Ramos puts faith in rookie O'Hara as injuries mount

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Juande Ramos will throw his rookie midfielder Jamie O'Hara into the Tottenham starting line-up to face Arsenal at the Emirates in today's north London derby. The former Arsenal trainee has never started a game for Spurs and is the surprise choice in a squad ravaged by injuries and suspensions

The 21-year-old features in a midfield that is without the injured Jermaine Jenas and Gareth Bale as well as the suspended Didier Zokora. O'Hara, set to play on the left, is one of the few options left to Ramos who is also without the injured Michael Dawson and Ledley King in the centre of defence. Arsenal have only Theo Walcott missing from their squad.

It completes a remarkable journey for O'Hara, who will make his full Tottenham debut against the club who released him as a schoolboy. The Dartford-born midfielder has had two loan spells at Chesterfield and, this season, at Millwall. He impressed for the League One side and was given his debut against Portsmouth as a substitute last Saturday and was brought on in Tuesday's win over Manchester City in the Carling Cup. An England junior international at under-16, under-17 and under-18 levels, O'Hara was a youth player at Arsenal but moved to their rivals as a 15-year-old. He is set to play in midfield alongside Kevin-Prince Boateng, Steed Malbranque and Aaron Lennon as Ramos attempts to muster his squad for a game against a club Tottenham have not beaten since November 1999.

As they approach what could be a painful first north London derby for Ramos, Spurs lined up their first new signing of the January transfer window. The club have agreed a deal in principle for the Cardiff City teenage right-back Chris Gunter, who will join in January for a fee that could rise to 3m. Already a full Wales international at the age of 18, Gunter follows in Bale's footsteps as the next Welsh prodigy to sign for Spurs. Tottenham are also believed to be interested in Cardiff's highly-rated midfielder Aaron Ramsey who, at 16, is his club's youngest-ever player.

Cardiff turned down two bids from Everton for Gunter in the summer. The deal that takes him to White Hart Lane is understood to be weighted in favour of the amount of appearances he makes and he will join on 1 January. Tottenham believe they have signed one of the best players of his generation who also attracted the interest of Manchester United.

Arsne Wenger has lost just once in the 26 games he has faced Tottenham as Arsenal manager. Yesterday he said that Emmanuel Ebou would be fit to start today after his tangle with John Terry last Sunday. Ebou was originally thought to have sustained medial knee ligament damage. Wenger said that he was "sorry" Terry had broken three bones in his right foot but that he felt the Chelsea captain should have been sent off for an earlier challenge on Cesc Fabregas.

"I am really sorry that John Terry is injured but I think John Terry should have been off already for that tackle," Wenger said. "I don't think he [Ebou] wanted to get him injured. Ideally he [Ebou] should not even have put his foot in there. We do not encourage players to do that but then you look again at the violence of the tackle from Terry before." Having seen off six Tottenham managers since he took over at Arsenal in 1996, Wenger said that he rated Ramos, whose side are up to 12th place in the Premier League now. The Arsenal manager said that the Spaniard could be the man to turn Spurs into a top four side. "I believe so, he has the experience," Wenger said. "They look like they have plenty of resources. He has, at least, the possibility to do it."

On the subject of players' Christmas parties, Wenger said that the only social gathering his players had this month was their annual meeting with the club's Junior Gunners section. As all Junior Gunners are aged 16 and under it is safe to assume that no alcohol was served. "That is a subject you have to handle with a lot of sensitivity because you want me to talk about Manchester United," Wenger said. "First of all I believe that in England, 99 per cent of the players who have been accused of rape have been cleared so I am more tempted to be patient on that subject because it is a very sensitive one."

Comments