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Ossie's dream: Spurs can get into the top four

It would be easy to suggest the euphoria surrounding Tottenham's sparkling start to the season will soon be exposed as yet another of those false dawns the club have specialised in down the years, yet White Hart Lane legend Ossie Ardiles begs to differ. For the first time in Premier League history, league leaders Spurs secured a hat-trick of wins to start a new campaign as they beat West Ham in front of the ESPN cameras on Sunday, forcing bookmakers to slash the odds on Harry Redknapp's men emerging as improbable title contenders. Such lofty ambition is unlikely to be backed up by a genuine push for top spot over the long haul, yet Ardiles believes the pool of players Redknapp has built is good enough to achieve the ambition the club have tried and failed to attain for the best part of a decade. Few clubs have come closer than Tottenham to shattering the dominance of the "top four" in the Premier League over recent years, with their infamous food poisoning episode back in 2006 downing several star names and denying them a chance to edge local rivals Arsenal out of a Champions League position on the final day of the 2005-6 season. Now Tottenham are talking up their top four chances again and after a summer when Manchester City stole all the headlines as they set out on a mission to unsettle the established Premier League giants, Ardiles suggests his old club will emerge as dark horses to steal their thunder to snatch a prized top four position. Speaking exclusively to ESPN Soccernet, the former Tottenham manager claims the depth of talent at Redknapp's disposal is the primary reason why he has a chance to sustain a challenge over the course of a long campaign. "Tottenham can get into the top four this season, without any doubt," begins the little Argentine maestro who briefly managed Spurs in the mid-1990s. "Their performances in the first three games of the season have confirmed their incredible potential, but talk of a challenge for the title is premature. You can only say that if they are still top of the table at Christmas. "Harry inherited a very difficult situation with the club at the bottom of the league less than a year ago, so his achievement is already amazing. He has assembled a powerful squad that doesn't have too many weaknesses and has excellent attacking options. He is well placed to move the club onto the next level. "I was at White Hart Lane to watch the Liverpool game on the opening weekend and Tottenham were the better side by some distance. Against a team that so nearly won the Premier League last season, it was a very impressive performance. "Harry has put the smile back on the face of the club again. For too long they were worried about their weaknesses and now they are thinking more about the positives. I am so pleased to see Tottenham doing well." There certainly seems to be more substance to this Tottenham awakening than previous prematurely-hyped false dawns, with more than a little evidence to suggest they will prove to be more than a brief visitors to the top four position this time. Redknapp's four man strike-force has a proven record of scoring goals at Premier League level and he has managed to wrap his first three wins of the season without the need to call upon the talents of summer capture Peter Crouch for anything more than cameo appearances. The energy of a midfield featuring the combative and creative talents of Wilson Palacios, Tom Huddlestone, Luka Modric and Aaron Lennon gives Spurs a heartbeat they have often lacked, while they seem to have cut out defensive lapses that have cost them down the years, even in the absence of injured centre-backs Jonathan Woodgate and Michael Dawson. It adds up to an exciting prospect for Tottenham fans that reminds Ardiles of the attack-minded side he tried to mould at the club in the mid-1990s. "I received a lot of criticism in my time as Tottenham manager for playing too many forward players, but this is the way modern football has gone," he continues of a side that featured the likes of Jurgen Klinsmann, Teddy Sheringham and Nick Barmby. "If you have a lot of great players, why not play them all at once? There is a theory that every midfield needs to have a defensive player included, but I don't see Manchester United employing a guy who just sits there and tries to break up the play. "In an ideal world, you will have players who are defensively responsible and creative at the same time. This is what I see in this current Tottenham team and a guy like Palacios is a perfect example. There is a perception that he is a defensive player, but I see Palacios as an attacking talent who enjoys working hard for the team. He will score lots of goals for Tottenham. "Robbie Keane is another. I am a big admirer of Robbie and even though he is primarily a striker, he likes to put in work for the team and this is why he can be so important to the team. Maybe he can find a role as a wide player or behind the strikers as the season moves on." Mention the name of Ossie Ardiles to Tottenham fans of a particular age and they tend to go all starry-eyed and begin to reminisce about the glory days under Keith Burkinshaw in the early 1980s, when back-to-back FA Cup triumphs were complemented by a thrilling UEFA Cup victory in 1984. In a wider sense, Ardiles' impact on the English game was even more far reaching, with his arrival at Tottenham alongside fellow Argentine Ricky Villa awaking clubs to the reality that national boundaries didn't need to exist in an era when foreign players had previously been viewed with something of a suspicious eye. When Ardiles and Villa arrived in England after helping Argentina to World Cup glory on home soil in 1978, they were greeted like aliens landing from another planet and yet they went on to awaken the British game to the benefits of broadened horizons. "Ricky and I are very proud to have been among the first foreign players to play in England," adds 57-year-old Ardiles, who has just released a fascinating autobiography. "I think Tottenham were lucky to have us as it was a gamble for us to come here at a time when it was not the normal thing to do, but I'm very happy with the decision. More than 30 years later, I still live in Hertfordshire and England has been my home for many years now. "I have grown-up sons, I am a grandfather and even though my coaching career has taken me to some very interesting counries, England is the place I always come back to. Hopefully my working like in football in this country is not over just yet." It will always remain a point of great frustration to Ardiles that he failed to bring the glory, glory days back to the club he still pronounces as "Tottingham" during an eventful but ultimately unsuccessful spell as manager. However, such is the stellar nature of his legendary status that his place in the Spurs Hall of Fame was never under any serious threat. Time will tell whether Harry Redknapp or any of his current heroes have what it takes to join Ardiles as enduring White Hart Lane icons.

"Ossie's Dream, My Autobiography" is available in all good book shops now.


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