Tottenham are without South Korea forward Son Heung-min, who is doubtful for the World Cup after fracturing his eye socket against Marseille.
Dejan Kulusevski and Lucas Moura will be assessed, while Cristian Romero and Richarlison remain unavailable.
Liverpool are missing James Milner, who is observing concussion protocol after being forced off against Napoli.
Midfielder Jordan Henderson missed that game with a minor issue but is back in contention.
Tottenham’s 4-1 win against Liverpool at Wembley on 22 October 2017 is their only victory in the past 21 meetings in all competitions.
Liverpool have won five of their last nine league away fixtures versus Spurs, losing just once.
Games between these sides have produced 10 Premier League own goals, more than any other fixture.
Tottenham have failed to score in the first half of any of their last six matches in all competitions, and have trailed after 45 minutes in each of their previous four games.
Spurs have won 10 points from losing positions this term, more than any other top-flight side prior to the latest round of fixtures.
Four of the six managerial meetings between Antonio Conte and Jurgen Klopp in the Premier League have ended in draws, with one victory apiece.
Harry Kane has scored six league goals versus Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool – a figure matched only by Jamie Vardy, who has eight goals against the Reds since the German has been manager.
Hugo Lloris is one short of becoming the third Frenchman to play 350 Premier League matches, emulating Sylvain Distin and Nicolas Anelka.
Liverpool have dropped 20 points in 12 league matches this season (W4, D4, L4), two shy of their final total last season.
The Reds have recorded more victories in this season’s Champions League – five – than they have in the Premier League.
The Merseysiders have yet to win a top-flight away match this season and are in danger of losing three consecutive away league fixtures for the first time since a run of four from February to April 2012.
Roberto Firmino has scored in five of his last six league starts versus Tottenham.
Nottingham Forest welcome Jack Colback to their squad for the first time since the opening day of the season following illness.
Moussa Niakhate and Omar Richards are long-term absentees but boss Steve Cooper has no fresh concerns.
Tottenham remain without Cristian Romero and Oliver Skipp, both of whom will return to training next week.
Antonio Conte will make a late decision on Lucas Moura and Bryan Gil after the pair missed training on Friday.
Nottingham Forest have won six of the last 10 league meetings but lost both fixtures in 1998-99, their most recent top-flight campaign.
Tottenham have won four of their last five meetings in all competitions.
Spurs are one short of 50 league wins over Forest.
Nottingham Forest have only conceded seven goals in their last 16 league games at the City Ground, keeping 10 clean sheets.
They are vying to win their opening two home league games in a top-flight season for the first time since 1984.
Steve Cooper’s side have allowed their opponents to take 61 shots this season, at least 14 more than any other top-flight side.
Dean Henderson has made 18 saves in the Premier League this season, more than any other goalkeeper prior to the latest round of fixtures.
A goal for Brennan Johnson, 21, would see him become the youngest player to score in back-to-back Premier League appearances for Forest, breaking the record set by Roy Keane in 1992.
Taiwo Awoniyi can become the second player to score in both of Forest’s opening two home matches of a Premier League season, emulating Stan Collymore in 1994-95.
Tottenham last avoided defeat in their opening four league matches in 2016-17, going on to finish second that season
They have attempted a league-high 69% of their shots in the second half of matches this season (27 of 39).
Spurs kept a clean sheet in all six meetings versus promoted opposition last season, only dropping points in a 0-0 draw at play-off winners Brentford.
Antonio Conte has lost just one of his 17 Premier League games against newly-promoted sides, going down 3-0 at Newcastle in his final league game with Chelsea in May 2018. He’s won four of his five such games with Spurs without conceding a single goal.
Harry Kane is just two goals behind Andrew Cole in third place in the overall Premier League top scorers list.
Nottingham Forest will be the 32nd different Premier League opponent Kane has faced. He has scored against 30 of the previous 31, failing to net only against Brentford.
Tottenham’s Cristian Romero, who played every minute of the first two games of the season, is ruled out with a muscle injury sustained against Chelsea.
Summer signing Clement Lenglet is fit again, while Oliver Skipp has resumed training following a pre-season injury.
Wolves could give a debut to record signing Matheus Nunes following his move from Sporting Lisbon.
Joao Moutinho returned to training this week and might make his first appearance of the season.
Tottenham have lost four of the past seven home league meetings, as many as they had in the first 38.
Wolves have won three away games at Tottenham, more than anywhere else since returning to the top flight. Four of their five Premier League victories against Spurs have come in London.
The home team has won only one of the past 11 league fixtures; both meetings last season were won by the visiting side.
Tottenham have lost just one of their past 13 league matches, scoring 33 goals and conceding eight.
They have earned four consecutive league wins at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, equalling their best home run since leaving White Hart Lane.
Spurs could become the fifth team to score 1,000 goals at home in the Premier League, emulating Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea.
Antonio Conte’s side has conceded first in both Premier League games this season to beat Southampton and draw with Chelsea. The last time they conceded first but avoided defeat in three consecutive Premier League games was in October 2010,
Son Heung-min has an unrivalled 15 Premier League goals in 2022 but has failed to score in seven meetings against Wolves.
Wolves are winless in nine Premier League games, their longest streak without a top-flight victory since a run of 17 between February 2012 and August 2018.
They had just one shot on target in their goalless draw with Fulham last week.
Bruno Lage’s side have won just 29% of their Premier League fixtures without Raul Jimenez in the starting line-up (12 of 41), compared to 41% when he does start (46 of 113). The Mexican has scored in all three of Wolves’ wins against Tottenham since 2018.
Wolves can lose their opening two away fixtures of a Premier League season for only the second time. They did so in their 2003-04 debut campaign: 5-1 at Blackburn Rovers and 1-0 at Manchester United.
Most exciting signing? Player with a point to prove? Chant that needs to be sung?
Before the start of the new season, The Athletic answers the important and not-so-important questions surrounding Tottenham Hotspur.
There’s plenty of optimism, despite Saturday’s friendly against Roma.
What would be a good season?
Top three and a trophy. The former would mark progress from last season and ensure a Champions League spot. The latter would end what will be a 15-year wait for silverware. A run in the Champions League would be nice, too.
What would be a bad season
Finishing outside the top four. Not qualifying for the Champions League would be a massive blow and would make keeping hold of Antonio Conte that much harder.
What could be the manager’s undoing?
His restlessness. Everything’s going swimmingly right now, but it wouldn’t take much for Conte to combust and start criticising the club. At which point everyone will panic that he’s about to leave immediately or at the end of the season.
Player who will most impress
Cristian Romero had an excellent first season, but he missed large chunks of it through injury and the odd quarantining trip to Croatia. I expect him to go up another few notches this season and emerge as the club’s third superstar alongside Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.
Most exciting signing?
Yves Bissouma was someone who, whenever I watched at Brighton, I wondered why one of the Premier League’s biggest teams hadn’t signed him up. Not least when he ran the game in Brighton’s 1-0 win at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in April. And now here he is, with the potential to sprinkle stardust on a hitherto functional midfield.
Player with most to prove?
Discounting players like Giovani Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele who have plenty to prove but won’t be here, I’ll go for Ryan Sessegnon. He improved a lot in the second half of last season, but he needs to show he can stay fit for a whole campaign and add the edge to his game to go from solid to more spectacular.
Song they should sing that they don’t?
To the tune of Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain and assuming he one day gets in the team: “Alfie Devine, I bet you think this song is about you. Alfie Devine! Alfie Devine!”
How affected will they be by World Cup absentees?
Spurs will have several players at the World Cup and this could be an issue. Especially as a few of them — Kane, Romero and Ivan Perisic, for instance — may end up going quite far in the competition. It feels absurd to think that Kane could captain England to World Cup glory on December 18, then eight days later be expected to turn out for Spurs at Brentford.
Should be in the England squad but isn’t?
Eric Dier. How he isn’t after the season he’s just had remains a mystery. Dier was outstanding last season and Spurs kept 16 clean sheets in his 35 league games. While in South Korea last month, Dier told reporters that getting back in the England squad is “a clear objective of mine. I would never shy away from that”.
The best XI?
Conte is, of course, trying to move away from this idea — it’ll very much be a squad game this season — but since you ask: Lloris – Romero, Dier, Davies – Spence, Bissouma, Bentancur, Perisic – Kulusevski, Kane, Son.
It’s that time of the year again. Dust off yer boots and get ready for the next exciting instalment of the Nutty Spurs (Gooner Free Zone) Fantasy Football League for the 2022/2023 season. There’s only 24 hours to go before the season starts so get your teams in
As usual all you have to do to join is click the link below and you’ll be automatically added after you’ve selected your initial squad and entered the game.
Technically and tactically bursting with potential, Spence required the right type of manager to unlock him. Steve Cooper’s background in developing England’s best young footballers (coach of the England Under-17 side that won the 2017 World Cup and were runners-up in the Euros) meant he knew how to help the 21-year-old flourish.
And flourish he did. Spence played more than 3,400 minutes as Cooper’s side won the play-offs. The Fulham academy graduate operated as a right wing-back in Forest’s 3-5-2, so adapting to Conte’s system shouldn’t require a style overhaul, and last season 42 per cent of Forest’s attacks were channelled to his right flank. Jack Colback as a slightly square peg in the round left wing-back hole may have contributed to this, but given Spence’s attacking quality, maximising his attacking opportunities makes sense.
What does a Tottenham wing-back need?
Highly physical, demanding large volumes of running and high-intensity actions
Stamina and ability to play for 90 minutes, despite fatiguing nature of role
Capable of operating as a winger when attacking (high and wide positioning, running at defenders, overlaps/underlaps, delivering crosses)
Defending like an orthodox full-back (duelling one-versus-one in wide areas, positioning in a set defence and defending in own half)
Neither run at defenders particularly well, and don’t get in behind. Through percentile ranking (1 being the lowest, 50 the median and 100 the highest, with the number indicative of the proportion of positional counterparts that a player outperforms in that metric), we can see that both Doherty and Royal are low-volume dribblers and pretty average crossers, particularly when compared to the left-side options.
Tottenham’s wing-back percentile ranks
DA – Dribbles attempted DS – Dribble success % SC – Succ crosses (open play) into box TC – Total crosses attempted XA – Expected assists
Conte turned Tottenham into the best crossing team in the league last season, and he needs his wing-backs to supply.
So what do Spurs need?
They are lacking a player who can do the three sides of the game Conte demands — the physicality and attacking and defensive elements. Spence ticks some boxes in all categories and of course is a player still developing at 21.
Comparing Doherty and Spence in terms of pizza charts, we see the former retains possession well and passes neatly (ball retention ability and link-up play volume), but isn’t particularly direct (progressive passing and carry & dribble volume), and across the board defensively is lacking.
Notably, Spence’s outstanding areas appear to be in Doherty’s weak points, and the same vice-versa. Spence stands out for his ball-carrying (carry & dribble volume), but also the ability to regain the ball when defending (ball recoveries & interceptions). His attacking output, however, is limited.
To get an insight of his playing style, in Forest’s cup run last season (where they played Arsenal, Leicester, Huddersfield and Liverpool), Spence played 3.7 passes for every dribble he attempted. FBref data, via StatsBomb, has that ratio for Doherty as almost 6.0, and 5.3 for Emerson. Spence ticks the directness box.
At home to Leicester, Spence receives a pass back after taking a throw-in.
Initially positioned out on the touchline, he spots the space inside and drives towards goal…
… playing a one-two with No 10 Philip Zinckernagel, who slides him in behind the defence…
… and Spence slots past the goalkeeper.
Of course, he has scored, so this is being hypercritical — but after the touch to control the set pass, all of Spence’s touches are with his dominant right foot; this is a smaller detail, but when coming inside, it opens up way more passing and shooting angles if players can use either foot.
His style is often effective, but looks inefficient and slightly awkward on occasion, and it’ll be a lot harder to play this way regularly in the Premier League. But he’s 21, there’s ample time to develop, and Spence has all the necessary fundamentals. Analysis from The Athletic in November 2021 found that Premier League full-backs (over the past 10 seasons) peaked at 25, with fewer than 4 per cent aged 21 or younger.
Statistically, in that cup run, he was one of Forest’s best players, and one of just three players to play every minute.
Djed Spence’s 21/22 FA Cup Stats
DJED SPENCE’S TOTAL
Pass accuracy %
Of those 24 dribbles, arguably his best came against Arsenal. Forest play short from the goal kick and Arsenal press, so Joe Worrall plays wide to Spence, positioned deeper on the touchline. He receives on his back (right) foot, with Gabriel Martinelli pressing him.
Spence speeds past Martinelli on the outside, and then ever-so-neatly megs Martin Odegaard, skipping past him…
… and Martinelli then cynically hacks him down.
But he must work on picking his moments for when to duel. Younger wide players attempt more dribbles than older ones, which can lead to mazy runs, like the one above, so Spence’s game is likely to evolve as he matures. There were examples of the possible dangers when it goes wrong.
Take the goal conceded against Liverpool, which knocked Forest out of the FA Cup. Spence reads the pass, and jumps to intercept…
… then looks to drive forward and start a counter (white arrow). He misses the option to play into Sam Surridge early with a forward pass (red arrow)…
… and gets dispossessed by Luis Diaz, with Liverpool playing out wide early…
… Spence then has to recover quickly and uses his speed to get back and press Kostas Tsimikas…
… but he’s going too quickly, and hasn’t slowed — another example of how he struggles to dictate players one-versus-one. Tsimikas bluffs him with a cross and cuts inside, which takes Spence out the game…
… Tsimikas then has acres of space to deliver a cross to the back post…
… where Diogo Jota pokes home. Tough lessons to learn for Spence, who has a lot of good ideas, but needs to improve his decision-making and execution.
Consulting his take-on map, it looks exactly how you’d expect: an abundance down the touchline of the attacking half, but the success rate of 39 per cent shows while he is high-volume, he is not always high-output.
When teams half-press Spence, that is when he can be destructive. In the Championship against Barnsley (defending in a mid-block), Cook works the ball out to Spence, who again has dropped deeper.
The defender shows him inside, which seems appropriate given Spence’s strength going down the outside, but doesn’t get particularly close to Forest’s No 2. He willingly drifts inside and speeds between the Barnsley left midfielder and left central midfielder.
Midfield line broken, Spence attacks the left-back, zooming round the outside, then cutting back into the box at the byline…
On his second (of three) cap for England Under-21s, Spence can be seen dictating play, pointing out the switch pass to the winger. Albania are defending incredibly compactly in a 5-4-1, which gives almost no space for central ball progression, so Spence must be a solution down the side.
As Tommy Doyle switches play, Spence overlaps the winger, timing the run perfectly so that he can cross with just one touch and without breaking stride — given the top speed he can reach, Spence has to make conscious efforts to prepare himself to cross, and is improving at balancing himself prior to delivery.
In behind their left wing-back, Spence whips a cross low, across the face of the six-yard box. Folarin Balogun’s run is slightly too late, and he can’t connect enough to score.
His chance-creation map shows remarkable consistency; lots of low crosses and pull-backs from the right-hand side of the area, targeting the penalty spot. Tottenham only ranked joint-tenth last season for successful, open-play crosses into the box (77), so having a different profile crosser, especially one that can create their own angles with runs beyond the ball and dribbles, is valuable.
Spence’s immense direct speed was a key tool for Forest last season — they had the joint-most direct attacks (ones that start in their own half, with more than 50 per cent of movement being forwards, ending with a shot/touch in opposition box) in the league (97); Cooper’s side were very prepared to sit in their 5-3-2 out-of-possession shape, defending either the midfield or defensive third, before winning the ball and springing forward. That is very similar to Conte’s Tottenham.
Spence showed his capabilities on the counter away at Birmingham, making a darting forward run to exploit the out-of-position left-back, and can be seen pointing for the pass…
Zinckernagel spots him (another link-up with the attacking midfielder), and threads it through to Spence…
… who controls, and then fires into the top-right corner.
Tottenham are more expansive than Forest, though, and require wing-backs to be progressive and break lines. Spence has shown glimpses of this, but doesn’t regularly progress the ball through passes, likely due to a combination of his super-strengths in ball-carrying and direct running, as well as Forest’s attacking patterns, which involved playing from the back three into the front two.
Three glimpses that stand out: first, against Barnsley again, curling a neat pass around the opposition wing-back against a well-set defence, which gets Lewis Grabban into a crossing position down the right channel.
Against West Brom, Forest recover possession from an opposition throw-in and James Garner plays wide to Spence, who opens out with his first touch…
… and breaks the midfield line by punching a pass into the feet of Surridge.
You’re picturing it now, aren’t you? Spence into Kane, who feeds him the return pass on the overlap, with Spence then crossing for Son to score. The Spurs attacking arsenal seems to suit Spence’s style.
It ought to be said that Spence’s first touch and decision-making have room to develop; when under close pressure and receiving out on the touchline, he often struggles to play forward and often checks inside with his first touch. He tends to scan little before receiving, so can miss the opportunity to play forward early, and can resort to trying to dribble out of trouble, which isn’t the most sustainable method.
The third and final glimpse, at Bournemouth. Again, Forest recover the ball from a Bournemouth possession and Spence drives into space in the midfield…
Surridge is positioned on the blindside of the defence, and Spence splits the defence with a diagonal pass between the two central defenders, finding the Forest forward who is making a straight run in behind.
His neatest out-of-possession moment in a defensive line came against Liverpool. Forest are compact, but can’t quite regain the ball in their own third, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain picks up the loose ball on the edge of the area, with no pressure…
You’ll notice that Spence is already on the move here, and his positioning is clever because it allows him to see Diogo Jota (closest attacker to him, starting to run) and the ball, plus he has the acceleration to recover.
As Oxlade-Chamberlain dinks it in behind, Spence recovers, getting his body between Jota and the ball, giving the goalkeeper an easy pickup. It looks straightforward but it’s incredibly smart.
A lot more of his defending will have to be in wide areas, though, and this is another area where he can rely on his pace at times, which is largely fine but certainly imperfect. In this zoom-in against Bournemouth, you can see his defensive body shape. Spence gets close, which is good, and bends the knees to lower his centre of gravity, making it easier to shift and be reactive. But he’s square to the ball and his feet aren’t staggered, which makes it tricky to move quickly, and players can easily get half a yard on him…
… which happens here, but Spence recovers with his speed to block the cross.
Again, this probably seems like a small detail, but given the added quality, speed and technical ability of Premier League wingers, it seems more dangerous to have to stop the cross rather than be able to prevent it in the first place. Using his body shape to dictate play is the next level for Spence.
Against Leicester, he shows Harvey Barnes inside, which is sensible, but again he is quite square to the ball.
Where he does go wrong here is with Ryan Yates. Evidently there is a breakdown in communication, as the midfielder has tracked Luke Thomas’ underlapping run, with Spence having pressed Barnes.
But he doesn’t then drop and recover shape (note the neatly organised back four at the top of the picture, missing their right wing-back), giving Maddison room to play between Spence and Yates…
Thomas then receives it, and Barnes goes beyond — Forest were repeatedly stretched vertically by Leicester’s overlaps and underlaps, particularly early on, and Spence definitely needs to improve on passing players on and tracking runners. Thomas then slides a diagonal pass beyond Spence, into Barnes, who has Worrall dragged wide, and the sequence ends with a clumsy foul from Spence.
In terms of solving the Spurs right-wing-back situation, Spence fits Conte’s criteria and boasts an impressive play style. But translatability, as it always is, will be a key factor here. His high-risk, high-reward style will have to compromise with some of the structure that Conte wants, but he seems a worthwhile investment, and finally looks to be proving himself at the upper end of Warnock’s assessment.
Don’t forget that this is a player to have already topped a ton of Championship appearances, and acted as a standout player for a side who were the best in the Championship following Cooper’s appointment, plus the shape similarities and style synergies aren’t to be overlooked. Forest aren’t Spurs, but the technical actions, tactical requirements and positioning of Spence aren’t far removed from that of a Tottenham wing-back.
And what he guarantees is balance. Doherty and Royal are, as wing-backs go, pretty much extremes in terms of play style and tendencies, and Spence is probably a hybrid of the two.
It’s that time of the year again. Dust off yer boots and get ready for the next exciting instalment of the Nutty Spurs (Gooner Free Zone) Fantasy Football League for the 2022/2023 season. There’s only three weeks to go before the season starts.
As usual all you have to do to join is click the link below and you’ll be automatically added after you’ve selected your initial squad and entered the game.
For football managers, their time at a club is often framed by what happens after they leave.
Did the team’s struggles continue and reveal that perhaps the now-replaced manager wasn’t the problem? Did their improvement expose the manager’s limitations? Was their subsequent collapse indicative of a legacy that wasn’t sustainable?
With that in mind, how do we look back at Jose Mourinho’s time at Tottenham Hotspur a year on from his sacking?
On the face of it, Spurs’ general good form and revitalisation under current coach Antonio Conte suggest that the allegations of stagnation and aggravation were well-founded.
But only a couple of months ago, after Conte’s meltdown following a 1-0 defeat at strugglers Burnley (which came four days after a 3-2 victory at champions and leaders Manchester City), it appeared he was suffering in a similar way to Mourinho, and that many of the Portuguese’s reservations and complaints about the current Spurs operation were being proven correct; the lack of winning mentality, too few leaders in the squad, the suggestion that the players seemed to either complain that training was too hard or too soft.
Conte though appears to have overcome some of his frustrations in a way Mourinho never quite could — save for that brief spell towards the end of 2020 that included wins over City and Arsenal and a point away to Chelsea — and, in so doing, has reinforced the notion that his predecessor was part of the problem rather than a victim of circumstance.
Though it’s possible the reality is somewhere in between.
Mourinho’s reign ended badly but he’d argue there were mitigating circumstances (Photo: Alex Pantling/Getty Images)
A year on then, how can we measure Mourinho’s legacy and assess, with a bit of distance, his time at Tottenham?
The answer lies in a combination of the anecdotal, less quantifiable areas such as contentment behind the scenes, and the more empirical — what the data shows about Spurs’ results and style of play then compared to now.
Starting with the former, the mood has certainly improved substantially from those dark days last April when, in that grim, locked-down world, morale at the club reached what felt like an all-time low.
With the latter, it’s interesting to discover that, stylistically, Tottenham aren’t all that different now from under Mourinho; they are just a lot better at that kind of football. Perceptions around the style of play were a major reason why supporters turned against Mourinho, and surely contributed to chairman Daniel Levy speaking a month after sacking him about Spurs “losing sight of what’s truly in our DNA” and of finding a replacement who would play “free-flowing, attacking and entertaining” football.
But herein lies one of the important things about Mourinho, and especially his time at Spurs. It’s not necessarily that his tactics are outdated, more that his methods when it comes to elements like fitness and man-management are considered to be out of step with the modern game. The players’ fitness levels certainly have been transformed under Conte.
Beginning with the stylistic and results-based elements, we can see some big changes and improvements from Tottenham in recent months compared to when Mourinho was in charge.
The graphic below shows their expected goal difference over time (so, accounting for the quality of chances created and conceded).
There were some good patches under Mourinho but it was generally pretty up and down. This was also the case in the brief Ryan Mason and Nuno Espirito Santo periods at the end of last season and the beginning of the current one.
But since Conte’s appointment in November, there has been a notably higher xG difference, which shows that they are consistently outperforming their opponents with chances at both ends. Overall performances at both ends under the Italian have hit levels higher than the whole of the Mourinho era — driven by a potent attack.
Our next graphic supports this:
It’s also interesting to note Mourinho’s Spurs dropped 27 Premier League points from winning positions in his 58 matches. That’s down to just five in 32 matches this season with Nuno and Conte and supports the accusation that his version of Tottenham were often guilty of sitting back on leads, surrendering the initiative and paying the price. Appropriately enough, Mourinho’s final five league matches saw 10 points dropped from winning positions. During that run, Spurs also exited the Europa League to Dinamo Zagreb, throwing away a 2-0 lead from the first leg at home.
Relatively speaking though, Mourinho’s points per game (1.6) at Spurs is not bad. It puts his Tottenham team level with Chelsea and Leicester in fourth position across those 58 matches in charge. Conte’s 1.9, incidentally, is the joint-third best in the Premier League since he took over.
Stylistically, there are several different metrics we can use to get a sense of how Spurs differed then compared to now.
Their passes per defensive action (PPDA), which is used as a proxy for pressing intensity, has decreased under Conte. This doesn’t necessarily mean Tottenham are running less as a side now, they’re just making fewer defensive actions per pass made by the opposition.
Where Spurs are more intense under Conte, compared to Mourinho, is in the way they spring forward when they attack.
Their direct attacks (possessions that start in a team’s own half and result in a shot or touch inside the opposition’s penalty area within 15 seconds) leapt up when Conte was first appointed, and although it has come down since (see graphic below) it’s still higher than it was for the majority of the Mourinho era.
Both managers set the team up to be able to break quickly in transitions, but they are doing so with more efficiency under Conte, given how much more often these moves are ending in a shot/touch in the box.
That efficiency is also shown in their percentage of possessions that end in a shot — 10 per cent under Mourinho and currently 13 per cent under Conte, which is a very healthy return. For context, the average for last season and this for Premier League teams in this metric is 11 per cent.
The theme of Tottenham not changing a huge amount stylistically from Mourinho to Conte is borne out by the next chart, though it’s interesting to see that, as the eye-test suggests, they were playing more long balls under the former.
By way of explanation of the above, field tilt is a good proxy of territorial dominance for a team — it looks at the share of passes only in each of the respective attacking thirds. The fact both are below 50 per cent suggests Spurs allow their opponents more touches in their own third, and when they do attack it’s often with efficiency rather than camping out in the other team’s half and pinning them back.
“Direct speed” shows how quickly a team typically advance the ball towards goal (in metres per second — m/s), with a higher number indicating a team who are more willing to get the ball forward quickly. The average Premier League direct speed in the past three seasons has been about 1.4 m/s, so Spurs are just below average in that regard, demonstrating that they generally haven’t been going front to back that quickly, whoever has been in the technical area.
But as the direct attack numbers showed, so far under Conte, they are more likely to get the ball into an area to shoot or get into the box when they move forward. This, coupled with the lower pressing intensity (as shown by the PPDA numbers) suggests Tottenham have more cohesion to get into shape rather than going gung-ho, before springing forward when the opportunity arises.
Looking at the types of passes Spurs are playing now, compared to under Mourinho, our next graphic shows the passing groups of a team that are most distinctive to them, compared to the rest of the Premier League.
As the above shows, the lateral passes between the half-space and the wing on the right are a Tottenham signature this season. In 2020-21 under Mourinho, the vast majority of their most distinctive pass types were either in their own half or, if they were in opposition territory, backwards.
To help our understanding of how a team attack, we can also look at possession value, which is very similar to expected threat. It calculates the average probability that a team with the ball in a certain part of the pitch will go on to score.
Looking at graphics for this season and last, we can see that Spurs are now playing more high-value passes from the wings and the half-spaces, not just trying to go through the middle.
As well as the comparative results and style of play, a big area that merits discussion is the present mood at the club.
This is surely where there has been the biggest shift in the past year. It’s been a rocky road to get here, but the picture now is far more harmonious than it was at the end of the Mourinho era, even with the disappointment of losing at home to Brighton on Saturday.
Last April, tensions were running very high, with Mourinho feeling frustrated by a number of his players and vice versa. Earlier this month Matt Doherty, whose confidence took a major hit under the Portuguese, recalled not even making the squad for the mid-March game at Aston Villa and, because of COVID-19 regulations, having to wait on the team bus rather than enter the changing room before the game. “There were kids, and that’s no disrespect to kids, on the bench,” he said. “(Mourinho) was trying to prove a point to everybody, not just for me but for the players who weren’t there either. But it was not fun.”
But it wasn’t just the tensions between Mourinho and the likes of Dele Alli, Gareth Bale and Tanguy Ndombele that clouded the mood at this time.
Part of the frustration that players and staff had were over his training methods, which they felt left the team underprepared and not fit enough.
As had been the case at previous club Manchester United, Mourinho was not big on using GPS monitors in training and his low-intensity sessions left the players feeling undercooked for matches. Some of them were genuinely worried about losing their sharpness, and there were those at the club who were dismayed that they had gone from one of the fittest teams in the league under Mourinho’s predecessor Mauricio Pochettino to one of the least fit in less than 18 months. One of the biggest transformations under Conte from a year ago is restoring Spurs’ players — take Harry Kane, for example — to their physical peaks and making them once again one of the fittest sides in the Premier League.
This is true also of how Conte has reintroduced detailed patterns of play. One of their frequent complaints this time a year ago was that this was largely absent from Mourinho’s training, leaving some of the players deeply disillusioned (a sentiment they stand by).
A common misconception about Mourinho is that he is overly strict. The reality is that he is regarded by his detractors as being too laissez-faire — believing that he shouldn’t have to spoon-feed the players, that they are elite professionals who shouldn’t need constant instructions about how to keep themselves fit and how to manage every possible in-game situation.
This may seem out of step with the micro-management of modern coaching, but it’s worth remembering many have sympathised with Mourinho’s view that the players at Tottenham seemed to either think training was too intense (under Pochettino) or not intense enough (under him and Nuno). Though the fact that the players are now responding well to and enjoying Conte’s high-energy, extremely demanding training sessions suggests there is a correct balance to be struck.
Mourinho’s view that the squad lacked leaders was also shared by some of the players, including Kane — who remained loyal to him until the end and was very vocal in his support during that famous interview with Gary Neville the month after his sacking. “Jose obviously expected us to be men and act like men on the pitch, have leaders on the pitch,” Kane said.
Spurs were briefly top of the table under Mourinho (Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
“To be honest, that’s probably where it didn’t quite work out with Jose — we didn’t quite have enough leadership that we needed at the time.
“I had a great relationship with him. We got on from minute one. I think we understood each other, we had a similar mentality and how we saw stuff on the pitch, off the pitch and mentality in training so we kind of built that relationship.”
One theory that has emerged in the year since Mourinho’s departure is that part of his struggles was down to his choice of backroom staff. Goalkeeping coach Nuno Santos and fitness coach Carlos Lalin were never especially well regarded at the club, while, as The Athletic reported at the time, Mourinho’s assistant Joao Sacramento was generally unpopular with the squad.
Another view of Sacramento is that while he was a great analyst, and understands football and how to run a good training drill, he couldn’t put all that into practice at Spurs because he struggled to connect with the players on a personal level. This was despite him being close to them in age, only in his early 30s, and therefore thought to have more chance of developing a rapport with the squad. This could be something he develops as he gains more experience, and it may have been a question of chemistry with that group of players. Sacramento joined Roma with Mourinho last summer but left the Italian club in January.
It was also felt that whereas Pochettino’s assistant Jesus Perez had been adept at balancing out the manager and being warm and receptive if the boss was in a bad mood and vice versa, Sacramento wanted to stamp his authority and tried to mirror how Mourinho was feeling. This created a situation whereby Spurs could have not one but two angry coaches to deal with on a given day.
The situation wasn’t helped when Mourinho’s tactical analyst Ricardo Formosinho left at the end of the 2019-20 season. Ledley King, a hero and fan favourite from his playing days with the club, came in and was popular with the players, but there were times when Mourinho and his staff would be talking in Portuguese and he’d be a little isolated. Mourinho himself could be volatile and divisive but many of his colleagues appreciated his good humour and personable man-management.
In general, there was thought to be a lack of experience within Mourinho’s staff, and perhaps he would have benefitted from a Rui Faria-type figure.
At Spurs now, there is a real appreciation among the players for Conte’s staff, most of whom are stacked with experience and have been working with the head coach for some time. Gian Piero Ventrone, the demanding fitness coach known as The Marine, has been around long enough that he worked with Conte the player for the all-conquering Juventus team of the mid-1990s. The squad are enjoying working with such established figures, and in general they have responded well to the passion and drive of Conte and his assistants.
But again, it would be unfair to suggest it’s been a simple case of, with Mourinho’s departure, everything has gone from darkness to sweetness and light.
Indeed, part of the improvement in the last year or so has come about because of changes he had demanded.
Mourinho always felt that the mentality of the players simply wasn’t strong enough to make his time at Spurs a success, and this is something Conte has spoken about too. When the latter seemed to be having a blow-up every week at the start of the year and said in February that “The players have to be angry, the same way that I am angry”, it could easily have been Mourinho speaking.
Likewise, Conte’s response at the same press conference to a question asking if he had been mis-sold the job: “Maybe in my heart, mind and head, I thought to find a situation… not better but more ready to fight and to win. And instead, now I found a situation where we have to work.”
Mourinho also wanted to move on several players who have since departed. He didn’t think Moussa Sissoko, Serge Aurier, Dele and Ndombele were conducive to developing the kind of mentality he wanted, and to be fair, neither did his successors. It’s worth making the point as well that Ndombele’s best period at the club came under Mourinho, when he actually seemed to respond well to the head coach’s tough love — even if many at Tottenham felt Mourinho’s ‘confrontational leadership’ didn’t really work with the current generation of players.
Bale was another player he didn’t feel he could pick regularly based on his performances in training. It’s a view that has been shared by Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid this season now the Welshman is back from his loan in north London; even if the vast majority of Spurs supporters feel Mourinho wasted Bale, who could point to how strongly he finished last season under Mason as evidence that he was under-used.
Bale also ties in to the wider issue of the summer transfer window (the only one of Mourinho’s Spurs tenure) in 2020, when he felt the priority should have been signing an established centre-back, that he was well-stocked in the forward area and didn’t especially need the former Spurs star. Tottenham have since overhauled their recruitment department and their biggest and most successful signing last summer has proved to be Cristian Romero — the kind of rugged defender Mourinho was desperate for.
There are, of course, parallels here with Mourinho’s view of events from his two and a half seasons at Manchester United. The failure to sign him a centre-back in his final summer at Old Trafford has been a frustration for him ever since his sacking in December 2018, while for his view of Bale, we can more or less substitute the name Paul Pogba.
For Mourinho’s detractors, these recurring issues can be held up as evidence of the fact that, given the same situations keep repeating themselves at different clubs, surely he is the problem rather than those he has issues with?
The alternative view is that many think he was right about several issues at United, and so his opinions about what went wrong at Spurs shouldn’t be totally dismissed.
One suggestion that has been made is that the players buckled last season at the first sign of trouble — the agonising 2-1 loss away to Liverpool in mid-December that saw them lose top spot and precipitated a run of four defeats in their next eight league matches which caused them to plummet down the table until, two months to the day after going to Anfield as league leaders, they were eighth.
Though again, usually, the responsibility for this sort of fragility stops with the man in charge. Mourinho wanted to move on players such as Dele Alli (Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Ultimately, we return to the initial hypothesis: that a manager’s tenure is partly defined by what happens after he leaves.
Were we discussing this during the brief Nuno interregnum over the first three months of this season or up until things started to click for Conte last month, our framing of Mourinho’s 17 months at Spurs might be very different. There might be more sympathy for his explanation as to why things fell apart.
By the same token, our view of Mourinho at Tottenham could drastically change depending on what happens in the next year or so. At Tottenham, but also at Roma or wherever Mourinho ends up.
As it stands, his first season in Rome has been pockmarked with some of the same issues as his time in north London and Manchester. Temper tantrums, rows, some catastrophic defeats — alongside some good results and, at the moment, a respectable fifth place in Serie A.
Mourinho remains very popular at Roma, and in Italy more generally, having steered Inter Milan to the title in 2009 and the treble a year later. Roma are also into the semi-finals of the new Europa Conference League, meaning he could continue his run of, with one exception, winning a trophy at every club he’s worked for since leaving Uniao de Leiria in his homeland for Porto 20 years ago.
That only exception, of course, are Tottenham — evidence to the Mourinhoistas that they, rather than he, were the problem, especially since he was eventually sacked less than a week before their first domestic final in six years.
Mourinho’s appointment clearly failed, but it did make some sense at the time. Spurs were in a very different place from where they had been when they appointed Pochettino five years earlier, and an equivalent figure — someone such as Eddie Howe — would not have been well received by the club’s fanbase or have had the necessary clout for how much bigger the club and the job had become.
Another theory is that Levy was enticed by appointing such a big name who had previously turned down the job and appeared out of Tottenham’s league. To be fair, the idea that Mourinho’s famed winning mentality would drive a team who had come so close to lifting silverware with Pochettino over the line was shared by many at the time.
In the end, it proved to be a disaster, and to get a sense of where Mourinho’s relationship is with Spurs a year on, there is probably not a single person associated with him or Tottenham who would swap what they have now with 12 months ago.
For all parties, it still feels a bit like a bad dream.
Other contributors: Jack Pitt-Brooke and Mark Carey
Extraordinary events at Vicarage Road in our first ever league meeting at their place. Red card for my hero, debut for Brazil, record gate and receipts, the list is … ended.
By Ken Montgomery – Sunday Mirror 20th March 1983
Footballer of the year Steve Perryman was sensationally sent off yesterday for the first time in 700 first-team matches in a Spurs career spanning 14 years. He got his marching orders from Rugby referee Ken Baker after a clash with Kenny Jackets eleven minutes from the end. And after dashing dejectedly away from that a match that was certainly no Vicarage Road tea-party, the 31-year old Tottenham skipper talked about his blackest moment in soccer. “It was a bit harsh,” said the man with. A reputation for being the model professional. “It was my first foul in the game—that’s really why I was so disappointed. “Maybe the referee thought I was getting my own back for an earlier foul on me by Kenny Jacket—but that wasn’t. The case. “I thought he was only going to book me. I felt as I went off that I’d let the team down. We were a goal up, and as I sat alone in the dressing room I was hoping like hell that it wouldn’t affect the result. Fortunately, it didn’t.” Referee Baker said Perryman went for deliberately kicking an opponent. Soccer’s Mr. Nice Guy, whose only other sending-off was in Portugal in the early 1970s while playing for England Under-23s, had one staunch supporter this time—his manager, Keith Burkinshaw. “It’s a sad day when someone like Steve is sent off,” he said. “He’s not a dirty player. There looked to be six or seven incidents in the game that were similar and yet nothing was said to those people.” Burkinshaw at least had the consolation o his team’s first away win since September—and of an impressive debut by striker Alan Brazil. He didn’t get the goal he wanted so badly to celebrate his first match for Tottenham, but the big Scot had a hand—or rather a head—in the 40th minute winner—a goal which sent high flying Hornets crashing to only their second home defeat in 15 months. From Perryman’s free kick, Graham Roberts headed on and Brazil powered a header towards goal. Rostron scrambled the ball off the line, but it bounced obligingly to Mark Falco, who accepted the gift gratefully. So, Brazil, signed in midweek from Ipswich, more than earned his first Tottenham win bonus—and put pounds in Watford’s pockets in the process. He helped pull in Watford’s biggest league gate of the season, 27,371, who paid record receipts of £57,436. And in the final 11 minutes, with Tottenham reduced to ten men, the big striker showed he could defend as well as Spurs hung on to their slender lead. Watford, not accustomed to finding themselves behind in front of their own fans, did their best to put matters right in the second half. But big Luther Blissett hit the bar with a header in the 47th minute, then shot recklessly wide when put through by John Barnes three minutes later.
A little retrospective of the most important game we ever played against Southampton nearly 44 years ago. 17 year old Nutty was at this game at The Dell on the 29th April 1978 but can’t attest to the quality of the football as he was undersized, right at the back of the terrace and saw none of it 🙂
UP THE SPURS!
Southampton 0 Spurs 0
By Ian Cameron – Daily Mirror 30th April 1978
Spurs sneaked back into the big time and manager Keith Burkinshaw said: “I died a thousand deaths”. “In some ways, the. Last seven days have been the worst of my life, but it has all finished up the best. “The team has showed terrific character by beating Hull in midweek and then getting a point here. It is hard to go straight back up after being relegated a year before. “Certainly, most of the players are completely drained. They did not even have the energy to celebrate in the dressing room.” It was a happy last day of term for both sides. Saints spent £6,000 reinforcing parts of the ground to keep the fans apart, pubs were shut in the city and the police, give or take a few missing helmets, and a hail of flying bottles, used common sense and dogs to send the fans home without a serious confrontation. The goalless draw sent Spurs up, let Bolton in as champions and kept Brighton out of the first division. But it was an awful game and Saints manager Lawrie McMenemy admitted : “Brighton manager Alan Mullery has had a magnificent season but I fancy it will be better for Brighton to spend another season in the Second Division.” Burkinshaw said: “It’s ridiculous that Brighton, a club that won 56 points, hasn’t gone up as well.” As both teams popped the champagne corks afterwards, Southampton manager Tony Funnel must have been ruefully wondering how he let the Londoners off the hook. Funnell, whose seven goals in the last eleven games have added vital punch to Saints promotion drive, should have condemned Spurs to another season in Division Two. He wasted three chances wit Spurs looking rocky early on—and hit the post with the goal at his mercy in the sixteenth minute. Man of the match : McAllister (Spurs).
Brentford are taking over the bloeug today due to the incontrovertible fact that they are our my/your/second team. *
Nine times Brentford have tried and failed to gain promotion via the play-offs either to tier one, two or three of the great English football pyramid and nine times they have failed. Today against Swansea, the 10th time, must be the one where they finally crack it as it starts in a one!
1946-47 was the last time the Bees graced the top tier in the old first division, the first season after the Second World War. They’ve bobbed about interminably between the old fourth division and the new Championship ever since, and of late they’ve made a couple of real tries at breaking back into the top level falling to Middlesbrough in 2014/15 and Fulham in 2019/20. They’ve been preparing diligently for their inevitable seat at the top table with the building of the new 20,000 capacity Brentford Community Stadium replacing the grand old Griffin Park which was famous for being the last stadium to have a pub at each corner.
Between two of those pubs their is a little two-up two down at 50 Braemar Road; a modest abode where I lived very briefly in the mid-70s with my mum my parents separation.
Brentford became my second team after the mighty Lilywhites as a result and it was great seeing both clubs getting promoted in the 1977/78 season. It would be greater still to have the Bees hosting Spurs on their patch in the same division for the first time in my life.
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Pre-match entertainment for tonight’s 5th round FA Cup clash with Everton.
A blast from our distant past reporting on our first FA Cup meeting with Everton in the 1st round of the FA Cup on 6th February 1904.
from The Sporting Life, Monday, February 8, 1904
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR, 2: EVERTON, 1.
THE SPURS IN FORM
The hope of the London district, Tottenham Hotspur, came out on top on Saturday, where they bearded the Everton lion in his den, and came away victorious. The test was, without a shadow of a doubt, the best of the afternoon, and those who saw them run round the Evertonians are loud in their praise of their tactics and ability. The game had all along in Lancashire being regarded as the titbit of the Palatine games, and though the gate was not so large as one might have expected, still it was a good one, and will stand the Spurs in good stead. It was, however, only 20,000, and the amount is not so much as would have been taken at Tottenham. The Spurs had been training in the Southport district, and went over to Liverpool in the middle of the day by the West Coast line, the whole lot under the care of Cameron, the old Evertonian, being in the very best possible order. The Evertonians had been taking their breathings on the North side of the Ribble Estuary, and, like their opponents, arrived in the city about noon in the best of condition and confident of success. But weather and ground were bad, the game being mudlarking pure and simple. The morning opened dull and murky, and finally broke away into a regular soaker. The ground had got a gruelling in the middle of the week, and the downpour did not mend it at all – it was simply a quagmire. The Spurs had a decent following, several excursions being run from Tottenham. Booth led his men into a rousing accompaniment, the Spurs coming out a minute afterwards. No time was wasted in starting, Ruth beating Jones in the spin of the coin. J. Jones and Hughes conceded free kicks in the first minute, and from the second of these Booth made a fine attempt to score, the ball just topping the bar. Fouls were fashionable, and now it was Wolstenholme’s turn. From the free kick Kirwan ran and centred finely, Woodward calling upon Balmer to effect a glorious clearance. The excitement visibly increased, and the Spurs were certainly moving in prime fashion. Crelly was passed by Warner, and the latter centred splendidly to Kirwan, who missed the ball and
A RARE SCORING CHANCE AT THE SAME TIME.
Sharp made a big effort to pull his forwards together, but in a long run with Tait the latter just succeeded to tipping the ball out of danger. Offside spoiled both Settle and Corrin. The players paid no heed to the drenching downpour, but some of them experienced great difficulty in preserving the equilibrium. Hughes fouled Taylor, but J. L. Jones covered the discrepancy. The Spurs’ attacking brigade worked with a better understanding than did their opponents and Woodward plied both wings very judiciously. However, Everton hereabouts worked in smarter fashions, and both Settle and Taylor were only knocked off the ball in the nick of time. Kirwan outwitted his rival backs neatly, and transferred to Copeland, who brought Kitchen out of goal with a capital cross shot. Kitchen came to effect a thorough clearance, ran out some distance to kick away. Settle lost the ball rather foolishly consequent upon over-elaboration, and the Everton goal was endangered thereby. The play up to now had been very much in favour of the Londoners, who time after time got
GOING IN POWERFUL FASHION.
When the first half was three-quarters over the first goal had still to come. It was not long, however. The Spurs halves and backs tackled almost unerringly, and whatever there was to enthuse in attack generally emanated from the visiting vanguard. Woodward – considered mum too robust — played with surprising dash on the heavy ground. Judgement was writ large, too, in most that he attempted. His dribbling was fine, and he here proved so troublesome to Abbott that the latter perforce failed the amateur gently, but the free kick worked off harmlessly. Everton dashed to the Tottenham end, and in saving a time sort of shot settle compelled Williams to lose his grip and a corner ensued, which was cleared. Abbott again failed Woodward, and from the free kick Kitchen conceded a corner. This was finally placed by Warner, and kitchen, rushing out, missed the ball, Woodward heading a lovely goal — this after thirty minutes’ play. Just previously Kitchen had saved well from Copeland, who was unwittingly given the ball by booth. Stung by the reverse, Everton played up, and Corrin went very close with a long dropping effort. more trouble was in store for Everton as the visiting forwards again menaced, and J. Jones sending in the capital shot was gratified to see Balmer just turned the ball through his own goal. Had Balmer not attempted a clearance kitchen would have had little difficulty in clearing the ball. in the ensuing play Everton seldom looked like making up their leeway. just on the interval Everton made a big effort to put a better complexion on the game. Settle, Taylor, and McDermott each tested Williams, but the custodian refused to be beaten. Half-time : Tottenham Hotspur, two goals : Everton, nil.
The ‘Spurs Had a lot of the best of the first half, but in the second the Evertonians played better, and though the visitors’ halves and backs were again in the best of trim they were often are in trouble then before. Everton tried the rushing game for a time, but the ‘Spurs were equally lively, and refused to be caught napping. Their defenders fairly revelled in breaking up the Toffees’ attack. A sign of weakness, too, was the frequent fouling of the visitors by the Blues. A fine burst away by Woodward placed the Everton defence on tenter-hooks, who passed Crelly and so hustled Balmer that the latter was constrained to pass back to Kitchen, who had to run out. Fortunately, no mishap occurred, but a minute later Woodward missed scoring by a miracle, when he had only kitchen to beat. Tottenham’s goal was the scene of a desperate struggle. Williams was plied with all manner of shots, and his saves from both McDermott and Booth were brilliant in the extreme. Several corners fell to the Blues, but Williams came out on top every time. From a centre by Corrin , Sharp missed the chance of the match, the little man missing the ball by inches when it required only a tap to put it through. With only fifteen minutes to go Everton had not yet scored. They made their effort, but it was not until a couple of minutes from the close that they had their reward. Crelly was fouled, and the ball being worked well forward, Watson scored a fine goal. The crowd went frantic, but the goal had surely come too late, and despite Everton’s giant efforts, the whistle went with the Southerners winning by two goals to one. Referee, Mr Ward (Nottingham). Teams :-
EVERTON.—Kitchen (goal), Ralmer [sic] and Crelley (backs), Wolstenholme, Booth, and Abbott (half-backs), Sharp, Taylor, Settle, McDermott, and Corrin.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR.—Williams (goal), Watson and Tait (backs), Morris, Hughes, and J. L. Jones (half-backs), Warner, J. Jones, V. J. Woodward, Copeland, and Kirwan.
Forget the next league match for a bit and let’s just travel down memory lane by 46,058 days, or a little over 126 years. Let’s journey to an age before the new “Tottenham Hotspur Stadium” and even before the old “White Hart Lane Stadium”. Two world wars have passed and a multitude of other conflicts. Queen Victoria still had more than six years left to rule and my Star Trek memorabilia collection was almost a century from its inception.
H.G. Wells’ famous ground-breaking “The Time Machine” was published in the year following the grand event reported below. This being Tottenham Hotspur’s first foray into the Football Association Challenge Cup in October 1894, a trophy which we won for the first time a mere seven years later and, for a then record eighth time in 1991. West Herts were our guests at our home ground at Northumberland Park.
Enjoy this enthralling contemporary account of our famous introduction to this great competition that was published in “The Sporting Life” on Monday 15 October 1894, two days after the event. This has been “carefully” transcribed, with original errors and punctuation by 61 Spurs Nut, and includes both team line-ups and train times added from other sources.
THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION CHALLENGE CUP. ———
QUALIFYING COMPETITION.—FIRST ROUND. ——— SATURDAY’S RESULTS ——— DIVISION 9.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR v. WEST HERTS.—For several seasons the West Herts Club, then known as the Watford F.C., were regularly drawn against their somewhat near rivals Chesham. For once in a way the draw turned out otherwise, and hence the Watfordians on Saturday last had the pleasure of journeying up to town and then to White Hart Lane for the purpose of meeting Tottenham Hotspur at Northumberland Park, Tottenham. Neither side was the strongest that could have been placed in the field under more favourable circumstances. The “Spurs” during a part of the game were carrying two passengers in Goodall and Stanley Briggs; the latter not having recovered from the injury received in the previous week, whilst Goodall was at times about as lame as a cat supposed to be. On the other hand, the visitors were without the services of a couple of their best men ; still, a more evenly-contested game will possibly not be seen again during the present season at or on the “Spurs” enclosure. When the rivals took the field, slightly over 2,000 spectators lined the ropes, the weather being of the best and the turf in first class order. Having lost the toss, the visitors had to face the slope for the initial half, and promptly to time Anderson started the ball towards the top goal. Hobbs and Wright immediately went away, and the latter from a free kick all but scored. At this time the “Spurs” were playing a very loose sort of game, but a few minutes later on settled down. Still, the superior combination of the visitors’ forwards told its tale and though immensely superior in the weight department, it was not until ten minutes from the start that Hunter opened the scoring account from a pass by Eccles. On the ball being restarted from mid-field, the Herts forwards attacked on the right. Welham just on the nick of time deprived Hobbs, and Briggs returned the ball. Payne and Eccles at once went away, and forced a couple of fruitless corners. Play then became of the fastest, a strong attack by the “Spurs” was only put aside by the splendid play in goal of King, who saved five shots in less than a minute. After the lapse of twenty minutes Payne, getting possession, went away on the left, and passed to Hunter, who, in turn, transferred to Goodall. The latter sending in a low screw that King could not possibly reach, placed the “Spurs” two goals ahead. If anything, after this up to the arrival of half-time, the visitors had the better of the exchanges, but failing to score, crossed over two goals to the bad. Within a minute of the resumption the visitors were swarming round their opponents’ goal. Anderson forced a corner off Tull [Jull]. Green taking the kick, placed the ball into the mouth of goal. Wright shot, Monk fisted out, but Wright again getting possession sent the ball into the net. Again fast play became the order, but half-way through the second moiety, from a pass by Wright Hobbs headed the ball through, and so caused honours to be easy. Apparently a tie must result, but some ten minutes before the call of time the “Spurs” broke away. Hunter getting round Robins passed to Goodall, King made a mistake in leaving his charge, and hence Goodall was enabled with a soft shot to score the winning goal of the match, the result being three to two in favour of Tottenham Hotspur. Referee, Mr. E, Bisiker. Linesmen, Messrs. H. D. Casey (Tottenham Hotspur) and C. M. Peacock (West Herts, hon. sec.).
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR C. V. Monk (goal), J. C. Jull (captain) and J. W. Welham (backs), W. J. Shephard, J. W. Julian, and S. Briggs (half-backs), A. W. Cubberley, D. Goodall, P [A. C.]. Hunter, J. M. Eccles, and E. Payne.
WEST HERTS. S. King (goal), J. R. Paul (captain) and J. S. Lidderdale (backs), G. E. Green, F. C. Robins, and J. Penney (half-backs), S. G. Hobbs, S. S. Taylor, J. O. Anderson, R. G. Wright, and H. R. L. Wright
Kick-off 3.30. Trains, 2.21, 2.25, 2.37, 2.55 Liverpool-street to White Hart-lane.
As we all know, today is the great Jimmy Greaves’ 80th Birthday.
I was never fortunate enough too see Jimmy play live but the relatively few recordings, by modern standards, of him playing for us and others are enough to testify to his brilliance.
But in March 1979, as a nervous and shy 17 year old, I was lucky enough to meet him at the old, diminutive Spurs shop where he signed and personalised his new and moving book recounting his battle with alcoholism. I was just a few weeks short of my 18th birthday and Jimmy had recently celebrated his 39th and looked somewhat like the picture on the back of his book. I have no recollection of what he said to me but he was in very good spirits, no pun intended!
I walked out of the shop absolutely bubbling with joy at this, my first piece of meaningful Spurs memorabilia. It remains my treasured and favourite Spurs tome and I was able to retrieve it from storage today to share it with you all.
This article is from Ashley Jude Collie and was originally published in BBNTimes.
BT Sport Films “Greavsie” hails the greatest finisher in English football history
By Ashley Jude Collie
As a journalist, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of interviewing any number of fascinating athletes, players who are idols to millions, including: NBA MVPs like Kobe, Shaq and Kevin Garnett, NFL stars Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and NHL legends like Wayne Gretzky; along with superstars turned pundits such as Troy Aikman, and Terry Bradshaw, and tennis’ John McEnroe, among dozens of others. They were all great—attentive, thoughtful, and funny. Like, after agreeing to sign a headshot for my mother, McEnroe “played” up to his former bad boy image and quipped, “Should I spit on it, first?” He didn’t. Funny guy!
But, the athlete who I personally idolized as a kid growing up in Wales, turns 80 on February 20, the same day that an awesome new biography produced by BT Sport Films called “Greavsie” is released.
London-born Jimmy Greaves is arguably the greatest finisher in English football history, scoring 357 goals—with nobody coming close to his record (not Alan Shearer, Wayne Rooney or Gary Lineker) for goals at the top level of English football. And, this documentary tells the “tale of the rise, fall and re-birth of one of England’s greatest strikers” with rarely seen archive footage and interviews with some of the game’s biggest names. On-camera, many, like Sir Geoff Hurst who scored a hattrick to inspire England to win the World Cup in 1966, simply call him “a genius in the art of scoring goals.” And, a former teammate, Alan Mullery adds, “He was the best of his time, just like Lionel Messi in the modern day.”
High praise, indeed.
I met Greasvie, who had a mischievous twinkle in his eye that my mum adored, as a nipper when his England national team came to play Wales, and I got his autograph outside Cardiff’s Ninian Park. A couple of years later in Toronto, when his Spurs club team were playing Rangers in a friendly, Greavsie obliged with a hattrick, and then a photo with me and another autograph. Boy, was I pround!
Greavsie, who would score goals with his head or either foot, on icy or sloppy fields, was just born to score goals, and he did so for every club he represented, including nine in a short stint for Milan in Italy’s Serie A.
Football was very different back then with players not making the millions they make monthly, so they were closer to the everyday fans. The documentary reports that Greavsie loved football for the game it was and valued the link to supporters. Spurs manager Bill Nicholson encouraged his players to spend time with fans and they would drink after games at local pubs on Tottenham High Road. Graeme Rudge, one of my ex-pat pals and co-founder of LA Spurs, along with Rolfe Jones, says stories still circulate at the Bell and Hare about Greavsie’s presence.
After retiring from football too early and then going through his own personal hell including a bout of alcoholism, Greavsie returned and “reinvented himself and forged a career on TV, first as a strident pundit and then, in tandem with Liverpool and Scotland striker Ian St John, capturing the hearts of a new generation of football lovers with the Saint and Greavsie show.”
Former England striker and now Match of the Day and BT Sport anchor Gary Lineker says: “Jimmy was perhaps the first football star of TV…Football can be a bit overly serious at times, but we’ve got to remember…it’s entertainment and it’s there to be enjoyed and I think Jimmy encapsulated that perfectly. That’s something I’ve tried to take into my television career. It’s important to have light and shade and Jimmy did it perfectly.”
Veteran journalist and author Norman Giller collaborated on 20 books with Greavsie with the author recalling: “The most important collaboration was the first in 1978 when he started to beat the bottle. It was called ‘This One’s On Me,’ in which he was brutally honest in describing how he had hit rock bottom.”
Giller recently interviewed a few Spurs legends at the premier of this awesome BT film. He quotes Spurs Welsh wizard Cliff Jones as saying of Greaves: “Simply the greatest British goal scorer there has ever been,’ he said without hesitation. ‘As good as Messi, and could Lionel have done it on the mud heap pitches on which we played and with defenders like Chopper Harris and Bites-Yer-Legs Hunter allowed to kick you from behind?”
Giller also quotes Glenn ‘the god” Hoddle, one of Tottenham’s legendary playmakers, who told him: “As a mate of Jimmy’s for more than 50 years, I am also proud to play a part in the BT tribute to mark the great man’s upcoming 80th birthday on February 20. It is an emotional rollercoaster and includes many of his greatest goals and footage that will make you laugh, cry, cheer and groan. It’s a masterpiece by producer/director Tom Boswell and his BT crew.”
Super agent Terry Baker, who has known Greavsie for yonks through his booking agency, A1 Sporting Speakers, says of the BT movie: “Basically, I gave the go ahead to allow BT Sport the right to make this film, because Jimmy deserves to be remembered and because Tom Boswell has done a great job making it. ‘Greavsie’ is a great watch about a great man—my lifetime hero and my great, great friend. See the only live showing of the film with us in Stevenage on Jimmy’s 80th birthday February 20.”
One more thing that would make our hero’s day—Baker, Giller and Greavsie’s family have been pushing for him to earn a knighthood for his services to football. In fact, the Daily Mail/Sportsmail has launched a campaign for his achievements to be honoured. And, Sir Geoff Hurst concurs, saying, “He deserves recognition at this time in his life. As much for his family and friends and fans as for himself. I fully support the Mail campaign.”
Fingers crossed that the football gods look down favourably on the campaign. And, why not? As Greavsie and Giller have often said, and millions agree, “it is a funny old game”—extraordinarily so.
Tonight’s the night! We enter the elite stages of the Football League Milk Littlewoods Rumbelows Coca-Cola Worthington’s Molson Coors/Carling Capital One EFL Carabao Cup in the third round against Colchester United.
We have an illustrious history against the U’s, having won every single game against them. That single game was on a cold Saturday afternoon on 30th January 2016 at the Community Stadium in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Tom Carroll was nearing the end of his short, stuttering career with us and he scored on that day, as did Eric Dier with Nacer Chadli claiming a brace. We ran out 4-1 winners that night on our way to a limp fifth round 0-1 defeat to some South London outfit.
However, let tonight be the night that we see one of our latest graduates, Troy Parrot, passing his entrance exam on his way to a more substantial career with us than little Tom could manage all those months ago.
There is but one rule: Absolutely NO GOONERS or JACK FACKIN’ WHEELCHAIR are permitted anywhere in your squad from start to finish. Failure to comply with this simple rule will result in a summary dismissal from my league. My trusty Yorkshire Terrier Attack Dog will be at my side to help find any transgressors.