My final post of this season. Sincere thanks to everyone who has read and commented on Tottenham On My Mind this past year, makes this one-man old-fashioned blog in a sea of clickbait and ads all worthwhile. It’s a labour of love about a passion undimmed even after all these years. Posts over the summer if there is something worth saying, see you in August.
I’ve just finished reading Terry Dyson’s autobiography, a rattling good tale of the Double years that I warmly recommend. Dyson could have dedicated his book to his family, who feature in the photos almost as prominently as do his goals that won the ’61 Cup and the ’63 Cup-Winners Cup Final, or to any of his Double team-mates. But he didn’t. This is what he wrote:
“To all Tottenham Hotspur supporters – the most important people at the club.”
Dyson means it. He’s a down-to-earth, honest man whose love of the game and of his fellow players in what many contemporary observers say is the greatest ever club side shines through on every single page.
This truth has been mislaid somewhere along the line. Exorbitant ticket prices, constantly changing kick-off times, a club dismissive of supporter interaction, more false dawns than Groundhog Day. All of these and more have created an unprecedented distance between supporter and club. The season began with so many people saying that they had almost had enough. These are supporters who have been going all their lives, every week, across England and europe. Hard core but these days they weren’t feeling it like they used to.
So the greatest achievement of this season has surely been to bring fans and players closer than before. The young home-grown players, Kane, Mason and Bentaleb especially, have matched the passion of the supporters. When they celebrate, they’re celebrating with us, rather than putting on a display of self-indulgent preening and posing. They mean it too.
“Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes”. At Spurs we’ve been desperately seeking someone to revere, to thrill, to lift us from our seats whenever he’s on the ball. At the end of August, Lamela’s excellence against QPR convinced me that he was the heir apparent. Skillful and distinctive on the ball, he had all the hallmarks of a Tottenham maverick to remember.
But I was premature. Our hero came from closer to home. As Lamela spent the rest of the season running down blind alleys, Harry Kane burst through to take his place. More valuable even than his precious goals, he truly was one of our own. In midfield Mason was wholly committed, Bentaleb clever and responsible, Rose too took his chance. They turned our season round, driven by the desire to succeed for the white and navy blue.
Football fans aren’t stupid, although a bad day on twitter could easily lead you to think otherwise. We now and have always known that we are not treated well by the board, and this is true for most of Tottenham’s history. The difference is, up until comparatively recently, supporters felt as though they had a reasonable relationship with their club, something that’s true for all clubs, not just at Spurs. Admission prices were acceptable, within the reach of working people, and there was some reciprocity between players and fans. It felt as if the fans could be the 12th man, to be part of something. In return, the players would respond, try their best. We understood if they didn’t win every time, that wasn’t the point.
Times were different then. Players now choose to have lifestyles that separate them from supporters. Terry Dyson earned £40 a week when the maximum wage was abolished in 1961, lived in the same digs for 10 years and drank after the game in the Bell and Hare. Regimented all-seater stadia and high prices dampened enthusiasm but Kane et al showed it does not have to be this way. Over the past two seasons, this blog has been critical of the board’s unduly negative and secretive approach towards the fans, and I will continue to be. On the field, something did change for the better this season and it lifted spirits wonderfully. We had some fun.
We should be justifiably proud of our young(ish) over-achievers. Supporters of other teams are envious. This season we fielded the youngest ever PL team on several occasions and probably have more home-developed players than the top four combined. However, despite the optimism, they have carried the burden of a flagging side and a failed transfer policy for long enough. This summer needs an influx of several new players able to settle quickly.
Pochettino made the key signing several months ago. He needs players able to respond to his methods and tactics, and Paul Mitchell has the task of getting them. Some managers prosper by finding a formation that suits the players at their disposal but Pochettino isn’t one of those. The current squad, bought for different purposes and a different manager, largely do not fit his high tempo, forward-passing, pressing game. The post-League Cup Final optimism in some quarters that we needed ‘one or two’ to add to our ‘homegrown spine’ was touchingly naive and completely misplaced. The squad needs a major overhaul.
Should they stay or should they go? Capoue, Kaboul and Chiriches aren’t good enough. Soldado and Paulinho are good players who have failed at Spurs, partly because various managers did not play to their strengths, then they could not lift themselves out of the doldrums. So they go too, with Adebayor whose time has passed and with my thanks and best wishes.
I’m wary of selling talent, always hopeful that skill will finally win out. Therefore I would keep Lamela and Townsend, the latter if only because he’s part of that group who dictate the dressing room atmosphere. This is important at any club, especially so at Spurs where the several new players will walk into this positivity. This will be what they learn is integral to being at Spurs. Townsend has been dreadful this season but I’d play him on the left. Both may be sold however if the price is right. Neither are indispensable and I could see them used as bargaining chips if Poch really wants a particular transfer target. I feel less strongly about Dembele, who will probably be sold but his strength and power on the ball has a role further upfield.
The manager will have a judgement to make on Fazio and Stambouli. Pochettino must have sanctioned his countryman’s purchase but it’s hard to see where such an immobile centreback fits the masterplan. However, defending is a team responsibility so if we tighten up in front of the back four, Fazio’s strength in the box may shine. Until now, they have remained firmly behind a dark cloud. He could be sold. Stambouli has not been given many opportunities, perhaps because his manager doesn’t rate him. Interesting snippet – Michael Bridges, a Spurs-supporting journalist, tweeted last week that Mitchell had Stambouli lined up as a replacement if Saints sold Schneiderlin, so they must think something of him.
I’d keep everyone else. The question is, will some of them want to stay? I just can’t see my lovely Lloris staying for more if one of the top European sides come in however much he and his family like living in London. I assume that’s why Vorm agreed to come, on a promise of first-team football. Vertonghen often looks uncommitted and I’ve thought all season that he wants to try one last big move. Eriksen too is highly thought of in Europe, although I suspect he’s not played well enough this past season to enhance his reputation. Kane will not be sold.
Kevin Wimmer, the former Cologne centre-half, is our first signing, hopefully an indication that we will try to do business early in the window. Judging from Four Four Two’s analysis, he’s a template for our transfer strategy – some experience (22 and I international cap) with his best years ahead of him, fast, decent on the ball, ambitious, dedicated. Both talent and attitude should be part of the job specification.
He’s also cheap – £4m. Levy has openly stated we’re not spending more than around £10-15m for players with most considerably less than that. All the more reason why Mitchell is so important. If a player gets an offer from a CL club, chances are they will reject us.
Depending on Fazio and Vertonghen, we may need one, possibly two centrehalfs. One keeper if Lloris goes, maybe someone experienced as third choice if he doesn’t. Another right-back possibly but the spine is much more important, so at least one more DM, preferably two (Mason is not a natural DM), two wide players able to attack and defend – the latter is absolutely crucial to the point where success or failure could hinge on those signings – and two strikers to support/cover Kane.
That’s a lot. There’s some variation depending on tactics. Jay Rodrigues at Southampton joined midfield and went up front as required, working extremely hard in the process as well as scoring goals. I think Pochettino hopes Chadli will fulfil this role but as yet he does not work hard enough. It’s a tall order, and that’s without the problems of integrating so many new players into the side, however able they are. That’s what did for AVB after all.
So an optimisitc end to the season but frankly a difficult summer ahead. Pochettino has said he wants players with PL experience but I reckon we will not have heard of many of the targets, like Wimmer. Support for Pochettino goes without saying. All the signs are that Levy will back him too. It’s perfect for him – success on the cheap, after all, isn’t that what he pays his managers for? Spent all that money, did what the football people told me to do and where did that get us? He’ll be happy, again though the suspicion that this was why Levy appointed Pochettino, because he would be compliant over transfers and bring on the youngsters. At least it looks as though we have a strategy.
Whenever we go to White Hart Lane, the spirit of Bill Nicholson is always there, a force for good in a mixed-up mumbled-up shook-up world. Despite the determined efforts of PR and marketing departments to plunder his heritage to sell units and thus demean his achievements, Billy Nick will rise above it all – the game for Spurs really is about glory, doing things in style.
Comparisons with our greatest are invidious and unfair, but it is worth a reminder of how he lay the groundwork. Bill Nick was at the club as player and coach for over 20 years before he became manager. His signings were superlative but over half the Double side were at the club before he took over. We’ve had umpteen changes of manager and Director of Football, let alone players. Pochettino has basically spent a year coaching someone else’s squad.
Last week my son and I went to the Trust meeting, where it was good to see several long-standing supporters of Tottenham On My Mind. I enjoy the meetings even though fans understandably air grievances with the club over the new ground, prices and, well, everything.
It is a heartening experience though, not just to be with fellow supporters trying to bring club and fanbase together, but also, surprisingly, to hear that some of the club employees are as passionate about the club as we are. Sue Tilling, the club Safety Officer, chatted with us about this classic photo of Bill Nick in the dressing room. One of the chief away stewards (sorry, didn’t catch her name), stood up and said we the fans were her family. That’s why she looks after us. She meant it. It was the perfect note on which to finish my season. Let’s hope the club means it too.