Rule Britannia: Spurs v Stoke
Domestic bread and butter first up before we return to the caviar of Champions League. Hoping we're not left with an egg and humble pie combo by the time next Wednesday closes shop and Thursday greets us when we walk into work dejected devastated delighted.
Stoke away. Never easy, wasn't last season, but the game was a perfect illustration of the guile and tenacity we became very much accustomed too on our travels. We had injuries, we battled hard and dug deep and showed some rather tasty moments of class (Iceman, where aut thou?). It will be no exaggeration, and no disrespect meant to our hosts, that I will be rather upset if we lose all three points. I might even knee-jerk in the aftermath. I don't want any deep digging this time round. I want us to win comfortably. I'm that frigging greedy.
Pushing on is what the Spurs directive should be for this 2011 season. I know that comparing results like-for-like from one season to the next is a redundant exercise, but there are certain games I would tag with a massive 'three points ta very much' label and this is one of them. It's a banana skin game only if we believe it is. So the players have to firstly forget about Wednesday and get our season kick-started, with hopefully a firework or two, by displaying the very same qualities that have made us want for more.
Over-achieved they say. Not a chance. We've got more left in the tank. Last season was no fluke.
Harry will no doubt make changes again, a tweak here or there, with Wednesday in mind. So, I guess the Young Boys return leg is nigh impossible to completely isolate in the back of the players minds. But they should do their best to momentarily forget.
We all know that confidence breeds results which breed form which means if you play well and win one game, you go into the next with a buzz.
The crux here is mentality. Last season, many of us were probably nervous about going away to Stoke. In fact, we tend to be nervous away full stop as fans - purely from an analysis and pre-match perspective (our away support is altogether a different kettle of fish, flying fish, with brass band and sopranos bursting the ear drums of native folk for miles around). We once upon a time had woeful away form, have made some improvements, but finally can say we should be far happier travelling than we once was.
Oh Noes ! Stoke away ! Yes, Stoke. It's Stoke. It's not Manchester United. We went there last term and were superbly professional, dispatching them, be it not always pretty. It's beyond just believing, it should now be expectancy and delivery of said expectants. The players frame of mind should be 'we're going to win because that's what teams like us do to teams like them'. Rather than worry about their long throw-ins and physicality, and their own brand of loud support etc etc
Arrogant? Nope. It's not about being big headed or thinking 'look at us, the mighty Spurs, we deserve to be beating the ickle teams'. It's nothing of the sort. We only deserve what we get based on what we do on the day. And the likes of Stoke and one or two others (think of the teams we battered and lost to at home last season) have to be brushed aside with confidence and swagger, and if in the away games (like the one we face this Saturday) it turns ugly then we adapt, remain composed and take the game by the scruff, allowing for our quality to shine through the brutal tackles and infuriating hassling.
If we lose games like this, then there's a chink in the armour that will cost us dearly in the long run. Again, this is no disrespect to Stoke. It's about us and our ambitions and responsbilities to continue to progress and better ourselves.
Making a statement by proving we are above the level we sat in 2 years ago. And above the level we were in last season. The fact I have to blog about this actually does prove (oh how ironic) that its still something that plays on our minds. I doubt Chelsea, Arsenal, Utd fans 'worry' about Stoke (although again with the irony, even the seasoned elite clubs slip on skins now and again). Not to say that's an excuse for us if we happen to land on our bums.
There's no major deep tactical ploys, selection questions or formations I want to discuss. Spurs, the Spurs that took us into 4th with that never-say-die attitude is the Spurs I want to see on Saturday and the very same I want to see on Wednesday. Whether it's Stoke or Man Utd. Our backs are not quite on the wall, it is only game number two of course, but if we treated every game like it was a must-win at Eastlands...well, you get the picture.
Three is the magic number for me. Three on Saturday, three on Wednesday.
If you're not at the game, stick on Absolute Radio for the Rock 'N' Roll Football Live show (they've got exclusive rights to a ton of Prem games so worth checking out there rota for the weeks ahead) and tune into the full match coverage of the Stoke v Spurs game (on 1215AM, online or on DAB Digital Radio). Click on this for more info.
Russ Williams with the pre-match and build-up, Jim Proudfoot commentating and Ian Wright for post-match (yeah, Ian Wright, don't let that put you off, he's harmless these days).