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The Season After – One Month In

‘Next season’ has become somewhat of a revered phrase around White Hart Lane down the years. But last season Harry Redknapp led the renowned underachievers to heights unconquered by so many of his predecessors; finishing in fourth and qualifying for the Champions League. And now the first month of ‘the season after’ has been and gone, how far have Spurs gone to proving they are ready to not only equal last season’s achievements, but improve on them?

The very first match of the 2010/11 Premier League season saw Tottenham host Manchester City, the team against whom Peter Crouch’s goal in the penultimate game of last season sealed qualification for Europe’s elite club competition. Redknapp’s team came into the match on the back of a mixed pre-season, but the first 45 minutes proved that Spurs picked up exactly where they left off last season (No, not the defeat to Burnley). Knowing that City’s expensively assembled squad would need time to gel, they put them under pressure immediately and, with White Hart Lane rocking, pinned them in their own half. But for a brilliant performance from Joe Hart in the City goal, Tottenham could have been three up by the break. He first made an instinctive save to deny Defoe, and then kept out spectacular long range efforts from Huddlestone and Assou-Ekotto.


The match ended goalless, but the performance would definitely have acted as a boost to the squad. But that confidence was short lived. Tottenham travelled to Switzerland to play Young Boys in their first ever match in the UEFA Champions League, in the first leg of a tie which would send the winner into the group stage. The club from Bern were looked upon as the favourable draw, but the London club received a baptism of fire. Not 28 minutes in, and Spurs were 3-0 down on the plastic pitch, and it looked as if last season’s 38 game battle to get to that position would be rendered superfluous. If the performance against Man City was heads, this was tails, as the defence looked incompetent, and the attack impotent. A Bassong header late in the first half, and a second half strike from Pavlyuchenko papered over the cracks and put them in pole position to qualify, but the performance left a lot to be desired.

After the glitz and glamour of the Champions League, it was back to the Premier League, and a match away to Stoke. The squad still bore the scars of the plastic pitch, and injuries meant Peter Crouch was the only fit striker in the squad. But the team, and particularly Gareth Bale, thrived under troublesome circumstances. A brace from the Welshman; a fortunate rebound and then a brilliant volley; gave the away side a 2-1 lead at half time. Stoke thought they had equalised when Crouch blocked Walters’s late effort seemingly inside the goal, but controversy followed as the referee said ‘no goal’.

Next up was arguably the biggest match in the club’s recent history, in the return leg of the Champions League qualifier. But if there were any nerves, they were settled within five minutes when Peter Crouch gave his side the lead; levelling the tie on aggregate. And Crouch went on to score a hat-trick, with Defoe also getting on the score sheet, to secure a 4-0 win on the night and exorcise the ghosts of the first leg going through 6-3 on aggregate.

After scoring the goal to take Spurs into the play-off, Crouch scored the hat-track to take the club into the group stage.

When the groups came out of the pot the next day, Spurs were drawn alongside European champions Inter Milan, Dutch champions FC Twente and German side Werder Bremen. It will be a tough task to progress, but the opportunity to visit Europe’s biggest clubs may not come around again for some time.

After the euphoria of the week, Tottenham were radically brought back down to earth after losing 1-0 at home to Wigan (yes the same Wigan that lost 4-0 at home to Blackpool). It was a reality check if ever there was one, and it is vital that the side render the match a mere blip, and put in a better performance and get the three points in the first match of October; away to West Brom. Three days after that, the club play their first ever Champions League group match, travelling to Werder Bremen.

August’s transfer acquisitions also mirror the progress made by the club in the last twelve months. Former Arsenal captain William Gallas was the most controversial of these, but with 67 Champions League matches on his C.V., he provides great experience and some much needed denfesive cover; especially in the wake of the injury to Michael Dawson. Gallas was the club’s second signing of the season, after Sandro. The Brazilian midfielder has only just joined the squad after his former club’s triumph in the Copa Libertadores.

There was also drama and ecstasy on the last day of the month, as Redknapp pulled off a cut-price deal for Real Madrid’s Rafael van der Vaart. The World Cup finalist joined minutes before the window slammed shut, in an £8m deal. Both van der Vaart and Gallas are ‘marquee signings’ who have huge experience at the top level, and could be the players to take the club onto the next level.

van der Vaart is a signal of intent at a bargain price, costing 1/3 of what Man City paid for James Milner

So a mixed month on the pitch, but a fruitful one off it. But with Champions League matches against Werder Bremen and Twente, and a North London derby to boot, September looks to be even more exciting.

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