Let’s move straight on from “job done” at Southampton and glory v City to a match that presents a mighty challenge to Sunderland’s resurgence. For the Tottenham Hotspur edition of “Who are You?”, we invited a regular contributor, John McCormick* to introduce his daughter’s erudite Spurs-supporting boyfriend. John writes: “When someone tells you he is a season ticket holder, spends his life looking at the behaviour of spherical objects and has written about rare harmless morons you might make a football connection. It’s not until you become aware your hearing is going and he’s actually written about rare charmless hadrons that you’ll realise you have been talking to a particle physicist, and a brainy one at that. You might expect anyone with all that brain to support Sunderland but that’s not always the case. Today’s guest, Dr Will Panduro Vasquez*, is a prime example. He exhibits quantum properties by existing in two states simultaneously as he’s not only a full-time Higgs Bosonist but also a full-time Spurs fan, and here he is to explain why …”
Salut! Sunderland: That looked like a clinical display at Villa. Every year, it seems, we are told Spurs will come good again in a serious way. Lots of tipsters put you in the 2012-2-13 top four. Is it finally going to happen?
Realistically it looks like the Manchesters are a dead cert for the top 2 so it’s then a question of whether Chelsea under Rafa can pull away in third. I’m not convinced this will happen so I can see a tussle for 3rd and 4th. Given the way that the rest place contenders are playing so far it seems anything is possible. No team really has the consistency to stake a solid claim at this point but Spurs have as good a chance as any of them. We’ve not been playing that well but are still in the mix, which is a good sign. Of course we’ve learned that 4th place doesn’t guarantee anything (not that I’m remotely bitter…)
And what then looms for the club? Do you see a return to the glory days or just steady progress always a step behind the Manchesters?
If AVB is backed in the transfer market and gets a settled team I can see us being able to complete for the CL places in the coming years. However, to compete consistently with the Manchesters we need to build the much delayed new stadium and get that vital revenue boost. The new stadium has been a double edged sword for the South London Interlopers but long term I think Wenger or his successors will reap the benefits. The noises coming out of Spurs suggest they are attempting to learn for the experience at the Emirates and trying to find a financial solution that won’t cripple our ability to maintain the squad.
Do you miss ‘Arry?
Not really. I appreciate what he did for the team. Apparently we had two points from eight games when he took over, not that he ever reminded us. I think the last two seasons brought home to us all the fact that he had probably taken the club as far as he could. In order to compete at the top you need things like squad rotation, which Harry didn’t really believe in. We faded badly towards the end of last season and while many pointed to Harry being distracted by the potential England role I was more concerned by how jaded our players looked. This inability to learn from past mistakes really began to grate. It also became clear that, with only a couple of exceptions, Harry was really out of his depth when it came to buying players who could really take us forward. Van der Vaart, for example, was a Daniel Levy signing who I’m told was not entirely welcomed by Harry. All of this coupled with his ‘personality’ meant that I was pleased to see a change. I am by no means speaking for the Spurs faithful here though as I think there is a genuine divide between people like me and those who think we’ve made a big mistake.
Can we realistically expect to have Danny Rose and/or Michael Dawson signed up on proper deals by the time the transfer window has closed and depending on price, do you think we will be doing ourselves a favour or two?
Realistically I can see both players moving, so this is by no means out of the question. I can’t say I have ever rated Rose that highly (amazing North London derby goal aside) but then he never really had an extended run in the team to cut his teeth as he has been up against a better player in Assou-Ekotto. Dawson is a top quality defender who I think would make a great addition to your squad. I would be sorry to lose him but it does appear that AVB can’t fit him into his plans, so I’d rather we parted on good terms now than have him languish on the bench and generate ill will.
What memories do you have of previous Spurs-SAFC encounters homes and away?
I certainly remember some extremely competitive games in recent years. We always know we’re in for a game when we visit the North East, or when you come to The Lane. Indeed I have a random piece of football trivia for you: the largest attendance ever attended at White Hart Lane was 75,038 against Sunderland in the Cup back in 1938. That must have been loud!
Do our club, region, fans mean much to you or is just too far north of Watford?
I have a couple of links to Sunderland as it happens. One of my old flatmates at Uni was a big fan among a group of friends who weren’t in the main into football. So we would come together for mutual support during such fun times as the end of Peter Reid’s tenure and George Graham’s reign of boredom. The man had an Arsenal mural in his back garden and didn’t understand why we never warmed to him. Hmmmm. Furthermore, for a number of reasons I’ve never really liked the Sports Direct Arena/Wonga team so any anyone challenging their position in the North East is fine by me!
More recently, my girlfriend’s father is a big fan and contributor to this site (my participation today is purely coincidental of course…). I write this as you play City. He looks happy enough. Should this change I’ll be sure to purchase the required consolatory beers.
What do you make of the players linked to both clubs: Waddle, Malbranque, Rose of course, spring to mind without too much thought but there are many others?
There have been quite a few who have made the switch over recent years, including the likes of Chimbonda and Tainio. Steed was definitely a player I was sorry to lose as he worked hard and wasn’t lacking in terms of skill either. I liked the look of Saha during his time at Spurs but there was always a question mark over his fitness.
And is there anyone on our current squad you’d welcome at WHL?
I always thought Sessegnon was pretty handy and with Johnson you have someone who could walk into most teams. Also in Wickham it looks like you have a player of enormous potential.
Tell me your highs and lows of supporting Tottenham.
The high point for me was being at the lane for our Champions League defeat of Inter Milan. I’ve never experienced an atmosphere like it and the football we played was top class against what were the defending champions. The low point for me was probably, well, the entire latter half of the nineties! Under Alan Sugar we were a bit of a basket case with rapid fire managerial changes combined with a rapidly deteriorating squad. All of this was capped off at the end of the decade by watching the other lot win a cabinet full of trophies playing the kind of football that had until then been firmly associated with the Lilywhite half of North London.
See also: Monsieur Salut talks all things Sunderland at ESPN FC:http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland?cc=5739
Who are the greatest players you have seen – or wish you’d seen – in Spurs colours and who should haver been allowed nowhere near them?
I was too young to really appreciate the likes of Hoddle and Waddle in their era, though I was old enough to enjoy Gazza’s FA Cup free kick against the old enemy. It’s also been a joy to watch our most recent crop of stars like Modric, Bale, Van der Vaart playing the kind of football that the legends of old would have been proud of. Two players from the dark times of the nineties also always stand out. Jurgen Klinsmann (which I think needs no explanation) and Steffen Freund. Freund wasn’t a mega-talented player. But his heart and determination to do his best in the shirt won him a legion of fans.
How would the present-day stars have fared alongside the Blanchflowers, Greaveses, Whites, Mackays, Linekers and Hoddle/Waddles of years gone by?
It’s always difficult to make these comparisons as players nowadays are so much better prepared and trained than even those of 25 years ago. Also while I think Modric could have held his own against the old school in terms of talent I wouldn’t want him to face Mackay in a tackle! That said I think in recent years most Spurs fans will agree that the football we have been playing is up there with the entertaining style that became synonymous with the team in the past.
What will be this season’s finishing top four in order and who is going down?
That’s a tricky one as I think there is real potential for any of the 4th place challengers to make a difference in the transfer window, but if thinks stays as they are I think it will be United for the title, followed by City, Chelsea and probably the Arsenal. Heresy I know, but I can’t see Everton hanging on all season and Spurs are too up and down at the moment. Also after last season I am too scarred to tempt fate further! As for the drop, I think Reading and QPR are gone, followed by Southampton. Wigan could potentially go down but they’ve shown in the past that they can squeeze through whereas Southampton appear to be suffering from the classic problem of a team coming up and trying to play too openly and shipping goals freely as a result.
I will assume Spurs are in the first of those groups but (bearing in mind Q&A both written before Christmas – ed) where will Sunderland end up if not in the second?
I think Sunderland have too much about them to be at risk of the drop. I’ve been surprised that O’Neill hasn’t got it all working yet but I’m betting he will get it right and you will pick up enough points to be comfortable in the end.
What about the cups?
AVB has certainly made a big thing about wanting to challenge in the Europa League. We have a difficult draw in Lyon, and potentially Inter again afterwards, but Andre appears to take it seriously so we’re all hoping to have a good go with some entertaining games as a result. We’re already out of one domestic cup but we have avoided the top teams in the FA Cup draw so hopefully we can take that seriously and push on.
For Sunderland while Bolton away is a potentially tricky encounter I can still see you coming through that so I think both teams can look forward to their upcoming games and keep that Wembley dream alive!
Cheating: is it time to accept it as part of the modern game? If not what form most annoys you and what should be done to stamp it out?
As a Spurs fan I have to tackle the diving issue. Clearly in Bale we have a player who hasn’t done himself any favours in recent matches. However, we have to accept that players like him do tend to pick up a lot of injuries as defenders (intentionally or otherwise) tackle them clumsily. Therefore while I think we have to stamp down on diving, we also need to look at how defenders behave. I remember one match against Everton in particular where Phil Neville was lauded for having neutralised Bale with a display of peerless defending. What this actually meant was he fouled him repeatedly in such a way that the referee didn’t notice. While I appreciate that the referee isn’t made of eyes we need to think of some way to deal with this otherwise players will continue to attempt to ‘aid’ the referee in noticing fouls by diving.
Which single step should THFC or the authorities take to improve the lot of ordinary supporters?
I can’t speak for Sunderland but Spurs certainly need to look at ticket prices. Matchday tickets are among the highest in the country and, while I understand that this is financing a lot of our recent progress, I worry about the long term implications for younger fans and the spirit of the game as something accessible to people from all walks of life.
Club versus country: which comes first for you and why?
For me it’s club. While I always want England to do well I have become increasingly disenchanted with the personalities involved over the last ten years, combined with the endless stream of insipid performances. This combined with the extremely irritating media circus surrounding the team mean frankly I now keep it all at arm’s length. It’s not all about negativity though! After all while most people support England when they play, it’s their club that they are really involved with on a daily basis and in their communities. That level of emotional engagement week in week out, representing the place I grew up, counts more for me than the occasional international game or tournament.
Will you be at our game and what will be the score?
I won’t be at the game on the 29th but I will be watching it in the house of a Sunderland supporter, so I’m sure there will be plenty of friendly banter. While Sunderland may not be having their best moment the Stadium of Light is not an easy place to visit and Spurs almost never fail to concede. My prediction is a score draw, so I’ll go for 1-1.
* Will Panduro Vasquez on himself: I grew up in Tottenham in the 80s and 90s. My Spanish parents were Real Madrid fans but something in me drew me more to Spurs so I’ll leave that one for the psychologists among your readership. I currently work in Particle Physics using the Large Hadron Collider to probe the mysteries of the universe such as the Higgs Boson and why John Terry is still allowed anywhere near a football pitch. Fortunately this year I can report success in one of these two areas. I finally managed to get a season ticket for The Lane a few years back so I have been lucky enough to witness the great strides of recent times first hand. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season and for the (fingers crossed) years to come under AVB. Here’s hoping also that we can see Sunderland develop into the contenders that I know the club, with its fanbase and history, has the potential to be.
Interview: Colin Randall