Following Tottenham’s drab performance on Sunday against Hull City, Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas had a few choice words to say in his post match interview. The Portuguese intimated that Tottenham had played like the away side, and suggested that part of the reason for this was that the Spurs fans had generally failed to get behind their side and that there was ‘negativity’ present within White Hart Lane during the game. Villas-Boas suggested that he felt the fans could definitely do better and urged them to get behind his Tottenham team.
To say that the 36-year old’s comments touched a nerve with certain sections of the Spurs support would be an understatement. Fans of the North London side quickly took to the radio airwaves and social networks to voice their disapproval at Villas-Boas’s comments, with many believing that their manager had absolutely no right to make his frustrations with them public.
It should be noted that there were plenty of Spurs fans who actually agreed with Villas-Boas’s assessment, and as the debate continues to rage on, there is a clear divide between those who believe that their manager was entirely wrong to make those comments and those who believe he had every right to do so.
So who is right? Should Andre Villas-Boas have voiced his criticism of Tottenham fans? Does he have the right to do so? Should the fans still be supportive of the team if they are unsatisfied with their performances?
One thing that is crucial to remember in all of this is that Spurs’ ‘success’ is a relatively recent thing. Being a Tottenham Hotspur fan during the 1990s could not have been the most pleasurable of things, as the side toiled away in midtable. In recent years – in no small part down to the guiding hand of Daniel Levy – Tottenham’s fortunes have improved dramatically; to the extent that in the last few seasons they have been competing for Champions League football; and actually achieved that feat in 2010.
The reason for mentioning the fact that Spurs’ success is a recent development is that it provides us a context from which we can decipher whether or not the fan’s behaviour is acceptable. Ultimately, Tottenham’s recent history indicates that Spurs fans really have never had it so good. Last season they missed out on Champions League football by one point after amassing their highest ever Premier League points total. Following the sale of Gareth Bale for a world record fee, Villas-Boas has been able to considerably strengthen the squad and bring in Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen, Etienne Capoue, Paulinho, Nacer Chadli, Roberto Soldado and Vlad Chiriches. The North London side are currently fourth in the league after their best ever Premier League start, a mere three points behind their rivals Arsenal.
And yet the fans (or at least, lots of them) aren’t happy. They feel they should be beating a team like Hull City much more easily than they managed on Sunday, despite the fact that Hull are currently performing far beyond expectations and reside in a midtable position and despite the fact that Hull have been great on the road so far this season, beating Newcastle at St James Park and Everton at Goodison.
Not only are Hull a difficult side to beat, but it must also be noted that Spurs are currently in a transitional phase and are therefore unlikely to play to their full potential. Buying so many new players in such a short space of time is always likely to result in a ‘bedding in period’, and that is clearly the case at White Hart Lane. And yet, they are still winning. Given the circumstances, one would think that Spurs fans would actually be happy that Spurs are winning, but unfortunately for Villas-Boas, it appears that his team isn’t winning well enough.
Back in the ‘good old days’, a football fan would support their team through thick and thin. Rain or shine, win or lose, a football fan would be there on the terraces cheering his or her side on. For some odd reason, that sense of fandom and that sense of support appear to be drifting out of the game, and it’s definitely to its detriment. Tottenham fans don’t appear to be able to look back a few years to when Sergei Rebrov was leading their line and appreciate how good they’ve got it. Instead, they moan because they aren’t decimating a very solid and hard-to-break-down Premiership side.
So is Villas-Boas right to criticise the fans for their negativity and lack of support? In my mind, he absolutely is. A true football fan sticks with their team through thick and thin, is always optimistic about their chances, bemoans their losses but looks forward to the next game and is unhealthily enamoured with every player who pulls on the club’s jersey. That simply isn’t what we’re seeing with Spurs fans.
We’re seeing a spoilt set of supporters, who feel entitled to good football just because they spent a lot of money in the same summer that they lost one of the best players in the world. We’re seeing a set of supporters who want instant results, impervious to the facts of life that dictate quite clearly that instantaneous success is unsustainable and unrealistic. We’re seeing a set of supporters who feel that they don’t have to even support their club. It’s a sad state of affairs, and I for one hope that AVB’s words will have the intended effect. Spurs are on their way up – of that there is no doubt – and for the fans to be ungrateful about a few average performances that have still yielded 6 wins out of 9 is somewhat embarrassing.