We remain optimistic that we have steered our ship steadily during the last two or three seasons and do not have a massive financial cross to bear. We have worked solidly to try to integrate senior signings with younger players and this will continue to be our policy as we search for success.
A particular warm welcome in our first home game of the season to our new sponsors Thomson and our new kit suppliers Kappa. Any sponsorship can only work if the club and its players co-operate fully. We trust that all our employees and supporters will show consideration and support to those firms and organisations that support us. We welcome them on board.
Today we also welcome Graham Taylor, a long time adversary of mine. We have played together since schools football and obviously I have watched and seen at close quarters Graham’s fine progression as a thoroughly decent and successful football manager. No one was more surprised than I when he decided to challenge himself again with the Villa job. We wish him well.
It was ironic that last Saturday we gained our creditable draw at Everton and meet Aston Villa here today as both contested last year’s FA Youth Cup Final. They, like ourselves, have realised the importance of youth and it was Everton who knocked us out over two legs in the semi-final and gave us our first real look at their young star Wayne Rooney who measured up last Saturday and was completely unfazed by the pressure of making his debut as a 16-year-old.
Our visitors today won that final with a superb first-leg performance at Goodison. Graham Taylor will be particularly pleased that he has such a good nucleus underneath his main squad.
But will they get the opportunities at the right time? This is always the most crucial question in football. If young players with talent are denied the opportunities between the crucial ages of 18-20 then they can easily become disheartened and disillusioned with the game and lose out.
We have been busy with a tough pre-season routine and already two of our youth team from last year, Ronnie Henry and Lee Barnard, have been with the senior team in several of their friendly games.
We have also taken from our neighbours Arsenal, Rohan Ricketts, a skilful midfield player who was one of the players that played in what I consider to be our best pre-season performance when a very young team played some superb football to beat Southend United at Roots Hall. Also included in the team that day was a 19-year-old from Brazil, Diego Bortolozzo, who was on trial but has joined the club this week.
A significant signing has been Jonathan Blondel, an 18-year-old from Excelsior Mouscron, in Belgium, who surprisingly, and we are all pleased for him, was called up by the full Belgian national squad for the game against Poland last Wednesday. I watched Jonathan on several occasions, and several of our staff went to watch him at Mouscron, a friendly club with whom we have formed a good relationship. Jonathan is a talented, left-footed passing midfield player who has a very bright mind. Glenn played him at Feyenoord and I think he has proved to the senior staff that he could become a fine acquisition. We wish him well.
The market has meant that we have found difficulty this summer in moving players who are surplus to Glenn’s requirements. Many clubs have caught a cold, some clubs on the continent, particularly in Italy, have a fever! Unable to pay back debts, unable to move on players and subsequently having relegations forced upon them.
By the time you read these notes I’m sure we will have had further movements of one or two of our players.
It has been rather sad to see in recent weeks some of the articles and, indeed, books being written by players who, in order to boost sales, have been forced to be over critical and help demean our national game.
Football needs some strong leadership at the moment and people in authority in the game have to be prepared to bring people into line who disregard the rules.
We are pleased to say that our record season ticket sales, despite price increases in some areas of the ground, shows great faith and loyalty to the club and everyone is anxious that we will give our fans something to really cheer about.
Elsewhere in this programme there will be welcomes for senior players, Milenko Acimovic and Jamie Redknapp, and all our supporters will wish them a terrific season.
The club has also appointed a dental surgeon, Peter Rabin, who not only is an excellent dentist (I am told) but is also a massive Spurs fan. I hope any players having dental treatment enjoy their time in the chair as much as Peter tells me he has enjoyed his time watching Spurs.
Enjoy the game today. Let’s hope it is the first of many home successes.
Welcome to a season which many predict could be one of the most important in football’s history. The game is now getting the backlash for some poor management plus wild ambition and hefty overspending.