The Fan: Buy one decent item, not a load of second-rate stuff

At the latest count, wandering round my fun-filled room and my fun-filled mind, looking down the hall, opening drawers and cupboards, I reckon I currently have 20 different collections on the go. There’s my suffragette postcards, number ones of newspapers and magazines, my Lake District postcards, Beatrix Potter first editions, plus my two big collections – the Beatles and football.

What I have learned from 40 odd years of collecting rubbish, sorry I mean treasures, is that the more collections you have, the more chance you have of finding something to buy in any old junk shop, any old where.

The other thing I have learned is that from a value point of view – which I am not interested in, as I do it for amusement – it is always best to buy one decent item than a load of second-rate stuff. A rule I advise, but personally never follow.

In the days when I collected stamps, I knew that buying five Penny Blacks at £20 each was financially stupid. I should be buying one Penny Black for £100. A good one would always go up in value, whereas poor stamps with thins and missing margins (technical terms, don’t worry), would always be poor and worth little. 

But it was fun, having five Penny Blacks to ogle. 

So André, don’t you wish Spurs had acquired one superstar, even at a colossal price, rather than seven half-decent stars at the same price for whom you are unlikely ever to get your money back ? 

Because of the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid for £86m, Spurs were able to spend £110m on – oh God, I’ve got to check their names, yet I’ve just been watching them play Man United. I had heard of only three of them before they arrived yet I like to think I am aware of all the up-and-coming stars in Europe, as God knows I spend enough time watching them on telly. 

I did know about Christian Eriksen, who almost four years ago got into the Danish team and was hailed as a new wonder. 

I also suspected there could be something not so good about him or he would long since have been bought by a major club. 

I’d heard vaguely of Roberto Soldado, scoring goals in Spain; and Paulinho, as he had just got into the Brazil team. But the other three – Nacer Chadli, Étienne Capoue and Erik Lamela – I had no image of. 

Still haven’t. If I met them in my porridge, I’d not be able to identify them.

Spurs bought the seven players because they could, because they had the money coming, and it was fun to stock up. Which is what I think to myself when I buy cheap footer programmes in charity shops, only to find I already have them when I get home. Just as Spurs did, continually buying the same sort of boring, pedestrian midfielder.

I might, of course, get home and find a hidden gem, something overlooked by other collectors, which is presumably what Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, hoped. Lamela and Soldada were in fact quite expensive, around £30m each, but surely Eriksen, at only £11m, with his obvious talent, could be fattened up, toughened up, and might eventually be like Luka Modric and sold for double. Bale was sold for over ten times what they paid. Fat chance of that happening again.

The team were not total rubbish in their draw with Man United, compared with their humiliation by Man City, but I suspect in January, if the seven new players were put on the market again, none would fetch even half what they cost.

I don’t suppose Villas-Boas had much say in it, but Spurs have ended up losing their only two good, really valuable players  – Bale and Modric – with nothing to show for it, sinking towards a middling, piddling position in the Prem.

With hindsight, it would clearly have been better to have bought one or at most two expensive, world-class players – if, that is, they would have come – rather than a handful of cheapos.

I do get fun out of looking at my tatty, cheapo collections, playing with them, hanging them on my walls. Cheapo players, though, they still have to do the business, not just look pretty on the bench.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 04 December 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Burnout Britain