18th September 2014 - New UEFA
As a kid, I used to love Spurs in Europe - the mystique of the Iron curtain games in old communist stadiums, dodgy officials and the fascination of the European giants in an age before Sky made them so familiar … and the fact that Spurs could compete with them, almost independent of how they were doing domestically. Those Glory Glory Nights .. a wonderful era.
That was a long time ago. Today the Champions League is a fantastic competition pooling the cream of the European elite to play the highest level of football ever witnessed. In doing so, all else is a bit of an irrelevance, and after cutting the remaining competitions down to just what is now the Europa League, the six group games before the Christmas break are just painful. You can perhaps convince yourself that the Europe's second competition has some merit … it’s a trophy, CL qualification, whatever … but lets face it, it’s a bit shit, especially at this stage ... and will involve 17 games (nearly another half season) to the final.
The financial differences in football thesedays and the talent drain from places like the Balkans who have traditionally produced lots of skillful players means that anyone decent is in either England, Spain, Germany or Italy and the local team is either made up of young or ordinary players, while Spurs only send out a team of fringe players and the games rarely have any lasting memory aside from the tales of derring do of the fans who made the trip.
To make the point, Spurs have drawn 5 of the last 34 games in Europe 0-0. In the previous 144, there were only 6 goal-less games, and one of those was protecting a lead against Milan (.. as was another in Porto, while greybeards will still have nightmares of John De Wolf of Feyenoord 92 and Falco's disallowed winner in Madrid in 85, and ultra greybeards will remember the Nantes 0-0 for the Mullery/Guy clash). Even the 0-0's were memorable! (bonus point if you can guess the other 0-0 .. who is the first person you think of with 0-0s? its one of his era)
Spurs have now drawn 11 of the 35 Europa matches - the second team of a rich EPL club being on a par with the best of smaller nations, with any semblance of interest being deferred by the 'seeding' which keeps all the big teams apart. Meaningless dull crap… bring on the EPL
And finally, as a very small shareholder in Spurs … I got a lot of blurb about the takeover through the door yesterday, and in amongst it, an advert for the meaningless and unnecessary third kit. That is really poor
17th September 2014 - New Broom
Spurs are 2-1-1 & 6th after four games … very Spurs. The Liverpool game apart, it has mostly been a good start for Spurs, esp with some of the bigger expectations from the Bale money starting to shape up and the new fella at the top getting off to a smooth start.
Overall the club is still riding relatively high compared to the long term perch but equally are not in the CL and look a long way from winning anything. Riding along on the crest of the 'best of the rest' wave but crashing against the glass ceiling whenever the super-moneyed elite comes into view. Drifting around in footballing Suburbia - no hope, no harm, just another false alarm
However given that Spurs adhered to stockmarket rules, it appears that out of this humdrum there are some substance to the rumours that someone wants to buy into this club going nowhere as a secure entry into the EPL franchise … if they can match the 'think of a number price' of the current owner.
In some ways it would be attractive for a change, to use their own parlance when sacking yet another manager 'they have taken Spurs as far as they can' and perhaps this is a chance to break into the elite under a different funding philosophy. Perhaps that is wishful thinking. From the little we know about Cain Hoy (and ENIC come to that), there seems very little between them. The same sort of people with the same sort of instincts and likely the same sort of outcome for the football club. Hopefully they'll have someone who is not afraid of a microphone to run the show and perhaps someone who will be accountable for the failure of their own dogmas such as high profile directors of football.
If they do buy ENIC out for that sort of money, surely ENICs greatest legacy after the Rivaldo letter will be that preference share deal in 2004-7 where they took a 29% holding in the club to a 70%+ holding on the very cheap and then took it private. If only they displayed that sort of guile in footballing matters. Or indeed in new stadium delivery.
No doubt the new mob will portray a rosier future - and inevitably they will try to leak through those wally ITKs on social media that they are all secret Spurs supporters rather than just cold hearted investors - but aside from changing the names on the letterhead, it just looks like more of the same. The new stadium will provide an extra £300-400k per week for wages (less financing costs and other owner deductions - it is after all why they invest) - which is all new money from new fans pockets. If the stadium ever gets built … and built without putting Spurs in financial peril (as the last two stands did in the 80s). It will help, but it probably won't be enough to turn 6th into 3rd let alone 1st.
All that said, given the chance of a change now, I'd probably take it. Its only even gonna be about the same with ENIC whereas with the new mob, they are likely to be the same or worse, but they could be better.
27th August 2014 - Farewell Michael Dawson
Most of the current Spurs squad are technically more gifted than the majority of their predecessors but few connect with the fans on an instinctive level like Michael Dawson who today left the club for Hull City after 9 years of excellent service during which the club returned to the upper echelons of English football. Better players have come and gone without a word let alone a eulogy on here, but Dawson was special in that in an era of charisma-less journeymen super athletes, he still seemed normal, one of the crowd made good as a footballer, and someone who enjoyed every minute of it.
Dawson signed in 2005, the second billing in a double deal from Forest with Andy Reid, but quickly emerged as the diamond. Spurs were starting to recover from a decade in the doldrums that season when Dawson made his debut in the 'Edman' 2-2 at Anfield in April 2005. He quickly became a fixture at the back with what was to be his long term centre back partner Ledley King (who'd also made his debut at Anfield some years before). Dawson was a key ingredient and one of the few constants of first the Jol and then Redknapp eras which featured Spurs best league finishes in a generation, the memorable Champions League run to the last 8 and a Wembley Final. Unfortunately it was the United game in 2009 where he helped keep a clean sheet for 120 minutes before succumbing on penalties and not the win over Chelsea the year before where he'd helped Spurs to final in the memorable 5-1 semi final win over the Goons.
Even in his early days, fans fretted about Dawson's apparent lack of pace and his old fashioned no-nonsense style in an era where continental sophistication is valued over traditional blood n guts, and where players are assessed by individual statistics and poxy heat maps rather than courage and team achievement. Fears about Dawson shortcomings were more apparent than real and even when he occasionally got done, the supreme class of Ledley was usually there to mop up. Ledley was great and the unquestionably the better player, but you'd probably pick Dawson for a more interesting chat over a pint - which is how they'll be remembered in the collective affections of the fans. In saying that, Dawson was still good enough in his own right to win 4 England caps, the same as fellow Yorkie Spurs defensive legend Cyril Knowles, and a total that would no doubt have been higher had his career not coincided with the similar playing style of John Terry.
Mention of Chelsea brings up the Chelsea 2-1 game in 2006 in which Dawson headed the equalizer which ended a 16 year league period without a win against them. That season was the making of both Dawson and the newly credible Spurs who returned a consecutive 5th place finish while battling on three cup fronts to the semi and quarter final stage, including on the return to Europe after a six year absense. In all that season, Dawson started 58 of the 59 games in all competitions - not quite the legendary 66 of 66 Perryman managed in 81/2 (4th place, semi-final, runners up and a FA Cup win) but nonetheless a fine achievement. Being part of Spurs greatest ever win in Europe, the 1-0 aggregate win over Milan where Dawson marshalled a 120 minute shut out of the Italian giants, was another fine achievement, as was being player of the year in 2010 as Spurs broke back into the top 4 for the first time in 20 years and being club captain in recent seasons.
The standards for the great club servants are set by the likes of Perryman and Mabbutt who graced the shirt for around 16 years but both came from an era where players stayed at clubs longer, and also had the opportunity to drop back through the team from midfield to defence to prolong their career. While not on a par with those two, Dawson still deserves to be added in somewhere in this group given his commitment in this more volatile era.
Dawson ended up with 304 (20) appearances and notched a respectable 10 goals (again pretty similar to his partner for so many of those games Ledley KIng 314 (6) 14 goals) and although now 30 with his powers starting to wane a little in terms of Spurs standards at the very top of the league, hopefully he can enjoy a few more seasons up at Hull in the EPL and we'll get to find out what its like trying to defend his long diagonal passes!
Spurs fans admire all the brilliant skillful players who have represented the club, but there is always a special often longer lasting affection for those who demonstrate courage and determination - Roberts, Mackay etc. There is also affection for Dawson's honesty - he never needed to kiss the badge or do one of these awful cliched gestures to know he was giving 100%. Also as one of the less naturally gifted players, fans knew he had to work that much harder to get and to stay at the top.
Daws we salute you and good luck in the future
2014/15 Season Preview
Another year gone, and further down the road of the post-Sugar identity of credible but largely joyless also rans. Nothing much to complain about as we look down on 98% of the footballing world in the upper echelons on the EPL with a host of good players, but then nothing much to move the spirit as we look upwards at the Oligarchs playthings paradise in the clouds.
This October marks the 40th anniversary of my first game at WHL - a clutch of own goals and a 2-3 home defeat to a team Spurs should be beating was a fitting start. My introduction to Spurs came at a time when the magic that seemed to define the club - sometimes vulnerable, often brilliant and always at the forefront of good football - from Arthur Rowe’s push n run football to a grim night in Rotterdam, was coming to an end.
As it turned out, that was an exceptional golden period and not the norm. That 24 season period contained:
· 2/2 top division league titles;
· 3/4 top division runners up positions;
· 5/9 top division 3rd place finishes;
· 2/3 European trophies
· 3/8 FA Cup wins
· 2/4 league cup wins
In the 37 Football league seasons before and the 40 since, Spurs have
· No League Titles
· One runners up finish in 1922
· Four other podium finishes, the last of which was in 1990 (somehow 24 years ago)
· One European trophy, 30 years ago in 1984
· Five FA Cups, a brief spill over of the golden era into the 80s, the last of which was in 1991, 23 years ago
· Two of the league Cups, mostly after the elite clubs had given up on it as a serious competition
Not the sort of mental images the club pushes when selling more branded shit to the fans.
Which is the real Spurs? Moreover, when assessing the modern team performance, what is a fair comparison?
Danny Rose may not be Cyril Knowles, but then again he’s not out of place with the likes of Justin Edinburgh or Jimmy Holmes, at a club where Mitchell Thomas started as many league games as Gareth Bale
Within the coffin dodgers who remember the 50-74 era, and those of us clapped out slackers from generation x who were lucky enough to remember the General Burkinshaw resurgence in the 80s, there is often a hope/expectation that there will be a second coming of the glory period, but now there are a significant number of fans from subsequent generations up to their mid 30s now who only really remember the EPL era Spurs, which is a very different animal. Each will see the modern reality through a different perspective.
Spurs are now entering their 23rd EPL season, almost a quarter of the total League history of the club - the most recent quarter.
In this period, Spurs have never been higher than 4th or lower than 14/20 or 15/22. For all the faux challenge of “4th place’ - its more or less bumping around the middle. Not good/rich enough to go up and too good/rich enough to go down. Sisyphus Hotspur, with the footballing gods dishing out a particularly cruel punishment of football purgatory for the former glory boys.
This is who Spurs really are - dare we say it, a slightly above average club who have not done or look likely to do anything significant for years. That doesn’t sell many 3rd kits so the club play an increasingly desperate nostalgia card kindle the desire of the customer base. The imagery to sell the image of Spurs - quotes from Danny B and Bill Nick which really should not be used for such tawdry purposes - shouldn’t be confused with the reality of Spurs current situation - the 5th best funded club finishing 5th and doing a pretty good job of it. As with all advertising/marketing, it just creates ever-greater desires that cannot be matched and leads to disappointment.
The prospect of a dull world cup dominated by each of the other 31 teams trying to out-do Spain in their boring anti-football tippy tappy possession bollox was something even worse than having Sherwood in charge for another season … but then something magical happened. Just before half time of the third match, RVP leapt and cushion headed a goal (nearly as a good as Sheringham’s against Leeds in 93) which saw the walls come down on Spain and dull possession football in general. It was a ‘George Graham sacking’ moment in football liberation and there has been a widespread feeling that the entertaining World Cup, played with passion, pace and skill has got the love of football back for many people.
However, what we all loved in the World Cup was the competition itself - lots of individual stories which were interesting in themselves without the cult like bias in having to support one team to the exclusion of all else, where you can enjoy the football whoever played it. You could admire the unheralded skill of the Chileans, Columbians, Ticos or Mexicans; admire the pluck of the Iranians, Aussies and Algerians and the excellence of the Krauts in winning it. In essence, you enjoyed it by following the tournament as a whole.
And that perhaps is the first place to start when approaching this season with Spurs - hand in your truth denying, one-eyed support for one club to the exclusion of all others, and just enjoy the League that is an astonishingly popular worldwide phenomenon. A chance to shake off the media pushed ‘Sky Geordie’ replica kit wearing obsessive .and go back to enjoying the football, and enjoying Spurs being Spurs without worrying about dropped points/goals conceded etc
Or don’t. Keep supporting Spurs before the football, deny objective reality to observe the party line and endure the frustration of failure within the overall success of the EPL, which aside from a few cheating divers and bent refs ensuring the medals go to the biggest investors, will surely once again be a magnificent spectacle.
As for Spurs prospects within the league, it’s a given that Spurs will get somewhere between 58-72 points and finish between 5th-8th. How we get there is more open to question, but then again when its only finishing towards the upper part of the middle, is it really worth giving much thought.
The AVB/Sherwood thing last season really should have put to bed the ‘cult of the manager’ as despite their very different approaches, Spurs managed to get pretty much the same points haul under both systems (strangely slightly better under the more chaotic Sherwood era). This is because the constant between the two, was the squad of players … and although it may seem so obvious, it’s the players that get the points, not the bloke who stands on the touchline waving his arms and then does the press conference.
The new fella, who was on the end of two defeats by Sherwood’s Spurs, will hopefully be somewhere in between his two predecessors. More order than Sherwood and more goals than AVB, but in the end, it will probably end up with the same sort of points haul/league position. Seeing the bench at one of the pre-seasons, it was refreshing to see Fraud out of the picture which is an encouraging start
Even if the results are a bit worse than last year or before, I still think I’d rather stay with it for a while and see how he gets on - as long as there are some hints of good football - and just see how it goes for a few seasons, as you never know. Billy Nick and Venables had slow starts and Burkinshaw even oversaw relegation in his first season before coming good. And practically speaking, even if Poch is no good, there is not likely to be anyone else out there who could do any better. Tiny Dan will probably see things differently as the flames of the always angry reach him from twitter and the messageboards after every little setback, but perhaps this time there is greater consensus that another change is not likely to have much effect
The following chart - putting into pictures what was already a common theme of the editorial last season - shows where Spurs are in what is now a relatively well defined pattern over the last 10 years
Looking back at last summer, even though he is a snide wanker, I still don’t think Levy did an awful lot wrong. Bale had done his time at Spurs and we got a good price for him, and although there was no net spend, the ‘magnificent 7’ without hindsight were about as good as Spurs could have done. It didn’t turn out well for most of them apart from Eriksen, who for all the aforementioned questions about Spurs real identity is a proper Spurs player. Lamela looks a bit flakey and may not have the mental strength to deliver the one or two flashes of skill shown last season. I’d advocate just playing him every game from now to Christmas and see how it goes. There have been numerous cases of players suddenly clicking, Anderton, Sheringham and even Bale. If we finish 8th and not 6th because we played Lamela for 15+ games, would it really matter as long as we got to find out? Soldado should have been a much better player than he was last season, even allowing for his lack of opportunities during the AVB lockdown. Logically, he should be another one with a creative midfield presenting chances who should take off but I’ve a hunch, hopefully wrongly, that it won’t work out for him at Spurs.
Of the rest of the them, if I can remember them all without having to look them up. Chadli looks a bit short in terms of top premiership quality, Capoue was never around long enough to form an opinion and Chiriches looked ok at times but has a touch of the Vega’s about him. Eventually I remembered the other one to be Paulinho, who like fellow newcomer-ish Holtby was one of the few players to impress under AVB. Any remaining doubts that Paulinho may have more to offer were quashed by his flat World Cup and he looks the natural successor to Jenas in an underwhelming but not totally rubbish midfield role.
Aside from Eriksen’s skill and vision, Lloris performances in goal were perhaps the best part of last season and he is one of the few players in the squad of proper CL class. One note of caution is that a few recent Spurs keepers- Sullivan, Robinson, Gomes - have suffered dramatic drops in form after appearing to be at the top of their game. There is no real reason to suspect Lloris to go this way and hopefully his calm authority will see Spurs through a few more seasons before a CL side comes asking. In signing Vorm, perhaps Spurs have too good a deputy and that CL move may be sooner rather than later as the Euro signs light up Levy’s eyes.
For all the abuse they get, Spurs have a fair collection of full backs, with the arrival of Ben Davies improving competition. However, given the importance of the role in both attack and defence thesedays, it remains an area where a few bob spent on a top international wouldn’t go amiss.
Similar comments apply to the centre backs, where perm two from a fully fit combo of Kaboul, Vertongen, Chiriches, Dawson and the new fella Dier should be enough to keep Spurs competitive in most games. Again, another top international wouldn’t go amiss.
On the wing, a lot depends on Lamela. If he comes good then its perm one from Lennon, Townsend and Chadli for the other wing. If he doesn’t then it starts to look a bit thin with Lennon dropping off last season (despite still only being 27), Townsend (who came across very well as a pundit) looking better for England than Spurs and Chadli looking a bit so-so thus far.
In the middle, I’ve grown a bit tired of Sandro’s populist antics and the late stupid penalty he gave away at Benfica is more typical of his contribution thesedays. Holtby has a fresh chance to impress yet another manager and although he’s probably never going to be great, there were signs of improvement under AVB when he’d calmed down and stopped trying to impress. If he’s not stigmatized by being Sherwood’s pet, at 19 Bentaleb may have more to give but the key man is Dembele who needs to step up and dominate games this season or Spurs need to find someone who will
For different reasons, it's depressing that Adebayor and Kane are still around - a world away from match winning players Spurs need.
Spurs net transfer spend over the last few years is close to zero, if not a profit, and once again there will be no miracle in Spurs performances unless Spurs invest in quality players. The club should not be put off by the indifferent outcomes of last season’s transfers but go in again to get as many top class players as possible at the club. Spurs have enough quality throughout the side to compete with all bar the elite but need a match winner to turn the defeats into draws and the draws into wins in the many tight games which between the also rans and no-hopers outside the elite.
Spurs won’t do this of course. Its more the vision and desire than lack of money which will hold the club back. Maybe there will be a deal or two on the final day of the window, but as ever it will be a purchase on availability/price rather than need within the team. We’ve been here before, we know the drill.
As winning something is probably beyond Spurs, one thing I’d wish for this season (apart from another trip to Norway in the Intertoto) would be for the team to play a balance of football that unifies the fans. Even in the golden days under Redknapp, there was a massive divide that seemed largely based upon Redknapp’s inability to give fan friendly media sound bytes each and every time someone stuck a microphone under his nose. The rift continued under AVB and exacerbated under Sherwood. Poch has a huge amount of goodwill to tap into and all he needs to do is get Spurs playing properly and for the more sensitive, say the right thing the fans want to hear. Ending the season with the manager still in his job and the majority of normal fans lined up behind him would be refreshing and perhaps the best we can hope for this season.
Enjoy Spurs progress throughout the season, and most of all enjoy the football
Well done if you made it through all that twaddle, for more interesting stuff click on the TOPSPURS Season Preview Vox Pop
And don’t forget to join the TOPSPURS Fantasy Football League
Join up at http://fantasy.premierleague.com/ and then use league code: 391959-100844
And lastly a crap plug for the TOPSPURS book - still a half decent Spurs book at bogtime and costs less than a pint thesedays
… the Glory of Spurs book in Kindle/ebook format http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Glory-of-Spurs-ebook/dp/B00C2JTO8G/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1364489602&sr=1-1
28th May 2014 - Hello MoPo
Well here we are again .. Spurs sack British style motivator with a good league record and appoint technical foreign manager who has done well at XYZ little club. Santini to Jol - Jol to Ramos - Ramos to Redknapp - Redknapp to AVB - AVB to Sherwood - Sherwood to Pochettino.
It’s the new Tottenham way, and perhaps telling that there has never been a like for like replacement as the club apparently struggles for its modern identity, seemingly embarrassed traditional methods and seduced by sophisticated foreign dreams, before reverting back once more after the attempt to create our own Wenger fails yet again.
Fans also appear bored of the apparently anachronistic British style motivator managers, even when the results are well above Spurs recent long term average and find a range of reasons to dislike them such as post match interview comments, fashion sense, letting in an opening goal in a 5-1 win and predictable defeats to richer, better sides. They too crave a mystery foreigner who can overhaul Spurs with some mysterious continental trickery we are too backward to understand to lead Spurs back to a mythical glory era which lasted a couple of years over 50 years ago … a shirley valentine storyline for fans bored with Spurs humdrum comfortable place in the footballing suburbs. Results tend to end the romance for the techy foreigners - the reality of home after the holiday romance - where all the new fitness regimes, possession, tactics cannot motivate the players to score enough goals (without Bale) but I guess we are not in that part of the cycle yet so we’ll reserve judgment for now and hope for the best.
Personally, I’m relieved as much as pleased Sherwood has gone as he was promoted too soon and too high above his current ability as whatever they call the manager thesedays. I thought he did a pretty decent job as a rookie, inheriting a good but misfiring squad and setting them free to score well (nearly 2 goals a game) and win a lot of games (13 wins in 22). What more do fans want thesedays? It’s an even better record when you consider the circumstances of his appointment which put pressure on his authority from day one and I think this pressure affected his consistency, and along with his inexperience made it all a bit too wobbly. Spurs needed something a bit more professional if we’re to be challenging that top4 any time soon and once again the little man acted quickly with season ticket renewals presumably on the slow side. That said, some of the hatred directed towards Sherwood while Spurs were winning was frankly bizarre and unpleasant, in the increasingly mad world of contradictions of the never happy modern football fan.
With him gone, the question remains, what is it Spurs expect the new man to do better?
As ever, little Daniel Levy has not spoken - his little Bod like head has not been seen speaking to camera or challenged with a question for over 10 years now - and we’ll get to hear his spin on things via leaks to friendly journalists and message board snides over the coming weeks.
Even without his weasily words, it’s a fair guess that breaking the top4 and CL football is the name of the game. This target has been achieved twice in the last 24 years, and even then it was not good enough to save the manager’s job on the 2nd occasion so who knows.
And what do we know about the new man … he’s Argentinean (from a place called Murphy which is just up the road from a town called Duggan), he played football at a good standard both in Argentina and around Europe and importantly has 20 international caps including world cup experience. This is a massive plus for me - at the top level as a player, but not at the very top which gives him the desire to do more as a manager but with the ‘been there’ presence to get respect to get his message across. He has been in management for five years cutting his teeth first in Spain and then making the Saints everyone’s 2nd favourite team to watch, with the positive momentum spread over two seasons. Being a central defender should also be a positive as they’ve spent their careers reading the game and he’s 42, which should put him in the peak of an increasingly short managerial life-cycle. Lets hope it goes better than the last time the ‘North London yobbos’ nicked a manager from Southampton.
An interesting article was posted by Saints website theuglyinside Click Here which is well worth a read when setting expectations
All that is good, very good and I am quite pleased we’ve opened an interesting chapter in the club’s history.
In some ways, and I say this in a positive way, he is like AVB in being the right man at the right time. Realistically, who else is there? Moyes? Fat Sam? Some other mysterious foreigner with no EPL experience? The advantage he should have over AVB is that as a player he will have a greater feel for the game and know that sleepless nights pouring over stats in his pod at the training ground will not help. However the negative, and it could be a big negative, is whether his grasp of the lingo is going to be good enough to be an effective communicator. There is no point speculating how good he is - but the facts of the matter he uses an interpreter for media interviews - and until his communication skills are revealed either through an improvement in Spurs or in front of the cameras it remains a concern.
All the tactics in the world will mean nothing if it cannot be translated to the team - and its not just communicating the way to win, but the will to win. This is often overlooked but its the difference between the likes of Arsenal scoring soft goals after 40 pass moves and not winning anything while the will to win installed under Fergie or Paisley found injury time winners when the chips were down and no one even mentioned tactics, possession stats, pass completions and all that knobby bollocks which clutters up the game thesedays. Boring a lot of young lads with blibs and blobs on a computer screen when all they really want to do is kicking a ball about has not and hopefully will never work above the intuitive passion for the game.
No matter how good he is - he has two massive hurdles to overcome: Levy & the apparently increasing unrealistic expectations of the Spurs fans. Nothing left to be said about Levy - he’s not the worst but equally, the less he is involved, the better Spurs do.
As for expectations, its been a funny few years since Spurs took the CL by storm. Surely what should have been one of the happiest events after years of being shit under Sugar started a fracture amongst the fans, or at least the wallys on the web/social media. All of a sudden after a generation dreary football not in the top or bottom six of the EPL, this period of consistent over achievement “was nt good enough for Spurs” … whatever that means.
While MoPo needs a lot of things over coming months, aside from a very large slice of luck, the most important thing is for his audience, the Spurs fans, to properly understand who Spurs are and separate the high prices/glory imagery the club uses to sell stuff from the reality of what the club can realistically achieve, and then to be happy with achieving potential and enjoying the ride, rather than perpetual disappointment at not achieving perfection in every minute of every game.
Next October marks my 40th anniversary of the first visit to WHL - predictably a home defeat with a couple of own goals to Burnley. In that time Spurs have been:
relegated after finishing bottom;
never finished first;
never even finished 2nd; and
have just three Bronze medals in the 39 seasons in a six year period between 85-90, somehow 24 years ago now.
That’s it. That is the reality of our club.
No titles and a minor podium finish on average once every 13 years.
For all the marketing, silky nostalgia of former glories, that’s it, live with it.
And we’re not even a cup team anymore.
Sure we can all dream somehow Spurs can break free - back in Feb 2012 when Spurs had come back from 0-2 and were a Defoe toenail away from winning 3-2 at City at the top of the table with world class Gareth Bale making the impossible, possible - the dream momentarily came alive … but it did nt work out and Spurs now, like everyone else, finish roughly in-line with wages played (and for the cynical, EPL ‘scriptwriting’ bribes deposited). It’s the way it is. Once upon a time, Spurs had the money to break the transfer record to buy the likes of Greaves and Gazza, and now we are on the other side of that page as the seller of Berbatov, Modric and Bale. It’s the way it is, and in relation to the rest of the footballing world, we’re still one of the very lucky ones, in material wealth if not the spiritual enjoyment of relegation/promotion afforded to the lower ranks every few seasons.
The follow table charts Spurs results over my 40 year period .. this is the reality … an average over both eras of the equivalent 55 points a season and a median finish of 9th. If we exceed that, surely it’s a good thing and a reason for at least contentment or even celebration.
It also shows that EPL Spurs are slightly better than 70s/80s but by and large, have a similar PPG and a very similar win ratio and goal difference. And yet the rosy nostalgia for that era goes on and on while far too many seem unable to enjoy the current success. Presumably no one asks them what it was like to play in front of less than 10,000 at WHL under Shreeves in 86.
For those of us old enough to remember the curse of Sugar, here is the same results without the lost decade, an even more impressive EPL record which, although not matched in affection among the fans, does deserve some credit to ENIC and Levy for achieving this without bankrupting the club every couple of years, which was another less mentioned component of the wonder years.
If you want to be angry and want your club back after Sherwood’s 5th place finish this season, imagine what you’d have been like during the decade of doom under Sugar during the 90s, and it baffles me that he is anything other than a figure of ridicule in football thesedays
So after 40 years of that, when you get five years of much craved consistency - 4th/5th finishes and arguably Spurs greatest European run …. Why are Spurs fans always so unhappy and why has this period of unprecedented ‘success’ seen three managerial sackings?
It is a step change away from Spurs long term average - so where do we get all this “not good enough for Spurs” stuff from? And all the angst, wailing and permanent dissatisfaction with scoring goals and winning matches. Personally, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the ‘mini golden era’ since 2008 as it was great seeing Spurs play well and win a lot of games, topped off by that great CL run - throw in a few laughs with your mates and what more to following a team is there?
Fortunately, the new fella brings foreign mystique which should count for a lot in terms of time and patience with the Shirley Valentines. And anyway, Spurs aint gonna win anything any time soon under current funding/ownership (and would need a total nutter to put us in EPL danger) so why not just let the new regime ride for a few years and see how it goes. AVB’s football bored me but I also thought he deserved more of a chance to turn it around after his good start as the season was nt going anywhere by that stage, and hopefully the new and subsequent managers will be afforded greater time in the future. Not stability for stability sake but the Bubbles did nt sack Sisyphus every time his stone rolled back down and perhaps the fun is enjoying the attempt rather than stressing that will it ever get there given how unlikely it is
I would nt say I’m optimistic or pessimistic with the new appointment, but open minded and think the club have got just about the best available/likely to come to Spurs, and am looking forward to seeing what he can do with a squad that has averaged 70 points over the last couple of seasons - with and without Bale, without and with Sherwood.
As long as the new man puts together a team that plays effective football in whatever style and Spurs continue to meet or exceed the current performance benchmarks, I’m good with that and fingers crossed it all works out for him and Spurs over the coming seasons
With all this said and wishing MoPo the very best at Spurs - there is only one question left to ask, have they finally sacked that wanker Steffan Fraud ;-)
8th April 2014 - A very Tottenham Farce
After the Liverpool game, I don’t think there were too many that expected Sherwood to last beyond the summer. He’s not done as bad as many make out but equally, going forward he lacks the composure and ability/experience to get Spurs to outperform the current financial limits. We all kinda know what’s gonna happen.
In that context, only an idiot would leak to the press that the manager will be sacked in the summer on day of a game
Unluckily, we have that very idiot running the club
Levy now has the distinction of sacking managers on matchday both before (Sherwood) and during a game (Martin Jol at half time) and has only just avoided sacking two in the same season … although there is time yet.
It was typical of Levy’s utter cowardice that the story was leaked to Sky and then he was nowhere to be seen at the game in the evening. Another of his white feather moments when the pressure is on, and while we have craven leadership such as this, Spurs are fucked. No organisation can be successful with this sort of leadership. Suspend all hope or at least hope that Levy disappears back to the shadows and the football people can start to turn Spurs round.
The funny thing is, he is such a bollock brain that it would be typical if Spurs put together a run of good results towards the end of the season to make him to look even more of a chump … and that started with a comprehensive win over a team who pushed Liverpool all the way in their last fixture
And with West Bromwich Albion, Fulham, Stoke City, West Ham United & Aston Villa to finish the season - all fixtures in which Spurs should and tend to pick up a lot of points … Levy could be in the position of sacking two managers during a record EPL points haul season (four wins and a draw or better required) or three wins and a draw to be round about the same league points as Redknapp’s two 4th place finishes. This would take Levy to an almost Sugar level of chumpness. Perhaps he is already washing his car with Soldado’s shirt.
In our midst, there are the proper crazies … people who blame the manager when Spurs lose and then blame the opposition when Spurs win, and still cherish the 5 goals (inc 2 pens that AvB managed in six home league games at the start of the season over the five Spurs put away yesterday) as it fits their pre-conceived ideas as tactic junkies … and the height of crazy was reached by suggesting that it was Sherwood not Levy who’d leaked the news of his own sacking for logic reasons I’ve not been able to follow. Given Levy is quiet snide, who has a history of leaking rather than giving interviews and Sherwood is a babbling idiot who is never short of words in front of the cameras … who’s MO does it fit? And at a time when the Season ticket renewal forms are going out ….
This season will have little to recommend it - disappointing considering expectations and poor against the better funded sides (despite wins over Everton/Man U) - but its not as bad as people are making out. Sherwood has a managerial record of 10 wins 2 draws from 17 games, averaging nearly 2 goals a game and a points per game of 1.88/72 points a season.
Is his successor guaranteed to do much better? Would Sherwood improve for a full pre-season to get his ideas across, sign some of his own players and improve his managerial approach? And what is success for the current funding levels of Spurs?
Don’t get me wrong, I still want Sherwood gone in the summer but wonder if, like AVB (and definitely Redknapp) in some respects they will be got rid of without really deserving the sack. Sherwood has the points haul to if not the feel good to justify his appointment and AVB for all his dull football and regression, surely deserved more of a chance to address the issues and bounce back given the record points haul of the previous season and the new players bedding in. I was glad they sacked him but its different to saying he deserved the sack. The sacking of Redknapp despite 4th/5th/4th finishes set a terrible precedent and started this whole downward spiral from what is likely to be a generational high of outperformance.
Keith Burkinshaw, like Sherwood similarly appointed from within the coaching staff with no real experience got Spurs relegated in his first full season but gradually worked Spurs around to lift the cup within four years. The Spurs board trusted Burkinshaw and backed their judgment while the fans were just fans back then, enjoying a tear up and a drink rather than being mini-chairmen and accountants pouring over tactics, pass completions and other joyless analysis that takes the fun out of football). In an era of twitter/phone-ins, would General Burkinshaw have survived the 2-8 at Derby, the 0-5 at City that sealed relegation or the 1-4 in the first home game against Villa or the subsequent 0-7 at Anfield which greeted promotion?
There is a case to suggest we get the sort of club we deserve - although we as Spurs fans are not alone as all football fans seem to lack the patience and perspective over the reality of their own clubs, where the clamour for change and the hope for a better future this generates alleviates the reality of the poverty of their own circumstance … all of which are totally futile anyway, as the mega funded clubs win everything thesedays, often with a helping hand from the franchise authorities when required.
With the manager sacked by leak to Sky, all this season really offers Spurs fans is the Schadenfreude and tragi-comedy of a strong finish and a squirming Levy presiding over another managerial exit with the team sitting in a well above long term average position. One wonders if Sherwood can match that other much maligned Spurs manager with an excellent record, Peter ‘Omar’ Shreeve who’s last twelve games in 1986 resulted in 8 wins, 3 draws and finished 5-2 away, 4-2 and 5-3 before being replaced by the ‘slow driver’ from Luton.
It would be a very Tottenham farce, in the very best traditions of our sometimes great club … and no doubt repeated forever and ever and ever
(btw, if you want to feel proper old, Spurs latest player Miloš Veljković was born a day after a couple from Sheringham won a Monday night Sky game against QPR for Gerry Francis Spurs back in Sept 1995)
31st March 2014 - The State we’re in
Before yesterday’s game vs Liverpool, here is the league table since Sherwood took over in December ...
Its not that bad overall - more points than the combined genius of Wenger and the bloke at Everton and collecting points at a significantly higher points per game than most Spurs sides have achieved over our history - but when Spurs play open against a top side with a top strike force they always get undone, esp when jogged down to 10 men.
I don’t mind Sherwood but equally, I'm no great fan but in terms of achieving his aim of maintaining the Premier League push, he's not done that bad and that needs to be remembered when being critical of other aspects of his tenure. Hopefully Spurs can bounce back and put away the non-elite sides towards the end of the season for another +65 point/high league finish to add some respectability and a bit of feelgood to an instantly forgettable and spiritually depressing season which seems to have marked an end to the mini-golden era 2005-2013.
The real rebuilding starts over the summer but unfortunately, it will be Levy making the decisions and history suggest the longer he has to think about things, the poorer the final decision. With this season mirroring the most soul destroying ‘caretaker manager’ season of 2003/04, another Santini is on the cards but we can live in hope.
One thing Levy is good at is sacking managers and hopefully his 10am on 12th May will be one with Sherwood and his agent as Spurs cannot go on with the current chaos.
I can’t do all this modern fan outrage and bile but Sherwood has to go as he is clearly not up to handling the pressure of the job. Aside from some tactical naivety which is only to be expected given his experience, he has made too many emotional decisions, almost as if he is continually trying to prove a point to someone. He took over in a period of great turbulence but unlikely most tenures where things settle down over time, if anything with each day things seem to be further out of control. If Levy had not already sacked AVB this season, one suspects Sherwood would have been axed after the Liverpool game as it was another ‘lost dressing room’ performance which saw the end of his predecessor. On the subject of AVB, the issue is not Sherwood or AVB - both in their different ways have proved not good enough in the long term for Spurs.
While Sherwood has not helped himself in some respects, the continuing period of uncertainty was cemented by Levy’s crazy decision of only appointing Sherwood for 18 months which meant that he was always only a defeat away from a crisis and players are unsure of who is in charge.
If there is anything negative happening at Spurs, Levy and the ENIC regime are never far away, but as they own the club - we are stuck with them even though its nice to think back to an earlier era where fan pressure groups actually made things uncomfortable for owners who kept screwing up and added a little more diligence to their decisions.
Will we ever get Daniel Levy in front of a microphone explaining his tenure at Spurs to someone other than an employee on SpursTV? Until he does, he is a cowardly little man who is never held accountable for any of his decisions and Spurs will suffer from poor decisions made in a consequence free environment.
While its easy to roll your eyes at most things ENIC do, one thing I find they have been harshly judged on is the Bale sale and the new signings over the summer. Bale had to go, Levy et al got a very good price and spent it on proven internationals. That they have not all worked (yet) is another matter - although Eriksen could easily turn out to be a great signing - but its difficult to see what ENIC could have done differently. However, with no net spend for the second summer, there needs to be funds available to the new manager - funds for players in key areas such as full back and another striker at the world class level - to give Spurs another shot at the top.
If Spurs were playing well, it may be worth persevering with Sherwood, but the majority of the results have been gained muddling through where the better class Spurs players with Adebayor’s goals have just enough to overcome non-elite EPL sides. Its an early call after 16 games after inheriting someone else’s players in a difficult time for the club, but the real question is - is there some other management team out there which are likely to do a better job at Spurs? And the answer has to be yes.
And if there is a better solution out there, Spurs have to go for it and go early so that the new man and his team has a proper pre-season and time to set their stamp on the club and draw a line under the current chaos. I’m not fussed who the new man is - although a spreadsheet obsessed foreign coach probably not a great idea - but they would be well advised to set terms and conditions for Levy that he fuck off out of all decisions and take his director of football with him and let ‘football people’ make the football decisions. Since Sugar took over, Spurs have had two good periods - the first when Venables was pulling the strings in 1993 and everything looked good for a great 93/4 before Sugar stepped in and secondly with Redknapp when a desperate Levy abandoned the director of football system and scuttled off for cover.
This perhaps is the most important issue Spurs as a club need to address. Spurs need to establish a culture of excellence throughout all aspects of the club. Currently, it is only the manager who has any sort of performance related aspect of their job. Levy and the directors to their thing and the players play and get paid, but when things go wrong … its always easier to sack a manager than a X1 players. The club needs to be focussed, from the top down, to achieving excellence on the pitch - first, foremost and only. No cult of ‘young players’, ‘no building projects’ … just a consistent and effective strategy to produce winning football, and a belief in the project and the people which can tough out difficult times while retaining the ruthlessness to try again when things are clearly gone beyond recall.
A culture of doing the right thing, showing some backbone in adversity and fighting for every last scrap. Historically, more Arsenal than Spurs in character but its all that really stands between Spurs and achieving our potential at the current funding levels. And an understanding of who Spurs are and what Spurs can realistically achieve is important for some perspective.
In his post match comments, Sherwood indentified Spurs weakness against the top sides this season:
While this is clearly unacceptable for any side in the league, it is clearly a factor of how Spurs approach these games - trying to take on the big sides toe-to-toe in an open way (even under AVB) rather than trying to nick a point with a cautious approach. Spurs can match these sides in many respects (when X1 vs. X1) but the real difference comes in the final third, where all that extra money buys you goals in tight games. When Spurs had Bale, it was more of a contest but the goals for is as telling as the goals against without him and going a goal down, usually marks the end.
The flip side of being high up in the league despite the poor record against the best sides is that Spurs have a fantastic ability to beat the rest of the league , which has been a constant even before the elevated levels of the post Jol era. The only note of caution going forward is the goal difference, which is a greater reflection on performance than mere points and that 9 of the 15 wins have been by a single goal
These two examples provide a great insight to where Spurs are - both unable to compete at the very top also but well clear of the also rans - and performing as expected by ‘EPL wages coefficient’.
For all the marketing and flannel, this is who Spurs are and an understanding of this appears to be essential in enjoying following Spurs - appreciating what an excellent job Redknapp and the 2008-12 side did and not getting too upset when Spurs when things revert back to the long term average.
Over history, aside from the remarkable quarter century of the period of Rowe/Nicholson dynasty which contained both top division championships, Spurs have more than 100 years of some special moments in the cups mostly interspersed with moderate league form. Some great forwards and attacking flair undone by crappy defending and boardroom shenanigans. The previous match against Southampton was a microcosm of Spurs history - chaotic defending followed by a rousing comeback with skillful forwards to win by the classic Spurs score of 3-2. If you did nt enjoy the Southampton win, complete with injury time winner, Spurs are probably not for you. And even the Liverpool defeat was not out of step with Spurs long term average where Spurs ship an average of 2 goals a game at Anfield, with one in every seven defeats up there coming with Liverpool scoring four or more.
This is who Spurs are - the lows and indifferent periods which made the cup runs and glory so special
For all the rosy nostalgia, this represents an above average season even though it lacks almost all of the feelgood factor that should accompany it.
From 1950/1 to 1973/4 under Rowe and Nicholson, Spurs league finsihes were as follows:
Champions, RunnersUp, 10th, 16th, 16th, 18th, RunnersUp, 3rd, 18th, 3rd
Champions, 3rd, RunnersUp, 4th, 6th, 8th, 3rd, 7th, 6th, 11th
3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th
This 24 year period contain both Spurs top division championships and three of the four runners up slots and five of the nine third place finishes (along with a stack of cups).
Which means in the remaining 71 years of the 95 football league seasons … Spurs have achieved one runners up position (in 1921) and four other bronze medal positions, the last of which was in 1990.. averaging a podium finish once every 14 years, almost a generation.
That’s not to say Spurs should never give up striving to be the footballing connoisseurs of the post war golden era between 1950-1974, but it should add perspective to events & a 6th place finish this season would rank it 30th out of 95 … nothing to shout about but equally, nothing deserving of the apoplectic rage apparently stored in every modern fan.
Spurs never repeat, but occasionally rhyme, and while it may have to get worse before it gets better … one day we’ll be back on an upward path again because …
16th January 2014 - RIP Trigger
Some very sad news today with the passing of comedy legend, Spurs fan and all round good egg Roger Lloyd-Pack, seen here at the Irish Centre as he was so often around White Hart Lane on matchdays having a pint with the rest of us (many thanks to Phil Todd & David McKean for the picture).
23 December 2013 - It’s Timmah!
…and there won't be Van Gaal in Tottenham this Christmas time,
The greatest gift we'll get this year is Tim.....
If nothing else, the period of uncertainty between AVB exit and new appointment was short, but that was more due to Levy once again appointing the person standing next to him as he sacks a manager (as he did when Jol arrived after Santini & presumably he was on the phone to Harry sorting out a transfer deal when the great man got the gig after Ramos).
It all seems a bit reckless around Spurs at the moment, from Levy sacking managers without a lined up replacement and appointing a new man after one win, which contained a considerably more bravado than brains with the players and formation used.
Just in case Spurs were looking for a bit of stability, Levy has ensured perpetual uncertainty and turmoil by only appointing Sherwood for 18 months which should see questions over the managers future almost from day one with the weakening effect that has on authority in front of players. That said, 18 month contracts do recognize the average length of an ENIC Spurs manager, as chairman and fans get bored quickly.
That said, I’d prefer instability and dynamic change over stability for the sake of stability. Football, like the modern world moves very fast and there is no place for 5 year plans written in ivory tower dogmas over being able to react quickly and effectively.
Spurs have appointed 19 different managers in my lifetime and while I’ve often been wrong, I don’t think I’ve ever been as undecided about how one will get on. On the negative side, its Sherwood who was a bit of a wanker as a player, esp towards the end when his legs had gone and only really had those two epic performances in the Semi final against Chelsea to recommend him. Although he was before my time, I’ve been told Venables was a pretty unpopular player with the crowd but came back to great effect as a manager and I think the bits that made him unlovable during his playing days, may also contribute towards Sherwood’s success as a manager. The box tickers amongst the fans have raised the issue of not having a blue peter badge in football which is total nonsense as Sherwood will either know what to do intuitively or will be no good irrespective of some bureaucratic qualification.
There is also the Spurs managerial pattern in his favour. Heavily deliberated over tactic laden foreign manager who bombed (Santini), replaced by common sense motivator with a strong character (Jol). Repeat again with Ramos & Redknapp and perhaps a third time with AVB being replaced by Sherwood. More pattern than substance but its been a decent guide so far.
Who knows, very difficult to form any sort of opinion at this stage other than hoping he does very well as he is the Spurs manager. If nothing else, his interviews will be interesting as they seem mercifully free of media trained dullness with very large doses of what is on his mind at that very time.
Sherwood will face many questions over the coming months but perhaps the greatest one at the moment is will he continue with the ‘Tora, Tora, Tora’ approach employed at Southampton, or will he use a bit of savvy now that its all sorted. Spurs did very well at Southampton, esp coming from a goal behind to win by ‘the spurs score’ of 3-2 but equally, the Saints are on a bit of a wobble and given AVBs wins at Fulham and Sunderland it was the most likely outcome anyway.
I can’t see that line up and that balance working against the better sides, esp as Adebayor has a game or two in him at most before he gets bored and it will be interesting to see if he can introduce some steel in the midfield without losing too much dash going forward.
There has been the usual guff about ‘the spurs way’ and the Spurs fans being different to all other clubs in demanding good football. All of which is crap - there is not one way to play and Spurs fans, like any fans, enjoy watching good football which is effective producing goals and wins. We were savvy enough to be concerned about unconvicing 1-0 under AVB and were right to do so as it did not take a lot for it to all fall apart against a decent side. It was similar at the end of Gerry Francis reign where a series of narrow unconvincing wins in 96/7 fell away to rubbish at the start of 97/8 as the star man left the sinking ship.
Along with the re-emergence of Adebayor and the very promising debutant Bentaleb, it was good to see Lamela get a start and see Soldado have enough chances for a second half hatrick. If Lamela can be nursed into the EPL pace and Soldado can keep getting those chances, Spurs could be very entertaining to watch and likely to score plenty of goals which should ensure plenty of wins.
Being Tottenham, and around Christmas time, pantomime farces are in people’s minds and after appointing Sherwood after one win, a potential nightmare scenario could unfold where Spurs fail to win three easy games - WBA, Stoke & Palarse and get walloped again by any of the half decent sides (and Man U) as the short term contract and potential shortcomings in the inexperienced management team are exposed, and come the end of January, there could be a very awkward situation where Spurs are on the lookout again for another manager. It’s a pretty extreme and pessimistic scenario but not totally implausible given Spurs luck. It could be that the absurd situation of appointing an untried manager half way through a season on the back of one win only to sack him a few weeks later as things lurch from bad to worse would trump even the Rivaldo letter and sacking a manager at half time in ENIC/Levy achievements.
In thinking about my comments on Levy and the Board immediately after the AVB sacking, I think I let them off a little easily. I still think that if you were mature enough to know Bale had to go and excited about the new players delivered before the start of the season, it’s after-timing to now call them wankers because its not gone to plan.
However, looking back a bit further, its easy to point the finger at the board - something I spent most of the early days of topspurs doing - both for making strange managerial signings (Santini) and getting rid of managers that were achieving very good results based upon Spurs resources (Jol and especially Redknapp). The latter, the great Harry Redknapp, may be remembered as the only ENIC era manager to prosper at Spurs as he was the only one to operate without a ménage à trois and did not have ‘Et Tu DoF’ on his managerial headstone.
The interest of the supporter and the Chairman have always been diametrically opposed and perhaps it is the nature of the dynamic always to mistrust the other, and although they have plenty of gorblimey moments and do plenty wrong, they also get enough right from time to time and run Spurs sustainably outside the superrich playground which claim all the silverware. They cannot be my friends, but then again I don’t see them as enemies of getting Spurs to achieve our potential - they always look like they want the best for Spurs - even if its completely the wrong idea and/or on the cheap. Its just how it is, and probably always will be until some mega rich lunatic takes over gets Spurs to play in Red and renames the club ‘Cocks’ and we know for sure its all over.
& lastly, Merry Christmas and don’t have nightmares…. He comes from Borehamwood…
16 December 2013 - AVB gone
Since those pathetic words blaming the crowd after another dull unconvincing performance against Hull, the end came quite soon as things started to unravel around AVB. In the final analysis, without Gareth Bale to rescue the dull ineffective football, there was not a lot left in the AVB locker and although the stats will show Spurs have sacked another manager while riding high in the league, this time at least it was for the best interests of everybody as the trajectory was spiraling downwards.
As it turned out he was a small man in a big job who in my opinion, did nt instinctively love football, as opposed to football analysis, enough to be whole package of manager from tactician to motivator.
He lasted less than a season at Chelsea, who shrugged off the ill effects of his alleged poor man management and straightjacket football by winning the Cup and CL within a few weeks of his departure (which should remind all Spurs fans that this season is far from over) but given his previous success at Porto, he was worthy contender for Spurs when appointed in summer 2012, esp given his ability to work within the dreaded DoF system.
Its common practice to blame the Spurs board at this juncture - usually with good cause over the years - but not this time. I can’t see that the Spurs board did an awful lot wrong in appointing him. I will berate them til I die for sacking the best manager in living memory earlier that summer and not backing him in the Jan2012 transfer window when Spurs were riding high, but given the circumstances at the time and the options available, it was worth taking a punt on AVB and I can’t see that they are due any retrospective blame for appointing him now that its all gone wrong. It happens, they can’t get it right all of the time and we move on.
In the early days of AVB, he rubbed the belly of the fans a lot better than the previous manager and was quickly accepted but early results were stuttering reaching a nadir with a desperate home defeat against Wigan (which was altogether worse than the away defeats to better sides at the same time). This setback ultimately proved the turning point of the season as the dull tactics loosened and with the help of a certain world class genius, Spurs won a stack of games to the end of the season and in any normal year 72pts would have meant the holy grail of CL football.
Once again, I think the board did all they could over the summer. The time had come for Bale to go, he’d spent a decent amount of time at Spurs but his exceptional talent deserved a bigger stage, just as it was right for Hoddle to leave in 87. People are deluded if they think Spurs are bigger than playing for Real Madrid, or indeed if you are an Englishman, managing England. I cant see how anyone is to blame for Bale not being here - he needed go and the board got a good price, its one of those things in football. However, the question of what to do with the money was an interesting one. Personally, I’d have broken the bank to get a proven EPL World class match winner superstar - Suarez for instance - but that’s just me and in the circumstances, Spurs did just as well to sign a stack of top class international players.
‘Sell Elvis and buy the Beatles’, or as its ENIC, the bootleg Beatles. I seem to remember at the time there was a pretty good positive vibe - who remembers this …
I don’t think we’ve seen the best of any of them yet - Eriksen against Norwich is starting to look very much like Dominguez against Derby in terms of spectacular debut followed by nothing - but am sure they will flourish in the second half of the season with a more pragmatic approach from the new manager, especially Soldado and hopefully Lamela who has shown in one of those Intertoto’s one flash of that world class superstar Spurs need to win tight against top sides. We were never going to see it if old boring chops was never going to play him.
Even if they all turn out to be hopeless, what more could the Board do over the summer but back the manager with proper money (albeit no new money as it all came out of Bale/Caulker sale). That it has nt worked out - thusfar - is down to a combination of factors, players taking time to settle etc but most of all was the inability of the manager to build a system of effective, winning football with the talented squad. It certainly seems harsh to have sacked AVB given his win ratio/points per game record but things were starting to regress very quickly and those behind the scenes at Spurs are much better to judge the mood of dressing rooms/training sessions
The funny thing about AVB exit is that I am neither happy or sad, just kinda glad its over and looking forward to what the new fella can do with what is a pretty decent league position and a very good looking squad. And in the mayhem of his sacking breaking, Spurs were drawn against Dnipro in the InterToto … managed by old boy ‘Wendy’ Ramos, another great footballing irony.
At a time of change like this its worth reflecting and the events of the last few weeks really do show what a great job Harry Redknapp did at Spurs. He took over a similarly talented but misfiring Spurs team with 2 points in 8 games and by the end of his first full season 18 months later we’d reached the holy grail of 4th place and CL qualification - and virtually all this before the emergence of the world class Bale. That Champions League campaign was stunning, winning a group with the CL holders while averaging 3 goals a game is worth more than half a dozen league cups or InterToto’s in current footballing currency. Add in the rise from mediocrity under Jol and it really was the mini-golden era, especially as it brought to an end the Sugar sleepwalk to obscurity, something I am sure which will resonate more in the future than it did at the time, especially if it turns out to be the high water mark of the era.
The odd thing about Redknapp was that up to his appointment, I had every reason to dislike him - funny transfer dealings and other stuff - and thought Spurs had reached the bottom when they were panicked into appointing him. But very quickly, his blend of good football, common sense and genuine love of football for football (rather than one-eyed joyless cult like devotion to a club exhibited by too many fans) won me round. At least I can say I enjoyed every minute at the time rather than worrying that the manager had said something the wrong way, unfortunately long remembered beyond the fantastic football and high achievement by far too many bitter people.
All that said, we cant go back and re-appointing Redknapp would be a very backward move - esp as it would mean shipping out a whole load of backroom suits. And also, we should not appoint a former favourite for nostalgic reasons. No-one loves Glenn Hoddle more than me but his time has come and gone unfortunately.
So who next?
I’m not really fussed as long as they are able to take on this hugely talented squad and able to deliver effective winning football. The longer Levy has to think about it, the worse his decision tends to be but surely even he can see when he appoints a bookish tactically aware foreign manager with low man management skills things don’t go as well as when he ends up with (usually by accident rather than design) a pragmatic motivator who squeezes more out of the players than the sum of the parts.
Of the candidates available, early favourite Capello has outstanding claims on his record … but this is 2013 not 1993 and think his best days may be behind him although he would be a good fit with the Spurs management set up. Laudrup appears to have a lot going for him but am not sure its his turn in the foreign/domestic manager alternations. Aside from that, most names are either fondly remembered old boys or foreign coaches or Alan Curbishley. Once again, there is no obvious perfect fit.
While writing this crap, its been announced that Timmah! Sherwood has got the gig in the short term. A reward for hanging around in the background and agreeing with Levy. Almost exactly the same as Martin Jol - a manager in waiting without a real brief behind the scenes. It gets worse as Fraud has survived the cull and will remain as dressing room snitch to the boardroom and badge kissing snide for the less cerebral fans
The glory days of the Sherwood/Fraud midfield return! Sherwood standing somewhere in the centre circle, unable to run and randomly pointing with Fraud running away from Roy Keane as the old Spurs slowly died under Sugar. Back in the day, there was a great rumour doing the rounds that Sherwood has an Arsenal tattoo, the reason he never wore short sleeve shirt or celebrated what proved to be the winner against the Goons in 1999 but perhaps the defining word on Sherwood should be left to our friends down the road at Highbury who sang (while we joined in)
Oooh Tim Sherwood, Oooh
Oooh Tim Sherwood, Oooh
He comes from Borehamwood
He’s not very fucking good
Oooh Tim Sherwood, Oooh
Levy has now completed the loop: …tactic laden foreign manger replaced by pragmatic motivator(santini/Jol) … tactic laden foreign manger replaced by pragmatic motivator (ramos/redknapp), … tactic laden foreign manger replaced by the person standing next to him at the time (AVB/Sherwood). History never repeats but rhymes.
We don’t really know anything about Sherwood - as he has no experience or qualifications for the job - but I’d guess his style would be more art than science, and his chance of success will be based on his international and extensive EPL experience plus a heap of common sense and motivation. From the little I know, Sherwood has a strong character and could be a good leader if things go well and I’m open minded about his chances of success - esp considering I was similarly underwhelmed by what proved to be a great appointment in Redknapp. I’d love Sherwood to succeed, if for no other reason that he is the current Spurs manager and will be interested to see if the dressing room takes to him.
To finish on a positive note, Sherwood was topspurs man of the match with a stunning goal Sheringham Corner routine in Arfa Arfa game in one of the greatest games ever to be played at WHL. And if all else fails, we can say “Timmah!” like the South Park character for the first time since Atouba
All that really matters is that Spurs play well and win the next game, and then the game after that and the game after that, all the while developing a style which suits the players (and not necessarily the manager) which is able to allow Spurs to compete with the best around and also put away the crap, home and away. Hopefully Sherwood or whoever gets the gig hits the ground running and Spurs are back challenging playing effective football, as the last thing we want is further regression and mess.
No topspurs editorial is complete without a load of silly stats and graphs - so here come the numbers!
AVB joins Ossie and Pleat’s first stint in charge in lasting 54 league games. AVB shaded Pleat 29-27 wins but the goal difference of +31 vs +14 shows Pleat’s chokers were superior performers and although he only managed 16 wins in his time, Ossie’s Spurs only scored six goals less than AVB’s side - all of which point to some narrow margins for AVB, which were becoming narrower without Bale’s brilliance.
That said, in terms of points per game - the following graph shows the performance of all Spurs manager since the great Billy Nick
Having sacked two managers while at the top, Levy will look a bit of a wally if the next fella rejoins the dead men below 1.35 points per game
On a brighter note, a big thank you to our great Norwegian Hosts on what was an epic trip to Tromso to see Spurs win in the Arctic Circle
The less said about that Man City defeat and the general direction Spurs are headed the better - it seems Spurs recent trajectory is not down to the fans singing or indeed any particular tactical nous from AVB, but without Bale Spurs can’t seem to score and without goals it’s a long way to the top.
The Spurs board have supported the manager over the summer and despite losing the world class Bale, Spurs still have a very talented squad full of international stars and it will make or break AVB reputation. The current run is not a crisis on paper - Spurs still have a respectable 20 points and AVB still on 1.80+ points per game (a higher average than any other Spurs manager) - but the lack of goals and in the City game which featured almost half a changed team, there seemed a distinct lack of team spirit and belief what Spurs were trying to do. A good manager would be able to arrest the decline and with the resources turn this around into a top 6 finish. Lets hope he’s not the limited character Chelsea jettisoned before winning the CL as Spurs immediate future and the continuation of the mini golden era depends on it.
Before all the serious stuff starts, there is the small matter of what should be one of the great Spurs away trips to Tromso and really looking forward to that with all the Norwegian Lads.
If you need to put the City defeat in context, p113 of The Glory of Spurs book contains 22 of ignominious defeats and it would be definitely be the 23rd. If you have nt got a copy, now down to the price of a pint (in London anyway) … the Glory of Spurs book in Kindle/ebook format http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Glory-of-Spurs-ebook/dp/B00C2JTO8G/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1364489602&sr=1-1
27th October 2013 – So far so good
Its been a while since the last update on here (remember the days of daily topspurs updates!) but its difficult to add to the comments in the season preview as they all remain in the balance.
As predicted, results-wise its been another excellent season in which Spurs sit 3 pts off the top of the league having won 12 of 15 games in all competitions with 12 clean sheets. Its been a good few years for Spurs but form like this (and of current seasons) it is the exception not the rule and its always worth enjoying knowing it wont last forever.
However beyond the headline figures, much of which has been bolstered by a flawless campaign in the InterToto Cup or whatever its called now, things are a little less clear
In the EPL, Spurs have scored 9 goals in 9 games but have somehow stretched this out to earn 19 points to be 4th in the League. Is this something to celebrate or something that should be sounding alarm bells?
Is this a solid platform as the new players bed in before Spurs step up a gear with more expensive football for the rest of the season or just a reflection that Spurs have not replaced the matchwinner Bale who could turn tight games and are on a knife edge in close games where the oppo park the bus between a sneaky 1-0 win and getting mugged by the reciprocal scoreline after chasing the game.
This is becoming the narrative of the season and its eventual conclusion will determine the success of the season.
At a similar stage last season, Spurs found a way to lose at home to Wigan and after a similarly pleasing but unconvincing 17 points from the first 9 games. Last season, Spurs moved up a level and Bale was on hand to turn tight games Spurs way to achieve a record points total.
Will it be a similar story this season? It should be as if anything, Spurs are better equipped to challenge on all fronts. However, Spurs need to find similar momentum this season, a way of scoring more goals against a variety of opposition from good players in good teams playing open football to well drilled journeymen carrying out defensive orders of the lesser lights. There is not much wrong with Spurs that bit of attacking spark would nt solve but Spurs are not going to go anywhere scoring at just one a game/less than half a goal a game goal difference.
On top of that, there is AVB’s bizarre attack on the fans – who presumably could see through all the hype to see this was just a run of the mill league game against crap oppo in October, and on a Sunday and nothing much for which to create a carnival atmosphere. If Spurs had gone 0-2 down and the crowd had remained silent while Spurs tried to launch a stirring comeback or had Spurs taken apart the reigning European Champions 3-1 with breathtaking football to a silent shrug … then yes, there is something wrong. But sitting bored through a cautious calculating slow approach against a parked bus is just as it should be – spectators watching a game without being moved. Lets hope the expectation for football fans is not to be humourless one-sided drone cheerleaders at a political rally.
There is a huge amount of goodwill behind AVB but I wonder if that performance and those comments will signal the end of the honeymoon period, and I wonder will the club wheel him out to “re-clarify” his position before any resentment builds.
With City treading water, Utd gone and the likes of Arsenal and even Liverpool touted as potential champions, this is very much Spurs big chance. Everything is in place for a great season, just as long as Spurs are allowed to play like Spurs.
16th August 2013 – Season Preview
Whatever happens this season, its been the best pre-season since 1994 possibly even the modern era for Spurs. That’s not to say the new signings will be great and make the decisive impact the summer 1959 signings (or indeed the 1980 or 1994 vintage summers) but it marks a very different and very positive sign of intent for Spurs.
For too long in recent times, Spurs rise up the English and world footballing ladder has not been matched in transfer dealings. 18 months ago with Spurs in the top3, Redknapp had to make do with Ryan Nelson and Louis Saha freebies as those who controlled the purse strings looked down rather than up and it has become the norm as the first week of the season approaches aside from a cheap squad player or two, no-one has been signed and its all going down to the PM of the last day of the window to squeeze either the buyers or sellers for an extra million or so as the season is four games and more than 10% completed.
This year its different. This year Spurs have shown some intent and gone out and landed highly rated established international players, all of whom should feature in the best first team squad. Marvellous. They could all turn out to be crap but it should not distract from the board backing the manager who has delivered Spurs highest league finish and also looking to mend some of the ‘uefa cup’ type signings from last summer to get the squad back to the CL quality throughout.
As it stands, Spurs are one of the few teams who can genuinely challenge for the title, but the stats suggest the teams will finish in wages paid order, and as such Spurs should yet again regard a top4/70point season as a huge success as there is a lot of hard running to even stand still let alone progress in the world’s most competitive league where each season starts with a clean slate.
If Spurs are to win the title, Bale must stay and not just stay in body (like Modric sleepwalk season before being sold) but stay as good as he was last season. There are three genuinely proven world class players who can win their team the EPL – RVP, Suarez and Bale. RVP took a pretty ordinary Man U to the title last season, Suarez just about kept Liverpool top half and Bale won Spurs an awful lot of points in tight games. Perhaps Hazard or Mata for Chelsea or Cazorla at Arsenal can build on their EPL experience to step up to this level, and maybe one of the new City signings are at this elevated level. But that is it.
Team efforts can build the platform but these are the players who make a difference – the ones who turn defeats into draws, draws into wins – which is vital thesedays as more often than not teams right down to relegation contenders are stuffed full of internationals and can make a game of it with anyone else in the league.
As such, I would break the bank to sign Suarez to give Spurs two of these players and the best chance of landing the title since the early 60s (or even a cheeky bid for Dzeko). Spurs have enough good players elsewhere in the team to ensure goals are leaked at a relatively low rate and plenty of chances are created at the other end – it will be the superstar(s) who make the difference – just think of it… Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League champions … we could all pack it in from the day after!
More realistically, the bounty of Spurs spending this summer has come out of what Spurs will get for Bale when he is eventually sold to Madrid on the 31st August. If Bale goes, he has been one of the all time greats for Spurs, the spirit of the mini-golden era and it would be nice to think the many bitter little people who follow football thesedays could have the charity in their hearts to wish him well
10 years ago, Spurs were about to sack Hoddle 6 games into what turned out to be biggest non-event season ever. From that low point, Arnesen cured Pleat’s malign effect off the pitch and instilled a sense of professionalism which has lasted long beyond his short but productive tenure. First Jol steadied the ship and got the pride back, Redknapp took Spurs to the promised land of 4th and that memorable run in the Champions League and now AVB has guided Spurs to a record EPL points total in his first season (which in any normal run of luck would have been another 4th place and CL football) which was a phenomenal achievement.
Things started a bit slowly with perhaps too much tactics and reached a low point with the home defeat to Wigan, but he was savvy enough to change things around, a flexibility he apparently lacked at Chelsea. From the 5-2 defeat at Arsenal, Spurs picked up 55 points with a 16-7-3 record which equates to 2.11 points per game and the 80 points a season which puts you in the title race in May if it can be repeated over a whole season.
Of those 16 wins, 10 were by a single goal and in 8 of those 10, the great Gareth Bale scored. For all the modern cult of managers, it is still the star player who makes the difference. We need Bale to do that again and if no Bale, where do these match turning moments come from? The large number of hard running midfielders will ensure Spurs have a great engine room – but who supplies the magic? If Bale goes, the ability to replicate or get close to the points achieved will be a measure of AVB managerial talent, genius or just very good
After a great start, it would be nice to see the very likeable AVB establish himself as one of Spurs great managers.
In goal, Lloris had a good first season and looks likely to be the custodian for a while to come. With Friedel in reserve, Spurs also have good quality cover. At full back, Danny Rose will be looking to have the sort of effect Walker did on his return from Villa on loan but personally, I’d put up with Benny as he is the only Spurs player I’ve got any time for and a proper cult legend. Walker had a tough season last year but remains a fantastic talent and hopefully can resume his progress and even if not, he’s still a very decent player.
Spurs are a bit thin at centre back but the very likeable Vertonghen with the returning Kaboul give Spurs a very strong first choice pairing and the wonderful Dawson will never let anyone down
Spurs have the sort of midfield now we could only dream about with the wooden legged plodders such as Sherwood and Redknapp chased Viera’s shadow in our lost decade. Pair any two or three in the engine room and allow Lennon and hopefully Bale to provide incisions.
Up front, Soldado looks a much needed quality injection to the Defoe/Adebayor combo. Defoe with 120+ Spurs goals has had a good career but does not look to have the quality Spurs need for the next level and Adebayor is just too unreliable and not that good even when on song. Its being greedy, but another striker like Suarez or Djeko and another centre back would make the 33/1 about Spurs winning the title very tempting.
Difficult to give a prediction without knowledge of Bale’s fate but with reference to that season 10 years ago, watching Spurs now is an absolute pleasure – a team of great players who have been achieving year after year – and am sure it will be another good one for Spurs.
In terms of numbers, 70 points should be the benchmark Spurs investment should be aiming for this season. Most importantly for me would be CL qualification as it is the most important club competition and Spurs need to be in it and I’d gladly sacrifice the long forgotten domestic cups for this end.
Of the other title contenders, United looked poor last year and never quite worked out how they won so many games, we’ll find out whether it was more than the loss of defensive stability mid-season which has seen City fall from the top, which leaves the best team Spurs played last season in Chelsea reunited with one of the world’s great managers who look most likely to win the EPL. Hopefully Spurs wont be far behind and at this stage we can dream that the title or Spurs highest league finish in a generation is landed.
Up the Spurs
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