Tottenham Hotspur are considered a big club. They sack managers for being 7th in the league. They sacked a manger who finished 4th in the league. There’s an expectation. A need for quality and a desire to be entertained. The manager believes his club are a bigger club than Chelsea. It’s never really commented upon. People I know accept Spurs are a big club. Not the biggest, but a big club with grand ambitions.
They are currently building a 61,000 seat stadium. It won’t be cheap. They are making plans to welcome the NFL, maybe even play host to a London based team in years to come. Planning for the future and daring to dream, or ‘to dare is to do’, as their moto proudly exclaims. They’ve had players like Dimitar Berbatov, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale light up The Lane in recent years. All three of them sold on to ‘bigger clubs’. Some of the money wasted, some of it shrewdly invested. Wasting money seems to be a crime. What would you have done with the Cabaye money from Jan 2013. ‘Wasted’ it on an inferior player or kept it hidden, signing Jack Colback on a free. I like Jack Colback and he’s a victim of playing these horrific 4 2 3 1 formation essentially rendering his creative talents useless, but he’s no Yohan Cabaye. Back to Tottenham Hotspur and Tottenham Hotspur being a ‘big club’. Are they bigger than Newcastle United? Well they aren’t perrenial relegation strugglers. They’ve played in each year of the Premier League. They’ve won more trophies and reached more finals in my life time. They’re in Europe more regularly. They’ve played in the Champions League more recently. They’re a bigger club.
Why though? London base? North/South divide? Does it matter? Should Newcastle United be able to compete with Spurs? Is it possible at all? Well it was. In fact, it wasn’t even close. For Newcastle United’s first 12 seasons in the Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur finished above Newcastle United just once, in the 1998/1999 season when United were managed by Ruud Guillit. It wasn’t until Graeme Souness came along that Spurs finished above United for two consecutive seasons. Bobby Robson’s sides never finished below Tottenham Hotspur, nor did Kevin Keegan’s during his full seasons in charge. It’s not like we can blame Champions League success for Spurs. The club have tasted the Champions League football just once, in the 2010-11 season. So the extra income from that one season cannot be enough to provide a reason for Tottenham’s 10 successive superior league finishes between the two clubs.
Spurs have spent a net total of £153 million in the last 10 seasons, a modest net spend and only so low due to huge cash generating player sales. The type which drive fans crazy. But even so they’ve comfortably outspent NUFC. With no Champions League cash to propel them ahead of us, what is it that makes them outperform us? Is it a huge fan base paying through the nose for every game? Tickets for Catgeory C games at Tottenham range from £32 – £44. At NUFC it’s £25 -£41. Category A games range from £46 – £71. NUFC range from £38 – £62.
Hardly catastrophic price differences for Newcastle United. The extra 17,000 average gate for the smaller club in the North East would surely negate such small difference in cost per match ticket. Across 4 Europa League home games last season Spurs had an average home attendance of 27,000. Our average in 12/13 was 35,000. Simply 8,000 more people wanted to watch United play in Europe. Maybe it was the novelty factor for us, and Spurs fans are bored of it all. But then again Spurs are decent, and have always been a top ten side since the turn of the decade. Bar one season in 11/12 – United have been shit. Maybe it was the prices, but Spurs Monaco on Thursday night was £25 adults and £5 kids – similar to United’s price model for the 12/13 Europa League campaign.
So how an earth of Tottenham Hotspur a big club, and Newcastle United aren’t? Why did Deli Ali choose them over us? Imagine the two arguments put forward by Daniel Levy and Lee Charnley. Actually scrap that, imagine just meeting Daniel Levy and our bloke. Who outside of Newcastle has heard of Lee Charnley? Why sign for Newcastle United? Fancy a relegation scrap? You’ll be sold in two years if you’re any good. Why sign for Spurs? Chasing Europe, glory, cup finals and a new stadium with double the fans coming in. And if you’re any good we’ll still sell you. Not really a choice is it. The simple fact is Spurs want it more. ‘It’ being football success. Can you imagine Charnley sacking a bloke for finishing fifth and being seventh in the league in October, 6 points off fourth. The last bloke that managed that for us was given an 8 year deal, not sacked. It’s ambition. True they replaced him with the hapless Sherwood (who finished 6th), but there are parallels with our decision to appoint Carver. Spurs were waiting for one of the Premier League’s most exciting and sought after managers, not a bloke sacked by Derby for finishing 7th. They’re miles ahead of NUFC in terms of the demands of their staff, their players and their directors. Daniel Levy is unpopular for the ‘lack of investment’ in the squad beyond what has been recouped in player sales – while building a new stadium. I’m not saying Spurs fans are wrong, at all, they have every right to expect every penny from player sales be poured back into the playing staff, and then some. I’d swap him for Charnley though.
So this weekend United travel to Spurs hoping not to get a hiding. Last weekend was good. So good. So unexpected. For so many reasons. The Corner and the Gallowgate in full voice. By the end the Leazes and parts of the Milburn too. We get it twice a season if we’re lucky. Sissoko was excellent. You all hate him but he was the difference. Paul Dummet was heroic in the second half and Colocini showed glimpses of why we fell in love with him all those years ago. So much could have gone wrong, but almost everything went right and for that I’m grateful. Grateful to the players for proving there is a team in there somewhere. Grateful to McClaren for proving that we can defend and he can motivate this team. Being grateful doesn’t alleviate the overall feeling that this bunch of loser players and the has been (if he ever ‘was’) manager aren’t fit to call themselves the employees and servants of Newcastle United. So there’s a long way to go.
The big one is Vile at home, next Saturday night. I hate them so much. It’s a must win. Vile have Arsenal at home this weekend so beating them will put 10 points between us (assuming we both lose this weekend). So this weekend is a “bonus”. Anything we get from the game is massive plus and a respectable defeat doesn’t really change McClaren’s job prospects much – as a win over Vile is all important. I don’t think a club like Newcastle United should be viewing a game at Tottenham Hotspur as a “bonus” for the reasons I’ve outlined above, but you know.
So what McClaren needs to do is get another performance out of the side. Another pasting will not go down well and will prove that all the stars aligned for the Liverpool victory (how were they so bad???). Spurs have lost just one game this season. They didn’t deserve to lose that against Manchester United and since then they’re unbeaten, which is impressive. They’ve drawn more games than anyone else in the league conceding just 12 goals. United have conceded 30 in our 14 games…and kept 3 clean sheets. Ominous. Their team, at times, has been a delight to watch. They were the better side at Arsenal. They battered Man City 4 1 and murdered Bournemouth 5 1 away from home. Spurs have a settled side. The back 5 and Harry Kane up front picks itself with around 8 first team players occupying the other 5 positions. In Loris, Alderweireld, Dier, Erikson and Kane – it’s as solid a spine as there is in the Premier League. Compare it to Elliot, Colo, Anita, De Jong and Cisse. I know who I’d back.
So McClaren has the impossible job of beating Klopp’s rampant Liverpool, and he succeeded. Setting us up like the away team, getting to 60 and going from there. Not that difficult. This will be much harder. Sit back and we invite pressure from a team used to scoring goals against far better team than ourselves. The last time a team ‘dug in’ at White Hart Lane, West Ham, Spurs pummelled them 4 1. Not nice. I think McClaren will obviously have to concede possession and aim to keep it tight, sit deep at times, but there needs to be an attacking threat. Cisse put himself a bout v Liverpool and played well.
More of the same is needed and we’ll have to keep the ball better than we did against Liverpool. Make Spurs get anxious, chase the game and panic. We might have the slightest chance of nicking it 2 1. There’s only so long Dummet can go on pretending to be a left back (despite being imperious second half v Liverpool) and Rob Elliot can go untested. He conceded 8 in two games v Palace and Leicester and was untested v Liverpool. They have better players everywhere, it has to count.
Realistically all I want is to see commitment effort and endeavour. If we run as much as Spurs and replicate it the following week, we’ll beat Villa, and that’s what matters.
Prediction: Spurs 3-0.
ALEX HURST – Follow Alex on @tfalex1892