Joshua Doyle looks back on a season of so near yet so far for Spurs in 2012/13
How has this term compared to pre-season expectations?
The main objective was always to finish in the top four, to secure Champions League football. The club set about adding some top players both from the Premier League and around Europe and incoming players such as Lloris, Vertonghen and Dembélé have really shone at times throughout the campaign. In short, we failed to meet our expectations but the final Premier League table doesn’t even begin to tell the story of a wholly exciting but sometimes frustrating season.
Happy with the gaffer?
Very. In the beginning, a fair few Spurs supporters were still not sure about his appointment well into the season and you couldn’t blame them. His activities at Chelsea – most notably his man-management skills – were scrutinised and well documented even before ‘Arry left and before he was short listed for the vacant position last summer but he has learnt lessons, even admitting himself that he could have done things differently at Stamford Bridge. It was pretty obvious that he had to gather the dressing room round together pretty quickly after his short stint at Chelsea but it must be noted that there are no big, nasty senior players at Spurs like AVB had to contend with in West London (looking at you Terry and Lampard). With highlights including a record 12 game unbeaten run in the Premier League and a captivating European adventure, a large majority of people now see him as the man to take Tottenham forward and this was shown in the end-of-season lap of the pitch yesterday at White Hart Lane. He’s definitely proven his doubters wrong.
Who has been the stand-out performer?
Gareth Bale. You’d struggle to find many other players in the Premier League who has had as big an impact on his side this season. It would be unfair to say we have relied on him completely but sometimes it does feel like he has won games all by himself. Crucial goals at crucial times mean he’s been praised far more than he ever has since that night at the San Siro.
Is there anyone you’d happily open the exit door for?
I’m really clutching at straws here because I feel that there isn’t anyone at Spurs who has had a shocking season. Although he hasn’t been given sufficient playing time, I feel that Jake Livermore would be better off elsewhere. He made a few appearances at the start of the season but hasn’t featured at all since. With Tom Carroll and others from the U21 side coming through, I just can’t see a place for him in any Spurs squad.
What would you have done different if installed in the dug-out last summer?
In all honesty, I wouldn’t have done much differently at all. We had the heart of last season’s side ripped out what with King retiring and Modric and van der Vaart leaving, Kaboul had been missing for pretty much the whole season with a long-term injury and Sandro was ruled out for the rest of the season in January against QPR. AVB has to be given credit for chasing Champions League football with nowhere near a fully fit squad and effectively one striker, with Adebayor only seeming to turn up for the last four games of the season. After all of these problems, 5th place doesn’t seem so bad and now AVB has got his feet firmly under the desk at WHL he can now sit down this summer and mould this team into his own style and hopefully a top four side.
What was your own personal highlight of the season?
There are a few highlights for me to pick from such as the first win at Old Trafford in 23 years and another win against Arsenal at White Hart Lane but my highlight was Gareth Bale’s winning goal at Upton Park against West Ham. I can’t even begin to describe the sheer joy and pride in watching Gareth Bale strike that ball into the top corner so late on, in a pub full of West Ham fans. Cue running around the pub shouting and screaming like a madman.
There are so many things that have culminated in Spurs missing out on Champions League football. I can’t help but think that chucking a lead away at Goodison Park, conceding two goals in roughly 88 seconds in the dying minutes of the game was hard to take and a bitter blow in our quest for the top four. Our home form has been my biggest disappointment, though. We managed to travel to some tough grounds and pick up points away at Sunderland, Stoke, Fulham and West Brom but at WHL it has been a different story altogether. We lost to Fulham and Wigan and only managed draws against Stoke, West Brom and Norwich. Anyone could tell you that in order to chase trophies and European football, you simply have to make your ground a fortress. So in the end, I think our home form ultimately cost us Champions League football.
What ramifications wil there be for missing out on a Champions League spot?
I’d like to think that missing out on Champions League football this season will finally spur Daniel Levy on to get the cheque book out and bring some big players in. Although we have spent in previous seasons we haven’t got any world class players to show for it and most Spurs fans will agree that it’s time we really went for it in the transfer window. Both AVB and Daniel Levy know that Spurs are oh so close to breaking into the top four and by signing some top, young talent we can get into the top four and most importantly, stay there. Hopefully we can bring some players in early and bed the squad in together ready for next season, rather than sign them at 23:59 on August 31st. I don’t think missing out on Champions League football will see us lose many players – especially Gareth Bale – as they too know that Spurs are only a season or two away from something special. Gareth, you’re staying.