At some point during
most Tottenham games a familiar chant will begin from one corner of
the stadium. We want Graham out, we want Graham out! The
degree to which this chant will be taken up by the fans depends on the
teams performance at that moment. Generally, if Spurs are losing
or drawing while playing tedious football, the chant will become very
loud indeed. On 16th March the fans finally got what they were demanding.
George Graham was sacked, completely out of the blue.
Spurs fans would never take to a manager so closely associated with
Arsenal was no surprise. Especially when Graham had been key to
orchestrating the continued superiority of their North London rivals.
But his track record as a manager with Leeds and Arsenal is very
impressive and some supporters were willing to give him a chance.
I was one of that minority.
In many ways I wish
I wasnt a Spurs
fan. One of my earliest memories of following Spurs was watching them
getting hammered by Ipswich. Even as a child I knew that changing your
football team, despite their poor performances, was something that you
just didnt do.
There have been many heartbreaking moments, none greater than our defeat
in 1987 to Coventry in the FA Cup final. They had no right to win really.
Spurs had never been beaten in a Cup final till then. I can clearly
remember Gary Mabbutts own goal that gave Coventry the lead right
at the death. He raised his foot to try and block an incoming cross,
making contact and giving the ball a fatal deflection that sent it flying
past his own keeper. So cruel.
to say there hasnt been good times; the 1981 FA Cup final in particular,
especially the magic goal by the Argentinean, Ricardo Villa. Spurs fans
regard this goal and the player who scored it with cult status. We even
decided to name our new puppy after him, shortening it to Ricky, as
Ricardo seemed a bit poncy for a dog.
Since the early nineties Spurs havent produced much to get excited
about, languishing mid-table season after season. Ironically, despite
this, ticket prices have gone through the roof and it has become one
of the most expensive clubs in the country. Its costing me £34
to go and see the Chelsea match next month. Its not like paying
to see a gig. There youre pretty much guaranteed some entertainment,
provided youve done your research and checked out the reviews
beforehand. Last time I paid over £30 to see Spurs we were treated
to a nil-nil draw against Man City. We were desperate for the referee
to blow the full-time whistle and end our ninety minutes of boredom.
The sacking of George
Graham is the latest thing that has caused me to despair. I know a lot
of the White Hart Lane faithful disagree with me on this. I admit that
the Arsenal man wouldnt be my first choice for manager. But he
is a professional. A manager with a proven track record. Of course hes
also associated with a boring tactical game, the opposite of the Tottenham
ethos, whose fans still demand exciting passing play. I just think that
the football we have been playing over the last few years has been so
far removed from this ideal that we may as well try something else.
At least if Spurs became stronger defensively we might be able to build
towards playing inventive football. Graham brought us our first cup
for eight years. Eight long uneventful years. Thats got to be
If getting rid of
Graham doesnt bother most Spurs fans then surely the manner of
his dismissal must raise alarm. Graham knew that Tottenham needed to
strengthen their squad to avoid a repeat of this season where so many
inexperienced young players have had to be tested. Graham also felt
that it was vital to hold on to talented players like Sol Campbell,
Les Ferdinand and Darren Anderton. At a meeting on March 14th Graham
discussed with David Bulcher, the vice-chairman of the club, the amount
of cash available to do this strengthening and to hang on to players
whose contracts are running out. Graham told the press after this meeting
that far from being given the £50m that earlier this season he
claimed was necessary to make Spurs a championship-winning side, he
was to be given only a fraction of that amount. Only time will
answer whether there will be some action, said Graham. All
I can do is recommend players, and Ill soon find out if Im
going to get those players.
cost Graham his job. By the end of the day Bulcher had sacked him. He
was so incensed that Graham had leaked what he considered confidential
information. Bulcher said that Graham had been fired for breach of contract
and for not having the interests of the club at heart.
To me it seems Bulcher
is the man with the clubs interests furthest from his heart. He
has dismissed a manager who has just brought the club to the FA Cup
semi-final. The cup-tie is to be against the old enemy Arsenal. Psychologically
Graham was our best weapon. Arsenal fans know better than most the success
that Graham can bring to a club. He has shown with Arsenal, Leeds and
Spurs that he has an ability to prepare a team for a one-off big match.
Now hes gone and Arsenal will start the match without that fear,
theyll be no magic worked by their ex-boss to gear Tottenham up
from a mediocre side. Arsenal are by far the strongest side on paper,
and Bulcher has just thrown away our one trump card.
It looks like the
new owners of Spurs will be as tight as Alan Sugar ever was. Grahams
annoyance with them over the lack of funding shows that massive regeneration
is not about to start. Buying more players is seen by the money-men
as a risky investment. An expensive outlay that may not necessarily
yield sufficient financial returns. It seems to me that it is these
people who arent putting the club first, happy to take whatever
short-term action will best line their pockets.
There is no doubt
that George Graham will survive the sack, his CV proves his worth and
there will be many clubs desperate to put him in charge. I am more concerned
about Tottenhams chances of surviving. If we get knocked out of
the FA Cup in the next round it will mark the end of another uneventful
season. Future managers may be hard to find now Graham has told the
truth about the lack of funding available. This will deter any big names
from wanting the job. It will also encourage players like Sol Campbell
to leave. He has already said that he is frustrated by the clubs
lack of ambition. For how much longer will he resist Man United's call?
They can offer him a much greater chance of success that a player of
his calibre deserves.
The first game
since Grahams departure revealed a lot. The Spurs fans that would
usually chant Graham Out were not celebrating. In fact the
Spurs fans appeared to be suffering collective amnesia about the whole
affair. Coventry didnt forget though; There's only one George
Graham! they mocked throughout the match, to no response. I bet
that the Arsenal fans will enjoy singing that same song during the upcoming
semi-final. Only a victory will bring an end to their torment, lets
hope we get one.
© Jim Johnson