I will say it is luck as the usually reliable Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech messed up the clearance from Tottenhams’ free kick. He punched the ball to Woodgate which happened to rebound strongly off his head into the net. Woodgate said of his first goal in two years: “I don’t believe it. I don’t usually go up for corners but I just managed to get my head to it.”
Nevertheless, it was a thoroughly deserved victory as Spurs are by far, the more enterprising team. Juande Ramos, only four months after arriving from Sevilla, has shown once again that Tottenham can take the game to any opponent and achieve results. A stark reminder is the 5-1 demolition of their arch rival, Arsenal, en-route to this match.
I am struck by the scenes of wild celebrations: the free-flowing champagne, the gleaming Carling Cup reflecting the unbridled joy and pride of the players. Without doubt, a fire has been lighted in their bellies. Tottenham are ready to set their sights higher and look forward to greater things.
Who can blame them? It has been a long time since Tottenham won anything meaningful… the League Cup is their first silverware in nine years. Woodgate’s decision to snub Kevin Keegan and opt for Spurs is turning out to be a smart career decision. Ramos, the King of Cups or Keegan, the also-ran? It was a no-brainer once Woodgate professed his desire “to win trophies.”
Speaking of kings, there is yet another who deserves special mention. He is none other than Ledley King, the captain of Tottenham. He battled bravely through the dark days of rehabilitation from a knee surgery. Frustration and vicious speculation about his early retirement abound but he rose from the ashes to prove all his critics wrong.
His assured manner in marshaling the defense was a key reason for the credible performance of Paul Robinson. Robinson now has a chance to get back into the good books of Ramos after dealing effectively with the menacing Drogba and Anelka.
Compared to Avram Grant’s crestfallen and befuddled look, Ramos was calm and in control throughout the match. It is a great folly to underestimate the impact of a shrewd and steady hand when the odds are stacked against the team. Ramos did not disappoint as he made the right substitutions and tweaked the formation to achieve a more incisive attack.
Spurs will now turn their attention to the Uefa Cup after moving into the round of 16 and will meet PSV Enidhoven next month. If Ramos succeeds again, this will be his third consecutive Uefa Cup titles, having already won it in 2006 and 2007 with Sevilla. His track record qualifies him as a winner and to those who question his hefty pay package, I say it is money well spent.
I am constantly amazed at the transformation Ramos has brought to the team in such a short period of time. On the pitch, it is still the same players but several months ago, they were languishing at the bottom and a firm candidate among punters for the drop. That is not slighting Martin Jol’s achievements, he did his best during his stint by guiding Spurs to the brink of Champions League qualification. A prevalent loss in self-belief proved to his undoing and he did not know how to extricate the team from the slump.
When Ramos came in, he implemented a new work ethic, a strict dietary plan and extended training sessions. The result is a lean, mean, sharp and confident Spurs. The players learned about Ramos tactical methods and were disciplined in keeping to their roles in battle. While they lacked the mental edge in the past, even during Jol’s successful years, they now possess the killer instinct. Just ask Arsene Wenger.
The board has given Ramos a war chest of 40 million pounds to turn Spurs into Premier League title contenders. His attack is already among the best in the league and he should do his best to retain Berbatov. I trust Berbatov is less edgy about moving on now that he has tasted success. To join other elite clubs will not guarantee him a first team spot while lesser teams do not fulfill his ambitions.
It is likely Ramos will add in wingers as that has been his trademark emphasis since his Sevilla days. Goalkeepers will also be another crucial area to consider as Robinson is destined to be shipped out once a suitable offer comes along or reduced to a secondary role after this season.
I will give Robinson some credit for his heroics in the Carling Cup victory but when Tottenham aim to do well in the Champions League and EPL, the manager cannot be sweating over a safe pair of hands every now and then. The defense also need some shoring up as Woodgate is too injury prone to last the rigors of the entire season. It will be a busy summer in the transfer market for Tottenham and the fans can expect a tighter Premier League race next season.