Newcastle Utd vs Tottenham Hotspur, St James’s Park, Saturday 18th August 2012, 5.30pm ko, ESPN & ESPN HD
So the day that excites nearly all football fans the most has finally arrived as we kick off our campaign at the team that most said over achieved last season by finishing 5th just 4 points behind us. Not an easy start at all.
After the mentally draining last few months of the season for a lot of Spurs fans, I for one needed a break. It turned out to be a longer break then intended though, which is why this blog hasn’t published anything since the review of last season went out. That will all change now. We will be playing catch up a bit with articles on our new manager Andre Villas-Boas, our new signings (which hopefully will include at least a couple of strikers by the time it goes up!), a goodbye and thank you to the players that have left and there will be one to honour the great Sir Ledley King after he announced his retirement over the summer. Plus there will be some new features on here as well so you guys can get more involved and let us know your thoughts throughout the current campaign.
For now though let me cut the ribbon and smash the bottle of champagne and welcome Ciaran Griggs as he gets the THFC1882 season underway with his preview of the Newcastle game:
The Olympics are done (kind of, the Paralympics is yet to come). Football is BACK, bring on the spoilt millionaires! In all seriousness, the Olympics were the best summer break filler that we’ve had since Euro 96. Full of feel-good stories and glowing testimony to the athletes involved. It was only a distraction though. For many, it’s back to our first love, much as we sometimes want to hate it, football. Bubbling away during the entire summer has been the nagging doubt at the back of all Spurs fans minds about the state of our squad come August 18th 2012. Some questions have been answered, others remain open and without a response.
So what has changed since we downed tools at the end of last season after watching *that* CL final and *that* result that cost us our place in Europe’s biggest competition? Perhaps the biggest change has been in management. Harry talked, as he was wont to do, and Levy apparently lost patience and decided to move him on. HR will be remembered for taking us back towards the top of the table but for many the relationship had soured and the time was right to make a change for the long term. In his place, we have hired a man who was amongst the most sought after on the planet during the last summer break after his quite incredible record at Porto. Andre Villas-Boas and his fabled squat have come to White Hart Lane, rejoice! I’ll leave the analysis of his tactics to a more specific article, but suffice to say that with AVB brings a more modern approach to tactics, more fluid and more dynamic. He also brings with him a long shadow from his time at Chelsea which he will be looking to quickly cast off. AVB will also soon have at his disposal one of the premiere training facilities in the country. For a man with an astonishing love of minute detail, such a facility is likely to be utilised to the full.
In terms of playing personnel, some have been moved on. Our thanks to Luka Modric, Ryan Nelsen, Louis Saha, Steven Pienaar, Vedran Corluka and Niko Kranjcar amongst others. Our captain and one-club man has moved upstairs, Ledley gone but not forgotten. On the inward side of the ledger, we signed Glyfi Sigurdsson from the Bundesliga (following a successful loan spell in the PL at the end of last season) from underneath Liverpool’s noses and Jan Vertonghen soon followed from Ajax after repeatedly stating his desire to sign for Spurs and only Spurs. A quality international centre half and a quality international attacking midfielder. Great news for the club, you say? Alas, no strikers have joined the fray as yet, with the Adebayor transfer racking up all kinds of records as the most protracted in history. Levy saving some dollar by signing him late, or ongoing issues with wages scuppering our preparation? #InLevyWeTrust does daily battle with the #LevyIsTight brigade and neither party is satisfied.
Our opponents on Saturday had an amazing season last year with Alan Pardew producing genuine contenders for CL football, completely against most people’s reasonable expectations. Tiote, Cabaye, Demba Ba and Cisse gave Newcastle an edge that no-one predicted. Carroll’s loss proved to be great business as he was replaced at a profit with TWO strikers. Despite all of this, Newcastle have had an extremely quiet summer with only Anita, coming from Ajax, as a notable addition to their squad. Rumours abound that Cisse is injured in addition to the combative Tiote. Both are major blows to the Newcastle team with their squad being relatively light. Spurs on the other hand, have only Scott Parker missing, but welcome back Tom Huddlestone after an injury-plagued 2011/12 season.
Our previous 2 encounters against this opponent yielded 4 points with a hard fought (undeserved?) 2-2 draw followed up by a 5-0 victory in February after *that* tax evasion trial. The 5-0 victory was a masterclass to parallel our early season form against Liverpool with free-flowing football and a rampant Adebayor dictating the game. The major issue we face is probably the lack of firepower. To beat Newcastle away, I believe that you need to score goals. At the time of writing, Spurs have only 2 senior strikers on the books, Jermain Defoe and the young, unproven Harry Kane. Both players have scored in recent matches though, with Jermain netting for England on Wednesday night and Harry Kane scoring a hat-trick in a pre-season friendly against Southend United. Another potential up front is Bale who wore number 9 during the pre-season tour of the US and was impressive. He certainly has the size and ability with both head and feet to be a forward but it would not, to my mind, be the best utilisation of his particular skillset.
I expect a tight match, with Spurs’ defence and midfield winning out but with Newcastle having a stronger strikeforce. A saving grace for Spurs may be the fact that AVB will probably play a lone frontman in the match, a favoured tactic of his. A potential front six of Bale, Van der Vaart, Sigurdsson, Sandro, Huddlestone and Defoe is strong, but we lack options to vary this should it not work or players become fatigued.
Overall, I’d be extremely happy with a point in our opening match, and I’m predicting a 1-1 draw in a tight match with relatively few chances. After all, we all know that Spurs season doesn’t start until midnight on August 31st.
Ciaran ( @LordFIMM on Twitter )
Thank you for the support and loyalty shown of still following and reading us and let’s all hope for another great year for the boys at the Lane.
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