HomeZ OLD CATEGORIESEPL Team AnalysisThe Spurs Story Could Save English Football

The Spurs Story Could Save English Football

Mauricio Pochettino had a few things to say a couple of weeks back about other people’s opinions about his club. While his comments in this case were mostly directed towards Antonio Conte, who had suggested that it would not be a ‘tragedy’ if Tottenham failed to win the Premier League next season, one got the sense that he was addressing the vast majority out there who think that the lack of incoming activity at Spurs means that they’ve already fallen behind all the big teams.

One would think that we are talking about a team that has spent a lot of money in previous seasons. But the numbers share a story. Since the 2012-13 season, Tottenham have a net spend of £1.8 million per season. That is a staggering number when you consider that Manchester City have spent £90.5m per season with Manchester United not too far behind at £74.5m. Even Arsenal, the flag bearer for austerity in years gone past spent £42.1 a season. Liverpool spent £28.7m and Chelsea, £16.2m.

It is a testament to how well the club is run that they have improved their placing at the top end of the league for four seasons running now, while challenging for the title in the last two.

Some of the frugality could be attributed to the fact that their new stadium will cost £800m. But they sure are poster boys for those out there who believe that spending in football has reached ridiculous levels, with Neymar’s recent £198m move to PSG, the latest in a series of transfers that have boggled the mind.

Tottenham are about to start a new season without having bought a single player, yet. That is bound to change given that Daniel Levy does like to leave it late in the window before getting players in, but I expect the net spend to be what it has been for some time now, next to zero.

If they do well this season, a lot of clubs will look very silly indeed. I wondered what Jose Mourinho was smoking when he declared a few weeks back that Spurs have had a great window because they have managed to retain their best players. If it was an attempt at psychological warfare, I really do not know what he was trying to do there. But his and Conte’s comments do hint at a possible discomfort out there that Spurs could show up the top English clubs.

So, when Pochettino requested that others leave his team alone and focussed on themselves, he might have allowed himself a smile because he surely has his opponents worried.

Imagine how it would reflect on all the big spenders if Tottenham’s progression in the league over the last four years culminated in a league triumph this year? They are a long shot for the title, and the task will only be harder given that they are playing their home games at Wembley this season, where they only won one in five last year, but it would be a glorious achievement. Unlike Leicester’s title win, which was definitely a flash in the pan, it would lay down a case for how English football clubs could be run in a sustainable manner and still be successful.

Top English clubs, along with PSG, Barcelona and Real Madrid, have been in a bubble for the last few years and seem convinced that the good times and insane money will continue to roll in. There have been enough examples out there in the world economy over the past decade that suggest this will not be the case.

Maybe it needs a club like Tottenham to lead the way with it’s £100,000 a week salary cap and an ethos that revolves around the team rather than the stars. A decade or so back, Arsene Wenger created Arsenal teams in this image, teams which neutrals could get behind and be most others’ second favourite team.

Roman Abramovich changed English football then by being the first person to pump millions into a football club. He seemed to realise earlier than everyone else where football was headed. The fact that he has cut down on the spending in recent years suggests that he probably sees the boom years coming to an end. The bubble will burst soon, it is just a question of when.

Mauricio Pochettino could be the manager to show the way. This is what he had to say today on the eve of the Premier League curtain raiser:

“We are so competitive and ambitious. It’s a big challenge for us to make Tottenham a winning team and build a strong mentality to challenge the likes of United and City, who are spending a lot to create a winning team.

“Our philosophy and the way we work is so exciting. We try to win in different ways to other clubs. You cannot have doubts when others have doubts or are nervous. We are calm and relaxed.

“We will assess at the end of the season if we were right or not.”

As a Liverpool fan, I wish that the wait for a title ends this season, but if it doesn’t, I would love for Pochettino to be proven right. After a pre season filled with stories about incredulous valuations, striking players, greedy agents, whimsical fans and callous owners, that would be a story I could get behind. Football needs that story.

Abdul Rahim
Abdul Rahimhttps://flyinggoalie.com
Football Writer. I chronicle the growth of football in India at my blog, Flying Goalie.
More News


  1. Someone talking some sense at last, Abdul! I have to admit I am a Spurs fan so a little biased, but totally believe that the crazy numbers paid for the likes of Neymar and the salaries being paid are a road to disaster. When the average worker earns around £525 per week I find it difficult to understand Danny Rose complaining about his £65,000 per week. Danny’s a great player and it was brilliant to see him apologise which always takes guts, I really hope he meant it as I feel he is genuine and a good lad. Come on Danny, get behind Poch and let’s make Tottenham great for the right reasons.

  2. At last, a decent article amongst most of the dross I have read this week
    The other being in the Independent, of a similar nature saying several Premiership clubs could become bankrupt in the next few years if this unsustainable spending continues
    Hundreds of links on Spurs Media Watch (most of them totally fictitious!) linking us to average players at over inflated prices
    The result of this constant hype, not just at Spurs, is it unsettles the players who are in turn goaded by their agents and it winds up deluded fans who believe their club will fall behind if the don’t spend, spend, spend…….chairmen feel under pressure to appease these so called unhappy fans, and before you know it, we are in this downward financial spire!

  3. I wanted to like this article, because I think the sentiment is absolutely correct. But there are a couple of inaccuracies that put me off.

    For a start, Spurs neither have a wage cap of £100,000 PW, not a wage cap at all. What they have is a wage policy. And that policy is that the wage bill should be a set percentage of revenues per year. There is nothing extraordinary in this. What is different with Tottenham is that they keep this within the figure range advised by UEFA as sustainable and balanced – which is why it is so ludicrous that the media constantly rile as though Spurs are doing something wrong. It isn’t Spurs who are doing something wrong, it is all the clubs with bloated, distorted wage bills who are doing something wrong. Within this structure, there is nothing to stop the club from paying some players way above the £100,000 PW limit. The problem with this is that it would mean a smaller lot of wages to go around the rest of the players. That, in turn, would lead to either a lot of very good players being on much, much lower wages than the few top earners, of a few exceptional players in a mediocre squad. AFAIK, Kane and Lloris are on considerably more than £100,000 PW.

    What folk need to be aware of is that there is a definite media agenda against Tottenham. Not only on the simple level that many of the journalists are supporters of rival clubs. But also, conceptually. They believe that the richest teams are the best teams. The best teams should have the best players, as of right. And the best players should be paid most money. Tottenham are the sixth best financed club in the Premier league. Their revenues ATM are approximately half those of local rivals Arsenal, dwarfed by United and not even in the same ball park as the oil clubs. To many of these journalists, with this outlook, it genuinely offends their sense of propriety that a club like Spurs should care to compete rather than just handing their best players over to wealthier clubs. On top of this, Tottenham’s wealthier rivals are genuinely worried. They know that this young and exciting team is dangerous to their ambitions now. And they also know that Tottenham’s finances, and hence has much they can pay in wages, will rise dramatically once the new stadium is online. So they are doing everything to disrupt and break up the team now. And they will use every underhand trick in the book to do it, including using the media. This is why the media persist in falsely reporting that Spurs have a wage limit instead of accurately reporting what the wage structure actually is. This is why the media consistently underreport how much Tottenham players are actually paid, when have been caught out doing so – it takes a life of its own, regardless of the truth, and people, including Spurs fans, build up a sense of outrage as though the club is just refusing to pay the going rate while having bundles of money hidden in secret vaults, somewhere. And doing so at the risk of losing the players. And the media consistently fail to mention that Tottenham actually pay very competitive rates in performance related bonuses.

    What this leads to is a situation where, instead of being lauded for building a great young team solely on revenues generated, there is a virtual witch-hunt against Tottenham for not spending irresponsibly. Sound financial management is almost malicious, whereas being gifted huge amounts of a foreign county’s tainted oil wealth, and using it obscenely to distort the market, is somehow an admirable thing.

    Secondly, Abrahmovich wasn’t the first to pump millions into a club. Sir Jack did it with Blackburn – but he was, at least, Blackburn born and bred, and earned his fortune locally. I think plenty of others have too. I think that Abrahmovich was the first oligarch from a foreign country to take over a generic club purely for vanity of money laundering purposes (take your pick). I’m afraid that is as far as I got. I applaud your purpose, but you need to be more accurate IMHO.

    • Hi,

      Thanks for your comments.

      I try to be thorough with my research before putting anything out there. I am sure that there are players earning more than £100,000 a week at Spurs, with modern contracts including components outside the public realm like bonuses, image rights payments, percentage of sponsorship deals, etc. This is in addition to how contracts are structured for tax purposes. These aren’t reported however, and I presented data for this article based on what is publicly available at trusted sources. I probably shouldn’t have called it a wage cap though. Wage policy sounds a whole lot better. 🙂

      English football history is littered with examples of millionaire owners who have put a lot of their money into their clubs. The example of Sam Longson at Derby as far back as the 1960s come to mind, though in his case, Brian Clough spent more of his money than he probably wanted. My humble opinion is that Abramovich’s approach at Chelsea has had more of a broader impact than others. These cases, unlike facts, are open to interpretation. But you’re probably right. Jack Walker’s methods were very similar and he did predate Abramovich.

      The reality is that a lot of Spurs players could earn a lot more elsewhere. It would be heart warming if Tottenham could keep their model working, because a few of them will soon move. That is inevitable. I like a lot of the young players coming through. Maybe this would mean that they would get more of an opportunity.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here