In praise of Gareth Bale
In case you hadn't noticed, in the midst of some moderate results for Spurs, Gareth Bale has been in quite sensational form since the turn of the year.
Gareth was signed by Spurs from Southampton in the summer of 2007, when he was just 17, coming on 18 years of age (b. 16.07.89). Spurs were managed by Martin Jol, who gave Bale his club debut on 26th August, 2007 away to Manchester United. Spurs lost the game 1-0, but Bale excelled and was nominated the Spurs man of the match in the "Spursometer" ratings, scoring 8 out of 10. Gareth played on the left side of midfield ahead of Young-Pyo Lee at left back, and of course it is as an attacking player that Gareth catches the eye.
Gareth had a good run of the games in the early part of his first season, but was then beset with repeated ankle injuries that kept him out of contention. Gradually, Benoit Assou-Ekotto made the left back position his own, although Gareth was often used again in the early part of the 2008-09 season. On many occasions Gareth was used as the left-side midfielder. Sadly, Spurs results were poor, and Gareth found himself working for a third manager in less than 18 months at the club. That ankle injury returned in the autumn of 2008, but Spurs' new manager Harry Redknapp clearly preferred Ekotto in defence, and indicated that Bale needed further development.
Despite being sidelined by Spurs (and not always through injury), Gareth remained a regular full International for Wales for whom he had become the youngest ever full International at the age of just 16 years and 316 days in May 2006. To date, he has 23 full caps, and has scored two International goals.
Last summer, Gareth suffered a knee cartilage injury, but played his first game of the season at Preston in Spurs' 5-1 Carling Cup win. Gareth played the full 90 minutes in this game, but his next full game was in the next round of the Carling Cup against Everton. Once again, Ekotto was holding down that left back position, and in fairness, his form has been consistent since the start of the 2008-09 season.
By the end of December, Gareth Bale had started just 3 of Spurs' 24 games in all competitions, and had been used on 5 occasions as a substitute. However, now Harry Redknapp had to make a change, as Assou-Ekotto was in any case sheduled to leave for the African Cup of Nations, but in any event missed that trip due to a groin strain problem.
Ekotto is only now coming back into fitness and contention, whilst Bale has played in all 10 of Spurs' games so far this year, playing the full 90 minutes in each of those. The only game that Gareth did not complete so far this year was the Peterborough Cup game, and he went off when we were three up, having created two of Spurs' goals with telling crosses.
Since then, Gareth has played at left back in our last 9 games, and in seven of those games he has been voted by Spurs Odyssey readers as our man of the match, consistently scoring high grades, and an average of 7.45 out of 10.
Spurs have only won one league game in this spell, and two cup games, and the run has featured some poor form by the team as a whole, and a number of players. Spurs have of course missed Aaron Lennon throughout this period, and it has been Bale who has provided the most penetration of opposition defences with his many runs to the bye-line, and telling crosses.
If Gareth were to maintain the form he is currently showing, he would be the Spurs player of the season by a long stretch! Obviously he has been highly self-motivated to prove himself in the absence of the first choice full back, and whilst his efforts have not always been rewarded in the shape of team results, Gareth has clearly been identified by the fans for his individual talent. He even lost that long-standing hoodoo of never having started a Spurs Premier League game which we won, when we beat Fulham 2-0!
Gareth Bale's recent form must surely make him an automatic choice for Harry Redknapp. In my view he is not quite as reliable as Benoit Assou-Ekotto defensively, but there has to be a case for playing Bale on the left of midfield when Ekotto is match fit. Such a change could provide more competition and options in the remainder of the season for the central midfield, where creativity has been drying up recently.
Here is Gareth Bale's record for Spurs so far this year:-
Gareth Bale 2010 Mins RES GRADE
02 v Peterborough 78 4-0 7.4
16 v Hull 90 0-0 7.3*
20 v Liverpool 90 0-2 6.3
23 v Leeds 90 2-2 7.8*
26 v Fulham 90 2-0 8.1*
30 v Birmingham 90 1-1 7.5*
03 v Leeds 90 3-1 7.4
06 v Aston Villa 90 0-0 7.9*
10 v Wolves 90 0-1 6.7*
14 v Bolton 90 1-1 8.1*
Average grade 7.45