Tottenham On My Mind is changing gear. Most of my 529 posts since June 2009 have been written around a Spurs match but that’s become too much of a stretch. Last Saturday instead of watching Spurs play West Ham, I was in Crawley buying my wife a mobility scooter. There’s a message there somewhere, one that I can’t ignore. Over and above the obvious one of not spending Saturdays in Crawley, that is.
I almost pressed the delete button but this is called Tottenham On My Mind because it is. That stuff swirling around in my head is not going to disappear, and the pressure cooker needs an escape valve. Maybe the trick is to regulate that valve to take account of all the other things I have to do, like earning a living and that. Writing about Spurs on the blog, pleasing myself what I write, not monetised, just me (LOVE receiving emails addressed to the editorial team) – it’s part of me after all this time so stopping won’t help.
So the blog is still here but I won’t write about every game. Pieces may be few and far between or spew out like slurry from a fractured sewer. Like the one below, for instance.
I’m doing other Spurs stuff. Researching how fan attitudes have changed over the last 35 years. I’m also involved in a new book Legends of the Lane, which carries in-depth interviews with many past Spurs legends, more info here: https://www.facebook.com/LegendsOfTheLane/
Martin Cloake and I had the great pleasure of talking about A People’s History of Tottenham Hotspur with London cultural legend Robert Elms on his BBC London radio show, should be on his page for a couple of weeks, and I’ve filmed something for a US cable series on English football fandom, based around last Saturday’s game.
Heartfelt thanks to the many regular readers and commenters who help make this an authentic blog for fans. Apologies that I can’t make Tottenham On My Mind part of your match routine any longer, hope that you stay with me. Posts come up on twitter @spursblogger and Newsnow, or on the sidebar you can get an RSS feed or email notifications.
Warm regards, Alan
Up the Spurs!
It seems to me that Spurs’ recent success has upset a few people. The old Tottenham, you knew where you were with them. A club with heritage but a great future behind us. Twenty-odd transitional seasons in a row, constantly failing to live up to expectations. The UEFA Cup was tailor-made for us, the competition for teams who aren’t good enough. Echoes of glory first taunted us then became the sound of silence as we took stock for another year of more of the same.
After a while, fans wrapped ourselves up in the cosy familiarity of it all, comfort blankets of self-deprecation and fatalistic humour, of being spursy, to keep out the icy chill of envy as neighbours from down the road and west London did rather better. And throughout we stayed loyal, turned up, proud to be Spurs, never wanted to be like them.
We knew our place, then we were good and it all went wrong. Wrong that is for those who wouldn’t accept that things had changed, changed not through the largesse of dodgy foreign billionaires but because we got it about right. Good players and a manager who could make them better, who could make them believe in him and themselves. Living within our means. No coincidence that rivalry with Chelsea and West Ham has become white hot since we had the nerve to be good.
Sections of the media have had trouble adjusting too. Fans are fond of accusing the media of being biased against their club and theirs alone, and many Spurs fans would agree with such allegations but I doubt it’s accurate. Supporters of every club say the same – recently I’ve seen this taken for granted in social media debates amongst Manchester United and Chelsea fans. The media needs United like it needs no other side because of their power to raise viewing figures, sell papers and generate clicks.
The media frame their perceptions in terms of their narrative. It’s the same for every club, just a different narrative. For twenty or more years, Spurs played out the narrative I’ve described above. Pundits and journalists knew where they were with it. Being different has confused some of them. In response, some of them want to keep the narrative at the expense of reality.
Which brings me to Matt Hughes’ article in yesterday’s Times. Not the Star or the S*n, the Times, and yes, to someone of my generation that still matters. Hughes says Spurs are no longer the right club for Harry Kane because he’s too good for us.
“Put bluntly it appears that Kane’s talent and personal accomplishments could soon outgrow those of Spurs particularly given the financial and squad-building restrictions caused by building the club’s new stadium, although whether he recognises that as yet is uncertain. Given Tottenham have won just one trophy in the last 18 years – the 2008 League Cup – it is questionable whether the club is the fitting stage for his talents.”
What is most questionable about this piece are misleading assumptions about the club, the player and the imperatives of contemporary football upon which it is based. Tottenham are battling to be better, to be contenders. Undoubtedly Levy’s financial restrictions make this task harder but right now we’re in there fighting. Stadium costs impede efforts in the short term but ensure long-term growth. Nothing seems further from Hughes’ mind than the possibility we might crack this one. I’m a realist: Wembley diminishes our chances of league honours, a lack of progress means our top players will be vulnerable to transfer bids, which diminishes our chances, and so on and so it goes. Equally, there is a legitimate alternative scenario where this side matures and develops into a real force with a future secured by vastly higher income streams. And so that goes too.
Then there is Kane himself. The article acknowledges that he is happy at Tottenham. However, this is supposedly outweighed by his comparatively low salary (Andre Gray and Nathaniel Clyne earn more than he does, to put his wages in perspective) and the rumoured resentment amongst his team-mates created by his acceptance of such a contract, which depresses wages for everyone else allegedly.
Thus the fact Kane is happy at Spurs is characterised as irrelevant and frankly odd. Look again at the quote above: “whether he recognises that as yet is uncertain.” Hughes will not accept that Kane can think clearly for himself. That sentence reeks of contempt.
Here’s a thought. Harry has made his own mind up that he is content with his lot in life at the moment. On top form, he wants to be part of Pochettino’s Tottenham. He lives with his new baby near his extended family, and a decent living it is too.
Elsewhere in the piece Hughes says clearly that Kane’s loyalty could hinder his career. For Hughes, loyalty, the quality perhaps most valued by supporters, both in our own identity as Spurs fans and in our players, is denigrated then dismissed.
Kane could earn a lot more elsewhere. If he left, I’d wish him well. What infuriates me is the dismissal of the notion that there is value in where his life is at right now. It’s a decent package: home life, the club who have looked after him and coached him to become the player he is, a manager with faith in him. And a crowd who adore him, who sing ‘he’s one of our own’ and mean it. To a bloke like Harry, that matters too. Kane has integrity and honesty. Those qualities don’t hold him back, they make him the man and the player he has become.
This article is about Harry Kane but the narrative holds across much football punditry. That all good players must inevitably end up at one of Europe’s few elite clubs. Kane’s performances are greeted each week on Sky TV with the grating story, ‘he’s due a move to a bigger club.’ I’m looking at you Jamie Redknapp. Many in the media are quick to employ another popular narrative with professional footballers, that they are over-paid, aloof, distant from fans and from the real world, only in it for the money. Yet when a conflicting story comes along, they are quick to reinforce this stereotype and say that money is what matters. I look forward to the article saying that Kane breaks the mould, that he’s a role model on and off the pitch, a professional footballer who understands his roots, knows what really matters in life, cares about his performances and about the supporters.