Do I not like that . . .: Piling up the minus points: Julie Welch feels that relegation may have been a more humane gesture for her beloved Tottenham

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The Independent Online
I FOUND myself staring in the window of Dixon's the other day, feeling so sorry for Alan Sugar that I nearly let emotion override judgement and bought another Amstrad fax, just in a gesture of solidarity. I recovered my sanity in time but maybe now's the time to get hold of a few shares in Mr Sugar's company.

It's obviously not the time to take out shares in Tottenham Hotspur. Was it ever? Call me old- fashioned but I always thought football clubs were something you supported, not made money out of. I hated it when they knocked down the lovely West Stand in 1980 and built that hard-edged monstrosity bloated with profit- making executive boxes. Nothing wrong with the other place, if you asked me. Oak panelling, even in the Press loo, and history around every corner. You could go there on a weekday morning and hear boot studs drumming on the wooden floor as ghost teams started their walk from the dressing-room to the tunnel, and there was that gable on the roof with the ball- and-cockerel sign stuck on it the way reporters used to wear their Press tickets in their hats in old movies. Just being in that stand made you feel great, part of something that was majestic and homely at the same time, that had started a long time ago and was going to go on a long time after you stopped. Oh well, there's being a football romantic for you.

The new stand set Spurs back more money than they'd ever imagined; nearly 15 years later, they're still paying. The bill is 12 points and no Cup run. Then again, the whole dispiriting football-as-commerce idea was just one part of that tainted footballing era, the Eighties, along with the cold violence of the crowds and the devastating loss of lives. Greed and sham accounting might not be as desperate and awful as the human tragedies of Heysel and Hillsborough, but they do rot the spirit.

According to Sugar's dark pronouncements, there are a lot of chairmen out there with something to confess. This makes you feel even worse because if he's right then the people who run football are never going to do anything about it, otherwise they'll find themselves with a maimed Premiership and a few rounds short of an FA Cup.

Meanwhile, we're going into next season on a minus - so far adrift before a blade of grass has been flattened or a single player has gobbed on the pitch that we're pleading for the humane dispatch of relegation. And how can there be a football season at all if you can't take part in the Cup? I try and tell myself it doesn't matter because there isn't a one in the year and Spurs only win Cups on the cusp of a decade - '01, '21, '61, '81, '91. But then we won in '62 and '82 not to mention in '67 when Terry Venables was in the team. So that's no good. I just feel embarrassed, unlucky.

It's like when you're a kid and someone in your family has been found guilty of some particularly gross misdemeanour, and everyone in your school knows. I started supporting Spurs at 12, fired by the cosmic talents of a side that went on to win the Double, in the days when Double wins didn't come in six-packs. But if I were 12 now, I wouldn't be a Spur.

Sugar? I suspect that inside that stubble-chinned, furrow-faced, bolshy exterior beats the heart of a football romantic, so on that basis I'm on his side. At the moment he's confined himself mainly to scowls from the back seat of his limo and has been filmed coming down more flights of steps than Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

A bit of inspirational leadership is what's required now. Ossie Ardiles is trying his best but his oratory in adversity is even more confusing than when he's his normal chirpy self. No, it's got to be Sugar. I don't expect a song-and-dance routine, and the man is never going to die of excess bonhomie, but a bit of We-will-fight-them- on-the-beaches rabble-rousing wouldn't go amiss for the stricken fans. Sugar's motives may not be as Corinthian as you might like, but you still want him to make sure that the people who polluted Spurs and brought them so low won't get away with it. Whoever they are. And then I really will buy another Amstrad.

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