Edman sees Spurs rollercoaster on the up

Tottenham's travails do not deter a Swede determined to live his dream. Jason Burt meets him
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When Erik Edman rose to challenge Everton's Tim Cahill only to crash to the turf and suffer a concussion that he says made him feel "like I was drunk for three weeks", it only seemed a blip in Tottenham Hotspur's rugged early-season progress. After all, Spurs went on to win - as was their wont - 1-0 at Goodison Park on that October afternoon. But if Edman felt inebriated, then it was his new club who suffered the hangover. In a run that now extends to five matches they have not earned a point since, while their head coach, Jacques Santini, walked out full of bile and bitter complaints.

When Erik Edman rose to challenge Everton's Tim Cahill only to crash to the turf and suffer a concussion that he says made him feel "like I was drunk for three weeks", it only seemed a blip in Tottenham Hotspur's rugged early-season progress. After all, Spurs went on to win - as was their wont - 1-0 at Goodison Park on that October afternoon. But if Edman felt inebriated, then it was his new club who suffered the hangover. In a run that now extends to five matches they have not earned a point since, while their head coach, Jacques Santini, walked out full of bile and bitter complaints.

When Edman did return, against Arsenal, it was to witness five goals fly into the home net. "So it seems we are not winning with me either," he says ruefully, as he prepares for tomorrow night's visit to Aston Villa. But that is the extent of the pessimism. Edman, the newly crowned Swedish defender of the year ahead of Villa's Olof Mellberg, is adamant that "even though we have lost five consecutive games in the League, we are on the right track". The full-back goes as far as to say: "To be honest - and you may think I'm lying, but it's true - in the last three games we have played better than when we won against Newcastle away and Everton away. But the difference is we won those games, and that's what it's all about."

Indeed so, and there is a kind of carpe diem pragmatism to Edman's football. It comes from a realisation that, at 25 and with one aborted attempt at the big time behind him, an ill-fated six-month sojourn at Torino in 1999, this is his chance. "I am living my dream here," he says emphatically. "I wanted to go to one of the big leagues and a big club, and I am pleased to have come here. Maybe you think that's not right, but it's a big thing for me even to train here."

His excellent performances for Sweden in Euro 2004 helped. "I was really happy that Tottenham came around," Edman says. "And I would rather play for them than anyone else. I feel it's a big club that hasn't achieved anything for a while but that there are big possibilities." As a boy he remembers watching Spurs on the Saturday afternoons of English football that have become such an institution in Sweden. As a defender, and a fellow left-back, Spurs' assistant coach, Chris Hughton, caught Edman's eye.

From the same era he was aware of Spurs' sporting director, Frank Arnesen, and not just because of the job Arnesen subsequently did at PSV Eindhoven (until this season Edman played for Dutch rivals Heerenveen). "He's maybe the greatest Danish footballer ever," Edman says of the elegant midfielder. "I saw him in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico."

More than that, Edman believes Arnesen is the man to lead Spurs to glory. "Coaches come and go, players come and go, but if you have one guy who's buying and selling, it will get better," he says. Nevertheless, he maintains that Santini's departure was a shock. "It came as a total surprise," he says. "We were here at training for the game against Charlton and they announced that Jacques, for personal reasons, stepped down." It has since been confirmed that that was not the case, and that it was more to do with his relationship with Arnesen. "But we didn't know any more," Edman says. "It was a turbulent week."

He refuses to criticise Santini and his defensive tactics. "If you are building a house you can't put up the curtains first," Edman says. "You have to have solid ground, and that is what Jacques wanted. So I think you have to take it step by step, and he wanted to start with good defensive organisation. That's not a bad thing."

There is, however, a clear admiration for the Frenchman's successor, the Dutchman Martin Jol. "He took a small club, RJK Waalwijk in Holland, with a small budget and he performed excellently," Edman says. "They went from almost being relegated to almost reaching the Uefa Cup. Martin always wants to play attacking football. That's the Dutch way. They want to keep possession. They want to score goals, and I think every player wants to play like that. If they say otherwise then they are lying. Of course that is the way Tottenham want to play, and if you see the kind of players we have, then that is the way we have to play to be successful."

Jol is also more vocal than Santini. "He has the British mentality and there's more shouting," Edman says. He can cope with it, as he did with Santini's silences. What matters, Edman says, are results. "We have a great team, but you've seen it and I've seen it," he says. "We are not playing well. There's no point me saying that, you have to prove it on the pitch. If you are not able to live with the fans shouting at you then maybe you should become a dentist or a carpenter. We can't say, 'Oh, it's coming', because it's not coming. We have to prove it now, tomorrow, and against Villa. Now. Not then."

It is a declaration that Jol himself would be proud of. But then, as Edman stresses, he is living his dream. "It's tough and it's quick," he says of the Premiership, "and every day I have the opportunity to play with and against world-class players. That's how I feel and that's why it was always my dream. I can only do my best, and if that's not good enough then I will be on the bench." Somehow, one feels, that is unlikely to happen.

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