March 15 2014 Latest news:
By Ben Pearce, Tottenham correspondent
Monday, October 28, 2013
EXCLUSIVE: Andre Villas-Boas’ concerns over the atmosphere at White Hart Lane are shared by the club’s hierarchy, who are discussing various steps to improve the mood, says the joint chairman of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust, Darren Alexander.
Villas-Boas expressed his disappointment with the Spurs faithful after yesterday’s tense 1-0 victory over Hull City, stating that his side “played in a difficult atmosphere with almost no support”.
It was an uncharacteristic attack from the 36-year-old, who has tended to be the figurehead of a strongly united front since his arrival at the club, never deviating from the party line.
His comments have now divided opinion among fans – but Alexander says the head coach was speaking on behalf of his employers as usual.
“He’s representing the players, he’s representing the club,” he said. “I don’t think anyone can really argue with the fact that the atmosphere at White Hart Lane has been declining over the course of the last three, four or five years.
“We heard whispers around Christmas that the players had turned round to somebody and said they didn’t enjoy playing at White Hart Lane any more.
“I think, later on, Brad Friedel and Michael Dawson went on the record as saying something similar - and these aren’t the sort of players to make those comments on their own. They would be speaking on behalf of other people. If you remember, Clint Dempsey also said something similar.
“I think the problem is a whole combination of things – it’s ticket prices, games being moved from their original times for a multitude of reasons.
“All the season ticket-holders are getting older too - the average age of season ticket-holders at White Hart Lane is 42 or 43 now - and the youngsters are being priced out.
“For a family to be able to go to a league game you’re talking a minimum of £200, not including travel for a day out.
“But I think one of the greater reasons is the expectation on the players. In the 1990s when we had people like Gerry Francis, George Graham and Christian Gross, there was no expectation. We knew that if we were going to the football to have a good time then we would have to create that good time.
“Now, from the very first home game of the season - and it can be against Hull or Swansea or Norwich - you realise that one mistake in a game like that could be the difference, 38 games later, of qualifying for the Champions League and not qualifying. Ultimately that puts a lot of pressure on the players’ shoulders.
“When we play away from home they seem to play with a lot of freedom. We create more chances, the away fans sing more and there seems like a greater togetherness between the players and the away fans. They run to us when they score.”
THST is involved in discussions with the club about the mood at home games, while an ‘atmosphere group’ consisting of fans, the club’s supporter liaison manager Jonathan Waite and representation from the Football Supporters’ Federation is also engaged in finding solutions. Various suggestions are being considered.
“The atmosphere at White Hart Lane is something that we’re working on with the club and with some of the other fans’ groups,” said Alexander. “At the moment we’re looking at banners and flags, and surfing flags to go over the Park Lane end. It’s little things.
“There are older fans who turn around and say ‘we don’t want flags and we don’t want song sheets’. First of all we’d never do song sheets, we would never do anything that organised, that forced. Everything that we would do has got to be done in such a way that it seems organic.
“We’re looking at pre-match music - something to build up to more of a crescendo. Some people have said ‘it would be great if we could sing Can’t Smile Without You before a game the way the Kop sing You’ll Never Walk Alone.
“I tend to agree with the club, that it’s not that much of an anthem - it’s a great song, but it’s not an anthem. But we’re saying to the club ‘let’s try these things’. We’ll try a couple of times and maybe we’ll say ‘this doesn’t work’.
“The key thing is that the club do agree with Andre, that the atmosphere has deteriorated - and they are prepared to work with us on it.
“In fact we’ve been asking about a surfer flag since we took over the trust in February. It wasn’t until we met with the club last Monday night that [Tottenham’s executive director] Donna Cullen mentioned how good the surfing flags looked in the home end at Aston Villa last Saturday.
“She remarked that it’s something Joe Lewis has expressed an interest in, because he feels for the foreign TV market you’ve got to have something visually expressive and visually stunning.
“Now if Joe Lewis is behind it, who are we to say ‘hold on a minute, no’? Ultimately he’s the man who owns the club. If he’s interested in the atmosphere and getting involved - not directly but through the club - I think that can only be a good thing.”
Everyone associated with Tottenham is now waiting to see how the home fans respond when they return to White Hart Lane on Wednesday night, with Spurs hosting Hull City for the second time in four days – this time in the Capital One Cup.
“One of the things that will help on Wednesday is that The Fighting Cock and the 1882 movement have got their block – or blocks - so that’s going to help to a degree,” said Alexander.
“The club also told us yesterday that there are going to be a lot of school kids in the ground - it’s half-term.
“Hopefully it will be a bit more of an open game. There will be changes to the team and hopefully the people who will come in like [Erik] Lamela and [Christian] Eriksen will try to take the opportunities that are given to them, and hopefully it will be a better game. I don’t think there will be a backlash against AVB - I hope there won’t.”
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