SINGAPORE — Tottenham Hotspur are flying high in the English Premier League (EPL): third on the table, level on points with champions Manchester City and just a point behind leaders Arsenal.
This Saturday (1 October), they might even have a chance at leapfrogging over the Gunners to become EPL leaders, should they beat their arch-rivals in a highly-anticipated North London derby at Emirates Stadium.
It will not be easy on Arsenal's home ground, but Spurs have looked a different animal under manager Antonio Conte: intense, resilient and ready to last the distance. It is a far cry from the Spurs sides of yesteryear, when they would entertainment the crowds but lack the mental edge to see out victories.
However, former Tottenham star Teddy Sheringham believes that, while Conte is the "perfect" manager for Spurs, they are still some ways off challenging for the EPL title.
"I think Conte is the perfect manager for Tottenham at the moment," said the 56-year-old, who was in Singapore over the weekend as a guest for the annual charity golf tournament and gala dinner of AIA, Tottenham's official sponsor.
"I like the discipline that is instilled among the team, There's also a lot of desire and commitment to the 100-per-cent focus and effort that that Conte demands. I like a lot of what I'm seeing at the moment, and long may it continue."
'Spurs will be a lot closer to the top this season'
Conte took over Tottenham about one-third into the 2021/22 EPL season, following a string of poor results from his predecessor Nuno Espirito Santo. The Italian, who won the league title with Chelsea in 2017, immediately lifted the team with his trademark intensity and tactical acumen, as Spurs rose from mid-table to finish fourth last season.
This pre-season, Conte's demands on his team were laid bare during pre-season, when video clips circulated of players like Harry Kane and Son Heung-min vomiting and collapsing in exhaustion during training. But early results have been encouraging as they stayed unbeaten after seven matches in the EPL.
"I don't think they'll win the league by any stretch, Man City and Liverpool will be too consistent over the course of the season," said Sheringham, who scored 124 goals in 277 games for Spurs over two spells (1992 to 1997, 2001 to 2003) and had a trophy-laden stint with Manchester United in between those spells.
"But the points are on the board, so they will be a lot closer than where they were last season. And that's all you can ask for, progress within the football club."
But will Conte, who has a reputation of wearing out his players - and himself - with his all-out intensity, be able to last longer at Tottenham than the two-, three-year tenures at his previous clubs?
"If the club keep moving forward, who knows?" said Sheringham, before adding with a sly grin. "He's in charge of the best club in London, has the best home stadium in England, why would he look anywhere else?"
Any secrets to his long career?
With the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo attempting to play on at an elite level even as they reach their late thirties, it is easy to forget that Sheringham was one of the leading lights in carving out a long and successful career at the top of his game.
He still holds the record for the oldest outfield player to appear in an EPL match (40 years, 272 days) and the oldest player to score in an EPL match (40 years, 268 days), after scoring for West Ham in 2006. He also earned 51 caps for England, and was picked by then-coach Sven-Goran Eriksson for the 2002 World Cup when he was 36.
Is there any secret to his longevity?
Sheringham smiled with a shrug and said, "I'm just very lucky I had good genes. My dad was very skinny, very lean, and he played his sport until he was 77. I think I've just followed him; there's no big secret about what I've done."
The AIA Charity Golf event and gala dinner raised more than $370,000 for the AlA Better Lives Fund, which benefits children, youths, and their families from AIA’s adopted charities Children's Wishing Well and VIVA Foundation for Children with Cancer; and the Garden City Fund, which supports efforts in optimising green spaces in Singapore and creating a sustainable future for generations to come.
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