It wouldn’t have taken much for the post-match interviews to be more dramatic than the drab hour and a half of football served up on Sunday at White Hart Lane, but few could have foreseen the storm that would be created by AVB’s parting comments.
In a remarkable attack on the Tottenham faithful, AVB criticised the fans for creating an atmosphere of anxiety not dissimilar to what is usually afforded to away teams:
“There was much anxiety present in the fans which transmitted to the players, so this victory is down to the players. We did it with no help today.”
“We need people to be patient and support the players and give them the extra energy to go through and not the negative energy.”
As revolutionary as some may want to make this, it has undoubtedly been an issue dogging most fans for a while and many greeted the manager’s comments with a degree of respect and understanding.
Tottenham are like so many Premier League clubs who have seen atmospheres wane ever since the turn of the millennia. Rather than a sense of liberal tribal warfare where fans would give everything for their side on a weekly basis, there is an increasing culture that is reminiscent of theatre goers across the West End. The whole ‘come lets be entertained’ ethos is beginning to dominate much of our football and it is a worry.
Now I know this is part of a more general debate and actually the pattern is understandable. Rising ticket prices that alienate the traditional footballing fan coupled with pressures to maintain safety and order on the terraces have created an environment bereft of heart and soul.
AVB believes Spurs fans can ‘do better’ and THST are inclined to agree:
“Responding to comments on our feed @SpursOfficial are working with us on the atmosphere at WHL. We recognise the need for work in this area.”
The relationship between fans and players runs both ways, fans pay good money in expectation that they will see entertaining free-flowing football. However, players appear unable to do this in an atmosphere of nerve and anxiety. In a way fans and players at Spurs are becoming each other’s worst enemies, an undesirable situation for either party
Spurs are a club who have some of the most loyal and ardent travelling supporters in the country, continually out singing fans up and down the land it is no surprise that Spurs play some of their most carefree and watchable football away from home. Players need their fans most at times of adversity and when you go a goal down that roar from the crowd is what gets the team going again, away from home Spurs could be 2 goals down and they would still receive that same vociferous support.
Contrast that to the Lane where after about 20mins without a goal the tetchiness increases and there is a general sense of unease. This isn’t a question of noise, I have been to both the Emirates and Old Trafford and I can assure you there are far more tranquil environments on match day, it is more the tone of the fans.
Too often though there is this feeling that any mistake may well prompt an outpouring of disapproval from the crowd, as such players appear less inclined to go for that incisive pass rather go for something a bit more simple and readily achievable. The fear of failure at home is stifling the creativity and tempo, is it really surprising that Spurs play at such a pedestrian and predictable pace?
Some have come down hard on Spurs fans, critical of the fact that AVB has guided them to their best ever Premier League start and they now have the squad to go on to more. The debate between results and style has always been a contentious one, especially at Spurs. Central to the Spurs philosophy is the whole idea that there is more than just winning, to quote the great Danny Blanchflower:
“The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It is nothing of the kind. The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.”
There is a feeling amongst some that AVB is going about things the wrong way that there is Spurs style that must be adhered to first and foremost. I don’t have any qualms with this way of thinking at all, in fact those that believe it has every right to.
My sense though is that this atmosphere issue isn’t something restricted to AVB era Spurs, it is much more endemic than that. It is refreshing that fans, club and players want to do something about it because in the modern era the tide seems to be going so much the other way; and who knows those that yearn for free-flowing football may finally get their wish when the White Hart Lane shackles are finally broken.
Do Spurs fans need to do better?