Spurs Paint A Masterpiece

The ball is played out of defence to Victor Wanyama. He’s about 40 yards from the Tottenham goal, near the touchline, facing the wrong way. Three West Brom midfielders swiftly cluster around him. The game is long gone by now, Spurs triumphant, but they sniff a chance to make something happen.

 

The Kenyan controls the pass perfectly and sways gently like long grass in the wind, shielding the ball as he does so. His opponents check back and hesitate, and in that moment Wanyama has created half a yard of space with which to first turn and then play it without fuss to an team-mate advancing in the middle.

 

Wanyama puts the defend into defensive midfielder. The guy who protects his backline at the expense of the side’s creativity. Or that’s what everyone says. Yet this solid block of muscle with football boots is airily running the midfield. I could just as easily picked any moment of any Spurs player on the ball. They reeked of self-assurance and bravura. Confidence seeping from their pores, assurance coursing through their veins.

 

We came to White Hart Lane expecting a dour struggle. Instead Spurs painted a modest masterpiece, no fanfares or bright lights but a gem for the true aficionados of the Spurs Way. Tottenham’s football flowed with grace and power, insistently inventive, always played on the run, a torrent of ideas that slowed down only for a couple of short periods in the second half, and then only to draw breath.

 

West Brom are our bogey side, shorthand for, they are highly organised and Spurs have consistently failed to break them down. Last season the 1-1 draw on a Wednesday night at the Lane saw our title momentum grind to a halt. It wasn’t the Chelsea game at all. That night we not only gave away a daft goal after going ahead, we ran out of ideas. Towards the end the players had the ball and were looking around not knowing what to do next.

 

On Saturday the contrast could not have been greater. I wouldn’t want to single out individuals: they all played to the highest standard, played for each other, played for their manager, played for the shirt. The first half was a delightful haze of movement, blurred white shirts dashing by onto passes that were invisible and impossible from the stands but crystal clear to those amidst the hurly burly on the pitch. Almost everything came off. We won the tackles and second ball, we spread fifty yard passes from boot to toecap, one-twos in the tightest of spots. Spurs had the lot.

 

This season as last, Spurs have had plenty of possession but have slowed down when we get to the edge of our opponents’ box. The big change recently, which I would argue is one of the two changes that has turned us into genuine contenders, is that we have men making runs into the box and we are finding them. I say men – Dele is barely more than boy. He’s not the only one but attacking instincts released by Pochettino, he is hard to stop and impossible to control, as Chelsea found out to here cost. Eriksen is creating an endless supply of diagonal balls into the box for him. If only his first half goal had not been offside, what a stunning memento from this match that would have been.

 

We’ll have to make do with his scooped pass for the fourth, a one-two with Kane and finished by the hat-trick striker on the volley, made because they just get each other perfectly. Kane scored three, missed another two that were easier that than the ones he put away. His body shape for his second, Spurs’ third, horizontal to get over the ball after Walker was rewarded for his refusal to give up a lost cause by the goalline. He left nothing to chance and made an awkward hit appear straightforward. His movement was a joy throughout, ghosting into space in the box where none seemed to exist, or coming off the front to allow others to move up past him.

 

The other change is of course going three at the back. For Pochettino this is primarily about the attack. It gives Spurs the platform to play, for the best pair of attacking full-backs in Europe to get forward and for Dele to have freedom. Our centre backs can all play. They eagerly pushed up into the space vacated by a retreating West Brom side, as one goes up the other moves across to cover. The sole blemish on the afternoon was Vertonghen’s injury. He beat the ground not so much in pain but in frustration that he would not be able to play for this team for some time. Right now any time out is a curse. He’s been good all season, outstanding in the last ten games.

 

Defeating West Brom was in its own way as strong an indicator of our progress as beating Chelsea. Hard to beat, we swept them away. Building up a head of steam in December and January is the new Spurs Way. Compared with last season, we are stronger physically and mentally, able to remain inventive when minds, hearts and legs grow weary, all this powered by massive self-belief. Add the improvements in individual performances – Walker, Rose, Dele, Vertonghen, Eriksen (playing so well right now) – Wanyama’s influence and the continued form of Kane, Lloris and Alderweireld, and we have become genuine contenders. Second in the league having beaten the top side two weeks ago is a good place to be.

 

When asked if this was the best performance since he took over, Pochettino agreed.Spurs v West Brom ‘17 could be become one of those ‘remember when’ performances admired by the cognoscenti and true believers, like the first half against Feyenoord in 83 or Gazza beating Oxford singlehandedly (or so it seemed) in the Cup. Not famous or a glory glory night but one of the best examples of pure Tottenham football that you could ever wish to see. Beautiful to watch.

Spurs Sweet Victory Up There With the Very Best

Last night my heart nearly burst out of my chest, I was so proud of my team. Spurs took on the champions-elect and outplayed them in every aspect of the game. Two headers from Dele Alli either side of half-time, put away with the power and finesse of a master amidst the frenzy of this derby . He’s a natural. He’s a hero. He’s twenty years old.

Last night my lungs emptied of breath, my throat turned red-raw in the chill night air. Get behind the team. Give everything. 12th man. Except Spurs, these Spurs, didn’t need a 12th man. 11 were too good for the blues.

And they needed no exhortation to give everything, because their motivation comes from deep inside. They want to be here, at our club, want to play for this manager because he looks after them, just as we look after them too. Dele scores and buries himself in the crowd. I get the safety issues, the booking, but he’ll be remembered almost as much for his reaction as the excellence of his goal. These days players bask in the adulation. They celebrate with choreographed in-jokes or luxuriate in the marvellousness of themselves. Giroud does a little dance instead of trying to win the game, because he’s just so wonderful so look at me. It’s the selfie generation oozing with narcissism. He could jump back and kiss himself.

But Dele’s first reaction is to join with the supporters and share the joy. We give to each other. Which comes, first, the fans lifting the team or the team lifting the fans? At Tottenham it’s seamless, one and the same. The players get it, get what it means to us. They are well-paid but not chasing the cash alone. It’s theirs, it’s permanent and it’s a force that could power them on to greater things, greater than even this performance, the finest of Pochettino’s era and arguably the best of the last 20 years.

Coming into this match on the back of a good run, Spurs had to lift their game to compete, or so the pre-match discussion would have it. But for this Spurs, competing isn’t good enough. They chewed up these platitudes and spat them in the faces of their opponents. They had to dominate, and they got at it from the kick-off. Our opponents had no room, no space to move or time to think. Tackling, intercepting, pressing, nipping at heels, Spurs were right at it.

Wait for it to ease off. This is Tottenham after all. Nah, not having it. It eased off only we dictated it would, in the second half when tactics changed and we cut out the high press in favour of denying space forty yards out. Disciplined, organised, alert. In control. We ran this game. We shaped the tempo, the tactics, the shape. The temperature the Chelsea kit was washed at, perhaps. That’s how much we determined the play and pattern of this victory.

This is the derby of bitterness and bile. The venom in the stands is matched apparently in the respective boardrooms. Spurs went about the act of revenging last season’s away draw with remarkable calm, their sense of purpose rising above the frenzy and foment. I can’t recall a time when they have remained so focussed when under so much pressure for 90 minutes. Nothing would get in the way of playing their very best football, all the the time. Nobody stepped out of line. There are no weak links.

It shows how far we have come in such a short period of time. At the Bridge, Tottenham disintegrated. (They still didn’t beat us, mind). After the dust settled and they washed the blood from the pitch, we said the real test was if Spurs could learn from this. Yesterday we were ice-cool in N17. Maybe though we’ll look back and see the recent away win at Southampton as significant. Poor in the first fifteen minutes, we lifted ourselves as a team and took back control even though we never played especially well.

Chelsea didn’t fancy the pressure as much. I could see it in their eyes in the second half. Hazard, world-class, missed a great early chance then drifted around in a fog of frustration rather than being consistently creative in the pursuit of a goal. Costa and Pedro had a public and protracted spat in the first half. Daniel Taylor, a fine football journalist, wrote in today’s Guardian that this showed how motivated they were. To me they looked like petulant schoolboys more concerned with being right than winning the match. I wouldn’t swap them for my Spurs.

Spurs were on top in a tight first half. Eriksen whizzed a shot past the post and Alderweireld, I think (I was there so haven’t seen a recording) failed to get his toe on the ball in the 6 yard box. Rose played a prominent part in our attacks and flew back like a man possessed to tackle and harry whenever the ball came near our box. Dembele bestrode the midfield like a conquering warrior. His run generated a stabbed pass to Kane rather than the usual blocked shot but it was a fraction heavy. More please.

Just before half-time, we drew breath. Time to be grateful for what we had achieved and go again after the break. Then Walker pushed up on the right. His way was blocked but it gave Eriksen more space because he had occupied a couple of defenders. Eriksen crossed. We don’t do crosses well, normally. But suddenly Dele is frozen in mid air. We’re right behind the arc of the header, curling away, the keeper’s arched back in despair, trying, flailing, failing to touch the ball. In a split second I can track the ball, see the keeper and begin to think, hang on, that’s going in, isn’t it. It’s in, it’s really in.

Dele left the field with 33,000 voices singing his name at the top of their voices. Listening to Talksport on the way home, John Cross from the Mirror praised him to the hilt, adding that Spurs could not hold onto him for long. Wherever in the world he goes, however long he plays, he won’t ever hear noise like that again, never be as close to the fans as in that instant, never feel as good about himself. He knows this is where he belongs, where his potential, destiny even, can be fulfilled. So why should he leave.

Chelsea began the second half brightly, the only period where they matched us. In the past, we would have folded, and have done so against lesser teams. This Spurs, Pochettino’s Spurs, kept playing. Walker again, taken out the game but touching the ball back to Eriksen. This cross was a few yards closer to the far post, Dele rose again to nod it across the keeper from a tough angle.

And that won the match. Lloris by my count had only a single save to make. Spurs meanwhile took both the chances created. Our defending was out of this world. Vertonghen excelled, Alderweireld was masterful, Rose and Walker as good at the back as they were going forward. All man of the match performances. Normally. Except this time Victor Wanyama’s second half was out of sight, the best of the best. He smoothly dropped into the back four or timed his intervention impeccably. All this on a booking too. Out of sight.

Last night Mauricio Pochettino received the ultimate accolade for any manager, the entire stadium (bar 3000 in the corner)  singing his name. More than tactics, it is having players with the wit and in-game intelligence to perform in the white-hot heat of battle. I’ve read three match reports this morning written by football journalists. Each complimented the formation,  each characterised it differently. 3-4-3, 3-5-2 or 3-4-2-1, take your pick. These apparent contradictions in fact reveal the truth, that the key is flexibility, adjusting to the position of team-mates and opponents in respect of the ever-changing position of the ball. For Poch, three at the back is an attacking formation, designed to achieve his over-riding aim to get the ball and get it forward.

As Jimmy Hughes once said, it ain’t what you got, it’s how you use it. In the second half, Spurs fell back, the high press largely replaced by a shutting down of space 35 yards from our goal. The back three rippled with movement as they covered for each other, punctuated by bursts of power as they fought to be first to every ball. Vertonghen and Alderweireld in particular were strong. Both made a series of immaculate tackles in and around the box – the nerve that takes when some of the best dribblers in the league come at you. Wanyama slipped in between them to cover any remaining gaps, late on Walker and Dier chose not to dive in, because that was the right option at that moment. Decision-making in the heat of battle.

At the same time, the three can see what’s being played out in front of them. They’re happy to take advantage of any space. I’d have been happy if Toby and Dier had stayed at home when they both made winger-type runs in the last 10 minutes, but this is what they do regardless of the time on the clock. If the chance is there, take it. If we have them outnumbered at the back, push one more forward. That’s our philosophy, push on, always push on, the new Spurs Way, same as the old way.

Give everything, be contenders, take on all-comers and give it right good go. This is what I want from my team, it’s all I ask. If they give everything and don’t scale the heights, so be it. On this outstanding showing, Spurs don’t know just how far and how high their potential can take them. A thrilling, memorable, life-affirming night at the Lane that ranks with the best of them. I love this team. Bloody love them.

Spurs Win At Saints Points To A Bright Future

Spurs’ empathic victory at Southampton on Wednesday night was a rousing, upbeat ending to the year. After a stodgy start, conceding in the opening minutes, Tottenham Hotspur took over to run the game, scoring four in the process.

That’s been the mood for December, where Tottenham have won 4 matches out of five, scoring 17 goals in the process. Three of the home games have admittedly been against teams near the bottom of the league but Spurs have swept them aside with fluent displays packed with the movement and teamwork that have been the basis of our development under Pochettino but which have gone missing at times this season.

Two of these sides, Hull and Swansea, were desperately poor, and it is a feature of the Premier League this term that unusually several sides have not prepared themselves to a level that is anywhere near acceptable to their supporters. Still, in the past we’ve been complacent versus such teams. Tottenham have apparently – I don’t count these things so I am relying on social media here – notched up more points this calendar than in any previous 12 months since the start of the Premier League. One reason is that since August we have not lost to sides below us and in most cases beaten them. Middlesboro, Stoke, West Ham, Sunderland and Palace, all beaten. We should have also defeated Leicester.

This season’s results tell the other side of the story too. Some sides have sussed us out, compacting space in front of their back four and denying us room to play. In turn, we responded ineffectually, feebly running out of ideas against Bournemouth and West Brom. This is a continuation of the pattern from April and May when the home draw against a well-organised WBA did for us even before the debacle at Newcastle.

Also, we’ve only beaten one of the sides above us, Manchester City. An away point at Arsenal will do but we were second best at Chelsea and United, while Liverpool were the better side at the Lane.

So as 2016 comes to a close, where do Spurs stand? Before it ends, stop and marvel at the wonderful football we’ve seen over the past 12 months. It’s not so much the individual moments or matches that stand out. Watching from the middle of the Shelf has been a delight as moves form from deep, whizz past me in a blur of pace and invention, the whole far more than the sum of its parts. It’s this that I will take with me as the powers fade and memories dim. As good at times as anything I have ever seen in fifty years at the Lane. That surge beginning around Christmas and lasting to March and April was sheer joy.

It’s an indication of how Tottenham’s character has changed. The traditional focus on the star men, players who provided sheer class and enjoyment deserve to be remembered, are worthy of recall because they stood out from the dross around them. Now we have a team in the full and proper sense of the word, and that is our greatest strength.

Yet it does not feel like that. We fell away in April and May, the frustration at what might have been masking our achievements. We were never going to catch Leicester – our early season form left us too far behind – but the manner in which we fell away hurt, no question, because it dented pride in a bunch of marvellous, promising and over-achieving young players. The frustration, which has tainted appreciation of the team this season, comes from not being able to supplant a stark truth of being a Spurs fan – watching Tottenham is forever laced with disappointment. This was what we had overcome, more than being title challengers or who we beat – being a Spurs fan meant fulfilment. We glimpsed what this means and how it feels, only for it to be snatched away from us in the brutality of a season’s climax.

Cold hard reality – the youngest side in the PL over-achieved. Given our lack of experience, we had no right to be there in the first place and it is testament to everyone involved, players, manager, scouts and coaches, that we did so well. This season, more frustration because we have not kicked on as we had hoped. As ever, the PL is sub-divided into several mini-leagues. Their criteria differ from the norm, however. At the bottom there are several sides woefully unprepared  – Swansea, Hull and Sunderland, all caused by shabby leadership and decision-making at board level. Burnley and Boro are with them but better organised on and off the field. Note both have not changed manager in the last 18 months.

Then there’s a division between those who have improved and those who have stagnated. Saints, Stoke, Leicester and Everton differ in quality and status but have in common this lack of development from last season’s promise. Manchester United were in this groupuntil recently. Liverpool and Chelsea on the other hand, again from different starting points and resource bases, have improved considerably, joining Arsenal and City at the top.

Which leaves Spurs where we deserve to be. Sound, playing well enough – mostly – without a discernible improvement from last season. This keep us above the pack without as yet enabling a concerted challenge on those above us. It’s not a bad place to be. It is however a warning to guard against the debilitating frustration that comes from unrealistic expectations.

It’s not so much the case that Spurs have not developed, more that we have not developed together. The back five have been outstanding. Walker and Rose astonish every game – Rose was remarkable again on Wednesday – and December’s upturn in form has been in large part due to the width this pair provide, plus the timing of their runs. Both have also learned to use their pace in our box as well as that of the opposition.

Creating chances at the other end has been more of a problem. Kane, Dier, Dembele and Alli in their very different ways have not maintained their form of last season. That’s our influential spine when we have possession, so a loss. Last season we could take anyone on provided everyone was at their peak. There seemed to be no slack. Dembele can influence a side like no other midfielder in the league. He’s been good but not invincible as he appeared so frequently last season, perhaps a more realistic place to be. Kane was weary in May and needed time.

For Dele, it’s that difficult second season. No coincidence that his goals and upturn in form in the last few games is linked to his keeping it simple, movement, playing it off rather than backing into players to perform a magic turn or get a free-kick. Too often he looks for the foul, which takes him out of the game and stops our movements more effectively than any defender could. On Wednesday Jamie Redknapp’s manspreading told us we are ‘lucky to have him’. It’s not luck, you idiot, we scouted him and offered the best chance of progress – we looked after him and he knows it.

Wanyama has impressed but Dier is better if we are playing one DM. He should be given that place and groomed to be our midfield leader, bossing the centre and telling team-mates what to do.

We are also where we are because of a comparative lack of investment. The time to buy is when the team is doing well to freshen the squad and guard against complacency. Spurs continue to seek value and potential. Janssen has both but despite being an international is one for the future. He has a different style compared with Kane and will come on once he starts to score. We declined to buy experience or go for a couple of established top-class players.

Then there is Sissoko. Forget the price – supply and demand in the modern football world distorts reality like a shape-shifter in Dr Who. Means nothing. What is important is what he can bring. As disappointing as his early performances was the reaction of many fans who seemed delighted to write him off before he’d started a handful of matches. He came with baggage, although thankfully not at least half a stone of excess he carried at Newcastle.

This was always all about what Poch could give him. He responded poorly to begin with and the manager publicly slapped him down by not selecting him or bringing him on as sub when Spurs were coasting. Lashing out in the Bournemouth game for no reason told you everything you needed to know about his state of mind.

That was then. Now, coming from no pre-season, he looks sharp and is beginning to understand what Pochettino wants from him. Already he has three or four assists. In each of the last three matches he’s produced sublime passes. The ball to Dele that resulted in the penalty versus Saints was the definition of inch-perfect.

Eriksen remains our key man. He aligns workrate – consistently runs further than anyone else – and the ability to make and take chances. More assists in this calendar year than anyone in the PL, did I read? He doesn’t make the most of every opportunity, hence the irritation at times, but a steady touch and he can be the creative force we crave.

So we are where we are. I will forgive Pochettino for talking about ‘the project’. We’ve signed the entire squad bar a couple to long-term contracts. We don’t offer anywhere near what other teams do, which means in turn we will never attract those established stars I wished for above. What we can do is keep what we have and that ink on paper shows the faith these players have in their manager and their team-mates. United wanted Kane and Walker. Both could double their current salaries. At least. But they aren’t interested. That is mindbendingly out of synch with the modern world, but Pochettino’s Tottenham offers something more valuable. Let’s hope we can keep him – there’s a transfer market for managers too.

At the start of this season, Pochettino said that “It is not tactical, it is not philosophical… It is here in our heads that we need to improve.” Being hard while at the same time remaining creative to find a way past tight defences, creating resilience to hang on to a lead or not give away silly goals, or in our case especially, needless free-kicks. This should be our aim. The manner in which we dominated Southampton for 75 minutes could be as significant as the points. We weren’t playing that well but got hold of the ball. The tempo could have been higher but it meant we controlled the game first, then went on to score the goals.

That said, Pochettino has plans B and C, at least. We’ve gone 4-1-4-1 and three at the back to increase attacking options. Subs have been used effectively too, with Son up front and the highly promising Winks in midfield giving options rather than more of the same.

In the meantime, beware of inflated expectations, and enjoy what we have. A Happy and peaceful New Year to all Tottenham On My Mind readers. Apologies for a few gaps this year, not always easy to find the time or indeed anything new to say, but then again, that’s never stopped me before. Thanks again – could not do this without you.

Spurs, Wembley and Fears For The Shape of Things to Come

This has been a decent week for Spurs fans. Two thumping victories, one of which was the most one-sided Premier League match ever, statistically at least. The 8 goals were the product of a return to the flowing attacking football that was a feature of last season’s success yet has often eluded us this time around. Rose and especially Walker were excellent, Alli a growing influence playing high, Eriksen too coming into a bit of form. Son’s goal against Swansea was a beauty, but for me it’s Kane who caught the eye. Rejuvenated after a much needed break – his injury could be the best thing that’s happened to Spurs  lately – he’s sharp in front of goal, his movement a delight. We’ll put to one side the weakness of both opponents and the bucketload of chances missed on Wednesday to enjoy this after a sticky few weeks. And Toby is back!

 

Which leaves us a moment to ponder two enduring controversies, participation in the Europa League and playing at Wembley. It’s said that for every complicated, complex question there is a simple, straightforward answer – that’s completely wrong. But to cut through the blather and froth, let’s stick to the basics. The EL is a cup competition – play to win it. Wembley isn’t right for Spurs but it’s the only option so make the best of it. No, better than that, embrace it as a chance for players to shine and fans to get behind their team.

 

Granted the EL group stages appear part of football’s governing bodies’ long-term aim to suck every ounce of joy from this wonderful game. But this is straight knock-out, two legs, home and away, under lights. This is classic European football, as it always was. At Spurs we glory in the UEFA Cup triumphs, especially Anderlecht at home in 84 and the Cup-Winners’ Cup in ’63. Nobody says, ‘The UEFA Cup was only a secondary competition, cups are not a priority on the continent.’ Win something. Trust me, it feels good. Also, it’s time for this team to taste some success as part of their development. There’s nothing like winning something for players and fans alike. We don’t start again until February, by which time we can take stock of what is happening in the league and FA Cup. I’m growing weary of being locked into this commitment to futility where the aim is qualify for a tournament we can’t win so we can qualify again, and so on and so on. The lack of squad depth hampers a tilt at all three but it is not impossible. Better to aim high, did someone say?

 

Martin and I are delighted and honoured that A People’s History of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club has made the Guardian List of Best Sports Books 2016. It’s a tribute to the vibrant, passionate, challenging and loyal support of generations of Spurs fans. Thank you.

 

It’s been suggested to me that this is all part of a cunning plan, that all along the EL has been Pochettino’s target. He’s spoken in this week’s press conference of the EL as a target.  This is why he’s not played full-strength teams in the CL – we were never going to get too far so go for a more realistic target plus get top four, which generates more income than going to the CL knock-outs but finishing 5th or below. This implies Levy has had a hand on the tiller, mindful of the bill for the new stadium. Overused saying alert, but I tend to go for cock-up not conspiracy as a rule and don’t buy that argument. I do think Poch wants to keep his options open. If we had qualified without too much effort, so be it, but he’ll take the EL. Fact is, he does not prioritise cups but may re-think, in my view should re-think. Any which way, he’ll get to February then make some choices.

 

Wembley is partly about the here and now, partly a taste of things to come. The pros and cons of playing there are well-rehearsed but worth restating. For the CL, as I understand there was effectively no alternative. Technically it was possible but given the reduced capacity, lowered still further by UEFA rules for segregation of away fans, press and seats at the front it would have been a push to accommodate all season ticket holders, let alone go to members. The EL would be little different.

 

Next season, no one wants us. British football tribalism means sharing in London is impossible. Stratford is nominally public but West Ham made it impossible for that to be considered. If Milton Keynes was ever a realistic possibility, the problems in getting home from Wembley would pale into insignificance compared with a late finish in MK and anyway soon people would complain about playng matches in a small League 1 ground. Let’s get real about this.

 

So Spurs fans did what we have always done, from the 1880s and the Southern League onwards. We get there, get in and get behind the team. There’s carping about the support but just take moment. Not our ground, not easy to get to, record attendances for a British club match. 83,406 tickets sold for the Moscow game, and for a dead rubber over 62,000 people turned up. 62,000 Spurs fans. Atmosphere doesn’t come easy but Spurs took it on. Huge kudos to the block in the West corner who sang ‘being a yid’ for most of the second half. Brilliant.

 

I think that much of the angst around Wembley is about the future rather than the present. This as yet largely unspoken anxiety is better brought out in the open. Football fans don’t like change. We embrace the familiar, the comfortable. It’s not just about the football, it’s about pre- and post-match routines, who we sit with and where we sit, making the best of the journey. People complain about Wembley travel and rightly so but the Lane is hard to reach for the majority of us yet we do it because it’s worth it and because we’ve worked out a way to deal with it.

 

This is the thing. They are our choices, our routines, our decisions. I don’t like queuing at Wembley but 61,000 people getting away from the new Lane will be a neverending nightmare, yet we’ll do it because it’s our nightmare. These are hugely important to every football fan of every club, yet seldom articulated. Wembley takes them all away. Where do you eat, drink and bump into people even if they are not mates. Who do you sit with, and where? I am petitioning the club to put me at least 400 yards away from the bloke who sat in Wembley block 141 row 26 seat 232 or else I am not responsible for my actions. I don’t know Arthur, Steve, Mark, Dennis, Jackie, Derek or Graham outside football but I want to sit with them as I do at Spurs because it’s a great way to watch the team. This lies at the heart of the fan experience and we fear it will disappear, that our choices will taken away from us.

 

And underlying that is the growing realisation that as the home games run out, being a Spurs fan will never be the same again. I’m welling up writing this sentence, because it’s the first time I am committing these thoughts to the keyboard and thereby making them public. However good the new ground is, it will never be the same again. Maybe I’m over the top with this, because the club means so much to me, but I’m being honest. We fear those long-term changes too.

 

So let’s confront this. Enjoy Wembley, make the best of it. Let’s do what Spurs fans have always done, turn up and get behind the team. It’s part of our supporter DNA. Whether Wembley is full or not is immaterial. Keep prices down and get people in. And I may be a soppy, sentimental old lag, but the day my heart fails to lift at the sight of Wembley Way full of Spurs fans is the day I stop going. That’s not likely to happen for a long, long time.

Christmas is coming. Vision Sports have two outstanding Spurs books, The Lane, a sumptuous large-size history of the ground by Martin Cloake and Adam Powley, good friends of the blog, and Cliff Jones’ autobiography. Reviews to come very soon. Until January the Lane is only available from the club shop in person and mail order – it’s gorgeous.

Hear Martin and I talking about the history of our supporters on the Fighting Cock podcast