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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for and and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


For Spurs …. What Comes Next?

Written by on April 5, 2011 | 40 Comments »
Posted in Tottenham Hotspur, UEFA Champions League

This evening Tottenham Hotspur will walk out of the tunnel at the Stadio Bernabeu in Madrid and into one of the biggest and most prestigious games in the club’s history.

The journey from the bottom of the Premier League to the quarter finals of the Champions League has been a remarkable one under manager Harry Redknapp – although perhaps not quite as dramatic as the low point might indicate.

Under the previous regimes of George Graham, Martin Jol and Juande Ramos Spurs had achieved a level of progress and in some cases silverware. However, each time a high point was reached Spurs’ improvement would stall and then wither.

The shock of plummeting down the table as rising expectations wilted, would then precipitate a change at the top, and the cycle would start afresh.

There does not appear to be any signs of such a dramatic fall under Redknapp although Spurs are again at a critical juncture.

Champions League football for next season can be secured by one of two methods.

The first is to win this season’s Champions League – easier said than done – or finish in the top four of the Barclay’s Premier League.

The Premier League seems to offer the more realistic route back to the premier club trophy in the world but given that Spurs are currently 5th and six points (with a game in hand) behind Manchester City it still constitutes a considerable challenge.

There is no doubt that Spurs fans have been in heaven this season on Champions League nights and such events can be addictive and intoxicating and not just for the supporters.

But if Spurs are to move forward in a sustainable way these next few weeks might prove to be absolutely vital. Under Redknapp the Spurs squad – both in depth and quality – has improved significantly.

That required the board to authorize an increase in spending not just on transfer fees but wages as well. (The club also mitigated some of the additional spending with players such as Dimitar Berbatov going rather than coming – in the case of Berbatov it was just a few months before Redknapp’s arrival).

But even with an increase in the wage-bill Spurs spending is still nowhere close to teams that they now consider their rivals at the top of the Barclay’s Premier League.

Manchester City and Chelsea’s salary expenditure outstrips ever other club in the league. Then comes Manchester United followed by Arsenal and Liverpool.

There is a considerable gap until you reach the Spurs level. So, to some extent Spurs achievement over the last couple of years has been done “on the cheap” although it is difficult to consider a 2010 wage bill of close to $96M as budget conscious.

Success not only brings increased expectations from supporters but also pressure from players to see their efforts showing up in bulker wage packets. Spurs can expect considerable pressure on their salary budget as contract renewal time comes around.

When you also consider the cost of developing a new White Hart Lane it only serves to emphasize why Spurs participation in the Champions League next season, and in years to come, is so vitally important.

Owner Joe Lewis has proved to be an excellent steward since he initially invested in the team in 2001. But even with an estimated wealth of $3B Lewis has never shown any willingness to underwrite the financial fortunes of the club ala Roman Abramovich.

In order for Spurs to continue to grow and prosper they have to reach that sweet spot where success becomes close to self-sustaining. And to do so Champions League football is now a necessity rather than an occasional treat to be savoured.

Memory Lane or Inspirational Corner

Nearly half a century ago Spurs played another Madrid side in the final of the European Cup Winners Cup. They beat Atletico 5-1 and became the first British team to lift a European trophy.

The year before Spurs had failed to make the final of the European Cup when they lost to Benfica in the semi-final. Benfica went on to win the final by beating Real Madrid and retain the trophy they had won the year previous after beating Barcelona.


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40 responses to “For Spurs …. What Comes Next?”

  1. Rahul says:

    its fairly admirable how the Spurs have gotten where they are. Organically and slowly, with patience. how does their run in look for 4th place?

  2. Have to play City a, Chelsea a, Liverpool a, Arsenal at h.
    Stoke at home and Birmingham, Blackpool and West Brom at home.

    In their last 4 games Spurs have drawn three and lost the other to the four teams presently at the bottom of the Premier League.

  3. Soccerlogical says:

    Bobbo – Considering that Tottenham will most likely be playing in the Europa League next season and have a great chance of winning that trophy, pushing for 4th and perhaps an FA Cup, do ya think selling Bale for around 40-60M pounds and reinforcing will help or hurt Spurs?

    As always, the Chick Young to your Walter Smith…,

  4. Alec says:

    I’m a huge Spurs fan, and this recent run of horrendous form is killing me. I
    feel like their dip in form can be attributed to one thing: They don’t have that
    top class striker that all of the other big clubs have. So, a couple of
    questions here. Who should Tottenham target for a summer transfer, and how far
    do you think they could go with one?

  5. Alec – I don’t think it is a simple as who they should target. Playing in the Champions League is a major consideration for players and if Spurs do not qualify for next season’s tournament two things are likely to happen. The first is that the players who have tasted the great European nights this season are going to experience a massive come-down and may not be satisfied with moving backwards to the Europa League. The other is that the pool of players to pick from is going to shrink quickly if Champions League is not an option next season.

    Spurs would then find themselves either paying way over the odds in terms of salary to placate a top class talent – and run the risk of destroying their wage structure – or going for a second tier striker (they have enough already some would say) or a youngster with potential – which is always a bit riskier.

    I think it just reinforces the point I tried to make which is that Spurs will likely have some difficult decisions this summer if they do not make it into next season’s CL.

  6. Boris says:

    Good article Bobby.

    I have to agree with Alec. The next step would be to get a quality striker as I’ve been saying all season long and also to bolster the defensive line with one or two quality defenders.

  7. Boris says:

    Just read your comment too Bobby. I agree as well. No Champions League means a change in priorities. It could also mean they would have to get rid off some quality players.

  8. Bridie Boy says:

    Bobby – fair that you look at wages as opposed to transfer fees but Spurs have definitely spent a lot on players too:

    Presently, I think they would in a far better position with better and more reliable strikers. While it’s a positive to see Van Der Vaart and Bale score so frequently their goal difference is by far the lowest amongst the top five.

    A smarter person than me could provide the stats on their attempts on goal to goals scored ratio for their strikers.

    I think their biggest challenge next season will come from Man City. Given their squad – should Mancini improve as a manager in the EPL or should Man City hire Mourinho – they will surely become a fixture in the top-four.

    Spurs other challenge (not unlike Liverpool’s) is they have an early 20th century stadium whose size and lack of corporate boxes make the club relatively uncompetitive in the 21st century.

  9. Boris says:

    I couldn’t have said it better myself Bridie Boy, not to mention that currently both Bale and Van der Vart have not performed at their highest level for some time. Fitness issues could be attributed to this among other reasons.

  10. Soccerlogical says:

    I also think that Redknapp would be hard to replace and the likes of a Moyes who isn’t known for sexy attacking football and not that successful in Europe would struggle at a higher profile team such as Tottenham. Perhaps after The Euros when ‘Arry takes over The 3 Lions, Klopp could come in and bring some of his Dortmund talent.

    Either Joe Lewis gives all his stars raises to keep them next season and spends 30M for a proven striker and 20M to tighten up the defense and really shows intention on a top 4 finish…… or they sell Bale for around 40M and play the market that way.

    Either way, a striker like Lopez or Hulk is needed along with a CB and FB like Rami, Baines or Cahill… perhaps all the above if they sell Bale?

    We all know that the 4 CL spots next season will only be contested by MU-MC-CHE-ARS-LIV….. and TOT (if they splash the cash).

  11. Coach V. says:

    I am convinced Spurs will get a great result today and pave the way for an amazing event in the 2nd leg.

  12. Bridie Boy says:

    I’d be surprised if Harry wants to be England manager – his net income would be cut in half with nobody to buy or sell 🙂 That’s probably the same reason being Scotland manager never appealed to Sir Alex earlier in his career 🙂

  13. Soccerlogical says:

    True, but ‘Arry can always make a little on the side by taking brown bags from the likes of Wenger and Fergie for not calling up star players during friendlies!

  14. Bridie Boy says:


  15. Redfan says:

    Spurs do not look unlike Liverpool in 2005 so I do believe in minor miracles of this sort. A tough ask but maybe ‘arry’s boys can go all the way……..

  16. Boris says:

    I can’t wait for the matchup. I hope it is going to be a good game.
    Since I haven’t seen a page for the preview yet, here are some of the key matchups:
    Ramos vs. Bale
    A great defender takes on a very good attacker. The question is, how fit is Bale? The last time I have seen him play a great game was againt Inter. He will have to perform the same way again if Tottenham is to have a chance. Based on his fitness, I am not sure he can.

    Sandro vs. Ozil
    Sandro has been an inspiration defensively as of late and he will be key in slowing down Madrid’s attack led by Ozil especially since Tottenham’s backline is battered. Ozil has been key in setting up Madrid’s attacking players all season long.

    Ronaldo, Di Maria, Higuain vs. Tottenham’s backline.
    The huge advantage goes to Madrid’s attackers though Tottenham hope that the Ronaldo and Higuain are not fully fit.

    Modric vs. Xabi Alonso and Khedira
    Like it or not, Modric is the catalyst of Tottenham’s offense. Madrid will have to play him hard in order to neutralise Tottenham’s offense.

    Tottenham’s forwards vs. Madrid’s defense.
    Tottenham have struggled with scoring and it will be up to Van Der Vart to supply the spark up front. He will be motived to perform well against his former club so hopefully that can turn into some goals.

    Mourinho vs. Redknapp

    It will be a tactical battle though I have to say Mourinho may have the advantage. It is amazing how after he has arrived Madrid are automatically seen a contender after having a lackluster showing last year. It is a testament to his greatness.

    Anyone, feel free to comment. No hard feelings.

  17. Boris – consider the article the equivalent of a preview and encouragement to use as an open thread for the game and post game.
    My schedule will be first half Inter & Schalke; full game Real – Spurs; second half Inter.
    PVRs – a gift from heaven on days like this.

  18. Adebayor starting for Real
    Line-Ups from Reuters
    Real Madrid: 1-Iker Casillas; 4-Sergio Ramos, 3-Pepe, 2-Ricardo Carvalho, 12-Marcelo; 14-Xabi Alonso, 24-Sami Khedira; 22-Angel Di Maria, 23-Mesut Ozil, 7-Cristiano Ronaldo; 28-Emmanuel Adebayor.
    Tottenham Hotspur: 1-Heuerelho Gomes; 22-Vedran Corluka, 13-William Gallas, 20-Michael Dawson, 32-Benoit Assou-Ekotto; 7-Aaron Lennon, 30-Sandro, 14-Luka Modric, 3-Gareth Bale; 11-Rafael Van Der Vaart; 15-Peter Crouch.

  19. Boris says:


    So I guess Higuain is not fit enough to start. As expected, Crouch in front of VDV up front.

  20. Soccerlogical says:

    I will make my final judgment on Dawson today.. once and for all!

    Neuer to show everyone he is the next Sepp Maier… but Schalke will lose.


    Surely anything one owns is “Personal”.

    It’s a DVR DOGNAMIT!!!!!!

  21. Bridie Boy says:

    This should be a cracker – two great teams. Fingers crossed they both go for it.

  22. Boris says:

    Omg. That is game over. I was really looking forward to this. I am hoping Bale can do what did at Inter when they went a man though. This sucks.

  23. Bridie Boy says:

    What was Crouch thinking?

  24. Boris says:

    Modric and VDV will be probably replaced eventually. VDV would make more sense because he can’t be expected to play as the primary striker.

  25. Boris says:

    It looks like Corluka is having a great game so far.

  26. Bridie Boy says:

    Defence has looked great apart from conceding a goal but only the referee knows why that wasn’t a penalty when Dawson blocked in the box with his arms. Have a feeling that Spurs are going to sneak a draw if they can more of the ball to Bale.

  27. Boris says:

    That just about seals it. I really would have like to see what would have happened in a fair match. Experience prevails…

  28. Boris says:

    Good job Schalke by the way.

  29. Bridie Boy says:

    That third goal was sensational.

  30. Bridie Boy says:

    Ray Wilkins – all emotion aside – I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that Spurs don’t deserve to be 4-0 down. With no outlet upfront since the 10th minute their defence has understandably been very stretched in the last quarter of the game. Peter Crouch must be hating himself.

  31. Boris says:

    Now it is time to focus on qualifying for next year and build upon the overall performance, QF of the Champions League.

  32. redfan says:

    Schalke for the Cup anyone?

    How long will Harry stick with his man Crouchino after today’s mindless display me wonders?

  33. I had the misfortune to have to listen to Wilkins and Parry (Spurs) and Will Downey (Inter). Without a shadow of a doubt between them they set a new all time high for me rewinding to confirm they did in fact say what I thought they said.


  34. Second half – Subtle little ploy by Mourinho that paid massive dividends – when Madrid gained control around the Spurs penalty box Adebayor would pin himself to Gallas and Real would look to get the ball to him – on the deck or in the air

    Second goal Adebayor isolated on Gallas and could have a third with another header but Gomes saved.

  35. Bridie Boy says:

    Sorry to see Spurs get beat. Everything went wrong for them. Shame that Modric who has been such a wonderful talent for them had his worst game in recent memory. Could have done better on the first goal and he gave the ball away a lot when Spurs desperately needed to keep possession. Interesting to see Madrid do such a Barcelona-like job in regaining possession and pressuring Spurs high up the field.

  36. Boris says:

    Great tactics by Mourinho…

    Crouch deserved the redcard especially for the second foul. That is what you call a leg-breaking tackle. What the hell was he thinking?

  37. rdm says:

    Crouch should have been slapped after his first attempt at a tackle and was rightly sent off for the second. Of all the people on that field in all the positions the last person who should be throwing himself around like that is Crouch. Ridiculous.

    It’s been a long time since I became really irritated listening to football commentary but congratulations Ray Wilkins, you managed to do it.

    I really feel for Tottenham, I think there was something in this game for them if they’d been able to play equal numbers the whole game. Bale showed flashes of why he is so dangerous and despite obviously not being quite fit, he still made a few of the Madrid defenders, who are no slouches, look a little desperate.

    As for the criticism of Modric, I think he should be cut a little slack, Real pressed him into mistakes and generally that was after he avoided the first two incoming defenders. There’s only so much you can do when there are literally no outlets within 20 yards.

  38. Gbenga says:

    Spurs were beginning to believe the hype and noise about their win against AC Milan… I guess reality has now set in.

  39. Gbenga – spot on comment

  40. Boris says:

    Let’s be frank. I didn’t think Tottenham were going to go all the way nor did I believe they would take out Madrid, but to say that losing a man so early in the game had no major impact on the game is outright stupid. I don’t know what the outcome would have been but I don’think the Spurs would have lost 4:0.
    I expected the Spurs to defeat both Inter and AC Milan, because neither have impressed me at all. Let’s be honest though, Madrid are a ridiculously expensive team with loads of talent that should go far and getting hammered by them after getting redcarded shoud not come as a surprise at all. Getting a positive outcome from goal down, man down is is too much to ask of anyone.

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