Anthony Ashton* – Ants to his nest of friends, in Sunderland as well as more familiar Spurs habitat and in his adopted city of Norwich – jumped at the life-enhancing chance to occupy the ‘Who are You?’ hot seat ahead of SAFC vs Tottenham. We gave up moons ago on persuading Jeff Beck to do it. But every lost Hi Ho has a Silver Lining and Ants rises to the challenge with no guitar solos but a friendly, honest set of responses on both clubs, PDC and Poyet (and AVB of course) and the afternoon he shared the misery of Sunderland-supporting friends at the 1998 Wembley playoff final. He knows Sunderland so well he even remembers Chris Waddle’s goal from a free kick in the final game at Roker Park…
Salut Sunderland: The hammering at Man City: did anyone seriously see that coming? How on earth do you explain it if it wasn’t a freak?
To be honest I was really worried about the prospect of us facing the most potent home attack in the League. AVB is obsessed with playing a high line and keeping Dawson in the side (as much as I love the man) made it an accident waiting to happen and boy did it.
I genuinely believe it was a mixture of a freak result and a capitulation; we’re good at those, there’s at least one a season. Unfortunately the two seasons prior, it’s been 5-2 hidings at the Death Star!
By the time I see your replies, you’ll have played Tromso in the Europa League (away win for Spurs) and the other Manchester, fresh from another massive result no one saw coming, in the Premier (2-2 draw at WHL). In what sort of mood do the results of those two games find you?
The Tromso game was a hiding to nothing but the performance was very uninspiring and it seemed almost poetic we had to rely on an own goal to rescue the labouring.
Thankfully it was much improved on Sunday although I’m not going overboard. We moved the ball much faster which made us look far more potent but I believe the quality of the opposition dictated it. If we had played our slow, predictable European style football, I think we would have been picked off easily. Still, it was nice to come away from WHL wondering what might have been rather than half asleep ;-0)
I am sure AVB featured in your first reply. Were you unhappy with his appointment or just unhappy with the way it’s worked out despite massive spending?
I wasn’t unhappy with his appointment although I wasn’t overwhelmed by it either. Obviously he was treated pretty shabbily by our foes in SW6 but I think a lot was made of his achievements at Porto. Without being too disrespectful, Neil Lennon does not get any plaudits and I would suggest winning the title in Scotland is comparable.
In terms of the new signings, I would like to know who had the final say. AVB clearly wanted a sporting director and was given one but how much input did he have? In my opinion, the decision to sign seven players with no Premier League experience was crackers if the board wanted instant success. If it’s for the long term then fair enough but in that case AVB has to be backed for the long term. He’s yet to convince me but despite my recent protestations to my closest pals, he should be given time.
Even a lot of Spurs fans, by which I mean those unwilling to make the unconvincing allowances, were exasperated by the well-publicised down side – no pun intended – of Gareth Bale’s game. Impossible to keep given what was being offered, I suppose, but how you must miss him.
Oh terribly. As soon as he got the ball you twitched in your seat just like ‘Arry wondering what he was going to do. Ever since I’ve followed THFC, we’ve always had players who could produce a moment of magic but he did it consistently for three seasons. He carried us last year after losing Modric and Van der Vaart so it was only a matter of time before he was whisked away. I’m grateful it wasn’t to another English club but a little sick Real’s annual bullying tactics worked again. He will go on to be one of the greats I’m sure of it.
I have heard a few Spurs fans complaining that however good a businessman Levy is, he knows nowt about football and gives himself too much say on such matters. Your thoughts?
This is a difficult one. Our ground is tiny when compared to many, including SAFC, so to compete the way we do, the financial side has to be spot on and it is. I will also always be grateful to him for ridding the club of Sugar.
He is however Teflon. I would say that apart from ‘Arry his managerial appointments have been disastrous (I don’t include Jol as he was already there). Hoddle was to appease the fans after the man in the raincoat whilst his treatment of Jol to get Ramos (another clown) was appalling. But it’s his club effectively so he can do what he likes although I suspect if ENIC do finally deliver the new ground, he will sell up and him and Uncle Joe will be counting an enormous profit.
You have links with Sunderland and the North East and even managed to get a ticket for the famous 1998 playoff final. Tell us a little about all that and what you made of a classic Wembley match perhaps only Sunderland fans remember with pain.
Apart from actually being there to see Ledley King lift a pot for us, the 1998 Play-Off Final is the most incredible match I’ve ever been to. I remember my pal bursting into tears when Mendonca put Charlton 1-0 up! Sunderland were absolutely brilliant for most of the game but unbelievable defensive lapses kept giving Charlton a lifeline.
The penalty shoot out was horrific and just awful a Mackem missed the vital one. The journey back to the North East was a very long one but once one of the lads cracked the first gag, we flew up the A1. I think it took my pals a long time to get over but the following season was a procession.
My connection to Sunderland is university. In my final year (95-96) I lived very close to the site of the SoL. I also made lots of Mackem friends whilst living in Newcastle between 97 & 99. I watched Reidy’s team a lot (including going to the Play Off Final after spending the night outside the ground with pals to get a ticket!)
I will be up for the game on Saturday and am looking forward to seeing my pals and a pint in the Ivy House.
Were you surprised PDC’s short reign was so turbulent and ultimately imploded and what do you think of Poyet, whose White Hart Lane career was dogged by injury?
I thought PDC’s appointment was an absolute disaster. His politics did not help but his abrasive nature was always going to rub pampered footballers up the wrong way. I thought the win at Newcastle would buy him plenty of time but he had to go after the West Brom debacle.
As for Poyet, you’re probably asking the wrong fella. He stole a living at WHL and I will never forgive him for high fiving his old Chelsea pals after being substituted in the FA Cup 1/4 final in 2002 at WHL. We were four-nil down at the time. I do of course hope he steers SAFC away from trouble but I think he’s another trendy foreign coach with zero substance. Time will tell.
Any special memories – good, bad or amusing – of past encounters between our teams? Is it fair or hopelessly partisan to suggest both Defoe and Gomes should have sent off in the WHL game four years ago?
I think the most amusing was having to watch Ramon Vega play up front for 45 mins at the Stadium of Light in 1999. Absolutely hilarious – that and watching Luka Modric miss an open goal in the game just before Xmas in 2011. If I hadn’t been there, I would never have believed it.
The game you refer to in 2009 if memory serves was a strange one. We were terrible but won two-nil. I don’t think Defoe’s challenge on Craig Gordon was intentional but he could easily have walked. Gomes denied a goal-scoring opportunity so by letter of the law it was a red card. It was still funny seeing Sandra miss the penalty after all the rubbishing he did of THFC. What a lucky man he is!
Steed, Bent, Poyet and Waddle, more recently our crowd favourite Danny Rose, are among the many names linked to both our clubs. Who stands out, for any reason?
I adored Chris Waddle. Much like Bale did last season, he carried us the season after Hoddle left when the rest of the side was relegation fodder.
I remember when we signed Lineker and we already had him and Gascoigne, I thought we were going to win the League. I was devastated when he left but he went on to do great things in a great side.
He was probably at the end when he joined SAFC but what a free kick in the last game at Roker!
Tell me the best players you’ve seen, or wish you were old enough to have seen, in Spurs colours. ANd who should have been allowed nowhere near them?
I’ve been fortunate in seeing some great players at WHL. Hoddle, Gascoigne, Berbatov, Modric, Bale but my all time favourite is still Ossie Ardiles. He was my first hero and a bit like your first love, you never forget!
In terms of the past, I was brought up on stories told by my Dad and his brother of the great Double winning side and of course the rest of the 60s. My Uncle George always referred to us as the Southern Rose and I was hooked. I wish I’d seen Jimmy Greaves who my Dad adored but I think I would loved to have seen John White. To paraphrase my Dad “Modric was not fit to lace his boots”. He must have been some player and Denis Law is often quoted as saying if he’d lived 1966 might have been very different.
Nowhere near the team – blimey there’s so many!!! He didn’t play many games but the most hilariously poor player was a fella called Paolo Tramezzani, an Italian left back I’d never heard of. Christian Gross brought him in and his first two touches on his debut at Selhurst Park in 1998 were a foul throw and throw straight to a Wimbledon player!!! They were very dark days indeed.
What have been the highs and lows of your life as a Spurs supporter?
Highs – easy. The Cup wins of 1981, 1982, 1984, 1991, 1999 and 2008. Trophies are where it’s at.
The lowest – again, very easy. Losing the 1987 League Cup Semi Final replay to the Forces of Darkness. I’d enjoyed my 1st six years as a Spurs fan; we were winning things and Arsenal were rubbish but the worm turned that night. Awful, awful memories.
What will be the top four in order, and who – being as brutal as you must – is going down?
Norwich (although I really hope not seeing as it’s my adopted home city)
I genuinely believe SAFC will have more than enough to get out of trouble.
Where, if either or both of our clubs were absent from those lists, will they end up?
SAFC will end up around 14th whilst I expect us to finish 5th. I still think we’re better than Liverpool despite our respective starts although Everton will give us a run for our money. Good side with a good manager
Club versus country: already excited about Brazil 2014 or too obsessed with Spurs to care?
Like any football fan I love the World Cup. What’s not to like? A month full of the beautiful game.
I am fiercely proud of being English but I’m not that fussed about the national team. The fact most of the players are pretty dislikeable makes it difficult to get too involved. It might change when the current clique of Lampard, Stevie Me and Cashley have packed up but for now, I’ll just enjoy watching Spain, Italy, Brazil, Argentina and Germany do their thing.
What most inspires you about the modern game and which aspect appals you?
To be brutally honest nothing inspires me about the modern game; it’s my deep, irrational love of THFC which Jedi mindtricks me into renewing my season ticket!
It’s much easier to tell you what appals me. Egocentric owners of clubs are definitely the worst thing. Proper football clubs are being ruined by millionaires treating them as playthings. The Venkys at Blackburn have killed Jack Walker’s legacy whilst our friend Mr Tan changing Cardiff’s colours is abhorrent. The hedge fund owners at Coventry, the owners at Hull wanting to change their name; the list is endless. Takes me back to Daniel Levy. Yes, he gets plenty of stick but people should be careful what they wish for.
You’re going to our game, What are your matchday/weekend plans and what will be the score?
Early start Saturday morning and should be meeting my pals in Newcastle before getting the Metro across to Sunderland. I believe there’s a beer festival at the Ivy House (my local during my first year at uni) so I suspect we’ll have a couple! We are so unpredictable guessing the score could be hilarious.
Head ruling heart for once, I think it will be a 1-1 draw.
* Ants on himself: I’m a North London lad living in the beautiful city of Norwich with my very understanding wife!I work in financial services and have been following Spurs since 1981. I’ve been attending games since 1985 but have been going religiously since 1999. I don’t get involved with any THFC sites but have been known to spout rubbish to my long suffering pals in various pubs!!! I would however recommend reading the Fighting Cock site to anyone with any interest in THFC and learning more about the 1882 movement. A bunch of similar minded people trying to improve the atmosphere at WHL. Went to such a game in November and it was brilliant.
Interview: Colin Randall