Sitting for the shirt
Andre Villas-Boas delivered some oh so subtle ether in his post-match interview after the win over Hull.
Carefully scripted deflection?
I almost want to break the shackles off one of this blog's most esteemed banned words (Machiavellian) that was over-used to the point of exhaustion during the Levy/Stratford debacle and go to town on the psychology of Villas-Boas articulate 'slamming' of the home support. Almost.
Does the atmosphere impact performance, can it influence it? Is it more to do with the frustration that our football is suffering from midfield congestion as our coach works towards equilibrium? Do we need a bigger pitch to play the high line? NFL fields are slightly narrower so Dembele's unhappiness will persist regardless.
It's probably a bit of this and a bit of that and a bit of everything that made AVB reference the atmosphere but if he's simply echoing what the players are thinking then it can hardly be dismissed. He was stating the obvious, he was stating what we all routinely discuss from one week to the next.
The reaction from some will always be; the support would be better if the team dared to entertain those in attendance. Not a lot going on the pitch? Not a lot to sing about then.
Anyone got deja vu?
This very same discussion took place at the beginnings of last season. The same discussions existed post-Champions League season too. We've cited it many times that the consistency of the support has declined and stagnated, not reaching the heights of when Jol was our coach (but positively electric during the CL campaign).
Away from home is rarely an issue for countless reasons. Away support across the country is traditionally always the best experience at football. When you travel there's a real sense of escapism and unified pride to be a Tottenham supporter. It's more tribal. Everyone present is there to represent Spurs and sing. At home games, the same people might (if they attend) be spread around the stands. It's still ironic that it takes a train or a coach or a car away from N17 to truly find a unified voice.
Interestingly, back at home, the majority were not up for it during a time of transition (early last season) when wins were not the easiest to claim and a season on, when wins are still not easy but are plentiful, there is still a lack of atmosphere.
This is the modern day football experience.
The life and soul has been sucked out of the game by virtue of progress and money. It's now okay to suggest that you simply want to go to the football and watch it rather than immerse yourself in it. But what is there to immerse yourself with? We're an apologetic lot considering a fair number of continental teams (with or without all seaters) don't suffer from the same indignities.
It's that missing vibe, the energy that transcends. If you're positive and up for it, there's an infectious buzz that travels around the stands and gets everyone pumped up. You know that cliché about 'belonging' to your club? We take it for granted. It's not a cliché. Picking and choosing when it's appropriate to be vocal, depending on kick-off times and the quality of the opposition or then blaming the corporates and tourists isn't a fix for the problem and won't make a blind bit of difference unless you sing up.
We've got too comfortable with it all. Fragile lot we are. Most clubs suffer from the same problems. The fact we now have singing sections slowly introduced into some grounds illustrates the social segregation of what experience a fan is able to choose from. Why does there even have to be a choice? Once upon a time we all accepted there would be the noisy lot, the biters of nails, the ones seeking to scape-goat, the quietly imploding supporters, the screamers that screamed when something good or bad happened on the field, the ones that sat in silence and exploded with delight when a goal was scored. We all accepted each other and we all instinctively reacted as one when it mattered the most.
There is no right or wrong way to support your team. It's a unique experience for every individual. But considering we are all there to support Tottenham, that tribal togetherness you get at away games doesn't exist at home.
One of my favourite sound bites is how we are now all consumers of the game. Customers. It's more than a sound bite, it's the truth.
Football is no longer this easily accessible escapism. Football tourists lap up available tickets. Clubs value the corporate side of the game thanks to the money that can be generated from it. Season ticket holders will have filled in a questionnaire a year or so ago about some of the potentially available services (in the new stadium) for those that would be happy to spend X amount of thousands of pounds to buy season tickets for X amount of years and enjoy a shuttle ride from the station to the game. Three course meals rather than a dodgy burger outside the ground.
The game is no longer for the common man. It's for everyone but mostly those that have the most wealth will benefit more. The rest of us are valued depending on how much we spend in the club shop before games.
It's a middle class experience, a day at the theatre. Pantomime would be more adapt. What with all the heckling.
The match day experience is no longer perceived as a rite of passage for young lads and
girls seeking to align themselves with clubs colours and forever
surrender their heart and soul to a team that will no doubt test every
conceivable emotion they possess and then have them unequivocally allow it to
happen with undying loyalty. Can't afford the £50 to go? Watch it on an internet stream and follow your Twitter timeline for bonus commentary.
Am I being over-dramatic? Romanticising the very essence of what it means to support a team? The 70s and 80s hardly comparable to this culture of comfort will all preside in currently. There was far more rebellion back then. Against the establishment, against everything. Football was so much more of a release. Now, it's everywhere and we have access to everything. The relentless consumption has slowed many of us down.
Should I, should we, just accept that this is the new age and it's nothing like the past and that the past cannot be reclaimed?
I'd rather not. It's no fun giving up.
It shouldn't even really be this complex. Myself and around a dozen other writers shouldn't need to persistently bring this up as a topic of discussion.
Turn up, love your club and support them. Win, lose, draw. Have a right go at them if you so wish but you know the feeling. You know even when we're having a bad day or losing, you still believe. In your heart (ignoring your head) you believe we can still get back into the game and win. Except we're sat there thinking it rather than creating the noise to fuel the players onwards.
That's not to say there isn't unconditional love for Spurs. It's not to say that some supporters love their team more than others. This isn't about being a better fan because you stand and sing. This isn't about you or me. It's about all of us. I guess the best way I can put it is; it should be a privilege for you to watch Spurs play. So treat the occasion like one. Treat it like it's the last time you'll be there. We've been conditioned more or less because everything around us has changed.
There's always been a vocal majority or at least a section(s) of the ground that orchestrates the atmosphere and lifts those that do prefer to sit in silence and live and breath every kick of the ball. Those that prefer the more quiet experience don't necessarily want the rest of the stadium to be quiet. But they do rely on the vocal ones to sometimes inspire them to stand, scream and encourage the side on.
We all know how it works. We've seen how pockets of support can lift the team. Yes, the team inspire those same pockets of noise and sometimes have the entire Lane rocking.
I can recall my own personal experience when I first started going to White Hart Lane in 1987 and seeing the changes gradually occur throughout the game and how it has re-shaped the match-day experience.
For those that go there has been a fragmentation and degradation of support. You stand up to chant something towards the pitch, you’re instantly told to sit down.
Then there’s expectancy. Especially at Spurs, after decades of
fanciful football but lack of steeled spine, we aspire to challenge and
it’s tangible that we can. The pressures on the supporters is so much so that many no longer enjoy the experience. They just struggle through it and pray it ends well.
Why? Is it because we fear defeat? A fear of underachieving? Are we so obsessed with the desire to be successful that we want to be associated with the end glory rather than live every moment like its the last time we'll be seeking it?
If we don’t win, it becomes about winning at any cost and if we win
it’s still not good enough because it wasn’t entertaining. It's not enough it seems to simply belong.
The ones that prefer to fester in their own negativity, in the past they got drowned out by the majority. These days, you can hear their groans loud and clear.
So what has happened to the voices of the others? Who is the modern day majority?
Wasn’t long ago there was a natural organic vibe at Spurs home games. Andre Villas-Boas, whether the timing was right or relevant, is just stating what we all already know. He just wants us to get behind the team.
Supporting, singing, loving your club should be a given no matter what happens on the pitch. You belong to Tottenham, you belong to the club, good times or bad times.
We all have a voice. Nothing is stopping you from making noise. Nothing but your own prerogative.
Whether it's a case the younger generation of fans are marginalised or not, this football experience isn't one that can be tagged as escapism. It's all got a little too serious for the majority. It's almost like we're no longer fighting the establishment, we're fighting football itself as it continues to eat itself.
AVB has not deflected away from the fact that the experimentation, the trial and error and bedding in of players continues to stutter along, expectedly as far as I'm concerned. He's more or less admitting it if you care to look deeper into the context of his words. Also in that context, he's just reminding us of our duty as supporters. The fact he has to do this in a post-match interview pretty much sums up that not everything is perfect but it's hardly end of days either.
I'm just astonished that we are sat in fourth spot having yet to gel and we are all bickering and pointing the finger and generally not accepting the fact that if everything is so wrong, why does it feel so right? I still remember a decade of relegation form away from home. Our home record is hardly a disaster but we do need more from the coach and players. Some will say it won't change and we won't improve. Others will suggest it will. I guess, again, this is how people cope with the pressures of the game.
When Man Utd win ugly or other 'top sides' score late on having struggled to break down side we are told it's what champions do. Good enough for them, not good enough for us.
It's easy to blame modern football. Easy to blame policing at games. We all have a voice. We all love our club. Nothing is stopping us from singing, shouting, making noise at football matches.
We've got more power than you think.
We are the broken children of football spending more time attempting to justify the lack of atmosphere and rationalise our own perspective on it like it's deserving of an dissertation. Irony guilt aplenty.
Speaks volumes that so many feel so out of their comfort zone of what it once meant to be a football supporter watching your team play that we now have to force change.