Tottenham manager set to unveil his No1 goalkeeper
Brad Friedel is the latest goalkeeper to attempt to usurp Heurelho Gomes at Spurs - but who will start tonight’s opening game of the season in Edinburgh?
As the season’s kick-off approached at White Hart Lane last summer, the fight for the No1 jersey took centre stage and the teamsheets for the opening clash at Tottenham were eagerly awaited.
The focus was Spurs’ opposition, as Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini prepared to name his first-choice keeper, finally ending the battle between Joe Hart and Shay Given, and crowning the winner.
After weeks of speculation, it was Hart who emerged from the tunnel with the coveted jersey and, having kept Spurs at bay with a stunning performance in a goalless draw, the rest is history.
Hart went on to make 54 appearances for City in all competitions last season, while Given played just four times for his club.
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Twelve months on, Given has joined Aston Villa to replace Brad Friedel, who has joined Tottenham.
And now, as the clock ticks down towards Tottenham’s belated curtain-raiser in Edinburgh tonight, the focus is on the fight between Spurs’ keepers.
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Given’s plight last season is certainly a cautionary tale, particularly when Friedel has given up regular first-team football at Villa Park to chance his arm at Spurs.
“I like what I heard coming out of Tottenham. They are a club on the up,” he said.
“I just felt that if I was to sign anywhere as a No2 that would effectively be signing my retirement. I didn’t sign anywhere for the money, I signed to play.”
Friedel’s decision to move to Tottenham is understandable, given Spurs’ ambitions and Heurelho Gomes’ erratic form at the end of last season.
However, as Carlo Cudicini and Stipe Pletikosa have discovered, displacing Gomes is easier said than done.
Croatia international Pletikosa made just one appearance during a season-long loan last campaign, and he launched a furious parting shot as he left the Lilywhites this summer.
“Spurs assured me I would get a chance to compete with Gomes to be No1,” he said. “Looking back, I realise that my move was a mistake.”
Friedel will certainly hope that he hasn’t made the same mistake.
The question is whether the 40-year-old has been signed as the new No1 or as a new and improved understudy to Gomes who, despite his gaffes, retains the ability to make breathtaking saves which would beat most of his rivals.
The Brazilian was one of the best goalkeepers in the top flight when Spurs finished in the top four in 2009/10 and, having had time to rest, recover and rebuild his confidence, there is every chance that he could be again.
Redknapp has kept everyone guessing so far, and the latest update on his dilemma was that he would “toss a coin” to decide his No1 - but the wait is nearly over now and the answer will soon be revealed.
Admittedly, this debate could go on after tonight’s opening match, because Redknapp may not necessarily pick his first-choice keeper against Hearts.
It is possible that the Spurs boss will give his No2 a taste of the action in the Europa League this season, starting tonight in Scotland.
However, the suggestion so far is that Redknapp will pick a strong side in Edinburgh - and rightly so.
Hearts will present a strong test on home turf and, with four full days to recover before the trip to Manchester United next Monday night, tiredness should not be an issue for the Lilywhites.
There is also a strong argument for fielding the first-choice rearguard at the earliest possible opportunity, giving the back line time to gel in a competitive environment before the trip to Old Trafford, especially when the game against Everton was called off.
In that case, it is likely that Spurs’ No1 will indeed be unveiled tonight, starting behind the first-choice back line - and that the man who takes his place between the sticks against Hearts will also be in the starting line-up in Manchester on Monday.
It is also possible that, once Redknapp has made his decision, he will stick with his No1 throughout the season, and in all competitions.
After all, Mancini opted to pick Hart in Europe as well as the Premier League fixtures last season, despite having an exceptionally strong No2 waiting in the wings, desperate for action.
Recent history suggests that Redknapp could be equally uncompromising - Niko Kranjcar will vouch for the fact that the manager tends not to give his reserves a run-out just for the sake of it.
With that in mind, Given’s fate at Manchester City could easily await Gomes or Friedel this season, so there is a great deal at stake as they await tonight’s teamsheet: The man who takes his place on the bench at Tynecastle may have to get used to it, as they eye a long campaign in the background.
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs