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One Hand On The Trophy

We shouldn’t have been there, but we deserved to be. Quite a conundrum when you think about it. This club has embarked on the most piss boiling run to the Champions League Final in living memory. Just as our rivals (and there are a few) were prepping the usual “bottled it” jibes at every stage, we silenced them. It has been one of the most amazing journeys ever. Like Lazarus we were resurrected on so many occasions.

One point from three games in the group stages. Late winners against Inter and PSV left us needing a result away at Barca. We achieved that. At every moment we were supposed to be dead and buried. But we weren’t. After making relatively light work of the Bundesliga leaders in the round of 16 we were pitted against the Champions of England. More last-minute drama in the second leg. A 92nd minute VAR decision that actually went our way. And then do I really need to describe again what happened in Amsterdam on May 8th 2019?

95th minute winners will trigger an unparalleled hysteria in anyone regardless of age. And when that feeling passes and you realise the enormity of the consequence, then grown men are reduced to tears. We were going to a final none of us thought we’d ever see.

And consider this. We were always a hairs breadth away from going out. We lived the whole journey on a knife edge. Barca hit the post. Man City had a penalty saved. Ajax hit the post. PSV were making last ditch tackles in Milan as we held our breath to see if we would go through. It was no wonder that it started to “feel” like destiny. They would be making a film about this Champions League campaign surely.

And all along this was set against a backdrop of injuries the like of which no club has probably seen before. Over 50 at last count this season. To the extent that we only ever fielded our “strongest” side for 70 minutes in the first leg against City and for 60 minutes in the final. 130 minutes total. Not just of the Champions League campaign but of the whole season.

Much credit goes to Pochettino of course. This man has squeezed every possible ounce from this squad to get us to this final. To outdo the greats of 1961/62 and get beyond the semi-final. To make history and elevate the bar a little higher once more. And yet when he said that he’d like to win a domestic trophy but felt that his remit was to get the club challenging for Premier League and Champions League titles, fans scoffed. The criticism he got for fielding a weakened team against Palace in the FA Cup was audible. Oh, by the way, we only lost the semi final of the Carabao Cup on penalties.

Trust this man. Back this man.

Of course, it wasn’t only a backdrop of injuries that the club had to contend with. There were no signings last summer or indeed in January. And we lost an ageing Dembele in that latter window. This was partly down to Pochettino too in fairness. But something to contend with nonetheless. Add to this a delay in returning to N17. Games at Wembley we’re starting grind. On the fans, the coaching staff and the players. It showed after a while. But we eventually returned home. A timely return. Would we have beat City in the Champions League had we still been at Wembley at that time?

The odds were certainly against us on multiple occasions during this run. But we prevailed. And fans of all ages felt a new wave of euphoria and affinity with the club they love. Welling with pride thousands flocked to Madrid. To the opponents ground of our first European Triumph in 1963. Another omen right? A Lucky few had tickets. Thousands didn’t. But they knew they had to be there. And people got creative with their route finder apps.

And there were 60,000 back at the new stadium just to be with other Spurs fans, happy to watch it on screens from the stands. Frequenting the local pubs from hours before and then being drawn to the stadium as soon as it opened. There were still thousands outside. The Neck Oil quickly disappeared.

All Pochettino had ever done when he took charge was promise to make us proud of our club. How can we say he has failed in this regard?

So to the game itself. All I will say is that it wasn’t to be. I can’t recall too much of the actual macth. It seems a bit of a blur already. And the game seemed to pass by so quickly. The clock seemed to speed to full time I won’t be watching it back. Although I probably should. Just to take it all in and rid myself of guilt. Guilt in that due to my desire to just not see our opponents lift the trophy, I also did not see our own players collect their medals. Not losers medals. 2nd place medals. Out of so many top European sides we were the second best. They deserved better from me.

The game itself wasn’t a classic by all accounts. Its hard to recall. But on the biggest stage of all, the key was to come away without any regrets. I suspect there’s a few however and that will be the thing that frustrates everyone associated with the club the most. Fans too. It hurts.

The evening ended and the hopes and prayers of winning gave way to that unfortunate feeling which we have all become accustomed to as spurs fans. The knot in the pit of your stomach. Of being deprived yet again of what could have been. Waking in the middle of the night to have your consciousness invaded by thoughts of disappointment. But our name should have been on this cup surely? Why did we lose? Did someone not read the script?

I had allowed myself some brief pre-game visions of waking up Sunday morning and feeling on top of the world. I had harboured the desire to be able to sing “Champions of Europe, you’ll never sing that” to our rivals. Instead it will likely be sung at us by just about every team we face next season.

But hope remains eternal. We use this as a stepping stone for the future. Pochettino is merely five seasons into his journey with Spurs. A club that had lost its way before he arrived. Mind you that said, five years is an age in the tenure of Tottenham Hotspur managers since about 1984!

Just consider though that clubs with a prolonged and consistent history in the Champions League have only ever made one final. Some, none at all. That puts our achievement in perspective. Doing it on a shoestring and ahead of time. We’ve had a stadium to build after all.

For now phase two of the project starts. It’s a big summer ahead. Some players will go. Hopefully some will come too. Daniel Levy would have been swept up in the emotion of recent weeks too make no mistake. Coming on to the pitch after the game in Amsterdam might have tweaked something in him. Hopefully this will kick phase two of the plan in a positive way. Phase two relies on Pochettino continuing to be at the helm with his whole coaching team. I have no doubt that they will still be here next season.

For now. We recalibrate. The team – the strategy -the way forward. And we reflect of course. We have a whole summer ahead in which this loss will gnaw at us. But it’s helpful to keep the bigger picture in mind. We can’t undo what has already happened. We’ve come a long way in five seasons. We can only imagine what the next five will look like. And whilst we didn’t quite conquer Europe on this occasion, there’s nothing to stop us having another tilt at it. Just like Liverpool did. And of course, there’s some domestic business to focus on too. But where the end game can leave you feeling disappointed, there is no doubt that the journey can provide some amazing high’s. And no one will ever forget the highs we experienced in the Champions League campaign of 2018/19.


It’s going to be a painful day or two for Spurs fans without question, not so much that the aim of at least finishing second in the league was akin to a marathon runner slipping on the only wet patch nearing the finishing line and dislocating their ankle, but moreover the realisation that Spurs fans were born to suffer and that we seem do it with a modicum of gallic “c’est la vie” whilst having developed a skin so hardened that Valyrian Steel couldn’t puncture it. But after the anger follows reflection and with it usually some sanity (this includes me too by the way). No wonder our captain is a Frenchman.

If I wanted some comfort I could convince myself that this was all part of a master plan to keep Arsene Wenger in a job and keep the Woolwich Clan in a bitter war amongst themselves. They have labelled it St Totteringham’s day or some such nonsense, but this is not so much about Spurs failing but more about Gooners justifying their existence and convincing themselves that they matter, as they peer from behind their A4 laminated placards and voice protests on their fan TV channel. This was supposed to be their season. It wasn’t; it was ours and still is.

In saying this you may wonder as to whether I missed the last four games or the fact that Leicester won the league. I can assure you I didn’t. I was mad as hell after taking the family to WHL to watch the game versus Southampton and the pitiful display that followed. We needed one point from the last two games to secure second, but we spectacularly failed to complete an achievable task. It should not have come as a surprise in fairness as we appeared to bail on the league in the West Brom game and have not recovered since; apart from one adrenaline fuelled frenzy against Chelsea where everything was indeed left on the pitch including our senses. Flip flops on. Buckets and spades at the ready.

But it is our season for so many reasons and that it has been our best performance in the premier league ever should not be dismissed so readily. For so long this season, particularly in the lead up to Christmas and Just after the new year, I have felt so proud of being a Spurs fan. Something I haven’t felt for many a year. Literally walking on air with a feeling of invincibility so much so that no rival team threatened my consciousness. Some of the football that the club played has been lauded this season by commentators, pundits and opposing managers alike. People like Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher and Graeme Souness were heralding us as the best team in the land. Opposing managers were coming to White Hart Lane and doing likewise. We were first in just about every meaningful stat in the game (bar points of course and I take that argument). We were even first in number of players booked in a single game (maybe not so good a stat)!!

The teams that hate us seem to have grown too. For us the rivalry is Woolwich and that will always be the case. But ask Chelsea fans, West Ham fans, perhaps Liverpool fans and even Southampton fans who they hate and it will be Spurs. Good luck to them. It tells you more about Tottenham than it does about them. Hate (outside of it being a purely rivalry thing) stems from jealousy I have always found. Which means we must be doing something right.

This season we busted through the “lads it’s Tottenham” barrier and showed teams that our underbelly is not for tickling and we did it by being the youngest squad in the league…. Ever. Spurs have now furnished the national team with a crop of talent that could stand them in good stead for years, but the entire group at White Hart Lane, as young as it is, has room to grow. The ceiling is very high indeed and we have planted foundations that can be built upon. We shouldn’t need wholesale changes each season any more. Just a gradual drip feeding of incremental change.

In addition the club has become known as a place where upcoming talent WANTS to be and with the spectre of Champions League football looming that will be a further magnet we hope for talented players. Selling club mentality could soon be a thing of the past as players want to commit their futures to “the project” and the “philosophy” and indeed have done so already this season. Pochettino seemed to have his “contract signing photo opportunity suit” on very regularly. Most importantly though we have a manager that although may have made a few mistakes along the way, will also learn and has already reportedly been described by Sir Alex Ferguson to be the best manager in the league. The future is bright. Of course it is.

It is easy to forget this after having walked on air for so long this season that it almost felt like trudging through a quagmire blindfolded in these last four games, like watching Spurs teams of old. Perhaps players attentions turned to the Euro’s and staying fit once the league challenge was gone, and in some ways who could blame them when you see what happened to Danny Wellbeck. Perhaps a bit more squad depth, something we should address in the summer, will ensure that we don’t ever end the season again after game 34. That and the wrath of Pochettino, whose post-match presser after the Newcastle game was induced with refrained anger. That is a good thing by the way. Players can let themselves down but when they let their manager and the fans down it could and should get very uncomfortable.

So whilst it is easy to focus on the recent, we should really look back on the season as a whole. It was not just a step up from the previous campaign but instead was one giant leap for Tottenham kind (to coin a phrase). Our best premier league finish ever and our most comfortable Champions League qualification ever. Rival fans can and will in the end say what they like. But things are not so bad. It is a nice place. And even if it feels hard to do right now, put a smile on your face. We go again next season.

Wall of Sound

Something amazing happened on Saturday when we played the goons, the like of which I have not experienced since probably the 1984 UEFA cup final second leg at WHL but back then I think the attendance was around 48,000. The collective eruption inside the stadium when Harry Kane scored that goal will live with me forever. It is often said that football is about moments and that moment will always remain special.

And I know that all of you that were there experienced it because social media, especially twitter has been buzzing with chat about what we all felt in that single moment. So why blog about it if the collective consciousness has revelled in this moment already? Because I felt I had to. I cannot contain this to myself I need to share it too and perhaps for those of you that were not able to attend, to at least give you a flavour of what happened. I am sure you felt it coming through whatever TV screen you were in front of. My wife and one of my sons were at home. My wife screamed so loud she almost went hoarse. My son was yelling and fronting up to the TV almost “haka” style by the sound of it so I know it affected everyone.

But inside the stadium the place when crazy. I only have one good ear these days so I may not have even acknowledged precisely the decibel level that the noise reached but I knew it was loud. I have since seen someone say that it was the loudest ever recorded at a Premier League ground. For others it has simply been described as the best experience they have had inside a football ground.

Like an earthquake of the highest Richter scale magnitude, there were pre-tremors in the ground. It started when Coquelin was sent off and the first eruption occurred when Toby equalised. The crescendo followed approximately two minutes later. It was Pavarotti taking Nessun Dorma to new heights.

I had just about managed to secure tickets to the game. Me and one of my sons plus two friends from Dallas Spurs sitting right in the very last row of the Paxton Road upper tier. We knew it was a significant day because even “the Paxton” seemed up for it. People had been labelling it as the most important NLD ever so the fans knew precisely what was at stake.

So back to the Kane goal. It left his foot and before we knew it the net was rippling. We had no real appreciation of what had happened in real time, but you just knew it was a worldy. Being sat where we were the jumbo screens weren’t even visible. Once the goal had been scored, time seemed to stand still. My son seemed to have spread himself across all four seats that we were occupying and being at the very top of the stand and with the whole ground seemingly below us, he appeared to have had his very own Leo Di Caprio Titanic “Top of the World” moment, arms spread like Christ the Redeemer.

I was knocked aside. I lost sight of the players running to the Paxton/Shelf side corner flag to celebrate because everything in front of me was a sea of arms, heads, bodies……legs!! I looked for someone to hug, so I hugged everyone I could see. Friends, strangers it didn’t matter. My voice seemed to achieve a pitch that Kiri Tikanawa would have been proud of and one I didn’t think I had in me. One of the guys with us from Dallas was having his first ever visit to WHL. He must have never seen anything like this level of emotion in any sporting event in the states. The adrenalin rush was intense. Everyone in that ground and at home on their TV’s or in the pubs knew exactly what that goal meant. There seemed to be years of pent up emotion exhaled at that moment. It wasn’t just about today.

It was only later that we realised that we were covered in bruises. My back and my legs. My son’s hand swelled up and he gashed his shin. It seems that for a couple of days afterwards we were discovering new evidence of the intensity of our celebrations. And I know that some of you experienced bruising too. There have been pictures posted of them. Our battle scars from a battle that we didn’t quite win but from one that was of strategic importance in the war with the old enemy. It marked a stand. It marked a moment that said no matter how big you think your shadow is, we do not fear you. We will never fear you. Be fearful of US.

And in the celebrations, the unmasking of Harry Kane symbolised the unmasking of the beating heart of Tottenham Hotspur. The removal of inhibitions and the understanding that after years of turmoil we are embarking on a very different journey that could just possibly attain the highest level of domestic recognition. Where those who have a voice in the game will stand up and appreciate this club in a manner that has been lacking for decades. Most of all though it was about the unity of fans and players alike, who have a shared history that stems back to a gas light on Tottenham High Road and not to some unknown place in Plumstead. Our roots, our history and our future are embedded in the soil of Tottenham and it is moments such as these that mark every one of us as Spurs fans. Leave your agendas at home. There’s no place for them here.

I want to relive that moment again though. I want more of that. Like buying the last Wonka bar with your last coin and getting the golden ticket. I loved how the moment enveloped me completely and that I was able to share it with like-minded people. Like an out of body experience looking down on a sea of joy and knowing that all of that joy is a part of me and I am a part of it. I would of course have liked my whole family there with me but perhaps next time. Perhaps there’ll be a few more moments to share before the end of the season, and hopefully we will save the best for the very end. Hopefully. COYS.

For those of you of a certain age you may have picked up the melodic tune of the title to this piece if you remember a band called Smokie. But I have had this ringing in my ears for the last two days and as someone quite rightly pointed out to me on Twitter we could just as easily follow this line up with “Palace? Who the fk are Palace?”

The pain of this cup exit was felt more than most in recent years. This is the one time we really felt primed to compete in the competition and we had a winnable draw at home in the last 16. Win that and then the possibility of a Wembley final starts to become tangible and you only have to win three more games to get your hands on the trophy. Not only that we’d take it away from those home draw goons who have been gifted the trophy for the last two season with finals against a poor Hull side and an even poorer Villa one.

OK we have had six FA Cup semi-finals since last winning it in 1991 but we never used to lose semi-finals and we certainly used to win the damn thing outright. And this is why this particular cup is held in such high regard by many Spurs fans. But for all the media hype around the “magic” of the FA Cup nothing could be further from the truth and I for one am angry at how this competition has been allowed to deteriorate into the farce that it has become with none more guilty than the custodians of the competition, the FA themselves.

From the day that they allowed semi-finals to be regularly played at Wembley they diluted the very magic of getting there. Add to that the nonsense around letting Man Utd “skip” the tournament one year and then season it with allowing the Premier League to ride rough shod over football in this country and it is no wonder the competition is what it has become. Lower level premier league teams “rest” players so that they can battle for Premier League survival. Championship teams “rest” players so that they can battle for promotion to the Premier League and so on. In short the Premier League and the Pound are the drivers of priorities so much so that the game clearly is not about glory any more. The Goons won £1.8m for winning the FA cup last season. The last placed team in the Premier league will get £1.23m and that is without TV revenue. So go figure.

But we are in the age where “prioritising” has become an accepted term in football. You only have to see Manchester City’s shoddy display against Chelsea on Sunday and the awful disdain for the competition reflected in their line up to understand where we have got to. This is tantamount to allowing teams to have bye’s into the next round so where’s the magic in that. And clubs expect fans to travel hundreds of miles to watch guys represent them that they possibly may not have even heard of before.

So the solace in getting knocked out of the FA Cup is that we can, as Spurs, now focus on the Premier League and maybe the Europa League too. We have by default prioritised our actions although I am not sure if in Pochettino’s case it was as intentional as Pellegrini’s this weekend. “There’ll be less games to play now”; “we should knock the Europa league on the head too”; and “it’s probably for the best”; just some of the ways we can put a gloss on the defeat on Sunday. There will indeed be less games to play (three of them as a maximum), and who knows it may even work out for the best if there isn’t a distraction of a Wembley final to occupy the minds of players that have a league title to challenge for, for the first time in decades. But that isn’t really the point is it?

The game did used to be about glory. Honest it did. And there did used to be some magic attached to the FA Cup. That once glorious showgirl now turning tricks in the city centre slum in order to keep the flame burning for old time’s sake.

I am old school. I want the club to win trophies and when all is said and done that’s what any football club’s history and honours list is measured by. But such is modern football that we have all become conditioned to accept what is deemed to be important and how each club is right to prioritise their efforts and we all get over it very quickly. And of course I will be hoping beyond hope that this does indeed work out for the best and my club and that they can pick up an honour at the end of this season even though we are now down to two of a possible four.

Trophies used to be celebrated. Now we celebrate league position, signings, and participation. Not quite the same when you understand that it’s all about money, which invariably ends up in the pockets of players and comes out of the pockets of you and me. At least let us have something to crow about in between. Still. Onwards and upwards eh?

Squeaky Bum Time

Ok I don’t know about you lot but I am officially reaching squeaky bum time. Just the fact that Spurs have reached second place in the league (even if it is on goal difference) has triggered the kind of anxiety within me that I had forgotten exists when it comes to the team I support. After weeks of loving everything about what the team were doing and being quite comfortable in competing with whomsoever we were up against, my psychology is now being tested merely because we have hit the giddy heights of second.

I haven’t really had to experience anything like this since 1985. For those that recall in that season we were pushing for the league title challenge when we played a crucial home game on a dark Wednesday night towards the end of the season against our title rivals Everton. Standing amidst another heaving crowd on the shelf we witnessed an excruciating 2-1 loss and then a ridiculous fixture congestion got the better of us. We finished third in the end.

Since then our dreams and expectations have been sanitised by the mediocrity that followed particularly in the 90’s. We had more flirtation with relegation than we did with the title for such a long while. Even European football seemed like a pipe dream until the man with no hair came along and started our upward trajectory. Oh how we sang about a “European Tour” when we hit the heights of the Europa league again.

Redknapp’s team raised expectation further and apart from one fleeting and enjoyable season in the champions league a repeat visit eluded us and sometimes by forces beyond reasonable explanation. AVB tried to push us on but didn’t manage it. But now? Now under Pochettino something special is happening and yes we’ve all noticed it and people are writing and talking about it everywhere it seems.

But what about us poor sods? What about the fans? This is alien right? How are we supposed to cope for goodness sake? Every game coming up is going to be agonising without question and starting this coming Sunday at the Etihad. I daren’t watch! But then this is what we want I hear you say, and you’d be absolutely right but we fans need to get used to this. This is what we signed up for, to root for a team that is successful; to abandon the shackles of expectation and then to actually deliver. Of course it is, but when you have been so deprived of this feeling of heightened expectation and believing that you can go into any game and expect to win, then this goes against the grain for many Spurs fans.

Screw “spursy”! We need to eliminate this word and so what if it appears in the Urban Dictionary? It’s time to redefine its meaning isn’t it? But whatever we do we can’t help sensing in the back of our minds that fate is waiting with a baseball bat to knock us back to our Spurs supporting reality. So we play it down. We stay humble. We remember that Champions League qualification is our real objective for the season and we tell everyone this. But we can hope. We actually have hope of the realistic kind. And this is what can ultimately drive you crazy.

Thank goodness for Leicester I say, allowing us to slip under the radar. Everyone is talking up plucky old Leicester. 5000/1 outsiders at the start of the season and now 7/4 title favourites. The world has gone mad of course it has. But that’s fine. As long as people aren’t talking too loudly about Spurs then that’s good for us fans because if the expectation and attention reached fever pitch we’d probably spontaneously combust.

The good thing about all of this “hope” is that it is pervading into the fan support at matches and there’s an electricity being generated by our fans. There is no question that our away support is one of the best in the land and anywhere in Europe in fact. White Hart Lane however can be a funny yet moody old place. Tension, apprehension, indifference, frustration, disgust as easily conveyed by the fans as excitement, anticipation, energy and drive. The recent game against Watford was a key moment for us this season. The fans realised where we were and what we could potentially achieve and the game became huge, as will all games from here on in. The positive thing is that the crowd responded and sought to drive on and lift the team. The same fans who are starting to agonise (or maybe not for those more confident among us) rose to the challenge and the roar that greeted Kieran Trippier’s winner was of the magnitude normally reserved for NLD games. The fans know now.

“There’s a long way to go”. “One game at a time”. “Champions League is what we want and then we will see”. “There’s a lot of hard games coming up”. Sounbytes? Yes but so what? If it helps us cope then I am all for it. The rest of this season is going to be ride the like of which many will never have experienced before so hold on to your hats. Pochettino and the players and driving the club towards something and its up to us to jump in and drive them on even more. And even if it doesn’t happen this season we have one hell of a building block for subsequent seasons. There appears to be substance to this progress. But whatever happens I’ll tell you what. Stock up on the undies because squeaky bum time is most definitely here. COYS.

A Song For Toby

I am not going to sit here and assess the stats on any of our players or performances so far this season. That’s for others to do and to be honest I find stats fairly mind numbing after a while. But without question this season has given us cause for optimism and whilst that has always been a cue for a kick in the teeth as a Spurs fan, the visible upward trajectory in the club performances has reignited us all as fans I believe and long may it continue.

And nowhere is it more apparent now that at the football grounds both home and away. We seem to have started singing players names once more and this is usually a good sign. It means that we as fans are re-engaging with the players again after a period of moody despondency where songs were somewhat limited to anything containing the “Y word” or “singing what we wanted” and we’d pepper this with “stand up if you love/hate” something and of course there’s always “Oh when the Spurs” as a staple part of the singing diet.

Now we have a real “one of our own” and some in between “ones of our own”, but we are all in love with Eric Dier and of course he loves us back. And whether we are singing “Oh Moussa Dembele” (who’d have thought that 12 months ago); “always taking Lamela with you”; or thinking Jan is pretty “super”, it is clear that with every song there is an adoration and respect for that particular player and what he does for the team. As the joy and attachment builds so does the repertoire.

In my opinion the star of the season so far has been Toby Alderweireld. A much needed signing that has brought out the best out of some of the players around him. Alderweireld (think I will just call him Toby from now on….) has been a calming influence in our defence and he seems to have brought the best out of Vertonghen and they have formed a great understanding together. So much so that Toby seemed visibly unhappy at the fact that he was partnering Wimmer in the recent cup game versus Leicester but that could only have been a blip. The guy has been immense. He has (according to @spursstatman) only committed six fouls in 1980 minutes of Premier League action this season which is Ledley King standard; oh and he has a crossfield pass that Michael Dawson would probably sell his mum for. Plus he has chipped in with goals.

Suffice to say that Toby has been awesome this season. Defensively he has brought calm and composure (OK so we are still somewhat prone to the occasional defensive panic but not as often as we have been used to). There is an intelligence in his play and a reassurance that has been missing since the departure of the “one-kneed” one. And not only that, he offers a genuine threat in the opposing box from corners and set pieces, and given that we never score from corners you can appreciate what an aberration this is for us Spurs fans.

But we have yet to hear a song for him and this is something that I think needs addressing. OK he doesn’t have the easiest of surnames to use but I am sure that there is someone in our ranks that can come up with something.

So instead of breaking out into a somewhat arrogant chorus of “you’re shit” to opposing fans (to the tune of Hey Jude) why not put your thinking caps on and let’s see if we can’t muster something unique up for Toby. Give Toby some love people. I’m sure you can do it. COYS.

Well for most people it is anyway. As people start to wind down for Christmas amidst a plethora of parties, Secret Santa’s and cyber-attacks in the forms of Black Friday’s or Manic Monday’s, the football fan is edging closer to the panic inducing anticipation of the January transfer window that keeps headline writers, sports news stations and erratic social media activists fuelled up and raring to go.

It’s the eve of the silly season in many respects and whatever your views you had just better buckle up, take a stiff drink and prepare for a deluge of smoke screens and nonsense.

Of course Spurs are always at the forefront of these periods each season. The perceived maniacal scrooge that is Daniel Levy will, as some will have you believe, be screaming “bah humbug” to his head coach and to the other chairmen across the land as the fans of a certain view will continue screaming “he’s behind you” because it suits certain people for Levy to be that panto villain.

We can agree of course that Spurs needs a “back up” striker to Harry Kane or at the very least some striking addition to the squad. It is unreasonable and unfair to assume that Kane will be able to lead the line for a whole season whilst staying at the top of his game throughout. But we all know and appreciate (whether we like to admit it or not) that January isn’t sale time in the footballing world. No 50% discounts or special offers available and there aren’t queues forming for the opportunity to grab the best bargains. In fact the opposite is true at this time of the year because with it being mid-season, players carry a premium in their sale price.

We have to ask:

  •  What type of player is available in January? Someone soon to be out of contract or fallen foul of his manager maybe? Or someone who’s form has dipped and is perhaps only playing a bit part role at his current club? And who would want to sign for a new club to be a “back up”?
  • Will clubs be willing to sell in January? If it is to the detriment of a team’s season long objectives then you can understand that the desire to keep a player that can make a difference will far exceed a club’s desire to cash in and sell. Unless of course the selling price is sufficiently compensatory but that alone is not enough as a selling club will need to consider replacements and these may not be available at this precise time.
  • Are buying clubs prepared to pay a premium on players at this time? An argument can be made, quite rightly, that if certain clubs objectives depend on purchasing a player at an inflated price that it may be a price worth paying. However that isn’t always the case as past experience has proven that money doesn’t always buy a successfully integrated or productive player.
  • Which brings me to this point. What “kind” of player does the head coach want and how quickly can he be integrated into a particular style or philosophy? And this is on top of issues that arise from overseas players needing to perhaps adjust to the culture, language and the style of English football. Buying in January means you have to buy a player that is ready to hit the ground running as a head coach is not the afforded the luxury of time available during a summer break (short though that may be). Late summer deadline signings have the same issues of course.


So what about Spurs? Will they be doing any business in the window and what would be the impact if they don’t? I am not so sure. Given the issues you have to address I would suspect that the best chance of recruiting will come from within the UK and possibly from the lower leagues. Who knows? Whoever we buy, if we buy, I am sure that it will be a player that Pochettino wants and one that he feels he can integrate into the squad or his system quickly.

It is clear that Pochettino wants players that possess certain abilities on the field and certain attributes off it too. And I am certain now that Levy has seen the errors of some of his previous transfer windows and has put in place (finally) the system he has always wanted both in player identification with the recruitment of Paul Mitchell and player development in the recruitment of his head coach. We have to trust them to deliver what we as fans want and for once I feel like that side of things has a coherent strategy about it.

I saw one tweet yesterday where it was said that there is a fear that Pochettino would turn out to be Levy’s “patsy” especially if player investment wasn’t forthcoming. I can see that point but I don’t agree with it. I don’t know Pochettino personally but he strikes me as a guy that knows what he wants and how to get it. It is clear that the players he wanted he got in the summer in Aldereweild, and Son. He also got some developmental players in N’Jie, Wimmer and Trippier. And the reason he didn’t kick up a stink when we didn’t bring in someone for the much maligned role of central defensive midfielder or back up striker is because he knows what we have and how that can be moulded into what he wants…..for now.

So will a lack of transfer activity in this next window be bad for the club? I don’t think so. It will depend on what your expectations are I suppose. If it is to win the league then yes maybe it will be. If it is to finish in the top four then maybe not so much. I personally think the squad is balanced enough to cope and in any case top four wasn’t an objective for thousands of fans in the summer let’s remember. Many of us felt that we just wanted more progress and an upward trajectory and I think we have that currently. In any case if it is a quiet window it won’t just be Spurs that will be quiet I feel.

Either way, whatever happens in the transfer window I will not be slitting my wrists with a screwdriver set that I found in a Christmas cracker and nor will I be drowning my sorrows with leftover port. It’ll be nice to have another front man, but I am happy for now to back the progress I am seeing from Pochettino and the team and trust the decisions the club makes going forward.


Leading The Way

Ok. So far so good. There is no question that this season has seen a very young Spurs squad take some significant strides forward as they gel and take on board what Pochettino is asking of them and in the process they seem to have lifted the fans and carried us with them so that the whole club appears to be moving forward in some unity for a change. It is of course a long season and we can only hope that the level and rate of progress continues apace.

It wasn’t that long ago however when many were questioning the absence of a mature leader in the team. Yet thinking back over the last few seasons I can only really think of Scott Parker who for a short period took on that role distinctively. Of course Ledley led more by example. Dawson was an up and at ’em kind of guy that won the hearts of many fans but we never really had many players with a mean streak, someone that would gnash their teeth, tell the opposing player to do one and show that fighting spirit that not only embodies team character but also has the ability to galvanise the fan base who in turn lift the team.

Last season we thought we had found that in Bentaleb and Mason. The latter’s feistiness at Villa Park being apparent in the turnaround game that saw us start to transition our season in a fixture where Harry Kane commenced his journey as “one of our own”. Bentaleb himself was growing so much in his central midfield role not only for club but also for country, that I was one of a number of fans that felt he would soon be captain material even at his young age. And yet here we are twelve months on and the central midfield pairing has changed all together to an even younger duo (if that were possible) but not only this, both Dier and Alli are not afraid to ball out a colleague that isn’t doing what he needs to be, or indeed to come to the defence of said colleague when an opponent suddenly grows a pair and starts to get difficult.

I wasn’t a fan of Sherwood when he was in charge but the one (and probably only thing) I did agree with was at the time of spitting his dummy out in defeat when he said “I can’t keep digging them out. They have to do it to each other”. And in that he was right because for a long time even before Sherwood I would wonder as to why players weren’t screaming at each other when we’d screw up at any moment in a game or when we conceded a goal. The passive acceptance of mediocrity was stifling. In the current set up it would appear that the tolerance level for this has been lowered significantly, and rightly so, especially when you consider the work rate of the side; and for any fan to see this in his team is a good thing.

It didn’t feel like we had these characters in the side previously. Kaboul used to boss opponents (usually because of his size) until his talent and attitude drastically deteriorated but even he was never “that guy”. Similarly, we were never going to get these types of reactions from players that were only ever “passing through” our great club and whose hearts and minds clearly lay elsewhere or in their bank accounts. Any players merely using the club as a stepping stone are not welcome hereany longer it seems, although there is always a concern that talent, and especially young talent, will trigger the radars of other teams.

I wrote a piece last season where I said that I didn’t care if we didn’t sign big name players anymore as long as we found the right pieces that Pochettino was looking for to fit his team ethos. (Was Chelsea Victory a Watershed Moment). And we are certainly in the road to achieving this given the clear out of unwanted players in the summer. The fear is and was that the squad is thin, particularly in cover for Kane, and which may yet be tested as the season wears on. However after a summer of bemoaning the lack of a central defensive midfielder we now have a group of players that can slot into the central positions quite readily injuries permitting. Even Dembele seems transformed and is currently having a very positive effect on the team play in the central area. Or are we just finally seeing a fully fit player at last. Similarly Walker. No coincidence that his form is upturned and sometimes we as fans are not party to all the facts that affect form such as fitness, psychology and personal issues. But that’s a post for another day. Currently you can perm any one from five (Dier, Alli, Bentaleb, Mason and Dembele) for those midfield positions and I don’t think that we will be significantly weakened. That is a great position to be in. Dier in particular has been a revalation and I am pleased that the early season criticism of Pochettino for playing Dier in this role has dissipated. Sometimes we just have to trust the coach.

We may yet need an “experienced head” to guide this team through games such as the last 20 minutes versus the goons the other day, but let’s not forget how many late comebacks we manufactured in games last season. The character seems to be there and when we consider that this group of players are still learning then the potential ceiling of this side is almost anathema to Spurs fans as we really can’t fathom this as it’s not in our DNA to comprehend.

I started this post with the intention to laud the leadership and fighting qualities of particular players in the team and as the writing has progressed I have realised that it is difficult to single people out. We are for the first time witnessing a Spurs side that is all about the “team” sans ego’s and sans star quality and perhaps finally we are witnessing a group of individuals whose total is greater than the sum of its parts. Lamela for example, has had his critics, but his function in the side epitomises precisely what Pochettino wants and the question has quite rightly been raised as to whether he would be as effective in another team? It’s a valid question even if some fans are still blinded by the price tag and the fact that he isn’t scoring every week!

The signs are indeed positive and whilst all we Spurs fans seem to struggle with positivity and “good things” happening to our club due to the ever changing expectation and resultant feeling of failure when those expectations aren’t met or something in the cosmos works against us. We aren’t there yet of course (standard note of Spurs fan caution here) but it seems that we are a happier bunch these days and I urge you all to embrace it. There’s no “I” in “team”, but there is in Dier, Alli and of course Pochettino. COYS.

The forthcoming Europa League fixture against Anderlecht cannot help but conjure up memories of the 1984 UEFA Cup Final played over two legs home and away. This of course was in a time before neutral ground one off finals and back when the UEFA cup tournament was actually the pre-cursor to what is now the Champions League without the need for group stages. Back then if you finished 2nd, 3rd or 4th you entered the UEFA Cup tournament which is testament to how hard a competition it used to be to win.

So permit me a moment of indulgence and this trip down memory lane to thank a couple of centre backs, and of course a stand in goalkeeper, for our victory that year. The first leg was just a vague and blurry recollection for me. I wasn’t part of the fortunate few that made the trip to Belgium as I was still fairly young; and as the game was not even televised live as far as I can recall (we had to wait for the midweek sports highlights programme that evening) I went off to play football instead to keep me occupied, breaking off from time to time to sneak to the car and catch some radio commentary as I just couldn’t stand the suspense either way. All I remember about that game is that Paul Miller had put us ahead with a header only for Anderlecht to equalise with a scrappy goal. That is my sole recollection of that leg, although getting a 1-1 draw after the first leg to take home to WHL put us in such a great position.

Game day for the second leg came and it meant a day off work (don’t worry I booked it off properly). There’s no way I would have been able to contribute anything useful for my employer anyway on that day. The nerves would have had me likely replicating a monopoly chance card all day and ensuring a “bank error in your favour collect £xxx” that would have proved costly for me and my bosses. So a friend and me had a free day and we killed some time playing snooker (yes a popular and credible pastime in the 80’s) and got to WHL for about 3pm I think for a 7.45pm KO. You see you could still pay at the turnstile back then, I know that’s just crazy right, and yes there was already a queue building. We joined the Paxton road queue. It was sunny. We sat on the pavement reading programmes, sharing conversations until the turnstiles opened at about 6pm. Once inside we made our way to the front of the shelf but not in our usual spots for some strange reason.

Then the game finally kicked off. Spurs in white. Under the lights in a European game with the WHL crowd making that noise was something to behold. But the fans had a shock when the game didn’t go to plan. Anderlecht took the lead. Silence. You could hear the collective intake of breath, the puffing of cheeks and the hard blow of air from everyone. This wasn’t supposed to happen. This can’t be right. Wasn’t that guy off side or something? We’re at home……Pause….. Composure…. Sing up….. Let’s go. The stadium roared and the WHL engine ignited back into action.

I’m sure we pummelled them after that. It felt like we did anyway, and the longer it went on without us scoring the more anxious everyone got. Then late in the game the ball fell to Ossie just a couple of yards out. This is it……yes……no….groan…what? How did that not go in? What? The bar? He was two yards out!! Dear God we are never going to score…..we are going to blow it aren’t we……. I just know……………YEEEEESSSSSSS!! Eruption. The ground shook. Players, fans, everyone went mental as good old Micky Hazard had the presence of mind to put the resulting cleared ball straight back in to the penalty area and Graham Roberts pounced. Chest, jink, knock, back of the net. Surely we would go on and win it now.

Extra time was an agonising stalemate and so on to penalties. If only Ray Clemence was fit. We got this Parks kid in goal. Now we’re really gonna blow it aren’t we? Come on You Spurs. You can do it. And so it went…..Roberts first, 1-0. Then they missed their first penalty. That’s it then. All we have to do is keep scoring and we’ve done it……Falco, check; Stevens, check; Archibald, check; now it’s up to you Danny. Everyone braced themselves for the almighty cheer that would go up when this one hit the net and we’d win the cup. Come on!!! …….Nooooo! What? Again? Danny Thomas had his head in his hands by the penalty spot almost inconsolable. Their keeper had guessed right. Unlike today though where some fans might likely be spewing expletives at the player, on this occasion the crowd sung together “there’s only one Danny Thomas” in a show of defiant unity and both Roberts and Archibald gave him a gee up and got him back to the centre circle.

That was me done. The emotion that was bursting to get out on that kick subsided and I was flat. I thought we’d blown it. I totally lost track of the fact that if Parks saved the Anderlecht 5th penalty that we’d still win… and he only went and bloody saved it! Eidur Gudjohnsen’s dad fluffed it and the ground erupted even louder than before and it took me a split second to realise and I was so happy I cried tears of joy. I still to this day regret that split second delay in realisation detracting from me joining at the same precise moment the spontaneous euphoria that everyone felt. But hey, I can live with it. I was there on one of the most glorious nights that WHL has ever seen and oh how I wish we can all see some more nights like that again soon. Inter Milan in the Champions League not so long ago was great but it didn’t even get close to that UEFA Cup Final night.

So I just wanted to thank that centre back pairing of Roberts and Miller and the heroics of a stand in goalkeeper, because moments of glory can throw up the unlikeliest of heroes. And whilst Anderlecht visiting again will certainly bring back some memories, I doubt though that it will conjure up the same feelings of that wonderful night in 1984…..”Mine eyes have seen the glory of the cups at WHL”………..

There was a time when cup competitions meant something but that was before the premier league and champions league years after which success ceased to be measured by trophies and started to be measured by how much money a club made in order to sign better players. It’s almost as if success is now measured by how good a transfer window a club had when in years gone by signing a player meant adding to the squad occasionally in order to tweak what you had.

But I miss the cups and as a Spurs fan I miss them more so of late than ever before. FA Cup third round day used to be huge. The one fixture you would really look forward to because that is when the dreaming started, of a final appearance at Wembley in May. I get that many fans talk about the “magic of the cup” but in reality it probably had more to do with the fact that the FA Cup Final was the one live game on TV each season. The over saturation of live football coming in to our living rooms in recent years means that there’s nothing pretty special at all about a live game anymore, apart from the exorbitant monthly subscriptions we pay for the pleasure!

In recent years the cup competitions have become devalued as teams with “more important” things to worry about like European qualification or avoiding relegation, use the competitions to keep the squads happy. But as there are only three domestic trophies to win each season then it should mean something to win one of them, rather than pass the opportunity over to teams with the biggest squads and most money so they can just throw their medals into the crowd at the end.

Spurs have often been heralded as a cup side and we seem to have lost our way in that regard in recent years too. A sporadic Worthington/Carling/Capital one cup appearance (delete as appropriate) has only punctuated many a mediocre season from a trophy aspect for us. Granted too that since our last FA cup win in 1991 we have lost six semi-finals. We never used to lose semi-finals, the last of which was a hammering at the hands of Chelsea and the one before an abject failure against what should have been a gimme versus Portsmouth under the man Arry! And did I just say 1991? That’s far too long a gap between FA cup wins. 24 years for goodness sake.

I remember leaving Wembley at my first ever final in May 1981 (the replay) and from ground level looking up at a jubilant Spurs fan leaning out of a window from one of the stair wells and him screaming “Fourteen years I’ve been waiting for this!!.” I wonder what he’d be thinking now.

Regardless of how teams approach cup competitions now, you can rest assured that a tie against the arch rivals will always have a special feel about it, and so it will on Wednesday night when we face the squatters from Woolwich. There’s been some special cup games between the two teams over the years. The first I remember in the FA cup on my birthday in 1982. A third round fixture that saw us on the road to retaining the trophy. A 1-0 home win courtesy of Garth Crooks in a heaving White Hart Lane on a bitterly cold day.

Since then there has been a number of encounters with that lot. There is the glorious FA Cup semi-final in 1991, which we couldn’t dine out on for too long as fate had them reversing the result two years later and again in 2001 when an abrupt managerial change left us ill prepared. In the league cup we lost an arduous semi-final in 1987 over three games which we should probably have won quite easily but decisively allowed a two goal aggregate lead slip. Clive Allen netted in all three games. But of course the 5-1 victory at WHL that set up our win of that trophy in 2008 will live long in the memory. (The 4-1 extra time reverse five years ago has been expunged from my memory).

Is it me or is there a pattern here? Beat the Goons and you win the trophy? Well whatever happens I will be just happy to beat the goons for now. And then perhaps we can get back to what Spurs used to do best and that is win trophies. The football landscape has changed and probably for the worse. It has always been about big spenders, but the gap in spending has become a gulf; a chasm so large that to bridge it requires engineering of the highest order. So much so that priorities and planning need revisiting.

For many a Spurs fan the game is indeed about glory. And there’s no glory in finishing 4th in the Premier League, only a recognition of a participatory achievement. Glory comes in the form of trophies and I want one badly.