Get Rid of the Racists

Today’s blog begins with a howl of rage and despair. My disgust that Tottenham Hotspur is worldwide headline news because of fan racism knows no bounds. It revolts me that this should take place and that a Spurs fan has dragged the image of all supporters into the gutter.

It is only one or two. Don’t call them idiots, call them racists. I admire Rudiger’s generosity in his tweets, where he says he doesn’t want to involve Tottenham as a club in this because it is only one or two fans. He goes on to thank Spurs fans for the many messages of support he’s received.

Racism is all around us, it never goes away. It’s just that you like to think we stand for a bit more than this. We’ve been victims of abuse, the stands have been a safe place for people from different backgrounds for a long time. Ours is the rainbow stadium, described by the co-chair of the Proud Lilywhites as a bastion of inclusion and diversity. Now we’re the team whose fans provoked calls for a public inquiry.

On social media I’ve been told, repeatedly, that we should wait and see for, I don’t know, something. People around me in the ground said, well, hang on, we don’t know what happened. Well bollox to that. No time to hang around. This all took place right in front of me. Twenty rows back, I didn’t hear anything but when Rudiger walked towards me indicating the monkey noises had been uttered, I felt physically sick. He reacted straight away, something happened. I was ranting off about something or other, I don’t know exactly what I was saying. Basically,  how could this happen, here, with expletives. Me – any shots of that gesture taken from the West Stand, as shown on MOTD, I’m in there. It’s personal.

How do these people think our own black players will react? Do your absolute best while you’re watched by racists. Or our own black supporters? Spurs fans got behind Danny Rose after he talked about his experiences of racism at football. Something clicked then. One of our own, let’s sign a flag, let’s sing his name.

Time for the majority to get that message over. Find this person or people. Ban them for life and prosecute. Zero tolerance. Nobody is dragging me down.

Football reflects society. In the past few years, racists have become emboldened as politicians from all sides fail to address discrimination and in some cases actively mobilise it to sustain their support. Racist and anti-Semitic incidents are on the rise across the country. Not here. No more. Football has to take a stand.

Yesterday was one of the most disheartening, cheerless afternoons I’ve ever spent watching Spurs. I’ve not even mentioned chucking stuff at opposition players. The best stadium in Europe closed. Unlikely but the authorities are going to make an example of someone, some time.

The football. Spurs were awful. Spineless and mindless, to call them a rabble at times is an insult to rabbles. And I hear rabbles get upset at their good name being taken in vain.

More than being utterly dominant, Chelsea’s football came from another era. They were sleek and contemporary, Spurs were dinosaurs, unable to pass the ball through midfield and reduced to predictable long balls up the middle.

As if this were not bad enough, we gave away two ridiculous goals, hilarious if other teams did the same, profoundly concerning as it’s us. Switched on for the corner? As dead as the batteries in a child’s toy on Boxing Day. I’m still shaking my head at Gazzanega. How a straightforward catch became assault and battery, and how the ref gave us a foul in the first instance. It’s the sort of error that eats away at keepers, a rank misjudgement that will stay in the back of his mind for a long time and indicates a more fundamental vulnerability at this level.

Sometimes managers do things that don’t work but you can understand what they are trying to achieve. AVB for example, cautious, possession football to stay tight at the back, keep the ball and wait for an opening. Didn’t work because we couldn’t score any goals, an admittedly basic flaw that escaped him, but you could see what he was up to.

I don’t get Mourinho at the moment. When not under pressure, we’ve played some good stuff and banged in the goals but defensive strategy is sorely lacking. We’re incapable of closing players down when they are about to shoot. Both full-backs have been left repeatedly exposed, a problem compounded by Aurier’s dire judgement and positional acumen. In front of him, Son and Moura have been waving opponents through apparently without a care in the world. Step this way, take your time.

Against Manchester United, they shifted Rashford wide left and won the game. Wolves galloped down the right and were stopped only by Spurs players taking it turns to foul him. Chelsea did the same, doubling up and nothing stopped them.

Mourinho was praised for winning ugly against Wolves. Cue Jose the winner cliches. To me, we got away with one, set up poorly so that our back four were constantly exposed. Winning ugly means digging in, doing what’s necessary and forsaking creativity for redoubtable defence. That’s not what happened at Wolves. The manager’s lack of response to an obvious defensive flaw is bewildering.

In context, he’s inherited an unbalanced squad. Central midfield remains a problem. Dier is being played back into form. So far, he looks fitter but a yard off the pace when it comes to timing. Sissoko gives his best but he’s not the creative player that we’re crying out for. The full-back problem remains.

Whatever the question, N’dombele has to be the answer. He must play against Brighton, despite continuing fitness doubts. It’s wrong to read too much into the Bayern defeat, but Lo Celso did not make much of an effort to take the opportunity presented to him. Mourinho is not sure about him.

VAR, Son’s dismissal and Rudiger’s reaction, I’ve have enough so let’s just say it all contributed to the malaise of the most unpleasant afternoon. Looking forward, Mourinho was comprehensively out-thought by a manager in his first year in the Premier League. He had no effective response to Chelsea’s tactics. Plus, his famed ability to motivate and inspire was entirely absent.

That doesn’t leave us with much. No doubt this will galvanise him into action for Boxing Day and after. The suspicion lingers that Mourinho’s tactics and approach are behind the times. He says he’s had time to think during his break from the game, and note that he’s taken on two youngish coaches, presumably  with fresh ideas. This game has shown him the nature and extent of the task ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

Spurs: A New Era. Just Give Me a Moment to Get Over the Old One

I’m old enough to know that football business is brutal and heartless, but I’m genuinely shocked at the callous way Pochettino was disposed of. Tuesday night, I turned twitter on at about 8.10 to join the reaction to the leaders’ debate, to find that Poch had been sacked. Wednesday morning,  I woke at 6.30 am and Mourinho had been appointed. And they say there are no surprises in football these days.

Another piece with a hundred introductions in the trash folder. What’s on my mind now does not correspond with how this would have looked if I had had the time to write yesterday, the day before yesterday or five minutes ago. If I had expressed my feelings on Tuesday night, the degree of fury would have been therapeutic. In hindsight, and these days in football as well as UK politics a couple of days counts as hindsight, the real surprise is not the dismissal but the way it was kept secret, because the board have clearly been planning this for a while. Mourinho’s contract signed, sealed and delivered and he’s had time to come up with gags about wearing his Spurs pyjamas as the press chuckle along. Always good copy is Jose. Let’s hope he keeps them laughing for a while longer.

So this is what I’m left with. Poch had had enough. I suspect he didn’t put up much of a fight, because his energy had dissipated to the point where the bowl of energising lemons on his desk could do the trick no longer. Not even the unfailing support of his team, his real team, Jesus, Mig and Toni, could lift him.  Key members of his squad, in whom he has invested so much and who, frankly, owe him, remained unresponsive, while his patience with his chairman was exhausted.

I won’t pick over the bones of his demise for too much longer, the last few pieces on Tottenham On My Mind went over that ground. Suffice to repeat the saying that for every complicated, complex problem, there’s a simple, straightforward answer, that’s completely wrong.

In the here and now, the old cliché about losing the dressing room applies. In previous pieces, I’ve said Poch should have been given the time and resources to make it right, but this week shows I was sadly over-optimistic and plain wrong because things were too far gone. Pochettino’s plan was holed below the waterline the summer before last, when essential rebuilding did not take place.

On the surface, Spurs were moving onwards and upwards with the enticing prospect that the best was still to come. In reality, that summer was the last opportunity to rectify the problems caused by a lack of activity in the transfer market and thereby sustain the momentum Pochettino had generated. Rebuilding is a process, not a one-off event.  From then on, lost impetus was impossible to regain. Pochettino knew – he told us. It began to translate into results around January onwards. It just took a while for the ship to sink.

This summer, Pochettino got what were said to be his top three choices in N’dombele, Sessegnon and Le Celso. These grounds for optimism were undermined, however, because the board could not move Dier, Aurier, Eriksen and Rose, which I assume was also part of Pochettino’s plans and, presumably, promised by the chairman. I strongly suspect also that Poch was expecting replacements.

His patience ran out, he found he could not motivate a squad where half of them knew they were either unwanted or had no long-term future at the club because their contracts were due to expire. He makes that clear, Levy then gets hacked off and the downward spiral descends into freefall. None of which excuses the below par performances of some players, who could and should have done better, or Pochettino’s tactical set-ups this season, where the diamond leaves the back four bereft of protection.

In the past, Levy should have acted to support his man in the market. In the present, he had to act. This truth sits alongside the harm he has caused over the years by not investing enough in the squad. Pochettino brought a record of playing good football and developing players but the suspicion lingered that Levy chose him not because he had finally learned the lessons of a succession of ill-thought out managerial appointments but because he knew the Argentinian would not be as demanding a manager as others. Someone like Jose Mourinho, for instance, to pluck a name at random.

Which begs the question, Pochettino, Sherwood, AVB, Mourinho, they all come and go but Levy’s still there. He holds the plan, the future. I’ve never met him and I’m never likely to. I know people who have, and the one thing they all say about him is that he is passionate about the club. The problem is, Levy in my view understands what is required to make Spurs a sustained force in English football but I remain unconvinced that he can choose a leader to put this into practice or that he is prepared to commit the required resources. Building and rebuilding is a process, not a one-off event. You would think he’d know this as a successful businessman, but I wonder if the majority of his work with investments and property development removes him to some extent from the process of building and rebuilding an organisation where people are the key resource.

I wish Mourinho the very best in the job. I hope he comes to understand what the club means to so many people. I don’t like him. I respected Mourinho but never liked the way he goes about his work, although in private he’s said to be warm, generous and loyal. No shrinking violet ever succeeded as a manager but does it matter that an arrogant, moaning, self-absorbed whinger is now in charge? Who took a fortune from United and left them in a right state? Who looked bored out of his wits in his last year there? Who bullied a young full-back? Where nothing that goes wrong is his fault? Who spends money like water working with Dan Levy? Remember, when he whinges on in the media about how hard done by he is, it’s our club and our fans he’s talking about.

JM doesn’t fit the Spurs culture. We don’t like preening self-publicists. We want someone who is close to the fans and who doesn’t put himself before the club. He is synonymous with the success of one of our greatest rivals and enemies. Terry Neill and George Graham came the closest to this appointment – that didn’t work out well. Spurs play expansive, attacking football – JM’s teams don’t. Also, there are practicalities. Never mind his character, at United his tactical approach looked outdated and his judgement in the transfer market was seriously flawed. United didn’t have a director of football to help the manager with transfers, and, worryingly, neither do we.

But as I say, does it matter? It begs the question of whether clubs having a culture is true. I would say damn right it is, and Martin Cloake and I wrote a book about it. Julie Welch in her lovely Spurs Biography firmly believes this, pointing out that all our achievements have come through playing and behaving in the Spurs Way. Or is this an invention to bring comfort to supporters, that in reality we are like everyone else and will accept anything to climb the greasy pole to the top?

So tomorrow, a new era begins. We move on. All the very best to Jose Mourinho, sincerely, get behind the team and up the Spurs. I love the shirt and hope he can inspire the players. In the short-term, he’ll focus on defending, which is no bad thing, and sprinkle around some bloody-mindedness, also needed.

He’s inherited the players to get the ball forward, so on the field there are grounds for optimism. He seems refreshed after his break and is saying the right things about the new challenge. The players need that too at the moment. Longer term, well, let’s see if he sticks around if Levy doesn’t allow him to spend big money. A word to the wise, Jose, don’t bang on about how Spurs were always close to your heart or some such, no supporter believes you. Just get on with it and show us what you can do.

Forgive me if I’m mourning the loss of the old era, that I’m not quite ready to move on yet. I admired Pochettino hugely. I miss him, even though I know his faults all too well and the ending was unbefitting of what had gone before. I cared about him, because he cared about the club. I wish there was some way of telling him, a site or something to gather messages. He’s just gone without saying goodbye.

The most read piece in a decade of Tottenham On My Mind was written just before the Champions League final. At the time it served as an expression of gratitude, anticipation and wonder at what Spurs had achieved and Pochettino’s pivotal role. For a long time, it felt like he could be the one, a builder of dynasties, someone who understood the club, understood us. A Nicholson for the 21st century. Where dreams became real.

Looking at it now, it reads as the Argentinian’s elegy and a lament for what might have been.  What I feel about Pochettino and his team, I can’t express any better here. He understood Spurs’ and the club’s heritage, then gave it his own interpretation. Glorious football, miraculous European nights under lights, the best team since Burkinshaw’s in the eighties, arguably since Nicholson in the late sixties. In today’s jaded, cynical materialistic football universe, he bestowed magic and wonder.

More than just understanding our heritage, he reflected it back to us. He understood the supporters. He reminded us just how much this club means, which tells us something about ourselves, deep down, and what being a Spurs fan means to who we are. he reminded us that, “without football, life is nothing.”

Team and fans have never been as close. He reminded us of the delight and wonder we felt as children when heroes in navy blue and white left us spellbound. He stayed with us as White Hart Lane crumbled under the wrecking ball. As well as a season unbeaten at home, he kept us at the top when we played nearly two seasons away. He gave us daft dad-dancing at Ajax, mirroring the uncoordinated explosions of joy in the stands and in living rooms around the globe. When we didn’t know we could be that happy or what to do, he was one of us.

Good luck, goodbye, Mauricio Pochettino. Never forgotten.

Pochettino Searches for An Answer as Spurs Toil

 

I’m struggling to recall a Spurs game that I enjoyed less than Sunday’s match against Everton. The absence of ideas or inspiration. The inability to pass the ball. Eriksen unrecognisable as the creative hub of a top-class team, unable to control the ball let alone the midfield. Gomes’ injury – my very best wishes to him.

I have of course seen Spurs play worse, a lot worse. When I tweeted about this, a few people mentioned Colchester and Brighton this season, or end of season Newcastle. But these did not have VAR, an absurd, incomprehensible blight on the game of football, sucking the joy and numbing the excitement from a game that has entranced billions for a century and more. Winning and losing is important but VAR proves that some things matter more.

The game was virtually juddering to a halt without VAR’s assistance. Neither side was capable of stringing together a vaguely coherent move. Spurs were slowing everything down, holding ankles and heads after most challenges, while Richarlison hurled himself to the turf at every opportunity. The extended examinations of the two possible penalties, Son and then Dele’s handball, were excruciating for me watching from the comfort of my sofa. I’m certain the people who paid good money for the privilege of being the last to know what was going on felt worse.

These problems are intrinsic to the VAR system. Once you scrutinise decisions with the technology, you can’t unknow or un-see. You look and keep looking. Football seldom lends itself to clear-cut decisions. The Dele incident was the ultimate farce, and I say this on a weekend when a player’s armpit was ruled to be capable of scoring a goal. If it takes refs in front of a bank of screens over two minutes to make a decision, it’s not a clear and obvious error, regardless of what that decision is. Therefore, referees should look a few times, decide whether clear and obvious comes into play, and if not, review ends. Doesn’t matter if it is a penalty or not. But they can’t unsee it, so they’re sucked into the decision from scratch, penalty or not.

The Son penalty – a couple of minutes, restart then they come back to it after another angle is made available, according to Tyler on Sky. Why on earth was that angle not made available in the first place and more the point, who decided it was or was not available, because human beings run VAR? I don’t excuse Son’s tackle on Gomes in any way and I think common decency means Spurs should let it go and not appeal, but changing yellow to red was not on the basis of the tackle itself.

VAR has added to the controversy this weekend, not quelled it. The waning authority of on-field referees has been further diminished by their colleagues in the studio. Match-going fans can’t celebrate without a nervous look at whether the ref is sticking his finger in his ear. And, to repeat, that’s why we pay cold hard cash, a lot of it at Spurs, to tell stories of being there, to remember the moments of exhilaration and elation that only football can provide, unsurpassed by anything in the world.

The way VAR works in the PL hammers home a reminder to match-going fans that we don’t matter. We are the last to know because VAR is a product designed for television. Television, or at least big business in football and in the media money men who sign the contracts want predictability, to exclude as much of the unexpected as they can. For us the unexpected is fundamental to the appeal, a game where many things may be unlikely but anything is possible.

It’s not as if we need a reminder. This is on top of achingly high ticket prices and, as on Sunday, no public transport from London to Liverpool. So out of touch are Sky, Martin Tyler interrupted his droning 90-minute monologue to complain that the station should be open when big matches are on, oblivious to the fact that his employer changed the kick-off to this date and time, knowing about the transport problems. Sky as the centre of the universe.

Without fans, football is nothing. A cliché but true. Except that football chooses to make it as hard as possible to enjoy the experience. In the past, supporter dissatisfaction in the ground is marked with abuse, in time honoured fashion. So far, supporters are getting behind the manager, which I endorse. However, what we’re seeing is a lot of grumbling, sure, we’re football fans and that’s what we do, but also people not coming to games. I know a few diehards who have barely been to games this season. When the time comes, they’ve lost their enthusiasm. When the fun stops, you start doing your sums and ask if that credit card bill is worth it.

Not enough of our money has been invested in the team we’ve come to see. The gaps are less visible at the moment because many tickets go to football tourists or fans who have not yet been to the new ground. These prices are storing up trouble for the club because fan dissatisfaction affects the team negatively too.

There’s always been an unspoken bargain between all fans and all clubs. We don’t ask for much and we’ll put up with a hell of lot to follow our team, and in return expect pay some attention to what we want. It’s not the fortunes of the team that is the tipping point – we’ve ridden ups and downs before, and we’re still here. Just don’t exploit us endlessly. Football is fun, or should be. At the moment, the equation is way unbalanced. We know that if we don’t turn up, and I always will, Spurs will fill our seats with another customer number. Sky plus VAR plus prices is a toxic mix.

 

 

Biog of tottenham 3d-400x400To cheer us up, Julie Welch’s terrific Biography of Tottenham Hotspur has been updated and the third edition is out now. A revealing insight into the club a beautiful book wonderfully written, essential for Spurs fans, as I said at the time. My review on TOMM is here

 

And relax, deep breath, in, out. Except I can’t relax because Spurs are sinking fast. Should have reached this point in the article earlier, but the VAR rant ran away with me.

I’ve wasted enough of your time already so let’s keep this short. Another reason why Sunday was so awful, as if one were needed, is that the gloom and mist has settled on the side and it’s not clearing in the foreseeable future.

Pochettino: I love him but he’s got some hard work ahead. I think that over the summer, he took stock. Legitimately, he could say that he had the basis of the team, tactics, fitness and motivation that he wanted. Sorted. The core of the side were experienced players. We’d demonstrated our resilience.

Poch likes to get the ball forward quickly. Attacks build from deep, from the moment we win possession. Therefore, he bought creative footballers to achieve this. We needed them. However, he made a couple of assumptions, which for what it’s worth I shared, that have proved to be wrong. The defence is not strong enough. We sold a full-back without replacing him. I cannot fathom that a club with our supposed aspirations and where full-backs are vital to our pattern of play could make such a crass error. Levy knows the answer and he won’t tell.

Poch also assumed that everyone shares his commitment and motivation. They had up until then, so it’s a reasonable assumption, but Toby, Jan and Eriksen are off their games, in the case of the first two by just enough to make a significant difference. Rose is brave but waning. Above all, we don’t have a defensive midfielder. Poch has never liked a purely defensive minded player. Wanyama and Dier were necessary steppingstones towards his attack-minded fluent building from the back. But now we look weak and undermanned when sides attack, not just when Aurier flounders but also there are gaps between our centre halves as we get pulled this way and that, even by sides as limited as Everton or Watford. We don’t have wide midfielders capable of digging in for ten minutes to cover out wide, as our awful defending at Liverpool proved. Dier’s vacant, distant expression when the camera caught him unawares told you everything you need to know about where he is right now.

Poch’s book portrays a deep thinker where values and doing things the right way matter.  He knows that doubt can be the seed of progress, because doubt puts a leader in touch with what is going wrong. Then, he must lead change.

Outwardly, he must show certainty. Instead, his teams show the truth, that he’s struggling to find a solution. The last time this happened, he exerted his authority and booted out the miscreants. Now, he doesn’t know his best team or formation any more. He can’t trust his players to deliver. His alternatives are limited. As I said in my last post, the squad restricts his options because of the lack of right-back cover, Wanyama and Dier a yard off the pace for almost a year, no alternatives if Kane is out, no youngsters with enough match experience coming through because they don’t go out on loan.

Pochettino needs the support of fans and his chairman in finding a way forward. It may provoke Levy to spend in January, but, well, you know, you’re heard that one before. In any case, those players won’t be fit enough to slot in.

It’s hard to see what could change in the immediate future. Maybe VAR is affecting my capacity for optimism. Eriksen has been superb for Spurs over five seasons and one bad one won’t change my assessment of his influence, but he’s woefully off-form and should not play. Foyth, Sess and Le Celso must join Ndombele as the nucleus of the new Spurs. Play them now and plan for the future. Sunday’s game left me deflated and frustrated. I fear I’ll have reason to say that again before the season ends. COYS

 

 

 

 

Pochettino Faces Up To Brutal Reality

I’m knocking up the commemorative t-shirts. ‘7-2 I stayed til the end’. Is it the worst home defeat in 137 years? I was there. I’ve seen Spurs come a cropper before now. 7-0 at Liverpool, shipping six at City under AVB, 5-0 at home to Arsenal, but this is the first time I can recall seeing Spurs or any side for that matter lose 7-2 after being ahead and then arguably the best side for the opening half hour. Colchester and Bayern in 8 days is some feat.

 

Post-match, Pochettino was honest enough to say out aloud what we all knew. By the end, we had given up. It’s hard but possible for a team to get over the impact of a defeat like this. Harder to overcome is rebuilding individual and collective self-respect, which lay in tatters, trodden underfoot in successive gleeful German goal celebrations.

 

Gnabry trotted over to the Shelf after one of them, don’t know which, I lost track and was beyond caring by then, and mimed a fishing rod, reeling us in. It’s probably the best match summary you’ll see. The beating was so bad, nobody had the energy to abuse an ex-Gunner in return.

 

I was past anger into numbness. Deep breath, wait a few days, stay away from twitter, no rash judgements, now write.

 

History is a series of events joined by a timeline. The significance of each moment, every potential tipping point, along the way can be judged only by looking at what preceded it and what happened subsequently. The Champions League final defeat marks not the beginning of a new era but the end of phase one of Pochettino’s rebuilding of Tottenham Hotspur. He knew he had to move the team forward, win or lose. This next rebuilding phase presents a different set of challenges. So far, Pochettino has still to find his way and his players look lost. reality is brutal and he has nothing but hard work ahead if he is to turn this around.

 

He’s worked wonders at the club, instilling an ethos of hard work, attractive football and teamwork, without the wholehearted financial backing of his chairman. Fans and team have not been as close for decades. Every player in the squad is better than they were before and they should be eternally grateful.

 

So what’s next. Firstly, he now must manage the demands of key players who also saw the Final as a tipping point, in their case that it was not going to get any better than this at Spurs and to seek employment elsewhere. Eriksen wants the sun on his back, while Jan and Toby by all accounts want a last big payday. There are unsettled players at every club. The trick is to manage this without creating undue disaffection. Poch can’t get rid of them, as he did with Lennon, Kaboul and others who did not sign up to his ethos at the time, because we rely so much on them. Whatever he’s said, there are too many rumours of dressing room disharmony to ignore them.

 

New phase, new players. This should have happened the summer before last. Clearly Levy did not deliver, which I said at the time was short-sighted. It’s hardly the manager’s fault that all his buys have been injured. However, if they had come at the beginning of the window, he would have had the time to get them fit and strong, ready for the season to come. N’dombele is a star in the making, an increasing influence on matches now that he starts regularly, but he’s not been fit enough to last the whole game or play two in four days, as we saw to our cost on Tuesday night. N’dombele on the boil, Spurs on top. He fades early in the second half, the Spurs midfield disappears, out go the lights.

 

New players to bolster the existing squad. Except key players who should be reaching their peak can no longer be relied upon. I say this with no pleasure whatsoever, but Wanyama will never regain the strength and power that made this mighty proud warrior such a force in our midfield. I’m seriously worried about Eric Dier, who appears like a rumour every now and again to lumber around aimlessly, his mind taking him into the right positions, his body lagging five yards behind. Poch has not enabled youngsters like KWP and Skipp to play any competitive football, so their progress has stalled.  Trippier has gone, so the problem of a lack of squad depth that has dogged Spurs’ development has not been solved. In fact, with the glaring problems at full-back, it’s worse. Trippier’s sale without a replacement is a self-inflicted wound. Maybe Poch wanted someone, maybe Levy wouldn’t pay, not for the first time. But it’s avoidable. Full-backs are so important to Poch’s style. Spurs had the chance to be a top club (without thinking I opted for the past tense there, let’s leave it for now). That costs. Any system in any field is only as strong as its weakest link.

 

All managers make decisions that from the outside are puzzling but I wonder how Poch is seeing the abilities of some of these players. Against Leicester, he brought Wanyama on, presumably to protect the defence. In reality it had the opposite effect. Leicester were able to seize the momentum of the game. Also, going back to the City game, he brought on Skipp right at the end. He had to mark Laporte for a corner. Outgunned, the ball went in, only to be disallowed. We got away with it but it seemed unnecessary, based on an inflated view of Skipp’s defensive abilities.

 

Maybe that’s going too far. Criticism of the diamond formation used against Bayern and others is justified. Spurs gave up long before the end, giving the ball away at will. It was unforgivable, and desperately sad to see Pochettino’s thrilling side reduced to a disorganised, unmotivated rabble. However, to find out the real problem, look at what happened around 30 minutes, when Bayern took over after we had arguably been on top and certainly should have scored more than one goal.

 

The diamond is a shiny, beguiling jewel but be wary of being seduced by it. It plays to our strengths, allowing Kane and Son to do their brilliant thing and frees up Dele or Eriksen in the attacking point. However, it also exposes our weaknesses. It can leave big gaps, especially if the two wide players are not fit enough to cover huge amounts of ground and skilled enough to both defend and attack. N’Dombele is not fit enough to be one of those for 90 minutes.

 

Winks is not the player to leave at the base of the diamond. In my view, any one player is not enough because our defence is not strong enough to be so exposed. We give teams too much room in front of our back four, whether it’s Bayern. Palace or Leicester. Bayern shifted bodies into that space and we were two down by half-time.

 

This isn’t about a sophisticated tactical analysis. It’s about getting bodies back to stay secure and about getting the ball back and getting it forward quickly. Winks is one player essential to that aspect of our play – he’s more than good enough, but he can’t do it on his own. Bayern targeted him in possession and isolated him, three or four men rushing to him as he tried to turn defence into attack. We made it too easy for them. Instead of battle-hardened CL finalists, we looked naïve. Managers and their teams have to evolve, you can’t stand still, I can see absolutely why Poch feels he has to try something progressive, and why he thinks he has the players to do it, but it’s not working.

And this is so obvious, but the players must all take responsibility to be the best they can be again. None of this is an excuse. On the contrary, they have to look deep inside themselves to say, never again. Contract disputes mean nothing on the pitch.

 

On the tube home, I was giving off such powerful signals of ‘do not under any circumstances interact with me in any way’, it would have been less obvious if I had hung a neon sign round my neck flashing ‘naff off’. Nevertheless, the bloke next to me felt compelled to dig me in the ribs to share his disgust with Eriksen. The conversation wasn’t entirely wasted because he also shared the fact that Brian Murphy from George and Mildred lives in the cottage opposite my son’s house. Frankly, it didn’t lift my mood. My suspicions that he’d been drinking were confirmed when he said he was staying on the tube until Clock House – which doesn’t have a tube station. He had the right idea, though, having a few to dull the pain.

 

Eriksen’s mind is halfway between north London and Madrid and his form has suffered but it’s wrong to blame individuals for poor team performances, although in Aurier’s case I might make an exception. We know the truth, that Spurs have been off-colour for the best part of a year, and that Levy’s investment is not enough for Pochettino to compete. Maybe the surprise is that it has taken this long for the cracks to turn into chasms.

 

I write this after visiting a foster carer as part of my working life. Foster carers are remarkable people who willingly face challenges I would walk away from in a heartbeat and pressure 24/7 because they know the child deserves the best possible life. They too look beneath the surface. The chances are, an angry child has good reason to be distressed and uncertain because of what led up to their being looking after.

 

This carer is extraordinarily insightful and patient. They’re also knackered and who can blame them. I asked what kept her going. She replied, “tomorrow is a new day.” She loves the children and proud of every little success. A proud, dedicated man, Pochettino is angry and uncertain too. He has to find a way forward. Sissoko’s four year deal could be a significant change of policy with regard Seeto experienced players. If so, it could lead to big offers to Jan and Toby. Eriksen apparently already has one on the table. I’ve repeatedly said this is sound investment, because CL qualification pays for the contracts and much more. We need them onside.

 

The true of any side is the way they come back from adversity. They got right on it against Southampton, but versus Brighton they have a bigger gap to bridge. Perhaps in the future, we’ll look back on Brighton away as the start of phase 3.

 

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Out now from Amazon, this is the story of Spurs’ Champions League campaign last season, told through newspaper match reports, the memories of supporters and the authors’ reflections. I’m not going to review it because I’ve been quoted a few times, and I make a point of writing what I think rather than responding to social media guff. So this is what the book is about. Judge for yourself if you want to buy it. Easy, isn’t it. All part of the service.

It’s a worthy addition to the bookshelf of any Spurs fan because the campaign is placed in the context of the club’s heritage. Playing in Europe has a special place in our history. Also, it analyses extensively how Pochettino embraces the club’s traditions of trying to play attractive, expansive football to take us into the top four and to Madrid.

This book is authentic, bringing out the way supporters became intoxicated on a heady mixture of excitement and disbelief as the run progressed. This isn’t about destiny or entitlement. It’s about fans who were surprised and delighted as their team punched above their weight, about supporters having a good time, about fans and team being together on the journey. About loyalty. Which is what being a football fan is all about, isn’t it?

If you think you know how it ends, prepare to be mistaken. Part of being a fan of any football team at any level is crushing disappointment. One Step From Glory celebrates the journey but doesn’t glorify defeat. The book concludes with an honest appraisal of what might have been and what the future holds. No tub-thumping here, rather an insight into prospects on and off the pitch as Spurs get used to the new ground and the income it brings. Having written extensively about north London football and business, Alex Fynn provides unparalleled depth and authority to these later chapters.

One Step From Glory is written by two professional writers, one a Spurs fan, one not, and it’s published independently, not by the club. It therefore gives both the sense of involvement, how it felt to be part of it, and a professional detachment. This, plus using newspaper match reports that in my view downplay the quality of some of Spurs’ football, means this readable account rattles along without ever becoming cloying or gushing. It’s part of our history and an insight into what the club means for so many supporters all over the world.

And if you’re still with me, look out for two other must haves – Julie Welch has updated the new edition of her Biography of Tottenham Hotspur, which should be out soon, and Adam Powley has written the biography of Steve Perryman, one of the all time greats, published by Vision. Christmas is coming…