Spurs: Is This As Good As It Gets?

It’s thrilling at this time of the season when, usually, the games pile on top of each other so there is barely time to breathe between matches, but occasionally I appreciate a break. Maybe I’m getting on a bit now, need to take things slowly at my age. Nah – I’m fine, my enthusiasm for the game is undiminished by the passing years and the way money is in danger of poisoning the relationship between clubs and their fans. Rather, maturity teaches you to rest awhile and enjoy the view on along way, rather than hurtle from A to B.

Despite Tuesday’s defeat, as I suck a thoughtful tooth there’s plenty to relish. The 2nd leg against Milan will do but we are also 4th in the league after a good run of results and are playing some cracking football. In Modric, Bale and Van der Vaart we have three of the most exciting players in Europe. However, it’s given me time to catch up on a few thoughts left over from the Milan victory, one being a radio discussion about our future prospects. Was this momentous victory, one of the great Spurs performances of the last 30 years in my view, the breakthrough moment, the Yellow Brick Road to untold future glory, or was this a time to savour because this is as good as it gets?

The case for the first proposition is obvious – I’ve mentioned enough evidence already – so let’s look at the case for proposition 2, which goes something like this: Spurs cannot play consistently well to take on and beat not only the cream of Europe but also remain a fixture in the top four. To do this requires better players and better resources than we possess or are likely to possess. As sweet as victory as this was, in the cold light of day it’s out of synch with our true status.

In taking this on, I wish I could begin on the pitch but these days we need the Financial Times not the back pages to find many of the answers. Where there’s money, there’s power, and the single thing the powerful are best at is holding on to power itself. Despite the forthcoming changes to the relationship between the salary bill and income, Chelsea and Manchester City, bankrolled by billionaires for whom the purchase of a Torres or Toure has no more impact on their wallet than using a £50 note to light their cigar, will hold sufficient advantage to distort the market in their favour. United or would-be challengers like Liverpool have the might of corporate finance behind them. L’arse depend more than any of the others on the skill of their manager. Whilst his current reluctance to spend is unfathomable, the Emirates is a goldmine, their debt must soon be paid off and there’s a takeover in the air.

Fighting our corner is a shrewd businessman who falls into neither of these camps. More accurately he actually has both – our de facto owner Joe Lewis is a billionaire and corporate financier – but has access to neither. Consistently up in the top 15 clubs in the world in terms of income, we are unlikely to have the massive resources to match those of our main rivals. In ten or 15 years time maybe, not just when the new stadium is built but when the debts are manageable, but not yet.

However, I’m not giving up that easily. Let’s get back to what matters, what happens on the pitch. Spurs have to take the blueprint that got us here and throw everything behind that. Players. Players are our future. Young players who will mature – we will find them and once here, cherish them as if they had returned to suckle at their mother’s breast.

Time – give them time to develop, grow and achieve their full potential. With patience, time is a resource conspicuously lacking in the minds of Abramovich or City’s sheikhs, yet it is within our gift.

Process – this is a process, a flow of players joining us. As one reaches the first team, another is out on loan learning their trade, a third is sweating blood in the youth side. Whilst our own youngsters need to progress, our success has been to identify young players who have some first team experience elsewhere.

Football men. Football men in charge of the team who can make these players believe and excel, to be better than they think they can be. Most significantly, football men off the pitch and in the stands of grounds around Britain and and Europe, men who understand not just what a player can do but what they could become. A man like Comolli. Allowed too much influence by Levy, the club’s management and accountability structure hampered progress and Levy must never allow that mistake to be repeated. I’m aware he may not have personally picked all of these players, but in his time Gomes, Bale, Lennon, Corluka, Modric and Assou-Ekotto joined this club.  Director of Football, chief scout, I don’t care what he is called, we need someone who can ensure a flow of  players on their way up.

We’ve shown we can compete. Keep this team together and add quality all over the pitch, especially up front, and I am convinced we can challenge the best. Walker and Sandro are next in line: hugely promising. Hard enough though it is to find these precious and scarce resources, the true test is whether we can keep our young (ish) stars at the end of this and next season. The signs are good at the moment but let’s face it – in the summer bids for Luka and Our Gareth will start at £30m. I trust Levy is practicing his cold stare as we speak.

In one of the first ever posts on this blog, I answered the question of where we would finish in the league that season by saying that my true hopes were about the manner in which we went about things. I would have been happy if we were genuine contenders with a realistic chance of challenging for honours and the top four. Whilst I’m still not sure exactly how to  define it, I know when I see it and that’s still how I feel. It’s what we are doing now. If we give it a right good go and finish 5th, I’d be disappointed but not too downhearted.

Right now, I’m pessimistic about the top four – 5th, lost by a short head is how it feels. The burden of expectation is starting to weigh heavy on our shoulders and our strikers are seriously misfiring, but to be serious challengers, now and in the future, is good enough because one day, one of Chelsea, City, United and L’arse are going to fall from their pedestals, as did Liverpool, and we need to be waiting. That day could be sooner than you think. As I write, L’arse will have to pick themselves up from their League Cup defeat, a hammer blow that they did not anticipate. City have drawn with Fulham – they are not yet a team, they have problems gelling as a team. Chelsea have misplaced their mojo and in the longer term need to rebuild. Finally, at some point in the next couple of years, United have the twin problems of replacing Ferguson at a time when they are burdened with debt.

Let’s reflect on how we got here, make a plan and stick to it. Levy has found money for a striker, even though we couldn’t find one, but in the transfer market it’s a scout that we need the most. Maybe we have one already. If so, if there is a man who brought Walker and Sandro to the club, then I salute you and I’m glad you do not seek the limelight. In considering the future let’s not forget to enjoy the present. This season is chock full of glorious memories and there are more to come. Now and in the future.

Finally, I’d like to join Spurs fans in mourning the loss of Dean Richards, who died yesterday at the tragically young age of 36. Signed from Southampton by Hoddle for £8m, a fee that was without looking it up the highest at the time for a centre half even though he was uncapped, I hoped he was the solution to our problems in the centre of defence that had dogged us since Richard Gough departed. Strong, experienced, not the quickest but still mobile, he was the big man at the the back, the leader we craved.

Well though he played, the fact that he never quite hit those heights meant that he was underrated by many. We now know something that even he did not at the time, that his balance was affected by a serious brain condition that eventually claimed his life. In the circumstances, his achievements were remarkable. My sincere condolences to his family. At Spurs we will have good memories. 

20 thoughts on “Spurs: Is This As Good As It Gets?

  1. Another excellent article Alan, My head also says fifth but my heart still clings to the possibility of us getting 4th, once again doing things the hard/unexpected way, like this time last season.

    To get to 70pts (which should be enough to get 4th) we need 23 from 33, impossible? The next four games are the real indicator, if we get at least 10pts from these so called “easier” games, we’ll then need 13pts from the final 7 games.

    Our misfiring strikers are a huge cause for concern, if they do finally wake up for our last eleven games, my head may just catch up with my heart.

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  2. When the financial fairplay rules come in the playing field will be flattened a bit. It will not be level but it will be better. City and Chelsea will not be able to post record losses one moment and then in the next go out and spend £50million.

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  3. Yidarmy is correct. Those running healthy (us) will be laughing very soon and those with massive losses will suffer…unless Citeh and Chelsea have something up their sleeve. 15 years to compete? That is probably worst case scenario. It did not take Arsenal that long to become profitable after their stadium was built. Yes – there are differences -consistent champions league football for one, and selling flats on old site (however the Stadium hasn’t been lucky trophy-wise..) . But as long as we keep going in this current direction, we will get there.

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  4. The acid test looms larger every day as we become more and more successful.
    At some point fans stop worrying about the football and become focused on the result.

    As we become more successful we approach the point where fans become more interested oin the result and not the performance.
    But we got where we are by playing, on the whole good football. Most entertaining team and all that.

    We also got there without a sugar daddy, without diving,cheating and harangueing the ref,without our manager constantly bitching about officials. In other words we are doing it the right way.

    But increasinglyfans don’t care how we win it.The result is everything. And when we get there how do we stay there? By forgetting about the football. Might as well support someone else then.

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    • Hey Jimmy, nice post. The way we play is incredibly important. That’s why our Champions League run fills me with pride. Not only have we not let anyone down (e.g gone out early & hurt England’s seeding), but we entertaining everyone. However the Arsenal fans were diabolical when they mocked Stoke’s style of play the other night, and quite hypocritical when we all remember how Arsenal used to play…and those same fans cheered on regardless.

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      • Cheered?, not in my memory or lifetime, look at Sunday for example. They’ll only opt for Arsenal because of the Goon’s win at any cost mentality. Arsenal’s current style is totally against their history, and their fans are just understanding just how difficult it is to entertain and win. When the Goons were racking up a record amount of red cards, they won, now they’re having to play football, they haven’t, West Ham fans and ourselves have had to bear the agony of watching them bore the rest of us into oblivion and then pick up silver wear in the process, and they reckon there’s justice!

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  5. From Australia comes the harsh truth ……. I’m Spurs through and through, but how Levy was allowed to screw up the transfer window so badly is beyond me! Do what you do best Levy……..make money. Leave the running of the Club, on the precipes of something great, to those who know about football. If we don’t make the top four it’s all down to Levy. We were probably one defender and one striker away from a certain top four finish. You have to spend money to make money. Loosen up the strings Levy!!!!!

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    • Have to disagree completely with you on that score. Harry is a fine man manager, but to let him loose with the money would be nothing short of suicidal. Remember he bought in Keane and Defoe, they were his buys and his alone. For some reason the magic Harry works with defenders and mid fielders appears lost with the strikers? Look how well Bent has done since leaving us for example, and our current strikers aren’t exactly lacking in ability either , thank the Lord Levy got in first with VDV, else we’d be totally up the creek!.

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  6. Great Article. What I like about where spurs are right now – just like last year, we need to beat Arsenal, Chelsea and Man C to own our destiny. We will always have a blackpool – last year it was Wolves. But it is how we stand up against these guys that determines our destiny. All of these games are 6pointers and we need to release them as such. We need to go to Stamford Bridge and do what we did at the emirates. Next season DEMANDS that we do it at OLD trafford as well. ONLY then will I take us seriously. All monkies must be shaked off our backs.

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    • well said..it would be highly hypocritical to sit here knocking bells out of ‘Harry’,but he is in no way ,shape or form the finished article. (even if he is older than thou) Like most situations that are promising but not secure, you roll with the punches and enjoy the times that are fruitful. As ultimately
      you get wgat you deserve and deserve what u get…

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  7. very good summing up.the plain fact is that we have misfits as a strike force.crouch first of all a target man.if he gets 10 goals a season,thats it.works hard for the team.defoe blows hot and cold all the time.the latest,near artic conditions in his non exsistant form.nobody breathing down his neck for his place.a major mistake.roman now you see him,now you dont.needs a head shrink to understand him.i dont.we owe a lot to vdv for our position.lennon is now starting to score.bale should not be in defense(terrible waste)hes a natural 2 footed striker and should be used as such.when forwards are playing badly its the defense thats under constant attack.its a miracle that we are 4th with injurys and loss of form.arry dont go.your the only one since billy nick ,thats knows what hes doing.

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  8. Good article. I don’t know if this is as good as it gets and certainly hope it isn’t but, boy oh boy, am I enjoying the current ride (after too many years of despair)!!

    Kind and thoughtful words for Dean Richards and I second them. To suffer through a terrible illness while trying his best is gut-wrenching. And to finally succumb, heartbreaking. Many he rest in peace and gratitude for the time he spent with us.

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  9. I think we are likely to have a few stumbles but Chelsea are even less consistent than us. Harry really needs to get back to picking his best team instead of playing about with it.
    I think we can pip them and even possibly Citeh. We will make it into Champions League again. Believe!

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  10. burkinshaw had his moments of glory like others.but and its a big but.what happened to him after spurs?one might have thought another league club would grab him.nobody did.one wonders also with high profile managers like hoddle,venables,and keegan all disappeared from the limelight.quality lasts.

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    • I’m judging Burkinshaw on what he did when at Tottenham, not after. The trophies speak for themselves.

      Redknapp can talk all he likes, but until he’s actually won anything with Spurs, he’ll never get the respect Burkinshaw has, and if, as is expected, he lands the England job, he’ll either have to win the CL this season, or a trophy next.

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  11. Still many a variable to consider before giving up on 4th (not that I think that is what people are saying). Last season going out of the FA Cup looks to have helped our push for 4th painful as the defeat was at the time. Which of Chelsea, Spurs or man City will benefit in the league if they have a prolonged push in Europe? While not in the CL, there is pressure on Man City to play strong sides in the UEFA Cup due to their trophy drought. This is shown by the sides Mancini is putting out.

    I recognise 4th is the new holy grail (sadly)and the money made will help us down the line, but I just want us to bash on in the Cl til the bitter end, whtavere that may do to our competitiveness in the league at home.

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