Over the coming months, we will be interviewing Tottenham fans and supporter groups from around the world asking them why they follow the club, what reputation Spurs have in their country and which young players we should be looking out for.
To kick us off, we spoke to Tommy Silver, a committee member of ‘Oz Spurs’, the Official Australian Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Club which was founded in 2001. As well as discussing his love for Spurs, we also cover the A-League, former Australian Premier League icons, and the Socceroos’ World Cup chances.
Here’s what Tommy had to say:
When and why did you first start supporting Spurs?
Like many, I had no say in the matter! My dad was a lifelong fan and he passed it along to all of his boys. In April 2000, he took me to my first match at White Hart Lane and I fell in love. I was 13 at the time, but I will never forget that rush coming up over the steps and seeing the green of the pitch for the first time. We won 2-0 (Darren Anderton and Chris Armstong) and my brother and I begged our dad to take us back to the next game, which ended in a 1-1 draw against 10-man Derby.
What encouraged you to join Oz Spurs? How many supporters clubs are there in the country? Games must be tricky to watch, right?!
After returning from that trip to London, I was totally obsessed. I became aware of my dad being on a email newsletter for Spurs fans in Australia, and suggested we go to one of their meets. It was very much a fledgling club, with big chapters in Perth and Sydney. It’s unfair to single out too many individuals, but Justin Long and Munsoor Khan were two of the driving forces in building the club out of nothing, two ex-pats desperate to keep their connection alive.
There were very, very few matches on TV, so in Sydney in those days we met on the last Saturday of every month to watch VHS highlights sent from the UK and read Spurs Monthly!
Around this time, I discovered a passion for computers and wanted to get into web design, so I offered to build a website for Justin and OzSpurs. It went live the week before the Worthington Cup Final and our club just grew from there. Our forum was hugely active, and in 2003 we had our first ever OzSpurs National – Spurs fans from all over Australia converging on one city for a weekend.
We’re quite unique in that we’re one of the only national supporters clubs made up of individual chapters – we have a chapters in Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Melbourne, Newcastle, Perth, Sydney, Tasmania and Wollongong.
We currently have around 400 paid members, however, there are thousands more Spurs fans here – we had 600 in Melbourne alone at 5am for the Champions League final.
We have a wide variety of kick off times! Pre-COVID, on the east coast kick offs range from 9pm – 7am, and in Perth 3/4 hours earlier. A 12:30pm Saturday (UK time) kick off is as good as it gets for us, and we will often get hundreds out to the pub to watch. The match against Arsenal the other morning, however, was 3:30am Monday morning. Brutal. Despite this, in Melbourne we had 15 or so meet up at the pub.
What sort of profile do Spurs now have in Australia?
It’s amazing how well known we are in general now. The Pochettino years obviously increased our profile, but it feels like for the first time (in my lifetime) we have genuinely iconic players – Kane, Bale, Son. Couple that with our tours in 2015 and 2016 and awareness has grown significantly.
As you mentioned there, Spurs have made a couple of big trips to Australia in 2015 and 2016. Do you think there is an appetite for more?
It’s no exaggeration to say Spurs’ trip to Sydney in 2015 was a dream come true for us – we had been hoping they would come out since our club took off in 2002. We put on an absolute show for the club when they arrived in Sydney – hundreds welcoming them at the airport, a golf day, a night with Ossie Ardiles and many other events. Spurs have told us how they were blown away by our club, and I think the proof is their return just 12 months later! That was a bit of a different trip, but just as big for us.
I would be surprised if we don’t see them back here in the next 5 years, though it’s hard to know how the world will look post-COVID.
In the 1990s and 2000s, there were a fair few Aussie players who were prominent Premier League players – Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, Mark Schwarzer, Tim Cahill etc – but that seems to have dried up recently. Why do you think that is?
This is a complex one with many factors, but in my opinion we took our eyes off player development when the A-League was formed in 2004/5. Prior to the A-League, we had the NSL, which was made up of many community clubs whose main purpose was producing players – Viduka a perfect example of this. With the A-League, we (rightly) spent so much energy on getting the structure of the pro league right, but we neglected the academies and youth teams. We’re seeing the impact of that now, but Football Australia and clubs seem to have recognised it, so hopefully come 2030 we’ll have Aussies playing at the highest levels again.
The A-League is Australia’s premier competition – what kind of standard is it? Are the fears of a talent drain to rival leagues such as the Indian Super League well-founded?
There are many, many people who bag it, but I’m a staunch A-League defender – I’ve had a season ticket for Sydney FC since day one and travel around Australia to watch them. We are so spoilt with wall-to-wall coverage of the Premier League that many people turn on an A-League game expecting to see the same quality and intensity. It’s obviously not the same, however, on a good day our top teams would give the top Championship teams a game.
For me, the Indian league is just one more threat from a fast-growing Asia. It’s been like that since the A-League started in 2005, with Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Saudi Arabia and UAE clubs paying a lot more than A-League clubs can. For me, that brings opportunity. Whilst Alessandro Del Piero and Emile Heskey coming to the A-League in 2012 was a thrill, they came and went and the crowds followed in both directions. The future of our sport is developing young players to further themselves overseas – be it Asia, Europe or elsewhere.
And how about the national team? There was an Asian Cup win in 2015, but the Socceroos have never been beyond the Round of 16 at a World Cup. How are they looking for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar?
For us, making it to the Round of 16 is a huge success!!! It will be no different in Qatar, but hopefully we could look to make a quarter final one day. The Asian Cup win in 2015 was amazing – I will never forget that night. Asia is getting stronger every year, and it can only be a good thing for us.
Cricket, AFL and rugby are seen as the most popular sports in Australia, but do you think football can come close to rivalling it?
Football has the highest participation rates of any team sport in Australia, so we absolutely can get there. Unfortunately, the media landscape is a difficult one to overcome – in Melbourne, the AFL and the media may as well be one organisation. It’s hard for football to get any significant recognition, but it’s just about chipping away. Football’s strength is its global position, and there is no doubt the other sports in Australia are threatened by that.
Former Spurs youth goalkeeper Tom Glover made the move back down under last year – how is he getting on?
He had a good season with Melbourne City – they finished 2nd in the league and lost in the Grand Final. He likely would have played at the Olympics this year but obviously that didn’t happen.
Are there any up and coming young Australian players who we could see appearing for Spurs in the future?
2nd to wishing for Spurs to visit Australia was our dream for an Aussie to break through at Spurs. We’ve had a few over the years; Glover, as you mention, Mass Luongo, Giancarlo Gallifuoco and Spase Dilevski – but none of them really ever broke through. It’s hard to see that changing in the near future sadly!
Tommy Silver heads up the website and communications for Oz Spurs. You can find them through the channels below: