When it comes to heroes, Spurs fans have mainly been loyal to theirs. One only has to view the reception given to former players like Paul Gascoigne, Chris Waddle and Glenn Hoddle, when they have returned to White Hart Lane with their new clubs.
So why do these players receive the hero welcome? Is it to do with them being world class performers? It is certainly not the only factor. Ronny Rosenthal was a bargain basement striker signed in a panic by Ossie Ardiles in 1994. The Israeli journeyman was full of effort and hard work, if little achievement, and only for a stunning hat-trick in a 6-2 FA Cup win over Southampton in 1995, he would probably have been quickly forgotten by the fans. Rosenthal was awarded a fine welcome when he came back with new club Watford in a 1999 FA Cup game.
But if you are a top notch player, you are bound to be remembered with fondness, right? This is not the case. Teddy Sheringham caused a storm when he walked out on Tottenham in 1997 to join Manchester United for 3.5m. Sheringham returned to White Hart Lane for his United debut months later in the season opener. It was a mixed day for Teddy as he contrived to miss a penalty, before United ran out comfortable 2-0 winners. Sheringham was booed from the moment the United bus arrived until the final whistle.
Although the impact of the Sheringham episode has lessened over the years, the fans left Sheringham in little doubt that they didn’t appreciate his perceived arrogance at suggesting that he should be at a better club than Spurs. It doesn’t matter that it’s true, fans don’t care about truth, they just want their ambitions fulfilled.
Of course this topic has become germane, as Tottenham’s most prized asset is on the brink of leaving the club for nothing. Sol Campbell has made his name at Spurs, but now looks set to make a bigger name for himself by being one of the most high profile players to walk away from a club on a Bosman in the Premiership.
But why has this been allowed to happen?
8 years of Sol Campbell broke on to the scene in late 1992 when he played as a gangly 17 year old striker, scoring on his debut in a (predictable) 1-2 defeat against Chelsea. Since then he has morphed into holding midfielder, full back, and finally central defender.
It is as a central defender that Campbell has become a huge star for not just club, but also country. Sol is Spurs through-and-through and the thought of him walking away on a free transfer is bound to make many Spurs fans furious.
Surely Spurs can afford to make Sol an offer that he can’t refuse? Don’t be so sure. They club are keen to keep Sol at Spurs for another 4-5 seasons, and are rumoured to be willing to offer him the most lucrative contract in the history of the club, somewhere in the region 40,000 a week.
But Sol has said that it just isn’t about money. He wants to be successful, he wants to win things, he wants to see that the club he loves shares his ambition. If his ambition is to challenge Manchester United and Arsenal for the Premiership, then it’s not going to happen. Deep down Sol knows that, but one feels that if the club were able to climb up to the peripheral, say with the Leeds, Chelseas and Liverpools of the league, then he may be willing to stay.
Oh Sit Down!
The signing of players like Sergei Rebrov are bound to make an impact on Campbell and Spurs need to get some more high profile names in to reassure Campbell that if the ship is sinking, then he’ll be on it with some big stars.
But the Rebrov signing was a start and Campbell has always maintained that in the summer, he would hammer out his future with the club. Has he? Not yet. George Graham has said that Campbell has not sat down yet and he and his agent have shown no desire to do so.
This is where I am confused. Why won’t Sol discuss a contract like he said? He has spent the last six months assuring the fans that he has no wish to leave but for some reason he seems to be backtracking with many supporters now expecting that he will walk away. Has Sol been covering his back by falsely claiming he wished to stay while secretly having no intention of doing so?
Whether he has or not, that will be the charge levelled at him unless he formally sits down and discusses a new contract. I do remember everyone expecting Roy Keane to walk away from Manchester United last year only for him to sign a last gasp deal for 52,000 a week. That’s unlikely to happen in this situation.
My take on the situation is that Sol knows Spurs will remain mid-table and he thinks he deserves better. He’s probably right, but that’s not going to soften the blow for Spurs fans. If Campbell moves to a Premiership rival he may find the reaction to him in the future to be very mixed.
Already Sol has been playing political games (the same games that Messrs Sugar and Graham are often accused of playing in the press), with his baseless claims of been willing to discuss a new deal. Some fans are starting to see through this already and this is where Campbell may come unstuck.
I think the truth is that Sol has made up his mind and will be standing alongside Jaap Stam in the Manchester United defence next season. What do I think of that? It’ll make me sick.
So there might be a last minute reprieve for the transfer system after the EU acknowledged that football may have cause to be considered a ‘special case’. The warning sirens have been wailing around the boardrooms of the lower league clubs recently, and who can blame them.
On that basis, the average football fan might be forgiven for being sympathetic to the poorer clubs claims. But doesn’t common sense needs to prevail? Transfer fees are a disgrace and bear little resemblance to the actual value of a player. A more controlled and calculated method of deciding transfer fees is required.
But then on the other hand then, one can see salaries going through the roof if transfer fees are virtually abolished. The £100,000 a week football is only around the corner and this is where the problems really begin. The gap between big and small could possibly get even larger and that would really be the death knell for football as we know it.
It’s all purely speculation and only the actual execution of the EU plan is going to deliver the answers that we are all hypothesising. One way or the other, football has been much the worse for all the money flowing through it so maybe it’s all academic.