Martin Cloake, journalist and author of 61: The Spurs Double; The Glory Glory Nights and The Boys from White Hart Lane gives his thoughts on where the current Tottenham full-backs rank against their predecessors. His latest ebook, Sound of the crowd, has just been released.
Full-backs get a hard time at Spurs. There’s been a fierce debate going on for a couple of seasons near where I sit on match days about whether Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Walker are up to the mark. Earlier this week, the Daily Mirror’s Martin Lipton referred to the “scapegoating of left-backs who did not live up to the legacy of Cyril Knowles”.
That got me thinking about the full-backs I’ve seen since I started watching Spurs live in 1978. I’ve always thought Walker and Benny were pretty decent, if not perfect (who is?). But am I just easily pleased? I tried to list the full backs I’ve seen in action, so I could work out where Walker and Benny sit on that list. So here’s that list. I think I’ve got everyone, although I’m sure there will be plenty of readers willing to highlight any I’ve missed. I’ve tried to keep it to players who were full-backs, rather than players who have been drafted into the position temporarily.
Van Den Hauwe
Of that list, I rate Hughton and Perryman highest. That’s possibly for nostalgic reasons, but I reckon there’s a strong case for two fine players there. The only other player who really gets up there with them is Carr, whose consistency over a number of seasons combines with his obvious abilities as a defender and going forward – the classic Tottenham full-back – to secure a high rating.
After that are a group of players who looked good for a while, but eventually faded away. Corluka and Lee Young-Pyo could consider that judgement harsh, and they were decent full backs who put in some substantial time for Spurs. I’d put them, along with Van Den Hauwe, at the top of this little sub group. They would be ahead of Stalteri – whose late, late winner against West Ham at Upton Park in 2007 ensures his place in our affections – Hutton and Chimbonda. Bringing up the rear of that group would be Mitchell Thomas and Dean Austin, who briefly threatened to become cult stars for positive reasons, before becoming cult stars for all the wrong reasons.
Somewhere in among that lot would have to be Taricco and Edinburgh. Both were around for some time and really did their bit for the club. Both were also more than capable of mistakes and of playing ugly.
Ziege was a player of great class, but was bought as a wing-back as Glenn Hoddle attempted to show football that 3-5-2 was the way to go. He adapted as a full-back, and gave us some great moments – that stunning free-kick against Arsenal in 2002 the best of them – but ultimately suffered as Hoddle’s tenure crumbled.
The rest of the list is fairly uninspiring. So I think it’s pretty fair to say that Walker, Benny, Rose and Naughton would sit pretty near the top of the list. Naughton suffers from being played too often on his wrong side but it’s difficult to see him developing into one of the greats. Rose looks promising but, again, seems to have limits. So Benny and Walker, in my opinion, sit in nicely behind Hughton, Perryman and Carr as two of the best full-backs we’ve had in the last 30 years.
It does, of course, raise the question of why we’ve loaned Benny out, but next time the debate about why ‘our full backs aren’t good enough’ comes up, it’s worth remembering what’s gone before.
Martin Cloake has been following Spurs since 1970 and is the author of a number of books on the club, including the award-winning 61: The Spurs Double; The Glory Glory Nights and The Boys from White Hart Lane. His latest ebook, Sound of the crowd, has just been released. Adam Powley’s ebook Glenn Hoddle costs £2.68.