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
1992-19941.2547.57
1995-19971.3350.67
1998-20001.3250
2001-20041.2647.84
2004-20061.5157.33
2007-20091.3551.45
2010-20121.7566.67
2013-20151.8168.60
2016-20182.1180.30
2019-20211.5960.59
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. 

2004-062019-21
RobinsonLloris
StalteriAurier*
YP LeeDavies
DawsonAlderweireld*
KingSanchez
CarrickSissoko*
JenasWinks
BrownDele*
LennonLucas Moura
KeaneSon
DefoeKane

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. 

Christmas Gift Ideas

Stadium Prints by Matthew J Wood

https://www.matthewjiwood.com/shop/spurs-bundle

The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Football is Wrong – by Chris Anderson and David Sally

Dare Skywalk

https://experience.tottenhamhotspur.com/spurs-sky-walk.htm

All Played Out: The Full Story of Italia ’90 Paperback by Pete Davies

Savile Rogue Navy And White King Cashmere Football Scarf

The Spurs Shirt: The Official History of the Tottenham Hotspur by Simon Shakeshaft

Brave New World: Inside Pochettino’s Spurs by Guillem Balague

Among The Thugs – by Bill Buford

A Spur Forever – Steve Perryman

The Mixer: The Story of Premier League Tactics, from Route One to False Nines by Michael Cox

Christmas Gifts Tottenham Hotspur FC Personalized Face And Name Cheer Football Team Socks

The Glory Game – by Hunter Davies

Wildcards

Subbuteo VAR Set

Monopoly Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Edition

https://shop.tottenhamhotspur.com/product/monopoly-tottenham-hotspur-stadium-edition/103622

Tottenham Greatest Modern Moments Coaster Set

Why I Find It Easy To Support England

These are my kind of people (not ‘theirs’) so join me in supporting them by Steffan Chirazi

Today, for the first time in my life, MY England football team will compete in a major final, the European Championship. I am only partially speaking about the football here, because in many other ways, this specific England squad is also the first in my lifetime which feels like a squad that represents MY values. They take a knee in support of anti-racism and supporting the fight against black oppression. The captain has proudly worn a rainbow armband. One of the squad veterans wore rainbow boot laces. One of the young superstar forwards was single-handedly behind a campaign which embarrassed the current British government into ensuring that free school meals continued for all children (that same forward has also worked with homeless charities). They speak with media freely, there have been no displays of petulance or superstardom, and they are led by a manager who carries himself with empathy and respect wherever he goes and whatever he speaks of. Hard to imagine saying any of that about the Sven Goran Eriksson Gerrard/Lampard days now isn’t it…

We are emerging from covid19. 

Sort of.

Confusion, inconsistency and hypocrisy is starting to run riot.

So many things have remained shut down, or under strict rules, yet Euro 2020 has circumvented it all. That’s a discussion for another time (I think it is insanity personally) but it is a fact.

Some people, well, many, are very, very annoyed about it.

We are also finding our feet in the ‘real’ Brexit world. Again, a discussion for another time (for the record I was full-remain and think Brexit is insanity) but it is a fact.

Those two facts above -added to the further fact that tomorrow’s Euro 2020 final against Italy art Wembley is the first major final/event where there will be a close to capacity crowd since covid19 ‘began’ in early 2020 makes the day a powder keg.

Emotions are already running high, and within minutes of beating Denmark, the internet (and my FB feed) were tripping over themselves to launch a chunk of vitriol or a lump of spite, miserable digs, joy-thievery of the cheapest kind. Such is modern society I suppose, where the internet and it’s trolling is seen as ‘part of the deal.’

Let me make one thing clear to you, the person reading this.

I abhor racism.

I detest homophobia.

I love Europe (I love the world actually).

I despise flag-gammons who blurt on about Brexit and Farage and ‘fuck foreigners’ and ‘our cuntry’ and who spit on Danish children and insult Danish women, I have always despised them and I have always stood up to them, from the days I’d go to England matches and find myself telling morons vomiting ‘no surrender to the IRA’ to shut the fuck up and go somewhere else if they needed to relieve themselves via their mouths.

I know the filthy imperialist history and I am ashamed of it. 

Wankers like that ingrate MP who won’t watch because of the knee, or our band-wagon PM do not act in my name.

THAT is not MY England, it is not the England I think of, and it is not the England which represents me ANY MORE than Trump and MAGA-hat Trumpers are not the US.

MY England is one of tolerance. 

Acceptance. 

Standing up to racism and homophobia where I can. 

Recognizing everyone’s rights whatever colour they are and however they find themselves wired sexually. 

Standing up against misogyny and recognizing the rights, beauty and power of women in our society.

Trying to remember -and do something for- the less unfortunate and homeless people in our society.

Enjoying a bloody good singing session at the football.

Enjoying a laugh.

Enjoying the company of my mates as we strive to win.

Celebrating victories loudly.

Enduring defeats with sadness and frustration which quickly gives way to the reality that life is life, people are people and someone has to lose just as someone has to win.

There will doubtless, sadly, be some stupidity tomorrow. This is not just the nature of life, it is going to be the net result of a nation collectively engaging in such a historic, post-Brexit, post-covid19 event. In victory or defeat I will be what I always am in person – gracious (maybe a bit chatty but gracious!), finding a smile if one needs to be dug up (hopefully it will be a case of cheek-aches on Monday) and more than ready to stand up for ANYONE who is on the receiving end of ANY poor behaviour (this is a life thing).

So if England beat Italy tomorrow and win our first major trophy as a footballing nation since before I was born, I’d like to humbly ask that you feel happy for me. Send congratulations. Recognise that I am someone who does the same in kind. Appreciate that for me, this would be an enormous event in my life, and one which would give me tremendous happiness…ooops, there I am being selfish, because I am NOT just talking about me, I am talking about the MILLIONS of decent, nice and good English people who you don’t hear about on the internet, or read about in the papers. 

The first time I ever saw England live in person was in 1980, at Wembley, when Argentina came to town. I have seen them in several different places, but mostly Wembley. This is very real for me.

And when I sing ‘football’s coming home’ or ‘Vindaloo’, it is with fun, hope, joy and that glorious combination of pride and self-deprecation that many of us English have always mastered so well.

It isn’t to wind you up and it isn’t arrogance, OK?

So don’t let a few arseholes take this away from me, or the millions I mentioned. 

Don’t empower or enable them. 

Please recognize that joy in our country (if we win) this does not mean we feel the same about life or the world as gammon-flag-wavers or the stupid, thick minority who choose these moments to inflict misery on others.

I’d appreciate it, I really would…COME ON ENGLAND!!!!

‘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. 

PosTeamGWDLFAPts
4Arsenal382477684179
5Everton382198613972
6Tottenham Hotspur3821611555169
7Manchester United3819712644364
8Southampton38151112544656
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. 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/eng_prem/3676193.stm

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.

https://www.facebook.com/1Rovers/videos/259463582593019/

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:

Competition£
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
1992-202083rd171
1963-1991157th109

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
1993SFArsenal0-1
19944RIpswich0-3
1995SFEverton1-4
19965RNottingham Forest1-1(P)
19973RManchester United0-2
19984RBarnsley1-3
1999SFNewcastle0-2
20003RNewcastle1-6
2001SFArsenal1-2
20026RChelsea0-4
20033RSouthampton0-4
20044RManchester City3-4
20056RNewcastle0-1
20063RLeicester2-3
20076RChelsea1-2
20084RManchester United1-3
20094RManchester United1-2
2010SFPortsmouth0-2
20114RFulham0-4
2012SFChelsea1-5
20134RLeeds1-2
20143RArsenal0-2
20154RLeicester1-2
20165RCrystal Palace0-1
2017SFChelsea2-4
2018SFManchester United1-2
20194RCrystal Palace0-2
20205RNorwich1-1(P)
20215REverton4-5
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:

  1. LUCK OF THE DRAW

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.

  1. RANDOM IN-GAME LUCK

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?). 

  1. BE ABLE TO BEAT THE BEST TEAMS IN ONE-OFF GAMES

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
  1. BE ABLE TO MANAGE THE FA CUP SCHEDULE

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.  

  1. HOLDING YOUR NERVE (AND NOT BEING ‘SPURSY’)

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
2015ArsenalChelsea
2014ArsenalManchester City
2013WiganSwansea
2012ChelseaLiverpool
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:

SeasonCompetition/StageOpponentOutcome
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:

SeasonCompetition/StageOpponentOutcome
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?

Wolves, Sheep, Hypocrites, Opportunists And Amnesiacs

These past 48 hours in football history have seen the fans, and tradition, given another beating. Don’t, however, think that is a new concept. STEFFAN CHIRAZI explains

AS the story of this proposed European Super League broke, as it circulated like an international tornado, and as it started to fall apart in real-time, with a flood of public outcry against the “disgraceful” plan which would “ruin our game”, “take it from the working class” and “show fans they don’t matter”, I found myself getting increasingly angry. Certain things are a reality; there are a lot of arrogant, rich bastards currently swanning about sans a shred of empathy for anyone, we are all at the whims and mercies of said-bastards to a certain degree, and such bastards don’t look like changing their colours anytime soon. But the cringingly sanctimonious media (and public) rush to be heard proclaiming ‘moral’ virtues was getting impossible to accept quietly.

So I couldn’t.

Thus I decided to sit down and write this for my own therapy as much as anything. I’ll share it with you too. Here goes…

Let me first be very clear. I personally despised the idea of this ESL, like any football supporter with a soul, but I also knew that if it happened, my club needed to be at the same table or else probably go into financial ruin. It was most certainly not the most comfortable of places to be, morally knowing what a great pile of shit the proposal was, yet understanding why my club was left with little option but to buzz around the giant turd for a feed or else be swatted away into oblivion. But this thought that it represented the exact moment “football lost its soul” was ludicrous to me, and surely to anyone with a memory greater than that of a common household gnat.

Gary Neville

Was anyone falling for Gary Neville’s rant as he brandished a mic with the SKY logo on it? Was the person who showed up outside Stamford Bridge waving a placard with an image of Drogba and the words ‘NO TO SUPERLEAGUE – DREAMS CAN’T BE BOUGHT’ exercising humour so dry as to make the Sahara look like an oasis? And then we had this, from Gianni Infantino, the President of those charitable humanitarians, FIFA.

I’ve been working very hard and investing a big part of my life to defend the principles and the values which have given this success to the European football. We hope, of course, that everything will go back to normal, that everything will be settled but always, always with respect. Always acting responsibly and always with solidarity and always in the interest of national, European and global football.”

I’ve italicized certain parts of that quote for greater effect. It is worth remembering the Infantino was suspected of having broken FIFA ethics in 2016, and was interviewed by the FIFA Ethics Committee. Cynic that I can be, this seems to me like a bar manager investigating his friend, and celebrated nightly customer of 20 years, for being a suspected alcoholic.

Wait.

Let’s not cheat UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin of his moral moment in the sun.

“I cannot stress more strongly at the moment that UEFA and the football world stand together alongside this disgraceful, self-serving project from a select few clubs in Europe fueled by greed above all else,” Ceferin said. “This idea is a spit in the face of all football lovers and our society as well. We must not let them take [football] away from us. I have seen many things in my life, I was a criminal lawyer for 24 years. I’ve seen many people. I’ve never seen anyone like that…”

Strange to think he never met the likes of Lennart Johansson, Michel Platini or Sepp Blatter, but hey, I suppose it is possible that one was in the loo as the other was leaving the building. And yes, I know Blatter was FIFA, but I’m sure they all shared brown lunch-saks together.

As if THIS wasn’t Twilight Zone enough, in came the politicians, unable to resist their own moral yearnings and thus desperate to (as ever) show they have the public at heart. Here was that people’s champion Boris Johnson (via Twitter of course):

“Earlier Oliver Dowden and I met with representatives from the FA and Premier League and football fan groups to discuss action against the proposed European Super League. No action is off the table and we are exploring every possibility to ensure these proposals are stopped.”

To cap it all, Dowden (the Culture Secretary) criticized the ‘…the big six English clubs…’ for going ‘…against the very spirit of the game.’

He added that they, “…should remember that they are only temporary custodians of these clubs and that they forget fans at their peril”.

The very same Johnson whose party single-handedly assisted the destruction of football as a working class sport in the ‘80s.

The very same Dowden who seems to have been OK letting grass routes football fight for oxygen and slowly perish as the covid restrictions kept on and on.

The queue for virtue has been quite something these past 48 hours, and of course it has sucked in millions of covid-frustrated, angry and increasingly disillusioned members of the public. They in turn have been flooding all manner of social media and broadcast channels with their vitriol and outrage at how this will ‘ruin the game for the aforementioned working class, and how utterly ‘disrespectful’ it is.

Again, personally I agree that the European Super League was always a disgraceful idea, thankfully however, my memory is slightly better than that of said-household gnat, and I can remember times not too far back when all of these issues were being shoved in our faces in just the same way.

Because it appears that everyone in the UK has forgotten what happened on May 27th 1992, when the ‘new Premier League’ was formed in a breakaway from the Football League (founded in 1888) to ‘take advantage’ of lucrative TV rights deals, with Sky being at the forefront (that is the Sky which is owned by philanthropist Rupert Murdoch). Currently, the TV partners for the Premiership are Sky Sports, BT Sports, Amazon Prime and BBC for highlights only. Those are the UK ones; look up the international rights. It boggles the mind to even consider the amount of money being taken in. Then consider the lengths to which these broadcasters go to preserve your experience as a loyal supporter, you know, normal 3pm kick-offs with mid-weeks at 7.45, the ability to see a few games a week on your own terrestrial TV service, decent ticket pricing, affordable transportation to away games, that sort of thing…if you’ve just read that thinking I have it wrong, you’re right. I have. What I described has long gone. And Because the truth is, domestically, the Premiership has had no more than the required amount of interest in your experience as a supporter, and has incrementally been chipping away at them via absurd kick-off times, bizarre match dates and an upwards spiral of pricing that do not(by any stretch of any imagination) have the ‘fans interests at heart.’ I’ve also heard it all before, back in 1992, and again when the Champions League expanded. Cries of, “I’m done with my club they can fuck themselves!” flooded pubs everywhere, only for these warriors of virtue to show up again a few days, weeks or months later because they are addicts just like me.

UEFA have also done their part, bless.

In 1992 the European Cup was binned off for the Champions League, and in 1997, the whole tournament was expanded further to include more group games over a longer stretch of time. If you want to wade through the qualification criteria, be my guest, but rest assured, financial gain was paramount in all plans. In 2021, there will be further expansion, and the creation of a third tournament -the Europa Conference League- which will ostensibly act as a European tournament for the “third tier” after the Champions League and the Europa League (which was itself created in 2009 with the UEFA Cup getting mothballed and the Cup Winners Cup having received the same treatment a few years earlier). The “magic” of European football seems within the reach of more clubs than ever, but the reality is that the money these tournaments generate continues to create a greater wealth gap between clubs than ever before. If you think the system is going to see Burnley in the Champions League any time soon, then send me your bank information and password so as I can help you make more of your money. By the way, this is the same UEFA that insisted on holding a Europa League Final between Arsenal and Chelsea in Baku and only giving them 6,000 tickets each for a 68,000 seat stadium in . The same UEFA who for our CL Final in 2019, gave both us and Liverpool a derisory total of 33,226 tickets TO SHARE for a 68,000 capacity stadium; fans first always, lifeblood of the game.

As for FIFA, well, there isn’t the page space, so glossing swiftly over the details of the 2015 FIFA corruption case which saw arrests for bribery, fraud and money laundering, just take a few minutes to absorb the details being Qatar 2022. I will give you one. Approximately 6500 migrant workers have died during site construction for the tournament. Since 2010, an average of 10 migrant workers from the likes of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died each week. According to quotes in Sports Illustrated (my source for this information) those numbers are light a few bodies too. Remember though, “…always acting responsibly…”

…Oh I could go on.

Where has football been for the lower and non-league clubs during this pandemic?

How has football helped supporters achieve an affordable day out at a top match?

Hasn’t football been flexing the schedule for international followers for over a decade already?

Hasn’t the Premiership essentially been the same 5 or 6 clubs battling it out thanks to the riches those clubs have amassed?

How did Uefa protect football when it allowed Man City to dance around the Financial Fair Play rules in July 2020?

How has football protected itself when the likes of Chelsea were allowed to sign dozens of young players and loan them simply so as rivals couldn’t have them?

So again, whisper it…the Premier League, the Champions League, UEFA and FIFA do not actually place you or I at the top of their ‘concerns’ list. The ‘sanctity’ of the game is also not their primary driver and hasn’t been for decades. The money grab has been going on for years, and the greed syphons are only getting greater. That this ESL proposal even became a proposal says as much about the arrogance and entitlement of all those bodies as it does the equally clueless and arrogant owners who were behind it. Yet the fallout has left the Premier League, UEFA and FIFA looking like shining lights of normalcy and (shudder) tradition, while the likes of Abramovich and Mansour are suddenly benevolent saviours of the game for withdrawing from the ESL proposal abruptly (they have enough large dollops of filthy lucre between them already). It all reminds me of seeing George W Bush getting a hall-pass into credible guy world simply because he wasn’t Donald Trump. And it disgusts me as much as the ESL proposal.

We are all complicit.

We all look the other way when it suits us.

Nobody’s really doing much to tackle racism beyond some t-shirts and the knee, and nobody’s in the streets raging about dead migrant workers building an air-conditioned World Cup which will drop right in the middle of the 2022 season.

Where’s the anger? Where’s the outrage? Where are all those bastions of football leadership speaking about it, doing something about it? Where’s Boris saying we won’t compete in places which violate human rights so brazenly?

And here’s one you likely don’t know, or think, about. The flood of young men from the African continent who end up mistreated and disused as their families pay exorbitant sums to try and ensure their sons become professionals in Europe’s top leagues. The stories are out there, in publications ranging from The Guardian to Al Jazeera to When Saturday Comes (here’s the link to their excellent piece https://www.wsc.co.uk/stories/14102-player-trafficking-the-dirty-secret-of-football-s-global-transfer-business) yet I haven’t heard Infantino address it any way, shape or form, let alone the Premier League.

So do me a favour.

As you settle back and rejoice that ‘real’ football has ‘won’ and that ‘the greedy’ have not been ‘allowed’ to ‘win’, try to check your hypocrisy.

Try to hold yourself accountable. Try to maintain a grip. And if you really, really give a shit about the game, maintain your vitriol towards the OGs of football greed now that ‘normal service has been resumed’.

It’s OK, we’re all hypocrites to a degree, we’ve all bought into -and gone along with- the increasing shit that these bodies have thrown at us and our clubs. That’s why these vampires love football, because there’s a core of addicts like you and I who enable them to behave as they wish.

My fear is that those vampires will now behave worse, and with more impunity, than ever. Let’s hope I’m wrong and some good for the moral compass of the game will come of all this. Forgive me if I cynically suggest it won’t…

‘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.

PWDLFAPTs
1Liverpool1091022628
2Arsenal1073018524
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.

PWDLFAPts
1Liverpool201532411648
2Arsenal211470411047
3Crystal Palace211263312042
4Leeds Utd211164362139
5Manchester Utd211065212335
6Tottenham Hotspur21966342733
7Manchester City20775302829
8Chelsea21888343929
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).

PWDLFAPts
1Arsenal3824131741883
2Liverpool382378774076
3Crystal Palace382099504169
4Leeds Utd3819712654764
5Manchester City38171110645362
6Manchester Utd38161210584559
7Wimbledon38141410534656
8Nottingham Forest38141212655054
9Everton38131213504651
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).

Missing The Match Day Ritual

Covid19 has robbed us of going to see Spurs play live. It’s also robbed us of the journeys to games which are mainstays of our lives. Steff laments the loss and counts down the clock to a return.

There’s a wise old phrase, it’s either deep scholastic philosophy or I read it on a fortune cookie, whatever, it is golden; it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. In the case of many of us, never were truer words expressed.


Going to football is quite simply about so much more than the 90-plus minutes watching the team. Of course that’s the main attraction, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (well, more so under Poch but there we go), however that rainbow carries it’s own vital arc in the day.


The alarm goes off early on match-day morning, and getting dressed is a little easier because you spent the previous evening choosing the right clothing combinations. Home games will usually involve some sort of track top, t-shirt or more overt set of colours whilst away games will offer the merest hint of affiliation. Most of us are hopefully too old for anything close to Full Kit Wanker territory, yet most of us still try to remember the t-shirt, socks and underwear we wore last time we saw a live game win. It’s then all about exiting the abode ASAP to catch the train to meet up with your mates.


Said-train journey will always involve a paper or two amidst some low-flying butterflies, and you’ll also be slowly stewing in that wonderful marinade of all-enveloping focus on the forthcoming game and seeing the gang. One thing about matchday; it’s your time to escape the boss, the build-up of work, the commute, the squawking kids, the persistent missus, the grumpy neighbour and that annoying prat from the floor below who always thinks you’ve got time to banter with them about stupid shit. They all vanish as the train, bus, car or whatever wheelage is transporting you arrives at the first destination, which for home games will be your local of choice.


Admittedly the new stadium is a fine place to spend pre-match time, however it is undeniable that nothing beats meeting up with your mates at the local. It doesn’t always have to be in the pub, it can just be at a coffee shop, for some it might even be the Chick-King on the High Road across from the ground, the point is you’re with your people and immediately, the chat is about players, form, positions and a myriad of Spurs-related matters. Smart people have already turned ringers off, switched off any alerts and deactivated the silent buzzer on their smartphones because this is not the time to be interrupted about a dirty dish left by the sofa, or one of the kids ripping their pants on the playground. No. This is your escape, your holiday, your joy and your therapy.


Away games are a little different in so much as you’re either in the car or on a train, which carry their own tremendous joys. I personally love the motorway caff coffee and sandwich enroute, or the buffet car trip, and perhaps the added advantage of away games is that you’re with your mates for a considerably longer amount of time. Either way, by the time kick-off is upon you, squad issues have been solved, managers second-guessed with confidence, a few drinks enjoyed and your throat is in the process of emitting all sorts of choral terrace tunes (you think you sound like Tom Jones but you probably don’t even sound like Tom Thumb).


The game? Of course it is an epicenter, and of course it will dictate how your post-match goes (a bad defeat will lessen the social after-hang, a big win and you’d best be sure that phone stays in silent mode because you won’t want to answer the missus at 11pm from the local Ruby). But the journeys, the social side, the pure joyful ritualistic escape of match-days are every bit as much what we’ve all missed as the pitch and players. Even that tosser two rows down and three seats across who screams globs of nonsensical abuse for 90 minutes is missed at this point.


Still, soon we’ll be vaccinated and this normal service can resume. By God I cannot wait, and I know you can’t either…

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! 

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