Tag Archives: Lads It’s Tottenham

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.

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Defending a Spurs fan’s right to be an idiot

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From Google Images

There is no escape from football in 2015. It is a 7-day-a-week, 365-day-a-year orgy of rumour-mongering, overreaction and outrage, interspersed with the odd 90-minute kickabout.

It’s bloody brilliant.

It’s not even that you don’t have to go a day without football, the Europa League plus the TV creep into Mondays and Fridays has long since seen to that. With Twitter, Reddit and the hundreds of blogs and football websites, you don’t have to go an instant without football if you don’t want to. Back in the day, you used to read the paper to find out what your team was up to, and if you wanted the latest information you’d check teletext. How did we ever cope?

With the sheer enormity of football, us fans have had to become sophisticated in how we seek information. We have to filter out the clickbait, dodge paywalls and understand the agendas put forward by certain pundits. Take the Telegraph — once a bastion of reliable reporting, good cricket writing and solid conservative views. Now, all on the same page, you have some of the most shameless clickbaiting you’ll see anywhere on the internet, the phoned-in bitterness of one ‘Arry Redknapp, plus the reporting of Matt Law and Jason Burt, the source of the most well-informed Spurs news all summer.

On Twitter, you’ve got to find the right people to follow, on Reddit you’ve got to learn not to get into arguments with 15-year-olds who can snark faster than you, and online you’ve got to learn that ITK generally means “don’t have a sodding clue but do love getting hits on my website”.

I love reading the Spurs-supporting stats guys (yup, they are generally guys…) like Michael Caley and James Yorke, and am frequently enlightened. But expected goals? I think it is the “massively f**king predictable” goals like the one on Saturday by Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez that we need to focus on. I respect the work that goes into those massive pieces full of tactical GIFs, but I never read them because if the Spurs defenders can’t be bother to learn from their errors, I’ll be damned if I can be. I admire the efforts to bring logic to the chaos that is football, but sometimes, and maybe it is just a reaction to watching too many Spurs games, it feels a bit like a dog chasing its tail.

I prefer cherry picking pieces of knowledge from here and there, and shamelessly using the fruits of other people’s labour to support my preexisting conclusions. Does that make me worse? Or is that how we all operate, deep down? Just because an argument is well argued, mathematically reasoned and regressed to a factor of a million, doesn’t mean it isn’t just as wrong as the luddite, Not ITK, scribbled-down-on-the-back-of-a-napkin, hopelessly random points of view put forward periodically by piss-poor bloggers such as myself.

My problem with football is that the more I think about it, the more ridiculous it becomes. Where more forensic minds are able to dissect and make sense of aspects of the game, my response is emotional. When Spurs have a good result, I get my blinkers on and see nothing but sunshine. When Spurs have a bad result, I go through the seven stages of grief in five minutes flat. The rest of the time, I find myself obsessing over minutiae, getting worked up over things I have no control over, or being utterly overwhelmed by the sheer ludicrousness of modern football and the existential questions that this triggers.

What is football?

And why football?

Football used to be a town-wide excuse for a day-long brawl, so is it really any wonder it is now run by a criminal organization operating out of a bunker in a tax haven that attempted to sell the sport’s soul to a petro state? Oh I’m sorry, it’s the beautiful game now.

In England, football was something that took place once a week, something for communities, something that became a national event only on FA Cup final day. Football on a Saturday, church on a Sunday. What happened? Looking at it in the cold light of day, I’m really surprised God lost that one.

Football has become mindblowingly vast. Deloitte reported that FC Barcelona generated 1.2% of the entire city of Barcelona’s GDP in the previous season. Barcelona! Sure Messi is a good player and the Qatar sponsorship deal is a lucrative one, but this is a city of 1.6 million people, 7.5 million tourists a year, the economic, cultural and political capital of Spain’s wealthy Catalonia region, the birthplace of Gaudi, an Olympic host city. Mes que un club? Well, erm, yes actually.

Chairman no longer have to simply hire and fire managers, count ticket sales and sign off on transfers. They must balance currency fluctuations, develop sophisticated tax reduction strategies and assess values of image rights in player deals. Managers don’t just handle tactics and morale, there is sports science, psychology and media to consider too. Football journalists no longer just write 300 word match reports for the Green ‘Un. They have to investigate finances, uncover corruption and assess corporate intrigue, all the while transforming themselves into social media brands immune to industry cutbacks with thousands of inquisitive followers who require more attention that editors ever did. Massive corporations outbid each other for the multi-billion pound right to broadcast a few hours of live action per week.

But when you stop and think about it, the foundation of this vast panoply is weird in the extreme. Supporting a team, and all the revenue generating opportunity for the industry it triggers, is supremely irrational.

Iain Macintosh reported delightfully last week on the Carlisle United fans travelling down to Plymouth for a 4-1 defeat and back again. You can admire these people, you can respect their dedication and stamina, but you have to acknowledge a stark truth: they are utterly bonkers.

The other week, I went to see my local team, relegated two seasons in a row, get beaten at home by local rivals. Ticket prices have stayed the same, the football has gotten infinitely worse, but there were over 5,000 people still thinking “we’ll turn it round this year” despite there being zero evidence in favour.

Last Saturday, I chose to spend a glorious weekend afternoon sat inside my living room, constantly refreshing a sh***y stream so I could watch the Spurs match even though it was lagging two minutes behind Soccer Saturday and I knew how the mess unfolded before I saw it. Did I get any pleasure from watching Spurs struggle against Leicester while I struggled to shut down the pop-up gambling ads? Not really. The Deli Alli moment was nice, but my happiness at that was more than outweighed by the anger at the goal that followed. Will I do the same again on the next match that is not televised? Oh yes. Football is a drug, just as addictive but with fewer highs.

Mind you, Spurs are a particularly abusive team to support. A deadly combination of high expectations, almost inevitable disappointment, plus a long-held tradition of general softness and inability to perform when needed. I always love reading little Reddit things by new Spurs fans explaining why they have chosen Spurs. Oh you guys don’t know what you’ve let yourself in for!

Is it rational to be waking up in the middle of the night to check news about Spurs? Is it rational for a grown man to be following academy prospects on Twitter and despairing when you fear they’ll be among the 99% who don’t actually make it? Is it rational to spend hours obsessing over transfer targets, tactics, dressing room cliques, styles of play and selection, things you have precisely zero control over?

Nope, rational it ain’t. Being a football fan is utterly irrational, if you boil it down to its constituent parts. I don’t care if my club considers me a Client Reference Number, and the industry considers me a cow to be milked. I happily submit to it, if that allows me to get on with being a Spurs fan.

If there is one thing that truly annoys me about football, it’s the idea that some fans are somehow “better” than others. Liverpool fans are the worst of course, the belief that they are “purer” than other fans. But at least you can rely on them to take the bait.

But there is discrimination even amongst Spurs fans — “you don’t go to the games, so your view isn’t worth anything.” Just because you don’t attend the games, or choose not to, doesn’t make your opinion invalid. This is a club with a 45,000-long waiting list for season tickets. Sure, if you watch every game you may be able to offer more first-hand insight, but there is no such thing as a better opinion. And let’s not kid ourselves, 99.9% of what is written and spoken about Spurs is opinion.

Personally, I love that fact that Spurs have fans all over the world, and everyday new people in places like the US and Australia are having that awful moment of realization: “Oh god, I’m a Spurs fan”. Not every fan lives in London, not every fan lives in the UK, not every fan can afford a ticket, not every fan is able to make the games. There are just Spurs fans, that is all the counts. There’s no better, there’s just different.

We are now at that silly time of the season when the media and footballing intelligentsia are desperately trying to avoid drawing too many conclusions from too few number of games. Websites run articles like “Top 10 Knee Jerk Reactions”, and then invite kneejerk reactions to the kneejerk reactions.

My kneejerk? So what! It’s an emotional game, we are meant to react — apathy isn’t a normal reaction to football, unless you were a Villa fan under Paul Lambert.

If you want to freak out over the fact the squad had only one striker to start the season, go ahead.

If you want to scream at Daniel Levy for once again failing to provide Mauricio Pochettino with the central midfielder he craves, go ahead.

If you want to defend Erik Lamela, praise Mousa Dembele and dismiss Nacer Chadli, go ahead.

If you want to write off the season, claim that “this will be our year”, hype our young prospects to unimaginable levels, go ahead.

If you think Emmanuel Adebayor still has a role to play, Hugo Lloris should be sold and Christian Eriksen is just a poor man’s Danny Murphy, go ahead.

If you think that 4-2-3-1 is too limiting and we should be back to four-four-f**king-two, go ahead.

If you are “Poch out”, “Levy out”, “Kyle Walker out”, or the whole bloody lot of them out, go ahead.

There’s no right opinion, there’s no wrong opinion, there’s just being a Spurs fan and the emotions this triggers.

It doesn’t matter if you’re not ITK, can’t create a spreadsheet and have never set foot at White Hart Lane. Ignore the snark, the cynicism, the insidious attempts at logic, and have an opinion.*

Us Spurs fans should never forget we still have the right to be foaming-at-the-mouth, hypocritical, kneejerk, over-reactionary, deluded, one-eyed idiots. It’s how we cope.

*(I’d add a caveat though, in light of the extraordinary recent revelations by Martin Cloake, if you could keep your opinions civil and not entirely directed at THST leadership, that would be appreciated…)

Attempting to define success for Spurs in 2015/2016

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A question: What would a successful 2015/2016 season look like for Spurs?

Not such an easy one to answer, when you start thinking about it.

Two years ago, I was convinced Spurs had finally made the breakthrough after spending the proceeds of the Gareth Bale money on what looked like a batch of quality players. Perhaps cautious of the huge disappointment that followed, I tempered my “this will be our year” thoughts somewhat last August. Nevertheless the weakness at Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool made me think the Top Four was still on, especially if some of the Bale brigade improved after their tricky starts.

Instead, we saw conclusive proof that tens of millions of pounds had been wasted on the likes of Roberto Soldado, so much so that Mauricio Pochettino was forced to turn to young players like Harry Kane and Ryan Mason. And, perhaps more by accident than design, things turned around and Spurs fans started feeling happy again.

But was last season a success? It could go either way.

More optimistic sorts will say fifth place was good given the circumstances, a trip to Wembley brightened the season despite the result, and we had two outstanding derby performances at the Lane that will live long in the memory. Furthermore, we unearthed a genuine homegrown superstar, with the promise of more to come.

More pessimistic sorts will say we missed out the Top Four AGAIN, were miles behind Arsenal AGAIN, failed in Europe AGAIN, and had to endure horror shows at the Lane against the likes of Newcastle and Villa AGAIN.

There’s no right answer, and I prevaricate between the two positions as most fans do. After all it is an emotional reaction as much as a logical one. Overall, I’d say it was a fairly successful season: given the total failure of most of the experienced players, fifth was good and I’m hugely excited about the future. But, I have to be honest, I thought we could get Top Four and we were nowhere near. Fairly successful, but not an outright success.

How many other clubs would need to go through this sort of equivocation before deciding whether a season went well or not?

So, what would a successful season look like this time?

Before I sketch out the possibilities, I should qualify things by saying this debate feels inherently Spursy.

How many other clubs would need to go through this sort of equivocation before deciding whether a season went well or not? For Chelsea, Manchester City or Manchester United, it is surely title or failure. For Liverpool, it is Top Four or bust, possibly literally given how much they are spending. For the promoted teams and cellar dwellers like Leicester and Villa, all that matters is survival. For most other clubs, you say Top Half, while bigger (Everton) or better run (Swansea, Southampton, Stoke) may say Europa League is a fair benchmark. But Spurs are in a weird position with revenues miles ahead of the bigger five clubs, but a way ahead of Everton in 7th, and this debate may be an expression of that.

So, some league positions:

Top Four: We can all agree, Top Four would equal success.

Fifth: This is where it gets tricky. By revenues/size of club/however you want to put it, Spurs rank behind Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool. It is just a fact at this stage, and is the reason we’re building a bloody massive new stadium. I’ve argued recently that Spurs shouldn’t consider fifth a failure — the problem is that the Champions League is such a huge financial reward that missing out by just one place feels like failure. Finishing fifth is exceeding were we are “supposed” to be — but it is still somewhat unsatisfying. Can success be unsatisfying?

Sixth: Again, this is where we are “supposed” to be, so it feels harsh to call it a failure. A success though? Probably not. But saying that, does it even matter at all if you finish fifth or sixth? The reward is the same — Europa League rather than Champions League. I’d say, this is where style comes in. If Spurs are right in the chase for the Top Four until the end, and then just miss out and are pipped to fifth by goal difference, surely that is better than doing what we did last year, which was fall out of contention with a long way to go, only to recover slightly and pick up a place as Liverpool crumbled? It would certainly be more exciting — and as a club built on audere est facere and “failing while aiming high”, I’d like to think we could find success in a sixth place finish in the right circumstances. Furthermore, it depends on who we finish above or behind.

Seventh or below: Barring a few outlier scenarios, or an incredibly tight Top Four contest that sees Spurs nudged into seventh by just a point or on goal difference, seventh or lower should mean the season is considered a failure.

What other outcomes could be considered a success?

A trophy: Europa League victory would be a massive success, especially with the Champions League reward. FA Cup would be preferable to League Cup, but at this point, any trophy would be a hugely welcome addition to the trophy cabinet, and I’d happily sacrifice a few league positions. At the very least, we need another cup run.

Finishing above Arsenal: It’s been 20 long years, and it is really hard to envisage how Spurs are going to do this with Arsenal looking so strong in so many positions. But it would be bloody hilarious, especially as it would mean something absolutely bananas has happened over at the Emirates.

Finishing above Liverpool: This isn’t for everyone, but I really loathe Liverpool, and take great pleasure in the fact we’ve more or less had their number in recent years in league position. I just find the club so arrogant and boring, especially with the phalanx of ex Liverpool players on every UK TV channel. Their delusion and desperation is a welcome tonic to any Tottenham toil.

Finishing above Chelsea: If an Arsenal collapse seems unlikely, I’m not quite sure what would have to be going on at Chelsea. But boy would it be sweet.

More superstars: A slightly different vibe, but I just wonder if some Spurs fans would be prepared to swallow a bit more rebuilding if it meant the continuing development of our young stars. I’ve written about how I think Nabil Bentaleb is set to take it to the next level, but in the likes of Dele Alli, Alex Pritchard and Josh Onomah, there is every chance we are going to see some serious talent blossoming this season. It feels like Daniel Levy, after years of being the itchiest trigger in the business, is finally settling down to some long-term thinking in terms of building up a team for the new stadium in a couple of years. So perhaps fans will buy into that too. All I would say is, that perspective will be hard to find after the miserable post-Europa home defeats we all know are coming. And measuring sufficient development is hard, and impossible to call between what is success and what isn’t quite success.

So, what would I consider a successful season?

I just fear that this season, the Top Four are ahead by an absolute chasm. I don’t see how Spurs can possibly catch them unless we pull some rabbits out of the hat in the final weeks of the transfer window. I don’t think this is just my pessimism — the Top Four just look absolutely stacked and there is still time to fill the odd hole in their squads. It also feels like, given the massive new TV deal kicking in and the amount being spent by clubs lower down the league, the gap between Spurs and rest is shrinking.

For the first time in quite a few seasons, I’m genuinely starting the season without thinking: “This will be our year”. Next year? Maybe, but this season could be really tough.

Oddly, I’d take the same this season as we achieved last season: Fifth place, a decent cup run, and a couple more feel-good moments from Harry Kane.

Is that too negative, or should we just be realistic about what constitutes success, meaning we are more likely to actually achieve it?

A reminder: pre-season results don’t matter

COMMERCE CITY, CO - JULY 29: MLS All Star forward David Villa (7) of the New York City FC celebrates his 2-0 goal with teammate MLS All Star midfielder Kaka (22) of Orlando City SC, who assisted on the play, against the Tottenham Hotspur during the first half. The MLS All-Stars played Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday, July 29, 2015. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Lads, it’s Tottenham

I’ve been amused by all summer by newspaper website stories on the Telegraph or Daily Mail with headlines like: “5 things we learned from Man Utd’s 2-0 defeat by PSG”.

I always think: “You managed to learn five things from a pre-season friendly?”

We’re so starved of football after the summer, that we’re itching to get back into full-on fan mode — instant over reaction, glorification or rage, sweeping conclusions, “this will be our year” giving way to “here we go again” either side of a silly Nacer Chadli handball.

We are all guilty of it. I went to a preseason match the other night and instantly wrote off one of the teams I was seeing.

But it is particularly acute for Spurs fans at the moment, as we’ve been denied seeing any pre-season matches so far up until last night’s MLS All-Star jamboree in Denver. I haven’t seen the game yet — my cunning plan of watching a replay before the cricket was ruined when it disappeared off the Sky planner for mysterious reasons — but have been amused by some of the reaction.

My favourite was the Standard breaking out full player ratings. For a pre-season match! “The midfield experiment was a failure” it declared of Eric Dier’s new role. Yup, let’s shut this down Poch, maybe stick Fede Fazio in there next match. Forget all the work he has done in the three weeks preceeding, and the basic logic that it may take him a little while to get up to speed.

Pre-season matches are about shaking off the summer rust, experimenting with new roles and tactics, implementing style of play and building on-field relationships. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose.

On this subject, there has been a lot of chuntering from Spurs fans about the preseason schedule, particularly about the Audi Cup on Tuesday and Wednesday. Ben Pearce wrote a very reasonable article for ESPN FC assessing the situation, and raised the question on whether Pochettino was being undermined.

Personally, I don’t see the problem. First, these are pre-season matches, so Spurs can select who they want and how many minutes they get, particularly on Wednesday. They have control over the situation. Second, if a full-strength team plays vs Real Madrid on Tuesday, they have ample time to recover and prepare for Old Trafford on Saturday. Third, Spurs should be used to playing midweek by now given the years in the Europa League. Fourth, tiredness shouldn’t be a factor: if they weren’t playing Madrid, you can be sure Poch would be running high intensity double sessions or full-match simulations on Tuesday and Wednesday to ensure the team was raring to go.

And this is the final reason is why I think the Audi Cup may be actually be a GOOD idea, and why Poch himself may well have signed off on it. Playing on Tuesday night against top quality opposition, Spurs have an opportunity to maximize their match sharpness before Saturday — they could really come flying out of the blocks.

Man Utd have been on a flabby US tour, ending last night vs PSG, and won’t play again until they meet Spurs. Is that really better preparation?