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The Spurs pre-season - What you may have missed

Many people make a conscious decision not to attend the pre-season friendly matches, because "They don't mean a thing", or "I don't want to watch a meaningless kick-about". Perhaps they have other reasons such as the prices that THFC seek for their "prestigious" home friendlies, which are of course the nearest thing to a European match that we have seen for several years.

Others, of course have to miss many pre-season games, because they inconveniently co-incide their travels to warmer climes. Well, we all know now that there has been a heatwave here in "blighty", but La Cote D'Azure, or Costa del Sol do have somewhat greater ambience than N.17!

Here then, for the benefit of those who missed most of the pre-season campaign is a summary of what you may regret missing:-

The only exciting bit of news we had before any of the matches was the signing of Helder Postiga, a 20 year old striker (now 21)signed for 6.25 million from Porto. This was at the time (pre-Abramovich's Chelski) a considerable sum in anybody's terms for such a young player, especially for Spurs, becoming renowned for their economy, and, in fact conforming to that description in the rest of their transfer dealings to date. Going to Stevenage on July 16th had a special excitement therefore, not only because it was the chance to see our heroes for the first time in the new season, but to assess young Helder. Well, our man excited with his pace, control and skill, a brave goal at close range from a Johnnie Jackson cross, and a marvellous piece of skill, when he turned a header down the line, raced after it, controlled the ball, then sent a pinpoint cross-field pass to Rohan Ricketts. The names of Ricketts and Jackson will be worth more mention later.

On the following Saturday, at Wycombe, Postiga proved he had two excellent feet, when he scored a quite spectacular goal from a sharp angle on the left, firing into the roof of Dave Beasant's goal. (Yes, you too could have seen 44 year old Beasant making a guest appearance for Wycombe!).

By this time, we knew that Glenn Hoddle had snatched Bobby Zamora from Brighton for a mere 1.5 million. Wycombe was too soon for him to get a game, but he made a great debut the next day at Oxford with a double strike in only 45 minutes. The first of these was a good strike from the edge of the area, and the second was a poacher's goal at the feet of the keeper. Spurs fans quickly gave a chorus of "When the ball's in the goal, it's not Shearer or Cole, it's Zamora!".

Spurs also won each of their first four games in England, before they travelled to South Africa. The last of these was perhaps the best, when they beat Norwich 3-0, including a quite spectacular curling shot from none other than Darren Anderton, who had been linked to Portsmouth, but apparently, earlier that day had decided he was staying at Spurs. Some will be less happy than others about that, but the fact remains, when he is on his game, he is one of the best passers in the Premiership. I have even seen him succeeding with stiff tackles in these games!

We all know about the clamour for a "defensive midfielder", and to date the quest goes on, although we did bring back the South African Captain Mbulelo "Old John" Mabizela from our mini-tour of South Africa. We lost one and won the other of our two games, but the whole enterprise was clearly a great public relations success, in part thanks to Gary Mabbutt being the "ambassador" for the tour. Mabizela was the Captain of the team that beat us - Orlando Pirates - and he kept Postiga very quiet. Mabizela is only 22, and is clearly a competent footballer. He can play at central or right sided defence, but could be that elusive defensive midfielder. By the time you read this, he may have signed for about 1 million. He's not that tall, so I would prefer him at the back of midfield myself, but he likes to play out of trouble, rather than hoof the ball.

At the time of writing the club is also close to signing DC United midfielder Bobby Convey. Convey is another youngster, so with the welcome departure of Steffen Iversen and Ben Thatcher, added to those of the popular Teddy Sheringham and Steffen Freund, the average age of the squad is coming down. Matthew Etherington was the "sprat to catch a mackerel" who will not have enamoured himself to Spurs fans when he suggested that West Ham is a bigger club than Spurs. Ahem, yes Matthew - what were you on that day? The man who came the other way - Freddie Kanoute - is already injured, having to pull out of training on Day One. He joins Dean Richards, Ledley King, Kazuyuki Toda, Jonathan Blondel and Christian Ziege on the early season injury list. Nothing has changed there then!

Those injuries might give a deserved chance to midfielder Rohan Ricketts against Birmingham. Ricketts is an ex-Arsenal player who came across the divide for a better chance to succeed. He never got the chance to shine other than for the reserves last year, but the reception he got when substituted against Sporting Lisbon said it all really. The lad ran his heart out, and has the skill and ability to make the grade. Other youngsters to shine were Johnnie Jackson - often played as left wing back, as was David Galbraith. Rob Burch (England under-20 keeper)has had a superb pre-season, and made some of the best saves seen, playing both games in South Africa, and getting good exposure at home too. Dean Marney is clearly a suitable replacement for Stephen Carr when he leaves (as surely he will by this time next year), and Mark Yeates is an exciting lightweight who plays to good effect behind a front two.

Glenn's favourite formation has been 3-4-2-1, but due to injuries he has had to adjust in the latter games. The 0-0 draw at home to Sporting Lisbon was the best technical performance and that was a 3-5-2. Who knows what Glenn's first pick would be, given the chance? For what it's worth, I think we will worry defences, but we will still leak too many with the space behind our wing-backs being exploited all too often.

For the record, the results of the First Team Friendlies were :-

Wed Jul 16: Stevenage Borough (7.45pm).
2-0 (Acimovic, Postiga)
Sat Jul 19: Wycombe Wanderers (3pm).
3-2 (o.g, Postiga, Davies
Sun Jul 20: Oxford United (3pm).
3-0 (Zamora (2), Keane)
Tue Jul 22: Norwich City (7.45pm).
3-0 Anderton, Davies, Zamora
Sat Jul 26: Orlando Pirates, South Africa (4.00pm)
1-2 o.g (following Postiga cross/shot)
Tue Jul 29: Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa (8.30pm)
2-0 Keane, Etherington
Sun Aug 03: Spurs v PSV Eindhoven (3pm)
0-2
Sun Aug 10: Spurs v Sporting Lisbon (4pm)
0-0

Index to full reports on the pre-season campaign

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