Thursday, 28 March 2013

AVB needs to spur on Tottenham

The international break will certainly have been welcomed by Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas.

Food for thought: Villas-Boas had a lot to ponder during the international break
Having seen his team suffer back-to-back Premier League defeats prior to the World Cup qualifiers, the 35-year-old Portuguese is likely to have spent the past two weeks devising a plan to prevent a second consecutive end-of-season collapse from the North Londoners.

Four wins from thirteen matches at the end of the 2011/12 campaign saw Spurs cling onto the fourth Champions League spot, but having earlier been touted as title contenders, they only had themselves to blame when the eventual European champions Chelsea took their place in this season’s competition.

Given that all the English representatives have failed to make it past the Champions League last-16 this time round, Spurs can at least be assured that a fourth-placed finish or better will ensure their status amongst Europe’s elite.

Nevertheless, they’re going to have to work hard for it. AVB’s men are a point behind third-placed Chelsea having played a game more while Arsenal and Everton are only four and six points behind them respectively with a game in hand.

The next four fixtures are likely to prove crucial in the outcome of their season. Key matches at home to Everton and away at Chelsea are sandwiched in between Saturday’s trip to Swansea and the visit of Manchester City to White Hart Lane on 21 April.
If they can come through that difficult spell with a respectable points tally, they will fancy their chances of completing the job against four teams who currently find themselves in the bottom half of the table; Wigan, Southampton, Stoke and Sunderland.

The pressure is on AVB to match the immediate expectations of chairman Daniel Levy and use the financial gains of Champions League football to mould Spurs into a side capable of challenging for the Premier League title. Success in the Europa League is a possibility but you’d expect that the majority of Spurs fans would sacrifice the silverware for a place in next season’s Champions League. The experience of making it to the quarter-finals in the 2010/11 season provides enough justification for that in itself.

The quality of Spurs’ squad is befitting of Champions League football, however, the future of their star man Gareth Bale could hinge on whether they secure it or not. Real Madrid and Barcelona have been heavily linked with the Welsh wizard and the lure of the two Spanish giants will be even greater if his current club are unable to offer the stage on which his talent deserves to be displayed.

The disappointment of missing out on the Champions League last season sparked the departures of Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart and the consequent arrivals of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Mousa Dembele and Clint Dempsey as replacements for them. Two world-class midfielders out. Three very good midfielders in.

Spurs cannot afford to make a habit out of this as they will gradually become a weaker outfit. The quicker they realise their potential as a club, the better.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Davis' Railwaymen keep chugging along

Davis has guided Crewe to a Wembley final for a second time
Crewe manager Steve Davis spoke admirably of the team ethic at the football club after guiding the Railwaymen to the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Despite conceding two injury-time goals - an own goal from Mark Ellis followed by a Leon Clarke header - in the second leg of the Northern Area final against Coventry, a 3-0 win at the Ricoh Arena two weeks earlier proved enough to earn Crewe a place in a cup final for the first time in their history.

“It’s just the result of a lot of hard work,” said Davis.

“Everybody’s working as hard as they possibly can; the players and the staff. We’ve got some great staff and some great people in the background.

“Everybody’s pulling together and that’s the most important thing. You need everybody to be pulling the same way as you and if they do that, it’s hard to stop.

“It feels like an express train at the moment that’s out of control and that’s a nice feeling.”

Davis’ men will meet Southend, 3-2 aggregate winners against Leyton Orient, in the final at Wembley on 7 April.

The sides’ most recent meeting came in last season’s League Two play-off semi-final with Crewe prevailing 3-2 over the two-legged tie before going onto to beat Cheltenham at Wembley to secure promotion to League One.

“We had a fantastic day down there in May so it’s something for the players to look forward to,” said Davis.

"It's only going to benefit us from a development point of view. The younger boys will learn a lot from tonight and they'll also learn a lot from a return to Wembley.

“It’s going to be a great occasion, a great day for the town to get down there and support the club and an opportunity to win a cup competition.”