task at Cardiff and having to cope with various intrinsic problems like supporter behaviour.
Sam is a winner and one of those likeable football chairmen who is really passionate about the game. After the problems against Leeds last season Sam turned up at Stevenage to watch our Reserves play and winked that he was doing some quiet ‘undercover’ scouting!
Sam knows that he can leave his scouting to his more than competent manager Lennie Lawrence who did such good work at Charlton and Luton. Lennie served his time in the lower leagues, which is very rare for a manager these days, and works consistently and solidly for the good of whichever club employs him. After a difficult time at Grimsby he returned to Cardiff as Director of Football and then steadied the ship when Alan Cork left and, using the generous funds made available by the chairman, he has built a good footballing team.
Tonight’s game promises to be one of the most attractive of the round and the Welshmen will have plenty of support here tonight. So make sure that we do not take anything for granted and get behind the team.
Last week everyone who knows and has worked here with Christian Gross was delighted that he has received some well deserved accolades for his sterling work at Basle, the club ENIC helped Christian to join and where they still retain a shareholding. Having had a splendid first round result they went to Liverpool last Wednesday and did themselves credit in the 1-1 draw. Christian was always up against it here, partly due to his strange initial press conference but more so because the media and some of the more senior players made his job more difficult than it needed to be. He was a thorough man, well organised and was a conscientious coach. I am quite sure that if he returned to England now he would be in a far better position having gained some knowledge of how the British game works.
Christian introduced one or two players who failed to make an impression, like Paolo Tramezzani and Moussa Saib, although he did have some talent. But inherited players like Ramon Vega, who is also Swiss, and Jose Dominguez struggled to come to terms with the standards required at Tottenham. The present squad with the advance of the younger element and the quality of international players like Teddy Sheringham and Jamie Redknapp has far more substance to it and gives Glenn a greater opportunity to progress the club.
Last week the Israeli FA made a tentative enquiry about the availability of our ground for a European qualifying game and also an Under-21 international having been refused permission by UEFA to play in their own country. Unfortunately we couldn’t agree to their request because we have agreed to put in a friendly which had been under discussion for some time.
DC United, a senior MLS team in the States where Jürgen Klinsmann has an interest, are coming over to play a game in which we will use the gate money to set up a trust for players who have given sterling service to the club but who have now fallen on hard times. This is a good innovative idea and it makes more sense than agreeing to a testimonial for a player who might have been a high earner for several years.
This will be administered by our friends at the Tottenham Trust.
We are still waiting for a definitive from UEFA on transfer windows. As at this moment Premiership clubs cannot trade until the January window but the Nationwide clubs gained a stay of execution after protesting long and meaningfully so they are still able to bring players into their clubs from the Premier League either as a loan or a sale. Players, of course, who are unattached — and there are some from last summer’s purge — can move without having to come under the window ruling. Already clubs are beginning to make enquiries regarding players who they may be able to put on to their books come January. We ourselves are looking to trade out one or two players which would give us a little bit more flexibility, particularly when some of the injured players recover.
When we played Torquay last year at the same stage of this competition it may have seemed insignificant. But, of course, a positive result led to an upbeat mood as we progressed to the final. We are all hopeful that we can see off Cardiff’s challenge tonight.
Enjoy the game.
After this evening’s Cup game we have another three League fixtures before tonight’s winners enter round three as our busy schedule is maintained. Undoubtedly it is a competition that we need to do well in and it was a great disappointment to all last year when we failed in the final against Blackburn.