Taking back what belongs to us
I'm looking forward to the summer. I can slowly work towards awakening my sleepy spirit from the narcoleptic nightmare that is modern day football. I've allowed myself to be consumed by expectation. It's not something that's happened over night. It's been a natural progression, one that I've been completely aware of. But in allowing it to play out, I've confused sentiments. Bill Nicholson would want to see Spurs at the very top of their game, competing and challenging, playing the football we were born to play without sacrificing tradition. He'd want us to aim high. Which is something I've been doing. It's something we all do. We've always wanted more, we've always believed. We even believed during dark times when there was next to no chance of our dreams coming true. There is nothing wrong with wearing your heart on your sleeve. Being reserved, bottling it in or not wishing to show raw emotion is no way for a football fan to live his or her life.
That desire drives the club forward. The supporters are the fuel.
The club you support chooses you and you follow with undying loyalty regardless of league, stature or success (although there's always been a trend with some to cherry pick a team themselves based on what will make them look good and feel good). Regardless of how it comes to be, you support the greatest club in the world and nothing will change that. Ask any fan anywhere in the world. Football at its best is beautiful and brings you joyful pleasure as good as any high you get from sex or illegal substances or more natural highs like being in love or seeing the birth of your child. Even when it's painful, it's good. It makes you appreciate what you've got, it makes you love your chosen club even more. Makes you want to fight in spirit and song and support harder. It's pride, it's tribal. It's the most glorified of all escapisms. So much so it then transcends escape and becomes life.
During those dark days we still had our moments. And when you come out of the wilderness to taste glory, be it one particular game or one piece of silverware, it's more than enough. The chase can be better than the catch if you do more chasing than catching. It's more treasured, more memorable, less diluted. That's not to say you'd turn down sustained catches. Football works in cycles, success can surround you one moment and then be a memory, a part of history the next. Much like love, you have your highs and lows, but you never give up on it and if you lose it you go in search for more. Or simply wait for it to find you. Or you just pay for it. Each to their own.
Where it's gone a little wrong with expectation is the pressures of wanting that success, obsessing about life without it before you've even fully achieved it. This has distorted how we strive to make it our own and far more importantly, how we live through that journey.
At the moment, I see fragmentation in support. More so than the past. A lack of enjoyment, a bitter nervous disposition at both home and away games. There is a difference between believing we are good enough and wanting us to achieve success compared to simply expecting it to be delivered on a plate.
There's also the issue of what is defined as success. I've been a strong enforcer of the pragmatism behind finishing top four so that we can consolidate and get stronger with each passing season. This might (might not) reward our endeavour with a genuine seasoned title push. But that would remain the ultimate goal. Modern football preaches this philosophy so intensely that we no longer rate the League Cup and even the FA Cup only becomes important by virtue of reaching the latter rounds rather than what it meant back in the days when finals would become future iconic moments. The 'big' clubs that win it often see it as an afterthought rather than the crowning jewel it once was.
Top four or silverware? I've been shouting top four from the rooftops all season along, for several seasons. I'm not going to change my mind because of this seasons dramatics and because Champions League qualification is in the balance. I don't believe qualifying for this competition every season should be deemed as an honour. A platform perhaps for further adventures and encounters, a platform to grow stronger. But it shouldn't really be anything more than that. Unless you are proud of the fiscal and accountancy. Someone recently stated that winning the Champions League when you finish outside the top three sums up the hyperbole that UEFA and the TV companies have created around the competition. It's now more important to participate in the competition than it is to win it.
Yet having witnessed Chelsea win the FA Cup, I found myself truly underwhelmed when teasing the idea of 'how would I have felt if that was Spurs lifting that grand old cup?'. I hate the fact that it no longer has my heart pacing. It should feel more than a day out, yet that's all it appears to be thanks to the distraction of a Champions league predominately made up of teams that are not champions of their leagues.
My pragmatism is flawed.
"I don't believe qualifying for this competition every season should be deemed as an honour"
It's not an honour in the way of silverware, but it is one to participate in even if it's a creation to appease the rich and make them richer. It's still the only way to compete against the very best in Europe. When you remember our début season in the CL and the memories created off the back of our qualification and group games, how can you possibly wish to turn your back on any of it? Some of those memories are already iconic in terms of our own history. If modern football is saying this is the new bread and butter, then feed on it we shall.
But still my pragmatism is flawed.
Although there is nothing wrong with wanting to play against the elite of Europe there is plenty of hypocrisy that you can easily disguise behind that pragmatism that ends up confusing what football should be about. But then what is football? It's always going to be perceived differently depending on the individual. To you want to be entertained or do you want success above all things? Our priorities as supporters have shifted because football has shifted. Some want success no matter what at any cost whilst others look at long term progression and a cup win every so often. We might fall into different categories here but I'm sure (as Spurs fans) we want to see our side play the football that is synonymous with our history. It's important to hold onto one's identity. So how do you compliment one's identity?
By winning things.
Of course I'm going to be underwhelmed to see Chelsea win the FA Cup. I'm reminded of when we beat them to claim the League Cup. How can any cup final win be discounted? Surely it can't? It goes down in history forever. You have stories on and off the pitch associated with the occasion, with the football and the support. It's meaningful, it's tangible, it writes another chapter into your clubs life story. It's a true honour. And yet my flawed pragmatism still pushes me back and away from it as the shadow of UEFA casts down on me from above.
Football is not the same beast it was decades ago. But we are still aiming high. Bill Nicholson would possibly adopt to a similar outlook we're embracing now. Top four > Champions League > title push > champions > European Cup final. That's what every club at the very top of the tier would find agreeable as targets, even if very few are currently in that position to achieve it. That's just the way modern football has been set up to work. We don't care for the fiscal but our owners do because it's the only way to sustain such an ambitious challenge. In fact it's the only way to compete for any ilk of silverware, such (has been) the power of the dominant clubs in England in the past decade or so. I'm sure Bill would still not have frowned at the cups on offer. Unlike I have.
Glory can't be measured. As stated, it can be a one off game, a piece of silverware or sustained success. We have always believed. When we sat in mid-table, we wanted Europe, when we got Europe we aimed for top five, we then pushed for fourth and we continue to strive for more. You're hardly going to be this grand olde swashbuckling side whilst stuck in the middle of the league table. But that doesn't mean you'll turn away the cameos or support the side any less if you are.
Do you love Spurs any more now than you did when we were abject? Does your love depend on the success on the pitch? Of course it doesn't. It shouldn't. Perhaps deep down winning something every so often makes you feel more alive. Not knowing if you're going to win or not, punching above your weight or playing the role of the underdog. Perhaps being fatalistic is a better comfort zone than possessing a sense of entitlement. But then all fans are fatalistic at heart regardless of stature. And if you take entitlement and ever so slightly strip it of it's arrogance you are left with simply wanting the very best for your club. Every underdog can have its day.
The epiphany is simply this; why do we have to ask theoretical questions about what matters more? Why do I feel the need to be pragmatic? Why does football have to be dictated by what others dictate to be acceptable standards? Is it really necessary to be so complex and analytical, dissecting every second of football played? Whether it's that one piece of silverware in ten years or ten years of winning silverware. With regards to the team its self, there might be a lack of consistency due to rotation, tactics, injuries which means they can't treat every game the same, they can't treat every game like a cup final. It's unavoidable for them. But my excuse? Our excuse? We have no excuse. We can be consistent all of the time and support the club unequivocally. That's not to say you smile and take everything on the chin without question or criticism. Doesn't mean you can't complain or disagree or object to something you feel strongly about. Like in any relationship a good bust-up or argument is sometimes required to clear the air. You shout because you care. As long as Tottenham is Tottenham, does it matter what everyone else thinks and does?
I've allowed the thought police to tell me what to think. It doesn't have to be so complicated. You might prefer it to be like that. But not for me.
What you have, outside of win, lose, draw is the ability to love Tottenham and show that love without reservation. Players come and go, the ones that matter are the ones that leave their mark on the club and your heart. Custodians of the shirt. Our shirt. I don't want to spend another second fretting about who might sign or leave. What will be will be. If x player doesn't want to wear the shirt, then why would I want him to stay? Why have I wasted so much time trying to fool myself that loyalty exists and money hasn't consumed the game? Loyalty shouldn't be something you need to prove. The role of the custodians is to honour the traditions that the fans live and die by. Supporters are often criticised for having a detrimental influence on clubs, pressuring the board and chairman. Surely that's our right? It's our money and our loyalty that has built the club to what it is now alongside the footballing innovators in the dug outs and in Lilywhite shirts that birthed push and run and everything that followed.
I don't expect modern day footballers to love the shirt like we do, but I do expect them to play like they love it when they wear it. The ones that do this are the ones more likely to succeed.
The true essence of the epiphany is that I have to accept football is no longer this sweet innocent girl with a shy smile. She's now a flirtatious woman in hot pants seductively teasing and rarely allowing you to reach out and touch her. But when she does, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. So all we do is follow. Because that's all we can do. Follow. The dream is to see those hot pants on our bedroom floor. And if it doesn't happen a touch once in a while will have to do.
Top four, silverware, last game of the season dramatics. Every second of every game, win/draw/lose, it all matters because it's Tottenham Hotspur. I want us to be the very best but I'll be damned if I'm going to spend my time dreaming about it with ample nervous bites at my fingernails. There is no club like our own and for all our faults and fragmentation I would still not change a single thing about it.
Echo of glory. Never forget that. If desire drives the club forward and the supporters are the fuel, then emotion is the fuel that drives me.
Play the Spurs way. That's all I need, all I want. I'm not having people who don't love my club dictate how I should feel about it. The FA, UEFA, the Premier League, the media, television. I don't want to be constrained and contained. I don't want this relentless want for success define me, I want us to define it. I want to believe and I want to follow and I want to support.
Tottenham is my club. I'm taking it back.
Come on you Spurs.