The intense demands of the Premiership have been clearly illustrated by the problems facing both ourselves and Charlton in recent weeks.
Injuries have bitten deeply into our respective squads, particularly reducing our specialist attacking options, and both Alan Curbishley and myself will be hoping for some improvement in that key area before today's game.
Indeed, we have been down to the bare bones and, although Sergei Rebrov has also been hit by injury and illness, he was the only recognised striker in full training this week. Unfortunately, the unlucky Les Ferdinand has now joined Steffen Iversen and Chris Armstrong on the sidelines and although all three are having intensive treatment, nature takes its time in these situations.
In the meantime we have explored various alternatives because, as I have warned since the start of the season, our resources are not deep enough to cope with a sustained hit in such a key area.
As a result we have brought in Andy Booth from Sheffield Wednesday on loan and, in welcoming him to White Hart Lane, I am confident that he will settle in quickly and give us the direction and impetus that we need. Andy is an experienced striker who will help take much of the pressure off Sergei and I obviously wish him well during his time with us.
It is not an ideal situation but we needed to make a positive move and to make it quickly. I was very reluctant to move Gary Doherty back into attack after he has settled in so well in defence while Dave McEwen has battled manfully but, it must be remembered, was playing non-League football just over a year ago.
Yet he represents one of the positives in this situation in that he will benefit from the experience. Obviously it would be preferable to introduce these young lads gradually and into a settled side with less pressure on them.
But, to their credit, all our youngsters have responded well in often difficult circumstances and the emergence of Ledley King, Luke Young, Gary Doherty and Alton Thelwell has, in its own way, added depth to our squad. Unfortunately, there is no alternative to experience and no quick way to achieve that crucial component in any player's make-up.
At the moment their enthusiasm — as well as their raw quality — is getting them through and it is great to see that out on the pitch and on the training field where they are improving as players all the time.
Fortunately, there is also better news with injured players coming back in other positions. We have missed the international know how of the likes of Steffen Freund and Oyvind Leonhardsen in our midfield but continue to miss the exuberance and balance of Stephen Carr on the right flank where he has been such a key exponent of our play. Frustratingly, Ben Thatcher has had a setback in his recovery and he too is still not ready.
With Tim Sherwood and Neil Sullivan back from suspension and others training again there is increasing room for greater optimism. And, who knows, maybe it will all come together again in time for a good cup run.
For the moment, Charlton stand in our way and next week's delayed fourth round tie at the Valley promises to be some night. This afternoon's encounter won't have much relevance on that game but we'll be keen to maintain our unbeaten run here this season and to give ourselves a lift ahead of that cup meeting.
A good result and performance is paramount today and hopefully we can improve on our last match here.
Get behind the lads because February is going to be a key month in our season.