We’ve lost to Wigan. Yes, that club that can’t even get 200 supporters together to travel to a Premier League away game. Every Spurs fan died a little bit inside, but something much more significant occurred during and after that 90 minutes of football.
The atmosphere at White Hart Lane was simply appalling. I felt ashamed that those people who were booing, moaning and groaning support the same club as I do. They couldn’t be bothered to show support for their team when the going got tough. They just sat there, having a moan. The football was pedestrian but the atmosphere, even at 0-0, was downright disgraceful and embarrassing.
Let me be the first to say the performance was shocking. The players just don’t seem to have gelled. We lack creativity in midfield and we look far too stretched when going forward, resulting in massive holes for the opposition to attack during counter-attacks. We played two holding midfielders who neither are known for their creativity in tight quarters. We are in search of a chess player to get us clicking, but in reality we fielded a pit bull and a missile launching battle ship. Dembélé makes a world of difference because he does master the short passing game and knows how to connect midfield and attack. Still, it’s too early to say he is the be-all end-all solution to the current problems. I think everyone at the club knows how different things could have been if we had bagged a certain top player this Summer.
(Cue some melancholic Portuguese Fado music)
All the 4-4-2 evangelists and Football Manager (you know, that computer game you stopped playing when you were 18) apostles were out in force to express their discontent about the manager’s decisions. I’ll be honest, I didn’t agree with all his decisions this week either but who are we to say he is clueless? I bet 99% of us never even managed a Sunday league team, let alone passed for UEFA coaching badges. But even then, why would you show such animosity towards your own team in the manner a significant minority at White Hart Lane did on Saturday afternoon?
When I first learned about the rivalry with Arsenal and how Spurs fans would refer to Highbury as ‘The Library’ and described their fans as the footballing equivalent of Statler & Waldorf. Well, what have we become in recent times? If you pride yourself as a Spurs fan and behave like a Woolwich picnic basket how can you look to yourself in the mirror? We have taken the mickey out of them for decades but right now we are quickly turning into the North London edition of the Woolwich Travellers. Smug, arrogant, deluded, hypocritical and with an incredible sense of self-entitlement.
We hit a rough patch this week, no doubt. But it is way too early to start panicking and start calling for heads to roll. Things weren’t much better in the last few months of last season. Like this season, we dropped silly points at home against lower table opposition. It’s nothing new. What is different is that we lost two of our best players this Summer in Modric and Van der Vaart. Even Harry Redknapp acknowledged he would have a tough job on his hands if Spurs would sell some of its best players. Add to that an injury list including big players like Dembélé, Parker, Kaboul and Assou-Ekotto and it’s a dirty job for any manager to get a team filled with inexperience, novelty and in some cases mediocrity to get a string of satisfactory results and entertaining performances.
Some might have expected us to continue like nothing changed after last season’s ‘success’. In reality, we have been struggling for well over 8 months. The former manager was not sacked without reason. Relations seemed to have become strained. There were rumours about players being unhappy with the “outdated” training methods. Many rightfully questioned his loyalty towards the club when the England job looked a near certainty for him. He later admitted that he would’ve taken the job if it had been offered to him. Now we all know he was never the front-runner, although the media did everything to portray him as such.
Villas-Boas was brought in with a big job ahead of him. The club is in transition on many levels. A new training ground has been built, a new stadium is planned for 2014, wholesale changes in personnel. The club prides itself as a club with great ambition, but ambition only gets you this far without a solid foundation and a sound vision. In times where money talks in football one simply cannot expect a club with a modest stadium to challenge with clubs bankrolled by foreign Billionaires or clubs with stadium capacities close to twice that of White Hart Lane and a long history of European and domestic success (sit down Gooners, we’re talking about Manchester United here).
In the modern world of football buying a whole team seems to be the way to success. But if a club can’t compete for the best players in every position it has to find other ways to be able to compete. This is where the big challenge lies for Spurs. We are never going to pay the biggest wages or compete for £50m rated players. The way to make up for this lack of competitiveness has to come from a solid development strategy. Bring them in young or, even better, train them in ‘The Spurs way’ from a very early age. That’s how both Ajax and Barcelona became such successful clubs in the long run. Right now everything seems to be focused on the long-term. The appointment of a young manager, the new training complex, the improvements to our youth academy. That’s why being fickle short-term will only hurt any progress long-term. We can keep spending millions every window on strength and depth and sack manager after manager, or focus on our long-term future and breed young talent using a philosophy true to Spurs’ historic values of attractive and attacking football, to make up the numbers (and eventually to challenge for a starting place) so we can invest in top class players who instantly improve the strength of the starting XI.
By all accounts this is a transitional season. It’s not a job from scratch but the heart of the team has been pretty much ripped out. If we have learned anything from the more mediocre times it’s that hitting the panic button at the first signs of a slump is not the way to go forward. Sacking manager after manager has never worked. Appointing a manager who is not an option for the long-term is neither. It’s necessary to take the good with the bad right now in order to build for the future. Some might doubt the current manager’s abilities but he has at least shown that he is not afraid to make tough decisions. He’s not a ‘Yes Man’ and that’s what you need when change is needed and also a fact of the situation given previous events.
Spurs will always be Spurs. But don’t expect results to be guaranteed just because we had a couple of decent seasons. There are so many variables in football these days. One day you’re king, the next you’re toilet. But one thing will always be a constant. The supporters. They are the the soul and consciousness of a club. Do you want to sing loud and proud for your club or are you just popping by The Lane to have a moan? Many like to say Liverpool is a joke. Why? Not just because of their board and players, that’s for sure. So you know what to do. Make your fellow supporters proud to be Spurs.