Woolwich – last day drama

This Sunday will be the 7th time in my Spurs supporting lifetime that we’ve gone into the final game of the season battling with Arsenal with the season’s Pride of North London at stake. Needless to say we’ve seldom been victorious but this weekend presents a set of circumstances which stack the odds firmly in our favour. Here are some details of the previous occasions:

1989-90

3

Arsenal

61

+16

Norwich C (a)

4

Tottenham

60

+11

Southampton (h)

Back in the pre-Premier League era it is often difficult to remember that football existed. In 1990 Liverpool won the last of the 18 League Championships and Alex Ferguson was about to win the first of his major trophies as Manchester Utd manager by beating Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final.

lineker

Under Terry Venables Spurs were building an attractive side; spearheaded by Lineker and Gascoigne (who would go on to star at the upcoming World Cup) we had gone on an excellent run in Spring 1990 catapulting us to 4th going into the final game of the season against Southampton. The following season was to be the first that English clubs could enter European competition (after a 5-year ban) – this meant that there was only one UEFA Cup spot available for the team finishing second which Aston Villa had already secured. Arsenal had fallen well short of defending their title and found themselves needing a win at Norwich City to guarantee a top 3 finish above Spurs.

Arsenal stumbled to a 2-2 draw at Carrow Road (Ruel Fox scoring Norwich’s second) whilst Spurs in the bright sun took a commanding two goal lead (Allen and Stewart) which only a late consolation couldn’t ruin. Presumably in the days before twitter it would have been the trusted ‘terrace trannie’s’ (transistor radios) which would have confirmed Spurs as Pride of North London for the first time since 1987.

Although I wasn’t at the game…I lived through most games back then on Capital Gold…..I do recall there being a euphoric atmosphere as it became obvious that we would finish above Arsenal.

3

Tottenham

63

+12

4

Arsenal

61

+16

1995-96 UEFA beckons

4

Arsenal

60

+16

Bolton (h)

5

Tottenham

60

+12

Newcastle (a)

Back when only the champions received a spot in the Champions League a highly coveted spot in the 1996-7 UEFA Cup was up for grabs for the team who would finish in

ff6465c64a76faac0ebe734853cf91565th position at the end of the season. Both Blackburn and Everton were also in with a chance but would require Arsenal to drop points at home to already relegated Bolton. Spurs meanwhile travelled to St James Park in the immediate aftermath of the Kevin Keegan ‘I’d love it if we beat them’ rant; in fact the Geordies had drawn 1-1 at Nottingham Forest on the Thursday evening (where you may recall Ferguson had questioned whether the home team would be as motivated as when they played Manchester Utd). Newcastle therefore needed to beat Spurs and hope that United would drop points at Middlesbrough. In essence Arsenal had by far the easier task.

With 60 minutes played Spurs held an unlikely 1-0 lead through Jason Dozzell whilst Arsenal trailed by a goal at home to Bolton. However, within the space of 10 minutes Newcastle equalised (Ferdinand) and Arsenal scored twice; Blackburn and Everton also won their games meaning that the season would end fruitlessly and we were denied successive finishes as top dogs in North London for the first time in a decade.

5

Arsenal

63

+17

Qualified for UEFA Cup 1996-97

8

Tottenham

61

+12

Bruce Rioch left Highbury that Summer with an unknown French bloke taking over; Spurs floundered under Francis and a chasm opened up between the two sides which was not bridged until……..

2005-06 Lasagne-gate

4

Tottenham

65

+16

West Ham (a)

5

Arsenal

64

+35

Wigan (h)

This one still hurts like mad and it had all the ingredients (excuse the pun) for the most wicked of endings possible. This heartache involved not just Arsenal but the pikey boys’ in their cup final.

We all know what happened to our boys in the early hours of their Canary Wharf hotel that morning. News broke by mid morning amidst rumours and counter-rumour of the game being postponed due to the ill health of the team. The suggestion was finally quashed by no less than Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore who spoke live pitch side at Highbury where Arsenal fans gleefully celebrated the news on the day of their final game at the old stadium.

davids

There had been suggestions that Spurs would have to field a team of reserves or even the youth team in order to fulfil the fixture but Martin Jol had to make the decision to play a ‘full strength’ team all of whom were still suffering badly from gastroenteritis.

Arsenal incredibly fell behind in the first half and when Defoe fired Spurs level we were still in pole position. Spurs’ energy levels predictably dropped in the second half and needing a winner were unable to create much against a highly motivated Spammers team –all for the exception of Spurs legend Teddy Sheringham who fired a penalty into the torso of Paul Robinson. Alas Berkovic danced through the defence with 15 minutes to play and Spurs were unable force even a consolation equaliser. Henry netted a second half hat trick meaning Arsenal secured 4th spot although both protagonists were to lose the Champions League and FA Cup finals respectively the following week to provide something of a meek consolation.

4

Arsenal

67

+37

Qualified for CL 2006-07

5

Tottenham

65

+15

Qualified for UEFA Cup 2006-07

2009-10 – An after-thought

3

Arsenal

72

+38

Fulham (h)

4

Tottenham

70

+28

Burnley (a)

We had famously qualified for the Champions League fir the first time with a 1-0 win at Manchester City on the Wednesday night. A draw may have been enough with a comfortable looking fixture at already relegated Burnley on the final day but the win had secured a top 4 finish with a game to spare. As a result of Arsenals traditional title meltdown in which they had been in a 2-horse race for the title with Chelsea yet went into the final game looking over their shoulder at fourth and their favourite neighbours.

164

Finishing above them was no more than an after=thought. They would have to lose ay home to Fulham which was at best a farfetched fantasy and so it proved when they scored 3 first half goals en route to a 4-goal rout. Probably just as well as Spurs managed to finish an historic season in traditional Spursy fashion by throwing away a 2-goal lead against a relegated side to lose 4-2 largely courtesy of Ben Alnwick’s catastrophic performance in goal (he would only ever play one other game for spurs when he was equally as bad also at Turf Moor in a League Cup semi-final).

3

Arsenal

75

+42

Qualified for CL 2010-11

4

Tottenham

70

+26

Qualified for CL 2010-11

2011-12 Mind The Crap

3

Arsenal

67

+24

WBA (a)

4

Tottenham

66

+23

Fulham (h)

Similarly to two years earlier Arsenal were 3rd and Spurs 4th which should have been enough for both to qualify for the Champions League. For Spurs, to finish above Arsenal would have been no more than an added bonus but the cloud hanging over North London was in the shape of a Chelsea Champions League final appearance of which a win for the Chavs would result in the 4th place finishing team being denied a place in Europe’s premier club competition.

Tottenham-v-QPR-Gareth-Bale-celeb-second-goal_2672373

Added to the apprehension was the fact that not only had Spurs been in with a realistic chance of winning the title in January but we had surrendered a 13-point lead over the Goons having comfortably led 2-0 in the first half at The Emirates in February. In overturning that deficit to win 5-2 that points tally was gradually eaten away at and overturned going into the final game of the season. With both sides playing mid-table opposition Spurs needed to better Arsenal’s result.

Spurs were ahead in 2 minutes; Adebayor slotting home from Van Der Vaart’s through ball. The authorities at White Hart Lane decided not to display latest scores from The Hawthorns which meant the crowd were reliant on mobile phones or looking at the TV’s in the hospitality lounges. Arsenal went 1 up but before long were 2-1 behind in 15 minutes; Arsenal would score again in the first half to go level but the results as they stood were enough for Spurs to clinch 3rd spot.

Little did we know at the time that WBA emergency loan goalkeeper, Marton Fulop (who had once been on Spurs’ books) was having a stinker. Not content with throwing the first two in he would later gift Koscielny with a winner in the second half; Defoe did score a second for Spurs who comfortably held on to a 2-0 win. History would dictate that 4th wasn’t to be enough and having lost out to Arsenal the Chavs would deny us Champions League football with the most fortuitous victory in European football history in Munich a week layer. It also proved to be Harry Redknapp’s last game as Spurs Manager.

3

Arsenal

70

+25

Qualified for CL 2012-13

4

Tottenham

69

+25

Qualified for Europa League 2012-13

2012-13 The ‘Ghost Goal’

4

Arsenal

70

+44

Newcastle (a)

5

Tottenham

69

+19

Sunderland (h)

With a vastly inferior goal difference we needed to win and would also require Arsenal to drop points. The 4th Champions League spot was up for grabs with Arsenal in the driving seat having beaten Wigan during the midweek – a result that relegated the shock FA Cup winners.

Rafael-Van-Der-Vaart-scored-2-for-Tottenham-Hotspur

Arsenal were playing a Newcastle side who had only just avoided relegation; their relief was palpable with Alan Pardew claiming that ‘he wouldn’t care if they lost 4-0 to Arsenal’ (now that they were safe). Let’s face it Newcastle players have never needed motivation to not care. Meanwhile, under AVB we were set to record our highest ever Premier League points tally albeit were heavily reliant on one Gareth Bale.

Bale was wrongly penalised for a dive in the Sunderland box in the 1st half and both games were goalless at half-time.

Arsenal then took an inevitable lead early after the interval through Koscielny. Spurs huffed and puffed but found a resolute Sunderland defence. Midway through the second half a ripple of excitement emanated from the White Hart Lane crowd…this evolved into muted celebration followed by confusion. TV cameras picked up on a fan with a radio to her ear asking her friend what was going on. Whether this was the work of a mischievous Arsenal fan in the catering staff has never been revealed but alas Newcastle had barely got out of their deckchairs positioned neatly around their own penalty area as Arsenal’s players tiptoed around them in their flip flops with cocktails in hand.

Despite a trademark Bale curling effort from 25 yards very late on the win did no more than gain a record points tally in the Premier League era and provide a fitting end to Bale’s Spurs career as he embarked on a protracted Summer move to Madrid in order to avoid forthcoming Europa trips to the Arctic Circle and the Moldovan breakaway Republic of Tiraspol.

Arsenal emerged off their sun loungers to celebrate wildly in front of their fans at St James to enjoy yet another final day St Totteringham’s Day.

4

Arsenal

73

+45

Qualified for CL 2013-14

5

Tottenham

72

+20

Qualified for Europa League 2013-14

Sadly this has been quite depressing to write and I’m sure equally so to have read….let’s hope that Sunday provides a happy ending!

COYS!

Blowing AWAY the cobwebs of mediocrity…a look at our progress ‘on the road’

Having started supporting Spurs in 1988 and then enduring the 90’s and early 2000’s Spurs playing away from home, particularly outside of London, almost certainly meant I wouldn’t bother staying up to watch Match of the Day that evening. It is trite to talk of Spurs having ‘a soft underbelly’ and ‘not fancying it up North on a cold Tuesday night’ but those of us of a certain age will be hard wired to adopting a sense of dread when looking ahead to an away game.

As a casual away fan for much of my teens – I usually got to two or three games per season I went 10 years (from 1994 until 2004) without seeing us win outside of London – both wins either side ironically at Everton.

Our 2-0 victory at Leicester in the FA Cup 3rd round replay was comfortable in the end and at times we combined attacking style and flair with a solid defence and rarely looked like conceding. In hindsight it is easy to point out that Leicester fielded even more of a reserve XI than we did but the facts remain that we won away at the side who are joint top and had only lost twice at home in 2015 (Chelsea and Arsenal).

Going into the game, even a natural pessimist, I struggled to predict the outcome of the match – I felt that our second string was probably better than theirs but equally I had a realisation that we don’t tend to win many big away matches.

I’ve split the evaluation of this theory into three sections as they are all relevant to our realistic ambitions:

  1. League matches
  2. Domestic Cup ties
  3. European ties

League Matches

Now I really must stress that we are so much better away from home now than we’ve been at any point of my Spurs supporting life. In every season between 96/7 and 2004/5 we failed to win more than 5 away games per season; in 2000/1 we waited until February to win out first away match (at Man City) before winning only once more on the road in the league that season.  

Our average points per game (away from home) in PL era:

Our average points per game (away from home) in PL era:

The line shows significant improvement although we are on a slight decline from the excellent period between 2011/2 – 2012/3.

Statistically it is clear that we are better away from home now than we were during that period of mediocrity. I have compared two six periods; 1996/7 – 2001/02 with 2010/11 – 2015/16.

1996/97 – 2001/02 2010/11 – 2015/16
Ave pts gained per season away v all opponents 16 30
Ave number of away games won per season v all opponents 4 8.6

This shows that we are gaining an extra 14 points per season (just in away games) which is the difference between lingering in mid table and being constantly in the top 6 and beyond – an ‘achievement’ we could only have dreamed of in a team of Thatcher’s, Dozzell’s and Iversen’s.

However, when those away results are broken down to look at our games against teams in the top 6 the improvement is not quite as significant. Comparing our results against the top 6 in each respective season and against the sides who finished between 11th and 16th:

1996/97 – 2001/02 2010/11 – 2015/16
Ave pts per game gained v teams in final positions 1-6 0.28 0.58
Ave pts per game gained v teams in final positions 11-16 1.01 1.97

 

So essentially we are gaining 1 extra point per away game now than we were which is worth an extra 6 points per season; however, against teams in the top 6 we are not showing any signs of significant improvement; in the 6 year period (2010/11 to date) we have only won 3 games and two of them were in the 2010/11 season (v Arsenal and Liverpool) meaning the current average is likely to dip at by the end of the season.

On further analysis during this period here is a break down of our results against the current six teams who we have competed against since 2010; our record in these games is less than convincing. Since the start of the 2010/11 season:

Arsenal W1 D2 L3 5 PTS (0.88 PER GAME)
Chelsea W0 D2 L3 2 PTS (0.4 PER GAME)
Liverpool W1 D1 L3 4 PTS (0.8 PER GAME)
Man City W0 D0 L5 0 PTS (0 PER GAME)
Man Utd W2 D0 L4 6 PTS (1 PER GAME)
Everton W1 D2 L3 5 PTS (0.88 PER GAME)
TOTAL W5 D7 L21 22 PTS (0.66 PER GAME)

 

  • FA Cup and League cup ties against any other Premier League opponent and any semi-final or final.

 

Our victory at Leicester was the first time since September 2013 that we had won an away cup tie against a fellow Premier League team (Aston Villa – 3rd round League Cup). Our complete record since the start of the 2010/11 season:

Season FA Cup League Cup
2010/11 Fulham LOST 0-4 (R4) No away ties
2011/12 Chelsea LOST 1-5 (SF at Wembley) Stoke C LOST ON PENS
2012/13 No away ties at PL opposition Norwich C LOST 1-2 (R4)
2013/14 Arsenal LOST 0-2 (R3) Aston Villa WON 4-0
2014/15 Burnley DREW 1-1 (R3) Sheff Utd DREW 2-2 (SF 2ND LEG)

Chelsea LOST 0-2 (Final at Wembley)

2015/16 Leicester C WON 2-0 (R3R)

That is, including the Leeds Utd game, 9 matches with only one win and seven defeat so in that context the victory over Leicester was unlikely.

Looking at the same period (96/7 – 2002/03)

Season FA Cup League Cup
1996/97 No away ties to PL opposition No away ties to PL opposition
1997/98 Barnsley LOST 1-3 No away ties to PL opposition
1998/99 Wimbledon DREW 1-1

Leeds Utd DREW 1-1

Newcastle LOST 0-2 (SF at OT)

Liverpool WON 3-1

Wimbledon WON 1-0

Leicester C WON 1-0 (Final at Wembley)

1999/00 Newcastle LOST 1-6 No away ties to PL opposition
2000/01 Charlton WON 4-2

West Ham WON 3-2

Arsenal LOST 1-2 (SF at OT)

No away ties to PL opposition
2001/02 No away ties to PL opposition Fulham WON 2-1

Chelsea lost 1-2

Blackburn LOST 1-2 (Final at Millennium Stadium)

 

During this period we played 14 matches winning 6, losing 6 and drawing 2. The comparison between the two periods actually shows a regression – perhaps an indication of how less of a priority the cup is for us now:

1996/7 – 2001/02 2010/11 – 2015/16
PLD 14 10
W 6 (43%) 1  (10%)
D 6 (43%) 2  (20%)
L 2 (14%) 6  (60%)

 

 

  • European knock-out round ties and any high profile group stage opponent.

Even including the glorious Champions League run, our away form is a cause for concern.

 

2010/11 CL QUAL Young Boys LOST 2-3
CL G Werder Bremen DREW 2-2
CL G Inter LOST 3-4
CL G Twente DREW 3-3
CL R16 AC Milan WON 1-0
CL QF Real Madrid LOST 0-4
2012/13 EL G Lazio DREW 0-0
EL R32 Lyon DREW 1-1
EL R16 Inter LOST 1-4
EL QF Basel DREW 2-2 (lost pens)
2013/14 EL R32 Dnipro LOST 0-1
EL R16 Benfica DREW 2-2
2014/15 EL R32 Fiorentina LOST 0-2
2015/16 EL G Monaco DREW 1-1
EL G Anderlecht LOST 1-2

 

I have used a fairly subjective criteria to select which group stage opponents should be included as there is credit due for winning games in the Arctic Circle (Tromso) or the far East of Europe (Anzhi and Qarabag) but these were never considered as being high profile, must win games.

That said in 15 games we have won only once (although the results against Lyon and Inter were enough as second legs to take us through the tie) and does not bode well for our prospects of winning the Europa League, let alone the Champions League anytime soon.

What does this mean?

It may appear obvious but to get to the next level we must improve our away form, specifically when playing in the bigger matches against the better teams. Most Spurs fans would list one of the following a realistic ambition for the season:

  • Qualify for the Champions League by finishing in top 4.
  • Win the Europa League
  • Win the FA Cup and/or League Cup

To finish in the top 4 teams require on average 69 points; let’s say that 30 of those must come from away games and therefore at least one away win against one of our main competitors as we did in 2010 (at Man City).

To win the Europa League we will have to learn to win away.

In the FA Cup the win at Leicester may become even less significant should they fall away and end up near mid-table at the end of the season but it is was an encouraging sign that we were able to win away at a peer.

Wins at Manchester City and Fiorentina in February would be a welcome start!

Spurs podcast review

I’ve been looking for a reason to write a review of all the Spurs podcasts available. I usually listen to all the ones listed below and enjoy them so hope that this will be useful if you are new to podcasts or would like some guidance on which ones to subscribe to.

Rule the Roost

Weekly: Tuesday/Wednesday

This is my favourite of all the Spurs pods. It is presented by all of, or a combination of ‘tehtrunk’, Raj Baines and Seb Stafford-Bloor. The unique factor of RtR is that they invite a fan from our upcoming opponents onto the show to help preview the upcoming fixture. This allows for a more rounded match preview and will give you a valuable insight into another club.

Perhaps disappointingly an opposing fan has not been on as often recently but it must surely be difficult to find an eloquent and interesting supporter available at the right time to record an interview each week.

This pod appeals to me because of the humour and inane ability of the presenters to discuss the merits of Spurs’ right side and the latest happenings on Great British Bake Off in the turn of a sentence. You will have to buy into the banter between the guys and be prepared to listen to discussions about completely non-Spurs or football issues. However, they did mix a very healthy blend of rationality, humour and genuine insight to produce an excellent weekly pod.

The Fighting Cock

Weekly: Tuesday/Wednesday

One of the more well-known podcasts. The show is presented each week by ‘Flav’ who is also behind the 1882 movement which some of you will be aware of. There are a pool of co-presenters (Spooky, Alex from Bristol, Bardi, T, Ricky, Windy) who seem to operate on a rota basis meaning there is always a good variety of voices and opinions.

The show is very laddish and you should probably avoid listening with your Mum. Amongst all the Spurs chat there will also be discussions around poo and self-pleasure. However, behind all the bluster the team work very hard to produce a highly entertaining and thought provoking pod which will resonate with long-term fans – the 1882 movement underpins the narrative of the show; as well as discussing on the field matters in a very measured and rational manner I love the fact that pod is very much about how we all support Spurs and the ways that has changed over the years.

One of the best elements of the pod is the weekly update on our Youth teams and players out on loan. This is presented by ‘Windy’ – what this guy doesn’t know about the Spurs Academy isn’t worth knowing.

The Spurs Show

Weekly: Tuesday

This pod is definitely for an older generation of Spurs fans and I think that this goes some way to accounting for the supposed ‘negativity’ of the show. Traditionally this was presented by Phil Cornwall who despite the enthusiasm does slow the show down with some dated impressions. Mike Leigh or Theo Delaney usually host the pod and are joined by some well known Spurs celebrity fans and journalists.

This is an easy listen and I dismiss the criticism of being too negative. The pod also has at least two live shows each year and they have attracted some high profile ex-players including Glenn Hoddle, Ledley King and Jimmy Greaves. These live shows take place in London and a great night but are also recorded so can be listened to as a podcast too.

The Hotspurs Podcast

Weekly: Wednesday

It’s simplicity is its beauty. Two Spurs fans – Steve from Essex and Colin from Northern Ireland – discuss their views on the most recent and upcoming games and anything else important to do with Tottenham Hotspur. Steve can irritate me a little with his ‘I’m always right attitude’ but the pair will have healthy debate about topical Spurs issues. They have also managed to interview some ex-players and these are usually made available during the off-season and well worth listening to.

Echoes of Glory

Weekly: Wednesday

Like the Hotspurs Podcast this is a very simple format with two or three Spurs fans discussing topical Spurs issues. The guys provide a solid if not spectacular weekly podcast in a measured and interesting manner. There is a fantastic Spurs jingle recorded for the start and end (in full) of each pod.

Oh When the Spurs

6-8 weekly

Presented by Antony Costa (from Blue) and ‘Crackers’ this occasional podcast is perhaps pound for pound the best listen. Ant and Crackers have a great rapport and always welcome a well known celebrity Spurs fan. Sometimes there can be too much rapport between the two of them but you can tell they love recording and discussing Spurs. Last season Barry Davies was the guest and this provided for one of my favourite podcasts of all-time.

Recording every 6-weeks or so allows them to evaluate the team and individual’s performances over a longer period of time which often creates a more measured and considered review. It’s just frustrating that the pod appears to have become so adhoc as it’s such a good listen.

E-Hotspur

Weekly: Tuesday/Wednesday

I’m not sure what has happened to this pod as three of the regular co-presenters (Adie, John and Coatesy aren’t on anymore). This is again a fairly solid listen which I always try to find time for but wouldn’t prioritise over the others.

Tottenham Family Podcast

Weekly: Sunday/Monday

Presented by Javed this pod benefits from being recorded very soon after the weekend game meaning that its often the first one available to listen to. As a fairly new pod with a rota of co-presenters it lacks a natural chemistry between presenters and can appear a little clumsy at times. That said, it is improving and includes contributors from around the world from season-ticket holders to the Head of the Johannesburg supporters club. There is a quite sweet segment called ‘The forward line’ which previews statistically the upcoming game.

Hotspur America

Weekly: Sunday/Monday

I wrongly thought that this was purely for new-generation Spurs fans from the US. Whilst it may be aimed at this audience they do also have some well known contributors including Julie Welch and Rob White and having listened to a few more episodes I am beginning to get fonder of the show. It is also recorded quite early on in the week when not many other’s are available.

The Tottenham Way

Weekly?

This is new for this season; I heard one show and was quite impressed with some of the tactical insight but there doesn’t appear to have been one recorded since.

The only pod I don’t like is Hotspur’s Half-Hour. I believe this is co-presented by the online ‘personality’ Harry Hotspur. Not sure even whether the show is still being produced – it was weekly – but I would avoid as I found both presenters to be quite obnoxious and overly self-righteous.

Overall I would recommend that you listen to all of the above Spurs pods. They all have their little quirks and annoyances which you’ll have to judge for yourselves. I’m incredibly envious of all the people who produce these high quality podcasts and provide a platform to discuss Spurs.

Those who do not know history’s mistakes are doomed to repeat them​

Following the close of the transfer window, the general consensus amongst Spurs fans is that the club has, as ever, fallen short. The criticism reads that the Chairman has failed to back the manager and a Champions League place (now) a pipedream. The Supporters’ Trust has asked for a “credible explanation from THFC’s Board to address the genuine concerns of supporters”. Well, I might not be on the Board, but the answer is very simple – the club has learned its lesson.

Son Heung-min tottenham

Ever since the catastrophic summer of 2013, Spurs have been in recovery. Seven players with immediate first team ambitions were brought into the squad, with the vast majority of people shouting ‘too many, too soon’. The squad was left bloated, unbalanced and the Board played a dangerous game, overseeing a seismic shift from British to foreign players. It all failed spectacularly. There was no discernible plan and the squad a shambles.

This summer, the club has been the antithesis – clinical and systematic. The spending has addressed the two weakest areas of the squad – the defence and the lack of pace – and quite remarkably, all the dross has been weeded out for good value. That is impressive.

Toby Alderweireld has come in as first choice and Kieran Trippier and Kevin Wimmer as squad players. The three can only be an improvement on the woefully inadequate Younes Kaboul and Vlad Chiriches. The upshot of the signings also being that they have allowed Eric Dier to move into the central midfield, offering a level of steal that Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb simply can’t. One would expect a marked improvement in the defence. The Board has done its job here.

Likewise, Son Heung-min and Clinton Njie will bring some much needed pace to the team, with the former expected to be first choice, and the less experienced latter given more leeway. The dynamism the two are thought to offer will be a welcome departure from the effective but labouring Nacer Chadli and wasteful Erik Lamela. It has been a crying shame to watch the brilliance of Harry Kane’s link up play and Christian Eriksen’s creativity stifled with no players running ahead of them. Things become very interesting when tempo is aligned with ingenuity. Moreover, with both new signings able, to some extent, play up front, the fears of solely relying on Harry Kane should be allayed somewhat.

The squad is by no means perfect, with an experienced defensive midfielder and genuine striker cover both needed, but there has been some serious progression. For the first time in two years, it feels like Tottenham are moving forward with a clear plan of how the team is going to play and who they need to implement it. Eighteen players have departed, none of whom were first team players, with five arrivals, two of whom expected to be first team players. This is what measured improvement looks like.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, the Tottenham Supporters’ Trust, with their clamour for more signings, need to sit down, take a moment and reassess.

My first time at WHL – Rangers 1968

Hi all, I have been threatening to write about how I came to support Spurs and my first visit to the Lane. At school I didn’t really have a team until the FA Cup Final of 1967, the first all London final dubbed the cockney cup final. Spurs won and from then on they became my team. Even after all these years some of the players from that side are still among my all time favourites.

Now in my family no one was really into football, I had a couple of uncles on my mums side who were Gooners but my dad and his brother seemed to have a fondness for Spurs but never went to games. I had never been to a game, but this was about to change when my sister who is 7 years older than me met the guy who was to become her husband. It turned out he was a massive Spurs fan and so we got on like a house on fire and I would spend hours pestering him to tell me all about Spurs and White Hart Lane, much to the annoyance of my sister.

The next thing I should mention,for younger readers, was that my sisters boyfriend was a barber and in those days most shops that opened on a Saturday would usually be closed all day or half day on a Wednesday. This was because in those days banks were only open Monday to Friday 9 to 5 so shops closed on Wednesdays to compensate the staff for having to work on Saturday and also so they could bank their takings etc. The consequence of this was that my future brother in law could never get to a game on a Saturday because it was one of the busiest days for a Barber and he would lose too much money and customers if he took a Saturday off. But he used to go to all the Wednesday night games he could.

After going out with my sister for a year he asked my Mum and Dad if it would be OK to take me to a game, and they said yes. To say I was excited was an understatement. The game in question was to be held on Wednesday 31st July 1968 a pre season friendly against the mighty Glasgow Rangers.

Tottenham v Glasgow Rangers 1968

When the day came I was so excited and so we set out to the tube station. Even on the tube to Seven Sisters I was getting caught up in the anticipation excitement and buzz, looking wide eyed at all the people wearing scarves and  lapel badges (replica shirts and clothing had not emerged then) chatting about the team and the game. When we got out at Seven Sisters the amount of people heading to the ground was mind boggling to me in those days. The thing is I still love that walk even all these years later. I still get the same buzz of anticipation and excitement going to games now.

Another thing I should add was my brother in law liked a drink, so the walk to WHL was broken up with visits to various pubs on the way, where i had to stand outside with a coca cola and a packet of crisps while he had a pint. I think the first one was The Beehive and the last one was the Corner Pin.

Now as a little kid in those days it seemed to me that the crowds around the ground were huge.There was a large number of Rangers fans. Lots more away fans than we would see at the Lane these days. Because those days you could turn up and pay at the gate for a lot of games. Speaking to my brother in law we both estimate that there were around 10 000 Rangers fans in the ground that night. We were in the upper North that night and as far as I can recall the whole lower terrace was filled with Rangers fans. Again to my 10 year old mind the ground was rocking with the atmosphere as 2 of the biggest teams in Britain emerged prior to kick off. My only regret was that one of Spurs most iconic players from those days Dave Mackay had just left the club so I would not get to see him play.

The 2 teams were as follows:-

Spurs

1 Pat Jennings

2 Phil Beal

3 Cyril Knowles

4 Alan Mullery

5 Mike England

6 Peter Collins

7 Jimmy Robertson

8 Jimmy Greaves

9 Martin Chivers

10 Terry Venables

11 Alan Gilzean

 

12 Sub Jimmy Pearce.

Long sleeved white shirts with cockerel on ball motif. Blue Shorts. White Socks.

Rangers

1 Kai Sorensen

2 Colin Jackson

3 Billie Mathieson

4 John Greig

5 Ron McKinnon

6 Dave Smith

7 Willie Henderson

8 Sandy Jardine

9 Andy Penman

10 William Johnston

11 Orjan Persson

 

12 Sub Norrie Martin

Blue shirts with a deep white V. White shorts. Black socks topped with red.

Referee : Mr A Dimond (Essex)

Linesmen : Mr D Pond (Essex) and Mr A Turvey (Essex)

(The officials collectively known as The Essex Boys)

☼ Dry sunny afternoon.

1 Substitute per team.

So pretty much full strength for both teams.

To be honest I don’t remember too much about the game but we won 3-1. I have found a couple of extracts of the match report but nothing in full. As i said before the thing that has always stuck in my mind was the rocking atmosphere obviously contributed to by the amazing away support of Rangers. It obviously helped that we won comfortably and heres a little extract of the match report

First Half. Spurs kick towards the Paxton Road goal, Rangers towards the Park Lane End.

In the early moments, Rangers look disorganised and sloppy with Spurs taking the initiative.

Chivers is played through, but McKinnon clears for a corner.

4 mins 02 Seconds: GOAL 1-0 SPURS

Jimmy Greaves takes a corner. Peter Collins moves unmarked into the box. Collins heads downwards, Sorensen under pressure from Robertson lets what should have been a routine save in to the net.

8 mins 15 secs: GOAL 2-0

A Greaves corner  again met by the head of Peter Collins is stopped on the line by Dave Smith. Sorensen does not move quickly enough to gather and Collins follows up to force the ball home

FINAL SCORE

SPURS 3 (Collins 2, Mullery/Jackson OG) RANGERS 1 (Penman)

Attendance : 37,998

Researching on-line I think because of his shaky performance the rangers keeper Sorensen never played for the first team again.

I would love to find anyone who went to the game (Spurs or Rangers fans) to hear their views on the game. This turned out to be the first of many mid week night games I would go to with my brother in law seeing many highs and lows along the way. The lowest being Arsenal sealing the double at WHL in `71 to the absolute euphoria I had of being behind the goal as Alan Mullery headed in the goal that would ultimately seal our UEFA Cup win of 1972. After this period I started to go to Saturday games on my own. By that I mean without adult supervision as my mum said I was old enough to go on my own, or with mates in a crowd.

It’s why even these days I still love the midweek games in the Europa League. I know Champions league would be great, but Spurs in Europe holds a special place in my heart thanks to my brother in law taking me to many great games in the late 60’s and early 70’s

So that’s the story of how I came to be a fan. At least I have seen us win a few trophies but I still dream about seeing Spurs winning the title in my lifetime

COYS