Andre Villas-Boas is Correct About Subdued Spurs Support, But It’s Not Exclusive To White Hart Lane

Tottenham’s manager Andre Villas-Boas took the brave step of criticizing his club’s own supporters after their 1-0 win over Hull City. Villas-Boas was unhappy with the atmosphere created for his players at White Hart Lane and was quoted post-match saying that his side felt like the away team at times (from Sky Sports):

“I compliment the boys for what they did – great work rate. Not only that but we played away from home. We didn’t have the support that we should have had in a game that we needed a win. There was much anxiety present in the fans which transmitted to the players, so this victory is down to the players. We did it with no help today.”

Whilst Villas-Boas singled out his own supporters for creating a paltry, inhospitable atmosphere, this is a problem that is not exclusive to Spurs and White Hart Lane. The truth is that the typical atmosphere at Premier League games is dwindling at pretty much every ground across the country.

Sure, there are still occasions that churn out vociferous, fervent displays of fandom. We we were witness to that in earnest at the Stadium of Light and Stamford Bridge on the same day White Hart Lane was riddled with angst and frustration. The passion in English football is incomparable when there is dramatic late goals like those scored by Fernando Torres and Fabio Borini. And it borders on delirium when they come against local or positional rivals, just as the aforementioned goals did this weekend.

But aside from those rare instances of theatre, the majority of stadiums seem to have suffered in terms of atmosphere. In a standard, run of the mill home game, the contribution from home supporters in England can be alarmingly poor. In the main, English crowds will wait to be sparked into life by the players. A tough tackle or a stinging shot can be the catalyst for a jump in noise, but not really vice-versa.

It’s not how it’s always been, but lately, supporters seem more muted and more frustrated than ever during games. And when you think about it, it’s obvious why.

First and foremost, the times and dates of games are becoming almost laughably inconvenient. Take Tottenham; the club’s participation in the Europa League means that every time they play in midweek in Europe, their next league game will be on a Sunday.

Already, this creates issues for the supporters. Not only is Sunday typically a day to relax with family, but public transport often runs on a limited service. Plus the prospect of a few pints is often swerved with Monday morning and work commitments looming. The game can seem like a hindrance at times and as you might expect, these circumstances don’t make for a jovial and patient set of supporters.

Talksport’s Adrian Durham gave just one example of this in his column this week:

“The mother of a colleague of mine supports Spurs and travels from her home in Surrey to White Hart Lane for every home game. On Sunday the trains were all messed up so she had to endure a long, slow painful bus replacement service there and back.”

Games on a Saturday at 3pm are just better in every sense. Supporters have routines, often ones that they have followed for years and for some, this is the best bit about going to the game. So it’s understandably frustrating when they are disrupted, as the fixtures are juggled around between broadcast companies. It happens with the early and late games on a Saturday, on Sundays and on Monday nights too.

Take Monday night games. After a long day in work, fans do well just to make it to the game, never mind make a racket. Is it any wonder the atmosphere at these games can be sometimes muted? Especially when you consider some of the ludicrous scheduling supporters have to put up with – something I touched upon in a previous article.

Rearranged games and crazy kick-off times suggest there is little regard for the regular, week-by-week supporter from the football higher-ups. Clubs allocate a certain amount of seats to season ticket holders at the start of the season and they will send out a shiny new booklet with perks, offers and benefits your season ticket can bring. But after they have that initial influx of income prior to the season, their focus shifts.

From an entirely monetary perspective, Premier League clubs don’t really want season ticket holders who turn up, watch the match and go back to the pub. They want day trippers: consumers who will buy a match ticket at a bloated price, a programme, a shirt, a scarf, a pie before the game and a pint at half time.

Of course, this doesn’t come cheap. And subsequently, the typical local supporter — one who might not be able to afford a season ticket, but might go to a few games each year — is being priced out of going to the game. They are often supporters who are, or were, the heart and soul of clubs; supporters who go a long way to creating a great atmosphere.

Mark Halsey spoke recently at the London Sports Writing Festival about how his favorite two grounds to referee in the country were Goodison Park and the Britannia Stadium because of the environment the supporters create. When pressed on iconic venues like Old Trafford, The Emirates and Anfield his response was ‘not really, too many day trippers have ruined the atmosphere’.

But is a problem that is creeping in everywhere. Whilst Halsey was full of praise for Goodison Park, it too can be library-like on occasions, trust me.

It’s fantastic that the Premier League attracts such a massive, wide-ranging audience. But if the nexus of the club’s supporters base is alienated and combined with some of the already-mentioned issues, then we will see more and more uninspiring atmospheres like those encountered at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

Can fans possibly do more? Some Spurs supporters groups have pledged to do so in the wake of their managers comments. Nonetheless, there is a real fear brewing that supporters have been taken for granted for too long. We might be starting to feel the effect of that.

What’s your view? Leave a message in the comments section or follow me on Twitter @MattJFootball

19 thoughts on “Andre Villas-Boas is Correct About Subdued Spurs Support, But It’s Not Exclusive To White Hart Lane”

  1. The FA needs to allow the clubs to put the standing railed sections that they have in Germany that can be easily converted to seats for European matches.

  2. Interestingly, I just got back from a long weekend where I was a tourist fan at Old Trafford.

    There’s a really easy fix for this problem. The sense that I got was that the Stretford End chants and sings and the rest of the crowd is kinda quiet. I would have LIKED to join in, but (a) I couldn’t understand what was being sung/chanted and (b) I didn’t want to be the only person in my section singing…..especially when I don’t know the words.

    Just seed a few song-starters in the rest of the crowd. They don’t have to do much…..just take the song that the rest of the stadium is singing and repeat it in your section. When there is one singer right next to you, you can understand the words and join in; when it is 10,000 fans singing together several sections away, it just sounds like noise.

    It seems like a really easy fix.

  3. Match-going season ticket holders in the UK probably have an average age well into their 40s also.

    This is a huge element of the issue right there. Wealthier, older, less rowdy people are what you get the way things are set up.

    Saw three top division matches in Germany and one in France in Aug-Sep of this year. Much younger crowds in general, although I wasn’t at one of the really big club venues.

    Seems like the German clubs in particular go out of their way to make match attendance more accessible to younger supporters. They tend to play in larger grounds than UK clubs, so maybe this helps them somewhat in this respect.

    1. Ticket prices are cheaper in Germany compared to EPL games. affordable to the younger generation and blue collar patrons…who are staying home or watching the game in pubs via tele.

  4. I went when it was standing and when it changed to all seater and for me the standing created a better atmosphere.

    I agree with Mark L the price is keeping younger fans out and it tends to be the younger fans that sing. pricing is a key issue in this, pricing was used to keep the young thugs out and bring families in. all of this changes the dynamic of the crowds impact.

    Some have said that the Y word being banned and fans being arrested for singing it also has had an abrupt negative impact.

    For me they are all factors but there are some other factors I feel are important are being over looked. The rise of 24 hr hour coverage and analysis along social media has blurred the lines and people have forgotten how to be a fan when at a live game.

    To me it’s one thing to moan at your TV and critique players performances on the various social media format’s and another to go to a game and do it. Going to a game needs a different contribution IMO.

    Its pretty clear that Im not a fan of Dawson, Defoe or Naughton but me voicing my opinion on social media and blogs about their performances or even when watching on TV does not mean that’s how I behave at a game.

    It’s not disingenuous to know how to behave in certain situations and hold your tongue. There are many occasions in life when that is required, for some reason, paying money to watch a your football club (something millions of others would gladly do in your place) is exempt from any level of discernment. I paid money so ill do what i want just doesn’t sit with me well.

    Before games in a pub everyone had their thoughts and opinions that would always lead to heated debate, but when we passed through the turnstiles it was different we support and sang to urge on all players and be as positive as possible, that was my role as a fan that was lucky enough to attend the game.

    Yes there were groans and head in hands at a repeated failure of certain players, but the overwhelming attitude was positive and supportive of the entire team.

    Now the silence, the abuse and the groans are the majority.

    Its not Social media’s fault, its people not being able to determine that a live game is for supporting your team when they need you not just when you are winning.

    An overwhelming % of fans of a club do not get to go to a game, going to games, doesn’t make you more of a fan. It means you are lucky enough to get the opportunity to go and that you should embrace that opportunity and do all you can to contribute in a positive way to the team.

    The problem has been going on for quite a while tho, this article with the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust is a must read.

  5. Some clubs are having stewards walk up and down the aisles quieting down those that want to sing and those that wont sit down in their seats.

  6. An excellent piece and Dust’s response pretty much sums its up for me.

    I have to say even the atmosphere at Stoke has tailed off over the past 18 months or so.

    Best away fans I’ve seen at our ground are Hajduk Split, Besiktas and Dynamo Kiev. Domestic fans can’t compete.

    Best away grounds for atmosphere that I’ve been to are Spurs and West Brom. Worst away grounds for atmosphere (and it’s made more disappointing that I was always outside looking in as a Stoke fan growing up as we were never at the same level) Liverpool, Everton, Villa. I think as somewhere like Anfield is redevopled and corporatised it’ll only suffer a decrease in atmosphere. As the prices go up, the atmosphere goes down. All joking apart consider this factor when you compare ticket prices to atmosphere generated at Arsenal.

    Price has to be key. My Season ticket has cost £344 every season we’ve been in the Premier League, around £20 per game. I’m lucky I have the time and can afford the lump sum payment. If I wanted a one off ticket for Man City at home this season, £45. I wouldn’t spend that much, it’s not worth it.

    Atmosphere changed when standing changed to all seater, prices went up and the average working man/fan was priced out of it. For example I used to pay £8 to stand on the old Boothen End.

    I feel the big club’s aren’t helped by the ‘day tripper’ phenomenom, but they pay their money and are entitled to attend as much as anyone else.

    As a fan two things tend to generate a better atmosphere; night matches and away games. I’d implored any of you coming over to see your team to try and get a ticket to follow your team away as well as at home. Two completely different experiences IMHO.

    The 12pm and 5pm (GMT) kick-offs are the matches to avoid as they have a vaccum like quality and are anathema to most fans attending.

    Dust is spot on when he says about people behaving differently at the match, it’s edgier and more viceral than social media, and some of the keyboard warriors wouldn’t dare spout the tripe they post online in front of other fans (unless it’s about Jon Walters, then it becomes acceptable).

    My final comment, get rid of the piped goal music, pre-match music, half time music. The crowd can generate a much better atmosphere themselves without artificial support

    1. I hope for spurs with the apparent relationship with the supporters trust that we will see a safe standing section with the new stadia.

      I thoughts stoke had great atmosphere, as did forrest and Newcastle. Shame to hear about Stoke’s declining.

      Pricing must come down and STUB HUB OUT!

  7. In some of these EPL matches there are lengthy periods of the match where you can hear a pin drop and the manager’s instructions

  8. I think it’s hypocrisy for a manager to put it on the fans to affect the players, it’s a 2 way street. I hope AVB also is willing to talk to his bosses regarding the club policies which are also affecting crowds such as ticket prices, using stub hub to scalp tickets to neutrals and opposing fans and pricing other fans out of the market, and the insipid attempts at thought control over usage of the word “Yid” yes Spurs fans are run out and arrested for taking back the word used by opposing fans against them, and who’s usage offends no one in this context but allows West Ham fans to make.s the gas chamber sound and Hitler chants but it wasn’t Yid so it’s all good now- not to mention coming off the embarrassing 3-0 loss to West Ham- I’d say the club has some responsibility in all this as well

    also I don’t think it’s that negative to begin with, I think it’s quieter because it’s tenser- every game means something now, the table is so tight that fans are just nervous in these 1-0 games where there also is a lull due to the possession w/o scoring tactics AVB is using. Back when we were a mid table team what happened happened, now I just think fans are getting used to being a team with actual expectations- AVB could help by not having 2 holding midfielders at home and enabling his players to win back the momentum

  9. I’ve attended Borussia Dortmund games many times since the mid-1970’s in the old Westfalen Stadion and now at the Signal Iduna Park, it’s fantastic. Fans sing and chant and cheer from beginning to end. Other Teams stadiums in Germany are also very good but nothing like Dortmund.

    I know this story is about the EPL and Tottenham, but most major sports here in the USA, the fans are blah too. If you go to college games (basketball, football) a totally different atmosphere.

  10. Paulinho isn’t a holding midfielder, he is a box to box midfielder, we played 4-1-4-1 on Sunday v hull before going to a 4-4-2.

    Hull played a 5-4-1 and for large stretched of the the game hull was in a 5-5-0. And to boot, hull worked their asses off to keep their shape.

    Anyone suggesting such a defensive structure is “easy” to break down just because its hull has absolutely no idea what they are talking about.

    Our away for and performances suggest that people do sit back at home against us because they’re at home, so we get more room, plus the away support is brilliant in comparison to all the entitled mini arry redschnapps that to to home games.

    Teams deliberately sit back to frustrate, knowing the fickle crowd will turn on our own players before he away team, pilling on the pressure.

    AVB has got us winning games we hadn’t before. Everton away will be interesting. Spurs used to defend the goal ( or at least try to) now we defend the ball and play possession football. That’s the modern game!

    We’re 4th even tho every other fan thinks we’re poor, plus only 3 points off 1st. It’s been 9 games with 7 new players each bought to start in the first 11 by game 28… So spurs fans need to relax and be thankfull we have someone that is turning us into winners, much to the annoyance of others.

    1. says the expert who conveniently drops names about who he pans-strangely Townsend was left off the list from a few weeks ago when the great particle was crying about playing English players for Hogdsen now that Townsend come good he’s off your bad list and last year you were chastising several of us for sharing the obvious Naughton was not good and you were all about naughton being a great under 21 team player and no one but you saw it- a season later and Naughton is now in the dustbin- you don’t know what the f your talking about, just a blowhard who thinks he does such a phoney

      where did I say Paulinho is a holding MF? – but that’s Dust for ya he assumes and will change his mind later- no one needs to rebut you your own words 2 weeks later will do it for us

      1. what? lol I have not referred to you once, I don’t care what you think! you are clueless and hold the football knowledge of a 8 year old eskimo…thats never seen football…or a tv.

        Here is something to ease the psychosis and your clear and embarrassing obsession with me.

        I did not mention Townsend in my “list” lol because the jury is still out on him.
        Not on Defoe, Dawson or Naughton, When I’ve mentioned them like naught on before its because the jury was still out for me.

        You have real issues man lol..go nuts…more

        1. proven a liar from your post after W Ham game

          Dust says:
          October 6, 2013 at 12:54 pm
          To say we’ve been poor in the second have is an understatement…
          Defoe, Townsend, Dawson, so poor.
          Playing them was a mistake, let the inquest begin…not excuses just very poor second half defensively…embarrassing result…..

          Dust says:
          October 6, 2013 at 6:00 pm
          What’s worse is it’s another 2 weeks before we can move on.
          Anyone still wanting Defoe to start needs their head examined.
          £90m on the bench, so Woy can see the awful English players we have be awful.
          Defoe, Townsend, Dawson what a waste.”

          what a liar

          so easy to prove your nothing but an internet bully- call people name all you want but your words speak volumes you

          1. lol, none of what you’ve copied and pasted backs any of your claims, quite the contrary…

            let it go man… relax… drink some camomile…serious;y…

            let it go…

            If anything your relentless obsession with what I say and insults and harassment are bullying… let it go…move on.

            I can’t believe I’m even responding to your crazy posts….

            Find someone else to hassle

    2. “So spurs fans need to relax and be thankfull we have someone that is turning us into winners, much to the annoyance of others.”

      says the blowhard who slagged off half the team after West Ham as not good enough…My response had nothing to do with the Spurs record it was part of the explanation to the subject of the article about how loud fans were and that AVB should look at the clubs responsibility too,

      I know it’s hard for you to follow more in depth lines of thinking so stick to what you know being the petty mean spirited old geezer of the boards

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *