He’s done a great job since he’s been with Arsenal and I’m sure he’ll continue that. I know that he loves it in England and I’m sure that he’ll be staying at Highbury for a long, long time.
I certainly enjoyed my time under him as a player and have always respected him as one of the best managers that I have worked with and we’re still very good friends.
Casting my mind back to Middlesbrough, our last game here, I felt that we played extremely well in the second half. They dropped very deep and got a lot of players behind the ball. We expected them to play that tactic anyway but it became even harder for us after we conceded so early on with a goal that could have been so easily avoided, which was disappointing in itself.
But the patience we showed in the second half and the ability to change our game — seeking to stretch them more and asking for better movement from Gus, Teddy and Les — turned it around. Looking back over the years that’s the sort of game that Spurs would not have won in similar circumstances and that’s a very positive sign.
The crowd also played their part and really got behind the team in that second-half so in the end it was a good team effort and we might have ended up with a few more goals.
But it was good to see Les get a terrific goal, it was a great winner. True it was a debatable penalty but I can understand why the referee gave it because there was a slight contact and that was enough.
The Hasselbaink one went against us with no contact at all earlier in the season and the same happened for England against Sweden last week. In contrast, there certainly was contact on Tano and Teddy slipped it away neatly for our equaliser in what was a good all-round performance.
So we went up to Leeds in a very confident mood. We had a lot of belief about us and I’ve got to say that after the first 10-15 minutes, when they had a couple of chances but we weathered the storm, we came out of the traps and dominated the game.
We had good possession in the first period but didn’t do enough with it in the last third whereas, after the break, we were looking absolutely spot on to get the three points which would have meant a lot to us.
We had the advantage of a terrific goal from Gus Poyet, at the conclusion of a lovely move, but this game does rear up and slap you round the face sometimes because, from nowhere and with us never looking likely to concede, we gave away two of the worst goals I’ve seen for a long time!
Two mistakes and we’ve thrown the game away! Sully made an error for the first one but it was one of those that on another day and with better fortune would have stayed out. To hit a post, come back, smash you in the face and go back in has to be one of those moments when you’re luck is out! Then completely out of character and out of the blue a combination of events presents Leeds with their winner.
Both Dean Richards and Chris Perry were playing well but not only was Deano’s subsequent header a poor one, it was compounded by Chris making a hesitant decision when he could have put the ball away. Then he and Sully didn’t communicate as Kewell nipped in between them.
So we handed them their two goals on a plate and that’s the frustration. They didn’t earn them, in fact they didn’t even look as if they were going to get back into the game. In contrast we were very pleased with the way we were playing and in that situation should have come back with the points. It just shows that at this level, you just make the slightest mistake and you get punished.
But what I will say is that it’s a great sign that this early in the season, we are going to places like Leeds and returning in the knowledge that for long periods of the game we were the better side and should have really wrapped it up before the end. We’ve played the top four teams already and in each case we could have won which is greatly encouraging — but it’s also a situation that can’t go on because with points slipping away our league position hardly reflects our form.
So with that in mind this is even more of a massive game than it usually is. Arsenal are one of the top teams around at the moment and if we’re going to lift ourselves to that level we’ve got to start beating these teams when we’re playing well against them. Today’s match will be a big test for the team and if we can pass that challenge then it will give us a lot of added self belief.
Obviously Sol Campbell may make a return today and it is important that no Spurs fan lets the club down by over-reacting to that situation. We must ensure that we rise above such negativism, act in a responsible manner and be positive in your support for our own cause.
Being awarded the ‘Manager of the Month’ award is a great tribute to the club as a whole, to the management staff and to the players. I might get the acclaim because I am the manager but it’s been a lot of hard work and a team effort from John and Chris and right down through the backroom lads. The spirit here is excellent and this award is a massive reflection on what the players have achieved because they are the ones that have played well and got the results throughout October.
This is for the whole club and not just for me. It’s a reflection on all the effort that’s been put in on and off the pitch and long may that continue. So a big thanks from me to all those involved, both staff and players.
Unfortunately, this award traditionally brings with it the kiss of death but I want to point out that I found out about this before the Leeds game so, in that case, the jinx has come and gone!
In closing, congratulations to Darren on his England return. He has worked very hard throughout the summer and in pre-season and I’m delighted to see him get that reward. He’s in good form and long may that continue. He’s done it before so let’s hope he can again sneak in through the back door and get to another major tournament.
As for Christian Ziege and Sergei Rebrov, we’ll be lifting one of them up because one will have his chin on the floor and one will be flying! As you will appreciate I am writing these notes in advance of that World Cup return between Germany and Ukraine but both are highly professional and, whatever way it turned out, I know they’ll be focussed and determined to play their part in a victory this afternoon.
A big welcome to all from Arsenal and in particular to Arsene Wenger and Pat Rice. It goes without saying that I have the utmost respect for what I have learnt from Arsene as a player and a manager.