Good Spurs article in the Observer

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Jol aims for top-four finish but fans want top-three

Gerry Cox
Sunday August 5, 2007
The Observer


Tottenham fans are not normally shy when offering an opinion about their team's prospects, so perhaps it is a surprise that some of the glass-half-full brigade are not happy at the idea of finishing fourth in the Premier League this season. That would be failure - they want to finish third. Ridiculous notion, or is it? Two summers ago it would have been laughable to think of Martin Jol's side seriously challenging the big four. But after finishing fifth in successive seasons, having been in the top four for most of the season before last, Spurs are now widely regarded as the team most likely to break into the big time and yesterday they took another step to confirming that with a 2-0 win over Torino.

Alex Ferguson has said so, Jose Mourinho has said so and many pundits expect Spurs to make a sustained challenge for one of the Champions League places. Having continued to record high finishes despite patches of the poor form of old, Spurs have added considerably to their ranks this summer without any appreciable loss to match the one they suffered when Michael Carrick left for Manchester United last year.

Jol has spent lavishly, but shrewdly, snapping up the hugely promising Gareth Bale from Southampton, Younes Kaboul as cover/replacement for Ledley King should the captain's knee problems seriously threaten his future, and most significantly spending a club record £16.5million to bring Darren Bent from Charlton. There have been other signings, with Kevin-Prince Boateng arriving from Hertha Berlin and the unpredictable but exciting French teenager Adel Taarabt making his loan deal permanent.

Jol is wary of talking up his side's chances. He is also wise enough to know that even if it is not this year, he has enough young talent in his ranks to keep pushing. The club can punch their weight commercially, too.
Jol is caricatured as a jolly Tony Soprano lookalike, but he is more serious than that. He is a serious art collector who invested in several works on Tottenham's recent tour of South Africa, where his sense of history meant he visited Nelson Mandela's house. (In England, he has been to where Shakespeare lived in Stratford-upon-Avon.) But he is first and foremost a football coach. 'My targets are to play better football, score more goals, get more points on the board.'
Is the top four a reasonable target? 'Yes of course, although we have to be realistic. It is not just the clubs above, but some of those around us have spent a lot of money this summer - the likes of West Ham and Newcastle, for example. It will be tougher than ever. But with the squad we have, with exciting young players, the sky is the limit. It's not easy with our expectation levels - if you are fifth everybody wants to be fourth - but our supporters deserve something and I would like to give them that.'

The difference from this time last season is that Jol has managed to hold on to one of his main assets, this time Dimitar Berbatov. 'If you want to be in the top positions it's very important to keep your best players. Last year was a difficult situation. Carrick had only two years left on his contract and we were going to get big money for him so we had to let him go. It wasn't easy for the first couple of months without Michael, but later on I felt that we gelled and proved it in Europe and in the league as well.
'This year players are very happy. They see why this is a big club. There are only two or three clubs that get the same level of away support, and there is a good connection with the supporters.'

As well as his excitement about the signings - Taarabt is potentially 'the most talented player we have' - Jol believes there is a lot more to come from the current crop. 'Berbatov has all the talent and the skill. He started scoring a lot of goals after Christmas, as he had done at Bayer Leverkusen, so I told him, "Maybe this year it is better if you start before Christmas." He scored 11 goals in the league, but he could easily score 18 or more.'

Jol sees Michael Dawson and the underrated Jermaine Jenas as key figures, especially with King set to miss the opening months of the season. 'Dawson did very well. He was my player of last season in many ways,' he says.
'And when Jenas came back from injury, he was better than ever, an influential player, who dictates our rhythm. If he is not playing you miss him. He could be a special player, a goal-scoring midfielder. Jenas could prove he is in the same bracket as the Lampards and Gerrards. So I expect a lot of him.'

Even with a number of high-profile players not certain of starting every game, he does not feel he has any ego-massaging to do. 'The spirit here is the most important thing. That is a Spurs thing, team spirit. I feel we've got no stars; the team is the star - that is our motto. As long as that is the case I think we will be successful.'
It is not just on the pitch that Spurs are in prime position to move into the elite. Commercially the club can compete, according to Paul Barber, the former commercial director of the Football Association who has been on the Tottenham board for almost three years.
He says: 'Our shirt sponsorship was the seventh largest in football, and the kit deal was also very big, a record for the club. Certainly we're punching our weight not just in the UK, but across Europe.

'Independent research across the world has shown that we have almost five million fans, and about one-and-a-half million in the UK. At the moment the membership scheme includes about 100,000 and we have sold out all our season tickets with another 10,000 on the waiting list. You can see the potential.'

The obvious problem is how to accommodate those fans on match days. All sorts of ideas have been mooted - moving to Wembley, the new Olympic Stadium in Stratford or redeveloping White Hart Lane, the clear favourite with fans and officials. The club promised at last December's annual meeting to reveal their plans within a year, so Barber is guarded. 'We're not in a position to say anything now, but we're making progress,' he says. 'The majority of fans will want us to make the right decision in the right amount of time, as opposed to the wrong decision in quicker time.'
Barber says of Tottenham's behind-the-scenes set-up: 'Under Daniel Levy's leadership we've been stable for many years and made huge progress on and off the field. We're a young board, not afraid of change; we have adopted new systems, new strategies. And there's a young English spine to the team and that's been the backbone of recent success.'
The most important people, as the late Bill Nicholson used constantly to remind his players, are the fans. 'It is a symbiotic relationship,' says Barber. 'The great thing about this club is that the fans were loyal when it wasn't going so well. It's just terrific now.'
 

Mullers

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#7
Very big season for JJ, only Ghaly fustrates me more I think. JJ has the talent, he really could become our Gerrard or Lampard its all up to him. He has to put consistant performances together and take the step up. I'm not sure he will do that, I really hope he does. We are going to need Zokora to really raise his performance too, in order for JJ to get forward. He is off to the ANC though so whether you love him or loathe him we still need cover in that area. Boateng, got nothing more than just a feeling that he will be very good for us, especially against the top four sides. He has belief and confidence in his ability. Tarrabt, has been dubbed the next Zidane,I like what I've seen so far if he is a quarter of the player Zidane was he'll be a very good player indeed. I think he'll be mostly used as a sub this term.

Midfield is the main area that worries me. If we get a few more quality players there I'd be more a lot more confident when it comes to playing the top four sides. We are dependant on Arsenal and Liverpool being inconsistant and ourselves showing more consistancy in order to get a top four finish.
 

DC_Boy

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#8
'we have 100,000 in the membership scheme' - wow that's an awful lot - admittedly season ticket holders are included in that - but still wasn't so long ago that I think we only had 30,000 not including season ticket holders - so about half the current number
 

Colonel_Klinck

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#9
Can see a very exciting season coming up for Spurs fans. We really need to get a flying start for once and push the likes of Arse and Liverpool all the way.
It really does sound like everyone at the club is pulling in the same direction and have as much belief in the team as us fans do. COYS!!
 

N10toN17

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#11
A nicely written piece about Spurs, we really are being taken seriously, even by the journos.
 

nightgoat

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#12
Yeah, a good article, surprising given that the Grauniad usually hates us...

Shame about the spectacularly stereotypical over optimistic Spurs fan in the Premiership preview section...
 

PT

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#13
It's important that Martin Jol has instilled within the squad an inherent belief that we are able to compete with the top four.

There is a lot of recent history, in terms of results, that suggests we still carry a weight on to the field when we play the Man Utds / Chelseas / Liverpools / Arsenals of our league.

If we can go out against these teams and collect our share of the points, that outcome alone will instil the belief and confidence needed to hover about in top four position as if we have a right to be there.

The good news is we have a young team, by and large into the second season together, and supplemented by astute purchases close season.

This season coming provides an opportunity to step up a level, and in my opinion, with the players that we have collected over the last three seasons, our main opponent is in the collective mind.

It's Jol's job to play the shrink and get us playing to our potential. If he does, heck, fourth? Let's go for that third!!
 

BigRed

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#14
If we are capable of finishing fourth then we are capable of finishing third. I feel we are potentially now at the same level as Arsenal and Liverpool, but we are not necessarily better than them. We will have to fight hard to beat those teams this season.
 

tobi

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#17
And we are one of very few clubs in the country who are not in debt.
 
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#18
Im just happy to see us with a bit of respect flying around and to see us competing again. We dont like to think about it but we were a joke 2 years ago.

I wouldnt grumble about top 5 this season again. Like Leeds sometimes wanting too much too soon cant bit you in the butt. Same again and a bit more luck in the cups and who knows.

Dont want a new manager if we dont finish above Arsenal thats for sure. If we dont there will be alot of callin for Jols head...its madness!!!

We have a younger team than last year so it might be another inconsistant one sadly!!!
 

Paxtonite

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#19
It's important that Martin Jol has instilled within the squad an inherent belief that we are able to compete with the top four.

There is a lot of recent history, in terms of results, that suggests we still carry a weight on to the field when we play the Man Utds / Chelseas / Liverpools / Arsenals of our league.

If we can go out against these teams and collect our share of the points, that outcome alone will instil the belief and confidence needed to hover about in top four position as if we have a right to be there.

The good news is we have a young team, by and large into the second season together, and supplemented by astute purchases close season.

This season coming provides an opportunity to step up a level, and in my opinion, with the players that we have collected over the last three seasons, our main opponent is in the collective mind.

It's Jol's job to play the shrink and get us playing to our potential. If he does, heck, fourth? Let's go for that third!!
Without question one of the biggest indicators of the "step up" is indeed to win more games (any games) against the "big four" (or should i say the old big four). However, with expectation being even bigger this year and the belief being greater, we must be wary against complacency (not that BMJ will allow that) and the age old issue of inconsistency.

This is going to be our biggest season for many year and a massive test for players, staff and fans alike.

COYS
 
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#20
Im just happy to see us with a bit of respect flying around and to see us competing again. We dont like to think about it but we were a joke 2 years ago.

I wouldnt grumble about top 5 this season again. Like Leeds sometimes wanting too much too soon cant bit you in the butt. Same again and a bit more luck in the cups and who knows.

Dont want a new manager if we dont finish above Arsenal thats for sure. If we dont there will be alot of callin for Jols head...its madness!!!

We have a younger team than last year so it might be another inconsistant one sadly!!!
"another inconsistant one": and so it was prophesised by a wise man.
 
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