Spurs Learning To Live With The Tension

Consensus round me? Hoped for something more but the draw will do. The game opened full of expectation, by the end both sides were intent on boring each other and the crowd into submission, the consequence of several factors. The unfeasibly early kick-off saps the enthusiasm. You look forward to these derbies, as always the authorities find a way of puncturing the balloon. As my son remarked, nothing says ‘modern football’ like the announcer greeting the teams with, ‘Good morning to the world famous home of the Spurs.’

CFC paid us the compliment of starting without Costa but two false nines don’t add up to one Harry Kane. Not even close, but there was barely room to breathe let alone play much football. Spurs were tired after Europe – you’ve no doubt seen the stat that showed we ran respectively 6k and 4k less compared with our last two matches.

No lack of tension however. As time passed you were thinking the same as me, come on, you know you were. Spurs on top, late Blues breakaway… Not this time. This lot are made of sterner stuff and we’ve scored our share of late goals too.

They set up in a flexible 4–3–3 to limit our space, the pace and creativity in their forwards more than compensating for the lack of a genuine centre forward. Spurs’ defence led by the admirable Alderweireld was able to handle it without too many scares. Hazard had their two best chances, heading just over in the first half then a lightening volley was kept out by Lloris low down to his left. It was over in a flash – the shot was unexpected and fizzingly fast – so I had to wait for the MOTD replay to show what a superb save it was.

For our part, Mason slotted in wide right. It meant he had an average game out of position but he was there to counter the threat down their left. We therefore had to work especially hard to make any opportunities. Despite the lack of room, we were able to consistently play a straight ball into feet towards the edge of their box but too often a combination of the absence of space plus tiredness from Europe the previous Thursday led to uncharacteristic long balls.

Kane nearly bundled one in at the near post before many had cleared the turnstile queues then his quick shot was straight at the keeper. Dembele charged bullishly onwards, his low shot turned round by Begovic. A shame he could not have done this more but Moussa is the man who makes a difference. It’s hard to see a midfielder making more of an impact in the PL right now. He faded in the second half after taking a knock and so did our performance. As well as the runs where like Desperate Dan the defenders bounce off him, his ability to hold onto the ball without losing it gives team-mates precious moments to get into position.

Best chance fell to Son. Kane nipped to the byline but Son’s unchallenged far-post header went directly at the keeper. He should have done more with that and throughout tried just a bit too hard on the ball. Better to throttle back and be patient.

I’ll say again that Alderweireld at £10m is the buy of the season. Pace plus anticipation is a real talent to have. He’s a yard ahead of most opponents and covers diligently, easing across effortlessly if a gap appears. That gives the other so much confidence. Vertongen continues to bloom although he went blank for 10 mistake filled minutes in the second half. Walker was excellent, using his speed to full effect.

Otherwise, missed passes without any catastrophes. Kane is a gem, becoming more polished by the game. Intelligent, scheming, available. He dropped back towards the end to allow Njie to buzz around up front like a dying wasp but nothing could break the deadlock.

If this match was a benchmark of how far Spurs have come, we rated pretty strong. More important however is the feeling that win, lose or draw, next week we will just pick up where we left off and take the game to West Brom. Our progress has solid foundations. The rhythm, movement and effort isn’t contingent on the previous weekend’s result. League success can be achieved on the basis of good results against the teams below us and between now and New Year we have a sequence of winnable matches on which our season could depend. We have the talent, application and momentum so let’s make the most of it. I’m not talking about winning the league for goodness sake, just rack up a few maximum points in the next five or six games. Pressure-generated anxiety can come later – remember to enjoy it while you can.

In the last 20 minutes the players were sucked into the quagmire of stalemate. For different reasons both teams were content to hang on to what they had. CFC had to save face by not losing to upstart rivals – the point is neither here nor there, they will push up the table again especially when Santa Roman brings them a little something in the winter window. Last minute, in front of us Ivanovic put the ball in touch then follows it up, whacking it high into the crowd for good measure. We should take it as a compliment. It’s some time since Mourinho set up his side because he was worried about us.

The ref didn’t help, seemingly intent on re-writing the laws of the game so physical contact is no longer permissible. I seldom comment on referees but he really irritated, especially as I’ve seen him have some excellent games in the past.

For Spurs, the weariness in their legs had spread to their minds. Just play out time, although Walker looks fit enough to play another 90 minutes and more. Lamela and Njie have no excuses – they gave away late free-kicks for no good reason and could easily have chucked the game away. The rest were done for by the Ropey League. In Poch we are learning to trust and the win over Quarabag sees us through but it was a mistake to play a full-strength side. Spurs are admirably fit but the pressing game takes a lot of energy and effort.

At the end my son and I were too agitated to queue for the train and walked off the tension back to Seven Sisters. I guess this was a taste of what it’s like to carry expectations and the players felt it too. It made for a drum-taut game that was frankly dull for long periods but we kept our shape and our concentration. That is another marker on the journey onwards and upwards, something else the side can reflect on this week with satisfaction, the ability to hang in there when inspiration has dried up.

 

The Day Daniel Levy Smiled

Good times to be a Spurs fan right now. High in the table, high on the intoxicating football that’s got us there. A thumping victory against the Whammers achieved by an outstanding performance as Tottenham just get better and better, individuals at their peak, the side flowing with the effortless instinctive ease of true teamwork. Seldom seen, especially at the Lane of late, but never forgotten.

Yes, I am going to rave about this one. It was a joy to behold. Football at it should be played. Attacking football, ball on the ground, pass and move, played by a young side bursting with pride for the shirt, playing for each other, for their manager, playing for us. Overflowing with skill, bundles of effort. A side we’ve put together ourselves, giving young men the chance to prove themselves. Doing things the right way, taking the game to the opposition, hard as nails when needs be. It’s what I want my Tottenham to be.

We’ve watched it form before our very eyes, growing pains at first and some painful efforts last season to be sure. Now we’re in at the birth of something that could be special. I’ve seen team-building and re-building over the years but nothing like this, when almost without noticing and without any one particular thing happening, it all comes together. Seen good teams but seldom a side that works so hard for each other, filling gaps, understanding the space and time around them. Comparisons with our glory years are invidious and unwarranted, but this must be a little like the feeling fans had in 1949 when Arthur Rowe put his push and run team together in Division 2 or a decade later when the pieces of Billy Nick’s side fell into place, no trophies but the sense that something’s changing. Looking back we won’t be calling 2015/16 a transitional season, that’s certain. This lot aren’t up to the standards of their illustrious betters but that’s not the point. Let’s see where this takes us and enjoy the ride.

Yesterday after a scratchy opening, Spurs asserted themselves. Once again we saw Tottenham suss out how to overcome the problems posed by well-drilled opponents set up to stifle the space and attack on the counter. Pochettino made a shrewd tactical switch, playing Alli in the forwards with Dembele, who has done well in an advanced position over the past few weeks, in a deeper role alongside Dier. Presumably this was to give more strength in that area and maybe to allow the Belgian to hang on to the ball under pressure and give others a fraction more time to get into position, as he did versus Liverpool and the Klopp press recently.

Whatever, it worked. Wham were unable to create anything much. We kept up our press for the whole game and were stronger in one-on-one situations. It meant we dominated for extended periods and at times played simply glorious football.

By the twenty minute mark, Spurs were on top, scored twice and subsequently seldom challenged. Alli’s shot at the edge of the box but fell to Kane. He thumped the ball home after an utterly gorgeous shimmy away from a hapless defender. Reminiscent of the barely perceptible move that set up his second half goal versus Chelsea last season, it was a thing of great and lasting beauty.

Alderweireld scored the second from an Eriksen corner, perfectly delivered to the near post. We were right behind the line of the ball. It seemed as if the net opened wide to receive it, a huge gap in a packed penalty box. The Hammers’ scouts obviously hadn’t watched the City game – this was the same move, same outcome – but it’s hard to defend if the player comes across the defender at full tilt to meet a ball coming at pace. It reminded me of goals Chivers regularly scored from set pieces. I’ve often wondered why the move is not used more often.

Then my goodness me we were good. A bewilderingly fast move took the breath away, Rose, Eriksen, I don’t know, all a blur….Alli hit the bar with a header. Kane horribly shanked a left-footer when clean through. And as the half closed, the other reason why we’ve improved so much. Vertonghen expertly defended in his box twice, he and Toby rock-solid, playing as a partnership. Alderweireld is one of the buys of the season.

Second we kept up the press and the tempo. Dembele came into his own, a rock upon which attacks broke up, going forward he was irresistible. Eriksen seized on a poor pass out of defence, to Kane who lent back and athletically creamed a low shot past the keeper. It looked better from the Shelf – it went under the keeper’s body.

For the rest of the game, Spurs attacked with creativity and exuberance. Mason, on as sub, hit the post and shot a dropping ball straight at the keeper when anywhere else would have scored. Walker as reward for a good game and fine season curled drove in the fourth with the outside of his foot.

Minutes later he was beating the ground in frustration and anger after his mistake let in West Ham for a late absolutely-no-consolation-whatsoever goal. The fact that this and a dodgy Lloris clearance are the only defensive mistakes of note says volumes for our performance.

That goal was celebrated wildly by the two hundred-odd away fans left in the ground. The others may have wanted to get back in good time for Countryfile. They would have been disappointed in their side’s lack of fight. Before the match I thought they would be a sterner test than Arsenal because of their organisation but the motivation evaporated after our second.

So Dembele the best, Toby and Verts just behind, everyone else merely excellent. Son did not get on the ball very often but his movement gives us an extra dimension. And through it all, there’s Eric Dier. Last week I was lucky enough to meet Gary Mabbutt at the London Sports Writing Festival and I was struck by the similarities. Dier could well follow in his footsteps. Like Mabbutt, he came into the side earlier than planned (Mabbutt was told on signing that it would be two years before he got into the first team, in the end it was two months), and he’s versatile, starring in midfield and full-back before settling into the back four. He certainly has the leadership qualities, with a fierce focus and determination. Yesterday he took no nonsense whenever there was handbags, first there to sort it out.

Also at the Festival, three top journos, Henry Winter, Michael Calvin and John Cross, told how Pochettino is very close to his players, highly popular and mucks about in the dressing room. The evidence was on show yesterday.

Coming home I felt calm and serene. Hard to see how that could have been bettered. It’s lasted. A fabulous performance infused with the joy of players and fans discovering just how well they can play. Over in the West Stand, Stephen, a good friend of the blog, e-mailed to say, he’d never thought he’d see the day but Daniel Levy smiled. Praise indeed.

 

What It Means To Be A Spurs Fan

This coming Saturday be part of the Spursshow Live as they talk about ‘Are Spurs Fans Special?’, featuring special fans and authors Julie Welch and John Crace, and special players, Gary Mabbutt and Terry Gibson. There’s a chance for the audience to ask questions and join in the chat. Part of the London Sports Writing Festival, it takes place at Lord’s, no less, kick off 3.30. Tickets still available here. I’ll be in the audience, come and say hallo. Here’s my take….

Life is full of our stories, our stories are full of our lives. We tell stories about ourselves, about what we do, what makes us laugh and cry, what makes our heart beat faster. It’s the way we make sense of our world and our place in it.

We tell those stories to ourselves because sometimes we are the only ones who will listen. In those tales we find out who we are, our identity, what it means to be us. We tell stories to other people about our lives so they know who we are and so others understand and inherit what’s important in the world. We shape those stories, the stories shape us. And so it goes.

Football fans have told stories ever since people first gathered on a muddy touchline to watch other people kick a ball around. You have to have those stories, otherwise watching football is the most absurd pastime ever. As if kicking a ball around isn’t trivial enough, we turn up to just watch.

Our football stories are about justification, a reason to be, reasons to believe, reasons to be there, to turn up next week and the week after. They’re an expression of what we feel when we see the game, feelings that cause a stir deep down and we’re not sure quite why. Stories about why football is more than a mere game, why we come back not just to watch any team but this team, our team. The team in white shirts and navy blue shorts.

All good stories are a mixture of fantasy and reality. Myths and legends create excitement and mystery, an aura around the ordinary, but myths don’t survive unless there is meaning at their core. Sometimes fantasy is the easiest way of conveying an understanding of reality. Spurs fans tell each other stories. About the Spurs Way, attacking football, quick, fleet of foot, pass and move. That the game is about glory, doing things in style. How winning cups is not just to do with silverware but the thrill, the atmosphere, the supporters. How frustration and disappointment is always just around the corner. Above all else, about loyalty.

We tell our stories to fellow Spurs fans so we can have a laugh over a pre-match beer. To our children so they will follow in our footsteps and if not, at least they will understand and take pity. To friends and colleagues in the workplace – it doesn’t matter if they don’t get it, it’s so they know who we are. To complete strangers, who will never see us again but see as we pass the proud cockerel on the ball, the navy blue and white, and know who we are. To ourselves, during interminable journeys to and from the ground, when we bash the credit once again, for comfort during restless nights or idle moments worrying about a result or an injury, a story that says, ‘this is why I do it, this is who I am’.

All fans of all clubs think they are special in some way, and it’s true. But if you know your history, you’ll find out that the Spurs Way, the path to glory, the loyalty, is no mere myth. There’s something distinctive about supporting this club and always has been. Being a Spurs fan means something, something deeper and more profound than just wearing a shirt. Trace that right back through our history to the very origins, it’s the golden thread that runs through the bad times, the good times and most of all, the ordinary times. It’s also about the future, and woe betide the club or its supporters if we lose it.

Tottenham were formed by a bunch of schoolboys gathering in the furtive nocturnal adventure of a flickering streetlight. It’s become known throughout the globe, there’s only one Hotspur who play at the world famous home of the Spurs. It’s a tale to excite the ages. As far as I or anyone else can tell, it’s completely true. The site of the lamppost itself may or may not be a myth, if you’re interested it’s second on the right as you go down the High Road from the Park Lane towards Seven Sisters. In 1882, before Arsenal, West Ham or Chelsea.

They played their first matches on Tottenham Marshes – walk over the level crossing past Northumberland Park station, about there – and since then have never played a home match more than 600 yards from that lamppost. World War 2 friendlies aside, ever. Consider that for a moment. Every single Spurs fan has walked in the same streets to watch our team. You have a direct connection with every Spurs fan that’s ever been. If that doesn’t mean something special, you have no soul and if you have no soul you’re not a Spurs fan.

This story has contemporary resonance. It’s the sense of place that unites us. The first fans walked to see their local team, then the easy transport links in this growing London suburb made the journey convenient. Now it’s very different. Spurs fans come from far and wide, from different places, backgrounds and cultures, but come to a run-down part of north London they do, for magic, passion and the history. That place is the one thing that unites us, with each other and our heritage. Unlike, say, Liverpool or Newcastle, we’re not part of the culture of the city or community. That’s why staying there is so significant. If we had moved to Stratford, of course the club would carry on but it would never have been quite the same. That heritage is who we are. The fans carry it on, same beliefs in the same streets.

The Spurs Way is the only way. Good football, on the ground, allow talent to flourish, don’t sit back and wait for the other lot to die of boredom. Usually dated to Arthur Rowe’s push and run side that won the Second Division in 1950 and marched straight on to the League title the following season, the Spurs Way has taken us to the historic Double with the best English team of all time according to contemporaries, the first British win in European cup completion and subsequent cup success.

This is the other story that unites us. There’s only one Hotspur and the Hotspur play good football, football the right way. It’s a story that goes back well beyond the 1950s, to Peter McWilliam’s team that won the Cup in 1921, to the famous 1901 Cup Final and the first and only non-league side to win the Cup. Spurs have always tried to play good football and success has come only when we have played the Spurs Way.

Again this is rooted in our origins. To demand the Spurs Way is to continue the heritage of our support. In those early years, Tottenham played many local teams. They fell by the wayside. Some players joined Spurs as the up and coming side, the team people wanted to play for and above all wanted to watch. Spurs’ support grew because we played good football on the Marshes.

In recent years, this story has played an important role in defining who we are because let’s face it, the Spurs Way has been aspiration not reality, and a distant one at that. The Spurs Way gives us a foundation in the past, a reason to be in the present and something to aim for in the future. In a sense it doesn’t matter so much if we can’t achieve it at any given time, as supporters we know what we want and this keeps us going when times are rough.

We know what’s important. Supporter unrest at Spurs has come not in marches to protest at only being 6th in the league for several seasons but when loyalty has been exploited and our heritage of support betrayed. When the East Stand was built in 1934, the club was praised for looking after the ordinary fan. The Shelf became the support of legend, then destroyed by executive boxes. Left on the Shelf, further fan protest, the move to Stratford, all about support and our history. It’s no coincidence that the 1882 movement of predominantly younger fans take their name from our year of origin and want not to take the club over but simply, importantly, to get behind the team and support the shirt to the hilt. They get it.

This transcends winning trophies. It’s not the winning that keeps supporters loyal. Don’t get me wrong, as I approach the age of 60 and 50 years of going to the Lane for, say, 95% of league games in that time, I want to win something as much as any fan. My son, who listened to the stories, absorbed rather than rejected them and now sits next to me on the Shelf, about 10 yards from where I have sat and stood, boy to man, for all that time, never fails to raise my levels of guilt when he says, ‘At least you have the Ricky Villa goal, dad.’ He’s made do with a couple of League Cups. But he’s stayed loyal, because he knows exactly who he is and what being a Spurs fan means. It’s about something deeper than just winning.

In his mid-twenties, he’s part of the Premier League generation who have grown up knowing nothing else. This generation grew up knowing Graham, Gross and Francis, not Nicholson, inviting adverse comparisons with our most bitter London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea. Here lies another clue to what makes Spurs support distinctive. The true test of supporter loyalty comes during the bad times and the Spurs have always turned out come what may. When Arsenal came to north London, the gloryhunters flocked to Highbury but the Spurs stayed loyal. They kept on coming throughout the twenties and thirties even though we won not a thing after 1921 and spent several years in Division 2. Relegated in 1977, we came in record numbers for the following season. Nothing changes – we stick with Spurs through rain and shine.

Whisper this, but old school Chelsea and Arsenal fans are the same as us. However, the new generation have come because Chelsea have bought success and their fans revel in it. It denies them a sense of perspective. I like my footballers to have a touch of arrogance but not the fans. It’s not their fault. Pretty soon the answer to the question, ‘where were you when you were s**t’, will be, ‘well, in the womb actually.’

It’s all they know but there’s no substance to it. Take away the cash and there’s quicksand whereas at Spurs we have rock solid foundations capable of withstanding the erosion of failure. Why else would that generation support Spurs? Not gloryhunters or even locals sadly, but because it’s in the family or in the neighbourhood. They’ve learned about being a Spurs fan through hearing those stories so that’s what they have become. Now Spurs supporters in the States and elsewhere talk of choosing Tottenham precisely because of this substance, because they want to be different from their gloryhunting mates. They are proud of our heritage, loyal to the core. It’s as if a mirror has been turned on us, those of us who have been around for a bit longer. Reflected back to us is our loyalty, the things we stand for and they want to be part of it.

In his book Vertigo, a funny and wise account of being a Spurs fan, John Crace brings our story up to date. Yes, we have the Spurs Way, alongside this we have decades of underachievement, an heroic sense of injustice, a pathological ability to rewrite failure as success and an infinite capacity for self-destruction. He goes on to say that this has created a sense of the absurd and most of all of fallibility amongst supporters.

Like John I don’t say this as a bad thing. Goodness knows it has led to some dark times, being a Spurs fan. The anxiety, frustration that we could be more, feeling distant from a club that makes these terrible decisions about managers and players over decades, the sheer bloody expense and perhaps worst of all, sometimes it’s been so dull for so long. But it brings a sense of perspective that is completely healthy. It makes me a better person. It’s an antidote to the overweening hubristic expectation and culture of instant gratification that bedevils modern fandom to the point where some many English Premier League football supporters apparently find no joy in this wonderful game whatsoever. These days, that makes us different.

The new ground is a watershed moment in the history of Spurs fandom. The club could do irrevocable harm to their relationship with the supporters unless they take note of our heritage. Looks like it won’t be the generic modern stadium with its cool, sterile lines and atmosphere to match. The stands are close to the pitch and we have an ‘end’ to allow us to take over, make it ours and make some noise.

However, at the Trust meetings we hear feedback about the bank wanting guaranteed income streams and maximising revenue to justify the loans. If you build it, we will come but the temporary fans, the South Korean tourists, the curious, they may be filling the spare seats and Stubhub’s profits now but they’ll go elsewhere in a flash. It’s about more than charging what you can get away with in the short-term. Spurs must think about the long-term, the loyal fans, their family, encourage more locals. That’s who we are.

One more thing that’s genuinely special. There’s nothing like White Hart Lane for a big game. The stands keep the noise in and what a noise 36,000 Spurs fans can make. I’ve seen rival players visibly wilt. I’ve seen our players inspired, whether that be Anderlecht in 84 or Arsenal in 2015, nothing’s changed. It’s an illustrious history of devotion. I’m proud to weave some modern myths and tell my stories to my grandchildren. I want them to be as proud of being a Tottenham Hotspur supporter as I am.

Spurs Youngsters Come of Age

The white-hot heat of the North London Derby inspired a young Tottenham side to one of the finest displays of teamwork for many a long year. Ar****l were shattered, groggy, punchdrunk as Spurs were on the edge of a famous victory. Unable to deliver the final blow, a moment’s weakness and the win slipped away. The memory of the performance will live long not only in the minds of supporters but more importantly in the heads of the players, who surely will take from this the confidence to say, we can do it, stick together and bring them all on.

At full-time I was bursting with pride and contorted with frustration. 24 hours on, I’m still full of praise for a manager and squad who under scrutiny showed what they can do and what’s still to come. I had high hopes for the team’s potential but no idea it would be realised so soon. They have exceeded all my expectations and perhaps their own.

Yet the disappointment remains. Before kick-off, an away point, that will do, at the final whistle it was two points dropped. The defence, a pillar many times this season, eventually succumbed to another of a series of inswinging crosses. Up front, we failed to put away another goal that would have been richly deserved.

All did well, a few were outstanding. Dele Alli, £5m from League 1, 19. Fearless. Hanging back to begin with, he timed his movement forward with the nouse of a veteran. Five games ago he was keen but untutored. Now he’s a mainstay of the side. That’s taken him five games.

Who amongst us thought we would live to see the day when Moussa Dembele was pressing in the 91st minute? Never has the redemptive power of teamwork been demonstrated more effectively than in the Belgian’s recent performances. A man transformed, he’s transfixed us with his power and grace, a muscled hunchback stooped over the ball as he dares allcomers to take it from him. Second half, he fashioned an attack on the left corner of the Arsenal box. It broke down, they shifted it right and who charged across to cut out the danger.

Lamela worked tremendously hard and to good effect. One swaying run nearly broke through. In the end he was so excited, he was booked and had to come off for his own protection. Next time, push on, one touch fewer near the box and put your foot right through it. Not his nature, just hit it. Eriksen running for the whole game, bringing those shrewd passes into play.

Kane masterful on his own, not content with bringing the ball down, he has to turn away from his man in the same movement. He took his goal calmly, running onto to a long curling ball from Rose and slotting it past Cech’s left leg. Two or three years ago, remember Rose, a rabbit in the headlights caught on the halfway line and dispossessed for a goal. How things have changed.

But this was all about the team. As one player advanced, another ran into space, a third unobtrusively fell back to cover. Graham Hunter’s interviews on his podcast allow his subjects to stretch out, to think over what’s on their mind about the current game before they say it, a rare opportunity these days despite the abundance of material available. Graham Souness, his most recent subject and young player who Spurs went to great lengths to sign then let slip through their fingers, was tough physically, uncompromising mentally and delightful on the ball. In short, everything Tottenham needed when he was in his prime for Liverpool.

When asked about how that great side went about things, two points stood out. One, they concentrated on what they could do and didn’t worry about the other side. Two, the message was ‘find the dope’. Someone in the other side, however able, would switch off mentally when they thought they could get away with it. Find that weakness and exploit it.

Find me a dope in Sunday’s Spurs side. You’d be hard pressed. The coherence of their team ethic was determined and sustained. Working as a unit without the ball, from the kick-off they never allowed Arsenal to settle on the ball. The pack hunted Cazorla out of the game and left Ozil a desperate, isolated figure with only a marginal influence on the game.

Arsenal came back into things after the break, buoyed by a couple of near misses. Past Spurs sides would have wilted. This one came back to play our best football around the hour mark and beyond. Eriksen’s shot slid past the far post, Alli a fraction over. Cech beat away another powerful effort from the Dane, who then set up Kane with a slicing pass but Harry dragged it wide from a position where’s he’s usually comfortable.

Son came on like a Spaniel puppy eager to please and just as ill-disciplined. He left gaps on our left, in comes the cross and Gibbs bundled over the line at the far post. Walker who had another good game and kept Sanchez under wraps, was caught between two opponents to cover and couldn’t deal with what was in any event a fine deep ball. Next time, cut out those crosses at source.

I can’t recall a time when the team played with such continued cohesion. Pochettino in conveying his rigour and discipline to his young charge has changed a culture. Spurs are all about the individual, the star with flair and panache to brighten up our afternoons and take our minds off how ordinary the rest of them are. MP deserves huge credit: unreservedly remarkable.

Tottenham supporters have every reason to be proud. Fans of other teams, mostly, still see as big-time wannabees with over-inflated aspirations. Perhaps they look afresh at Spurs as showing the way, spending within our means and cultivating a group of young players to come through into the first team, several of whom are English.

We began the day optimistic, ended it as much more than that, as real contenders, a side opponents will worry about. Two points dropped and plenty to do in the future but cast-iron evidence of substantial progress and plenty to look forward to. For now, that will do nicely.

One final thought. In these days of instant gratification and hubristic expectation, consider this. Pochettino has taken nearly 18 months to get this far, in the process changing a culture and dumping half a team of expensive ballast overboard, and there’s still a long way to go. Football fans would do well to look to this example the next time they reach for their keyboard and take to Twitter.

The Spursshow pod recorded at the London Sports Writing Festival this Saturday at Lords with good friend of TOMM Julie Welch, John Crace, Terry Gibson and Gary Mabbutt, talking about Spurs and being a Spurs fan. Should be good, I will be there too.