One of the perks of writing for a living is that occasionally you get the opportunity to meet your heroes. With that in mind, I was properly chuffed when, having interviewed Andy Jacobs for a couple of Chelsea previews, Paul Hawksbee – him of talkSPORT, Harry Hill’s TV Burp and Baddiel and Skinner’s Fantasy Football League fame – agreed to a chat.
And what a nice bloke …
So, Paul, Tottenham from birth? Were you, like me, given no choice whatsoever?
To be honest, it’s one that could easily have gone either way. I was brought up in Stoke Newington, which is closer to the Emirates than White Hart Lane, and half of the family supports Arsenal. I was due to be taken by a relative to watch Arsenal play but he had flu and the next opportunity was to go and see Tottenham! And there was no going back – Spurs claimed me.
My first game was in 1968 and I’ve going regularly since the early 70s, including a season in the old Second Division after one particularly bad season ended up with us being relegated. Plenty of ups and downs since.
Was Andy gentle with you after Tottenham’s defeat by his beloved Chelsea?
Yes, he was fine. We have this unwritten rule that you don’t go in too hard on the loser, on the basis that if you do it’ll only come back and bite you on the backside when the fortunes are reversed.
Similar to the way I deal with wins over Ipswich – you know if you dish it out too much, it’ll come back ten-fold, so best to keep the powder dry.
Exactly. Maybe save it until the end of season if you’re going to have a dig. Always the best way.
I was surprised how it ended for Poch? Is Jose the answer?
Good question. Early days and the jury is still out, but there were a few worrying signs yesterday both on and off the pitch. We have played quite well in certain games – and it was certainly a good win away at Wolves when they had to really dig in for the three points – but there is a feeling of us being flat-track bullies in a way; beating those sides we’re expected to and then coming up short when we face the better sides, like United and Chelsea.
It wasn’t great to see the ungracious version of Jose appear after the Chelsea game either. Despite being out-thought by Lampard he was loathed to give him any praise and instead blamed everyone but himself – the ref, Rudiger, VAR etc etc. He’s been pretty good and fairly positive since he arrived, but this was the Man Utd version – one we didn’t really want to see.
A lot of the current Spurs team – and it’s been a really good one – have been there a long time (Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Dier, Eriksen, Alli, Kane etc). Needs a refresh?
Yep, I agree. A freshening up is most definitely needed although I can’t see too much happening in January. Mourinho will have known before he came in – as part of his negotiations with Daniel Levy – that there is not too much money to spend and although we definitely need a couple of new faces, it’s hard to see it happening in January unless maybe we shift someone. Danny Rose is one who may want to look elsewhere as he’ll want first-team football in the lead-up to Euro 2020, so if he went it’d free up a bit of cash for Jose to spend.
Does that mean we can rest easy in the knowledge you won’t be coming after Max Aarons?
Ha! He looks a great little player but with Jose now in charge, and his preference of experience over youth, we’re more likely to end up with someone who’s been around the block and is Portuguese!
Will Mourinho be more likely to splash some cash in the summer? There’s precious little value to be had in the January window and we all know how Daniel Levy loves his value.
Possibly but every window is tough for Tottenham in that we don’t pay the same level of wages as all of the other big clubs. They can go else elsewhere and earn more money. That always makes it difficult to get players in when other big clubs are also in for them. But it’s hard to predict what may happen in the summer.
Harry Kane, for example, may have reached the point where he wants to win something and doesn’t think that’s going to happen with Tottenham. Obviously, Levy would ask a fortune and there are only a few clubs, like Real Madrid and co who could afford him, but how do you replace him? You couldn’t. We’d be talking £200 million and he’d certainly be in demand – so it’ll be interesting.
We know all too well how difficult it is to compete in the transfer market with teams who have deeper pockets!
Plenty of positives for you looking ahead though, Paul. How are things going in the new stadium?
It’s been really good to be fair. It’s a fun place to watch football, the sightlines are good, no-one is too far away from the pitch and, so far, the atmosphere and the noise has been really good.
The tricky bit, of course, is getting success on the pitch to match the stadium. The long-term plan is we fill the stadium week-in, week-out, and then generate more money that will enable the club to compete regularly on a higher level. That’s the plan anyway
Some new stadiums tend to need a bedding-in period … I’m thinking specifically of West Ham and the Olympic Stadium. Has that not been an issue at Tottenham?
It hasn’t really. It’s all worked out quite well, helped by the fact it’s basically a brand-new stadium but built on the site of the old White Hart Lane. It feels like home already.
What have you made of our season? (Please be gentle)
I actually think you’re a decent side, but you’ve been bugg.ered by injuries. I think Daniel Farke is a good manager too who has just had such a difficult job to try and manage a squad that has had so many key players missing. With such a small squad a few injuries can have a massive impact – as Bournemouth are discovering at the moment – whereas someone like Liverpool, who have depth in their squad, could easily cope with the same number of injuries you have had.
Obviously, you have Pukki up front, who is a proper handful, and it’s great for you that Buendia has come back into form. I also like the look of Todd Cantwell, who looks a really classy young player.
Finally, standard stuff … you see Mourinho making many changes after the Chelsea defeat? … and a score prediction?
Well, first up I think it’ll be a good game – two teams who like to pass the ball – but I have to back the boys and go for a hard-fought 2-1.
It’ll be interesting to see who Jose goes with, particularly in Son’s absence, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lucas Moura moved over into Son’s position and summer-signing Lo Celso be given a chance. He looks like one who could turn into a good player, but he’s just taken a while to settle, which is not unusual in this league.
So, it’ll be a tough one for us – always is at Carrow Road – and it could easily be a 2-2 but I’ll stick with a 2-1 to the Spurs.
Cheers to Paul for his time and for humouring the stuttering sycophant on the other end of the line.