So it seemed a good time for another transfer, albeit one involving a tortuous trip around the M25 every day to a club that finished 12 points adrift of Chelsea last season and, remarkably, has not beaten them in 25 matches, stretching back to 1990. Ending that run is one of this season's objectives: "I'm very optimistic, it's my character. If everybody thinks we can be in the top six and tries to reach that goal, we can make it. If we just think to improve a little on last season, I don't like that."
And Chelsea? "I think they'll do all right — they have the quality. I just hope they'll be one position behind Tottenham."
Premiership special - Hoddle Nicks old ideas
Kevin Mitchell reports from Bill Nicholson's Testimonial. Here is the feature in full:
In the simple but unpressurised elegance of their passing game against Fiorentina at White Hart Lane on Wednesday night, Glenn Hoddle's players, both new and familiar, dangled a promise in front of the Tottenham faithful they might find difficult to deliver in the heat of the Premiership.
But, if the team of 2001 do fall short of creating football in the fading image of 1951, 1961 or 1981, Hoddle afterwards at least held out the prospect of some sunny days to come. He was pleased, for instance, with the way the mature signings - Christian Ziege, Gustavo Poyet and Goran Bunjevcevic - made much from little on their home debuts and who are moving comfortably alongside the younger players.
He saw possibilities in the interaction and endeavour of the bustling Poyet, the all-round football nous of Ziege. Bunjevcevic was less prominent but the engine of the side hummed more smoothly the longer the game went on. After a messy first 20 minutes, particularly at the back, the ball slid along the grass with gun-barrel slickness, to feet and in space. There were only a few 50-50 passes, each move being calculated to make the next passage of play as easy as possible for the receiver. Simple. And elegant. From an original idea by Arthur Rowe, of course, adapted and polished by Bill Nicholson, whose second testimonial this was.
It was difficult, sometimes, for Hoddle to attend fully to his work, chatting as he was to Nicholson in the first half. 'It was lovely that he was sitting next to me up there in the director's box. I was 15 when I first met Bill Nicholson and I still tremble now when I meet him. That's the stature and the respect that he's got at this club.' Even when the coach got down to business in the second half he could not escape the presence of the man. During a break in play, the cameras serving the giant screens at either end panned in on Nicholson and his wife, 'Darkie', and Hoddle rose with the rest of White Hart Lane to cheer the outsize image of an outsize man. Mrs Nick blushed. While the club's history has been an inspiration as much as a bind, Hoddle is feeling positive. 'We very rarely hit a long ball. If we did, it was with an aim, a purpose. That's the traditions of this club. The way the lads played tonight was the way we pass the ball.'
He says 'we' as if he'd never left, sounding like the 15-year-old who first came down from Harlow to 'tremble' in the presence of Bill Nick - and like the magician who conjured up Cups and fantastic goals, who spun defenders and delighted The Shelf, before moving on to France, Swindon, Chelsea, England and Southampton, leaving behind a vacuum supporters always knew he would return to fill.
That it was in place of George Graham made the reunion that much sweeter. And he was as happy to be back as the fans were to have him there. Hoddle knew that, on a night convened to celebrate the past, Tottenham could play in no other manner than the one in which they dominated Fiorentina. Regardless of the low-key status of the fixture in a competitive context, it would have been sacrilegious to turn in a mean performance. Nor did the players use the occasion merely to cement a place before the start of the season. They were as one - although the coach was pragmatic in his summary of what 35,000 delighted fans applauded.
'It's only a foundation. The main event comes along against Villa, who are ahead of us in their preparation, because they are playing what I would call proper games.' Told that the Fiorentina coach Roberto Mancini thought Spurs already 'looked like a team' full of 'very good players', Hoddle resisted the urge to agree. 'There's been a lot of work going on at the training ground... Yeah, well, that's an interesting observation... because we haven't really got there yet. There's a lot more work to do and a lot more to improve on.'
He needs a centre-half and another goalkeeper. And he could do with a few of his injured millionaires back on the pitch. He thinks Darren Anderton and Tim Sherwood should be ready inside a week, although he looked genuinely concerned about the short-term prospects of Stephen Carr and Teddy Sheringham. Without the resources of the richer clubs, he can't even begin to build on the squad system he envisages without his best players around him. Supporters are already angry enough over the departure of one star in particular, and Hoddle struggled to avoid comment on the crowd's virulent chanting against Sol Campbell - although he let enough slip to reveal he regards the captain's defection to Arsenal as more than merely unfortunate.
'I don't want to deflect from tonight. We'll deal with that further down the line. It's Bill's night, and a good performance... but I've got my thoughts on that one. Certainly in the future it needs to be addressed a little bit, I think. In a positive way.' A captain, he said, should be held in special regard, more so than is common in football these days. 'It's got to be a player who leads from the front. The captain has to be an extension of your staff, your coaching staff. He needs to identify on the pitch what we're thinking and what we're looking at.' It's the unity of purpose that Hoddle is striving for above all else. Even in the cynical environment of modern football, he sees honesty and commitment as indispensable. Old-fashioned truths, the sort that Bill Nick used to talk about.
Bradford City's Matt Clarke is the latest goalkeeper to be linked with the club.
Saturday August 11
Dean gets Lowe-down on Spurs
A quiet Saturday for Spurs news as the football writers concentrate on England, the Charity Shield and the Nationwide kick-off. However, Southampton chairman Rupert Lowe has his target about any possible move for Glenn Hoddle target Dean Richards. "I've seen Dean quoted as saying Tottenham are a top-six side. What I want to know is when did Tottenham last finish in the top six? Not in the last 10 years. We finished above them last season and I certainly believe we can do the same this season. We have an excellent defence and Dean is a major part of that. We are not going to sell one of our major assets."
] and in that time maybe you lose the game."