Jimmy Greaves at Monday night's Spurs Show Live in Covent Garden
The great Jimmy Greaves was the star guest at this week's Spurs Show Live in Covent Garden and he went down a storm. Erudite, witty and insightful, he offered some illuminating views on the mentality of professional footballers and the excuses people make for them in the modern era. He chuckled at the notion that playing two games in a week was bound to result in debilitating fatigue and he suggested that intricate tactics and formations played little part in determining the outcomes of football matches. He also gave short thrift to the idea that the crowd needed to roar before the players could perform; he felt it should work the other way round.
Elsewhere his views might have been dismissed as old fashioned, but they were meat and drink to Spurs fans who have been watching players misfire all season citing insufficient support, tiredness and difficulty in adapting to new tactics as reasons. Jimmy named the midfield colossus Dave Mackay as the greatest Tottenham player of them all and the idea that the fearsome Scot would have offered any excuses for under-performance, let alone any of these flaccid alibis, was unthinkable.
On Thursday night manager Mauricio Pochettino was expected to rest a good number of his first team squad for the game against Besiktas but, hoping to avoid defeat and clinch top spot in their Europa League group, he fielded a senior line up. Spurs were sprightly, combative and creative in the first half but spurned their chances with Roberto Soldado, inevitably, the main culprit in front of goal. In the second half Besiktas were better and Spurs faded despite trying to freshen things up by introducing still more senior pros off the bench. They ended up losing one nil and now face tricky games at Swansea on Sunday and at home to Newcastle in the League Cup quarter final on Wednesday.
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan said recently that modern players seemed to suffer from a kind of psychosomatic tiredness. Suggest to them that they might be knackered and suddenly, wouldn't you know it, they were knackered. In the coming days we can expect a lot of talk of the draining effects of going to Turkey and back and the weariness that playing three times in seven days induces. In fairness, it will mostly come from the media rather than directly from the team, but you do wonder whether what's really required at Spurs in this stuttering season is a fundamental shift in mindset. This doesn't necessarily mean making things harsher for the players. On the contrary, less cotton wool might just mean less angst, less lethargy and more joie de vivre.
Jimmy Greaves, the greatest Tottenham goalscorer ever, looks back on his time playing for Spurs as one of great happiness for him and his illustrious team mates. The post Double side of the early 60s was, in Jimmy's judgement, the best team in the world at the time and not many who watched them would argue. They were never mollycoddled and they enjoyed every minute that they played together. Could this have been at least a part of their secret?