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.

Spurs and the VAR Debacle.

So yeah. How’ve you been?

First day of March seemed as good a day as any. It holds no special significance or power. It’s as good a day as February 28th or March 2nd, but it was a plan, so here we are. We all need targets, and like Fernando Llorente, I’ve found mine.

Spurs are doing fine without me. I say without me, I have been alongside them at Wembley all season, making the most of my half-way line Shelf equivalent, my perch for 50 years, before the new ground turns it into an exclusive debenture pay up front for three years padded seat complementary programme cheese-munching executive lounge. And prices me out.

My mid-season break was longer than that proposed for the season after next, and unlike PL clubs I didn’t whinge about tiredness then book a trip to Asia. Whether like Dembele I come back stronger or lose momentum like Harry Winks remains to be seen. But here we are, because Tottenham really is always on my mind.

Once again, Pochettino has cranked it up post-Christmas. A long unbeaten run, 6th round of the cup and a NLD derby victory mean life is sweet. More to come – Spurs don’t quite look like the finished article. There’s still a bit more growing to do. Over the seasons, Tottenham On My Mind has plaintively asked the question, what does a top-class side actually look like? We’ve had top class performances and remarkable growth under Pochettino, but maybe because I’m old, I can’t rid myself of the spectre of Newport and Rochdale scoring from every set piece. Can’t get rid of the old days and the old Spurs. Except in 80 minutes at Juventus, Spurs finally gave me an answer.

While Tottenham are in rude health, the same cannot be said for the game itself. Rochdale at home is the equivalent cost for me of about 15 minutes of Juventus, so there were economies. I had never planned to go, but Spurs’ ability to sustain a plan for 90 minutes and to pick themselves up after an average first half, features so distinct from past sides and vital to our 2018 surge, blew us gale-force into the quarter finals. And there was VAR. It’s March 1st, I’m writing, so here goes.

Last night was a debacle for VAR and the referees who administer it, their faults exposed like wiring after mice have chewed through the cable, and just as risky. VAR offers certainty where none exists. Lamela’s opening effort was disallowed after the TV ref found a Llorente foul that never was. It took the best part of four minutes to make a wrong decision. Spurs were then awarded a dodgy penalty. I’ll leave the controversy about Son’s run-up, encroachment and a possible re-take for now, chiefly because above all, Son was incredibly stupid to not know the law about run-ups.

All part of VAR’s teething problems. I get it. Except all of these problems could have been foreseen in advance, and were, by many pundits and supporters.  Once VAR is there, you can’t forget it. Offsides plus fouls where there might be a clear and obvious error are supposed to be referred, yet last night, like a folk singer with his finger in his ear, the ref seemed to be checking something through his earpiece throughout the match. It was decidedly off-key. Fans in the ground were the last to know what was going on, of course, but in this instance even those watching on television were none the wiser.

VAR placed the seed of doubt in the referee’s mind. I’m sure he felt undermined to some extent. It creates a climate of uncertainty when the intended effect is precisely the opposite. If VAR is at a game, fans and pundits will argue decisions and the decision to use it, or not. Because it’s there.

Also, if VAR runs an incident, what if something else crops up? If a foul is being reviewed, what if the TV ref spots a foul off the ball or earlier in the move? How far back will they run the tape? In rugby league and union, they seem to refer more and more tries to the video ref, just to make sure. The stop-start nature of the game lends itself more easily to swift replays – there’s a pause for the kick after a try in any case. Before Christmas, in an international the ref sought judgement for a touchdown – rugby refs ask for a specific thing to be judged and because they are miked up you can hear what is going on. The try was eventually disallowed not for the touchdown but for an infringement earlier in the move spotted by the video ref.

The fans in the ground are the last to know. Happy to stand corrected but rugby fans at the match see replays, at least in big games. We’re football fans, we can’t be trusted. It’s worth remembering that when VAR first appeared, it did not cross administrators’ minds that we should even be told VAR was being used, let alone see moving pictures, so you see why teething troubles becomes a euphemism for slack thinking from people dazzled by the power of the technology at their fingertips.

Spurs appear in the footnote of history that perhaps lies behind this. When the jumbotron was an innovation, Spurs played Newcastle, 93 maybe? Replays showed Spurs’ goal was dodgy. Kevin Keegan’s touchline jig of outrage sticks in the memory better than the incident itself, and ever since the screen cuts to a panorama of the Lane if there’s even a whiff of controversy.

And here’s the nub. VAR has a context. It exists in a football universe that prioritises the fan at home over the supporter at the match. This has been a trend for several years now, once the PL allowed Sky to dominate the football schedule. Last night could well be the tipping point, the moment where a tiny incident on the fulcrum of change shifted the balance irrevocably in favour of the sofa rather than the supporter.

VAR is fun for the TV viewer, especially the uncommitted. Last night, the commentators said exactly this. I can’t recall the precise words, but this was ‘fascinating, laden with controversy made it riveting viewing’, did a pundit actually say or tweet that it was the best game of the season?

For the hapless souls at Wembley, it was bewildering. Paying their money left them short-changed. Freezing cold, unsure if they could make the journey home, it was a stark reminder how little they mattered.

This comes on top of the new TV deal, where more matches than ever before are shown on TV and which for the regular matchgoer means investing even more money without any prospect of knowing if the match will be shifted to another date and time. Spurs again with the perfect example of the confusion this causes, lest we forget the rescheduling of the West Ham game around New Year. This was much more than the inconvenience we have sadly and unwillingly become party to. Sky changed the date and time to New Year’s Eve and the PL agreed without consulting the police, the local council or the safety authority. Sky presenters were stating the game was going ahead – I and a few others told them via twitter something their own company failed to mention. Never mind consulting with the fans, this is scandalously dangerous. Sky seriously think, we make the decisions, everybody else jumps.

The minutes of the latest meeting between the Trust and the board are essential reading for any Spurs fan. The indefatigable Kat Law, a champion of fans’ rights, asked about a link between pricing and lower attendances than expected for some games. The club replied that pricing was not a factor – what mattered was opposition, competition and match time. The day after, Spurs’ revised kick-offs due to TV were announced, which include a Saturday evening fixture versus Manchester City. In other words, we are knowingly actively taking steps to lower the attendance. And this without the implications for City fans getting home – the last train to Manchester leaves at 9pm.


One mercy of Tottenham On My Mind’s absence is that I avoided discussion about our away game at Liverpool. A Spurs match again becomes a touchstone in the technology debate. It showed, among other things, that at high speed refs get things right and that technology is never conclusive. My point here, though, refers to the debate that raged after the final whistle on social media, the perfect example of a trend that disturbs me as a football fan, not as a Spurs fan. The Liverpool fans who howled for retribution, a re-match, for the referee’s head, epitomised the totally unrealistic expectations of many modern football fans who have re-defined the meaning of a foul. In so doing, they seek to thwart the laws of physics. It’s not a question of Spurs or Liverpool, or about tribal loyalty, it’s about what is and is not contact, what does and does not mean a player touched by another falls over. I don’t want football to be become a non-contact sport. Editions of MOTD imply in their analysis that football is a series of incidents requiring television adjudication rather than a flowing game.

VAR plays into these sensibilities. Football does not lend itself to the micro-analysis of endless replays of so-called fouls. Yet this appears to be the expectation of a growing number of fans (and some managers who should know better). I’ll hazard a guess that the majority of these fans do not go to matches on a regular basis. I think also that the most vocal on social media at least, not necessarily a reliable cross-section of the public I’ll grant you, are younger fans who have grown up watching the majority of their football from the comfort of their living rooms.

We’re fond of talking about “the fans”. In reality, there are profound and I believe growing divisions within fandom, between the expectations of match-going supporters and those who do not, and between older fans and a younger age group. It’s a generalisation with many exceptions and of course there is a cross-over between the two, i.e. younger match-going supporters.

There are many other examples where these divisions manifest themselves and where the game is changing – all-seater stadia, the perception of the dominance of the Champions League that dmeans other forms of the game, and now the precious treasure of the English game, the FA Cup, relegated to a midweek 5th round with no replays. For what – because it gets in the way of, well, I’m really not sure what.


For me, as an older, match-going fan, VAR represents the latest and perhaps ultimate aspect of the changing culture of the English game, which is increasingly weighted towards the television fan. Partly it’s about the matchgoer being left in the dark, partly about how little the authorities care about the time, money and energy matchgoers put into seeing their team, partly about VAR as a symbol of how the game is perceived and what people want from it. When was football ever about getting everything right? That’s not what I expect.

Change football at your peril. Football is messy, ambiguous and thrilling. Thrilling because your expectations are constantly threatened by the fact that you have no idea what is going to happen next. From disorder comes pain and anguish, joy and fulfilment. They co-exist: can’t have one without the other.  And sometimes, from the chaos emerges beauty, a moment of inspired creativity that knocks you sideways, punches you in the gut and forces the breath from your lungs. Moments that you share with the like-minded. That you remember for evermore. Nothing else does this, only football. For now.






Kane Defies Expectations: Shame Some Still Don’t Get It. And Tottenham On My Mind is Changing


Tottenham On My Mind is changing gear. Most of my 529 posts since June 2009 have been written around a Spurs match but that’s become too much of a stretch. Last Saturday instead of watching Spurs play West Ham, I was in Crawley buying my wife a mobility scooter. There’s a message there somewhere, one that I can’t ignore. Over and above the obvious one of not spending Saturdays in Crawley, that is.

I almost pressed the delete button but this is called Tottenham On My Mind because it is. That stuff swirling around in my head is not going to disappear, and the pressure cooker needs an escape valve. Maybe the trick is to regulate that valve to take account of all the other things I have to do, like earning a living and that. Writing about Spurs on the blog, pleasing myself what I write, not monetised, just me (LOVE receiving emails addressed to the editorial team) – it’s part of me after all this time so stopping won’t help.

So the blog is still here but I won’t write about every game. Pieces may be few and far between or spew out like slurry from a fractured sewer. Like the one below, for instance.

I’m doing other Spurs stuff. Researching how fan attitudes have changed over the last 35 years. I’m also involved in a new book Legends of the Lane, which carries in-depth interviews with many past Spurs legends, more info here: https://www.facebook.com/LegendsOfTheLane/

Martin Cloake and I had the great pleasure of talking about A People’s History of Tottenham Hotspur with London cultural legend Robert Elms on his BBC London radio show, should be on his page for a couple of weeks, and I’ve filmed something for a US cable series on English football fandom, based around last Saturday’s game.

Heartfelt thanks to the many regular readers and commenters who help make this an authentic blog for fans. Apologies that I can’t make Tottenham On My Mind part of your match routine any longer, hope that you stay with me. Posts come up on twitter @spursblogger and Newsnow, or on the sidebar you can get an RSS feed or email notifications.

Warm regards, Alan

Up the Spurs!


It seems to me that Spurs’ recent success has upset a few people.  The old Tottenham, you knew where you were with them. A club with heritage but a great future behind us. Twenty-odd transitional seasons in a row, constantly failing to live up to expectations. The UEFA Cup was tailor-made for us, the competition for teams who aren’t good enough. Echoes of glory first taunted us then became the sound of silence as we took stock for another year of more of the same.

After a while, fans wrapped ourselves up in the cosy familiarity of it all, comfort blankets of self-deprecation and fatalistic humour, of being spursy, to keep out the icy chill of envy as neighbours from down the road and west London did rather better. And throughout we stayed loyal, turned up, proud to be Spurs, never wanted to be like them.

We knew our place, then we were good and it all went wrong. Wrong that is for those who wouldn’t accept that things had changed, changed not through the largesse of dodgy foreign billionaires but because we got it about right. Good players and a manager who could make them better, who could make them believe in him and themselves. Living within our means. No coincidence that rivalry with Chelsea and West Ham has become white hot since we had the nerve to be good.

Sections of the media have had trouble adjusting too. Fans are fond of accusing the media of being biased against their club and theirs alone, and many Spurs fans would agree with such allegations but I doubt it’s accurate. Supporters of every club say the same – recently I’ve seen this taken for granted in social media debates amongst Manchester United and Chelsea fans. The media needs United like it needs no other side because of their power to raise viewing figures, sell papers and generate clicks.

The media frame their perceptions in terms of their narrative. It’s the same for every club, just a different narrative. For twenty or more years, Spurs played out the narrative I’ve described above. Pundits and journalists knew where they were with it. Being different has confused some of them. In response, some of them want to keep the narrative at the expense of reality.

Which brings me to Matt Hughes’ article in yesterday’s Times. Not the Star or the S*n, the Times, and yes, to someone of my generation that still matters. Hughes says Spurs are no longer the right club for Harry Kane because he’s too good for us.

“Put bluntly it appears that Kane’s talent and personal accomplishments could soon outgrow those of Spurs particularly given the financial and squad-building restrictions caused by building the club’s new stadium, although whether he recognises that as yet is uncertain. Given Tottenham have won just one trophy in the last 18 years – the 2008 League Cup – it is questionable whether the club is the fitting stage for his talents.”

What is most questionable about this piece are misleading assumptions about the club, the player and the imperatives of contemporary football upon which it is based. Tottenham are battling to be better, to be contenders. Undoubtedly Levy’s financial restrictions make this task harder but right now we’re in there fighting. Stadium costs impede efforts in the short term but ensure long-term growth. Nothing seems further from Hughes’ mind than the possibility we might crack this one. I’m a realist: Wembley diminishes our chances of league honours, a lack of progress means our top players will be vulnerable to transfer bids, which diminishes our chances, and so on and so it goes. Equally, there is a legitimate alternative scenario where this side matures and develops into a real force with a future secured by vastly higher income streams. And so that goes too.

Then there is Kane himself. The article acknowledges that he is happy at Tottenham. However, this is supposedly outweighed by his comparatively low salary (Andre Gray and Nathaniel Clyne earn more than he does, to put his wages in perspective) and the rumoured resentment amongst his team-mates created by his acceptance of such a contract, which depresses wages for everyone else allegedly.

Thus the fact Kane is happy at Spurs is characterised as irrelevant and frankly odd. Look again at the quote above: “whether he recognises that as yet is uncertain.” Hughes will not accept that Kane can think clearly for himself. That sentence reeks of contempt.

Here’s a thought. Harry has made his own mind up that he is content with his lot in life at the moment. On top form, he wants to be part of Pochettino’s Tottenham. He lives with his new baby near his extended family, and a decent living it is too.

Elsewhere in the piece Hughes says clearly that Kane’s loyalty could hinder his career. For Hughes, loyalty, the quality perhaps most valued by supporters, both in our own identity as Spurs fans and in our players, is denigrated then dismissed.

Kane could earn a lot more elsewhere. If he left, I’d wish him well. What infuriates me is the dismissal of the notion that there is value in where his life is at right now. It’s a decent package: home life, the club who have looked after him and coached him to become the player he is, a manager with faith in him. And a crowd who adore him, who sing ‘he’s one of our own’ and mean it. To a bloke like Harry, that matters too. Kane has integrity and honesty. Those qualities don’t hold him back, they make him the man and the player he has become.

This article is about Harry Kane but the narrative holds across much football punditry. That all good players must inevitably end up at one of Europe’s few elite clubs. Kane’s performances are greeted each week on Sky TV with the grating story, ‘he’s due a move to a bigger club.’ I’m looking at you Jamie Redknapp. Many in the media are quick to employ another popular narrative with professional footballers, that they are over-paid, aloof, distant from fans and from the real world, only in it for the money. Yet when a conflicting story comes along, they are quick to reinforce this stereotype and say that money is what matters. I look forward to the article saying that Kane breaks the mould, that he’s a role model on and off the pitch, a professional footballer who understands his roots, knows what really matters in life, cares about his performances and about the supporters.

I’ll wait.

Spurs Still Have Some Growing Up To Do

Spurs’ failure to close out a scratchy win on Sunday leaves an odour that will hang around for a fortnight, due to the wretched international break. This late capitulation seems to have brought comfort to many, although not to me. On the train home, a bloke who hadn’t seen the game but knew the score laughed along with the fans next to us. “I knew it, just knew it! Same old Tottenham, always rely on them to let you down!” He was relieved to be in such familiar territory, sentiments echoed in queues to get home and on social media, fans who with ten minutes to go were certain we would concede.

Except last season the Tottenham we know and love weren’t like that at all. We were scorers of late goals, miraculous at times like Swansea away. Fewest goals conceded in the PL. Unbeaten at home. Remember? Many appear to have problems coming to terms with the fact that we’re good.

Granted on Sunday it looked as if we had turned the clock back to Pochettino’s first season, at times even to AVB. However, Spurs have changed for the better and rightly we have come to expect more from this group. What is of concern is that so far we are not kicking on from last season.

Difference between old Spurs and Poch’s Spurs – goals, good football, sound defence. The real difference though is the mindset that underpins this approach. The team played like winners. They believed in themselves, as a unit able to beat the best the Premier League can offer, in team-mates who relied on each other.

For long periods on Sunday, this belief was entirely absent. Instead of going out to run the game, we sat back and fiddled around a bit. First half was entirely forgettable. The highlight was Hugo managing a kick more than 10 yards into the Burnley half.

We began the second half in the same frame of mind but Dele’s goal came early, bringing  relief rather than the anticipated confidence surge. It was only until around 70 minutes that we really imposed ourselves on the game. Sissoko was on, replacing an ineffective Son, his talents dulled by a disrupted close season. and looking good going forward. He set up Eriksen who couldn’t convert. Kane had three opportunities, Dele another one, keeper Heaton in fine form.

Meanwhile, at the other end nothing much had happened. Burnley seemed baffled by our offside trap and weren’t connecting with far-post crosses from the right. However, ominously they had three openings where they were given far too much space. On one occasion, Lloris dashed from his goal to make the tackle of the game just outside the box.

Ten minutes left, the game was ours to win but Spurs were having none of it. Our composure, so carefully nurtured over the past three seasons, deserted us. Instead of shepherding the ball to safety, Spurs felt compelled to make lousy choices and give it away. As the corner flags waved invitingly, we opted for long balls forward that the Burnley centre halves won easily. The danger came down our right as their left back piled forward but in the end, it was a cross from the right and poor marking that did for us.

The last few seasons have seen the side evolve to the point where we could control games for extended periods and deal with opponents’ inevitable good spells with few disasters. This is the hallmark of a top side, of winners. The next step was to consistently take that into the big games, the cup semi-final being an example of where we went wrong and an incentive to get it right. So far this season, we’ve not taken this forward. Early days but we’re not imposing ourselves and in the final ten minutes on Sunday, we were downright shaky. Basic lessons of keeping possession and closing a game out deserted us. With due respect to a decent Burnley side, it was not as if we lost our faculties under intense pressure either.

Pochettino didn’t have a good last quarter. While I admire his attacking instincts in bringing Sissoko on, this weakened our formation when we didn’t have possession. Poch has taught Son and Lamela when to curb their urge to get forward but Sissoko hasn’t learned the lesson. At the same time, he moved Dier in between Jan and Toby so we had basically a back five. Again, a bit of caution feels good to me, except that with Sissoko and without Dier, we surrendered too much of the midfield at a significant moment in the game.

Without much protection, Trippier’s defensive faults were exposed. This was hardly Walker’s strength but he learned to improve both his starting position and how to make lung-bursting recovery runs to get back. Burnley exploited Trippier’s positional uncertainty. He stayed tight when he had three centre halves covering him, then failed to see scorer Woods’ run.

There’s an air of uncertainty and irritability around the whole club at the moment. Wembley just makes us yearn for the Lane all the more. The transfer window is taking shape, at last. We’re buying promise and talent, fine investments on and off the pitch but it means the drive and resilience must come from within the existing squad. Buying one or two proven, experienced players would help to put right the faults I’ve talked about.

We’ve not started well but there’s still time. However, the question remains, if Poch wanted to go three at the back and Levy was prepared to spend a lot of money on Sanchez, should this deal have been done in the summer? Also, as yet no strikers on the horizon. Poch is looking for upgrades all round, surely Janssen does not meet his standards. Spurs have the cash to pay the fees but Levy’s self-imposed salary cap restricts the players willing to come to us, hence the late buying spree as players accept they won’t get better offers from elsewhere. Two days left so we’ll hold judgements for now.

I made a lame joke a couple of weeks ago on the E-Spurs podcast, something about Spurs’ poor management of the transfer window and how we could outdo ourselves by signing a player who was banned from entering the country. Until today, it looked as if I meant it. However, the man in question, fullback Serge Aurier, is about to hold up a Spurs shirt in a happy, slightly embarrassed way as befits all new signings. I know this because the man himself tweeted a series of fire emoticons. This is modern football.

Aurier is by all accounts a fine player, muscular, quick, has stamina, who will fill the fullback role crucial to Pochettino’s tactics. He’s also guilty of homophobic comments, undermining his manager and team-mates and has a conviction for assaulting a police officer.

I’m concerned that the club are prepared to consider signing a man with this record. The answer is ‘expediency’, at least on the surface. He’s good and half the price of the man he replaces. In terms of the club’s identity, I question whether that’s a sound enough reason.

Much has been said about Aurier’s off the field record. There’s the standard excuse that the only thing that matters is what happens on the pitch. That his comments indicate a misguided young man rather than a rampant homophobe. This translates as, the homophobic comments don’t matter very much, and to me that’s an unacceptable argument. And he’s been convicted of assaulting a police officer.

Levelled against this line of argument is the charge of hypocrisy. Gazza and Van der Vaart are lauded as club heroes, when both are guilty of domestic violence. I’m not excusing their behaviour but this is about the club, not the fans. We didn’t sign them knowing they were violent towards women. Also, apparently it’s ok because in a match Aurier once helped save the life a player who collapsed. Good, it shows another side of his character, although not mitigation for other behaviour.

The most ridiculous argument I read on social media was something about Steven Gerrard assaulting a young man in a nightclub and going on to play for his country. Again, we’re not signing Gerrard. All of this is irrelevant to the central issue, Tottenham’s decision to buy him.

We like to speak of the Hotspur and its fans having a distinct identity. We’re loyal, loud and proud, of our heritage, of sticking to values of playing good football, of turning up in the doldrum years when things weren’t going well, latterly of bringing our own through and not buying into the instant gratification and hubristic entitlement sadly prevalent in the modern generation of football fans.

We like to think this makes us different from the rest. Not much, we want trophies and glory after all, we want a new ground, we want Levy to spend some money, but different enough. We like to think, for instance, that we would not have defended John Terry’s or Suarez’s alleged racism, or bought players who have been in prison for certain offences. That we are a crowd where racism is not tolerated.

That the club considered Aurier’s signing shows we’re the same as all the rest, and it’s this that disappoints me. All this is meaningless because we’re desperate for a fullback. Spurs have welcomed the LGBT supporters club and valued their contribution both to combatting discrimination in football and to the atmosphere at games, yet they appear to tolerate homophobia. To them, I imagine it’s meaningless and insulting. Not words from the terrace but the attitude of the football club.

One mitigating factor is relevant, however. Aurier is a young man. He can learn, and deserves another chance. If he helped a fellow player, maybe he has a good heart, so here’s what I’d do. The club should tell him as a condition of his contract to make a public statement acknowledging that his past behaviour was wrong, that he’s learned from that and apologises. More than that, insist that he does something active to show he means it. Help out in the Spurs Foundation, who do excellent work in the community, including with people with a criminal past. Set up a meeting with LGBT supporters. Start a dialogue. Be a mensch. Grow up within this club and understand what our heritage means. THFC, you are the employer, you can say that this should be so. It’s easy if you mean it.