When we lost to West Ham United 2-1 and Arsenal danced on the Highbury pitch in celebration its no exaggeration to describe the day as one of extreme dejection and pain. It wasn't to be. It was all very Tottenhaming, what with the vomiting on the pitch and the illness and conspiracy stories (It was Dein!) and the fact we gave that particular part of east London a proper knees up and another folk tale to sit alongside stories about the Kray Twins and Phil Mitchell's latest breakdown.
We couldn't just go there and lose, we had to do it with a sprinkle of drama and quite frankly ridiculousness. I mean seriously, did we somehow bring it upon ourselves? Subconscious manipulation of fate and destiny birthed from fear of failure, allowing for self-destruction? It was ours to lose and we lost it. That night, just to top it all off, I suffered from chronic food poisoning and was basically sick for 3 days (well, it took me that long to recover). Talk about a sympathetic reaction. Pathetic.
How people scoffed (not at me, I didn't share the details of my personal hell because after my recovery I spent months locked inside my home writing depressive poetry and staring at a canvas with a brush and black paint). They scoffed at Spurs for the blatant choke. And Arsenal in the mean time told everyone who'd listen that their 4th spot finish was never in doubt. Back in your box you go, you silly Lilywhites, dreaming of such things that are beyond your reach. How very dare you. The one chance we had, was apparently gone and that was that. None of the Top 4 would slip up again. Fluke, luck, punching above our weight. All labels tagged onto our backs as we fell back in amongst the pretenders.
What we didn't know at the time was that the EPL elite would begin to slowly falter. No need to wait for further slip ups. The rest were going to catch up because the teams at the top were going to stagnate a little bit. Not in any drastic way, but we've covered this before. The gap between the pretenders and the challengers shifted and shortened. There are probably still only 3 clubs who can genuinely challenge for the title, but its no longer an impossibility to work towards challenging for it. The first step is to be good enough to get yourself into the exclusive private party for four in the penthouse apartment.
We thought we'd push on from that 5th spot finish, and did sort of but not really, finishing 5th again without really challenging for 4th. And then internal politics meant it was goodbye to Jol and hello Ramos. And then one dizzy headache later, Ramos is gone and Harry arrives.
Another hefty sprinkle of drama. And then enter the re-birth. See whilst all the haters sat around pouring scorn on our continued ambition, regardless of what soap opera engulfed our every day existence, we never lost sight of what we wanted.
Okay, so we all wanted 4th spot and CL and people would purposely translate this as a statement that we believed we were good enough each and every season, but again whilst the haters continued to laugh, we started to believe. Not exactly a delusion if you get there in the end. Granted, we spent a lot of money (within our means) but the right balance was never there. The all important ingredients were missing. But if you're not going to aim for something, you'll never going to make the steps in the right direction.
We all know the story after Harry arrived, turning it around from two points from eight games, to one of complete ecstasy up at Eastland's at the back end of last season. All the anguish of the past couple of fragmented decades and we finally kick-start what might be, just might be, a new cycle. As others look like ending or stalling of just petering out, we need to avoid giddiness and continue to push on.
Years of completely shambolic non-progression (see the 1990's) and plenty of stop start transitional seasons (the 2000's) has finally been wiped away with a fairly superb achievement, guided by Harry Redknapp and his hug-and-kick-the-ball-about man management.
We over complicated things for so long. Too desperate for success, without pragmatism, and far too many romantic notions what with our obsessions with the past. The culture of comfort is now gone, replaced by a hunger to want more, to better ourselves. A winning mentality at White Hart Lane. The eternal dreamers have finally woken up to find a lucid reality.
And this is just the start of it. We've got a lot of improvement to be had and experience to earn. And even some of the haters through gritted teeth are now grudgingly accepting that this Spurs side is not quite cut from the same cloth as the ones from our recent past. We're a good side. More than decent.
Not that I want to stand starry-eyed, mesmerised by the CL anthem and our inclusion in the draw for the group stages, but damn, you sort of have to still pinch yourself because the memories of past struggles and misguided hopes (let's face it, at times we wasted faith in teams and players who simply didn't have it in them) are still quite fresh in my mind.
And this isn't a positive knee-jerk based on the comfortable spanking we dished out to the bewildered Young Boys in what was a very wet evenings entertainment.
This is just another statement of intent.
So, let the ones who prefer to continue to pour scorn on us, continue to do so. They said we'd never get out of mid-table, they said we'd never finish high enough to get into Europe, they said we'd not get anywhere near 5th spot, they said we'd never finish 4th, they said we'd bottle it, they said we'd never qualify for the group stages.
Well, stick it up ya. All we have ever been guilty of is wanting more for ourselves, and for once, our team has reciprocated our ambitions.
Lap it up people. There's no shame in smiling.
We have arrived.