Martin Chivers gets shivers over the 'best Spurs team for years'
Redknapp's dynamic class of 2011 are a joy to watch for cautiously optimistic White Hart Lane hero
For a club whose achievements in the last half-century include a League and Cup double, five further FA Cups, four League Cups and three European trophies, supporters of Tottenham Hotspur can be a pessimistic lot. Perhaps for the older generation it is something to do with knowing there will never be anotherteam to match those Danny Blanchflower Double winners of 1961; while the younger ones have lived in the shadow of neighbouring Arsenal, enjoying an occasional derby triumph but mostly being mocked from a great height.
So while one former hero (and frustrated manager), Glenn Hoddle, was suggesting two days ago that this could be the season for a first League title in 51 years, Martin Chivers is more in tune with the majority in scarcely daring to look further ahead than today's visit to Stoke City, just the sort of occasion on which even talented Spurs teams of the past would come a cropper.
What Big Chiv, scorer of 174 goals for the club – 42 of them in one Uefa Cup-winning season – will say about the football this season that he has watched in his capacity as a match-day host is: "It's the best I've known while I've been working here for the past 22 years, the most exciting time." The statistics would suggest it, for Tottenham sit in third place, unbeaten in 11 games, and for once leading London's challenge to the North-west. Yet there has always been more to football at White Hart Lane than mere numbers. It was the eloquent Ulsterman Blanchflower who insisted the sport was about glory, prompting the "Glory, Glory" anthem that still rings round the ground and giving Hunter Davies an obvious title when he wrote his classic book "The Glory Game" after a season of unprecedented access to Spurs in the Chivers era of the early 70s.
The latter is particularly pleased that in Harry Redknapp they now have a manager who appreciates that tradition and is maintaining it. "We don't do things in a dull way here, there's always goals flying in all over the place," he said. "And they're a real team. I interview one or two when they come up after a game and that's one thing they emphasise, the team spirit. They're always talking about Harry and how he's got the team together, and I think there's a great atmosphere in that dressing room."
All this, remember, in a season that began with defeats by 3-0 and 5-1 to the two Manchester clubs, amid fears that the most gifted player, Luka Modric, was heading to Chelsea. But the chairman, Daniel Levy, stood firm and Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor have arrived, since when 31 points have been taken from 33. "I'm not saying we would have reversed those results but Modric didn't know whether he was staying or going and the whole team was unsettled," Chivers says. "Parker is a great asset and there's also the stability of a good goalkeeper [Brad Friedel] who's played some great games and the resurgence of [Younes] Kaboul who's playing very well at the back. We've got Kyle Walker back and what a promising player he is, for England as well. In attack, we've got the width on both sides. [Aaron] Lennon's getting more mature and has scored a couple of very goods goals recently and [Gareth] Bale, there's no end to his ability. Some of things he comes up with are fantastic. Up front I feel sorry for Jermain Defoe not getting more games but Adebayor's got pace and strength and Harry can play [Rafael] Van der Vaart, who drops back a little deeper and then we've got five in midfield when we need."
Having scored two goals in a Uefa Cup final and two in a League Cup final, Chivers has happy memories of both competitions, but accepts that they are less of a priority for the modern manager. As for talk of winning the Premier League: "I wouldn't start thinking about that until much later in the season. I think we just want to get back in the Champions' League, which was wonderful last season, we had such good fun. I think the big test will be the Chelsea game at home in a couple of weeks. We started off against the big boys, now we've been playing the others lower down. Can we beat the Chelseas and others when they come here now? As Spurs fans we tend to keep a little bit quiet because we can't believe what's going on. I don't like to say too much. But I'm excited."
Stoke City v Tottenham Hotspur is on Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 4pm
Harry Redknapp: "He's favourite for England but Spurs fans are hoping someone else will pop up."
Luka Modric: "I just hope he's content and he'll stay because he is the engine-room with Parker – gets as many touches as anybody."
Jermain Defoe: "He's probably my favourite – the most gifted two-footed player in team; a natural goalscorer."
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