The Real Football Man

Richard Scudamore is probably sitting in his ivory tower at the Premier League headquarters thinking this Champions League is an absolute doddle. The reason being that all five of the English entrants in this season’s edition of the competition are currently top of the respective groups.

Could this be the season when an English team returns to the European summit for the first time since 2012. With so many clubs representing the Premier League the odds are certainly in their favour but just exactly will be able to last the distance.

At the end of the day it’s all very well having five teams qualify for the Round of 16 (that’s 31.25% for all you Maths fans) but it’s now good if they all bow out in the Round of 16 with their tails between their legs after being knocked by the likes of Basel or Besiktas.

Some may argue that the Champions League is a bloated and sterile beast and in the group stages that could be fair criticism but do we really want to hark back to the days of the old European Cup when a trip to the former Soviet Russia would mean an afternoon kick-off because there was no electricity to power the floodlights at night.

Couple that with John Motson commentating down what sounded like a phone line and it is fair to say that times were very different back then. But like all things progress cannot be halted and Europe’s top competition is now the behemoth that presented before us.

After not managing to lift the trophy in the last five attempts, the claims that the Premier League is “The Best In The World” were looking slightly tenious, not as tenious as some of the jokes I try and crowbar into this column weekly basis, but a dodgy claim nevertheless.

However, the above phrase could seem to be any more truer after events in midweek. Tottenham rightfully grab the plaudits after their 1-1 draw against Real Madrid. That’s impressive enough, even more so when you remember that Los Blancos have lifted the trophy in the past two seasons.

Tottenham fans (of which I am one) will have gone into the game with few expectations, to be fair thanks to Mauricio Pochettino’s men wining their first two fixtures in this competition Tuesday night offered something of a free hit with qualification still very much in their hands regardless of result.

You could argue that with the pressure off it allowed Spurs to go to the Bernabeu without any fear and it is fair to say it showed as it was another coming of age performance from a young side that sees to go from strength to strength. When you compare this campaign to the one previous it is night and day in terms of performance.

The British Media seem obsessed with doing Daniel Levy’s work for him and putting Tottenham’s star players up for sale. After Tuesday night the result is two-fold, it either puts a few more million on each player’s price tag or it quite simply says – why leave when we are on the cusp of something special?

Maybe it’s not even the cusp maybe this is the midst of something special, one player who is lives up to that tag and perhaps does not get the plaudits he deserves is Harry Winks. Neutrals would have question why he was called up to the England squad last month after such little game time.

Quite simply Tuesday night was your answer. In a Madrid midfield three containing Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro the youngster more than held his own. In footballing terms he started the game as a boy but ended it as man.

Performances like that get you on the plane to Russia. There’s no two ways about it, the question now is whether Gareth Southgate relies on Mauricio Pochettino to give him the necessary game time between now and the end of the season or takes a Theo Walcott 2006 style gamble.

A draw in Madrid will see Tottenham grow in stature, while they will be licking their lips at the prospect of doing it all over again in a few weeks time at Wembley. They may not win the Premier League but when it comes to this particular competition, they couldn’t…….could they?

And finally Liverpool was Manchester United was disgusting. Sky Sports should be punished under the trade descriptions act.

Until next week