Gallas in baptism of fire
Former Arsenal skipper set to make Spurs debut with captain's armband
Published 11/09/2010 | 05:00
WILLIAM GALLAS is set to make his debut for Tottenham against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns today -- possibly as captain despite the risk of a backlash from supporters.
The former Arsenal player is in line for a call-up because Michael Dawson is injured and club captain Ledley King is likely to be rested ahead of next week's opening Champions League trip to Werder Bremen.
Gallas has not played a competitive match since the World Cup finals and he has featured in only one practice game since he moved on a free transfer from Tottenham's fiercest rivals last month.
Having missed France's Euro 2012 qualifying games to work on his fitness, he played 70 minutes against Queens Park Rangers on Tuesday. In 2007, Gallas was named Arsenal's captain, but lost the role during the 2008-09 season after criticising team-mates in an interview.
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has not disguised his admiration for the Frenchman, who rejected a new contract at Arsenal in the summer to become a free agent.
"William could easily become a mainstay here," Redknapp said. "People will say he played for Arsenal but you have to be strong as a person to do that (move from Arsenal to Spurs). He could have gone and played somewhere else, but it says so much about the boy that he is willing to put himself on the line. Arsenal and Chelsea were part of his past. You move forward."
Asked how much a player of Gallas' pedigree would have cost on the open market, Redknapp replied: "£8m or £10m, if you want a player who is a top centre-half to play in the Premier League. You have to pay that money, surely.
"I think he will be a great signing for us. He cost nothing and is not on silly money."
Redknapp must hope Gallas (31) has learned from his Arsenal experience. He lost the Arsenal armband in November 2008 after an interview in which he accused the club's youngsters of lacking the stomach to fight for the Premier League title. He claimed he had to separate arguing team-mates during half-time of a 4-4 draw against Tottenham and insisted an unnamed Arsenal player insulted him and several colleagues.
Nine months earlier he had staged a sit-down protest on the pitch after Arsenal threw away victory against Birmingham City.
Redknapp will make a late decision on whether to risk King today or save him for the game in Bremen on Tuesday. King's recurring knee injury means he will be unable to play both.
"It is a difficult one," Redknapp said. "If I play him Saturday I probably won't play him Tuesday. Both competitions are important to me, but we might just need Ledley's experience in an away game in Germany. If he plays on Tuesday he has an extra day and I might get him the following Saturday. It is a juggling act."
While Redknapp was considering the captaincy he received more bad news concerning injuries when it was confirmed that Jermain Defoe, expected to be missing for six weeks, had been ruled out for three months.
Tottenham's fears over the injury the striker suffered during England's European Championship qualifier in Switzerland on Tuesday were confirmed following consultation with a specialist.
Now Defoe, who scored a hat-trick against Bulgaria last week, could miss all of his club's Champions League group matches, as well as two England internationals.
Defoe was confident after Tuesday night's game that the injury which forced him to be carried off on a stretcher was not serious and that he could even be fit for the weekend. But he was on crutches at Spurs' training ground on Thursday with a protective boot on his right ankle and the problem is more serious than the injury suffered by Dawson during England's win over Bulgaria eight days ago.
In the absence of Defoe, Rafael van der Vaart is in contention to make his Tottenham debut in an advanced midfield role -- which could spell bad news for Robbie Keane -- as Redknapp juggles with a schedule of seven games in 22 days.
"The one thing I did learn, a lesson, was maybe I should've changed the team that played against Wigan (and lost 1-0 at home). We went to Stoke and had a great result on the Saturday, came back, won the Champions League qualifier with Young Boys. And then I really went with the same team, more or less, on the Saturday.
"Maybe I should've rested one or two and changed a few around, and it might have worked better for us."
Howard Webb takes charge at the Hawthorns -- his first match since the World Cup final, in which he sent off Holland's Johnny Heitinga.
Webb has made some poor decisions against Spurs in recent years but Redknapp insisted: "He's a top ref -- I just don't ever seem to have any luck with him." (© Daily Telegraph)