The fling is over, now for the rebound
I was sat in a pub in Gatley, Manchester watching the second leg of our quarter final against Real Madrid. Every ten minutes, I quietly whispered to my Mancunian mate, "If we score a goal in the next five minutes, we might just have enough time to make a comeback". I repeated this line up until the 91st minute before finally surrendering any possible hope of over-turning the mighty four nil first leg deficit. I wasn't drunk. Hardly drunk. I wouldn't even call it optimism or delusion. Just whimsical dreaming.
I sighed and applauded. It all ended anti-climatically in the end, the strength of the visitors (and the lack of lady luck) meaning there was no full blooded highly implausible and improbably attempt of a comeback that perhaps a single early goal would have given us. Instead a single howler of a goal for the visitors finally laid to rest one of the most enthralling début seasons the Champions League has ever seen. And as much as I'd have loved to see us up against those possession pests from Barcelona, it's not to be. Not this season.
Perhaps in the not so distant future we'll have grown in maturity further and improved our quality in certain positions to once more do battle with the very best Europe has to offer. Two games, five goals conceded but arguably only one great goal scored against us - the rest, poorly defended or errors. That's not bad going considering what happened in the Bernabeu and the fact that we lived with them in the return and applied plenty of effort with that telling cutting edge. We might have still been outclassed over the two sets of 90 minutes even if Crouch had not been sent off. We'll never know. And that's where the frustration festers. Madrid are hardly a shabby outfit themselves. Credit to them and Tottenham's future manager.
It's been a grand old adventure. But it's been so much more than that. We've proved we can compete at the top. Not quite with the very best but we still reached the quarter-finals when all believed we'd only manage to finish third in our group. That deserves a smile or two. Along with the good this campaign has done for our stature and name. The impact of Gareth Bale. The memories of being 3-0 down in the qualifiers, the San Siro, the 3-1 Inter win, the San Siro again. The goals scored 'for' during the group stages. The entertainment and refreshing attacking mindset of Harry and the players. It's been wonderful. Memories of standing in the away end at Upton Park in 2006, banished forever.
We've lived the dream, lost our cherry. But I don't want another adventure. I want sustained participation, at the very least, every other year if not every year. In fact I don't want it refereed to as an adventure again. Adventures are a once in a life-time occurrence in some far off fantasy world. We got into the CL because we deserved it and we got as far as we did because we deserved it. And the fact we even entertained the possibility of making it to the semi-finals (perhaps had we faced Chelsea) doesn't just speak to me, it sings.
Seasonal battles on the continent with this team continuing its progression forwards, building on the foundations we've set as a club these past two season that wants to be successful and wants to aim even higher. The culture of comfort is dead. It lived long enough. Too long. Onwards with the next chapter.
Long live the desire to dare and to do. And come on you Spurs.