Spurs Plumb the Depths

Two years ago almost to the day, was one of the absolute best days in my fifty years of being a Spurs fan. I travelled to the ground to collect my tickets for the Champions League final. The air around the ground crackled with anticipation. Everyone was smiling as we stood in the queue. The senior steward said in forty years, he had never seen people so happy. We shared our stories of the scramble to make travel arrangements, where we were when Moura’s goal went in and most of all, our sheer surprise and delight at being there. We couldn’t find the right words. We shook our heads and gazed into the middle distance in disbelief and wonder.

This fan reaction transcends league position, top four and the pursuit of trophies. It’s the manner in which this had been achieved. Fans, team and manager never closer. They had given their all and surpassed all our expectations. One of our own is more than a chant, it’s an expression of faith.

And so to last night, a sour, bitter occasion, fans in the top tiers a physical representation of the abyss that now separates the club and disillusioned, disassociated supporters. Last night’s performance was appalling. Beyond blaming individuals, the interim manager, the end of season, it was simply beyond belief, one of those games where you can’t comprehend why and how professional players should all play so badly. Some of our defending was astonishingly poor, as if these were, say, individuals from another culture with a notion of how football works but who have never actually played it before.

Step out of our Tottenham bubble for a moment. Football welcomed back the fans. Watching games this week, you could see the pleasure it gave supporters, just to be back, to be back home. But Spurs are having none of this. Pre-match reading from the chairman, a series of bland platitudes about “the values of our great club”, dripping with contempt and hypocrisy from someone who has consistently claimed to the custodian of our heritage, and just as consistently fails to graps what this means for fans and for the team.

Clubs across the PL reduce prices as a small gesture of gratitude, in Burnley’s case it was free. Not much, but it’s something, it’s recognition that it’s been hard for fans, that there is a relationship. That fans exist. But Spurs charge the most, £60 which for seats behind the goal represents an increase. Free food, and they seemed surprised when fans actually ate it and it ran out. Fans in the top tier, as far away from the players as possible, thereby chucking away the value of home support for the team, relegated to TV background noise. Players scuttling off the pitch at the final whistle, their only thought to get away as quickly as they could. An apparent refusal to emerge for the traditional lap of appreciation (doesn’t matter what you think of it, it always happens, it’s recognition, it’s a relationship), only to appear 30 minutes later when a mere few hundred stubborn die-hards were scattered around the cavernous stands. Harry stayed, in tears.

This all takes place in a context, where the club’s botched attempt to play with the big boys exposed their misdirection and untruths, which served to create unity among usually partisan football fans in their derision for the project. And this is how Spurs chose to respond. A group of senior officials and board members presumably sat down and decided this was how to do it. This was their considered response.

Fans enter willingly into an unholy, unbalanced relationship with the club they decide to support. Fans take the vicissitudes of football fortune in their stride. We don’t expect too much from a club. It can be a real slog but that becomes a badge of honour, of fidelity and commitment. We don’t expect much but want something back. Occasional recognition of what that devotion means in our everyday lives. Being treated as an individual, not a customer number, and all that relationship implies. On the field, success helps but players who are fully committed matter more. For what it’s worth, I study this stuff as well as live it at Tottenham, and pretty much all fans across the leagues have this in common. We don’t expect much but we do want something back. The Tottenham board would do well to reflect on their recent actions in this light. Start with not taking us for granted.

Tottenham fans of successive generations can deal with the average and the mediocre. We’ve had some practice after all. It’s been embraced as a sign of a deep loyalty and commitment that goes beyond on field success, in contrast to the excruciating entitlement of younger fans of some of our rivals. But has there ever been a time when we have wilfully thrown away so much in so short a period?

Chatting about this on twitter last night, fellow supporters came up with a few rivals, the Graham and Francis years, the early nineties, failure to capitalise on Pleat’s groundbreaking 1987 team, or my lowest point, Pleat’s caretaker spell after Hoddle was sacked when Levy was prepared to mark time near the bottom of the table for several months with a midfield of a combined age approaching a hundred and no permanent manager.

But this is dereliction of duty on another level. I hesitate to use the word achievement to describe this potentially catastrophic shambles, but it is a remarkable series of decisions to dispose of an unprecedented level of goodwill, a fine manager playing in our club tradition, the buzz of the new stadium, umpteen seasons of top six finisishes, alienated Kane and leave a team denuded of quality with no manager.

Any analysis of how we have fallen has no neatly delineated starting point, no big bang. Levy’s failure to fully support Pochettino in the market, which I wrote about at the time rather in retrospect, is a tipping point in the club’s history. Levy compounded his gross error with the vanity appointment of Jose Mourinho, again covered in past pieces, a manager and club that was always an ill-fitting match. Spurs needed a manager who could rebuild an ailing squad over time on a limited budget, with the patience to bring players through and find value in the market. Everything that Mourinho is not in other words, and to be fair to him, has never pretended to be.

His legacy is a divided, fractured squad, mentally and physically unfit, ill-coached and drained of confidence. If you think this is bad, remember that there could be worse to come. Spurs are, I assume, short of money, the team needs major rebuilding and rejuvenation, with the deficiencies of individual players ruthlessly exposed over the last few months. This is urgent but we have no manager. When an international tournament takes place, little transfer business gets done until it is over.

I didn’t go last night, so it is a sobering thought that I may never see Harry Kane play in a Spurs shirt ever again. He may or may not go, but that’s not the point. Our main man, our goalscorer, provider, our inspiration, our own, wants to leave. It is utterly dispiriting that it has come to this, that our club stretches the loyalty of such a dedicated man to snapping point. It’s also a message to any player who Spurs want to buy – you really don’t want to be here.

If there is a productive way forward, supporters have to be at the very least involved, and may well take the lead. The outpouring of fury at the superleague proposals has led to several positive outcomes. Football supporters have been reminded of the connections between us, that what we have in common is greater than that which divides us, and the inestimable significance of the history of the English football pyramid. The government is involved. Meaningful proposals regarding an independent regulator are on the table.

There is a long way to go and much to be done, but these debates take place in a changed atmosphere, where those that run the game are compelled to take their responsibilities to supporters and to the English game more seriously. This is no revolution – we understand that clubs are businesses too – but the difference is, there should be limits to how far they can go, where fans are a factor and where large investment entities cannot exploit clubs without boundaries and limits being in place.

This is about supporters understanding what makes an impact. It is an understanding of what hurts people who run football clubs and run the game, and using that power for constructive change. I don’t condone any violence to individuals at the Old Trafford protest, but it made football sit up and take notice. Fans have been driven away from United by the actions of their owners, not by those protestors.

The Spurs board’s decision to enable fan representation on the board is a major concession in response to concerted pressure from the Trust, angry fans and sustained, organised co-operation between representatives of supporters’ groups, where our Trust has been extremely active. I’m a member of the Trust and voted for the motion for directors to step down. It brought home to board members the anger of supporters, that they bear personal responsibility for where we are and that there are potential consequences, in case for their status. It also offered a way forward in the form of fan representation.

Regular readers of Tottenham On My Mind know that I blog as myself, openly. My life’s work as a social worker is fundamentally about mediation and talking problems through to find a mutually beneficial outcome. So I do not come lightly to such action. But sometimes, and only after all other opportunities have been exhausted, you have to draw a line. In this case, the Trust despite their scepticism, regularly discussed these matters with the board, and the board lied over an extended period. So draw a line, and then talk about that.

Anyone who has been part of trade union negotiation knows this. Draw the line, keep talking and it focusses minds, from which change emerges. I strongly suspect the club did not expect this reaction. In their statement, they say they did not realise the ESL plans were so far advanced. This is entirely implausible. This is Daniel Levy. Financially prudent, cautious and risk-averse.

I believe Spurs were part of the ESL Sordid Six from early days. Derided because of our lack of success on the field, this in fact makes us prime candidates. We desperately need to be part of the ESL precisely because we’re not doing well on the pitch. This is the only way we could guarantee the promised riches, and we needed it now for fear of falling behind. We’re good for the others because we have big crowds, loyal fans, and are 10th in the money league. Plus, our bargaining position is not strong. Weak, willing and wealthy, to the ESL members we were the perfect partners.  

Their idea of calling for compromise is to have a dig at the Trust. Thus they reveal their tactics, divide and rule. Undermine the Trust because they are the best representatives of supporter interests that we have. The club scrutinize social media. They know many do not support the Trust actions for various reasons. Fine, fans express their support in different ways but let’s be clear – in this instance this are tactics to divide and rule, as is the undecided method of electing the board member, so progress but beware.  

Last week, you may have seen Ajax’s gesture to their fans, where they melted down one of their trophies into a star for every one of their season ticket holders. Not possible at Spurs because our only silverware is a couple of chocolate coins down the back of the boardroom sofa after the kids Christmas party. It’s also not possible because the board would never think of anything like that. Ajax, another multimillion-pound company, have a different concept of their relationship with supporters. It’s a symbol of something different, something meaningful, of giving something back. At Tottenham, we get a free burger, provided they haven’t run out.

This has become, without me trying, an end of season appraisal before the season has finished. Perhaps this is me wishing it would all go away, where the final league position becomes a secondary consideration as supporters reel from the damage inflicted on our club. Where good judges suggest a lower league position is something to be thankful for because we miss out on a third tier European competition.

Worst for me, I realise I have to end with something I never thought I would have to say. Spurs are part of my life, but I’m glad I didn’t go last night.

17 thoughts on “Spurs Plumb the Depths

  1. Really good article, I have my own views on the ESL, but equally I am so glad I didn’t have to watch that dross last night, cant wait for the season to end, looking forward to the European Championship where we might do well…Only because there wont be any Tottenham players in the England team and I include Kane in that team.


  2. No surprise that this article says how many supporters feel. It’s not great as a pick me up read and intentionally blunt at our clubs situation but none the less spot on in every regard, especially the last paragraph.


  3. Excellent work as always. At £60, I gave it a miss for financial reasons and so glad I did. I’m still debating whether to renew for next season. I think so many of us share these frustrations, of being labelled ‘legacy fans’ and being mugged yet again to watch what will be yet another (this time entirely self-inflicted) ‘transition season’ and Year 1 of yet another five-year plan.
    I always wondered what it would be like to take a season off from not going to see week in week out if I felt differently about the club and how much I would miss it. I have now, although not in the way I thought, and the answer’s not pretty. I will always love Spurs but Tottenham Hotspur Football and Athletic Co. Ltd does not love me. Nor do I suspect it wants me either, except to fill a seat when tourists who will take a stadium tour and spend a fortune in the shop don’t want to go. Lots of things about before the deadline for renewals.


    • so agree with everything said
      THFC a complete disgrace and shambles and possibly relegation fodder next season.
      Who wants to waste their hard earned money watching that


  4. Excellent article Alan, I agree with all your sentiments and points. I was there for the Villa match; so so sad to watch Harry Kane walk around alone after the match applauding the fans. He has done everything he possibly can do for my club and now I wish him medals and trophies in abundance at his new club.
    Maybe he will return as our manager one day.


  5. Spot on, great article,as a supporter for over 60yrs I have never (even when we were relegated ) felt so disappointed & frustrated. Keep up the great work. TTID.


  6. I think you let Levy off lightly here. I’ve tended not to bang on about him, mostly because he doesn’t actually play, y’know? But Levy’s dead hand has throttled the life out of our club into the steepest decline over two years that demands his removal. Even Poch realised he couldn’t defeat his biggest enemy – someone inside his own club! – and then Levy hired the single one person not suited the task of rebuilding the team. Even an idiot could have predicted Mourinho’s removal and the shambles he would leave behind. It is an exact repeat of his tenure at Manc United. In a way, I don’t blame Mourinho for his treatment of N’Dombele, Alli, Aurier, etc. etc. He was simply trying to get passion and performance from these prima donna’s. But many of our performances, against Arsenal, Newcastle, Wham, Brighton, Leeds, were so poor and weak that they could only be the result of a lack of personal pride and ability, and belief in the badge by the players – nobody else. But then Levy displays his utter contempt for the fans by sacking the manager with one week to go before a cup final, and replacing him with a novice. With a trophy within our grasp he fouls it up yet again because it’s all about him. Way to go, Daniel! Now Levy offers a whiny apology that he took his eyes of what the club was all about and asks forgiveness. Well, that’s all right then! Why are we putting up with this serial cock-up artist who has single-handedly dismantled a great team and made us unliked and distrusted in Europe? The prospect of next season without Harry is terrifying. But even Harry understands when your own chairman is trying to bomb the club back into the stone age by his imperial incompetence and he can’t hang around any longer. As P. B. Shelley so aptly put it, Levy is our Ozymandias:

    ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.”


  7. A very well written and considered piece. The case for the prosecution of Levy/ENIC is pretty compelling. I’ve never warmed to our owners but I at least used to respect them. Not anymore. I can accept the incompetency of the last couple of years in terms of player recruitment and managerial appointments. What can’t be tolerated is the breach of trust with supporters over the ESL manouevre. It is absolutely clear that they don’t give a toss about what supporters think or want. It’s reflected in the omnishambles of last night – bad decisions made without any consideration for supporters. This is the club I have supported for fifty years and I will never stop supporting them but, my goodness, they are testing my patience right now.


  8. Spot on, once again. I’ve been coming to the Lane since 1963. I have 2 exec seats in the West Stand and have signed a 3 year deal of which next year will be the final one. Today (20th) May is the deadline for payment. Fuck them, let them instruct lawyers to collect – I’ll string it out and embarass them as much as I can – it’s all I’ve got..


  9. Really enjoy the articles you post. Please keep them coming. Am now motivated to join in for various and sundry reasons…Lifelong supporter, remember where I was at the age of 15 when we beat Leeds 4-2 after hearing the manager say that he looked upon this game as “a great one to win rather than a bad one to lose.” What the ‘eck??? (answer = in Bulwell, Nottingham)

    Remember the night vividly vs. Feyenoord in Rotterdam. First time I was disgusted/ashamed to be a Spurs supporter and genuinely sad for Bill Nick. Broke my heart. I have been buying the shirts since I could get them mailed from the club to the USA in ’82. How do I display over 150 of these polyester beauties? At the end of the day, I am still committed and still trying to figure out why? I have never thought to burn or sell the plethora of stuff I have amassed over the years – read Opus 808 and a match worn Bale shirt with DNA to name my top two…. but it has crossed my mind. It’s interesting to me that Mr. Levy jettisoned Mr. Jol after the great work he did and made the same mistake with Mr. Poch. Fool me once…

    Sadly, but with a tinge of happiness, my eldest son has somehow caught the bug…in the words of Mr. Johnson, I tell him that “Man alone is born crying, lives complaining, and dies disappointed”.

    And. As I am writing this, I just received an email from the club announcing an 8% discount from hotels.com. Hotspur rewards!!! Where do I sign up???

    Thanks again for the articles…

    David the ex-pat in NorCal.


  10. Fabulous article, unfortunately most every point made is spot on. The only thing left to hope for this season is that we don’t finish 7th, and have the embarrassment of not only having to play in the depths of a third rate European competition, but also to have to suffer the shame of knowing that we wouldn’t be any where near capable of winning said Euro-combination level anyway.
    And, as you said, it’s only 2 years since we were in the final of the premier Euro competition, the hopes and dreams of most Spurs fans demolished in 24 short months.
    I don’t know the ins and outs of that super league debacle, all I know is that it is wrong.
    What I do know is that we have many many years to wait till we get anywhere near back to the standards of which will be acceptable.
    I also know, that while Levy and ENIC remain anywhere near our club, that we will be going, at best, nowhere, and probably backwards, possibly ending up with the best stadium in the Championship.
    I have followed Spurs all my life, been to thousands on matches, home, away, in Europe, and spent tens of thousands of pounds doing so, quite happily so I may add, to follow the Spurs, my club, my team, my passion.
    Many people say it’s the hope that kills you….but, in this case, I’m afraid they are wrong. It’s Levy that has done that.


  11. Good article, but unlike all the comments supporting your views, here’s one that doesn’t.
    Had the ESL gone ahead and we hadn’t been part of it, whilst a few people would say we had the moral high ground, the majority would have said it was yet another example of our lack of ambition.

    There is no question that we have fallen from grace, but that success has brought with it an element of “excruciating entitlement”, not just “of younger fans. of some of our rivals” but of our own supporters.
    Despite not winning trophies it was a successful period.

    Personally I’m vehemently opposed to the actions of the Trust. Asking an owner to stand down and refusing to meet with the board? How childish. Do they not understand what an NDA is?
    Even now after meeting the board (pathetic comedown on their part, but then they were worried about losing their chance to have coffee and biscuits with the board) they are still bleating about stopping a future ESL, but seem to ignore the fact that they won’t be included in any such discussions. All the trust do is rubber stamp the boards decisions until they feel their own role position may be threatened.

    You ignore the fact that Poch himself said you were better buying nobody than someone you didn’t want – and lord knows we signed some real doozies (that he kept picking) – under Poch.

    The view is better in the upper tier.
    People want the club to spend, but decry them making any money to do so

    Yes we have made mistakes, but to even get to a point of challenging the monied clubs was in itself remarkable. Has Levy made mistakes? Absolutely. Has he made great strides forward with the club? Absolutely that too. The main issue is about player transfers. Unlike other clubs who can buy dross and then buy replacements if they don’t work out, we can’t. We spend 60m on the likes of Ndombele and we’re stuck with him.

    I would rather Levy and ENIC as owners than who the likes of Everton, Aston Villa and Newcastle have. They haven’t even managed to step up to the plate, at least ours for a while enabled us to dream.


  12. People forget Levy’s first cock up which has echoes of Mourinho. The sole gooner you could possibly want in charge of us vs them was George Graham who had been ousted and wanted revenge yet Levy knew better. We forget the full football of the early noughties. For me Levy’s lack of football ability is summed up by the fact we signed the wrong Fernandes!!


  13. Well, we’re in the Europa Conference (or whatever). And if we win it, we’ll be laughed at and derided anyway, and far more so than if we go another year without winning anything decent. Wow, a place in the Europa League if we do (win it). Well it’s the only way we’ll qualify because the players will be too knackered to get top 6 in the PL, or win a domestic cup! Best bet is to shunt out early from this ‘trophy’, and/or play our youth team (now there’s a good idea) because no European football for our senior players next season may give our mediocre team a chance of challenging for something!
    Incredible to think that despite the FA Cup Final victories I saw live (Chelsea 1967, Man City 1981, QPR 1982, and Forest 1991 ..I missed the 1987 Coventry defeat, as in Spain I couldn’t even watch it on TV) plus the League Cup Final victories I saw live in 1971 and 1973, and later, and home legs of our victories in the EUFA Cup in 1972 and 1984, and so on and so on …..the most exciting moments for me stem from the Poch (especially) and Redknapp eras which both promised so much until fate, rotten luck, some selfishness, and bad decisions among owners, coaches and players ripped into the rising Glory we felt from 2009/10 onwards. For me, the game against Ajax in Holland in 2019 was one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had in football, since I began supporting Spurs in 1963. Although the final itself was a let-down, and we all knew that Poch’s fine squad of 2015 to 2019 was already breaking apart 6 months beforehand, who would have thought we’d come to this so soon?! Even with the new stadium costs, the lack of player spending in 2018, the pandemic and that guarantor of trophies, Mourinho, I still believed by mid December 2020, we’d nail top 4. But somehow Mourinho and the defence he concentrated on snatched not just disaster from the jaws of relative victory, but also destroyed any glory in our playing style!


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