Spurs Last Two Games a Watershed: the Most Important of Levy’s Era

Spurs final two games, at home to Newcastle tomorrow and Leicester on Sunday, are arguably as significant as any since Daniel Levy became chairman. Two wins and a top four place is guaranteed. Anything less and it’s Thursday nights on the BT channel that nobody subscribes to, but the ramifications could reverberate long into the future.

Playing in the Champions League is enticing, exciting and a source of pride. It’s not the Holy Grail, as many would have us believe. I’m an old-fashioned soul. I think we should push for third, because third is better than fourth. Finishing second is good, because we’re better than all but one of the other teams, and because it’s better than third. I want Spurs to be contenders, not also-rans.

No trophies for finishing third or fourth but there will be lots of money. In the past, the sense is that Levy does not budget for CL qualification and presumably he took this approach into negotiations with the banks offering the loans that pay for the stadium. I suspect the banks looked harder at season ticket sales than the league table, and those have gone very well despite the insufferable price rises.  So the club finances won’t fall apart if we fail to qualify – Levy would not let his vision hang by a thread as flimsy as a place or two in the table.

However, although with Levy there’s no apparent causal link between CL qualification and the transfer and salary budget, the CL money gives him more room for manoeuvre in a summer where Spurs must invest heavily in the squad in order to stand still, let alone make progress. As I said last time, Pochettino faces a new challenge – having built a side, he now has to rebuild one. Rose and Alderweireld seem certain to go. Dembele too – he will never be the same force again – Wanyama possibly. The squad needs to build muscle. Kane has no reliable cover, four years of this now. Sissoko and Lamela are given responsibilities by their manager who seems to see things in their overall play that have escaped many of us, including dependability and creativity, not to mention goals. And so many goals have escaped Sissoko this season.

Money will come from sales but we still have to buy. A perfectly reasonable scenario is that we have to replace four high quality players in the summer. That’s digging deep into the team’s flesh. And deepen the squad on top of that. And can we wait for players to mature to fill the boots of the class players that went before them- we need to pay extra for experience.  These feel like big changes, on a scale greater than Pochettino has had to face before.

In a cut-throat market where everyone is climbing over themselves to buy success, Spurs choose to operate at a disadvantage. As a counter-balance, we have Pochettino and his reputation for playing the young men and making them better players. We also have the CL. Poch plus playing regularly plus the CL equals, what, 20k less a week on the salary? 30k? Some won’t even think about it, others will listen.

Levy relies on this and the patience of his manager, in order to keep down the budget, but for how much longer? Walker, Toby and Rose grew tired of the disparity. For now, Spurs are less of a draw if we’re out of the CL, and perhaps the ties to their manager, genuine though they clearly are, might begin to loosen if the big offers come in this summer for Eriksen, Dele and – I dare not speak his name out loud.

Next season, with the league the way it is, with other sides in what is effectively a top six getting their act together, competition will be intense. CL qualification means more than I can ever remember. It feels like a watershed. On one side, continued improvement, Levy willing (big if). On the other, half a squad leave, are not replaced adequately, we fall backwards, even slightly, and players and fans alike become unsettled. And manager?

Enough of the balance sheet. We need to finish in the top four for the fans’ sake. We want this. Not a trophy, but it means something. Means we finish above London rivals. Means we’re not bottlers. Means we have achieved something without playing any home matches.

Means the pride we have expressed in our team is justified. To me, fans have shown faith in the team. Spurs are good and we want to be able to tell people that. No league or cups but look where we finished. Above you. May not be much but that’s what we’ve got. We can tell people this is what good football gets you. That feeling is always around but again it feels more important that ever before. We’ve endured Wembley, no trophies, considerable expense – two wins mean something. This matters. Wish we had something more tangible to cheer, but right now, this matters.

Like a blunt knife, just ain’t cutting. Spurs are off the boil. Simmering or has the gas been turned off completely? Son has gone back to kicking the ball straight at defenders. Kane’s back on his heels. Dele drifting. Marking at corners helps too. And not giving stupid fouls away.

I was going to identify Eric Dier as the key man, the Dier who cleans up the midfield, not the Dier who loses concentration and gives the ball away. Like the others, he looks weary. But he’s sick, so Wanyama has to step up. Take charge, take our chances, take the top four.

Pochettino seems worried that he’s not getting through. He relies on players taking responsibility for their performances, as opposed to a ranting captain or manager berating them into action. Too late to change that – they must find motivation within. And maybe, ultimately, they need to prove to themselves that they have what it takes to win under pressure. Whatever they say to the media, the niggles must be there.

Glory, stagger over the line, I don’t mind which. Two games, two wins.

 

 

 

Spurs – My Semi-Final Anxiety Dream. And the Day Tony Galvin Shook My Hand

Watching Spurs in a semi-final is like an anxiety dream. That’s where you try to do something, something ordinary usually, but you suddenly find you’re unable to perform the simplest task. You can’t walk, run, find your way home, you’re late for work. You wake in a cold sweat, only for a sense of unease to remain with you long into the daylight hours.

Supposedly the most vivid and memorable occasions in the calendar because of what’s at stake, frankly they have become a bit of a blur, all melded into a mush of an anxiety dream, where Spurs turned up but couldn’t perform.

I’ve been to six of the eight successive semi-final defeats. Intensely disappointed at the time to miss Everton and Newcastle, it was probably a blessing that I could hide behind my sofa instead of suffering on the terraces. As time has gone on, bile and bitterness have given way to a sense of numbness and inevitability. As it was on Saturday – too anaesthetised by failure for anger, although I would be justified in such a reaction.

The semis against United and Chelsea showed we could not consistently play at our best on the big day. For a while, there’s been no margin of error in these big games. Spurs at their best can beat anyone but we have to have everything firing on all cylinders for that to happen. No room for off-days. I say it’s all a blur, except I can recall those moments when your heart sinks, where you think, this time, it can’t go wrong, and it does. Dawson’s slip against Portsmouth, Alderweireld’s error last season or Son’s reckless tackle on Moses, Docherty putting us a goal up at Old Trafford offering some hope…Losing to a better team I can manage, enough practice over the years, not doing our level best is always much harder to take.

Law of averages anyone? Not that I’m desperate. I’m desperate. On Saturday they did it again. Hopes raised came crashing down from a dizzying height. On top early on after taking the game to an uncertain United side, Dele scored a fine goal to give Spurs a deserved lead. We were determined, industrious and well-balanced.

Don’t give the ball away – my epitaph. Whoops we did it again. Dembele this time, a goal well-taken by Sanchez but he should never have had the opportunity. Then, a Dembele-sized hole opened up in our midfield. No off-days allowed, especially for the mighty Moussa. His ability to hold the ball sometimes slows our attacks down but it enables any player to have a moment of respite. Under pressure, give it to Moussa and he’ll hold it while everybody adjusts, usually from defensive formation into attack. The transition I believe the young people of today call it.

On Saturday, he was a shadow of himself, Superman playing with a ball made of kryptonite, David after a haircut. United sensed weakness like a lioness stalking her prey. They pressed him hard and we could not find a way round it. The team wilted from then on, as if the palsy spread to their bones and muscles. Vorm too – I thought he was weak in his dive and too far over to stop Herreras’s drive.

Also, that cross, not a particularly good one, stretched us more than it should have done. The goalscorer wasn’t tracked, and throughout the match we had a couple of midfielders drifting about in no man’s land when United attacked, instead of getting goalside. I realise Poch wants to attack but there’s no alternative sometimes, especially to get our wide men to cover Trippier and Davies out wide. We ask too much of our full-backs too often. Trippier is prone to drift up field and inside.

United didn’t do much and sadly didn’t have to. We had no creative ideas or impetus, nobody to turn the game around and regain the initiative. Kane faded but had little support. Son peaked last month and is slightly off. Eriksen did well but was forced deep where he’s less dangerous. Fine margins. Vertonghen was excellent once more. Outstanding season – it’s a pity his drive and determination couldn’t inspire his team-mates.

Nobody pinpointed what had gone wrong, and without that we can’t put it right. That worries me.

As a writer about Spurs, I am duty bound to have an Alderweireld Angle, so here it is. It doubles as a Rose Reflection, just change the names. Spurs do not pay the market rate for top-class footballers. It is a remarkable testament to Pochettino’s powers of motivation and team-building that the so many have stayed for so long because of their belief in him, what he has done for their careers and where they think he can take the club in the future. That and Levy’s allegedly fat bonus system that adds a substantial whack to quoted basics.

I’ve said repeatedly in the past that Spurs should increase their self-imposed ceiling on the top earners. Not break the bank, not make them the best payers or anywhere near it, but enough to be an incentive both to stay and to encourage new talent to join. That fits with the club’s circumspect financial planning and is sound investment planning. Without top quality players, we won’t challenge for the top four, or encourage consistently high crowds. Even win something for goodness sake.

So give Toby a substantial pay rise. And Harry, and Hugo and Jan and Dele. If that’s not enough, he wants more elsewhere, other teams will give him a longer contract than Levy would give a player of his age – nothing you can do about that, goodbye and thanks for everything. We can’t compete with the top payers without jeopardising the club’s future. We think of City, United and CFC as our peers, in terms of salaries they live in another world. Recent figures showed the gap in total spend between ourselves and the two highest payers, City and United, is greater than the gap between ourselves and the lowest payers, Bournemouth and Burnley. It’s just that we could, and should, try harder, and Levy saving money because his manager is so good with players is a false economy.

In the meantime, Toby is a Spurs player and he should play. I’m a huge Pochettino fan but I’m not blind to his faults. Managing contract niggles is part of every manager’s role. Excluding Toby sends a message to the squad that he wants 100% commitment. Fine for one player, but this is three now – Walker, Rose and Alderweireld. Players might think, well, so be it, I’ll go if the manager won’t respond.

Spurs need Alderweireld. We need his nouse and experience. Sanchez has learned fast and he’s a tremendous prospect, but time is on his side. It won’t harm him if Toby plays the season out or indeed if he had contributed his experience on Saturday. Excluding Toby with half a season to play has brought no discernible benefit. It feels like such a waste of all Pochettino’s hard work in making him and other individuals a better player.

Semi-final defeats focus the mind. It’s not a time for long-term judgements, except they force you to do just that. Spurs once again are not quite good enough. The ‘bottlers’ tag makes for easy copy, and certainly there’s some truth in the absence of a long-term winning mentality at the club.

But this is about Pochettino’s Tottenham and only that. Spurs have tended to fade around this period in the last few seasons, this after our Christmas charge. Last season, we kept going without being at our very best. In the short-term, we must push Watford and West Brom as hard as we possibly can.

At the end of this season, Pochettino has a new challenge to face. Team building gives way to rebuilding, which he must accomplish under restrictive financial conditions. The team and the individuals in it have improved immeasurably. That’s all down to his remarkable influence. Now, there are signs that progress may stall.

It seems highly likely that Rose and Alderweireld, two outstanding players, will follow Walker out of the club. Davies and Trippier (to a lesser extent) are able deputies but they are not as good as their predecessors. Many fans seem to forget how influential and dynamic Rose was for a season and a half. Seems a waste to me. If not exactly spent, Dembele cannot again be the force he once was. That’s four top class players out of the picture.

We must ease the burden on Kane. The current squad needs at least another centreback and a midfielder, plus a sub goalie. Have more alternatives available for long seasons ahead.

Pochettino seemed momentarily crushed if not by defeat then the manner of it, unable to lift them with the resources he had on the bench. Far too much has been made of this understandable reaction, but the fact remains, he’s vulnerable to an offer just like his players. Fourth – we deserve it. Third – Liverpool have other things on their minds. Fifth – for this team, this season – unacceptable. Watford and West Brom become big games. Let’s push on.

On Saturday we were in the Spurs end on the corner, ordinary seats in the lower tier. Ten minutes before kick-off, Pat Jennings quietly walks in and sits two rows in front of us. Looking around, he’s followed by a virtual team of old Spurs. Steve Sedgley and David Howells, Tony Galvin and Martin Chivers. John Pratt sat next to my son and complained about paying £65 for the seat and having to stand up for the whole game, but then again, his knees are shot because of the running he did for us. Graham Roberts down the aisle. Gents all of them chatting to fans and posing for pictures.

Second half under way, suddenly someone grabs my arm and shakes my hand. It’s Tony Galvin. Says he’s a fan of my work, loves the shows, and has always wanted to meet me. “Great to finally meet you – Danny Baker!”

Still pumping my hand vigorously, I had to let him down gently, I said I was a huge fan of Galvin’s – I was and am – and it took him a moment or two to be convinced that I was in fact Joe Schmoe from Kokomo. And that’s the day Tony Galvin wanted to shake my hand.  

And Danny has appeared before on TOMM https://tottenhamonmymind.com/2010/03/12/paul-gascoigne-and-the-ultimate-taboo/

Spurs Masters at the Bridge

It’s a stunning moment. Dele at full tilt pulls down the ball and strokes it into the net in a blur. Strokes, mind you. Not blasted, not bobbled, or sliced, but stroked. From the time the ball leaves Dier’s foot, a pass of such accuracy and dip that Glenn Hoddle would truly have been proud, (there is no greater praise), Dele is the master of the situation.

Out of the blue it came, falling from the sky. Except it wasn’t, out of the blue I mean, because Dele was off on his little run as Dier moved onto the ball. Both knew what was coming. From the comfort of my sofa, I just shook my head in wonder. So good, it was beyond celebration.

He jogged away, and smiled. Couldn’t resist cupping his hand behind his ear as he trotted unavoidably close to the home fans. Still 21, world at his feet, he can appear furtive and cunning as he runs into the box or gets stuck into a tackle. He knows what he’s doing when he goes over, or, sometimes, goes in high. But he charms his way into supporters’ hearts. With a nod to Barry Davies, just look at his face. Before he’s buried by jubilant team-mates, he delights in the goal like a little boy who has found the most chocolate in the Easter egg hunt. This is no rockstar preening or macho posturing, this is a kid come out to play.

We’re not very good with young people in this country. We say we want them to express themselves but when they do, we demand they know their place. Perhaps we’re envious of their fresh ideas, different ways of seeing things. Envious of their youth, that their time is yet to come when our future lies behind us. But every generation complains about the behaviour and attitude of young people. Their different ways, the fact they answer back.

This season, the difficult third season, Dele as a sign that he is an established figure in English football has been presented with his own narrative, comprising two elements. One, he’s a cheat. Yes, he dives, I don’t like it, partly because I’m old-fashioned and don’t like diving, mainly because looking for a foul shows that his thought-process is not fully focused on his game. He’s largely got rid of that backing into defenders looking for a foul thing he did. I’d prefer one touch and a five yard pass, if it keeps possession. But there’s a narrative. No matter the penalties he’s not given, or that he is one of the most fouled players in the division, or that – gasp – other players dive to, one of the most talented English young players gets booed as soon as he touches the ball.

Lately, he has also had to contend with being told he is off-form. If anything, to me this is his best season. Until yesterday, there have been fewer sensational moments, although let’s not forget he did alright versus Real Madrid. This has been more than outweighed by his hard, purposeful running, support for team-mates, his passing and clever use of space. His role is slightly different because Son is scoring frequently. He’s maturing, as you would expect, but without apparently getting much credit, except from the man who matters most, his manager.

I rarely comment directly on media stuff – there’s no conspiracy against Spurs or any other side, and anyway Jamie Redknapp’s secondhand opinions aren’t worth the effort it takes to press the keys to write ‘twat’. But young people should be valued and looked after. I’m sick of it. Dele moving into space used to be praised to the skies as a sign of his quality and intelligence. Now, the same thing is derided as his supposed lack of impact on the game. All brewing nicely for his role as world cup scapegoat. Instead of caring for our young players, we build them up then find something to demolish them, just when they need recognition in their own right as individuals. He suffers because he’s young, smart, English and plays for Spurs. Some fans see that as sin incarnate.

Yesterday, Dele answered back. This is me, this is what I can do. I was so pleased for him. Not that he needs anything more from me. Spurs’ third, his second. Mayhem in the box, bodies flying, chance looked to have gone. Everyone’s blasting it. Dele, one touch, no more than a single revolution of the ball, under control, left to right and that foot made enough space to shoot and score. The presence of mind to do that. This is what he can do.

Enough of Dele. This was a victory for teamwork, this wonderful, spirited, focused and creative group of players. Spurs began well enough, taking the game to Chelsea and making busy patterns in their half. Lamela was prominent, working with purpose, chasing back and looking for those dangerous ten-yard angled passes into channels. Dele and Eriksen tirelessly sought space, but there was little as the Blues bunched in centre midfield.

Chelsea made ground down either flank, Davies was under most pressure as he tried to both tuck inside and cover wide. He couldn’t be in two places at the same time. A cross from the right was perfect for Morata’s head, too high for Sanchez and, sadly, for Lloris, who mistakenly came and watched it fail even to scrape his fingertips.

Spurs looked lost but Eriksen would not rest. Twice he moved onto the ball to shoot from range. The first thudded into the keeper’s chest, the second was unstoppable. I mean unstoppable, genuinely. A few metres from the goal, it was still well above the bar, until it dipped and dropped home.

We saw again a feature of Spurs’ success this season, second half rejuvenation. We picked up the beat and were the better side throughout. A little tweak and Moses and Alonso had less room to move, while keeping our attacking options and flow. Then there was Dele.

My imagination or did both Lamela and Eriksen begin their goal celebrations for the third only after admonishing Son for not crossing to them. They’re hungry for more despite the win. Vertonghen and Sanchez tremendous again at the back, Jan a tiger in the tackle, Sanchez managed Hazard well. Chelsea looked spent after the third goal, their manager unable to motivate them to play for each other in the same way than Pochettino can for Spurs.

Beating Chelsea feels good, and there’s no escaping the significance of the result and performance as Spurs continue to build a side to challenge the best. From within they found the resilience to come back from being a goal down to play their best football when under the most pressure. It’s the stuff winners are made of.

Spurs Ticket Prices Test the Faithful. Or: Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of a Credit Card Bill the Size of Jupiter

It comes to something when your faith is challenged not from within but by the object of your devotion.

On Monday Spurs announced the season ticket prices for the coming season, the first in our new ground. We all expected increases but the scale of these price rises is intolerable. Variously across the ground, hikes amount to 20% and 30% more than the White Hart Lane equivalent. Some of the cheaper seats in the old Park Lane are now £995, that’s about £200 more than they were last year. My seat in the old block 28, Shelfside opposite the dugouts, is gone completely, now some luxury lounge corporate drinks at half time and padded seats for plump arses. The closest alternative costs £1500, a rise of 50% for a worse view. Can’t afford it.

It’s a fallacy to argue the increases are justified because Spurs must fund the ground and a top-class team. A recent Deloitte’s report on football shows that gate receipts amount to around 15% of a Premier League clubs’ revenue, the rest derives from television rights and commercial deals. This will go up substantially with the new ground, but the board won’t change the current salary structure because of this extra income from excessive rises alone. To repeat, it’s Spurs, in London, new ground, an increase I expected. 20, 30 50%, that is unfathomable.

The brochure extolling the virtues of the new Lane feels glossy and smooth. Two days after opening, it reeks of luxury and indulgence. To me, its only value is playing the Spurs equivalent of Where’s Wally? with the artist’s impressions’ pictures. Where’s Daniel? One bloke crops up twice in the same photo – if only we could do the same with Harry Kane on the pitch.

I’ll enjoy the space, although as to whether I will be able to get a cup of tea at half-time, I’m not holding my breath. The brochure is largely irrelevant to my matchday experience and that of many other supporters. I don’t want a micro-brewery or artisan cheese. Especially if beer costs £6 a pint, as the bar price list notes. Going home, I’m not going to say, “well, we were rubbish at the back but at least Spurs have an unrivalled standard of finish using materials such as brushed steel, copper, European oak and Quartz.” A floor to stand on and chat to my friends will do me.

“We’ve got brushed steel, we’ve got brushed steel, you ain’t, you ain’t.”

The brochure is a waste of time and money. They are selling the fans something that doesn’t need a sales pitch. Photocopy a sheet that says, ‘new ground, Spurs will be there.’ Done. Because that’s what matters to every single person who buys a ticket. I wasn’t going to go the game but the goal-line bar has changed my mind. Not how we think. You have to plough through the brochure before getting to the bit the matters, the cost. Marketing, that is.

Whatever you think about Levy, and in Tottenham On My Mind I have been consistent in pointing out the flaws in his strategy and decision-taking as well as praising him when he deserves it, building next to the Lane is nothing short of a coup. I’m deeply proud that our new home is in N17, and I understand that throughout our chairman has sought a fan-friendly design, with stands close to the pitch and good acoustics. That’s not an accident, and fair play to the board for delivering.

Yet the pricing serves to weaken this legacy. Great football grounds are made by the fans, not bricks and mortar. The ground is our place, where we come out to demonstrate our passion for the team and get behind them, where we celebrate, create and commiserate. Fans make football worth watching.

This pricing structure does everything possible to undermine this. Some will be priced out totally. Percentages and comparisons with other clubs mask the cold hard fact that watching football at Spurs is bloody expensive, whichever seats you choose. The government say we are in a time of austerity, where expectations must be scaled back and realistic, where money will be tight. The first thing that goes is usually leisure expenditure.

The South Stand is a return to an ‘end’, the popular side, for singing, for atmosphere, for young people. £1200 in the centre blocks, a fiver shy of a grand further down, with 4 pockets of 1882 Club seats at £2200. I see little encouragement there. Shades of Club Wembley as fans struggle to tear themselves away from the complimentary food to watch a football match.

And then there’s the Shelf. Over the past 50 years I’ve seen around 95% of Spurs’ home league games. Almost all of them have been from the Shelf, standing just to the left of the gangway separating the centre block from the rest, then sitting 10 yards away on the giant white F of the THFC spelled out by the seats. The people who sit around me – sat around me –  are pretty much the same. Football is no longer a working-class sport, and the working class itself has changed, but this is as close as you will ever get. We’ve been there since 2000 – we’re newcomers compared with the others. Ordinary folk, diverse, friendly, Spurs in their hearts and souls. 30 years of camaraderie and relationships obliterated, with a final message ringing in our ears – you are not important to us anymore.

This is the real demise of the Shelfside, home of the Tottenham loyal since 1934, whose fearsome roar urged on the navy blue and white and terrified opposition fans, who never came near. Bricks from the old Shelf form a mural on the wall of one of the bars. It is our headstone.

The stadium design pays close attention to our heritage, the club pays lip service to the fans who have created it. Fans who turned up in numbers when things weren’t going as well as they are now. Who took to the streets so we could stay in N17, to walk in the footsteps of every Spurs fan who has ever been to a home game. Levy, we helped you build this. Not rewarded in the prices.

The ground incorporates some good ideas, only fair that I list them. Better access and less segregation for disabled fans – Spurs were previously one of the worst in the PL. A range of discount tickets for children and, new this, for young adults (although these tickets are only in the cheaper areas). A better ticket exchange. Being able to walk round the concourses to meet friends who sit in different parts of the ground. Very good – safe standing areas.

Daniel Levy (salary 2014-15 £2.6m) is a shrewd financier and businessman. As such, he understands the value of investment, in the short, medium and long term, except when it comes to his supporters. Everything is rosy now, but when the burnished novelty of the new stadium dulls, if this fabulous team falters, renewals in a year or two may not be as attractive a prospect. Now, Levy rightly calculates that fans will pay, although the fact that a Wembley season ticket was offered to a 7-month-old baby who had reached the top of the waiting list suggests demand is not completely elastic. The crude supply and demand equation is a short-term approach that does not do nearly enough to safeguard future generations of Spurs supporters.

I’ve stood and sat in the same place for fifty years. In these stands I grew from a boy to a man. Here, I’ve shared joy and despair, laughter and some of the most bitter albeit creative moaning that’s ever been. I’ve been struck dumb in misery and lifted to the sky with elation. Only football can do this.

Football has kept me going through life events that I would not wish to happen to anyone, profound desolation and hopelessness, yet at the Lane there’s always hope. Always, even if sometimes it had faded far across the horizon. Just another run, beat a man, shoot on the turn. Ah, next time maybe. A goal to be craved, even a miss meant there was still hope for next time. I would have gone under if I didn’t know that there was going to be a show and Tottenham Hotspur would be there.

And this is what the Spurs board, and for that matter football boards up and down the country, simply do not grasp. They have no sense of the depth of feeling that an emotional attachment of such complexity and power generates. Football is about us as individuals. It’s fundamental to our identity. I am a father, husband and Spurs fan. I’m also Jewish, qualified, a dedicated social worker, white, a Londoner exiled in Kent, British, overweight, but these are the three that define me most accurately.

Worse than not understanding this, football boards think they understand. This means they don’t put any effort into finding out more. Instead, this loyalty becomes a commodity they can trade in and exploit. Not my business to intrude on the grief of others, but this is the root cause of the troubles at West Ham. Forget the tribalism – this also serves to mask another reality, which is that fans everywhere have much in common and are being treated poorly. The Hammers’ core support is loyal, longstanding and long-suffering. Their board, under the guise of working in their interests, has tried to undermine their heritage with a saccharin stadium designed for anything but football and barely disguised contempt for the well-being and safety of their fans. They believe the fans will fall for the promises they make about the future, in terms of players and the experience of watching the team. Mixing up groups of fans, misleading them about the view from their seat, feeding the line that Stratford means they’ve put one over on us – all this and more in the name of progress.

The ructions over the weekend at the London Stadium have multifaceted origins. At their heart is that supporters and fans hold fundamentally different ideas about how they see a football club and what they want from being a part of it. It’s a battle – the board wants to change a culture that has lasted for a century and more. They want everything to be shiny, pleasant, lucrative, commercial. They want consumers not fans. And when fans don’t want it, they have to make those concerns heard.

At Arsenal, the facilities are great but there’s no atmosphere. Corporates don’t sing, or indeed watch the whole match. Charge the earth for the privilege. It was fine until team didn’t do so well, now some fans are so aggrieved, they would rather stay at home than sit in seats they’ve already paid for.

Leave the sneering to one side. Both these groups of supporters have been through the process of moving. There’s a real danger than Spurs have not learned these lessons. The team is playing marvellous football at the moment, but recent history suggests this is atypical not the norm. The attraction of paying £63 per match to sit behind the goal, the popular end remember, not by any means the most expensive seat, could fade before you can say ‘and no guaranteed cup final ticket.’

Several years ago, the morale of Spurs fans was ebbing away. Ask people what they felt, nobody truly looked forward to the next game unless it was a derby. Season ticket holders questioned whether they would renew, some the first time such a thought had crossed their minds in two or three decades.

It wasn’t so much what happened on the field, although AVB and Sherwood inspired few of us. Supporters felt disengaged, distant and alienated from a club who asked us to spend the earth on tickets with no prospect of significant improvement, who treated us as customer number not individuals, extras for the crowd noise that is so attractive when it comes to selling the foreign TV rights.

I tend towards the view that football supporters are pretty much the same wherever you go. I might even go so far as to say that I have as much in common with a Hammer who fears for the culture of his club than I do with a Spurs fan munching mature gruyere and peering at the players through one-way glass in the Tunnel Club. What happened next at Spurs, however, gave us a refreshingly different experience from other London fans. We brought through a group of young players who were totally committed to the team and to improving themselves. They acknowledged supporters in their celebrations, I mean looking genuinely elated not doing a choreographed mystery in-joke dance when they scored. Kane is one of our own – this chant resonates as the symbol of what he and we have achieved together. Ryan Mason playing out of position and eventually disposed of, gave us everything and played for the shirt. No prima donnas, no excuses. They gave as much for the shirt as we did.

As a result, the distance between fans and club diminish. We felt closer. The atmosphere lifted. We played football the Spurs way. The club responded in some ways. The Lane finale moved each and everyone of us. These prices could destroy that.

Fans go to the game for the football, not the facilities. If we can’t afford it, we can’t go. I’ll be there, somewhere, because it’s that important for me, and for my son and granddaughter who sit next to me. This is what we do, this is who we are. I’m come through a crisis of faith before, when all things considered it would have been easier to not go and avoid the strife of going out, of this being a luxury I could not afford, the credit card bills. I can’t work full-time because of other responsibilities. Money’s tight. But I came through that, and I’m glad I did because I was being true to myself and thereby able to be true to others who need me. It gave me the energy to keep going. Spurs are a big thing for me, too big perhaps but I’m here now, this is how I feel so I roll with it. Love the club for evermore. Not sure it will ever feel quite the same though.