August 26, 2014

Michael Dawson – a tribute

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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August 17, 2014

16/08/14 Tottenham Hotspur U18s 4-2 Norwich City U18s, Hotspur Way

Harry Voss (17)
Lloyd Ross (17) Christian Maghoma (16) Zenon Stylianides (16) Kyle Walker-Peters (17)
Luke Amos (17)
Shayon Harrison (17) Joe Pritchard (17) (c) Cy Goddard (17) Anthony Georgiou (17)
Ryan Loft (16)

Subs:
Charlie Hayford (16) for Joe Pritchard, 66.
Armani Daly (16) for Anthony Georgiou, 66.
Chris Paul (16) for Luke Amos, 77.

Unused sub:
Tom McDermott (16)

It was a bright afternoon for the opening Under-18 match of the season. There were a number of first years in the squad giving me my first look at some of them.

With no natural left-back in the match-day squad, it was left to Kyle Walker-Peters to move across from his usual right-back position, with central midfielder Lloyd Ross filling in on the right. Zenon Stylianides, who usually plays in midfield himself, played at centre-back, with Cameron Carter-Vickers absent (in the United States, having been called up to represent their Under-18s).

Spurs lined up in a 4-1-4-1 which became a 4-3-3 in possession, as the wingers pushed up. Luke Amos anchored the midfield and was generally deeper than both Joe Pritchard and Cy Goddard.

Straight from the kick off Harry Voss was a vocal presence, constantly talking to the unfamiliar back four ahead of him.

The first opening of the game fell to Ryan Loft, who tried to turn on the edge of the area, but was crowded out. Norwich had their first opportunity soon after – a defensive mix-up led to Bernard Ashley-Seal latching onto a loose Spurs pass and running through between our centre-backs. With Voss unsure whether to come out or retreat to his line, he was relieved when the striker weakly shot straight at him.

It was noticeable that Anthony Georgiou and Shayon Harrison were asked to press high up the pitch, with Pritchard in particular joining in from midfield. Whether this was a ‘Pochettino press’ or just a standard press, it’s too early to say.

Ryan Loft gave Spurs the lead after a lovely, flowing move on the right involving Ross and Georgiou. Loft intelligently finished into the far corner.

Spurs frequently tried to switch play early, and on one such occasion, Joe Pritchard struck one right between two teammates and out of play.

Stylianides usually plays in midfield and looked a little nervous at times defensively, but he made a superb saving challenge in the left-back area having initially been outpaced by the winger. He kept up and timed the tackle perfectly.

Walker-Peters was typically up and down all match, and on fifteen minutes he somehow managed to hang onto the ball despite being tripped, and got up to play a clever pass – his close control and balance are fantastic.

Amos pinged a lovely cross-field pass to Georgiou, as we looked to focus our attacks down the left. A minute later, the ball came back to Georgiou again, and his back-heel set Walker-Peters free; the full-back’s low cross fell nicely to Harrison, but he curled the ball over the bar when he probably should have made it two.

Norwich equalised on eighteen minutes through another defensive mix-up. As Maghoma ran towards his own goal, he seemed to have the legs to keep up with Ashley-Seal and was in control. Voss came out to help deal with the situation, and Maghoma had to change course and slow down to avoid Voss, meaning that once the forward rounded the goalkeeper, he had the simple task of sliding the ball home.

Spurs bounced back immediately, with Georgiou picking up the ball from Loft, cutting in from the left flank, and toe-poking beyond the goalkeeper intelligently.

A minute later, Loft brought the ball down well and teed up Harrison who shot well over, and then Georgiou went very close with a lovely, curling effort that the goalkeeper palmed up straight into the air and then grabbed at the second attempt when it looked for a minute like it might drop into the net.

Harrison’s neat first touch drew a foul, and Cy Goddard stepped up to take the free-kick on the edge of the box. He got the ball up and down neatly, but put it wide.

Maghoma drove an accurate, flat cross-field pass over to Georgiou, who beat his man again but overhit his cross.

It was nearly 3-1 when Pritchard charged forward after a poor kick from the goalkeeper. His shot was blocked and just as it seemed about to land at the feet of a Spurs player, the keeper pounced on it.

Goddard was having an up and down day with his passing, and played one straight into touch as he looked to get things moving quickly.

Ross made a good recovery challenge on the right after his own error had landed him in trouble, and then Goddard’s quick feet allowed him to tee up Ross for a shot which sent straight at the goalkeeper.

Walker-Peters went on a typically slaloming run down the left – carrying the ball most of the length of the pitch – and drew a free-kick which came to nothing.

A ball into the box from Norwich caused a bit of confusion, with John McDermott telling Maghoma “Christian, you’ve got to be heading that”.

Ross nearly got on the end of a Georgiou cross, before Amos got a talking to from the referee for an accumulation of fouls, although on this occasion he did seem to have won the ball.

Pritchard played a nice pass inside the fullback to Ross, who couldn’t quite get the ball out of his feet to get a shot away.

There was a good chance for Todd Cantwell after a clever pass from Bernard Ashley-Seal, but Voss made the save, getting down quickly. Then, Pritchard nearly directed the ball into his own goal when he slid in to block a cross at the near post.

Loft nicked the ball from Harley Black in the Norwich half, and played Amos in with a slightly under-hit pass. Amos did superbly to wriggle away from two men, and was taken down when he had a clear run at goal, leading to Black being shown a yellow card just before half-time.

Norwich made a change at half-time, taking off Black and having a re-shuffle, resulting in the new man, Christian Scales, playing at full-back.

Georgiou almost instantly had a good chance one-on-one – he cut in from the left and, with options either side of him, he elected to try a shot with his weaker right foot, and the keeper made a straightforward save.

Another nice move from Spurs saw Amos find Pritchard, who played in Loft – the ball was slightly too heavy and the goalkeeper did well to gather it. At the other end, Norwich’s athletic captain, Jamie Eaton-Collins, drew a good save from Voss with a shot across goal.

Spurs extended their lead when Walker-Peters made yet another excellent run, found Georgiou, and his low cross from the left made it to Loft. Although his contact wasn’t as firm as he might have hoped, it squirmed underneath the goalkeeper.

Soon after, Goddard went over in the box, but it looked like a clean challenge on this occasion.

Spurs made a couple of substitutions, bringing on Armani Daly and Charlie Hayford for Pritchard and Georgiou. Daly went out to the left, and Hayford played in midfield. Hayford, on first look, reminded me a little of former Academy player, Jack Munns – small but quite stocky and barrel-chested.

Voss was out to mop up well after Stylianides sold him short with a back pass.

Ross’ cross shot came to nothing after Daly had cut in from the left and dribbled across the edge of the box to tee him up.

Spurs’ fourth goal came when Walker-Peters came in off the left flank, took aim, and fired a rocket of a shot in off the underside of the crossbar. A wonderful goal to cap a wonderful performance.

Norwich’s big number 14 in midfield was making Hayford, Goddard and Amos look a little vulnerable, so it wasn’t long before we brought on the tall Chris Paul for Amos to offer more presence.

I had to leave early to ensure I got home in time for the West Ham game, but Norwich scored another consolation right at the end – and apparently it was a good goal too: Jamal curling home from range.

This was a Spurs performance that was easy on the eye, against poor opposition. There were a handful of stand-out performers, with the majority of players not truly tested or put under pressure – in that sense, it was a perfect first game of the season.

Kyle Walker – not Walker-Peters! – appeared to watch a few minutes of the game. Also watching was Jon Miles; the goalkeeper had said his goodbyes on Twitter at the end of the season, but was wearing his Spurs tracksuit. I wonder whether he’s perhaps going to take on a coaching role, or is training with the club on a non-contract basis.

Harry Voss 6 – With a new (and slightly makeshift) defence ahead of him, who were playing very high, it wasn’t an easy game for Voss. He was at fault for Norwich’s equaliser, but did make some good stops.
Lloyd Ross 6 – Did a reasonable job filling in, and got forward well in support.
Christian Maghoma 6 – Looked a little out of sorts playing alongside an unfamiliar partner, but still seems to have time on the ball.
Zenon Stylianides 6 – Filled in well at centre-back, and was very comfortable on the ball. A few slip-ups, but mostly defended pretty well.
Kyle Walker-Peters 9 – For me, he’s already too good for this level. His balance, pace and ball control are exceptional, and he is able to carry the attack time after time from full-back.
Luke Amos 8 – A very composed and commanding midfield performance from Amos, who seems to have grown a few inches. Reads the game well, mops up danger, and moves the ball nice and quickly.
Shayon Harrison 6 – Definitely not as effective playing on the wing, but with Loft coming up this season, he might have to get used to playing in different roles.
Joe Pritchard 6 – Worked really hard to press the Norwich midfield and defence, but wasn’t always effective in possession.
Cy Goddard 6 – Moved between incisive, clever passing, to surrendering possession cheaply, with very little in between. I like the way he tries to play the game, though, and I’d expect him to step up this season.
Anthony Georgiou 8 – A constant thorn in Norwich’s side with his direct running and ability to beat a man.
Ryan Loft 7 – Showed a good touch and awareness, leading the line well and giving us a platform to build from.

Hayford – Was neat and tidy in midfield.
Daly – Didn’t have too many opportunities to get at his full-back, but didn’t shy away from the ball.
Paul – Worked hard to maintain the pressing game in midfield.

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August 3, 2014

Spurs Academy at Eurofoot – into the semi-final

Spurs are through to the semi-finals of the Eurofoot tournament after two wins and a draw on day two.

The results so far:

Cercle Brugge – lost 2-0
Utrecht – won 3-0 (Goddard, Pritchard, and Maghoma)
Mechelen – won 3-0 (Harrison, Loft 2)
Genk – won 1-0 (Pritchard)
Club Brugge – drew 2-2 (Harrison, Loft)

Today we play Brazilian side Atletico Paranaense in the semi-final, and Genk play Nordsjaelland (from Denmark) in the other semi-final. These kick off at 10am GMT.

Make sure you follow RayLo for updates.

The squad we’ve taken to the tournament is as follows:

Tottenham
1 Glover Thomas 24/12/97
2 Walker Peters Kyle 13/07/97
3 Maghoma Christian 8/11/97
4 Carter Vickers Cameron 31/12/97
5 Muscatt Joseph 15/12/97
6 Walkes Anton 8/02/97
7 Amos Luke 23/02/97
8 Paul Christoper 25/09/97
9 Pritchard Joe 10/09/96
10 Ross Lloyd 14/12/96
11 Goddard Cy 2/04/97
12 Hayford Charlie 29/11/97
13 McDermott Thomas 30/01/98
14 Stylianides Zenon 7/01/98
15 Owens Charlie 7/12/97
16 Georgiou Anthony 24/02/97
17 Azzaoui Ismail 6/01/98
18 Daly Armani 23/09/97
19 Harrison Shayon 13/07/97
20 Loft Ryan 14/09/97

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August 2, 2014

Spurs Academy at Eurofoot – update

Spurs Under-19s won their first game of the day 3-0 against Mechelen this morning – Shayon Harrison scored a penalty in the first half, and second half substitute Ryan Left bagged two as well.

Spurs also used two players not previously listed – Chris Paul and Zenon Stylianides.

Yesterday we started off with a 2-0 defeat to Cercle Brugge before beating Utrecht 3-0 with goals from Goddard, Pritchard, and Maghoma.

This afternoon we play Genk and Club Brugge. Make sure you follow RayLo for updates.

The squad we’ve taken to the tournament is as follows:

Tottenham
1 Glover Thomas 24/12/97
2 Walker Peters Kyle 13/07/97
3 Maghoma Christian 8/11/97
4 Carter Vickers Cameron 31/12/97
5 Muscatt Joseph 15/12/97
6 Walkes Anton 8/02/97
7 Amos Luke 23/02/97
8 Paul Christoper 25/09/97
9 Pritchard Joe 10/09/96
10 Ross Lloyd 14/12/96
11 Goddard Cy 2/04/97
12 Hayford Charlie 29/11/97
13 McDermott Thomas 30/01/98*
14 Stylianides Zenon 7/01/98
15 Owens Charlie 7/12/97
16 Georgiou Anthony 24/02/97
17 Azzaoui Ismail 6/01/98
18 Daly Armani 23/09/97
19 Harrison Shayon 13/07/97
20 Loft Ryan 14/09/97

*It looks as though Tom McDermott is a Ireland U16 goalkeeper formerly of Dungannon Swifts.

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August 2, 2014

25-man squad

The 25-man squad rule has become an important aspect in ‘transfer planning’, and Spurs seem to be pretty adept at it.

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 (* = home grown player):

Hugo Lloris
Michel Vorm
Brad Friedel

Kyle Walker*
Danny Rose*
Kyle Naughton*

Younes Kaboul
Jan Vertonghen
Michael Dawson*
Vlad Chiriches
Zeki Fryers*

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

Aaron Lennon*
Erik Lamela
Andros Townsend*
Nacer Chadli

Emmanuel Adebayor
Roberto Soldado

That would mean that the following miss out:

Benoît Assou-Ekotto
Bongani Khumalo
Jonathan Obika*
Ryan Fredericks*
Cristian Ceballos

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
Ben Davies
Harry Kane
Eric Dier
Shaq Coulthirst
Kenny McEvoy (on loan at Peterborough)
Nabil Bentaleb
Grant Ward (on loan at Chicago Fire)
Rueben Lameiras
Soli Coulibaly
Tomislav Gomelt
Alex McQueen
Aaron McEneff
Dominic Ball
Luke McGee
Milos Veljkovic
Daniel Akindayini
Harry Winks
Connor Ogilvie
Nathan Oduwa
Emmanuel Sonupe
Filip Lesniak
William Miller

It’s worth nothing that Morgan Schneiderlin – our apparent number one target – counts as “homegrown” (according to the Premier League), as he joined Southampton just in the nick of time to meet the requirements.

Having nine homegrown players already in the squad gives us an element of flexibility. Also, I’ve included Carroll in the squad, when a loan seems likely for him.

We also have the bonus of the likes of Bentaleb, Veljkovic, Archer, Davies, Kane and Dier, who do not need to be named in the squad in order to be used.

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