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Help me Louis van Gaal, you’re my only hope

6 min read
by Jack Howes

After the Norwich game, the Champions League seems far, far away. Jack Howes thinks he knows a man who could force us back into contention.

Louis van gaal Tottenham Hotspur at the moment, on the pitch, are a shambles. That was shown yesterday in our defeat to Norwich, as all our weaknesses, namely that there is no plan, structure, identity to our play, came to the fore. Our players, far more talented than Norwich’s, looked like they didn’t know what the f*** they were supposed to be doing.

Paulinho, a player talented enough to be a regular starter for Brazil, had no impact before being subbed off. Mousa Dembele made the occasional foray forward but was also ineffectual. Nabil Bentaleb simply looked tired. Elsewhere, the lack of passing, movement and any sort of zip to our play was deeply worrying. I counted four aimless hoofs out of defence from Dawson and Naughton in the first twelve minutes alone. When players had the ball, there were embarrassingly few options presenting themselves, resulting in nothing sideways passes, then a hoof forward and loss of possession. We’re Tottenham Hotspur. We should be playing on the deck. As all the good sides do.

The whole team played dismally. The defence struggled against one of the worst attacks in the Premier League, the midfield neither created or chances or stopped the other team creating them, while the attack, namely Adebayor, couldn’t bail us out of another insipid performance as they’ve done so often recently. Poor Soldado looks destined not to make the Spurs all time goalscorers list but countless bloggers ‘top ten all time transfer flops’ lists instead.

It wasn’t the loss that disappointed as much as the sheer listlessness of the performance. You wonder if our slow starts under Tim Sherwood aren’t a matter of not being ‘up for it’ or not concentrating as much as we have such a lack of a game plan it takes us at least half an hour to work out how to play. The fact we’ve been much better in the second half of matches would bear this theory out.

It wasn’t the loss that disappointed as much as the sheer listlessness of the performance.That said, the complete lack of structure and a clear footballing identity is not really Sherwood’s fault. Under AVB, while defensively we were organised, going forward we often looked like we were clueless as how to create chances, instead relying on Gareth Bale howitzers and moments of individual brilliance to unlock defences. The crab like passing and aimlessness in possession started under him and Sherwood, inexperienced and unlikely to hang around for long, can hardly be expected to rebuild the style of play when he’s little more than supply teacher filling in while the regular teacher is away.

It is that style of play, that footballing philosophy that Spurs need if they’re going to progress and prevent a gentle drift towards the end of an era. Someone needs to arrive, say that this is how we’re going to play and stick to it. At the moment, Spurs play like England – namely they’re slow and clunking on the ball, often insipid, only rarely attractive to watch. This is not good enough. We should be better than this.

Louis van Gaal is confrontational. He is divisive. He is capable of scaring the bejesus out of people, as this clip of him as a pundit on Dutch television shows. He generally treats members of the press like s*** on his shoe.

He is also one of the most successful managers in football today, someone with a clearly defined philosophy of attacking football he has preached at all the clubs he has managed. He has a fantastic record of bringing through young players. He is also perhaps Spurs’s only hope if they want to progress in the coming seasons.

Throughout Van Gaal’s managerial career, two things stand out – attacking football and his willingness to bring through young players. His first managerial job at Ajax, he won the Champions League with a team whose average age was 23. You may think it’s easy to be successful with young players of the calibre of Van der Sar, Seedorf, Davids, the de Boer twins, Overmars, Kluivert and others. But it’s another thing to play them regularly, and to sweep aside the powers of Europe with them. In the final, against the Milan side which had dominated in Europe for years, with the match at 0-0, he subbed on an 18 year old Patrick Kluivert off the bench. Kluivert scored the winner. As he says in this interview, age to him isn’t an issue.

If Tottenham’s young players were happy at the prospect of Sherwood taking over, they should be positively exploding with ecstasy at Van Gaal at possibly arriving. He won the lot with a bunch of youth team graduates at Ajax. At Bayern, in one season, he plucked Holger Badstuber and Thomas Muller from the reserves and turned them into regular starters for not only Bayern but the German national side. He has promoted youth throughout his career. Bentaleb, Tom Carroll, Harry Kane and others may well feature regularly under Van Gaal’s Spurs.

He is also one of the most successful managers in football today, someone with a clearly defined philosophy of attacking football he has preached at all the clubs he has managed.

When he isn’t blooding younger players, he is preaching direct, attacking football. This superb three part interview (Part 1, part 2, part 3) is Van Gaal, in his own words, explaining his views on football. If you’ve watched a Van Gaal team, you’ll appreciate that while tactically he is a maverick and prone to creating strange, unorthodox formations (2-3-2-3 memorably in his first spell at Barcelona, 3-4-3 at Ajax and occasionally with the Dutch national team), the same principles of offensively minded football are always there. If anyone is going to get Tottenham passing the ball, pressing the opposition and playing at a high tempo, it’s him. No more of the slow, stuttery movement we’ve become used to.

The fact he is divisive, temperamental and prone to getting rid of players who don’t suit what he wants is I think a good thing too. Spurs currently have a strangely bloated squad that lacks depth in defence, up front and lacks a pure, Modric-esque passer in midfield to dictate matches. There is lots of talent, but in the case of Lamela, Paulinho, Eriksen and Soldado, they’ve not been integrated into the team at all well and haven’t showed remotely what they’re capable of. Someone who can cut the crap and made clear the style of play and what each player’s job is would be wonderfully refreshing given what we’re regularly witnessing at the moment. At Barcelona he dropped Rivaldo at the peak of his powers because he wouldn’t play on the left wing. Luca Toni complained of him treating players like ‘interchangeable objects’. Good. We need some of that (not the showing his balls to the dressing room bit, mind).

As well as all this, Van Gaal is a big name. Players may be frightened by his reputation as a disciplinarian, but you’d think would also be excited to have the opportunity to play under him. Vertonghen may even smile.

Of course, it’s a big If that Van Gaal will manage Spurs. For one thing, with him managing Holland at the World Cup, it may well be mid-July before he’s available. He may get offers from bigger clubs. Plus, when he sees the way Spurs are run and the fact he’s unlikely to have control over transfers, he may run a mile.

As a fan though, for the love of God I hope this doesn’t happen. I’m desperate for him to take over. If I were Daniel Levy, I’d offer Van Gaal everything he wanted to become manager. Hell, even if like Jacques Santini he demanded a ‘big apartment on the beach’, give it to him. Whatever it takes.

Because this club needs Louis Van Gaal. If we’re to avoid a slide into decline, he’s our only hope.

All views and opinions expressed in this article are the views and opinions of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of The Fighting Cock. We offer a platform for fans to commit their views to text and voice their thoughts. Football is a passionate game and as long as the views stay within the parameters of what is acceptable, we encourage people to write, get involved and share their thoughts on the mighty Tottenham Hotspur.

Proud owner of Eidur Gudjohnsen's autograph


  1. Robo
    26/02/2014 @ 9:37 am

    This is so wrong. You’ve got to give Tim Sherwood this season, then appraise. But calling for a new manager after a couple of losses is ridiculous and such talk undermines the team. Have you not learnt from the AVB sacking debacle? That was a rash mistake, making us a laughing stock. We’ve now got Tim. So get behind him. Give him a chance. Stop this disloyal gossip and review at end of the season, not now.

    • John Spur
      26/02/2014 @ 1:50 pm

      Sorry Rob but these are the times when fans will have an opinion. Its what they call the ‘business end’ of the season and by loosing to abysmal defending Norwich; and watching us loose in europe to a team we should be defeating, the road to glory is fading AGAIN and the opinions will come. When we are in the business end and business is not being taken care of then the opinions will come. When u spend money on going to games you’ll see what this season is coming to and its not lack of talent as to why we’re loosing silly points although im nit blaming it all on TS. I do not need to wait til the end to know Sherwood is not ready to manage our club and I dont need to wait til the end of the season to voice concerns over team selection and the demise of another season. A couple more performances like recent and we’re well and truely out of it, waiting til the end of the season to voice current concerns is stupid. I will suppoert my club, I will cheer, I will back the manager and team, but a trip to anfield for the first time in a long time im not looking forward to because its there that our season will end, as much as I hope im wrong. Cant blame fans for venting when the signs read ” another failed season” just happens to be that tims in the hotseat as its happening. We’re certainly behind him and think we all want him to win and make us successful but by the looks of it we are not gonna have to wait til the end of season to ‘appraise’ because its going wrong now and its games like Nowrich that are shaping another failed season. As far as im concerned we were well in with a shot of top4 since Sherwood took over, now we are fading. And again I will say its not Sherwoods thought but if he is ballsy enough to manage a top club then hes gotta be ballsy enough to take the rough with smooth, which includes criticism when the team messes up and potentially messes up the entire season.

  2. leicspur
    26/02/2014 @ 9:48 am

    some people like to blame players, others managers and some blame levy.
    i think if van gaal were to come and subsequently fail it would lend weight to the argument that the manager/head coach is operating under some sort of restriction.
    perhaps not getting the type of players they ask for or being put under pressure to play certain players.
    lets hope vg does come and is allowed to do the job his way.

  3. David Buckley
    26/02/2014 @ 9:51 am

    Really poor article.

    This guy’s Twitter timeline was euphoric after the Newcastle win only 12 days ago.

    Now after one defeat to Norwich he is crying like a baby and wants Louis Van Gaal.

    He wants us to sack another manager.

    Now, I’m no brain surgeon, but where has dismissing managers left, right and centre got us in the last 13 years?

    Sherwood needs time to implement his ideas, proper time. In the little time he has had he’s got us 23 points from 11 games, reinstated Adebayor, introduced Bentalab, stopped us playing that silly high line, got us scoring goals.

    Sure, we’re not great at times, but then again, who would be if their Chairman had sold all our world class players and replaced them with at best, a bunch of average.

    This chap should be ashamed of this article. He needs to grow up and get behind the manager and the team.

    • Dan Mac
      26/02/2014 @ 1:44 pm

      “Now, I’m no brain surgeon, but where has dismissing managers left, right and centre got us in the last 13 years?”
      On average? 4 places higher. From an ave league position of 11th for the 10 years before Enic to an average 7th in the last 10 years.

      • John Spur
        26/02/2014 @ 2:05 pm

        And where did keeping David Moyes for so long get Everton? Merely solidating the position of being a good prem team. Waiting 3 seasons for manager to achieve may not be the answer also. Cant just put it down to sacking manager’s…Theres more to it than that. A good majority I would have sacked too. What do you want, a manager who clearly fails at doing a good job to keep his job and take the club further into obscurity.

      • David Buckley
        26/02/2014 @ 6:58 pm

        7th? If you’re happy with that Dan, good for you, I most certainly am not.

  4. Jim
    26/02/2014 @ 10:01 am

    Excellent summing up of a woeful display.

    We need a leader off the pitch to give the team a style and shape, and we need a leader on the pitch to to deliver it when we’re playing.


    26/02/2014 @ 10:08 am

    So everybody is blaming everybody else. When are we going to start asking where the real problems lie?

    Who employs these managers?
    Who sacks them?
    Who has cost the club 30 million pounds in contract compensation.
    Who sanctions the constant selling of our best players?
    Are why do they want to leave in the first place?
    Who has promised a new ground for the last 10years to enable us to compete?
    ArseAnal moved in within 2years.

    And who earns2 million quid a year for the privilege?

    Get the picture?

      26/02/2014 @ 10:12 am

      I forgot to mention.

      Who sanctions the purchases of these average at best players.

      • TMWNN
        26/02/2014 @ 10:50 am

        Exactly, it’s all very well pinning your hopes on Van Gaal, but Levy is the real problem here. It doesn’t matter which manager we get in, as long as Levy is chairman, Spurs will go nowhere.

        If having a small stadium means we can’t compete, then stop pretending we can; lower the ticket prices until we’re in a position to compete. Levy is the cause of the high expectations as well as the disappointment when these expectations aren’t met.

        Apart from the initial investment of buying the club, ENIC/Joe Lewis haven’t spent a penny of their own money on the club and are happy to give the illusion of ambition whilst continually dipping their hands into fans’ pockets. The paying fans are just cash cows in their eyes; gullible morons with money. They are now well into a campaign to remove the more vocal and unruly element of the support from the ground by hiding behind this ‘Yid’ nonsense. Not only do they want cash cows, but they want cash cows that quietly sit while they get rogered.

        Nothing will change though until Lewis decides to sell, and there is far too much apathy inside the ground for the fans to force this change. It’s a sorry state of affairs that is making going to the Lane far from the great day out it once was.

  6. Toad
    26/02/2014 @ 11:32 am

    Very strange, and obviously inflammatory article which will stop the author having a long term career in journalism. It’s written by a rather volatile teenager with serious footballing knowledge deficiencies. Good work though, you got people commenting which is all it’s good for.

    • Dan Mac
      26/02/2014 @ 1:47 pm

      When did the internet turn into a place full of teachers waiting to ‘mark’ your article?

      • Borris
        26/02/2014 @ 3:17 pm

        TMWNN – I do agree, its a real shame, but I feelmI see the same things as you. I dont want to go back to WHL again this year.

        I ammsick ofmhearing foul mouthed morons whinging and whining directly at our players!! Support and general appreciation for line up is missed by loads.

        (Im not saying here that the line ups are good/balanced, theyre terrible! But that isnt theplayers fault on a weekend when they need to be…… Supported!!! Just for the fucking hell of it!

        Its not kykr naughton or michael dawson or lamelas fault,, that the mgnt are so useless that they cant organise a balanced squad, pick a manager whomcannhandle all different personalities and establish a way ofplaying,,, its the boards/owners fault, the cold hard truth ofmresponsibility ofmownership is you are responsible!!

        Toad – I think dan mac raises a fair point. Also, age is irrelevant hes entitled toman opinion.

        I feel some important questions need to be asked of the Spurs ‘heirarchy’,.

  7. jimmy61
    26/02/2014 @ 11:51 am

    The issue is players desire and heart.. these are totally lacking in the heart of our team. You can compensate for a short fall in skill. But when there is no heart or commitment the club goes into free fall. that is demonstated comes from the top ..At the moment the big starts are only interested in the world cup anything else is secondary.. No manager whoever,it is, can change that. Brendan Rodgers said he turned down Spurs because of the constant change of managers so the current management team are now reaping their fruits of the desire for short term success.. until they stop wasting everybody’s time and money… get a fully qualified manager can take this shambles of a club forward. I wont be spending of my hard earned money on them anymore..On question in 1959 would the current board have sacked Bill Nick.. i think we all no the answer to that…

  8. John Spur
    26/02/2014 @ 12:23 pm

    Why is people slaughtering the author for having valid points. The article reflects my sentiments exactly.

    Why wouldn’t we be in favour of a manager who has won titles in top european leagues and also won all of europes top competitions. Its a no brainer. Never in our history have we had such an acomplised manager and although im not behind the constant changing of managers, should LVG be available then we MUST try and get him. Sherwood as much as I like the dude is not ready to learn on the job at a club with such hefty ambitions. In reality he has done a decent job but games like Norwich are must wins for someone with no managerial history and who is trying to impress and keep his job. We simply were not good enough and we are not getting better.The football has flattered to deciece and good players want to work under top experienced managers. Simple as that. The team selection and display against norwich confirmed to me that sherwood needs to prove his credentials elsewhere. Any manager can loose a football match but when you have no experience and are loosing and failing to score against a team with on of the worst defences in the league then you haven’t got much to defend why you should keep the job other than ” we cant keep swapping managers” If I were the board, from what I have seen champs league or no champs league, Sherwood is not ready to be fulltime boss. We are as close to the elite as we ever have been and we need instant improvements, not waiting for a manager to learn on job. We need a tactician who is proven and know what it takes to win football matches. Im not able to see us implode again, and if we did go back to being a mediocre side then I much rather see us try with a top manager than a on the job training manager.

    And people need to look at where we have come from and what we’re up against (rich clubs) and praise the board. AVB, Ramos, Soldado all had credentials and you can not blame the board for hiring potential. Cant blame the board for people flopping, or blame the board for selling players who want to go to bigger clubs and play champions league. Spurs have been a building project for years now and we’re not that far off the elite, levy has bought well, sold well and have got us dreaming again.
     Love to see sherwood as a no.2 to a top manager

    Cough cough LVG.

  9. fatbuilder
    26/02/2014 @ 12:24 pm

    We were all ecstatic at the Newcastle result to be fair. A pretty good appraisal of the Norwich game from a fan (not a journalist). LVG would be perfect in my opinion. Let’s not knock Sherwood too much he’s got the rest of the season to go and therefore, should have our full support! As for the anti ENIC campaign…. Be careful what you wish for, they’re all in it for the money. Unless you want a Dave Wheelan, Bill or a mad glory hunting Russian/ Sheik multi-billionaire that could destroy the identity of the club simply to massage his ego and then drop us like a ton of bricks!

    • Dan Mac
      26/02/2014 @ 1:49 pm

      spot on!

  10. danny b
    26/02/2014 @ 12:37 pm

    VAN GAAL OR SHERWOOD. errrrrrrrr let me have a think about this.

    Accomplished winner who has won everything and is good enough to manage his country.

    Un accomplished ex player with no managerial experience apart from coaching a youth team and failing to achieve the clubs goals of champions league.

    SHERWOOD for me ; p

  11. jimmy61
    26/02/2014 @ 12:50 pm

    For what it is worth.. I agree a top manager with Tim as his no2 is the way forward and this will hopefully total respect and desire of the players..then in a couple of years Tim can take over ….

  12. bambam
    26/02/2014 @ 12:56 pm

    Sherwood I would hate to come out of this with a negative image as has many of the previous sacked managers. I like him, I like that hes a young English managerial talent, I dont love him managing my beloved Spurs. Do something to prove yourself and then come manage Spurs. Happy for him to see out season and he has the backing and support from me because its not his fault the board hired him but he gotta go. Football is ever changing and can turn up some surprises but its clear to me that top 4 is not gonna hapoen unless the teams above us fall dramatically, which is very unlikely. Tim is in above his head; and due to his experience, his job is made harder because you can do well but you need an almost immaculate record to keep such a job. This is not barca and guardiola, its spurs and Sherwood. He needs a miracle…ck,

  13. Robo
    26/02/2014 @ 2:15 pm

    And what does all this gossip and speculation achieve, when our new manager is trying to stable the ship and go forward? It feeds onto the pitch. You can hear the negativity in the crowd and that anxiety affects the players. It’s particularly unfair considering Sherwood’s record, which is quite good. Get behind the team (including Tim) and reject these tabloid-inspired rumours.

    • John Spur
      26/02/2014 @ 2:48 pm

      These well paid plonkers are being paid good money to get on with their jobs. I am one who believes speculation should have nought to do with players getting on the pitch and doing what their paid to do. All this talk of speculation affects performances on pitches is garbage. And if it does has the slightest bit of truth then the players and manager should be ashamed. The notion that I must mute my concerns because the players and manager might read it and be affected is absurd. My view is if the manager or players let speculation affect what they train and get paid everyday to do then their not worthy to put on the shirt. I can deal with lack of confidence, or lack of perfromance but being due to what is being said by fans is unneceptable. Wrapping up players n managers in cotton wool is not the way to go about it. In reality fans concerns should do the opposite and make them want to work harder and acheive more. What affects performances is tactics, desire, skill and hard work. Not bloody internet blogs that berate when the club is not doing what it should and is capable of doing. Poor manager and players awwwwwwww let’s just all say nothing and continue to invest our time and money in poor performances and lack of achievement

  14. dizzydog
    26/02/2014 @ 9:15 pm

    Seems to me Levy cant win sold Bale for silly money refuse to sell modric and made him stay for a season ,Does not buy players ,spends one hundred million + on great players Press and fans were all praising the purchases .Now he is to blame because they are average at best

    AVB got the job and was let go to early (maybe looked to me after Liverpool defeat he wanted out was a beaten man). If Tim was the man for the job why was he not given it straight away before AVB
    The players need to stand up and be counted, The tactics may not be good but all i want is some desire a bit of effort, Ade properly works harder than anyone at present at that says a lot about the rest of them
    Robbie would be better off aiming at the keeper or centre of goal more chance of finding a corner that way
    And how comes it seems every other team sack the manager and coaching staff yet ours survive
    Sir Les still coaching the strikers !
    Never mind looking forward to Thursday not to Sunday but were Spurs and hopefully next week we will be smiling COYS

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