Spurs: Bottlers Can Bore Off

Half a dozen beginnings to my NLD blog and no endings. Writing enhances my pleasure and understanding of watching Spurs, this time it couldn’t add a thing. One of the great days at the Lane, treasure it. Wrap up the memory in the softest tissue paper, tie the box with navy blue and white ribbons and keep it safe. It moved me.

The derby took on a significance way above the result or league position. Losing White Hart Lane dominates my perspective. We’ve finished above them and the way we dominated rightfully provokes debate about whether the balance of power in north London has shifted. Cause for righteous celebration, except I can’t think about that. We’re losing White Hart Lane.

That’s why that win was so important. Seasons come and go, the special days live on. I was desperate to beat them not for the points but to be able to say, this was the last time, we took them on and we were glorious. For once no self-deprecating rueful typical Tottenham stories to tell in years to come, the last derby and we cocked it up and all that. Leave me with that moment, just once, just this time give me that. Play with style, give me glory, give my moment when nothing else matters and I leap with joy. They did, and I am forever thankful.

West Ham, not so much. As last season, they deserved their win as Spurs finally ran out of ideas to overcome a well-organised, motivated side. Tottenham looked mentally tired. The strain of four London derbies in a row, a semi-final and a chase for the top proved too much even though we are so much more resilient than last season. The legs were willing, the mind was weak.

We play 8 derbies a season. For 6 of these, opposition fans see us as their most bitter London rivals. That has intensified over the last few years. In the same period, Spurs became very good. That’s not a coincidence. Rivals still hated us but we could always be relied upon to be spursy. No longer, but it harms any title challenge because it’s something the northern clubs don’t have to deal with.

On Friday, it inspired the Hammers, who forced us out of our rhythm. If they were tiring in the second half, as Palace did after their good opening half the previous week, the goal came at the perfect time to rejuvenate them. The result – we never got a kick.

Playing out from the back is the barometer of the pressure we face. Many teams try to pen us in. It’s heart-stopping – sometimes I yearn for an agricultural hoof – but the fact is, mostly it achieves the aim of keeping the ball and rebuilding attacks. It takes poise, patience and skill. Against WH, time and again we couldn’t make the fourth and fifth pass into space that makes it work. The pressure is even telling on the masterful Alderweireld. It’s not so much giving the ball away deep in our box but the indecision that provoked it. Such indecision was costly in the semi-final.

9 days between games, during which time CFC will have won the league. In truth, they won it a long time ago. We need the rest. I’ll take that, as I will take the defeat against WH, three points dropped but 77 in the bag, one game lost but the previous 9 won, was it 16 out of the previous 19 won, and the Arsenal as well.

Yet the narrative in much of the media is about failure. Bottlers. This season has been a huge success. Spurs were the only team to mount any sort of challenge to a club who were ten points clear not so long ago. In the process, we’ve played glorious football that is the envy of the league. We are a club living within our means, low net transfer spend, 6th highest wage bill, second in the league. And we are accused of failure.

I guess it’s a compliment of sorts. In a football media that adopts criticism and superficiality as default settings, it’s the kind of attention teams at the top must live with, and many journos have made the same point, to their credit.

This week will be spent not so much wallowing in a trough of nostalgia as swimming lengths of backstroke. Stay tuned. Or tune out. Either option is acceptable. But the old ground is looking decidedly shabby and the newbuild towers over it, ready to take over. The times they are a’changing, not necessarily for the better and this week amid our success there have been a few reminders about what is to come.

The Kyle Walker transfer rumours may or may not be true. Rotation policy at a key time in the season sounds to an outsider like me a perfectly credible explanation. The point is, it’s the first time in two seasons that any disruption to the squad has been seriously addressed, despite Sky TV pundits attempts to move our best players on, and it exposes our vulnerability. Until now, player loyalty has been almost touching in an era when money is the only language. Well-paid, they have signed up to the Spurs way, the Pochettino way. Walker may or may not want to leave but we know he could double his salary tomorrow at any one of a dozen clubs in England and Europe, something which is true for most of the team. Kane is an exception – he could triple it. Brace yourself for a tough summer.

Also this week the club confirmed Wembley, the only surprise being that many were surprised. Staying at WHL for another season was an option only if there was a catastrophic failure in the new ground build in the last month. Wembley was the only choice. No other London club wanted us. Whatever its merits or faults, the Taxpayers Stadium is not owned by a football club yet that door was firmly shut in our faces, and getting to and from Milton Keynes is a non-starter, never mind the fact that the effective capacity is less than 30k. But Wembley won’t feel like home. Another hurdle, something extra to overcome.

Following the announcement, Tottenham’s merchandising went into full swing but personally I would rather have known the ticket prices than the fact that my member’s key-ring contained grass from the WHL pitch. In the event, prices were high although for most a discount was offered and the chance to move to a cheaper part of the stadium. Keeping fans together – they suggest moving us block by block – is a good idea because it maintains friendships and camaraderie built up over many years. Good news too for 18k people on the waiting list who can have a season ticket now.

In passing, my East Lower seat is being offered not at a discount but at the same price per game as now. This is because the club raised the price in line with West Stand seats then graciously gave a discount as a favour. Apparently the existing price was lower to reflect the lower standard concourse facilities in the old stand, not the case in Wembley. So I’m paying extra for a nicer concourse. Super. A better class of concrete at Wembley.

The club have got this pricing wrong. Greater discounts would reward loyalty, a message from the club that they wanted us to stick with them. As it is, we’re left with the feeling that once again supporters are being taken for granted. Significantly, there is no season ticket amnesty. It feels like a threat – pay this year or lose all benefits for the new ground. Bang out of order.

Criticism of the Supporters Trust on social media is bang out of order too. The Trust advocates for the fans, the club set the prices. That’s it. Unions want higher wages, companies decide what to pay. I’d like Sainsbury’s to be cheaper, Sainsbury’s decide what to charge me. That’s it. Think about what Spurs might get away with if left to their own devices.

However you see this, two things stand out. One is that the fan group is united in supporting Tottenham Hotspur but there’s little consensus in other matters relating to our support. Many say there should be no amnesty because we follow Spurs wherever they may be. That ST holders should pay more and should not get preferential treatment.

Second, the ticket pricing and the Walker rumours remind us of how much our brave new world is going to cost. To Levy, Walker (and others) may be expendable because sales are the only way to fund new players. That high prices at Wembley mean high prices in the new ground, because that’s the only way to pay for it. That there is little spare cash to invest in the best Spurs team in donkey’s years.

For now though, take pride in a wonderful side completing a wonderful season. Let’s give the Lane a right old send-off. Don’t worry Daniel, I’m bringing my own tissues.

6 thoughts on “Spurs: Bottlers Can Bore Off

  1. Thank you for writing this, Al. Your blog provides as much enjoyment and therapeutic value to your readers as it does to you.

    The Arsenal game was a real high. I hadn’t realised how much of a burden finishing below them had become. I’m of an age to remember when finishing above or below them wasn’t a big deal. There was no real pattern to this, or either side would have relatively short periods of dominance. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the roar when the ref blew for the pen. We knew then we had them best good and proper. My only regret is that we didn’t put a hatful past them. That was a win for the fans who have endured so much misery and mediocrity for much of the last 20-plus years.

    Unfortunately the Arsenal game also felt like a full stop. We didn’t look like getting anything from the West Ham game – and it would have been a steal if we had.

    We emptied the tank physically and mentally against Arsenal. If Everton had turned up against Chelsea then maybe there would have been a different result on Friday, but there again if my aunt had a pair she’d be my uncle.

    I fear for the summer. Not just players having their pockets turned by offers of big money but also the Wembley factor. I wonder if some of them know they’ll be on a hiding to nothing playing there. Perhaps this is the peak and better to go now than struggle through next season. I hope not but fear for the worst. Levy and Poch are going to have their work cut out while the rest of us are in Margate trying to not get sand in our tea.

    What has also become apparent over the last two years is how derisory and lazy so many journalists and pundits are. If we lose the narrative is that we are bottlers. If we win all our players are leaving. Cancelling my Sky and BT subs was cathartic.

    It’s also in the interest of the other clubs to keep us in our place. This was meant to be the year that Liverpool, Arsenal and the Manchester clubs were resurgent. We are so far ahead of all of them they have much to fear from us. If they can carve up and unsettle our team then so much the better for them.

    The abuse THST got over the pricing structure and ST amnesty was disgraceful. There are quite a few people who need to take a long look at themselves. And then sod off and support Chelsea or Arsenal instead. Not much by way of sentiment and generosity from the board of directors either. Those of us who have been around the club for decades won’t be surprised by this.

    Three games to go now. The most important thing is to end the season professionally. Let’s not screw up by throwing away the points. Leicester seemingly hate us now and Hull will need to battle to stay up. As for Saturday there can only be one result.

    #COYS

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  2. I’m old fashioned enough to believe that certain Spurs players wouldn’t be as good, or as talked
    about for transfer, if not for the way our club has developed them. It’s not delusion. Even Wenger commented he could have signed Alli (something Liverpool won’t shut up about) ..the coulda, shoulda, woulda syndrome.
    What Alli would have been like now, if he’d signed for either of those two clubs, we’ll never know. Possibly still out on loan, perhaps, or part of their ongoing youth project? Would he indeed have already been an established England international? What Poch has done with these players is extraordinary, and it is why I feel that all of them should stick with this project and head for Glory. Walker, Alderweireld and other senior players, have improved immensely to be coveted by the best, while Dier, Alli, Kane etc have grown rapidly in just a few years ..surprising many in the game. Although not our Poch, or Levy. To hear the Match of the Day pundits (ex Spurs or not, Danny Murphy gives me the willies) saying Spurs have now got to match the absurd money that’s paid to top individual players by the likes of the rich clubs at home and abroad, made me weep. Can’t one pundit, anywhere, actually state that Spurs made many of these players what they are, and that they should feel some gratitude they’re part of a fantastic club with fantastic opportunities (as we are grateful to have them) and that they really are not exactly anything other than very wealthy already? Surely we have a team and a squad buying into improving further, not just for themselves, but for the club, the manager and the fans …not a bunch of individual rich kids or older near-has-beens flitting around with their agents forever trying to make extra money. Spurs is, and has always been, about Glory ..but have we lost what Glory means? Is Glory not the finest reward in itself? Is playing at a great club with a great history/tradition, with the best training and medical facilities, a new first class imminent stadium, a clever leader in Levy, a bright future, a young brilliant manager who helps his players become what they can be! ..and all this with still amazing player salaries ..not enough??
    The pundits say they just put the question out there (I remember Robby Savage harping on every week about how Bale should leave Spurs) ..but they don’t ever talk about what made our wonderful game and how to maintain/improve it.
    They (the press, the pundits, ex-players, bloggers) talk continually of transfers and salaries. A club, outside that Man U, City, Chelsea, RMadrid/Barca/Bayern/PSG elite, gets a good team together, they allude to its dismantlement. I’m not saying Spurs didn’t seek out and buy great players in the past.
    Of course we did, often breaking records too ..but the player/agent contracts thing is something different, and horrible for the game at large. Spurs have pulled this team together through management genius and canny buying …not massive riches. Sissoko, Paulinho, Soldado and others proved costly mistakes, just as Rebrov was. We’re not good at buying ‘great’ players anymore, and we wouldn’t attract them anyway without busting a wage structure which would cheese off the other fine players that make our team what it is. No point going on I suppose. I just wish the mischief makers out there would leave us and our fine young team alone! Hail them ..but don’t disrupt them.
    On the West Ham game. We possibly thought, after the last NL derby success at the Lane, this was another type of Palace match-up. No chance! West Ham see beating Spurs as we see beating Arsenal, and we appeared to forget the importance of the fixture to them. If the Hammers tried to play like they did against us in every other match, they’d be wiped out after 2 or 3 games. But fair play to them. We might have been slightly below par, but they were all over us like a rash, and deserved their ‘joy’ ..just as they did when they prevented us getting 4th (12 years ago) in the Lasagna-gate affair.
    As for Man U …once more unto the breach dear friends!
    I have seen some wonderful encounters at the Lane between these two clubs ..and I have no doubt that we can be on a par with them again soon, as we were in the 60s/70s/80s. And yes, I know we’ve had the better of them in the past few seasons, but you know what I mean. It’s time to win trophies.

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  3. Thanks Alan,

    I very much enjoy how nervous and envious we’ve made the football firmament (richer clubs and swathes of the football media) these past 2-3 seasons and briefly under Harry. Fans of other clubs? They laughed at us in the past for our muddling, now they laugh out of relief and fear and to take the attention away from their big spending but underperforming clubs. We should enjoy it. If I hear or read that we bottled it I shall just point and laugh.

    Unlike in recent times when we’ve lost Carrick, Berbatov, Modric or Bale, for example, we will have a plan if we lose one or two first teamers. I’m only disappointed in the timing of the Walker business.

    The cost of football did for me over a decade ago, but I did think the club had learned some lessons with their CL/EL pricing at Wembley this season. To blame THST is so wide of the mark and harsh and some of the comments I’ve seen reflect very badly on commenters.

    It’ll be a momentous occasion on Sunday, please give the old place a pat for old times sake from me, Alan.

    Like

  4. Fantastic column. Last Sunday was so special, wasn’t it? I’m not sure any words could ever adequately convey the atmosphere and the sheer joy. On the Tuesday, I met up with Anne Margaret who was over in London giving a talk and we were just still giddy with the joy of it.
    We’re moving into a bigger place both in terms of the ground and having to compete with big boys in financial terms. My worry is not the new ground; I visit Estádio da Luz enough to know you can make any ground a fortress with the right fans. It’s more about how long I can afford to be in the new ground. I’m sure Kyle Walker can double his wages at Man City. It’s just I can’t double mine to pay for his demands and/or the ever increasing cost of watching football either live or on Sky/BT.
    I also agree wholeheartedly about the Trust. I saw one guy on Twitter attacking them for helping organise a train to Leicester. This is just madness. I don’t do many away games, partly for cost and partly for the sheer logistical nightmare of travel but the Trust are doing everything they can to make away games more affordable (£30) and possible to get to, so to see this kind of abuse is absolutely ridiculous.
    I hope the last match is everything we would like it to be. WHL has been my one constant in a life that has had its ups and downs. The performances on the pitch aside, the ritual of just going to football has kept me going when everything else was going to pot. I think the enforced move from the NE corner has made it slightly easier through the season to accept the coming change but I’m steeling myself for an emotional afternoon with my Spurs family.
    All the best as always, Alan.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Some journalists could do with reading your writings and learning a bit from them, though I understand for the most part they are trying to generate headlines and sensible, balanced writing doesn’t sell as well. This ‘bottling ‘ rubbish? Talk to any sober , half clued up football fan, and it would be derided as total nonsense. If Spurs are bottlers, then they are the nineteenth, and last team in PL to get around to bottling it.

    During the early part of the season the media had it as Pep v Jose v Klopp, a triangular mini tournament where these revered subjects of most press articles were going to swashbuckle everyone else into submission, with a final 3 way shoot out to decide who won the title – a footballing version of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly perhaps. That story fell flat on it’s face, and Spursy old Spurs have finished above them all. Spurs? Sure they don’t fit into any fawning narrative, with their sensible wage structure (sensible as far as PL is concerned of course, not sensible in real life), their home grown and developed talent , and a manager who appears to build bridges with rivals rather than offering silly, snide put downs when on TV ( hello Jose). And let us not forget, a few weeks into the season Conte was toast, and strong rumours were circulating he’d been fired, so they got both winners and runners up wrong by miles. And you’ll still see more Jose/ Klopp articles than you will about Conte and Pochetino – I still get queasy thinking about the Klopp-Cam that BT Sport had in the corner of the screen throughout Klopp’ s managerial debut for Liverpool at Spurs. Because he’s just so zany you see…..

    Goodness, I really needed to get rid of that! I should add as a disclaimer its the way the press treat these three, rather than anything against the blokes themselves , that gets me riled.

    Anyway, as always, you summed things up brilliantly, so I’ll just throw in some random points regarding the last week or so………it’s been a long time since I was so relaxed and sure of victory during a game against Arse……I agree West Ham was a game too many, and the amount of wins lately has been amazing, so while disappointed to lose to THEM, there’ll be no criticism of the team from me. You cannot win every game……I was not as gutted as I thought I’d be, disappointed of course, but it was a slim chance at best and it almost came as a relief – I can sleep freely again!………Rather than the loss to West Ham, my ire was reserved for a very timid Everton the week before. Ashley Williams in particular is on my hit list, last season he was woeful as Swansea gifted Leicester 3 points and a 3-0 win to kill any realistic chance we had of the title , with Williams abysmal and gifting Mahrez the opening goal. This year playing for Everton , 3-0 again and little improvement from Williams! Cheers Ashley mate!! …….Two seasons in a row we’ve been chasing down teams totally free of European football, that is bound to have an effect……

    Thank you again and have a great time on Sunday (and everyone else that’s going too). I really hope the team can lift themselves to give the fans one last great memory of White Hart Lane. The fans, players, and staff , and everyone else connected to Spurs, deserve it.
    Cheers, DB

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  6. Hey Alan, for a few days i thought you werent gonna write, post beating the Arse… But love how you combine all the thoughts of the past weeks, very well put. The Westham game was a little numbing, i kinda pushed it to the back of my mind, and kept busy.. and what is this bottling i hear, we are the ones chasing… common sense and logic.
    We have broken into the top four last two seasons, a great achievement considered, what the other clubs around us pack in terms of finances and players.. The media love this narrative, just waiting for a slip up, two faced, praise our team for how good we are and exiting… you know the rest. One small slip, and they turn on us…
    It still has not dawned on me that the Lane is coming down, but as its getting near I can feel the anguish and excitment building…
    Lots of love from Kenya…
    COYS!!

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