Contradictions, Reality and Spurs: A Discourse In Promise and Frustration

Sometimes a bit of distance helps. Time to breathe. Sense of perspective, which is impossible to achieve in the midst of the white hot heat of a Chelsea derby with Champions League qualification hanging on the result. May the deity who does not exist strike me down but yesterday I had Other Things to do, so no blog. Not a bad thing. Time to pause, disentangle the loose ends of a tension-filled evening. deep breath, take a moment. This sound advice doesn’t apply to Spurs defenders at a corner, by the way.

Performances and results can be both good and bad at the same time. I could press the pause button for a month and still not reach a firm conclusion. A draw was bad – the CL is now out of our hands even if we win the last two games. The draw was good – we twice came back from a goal down, saved a match where at one stage we were being outclassed, notched a point. The draw was bad – I had hoped we would win. The draw was good – it was more than I expected.

That’s a contradiction, but hey, we all know that contradiction, the unity of opposites, is fundamental to society and our full understanding of the nature of reality. Big shout-out to all you Maoists out there. That’s what we saw on Wednesday, the reality of Spurs. Tottenham are in fifth place because we are the fifth best team in the league.

The magnificence of the week where we defeated Arsenal and brushed Inter Milan aside did not as I said at the time herald a new balance of power but was in fact the highpoint of a season that has since declined. We’ve not played well for a while now. The sublime seven minutes versus City, Bale’s sublime seven seconds last week or two ropey goals to salvage a point at Wigan have covered the true extent of our dip in form. You know what, I’m disappointed but not too down about it. That ridiculously wonderful week remains glorious, not because of the immediate consequences but because it showed what we are capable of and what we should aspire to. We’ve overachieved to reach this point, whereas our rivals are uncertain of their future. There’s so much to be proud of.

Let’s take the Chelsea game. That slick midfield trio tore us apart at the Lane earlier this season. They were on top for much of the first half and at times threatened to repeat their trick. However, we dragged ourselves back into the game with a combination of hard work and application plus a few tricks of our own. It was an unequal contest on paper. By my reckoning our starting eleven cost a couple of million more than Fernando Torres, yet in the build-up no pundits mentioned that as an example of the imbalance in terms of the resources available to the respective managers. That’s because we are seen as their equals, which in itself indicates some of what Villas-Boas has achieved in such a short time.

The pundits did reveal the truth after the match however, albeit inadvertently. Souness, one of the few I admire, trotted out the hackneyed line that our Andre was fortunate to inherit the side from Our Glorious Harry Redknapp. Not so. He has had to replace half a team, the best half aside from Bale. Modric and Van der Vaart sold, King, the finest British centre half of his era, retired, Kaboul, our best current centreback, injured all season. Then he’s had to cope with Sandro’s loss, the lynchpin of our side. Against them, Mata, Hazard and Oscar. How many times do we have to say this before it is heard? Yet still Villas-Boas cannot get the credit he deserves for punching above our weight. It’s a backhanded compliment that people now expect Spurs to play so well, that our standards are so high that we are criticised for falling below these rich expectations, but it takes only a moment of perspective to uncover the reality.

With the positives comes frustration at what might have been. Never mind what if we had a striker, what if Adebayor had played for the rest of the season as he did on Wednesday. His goal astonished as much as any of Bale’s this season. Winning a scuffled challenge deep in his own half, on he went, and on, as fast as his spindly pipe-cleaner legs would carry him. Lennon’s shrewd run occupied a couple a defenders just long enough to give Manu some room, by no means the first time this year that Azza the unsung hero has worked hard for his team-mate to take the glory. A gem of a shot, floating into the top corner, the most precious of accolades, a flat-footed keeper helpless in the face of such brilliance.

The frustration of a midfield unable to protect a back four. Analysis of individual goals in blogs has been rendered pointless if Gary Neville is poised by his touchscreen. All I would add is the position of our midfield. Three blues were between them and our back four when they began the move that led abruptly to their second goal.

For a time it looked unequal but we gradually inched our way back into the match, keeping the ball better and playing as a unit further up the pitch. As Chelsea tired or slowed because they thought the game was won, this allowed Vertonghen to push up, gave Parker a fraction more space, which sadly these days he needs, and with the introduction of Siggy and Dempsey we could put more pressure on the centre of their back four. We had an outlet. Nothing was going on down our right but Adebayor was drifting left. (AVB again…). To begin with, this gave us an outlet as we relieved the pressure on our defence. then, gradually, this became part of our attack. For the first time we employed some combinations between our players. We had three, Manu, Benny and Siggy, to their two. Moreover, Manu was thinking quickly as well as moving into the gaps. One touch, Siggy filled one of those gaps and finished with aplomb. The runs from midfield, a goalscoring midfielder, that was why he was bought and he fulfilled his promise.

Mentions in dispatches for Lloris, who stayed calm and did what he had to when he had to do it, and Walker, who takes up some crazy positions but worked tirelessly and defended well. He does what he does because he wants to do well and I can handle that.

Fourth was always between Spurs and Arsenal. Look at what Chelsea have at their disposal, with a manager who knows how to organise a team. We’re ahead of Arsenal in so many ways – I wouldn’t take any of their back five. Yet since the derby they are unbeaten. Our problems are not up front, they are at the back. All this tactics, the hope, the despair, the promise, all the philosophy and words I spew out. No point if we can’t head away a corner. It’s odd how these grand schemes fall in the face of humble problems. Last season, how we bemoaned the fates – the injuries, Fulop, the dip in form, Bayern Munich. I tell you what’s truly ironic. We are the fifth best team over the season because we can’t clear a corner.



The John White Memorial Match will take place on Saturday 18 May 2013, with kick-off at 2pm.

The match is being held at Colebrook Royals FC, Grange Farm Lane, Chigwell, Essex, IG7 6DP. (Close to Chigwell tube station)

One of the heroes of Tottenham Hotspur’s all-conquering side of the early 1960s will be remembered in a special memorial game featuring the Spurs Legends team on May 18.

The official Spurs Legends team, which tours the UK regularly to help raise funds for worthy causes, is set to take on FC ScotSpurs, a dedicated team of Scottish fans of Tottenham, in a memorial match for John. Guesting in the FC ScotSpurs side willl also be Flav, Charlie Marks, and Thelonius from TFC podcast.

Poignantly, John’s son Rob is set to captain FC ScotSpurs against the team of ex-White Hart Lane favourites, which regularly features the likes of Mark Falco, Paul Miller, Tony Galvin, Clive Wilson and Darren Anderton.

Please support the event. Rob is a great friend of Tottenham On My Mind. Hope to see you there.

Tickets will be on sale on the day, priced at £5 for adults and £1 for under-16s.

Money raised from the event will go to the Tottenham Tribute Trust, which is an organisation that reaches out to members of the Spurs family who are facing hard times.

Donations can also be made via:

9 thoughts on “Contradictions, Reality and Spurs: A Discourse In Promise and Frustration

  1. Great article, well written….my thoughts (which I posted on another site y’day) below
    Sorry but I think both Souness and Hoddle missed the point last night. We are without a doubt a worse squad than last year; we sold Luka Modric, who was one of the best players I have seen at the Lane for many years, and said goodbye to a proven goalscorer in Van der Vaart. To replace them with the likes of Holtby, Dempsey and to a lesser extent Sigurdson, was never going to be the answer. Dembele has plugged the gap a little, but where the pundits totally missed the point is where our chairman has let us down. His posturing and then ultimate failure to dot the “i’s” and cross the “t’s” when trying to sign Moutinho is 100% his responsibility. If we wanted to sign him, why leave it to 10 mins to the end of deadline day?? In Jan 2012, we were knocking on the door of potentially winning the premier league, yet failed to sign anyone (Saha and Nelson on loan doesn’t count imo). The Summer 2012 debacle, as set out above, is self explanatory, but the failure to spend any of the Modric money in January, when our strikers were clearly not good enough, is inexcusable. The fact that between them, they have scored less than 5 league goals in 2013 is testament to that massive error, because a striker who would have scored 6 goals, would have ensured we were not relying on others to slip up, for us to qualify for the CL. All this is NOT AVB’s fault. Dragging this squad with so many mediocrities (Parker, Huddlestone, Defoe, Gallas) to where we are is almost miraculous. Tottenham have been horribly let down by Daniel Levy, whose failure to speculate has cost us £30m in CL revenues this year, and will no doubt do the same next. We had the Modric money, yet mucked around in August, then whistled in January. I hope Joe Lewis wakes up to the fact that the man in charge is an accountant, and knows next to nothing about football.


    • Hmm. Having watched Raziak, Dozzell, Thatcher, Tramezzani, Doherty etc etc, calling players like Parker, Huddlestone & Defoe mediocre just shows how far Spurs have progressed in the last few seasons and how high expectations have risen. Too high, perhaps?
      When it comes to Levy dealings signings, I’ll agree on the striker front but I think January transfer dealings are rarely good value and the criticism on the Moutinho deal is open to debate. I also follow Benfica and football transfers are usually complex in Portugal. His buyout clause at Porto is 40m Euros and he’s not worth that. Spurs valued him at around 25m Euros so whilst there may well have been some serious discussions, I’m far from convinced that the deal was as close as the media stated. The different parties often have very different financial positions and goals hence the buyout clauses. Porto are also notorious for being selective in their recollection of events! I can see him leaving in the summer, hopefully without another title!
      I think we’ve made a lot of progress under AVB. I think we’ve lost key players but I think it’s a more rounded squad now, better set up for the future. My only disappointment will be finishing below Arsenal as there aren’t many of their players who I think are better in their corresponding positions.


      • Wise words Pete. I agree completely. Interesting re Moutinho, who impressed me during the Euros. One thing about next year is that even if Bale goes, I don’t see any huge pressure for any of the other players to leave. You never know about these things but they all seem as settled as any professional can be, so that gives Andre another year to build his team.




    • Thanks for the comments and for leaving such an interesting set of comments. I broadly agree with them. Earlier this season I thought Levy had some room to spend more cash – not to spunk it on short-term buys but on quality players. Some of our big earners had moved on so paying good money wouldn’t upset the balance in the squad. Also, in another peice I said he failed to back his new manager, preferring to wait until he could see how it turned out.

      I admire Levy’s prudent financial approach in many ways but in these cases he was plain wrong.

      Regards, Alan


    • I see Levy’s stewardship as pretty remarkable. The consistency is now there. We were, not too long ago, consistently mediocre, then along came ENIC. Now we are consistent but still sit below a real top 4. Levy has to get certain things in order, financially, so as to allow this club to flourish. The pieces are falling into place. We finally have a manager at one with the board. One whom the players respond to and respect. Simply buying a Moutinho is not astute business.
      And that’s likely the entire point. This is, in Levy’s mind, first and foremost a business. Let’s not forget this or else we end up like Newcastle, Leeds, Southampton, Rangers.
      Flinging money and hoping is not good business. Planning and building makes more sense and THFC do not have a sugar daddy. The club has to earn its entire way there, while producing a profit. Don’t forget this.
      We’re in a great position today. We are moving up and growing. Look at what’s been done ( training groud, academy) and what’s coming up ( new ground). I think we’re in safe hands. Shrewd and safe hands.


  2. I don’t think Hoddle missed the point, although he didn’t expound on things either. He rightly argued with Souness that our squad was weaker than last season’s, and he dismissed with faint praise Sig, Dempsey and Holtby as not being proper Spurs players (although I am sure the latter will mature into a fine Tottenham man). But then he went off at a tangent, citing irrelevancies. I was very surprised (particularly as Hoddle was perhaps our best ever playmaker) that he didn’t mention the lack of creative midfield play this season, with no one replacing Modric. It is this lack of a playmaker that has done for us ultimately, and ruined the opportunities for other good squad members to play their best (and in their best positions). But I also do not believe VDV was a proven goalscorer as previously mentioned, and I’m not sorry he went. He scored quite a few at first in his role just behind the striker (just like Dembele did initially) but was prone to injury, game fade-outs, and scored less and less as the season progressed. He reminded me a bit like a fading Robbie Keane at the end ..always screaming for the ball but doing little with it. He also muddied the waters somewhat when Modric and Parker linked well together. Dembele is a stronger signing than VDV and that leads me to Parker. The only reason this excellent player has looked out of sorts this season is because when he played with Modric, with Bale and Lennon firing on the wings, our midfield play was excellent (even Sir Alex said we played the best football for much of that season). Parker, however, has struggled to play with Dembele ie both in defensive midfield but pushing up. Sandro managed better, but Parker needs a Modric type player to bring out his best, and he had some cracking games last season in that defensive midfield position complementing fully Modric’s playmaking. Next season, if we get the playmaker we should have (think Hodd, Gazza, Modric, Ardiles etc) then a healthy competition will form between Parker and Sandro as the DMs. Hudd too must not be written off as he has shown real glimpses recently of the form he showed a few years back (until that year long injury). Dembele will hopefully be allowed to play just off the striker(s), and a new top striker will be forthcoming. Ironic to see Ade mention how strange it was that he was now achieving full fitness as the season was ending! ‘Strange’ for him ..angrily devastating for the club, and the fans! Defoe’s goal against City and Ade’s against Chelsea just served as a reminder of what might have been about ‘bitter-sweet’ moments ..if they’d done even half the job they were bloody well paid to do this season!!
    Alan, I don’t think defense is, or will be, a problem. Yes we have shipped goals we shouldn’t have but everything is linked.
    If, with the new playmaker, we can create more chances (instead of just relying on Bale) and actually take chose chances ..with a new striker in tandem ..then we’ll simply outscore the opposition and take pressure off the defense. It’s the Spurs’ way and embodies our ‘glory’ culture. Yet we still have a fine goalkeeper, good full backs, and top central defenders with Kaboul making his way back. The future’s bright and we DO have a potentially excellent squad, which has only been weakened by Modric’s departure (without replacement) and the inability of our strikers to score …but with those two significant signings forthcoming hope springs eternal!


    • Always hope Chris, always hope…damn it!

      I think the defence is our biggest problem at the moment. Sure we need a playmaker and a central striker. Can’t be good in one area but not another. We have good players but we have given away stupid goals from set peices that have done for us. Just one player outjumping another. Old story – the midfield has to protect the back four more.

      Hoddle’s comments re Hud were interesting – no wonder he likes him, sees something of his old self in Hud’s passing.




  3. Brilliant post again, Alan. Every week I am thoroughly impressed by your poetic prose – and also how similar my thoughts are on the matters you write about!

    There should be a new medical condition defined as “Bipolar and potential insanity induced by supporting Spurs”. We’re all used to it, but it seems like this season has taken it to a new level!

    Every match brings a torrent of conflicting emotions. Both times we went behind against Chelsea highlighted some of the many problems we currently face – our defenders still cannot for the life of them defend set pieces, we have no creativity in central midfield, our fullbacks are defensively suspect, our strikers can’t do anything right, we don’t play with any urgency, Huddlestone is a 1 dimensional player, Dawson is both brilliant and limited as a defender, Parker is past his peak, the list goes on. We were definitely not a top four side.

    And then when we levelled both times, it brought the flip side – we are a side that never gives up now; in fact, going behind seems to spur (excuse the pun!) our side to perform better, we are certainly by no means a one-man team as there always seems to be someone who steps up when we need them, we are punching so above our weight given our revenue & wage budget comparative to our London and Mancunian rivals, the list goes on here too. The potential for a top four side is definitely there; in fact with a few key signings (and not losing any more of our key players!!), I do not think it would be outlandish to suggest that we could mount a serious title challenge next season.

    The day of the Chelsea match, I watched our 2011-12 season review again. It pained me to see how much more attractive & flowing our football was last season, how much we miss the likes of Modric & VDV in our squad, how much more determination and drive Adebayor actually played with, whether it be for lack of fitness now, lack of incentive for a new contract, lack of confidence based on relations with the Manager, or whatever theory to which you subscribe. Had he not performed those two moments of brilliance against Chelsea, I imagine the abuse hurled at him – and even to AVB for selecting him ahead of Defoe – would have long continued.

    It’s funny how so much in football is decided by the absolute slimmest of margins: what if Ade’s shot had clipped the post or missed completely (as we were all expecting it to do!), what if his flick to Siggy hadn’t been weighted as perfectly as it was? The mind boggles at how our season would be going if not for those tiny percentages, the subtle interplay of skill & luck, particularly in the sheer heroics of Bale’s innumerable individual efforts.

    And yet there is promise – last season I would’ve never expected us to take 4 points from United, or 3 from City, or to have outplayed Arsenal as effectively as we did on that glorious day in March. Once behind against almost any side, I would never have expected us to come back and win, let alone draw.

    I also believe the likes of Holtby & Siggy will mature into wonderful players that could form part of the heart of our future squad in their respective ways, particularly the former. For a team that has lost three of its best players from last season, and another two this season to injury, with no consistent strikers, and with a new manager who has brought his own tactical style that the players had to learn from scratch, we are performing incredibly well and the fact that we are still Top 4 contenders speaks volumes.

    Yes, there have been many errors – Levy has had about 3 vital transfers windows to invest and declined for whatever reason, AVB has been overly rigid with a lot of his tactical outlook in my opinion (I think his determination to have Parker play more of an offensive role is directly contributing to the drop in form this season), I don’t think he should have loaned out Townsend or given so much attention to Europa League either due to lack of squad depth, but those are just my opinions.

    But had Manchester United actually done us a favour and beaten Arsenal and at least drawn with Chelsea as they likely would have done if they still had something to play for, then we would all be singing a different tune right now. There is still that glimmer of hope, and irregardless of everything else, that we are still battling for Champions League in such a transitional season is truly incredible.

    The drama of the season is proving enticing once again, to say the least. The next week and a half will likely live long in the memories of Spurs supporters everywhere. Whether for better or worse remains to be seen!


  4. Came away from the game Alan and was confused wether to be happy or upset. Had we beaten Fulham and WIgan, I would have been ecstatic with a draw. Now we are on the hope them lot up the road lose 1 and we win all our games because of the draw against Chelsea. And as you say Alan it is set pieces that has cost us points. It will even be harder to take that if we win our next 2 games, will be our best ever in the premier.
    Hope Levy backs AVB in the summer with a quality striker and playmaker.


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