Nerves kicked in? Or perhaps not? Are you bouncing off the walls, giddy and excited? Primed to sing your heart out for the shirt?
For the second time in a season we go into the North London Derby as favourites. A far cry from the past dark days of mediocrity where a dominating Arsenal side had very little trouble picking off an average Spurs team, plucky and insecure and at times calamitous. Even when we punched above our weight adding blood and thunder to the dramatics, we still had little to show for it. Always managing to choke up and reflect with head in hands. I have to be honest. I prefer being the underdog but if you're not very good as the underdog then its not exactly the most fulfilling existence. Unlike say an Everton that always managed to dig in and beat Liverpool on occasions. We on the other hand could never quite get past that psychological barrier and crawl under the skin of our opponents. Not just against Arsenal but also Chelsea and others.
We've got past that now. Look at us, all grown up. No debate about it. Didn't quite happen in a blink of an eye either but gradually over the past few seasons, building on belief and taking advantage of circumstance. During the monopoly fuelled by Sky Sports the 'Top Four' were simply a class apart. We were not alone in our solitude. But at no point did we ever stop aspiring and reaching out for that impossible dream. Never looked like anything would change and yet it did. It has. It's not quite a level playing field thanks to the injection City have sucked into their veins, but the generation of kings that ruled before are having to shuffle about in this game of thrones where one or two are about to lose their heads. Little old Tottenham in the thick of it, wielding its sword, looking to conquer. This time with eyes on the crown and no sympathy if rivals end up on a stake.
Stature rebuild aside, more importantly we are finally playing the type of football that tradition would beckon upon us, the type that comes with backbone, something that we've lacked for so long. We've watched our spine strengthen in the past three years. It's not out of luck we find ourselves challenging.
Our form has been solid this season so much so that even if we lost (this Sunday) that tide that's turning will go on turning regardless. It's not up to us to chase any particular club as a benchmark. It's up to them to keep up with us. The only benchmark we should be concentrating on is the one we set ourselves. But you wouldn't wish to sacrifice Sunday as part of any learning curve or blip or reminder. We are all aware, white or red, what this game means. It's of the ilk that makes it the most unbearable to watch because defeat is always the most gruelling punishment to endure. Perhaps the confidence going into the game adds to the discomfort because we've been so conditioned to praying and hoping for so long.
Everyone knows that form aside (it goes out of the window) there's pride which pushes everything else left over. Everything goes out of the window other than the desire to get one over your rivals. It doesn't define us or the club, but there's no ignoring the hatred. Gloating rights might be a fragmented subject to quantify at any given time but neither set of fans are going to want to give them up.
Win and it consolidates the wind of change. Draw and you're happy you've not lost. Lose and you feel sick and empty and rush through the stages of grief telling yourself the defeat is one in isolation and doesn't quite tell the story of the season that's played out (although in the past it was just another defeat to add to the collection). But then in isolation, a win is a win regardless of all the other story arcs ongoing. A win is more important even though pragmatically if you win and then lose the following week it doesn't quite have the impact it should. But then when does pragmatism play a part in such a game?
Times are changing/have changed. No matter the rhetoric spat in our direction you have to be fairly numb and in denial to tag Tottenham with the forgetful version of the past when the past no longer haunts us. Ironically, the past is haunting them. In memory and set in stone outside their ground.
Teams have sustained success and during that period its relevant for them to be bullish and self-righteous. When a side begins to lose its spark it has to attempt to either claw its way back to the hedonistic heights or regroup and reinvent. Arsenal are in flux, a prolonged transition where Wenger has remained true to his ethos and philosophy. We joke he's deluded. Some of our fickle neighbours flirt with bin bags in protest. But the crux remains, he has to manage his side true to his ethos because his hands our tied up by the board and the club is run in terms of finances and transfers. Surviving is finishing in the top four. They know nobody else could retain their lofty placing in the league with such constraints.
But they expect more. But then expectancy is a commodity not everyone has a privilege of bestowing themselves with. I'm not one of them (obviously not, I'm from North London) so I can only comment from afar and the reality is that although there is delusion in terms of the words spoken and the false sense of entitlement he reverberates (echoed in the mind set of some of their fans) he has no choice but to carry on doing what he's doing. Perhaps blindly, as the reason they have fallen from grace is that he persists with a Plan A when a Plan B is required because they simply don't possess the players for Plan A. And yet, they're in 4th spot. Crisis? What crisis? A crisis born from a fractured reality, one that doesn't need to exist. But it's how they wish to exist. Caring more about ego and believing you can only ever sing when you're winning.
The counter argument is that for a club of their stature they should be in the title hunt every season and they should be winning silverware every season. The contradiction must be heavily disguised because they don't appear to see it. Ambitions aside, they might be more comfortable turning up for games and supporting their club if they released the shackles of expectancy and got back to basics. But I guess they're made up of different DNA to the rest of us. Genetically altered by their custodian who moulded the club in his image.
We have been mismanaged for more than a decade but with stubborn perseverance and at times learning from embarrassing mistakes made, we've pulled ourselves out of the shallow grave we slept in. We've always been ambitious but in practice we failed to achieve. Thanks mainly to style over substance and media hype and that key ingredient of expectancy that has so much influence over how the football is perceived.
But we've gradually, progressively shifted towards consistency. At home and then away from home. Which has seen us reshape the clubs mentality. Whilst we worked hard at it, others faltered. We can't change the past. The 1990s (post 91) were diabolical. Early 2000s equally grim. It's hardly a shock to Tottenham fans, we know we never competed. But we're competing now. I'd rather concentrate on how alive I feel for supporting my team throughout those mid-table seasons making the past few a joy to behold as we grip the top tier and refuse to let go. We are building something great. We're playing the best football in the league. Don't pretend you haven't noticed. You can't ignore or stop the cycle of football as it churns out its new chapter.
We still have a fair distance to travel before we complete the transformation. Although I've spent the best part of this article fleetingly comparing the changes between us and them, it's important to note that above all things I want to aspire to what Tottenham Hotspur should be all about when Tottenham Hotspur is striving for greatness. I'm not even asking for sustained success. I just want my club to be glorious in effort, be it in one cup final or the league.
We've not been beaten by them for a several games now (in the league). Form does go out the window as cited already. They are hurting and they will want to prove a point and make a statement and what better way to do that than to strike at us head on. I want us to dodge the strike, grab their hand and twist it around until it cracks and they bend their knees in agony falling to the ground as we stand over them, smacking the back of their head until they burst into tears and plead for mercy.
Looking at their form across the season, they are most likely to lose a few more between now and the end of it and without wishing to be patronising a win for them will be a moral one rather than season defining. That's just my own opinion, you might not agree. It will however be the latter for us, no doubt, the media will tell us in the aftermath (if that's how it plays out). Our form across the season suggests we'll finish in the top four. It's all hypothetical based on what's happened already. So let's not take it for granted.
Perhaps it's impossible to strip all the musings and comparisons aside when discussing this match in its build up. Regardless of predicament, you want us to smash them to pieces for all those seasons of misery we had to accept grudgingly in contests that were hardly fair when comparing the two sides man for man. They never showed remorse, always displaying arrogance. Regardless, you still want to smash them to pieces because of what they are. There is no need for reason, no need to validate. It's the way it is.
They will remain in decline if their support forever worship an over-played 2004 DVD. But that doesn't mean they can't be dangerous like a wounded animal. It doesn't mean they can't find something from deep within. These games are never ordinary. But then some wounded animals are better off taken out back and put out of their misery.
If it's going to come full circle we'll have to wait patiently to find out so either way denying or stating it hasn't/has happened doesn't matter. Their expectancies and ours, not relevant. The only thing that matters is the next game. The next game is against Arsenal. A franchised entity with cracks in the marble. Fans that are only visible when it's safe to be out in the open (not seen a single post from an Arsenal fan on this blog for over a year when in the past they celebrated every Spurs defeat like it was a victory for them by trolling the comments section). A club with no true defining birth, aborted time and time again. A canvas with a French artist staring back at it, sombre in thought, with no paint left to aid the restoration of his degraded masterpiece that now has the scribbles of a mad man scratched into it.
I'm not asking for much. Just their destruction.