It has gone down in Spurs folklore that when Keith Burkinshaw left the club after securing the UEFA Cup in 1984 he turned round and remarked “There used to be a football club over there.”
A year previously Spurs had become a publicly owned company and were listed on the stock exchange, in the process becoming the first football club to do so.
Whether Burkinshaw did say the quote that is attributed to him as he walked down Tottenham High Road has never been confirmed, but the myth has stuck and 24 years later his comments are as true as they have ever been.
With all the conjecture surrounding football clubs these days it is difficult to separate the important statements from the enormous amount of drivel. But last week was an eventful one at Spurs.
Nearly a quarter of a century after Burkinshaw’s famous quote, Juande Ramos intimated that Spurs would be willing to sell their star strikers Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov because “we are on the stock exchange and have to balance the books.”
This was then followed up by Daniel Levy’s so-called attack on Manchester United and Liverpool. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Spurs Chairman calling Sir Alex Ferguson a “hypocrite,” the most important paragraph of that statement was missed by the mainstream press.
Levy publicly told the whole world that “Both Dimitar and Robbie… [have] made it clear that they wish to leave for Manchester Utd and Liverpool respectively.
Most Spurs fans can reconcile themselves to seeing Berbatov leave the club. After all it has been known for some time that the Bulgarian is unhappy at White Hart Lane, his agent Emil Danchev has made this abundantly clear since last summer. And the gifted Bulgarian is going to Manchester United, the current Premier League and Champions League holders who it must not be forgotten have done well with ex-Spurs players in recent years (Teddy Sheringham and Michael Carrick).
But, Robbie Keane’s move to Anfield is a lot more difficult to understand. The Irishman has found his home at Spurs. Over six years he has endeared himself to fans of the club and in the process scored over 100 goals.
His passion and determination has been crucial to Spurs becoming a team who “could” break into the top four. And coming in for him are Liverpool, a big club for sure, but if Spurs have any ambition, this is a side they could be finishing above in the coming seasons.
So Spurs fans are bracing themselves to see arguably the best strike partnership to ever play for the club leave at just a time when they seemed to have solved any worries with their goalkeeper, defence, and midfield. And in the nearly quarter of a century since Spurs were listed on the stock exchange Spurs fans have been faced with similar incoming and outgoings at crucial times.
When Terry Venables signed Paul Gascoigne in 1988, Spurs fans braced themselves for the Geordie partnership of Gazza and Chris Waddle in the midfield. Weeks later Waddle was sold to Marseille to “balance the books.”
The last great partnership at the Lane was yet more proof of how the club continually takes one step forward and then two back. Teddy Sheringham and Jurgen Klinsmann were sensational in 1994/95. But Klinsmann stayed for just one season and two seasons later Sheringham joined Manchester United.
And the examples just keep on coming. Sol Campbell could not be persuaded that he would be joined by other quality players and joined Arsenal whilst David Ginola’s feats at Spurs came due to his own brilliance rather than thanks to many of the other players around him.
This is another pivotal moment in Spurs’ recent history. If Berbatov and Keane remained at the club, the top four would be a seriously realistic possibility. In the last campaign Spurs lacked guile in midfield, and Juande Ramos has plugged that gap with the signings of Luka Modric and Giovani Dos Santos.
So, despite the progress being made under Ramos, and the amount of quality young players already at the club and the brilliant strikers that continue to be linked with the club to replace Berbatov and Keane (e.g. Diego Milito, Roman Pavyluchenko, Samuel Eto’o, and Andrei Arshavin) this feels like yet another example of one step forward, two steps back.
And the situation at Spurs is being played out at many of the other “middling” clubs this summer, Aston Villa will lose Gareth Barry and Arsenal have and could still lose some of their most important players.
It says a lot about the state of the Premier League when Everton, the team who came closest to breaking up the “Big Four,” appear to have no troubles holding on to their best players, mainly because no one wants them.
The irony about the situation at Spurs is that it is often remarked that the game is killing itself, that the introduction of vast amounts of money is ruining the game, but in the case of Tottenham, this has been going on for nearly 25 years.
This article was originally published on 101 Great Goals.