The Y Word, Spurs and Changing Times

I haven’t altered my view on the use of the Y word by Spurs fans since I first heard the abuse directed towards us, in my case going away in the early seventies. I am Jewish, I accept that Spurs fans use it in the context of their support for the club but I choose not to use it to describe myself. I am a Spurs fan, not a y*d. But times are changing.

First things first. This is not easy, and if you are looking for straightforward, off-the-peg answers, you won’t find them here. This is a highly complex arena, a social stew blending intricate, contested expressions of fandom, individual identity and the construction of behaviour over time. It’s not simple, yet some proposed solutions seem simplistic.

We’re talking about this again because the club have published the results of their lengthy consultation exercise about Spurs fans’ use of the Y word. I welcome their response. They’ve produced a comprehensive and insightful report that appreciates the nuance and subtlety of the debate, avoids dogmatism and gives proper weight to different perspectives. Frankly, I wish they adopted a similar approach to every aspect of fan engagement.

They take a reasoned position as a way forward, that supporters and the club should engage with the debate to think again about our use of the word and why we use it, without taking anything away from our loyal support and our pride in being a Spurs fan. At this point, this is a sound, pragmatic approach. Whatever our views on the use of the term, we cannot get into the contorted position back in 2013, where the police randomly arrested a few Spurs fans for the use of the word while simultaneously the crowd chanted it and rival fans abused us.

So a few things need to be said and understood. Firstly, do not speak on behalf of “Jewish Spurs fans” because it’s really not that simple. I took part in one of the focus groups. I was moved by the depth of feeling, fans’ passion for the club, how this interacted with their beliefs and the sheer emotional effort expended on finding a way forward. I was also surprised by the breadth of views, and this is a topic I thought I knew about. I’m not breaking the bounds of confidentiality because anonymised transcripts published by the club.

Some objected, many spoke eloquently about their personal conflicts, getting behind the team yet hearing this word that in other contexts conveys horror and violent prejudice. And how do we Spurs fans explain this to our children, where a celebration of our heritage conflicts with our passion for our club, both of which we wish to pass on?

Then again, one fan who described himself as extremely religious raised no objections to the Y-word used in this context by Spurs fans, context being the operative word here. Another with family members killed by Nazis was similarly comfortable with it, another with the same experience vehemently opposed. A young woman who had married into a Spurs family, a newcomer perspective, said, well of course this is Ok, the meaning in this context is clear. For another view, have a look at Dan Merriman’s wonderful piece about his family trip to Leipzig.

Then, we cannot escape the history or pretend this does not have an impact both on the debate and on us as individuals. In our People’s History of Tottenham support and supporters, Martin Cloake and I examined the link between the club and the Jewish community, which stretches back to around 1910, when large numbers of the predominantly working-class, male Jewish community who moved to Tottenham and the surrounding areas found not just entertainment on the terraces on a Saturday afternoon after schul but also a welcome, and safety. Here, they could take part.

We know that the use of the term to describe Spurs supporters came first from rival fans as a form of abuse, and was then adopted to neutralise the abuse and become a symbol of pride. I understand the debate around whether it is legitimate for non-Jews to adopt this word, whether or not it is to nullify abuse. The fact is though, they did. We can’t change that. Jews have a long history of exclusion, except here, it became a powerful form of inclusion. Going home and away in the seventies, often on my own, this truly meant something. Spurs fans did not join in the abuse. This is fundamental to my formative experience as Spurs fan and of the Y word. I was there, I felt it, and if it looked ridiculous to see gentiles wearing a kippah and prayer shawl, or carrying an Israeli flag, it was part of the celebratory carnival culture of being a Spurs fan.

This element of supporter culture is acknowledged but too readily dismissed. It’s significant rather than trivial. That said, the meaning of historical events is not static. The context has changed. To me, this is real, something I carry with me as part of my identity as Spurs fan, but the majority of fans have not lived through that experience. Martin and I heard from many people, Spurs fans and others, that until they read our book, they had little sense of the history of the use of the word. In other words, the word has become divorced or distanced from the lived experience where it originated.

Also, more recently the debate around discrimination, immigration and statues is raising awareness of the meaning and interpretation of discriminatory behaviour and language in society. We are questioning the use of language as part of this, so it is right and proper to re-evaluate our use of the word, to judge whether it is appropriate now. Context is changing. We cannot isolate ourselves from the context of society, however much football desperately wants to, for example Raith Rovers’ justification of signing Goodwillie on the grounds that it was a footballing decision.  

The club make a valuable contribution to this by engaging in the discussion and being a source for knowledge. You can’t tell a football crowd what to sing, but fans can now make informed decisions and make their mind up. That’s the right place to be at the moment.

What this doesn’t do is adequately address anti-Semitism in football. Spurs fans are the focus of a one-sided debate that neglects displays of naked, vicious anti-Semitism from some rival fans. Songs about Spurs on their way to Auschwitz, gassing sounds and Nazi salutes is abuse towards jews.

I refuse to accept the notion that somehow this is the responsibility of Spurs fans because we use the Y word. Think of all the things that might represent Jewish culture, even if you wanted to have a go. The chosen form of abuse is about Jews dying. It’s not football banter, which goodness knows gets bitter at times. If Spurs fans stopped using the Y word tomorrow, the rival fans who choose to abuse us in this way aren’t going to stop, and it is ludicrous to suggest that it will. The minority who behave this way do so because they see no harm in being anti-Semitic, or they want to express their prejudice under cover of the relative anonymity of a football crowd.

Therefore, football has to step up its game if it truly wants to end anti-Semitism. In the Netherlands, there’s a corresponding debate around Ajax as a so-called “Jewish club”, although whether there is any fraternal solidarity between us is dubious, judging from the scenes outside the Lane a couple of years back. There, rival fans, Feyenoord being the main ones, are encouraged to confront their attitudes by attending educational groups, supported by their club, not Ajax. These groups examine the meaning of chants and behaviour and the discriminatory attitudes that underpin them. I’d like to see this happen in England. Chelsea are already doing good work in this area, other clubs need to follow suit, supported by the FA and the PL, as part of their work with the football community. It’s a fine line between asking Spurs fans to re-evaluate our relationship with the Y word and using this to cover up inaction elsewhere.

So there are no easy answers, but that shouldn’t stop us trying to find a way forward, beginning by finding out more about what this all means, including the history, and what is personal and meaningful to us. Spurs should lead on the work with other clubs and the authorities to address anti-Semitism in football. Remember that part of the contemporary context is a steep rise in anti-Semitic incidents across the country. Maybe think about what some of things mean to you and make your own mind up.

Spurs Transfer Window: Progress But We Won’t Know How Much Until the Summer

This is Conte’s time. Levy and Paratici are self-evidently key figures at Tottenham but this window was about a solitary imperative – give Conte the squad he wants. As to whether Spurs have been successful, only he knows the answer. He said a while ago that we can’t make a final judgement until the summer window is over, but the stakes are high. He can get to work with what he has right now, but summer will overnight turn to a dark winter if he’s not happy and walks.

Welcome Kulusevski and Bentancur, two useful additions to the squad. They bring considerable experience for players who are relatively young and will welcome the chance to develop under Conte’s wise tutelage. Reports suggest they are both willing to adapt to a manager’s style of play, and those same reports suggest these are players Conte is happy to work with. Kulusevski’s flexibility is significant in a squad that still lacks real alternatives in places. They should slot in relatively easily. I’m all for developing players but right now, we need men able to meet the demands of the Premier League straight away.

Staying positive, we now have cover in every position bar central striker. That’s a big but, and I remain incredulous that Spurs have left the side so vulnerable to an injury to Harry for so long. However, Conte can do something with a permutation of Son, Kulusevski, Bergwijn and Moura if the unthinkable happens. He has no choice.

Whether this cover is good enough is another matter. Spurs have a competitive first 15 or 16, essentially Conte knows his best team. However, it’s clear to everyone, including Emerson and Doherty, that he’s not content with right wing back options, Rodon hasn’t had a look in, Sanchez has bucked up but is still wanting, and while I can see a real player waiting to emerge, against Chelsea Sessegnon looked like a boy playing in a man’s game.

Conte has a proven track record in getting the most from his squad, and it’s here that ther are grounds for optimism. The two newcomers will not only bring something extra, they could bring more from the players we already have, plus we have the huge positive of the return of Romero, which feels almost like a new signing. For instance, on the right Kulusevski should be able to both protect that flank when we don’t have the ball and as a left-footer readily step inside in attack, giving space for the RWB to advance. Also, Romero on the right of a three adds to defensive solidity, thereby also giving the RWB more confidence when he makes the decision to go forward or stay back, part of the art of the wing-back. Both Doherty and Emerson will benefit from that, Doherty in particular who is more effective if he has freedom to advance, as he showed against Leicester. He looked better at Wolves because he could rely on their back three.

Also, Dier for all his limitations is becoming the central figure and organiser in defence who other defenders can play around. Sanchez certainly looks better with Dier close to his left shoulder. Again, players improve if they can be sure about what is going on outside their eyeline. Up front, Bergwijn has rediscovered who he is and what he can contribute.

Similarly, while we’re short of lock-picking tight-spot creativity in midfield (the very best of luck at Brentford, Christian Eriksen, the best news of the week), Bentancur could enable others to be the best they can be. Skipp will have more freedom to get forward, a role Conte has encouraged of late. Winks is not a natural defensive-mid. His strengths lie in being available and circulating the ball, plus he has a decent forward pass, he does you know. I don’t subscribe to the negativity around Hojbjerg, a good player who will be better if he didn’t feel compelled to be two players at once, running around like a Tasmanian devil chasing Yosemite Sam, and instead had the security of knowing that if he misses a tackle, there’s something and someone behind him.

Staying with Conte, as if it’s not all about him as it is, this has been a great window for sorting out the players he doesn’t want, as important a move as any incoming transfer. Spurs are not going make more of Lo Celso, Dele and N’dombele. It’s a risk, dispensing with such creative potential, but for different reasons they just don’t cut it. Everyone is now pulling together and can work within Conte’s approach, both in terms of tactics and motivation. The outpouring of joy around 95:30 at Leicester felt like something was shifting, something good, with fans and players as one in their jubilation.

And significantly, if we’re looking for signs that things are changing at Spurs, Conte and Paratici have persuaded Levy to take the hit on these players. The notion of Levy as the ace dealmaker is a decade or so out of date. When he could use Spurs’ power in the market as leverage, it worked, until sides especially those in the Premier League realised they were wealthy enough to stare him down, revealing that he had nothing up his sleeve. Now, he’s accepted the losses, taking a realistic view on loan fees to soften the blow. Perhaps the Dele deal is a sign of a developed grasp of the modern market, low up front money to enable Everton to make the deal happen with bigger figures to come if he plays regularly, as surely he will.

Levy’s shallow understanding of the game, even after 20 years of running a football club, created a legacy of missed opportunities and misguided senior appointments, culminating if that is the right expression in the era-defining decision not to fully back Pochettino in the transfer market when Spurs were at their peak. Appointing his successor was another gross error.

Spurs’ owners stand alone amongst top clubs in not putting any of their own money into their club. That won’t change, but other aspects of his approach have. Money for transfers and wages has been available. It’s been largely wasted because of the managerial churn. N’dombele and Lo Celso have been failures, I don’t know how things might have turned out but players catch the eye of one manager, Poch in the case of this duo, his successor in the case of Emerson and Doherty, only for the next man to not rate them. I would dearly like to see the scouting report on Tanguy. What do we know about players’ self-motivation and resilience before we buy them? How can that be assessed? Is it seen as important? Because it should be, it can make difference between success and failure.

Paratici came as the guy with the contacts who could change everything, working within a limited budget to find gems for the manager to polish. So how’s he doing? For this window, we lost out on Traore and Diaz. Of course we will, it’s Barca, it’s Liverpool. Diaz appears to be an opportunistic deal rather than part of a plan, as he and Son have very similar styles. Fair enough, we offered similar wages and fee, can’t complain.

If Paratici is to be effective, his work has to be part of a longer term strategy, and the jury’s out til summer on this one. Kulusevski and Bentancur are good deals in terms of ability, fee, improving the squad and offering potential for the future. Also, presumably Paratici played a key role in those outgoing deals. It’s just that this ace fixer and broker has brought players from his old club and nowhere else this window. Granted January is the hardest time but there’s nothing else around, no other bargains in Europe, nothing to bolster the squad up front and at RWB…where his manager asked for reinforcements… Also, the Bergwijn to Ajax deal feel through because they offered three million Euros under Levy’s valuation, but Conte has said he wants to keep him, so why in that case are we even thinking of selling him? That doesn’t seem like joined up thinking.

We’ll see come the summer but as yet I’m not convinced we have that strategy in place. For a club like Spurs, that’s essential if we are to compete. We, and by we I mean club staff and fans, have to take on board a realistic perception of our place in the football firmament. We aren’t in the Champions League, not in Europe at all any more, we don’t pay ludicrous wages or inflated transfer fees.

This is realism not negativity. Build and take the chance to improve, as we have achieved before. Find the right blend, bring on younger players in the background and bring them when they are ready, upgrade over a period of time rather than in one giant thunderclap of transfer turbulence. That’s why Paratici’s role is vital, to find the right players. Get it right and maybe he’ll keep Conte happy, or better still, simply keep Conte.

And as a postscript farewell Dele. Players come and go, and the gap between fan and club has widened again in the last couple of years, but in Dele’s golden years, he pulled us  closer. Dele epitomised the new Tottenham, Poch’s Tottenham, full of hope and flair, ambitious and fearless. We roared his song pre-game when the stadium opened, because it meant something about our Spurs. Young, daring, take them all on, all achieved without spending beyond our means.

When the ball came near to him, anticipation crackled in the air. The goal at Palace was wonderful, I adored the first-time touch at Arsenal, the Chelsea goals on the end of Eriksen’s passes, rocking European nights at Wembley as he casually matched Europe’s best, the most sublime two metre pass at Ajax. Tottenham aren’t the same any longer and neither is Dele. Sad that he’s gone, sadder still that his spark and strut have been extinguished. I hope he finds himself again, I miss him so.

Spurs: It’s Deja Vu All Over Again

We are Gollini. Gollini is in us. We have been well and truly Gollinified.

It’s a set-up, CFC create space in front of the keeper for big blokes to run onto the corner. He comes out, right move but sees it too late, Rudiger deadly with the back of his shoulder from 9 yards.

Gollini is everywhere. It’s a big game and he’s not up to it, but to fair to him, he’s not alone. The same description could be applied to any number of players, the right moves but half a yard off the pace, seeing the pass half a second too late. I don’t normally read too much into League Cup matches but these two games brutally exposed the gulf in ability between the two sides. Spurs are only a few places below them in the table, for extended periods it appeared we played in different leagues.

Taking a break from writing but not from the anxiety of watching Spurs leaves room for the long view. Apologies by the way. Partly life and stuff, partly not going to games because of the risks in my immunocompromised household of contracting covid, first such gap since 1969, but that’s for another time.

And to the question of why he played in the first place. Conte was roundly criticised for his team selection, to the point where many fans accused him of giving up already. Not so. Rather, it was the outcome of a ruthless and realistic appraisal of the parlous lack of squad quality and depth. We have 15 or 16 players worthy of Conte’s trust, a decent team here to build on, so he could not risk all of them with a busy programme in the league ahead. He looked at the first leg and calculated the odds. And so the team was Gollinified.

There is no comfort in this conclusion but it’s what we brought Conte here for. In a short space of time, he’s given the side shape, fitness and purpose in a way we’ve not seen for a few seasons. Players have a better sense of what they are supposed to do and where they are supposed to be. His flagrant flamboyance on the touchline belies the hard work he’s putting in, getting up to speed and demanding on-field commitment to his way. Impressive.

We have points in the bag, games in hand and a home 4th round FA Cup tie, and I’m pleased overall with the impact he’s had, but his level of angst must be rising as he contemplates stepping up a level. Morecombe were swept aside only after our best forwards came on, hammering home the message that we are bereft without Kane, while Watford showed how hard we find it to break down a determined defence. Opportunities will increase with more creativity in midfield, but it’s not just about creativity in individuals, it’s also about how the team goes about it, picking up the tempo and limiting aimless crosses. About movement, about confidence that teammates will be in the right place to receive the pass. We don’t need a clutch of top-class midfielders to achieve that, we need the right blend.

At the Bridge, the camera cut to Conte late in the first half.  He looked stunned, poised to give instructions to stem the blue tide but rendered speechless. Talk tactics or players’ merits all you like but there are times when even Conte has to say, WTF are you DOING?  In the background, Dele sat grey and blank on the bench, the spark in his eyes long gone.

6 weeks ago, Conte spoke positively of his players. Incoming transfers were essential but the tone was of renovation rather than rebuilding. He sounds more pessimistic now, or maybe that’s just me.  His list of positions where reinforcements are required seems to grow longer. Another centreback and right wing back, centre half, centre mid and up front. He’s right, and also right to say this needs the summer window before we can truly judge if progress has been made.

There’s another reason why I’ve not written much lately, a feeling that after 12 years, I’ve said it all before. Reaping the consequences of managerial churn – we have a limited budget, spend it on players who the next man in doesn’t like. And so it goes. Dembele and Eriksen not replaced. Doherty and Gollini look lost, Rodon never given a chance (he’s had four managers already), we still don’t know what Lo Celso’s best position is. Three, four or five at the back, all require different players, so always square pegs in round holes.

We have no cover for Harry, a problem at centre forward that goes back to the days of Frazier Campbell and Rasiak, a world where Louis Saha appears as a breath of fresh air. To repeat myself, talk tactics and players all you like, but we aim for top four and honours with no back-up central striker. If Kane were more moody and less willing, we would like him less but he would have protected himself. As it is, the club have contributed to his decline because he’s played too often, run too far, taken too many knocks.  

I once grandly said of N’dombele, ‘whatever the question, N’dombele is the answer’ and implored That Man to get him fit. Turns out the only question remaining is, ‘how soon are you leaving?’ N’dombele has a rare and precious talent of picking a pass in confined spaces through the channels. How we need that, but we know now that physical fitness is not the whole problem. He’s not comfortable with the workload of a PL midfielder, and even if he did shift himself when we lose possession, he doesn’t know where to run to. Sloping off the field against Morecombe was a public display of childishness but again the CFC closeups show the real picture. On as a sub, he puffed and panted and brought up the phlegm much as I do when I get back into exercise, but then again, I’m an overweight asthmatic pensioner.

New manager, assess the squad, fit them into the preferred tactics he brings, reassess, try to fit around the players’ strengths, buy to fill gaps, and repeat to fade. The cycle is dismally familiar to Spurs fans. Same for Conte but he’s got through the early elements of that cycle quickly and knows what he wants. Recent performances have helped in that respect.

Like his many predecessors, he’s spoken to the chairman and has received assurances. The problem is, it’s new to him but we’ve heard this one before and know the punchline. Levy and Paratici have to rewrite the script for January and the summer for this particular sequel. Surely.

Conte will walk if the club don’t respond. Football or business, however he defines it, Levy would not risk losing his greatest asset. Surely. It’s not about spending the earth. Rather, it’s about targeted purchases that Conte can work with. Develop, then build again.

Despite Paratici’s arrival, long-standing questions about Spurs’ transfer policy and scouting hang fetid in the air. It looks like the government will continue to permit grounds to stay open, so Levy may feel more confident about spending money. It’s not about winning the league, it’s about a cup run and challenging for the top four in a season where amongst a small group of contenders, the side who can be most consistent in the coming months will finish fourth.

And there’s Nuno, in case we forget. Easily forgotten, he’s no outlier. Rather than a footnote in Spurs’ history, his appointment epitomises Levy’s lack of football acumen. Nuno was never a perfect fit but I mistakenly thought he provided a safe pair of hands. In reality, he’ll be remembered as the manager nobody wanted. He knew he was about tenth on the list. The players knew this, and knew that he knew. Paratici and Levy were lukewarm at best. This is an absurd state of affairs for a club with Tottenham’s ambitions.

The instability that surrounds the club is inescapable. Levy’s Spurs is built on shifting sands not concrete foundations. Conte had barely arrived before people began to ask what happens after he moves on. After all, he has an 18-month contract and does not have a reputation for hanging around, and why should he if Spurs don’t support him wholeheartedly. It’s built-in impermanence. Appointing Conte is an important step forward.

So now it’s over to you, Daniel. Build something not just for now but for the future. Inadequate support for Pochettino was an era-defining mistake that will forever taint your legacy, but Conte gives you another chance. How many times have I written that before?

Can’t go without mentioning the NLD that never was. Leave aside all the speculation about what might have happened if imaginary teams had taken the field. I would rather we had all our players fit and take them on, full steam ahead. The real issue here is the way the Premier League runs the game. They set the rules, then twist them out of shape, and it’s fans who suffer. Our interests are nowhere. People spend a fortune and plan months ahead to get to the biggest game of the season. Leave aside also the tribalism of social media reaction to this. Tribalism plays into the PL hands and undermines fans’ protest. These are problems we have in common.

Everything is Bad, Nothing is Good

At Spurs, change and uncertainty have become institutionalised. In the absence of direction and stability, the club drifts aimlessly without plan, purpose or foundation. We don’t know who we are any more. Do we stand for expansive football, or do we need to defend first and foremost? Top four or muddle along? Win something, perish the thought? Without purpose, the outcome is inevitable: we achieve nothing.

Managers come and go. Change masquerades as a solution. In reality, it leaves us trapped in a quicksand of problems of our own making. In organisations with a closed culture, nothing changes.

I described Nuno as a pragmatist. He knows he wasn’t first choice for the job, knows he only has a two-year contract (informed rumours suggest there’s a break clause after 12 months), effectively receiving the chairman’s infamous vote of confidence before he even starts the job. The players know this. Impermanence enshrined.

He took on the job of making the best of what he had been given, which is probably a key reason why he was given the job in the first place. He was willing to accept the limitations of working under Daniel Levy, as presumably was Paratici. I understand that, and therein lies the real underlying and deeply entrenched problem at Spurs.

Progress and change often comes through constructive critique and having a critical friend, somebody who knows about the organisation and, crucially, cares about it too, and because they care sees that change is required. I was involved in something a while back, work not football. Something went wrong. Managers and staff acknowledged this. We agreed to learn lessons, no blaming individuals, work together to move forward. If you don’t want to, fine, leave, goodbye and good luck.

At Spurs, Levy has created a very different environment, where he takes advice from an ever-smaller, closed coterie. There is consensus but at the expense of new ideas, new ways of approaching the same problem. As I have repeated over the years, I believe Levy when he says he sees himself as the club’s custodian and wants success through attacking football in our tradition. The problem is, he does not know how to achieve that. And if he continues to encourage a culture of groupthink, he never will.

He has enough football acumen to use the right words in the plan but not enough to know how to put it into practice, who to appoint in key positions (manager and player recruitment and retention) or how to support this in the transfer market. A victim of groupthink, he doesn’t know how to appoint someone who does and delegate to them. There is no curiosity about innovation and alternatives, only a search for voices who tell him what he wants to hear.

This is how it’s been, most of the time. I know this, but it really came home to me when writing a short ‘fan’s eye’ history of Spurs for this book of terrific interviews by Toby Benjamin with ex-players and staff. Sixty years in 20k words, so Levy needed an overview. Time and again he changes tack with short-term appointments. He’s tried ex-players, experience like Santini, so-called new breed of coaches like AVB and Ramos. He’s tried directors of football, who come in and out again without establishing roots or passing something tangible on to the next person. Pochettino becomes an outlier. Success is unusual, and even then he didn’t seem to recognise what could have been possible with a little more investment.

After a solid start, Nuno has tried different formations with different players, although he’s not opted for the 3-5-2/5-3-2 that established him at Wolves, which in passing might be a reasonable choice given that we have full-backs comfortable going forward, need strength in the centre of our defence and where cover could protect our centre backs.

My initial optimism has evaporated. Nuno has taken us from the average to awful in double quick time. Under any sort of pressure, the team folds, at the back and moving the ball forward. No shots on target in three halves of football with Kane and Son in the side is some achievement.

Yesterday saw the hallmarks of real deterioration. Giving the ball away is partly an individual fault, mainly a team problem, because players were given no passing options. They don’t know how to support each other. No pattern, little desire and few options to make any changes. Individuals have to take responsibility but professionals give their best within a system with familiar, comforting patterns in attack and defence. No evidence of that recently.

Nuno has so far not found the way to unlock the potential of players, and he may never get the chance at this rate. However, it’s not an excuse to say there are fundamental underlying problems here. As a result of managerial churn, Spurs’ squad is a mixture from three different eras, each with a different approach to building a team and to buying players, and with very different styles. Lo Celso and N’dombele were bought to rejuvenate Pochettino’s flagging side, Dele at his peak playing to his strengths in that team. Doherty bought to fill a gaping hole in the squad without any success. He made his reputation under Nuno, who sold him then doesn’t play him, which says so much. Rodon seems to be fourth choice.

It’s all square pegs in round holes. Tanguy has only just got back into the team in the only position he could possibly play in this squad. Suggesting he starts deeper neglects his inability to defend, and we don’t have cover for him. I still don’t know what Lo Celso’s best position is. Dele doesn’t fit anywhere with this set up, or he doesn’t if Tanguy plays. Bergwijn’s development has been hampered by injuries but has never had a real run in the side. Moura does his best but better defences deal with him easily enough.

Paratici comes in. We don’t know what budget he had at his disposal. We do know that we have no cover for Kane, and have to play a 17-year-old in Europe. No alternatives in defensive midfield either. Skipp is a fine prospect but no team pushing for the top should have to rely on a man just turned 21 in his first season in the PL. Many things astound me about Spurs recent performances, but I can’t get over how many times in the last six years I’ve written that we have no cover in deep midfield, the heart of any team, and up front.

Nuno stays, he’s still learning about the players. Nuno goes, more changes, more finding out. Nothing is established. Everything is always beginning again and we are as far from a solution as we ever were.

And how will Spurs respond to this defeat? Levy will meet with one or two people in the club he is close to and with Paratici. The same people who took the decisions that got us where we are, people he appointed, pass judgement on themselves. And round and round and round we go.

Thinking about this from Levy’s perspective, one changing element in this noxious, closed system is that the income generated by the stadium, money designed to fund the club’s status as a contender into the future, is beginning to flow again. Given the situation on the field, he may be emboldened or compelled to enter the transfer market in January, the worst time to buy but we are desperate, and at the same time re-evaluate decisions about which players stay or go. Kane, Dele, Winks and Roden, N’dombele perhaps, I advocated keeping all of them but they may have reached the point where they can’t improve at Spurs and are better off elsewhere for their sakes and that of the club. But that implies long-term planning.

Sack the manager, but any manager comes into the same environment that caused the problems in the first place. Same unbalanced squad, at least to begin with, same suspicions about the leadership’s questionable capacity to understand the game and the club. The same director of football who by all accounts wields considerable power within the club. To compete on a limited budget, Spurs must build over time, but we have no way of creating a long-term plan. And round and round and round we go.

I was reminded this week of a quote from the legendary Jimmy Greaves when I spoke with him several years ago. He never fancied becoming a manager when he retired, adding, “If I’d known that you could get millions for being absolutely crap and getting the sack, I’d have been in like a shot.”  There will be another manager, but Tottenham Hotspur used to be a place where managers, players and staff wanted to come to. Now, it has a bad reputation. Word is out. Nuno is the eighth or ninth choice because other thought better of entering this toxic, unsupportive place. Over the past months, several non-playing staff, loyal to the club, have moved on.

Yesterday, supporters’ frustration spilled over into vociferous, righteous anger. It’s been building, and it took the spark of a comparatively minor incident, Moura’s substitution, to light the fire. It’s not about Moura and Bergwijn, not really about Nuno as an individual. Rather, it’s an accumulation of anger at the way the club is being run, of glaring opportunities missed and the crushing sense of what might have been. Supporters deal with ups and downs, unnecessary defeats, points dropped, but when long and secretly cherished hopes and dreams are snatched away at the very point when they could have been fulfilled, the hurt is real.

Amid the justified euphoria as tickets for the new stadium first went on sale, I and others raised a note of caution. Prices were high, sustained by supply and demand, and I understand that the ground needs to be paid for. But Levy planted seeds of dissatisfaction, that loyal fans were exposed to the impact of high costs if and when the team’s performance feel away. We all make choices. Emotional commitment is the essence of being a fan, and emotion trumps logic, if the bank balance allows it. But everyone begins to question themselves when you think you’re not getting enough back. Over a hundred quid for tickets, food, travel, trip to the shop for the kids maybe, then that, then trains through the main station are cancelled, of course they are, it’s football. And these are covid times when we are all forced to re-evaluate our expenditure and indeed our life choices. Football tourists visiting football’s new destination venue won’t fill the gaps forever.

People are angry. Levy has publicly rejected meetings with the supporters trust, although I believe he has now relented it’s impossible to imagine that he might give any weight to supporter’s constructive criticisms, words from people who care. I hear of arguments and fighting in the bars yesterday between Spurs fans.

The very best thing about writing this blog over the past twelve years is meeting so many fans, in person or via social media. Now, I hear the grumblings from the lifers like me, loyal, core fans who speak only of disaffection and disillusionment. Giving the odd game a miss, take it or leave it. People who will support the Spurs to their dying day but who come May will think twice about expressing that support in terms of investing a grand or more in buying a season ticket. Levy would do well to take notice. Past form suggests he won’t. The few people he listens to won’t tell him the very thing he needs to hear.

We remember with pride and joy the incomparable Jimmy Greaves, the best I’ve ever seen. I’ve written an obituary in this month’s When Saturday Comes, on sale now and several years ago I was privileged to meet him for a short while, here’s the interview