Tag Archives: Premier League

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


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.

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.

Can Spurs win the league? An analysis


We’ve rounded the final corner in this crazy Premier League race, and with just seven games to go, Spurs are handily positioned for the sprint to the line.

Leicester, a 5000-1 shot, are a couple of lengths in front and showing no sign of weakening. But there are still hurdles to be cleared before all but the most publicity-hungry bookmaker starts paying out.

After an impressive 3-0 victory for Spurs against Bournemouth, I have one question in my mind, and one question only: Can we do it?

I’m going to mull over this question in a number of ways — both statistically, but also psychologically. Not there is anything obsessive about this, oh no.


The basic numbers

Here is the top of the table:

Table with 7 to go

There are seven games left, with a total of 21 points on offer for Spurs and Leicester. Arsenal (for it is them) are hanging in there. Spurs (+32) have a far better goal difference than Leicester (+23) and Arsenal (+18), and it would take some bizarre results for that to change in the final seven games.

If we finish level on points, we most likely win.*

The odds are in Leicester’s favour. Sky Bet have them at 8/15, while they have Spurs at 11/4. Arsenal are 6/1, and no-one else is a realistic chance.

It’s not huge money either way — these are odds that say “a two and a half horse race”.

I follow a number of analytics guys on Twitter, because I find it both fascinating and frequently illuminating. Here’s the view of three of them on the title race:

As you can see, the race, from this perspective, would appear Leicester’s to lose. But is it that simple?


The psychology and randomness of the title race

While this sort of statistical analysis is far more accurate at projecting future performance than the Ask Lawro school of “they’ll beat them this weekend, I can feel it”, it doesn’t necessarily quite fit with how I view the run-in.

I don’t know what “Leicester have a 72 percent chance of winning” actually looks like in reality. But if someone tells me, if Leicester win six of their next seven they win, that makes sense.

One of the hoariest old cliches is that “every game is a cup final” at this stage in the season, but there is an element of truth. Every football game, in isolation, turns on a relatively small number of key events — a missed penalty here, a wonder save there.

Leicester have won 11 of their 19 games by a one-goal margin — I’m not saying it’s luck, but I am saying their matches are often close. Spurs have won six out of 17 games by a one-goal margin – more often, when Spurs win, the matches are not all that close.

Over the course of the season, it all stacks up, but in just one game, there is hope. Maybe I’ve just heard the Spurs players say “we’re taking it one game at a time” so often that it has started to seep into my psyche, but I’m genuinely starting to see it like that. Does momentum exist? Are we beyond the point in the season where form means anything? Do players really feel any pressure when they step over that white line, and does it change the way they play? Do Leicester’s results actually have any bearing at all on Tottenham’s performances?

That’s a boat load of variables to chuck into the already seething pot of randomness that every Premier League game presents: the fact that in 2016 we still have linesmen trying to look in two places at once to call offside, the fact that no-one knows what handball is anymore, the fact that underperforming teams like Everton and Chelsea have superstars that can turn a game, the fact that an opposition’s motivation may be affected by upcoming cup competitions, not to mention the fact that, ultimately, football is 22 people running around a pitch for 90 minutes, and really anything can happen.

That’s where the hope lies. And yes, it’s the hope that kills you, but football without hope is Newcastle, or Aston VIlla, and I don’t want to lose it. I believe Spurs can still win: but for that to happen, Leicester are going to have to stop winning.


The path to victory

These are the remaining fixtures.

Leicester fixturesSpurs fixtures remaining

Leicester were often described as having an easy run-in, after a tough mid-season period, but when I look at these fixtures for both teams, I don’t see much in it, frankly.

Like most fans, I have now stopped expecting the sort of dramatic Leicester implosion I’d long assumed was coming. It turns out they are just a good team. They aren’t going to lose all seven of their remaining games.

Likewise, while Spurs are an excellent team that are very hard to beat, it is unlikely we are going to win all seven of our remaining games. For starters, we’ve drawn 10 out of our 31 games. Only West Ham, with 11, have drawn more, among teams in the top half.

So what, bearing this in mind, would a realistic path to victory look like?

I made a chart with all the possible outcomes, comparing the results Spurs would require to win, depending on what Leicester achieved.

Spurs run in

If Leicester win six of their final seven games, or win five and draw two, they have won. At the other end, it is really hard to see Leicester getting anything less than eight points — that would be one heck of an implosion.

But looking at the results, and the fixtures, there is a small “sweet spot” where you could feasibly see Leicester giving up just enough that Spurs could go on and win, with some leeway of their own.

The “sweetest” to me is a scenario where Leicester only manage 10 points. They beat Southampton, Swansea and Sunderland, but drop points, nerves kicking in, on the penultimate match of the season against Everton. West Ham continue their run for the top four with a win at the King Power, while Leicester also lose at Old Trafford and at Stamford Bridge.

Under this scenario, Spurs would “only” need to win four and draw three. So Spurs could draw at Anfield and Stamford Bridge, and play out a mind-numbing 0-0 draw at home against Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United, and still be champions if we won all the other games.

Is this realistic?

Certainly, you feel Spurs need some leeway, not least because of our dreadful records at Anfield and Stamford Bridge. We’ve won just twice in the Premier League era at Anfield, and are yet to score a Premier League win at Chelsea. These places, not the Emirates, the Etihad or Old Trafford, are our bogey grounds. We’ll slay a few ghosts if we manage to win at either, and in any other season, you’d take a point and move on.

But at least that part is in our hands. For the rest, we’ll be relying on the work of others to slow Leicester.


Arsenal and St Totteringham’s Day

Everyone is ruling out Arsenal, and certainly the dip in form for both Leicester and Spurs would have to be considerable for them to sneak the title.

But until it is mathematically impossible, I refuse to rule it out. This isn’t superstition, but rather acknowledgement that Arsenal, in recent seasons, have been phenomenal finishers. After their annual Champions League last 16 exit, they invariably turn on the afterburners in the league.

Last season, they won 10 of their last 14. In 2013/14, they won their last five matches in a row. In 2012/13, they won 10 of their last 12.

Under the scenario I outlined above of Leicester only taking 10 points out of a possible 21, if Spurs failed to get the required 15 points, Arsenal could take the title if they won all their remaining games and improved their goal difference over Leicester. Surely, you would think, they will drop some points at some stage, but their record suggests they come on strong.

On this note, what do Spurs need to do to avoid “St Totteringham’s Day”? To guarantee it, with the GD advantage, we’d need 18 points out of 21. If Arsenal were to slip up just once, it would 14 or 15 points required.**

We should be able to do it, but I want to hear fat ladies warbling before I can celebrate finally finishing above Arsenal for the first time in the Wenger era, and truly enjoy the sight of Arsenal fans in meltdown.


A final note

In his post-match interview, Hugo Lloris provided cause for optimism, but also perspective.

“We understand perfectly the philosophy of our manager,” he purred. “We will be ready (for the run-in), we’ve worked all season to get this possibility.”

It may have been an extension of the “one game at a time” mentality, but his next comments were a reminder of just how far Spurs have travelled.

“The first thing is to get the Champions League,” he said. “This club deserves to make one step forward. And after we never know. We just need to be focused on ourselves, and we know in football anything can happen. We need to be ambitious to the last day.”

I warned recently of the “narratives” surrounding Tottenham’s title bid, particular the ideas that Spurs will never get a better chance, or that if Leicester win, Spurs have somehow failed. I’m continually impressed by just how realistic and calm most Spurs fans are being, even as the tension builds.

Above all, the sense on my timeline is that this has been a remarkable season, and that Spurs have outperformed even the most sunny of pre-season predictions. Impressively, we seem to be enjoying it.

Of course, we are all desperate for Spurs to win. My early football memories coincided with the start of the Premier League era, and we’ve never been in this position in that time. This is new territory for me, as it is most Spurs fans given we’ve not won the league since 1961. I can’t begin to put into words what it would mean to me if we won it.

But I firmly believe we are building something special, and if we don’t win it this season, we’ll challenge for it the next. All the building blocks are there. There’s a difference between being unambitious, and not freaking out when something you never thought would happen doesn’t happen.

I’m with Hugo. Let’s get the Champions League, then let’s finish above Arsenal, and then let’s get Leicester.

So can we win? It’s a possibility, rather than a probability, as it isn’t in our hands. But yes, we can win the league — and that really is quite something.

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

*Updated this part to remove the lunatic maths.

**Updated this part at 13.30pm the bump required points up by one across the board. Maths…

Deep Dive: An analysis of the size of Premier League clubs, and why Spurs and Aston Villa show bigger isn’t always better

Because I am a nerd, and because I am interested in the business of football, I recently found myself reading through Manchester United’s financial statements in search of information. I came across a startling statistic: The club employs 91 people in its media division alone.

While Manchester United have an in-house television station to run, that nevertheless struck me as a large number, particular given that in the previous year the figure was 69. United employ more media types than they do football players (79). In total, the club employs 869 people. This may be low for a global business with annual revenue of £395.2 million*, but it felt on the high side for a football club.

This set me off on a train of thought — how do Spurs, and indeed other Premier League clubs, stack up?

This research (I’m sure I’m not the first to look at this, and it was a deviation from what I had been originally looking for) threw up some interesting findings. The disparity in number of people on the payroll from club to club was high. Manchester United, the biggest employer, had more than six times as many as the smallest employer, Watford.

The “my club is bigger than yours” debate is deeply subjective, and normally becomes very silly, but at least here, in terms of pure headcount,  we can put a solid number on it, much like with revenue or stadium size.

Bigger doesn’t mean better — it just means bigger. But certainly, it felt that in certain instances these very basic numbers told a story.

I was expecting the headcount to closely mirror revenue — with Manchester United at the top, the traditional big five including Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, Spurs in sixth as always, and the promoted clubs down the bottom.

But interestingly, there were a number of clear deviations from this. Sunderland, say, employ nearly 200 more people than Newcastle, while Aston Villa have 100 or so more people on the payroll than Spurs.

Just to warn you, if this sort of football minutiae doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then stop reading right here. But it is interesting to me, and the research raised a number of questions I’d welcome further information on. The backdrop to this all is the TV money pouring in — one can only imagine how this will further transform the way Premier League clubs are structured and operate, for good and for bad.

I’ll go through the clubs in order of size of headcount, with the basic figures and some notes. All information (bar United, which is US-listed) is from the most recent club accounts posted on Companies House, and the standard method of calculation is the average number of people employed on a monthly basis (rather than, say, a headcount chosen on one random date during the accounting year). As you will see, every club breaks down the figures in a different way, with varying degrees of clarity. Revenue is via Swiss Ramble (it is the same as in the accounts, but I added this in late and didn’t want to go through every set again…).


1 Manchester United

Revenue £395.2 million

Capacity: 75.653

Football players — 79

Technical and Coaches — 92

Commercial — 138

Media — 91

Admin and other — 469

Total (or rather, as stated above, the average total) — 869

With its league-leading revenue and stadium, it is no surprise to see Man Utd with the highest headcount. But the margin it quite considerable — it has 188 more people than the closest challenger. MUTV has 100,000 subscribers in the UK, which seems quite impressive if true, and United bought out Sky’s stake in the venture in January 2013 — this may or may not have resulted in more people being added to the United payroll (the figure climbed from 69 in the previous year). But either way, 91 media types and 469 administrative staff: this feels a lot. It was reported recently, albeit in the Express, that the Glazers were seeking efficiencies that could result in as much as a 15 percent reduction in headcount in off-pitch departments. This will no doubt go down like a bucket of hot sick, especially while the absentee owners continue to shamelessly milk money from a club they never even put up the money to buy. But it would be hard to argue against the logic of reducing costs if United miss out on Champions League lucre for the second time in three seasons.

2 Chelsea

Revenue: £314.3 million

Capacity: 41,799

Playing staff, managers and coaches — 92

Admin and commercial — 589

Total — 681

Chelsea are second, and quite comfortably so. Chelsea’s commercial revenue soared the year before last, and is expected to climb again as the club has started to crank up its sponsorship effort. Also, you don’t typically associate efficiency with oligarch plaything, even if Chelsea have recently sought to be run profitably after the initial decade-long Roman Abramovich splurge.

But I found Chelsea’s numbers a head scratcher for a different reason: where is the army of loan players on its balance sheet?

The club lists just 92 playing staff, managers and coaches — far below Man Utd (171), Arsenal (147) and Liverpool (138). We know that Chelsea have more than 80 players registered, per the official Premier League list. Are there really just 12 coaches, at all levels and of all specialisms, at Chelsea? Currently, Chelsea have 34 players out on loan — and while it may be reasonable to expect the loan club to contribute to their wages, you’d surely expect them to remain on Chelsea’s books as Chelsea still hold their registrations. Furthermore, in many cases, Chelsea surely subsidize the arrangements in the name of development. I’m not suggesting anything fishy, I’m just genuinely curious about what has happened to them — are they shifted into the “admin and commercial” group if they go out on long-term loan? I’d welcome any thoughts.

3 Manchester City

Revenue: £351.8 million

Capacity: 55,097

Football staff — 249

Commercial/admin — 338

Total — 587

When looking at City, I first plugged “Manchester City” into Companies House beta search and “Manchester City Limited” came up. The numbers seemed rather modest — a total headcount of 314 (comprising 112 football staff, and 202 commercial and admin staff). I then checked “City Football Group”, and lo, a different set of numbers appeared. I’m guessing the higher number is a more accurate reflection of City’s transformation from popular if underachieving northwest football club to vacuous global sporting mega brand. Manchester City have built a vast new training complex, which must have increased headcount, but as they are technically tenants of the Etihad Stadium, they may not have quite as many ground staff on the books.

4 Liverpool

Revenue: £255.6 million

Capacity: 44,742

Players, managers and coaches — 138

Ground and maintenance staff — 51

Admin, commercial and other — 378

Total — 567

Sneaking into the top four are Liverpool. I found the name “Liverpool Football Club and Athletic Grounds Limited”, trading since 1892, rather endearing. But then I saw “UKSV Holdings Company”, which was much less endearing. Weirdly, these two sets of accounts are just a tiny bit different — there is a disparity of £156,000 in revenue (UKSV was higher), and the average total of employees was slightly different (UKSV had 570). I’d welcome an explanation for this — I’m sure it is straightforward. Probably not the biggest issue for Liverpool fans at the moment, I’ll admit.

5 Arsenal

Revenue: £329.3 million

Capacity: 60,260

Playing staff — 67

Training staff — 80

Admin — 304

Ground staff — 97

Total — 548

Arsenal have a very clear breakdown of their staff. Interesting is the number of ground staff — I imagine this is something that will increase at Spurs once the new stadium is up. Arsenal have traditionally lagged a little in commercial revenue compared to clubs higher on this list — their admin and commercial team is slightly smaller than Manchester City (who don’t have all that much work to do given where their so-called sponsorship money is coming from), and way smaller than Chelsea. There is probably a calculation that could be done, using revenue, stadium capacity and headcount, that would give a sensible number for “efficiency”. I’d imagine Arsenal, and Spurs, would score highly on this. As for Stan Kroenke, I’m just going to leave this here.

6 Aston Villa

Revenue: £116.9 million

Capacity: 42,660

Directors, players, football management and coaches — 173

Commercial, merchandising and operational — 232

Maintenance and admin — 91

Total — 496

When all those new managers say “Aston Villa is a big club” — presumably it is because they have just walked through the club offices and seen the army of personnel at their disposal. What on earth do these 496 people all do? Villa has a weird structure — it is essentially split in three. Showcasing all the imagination that has gotten the club into the position it is, these parts are called “Aston Villa Limited”, “Aston Villa FC Limited” and “Aston Villa Football Club Limited”. It gets a bit confusing, especially trying to account for the directors. With relegation looking a racing certainty, things will surely change at Villa in the near future. There’s no pleasure in this — I’ve been laid off before and it sucks beyond belief — but the revenue drop-off after relegation is brutal and ultimately a business, no matter how deeply tied to the community, has to live within its means.

7 Sunderland

Revenue: £104.4 million

Capacity: 48,707

Admin/Operation — 391

Football — 89

Total — 480

Another club that would appear “bloated”. Is it just a coincidence that two of the most underachieving clubs are so high on this list? Sunderland and Villa have been so similar in how they have flirted with the abyss for several years, that sense of institutional drift afflicting both performances on the pitch, and the feelings of the fans looking on. There is not much that is good about being relegated, as you can be stuck down there an awfully long time. But if Sunderland and Villa are able to regain upward momentum, and bounce back quickly, they could at least emerge from the experience leaner and more efficient clubs.

8 Bournemouth

Revenue (figures before promotion): £10.1 million

Capacity: 11,464

Playing staff and admin — 96

School of excellence — 53

Match day and hospitality — 240*

Total — 389

Bournemouth are way out of position here, as they alone include what predominantly will be part-time match day staff among their total headcount. Excluding these and Bournemouth are near the bottom as you’d expect of a club with the smallest ground in the league, playing in the top flight for the first time. There are 96 playing and admin staff, with a further 53 players and staff in the academy. I’ll keep Bournemouth here as rules are rules, but they should really be lower. While I’m on the subject, there’s no better time to say this: I love what Eddie Howe is doing there, and desperately hope they stay up.

9 Spurs

Revenue: £180.5 million

Capacity: 36,284

Players and football admin — 188

Admin — 125

Retail and distribution – 67

Total — 380

Much like in terms of revenues, and awesomeness, Spurs are in a league of their own when it comes to headcount. Spurs have 100 fewer staff than the club above (excluding Bournemouth), and 70 more than the club below. Daniel Levy runs a tight ship: this is known. But, I would note, this feels a good illustration of this relatively tight management, even if it is less clickbaity than stories of low-ball transfer offers and never-ending contract talks.

While the club has been in a holding pattern from a matchday and commercial revenue standpoint in recent years, awaiting the stadium project to progress, the number of people on the payroll doesn’t appear to have crept up off the pitch to quite such an extent as it may have done elsewhere. In 2006, the club had revenues of  £74.1 million and 222 staff. In 2011, revenues were £163.5 million and there were 315 staff. Where have those 65 extra come from in the past four years? There are 16 more in retail, 20 more in administrative roles, but 29 more on the football side — subjective, but that feels like a decent balance in terms of allocating resources with on-field performance the priority.

I’d add though, Spurs are one of the more complicated clubs in terms of structure. It’s sort of a Russian, or rather Bahamian, Doll, where one thing contains another. So I may have missed a few people.

10 Swansea

Revenue: £103.9 million

Capacity: 20,909

Football — 222

Admin — 17

Commercial — 59

Media — 9

Total — 307

I was surprised to see Swansea so high — I thought they would be lower down as a club that, until five years ago, wasn’t a top-flight operator and has a very small stadium. But they have clearly fattened out — not that they appear to be benefitting this season with relegation a real risk. You just sense a loss of momentum at Swansea in the last 18 months. Once they were whiter-than-white with their attractive footballing philosophy, their climb up from League Two and their fan-ownership model. But now it is like they have been corrupted by the excesses of the Premier League: losing identity through the acquisition of “mercenary” players with little connection to the club, curious decisions over managers, and failure to build on success such as through expanding the stadium or improving the production line of young players. Meanwhile, the “bright young thing” mantle has been taken by Bournemouth. I hope Swansea find a way to turn it around as it is still a great story, even if it has faltered.

11 Newcastle

Revenue: £129.7 million

Capacity: 52,338

Playing squad, Academy, team management and support — 133

Commercial — 54

Administration — 42

Ground, facility and maintenance — 59

Total — 288

12 Norwich City

Revenue (before promotion): £52.2 million

Capacity: 27,010

Directors — 7

Football — 119

Other — 149

Total — 275

13 Everton

Revenue: £125.6 million

Capacity: 39,571

Playing, trading and management — 98

Youth Academy — 38

Marketing and media — 32

Management and admin — 71

Maintenance, Security, Pitch and Ground Safety — 35

Total — 274

14 Stoke City

Revenue: £99.6 million

Capacity: 27,740

Players (incl scholars) — 69

Other — 203

Total — 272

15 Southampton

Revenue: £113.7 million

Capacity: 32,505

Admin — 79

Football — 191

Total — 270

16 West Ham

Revenue: £120.7 million

Capacity: 33,345

Players, team management and training — 93

Commercial and admin — 164

Total — 258

For the positions 11 to 16, there is a very tight spread of just 30 employees, so the order is quite unimportant. A few points:

  • Newcastle’s headcount is low given size of stadium, in particular. This may in large part be a legacy of the club’s previous relegation in 2009, when 150 staff, or a third of the “off-pitch” workforce, were laid off. Newcastle haven’t increased headcount considerably since returning to the top flight. Should it really require 192 more people to run Sunderland than Newcastle? 
  • Everton are also quite lean, with a nice specific breakdown that helps fans see where the money goes. Everton are about to get stripped for parts in the transfer market, and you sense some tough years are ahead unless they can pull some rabbits out of the hat in terms of academy products, transfer bargains or new investment. It sounds like new money may well be coming in, with reports (I may actually have heard it on commentary the other day) that surveyors have been busy around Goodison Park seeing if they can somehow add capacity or more revenue-tastic facilities. I’ve always considered Everton a fellow Premier League “traveller” along with Spurs, and I’ll be sad if they start looking downwards, like Newcastle and Villa have been doing, rather than up.
  • Stoke and Southampton “seem” very similar size clubs, although you can see Southampton outstrip Stoke in revenue and stadium size. Not much else to say — this is the middle of the Premier League mid-table.
  • Presumably West Ham are due for an expansion in headcount with all the Olympic Stadium money rolling in, particularly in commercial departments. As they are just tenants, they won’t have have to worry about ground staff and such like (Manchester City are also tenants at the Etihad). As an occasional UK taxpayer, I think the arrangement stinks — but you can’t deny that West Ham have struck an incredible deal for themselves and are upwardly mobile.
  • Norwich seem a bit flabby here in comparison to the others, given their status as a “yo-yo” club. Presumably new chairman Ed Balls will apply his economic nouss to streamline things — though his record in his political career doesn’t necessarily bode well, depending on your view of things.

17 Leicester City

Revenue (last accounts were before promotion): £31.2 million

Capacity: 32,312

Players — 42

Administration — 146

Total — 188

18 WBA

Revenue: £86.8 million

Capacity: 26,856

First team players and coaching — 40

Scholars — 22

Youth coaching — 21

Admin and Commercial — 49

Ground Staff 17

Total — 159

19 Crystal Palace

Revenue: £102.5 million

Capacity: 25,073

Players, managers and coaches — 88

Admin and commercial — 54

Total — 142

20 Watford

Revenue (before promotion): £18.39 million

Capacity: 21,909

Players — 52

Coaching — 46

Commercial — 24

Admin — 9

Ground staff — 7

Total — 138

A few notes on these bottom four

  • Leicester’s last published accounts are for the season ending in their promotion, so things are going to be very different in the upcoming set, and next year’s. Boy oh boy. They had just 42 players on professional contracts, including professional youth teamers — one imagines this figure will increase greatly. Leicester have hit the jackpot, so it will be fascinating to see how they go about spending it in the coming years. “We spent a lot of money on Brazilian strikers, massive bonuses and agents. We wasted the rest.”  
  • West Brom and Crystal Palace both appear to be quite tightly run. In part, West Brom’s books will be looking shiny as Jeremy Peace tries to sell the club — it’ll be interesting to see who escapes The Hawthorns first, him or Saido Berahino. Meanwhile, Palace are just five years out of administration. Some US money is being pumped into the club, so things may be changing there. I don’t know if Emmanuel Adebayor will count as one person, or if his entourage will be included on the payroll too.
  • Watford….meh.


In conclusion

So, that’s the list. Certainly, from a Spurs perspective, it will be interesting to see how the headcount creeps up as the stadium project proceeds. And it really will — there will be full time staff required with the stadium being a 365 day per year venue for things like conferences and events, let alone NFL matches. Likewise, the club will need to keep expanding its commercial team to try to bring in the deals to help it compete.

But size isn’t everything — I’d hate Spurs to become a flabby, inefficient organisation. As the old saying goes, when you need something done, ask a busy person. Certainly, it will be all hands to the pump through a critical phase of stadium construction and some financial constraints on the playing side. These are incredibly exciting times to be a Spurs fan.

I found this research interesting, and instructive, but I’m cautious not to draw too many conclusions. You just have to look at the Premier League table right now to see that, in terms of the most important performance indicator of them all — the league table — there are many different ways to build a successful club.

Thanks for reading. I welcome any comments or suggestions, particular on the areas outlined above where I would like more information. Please don’t hesitate to comment, send me an email or hit me up on Twitter.


* United earn about £455,000 per employee. Three randomly chosen comparisons: shirt sponsor GM (Chevrolet) earns about £496,000, kit supplier Adidas £187,000, training gear sponsor Deutsche Post (DHL) is £80,000

The Tim Sherwood Diaries: Reflections on Spurs, two years on




December, 2015: The Keys Residence, Doha

It’s a warm winter’s day in Qatar. At the Keys Residence, host Richard has gone inside to spend an hour doing some public relations work on Twitter, leaving Tim alone by the pool to unwind. Our hero’s thoughts, as they so often do, turn to his time at Tottenham…

If I could pick two words to describe my thoughts on Tottenham, it would be “pride” and “anger”.

Pride, at the incredible work that I did there. Anger, that I wasn’t given the chance to bring my vision to fruition.

My successor, Mauricio Pochettino, has been receiving a huge amount of praise lately. I’ve got nothing against Pochy, he was a proper player in his day. And I’m pleased that he is continuing to give so many of the kids I brought through a chance.

But some of the praise has been a bit overboard in my view. You’d think Spurs were top of the league with some of the things people are saying about them. People talk a lot about stats these days, but in my view, there is only one stat that matters: your last result.

Last time I checked, Spurs were fifth in the Premier League. Where were they last season? Fifth. That doesn’t sound like progress to me. When I took over, the club was seventh, and I lifted them to sixth. That is progress.

Pochy is getting praised for make Spurs “hard to beat”. That’s all well and good, but I don’t need an analyst to tell me that there’s three points for a win and only one point for a draw. His win percentage was 50 percent last season, and is only 40 percent this season. Mine was 59 percent. You can’t argue with that.

Like many proud Englishmen, I’ve been very impressed with Dele Alli this season. It was a great bit of business by Spurs, and credit must got to the head scout over there, Paul Mitchell. There’s not many traditional scouts like Mitchy left in the game these days, but he is reaping the rewards for braving the wind and rain at MK Stadium, week-in week-out, while the laptop brigade were inside with their lattes trying to spot the next Spanish wonderkid.

While we were preparing to go on air with BeIN Sport recently, Brendan Rodgers told me about how Liverpool blocked him from signing Dele a couple of years ago, even though Brenders just knew in his gut that this kid could be the next Stevie Gerrard.

I don’t like to brag, so I kept quiet, but I’d known about Dele for a long time. I remember back in my Blackburn days, when we were looking to replace Paul Warhurst in midfield, I identified Dele as a guy to watch. He’d only just been born, but I knew, even then, that he was going to be a proper player.

A lot rests on Harry Kane’s shoulders this season for Spurs. He’s come through the hard way, and I know he will always be grateful for the opportunities I gave him. Spurs have been incredibly lucky with injuries, and Pochy will be hoping his luck holds or he is going to have a real problem up front.

I don’t buy this nonsense that somehow Pochy and his team have made this Spurs team fitter and this means that there are fewer injuries as a result. These are professional footballers — they are all fit. It’s not like the old days when it was a bag of chips and a cigarette before the match and half a dozen pints after. You really think the Spurs players can run further than the Arsenal players? It’s just bad luck that Arsenal have lots of injuries. Some of the criticism coming at Arsene Wenger is bang out of order, in my view.

Spurs can’t go through the whole season with one striker. This talk about how some of the players are versatile is nonsense. I’m a big fan of Nacer Chadli, but you may as well put Kyle Walker in midfield for all the good it would do putting Chadders up top.

Because of this lack of strikers, I was very surprised to see Spurs allow Emmanuel Adebayor to leave on a free. This is a guy who has played for Real Madrid, and has banged in the goals for Arsenal and Man City. Are you telling me Spurs don’t need a player like that?

When I took over at Spurs, Ade was out of favour and out of form. But he is a confidence player. I told him just to go out there and play, and the goals started flowing. Forget systems or tactics, a striker’s only job is to score. And a manager’s job is to manage. If Pochy feels he can’t manage someone like Adebayor, who I admit can be a bit tricky but is world class on his day, then that raises questions about him in my book. It isn’t fair to put so much pressure on a young kid like Harry.

It’s coming up for two years since I was appointed manager of Spurs. A lot has happened since then, but it still feels like yesterday. I sometimes wonder, “would Tim Sherwood tell Tim Sherwood to do things differently?”

Hindsight is 20-20. All I’ll say it this. When I do something, I do it at 110 percent.

Would Tim Sherwood rather still be at Hotspur Way than Richard Keys’ house in Doha? Of course I would. But I’ll be back — I still believe in myself 200 percent. There’s always a need for people who really understand the game.

I need to stop here: someone named “Mike Rigg” is calling.


For more instalments of the Tim Sherwood diaries, and other random musings on Spurs, please follow me on Twitter.

The curious history of the inaugural Premier League shirt sponsors

In the course of researching a piece on Spurs, I found myself looking through a list of Premier League clubs from the inaugural season in 1992/93.

Wikipedia also helpfully listed the shirt sponsors for this seminal vintage of English football. At first glance, it struck me as an interesting list from a historical point of view — a real statement of where we were as a nation and economy more than two decades ago. Likewise, with seven online gambling sponsors and seven sponsors of various types from Asia and the Middle East, the 2015/16 batch probably tells us a lot about where things stand now in England, too.

Just like some of the clubs — Wimbledon and Oldham Athletic, anyone? — the sponsors have suffered divergent fates since their logos adorned the shirts of the new English footballing elite of 1992/93. So where are they now? I decided to take a bit of time and have a look, for no particular reason other than that I can.


From Daily Mail via Google Images

Arsenal — JVC

The Japanese TV and VHS pioneer was one of the longest running shirt sponsors, their red logo emblazoning Gunners shirts for 18 years. In 2008, JVC merged with home appliance maker Kenwood to form JVC Kenwood. The JVC brand remains alive, but has never quite hit the heights (insert Arsenal joke here).

Aston Villa — Mita Copiers

Mita Copiers was a brand of Mita Industrial, a Japanese photocopier manufacturer. Mita Industrial was acquired by Kyocera in 2000, and the Mita brand no longer exists. Kyocera sponsored Reading FC for three years from 2005 to 2008, during which time no doubt photocopier sales soared in the Berkshire area.

Blackburn Rovers — McEwan’s Lager

A once popular Scottish lager whose ups and downs and changes in ownership in some ways mirror Blackburn Rovers. The McEwan’s brand was sold by Scottish and Newcastle to Heineken, and with customer tastes shifting away from cheap lagers, McEwan’s Lager was discontinued in 2003. The McEwan’s brand has subsequently been sold again, to Wells & Youngs, and is on the up again, but talk of a McEwan’s Lager comeback has come to nothing.

Chelsea — Commodore International

A computer pioneer whose Commodore and Amiga machines were the starting point for many gamers. Commodore was overtaken and left in the dust by Microsoft, Apple and others. It filed for bankruptcy in 1994.

Coventry City — Peugeot

A French auto maker that is part of PSA Peugeot Citroën. The Peugeot 205 was one of the biggest sellers in Europe the late 1980s and early 1990s. Peugeot had a major factory at Ryton, outside Coventry, where it produced the 309, 405, 306 and 205 types. The factory was shut down in 2007. Top Gear did a piece on Peugeot, and, um, it wasn’t great.

Crystal Palace — Tulip Computers

A Dutch computer company that manufactured the Tulip PC. The Tulip PC was simply a copy of the IBM PC, and unsurprisingly IBM sued. The case, per Wikipedia, was settled in 1989. Tulip acquired the Commodore brand name in 1997, sold it, and then tried to by it back on the cheap a year later. Tulip changed its named to Nedfield, but went bust a year later.

Everton — NEC

An information technology and electronics manufacturer, part of Japan’s Sumitomo conglomerate. Employs more than 100,000 people worldwide.

Ipswich Town — Fisons

A pharmaceutical, scientific instruments and horticultural chemicals company headquartered in Ipswich. It was acquired by Rhone-Poulenc in 1995. Rhone-Poulenc merged with Hoechst in 1999 to form Aventis. Aventis mergerd with Sanofi-Synthélabo in 2004, and became Sanofi in 2011. The freehold of the former Fisons headquarters site, closed in 1995 and empty since, has recently been sold to a developer.

Leeds United — Admiral

A British sportswear brand that, despite ups and downs as new entrants such as Umbro and Adidas added competition, continued to supply English and overseas teams through the 1990s. Moved into cricket in the 2000s, supplying the England team. Nowadays supplies the West Indies cricket team, and some football teams including AFC Wimbledon. Very much second division in sportswear terms — much like Leeds.

Liverpool — Carslberg

A Danish brewer that has, per its own statistics, a 14.2% share of the UK beer market. Employs more than 40,000 people worldwide.

Manchester City — Brother

A Japanese electrical equipment manufacturer, most notably of printers. Sponsored Manchester City for 10 years until 1999. Employs more than 30,000 people worldwide.

Manchester United — Sharp

A Japanese consumer electronics manufacturer. Sponsor of Manchester United from 1983 to 2000 and whose logo will always be associated by Red Devils fans with the rise of United under Sir Alex Ferguson and the treble winning team of 1998/99. Revenues of $28 billion in 2014.

Middlesbrough —  Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI)

Formerly Britain’s largest chemical manufacturer, it was acquired by Dutch multinational AkzoNobel in 2008. Parts of ICI were then sold off to Germany’s Henkel corporation, and the ICI brand ceased to exist. ICI had two key manufacturing sites in the Middlesbrough area — at Billington and Wilton — and former parts of ICI continue to operate at these sites.

Norwich City — Norwich and Peterborough

A building society founded in 1860. It was merged with Yorkshire Building Society in 2011 and ceased independent trading. N&P at the time of the merger was the ninth largest building society in the UK, but became undone with its decision to sell Keydata Investment Services products. Keydata collapsed leaving investors out of pocket to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds, and its founder was fined a record £75m by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Nottingham Forest — Shipstones (home)

A brand of beer brewed by James Shipstone & Sons in Nottingham. Production at the brewery ended in 1991, but the brand was continued for several more years. The Shipstones brand was brought by a beer enthusiast in 2013, and is making a comeback in the Nottingham area. Labbats, Canada’s largest brewer and part of the Anheuser-Busch InBev empire, sponsored the away shirt.

Oldham Athletic — JD Sports

A sports retailer founded in Bury. Per its corporate website, has 800 stores “across a number of retail fascias” — or to put it in English, owns a number of high street brands in addition to JD Sports, such as Size? and Blacks.

Queens Park Rangers — Classic FM

A national radio station for classical music founded by GWR and launched in 1992. Now part of Global Radio and still going strong — but hasn’t sponsored any more football teams. QPR was brought by music executive Chris Wright in 1995 — his Chrysalis Radio group would eventually be sold and become Global Radio. I’m not sure it really connects, but it’s all a bit circuitous, perhaps as one would expect for a club nicknamed The Hoops.

Sheffield United — Laver

Arnold Laver is a timber company. While manufacturing has moved out to Mosborough, Arnold Laver’s headquarters remains on Brammall Lane next to Sheffield United’s stadium. Arnold Laver were the main sponsor of Sheffield United from 1985 to 1995, and Arnold Laver himself was a director for 30 years. The South Stand at Brammall Lane used to be the Laver Stand.

Sheffield Wednesday — Sanderson

A Sheffield-based software company that provides solutions to retail and manufacturing businesses. Its founder, Paul Thompson, became a director and largest shareholder of West Brom before selling his stake. He also became involved at Southampton, which also took the Sanderson sponsorship. Sanderson was followed as Sheffield Wednesday’s shirt sponsor by Chupa Chups.

Southampton — Draper Tools

A family-run tools business based in Chandler’s Ford, Hampshire (which is also where the headquarters of DIY giant B&Q is located). Draper Tools sponsored Southampton from 1984 to 1993, taking over from the now defunct Air Florida. Draper Tools is going strong under its third generation of Draper ownership.

Tottenham Hotspur — Holsten

A brewer originally from Hamburg in Germany. Its most famous brand is its pale lager, Holsten Pilsener. Holsten was acquired by Carlsberg in 2004. Holsten sponsored Spurs from 1983 to 1995, and again from 1999 until 2002. Still going, but never really hit the big-time — insert Spurs joke here (for the sake of balance at least).

Wimbledon — No sponsor

It wouldn’t be long before there was no club, or possibly two, depending on your view of these things. For readers of cached versions of this blog in 2045, MK Dons was where the great Dele Alli started out before being bought by Spurs for a bargain £5 million in 2014.


So, an interesting list. Much like today, there were a fair number of Asian sponsors, but mostly Japanese in reflection of the strength of corporate Japan at the time. Out of the 20 sponsors, eight no longer exist (or like, Shipstones, are fundamentally different businesses). In 23 years time, let’s see how many of the online gambling companies and forex/accounting software providers on the current Premier League shirts are still going strong.

For what it’s worth, of the original Premier League teams, 11 are no longer in the Premier League. A further four (Palace, Manchester City, Norwich and Southampton) have experienced relegation. So quite a high attrition rate, and puts the longevity of Arsenal, Aston Villa, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Spurs into context.

Thanks for reading. Please follow me on Twitter for more random musings on Spurs.

Random thoughts as the new season dawns

kane celebrate

I spent yesterday in cricket heaven (Pomicide!) and computer hell (Windows anything), so no time for any blogging. But I had a few thoughts flicker into my head in between Aussie wickets, transfer rumour tweets and smashing my sodding computer to bits.

When even Poch thinks Top 4 is unrealistic, we should accept that it’s not going to happen.

When even Poch thinks Top 4 is unrealistic, Levy should accept that it’s not going to happen.

When Baldini is ushered out, as Spurs are no longer looking to buy established players and are focusing on youth instead, we should accept that big-money signings aren’t going to happen.

Why is Windows 8.1 continuing to torture me, even now Windows 10 is available? I’m back to Windows 8.0, have lost access to Office and can no longer even type properly without the cursor jumping to random spots on the page.

When am I just going to buy a Chromebook?

Would Spurs be better off selling Hugo? It feels almost cruel forcing a keeper in his prime to stay in a team that is clearly rebuilding. He must be miserable. Why not sell him, use the money on a good keeper prospect (Timo Horn?) and then pick up one or two potential future difference-makers (Werner, N’Jie) with the remaining cash? Vorm is an OK transitional keeper, or someone solid like Brad Guzan may be available?

Is Charlie Austin a smart signing for Spurs, or is this just the very peak of transfer window desperation? I’m just saying, when was the last time Spurs had a reliable striker off the bench? Jermain Defoe before he was knackered? It’s been a while, so long we’ve almost forgotten.

Where is Bobby Soldado?

We are stuck with Adebayor. This guy no longer wants to play football, and would prefer to pick up his £100,000 a week this season without having to play or train.

I like the fact that NO-ONE is talking about Spurs in a serious way. When was the last time Spurs were so unfancied, and entered the season with so little pressure?

I can’t wait to see some of these youngsters in action, especially Deli Alli and Alex Pritchard.

I worry that Toby Alderweireld may block Eric Dier’s development. I think Dier could be a star, but needs to be playing Premier League football, not Europa League, and in central defence, not midfield or fullback. That said, when do we start thinking that Dier is a better option than Jan?

We aren’t going to beat Manchester United.

I love football, and am so glad the season is back, but as I get older, I just love cricket more and more. I reserve the right to reverse that opinion after Spurs’ 8-15 moment this season.

I can’t watch the match live on Saturday, and won’t be able to see Spurs again on British TV until August 29. The matches against Stoke and Leicester will likely combine for no more than 10 minutes of highlights on Match of the Day. How can this still be the case in 2015?