Bill Nicholson’s words ring White Hart Lane as a forceful reminder not of faded glory but that Tottenham Hotspur stand for something which transcends winning and losing. They are a call to arms for fans and players alike, where inspiration from our past becomes aspiration for our future.
Those hopes, that ambition will come with us from old ground to new. Perhaps they will be joined by these words from the current custodian of our faith, Mauricio Pochettino. After Saturday’s outstanding away win at Burnley, he said, “Belief is the most important thing in football…Belief and faith and fight. In football, nothing is impossible.” He has built a team that could, just maybe, take its place alongside the great Spurs sides of the last 50 years, sat at the right hand of the incomparable Double team. But like Nicholson, for Tottenham he sees beyond the climactic end to this season. This words are the foundations of his dynasty.
It’s half-time. Burnley have an imperious home record. They fight for every ball, every square inch. Spurs are missing the mighty Dembele, both our first choice full-backs, lynchpins of our formation, and our fabulous centre forward. We aren’t playing well. Wanyama the rock is off, so is the desperately unlucky Harry Winks, a diamond in the raw.
Spurs teams of the past would have written this one off as a bad job. This side, Pochettino’s Spurs, never give up. From adversity came a huge win, a massive boost at the beginning of a month where every last second of football is utterly essential. Belief, and faith, and fight.
Reserves stepping up the mark too. Poor transfer dealings in the summer leave the squad exposed but in Trippier, Davies, Son and now at last Janssen we have able players who want to be part of all this. I wish I could say the same for Sissoko but even he appeared roused at times. These men come in and they know what’s expected of them. They know what to do, where to be and most significantly where their team-mates are.
No blow-by-blow account of this one, which I followed via 5Live and caught up with the extended highlights later. I didn’t need to see the game live to know this was a colossal win. The highlights showed enough to confirm what I’ve been saying for a while now, which is that success or failure this season turns on the form and continuing fitness of the back three. Kane is a monumental loss – we can get by if Toby and Jan stay well, that’s how good they are.
That trio’s third man, Eric Dier, hasn’t been at his best lately. Here, he became the decisive force in the game. Effortlessly switching to defensive midfield in the second half, he drove us forward and repelled the attacks. The manner in which he scored our opening goal says everything about Spurs are right now in a scant moment or two. The ball falls to him from a corner about 8 yards out. Amidst the bodies and the bedlam, rather than blast it (it probably would have gone in), he pauses to pick his spot and sidefoots it between the keeper and the man on the post. Probably is not enough – he made sure it went in and he had the presence of mind to complete. Such is the resilience of this team.
Janssen did well. He fitted in. Understood his role. No goals from him but this is real progress. Son’s role may be as impact sub, although if our injury situation gets worse he may have to give us a bit more. On Saturday, he came at Burnley with fresh legs and was perfectly placed to get on the end of Alli’s improbably good pass, delivered with ease into the Korean’s stride.
Listening to 5Live was an interesting experience. It wasn’t the commentary game – on paper it was more interesting than their choice of Chelsea v Palace, not so as it turned out. So I made do on infrequent updates. I like 5Live – their football Saturdays and commentaries are informative and involved without Talksport’s hysteria or dogmatic presenters (not you Danny Kelly). I was felt aggrieved that they didn’t give Spurs a higher profile. MOTD followed in the same vein. In hindsight, they paid us a real compliment. It’s not about being under the radar, rather it is a mark of their perception of our status as true challengers that an away victory like this one is not considered remarkable.
Perhaps they have a truer grasp of what we can achieve than many of our own supporters. As for me, I can’t quite believe it, all the more reason to relish every second. In the past this game would have been not just a banana skin. This is Spurs, we would have trod on the skin, slipped and spun a triple somersault into the hole we had dug for ourselves. Pochettino has dug proper foundations. Now stay fit my lovely boys, stay fit and let’s see where it takes us.
34 thoughts on “Belief and Faith and Fight.”
Was talking to a pal today who went to the game. Not a Spurs supporter but he was mightily impressed. Thought we were in cruise control for the first 2/3 of the game then stepped up the pressure when we needed to. He thinks we are the best most cohesive team in the league. And he is a Man U fan of many years standing.
Poch is the best thing to happen to us for decades. I liked and admired Venables’ and Harry’s teams. Pleaty and Joel were on to something too. But Poch is the real deal, genuinely building something and if he sticks around the sky’s the limit.
5live is increasingly my choice for football. Sky, BT and MOTD to a lesser extent have the same agenda based around the old, traditional top 4. Will enjoy canceling a few subscriptions this week.
What a time to be a Spurs fan. I’ve come close to jacking it all in a few times. Sherwood was a real low. Sacking him before the season ticket renewals went out was a smart move by Levy.
What will Poch win? The journey is the reward.
Thanks for the write up Al.
You’re very welcome. Appreciate the thought that goes into your comments, as always. BBC London is good for London games, but on the day it was not the preferences of others so compromise 😉
“The journey is the reward” – well put, Russ. Last night I watched (on an OK stream – you should wise up to them, Alan!) the amazing 3 goal turnaround at Swansea and, trophy or not, that’s the kind of memory that will stay with me. Wonderful team spirit, and grace under pressure.
Alan, you are a true wordsmith. For somebody who didn’t see the game live this was a perfect summary of the moment and its importance to our continuing trajectory. Logic tells me the ground to make up on Chelsea is too great. The narrative that Spurs ‘failed’ again to overhaul the winners is being prepared, so we can be Spursy one more time, because either Chelsea have too big a lead or we don’t win every game. But my heart tells me that whatever happens this team, or rather squad, this manager, our club are truly special and to be a Spurs fan today is a privilege. To have achieved what we have while building for the future, without the financial clout of overseas benefactors or an 80,000 stadium really does echo with glory.
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Totally agree. I’ve said several times that because Spurs are perceived as a ‘big club’, whatever that means, the achievement of building this team on a lower income, lower salary bill, spending within our means and (mostly) buying cheap and bringing talent on, does not get the recognition it deserves.
I listened on bbc radio London, a good commentary team with no hype/ rubbish, you can listen on the radio, in London, and on the internet elsewhere.
Thanks Chris – they do a great job but see above – on the day I was outvoted!
Thanks, have missed you.Will read this now…
Thanks, Alan, as always great read. What a time to be a Spurs fan, this team, this manager, the new stadium, Wow, just Wow.
It truly is.
Alan, nice one again. One thing not mentioned much, our Magic Christian dispossessed that thug Barton at the halfway circle, and sent such a sublime pass to Dele, with backspin so it could die right in front of Alli and he only had to keep him composure to set up Sonny. Magic Christian is in his fourth season, and he already has more goals (double) that Luka had, but his playmaking and assists are key. Actually, as in ice hockey, they should hand out a second assist as he created and started that goal and doesn’t even get a mention, except from keen observers. The Magic Christian, indeed! Chelsea’s lead might be a Stamford Bridge too far, but chasing them keeps us above the other top-4, and let’s see where we’re at after Wednesday’s games. Will Cheatski actually have a real wobble? Never mind, just keep doing what we’re doing with our 12 or so healthy outfield players, and the glory days will return. COYS!
Nice one, Ashley. I picked up on Eriksen’s mugging of Barton. I gave up listening to radio commentaries years ago as I just cannot enjoy what is such a visual spectacle as a listener rather than a watcher. So viddy-ing on Saturday (just don’t ask how), I spotted the same flash of spunk and then noting it wasn’t his first of the day.
Your use of the “Magic” Christian” epithet and Alan’s transcription of Poch’s, “Belief is the most important thing in football… Belief and faith and fight…” suggests another comedy highlight:
“Our chief weapon is surprise…surprise and fear…fear and surprise…. Our two weapons are fear and surprise…and ruthless efficiency…. Our three weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency…and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope….”
(Similar to just listening to a match, I have great difficulty grasping the meaning of Poch’s utterances, so generally give them a miss!)
Other than that, at Turf Moor half-time with both pivotal midfielders off injured, I was concerned that a banana skin awaited. Unlike Alan I was disappointed in that Janssen appeared unable to stamp his authority to become invaluable to the squad. He still looks awkward and unsure to me, and fear his solitary open-play goal may remain just that.
The end result was impressive as characterful – I just hope we can achieve another 0-2 tonight! COYS!!!
Eriksen outstanding since christmas, as you say building up a head of steam to become a game-changing influence. I’m not obsessed with stats as you know but he’s consistently ahead of the names who hog media limelight when it comes to goals and assists. Never mind Chels – as you say, keep going and see what happens. No more injuries though – what a crying shame Winks is out for the season.
Ha – I too had to rely on Five live, it’s more than a touch nervy listening for updates without being aware of the ebb and flow of the game .When they returned to Turf Moor and the reporter confirmed the magnificent Son had made it 2-0, well, I nearly bounced out the window! The result of the commentary game was pretty decent too. (Like Chris Gray (above) I too rely on BBC radio london for commentary , despite being outside the region , but for some reason my internet access was frustratingly blocked on Saturday. Any advice how to get around this or why it happened would be great before Wednesday).
I didn’t expect such a comfortable win, my Spurs supporting instincts are having to be adjusted to cope with such a sunny outlook! Though it’ll be back to ‘Expecting victory, but prepared for defeat’ for Swansea again.
It’s great to see the media ignoring Spurs to concentrate on what Jose said about Luke Shaw, or about the comments made by David Moyes. Keep it going…
Finally, in only 3 days, I read the book you wrote with Martin Cloake, just last week. I truly enjoyed it. There are some really great books on Spurs and yours will join that list. More coherent critics than me no doubt gave you enough compliments, so I’ll leave it there except to say, the sad, but also uplifting ( when hearing how so many fans looked out for him) story of Tottenham Arthur , of whom I’d never heard, was a really interesting read. Full credit to all those supporters who made sure the guy had a ticket, I thought that brilliant. (I was also amazed to hear Spurs fans in the fifties sang a song to the tune of chick chick chick chicken – I have lived until last week – I’m 50 – thinking a neighbour of mine just made that song up to sing to us kids – D’oh!).
Thanks for a great read and hopefully you’ll be doing another upbeat piece on Thursday, and again next Monday!!
Usually go via the bbc football site and follow the link. The bbc radio player app does seem to block at times, but the football link certainly worked on Saturday, listened to the whole game on the internet in Oxon.
Sometimes also listen to bbc london on spurs web-site, you have to register, but it’s free.
Thank you for replying. I did the same on Saturday as I have on previous occasions but no joy. I tried the Spurs site too but commentary appeared to be on significant delay so I gave up and listened to radio 5.
BBC London 94.9 is also on the Tune in app, very good for internet radio in general. Or go to the BBC London site on the net and schlep your laptop around.
Thank you to you and Chris for the advice. I will hopefully get something sorted out for tomorrow night. I couldn’t cope with that again though I’d sacrifice commentary for the win 🙂
delighted you enjoyed the book, I’ll tell Martin. Really pleased. It does rattle along in places – Martin’s section on the Shelf demolition reads like a thriller – and one section flows into another. We had a tight word limit so if there’s anything missing, it’s more of those stories about the individuals and the characters. The book was a labour of love and we tried to write, yes a proper researched and accurate history but also to convey the feelings of being a Spurs fan. We’ve had excellent feedback on that latter point. It felt like a huge responsibility! Like you, I thought Arthur having the final word was touching and a perfect end.
What a truly great weekend. The mighty Spurs won, Chelsea lost, Man City and the Arse drew, Man U drew.
We can still dream!! As long as we keep winning and another slip up from Chelsea and who knows what will happen.
We all love Posh and the team spirit he has brought to our club.
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Football is all about dreaming in the end Chris, so let’s dream about the Double. For the time being…!
Given our bad luck with injuries throughout the season, it is nothing short of miraculous that we are where we are.
Agree with Ashley about Eriksen which makes it harder to fathom his poor record from set pieces over the last year and a half. I would like to see the likes of Dier take a few more free kicks.
How on earth did we ship out Chadli for 13 mil and bring in Sissoko for 30? Chadli was a wonderful squad player and had an uncanny knack of finding the back of the net. He should still be a Lilywhite. Can’t see Sissoko being with us next season.
Vincent is so gutsy and, as you say, Alan, he has raised his game. But I still think he tries to do a little bit too much, too deep. Goal hang now and again, sniff out the space on the edge of the six yard box, no?
Audere Est Facere.
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As you note Harvey on our Magic Christian and his set-pieces, a mystery. And yes, Dier on FKs, and I would’ve said even Winksy, as he superbly set up Alli for that flick from FK recently, but the young lad’s out. And I think Janssen has thunder in his boots when he gets that confidence going…COYMFS!
I’m not a huge Chadli fan so I would look elsewhere. Sissoko major disappointment. I’m glad to see more movement from Vinny – he needs to find space in the box and get away from defenders.
Thanks Alan for another great blog. I live in Australia and I haven’t managed to see the whole game because of the vagaries of the Optus service. I haven’t been so excited about our team since I was a teenager when I witnessed the wonderful Danny Blanchflower and co carry off the Double. Poch is a wonderful manager. I love the way he celebrates with his boys. I agree that success comes from the back 3, but we need a fit Wanyama too, so fingers crossed he will recover quickly. Such a disappointment for young Harry Winks to be injured in that way.
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Good to hear from you Diana, thanks for reading the blog. I’m envious – you saw the Double team. How did it feel in the season before the Double – could you sense something big was about to happen?
A good read as always and caught the mood.
Great references to Poch’s sayings too. Somebody needs to make a record!
I listened on my smart phone via the official site, which is just the BBC Radio London feed .
Thanks Sam, much appreciated. I didn’t know the site took the BBC London feed, thanks. I take most of what managers say with a pinch of salt but Poch really gets the spirit and heritage of the club, and now he feels he can influence the future of the club for years to come. Glad to be part of it.
Dear Alan, while I am not at all technically proficient to judge tactical situations or individual players performances, I was glad to see that someone else had noted Janssen’s lively performance against Burnley. I feel he just needs that bit of luck (one or two times) and it will go well for him.
He is very strong and is a good anchor man for long balls or protecting possession. Unfortunately self belief plays a big part for any player, but more so for a striker. He is simply judged by goals.
I hope he is kept at Spurs, because he will for sure flourish – I have seen Spurs keep others for longer in spite of the obvious in their cases.
Thanks for the write ups, and waiting for the next few.
Thanks for this. I think he deserves a chance – needs to play, needs to adapt to the way we play. He’s getting there.
Time will tell whether this Spurs side can reach the heights of the double side but the potential is there.
What I do believe though is that without mentioning names, some of the current team would have improved our 60-61 team – and conversely, some of the double team members would enhance today’s squad.
Here is the typical Spurs Double team line-up in a 2-3-5 type formation:
Blanchflower, Norman, Mackay
Dyson, White, Smith, Allen, Jones
Obviously it’s hard to compare across the generations. The game was very different then.
Personally I see Blanchflower, Mackay, White and Jones as candidates for a combined team in a 4-2-3-1 formation. I can’t see Brown, Baker, Henry or Smith being preferred to Lloris, Walker, Rose and Kane, certainly if they’re playing a ‘modern game’. I’d stick with Alderweireld and Vertonghen over Norman too (partly because of their partnership). The Double team won because of goals scored rather than tight defence.
No criticism of Wanyama but I’d take Mackay in the holding DM role, for his ability and sheer bloody mindedness.
Blanchflower would play alongside Mackay for his slide rule passing, game intelligence and captaincy, but Dembele or Dier would get lots of minutes too, one way of the other.
The front 3 behind Kane would be an embarrassment of riches. But I’d take Dele for his ebullience and goals, and Jones for his wing-play and goals. It’s then a choice between John White creating and ghosting or Eriksen playing a similar role in the modern style (or Lamela, when fit) with Les Allen or Son on the bench for goals, and Bobby Smith as back-up to Kane.
Nicholson v Poch to manage? Wow, that’s a question I could only answer in ten years’ time. But it would be close.
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Eriksen or White? No contest.