Spurs handed chance to dine at top table
Having finally achieved the goal of Champions League football, or at least the right to try and qualify for it, Tottenham have been presented with the opportunity to establish themselves among the Premier League's elite.
While the early years of ENIC's ownership of the club, under the control of chairman Daniel Levy, were characterised by an astounding turnover of players and a significant outlay in the transfer market, this summer could be perceived as one of inertia.
Manager Harry Redknapp may change that perception over the next three weeks, especially after being drawn against Swiss minnows Young Boys in the play-off round of the Champions League. Spurs avoided the obvious banana skins of Braga and Dynamo Kiev, and a failure to make the group stage now would be a disaster.
Such a favourable draw enables Redknapp, who had said he would have to rely on loan signings for reinforcements this month, to widen his scope for new faces. Perhaps the riches of the Champions League may see him revisit former targets, given that he will have the best part of a week following the second leg against Young Boys to welcome some new arrivals to White Hart Lane.
Ashley Young, James Milner, Loic Remy, Craig Bellamy, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Jean Makoun, Alexander Hleb, Yannick Djalo and Scott Parker, among others, have been linked with big-money moves to the club.
Tottenham have a young and promising squad, but the challenge that lies ahead is one most have never experienced in the past.
The only new signing thus far is Sandro, who agreed to join the club at the start of the year in a deal worth around £6 million, but he will not arrive in England until after Internacional's two-legged Copa Libertadores final against Guadalajara in completed on August 18.
Primarily a defensive midfielder, it is difficult to see just how the 21-year-old, who has one full Brazil cap, is going to force his way into the side ahead of the likes of Wilson Palacios and Tom Huddlestone.
Last summer Redknapp brought in five new players by the time the transfer window closed. Peter Crouch, Niko Kranjcar and Sebastien Bassong arrived as definitive first team players. The Kyles Naughton and Walker also moved from Sheffield United but as players for the future, making just three appearances between them and farmed out on loan back to the Championship.
With the clear and present danger of Manchester City looming large, Spurs need to make sure they not only stay ahead of their rivals but take the opportunity to progress. Now is the time to use that new-found profile on the European stage.
Redknapp claims to be looking at an outlay of "£8 million or £9 million for three players" signed on loan from clubs desperate to trim the wage bill. While there is certainly not the same level of cash in the transfer market this summer, Spurs are one of those clubs in a unique position to take advantage of the situation.
Bidding for West Ham's Parker, who turns 30 in October, does not give the impression of forward thinking.
Spending just one campaign in the Champions League would be somewhat anti-climactic for Spurs, especially if they find City have usurped them in the Premier League.
Last season brought Spurs a fourth-place Premier League finish and an FA Cup semi-final, though both were achieved without having the distractions of European football. That Redknapp seems prepared to try and replicate that success with the same squad, despite the added rigours of either Champions League or Europa League action, seems folly.
Heurelho Gomes has emerged as a quality goalkeeper, shedding the perceptions of calamity from when Redknapp took over just short of two years ago. Though Carlo Cudicini is fit again, the likely addition of Stipe Pletikosa will add extra cover.
Questions must be raised about Spurs' strength at full-back. While Benoit Assou-Ekotto may have made the left-back berth his own, there is no such certainly over the right-hand side with Vedran Corluka, Younes Kaboul and the back-from-loan Alan Hutton as options. It could be that Walker and Naughton make the step up having featured during pre-season but there remains a feeling that they may go elsewhere.
Ledley King and Michael Dawson make up one of the strongest central defensive pairings in the division, but Spurs will have to rely on Bassong, Kaboul and Corluka to step in with King's fitness problems. With Jonathan Woodgate seemingly closer to retirement than a return, Spurs may be short in central defence if any crisis develops.
Gareth Bale's new-found home as a left winger has allowed Redknapp to forget about a position which only in January was troublesome, and it may have been the Welshman's form which meant Spurs did not push the boat out to try to keep Joe Cole in London. With David Bentley, Kranjcar, Aaron Lennon, Luka Modric and Jamie O'Hara able to add creativity to the midfield, Spurs should not be short of goalscoring opportunities.
Spurs have another player returning from loan as a "new signing", but it could yet be that Robbie Keane moves on as part of the club's end-of-window dealings. Twelve goals in 15 starts for Celtic in the SPL is no less than a striker like Keane should have expected but he has never really looked at home after returning to White Hart Lane from Liverpool in January 2009.
With neither Peter Crouch nor Roman Pavlyuchenko reaching double figures in Premier League goals last season, much of the weight of expectation was on the shoulders of Jermain Defoe. He obliged by netting 18 top flight goals, but only four of those came after the turn of the year, meaning Defoe will need to rediscover his scoring touch.
Crouch, like Keane, may yet leave the club with Nice striker Remy interested in a move to the club.
Keeping hold of a top-four slot without any notable additions before the end of August looks an impossible task with the added workload and the strengthening from rivals. With Manchester City and Liverpool waiting to press for the top four, Spurs could find their foray into the Champions League a one-season wonder.