I was surprised how sharp my reaction was to the Mirror story about four of our players and friends enjoying a night out at an expensive club this week. I usually manage to ignore such nonsense and write it off as gossip, hearsay and rumour. Or even pure invention and speculation.
But somehow the details got to me: One Direction; £5000 pound minimum spend; Jeroboams of vodka; insulting waitresses and so on. All this in the week before a crucial game at the climax of the season involving not young fringe members of the squad but experienced players who would all be starting or at least on the bench.
In an sudden flash of anger I thought, 'These people just don't give a toss; professional athletes my arse'. I said as much on the front page thread, then irritably confronted another poster and felt obliged to apologise. Is it just me? Have I lost it completely. Have age and senility finally pushed me over the edge?
I some how felt betrayed that they didn't seem to care as much as the fans. Couldn't they have waited until next week. Or perhaps this is a regular event. After all they have money to burn earning more in a week than many earn in a year. Good luck to them I should be saying.
But then it feeds into another agenda of mine the gross inequality of the modern world. They are ridiculously overpaid for the talent they have and the efforts they put in. £5000 would be an essential lifeline to many people some of whom ironically may well be Tottenham supporters.
Johnny Haynes, a London boy, played at Fulham. He was the first £100/week player when the maximum wage of £20/week was abolished in 1961. As was quite common then he was a one club man. Haynes wages rocketed from the £1000 per year ( the average national wage in 1961) to £5000 at a stroke.
His Chairman, the comedian Tommy Trinder had joked in 1960 that he would have paid Haynes five times the maximum wage if he could. He didn't know that the following year the wage limit would be axed. He kept his pledge. Those were the days.
The average national yearly wage today is roughly what a Premiership player earns in a week. (around £25000). Some of our quartet will be on considerably more than than that of course. With the best will in the world I find it hard to say 'good luck' to them.
Many players lived in the local community, drank and socialised with their fans and traveled on the bus with them to the games. Tom Finney 'the Preston Plumber' (Sir Tom Finney later) was another one club man. Like Haynes it wasn't for want of offers. He was born in the street next to the Preston ground. His father insisted he complete his apprenticeship as a plumber after signing professional forms with Preston in 1946.
If you will excuse the diversion this all feeds into my reaction about the Tottenham Four. If I start talking about loyalty and commitment in this age of mercenaries then I realise that I will be put in a box labelled ' Harmless but hopelessly out of touch. Best ignored'. But the recent Modric Melodrama which feeds into the current Bale Babble is all mixed up in this cocktail in a night club.
Don't we all like to imagine that our club is different despite all the evidence to the contrary? That there is a kind of family there? That winning the fair play league is an important marker? That it's not just about the money? Somehow having a night out in the week before a key game seemed disloyal. Even if training had been cancelled or it was Lennon's birthday or whatever.
Tottenham on the verge of Champions' League again; mercenaries and one club players; inflated wages and alienation from their fan base; expensive nightclubs and rising unemployment. It was a heady mix that just seemed to stick in my throat even if most of it was exaggerated or plain untrue as I must have realised even as I read it.
Times change clearly but not necessarily for the better. The standard of football has improved as have tactics and training. Foreign players have limited the opportunities for home grown players but have had a positive effect on skill levels. But for me some valuable aspects of the game have been lost and many of them seemed to be encapsulated in the report of the lads night out. I plaintively asked if any SC members witnessed the event. Not many obviously at £5000 a pop.
Footballers are part of the celebrity culture now, separated from those who ultimately pay their wages and hang on their every move. There's no going back whatever the Fair play rules intend but shouldn't a few of the old values survive? OK I'm getting back in my box now. An occasional pat on the head, the odd Jeroboam and a packet of crisps will suffice.
'You lucky people' (Tommy Trinder's catch phrase).