Being without a home has a huge impact on the team and fans alike, the full extent of which will become apparent when Sky shift West Brom at home to a winter’s Monday night and if the team are toiling to keep up the pace in three or four competitions.
There’s a sense in which everything is hold while we wait for the new ground, except there’s no time for that. Not only are our rivals willing to do whatever it takes to climb to the top of the greasy pole that is the Premier League, Spurs must also shoulder the burden of expectation. Pochettino has created a wonderful side, bursting with ability and motivation, the best Tottenham team certainly since the early eighties and arguably since the sixties that enthralled us over last season. They have generated a momentum that should be sustained. There’s no time to pause, wherever we play or whatever it takes to keep it going. Yet on the cusp of success, the beginning of the season is overshadowed by the club’s reluctance to fully commit. I remain excited by what this team could achieve but I fear for the consequences of such hesitation.
Spurs could be on the threshold of a momentous season. The team effectively picks itself, and it’s a fabulous team that has room to become even better, a mouth-watering prospect. Nobody is better placed than Pochettino to fulfil that potential. He’s a true leader and motivator who values the club’s heritage and consistently gets the very best from his players. Add a touch of extra resilience in the big games and we really have something.
The effects of the absence of new players won’t be felt for a while either. It’s not a crisis as some would have it, because Pochettino will start the players who served him and us so admirably last term, but it is a problem. Finding the right players in the current market is tough but it has to be addressed. Anyone signing now will not be match-fit, certainly won’t be Pochettino fit, so that’s a couple of months before they are anywhere near up to speed. By then the league will be rushing ahead at full-pelt and the Champions League on the go. Already one injury to a full-back leaves us without cover, so others will have to shift around. Wanyama’s preseason has been disrupted but Dier can’t cover for him because he’s needed at full-back and he’s not able to be a wing-back. And so forth.
For once, at Tottenham Hotspur it is not hubris to say that we should buy top quality footballers. We are good enough to aim high and not be disappointed. We should take on our rivals at home and in Europe. I may never write this truthfully again, but we are good enough. We cannot leave ourselves an injury away from failure.
This mindset is hard for Spurs fans to grasp. I wouldn’t call us long-suffering, that is reserved for fans of clubs like Charlton, Orient and Blackpool who have truly suffered at the hands of their owners. We are however accustomed to disappointment and the frustration of hopes unfulfilled. Pochettino has created something entirely special. I can’t bear to see it wasted. I can deal with not being special, it’s part of being a Spurs fan. I find it hard to come to terms with getting to the point of excellence then the possibility of chucking it away.
I am patient, what concerns me is the approach we are taking. As yet, Levy the master negotiator seems reluctant to address market conditions, with PL awash with cash creating transfer inflation and intense competition for quality, indeed also for those players a notch or two below the elite. One of the things I like about Levy is that he keeps schtum, in the media at least. This summer he broke cover, telling the NASDAQ that current spending levels in the PL are unsustainable. And this is the problem with chairmen saying things in public. He may well be right both in terms of finance and morally, but placed in the context of the stadium costs and lack of investment in players, it comes over as smug self-justification. I sympathise with his views but if everyone else is playing by different rules, it’s no good shouting foul.
I have shared my rampant pride in what this Spurs team have achieved with Tottenham On My Mind readers for the past two seasons. I don’t want, in an ideal world, to see us engage in the footballing equivalent of an arms’ race. However, Levy’s self-imposed shackles on spending could destroy this teams’ progress more effectively than defeats by any of our rivals.
The cost of the new stadium, £50m for a full-back, the odious sight of Conte, Mourinho and Guardiola carping about the transfer market inflation they created. I get it, I understand the implications. Frankly I don’t understand the rigid salary structure at Spurs, which is the main factor holding us back in the market, rather than fees. We’ll always miss out on those on top whack, fine, it’s those bubbling under who might be appeased if we raised our limit from £100k to even £125k a week who will go elsewhere. I’ve argued this for a while, and here’s something from my fellow blogger the always excellent Spurs Report with figures that he has patiently compiled. Warning: contains facts.
Levy understands investments. We’ve created the asset of a club on the up, playing good football with a manager able to improve players across the board. Buying and keeping players is an investment in the club’s future on and off the pitch. It generates income from a packed stadium, television and in worldwide sales of merchandise. It keeps supporters happy too, and that includes him, however awkward that is for some to accept. It’s because I am convinced he cares for the club and am proud of this new ground, his project our future, that raises my frustration still further.
We have been here before, this is pre-season so enough, except to say – I think he would have sold before if money were his only objective. Levy has a view of himself as a long-term custodian of the club and its heritage, and maybe he’s been thinking long-term since he took over, with a grand, perhaps misguided, timescale to build the ground and only then truly compete. I know he keeps quiet but I wish I could ask him this, and get an honest answer.
Last night the S*n ran an interview with Danny Rose where he appears to say he will leave in search of more money. It’s the S*n – they’ve given it a negative spin whereas in fact Rose’s comments are not substantially different from a 5Live interview earlier this year where he came over as wanting the best for the club and that he could achieve success at Spurs if we invested in the team.
I’m not going to dissect the whole thing, although I would say it’s not very bright to criticise fans, most of us have shown first patience and then great pleasure in his performances. It’s extremely unwise and plain wrong to imply his manager has done little for him.
It hurts partly because fans have been so warm towards him. He comes over as self-absorbed with a lack of awareness of the bigger picture that distances him from supporters, and that is the quality fans abhor in the modern footballer. Partly though it exposes these long-held vulnerabilities in the club’s structure that were masked to a large extent by last season’s thrilling success. I despise the S*n, despise them lecturing me about my club, but if Rose is saying he is tempted to leave because he could double, triple his salary elsewhere, because we’re not investing enough in the team, then he’s merely expressing our fears as supporters.
Our absolute priority in the transfer market is keeping what we have. Walker has gone, see my previous piece, cracks are appearing now but the foundations appear intact. If we are not successful this season, these top-class players will be tempted to depart.
And what about us? Supporters are wary of change. It has to be managed with a degree of care. We are supporters not consumers with an emotional attachment to the club that shows itself in part in the well-established matchday routines, friendships and habits, all of which will be disrupted by Wembley. This is us, and the club would well to remember that. Whatever the shape of Levy’s long-term plans, we are part of it. Without us, he is nothing.
So far, the club’s disregard for fan sensibilities has been staggering. As soon as relatively high season ticket prices were announced, it became obvious that seat prices would be high too. The opportunity to fill Wembley for league games and give discounts all round was rejected. No ST amnesty was available. The new club-run ticket exchange charges £7.50 admin and comes into play only when all seats are sold, i.e. hardly ever. The club don’t respond to the THST but will do so if the papers get involved. In the US they have been constantly available to our loyal, passionate fans over there, whereas here I have been told there’s a sign outside the training ground saying players can’t stop for photos or autographs. Newcastle away tickets were sorted only at the end of last week – fans plan ahead to avoid ludicrous rail fares. The Juventus friendly was sold to an event company keen to fleece supporters with cheapest seats 2.5 times higher than the WHL equivalent last season, top price £90. I have never felt less engaged with a Spurs game than that one.
All of these pre-season problems could have been both predicted and avoided. It leaves a nasty taste.
As ever, I’m looking forward to the new season. It’s such a shame the justified optimism from the last two seasons isn’t automatically carrying over. All the more reason to get going and talk about football rather than conjecture. This pre-season piece is not much of a preview so: this is an outstanding team capable of outstanding things. The quality needs to be deeper – more options, cover for Kane, a touch more midfield creativity. Perhaps most of those extras will come by design or through the absence of signings from what we already have. Janssen, Wimmer to step up and, hang on, does Sissoko want to play to his potential? Moussa is our hero 2017-18, surely not… Wouldn’t want anyone other than Pochettino to be our manager, he is a stellar leader, although he faces a test himself, how to handle players who express doubts about being here. So far, his solution is to freeze them out, he may have to adopt a more conciliatory tone.
Above all, Spurs have to go out and take control of matches, to have the assurance of winners with determination rather than arrogance. Here, the team and the board come together. Levy has to show the same skill and ambition in taking control and bringing trophies to the club, now and in the future. I don’t think he sees it that way.
My main aim, as always, is being there. This could be disrupted this season, so bear with me on the blog, normal service could be disrupted because of other commitments, including something Spurs related, but I’ll still be around. Join me.