by James Willis
As a Tottenham fan I’ve been trying my best this season to avoid being sucked into talk of a title challenge. It’s not been easy as a supporter of a club which has a highest finish of 4th in the last 20 years.
In fact, I’ll concede that for a short period of time before the Manchester City game in January, I accepted the opinions that Tottenham were in the title race. Genuine, bona fide contenders.
The position Spurs manoeuvred themselves into is largely thanks to chairman Daniel Levy. A stubborn resistance provided throughout the last few transfer windows showed that Tottenham are no longer what fans label a “selling club”. A point repetitively expressed by manager Harry Redknapp.
For Spurs to become even more convincing title contenders next season, two key positions need to be filled. Firstly, a goalkeeper that can push to replace the impressive Friedel, when his inevitable retirement comes. Secondly, a striker that can hit 20+ goals a season to add some much needed firepower to the Spurs squad.
The first two names that jumped into my mind were Tim Krul and Demba Ba. Both fit the bill as exactly what Tottenham need, and both had been linked with the North London club in one way or another over the course of the past year.
Now it’s Newcastle’s turn to take the hits in the transfer market. Since their unexpected form under Alan Pardew pushed them into top 5 contention, all sorts of clubs have come sniffing around their players.
Lately, St James’ Park (let’s face it, that’s what it’s still called) has been infested by scouts from, not just the UK but, all over Europe. Much like judges in a dog show, these scouts have been giving most of the Newcastle squad the once over, watching and monitoring every aspect of a player’s performance.
Alan Pardew has had to sit tight, stay strong and hope none of his players start wagging their tails too much over visitors in the crowd.
Newcastle suddenly have the unenviable job of proving they’re not a selling club.
Newcastle suddenly have the unenviable job of proving they’re not a selling club. Something that they must do if they wish to be taken seriously as a top of the table team on a regular basis.
Despite much courting last August and in the January transfer window just gone, Newcastle have still managed to retain their top players, but the lure of Champions League football will almost undoubtedly come calling for some of them again this summer.
It’s a testament to the work done at the club by Alan Pardew, who most people initially wrote off when he was appointed. The hardest work is yet to come, though.
The team spirit at Newcastle is second to none. Something that was showed at the start of the season when Newcastle went on a strong unbeaten run. Them sitting in the top four was a nightmare for me as a Spurs fan, but seemed to attract a standing ovation from those fans not distracted by their own personal vendettas.
I couldn’t stand them being in the Champions League spaces for as long as they were stopping Tottenham entering the top four. I figured that Spurs were inevitably going to end up there, but Newcastle were stubbornly holding out for as long as possible, much to my frustration.
When the positions eventually switched, I joined the rest of the Premier League’s fans (perhaps except Sunderland’s) in commending Newcastle for their performances this season. In fact,Demba Ba being the closest challenger to Robin Van Persie for this season’s Golden Boot had given me another reason to enjoy Newcastle’s season.
Perhaps they won’t be in this position again next season, but they probably will be and we can only hope nothing catastrophic happens in the summer. All eyes are anxiously on Mike Ashley in that regard.
I would love for Spurs to sign players of Tim Krul and Demba Ba’s ability, but slowly, week by week, I’m beginning to think we should be looking elsewhere. Not because of a drop in form from those players, but because of the ever increasing status of a great club revealing itself in the bright lights at the end of a gloomy tunnel.
You can follow James on Twitter @jwillis50