Great. Another season of Europa League football at the Lane. I could hardly be more excited…well at least that was my outlook when saggy chops ‘Arry branded the competition meaningless last season. What a difference a year makes…well let’s not go over the top – I like to label the impending Europa League campaign as something that has taken me to a level of semi-arousal, which is better than no arousal at all like last season. I have started to change my outlook somewhat thanks to the outlook of ‘the ginger one’ Andre Villas-Boas…
I am a winner (hence why I am a Spurs fan), so I want the club to win every competition they are involved in. Regardless of the stigma or social value attached to it – I want to win it! Which is why Andre Villas-Boas has got the Europa League campaign right for me. Last season, Redknapp didn’t take it seriously, fielded the youngsters and took the cowards way out by devaluing the competition much like we have seen managers do with the Carling Cup (now Capital One Cup). If you go down such a route of dismissing the competition and its importance/non-importance from the start, you relieve the pressure if you have a bad result. For example, did anyone really bat an eye-lid when we lost away at PAOK and ultimately cost ourselves a chance of qualifying for the second stage? No. It was glossed over and there was little accountability.
This kind of outlook works both ways – fans like the occasional ‘get out of jail free’ card as well, meeting any jibe at a negative result with the retort ‘we were playing the kids/reserves’ or ‘its Mickey Mouse, we are concentrating on the league’ (Manchester United & City fans take note), but in reality it is an admission that the team were not good enough to battle, and be successful, on all fronts. To me this is a non-winners mentality and what did Spurs end up winning? F*ck all.
AVB has said “We want to do something special in this competition…I always thought it was a prestigious competition and it should be promoted like that because after the Cup Winners’ Cup disappeared, it is not only about the Champions League. If we can win a trophy, that represents a lot for Tottenham Hotspur’s history as well and would be something really special.” For me this is a refreshing and honest outlook.
As much as fans don’t want to admit it, football clubs are judged on winning trophies, and if some Spurs fans haven’t noticed, there hasn’t been too many trophies added to the cabinet in recent years. Yes playing in the Champions League is good, but unless you win it who cares. So called ‘big clubs’ have carved out that very reputation (despite a lack of history) by winning all they can, because in this modern football era, ‘history’ counts for nowt. AVB is a realist and knows the value of winning everything you can.
Andre Villas-Boas will no doubt live off his achievements with Porto in the 2010-11 season for a long time to come, but this was a season which was the epitome of a winning mentality. Porto’s record that season was 51 games played, 45 wins, 4 draws and 2 losses which resulted in the team lifting the Portuguese Primeria Liga, The Taca de Portugal (Portugal’s FA Cup) and the Europa League Trophy. I would take a Europa Cup win and FA Cup win all day.
The Europa League does have some good teams in it – to start with Newcastle and Liverpool from England, Napoli, Udinese, Inter Milan and of course Lazio from Italy, Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid plus the likes of Lyon, PSV, Sporting Lisbon and Bayer Leverkusen and that is before the Champions League teams drop in – last season we had both Manchester clubs, FC Porto and Valencia – AVB is right when he says it’s a hard competition to win.
Let’s take Lazio tonight, they have a decent team and have won 3 out of 3 and are third in Serie A – tough opposition for Spurs to open the campaign with.
AVB will be playing with a near full strength team, and can expect a couple of tweaks with Lloris posed to make his debut. Michael Dawson and Dempsey may even get some game time. It is key to make such changes whilst still remaining competitive to ensure players are match sharp and pushing themselves for league starts to maintain the motivation to perform. AVB has been criticised for his man management and has a tough call as he knows consistency is key, but luckily the squad has quality.
A win tonight would be another vital victory in the delayed start to Spurs’ season. A result that they can use as motivation to take in to the London derby with QPR at the weekend. For AVB the winning starts now, it needs to become a culture in the club – both players and fans need to back the manager and share his view on this competition. I will be at the Lane tonight to watch another Spurs vs Lazio encounter. The first time I watched this fixture in 1993 at the Makita Tournament – it was a win then (3-2) – lets hope for the same tonight. COYS.