The streak…and what it means

Should Spurs get beaten at Manchester City on Saturday night (and I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn to suggest that this seems quite an inevitable outcome for most Spurs fans) it will be a 4th successive league defeat; the first time Spurs have suffered such ignominy since 2004.

This may not be the end of it – the cliched tough trip to Burnley awaits the following midweek and then Spurs travel to Elland Road for a fixture in which they were thoroughly outplayed in last season and were somewhat fortuitous to win the home game back in November. That said, the streak could end at The Etihad – after all Southampton and Crystal Palace have all taken points home this season and Spurs ourselves have held our nerve to collect points there recently too.

A streak of 4 successive wins or losses is to some extent an arbitrary number but it is enough games to highlight a particular trend. The fixture list can throw up kind or nasty runs of games but it is unlikely that an upper half team, should face 4 successive horrible fixtures and with the relative strength of the Premier League it is improbable that you would have 4 absolute gimme’s. Thus to win 4 games in a row you probably have to be quite good and to lose 4 indicates some not insignificant concerns.

Taking this run of 4 fixtures for Spurs included the perennial graveyard that is Stamford Bridge and is bookended by a trip to the reigning Champions Manchester City. In between, presented two fixtures that Spurs could have expected, based on recent results against the same teams, to collect at least 4 points. To lose twice at home against teams lower in the table was largely unthinkable but when sandwiched between the two away trips presents an unfortunate opportunity to create unwanted history.

The last time Spurs recorded 4 or more successive defeats came in Autumn 2004. The run is split evenly between the end of Jacques Santini’s inauspicious spell in N17 and Jol’s spell – a 1-0 defeat at Portsmouth, followed by 1-2 home defeat to Bolton and then a dismal 2-0 loss at Fulham. Santini resigned on the eve of the home game with Charlton which Spurs lost 3-2 despite a gallant second half comeback; then came an incredible but fruitless 4-5 home loss in the North London derby before succumbing 1-0 at Aston Villa – a fixture that Spurs rarely picked up many points.

In fairness to Jol, and that Spurs team, it is worth noting that Spurs would then go on a 5-game winning streak (more on that follow) where results then evened out through the remainder of the season.

For Spurs, a club, who throughout the Premier League, have an (median) average end position of 7th, you would therefore expect to see a fair amount of inconsistency neither winning or losing in particularly long streaks in the same way that you would expect of Manchester City – who jointly hold the record of 18 consecutive PL wins in the early part of the 2017/18 season on route to their 100-point season (Liverpool equalled this in Winter 2019). By contrast, Sunderland, hold the infamous losing streak of 15 in 2002-03.

Looking back through Spurs’ list of results from 1992 until well into the 21st century you see lots of inconsistent results. Displayed as the standard RAG table there is plenty of green, orange and red connections.

Prior to this weekend’s match with Manchester City Spurs have been on the wrong end of a 4-game ‘L’ streak on 5 separate occasions. The most recent is the aforementioned run in 2004. As perhaps you would expect the other occasions occurred in seasons in which relegation was a very real possibility (2003/04 – 2 times; 1997/8 and 1993/4). The latter provides Spurs’ worst ever streak of 7 consecutive defeats from New Years Day 1994 until a home draw with Aston Villa on 1st March. During that period Spurs were also dumped out of both domestic cups only getting past 3rd tier Peterborough on penalties in a replay at White Hart Lane).

7-game loss streak Jan – Feb 1994

1/1 Coventry HOME 1-2
3/1 Sheffield Weds AWAY 0-1
15/1 Manchester Utd HOME 0-1
22/1 Swindon AWAY 1-2
5/2 Sheffield Weds HOME 1-3
12/2 Blackburn HOME 0-2
27/2 Chelsea AWAY 3-4

Spurs have achieved 4-game winning streaks on 20 occasions which may be slightly more than you’d initially thought. This sort of run of good form is, as you’d imagine, very sporadic throughout the first half of the Premier League era. A Teddy Sheringham inspired run of 5 League wins in Spring 1993 was the first and the next followed in the early part of 1995/96 when Gerry Francis’ hit peak form. Spurs hit the unheralded heights of 3rd place in the first part of that season before predictably falling away after Christmas.

You then have to go forward 9 years until the previously mentioned rollercoaster of results under Santini and Jol. Following defeat to Aston Villa Jol’s team recorded 5 wins which included a then customary win at Manchester City (then just ‘Eastlands’).

It is from this point in the mid 00’s that Spurs started to take themselves more seriously and over the next 15 years would shifted the average league finish from 10th (1993-2005) to 5th (2006-2021). This, by nature resulted in better, and more consistently better results.

From 2009/10 until 2018/19 Spurs would achieve at least one 4-game winning streak in all bar 2 seasons. In the 6 ‘Top 4’ seasons they would record a run of 4 straight wins. The famous 2016/17 season which culminated in 86 points and an unbeaten home record contained a run of 9 successive victories as we attempted to chase down Chelsea between February and May. Additionally that season saw a 6-game and a 4-game winning streak.

The 9-game winning streak (PL games only) Feb – May 2017

26/2 Stoke City HOME 4-0
5/3 Everton HOME 3-2
19/3 Southampton HOME 2-1
1/4 Burnley AWAY 2-0
5/4 Swansea AWAY 3-1
8/4 Watford HOME 4-0
15/4 Bournemouth HOME 4-0
26/4 Crystal Palace AWAY 1-0
30/4 Arsenal HOME 2-0

The last of the 20 ‘W’ streaks to occur was during the 2018/19 season. In fact there were 3 throughout the season – you may recall this as the ‘undrawable season’ in which it tool until March for Spurs’ first draw. What preceded this was largely a run of wins with a loss thrown in for good measure only to be repeated by a string of wins. The most recent came in January 2019 with four fairly stodgy victories over Fulham and Watford (both stoppage time wins), Newcastle and Leicester (who missed a penalty).

Spurs slept walked into Champions League qualification that season whilst also reaching the final of the same competition in what became, unbeknown at the time, the beginning of the end for Pochettino.

From analysisng the trends there is a very direct correlation – when we have recorded 4-game winning streaks we have at least seriously knocked on the door of Champions League qualification. In the years in which we have recorded 4-game L streaks we have usually flirted with relegation.

The one notable exception was that 2004-05 (the only season where Spurs have had a positive and negative 4-game streak) spell of results where one rather counteracted the other and the net result was a 9th place finish.

Therefore studying 4-game streaks is quite a useful tool in analsying where we are and what might happen. I’m pretty sure that even the most Eeyore of Spurs fans will not be contemplating away trips to Rotherham and Preston next season should the inevitable happen at Manchester City at the weekend. However, 4-game streaks are invariably a decent barometer; perhaps we will follow up with an equally positive run of results – away trips to Burnley and Leeds, home to Everton and then away at Old Trafford could feasibly return 4 wins.

Having looked at other clubs data its very clear that recording a 4-game streak is indicative of a consistent season. Going back to 2011 every team that has finished in the top 4 positions has recorded at least one 4-game win streak. The last not to do so was Arsenal in 2011. Whilst researching this I was reminded that Leicester won 8 successive games in 2019/20 but still only finished 5th.

Therefore the conclusion is that until we can put together 4+ wins on the bounce I do not expect to hear Champions League music blasted around Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Both Arsenal and West Ham have done so already this season. It is this pursuit of consistency that is most needed.

The most average of Spurs 

When you think of Spurs in the premier league era what do you consider to be the average? Not the best of spurs and not the worst – just that smack bang in the middle Spurs. Therefore, don’t be drawn to the peak Pochettino era of league title challenges, unbeaten home seasons and Champions League football. Equally, don’t let your mind take you to the relegation scraps of 1994 and 1998, 2 points from 8 games or 6-0 defeats at Sheffield United. Think about the players who occupy that middle ground – not Klinsmann, Kane, Gary Doherty or Jason Cundy. 

Statistically you should be thinking of the current iteration of Tottenham Hotspur – or more specifically (as far as league performances go) the last 3 calendar year cycle from 2019 to the current day. 

Let me first explain the significance of a 3-year cycle as it is essentially an arbitrary time period. I always felt that 2018 becoming 2019 in hindsight saw a dramatic downturn in results and performances; taking the Champions League run aside the last really great performance under Pochettino was the 6-2 victory at Everton on 23 December. A result that in hindsight remains the swansong of an incredible era. 

Although the early part of 2019 did see some good results (four successive league wins against Fulham, Leicester, Newcastle and Watford in spite of some fairly turgid, if not determined performances) the team sleepwalked into 4th spot following this. It is therefore convenient on my part to start and end cycles at this point. Additionally a ‘3 year cycle’ is often discussed, even if it is not scientifically tested as a definitive period of time in which a team, under one or multiple coaches evolves with players travelling through natural physical peaks. 

I have therefore retrofitted the last 30 calendar years into ten 3-year cycles calculating the average number of points won per game and how that translates into a 38 game season. 

Table 1: breakdown of 3-year cycles with average number of points in a 38-game season calculated

YearsAve pts per gameSeason points equivalent
ALL (1992 – 2021)1.5357.99
The bottom row shows the average across the entire 30-year period – that is 1.53 pts per game which accounts to 58 points per season. 

Graph A – average points gained per season based on 3 year cycle

Graph B – average points per game as a full 38-game season equivalent 

The teams of the 90’s produced mediocre results despite the likes of Klinsmann, Sheringham, Anderton and Ginola being part of them.

If you look at the breakdown of 3-year cycles you’ll notice that the period closest to that overall average is the most recent one – 2019- 2021. 

Time will not fondly recall the 2019-2021 period but perhaps more due to the contrast to the cycle immediately prior – for the last 3 years we have undoubtedly been coming down the mountain. Indeed 2.11 – 1.59 (0.62 difference) is by far the biggest variance, positive or negative over the 30-year period covered. 

This blog is not intended to be one to judge the merits of ENIC but the trajectory from 2001 (when they took ownership of the club) had, until 2019 been a largely upwards one. 

Therefore it is fair to say that over the long-term this current team is an average reflection of Spurs in the Premier League era which prior to Pochettino was mostly a struggle to break out of mid table and a holy grail of finishing anywhere near European qualification. 

In trying to present an objective argument I’ll now talk you through some subjective thinking that perhaps backs up what the data is telling us. Dier, Davies, Sanchez, Winks and Lucas Moura were peripheral members of the peak Poch era starting XI. Whilst some of these have improved and/or fulfil functionary roles they are definite starters when available now (or at least towards the end of the 2019-2021 cycle). We know that recruitment has been poor and quite simply this team is nowhere near as good as its immediate predecessors. 

However, the data tells us that this current team is closer but slightly better in performance to it’s 2004-2006 version. This was the Martin Jol period. Of course tactically its very difficult to compare but this is roughly the strongest XI based on appearances made. 

YP LeeDavies
LennonLucas Moura

By chance the 2004-06 team is virtually the team that played through most of the 2005-06 Lasagnegate season where you’ll recall we were desperately unfortunate not to finish in 4th place albeit the 67 points Arsenal eventually gained is below the average of 71 pts usually required. 

Because many of the players still exist who had been part of the golden Poch era it is easier to compare the current group to them but actually we should be taking ourselves back in time and asking what we would have expected when looking forward to a match circa 2005. 

On the whole though we have a squad available that is limited and like its 2004-2006 equivalent should be occupying the positions somewhere around 5th/6th spot. A team that finishes in these positions will by nature have flaws and will remain inconsistent – I suspect two home defeats to Wolves and Southampton is below par; draws with Liverpool and a win against Manchester City would be an overachievement. 

As ever hard date provides entirely objective outcomes. The eye test and those visceral emotions can provide just as useful answers. For me, trying to combine both, what is stark is the drop off seen over the last cycle which we are still feeling now. Whereas in the 2004-2006 period (especially once Jol took over) there was undeniably a feeling of a young team in development that hit an upward trajectory. The vibe around White Hart Lane on 31st December 2006 was significantly more optimistic than it had been on 1st January 2004. 

We are now into the next cycle (2022-2024) and the data sample size is of course just too small (for the record we are recording just 1.2 points per game) to draw any conclusions. We do not yet know at what point we will plateau from our fall from grace – one suspects the sheer force of nature that Conte provides plus the financial support provided by the stadium income means that we should start to `build a base to climb from again soon.  

Perhaps it should be some encouragement that 4 of the Cycle of 2019-2021 have been moved on at the club’s will (Alderweireld, Sissoko, Dele, Aurier). Romero and Bentancur should prove to be upgrades on Alderweireld and Sissoko respectively (at least based on their 2019-2021 form and ability). It is clear that a new right back/right wing back and a creative midfielder are urgently needed. 

We must hope that Skipp and Reguilon continue to improve but by the end of 2024 Kane, Son and Lloris (if still at the club) will be past their best and will need to have been replaced. 

This is without doubt the biggest on-field challenge facing ENIC since they took over in 2001 in addressing the slide. It would not require a hugely significant upturn in performances and results to be up and above 1.8 pts per game again and with a world-class Coach at the club this shouldn’t be impossible. However, the painful rebuild, is well underway and that will mean some uncomfortable times ahead. 

‘We’ve Never Had It So Bad’ – The Effect Of Recency Bias

It is ironic that having written this article between Wednesday and Sunday last week about the impact of Recency Bias I now feel that the football world is a much happier place having beaten Leicester and finished above Arsenal. With this concept in mind I invite you back into my mind pre-Sunday……

In my Spurs supporting lifetime I can’t remember feeling any lower than I have since Wednesday night. I know I am not alone but the definitive conclusion of ‘never have felt more disconnected’ is likely to be the result of recency bias.

Let me firstly just try, for cathartic purposes, explain why I feel in such a loveless relationship.  It was my first visit to watch a game since December and only the second in 15 months. Something that has been a routine in my life, certainly since buying my first season ticket in 2002, should have got me chomping at the bit to return. Yet, somehow has kick off approached I felt so little enthusiasm and excitement. Perhaps it was the terrible drive through rush hour traffic that didn’t help? No, the feeling of apathy had set in long before that. 

Tim Sherwood

My feelings of lethargy seemed to be matched by the players. From 15 minutes we became a more inferior team – confidence and energy sapped. There was a will to reverse the score but the palpable emotions on and off the pitch were of frustration and resentment. The chorus of boos at full-time I felt were not directly primarily at the players and not exclusively at Daniel Levy – it was an outpouring of helplessness and utter frustration. 

I have expressed to many people since then my extreme feelings of disconnect with the club. The ESL decision is amongst that but it more the complete lack of proactive communication  and the inability once again for ENIC to ‘read the room’ that hurts me. I am what is becoming known as a ‘legacy fan’  – I don’t feel that I am their target market segment and If I’m honest I haven’t done for as much as I can remember. However, this has never stopped me coming back and I’m embarrassed to admit that I renewed my season ticket the day applications opened.

However, it is the disconnect with the team that is my predominant emotional trigger. I am not pointing out anything that has not been observed and discussed by anyone else. The lack of intensity, the lack of a plan, the lack of confidence, the lack of belief. Subjectively we have a good but not outstanding group of players but a squad that with the right motivation and direction be challenging in and around 4th place. I think 5th is par and there is no disgrace in this though it is undoubtedly a regression on where we have been since 2017.   

If we’re honest the bar that was set in 2017 was incredibly high and it was always going to be a challenge to maintain the standards of winning 86 points in a season. Sunday 13 May 2017 was the high point – both for on the field success but for a general feeling of togetherness between fans, players and manager and owners.

 If ever there was going to be a breakout of “Daniel Levy he’s one of our own’ it would have been at this point. The send-off to White Hart Lane was a poignant one that had been planned and executed beautifully; it was ostensibly a send off to an iconic venue that for many of us had been a second home and one that provided cherished memories for both what we had seen on the pitch and more importantly the relationships we formed off it. 

Part of me wonders what those celebrations would have looked and felt like had the timing been different – what if we’d finished 2016/17 season as we had this year? It is mostly a coincidence that the send off to our cherished home occurred in our most successful season on it. 

Fast forward 4 years – the global pandemic has created several very obvious nuances that affected the feel of the final home game of the season just as they did in 2020 when a 3-0 victory over Leicester took place in front of an empty stadium – but the feeling around the club could not be at a more polar opposite. The ongoing speculation around Harry Kane creates another black cloud that circles above us and until a new manager is appointed it is hard to develop any excitement for what might come next.

However, my point is that we’ve been here before – that feeling of staleness and hopelessness. Unless you started following Spurs in 2015 you’ve definitely been through what you’re feeling now and whilst the memory of how good it was in 2017 is a stark reminder of the failures on and off the pitch since also remember that it didn’t take much to get us to that point. 

Using the final home game of the season as a consistent time marker of despondency let me just share some of the bleak times that I have experienced and please use this list to reflect and finally just to remember that as a club we suffer peaks and troughs that unlike many of our contemporaries (Villa, West Ham, Newcastle, Leeds, Nottingham Forest) only ever seem to flatline in midtable. 

2014 – Aston Villa home 3-0

‘The Sherwood season’ – this was a depressing season that, again using recency bias, tends to be the most we benchmark the current season against. We’d actually started 2013/14 in the post Bale era under AVB relatively well on the pitch winning most games but in an undefined and unspectacular manner until several heavy defeats pre-Christmas saw Sherwood take over. Despite an initial bounce it soon became clear Sherwood was as much of a buffoon as feared and his self-aggrandisement and limited tactical approach meant that the second half meandered on with players and fans in a similar state of malaise. The introduction of young players Nabil Bentaleb and the clumsy looking forward Harry Kane provided some hope for the future but the season really couldn’t end quick enough. 

The final day of the season did provide a comprehensive victory – in fact we had won our 4 final home games of the season (Southampton, Sunderland, Fulham and Villa) and maintained a top 6 finish. 

6Tottenham Hotspur3821611555169
7Manchester United3819712644364
9Stoke City38131114455250
10Newcastle United3815419435949
2014 – Final Premier League table

2004 – Blackburn 1-0

What an endurance 2003/4 had become. It started with the Hoddle era running on fumes and then under the stewardship of David Pleat as a Caretaker manager widely ridiculed by players and fans alike the season. Daniel Levy, then in his embryonic period as Chairman, promised a big-name manager but that the appointment could wait until the end of the season (which coming in September meant that the season was effectively a write-off). That Woolwich would record their Invincible season made matters even worse but we were in serious danger of being sucked into a relegation battle as late as April. Therefore, the very end of the season provided enough feeling of genuine relief that the final game of the season against mid-table Blackburn provided a feeling of happy mediocrity.

2003 – Blackburn 0-4

The Hoddle era was beginning to unravel quickly. The 2002-3 season had begun positively but a series of injuries and a lack of intensity and physical condition amongst an ageing group of players (Sheringham and Poyet) meant that Keane and King aside 2003 became a real endurance. Were it not for Hoddle’s status feelings could have turned sourer even more quickly, The end of the season saw us go into our penultimate home game of the season actually wanting to lose at home to Manchester Utd in order to deny Woolwich a league title. Naturally United won comfortably 2-0. The final two games of the season resulted in a 5-1 defeat at Middlesbrough and then an ugly 0-4 reversal at home to Blackburn which included Poyet receiving a red card and young winder Matt Etherington involved in a verbal dispute with a fan in the East Lower. I’m sure this must have happened in other years but the touchline was littered with season ticket books at full-time  – always a futile gesture when the book had already become superfluous by nature of it being the final game.

1997 – Coventry 1-2

This moment had parallels to now as well. Teddy Sheringham had been our talisman though he had missed much of this season through injury and had also found himself in a dysfunctional attacking system that even when on form was undone by some gormless defending and a lack of structure in midfield. Teddy’s demeanour during the latter half of the season was that of a player who felt he had outgrown the rest of the team around him and justifiably saw that his ambitions were more likely to be achieved elsewhere. For me the 1996/7 season was the benchmark for Spurs mediocrity during the period. There was no ability to string 3 results together, rarely did we show up outside of the M25 and the inevitable exit from the FA Cup signalled the end of the season. The team looked tired and uninspired and Coventry City, who almost 10 years to the day previous had enjoyed their most famous day at Spurs expense, came to White Hart lane knowing that even a win may not be enough to keep them in the division. If Social Media memes had been a thing in 1997 then Dr Tottenham would have trended in the days immediately prior and after the final match of the season. Coventry roared into a 2-0 lead for Paul McVeigh to score his one and only Spurs goal in response. There was little riding on the game for Spurs other than absent pride – another feature of the era. 

Sheringham did depart the club that summer and went on to do rather well at Old Trafford before returning 4 years later. 

On each occasion the manager at the time, if in place at all, has failed to turn around a sinking ship. It has taken an appointment like Redknapp, Jol or Poch to breathe life back into the team, but also to give the fans a hope and belief again. In all the latter examples (of the ENIC era) the darkest hour has always been followed a stark improvement not just to the results – though they undeniably have a knock-on effect – but to a wider positive feeling and we must hope that for all of us supporting Spurs will become fun again very soon.  

What we are feeling now is not a new feeling and I challenge you reach the conclusion that you’ve had it worse in the past……and the reminder that football is cyclical. We’re all in for the long haul so we’ll feel it again too. 

The FA Cup Mystery: Disney World Or A New Kitchen

For the 31st consecutive year Spurs fans will wake up on the day of FA Cup Final with little, if any, interest or intrigue in the forthcoming showpiece event in the sporting calendar. 

18th May 1991 was the last time FA Cup Final day was relevant for us when quite frankly the world was a very different place….Cher was top of the Charts with The Shoop Shoop Song, no homes in the UK had access to the world wide web and Harry Kane was not even a twinkle in his parents’ eyes.

Tottenham Hotspur FA Cup Winners 1991. Gary Mabbutt, David Howells and Gary Lineker with the FA Cup

As a 10-year-old who was just into my third year as a fully-fledged Spurs (and football) supporter I assumed that this day would come around frequently. I was totally consumed by our successes in the competition going back to 1901. If you include replays the ten years prior to ‘91 provided 5 FA Cup Final Day’s to look forward to. 

Since our last appearance in 1991 no fewer than 21 clubs’ set of fans have experienced seeing their team appear in an FA Cup Final. 21 clubs is just a little less than 25% of the entire Football League pyramid. Finalists since ’91 have included Sunderland, Sheffield Wednesday, Middlesbrough, Southampton, Millwall, Cardiff, Portsmouth, Wigan, Hull City, Crystal Palace and Watford – all of whom have spent at least half of that 30-year period outside of the top flight). 

It is actually absurd that Spurs have not made one final – despite the ‘magic of the cup’ rhetoric the better teams tend to reach finals and win it. Spurs are one of only 6 clubs to appeared in the top division for each of those 30 intervening seasons and have mostly finished in the top half at least.  They are a real outlier in a list of clubs not to have appeared in an FA Cup Final during the period. The only other clubs to have played in the Division 1/Premier League for 10 or more seasons and not to have reached a final are:

Blackburn Rovers (18 seasons)

Fulham (15)

Leeds United (14)

Bolton (13)

WBA (13)

But what has happened that has prevented Spurs from building on their 1991 success which at the time was a record 8th occasion to have won the famous competition? 

Why is the FA Cup relevant?

Firstly, let’s consider the importance and significance of winning the FA Cup.  I have resigned myself, as a staunch traditionalist, that this is not a competition that ultimately progresses you as a Football Club. Since ENIC took over 20 years ago only seven different teams have won the competition  – 5 of the established ‘Top 6’ and the other two being Portsmouth and Wigan – both have subsequently languished in the lower divisions. Even Arsenal’s recent FA Cup successes (4 since 2014) have not done anything to propel them back to the heights of English football – if anything that have acted as a detriment to their league form which has seen them drop out of the Top 4 positions since 2016. 

To give a domestic real-life analogy putting all your eggs into the FA Cup basket is akin to wanting to book a Family Holiday to Disneyworld instead of having a new kitchen fitted. Two weeks in Orlando will be magnificent for the kids and you’ll remember it affectionately for a long time but the new kitchen will enable you to put a healthy meal on the table every night and ultimately will help you to sell the house in a few years’ time. The stars have not yet aligned in N17 for both to happen.  

Speak to any football fan over 40 years old and they will tell you how they dreamed of scoring the winner in an FA Cup Final at Wembley, how FA Cup Final day was akin to Christmas Day with round the clock coverage on both the UK’s main terrestrial TV stations. It’s also worth remembering the football landscape and how it was consumed. Until the birth of the Premier League and Sky Sports’ involvement in 1992 armchair football fans would receive live on their televisions on average less than 1 live game per week. 

There was no Champions League as we now know it with its predecessor, The European Cup, involving just one club per country and in a straight knock out format so once the English team were knocked out there was little further interest in the competition. Additionally, there was no European football for any English clubs between 1985 and 1990.   So, apart from up to 30 live 1st division matches the only live football accessible on TV was one game per FA Cup round, the League Cup Semi-Finals and Final and the odd England game. Following ‘less is more theory’ the FA Cup Final was therefore something of a novelty often taking place on famously glorious sunny May Saturday afternoons. It was very likely the most significant live match on TV in the football calendar. 

The current (pre Covid) broadcasting rights saw 160 live Premier League games in addition to each and every one of the 92 Champions League matches (from group stage onwards) plus Europa League Games and League Cup games before you even start to add in the 5+ games per round available from the FA Cup. Therefore, by the time middle May comes around even the most hardened armchair fan would be suffering from fatigue. 

Without the carrot and incredible riches provided by the Champions League – once its participation was extended to 3 and then 4 clubs in England post 2001 – clubs were far less commercially driven and so success was far more tangible for its on-field achievements. By Christmas clubs invariably knew whether they have any chance of winning the league – but unless you were amongst one of maybe two or three times – the lure of winning the FA Cup could take precedence by the time the 3rd round weekend comes around in early January. There was little tangible difference between finishing 4th and 16th in the old Division 1.

Participation in the Champions League is of far greater financial importance than winning the FA Cup – there is perhaps even a case for extending that to Europa League qualification too. From a purely financial perspective there is simply no comparison:

FA Cup Winners£1.8m
Champions League Group Stage£12m
Europa League Group Stage£2.2m

It’s got much harder to win

From looking at the winners of the FA Cup since 1991 and then comparing this to the same time period prior to 1991 you all see a huge difference in the pedigree of its winner.

Number of Different WinnerMedian Average League Place Finish of FA Cup WinnerNumber of Winners that Finished in 1-4 in LeagueNumber of Winners Finishing 11th or Lower

It is also worth noting that three winners in the earlier period were second division teams (Sunderland 1973, Southampton 1976 and West Ham 1980).

If you consider that since 1992 we have only finished in the top 3 on three occasions (2016, 2017, 2018) and that in the latter two occasions we were beaten in a semi-final by a team who would finish above us then perhaps the most obvious reason why we haven’t won the FA Cup has been that sadly the bar has risen and we are still not quite good enough. 

That is perhaps a ‘get out’ for 30 years of failure in the competition and it is still beyond belief that clubs such as Millwall, Stoke, Southampton, West Ham, Watford and Middlesbrough have all enjoyed a grand day out at Wembley (or Cardiff between 2000 and 2007). 

The table below summarises Spurs’ progress in each FA Cup Competition since 1991.

YearRoundTeam who knocked us outScore
19923RAston Villa0-1
19965RNottingham Forest1-1(P)
19973RManchester United0-2
20044RManchester City3-4
20084RManchester United1-3
20094RManchester United1-2
20165RCrystal Palace0-1
2018SFManchester United1-2
20194RCrystal Palace0-2
Spurs’ progress in each FA Cup Competition since 1991

The Ingredients needed to reach an FA Cup Final

I have identified what is I think is required to actually get to a Cup Final:


The role of random luck is often ignored in an age of micro-analysis and as such it is almost impossible to quantify exactly how significant luck is. The FA Cup’s very concept is based on the randomness of balls being drawn from a bag. Clearly avoiding the better teams can be very beneficial as can being drawn at home. 

It shouldn’t be forgotten that our last successful FA Cup run in 1991 saw us drawn against four lower league opponents in Rounds 3-6 before playing Arsenal in the Semi-Final who admittedly were the champions elect that season. However, to play Nottingham Forest in the final (they had finished 1 place higher than us in 9th that season) was kinder than it could have been. 

Looking through Winners and Runners Up progress since then is littered with good fortune – for example Man Utd’s run to the 2016 Final included no away games against PL opponents, none of the other ‘big 6’ teams, and three ties against lower league opponents before beating Everton and then Crystal Palace in the Semi-Final and Final. 

Equally Cardiff (2008) and Millwall (2004) reached the Final as 2nd tier clubs but hadn’t been drawn against any Premier League teams all competition.


Much like the point above random luck plays a crucial part. Unlike a league campaign where luck and randomness can even out over a 38-game campaign one bad decision or the spin of the ball is crucial in a knock out competition. I have identified some of the more obvious examples below. On each occasion there is no way of telling whether the incident in question would have resulted in a different outcome:

  • Anderton not awarded penalty v Arsenal in 1993 SF at 0-0
  • Not awarded penalty v Newcastle for clear handball in 1999 SF at 0-0
  • Michael Dawson slipping on the shoddy Wembley turf v Portsmouth in 2010 SF at 0-0. 

Injuries can come at bad times. In recent years Kane’s injury sustained in Jan 2019, and Son’s international duty meant neither were available at Crystal Palace in 2019 (perhaps they wouldn’t have been selected anyway?). 


You are more than likely going to meet one of the established other top 5 sides on route to a final. Since beating Liverpool in 6th round in 1995 we have lost all 15 ties against:

Man U x4 – 1997 (Round 3), 2008 (4), 2009 (4), 2018 (SF)

Chelsea x4 – 2002 (6), 2007 (6), 2012 (SF), 2017 (SF)

Arsenal x2 – 2001 (SF), 2014 (3)

Newcastle x3 – 1999 (SF), 2000 (3), 2005 (6)

Everton x2 – 1995 (SF), 2021 (5)

Additionally, we have lost our only ties against other fellow PL teams:

Crystal Palace x2 – 2016 (5), 2019 (4)

Portsmouth  – 2010 (SF)

Man City  – 2004 (4)

Nottingham F – 1995 (5)

Barnsley  – 1998 (4)

Norwich City – 2020 (5)

Since that Liverpool victory we have won only 16/41 FA Cup ties against fellow Premier League teams. The most impressive was perhaps the 2-0 5th round replay victory against Leeds in 1999. Aside from the win at West Ham (6th Round 2001) and Leicester (3R 2016) the other 13 victories have come against teams we finished comfortably above at the end of that season:

Wimbledon (98/99), Charlton (2000/01), Bolton (01/02, 09/10, 11/12), WBA (04/05), Fulham (06/07, 09/10), Reading (07/08), Wigan (08/09), Burnley (14/15), Swansea (17/18), Southampton (19/20) 

To put this into context this is the equivalent of gaining 44 points in a season – we have only gained less than 44 points twice during this period (93/4 and 97/8).

However, this is more frustrating as we had beaten the same opponent (who had knocked us out) in the league that season so knew how to beat them and/or were better than them at the time. It suggests that we are more committed to winning league games than FA Cup matches. 

Apart from Man Utd’s aforementioned run to the 2016 FA Cup success and then Manchester City in 2019, the last 10 winners have beaten one of the other Top 5 teams:

YearWinnerTop 5 Teams Faced
2011Manchester CitySF v Manchester United
2012ChelseaFinal v Liverpool, SF v Spurs
2013WiganFinal v Manchester City
2014Arsenal5R v Liverpool, 3R v Spurs
2015Arsenal6R v Manchester United
2016Manchester United
2017ArsenalFinal v Chelsea, SF v Manchester City
2018ChelseaFinal v Manchester United
2019Manchester City
2020ArsenalFinal v Chelsea, SF v Manchester City

In what is already a very congested domestic schedule the FA Cup campaign (for Spurs) begins post- Christmas. Even with the benefit of a kind draw and random in-game luck the timing of fixtures plays a crucial part particularly if we haven’t had a deep squad to pick from. 

For every season since 2009 we have gone into the second half of the league season, either in or just around the Champions League places. Rightly or wrongly the revenues this creates will always take precedence.  

In retrospect 2016 probably presented our best chance of progressing – having been drawn against Crystal Palace at home in Round 5 we rested Lloris, Alderweireld and Eriksen and lost 1-0. A victory would have seen us drawn against Reading and then Watford before a final against Manchester United. However, the week before the Palace tie we had won 2-1 at Manchester City to establish us as genuine League Title contenders. 

Equally, European football resumes in February usually around the same time as the FA Cup 5th round. In 13 of the last 15 seasons dating back to 2007 we have had the latter stages of either the Champions League or UEFA Cup/Europa League to balance. 

Whilst the FA Cup is still considered as a superior competition to the League Cup it is also worth noting that by January the latter is at the semi-final stage and therefore just two ties away from yielding trophy success – on five occasions since 2007 we have found ourselves in a League Cup Semi-Final where typically the second leg is scheduled in the midweek just before or after FA Cup 4th round.  In 2008, 2015 and 2019 we exited the FA Cup.  


Sorry – I hate the phrase as well and get how its constant use can perpetuate a vicious cycle if only just amongst a fanbase. Contrary to popular belief every team is a bit ‘Spursy’ – even Barcelona can lose 3-goal first leg victories and concede 8 goals in a semi-final. 

However, in analysing why we’ve not won the FA Cup since 1991, or at least reached a final, ingredients 1-4 explain most but not all of our failures.  There are still those years in which there was simply no better explanation than that we shot ourselves in the foot either in specific moments or approach to a one-off match which provides the ultimate jeopardy of elimination. 

Most notably the 1995 and 2010 FA Cup Semi-Finals against Everton and Portsmouth come to mind. We went into both games as big favourites but managed to lose both in fairly humiliating fashion. On both occasions though it is worth remembering that had we won we’d have had to play Manchester United and Chelsea respectively. 

Does the FA Cup help to breed future success?

There remains the argument that to win The FA Cup (or League Cup) could act as a catalyst to greater things and would enhance our chances of going onto challenge for and win the Premier League or Champions League. Does anyone think that had we won the FA Cup in 2012 we’d have got over the line in the Leicester season, or had the know how to deal better with Liverpool in Madrid? There’s really no way of knowing. Can anyone say beyond any reasonable doubt that had City not won the 2011 FA Cup (with an uber dull 1-0 win over Stoke) they would not have gone on to record 4 league titles?

In summary the reasons for not adding a 9th FA Cup success is that for much of the 90’s and early 2000’s we weren’t very good and since 2006 it hasn’t been the priority. 

Why can’t we get over the line?

Gareth looks at how we consistently fail to take the final step

Another final comes and goes and the opportunity to end a now 13 year wait for a ‘trophy’ is extended much to the glee of our adversaries.

Let’s park the debate about the significance of trophies (compared to sustained top 4 league finishes) for the moment and just take it as given that winning an FA Cup or League Cup is better than not winning one but that attainment in the League is not a mutually exclusive pursuit. The subject was expertly covered on this week’s the Game is About Glory podcast (from 31:00 specifically).

As was pointed out the cup trophies in England have been hoovered up by those with significantly greater wealth and resource than we have.

YearFA Cup WinnersLeague Cup Winners
2021Chelsea or LeicesterManchester City
2020ArsenalManchester City
2019Manchester CityManchester City
2018ChelseaManchester City
2017ArsenalManchester United
2016Manchester UnitedManchester City
2014ArsenalManchester City
2011Manchester CityBirmingham City
2010ChelseaManchester United
2009ChelseaManchester United
Table 1: Domestic Cup Winners since 2008

The outliers in that list are Wigan, Swansea and Birmingham – it is frustrating that we weren’t able to capitalise on the power vacuum that existed in the competitions in those particular seasons. (but look out for a future blog exploring our bizarre disconnect from the FA Cup). Annoyingly, unlike the mid to late 90’s when The League Cup was legitimately labelled a ‘Mickey Mouse’ trophy as the best teams – Manchester Utd and Arsenal – were apathetic towards it, the big boys now take great pride in winning it – the City players and staff celebrated this fourth successive victory – in a week in which they play a Champions League Semi Final – as if it was their first trophy.

You’ll need little reminding that our last silverware came in 2008…far too long ago but not quite as far back as the meme’s you’ll undoubtedly have been receiving today from West Ham fans whose last trophy arrived when there were only 3 terrestrial TV stations available.

They say you need to lose a final to know how to win one; presumably the heartache of seeing your opponent lift the trophy and celebrate in front of you provides that added determination to get it right next time. Yesterday’s defeat to a vastly superior Manchester City was our fourth successive final defeat dating back to the 2008 League Cup victory over Chelsea.

To lose 4 successive finals is something of an anomaly and coupled with our infamous streak of losing 8 successive FA Cup Semi Final’s suggests that there may be some sort of mental block. Other teams have suffered similarly – Liverpool lost 4 successive finals between 2012 and 2018: FA Cup (2012 v Chelsea) League Cup 2016 (v Manchester City) Europa League 2016 (v Seville) and Champions League (2018 v Real Madrid). Equally Sunderland had gone 8 Wembley appearances without a win between winning the FA Cup in 1973 and beating Tranmere in the Papa Johns Trophy against Tranmere in March this year.

We have been unfortunate that our four finals have all come against undisputedly brilliant teams.

  • 2009 League Cup Final v Manchester Utd (0-0 – lost 4-1 on penalties) – Man Utd were English and European champions and would go on to win the league and reach the Champions League Final.
  • 2015 League Cup Final v Chelsea (0-2) – Chelsea would become Premier League Champions
  • 2019 Champions League Final v Liverpool (0-2) – Liverpool had just recorded 97 PL points; had played in last season’s Champions League Final and would go on to win the league at a canter the following season.
  • 2021 League Cup Final v Man City (0-1) Champions elect and possible Champions League Winners too

I find it hard to accept that Spurs can ‘never win the big games’ because we have done in both the Premier League and Champions League. This hasn’t always been the case between the 90’s and until the early 2010’s our records against Arsenal (no wins between 1999 and 2008), Chelsea (no league wins between 1990 and 2006), Manchester Utd (no win at Old Trafford between 1989 until 2012) were appalling.

However, the league by its format provides few high stakes matches with the instant jeopardy that cup ties provide. The 2010 game at Manchester City is perhaps the closest we have been to a true league ‘cup final’ and of course we won on that memorable evening. Between 2015 and 2018 in the peak Poch era we won fixtures against Manchester City, Man Utd, Liverpool and even finally ended the hoodoo at Stamford Bridge in April 2018 – a result that effectively secured a finish above them.

The last two league campaigns have seen a steady regression back to pre Poch times. In fact, the biggest problem Pochettino created was the rise in expectations. The graphic below shows how between 2010 and 2016 the number of points remained roughly the same (between 62-72) but the incredible 2016/17 (the last at WHL) saw a big fluctuation and sadly since then the points have dropped off at an alarming rate though should consolidate this season probably rising a little.

Figure A: League points gained by Tottenham Hotspur per season since ENIC bough club in 2001

You must also look at the Champions League…though the wins over Inter Milan in the ‘taxi for Macon game’ and the thrilling victory over Real Madrid at Wembley were in the group stages. However, beating Dortmund over two legs in 2019 was an emphatic example of getting the job done. The incredible QF victory over Man City did of come courtesy of a large slice of luck but only by winning the home leg 1-0 and denying City an away goal and then scoring twice in 10 minutes in the return leg provided us a platform whereby we earned the luck needed by a narrow VAR Offside call.

In fact, almost the whole of the group stages in 2019 had aspects of jeopardy – we were going out for more than we were going through and crucial late goals against PSV, Inter and Barcelona saw us progress.

However, when thinking about our inability to win a cup competition, you can’t help think that there may be something intangible missing from the psyche of the club:

2008/09League Cup SFBurnleyWon (2 legs)
2008/09League Cup finalManchester UnitedLost (penalties)
2009/10FA Cup SFPortsmouthLost (0 – 2)
2011/12FA Cup SFChelseaLost (1 – 5)
2014/15League Cup SFSheffield UnitedWon (2 legs)
2014/15League Cup finalChelseaLost (0 – 2)
2016/17FA Cup SFChelseaLost (2 – 4)
2017/18FA Cup SFManchester UnitedLost (1 – 2)
2018/19League Cup SFChelseaLost (2 legs)
2018/19Champions League SFAjaxWon (2 legs)
2018/19Champions League finalLiverpoolLost (0 – 2)
2020/21League Cup SFBrentford Won (2 – 0)
2020/21League Cup finalManchester CityLost (0 – 1)
Table 2: List of all Tottenham Hotspur Cup Semi-Final and Final Appearances since 2008

Once you remove the 3 League Cup Semi-finals against lower league opponents (Burnley, Sheffield Utd and Brentford) it makes the Ajax win very much the outlier in the list. These results have spanned 4 very different managers with some of our best players in a generation all involved.

On further analysis of the 9 defeats seven have occurred against an opponent who we had either already beaten in the league that season and/or finished above in the league too – i.e., we were more than capable of beating them. To have failed on nine successive occasions is surely not just unfortunate even though there is mitigation with nearly all of those games in isolation.

I think we all acknowledge that we are the Junior Partner in the ‘Top 6 cartel’ even though we have enjoyed finishing above all of them at least once in the last 5 seasons. Though a look at their comparative cup result data highlights the bizarre rate of failure that we have experienced.

Figure B: THFC record in Semi-Finals and Finals compared to the other ‘Big 6’ clubs

Our record is undisputedly the worst – especially as the few green bars have invariably come against lower division opposition (LD). Arsenal and Manchester City have the best records (10 – 3) whereas Chelsea have beaten us three times in their record of 9-4. Manchester Utd will need to find a way to reverse any psychological damage suffered in losing their last five significant cup ties.

It is interesting to compare Arsenal with Liverpool. The former has established themselves as Cup Specialists having previously focused on sustained entry to the Champions League. This run started though with highly fortuitous semi final draws in 2014 and 2015 (Wigan and Reading) and then by playing Hull City and Aston Villa in the respective finals. Liverpool, meanwhile, have done the opposite – Klopp has sacrificed domestic cup competitions to prioritise the Champions League as a process towards winning the League but of course with the exception of ‘Dr Tottenham’s help they have lost their last 4 finals having been masters of winning them in the decade prior (they had won 7 of their 8 previous cup finals).

Have we always been this bad in key cup ties? No is the short answer. The 13 semi-finals and finals prior to 2009 which culminated in the 2008 League Cup success are detailed below:

1990/91FA Cup finalNottingham ForestWon
1991/92League Cup SFNottingham ForestLost
1992/93FA Cup SFArsenalLost
1994/95FA Cup SFEvertonLost
1998/99FA Cup SFNewcastleLost
1998/99League Cup SFWimbledonWon
1998/99League Cup finalLeicesterWon
2000/01FA Cup SFArsenalLost
2001/02League Cup SFChelseaWon
2001/02League Cup finalBlackburnLost
2007/08League Cup SFArsenalWon
2007/08League Cup finalChelseaWon
Table 3: Tottenham Hotspur’s 13 previous Semi-Final/Final appearances including and prior to 2008 League Cup Final

The first thing to spot is that there are six green bars and none with the caveat of lower league opposition. There is no doubt that Chelsea and Arsenal (in 2008) were better teams than us and likewise with Chelsea (2002). Leicester also finished above us for the three seasons before we beat them in 1999 and the 1991 victory over Nottingham Forest (our last FA Cup success) came against a backdrop of being knocked out of both domestic cups by the same opponent in 4 of the 6 seasons either side.

For those of you old enough to have lived through the cup glories of the early 80’s I’d be intrigued to get your take on what mental benefits were gained by the perpetual successes and ability to win semi-finals. Between 1981 and 1984 we won 6 from 7 of these ties resulting in 2 FA Cup’s and the 1984 UEFA Cup final. Why were we able to win these ties? Was it know-how, was it luck or was it just being a bit better than our respective opponent?

Whilst the previous comparisons identified failings when compared to the rest of the ‘top 6’ I have also compared our achievements against that next tier of clubs:

Figure C: THFC record in Semi-Finals and Finals compared to the other ‘similar sized’ clubs

What this shows is that we have far more frequently reached the latter stages of cup competitions than the clubs listed. It cements the view that whilst we are the Junior Partner of the so called ‘Big Six’ we are a long way ahead of the chasing pack using a variety of metrics.
My time parameter was 30 years – Everton and West Ham have only played in 13 ties between them in this period. Villa have been frequent semi-finalists but have not won anything since the 90’s. Leicester have a lot of green but look at their opponents and also consider that their successes in the 90’s were during the period that the League Cup was de-prioritised.

As the dust settles on yesterday’s somewhat predictable yet commendable defeat against a rampant Manchester City side what will change before our next big cup tie? How many more lessons can this group of players, and football club as a whole, learn in order to make things better next time.

When we hear the standard platitudes from our players through heavily managed club PR/Comms about ‘going again’ and ‘we’ll learn our lessons for next time’ you have to wonder what actual conversations are taking place. Maybe we need a Sports Psychologist to work with the squad; maybe we just need to win once….or perhaps we just need to hope that Manchester City and Chelsea get knocked out in the early stages and that we can capitalise?

‘School Boys Very Own Stuff’ – Reliving my greatest Spurs memory

14th April 1991 – the most memorable date in my Spurs supporting lifetime (which for reference begins in September 1988).

The scene was set – the first ever FA Cup Semi-Final to be played at Wembley after it was decided by the FA that it was illogical and somewhat dangerous to ask the biggest and best supported clubs in London to travel to Birmingham or Manchester. Arsenal, by then the league champions elect, were hot favourites to reach the final at our expense and not for the first or last time in their existence approached the game on the pitch and in the stands in a state of hubris.

What followed remains my greatest moment as a Spurs fan still eclipsing the incredible scenes in Amsterdam in 2019. The game provided some of the most iconic moments and commentary sound clips from Barry Davies that still today give me goosebumps reliving. Gascoigne scored the most sumptuous goal and the 65 minutes he managed before being withdrawn was perhaps the most significant in his professional career.

But how did that afternoon fit into the wider context of Tottenham Hotspur’s history. What had happened immediately before and after? This blog considers the 1990/91 season – our last to produce a ‘major trophy’ and perhaps the last time since Poch arrived on the scene 23 years later that we truly embodied the glory and promise of swagger that the name Tottenham Hotspur has been mostly associated with.

We went into the 1990/91 season with great momentum. We won 8 of our final 10 games of the previous season which culminated in leapfrogging Arsenal on the final day of the season to finish 3rd. Alas this was the first season in which English clubs were re-admitted into European Competition and so only Aston Villa, as runners-up, were granted a UEFA Cup Spot.

The feel-good factor in N17 echoed that of the country in Summer 1990 with England heroically reaching the World Cup Semi Final and it was Tottenham’s due of Paul Gascoigne and Gary Lineker who had earned the plaudits. Gazza’s iconic role in that tournament not only propelled him onto the world stage but was also the turning point in changing the image and perception of football as a sport in Britain.

Whilst everything on field had been rosy in N17 there were dark clouds circling as the extent of the club’s financial difficulties began to occupy front and back page news. The writing had been on the wall the summer before when Chris Waddle had been sold very reluctantly for a then British transfer record of £4.25m. Then, it was revealed that the somewhat modest fee of £1.2m for Gary Lineker (who had joined the club only the week before partially on the promise that he’d be playing alongside both Waddle and Gascoigne) had almost been defaulted and there was genuine risk that Lineker would have to return to Barcelona.

Having finished 3rd the previous season there may have been some hope that further investment in the team could have seen us realistically challenge Liverpool and Arsenal. Yet Spurs’ only incomings in the summer of 1990 were two 19-year olds in the form of Justin Edinburgh, signed from 3rd division Southend United, and John Hendry from Forfar Athletic. Imagine how this would play out now on social media?

Additionally, the conversion of the iconic Shelf terracing into Executive Boxes in the middle of the East Stand had caused understandable resentment amongst supporters leading to a strange paradox whereby there was genuine excitement watching the team but this was offset against the growing concerns at the way the club was being run.

White Hart Lane basked in the glorious August sunshine for the opening game of the season against Manchester City. The eyes of the football world were on Gazza who duly obliged with a trademark dribble and finish to cap off a fine 3-1 victory – Lineker scored the other two.

The good feeling and good form extended through the Autumn and after 10 games we were unbeaten and sitting nicely in 3rd spot behind just Liverpool and Arsenal. Gascoigne had continued where the World Cup had ended scoring 10 goals in 13 games including two hat tricks. However, whilst the England duo stole the headlines there were important supporting roles – namely David Howells, the homegrown versatile player who starred in a 2-1 victory at Nottingham Forest on 27 October with two late goals either side of a goal line clearance.

Having also comfortably negotiated the first two rounds of the League Cup and with the prospect of the Year ending in a ‘1’ expectations were sky high as we welcomed Liverpool to White Hart Lane for a Sunday live game on ITV in the first weekend of November.

3Tottenham Hotspur1064017422
4Crystal Palace1055017920
5Manchester City10451151217
6Manchester Utd10424131414
1st Division League Table going into game v Liverpool on 4/11/1990

A victory over Liverpool in March 1990 had provided the catalyst for that great run of form either side of Summer 1990 but in almost perfect symmetry a defeat against the same opponent, who showed their superiority, proved to be the beginning of a concerning dip in form.

We won just 3 of the next 8 league games of 1990 and two comprehensive defeats between Christmas and New Year at Coventry (0-2) and Southampton (0-3) were a sign of things to come as we quickly exited any talks of a title run. Having been just 6 points off Liverpool before that meeting in November we had fallen away to 6th by New Years Day – the gap now 15 points.

3Crystal Palace211263312042
4Leeds Utd211164362139
5Manchester Utd211065212335
6Tottenham Hotspur21966342733
7Manchester City20775302829
1st Division Table – 1st January 1991

As Spurs fans of the time will remember we were often referred to as a ‘Cup Team’ which was a recognition of the ability to win one off games but to lack the ability to string significant run of good results to become credible title contenders. And so, as 1990 became 1991 attention turned to the cups. The FA Cup provided kind draws against Blackpool (Division 4), Oxford, Portsmouth and Notts County (all Division 2) though hopes in the League Cup were dashed by a 3-0 home reversal against Chelsea in a 5th round replay.

League form continued to plummet in 1991. Additionally, Gascoigne was suffering from a hernia and having scored the winner against Notts County in the FA Cup QF in March was whisked off to have surgery in the slim hope that he may be able to return for the semi-final which had produced the titilating draw against Arsenal. We won just one of the six intervening league matches between Quarter Final and Semi-Final on 14th April – meaning a dismal run of just 2 wins in 12 games since the turn of the year. However, the most significant incident of the final of those league games – a 2-1 midweek defeat at Norwich – was the return of Gascoigne who completed more than an hour which confirmed his availability for the biggest game since the 1987 FA Cup Final.

There was of course a fear that semi-final jubilation could provide an ‘after the lord mayor’s show feel’ for the final which would be against Nottingham Forest on 18th May. The remainder of the league season was largely irrelevant and this was highlighted by no wins from the next 5 games cementing us firmly back into mid table. We would finish 10th (though bizarrely the final game of the season – a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford – would be scheduled for 48 hours after the FA Cup Final).

3Crystal Palace382099504169
4Leeds Utd3819712654764
5Manchester City38171110645362
6Manchester Utd38161210584559
8Nottingham Forest38141212655054
10Tottenham Hotspur38111611515049
Final 1st division League Table 1991 (20th May)

By the time of the Cup Final – still then the most significant day in the domestic football calendar – it was clear that Spurs’ very existence depended on winning the match (which would provide enough potential income from the subsequent UEFA Cup Winners Cup campaign) but that also this would be Gascoigne’s final game in a Spurs shirt after a record transfer fee of £8.5 had been agreed to take him to Lazio in Serie A.

With Nottingham Forest’s Brian Clough seeking his first ever FA Cup Final success the game generated plenty of narratives but as he had in the semi-final it was Gascoigne who stole the headlines though this time for the wrong reasons. His over enthusiasm (by all accounts he had not been able to sleep the night before in anticipation) channelled itself negatively and he began like a bull in a china shop committing two challenges each worthy of a red card; the latter though did more damage to Gascoigne that it did to his victim, and so his final action in a Spurs shirt was to be carried off the pitch on a stretcher with Nottingham Forest 1-0 ahead having scored from the resulting free kick.

Spurs only settled once Gascoigne left the pitch and his replacement, Nayim, was involved in the second half equaliser scored by Paul Stewart. The Spurs players would later remark that they were determined to win the game, and the famous trophy, for Gascoigne. Des Walker, Forest’s stalwart defender, who had actually grown up locally to Tottenham in Enfield and been missed by Spurs’ youth scouts, had the misfortune of heading into his own net for the eventual winner in extra time.

The consequences of an emotional rollercoaster of an afternoon were that Spurs had won the FA Cup for a then record 8th occasion. Though not a direct effect of winning the match the club was sold to Alan Sugar bringing an end to the financial and even existential concerns that had built. Spurs would be returning to European Football for the first time since 1985 and their place amongst English football elite seemed well consolidated.

Gascoigne would not play for Spurs again. His proposed transfer to Lazio was postponed by 12 months and his serious injury knocked £3m off the price tag.

Terry Venables, heralded as a tactical genius, saw his personal ambitions in the boardroom rather than then dugout and, supposedly in partnership with Sugar, would become Chief Executive of the club though perhaps fulfilled the contemporary function of a Director of Football. He appointed Peter Shreeves to take control of the 1st team for the 1991/92 season.

However, the 1991 success was not a precursor to future success. The 90’s were largely a bleak time for us. We would not finish in the top 6 positions again until 2006 and flirted with relegation (1992, 1994, 1998, 2004) more times than we qualified for Europe (1999) or even reached a League Cup Final (1999, 2002).

What Was Spurs Ultimate Humiliation?

Thursday night’s result in Zagreb was very much a ‘humiliation’ – there are several ingredients to a ‘humiliation’ – its invariably a self-inflicted result and generally one that makes you feel as though you’ve just been spotted naked meaning you want to lock yourself away for days to avoid the mocking eyes of your contemporaries. To be a humiliation it’s not just your standard regulation defeat – it’s either:

  • a spectacular collapse, 
  • a heavy defeat that would see the opponents score written in letters not numbers or 
  • a defeat created through hubris against a team of undoubted inferior ability
  • a particularly upsetting defeat at hands of our biggest rivals. 

….or perhaps a combination of all four.

Have no doubt Thursday night’s collapse that seemed inevitable the moment Zagreb scored their first goal was a humiliation. I have the luxury of being able to work from home and I stay off social media but even on my lunchtime walk around The Lea Valley Park yesterday I was paranoid that other pedestrians may have known I was a Spurs fan and been pointing at me laughing.

Let’s not forget that every club has to deal with its share of humiliations – we’ve even been the ones to dish them out – think 6-1 at Old Trafford, pegging back the Goons to 4-4 after an incredible display of hubris even by their standards.

The post mortem that has followed the defeat in Zagreb is about more than just a defeat on the night; it is the nadir of what has been largely a rotten two and a half years; it’s the wholly unexpected early departure from a competition that only 24 hours ago we were considered as tournament favourites; it was a realistic route to ‘glory’ through the tangible means of a trophy. It was perhaps a lifeline for Jose Mourinho’s diminishing reputation.

To lose 3-0 was a statistical achievement in itself – in over 200 games since the start of the 2017/18 season we have only lost by three goals on 5 occasions (twice at Emirates Marketing Project, against Bayern and Leipzig and then the infamous defeat at Brighton in 2019). It felt, in retrospect like one of those nights that Spurs would find a way to be humiliated – had the first leg finished 4-0 I have a feeling we’d have managed to lose 5-0 last night.

But where will tis rank amongst other humiliations? I’ve categorised some my Spurs supporting lifetime (hence no reference of the 1987 FA Cup Final) them so you can pick one from each. Zegreb could easily fit into any of the first three categories. 

Type A: The Spectacular Collapses:

Spurs 3-5 Man Utd Sept 2001 – Premiership
3-0 up at half time in one of the best Spurs 45 minute performances. This was the birth of the ‘Lads it’s Tottenham’ meme. Well at least we’d learned our lesson and couldn’t possibly lose a 3-0 half-time lead against a team from Manchester again….

Spurs 3-4 Man City Feb 2004 FA Cup 4th Round Replay
Well at least this wasn’t the same as that United game 3 years earlier…no City were mediocre at best and were reduced to 10 men at half time already 3 goals behind. Remember the name Jon Macken?

Spurs 3-3 West Ham October 2020 – Premier League
The only non-defeat listed here. We broke all league records by surrendering a 3-goal lead after 83 minutes! This makes the list principally because of the opposition.

Dishonourable mention for the ‘Mind the Gap’ 2-0 up to 2-5 defeat at The Emirates in 2012. 

Type B: CupSets and Hubris

Notts County 3-0 Spurs October 1994League Cup 3rd Round

We swaggered into this game with Klinsmann, Teddy et al against a team bottom of the second tier. At this point the league cup was our only route to a trophy that season. 2-0 down in 20 minutes and then Dumitrescu sent off before half time. The result ultimately cost Ossie Ardiles his job.

Everton 4-1 Spurs April 1995 – FA Cup Semi Final

Having been reinstated to the FA Cup and then having won at Anfield in the Quarter Final ‘our name was on the Cup’ this year. At least Everton, as a name, are a formidable opponent even if their league position and the fact that there best player Duncan Ferguson was injured. Any Spurs fan who had the misfortune to travel to Elland Road will clearly remember the smell of shit on and off the pitch. 

Blackburn 2-1 Spurs Feb 2002 – League Cup Final
Having beaten Chelsea in a highly emotional semi-final surely they’ll just give us the trophy and the Hoddle era will blast off into the stratosphere right? We’ll be able to overcome a team with 37 year old Mark Hughes in midfield right? Chelsea fans wont sing “5-1 and you won fudge all” whilst going on to beat us 4-0 twice in 4 days within 3 weeks of the final right?

Portsmouth 2-0 Spurs April 2010 FA Cup Semi-Final

This was particularly humiliating because of the supreme confidence we had coming into the game. There are some mitigating factors here – namely the Wembley pitch surface was a shocker and it was this that caused Dawson to slip allowing Picquionne to score the first goal in Extra Time. Then Crouch had a perfectly legitimate goal disallowed before Portsmouth hit us on the break to score a second late on. That we would then go on to beat Arsenal and Chelsea within 6 days and then qualify for the Champions League for the first time a few weeks later somewhat softened the blow. 

Dishonourable mentions also for the 1-0 League Cup defeat at Grimsby (Sept 2005), losing 3-2 at second division Leicester in the 2006 Fa Cup 3rd round having been 2-0 up and the Everton FA Cup Semi-Final of 1995.

Type C: The Heavy defeats

Newcastle 5-1 Spurs Final Day of the 2015/16 season
I still maintain that had any team other than Woolwich leapfrogged us into second place this result would have been far more palatable. It is the combination of losing against an already relegated team; the size of the score, the fact that they had 10 men for the final 30 minutes of the game with the score just 1-2; giving Woolwich an unexpected St Wankerfest Day; that it was just after the emotionally charged Battle of the Bridge and that goody goody Leicester had become the darlings of the nation at our expense.

Spurs 2-7 (seven) Bayern Munich October 2019 Champions League
First time we’d conceded seven in a home game. Perhaps unfair to list this game – after all we were bloody good for 43 minutes and this was the free scoring Bayern team that would go on to score 8 against Barcelona. Still, you lose 7-2 at home and you’re gonna be the subject of a few memes.

Dishonourable mention for the 1-6 home defeat to Chelsea in Christian Gross’ first home game. Our record Premier League defeats  – losing 6-0 at Sheffield United in 1993 and 7-1 at Newcastle in 1996. The 6-1 loss at Bolton (then of the second tier) in 1996 could fit into either of the last two categories. I’m not old enough to have seen the 0-5 home defeat to Woolwich in 1978 nor the 7-0 hammering at Anfield the same season. 

Type D: Local Pride

Lasagnegate – West Ham 2-1 Spurs May 2006

This is actually a very different type of humiliation for a couple of reasons. It really wasn’t self inflicted. We should never have been made to play that game at that time; it was the perfect storm of it being the final weekend of the season (and therefore had to be played at exactly the same time as all the others) and that the two perpretrators and beneficiaries were our most immediate rivals. Also worth throwing into the mix that in the home fixture West Ham equalised with a 95th minute goal. 2 extra points that day and Lasagnegate would have been irrelevant. 

Chelsea 1-1 Bayern Munich May 2012 Champions League Final

Again, this was only somewhat a self inflicted humiliation. Had we held on to 3rd place this would have been irrelevant. That again the two beneficiaries of our misfortune were two hated rivalries rankled even more. I’m sure no-one had it harder than Harry Redknapp (perhaps the architect of ours and his own downfall) who had to endure walking around pitchside in Munich to be greeted with ‘Thursday Night Channel 5 chants’ from the gleeful Chelsea fans.

Spurs 0-4 Chelsea 4-0 Spurs March 2002 (FA Cup and Premiership)

Having beaten Chelsea 5-1 in the 2002 League Cup Semi-final we had not only reached a final against Blackburn that we were huge favourites for but we’d beaten Chelsea for the first time in 12 years and 25 games. To be drawn against them in the FA Cup QF just 3 weeks after the humiliation in Cardiff raised alarm bells. Not only did we lose the FA Cup tie 4-0 but we then went and lost by the same scoreline at Stamford Bridge 72 hours later. Chelsea fans were very quick to remind us that ‘Normal Service had resumed”. 

In conclusion I do hope that this reflection exercise has acted as a cathartic activity for you and just a reminder that these seem to occur quite a bit more often than they should…Zagreb is now 12 major ones in just over 30 years for me -christ that’s one every 2 ½ years. If we reach September 2023 without an other one we should be relieved! 

I Wanna Be In That Number

There were many things to get excited about during the Crystal Palace game on Sunday evening; Kane’s wonder goal, the developing chemistry of Kane, Bale and Son or even that we’re starting to look more settled in the centre of defence.

However, from the moment I saw the team sheet my mind became obsessed with not the names on the team sheet but their numbers.

1. Lloris

2. Doherty

3. Reguilon

4. Alderweireld

5. Hojbjerg

6. Sanchez

7. Son

8. Winks

9. Bale

10. Kane 

27. Lucas

As if to highlight the discrepancy Word formatted this list automatically assuming that the eleventh number to add after ‘Kane’ would be ‘11’ and wont allow me to align #27 underneath the others listed. That’s right ten of our starting XI were wearing shirt numbers #1 – #10 with iust our #11 Lamela not on the teamsheet.

Now traditionalists, like me, may have craved for a #1 – #11 in the same way that we crave matches to kick off at 3pm on a Saturday or most frustratingly for teams to only change kit in away matches when there is a genuine colour clash. 

In fact the matter utterly consumed me to the extent that the thought of Lamela replacing Lucas as our first sub became my principal desire for the rest of the match which was only dashed when Bale and Winks were withdrawn thus rendering the #1 – #11 dream over for this week.

Strangely we actually have a #1 – #11 that would be functional though clearly not our best XI. I suspect most observers would prefer Aurier (#24) to Doherty (#2) and our central defensive options (Alderwerield #4, Sanchez #6, Rodon #14, Dier #15, and Tanganga #25) are subject to much debate. Additionally you’ll go a long way to find many that would select Winks (#8) over Ndombele (#28).  

So, the answer that I’m yet to receive a definitive answer to (email has been sent to official THFC historian) is when was the last time a Spurs starting XI was made up exclusively of #1 – #11?

I’m almost certain it would have been the final game of the 1992/93 season; from the start of the 1993/94 season squad numbers were introduced. Our final match of 92/3 was the largely forgotten 3-1 victory at Highbury on Tuesday 11th May which secured a very rare and indeed our most recent league double over Woolwich. I will let you think who was in that starting XI and will reveal at the end of the blog – Clue – there are a couple of real randoms in there!

When squad numbers were introduced for the start of the 1993/94 season its possible that many clubs would have filled these traditional numbers with a functional starting XI. Indeed our #1 – #11 could have existed as a team:

1 Thorstvedt, 2 Austin; 3 Edinburgh; 4 Samways; 5 Calderwood; 6 Mabbutt; 7 Barmby; 8 Durie; 9 Anderton; 10 Sheringham; 11 Allen

Our Starting XI on the opening day – a 1-0 victory over newly promoted Newcastle contained seven of those  – Paul Allen and Gordon Durie would however leave the club soon into the season and Nick Barmby missed the start of the season through injury only returning for the game against Manchester United in October in which Teddy Sheringham picked up a knee injury that kept him out until April. Steve Sedgley (#14) was our only ever-present with Sol Campbell (#23) and Jason Dozzell (#12) all playing in a majority of games which meant it was impossible to field a #1 – #11.

As the 90’s progressed some of our better and more important regular starters like Klinsmann (#18), Ginola (#14) wearing higher numbers ensured the phenomenom would not occur. There was a reset of numbers ahead of the 99/00 season which for the first, and last time until now, meant there was at least a functional set of numbers in place:

1 Walker; 2 Carr; 3 Taricco; 4 Freund; 5 Campbell; 6 Perry; 7 Anderton; 8 Sherwood; 9 Ferdinand; 10 Iversen; 11 Korsten

However, Ferdinand (#9) and Korsten (#11) started only 4 games each throughout the season. 

In the twenty years since then there have been many occasions where #1 – #11 numbers have been completely vacated which included the 2011/12 season where Brad Friedel started every PL game wearing #24 (Gomes having been allocated #1 went out on a season-long loan) and Dimitar Berbatov has been our only outstanding #9 who has been regularly selected in the starting XI . 

As was the case in the mid 90’s many of our most influential or reliable players have occupied higher numbers – Modric (#14), Eriksen (#23), Dawson (#20), King (#26) Dembele (#19), Dele (#20) to name but a few. With players personal brands becoming more significant and of course with so few of the current professionals even born before squad numbers were introduced it feels it will be a long while, if at all, before we see a straight flush of #1 – #11 on the pitch in lilywhite again.  It would be somewhat ironic given my traditionalist desires that if it does happen we will be playing in a third choice kit of pink/black stripes away at Everton on a Monday lunchtime Kick Off! 

I’d be intrigued to know what traditions you would like to see return to football? 

Anyway, here’s that starting XI in #1 – #11 from May 1993:

1 Walker; 2 David McDonald; 3. Van Den Hauwe; 4. Danny Hill; 5. Mabbutt; 6. Ruddock; 7. Sedgley; 8 John Hendry; 9. Anderton; 10. Sheringham; 11 Allen

How have we done away in the Europa?

Before everyone (including me) loses their shit when we succumb to a late equaliser in what will be a very underwhelming performance its worth remembering how generally uninspiring all our Europa away performances have been over the last decade where we’ve been in very different motivations and cycles with tons of different players involved.

Since the start of the 2011/12 season we have played 27 Away Europa League games (this excludes 4 qualifiers). This period of time covers 5 managers – Redkanpp (3), AVB (9), Sherwood (2), Poch (10), Mourinho (3). You might also be interested to learn that the starting XI of the first of these matches included in the data – 0-0 at PAOK in Sept 2015 included Harry Kane.

Although this has included some stellar opposition – Dortmund (2015/16 – went on to win it), Lyon, Inter, Benfica it also includes fixtures against your punchline Europa sounding IKEA furniture teams like LASK, Qarabag, Asteras, Tromso, Sheriff.

Our record is as follows:

Won 7

Drawn 11

Lost 9

Scored more than twice – 3 (LASK 3-3, Ludogorets 3-1, Shamrock 4-0)
Biggest win – 4-0 v Shamrock
Winning by 2 goal margin – 5

Add to this the ‘sense check’ and what you can remember from watching the game and if your memory is anything like mine most of this merge into one vision of grey, insipid, low intensity football. Coming over such a long period with such different players and managers you’ve got to recognise a pattern and one I don’t see getting much better this evening. Even our incredible 2016/17 team in Peak Poch managed to lower their levels considerably during a period of free flowing winning football domestically to crash out to Gent after a very indifferent performance in Belgium.

Fortunately our home record is very different. In the same 27 games we have:

Won 19

Drawn 5

Lost 3

So I’m reasonably confident that we’ll get through over 2 legs but not expecting anything very exciting tonight. In the context of the last few weeks this could further fuel the negative narrative that’s consuming us but important to be aware of this for wider perspective.

Is Jose In The Lame Duck Zone?

I’ve always been quite positive about Jose but last night’s debacle at Brighton was my ‘line in the sand’ moment. All the indications suggest that the players are not with him anymore. There’s a difference between those ‘bad days at the office’ which in time prove just to be something of a blip. Everyone has these but when you witness a clear lack of motivation, desire and confidence to the extent on display last night you have to decide whether this is going to be a slightly more permanent state of affairs.

Jose Mourinho

We’ve had a few bad days at the office under Jose – the game against Everton on the opening day of the season and even the first 45 minutes the following week at Southampton suggested something might be badly wrong but this slump was instantly addressed. We had bad days under Poch – who remembers the two defeats to Stoke In his first season; the alarming dip at the crucial point of the 2015/6 season and the uninspiring cup ties at Newport and Rochdale in 2018.

It’s important to consider the macro-climate i.e. how are our adversaries faring in what is in itself a highly irregular season. We’ve seen both Woolwich and Man Utd appear to be in fairly terminal moments this season – ironically both appeared at their particular nadirs after defeats to us. Yet, both are now riding the crest of a wave and could, by the time of you reading this, both be ahead of us in the table. Even Manchester City and Liverpool have hit rocky spells this season and raised questions about their supposed declines. It is therefore just possible that we’re enduring a bad streak that might be reversed again in just a few games or weeks. Two home wins this week against Chelsea and WBA would likely propel back up into the top 4 and a result at an Everton team, who lost 2-0 at home to Newcastle at the weekend, would see us heading into March in pursuit of 3 trophy possibilities.

At a quick mental count, in my 33 years of watching Spurs I have seen 11 proper full-time managers come and go (there’s also been Sherwood, Pleat as caretaker and Santini) – Venables in my mind should have been manager for life and is the only one who was removed for non-footballing reasons.

It got me thinking when was the point that their time was up? It is easy to find the date they actually left the club but in each case they endured the ‘Lame Duck period’ where they had lost the changing room – a very subjective pinpoint in time but one I’m keen to explore as this may provide some clues as to what will happen next with Jose – if indeed we are now in that Lame Duck zone.

Looking just at the ENIC area (which neatly covers a 20 year period) here are my reflections on the lame duck periods and when they were eventually terminated

George Graham – appointed October 1998; fired 16 March 2001 (Lame Duck period began 27 Dec 2000)

Perhaps this one is a little left field as there were probably other factors in why a new ownership wished to make its mark on a new club. George Graham was fired virtually on the eve of our FA Cup Semi Final with Arsenal (it was actually just over 3 weeks beforehand) but with an international break and the remaining league campaign nothing more than an inconvenience ahead of a semi final it was earth shattering that Graham should be fired. Of course he was never popular amongst the fan base and perhaps in a parallel to today there were those desperate for him to fail from the moment he arrived in October 1998. For me the Lame Duck moment was created over 3 days between Christmas and New Year in 2000 – just as ENIC took over. Two hopeless displays at Southampton (0-2) and Ipswich (0-3) – the former against a tactically superior Southampton team managed by Glenn Hoddle was the point I gave up. He would manage Spurs on another 12 games which included four successive 0-0 league draws but also that 3-2 FA Cup win at West Ham in what turned out to be his final game as Spurs manager.

League Record in this period:

PLD 10 – W2; D4; L4 – ave 1 point per game

Glenn Hoddle – appointed 31 March 2001, sacked 21 September 2003 (began March 2003)

Hoddle sparked the exact opposite emotions from his predecessor. Who knows what would have happened had we beaten Blackburn in the 2002 Worthington Cup Final. It felt as if everything had been building up to that moment but alas it was not the case. With an ageing squad, some expensive flops (Dean Richards – RIP, Helder Postiga) we really wan out of steam quickly throughout the 2002/3 season. It was the way the season ended with 1-5 defeats at Middlesbrough and then a 0-4 home reversal by Blackburn on the final day that suggested it was only a matter of time before Hod was sacked. However, I recall an awful 1-0 defeat at relegation plagued Bolton on a Monday Night in March of that season that felt as if the writing was on the wall. He was well backed that Summer but a disasterous start to the following season saw him axed ironically following a comprehensive home defeat against former club Southampton in September. Just 3 wins in 13 games between that Bolton and Southampton game.

League record in this period:

PLD 14; W3; D2; L9 ave 0.78 pts pg

Martin Jol – appointed November 2004, sacked 25 October 2007 (period began August 2007).

On reflection this is definitely the harshest of sackings. We of course missed out on Top 4 in 2006 due to lasagnegate and then lost Carrick that summer. Yet the 2006/7 season was very enjoyable with three good cup runs and not least because of the Berbatov-Keane partnership. We rallied towards the end of that season finishing 5th albeit quite a bit off Arsenal in the final Champions League spot. Summer 2007 was a time of optimism and togetherness amongst Spurs fans and this harmony had been in place since Jol had established himself as Manager in 2004.

Word has it that Jol was not an easy character to manage and that there were discrepancies between manager and board about what constituted success in 2007/8. The team was invested in reasonably heavily with the somewhat unnecessary purchase of Darren Bent for a club record £16m (when we already had Keane, Berbatov and Defoe) but all optimism was burst on the opening day with a truly insipid defeat in the opening game of the league season on a gorgeous august Saturday at newly promoted Sunderland. This may have appeared as just ‘a bad day at the office’ but the 1-3 midweek loss at home to Everton did not bode well. Late collapses at Fulham and Liverpool denied us vital points and even the thriller with Villa couldn’t rescue Jol with the media hacks circling. In what has become known as one of the most unedifying moments in the club’s history the final nail in the popular Dutchman’s coffin was nailed during home defeat to Getafe in the UEFA Cup on 25th October 2007. A swift fall from grace consisting of just 14 games at the start of the 2007/8 season.

League record in this period:

PLD 10; W1; D5; L5 ave 0.8 pts pg

Juande Ramos – appointed 27 October 2007, sacked 25 October 2008

One of the most bizarre managerial reigns in the club’s history. Heralded as one of the best coaches in Europe – a reputation that was all too well known when Sevilla blitzed us in a devastating half of football in April 2007 – Ramos was recruited to bring winning football to White Hart Lane. Some 13 years on and I still cannot decide whether he was any good or not. The highs of the League Cup victories over Arsenal and Chelsea to lift our last silverware quickly became a distant memory as fast swashbuckling attacking football was replaced by turgid incompetence. I have some sympathy for Ramos who lost Berbatov and Keane in Summer 2008 but the alarm bells were ringing almost immediately after Ledley had recovered from his post final hangover. The 4-1 defeat at Birmingham the following weekend could arguably be written off as something between a bad day at the office and ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ but I recall a sobering 4-1 home defeat by Newcastle United on 30th March that really raised the red flag. Following that moment we drew 4 successive league games (with Wigan, Blackburn, Bolton and Boro) all 1-1 and were unerringly swashed aside by a Liverpool team whom we hoped to compete with on the final day of the season. Another summer of huge turnaround in the transfer window of 2008 created a totally unbalanced squad which famously only delivered 2 points from the first 8 games before Ramos was sacked. Including cup and European ties Ramos lasted 19 games in his lame duck period.

League record in this period:

PLD 15; W1; D6; L8 ave 0.6 pts pg

Harry Redknapp appointed October 2008, sacked Summer 2012)

Harry is something of an outlier in this list as he is the only one who was replaced during the off-season which perhaps dilutes his appearance on a lame duck manager list. Clearly there came a point that Levy felt Redknapp had taken the team as far as he could – 2 fourth place finishes which tragically only yielded one Champions League qualification – even though he was presumably only ever appointed a short-term fire fighter when recruited to mop up the mess Ramos had created.

It appeared that Levy finally lost patience with Redknapp’s habit of speaking too freely to many of his trusted media friends and his public courting of the England job just hours after the Spurs board had publicly and financially backed Redknapp’s court case in February. A mutual parting was agreed on the eve of Euro 2012 in which England were led by Roy Hodgson and not Harry Redknapp. Assuming it was onfield matters though that caused Redknapp’s downfall…..

The obvious moment to revisit at the start of his downfall was the 5-2 defeat at Arsenal on 25 February; we led 2-0 against a dispirited Woolwich team who were in real danger of finally slipping beneath us in the table. Yet to consider this the turning point is perhaps forgetting the abysmal record we have across North London. The subsequent defeats against Manchester Utd and Everton began a dramatic slide into the spring of 2012 but it was the Easter Monday league defeat at home to Norwich that I’m using as my Lame Duck start. It was certainly the point that many os realised Ledley’s days were up as he was bullied and outpaced by Grant Holt in a defeat that I guess cost us a top 3 finish that would have secured Champions League and a finish above Arsenal.

The defeat at The Emirates saw a return of just 5 wins in 16 games (one of which was against Stevenage in an FA Cup replay and two league victories came over relegated Bolton and Blackburn) to end the 2012 season and Redknapp era.

League record in this period:

PLD 13; W4; D4; L5 ave 1.23 pts pg

AVB – appointed June 2012, sacked 16 Dec 2013 – (period began 6 October)

I am startled looking back how quickly AVB’s fall from grace occurred. He enjoyed mixed results throughout 2012-13 with the highs being the win at Old Trafford in September but for the second year running Spurs suffered a Spring collapse meaning we missed out on the champions league, once again to Arsenal and once again having been above them for much of the season. AVB was undermined by the ongoing soap drama of Bale’s departure which lasted the entirety of the off season and reinforcemnets – in the form of the ‘Not to magnificent seven’ were only brought in late in the window meaning serious planning for the season was difficult for someone clearly as merticulous. The season started well enough, and despite the customary defeat at The Emirates (on the day Bale was finally sold) Spurs remained in the top 3 until a crushing smash and grab by West Ham on 6th October. This defeat came out of nowhere – the week prior we just missed out going top after a hard ought 1-1 draw at home to Chelsea – but it knocked manager and players for six…which Manchester did quite literally at the end of November. It wasn’t the number of defeats yet the pure size of them that did for AVB and this coupled with a dour style of possession football that seldom provided any big wins meant that the 5-0 home defeat to Liverpool on 15 December was the Portuguese last. 15 games separated the heavy home defeats.

League record in this period:

PLD 10; W4; D2; L4 ave 1.4 pts pg

Mauricio Pochettino – appointed May 2014, sacked 19 November 2019 (period began 3 October)

This one may still prove to be too raw to read or write about. The man gave us joys in two title challenges and a Champions League run beyond our wildest dreams but most importantly built and constructed a belief and a wonderful warm feeling about supporting Tottenham Hotspur.

Alas all good things come to an end. In hindsight Poch himself appeared to question his future and working relationship with his Chairman in the build up to the Champions League Final but as the 2019-20 season – our first full one in our magnificent new season – and with over £100m of new signings there was only the slightest murmurings that this wasn’t the way things would always be. With tonights result in mind it is surely no greater irony that the beginning of the end for Poch became loud and clear after the abysmal 3-0 defeat at Brighton. Sure – the Newcastle home loss in August was concerning and the 7-2 obliteration by Munich was thoroughly unpleasant but it was the nature and scale of defeat at Brighton – with Lloris’ remarkable error and subsequent arm break just about summing up the dark waters we were sailing into.

A few decent Champions League results followed against Red Star but what had been the most high intensity and dynamic teams in the league became insipid and turgid struggling to get draws against Watford and finally Sheffield United before the axe fell. It was just 6 games from the defeat at the AMEX so perhaps the writing had been on the wall beforehand

League record in this period:

PLD 6; W0; D2; L4 ave 0.33 pts pg

Jose Mourinho ??

You may decide that we were already in the Lame Duck zone before last night. At the time the defeat at Sheffield United in July perhaps felt like the beginning of the end; despite two horrific follow up performances against Everton and Bournemouth (still gaining 4 points) we kind of rallied for the remainder of the season and the transfer business of the summer at least gave the squad a fresh vibe.

I realise that there are plenty out there who want him to fail who couldn’t accept the results and being top of the league after beating Woolwich. I’m not blind to these sentiments but I’m prepared to give him some slack for the squad he inherited and the extraordinary situation that has developed.

The data above suggests that when over a 10 game league period points per game dips to around 1 then managers rarely last much longer. Since beating Arsenal we have gained 9 points from 9 league games….it makes the next few games hugely significant but makes you wonder whether the £15m per year contract would have Levy think twice about putting another Lame Duck out of its misery?