20 October ~ Tonight Russian team Rubin Kazan come to White Hart Lane, and Spurs face their biggest test yet in this season’s Europa League. Rubin have qualified for the Champions League in the past three seasons – last year in third place in the Russian league, the previous two as champions – and only fell into the Europa League this year after failure in the qualifying rounds. Both teams drew with PAOK Salonika in earlier group games and both put three past Shamrock Rovers. Both teams currently sit sixth in their respective leagues.

If the Premier League’s “best in the world” tag held up there would surely be a difference in class between the two sides. But this isn’t the same Spurs who beat Liverpool 4-0 and Arsenal 2-1. It’s a side lucky not to lose against PAOK last month, a patchy one full of homegrown talent and second-string squad players – Harry Kane, Andros Townsend, Jake Livermore, Tom Carroll, Giovanni Dos Santos and Danny Rose.

Sure, Dos Santos is a Mexico international who shone at the World Cup and Roman Pavlyuchenko, Jermain Defoe, Vedran Corluka and Carlo Cudicini can be called upon to add experience and quality to the team, but Harry Redknapp’s decision to rest major players in this competition means it will be a tough game to win. Without Luka Modric or Rafael van der Vaart, Spurs have little creative spark and made hard work of beating Shamrock Rovers.

But who can blame a club for not taking the Europa League too seriously when the real prize (money) is fourth spot in the league and inclusion in the Champions League? It’s a shame because the UEFA Cup used to be a sought-after trophy – older Spurs fans will remember their triumph in 1983-84. At least the White Hart Lane crowd gets to see some young players try to prove themselves.

If Tom Carroll plays tonight see how his physique and determination reminds you of watching an Under-14s game, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. They all desperately want to do well and, though maybe not quite good enough yet, it makes a nice change from watching Van der Vaart not bothering to chase back. They are players who would otherwise probably go unseen and eventually be sold or released to a Championship club.

So while some might wish to see a full-strength Spurs try seriously to win another European trophy, prioritising competitions is what football in its megabucks modern mentality has come to. It’s like Spurs fans have got two teams to cheer for this season. Unless they lose, of course. Paul Carstairs

Comments (3)
Comment by jameswba 2011-10-20 15:28:37

'...older Spurs fans will remember their triumph in 1983-84.'

I remember that, even if I've never given much of a damn about Spurs. It was one of those great 80s TV football moments. It seemed to mean a hell of a lot to the whole club. It was an honour, a trophy for God's sake. Of course, that all means nothing today when 4th place in the league gives you the opportunity to make more and more millions. What European competition has come to, as well as the attitude of people like Harry Redknapp, makes you sick.

Comment by jonmid 2011-10-20 16:09:55

compare and contrast this with Stoke and Fulham

Comment by FCKarl 2011-10-21 05:04:21

I've said it before and I'll share it again here. At the close of the 2009/2010 season, when Spurs had the chance (after how many years has it been?) to win silverware at Wembley, it seemed obvious (obvious to me) that the focus was the coveted 4th place Premier League finish.

The goal became: Get spurs in the Champions League.

A huge mistake. Very myopic. Not visionary for club long-term success.

Play good. Work hard. Get trophies.

Fans (and players) need to see a title competition with a year behind it. That speaks to the value of a club. And it builds an aura of professionalism, focus, and success -- things you need for future players to inculcate, fans too.

There is nothing wrong with the UEFA Cup. I think one could often make the sincere argument that it is a tougher trophy to win. Any club in Europe should deeply value the chance to be in the final 16, 8, and 4 in the UEFA Europa League. It means you have a top quality club.

That said, I salute the managerial decison to play 2d tier players, particuarly if this is stated as part of the overall team lineup strategies at the outset of the season. And big clubs can do this. You have A. Squad for the league, B. Squad for the UEFA EL, a mixture for the FA Cup, D. Squad for the League Cup. This keeps all your players on their toes and training dilligently throughout the season. And it reminds them ALL that EVERYBODY on the team roster is vital to club success.

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