With the blooming of daffodils, the clocks going forward, and dustbins up and down the country overflowing with Easter egg boxes, the end of the premiership season is in sight once more.
It may be squeaky bums time for those at the very top and the very bottom but it’s comfy chair time for the men at White Hart Lane. With no danger of relegation, five points from a top half finish, European football secured and a shiny trophy in the cabinet, Tottenham’s season has shaken off pre-Christmas gloom and blossomed into a memorable campaign.
Since Juande Ramos touched down at White Hart Lane, confidence has grown, performances have improved and the football has entertained.
Nine wins and five draws from his 20 league games and sparkling performances in both the semifinal and final of the League Cup have proved to everyone that he is a man of vision and tactical nous.
Last weekend’s win over Portsmouth was a shining example of Ramos’ strategic know-how, bringing on Darren Bent and Jamie O’Hara to score the winners as the game looked to be heading for a goalless draw.
His use of substitutes when in tight spots are in stark contrast to the days of Martin Jol (remember him?).
While the big Dutchman would be scratching his head on the sidelines staring beseechingly at Chris Hughton’s clipboard for answers as victories slipped to draws and draws into defeats, Ramos looks to his bench, adjusts his formations and makes his plays as calmly and decisively, as he would order a Chinese.
With seven games to go until a football-free English summer (thank you Steve McLaren), Spurs will play five clubs below them in the league, starting with Newcastle and Blackburn, who look hopefully up the league in 8th place, at a UEFA cup spot.
Maximum points from Spurs’ remaining four home games is not out of the question, even with the small matter of containing Liverpool and their Spanish maestro Fernando Torres in the final game of the season.
Trips to strugglers Wigan and Reading could also bear some fruit, and with a potential of finishing with more than 50 points in May, the Spurs fans will again be cursing their team’s start, which yielded just seven points from ten games.
With more than half an eye on next season, Tottenham’s players have a lot to do to prove to their boss that they should remain at the Lane.
Aaron Lennon’s patchy form is the most concerning. His inability to cross a ball is a hinderance to any future he has on the Spurs right flank, and should Ramos decide this is unlikely to improve, it would not surprise many if a more experienced body is brought in to replace him.
Fellow England hopefuls Jermaine Jenas and Michael Dawson also have a bit to do. The former showed promise in the midfield, but has again failed to deliver what his potential suggests, and Dawson, whilst generally solid, has failed to show he can perform without strong guidance of either Ledley King or new man Jonathan Woodgate by his side.
On the plus side for his squad, Ramos used his January window wisely, acquiring arguably the best right back in the UK in Scotsman Alan Hutton and Woodgate from Middlesborough.
Both these men have slipped effortlessly into Tottenham’s back four and tightened up a shaky unit that, before their inclusion, had shipped 40 goals in 23 games.
At the other end of the pitch, goals have flown in from all angles. Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov have continued to thrive alongside each other, bagging over twenty goals each for the second season running.
Now that Ramos has had plenty of games to mull over his squad and with nothing to play for, the coming games will give him a final chance to decide who’s in and who’s out next season.
With the whole summer available to transform his team and with pots of cash at his disposal (despite major shareholder Joe Lewis’ £500m loss in the Bear Stearns credit crunch) next season will be all down to Ramos.
Until then, let’s all enjoy some warmer weather plenty of footy…and how about those daffodils.