NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 50
Submitted by Norman Giller
It's good news week!
Tottenham go into Christmas and the New Year with the mixed emotions and expectations of a Nigel Farage wondering what 2015 has in store. Just like the UKip leader, Spurs have the potential to cause major upsets, but nobody is quite sure of the true strength of Mauricio Pochettino’s team. There’s optimism triggered by recent results (a heady three successive victories), but balanced by the worry that back-to-back home matches could very quickly pitch us into a period of pessimism.
Those games are against Manchester United next Sunday, followed by the huge New Year’s Day battle with League leaders Chelsea. If Spurs come through those two daunting challenges without a defeat we will all be facing 2015 in an upbeat mood of confidence that some silverware could be within shooting distance. Let’s hope we prove that the Lane is once again back to full fortress strength.
Wembley could quickly show up on the crowded fixture list if Spurs can eliminate Sheffield United in the two-leg Capital Cup semi-final. The Europa League tie against Fiorentina does not look an unscalable mountain, and the bid for the FA Cup starts with a repeat of Saturday’s game against Burnley, but this time at Turf Moor.
Let’s look for some good omens. Those of a certain age will recall Burnley and our Boxing Day opponents Leicester City both featuring large in our glory-glory days of the ‘sixties. Spurs, of course, beat Leicester at Wembley to complete the League and FA Cup Double in 1961, and the following year they dismantled Burmley 3-1 to retain the FA Cup.
The win over a fairly ordinary Burnley side on Saturday was like a mirror reflection of Tottenham’s season. There was a mix of stunning football shaken and stirred with some neurotic defending and an at times muddled and over-populated midfield. Hugo ‘Boss’ Lloris was his usual safe self with his hands, but he caused some panic moments with clearances that were often wild and careless.
What brought me to the edge of my seat were the performances of Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen. I feared a few weeks back that they were not going to be able to get on each other’s wave-length, but they worked together in beautiful harmony against Burnley.
Lamela at last lived up to all his rich promise and capped his best all-round performance for Spurs with a cracking first Premier League goal that wrapped up the precious three points, while the elegant Eriksen ran the show with his positioning and passing that was almost Modric-like in its efficiency and operation. He has clearly improved his fitness levels and relishes the responsibility of dictating at the heart of the engine room.
I hear from inside the Lane that Eriksen has become a dressing-room and training ground leader, whose ideas are listened to and implemented as Pochettino allows him greater freedom to express himself. He could develop into the new master of White Hart Lane. Let’s just hope Real Madrid are not monitoring his improvement.
So, friends, onwards and upwards, starting with that visit to Leicester on Boxing Day. We will be quite happy to wait 24 hours for Santa to give us three points as a late Christmas present.
Meantime, on behalf of our guru Paul Smith and his Spurs Odyssey team, have a wonderful Christmas and astonishing good luck throughout 2015. Let’s be the Nigel Farage of football, but we'll have no racism, thanks.
As much as I detest the messing around of kick-off times and days of play, I have to admit it makes sense to switch the FA Cup tie against Burnley to the evening of Monday January 5.
Spurs have their momentous match against Chelsea on the previous Thursday as we kick-off the New Year, and Pochettino will welcome the extra day to find out which of his troops are fit and fresh for the third round Cup challenge.
I sympathise with the Spurs fans who have to make the long round trip to Burnley, and can fully understand why the caring Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust put in a strong complaint over the FA decision to move the match to the Monday.
I did my share of travelling in the old days, but now admit to being a couch coach supporter, and I would not be happy to make the trek to Burnley on a Monday..
But what is inconvenient for the supporters is sensible for the players.
My full backing is usually with the fans, who too often get treated like second-class citizens by the avaricious clubs.
It’s just that I know that Mauricio will count that added day as a blessing at the end of a fixture rush that is going to stretch the fitness levels of his players to the limit.
What I do know is that Spurs will be loudly and proudly supported at Turf Moor on the night in huge numbers. Few can match the loyalty of the Lilywhite fans.
THE GILLER TEASER
Last week I asked: Who scored scored 62 goals in 118 first team games for Spurs, made the squad of 40 for the 1974 World Cup finals, later played for Derby County and managed Ipswich Town?
Most of you got it right, John Duncan. He was a Scottish striker who could teach Bobby Soldado a thing or three about finding time and space in a crowded penalty area and then finishing with accuracy. He played a key role in helping to bring Spurs back up to the top table following their relegation in Keith Burkinshaw’s first season.
The first name chosen at random from the correct entries: George Hodges, of Dagenham, who wins the autographed copy of Lane of Dreams.
This week’s teaser: Who scored a Boxing Day hat-trick for Spurs at Villa Park, has won 48 international caps and netted 42 goals for Tottenham in 146 League matches?
I have another copy of my best-selling Lane of Dreams book – including the autographs of Jimmy Greaves and Steve Perryman – for the sender of the correct answer whose name is randomly drawn first. Email your answer please to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for your company. Merry Christmas. COYS!
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