Tottenham Hotspur v SAFC ‘Who are You?’: still fuming about The Shelf

Martin Croake:
Martin Cloake

Martin Cloake* is a Spurs fan and an author, notably of the People’s History of Tottenham Hotspur. Here, he previews our game, looks at what’s going on at both clubs and avoids any predictions. I must admit that while not all Spurs WAYs have endeared the interviewees to us lot, and Martin has a ‘without wanting to insult SAFC’ moment, I loved his response to who should never have been allowed inside their cosy little ground …



Salut! Sunderland: Every year, we seem to hear, is going to be the Tottenham year, the season past glories are recaptured. The Manchesters seem out of sight on budgets but can Spurs do something special this time?

Martin: Why not? Spending power of course makes a big difference, but over the last few years the PL has become less predictable based on spending power. Spurs came close last year, so there’s no reason we can’t challenge again. But the reason we love the game, despite the efforts of the people who run it, is because results aren’t predictable enough to make everything a foregone conclusion.

Daniel Levy may not be every neutral’s cup of tea but few doubt the ability of Mauricio Pochettino. Dream pairing or could you do still better?

It’s working pretty well at the moment. The board seem to have recognised where they were going wrong, and Mauricio Pochettino seems to be able to deal with them very well. He’s hugely popular, for good reason. Daniel Levy himself seems to be the victim of a reputation he sometimes seems happy to let be cultivated, but the fact is he is not there to make friends or do anything but get the best deal for the club. Of course we don’t go in order to watch a healthy balance sheet, but having a club that’s run well on business lines is a necessary part of the equation. Despite all the personality stuff and the media knockabout, plenty would love to be in our position.

Will the new stadium really be ready for August 2018, will 61,000 seats be easy to fill and how badly will you miss your small but oddly appealing WHL?

We hope the stadium is ready by 2018 but anyone who’s ever had builders will hesitate before predicting a solid finish date. The stadium will be filled if the club gets the pricing policy right – and that’s something the Supporters Trust is pushing hard. The club needs to take the long view. And everyone will miss the current stadium – on its day it’s one of the most atmospheric in the league, and the fact it’s on the site of so many past glories is also important. So we’re pleased the move is not too far.

(John Mac adds: Previous Spurs “who are you”   guest Will Panduro recently posted photos of the development on his facebook page. You can  see the current situation at: )

Some terrific players in your squad: I have always rated Lloris, miss Rose, wish we had Dele Alli, admire (despite Euro 2016) Kane and (because of it) Sissoko. Who are other key players for you and where are there still weakneses?

I think Erik Lamela could be key this season – giving us that spark of inspiration and invention that’s maybe been missing. Our defence is often overlooked, but there are few better in their position than Hugo Lloris, Danny Rose, Kyle Walker, Toby Alderweirald and Jan Vertonghen. I’d argue Toby is the most consistent defender in the top flight. In the first 11, there’s not really a weak spot, it’s the squad depth that will be the test. And we’ve improved on last season.

And who, from a rich heritage, are the Spurs players you have most enjoyed watching or wish you’d been around to watch?

I grew up watching Steve Perryman, Glenn Hoddle and Ossie Ardiles. Superb footballers all. We’ve been lucky over the years to see some truly superb players – even during the lean years we had David Ginola lighting the place up. The players I wish I’d seen are the Double side’s John White and the great Danny Blanchflower.

Anyone who should never have been allowed inside WHL?

The builders who destroyed the Shelf terrace – the best in the country – and installed executive boxes.

And your own best and worst times as a supporter?

So many good times, although in recent years a couple of the derbies against Arsenal and that unforgettable night when Gareth Bale inspired us to thrash Inter Milan. The worst times were under Alan Sugar and Gerry Francis. The club forgot what it was about, the people in charge were content to just exist, and I remember the bloke I sit with saying “Not only is there no light at the end of the tunnel, there’s no bleeding tunnel’.

Tell us about your People’s History of Tottenham Hotspur

The book is an idea I’ve been trying to work up for some time, and hooking up with renowned Spurs blogger Alan Fisher (who writes the Tottenham On My Mind blog) finally made it happen.

We were both interested in the question of what makes a fan and why people, support a club, but also wanted to tell the story of how the fans influenced the club itself, how they fed into creating the personality the club has. As far as we know it’s the first social history of a club’s support, and despite everything written about football these days the fans are still too often considered just as a quirky backdrop rather than an integral part of the story. It’s A, rather than The, people’s history because folk histories are by definition subjective, but the fans of any club can tell their story and I think there;s almost a responsibility for us to do so as the game becomes more and more about business and brand.

And your thoughts on players most recently linked to both clubs – Rose naturally but Bent, Kaboul, Defoe, Yedlin and even Steed …

There does seem to be an element of “getting the band back together” there, yes! Defoe is still hugely popular, largely because people think he could still have done a job for us when we let him go. But I think most of the ex-Spurs are seen – without wanting to insult Sunderland – as players who we’ve now improved upon. Danny Rose is the exception – quite a few a Spurs didn’t rate him and from what I gather the jury was out at the Stadium of Light, but he’s certainly blossomed since he came back.

What about Sunderland? Your views on the club, the fans, the city and region, Moyes?

It must be frustrating to be a Sunderland fan for some time. There always seems to be a period of great promise followed by a period of great disappointment. The ground I have to confess isn’t one of my favourites. Decent enough atmosphere inside but the location doesn’t make it a great trip – I’m not a fan of retail parks. I remember one of the last games at the old Roker Park – a raw, snowy day for a 4pm kick-off on a Sunday. That certainly had some character.

Is our time finally up? Your idea of this season’s bottom three? And the top four in order (more interesting to you than us)?

I’m going with Paul Gascoigne (obviously a big favourite with you lot 🙂 ) and saying “I don’t make predictions and IO never will”.

Best Premier League ref, worst ref? Diving and other cheating: so prevalent we may as well give up and write them into coaching manuals or worth trying to stamp out?

Taking both these together, a bit more consistency from refs – who do have a difficult job – wouldn’t go amiss. Plus the realisation from some that we haven’t actually paid to see them. The best refs are the ones you don’t notice.

Club vs country: which matters most to you and why?

Club. Every time. And most of the people who pretend country is more important – and I include the football authorities in that group – don’t genuinely believe it.

Will you be at our game? What will be the score?

I’ll be there. And we’ve got to be looking for a win so hopefully we’ll be more in our stride. I think you’ll try and frustrate us and try and get something on the break, so we need to show a bit of imagination and be prepared to change things during the game.

* Martin Cloake on himself:
My earliest memories of Spurs are listening to the team on the radio winning the UEFA Cup in 1972, and the record Nice One Cyril in 1973 when we won the League Cup. I’ve been going regularly since 1978, and followed the team all over Europe. I’m a south stand season ticket holder and I’ve written a number of books about the club, all of which can be found at

Interview: Colin Randall

* Voting has begun in The Football Blogging Awards. Salut! Sunderland will not get even close to winning but we have been invited to enter. If you feel like casting a vote in our favour, the obvious category is Best Football Club Blog and you can support us at

1 thought on “Tottenham Hotspur v SAFC ‘Who are You?’: still fuming about The Shelf”

  1. In 1989 I was in the New Derby pub and lost £25 on the quiz machine by answering that your team shorts were navy blue. It said black….so, never been a fan of your team as a result of the quiz programmer.

    Or the landlord who rebutted me with the fact he thought the machine was correct.

    Tho’ when the same machine advised me it was Bobby Kerr that scored our FA cup final winner I got my money.

    Personally I’ve never got over the 3-3 draw down there in 1990/91. Gascoigne a headless chicken and lucky to stay on the pitch.

    Danny Blanchflower was class.

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