Monthly Archives: August 2011
Belgian Grand Prix
Despite three weeks which tempted the teams to change their drivers, no one decided to alter their driver line up. Belgian Jerome D’Ambrosio would race in his home race. Former New Teams driver for HRT, Bruno Senna, replaced Nick Heidfeld at Renault.
A wet track at Spa tends to throw up a few surprises, and it was no different this year. Michael Schumacher’s crash allowed all of the six to move up one place, and this meant that Trulli would start 19th, followed by Glock. Home driver D’Ambrosio, Vitantonio Liuzzi and Daniel Ricciardo all finished behind the 107% mark, but were allowed to race based on the conditions.
However for the second Belgian Grand Prix in a row, Heikki Kovalainen made it into Q2. Taking full advantage from a bad call from Force India, he set the 16th fastest time of the session, pipping Paul di Resta into 18th, as well as also beating Kamui Kobayashi.
Kovalainen couldn’t do anything similar in Q2, but the pace of his car held back several other drivers, notably Lewis Hamilton and Pastor Maldonado. Maldonado’s subsequent penalty promoted Kovalainen, Trulli, Glock and D’Ambrosio up one position.
Usually a rare thing for Spa, but it was a sunny day and remained that way for the whole race. The start saw chaos, Timo Glock rammed into the side of one of the Force India’s at La Source, causing him to get a drive through penalty. At the same corner, the two Team Lotus drivers came together, so by the end of the first lap, Ricciardo was leading Liuzzi, D’Ambrosio and Trulli. Both Kovalainen and Glock were forced to make a stop.
It remained this way until the Safety Car period, where Daniel Ricciardo unfortunately pulled over because of unusual vibrations. It was a shame for the young Australian, as the race was very much in his hands.
The Safety Car period bunched the remaining five together, and the lot of them all remained relatively close to each other for the rest of the race. Trulli and Kovalainen were able to jump Liuzzi, as was D’Ambrosio and Glock, in the pits.
Towards the end, the Belgian was forced to save fuel, although it was enough for him to finish in front of his team mate.
Jarno Trulli would win, ahead of Heikki Kovalainen. Their performance would be good enough to finish above Rubens Barrichello, however the Brazilian had been involved in a collision and had lost a significant amount of time.
|1||Jarno Trulli||Team Lotus||14th||10|
|2||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus||15th||6|
|3||Jerome D’Ambrosio||Marussia Virgin||17th||4|
|4||Timo Glock||Marussia Virgin||18th||3|
Jarno Trulli (14th) – “I had a great start, passing a few other cars away from the line but then the accident in T1 meant both Heikki and I suffered damage – him to his nosecone, me to the floor and I had to run the whole race with that damage, so to finish 14th after that is just fantastic.”
Jerome D’Ambrosio (17th) – “I’m very pleased how things went in my first home Grand Prix. There were quite a few incidents today so I focused on keep it nice and clean and in the end the team has another good two-car result. It’s been a great way to start part two of the season.”
Colin Kolles (Hispania Team Principle) – “This was a weekend where we needed thick skin to cope with all the problems that we encountered. We knew that Spa would be difficult. We were aiming at a two car finish, but it was not the case. It is a pity that Daniel was forced in to the first retirement of his F1 career and we must now work very hard to solve the issues.”
Just when things started to look exciting… Team Lotus go and spoil it again. Jarno Trulli extends his lead to seven points over his team mate. Both Virgin drivers move out of my newly created ‘win zone’, meaning they need more than a win to take the lead in the Championship. With D’Ambrosio finishing ahead of Glock, he is now only three points behind in that inter-team battle. Liuzzi finds himself in no-mans land, while Ricciardo remains level with Karthikeyan.
|1||Jarno Trulli||Team Lotus||65|
|2||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus||58|
|3||Timo Glock||Marussia Virgin||52|
|4||Jerome D’Ambrosio||Marussia Virgin||49|
|8||Karun Chandhok||Team Lotus||2|
Hmm… boring again.
The final European race is once again at Monza, before the fly-away races in Asia and Brazil. This time last year, Timo Glock took the spoils ahead of Heikki Kovalainen. It is a race the Finn has previously done well at, scoring a podium at the track in 2008.
The track will feature two DRS zones, so passing will feature if they can stay close enough, and manage to stay in the race.
Turkey is in a situation far worse to Italy circa 2006. Italy saw its biggest clubs, AC Milan, Fiorentina and the biggest of them all, Juventus, all hit hard. Juventus worst of all, relegated down a division with a hefty points deduction and the humiliation of being stripped of their previous two Scudetto’s, all for match fixing. Turkey has seen a grand total of 16 clubs implicated in the most recent match fixing scandal.
The biggest of these is without a doubt Fenerbahçe, 18 time winners of the Süper Lig and fairly regular Champions League competitors. Fenerbahçe won the 2010-11 season on the final day of the season, beating Sivasspor 4-3, allowing them to finish above Trabzonspor on goal difference. All of this sounds thrilling, exciting, but the season is marred by dodgy and suspicious results in a variety of fixtures, and Fenerbahçe appear in a lot of them.
But as already mentioned, they aren’t the only clubs involved, 15 others come in at a smaller scale to this. These include Trabzonspor and the Turkish Cup finalists Beşiktaş and Istanbul. But like with the Italian case, they will be hunted down and they will be given severe punishments.
The match-fixing isn’t being done my gangs, threatening and offering players who a susceptible. No, this is being done by those at the top, the Presidents, the directors, even some of the players. The former Newcastle midfielder Emre Belözoğlu has been questioned by the police in his role, being later released. Overall, twelve members of staff for Fenerbahçe have been arrested, and all of the trouble has seen them kicked out of the Champions League group stages by the Turkish FA.
Ultimately, UEFA opted to go for the second best option to replace them, even with talk of Arsenal, FC Copenhagen and even Liverpool, the most logical choice is to remain in the country, therefore allowing Trabzonspor their first Champions League appearance.
Logical, if Trabzonspor weren’t also one of the sixteen involved in match fixing.
I am aware it isn’t to the same scale of Fenerbahçe, but they are still involved and should be suitably punished. They caused a certain amount of games to go a certain way, changing the outcome of the match away from the natural progression of it all. They shouldn’t be given the privilege of competing in the biggest European club competition.
Logically then, it should be given to Bursaspor, a team not involved in the match fixing scandal, and a team who finished third in the Super Lig.
Once again it shows total ineptness when it comes to serious issues from the governing body. The fact that a number of clubs were banded around saying they had every right to be involved and replace Fenerbahçe shows that no one really knows what is going on in terms of the rules and regulations. Nothing makes sense anymore. And not even the right decision was made, and it is hardly the first time that has happened.
Although rumoured for weeks, Harry Redknapp earlier today mentioned the fact that Tottenham Hotspur were in talks with Manchester City regarding a potential loan deal over former Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor.
Adebayor is an interesting individual, but without doubt still a very good player. He started out in France, playing for both Metz and Monaco. His spell at Monaco would also result in a Champions League Final appearance, before his team were comprehensively beaten by Porto 4-0. All in all it resulted in Adebayor moving to Arsenal in 2006, ultimately scoring on his debut against Birmingham City.
Naturally, this is where his somewhat bad behaviour came to light. Adebayor was one of the key men in the middle of the 2007 Carling Cup Final fracas, which saw him get a red card and subsequently refusing to leave the field. This was followed up by another incident in the Carling Cup, this time against Spurs, where he ended up in a heated argument with Nicklas Bendtner.
But of all of them the most famous would have to be after he signed for the oil kings of Manchester City, and played his first match against Arsenal, where after scoring, he ran the full length of the pitch and slid in celebration in front of the Arsenal fans. This wasn’t the only controversial thing he did that day, also kicking Robin van Persie in the face. Ultimately he fell down the pecking order at the Manchester club, and went off on loan to Real Madrid at the end of last season.
I feel Spurs have been here before. Talented player, previously played for a rival club and often has temperamental problems. But William Gallas has come good, and certainly became an integral part of the Tottenham side last season, having a decent partnership with Michael Dawson. From many hating him and criticising him at the start of the season, he ultimately ended up being one of the best and most consistent players.
Adebayor I believe can be something similar, obviously it is only a loan deal and I can’t see him staying accepting a full contract from Tottenham (down to the fact he is currently on a wage deal twice as much as Spurs are willing to pay for him, and I’m sure he isn’t the type that fancies that big a pay-cut). But in one year he has the ability to at least help put some spark in the attack which was a massive disaster last season.
Despite any controversy he could bring, he scores goals. He scores lots and lots of goals. And that’s what Tottenham needs right now, goals. Their failure to dispatch teams that they should have been a walk of the park was half the time down to the strikers inability to hit the net. How many games last season did Spurs have 25+ shots on goal only to fail to score. The game against Blackpool is a prime example, 33 shots, and the only way they scored was a speculative long range effort which was deflected in.
Ultimately Adebayor is only one piece of the jigsaw that Spurs need. There is still a need for another striker, as it looks likely that Peter Crouch may be off this summer. If that person is Bryan Ruiz, then its fine with me. For me Ruiz isn’t exactly the person who is automatically first choice, but a kind of player you want when things are getting tough, or there is a bit of an injury crisis. And lets be honest here, this is Spurs we are talking about, of course there will be an injury crisis.
I’d have Adebayor in the team at the drop of a hat. My only curiosity is why the guy would sign for a team he has previously accused of singing racist songs, it seems like he’s ignoring everything that’s been said and carrying on. Which I find somewhat odd.
But Adebayor is someone Spurs should look to sign and a deal can only be days away. Obviously the last few people Redknapp talked about signing in a press conference did include Phil Neville and David Beckham, but I hope this time the wages can be sorted out and Adebayor signs on the dotted line.
One sporting team in Wigan is flying. In the final of the biggest knock-out competition in rugby league, top of the top flight in Britain, the Wigan Warriors have kicked aside Leeds Rhinos and St. Helens and become the dominant force in British rugby league. Champions in 2010 and overall one of the greatest teams in rugby league history. It’s without much doubt that Wigan is very much a rugby town.
Despite this, the football teams have in recent years come to much prominence. From their promotion into the Premier League in 2005, they have remained in the league, coming as high as 10th in the first season, as well as reaching that years Carling Cup final as well (before being comprehensively thumped by Manchester United).
But since then it has been a continual struggle to stay in the Premier League. Their second season, 2006/07, saw the team avoid relegation on goal difference. Last season they stayed up on the last day of the season. They’ve never finished in the top half since their debut campaign and are now beginning to be highly tipped for relegation.
Phil McNulty on the BBC Sport website expects them to finish 20th, and it feels like a common trend amongst everyone. Relegation fodder, all is lost for Wigan Athletic.
No it isn’t.
They have their problems, a fair few of them. But none of them are going to bring relegation onto themselves, there are in fact, several teams in a far worse situation than themselves. Wigan will stay up this season, I don’t care what the so called experts say, that is what is going to happen.
As I’ve said, there are problems in the club. Money isn’t exactly on the high side for example. Although chairman Dave Whelan, whom the stadium in named after, has brought the club he loves to the top division from obscurity down in the Third Division right up to the top flight in just ten seasons, financing the club is a tough business. The highest fee ever paid is £6.5million, for a rather big flop in Mauro Boselli, the only money parted from the hands of Dave Whelan this summer is the £4million paid for goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi.
This is by no means helped by the attendance. Every single home fixture, the DW Stadium sees scores of empty seats in the areas where Wigan fans are supposed to sit. Last year only one team had a lower average attendance, which can’t be good for gaining money. Yes it is difficult for Wigan, the population of the town is only seven times the average attendance, but this sets a specific type which is hard to shake for the team. It is unfortunate, fans nearby tend to flock to support the bigger and more successful clubs, Manchester United, Liverpool and of course more recently, Manchester City.
But the fact remains that they have survived two close calls and remain in the Premier League. Something which can’t be applied to some of the other clubs near them, Blackpool and Burnley for example, and there are many positives going for them.
Despite the temptation from a bigger club in Aston Villa, Roberto Martinez decided to stay at Wigan. Although it could have been seen as a missed opportunity for the young Spanish manager, he had gone on to make the right decision. Aston Villa is in a state of free fall at the moment. Although some stability has occurred after the departure of Gerard Houllier, the appointment of Alex McLeish as manager as well as the likes of Ashley Young and Stuart Downing leaving for brighter lights, fails to strike me as moves that are going to help the club in the coming season. Wigan, although not the same quality, have a better team unit and with it some very decent players.
One of them is their main summer signing, Oman keeper Al-Habsi. Last year he kept Wigan in many games, and when he couldn’t do that, he kept the score in single figures. His loan stint last year earned him Wigan player of the year, with performances against Tottenham Hotspur, with the home team firing thirty shots off and failing to even score, making a string of impressive saves in the process. The backbone of any team is a strong goalkeeper, and certainly that someone is currently playing for Wigan.
The rest of the team isn’t brilliant, otherwise they would be fighting for the top half, but it is capable of putting in a good show in the Premier League. And generally this squad, this management, is better than the teams that are going to have to fight to stay up.
Blackburn Rovers aren’t in a healthy situation. Promoted from assistant managerial duties when Sam Allardyce was unfairly sacked by the somewhat crazy owners from India, Steve Kean has so far yet to really prove himself worthy to manage the team. The Venky’s group had at one stage promised Ronaldinho and David Beckham, they’ve only got David Goodwille from Dundee United and Radosav Petrovic from Partizan Belgrade. Hardly signings to wet the fans appetite.
And like with Wigan, they stayed up on the last day of the previous season, albeit in more comfortable fashion. And like with Wigan, they have lost one of their best players, Phil Jones heading off in a big money move to the red half of Manchester. But unlike Wigan, they have unpredictable ownership, poor management and a weaker set of players. Although a fantastic keeper in Paul Robinson is their number one, they don’t have a squad where someone looks like they can score for fun, the defence is up for grabs and it is all down to if they can keep Christopher Samba, which at the minute, is looking like an unlucky scenario. Signings need to be made, or the former Premier League champions could be heading for the Championship.
Of the promoted clubs, usually some like to spring a little surprise and beat a few respected teams. The usual formula for this is the play off winners, coming up, taking a few big name scalps in the first few weeks, flying high, playing attractive football, getting praise from everyone, talk of Europe and other such things, before plummeting down the league and avoiding being/getting relegated on the last day of the season. It happened with Hull City, it happened with Burnley, it happened with Blackpool, and I can certainly see it happening with Swansea City.
Brendan Rodgers is a promising manager and has brought in a few players which show they are going to be making a rather large fuss about this whole Premier League thing. Steven Caulker on loan from Tottenham is a good signing, someone who impressed in the Championship last term and can do the same this year at the bottom of the Premier League. Leroy Lita and Wayne Routledge both have Premier League experience while Michel Vorm was part of the Dutch squad which finished runners up in South Africa.
But for me it doesn’t feel like enough, and the same can be said for QPR and Norwich City. They have made some signings, but neither team make me feel they are going to be enough to stay up.
It might be unusual for it to happen, but I generally think the three promoted teams, will also be the same three to go down in May.
As for Wigan Athletic, they’ll find themselves in a cosy bottom half position. It won’t be a grand season, but it won’t see them end it in relegation. They have the right man in charge, and just need maybe one or two more players to bolster the squad. They won’t be going down, no matter what the pundits like to say. It won’t see them in finals like their rugby league neighbours, but it will do for now.
I could create some rubbish about how the third version of this website represents progress and change. Frankly, it doesn’t. I just felt like it could do with a little refresh, a nice tidy up, a new look for itself. And that’s what I’ve given it, Northern Waffler looks distinctively different.
The theme itself is Piano Black, a free wordpress template which surprisingly, for me at least, I love. Everything seems to fit so well, and although some of the posts now need a little bit of reformatting, everything looks fine and well with it.
The headers have also changed, now you will be able to see a rotation of four things I like, Tottenham Hotspur, Sauber, Matteo Manassero and the Newcastle Diamonds. All of these have been somewhat edited using fairly basic stuff in Photoshop, however I feel the overall effect looks fantastic.
Over things have changed, the ‘About the Waffler’ page has been totally re-edited. Similar things have been done to ‘Eurovision Sofa’. The ‘New Team Championship’ has also seen a massive overhaul, three new pages are there instead, with detailed season reports you can find in 2010.
Finally, you may also notice down the side a logo saying ‘Europa Legion’, that is because I’m part of a network of bloggers who have decided that the Europa League is worth a few words, and are dedicated in writing about the competition. So do expect further posts on this subject.
So, a quick introductory post to v3. I’ll try and blog more as well, as I feel like I’m neglecting it a bit too much of late.
While I was out sunning myself in Italy, Formula 1 decided it couldn’t stop just for me and in spite of my decision, they decided to make me miss two races. So, this is a sort of special post for you lot, or, just a catch up, but special also sounds quite nice.
German Grand Prix
As per usual, the German Grand Prix likes to alternate between the sleep-inducing Hockenheim and the fairly action-packed Nurburgring. Thankfully for everyone, it was the turn of the latter in 2011.
There was more driver changes in place for Germany, as mentioned previously on this very blog to my massive dismay, New Teams Championship leader Jarno Trulli was replaced with former Hispania driver Karun Chandhok for one race only.
At Virgin Racing, Timo Glock was confirmed to be continuing on at the team for 2012, and no doubt you don’t need me to tell you that it is a massive waste of talent.
Sadly, my prediction for Karthikeyan replacing Liuzzi proved untrue, as the Italian and Ricciardo remained in the Hispania.
In a massive shock, Heikki Kovalainen once again was the quickest of the six cars. However his team mate, with Trulli usually a few tenths of a second behind, this time was just under a second slower than Kovalainen, starting behind the Virgin of Timo Glock, who had set a stunning lap time.
Jerome D’Ambrosio was right behind Chandhok, while Ricciardo had closed the gap up to Liuzzi, almost setting identical times. However thanks to a gearbox replacement for Liuzzi, Ricciardo was promoted a position.
Thanks to technical infringements found on the car of Sebastian Buemi, his car was declared illegal and his times deleted, forcing him to start 24th and moving everybody below up a position.
Sadly I’m unable to perform an indepth review of every single detail for the backmarkers, because I couldn’t understand a single word of what the RAI commentators were saying. And when Liuzzi retired on lap 37, he unkindly spoke to the pit reporters in Italian, which, again, didn’t help. How ungrateful.
The cause for this retirement would be an electrical fault, and prove to be the only retirement from the six.
Nothing much of note really happened for the remaining cars. Chandhok struggled in his first race in 2011, spinning off the track at one point and coming a further two laps behind Kovalainen, as well as a lap behind the remaining finishers. A poor showing by the Indian which won’t help his cause for full time employment.
So Heikki Kovalainen would come home in first place, ahead of Glock, D’Ambrosio, Ricciardo and Chandhock.
|1||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus||16th||10|
|2||Timo Glock||Marussia Virgin||17th||6|
|3||Jerome D’Ambrosio||Marussia Virgin||18th||4|
|5||Karun Chandhok||Team Lotus||2oth||2|
Karun Chandhok (20th): “"Honestly, that probably wasn’t the race I wanted -I had a couple of high speed spins and I think I need more time to get used to the tyres. When they start to go off there’s very little give compared to last year’s rubber, but that’s all part of the learning process and I’m glad I got the car home and did the best job I could.”
Timo Glock (17th): “After a positive start to the day with the announcement about my future with the team, it was quite a difficult race today. I struggled with the braking system from the middle of the race onwards and I wasn’t able to push late on in the race, so we have to look into the problem. Otherwise thanks to the team for a good weekend at my home Grand Prix.”
Vitantonio Liuzzi (Retired): “It was a shame because, even though the penalisation for the gearbox meant we had to start from P23, we had a strong start where we passed a few cars on the first lap and had good pace. A few laps into the race we started to suffer some problems with the brake balance and we lost quite a bit of pace. After the pit stop, with the tyre change, we recovered our strong pace until an unfortunate electronic issue forced us to retire”
Hungarian Grand Prix
After an indifferent week in Italy which saw some rain, Formula 1 moved to Hungary where it was greeted probably by that exact same rain. The only noteworthy thing was that Jarno Trulli was back in the Team Lotus car, and delighted with the power steering. That is noted correctly, not unhappy, but delighted. Words you’d never thought I would get the chance to write.
In a result nobody could predict, Heikki Kovalainen was the quickest of the new teams for just the tenth time this season. He was followed closely by his team mate yet again, with Trulli still not quite at the same speed of the Finn.
It was however a poor showing by Jerome D’Ambrosio, as he found himself dead last and the only driver of the six not to benefit by the five place grid drop handed to Sebastian Buemi.
Changeable conditions in the rain saw some shock movements. A crazy start allowed Kovalainen to end up as high as 15th, holding up four cars who were struggling to overtake him on the wet track. Elsewhere, Timo Glock had managed to get ahead of Trulli and several other cars, before the track began to dry out, while Ricciardo also made a terrific start.
Trulli’s race would not last long, a water leak forcing him out after just 17 laps. Meanwhile his team mate continued to frustrate the cars behind him, driving superbly to stay ahead. However his pitstop would make him unstuck, initially losing positions and then being fooled by a brief shower, coming in for Intermediate tyres when they weren’t required, this in effect ruined his afternoon.
Kovalainen was not the only driver to make this mistake, Jerome D’Ambrosio also coming into the pits for Inters when they weren’t required. However it would be his mistake coming into the pits that would give him the television attention, somehow managing to spin the car at pit lane speeds, wasting time for his mechanics to get him in the box and change tyres.
Daniel Ricciardo was impressive though, driving far better than his team mate and finishing in the end a good 50 seconds ahead of him and D’Ambrosio who never really made up for his mistakes.
Kovalainen’s excellent afternoon would become unstuck with ten laps to go, with his car suffering the same fate as Trulli’s. It was unfortunate, but ultimately fails to come away from the weekend without any points.
All of this ultimately meant that Timo Glock would once again benefit from a Team Lotus double retirement for the second time in three races. The reliability of the Lotus cars could be given as a cause of concern, with eight retirements to Hispania’s four and Virgin’s two.
|1||Timo Glock||Marussia Virgin||17th||10|
|3||Jerome D’Ambrosio||Marussia Virgin||19th||4|
|5||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus||Ret||0|
|6||Jarno Trulli||Team Lotus||Ret||0|
Timo Glock (17th): “A very interesting race today, I have to say, and very good fun. I got a great start and got ahead of Heidfeld and some other guys in faster cars and was able to stay in front of them. They obviously were able to get past me after it started to dry and I just concentrated on my own race, managing to hold the gap behind me. Then when it started to rain, we made the right decision, staying on the slicks. It wasn’t easy to stay on track today as we saw, but we got the right result in the end.”
Daniel Ricciardo (18th): “Overall, I’m satisfied with my race and the best finish in three races. During the race, I wasn’t really sure where I was on track because a lot of cars made quite a few pit stops so in all honesty I didn’t really know how I was doing. Towards the end I felt we had quite a good balance in the car and I was able to do some good times. I’m sure there are things I could have done better so we’ll look into that to keep on improving. But again I feel we are progressing well.”
Heikki Kovalainen (Retired): “Having seen how close we were in race pace to the midfield I’m not disappointed – it’s just another step in the growth of the team and we’ll pick up where we left off in Belgium in a few weeks time.”
Although there has been very little movement, something I didn’t expect to happen has: It’s starting to look very exciting. Timo Glock has managed to edge ahead of his team mate with an impressive 16 point haul from the two races. Heikki Kovalainen has benefitted from the fact Trulli hasn’t scored points in the last three races being just three points behind. Glock is a further three points behind the Finn with D’Ambrosio ten points behind. So the top four drivers are all within ten points, that’s a race win. Hold on while I rub my hands with glee.
Daniel Ricciardo has only been in three races, but already is on the same number of points as the former Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan, while Karun Chandhok is dead last and will remain that way no doubt for the rest of the season.
|1||Jarno Trulli||Team Lotus||55|
|2||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus||52|
|3||Timo Glock||Marussia Virgin||49|
|4||Jerome D’Ambrosio||Marussia Virgin||45|
|8||Karun Chandhok||Team Lotus||2|
In even further excitement, Virgin are closing the gap on Team Lotus, now just 15 points from top spot. All they need is a 1-2. Just putting the possibility out there.
It is the summer break and we all have to wait until the end of August for the Belgian Grand Prix, traditionally the place where upgrades are tried out and shown to the world. Team Lotus realistically need to up their game and start finishing more races, otherwise they could face a real shock and see the Virgin Racing drivers sail up the leaderboard leaving them behind.
The temperamental conditions at Spa-Francorchamps last year saw both Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock make Q2, something which could happen again this year. Kovalainen would go on to lead a Lotus 1-2 in the race.
And who knows, there will be no doubt some sort of really annoying driver change that ruins this Championship. At least those Javier Villa rumours are dying down now.
23 May 1984. Anderlecht striker and father of future Tottenham Hotspur player Eidur, Arnór Gudjohnsen had the ball on the penalty spot, waiting to run and shoot towards Spurs keeper Tony Parks. Gudjohnsen would go to the bottom left corner, only to see Parks not only guess correctly, but push the ball away. Mass hysteria would ensue.
Those few seconds were the last time Tottenham won a European competition, beating the Belgian side Anderlecht on penalties after a 2-2 draw from two legs, to win the 1984 UEFA Cup.
For the next twenty-five years, Spurs would have brief contact with the competition. The following season would not prove to be a success, being knocked out in the Quarter Finals to Real Madrid. It would be a painfully long wait for the next game in Europe, but it would come in victory after winning the 1999 League Cup, beating Zimbru Chişinău in Round 1, but going out swiftly afterwards to Kaiserslauten.
After the highly successful 2005/06 campaign which saw Spurs so nearly reach the Champions League, they reached the UEFA Cup for the first time since 1984 based on league position. It was a stroll through the opening stages, and then received a bye instead of playing Feyenoord because of their misdemeanours. Braga were soon dispatched, but Spurs would eventually fall short once again in the Quarter Finals, losing out to the eventual champions Sevilla.
Further European adventures followed the next season, although a lot less successful. The change in manager from Martin Jol to Juande Ramos had a massive effect on the campaign. Most notably in the match against Getafe, when the decision Jol had been sacked filtered through before the end of the game. The 3-2 victory when Ramos regained control against Aalborg showed new found belief of some sorts, coming down from 2-0 down to win the game. In the end though they would fall short in the way they won the tournament back in 1984, with a tense penalty shootout against PSV going a long way, before Pascal Chimbonda missed and with it, saw Spurs go out.
The final time Spurs played in the UEFA Cup was the 2008/09 season, which of course featured the infamous ‘2 points, 8 games’. Ramos was out and the new manager, Harry Redknapp came in. Without a doubt Redknapp didn’t give much care for the competition and Spurs went out to the eventual winners Shakhtar Donetsk in the 1st knockout round, with the youngsters being played and thoughts realistically turning to survival in the league.
Three seasons on and it seems nothing has changed.
Although the UEFA Cup has itself rebranded to be called the Europa League and in itself a more lengthy and pain enduring competition, its still more or less the same to what the UEFA Cup was and used to be.
It isn’t perfect, far from it. There are far too many flaws in the competition. The fact that the winner doesn’t get automatic berth for the Champions League is a disgrace, and really would add some extra incentive into the competition. There’s also the fact that the Europa League for this season has felt like it has been going on for centuries (in reality, only the end of June, but considering the fact Fulham players had to start their season early isn’t the most helpful of things), there is more matches than the Champions League itself (only two if the team managed to go all the way however). And then you do have to play matches on a Thursday, which although makes logical sense to avoid clashing with the far more prestigious Champions League, means that league fixtures are forced to be moved to be played on a Sunday, often not even for television coverage.
And these are all, somewhat, decent excuses not to go all out and not play your best and set your sights on other targets, improving league position, or winning a domestic cup competition, which is going to take up less time and resource.
But Harry Redknapp has once again said he doesn’t care much for the Europa League, he sees it as an unnecessary distraction to the title bid.
Wait, title bid? Coming from the same person who last season that Tottenham had no chance of competing with those who spent bucket loads of money, such as Chelsea and Manchester City. Surely we don’t have a chance at either and then we will have a second depressing season in a row.
Yes, we focused hell for leather last season in the Champions League, but for our first year in the competition, it is about making it a memorable experience and great glory, glory nights in Europe. We got that, especially against the two Milan teams and being able to place ourselves against the might of Europe.
But the comment that "Thursday and Sunday every week, you’ve got no chance in the Premier with that,” really annoys me. Yes, it only gives you two days of rest between matches, which occur shockingly two more times more often than if we were in the Champions League. But guess what, the Champions League teams are in the same boat, two or three days in between matches for them as well, I wouldn’t exactly say its the perfect situation for them either, but they all seem to manage it, so why can’t we? Look at Manchester City in the Europa League last season, they got the chance to play with their first team more often, yes they have a far bigger squad and better players on the whole, but they did it (albeit getting themselves knocked out to Dynamo Kyiv).
Sticking out youngsters has to be done at some stage. I accept that. You are going to play, especially in the Europa League, teams that Spurs should beat with plenty of ease. So in this case you might as well stick some of the players that haven’t been chucked out on loan. But the same situation was used in the League Cup against Arsenal last season, without a reserve team there is no possibility for the team to gel as a second string, they will struggle to adapt with each other realistically, and the games are not going to be walkovers as expected.
The thing is though, with the excuses that can be employed to this competition, I want Spurs to go out and win the Europa League. I want Spurs to win every competition, but I know it isn’t possible unless we have a massive cash injection a la Manchester City. It is a competition I think we can go out and win as well. It’s not impossible, looking at the teams in the Europa League (obviously we can’t tell which teams will enter from the Champions League, another flaw) we are one of the best four teams in it (along with Atletico Madrid, Sevilla and probably Paris St-Germain considering their spending so far this summer). So it isn’t impossible to do it, go out there and win. Any competition win is something to be savoured, look at how happy fans and players of the previous Europa Leagues and UEFA Cups have been for winning it. I have only really had one experience of winning something as a Spurs fan, the 2008 League Cup. It would be quite nice to have something else to add to that collection, especially if it came from Europe.
At least Redknapp got one thing right, the “crazy places” Spurs will have to visit first is a terrifying and difficult journey all the way to Edinburgh.