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Speaking With The Enemy – Tottenham

Speaking With the Enemy – Tottenham

This weekend we face one of our fiercest rivals, Tottenham, away at White Hart Lane – better known to Chelsea fans as Three Point Lane for a long time – yet results haven’t gone all our way in the last couple of years. This week we speak to FOUR Spurs fans to see how they think Tottenham & Chelsea will do this season.

Season ticket holder, Tom – a THFC fan for 30 years; Chris Corbit, 20 year old avid Tottenham and general football fan from London & amateur football writer; Rob M, (28 years old) from North London a season ticket holder in the South Lower for 12 years; Rob G – Tottenham fan from Colchester

Early Days but how do you think your team is looking this season?

Tom – I think that it has been mixed.  One defeat at Newcastle and the rest of the games unbeaten should be a good start but I think the draws at home against Norwich and WBA were pretty poor results.  BUT, considering we have a new manager, lost Modric and brought in a number of new players I think the start has been OK.  Obviously the win at Old Trafford was massive and could well be a springboard.  Saturday’s game is huge obviously, for many reasons…..

Chris – I’ve been very pleasantly surprised with how the team’s kicked off this season, I was expecting a pretty slow start for the first few months obviously with a new manager, new coaching staff and virtually half a new starting eleven… I certainly wouldn’t have dreamt of a 9 match unbeaten run with a win at Old Trafford! Players like Dembele, Vertonghen and Dempsey have come in and look as if they’ve been here for months rather than weeks, while guys like Sandro and Defoe have stepped up in the absence of key players in Parker & Adebayor. All in all I think it’s obviously been a brilliant beginning, but I won’t be jumping on the “Top four a certainty” bandwagon just yet…

Rob G – Team is definitely looking more settled, but still not convinced that the formation we play at home is suitable all the time.

Rob M – The first two months have summed up what Tottenham have been for the last two decades. Inconsistent. A dull draw at home to Norwich, followed by a deserved victory at home to Manchester united a few weeks later. We look like we are starting to take shape under Villas Boas who I think will adapt to spurs style of play easier then the Chelsea of last season. I think it would be fair to judge the team 12 games in.

Are you happy with the business Tottenham did in the transfer window?

Tom – I think Modric had to go and I think we got a full price for him considering he wanted to leave.  I think our business would have been excellent if we had signed Moutinho and another quality striker.  But, overall I don’t think it has been terrible, we just need another striker and a creative midfielder.  Vertonghen, Dembele, Adebayor and Lloris are all top quality signings.

Chris – That’s a complicated question to answer to be honest. I find the best way is through metaphor. If I ask you to go down to Tesco’s and bring me back some milk, bread and eggs – simple obvious stuff – and you come back 10 hours later saying “Right, I thought about getting what you asked for… But then I bought an inflatable bed and a measuring jug instead!!” The point being it was clear from the point that we sold Roman Pavlyuchenko in January that at least one striker was imperative in the following window, and aside from securing the already ingrained talent of Adebayor, that wasn’t done. Neither did we replace what we inevitably lost in Luka Modric, though Dembele is doing his best to fill that gap and £30+ for Luka really was taking Madrid for a gaggle of mugs. Instead we strengthened in virtually every other area of the pitch, neglecting what was actually required from the start! Don’t get me wrong though, the lads that have arrived have all been superb thus far and long may it continue.

Rob G – I am happy with the players we brought in. However Losing King, Modric and VDV was a big, big loss. 3 Amazing talents

Rob M – To be brutally honest, our transfer dealings have been somewhat underwhelming. The signing of Lloris and Dembele was huge, but I don’t consider Siggurdsson and Dempsey suitable replacements for Modric and VDV. Missing out on Moutinho was devastating.

Which Tottenham player should Chelsea be worried about?

Tom – Bale of course, he can win games on his own as he showed on Friday for Wales.  His pace is unbelievable and I think right back is a problem area for you.  But he’s not only fast he is extremely skilful and can score goals.  Dembele is a pretty special player as well, him against Mikel in midfield should be pretty funny to watch, Dembele is everything Mikel isn’t, skilful, can pass………

Chris – The media will tell us all that Gareth Bale is the man to fear and will no doubt reference his last truly outstanding game, against Inter Milan two years ago. Now while he may be a zippy little fella when allowed to run in a straight line, I would put much greater faith in combatting Chelsea in the central midfield partnership of new signing Mousa Dembele and Brazilian bear-man Sandro. Their physically domineering performances so far this season have broken the rhythm of most every team that they’ve come up against, including a truly stellar showing against Manchester United stars Van Persie and Rooney. Obviously Chelsea have a reputation for being one of the more physically strong sides in the league, so it should be interesting to see whether the new partnership can match that and give the Blues a taste of their own medicine.

Rob G – Obviously Bale on his day can play against anyone. But in all honesty Jan Vertoghen is such a good all round player!

Rob M – The player Chelsea should worry about most in our spurs side is Dembele. As I write this news comes in that he’ll be fit for the game. Excellent news (For me anyway). In most games he’s played this season, he’s bossed the midfield proving to offer offensively and defensively, something Modric failed to do adequately. It’ll be interesting to see whether RDM plays Lampard, as I think someone who’s much faster like Ramirez will deal better with our midfield’s speed. And do I even need to mention Gareth Bale? Although Ivanovic will most certainly be up for the challenge.

What would make a good season for Tottenham as far as you are concerned?

Tom – It’s got to be top four as that is what we did last year.

Chris – Having been established over the last few years as consistent challengers for the top four spots, and obviously considering the amount of money spent over the summer, I’d be disappointed should we fail to keep pace with the bigger teams in the league; the Arsenal’s, the Chelsea’s etc. However to be fair there have been major changes at the club over a short space of time, and to repeat a tired old argument; you have to give new management/players time to gel, develop and progress. So really as long as we give some good performances throughout the season, perhaps take some scalps from the bigger teams, I wouldn’t be too unhappy with a 5th placed finish and a strong showing in the cups. I’m talking quarter-finals in the Capital One and FA Cup, with a place in the knockout stages of the Europa League satisfying me.

Rob G – Getting back into the top 4, and of course a trophy in a cup competition.

Rob M – A good season for us? Top four. The transition in coaching staff and players means we are worse off than last season, whereas all of our rivals have strengthened, even Arsenal.

If you could choose any Chelsea player to join Tottenham, who would it be and why?

Tom – Hazard.  I wish we had got him instead of you and I think he is a fantastic player.  Also, if he joined us know he wouldn’t have too much Chelsea baggage to get rid of!

Chris – No question about it, it’d have to be Eden Hazard. His ability on and off the ball coupled with his propriety to both make and score goals makes him something very close to a complete player at the age of 21. It was my point of view at the start of this season that if Chelsea were to mount a credible title challenge, it would be very largely due to the efforts and performances of this young star. The main criticism I seem to hear is his tendency to dive whenever the opportunity strikes, but to be honest I’ve seen no worse from Eden than I have from almost every attacking player in the Premier League. A close second place to Hazard would probably be the ever-reliable Branislav Ivanovic, one of the few defenders who can also contribute a goal now and then, but definitely Hazard stands out for me.

Rob G – It has to be Hazard. The bloke is a world class player and has everything suited to the modern game.

Rob M – If I could have any Chelsea player play for spurs, it would be Juan Mata. The media has focused on Hazard more, but I would consider Mata the better player. So consistent in his creativity, a type of player who we lost and have not replaced (Modric). Mata in the middle of bale and Lennon in an attacking midfield would be a dream. He’s easily a better player than Silva, Hazard and Cazorla. Although he could work on his penalty taking.

Obviously Tottenham appointed AVB who was sacked by Chelsea last season amongst rumours of a poor relationship with the players. Do you think he is the right man for Tottenham and do you think he learnt any lessons at Stamford Bridge?

Tom – I was unhappy that Harry was sacked and I thought that bringing in AVB was a big risk (there are plenty of Spurs fans who do not share either view) but the big question mark is the man management issue.  I think when you look at his past there is one thing you have to consider.  His former Porto players think he was a great man manager, his former Chelsea players think he was a terrible one.  The question is, whether the problem was with AVB or with Chelsea and their players.

I think the second consideration in this debate is how the players look at their victories.  When Spurs beat Man U at Old Trafford I think that helped bring the players and the manager closer together.  Spurs hadn’t won there since 1989 and so none of the players could claim this was a normal event, it was something that they all did together, the manager credited the players and the players the manager for his tactics.  Now think back to last season, if Chelsea had won at Old Trafford (I can’t remember if they played there under AVB and if they did what the result was) I am sure the Chelsea players would have said “so, what.  We have won here loads of times, it’s down to us, not the gaffer” and there is the problem that AVB came across at Chelsea……Oh and John Terry and Frank Lampard running the team!

I hope he has learnt lessons and I think the Man U game is a massive help to getting that team spirit, but only time will tell.  On the whole I don’t think managers do change very much, so hopefully the Chelsea problem was a Chelsea problem.

Chris – The main worry I had when AVB’s name was being bandied about in the wake of ‘Arry’s departure was the possibility that his perceived lack of ‘people skills’ would rain ruin upon the general sense of camaraderie between the players, staff and chairman. The seemingly perpetual positive atmosphere that always seemed to radiate from the squad during training, interviews and games was seen as one of Tottenham’s greatest strengths by the fans and the thought of Villas-Boas meddling with that was an alarming thought. Personally I was rooting for former France coach Laurent Blanc to be appointed. However since taking up the job I’m pleased to say the bearded one has proven me and a great many Spurs fans wrong in being so quick to judge. His tactical astuteness and willingness to get involved in training sessions has been a welcome change to Redknapp’s “just run about a bit” approach to the game. While listening to articulate press conferences has also been a breath of fresh air! I think he has learnt from his time at Chelsea; he seems much more willing to take on the opinions and feedback of the Tottenham squad than he perhaps showed at Stamford Bridge, and is not so quick to bite at the media’s bait as he was last year, meaning the Spurs camp has a lot less to worry about attention-wise than Chelsea did this time last season. I now count myself as an ‘AVBeliever’ and truly hope he is given the time and backing to realise his vision for what he wants to achieve at Tottenham.

Rob G – I think he has learnt some lessons. I think he appreciates that you he made some mistakes in the media at Ch*lsea, and now the first half against QPR was truly awful. He changed it in the second half and we looked so much better. Only time will tell if he is the right man, but the guy did win a treble in Portugal and Chelsea paid a lot of money to get him. So he must have something about him.

Rob M – Time will tell but the last four games he’s got us playing good football. In fact the first 3 games where we dropped points weren’t down to him, more down to defensive mistakes. We are dominating more football games than last year and I think he is getting the best out of Defoe although his man management skills are questionable. But here he is working with less stars and younger players, much more like when he took over at Porto. He also takes Europe (albeit Europa league) seriously which is good. In terms of lessons learnt from Stamford Bridge, he has certainly not bowed down to player power. It was a bold move of him to stick with Friedel in goal despite the arrival of in my opinion one of the top 3 goalkeepers in the world arriving in Hugo Lloris. I think last season when he tried dropping Lampard it didn’t work in the Chelsea camp and he kind of lost control.

Tottenham threw their hat in the ring for the Olympic Stadium – how would you take a move to East London?

Tom – That is a dead issue now, we have planning permission for the new stadium and as you will see on Saturday the site has already been cleared and the work has already started on the shopping centre aspect of it.  If the OS had been the only option and they had pulled it down and built a whole new stadium on the site then it would have been better than staying at the old WHL, but the solution we have ended up with is the best by far.  We stay at our home, we’ll have a fantastic new stadium and it will give us the financial muscle to compete with all the other major teams in England once FFP comes in.

Chris – I’m one who falls into the ‘strongly against’ category to be honest. The atmosphere of the Olympics was phenomenal, no question, but could we (or West Ham for that matter) really expect that same buzz to transfer to your average Saturday afternoon kick-off? Your die-hard Spurs fans will swear blind that, yes, of course. We could match that atmosphere for every game, every week if we wanted to. But in reality, it just wouldn’t happen. The move not only from our historic current stadium but also away from the base of the clubs’ inception would have been ludicrous, and many fans I expect would’ve boycotted the trip over to Stratford in favour of trotting off down to the local pub and watching for free with no travel involved. Thankfully the move was eventually trashed and the efforts of both owner Joe Lewis and chairman Daniel Levy have been re-focussed on the North London Development Project, with initial plans for a 56,000 seater stadium (complete with a Sainsbury’s, don’t you know), given an initial completion date of summer 2016. Fingers crossed!!!

Rob G – We are a North London club. Should never have been considered.

Rob M – The stadium is beautiful, but I don’t think it would be possible to just move a football club to another part of London, although our current area is atrocious. It’s sickening to think West Ham will have a bigger ground then us, and it wasn’t nice that they somehow believed there club had the high ground over us purely for winning the battle to the stadium. From what I’ve seen the plans for the new white hart lane look nice, so I won’t be losing sleep over missing out on the Olympic stadium.

How do you think Chelsea will do this season?

Tom – You bought some very talented midfield players and I think Hazard especially is a great signing.  BUT, I don’t rate your manager at all.  Terry and Lampard are the de facto managers of your team and while that worked for your FA Cup and CL runs last year that level of player power can only last so long.  You are unbelievably thin up front so one injury to Torres and you are in trouble and I also think some of your midfield may not be so special when you get into the meat of the season.  I also think you haven’t replaced Drogba, not only because you haven’t bought another striker for his position, but you haven’t replaced his leadership and charisma.

Having said that you have quality in the squad and I think you will do better than last year… 5th

Chris – That’s a difficult one to answer simply because of the complete opposite levels of performance in different competitions last season… Had Liverpool won the FA Cup and Munich lifted the European trophy I would’ve confidently stated – with a no doubt unbearably smug face on – that Chelsea would do well to regain entry into the top four of the Premier League this season. However such was the outstanding level of performance against Barcelona and throughout the CL, the defensive solidarity of what was a cobbled together CFC defence versus Munich, and the total outclassing of Liverpool in the FA Cup final, that to discount Chelsea from the top four so easily would be idiotic. I’ve made my own Prem table predictions and see the Blues coming 3rd behind Manchester (yes, it’s the common, boring opinion), while I believe you have the squad to go for the win in at least one of the domestic cups. I would say that, as with us, a striker is pretty imperative for you in January though. A good many CFC fans seem to mistrust Sturridge to step up and take the team forward, while Torres is ever unreliable… I see no such problems for Chelsea as they had last season however, and would be shocked if you failed to secure a top 4 spot and a trophy.

Rob G – I think they will be in and around the league. But think City will pip them. It’s hard to criticize Di Matteo, but still not convinced about him as a top manager.

Rob M – At the moment Chelsea look very good, they are much more fluid and attacking then last season and can definitely be considered title favourites. Time will tell whether you can keep the momentum and you can never rule out Manchester united but I’d say now you are title favourites.

Who has been your favourite ever Tottenham player and why?

Tom – Glenn Hoddle – do I need to explain why?  The most talented Englishman of his generation, was at his peak when I started supporting Spurs in 1980.  Just a genius, what England would do for him today.  Closely followed by Gazza, Lineker and Waddle

Chris – Being only the young whippersnapper that I am at 20 years old, I can’t state the likes of Mackay, Hoddle, Lineker etc. All of the big Tottenham legends I’m afraid are mere stories and far-away gazes in the faces of older men to me. The player that stands out from my time as a Spur would, predictably, have to be Ledley the King. One of only a handful of one-club-men left to the English game, his defensive capabilities would have been enough to make him a legend. But the fact that he managed for the majority of his career to play to such high standards through repeated operations and injuries, each time showing greater desire to play in the Tottenham shirt, and upon retirement still remain deeply involved with the club, makes him one of our greatest ever players in my eyes.

Rob G – My Favourite Tottenham player will have to be Ledley King. I Think. To come through the ranks at the club, become captain and perform to that level with those injuries is remarkable. A real club legend.

Rob M – Hmmm I’d have to say Berbatov. I’m aware of the many other Spurs legends the fans bang on about but since I’ve been watching football Berbatov has been my favourite. He’s one of the most skilful premier league players ever. Some called him lazy, I call him laid back. He had a style about him on and of the pitch and we relied heavily on him from 2006-08. I was devastated when Michael Carrick left as well.

What has been your biggest high as a Tottenham fan?

Tom – I was at Wembley in 1991 when we won the FA Cup, which was special, but the best was winning the Carling Cup against……who was it now?  Ah, Chelsea.

Chris – We’re branded by some as a cup team and I suppose many of my era would consider the 2008 Carling Cup victory as the highest point of contemporary Tottenham fandome. However personally I would pick out the 1-0 aggregate win over AC Milan in the Champion’s League as one of the greatest moments to be a Tottenham fan, made no less satisfying by Massimiliano Allegri’s sour-faced bitterness afterwards! The Carling Cup trophy would run a very close second, with the recent 2-3 win at Old Trafford coming third after stunning many a Spur into euphoria. A win against the Arsenal is always appreciated too!

Rob G – Lifting the League Cup in 2008 was a big high. But getting into the champions league that season was incredible. After being rubbish for so many years and seeing some real tosh- that was amazing.

Rob M – Biggest high was probably qualifying for the champions league. That year our squad wasn’t the 4th best in the league but we played so well throughout, and it was such a relief to break through that glass ceiling that is the top four.

Describe how you felt the moment that Drogba scored that penalty in Munich which won Chelsea the Champions League and denied Tottenham a place in the competition?

Tom – I was in Las Vegas and quite frankly it ruined my day and I was absolutely gutted.  It would have been easier to take if it hadn’t been the most undeserved, lucky victory in the history of Association Football.  It should have been a 4-0 drubbing like you got against Athletico Madrid.

Chris – To be honest I had the ominous feeling of imminent heartbreak pretty much from the moment we secured 4th rather than 3rd on the final day of the Premier League. It was just too perfectly TOTTENHAM for us not to miss out somehow. Munich’s goal in the CL final gave me maybe a good 10 minutes of hope, then as predicted and expected, the whole thing came tumbling down as Drogba equalised. I sat watching the penalties knowing exactly what would happen, simply because it was too perfectly typical not to happen. Nonetheless when it was made official with Drogba’s last kick of his Chelsea career it did feel as though a large rock had dropped into my stomach to be honest… Copious amounts of alcohol later served to pick me back up I assure you, but really it was an all-time low for me as a fan. Still the game moves on and the fans are confident and hopeful of a few highs this season to dampen the disappointments of last year!

Rob G – That was one of the worst feelings I have ever had in my life. And Spurs weren’t even playing. It was like a knife into my stomach. I was actually watching it in New Zealand which meant it was early morning. Just to add to the pain. After 38 games we played in the league- it effectively came down to a game in Munich.

Rob M – Heartbroken. The ironic thing was that I was really happy for Chelsea when they knocked out Barcelona. I wouldn’t say you didn’t deserve to win as you defended admirably. We deserved to play champions league football and you did as well, although in the league we were two places the superior team. But the win in Germany was quite the triumph, and it wouldn’t be right for the winner not to play in the champions league in the following season. But in answer to your question I was heartbroken.

Finally, what’s your prediction for the match?

Tom – 2-1 Tottenham

Chris – I’ll start by saying I’m not confident with this one. Chelsea have looked strong and more importantly, consistent. Whereas Tottenham still look like a side building up through the gears toward the level of a top side. I don’t believe it’ll be anything as one-sided as the recent 5-1 demolition, but I would still be inclined to bet on a CFC victory this time. I’ll go for a 2-1 Chelsea win, with Dempsey, Lampard and Torres picking up the goals. Win, lose or draw, COYS!!

Rob G – The atmosphere is always raised when Ch*lsea come to the lane. Thinking a close 2-1 victory for us. Need to put Chelsea under severe pressure from the off and get Dembele on the ball. Really need Bale and Lennon to be on their game.

Rob M – If we can handle your front 4 in Torres Oscar Mata and hazard then I think we can win the game as I’m confident that our midfield can overpower yours. I think 2-2 would be a good call although if I were to be optimistic I would say 3-2 to the spurs.

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