It becomes clearer by the season,if not by the day that there is a move away from the concept of a football club as being a kind of family with links to the local community, players brought through the system,the club playing in a tradition and style recognised by fans ,managers and management and held in trust for the supporters past, present and future. Out goes too the idea of a loyalty bond between club and the player as the obscene amounts of money sloshing around the system turn the heads of players and management alike
But are there signs that Tottenham fans are having second thoughts. Have we reached a crossroads at Tottenham? Have we actually given up on our admiration for players who 'love the shirt' in favour of a new ruthlessness and made the decision to go for so called mercenaries as long as they are good enough. Because if so its farewell to the likes of Tainio,a good squad player who might have filled in as a defensive midfielder this season. Farewell to Malbranque who was many fans choice as player of the year,who covered well,ran his heart out and never complained though playing out of position for most of the season. Goodbye as well to Robbo,accorded 'true Yid' status for his choir leading cup efforts away in the Uefa cup and for his performances in his first two seasons. Many feel that we should have helped him more to recover his confidence and given him another season,though not as first choice.
The response to the departure of Tainio on some websites is quite sobering. On 'Spurs Community' for example there were upwards of 2000 viewings and over 80 responses mostly wishing him well, and many tinged with nostalgic regret. This is double the usual amount or responses and viewings. Ironically Robbie Keane awarded 'true Yid' status some time ago is deserting us for his boyhood dream team to almost hysterical abuse from the Tottenham fans. The more recent posting on Paul Robinson's transfer is similarly approaching these kind of numbers. So club loyalty has a part to play in the fans'view at least. The unease that I detect over Tainio and Malbranque's departure may be an indication that the fans are not quite as ruthless as many of them pretend. There is perhaps an element of guilt about it. They are not quite comfortable with this new brutalism.
Now some clubs,Chelsea, Man. U. Man. City have reached the crossroads, ripped up the signposts and driven straight across. It is hard to imagine a modern manager tasked with instant success or the
sack like Erricson and Avram Grant to worry too much about the views of the fans and the boyhood affiliations of the players. The criteria are (1) Is he good enough? (2) Is he available or can he be tapped up / (3) How much will he cost and how big are his wage demands? Hopefully the fourth one is 'Do we need him?'
Does it make the player a better player because he is playing for the team he loves? It may do but that begs the question how good is he in the first place. Bentley is allegedly a Spurs fan and despite being an ex Arsenal player is likely to be signing soon. But its his performances at Blackburn not his support for Spurs that are crucial to the deal. In all this there is an element of wanting the players to love the shirt and kiss the badge. Frank Lampard at Chelsea is an ardent badge kisser, tongues and everything, but wont sign a new four contract on over £100,000 per week. Per week!
Ghaly,Kaboul and Chimbonda have been heavily criticised,to the point of hysteria in Ghaly's case, for showing disrespect to the shirt,the club,or the manager and have been cheerfully wished on their way whatever their abilities or use to the club. Robbie Keane has been petulant on occasions when subbed but was seemingly forgiven for his long service record. But loyalty is a two way street and the reactions to the sale of Defoe after he had been messed about without complaint and the sacking of Martin Jol which was worthy of Abramovich and Thaksin Shinawatra on a bad day raise doubts as to how acceptable the new brutalism really is.
But is this the way we have to go. The way that Ramos has set about his squad in terms of discipline ,fitness and transfers indicates a man on a mission. Firstly to keep his job by bringing success to Spurs and secondly to achieve this by getting players loyal first of all to the manager . Loyalty to the club is an optional extra. But our love of Ledley King is not just because he is a good player who has probably missed out on greatness through recurring injuries but because he is one of ours, a one club man. There are not many of these in modern times. Scholes, Neville and Giggs perhaps if they see their careers out at Man.U.
So if Spurs fans are getting squeamish about the way some of their favourites are treated,worried about the wholesale changes to the team and its possible effect on our chances of Champions' League they had better toughen up or ship out. Personally I don't crave success and only want to be entertained. I don't want Berbatov to stay to enhance our chances of breaking into the top four but because he is a wonderful footballer who is a delight to watch. Nor am I arguing for a loyalty pledge for all new signings,backed up by a lie detector test . I don't know whether Modric is a modern mercenary or not but he is a top class player who is going to give me hours of enjoyment, I am not advocating loyalty above quality but am always hopeful that a balance can be struck.
Most fans however feel so starved of success at Tottenham that they seem prepared to bite the bullet and go for it. The demands for an 'enforcer in midfield to protect little Luka and Aaron were part of this new realism on the part of Tottenham fans. So far our new signings do not jeopardise our reputation for quality football and the retention of Huddleston is another good sign. We may be safe under this manager for a little while but the pursuit of success above all else is a slippery slope that I don't want to go down. The question is can we achieve success without compromising our values. Thats the crossroads we have reached unless we lost our way some time back and blundered across the junction in a fog of false hope,envy and despair.