Tottenham's Euro absence is actually for the best - Kranjcar
NIKO Kranjcar feels that Tottenham's failure to qualify for Europe last season has proved to be 'invaluable' in the current campaign. Five of the seven midfielders and strikers who were involved in the 2-0 win over Sunderland two weeks ago...
By Ben Pearce
NIKO Kranjcar feels that Tottenham's failure to qualify for Europe last season has proved to be "invaluable" in the current campaign.
Five of the seven midfielders and strikers who were involved in the 2-0 win over Sunderland two weeks ago have been signed in the last 12 months, including 25-year-old Kranjcar.
And, while the 25-year-old admits he moved to White Hart Lane to compete on the continent, he is aware that the Lilywhites' absence from the Europa League has enabled the team to spend more time gelling in between Premier League matches.
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"I think it's definitely a good thing that we're not competing in the Europa League," said Kranjcar. "We're a team that is still learning and growing, getting to know one another, so spending more time in training situations I think is proving invaluable.
"It's obvious too that with fewer first-team matches our players are fitter, and both mentally and physically we appear fresh all of the time.
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"Sometimes it's not the games themselves that are tiring but the travelling. While it's a shame we didn't make it into the Europa League, I think in the long-term the players and the fans will see it as a good thing.
"I have had some good experiences of European football and certainly wouldn't have come to Tottenham if I didn't think there would be more around the corner.
"It's a wonderful thing to be involved in, and I certainly think we're well equipped to be playing in Europe every year from now."
Of course, the big question in N17 is which European competition Spurs can get into. Harry Redknapp's side currently sit in the much-coveted fourth place ahead of the resumption of the Premier League this weekend, with Wigan Athletic visiting the Lane on Sunday.
Had they been involved in the Europa League, Spurs would probably have had another match next Thursday, but instead they will have six days to prepare for the trip to Villa Park.
That clash in Birmingham could have a big bearing on the race for the top four, as could the showdowns with Everton and Manchester City in the next month, and Kranjcar admits that Spurs face an almighty battle to cling onto fourth place.
"We feel that we have the quality to push ourselves onwards, but we are realistic in the knowledge that we are one of a handful, and we must be respectful to those other sides looking to push on," he said.
"Manchester City, Aston Villa and teams such as Sunderland have all started well and are all out to surprise people, so there could be many clubs who are challenging.
"I'm not sure that we're seeing the top four reinvented or anything like that, but maybe there is the gradual emergence of a few sides who are making a real effort to break the grasp of Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal. These are exciting times to be involved in the Premier League, that's for sure."
Kranjcar's investment in this season's domestic affairs may owe something to his agony at international level, after Croatia failed to qualify for this summer's World Cup.
That pain is largely due to group winners England and a handful of Kranjcar's Tottenham team-mates, and he admits he has high expectations of the Three Lions in June.
"We were looking for England to do us a favour by preventing a Ukraine win at the start of October, but when you are left relying on other results you cannot have any complaints if things don't go your way," he said.
"I think England finally have someone in Fabio Capello who can pull it all together. You speak to a number of impartial footballers and there is an idea that England possess possibly the most quality of all of the top sides, and with that, maybe a very real chance of winning the World Cup."
The full interview with Niko Kranjcar can be found in this month's edition of Hotspur, the official magazine of Tottenham Hotspur. Out now!