If you cast your mind back to November, you may remember a very special match preview for what proved to be a highly notable game in this season’s Premier League. Those who haven’t completely blanked the weekend from their minds (and I’m very sorry for once again evoking repressed memories here) will remember that Dan Fitch of tottenhamblog.com very kindly provided his thoughts in the build up to our previous encounter with Spurs.
Well, the JWAW readership enjoyed that feature so much they asked, nay, demanded Dan return to comment on the rematch at the Dee Dubya. Actually, it was Mr. Fitch himself who posited the idea of a similar interview for this weekend’s encounter – the vast majority of Wigan fans have spent the last three months pretending Tottenham don’t exist, and who could blame them?
Nevertheless, I think we’ve sufficiently recovered from the events of that fateful afternoon at least to the extent we can forgive and forget, chalk it up as a freak result and apply any other coping mechanism your psychiatrist could care to mention.
I think we’re gonna have to sooner or later, as there’s no escaping the fact a team that put nine past our defensive line in their last encounter with us is visiting the borough this Sunday afternoon. And we’re going to have to play them again.
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JWAW: Dan Fitch, editor of tottenhamblog.com, the last time I spoke to you was before what has since been termed ‘the incident which must never be mentioned again under penalty of stoning’. However, much as it pains me, I think we’d better address the issue of that game sooner rather than later because I feel it’s looming over us like a four match ban for punching someone when the ref isn’t looking.
Dan: Yes, we somehow beat you 9-1, which I can only apologise for. As you will have noticed from our recent results, it was completely out of character for us.
I’ve still no idea how it happened really, as at half time I was thinking that 2-0 would be a good result. It was just one of those days when every shot seemed to go in.
I think that you were a victim of playing far too openly against us. Teams like Wolves and Hull have got results at White Hart Lane, by merit of just putting everyone behind the ball, whilst Wigan tried to play football. It’s to your credit, but I imagine is reasonably annoying from your perspective.
Do you think a win of such magnitude filled Spurs with a renewed/continued flair and self-assurance, or did it have the inverse effect and create a sense of overconfidence that ultimately led to one or two disappointing performances?
It certainly didn’t seem to help us, as afterwards we went on a four game run without a win, culminating in a home defeat to Wolves.
This side, like many Spurs teams before it, doesn’t have much bottle and the weight of expectation after such a big win, may have counted against us.
To what extent has the loss of Aaron Lennon dented your charge for the top four? Would you say you’ve struggled to fill the void created by his absence?
We’ve really missed Lennon. First we tried to play Modric and Kranjcar on the flanks, but were far too narrow. Then Bentley came in and whilst he’s played well, we still really miss the pace of Lennon and (a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have thought I’d ever say this) his crossing ability.
They say that there’s an outside chance that he might return against you. If he does play, at least you can rest safe in the knowledge that Erik Edman is now safely away from your left back spot.
What about other injuries? How are you coping with the loss of Jonathan Woodgate and Ledley King’s recurring knee problems?
Woodgate being out hasn’t been that much of an issue, as Dawson has really stepped up this season and made one of the centre back roles his own. King is more problematic, because he can’t play more than once a week. This has meant that whenever Ledley’s fit, Bassong has dropped to the bench.
Bassong has looked solid this season and sometimes he hasn’t deserved to be dropped. It can’t do much for his confidence or our hopes of building stability within the back four.
If it was any other player with these injury problems, then I’d say that they should just be the understudy to our regular central defensive partnership. With King though it’s different, as he’s the best Tottenham defender that I’ve ever seen and yes, I am including Judas in that.
It’s looking like a real scrap for that final Champions League berth, especially with Manchester City struggling to take advantage of their games in hand. Is your initial prediction of 6th still likely, or do you think you’re still in with a good chance of grabbing a European place?
I think 6th, or even 7th seems most likely. Everyone is still dropping points, but I just can’t see us being consistent enough to capitalise upon it. Perhaps when Lennon’s fit…
Even if we finish 7th though I’d still expect that to be good enough for a Europa League spot. Villa play United in the Carling Cup and though a lot of big teams have gone out of the FA Cup, I still wouldn’t be surprised if the finalists came from within the top seven.
It seems Harry’s laid out his stall to take the FA Cup seriously, unlike certain other Premier League managers and supporters this season. In your opinion, which should hold a higher priority for Spurs at this stage, the cup or the league?
It’s actually quite ridiculous that everyone is so fixated on finishing in such an arbitrary position as 4th. We finished 3rd in 1990, but back in those days it was no reason to crack out the bunting.
Winning the FA Cup again would mean more to me and perhaps the general public would be supportive of us getting to Wembley again, now that Chas and Dave have split up.
Having said that, 4th place is sadly more important these days because it would allow us to recruit better players and make larger steps forward. There should be no priorities though. We have a big enough squad to compete on both fronts.
I’ve heard one or two rumbles that fans are not so happy with Big Harry at the moment. If you did finish just outside the European spots/failed to win the FA Cup, would you still be happy with the progress you’ve made this season, or do you think you would subscribe to the ‘Redknapp Out’ brigade?
A lot of Tottenham fans aren’t happy unless there’s a revolution every couple of years and there’s a new messiah to look towards.
I have issues with a lot of Harry’s decisions, but despite his faults, you can’t really claim that he’s doing a bad job with any validity. We’re now in February and within a couple of points of a Champions League spot. If we were offered that at the start of the season, everyone would have taken it.
Who would we get to replace him anyway? Unless you can bring in a Mourinho or a Hiddink, then we’re better off just building some much needed stability at the club.
Latics have had three penalties this season, scoring one and missing two. This has cost us two points in the long run, points that would have been very welcome in the almost inevitable relegation battle to come. I see most of Spurs’ missed pens have come in the cup this season, so at least they haven’t been too costly in terms of your overall league position. However, is this inability to score from 12 yards a worry as you look to mount a serious challenge in the league run-in?
Yes, because it has wider ramifications. Defoe and Huddlestone have recently missed penalties for us. These players have had good seasons and have both represented England, so it’s not technique that is an issue here, but a lack of bottle.
When the going gets tough, Spurs collapse. That’s why I can’t see us making the Champions League, because even if we hang on within touching distance, eventually there will be a crunch match and we won’t be mentally tough enough.
What are your hopes for this weekend’s game? Are you confident of bouncing back from a couple of less than convincing performances or do you fear the worst?
Yes, I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if you reaped some revenge. Forget 9-1, I’d be doing handstands if we edged it 1-0. I can see it being another draw.
Any players we need to keep an eye on this Sunday?
Our only attack minded player who is really playing well at the moment is Gareth Bale. I’m so pleased for him, because he’s clearly always been a talented player, but he’s had his doubters at Spurs.
He’s now proving those doubters wrong and was brilliant last week against Bolton. I hope your right winger is good at tracking back.
Good luck this weekend, because on the evidence of the pitch at the DW on Wednesday, you’ll certainly need it.
Yes, I’d heard about the pitch. Long balls up to Peter Crouch it is then.
Thank you very much once again for taking the time to be interviewed, Dan!
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Keep an eye on Dan’s blog for a reciprocal interview addressing, amongst other things, Roberto Martinez’s Premier League debut season, the signing of Victor Moses and of course ‘that game’. He carries out similar interviews for each of Spurs’ games, so his site is certainly worth a look, even if you aren’t a Tottenham fan.