It hasn’t been the best of times for Spurs. They are struggling on both ends of the ball, with a continued failure to put balls in the net combined with a defense that has seemed to stagnate from the stout defensive performances of last season. Tottenham have lost four of their last five league matches, and while they’ve scored 11 goals this season, eight of them have come in just one match — an 8-0 blowout of hapless Brighton on October 30. Spurs are currently languishing in eight place, three points behind both Villa and Everton.
The injuries have also piled up — Kit Graham, Ria Percival, Ellie Brazil are all still out long term, Jessica Naz hasn’t been seen in training lately, and summer midfield signing Ramona Petzelberger has barely featured for still undisclosed reasons. Spurs are short handed, underperforming, and struggling to replicate the results that kept them in the hunt for a Champions League qualification spot for much of last season.
But what they do have now is a big shot in the arm — the signing of former Chelsea star and England international striker Beth England. It’s a massive statement of intent, and hopefully she isn’t the last of Tottenham’s mid-season reinforcements. Manager Rehanne Skinner held a press conference ahead of the Villa match and talked about what an important signing England’s England will be for Spurs.
“Beth’s someone that we identified quite a while ago and we’ve been working hard to try to make that happen. For us it’s about the right fit and Beth is definitely that for Tottenham in terms of her values and ours. She’s a top player in terms of her minutes on the pitch and goals scored from the time that she’s been on the pitch.
“It’s incredibly high and she’s got a lot of experience. She’s shown that she can score in this league so for us it’s a massive asset and an area that we’ve always wanted to strengthen since I’ve been here. It’s building blocks that we’re putting in place and it’s the right time. We’ve got the right person for the job. She needs to get match minutes and some time under her belt. That’s definitely something we want to try to work with her on.
“In terms of the quality and what she’s going to bring to the side, they’re undoubtedly going to benefit what we’re trying to achieve. It’s up to us and her to work together so that we can keep evolving that so she’s in the right place at the right time and we make the most of her performances when we can.”
It’s a huge signing for Tottenham, but Skinner did pour some cold water on reports that said that her transfer was an intra-WSL record fee.
“Don’t believe everything you read. In terms of the figure being exaggerated, the number that was the previous historic record isn’t accurate either, but you pay for what you get. There was a transfer fee that needed to be paid and, as a Club, we’re trying to evolve the team and it’s important that you pay those fees when you need to to get the right people in the door. As a footballer and a person, she’s going to add huge value to our team.”
Spurs are hoping England can hit the ground running, but they’re up against an Aston Villa team that has bounced up the standings this season and have made some shrewd midseason signings of their own. Villa have added two quality players already this window, with England regulars Jordan Nobbs and Lucy Staniforth coming in to play with Rachel Daly and Jill Scott who joined this summer.
Spurs are also without Ashleigh Neville, who is suspended after picking up a straight red card in Spurs’ 3-0 loss to Everton on December 14, and Skinner also said that midfielders Graham and Percival, who recently returned to training, won’t be back yet this month.
“Kit’s progressing really well. She’s back in the biggest chunks of training, some bits not quite, but she’s back training with the group now for the most part, so that’s a fantastic place to be in. We’re getting to the end stages of her being closer to the pitch now, which is great. In terms of Ria, she’s progressing really well as well, probably quicker than what we expected actually.
“The pair of them have worked incredibly hard and the medical and performance staff have done a great job in getting them back to a good place. Over the course of the next few months, we’ll see what that looks like. There’s no pressure on them to be back right now. We know it’s going to take time, but ultimately if we can get them both back into the team this season, I’d be delighted.”
So the challenges for Spurs will be staying solid at the back and trying to get service to England while keeping Villa’s England national team players quiet. It won’t be easy, but there’s hope — Drew Spence is a former teammate of England and is familiar with her and her game; Spurs will be hoping that familiarity will lead to chances against a Villa side that is showing some real ambition. If Spurs can stay tidy at the back, there’s an opportunity for a clinical finisher like England to make a real impact.
A win over Villa would be a massive confidence boost for a Spurs team that pretty desperately needs one. The match is not televised, but will be streamed on The FA Player.