Was this one of the best seasons in the history of our club? Shawn Durkin thinks so and the next 5 years could get even better.
We live in strange times. A porn star shagging game show host is the President. An entire country thinks that pulling out is the best form of population control – and then seems surprised when all they end up with is a huge, sticky mess. No less strange is the fact that one of the best teams of footballers to ever pull on lilywhite Spurs shirts have had one of the best seasons in the history of our club, without so much as playing in a cup final and finishing 23 points off the top of the league.
I know claiming this as one of the best seasons in our history is contentious. We’ve won the double of course, FA Cups, League Cups, the UEFA Cup and Cup Winners Cup. How can this season possibly compare when, as supporters of other clubs are quick to point out, we haven’t won a trophy?
The answer is that football is not what it used to be. Money has changed everything, including the standards by which achievements should be measured. Clubs like Steaua Bucharest and Red Star Belgrade were once among Europe’s elite but now supply fringe players to clubs in the Championship. What makes the season just past so successful from a Tottenham Hotspur standpoint is the fact that we finished ahead of three clubs – Chelsea, Liverpool and the Arse – with wage bills double our own. Not a bit more. Not substantially more. Double. Imagine what that would mean in your life. Everything would be better wouldn’t it – your car, your house, your missus. Now imagine double in Daniel Levy’s hands and imagine where we’d be.
We finished ahead of three clubs – Chelsea, Liverpool and the Arse – with wage bills double our own
We secured our place in the treasure trough that is the Champions League for the third year running, playing all our games away from home while our new billion pound stadium was being built. We showed we belonged on the top tier of European football, that we have crossed the great and growing divide to the point people now speak of the ‘big six’ in the Premier League rather than the ‘big four’ who were running away with everything just a few years ago. The fact we have done so without the assistance of oil sheikhs or oligarchs is no small matter.
So what now? Where to from here? A few key signings over the summer and push for the league next year? Bet the house on the treble? Well, in a word, no. I hate to be a bucket of cold water for those of you thinking we are on an inevitable path to the top and trophies and bus top parades but, in a word, splash.
Don’t get me wrong, next year will be brilliant. The new stadium, Harry wanting his golden boot back, Champions League nights. We might win the League Cup or FA Cup. Hell we might win the Champions League. All of these are knockout competitions where a bit of luck can go a long way (and okay, yes we’d get a parade but my point is you shouldn’t be holding your breath, we’re still a long shot).
But win the league? Forget it.
Not only is City just too good, the competition is just too fierce. All of the other big six teams will spend more money than we do this summer. At least two of them will have new managers with points to prove. If there were a Messi or Ronaldo-level player on the market who might help us close the gap we wouldn’t be able to afford him. It will be a massive achievement if we manage to maintain a top four spot.
So is that it then? Is this as good as it gets? Are we looking at a gentle descent down the league as our stars age until we settle back into the mid-table mediocrity any Spurs fan over 25 would regard as normal? Are we destined to regale our children with tales of when we’d valiantly fight for third or fourth place while City and United spent the next quarter century toying with the Premier League like it’s a PlayStation FIFA game set on amateur?
Jonathan Wilson from the Guardian has put forward the theory that this Spurs team is not good enough to win the league, but the players in the squad right now could provide the revenue for us to win the league in five years. If you stop and think about that for a moment – and I know you are – you will feel the excitement of truth in those words. The league. Five years. What would you give?
The players in the squad right now could provide the revenue for us to win the league in five years
Would you support us selling off our best players to buy talented but relatively unproven youngsters? Would you tolerate seeing us slide down the league and out of Europe while these new players gain first team playing experience? Would you bid a fond farewell to our manager as he takes over at Real Madrid or PSG, leaving our rebuilding project in the hands of an ambitious and energetic but unproven successor? Would you endure the taunts, IRL and online, of other clubs’ supporters? Would you have faith? Would you trust Daniel Levy?
Because you should, you really should.
Our esteemed Chairman, while being widely respected around the league, has received nowhere near the credit he deserves for what Tottenham Hotspur Football Club have become and the direction we are moving in. He has spent the last 17 years building us up to where we are today, maintaining fiscal responsibility while planning and building a new stadium and assembling one of the most exciting squads in world football. I for one am certain he has not done everything he has done in this time without an endgame in mind, one we are likely to see play out over the next few seasons.
The evidence of his skill is there for all to see. In 2005 he brought in half of a first team (Huddlestone, Lennon, Davids, Jenas, Murphy, Assou-Ekotto and Berbatov) with a net spend of 20 million. Two years later he made up that 20 million in the profit he made selling Berbatov. In 2012 he got double what he’d paid for Modric from Real Madrid, then turned around and in four days bought Dembele, Lloris and Clint Demspey – with four million left over. The next year he made somewhere over a 1000 per cent profit in selling Gareth Bale and while five of the seven players brought in with the funds didn’t work out (putting things politely) the current market value of the other two – Eriksen and Lamela – means the upward profit momentum will be maintained.
I know, I know, it’s not about profit (except, well, it is, ask a Sunderland fan) it’s about building a team, entertaining fans and winning games. Nobody can say this has not happened at Tottenham. The genius of Levy is that at other clubs fiscal responsibility is used as an excuse, something which limits ambition. Levy simply finds another way.
Of course in every success there is some element of good fortune and we have had our share. No-one looked at 18 year-old Harry Kane and predicted he would soon be one of the world’s best strikers. We would be nowhere if not for his goals and overall centre forward play. Even more fortuitous was the fact that nobody else seemed to want Christian Eriksen. Where Kane came out of nowhere Eriksen was at 21 already a star with three Eredivisie titles, 40 caps, 30 games in Europe, 25 goals and 41 assists in 113 games for Ajax to his name. It seems bizarre in a world where 100 million plus fees were paid out last summer for less proven (but seriously exciting) talents in Mbappe and Dembele that we bought him for 11 million just five years ago.
The idea of bringing together a young group of players who will naturally improve year on year individually and as a team is obvious and logical. The demands of modern football however, especially towards the top end of the Premier League, means the patience required to allow this to happen is often hard to come by. This impatience is exactly where our opportunity, the chance to win the league in five years, comes from. In their race to the top the biggest clubs have filled their teams with big names on big contracts, locking down first team places for years to come. They have also filled their academies with the best young players they could find, many of whom are now making the choice to leave for first team chances.
It’s about building a team, entertaining fans and winning games. Nobody can say this has not happened at Tottenham
This backlog means that when young players emerge at other clubs the prospect of joining a big club is not all that appealing. Sitting on the bench or playing in the reserves is not what is needed at this point in the career of a truly elite player and can do much more harm than good. If you’re an 18 year-old playing in the first team at, hmm, let’s say Ajax or Fulham, Spurs offer a significantly better option for first team opportunities over the next five years than any other top club. After those five years you will then be 23, still closer to the start of your career than the end, still with plenty of time to play for a “superclub” and, best for club and player alike, at peak value on the transfer market.
So what does the Spurs league winning squad of 2023/24 look like? Sanchez is already a star and should by then be one of the best defenders in the world. Winks has shown he belongs on the biggest stage. Walker-Peters started two games this season and won man of the match in both. Foyth has displayed some sublime skills – albeit against mostly lesser opposition. Adding de Ligt to this group would be a great move. Adding de Ligt and Sessegnon would be amazing. Adding de Ligt, Sessegnon and Pulisic would be unbelievable.
Our current team, minus a few notable exceptions, will go into the first season in our new stadium on a high, packed with established stars and led by a great manager. We will make a run in the cup competitions, enjoy moments of glory and push again for a Champions League place. Then what? Which current players will stay and push for that title in five years and which will be sold to fund the push? Just as crucially who will manage the team going forward?
First of all we have to resign ourselves to losing Pochettino. (Editor: this article was written before he signed his new deal!). He is simply too highly valued in Madrid and Paris for us to think we can afford to keep him during a rebuilding period. We can only hope that as a last gesture of respect he leaves the Premier League as it would be gutting to see him on the sidelines of a rival. Our 2024 push will be presided over by a young, innovative and ambitious manager and next summer is the perfect time for him to start. My picks at this point are Wagner or Nagelsmann.
Looking at our team there are some obvious candidates to cash in on. Eriksen deserves a move and should get a chance to step up to the next level. Son has significant value as the best Asian player in world football. Lamela deserves a fresh start. At the same time there are players who could go either way, who could move on at great profit or commit to and be an important part of the five-year plan. Of these Alli is young enough but may not be willing to take what may be seen as a backward step in order to succeed at Tottenham. Dier has what it takes to Captain the club, anchor the midfield and lead us to glory. Then, of course, there’s Harry Kane.
Our current team, minus a few notable exceptions, will go into the first season in our new stadium on a high
The temptation to leave the club are obvious as he will have massive offers to go elsewhere, but there is one incentive he has to stay at Spurs which he can’t get anywhere else, the chance to make history. In the wildest of my dreams Kane is true to his word and stays on as a one club player, fully buying into the project to bring a league title to Tottenham. In 2024 he wins his fifth consecutive Golden Boot and lifts the league trophy in front of a delirious White Hart Lane, after scoring a hat trick in the North London derby.
Winning titles and cups at Real Madrid, United or City is nothing new, it is what is expected. Hundreds of players have done so. Winning a title with Tottenham Hotspur would make history – maybe not Leicester type fluke out of nowhere history but history nonetheless. Harry Kane could be a big part of that history and still at 29 have time for the huge transfer that will set up his children’s children’s children’s children for life. Only he knows if there’s any chance he will stay. The alternative of course, a 200 million transfer fee, is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick but having someone like Kane, a Spurs supporter who bleeds blue leading us to glory would be the sweetest icing on the finest of cakes.
What makes being a Tottenham supporter so much fun at the moment is the knowledge that this could be just the beginning our time in the elite. We have an opportunity to win titles and cement our place as one of the world’s best clubs, and to show it can be done through skill and talent rather than just spending more than everyone else. The next phase in this plan, which involves doubling down and playing the long game, will be the hardest for everyone associated with the club, from fans to players and management.
Audere est Facere my friends, To Dare is To Do. Come on you Spurs!