NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 154
Submitted by Norman Giller
Thank goodness for the Europa League! Today’s draw pairing Tottenham with KAA Gent takes our mind off that mugging at Old Trafford yesterday, as recorded hereby our webmaster Paul Smith.
The draw means a trip home for our strong Belgian contingent, and a short hop across the North Sea for Tottenham’s travelling army of supporters including the indefatigable Mr. Smith.
Good news is that Toby Alderweireld has time to get back to full match fitness in time for his return to Belgium for what will be one of Tottenham’s most vital matches THIS season. He gave his usual 100 per cent effort and endeavour against Man U yesterday, but was understandably off his peak following his long lay-off.
Gent are fifth in the Belgian League and on paper should provide a stepping stone for Spurs into the last 16. But on the pitch, nothing is predictable and Mauricio Pochettino is certain to field his strongest side for the first leg on February 16 and the return at Wembley on February 23. Just bear in mind that Gent beat Valencia, Lyon and AVB's Zenit in last season's Champions League, so they are far from a pushover.
One thing’s for sure, Spurs will need to improve on their performance at Old Trafford yesterday if they are to progress to the final stages of the Europa League that they have joined reluctantly after a disappointing exit from the Champions League. It means we are battling for the Consolation Cup, but we are now desperate for any sort of trophy!
Let’s be honest, Manchester United won the Sunday showdown because of the spoiling tactics adopted by the special (often specious) one Jose Mourinho, who has never finished second in a home match against Spurs, which takes in his time at Chelsea and Real Madrid.
There must be a good chance of United being a barrier down the line in the Europa League. The way they cramped Tottenham’s pressing game yesterday begs the question that perhaps we have become too predictable with tactics that can be countered by any team willing to work as hard as we do.
If this had been a tennis match we would have been listing Tottenham’s rash of unforced errors. Attacks continually broke down because of misplaced and intercepted passes, with the result that Spurs rarely found the tempo and rhythm that is so important in the Pochettino plan.
Our Harry Kane had a wretched afternoon, and was too often isolated against a United defence that looked as if it might quickly become disunited if Tottenham could just get their act together. They were there for the taking, as proved by the inroads that the suddenly energetic and enthusiastic Sissoko made out on the right flank when he came on for an impressive substitute performance.
But Spurs produced little penalty area penetration, and United were allowed to get away with three points they just about deserved. I will bet the price of a pair of leather Theresa May trousers that Tottenham will play worse this season and win. It was just not their day at Old Trafford and the frustrating game should be quickly dismissed to the dustbin of history.
That’s why I am glad we have the Europa League trophy on which to concentrate. Those who did not want anything more to do with the Thursday tournament must now surely see it as our best chance of getting something to show for the improvement under Generalissimo Pochettino’s baton.
Anybody who is realistic and has seen Chelsea in full flow will quietly accept that it’s hardly likely that Tottenham can make up ten points on the League leaders.
So that leaves the FA Cup and Europa League as the two best hopes of getting silverware on the table as we wait for the dawn of a new era and the opening of our state-of-the-art new stadium.
It is vital for Pochettino’s CV and the morale throughout the club – including with you and me – that Tottenham at least get within shooting distance of a trophy this season. Gent stand in our way on the European trail, but I have faith in our Belgian brigade to help us remove them from our path.
After all, Jan, Toby and Mousa are proper gents!
Spurs Odyssey Quiz League, week 18
This week’s mystery player:
“I started my career with Reading, and have since won 48 international caps. With which German side did I play before joining Tottenham in 2012?”
Email your answers, please, to SOQL18@normangillerbooks.com. Give your name, the district where you live and how long you’ve supported Spurs. I will respond, and will email a screen version of one of my Tottenham-themed books to the sender of the first all-correct answer drawn at random. Deadline is midnight on Friday.
Please keep a check on your points tally, because the contestant topping the SOQL table at the end of the season will receive a framed certificate announcing the winner as the 2016-17 Spurs Odyssey Quiz League champion. And the first three in the final table will win an autographed, hardback copy of my Bill Nicholson Revisited tribute book, PLUS a souvenir card signed by Spurs legends Jimmy Greaves and Steve Perryman.
The 17th teaser was:
“I scored 63 goals in 197 games for Spurs, 29 in 23 international appearances and captained two Olympic winning teams. With which club was I a player when wartime injuries hurried my retirement?”
This had many of you scrambling into the dim and distant past, and most of you eventually came up with Vivian Woodward, a hero of heroes who was on Chelsea’s books when wounded during World War 1. Woodward, an amateur who combined work as an architect with his football career, captained the Great Britain team that won the Olympic title in 1908 and again in 1912. He was a prolific goal scorer and noted for his gentlemanly manners on and off the pitch. Goodness knows what he would have made of the Alli dive last week and the shirt pulling at Old Trafford yesterday! We should make sure the younger generation know about him and his peers, stressing that Tottenham did not start with the launch of the Premier League.
First name drawn at random from the correct answers is George Collins, who lives in Berkhamsted and has been a Spurs supporter “since birth” in 1952. I will be emailing George a screen version of one of my Tottenham-themed books.
As regular contestants will know, the SOQL League table is decided on facts up until the final weeks of the season. Then I introduce tie breaks based on opinions, which is when I lose friends and fail to influence people with my views.
But please remember, it is just for fun and helps us all refresh our knowledge on the history and the heroes of our great club.
Thanks for your company. See you same time, same place next week. COYS!
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