Tot­ten­ham not prov­ing able to earn their spurs

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

WHAT­EVER pre­ten­sions Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur have to a place in English Premier­ship foot­ball’s elite, they must surely be placed on hold in the light of last week­end’s salu­tary ex­pe­ri­ence at the hands of their North Lon­don ri­vals Arse­nal.

Tot­ten­ham’s abysmal ca­pit­u­la­tion, an act for­mu­lated by some par­tic­u­larly odi­ous acts of selfdestruc­tion, raised sig­nif­i­cant ques­tion marks not just against the in­di­vid­ual abil­i­ties of the Spurs play­ers but the strength of their men­tal for­ti­tude.

It re­minded us of the yawn­ing chasm that con­tin­ues to ex­ist be­tween the top four and the al­so­rans in the Premier­ship.

In the world of the for­mer, where riches es­ti­mated at a min­i­mum of £30 mil­lion (R360 mil­lion) await those who qual­ify for the pres­ti­gious Cham­pi­ons League, mis­takes can­not be tol­er­ated.

For sure, ev­ery sin­gle one is hall­marked by the doom-laden ring of the cash reg­is­ter, de­not­ing an­other po­ten­tial lost mil­lion or two.

But in what we might term the world of midtable me­di­ocrity, such er­rors are greeted with rather more benef­i­cence.

Of course, no one wishes to see them fail, but they are re­garded as no more than par for their par­tic­u­lar course. But amidst the rar­efied air of the Cham­pi­ons League as­pi­rants they sim­ply can­not be ac­cepted.

That is the world Tot­ten­ham stum­bled into at The Emi­rates last week­end.

To say they were found want­ing would be the equiv­a­lent of ques­tion­ing the Ti­tanic’s wis­dom of bump­ing into ice­bergs.

Tot­ten­ham’s sleepy de­fend­ers dis­cov­ered that those who in­habit the world of the best sim­ply can­not af­ford to make such calami­tous er­rors.

Their con­cen­tra­tion lev­els are on an­other planet to those ac­cus­tomed to the mid­dling re­gions of the Premier­ship ta­ble.

The key ques­tion for Spurs man­ager Harry Red­knapp is whether he has the play­ers able to ne­go­ti­ate that im­prove­ment with seam­less elan.

The top play­ers are at home un­der the fiercest of pres­sure but can those who have op­er­ated for most of their ca­reers un­der lesser ex­pec­ta­tions, adapt as suc­cess­fully?

Can they han­dle the sear­ing men­tal pres­sures that are as tir­ing as any phys­i­cal test, the 90minute-long rigid con­cen­tra­tion that goes with the ter­ri­tory?

Plenty of play­ers with oceans of tal­ent have come up short in this par­tic­u­lar cat­e­gory.

Pre­cisely how that short­com­ing is man­i­fest is a mat­ter for in­di­vid­u­als – some re­sort to in­dis­ci­pline through their frus­tra­tion on the field, oth­ers seek so­lace in ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties off the field.

But the best can ac­cept the gru­elling de­mands of ex­pec­ta­tion that ac­com­pany life among the elite. For sure, they will still make mis­takes but on a far less reg­u­lar ba­sis.

And the sense of in­di­vid­ual self-flag­el­la­tion com­men­su­rate with any such er­rors is such that they are nor­mally kept to the barest min­i­mum there­after.

Can the likes of Led­ley King, Tom Huddlestone, Jer­main De­foe, Ve­dran Cor­luka and Jer­main Je­nas adapt to th­ese higher ex­pec­ta­tions and de­mands?

Or will Red­knapp quickly come to the re­al­i­sa­tion that many of his play­ers, while able to make Spurs a top-eight club, can­not tran­scend that step into the top four?

Only time will tell.

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