The ‘Celtic in the Premier League?’ question is back…

Date published: Wednesday 15th August 2018 8:35

Keep your Mails coming to…

A great mail on Spurs’ stadium
A bitterly disappointing week this is turning out to be for Spurs fans. The disdain with which the club is treating us over the fiasco at the new stadium, shows us the snarling money obsessed wolf being exposed beneath the thin veneer of ‘football family’ sheep’s’ clothing.

I pay for three season tickets, a discretionary spend, that enables me to enjoy attending matches with my sons, who have other financial priorities. The excitement of the new stadium caught in the throat slightly when I saw that the price of the equivalent seat in the new stadium, to that which I had previously occupied, would cost close to 40% more than I spent on season tickets last year. But having promised to buy the tickets for the first season, at least, at the new stadium I sucked it up, and the money left my account back in early June. Then came news that the Fulham match would be at Wembley so I was asked to pay out another £108 for the match this Saturday. Apparently at some stage I will get a credit of 1/19th of the season ticket cost against future purchases. Now I discover that I will have to pay out yet more money for the next set of matches at Wembley, again I will receive a credit at some future time against further purchases.

This all comes on the day that I read the BBC report stating that Spurs are one of the clubs that would still have made a profit the other season even if it had let the fans in for free. It leaves a seriously bad taste in the mouth. As I said, it is a discretionary spend, and I am not looking for sympathy here. However, the club needs to look long and hard at the way it treats the fans who come through the turnstiles. I have recently retired, and I am reviewing all ‘discretionary spending’ and the £2650 I paid out in June is one that sticks out as one that may be hard to justify in future. My wife and I could cover the cost of a fairly good holiday with that money. If I stop going/paying, my sons who have even less flexibility in ‘discretionary spending’ at this time, will stop going, so that will be 3 long time fans lost at the gate.

The club probably shrugs it shoulders, and confidently expects ‘tourists’, or people on the waiting list, to take my place. However, I know a few other guys like me, who have supported the club for many years, and sheltered their sons from the pain of season ticket prices. They are in a similar position to me. If you look at attendance demographics, this is a trickle that could easily become a fairly strong flow. Changing the match day atmosphere for the worse, and more significantly changing the core attendees from a large cadre of long term loyal fans to a dependence on occasional visitors. No problem whilst things are on the up. But a downturn on the pitch could be catastrophic.

I can recall the mid seventies when attendances were down around 15 – 18000 for league matches, an it was cheap to get in back then. Mr Levy, who has done great things for the club after the shambolic Surallen regime, needs to grasp the negativity created by the clubs appalling attitude to season ticket holders on this.

Even a token gesture, such as no charge for one of the Wembley matches, might have given some substance to the weasel words about the clubs ‘disappointment’.
Jim French (Spurs since ’59) Herts

And another
As an expat in exile excited about getting a ticket with a mate to the first game at the new WHL, I locked down a $900 flight just a week ago in anticipation of the first home game at the new stadium against Liverpool in just four weeks.

The fact an announcement has only just been made, so soon ahead of the planned opening, smacks of lack of planning, foresight and deceit, and makes obvious why spurs spent nothing in the transfer window, given the heavy financial cost – estimated to be 3M/game to play at Wembley, as well as fan compensation in the form of ticket refunds.

I said to friends last year that as long as Levy is chairman, Spurs will win nothing. Short sighted on transfers, parsimonious (don’t pretend he’s paying for the stadium – it’s the banks, fans and – if Levy can get out of his own way, – naming rights).

Levy lucked out with Pochetinno, who’s been able to craft a team to challenge with out anywhere near the resources or investment of teams around him. 75M wasted on mid-table players like Sissoko, N’Koudou, Janssen and N’Jie speaks to a cheap-skate chairman who has fleeced fans for too long.

The mis-managed stadium project, more than twice over budget with a likely white-elephant retractable NFL pitch if Shahid Khan buys Wembley, reflects poorly on Levy’s acumen. The NFL played him – they always want a bargaining chip and Levy provided it by offering to take the risk of paying for the NFL pitch.

Despite arguing for higher ticket prices at the new stadium due to the need for “squad investment”, no transfers came.One trophy in more than 17 years of ownership but the second highest season ticket prices in the country, speaks volumes to the owners priorities, lack of squad investment and contempt for fans.

With Eriksen, Alli, Vertonghen and Alderweireld not signing new contracts and entering their final two years in some cases, I can see the next few years being substantially more difficult – even more so as Levy eviscerates the goodwill of fans
Dan James, Spurs (thanks, Dad…)

The Celtic question is back
Scottish fans and supporters of Scottish teams bear with me. This is no knuckle dragging jingoism or patronising query. This is a genuine enquiry. I’m watching AEK v Celtic as I type and the hosts have just scored their second goal. Once again, as an Englishman completely ignorant of Scottish football affairs, I’m forced to ask:

1. What is the point of Celtic entering the CL?

2. More importantly, what can be done to improve the Scottish leagues?

When Celtic and Rangers were at their most recent peak, I would delight in telling friends that supported either that, had I a magic wand, I would grant both teams one season in the PL perfectly confident in the belief that, at the end of it, both teams would be sent packing with their tails between their legs. We could then close down the (then) ‘noisy national neighbours’ conversation once and for all. Swansea and Cardiff however, have both since proven that my point was, at the least, b*llocks.

That said, clearly the current situation is akin to Chelsea or City playing L1 or L2 teams every week and winning the PL and all domestic trophies with ease. This would be as ludicrous in England as it currently is north of the border. Why are people wanting to buy Wolves, Leeds, Fulham etc, but not Celtic or Rangers? Is the seemingly eternal religious/sectarian element, which isn’t a minority but front and centre of both clubs support, simply unpalatable to 21st Century investors?

Has the presence of either Cardiff or Swansea in the PL improved the Welsh leagues/grassroots? If it has, would the inclusion of the two top Scottish teams in the PL be of any equal benefit? Is it in the interest of either the PL or English FA to assist Scottish football, especially given the money sloshing around both amid the inescapable fact that neither would be what they are today without Scottish players, staff and, of course, the best manager the PL has ever seen? For instance, a percentage of a clubs’ loans must be to a Scottish club. Is that patronising, none of our business or both?

I repeat, I mean no offence and if any F365 bod can cure my ignorance or inject some positivity into this, I’d be obliged!
Mark (Scott Sinclair just scored. Doesn’t change my ‘mail) MCFC

Tactical fouls and statistics
Oh dear. Ross (Don’t let statistics get in the way of a good lie) Norwich Spurs, you sweet summer child, what is your argument? You seem to be putting forward a rebuttal to the point that Ally, London made in the Tuesday morning mailbox about City’s persistent tactical fouling which prevented Arsenal from breaking on the counter, while also taking a stance against the use of statistics.

Mind you, Ally cited no stats and seemed to making an observation based on watching the match and noting that City often made tactical fouls in the final third just as Arsenal were poised to break. To argue your view, you point out that all teams foul (true, if not insightful) and that statistics often lie. To support your argument and illustrate the fact that statistics are crap you used errr…statistics, devoid of any context.

While it may be true that City, Liverpool, Spurs (and other teams that run a high press system) all foul 4-5 times a match far upfield, without any context that single statistic proves the square root of sweet FA.

There are any number of final third fouls that come about from a high press: fouling a player in a 50/50 challenge for a loose ball that came from pressing the backline, chasing a fullback to the corner before putting in an overly exuberant tackle as he tries to clear upfield, etc. Firmino alone picks up a couple of these a game through the sheer tenacity of his pressing. These fouls are different from Tactical Fouls: pulling back a defender before he can pick out a long ball to a streaking winger breaking up the field, or putting in a deliberately late challenge to take out a midfielder who has laid the ball off and is about to bust a lung to join the counter.

I only half watched Arsenal-City so I can’t speak to the type of fouls that Ally was referring to, but I do understand the point being made as I’ve seen City players making those tactical fouls and then putting a hand up while being sternly scolded, but not carded, by the officials. Then again I’m also not writing in to challenge the observation with poorly thought out arguments.

In short: statistics are good only when joined with context, as they can supplement the observations made while watching a game and/or highlight things that may have been missed. But without context, they are close to useless and easily twisted.


Interesting reading Ross’ email on Spurs, City & Liverpool’s respective high foul counts.Whilst it’s impossible to know exactly how the “high press” is discussed in training, it’s noticeable that large numbers of tactical fouls in innocuous parts of the pitch (where a controlled foul is unlikely to carry a booking) are a feature of every team that play this way. That being the case, I’m not sure why he’s so quick to dismiss the idea that “cynical shithousery” is a feature rather than a bug for all the teams playing this way.

There’s a clear advantage to having your “high press” operate on the margins of the law. If you’re tackling the other team by their own corner flag you effectively entirely eliminate the worst outcome (the player escapes and runs into space), leaving you with the best outcome (winning the ball high up the pitch) or another good outcome (a free kick to them in an unhelpful position). In the absence of further consequences (a yellow card), why wouldn’t you coach your team to do this? Particularly when the major potential problem with pressing high is that you’ll be stuck up the pitch if the opposition manage to evade you.

Can’t say I blame any of the teams concerned for doing it, even if deliberately stopping the other team from playing via illegal means is probably not within the spirit of the game. But the real issue is just how lax the laws of the game are with this sort of gamesmanship. Broadly speaking tactical fouls only merit yellow cards as they get further up the pitch, with broad tolerance for non-dangerous offences at the beginning of forward moves. But why should a team *ever* get an advantage from committing a foul? Surely additional punishment should be a given if the offender is deliberately trying to break up play?
Jack “Let the counters flow” Saunders

Not just football
‘The medium and the intent may be entirely throwaway, but that doesn’t matter. This is like offensive jokes: the purveyor does not get to determine the offence caused, the recipient does.’

Truly, more than a football site, and pushing back against rising levels of social chauvinism in more than just football. All I see on Facebook (I had to turn off Twitter) is bleak stuff about the far right, Jordan Peterson, and the words ‘free speech’ twisting into a totally violent thing divorced from their actual meaning. And so I look at football a lot, just to not panic. And I see this kind of thing, and think maybe not everyone is getting more wilfully ignorant and unkind. And so thanks.

Keep being you, F365 girls and boys.
Tim, LFC, Mexico


Your first Evo-Stick Premier League update
For reasons not really made clear, the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League has not yet kicked off its season, with the first round of fixtures slated for this coming Saturday. It’s fair to say it’s been an eventful summer. The NPL has borne the brunt of the upheaval caused by a restructure of Steps 3 and 4: in addition to the promoted (two) and relegated (one) teams, five teams were reassigned to the brand new Premier Central Division of the Southern League – this should have been six except that Shaw Lane folded in June and Hednesford Town were shunted back up north following a failed appeal.

All this leaves a 22-team division that looks very open, with lots of new rivalries to be forged and it being nigh-on impossible to get a handle on how a lot of teams will measure up. One thing we do know is that in recent history the NPL has been a lot kinder to promoted sides than to relegated ones. In the last 10 seasons (2008-09 to 2017-18), 41% of relegated teams have fallen straight through the NPL’s trapdoor (or folded). In stark contrast, the only team to return to Step 2 immediately were last season’s champions, Altrincham, though this does come with the caveat that this was on the back of two successive relegations. This should mean alarm bells are ringing for North Ferriby United and Gainsborough Trinity, following their first relegation in a history that dates back to 1873.

On the other hand, promoted teams find it much easier: since 2008-09 seven teams have won promotion from the NPL on their first attempt. Scarborough and South Shields (for whom this would be an incredible fourth successive promotion) have been earmarked as favourites, though Bamber Bridge and Basford United will also fancy their chances of making it to the National League North for the first time in their history. The final promoted side also present an interesting proposition. Hyde United were in the Conference Premier (now National League) as recently as 2013-14 before being relegated three times in a row. Last season they began moving in the right direction again, and were they to make it consecutive promotions it would certainly knock plenty of other so-called yo-yo clubs into a cocked hat.

Then there are the teams who start somewhere in the middle. The three defeated playoff sides (Farsley Celtic, Grantham Town and Warrington Town) will fancy their chances, and six other teams have previously played at a higher level, even if in some cases this was a long time ago.

This will be the first time I’ve followed a team in the Evo-Stik League for a whole season, and the turnover of teams, managers and players in preseason has been rather eye-opening. It’s a tough league, mentally and physically. There are games every Saturday and Tuesday, the way football used to be, but with a lot of travelling – as an extreme example Grantham’s away games are, on average, a 200-mile round trip. There is a lot of unknown and unpredictability, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens.
Ed Quoththeraven

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