Welcome back to White Hart Lane. It was great to see a full house here against Porto, an incredible turn-out in my experience for a pre-season friendly, but now the real business gets underway.
That victory over Porto, so soon after our Peace Cup win against Lyon, gave us a lot of confidence. We had played well against two very good teams and enjoyed an unbeaten build-up here and in Korea. But you never know how that will work once the serious business of the Premiership gets underway.
I wasn’t sure what would be the best before the Porto game. Naturally I wanted us to win as I do in all our games but would we be better to get our feet back on the ground by possibly struggling and going back to square one or by maintaining our good run with all the self-belief that would bring ?
In other words, were there things that we needed to work on more, aspects hidden by our success, or were we playing well simply because we were on top of our game ?
In the end the victory set us up nicely for our opener at Portsmouth. Our preparations were disrupted by injuries to key players like Ledley King, Edgar Davids and Robbie Keane but we still went out at Fratton Park and did a professional job at a difficult venue and that showed the strength of our current squad.
Ironically we didn’t play our football at the start but once we got into our stride we took control. We worked to give ourselves an extra body at crucial times in key areas and although not every player was on top of his game, our teamwork was the major factor in our success.
We needed to defend well and ensure that we were on the end of every Laurent Robert corner and free-kick. In conclusion we managed to win every individual battle and when you achieve that, you have the platform on which success must follow.
I was also so impressed by the solidarity of the Spurs fans. I have been told in the past that we have the best travelling fans in the country but, to my mind, we simply have the best fans in the land. You have the capacity to make the Lane a fortress and we achieved so much here together last season while your support on our travels is always a genuine boost.
But at Portsmouth it was hard to believe that you were seated in a stand with no roof in the pouring rain ! Yet you never stopped supporting and singing to such an extent that anyone looking on would have thought it was a sunny day. Anywhere else, less committed fans would have left or found shelter under the standÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦but Spurs fans are indeed something special.
We need to maintain our good home form this season and improve on our travels if we are to succeed and, as I’ve often said before in this column, you all have a key role to play. Never underestimate that fact.
Now we face Middlesbrough, a team who will have ambitions to finish in the top six at least this season — and they certainly have the ability to do so. They pipped us for the last remaining UEFA Cup place last season and have some excellent players. They also have more experience than us, which is an important factor.
We were lucky in the corresponding game here last season when Franck Queudrue was sent off because that gave us the initiative to go on and win the game 2-0. As they showed at their place, they are a good side who can hit you on the break well and that’s a danger that we will have to watch.
International week is always a worry for any manager and, as I write these notes, I am hoping that all our senior players return fit to play this afternoon. That’s made it a disruptive week as far as training’s been concerned at Spurs Lodge but that’s a fact of life when you have quality players.
I am delighted that there is so much optimism about the place with record ticket sales illustrating your belief in what we are trying to do. The media has put on added pressure by tipping us to succeed in so many newspapers and that’s always good to see. At least the forecasts did not read ‘expected to be mediocre again’ as so often in the past and that’s encouraging !
But as I’ll be saying to our players just before 3pm this afternoon, it’s now down to them to back all that up - on the field where it matters.