Spurs: A Year On, Times Have Changed

 

Tell me every detail of what you were doing a year ago today. Give me a minute by minute breakdown, because you can remember every one of them. Every second of preparation, leave nothing to chance. Pub, sofa or being there, the sole aim to get everything out of the way before kick-off.

We all need to relax. It’s a busy, breathless world, a frightening one at the moment. Meditation or mindfulness never cuts it because it just gives me the time and space to think about all my anxieties. It might work, though, if I could take myself back to those few weeks between Ajax and the final, a transcendental state of bliss and harmony where the world was a better place.

Being a Spurs fan never felt so good. Football was an adventure again. We recaptured the joy and wonder that made us fall in love with the game as children, told ourselves that the sacrifices and pain were all worth it. More than reaffirming our support, it’s about having faith in ourselves, our judgment, decisions, commitment. Because being Spurs is intrinsically something within us, about who we are. God have mercy on the woman or man who doubts what we are sure of.

And the way we did it. Coming from behind, epics in the quarters and semis, joyous attacking football. Fans and team never closer. A manager who understood and respected our heritage and who built a team to write another chapter in our history. They gave everything and so did we. When I went to the club to collect our tickets, I chatted with the head steward. He told me that everybody was just so happy. He’d never seen anything like it.

I wasn’t sure if we would all get tickets. I can’t get to away games but in the end we had more than enough loyalty points. Ironically, the nadir of the recent supporter experience, Wembley, sealed it because, who knew, you got points just for turning up.

The family spent 36 hours glued to every travel site on the net. At one point, the only option looked like one of the ten flights from Liverpool that suddenly appeared. I was so desperate, I nearly clicked ‘buy’. In the end, no problems except for the credit card balance.

Madrid was fun. Liverpool fans were top class, no edge, no side. At the airport on the way home, a bored Liverpool fan commandeered the tannoy to sing a few songs. Everyone clapped. It’s telling that these days, rival fans getting along is worthy of comment.

Madrid was hot. Meet friends at the fan park, the message is not bring beer but bring water. These are the best of times. My son took my granddaughter into the tent, which was like a south American sweat lodge ritual with Darren Anderton. The tube to the ground was so packed and hot, sweat condensed on the walls and washed over the floors. The Spurs designated station was 25 minutes from the ground, most of which was along a closed motorway. Hot concrete in the open sun. We got into the ground as soon as possible just to get something to drink and cool off.

When writers reach for similes for ‘utterly, utterly pointless’, use, ‘CL Final pre-match show.’ People from home texting me, asking if I was there and wishing me good luck. Not Spurs, me because these were friends who know nothing about football and care even less but they know me.

And then.

Last week, someone on the radio was talking about their biggest sporting disappointments. They said, reasonably, that the impact of disappointment eases as you get older. For me, though, it’s far worse now in my mid-sixties. Oh to be a kid again, when losing a big game doesn’t enter your head, so when it happens, you dissolve uncontrollably into a blubbering mess. There’s shame in that at the time but in fact, it’s entirely healthy. Let it all go and move on in the knowledge that there could be another chance.

Now, it festers. Being older, it means far more as part of who I am and what I have become. I never lost my childlike hopes of miracles and wonder in what football brings to me. This was our moment, my moment, and we blew it. My final whistle expletive-ridden rant was not so much about defeat, I’m Spurs, I’m used to that, but that Spurs will never get a better chance, not in my lifetime at least. We didn’t play anywhere near our potential, that’s what grates for me. Liverpool were beatable on the night. They did not play well either, and dropping into a cautious shape after their early goal potentially played into our hands because Pochettino’s Spurs were more vulnerable if put under sustained pressure.

I can’t get over the penalty. I need to move on but can’t. If it had been clear-cut, I could deal with it. Remember in the cup semi-final against Chelsea a few years back when Spurs were on the rise and hopes were high of a long-awaited breakthrough. Six minutes in, Toby, at the peak of his form, panicked and conceded a needless free-kick. They scored and it all went out the window. It would have been easier to handle if we’d cocked it up like that in the final but this way, the what-might-have-beens will forever haunt me. Anger would be healthy but thinking about it as I write this, I feel as numb and emptied out as I did then.

The stupidity of a Spurs fan part 498579579437. Belongings are symbols of character and emotion. A method actor might take a possession of someone they are studying for a role and wear it on set when they become that person, or in my line of work, a person chucks away a symbol of bad times to banish those feelings and move on. A few months back, I gave the rucksack I took to Madrid to the charity shop. 36 hours of schlepping it around, keeping a close eye on it, constantly fiddling about in and out of the pockets for tickets, money, passport. Seeing it around the house, it aggravated me. My bag, my CL symbol. I’ll let you know if it works.

The whole game was like wading through quicksand, one long anxiety dream when you try to run but get nowhere. Waiting in vain for the clouds to clear and one spell where we would get going. Long after I told the devil that I was prepared to give him my soul in exchange for one decent cross, we were still ploughing on.

If the build-up shows how little football authorities understand or care about fans, for the losers, the end is brutally sadistic. Back in the day, you knew where you were. Final whistle, losers get their medals, come over to the fans and depart while the victors’ celebrations continue. At Wembley, the winners used to come to the opponents’ end to be applauded and pay mutual respect. Times have changed.

Now, players and officials drift around for ten or fifteen minutes while a dais is constructed. Fans and players don’t know whether to go or stay. A few of the players came over, like Trippier, others hung back. Many fans left anyway. Saying farewell properly is important and this was denied us.

At least we could kick on from this, or so I believed. With hindsight, it was a crushing reminder of where we are in the scheme of things. Liverpool fans ached for their destiny of a sixth European Cup, whereas we brought 8 FA Cup semi-final defeats in a row. History places a heavy burden.

In reality, Pochettino’s Spurs had already passed their peak. The damage had been done in previous summers where Levy refused to invest in the squad, thereby failing to capitalise on the opportunities given to him by his manager and throwing away the best opportunity for glory in two generations. In a recent series of interviews, aka Pochettino sending his CV out to anyone who was interested, the Argentinian was all smiles but he must have been mightily hacked off with his chairman. The players were tired, physically and of his voice, he had run out of ideas and anyway, Mourinho was available. Levy always coveted a big-name winner, only appointing Poch after Louis van Gaal turned him down in favour of United. They had had enough of each other. The love affair was over.

In Mourinho, Levy saw a winner, but the new manager soon predictably created a club in his own image, sour, whinging and complaining. Fans were alienated again as we watched growing disorder, passing football replaced by what at times looked like kick and rush. Levy followed this up by increasing the some of the most expensive season ticket prices in Europe, trousering a £3m bonus for not delivering the stadium on time, then furloughing hundreds of low-paid staff. In a mere few months, Levy dismantled the goodwill and positive feeling surrounding the club that he and Pochettino had worked so hard for five years to create.

Pochettino’s departure was greeted by much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth but not everyone sat shiva. It revealed a split in the fanbase, where many criticised Pochettino as the epitome of the lack of killer instinct that winners possess and that has been absent at Spurs for so long. For them, the CL final was the ultimate symbol of that defect and a low point in our history. Not my view, as I wrote this time last year, but it serves as a reminder that fans are united only in their support for the club, not the way they show that support or what they want their club to be.

Fans’ distance from the club is now literal as the season will be completed behind closed doors. It’s noticeable on my twitter timeline how few people have said anything about missing football. Contrast with the international break or over the summer where fans are desperate for the next game.

My initial reaction to the announcement was, ‘at least that will get it over with quickly.’ Partly that apathy is down to Spurs’ poor performances but looking ahead to next season, whenever that is, I’m determinedly optimistic. Mourinho now has a true sense of what he must do. I don’t think he realised how far the squad he inherited had faded and was unprepared for the nature and extent of the job he had taken on.

The enforced break presented him with a fresh start. He has the chance to develop the talent at his disposal in what is still a relatively young squad. Everyone is fit. During the break, he appears to have been working hard on building trusting relationships with his players, so they know he has their support and that he wants them in his squad. Every player who thrived under his leadership in the past says this is his great strength.  That Dembele-sized hole in midfield will have to be filled in the transfer market, and there are gaps at centreback and right-back, but above all he has the opportunity to build his own team.

In the end, the final reminded me, if I needed reminding, of what football means to me. Being there, being with my son and granddaughter. Plus, on the way out, unplanned, at three different points on the journey back to the city centre we by chance bumped into most of the Spurs people I feel closest to. Hugs, commiserations, gallows humour. It helped and will not be forgotten. Being together is what it’s all about.

 

 

Where Has the Spurs Project Gone?

Lately, Jose Mourinho hasn’t been talking much about the project, this ghastly, emotionless term that reduces the heritage and future of a football club to the barren business-speak of a clapped-out motivational speaker.

All successful clubs need a strategy for the future, to plan ahead according to their resources and aspirations. The most effective plans incorporate an understanding of what a club stands for, what it means for supporters, with a leader able to put it all into practice.

Back in December, he was all about the project and the vision. Spurs need that sense of purpose more than many of our rivals because our chairman wants us to live within our means, therefore any manager must make the most of the finite resources available to him.

At the moment, it’s very much about the here and now with team selections and tactics defined by expediency. It’s hard to see what Mourinho’s Spurs is all about. After the Leipzig defeat, he admitted as much in one of his jokey, throwaway but carefully planted and full of meaning press conference remarks that reveal what he really thinks and sum up the state of play so far: “If I could, I would move immediately to the first of July.” It’s a resonant message, born of his frustration. This is not my Spurs. This lot can’t do what I want so I need to buy and to have a pre-season.

Throughout the life of Tottenham On My Mind, my main aspiration has remained consistent, that Spurs are contenders, that we are good enough to challenge for honours. So far, what follows from there, that we might actually win something, has not been fulfilled and I live with the pain. All part of being a Spurs fan, eh?

Leipzig are everything we once were, not so long ago, but are no longer. A well-coached side with players who have faith in their manager because he’s brought out the best in them, players comfortable in their style and shape, eager, able to improvise up front and who know what to expect from their team-mates.

I saw a stat this week, which I haven’t factchecked, saying that since Mourinho took over, only Liverpool have won more points in the PL. We’re fifth in a year when that could mean CL qualification. I’m grateful, but you know things aren’t right. Jose knows. Hence his comments. He’s not trying to sit on the problem.

Mourinho played up his excitement at the squad he inherited. He quickly found out the scale of his necessary rebuilding. His first ten or twelve games were about experimentation, trying different combinations at full-back, centreback and central midfield. He’s discovered that we are sorely lacking. That Dier, a player he coveted when at Manchester United and who he brought straight in to his Spurs, is a diminished force. That Wanyama is gone in all senses except his pay cheque. That our record signing cannot play 90 minutes and whose warm-up on Wednesday was described by my friend Russ as possessing the athleticism of a man dragging a bag of wet cement up and down the pitch. That a team with Tottenham’s resources and aspirations cannot run to a back-up central striker. And while we’ve lived with this for longer than many of what I once called long-term relationships, it is utterly scandalous that our club has left ourselves so open to injury.

Leipzig are not the best benchmark in the sense that they are a coming force in Europe.  The trouble is Norwich, Villa and Southampton exposed the same faults in our defence but failed to take their many opportunities. Last Sunday, Villa were their coach’s dream, time and again doubling up on our left with Serge a-wandering and drawing Toby out of the centre, only to fail to do anything with the space they created. Southampton ran the cup game for extended periods. So open are we at the back these days that Mourinho has almost elevated this to a footballing philosophy: we can’t defend so we’ll do what we can and aim to score one more than you. But relying on the opposition to miss chances is not a footballing philosophy, it’s an admission of failure that cannot be sustained in the long run. Or indeed as far as tomorrow lunchtime.

Leipzig are a team, we are a collection of individuals, and that sums up Mourinho’s Spurs at this point. Some of those individuals are top quality players who deserve enormous credit for their efforts on our behalf. Their goalscoring has kept us fifth in a Premier League that’s average this year with the exception of the runaway leaders. Son lately, Kane before his injury, not at their sharpest but always a goal threat. Kane the leader, his remarkable second half performance against Brighton where he took it upon himself to lift the side and win the game, first with a goal then covering every area of the pitch to compensate for his team-mates’ failings, in the process knackering himself after four or five long seasons unbroken save for his injuries. Bergwijn looks highly promising, Moura unstinting in his efforts, with Le Celso the pick, quickly adapting to the demands of this league.

While it’s legitimate to question Mourinho’s long-term fit with Spurs, it’s unfair to make any lasting judgements at present. This squad and the injuries impose limits on what he can do. A sound team selection could easily contain four or five players each of whom has fewer than 10 starts for the first team.

The above quote is of course classic Mourinho, conveying a message crushingly familiar over the years which has been, when things go wrong, it’s not his fault. However, it’s perfectly legitimate to express concerns about what he has done with the players he has available. We have lots of midfielders but cannot either dominate midfield or stop opponents from playing. If his chosen method is the low block, the problem is that it doesn’t do enough blocking. On Wednesday, there was a moment in the second half when Sacramento, the coach, urgently waved players forward to press in the Leipzig half, the players seemingly unaware that pressing was what they were supposed to do. Teams drive the press themselves.

If sides attack our flanks, e.g. when Aurier stays forward (which despite his problems with positional sense is what his manager tells him to do), we don’t cover that. If we don’t have a striker, methods other than aimless long balls are available, like passing it through midfield.

This is not Mourinho’s Spurs. We’re still passing through the debris from the trail of Pochettino’s comet. And I’ve done the thing about Levy’s transfer policy for many years now, so no more here.  JM needs time and funds to rebuild. He and the chairman have got to sort something out. On and off the pitch, Spurs have become reactive rather than assertive or proactive. That has to end. Spurs need a plan, starting now, regardless of who is fit or not. Call it a project if it makes you happy but find one soon.

 

 

 

 

 

Get Rid of the Racists

Today’s blog begins with a howl of rage and despair. My disgust that Tottenham Hotspur is worldwide headline news because of fan racism knows no bounds. It revolts me that this should take place and that a Spurs fan has dragged the image of all supporters into the gutter.

It is only one or two. Don’t call them idiots, call them racists. I admire Rudiger’s generosity in his tweets, where he says he doesn’t want to involve Tottenham as a club in this because it is only one or two fans. He goes on to thank Spurs fans for the many messages of support he’s received.

Racism is all around us, it never goes away. It’s just that you like to think we stand for a bit more than this. We’ve been victims of abuse, the stands have been a safe place for people from different backgrounds for a long time. Ours is the rainbow stadium, described by the co-chair of the Proud Lilywhites as a bastion of inclusion and diversity. Now we’re the team whose fans provoked calls for a public inquiry.

On social media I’ve been told, repeatedly, that we should wait and see for, I don’t know, something. People around me in the ground said, well, hang on, we don’t know what happened. Well bollox to that. No time to hang around. This all took place right in front of me. Twenty rows back, I didn’t hear anything but when Rudiger walked towards me indicating the monkey noises had been uttered, I felt physically sick. He reacted straight away, something happened. I was ranting off about something or other, I don’t know exactly what I was saying. Basically,  how could this happen, here, with expletives. Me – any shots of that gesture taken from the West Stand, as shown on MOTD, I’m in there. It’s personal.

How do these people think our own black players will react? Do your absolute best while you’re watched by racists. Or our own black supporters? Spurs fans got behind Danny Rose after he talked about his experiences of racism at football. Something clicked then. One of our own, let’s sign a flag, let’s sing his name.

Time for the majority to get that message over. Find this person or people. Ban them for life and prosecute. Zero tolerance. Nobody is dragging me down.

Football reflects society. In the past few years, racists have become emboldened as politicians from all sides fail to address discrimination and in some cases actively mobilise it to sustain their support. Racist and anti-Semitic incidents are on the rise across the country. Not here. No more. Football has to take a stand.

Yesterday was one of the most disheartening, cheerless afternoons I’ve ever spent watching Spurs. I’ve not even mentioned chucking stuff at opposition players. The best stadium in Europe closed. Unlikely but the authorities are going to make an example of someone, some time.

The football. Spurs were awful. Spineless and mindless, to call them a rabble at times is an insult to rabbles. And I hear rabbles get upset at their good name being taken in vain.

More than being utterly dominant, Chelsea’s football came from another era. They were sleek and contemporary, Spurs were dinosaurs, unable to pass the ball through midfield and reduced to predictable long balls up the middle.

As if this were not bad enough, we gave away two ridiculous goals, hilarious if other teams did the same, profoundly concerning as it’s us. Switched on for the corner? As dead as the batteries in a child’s toy on Boxing Day. I’m still shaking my head at Gazzanega. How a straightforward catch became assault and battery, and how the ref gave us a foul in the first instance. It’s the sort of error that eats away at keepers, a rank misjudgement that will stay in the back of his mind for a long time and indicates a more fundamental vulnerability at this level.

Sometimes managers do things that don’t work but you can understand what they are trying to achieve. AVB for example, cautious, possession football to stay tight at the back, keep the ball and wait for an opening. Didn’t work because we couldn’t score any goals, an admittedly basic flaw that escaped him, but you could see what he was up to.

I don’t get Mourinho at the moment. When not under pressure, we’ve played some good stuff and banged in the goals but defensive strategy is sorely lacking. We’re incapable of closing players down when they are about to shoot. Both full-backs have been left repeatedly exposed, a problem compounded by Aurier’s dire judgement and positional acumen. In front of him, Son and Moura have been waving opponents through apparently without a care in the world. Step this way, take your time.

Against Manchester United, they shifted Rashford wide left and won the game. Wolves galloped down the right and were stopped only by Spurs players taking it turns to foul him. Chelsea did the same, doubling up and nothing stopped them.

Mourinho was praised for winning ugly against Wolves. Cue Jose the winner cliches. To me, we got away with one, set up poorly so that our back four were constantly exposed. Winning ugly means digging in, doing what’s necessary and forsaking creativity for redoubtable defence. That’s not what happened at Wolves. The manager’s lack of response to an obvious defensive flaw is bewildering.

In context, he’s inherited an unbalanced squad. Central midfield remains a problem. Dier is being played back into form. So far, he looks fitter but a yard off the pace when it comes to timing. Sissoko gives his best but he’s not the creative player that we’re crying out for. The full-back problem remains.

Whatever the question, N’dombele has to be the answer. He must play against Brighton, despite continuing fitness doubts. It’s wrong to read too much into the Bayern defeat, but Lo Celso did not make much of an effort to take the opportunity presented to him. Mourinho is not sure about him.

VAR, Son’s dismissal and Rudiger’s reaction, I’ve have enough so let’s just say it all contributed to the malaise of the most unpleasant afternoon. Looking forward, Mourinho was comprehensively out-thought by a manager in his first year in the Premier League. He had no effective response to Chelsea’s tactics. Plus, his famed ability to motivate and inspire was entirely absent.

That doesn’t leave us with much. No doubt this will galvanise him into action for Boxing Day and after. The suspicion lingers that Mourinho’s tactics and approach are behind the times. He says he’s had time to think during his break from the game, and note that he’s taken on two youngish coaches, presumably  with fresh ideas. This game has shown him the nature and extent of the task ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

Spurs: A New Era. Just Give Me a Moment to Get Over the Old One

I’m old enough to know that football business is brutal and heartless, but I’m genuinely shocked at the callous way Pochettino was disposed of. Tuesday night, I turned twitter on at about 8.10 to join the reaction to the leaders’ debate, to find that Poch had been sacked. Wednesday morning,  I woke at 6.30 am and Mourinho had been appointed. And they say there are no surprises in football these days.

Another piece with a hundred introductions in the trash folder. What’s on my mind now does not correspond with how this would have looked if I had had the time to write yesterday, the day before yesterday or five minutes ago. If I had expressed my feelings on Tuesday night, the degree of fury would have been therapeutic. In hindsight, and these days in football as well as UK politics a couple of days counts as hindsight, the real surprise is not the dismissal but the way it was kept secret, because the board have clearly been planning this for a while. Mourinho’s contract signed, sealed and delivered and he’s had time to come up with gags about wearing his Spurs pyjamas as the press chuckle along. Always good copy is Jose. Let’s hope he keeps them laughing for a while longer.

So this is what I’m left with. Poch had had enough. I suspect he didn’t put up much of a fight, because his energy had dissipated to the point where the bowl of energising lemons on his desk could do the trick no longer. Not even the unfailing support of his team, his real team, Jesus, Mig and Toni, could lift him.  Key members of his squad, in whom he has invested so much and who, frankly, owe him, remained unresponsive, while his patience with his chairman was exhausted.

I won’t pick over the bones of his demise for too much longer, the last few pieces on Tottenham On My Mind went over that ground. Suffice to repeat the saying that for every complicated, complex problem, there’s a simple, straightforward answer, that’s completely wrong.

In the here and now, the old cliché about losing the dressing room applies. In previous pieces, I’ve said Poch should have been given the time and resources to make it right, but this week shows I was sadly over-optimistic and plain wrong because things were too far gone. Pochettino’s plan was holed below the waterline the summer before last, when essential rebuilding did not take place.

On the surface, Spurs were moving onwards and upwards with the enticing prospect that the best was still to come. In reality, that summer was the last opportunity to rectify the problems caused by a lack of activity in the transfer market and thereby sustain the momentum Pochettino had generated. Rebuilding is a process, not a one-off event.  From then on, lost impetus was impossible to regain. Pochettino knew – he told us. It began to translate into results around January onwards. It just took a while for the ship to sink.

This summer, Pochettino got what were said to be his top three choices in N’dombele, Sessegnon and Le Celso. These grounds for optimism were undermined, however, because the board could not move Dier, Aurier, Eriksen and Rose, which I assume was also part of Pochettino’s plans and, presumably, promised by the chairman. I strongly suspect also that Poch was expecting replacements.

His patience ran out, he found he could not motivate a squad where half of them knew they were either unwanted or had no long-term future at the club because their contracts were due to expire. He makes that clear, Levy then gets hacked off and the downward spiral descends into freefall. None of which excuses the below par performances of some players, who could and should have done better, or Pochettino’s tactical set-ups this season, where the diamond leaves the back four bereft of protection.

In the past, Levy should have acted to support his man in the market. In the present, he had to act. This truth sits alongside the harm he has caused over the years by not investing enough in the squad. Pochettino brought a record of playing good football and developing players but the suspicion lingered that Levy chose him not because he had finally learned the lessons of a succession of ill-thought out managerial appointments but because he knew the Argentinian would not be as demanding a manager as others. Someone like Jose Mourinho, for instance, to pluck a name at random.

Which begs the question, Pochettino, Sherwood, AVB, Mourinho, they all come and go but Levy’s still there. He holds the plan, the future. I’ve never met him and I’m never likely to. I know people who have, and the one thing they all say about him is that he is passionate about the club. The problem is, Levy in my view understands what is required to make Spurs a sustained force in English football but I remain unconvinced that he can choose a leader to put this into practice or that he is prepared to commit the required resources. Building and rebuilding is a process, not a one-off event. You would think he’d know this as a successful businessman, but I wonder if the majority of his work with investments and property development removes him to some extent from the process of building and rebuilding an organisation where people are the key resource.

I wish Mourinho the very best in the job. I hope he comes to understand what the club means to so many people. I don’t like him. I respected Mourinho but never liked the way he goes about his work, although in private he’s said to be warm, generous and loyal. No shrinking violet ever succeeded as a manager but does it matter that an arrogant, moaning, self-absorbed whinger is now in charge? Who took a fortune from United and left them in a right state? Who looked bored out of his wits in his last year there? Who bullied a young full-back? Where nothing that goes wrong is his fault? Who spends money like water working with Dan Levy? Remember, when he whinges on in the media about how hard done by he is, it’s our club and our fans he’s talking about.

JM doesn’t fit the Spurs culture. We don’t like preening self-publicists. We want someone who is close to the fans and who doesn’t put himself before the club. He is synonymous with the success of one of our greatest rivals and enemies. Terry Neill and George Graham came the closest to this appointment – that didn’t work out well. Spurs play expansive, attacking football – JM’s teams don’t. Also, there are practicalities. Never mind his character, at United his tactical approach looked outdated and his judgement in the transfer market was seriously flawed. United didn’t have a director of football to help the manager with transfers, and, worryingly, neither do we.

But as I say, does it matter? It begs the question of whether clubs having a culture is true. I would say damn right it is, and Martin Cloake and I wrote a book about it. Julie Welch in her lovely Spurs Biography firmly believes this, pointing out that all our achievements have come through playing and behaving in the Spurs Way. Or is this an invention to bring comfort to supporters, that in reality we are like everyone else and will accept anything to climb the greasy pole to the top?

So tomorrow, a new era begins. We move on. All the very best to Jose Mourinho, sincerely, get behind the team and up the Spurs. I love the shirt and hope he can inspire the players. In the short-term, he’ll focus on defending, which is no bad thing, and sprinkle around some bloody-mindedness, also needed.

He’s inherited the players to get the ball forward, so on the field there are grounds for optimism. He seems refreshed after his break and is saying the right things about the new challenge. The players need that too at the moment. Longer term, well, let’s see if he sticks around if Levy doesn’t allow him to spend big money. A word to the wise, Jose, don’t bang on about how Spurs were always close to your heart or some such, no supporter believes you. Just get on with it and show us what you can do.

Forgive me if I’m mourning the loss of the old era, that I’m not quite ready to move on yet. I admired Pochettino hugely. I miss him, even though I know his faults all too well and the ending was unbefitting of what had gone before. I cared about him, because he cared about the club. I wish there was some way of telling him, a site or something to gather messages. He’s just gone without saying goodbye.

The most read piece in a decade of Tottenham On My Mind was written just before the Champions League final. At the time it served as an expression of gratitude, anticipation and wonder at what Spurs had achieved and Pochettino’s pivotal role. For a long time, it felt like he could be the one, a builder of dynasties, someone who understood the club, understood us. A Nicholson for the 21st century. Where dreams became real.

Looking at it now, it reads as the Argentinian’s elegy and a lament for what might have been.  What I feel about Pochettino and his team, I can’t express any better here. He understood Spurs’ and the club’s heritage, then gave it his own interpretation. Glorious football, miraculous European nights under lights, the best team since Burkinshaw’s in the eighties, arguably since Nicholson in the late sixties. In today’s jaded, cynical materialistic football universe, he bestowed magic and wonder.

More than just understanding our heritage, he reflected it back to us. He understood the supporters. He reminded us just how much this club means, which tells us something about ourselves, deep down, and what being a Spurs fan means to who we are. he reminded us that, “without football, life is nothing.”

Team and fans have never been as close. He reminded us of the delight and wonder we felt as children when heroes in navy blue and white left us spellbound. He stayed with us as White Hart Lane crumbled under the wrecking ball. As well as a season unbeaten at home, he kept us at the top when we played nearly two seasons away. He gave us daft dad-dancing at Ajax, mirroring the uncoordinated explosions of joy in the stands and in living rooms around the globe. When we didn’t know we could be that happy or what to do, he was one of us.

Good luck, goodbye, Mauricio Pochettino. Never forgotten.