Stomach Churning? Shouting At The TV? Yep, Spurs Are Back

My season starts in the same way, at the same point, every year. Take a complete break over the summer these days. No friendlies, don’t even know what the new kit looks like. Need a rest, especially after last season’s debacle. Spurs’ first game, I’m keen but slightly detached. What will be will be and all that.

We begin well enough, interesting to see how we set up, Hammers come close but I have the luxury of the TV angle via my stream and it’s going wide. Then, it begins. Our marking is poor, they have a great chance. Should have scored and my stomach turns over. The bile rises, I feel sick, churning, stamping my feet, shouting at the screen. That’s a relief. Football’s back and everything is reassuringly normal.

It’s good to win on the opening day of the season and the manner of victory with a classy goal deep into added time was sheer delight. Kane, on as sub for Adebayor, spotted the runner and slid a perfect angled ball through the hapless Wham back four. That the runner was Eric Dier, full-back, on debut, 93rd minute, was a bit of a surprise but his calm, controlled finish, rounding the keeper before stroking the ball into an empty net, was worthy of Greaves or Gilzean. If my ‘new season resolution’ is to enjoy the Spurs, that’s the way to go, gents, thank you kindly.

This came on the back of a resilient hour when we were down to 10 men after Naughton was sent off for handling a supposedly goal-bound shot. Great to win but this was a mostly ordinary match between two ordinary sides. Our goal, however excellent, was our only genuine chance in the whole game. W Ham obliged by missing theirs plus a penalty. Other sides won’t be so generous but first game, down to ten men for much of it so no real conclusions to be drawn. Like I said, let’s enjoy the moment.

The penalty incident seems the obvious turning point. After we mastered early possession, without doing anything dangerous with it, our opponents stifled us in midfield and were on top. We muddled away a couple of efforts, swarming round attackers in the box, then close to the goal Naughton hurled himself in to block a shot. It was ball to hand but those hands were held high like a goalkeeper. Penalty, I’m afraid. Cue cries of ‘unlucky’, ‘seen them not given’ but after a chat with his linesman, the ref made the right choice. Naughton saw red – blocking a goalbound shot with his hands, I guess, even though it was probably going over. Inevitable. We had a couple of ball to hand pens last season. Fine if refs are consistent with this interpretation all season. Bet they won’t be.

Bright start, no goals, opposition get back into it, cock-up. The Spurs way. New season, new manager, same old story. But wait. Fans of rival clubs have more in common than they would care to admit. The Hammers I know could describe their side in the same way. Miss a penalty, then the real turning point of this match came in the second half when Adebayor knocked the ball past centre half Collins, who duly obliged by bringing him down even though it was nearer the halfway line than the goal. Already booked, Collins was gone and if Manu did little else yesterday, he knew what he was doing right then. The man advantage tossed away.

In a match without too much goalmouth incident, the other significant moment came late on. Lloris, superb in this fixture at the fag end of 2013-4, dashed out to thwart Downing’s close-range shot as finally WHam breached our defence. It was a proper save, not just an arms-and-legs-flailing block.

So Mr Poch, what do you have in store for us? W Ham’s first attack didn’t amount to anything but our response was indicative of the shape of things to come. Bentaleb and Capoue, our two defensive midfielders, dropped back straight away, taking up deep positions a few yards in front of the back four and in the gaps between them. The midfield three of Lamela, Lennon and Eriksen fell back behind the ball, leaving centre forward Adebayor up front. That DM positioning is key if we are to overcome the huge problems of last season when the back four were unprotected and therefore vulnerable.

When we had the ball, the three interchanged positions, they seemed to know what was going on and filled the space left as their team-mates moved around. The full-backs came forward to help out and Bentaleb joined them, staying deeper than the three but involved while Capoue hangs further back.

They looked comfortable and Capoue was our best player until he dropped back to centre half. However, it was all a bit cluttered – they were too close to each other – and we didn’t have a shot on goal in this early period despite being on top. Possession is important as they shifted the ball from side to side. Repeatedly we tried lofted passes in Adebayor’s direction, which seemed to me to be tactics not desperation. What’s certain is that they didn’t work. Like all our work on the ball in the first twenty minutes, it was overly deliberate and the big Hammers defenders easily dealt with them.

Eriksen and Lamela showed glimpses of promise on the ball but faded all too easily when Wham flooded the midfield and made things difficult. They tossed a few balls into the box from deep but we did little to stop them and looked unnecessarily shaky in the box. Dier’s selection shows Pochettino is looking to the future – if ever there is a match for Dawson it’s this one as we know the ball is going to ping in repeatedly. Dier is promising but the opposition forwards got in between the centre halves and missed a couple of good opportunities.

Despite the sending off, Pochettino remained resolutely positive. Capoue was our best player at this juncture. I would have brought Dawson on and kept Capoue where he was as DM. However, the Argentinian did not want to waste a substitution, so Capoue became centre half and Dier right back.

It looked as if it was only a matter of time before the Hammers scored. After half time we were pushed back. Adebayor was isolated and detached from the midfield up front, so we had no outlet. But we discovered another feature of Pochettino’s approach, his brave, attacking use of subs, which turned the match in our favour. Holtby and Townsend for Lennon and Lamela gave us renewed industry and, in Townsend the ability to take the game to our opponents. At this stage in his development, Townsend needs a yard or two to look dangerous. Close him down and he’s not learned effective options. Yesterday he posed problems every time he took the defence on. It felt as if our manager would have made the same changes regardless of W Ham’s carelessness in dropping to 10 men.

And make no mistake, the players were encouraged to get forward. Dier’s willingness to get into opposition half seemed reckless as the minutes ticked away and we were on for a decent away point. Stay back, let someone else make the runs…hah!

Early days, 10 men, no time for judgements. However: Bentaleb had a good game and a man who did not appear in any of the papers’ ‘best Spurs team’ has caught the new manager’s eye. He keeps the ball moving and finds space wherever he goes. I wonder if Kane may have to adapt to a role similar to that of Rodriguez at Southampton, a forward able to drop back when needed. Kaboul was poor outside the box – as captain he should have set a better example.

Steffen Freund: Spurs Become A Player in the Global Game

Steffen Freund’s appointment this week as International Technical Co-Ordinator at Tottenham Hotspur has been greeted by Spurs fans, including me initially, with a mixture of derision and apathy. The job title is classic corporate goobledygook, intending to be self-important and serious but in reality a string of buzzwords devoid of substance or meaning.

For a great example of the art of managementspeak, look no further than Spurs itself and our “strategic partnership” with Real Madrid. This one is a classic of the genre, though. “Co-ordinator” – busy but not actually doing anything. “Technical” is anything you want it to be, something to do with football presumably, that the Technical Director Franco Baldini doesn’t do. Reassuring to know that when it comes to all things technical, Tottenham have it covered.

Strip away the jargon, however, and this role points the way towards a significant development in club strategy. Freund will help develop young players on loan abroad, support partnerships at youth level with foreign clubs and scout young players. He has a decent reputation by all accounts as a coach of young German players before he returned to Spurs. More than that, alongside other developments this signals clearly that Tottenham are broadening their horizons. New club sponsors AIA are an Asian insurance corporation. Their logo is red allegedly because this is considered a lucky colour in the Far East. Spurs’ US tour was a foot in the door to the huge potential of the lucrative American market. Football is a global game and Spurs have come to play.

The general consensus on social media affirmed this gently eased Freund out of Pochettino’s way and rewarded a Spurs stalwart. However, Levy’s hardly renowned for sentiment when it comes to cold hard cash and it’s safe to assume Freund’s not in it just for the air miles. Granted Ledley King is now club ambassador but given his history and status within the club, no one begrudges him the role of Looking Slightly Ill-at-Ease in Tottenham Photos. I’m sure Freund’s passion for the club is authentic but in a ruthless commercial environment running around a lot for a few years is no qualification for job security. Levy could have sacked him in the blink of an eye. The fact he chose not to indicates there’s something going on.

The market for young footballing talent is international and Tottenham have recognised this by investing new resources, in the shape of Steffen Freund. We have already exploited it to some extent. Our development squad contains young men from Serbia, Spain, Portugal, Croatia and Ivory Coast.  It’s a far cry from Spurs’ traditional links with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The arrival of 18 year old Belgian Jonathan Blondel  in 2002 caused a flurry of interest because it was so unusual for such a young foreign player to come to an English club. Around that time, Iceland’s youth team captain was also on the books. I can’t recall his name: neither player made it at Spurs.

These days, however, there’s more to it than scouting. The stakes are high. For top clubs, their development policy could be the key to financial survival as well as trophies. Needless to say, in England Chelsea are the club who have taken this to extremes. A quick Google revealed that in February this year, that is after the transfer window had closed, the Blues had so many players out on loan, nobody seemed quite sure about the exact figure. Estimates range between 22 and 27.

Football writer Rory Smith provides a devastating critique into the story beneath the figures. It’s strictly business. One or two of these young players may eventually make it to the first team squad, keeper Courtois being the best current example. But to the Blues, it doesn’t matter. These kids are commodities, buy low, sell high. If they make it, fine, if not, just as good, and the key to this is the new rules on Financial Fair Play. Investment in youth development doesn’t count in FFP but transfer income from the products of that system does. Clubs need to generate income from player sales in order to allow them to keep within the FFP rules, even if they spend large amounts on transfers. Smith states:

“This is because player development, at the world’s largest clubs, is no longer about football. It is about business. It is not about honing talent. It is about making profits. It is run according to the rules of the hedge fund — spread your risk to ensure your reward — with a mindset borrowed from property development. Nurturing young players is not a team’s primary concern, just as a developer does not refit houses to live in them. Chelsea and their peers are not crafting young players. They are flipping them.”

Spurs have dipped their toes in the water. With all respect to the player, I don’t think this is Jon Obika’s breakthrough season. 11 spells on loan, yet to start for the first team, turns 24 next month. Yet we resigned him. I predict a transfer to a lower league side and if not a profit then at the very least a return on our investment. This is typically small-scale but Freund’s appointment indicates the club are significantly upping their game.

A healthy youth policy will do Spurs a lot of good but if first team chances for young players are as limited as they have been in recent years, they will become balance sheet statistics not the home-grown heroes supporters hold so dear. Pochettino has a reputation for bringing them through but as I said last week, he was forced into that position at Saints because of budget restrictions that will not be so stringent at White Hart Lane.

Also, I remain distinctly uncomfortable at the notion of young footballers as commodities. At 16 I was used to the tube but a trip from west to southeast London one day made me feel like a stranger in a strange land. What can it feel like for a teenager coming to a new country, different language, knowing nobody and having to perform at a peak level. It’s not right.

Yet it seems the entire game is moving in that direction. The PL sells passion and atmosphere, Sky sell more satellite dishes but the supporters who generate that emotion face exorbitant prices, bizarre kick-off times and have no say in the way the game is run. My 50 year loyalty is reduced to a customer reference number as far as the club is concerned, or so it appears. Under Armour and AIA are doing their thing but come August 24th I guarantee no one will have cleaned the birdscrap off Jackie’s seat. She sits in front of us – it’s our pre-season ritual. Fans and passion commodified too.

There is something positive here. Freund’s role gives him the opportunity to keep an eye on these players. Let them know someone cares about their progress, a watchful benevolent figure, and if this is part of the investment, credit is due to all concerned. Rumours, always rumours, but it has been said that Spurs do make an effort to look after their foreign players and men like Lloris respect that.

In the summer Nigerian starlet Musa Yahaya signed a pre-contract agreement at the tender age of 16. He’s hot property apparently. Maybe he came to us because we offered to care for him and to give him a better chance of getting near the first team than if he were at Stamford Bridge. I like to think that’s the way we should behave. I hope he gets further than a Youtube showreel.

Blogs Are Dead! In The Guardian So It Must Be True….

Two weeks in a Pembrokeshire cottage was the perfect refresher but with no internet or the prospect of a decent flat white with beans from a south-facing slope anywhere, my metrosexuality was at a low ebb. Naturally I turned straight to the Guardian website once home, only to be greeted with the sobering news that in my absence, blogs and blogging are dead. That’s the pressure of the modern media – a fortnight out of the loop and you’re history. No 4g and you’re nowhere.

So that’s me put firmly in my place. Hardly worth hitting the keyboard for a new season and the previous five relegated to the deleted sidebar widget of history. But wait. Turns out this only refers to young people, because that’s how far history goes back these days. “Back in 2004…” sighs the author wistfully. Anything beyond that is as far as social media goes, the cyber-equivalent of the Neolithic era. Apparently I should be using, well, sites that I’ve never heard of.

Well I’m here to tell you that this swinging hepcat is going to carry on and Tottenham On My Mind will be exactly the same. Words. Some pics. More words. About Spurs. And football. Not even going to change the design. The font is clear and that’s all that words need.

Blogging is the best format for what I want to do, to be a single consistent voice expressing what it means for me to support Tottenham Hotspur. Blogs that survive are, says the Guardian, mostly “entrepreneurial”, i.e. they have been monetised and are kept going to bring in income. This one isn’t. No big deal, but I write about Spurs because I want to.

Join in. Comment. That’s the point of blogs like this one. A viewpoint you can rub up against, relate to what you think. Because, and this insight will shake you to your core, all supporters are different even if we support the same team. No need to be rude, play the words not the woman or man. But talk. About Spurs. It’s great.

Tottenham On My Mind doesn’t have a USP (Unique Selling Point, jargonbusters!), but because I am in my late fifties, it does bring some sense of perspective. This is lousy in many respects. Over the summer, for example, I find little to write about, hence my summer break. ITK is fun, I read it. Great for hits too – always makes me smile that one of my articles with the biggest views began in the headline “No ITK…”, but obviously the demand for info is so great, people felt compelled to look, such is the power of ITK. Let’s wait until something happens. Same with friendlies. I’m pleased things seem to have gone well in the US but never make any judgements on the basis of a friendly match.

Anyhow, I needed a break after last season. Took a lot out of me. Months of neglect and drift, leaving far to much time to ponder on how our chairman abrogated his responsibility as a leader and decision-maker and how it was possible to dissipate the impetus both of previous seasons and £100m worth of transfers. Supporters were stunned, angry, disillusioned and alienated to an extent that I have never before known in 50 years of support. It was about something more than just results, it was a shock that people inside the club could treat it with such wanton negligence.

If you want to kick the ITK habit, read Michael Calvin’s book about scouts and scouting, The Nowhere Men. Basically, every club knows every player, from ages 8 to 38. They have targets not a target, prioritised lists of players who fit their needs. So to say ‘Spurs are interested in Joe Schmoe from Kokomo’ means something and nothing. They may well be interested in him but at any one time they are ‘interested’ to a greater or lesser extent in hundreds of footballers. Doesn’t mean they are going to buy them. ‘Interested’ therefore bears little relation to his prospect of pulling on the shirt. A virtually worthless term in respect of transfers. At Spurs, probably only a very few people know if a firm offer has been placed for a player and he’s going to come. Even the manager doesn’t always know.

No ads but personal recommendations: Calvin’s book is excellent, a highly readable insight into the slog and grind of assessing talent. He draws you right into the scout’s world, leaving you to conclude that amidst the hype and hysteria of the Premier League and the media, scouts are the only true football men left, people whose love and feel for the game will never disappear. They certainly don’t do it for the money.

Welcome to Mauricio Pochettino. Not actively blogging at the time of his arrival has allowed a degree of perspective on his appointment too. I think he is right for Spurs in terms of where we are at the moment. He has clear, focussed ideas about how his team should be set up and perform on the field. He likes his teams to press, often high up the pitch, to get the ball forward quickly and to use space with thought and precision. Saints were excellent in the channels and the gaps between back four and midfield, precisely the areas where Spurs were woefully deficient. Tottenham have to graft their way to glory.

He’s also a reminder of our status and where we stand as the season is about to begin. He’s not a big name and the fact is, we could not attract the big names. The same may well be the case when it comes to players. We’ve missed our chance. Liverpool began last season as competitors, now they have moved onwards and upwards. If Spurs and Liverpool are both going hard for a player, he’ll pick them, every time, in the same way Rodgers opted for Anfield not White Hart Lane two seasons ago. Ars***l are attracting world-class talent. Excruciating to watch but we have to set to work to get ourselves to that status rather than be intimidated by it.

Last season is over but we can’t escape the failures. These are constant reminders of how we failed to move on. So let’s make the best of what we have and enjoy it. We will get good players not stars, and that may be a good thing. Men who want to play for a manager who will get the best from them, a team that plays together and works damn hard in the process. The World Cup has shown us that purposeful workrate is the foundation for any success and if his reputation counts for anything, that’s what Pochettino brings. It may take a while, so we have to be patient. I know – fans have had to be patient for a long, long time, but we are where we are, so let’s get on with it.

The Argentinian will bring renewed energy and purpose to a club that has been drifting rudderless but let’s not get too carried away with the contemporary obsession with managers. The Wit and Wisdom of Alf Ramsey would be a surefire cert for the shortest book of the year, any year, despite his status as world cup winning coach. The former Spurs man spoke infrequently. When he did, you could imagine that just out of shot, an FA official was holding a pistol pointed to his head, such was his reluctance. Ramsey looked like a Thunderbirds puppet, wooden features, bushy eyebrows and rigid upper lip rising and falling onto a stiff jaw. This Essex boy affected an upperclass accent that sounded like the most false telephone voice you have ever heard. Yet this short sentence is wise and remains true today, even in a very different culture of celebrity coaches. “Managers get too much praise when things go well and too much criticism when things go badly.” Managers are important but players have to deliver. In a sense managers release footballers to be the best they can be, to get them in the right place at the right time, then they can do their stuff. Resist the cult of the individual.

While Poch is a man with a plan, we don’t fully know the extent to which the resources at his disposal defined Southampton’s play. He did well to bring on a talented group of youngsters and Spurs have promise waiting to be fulfilled with Lamela, Bentaleb, Carroll and Kane plus Ryan Mason, forgotten out on loan but rehabilitated on the US tour. However, at Saints he had little alternative. Our budget for salaries and fees is much higher so he has more options. Saints fans say he was better going forward than in defence and there are strong signs he rightly wants to strengthen at the back.

Yet despite the transfer noise, our prospects rest on what the Argentinian makes of our existing squad. Lloris re-signing is a major boost even though the contract is in large part insurance against his departure at the end of the season. He’s a role model in a squad that’s short of leadership on the field – committed and able. No coincidence that he was able to play his best football at the end of last term, focussed and determined while all around was crumbling. A similarly dedicated Vertonghen would be welcome, ‘welcome back’ perhaps better because he disappeared for half a season. If he means it, keep him but get rid if his mind is elsewhere.

Sandro and Kaboul are key men potentially, powerful and alert but only the club know if they are fully fit. The interest in midfielders, an area where we are well-stocked, could indicate that Poch doesn’t like what he sees, in which case the able but slow Capoue could join one or two wide men on the way out. Pochettino’s high energy approach will surely be a shock to Chadli’s system. Dembele I like a lot but he needs to be played further forward. His habit of holding on to the ball will have to go, or he will. And we have to talk about Paulinho. A shadow of the player we saw in the Confederations Cup, he played a full part in Brazil’s downfall. Personally I’d give him two months complete rest – come back in September and we’ll see if we have a player. He’s exhausted. He fits the Pochettino way but If he’s not keen on England, sell without hesitation.

Soldado could well stay and profit from Eriksen’s rise to prominence. Surely the Dane will be this team’s key figure. It could also be Holtby’s chance to establish himself.

And in the end, there’s Levy. Always Levy. He’s keen to change managers but back them in the transfer market – not so much. The feeling lingers that Pochettino was the perfect Levy man less for his tactical nous and more because he won’t be too demanding, too expensive or rock the boat. Anyway, Dan’s watching the pennies, what with a new stadium to pay for.

These days chairmen authorise a BACs transfer from the Cayman Islands rather than put their hand in their pocket or pull out their chequebook. Whatever it takes, he has to listen to his manager and and put his money where his mouth isn’t. My blog may not be monetised but if I had sponsored that sentence in the last six years, I’d be able to afford my season ticket. But I’ve paid for it anyway, because as 2014-5 nears, whatever the problems and uncertainty, I look forward to it as much as ever. Join me why not.

Sherwood Goes But Levy’s Still There

A single moment in early May, east London, perfectly encapsulated Tottenham Hotspur’s entire season. Stewart Downing’s insipid free-kick from the edge of the box should have been easily blocked by Lloris’s meticulously assembled wall. Yet Paulinho and Adebayor stood aside, allowing the ball to sail into the bottom corner.

This was more than merely another of the record-breaking number of crass, unforced defensive errors that have blighted our season. They, two of our most experienced players, men we should be able to rely upon, failed to do their duty when it came to the crunch. They have not been the only ones.

This lack of responsibility has seeped into every part of the club, a gangrenous sore festering throughout the body Spurs, undermining any efforts to make concerted progress with regular stinking, slimy eruptions sadly synonymous with the way we go about our business. Risible defensive lapses, managers coming and going, fans singled out by police, comedy press conferences, over £100m on players to mount a challenge for 6th and 7th, all this and more has made Spurs a laughing stock, not least in the eyes of many of their long-suffering supporters. Some laughed, many were angry, all despaired of ever seeing the club attain the stability that is the foundation of achievement.

Amid the anger and finger-pointing that has typified Spurs’ fans on social media, nobody at the club should escape the blame. Villas-Boas’s dismissal and a change of style all created uncertainty and disruption, definitely on the field and if accounts are to be believed, in the dressing room too. Sherwood’s inexperience was laid bare so many times.

Equally, too many highly paid players did not give their best every time they pulled on the shirt. The shining exceptions of Eriksen and Lloris whose attitude and quality were impeccable in the second half of the season serve to expose those with less distinguished seasons, like Vertonghen, Rose, Naughton and Paulinho. Soldado and Lamela, £53m for the pair, not their fault that we had no idea what to do with them.

Yet this is ultimately a failure of Daniel Levy’s leadership. He takes the decisions – two managers this season, a grand total of 9 in 12 years. If I ran my organisation like this, I would be sacked. Levy continues to make the same mistakes, over and over again. In comes a Director of Football and he shuts his eyes, ears and mind to what has gone before. The first sign of pressure, Levy’s feet of clay collapse. At least Spurs’ managers have the comfort of never having to hear the dreaded vote of confidence but only because the chairman doesn’t talk in public.

Much has been said about Levy, the pivotal figure in recent Tottenham history. It’s alleged that he’s stupid, finance-driven, foolish with the backbone of a jellyfish, and far, far worse. Some, a distinct minority now, don’t see him as a failure, pointing to our sound finances, the impending new ground and the relative success of the past few years where Europe is a given. We are much better off than when he took over, so this account goes.

That’s true. The real question, however, is what we might have been. Levy is guilty of flawed leadership. Any successful leader in any organisation has a clear idea of what they want to achieve, how they do so and how they take the workforce along with them. Levy is fatally undermined because he’s torn between two competing goals, success on the field and a return on his money. Never forget the ‘I’ in ENIC stands for ‘investment’.

In an ideal world, one that Levy presumably prays for before he goes to bed, these two are perfectly compatible. We do well on the pitch with players bought at a reasonable price and not receiving inflated salaries, and the money comes rolling in. In reality, it’s much harder. Spurs strategy since Levy took over has been to buy players for whom the club is a step up and who will develop as footballers with us. Our recent history is best seen not so much in terms of the managers but in the eras of the three Directors of Football, Arnesen, Commoli and now Baldini, because they seem to be charged with finding these players. Arnesen bought a clutch of predominantly young players while as time went on we bought under the same principle but higher up the food chain. Berbatov and Modric were established but had more to give, as do Eriksen, Paulinho and Capoue. This time round, Lamela was one for the future but Soldado and Lloris were at the peak of their powers, a sign or so we thought that we were aiming for the big time.

However, Levy has never been able to implement the most significant element of any strategy, consistency. He doesn’t believe in the men he entrusts with the team. As a result, the strategy never gets beyond the drawing board, known this season as the burst of wild optimism that greeted the arrival of seven new players. This fatal weakness and vacillation dooms any plan to failure.

Levy understands money, one half of being a club chairman, but not the other, football. Fairly basic in the post’s person spec but there you have it. As a result he is dependent on advice and at Spurs whoever is whispering in his ear at any one time seems to hold sway. It creates this culture of uncertainly. Poyet briefed against Ramos, to the players as well as the chairman, Jol and against Santini and now Sherwood against AVB.

CEOs prosper not because they know the nuts and bolts of a business but they know how to choose someone who does. Pfizer’s chief exec can’t invent or manufacture anti-biotics but she or he knows who can, then they don’t interfere in the lab. Author, journalist and Spurs diehard Adam Powley made a simple but telling point earlier this season that I keep returning to. Never mind ENIC out or ENIC in, what will do us nicely is if they do their job as owners properly and with responsibility. Yet this is no way to run a company.

AVB’s appointment seemed to fit the bill, an ambitious, upwardly mobile manager desperate to succeed. A theorist rather than a practitioner he may be but with the right organisation on the field we could have prospered.

He over-achieved in his first season but could not cope with the demands of integrating seven new players into the team. I have never bought the accusation that our football was dull because he was defensive. I just think we weren’t very good. More specifically, he wanted us to attack and pass the ball but our possession-based game foundered in the final third because Villas-Boas’s formation was ineffective and didn’t suit the players.

We came to a grinding halt at the edge of the opponent’s box. Too many providers and no finishers. His inverted wingers crashed into defenders standing idly by around their area. All they had to do was stand there as Townsend banged shot after shot into their bodies. He and Lennon were never going to score the goals we needed with only Soldado up front. He meanwhile waited in vain for throughballs and crosses. Criminally AVB allowed a row with Adebayor over a hat and mobile phone in a team talk to interfere with the good of the club. Manu was banished when we needed a different type of centre-forward, his type.

Overflowing with midfielders, we persisted with two wingers and played others out of position. With at least three attacking mids to chose from, Paulinho found himself played there instead, watching the ball ping around dover his head for the most part.

Crashing defeats versus Manchester City and Liverpool at home showed the gulf in class, or maybe it was the crashing boredom of the odd goal wins. Whatever, less than half of the difficult second season and Levy had had enough.

Any questions about whether this was decisive or premature paled into insignificance when we saw who replaced him. Tim Sherwood’s appointment was sold to fans and media as continuity, the promotion from within of a guy who knew the club and the players, to steady the ship. However, the reality is impossible to deny. Levy had no plan B. AVB’s sacking was a panic measure and he had no one lined up.

Sherwood was given an 18 month contract but he was always a caretaker until the end of the season. The board knew it, the fans knew it, the players knew it and even Tim knew it. Levy wanted something and someone better but had to wait until the summer to sort it out. All the 18 months meant was that the end of contract compensation would be less than the usual three years. Today, the day he was sacked, it was revealed that even this short contract had an end of season break clause.

Despite his obvious shortcomings, I don’t blame Sherwood for taking the job. I blame Levy for giving it to him. Spurs wanted to challenge for honours and the top four, this season and in those to come. At the start of the season I felt Spurs were top six not top four so my dissatisfaction is not the result of over-weaning, unrealistic expectation. Levy chose to achieve his aim in an intensely competitive league by appointing a man with absolutely no managerial experience at all. It is astounding that this could happen in a club with our ambitions, a club that has spent £100m on transfers with pretentions as a global player in the game. No experience as a manager whatsoever.

He topped this staggering negligence by re-creating the caretaker experience of 2004, the darkest days in my time as a Spurs supporter. Then, Spurs entered the season confident that a 3 man injury-prone midfield with a combined age of over 90 (Anderton, Redknapp and Poyet) would last until May. Pleat took over and we scraped through, due in no small part to unsung hero Michael Brown who popped up unexpectedly in Ledley’s testimonial last night, still running and still kicking people.

The football was dire but the atmosphere desperate. The hopelessness and lack of purpose. Everything was about muddling through until the end of the season. At least in the Second Division we were working towards something.

Then and now we were just marking time until the summer. It takes away the extra incentive, the edge that turns a decent team into a competitive one, also-rans into contenders. It’s an awful feeling that transmitted itself to the fans. Loud and raucous away, the Lane was often hushed in contemplation, or, and let’s be frank, boredom. I can’t recall a time when so many said they had had enough. Sherwood is sacked 3 days before the season ticket renewal deadline. Coincidence? I doubt it.

Tim the Temp was determined to seize his chance, the reason why he took the job in the first place. He used his time to learn about being a manager and write his CV. He started well, keeping it admirably simple. He asked players to play familiar roles and brought Adebayor back into the team, where he excelled. Even in his fine play there was the lingering stench of what might have been had AVB not been so foolish as to ostracise him.

His inexperience was revealed when he tinkered with the tactics. Over a period of time we played several different formations, including, absurdly, the same 4-3-3 with inverted wingers, players out of position and a high line that got AVB the sack. At times we were a rabble, well-beaten by the good teams, shell-shocked after Liverpool and Chelsea where the motivation was as poor as the tactics. Some of the football stank the place out.

His desire to get the ball forward and reluctance to play with a defensive midfielder left us wide open in midfield. I get the theory. I saw the evidence: us being over-run, even by some limited sides. The PL is not the place to test that theory out.

Most aggravating was his search for a role and identity. Touchline arm-waving became an undignified, comical gilet-chucking spat with the Benfica manager, who chuckled at his playground psychology that had successfully wound his victim up. He then retreated to the director’s box, playing the role of all-seeing analyst. Happily waving to the elite, his peers as he no doubt hoped, as Spurs lost the return leg went down extremely poorly. As Spurs were being taken apart by Liverpool, he remained aloof and distant. I suppose he believed he looked hard and stern, I thought he looked a prat. This plus his readiness to blame players in defeat but take credit for a win gave the impression that this was more about him and less about the club, the thing I find hardest to forgive in anyone associated with Spurs.

However, Tim was better as an attacking coach. Eriksen came into his own and we scored regularly. This got us out of trouble on several occasions. West Brom away was Sherwood’s Spurs in a nutshell. First half, the most abysmal defending I ever seen, plus a missed penalty. Lucky to concede only three. But WBA sat back and we notched three of our own, Eriksen equalising in injury time.

I think also that Tim had a bit of luck – we were awful for periods against Everton, Palace, Southampton and others, Sunderland even, but they did not press home their advantage. The fixture list was kind to him at the end of the season too.

Sherwood’s 59% win record has become the equivalent of Harry’s ‘2 points from 8 games’, a mantra of self-justification but there’s truth in both statements and I’m grateful. Try telling a non-Spurs fan what he’s like – they don’t believe us. He’s learned a lot quickly and will be successful in the job that surely will be his before the season begins, provided he gets over to the players a proper defensive formation. He seems more natural now, involved and animated on the touchline without going over the top and more considered in his post-match comments.

It’s just that I did not want him to practice football management on my team. Levy should never have allowed Spurs to be in this position in the first place. Sherwood had no incentive to plan ahead. He’s blooded a few young men but there was no sense of settling the team down to pick up in August where we left off, no continuity. Good teams benefit from their experiences together in one season to emerge stronger for the next. We start afresh. We have no settled pattern or combinations. The new guy could change everything. Not rate any or all of the £100m club. Off we go again. What a waste of a season.

It’s only football so I use the following quote with a sense of perspective. It has been said that ‘those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ The author was thinking about something more profound than the travails of a small club in north London but Daniel Levy would do well to reflect upon it. Once again we approach a new season without a plan let alone a manager. Players will leave, more will come in. More integration, more valuable time lost, more frustration in the club and certainly in the stands. The biggest problem of all is that this sentence could have been written at the end of almost any season since Levy took over.