Football / Fan's Eye View: Another period of transition

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The Independent Online
IT WAS the big story of the summer. The media coverage was intense. The dream ticket . . . the speculation . . . Tottenham and showbiz inextricably linked once again. Yes, Pat Van Den Hauwe and Mandy Smith's wedding certainly kept me riveted during the close season.

Oh, and for those of you not on planet football, our chairman sacked our chief executive.

Except of course we're not allowed to mention that, are we? After all, it's the start of a new season and we're all supposed to have hope in our hearts and a song on our lips, whether we support Tottenham Hotspur, Chipping Sodbury reserves . . . or Arsenal.

A collective amnesia-cum-optimism prevails as we career into World Cup year. The sun is out, nobody is 10 points adrift and the Football Association has tackled the thorny problem of World Cup qualification by introducing the radical measure of squad numbering and names on players' shirts. That'll get us to America, for sure.

Well excuse me for calling time on happy hour, but I think I'll sit back for a few weeks and see how it goes. Hedge my bets on how the boys make out under Ossie Ardiles. Cynical? Certainly] Jaundiced? You bet]

But you see I'm not a true Tottenham supporter. I'm a hooligan, since I was one of the lawless, rowdy, work-shy mob congregated outside the High Court when the verdict went against Terry Venables. This despite paying my Spurs fan's dues from Liverpool to Port Vale and Mansfield to Manchester United for the past 25 years.

Twenty-five years] You think you had it tough, United fans, not having won the League (or Premiership, or whatever they're calling it this week) for all those years. Try living in our shoes. It's been 32 seasons since a title fetched up at White Hart Lane, and it seems like 28 of them have been 'transitional'. OK, I'm resorting to stereotype - the carping, whingeing Spurs fan - but our seemingly endless capacity for shooting ourselves in the foot is enough to make even the most remorselessly cheerful disc-jockey do a Dave Lee Travis.

From the demise of The Shelf terrace, the 'go-for-it' Hummel years under Irving Scholar, the sale of Chris Waddle, the would-be Maxwell takeover, to the latest emergency, each new setback has left the fans thinking how many times do you get up after you've been hit, while on the field, another transitional season unfolds.

Of course I want Ardiles to make a success of things, and I have been extremely impressed so far. Colin Calderwood and Jason Dozzell look excellent acquisitions. It's going to be tough watching Neil Ruddock lift trophies at Anfield over the coming years, but seeing his support for Venables evolve into demands for more money from the club means he can go with my best wishes, and my respect for Ardiles is enhanced by his refusal to give in to arguably our best player last year.

On top of this there are Darren Anderton, Dean Austin, Nick Barmby, Andy Turner, Sol Campbell and Darren Caskey: I could give you the Gettysburg Address on the potential that there is at this club] We've got the League's leading striker, the experience of Gary Mabbutt, Paul Allen and Vinny Samways, and the heartache of the Cup semi-final defeat to add impetus to the season. Unfortunately, I still can't help dreading that we are destined for another disappointing year as the repercussions of the summer fiasco rumble on, and the supporters' aspirations are, once more, trampled on by a grubby little sideshow of money, power and ego.

If Ardiles - under the entrepreneurial flair of Sugar, and a commercially astute board - can get Spurs playing beautiful 'push and run' football, not just when the sun is on their backs, or in the Cup, but away, in Leeds, on a brass-monkey January night, with 30,000 rabid Yorkies wanting some southerner's blood, then I will give my full backing to the present set-up.

This is all I have ever wanted from Tottenham. From this will come trophies, the respect of the footballing world and, yes Mr Sugar, the profit that you and the plc so desperately crave. Hell, I'll phone every 0898 clubline that you wish to install, get myself a season ticket for life and even buy one of those Coventry City shirts that now appear to be our away kit. Right now, however, I've lost my hold on the myth.

Oh sure, I will be back. It's a biological thing you see. Tottenham are in my genes.