Monthly Archives: April 2016

Did Spurs leave points on the table? Lessons for 2016/17 from the failure to keep pace with Leicester

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Spurs were sucked into the Tony Pulis vortex on Monday night, and the failure to emerge with three points means that the Premier League trophy is almost certainly heading to Leicester. The Foxes only need three points from their final three games, and even that is assuming Spurs win their remaining three.

After the game, Spurs fans were understandably downbeat. Spurs have not seriously challenged for the title in the Premier League era, and it hurts to fall short.

It should be remembered, Spurs led the league for a grand total of 13 minutes all season. The title was always just out of reach, as Leicester rolled remorselessly — and freakishly — on. Spurs clung on longer than anyone else, an impressive enough feat. We didn’t “lose” the title: it was never our title to lose.

Once the initial disappointment fades, cause for pride and optimism abounds. This Spurs team is just scratching at the surface of what it can achieve. Does anyone seriously think we’ll be back to contending for fifth of sixth next season?

A key to success in the future is learning from the failings of the past. You can be assured, Mauricio Pochettino and his staff will be looking back at certain moments and certain decisions over the course of the season with a view to improvement next time around.

So, did Spurs leave points on the table? And what lessons can the team take to ensure the title challenge is even stronger in 2016/17?

I will sketch out some of the scenarios that I believe may be in play. As you will see, there is overlap — it would be wildly oversimplifying the situation to claim there was one reason, and one reason alone, why Spurs came up short.

The “second striker” shortage

While Harry Kane has banged in 24 Premier League goals (and counting), proving conclusively that he is a world-class centre forward, the rest of the goals have been spread around the team.

The next highest scorer in the league is Dele Alli with 10, followed by Christian Eriksen with six. No other player has scored more than four.

This is no great surprise, given Kane is the only out-and-out striker in the squad. The other players identified as forward options — Son Heung-min, Clinton N’Jie and, at a push, Nacer Chadli — have five goals in the league combined.

I was curious to see if any recent Premier League winners have been as reliant on a single goalscorer as Spurs are with Kane. The following table shows the champion’s top scorer, “second scorer” and others who notched more than 10 goals.

Second Scorers

As you can see, every Premier League champion, going back to Arsenal in 2003/04, has had at least two players score more than 10 goals. The majority have at least three, and more often strikers than midfielders (although the names “Ronaldo” and “Lampard” appear repeatedly).

Spurs are more like last season’s Chelsea, or the 2003/04 Arsenal team, with their reliance on one striker and one goalscoring midfielder. Leicester are similar, although Mahrez’s 17 goals makes him the joint-second most prolific “second scorer”. Alli’s 10 — and that may well be it given a potential suspension — makes him the least prolific “second scorer” on the list.

WIth the best goal difference in the league, a whopping +39, it can be argued that this lack of a second banana up front hasn’t been an issue for Spurs. But, there have undeniably been games — Everton at home, West Brom home and away, Swansea away– when another forward option may have been the difference between one point, and three. Per The Telegraph’s Matt Law, in 19 games Kane has failed to score, Spurs have failed to win 13 times.

Monday night was a case in point. With West Brom lining up with four centre backs and three defensive midfielders, they built a formidable wall. After a while, Spurs’ attacking play became predictable, and West Brom were very comfortable in the final 30 minutes.

Once the equaliser was conceded, Spurs had no need for a defensive midfielder given West Brom’s lack of attacking intent. Another out and out striker, while Kane went deep and wide in search of space and the ball, may have posed a different problem for the West Brom defence. Pochettino simply doesn’t have the sort of goal poacher he may want to call on in this situation. You don’t think an in-his-prime Jermain Defoe wouldn’t have bagged a dozen or so goals in this Spurs team?

Spurs evidently were unable to identify and secure a second out-and-out striker in the summer, most notoriously Saido Berahino. Pochettino opted to keep his powder dry in the January window — laudably refusing to compromise future recruitment for a roll of the dice on a face that may not fit.

But, if Spurs had been able to secure another striker, that may have made the difference in a number of tight games.

Struggling to grind it out

Leicester’s ability to grind out narrow wins was extraordinarily. Out of 22 wins (with three games to play), Leicester won by a single-goal margin 14 times.

By contrast, just six of Spurs’ 19 wins have been by a single goal. When Spurs win, the wins come in some style — hence the +39 goal difference.

A common complaint this season has been that Spurs draw too many games, but is this true? Spurs have drawn 12, but Leicester have drawn 10, a fair number. Both teams are very hard to beat — you rather suspect the settled centre back situations (both teams have only used three each all season) may have an impact here. By contrast, Manchester City drew seven while losing nine — Leicester and Spurs have lost seven combined.

This ability to see out narrow games will surely be a focus of Pochettino’s tactical training over the summer. This Spurs team is fundamentally an attacking one — it’s what the fans demand — but being able to see out 1-0 win is something every champion needs in its locker.

While Spurs lack attacking options, they also lack defensive midfield options off the bench. Monday night was a good example where this may have been needed.

In the second half, Spurs struggled to create, but with West Brom posing a limited attacking threat, if ever there was a game to take a 1-0, this was it. The danger from West Brom was always physical, fielding four centre backs, and there was always going to be at least one set-piece where the delivery was perfect. Another tall central midfield player, capable of contesting aerial balls, may have made a profound difference.

From a different viewpoint, this may be an area where “experience” — or rather Tottenham’s lack of it — comes into play. The way Spurs ran out of ideas and ceded control against West Brom carried a sense of deja vu, as it was almost identical to how things played out against Newcastle. West Brom’s Darren Fletcher certainly thought experience was an issue, and he is clearly an intelligent player.

Pochettino has always spoken about trying to kill the game through scoring a second goal, rather than locking down the defense and midfield and seeing it out. I’m sure he would like to be able to do both, depending on the situation.

Slow start

Spurs opened the campaign with a narrow defeat at Manchester United, followed by draws against Stoke (H), Leicester (A) and Everton (H).

Spurs may not have been expecting 12 points from these fixtures, especially in light of what Leicester would become, but the home draws against Stoke and Everton were disappointing, as was failing to secure a point at Old Trafford. These fixtures warranted more than just three points.

Spurs are often labelled slow starters. Is this fair? And are there any underlying reasons for this that can be addressed?

I’ve pulled together some data to try to illustrate this. You can see the number of points dropped in the games before the first international break, how many points we finished behind Arsenal and/or the top four, and any major signings Spurs made between the opening day of the season and deadline day.

Leaving it late

As you can see, for more than half of the campaigns, we’ve finished a long way short and have had all manner of problems. We’ve had our fair share of bleak moments in the last decade.

But in 2005/06, 2011/12 and 2012/13, we started poorly, without key signings in position, and finished within a win of where we needed to be for Champions League football.

2011/12 is the one that sticks in my memory — we took a hammering at Old Trafford and at home against Manchester City, shipping eight goals, and then decided we needed to bring in Scott Parker to stiffen the midfield. The blame for failing to finish third that season gets laid at Harry Redknapp’s door due to his flirtation with the England job and the failure to strengthen in the January window, but we’d given everyone else a head start in August.

By contrast, in 2009/10, Spurs came flying out of the gate, and secured Champions League qualification by three points. That season, the only late arrival was Nico Kranjcar — who was only ever a squad player, albeit a handy one.

This time around, we started the season with zero striking alternatives to Harry Kane. Son Heung-min and Clinton N’Jie would arrive after opening day. Would this have made a difference? The team was still in the early stages of its evolution at that point. But it wouldn’t have hurt.

One thing we shouldn’t forget: In the week before the match at Old Trafford, we played two games in two days versus Real Madrid and AC Milan. In hindsight, this was utterly insane. No amount of commercial income can be worth the cost to preparedness for the Premier League opener, surely?

I appreciate, it is not always simple to bring in targets early in the transfer window. There is a chain, just like in the housing market, and Spurs are never at the top due to the financial constraints. But, without wishing to disappear too far down the rabbit hole, it’s not so simple as just saying “it’s not so simple”. Spurs could bid relatively more aggressively, Spurs could take more risk in terms of bringing in new blood while outgoing players were still on the books.

Ultimately, the financial benefits of having the squad ready for the start of the season may outweigh the financial gains of the extreme prudence typically shown by the club.

If ever the calculation tipped in this direction, it is this summer coming up. With Man City and Chelsea starting new eras, Spurs have a chance to come flying out of the blocks while other challengers find their feet. It bears considering, at the very least — although, I say this more in hope than expectation.

The curse/mild irritation of the Europa League

Earlier in the season I looked in some detail at the impact of the Europa League on Premier League performance.

In the past three seasons, Spurs averaged 1.50 points per game after Europa League matches, compared to 1.91 without. While home or away matches made no real difference, the distance travelled for away matches did (albeit in very limited sample size). After Spurs travelled further than the median distance of 2,280 miles, the record was appreciably worse than when Spurs played closer to London.

The table below shows our record after the Europa League this season.

Post Europa

Spurs average 2.0 point per game after Europa League games, compared to 2.13 point per game without Thursday night football. This is only modest underperformance — but, Baku aside, we didn’t have any long trips, while our slate of Sunday games was generally very soft.

Why does the Europa League make a difference to league form? There are two reasons above all: long distances mean fatigue, and also the Thursday to Sunday cycle always means that there is less time to prepare for the upcoming Premier League match. In the Champions League, half of your games will be Tuesday to Saturday (if not Sunday), meaning more preparation at least half of the time.

Does preparation time make a difference? Just look at West Brom on Monday night. After a rough outing at the Emirates in midweek, they arrived at White Hart Lane in perfect order and drilled to perfection. Those two extra days on the training ground with the game on Monday rather than Saturday had been put to productive use by Tony Pulis — the shape and pressing were superb.

More time between European and Premier League matches also means more rest. Against Arsenal at the Emirates, Spurs played superbly for 70 minutes before tiring. Against Chelsea, after the long trip to Baku, Spurs were never able to find any intensity.

After years of struggling with Europa League commitments, the boot should be on the other foot next campaign. I have faith in Pochettino to put the extra time on the training pitch before Premier League games to full use.

Shit happens, and other explainations

There are a few other obvious areas where Spurs have lost points that need mentioning.

  • Our record against Leicester: We drew at the King Power, despite scoring a late goal, and contrived to lose at home despite dominating. If we end up five points behind the Foxes, there’s your margin right there.
  • Our record against “bogey teams”: Spurs failed to beat Arsenal and Liverpool this season, and lost points at home to a struggling Chelsea. There is room for improvement still against our bogey sides.
  • An inconvenient truth about our captain: Hugo Lloris is, by a margin, the finest Spurs goalkeeper I have seen (I date back to Erik Thorstvedt…), and he has led this young team with aplomb. But he has also made some errors. In both North London derbies, he conceded “soft” late equalisers. They weren’t howlers, due to the way the ball bounced, but he would have liked to keep both out. Against West Brom on Monday, while he was impeded, he would have expected to do more on the cross. For the late Newcastle winner in December, that was just an old fashioned clanger the likes of which all keepers let through now and again. Lloris makes very few mistakes, but the ones he did make this season were very costly.
  • Shit happens: Spurs hit the woodwork against West Brom three times before letting the lead slip. Sometimes in football, we’re talking about fine margins, and it is understandable how a team can lose confidence if they feel the ball isn’t bouncing their way. We’ve only played “badly” a couple of times this campaign — against Newcastle at home, West Ham away — and when we have played badly, we have been punished. Leicester were dreadful against Southampton recently, but won the game regardless. There is skill in grinding it out, for sure, but there is luck too.

Thanks for reading. I welcome any suggestions on where you think Spurs lost ground. As I say, there is no right or wrong answer here, just a number of areas where Spurs can look to improve.

Please follow me on Twitter for more Spurs chat.

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Spurs do it on a mild Monday evening in Stoke

Paul Wells  FOX HUNT

Image: Twitter…

I have watched the highlights of Stoke v Spurs on Spurs TV twice, and on The Times once for good measure, and it is fair to say I am going to watch them a few more times before the week is out.

Monday night was pure footballing heaven for a Spurs fan. I can’t recall our attacking movement being quite so fluid, and our intent so lethal. It wasn’t just the result, but the manner of the performance. The hunt is on.

Some micro-thoughts, in no particular order:

1) What must it have felt like as a Leicester player watching that? If they didn’t know they were in a race, they will now. They will be feeling pressure on Sunday, without question.

2) Mousa Dembele was outstanding. He’s had a couple of tricky games of late, reverting to sideways and backwards movement and passing. Against Stoke, everything was forward. It makes all the difference to this team.

3) Legend has it that Nicola Cortese took an interest in Mauricio Pochettino because of his touchline demeanour. It was in full evidence at the Britannia, as a pumped-up Pochettino prowled the touchline and transmitted his hunger to the team. This guy WANTS it. Admittedly, it all got a bit Basil Fawlty after the Dele Alli miss — but that’s the price you pay for passion.

4) Harry Kane never lets a missed chance get him down, such as when he made a mess of an opportunity in the early stages after a poor first touch. Within minutes, he’d made amends. This ability to “forget” misses and treat every chance the same is invaluable. Who does it remind me of? Jermain Defoe. You wonder if Jermain’s mentality rubbed off on a young Kane.

5) Why were Stoke fans booing Danny Rose? As far as I’m aware, he’s never had his leg broken by Ryan Shawcross, or nearly broken by Charlie Adam. Rose responded with a marauding fullback performance, that would thrill Roy Hodgson as much as Pochettino.

6) The narrative around Erik Lamela has finally reached tipping point — his workrate and toughness is widely acknowledged, as is knack of performing in “big” matches. He was an attacking menace last night, and Stoke had no answer to him.

7) Christian Eriksen had a blip in mid-season, but he is on top form now. His assists against Man Utd and Stoke were things of beauty — he had a picture of the play in his head, and the technical skill to execute the passes to perfection.

8) Toby Alderweireld responded to his PFA “snub” with another rock-solid performance. We’ve not seen decision-making of this calibre from a Spurs defender since Ledley King in his prime. It was summed up when Stoke attacked in the first half and Jan Vertonghen drifted slightly out of position as a cross came in, leaving Toby with a 2 on 1 situation at the back post. He wasn’t distracted by the potential overload, and instead made sure he did the simple thing — reach the ball first and get it to safety. This doesn’t win you PFA awards, but it does win you football matches.

9) Before the match, Pochettino revealed that he’d spent Sunday with Daniel Levy watching the Leicester match with a bottle of red wine. This is a club in harmony — a far cry from the House of Cards style political snakepit it has reportedly been under previous regimes. Long may it continue.

10) Sky Sports had Cesc Fabregas as its guest on Monday Night Football, and it is fair to say it didn’t work. He was eloquent, but had little of relevance to say on the title race, beyond his honest admission that he’d hate Spurs to win. Jamie Carragher, on the other hand, was outstanding. His defence of Jon Moss was passioned and backed with strong evidence. After the match he hit on the truth of this Spurs team — this isn’t a “fluke” title challenge as some thought, Spurs could be good for many years to come.

Thanks for reading. Please follow me on Twitter for more Spurs chat. Note, I’ve changed the credit for the image to a more generic “Twitter”.

West Ham’s stadium deal: Brady’s hollow veto threat, naming rights information, local ticketing and more

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After a long campaign, the deal between West Ham and the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) for the Olympic Stadium has finally been published.

The agreement, and the expensive attempt to keep it secret, has sparked considerable debate over how much value for money has been gained for the British taxpayer.

The BBC report covers the agreement, and controversy, in great detail. What I want to do is talk about some of the provisions that specifically relate to Spurs and our own stadium project.

West Ham do not have a veto

In 2014, West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady poured cold water on the possibility of a ground share with Tottenham while we rebuild White Hart Lane.

“No-one has asked us for our permission (to ground-share) and if they did we would probably say no, depending on who it is – if you get my drift,” she said.

“We are the anchor tenant for the winter matches and nothing else can happen in that time without our permission. Our football matches take priority over everything else.”

When an LLDC official earlier this year said that a ground share could happen, West Ham doubled down on the position:

“As anchor tenant we have primacy of use during the football season and our contract gives us overriding priority to use the stadium, ensuring our fixtures and events are ring-fenced and will always take priority over all other events. It would therefore be impossible to accommodate the fixtures of another Premier League club without West Ham agreeing, a position which was fully supported at today’s hearing.”

The publication of the full agreement shows that Brady and West Ham are, shall we say, mistaken.

At no point in the agreement does it specify that West Ham have a veto over another football club leasing the stadium, and the grounds on which they may object to such an agreement are limited.

The key section is as follows:

(The LLDC) will not grant a concession, lease or licence to any Other Concessionaires to use the Stadium as its home ground for the playing of Football on the Pitch during the Football Season if:

(i) the Grantor, acting reasonably, believes the quality and condition of the Pitch may
be materially impacted; and

(ii) use by the Other Concessionaires would conflict with the Overriding Priority
Principle or any Governing Body Requirement,

The “Overriding Priority Principle” is what it suggests: West Ham get priority in using the stadium (outside of a one-off window for the World Athletics Championships in 2017). However, there is a big difference between priority use, and exclusive use.

The clause concerning the state of the pitch may prevent the LLDC from leasing the stadium to a rugby team, true. But, given how many stadiums around the world are happily shared, not another football team.

If Spurs were to take it, West Ham would have “first dibs” in terms of when matches were played — that is unquestionable. But given that fixtures are decided by the Premier League, the FA and UEFA, it would be up to the governing bodies to decide when the games were played.

West Ham’s concerns about accommodating another set of fixtures are immaterial if the governing bodies are able to agree on a scheduling arrangement. Given that the FA are reportedly happy for Spurs and Chelsea to share Wembley, there appear to be no concerns on that front.

There would be questions over logistics — ticket booths, hospitality and the like. But it is a multi-purpose stadium, and West Ham are just tenants.

In the 203-page document, I can see no further provisions preventing the LLDC from offering the stadium to another team. In fact, the agreement requires West Ham to “take into account the requirements of any other concessionaires to the extent reasonably practicable”.

I would welcome any further insight in case I have missed something. (Which I did — see the update below)

Spurs would now appear to have three clear choices for our temporary home — Wembley, Stadium MK and the Olympic Stadium. None are perfect — we are investing hundreds of millions in somewhere that is.

A poor deal for local residents?

In the S106 agreement with Haringey Council, it was agreed that Spurs would provide 10,000 tickets for residents of Haringey and Enfield (5,000 season tickets and 5,000 matchday tickets) in the new stadium, per league match.

With 19 home matches, that means 190,000 tickets for local residents per year.

In West Ham’s agreement with the LLDC, the club is required to offer up to 100,000 tickets for residents of Newham, and none for other boroughs. There is no specific language on season tickets or pricing limitations.

Residents of East London have been given a poor deal compared to those in North London.

West Ham revenue streams cut

The one area where the LLDC appear to have struck a fairly good deal is over naming rights. Under the deal, West Ham must hand over the first £4 million of a deal, and then split the rest 50-50 each year.

To me, this seems fair. Of course, while taxpayer money built the stadium (twice), a Premier League club will be able to attract far more in sponsorship than an athletics venue ever would.

For West Ham, the amount lost in naming rights income will surely exceed the annual rent of £2.5 million.

For catering, the LLDC keeps 70 percent, as well as the first £500,000. Again, this may mean some lost income for West Ham compared to teams that own their stadiums (who may outsource catering contracts anyway).

Overall, this is still an incredible deal for West Ham. Compared to what Spurs will have to be paying in annual finance costs, they are way ahead. But there are some downsides — beyond the fact that the stadium looks a poor venue for football — to not being the outright owner.

One strange little detail

West Ham agreed to pay £15 million towards the reconstruction costs of the stadium, a sum widely agreed to be derisory.

However, there is a curious reference to this payment in the agreement. Instead of the club (either the umbrella company WH Holdings or West Ham United Limited), David Gold and David Sullivan agreed to provide personal guarantees for this money.

Mr David Gold and Mr David Sullivan providing personal guarantees for the
Concessionaire’s obligation to pay the One-Off Usage Fee or the obligation to pay the One Off Usage Fee in accordance with Clause 20.4 (Usage Fee for Use of the Stadium and Other Payments) has been irrevocably discharged;

I’d welcome any explanation for this — it certainly seems quite unusual, no?

A final thought

Having read this document in full, as well as much of the reaction to it, I think it is important to make one thing clear: West Ham haven’t done anything wrong.

If the deal represents poor value for the taxpayer, that is the fault of the LLDC. Karren Brady’s job was to negotiate the best possible deal for the company she runs. It is fair to say, she has done that. I can hardly blame her for trying to throw Spurs off the scent in terms of ground sharing, given the history between the clubs.

Could the LLDC have struck a better deal? Possibly. That £15 million contribution from West Ham towards refit costs, in particular, seems deeply unambitious in light of what Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea have spent, or are planning to spend, on their stadium projects.

But this stadium was a white elephant waiting to happen — a vast arena, built for a sport most people only care about for a week every four years, in a city already full of them. The 2012 Olympics was great fun, but also a mind-blowing waste of money. Gradually, cities such as Boston are wising up to the IOC scam and telling them to get stuffed. Sadly, the egos of our politicians were sufficiently stroked, and we will be paying the bill for a long time to come.

We shouldn’t forget Spurs also wanted the stadium — or rather, we wanted the site. We would have knocked down the existing stadium to build a dedicated football facility (in conjunction with our new NFL friends, no doubt). I’m sure Daniel Levy would have been just as aggressive in his negotiations with the LLDC as Brady was. Under the Spurs plan, the taxpayer would surely be no better off.

A few Spurs fans, myself included, had fun tweeting to the European Commission about potential illegal state aid. This is certainly something that warrants further investigation — undeniably, West Ham have received a huge leg up from the public purse here. This is a list of competition cases in the sports sector — there are a fair few.

I’d be surprised if the challenge came from rival clubs though. I daresay the likes of Spurs and Chelsea, who are yet to finalise funding for their own stadium projects, are cautious about this in case they need to seek any form of public funding if money runs short. Much better just to build a better stadium, and beat West Ham on the pitch.

If I was a West Ham fan, I would be excited about the future of my club and no doubt pleased with the work done by Brady. I’m sure, I’d also be enjoying the angst it is sparking among rival fans.

But I’d also be apprehensive about the quality of the stadium and the matchday experience. Upton Park may be small, but it is a fine and atmospheric football ground, and bigger isn’t always better.

Thanks for reading. Please follow me on Twitter for more Spurs chat. If you’ve spotted anything of interest, or think I have misinterpreted something, please do get in touch.

 

Update (16/04/2016): As was pointed out on Reddit, there is one other clause of importance that I missed first time around.

Clause 20.5 states that, if another “concessionaire” uses the stadium for football, West Ham get 50 percent of their £2.5mln annual rent back, plus 50 percent of the £15mln one-off fee if it is within the first 10 years of the agreement (it drops to 25 percent in the following ten years).

So, if Spurs were to want the Olympic Stadium in 2017/18, it isn’t as simple as just matching West Ham’s rent. To make LLDC “whole”, Spurs would have to cover the £7.5 mln lost in one-off payment, and £1.25mln lost in rent. So, in total, £8.75 mln. After that, it becomes about paying enough that it makes it worth LLDC’s while. Note, it would hard for LLDC to turn down anything that offers the taxpayer more money back after such a huge cost.

For Wembley, the rent is likely to be in the region of £20mln per year, and Spurs would have to have it at a limited capacity, for most matches, of 50,000. Let’s say Spurs offered the same as West Ham in basic payment for the Olympic Stadium — £100,000 per day for 25 event days, and covered the LLDC’s lost one-off fee in full: that would be £10 million for a year. With a capacity of 60,000, and half the rent, this may be a better deal financially for Spurs.

Of course, it may be that there are more premium seats, corporate facilities and other revenue-generating goodies at Wembley than the Olympic Stadium. That, coupled with the ball-ache of having to work with West Ham and deal with all the logistical hurdles Brady has thrown up in the agreement, no doubt means Wembley remains the preferred and more likely option. But my broader point stands: West Ham don’t have a legal veto, and Spurs do have another option — at least something the club can use in its negotiations.

The stars align for Pochettino and his swaggering Spurs

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Those six minutes on Sunday when Spurs brought Manchester United’s house of cards crashing down were pure footballing joy — relief, jubilation, and finally delirium as Erik Lamela stroked home the third.

Cancel the demolition crew at the end of next season — another moment like that and the old roof of White Hart Lane will be lifted clear off.

In many ways though, with the match won and Spurs toying with a beaten United like a cat with a freshly caught mouse, I enjoyed the final 15 minutes more. It had the air of a changing of the guard — a young, ambitious pretender, snatching the crown from an old-timer who has grown tired and complacent after years on the throne. There was a swagger to Spurs in those closing moments, the like of which I can’t ever recall.

In previous years a tight game, such as it was for the first 60 minutes, would have only broken one way. United would have worn Spurs down, the mere presence of Sir Alex Ferguson enough to convince United players that they were going to win, and Spurs players that they were going to lose. The truth about the “Lads, it’s Tottenham” story is that, back then, Ferguson didn’t need to say anything at all — United would have beaten Spurs if he’d danced the Macarena.

Not any more. It was Spurs who found the resolve to win. It was Manchester United who shrunk.

Barring some surprising results, Manchester United are set to miss out on Champions League football, and the millions that come with it, for the second time in three seasons. It appears likely they will start the fourth year of the post-Ferguson era with a third manager, although Louis van Gaal does have a way of clinging on.

All about the club, there are signs of dynastic decline. The owners are pure carpet-baggers, shamelessly milking money without even the pretence of putting something back in. The directors failed miserably to recognise that no one man could replace a force like Ferguson, leaving a vacuum of football knowledge and placing far too much pressure on first David Moyes then Van Gaal. Transfer business has been all-but outsourced by arch noodle-sponsorship negotiator Ed Woodward to Jorge Mendes. Even the youth development, a sole bright spot, has had an air of randomness about it, a series of battlefield promotions rather than carefully planned pathways.

United still have an incredible advantage in their commercial reach, but this will shrink like territory on a map as the results deteriorate. They may be able to turn it around, but at this point, it seems far from certain. The stench of institutional drift, the same footballing virus that has laid low Aston Villa and Newcastle, is wafting out of Old Trafford with every week that goes by. “Doing a Liverpool” now seems a distinct possibility — a slow and painful fall from grace, and a fanbase that struggles to accept that the future may not offer the same guaranteed glory as the past.

There exists, right now, an extraordinary opportunity for someone to seize the mantle as English football’s next ruler.

The spike in TV money, coinciding with United’s decline, has created an illusion of a new equality, but all that is really happening now is flux. Leicester aren’t a new dawn, they are a glorious fluke. In the past 40 seasons, Liverpool and then United have won 23 of the titles — this is how modern English football works. One powerhouse, and an ever-changing cast of challengers.

The scary part: Is there a team that is better equipped, across the board, to be the next dynasty than Spurs?

I’ll let that sink it for a moment.

Of course I am biased, but I don’t think this is merely bravado. There’s a chance here, an aligning of the stars, that every Spurs fan has been sensing for the past 18 months. Increasingly it is being felt by those outside the fanbase.

In every facet, right now, Spurs are moving in the right direction.

In Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Eric Dier, we have the strongest young core of players in the league. In Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, we have found our defensive rocks for the next five years. Hugo Lloris is a world-class keeper in his prime, and the strong leader every great team needs. The academy is producing elite-level talent, with a route to the first-team squad. We have one of the finest training facilities in Europe. There is a footballing identity that will guide recruitment and reduce the buy-low, sell-high crapshoot that has been the transfer policy of the past. The new stadium, once built, will be state-of-the-art.

And then there is the manager. Mauricio Pochettino, in less than two years, has fundamentally altered the future of our club.

In his first year, he won the “Game of Thrones” contest with the likes of Franco Baldini, Emmanuel Adebayor and the Kaboul cabal. This year, he has laid the foundations of his vision for how the team should go about its business on the field. Spurs may not win the league this time — the squad is still missing one or two crucial pieces of a title-winning jigsaw — but we are going to take some stopping next season.

Based on everything we know about Pochettino at this point, do you think, for one second, he is the type of man who is going to settle for one good season, and then take the foot off the gas? Not a chance.

All this — the young team, the stadium, the manager, the training centre — have been built on sustainable foundations. Spurs have never been reliant on a sugar daddy or speculation: Daniel Levy has never had a problem making Spurs profitable. Levy’s issue throughout his chairmanship has been recruiting the right people to execute his vision. He got lucky with Pochettino, having instead wanted to appoint Van Gaal, but you watch him sit back now and ride this stroke of good fortune for all its worth.

At no other club is there such an alignment, across so many aspects.

At Manchester City and Chelsea, their success was bought, not earned. There is no sustainability in that, just the need to keep on pumping in millions after millions, until eventually the owners decide to stop. Chelsea, in particular, are anarchic with Roman Abramovich still treating the club as a plaything.

A Manchester City fan recently described the emptiness at the Etihad (and how he too thought Spurs could be the next big thing). It was in full view on Tuesday night in a limp contest against PSG when the only time the crowd was remotely roused was in the booing of the UEFA anthem. How big a step down are European nights at the Etihad going to feel for Pep Guardiola after Barca and Bayern? This lack of passion and identity inevitably drifts down to the players.

Furthermore, both clubs also face similar issues with their squads in years to come — ageing cores, too many mercenaries, and no clear route for the imported kids lured to the lavish academies.

At Liverpool, the dreams of a second dynasty, and a sense that they are entitled to it, will never dim. In Jurgen Klopp, they may have recruited a future-altering figure of their own, and the owners, despite the flak, put their money where their mouth is. Funds are always available for players, and when it came to expanding Anfield, they just wrote a cheque. But Liverpool rival Spurs in the “false dawn” stakes. There is no consistent proof, yet, that Klopp is able to shape a disparate team to his liking. And where are the young Liverpool kids? Liverpool haven’t produced a Scouse hero since Steven Gerrard.

At Arsenal, the mood is bleak. In the early 2000s, it looked like Arsene Wenger would be the man to break Ferguson’s stranglehold. He built one great team, the Invincibles, but never managed to build another. The 2006/07 squad, the first in the Emirates, is a who’s who of disappointments: Abou Diaby, Denilson, Alex Song, Johan Djourou, Emmanuel Eboue, Mathieu Flamini, Philippe Senderos, Emmanuel Adebayor, Cesc Fabregas and Gael Clichy. This was meant to be the next super team, Wenger’s vision of a homegrown crop hand-reared in his philosophy, but few made the grade and those that did were sold. The next generation, built around the likes of Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey, has also never hit the heights and looks set to be dismantled in turn. Wenger has been forced to go against every instinct and buy stars, rather than create them.

The fan base now is mutinous, losing faith in the manager and unable to process the sight of Leicester (and Tottenham) above them. Nothing stings as much in football as the feeling that you have wasted an opportunity. Arsenal will eventually have to replace Wenger, one way or another, and can only look at the succession-planning debacle at Old Trafford with apprehension.

Can you see what I’m getting at? Spurs may not win the league this season, but for the next five years at least, with modest improvements in the transfer market and a bit of luck, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be challenging. That’s a dynasty in the making, all right.

What could go wrong?

Well, a bunch of things. Real Madrid or Barcelona could come calling, and they are very hard to turn down. Players could get injured, new buys could flop, the team could become complacent. The stadium may be delayed, or over budget, or fail to replicate the feeling of home. The club ownership could change, the youngsters may stop coming through, and worse of all, Pochettino may be tempted away.

There’s also the chance that another of the teams gets it together like Spurs. I fear Man City the most, with Guardiola and an unlimited budget. Liverpool seem like that finally have a perfect match of manager and club.

What comes next will be formidably difficult. Nothing is guaranteed. But you can sense a togetherness and hunger at Spurs the like of which I can’t recall.

Us Spurs fans have been remarkably measured about this season: there is little frustration that Leicester appear to be heading for the title instead of us. That is because we know that this is just the start. But we are Spurs fans, scarred by years of false dawns, and there is a fear of tempting fate by articulating what we feel inside.

To hell with that. Spurs are on the march, and the rest of the league had better watch out.

Thanks for reading. Please follow me on Twitter for the latest articles and more Spurs chat.

The business end of the season: How much is a league place worth for Spurs?

Spurs head into a crucial Premier League weekend seven points off Leicester with six games to play. If the Foxes win four more games — and they have deeply winnable fixtures against Sunderland, Swansea and Everton ahead — they win the title no matter how Spurs finish.

The fat lady isn’t singing yet, but she’s in her dressing room and she’s warming up.

Looking the other way, we are nine points ahead of Manchester United in fifth, and we play them on Sunday. They also have a game in hand — if they win both, well….gulp. And then there is the small matter of finishing above Arsenal. There is an awful lot still to play for and no excuse for Spurs to ease off, even if Leicester march on relentlessly.

But forget glory, local pride and enjoyment — we all know what really matters in modern football is money. And where we finish this season will make an enormous difference to the bottom line.

How big a difference? I’ve done some quick and dirty calculations to show how much Spurs can expect to bring in, depending on final league position.

Here’s how it works:

Premier League payments

For the Premier League, 50 percent of the TV money is split equally among teams. After that, 25 percent is paid out in “facility fees” — payments every time a team is picked for a televised UK game. The other 25 percent is the “merit payment”, which is paid out depending on where you finish.

Last season, Spurs were shown 18 times on TV, earning £14.8 million. This time, Spurs will be shown 21 times. Essentially, each game broadcast live above the minimum 10 (everyone gets paid for 10 games, even if some teams, like Leicester last season, aren’t shown that many times) earns a team an additional £747,176. So for Spurs, we will be bringing in an extra £2.24 million regardless of where we end up.

The merit payments are very simple: They increase by £1.25 million (or as close as) per place. First place receives £24.9 million, last place gets £1.25 million.

UEFA payments

For UEFA funds, the principle is similar, but it is harder to project. It is often assumed that teams qualifying for the Champions League receive the same share of the TV money (before being paid for how they progress). This is NOT true — it varies, and quite considerably.

Champions League money is divided into two pots — the “market pool” and the prize money. The prize money can be seen here: quite simply you get a guaranteed EUR 12 million (£9.66 million) for reaching the group stages, and then the money rolls in depending on how you do.

The market pool is the share of the TV money that is awarded to clubs from different associations, depending on how much their TV deal brings in. This is divided into two equal pots, the first of which is awarded based on Premier League position, and the second based on how far the clubs progress in the Champions League itself.

Per football finance blogger Swiss Ramble, these two pots were each worth EUR 46.8 million (£37.85 million) in the 2014/15 campaign. For the first pot, the team that finished first in the Premier League receives 40 percent, the team that was second receives 30 percent, and so on.

With the huge new BT Sport deal kicking in, the share of the market pool that goes to British clubs is going to get a lot bigger from the 2015/16 season. How much? A reasonable estimate is that the TV money will jump by around 50 percent.

With the actual amount not yet known, for the purposes of this article I’ll use a 50 percent increase — at the very least, it makes the maths straightforward.

And now, some tables

In the table below, you can see how that revenue breaks down. As you can see, the difference between finishing 1st and 4th could be almost £17 million — for the initial market pool share alone. On top of this, you have the other half of the TV money to dish out depending on how well you do against Messi & Co.

Market Pool

By way of reference, Spurs brought in £4.73 million from our Europa League campaign last season, including both TV money and bonuses. The season before, when we reached the last 16, it was £5.27 million. It is very hard to project the market pool share, particularly as not every English team that qualifies wants to reach the group stage. Let’s take last season’s amount as the “baseline” amount, with anything that comes in on top of that considered a performance-related bonus.

So, including Premier League merit payments, UEFA market pool payments and minimum bonus payments, what sort of money are we talking about for Spurs this season? I’m talking purely the performance-related elements of the TV money — the part that varies depending on how well, or badly, we finish the season.

Performance Related

As you can see, we are talking about a difference of £7 million per place for the top four positions.

If the music stopped now, and Spurs finished in 2nd, we’d be on course for £25 million* more in performance-related payments than we earned last season for our fifth place finish.

That’s a lot of money for a club with total revenues of £196 million. By way of comparison, per our latest set of financials, we receive about £16 million per year from our new sponsorship deal with AIA. And that’s before any UEFA bonus money, extra gate receipts and shirt sales.

If we contrived to swap places with Arsenal — and let’s be honest, we have form in this department — that would cost us £7 million in performance-related cash. And possibly a bit more in therapy costs.

Of course, we want to finish above Leicester because we want to be champions for the first time since 1961, not because it means a bigger slice of the UEFA market pool. We want to finish above Arsenal, because it’s about f**king time we did.

But when the pundits call this “the business end of the season”, this is why.

Thanks for reading. Please follow me on Twitter for more Spurs chat.

*Update 17.15, April 8: An old version of this article stated that the difference between 2nd and 5th place amounted to about £15 million. In fact it is closer to £25 million.

Spurs Ladies captain Jenna Schillaci on three cup finals, life as a women’s footballer, and her love of THFC

Tottenham Hotspur Ladies v Charlton Athletic WFC: FA WPL South

She’s one of our own: Spurs Ladies captain Jenna Schillaci. Photo by Getty Images

In what is shaping to be a season to remember for Tottenham Hotspur, the feel-good factor isn’t limited to Mauricio Pochettino’s title chasers. Our women’s team also face a crucial month, one which offers the chance of glory.

In the weeks ahead, Spurs Ladies have not one, but THREE cup finals. This seemed like a lot of cup finals, so I wanted to find out more.

Spurs Ladies play in the Women’s Premier League Southern Division, the third tier of the women’s football pyramid in England. With just two games to play this season, the team is firmly in mid-table — sitting sixth out of 12th.

But if the league campaign is almost over, it’s a different story in the cups. We play Charlton in the Ryman Cup final on April 14, and Charlton again in the Capital Women’s Cup final on April 27. On May 8, the team travels to Kidderminster for the FA Premier League Cup final against Cardiff.

I got in touch with Jenna Schillaci, the captain of the team and a lifelong Spurs fan, to learn more about the big month ahead, and what life is like as a member of Spurs Ladies. She kindly agreed to answer my questions.

First, some links: You can find out more about Spurs Ladies here, and follow the official account on Twitter here. Ticket details for the Ryman Cup final (kick-off 7.45pm) are here, and you can follow Jenna on Twitter here.

Let’s talk about you. You are captain of Spurs Ladies: how did this come about, first in terms of getting into elite women’s football, and then joining Spurs?

Tottenham Hotspur Players Deliver Christmas Presents to Local Hospitals

Jenna on visit to North Middlesex hospital before Christmas. Photo by Getty Images

I started when I was around six years old. My dad set up a team that consisted of me and all my friends. I went to a Spurs trial in 2000 I think and went into the Ladies team when I was 16, I think I was the youngest at the time. I left to go to university and came back in 2009 when Karen (Hills, the manager) joined and have been here ever since. Three years ago I was made captain which is something I’m very proud of.

You play centre back and left back. You’re basically Jan Vertonghen, right? Tell me about your strengths as a player, and heaven forbid, any weaknesses?

I think I read the game well and have a good understanding of the game. I’m calm on the ball. My only weakness is I guess I’m getting a bit older and my hamstrings aren’t quite what they were!

From you bio, it is clear you are a proper Spurs fan. When did it start, who is your favourite player, and how often do you get to White Hart Lane?

I’ve grown up in a Spurs-mad family. My mum lived in Tottenham when she moved over from Ireland. I had a season ticket for six years when I was younger and sat in the Paxton Road behind the goal. My favourite player has to be David Ginola.

Spurs Ladies are in the Premier League Southern Division: for those who don’t know, where exactly is this in the women’s football pyramid?

So the Premier League Southern Division is the highest tier in the winter game. It’s been a progression for Spurs Ladies, when I first joined in 2000 we were in the Greater London League. We got promotion in 2012 and since then we’ve just been building and getting stronger and now we are a well established club in our league.

Looking at the league standings, Spurs are firmly in mid-table. How do you view the campaign? The record shows nine wins, eight losses and just one draw — is consistency an issue?

This season we have been playing some of the best football I’ve known since being here but we’ve dropped points against the teams above us just by odd goals which is something we want to work on. It’s not due to being inferior, it’s just small details we’ve been punished for against the bigger teams and we are looking to work on that.

In the cup competitions, it is a different story. We’re in not one, but three, cup finals — the Ryman Cup, the Capital Women’s Cup and the FA Premier League Cup. Tell us about these competitions: is one “bigger” than the others? And how big an achievement would it be to win them? Feel free to give the games a plug….

It’s an amazing achievement. The main competition that stuck out at the start of the season was the one we have just got through in, the FA Premier League Cup. We find out who we are playing this weekend but the final will be on May 8 at Kidderminster. (Update: we play Cardiff)

The Ryman Cup we were in last year against Charlton and have them again this year. Unfortunately we lost last year in extra time and that’s something we want to put right this season. It’s on April 14 at Cheshunt.

The Capital Women’s Cup — again we have Charlton! That is on the April 27 at Wingate & Finchley.

It would be amazing to come away with some silverware from those games and it would be great to have as much support as possible.

Let’s talk about life as a women’s football player. Spurs Ladies are not professional: how do you balance your work and sporting commitments?

We aren’t professional. We all have full-time jobs and there’s a few students. We fit the training in three nights a week around it. We all mainly do it for the love of the game and we have a great group, there’s a family feel to the club. It doesn’t feel like making an effort as we enjoy it so much and it’s worth it when we get three points. It’s a big commitment but definitely worth it.

How often do you train, and are you finding the training is becoming more demanding as more focus is placed on the women’s game?

We have a certain style of play with lots of pace going forwards. Our forward line would scare anyone on their day. The training is tough but it pays off. This season is the first we’ve done three nights a week, it’s more demanding but it’s paying off.

How much interaction do you have with the men’s team? Is there ever the opportunity to train together, or spend time together?

We see them on appearances with things like the hospital visits at Christmas time. They all seem really nice. Sometimes we watch them train and they are always very welcoming.

How do Spurs Ladies go about finding players?

We have trials at the start of every year. There’s a circuit of players in our League and Karen has a great knowledge and network of contacts when it comes to finding new players.

Talk me through the matchday experience. Where are the games played? How many people attend? Do you feel interest is rising? And do you ever get the chance to play at White Hart Lane?

We play our games at Cheshunt FC and they are 2pm kick-offs on a Sunday. The attendance can vary but this year we’ve seen a big rise and are grateful for the support of the main Club in helping with that. The big games we can get over 200, which is great. We’ve also noticed a huge rise in our social media followings from fans who follow the Men’s team. We haven’t played at White Hart Lane yet but do train at the Training Centre now, which is a great experience.

Thanks to Jenna for taking the time to answer my questions. Please do follow Spurs Ladies and Jenna on Twitter for all the latest in this crucial month. And while you are at it, give me a follow as well.

Waiting for the revolution to happen: Analysis of THFC’s financial results for the 2014/15 season

ACF Fiorentina v Tottenham Hotspur FC - UEFA Europa League Round of 32

Where are they now? Spurs 2014/15 vintage. Via Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday published its accounts covering the 2014/15 campaign, and there are a number of points of interest for fans.

In the previous set of accounts, the club recorded a stonking £80 million pre-tax profit, in large part due to the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid. This year’s financial statement marks a return to normalcy — Spurs is a fundamentally profitable football club, as the pre-tax profit of £12 million shows.

While healthy, the accounts reflect the transitional season the club had on the pitch in the 2014/15 campaign. It was yet another new dawn for Spurs, with Mauricio Pochettino taking charge after the debacle of the Tim Sherwood appointment.

For the first half of the season, it appeared like it could be another false dawn — once again, the big names in the squad, including some of those purchased with the Bale money, failed to contribute as much as they should. But then, things started to change — Pochettino turned to youth, Harry Kane emerged, we beat Chelsea 5-3, and the future of the club fundamentally changed.

With the accounts ending in June 2015, the good times are yet to show on the bottom line. Future statements will be boosted by our strong league campaign in 2015/16, Champions League football and whatever else is in store for this Tottenham 2.0 that has emerged.

This accounts speak to how far the club has come since last summer. It seems such a long time ago, doesn’t it? All that angst over the lack of a defensive midfielder, players like Erik Lamela and Mousa Dembele seemingly on the way out, a shortage of striking options (OK, so not everything has changed).

Meanwhile, flat match-day revenues and commercial income far behind the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal are a reminder of how far we still have to go. A season-ticket waiting list of 50,000 illustrates just how desperate the club is to get the new stadium built.

Below are a few notes from the accounts. I welcome feedback and any insight you can give me on some of the more technical aspects.

 

Revenue — AIA deal kicks in

Spurs revenue

The club has changed the way it accounts for revenues, making UEFA prize money a separate category and altering what is allocated as commercial income and match-day income. I’m sure there were good reasons for doing this, but it makes comparisons — both with previous years and to other clubs — harder.

Commercial revenue grew from £43.3 million to £59.9 million, in large part due to the start of the shirt sponsorship deal with AIA. This deal is reportedly worth £16 million per year, and runs for five seasons. Merchandising revenue grew from £11 million to £12.3 million.

Match-day revenues were £41.2 million, down slightly from £42.4 million in 2014. Premier League match-day revenues were £22.3 million — in 2014 they were £22.4 million. With season ticket prices frozen and White Hart Lane almost always sold out in the Premier League, this segment will remain flat until Spurs complete the new stadium.

Champions League qualification may allow the club to take in a little more on the gate — but that won’t show up until the accounts after next (so in two years).

The share of the Premier League TV pot was up by £1 million as we finished fifth, as opposed to sixth. Next season, that share should be considerably higher — we will be shown more on UK TV due to our involvement in the title race, which means more in “facility fees”, and our performance-related payment will be higher as we should finish at least third. The new Premier League TV deal kicks in next season, so again this won’t show up until the accounts published in two years time.

In both commercial terms, and match-day terms, Spurs remain an absolute mile behind some competitors. Liverpool, for example, reported commercial income of £116.4 million in their last accounts — approaching double what Spurs achieved. Liverpool’s matchday revenue was also considerably higher, at £59 million, compared to our £41.9 million.

We are punching above our weight, massively.

 

Player trading — a return to pragmatism

There was an “after the Lord Mayor’s Show” feel to the club’s transfer activity after the Gareth Bale sale and Franco Baldini’s trolley dash the previous year.

It many ways, it was a return to the “pragmatic player trading” that Daniel Levy has adopted throughout his tenure in charge of the club. Spurs hunted for value in the market, and sought to extract top rates when selling players.

The hunt for value is hard, and there will be hits and misses: it turned out Federico Fazio was cheaper than Mateo Musacchio for a reason, likewise Benji Stambouli vis-a-vis Morgan Schneiderlin. But there were also huge successes: Dele Alli and Eric Dier cost around £9 million combined, value for the bromance alone.

Outgoing, Spurs managed to bring in good fees for the likes of Jake Livermore, Michael Dawson, Kyle Naughton, Sandro and Zeki Fryers (Palace no doubt regret that one).

There is no detail on the deal that saw Michel Vorm and Ben Davies move to Spurs from Swansea, with Gylfi Sigurdsson and a certain amount of cash going the other way. FC Utrecht have referred Swansea to the Court of Arbitration for Sport over this deal, arguing they were due a sell-on fee.

Profit on player sales (or, disposal of intangible assets, as it is termed) was nominally £21.2 million, compared with £104 million in 2014. This figure isn’t however particularly helpful due to the way clubs account for transfers — I’ll explain this in detail at the bottom for those who are interested.

 

Wages — Keeping close controlSpurs wages

The amount spent on wages was virtually flat in the past year, at £100.8 million compared with £100.4 million in 2014.

With revenues up, this means Spurs spent 51.4 percent of its turnover on wages, down from 55.6 percent. This is the lowest it has been since 2008, when it dipped down to 46.1 percent. This “wages-to-turnover” ratio is an indicator of how efficiently a club (or any business) is run.

I will be interested to see how the wage bill develops in the next accounts. Per the post balance sheet events, a lot of high earners — Emmanuel Adebayor, Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Aaron Lennon — will soon come off the books. The replacements have generally been younger, and therefore cheaper.

Wages-to-turnover is also an important number in the context of the financing for the new stadium.

In the Viability Report for the scheme, produced by KPMG, the club appears to set a target for wages-to-turnover of 45 percent. (It actually states “player costs”, which I read to be wages but not transfers). If the club can get below this, the “internal rate of return” — a measure for rate of return for investors — could increase.

How realistic is this? In 2008, Spurs came very close with wages-to-turnover of 46.1 percent — but since then, wages for Premier League footballers have soared. For Arsenal, the only other club to have gone through a similarly large stadium project, one imagines a similar target was in place. In 2007, the first year at the Emirates, their wages-to-turnover was 51 percent. This dipped to 49 percent in 2008, and 46 percent in 2009. But since then it has increased — it hit 64 percent in 2013, the last year of the “old” TV deal.

Next year, I’d expect Spurs’ wage bill to be lower, improving the ratio further. The following year, the next TV deal kicks and we should have Champions League football, so greater revenues offer more scope for wage rises and the addition of big contracts to the books. We may alse be playing in a bigger stadium, although any additional income may be offset by rent for either Wembley or the Olympic Stadium. The year after that, we (hopefully) will be in the new stadium, with far higher matchday revenue.

Nonetheless, a wages-to-turnover ratio of 45 percent is very low — most Premier League clubs are between 55 and 65 percent.

This isn’t to say Spurs will fall into the sea and disappear if the club doesn’t hit the 45 percent target — it’s just one number. But it is something to keep in mind, particularly during transfer windows when the clamour to add to the squad is at its strongest. There will be funds, and room in the budget, to add quality and make sure our rising stars are paid what they deserve. But there will be limits.

 

Stadium and staff — A holding pattern

In the previous financial year, the club spent £19 million on the new stadium scheme, bringing total spending to £59 million. The money was spent on professional fees and “enabling works” — preparing the site for construction.

A lot has happened since June 30th, and one imagines the next accounts will show a considerably higher spend. The club secured planning permission from Haringey Council in December, and is pushing ahead with groundworks while the project crawls through the approvals process.

Daniel Levy recently stated that the club was now functioning as essentially two businesses — the football club, and the stadium project. He also noted that there were now around 70 people working full-time on the stadium side.

The headcount does not fully reflect this. Staff employed has increased from 380 to 399 (this is measured as the average number of employees through the year). Administrative staff have increased by eight, commercial staff by seven, while football staff was up by four. The “stadium” team may have been expanded since June 30, or involves existing staff.

I recently wrote in some detail about headcounts at Premier League clubs — it appeared to offer another useful, if crude, gauge of how efficient some clubs were (or weren’t).

For example, Aston Villa’s headcount rose from 496 to 535 in the past year, and its wage bill rose 21 percent. Spurs kept its headcount below 400, and even though the number of staff did increase by 19, the wage bill remained flat. Spurs is a tight ship, in comparison to a lot of Premier League clubs.

It should be noted, one area where remuneration did increase was in the boardroom. The amount paid to directors rose from £3.60 million to £4.33 million. Daniel Levy (assuredly the highest paid director) saw his pay packet increase from £2.17 million to £2.61 million. In the world of executive pay, the only way is up.

 

One-off costs — higher than expected redundancy pay-outs

One area that has puzzled me is the amount paid out in “redundancy costs and onerous employment contracts”.

In the previous year, in which Andre Villas-Boas and his backroom staff was sacked, the amount paid out was £4.66 million. This year, the amount has risen to to £6.49 million.

“Tactics” Tim Sherwood would have been due a payout when he was replaced six months into an 18 month contract. The club also paid off the remainder of Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s contract. But I can’t see how that adds up to £6.49 million.

In the notes explaining why costs had risen from £154.1 million to £162.4 million, one of the reasons stated was “recognition of onerous contracts”. This is interesting phrasing, due to the fact that it didn’t state redundancy costs.

One wonders if, as well as Assou-Ekotto, some of the other players who were frozen out were treated as “onerous” — perhaps Emmanuel Adebayor? I would have expected Adebayor’s pay-off to be included in the next accounts as he left the club in September 2015, but perhaps the club had already begun the process of writing him off as an asset (as well as a footballer) before the end of June 2015, essentially taking the hit early in a profitable year.

I’d welcome any explanations for this — it may well be that I’m missing something obvious.

Some other notes

  • The club has net debt of £20.3 million. In the prior year, it had net cash of £3.2 million. This figure is going to look quaint in years to come, with borrowing of at least £350 million lined up for the stadium
  • There has been no significant change in ownership of the club. ENIC has marginally increased its stake, from 85.46 percent to 85.55 percent. As far as I am aware, the next largest shareholder remains Lord Ashcroft, who those interested in British politics will know…
  • The section explaining how costs rose from £154.1 million to £162.4 million contained another interesting comment. As well as “recognition of onerous contracts” and “underlying growth of the club as we move towards the new stadium”, it also points to “post-season tour costs”. I for one would be interested to know how much this post-season tour brought in revenue-wise, or whether it is part of the AIA sponsorship deal. It all felt very unnecessary, footballing wise.

Thanks for reading, comments welcome. A note on player trading is below, Please follow me on Twitter for more Spurs chat.

 

A guide to player trading in Premier League club accounts

When a player is sold, the full amount is booked immediately. But when a player is bought, that expenditure is spread over the length of a contract — this is known as amortisation.

So for example, take Paulinho: he was bought for £17 million and signed a four-year contract. Spurs sold him two years later for around £10 million.

Instead of booking a £17 million cost when they purchased Paulinho, Spurs will write down that £17 million over the length of his contract — so in Paulinho’s case, £4.25 million per year for four years.

In accounting terms, the “value” of Paulinho will decrease by that same amount through the course of his four-year contract. In his first year, his value in the accounts is £12.75 million (so £17 million less one year of amortisation), in his second year, its is £8.5 million. In his third year, it is £4.25 million, and zero in the final year.

When a club calculates profit from a player sale, it deducts the remaining value in accounts from the cash sale amount.

So when Spurs sold Paulinho after two years for £10 million, in cash terms Spurs have lost £7 million on the initial £17 million fee. But in accounting terms, you deduct the remaining value in accounts — in Paulinho’s case, £8.5 million — from the £10 million sale fee, and Spurs have actually made a profit of £1.5 million.

If that makes your head spin, join the club. But making £1.5 million is so much more fun that losing £7 million, so there we have it.

(Thanks to @sumeer1000 for checking my figures. As he points out, you also need to factor in agent fees, so Spurs may actually have capitalised more than £17 million. For more on this, read any of Swiss Ramble’s analysis of Premier League accounts — it is a repeated point of emphasis.)

The next accounts will make for interesting reading — four of the seven Bale money signings were sold, all for cash losses. However, with the magic of amortisation, all bar Roberto Soldado should show (agent fees permitting) an accounting profit. The profit on player sales may be somewhat higher than expected next season, even though, in cash terms, Spurs’ net spend has basically been zero.