x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Wanted feeling at Tottenham spurs Adebayor on

After surviving a harrowing attack by armed militants in 2010 and being ostracised by Manchester City, the Togo striker has plenty to smile about at Tottenham.

Shortly before the kick off at Tottenham Hotspur's match against Chelsea last Thursday, the Spurs players gathered in a circle, heads slightly bowed.

It was the kind of ritual sports teams perform more and more often, but the striking thing as television cameras closed in on the huddle was the identity of the man who seemed to be leading whatever motivational words or chants might be echoing around this little cavern of athletes.

Part of the success of Spurs this season has been ascribed to good leadership. Harry Redknapp is a popular manager among players, a man who likes fluent football and who talks of liberating his men. But Redknapp is not part of the pre-kick-off huddle.

Scott Parker has brought maturity and poise to the centre of midfield and to the dressing room. But it was not Parker's back that could be seen moving energetically, arms waving in the gee-ups.

Nor was it Ledley King, the club captain. Nor William Gallas, the experienced centre-half. The man most animated, as the camera closed in, seemed to be the tall Emmanuel Adebayor, his arched back swaying in time with the vivid movements of his gloved hands. Whatever was being said or sung in the circle is Spurs' secret. What was clear is that their centre-forward does not behave like a shy newcomer among his colleagues.

Adebayor is a footballer who has done his share of alienating teammates and supporters, yet he probably deserves to look ahead and hope that the coming year will bring happier fortunes than the last two have.

In January 2010, he suffered a horrific experience, on board a bus that was taking the Togo national squad he captained into the Angolan enclave of Cabinda from their pre-Africa Cup of Nations preparation base in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo. Armed gunmen from a Cabinda separatist organisation opened fire on the bus, killing three passengers.

In early January 2011, he was involved in a practice-ground fight with his then Manchester City teammate Kolo Toure. Adebayor felt professionally frustrated at that stage, increasingly marginalised at a City expanding their squad, particularly in the attacking positions.

He was entitled to feel that events had curtailed his progress; he had scored at more than a goal-every-two-games pace in league and European football for City. But Roberto Mancini replaced Mark Hughes as manager, and Mario Balotelli and then Edin Dzeko joined the club.

What Adebayor could not expect was wide sympathy from neutrals. He had aggressively pushed to join City, and raise his salary, while at Arsenal; when he played for City against Arsenal, he behaved provocatively towards fans of his former club and was accused of deliberately trying to injure his former strike partner Robin van Persie in a tackle.

That petulant, troublemaker streak has been a theme of Adebayor's career.

He fell out badly with the coach of Togo, Stephen Keshi, around the time of his 2006 transfer from Monaco to Arsenal. "He needs to grow up, he's a crybaby," Keshi said as Adebayor refused to turn out for his country. He was only 21 at the time.

He certainly grew up as a finisher at Arsenal, adding to a repertoire that included good ability in the air, skill at holding the ball and turning a defender, as well as a great improvement in his shooting accuracy. Tottenham supporters felt it badly. One effort for Arsenal in a 2007/08 north London derby was voted Goal of the Season in England.

The future Spur would make himself known to Tottenham as a devastating opponent again and again. After he moved on loan to Real Madrid from City 11 months ago, he scored twice in a Champions League quarter-final against Spurs.

Adebayor contributed goals regularly to Real's intense, but vain, chase for the Spanish Liga title, though early in the summer of this year it had become clear that the club would not be pursuing a permanent deal for him. Again, he seemed marginalised.

Enter Redknapp, who urged his Spurs paymasters to take the Togolese on loan from City. "The move has given me my life back," Adebayor told reporters.

Adebayor, 27, has a beaming smile and he is displaying it often. He broke into one just eight minutes after he had led the huddlers through their motivational rituals against Chelsea.

Gareth Bale had zipped down the left flank, arrowed in a low cross and Adebayor had let John Terry, who was marking him, take a pace closer to the direction of the cross. Cleverly, the striker had made himself some room nearer the far post. But he still had work to do to reach Bale's centre ahead of the advancing Peter Cech. Then the pure finisher's instinct took over. With a determined dart towards the cross Adebayor got his toe to the ball before Cech, and put Tottenham 1-0 up. It was his ninth goal from 14 outings so far for Spurs.

 

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