Tottenham’s 2021 in review: Best moments, low points, player of the year and what made us smile

The past 12 months have brought plenty of mixed experiences for Tottenham Hotspur and their supporters.

Another year in N17 is almost done and it has brought with it four different head coaches at Spurs, various highs and lows and some bewildering moments for the fans.

The Tottenham supporters have had hope, seen it wiped away repeatedly and then brought back last month in the form of Antonio Conte.

Here is our Spurs correspondent Alasdair Gold’s review of the year as he gives his own personal take on various questions put to him about 2021 at Tottenham Hotspur.

Your personal highlight of the year

Any time I managed to get Nuno Espirito Santo to actually speak about anything.

It often came with him saying my name like a disappointed school teacher and occasionally with the phrase “Don’t ask me these things Alasdair. Let things go.”

The Portuguese was a good man but he just did not like speaking about individuals or those things that were actually of interest to the fans.

Any time I managed to get him to open up on a subject was a personal highlight in a year that didn’t have too many on the pitch.

Your personal lowlight of 2021

Without a doubt it was that farcical manager search, which lasted months, turned in every possible direction before culminating in a new head coach who lasted just four months.

As a reporter, Spurs’ hunt for their new manager was up there with the most difficult things to cover. You would report on something that was a fact, confirmed by multiple sources, yet it could be out of date and ‘wrong’ within 24 hours.

Everything about the process was a mess. Tottenham drew up an initial list of candidates who fit the very publicly made demand from chairman Daniel Levy for free-flowing, attacking and entertaining football.

That list was topped by the man Levy sacked 18 months earlier in Mauricio Pochettino. Managers were spoken to and dispensed with, some were interested, some had their current employers step in the way while others were happy where they were.

Then as it became clear PSG were not going to allow Pochettino to return to London, Tottenham switched tack completely and appointed Fabio Paratici as managing director of football and the Italian had a very different profile of managerial candidate in mind.

Spurs lurched towards names who were not on their original list. Conte himself held talks but that move did not happen at that point after some promising early discussions.

Paulo Fonseca thought he had the job, to the extent of visas being arranged for him and his family, only for Tottenham to pull the plug at the last moment. Gennaro Gattuso was then spoken to, only for the Spurs fans to quickly show their feelings on his suitability as well as some previous comments he had made on a range of subjects.

Eventually, 72 days after Jose Mourinho was relieved of his duties, Espirito Santo, who was not even on the club’s original list of potential targets, was named as the new head coach.

He lasted just a few months, trying to put fires out from the first moment he walked through the door. Hopefully Conte will prove to be a highlight of 2022.

Hugo Lloris has just over six months remaining on his current Tottenham contract. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)
Hugo Lloris has just over six months remaining on his current Tottenham contract. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

Your Player of the Year

Spurs’ two star attackers have had great parts of 2021. Son Heung-min has often been there when the team needed him, although his achievements this year didn’t quite meet the heights of the first half of last season when he was constantly unplayable for opposition defences.

Harry Kane won both the Golden Boot in the league as well as the Playmaker award for recording the most assists. In a mediocre season for Tottenham, he dragged them to points alone at times with his ability on the ball and carried them on his back.

He scored 14 Premier League goals from January onwards and also finished 2021 with another 16 goals for England.

Yet this season he has been poor, so for me, my player of the year has to be someone who has been consistent throughout 2021 and for me that man is Hugo Lloris.

While it’s been a mess of a year on the whole at Tottenham, the captain has been a rare consistent presence amid the four managers employed during 2021.

Lloris has attempted to steady the ship, called out the players with a brutally honest and passionate rebuke after that terrible defeat in Zagreb.

He is one of the few Spurs players who has rarely struggled with a dip in form and he’s often been there to bail the team out of tough situations.

The Frenchman, who turns 35 on Boxing Day, is currently edging towards the end of his contract at Tottenham but it has not affected his desire to lead the team and each manager has called upon him to help push the club in the right direction.

The biggest disappointment of 2021

For me the biggest disappointment, amid plenty of disappointment including some woeful European nights on the road, was the fans never really getting to see Gareth Bale return inside a full Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Every year the Welshman was linked with a move back to Spurs and when it finally did happen, the fans were barely allowed into grounds to see it.

Bale’s loan move only brought 10 Premier League starts but he did leave his second spell at the club with 16 goals and three assists.

The Tottenham fans – just 10,000 of them – only really saw him in the flesh for 18 minutes from the bench of the disappointing defeat to Aston Villa and before that for 23 minutes as a substitute in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley.

His return deserved better and it was a real disappointment that the fans never got to really sing his name again as he turned on the style.

Gareth Bale of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates after scoring his team's fourth goal during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Spurs
Gareth Bale of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates after scoring his team’s fourth goal during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Spurs

Best match of 2021

Great Spurs matches have been few and far between in 2021, but one that probably ticked plenty of boxes was the final game of last season – the 4-2 victory at Champions League-chasing Leicester City.

Tottenham were behind 1-0 and 2-1 to Jamie Vardy penalties but fought back to win the match at the King Power Stadium.

Harry Kane scored to land himself the Premier League Golden Boot for the third time and a Kasper Schmeichel own goal made it 2-2 with just 13 minutes to go.

Then Gareth Bale delivered his farewell to Spurs with two clinical strikes, the first finishing off a fine move involving Son and Kane and then the Welshman wrapped up the win in stoppage time by sending his own shot that had ricocheted back off the post back into the goal.

The win ensured Tottenham finished in seventh and qualified once more for European football, the 15th time in 16 years. has a new podcast! We’ve brought together your two favourite Tottenham reporters in Alasdair Gold and Rob Guest to keep you up to date with everything happening at Hotspur Way.

From the latest transfer news to those glorious wins in north London and beyond! There might even be a laugh or two too.

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Best individual performance of 2021

This one goes to Harry Kane for his display in the 4-1 win against Crystal Palace in March which was another display that was wasted inside an empty Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

It was a day when both Bale and Kane scored two goals apiece but it was the England captain who also assisted the Welshman’s double.

He drove a low ball across the six-yard box 25 minutes in for Bale to open the scoring and then headed Sergio Reguilon’s cross back into the six-yard box for the Wales international to head home.

Kane then began the move that ended with him curling a wonderful first-time shot from the edge of the box into the top left corner of the net.

He headed home Son’s cushioned cross in the 75th minute to complete a fine individual display.

Oliver Skipp has been impressing at Tottenham, since his return from a loan at Norwich last season.
Oliver Skipp has been impressing at Tottenham, since his return from a loan at Norwich last season.

What made you smile in 2021

I’m going to go for two things in this category that have been shining lights in a disappointing year in N17.

The first is the emergence of Oliver Skipp as a Premier League player and one who has been central to the good things Spurs have done this season.

The 21-year-old had a great season on loan at Norwich and was integral to them winning the Championship and promotion back to the Premier League.

He has come back to Spurs and immediately won over both Espirito Santo and then Conte, the latter saying he can become a top midfielder in the game.

Skipp won back-to-back man of the match awards before the Covid-enforced break for the club and to see a homegrown player, one I and many others have seen rise up the age levels at Spurs, does bring a smile to my face and he’s only going to get better.

Secondly, the arrival of Conte himself has brought a smile to everyone at the club.

The Covid outbreak aside, Spurs needed a big lift and bringing in one of the worlds’ best managers has done that and it’s given everyone a lift behind the scenes.

The club will get through this tough moment and if there’s one benefit to the postponements, it’s the Italian getting more time on the training pitches with a growing number of players to get his methods across.

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