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The Story Of the Season 2008-2009



Tottenham Hotspur's league season got off to a bad start with a 2-1 loss to Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium, followed a week later by a last gasp 2-1 defeat to Sunderland with the debutant Djibril Cisse scoring the winning goal in the final minutes. The defeats against Middlesbrough and Sunderland were punctuated with the on-going transfer saga concerning Dimitar Berbatov and Manchester United, rumours that Berbatov had refused to play, later revealed to be true, began to circulate along with the theory that this refusal from one of Tottenham's best players was hurting the morale of the team. Tottenham got their first point of the season, 8 days after the Sunderland loss, in a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge against title contenders Chelsea. With, both, the end of August and the summer transfer window approaching, the Berbatov saga ended with him making a transfer to Manchester United for £30.75million and young striker Fraizer Campbell coming on loan for the whole season, Manchester City had tried to enter the fray in the final hours with a £30million bid accepted but Berbatov rejected the move.[15] Vedran Corluka also completed his move from Manchester City to join his Croatian team-mate Luka Modric and provide competition for the right-back position.


Tottenham's first match in the month of September lead to another 2-1 loss at home to Aston Villa. This resulted in 3 losses in 4 and only 1 point from a possible 12 and they were rooted to the bottom of the premier league table. Tottenham achieved their first competitive win of the season in the UEFA Cup against Wisla Kraków with David Bentley scoring his debut and the winning goal. Spurs disappointing league form continued with a drab 0-0 home draw against Wigan Athletic and then a tepid 2-0 away defeat to Portsmouth, with ex-Tottenham player Jermain Defoe scoring a penalty. At the end of September, Tottenham Hotspur were bottom of the league and officially suffering their worst premier league start. However Spurs were able to make a successful start to the defence of their Carling Cup title, defeating Newcastle United 2-1 at St James' Park to progress to the fourth round of the competition.


October started with progression to the group stages of the UEFA Cup for Tottenham with a 1-1 draw in Poland against Wisla Kraków in their second leg tie, but Spurs' horrendous league form continued with a home loss to newly promoted Hull City, Geovanni's long range free-kick in the early minutes of the game condemned Tottenham to another loss, They then followed this match with another battle against a newly promoted side, Stoke. The match was a disaster with Tottenham conceding two penalties and having Michael Dawson & Gareth Bale sent off in a 2-1 loss. This loss meant that Tottenham had only 2 points from 8 games, were bottom of the premier league and now were amidst the worst start to a season in the 126 year history of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. The ever-increasing pressure on manager Juande Ramos grew to fever pitch after a very poor 2-0 loss in Italy to Udinese in the first match of the UEFA Cup Group stage.

On Saturday 25 October, the club announced the departure, with immediate effect, of Sporting Director Damien Comolli, Head Coach Juande Ramos and First Team Coaches, Marcos Álvarez and Gus Poyet, It was announced, within hours, that the club had agreed a deal worth £5 million with Portsmouth F.C, allowing manager Harry Redknapp to become the boss at Tottenham

Redknapp was unveiled as Tottenham manager the same day before the home match against Bolton Wanderers F.C. and gave the team talk, although the team itself was selected by Clive Allen and Alex Inglethorpe. Tottenham eased to their first league win of the season, with Roman Pavlyuchenko scoring his first premier league goal.[17] Tottenham then faced bitter rivals Arsenal in the latest installment of the north london derby, the match ended 4-4 and viewed as one of the best games in the long history of the north london derby, if not the premier league. Tottenham took the lead with a stunning David Bentley volley from 35-yards, Arsenal then responded with a Mikael Silvestre header and found themselves 3-1 ahead deep inside the second half, Darren Bent made it 3-2 before Robin Van Persie seemingly wrapped up the points making it 4-2 to Arsenal. With 5 minutes left, Jermaine Jenas made it 4-3 after capitalising on a Gael Clichy slip, and then Aaron Lennon grabbed an amazing point for Tottenham when he, 4 minutes into stoppage time, made it 4-4 with a tap-in.


Tottenham's revitalised form continued into November with a last gasp win over league leaders Liverpool[19] , Dirk Kuyt blasted Liverpool into an early lead before a Jamie Carragher own goal and a Pavlyuchenko tap-in gave Spurs the three points. 5 days later, Harry Redknapp took charge of his first Tottenham UEFA cup match which ended with Tottenham thrashing Dinamo Zagreb 4-0, including a Darren Bent hat-trick, resurrecting the UEFA Cup challenge.

The first away win for Tottenham's season came on the 9th November 2008, with a 2-1 win over Manchester City and Darren bent scoring his 5th goal in 2 games, Tottenham's fourth game in 11 days sent them to fifth round of the Carling Cup with an emphatic 4-2 win over Liverpool, which also included the first goals for on-loan striker Fraizer Campbell.

Tottenham's 6 game unbeaten run ended with a 2-1 loss to Fulham, A mistake from Heurelho Gomes helped Fulham into a 2 goal lead before Fraizer Campbell pulled one back. [20] Tottenham recovered quickly with a 1-0 win over Blackburn Rovers, increasing the pressure on Blackburn manager Paul Ince and another 1-0 win over NEC Nijmegen in the UEFA Cup almost assuring safe passage to the next round.

November ended with a 1-0 home loss to Everton, Steven Pienaar's deflected effort, later attributed as a Vedran Corluka own goal, was enough to get the victory for Everton.


Tottenham began December by putting themselves into the semi-finals of the Carling Cup with a 2-1 win over Watford F.C, Watford had taken the lead through a Tamas Priskin strike but a penalty from Roman Pavlyuchenko and a goal from Darren Bent earned Spurs a tie versus Burnley in the semi-final. Tottenham continued their decent league form with a dominating 2-0 win over West Ham which also included Ledley King's first goal for 3 years.

Spurs then faced defending league champions Manchester United in a home tie which ended in an exciting 0-0 draw, which meant that Tottenham were now unbeaten against the premier league Top Four, Tottenham then completed their UEFA Cup group stage with a 2-2 draw with Spartak Moscow, they proceeded to the next stage in runner up place to face Champions league drop-outs Shakhtar Donetsk.

Tottenham then faced Newcastle United at St. James Park in a losing 2-1 effort, The match was heading for a 1-1 draw until Damien Duff scored in stoppage time to give Newcastle a smash and grab win, 5 days later, Tottenham faced Fulham in the return match at White Hart Lane, the match ended 0-0.

December ended the same as November with a loss, this time to newly promoted West Brom, the 2-0 win was controversial as some saw Roman Bednar's opening goal as a foul on defender Michael Dawson but the goal stood and Tottenham ended the year still very much in a relegation battle.

January Transfer Window
With the January transfer window opening on January 1, Tottenham made movement in the market straight away. On the 6 January 2009, Jermain Defoe returned to the club from Portsmouth in a deal worth an initial £9million with extras and the writing off of past transfer fees in Pedro Mendes and Defoe himself meant the media announced the fee £15 million,[21] Just over 2 weeks later, Tottenham came to an agreement for the transfer of Wilson Palacios for a fee of £12 million from Wigan, the deal for Palacios was concluded on the 30th January with the approval of a work permit. Tottenham also signed experienced goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini from Chelsea on a free transfer and also concluded a deal to re-sign Pascal Chimbonda from Sunderland for a fee thought to be around £3 million, On the final day of the transfer window, Tottenham resigned their third former player in a month, signing striker Robbie Keane for a fee of an initial £12 million, which, depending on circumstances, can rise to £15 million.[22]

The departures in January saw Andy Barcham made his loan move to Gillingham permanent for an undisclosed fee, 4 days later, Charlie Daniels left Tottenham to join Leyton Orient on a free transfer. On the 21st January, Veteran goalkeeper Cesar Sanchez contract was cancelled so he could return to Spain to play for Spanish club Valencia and 2 days later, Tottenham outcast Hossam Ghaly joined Saudi-Arabian club Al-Nasr for an undisclosed price. [23]


January began well for Tottenham, advancing to the next round of the FA Cup with a 3-1 win over Wigan and then following that with a 4-1 win against Burnley in the Carling Cup semi-final first leg, however Tottenham's league form again suffered when in the next game, against Wigan, Spurs lost 1-0 when Maynor Figueroa powered in a header in stoppage time to confine Tottenham to another loss from last minute goals.

Tottenham responded 7 days later with a 1-1 draw against Portsmouth, at White Hart Lane, The match had massive publicity because of the return of Harry Redknapp and Jermain Defoe, In the match, David Nugent scored a deflected goal before Defoe returned to haunt his old club by scoring the equaliser.

Tottenham, then, faced Burnley in the Carling Cup semi-final second leg. Burnley could only progress by winning by 3 clear goals and it was widely seen as unlikely that Burnley would offer much in terms of opposition, however after 90 minutes, goals from Robbie Blake, Chris McCann and Jay Rodriguez took the game amazingly to extra time and if they held on they would progress thanks to the away goals rule, but facing elimination with under three minutes left to play, goals from Pavlyuchenko and Defoe saw Spurs progress to the final 6-4 on aggregate.

Three days after the extra-time tie, Tottenham faced Manchester United in the FA Cup, losing valiantly 2-1, having taken the lead through Pavlyuchenko before a deflected goal from Paul Scholes and a strike from Dimitar Berbatov ended the FA challenge for the 2008-09 season.

3 days later, Tottenham got their first league win in 6 games with a 3-1 home win over Stoke, brilliant play saw Spurs take a 3-0 lead in the first 30 minutes before James Beattie scored a consolation goal for the visitors, January ended in defeat for Spurs with 3-2 loss to Bolton, Bolton took a 2-0 lead before a Darren Bent double levelled until another last minute goal from Kevin Davies claimed the points for the home side.


February for Tottenham Hotspur started with a North London derby against fierce rivals, Arsenal. The highly anticipated match ended 0-0 with Spurs enjoying the dominant moments in the game thanks, in part, to the first half sending off of Arsenal midfielder, Emmanuel Eboue. An 11 day rest, ended with a trip to Ukraine to face champions league drop-outs, Shakhtar Donetsk in the Last 32 of the UEFA Cup. Tottenham lost 2-0, thanks to late goals from Evhen Seleznyov and Jádson. The match incurred much criticism from some quarters, due to Tottenham playing a weakened side, however the criticisms were brushed aside by Harry Redknapp, emphatically prioritising the premier league and league cup over the UEFA cup.[24] On the 23 February, Tottenham faced Hull City at the KC Stadium in the Monday night fixture. Spurs eased to a 2-1 win with goals from Aaron Lennon and Jonathan Woodgate sealing a valuable set of points.

Tottenham ended the February set of fixtures only 3 days later with the return leg of Shakhtar Donetsk, Tottenham again fielded a severely weakened team, due in part to the Carling Cup Final being only 3 days away, and earned an extremely valiant 1-1 draw, with Giovani Dos Santos scoring his first Tottenham goal before a late Fernandinho goal sealed the leg for Shakhtar in the dying moments to eliminate Spurs from the European competition.


March began with the 2009 Carling Cup final against Manchester United, the frantic final ended 0-0 and resulted in a penalty shoot-out, which Manchester United won 4-1 to win the first major trophy of the 2008-09 season.

Tottenham rebounded from the heart-break of the final loss, 3 days later, with a 4-0 mauling of Middlesbrough to ease the immediate relegation concerns. The unbeaten run continued with a 1-1 at Sunderland on the 7th of March, the tense match began with an early goal for Kieran Richardson and remained so until in the dying embers of the game, Robbie Keane struck a volley to earn Spurs a point. 8 days later, Tottenham faced fourth placed Aston Villa at Villa Park, an early goal from Jermaine Jenas gave spurs the lead until early in the second half when the lead was extended thanks to a Darren Bent tap-in, John Carew stuck a consolation goal as Tottenham took the three points. Days before the last match of the March fixtures, Tottenham announced a record amount of profit in the 2008 fiscal year.

Tottenham faced Chelsea in the final match in March at White Hart Lane, In a thrilling London derby, Tottenham took maximum points, thanks to a second half goal from Croatian Luka Modric and a much improved performance by goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, putting Tottenham, amazingly, only 3 points behind a European place.

March ended with three call-ups into the England squad with Aaron Lennon in, thanks to being in mercurial form during the month of March and Ledley King earning a shock call-up, however with the constant injury situation surrounding the goliath defender, King had to pull out 3 days later.[26][27] Darren Bent also received a call up, on the 28th March, after an injury to Carlton Cole ruled him out of the world cup qualifier against Ukraine.[28]


The penultimate month of the premier league season began with a trip to Ewood Park, on April 4th, to face relegation-battlers Blackburn Rovers, Tottenham took the lead through a Robbie Keane peanlty and led until the 80th minute, when the contentious sending off of Wilson Palacios swung the game back in Blackburn's favour and two late goals from Benni McCarthy and Andre Ooijer gave the 3 points to the home side.[29]

7 days later, Tottenham faced West Ham in a London Derby, the eventful match ended 1-0 thanks to a solo effort from the returning Roman Pavlyuchenko. The win ignited Tottenham's charge into the final Europa league place which was consolidated 8 days later on the 19th April, with another 1-0 win, this time over struggling Newcastle. An early Darren Bent goal was enough to secure the points and help steer the club further towards european football.

April ended with a very controversial loss to league leaders, Manchester United, At Old Trafford, Tottenham stormed into a 2-0 lead through two quick-fire strikes from Darren Bent and Luka Modric however in the second half, Manchester United were handed an unlikely lifeline through a very poor penalty decision awarded by Howard Webb, to which he later admitted he was wrong[30], The sudden change in momentum revitalised the champions and they raced to a harsh 5-2 victory to damage Tottenham's hopes of 7th place.


Against the norm, there were four Premier league fixtures in May. Tottenham took on relegation strugglers West Bromwich Albion at White Hart Lane, looking to bounce back from the heavy defeat at Old Trafford. An uneventful game was settled by a well placed Jermaine Jenas effort from just outside the area on the stroke of half time, and secured Spurs' fifth home win a row. It was their fourth 1-0 win at home in a row, and sixth consecutive home clean sheet, leaving them on the verge of a club record of the fewest goals conceded at home in a season.

A week later, Tottenham travelled to Goodison Park, a ground where they had a notoriously good record. The game was marred by the pre-match news that the brother of Wilson Palacios had been confirmed dead in his native Honduras, causing him to leave the team hotel hours before the game. This was one of many factors that caused Harry Redknapp to go with an unorthodox 3-5-2 formation, notably bringing in Gareth Bale at left wing-back for the Welsh youngster's first league start for four months. A game that finished 0-0 for the second consecutive season earned Tottenham a point in their european quest.

The following Saturday, Tottenham went in to their final home game of the season against Manchester City, with a target of setting a new club record for goals conceded at home. They simply had to concede no more than a goal to break the record of 11 which had stood since 1920. Spurs could also end Manchester City's hopes of Europe next season, while increasing their own slender hopes. Tottenham took the lead in the 29th minute, when Jermain Defoe improvised with a back heel from close range from Tom Huddlestone's cross. In the second half Spurs were forced to rue their earlier missed chances when Valeri Bojinov grabbed an equaliser, in the process scoring the first away goal at the lane since James Beattie's consolation in January. A draw was looking increasingly likely until Fraizer Campbell was brought down to win a penalty, which was converted by Robbie Keane. The game finished 2-1 and Tottenham, having conceded just 10 goals at home all season, broke their own club record and ensured ending the season with the best home defence in the 2008-09 season.

Tottenham went in to the final game of the season at Anfield, with a small chance of making 7th place and Europe, needing to beat Liverpool, and hoping that Everton could turn over Fulham at Craven Cottage. While Everton got the victory, winning 2-0, a poor display by Spurs meant that it made no difference. Fernando Torres and an own goal by Alan Hutton had Liverpool 2-0 up and cruising. A goal from Robbie Keane on his return to Anfield gave Tottenham a glimmer of hope, but yet more poor defending just three minutes later allowed Yossi Benayoun to sew the game up for the home team, Tottenham Hotspur finishing the season with a 3-1 loss.

Spurs finished the season in 8th place, a remarkable turnaround considering they were as low as 19th place as recently as January and 20th for a part of the season. Having made their worst start to a league season in their 126 year history, Tottenham made a three place improvement on the 2007-08 season and will be hoping to see this kind of improvement taken and built on in the new season.


You can see the final table of 2008/ 2009 season here.







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