How many times have we been here before? Far too many. This season we keep finding ourselves with a golden chance which would allow us to push on if we take it. When we've taken similar chances earlier in the season, we haven't built on it, meaning every time we think we’ve made the type of progress to elevate us away from the bottom three for good, we end up back there. Each time we’ve gone up against a ‘bottom 12’ club we’ve bottled in. And now we find ourselves in yet another ‘must win’ situation that will save us from the mire. These chances won't be available to us forever.
The Great Escape is on.
We can all sit back with our English cup of tea, dunking a biscuit and discussing why things have not been working out and when exactly it all started to go wrong.
We can point the finger at Ramos who in turn will point at Comolli and Levy. Others will long for Jol. You could argue Harry Redknapp speaks far too much, contradicting himself from one day to the next. When he slates the likes of Darren Bent in the press, is he doing it because brutal honesty might just inspire a reaction from the player? Or is he simply letting the player know he isn’t good enough because that's just how honest(yeah yeah) he is? When things are going well, the squad is a good set of lads, and when it's not, its the fault of the previous regime (DoF and coach) and their scatter-gun approach to transfers. Regardless - this must have some form of detrimental effect on the morale of the team, no? It's having one on the fans.
Over the past few seasons we have constantly chopped and changed our side meaning little cohesion in the way of rapport and structure from one year to the next. There is no sense of progression as a unit, a team. No growth. There is no patience from board level all the way down to the stands. If someone doesn’t fit in they are moved on and replaced. If someone doesn't perform, they get booed. All this pretty much sums up the post-Jol era (actually it sums us up since the 1990's).
And to add to the circus, this season most of our transfer dealings have been played out in the public forum, granted, the press ignite the stories – but Harry has no qualms about lapping up the camera time. Nothing wrong with this football flirting half the time (all managers are guilty of it), but the current crop of players we have must be losing motivation to see their names thrown about as part of exchange deals or being replaced or labelled as ‘not good enough’ in a TV interview or the butt of a joke.
Not that I’m defending the players as it’s nigh disgraceful they don’t attempt to react positively and prove their worth to the club. Not that they haven't tried on occasions and I can detach myself long enough from all the hype and knee-jerking to understand that if the team is lacking balance then it won't be corrected by a bit of man-management. As we've seen it's simply not enough thanks to various weak spots in key areas. A player is only as good as the players around him. It's a bit of a paradox like the end scene of the Terry Gilliam sci-fi classic Twelve Monkeys when Bruce Willis makes eye contact with his much younger self. No matter what, this will always happen in an infinite loop, never to be broken. There's something very Tottenham about that. However, Willis does not have the option of Palacios and one or two others to gatecrash and change the course of history. So even with the fixture list working against us, we have a new injection that will soon stir things up a little. Otherwise, our Eleven Monkeys will take us back in time to the late 70's when we dropped down a division.
Harry has to take start taking responsibility without the constant necessity for sound-bites and cheap-shots.... (if you've fallen out of your chair, I'll give you a moment to compose yourself).
So, like I said, we could sit back and discuss the whys and wtfs for an age. Regardless of how it happened, the only reason to look back and work it out is to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Daniel Levy needs to take responsibility with how we’ve managed to go from two 5th spots to this. But for the moment, that isn’t important. We can worry about it later. What’s important now is we go back to winning ways starting with tonight’s game against Stoke. It’s all up to the players. It’s in their hands. Once again, it's a chance to start moving upwards.
Can they handle the responsibility?
Do they comprehend that we face a struggle to stay up if our form doesn’t change NOW? We are in the midst of it and our form should have changed weeks back. To dare is to do, right? Then know your history and stop feeling sorry for yourselves you absolute melters of a club side.
Palacios and Chimbonda are not available for tonight’s game. Cudicini might well start in place of the injured Gomes. Woodgate, Lennon and Modric are all carrying knocks but will probably start. As for potential newcomers, Jones is no longer a viable transfer target (he’s signed a new contract with Sunderland – so I was thankfully wrong about that potential signing). Tabloids are happy to let Robbie Keane go, but might want Lennon in a swap (thanks, but no thanks). And Fred (Lyon) is now being linked and has reportedly flown to London for talks. Some ITK's are suggesting a fee has already been agreed and he'll be watching from the stands tonight.
Stoke will be no push-overs. Just ask Chelsea. We should have beaten Pompey last time out in the Prem. But I’m bored with the should haves.
Our manager has made the insightful statement that ‘you can pull yourself out with a couple of results’, with regards to our league position. Really? Is that not what we did when you first took over? The problem has been sustaining that must-win attitude all the time and not just now and again. That’s why we are still bottom and not sitting comfortably in the top half.
It’s bricking-it time. There are 16 games left and the comfort of always having time on our hands to change our luck is fast running out. At the moment it’s far too much of the to dare is to do nothing from our players.
Tottenham Hotspur. I dare you.
I dare you take the game from the scruff of the neck from the opening second.
I dare you to boss the midfield.
I dare you to be constantly hungry for the ball.
I dare you to attack with urgency and pace.
I dare you to get men into the box and attack the ball.
I dare you to be first to every second-ball.
I dare you to retain possession with style and confidence.
I dare you to tackle with determination.
I dare you to play with passion and spirit
I dare you to show leadership and belief.
I dare you to wear the shirt with pride.
I dare you to stand tall for the fans.
I dare you to swagger.
I dare you to win. Pick up the three points and see it as a job well done, but nothing more, before focusing on the next game and the next three points. Pat yourselves on the back after you push through the 40 point barrier or when safety is assured.
If we can’t muster up a better than decent performance at home against Stoke City, then the players we have don’t care enough to be bothered about whether we stay up or go down. 11 jigsaw pieces from 11 different puzzles will send us down.
Dramatical metaphors and Custer’s Last Stand war-cries aside, having new blood at the club will only work if the players already there are galvanized by the fear of failure and strive to make amends and match the enthusiasm the new (and not so new) signings bring to the side.
If Tottenham manage to roll over for Stoke 'haven't won away in the league' City, then I promise you, I will endeavour to campaign relentlessly for our relegation to the Championship where our rebirth will be one of true grandeur and spirit, akin to the Keith Burkinshaw side that returned to top flight football to win Cups and play with undoubted style and grace. Then again we might get stuck down there for 5 years and end up ground-sharing with Leyton Orient.
All we have is hope then.
I’m going to close my eyes and imagine Steve McQueen makes if over the border and into Switzerland.