We wish them well. Statistics suggest that any club at the tail of the Premiership at Christmas is not able to survive. George Burley, Tony Mowbray and Bryan Hamilton have our very best wishes that they can revive their fortunes quickly but, of course, today we must be positive for Tottenham and hope that we continue the fine goalscoring form of the previous two games.
The League Cup draw with Chelsea gives us every opportunity of reaching the Worthington Cup Final. Chelsea have become a difficult team to beat, having conceded only 12 goals in league games this season. But we have currently the invention and the goalscoring potential to win a semi-final over two legs.
Over the past years our medical team has come in for some criticism as the media have mistakenly criticised our record on the injury front. It gives our supporters tremendous pleasure to see Darren Anderton shred his stupid press nickname with his recent performances. He puts some of the previous cynicism to shame as he fights his way into World Cup contention with inventive midfield displays.
Likewise, Les Ferdinand has proved that with the right training and remedial work, outstanding talent at 35 years of age can’t be ignored. Of course not everyone has been able to recover. Our current sympathies and hopes go to Chris Armstrong who has had a very nasty time and is still not yet playing after his pelvic problem. Only two seasons ago Chris was our joint leading league scorer with 14 goals and has been a good club player during a difficult era for Tottenham.
No one likes being injured. Currently Stephen Carr and Gary Doherty have one eye on a return to the first team squad and also, no doubt, will be looking forward to the bonus of coming into contention for the Irish World Cup campaign.
They are being worked hard every day under the watchful eye of Doctor Curtin who is a shrewd everyday adviser to the medical staff.
We were also famously labelled by one agent as a club where "even Mother Theresa wouldn’t pass a medical." This was after John Hartson failed a medical here as did others like the full-back Najwan Ghrayib who went to Aston Villa and Andy Hinchcliffe who joined Sheffield Wednesday. The judgement of our doctor and the specialists proved absolutely spot on.
It was good to see ex-players at our super club bash in central London last Sunday. It was an upbeat evening and the players and staff enjoyed the hospitality of the Chairman and the Directors. Amongst ex-players who are regularly seen around our hospitality rooms on a Saturday were Martin Chivers, Mark Falco, John Pratt, Ralph Coates, Phil Beal, Cliffy Jones and, of course, Pat Jennings who still coaches with us.
Last Tuesday evening Colin Calderwood and Chris Hughton involved themselves in a coaching session as part of our in-house training for our part-time coaches.
Leaving the club on Tuesday to return to Israel were 10 youngsters from the club Betar Tobruk who had the time of their lives, staying in London, watching the team train and getting involved themselves in some training sessions. They will take away wonderful memories.
Ghyslain Vedeux, our young French Academy forward, has had a week’s trial at Stoke. He is one of several younger players who we need to get experience, either on loan in league football or, to help their careers, we may consider to release. It is getting more difficult for young talent to break through. We would look sympathetically at requests for loans for players like goalkeeper Gavin Kelly, George Snee, Ciaran Toner, Yannick Kamanan, Stephen Ferguson and Maurizio Consorti.
The true judgement of an 18 or 19-year-old boy is how he can mix in the senior squad environment and how he can perform in front of a crowd when the pressure is really on.
Until these boys have this opportunity we can never be absolutely certain that they will not progress. Current senior group players Simon Davies, Matthew Etherington, Tony Gardner and Gary Doherty all played regular league football early at their respective previous clubs.
Another Premiership game today on the long haul towards the end of the season. It is a marathon and because of our astute leadership and the football being played we have got amongst the front runners. This season’s title winners will probably win it with the least number of points for several years. It is wide open and we must believe that in view of the current topsy-turvy form of many teams we can come fast on the rails. Let us hope so.
Enjoy the game and a happy safe Christmas to all our super supporters.
The festive period is always a time for reflection and forward hopes. This afternoon we welcome Ipswich Town, one of the outstanding success stories of last season but now looking forward with some anxiety to the future.