More than just a game…North London prepares for a battle royale on Sunday


In November 2017 it will be the 130 anniversary of the first meeting between the teams we know today as Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.  Back in the Victorian age this was of course a North v South of the river clash, with the first ever game between the two rivals being played on Plumstead Common, which today opposite a McDonalds and Belmarsh Prison.  That game had to be abandoned with Spurs leading 2-1 due to “darkness”.

Fast forward 129 years and 183 meetings since, the first meeting of the season between the two rivals has never been more eagerly awaited by the two sets of fans as well as those with an interest in online sports betting.  Whilst Arsenal’s position in the top four of English football has been undisputed for nearly 20 years, Tottenham’s emergence as a challenger to the title has been more recent.  After kissing a number of frogs, the club seems to have found their prince in the form of Mauricio Pochettino who almost brought the first title to N17 for over fifty years last season and is yet to experience defeat in the Premier League this season.

The Spurs fans I know have become much more mellow with things off the field too.  The wisdom of Daniel Levy is now not a heated discussion, especially as the emergence of the new stadium is visible at every home game.  Once complete, it could act as a catalyst to power the club commercially forward.  According to the annual study by Forbes, Spurs are the tenth most valuable football club with an estimated worth of just over £700m, around 50% of the value attached to Arsenal.  The key to creating more value is the bigger stadium with more opportunities to drive commercial revenues.  It is no surprise that the teams that hold the top five places in the list all play in front of sold-out stadiums with capacities over 60,000.  Joining that list is the clear ambition of Spurs in the next five years.  It is clear from the ticket sales for their Champions League games at Wembley so far this season that if you can build it, they will come.

Whilst the Spurs fans are happy with life at the moment, Arsenal fans continue to enjoy a love/hate relationship with the owners and the manager.  Best ever one week when they destroy Chelsea, showing them the door the next when they fail to beat Middlesbrough at home.  There can be no denying that they are a major challenger for the title this season, having scored three or more goals in 60% of their Premier League games so far this term, whilst hitting the back of the net on 17 occasions in their cup games so far, including nine against the Bulgarian champions Ludogorets, already booking their spot in the knock-out phases of the Champions League.  Whilst some fans may bemoan a lack of dynamism in the transfer market, Wenger has managed to shuffle the pack when required this season.

Sunday’s game won’t decide the league title – especially this season where there are half a dozen teams who have a legitimate shout but it will make Monday a potentially uncomfortable day at work for half of North London as the winners will earn the bragging rights until the end of April at least.

Post-season Blues….and Citizens and Spurs


A weeks after the end of the season used to be the reserve of testimonials for long-serving players and club officials. Football has moved on, and the likelihood of a player staying at one club for 5 years, let alone a decade is very rare. Look at the final top four in the Premier League – John Terry at Chelsea (11 years since debut) is the stand out exception to this; Man City could boast Micah Richards (10 years) although 179 appearances in ten years and spending the last season on loan to Fiorentina, whilst Arsenal of course have the £2m a year forgotten man (by most outside of the Emirates anyway) Abou Diaby who made his debut in 2006.

This week Crystal Palace honoured the service of their long-serving keeper Julián Speroni who had made over 350 appearances since joining the club in 2004 with a testimonial against former club Dundee. However, Palace appeared to be the exception rather than the rule of playing post-season games with any altruistic meaning.

Yet twenty four hours after Palace honoured their keeper, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur were due to play games of their own. This time it wasn’t to honour a particular player, or reward any member of the club for long service. In fact it is hard to think of any reason apart from a commercial obligation why they would be heading to Canada and Malaysia respectively.

The clubs will argue it is all about building a fan base in new markets, but does that really stack up? With the Premier League season done and dusted less than 72 hours previous, why would Manchester City decide it was a good idea for their squad to fly 3,500 miles to Toronto? Assuming they left on Monday, that’s quite a strain on the players having just completed a full season, and one that was proceeded for many of the players by the World Cup in Brazil and also included a mid-season game in Abu Dhabi against Hamburg. Straight after the game in Toronto they then head to Texas (a mere 1,500 miles) where 24 hours later they take on Houston.

Tottenham Hotspur haven’t exactly been brimming with joy at the prospect of another Europa League campaign next season. Back in April Mauricio Pochettino admitted the Europa League is a hindrance to a Premier League club’s domestic aspirations, yet the club have already headed East for a game in Malaysia on Wednesday before flying onto Australia to take on Sydney on Saturday. They will be joined down under by Chelsea who also take on Sydney on Tuesday night after a stop in Thailand to play the”All Stars XI” on Saturday. It’s hard to have sympathy with the clubs when they complain about fixture congestion then take off on such trips.

What makes these trips even more strange in terms of their timing is a number of the players will be included in International squads for friendlies being played on the 6th and 7th June.  England, Republic of Ireland, Brazil, France, Argentina and Ghana are all due to play that weekend, putting further strain on the players.

These post season games seem to be a growing trend. Not that it detracts from their pre-season games – Manchester City will be heading to Australia to take part in the newly expanded International Champions Cup, taking on Roma and Barcelona in Melbourne, whilst Chelsea play in the North American edition against New York RedBulls, PSG and Barcelona. Spurs will be one of the other four current Premier League sides heading Stateside  as they take on the MLS All-Stars at the wonderfully named Dick’s Sporting Goods Store Stadium in he equally brilliantly named Commerce City in Colorado.

Football is a highly competitive global game on and off the pitch, but do these post-season games really help the players, who are the profit generators when viewed with commercial glasses on? Do you think Mourinho, Pellegrini and Pochettino have the same enthusiasm for these trips as adidas, Samsung, Nike, Etihad, Armour and AIA have? In some instances the club’s have to perform based on clauses in hugely profitable commercial partnerships, underlining the shift from the people’s game to a game dominated by money. That’s not a surprise. Tomorrow’s avid Chelsea or Man City fan is just as likely to live in Shanghai as he is in Streatham or Stretford, snapping up all the club have to offer in a digital format such as the ability to watch these games exclusively in the club’s online TV channel.

Tickets for the games in Thailand and Malaysia aren’t cheap. When Chelsea play in the Rajamangala National Stadium on Saturday in the Singha Celebration Match (Chelsea’s Global Beer Partner), tickets range from around £10 to close to £80, which is almost a third of the average monthly income in Thailand. Even Arsenal cannot boast that price to income ratio yet! Meanwhile over in Selangor where the average Malaysian earns approximately £900 per month, tickets for the AIA Cup (Spurs shirt sponsor) game will cost between £10 and £75 although there are no concessions at all.

I’m sure the fans who are following their teams across the world will enjoy the opportunity to visit some new cities, whilst the marketing officials and PR companies will do their best to get players to look happy at choreographed public appearances. The clubs will stand firmly behind the pretext of building their brand in new markets, but does this simply add more weight to the stealth plans of Game 39 once more?

Postscript – 28/5 – Man City’s game at the BBVA stadium in Houston was postponed after the team arrived in Texas due to issues with the pitch.  Well, that was worth it then.

Swansea fail to earn their Spurs


Swansea’s visit to Spurs yesterday was a mouth-watering treat for those who love their football played on the ground with pace and skill.  During the week Sam Allardyce made a shocking statement that West Ham have played at times like Swansea this season.  Based on what I have seen he can be only referring to the “shoot from the half way line” pre-match competition by the substitutes.  Our regular Lily of the Valley, Abi Davies made the trip down to London for this one.

A fairly even encounter at White Hart Lane, inclusive of some scintillating football from either side, was decided largely by Spurs superior clinical ability in front of goal as they capitalised on their opportunities whilst their counterparts couldn’t do so as efficiently.

Looking to end their poor run of form in order to record a first win in 6, Spurs found themselves on the back foot early on as Routledge, Rangel and Sigurdsson in particular were combining well for the visitors in order to cause problems for Assou-Ekotto at full back.

Despite Nathan Dyer’s availability, Brendan Rodgers stuck with Sinclair and Routledge on the flanks- a decision by no means perplexing given the form of the two wide players heading into Sunday’s fixture. Having relished his opportunity in the side whilst Dyer served his suspension, Wayne Routledge demonstrated from the outset through his footwork, control, strength and deliveries into the penalty area, exactly why he is keeping Nathan Dyer out of the side. It was Routledge who almost broke the deadlock for the visitors with their first real chance of the game however his effort from the edge of the D fired marginally wide of the Spurs goal. Continue reading

Swansea try to delay the Spurs train


With the smell of a New Year’s Eve party in her nostrils, our very own Abi Davies headed off to the Liberty for the last time in 2011 to see if the Swans could stop the Spurs juggernaut.

Swansea City went into Saturday’s game hoping to defy the odds in order to record their 5th victory of the campaign and round off a historic year in style. In their way of doing so, stood a formidable Tottenham side aiming to close the gap between them and top of the Premier League table to just 4 points.

Brendan Rodgers team selection suggested that he had one eye on Monday’s trip to Villa Park as he made 6 changes to the Swans starting XI to face Spurs. Neil Taylor returned to the side having missed Tuesday’s game due to a knee injury, meaning Jazz Richards switched to right back to cover for Angel Rangel who was amongst the substitutes having not fully recovered from his ankle injury.

Gary Monk was restored to the starting line up in place of the ineligible Steven Caulker, whilst Mark Gower was restored to the XI in place of Britton. Stephen Dobbie was handed his first start since the opening game of the campaign, and Luke Moore lead the Swans line of attack, replacing Danny Graham. Nathan Dyer made his first start in 4 games, meaning Wayne Routledge dropped to the bench. Continue reading

Turning Pro


Last week I attended my first ever game as a “professional” photographer at Brighton & Hove Albion v Tottenham Hotspur at The American Express Community Stadium.  I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and then promptly lost the memory card!  Thanks to a good Samaritan who found it at McDonalds at Gatwick I now have it back, so here are the best of the bunch albeit a week late!

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Not all clubs are born to succeed


Pete South explains why not all clubs are born equal, and not all clubs are born to succeed.

Whether that affects who you follow or not is up to you, but like most of us, I was born into supporting a club, and mine happened to be Tottenham Hotspur.

Why I support Tottenham Hotspur
It wasn’t because my Father placed me upon his shoulders as we watched the likes of Paul Gascoigne strut his stuff around White Hart Lane – nothing anywhere near as clichéd as that.

In fact, my Dad doesn’t even support Spurs. He is a Leyton Orient fan (much to his detriment) and I would have been quite happy to follow the trials and tribulations of a lower league side with all the kudos that comes with it for being a real fan, but I wasn’t given a chance.

I was born into the Premier League era. I was born into the proliferation of money and glamour that has now swamped football. The image of the Liverpool FA Cup side in their garish white suits remains, while the ’94 World Cup was my first real experience of the power of football both in terms of money and influence. And I wanted to be involved.

So frankly, although there was no conscious decision, Orient would have always have struggled to win my affections.

I was born into a club, but the influence came from my brother. The fire came from, somewhat peculiarly, a small, glossy, signed postcard of Erik Thorstvedt owned by him.

With thanks to Historickits.co.uk

The over-riding memory of my childhood and football came from the fact that the man who stood in the goal on TV had signed a picture and handed it to my brother. My brother had met a famous man who was on telly and played football? That blew my mind and from then on I was intrigued, and the hand-me-down yellow Holsten Spurs kit sealed the deal. OK, so that is a bit cliché, but I was a Tottenham fan.

David Ginola. Gary Mabutt, Justin Edinburgh, Sergei Rebrov, Darren Anderton are the type of names that filled my mind as a youngster. But it was the wonderfully talented Teddy Sheringham who was the object of my affections.

Sheringham was the archetype of a fans favourite. Skilful, composed, quick of mind and feet, full of artistry and he went against the grain. We loved him and he loved us. The day he left for Man United for £3 million (a sum which still angers me today) was a sorry day for me.

The greatest thing about supporting a club like Spurs comes from the sense of pathos felt by the White Hart Lane faithful. Only a few clubs (West Ham and Newcastle spring to mind) have managed to master the art of impending doom and honour in underachieving during my formative years like Spurs.

But things have all changed at the Lane. We are successful now, even playing Champions League football now. I still moan about things which make friends who support less successful clubs furious, but I reserve the right to complain (why do we have a black away shirt  like Liverpool this season? That type of thing) in what is effectively the halcyon days. It has been bred into me. It’s my club, after all.

The proudest moment of my life…apart from the birth of my daughter


I may have seen the greatest football match of my life the other week. I have supported Tottenham Hotspur my entire life, not because of any family loyalty and definitely not for any glory but mainly because of the Moss Man figure from Masters of the Universe but that’s a different story altogether.

The Peter Crouch headed goal at Eastland on 5th May last year guaranteed Spurs a place in the Champions League. This would be the first time in my supporting life that I would get to see my team playing in Europe on a Tuesday or Wednesday night and not on Channel 5 on a Thursday.

I’m not one for nostalgia but I do recognise the history of the club I support and have been filled with a sense of optimism and excitement as well a deep sense of pride for the achievement last season. Many talk about the European pedigree of the club and of 1984 but I am just too young to remember that let alone feel part of it, this is my time and I want it to count. Continue reading