I was particularly pleased for one of football’s loyal servants, Frank Burrows, who had to take time off last year through illness, but has now recovered to continue as a valuable aid to Gary Megson.
Frank is one of football’s enduring characters and I will be pleased to welcome him here today. Also to Brendan Batson, now enjoying a role on the other side of the fence after his excellent service to the PFA and a fine footballing career.
A third friend coming to Tottenham today is my early secretary at Nuneaton Borough, John Evans, who has worked at Albion for many seasons now and is a valued member of the Albion staff. Adrian Chiles, the outstanding football broadcaster, will no doubt also be enjoying the afternoon here.
Last weekend we encountered some miserable weather at Birmingham which reflected the disappointing afternoon, particularly after we had taken the lead. Hopefully we can put that game out of our system and be ready for today’s challenge, an important one with the Arsenal game awaiting. The point was consolation at Birmingham but half a performance would surely have secured three points.
I have watched last week’s ref Eddie Wolstenholme’s progress in the lower leagues over the years and am pleased that he is now on the Premier League list. In my view he is first class and although he has had only a few games this year, he showed that he can handle a game intelligently.
Just occasionally one sees a refereeing decision like, for example, the sending off of Simon Davies at Arsenal which really riles. On Monday night, once again it was Mr. Riley’s turn when he refused Southampton an absolute certain penalty at West Ham. It is on occasions like this that managers are entitled to tear their hair out.
On Wednesday, our Youth team played their first game of this season’s FA Youth Cup competition and were successful at Portsmouth. Now they play Swindon at home in the next round and I hope that they will be well supported.
Last season, of course, they had a fine run to the semi-finals in knocking out sides likes Leeds and Blackburn but were undone by Mr. Rooney in the two encounters with Everton.
Last week I presented prizes to some disadvantaged children who had made massive strides to gain confidence and go through a learning programme with the Prince’s Trust. This organisation does some fantastic work with kids who have limited opportunities and need to build up their communication skills. I was very impressed with these youngsters.
Much financial press was given in a very positive way to our securing of a bond equivalent to £75million, which can be drawn down for major projects at the club. In everything we do we are looking to the future and to give this club the best opportunities at all times to progress. It was our Chairman who has worked particularly hard on this deal to secure funding if and when required over a period of time.
This deal is unlike those at some clubs who have used securitisation methods to gain money which has been spent rapidly on players and left clubs with big problems with their banks. Witness the situation at Leeds who would appear to have overspent and brought problems on themselves.
This afternoon we are looking forward to a performance as efficient and enlightening as our first half against Leeds in our last home game, when our two splendid strikes from Teddy Sheringham and Robbie Keane gave us the points.
Off the field our commercial side is working very hard. Match sponsorships are going well but they are still available in the New Year and there are some opportunities for the use of our outstanding Box facilities on match days between now and the end of the season. I can think of no better way of entertaining visitors and friends than to spend an afternoon watching our lads, particularly when we hit the kind of form that we are capable of.
Hopefully this afternoon will prove to be one of those occasions. Enjoy the game.
We extend a warm welcome to West Bromwich Albion who enjoyed a magnificent end of season run to clinch promotion.