Archive for October, 2015

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.

Some of you may already be aware but there is a feeling amongst some Spurs fans that we shouldn’t be singing the “Tottenham Boys Making All The Noise” song because it demeans us. You see it is a generic lower league song and for that reason we shouldn’t be adopting it as one of our own. One fan even thought it right a couple of days ago to scold the Spurs Official twitter account for retweeting a young girl fan singing it and thereby “encouraging” her. I considered this odd firstly because it was merely a retweet and nothing to do with the official account; and secondly this was a little girl fan revelling in a spurs song and who really doesn’t distinguish whether the song is apt or not.

I was advised in the ensuing twitter conversation that followed, that we as a club have our own repertoire of songs that we should be promoting and not adopting songs from the lower leagues. Personally I don’t know when we got so snobby about these things and secondly I can’t really remember much of a “repertoire” since the days when we were taking more care of Archibald or telling everyone that Hoddle was the born king of White Hart Lane.

There hasn’t been much collective singing at WHL in recent years other than telling Defoe that he was a yiddo; comparing a one kneed Ledley to the Chelsea captain; or singing that Bale was born to play for Spurs. We stole the last one from the Welsh national crowd, and perhaps we shouldn’t have done as they are not a top tier footballing nation! The other songs were sung to more generic tunes in any case. In fact we couldn’t get more generic than all the “stand up if..” songs that have evolved into “shoes up” songs but yet these tunes aren’t met with the same disdain.

No, the only true “Tottenham” songs that come to mind is “Oh When The Spurs” (and even here one fan moaned that we weren’t even doing that correctly because fans begin clapping too early) and Glory Glory Hallelujah which we have all but stopped singing and has been adopted by Man Utd as their own some years ago. I was then advised that “it’s a grand old team to play for” is one but I think that this was nicked from Celtic or Everton I’m not sure; and “Can’t smile without you” is one too but that seems to be as generic as you can get.

Whilst we have one of the best away supports in the country, the sad thing is that WHL has been bereft of atmosphere for a while for a number of reasons and this is why we revert to the generic. The reasons for this could be (open for debate):

1. It’s a different crowd now which is dictated by who can afford tickets and how often they can attend.
2. All seater stadia that does not allow like-minded individuals to congregate
3. Players not staying at Spurs long enough for the fans to bond with
4. The fact that those “creative” supporters that instigate the kind of songs that may one day form a repertoire, would rather attend an away game precisely because of the atmosphere created there and lacking at WHL.

I personally don’t have an issue with what songs we sing as long as we can create an atmosphere. Anyone that witnessed the NLD at WHL last season will know that the “everywhere we go” song lifted the stadium and the players as it rung round the ground with such vigour. We were never going to lose that day, and for too long we have sat in the stands at WHL and waited for the team to lift us as fans rather than the other way around as it should be. On the day of that NLD the roles were rightly reversed.

And I wouldn’t be too quick to denigrate the lower leagues either. In my former life as a referee I was at non-league grounds where Northwich Victoria took 10 fans and a drum to Ilkeston and sang for 90 minutes despite losing 3-0; or seeing 1800 FC United fans turn up at Barwell for an end of season game. These fans are just as loyal (possibly more so) and belong in the football fraternity. We shouldn’t put ourselves on a higher pedestal just because we are Premier League.

All I can say to all Spurs fans is sing up and sing loud. Home and away. And if the song is generic then it shouldn’t matter. We as fans are there to create an atmosphere, and if some bright spark can conjure up a song that is unique to us then that is fine too; of course it is and more power to you for that. And when we get our single tier stand in the new stadium you can bet your bottom dollar that like-minded people will at last congregate and put the fear of God into visiting teams. Until then though, please don’t be a snob.

“Oh…..when……..the …….Spurs……………..”

As a financial adviser my industry is heavily regulated. We have to ensure that the advice we give is appropriate and relevant for the client’s objective regardless if they are investing, spending or borrowing. The key message in any investment though is that past performance is not a guide to future performance and the same can be said when a football club buys players.

In the summer of 2013 Spurs fans finally got what they wanted (well apart from Bale leaving). A splurge of money on players and trading happening early in the transfer window. The signing of Soldado for example had everyone in joyous raptures about how he had “left sunny Spain to play at White Hart Lane”. This was the top striker that we had been craving for so long! Well we all know how that worked out and it was the harshest lesson in understanding that not all purchases pay off. What works in one environment does not necessarily equate equally in another environment. You only need to reflect on the Torres at Liverpool and the Torres at Chelsea to understand this.

Spurs are not the only club to suffer. Man Utd have had their share of Veron’s and Anderson’s as have Chelsea with Schevchenko, Kezman, Torres and so many others. The difference perhaps is that when you have money coming out of your backside like these clubs do then you can afford to make transfer mistakes and you can easily overcome them. Teams like Spurs cannot afford to do this and money badly spent will quickly equip a mocking stick to beat the club with, not only from rival fans and media but sadly and probably more so, from our own fans too.

So now we have unerringly set a bar. 2013 transfer activity is now the benchmark for ridicule and thankfully Liverpool went one better than Spurs in 2014 to illustrate that having money in your pocket doesn’t always get you love, to reference a well-known song. Moreover it paves the way for fans to talk with the benefit of hindsight in an effort to impress a particular point. Knowing that this player is “shit” or that player is “shit” now means that any player that the club are linked with generally means that more money will be pissed away if the guy doesn’t have a 90 rating on FIFA or some such. More annoyingly though it gives fuel to the “I told you so” crowd.

But the fact is the fans don’t run the club and we aren’t the ones that have to worry about whether spending £25m on Berahino (WBA’s apparent asking price) will be money well spent. We can all just clamour for the money to be spent because “that’s what we need” but I can almost guarantee you that once a signing turns sour its those same fans that will be screaming how the club have pissed away more money and they haven’t got a clue. And when money is badly spent then yes it is deemed a success if you can limit your losses and recoup some or most of the outlay. That’s just common business sense.

You can therefore understand the clubs shift in transfer policy after having their fingers badly burnt. The ownership have clearly stated that they would like to develop their own players and bring in players in the £10m – £15m price range that they can develop further. This is where Spurs have had success in the past and given the millions that the club needs just to remain competitive amidst their limited revenue streams as compared to competitor teams, you can see why that might be the case. We should ask ourselves whether the club’s strategy of being a top four contender on a regular basis would have quite likely borne fruit had not Chelsea and City not hit the oil tycoon lottery and appeared from nowhere. That said the club strategy needs to realign to account for this anomaly and it’ll be hard to do this and remain competitive at the same time but this is what needs to happen.

So whilst we would all like to see the squad strengthened in each window and we would love for every signing to be amazing, it’s unlikely to be that way unless you are competing for the type of player that will only sign for clubs that are currently “bigger” than ourselves financially and can guarantee (more or less) Champions League football and challenging for honours on a regular basis. We are not in that market at the moment. We and other clubs around us have to take a calculated gamble. All we can do is hope that the squad is moulded into something where its sum is greater than the value of the individual parts because there’s no way to gamble on a sure thing.

As a football fan, you can proliferate most of your memories with emotive recollections that have something to do with your club. Your one and only club. Going to White Hart Lane over the years has been one of life’s experiences that I would put above anything else, (but if my wife is reading this then not quite as good as walking down the aisle darling honest!!) There is not a stage or incident in my life that I cannot directly relate to either Spurs playing or my being at White Hart Lane. People talk about WHL being their church and more often than not reference the “hallowed turf”, but there is nothing more hallowed than the powerful divinity of a spurs team kitted in ghostly lilywhite under the evening lights at WHL.

I started going as a very young child to watch Spurs with my dad. He’d hold me by the hand and guide me there and soon enough I was recognising when the bus we took from Edmonton would be nearing the ground and it would be time to get off. I didn’t get to see my Dad much during the week as he’d be at work mostly so it was good to share these moments with him although I didn’t appreciate them at the time perhaps. Spurs were always the main thing we had in common until he passed away in ’94 and our last conversation was about Klinsmann’s disallowed goal against Man Utd. Soon after those early days I was old enough to meet him at the ground. I remember one night Spurs were due to play Newcastle at home but it was approaching 6pm and I was somewhere near home playing on my bike when I had the urge to just cycle home as quick as I could. It was a good job I did as my dad had called home and wanted to meet me at the ground to go to the match. Totally spontaneous. Intuitively Spurs induced. No need for membership cards, e-ticketing or stub hub.

The ground was always a special place. Filled with vibrancy and expectation and sometimes danger. The year we were relegated was the year I could start going on my own without my dad and I have to confess I purposely didn’t attend the Millwall home game that year as I didn’t want to contend with the lunacy that was attached to that fixture. I remember too when Arsenal or West Ham fans would come and try to “take the Paxton”. One time I entered through the Paxton Rd turnstiles for a West Ham game only to see home fans running toward me as trouble had started to kick off inside. Thankfully those days are long gone.

I lived through the old stadium as it was, when players had to climb steps to get onto the pitch from what seemed to be a burrow in the West Stand by the Park Lane end. No handshakes and protocol needed and only McNamara’s Band winding it up before the game. There were no Jumbotron’s with highlights and not every match was highlighted on TV either. You only got to see the action once and then it was confined to memory.

WHL started to change in the early eighties. A new West Stand and the arrival of corporate boxes but who cared? We had Hoddle, Ossie, Archibald et al. I missed a game one year when we played Wolves at home (Feb 82) and that night I was at a mates 18th getting drunk on vodka when I found a room in his house to watch MOTD on. With the room spinning and his portable TV uneasy I saw the game. We won 6-1 and the eerily empty West Stand was a surreal backdrop.

Then the East stand was redeveloped and I always remember the never popular Terry Fenwick scoring a rare goal and then celebrating to an empty East Stand. It raised a laugh and we all knew that he’s just given us all the middle finger but there was no animosity. The two ends were eventually completed to give us a new stadium but by this time all-seated stadia were the in thing and the soon to become Premier League meant many people that grew up watching the club at WHL would soon be priced out of the game.

But I shall never forget the days that I spent going to games. Standing behind the goal in the Paxton Road. Sometimes I would be so close to the front I would almost touch the players. I touched the ball once as it went for a corner. I was so chuffed, especially as it was on MOTD and I got to see myself on TV. Shame there was no live pause back then!. Later I used to stand on The Shelf with my friends. What an amazing construct that was. Always heaving with people; so many people; at times you couldn’t see what was going on, especially at the big games when it would get really packed. But you’d be able to walk in through the turnstiles and move to any part of the ground and that was how like-minded people congregated and atmosphere was created.

But my memories are plentiful, and whilst many of you are still forming yours, I can’t but help feel that my generation had the best of it outside of the 60’s. Taking the day off from work to queue up for the 1984 UEFA cup final second leg from about 2pm; missing school one morning to go to WHL to queue for ticket returns for the 1981 cup final replay (that’s a whole different story for another day); being told that the terraces were full for a game against Birmingham City and having to pay a whopping £2 to sit in the Paxton Road stands; driving down from the Midlands (once I had moved) to watch a game against City only to have the game called off due to waterlogging an hour before kick-off; meeting with my friends; eating at the Chick King; having a drink; celebrating goals; sticking five past the goons after they’d stuck five past us a few seasons before; being infuriated by Barcelona in ‘82; Gazza in his sock; Hoddle’s volleys; Ginola v Leeds; Klinsmann v Sheff Weds; Berbatov v Bolton, Modric, Bale, Ardiles, Lineker … I could go on but I need to leave space in this fanzine for others..

Through it all though I have had the ultimate pleasure of watching so many wonderful players that have entertained thousands in the WHL theatre and it will always be a huge part of my life. And yet once the new stadium is built (whenever that will be) the ghosts and memories of Tottenham past will inevitably live on in the minds of fewer and fewer people and a new breed of fan will start that cycle again with their own hopefully good memories that haven’t been tarnished by the negative voices in social media or their obsession with corporate football business. Memories are made from moments that leave their mark and remain unforgettable. Enjoy the moments and enjoy the memories.

If you are an American Football fan like I am, or even a follower of decent American TV serialisations then you may be familiar with Friday Night Lights, a series set in Dallas, Texas around High School football. Why have I even started a Spurs blog with this? Well because there have been many rumblings lately as to whether the new Spurs stadium will incorporate or accommodate American football at some point and with recent requests by the club for changes to stadium planning permissions there are some people that are touting this to be the case.

Now, Friday Night Lights centred on High School football as I said, and in the US the delineation is quite clear. Friday’s are for High School football; Saturday’s for College football (and bear in mind some colleges like Ohio State, Texas A&M and Michigan, draw attendances in excess of 100,000 people so this is serious stuff); and the professional game is played on Sunday’s outside of televised Monday and Thursday night games. In Europe we have the same delineation with UEFA games. Champions League on a Tuesday or Wednesday; Europa League on a Thursday.

And this brings me nicely to Spurs and hopefully you can appreciate the neat Segway to European football! The level of European football played by a club is determined firstly by how a team performed the season before but is identified in the current season by what night the floodlights are turned on. For us it’s a Thursday. Of course our objective is to ensure that we are playing European football on a Tuesday or Wednesday and whilst we could sit and argue how we achieve this and the rights and wrongs of the playing strategy, squad composition or whether ENIC is the devil from hell, the fact remains that the biggest competitive driver is money.

It is to this end that a stadium with an increased capacity is critical to the long term planning on so many levels for the club. The cynics will say that once built ENIC will sell and if so who really cares even if it does pan out that way? The stadium will be here to stay regardless of ownership. A stadium’s match day revenue alone (away from TV money) is a critical determining factor in financial competitiveness for clubs. Spurs are currently 6th in annual match day revenue (£44m). City generate £47m; Liverpool £51m; Chelsea £71m; Arsenal £100m and Man Utd £108m. – (2014/15 figures according to Daily Mail).

Arsenal have to be the direct comparison for Spurs here and for two reasons. 1) They are in London where corporate demand and prices generally tend to be higher and 2) Spurs are proposing to build a similar sized ground. £60m match day revenue is a big gap to bridge every year: and then factor in the gap size without regular Champions League money in addition, which has been far superior to Europa League prize money by a ratio of 4:1.

It would be remiss of Spurs therefore in planning for building their stadium to not also consider maximising revenue from it, and if that means equipping it to hold NFL games then why not? There is talk of an NFL London franchise at some point although possibly unlikely in the next 5 years as moving a team to LA appears to be the next issue for the NFL. Fans are naively worrying about the state of the pitch or whether the lines and logos would interfere with what we as Spurs fans are watching, but we will have to have faith in the architects of the design and trust that they will incorporate some form of retractable second surface which is not uncommon nowadays in other stadia.

If you are worried about football selling its soul don’t be. Its soul was sold in 1992 when the Premier League was formed and an elongated middle finger was shown to the rest of the Football League and football generally in this country. If the key competitive driver is indeed money as I have stated, then revenue optimization has to be a sensible strategy in today’s game particularly in the absence of an oligarch owner and some lightweight Financial Fair Play rules.

The impact of increased revenues probably won’t start filtering through to the team immediately however, and It would be foolish to think it would. Arsenal have only recently started splurging £40m on individual players and their stadium was completed 9 years ago this month. That said, anything that can help make the club competitive should be welcome and if using the new as yet unnamed stadium to host different sports and events will help Spurs do this then this should be welcomed.

The High School team in Friday Night Lights had a motto that someone shared on twitter the other day – “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose”….. except I suppose we are Spurs and we do occasionally lose. But for me the stadium will certainly be a win for the club. Embrace it.

I was wondering the other day when exactly Spurs fans became so toxic in their criticism of the club, players, performances or anything else associated with THFC that it became acceptable? It seems as though being unhappy with certain aspects of the on field or off field performance has to be followed by plenty of dummy spitting and utter contempt to such a polarised degree that if you don’t agree with someone’s extreme point of view then you are a “happy clapper” as if it’s a bad thing to stay positive about aspects of the team you have chosen to support.

It could just be that this is a reflection of society, or footballing society more relevantly. Or it could just be the social media generation where the easily disgruntled have a platform from which to speak quite loudly that isn’t quite a “consider the lilies” type moment. Or has the money game infiltrated our desires to the extent that if a team isn’t winning or competing that it ceases to mean anything? Or is the “FIFA generation” so used to venting their spleen if their real life controllers don’t work in the same way as their Sony or Microsoft ones? Has the digital non reality just blurred the realism that used to be attached to supporting a team? Perhaps the pay per view generation see the likes of SKY waxing lyrical about the “best” teams in the “best” league that nothing else matters other than being “the best”?

We had the rather shameful incident recently in the away match at Stoke where Spurs fans were arguing and fighting with each other. Now this is not the same as arguing over social media, which is bad enough, but this was face to face verbal and aggressive. It did not last long thankfully from what I understand, but for it to have happened at all should embarrass us all. We ought to be above these types of things. It seems that some were happy to “sing” at the top of their voices that “we’re f***ing shit” over and over and some of our more seasoned fans took offence to it and I have to say that I would have too had I been there.

Do fans really comprehend what it means to sing that about your own team? You can adjust or abandon how much you care or how passionate you are I suppose, but one thing you should never abandon is your pride and your dignity. And I get the self-deprecating cynicism that some choose to hide behind when things aren’t going well, but even if the team were utter garbage that day (which by all accounts they were as I still haven’t seen the game or the highlights having purposely avoided it) what possible point can there be to revelling in singing about it in that way? It is embarrassing and I would hazard a guess that this flip flopping from rapturous support one minute and reckless abandon the next is likely to stem from a breed of fan who’s memories perhaps do not extend further back than maybe 2004 so that all context of where we are as a club is lost. Moreover it illustrates a total incomprehension of what the badge should mean to US as fans, and how we should carry ourselves as fans.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t look at things through spurs tinted specs (as I am often accused) but I like to believe that there is another side to a situation and no matter how angry I may get about something to do with THFC one thing I will not do is sing that “we are f***ing shit”. Because the badge on that shirt is what identifies me. It identifies all of us, because most of all a club is about people. It is about us as individuals and not the money men or even the players or coaches, it is about us supporters because when all of these guys have been and gone, we will still be here.

You see, the toxicity and hysteria in the knee-jerk levels of supporter reactions are incomprehensible to me. Player X has always been useless because he has had a poor month. Player Y has been awful because his stats prove he is awful. The coach is out of his depth because he doesn’t play this way or that way, or have a plan B or C or D. The board are just in it to line their own pockets. And yet none of us live day to day in the training camp or dressing rooms or board room of our club and so we will never know what really happens or what the backdrop may be to a certain situations. All we have are rumour and conjecture being passed around as fact in an inane attempt to be the one that told us all so. Let’s consider a recent example of Emmanuel Adebayor who has made clear that he has had some unfortunate familial issues that would no doubt impact the best of us in our daily lives; and it was only when some of this stuff came to light that people started cutting him some slack or showing an understanding of his predicament.

I think that many of us take our role as fans for granted. We somehow believe that what we think or what we want matters more than anything. That we as fans should be empowered by the club’s predicament and our perceptions of what should be and thereby allow us to discard our responsibilities as fans because we don’t agree with any number of issues. This is idealistic and irrational. Let me tell you why. Because since the dawn of time club boards have made mistakes at football clubs; managers have made incorrect tactical decisions; players have been good, poor or indifferent and no matter how much time passes these things will always be the same. All we as fans can do, regardless of our level of unhappiness or disagreement, is remember what made us into Spurs fans in the first place and what it means to wear the colours as a fan of any team.

I am old enough to remember Spurs being relegated in 1976/77. Just a mere three years following a UEFA cup final and five years after winning that same trophy (in the days when winning the UEFA cup was harder than winning the European Cup – now Champions League). The season before being relegated we had finished 9th and we didn’t get relegated by a point or two; we were dead last. The following season Spurs fans filled stadiums everywhere and pushed the club back to the old First Division at the first attempt. Not that it is likely to happen today but would today’s fans react in the same way?

I recently spent a day at WHL for the Hull City game with a group of fans that came over from Dallas, Texas. For all of these guys and for one of the fans at least it was a day so filled with pride that he had actually made it to WHL that he welled up on entering the ground. We have just completed an end of season tour in the Far East and Australia and we have seen images of Malaysian fans in their spurs colours singing “Oh When the Spurs Go Marching In” and we have seen thousands upon thousands of Spurs fans in Australia watch a game in Sydney. It is likely that there will be a few thousand American Spurs fans at the MLS All Star game in Denver come July. This thing is global. And no matter how cynical you may be about the Premier League branding, remember that these fans could support ANY club. They could support a club that is successful, or buys the best players, or maybe has a richer history than Tottenham Hotspur, but they don’t. They support the club with the Cockerel Crest and they are without question Spurs inside. They are part of our sporting family.

My Texan friend that shall remain nameless has so deeply immersed himself in the history and meaning of Spurs in what is a relatively short period of maybe three seasons support that he probably feels something about Spurs right now that many don’t or have forgotten about. The backdrop to “being spurs” is fresh for him. So much so that on Dave Mackay’s passing he wrote a piece so moving that it made me well up. He could have chosen to support anyone but didn’t. He chose Spurs. Like you did. He is Spurs, I am Spurs, you are all Spurs and we all will be until we die. So go ahead and moan and disagree and criticise if you want. It’s an opinion everyone is entitled to but just consider the context. And when the unhappiness leads to tirades or hate fuelled responses to other fans, to players or to the club over social media, or indeed cause you to revel in the self mocking “we’re f***ing shit* sing song; just pause, have think, take a look around you and have a word with yourselves and remember why you are Spurs in the first place and what being Spurs ought to mean.

As I write this we are getting destroyed away to Stoke 3-0 and by the sound of it we haven’t put up much of a fight for the whole game. Chiriches having a calamitous afternoon didn’t help but as I have not seen the game I can only gauge by the TV and radio reports about how inept we have been and this off the back of an encouraging performance against Man City last week. The autopsies have started. “Poch is to blame”; “The players can’t be bothered”; “our players are rubbish”; and so on and so forth but to what end? Frustrated fans end up in heated debate but without any of us actually knowing what the reasons to what goes on inside a club and for the tepid finish to this season are we can only make assumptions. Bear in mind that we have in recent years seemingly ended our seasons just as tepidly so this is not a first for us. Players and coaches at WHL need to be drilled in the understanding that the footballing season ends in May and does not come to an abrupt halt at the end of March!

That said, we have played a lot of games this season. It ought not be an excuse but it seems that the Europa League competition seems to take the brunt of the blame. But should it? Of course we have had stats recently showing us that Christian Eriksen for example has run further than any other player in the Premier League and so you can understand the fatigue element perhaps. Others look similarly drained; Ryan Mason for example in his first full season at senior level for one. So this is the one small gripe I have against Pochettino and that is with fatigue clearly playing a part for the end of season slump then why not dip into your squad and give more playing time to Stambouli or Paulinho for example? Hell even give Yedlin or Adebayor a run? I can only assume that he is not that impressed with the squad quality outside the first thirteen or fourteen players and that is his prerogative. It is also sadly understandable but I am hopeful that the summer will bring new faces in that he can trust.

Back to the Europa League, and for me whilst the competition adds to the workload, there is no denying that our form dropped off once we came out of the competition. Yes that also coincided with a loss in the Capital One Cup Final (something that we have all long since forgotten) and perhaps this defeat hit us harder than we may have thought, but the Europa League offered us a different focus and one that we had the capability (if not the belief) to endure.

Bill Nicholson once said that “It’s magnificent to be in Europe, and this club – a club like Tottenham Hotspur – if we’re not in Europe…. we’re nothing. We’re nothing.” And I remember when Martin Jol got us back into Europe after a very long absence and how fans rejoiced in “going on a European tour”. So Bill Nick’s quote quite aptly sums up why we ought to be in Europe; and why we need to beat off the stigma that the club has; and we as fans have too; that somehow the tournament is beneath us and only serves to take our efforts away from the real prize of challenging for a top four spot. This is slightly delusional in all honesty as we are not really a top four contender, well not yet anyway, and what we really need to do is accept this and give the Europa League a real good go.

We always seem to breeze through the group stages of the Europa League and then just switch off. The issue seems to be mental as we have made some unfortunate exits in latter rounds, but I am sure that had we applied ourselves better we could have progressed and who knows, maybe won the thing. Fiorentina are/were in the semi-finals this season and they did not look a better team than Spurs over two legs. But what else does the Europa League give us?

I mentioned a different focus. This means that when an EPL game doesn’t go your way then you don’t have time to dwell on it. You have a game Thursday to focus on. You get it out of your system. I suppose playing games retains the intensity that may fall off with training sessions who knows? The Europa League has also seen us blood and keep fringe players occupied and that keeps the harmony in a squad at a more optimum level. Players want to play. Would we have seen Harry Kane make the step up if it wasn’t for the Europa League? And who is to say that next season it won’t have the same impact for Alex Pritchard or any of the other promising youngsters coming through our ranks?

And if the squad composition is addressed in the summer then who is to say that we won’t have the tools to contend with the number of games? The Europa League offers us the chance to win a trophy; to learn what is required to win trophies and forge a winning mentality; and it is another route to the Champions League if nothing else. Should we be in the Europa League? Damn right we should, even if we do seem to be doing our best to toss that opportunity away with defeats like today’s at Stoke. Missing out on the tournament is lauded by some because it’s a distraction, but I tell you what. You wouldn’t half regret not having all those midweek games to look forward to.

Listen to many football fans and they will often refer to “who’s playing on the wing”. I think in today’s football where midfields are congested and teams play with two “holding” midfielders, I can’t readily think of any premiership team that plays with wingers in the old fashioned sense. Of course I don’t have the stats to prove it and I am sure many of you will start citing examples. I don’t generally fill my posts with stats and diagrams as my opinion is usually based on what I see. But certainly none of the top teams seem to play with wingers either here in England or in Europe.

Width nowadays seems to be provided by full backs and this is why they are key in today’s modern game as is their ability to deliver a decent cross or show some productive intent on the flanks. Of course how much productivity actually comes from the wide areas depends on so much. For example: are you facing a defensively compact unit; what system is the other team playing; are team instructions to cut inside or back in the final third to create alternative attacking angles; do you only have one striker in the box thereby making a cross a high risk option and so forth.

What we mustn’t confuse however is the responsibilities of left or right sided midfielders/attackers with “wingers”. For example just because Eriksen may play on the left of a three behind the front man, or Chadli plays on the right of a three behind the front man, this does not mean that we will see either of these players bombing it down the wing aiming to cross from the by-line. That is not their job and therefore they are not by definition “playing on the wing”. They are as likely to cut inside, bring others in to play or attack themselves more centrally after linking with a lone front man.

Fans need to stop asking themselves “what’s Eriksen/Dembele/Paulinho (delete as appropriate) doing on the wing?”, because they are not on the wing. They are not Gareth Bale or Aaron Lennon in a 442 nor are they Tony Galvin or Peter Taylor, and if you don’t remember the latter two, they are not David Ginola either. Those players played in a way that not many people or teams do nowadays because that is the way that people used to play the game. The position is now practically defunct. Even Lamela is not a “winger” in that sense and has never played on the wing for his previous club(s) with the objective of providing crosses. Well not as far as I am aware anyway. And whilst Townsend may technically be an old school winger, you can see that even his style of wing play is being under-utilised in tactical formations and he is starting to change his game.

Which brings me to the issue of whether crosses are indeed the answer, especially if you only have Harry Kane in the centre. Crosses seem to be more impactful if you have two strikers playing as far as I can tell. That said there is nothing better in my mind than seeing someone get to the by-line and cut the ball back for someone to score (not necessarily a high cross as such) and I am sure someone like Soldado would have loved us to play like that at Spurs but we don’t and haven’t done for a while, well at least not since the season before Bale left (as he spent most of his last season playing everywhere but wide and scoring screamers).

No, it would appear to me that the old school winger is dead and there is no point bemoaning that fact. Football appears to have changed and when Eriksen is on the left of an attacking midfield three just remember – he isn’t on the wing.

Spurs fans are a weird bunch. But then I guess the fans of most teams are. At the start of this season Spurs were once again in a state of flux –no surprise there as it seems to ever be thus. A new manager was in place after two had left the season before. The squad was unbalanced and a number of players bought the previous summer still hadn’t settled and hadn’t been helped by the coaching merry go round that had seen the season end with a gillet wearing Adebayor saluting egotist. The general consensus was that the new guy, whenever appointed, should be given time and the opportunity to assess his squad and to try and build something lasting as constant change is something most of us were tiring of. Of course the backdrop to all this would be that the team would be expected to compete in three domestic competitions as well as the arduous Europa League and its umpteen hurdles before the competition would get remotely serious around February.

Champions League qualification was widely accepted as not being on the radar and it was a free whack for the new guy. Most reasonable Spurs fans had enough of the managerial merry go round and wanted some stability.

So in steps Pochettino, and in truth we don’t start great. No signs of the high pressing game displayed at Southampton; some strange appointments as club captains; as well as some uncomfortable defeats particularly at home. By late October Spurs fans were as disillusioned as ever and many fans were bemoaning a loss of affinity with the club, myself included in truth. But I and many others kept the faith and still do, whilst others decided (and unbelievably still do) to want this coach gone too.

And yet what has Pochettino done for Spurs this season? Competed on every front. Took us to a cup final. Beat some of our hated rivals, convincingly, and even until early April kept us in with an unexpected shout of 4th place. Of the players that fans were fed up with the season before, there has been evident improvement in Rose that has silenced some of the perennial haters of his (they seem to have turned their attention to other players -Soldado and Paulinho most notably). Chadli suddenly became useful (until he sadly lost his father and his form) and Eriksen’s class became more evident. Even Lamela has shown positive signs with his assist and key passes stats although he clearly still has some considerable way to go to even stand a chance of winning over Spurs fans and justify his unfortunate price tag.

Pochettino has introduced youth into the squad to play the style he wants (and no credit doesn’t go to the Gillet Man for this). He has given every member of the squad a chance and has made it clear by his team selection that there are a number of senior pros that won’t be around the club much longer. And this is a good thing because fans can see the transition taking place. The flip side though is that by in effect discarding some of these players it has left the squad thin and it is no wonder that the youthful starting eleven that Spurs fans were taking pride in not so long ago, seems to be tiring in the final run in. The remaining squad players that Pochettino can call upon to help see us over the line haven’t seen enough meaningful playing time recently to come in and have an immediate impact, but hey as long as some Spurs fans can ridicule these players when they are picked then why should they even try to rationalise.

The pluses have no doubt been Kane in particular, Mason, Bentaleb and Rose, all of whom have been called up or played for their national senior sides. Add to that Dier who has shown so much promise and maturity since that first game at Upton Park in August which seems so long ago now. It is clear Pochettino sees him as a regular defender for Spurs which is probably why he has persevered with him at the expense of Fazio in this latter part of the season in order to prep him for next season.

And yet a dismal performance against Burnley (who are no slouches at home and recently beat City there) and all the doom mongers resurface. The know all’s are back and the poisoner’s of Spurs minds suddenly focus on the hysterical immediacy of the result and forego just about everything that has occurred in the six months prior that had re-energised fans that had previously been disillusioned. One minute we don’t want Europa next season, the next we bemoan the possibility of finishing out of that group of clubs. In another minute, top four isn’t realistic then fans bemoan not pushing for fourth. The hypocrisy is endless unfortunately. You see all that matters is today’s result. Paulinho must have been rubbish because of that awful shot in the second half and the whole squad is so bad that they can all get sold in the summer bar two or three. Because wholesale changes are forever the solution at WHL aren’t they? The same criticism that is levelled at Levy ought to be levelled at the fans because as far as I can tell, Levy tends to get it wrong when he thinks like a fan.

Anyone with a Poch Out hashtag is routinely blocked by me on Twitter. I don’t have time for nonsense. What we should focus on though is the positives of this season and they should not be forgotten so readily. It is clear that steps are in place to support Pochettino going forward. The recruitment of Paul Mitchell a guy that has worked with Pochettino before should be seen for what it is, backing for the coach. And if this summer we sign players that none of you have heard of then that will be a good thing (because you all heard of the seven we bought with the Bale money and were excited by that before hindsight hit you). If youthful energy and talent is the way forward then that’s fine by me. If Pochettino can do for others what he has done with Danny Rose this season then that is fine by me. If he can turn Kane into a full international in one season when to many of us he seemed a Championship player at best then that is fine by me. And if we continue having seasons where Arsenal don’t take any points from us and Chelsea need to park the bus to beat us then that is fine by me too.

Unlike many Spurs fans though, I won’t let a poor 0-0 at Burnley cloud my judgement. I’m keeping my head screwed on as I am sure Pochettino and probably Levy are too and I am staying the course. Come the final whistle of the final game this season, I know that mine and many Spurs fans expectations for the season would have been surpassed and I will know that we have taken a positive step in the right direction. I won’t let the poison eat me. I have been lilywhite for too many years to allow the hysterical melt downs of others distort what my eyes can plainly see and what my mind can capably understand.