Last season. Remember it? I doubt you'll have forgotten. It was last season when Mauricio Pochettino and his team started to click. Having already worked his way through the squad, removing the dead elements whilst instilling new ethics, Tottenham went from having a flux identity to one that was wholly transparent. Perhaps the pressing was too much on the intense side, disciplined but still raw with uncontrolled energy levels. Emotionally too, we were having to test ourselves time and time again. We developed a never say attitude. A fighting spirit. Players, some unexpected, came to the forefront to aid the cause and help mould our new look. This was last season. When most supporters and pundits predicted 4th would be most likely but probably still out of our reach. The rebirth shocked all. This was last season.
The expectancy with this current one was possibly mixed thanks to the fear that those other teams, the big ones with money, would wake up and do what is expected of them. Yet again, our momentum persisted. We pushed, we dug deep and proved that this isn't a side that wants to make up the numbers. We want to be in the number. Preferable first. Not this season, unfortunately, but considering the achievement of progress, there is no reason why we can't go into the next with even higher hopes. Is this all too happy-clappy for you? Overbearingly positive? Maybe even patronising? Good, because it's reflective of life. Of reality. The earth is a globe so stop pretending you're going to walk off it anytime soon.
When you're stood or sat watching Spurs in the past two years and weigh up the pros and cons, what do you see? What do we have? Do you focus on the rare (and sometimes despondent) lows? Do you do so because they define the season because pragmatically, the end product (or lack of) will be what history remembers? Or do you look beyond the constant disparaging finality that some fester in to appreciate and accept that, well...Rome wasn't built in a day. It might have taken one for it to burn down but unless you see Daniel Levy fiddling a violin anytime soon I think we can enjoy what we have and stop worrying about something that hasn't happened.
Poch is three seasons deep with us. Two of which have been the ascension of his philosophy. You gutted after Saturday? I hope so. Because unlike past misdemeanours when cup runs were an escapism from the turgid mid-tables we suffered year after year, this time it's different. Okay, so white lie klaxon, it's not different if you focus solely on that other unmistakable reality; the result. But in terms of what this team is and has and still requires...it's something we've wanted for over twenty years. Something we deluded ourselves into thinking we could have but we never truly got close to it. We picked ourselves up from the purgatory of mediocrity and started to make inroads whilst the gradual demise of the Sky Sports Top Four kicked in. Failed experiments followed but the intentions were always sound. Just ultimately flawed.
We had the players but not quite at the right time and with the right balance. We could still get bullied in the transfer market, although our chairman made it work for 'us' in what has become an altogether different type of battle with bloated beasts (Sky Sports replaced by the oligarchs). Then came Pochettino. A man with a science that is practical and not all theory. A vision that required the players he didn't have at his previous clubs. A man that needed a foundation to build a reputation for himself and for our club.
Everything that followed is what we've lived through in our immediate past. He has got us into a position that allows those whimsical dreams of challenging for a title become more than a daydream. Now I understand that from season to season, the dynamics of football and the Premier League changes. We all adjust. We slowly become accustomed to, say winning games. The default mindset is to not linger on the past (immediate or otherwise) and constantly compare. Not to constantly harp on about how depressing the 90s were. Which I agree with, although don't expect me to dismiss those years easily considering how sickeningly poor they were (not always, but for the most part aside from those escapism's in the cups).
The point is, we got nowhere fast back then. So it's not a weakness to acknowledge that we're now travelling with some speed. To contemplate all the complexities and the luck needed, it takes time for things to fall into place. Money will get you there a lot sooner. Want to know how easy it is for this to happen without paying astronomical prices for players? It ain't f**king easy. Look at Chelsea and you'll see a number of players we went for, all of them having rejected us because we can't compete with their wage structure (and also, let's face it, because of their clout it more or less guarantees silverware). That's what we're up against.
It's nigh improbable on paper to compete out of nothing. Puncturing the top tier is possible of course. It either takes an absolute incredible glitch in the matrix (Leicester City) or it's one of the long standing experienced super rich clubs that end up sharing the spoils. To break into that elite club (the financial one) takes some doing. Hence why we're tagged as over-achievers. Hence why it all retains a sense of confused emotions when we fail when reaching as high as possible. Leicester don't have the capabilities to build on their success. It might be that neither do we (if we are ever blessed to win the title). It might be that the league is changing to a state where more than four clubs fight it out and nobody dominates in the manner Liverpool and Utd once did. I wouldn't mind finding out.
We are despondent when we fall short because, I guess, we might not get another chance. That's the typical reaction. That fear those other big teams will wake up and do what is expected of them (and sign our best players). The club is also carrying the weight of fan desperation on our shoulders having been starved of true success for as long as I can personally remember. We want to win something first without any consideration for what it would mean beyond the sex, drugs and rock'n'roll it will bestow on us. The whole debate about consolidating a winning mentality by winning something will be what Poch will harness and then use to fuel the team to push on from there. We'll bask in the glory and then look to go ahead. Which isn't something old Spurs would have done. We'd have won a cup, experienced and enjoyed the anomaly, then hope in the following five years it happened again.
So in the midst of this thought process, this is where the borderline petulance creeps in. We want nice things and when we don't get them we take it out on our team. Which in essence is taking it out on ourselves. After-all, we are Tottenham. Self-harm is pretty much a constant struggle. What else are we meant to do? All we can do is analyse and blame and pose questions. It's a process, a defensive mechanism. Everyone is different, everyone has their own way of dealing with it.
Yet those daydreams from yesteryear are gone. Our present day desires might no longer be the same flights of fantasy of the past, but they give us the same total of nothing we got back in the 90s. But we are no longer waiting to be in a position to make it happen. We're in that position. We're primed. We now have to make it happen. This is obvious stuff, right? It's just a remainder, an anchor. A truth that tends to be tagged with decades of mistakes that don't have the right to be bundled in with today's variant of THFC.
This is brand new Spurs with brand new imperfections. You've heard this before. I preach this sermon weekly. We know what we still need to do. Tactically and depth wise. We still require new additions to the squad. Poch isn't beyond criticism either. Same with the players. But without him, we don't have them. Without all of them we don't have the most promising side we've had since...forever.
Early 80s. 1987. Redknapp's team. Pockets of pomp. This team might, could win the league. Not this season, probably next. The fact I'm typing that out and not laughing at myself for spouting what reads like nonsensical fiction is a touch maddening. What is groundbreaking is that I'm stating it and I'm not even excited by that prospect. I'm actually disappointed we didn't win it last season and that we're not likely to win it this one. That adjustment has introduced new pressures and stresses and we're not rejecting any of it. We have elevated ourselves thanks to our manager and the team. But we can't lose our grip on what it means to be Spurs. To become self-entitled. To become like them lot down the road. Still...I'm disappointed.
DISAPPOINTED we're not going to win the league. Disappointed that our away form has given them lot above us a safety buffer.
That's progress. We don't get a trophy for it. History won't remember it. But then that's the other thing, the insistence from those that fear-monger that nothing means a anything until we stick ribbons on a chunk of metal. That the games and the goals and the journey we have undertaken is hollow because nothing more than the destination is important. Patience wasn't a commodity in the past. We accepted our position. The moment there's tangible growth, that's when it's imperative for a fanbase to demand more, to push the club to alter it's mentality. Then impatience will introduce itself slowly and surely because we all know how short-lived everything is within the game. Loyalty is strained and abused.
Last season. You know it well, we've discussed this. The start we had saw some supporters claiming the likes of Stoke and Crystal Palace had left us behind. That Poch was clueless. That our players were not good enough in key positions. That we had no defensive midfielder. This was all decided by a handful of games. We had not a clue what was to follow.
I guess this war of perspective will never go away. It's probably essential to give all of us a means to reach some form of equilibrium with what we see. To know if we're either going too far left or too far right. To compare opinions and question our own. Yet after twenty plus years, I think I'm okay with what we have three seasons into this new era. Perhaps this is because unlike some (ooh, shots fired, indirectly) I've reflected and shown humility many times in my life where as others prefer to shout over the rest, belittle them and enjoy being proved right more than being proved wrong. There's more mind games and ego in the fanbase than there is in press conferences.
History does remember the winners. I can't dispute that. Claiming a trophy remains the pinnacle. We've still got to do all the graft that precedes it. We have to earn it. If we fall short it's because we're still not good enough. Maybe only on that particular day. We'll need another one to test ourselves again. Hands up if you expected us to win in the semi-final? That type of empowerment is still box fresh. It's a good place to be in but equally so, it hurts one hundred times more than when you're accepting a loss before the game has even kicked off. I'd rather take that risk and the extra hurt than not take it at all.
Having had time to reflect again, we didn't play badly on Saturday. We just didn't quite do enough. Our lack of experience and composure saw us edged out. Which remains an obstacle that needs a proper demolishing. We need to get into the position where the goals we scored on the day are the kind of goals we score to win these types of games.
That empowerment. It gives me an undeniable comfort in actually enjoying the journey because football for most of us isn't to be perched at the very top looking down at everyone else. It's chasing down that potential to be stood up there. Not everyone can access those aspirations. We can. We have. The players and the manager give me the belief that they believe they want to reach it. That is more than enough to drive us all forwards. It has to. Lose the momentum and we lose everything.
So off we go again.
C O Y S
Top of the world? Not yet ma. I'll let you know when.
(disclaimer: sorry for any typos and grammatical errors, I've had to quickly draft and publish. bit busy over next two days. so enjoy another stream of consciousness as I work through the five stages of grief)