To alleviate the boredom of a summer distinctly lacking in entertaining football, I planted some carrot seeds in our garden in Cardozo Road. You can imagine the horror when I peered down from my bedroom window, into the garden, to see my seeds being dislodged by a ginger cat digging a hole to urinate in. That’s right, i said a ginger cat. The good news is that no other cat is likely to come and do the same. Why? Because the the ginger cat has marked its territory. Any other cat that enters the garden will smell urine and be instantly deterred.

Similar behaviour can be seen in humans. We tend to feel both protective and mentally attuned when occupying our own perceived territory. One need only look at my own family to see this: Nan doesn’t like venturing out of the house; and she is certainty very cautious about letting people in.

So what does this have to do with football? These observations help explain the uncanny fact that teams are significantly more likely to win when playing at home. This is a statisitcal fact: Spurs won 14 matches at home last season, compared to just 7 away. But here is a scientific fact: in the academic field of sports psychology, Neave & Wolfson (2003) find strong evidence for what they term “territoriality” in explaining the home advantage phenomenon – or in their words “a protective response to an invasion of one’s perceived territory”. These guys reached their conclusion after measuring football players’ salivary testosterone (a hormone associated with aggression and territoriality) and found increased concentrations before home games than away or training games.

Of course there are other explanations for home advantage – including easier travel arrangements and a higher level of crowd support. But the influence of territoriality cannot be denied. Indeed, at White Hart Lane on match days, nobody is more territorial than Wilson Palacios. When a player steps into his domain, the Spurs midfielder excels at taking back what he sees as rightfully his – the ball. Last season, Sergeant Wilson dispossessed more people than Father Gabriele Amorth – Rome’s world famous exorcist.

But with good home form comes poor away form. The “great defeat” to the Young Boys of Berne last week was a prime example. But lets not forget our annual drumming at Old Trafford – a regular event in the Spurs calendar for too long now. In fact, Spurs have not won an away match against one of the ‘big four’ (old classification, of course) since 25th August 1993. Teddy Sheringham scored twice that day against Liverpool. And Culture Beat’s Mr Vain was top of the UK singles chart.

Away form is imperative for a good season. This is even truer now as Spurs enter the Champions League (I assume good home form will be enough to get us through tomorrow). Nothing will be more challenging than a possible away fixture at Barcelona’s Nou Camp. But improving our away form is easier said than done. Neave & Wolfson have no answer to this. One idea would be for the Spurs players to spend more time warming up on the away pitch before the match – to soften the mentally jarring effect of playing on foreign turf. But who knows if this will be enough. I invite the readers of this blog to leave their own suggestions below.

If all else fails, the team could of course draw lessons from the ginger cat of Cardozo Road. Twenty minutes before a big away match, the Spurs team captain should nip out onto the pitch and empty himself. This would effectively mark the away pitch as Spurs territory. It would confuse the opposition, and give Spurs the much needed psychological edge. Let’s look forward to the new season. The pitch is our garden, and Ledley King, our ginger cat.

SHARE

11 COMMENTS

  1. Teams are used to their own pitch and it is prepared to help them

    Also, Man Utd have a very hard time beating Spurs without help from the ref

  2. Thers many reason why home advantage is so important, its the fans though in my opinion that make the biggest impact. it works in reverse too. How many times when a team aren’t playing well you hear ‘get an early goal and the fans will get on there back’. It’s the feeling of being supported agaisnt hated. How much easier would your day job be i someone was there all day, supporting you, telling you the bollx ‘go on my son, hit that nail, your the nuts’ apposed to some1 saying ‘your fucking useless mate, where do learn to do that, go on fuck it up you silly little prick’. Id much rather the support!! 😉

  3. The reason is that most players don’t have a winner’s character and mentality. So they feel fear and uncertainty when they play away from home. Players with a winner’s character don’t care about such things. They play always, and subsequently in any place, trying to achieve only one goal: to win.

  4. Yes, Allan, territoriality is all well and good, but, goodness help you, and your territory, if you become a man short. It’s more than territory, methinks. It’s all about the players coming out, at 7.45pm, with the right mental attitude. So, until the day they invent a machine that can accurately gauge attitude, mental or otherwise, territory really counts for little. It’s not that I blame you for this article, though … it was a nice read, and all, because I know you’re just crapping yourself, as everyone else in the number is, in anticipation of tomorrow; wondering what Spurs side will turn up. By this time, tomorrow, I’ll probably be crapping and puking simultaneously. COYS!

  5. Its because over a season they’ll play 19 times more on that pitch than on any other one so they’re used to the dimensions of the pitch and the bounce of the ball. It’s basically the Young Boys but in reverse. Over there we were terrified of the pitch (90% psychological, just like the ball at the World Cup) whereas they were totally comfortable. It gives ‘confidence players’ the freedom to play positively which makes a massive difference.
    I dont think it’s anything to do with the fans or territorial pissings, but I’m just guessing like everyone else.

  6. It’s a perennial problem – cats eating plants. As for Spurs’ away record, they are not alone. Chelsea won 7 more at home than away, MU 6 more.

    Last season was Spurs’ best away from home form for 14 years which I think it’s part of the trend of Spurs’ improvement. If Spurs continue to improve generally, confidence goes up and their away form will also improve.

  7. You’ve done it again:

    >>(I assume good home form will be enough to get us through tomorrow).<<

    Why do you keep assuming we will crush this Young Boys team? Have you learnt nothing from last week? We CAN go through and qualify, but only if we treat this Swiss team with respect and really turn up. The players had this over-confident attitude last week and we got bitten, and thanks to an against the run of play wonder strike all the Spurs fans I hear now simply assume we just have to turn up to win. It makes me nervous! This game is huge, why are we jinxing things by acting over-confident?

LEAVE A REPLY