Ramos is making his mark at Tottenham
By Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
If you support or play for a team not named Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool or Manchester United, then the chances of your club finishing in the top four of the English Premier League are not good.
However, Tottenham manager Juande Ramos has folks around White Hart Lane believing that this could be their year to finally rub elbows with England's elite as a top-four side, despite finishing in 11th place last season.
Tottenham appeared on the verge of competing in the top tier prior to last season, ending both the 2005-06 and 2006-07 campaigns in fifth place. Spurs were a team that entered last year poised for a breakthrough, however things did not quite go according to plan, as the club opened the season with just one win in its first 11 league fixtures under former manager Martin Jol.
The boss was then let go at the end of October, and Ramos was hired away from Spanish side Sevilla to rescue a team whose high hopes had been dashed.
Ramos inherited a side that was stuck in the bottom three of the standings, and one that had lost its confidence. However, he quickly reversed the club's fortunes by leading them to four wins in five games in the month of December, helping to salvage a sinking ship.
He even brought the first trophy to White Hart Lane since 1999 in February, as Spurs stunned London rivals Chelsea in the final of the Carling Cup.
Now, when Tottenham opens its season at The Riverside Stadium against Middlesbrough on August 16, those lofty expectations will return thanks to a busy summer that has seen Ramos put his stamp on the team.
Juande Ramos has replaced veteran players with an infusion of exciting young talent.
The manager unloaded veterans such as goalkeeper Paul Robinson, defender Pascal Chimbonda, and midfielders Steed Malbranque and Teemu Tainio. He unwillingly lost striker Robbie Keane and his 15 goals from last season to Liverpool, but has replaced those players with an infusion of exciting young talent that figures to keep Spurs in contention for years to come.
The transformation process began in January, when Ramos beefed up a weak back line by signing defenders Alan Hutton and Jonathan Woodgate, but he made the most of the summer transfer period by bringing in a trio of future stars to fortify the offense.
Luka Modric, David Bentley and Giovani dos Santos were each brought to London over the summer, along with former PSV Eindhoven goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.
The 27-year-old Gomes will replace Robinson between the posts, while the other three players will be expected to join Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon to form an exciting young nucleus.
All five players have yet to celebrate their 24th birthday, so this season will provide a glimpse of the good things to come for Spurs in the near future.
Tottenham has been a club that is not shy about bringing in players during the transfer period, but with Ramos in charge, the club is now even more attractive to talented youngsters, a notion that Bentley confirmed upon his arrival from Blackburn.
"This is a great environment to work in," said Bentley. "Juande Ramos has been there and done it and I have great respect for him.
"I have seen what he has done with the other players. I talked to the lads before I came here and they said he's great. It's hard work, but that's what I want. I want to work hard and enjoy myself and Juande can develop my game and push me on to the next level."
The presence of Ramos - who won two straight UEFA Cup titles at Sevilla before arriving at Tottenham - was also a big reason why the 22-year-old Modric chose Spurs over a number of other top English sides.
"It was not a difficult decision," said Modric. "It is right that many clubs in England were interested in taking me, but my favorite from the first meeting was Tottenham because I am a big fan of coach Ramos."
While the manager has done a great job in revamping his team, the process might not yet be complete. Tottenham is in talks with Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg about landing winger Andrei Arshavin, who would be one of the biggest catches of the summer in Europe.
The 27-year-old Arshavin burst onto the scene this past year as he helped Zenit win the UEFA Cup while also starring for Russia at Euro 2008. If Tottenham is able to meet Zenit's asking price, then Ramos would have another dangerous offensive option at his disposal, which was not the case at this time last season.
The club may still lose star striker Dimitar Berbatov and his 15 goals from last year to another team, but striker Darren Bent has been impressive so far this preseason and it would take a lot to dampen the spirits of this new-look side.
"I want to play for Tottenham in international football - Champions League or UEFA Cup games," said Modric upon his arrival at Tottenham. "I want to achieve big things with the club and be in the top group of teams in the Premier League."
Ramos has only been at Tottenham for eight months, but judging by statements like that one, it is clear that he has made his mark.
Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United might have company.