The want for more
The fact that I'm sat here trying to work out whether I'm pumped up for the Europa League probably tells you that there is something wrong. It's a big tradition at Spurs, is Europe. Bill Nicholson had one or two things to say about it. More so the fact that once upon a time we were tagged as Cup Kings. The 1980s seem a distant memory these days, in this not so brave but bloated rich modern era.
Undoubtedly, everything outside the Champions League and Champions League qualification has been devalued. FA Cup romance has been stood up more often than not. The League Cup dumped by most, only becoming important if you somehow stumble your way into the semi-final. Although most would desire to win the former, you sort of make do with the latter because it's still silverware and it's at Wembley. Both have taken the mantle of simply being bits on the side for the Sky Sports era 'Top Four' and plucky teams that punch out of the industrial strength paper bag that covers them.
That doesn't mean our 2008 victory should ever be dismissed, probably because of that semi-final against the red scum followed by that wonderful day out against the blue scum. We were winning games we were not meant to be winning. Dismiss it, no way. Footnotes in history are exactly that, forever captured in our honours list and in memory. But still, its an afterthought for most, a third prize for the truly ambitious. For everyone else it's an echo from the past.
Football, at its highest level, is geared up to make the strong stronger. If you're truly ambitious then winning the title has to be the ultimate goal. If you're in a position to do so then by default you'll have enough ammunition to gun down other targets (like the domestic cup competitions). Which is why if you consider the long term, top four should be the priority.
I want us, at some point, to win the title. It's a ridiculous statement, much like wanting us to qualify for the CL once was. I'm not asking for ten years of dominance here. Wouldn't be able to live with the glory hunting. Just one grand old push, anything comparable to the 60s will do, then back down to earth again.
Okay, so, here's where I start to walk and sink through quicksand. I can never give a definitive answer to the question that asks 'Silverware or Top Four?' mainly because I have been somewhat corrupted by the prestige of the Champions League. I'll do my best to fight through the relentless hypocrisy and contradictory statements. But expect my explanation to be one consumed with struggle.
I love Tottenham. Unequivocally. There's probably a deep rooted fear of success, festering in my subconscious, that doesn't quite want me to want the club to turn from eternal pretenders to seasoned champions. In a perverse way I like the fact that with each passing decade we win something, be it a domestic cup or a European one. We might not have been blessed with an empire or a dynasty but what we've achieved in our past playing the football we've played with the players we've had - it has been and remains magnificent. We're a big club in terms of our fanbase. We're a big club in terms of the manner of some of our achievements. But still a small club with a big heart when compared to the true giants in football.
So you (and I) would never scoff at the question asked, 'Would you prefer silverware to a top four place?'. Shouldn't scoff. You don't ever say no to a good thing. Football is about moments, and moments made up of Cup final goals and dramatic winners are what makes supporting a club, any club, special. It's not just John Crace that fears success will reshape a clubs character and therefore its supporters. But Tottenham have yet to cement such stability flying in the heavens. We are once more looking up, attempting to take off.
The issue surrounds the effort required to attain said good thing. But the effort is just if the finale is Ricky mesmerising his way through the City defence, a winning penalty save in a European shoot-out or coming back from 1-0 down to win 2-1, be it in the FA Cup or League Cup.
Winning a domestic cup competition or the Europa League should always be the aim as the momentum will carry forward into the league games, and vice versa. Alas, the constraints of three competitions and the league with the additional interference of 'deemed to be more important' fixtures and injury issues means that we're only likely to strike lucky (in terms of a run) in perhaps just one of them. And if the club wants to progress to a point where top four is a given then league games will have to take the mantle of priority.
The buzz generated and then witnessed during our battle for fourth and then our début in amongst Europe's elite tells me that such an adventure - in modern football - is more fulfilling from one game to the next than a run in the League Cup. Even if the chances of winning such a competition (CL) are extreme.
So before I disappear under the quicksand, what is it I want exactly from the club, players, manager? Hand on heart...I want us to win every game. Reality is, we won't always be set-up to do so. And some of these group games in the Europa League will be sacrificed by blooding the youth in mixed up selections (perhaps stronger home tie line-ups will see us through comfortably). Once in the latter rounds, a buzz (of sorts) will generate enough momentum to see us grow hungry for more and everyone pull together for the greater good (that's the creation of history by way of winning something).
Belief, desire, hunger...it's never going to come together with brute strength and Spurs swagger if we're under-strength, so it rests all with hope. Personally, I'm already thinking ahead to next season and a new man at the helm. Levy is probably doing the same thing. And for all this talk about Luka's head not being in the right place, our manager should perhaps consider his own state of mind. Or at least engage his brain when he opens us mouth.
Harry for England? All I know is Harry can talk for England, he's that good with soundbites. His way is to downplay everything. All we can do is hope it doesn't have a detrimental effect across the squad.
With the future in mind, stability is key. A top four place will mean the war chest (we do have one right?) will be of far greater power if we're in the CL next season compared to perhaps a return to the Europa. Even if we're not in the CL, perhaps the new gaffer will not dance around the wall he has built to protect his ego and instead speak for us, the fans, with complete transparency.
I hope we win a Cup. But I'd prefer us to reclaim that opportunity of further growth and progression to be stronger domestically and thus give us the base to challenge on more than one front and once more give us access to another adventure up in the heavens.
I guess this is me accepting the sacrifice for this season at least.
Moses parted the Red Sea, the big show-off, lived off that for a bit, probably even got a t-shit commemorating the event...then followed it up with wandering around lost, clueless with what direction to go in. Life as a Spurs fan might simply be to accept pockets of success punctured by barren and transitional seasons. I can live with that. But I'd prefer to feel the way I felt when we smashed Inter 3-1 at home or beat Milan 1-0 away.
We might not be perceived as a giant. But we can compete with them. We just have to start behaving like one - no matter the game, no matter the opposition and no matter the competition.
Easier said than done. Hence the sacrifices.
Now someone please reach out and grab my hand before I sink into the depths.
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