When I was a kid, we didn’t have much time for going out as a family. My dad had a small shop that was open 12 hours a day, every day except Sunday when he closed at 2. Sometimes for a treat he’d shut a few minutes early, scrawl a hurried apology on a paper bag that he would sellotape to the glass shop door and we would escape for a few precious hours. The favourite was a trip up west. The Central Line still has a touch of magic for me, a sentiment not shared by commuters, but in half an hour it took me to the centre of the capital. Window shopping around Marble Arch, egg and chips at Lyons Corner House (a man of simple tastes, my dad) followed by the Jacey cartoon cinema.
In those days there were a few cartoon cinemas in town. My love for Tom and Jerry, Tex Avery and the Warner stable is with me still and the Looney Tunes music has a special resonance. Interspersed with newsreels, the programme ran on a loop for an hour or so. You could come in and leave at any time and remain as long as you liked but usually you left when your first cartoon came round again. This is where I came in.
I’ve taken a break from the blog for a few weeks. Not sure why, if truth be told. Haven’t been away although I have been infernally busy at home and at work. Pointless really: I’m constantly drafting articles in my head, for Tottenham is genuinely always on my mind. A lot has happened in that time, mostly to do with Luka Modric, or maybe nothing has happened whatsoever. To put fingertip to keyboard at this moment is pretty pointless too (as if the rest of this guff has some significance…) because take an overview and nothing’s changed. It’s fun but I’m not sitting through this for a second time.
The media have lapped it up, not just a transfer story in a relatively dull close season but a veritable saga. Modric wants to go. Levy says no. Modric says OK, then it’s not OK. Levy still says no. Modric says Levy is not a very nice man. Levy doesn’t care.
A bit of knockabout fun but it’s no different from the situation I predicted a couple of months ago now. Because Luka Modric is the best midfielder outside the top four, there will be an auction for his services involving Chelsea and Manchester United. I doff my stylishly battered straw pork pie hat to the brave souls who saw Luka’s interview in a Croatian paper on Sunday morning and hit Google translation around the time I was staggering around trying to wake up and kvetching about another bloody weekend of DIY. However, the only surprise is that other top European clubs have not expressed a stronger interest. The key has always been Daniel Levy. He wants to build a top class team but he knows the price of everything. Whatever his protestations to the contrary, he may be tempted to sell. Nothing has changed.
The comedy dialogue that characterises the contemporary transfer pantomime is in full swing. Luka’s scriptwriter, presumably his agent, has gone for audience but his man emerges as the villain of the piece, a guise unbefitting a maestro who has has graced the Lane for the past few seasons. In the process he’s managed to alienate large sections of Spurs fans: if a relationship turns sour, dump before you get dumped. But it’s all the same. Leverage in the negotiations and a message to Chelsea to keep bidding. If it works, fine, if not, there’s a fat 6 year contract at Spurs to cushion the blow with the distinct chance that we will up his salary again.
My position hasn’t changed one jot either. Keep him at all costs. This is a watershed season for Tottenham Hotspur. If we graft a few quality players, strikers first and foremost, onto the existing squad we are ready to take on all comers, now and in the years to come. Modric, Bale, Sandro, riches beyond my dreams.
Modric’s recent comments don’t alter that view. He should show some loyalty, and also it may further his career to stay at Spurs where he will be the star rather than face the highly critical Chelsea support. However much as we don’t like it, the attraction of double the salary plus the CL would give anyone second thoughts. Also, as we have a pop at him, we have no problem luring away the best players from other teams. If Samba, today’s alleged top target, wants to come here, we won’t berate him for his lack of loyalty to Blackburn, the team who took him from relative obscurity. If he says he’s always wanted to join Spurs, that’s not true, now is it? The tired and stilted script of the transfer pantomime.
Forget the statements and media bluster. Instead look out for these two things that really matter. One, Modric. Professionals have a different attitude to this football business compared with the supporters. If he stays, as I desperately hope he does, it’s about how he performs. I reckon the professional in him will buckle down and give his utmost. That’s what being a professional means. So I’m not joining this wave of villification because I’d rather judge him on how well he does against that benchmark, nothing else, certainly not the rubbish from his agent.
Secondly, this has turned into a test of Daniel Levy’s integrity. Boldly and bravely, he has made a clear, unequivocal statement: we are not selling our best players. He has my wholehearted support. He too will be tempted by the money, so judge him on how well he resists. If he goes back on his word, his reputation will be shot to pieces. We won’t take a blind bit of notice of anything he utters, ever again. Perhaps the stakes are highest for our chairman rather than any of his players.