Kane Defies Expectations: Shame Some Still Don’t Get It. And Tottenham On My Mind is Changing


Tottenham On My Mind is changing gear. Most of my 529 posts since June 2009 have been written around a Spurs match but that’s become too much of a stretch. Last Saturday instead of watching Spurs play West Ham, I was in Crawley buying my wife a mobility scooter. There’s a message there somewhere, one that I can’t ignore. Over and above the obvious one of not spending Saturdays in Crawley, that is.

I almost pressed the delete button but this is called Tottenham On My Mind because it is. That stuff swirling around in my head is not going to disappear, and the pressure cooker needs an escape valve. Maybe the trick is to regulate that valve to take account of all the other things I have to do, like earning a living and that. Writing about Spurs on the blog, pleasing myself what I write, not monetised, just me (LOVE receiving emails addressed to the editorial team) – it’s part of me after all this time so stopping won’t help.

So the blog is still here but I won’t write about every game. Pieces may be few and far between or spew out like slurry from a fractured sewer. Like the one below, for instance.

I’m doing other Spurs stuff. Researching how fan attitudes have changed over the last 35 years. I’m also involved in a new book Legends of the Lane, which carries in-depth interviews with many past Spurs legends, more info here: https://www.facebook.com/LegendsOfTheLane/

Martin Cloake and I had the great pleasure of talking about A People’s History of Tottenham Hotspur with London cultural legend Robert Elms on his BBC London radio show, should be on his page for a couple of weeks, and I’ve filmed something for a US cable series on English football fandom, based around last Saturday’s game.

Heartfelt thanks to the many regular readers and commenters who help make this an authentic blog for fans. Apologies that I can’t make Tottenham On My Mind part of your match routine any longer, hope that you stay with me. Posts come up on twitter @spursblogger and Newsnow, or on the sidebar you can get an RSS feed or email notifications.

Warm regards, Alan

Up the Spurs!


It seems to me that Spurs’ recent success has upset a few people.  The old Tottenham, you knew where you were with them. A club with heritage but a great future behind us. Twenty-odd transitional seasons in a row, constantly failing to live up to expectations. The UEFA Cup was tailor-made for us, the competition for teams who aren’t good enough. Echoes of glory first taunted us then became the sound of silence as we took stock for another year of more of the same.

After a while, fans wrapped ourselves up in the cosy familiarity of it all, comfort blankets of self-deprecation and fatalistic humour, of being spursy, to keep out the icy chill of envy as neighbours from down the road and west London did rather better. And throughout we stayed loyal, turned up, proud to be Spurs, never wanted to be like them.

We knew our place, then we were good and it all went wrong. Wrong that is for those who wouldn’t accept that things had changed, changed not through the largesse of dodgy foreign billionaires but because we got it about right. Good players and a manager who could make them better, who could make them believe in him and themselves. Living within our means. No coincidence that rivalry with Chelsea and West Ham has become white hot since we had the nerve to be good.

Sections of the media have had trouble adjusting too. Fans are fond of accusing the media of being biased against their club and theirs alone, and many Spurs fans would agree with such allegations but I doubt it’s accurate. Supporters of every club say the same – recently I’ve seen this taken for granted in social media debates amongst Manchester United and Chelsea fans. The media needs United like it needs no other side because of their power to raise viewing figures, sell papers and generate clicks.

The media frame their perceptions in terms of their narrative. It’s the same for every club, just a different narrative. For twenty or more years, Spurs played out the narrative I’ve described above. Pundits and journalists knew where they were with it. Being different has confused some of them. In response, some of them want to keep the narrative at the expense of reality.

Which brings me to Matt Hughes’ article in yesterday’s Times. Not the Star or the S*n, the Times, and yes, to someone of my generation that still matters. Hughes says Spurs are no longer the right club for Harry Kane because he’s too good for us.

“Put bluntly it appears that Kane’s talent and personal accomplishments could soon outgrow those of Spurs particularly given the financial and squad-building restrictions caused by building the club’s new stadium, although whether he recognises that as yet is uncertain. Given Tottenham have won just one trophy in the last 18 years – the 2008 League Cup – it is questionable whether the club is the fitting stage for his talents.”

What is most questionable about this piece are misleading assumptions about the club, the player and the imperatives of contemporary football upon which it is based. Tottenham are battling to be better, to be contenders. Undoubtedly Levy’s financial restrictions make this task harder but right now we’re in there fighting. Stadium costs impede efforts in the short term but ensure long-term growth. Nothing seems further from Hughes’ mind than the possibility we might crack this one. I’m a realist: Wembley diminishes our chances of league honours, a lack of progress means our top players will be vulnerable to transfer bids, which diminishes our chances, and so on and so it goes. Equally, there is a legitimate alternative scenario where this side matures and develops into a real force with a future secured by vastly higher income streams. And so that goes too.

Then there is Kane himself. The article acknowledges that he is happy at Tottenham. However, this is supposedly outweighed by his comparatively low salary (Andre Gray and Nathaniel Clyne earn more than he does, to put his wages in perspective) and the rumoured resentment amongst his team-mates created by his acceptance of such a contract, which depresses wages for everyone else allegedly.

Thus the fact Kane is happy at Spurs is characterised as irrelevant and frankly odd. Look again at the quote above: “whether he recognises that as yet is uncertain.” Hughes will not accept that Kane can think clearly for himself. That sentence reeks of contempt.

Here’s a thought. Harry has made his own mind up that he is content with his lot in life at the moment. On top form, he wants to be part of Pochettino’s Tottenham. He lives with his new baby near his extended family, and a decent living it is too.

Elsewhere in the piece Hughes says clearly that Kane’s loyalty could hinder his career. For Hughes, loyalty, the quality perhaps most valued by supporters, both in our own identity as Spurs fans and in our players, is denigrated then dismissed.

Kane could earn a lot more elsewhere. If he left, I’d wish him well. What infuriates me is the dismissal of the notion that there is value in where his life is at right now. It’s a decent package: home life, the club who have looked after him and coached him to become the player he is, a manager with faith in him. And a crowd who adore him, who sing ‘he’s one of our own’ and mean it. To a bloke like Harry, that matters too. Kane has integrity and honesty. Those qualities don’t hold him back, they make him the man and the player he has become.

This article is about Harry Kane but the narrative holds across much football punditry. That all good players must inevitably end up at one of Europe’s few elite clubs. Kane’s performances are greeted each week on Sky TV with the grating story, ‘he’s due a move to a bigger club.’ I’m looking at you Jamie Redknapp. Many in the media are quick to employ another popular narrative with professional footballers, that they are over-paid, aloof, distant from fans and from the real world, only in it for the money. Yet when a conflicting story comes along, they are quick to reinforce this stereotype and say that money is what matters. I look forward to the article saying that Kane breaks the mould, that he’s a role model on and off the pitch, a professional footballer who understands his roots, knows what really matters in life, cares about his performances and about the supporters.

I’ll wait.

Spurs Still Have Some Growing Up To Do

Spurs’ failure to close out a scratchy win on Sunday leaves an odour that will hang around for a fortnight, due to the wretched international break. This late capitulation seems to have brought comfort to many, although not to me. On the train home, a bloke who hadn’t seen the game but knew the score laughed along with the fans next to us. “I knew it, just knew it! Same old Tottenham, always rely on them to let you down!” He was relieved to be in such familiar territory, sentiments echoed in queues to get home and on social media, fans who with ten minutes to go were certain we would concede.

Except last season the Tottenham we know and love weren’t like that at all. We were scorers of late goals, miraculous at times like Swansea away. Fewest goals conceded in the PL. Unbeaten at home. Remember? Many appear to have problems coming to terms with the fact that we’re good.

Granted on Sunday it looked as if we had turned the clock back to Pochettino’s first season, at times even to AVB. However, Spurs have changed for the better and rightly we have come to expect more from this group. What is of concern is that so far we are not kicking on from last season.

Difference between old Spurs and Poch’s Spurs – goals, good football, sound defence. The real difference though is the mindset that underpins this approach. The team played like winners. They believed in themselves, as a unit able to beat the best the Premier League can offer, in team-mates who relied on each other.

For long periods on Sunday, this belief was entirely absent. Instead of going out to run the game, we sat back and fiddled around a bit. First half was entirely forgettable. The highlight was Hugo managing a kick more than 10 yards into the Burnley half.

We began the second half in the same frame of mind but Dele’s goal came early, bringing  relief rather than the anticipated confidence surge. It was only until around 70 minutes that we really imposed ourselves on the game. Sissoko was on, replacing an ineffective Son, his talents dulled by a disrupted close season. and looking good going forward. He set up Eriksen who couldn’t convert. Kane had three opportunities, Dele another one, keeper Heaton in fine form.

Meanwhile, at the other end nothing much had happened. Burnley seemed baffled by our offside trap and weren’t connecting with far-post crosses from the right. However, ominously they had three openings where they were given far too much space. On one occasion, Lloris dashed from his goal to make the tackle of the game just outside the box.

Ten minutes left, the game was ours to win but Spurs were having none of it. Our composure, so carefully nurtured over the past three seasons, deserted us. Instead of shepherding the ball to safety, Spurs felt compelled to make lousy choices and give it away. As the corner flags waved invitingly, we opted for long balls forward that the Burnley centre halves won easily. The danger came down our right as their left back piled forward but in the end, it was a cross from the right and poor marking that did for us.

The last few seasons have seen the side evolve to the point where we could control games for extended periods and deal with opponents’ inevitable good spells with few disasters. This is the hallmark of a top side, of winners. The next step was to consistently take that into the big games, the cup semi-final being an example of where we went wrong and an incentive to get it right. So far this season, we’ve not taken this forward. Early days but we’re not imposing ourselves and in the final ten minutes on Sunday, we were downright shaky. Basic lessons of keeping possession and closing a game out deserted us. With due respect to a decent Burnley side, it was not as if we lost our faculties under intense pressure either.

Pochettino didn’t have a good last quarter. While I admire his attacking instincts in bringing Sissoko on, this weakened our formation when we didn’t have possession. Poch has taught Son and Lamela when to curb their urge to get forward but Sissoko hasn’t learned the lesson. At the same time, he moved Dier in between Jan and Toby so we had basically a back five. Again, a bit of caution feels good to me, except that with Sissoko and without Dier, we surrendered too much of the midfield at a significant moment in the game.

Without much protection, Trippier’s defensive faults were exposed. This was hardly Walker’s strength but he learned to improve both his starting position and how to make lung-bursting recovery runs to get back. Burnley exploited Trippier’s positional uncertainty. He stayed tight when he had three centre halves covering him, then failed to see scorer Woods’ run.

There’s an air of uncertainty and irritability around the whole club at the moment. Wembley just makes us yearn for the Lane all the more. The transfer window is taking shape, at last. We’re buying promise and talent, fine investments on and off the pitch but it means the drive and resilience must come from within the existing squad. Buying one or two proven, experienced players would help to put right the faults I’ve talked about.

We’ve not started well but there’s still time. However, the question remains, if Poch wanted to go three at the back and Levy was prepared to spend a lot of money on Sanchez, should this deal have been done in the summer? Also, as yet no strikers on the horizon. Poch is looking for upgrades all round, surely Janssen does not meet his standards. Spurs have the cash to pay the fees but Levy’s self-imposed salary cap restricts the players willing to come to us, hence the late buying spree as players accept they won’t get better offers from elsewhere. Two days left so we’ll hold judgements for now.

I made a lame joke a couple of weeks ago on the E-Spurs podcast, something about Spurs’ poor management of the transfer window and how we could outdo ourselves by signing a player who was banned from entering the country. Until today, it looked as if I meant it. However, the man in question, fullback Serge Aurier, is about to hold up a Spurs shirt in a happy, slightly embarrassed way as befits all new signings. I know this because the man himself tweeted a series of fire emoticons. This is modern football.

Aurier is by all accounts a fine player, muscular, quick, has stamina, who will fill the fullback role crucial to Pochettino’s tactics. He’s also guilty of homophobic comments, undermining his manager and team-mates and has a conviction for assaulting a police officer.

I’m concerned that the club are prepared to consider signing a man with this record. The answer is ‘expediency’, at least on the surface. He’s good and half the price of the man he replaces. In terms of the club’s identity, I question whether that’s a sound enough reason.

Much has been said about Aurier’s off the field record. There’s the standard excuse that the only thing that matters is what happens on the pitch. That his comments indicate a misguided young man rather than a rampant homophobe. This translates as, the homophobic comments don’t matter very much, and to me that’s an unacceptable argument. And he’s been convicted of assaulting a police officer.

Levelled against this line of argument is the charge of hypocrisy. Gazza and Van der Vaart are lauded as club heroes, when both are guilty of domestic violence. I’m not excusing their behaviour but this is about the club, not the fans. We didn’t sign them knowing they were violent towards women. Also, apparently it’s ok because in a match Aurier once helped save the life a player who collapsed. Good, it shows another side of his character, although not mitigation for other behaviour.

The most ridiculous argument I read on social media was something about Steven Gerrard assaulting a young man in a nightclub and going on to play for his country. Again, we’re not signing Gerrard. All of this is irrelevant to the central issue, Tottenham’s decision to buy him.

We like to speak of the Hotspur and its fans having a distinct identity. We’re loyal, loud and proud, of our heritage, of sticking to values of playing good football, of turning up in the doldrum years when things weren’t going well, latterly of bringing our own through and not buying into the instant gratification and hubristic entitlement sadly prevalent in the modern generation of football fans.

We like to think this makes us different from the rest. Not much, we want trophies and glory after all, we want a new ground, we want Levy to spend some money, but different enough. We like to think, for instance, that we would not have defended John Terry’s or Suarez’s alleged racism, or bought players who have been in prison for certain offences. That we are a crowd where racism is not tolerated.

That the club considered Aurier’s signing shows we’re the same as all the rest, and it’s this that disappoints me. All this is meaningless because we’re desperate for a fullback. Spurs have welcomed the LGBT supporters club and valued their contribution both to combatting discrimination in football and to the atmosphere at games, yet they appear to tolerate homophobia. To them, I imagine it’s meaningless and insulting. Not words from the terrace but the attitude of the football club.

One mitigating factor is relevant, however. Aurier is a young man. He can learn, and deserves another chance. If he helped a fellow player, maybe he has a good heart, so here’s what I’d do. The club should tell him as a condition of his contract to make a public statement acknowledging that his past behaviour was wrong, that he’s learned from that and apologises. More than that, insist that he does something active to show he means it. Help out in the Spurs Foundation, who do excellent work in the community, including with people with a criminal past. Set up a meeting with LGBT supporters. Start a dialogue. Be a mensch. Grow up within this club and understand what our heritage means. THFC, you are the employer, you can say that this should be so. It’s easy if you mean it.



Spurs Fail to Learn Their Lesson

The home game that’s away. The club that goes unbeaten for an entire season then demolishes the ground. This doesn’t feel right.

The Bakerloo line to Wembley Central is easy enough. Too easy. There’s nobody on the train, the dingiest of lines with old-fashioned carriages and 40-watt bulbs. Never mind saving energy, it’s sapping mine. The journey is part of the match for fans. The buzz, the chatter, rubbing shoulders with strangers who are friends because they wear navy blue and white. Smelling the booze, the sweat, the fags, all set the scene, whet the appetite. This is merely another tube, destination suburbia, our companions mostly central London workers with tired eyes going home after the early shift. Thank goodness for the bloke in the t-shirt, a picture of Bob Marley in Spurs gear, just about the sole reminder that Spurs are at home today.

Then burst into daylight and the first sight of the stadium. Both lift the spirits. The Lilywhites are here and so are we. Except it feels like a cup semi-final. 19 semi-finals this year, then. The Trust twitter feed has been fun this week with a stream of reminders to fellow supporters, at first plaintive then increasingly desperate, that this is a Spurs home game and there are no designated pubs for home and away support, so I’m not the only one.

It’s better once we’re in. Seeing the same faces and greeting them like lost long relatives gives a sense of stability and continuity. I’ve seen them every fortnight for the last 16 years, don’t know the names of most of them, but they remain part of my life. Spoke to Karen, I now know her name to be Karen, like old friends we are. Never said a word to her until now.

We have been lucky enough to move with the people we have always sat with, except oddly the seat allocation has been reversed, so the people who were on my left on the Shelf are now on my right. This is surprisingly disorienting. Football support is about familiarity, routines, they’re comfortable, we wear them like a favourite old overcoat to feel snug and protect us against the intrusions of the outside world. That’s why we go to football. Isn’t it?

Kick-off is imminent. A thought shared. There are a touch off 70,000 Spurs fans here, and we can make a hell of a noise if we put our mind to it. Not like a semi-final at all. And one thing above all else. Results, players, managers, none mean as much as being there. When I look around just before kick-off, let the atmosphere wash over me, and think there’s somewhere else in the world I would rather be, then that’s the time to say goodbye. Not yet. Not for a long time. Home is where the Hotspur play.

In the end, it felt more like a home game that I expected. The noise when it came was mighty, deafening when we scored, but this is new to all of us and there were flatspots too. The fans sort things out for ourselves and that takes time. Everyone has been moved around, from my seat on the halfway line the efforts of those at our end were much appreciated and loud and clear. The Park Lane/Shelfside thing, made me feel at home.

So the amplified drum beat – that actually happened, right? Not a figment of the dark recesses of my imagination, a fever-ridden nightmare? The Chels fans chanted WTF was that and they were right. Nobody joined in and mercifully it was substituted at half-time, hopefully never to be heard again.

Football clubs still do not get supporters. The history of fans – any club, from parkland to the Noucamp – is we do want we want. We choose when to sing and what to sing. The decision of someone at Spurs that playing a drumbeat over the tannoy is going to energise the atmosphere is on one level laughable, on another a measure of the disturbing lack of understanding that exists from clubs in respect of their supporters. They did not consult the Supporters Trust – why ask the fans what they want. It’s that simple, yet the club doesn’t get it. Another desperate moment in the undistinguished relationship between club and fans in this crucial season away from home and when we all feel discomfited.

To fulfil their true potential, this season Spurs must accomplish consistently two things that in the past have eluded us, namely impose themselves on teams and cut out the mistakes. Everything else flows from there. Take chances of course, but first make the chances. The way we’re playing, chances will always come. Stay strong in those periods, and there will always be periods, when the other team are on top.

Matches against Ch**sea, the most bitter of our rivals, the nasty game, the bring-them-on game, these games have become the benchmark of how close we are to satisfying that potential. At home, at White Hart Lane that is, we learned the knack. Two seasons ago the mistakes came only after we’d scored five glorious goals. Last season in a skintight match we scored twice from as many chances in the whole match but took it to them from the start and they was no comeback in their hearts.

Last season’s semi-final showed how much we still have to learn. Justified expectation evaporated with a free-kick conceded by Alderweireld’s uncharacteristically poor judgement under pressure and a free-kick sliced into the top corner. Uphill from 6 minutes, our efforts to chase the game were in vain and I’ve drawing a veil round that penalty and Son’s excuse for a tackle.

Yesterday we were imposing for long periods but the mistakes did for us. One out of two is progress but not enough. The result was defeat, and defeat in the worst possible way. It’s one thing being beaten, but losing after being the better team, after hopes raised by a late equaliser then skewered by an even later winner, that’s bad. I still feel the pain.

The game took a while to get going then Spurs were the team who rose above the midfield morass that this match had become. But don’t make mistakes. Another free-kick conceded without undue pressure on the defence, superbly converted by Alonso. And now we’re running uphill.

To their great credit, Spurs lifted themselves and played extremely well either side of half-time. Kane it was who lead the charge, singlehandedly taking on the defence, shooting, lay-offs, dribbles, sometimes delicate, at other times stumbling forward under the weight of the tackles but always forward. He narrowly missed then hit the post. These are trademark moves from him and we expect these cross-shots to go in. Perhaps he’s falling away ever so slightly on contact with the ball.

We needed to put pressure on their reorganised defence. Despite the lack of space – everybody back behind the ball – we managed to find the gaps between their three centre backs to make the opportunities. Dembele charging forward, Eriksen looking to prise open a gap, Dele not part of the action. All the action was at the Blues’ end.

Gradually however our opponents stifled our efforts. A goal up, they could fall back to soak up the pressure. Effectively playing five at the back, those channels dried up. They forced us into the middle, broke up the attacks. We had all the ball but insufficient nouse. The selection of two DMs, Dier and Wanyama, was intended to create a solid platform against the champions. By this point, it left us short of creativity and options, compounded by Wanyama giving the ball away repeatedly.

Frankly we were getting nowhere, then a stroke of luck. Batshuayi on as sub had clearly not got his bearings. His near-post header was firm, decisive and perfectly executed, except into his own net. For all the world he looks as if he genuinely lost his head for a moment and though he was scoring for his team not against them, such was the intent behind the header.

A draw was the least we deserved. Then mistake upon mistake. Wanyama brought the ball out of defence but before we could draw breath after a sigh of relief, he gave it away. Alonso, dashing forward, shot through Lloris at his near post. If he had stood still it would have hit his knee, leg, torso, any part of his body would do. Instead, Hugo attempted to plunge his right hand downwards to push it away and obligingly moved his leg out of the way.

Positives and problems. Those spells either side of half-time showed how we can dominate matches and, without being at our most fluent, create chances against an 11-man defence intent on re-introducing the tackle from behind, without being at our most fluent. Kane was an outstanding leader.

Wanyama’s lack of a full pre-season became glaringly obvious as the game went on. Dier had little influence alongside him. And how we missed Walker and Rose. The merits of Trippier and Davies are immaterial – they’re not as good as Walker and Rose. The former should not have been sold, the latter needs to be brought back into the team as soon as he is fit, regardless of his rubbish interviews. Kyle and Danny offered stamina and pace as well as width, and how we need all three of those qualities when we were chasing the game in the second half. Without them, Spurs are far less potent an attacking force, and I worry about this in games to come. Dembele and Dele spent periods going out wide when like paperclips to magnets they are drawn to central areas, unbalancing the side and wasting their prodigious talents.

Hoodoo? No such thing. Play better is all. It will be hard. Home advantage has not disappeared but has been diminished and teams will lift their game because it’s Wembley.

Rusty Spurs Back in the Groove After Geordies Pay Stamp Duty

Spurs cantered to victory over Newcastle yesterday with two goals from Dele Alli and Ben Davies, well-made and well-taken. Kyle Walker-Peters accomplished debut in place of the injured Trippier augers well for the future and on a weekend when I must have missed the new-season PL directive banning defending, our back four were composed and confident.

Tottenham On My Mind has begun the season fearing that Spurs will not take advantage of the opportunities available to bolster the squad and develop this talented team. It was refreshing and frankly a relief to get going and have something substantial to talk about. While Spurs have sterner tests to come, there were promising signs to show we are picking up where we left off at the end of last season. If Dele, Kane and Dier didn’t exactly sparkle, the shape and solidity of the side was evident and Eriksen, the creative hub, is right in the groove already. This is our big advantage, whether by accident or design a settled a side as others scramble to make changes.

After containing Tottenham in the first half, the Geordies wasted all their effort and training-ground planning when Shelvey petulantly stamped on Dele as he sat on the floor after a tackle, in full view of the ref. The Spurs player held onto the ball but there was nothing much going on: the Newcastle captain was obviously on the shortest of fuses. At that point Spurs were the better side but weren’t making serious inroads into the Newcastle box. Eriksen had had a fine match but even he was reduced to shooting from further and further out as the half went on. It made things so much more straightforward.

The real difference between the sides, though, was Spurs’ ability to inject moments of class into a torpid, ordinary game. Two of those moments resulted in goals and won the match. Dele broke the deadlock, making first space around the box and then the run between defenders. Eriksen found him with another of his pinpoint diagonal passes, then Dele made an awkward high touch look the simplest thing in the world. But that pass, curling and precise, was a thing of great beauty.

For the second, suddenly Spurs ramped up the tempo and following an exchange of high-speed short passes Ben Davies popped up to score with a low shot from his wrong foot. Danny Rose’s agent must have been sick at the sight of it.

In the first half, Newcastle looked an organised side able to put Benitez’s plan into action and make the most of their limited attacking resources. They concentrated on our right side where debutant Walker-Peters was unlikely to get much protection from Moussa Sissoko in front of him. If anything, they got to our back four a little too easily at times, looking to get Gayle into the channel between KWP and Alderweireld and stretching us without forcing Lloris to do much more than scoop up a few crosses.

Up front, our movement was fluent with Sissoko and Eriksen swapping sides and Dele finding space but wasting it by being obsessed with flicks and late touches that the centre halves gobbled up. However, this had little impact on the Newcastle goal during a first half where we struggled to raise the tempo.

So that manager of ours tells a few porkies. The very thought of it. Kyle Walker-Peters was indeed ready for the first team and he took his chance with relish. He had a fine game, Sky’s MOM, and looked more nervous doing the post-match interview than he had during the game. He was determined to be first rather than sit back and wait. He won his first header, his second or third touch was a run out of defence because he did not want to concede possession, when he would have been forgiven for wanging it upfield. Later, he made two fearless tackles close to goal, then made sure he was the spare man out wide right. He’s good going forward and crossed the ball well.

I’ve seen him in a few under 21 games but you never really know what sort of impression young players will make until they are in the thick of it. He did himself and Spurs proud.

I thought Eriksen was our best player. He roamed across the midfield, mostly further forward. His shooting made up most of our attempts in the first half but it was his passing that caught the eye, setting up our opener and providing most of our chances.

Walker-Peters’ debut came about through necessity rather than choice. While I am delighted for him, a side challenging for the title amongst avaricious, free-spending rivals should not put itself in a position where a young man has to make his debut this early in the season and after a high-class talent was sold. That said, I can’t recall a debut as assured as this from a home-grown talent for a long while. Phil Ifil, also a fullback, came from nowhere into the side in the opening match of the 2004-5 season and was outstanding. He disappeared from view. I suspect the same won’t happen to KWP. Being an inexperienced full-back coming into the side at the last moment through injury didn’t do Gareth Bale any harm.

That he slots straight in is a measure of Pochettino’s faith in his players and theirs in him. Our manager is supremely self-assured not just as a developer of talent but also in his ability to inculcate a culture and style of play throughout the entire club, so KWP settles right in. Around him, the innovative coaches of his generation are frantically spending fortunes to keep up whereas Pochettino works at improving the young talent at his disposal. I sincerely hope Levy does not exploit this as an excuse to be parsimonious, a thought I can’t entirely get out of my mind.

Random impressions of the new season: Dembele looks slimmer, the away kit looks good, Sissoko at least looked keen (he did OK).

So a solid start, and no better way to sharpen this up than Sunday’s big game versus Chelsea. And Eriksen, back to his marker, beating him by chipping the ball over his head and running onto it will stay in this season’s Spurs showreel.