|THE DEMISE OF MY TOTTENHAM.|
This article is about how, over 10 years,
Tottenham Hotspur have, in my eyes and probably the whole country’s,
gone from being the London Glamour Boys, in the ‘top 5’ bracket,
playing exciting entertaining football to perennial mid-table obscurity.
Coming from Tottenham, there could only be one team for me as a kid, especially with my Dad and Granddad attending every home match standing in the old enclosure in the West Stand. I didn’t go along regular until 1977 and had the great honour of seeing us relegated! We got back up at the first attempt and were the 7th most attended club in the whole of the Football League. Quite an achievement in itself and showing just how fickle Spurs fans really are: I mean you compare that to attendances at Chelsea, West Ham etc when they have been relegated and you get what I mean! Then came the most exciting piece of news in my lifetime to do with Tottenham Hotspur, the 2 Argentinian midfielders who had just played in their victorious World Cup campaign were coming to Tottenham. The football world was stunned, it seemed an age waiting for the first game of the season up at Champions Forest, but when it came we were rewarded with a Villa equaliser to earn a one all draw. Spurs were back; we finished our return to the top flight in 11th position and whoever we were playing away from home, it was their highest gate of the season. We finished 79/80 in a disappointing 14th, so Keith Burkinshaw went out and bought Archibald form Aberdeen and Crooks from Stoke for a combined £1.5m. A huge amount in them days and proving Spurs meant business for the coming season.
As everyone knows we
won the cup that year and played some of the best football in the country,
but we were talked about everywhere you went, in the papers for the right
reasons everyday; Archibald and Crooks’ 46 goals, Hoddle’s sublime
skills, the new space age West Stand that was being developed, appearing
on Top of the Pops and of course that huge banner at Wembley that stated
“Hold onto your knickers it’s the Year of the Cock”. So that was the
8th domestic cup final win and still unbeaten at Wembley.
Clemence and Paul Price came in 81-82 and the squad remained the same,
building on their success. The Milk Cup was Spurs’ first ever defeat in
a domestic final and first ever at Wembley, it also brought to an end a
run of 25 consecutive cup games without a loss, a new record at the time.
Still never mind they’d just have to go back and win the FA Cup again!
They duly did after being knocked out of the semis of the Cup Winners Cup
by a cynical Barcelona side. So an FA Cup triumph, runners-up in the Milk
Cup, semi-final of the ECWC and 4th in the League, not a bad
season and if we hadn’t been so back-logged with league games at the end
of the season who knows what they could have achieved. Spurs were still
London’s top team; if a quality player became available we always had
the money and would buy. Gary Stevens had a memorable FA Cup final against
Man. Utd so Spurs thought they better snap him up and did so. Although
never a real favourite at the Lane, Spurs bought him because they could.
Fourth again in the League in '83 took us into the UEFA Cup and a Graham Roberts inspired side beat Anderlecht on penalties. Who can possibly forget the night that Hoddle out-classed an ageing Cruyff at WHL to help Spurs race into a 4-0 half time lead against Feyenoord; one of the best performances I’ve seen in a Spurs shirt. All throughout this season though was the argument between Archibald and Burkinshaw and Burkinshaw and the board, this I feel is where the rot set in. Irving Scholar and his board stated that the team were only a part of the business that is THFC (plc) and expenditure was needed elsewhere in other sectors. This had such an effect on Burkinshaw that he left after the UEFA final. The club just let him go, this man who had led us out of the 2nd Division, nurtured Hoddle, brought us Ardiles and Villa, 3 major cup successes, European football every year since 1981 and one of the most entertaining Spurs sides ever. Burkinshaw left, Archibald left and the football team was to take second place on the new board's agenda. Although it must be said that when top stars became available we still paid the top money to get them; rising star Paul Allen from West Ham and Geordie genius Waddle. David Pleat came in and built another wonderfully entertaining side, Gough the commanding centre half Spurs had been craving for for years, Clive Allen scoring 49 goals as a lone striker backed up with a five man midfield choosing from Hoddle, Waddle, Allen, Ardiles, Hodge, Galvin and Stevens. They lost the Littlewoods semi to the lot down the road after 3 exhausting games, the FA Cup final record went to Coventry (7 times we won the cup and no.8 we f**ked it up) and 3rd place in the League. But as was becoming Spurs’ style, they lost Gough to his wife, Hoddle earning a few bob with Monaco, Roberts went during the season and of course David Pleat getting caught with his trousers down. Scholar brought in Venables the master tactician who had achieved success out in Spain, mostly after buying our Archibald who was Spain’s leading scorer. 47 thousand odd packed WHL for Tel’s first game against Liverpool, Hodge doing all he could to get out of Tottenham by getting himself sent off and the Red Machine won 2-0. Clive Allen left in the summer and Terry bloody Fenwick became a Spurs player. It also signified the end of WHL as a superb venue for football. Irving Scholar raped the Shelf and stuck two fingers up at the hardcore of Spurs fans in preference for snobs and businessman and those horrible disgusting executive boxes. The Shelf was always the life and soul of going to WHL, I had my first season ticket in there (although only due to the fact the enclosure had been knocked down) and used to love standing there getting pushed about, but it was still without doubt the best place for watching football anywhere in the world. When the Shelf got going it was a cauldron of noise, being able to stand with all your mates and taking 5 minutes to find them after a goal! The enjoyment and humour of it all, watching Sammy Lee and then Jan Molby's tits bounce up and down! The one thing that winds me up about Spurs fans and always will is the way we accepted defeat losing the Shelf, 100 or so staying behind after that last game against Luton and singing “Scholar is a w***er”. We should have done a lot more to show our anger, a lot more. Or maybe people weren’t as passionate about the old stand as I was (am?). Compare the early 80’s atmosphere at WHL to being able to hear the players shout these days and you realise what youngsters are missing out on.
If these new people in
charge of Tottenham are REAL fans then how about make a few enquiries
about bringing back a bit of standing at the Lane, just to reinstate the
old Ledge down the front would be lovely! Then came a massive summer swoop
for Paul Stewart and Paul Gascoigne, the £2m we paid for Gazza was billed
at the time as outrageous, smashing the British transfer record. This is
how THFC should be, buying the top stars and even as r-sol put it; taking
a few risks. The season started slowly, but kicked into life with Gazza
and Chris Waddle worth the admission fee alone, except you had to look at
a plywood fascia running all the way along the Shelf where scarves, flags
and banners used to hang over those white wooden slats. An abortion of an
executive box was thrown up so prospective buyers could sample the views
and marvel at Mr. Scholar’s bright vision of how football grounds should
be: Sit in your nice comfy seats getting served food and wine and laugh at
the peasants out in the cold, getting wet and pissing up each others legs
in the toilet. By all this you may think I was opposed to the West Stand
being re-built at the turn of the decade, but I wasn’t, because that was
Spurs being innovators again, the old stand was all wood and falling to
pieces and something needed doing. The difference with the Shelf side was
that it didn’t need anything doing to it and it certainly didn’t need
executive boxes where your fans called the home end.
Back to the football, Chris Waddle was having the season of his life and scored some outstanding goals. Most notably for me was a midweek game against Aston Villa, a first half volley from the edge of the box into the top corner then a second half dribble the length of the field and the ball spanked into the net past that handsome chap Spink. Waddle’s performances along with that of the young Gascoigne gave great promise for the future. Plus all the talk towards the end of the season was that England’s no.1 marksman Gary Lineker was returning from Barcelona to England and his likely destination was N.17. Could you imagine these days Spurs signing England’s top striker? Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, Andy Cole whoever, but we wouldn’t be anywhere near getting them. “How much? But couldn’t you make do with a lad from the 3rd division Glenn or some obscure European.” To put the biggest downer possible on the capture of Lineker was the news that Chris Waddle the man of a thousand haircuts and even more touches of brilliance was sold to Marseilles. NO NO NO NO NO NO! You keep Waddle and he and Gazza supply Lineker to score the goals, logic surely? £4.5m it was the 2nd biggest fee paid at the time I think (Gullitt was the highest), but who cared, think of the success we could have had with those three England internationals in the team together, surely Mr. Venables could have seen that. That’s when I believed the putting of the football team was truly secondary to the PLC. Letting Burkinshaw go was bad enough, but they just wiped out a great opportunity for Spurs to progress by letting Waddle go, this really was the start of us becoming a selling club first and foremost. It may also have been down to the fact that we were in debt due to the monstrosity of an East Stand being built. See, if they hadn’t have tampered with the original we wouldn’t have got in the shit! When you think that we ended up 3rd that year, what extra would Waddle have given us?
90/91 started full of optimism due to Gazza 'n' Gary's performances in the World Cup and we went on an un-beaten run cruelly ended by Steve McMahon’s elbow. Then came the bombshell news about the debts and the situation the board had dropped us in. Gazza was being offered to any club showing an interest, if it wasn’t for his hernia then he would have gone long before the semi. We won the FA Cup, stayed afloat and thought all was rosy again. Little did we know what was around the corner, the appointment of Shreeves was strange to say the least and he managed to give us our worst ever home record (I think!), only Lineker kept us up and a feeble attempt to overcome Feyenoord resulted in exit from Europe. Gazza completed his move to Lazio and never looked the same player. Paul Stewart was sold to Liverpool on his missus’ say so, although I was later told an (allegedly) different story ! It was a shame because he had changed from being an average striker to a powerhouse midfielder and serving Tottenham superbly. Ruddock came back and Livermore/Clemence took over, Teddy came a few games in and along with Anderton and Barmby we were looking good. We lost the semi and I can never forgive Teddy for not picking up the Donkey for their goal, but I was already looking forward to the new season.
Then ego-Sugar gets shot of Venables and its all tits up again, the club are left in the hands of a bloke who ain’t got a clue about football. It could only go downhill, Ossie came in to try to appease the fans, but was doomed to failure; he had hardly set the world alight at Newcastle and West Brom had he. The season was probably the worst of my life, escaping relegation in the penultimate game up at Oldham, Oldham, Oldham (sorry that’s how many times I went up to that oft postponed fixture). I watched the World Cup and dreamed of Spurs having some of the talent on show. Then when I least expected it on Capital Gold a mid-afternoon report said Jurgen Klinsmann had signed for Spurs. I could not believe it, what a scoop, Dumitrescu came as well and as an attacking unit we looked assured, but Ruddock was never replaced and the defence consisted of, well, Gary Mabbutt. Popescu joined after the defeat at Leicester and everyone knew Ossie had to go, we had just escaped relegation the year before and if we were going to do it this year with the players he had he needed shooting! Francis came in and we were really flying and I saw some great Spurs performances. I still believe that something went on in that dressing room before the semi, because we were absolute shite. Anderton was about 50% fit, but still played and we were so out of sorts it was untrue. Klinsmann was debating whether to stay next season and despite the away end at QPR singing, “Jurgen stay another year” for the whole of the second half, he never did ! His reasons for going being that we were not showing the ambition to win the title and progress. Sugar slated him and I cringed as this curly haired buffoon coated him off on national TV; Jurgen Klinsmann knows more about football than this oaf ever will. The floodgates opened after Jurgen, Barmby and Popescu deciding they’d had enough and we were back to square one. To replace these class players we brought in Armstrong (who, to be fair, had a great year), Fox and Sinton, to go alongside the talents of Caskey, Dozzell, Edinburgh, Kerslake, Nethercott, Cundy and Scott. Eighth place was quite good considering the players at the Lane, but that’s the whole point, Francis had his QPR little boys mentality and was always looking for a cheap fix. Not what we at Tottenham expect, or was it the chairman holding the keys to the safe loving the cheapskate way of doing things? In the summer we were told to expect the stars to bring us on another level, the star happened to be Allan Nielsen who wouldn’t join until after his team were knocked out of Europe and when he did arrive it was for the vast amount of £1.5m. So no new signings on the park at the start of the season, this just spelt bad news for us.
Where was the Spurs way of being flamboyant and spending the top money for the class we craved? A long season of utter mediocrity ensued and Teddy decided enough was enough and he wanted out; I for one didn’t blame him, as he was carrying around the team on his own. Remember the humiliating 6-1 defeat at mighty Bolton? We were 2-0 down in the first half and Teddy himself told the players to change the formation and we got on top of the game and went in 2-1 at half time. Francis bollocked Teddy for this and made them play his way which they did and got thumped 6-1! He went during the Le Tounoir or whatever it was called and slagged off Spurs for lack of ambition and saying he would never win things there. Sound familiar? We let him go for £3.5m which Sugar said was a good price for a player of his age and then went and spent £6m on Ferdinand who was nearly the same age! If Les had played more than 15 games a season for us since then it might have seemed like a good buy. Ginola though was a sound buy, skilful, full of flair and passion; everything you want from a Spurs player. Francis thankfully left to be with his pigeons and you just knew he would end up back at QPR which was his level as a manager.
Gross arrived and
people wondered exactly what planet Sugar was on appointing an unheard of
Swiss bloke. This really showed that Sugar has never known anything about
football, he saw that Wenger had come over and been a success so he
thought he would get a foreign coach in. What did he do? Get a map of the
world close his eyes and put a pin down on a country and decide to get a
manager from there? “Hmm, Switzerland, got any known sides? Ah,
Grasshoppers were in the Champions League last year, we’ll get their
manager he must be good”. Gross never stood a chance, no matter how much
he banged on about Harry Hotspur and riding on the rattler to work, he
just didn’t have what it takes. A call to Jurgen Klinsmann rescued us
and it was quite apparent who was running the side when the German came
back into town. He saw the year out and gave a performance of the highest
calibre in destroying Wimbledon and ensuring another season of Premiership
football; Mr. Sugar must have been over the moon. Astonishigly the
stubborn git wouldn’t accept his mistake and give Gross the tin-tac
pre-season, he let him buy some more class acts in the summer: Tramezzani
the Italian Second Division player who once watched a game at Inter Milan
and was such a success at Spurs he appeared in all the club merchandise
Then in October time came the final insult, the final two-fingered salute to everyone who has ever held THFC close to their hearts. Sugar had got George Graham, him of Arsenal; boring, boring, dirty, cheating Arsenal to become our manager. The man who thought entertainment was watching a ball being kicked 50ft into the sky, scoring all your goals from free-kicks and corners, harassing and swearing at referees. The man who insisted all defenders had to have 4ft long arms ready to be hoisted skywards perfectly straight and their mouths to open as wide as possible at the same time and scream ‘Offside’ whenever the opposition attacked. Alan Sugar I hold you personally responsible for this attack on everything Tottenham, everything that this club has ever stood for: Attacking free-flowing football, John Cameron, Vivian Woodward, Jimmy Dimmock, Arthur Rowe, Eddie Baily, Bill Nicholson, Tommy Harmer the Charmer, Danny Blanchflower, Dave Mackay, John White, Jimmy Greaves, Martin Peters, Alan Mullery, Martin Chivers, Alan Gilzean, Steve Perryman, Glenn Hoddle, Ossie Ardiles, Gary Mabbutt, Chris Waddle, Paul Gascoigne, Gary Lineker the list is endless. All played in a Tottenham way, they knew what the fans liked and what they had grown to expect from 1882 onwards. To employ the anti-Christ from Arsenal, the butt of our jokes, the dour Scots git, was unforgivable. If we won anything under him it would have been made in N.5 they would say, and they did when we scored a last minute winner in the Worthington Cup in 99 in the most forgettable Spurs final I have ever seen. Yes, even worse than the two 82 games and the two Wembley defeats, maybe it was because we have been so starved of success that we enjoyed it so much. How low had we fallen that the winning of the League Cup (a much de-valued competition) was treated with such celebration by the club, I honestly expected to see the open top bus making its way from The Angel up to the Town Hall! At least we were back in Europe, but you just knew what to expect, I’d waited a long time to be able to support my team in Europe again, but I knew it would be a case of going abroad and holding out for a dire 0-0 draw. The distinctively average Kaiserslautern humbling us on their patch in the last few minutes, Campbell sat dejected in front of us, well you’re off then pal, see you later. George moaned about injuries and bad luck, well this ain’t Arsenal George; we don’t rely on luck, this is Tottenham Hotspur, we ain’t no Town, United, City, Rovers or Wanderers, we’re different.
The captain of our club refused to sign a contract unless the club showed some ambition and bought some quality for the new season, so Rebrov came and well ... err ... that was it. Apart from another attack on the Tottenham principles with the selling of Ginola and the denouncement that there has never been a Tottenham way and that Spurs have never enjoyed success. You arrogant Arsenal spoiler; piss off. And you as well Sugar for employing this prick and the countless others forced upon us. Poor old Mr. Sugar decided halfway through last year that the abuse was enough and that he was open to offers for the club, the club he should have left after his public statement that if we didn’t win the title within three years he would go. Well he more than out stayed his welcome in my eyes.
ENIC or Buchler, or whoever they are, have come in and taken over, but such is my suspicious mind that has developed over the last 10 years I will reserve judgement. Their first move was bold and brave (Audere-Est-Facere) in the way they got shot of the Gooner only time will tell if they are the people to lift Spurs out of the doldrums. If they are the fans they claim to be, they will do all they can to make us great again. I don’t expect anything from this club, but I have given up so much for it down the years; lost girlfriends even a fiancée, missed family events to watch Spurs. Basically because it's inside of me, that Blue and White blood. You may lose your wife or girlfriend to another man, but after the pain has gone you can always go and get another one! You can’t support another football team. I wonder if my family are to blame for introducing me to THFC at a young impressionable age? But I wouldn’t change it for anything, all I want is to feel proud of MY team and see them at the heights they have attained before. Maybe I should think like a fan of Southampton, Derby, Leicester, West Ham or Charlton and be happy that we are in the top flight with the big boys. But my instincts and what I have seen tell me otherwise and that is why I am so pissed off at the decline of this club.
Still never mind, in
10 years time I’m sure I’ll be standing on the New Shelf in a 65,000
capacity WHL cheering on a team playing in an all white strip against the
top sides in Europe: AND BEATING THEM!
COME ON YOU
All that and not even mentioning the Arsenal no.23!
NEIL OF THFC
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