As the season draws to an end, football news continues to dictate the sporting headlines. Following Sergio Aguero’s last gasp winner to secure the Premier League title for Manchester City, Roy Hodgson has announced his first England squad and Kenny Dalglish has been sacked by Liverpool. However, the biggest piece to break has been To the Lane and Back’s first interview with an ex-Spur, Micky Hazard. One of the nicest guys we have ever had the chance of meeting; we spoke Spurs, Arsenal and Lionel Messi. Take it away Micky.
To the Lane and Back: Do you consider this season to be Tottenham’s best since the inception of the Premier League?
Micky Hazard: Difficult to say, that one, because the most exciting time for me was when we were in the Champions League. We went to Inter Milan and we were 4-0 down; what can you say at half-time? We came out for the second half and were quite stunning, Gareth Bale got a hat-trick and I thought we played fantastic, and I thought we played fantastic throughout that year.
The only thing that wrangles me about that particular season is; I wonder what would’ve happened had Peter Crouch not been sent off in Madrid. That changed the face of the game and made it comfortable for them (in the second leg) at White Hart Lane and we were a little bit demoralised, but it would have been very interesting to see where we would’ve been at the stage of the race, if Crouch hadn’t been sent off.
In terms of the quality of the football, I think between September and December we were quite stunning this season. There were performances that possessed the wow factor. It is difficult to compare the two because, ultimately, in the Champions League, you’re playing against the best in Europe and sometimes in the Premier League you’re playing the so-called ‘lesser teams’ of the Premier League; decent sides, but you shouldn’t have any problem beating.
Difficult to compare the two. The most exciting, for me, was the Champions League. I thought it was an incredible season in terms of some of the football we played in the Champions League was magic. But, this season has been special , then again, you can always look back and say, like the Champions League if Crouch hadn’t been sent off, you look back this year and you think if only at the start of the season we had a squad in harmony.
Luka Modric, for instance, was on his way out, Crouch left, there was a lot of unhappiness in the camp and we got off to the worst possible start; two quite bad defeats and you’re thinking ‘woah’. So, if we hadn’t had that start, and then you look at Harry Redknapp’s heart attack, the tax evasion charges and then England, so many things contributed to what, I believe, could have been a great season.
You look at the Jermain Defoe, in particular, away at Manchester City, if that goes in, that suddenly gives us the belief that we can win the title because we’ve gone and beat the favourites at the Etihad Stadium. Lots of things, to an extent, went against us this season and I would never use them as an excuse; when you’re out on the park you’ve got to perform, full stop. You don’t walk onto the park thinking of the problems. But maybe, subconsciously, they do affect you. In conclusion, it could have been a great season.
TTLAB: Who, in your opinion, would be Spurs’ player of the year?
MH: For me, Younes Kaboul. I think he’s been outstanding, I think he’s been an absolute rock and while he hasn’t been getting the headlines, which centre-backs never really generally do, unless they score a winning goal, I think he’s been quite outstanding. Whereas all the others have had their periods, and flitted in and out, I feel like Kaboul has maintained a level of consistency way above the rest, he’s been outstanding for me.
TTLAB: Do you think Kyle Walker deserved his PFA Young Player of the Year award?
MH: Absolutely. What has impressed me most about Kyle Walker is his attitude, his desire, his commitment to the cause and at times he’s playing right-back, right midfield and right-wing and he can only get better. He’s very young and you think to yourself; if someone gets hold of him and works on the technical aspect of his game and improves him technically, how good can this kid become?
Because, he can go on and become the England right-back for years and years. He’s got every attribute needed; pace, great attitude, desire, a will to win, he’s got the lot for a defender. But, when he gets forward, as we saw with his free-kick (vs Blackburn Rovers), he can score goals and he gets crosses in for strikers to score goals. Definitely deserved.
TTLAB: Many fans aren’t happy with Redknapp, despite a fourth place finish. What is your opinion of him?
MH: My opinion of Harry is that, he’s arrived at Spurs when we were bottom with two points after eight games. But, before you start judging, you must recognise, it was an incredibly false position for Spurs to be in. Anyone could have come in received the acclaim for saving them from relegation. Relegation was never a threat, although it has happened before and it will happen again to bit clubs in similar situations.
But, we were far too good and had too many good players for it, really and truly, for it to be a threat. I don’t judge him based on the fact he avoided relegation, but over the period that he has been here, he has done a very, very good job. I think he’s inherited some good players and he’s added some good players to it and what’s pleased me more is the style of play that he’s preached.
He’s preached the passing, flowing game which is the only way for Spurs to play as far as I’m concerned, and any team for that matter, but Spurs are renowned for that. Am I unhappy with him? No, I’m not unhappy with him; I think he’s done a very, very good job. Now, having had a good season, what could’ve been a great season, Harry has to push the team on, a sign a few big name players and push on from where we’re at.
We must never lose sight of the fact we finished fourth; that means there are three teams better than us. We are Tottenham Hotspur and we have ambitions of being the best club in Europe and we need to push from where we are, the means we need to sign big name players, which in turn attract other big name players to the club and helps you push on.
It’s no good on Harry sitting down and saying ‘we had a great season, we finished fourth’. That’s not what we’re about, we have to push on and take the next step and if that means that the next step is finishing third, then that is an improvement. What we can’t have is slipping back to sixth or seventh. We have to provide Champions League football year-in, year-out at White Hart Lane. That’s the first target and we have to win competitions like the FA Cup and the Carling Cup. We have to win those trophies as well. The tragedy of this season is that we were capable of winning them and we didn’t. But, he has done a good job, don’t rest on your laurels, let’s move on to the next level. There are teams who are coming out of that elite group. Liverpool have dropped away, I see Arsenal dropping away because I look at Arsenal today and I think ‘how many superstars and big names have they got playing in their team that is going to attract other players to the team’.
Robin Van Persie, to name one, but is he going to be there next season? After that, Jack Wilshere, but he has had a serious injury and hasn’t played all year. And the first year in the first-team is always the easiest because people don’t know your style and it takes a while for the opposition to work you out, but in the end they do. But, of the rest (pauses) I see tough times ahead for Arsenal, particularly three or four years down the line.
They have a team decent enough, at the moment, to challenge for Champions League. But beyond that, I’m looking at it and I’m thinking ‘great club’, but Arsene Wenger is reaching that stage where he’s going to step up to director of football. The wonderful French players that were World champions and made Arsenal what they were, they’re no longer coming through. Wenger doesn’t have access to that type of talent, for example, your Vieira’s and your Petit’s. I see longer term problems for Arsenal then I do for Spurs. I think that we are on the up and they’re going to stagnate for quite a while.
TTLAB: Who would you like to see arrive at White Hart Lane this summer?
MH: Micky Hazard? Micky Haz…oh sorry, Eden Hazard, my half cousin! It’s difficult to think about who you would like. I have a dream for Spurs, and that dream is for us to be the best in Europe and to do that you need to sign the best people and the best players. But, not just the best players, the best managers too. Harry has done a great job and, I don’t want to say this but, when Harry leaves, for me, push the bar and get (former Barcelona coach Pep) Guardiola.
I think when you attract Guardiola to your club, you attract superstars; the (Lionel) Messi’s of this world. They love Guardiola, they want to play for Guardiola and that’s the magic about attracting a (Real Madrid coach Jose) Mourinho or a Guardiola or someone of that level in the future. Harry isn’t getting any younger, he’s going to reach a stage in a couple of years and he’s going to retire.
That is when we need to go and get a superstar manager and attract, can you ever imagine (prays) seeing Lionel Messi in a Spurs shirt? It probably is a dream, but not if you get Guardiola, it brings it into reality then. I know Chelsea are trying to get him, they’ll be hot on Guardiola’s heels and why shouldn’t we be?
We’re a massive club and while we haven’t achieved what we should have, doesn’t mean we aren’t a massive club. To compete with the best we need to get the best.
TTLAB: With regards to Redknapp, do you think he’ll step down now the season is over?
MH: I don’t think Harry will step down and I don’t think the club will release him. Obviously, the Champions League will have a bearing on lots of decision, if Chelsea win the Champions League and we don’t qualify, it will knock us back a couple of years. You will have to accept that maybe we will lose a few players. However, my argument is; if you don’t want to be here, go. If Luka Modric, in the summer, and we don’t qualify for the Champions League, go. We never qualified for the Champions League with you in the team. You’re one of the reasons why we didn’t get there.
I’m not one for saying anybody that wants to leave our club, don’t let them. But, if they want to leave, then I say go. Let them go, because we want players that are going to make us great and unless your heart is in the club, then let them go. It’s a bit like Emmanuel Adebayor, rumoured to be on £220k-a-week, Spurs don’t have that wage structure.
What is the difference between £100k-a-week and £220k-a-week? Prove you want to play for us. You aren’t going to get what you get when you play for Manchester City, because we haven’t got a trillionaire owner. So unless you want to play for us, let them go because I honestly believe that we will bring in better players anyway.
TTLAB: Sticking with players that want to play for Spurs, Gareth Bale, prior to the end of the season, said he will want to discuss his future with the club; what do you think will happen their?
MH: If I was Gareth Bale, I certainly wouldn’t be looking to go and play for Barcelona. He’s a young boy and while Barcelona are the pinnacle of football at this moment in time, and they are probably the best team I have ever seen play, what is the point at 22/23 years of age going and sitting on their bench? Will he get in their team? Will he play the style that suits them?
His style is about sprinting in behind defenders and I’m not sure it will be a good move and if I was Gareth; I would be looking to spend two more years bringing up my reputation and obtaining more experience at a big club like Tottenham. But again, if he wants to leave, go. He won’t be as successful and as loved anywhere else.
TTLAB: Are there any youth team players currently coming through the ranks that are worth keeping an eye on?
Ryan Mason. I took Ryan to Spurs when he was eight years-old and he’s a brilliant player and I coached Jake Livermore for four years. The one who hasn’t quite made their name is John Bostock. I coached him at Crystal Palace for three years. John was a great player, but Ryan is a special talent. John has got to find himself back on track. As a youngster, he was quite stunning but he has just lost that single mindedness and he has got to get back to that if he wants to fulfil the potential that he had. Ryan just needs a break, but he is a brilliant player.
TTLAB: You played for both Spurs and Chelsea, however Spurs need Bayern Munich to beat Chelsea to reach the Champions League; who do you want to win?
MH: (Long pause) It’s very tough to come out and say it. I was on radio the other day and I said ‘it’s my worst case scenario because the Chelsea fans treat me unbelievably well so I have a loyalty to the Chelsea fans and I would love them to win the Champions League for the fans because they were brilliant to me.
But, if you said to me now ‘who do I want to win the Champions League?’ If Chelsea win, Spurs don’t qualify, then I apologise to the Chelsea fans, because I love them, but I would have to say Bayern Munich because it will get Spurs into the Champions League. If Spurs are going to take that next step, then Champions League is going to enable us to do it. The financial wind-fall that it gives you, the attraction from the big name stars (long pause) I want Spurs in the Champions League, full stop.
TTLAB: Talking of moving on to the next step, the Northumberland Development Project (NDP) is beginning to gain momentum; is that something that excites you?
MH: I was incredibly frustrated, angry and disappointed when we were talking about moving to East London. Supporting a football club is your life and there are people who have attended Spurs games, Manchester United games, Arsenal games and Chelsea games and for the whole of their lives. There is a history and a tradition that surrounds every football club and it’s your knowledge of the history are tradition that helps build that build that real love for the club.
The families that have come and gone throughout the years to football clubs, from generation to generation, that’s how football clubs survive. The supporters they spend their lives loving this football club and some live by it and some die by it In the quest to support their club and families who’ve lost a family member at that football club and in that ground, when they go back to watch that club play, they spend time with their lost family member.
There are wonderful memories for them to have and I think when you move away from the very place that it all happened, it deprives families of spending time with their loved ones. I think it is much more than a football club; it’s a place of love and a place where people have given up their lives just to support you and out of loyalty to the great players of the past that have played on this hallowed turf.
Out of great managers that have managed, supporters that have supported through thick and thin for 50/60 years, for me we should live and look to them, particularly when we can redevelop the area that is there anyway and while football has got bigger and more people want to come and support the club, don’t take it away from them because it takes away the history that surrounds the area.
You go to a new venue in East London and you can’t build that history or take it with you. Like me, for instance, in total I’ve been at Spurs for 40 years, from the age of 12 to the age of 52 today; 40 years. I walk out at White Hart Lane today and I get a lump in my throat and my eyes well up because this is where I’ve spent 40 years of my life, at White Hart Lane.
I see the pictures around the ground, I see the ground itself and I look at spots and think ‘that’s where I curled that one into the top corner’ and I see To Dare is To Do and football is about the glory and it brings back so many incredible memories and with each passing year the memories shine brighter and brighter and they mean more because you know that I might not be around to see all this again one day. It’s so magical.
But, when they go to East London and I walk over to East London, what does that mean to me? Or what does that mean to Glenn Hoddle or Ossie Ardiles? It’s just an empty shell with no history. It will mean something to the new kids coming through for them to make their history there. But it takes 100 years to create that history, but until then it’s like a haunted site. So many lost memories rather than memories and I always feel sad when there is talk of moving venue. Redevelop your own, we’ve got planning permission; make it the most wonderful stadium that it can be so that families, players, coaches and managers can walk back into that ground and still feel the same buzz and memories.
TTLAB: Final question, although we suspect what the answer will be, if you could sign any player for Spurs at the moment, who would it be and why?
MH: I don’t think there is any debate; I would sign Lionel Messi. He reminds me so much of me (laughs) he dribbles the way I used to dribble, expect he was a bit quicker than me, he has great vision, which I had, he’s a genius and he scores goals like no other player in the world. He scores every single type of goal you could imagine; he’s small but incredibly brave. He’s just pure, pure genius and possibly the greatest player I have ever had the pleasure of watching.
But I wouldn’t mind signing the Barcelona team either; that one would excite me a lot! But Lionel Messi without any shadow of a doubt because he is potentially the greatest football that I have ever seen. Lionel is the man.
A big thanks to Micky for his time on Thursday afternoon.