WindyCOYS http://windycoys.com Spurs Blog, often focussing on goal analysis & under 18/loan players Fri, 28 Nov 2014 11:55:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Focus on Paulinho http://windycoys.com/2014/11/focus-on-paulinho/ http://windycoys.com/2014/11/focus-on-paulinho/#comments Fri, 28 Nov 2014 11:55:38 +0000 http://windycoys.com/?p=2083 I was going to post this as a series of tweets, but it quickly became too long so I thought I’d write a blog about Paulinho’s performance against Partizan Belgrade. I re-watched last night’s match against Partizan Belgrade in double speed to have another look at Paulinho as so many people had mentioned to me on Twitter that they thought he did well.

The fist thing to mention is that in our 4-1-4-1 in the first half he had a very ‘free’ role, with barely any defensive responsibility. I don’t know whether this was deliberate, but both he and Dembele left Stambouli exposed and we suffered as a result, getting caught on the counter. In fact, despite changing shape in the second half, we only looked more solid once Bentaleb came on.

In the first half, the majority of the passes he made were either sideways or backwards. Frequently he’d drop off his man, receive the ball with his back to goal and pass backwards to where it had come from. Alternatively, he’d pick up the ball in space in midfield and pass sideways, before trotting forward.

He intercepted one ball and wasted the opportunity to counter by dallying. His other interception came when the ball hit him; a counter was on if he played a quick pass into Soldado, but he didn’t get his head up, and instead ran into a cul-de-sac on the right flank and ended up turning back (although he retained possession sensibly).

All of his first time flicks failed. One in the first half was looking for Soldado, but was too heavy. The idea was a relatively good one, the execution was less good.

He played one good, floated ball out to Davies on the left, and soon after he nearly created something when receiving the ball wide on the left and cutting in, but he overhit his pass to Lamela, forcing Lamela to slide to retain possession.

Lennon fed him in on left of the box where he had two chances to shoot, but the move ended up with him passing up those opportunities, turning away from goal, and taking an awkward, heavy touch which saw him head out to the corner flag where he lost possession.

In the second half we switched to 4-2-3-1, with Paulinho dropping back in alongside Stambouli, and Dembele playing the more advanced role by himself. This was presumably because we were caught a number of times, and Pochettino wanted to ensure we were more solid at the base of midfield.

Paulinho played one nice pass with the outside of his boot through a tight space to Dembele, who immediately lost possession.

He made a useful burst into the six-yard box when Soldado got in on the left, but Soldado’s cross was poor and the goalkeeper claimed it – Paulinho might have had a tap-in otherwise. He then had a decent shot which the goalkeeper saved.

Once Bentaleb came on, Paulinho was pushed up into the most advanced midfield role, where he had another long period of not touching the ball.

He pounced on a loose ball, strode forward, dallied and ended up playing a pass slightly awkwardly onto Bentaleb’s weaker right foot, and Bentaleb mis-controlled.

Kane found him with a clever touch, but he hit a ludicrously heavy toe-poke well ahead of Lennon. Seconds later he was played in by another clever Kane pass, but he was slow to latch onto it. Lamela picked up the pieces and hit a shot just over.

After Kane came on, Paulinho was often the most advanced player, as Kane dropped deep and he ran in behind. But he had another long period of not touching the ball (failing to anticipate a clever Lennon pass in the meantime) and his next involvement was a failed first time flick to Kane.

His final involvement came when was found by a clever pass from Lamela between the Partizan defence and midfield, with an opportunity to hurt them. His clumsy dribbling led to the ball getting caught under his feet, which caused him to check and then to lose the ball with a pass straight at a defender. He immediately regained possession after a misunderstanding between two Partizan players but lost it again, dribbling straight into a defender. He was replaced by debutant Harry Winks shortly after.

Paulinho made a few runs either away from ball, or towards his own player who was driving forward in possession, which often led to the player on the ball being crowded out. But, in truth, these runs were few and far between, and he spent a lot of time just wandering around, neither showing for the ball or moving into space.

I still don’t really know what kind of player Paulinho is. I can list what he’s good at on one hand – pressing, making late runs into the penalty box, and keeping possession with backwards/sideways passes.

The things he is not good at are less easy to list succinctly: he doesn’t anticipate danger well, he doesn’t get his head up when he receives the ball, his shooting is wayward, he doesn’t have a good range of passing, he dribbles clumsily, he sometimes needs more touches than most to get the ball under control, and he can ‘go missing’ for long periods (often not showing for the ball).

I realise that he has not had a decent break from football for longer than is helpful to a top-level athlete but, even giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming that after a rest he’d improve by 20%, I just cannot see any way back for him at Spurs.

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Getting to know Grant Ward http://windycoys.com/2014/11/getting-to-know-grant-ward/ http://windycoys.com/2014/11/getting-to-know-grant-ward/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 20:05:02 +0000 http://windycoys.com/?p=2074 Grant Ward doesn’t turn 20 until December. There aren’t many 19-year old English footballers who can say they’ve experienced top-flight football in another country.

It was a very brave decision of Ward to move halfway across the world to play for Chicago Fire in the MLS. The move has paid off, though, and after 20 appearances for ‘The Fire’ (scoring once), Ward has come back to Tottenham with the match day experience that young players need.

Ward moved in March, and so spent around eight months in the States. He told the American press that the experience developed him and allowed him to “become more independent.” He knows that Chicago Fire want to take him back for next season, and is open to the proposal.

Grant agreed to answer a few of my questions about the move – thanks to him for taking the time.

How did the move to Chicago Fire come about?
The manger Frank Yallop was in town for a few weeks, he watched a few reserves games, I played well and he asked if I would like to have a season in the MLS.

Had you seen much MLS football before the move? Did you know what you were letting yourself in for?
I had seen an odd goal or two from Henry but, to be honest, no because games are not televised much over here. After I knew it was an option to go there I did manage to watch a few games.

Did you notice any major differences in either the coaching or playing style out there?
My coaches out there did similar sessions to what I do at Tottenham but the tempo in the MLS is a lot slower overall and I feel a lot of teams like to sit behind the ball.

What was the thing you enjoyed most about your loan experience?
I enjoyed playing against some of the players I watched growing up as a kid like, Henry, Keane, etc. I also enjoyed living in Chicago, it’s a very nice city.

And what did you enjoy least?
I enjoyed the whole experience apart from the rules that America has that no one tells you, like you cannot park near a fire-hydrant, this resulted in a few parking tickets!

Have you seen much of DeAndre Yedlin? [I was hoping that Grant may have caught him in person.]
I watched him in the World Cup, he played well when he came on and seemed to have a lot of pace.

Have you been given any feedback about the move from Spurs? Did they go to watch you out there?
Yes I received a lot of feedback and they came out to watch my last game against Houston.

Which players at Spurs do you look up to in training? Who stands out?
Growing up I always looked up to Lennon but also Eriksen and Dembele are very good trainers.

You have played at full-back and on the wing. Which position do you see yourself playing long-term?
I could see my self playing in either position but I enjoy playing on the wing or when I have the licence to go forward at full-back.

What are your aspirations for the next two or three years?
To maybe go on loan a few more times to gain some more experience to help me break into the first team.

Grant is likely to play for our Under-21s over the coming weeks, and it’ll be fascinating to see how he has progressed as a player. I wish him all the best for the future.

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I’m your biggest fan http://windycoys.com/2014/10/im-your-biggest-fan/ http://windycoys.com/2014/10/im-your-biggest-fan/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 10:33:12 +0000 http://windycoys.com/?p=2071 Last night it felt like we got back on track a little. The team, the fans, the fans on social media… it all felt a bit more ‘together’. The opposition wasn’t great, of course, but I’m sure there were many Spurs fans who, like me, half expected an upset.

Starting off with the performance: it was a largely positive display. Pochettino made ten changes – whether that was always the plan or whether the poor performance against Newcastle influenced that decision, we’ll never know. Brighton made six changes themselves, including giving England Under-20 goalkeeper, Christian Walton, a debut.

The first half wasn’t exhilarating, but we were solid, with flashes from Townsend and Lennon that kept the crowd encouraged. Although both were playing on their “wrong” sides, it was notable that Townsend in particular kept the full-back guessing by alternating between coming inside and hitting the touchline on the outside. This is something I feel Lamela needs to add to his repertoire – particularly to help stretch defences. I wonder whether this was Townsend carrying out a Pochettino instruction, or whether he just enjoys beating a full-back on the outside. Either way, he frequently moved us yards and yards up the pitch with his useful driving runs, albeit he didn’t always make the right decision at the end of them.

Lennon was withdrawn at half-time – he confirmed post-match that it was a minor hamstring “issue” – and was replaced by Lamela; it took him nine minutes to score. Davies fired in a pass to Soldado, who did well to cushion it back to Lamela. Soldado received a pass back, sent Lamela into space, and his right foot was – for once – trusted to slide the ball home. From then on Spurs looked confident and competent, and when Harry Kane got the second twenty minutes later, it was game over. Kane pulled out to the left – much like we’ve become used to seeing Adebayor do. However, unlike Adebayor, after releasing the ball to Townsend, he was intent on getting into the box and, when the ball came back off the goalkeeper, he was there to steer it into the tightest of gaps.

For me, the best players on the night were Kyle Naughton and Benjamin Stambouli. Naughton seems to have bulked up since his injury, and he had a very good game at both ends. Not only did he provide a defensive solidarity on the right that we’ve been lacking in recent matches (helped by a diligent Townsend), but he provided some excellent crosses; he is amongst the best crossers at the club. The only blot on Naughton’s copybook (as they say) was a potential handball in the first half, his arm flapping away from his body – in a similar way to that which caused him to come unstuck against West Ham.

Stambouli’s unfussy but assured display caught the eye, especially with Capoue’s form taking a dip. He made some timely challenges, intercepted well, and used the ball wisely, quickly, and simply.

Away from the pitch, the atmosphere in the Park Lane end was excellent, helped by a good turnout from Brighton. There were old songs and new, including a Stambouli effort to the tune of ‘Stand By Me’ (not a fan!) and a Chadli song I’d not heard before to Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi: “I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you around the country, Nacer, Nacer Chadli” (big fan!).

The game was targeted by the 1882 movement due to the lower ticket prices – although, what a shame that the club has raised the £20 tickets to £25 for this season; a 25% rise seems unnecessary and is probably what has led to lower attendances in cup games.

For the uninitiated, the movement was started by a group of fans who became dissatisfied with the atmosphere at White Hart Lane. The idea is to encourage 90 minutes of singing, regardless of what’s happening on the pitch; sing for the shirt. The hope is that the name ‘1882’ will eventually become unnecessary as the movement becomes more prevalent but, as it stands, it is used to help advertise the section in which like-minded fans who want to sing should buy tickets, and to spread the word.

Due to block 34 selling out quickly, I’m not convinced that all of those in the block knew about the movement, but most seemed to join in and created an enjoyable atmosphere. Unfortunately there were a few morons who started the type of hackneyed, homophobic songs that Brighton fans must find tedious and cringeworthy – in a large group of people not all of them are going to be sensible.

I left the ground feeling generally positive, which is strange considering the disappointing defeat just days earlier. Pochettino has us going along pretty well in the cups, and there have been signs of a growing understanding of the system. One thing that worries me is that he doesn’t always seem to select his team on merit, and the omission of Kane from the team against Newcastle seems to back this up. My preferred line-up for Villa would be:

Lloris
Naughton Fazio Vertonghen Rose
Stambouli Mason
Lamela Kane Eriksen
Soldado

A number of these players pick themselves, but to justify those that perhaps don’t:

Fazio – I don’t think there’s a great deal to choose between Kaboul, Fazio, and Dier at centre-back right now, but Kaboul needs to play like he did against Arsenal more often than not to keep his place, and he’s simply not doing that. Fazio looks very, very good in the air, but not so good on the ground. For the time being, though, he deserves to step in, and against Benteke his height and strength might be useful.
Stambouli – I was impressed, as mentioned above, by Stambouli’s performance, and at a time when Capoue is having a very obvious dip in form, it might be time to give Stambouli a chance in the league. One concern would be whether a Mason/Stambouli combination has enough strength, but the added tenacity and mobility should compensate.
Kane – Whilst Chadli has scored well, Kane’s productivity surely cannot be ignored in the league any longer. Kane has – on average – scored or created a goal every 69.7 minutes so far in all competitions. Chadli has mananaged a goal or assist every 138.4 minutes (Lamela – 101.3, Soldado – 127.8, Mason – 182.5). The key for me, though, is that Kane impacts a game more than Chadli even when he’s *not* scoring.
Soldado – Whilst he still looked uncertain in front of goal, Soldado had a promising game against Brighton and showed good appreciation of his teammates, particularly in linking up with Lamela for the opener. With Adebayor having had more bad games than good so far, it seems to make sense to give Soldado a run.

With a run of winnable games ahead – Villa (A), Asteras Tripolis (A), Stoke (H), Hull (A), Partizan Belgrade (H) – this will hopefully be an opportunity for the team to build confidence and cohesion. COYS!

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25/10/14 Tottenham Hotspur U18s 2-1 Reading U18s, Hotspur Way http://windycoys.com/2014/10/251014-tottenham-hotspur-u18s-2-1-reading-u18s-hotspur-way/ http://windycoys.com/2014/10/251014-tottenham-hotspur-u18s-2-1-reading-u18s-hotspur-way/#comments Sat, 25 Oct 2014 19:02:32 +0000 http://windycoys.com/?p=2060 Tom Glover (16)
Chris Paul (17) Anton Walkes (17) Christian Maghoma (16) Joe Muscatt (16)
Joe Pritchard (18) (c) Luke Amos (17)
Kyle Walker-Peters (17) Cy Goddard (17) Anthony Georgiou (17)
Shayon Harrison (17)

Subs:
Zenon Stylianides (16) for Chris Paul, 54.
Tashan Oakley-Boothe (15?) for Anthony Georgiou, 78.
Aramide Oteh (15?) for Joe Pritchard, 78.

Unused sub:
Alfie Whiteman (16)

Spurs were missing Ismail Azzaoui (Belgium international duty), Ryan Loft (who was playing in the ongoing U17 tournament which we won*), Cameron Carter-Vickers who I suspect will be playing for the U21s on Monday, as well as recent substitute, Marcus Edwards, as the 15-year old was away playing for the England U17s (they won 4-1 against Cyprus and he bagged a goal and an assist).

The starting eleven had a familiar feel, though, even if the substitutes bench housed some new names. Aramide (spelt “Aremide” on the team sheet so apologies if I’ve got this wrong!) Oteh and Tashan “Tash” Oakley-Boothe (who is supposedly one of the brightest prospects in our Academy) played in an U14 tournament last January so this was a big step up for both and an encouraging sign.

The formation was sometimes 4-1-4-1 (with Amos the deepest midfielder), sometimes 4-2-3-1 (with Goddard as the 10), and sometimes 4-3-3. It’s also worth nothing that in the dugout for Spurs – amongst others – was part-time coach, Ledley King.

There was a minute’s silence prior to kick off for Club Historian, Andy Porter, a regular attender of youth matches, who sadly passed away in the week aged just 54. For more information about Andy and his terrific work for the club, please see the obituary on the official site.

It was a fast, open start with Spurs exhibiting pace in key areas. Anthony Georgiou expressed his intentions early with a powerful run down the left. He did well to get a cross in but when it was headed out to Pritchard, he volleyed well over the bar.

A Reading free-kick to the left of the penalty box was taken short which gave Pritchard an opportunity to charge it down in typically fearless style, and the follow-up was blocked by Walkes.

Spurs took the lead on 10 minutes. Walker-Peters won a corner and Georgiou’s kick looked harmless until Cy Goddard got a foot to a misdirected Walkes volley and looped the ball over the goalkeeper, landing it perfectly in the far corner.

Soon after, Tom Glover was grateful to Luke Amos, who cleared off the line after the goalkeeper’s fumble in the box as the game became increasingly open.

Joe Muscatt beat his man with a clever piece of skill and found Pritchard with an intelligent cut-back. When Pritchard’s low shot was blocked, Muscatt did well to track back and immediately regain possession.

Georgiou teed up Goddard after another positive burst but his weak shot drifted wide.

Harrison had his first glimpse of goal when he was found by Georgiou and hit a firm shot on the turn – it was easily blocked on this occasion but he doubled the lead minutes later.

Chris Paul made a positive charge from right-back and fired in a low cross, Harrison darted across his man and finished deftly over the goalkeeper at the near post for 2-0.

Reading’s number 7, Conor Davis, was proving a tricky customer, and he beat two men on the left but, as he cut inside, he curled his shot straight at Glover.

Georgiou stood a ball up into the box but Goddard couldn’t quite meet the ball cleanly as he arrived on the penalty spot, and he sliced it wide.

Harrison made a clever dart in behind and was found by a fabulous Pritchard long ball, but his attempted lob was partially blocked and then collected by the goalkeeper.

Conor Davis beat Paul again and, when he was hauled down, the referee decided to call Paul over for a final warning.

Paul nearly had more luck at the other end when he was picked out by Harrison, but he struck his first-time strike into the ground and off a defender and it ran to safety for Reading.

Walkes won the ball well and found Georgiou, who beat his man and saw his cross blocked, only for the referee to give a goal kick – Georgiou let the referee know that he was not best pleased with the decision.

Goddard nearly made it three just before half-time when the ball broke to him in the box and his left-footed attempt went just wide.

Early in the second half Reading’s left-back, Jake Sheppard, got the better of Chris Paul and put in a threatening cross which fortunately (for us) fell just ahead of the forward.

Spurs had a clear opening five minutes into the half when the ball broke kindly for Kyle Walker-Peters to run at two retreating defenders. He carried the ball most of the length of the pitch but, with Georgiou screaming for the ball at the far post, he couldn’t avoid the two men between him and his teammate, and his attempted pass was easily cut out.

Reading went straight down the other end and Maghoma was called upon to do some sterling defensive work – he went to ground in the box, winning the ball cleanly and able to bring it clear, winning a free kick in the process.

It should have been 3-0 and job done for Spurs When Walker-Peters delivered a fine cross from the right and Pritchard arrived right on cue, unmarked, but managed to plant his header well over the bar.

Chris Paul eventually went into the book for a late challenge and was withdrawn three minutes later, Zenon Stylianides coming on with Walker-Peters dropping to right-back and Pritchard moving to the right side of the attack.

Walkes lost his man in the box to offer a Reading sub, Harry Cardwell, a good chance, but he headed straight at a relieved Glover.

Pritchard nearly forced a mistake from the Reading keeper when he pressed deep into the penalty area, but Lewis Ward just enough to avoid embarrassment.

There was a bit of upset when the linesman flagged offside directly from a goal kick (Kieran McKenna told the referee he was “embarrassing himself”) – in fairness, the referee had a chat with his linesman and ordered a re-take of the kick with minimal fuss.

Spurs brought on their two young debutants, with Oteh going wide right and Oakley-Boothe left, Pritchard and Georgiou the two players withdrawn. Oteh’s first action was to drive forward and win a free-kick – an encouraging start.

Spurs’ centre-back pairing had been unflappable until Maghoma under-hit a square pass to Walkes, and Walkes pulled at the forward’s shoulder as he went to shoot. He got the shot away (which Glover saved) but it didn’t stop the referee awarding a penalty and showing Walkes a yellow card (which might have been red).

Glover got two firm hands to Novakovich’s penalty and kept it out impressively, but the striker did get a goal minutes later, when he was played in on a sharp counter and impressively found the far corner with a precise low finish.

Tom Glover 7 – cracking penalty save and, although he fumbled a few balls, I like his pro-active approach to goalkeeping.
Chris Paul 4 – not his day today, but I’m sure there are many better performances to come.
Anton Walkes 6 – the benefit of a midfielder playing at the back is the added ability to bring the ball out. Walkes did this well throughout and, aside from missing a few headers, and the penalty incident, he had a decent game.
Christian Maghoma 8 – that one poorly-weighted pass aside, he was excellent.
Joe Muscatt 7 – considering he’s a right-footed left-back who only started playing the role recently, he is coming along nicely. Showed a willingness to use his left foot and that keeps defenders guessing.
Joe Pritchard 6 – as ever, a whole-hearted display which lacked subtlety.
Luke Amos 7 – right place, right time. Enough said.
Kyle Walker-Peters 6 – not his best performance, but his obvious threat attracts defenders, leaving space for others.
Cy Goddard 7 – one of the best performances I’ve seen from him. Intelligent use of the ball, plenty of craft, and grabbed a goal too.
Anthony Georgiou 7 – direct, quick, and a constant thorn in the side for Reading.
Shayon Harrison 6 – took his goal beautifully but he left me wanting more.

Subs:
Zenon Stylianides – a very assured player in midfield who seems to be good at all the basics, which bodes well.
Tashan Oakley-Boothe – he barely saw the ball so it’s impossible to judge him on this, but he’s a player who is very highly rated and it was very interesting to see him make the bench today.
Aramide Oteh – as above; the few times he saw the ball he made it count with useful and confident runs forward.

*As mentioned above, in the Premier League’s U17 International Tournament played over the last two days, we drew 2-2 with Crystal Palace and beat Juventus 2-1 to finish top of our group. In the other group, Leicester beat Arsenal 3-0 and drew 1-1 with Real Madrid. Today we beat Leicester 3-0 in the final.

U17 International Tournament Winners

Edit: After some detective work, I think the players are: ???, Jaden Brown, Ryan Loft, David Ajiboye, Charlie Owens, Kaziah Sterling, Japhet Tanganga, Armani Daly, Keanen Bennetts, Tom McDermott, Charlie Hayford, ??, ??, Nick Tsaroulla.

George Marsh and Dylan Duncan are two of the players I’m unsure of.

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Loanee update – October 2014 http://windycoys.com/2014/10/loanee-update-october-2014-2/ http://windycoys.com/2014/10/loanee-update-october-2014-2/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 19:33:03 +0000 http://windycoys.com/?p=2054 Grant Ward has now been on loan at MLS side Chicago Fire since May, and the 19-year old has played 639 minutes – although recently most of his time on the pitch has been as a late substitute. He has mostly played on the right of midfield, despite being used mainly as a right-back for our Under-18 team. Comments on their fan forums range from “has shown some promise” to “good value, flashes in preseason but nothing special”.

Lewis Holtby’s move to Hamburger SV has seen him – so far – make five starts, play 445 minutes and get one assist. He is playing in a poor side who are second from bottom in the Bundesliga and has operated as an attacking midfielder. It looks likely that this move will be made permanent at the end of the season if not before.

Tom Carroll has not yet broken into Swansea City’s first team, playing just six minutes of Premier League football. However, he’s started both League Cup matches and impressed their fans.

Ryan Fredericks has started three Championship matches as well as playing 120 minutes against Liverpool in the League Cup since joining Middlesbrough. Teammate George Friend was very complimentary of Fredericks in an interview with the Northern Echo recently, saying:

“I wouldn’t swap our squad for anyone else’s in the league. Both in terms of quality and depth. We’ve had injuries and suspensions, but people have come in and been every bit as good.

A perfect example is Ryan Fredericks coming in – the lads and fans have loved him for obvious reasons. He’s stepped in for Damia [Abella], who is a massive loss, but Ryan has done brilliantly since he’s come in. We’ve got options everywhere.”

On searching some Middlesbrough forums I’ve found plenty of positives on Fredericks, such as “Fredericks has looked the real deal” and “Fredericks and Kike in particular [of the new signings] have been great.”

Fredericks has been joined this week by Milos Veljkovic, who has joined on a three-month loan deal. Veljkovic is equally comfortable at centre-back and defensive midfield. Boro fan @Drakey31 says that as Leadbitter is undroppable, Veljkovic will have to get past Clayton and Whitehead to get into the team in midfield. He suggests that the chances of Milos breaking through at centre-back are slim, with Omerou, Ayala, Woodgate, Gibson, Williams and Friend to get past.

Grant Hall started the first eight matches of the season for Birmingham City, but since getting injured (he went off at half-time against Leeds with a groin strain), he has not been able to get back into the side. The majority of Birmingham fans on their forums seem relatively impressed and want him brought back into their team at the expense of Paul Robinson.

Alex Pritchard has started ten out of Brentford’s eleven Championship matches since joining on the summer on a season-long loan – he was rested in the other, but came on as a substitute. Such is his importance to the team, he was also rested in their League Cup matches. He so far has two goals and an assist to his name in 845 minutes but has been accused by some of ‘going missing’ at times.

Kenny McEvoy has made three starts and three substitute appearances for Peterborough in all competitions, scoring once. The opinions on theposhforum.co.uk are not exactly glowing, with one poster writing that he ‘really needs to go back to Tottenham, he may look like Bale but is not fit to tie his boots’ – the same poster gave him 3/10 for his performance against Yeovil. The Peterborough Chairman, however, is expecting big things:

Shaq Coulthirst has started twelve times and come off the bench twice in all competitions for Southend United, who are in League Two. Playing mostly on the left, but sometimes up front, he has managed two goals in 961 minutes of football so far.

Jordan Archer initially struggled to break into League Two side Northampton Town’s first team, but has now made eight consecutive starts. Having read a Northampton Town forum, it seems that Archer is slowly winning fans over after a less than impressive start there. Although that could be Cobblers.

Tomislav Gomelt has made the bench five times for Serie B side Bari, but has yet to make an appearance. Incidentally, Soli Coulibaly who joined Bari permanently in the summer has been sent on loan to third tier side Pistoiese on loan.

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27/09/14 Tottenham Hotspur U18s 2-4 Chelsea U18s, Hotspur Way http://windycoys.com/2014/09/270914-tottenham-hotspur-u18s-2-4-chelsea-u18s-hotspur-way/ http://windycoys.com/2014/09/270914-tottenham-hotspur-u18s-2-4-chelsea-u18s-hotspur-way/#comments Sun, 28 Sep 2014 15:44:29 +0000 http://windycoys.com/?p=2044 Tom Glover (16)
Anton Walkes (17) Christian Maghoma (16) Cameron Carter-Vickers (16) Kyle Walker-Peters (17)
Luke Amos (17)
Joe Pritchard (18) (c) Cy Goddard (17)
Lloyd Ross (17)
Shayon Harrison (17) Anthony Georgiou (17)

Subs:
Zenon Stylianides (16) for Lloyd Ross, 52.
Ismail Azzaoui (16) for Cy Goddard, 70.
Joe Muscatt (16) for Anton Walkes, 81.

Unused sub:
Harry Voss (17)

It was a warm, sunny morning for the visit of London rivals Chelsea. Amongst the spectators was Mauricio Pochettino, who took his place on the bench, whilst Academy Manager & Head of Coaching, John McDermott, stood away from the dugout, leaving Kieran McKenna in charge. With Ryan Loft injured, there was no natural line-leader in the Spurs XI, meaning that they lined up in a 4-1-2-1-2. Whilst Harrison and Georgiou started wide, they both looked to cut in. Lloyd Ross – the most central forward player – played almost as a false 9, mostly dropping into midfield.

Pritchard and Carter-Vickers both stepped up to the Under-21s for last Monday’s defeat at Sunderland, and I’m sure some of those involved today will feature against Manchester United at the Lamex in Stevenage on Monday evening.

Spurs started on the front foot, with Pritchard having an early opportunity. Found by an Anton Walkes pass, he shot across the goalkeeper drawing a save. Anthony Georgiou was first to the rebound but saw his effort blocked.

It was noticeable from the start just how high Chelsea were playing – they squeezed the pitch throughout, trying to cramp Spurs’ and disrupt their passing game with intense pressing.

With five minutes on the clock, Walker-Peters helped the ball on to Georgiou, but his first-time volley went into the side netting.

Walkes had an opportunity to get in down the right when he played a pass into Harrison and got it back in space, but his touch let him down as he looked to break through.

The referee signalled his intention to try to play the advantage as much as possible, and was very vocal in saying so – on this particular occasion he pulled it back when the advantage clearly wasn’t gained after all.

Amos made a big challenge ten minutes in as Chelsea looked to counter, taking plenty of ball and plenty of man as he stood firm in deep midfield.

Harrison played in Pritchard and he lifted it over the challenge of one man, but the ball was nicked off him as he tried to cut back onto his right foot.

A terrific Luke Amos cross-field found Walkes, who played in Harrison. He showed quick feet on the edge of the box to create space, but tried to take on one man too many and lost out.

Chelsea had a rare attack on 15 minutes, and Carter-Vickers hacked a clearance over the bar for a corner as 16-year old Swiss midfielder Miro Muheim crossed dangerously. From the corner, Fikayo Tomori’s effort was blocked.

Coach Keiran McKenna was encouraging Lloyd Ross to drop deep to collect the ball from Amos and the two centre backs, saying “Lloydy, go and play, go and play”. He did, and his involvement led to a nice spell of possession from Spurs where they kept the ball moving quickly around the edge of the box. The ball was moved out to Walker-Peters, who seemed to back himself into a corner, but did well to win a corner. The corner was cleared, but Chelsea’s goalkeeper, Brad Collins was not happy, telling his players to “liven up”.

Ross got on the ball again and found Pritchard. He played it out wide to the left-footed Harrison on the right. The forward moved in off the flank, and hit a curling effort with his stronger foot, but it easily cleared the crossbar.

Shayon Harrison was giving the number 4 – listed as Clarke-Saltern, but actually Suljic – a tough time, and he gave him the slip on the right. In trying to get the ball onto his favoured left foot, he left it behind and the chance was gone.

Spurs took the lead when Harrison beat his man and found Georgiou. The winger’s effort came back off the post but Amos had gone forward and was the first to react to turn the ball in.

Chelsea immediately created an opening from the kick-off, Muheim running through only to be stopped by Walkes. Then, with Walkes misjudging a cross and getting caught under it, Dasilva got a shot away which Glover had to be alert to save.

Chelsea had a string of corners – one of which Amos bravely headed away under pressure and one which Carter-Vickers cleared – the centre back then reacted well to block the follow-up shot.

Wakefield beat Walkes on Chelsea’s left, and stabbed a cross in with his right foot which Carter-Vickers headed away.

At the other end, Shayon Harrison got in and a last ditch block from Tomori saved a goal. The resulting corner saw the ball played out to Lloyd Ross, who managed to win a free kick with a trick on the edge of the box. Pritchard’s set piece found Harrison, but he hit the outside of the post in helping it towards goal.

Tammy Abraham – the tall Chelsea striker – came alive on 38 minutes, looping his header onto the bar after a corner was helped onto him.

At the other end, Walker-Peters made something of a poor Goddard pass and found Georgiou, who had a good low effort saved.

Muheim then hit the post from range after Pritchard’s pass was intercepted, and Sammut put the follow-up wide.

The second half started with Chelsea on the front foot, as they looked to impose their pressing game on Spurs. They won an early penalty when Amos had his pocket picked by Kyle Scott and then fouled the number 10 as he looked to get a shot away. Tom Glover was down quickly to make a solid save from Abraham’s spot kick, and received congratulations from his teammates.

It was 1-1 within just a few minutes, though – Dasilva made a strong burst down the left and delivered a superb cross, which Abraham rose to meet.

Spurs replaced Lloyd Ross with Stylianides on 52 minutes to try to contain Chelsea, who had the bit between their teeth. Stylianides played Pritchard’s midfield role, with Pritchard moving further forward to replace Ross. It worked for a few minutes as Spurs came back into the game.

First, Walkes got around the back of Chelsea’s defence but only managed to deliver a weak cross. Then Pritchard had a great opportunity to make it 2-1 when he exchanged passed with Georgiou, but put his effort wide.

Georgiou won a free kick, which Pritchard took. His ball to the back post was headed wide by Walkes.

Walker-Peters won the ball, burst down the left and found Georgiou. He got it back from Georgiou and then passed to Harrison. Harrison attempted a back-heeled return, but got it wrong and Chelsea cleared.

Spurs retook the lead when Carter-Vickers headed in a Harrison free-kick – the keeper could perhaps have been stronger in trying to keep out the lunging header.

Abraham got the better of Carter-Vickers and Walker-Peters on the left when they looked to have him boxed in and made a strong burst towards goal, forcing a corner which, fortunately, came to nothing.

There was a great chance for Spurs to make it 3-1 when a lovely pass from Harrison found Georgiou – he took on the shot on his weaker right side which the keeper saved, and Stylianides’ effort from the rebound was blocked by a retreating defender. Chelsea’s goalkeeper, Collins, was injured during the move and later had to be replaced.

Pritchard made a charge forward and even when he overran the ball, he managed to bundle it through to Georgiou, who had another shot saved.

Chelsea got level again when Muheim received the ball from Dasilva, created himself a yard of space, and found the far corner with a clever low effort.

Four minutes later Chelsea took the lead for the first time. Full back Grant picked out a cross for Abraham, who hung in the air to power his header beyond Glover, who had little chance of keeping it out.

Walker-Peters beat two men but his cross was just out of the reach of two teammates.

Ismail Azzaoui, who had replaced Goddard, beat Dasilva and did well to force a cross, but the new goalkeeper pounced on the low ball.

Joe Muscatt replaced Anton Walkes, with Kyle Walker-Peters heading back to the right as Muscatt is a natural left back.

Before Muscatt could have any impact on the game, though, Abraham completed his hat-trick to make it 4-2. Chelsea nicked the ball in midfield, Abraham easily held off the tiring Pritchard and, whilst Glover saved well at the first attempt, the rebound fell kindly for the striker to finish at the second.

There was a big appeal for handball when Pritchard’s shot on the turn hit an arm, but the referee was very definite in turning it down.

Muscatt’s cross after a short corner was met by Carter-Vickers but was easily saved, and then Luke Amos picked out Walker-Peters, who crossed to Georgiou but he couldn’t conjure anything this time.

Chelsea were deserving winners, but it was a game of ‘what ifs’ from a Spurs perspective. What if Georgiou or Pritchard had taken a chance at 3-1? What if we’d started with Muscatt (and Walker-Peters on the right)? And what if Stylianides had come on for Goddard rather than Ross?

Tammy Abraham, 17 next week, was clearly the game’s star man and, according to Chelsea youth blogger @chelseayouth, he now has 8 goals in 5 games this season, second only to Arsenal’s Stephy Mavididi (who has 10) in the Barclays U18 Premier League. It’s easy to see why.

At half-time I had a word with Chelsea’s camera man who told me that Jay Dasilva had recently trained with their first team, where they joked that he was half John Terry’s age as well as being half his size!

Over on the other pitch, the Under-16s lost 2-0 to their Chelsea counterparts, but apparently dominated the match.

Tom Glover 8 – my first look at the young Aussie – he’s a big guy! Despite conceding 4, he had a good game in which he saved a penalty, made a couple of others good stops, and was very vocal throughout (“Cy, wake up”, “Anton, higher” being just two examples!).
Anton Walkes 5 – not a great fit at right back and, actually, we probably could have done with his height and strength in midfield, particularly in the second half when Chelsea took hold.
Christian Maghoma 6 – looked good in the first half, but struggled to contain Abraham in the second.
Cameron Carter-Vickers 6 – much like his defensive partner, he coped well in the first 45, but struggled a little in the second. He scored with a stooping header and had another headed effort saved.
Kyle Walker-Peters 6 – not his usual bubbly self, and I think had he been switched to the right sooner, we might have won the match.
Luke Amos 7 – I’d be rating him higher were it not for the penalty incident – he used the ball intelligently and positioned himself well to stop attacks.
Joe Pritchard 5 – his energy in midfield is refreshing, but he needs to show more of an awareness of his teammates and know when to release the ball.
Cy Goddard 5 – he drifted in and out of the game and struggled to impose himself.
Shayon Harrison 6 – looked dangerous, but missed the presence of Loft to create space.
Lloyd Ross 6 – much like Goddard, he drifted in and out. When he was in, though, he was relatively effective, and Spurs looked less fluid without him on the pitch.
Anthony Georgiou 6 – had several useful efforts on goal, but he does tend to run down a few blind alleys. A good player who is sometimes let down by his decision-making.

Zenon Stylianides – had some good moments, but didn’t really suit the role he came on to play, – perhaps would have benefited from being the deepest lying player.
Ismail Azzaoui – came on at a time when we were struggling to control Chelse and therefore struggled to have an impact. He played on the right, with Harrison moving infield to make it a three.
Joe Muscatt – added some balance on the left and had an impact in the short time he was on the pitch.

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Getting WBA off my chest http://windycoys.com/2014/09/getting-wba-off-my-chest/ http://windycoys.com/2014/09/getting-wba-off-my-chest/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 14:57:08 +0000 http://windycoys.com/?p=2036 Our expectations are – or should be – lower this season. But not significantly low as to shrug off a 1-0 home defeat to one of the league’s poorer sides, a side that had not beaten us at White Hart Lane since 1984, the year of my birth. And especially when the performance was also so disappointing.

It is, of course, far too early to pass judgement on Mauricio Pochettino. He is eight matches (and just five in the league) into what will hopefully be a long reign. The style of play that he’s attempting to implement is sufficiently complex to require significant work on the training ground, and he simply has not had enough time yet for it to be fair to expect a lot more than what we have: a set of players not yet fulfilling his instructions. I can absolutely forgive that at this stage.

But what I cannot forgive is a lack of effort. The players should always be sufficiently motivated to go out and try as hard as they can and, certainly for some on the pitch yesterday, it did not feel that they were. And that does concern me – and it will, no doubt, concern Pochettino. His response to this will be fascinating, and his team selections against Nottingham Forest and Arsenal will be telling.

I could spend hours reeling off reasons for yesterday’s poor showing, but I do not have the time or inclination and I’m sure, dear reader, you don’t either. So I’ll stick to three that I consider key.

Europa League

We made ten changes for the midweek game, and so the players should have been suitably fit for Sunday’s match, right? That argument totally misses the point of the Europa League ‘distraction’ argument. The key for me is not the number of games – we have a deep enough squad to cope with them – but the consequence of preparing for two matches in a week rather than one.

From Monday, West Bromwich Albion will have been working hard on their approach for this game. How to stop us, how to hurt us; analysing our strengths and weaknesses. From Monday, we had to prepare for Partizan Belgrade on Thursday. A number of players then had to spend half a day travelling to Serbia, and another half travelling home. Do we assume, then, that we spent Friday and Saturday preparing for West Brom? That’s two days. And how much can a coach achieve in two days?

I love Spurs participating in European competitions, and I would love us to win the Europa League. Even those coming from the ‘sack it off and focus on top four’ angle now have a slightly different outlook since winning the Europa League is rewarded with a Champions League place. It is no coincidence, though, that eight of Spurs’ last thirteen league defeats have come after a Thursday night Europa League match. It is clearly an issue that we need to learn to overcome if we are to be successful in both domestic and European competitions.

Dembélé

I was full of praise for Mousa Dembélé on last week’s Fighting Cock podcast. He was excellent against Sunderland – he won the ball regularly and used it well, the opening goal being a prime example of his quick and simple distribution having won possession. He found our more creative players with regularity between Sunderland’s defence and midfield, and we created numerous chances as a result.

But he was as bad against West Brom as he was good against Sunderland. He was ponderous on the ball – constantly wanting too many touches – and this led to him losing possession three times in dangerous areas. The below illustrates his passes in the 61 minutes he played yesterday, compared to his passes during the 68 minutes he played in a deep midfield position against Sunderland (before he was pushed further forward to accommodate Stambouli).

Mousa Dembele

In neither game did he make a single pass into the box, but against Sunderland he made plenty of short, incisive passes in dangerous areas. The difference is stark – you would be forgiven for confusing his pass map from yesterday with one of Tom Cleverley’s for Manchester United; plenty of sideways passes and no penetration.

In Pochettino’s teams the role Dembélé is playing is a vital one, which was one reason why Pochettino was so keen to sign Schneiderlin, despite the vast price attributed to him. The player in this role is vital for slick transition from defence to attack – he is required to be involved in ball-winning, but also to move the ball quickly to the creative elements of the team to catch the opposition off-guard having won possession.

In May I wrote a piece for FourFourTwo just after Pochettino’s appointment; I speculated that Dembélé might be a player that would struggle. It’s far too early to say that this is the case, but he will need to adapt his game in order to hold down a regular position, particularly with Bentaleb and Stambouli – two players keen to pass the ball quickly – breathing down his neck.

Adebayor

I have been an advocate for Adebayor in a community where many want him cast aside in order to give Soldado a prolonged run. Yesterday’s performance, though, was unacceptable. Ignoring the missed header – because, on seeing a few replays, the ball *was* just ahead of him – he simply didn’t trouble the West Brom defence. He failed to involve himself in the game, having just 25 touches of the ball. His pass completion was 46% – he completed just six passes.

Some of Adebayor’s below-par performance can be put down to a lack of service – Eriksen and especially Lamela were very wasteful, whilst Chadli was a peripheral figure – but he seemed to submit too easily to Lescott’s dominance.

Equally worrying was that Soldado’s cameo was one where nothing really went right for him and, whilst he managed to involve himself quite well, his final pass and shot were lacking. Harry Kane played poorly in Serbia, but would have been a useful option from the bench yesterday with his ability to link play on the edge of the box.

I could write further about Vlad Chiricheș’ nervous display, and Erik Lamela’s appalling marking for James Morrison’s winner, but I will end on a positive – we have two big matches this week, and two big opportunities. Nottingham Forest top the Championship with young striker, Britt Assombalonga, tormenting defences. Arsenal seem to have regained form just at the right time, with Welbeck opening his account at the weekend. Positive performances in these two games would transform the feeling surrounding the team and give us a huge boost. COYS.

 

It’d be really cool if you could help me out by voting for our podcast, The Fighting Cock, in the ‘Podcast’ category of the Football Blogging Awards. To do so, either tweet using this link or submit this form.

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Thoughts on the transfer window http://windycoys.com/2014/09/thoughts-on-the-transfer-window-2/ http://windycoys.com/2014/09/thoughts-on-the-transfer-window-2/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 08:23:57 +0000 http://windycoys.com/?p=2033 Ins:

Davies
Vorm
Dier
Fazio
Stambouli
Yedlin (to join next year)

Outs:

Sandro
Dawson
Sigurdsson
Livermore
Fryers
Falque
Obika
Coulibaly
Released professionals: Gomes, Gallifuoco, Lancaster, Michael-Percil, Miles, Stewart, McQueen, Dombaxe and Vigouroux.

Firstly, I’m glad that’s over – I don’t enjoy the way the transfer window works, and how loopy it can send people.

But in terms of assessing our window, I’m satisfied with the work we’ve done. At the start of the summer I identified left-back, centre-back, back-up goalkeeper, and wing-forward as areas to improve. We’ve ticked most of these off. We’ve also shifted plenty of deadwood and not made the mistake of last season, where we spent a lot of money on players on lots of overseas players who took a long time to settle.

We got an excellent price for Livermore, and the dealings with Swansea – giving them Sigurdsson and taking Davies and Vorm for little or no extra cash – seemed very sensible. Whilst he was a good, honest pro who had terrific technique when striking a ball, Sigurdsson failed to hold down a regular place and was not deemed good enough by the majority of fans. His sale allowed us to fill two problem areas – Vorm is closer in style to Lloris than Friedel, and Davies is the ‘steady Eddy’ left-back that Rose simply isn’t.

Dier was signed for a similar fee that we received for Falque – again, great business – and Fazio replaces Dawson (‘Michael Dawson – a tribute‘).

Stambouli has come in for roughly half of what we received for Sandro – if he’s more suited to the system than the loveable but unreliable Brazilian – and that’s a big if – then it would represent another sensible bit of business.

The key is that Pochettino is allowed a degree of control over shaping his squad. Whilst there are some players that he will be able to mould and develop, there are others that he will feel are unwilling or unable to be what he wants them to be. Of course, when transfer fees are spiralling out of control, it’s also increasingly difficult to bring better, more suitable players in.

It’s been pretty well documented that Pochettino wanted to bring in Schneiderlin and Rodriguez from Southampton. He trusts them, rates them, and sees them as able to improve us. Southampton have played hardball with both (credit to them for that) and so Pochettino either needs to be patient, or to seek alternatives – as he seems to have done with Stambouli.

I have a suspicion that his first choice ball-playing centre-back target was the Mexican, Hector Moreno, who suffered a broken leg during the World Cup; Pochettino was his manager at Espanyol. Subsequently we bid for Musacchio, but he proved to be difficult to land owing to complications with his third party ownership. Fazio, I’d guess, was always going to be signed alongside one of these; their playing styles are significantly different to suggest that.

I’m happy to trust Pochettino. If he felt that the squad was too big, I trust his trimming of it. If he felt that a player in central midfield that wins the ball and passes it quickly was his top priority, that’s fine with me. If he didn’t feel that he can rely on the likes of Dawson and Sandro – previous fan favourites – then so be it.

The only area where I feel like we’ve left ourselves weak is wing-forward. Whilst Chadli played well against QPR, I don’t think we can rely on him for the season. Lennon is not productive enough to play high on the left, and Townsend seems more comfortable on the right these days. Welbeck would have been a useful option as he’s able to play wide, or through the centre – my suspicion was that we wanted him on loan, or not at all, given that we seem willing to wait for Rodriguez’s return to fitness.

Personally I’d have also tried to replace Soldado and ship out Paulinho, but – ignoring the fact that they might have been difficult to sell after poor seasons – Pochettino keeping hold of all seven of last summer’s signings does represent confidence to get the best out of players who mostly struggled last year (for various reasons, and with mitigating circumstances).

I take more pleasure from seeing a coach improve players rather than just buying a new team, and it’s important that we give Pochettino and his coaching team a chance to do this. Expectations for the coming season are relatively low, and there will be matches – like the defeat to Liverpool – where the team under-performs as the players learn the system. But I will be staggered if, by the end of the season, we haven’t enjoyed the football more, and don’t see plenty of positive signs.

COYS

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25-man squad update http://windycoys.com/2014/08/25-man-squad-update-2/ http://windycoys.com/2014/08/25-man-squad-update-2/#comments Sat, 30 Aug 2014 10:42:24 +0000 http://windycoys.com/?p=2020 At the beginning of August I wrote about how our 25-man squad is shaping up. After the sale of one ‘home grown’ player (Dawson), the loan of two others (Fredericks and Carroll) and the signing on a non-home grown player (Fazio), I thought I’d follow it up.

To summarise the rule again, we are able to name a 25-man squad if eight of the players are “home grown”. We could name fewer than eight home grown players, but would need to also name fewer than 25 players in our squad – e.g. if we only have seven home grown players, we can name a 24-man squad, 6/23, 5/22, etc. A home grown player is defined as follows:

… one who, irrespective of his nationality or age, has been registered with any club affiliated to the Football Association or the Welsh Football Association for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday (or the end of the season during which he turns 21).

We do not need to name players who are under 21 on the squad list; for the 2014/15 campaign, players considered ‘under 21′ will have been born on or after 1st January 1993.

As it stands, our ‘named’ 25-man squad would probably consist of the following (* = home grown player):

Hugo Lloris
Michel Vorm
Brad Friedel

Kyle Walker*
Danny Rose*
Kyle Naughton*

Younes Kaboul
Jan Vertonghen
Federico Fazio
Vlad Chiriches
Zeki Fryers*

Sandro
Paulinho
Mousa Dembélé
Lewis Holtby
Étienne Capoue
Christian Eriksen
Ryan Mason*

Aaron Lennon*
Erik Lamela
Andros Townsend*
Nacer Chadli

Emmanuel Adebayor
Roberto Soldado
Jonathan Obika*

That would mean that the following miss out:

Benoît Assou-Ekotto
Bongani Khumalo
Cristian Ceballos

Also missing out would be the loan players:

Tom Carroll (on loan at Swansea)
Ryan Fredericks (on loan at Middlesbrough)

We are then able to select any players who were born after January 1993 without needing to register them. This means that any of the following (plus the 1st and 2nd year Academy scholars) would be available for selection:

Alex Pritchard (on loan at Brentford)
Jordan Archer (on loan at Northampton Town)
Ben Davies
Harry Kane
Eric Dier
Shaq Coulthirst (on loan at Southend United)
Kenny McEvoy (on loan at Peterborough United)
Nabil Bentaleb
Grant Ward (on loan at Chicago Fire)
Rueben Lameiras
Soli Coulibaly
Tomislav Gomelt (expected to join Bari, possibly on loan)
Alex McQueen
Aaron McEneff
Dominic Ball
Luke McGee
Milos Veljkovic
Daniel Akindayini
Harry Winks
Connor Ogilvie
Nathan Oduwa
Emmanuel Sonupe
Filip Lesniak
William Miller

Zeki Fryers is being linked with Crystal Palace and Jon Obika is being linked with various clubs as well – if either were to leave, we’d either have to not replace them, or to replace them with a homeg rown player. We could, however, sell a non-home grown player to make space for another non-home grown player. For example, with Lewis Holtby expected to move to HSV, we would free up space for another signing if necessary – Benjamin Stambouli, perhaps.

It’s easy to see why a move for Danny Welbeck may look attractive – we’re cutting it fine on home grown players if we want to name a 25-man squad. However, with a talented set of under 21 players (including Bentaleb, Dier, Kane and Davies) we don’t *have* to name the full 25.

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Michael Dawson – a tribute http://windycoys.com/2014/08/michael-dawson-a-tribute/ http://windycoys.com/2014/08/michael-dawson-a-tribute/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 17:59:51 +0000 http://windycoys.com/?p=1925 Michael Dawson is a throwback. Not just in terms of his on-pitch style – courageous and uncompromising – but also his off-pitch demeanour. Even his haircut – a short back and sides, generally swept across his forehead – is reminiscent of the era in which footballers like Dawson came from; an era when money didn’t dictate everything from players’ ‘career planning’ to fans having to pick and choose which games they attended. The concept of ‘Category C’ didn’t exist then.

Michael Dawson - club captain

Michael Dawson – club captain

Dawson arrived at Tottenham Hotspur from Nottingham Forest, signed in a double deal with Republic of Ireland international, Andy Reid. As is seemingly so often the case in this type of deal (at least where Spurs are concerned), Dawson was seen by most as the makeweight or add-on in that deal, but his achievements and performances have gone on to far excel those of Reid, who left after eighteen months and is mostly remembered for being overweight. Nearly ten years later, Dawson is set to move on too.

It is sometimes the case that in this genre of article the author forgets to mention the bad, so I’m going to try to avoid falling into that trap. Dawson has become known for a slightly cumbersome style, ill-suited to the high line which Tottenham have played in recent times. He is, frankly, slow on the turn and has a tendency to get sucked into committing himself around the halfway line, leaving plenty of grass for attackers to run into.

He has had some horror-shows. Sergio Aguero has been the bane of his existence on more than one occasion, but particularly in the 5-1 home defeat at the start of the 2011/12 season. At that point Dawson was well regarded and was regularly in England squads, but Aguero made him look foolish; his low centre of gravity making Daws’ turning circle look larger than even his harshest critic could have described. He was involved in the heavy defeats to Manchester City (twice), Liverpool (twice) and Chelsea last season.

But it wasn’t just the elite players that occasionally brought out the worst in him; even before his 12th minute sending off against Fulham in a 4-0 defeat, he was having a real stinker. It occasionally happened, and we can’t ignore it. But these memories belie the truth that he has been a stalwart for the club for nearly a decade, and in that time there have been many, many positives for both individual and team.

He’s played over 300 times for Tottenham Hotspur. He played in the 1-0 victory at Manchester City that took us to the Champions League. He played in both matches against AC Milan in the Champions League, making a vital block from a Robinho effort late on at the San Siro. He played at Wembley in the League Cup defeat to Manchester United. The following season he was named Tottenham Hotspur ‘Player of the Year’.

The phrase ‘100% commitment’ is widely-used in football, but rarely has a player been so deserving of the tag. Dawson is a genuine trier, and us fans just love a trier.

His gentlemanly persona meant that he was able to build rapport with referees – if necessary, they would speak to him to ask him to calm his teammates down, or to explain a decision. He would question, yes, but generally without arm-waving, without ranting and without raving. Unlike so many others, he showed respect.

And that ignores all of the off-pitch add-ons that you get with a player of Dawson’s nature. Club captain. Fan favourite. Consummate professional. Gentlemen. Friendly face of the club. Charitable volunteer. Family man. Recently it emerged that he had sent a letter (or at least signed a letter) to a fan celebrating his 60th birthday. These gestures do not go unnoticed.

He will be remembered as much for his fist pumps, his smile, and his gentlemanly persona as he will for his goal-saving blocks, his brave headers, and his not-always-accurate cross-field passes. I for one have been very happy to have Michael Dawson represent us as captain – as the friendly face of Tottenham Hotspur.

Good luck, Michael Dawson – you will always receive warm applause from me if and when you return to White Hart Lane.

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