Top four or silverware? It's a question that always gets asked and once upon a time the latter would have always won the majority vote without a seconds thought because nobody chronicles a top four finish in their history unless they've finished first. But modern football scoffs at such romantic notions that cup finals mean more than a place in the Champions League. I've got to be honest, in terms of sustaining growth and being able to build towards a title challenge many (along with Levy/ENIC) would favour qualification to Europe's elite competition because the fiscal out weighs the white and blue ribbons on a piece of silver. Even though the former will never make great reading in the next version of the Opus.
Lifting a cup is a moment. Perhaps these moments are not as magical as they once were and can not stand the test of time like Ricky Villa has managed to do. But then that's always going to be in the eye of the beholder. The Carling Cup isn't the League Cup but you'd hardly disputed Woodgate's ball-to-head winner.
Going back to Ricky Villa, think about how iconic that moment still is. Along with say Gascoigne's free-kick in the semi-final. Even the '87 Cup final was a majestic occasion, be it a disappointing one. But even though time has changed how we perceive this competition, it still shouldn't be scoffed at. Even though technically speaking when I've prioritised CL over cup silverware I've done just that.
We (football fans) have changed so much that we actually try to validate why finishing 4th or 3rd matters more. Sad really. I've fallen victim to it. I'd still argue about the importance of CL but this close to a final, how can I possible not contradict myself? Those moments; they should be far more important than a league placement. The moments are what make football so great.
I still want CL.
An easier way to deal with this is to just admit that the question isn't relevant. As a supporter you want your side to win every game. That isn't possible. You'll never turn the chance of silverware down but equally understand the importance of being able to compete for the very same silverware (which today means being a top four side). During the Sky Sports dominated Top Four era, nobody (hardly) got a look in, so far apart was the quality and power of the teams qualifying for CL every season. That ilk of superiority might not repeat itself again but thanks to the short term loyalty and stop-gap/stepping stone philosophy of footballers, its sometimes impossible to avoid transition and rebuilding.
Perhaps it's easier to just live for the moments without the crushing pressures of what modern football has defined as the acceptable normality for 'success'.
We spent a long time wondering around aimlessly but we now have stability to aim for consistency and to compete season in and season out. We shouldn't lose sight of that but we should also not be so dismissive of the bread and butter building blocks that made football so special in the first place.
It's a shame we've lost focus in the league. We could have had CL wrapped up by now. Instead we're having to struggle through trying to find the misplaced momentum (it's not behind the sofa). Whether its lack of mental strength, rotation or mismanagement, there should be no need for team talks and inspirational speeches before facing Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final.
Sure, we've faltered a few times in the past at this stage. It's been way too long since we last graced a final (for this particular cup). It's this simple: Play with heart, desire and spirit. Wonderfully clichéd but these are the traits that set players and teams apart when the quality is level pegging. There's room for pride and belief in there as well. Although I'm not naive enough to think these traits are not fuelled by the individuals themselves as part of a well drilled and managed collective. Best players in their best positions, best formation and patience and astuteness with tactics.
Football really does look easy on paper. Form on the pitch is where it counts. We don't have much of that at the moment. My hope is we treat the semi-final like a cup final, like any cup game should be treated.
I can not be disparaging against a team that gives it everything. I want them to play the game like I would play it if I was blessed to wear the shirt I love.
Heart on sleeve, Tottenham. And when you're done with this there are five equally important ones in the league.