No Fans At Spurs So Is It Real? Unfortunately, Yes

There’s nothing like Spurs being rubbish to focus the mind. Football right now is distant, out there rather than within me. I’ve been an active participant all my life, now we’re all viewers, peering in from the outside. It’s a huge relief to know Spurs can make me angry, because it means I can still feel it.

The covid mindset is changing. No longer can we delude ourselves that things will return to normal, illusory though that always was. We won’t have big crowds in football grounds until next spring at the earliest, not safely at any rate. My wife is highly vulnerable because she has an autoimmune condition. It heightens the sense of anxiety and danger, let me tell you. I won’t be back for a long time. Meantime, I’ll polish my pitch to the doctor that I’m a priority case for a vaccine because I need to get to the Tottenham Stadium.

Spurs are more than just a part of my life, they are central to it. Being a Spurs fan is integral to my identity and to my well-being. I am husband, father, Spurs fan. I am many other things, male, overweight, bald, Jewish, white, British, part-time student, old-soul fan, but character-shaping though these are, I know what I value most.

I’m conscious this sounds trivial and shallow to the non-believers, but I’m being honest with myself, and with you. I’m no emotional eunuch, it’s just that football is core to my mental wellbeing. I know what’s truly significant in life, but as someone once said, of all the things in this world that aren’t important, football is the most important.

I’m part of a community, something real. I can find companionship or, if I choose, disappear into the crowd, and that is denied me precisely at the moment when we all need to feel other people are around us to get through these troubled times. Spurs winning is important, being a fan even more so. Not being part of the crowd creates a sensation of loss and separation. It leaves a gaping hole.

Football is how I express my emotions. I go to the game. Shout and cheer to let off steam. Be with my family. Meet my friends, meet people who I don’t necessarily know that well but we have something deep in common because they feel the same way too. How can I be myself if I can’t go to the game?

Football beats the rhythm of the years. Results aren’t predictable but the season is, and the feelings that accompany it. Close season to relax and refresh, something to look forward to. Tickets renewed, fixture lists come out. Weekend midweek weekend, and so it goes. Enjoy the game, process the result, don’t look back, look forward to the next one. Spurs will be there, like they’ve always been, one true certainty as life flows this way and that. It’s been pulled out from under my feet.

There’s nothing like the soaring elation of a good win. Lose and it affects my mood for days, until the next time. But I’ve discovered something worse, not being able to express those emotions at all. It’s out of reach, fading into nothing. I am diminished if I can’t feel it. I turn in on myself.

And the game itself, we win, we lose, but it doesn’t feel the same. Games are devalued because there is no atmosphere. How I miss the gasps of joy and astonishment as Harry curls another one in, or that collective intake of breath as he advances on goal, that moment of delicious anticipation as he pulls back his foot to shoot. Without us, the game has no soul.

More than that, fans have no stories to tell ourselves about the game. Who we were with, where we watched it, how we celebrated or commiserated together. This is what we do. Nobody will tell a story about how Spurs’ determined football defeated Arsenal last season, the disappearing north London derby. How it looked from your sofa is not something you are going to hand down to the next generation. However much Martin Tyler shouts down the line that the Premier League is back and it’s live, it’s not the same.

So perhaps I should be grateful in some warped, distorted way that Spurs were so awful yesterday, devoid of motivation, creativity and energy. It’s got me back to the keyboard at least, although that may not please you as you read it.

The sole reason for Mourinho’s appointment is to win something. Passing through, he’s not part of the Spurs Way, nor will he build the foundations of a new dynasty. He’ll take the credit for any success that comes our way, blame the players, fans and board when it sours, as it eventually always does, then move on. That’s what he does. Levy knew this when he was appointed, and so did we. Lots of people were happy about it. He’s our manager, so we’re all sucked in. It won’t change.

Everything is short-term and we’re already into his second season. Post-match, he blamed the absence of a full pre-season, but this is the same for every other side. Also, his tactics, unchanged from last season, are familiar to the players. It’s the new Spurs Way. Whining about the free-kick being taken from the wrong place is pathetic even by his post-match standards.

Mourinho will park the bus, then throw his players under it if they don’t deliver. Strong words were essential but best confined to the dressing room. One of the countless qualities football managers must exhibit is the ability to hide in public their bitterness at football’s vicissitudes. Save them for the memoirs. The only thing that matters is what helps the team play better. He has to be wholly certain such public pronouncements are the right motivation for the variety of characters he looks after. Key players like Dele and N’Dombele are not improving their games under him so far.  

Mourinho’s chosen approach at Spurs is dull. That won’t change. I’m frequently told he’s always been a defensive manager. I haven’t studied his previous teams in depth but from watching them and being beaten by them, I’ve never come away with that impression. Hard to beat is not the same as being defensive, and his sides attacked effectively. At the moment, Spurs can’t make the transition to a side that dominates the game in their opponents’ final third or, as yesterday, stop them from playing.

He’s also been criticised for being a footballing dinosaur, all back behind the ball and an attacking right back in an era of gegenpressing, inverted full-backs and tactical sophistication. While that suspicion lingers, he’s too bright for that and anyway, it’s not the main issue. You can’t win consistently with submissive, reactive football, however well it is implemented. It might be effective during a cup run, not in the league.

It’s predictable. Yesterday, Everton denied Spurs the opportunity to play on the counter by keeping the ball. On the few occasions we were able to break, we made and missed the rare chances that came our way, or their mobile midfielders recovered. We had nothing else.

I can’t escape the feeling that this formation and approach is Mourinho’s pragmatic response to the lack of quality and depth in the squad. Maybe he reckons this is the most they are capable of, and that a more open approach leaves us unduly vulnerable.

He’s discovered what we already knew, that his chairman will not invest heavily to change that, and it will get worse because an empty stadium rips up Levy’s meticulously crafted balance sheets. On the pitch, it leaves us short. Docherty and Hojbjerg are good signings and will improve from yesterday’s poor performances once they are match fit.

Early days yet it is impossible, however, to avoid comparing the performances of two sides who are rebuilding under shrewd, veteran managers. Ancelotti outwitted Mourinho with a dynamic, mobile midfield that kept possession and minimised our available space. Rodriguez on the right operated in the space Spurs leave because Davies stays back, mostly, and Son is not the best at covering him. Allan looked a level above any of ours.

Meanwhile, Spurs trapped themselves in their devotion to the shape, unable to use a solid platform as a basis to take the game to our opponents. Substitutions were strange, moving Moura and Son more centrally where it is easier to nullify their pace and threat and where Everton were strongest. N’Dombele should have been on earlier.

Plus, money really isn’t everything, but Everton invested, wisely so on this showing. Meanwhile, Kane still has no cover or alternative, Mourinho is now saying Aurier is a valuable squad member, i.e. we can’t sell him because Levy seeks an unrealistic fee and we won’t fund a decent replacement. And I’ve not even mentioned Spurs’ ludicrous fixture list or the money shelled out by those we see as rivals.

Yesterday, despite their superiority, Everton won by a single goal, not from open play. Mourinho’s Spurs will perennially live on fine margins. Holding on to a narrow lead is an art, something we need and there’s much post-match back-slapping when it works, as it did towards the end of last season. Another inescapable truth to live with, however, is that it leaves us vulnerable, to that one chance the opposition takes, a deflection or as in this case a free-kick. If we ever get back to the Lane, and there is the real possibility that we will never again see a Mourinho side in person, crowd anxiety will transmit to the players, exerting even greater pressure on them.

So we move on. Enough of our failings. I wish I could be crushed on a sweaty tube. Become uncontrollably over-anxious because the train is 5 minutes late. Leave the house absurdly early. Eat an overpriced burger too quickly and get indigestion. Pop into the Antwerp. Bump into Rob on the concourse. Get a hug from Chris. Wish I was back on the Shelf. Ignore pre-match build-up as I marvel at this wonderful stadium. The adrenaline rush as the whistle goes. Feel like a kid again. Feel sick even though we’re two up with five minutes to go. Straggle breathlessly behind my son and granddaughter as we dash back to Tottenham Hale. Fall asleep on the sofa. Be me.

18 thoughts on “No Fans At Spurs So Is It Real? Unfortunately, Yes

  1. Great article and so true. Spurs going nowhere until Levy and Lewis sell up. Daniels’ egotistic role in All or Nothing sums up our club, no direction, no ambition and apparently no money – despite Joe Lewis being worth £4.5 Billion. He hasn’t put his hand in his pocket since he purchased the club. Couldn’t even give the club any money to get over the current financial issues so we go to Bank of England for a loan! Pathetic

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I live a long way from Tottenham, though I managed to get to the Boxing Day match v Brighton.
    I still feel much as you do. I listened to the game yesterday, and it was evident that Everton were bossing our midfield two.
    Harry Winks is a good lad, but Eriksen he ain’t. We lacked creativity and service to Kane, despite which we could have won had Pickford not made two big saves.
    I can’t help thinking that if City were to replace Aguero with HK he would score hatfulls of goals, and I wouldn’t blame him for moving on. He is a wonderful finisher currently feeding on scraps.
    I think that if we can get a fit-and-firing midfield three of Hjobjerg, Lo Celso and N’Dombele we will be a match for anybody, though I fear Dele might have to make way, much though I like him playing off HK.
    Perhaps all these Europa League matches will prove a blessing in getting players match-fit and trying out various combinations against weaker teams?
    Look on the bright side – Everton didn’t batter us and we were unlucky to find Pickford on inspired form for a change!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Well that was drowsy, I could’nt understand what we were trying to do… after they scored I was expecting us to really have a go at them, but alas.. at times it seemed they were the ones looking for an equaliser.

    I’m always pissed when we let teams ‘play’ rarely did I see us really disrupt their play. Really need to improve or we will see other teams pull away early.
    …though still sticking to my same old “wait till we’ve played 10 games to really see where we are at”

    As for Doherty and Hojbjerg, I’ll acknowledge the buys or any kind of improvement when I see it on the pitch, but as for yesterday, thumbs down

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  4. Good stuff.

    I wasn’t keen on signing Mourinho.

    I’ve always thought his three part act was 1) Buy Bus 2) Park Bus 3) Drive Bus over cliff. Given that, for the first time ever, he didn’t have squillions to piss away on players Act 1 : Buy the Bus wasn’t an option at Spurs. I like the way you substituted “Throw the players under the Bus”. He’s good at that too.

    Things need to improve. Will they before he’s fired?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nice post Alan, I think we are all the same boat….we feel your pain!

    Like you I`ve been watching Spurs for a long time, and for what it`s worth I think Jose is one massive fraud. A chequebook manager with outdated ideas and tactics who is unable to improve average players.
    from what I`ve seen so far, I can`t see us winning trophies or even improving.

    It`s so easy to jump on the under investment / lacking in depth band wagon…we are buying the wrong players, in the wrong positions who are are wrong for our club. If we buy Bale & a 2nd striker tomorrow, believe me they are not the answer to all of our problems!….Our last 2 investments were our record signing 53 mil, he has got fitness issues, cannot seem to adapt to the Prem and maybe attitude not right? and then a very promising winger (a position we didn`t really need) maybe it`s recruitment we need to look at not investment.

    We so desperately need another attacking playmaker. Lo Celso is good but not enough and everyone knows we have really struggled right from when Eriksen lost form and interest. Players like Winks (so many backwards and sideways passes yesterday he made Vinny Samways look like Messi for those that remember the 90s!) Sissoko and even Dele are not the players who can create chances for us.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great article Alan
    I was never a fan of Mourinho, and I don’t think I’ve ever had such a strong (negative) reaction upon hearing Levy had replaced Pochettino with a Diplodocus.
    Yesterdays performance was not completely unexpected, the football we’ve witnessed under JM has been excruciating to watch, and I admit to struggling with motivation knowing that week after week we will bare witness to a team bereft of cohesiveness, intensity, skill or guile.
    Whether JM will eventually drive himself and the club off the cliff remains to be seen, but Levy and Co aren’t doing the club any favours by continually talking the club down, we ‘can’t’ afford afford that, we ‘can’t’ compete with. Everything coming out of the club at the moment seems to have a negative tone, I don’t expect big money signings, there are other ways to keep the club moving forwards, an effective scouting network identifying the best young talent instead (much like B Dortmund) would be a start.
    The hardest aspect of what we are witnessing at Spurs (for me) is the negativity from within the club, it’s like a self fulfilling prophecy.
    It’s been a glumly Monday, and I doubt it will be the last.

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    • As the song goes, they call it stormy Monday but Tuesday’s just as bad…let’s hope JM doesn’t waste Wednesday and gets to work on putting these things right. He’s got a lot to d and much of it of his own making.

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  7. The season is one game old and he’s already playing his victim card. To blame the ref for their goal is also classic Mourinho – trying to distract attention away from the reality of poor defending. And to blame the lack of sufficient team time on C-virus and international duties only highlights what a superior job Ancelotti did with his summer in the transfer market and on the training pitch. Jose – no more whinging! We’re sick of it!

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  8. Great article, i was amazed at how you could write such a lot of interesting points about a match that was about as lively as watching paint dry.
    Massive problem is lack of confidence. Surely Jose should be able to instil this into our players? it was mind numbing, side to side and back again, but if in doubt it was backwards and start again, or kick it aimlessly in the general direction of Harry, even though he had 3 or 4 Everton players around him.
    Where was the heart? the fighting spirit? the pride of wearing the shirt? missing in inaction, that’s where.
    I was not really expecting huge things this season, but boy, i was hoping for much better than this non performance.
    And as for waiting until we’ve played 10 games, i dread to think where we will be.
    Now we have to wait, travel 1000’s of miles, and hold our breath while we wait for “the special one’s” team selection for matches in Europe against teams we have never heard of.
    It could be a bloody long season, folks.

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  9. Alan….”a priority case for a vaccine because I need to get to the Tottenham Stadium” — for that? I’d save any vaccine benefits for keeping your family safe! PS Easier to do when you’re in the colonies, but I haven’t jumped back on the “bus” since Jose became driver. Ugh! PPS Stay well, my friend.

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    • Shows just how desperate I am to get back in the ground, Ash. Mourinho sucks the joy away, but keep watching, they need you even from so far away. Keep safe.

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  10. Kane looks lost, and I’m not surprised. What a team we had, for 4 seasons! OK, we were fading throughout 2019 despite our ‘Glorious’, albeit precarious, run to the CL Final, but we’ve been falling apart for over a year now ..whether Poch was in charge, or Jose’, or the pandemic. OK, part of that ‘falling apart’ can be put down to the £1b stadium costs at the expense of buying top quality players, although I (for one) am proud of what Levy has done in that regard (our training facilities too); but we are hurting right now, and frustrated that, while we never won anything when playing wonderful football during the heady years of 2009 to 2013, and 2015 to 2019, the horizon is even more blurred, without top class players challenging for every position.
    I can also understand ‘corrections’ in the football market, although things suddenly coming together like a perfect storm (and we’re not the only ones to have suffered this) have knocked us for six. Great players like Verts and Toby ageing and slowing, other world class players leaving after years of fabulous contribution (although Eriksen may well have ‘left’ after his last great game v Inter in late 2018, and Rose effectively left in 2017). Cracks even began to appear at the start of the Wembley 2017/18 season, after we’d sold Walker at the end of our best league season since 1961, and our final one at WHL. But while there were some great Wembley memories (Real Madrid, Dortmund, Liverpool, Inter etc), whose bright idea was it to later sell Trippier??!! Poch and Levy must take the blame, along with stupid fans who wished him out of our club because of one relatively under-achieving season. OK, we couldn’t do anything about Dembele fading (a unique player whose ironclad possession of the ball allowed others to play freely around him), but it’s been odd to witness how ‘still young’ England guys like Alli, Winks and Dier have dropped off, along with Sanches and Foyth ..while all should be now approaching their peak! Son has rescued us many times, and we’ll always love the Moura memories, but sometimes they remind me of headless chickens. Heads up and thinking footballers, they ain’t! Lamela constantly flatters to deceive (after 8 years he’s had one brilliant 18 month period), so by God we need a leader to bring the best out of them. However, Kane looks like he’s losing his spirit, and Lloris, although still hanging in there as a top goalkeeper, is hardly a Roy Keane (understandably so). If Alli plays off Kane, but with someone ‘like’ Eriksen behind, that ‘triumvirate’ could resurrect the belief in the beauty of our football ..but of course, there’s the rub. Everyone talks about Kane cover, and right wing/back play (although Doherty surely must be an upgrade on Aurier), and another left back to compete with, and bring out the best in, the inconsistent Davies, plus another top class centre half to at least support Toby for the next few years, with Dier, Sanches and Foyth floundering a bit. And yes, all these are vital, but we desperately need what ALL great Spurs teams have needed ..a creative playmaker, pulling the strings and linking the holding/central midfielders (and flanks) with all our exceptional forwards.
    In fact, I’d say we need TWO. So will Lo Celso step up? He’s good and gets around the pitch, but can he act as a playmaker in the final third and add to the legacy of Modric and Eriksen at their best? He must be given that chance and not played elsewhere on the park. We have Winks and Sissoko for that (even though the latter had his worse 45 minutes in two years on Sunday). Ndombele? What does he even do? I’ve no idea of his best position, and I doubt even he and Jose’ know. I do suspect he’s displayed a level of fitness which I fear is beginning to spread around the squad, as well as around his own girth. Seriously though, how could we go from having the fittest PL squad 3 years ago to having one of the least fittest?! Bergwyn, I like him, but is he best on the wing, through the middle, or what? And how does he best operate with Kane, Son et al? Then there’s the ‘other’ Fernandes – I’m not hopeful. Parrot? – let’s hope he develops on loan, like Kane did, and quickly. Tanganga? – very promising and should develop over the next few months. We still have, on paper, an excellent squad, but Jose’ needs to shape them quickly, and er, get them in shape via his best tactical acumen, whilst also finding that creative player, extra striker and left back (by the next window at the very latest), all of whom are key to Jose’s sojourn with us, and maintaining the hope we can win a trophy in 2021.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Can’t disagree with much of that CB, thanks as ever for contributing so much to the blog. You’ve shown how much we have lost since those golden years under Poch. Levy the one consistent figure in all this. I like to think the players can improve when they are fitter, Doherty and Hojbjerg certainly will. They are decent signings but not nearly enough to lift the side from the current doldrums. Regards, Al

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  11. Superb piece by c b waters. Absolutely spot on and I’ve nothing to add except one thing. Levy has repeatedly stated that the new stadium cost would not impact upon transfers budgets. It was financed (and re-financed) and was regarded as a separate entity to transfer activity. So if that’s true then we have to believe that Levy is just not going to splash out on top class players. We go back to the end of the 2017/18 season when Poch clearly stated after the last game of that season that spurs have to decide if they want to be a big club. They had to be brave. They have to decide who and where they want to be. By “they” he clearly meant Levy and the board. Those were his words but what happened? Nothing. No incoming players. What did that tell us let alone Poch. There’s no ambition nor any desire to get spurs challenging for the league. But this is just my opinion. I hope I’m wrong but I can only see us struggling this season. I really believe that we are in trouble and a crisis could be looming! As I say I hope I’m wrong but fear that I’m not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ian and CBW – and let’s not forget that Poch /Levy failed to purchase a single player in two consecutive transfer windows! It meant the whole ‘project’ stalled in the very moment they should have been consolidating the loss of Walker, Dembele, etc. One lost window is unfortunate but two smacks of downright mismanagement. I’ve read reports that Levy offered Poch funds to buy new players but nothing came of it. There would certainly have been funds available as Levy would have budgeted for arrivals and departures over that 12-18 month period. We never really know what goes on behind the scenes and our speculation is mostly way off the mark but, as you say, the signs of decay were self inflicted and probably could have been avoided. But it was wonderful while it lasted!

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