So this is how it feels? All those years of mediocrity. All those end of season calamities when we deserved more and got nothing because we threw it all away. Now that we've finally done it, now that we've finally moved on, I'm sat here contemplating and can't shake off this feeling that it all feels completely and utterly...normal.
Don't think for a second that I'm not floating around like I've dropped MDMA on the dance-floor during a peak time Ibiza after-party. It's been glorious. Not in the desperate fashion that we've so often been cursed with in the recent past. The calamities have been hand-me-downs to our rivals, letting them off the hook time and time again. The hurt felt was always self-inflicted. Even when we're better than them they still finish above us.
Make no mistake, they've spent all of the past twenty-one years lapping it up. Goading and boasting and bragging. Tinged with glutenous dollops of arrogance. Even when Spurs had outrageously average players dominating their line-up and Arsenal swaggered around with the wealth of the Sky Sports era and their world class talents...they still laughed and mocked. Which is completely within the realms of engagement between two clubs that hate each other.
Unless of course it's reversed from red to lilywhite. In a single afternoon our fragile neighbours have disintegrated before our very eyes. Melted away like an ice cream Sundae dished out in the depths of hell. One afternoon and the broken children of Woolwich have already cracked under the strain. They've become what they perceived us to once be. We've become what we've always fought to be...not them, but a more polished version of us.
One afternoon and they've been triggered to reciting the history books. Claiming we have to match their silverware tally before we have any right to say anything. That we have to finish above them for a couple of decades first before we can crow. One afternoon and they've lost their heads. We've had 7665 days of it (give or take a few). We've probably become immune to the stench but at no point did we allow it to define us with complete finality. This has been illustrated with nigh perfection in the past two seasons of our evolution. We haven't settled for finishing in the top four or finishing above them lot. We desire so much more than that. The players post-North London Derby were professional in celebration. They left us, the supporters, to rejoice and claim back the noise and enjoy the silence of the departing gooners. After-all, it's only Arsenal we beat.
That's the part that sticks a smile on my face. That even with their success back in the day, they still had to measure up to us to be able to claw back something befitting worthy self-esteem. They know their club is a fallacy. A franchise of fairweather men and women that want to be part of the football experience but are too fearful to embrace it so they opt for a club made out of plastic ideology. A safe haven for the socially disenfranchised. A collective of fans that want the association with success more than they wish to be part of the complete unforgiving and often punishing entity that football is. A fanbase more concerned with how they want to be perceived by others, worrying more about being cussed than being proud no matter the team and the result. Supporting their club is meant to provide a protective layer that exists to make them feel good about their life. To be able to lord it over others. Take that away and they're naked and defenceless, tucking in their shrivelled pricks and awkwardly dancing in front of the mirror fantasising they are something they'll never truly be.
They have new grievances that are just the same old ones regurgitated. This time they are mostly self-aware enough not to brush them under the carpet. It's starting to anchor them back to reality and what it means to not live in a world of self-entitlement. They've been lied to. They want what they believe they deserve. Don't we all? Yet their petulance makes them the least endearing set of supporters in England. A club that has a side in recent memory that went unbeaten for an entire league campaign and yet nobody outside of their bubble gives a f**k about it. They've got high off this, smoked their entire supply and then refused to let go of the past, constantly reaching out for something that isn't there. A badge of honour has become an albatross around their neck, sinking them deeper with each passing season.
I'm not going to fib. I'm hard right now. Down there. You know what I mean. If you're a lady you're probably a little fizzy too. I get it. That laughing at them with a patronising edge makes it even funnier. That they're a shambles makes it even more delicious. Spurs have finally made that positional leap above them that we've threatened for seasons.
It feels normal and I f**king love it.
The entire day was...momentous. It was my last visit to the old girl, White Hart Lane. Up until the morning of the game I was supremely confident about this match-up. Arsenal's form had picked up but it was plucky rather than a rebirth of tactical and player power fusion. Our form has been sensational in comparison, especially at fortress N17. Yet there I was in the pub, quad rum and coke, worried. It's how we're built, for the most part. Even with our progressional success as a team there's always doubt that lingers. It's not in our nature to expect nice things. A defensive mechanism kicks in to protect us from losing our balance in amongst the hedonistic heights and free-falling into the crushing lows. Add to it the emotional attachment I have to the place and the fact that this would be a final goodbye, I was a mess. More rum helped. Only the football could save me.
The walk up to the turnstiles was colourful. Red flares going off. Sirens. Bottles launched into the Arsenal contingent being marshalled by police up the high road. One of their dogs had taken a bite out of a supporters leg. Others were being threatened with arrest. Some dragged away. It was fantastic. A proper old skool taste in the air. I don't condone violence but you have to be wet behind the ears if you think it's going to be a yellow brick road half an hour before kick off. You could slice the hate out of the air and feast on it for weeks. Their fans hate running the gauntlet when they visit. And so they should. We're hardly going to roll out the red carpet for them. Our territory, you're going to be made to feel unwelcome. I don't expect anything less. It's why Upton Park was wonderfully intense before they sanitised their soul and opted for popcorn.
Inside, I was tucked away in the lower corner of the West Stand near the Paxton. The joke not lost on me that this being my last visit, I'm sat with the bourgeoisie. I'm not complaining. I'd be more than happy inside the Chirpy outfit if it meant watching the game live. Then the nerves, they disappeared, when the ref blew the whistle. I was at church and the sermon I was about to witness would be powerful.
The first half was a graft. Arsene Wenger's side resembled a team in terms of organisation and didn't appear fearful. The pace was frantic. There was a thunderous approach for every loose ball. Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen both missed sitters. Dele not connecting with his head and Eriksen striking the bar in what was a slightly more tricky to control chance. Both players should have scored. 0-0 at the break looks like an evenly matched contest but Spurs looked the better going forward and didn't appear flustered at the back. We weren't really breaking sweat. Spurs digging in is, let's face it, routine these-days. It was hard to tell if they (Arsenal) were playing out of their skin to contain us. They had one effort (Aaron Ramsey) that Hugo Lloris had to push wide of the goal. Spurs were having to be patient. One point would do but three would really ram it down their throats. Something had to give in during the second forty-five.
Cue the second half and the most significant two minutes of action since losing my virginity. Tottenham blew Arsenal away. We shut them down and placed them back into a dark box of despondency full of cruel insecurities. Dele scored the first, never looking to surrender time and space by invading it. Surrounded by red shirts, he got there before any of them reacted after some neat footwork and a saved shot from Eriksen. Then Harry Kane, from the pen spot. Drawing in the challenge for the foul and then expertly finding the inside netting to leave Petr Cech for dead. Their keeper the only man to stand between us scoring more with saves from the immense Wanyama, Vertonghen and Alderweireld. Two up and Spurs purred into second gear, composed and controlled whilst Arsenal, with no fluidity or recognisable style, chased shadows. Alexis Sanchez also got away with a handball and the visitors managed to survive a battering.
This was the most one sided NLD for years. Tottenham tactically imperious. Arsenal lifeless. Mauricio Pochettino, unbeaten in six against the enemy. A man with a plan that has given us identity and purpose whilst his counterpart hangs onto the memory of one he lost a long time ago. Whilst they rely on their key players to perform, we're fuelled by the synergy of the eleven, playing and protecting each other all over the pitch. It's a no contest when comparing both teams pound for pound.
The nervous energy around the Lane turned into joyous celebrations. This - the conclusion -was the part of every season we haven't quite got our hands on. Our mindset, having suffered the brutal learning curve of last seasons unwanted dramatics, was perfection. Spurs, big bold and brave. Mature and magnificent. A team worthy of a title win that we'll miss by a handful of points again. A team finally gaining the non-trophy plaudit of being the dons of North London. It means little yet means everything. As I've already alluded to, this isn't about them. It's about us finally getting rid of the monkey off our back. Finally smashing through the last obstacle in our way that has so often held us back. That block in our heads has been surgically removed and used to brick Arsenal's cannon in half.
When the final whistle went, bedlam. We were uncharacteristically prepared for it. No last day of the season nail biting for us. Not this time. The players more than content that we're mathematically still in contention for an unlikely league upset. Also, no doubt, happy for us that we were ecstatic with the result and performance. As for the faithful, the release was a reality. All those years of bragging baggage weighing us down...gone. You could almost accept finishing in a lowly position if you're distinctly average. You never wish for it. You support regardless and because of it and you hope your team gets its sh*t together and pushes on upwards. It's a struggle and a test. What has hurt in recent years is being as good if not better and yet still navigating through stormy weather only to hit rocks and sink with the port in view. Not this time. Allow it. RIP the monkey.
It isn't just a league brag we have over them. It's everything. They are lost, their fanbase fragmented. We've had our day and it's testament to the club that this will be nothing more than a footnote. We'll still drink in its honour for many days to come. They gave it to us time and time again, it's shameful they don't have the resolve to take it back but that won't diminish the enjoyment and efforts on our part to milk it. After all, you have to love to hate your enemy otherwise it's not really hate you feel.
It will be scandalous if this side does not win the title soon. Next season we're at Wembley. That will cause concern, especially with our home record being as good as it is currently. It's just another obstacle that needs smashing. My trust in Poch is relentless. I'm giving him what he's given me. Belief. He talks about us being a collective.
'Because we are Tottenham'
These are positively seductive words of unadulterated substance.
I can see how close we are. The players must sense it too. Keep it together Spurs. We're almost there.
Onwards you beautiful sexy beast.
And mind the f**king gap.