Category: THFC

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.

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.

So what is all the AVB hate from the media all about? Never before have I seen such a co-ordinated collusion to have a man’s character rubbished so deeply as to advocate a hope of failure in what he does next so that the laughing can continue. It is bullyboy tactics at its worst and everybody seems to be subscribing to it. Before the game against Reading even the mighty Glenn Hoddle himself was saying “I’ve spoken to a lot of spurs fans and they’re worried, and so am I’.

But why? Wherefore cometh all this dislike? What has this man actually done wrong?

He was one of the most sought after managers in the game less than two seasons ago. So much so that Roman “mega wad” Abramovich, shelled out a mighty fortune to snag him before any one else did. Following a season (2010-11) where Chelsea finshed second in the premiership, got to the quarter finals of the Champions League and got knocked out of both domestic cups early, it was felt by many that a new broom was needed. That the club was going stale. So in came AVB with his broom and his project bestowed on him from up high and when the senior pros that seemingly run the club put up resistance, Mr Mega Wad hung him out to dry; promoted another three letter named manager in RDM and promptly won both Champions League and FA cup by playing some of the most boring football in Chelsea’s history and riding a mighty wave of luck in the process. But it’s a results business and who cares about anything else? This is precisely why AVB is a failure because RDM showed the world how it should be done. Really?

So now he is at Spurs where his other problem is that he has taken over from the overly media friendly Harry Redknapp. The journos are clearly aggrieved at the loss of their hyper active media cheeky chappy that kept them all sweet, so they were always going to ensure that the follow up act did not get an easy ride in his new appointment. Of course Spurs were employing the “hapless” one from Chelsea. The one who screwed things up as proven by “RDM Footballing Genius”! So now we are faced with “AVB hasn’t got a clue” both on radio (Talk Sport Adrian Durham – professional wind up merchant) and on TV (Sky Sports Paul Merson – former alcoholic, gooner and failed football manager).

We’ve also got people commenting on AVB’s man management because of course buying Hugo Lloris and not playing him immediately means that Lloris wants to go home to France already, so therefore AVB is just annoying players. Far be it from a manager to buy a player, allow him to settle and fight for his place in the team, which is what Sir Alex and others would no doubt have been credited with. But no this is another example of AVB annoying the hell out of his squad. And by the way I wonder how they’d spin it if he did actually drop Friedel and play Lloris?

Of course theres cheeky chappy Harry in the background with his newspaper column. (A feat in itself for one who can’t spell or turn on a computer. Perhaps Rosie is helping him out). Football shouldn’t be over complicated apparently. Well no you are right, it shouldn’t be and especially not if you still live in 1960’s England just around the time when the W M formation converted to 442 and stayed there for an eternity. Don’t get me wrong HR did some good stuff for Spurs but he also contributed to some pretty bad stuff too. Kyle Walker stated on Soccer AM recently that the new managers training is different and he hopes to improve from it. The old manager concentrated on defensive and attacking drills and a match after apparently! (Not saying that was old skool but there was always that long commute to the south coast to eat into the day I suppose).

Even Seb Bassong, a player that has since left Spurs and has no need to say the right thing has praised AVB training methods; Jermaine Defoe has said that the manager has been good for the club (and so far has been good for him after playing for a manager that appears to pick his team on merit for a change). Brad Friedel has spoken positively about AVB and rubbished the Lloris being unhappy rumours and yet no one out there appears to be listening. Knives are still being sharpened at every opportunity and three games into a season AVB apparently has three games left to secure his job! This is where we are with today’s agenda filled media.

Give the guy a chance. OK perhaps his press conferences are overly intellectual for some. Using words bigger than “triffik” seems to baffle some of our media. Remember that English is not his first language and in Europe, and unlike in England where education has been dumbed down for years, they learn English properly overseas. OK perhaps he has to compute the word in Portuguese first before using the English equivalent? People just have to deal with it and try and understand what he means rather than what he doesn’t..

Then there is the Chelsea fan. The bitter twisted ones that still hasn’t forgiven AVB for upsetting his beloved Frank, JT and Didier and this view seems to be embodied by one Andy Jacobs on Talk Sport. Get over it mate. Move on! You won the Champions League. Show some class. Should we spurs fans really still be spitting nails at Ramos and Christian Gross?

The fact is I suppose that only results will shut people up and buy AVB some time so hopefully the results will come. He is the current spurs manager so I will support him. If he makes mistakes then I will say so. But one thing is for sure and that is I want him to succeed because if he does then so does my club. I will not buy into all these agendas. I will not fall into line with the rest of the media. I will judge only by what he does at Spurs and not by what has gone on before.  I am Spurs and for now, so is AVB.

I have a problem with Harry Redknapp. As much as I want to like him I just can’t. Well not enough anyway. Yes he has done some good things for our club and we have come a long way since those “two points from eight games” that HR kept reminding us about when it suited him. We have a good squad and we have established ourselves as one of the top teams in the country. However there is a certain uneasiness about having HR at the helm. For a guy that jumped between Portsmouth, Southampton and back again you just know that you can expect the unexpected with him. So the problem I have with HR is firstly the feeling that if something better came along he’d go at the drop of a hat which makes me wonder how much he believes in what THFC are trying to build; the second is his love affair with the media; and lastly his seeming lack of accountability.

Now when things were going well for spurs as we were flying high in third place with a seemingly unassailable points advantage over our rivals, I have to confess into getting sucked into chants of “Harry Redknapp’s blue and white army” at the home game versus Everton in January as we cruised to a 2-0 victory without hardly getting out of second gear. However the measure of a manager comes when things are not going so well. We saw glimpses of this when during the 2010-11 season the club finished two points off the Champions League places in 5th. Costly performances at home (defeat by Wigan whom spurs had thrashed 9-1 the season before), a case in point. As is Harry’s way, in the November of that season he was talking about “why can’t we win the league” and yet by the following February he was complaining in his post match interviews that the fans that were airing their concerns should temper their expectations and be realistic. After all we had never been constantly challenging for top 4 before so why should we demand it now? This despite the fact that the squad was more than capable of so doing. Oh and lets not forget the pop he had at the fans who were complaining about such on the radio phone in’s and such like, which is a bit rich as HR loves a camera and a microphone to comment on all things football!

Talking of the media, there are many times when i just wish he would be gagged. But the media know that he is ripe for a quote and of course he has his own column in a red top. I have never seen a manager talk about his club in the third person as often as HR has and it is clear that he has used the media to try and influence club transfer policy as well as now his own contract negotiations. Last summer for example he was willing to talk about Luka Modric at the drop of every and any microphone, when it was clear that his chairman was going to try and keep the player at the club. Perhaps the thought of £40m to spend on players was too big an emotion  for HR’s mind to contend with but as the face of Tottenham Hotspur you just wished he’d shut up and tow the party line. You can’t build a harmonious club when the mouthpiece of that club is talking in terms of his own agenda. It pains me to say but he needs to take a leaf out of Arsene Wenger’s book. That guy protect’s his board, protects his players and mostly acts like an official of his club. Sometimes HR should just say that he doesn’t want to talk about a certain subject. End of. He has the option not to wind his window down outside the training ground and he also has the option to decline to comment on whether he would like to see Chelsea win the Champions League at the possible expense of his own team’s qualification for the following season.

And has any manager talked publicly about their own contract situation as HR has done in The Sun today? You do not play a game of dare with your chairman in the public gaze of everyone. Well not in my opinion anyway. You keep that away from the fans and you keep that away from the players. You do not cite the unrest that the uncertainty might cause at the club when it is you that is publicising that uncertainty.

In terms of his accountability, I have already referred to the pop he had at fans for the slip ups in the 2010-11 season. And whilst he was quite willing to remind everyone of the 2 points from 8 when he took over, there was absolute silence over the 6 points from 9 games last season that saw the team blow the points advantage that they had over Arsenal and the others. He considered 4th a successful season, which in isolation it might have been. However objectives and targets are fluid in their nature and by January a minimum 3rd place finish would have been a realistic revised target, especially given that the further Chelsea progressed in the Champions League the more precarious a 4th placed finish became.

Should he stay or should he go? I personally think he should go because despite the good job he has done, he had it within him to do better. He had the tools to excel with an A* and got a B+ and he seems to be content with this and believes that he is worthy of a new three/four year contract. If I felt that his heart was in the job or even that he would stop “stirring” in the media then I’d say retain him, he probably deserves a chance to carry on. But what you get with HR is sweetness tinged with a little bit of sour and a professional club does not need that constant annoying aftertaste. People would argue as to who would replace him and that is a valid point. Capello is unemployed and has a club CV that HR could only dream about for example but perhaps by not qualifying for the Champions League it has actually worked in HR’s favour as managerial targets short listed in the event of him becoming England manager would have been drafted with almost certain CL qualification in mind. But whatever happens, whether his services are retained or not, something needs to happen quickly. The uncertainty can affect the confidence of fans and players as well as the potential transfer strategy of the club that is crucial this summer.

For the moment though I’d just like HR to shut up and get on with doing what he is paid to do. Represent and manage THFC to the best of his ability and for the betterment of the club.