Not for the faint hearted. It's the NLD...
It's not lost on me. The irony. That we can have a season full of hope and genuine progression, not of the deluded kind, but the type where other fans concede (and thus confirm) that we have made some decent strides forward. And yet two successive defeats could result with the gold at the end of the rainbow lost for yet another season in a downpour of angst and pain. Eternally, it would seem, out of our reach.
Some have knee-jerked already. Harry out. Yes, we do have fickle fans who seem to sing with the rest of us and then riot the moment things don't go our way. And yes, it's frustrating to see the same tired excuses suddenly cameo to ruin what was a perfectly good Cup run. But these things do happen. And to suggest they always happen to us is the type of victimisation that a fan of any other club, even the ones that win things regularly, mumble about every now and again. The world and the Gods of fate always stand in the way, as its usually the only comfort we can take when, I don't know, people slip in the mud or a perfectly good goal gets disallowed. How else do you get your head around it? Oh right, of course. Blame the manager.
Depending on your perspective, the season will either end in tears or be one that we can look back proudly on - and that's even if we fail to finish 4th. But then that depends on whether you think/believe Harry saved us and has got us moving forwards or whether he took advantage and acted out his saviour role but will struggle (is struggling) to take us to the next level.
How bad were we under Ramos? Two points, eight games bad. Bad enough to go down? Probably not. All it needed was some back to basics that he (HR) provided. He got us on the up, when most thought he'd fail. So can we really truly be critical of him considering how the opposite of patience (what we usually dish out on and off the pitch) has hardly ever helped? Yes, he's an interim manager (IMO) who will pass us over to the next big thing when the time comes, but his work is far from over. Stability is the key. Otherwise there is nothing to be handed over, apart from another fine mess.
Perhaps with the money spent and the players we had - at the start of this season - challenging for 4th had to be a given. It's turned out to be a given through-out thanks to the hard work and graft by all concerned. It's quite obviously never been a banker. But then that was never going to be the case. We've made ourselves CL contenders, with the aid of the ever decreasing power of some of the Top 4 sides (Liverpool anyone?). Some fans will say that 4th this season was never the objective and that we have over-achieved and based on last seasons antics, we should be happy with our lot. I see that as nothing more as a ready made excuse to appease people who can't handle the pressure.
It's all part and parcel of supporting a team. You're going to have ups and downs, and in this era of the monopolised Sky Sports 4, you take what you can when you can and try to make the most of it. And in the midst of it all, you make sure that the club and team grows and matures and progress is had. We've dropped points that would have been useful at this juncture of the season. But we lost them because we're not quite good enough, in some quarters. Beating sides who defend deep and with numbers and breaking them down has proved to be a bugbear. We'll learn from it. There is tinkering to be had with the midfield and the attack and sustained long term plans for the central defence conundrum (i.e. King's future). We'll learn from it and push onwards because there is no other choice.
Okay, so it's gutting there is no additional Wembley day out. Move on. It's done and dusted.
Chelsea on Saturday. Utd the following weekend. Yes, we have injuries. Yes, arguably we might not have players mentally strong enough to pick themselves up from the Pompey loss, and if that's the case then all that's left to do is renew our season tickets and look forward to a summer where City will spend half a billion and we request donations to the Tottenham Foundation when the poorer side of Manchester come knocking. We'll be in the thick of it again, no doubt. Regardless of how much other clubs look to improve, we'll improve ourselves. Which makes the Premier League even more open and entertaining.
But before all that, there's the matter of the NLD to be resolved. Two sides, depleted, both not at the level they wish to be and both having their own personal and differing issues with defence and attack selections. It's open. Its massively open. More so than you think. Yes, it can turn into a one-sided affair, if either the whites or reds take the initiative and turn the tempo to a pulsating level early on. We've seen that happen plenty of times before. Or perhaps one team might dominate, and the other nick a point at the death. Or perhaps, tired legs will play a fatal part in the result. One thing is for certain, there is far more of a 'underdog' feeling about this based on the fact that we've not had that much time to rest and the fact we've been dumped out the Cup. But alas, excuses, excuses. I don't care for these minor details. The game is completely unpredictable. And I'd be damned if I was going to sulk pre-match about it.
It's the North London derby. A match solely based on matters of a footballing nature. No politics or religion. Just football. Two neighbours forever hurling abuse over the garden fence. Would not want it any other way. Well, apart from perhaps building an extension that casts a shadow over their back yard. Knock-down ginger doesn't quite cut it anymore.
Form guide? 23 games. Same amount that Gareth….sshh. Don't say it out loud.
The players, they should be fired up regardless. As fired up as the fans. No one can argue that we've not had our moments in these games in the past, but having moments is not always enough to guarantee the three points and the all important bragging rights. One of the inherited legacy problems Harry has is the fact that unlike other sides (City, Everton etc) we never manage to get one over our rivals. We always turn it into a struggle. That's how we roll. Perhaps its because of the hype, self-perpetuated by stupid players and the media that we are somehow on par when we're not. Dig deep, play the role of underdog. Show no respect. Because on the day the belief can be that in the 90 minutes - we can better them, and surely that's all that's required? That's how we should roll. We did exactly that in the 5-1 semi but went to pieces earlier this season over in their patch.
But fuck me if you think I'm going to dig a grave six foot deep and dive into it with a copy of The Opus and a lock of hair from Daniel Levy (use your imagination).
Yes, it's going to be a bitch. Gotta love the fixture list computer giving us these three games towards the end of the season (insert David Dein conspiracy theory here). It happens. No reason to complain. Two London derbies and a trip to Old Trafford. I'll take that gladly thank you very much. In amongst it with the potential to rattle the odd cage or two.
So yes. We've got injuries. And yes, City are ahead in the race for 4th. And yes, most gooners I know have gone from saying they'd be happy with a point to now telling us they will win with ease. All because we lost to Portsmouth. Enough of the sound-bites.
It's a North London derby. Selection headaches, positions, aspirations. All irrelevant for the occasion at hand.
It should be nothing more or less than the most important 90 minutes of any season. Blood, thunder, drive and spirit. And tenfold passion. How else can you possibly match the noise in the ground? If that can't elevate you then nothing can. And yes, bite me, I'm a football romantic, but to me these games should be defined by guile and tenacity of the players out on the pitch. And not because XXX is out injured watching from the sidelines.
To dare is to f*cking do, so just f*cking get on with it and do it.