Gary Mabbutt: Now Spurs have to capitalise on top-four finish

FORMER Spurs captain Gary Mabbutt believes that Tottenham are facing a pivotal summer, as the club's hierarchy plot how to capitalise on qualifying for the Champions League. Harry Redknapp's Lilywhites finished the campaign...

By Joshua Modaberi

FORMER Spurs captain Gary Mabbutt believes that Tottenham are facing a pivotal summer, as the club's hierarchy plot how to capitalise on qualifying for the Champions League.

Harry Redknapp's Lilywhites finished the campaign in fourth place, sealing a place in the third qualifying round of the elite European competition for the first time ever.

And ex-skipper Mabbutt, who made 482 Spurs appearances between 1982 and 1998, feels that the club's next moves will be crucial as Tottenham bid to cement a permanent place at the Premier League's top table.

"The board and manager will sit down and start to put their plans in place for next season. We have to use this qualification as a stepping stone to move forward," said Mabbutt.

"Tottenham will want to be in that top four every season. I'm sure we are doing everything we can to give us that opportunity.

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"Those top four spots have been dominated by the same four teams for a number of years, and to break that monopoly is a massive achievement.

"Harry is a very good man manager of his players, and is able to get the best out of them. Under [Juande] Ramos the players weren't reaching their full potential - Harry has given those players the belief and confidence in themselves, and they have responded to that.

"The whole team has grown in stature, instead of having a team of individuals, its now a team with a great team spirit."

Tottenham's stunning year got even better on Tuesday when no less than six of the team's English contingent for picked for Fabio Capello's provisional 30-man World Cup squad.

And, as an ex-Spurs and England centre-back himself, Mabbutt is particularly pleased to see both Ledley King and Michael Dawson make the first cut for this summer's mouth-watering tournament in South Africa.

"I felt that both should be in the reckoning. Dawson has had an excellent season, and when Ledley has played he has been a man mountain for us," said the 48-year-old.

"There are still a number of questions regarding Ledley's fitness, but if he was fit for every game he would be one of the first on the team sheet."

Mabbutt was also delighted to see seven English players in action for the Spurs side which overcame Manchester City in last week's pivotal clash at Eastlands.

"This is an excellent sign that Tottenham not only have a great international development programme going - they also have a good domestic programme going and are continuing to look at players based here," said Mabbutt.

"We bought Danny Rose from Leeds as a 17-year-old for a million pounds - and his goal against Arsenal repaid that overnight!"

Mabbutt believes that this is England's best chance of winning the World Cup since 1966 and he will be a key observer of proceedings in South Africa - particularly because he was involved in winning the bid for the hosts.

"I've been working for the last eight years - the first three years were on winning the World Cup bid for South Africa, which we did in 2004," he said.

"Since then it has been about helping the country to prepare for the World Cup. I've been spending two or three months of the year in South Africa for the last eight years. It's been a great journey and hopefully now we will deliver one of the best World Cups in history."

Mabbutt is also an ambassador for England's 2018 World Cup bid. "There is still a lot of work to be done, but I think we will be in pole position at the moment," he said. "We will need to prove to the FIFA executives that we have put in all the hard work and earned the privilege of holding the World Cup in 2018."

Mabbutt has not stopped playing football either, and he will be looking for more Tottenham success when a group of Spurs legends, managed by Ossie Ardiles, takes part in the new Football40 London Legends Cup.

The brainchild of Spurs legend Glenn Hoddle, the tournament will see the Lilywhites taking on London rivals Arsenal, Chelsea and West Ham at Upton Park on Sunday May 30.

"The games only last 40 minutes, 20 minutes each way, with rolling substitutes," said Mabbutt. "It will make it easier for us to get through the games. There are two semi-finals and a final. I know a number of players are looking forward to it, and it should be an entertaining day out for the fans.