A few years ago, a friend and neighbour of mine here in Spain, told me about a young lad who had just signed for his team on loan. As my friend was a Director of MK Dons I wasn´t really that interested at first as he explained that this eighteen year old had a precocious talent, was tall and very fast with a direct and almost unique dribbling style, and was able to cross and shoot with both feet. In training he would run rings around everyone and took especial delight in constantly tormenting Dietmar Hamman – then a player-coach at the Dons.
It was only when I was told that the lad was on loan from us at Spurs did I begin to take notice. That player was, of course, Andros Townsend and ever since that conversation I have taken a close interest in his career and development. The talent has been obvious for all to see for a number of years but would he ever be able to harness it to the extent where he could be a match winner week in week out.
After spending the next few years loaned out at different clubs in various divisions it seemed as though he would never get his chance, especially as it appeared that he was going to be the understudy to either Bale or Lennon who were the preferred wide men at the Lane. Then in January this year he again was loaned out but this time to QPR where his former boss (Old Harry) – someone who had barely used him and sent him on all those loan trips – was frantically trying to avoid the inevitable drop.
Despite the relegation fight and in a squad bereft of ideas and creativity Andros shone like a beacon, quickly becoming a fans favourite and even won their Player of the Season award.
Yet when this new season dawned and even with the departure of Bale and the injury to Lennon did any of us really think that Andros would be given any opportunity or did we all think he would – yet again – be loaned out. The purchases of wide men Lamela and Chadli would only serve to drop him further down the pecking order.
But we were wrong. Not only did he start games in both Premiership and Cup but he was direct and creative. He afterall won that first penalty which gave us the first win of the campaign. He had that long and mazy run in Tblisi which resulted in our first Europa goal and then created two more chances giving us an easy victory.
He was the only bright spark in otherwise disappointing displays against Chelski and WetSpam but still we did not really believe that he had it in him. But now he has cemented himself not only as the first choice right winger at Tottenham, but also within the England team, man of the match and a great goal against Montengro followed by a fine all round performance against Poland, is there nothing standing in the way of this boy´s development into a true Spurs legend.
Perhaps it is a little early to talk of him in those terms but his enthusiasm and athletic ability has won over many fans and he deserves to be – perhaps – one of the first names on the team sheet whenever AVB puts pen to paper for forthcoming fixtures.
The real problem is who to play in and around him and in which formation as this seems to have been the big debating point of the past two to three weeks. Can he and Lamela be in the same team, one right, one left and interchanging? Who should we play up front – yet again turning into a major problem area? Should we play with a lone striker or go with two? Should we use a true holding midfielder (Sandro or Capoue) alongside a ball carrier (Paulinho or Dembele) or stick with the ball carrier duo concept? And where do we fit Eriksen and Holtby –or even Siggy – into the mix? When fit will Lennon get a look in?
Those of you who read my regular blogs will know I favour the 4-2-3-1 approach as it gives us flexibility when the correct players are used but this does require two fast and forward thinking full backs who can turn into wing backs very easily. We need a central holding midfielder adept at dropping back into the gap between the two central defenders creating a back three and for our central attacking players to be capable of finding the pass in and through the opposition. Moreover we need someone clinical in his finishing.
Last time out against AVillain our second string team found their second string no match for this approach. This time around with Benteke likely to be back and with most of their injuries to major players having cleared up, we need our best possible team out on the pitch all raring to go and with the last two games clearly out of the way. Another similar result – a draw or defeat – is unthinkable as it will put us well behind other contenders and having to play catch up already in what is going to be a long and arduous season.
But at least we have one bright spark to cheer us all – the spark of brilliance that is our rising star – may Andros Townsend´s continued rise to prominence continue for both club and country.
The game against AVillain is – a s always being shown live on Sunday at both Moores Bar and La Mariposa – kick off 5pm Spanish time.
Regrettably I will not be there as currently I am on vacation – and am writing this on board a cruise ship docked in Civitavecchia harbour. We were meant to be going to Rome today but a local general strike has meant no transport so no trip.