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.