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Roker Ramble: What Will Become Of The Likely Lads?


Well, it's my first one of these this week. Credit to the lads they are giving me the once-around, making sure I've got the jist of everything, and hopefully in return you are slowly getting used to what to expect from me.

And so onto this week's Roker Ramble, where the weekend invariably threw up a plethora of subjects. I've decided to go with Spurs. Ah, Spurs. Spurs, Spurs, Spurs. They're great aren't they? What with 'Arry wheelin' and dealin' and Gareth Bale worth around a billion quid, make no mistake, they're a top, top team.

That's the hyperbolic nonsense covered, so onto the proper stuff and things down at the Lane might not be all so rosy...

Defeat to Manchester City on Sunday left Tottenham Hotspur eight points adrift of top spot in the Premier League. It is the widest margin between first and Spurs all season. In its next five league matches Liverpool, Newcastle, Arsenal and Manchester United will provide the opposition. The next month could determine whether the title challenge was genuine but the next six months could be even more defining.

With each passing day, news emanating from Harry Redknapp’s trial for tax evasion makes the former Portsmouth manager’s case increasingly fragile. Whether he is prosecuted is another thing entirely, but if he isn’t then it I suspect he will remain staunch favourite for the England post post-European Championships. Either way, the stability upon which this season has been built could erode in the not too distant future.

It is far from doom and gloom, however. Spurs remain in third and face Wigan at home before that tricky run of games – a game you would expect them to win – but adversity can have differing affects. Despite Manchester United at times looking far from title-winning material this season, it is their experience in adversity that has enabled them to regroup and soldier on. How this period both on and off the field will affect Tottenham remains to be seen.

Yet on the field, cracks are slowly starting to appear. Old warhorse Ledley King looks to be heading to stud. That may be a damning indictment of what may still be an able defender and no doubt Spurs fans will be pointing the finger at Per Mertesacker and Rio Ferdinand – yes they are making telling errors at present too, and that is why their clubs are not leading the way – but it is a backline that has conceded more than Chelsea so far this season, and how we have laughed at their defensive misfortunes.

The absence of a top-quality centre forward (ah, knew there was one more) has hamstrung Tottenham at times but none more so than its last two league games. Emmanuel Adebayor is unquestionably returning from the footballing Siberia that is City’s reserves but Redknapp’s pursuit of Loic Remy indicates that more productivity can be squeezed from the lemons provided by his midfield.

A midfield that has entered a transitional stage at a key point in the season; utilising Bale more from a central starting point has cluttered up what had been a fluid and dynamic midfield unit up until that point. Whilst the tactic is still in its infancy it may have a counter-productive result for Bale. The idea may be to get him on the ball more, but in the middle he is somewhat exposed, as everyone can see him, but the way he was deployed recently (coming in-field from a left-sided starting point) allows him to move behind shoulders and out of defenders’ line of sight. In the middle of the pitch, Bale is even more of a target.

Despite making their affections towards the title public, and the media entertaining them in such a way that the exciting outsiders have now become polar opposite, Spurs cementing its place in the top four is paramount. The solace of Champions League football should keep Luka Modric happy but also give the club a platform to go again should Redknapp depart.

Irrespective of what happens at Southwark Crown Court there could uncertain times on the horizon for Tottenham. So I ask: what will become of the likely lads?

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