Ex-Tottenham keeper predicts Spurs success in Premier League and Champions League
FORMER Spurs goalkeeper Ian Walker believes the next few games are vital for Tottenham’s season, and could decide whether they will be in the Champions League or Europa League next term.
Walker, who made 320 appearances for the Lilywhites between 1989 and 2001, has seen his old club take just two points from a run of matches against Blackpool, Wolves and West Ham, and concedes that such a meagre tally could prove costly.
However the ex-England keeper, who has recently become the manager of Conference South outfit Bishop’s Stortford, remains confident that Harry Redknapp’s Lilywhites will emulate last season’s success by finishing in the top four again.
“There have been a lot of games for Tottenham this season,” said Walker. “It also becomes harder as you go deeper into the European competitions, and that can sometimes take it toll on the squad.
“The quality Harry has in the squad at the moment is very good, and I can’t see any reason why Tottenham can’t get fourth again this campaign.
“It’s not going to be easy but it will be great to see them snatch that final Champions League place.”
Rafael van der Vaart has been under the spotlight this week after his reaction to being
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substituted in the last two games against AC Milan and West Ham.
The Dutchman walked straight down the tunnel on both occasions but, having joined up with the Holland squad for the international break, feels that the issue “will have blown over” by the time he gets back.
With his manager’s hat on, Walker disagrees – and expects Redknapp to voice his feelings on the subject when Van der Vaart returns to north London.
“I wouldn’t be happy with that attitude,” said the former keeper. “I’m sure Harry will talk to the player, which is what you have to do.
“Rafael was probably just frustrated at the time, and on occasions it will happen. I’m sure Harry will sit down with him and tell him that it is not acceptable – but I’m sure he will understand that anyway.”
The question marks over Van der Vaart’s recent behaviour are contrasted by the fans’ feelings towards the perennially popular Heurelho Gomes, and Walker admits that he is a big fan of Tottenham’s current custodian.
“I watched him when he was at PSV Eindhoven and I thought he was outstanding there,” he said. “He had a little bit of a wobble when he first arrived but I think that is just the adjustment to English football.
“When he is on song, he is a fantastic goalkeeper. Some of the saves he makes are unbelievable, and other keepers might not be able to make the saves he makes.
“He does make a few mistakes, but if you look throughout the season at any goalkeeper at any club, every keeper makes mistakes during a season.”
Redknapp’s team have had a memorable debut in the Champions League this season, beating the holders Inter Milan in the group stage, eliminating seven-time European champions AC Milan in the last 16 and outlasting north London neighbours Arsenal in the competition.
Now Spurs have been drawn against nine-time winners Real Madrid in the quarter-finals, and Walker believes Spurs can continue their progress to the semi-finals.
“Tottenham have been playing really well so far in the tournament and for them to get as far as they have done has been a great achievement already,” said the 39-year-old. “I can see us going further in the Champions League.
“If Spurs go over to the Bernabeu and are able to keep it tight going into the second leg, I think they stand a great chance of going through.
“I know a lot of people are saying it’s going to be hard because it’s Real Madrid, but it’s 11 versus 11 and the quality in the Spurs squad is certainly capable of getting through.
“It’s going to be a great tie, no doubt about it, and one that I am really looking forward to. It’s been a great ride so far and hopefully it will continue.”