I was lucky enough to watch Sunday’s game in the company of Spurs greats Clive Allen and Darren Anderton at the Grosvenor Casino, Piccadilly.
Both of these players had careers that I think were somewhat prototypical. First I spoke to Clive who played as a lone forward in front of a midfield five during an era in which every team played 4-4-2. Clive spoke very highly of that midfield, especially Glenn Hoddle. “It was easy,” Allen on his remarkable 49 goals season “I’d make runs and the ball would just keep landing at my feet.”
On whether the skills learnt leading the line alone would have allowed him to transfer into the modern game Clive took an angle of relativity. “I think it would all transfer to the way it is now.” The game is much changed. Advancements in tactics, fitness, ground maintenance and technology mean a much faster pace of game than the one Allen played so well in. “The talent was relative to what else there was at the time. And it would be the same now.” For all the sport has changed Allen’s greatest attribute was his clever and creative off the ball movement and it’s a skill that still reigns today.
It quickly became clear that Allen’s life spent as a player, a coach, a scout and a commentator was much more than just a career to him. Unlike a handful of ex-players, who he had a several stories on, Clive has a genuine, enduring love for the game. I was blown away when we were discussing young talents with bright futures and he enthusiastically named half of the current Monaco squad.
Later I spoke to Darren Anderton who I also believe was a little ahead of his time. Although predominantly used out wide, Darren played a number of attacking positions during his career. Anderton revealed to me that he always saw himself as a number 10. “You can become forced out of a game when you’re a winger. If you’re not getting the service there’s not a lot you can do. Then when the ball finally does come to you your so desperate to have an impact that you immediately try something overly flamboyant when you should just keep it safe.” This is why Darren preferred to play just behind the striker. “You can effect the game more in the centre, you’re more involved and that’s what I wanted to be.”
“I’d love to have played in this current [Spurs] side”. And it’s easy to see why. Under Pochettino, even if you’re down on paper as a winger, you’re always moving inside, heavily involved the creative hub of attacking midfield. Now, it’s very rare for any Spurs player to get marked out of a game or be under-supplied by team mates. The Pochettino high-press system means domination of possession, control of the centre, penetration into attacking areas and the opportunity to take risks with the ball.