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Firstly, let me wish you all a belated Happy New Year.  Let's hope 2008 is a successful one on and off the pitch for the club.

Well, the transfer window is opened on the football world and Spurs are once more loaded with cash and a new Head Coach with a first opportunity to spend it.  Having ousted Jol, Levy and his backroom men got their wish of enticing Juande Ramos to White Hart Lane.

I have nothing against the man himself, as he has had success with a number of clubs, at varying levels, bringing a style of football that is attractive to watch as well as one which wins games.  If he does that at Spurs, then I am sure that most fans will put the Martin Jol affair to the back of their mind and carry on cheering the team on to trophies and kudos.  However, the bad taste still lingers in my mouth.

I am not saying that Martin Jol was the best coach in the world, but he turned Tottenham around in a short space of time and got us back into Europe and challenging on a number of fronts.  But once the board had lost him the confidence of the team, then he looked a forlorn figure.

Jol should be remembered as having laid the groundwork for anything that Ramos may take forward.

With his first couple of months behind him, the Spaniard is now starting to stamp his authority on the team.  His fitness regime seems to be going down well with some of the players and the competition for places is not affecting some of the squad.  For others, such as Chimbonda, it seems almost like an affront to him that players have been brought into the club in his position.  It is all a bit odd, as when we played in the UEFA Cup quarter final last season, he was one of the Spurs players wanted by Seville, but not now.  Another who doesn't seem to appreciate the need to fight for a place (if we believe what we hear in the media) is Paul Robinson, who many think needs the competition to keep him on his toes, otherwise complacency sets in.  Not sure what has gone on with Defoe, whether he does not fit in with Ramos' plans but it might mean that he doesn't intend to bring Fredi Kanoute back, as the two made a good front pairing.  Kanoute has made noises about wanting to join up with Ramos again, but Seville are reluctant to sell to us.

Spurs fans know the areas to beef up.  It is now in goal (if Robinson cannot accept he needs to work to retain his place); at left and right back; left side of midfield; a creative midfielder and a forward (or two depending who leaves).

With money to spend and more generated from sales, it looks like the noises about it being a quiet window might not be as true as they were intended to be.

On the playing front, the league form has been up and down.  The 6-4 over Reading was great for the neutral, but heart-stopping for the partisan Spurs fan and not good viewing for the coach.  It is rapidly becoming something that is almost a self-fulfilling prophesy that we need to score six to win each week and until the back four and the midfield tighten up and start keeping clean sheets on a regular basis, then it will always be win some lose some.  Ramos has done some good things, but still has much work to do.

The FA Cup has brought controversy, as we faced a depleted Reading side, as manager Steve Coppell regarded the club's Premier League survival over any progress in the world's most prestigious knock-out trophy.  Dave Kitson - who can't force a double defecation about the trophy - shat (no misprint intended) himself in the foot, as his very own supporters cheered like good 'uns when they got a draw.  So, a replay it is and what sort of opposition we will face, who knows ?  I can't quite follow the reasoning of the men from the Madejski.  Why enter anything if you can't win it ?  Why are they that worried about being in the Premier League if they don't stand any chance of taking the title ?  Oh, sorry.  That's not about winning is it ?  That's about money !!  Aha !!  The root of all evil comes to the rescue when you need an answer.

Poor old Danny Blanchflower would blanch at the very thought that the game is no longer about glory, but about money.

One other thing he might not be best pleased about is the major international trophy competition is taking place in the middle of a football season.  This means that the clubs, who pay good money to players for their services are deprived of them at a vital time in the season.

Not only are they deprived of them, but the opposition they face during the period between 20th January and 10th February benefit from not having to face a full strength side.  With the following teams missing the listed players, who would you be best off playing during this time ??

Arsenal 3 Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Eboue (Ivory Coast), Alex Song (Cameroon)
Aston Villa 0 -
Birmingham 3 Richard Kingson (Ghana), Mehdi Nafti, Radhi Jaidi (Tunisia)
Blackburn 1 Aaron Mokoena (South Africa)
Bolton 2 El-Hadji Diouf (Senegal), Abdoulaye Meite (Ivory Coast)
Chelsea 4 Michael Essien (Ghana), Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast), Salomon Kalou (Ivory Coast), John Obi Mikel (Nigeria)
Derby 0 -
Everton 3 Joseph Yobo (Nigeria), Ayegbeni Yakubu (Nigeria), Steven Pienaar (South Africa)
Fulham 1 Diomansy Kamara (Senegal)
Liverpool 1 Momo Sissoko (Mali)
Manchester City 0 -
Manchester United 1 Manuco Goncalves (Angola)
Middlesbrough 1 Mohammed Shawky (Egypt)
Newcastle 4 Obafemi Martins (Nigeria), Geremi (Cameroon), Habib Beye, Abdoulaye Faye (Senegal)
Portsmouth 4 Sulley Muntari (Ghana), Bouba Papa Diop (Senegal), Nwankwo Kanu, John Utaka (Nigeria)
Reading 3 Emerse Fae (Ivory Coast), Andre Bikey (Cameroon), Ibrahima Sonko (Senegal)
Sunderland 1 Dickson Etuhu (Nigeria)
Tottenham 1 Didier Zokora (Ivory Coast)
West Ham 1 John Pantsil (Ghana)
Wigan 0 -

We have Chelsea, Sunderland, Everton and Derby County, which on the face of it are not the best of teams to play without their African contingents.  Pompey would have been good; Newcastle too.  I suppose facing Everton without Yakubu is a bit of a relief, but there is not much missing from the Derby and Sunderland teams. 

So, some sides could pick up points they might not have got while others might miss out on facing depleted sides and there could be serious consequences for opposition clubs signing players from Africa, just because of the whims of FIFA.  A level playing field ??  Not really.

There was a time when fielding weakened teams without good reason brought fines from the FA.  We certainly suffered because of it when reserves were fielded prior to FA Cup finals, but now it is almost accepted as the norm.  The long term effects would not be off-set by a fine of a few thousand pounds.  But the integrity of the game suffers.

With the FA Cup replay win over Reading, having played them in the original tie a few days after we faced them in the league, we now face Manchester United, who visit White Hart Lane less than a week on from the FA Cup tie.  Familiarity might breed contempt, but the lack of interest by Reading in the trophy earned them better results than the league match.  Will United field a lesser team than they usually put out in the Premier League ?  We'll see, but Spurs have only a limited number of players to use, although it has been interesting to see Ramos introduce players like Archibald-Henville, Taarabt, O'Hara and Rose into the first team squad.  With Gunter doing well in his first game and Chimbonda not happy at having competition for his place, it seems Spurs are planning for the future.

So, we seem to have come full circle.  It will be an important month, both on and off the pitch, but what was a poor start to the season has gone on to be a semi-final in the League Cup, a Fourth Round place in the FA Cup, the Round of 32 in the UEFA Cup and the prospect of a top half place in the league table.  No Champions League place as the board wanted, but that is not surprising, as the top four are as strong as ever, although there are even more challengers for the breakthrough club in the chasing pack.

Don't forget, whatever happens,


Keep the faith.




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