|I started supporting Spurs at
the age of twelve having caught the bug during the 1966 World Cup. My
father was already committed and I followed in his footsteps. All
my close friends were Spurs fans as well. I knew no Gooners, but
there was a Chelsea fan and one Man U.
During the sixties you came to a game
knowing we would win. Jimmy Greaves was the best forward in the
game. Mike England the best centre half, Pat Jennings the best
keeper, and so on. It was easy to believe things would always be
that way, at least from my perspective. Not that we won every
game, but you always expected to.
There was a greater differential of
ability at each club then than now. Each club having two or three
players who had an edge on the others. This led to results that
were much less predictable, and a wider variation of scorelines.
With only two points for a win. Playing for a draw was more
common. The first division was larger and only two teams were
relegated each year.
There were no foreign imports, but the
Scots Irish and Welsh were considered honorary Englishmen until the Home
Internationals were played. The best (Jocks, Micks and Taffs) all
played in the old first division.
|1967 - When the good
The Transfer business was deadly secret
and led to the constant speculation we now see in the press every
day. The main difference was that if a player of real ability
could be bought, Spurs or Man U would be the clubs most likely to buy
them. Usually for a record fee. There were no players agents
which meant the player would deal directly with the manager of the
purchasing team accompanied by the scout who had recommended the player.
There was never a chance that a player
would choose not to play for Spurs, and so Martin Chivers arrived,
followed by Martin Peters, and all the others we remember so well.
During the Seventies transfer fees and
players wages started to really escalate. The decade started badly
with The Scum winning the double after years of nothing. We had
already won the League cup earlier in the season. The following
season we carried off the UEFA cup while Arsenal lost the FA cup final
Nevertheless the game did not change
significantly until 1976 when Man U were unexpectedly relegated and then
we followed them in 77. Both clubs managed to secure promotion
within a season, but the attitude had forever changed. During the
close season of 1978/79 following the world cup, Ossie Ardiles and
Ricardo Villa signed for Spurs, and several other Clubs began importing
players from a variety of countries like Yugoslavia and Rumania.
The only qualification being that they had to be of international
standard. Today Britainís place in the European Union coupled
with the effects of the Bosman ruling have resulted in the wholesale
dilution of the English game by foreign players.
Also during that period the attitude of
the footballing authorities changed towards players discipline and
bookings and sendings off soared. It was considered a great
dishonour to be sent off and would lead to headlines in the press for
days. Alan Mullery was the first ever player sent off while playing for
England, whereupon his father said he was a disgrace to his
family. Arsene Wenger now routinely makes excuses for his players
when red carded, or claims he never saw the incident. Quite a contrast.
During the seventies the Manager became a
celebrity in his own right. Bill Nicholson did not do post match
interviews. There might be a comment taken as a quote in the
press, but that was it. The first manager who had to explain
himself after a match was probably Sir Alf Ramsey. Before long
Brian Clough , Malcolm Allison, Bill Shankly and then Matt Busby were
all at it.
Club Chairmen were not heard from at all.
Iíve yet to hear a comment on the running of a club by a Chairman that
had any bearing on the results the club might achieve. Yet today
Sugar, Edwards, Dein, and Bates all deliver through the media the kind
of comments best left in the boardroom. This is not to say I donít
want information, but the rise of the football Chairman as a public
figure in the game has not improved it.
By the time the Eighties dawned English
clubs were the best in Europe with Liverpool, Villa, Forest and even
Ipswich having success. We began the decade by winning two FA
cups, but we also lost at Wembley for the first time ever in the League
Cup against Liverpool. The early eighties were good times for
The big issue was crowd control as the
previous decade had also seen the growth of football hooliganism.
Banning away fans and identity cards were the two cures proposed by our
government, but the clubs, prompted by the police, decided that the best
way to keep us under control was to surround us all with fences in small
isolated pens. This policy lead to tragedy, but before that, the
game also embraced another major change.
In 1983 the first ever live televised
league match was screened. The match chosen was Spurs at home to
Forest We won the match 2-1 with a late goal from Steve Archibald, but
live football meant that the TV companies now decided when fixtures
would be played, and the concept of everyone playing at the same time on
a Saturday was now gone forever.
The remainder of the decade saw the
availability of replica shirts accompanied by wide ranges of club
merchandise sold in dedicated Club shops. Club sponsorship led to
shirt advertising, and the inclusion of Executive boxes inside the
ground. The Money men were beginning to take over.
In 1983 Spurs floated on the London stock
exchange with high levels of publicity given to players and fans who put
their money where their mouth was. In principle, this was fine,
except that our management decided to invest the club's money in some
diverse ventures, and when the stock market crashed in 1986 we almost
went broke. Spurs are still suffering because of Irving Scholarís
The middle of the Eighties saw a number
of disasters relating to crowds. The fire at Bradford, coupled
with Heysel and finally Hillsborough. Liverpoolís exploits at
Heysel resulted in English clubs being banned from Europe for five
years, this caused a lot of the best English players to move to
continental clubs to further their careers, and the standard in our
first division dropped. For the first time English players began
turning out in numbers for Scottish clubs.
The Bradford fire followed by the events
at Hillsborough in 1986 resulted in the Taylor Report recommending that
top class football should only be watched in all seater stadiums.
The clubs were given five years to comply. The grounds were duly
converted to all seater status with a reduction of capacity an
Some clubs used the enforced
redevelopment to good effect, as the condition of their stadia was
pretty grim. New stands replacing the old terraces in most
cases. Some clubs have even relocated to brand new purpose built
stadiums. The football watching experience is now a much more
The down side of this is cost. In
order to finance these wonders of sporting architecture. More
clubs floated on the stock market. Some created debenture schemes
for fans to mortgage their seats for the future. Most clubs
however simply raised their prices year after year relying on the
loyalty of their fans to pay for their own safety and comfort.
Each new stand included more executive boxes, and corporate hospitality
is now a principle activity at matches.
Another consequence of the all seater
stadium is limited ticket availability. Every match is now all
ticket. The casual "lets go and watch Spurs this
afternoon" has gone. You either become a season ticket
holder, join the members club, or pay through the nose by booking one
month in advance on the Clubís ticket line. The clubs have an
intense dislike of selling tickets on match days. It means
handling large sums of cash. Ticket touts must love the all ticket
Transfer deals are now more transparent
with players agents actively touting them from club to club. The
agent can only make real money as a percentage of a transfer fee.
It is therefore in his interest to keep his client on the move.
The players make ever more outrageous demands and the agents see to it
that the clubs deliver. In 1988 with Spurs in real financial
trouble and the east stand half re-developed Chris Waddle was sold to
Marseilles for £5 million, two months into a new seven year contract.
The late eighties saw Spurs with an
improving team under David Pleat and then Terry Venables. The club
were in financial difficulties for the first time. Hoddle and
Waddle disappeared to France. Gough went back to Scotland, Alan
Sugar became our chairman, but the worst thing that happened in the
eighties from a Spurs point of view occurred at Anfield, with the last
kick of the 1988/89 season. George Graham succeeded in creating a
monster at Highbury. They knocked us out of the League Cup after a
replayed semi final in 88, but in 1989 by winning the League the seal
was set for the next decade.
When the nineties began Terry Venables
had a good squad of players including Gary Lineker, Paul Gascoigne and
Gary Mabbutt. In 1991 we had an outstanding run in the FA cup,
defeating Arsenal in the semi final at Wembley. This win had more
significance for the average Spurs fan than probably any fixture
since. Even winning the trophy itself did not give the same buzz.
The game itself did not undergo
another serious change until the FA Premier league was inaugurated in
1992. Coupled with Rupert Murdochís Sky Satellite TV deal even
more re-arrangement of fixtures resulted, as they were to televise on
Mondays as well as Sundays. Soon Sky were televising matches on
every day of the week .
The deal itself did put a lot of money
into the clubs. There was a one million pound bribe for each club
that voted for the deal, including those clubs relegated at the end of
the season. However if you give every club an extra million and
they spend it on a player all you really achieve is to inflate the price
by the same amount. Simple supply and demand.
Then there is Europe. In 1996
the old European Cup was replaced by the UEFA Champions League.
Instead of a two leg knock out cup, the new competition worked just like
the World Cup on a four team league basis. Before reverting to a knock
out for the final stage. It is really a stepping stone to a pan
European super league.
Initially the competition was for the
League Champions only. It has now been expanded to include up to
three entrants from each country. Forcing ever more midweek
fixtures, and more TV revenues.
Throughout the last decade the
principle English participants have been Man U and Arsenal. Which
means both clubs have become much richer, and have decided that domestic
cup competitions are less important to them. With the abolition of
the Cup Winners' Cup, the FA Cup is now no more prestigious to win than
the League Cup as the winners both qualify only for the UEFA Cup.
The clubs in the Champions League are
also the ones who wish the Premier League to be reduced to eighteen
clubs as they continually complain about the number of fixtures they
have to fulfill. The more successful a team is, the more
international players it will have, and so the best players end up
playing even more fixtures because of international commitments as well
as extended runs in the cup competitions.
Inclusion in the Champion's League
also benefits the participants because the best players all want to play
at the highest level they can, and are much more willing to sign for a
club that has qualified. Even if it means they donít play regular
first team football.
The top clubs solved this problem by
purchasing more players and they now have up to forty players in their
first team squads. So Man U and Chelsea can realistically field
two separate first teams, either of whom can be expected to cope with
any opposition from their domestic league. The downside to this is
that players like Solskjaer spend most of their careers sitting on the
bench. Apparently happier to watch a winning team than try to play
Qualification for Europe remains every
clubs aim each season, by Christmas itís easy to see who the most
likely candidates are. At the other end of the table, clubs are
ever more desperate to retain their places in the premier league.
For relegation means less income and therefore less ability to compete
Some of the more successful clubs in
Europe are now proposing permanent membership of the Champion's League
for themselves removing the requirement for them to qualify each
season. If this were to go ahead, the consequences for a club like
Spurs are unthinkable. It would mean that Man U, Arsenal, and
Liverpool playing in Europe each year without having to rely on domestic
results to get there. There would be no benefit in playing them
even if we won. This is especially poignant when you realise it
was Spurs who were the first British club to win a European trophy.
The players in the meantime have
achieved pop star status. They can attract salaries that the
average fan can only dream of. They exhibit no real loyalty to
their clubs except for each time one kisses his shirt after
scoring. One week itís Newcastle the next Man U, or Chelsea, or
Spurs. The extended contractual wranglings seen this season over
Messrs Anderton, and Campbell are typical of the modern player.
Both insist they want to stay at their club and that the problem is not
money. Yet money is the only reason a contract is not quickly
signed. The players, and their agents try to raise the club's wage
bill ever higher. Fans on the other hand face increasing costs,
and competition from corporate sponsorship, and executive boxes that are
always placed in the fans favourite viewing positions.
The actual standard of play we
currently have is a pretty thorny subject. The foreign imports at
each club have added some silky skills to the repertoire of very
ordinary clubs. There is however; far more gamesmanship, and down
right cheating going on than ever before. Defenders grab forwards
with both hands at every dead ball, usually in full view of the ref who
never sees this as a foul. Any player who runs with the ball can
expect to be held or have his shirt pulled. There are frequent off
the ball obstructions. As well as forwards who dive if they are
challenged anywhere near a penalty area.
Dangerous play is also more common
with players being jumped at when ever there is a high ball. This
results in more head injuries with forwards usually more likely to be
hurt than defenders, as the defenders tend to jump from behind. We
see studs up challenges. Players refusing to give the ball back at free
kicks and then not retreating ten yards.
The "get a result at all
costs" attitude has led to tinkering with the rules to improve the
flow of the play, and a far harsher application of yellow and red
cards. We now see people sent off for trivial offences. The
referees walk a tightrope as FIFA and UEFA insist on compliance with the
rule changes, and the players concentrate on trying to influence
decisions by feigning injury, and actively attempting to get opponents
The next major change in the game is
looking to be the abolition of the transfer system for players.
FIFA and UEFA seem happy to allow this to happen. This issue is
being pursued by The European Commission as they seem to think that
signing a contract with a club restricts the players freedom of movement
within the labour market and therefore infringes their right to choose
who they work for. In essence the clubs must honour their
contracts with the players, but the players may walk away from their
clubs at will. Again this will create difficulties for all except
the richest and most successful clubs. Any player in a struggling
team could leave at the most critical point in a season and make a bad
situation worse. Equally a successful team suffering an injury to
a key player, or a suspension at a critical time, could openly poach any
player it chose, without paying a fee or compensation to the club losing
The future looks increasingly bleak
with an elite of European clubs intent on forming an exclusive League,
that other clubs cannot break into. The less successful clubs will
no longer be able to hold onto their better players, even if they have
been brought up through their own development system, and the
established players will be free to hop from one club to another, in the
hunt for medals. What kind of competition are we going to get?
TV now owns the game. To ensure
their control remains permanent, clubs are being bought into by media
companies, the bigger the club the better the offer. FIFA and UEFA
are bowing to political pressure to allow players to control the destiny
of the clubs. They tinker with the rules and change the way it is
played. Have they improved things? The rich clubs are
getting richer and the poor clubs are struggling to survive. The
gulf between them is growing wider all the time. How long can that
Given that the number of clubs who can
compete at the top level is contracting. Are we beginning to see
the meltdown of the traditional game? Where clubs of more or less
equal ability play each other in a meaningful competition. Or will
we see the same clubs win everything year in year out, with the rest
playing merely to avoid relegation?
The clubs rely on a fan base that has
something to hope for. So the more successful clubs can be sure
they will continue to pick up new support, and the less successful will
see their support dwindle away as they have less and less to play for.
So the bottom line for all Spurs fans
must be. Do we join in and compete? Or do we sit tight and
hope the bubble bursts for Man U, The Scum, Juventus, Barcelona, etc