|the white album|
Introducing the complete works
of Cal Walker Burns, who has
been a regular contributor to the written version of the fanzine and
herein reveals his insights into the workings at White Hart Lane.
The work isolates the cultural influences that he has spotted in the
progress Tottenham have made since his first appearance in 2000.
|Issue 16 - September 2000
1. Altered State
(A history of Spurs in the present, and in the context of the modern game and, of course, the world at large - with apologies to Matthew Collin and Timothy Garton-Ash)
George Graham - the Bargeddie Boy - is on record as having said Tottenham fans will have to be patient. 'Things', he muses, have changed since he was collecting silverware for fun at Highbury (six trophies in eight years. In fact, he believes, the whole soccer landscape has shifted beyond recognition between then and now.
And of course, he is right. Football has indeed changed, though change, I fear, tends to signify something happening rapidly, or, perhaps, surprisingly. Evolution has a more rounded, developmental chime to it, and everything - save perhaps the Neanderthals at N5 - of course, evolves.
Rock music, for example, has an exceptionally dynamic history of innovation and alteration. From the experimental psychedelia of The Beatles circa Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour to the infectious, albeit excitingly primitive, Dj, Dance, Rave and E culture of the Late-post-modern era, not to mention those vacuous girl and boy bands - though I did like Kylie Minogue's cracking numero uno Spinning Around and Spiller's Groovejet isn't at all bad. Similarly, politics have evolved across time, taking us from the experimental socialism of the late 40's NHS and benefits system, through the Thatcher years - not to be confused with Ben - and the 'ME' milieu to the Late Capitalism and retro psychedelia of Messrs Sergeant Pepper Blair and Magical Mystery Brown. All of which, undoubtedly, has repercussions for Tottenham Hotspur in particular and football in general, and how we, as fans make sense of it all.
For many, soccer 'IS' the new rock'n roll, and yet, while some clubs live the 'Malibu' lifestyle writ large, still other outfits are reduced to scratching out a living, gigging, or even busking, with hardly enough cash flow to pay off debts on their 'instruments' (metaphorically speaking). In truth the beautiful game is in danger of eating itself alive, of evolving into a huge demonic colossus capable of devouring its own children as the gap between soccer's haves and have-nots becomes an insurmountable abyss at the very heart of the modern game.
Arguably, the game in Scotland is already dead. Beyond Rangers and Celtic, the oddly named 'Old Firm', an epithet much revered by drooling Scottish football pundits, there are no other clubs with the financial resources and, consequently, sufficiently talented squad, capable of mounting a serious challenge on The Scottish Premier League Championship in the near or distant future- R.I.P.
Complacency, however, south of the border is not an option as a similar pattern begins to establish itself around the modern economics of 21st century English soccer and a few obese, very influential, very powerful clubs a la Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool (though the massive size of the Anfield club's wage bill vis-à-vis their turnover, might well be the precursor of future calamity).
Hopefully, there is enough cash slurping around the Premiership to suggest that in favourable times (that is when the club is doing well), some of the other 15/16 also-rans will be able to grab enough of a share of the cash available, to allow them to build sides able to compete, and keep pace with developments taking place at the top 4/5 sides.
This season, for example, The Premiership will suck something like £2bn into its great bloated gob via deals with BskyB, NTL, ITV and BBC, though the split, as always, will not be evenly distributed between the Supertwenty. Hence in the season 1998/9 Arsenal (of all sides) took the biggest piece of the greasy pie with £10.96 for 12 appearances on Sky and 15 on the BBC, with Manchester United a close second with 11 appearances on Sky and 16 weeks on the BBC (who said the Beeb was unimaginative and biased?). By comparison, Tottenham Hotspur claimed a £7.39 slice of the sugary (pardon the pun) cake with only 6 showings on Sky - exactly half that of Arsenal - and 9 on the BBC. Nottingham Forest, the club who finished bottom, consequently took the smallest share of the television loot for 4 appearances on Sky and BBC with less than half of the cash Arsenal claimed.
Beyond the relative financial security of Planet Premiership, the deep space of the Nationwide can be a hostile and, more importantly, unprofitable environment. Thus, and while the Premiership's twenty clubs are rubbing their grubby hands gleefully at the prospect of carving up £2bn between them, the other 72 will be asked to divide £315m, courtesy of ONdigital, between them, such are the vicissitudes and nightmare economics of life outwith the Premiership universe. So you don't have to be a mathematical genius to work out what Christian Gross might have cost N17 had he remained at White Hart Lane until he relegated us...but I am not going there !
In today's soccer climate the pure economics of the game and the intricacies of the mathematical equations involved in dividing up unequal shares of a growing cash flow, define those who will thrive in the rarefied atmosphere of the modern soccer arena and those who will struggle. The chaotic clamber for a share of the not inconsequential sums floating around in football today has dragged the game from 'cloth capism' and the romantic notion of 'playing for the jersey' to an increasingly mercenary and selfishly-driven wayward corporatism threatening to drain the game of its very soul.
Almost two years from George Graham's October 1998 arrival at Tottenham, and with Paul Van Dyke's Out There and Back on the CD player (so good I find myself whistling the title cut unconsciously in the most unlikeliest situations), Tottenham's climb back toward the pinnacle of British and European soccer is beginning to seem like an arduous assault on Everest.
At the start of season 2000/2001 and with seven points in the bag from the opening four games - 3-1 v Ipswich at home; 1-1 v Middlesbrough away; a disappointing 0-2 v Newcastle away and a fighting 3-2 v Everton at home - there is the most thinly veiled promise of 'better things to come' a la Sergei Rebrov et al. And, you have to think, if Johnny Depp's dad (George Graham) can't take Tottenham back to the top, domestically and in Europe, who can? Perhaps, however, the soccer landscape has evolved so much that only the supreme 4/5 clubs, that is those clubs who take biggest share of the available financial resources, will now rule ad infinitum - that would be the unthinkable and that would be a very sad day for soccer.
CAL WALKER BURNS
|Issue 17 - November 2000
2. A Day in the life ... Other People
(A history of Spurs in the present, and in the context of the modern game, and, of course, the world at large)
There are, according to legend, four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire. In a similar, almost mythical, fashion, it has been estimated that the late steel magnate Jack Walker pumped £120 million into Blackburn Rovers. Cash, The Beatles - those darlings of greeny environmentalists everywhere - would argue, which might have been better spent, fixing the road network in that northeast of Greater Manchester corner of the soccer universe.
Football, however, like the eponymous Mary (relentlessly pursued by the mysterious Amy Hide and the enigmatic Mr Wrong in Martin Amis' excellent novel Other People) has a short memory. It wasn't so long ago that football clubs were made or indeed broken by the nous and strategic prowess of the manager a la Bill Nicholson, and the squad of players he could assemble. Even Alex Ferguson - I'm being ironic - was able to win a European trophy with a club side short on cash though, for the time, big on ability (Aberdeen who beat Real Madrid 2-1 in the 1983 European Cup Winners Cup final in Gothenberg).
Projected forward to the economically expedient, corporate model of contemporaneous footie, it is difficult to see Big Eck (or should that be Sir Big Eck?) winning anything at all with that side nowadays, or any other club for that matter, without the 'massif' financial resources which are now poured into football clubs (over £1bn plus in television deals alone over the next five years) and the 'Big-Up' players who command exorbitant transfer fees and who, consequently, demand inflated wages (watch the European Commission space, a la Mario Monti, Amelia Torres, Gordon Taylor, Michel zen Ruffinen et al).
Conversely in the 'halcyon' days of 'honest' football, a la Bill Nicholson, football clubs were driven by two essential components : a) The number of people clicking through the turnstiles (gate receipts) and b) The cash exchange which was the transfer system. Today the top football clubs have grown into self-destroying, overbloated 'corporato' entities and an undeniable abyss has grown between the Premier League and the other 72 clubs of the Football League. An 'uber' and 'under' class, if you like. In turn, horror of horror, a gap has emerged between the top four or five Premiership outfits and the other fifteen or sixteen, some might argue, between Manchester United and the rest, or even Manchester United and Arsenal and the rest, but hey, let's not go there !!
When George Graham sauntered into N17 during October 1998, the fan-base split itself in two over the merits/demerits of a man who had led N5 to 2 League Championships, 1 FA Cup, 2 League Cup wins and two European Cup Winners Cup finals, one of them a winning appearance. A legend (in the stature of Bill Nicholson ?) had walked into White Hart Lane and you either loathed or loved the man - most of us hated him for his past associations, but, equally, most of us were willing to forgive - though his credentials as a tried and tested and proven successful soccer manager were unquestionable.
When George led us to Worthington Cup glory (sic) in 1999, many fans, myself included, and many of those who had never forgiven him for his past sins (managing Arsenal, forget the bung), felt that this was the totally comatose giant, at last, limbering up for a full bloodied assault on the Premiership title.
Consistent mid-table anonymity, however, has followed, and with it the rapid and accelerating onset of disillusionment. Maybe Johnny Depp's dad is not the answer after all, and after being swatted aside by London rivals Chelsea, Orson Welles look-a-like Ken Bates et al, and tamely dismissed by Nationwide Birmingham City in the League Cup, the clamour for the removal of 'The Dark Knight' (George Graham) and Alan Sugar has grown.
Danny Baker eloquent Times columnist, Millwall lion and chief confidante of Paul Gascoigne, Chris Evans and Big Mo from Walthamstow, has red carded the 77/26 group ( a reference to Graham's 26 wins in 77 games) - now, incidentally, 79/27 at the time of writing 04/11/00 - arguing that it is not George's fault that Spurs can no longer cut the mustard. For Danny, the new dynamics of a Late-post-modern soccer scene has distorted the shape of success in the form of hard cash and commercialism (soccercom or soccercon ?), hence don't blame the manager but the system.
In typical Bakeresque, Danny is strident : "Tottenham with or without a top manager, are not going to become a power to be reckoned with today or tomorrow. Their glory was yesterday..." ( The Times 28th October 2000), and, apparently, the gospel according to Saint Dan decrees that, these 'glory' days have gone for good, at least in the present climate of 'filthy lucre soccer'.
Those who disagree will argue that, like Mary from Amis' Other People - I've just read the novel and have become very precious about it - The Bargeddie Boy has lost his memory and can no longer put a winning side out on the soccer pitch, and, indeed, he no longer possesses the nous or strategic prowess to mould a winning side from the raw materials at hand a la Bill Nicholson. Alternatively, and maybe, as Danny Baker has implied, the rise of corporate soccerism or commercial soccer (soccercom) has marginalised the skills and abilities of managers so that their potential to take the team to the top flight is severely limited anyway and that, no matter how good a manager might be, without the commercial resources to hand, only a degree of success can be attained. The odd Worthington Cup, an irregular appearance in Europe or the Cup Final for example, but never the title. George Graham might just be a case in point, who knows ?
In saying this, we are looking at the present, and into the future, perhaps, even desperate future of something which was once called 'the beautiful game, and for those seeking the head of the manager/chairman, or those resigned to becoming second best, judgement day is almost upon us. Should he (they) stay or should he (they) go, you have to decide. What do you think ? And, by the way, does anyone remember Radiohead's 1995 CD The Bends and that wonderful cut from the album, Planet Telex, or does anyone remember that amazing book J.D. Salinger's Catcher In The Rye or Douglas Coupland's Generation X ?
CAL WALKER BURNS
|Issue 18 - January 2001
3. How To Disappear Completely
(A history of Spurs in the present, in the context of the modern game and, of course, the world at large)
Talking of Kid A - apparently a reference to the first android - the subtle nous of the Lion of Millwall, Daniel Baker, who, in his recent Times column, intimated that Tottenham Hotspur would never again be a major force in English football, with or without The Dark Knight, seems to be diminishing in the light of these listings and those eight games. Of course, and before we become carried away, the opposite side of the same brick wall shows that in eight games on the road, Spurs have failed to win ! Their seven defeats and one draw perfectly mirroring the White Hart Lane form, who needs Radiohead to keep you focused on miserable reality ? And, perhaps Danny, the great Swami of The New Den, has something after all. The above statistics - taken up to and including December 2's away defeat to Manchester United - are eerily reminiscent of the figures for the 1990/1 campaign when Tottenham won 11 games, lost 11 games and drew 16, scoring 51 for the loss of 50 in a 38 game, 20 club league, finishing 10th. Similarly symmetrical were last seasons statistics, won 15, drew 8, lost 15, finishing 10th in a 20 club league, to once again claim mid-table anoymity. Not a bad side really, but not a good side either.
Okay so we might sneak envious glances at Manchester United's (or should I say The Brand's) £302 million 13 year deal with Nike, though beyond that, or at least at the heart of the great financial train driving football forward into the 21st century, is a dark, often hidden, edge which has sinister potential and is therefore worthy of comment.
Nike, a sportswear company, are, at present, under investigation by the Lower House of the Brazilian Parliament. It is alleged that Nike, who have a $100 million 10 year deal with the Confederation of Brazilian Futbol, demanded that Ronaldo be selected in the Brazil team for the 1998 World Cup final versus France, even though the striker had suffered a nervous breakdown or some kind of convulsions only hours before the match. Indeed, Ronaldo, had not been named on the team sheet just prior to the game. His reinstatement and subsequent lacklustre appearance in final, however, has been the subject of great speculation ever since.
The Nike sponsorship deal, it has to be said, created disquiet among MUFC shareholders and supporters who feared that Nike might have too big a say in how the team is run and selected. Some thought that they, Nike, might demand United play in 'World' competitions subsequently leading to the side's withdrawal from 'some' domestic competitions, as had already happened last year when Manchester United pulled out of the FA Cup to compete in a 'World Club Championship' in Brazil. The enquiry is taking place as we write.
If we were going to be silly for Christmas we might imagine Spurs in a mullti-million dosh deal, which then might lead to the club turning its back on the Worthington Cup to play in Michael Mouse extravaganzas in Japan, Thailand or The Galapagos Islands. Consequently George Graham might be forced to choose players for the starting eleven he would rather leave at home with a book and a cup of cocoa, or in the stands. Despite Les Ferdinand being picked to lead the attack, his name is mysteriously erased from the team sheet minutes before kick off and Alan Sugar runs out onto the pitch wearing the number 9 ?? Scandalous !! Alan hasn't played since he led the Duck and Dive to Sunday League glory, and worse still, everyone knows his knees have gone !!
Money or no money - 15th in the listings of the world's richest clubs with a turnover of £42.6 million - we are, nevertheless, plagued by doubts as to how much progress the side has actually made under the stewardship of Johnny Depp's dad. The Bargeddie Boy, of course, is optimistic and is once again asking for the fans to be patient. In a recent Spurs Monthly interview - December 2000 Volume 7 No 4 - his tone is defensive, his snarl audible above the words on the page. Asked about the demonstrations which followed the Birmingham game and Spurs' exit from this years Worthington Cup, and, indeed, how he personally felt about it as the manager, George was, for once, less than self-assured in his response : "I think it's sad, especially when I know the hard work that is going on at the club...But it's part of modern society that people are demanding success today, they are not worried about tomorrow. Not even I can supply that, because it's going to take a bit of time to get Spurs to where I think they could be".
The Dark Knight's reply is, for me, a bit too vague. Modern society ? And what does he mean by "...a bit of time" ? And, perhaps, more significantly, where exactly does George think the side could be? Champions, third, fourth, five, top six, perpetual mid-table anonymity ? What is it he really means ?
I suppose we could take some comfort at N17, by considering the plight of Coventry City and their manager Gordon Strachan, or Middlesbrough and Bryan Robson, but such schadenfreude is hollow when our own situation is, apparently, one of perpetual blandness.As I turn, clutching my new CD close to my chest, I am confronted by the sight of two red-suited, black-booted and bearded Santa Claus' menacingly making their way toward me through the crowds menacingly and aggressively rattling their collecting cans. As they close in I recognise them as Alan Sugar and George Graham. Maybe they are keen to raise money for a good cause, I think to myself, and then another thought crosses my mind...perhaps they don't like the column! I begin to jog, calling back over my shoulder : "Merry Christmas !" and thinking all the time I am not here this is not happening..........
CAL WALKER BURNS
|Issue 19 February 2001
4. New Order and the House of Spirits
A history of Spurs in the present
(sort off), and in the context of the modern game, and, of course, the
world at large (with apologies to Isabel Allende)
Camden Town, Saturday morning, February 3rd 2001. A guy in the car park of a superstore trying to flog Armstrad computers from the back of his estate car. He is remarkably well-dressed, suited and booted, collar and tie, thick herring -bone overcoat, scarf, black leather gloves, sporting a fuzz beard and wide staring eyes. The man is holding a polystyrene cup of hot steaming coffee and calling out at the top of his voice that these (computers) are the latest internet models. "C'mawn darling, I'm givin' em away", he pleads with a blue haired woman as other punters gather round. Close at hand, his minder, scans the gathering crowd with a wary eye just in case anyone has any ideas about running off with the merchandise. The minder, a sharply dressed dark-haired guy in dark suit and overcoat, bears a strange resemblance to Johnny Depp's dad, standing silently and ever-vigilant, stamping his feet against the bitter cold, regularly checking the time on the gold watch on his wrist. He, at least, has a match to go to.
Alan Sugar's departure from White Hart Lane was typically flamboyant. He picked up a phone in a Florida hotel and sold 29.9% of his 40% stake in the club for a cool £22 million, a £14 million profit on the £8 million he initially paid for the club almost 10 years earlier. In that time chairman Al had presided over a club which, during his reign, won one trophy (the 1999 Worthington Cup), chalked up a highest league position of 7th in season 1994/5 with Gerry Francis at the helm and had overseen five managerial changes as Terry Venables was replaced by Peter Shreeve, who in time gave way to Ossie 'Tottingham' Ardiles, replaced by the aforementioned Gerry Francis who gave way to Christian 'The Neurosurgeon' Gross, who eventually vacated the seat filled by George 'The Bargeddie Boy' Graham in October 1998. The ten-year record is equally bland, and as I have often said in the past 'blandness' is rapidly becoming synonymous with Tottenham Hotspur.
Okay, for those of you who read me, I am about to stop moaning and I will refrain from harking back to a bygone era, remembered as the halcyon days of Spurs when they were a superpower in League soccer, a time when summers were warmer and brighter than we ever experience now a la Tim Pears (of In A Land Of Plenty fame). The glory days, however, are now just a house of spirits, perhaps, best avoided if we are to look toward the future, I would think.
We have, after all, a new order at the club in the form of season ticket holder and awkwardly athletic looking Daniel Levy, representative of ENIC, the organisation who bought out old Al and who also own shares in five other soccer clubs across the world. The Joe Lewis backed corporate entity also own Glasgow Rangers; FC Basle of Switzerland; Slavia Prague of the Czech Republic; AEK Athens from Greece and Vincenza of Italy. Tottenham Hotspur are the groups latest, and probably not their last, football acquisition.
Just before Christmas Daniel Levy moved into Sugar's deserted office and a new regime, perhaps even a new era, had arrived at White Hart Lane. Clean-shaven and shunning the limelight, Levy arrived as the wunderkid, while the jaded and dejected looking Jack the Lad Sugar, tired of being constantly barracked by a sector of Spurs support, called time on his supremacy. Levy settling into his new role with quiet aplomb (quite striking in contrast with his flamboyant predecessor) preferring to influence things from the background rather than as a high profile chairman.
Alan Sugar's departure - and rumour has it he has his sights firmly set on Leyton Orient (good luck with that one Alan) - and Daniel Levy's arrival coincided with an initial boost in the share price of Tottenham Hotspur PLC. On 19 December, as rumours in the city circulated that ENIC were poised to buyout Sugar, the price 'soared' (to quote an over-enthusiastic Clive Mathieson of the Times (December 19 2000) 6p to finish at 58p at closing, though a long way (Clive) from Spurs share price high of 138p in 1996. This, it transpired was a temporary blip, as the price would top at 61p and then immediately tumble after the sale too first 54p and then progressively to 49p at the time of writing (February 7 2001).
The figures are fascinating and worthy of a closer look. On the 5th of December 2000 the Tottenham share price stood at a comfortable 60p. Next day on the 6th December 2000 it dropped 1.5p to 58.5p and continued this downward spiral until its plunge was halted on December 18 at 52p, just as news of the purported ENIC buyout was gathering momentum. With stories of ENIC taking over Sugar's shares rife, the price climbed to 60p on December 19 and then 61p on December 21 post-deal. On December 22, just as Levy was slipping in behind Sugar's old and very large desk the price slipped to 54p, finishing at 52p as the year closed. The price has not picked up at all in the present cycle and despite improved turnover for the year confidence is low, exacerbated by rising wage costs and the mooted disengagement of the present system of transfer practices, with the share price having slid back further to 49p.
Neither has the script on the park changed, another factor under-pinning poor share price performance, as Tottenham have continued to trudge through an otherwise nondescript campaign. Spurs have failed to score in seven of their last nine league matches (up to February 8 and discounting the 4-2 away win at Charlton Athletic in the cup) , which have seen the club win two, both at home, lose two, both away, and record no less than five 0-0 draws, including a Premiership record of four no scoring games in a row, a feat matched only by North London rivals Arsenal when they too were managed, surprise, surprise, by George Graham. League statistics show that Tottenham have yet to lose a game at home but, with some beauty and symmetry, they have yet to win a league game away this season and are hovering, predictably, around mid-table. Drawn against Nationwide First Division strugglers Stockport County in the next round of the cup, the N17 club are hopeful of progress to the quarter finals of the FA Cup, which may give the Dark Knight a much needed lifeline and keep the fans happy... for 90 minutes at least. Tottenham, of course, needs and demands more and we are forever hopeful, if not desperate - in a year with a one in it - for something to spark life into yet another potentially dull campaign.Two policeman, looking like refugees from ‘The Bill’ are slowly and ponderously making their way toward the computer salesman in the car park. His minder is climbing into a car, calling out that his friend is “on his own”, while fuzz beard is hurriedly loading his computers into the back of the estate car. Things are changing fast, old memories still haunt the faithful, the day is pregnant with freezing air, and the fans wait for a sign that the hollowness of the last few decades is reaching its conclusion. A Ford Mondeo, presumably from Essex (it has Darren/Sharon stickers on the windscreen) pulls up beside the estate car, Placebo's You Don't Care About Us is thumping out at full volume, appropriate, some might think, in the circumstances...
CAL WALKER BURNS
|Issue 20 - April 2001
A history of Spurs in the present (sort of) and in the context of the modern game, and, of course, the world at large.
Alan Sugar, reclining in his leather padded swivel chair, malt in mit, Faithless 'Dont Leave' on the CD player, closes his eyes and smiles inwardly to himself aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh ...
There was something eerily inevitable about the recent departure of George Graham - aka The Dark Knight, Johnny Depp's dad, The Bargeddie Boy - from White Hart Lane. Since Alan Sugar's exit at the end of December and the arrival of the ENIC regime, Daniel Levy, David Buchler et al, it seemed only a matter of time before the former Millwall, Arsenal and Leeds United supremo would follow his former boss out the door. With Charles Aznovour or was it The Smashing Pumpkins : "My kids think you're the greatest, and thanks to your gloomy music, they've finally stopped dreaming of a future I can't possibly provide" (Homer Simpson to Billy Corgan Chicago-born guitar player of The Smashing Pumpkins), playing on his Sony Walkman The Dark Knight strode defiantly away from N17. He went without the slightest hint of a backward glance as a new era in the form of David Buchler, ENIC and a Messianic vision for Tottenham Hotspur as a European Superpower was ushered in.
The dismissal of Graham came after he intimated that he was working on a 'limited budget' at Tottenham, and, it has to be said, that such statements are regularly vomited from the mouths of football league managers the length and breadth of Britain. David Buchler, however, insisted that in a period when Spurs were trying to re-negotiate Sol Campbell's contract, such comments are at best unhelpful, at worst wreckless, or, alternatively, was he (Buchler) simply looking for an opportunity to be rid of The Bargeddie Boy? 'Limited budget' is a phrase programmed into every football managers databanks, and openly regurgitated at the drop of Alan Sugar's wallet to any journalist who will listen. Did George jump or was he pushed? Personally I think the answer lies somewhere between the two, and there is no doubt the ex-manager - who received a £1.5 million golden handshake when he walked over the White Hart Lane threshold - was probably tired of being barracked by a section of the Spurs' support unable to forgive his former allegiance to The Gooners.
The recriminations, counter claims and legal battles will undoubtedly unfold over the coming weeks, months and perhaps even years - can't you just hear the purple rustle of solicitors and barristers rubbing their greedy paws? This said it now seems clear David Buchler's position on Graham has never been in any doubt. "If I had the choice, I wanted to have to change our manager", Buchler told the press on Friday March 16 2001, "I would have wanted to have seen things change and I would have wanted to see a change of style". Thus, by his own admission, Buchler obviously did not want George to remain within the parameters of his plans for the future of Tottenham Hotspur, and I, for one, could never imagine Johnny Depp's dad sitting around like a crocodile in a handbag factory waiting for waxing. Colin Malam encapsulates the situation succinctly : "...was George Graham the victim of someone new to football administration reacting to one of the oldest tricks in the book" (Sunday Telegraph March 18 2001). A bit cliched, perhaps, but concise and, probably, accurate nevertheless.
The rank and file fan, of course, will never be privy to the internal dynamics and machinations of the football boardroom and the what of what really happened behind creaking doors will only emerge in small gobbets of carefully selected information, full of platitudes and innuendo without really saying anything one way or the other, sound familiar ?
Some speculation has already placed Graham at Ibrox for the beginning of next season as the new Rangers manager in waiting. Why, The Dark Knight - settled in London with a new wife - would want to become embroiled in all that bigoted and sectarian hatred and nonsense when there will be clubs throughout Britain who would love to see him as their manager, is difficult to understand, though to quote Greavesie "It's a funny old game".
George Graham's demise, however, was that of the chart topping pop star who had ceased to sell CD's in any significant numbers (whatever did happen to Adam Ant?) - a victim of his own success, six trophies at Arsenal in eight years six months. ENIC, in the form of Levy and Buchler are, by comparison, history's ruthless impresarios looking beyond 'yesterdays heroes' to the balance account. Indifferent performances on the park concomitant with a drop in profits for the six months to January 2001, a total of £896,000 compared to slightly more than £2 million for the same period the previous year and a 7% fall in turnover to £27.8 million from £29.8 million must have influenced their judgement on The Dark Knight and acted as the major precursors for his removal.
Levy, Buchler and ENIC, with their recently acquired 29% controlling share of Tottenham may have a vision, but the timing of The Dark Knight's removal could not have been more badly timed. While he may well have walked at the end of the season, to show him the door on the eve of an FA Cup semi-final against the club's greatest rivals seems foolhardy and myopic. A European place beckons and if Spurs successfully make it all the way to the Millennium Stadium Cardiff and win the trophy Buchler will seem like a prophet, to miss out with David 'Popeye' Pleat at the helm (albeit temporarily) will bring the honeymoon to a close and sour the early relationship with the Legion of White.
Tonight, I have this image of The Dark Knight, the canny smartly dressed Scot, sharing a drink with Alan Sugar in some trendy wine bar in Kensington or up the hill in Hampstead, defiantly chuckling to himself about all the fuss. Elsewhere in the city, David Buchler sitting fretting in the dark at the head of an empty, long table in the White Hart Lane boardroom. Daniel Levy standing framed in the doorway, silhouetted by the light from a deserted corridor. "Let's hope Pleaty can get us a result against North 5 David" Levy whispers into the room, then turning away closes the door on Buchler. In Kensington or Hampstead, The Bargeddie Boy has stopped laughing and is poignantly left to rue the missed opportunity to put one over on his old employers, especially in a cup semi-final...cue music, Moby's Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad, credits ...
CAL WALKER BURNS
|Issue 21 - - 2001
CAL WALKER BURNS
|Issue 22 - - 2001
CAL WALKER BURNS
|Issue 23 - - 2001
CAL WALKER BURNS
Ever wondered who or what are The Bunnymen? Where you might find Ankh-Morpork or Royston Vasey on a map of Britain, why there is so much surreal nonsense a la Edward Lear spoken on football match commentaries, or why Morrisey has never been accepted as a bona fide, if somewhat cryptic, philosopher of our times ? And then you might have wondered why Tottenham Hotspur are such perfect underachievers, apparently doomed to live in the long shadows of our more illustrious North London soccer neighbours, Arsenal ?
Whisper it, but it has been a ridiculously long 40 years since Tottenham Hotspur were last crowned League Champions. Scoring 115 goals for the loss of 55 in a 42 match season, they won the title by a comfortable 8 points from runners-up Sheffield Wednesday, and also became the first club this century to complete the double, beating Leicester City (Gordon Banks et al) 2-0 in the FA Cup final, after disposing of Charlton Athletic 3-2, Crewe Alexandra 5-1, Aston Villa 2-0, Sunderland 5-0 (after a 1-1 draw) and Burnley 3-0 in the semi final.
In the following 1961/2 campaign, Spurs finished third behind Burnley and newly promoted Ipswich Town, who took the title after winning Division Two the previous season (a feat Tottenham had also accomplished in 1950/1 after winning Division Two in 1949/50). Some consolation was found, however, in retaining the FA Cup, comfortably beating a strong Burnley side 3-1 in the final.
Everton took the League Championship in 1962/3, pushed all the way by Tottenham who finished runners-up, and became the first British club to taste European glory by crushing the reigning European Cup Winners Cup holders Atletico Madrid 5-1 (still a record win for a British club in a European final) on a memorable night in Rotterdam. Spurs had arrived ! Or had they ?
Another cup win in 1967 against Chelsea, League Cup victories 1970/1 and 1972/3 and a UEFA Cup win in 1971/2, before a rapid decline culminating in relegation in 1977 as the Nicholson years dissipated into a cloud of grey static which would see the club into and through the eighties and nineties. It was a greyness interspersed with just a hint of colour illuminated by the FA Cup wins of 1981,1982 and 1991, the UEFA cup win of 1983/4 versus Anderlecht, anyone remember Tony Parks - later of Falkirk - between the sticks and, of course the Worthington Cup win of 1999.
Ten years after Tottenham's glorious double, Bertie Mee's Arsenal were matching the great Spurs side of the early sixties by taking the League Championship and FA Cup back to N5 in season 1970/1.
While in the Sixties Arsenal could only finish above Tottenham in one season, 1968/9, in the last fifteen years they have been, by far, the dominant force in London soccer with Chelsea, of late, threatening, perhaps, to challenge that supremacy. Over this period The Gooners have claimed 3 League Championships, 2 FA Cups, 2 League Cups and a European Cup Winners Cup - shiny happy people or what ?
Of course none of us really remember much about the sixties now anyway. I mean who can recall when Tottenham Hotspur were the Manchester United of the age. Who can recall when everyone feared playing Spurs home or away, when Cilla Black recorded hit records (honestly my mother told me) and Liverpool was the centre of the pop music universe. Nor do any of us remember when something called flower power was a major, and widely held, ideology, England were the World Cup holders (I am not having a laugh !!), and students, not English football hooligans, fought pitched battles with police on the streets of French cities !!
And somehow sifting through this distant social archaeology Tottenham Hotspur's modern status as perennial Premiership also rans is all the more poignant, all the more troubling. The fans, I feel, somehow deserve more than the 'promising' blandness they have been served up for most of the last four decades.
It is, of course, useless harking back to a time before most of us were born, and we should be thinking colourful, flowery positive thoughts about Tottenham being a soccer superpower once more in Mark Jacobesque fashion.
Spurs are the archetypal underachievers, rubbing shoulders with fellow giants but never quite coming up with the goods. They are the perpetual 'could-do-betters', their lack of success in comparison with Arsenal one of the greatest mysteries in the soccer universe, or is it ? And then I am wondering, are Tottenham Hotspur ready to 'rise' again ?; Who or what is Jeffery Archer ?; If there is an Internet Bible are computers the new religion ?; Why are R.E.M. pushing an elephant up the stairs ? and did Joan Of Arc's Walkman really melt in the flames when she was burned at the stake ... ?
CAL WALKER BURNS
CAL WALKER BURNS
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