NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 424
Submitted by Norman Giller
Let's kick off the New Year with a positive thought … THINGS CAN ONLY GET BETTER. They could hardly have been worse than the surrender to a lively Aston Villa team that thoroughly deserved their 2-0 victory.
I was a guest of the club yesterday, so had to do a lot of tongue-biting during a worrying performance that was arguably the worst of the Antonio Conte era.
But I have to tell you the mood behind the scenes was a mixture of anger and embarrassment that 2023 started in such frustrating fashion. The result should be quick action in the January transfer window, and I cannot see Conte still being in charge come Easter unless there is a huge change of attitude and ambition by both the Board and the players.
One of the biggest concerns is club captain Hugo Lloris and his continuing habit of making horrendous errors that affect the spirit of the side. He has been one of the all-time great goalkeepers, but his invincibility has been literally shot to pieces. This became even more underlined on the day that goalkeeping king Pat Jennings was awarded a CBE to mark his untouchable service to football and his unceasing charity work. Well done, Patrick. Well deserved but (as with Jimmy Greaves) it should have been a knighthood.
As the shell-shocked Spurs players trudged off to the dressing-room after the mess of a match, I listened into Conte's press conference with open mouth. When asked how difficult it would be for Tottenham to finish in the top four, the fiery Italian said: “Last season, we made a miracle. We did a miracle. But I knew which was the situation and was very clear with the club.
“Then I recall very well people talked about Tottenham as title contenders this season but this was a bit crazy to read this. To become title contend-ers, a team ready to fight to win something, you need a solid foundation.
“People think you arrive and you win. This can happen for a team used to winning in the past. If you are not used to it, you have to create this, and you need time and patience. I understand the fans are disappointed because they had patience for a long time.
“At the start of the season, I was very clear, we can be competitive but try to continue to improve, but also there are clubs who can invest £200m or £300m and others with different policies, and you have to respect the policy.
“Otherwise, in a situation that’s not positive to create expectations that are not realistic. I repeat this from the start of the season. I was expecting this moment.
“Now, we have to start to fight because in this league you can slip quickly. I spoke with my players. From start to the end the road is not long. You can slip if you are not prepared and not humble.
“I’m not scared but don’t ask me for things I cannot promise. This creates an illusion and can create dreams. But you have to be realistic. You know the situation.”
These were hardly the words of a man who plans to stay around much longer to see the result of his team-building. I am sure that if he'd been able to call on Richarlison, Bentancur and Kulusevski there would have been a more competitive performance, but the fact remains that Conte's body language suggests he is close to breaking point.
Our Spurs Odyssey guru Paul H. Smith gives his view HERE, and will have shared my despondency and despair at a Tottenham display that sent us all into 2023 with a heavy tread.
Conte must pick Spurs up quickly for Wednesday's visit to erratic but dangerous Crystal Palace before Saturday's FA Cup challenge from Portsmouth. Then come two easy back-to-back matches against runaway leaders Arse-cough-nal and their nearest challengers Man City.
It's going to be a long year. Enjoy it and good luck and good health to all Spurs Odyssey readers from Paul and I. Remember, things can only get better.
Spurs lover Sue Webb, who follows Tottenham home and away in her 'supersonic' wheelchair, took this photo of me with club Legend Cliff Jones at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium yesterday.
The old Welsh wing wizard and I were invited for a half-time remembrance of Maurice Norman, the rock of a centre-half around whom Bill Nicholson built the 1960-61 Double defence.
We were interviewed by Voice of Spurs Paul (Coytey) Coyte, who reminded his audience of how Maurice made 357 League appearances for Spurs and won the League title and back to back FA Cups, plus the European Cup Winners' Cup. This was before his career was cruelly ended by a triple fracture of his leg in a meaningless 1965 friendly against the Hungarian national team.
Maurice collected 23 England caps and was lined up to be the centre-half in Alf Ramsey's 1966 World Cup team. It is a sign of the growing generations that Maurice, at 6ft 1in, was known as 'Mighty Mo' as the biggest player in the squad, while I have teenage grandsons who are taller.
Cliff recalled that there was a saying in the Spurs dressing-room in the days when hard tackling was part and parcel of the game, 'If Dave Mackay doesn't get you, Maurice Norman will!'
It was a personal delight for me to be reunited with Cliff, who will be 88 next month and remains at his playing weight of just under 11 stone. He admits to being in the early stages of the ex-footballer's curse of dementia, but he remains bright and alert.
'Today's team could do with more of what we had,' he confided … 'heart and soul! We played with a passion that seems to be lacking in today's game. But I still love Spurs, and always will.'
So say all of us, Cliff. So say all of us. COYS!
Week 18 of our ninth year of Spurs Odyssey Quiz League challenges:
Which former Spurs player had the middle names Dallas Fyfe, played 28 times for his country, ended his career in Canada and from which club did he join Tottenham?
Please email your answer to me at email@example.com with Quiz Week 18 as the subject heading. Deadline midnight this Friday. I will respond to all who take part.
The rules are the same as in previous seasons. I ask a two-pronged question with three points at stake – two for identifying the player and one for the supplementary question. In the closing weeks of the competition I break the logjam of all-knowing Spurs-history experts with a tie-breaking poser that is based on opinion rather than fact. That’s when I lose the few friends that I have. But, hey, it's fun. Please join in.
This year’s prizes for the champion will be announced later in the season, but most important of all, they will include a framed certificate announcing the winner as 2023 SOQL champion.
Last week … Week 17: Which former Danish League player has won 77 international caps, has scored six goals for Tottenham and which number squad shirt does he wear for Spurs?
Answer: Ben Davies, who wears the No 33 shirt. He spent four years in Denmark early in his career when his father had a job out there.
See you back here next Monday. COYS!
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