Walter Smith has been very busy this summer balancing his outgoings with new signings. Obviously Paul Gascoigne, whom Tottenham supporters will welcome back, and Duncan Ferguson have hit the headlines but he has signed two very good players from abroad Thomas Gravesen and Alex Nyarko.
In the mid-80s when I signed Richard Gough from Dundee United, current manager Walter Smith was working with Jim McLean, now the chairman at Dundee United, who recently had the unfortunate task of breaking his relationship with his manager Paul Sturrock after only two games of the season.
Richard Gough, who was brought here to lay the ghost of Mike England, would have been a wonderful Spurs player for many years but family circumstances dictated a move to Scotland where he won an incredible nine Championship medals. He will always be one of my favourite players. Unfortunately, Richard will not make it tonight because of injury, we wish him a speedy recovery.
The Club is experienced a buoyant start to the season. We have a record of over 19,000 season ticket holders registered and two recent innovations are also doing well. Since the inception of our stadium tours many people have taken advantage to visit the stadium and sense the history while looking at all our wonderful facilities.
Another important development has been the viewing of away games on our giant screens here at White Hart Lane. At only £5 for adults, with senior citizens and juniors free of charge, it gives our future supporters — and hopefully players, maybe — a chance that they may normally be denied to come to our main ground and watch senior football.
Last week Steffen Iversen concluded some prolonged discussions regarding his contract and we are delighted to say that he has now extended his relationship with Spurs. His league goal tally last year, 14 after an injury-ridden period, was an outstanding return for a young forward. We hope that he continues to enjoy his time here since coming from Rosenborg in 1996.
All the staff are delighted that his forward colleague Les Ferdinand looks in fine fettle as we begin this vital season. He has had an unbroken period and has been assured by the surgeon that the ulcer that was causing the problem on his Achilles heel is no longer an issue. This should boost Les’s confidence.
Another player who we have been discussing an extension of contract with is Stephen Carr who has epitomised much of the solidarity and improvement that has been gained over the last couple of seasons. His attitude is first class and he has dedicated himself to improving all aspects of his game.
Both Steffen and Stephen are now established internationals but it was good also last weekend to learn of the international call up of younger players like John Jackson, Ben Bowditch, Ciaran Toner and Jon Jonsson. This augurs well for the future. It is important that we continue to produce home grown players.
I would like to take this opportunity of welcoming several newcomers to our staff and the change around in the summer has meant that it’s been a more than busy time. Jimmy Neighbour, a much respected ex-Spur who has coached soundly for the club for some seasons with the younger element, has now joined our Academy as the full-time Under-17 coach, replacing Ricky Hill.
Mike Stone, who previously coached part-time at Nottingham Forest, has joined us straight from Loughborough University and will assist Peter Suddaby, our Academy director, on a broad area of football-related matters including some community work.
In the summer we lost two physiotherapists. Gareth Robinson has returned to Northern Ireland to work with the Ulster Rugby Club and Tim Williamson has moved north. They have been replaced by Chic Wilkinson, who has joined us from Derby County, and who previously worked with Spurs for a spell in the ‘80s before he graduated on through the services to become a senior physiotherapist at the FA centre at Lilleshall. Also Rory Brown has taken the Academy physio post, having spent two years in a part-time capacity with us.
We wish all our new staff well. We hope that they will be joining us at the advent of a very successful era. We are all aware of the Tottenham significance of the year ending in a one. I am sure it would make the manager and everybody else happy if we showed as a club, apart from cup competitions, that we are ready to challenge the dominance of Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea who seem to be every popular pundit’s choice for honours this season.
I believe that this season will be a very open league with any club showing some consistency and good team play having a chance of getting into the leading positions. We must make sure it is Tottenham.
This evening’s game promises much good football. Hopefully, the players will perform and take centre stage as they should and we get a competitive, good quality, performance — not marred by any controversy which has been a feature of early Premiership games.