Sorting Helps If Success Changes Us

Sorting helps. Properly therapeutic if you put things in order, in their right place. I use this sometimes with work, sit down with a child or young person, put the cars in order, or bricks. Lego’s good. It’s calming, regains a sense of control in the midst of a complicated, disorienting world.

Walking up to the turnstile on Sunday, my son nudged me, over by the burger bar, bloke wearing a Spurs shirt of a certain vintage, on the back Booth 19. It tells a story. Impressed with our new signing, a big strapping centre forward, your man had to be the first to get his shirt. Ahead of the game, a fashion leader. Guy at the front of the upper Paxton when we used to sit there invested in Piercy 32, confident that he could spot rising talent at the club.

Or maybe it was knowing and self-depreciating. Spurs don’t attract many football hipsters, although we’re cooler than the bear on a Fox’s glacier mint, but this could be ironic. It strikes me that some of you reading this have never heard of Andy Booth. David Pleat signed him on loan during one of his caretaker spells. After 4 appearances, no goals, we didn’t take up the option to sign him permanently. Booth is the archetypal honest pro. I won’t say journeymen because he played successfully at a decent level for several years but his touch wasn’t quite up to the highest standard. Or mobility. Or pace, or ball control, or chance-taking…But everyone was injured, Rebrov couldn’t hit the Kremlin with a banjo, so Andy trundled willingly up front. He scored a improbably good goal at West Ham which was ruled offside, wrongly so as the replays showed. It would have been the winner. The Hammers had signed someone we wanted, so in the away end we sang, ‘We’ve got Andy Booth, we’ve got Andy Booth…’ over and over. A cult hero for 10 minutes. Not even 15.

Which is a roundabout way of saying, things have changed for the better. Doesn’t seem that way over the last few matches but don’t be tempted by the reaction to the CFC game or laid low by Sunday’s disappointment. The reality is, 3rd place is an outstanding achievement, 2nd would be just fine and dandy. Think of Andy Booth and the desperation behind that signing to find out how far we have come.

By exposing old failings, Southampton fully deserved to win on Sunday. They were always dangerous coming forward. Toby and Jan found it hard to deal with those angled long passes into space. They did pretty well but were stretched and we could never settle. They stretched us too far for the first, pulling our cover out of place, then the second came after Spurs had failed to up the tempo after half-time, leaving the Saints firmly in charge. A lingering feeling that Lloris could have done more with both goals…harsh though.

It began well enough, Spurs pinging the ball around for the first twenty minutes, the glorious football matching an intoxicating ebullience in the stands. Supporters were out to enjoy themselves. This was to be a celebration together, players and fans. Noisy and happy in the sun, the atmosphere was not just loud, it was inclusive, with every stand joining in, and that’s the been the touchstone for the season, fans and players closer than ever, really feeling it.

Just as we lost a bit of momentum, Son intelligently kept running onto a pass probably not intended for him. Others were offside, he was on. Everyone stopped, he kept going, his reward a goal banged in from close range after he had danced along the goal line. Then we lost tempo and had no plan B in response to Saints’ domination. Second half the visitors kept it narrow, packing the centre midfield and leaving the wings to us. By way of riposte we sent in a stream of innocuous crosses and otherwise tried flicky tricky dicky one-twos in non-existent space.

We kept playing the same way when change was needed. Kane should have come deeper to mix it up and shift the centrebacks around. Push Lamela wide so we have two v one wide, so they have to break cover and come out. Runners deeper from midfield. None of which happened.

So they showed they are still learning as a team. No surprise there, yet such has been he gradient of their learning curve this season, you could be forgiven for expecting them to conjure a solution. Being hard last week, without losing your temper. Trying something different to unsettle a fine team, without giving in. We know this: Spurs have a fine team if 10 particular players start. Miss one and we can cope. Miss two and we suffer. Dembele the heart and power, Alli making precisely those runs past Kane that we so sorely missed on Sunday, both making other good players better. If learning by our mistakes is a sign of progress, this could have been a valuable 7 days.

A salutary reminder, then, that Spurs have a way to go and not to reach so far with expectation next season that we tip over and fall face-first into the mud. Don’t worry, there will be good times too because our promise is rich and fertile. It’s been a fabulous season regardless of the outcome on the final day, because most notably supporters have been royally entertained by a Spurs team bursting with commitment.

Reflecting on the behaviour of the home fans at the Bridge, they don’t get the bemusement of Spurs fans. Fact is, the chase for the title was fun. It represented over-achievement and came upon us suddenly, rather than being an expectation at the start of the season. It was always unlikely – the fact we got that close was a joy, and that’s what fans of other London clubs still rejoicing in Spurs’ not being defeated are struggling to grasp. We’re enjoying ourselves, something that some find the hardest thing of all to understand. Shame modern football’s like that.

The end of season lap of appreciation was, for once, justifiably named. More fans stayed behind than I can recall in the last decade. If anything it was over too quickly. Led by one of the senior stewards, whose name I can’t remember but who I have met and is Tottenham to the core, set too fast a pace. The players should have dwelt to take it all in. I hope that doesn’t change. Manchester City fans have had to take decades of heartache – it’s not been a bed of roses being a Spurs fan but think what being a blue in Manchester has been like. Their lap took place in front of empty stands. Pelligrini made a nice speech to the cleaners and 200 hi-vis jackets. I get the fans’ frustration at their side’s under-achievement and undermining the manager’s efforts by effectively replacing him with half a season to go. I just hope that raised expectations are not behind a change in attitudes because City fans are among the most loyal around. They say success changes you – I hope nothing changes at the Lane.

 

13 thoughts on “Sorting Helps If Success Changes Us

  1. You’re right Al – that is exactly what they don’t get. I was out in the pub with some Chelsea and Arsenal supporting friends. As usual they were having a go about ‘blowing it.’ I told them that I couldn’t care less what we did it didn’t win – I just enjoyed watching this team and going to the Lane. More than I have done for a long time. The rest is a cherry on top. Let them get back to making their banners and celebrating the success of managers they sacked years ago. And (if we can keep this manager and team together) it will only get better.

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    • Russ, having been out of the Brit for a long time, it’s amazing how jealous the other London clubs are of us, and it’s not as if we’ve been winning many trophies in the last 30 years, but they’re celebrating us not winning. A bunch of Chelscum (they really were) fans left their pub to come to our patch in Los Angeles to rain on our parade, rooting for the Foxes. They didn’t seem to be aware they won’t even be in Europe next year. I grew up in South Wales, a million miles from WHL, but when Spurs were the kings of London in 60s and early 70s, when the other London teams were eating our dust, for the most part. But I never hated them — we shared many players, Greavsie and Venners coming from Chelsea, etc. This small-mindedness they’ve developed today, I wonder if it harks back to those former glorious times for Spurs, and whether they’re fearing the giant as awoken! COYMFS!

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  2. I mentioned your TOMM Blog to Norman Giller recently, Alan, saying you’ve got some writing props, and today he linked this Blog and added: “A truly gifted writer. He would have been a huge success in the golden days of Fleet Street…” Did he try to get you onboard way back when? 😉

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  3. Sound analysis as usual, Alan.
    Of the game but, more importantly, of the context and the situation. I was in Ledley’s box for the Southampton game. A lovely day out that wasn’t spoilt by the result. The feeling that this team and staff are for celebrating for way more than one season, one match, even one season.
    Enjoy the summer.

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  4. I think the Chelsea game took a lot out of the team, which ran out of puff and ideas in the second half. That, combined with the absence of Alli and Dembele did for us. Interesting to see that Chelsea also ran out of legs up at Sunderland so it could have affected them, too. Yedlin is finishing strongly at Sunderland so lets hope we have a repeat of the Danny Rose experiment a couple of seasons ago. Unfortunately, back home, the supporting cast, Lamela, Eriksen, etc. couldn’t grasp the opportunities to show they can manage a game. Going forward, fine. But not interested in the other parts. Looking forward to a couple of new faces next season when we’ll be older, wiser, and stronger. The new season could be a cracker with six or seven teams all in with a shout.

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  5. Great words Alan I have enjoyed them as much as watching the matches this season.

    I admit to almost wanting Leicester to win, not because of the fairytale but because if we pipped em at the post it would be more fuel for others to hate us. I don’t buy into this crazy over the top hatred for teams. Passionate love of our team most definitely yes but not at the expensive of such a deep loathing of others.
    I know coming second, getting silver, being the bloke behind the first guy over the line, is so, incorrectly, watered down in this society. Its a shame. So many fight well and hard.The prem league is so close. Not so much a matter of whether your better than the next team but more a, did you make that one mistake the others didn’t?

    I take the odd photo and the difference between taking a one in a million, the right place at the right time “snap” that goes viral and a “real’ photographer, is not just the quality but the consistency. The “real’ photographer does it day in day out, that’s how you tell the difference. I’m seeing this in my beloved Spurs, have enjoyed this season immensely. Third or second, I’ve felt like and proud to be, one of the lads.
    One more game lads, bring it home, take this, current surreal feeling and make it reality! Either way, we’re having a laugh.

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  6. The lack of a Plan B has been a recurring theme this season. You know when Plan A isn’t working, the ball is passed backwards and forwards in front of the opposition defence with no actual chances being created. Ferguson or Mourinho would change things, Pochettino changes personnel but keeps playing the same way. Its my one real worry going forward, when things work they work well, but when they don’t ?

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  7. Thanks Alan,

    Aside from the geographic and many big games over the years, let’s not kid ourselves why chelsea’s and west ham’s fans “hate” us so much more than they do Arsenal, for example.

    Disappointing result, especially as we started so well again, as against WBA, and chelsea. Unfortunately, if we do not nail down second it will take me a long time in til I can see this as a great season, we’ve come too far to be pipped by them!!

    Alan, Martin Cloake, On the Spurs Show, mentioned a co-authored book by the two of you, due out in the autumn I think. Any news you can give us on that?

    Once more unto the breach dear friends, once more … The game’s afoot:
    Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
    Cry ‘God for Harry, Spurs, and San Mauricio!’

    Up the Spurs!

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  8. A good read again, thanks. My tuppence worth is that with the title chance gone, there was less drive, focus and maybe momentum, the team looked like they’d run out of mental and physical fuel. In fact the second half reminded me of your blog title after the Newcastle home defeat, about the lights in Eric Dier’s eyes going out, except this time it was most of the team.
    I’m really hoping Sunday will see the customary victory in Newcastle to balance out their customary victory at WHL, so we can round off a brilliant season on a high and finish a deserved runner up to the ‘nation’ s sweethearts’ (he said bitterly!). And above you – know – who, which would hopefully see another Wenger Out ‘mass’ protest, the pathetic last one only being matched in its level of sadness by those ridiculous flags behind the goal the ballboys or somebody wave / unfurl when they score!
    Unlike Poch I don’t mind a bit of oneupmanship in our corner for a change, even though I agree with his overall point 🙂

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  9. Poch summed it up, Alan, after the Newcastle debacle. He said (loosely) we haven’t the quality to just pass the ball around and hope to win. We can’t showboat our way to victories …we have to work bloody hard, and retain our mental strength while doing so. And that’s what we didn’t do (apart from
    the first half of the Chelski, and perhaps West Brom, games) over the final four incredibly disappointing matches.
    The key to our success this season was our high pressing game. Without it we would have suffered mid table mediocrity.
    Sure, we have some excellent and talented players on the ball, and we pass the ball beautifully and can keep it for long stretches of time, but it was our ability as a team to confound the opposition by not letting them settle into any pattern of play that worked for us this term. We forced teams into making mistakes and we came out of the traps at full speed. Our fitness levels were integral to this ..so another confusing factor was: why and how did we lose or draw so many games from winning ‘dominant’ positions? Was it really only a season back when we were rescuing games late on because of our superior fitness levels (think how many Eriksen scored or set up ‘late’ last term, and how few this term). Of course, it’s more confusing to know too that we were right up there too (in the stats for 2015/16) for RESCUING points from LOSING positions! The balance is hard to work out. I do know (and Poch must take a little blame here) that it often came down to that old chestnut …plan B! We’ve looked like a Ferrari (our smashing young team) on many occasions this year, but when that Ferrari has spluttered after a great opening for little reward (eg where we’ve taken only a 1-0 lead as opposed to a killing-off 3-0 lead) it’s been as if, in too many games that we drew and lost, our high pressing and high intensity, our imagination etc., all went missing, thus handing back confidence to sides who’d climbed off the canvas like a boxer reinvigorated enough to deal their own killer blow. Of course ..that’s football (missed chances, taken chances, defensive errors, great defense and saves and so on) but the pattern is there to see clearly. We have a terrific side, but if it ‘ain’t’ working properly, resort to an effective Plan B …whether that’s long ball, an enforcer in the middle (Dier is brilliant but he’s not that), a midfield general dictating things, or a closing down at the back and relying on counter attack.
    Looking at Liverpool tonight in the Europa Final they reminded me of us, sometimes. Great high pressing in the first half, excellent chances, but only one ‘superb’ goal. Did they think about how Sevilla, the punch drunk boxer, might respond? Because respond they did, and Liverpool had no answer. No more strength to high press, and imagination dissipated as a result. Klopp is trying to work something similar to Poch, but he’s not there yet. We’re more consistent, and probably fitter, than Liverpool. However, we have to learn from that game too.
    People keep saying we’re a young team …we’ll get better. But beware this. Our mindset is our strength, the confidence of youth, the willingness to fight all for one and one for all. When maturity occurs, players can be prone to a lot more distractions, more cynicism, more selfishness, more greed, seeing themselves as the stars or scapegoats of sides. Teams can break up. Players might want different things, the lure of other clubs, or simply think they’re too good to endure Poch’s hard training methods anymore, and so on.
    We still had a lot to play for in getting 2nd. Forget Alli and Dembele missing. We have a squad that we thought could just slip replacements in and out of a well oiled team. We couldn’t (Dortmund showed that). We looked drained against Southampton and Newcastle and couldn’t match their intensity and desire to win. I hope we learn from it, but I fear the awful ending of this season may affect us ..ie Chelsea, the will everywhere for Leicester to win despite a young attractive team (us) playing the best football (that must have hit a lot of our youngsters hard, no matter what anyone says). Maybe kicking Chelsea to pieces was a revenge for all the weasel words, jealousy and implied actions, and once Leicester won the title that night, we couldn’t take it anymore.
    But flair and comfort in possession alone won’t win us games. Our fitness and mental intent is the key to everything. Forget individual heroes ..the team is the thing for this new Tottenham.
    More 1951 style, than 1961.
    Injury has done for Mason (I hope he’s OK next season to be the player he was last year, but he may go), while Son hasn’t shined like he did earlier in the season. Nyje and Chadli don’t look like any type of answer to our cover problems either. Bentaleb could be the surprise. He could return next year stronger than ever, and be that midfield enforcer who can help fix things when the Ferrari isn’t running smoothly. Can he improve his passing ‘tho? Either way, fighting in the PL & CL will ensure we ‘must’ get decent cover for Kane, perhaps the left flank, and hopefully the centre of the park. Dembele has been revitalised, but he’s never going to be the greatest distributor of a ball, or orchestrate the midfield and link the defense and attack consistently.
    But yes, we have to keep this team and manager together and pray that we DO improve on this ‘oh, so close’ season …but they have to start all over again next year with the same mentality and drive they had for most of this term. High pressing, push and move ..but with more experience ensuring they know when to take breaks from that intensity in order to save energy; and Poch too must recognise during games when and if to shut up shop with the slimmest of leads, changing readily to plan B (or even C) when necessary, We cannot afford to be so profligate again, when playing so well. If the Ferrari runs out of gas ….then have the Range Rover on hand.
    All the best to you and your wife Alan, and have a splendid summer.

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