Damn Right Hugo: Spurs Are a Disgrace

You may have missed it. Probably turned off the television in disgust. I don’t blame you. But as the camera panned towards the celebrating Dinamo players, it caught a fleeting close-up of Ledley King, slumped in his seat and close to tears. Ledley transcends the tactics, formations, the personnel, because he feels it, and expressed what this abject capitulation means to all of us. Fans that is, not apparently to all the players, judging by their efforts.

A full post-mortem is required. For the moment, everybody involved has to accept a measure of responsibility. But this dreadful week exposed the truth, that at the core of the club lies not a beating heart but a toxic, rotting mess.

This week, we offered two disorganised, ill-disciplined and uncommitted performances in games where our very best was required. As a team and as individuals, nobody emerges with any credit. If you’re not playing well, at least run back, a couple of hard yards to defend, beyond so many of them last night. Inexcusable. And once again, Spurs sat back rather than aim to dominate periods of play.

Lloris confirmed this during the most revealing post-match interview I can recall. Describing the defeat as a disgrace, he stated that there is no togetherness in the team, that some do not follow the manager’s instructions and that those outside the starting team are not committed.

Tottenham always on my mind, and my mind is running away along rabbit-holes of analysis and blind alleys of interpretation. One day, The Lost Blogs will surface from an unemptied recycle bin to be clandestinely circulated among the diehards, like a Dylan bootleg from ’69. A glance at social media shows the fanbase is argumentative and irritable too. For now, this is what I know.

Mourinho was never the right man for Spurs. We needed someone able to rebuild a depleted squad over time, albeit one with potential, on finite resources and little in his admirable CV suggests he could do that. Levy was dazzled by his aura and reputation.

I wanted to be proved wrong.

After nearly 18 months, Mourinho has made no significant improvements to our performances. There have been highs and lows but no upward curve.

Spurs were failing over the final months of Pochettino’s time at the club, when his messages no longer inspired a group of players who should be grateful for what he enabled them to achieve. Mourinho has failed to create anything substantial to take its place.

It is not clear what Mourinho is trying to achieve. The NLD was one of those games were we as mere fans struggle to comprehend what the manager and players are thinking. Passive from the start against opponents not known for their defensive expertise. AFC players may as well have had a police escort down our right, the way they were repeatedly allowed through. Mourinho tries out different permutations. He looks like a rookie manager feeling his way. I had a brief conversation on Twitter to this effect with journalist Seb Bloor. Someone retweeted some of our tweets as part of the conversation, except by accident these were from months ago, expressing similar frustration yet they fitted perfectly. In Seb’s words, good and bad days but overall a zero-sum situation.

The home NLD, ultra-defensive but the players were highly motivated. The contrast with last Sunday could not have been greater. The players must take some responsibility for this. There are problems, but the committed leave those in the dressing room. If this were happening at another club, you’d see it for what it is, manager and players poles apart.

Players are professionals. Give everything and fans won’t complain. Holding back is unacceptable. Play with pride, if not for the manager then the shirt, and yourself.

Mourinho staked the house on the EL and the League Cup. He was right to do so. Spurs can score goals, and so we always have a chance in cup matches. Last night was a bitter blow. The odds were in our favour and we lost.

The League Cup is worth winning in and of itself. City are favourites but it’s a two horse race. Go for it. Enjoy it. Just remember that winning the League Cup won’t change anything. It won’t heal the malaise within the club. It is meaningless in terms of the future. The League Cup is often cited as a stepping stone in the building of a winning mentality, with Guardiola the best example. Except, City went on to win the league that same year. We won’t. Pep is still at City, building and rebuilding. Mourinho doesn’t hang around that long. Pep has

The best leaders take people with them. They motivate towards a common goal that will develop individuals through collective action and responsibility. Mourinho takes some players with him but neglects those he leaves behind. At say, Chelsea or Inter, that didn’t matter as much because of the quality of those he chose. At Spurs, we can’t afford that. He has to keep those who are not his favourites onside. In the here and now, he has to develop players because Levy won’t replace the squad wholesale. We need those players because we’ve played more matches than any other top side in Europe. Judging from Hugo’s comments, there’s a rift in the group.

In the here and now, Mourinho has to improve the team but there’s little evidence he is able to do so. Over the last couple of months, he’s said the players aren’t responding to him. Again, players have to take some responsibility for that but, right now, it’s an admission he’s not getting through to them and cannot effect change. He was brought into the club to give the team a winning mentality.

I cannot see how Mourinho can stay.

I cannot see Levy dismissing him before the end of the season.

And so we end once again with Daniel Levy. There’s a huge problem embedded deep within the club that goes beyond individual players and managers. Tottenham has become a fractious, conflict-ridden and unpleasant place to be. He has to take action to fulfil our potential and safeguard the future.

I concluded my last piece with a warning of what is at stake this summer. The squad has gaps. We need better players in key positions, notably centre half and deep-lying midfield. Harry needs a back-up. Plus, several squad members are in their thirties and their best years are behind them. Now we have to also weed out those who do not want to improve and be committed to the shirt. This is a big undertaking.

At the risk of labouring the point, I believe Spurs are sleepwalking towards the cliff edge. Building and rebuilding a team is a constant process. Complacency created by 15 years of top six and more is blinding us to what is necessary to sustain this.

This has been a bad week. Sometimes, for optimistic realists like me, being in a bad place focuses the mind. I’m worried about the future. The wrong move now by Levy could set us back several years compared with rivals. Always one step up and two steps back. I want to be wrong.

14 thoughts on “Damn Right Hugo: Spurs Are a Disgrace

  1. I think quoting Stafford-Bloor is laughable. He and his ilk are wedded to whatever they have read and the nom du jour. The only thing more laughable would be to quote Delaney, the vacuous non-entity left at the sinking ship that is The Independent’s sports department. You seem to have blithely skipped past what Lloris was actually saying and what Mourinho has been saying for some time, indeed what Pochettino had said before his departure: the lack of professionalism in the players; and maybe King was close to tears because the back line that he has been trying to coach had let him down so badly. You have been consistent in your denigration of Mourinho. I did not want Pochettino to go and felt that he had earned the right to rebuild, and at the start I did not warm to Mourinho. However, what I cannot stand is when someone is not given a proper chance from the start. This squad of players was moribund, but has some that have life still. Levy now has to make a decision as to what he does with the squad rather than the manager. MR

    On Fri, Mar 19, 2021 at 12:07 PM TOTTENHAM ON MY MIND wrote:

    > Alan posted: ” You may have missed it. Probably turned off the television > in disgust. I don’t blame you. But as the camera panned towards the > celebrating Dinamo players, it caught a fleeting close-up of Ledley King, > slumped in his seat and close to tears. Ledley transc” >

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  2. I’m shell-shocked.
    I don’t like criticising individuals but I know many will.
    With all the attacking flair we have at our disposal, we should be playing an attacking game – but no, we just sit back until the last five minutes.
    It needs a better footballing brain than me to sort it out but Hugo’s comments are alarming me. I hate to think what Danny Blanchflower would have written if he were still alive.

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  3. Like so many of us we are so let down by what has happened.The deficiencies in a number of our players has been evident for some time and of course Mourinho has contributed to the situation we find ourselves in.
    No doubt Mourinho will be sacked all managers are in the end.But the main issue for me is the lack of character in a number of the players.Billy Nick would only buy players that had this quality with the other skill set they had.
    Like most fans you can be more forgiving to those players that always give it go.Things must be mad when I am pleased that headless chicken that Lamela starts or comes on as I know he will be at least trying!
    Depressed and totally fed up with this mess

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  4. Thank you for taking the time to write.
    Today is one of the lowest i have felt as a Spurs fan of 50 years. That is impressive in itself.
    where to start
    – the players are a disgrace to the club (i exempt only Kane & Son). after sunday’s debacle, the desire to put things right should have been huge, instead we got more of the same;
    – the manager is a busted flush, going nowhere, with no game plan & frankly bizarre team selections; Dier & Sanchez is a pair that should never see the light of day together, the omission of bale last night made no sense at all, Alli & Winks is a situation that is extremely worrying & Sissoko really has deteriorated at some speed;
    – the recruitment is horrendous. i don’t need to name names but of the summer buys only Hjoberg has improved the team. Who is really responsible for this? it has gone on far too long;
    – the owner & chairman are suffocating the life out of the football side of the club. in all other aspects you cannot criticise them but this is a football club & the product is dire.
    No doubt this ends with sacking another manager, but where do we go from here? for the first time in my lifetime i really don’t have an answer.

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  5. A good piece and I agree with pretty much all of it. As a club, we are failing in all the key areas. Recruitment has by and large been poor. We buy talented but mentally fragile players like Ndombele. We buy limited players like Doherty. We hold on to sub-standard players for too long (Aurier, Sanchez, Winks, Dier, etc.). We have failed to replace key talent (Dembele, Eriksen, Walker, Vertonghen). We employ a manager who is a poor fit for our situation. All of this is down to bad decision making and blame can be apportioned to a lot of people but the responsibility lies primarily with Daniel Levy. He has done a phenomenal job in transforming Tottenham into a commercial powerhouse but has a blind spot when it comes to squad development. I’m not sure what the answer is but perhaps an experienced Director of Football might help. Someone who understands the qualities that successful clubs look for in their players – not just talent but attitude, professionalism and leadership. Feeling pretty down about us today but we’ve been here many times before and there are always brighter days ahead. COYS.

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  6. Alan, I was waiting to see how you’d respond and you didn’t disappoint. We have become the footballing equivalent of flat track bullies who are happy to roll over smaller teams and puff out our chest at the drooling media coverage and then run and hide when the fight begins against better teams. Mourinho is driving me to distraction: he is so articulate and eloquent that he has an answer for every episode. Sometimes he is spot on, such as with Dele Alli who was becoming a waste of space with his lack of running and flicks and tricks that largely failed to deliver anything even under Pochettino. He needed a serious kick up the backside but the lack of meaningful sustained contributions make him a candidate to move on. Am I the only one who thinks N’Dombele is a failure who is being played out of position and simply isn’t up to the task? He and Alli should be sold to finance a signing like Grealish who is a game changer. Lo Celso is our SickNote. Lloris has now gone off-message to air his frustration for two weeks in a row. Something is rotten and hopefully we can struggle on to the end of the season when the unhappy players can be moved on along with the manager. Nagelsman, Rodgers or Pochettino should all be looked at.
    At the end of the day we never really know what goes on behind the gates, we can only just guess that our theories hit the target occasionally, but I read somewhere that we have played more games than any of the top teams in the leading leagues in Europe thanks to Europa League qualification. If that’s true then we are channeling Wolves last season who went through a similar grind, but ran out of gas at the vital run, allowing us to clamber over them in the final few games for our ‘reward’. Maybe elimination will allow a few extra days of rest before the Carabao Final – our new benchmark of success under Mourinho.

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    • I totally agree with you on Ndombele and have been of this opinion for some time. A few fancy tricks and turns don’t mask the fact that he doesn’t impose himself on games where the team and manager need him to do so. Last night and Sunday were obvious examples but there are plenty of other matches where he has come up short. Maybe he should be playing further forward but, whatever his best position, the really top draw midfield players find a way. I’m unsure whether he will come good to the extent that we need him to.

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  7. Where to start…
    When Poch took over we all laughed that every press conference in the first year or so, he mentioned in his limited English the word philosophy, the club, the players the fans, all had to buy into “his philosophy”
    The players that didn`t (eg: Adebayor) quickly went, and after about 18 months it all seemed to fall into place. You knew how we were going to play, we had a style of play (high intensity, high press) and Poch knew his best players, and we as fans knew what to expect, and what team to expect (rotated the full backs every week, but he knew his best 11) – it was far from perfect, he had no Plan B, poor substitutions, we still seemed to bottle the big games and had that fragility, but for 3 seasons everyone bought into that philosophy.
    Now we don`t even have a Plan A, let alone a Plan B. Who are we, how do play? who are our best players? who do we need to replace. Nearly every team in the Prem has a way of playing whether it be City, Liverpool down to Burnley or Brighton, the manager knows how to get the best out of those players and play to their strengths. We seem to change tactics, style of play and best starting 11 every 2 to 3 weeks.
    Our recruitment over the last 5 seasons has been appalling, I`m not expecting us to compete with Chelsea or United in transfer amounts, but we seem to constantly buy the wrong players in the wrong positions. Compare to Leicester, who I`m sure have spent a lot less than us, but the difference is they have bought the right players at the right price who fit into their style or play and seem to have the right mentality and temperament. i`m not saying we should get it right every time, but some of the time would be nice.
    What`s the solution? A change of manager again? Levy ENIC? (an easy bandwagon to jump on, if they do decide to sell the club, there`s absolutely no guarantee we will be in a better place with better owners)
    I should also add that the modern Spurs fan engaging in social media seems to be full of self entitlement. Why do think we are a top 4 club and “should” finish there every season, just because we had a few decent finishes under our last manager and won lots of trophies in the 60s, 70s and 80s? ….the truth is we are probably about where we should be at the moment, but we`re all suffering and it doesn`t make it any easier having to watch this rubbish served up every week!!

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  8. I agree with every single word you wrote. Some of the players are not fit to wear the shirt. If its true that they dont or wont listen to Jose then get rid its as simple as that. If this carries on for the remainder of the season you can say goodbye to the like of Harry and Son. Why would they want to hang around in the hope we win something players like them need big clubs not a club with a nice stadium and training facilities but no real passion and desire to win things. I have supported Tottenham for over 50 years and I dispair with the state of this current team, no desire and no backbone. God help us

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  9. There really are too many problems to go into, Alan. I felt that Jose’ got many things right in our ascendancy to the top of the PL by mid December, and felt vindicated after his arrival in late 2019, despite other fans’, bloggers’ and punters’ pessimism and criticism.
    The squad was buoyant before Xmas (despite Alli and Bale rarely figuring). We were playing great football, beating United and Southampton soundly, with only the odd defensive laps and bad luck against Newcastle and Wham preventing us from creating a large PL gap at the top. Even when Jose’ adopted defence and counter to gain 7 points against City, Chelsea and Arsenal, I thought brilliant Plan B tactics, but couldn’t wait to get back to the confident football that served us so well earlier. Anyway, all except Jose’ could see that these dour tactics, which demanded 110% concentration, were never sustainable with our rocky defence if we were serious about a title challenge. Yet such tactics became the Plan A default mode against lesser teams. So our plunge from the PL heights was far more shocking than what occurred last night. Horrible football AND bad results …not a great mix for Glory!! Tactics geared to playing to our weaknesses in defence, rather than our strengths in attack, and by the time Jose’ learned from this, our PL season was all but blown!
    OK, we showed signs of recovery from early February, but I put the blame of what seemed like ‘relegation football’ (played over 7 weeks from mid December) squarely at Jose’s door, and although the Everton FA Cup loss was at least entertaining (as were prior victorious FA Cup, and most League Cup and Europa games) last night was the culmination of problems that just did not need to exist!
    Jose’ refers to over a 100 goals this season in all competitions, but let’s be honest, we’ve become flat track bullies, and last night we finally got beaten up badly by the smaller kid in the playground who simply wouldn’t be pushed around. Not that Zagreb are ‘mugs’ ..they’re a damn good team.
    So let’s look at our players. Sissoko has been woeful for months now. A man who rose like a Phoenix after a terrible start with us, is now ‘ashes’ again and won’t likely rise anymore (so GO). Sanchez (our once record signing) has regressed badly over the past few seasons, highlighted by Verts’ departure and Toby’s aging (GO). Aurier should never have been our replacement for Walker, and to think he was all we had in that vital position when Tripps left too (GO)! Winks? Confidence shattered. He loves Tottenham but maybe we should let him go for his own sake. He looks tired and fed up. (GO?). Dier? I think he’s finally fallen between those two stools of Defensive Midfield and Central Defender, and is no longer consistent enough for either, despite the occasional decent performance. Hurts me to say but (GO).
    Bale? If anything was proved last night, he’s a ‘luxury’ player. Some nostalgic performances recently, and the hope he’d rekindle some of that phenomenal 2009 to 2013 form, but, moving forward, we should end the loan this summer (GO). Davies? Still a decent squad player, and rarely lets us down (STAY). Lloris? France’s World Cup winning captain with no trophies but decent memories in his long sojourn with Spurs. Deserves a PSG transfer (GO). Doherty? Bright start but looks forlorn and unenthusiastic, and I agree with Roy Keane ..definitely not a top 4 player (although possible back up to a first choice right back …er, not Aurier).
    Of the rest who should stay …Hojbjerg deserves to cover a better defence, and not be afraid to bark orders at it. Ndombele? Undoubtedly talented, but we still don’t know his best position, plus he isn’t able to make Spurs ‘tick’. He dribbles his way down too many blind alleys, often holds up our attacks (rather than protecting the ball and freeing up space for teammates) and disappears for too long in games. I believe he can work with a decent playmaker, as our old Dembele proved, but Ndombele certainly isn’t one himself. Toby? Deserves another season but time’s closing in. Alli? Abominably treated by Jose’, particularly when we could have done with him during that atrocious seven week period to early Feb. Alli’s still not at the level he was, but who can blame him when he’s spending what time he gets on the pitch trying to appease Jose rather than concentrate on what he’s brilliant at. Again, Alli is in desperate need of playmaker alongside him (someone like Eriksen or Modric at their best). I feel Kane and Son, despite their wonderful efforts, certainly miss an Eriksen and Alli combining to help them out too. Lamela? Been here for nearly 8 years and, for most of it, flattered to deceive. But he’s still capable of an impact, works hard and creates a bit of magic here and there, so I’d keep him. Part of the furniture. Bergwjin? Hard worker, but I want to see him storming down the flanks, scoring and creating. From mid December, under Jose’, he was included for ‘tracking back’ (futile, given the results) rather than for utilising his actual talent, and the boy really doesn’t look happy (as most others don’t) playing in this negative way under Jose’. By the way, where’s Fradon? Surely he couldn’t do worse than Sanchez and Dier! Reguilon? Has a great future but Real Madrid lurks with that buy-back clause, and right now I think he’d be happy if they took it up! Vinicius? If we could buy him for £10m, then he could prove no worse than others like Llorente and Soldado (at least the latter scored to get Grenada into the Europa QFs), but he’ll probably go back to Benfica and won’t really be missed. Moura? still waiting for him to become another Son, but you’ve got to like the man and his undoubted skills/pace (and he memorably did to Ajax what Zagreb’s Orcic did to us). Lo Celso? ..hard working midfielder. Not the imaginative playmaker/creator I hoped we’d finally have to replace Eriksen, but still a good midfield asset.
    Finally, we have some good up and coming young players who soon will deserve their chance, but it’s all a bit depressing now, isn’t it?
    Wondering if Kane will leave now (although he wasn’t blameless last night, missing 2 or 3 very good chances) is the worst feeling of all. It’s been up and down since Poch’s and Redknapp’s best years, and a tragedy that no trophies materialised in that time, but I agree there’s no upward curve now as there was before. No CL football forthcoming, and I’m neither excited or optimistic about the League Cup Final, unlike younger more desperate fans who are trophy starved. Even when facing Chelsea (twice) and Man United at Wembley this century, plus a brilliant Liverpool in 1982, I always fancied Spurs in ANY League Cup final (or any FA Cup Final for that matter)!
    But football has changed and the paste-on riches that is City will give this mentally damaged Tottenham team no quarter! Its 50-50 whether Jose’ will stay in June, but we need to sell players and are in real need of fresh blood.

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  10. I believe Morinho lost empathy with the players at Chelsea, and again at United. Now the same thing has happened again. At all good teams the players play for the manager 110%. It was noticeable when both Pochettino and Harry Rednapp were running things the team was playing with belief. Sad night Thursday.
    Why does Eddie Howes name never come up when good young managers are talked about?

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    • He was my preference when Poch left. We were most successful when we had a young ambitious manager coaching young ambitious players playing ambitious football. I’d like to go back to that.

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  11. Hello Alan, I notice that you have a new book coming out via Mooney and Lambert. I look forward to acquiring this and have already subscribed on their website. A pedantic point, or maybe not, relates to the write up online which states that 1960/1 was Spurs 43rd year of competitive football. Interesting that I’ve never before heard it described that way which I guess means from our advent to the league minus the war years? Well whatever, my Grandad I suspect wouldn’t have been too enamoured with that concept having been a suppporter from the 1890s or my Dad from the 1930s. However I look forward to the new book and always, well nearly, to reading your blogs. I continue to search the Tonbridge walks for that TOMM T-shirt and another chance meet up and chat. All the best. Eric. PS. You must always remember though that WWBTIWWT! Think I’ll get that on my next T-shirt and possibly we could create a Tonbridge double act – or maybe not.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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