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Friday, 22 August 2008

May the enforcer not be with you

(As published as JimmyG2 column in reply to Guest at Topspurs)

I don't usually reply to other columnists ,after all we are all entitled to our opinions. But 'The Anchorman' by Ed Cooper raises important questions at the heart of what it is to be a Spurs supporter. Are Tottenham just another football team or does their history and tradition make them something special,something different and by implication their fans too.

There has been a rising demand amongst some sections of the Spurs supporters for what is usually referred to as an 'enforcer'. This is largely a result of rising impatience with our lack of progress towards success at the highest level. The Carling Cup is not good enough, two fifth place finishes is not good enough,winning the fair Play trophy is not only not good enough but an indication of our namby pamby, players in gloves, soft touch,big girls' blouse, effeminate, hopelessness.

The answer to all this is a big hairy,frightener,who apparently allows all the other players to concentrate on their footballing skills. The 'You'd better not foul me cos our enforcer is harder and uglier than your enforcer' approach. Now it might work in the playground but its not going to work on the football pitch where you have laws, rules, a referee and two referee's assistants. It may have worked 30yrs ago when Dave Mackay picked Billy Bremner up by his shirt collar. That however was when a range of dangerous tackles were allowed and there was little protection for skilful players. This may have been true as recently as George Best who was disgracefully treated and once survived four attempts to hack him down before scoring. Times have changed and the game has moved on. Such a player would spend most of the season sidelined with enough red and yellow cards to paper his front room.

Noone can argue with demands for a defensive midfielder or an anchorman but an enforcer is a step further. In my opinion it is a step too far. Someone who strikes fear into the opposition is not a concept that I recognise in the modern game and is beginning to stray into a concept of football which is not in keeping with the Tottenham way. Would such a player give the other players confidence and allow the defence to push forward as suggested. Do Modric,Bentley,Berbatov lack belief and need a hard man to bolster their confidence? I cannot conceive who this superman would be,and nor can the writer .He sounds like Roy of the Rovers on speed wiping out the oppositions attacks whilst everyone else gets on with their game. This is more of an arcade game than a modern football match.

Ed Cooper keeps straying over a vital line. I for one would not prefer to sacrifice enjoyable football for more positive results. Backbone, yes but more ruthless,no. I also would like to see greater stability in the squad and have predicted another season of consolidation because we have so many new additions. The answer to this is not yet another addition. We have plenty of players who can fulfil the defensive midfield role,Zokora,Huddleston,Jenas,King . All these could perform this role with skill determination,and vision. Carrick was an excellent defensive midfielder but could never be described as an enforcer. I would favour playing any of the above in tandem in front of the back four alternating between them attack and defence. Incidently what are the back four supposed to be doing while superhero is striking fear into the oppositions forwards?

The tradition of Spurs as 'nice to watch' is what Spurs is or it is nothing. This cannot be exchanged for anything else without breaking the bond of Spurs fans and players past present and future. Once you break with this tradition even for a temporary pause in order to achieve success through ruthlessness you might as well go and watch some other team. I don't disagree with a lot of the detail in the article but the spirit is contrary to all my beliefs about Tottenham Hotspur and the support of over 50yrs. My slogan is 'watch and enjoy' and my constant reminder is that if you can't achieve success through playing good football it is not worth achieving.

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