Ricky Villa: Inconsistent Spurs have it all to do this season
Tottenham’s 1981 FA Cup hero believes that Harry Redknapp’s side face an uphill struggle to repeat last season’s success and secure a second successive top-four finish.
FORMER Spurs legend Ricky Villa believes his former club ‘have everything to do’ to balance their European and domestic ambitions and secure another tilt at the Champions League again next season.
Villa arrived at Tottenham in 1978 along with fellow Argentine Ossie Ardiles, just after the pair had won the World Cup.
He went on to play 133 times and score 18 goals in five seasons for the Lilywhites, winning the FA Cup twice with the north Londoners under Keith Burkinshaw.
Nowadays the 58-year-old lives on a ranch in his native Argentina, but he still watches every Tottenham game, and he believes that this season will be even more testing than the last.
“Last year Harry Redknapp did brilliantly to get the club into the Champions League,” said Villa. “This season is going to be another big test, because the Champions League is a different style and the players have to be up for everything – the Premier League and the European games.
“Tottenham have to prove they can cope and have everything to do. At the moment it is a little up and down but they have good players and a good manager.
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“If Tottenham can finish fourth again this season I think it will be another great year for the club. When you repeat what you achieved last year it is brilliant.”
Villa will always be remembered for his 76th-minute winner against Manchester City in the 1981 FA Cup Final replay – the first replay ever to be staged at Wembley.
Villa had already netted the opening goal in the eighth minute as Spurs won 3-2, and in 2001 the Argentine’s solo effort was named the Wembley goal of the century.
Twenty-nine years on, Spurs’ perpetual hunt for silverware has been temporarily halted as the Lilywhites bid to extend their run in the Champions League, and book their place in next year’s competition with a second successive top-four finish.
Redknapp fielded a weakened team in the third round of the Carling Cup as Spurs were ushered through the exit door by Arsenal, and the Spurs boss has already conceded defeat in the Premier League title race – despite positive noises in pre-season.
However, Villa believes that Tottenham’s current standing in England leaves them well-placed on the trophy trail and, with the FA Cup third round just two months away, he feels that further cup glory is just around the corner.
“The club has a team that is growing up, so you can expect to win something this year. I wouldn’t say I’m 100 per cent sure, but why not,” he said.
“For me Tottenham are a top-five club at the moment, and you have to think that every club in the top five of the Premier League has a chance to win something.
“The Champions League will be more difficult to win, but I prefer the league championship and if Spurs ever win the English Championship again, for me that will be great.”
Like all Spurs fans, Villa has been exhilarated by two of the club’s current stars, Gareth Bale and Rafael Van der Vaart – a signing who the Argentine likens to one of his former Tottenham team-mates.
“You definitely need a player that can create something out of nothing – Van der Vaart is a clever player who can put in a killing ball and I am very happy with that,” Villa continued. “I like players like Van der Vaart. He is very similar to Glenn Hoddle – every time he gets the ball you are expecting something special and I think he can take the club onwards and upwards.
“Bale has a great future – everybody can see how good a player he is, with good control of the ball and attacking people.
“This is a point I really like about Bale. He doesn’t stop attacking people - you pass one player and someone on your team is then free. I think he is a star that is going to become a superstar – he has all the condition to become a great player.”
And Still Ricky Villa – My Autobiography, with Joel Miller & Federico Ardiles – Foreword by Ossie Ardiles, is available now RRP �18.99.