The next few weeks could determine Tottenham’s success for the next few years

Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino is yet to win a trophy as manager, the next few games could determine whether he breaks his duck with Spurs or another club.
Updated 02 March 2018
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The next few weeks could determine Tottenham’s success for the next few years

LONDON: At the end of January, Tottenham entered a tough run of fixtures. This, it was widely agreed, was make or break. That spell, in which they faced Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Juventus in among their FA Cup fixtures, would define their season. That series of games comes to an end as they face Juventus in the Champions League at Wembley on Wednesday. Where, then, is their season going?
As it turns out, much still depends on Wednesday. Having fallen 2-0 behind inside 10 minutes in Turin, Spurs showed admirable resolve and self-belief as well as technical skill to drag the game back to 2-2, but it will all feel a little anti-climactic if they do not finish the job at Wembley.
In the league, they did all that could be expected of them, winning two and drawing one of those key games: That has propelled them into the top four and prevented them falling adrift in the race for Champions League qualification but that battle, important as it is for the club as they prepare to move into their new stadium, lacks the glamor of a European campaign.
And glamor, perhaps, is what is most necessary for Tottenham right now. With limited resources, Mauricio Pochettino has done a remarkable job but he remains haunted by the jibe that he has never won a trophy as a manager. There is a sense in which it is a meaningless complaint: The clubs he has been in charge of, after all, have been Espanyol, Southampton and Tottenham, none of whom have trophy cabinets that are exactly bulging.
Trophies, anyway, these days, tend not to buy a manager much grace. Claudio Ranieri lasted less than a year at Leicester after leading them to the league title. The three FA Cups Arsenal Wenger has won in the past four years have done little to ease the grumbling around him.
And yet at the same time there is a point lurking blow the surface of the question. What, after all, is it all for if not for silverware? What is the point of professional football if it is not about winning?
There is a disturbing answer, which is that it is for making money for shareholders, but true as that may be, there must at the very least needs to be a dream to sell to fans.
Tottenham also have to sell a dream to players. Their lack of resources is an issue not merely in terms of buying players but for keeping those who are there at the club. Kyle Walker was lured to Manchester City last summer and is reportedly making more than double what he was on at Spurs. As Danny Rose has made clear, the players are well aware of that. It would be no great surprise were he to leave this summer, while the delay over Toby Alderweireld’s contract extension must also be a concern.
Tottenham can, just about, cope with one or two players splintering off each season, but the danger is the exodus for four or five. Harry Kane is the key. At the moment, he seems committed, delighted to be playing for his local club and leading a group of young players to heights the club has not scaled in half a century. But he is still a professional footballer. He cannot reasonably be expected to resist forever the lure of, say, Real Madrid and perhaps quadrupling his salary. As soon as Tottenham wobble, those questions will become all the more pressing. And if Kane goes, it is easy to imagine a host of others following.
That is why Tottenham must always seem to be developing, always progressing toward a better future. At the moment, there is an excitement about them. They are not treading a familiar path but breaking new ground. With the new stadium there is a possibility to establish Spurs among the elite but doing that probably means keeping this squad together (the alternative it to hope the money raised by a sell-off would fund the creation of a squad that could repeat this process in five years or so). And that means Pochettino continuing to spin his magic path. With Manchester City dominant domestically, that probably demands the star dust of Champions League progress.


Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir ‘100 percent ready’ to face England, says coach

Updated 23 May 2018
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Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir ‘100 percent ready’ to face England, says coach

  • Left-armer is fit after a knee injury
  • “He’s fine, he’s ready to go,” says team coach Mickey Arthur

LONDON: Pakistan spearhead Mohammad Amir is “100 percent ready” for the first Test against England at Lord’s starting on Thursday despite a knee injury, according to team coach Mickey Arthur.
The left-arm fast bowler was seen stretching out his right knee as Pakistan beat Test debutants Ireland by five wickets during a one-off match in Malahide, Dublin concluded last week.
Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood suggested Amir had suffered a recurrence of a “chronic” problem.
But head coach Arthur, speaking to reporters at Lord’s on Tuesday, had no qualms about the fitness of Amir.
“He’s perfect, 100 percent,” Arthur insisted. “He’s fine, he’s ready to go.”
As for Amir, missing Pakistan’s final warm-up match ahead of the two-Test England series, last weekend’s drawn match against Leicestershire, Arthur added: “It was his rotation. (Mohammad) Abbas sat out the first (tour) game, Hasan (Ali) sat out the second, so he sat out the third.”
Amir was the hottest property in world cricket after bursting on the scene as a teenager in 2009 and at 18 he was the youngest bowler to have taken 50 Test wickets.
But his world was turned upside down in 2010 when he became involved in a spot-fixing scandal after deliberately bowling no-balls during the Lord’s Test against England — an incident that would eventually see him sent to prison by an English court and given a five-year ban by the International Cricket Council.
Amir’s first 14 Tests saw him take 51 wickets at just a fraction over 23 apiece, figures that had him on course to be an all-time great.
But the 17 Tests since his comeback two years ago have seen him take 49 wickets at a more expensive average of 34.91
Amir, and Pakistan for that matter, have not been helped by the fact that those 17 Tests since 2016 have also seen 16 catches dropped off his bowling.
The stigma of his spot-fixing exile has started to fade, with Amir playing for Pakistan during their 2-2 draw in a four-Test series in England two years ago.
He also starred for Essex as they won English domestic cricket’s first-class County Championship title last season.
Now the 26-year-old Amir is set to be the leader of an inexperienced Pakistan attack.
England, who didn’t manage a single win during their recent seven combined Tests in Australia and New Zealand, collapsed to 58 all out in Auckland in March as Kiwi left-arm quick Trent Boult took six wickets.
And Arthur backed Amir to do similar damage
“I think Mohammad Amir is the finest exponent of pace and swing when he gets it 100 percent right,” Arthur said.
“We’ve used that spell that Trent Boult bowled in Auckland. We’ve had a look at his lengths.
“We believe he (Amir) bowls incredibly well at left-handers and there will be three left-handers (Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan) in the (England) top four.
“He’s ready, I just hope it goes really well for him because he’s been unlucky at times with the amount of dropped catches.
“He’s ready, he’s determined, he’s fit, he’s strong, he’s excited, he’s in a very good place at the moment.”
Arthur is unusual in having served as the head coach of three leading nations — his native South Africa, Australia and Pakistan.
But he was adamant he had no desire to replace Trevor Bayliss when the Australian steps down as England coach next year.
“No, I’m very happy,” Arthur said. “I’d like to keep going with Pakistan for as long as they will have me because it’s unfinished business for us at the moment. This is a very young cricket team and I worry if we move on what happens to these guys. Their fitness regime is outstanding, they are training hard and they are enjoying their cricket. I’m very, very happy with where I am at the moment,” he insisted.