So yeah. It’s July, Spurs are back and Tottenham On My Mind emerges from the darkened, soundless room where it has been recovering from last season, blinking into the light then striding purposefully towards the sun.
Pre-seasons are all about my rituals. Shiny pics of shiny players at the training ground, mucking about around like puppies. Paying little attention to the new kit, less to ITK. Fixtures in the calendar and already I’ve offended someone by declining an invitation because it clashes with a home game. It’s tradition after all. A whinge about ticket prices and lack of action in the transfer market and my pre-season preparation is complete.
But dangnabit Muskie, they’ve only gone and kept the Wembley prices affordable AND got the use of the whole stadium. What in the world is going on? The announcement was clearly too much for several people on social media yesterday, who blasted away at the cost of £70 for the cheapest seat only to be gently reminded that this includes three matches, not one. Frankly I had to re-read it a couple of times too.
Ticket prices are the single biggest problem in modern football, preventing a generation of young fans from coming to matches regularly, ending football as a family entertainment as anything other than an annual treat and excluding older generations who can no longer afford it in these straitened times. They have fundamentally changed the nature of being a supporter. At a time when gold, frankincense and myrrh is easier to get hold of than a ticket for a league match, Spurs have made the elite competition accessible. More than that, it’s going to fun. Fill the Western end, reach up into the top tiers, make some noise and give our grandchildren stories to tell about glory glory nights at Wembley.
Unreserved congratulations to the club. Notorious for being aloof and unresponsive to fans, I fervently hope this move is part of a wider culture change. The constant badgering by supporters and the Trust in particular, not just in the last few months but over the past couple of years, appears to be sinking in. Respecting supporters is in their interests. It makes them money, fine by me if they look after us in the process. Big crowds make Spurs a big club. Bring in the fans, at Wembley and in the new ground, that will secure support for generations to come.
Plus, new players. Wanyama and Janssen, welcome. A DM and striker a year later than should have been the case but they look just right for us now. Motivated, ambitious, keen to play for Spurs and Pochettino.
In symbiosis with the team, Tottenham On My Mind ground to a halt at the end of last season. I was all spursed out. Without dwelling on the past, couple of things to get off my chest. I wrote about my hopes for the run-in. One, give it everything we had, right to the end. I was disappointed because we couldn’t. Finishing third is a magnificent achievement. I had more fun last season than for many a year. Forming a bond with this team who were as committed to the shirt as the supporters, will live in the memory as one of the highlights of 50 years of coming to White Hart Lane. Shame we faded away just a bit.
Remember though that this was only to be expected. It was the rest that was the surprise. Until then, Spurs over-achieved, gloriously. This was a relatively inexperienced side new to the pressures of the title run-in. They had been stretched physically, emotionally and creatively over a log season. The self-destructive actions of two key men, Alli and Dembele, was a body blow. Other sides lifted themselves to play against us, whereas teams playing Leicester and Arsenal rolled over and had their tummies tickled.
Two, I wanted our story to be heard. Sadly, it was drowned out by Leicester’s underdog derring-do. Sincerely, well played to them. I study part-time at Leicester University so know at first-hand how success in football takes over a whole town. I envy that.
However, every good plot needs a villain. Never mind the pure white of our shirts, in the eyes of football we took to the field shrouded in black, hissing and spitting, kicking sticks from under old ladies’ feet and snatching sweets from the mouths of children for good measure. Spurs fell away and the nation rejoiced.
Yet this wasn’t the story of my season. I saw a young team sprinkled with young players getting a chance denied their peers at other top clubs, English players who carried themselves well on and off the pitch, who wanted not celebrity but to play. My story was one of surprise at this unexpected progress, one of attacking fluent football, of taking the game to opponents, all from a club living within its means.
I’m disappointed this story was not the best-seller it deserved to be. Spurs represented the best of the current game. I thought this was what people wanted, apparently not. There are other narratives. How about two teams fighting against the odds for the league, different styles but with both having much to admire. Those players deserved more respect in the end.
It was all a bit too much at the end. I burnt up all my energies thinking about Spurs, the fans, the delight, the hatred from fans of other sides and perhaps worst of all, Spurs fans slaughtering the team for finishing third. This is the way I am. Gets worse as I get older. Tottenham always on my mind, no point in fighting back so I just roll with it.
There is another reason why I was all spursed out. Martin Cloake and I have completed A People’s History of Tottenham Hotspur, the first book-length history of Spurs support and supporters. This story has the fans at its heart, from the marshes to Europe, how N17 is the focus for loyalty and passion that extends across Britain and the world. It’s published by Pitch Publishing, due out (we think) in the next few months. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, Tottenham On My Mind will carry on as per. Same simple format, once or twice a week, just me. And you, in the superb comment section. Apologies for not getting back to you but as you can see, I have been busy. Sincere thanks for your contributions, I’ve read them all.