Rusty Spurs Back in the Groove After Geordies Pay Stamp Duty

Spurs cantered to victory over Newcastle yesterday with two goals from Dele Alli and Ben Davies, well-made and well-taken. Kyle Walker-Peters accomplished debut in place of the injured Trippier augers well for the future and on a weekend when I must have missed the new-season PL directive banning defending, our back four were composed and confident.

Tottenham On My Mind has begun the season fearing that Spurs will not take advantage of the opportunities available to bolster the squad and develop this talented team. It was refreshing and frankly a relief to get going and have something substantial to talk about. While Spurs have sterner tests to come, there were promising signs to show we are picking up where we left off at the end of last season. If Dele, Kane and Dier didn’t exactly sparkle, the shape and solidity of the side was evident and Eriksen, the creative hub, is right in the groove already. This is our big advantage, whether by accident or design a settled a side as others scramble to make changes.

After containing Tottenham in the first half, the Geordies wasted all their effort and training-ground planning when Shelvey petulantly stamped on Dele as he sat on the floor after a tackle, in full view of the ref. The Spurs player held onto the ball but there was nothing much going on: the Newcastle captain was obviously on the shortest of fuses. At that point Spurs were the better side but weren’t making serious inroads into the Newcastle box. Eriksen had had a fine match but even he was reduced to shooting from further and further out as the half went on. It made things so much more straightforward.

The real difference between the sides, though, was Spurs’ ability to inject moments of class into a torpid, ordinary game. Two of those moments resulted in goals and won the match. Dele broke the deadlock, making first space around the box and then the run between defenders. Eriksen found him with another of his pinpoint diagonal passes, then Dele made an awkward high touch look the simplest thing in the world. But that pass, curling and precise, was a thing of great beauty.

For the second, suddenly Spurs ramped up the tempo and following an exchange of high-speed short passes Ben Davies popped up to score with a low shot from his wrong foot. Danny Rose’s agent must have been sick at the sight of it.

In the first half, Newcastle looked an organised side able to put Benitez’s plan into action and make the most of their limited attacking resources. They concentrated on our right side where debutant Walker-Peters was unlikely to get much protection from Moussa Sissoko in front of him. If anything, they got to our back four a little too easily at times, looking to get Gayle into the channel between KWP and Alderweireld and stretching us without forcing Lloris to do much more than scoop up a few crosses.

Up front, our movement was fluent with Sissoko and Eriksen swapping sides and Dele finding space but wasting it by being obsessed with flicks and late touches that the centre halves gobbled up. However, this had little impact on the Newcastle goal during a first half where we struggled to raise the tempo.

So that manager of ours tells a few porkies. The very thought of it. Kyle Walker-Peters was indeed ready for the first team and he took his chance with relish. He had a fine game, Sky’s MOM, and looked more nervous doing the post-match interview than he had during the game. He was determined to be first rather than sit back and wait. He won his first header, his second or third touch was a run out of defence because he did not want to concede possession, when he would have been forgiven for wanging it upfield. Later, he made two fearless tackles close to goal, then made sure he was the spare man out wide right. He’s good going forward and crossed the ball well.

I’ve seen him in a few under 21 games but you never really know what sort of impression young players will make until they are in the thick of it. He did himself and Spurs proud.

I thought Eriksen was our best player. He roamed across the midfield, mostly further forward. His shooting made up most of our attempts in the first half but it was his passing that caught the eye, setting up our opener and providing most of our chances.

Walker-Peters’ debut came about through necessity rather than choice. While I am delighted for him, a side challenging for the title amongst avaricious, free-spending rivals should not put itself in a position where a young man has to make his debut this early in the season and after a high-class talent was sold. That said, I can’t recall a debut as assured as this from a home-grown talent for a long while. Phil Ifil, also a fullback, came from nowhere into the side in the opening match of the 2004-5 season and was outstanding. He disappeared from view. I suspect the same won’t happen to KWP. Being an inexperienced full-back coming into the side at the last moment through injury didn’t do Gareth Bale any harm.

That he slots straight in is a measure of Pochettino’s faith in his players and theirs in him. Our manager is supremely self-assured not just as a developer of talent but also in his ability to inculcate a culture and style of play throughout the entire club, so KWP settles right in. Around him, the innovative coaches of his generation are frantically spending fortunes to keep up whereas Pochettino works at improving the young talent at his disposal. I sincerely hope Levy does not exploit this as an excuse to be parsimonious, a thought I can’t entirely get out of my mind.

Random impressions of the new season: Dembele looks slimmer, the away kit looks good, Sissoko at least looked keen (he did OK).

So a solid start, and no better way to sharpen this up than Sunday’s big game versus Chelsea. And Eriksen, back to his marker, beating him by chipping the ball over his head and running onto it will stay in this season’s Spurs showreel.

Spurs and the New Season: Potential Fulfilled or Frustrated?



Being without a home has a huge impact on the team and fans alike, the full extent of which will become apparent when Sky shift West Brom at home to a winter’s Monday night and if the team are toiling to keep up the pace in three or four competitions.

There’s a sense in which everything is hold while we wait for the new ground, except there’s no time for that. Not only are our rivals willing to do whatever it takes to climb to the top of the greasy pole that is the Premier League, Spurs must also shoulder the burden of expectation. Pochettino has created a wonderful side, bursting with ability and motivation, the best Tottenham team certainly since the early eighties and arguably since the sixties that enthralled us over last season. They have generated a momentum that should be sustained. There’s no time to pause, wherever we play or whatever it takes to keep it going. Yet on the cusp of success, the beginning of the season is overshadowed by the club’s reluctance to fully commit.  I remain excited by what this team could achieve but I fear for the consequences of such hesitation.

Spurs could be on the threshold of a momentous season. The team effectively picks itself, and it’s a fabulous team that has room to become even better, a mouth-watering prospect. Nobody is better placed than Pochettino to fulfil that potential. He’s a true leader and motivator who values the club’s heritage and consistently gets the very best from his players. Add a touch of extra resilience in the big games and we really have something.

The effects of the absence of new players won’t be felt for a while either. It’s not a crisis as some would have it, because Pochettino will start the players who served him and us so admirably last term, but it is a problem. Finding the right players in the current market is tough but it has to be addressed. Anyone signing now will not be match-fit, certainly won’t be Pochettino fit, so that’s a couple of months before they are anywhere near up to speed. By then the league will be rushing ahead at full-pelt and the Champions League on the go. Already one injury to a full-back leaves us without cover, so others will have to shift around. Wanyama’s preseason has been disrupted but Dier can’t cover for him because he’s needed at full-back and he’s not able to be a wing-back. And so forth.

For once, at Tottenham Hotspur it is not hubris to say that we should buy top quality footballers. We are good enough to aim high and not be disappointed. We should take on our rivals at home and in Europe. I may never write this truthfully again, but we are good enough. We cannot leave ourselves an injury away from failure.

This mindset is hard for Spurs fans to grasp. I wouldn’t call us long-suffering, that is reserved for fans of clubs like Charlton, Orient and Blackpool who have truly suffered at the hands of their owners. We are however accustomed to disappointment and the frustration of hopes unfulfilled. Pochettino has created something entirely special. I can’t bear to see it wasted. I can deal with not being special, it’s part of being a Spurs fan. I find it hard to come to terms with getting to the point of excellence then the possibility of chucking it away.

I am patient, what concerns me is the approach we are taking. As yet, Levy the master negotiator seems reluctant to address market conditions, with PL awash with cash creating transfer inflation and intense competition for quality, indeed also for those players a notch or two below the elite. One of the things I like about Levy is that he keeps schtum, in the media at least. This summer he broke cover, telling the NASDAQ that current spending levels in the PL are unsustainable.  And this is the problem with chairmen saying things in public. He may well be right both in terms of finance and morally, but placed in the context of the stadium costs and lack of investment in players, it comes over as smug self-justification. I sympathise with his views but if everyone else is playing by different rules, it’s no good shouting foul.

I have shared my rampant pride in what this Spurs team have achieved with Tottenham On My Mind readers for the past two seasons. I don’t want, in an ideal world, to see us engage in the footballing equivalent of an arms’ race. However, Levy’s self-imposed shackles on spending could destroy this teams’ progress more effectively than defeats by any of our rivals.

The cost of the new stadium, £50m for a full-back, the odious sight of Conte, Mourinho and Guardiola carping about the transfer market inflation they created. I get it, I understand the implications. Frankly I don’t understand the rigid salary structure at Spurs, which is the main factor holding us back in the market, rather than fees. We’ll always miss out on those on top whack, fine, it’s those bubbling under who might be appeased if we raised our limit from £100k to even £125k a week who will go elsewhere. I’ve argued this for a while, and here’s something from my fellow blogger the always excellent Spurs Report with figures that he has patiently compiled. Warning: contains facts.

Levy understands investments. We’ve created the asset of a club on the up, playing good football with a manager able to improve players across the board. Buying and keeping players is an investment in the club’s future on and off the pitch. It generates income from a packed stadium, television and in worldwide sales of merchandise. It keeps supporters happy too, and that includes him, however awkward that is for some to accept. It’s because I am convinced he cares for the club and am proud of this new ground, his project our future, that raises my frustration still further.

We have been here before, this is pre-season so enough, except to say – I think he would have sold before if money were his only objective. Levy has a view of himself as a long-term custodian of the club and its heritage, and maybe he’s been thinking long-term since he took over, with a grand, perhaps misguided, timescale to build the ground and only then truly compete. I know he keeps quiet but I wish I could ask him this, and get an honest answer.

Last night the S*n ran an interview with Danny Rose where he appears to say he will leave in search of more money. It’s the S*n – they’ve given it a negative spin whereas in fact Rose’s comments are not substantially different from a 5Live interview earlier this year where he came over as wanting the best for the club and that he could achieve success at Spurs if we invested in the team.

I’m not going to dissect the whole thing, although I would say it’s not very bright to criticise fans, most of us have shown first patience and then great pleasure in his performances. It’s extremely unwise and plain wrong to imply his manager has done little for him.

It hurts partly because fans have been so warm towards him. He comes over as self-absorbed with a lack of awareness of the bigger picture that distances him from supporters, and that is the quality fans abhor in the modern footballer. Partly though it exposes these long-held vulnerabilities in the club’s structure that were masked to a large extent by last season’s thrilling success. I despise the S*n, despise them lecturing me about my club, but if Rose is saying he is tempted to leave because he could double, triple his salary elsewhere, because we’re not investing enough in the team, then he’s merely expressing our fears as supporters.

Our absolute priority in the transfer market is keeping what we have. Walker has gone, see my previous piece, cracks are appearing now but the foundations appear intact. If we are not successful this season, these top-class players will be tempted to depart.

And what about us? Supporters are wary of change. It has to be managed with a degree of care. We are supporters not consumers with an emotional attachment to the club that shows itself in part in the well-established matchday routines, friendships and habits, all of which will be disrupted by Wembley. This is us, and the club would well to remember that. Whatever the shape of Levy’s long-term plans, we are part of it. Without us, he is nothing.

So far, the club’s disregard for fan sensibilities has been staggering. As soon as relatively high season ticket prices were announced, it became obvious that seat prices would be high too. The opportunity to fill Wembley for league games and give discounts all round was rejected. No ST amnesty was available. The new club-run ticket exchange charges £7.50 admin and comes into play only when all seats are sold, i.e. hardly ever. The club don’t respond to the THST but will do so if the papers get involved. In the US they have been constantly available to our loyal, passionate fans over there, whereas here I have been told there’s a sign outside the training ground saying players can’t stop for photos or autographs. Newcastle away tickets were sorted only at the end of last week – fans plan ahead to avoid ludicrous rail fares. The Juventus friendly was sold to an event company keen to fleece supporters with cheapest seats 2.5 times higher than the WHL equivalent last season, top price £90. I have never felt less engaged with a Spurs game than that one.

All of these pre-season problems could have been both predicted and avoided. It leaves a nasty taste.

As ever, I’m looking forward to the new season. It’s such a shame the justified optimism from the last two seasons isn’t automatically carrying over. All the more reason to get going and talk about football rather than conjecture. This pre-season piece is not much of a preview so: this is an outstanding team capable of outstanding things. The quality needs to be deeper – more options, cover for Kane, a touch more midfield creativity. Perhaps most of those extras will come by design or through the absence of signings from what we already have. Janssen, Wimmer to step up and, hang on, does Sissoko want to play to his potential? Moussa is our hero 2017-18, surely not… Wouldn’t want anyone other than Pochettino to be our manager, he is a stellar leader, although he faces a test himself, how to handle players who express doubts about being here. So far, his solution is to freeze them out, he may have to adopt a more conciliatory tone.

Above all, Spurs have to go out and take control of matches, to have the assurance of winners with determination rather than arrogance. Here, the team and the board come together. Levy has to show the same skill and ambition in taking control and bringing trophies to the club, now and in the future. I don’t think he sees it that way.

My main aim, as always, is being there. This could be disrupted this season, so bear with me on the blog, normal service could be disrupted because of other commitments, including something Spurs related, but I’ll still be around. Join me.



Is Vincent Janssen Any Good?

Is Vincent Janssen any good? Although he’s not been in the news this close season, the answer has a huge bearing on Kyle Walker’s transfer from Spurs to Manchester City.


Kyle Walker is the most expensive English player ever. Not a sentence I ever thought I would write on Tottenham On My Mind. Silly money. End of days. Football’s gone up the Khyber. Except to City, he is worth £50m because that’s what they paid for him. Spurs priced him right. Price determined by supply and demand, one of the basic laws of economics.


Yesterday’s Mail calls it the moment the Premier League lost its mind. Not so. If Pep reckons Walker can make the difference, and his system makes the most of full-backs, City will get that money back over the life of his contract from the PL, the Champions League, TV, worldwide merchandising and following United’s example, even noodle sponsorship. I firmly subscribe to the view that there’s nothing new under the sun, and I wonder how Walker’s fee compares with big transfers in the past as a percentage of a club’s annual income. To use an anachronism in this post-modern world, City have simply backed their manager.


How much Walker is truly worth to Tottenham, however, can be measured only in terms of what his fee will buy us. Last season £50m covered half a Spurs team, of internationals at that. Now, it equals one Gylfi Sigurdssson, a Ross Barkley plus a third choice goalkeeper or two-thirds of a Lukaku. Forget pounds shillings and pence, think of it more as a new currency, a Premier League Bitcoin, that bears little relation to what preceded it. Such and such isn’t worth the money or making adverse comparisons with the price of star players in the recent past – PremCoin renders all these conversations redundant. TV money plus a few billionaire owners plus the lure of future riches creates inflation to rival that of the Weimar Republic, the difference being that rather than City paying for Walker with wheelbarrows of hastily printed notes, cash plus income plus credit plus turnover provides substance to the deal.


The past is so skewed, someone is probably even willing to buy Moussa Sissoko. However, by the time the season begins, we may be talking less about silly money and more about a transfer crisis, because a Kyle Walker of this new PremCoin could turn out to be of scant value.


Which is where Vinny comes in. It’s imperative Spurs have a decent player up front to allow Kane to rest his weary limbs. Decent as in high quality, because we aspire to be as good as any side in the league and to mount an effective challenge in Europe. ‘Back-up striker’ gives the wrong impression – they will not be first choice but they’ve got to be good. In truth Spurs need three to cover for injuries but it’s likely Son will fill that role should the need arise.


These players are in short supply, so if Pochettino doesn’t rate Janssen then that £50m could disappear faster than Theresa May at a public meeting. We need players in other positions too. The same argument can be made in respect of Kevin Wimmer who also looks disposable. Having capably filled in the previous season for an injured Vertonghen, he barely featured last term, a sign that the manager no longer rates him, yet we need another centre back. A creative midfielder, and N’Jie and N’Koudou haven’t satisfied Pochettino’s urge for a wide man with serious pace. And there’s a vacancy for another right-back of course.


The search is made more difficult because there are few openings in the first team, with almost every current player capable of improving let alone keeping their place. Also, while salaries are being expressed in PremCoin, Levy maintains a ceiling of around £100k a week. At the time of writing Spurs are the only PL team not to have signed anyone and the wait may last a bit longer because any player of quality will have other offers, actual or potential, with wages higher than Tottenham are prepared to pay.


And we have a new stadium to pay for. Earlier this summer Levy stated that the ring-fenced transfer budget would not be affected by the building works because the finance is in place for the latter. That’s probably true, but Levy avoids the crucial question of just how much is available. We all know our transfer budget would be much higher without the new ground.


I’ll miss Kyle Walker and wish him the very best in the future. While England returned from Euro 2016 diminished as a team and as individuals, Walker and his full-back partner Rose were the exceptions. What followed was a golden period, Walker a man transformed, flying up and down the wing and confident in defence. His crossing could have been sharper but there were so many of them that after Eriksen, he made more goal-scoring opportunities in his time at the club than any other player.


Never blessed with great in-game intelligence, seasons came and went with Kyle wandering gormlessly in defence, oblivious apparently to much of what was going around him and periods where his mind was in another place entirely. Then came Pochettino. On the training pitch Walker was given time and clear expectations on the field of play. He became as good a full-back as anyone in Europe, essential to Pochettino’s evolving tactics and a testament to the manager’s coaching ability. If he can transform Walker, he can improve any player on the planet.


I’ll remember him most for his efforts when things weren’t going as well, for Spurs or for him. For the second halves at White Hart Lane when Tottenham needed a goal yet weren’t getting anywhere, when he fought off the tiredness that afflicted his team-mates and dragged himself up and down his wing, shuttle-runs that would exhaust a 400m runner in training, in order to become the spare man on the wing for a colleague desperate to find space and a pass. He returned to his defensive duties, back in formation, chest heaving and gasping for breath, then go again ever willing as the space appeared in front of him. He looked perplexed rather than confident, yet forced himself into action for the sake of the team. And I will always have a place in my memory for players with that attitude.


I am old-fashioned enough to be troubled by the sale of a top player to one of our main rivals. In the past, this would be another sign that Spurs lack ambition and that Levy was more interested in the bank balance than silverware. Superficially, selling to City smacks of desperation. In fact it reeks of reality. Leaving aside the rumours of a falling out, Pochettino believes he can use £50m elsewhere at a time when he knows his budget is nowhere near that of our rivals. He backs his ability to make players better, and if he can get Walker to defend then he can do the same with Trippier, and he won’t have to teach Tripps how to cross the ball.


‘Transfer budget’ is a complex concept these days with calculations including not merely the fee but also wages over the contract length and sell-on value. That said, Spurs have concluded deals for loanees Bentaleb, N’jie and Fazio, plus the sale of keeper Luke McGee, around £80 with Walker, and surely there’s a French club who hasn’t sussed Sissoko yet. Not all of that will probably be available to the manager but it’s a start.


Above all, Pochettino looks to have succeeded in his primary goal, keeping the rest of the squad intact. Our salary structure leaves us vulnerable but they seem to be content. As is the manager, our biggest asset.



Somewhere Over the Rainbow The Cockerel Crows

In the end we came not to mourn but to rejoice. Farewell to White Hart Lane was a perfectly judged celebration that put the fans centre stage. Songs were sung, tears were shed but they were songs and tears of joy. For the players and fans in the ground and for everyone watching at home, the message was loud and clear. We are Tottenham, we are loyal and we are proud. At the end the rainbow embraced us and nature gave its blessing. It’s time to move on.

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They say you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. The build-up to this game reminded us of the passion and glory of being a Spurs fan that transcends trophies and league position. The outpouring of emotion leading up to the kick-off was profoundly touching and will passed on through the generations. This games moves us still. Forget the hype, reject the shallow analysts and prophets of doom, ridicule those for whom entitlement is key to their support, skewer the moneymen. It’s our game, and never allow them to take it away from us. This is the one thing they will never, ever get – this feeling, the depth of this emotion, the sense of togetherness and belonging. Let them shrink back into their miserable souls while we live life as it should be experienced. Big boys and girls do cry. We are Tottenham.

Pre-match my son and I agreed the most difficult moment would be when the ref held up the board with time added on. That would signal the end. In the event I turned the corner from White Hart Lane into the High Road, saw the ground and began to fill up.

Outside the mood was cheerful. Smiling faces, pleased just to be here, many without a ticket but glad to be there, part of it still. Personally I would have banned half-and-half scarves – I have no idea why on a day like this you would want Man U red round your neck – but the stewards didn’t go for it. We all hung around, not sure whether to go in or linger for a few moments more, postponing the inevitable.


The last time through the turnstile, the last programme, the last pee in the trough. No handtowels, nice touch THFC, consistent to the last. Last time up the stone staircase, the last time to instinctively quicken the step as you near the top, just to glimpse the ground for a fraction longer. If that impulse ever goes, put me out pasture and Saturdays on ITV3 with Midsomer Murders.


And we discovered that we had come not to mourn an ending but to give thanks for being there at all. We gave the Lane the most appropriate send-off of all – noise. The songs echoed around every nook and cranny of the ground. Get behind the team, one of the best to grace the hallowed turf since the early sixties. Celebrate us being us – the Park Lane, the Shelf Side, the Paxton, old style.

To me, everything appeared in sharper focus, clear and defined. No misty-eyed soft-focus, this was pinsharp and vivid. I felt so close to the players, one last time. The mind plays tricks. On a personal level, this will be my greatest loss. I sit in the middle of the F of the Shelf Side THFC. Sat. I see real people, I see the strain, the bewildering pace of the modern game, the beads of sweat. I feel the joy and pain, the aching legs, lungs fighting for breath. I see fear and swagger, those who want it and those who don’t. Those who care about the shirt. I’ll never get that back, never understand the players quite as well.

And this is Spurs, there’s going to be a show and I want three points. Wanyama’s thumping header raised the roof of the net and lifted the spirits, the cross from Davies who had a good game all round. We missed two good chances, Kane and Son, to extend the lead to a size that matched our superiority. Playing through the middle was complemented by extra longer passes, into space to get the back four on the turn and by-pass Mourinho’s stifling midfield.

We gave them too many openings to stay calm. Better that way perhaps. Fear is part of a real match.  The second from a set-piece, fitting that the final Spurs goal at White Hart Lane should be scored by one of our own.

United stirred and Rooney scored but the heart has gone from them and that was that, although for all I could see for the final five minutes they might have got another one. You would have told me if they had.

By now the fans had taken over. This was the best pitch invasion since we were relegated and fans invaded the pitch and the stands to proclaim undying loyalty. The stewards were helping people on to the field. What better way to celebrate the end than the memory of a fat bloke doing a Klinsmann. He’ll never wash that shirt again.


The fans had taken over. Everyone ignored the announcer. Then, Paul Coyte took the mike. He said exactly the right thing, didn’t have a go but you all want to see the great players, don’t you? This is our ground, remember. It came from the mouth of a true fan and we responded to one of our own. He’ll dine out on that for the rest of his life and if I meet him I might well buy him something to eat.

And so to the finale. A montage then the players coming out, perfectly judged because they didn’t tell us what to do or what to think. No shrill pleas to cheer or ‘give it up’, no background music. These legends make their own fireworks. We know how good they are and what they mean to us, and after that they know too. These cynical pros looked awestruck. White Hart Lane means something.

It got me then. Les Allen and Terry Dyson, Double winners, I never saw them play but the sight of these old boys strutting out for one last hurrah had me going, well and truly. The legs were weak but they stuck out their chests, proud to be Spurs. Never forgotten.

I choked up over Tottenham Til I Die, words stuck in my throat, but that was the last song on the last game on the last day.

It was a masterstroke to let the fans lead the way to the end. There was one player absent and we sang Gazza’s name. We hugged strangers who we’ve known half our lives, one last look, touched the East Stand brick and consigned to memory the contours of stone and mortar under our fingertips. We’ve never done that before, but it was real, tangible, the stand and us, close for one last time.

And don’t look back because it’s too much.

And the dreams that you dreamed of,

Dreams really do come true.


Thanks to Emma Poulton for going all Judy Garland