Martin Cloake, co-chair of THST and author of a number of Spurs books, explains the Trust’s role in Tottenham’s transfer dealings.
THST and the Tottenham transfer policy
It’s all our own fault. Those of us who choose to do rather than just say. You put yourself in front of people and, inevitably, you attract flak. There’s no point complaining. It just comes across as ‘poor me’, or as sanctimoniousness – ‘well, why don’t you get involved then?’ However true the point is about it being easier to say what’s wrong than to try to make things right.
So this isn’t a complaint about people complaining. But one thing always puzzles me. And that’s when the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust gets berated for not signing players.
Supporters Trusts across the country deal with many things affecting fans. That’s our remit, so we deal with stuff around ticket pricing and safety and access and atmosphere – anything that affects the fans. We don’t, as a rule, deal with on-field matters.
Now, you might say that what happens on the field is the most important thing of all. And it certainly affects fans. And you would not be wrong. But you’ve also got to ask what could, or should, we do about what happens on the pitch?
Remember a few years ago when Ebbsfleet United launched a scheme that allowed fans to choose the matchday line-up? Shortly after they did I met up with Steve Perryman, who in his role as Exeter City’s director of football is a big fan of supporter involvement with clubs. He said he thought the idea was barmy, and that if they introduced it at any club he was associated with, he’d walk.
You can see his point. Much as we all like to sit and chew over who we should sign and where and how they should play, the simple fact is that we are amateurs. I can already hear the response that “Some of the players and managers we’d had have been pretty bleedin’ amateur”, but think about it. There are probably as many opinions about who Spurs should sign and how we should play as there are Spurs fans. And that’s one of the reasons we tend not to comment about individual players.
There are probably as many opinions about who Spurs should sign and how we should play as there are Spurs fans.
When fans began to organise, one of the ways in which the powers that be and the football press tried to ridicule the idea was to bring up the prospect of fans trying to pick the team. (That’s the football press’s job, you idiots!) But that was never the idea – and they knew it. What fans involve themselves for is to ensure our clubs are run sustainably and to try to ensure that we remain competitive. And because we’ve got a screw loose, too, almost certainly.
So if there’s an issue over lack of investment or the direction a club board is taking, a Trust will speak out. But what we don’t do, despite the requests that increase as the transfer deadline gets closer, is ‘do something about our lack of striker/defensive midfielder/leader/insert preference here’. Because we can’t.
We simply don’t know what the detail of transfer negotiations are. We don’t know why certain players do or don’t want to come, and we don’t know why certain managers do or don’t like certain players. We’re not involved, and that’s probably a good thing. Much as I love Spurs, the idea of me running the club is not one I warm to. Which probably makes you feel better too.
So I can never understand why people come up to us after a bad game and tell us we’re “useless” because we haven’t signed a player. Maybe it’s just letting off steam at someone who’s accessible – we’re easier to talk to than our club chairman, after all.
And anyway, what exactly are we supposed to do. Rock up at the main gate at West Brom and demand to start negotiating for Berahino?
We work on many different issues, and when we meet the club’s board I think it’s safe to say they are pretty clear that we want Spurs to have good players and to play attractive football. But in the end we can’t go out and do the deals. And nor should we.
We’re not involved, and that’s probably a good thing. Much as I love Spurs, the idea of me running the club is not one I warm to
If you think that means the whole idea of a Trust is useless, there’s probably nothing I can do to convince you otherwise. All I can say is that I think it’s better to try to influence the things we can, and there’s plenty we need to influence.
Of course what happens on the pitch is what it all comes down to in the end. But for that to happen, the professionals who are paid good money to ensure that happens need to be allowed to do their job. If the way the club is run means that’s not happening, we’ll certainly try to do something about it. But we’re not going to be taking a leaf out of Ebbsfleet United’s book.
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