Ramos expects great things

After taking over at Tottenham last October, Juande Ramos wasted no time in restructuring the club and moving away from the methods of his predecessor Martin Jol.

Victory in the League Cup was a decent start for the Spaniard, but now, after making four major signings since May, Ramos knows he must deliver more in his first full season in charge - starting in Saturday's opening Premier League match at Middlesbrough.

He has lost Robbie Keane to Liverpool in a deal that could rise to £20.3 million, and Dimitar Berbatov, the Irishman's partner in attack for the last two seasons, will almost certainly join Manchester United later this month. But with Brazil goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, Croatia midfielder Luka Modric, winger David Bentley and forward Giovani dos Santos likely to make their debuts at Middlesbrough, Spurs fans have plenty of reasons to feel optimistic.

Although they might struggle to break the stranglehold enjoyed by Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool on the top four places in the division, Spurs believe they have the squad to push the elite quartet all the way.

Asked whether he now had the squad he required, Ramos replied: "Broadly speaking, yes. I have the team and the squad how I want it, but you can never be 100 per cent sure at the start of the season. Different signings arrive at different times, and need time to settle. Similarly, we have a couple of injuries, such as to defender Alan Hutton. But yes, we are on the right lines.

"I believe Tottenham is a massive club, and that we can be compared to Manchester United or any of the top four clubs. We are very, very happy with our squad, and with the players we have at our disposal. We feel we can challenge anyone in this country."

Great expectations
If Berbatov is to leave, and Spurs fail to sign a forward of similar talent to replace him, much will be expected of Darren Bent. The 27-year-old had a difficult first season at White Hart Lane, but has displayed outstanding form during pre-season, scoring 13 goals.

Bent's form has won praise from England manager Fabio Capello, as well as making Ramos feel more confident about his options in attack. The former Sevilla coach continued: "He has worked so hard in pre-season, particularly during the two weeks we had in Spain and in the games there. What we are seeing now is a reflection of the hard work he has done in pre-season."

If this is the season when Ramos is expected to take Spurs on to another plane, the pressure on Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate is equally intense. The club's supporters may not envisage a top four finish, but they expect to see a vast improvement on the mid-table obscurity which has been their fate during Southgate's two seasons in charge.

The result against Spurs will provide a clue to their prospects, but Southgate will be equally concerned about the way his players perform. Emanuel Pogatetz, the captain, said: "The manager has changed the players and changed the system. He wants us to attack and play with pace and energy.

"Now there are only players here who want to be here. The time has gone when this club brings in big name players on big wages. The team spirit is very good. There are no superstars earning three or four times what others earn. We are all the same."