Archive for December, 2014

I had a Twitter conversation a few days ago. It started when someone tweeted a Daily Mail article about which clubs were the big spenders since Pellegrini took over at Man City (June 2013) That’s what? 18 months ago? Yes just 18 months. And it came with a tweet saying that Levy wants Champions League football but on a Poundland budget. Yes the stick to beat Levy with was back. Now I don’t favour Levy one way or the other but there is so much nonsense being passed off as fact on social media and I don’t really do “unreasonable” personally. Give me facts and I’m happy. If I am wrong I will hold my hand up. That’s the art of reasoned debate.

So the conversation I joined went something like this. I pointed out that Liverpool had a recent net spend of -£91m compared to our +£14m so were they therefore showing more ambition or in a better place than us currently? The tweeter moved the conversation on to spending money wisely. I argued that some of the money has been spent wisely and not all teams get every purchase right. Every top team has had their share of dud buys even Sir Alex had a few. The tweeter moved the argument again to whether it was right to buy “by committee” or not buying in to the coach’s philosophy. This of course can’t be proven either way by anyone as it’s speculative, and who says we aren’t buying in to the current coach’s philosophy anyway? The firing of coaches at Spurs in recent years could be said to have been justified (and agreed with by many Spurs fans in each case) for varying reasons and I won’t go in to each here today.

The tweeter moved the argument on once more to say that our owners are only interested in making money for themselves and to the fact that we came “44th” in spending for English clubs and he would back it up with the article; but didn’t. I raised the issue of needing to fund a stadium and the tweeter used how long the stadium project was taking as a new stick to beat our owners with. The argument had moved once more.  I pointed the tweeter to due legal process in the UK and how the land owner blocking progress had allegedly been reneging on agreements with the club for approximately 12 years. The conversation soon ended as I saw no point continuing it further if the crux of the argument kept moving. The argument against the owners had shifted three or four times during that one conversation just so that some kind of blame could be attributed to the ownership. And this is a mentality that is perpetrated by people that are desperate for someone to blame because we had the temerity to get in to the champions league in 2010 and failed to do that again since.

Nevertheless. My point? It is this in regards to spending. As an owner of my own small business as many of you may be too, we are all in it to make money. Anyone that isn’t needs to take up charity work. And when we spend money from a business we generally will spend what we make. We reinvest where we are able to and the amounts from reserves or free capital at our disposal. If we are reckless then our bank managers will look at us with scepticism and wonder as to our credentials especially if we are going to look for a large business loan to fund some development or proposed expansion. And if we spend £10,000 or £10m or £100m then that money is spent. If I raise more than I spend I did not spend any less and that is why this whole argument of “net spend” is so irrelevant. “Net spend” is a figurative table that Sky Sports concocts to give them something to talk about and the fan to interpret any way he or she wants. Of course our owners must no doubt be milking all the money and we couldn’t have spent the millions we have spent over the years because we happened to have earned more in sales. (It’s funny how wages never come in to the equation however).

Then we have those fans that try to convince us that we could have kept players like Bale and Modric if the club had invested more and at the right times. The fact that the biggest club side in the world came in for those players had nothing to do with it apparently. You see it was our owners being greedy again and lining their pockets. I personally don’t think that whoever we signed would have kept those players at Spurs or even if we had been in the Champions League we would have been able to keep them. They would have gone. Just the same as many of you would have gone to a new employer at the drop of a hat if the salary and conditions far surpassed what you were doing previously. Human nature and self-interest are bedfellows you see. It seems that these days everyone wants to play for Real Madrid or Barca and you just know that even though players are at teams like Chelsea or City or United (as proven with Ronaldo), if one of the Spanish giants come calling players will manoeuvre the move away regardless.

But then fans tell me that if we had backed ‘Arry then we would have been in Champions League and everything in the garden would have been rosy. Except that people forget that ‘Arry was either about to do time for tax fraud or leave for the England job (or so he thought). Either that or if reports were true then he would have liked to have brought in Charlie Adam, or Rio, or Phil Neville or some such. Or he could have just told Pav to “run about a bit” more. My apologies I am letting my feelings get the better of me here, but we’ll never know either way really. But it has to be the fault of the ownership though according to some fans even though we had a squad good enough in my opinion to achieve third in at least two of those seasons regardless.

And then there’s the new stadium. Agreed it seems to be taking an age and maybe we don’t really know what is going on. But you can’t deny something is indeed happening if you actually visit White Hart Lane. Of course it must again be the clubs fault for dragging its feet. The owners have no intention of building it and just want to find a buyer and line their pockets some more. Money grabbing bastards in charge of our club, how dare they? Just for some context the Emirates stadium took over 9 years to become a reality. The North London squatters in Highbury first mooted their new stadium in 1997 with a declined planning application I believe (so it may have been from even earlier). They finally bought a plot in 2000. It was built in 2006. Nine years in total and they didn’t have a land owner dragging them through every court possible at the time. Nobody seems or wants to recall how quickly we turned around a hi-tech training centre in Enfield. Yes that doesn’t suit the agenda that one. That’s a good news story. That won’t do at all.

I am not saying that everything that our owners have done is perfect. It isn’t. Mistakes have been made along the way (and if you read my previous blog you would have seen my comments on the Scholar and Sugar years and how glad I am that many of you missed those years). Some of the current mistakes are being addressed quite rightly and properly by Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust (THST) – Stub Hub; ticketing; communication; openness with fans etc. but there are “fans” out there looking to constantly beat the club with a stick; any stick. And if they keep repeating their message loud enough they gradually influence opinion and in the end they would be right you see. It’s all about being right. About knowing where to point the finger and knowing who to blame. It’s easy to blame when things aren’t rosy in the garden. And once everyone buys into the hysteria and the blame game and everyone is proved right…..what then? Then there will be a lot of “I told you so” coming back and we can all sit there smug as Larry and patting ourselves on the back.

But that’s today’s football fan. The cynic. The conspiracy theorist. Happy being unhappy. Wanting it all but not really understanding what it takes to get there. No patience for gradual progress no matter how hard the road. No doubt we’ll find something else to bitch about because we won’t be happy until we are the biggest and best club in the country no doubt. Because we have been that quite a lot since 1961 haven’t we? Or is that really what we aspire to be? The next Chelsea or Man City perhaps? Will we be happy then? I doubt it. We are constantly fed vines to laugh at of Gooner fans moaning about their own club and how unhappy they are and they have had some 19 years of continual Champions League appearances and some trophies in between. Today’s fan. All about today. Nothing else matters.

In my last blog I spoke about the disconnect between club and fans and this resultant air of exclusion appears to be breeding suspicion and distrust that is fuelling an army of discontents armed with their smartphones trying to drive the gap wider instead of looking to close that gap if at all possible. Me? I just want to see my team win matches. I want to see a style of football develop on the pitch. I want joyous moments as a fan and supporter. Perhaps I am naïve but I am just growing weary of the “off the field topic” agenda drivers and the haters that could be doing as much damage to the fabric of THFC as the people that they are trying to blame at times. And whilst we may all have different opinions (I am not expecting you all to agree with this post) as Ledley said, “This is my club. My one and only club” and as much as we can all be infuriated by events at times, we have to ask, is there really a point to it all? Is it really all just about “the money”? Or have we all just forgotten what being a fan is about?

Football Used To Be Fun

I was born the year that Match of the Day was. That should give you some context to this. I remember being Spurs before even knowing what Spurs was. I clearly must have been old enough to know what the word looked like because I felt chuffed when I saw a Spurs Rosette on an uncle’s wall and pointed it out to my dad. “Look dad. Spurs.” There was more than just one of us then! (Yes I get it. Most of you don’t know what a rosette is. Google it). And whilst everyone seems to remember their first game, I sadly don’t. All I remember is that my dad took me one evening game. Or at least it felt like evening. It may have been a wintry Saturday. The only thing I remember is that there was a brass band at half time and I begged my dad to take me home because I didn’t like the band (lame excuse). I was only about 5. He vowed never to take me again, but of course he did. Thankfully.

I also remember turning up to the turnstiles on match days with my dad. Adult and junior turnstiles side by side on the Paxton Road. He’d push me in one while he went through another (that’s when turnstile operators wouldn’t let us squeeze through as one). 70p for him and 35p for me. I’m sure he took me to the first leg of the UEFA cup semi-final versus Feynoord. And I remember going to Alan Gilzean’s testimonial in days when players deserved and needed testimonials. I remember the last home game in 1975 versus Leeds Utd needing a win so we wouldn’t get relegated and yes I remember Alfie Conn sitting on the ball and Cyril Knowles scoring.

The first memory of glory however would have been the ’73 League Cup final against Norwich. Ralph Coates replaced the unfortunate John Pratt and scored the winner. I don’t quite recall the 71 final v Villa.

But we did get relegated once. 1977/78, but that was good for me because at 14 the following season I was able to start going by myself. And then I started going with my mates. And by the early eighties we were at school during the day and asking everyone “are you going Spurs tonight”. Yes they were and there’d be up to 20 of us on the shelf watching the game and going mental when we scored. One time a mate lost his earring and we pushed people aside until we found it. Well I found it actually. No idea where that fellow spur is nowadays though. Good job it wasn’t the same day though when on a packed shelf a gap suddenly appeared because one individual that was off his head with booze decided to whip it out and urinate there and then because he couldn’t get to the loo. Not something I miss about those days to be fair.

And how great were the early 80’s? Best side since the sixties and has not been bettered since. Proper players. Proper manager. Proper style. But 1984 was when football changed for Spurs. Off the back of one of our greatest triumphs we lost the best manager since Bill Nick. The reason? A meddling chairman. The dawn of owners that wanted more than owning a football club. They thought they “knew” football and they wanted fame and notoriety and Spurs were the first to feel the brunt of it. So much so that when the money from the Premier League started to filter in to football Spurs weren’t prepared for it on the pitch, which is funny because our then Chairman was prepared for it on a personal level. People that bemoan the fact that Spurs haven’t recovered from failing to push on after 2010 should really put the ‘84 missed boat’ in context. Near bankruptcy followed by 1990 or thereabouts and the highlight of the mediocre 90’s was Gerry Francis (with still unfashionable mullet) telling us that he was our best performing manager by taking the club to the giddy heights of 7th. It took us about 20 years to get over the Irving Scholar debacle and the subsequent Alan Sugar era.

And whilst we linger here, on missed opportunities and not pushing on from 4th, do you realise that the last time we finished as high as third was 1990. Yes almost 25 years ago, and even then we were a good 16 points behind the champions. And some of our fans today would have us believe that we ought to be top 4 on a regular basis. But I will come back to this later.

Put simply, I fell in love with Spurs before I even fell in love with my wife and that will be true for most of you. Spurs are my first love and just like a marriage they can charm you, exhilarate you, drive you crazy and put you through every emotion. But love is the glue. The affinity with the club, its aura, it’s history, it’s moments of glory. It’s in your DNA. And in this turbulent relationship I have celebrated and I have despaired. I have written to former managers and chairman when peeved (we didn’t always live in the digital age), if only to vent my spleen; and in recent times I have emailed the club’s current chairman. Sometimes I got a reply. But even then I have supported players, backed managers, supported Chairmen and all because I want the best for my club. Our club.

I moved to Birmingham in 1993 and kept my season ticket for a full ten seasons after that before tiring of lonely and long motorway trips late on midweek after watching us play a lower league team in the Worthington Cup. I wondered what I was doing and whether I really loved it any more. Before this if I missed a Spurs game it felt like the cosmos would implode if I wasn’t there. But I weaned myself off and got a bronze membership instead (well it felt like queueing up for another season ticket just in case things improved was the medicine I needed) and the saturation of TV coverage that followed made it bearable. And there it is! TV coverage. The football killing disease. Right there. Premier League then Champions League brought money into the game that then brought more owners with agendas; which then made players richer and fans poorer and the disconnect began.

You see, despite all the ups and downs in the fan relationship you could still identify with the players, or with the kit, or with the history, or most of all with the badge. So I always want Spurs to win even when they piss me off, and I always related to the players as long as I felt they understood what it meant to play for Spurs; and most of them did. But not so much of late it seems. But then how can they know what it means to play for Spurs? I mentioned the word “testimonial” before. Players of today no longer need or hang around at one club long enough, to make a testimonial game meaningful.

But then how can it? Today’s fans get uber excited about signings. Our heads have been so brainwashed by the media frenzy of clubs signing players that we want and demand new signings. Screw the players that are already there, because we want to sign new players; better players and if we don’t then we aren’t showing ambition. And then when the signings don’t work out (often because of needing time to adjust, or a change in coaching style) then we clearly didn’t buy the right ones. But it doesn’t stop fans drooling in a transfer window and celebrating “Jim White day” for goodness sake. Honestly, if anything represents today’s football it is that. A newscaster reading off a cue card and spouting nonsense at the top of his voice to create fake excitement is what today is about. That and “Super Sunday’s”. Hype and sensationalism and nonsense and more fake excitement and absolute hysteria fuelled by tabloid press, tabloid style radio stations and phone in’s, social media and so on and so forth. We now have a world where everyone has a voice although most of it is filled with nonsense (and no doubt some of you have spotted the hypocrisy here as you laugh at this blog).

But back to signings. We demand them. We want them. And yet we get the hump when players want to up sticks and move after a couple of seasons. You can’t have your cake and eat it. It’s a transient world and footballers are more transient than most. They have been commoditised amongst the balance sheets of clubs and traded like stocks on the LSE. So how can we have an affinity with players. The disconnect is fuelled by the greed of clubs and the Associations that run the game and by our own “I want it now” mentaility. Supporting a football club used to be fun.

I was at the Palace game last week at White Hart Lane. My first visit this season for a number of reasons and I will be attending the Newcastle game on Wednesday. I will be with my wife and one of my son’s on Wednesday night, but against Palace I went alone as I happened to be in London and got a ticket for just over £20 from Stub Hub. Yes them. £23.60 in fact. For a £40 ticket. I still remember days when people turned up and got locked out because the ground was full.

Standing there at the back end of the lower stand in the Park Lane end, I have never felt so detached from the club. I saw 11 guys in white shirts trying to construct something exciting, but there wasn’t much to cheer about. I didn’t feel close to them. I didn’t feel a part of them. I wanted to feel excited. I wanted that sense of anticipation. I desperately wanted to feel moved in the way that supporting Spurs used to move me. But it just felt like some tired embers simmering and failing to ignite. And the ground? It just seemed like this strange place and I could have been in any ground in England. It felt like I used to know every nook and cranny of that place but I just looked at it and thought, there used to be a club here. Which brings me back to Keith Burkinshaw and his parting shot when he left in 1984.

Football has changed beyond recognition and whilst I may still be a fan, and sport my Spurs tattoo, and argue the toss with every negative spurs fan on twitter or elsewhere, it is hard being a fan today. Especially a Spurs fan. Perhaps because we have lost our identity recently and maybe if and when we rediscover it things will be different again. Yes fans are fickle and a successful run of games in just a few weeks can change feelings. Just ask Newcastle fans right now. But the feeling of disconnect is growing and wanting your Tottenham back in some ways seems a forlorn hope, because things will never ever be the same. At least not the way I remember and cherish.

I always wanted to see us win just one league title before I popped my clogs and as the years roll by it seems less and less likely to happen. Unless of course you follow the road trod by former bit part clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City and win the benefactor lottery. Because for now that is the only way it can happen despite Spurs trying to do things the “right way”. And whilst many fans will hold up 2010 as the benchmark, we have to realise that was more an aberration. Circumstances gave us an opportunity which we missed for a number of reasons, not all of which can be laid at the current Chairman’s feet. We had the right players at the right time and took advantage of the right circumstance. But sadly this is not the norm for Spurs. We are still trying to build the “norm” for our club, because somewhere along the way we lost ourselves.

That said, come the next game, I will be watching and cajoling and supporting and agonising and willing my team to win. Because I know that I am and will ever be Spurs. As are the three new Spurs fans that I created (my two son’s and my wife) just like all of you are constantly creating new Spurs fans. Not because you want them to suffer but because you want them to belong to something like you do, to belong to something special and share the moments of pure unadulterated joy like Ricky Villa at Wembley, like Graham Roberts lifting the UEFA cup, like Hoddle and Gazza and Ginola and Lineker and Klinsmann and Bale; and like Crouch’s goal in the San Siro. But I long for these things to return before the gap in the disconnect increases. Before lethargy and apathy and negativity consumes some fans so much that they forget why they support Spurs or what supporting Spurs should be about and what it should feel like. Judging from my twitter feed there seem to be a few lost souls that are beyond saving, but we need to keep the faith. If football is indeed like a religion then you have to have the faith in it despite the times you question what you believe in. Like I said it is part of who you are. It’s in your DNA.

Football did used to be fun. Honestly it did. We just need to remember how to enjoy it again.