We congratulate Leeds on reaching the last eight of the Champions League. They have battled magnificently this season to their current position and it is a credit to all their staff and the leadership of the board and manager David O’Leary.
Personnel change quickly at football clubs and the introduction in the last two seasons of players like Mark Viduka, Michael Bridges and Rio Ferdinand, plus the current loan of Robbie Keane, has added some quality to the already existing young talents which they secured from school in Howard Wilkinson and continued by George Graham’s time.
We all know that in football, the famous quote of Althea Gibson (the champion tennis player), ‘No-one achieves anything without the help of others,’ holds true. In a club system, everyone must be tuned in to working towards getting the best possible players at all levels and the best possible results within the club’s budgets to achieve success.
But it was also clearly affirmed, as everybody also knows, that the ultimate responsibility for the success of the senior team is always and has to be with the manager at that time.
I noted with interest after the brawl at Highbury last week, for example, that the Chelsea players were saying that they were unhappy with the manager’s tactics at half-time — too bad, he is in charge of the team and they should listen to what he wants.
Incidentally, I wonder if the FA were watching the pictures and how they compared them with the events of last season when both Leeds and ourselves were fined £150,000 after the confrontations at Elland Road.
Only last weekend I saw confrontations in at least three of the relayed games on television. The FA must now act and remind publicly the player’s responsibilities to their clubs, to the public and to the image of the game.
How often do the PFA remind their members of their responsibilities?
The Cup draw has been kind. Derbies often favour the away side where the pressure is on the home team as favourites. We will take good support to West Ham and hopefully some more of our major players will have returned to fitness.
By then Andy Booth may return to help Peter Shreeves in his determination to get Sheffield Wednesday out of trouble. I am sure that all our genuine supporters will wish Andy well. He’s helped carry the front line burden of losing Les Ferdinand, Steffen Iversen and Chris Armstrong.
Fortunately Les has recovered a little now and, of course, we have found a potential forward in Gary Doherty who played a ‘bit of both’ during last week’s win against Stockport. Sadly that game was marred by a very poor challenge by the captain of Stockport on Oyvind Leonhardsen and it means our popular Norwegian will miss the next few weeks. This is a major blow. His experience, energy and spirited play are really valuable to our team.
But like all situations, other people get opportunities when someone gets disappointed and I’m pleased Simon Davies took his goals well. I was speaking to Martin Peters during the game and we were discussing the way that young Simon plays. There are similarities in the running off the ball that Martin did so brilliantly here and at West Ham.
He will get stronger, gain experience and mature. But he has shown quite clearly that he is another young player who will make our future rosier.
In the end last week, because of our earlier aggressive and positive play the game had developed into a tame affair at 4-0, it was good to see that our five back players were all products of our development system — Sol Campbell, Alton Thelwell, Ledley King, Stephen Clemence and Luke Young.
The Academy sides have had a couple of good wins, Birmingham Under-17s 6-0 and West Ham Under-19s 2-1. Young Swedish boy Jon Jonsson who left us because he was homesick hopes to be back with us shortly to have another crack at coping with the change in culture. His midfield colleague Ben Bowditch, an England Under-17 international who is currently in Portugal at a training camp, signed as a professional last week.
There is plenty happening behind the scenes at the club. ENIC, our new owners, will officially take over on February 28 and an interesting time is ahead. I would like to think that it will bring a greater unity to all areas of the club and we can go forward as ‘Tottenham Together.’
This afternoon’s game is an intriguing fixture. We lost 4-3 at Elland Road earlier in the current campaign and last season Leeds did the double over us in the League. We will be determined today to try to reverse these results.