Clive Allen Interview: Sterling, Haaland, Conte, Kane & More…
Before the start of the season we sat down with Tottenham legend Clive Allen in a bit to determine how his former clubs will fair this coming campaign and to find out if there’s a chance anyone can ever beat his tally of 50 goals in a single season.
What have you made of the impact Antonio Conte has had at Tottenham so far?
He was brought in to do what he did and that was Champions League qualification. That was vital in terms of finances and how the club was geared up. He achieved that brilliantly at the end of last season, as it wore on you saw the impact he was having on the team and the results accordingly were the right ones. It was very positive and hopefully, they can take that into the start of the new season.
What have you made of Spurs’ transfer window business so far, with the six new players they have brought in? Do you think there is still more to be done?
There’s the possibility of more additions but what is surprising is that they have done their business so early, which is not the norm at Spurs, it’s normally late. Fans waiting for new players but Antonio has identified the areas he needed to strengthen and he’s certainly done that with the signings he’s made.
Defensively Lenglet coming in, I think that Bissuma in the midfield gives them another dimension as well. We’ve added firepower with Richarlirson who will compliment Kane, Son and Kulesvski who was brilliant at the end of last season.
So in all departments, they are just about covered and that’s really positive. Djed Spence at wing-back is a fantastic addition.
Do you think it might take Djed Spence a while to settle in the Premier League?
I think he will be integrated in time. Emerson Royal at the end of last season started to show some quality. So Djed will be in competition with him. Again there is competition for places in every department which is going to be vital for the success of the team.
Marc Guehi has found success at Crystal Palace and been linked with a move to Spurs, being a player the club love. Do you think it could be a move that would benefit the young defender, whether that be a surprise move this summer or one for the future?
Yeah possibly one for the future, he’s done really well and taken his chance. He had to leave and go to Palace to establish himself as a Premier League player and he took the opportunity really well under the guidance of Patrick Viera he’s developed well.
I think Palace are a really interesting and entertaining side. Arsenal will find that this evening. Guehi has done well, he’s had a taste of international football as well.
So his progress will be watched by a lot of clubs. Should Spurs need another centre-half, which I don’t think is a necessity at the moment but possibly in the January window if he has a good start to the season.
Last season, Tottenham finished three points behind Chelsea. Based on how they both finished and their summer business so far, who do you think is more likely to be battling the likes of Liverpool and Man City for the title?
That’s interesting because Chelsea has been in turmoil during the back end of the season because of the ownership situation. Now the club has been sold you would think that it will settle and the attention will turn to the new players.
They have had to address the defensive situation with Rudiger and Christensen going out. So Koulibaly coming in, I think he’s been tracked by lots of clubs over a period of time. He now gets his chance to play in the Premier League, it won’t be easy.
For me, they are in a transition with Sterling arriving. I’m not fully convinced by Chelsea in the forward areas in terms of goals. Lukaku has left, could it be Broja who comes back from his loan.
It might take him a while to settle, so there’s a lot of uncertainty about Chelsea. That’s why I see Spurs along with Arsenal as the best contenders for third spot this season.
Do you think the addition of Raheem Sterling will help Chelsea close the gap to Liverpool and Man City?
I think it was needed. Lukaku has gone out, Werner hasn’t scored the goals that they would have hoped. Havertz has had to play on the front line which perhaps isn’t his best position as a leader of the line. So Sterling comes with great experience, a wealth of knowledge in winning the Premier League. He is going to be a vital component for Chelsea this season.
Do you think Chelsea still need to sign another striker before the window closes?
I think there might well be another forward coming in. There’s recent speculation about Aubameyang coming back to London, perhaps to Chelsea. He worked with Tuchel at Dortmund years ago so he knows of him.
We all know his quality, he’s gone out to Barca and scored goals there. He would have no fear of coming back to London and working with Tuchel, so that could be a big surprise transfer at the end of the window. I wouldn’t put it past Chelsea doing something like that.
Do you think Chelsea’s defensive situation could be a concern for them this season, after letting both Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen go?
It could cause them problems if they don’t get off to a good start. Because it’s a newly assembled defence you wonder what start they will have. We have to watch this space with Chelsea this season.
Moving on to another of your former clubs, West Ham reached the semi-final of the Europa League last season. They will have to qualify for the Europa Conference League this season, but could you see them finding success in Europe again this season?
I think the whole experience was fantastic for the club. I witnessed them beating Sevilla and going on to beat Lyon. They were fantastic performances that really bolstered their whole season. They had a good run in the Premier League. The big addition this year will be Scamacca, the centre forward from Italy. I think he’s a young talented striker and it will be interesting to see how he adapts to the Premier League.
But in Jarrod Bowen they had a top-class performer last year, Declan Rice is still there which is vital. West Ham will start the campaign very confident about being in and around the top six.
Could this be the year Spurs end their trophy drought?
I do hope so, it’s been a long time coming. Going into this campaign they are as well equipped as they have been in many years. They have strength in depth, the Champions League campaign is difficult, they know that from previous experience. I think they will feel very confident about winning some silverware this season.
Finally, bringing it back to Tottenham and a player in a position you know very well. Harry Kane had a good last season and has done well in pre-season. What did you make of him last season and what have you made of the continued transfer talk surrounding him?
That’s always going to be the case with Harry Kane, the England Captain, the goals scorer and footballer that he is. I think the way he played last year with the goals and assists he had with Son, shows what a remarkable player that he is. He’s a top-class professional and he showed that last season.
This summer there’s been a little speculation but nothing compared to last year. But I have no doubt that he will hit the ground running and score goals which he’s consistently done for the last 8 years or so.
You can’t have anything but admiration for the way he goes about his business. He’ll be looking to be on at least 20 goals by the end of the season.
How do you think Antonio Conte will use Richarlison?
It’s an interesting conundrum for Conte, I think he will play with Kane at times whether it be a deeper position or even playing as the nine and Harry player a more withdrawn role which we know he can do.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Kane, Son, Richarlison and Kulusevski all lined up together at times. The opportunity for Conte is to pick combinations that suit particular games that are coming in Europe or the Premier League. The options are limitless and that bodes well for the season.
There’s a lot of buzz around Tottenham this season. What do you think is realistically possible for them? Could they challenge for the title and / or the Champions League?
I have no doubt the intention will be to challenge the leaders and be around those positions. Man City and Liverpool are still the top two, I can’t see past them being 1 and 2 come the end of the season.
But the quality Spurs have added, the confidence they will have gained from last season’s finish and the chance to play Champions League football again will give them a great incentive.
The way they have strengthened I think signals a great intent to go on all fronts and try to win as much as possible if they can. The Premier League has eluded them for too long so it would be nice to see them amongst the leaders.
However, is there a risk that it could all go wrong with Antonio Conte? He might be one of the world’s best managers, but he’s prone to a meltdown if things don’t go his way.
I think this season will be massive for him and Spurs. The business they have done indicated they are looking to make a big impact. That is the way he works, he wants to build a team for now and that’s exactly what he’s done. He also has the squad to back up the first 11 so I think the clear intention that Daniel Levy is backing Conte and what he wants to do.
Harry Kane’s goals will be crucial if Spurs are to have a good season. Is he still the best out-and-out striker in the Premier League following the arrival of Erling Haaland?
Absolutely, you look at his record, he did only score 17 last year which by his standards is disappointing but look at the assist and the combination with Son, which is the best in the Premier League for me. So that pair in tandem and the backup in place, Harry will get chances and when that happens he scores goals. So no doubt for me that he’s the best Premier League striker going into the season.
Should he [Kane] now be considered a Tottenham great? Or does he need to win something to be in the same conversation as Jimmy Greaves et al?
There’s no doubt, he’s a Spurs legend. He will go down in history, he’s been at the club since he was a kid and come up through the ranks. He’s done everything he could possibly do individually. He would love to add trophies and I have no doubt that is what he’s striving for.
Kane looks settled and happy after last summer’s issues. Can you see him finishing his career in north London, or do you think there’s still a chance he could move?
I think it’s looking more and more likely that he will be a one-club man, he could be the next Leadley King. That’s something only Harry will know, but if he was going to move it would have been last season with all the speculation, it did get close. But the hallmark of the guy is how he responded last year, scored goals and didn’t let it affect his performances. I know him and he’s passionate about the club, he’ll give everything he’s got for them.
Your amazing record has been broken on the continent, is there a danger of it being broken in the Premier League?
The current state of the Premier League and the quality of players, it would be an extraordinary achievement if anyone was to score 50 in a season. I played in an exceptional team which created lots of chances and played in a different way at the time with a 5 man midfield.
I flourished with the opportunities I was given. In the modern game, perhaps the current strikers might not play as many games or get the opportunities that I did. Harry Kane has gone close on a couple of occasions and looked like he could hit those numbers.
I’ve always said if anyone, especially at Spurs was to break the record I would be the first to shake their hand. I know how difficult it was and I know what it took. It would be an extraordinary feat.
What was the feeling like to be able to score so often? Did the buzz ever wear off because you scored so many?
Not at all and the nature of the goals as well, it could be a spectacular strike in the top corner or just being in the right place at the right time to tap it in. It always gives you the same feeling and I certainly got that, the rush of adrenaline and the euphoria, however simple or spectacular the goal was. It’s very difficult to recreate that. I was very fortunate to do that over my career, it’s an amazing experience.
Do you think the players still get that same buzz?
Yeah, I think they do, they understand what they have to do to get in those positions and finish a chance. So I think if you are a goalscorer making a living scoring goals there is nothing better than that feeling and the top goal scorers always crave that feeling. It’s not the last goal it’s the next one you are trying to find and that’s what drives you on. That challenge is always there for them.
What are your thoughts on Raheem Sterling at Chelsea? What impact can he have?
I think it’s a really interesting signing, Chelsea are a little bit in turmoil compared to the other top six clubs, in terms of the way that they shape up with Lukaku leaving, they don’t have an out-and-out striker.
Werner hasn’t acclimatised to English football. So at the moment, they are the ones that we are not sure how they will shape up and what the goalscoring form will be like. Raheem comes with pedigree, there is no doubt about that, but you wouldn’t say he’s a leader of the line as a striker.
So it will be a fascinating one. There’s speculation about Aubameyang coming in who worked with Tuchel at Dortmund a few years ago. That will be an extraordinary transfer to get him. Sterling will be important though, he will have to better his tally to help Chelsea though.
What impact can Haaland have at City?
I think this is an interesting one, City have been extremely successful, played amazing football but haven’t always had a leader of the line in a striker. So there’s questions about how Haaland will fit into the way they play. Certainly, though, they will give him chances and he will score, there is no doubt about that. He’s scored against Bayern in pre-season. It might take a bit of time for City to acclimatise to him and find what’s best for him to score consistently.
What about Nunez at Liverpool?
I think he’s hit the ground running, we saw in the Charity Shield what a talent he is. I think their front line is as exciting as anyones. Diaz was fantastic last year, Jota signed a new deal, Firmino has been consistent in the way he links the play and Salah has been the consistent goalscorer. So Liverpool for me have got the best options at the moment in the quality and goalscorers. The additions that Klopp has made have been fantastic.
Do you think he will be a provider as well?
I think we saw he plays further forward than Firmino, so I think he will get the chances. Liverpool have an abundance of goalscorers which is very positive for them going into the season.
What about Jesus at Arsenal?
This will be really interesting in the way it unfolds. For me, Jesus at City always needed 3/4 chances to score a goal. His record is one in three if you average it out. He will need to be more consistent at Arsenal, but they feel he could be. He will get chances in this exciting young side. Martinelli showed some signs last season in terms of establishing himself, Saka we know had a good season done well with England. So it’s just about how he fits into those combinations. It looks exciting though.
Harry Kane at Tottenham?
You know what you are getting with him, he will score goals, he’ll link up with Son which is the best pairing in the league for me. There’s been additions with Richarlison and Kulusevski on the right. So I think Spurs are as well-equipped fire power-wise as any other side. With Son and Kane you have two strikers that are in top form.
Do you think the new additions will help or hinder? In particular Richarlison?
I think it helps, there’s competition for places and the chance to change the way they line up in certain games. The business that they have done early in the window is very good.
Ronaldo may have to stay at Manchester United, what are your thoughts on the situation assuming he stays?
Ronaldo can only be a help, 18 goals since he came back in the League, he’s one of the greatest players ever in world football. His impact was big last season and United have been in turmoil for a few years and it looks like they are entering this season in a similar manner. They are going to be looking at Martial if Ronaldo leaves, so they are going to have to add to the forward line. You can’t take Ronaldo away and not compensate for that. If he plays, you know the type of professional he is, he will want to score goals. If he leaves, they have a huge problem.
Who out of those six were to break your record, who would you want it to be?
There’s only one person and that’s Harry Kane at Spurs, so I’ll be watching keenly.
Harry Kane has spoken in the past about his desire to become a kicker in the NFL post-retirement – do you think he could do it and what advice would you offer him?
I had that experience with London Monarchs at the end of my career in NFL Europe. Harry could do it, he will find it fascinating because it’s a completely different technique from kicking a football. Its strange, straight leg, locked knee and pointed toe. He would be capable though, he has the mentality, I’ve seen him work and train which he would have to do. He would find the challenge incredible and I could see him doing it when he finishes given he follows NFL closely.
Is this the club’s best chance of honours since Mauricio Pochettino was in charge and will it be a missed opportunity if they don’t end the season with silverware?
They are as well equipped as they have been in several years. Kane and Son are a pairing that could fire them to silverware this season.
How do you rate West Ham’s transfer business, and do you think Jarrod Bowen will stay with the Irons for the long term or look for a move to a “bigger” club?
Well, they have kept him and Rice so far and that was vitally important from last year. David Moyes did a great job, I think they will start the season very confident about how this year could go.
Their experiences in Europe last year were fabulous for confidence in the club. I’m sure they are aiming high. Scamacca is an interesting addition, he’s a young talent from Italy. He might find it difficult initially, but there’s no doubt Moyes and his staff will have done their homework and feel he can improve the side.
How do you rate Crystal Palace’s transfer business, and how do you think Patrick Vieira will cope in his second season in the Premier League?
He’s added Richards from Bayern and a defender was needed. How they compensate for Galagher going back to Chelsea, is going to be important. Viera’s impact was good last season, Zaha will as always be vital for Palace.
But they will be one of those teams which no one will look forward to playing because sometimes you are not quite sure what sort of Palace are going to turn up, but an in-form Palace on their day are very difficult to play against and Zaha is a match winner on his own.
I think they will be a mid-table side this season.