Ah, Premier League. I kind of missed it. After a mini-holiday break with an FA Cup round sandwiched in there, it feels kind of good to be getting back to the league. It also reminds me that this, right now, is the key point of the season. If Tottenham Hotspur are going to make a push for... something — Europe? Champions League? The goddamn league title? — it needs to start now.
So Wednesday’s 3-2 win over Brentford was a good start, even if the victory was a little fraught at times. Spurs have a pretty decent run of fixtures coming up — at Everton, home to Brighton, home to Wolves — before heading to Stamford Bridge in a match everyone has circled on their calendars. They’re now in fourth place. A little run here would be very nice and could set them up for a potentially exciting stretch at the end of the season.
The FA Cup gives all of us an opportunity to get a look, if we want, at a whole bunch of lower-league clubs that we’d not pay attention to otherwise. I love examining the lower leagues. Tiny clubs with their own unique micro-culture, rabid fanbase, and imagery. The visual identity also fascinates me — these clubs usually don’t have the resources that the larger clubs do so things like the kits and the club crests can be really interesting. It also makes for a really good player ratings theme.
So today we’re going to examine club crests from the Vanarama National League, just below the Football League, and tiers 5-6 on the English football pyramid. These are purely aesthetic rankings — I issue no judgement on the clubs themselves, other to gently suggest in a few cases that they invest in a decent graphic designer.
Here are your Tottenham Hotspur player ratings for their 3-2 win over Brentford to the theme of National League club crests. And who knows — we might go further down the table in forthcoming matches.
5 stars: Scarborough Athletic
Look at this fuckin’ badge. Just look at it. While I do feel a fraternal connection to any club whose crest features a bird-standing-on-ball, that’s just a hell of a seagull. Chest out, eyes blazing, full of itself in the best possible way and literally breaking out of the confines of the badge, it’s positively screaming “NO BATTLE NO VICTORY.” OK, so it looks like it was sketched in Microsoft Paint and the bird has frog legs (that’s weird), but we can overlook it. A+ badge, no notes.
Richarlison (Community — 4.0): Goddamn, what a match for Richy. Yes he scored (his 7th in 10 league games) but even more impressive was his pressing and hold-up play which was exquisite. He nearly had three goals — he had a second in the net that was called back for Collins diving in the box, and the long range blast wasn’t far away. I’d almost go as far as to say this was his best overall performance in a Spurs shirt.
Ange Postecoglou (Community — 4.0): After the City match, we in the writer’s room were trying to think if Ange had ever made non-injury related halftime subs. Our conclusion was — he hadn’t. Today he did, and it was the right decision to take off both midfielders — Bentancur because he was bad, and Skipp because he wanted a more attacking player on the pitch. It was the right call, and it won the match. In Ange we Trust.
4.5 stars: Eastleigh
Eastleigh had a nice run in the Cup this season, making it to the third round before crashing out to Newport County. They also have a superbly designed badge. Excellent frame-breaking plane, good use of font, elegant in its simplicity. That’s a great crest that supporters should be proud of.
Timo Werner (Community — 4.0): If Richy was the best player, Timo was just behind him. He’s a smart player, sensing the space behind the line and making good runs into that space with the ball. The two second half assists were a nice counter to a somewhat ineffective first half, but if all he does is set up Spurs players with assists, he’s well worth his purchase option this summer, imo.
4 stars: Alfreton Town
There were a number of clubs I considered for this level — Dorking and Aldershot Town have fun, modern circular crests and Hereford have a literal COW on their badge. But I’m going with Alfreton Town because of the ingenious way they take the Spanish-style shield-with-crown and incorporate the side profile king into the design. Awesome.
Brennan Johnson (Community — 3.5): That’s more like it. Nabbed a good goal off of a cross from Timo and looked dangerous as a halftime impact sub. The right guy at the right time, but not necessarily THE guy — this is the role he should be in at this point in time.
3.5 stars: Hemel Hempstead
Speaking of kings on badges, making Henry VIII the central identity of your club is certainly a choice. Not the most creative of badges, but an extra half-star for pure chutzpah.
Pedro Porro (Community — 3.5): Looked pretty bright going forward but was strangely rather ineffective in attack. A couple of ill-advised long-range shot attempts — he’s one of those players who you grimace whenever he takes those but when they go in (and they, on occasion, do) they’re spectacular.
Micky van de Ven (Community — 4.0): Brentford were really attacking down his side and he needed to use that speed to recover on several occasions. A couple of weak headers in defense that led to chances for Brentford.
James Maddison (Community — 3.5): Was he 100% sharp? No. But I argue he was still pretty dang good, adding the creative oomph to Spurs’ attack that it’s been missing for months now, and especially with Gio Lo Celso injured. God, I’ve missed him.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Community — 3.5): A very solid second half at the base of midfield, controlling possession and doing the things Lolo should’ve been doing but wasn’t.
3 stars: Dover Athletic
In theory, I like Dover Athletic’s badge. It’s modernish, it’s interesting, features local landmarks, and has good use of color. The design is just a little basic. I feel like a solid modern redesign could elevate it into something spectacular. In its current state, it’s just kinda mid.
Guglielmo Vicario (Community — 3.5): No real complaints, but nothing particularly of note either. Gave up two goals thanks to mistakes from Udogie but also a couple of smart saves on Toney. He was fine.
Cristian Romero (Community — 3.5): Part of the back line that looked disorganized in the first half, and he played Toney onside for Maupay’s goal. A few good tackles. Not terrible, but didn’t look his best.
Oliver Skipp (Community — 3.0): In as much as Spurs played poorly in that first half, Skipp really wasn’t the problem in midfield. In fact, he played pretty well, even if he didn’t have too many touches in the match. Had some good defensive moments and one blocked shot. A little harsh to be hooked at halftime, but it was tactical and you can’t argue with the results.
2.5 stars: Altrincham
I’m always a little hesitant to criticize these heraldic crests that obviously have a deep connection to a region’s history or date back to the middle ages or something. But this is... it’s just... it’s too much. There’s a griffin, and a unicorn, a monkey with a tail made of coral holding a flag with a geoduck on it, and two things that look like giant glowing meatballs stuck on haystacks. My eyes don’t know where to look next and it doesn’t seem to have much of an identity beyond “it’s old and historic.” Also looks like it hasn’t been redesigned since the 1980s. Pick one thing, Altrincham, and lean into it. But just one thing.
Dejan Kulusevski (Community — 3.0): Looked more Lucas Moura than the Deki we know — constantly dribbling into cul-de-sacs and not knowing what to do. Looks stuck in a rut right now.
Destiny Udogie (Community — 3.0): Oof. What to do with Destiny? On the one hand, he scored. On the other, he directly created both of Brentford’s goals, one with a bad giveaway that led to a counter and the other an ill-advised backpass picked off by Toney. Mistakes happen, but the goal wasn’t enough to not call this a bad match. It is enough to get him off the 2-star line, though, which is where he’d be otherwise.
2 stars: Farsley Celtic
Look at this 1990s-ass stuff. This is a logo you’d expect to see on the wall of an American high school basketball gymnasium, not an (ostensibly) semi-pro football club. Research tells me they changed to this color scheme and logo in 2019. Seriously!
Rodrigo Bentancur (Community — 3.0): Just a bad, bad match. Failed to control the midfield defensively, loose in his passing, looked unfit and rusty. I don’t want to start the alarm bells, but he still hasn’t looked himself since returning from that long injury layoff. Hopefully just needs time, but rightfully hooked at halftime.
1 star: Boreham Wood
More like BORING-ham Wood, amirite? Way to lean into the skid there, Boreham. I guess it’s all in the name? But seriously, hire a first-year design student for a season ticket or something.
No Tottenham Hotspur players were as bad as Boreham Wood’s crest.
Tom Carroll Memorial Non-Rating
Radu Dragusin, Jamie Donley