Tag Archives: Tottenham Hotspur

Edgy home debut has a happy ending for Mourinho

A 4-2 victory and a place in the last 16 of the Champions League – things went well for Jose Mourinho on his home debut as Tottenham’s new manager, but they could have gone horribly wrong.

Beating Olympiakos ensured that the feel-good factor continued for Spurs after their 3-2 win at West Ham the previous Saturday, but the Mourinho era looked to have hit early problems as they went 2-0 down to the Greeks.

His predecessor at Tottenham, Mauricio Pochettino, failed to deliver any silverware during his five years in north London, whereas the Portuguese has landed 20 major honours at the five clubs he has managed. Mourinho is a serial winner, but Spurs are still finding their feet under him, particularly at the back.

They may have bid farewell to Pochettino, but the defensive problems and lack of confidence which plagued his final months at the club manifested themselves as early as the sixth minute as Olympiakos – bottom of Group B with one point – took the lead through Youssef El-Arabi.

Things got worse, with less than 20 minutes on the clock, as Ruben Semedo doubled the visitors’ lead. Mourinho took decisive action, substituting Eric Dier for Christian Eriksen in the 29th minute, and Dele Alli pulled one back for the hosts on the stroke of half-time.

After the match, Mourinho revealed that he had felt the players were ” in need of some love at that time and not the critical one” during the break. Whatever he said did the trick as his team tore into their opponents in the second half, with their new boss bringing his characteristically emotional body language into his technical area at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.


Harry Kane levelled the score just five minutes after the second half began, assisted by Lucas Moura and following Serge Aurier’s rapid throw-in. The ball boy who had swiftly retrieved the ball for Aurier received a hug from Mourinho and praise from him after the game.

Aurier added a goal of his own in the 73rd minute as Spurs went ahead for the first time, and Kane sealed the win with his 20th Champions League strike in 24 games; two fewer matches than previous record holder Alessandro del Piero took to reach that number with Juventus.

There remains much work to be done by Mourinho, and his first aim is to chase down the Premier League’s current top four as they threaten to pull away from the following pack. But with Champions League knockout football assured, he can get down to focusing on that task.

Photos by Yongjia Cui.

London Stadium

Preview: West Ham vs Tottenham (23/11/2019)

José Mourinho’s return to the Premier League starts as his Tottenham Hotspur side face Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham at the London Stadium.

The two are former foes and have faced off a total of 15 times already, with Mourinho being the more successful of the two, winning on eight occasions.

The last time they met was September 2018, when Pellegrini’s Hammers overcame the Portuguese’s Manchester United team 3-1 at home.

The London Stadium faithful are currently missing two of their key players with Lukasz Fabianski (thigh) and Manuel Lanzini (shoulder) unlikely to feature for the hosts.

However, Jack Wilshere, Michail Antonio and Mark Noble could all be match fit to face off against their bitter rivals.

As for Tottenham, Paulo Gazzaniga will have to assume regular duty in goal as both Hugo Lloris (arm) and Michel Vorm (calf) are currently out. Winger Erik Lamela (thigh) is also still yet to return.

There is some good news for Mourinho’s side, though, as both Jan Vertonghen and Tanguy Ndombele have made a full recovery and could feature for the first time under their new boss.

When the two London sides last met, the Hammers won 1-0 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium courtesy of a winner from Michail Antonio in the 67th minute.

The Hammers have failed to win any of their last seven matches in a streak that started with a 4-0 loss in the Carabao Cup to League One side Oxford United.

Conceding goals has been the issue this season as Pellegrini’s men have shipped two or more seven times this season with their goal difference sitting at -6.

Their Chilean boss knows that form has been an issue: “Of course it was very unexpected because we finished last season very well and we’re playing well this season also. For different reasons we must find why we didn’t continue playing in the same way and winning games. Especially against Palace and Sheffield United at home, there were games we deserved a better result.

“The Premier League this year is very tight – within three points there are eight teams. We must try to recover our performance, and I hope that this will be a good game to try to return to winning our home games.”

Tottenham have been underperforming hence the change in management, with Spurs currently sitting 14th, only six points above Watford in the drop zone. This is due to the London side failing to win in the league since September 28th, when they beat Southampton 2-1.

For Spurs, the Champions League has been a welcome distraction from Premier League football, with their last two wins being a 4-0 and 5-0 win over Red Star Belgrade.

The North London side’s mentality has been criticised in recent months, with them either losing or drawing from a winning position in six of their 17 games so far this season.

Mourinho came out backing his players who are in dire need of a win with the Portuguese boss announcing: “The best gift for me is that, I don’t need players, I am happy with the ones I have.

“I just need more time with them. I know them well from playing against them, but you never know them well enough.”

For West Ham, a loss could be disastrous and even though Pellegrini has been given the dreaded vote of confidence, failing to win could end with him out the job as there isn’t many more chances he can be given.

If Tottenham were to lose, it shouldn’t have a major effect with their manager easily being able to say that he’s not had enough time with his squad yet.

London Stadium photo by Dan Dyer via Flickr Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Premier League preview

Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal are all favourites – but there can only be one crowned champion.

Defending champions Manchester City will look to retain their title. However, the season ahead looks to be more competitive than the previous campaign.

The pressure is on for new managers Unai Emery of Arsenal and Chelsea’s Maurizio Sarri. Both managers are new and will have to adapt to the Premier League

Manchester City

No manager has retained the Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United in 2009.

Pep Guardiola was the first to lead a team to 100 points in an English top-flight season, but retaining the trophy would arguably be every bit as special. “I am read,y” said the Spaniard ahead of the new campaign.

“The fear of losing the games makes me starving and hungry again. I don’t like the feeling of losing games. When you lose, you feel guilty, you feel bad. Your private life is not good. Your relationship with the players is not good. So that is why to avoid that. Just that simple fear of losing a game makes you hungry.”

Guardiola’s desire to continue winning was showcased in City’s win over Chelsea in the Community Shield. City will want to retain the title, but their supporters – and owners – also crave Champions League success.

“It’s important to be in it every season,” said Guardiola of club football’s biggest prize. “And we are going to try with all our effort to win it. But if you ask me what the most important competition is, it is the Premier League.”

A comfortable win at Arsenal in their first fixture was an excellent start is a great start, but not th one Emery was hoping for at the Emirates.

Manchester United

Manchester United were not able to challenge City in the title race last season despite spending £400m since Jose Mourinho took over. His side were 19 points behind their city rivals and even failed to play entertaining football for the Old Trafford faithful.

Mourinho had said his side face a “difficult season” unless they sign a new defender, but the Red Devils failed to add anyone new to their backline.

Despite their runners-up spot in the league and reaching the FA Cup final, which they lost to Chelsea, United still seem a work in progress and Mourinho appears to have a frosty relationship with some of his players.

Many pundits believe his pre-season negativity can only have a detrimental impact on his squad’s morale, and a failure to make a good start to the season could see the Portuguese considering exit strategies.

Tottenham

Spurs had a positive 17-18 season, finishing third in the league, but have failed to add any new players to the current squad.

Tottenham are the only side in the Premier League history to have not added anyone during the summer window.

However, manager Mauricio Pochettino feels they have, “achieved their objective” and did a “great job” by keeping their best players in the transfer window.

They did attempt to sign Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish, but were unable to come up with a deal in time.

Spurs have had top-four finishes for the past three seasons, but delays in the completion of their new stadium could have a negative effect both on and off the pitch.

North London rivals Arsenal were restricted in the transfer market by the cost of their move to the Emirates for several seasons, and some Spurs fans fear the same happening.

Their team got off to a good start with an opening victory 2-1 at Newcastle, but bigger tests await them.

Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp spent over £100m in the transfer window with Alisson, Fabinho, Keita and Shaqiri all added to the Liverpool squad.

Klopp knows the pressure is on to deliver trophies, but said: “We are Liverpool; there is no-one on this planet that expects more of us than we expect of ourselves. I really love how the players have reacted this summer and I cannot praise them enough for the way they have stayed hungry.”

Liverpool had an outstanding run in the Champions League and losing 3-1 in the final to Real Madrid was devastating, however, the football played was certainly memorable.

Klopp added: “The attitude in training and in practice, matches have been outstandingly good, the highest level. And when you consider, as it has been for other clubs also, the build-up has been disrupted by players coming back at different times [after the World Cup], it is even more impressive.”

Liverpool hit four past West Ham in style in their opener and are favourites to win the Premier League according to a Sky Sports online poll.

Alisson is seen as player to end their goalkeeping woes and should create more confidence at the back where Klopp’s teams have been lacking in previous seasons.

Chelsea

New boss Sarri is looking to make his mark in the Premier League by getting Chelsea back into the top four after Antonio Conte’s reign ended in acrimony last season despite the FA Cup win.

Having spent £71.6m on 23-year old goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao, Sarri has been given the funds to get Chelsea back in the title race.

Their opening win against Huddersfield will build confidence, but they looked well short of Man City’s standards in their Community Shield defeat at Wembley.

Sarri has said simply “My job is to win matches”. But having kept hold of key players such as Eden Hazard and Willian, the Italian will be expected to deliver by Chelsea’s ever-impatient hierarchy.

 Arsenal

New manager Emery began his Arsenal venture with a comprehensive home defeat against defending champions Man City.

He has made it clear what he expects from his current squad: “I want ambition from this team, I want them to be ambitious in every match. I want for 90 minutes in every match for them to be in the game and to be working hard. I want this every day, this is my ambition”.

The Spaniard is under a lot of pressure from fans to perform well following the departure of Arsene Wenger, although the Arsenal board have made it clear, he will be given time.

Arsenal have failed to reach the top-four in the league for the last four seasons. New defensive midfielder Lucas and centre back Sokratis were among the players signed this summer on a fairly conservative budget, with fan favourite Jack Wilshere released and signed by West Ham.

To conclude, the Premier League title race this season could potentially be more competitive and exciting than ever before. Expect Manchester City to become the first team to defend the title since 2009, but also expect their rivals to push them harder, with Liverpool hot on their heels.

Sanchez fails to inspire as Man Utd falter at Wembley

A blustery winter’s night failed to deter fans from flocking to Wembley for Tottenham’s crucial clash with Manchester United.

A new record Premier League attendance of 81,978 was drawn to the national stadium, but anyone taking their seats late because of the crowds missed a flying start by Spurs.

Wembley Stadium before a record PL crowd of nearly 82,000 filled the stadium

The build-up to the game had been dominated by the buzz surrounding the visitors’ latest recruit, Alexis Sanchez, with their fans confident the former Arsenal star’s goals and assists would justify his £500,00-a-week wages (plus Henrik Mkhitaryan heading to the Gunners in a swap deal).

But that pre-match optimism was extremely short-lived as Spurs scored straight from the kick-off, stunning United’s sizeable away following into silence.

It took just 11 seconds for Christian Eriksen to get on the end of flicks from Harry Kane and Dele Alli and side-foot home the joint-third fastest goal ever scored in the Premier League.

Spurs seemed to sense that that Jose Mourinho’s men were not at the races after returning to top-flight action following their routine win five days earlier at Yeovil in the FA Cup third round.

United had chances to equalise with Jesse Lingard coming close, however Mauricio Pochettino’s men were attacking at such a pace that it came as no surprise when Phil Jones turned Kieran Trippier’s cross into his own net to double their lead and effectively end the contest with barely 30 minutes on the clock.

Sanchez fails to shine

The United faithful didn’t even have the consolation of seeing Sanchez shine on his Premier League debut for their team.

The Chilean international delivered an anonymous performance, much to the delight of Tottenham’s fans, who gave him the kind of hostile reception they reserve for former Arsenal players.

Of course, Sanchez has yet to gel with his new team-mates, most of whom were similarly below par at Wembley, and the pressure on him to make an immediate impact was unfair.

The former Barcelona star was barely visible as he was continually harried by white shirts.

Manchester United train ahead of the game

After a poor opening 45 minutes on the left-hand side, Mourinho sought to change the momentum as he moved the 29-year-old into the number 10 role.

However, the switch came to nothing, as Tottenham’s sturdy defence kept the United’s new acquisition quiet throughout.

Good value

So it was a night to forget for United fans, with many leaving well before the final whistle, having seen their team out-played, out-thought and out-fought all over the pitch.

At least they had the consolation of only paying £30 to witness one of the Red Devils’ poorest performances of the season.

In previous campaigns, the cost of watching football – particularly for away fans – has been a hot topic of debate.

However, the Premier League made a breakthrough in 2016 when all 20 clubs agreed to cap away tickets at £30.

To watch Spurs dismantle United, with so many fine players on display on both sides, for that price was a bargain.

Whether the massive outlay invested in bringing Sanchez to Old Trafford ultimately comes to be viewed as value for money is another matter.

United’s defeat leaves them 15 points adrift of rivals Manchester City, with Mourinho admitting the title is now out of reach. Spurs moved to within two points of the top four.

Spurs are blunted yet again at Old Trafford

“Tottenham at home. We all know what Tottenham is about, they are nice and tidy but we’ll f*cking do them,’’ said Roy Keane, back in the days when he, Scholes, Beckham and Co. would ensure that Spurs wouldn’t even see the ball on their annual Old Trafford trip, let alone have it long enough to do anything with.

This season was different as Spurs saw too much of the ball, if anything, and still didn’t know what do to when they had it.

Tottenham helped themselves to over 60% possession, which may come to a surprise to some but in reality this is a regular thing for Pochettino’s side. The North Londoners have out-possessed all but two of their opponents so far this season but often lack ruthlessness in the final third.

Passing was again the theme and for all the 429 passes they attempted, over double that of United, it was one simple, piercing ball by Ander Herrera that breached the Spurs backline and unleashed Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

The way Danny Rose and Kyle Walker maraud forward as wide midfielders is indispensable to the way Spurs build their attacks.

But for all the undoubted positives this entails comes one fatal negative, as Spurs found out when Harry Kane gave the ball away in the middle of the park, leaving Rose helpless halfway up the pitch.

Inconsistency

Mkhitaryan was allowed a clear run through on goal and two touches later the ball was in the back of the net. One measured touch to take it into his stride, and another to lash home high into Hugo Lloris’ goal, and a reminder to Spurs that £26m can actually buy you a half-decent winger.

“Christian Eriksen’s bad spells seem to last longer now, whilst Spurs fans have waited three years to see the best of £26m man Erik Lamela, and are still waiting”

Spending wisely has been a problem at White Hart Lane for a number of years now. With the absurd amount of cash floating around in the Premier League, Spurs have used their budget about as sensibly as the Greek government did.

Even with the second best defence in the league and the rare luxury of having a 20-goal-a-year striker in Kane, Tottenham still look short compared to their competitors.

And that is down to the inconsistency, as the attacking midfielders who support Kane blow hot and cold far too often. None more than Heung Min Son, whose overall game was epitomised at Old Trafford.

He had two shots of note, one fierce left-footed drive from 25 yards that was well tipped over by De Gea, and the other cutting in from a promising wide left position, as well as having other options, blazed high and wide into the Stretford end, a stark contrast. He was then hauled off just shy of the hour mark.

Timid

If Son was in those box of chocolates Forrest Gump was referring to, he’d be the exclusively wrapped up one, with little to no chance of knowing what your going to get. But to single out the South Korean would be harsh.

Christian Eriksen’s bad spells seem to last longer now, whilst Spurs fans have waited three years to see the best of £26m man Erik Lamela, and are still waiting. Record summer signing Moussa Sissoko has failed to make the matchday squad at times this season, let alone warrant a place in the starting XI.

“The sun set over Manchester and as the light started to fade, so did Spurs’ chances of getting anything out of the game”

Tottenham’s flair players are too timid and patient, so it was no surprise to see them prancing around the edge of the United box, creating the impression that something promising was about to happen. It didn’t.

The one time Dele Alli managed to break through late on, like a man shot of confidence, he cut back, stalled, and the chance was inevitably squandered.

United manager Jose Mourinho was animated and agitated simultaneously, like a harried wedding photographer haplessly ordering for everyone to squeeze in the picture that bit more.

Pochettino appeared calmer on the touchline which could have only been his very best poker face, as he would have been far from impressed at what his team were producing in the final third.

Conviction

The Argentine spent a lot of time motionless scratching his chin, like we all used to do back in school to gain more time attempting to answer a teacher’s question.

He had the look of a man who knew he had three defenders and Georges-Kevin N’koudou to choose from to somehow change the game around.

“In many ways it was indicative of Spurs season; plenty of huff and puff but not enough to break the door down”

Plus Sissoko, who must have fancied it in training this week, as Pochettino brought him on to run at makeshift left-back Matteo Darmian who looked about as convincing as those Walls of Jericho.

Wladimir Klitschko was present in the crowd and the Italian looked like he’d just gone 12 rounds with him as he was beaten on a number of occasions, but Spurs lacked the conviction to land a knockout blow.

The sun set over Manchester and as the light started to fade, so did Spurs’ chances of getting anything out of the game.

Paul Pogba berated Marcos Rojo like a strict father for going to retrieve the ball for De Gea after winning a free kick deep inside his own half late on. Gone were the days where United would go for the kill but they knew they had done enough to blunt Spurs here.

In only three of their last 13 games have the North London side scored more than a single goal, so limiting them to scraps was not one of the world’s toughest of tasks.

In many ways it was indicative of Spurs season; plenty of huff and puff but not enough to break the door down. Rose claimed afterwards that they are ‘still in third gear compared to last season’.

Spurs have to start delivering over the Christmas period as they are already 10 points off the league leaders Chelsea.

‘Kicks kept me out of prison’

Nathan Owor reckons he owes a lot to the Premier League’s Kicks community scheme – maybe even his life.

‘Growing up on a rough council estate in East London, most my friends were getting into trouble with police and around the neighbourhood,” he recalls.

“The Kicks project is the reason I believe I’m not in prison or who knows maybe even worse.”

‘Before Kickz I had never played for a football team because I never had the funding.

One of the highlights of the programme is the annual Premier League Kicks Cup, which brings together all of the clubs for a showpiece small-sided football competition.

Owor added: “The free football allowed me to develop my skills and even go on to play  in regional tournaments in Derby, Manchester and Blackburn which I will never forget.”

Free sessions

Currently in its tenth year, the Premier League Kicks is one of the Premier League’s flagship community programmes.

“I’ve had young men come through project with natural raw talent which just needed a bit of coaching to then see them earn trials at various clubs”

Jointly funded by Sport England, the project (formerly known as ‘Kickz’) uses the power of football and the value of sports participation to change young lives in some of Britain’s toughest and most troubled neighbourhoods.

Kicks runs free sessions to bring together 12-to-19 year olds who are potentially vulnerable to involvement in street crime but have a keen interest in sport.

It’s backed by all of the Premier League’s clubs, plus many others in the Football League, and also has the support of the Football Association.

Over 50,000 young people took part in the programme in 2014-15 alone, and it has helped thousands of youngsters to find routes into education, training and employment – and even kickstarted some football careers in the process.

Darren Johnson, a coach affiliated to Tottenham Hotspur’s Kicks scheme told Elephant Sport: “I’ve had young men come through project with natural raw talent which just needed a bit of coaching to then see them earn trials at various clubs.”

Star names

In some areas where Kicks is active in the community, police have reported falls of up to 50% in incidents of anti-social behaviour.

West Brom KickzIt began in 2006 as a pilot project in London between the Premier League and Metropolitan Police, with the aim of using football to bring communities together and engage with young people.

It is currently in operation at 56 Premier League and Football League clubs across the country, with the involvement of several police forces.

Footballers such as Jermaine Defoe and Heurelho Gomes have previously visited Tottenham’s project for kickabouts, with the likes of Yannick Bolasie  and Wilfried Zaha visiting Everton’s and Crystal Palace’s versions.

Engagement

Johnson added: “Professional footballers such as brothers Matty [now at Man Utd] and Chris [Arsenal] Willock used to train here alongside playing for Arsenal which shows our level of coaching is very high.”

Despite the name, Kicks is not all about football as the project introduces young people to other sports and activities, including table tennis, dancing and basketball – all part of its efforts to build ‘a safer, stronger and more respectful community’.

The scheme’s long-term goal is to give participants something to work towards for the future, whether it is football or other career paths, while other non-sporting elements of it seek to engage teenagers in music, educational and other personal development activities.

Yeboah reflects on injury-blighted career

“I used to play for [insert name of club here] until I got injured” – a sentence uttered ruefully by countless young footballers down the years.

A dozen or so words that fail to do justice to all the broken dreams, unfulfilled potential and thwarted ambitions of so many talented players.

One of them is James Yeboah. The Londoner looked to be on the path to professional success until the muscles in his left leg stopped him in his tracks.

As a promising young defender, Yeboah was on the books at Tottenham Hotspur, playing in the same reserve team as the likes of Harry Kane and Andros Townsend.

“I joined West Ham’s youth set-up when I was 11 and played there for about six years before I got an offer to join Spurs,” the 20-year-old told me.

“I thought a move there would suit me, mainly because Spurs were arguably a better side and more importantly it was closer to home, so I found it a bit more convenient.

Impressed

“Everything was running smoothly, I got called up to play and train with the reserves a lot. I was the youngest in the reserve team, all the other boys were older, but I coped well and cemented myself a starting position. So I was playing every week and I learned a lot.

“The majority of the lads I played with went on to make it professionally, some in the Premier League, others in and around the other English football leagues.”

Yeboah started to make a name for himself and his coaches at Spurs were impressed by his progress, suggesting a call-up to the first team squad was not far away.

“My career and life turned upside down when I tore my rectus femoris muscle in the thigh of my left leg. The doctor said the tear was about 10cm long, from my hip to the bottom of my thigh.

“He recommended I went under the knife, but I wasn’t keen on surgery, I thought I’d sit on the sidelines for 10-11 months which was the required time until I’m ready to play again.”

Demoralising

However, the healing process didn’t go to plan. After sitting it out for nearly a year, Yeboah attempted to make a comeback by training with the youth team only to find his injury kept recurring.

“I had trials set up by my agent and places to go, but a lot of these windows of opportunity had gone”

“It kept causing me pain, which was demoralising and stressful,” he recalled. “I got to a point where I lost love for the game and realised it was time for a back-up plan.”

Although initially supportive, Spurs eventually lost patience over Yeboah’s situation and he was released by the White Hart Lane outfit.

At first, he refused to give up and attempted to find a new club – but his body wasn’t in tune with his ambitious mindset.

“I would have been going on 19 and eager to get a new club, but was continuously on the sidelines. I had trials set up by my agent and places to go, but a lot of these windows of opportunity had gone, which was really mentally tough.”

Fear of the unknown

Yeboah’s struggle to regain fitness took its toll and eventually left him at rock bottom. He opted to give up the sport he had loved playing since he was old enough to kick a ball.

Does he still play at all? “Hardly ever, if I’m honest. I try to keep fit as much as I can by going to the gym. My main objective is going university and getting a degree in building surveying or architecture, depending on the route I decide.

“I never thought of giving up while going through that tough patch, but I was always worried about what I would do if it didn’t work out. It’s fear of the unknown I guess, but now I have my back-up plan I do think about playing again just for fun and fitness.”

Although he sees himself as a strong person, he stressed that mental toughness has to be allied with other qualities to make it as a professional.

“You have to be hard working, extremely dedicated and ready to make sacrifices. Add to that a little luck, and taking opportunities when they present themselves is key.

Commitment

“I’d like to believe that if I’d recovered from my big injury that I’d be playing at the top level with the likes of my former team-mates Kane and Townsend. I wouldn’t say I would be on the same level as them because they are players who have done their loans and gained gamecraft to prepare themselves for the Prem.

“Youngsters lacking ambition could stem from so many things, but ultimately if you don’t have any ambition you’re not going far in life”

“If I was still playing I think I’d be on loan trying to get game time playing men’s football in the lower leagues to get experience.”

Yeboah also shared his thoughts on the debate over whether today’s young players ‘want it’ enough to overcome hurdles such as the ones he faced.

It depends on the individual. I’m very ambitious and always want to be the best at everything. Injury can of course hinder or completely stop someone from achieving their goal. I won’t complain about that, but who is to say I would have made it?

“Youngsters lacking ambition could stem from so many things, but ultimately if you don’t have any ambition you’re not going far in life.”

Strenuous

Yeboah is currently on an internship at an architecture firm but hasn’t completely ruled out a comeback to playing football.

“Currently I’ve just been working in architecture, but I am thinking of getting back into football and might try to play for a local team like Barnet, as I live quite close.

“With my CV, I don’t doubt that they would give me a trial. However, I can still tell my left leg is not as strong as my right, and it’s quite obvious when doing strenuous exercise.

“If I’m to start thinking abut playing again then definitely I will have to start conditioning training again and take it day by day. I’ll be looking at getting back into it around the start of May, so we’re going to have to see what happens.”

Ferdinand ‘hellbent’ on seeing young talent shine

With the current success of Tottenham Hotspur, the calls for more top clubs to give players from their youth systems a chance has never been louder.

But is it as simple as doing exactly that? Giving them ‘a chance’.

“A lot of managers don’t work with the under 21s so they don’t see the progress or what they’re getting”

According to ex-Spurs coach, Premier League legend and current QPR technical director Les Ferdinand, it should be no great surprise that so few English talents are given regular opportunities.

Ferdinand, who was part of the coaching set-up at Spurs which saw current golden boy Harry Kane become a regular, believes that for these youngsters to get a chance, managers must be afforded more time at their club.

“When a manager takes over, unless you’re an Arsene Wenger or a Sir Alex Ferguson you know your tenure is going to be somewhere between a year and two years, and that’s being generous.” Ferdinand told me.

“In that time you’re going to play your most experienced players. You’re not taking a chance on an under-21 when you don’t know what his capabilities are.”

Involved

So why then, when Ferdinand was afforded a first-team role in the coaching staff alongside manager Tim Sherwood after the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas, were players like Harry Kane and Nabil Bentaleb given an opportunity?

“It is a concept that makes a lot of sense yet it so rarely acted on. To give the youngsters a chance, the manager must be given a chance”

“The reason we were able to give these youngsters a chance was because we worked with them for five years at the academy, prior to Tim Sherwood. So with myself and Chris Ramsay becoming more involved with the first team, we knew what we were getting.

“A lot of first team managers at clubs don’t work with the under 21s so they don’t see the progress or what they’re getting. They don’t know them well enough.

“How managers view these young players now about sending them out on loan so they’ve played ‘men’s football’ and can then judge them from that.”

It is a concept that makes a lot of sense yet it so rarely acted on. To give the youngsters a chance, the manager must be given a chance.

Opportunity

Was Ferdinand sure then, having worked with the academy at Tottenham Hotspur, that when given a chance, these players would flourish?

“When I was at Spurs the young boys we had, we felt if we gave an opportunity to, they would do well.

“Old-school managers go with old-school players. Their though process is to go with the most experienced players because I know they’ve been there and done it.”

Fast-forward two years, and Ferdinand – a renowned striker for clubs including Spurs, QPR, Newcastle, Besiktas and Leicester (as well as for England) – is now technical director at QPR, temporarily putting his coaching career on hold.

Despite his change in job, ‘Sir Les’ as he is popularly known, is just as determined as ever to see academy players given a chance at his current club.

Constant changes

Of course, QPR have long been a club looking for stability, both on the pitch as well as off it.

“For a club of QPR’s size, we need to have a steady stream of players coming through the system and playing in our first team”

Constant changes in managers and first-team players have seen the West Londoners yo-yo from Premier League to Championship in recent seasons.

However, it is one statistic in particular that sticks out like a sore thumb for Ferdinand.

“For 16 years now, QPR have not had anyone come through the academy system and play for the first team on a consistent basis.

“This is one of my bugbears and one of the things I want to get right.

“For a club of QPR’s size, we need to have a steady stream of players coming through the system and playing in our first team. I am hell-bent on getting the academy structure right.”

Coaching

As I look at Ferdinand, who still has the physique of a 25-year-old Premier League striker by the way, it is obvious he means what he says and that he will do all he can make these changes in his new role.

But does he see himself as being stable in that role for the foreseeable future, or can he see himself go back into the coaching world?

“If I can implant any bit of knowledge from my time playing onto someone else that improves them as a footballer, then I get a lot of joy out of that”

“I like being a director of football, despite the amount of stick I’m taking at the moment!” he said.

“I did enjoy coaching, and I’m sure I will get back into it one day. I’m out there on the sidelines at training every day, have a little bit of input now and again and I do enjoy it.

“For me it’s all about making people better, and if I can implant any bit of knowledge from my time playing onto someone else that improves them as a footballer, then I get a lot of joy out of that.”

It is at this time that our interview was briefly interrupted by a fan wanting a picture with Ferdinand.

If he can help turn QPR into a more stable club and provide England with top-level footballers for the future, requests for selfies might become an even more regular occurrence.

Who knows, perhaps ‘Sir Les’ could even become a reality, rather than an endearing nickname.

Falco hoping Kane earns his spurs as a title winner

In 1984-85, Mark Falco scored 22 times for Tottenham Hotspur in the old Division One.

Falco was, in the words of the song fans sing at White Hart Lane, the last ‘One of Our Own’ to notch at least 20 league goals in one campaign.

Until, of course, last season – where if you fast forward 30 years – Harry Kane achieved the same feat.

It was a long time coming for a club steeped in homegrown heroes – the kind that bleed the blue and white of Spurs and live by their motto: ‘To Dare Is To Do’.

Spurs legend Falco says the fact that it took three decades for his mark to be equalled speaks volumes.

“I’m very proud of my record playing for Spurs. It took 30 years for Harry Kane to be the next homegrown player to score 20 league goals, so you see it’s not that easy.”

Team spirit

“Not that easy” is still putting it pretty modestly, but then Falco is one of the gentleman of the game.

Aside from the obvious comparisons between him and Kane, there are also many similarities to the team Falco featured in during the 1984-85 season and the one Kane is currently thriving in.

“I think some of us played nearly 70 matches, so we just ran out of steam”

“The current team is doing extremely well and looks like it could be a very successful season,” said the Bethnal Green-born striker.

“They seem to have the same spirit that we had as a team and are playing some very exciting football which we tried to play.”

That Spurs side, like the current one, were pushing for the league title. Unfortunately, arguably due to the sheer amount of games including European commitments, they fell away in the closing weeks of an arduous season.

Accolades

Were Falco’s personal achievements in front of goal rendered meaningless as his team fell short?

“Obviously it was a very big blow not to have won the league as we were so close, but then we didn’t have the big squads they have now.

“We were also in every competition and into the final phases of the cups. I think some of us played nearly 70 matches, so we just ran out of steam.

“It’s always nice to have personal accolades, but the team is more important. Besides, if the team is doing well then accolades normally follow.”

Now 55, Falco can certainly be proud of his career at his boyhood club.

Disappointment

Making his debut for Tottenham in 1979, he went on to score 98 goals in 236 games for the North Londoners, helping them win the 1984 Uefa Cup with one of their successful penalties in the shoot-out against Anderlecht in the final.

“It was a very great honour to be chosen, considering how many great players have played for the club and didn’t make the top 50”

“Goals mean different things,” he reflected. “I suppose my best goal was when we beat Arsenal 5-0, but my most important was certainly scoring that penalty to help win the Uefa Cup.”

It was, Falco admits, a real disappointment when Spurs told him he was surplus to requirements in 1986, but he went on to join Watford, followed by a successful spell at Rangers and then QPR before finishing his career at Millwall.

“It was very difficult as I had joined Spurs as a 13-year-old and made my way into the first team and was leading goal scorer at the time.

Fondness

“It was a bit of a surprise to be told that the club didn’t need me anymore,” he recalled.

“But that happens when a new manager comes in and has his ideas on how he wants his team to play. If you’re not in his plans, it’s best to move on.”

However, what is certain is that this decision hasn’t damaged his fondness for the club he loves.

In 2009, Falco was voted by supporters as one of the top 50 greatest Spurs players of all time.

“It was a very great honour to be chosen, considering how many great players have played for the club and didn’t make the top 50.”

Falco remains a familiar figure at White Hart Lane, working as a club ambassador on matchdays.

Will his successor Kane be the next name to oust a great from that list – and perhaps go one better and do it with a league winners medal in his back pocket?

Image courtesy of Tottenham Hotspur