Loyal Michael Dawson will be missed at Tottenham as he leaves for Hull
There's little place for sentiment in modern football. Deals are made, form drops, players get old and teams move on. It's no different to any other business. There are times, though, when a little sentiment wouldn't go amiss. Thursday is one such moment.
How lovely would it have been if Michael Dawson's move to Hull could have been put back a few days so that he could have had one last outing at White Hart Lane -- a chance for him and the fans to say goodbye to one another properly. It was never going to happen, though. Money always talks loudest, and Hull wouldn't want their new player cup-tied for a competition in which they still have an interest. But it's still a shame.
Pundits often talk about players having been "a great servant to the club." I loathe the expression, with its feudal overtones. What Dawson has been, though, is utterly loyal and committed to Spurs for the best part of a decade; a player who never gave up on any lost cause. There haven't been too many of that sort at White Hart Lane in recent years. His passion and enthusiasm will be much missed.
It's true his form dipped badly last season; at times his lack of pace made him a liability. It's also true that the move to Hull is in the interests of everyone concerned. Dawson wants to play first-team football and he isn't likely to get it at Spurs. Jan Vertonghen, Eric Dier, Younes Kaboul, Vlad Chiriches and brand-new signing Federico Fazio from Sevilla are all well ahead of him in the pecking order. At Hull, Dawson should be in the starting XI, so everyone at White Hart Lane should wish him well.
That said, the return leg against AEL Limassol presents Spurs with a few selection dilemmas. The 2-1 advantage from the away tie doesn't make qualification a formality; if Spurs concede an early goal, the match becomes a very different proposition. Tempting as it must be, therefore, to rest key players ahead of Sunday's big Premier League clash against Liverpool, Mauricio Pochettino won't want to take anything for granted.
Some changes are almost inevitable, though. Emmanuel Adebayor is bound to be given a breather, which means that with Roberto Soldado injured, Harry Kane should get a start up front. Should he get injured or Spurs need some extra firepower late in the game, presumably Pochettino will have to use an extra attacking midfielder instead. Bringing on Adebayor would be a high-risk strategy given Spurs' limited striking options and the Liverpool game to follow.
In defence, Kyle Naughton and Ben Davies should get a chance at full-back, while Chiriches returns from injury in the centre. Vertonghen will probably complete the defensive quartet. There were newspaper rumours that Pochettino was planning to sell both Lewis Holtby and Andros Townsend; the manager has since denied this and it wouldn't be a surprise were either to feature in the starting XI. Townsend, in particular, looked exceptionally lively when he came on as substitute against West Ham and many fans would be disappointed were he to be moved on. If Spurs are to lose a winger, the more logical choice would be Aaron Lennon, who looks out of sorts and out of pace.
For one player, though, the game may represent something of a last chance saloon: Paulinho needs to impress. He had a poor first season for Spurs, a terrible World Cup for Brazil, and against Limassol in the first leg -- his only game this season -- he looked lethargic and unfocused. It's time for him to show some skill and desire, otherwise he may find it increasingly hard to even make the subs' bench.
The London Cypriot community will make sure of a noisy night at White Hart Lane, but Spurs should still have more than enough to see off Limassol. A comfortable win would be just what the manager ordered.