I remember the bad old days like they were yesterday. The 1990s. Punctured by moments of wonderment, but mostly drowned in perpetual misery. Although it was never really misery. It never is supporting Spurs. When you belong to a club, truly belong, you don't measure your happiness by the silverware gained. You don't define your identity and your self pride in the badge based on the approval of others outside your tribe. You love your club no matter what. Sure, it's important to be successful, to desire achievement and to visit Wembley. Not everyone is blessed with that. Ask fans of most of the clubs in the league. They don't love their club any less for it.
It's just that, during the 90s, in a rather paradoxical way, you had to love Tottenham that little bit extra. That sense of belonging is never stronger when you're up against it. Year after year of mid-table slumps, how else could you survive it if you didn't simply support and take the rare moments of glory and enjoy them like they were the last you'd ever experience.
We hardly won away from home back then and when
we did it felt like a cup final win. In fact it always surprises me how
bad Spurs played on their travels and still avoided a genuine relegation
fight. I guess even though we struggled for the most part, what with it being Spurs, we always found a way to retain our traditions and style. Meaning that even though we didn't always have a team, we had some cracking players. At times we even managed to play some of the best looking football (if not the most functional and consistent). That was Spurs. Erratic, brilliant and rubbish, meshed together to pull our hearts out of our chest time and time again, usually stuffing it back into us via our throats as we choked...and choked.
Thankfully our White Hart Lane form was always enough to keep us
in the top flight. I'm being over-dramatic, I know, but the point
is...Spurs were not very good. Good in patches. Bad in patches. Never enough to make an impact in the league but sometimes enough for a cup run or win.
We missed the money boat. Mismanagement off the pitch birthed mismanagement on it. Internal politics of a financial nature led us almost to the point of meltdown in the early 90s and our saviour wasn't really our saviour after all and neither was the one that did eventually save us. Our position was one that was simply not repairable. Not for a long time. The parts unavailable for delivery. No pre-orders taken.Stuck in the garage of limbo waiting for father time to push those clock hands forward so we might even manage a tire change.
Didn't stop believing though, did we? Another reason why belonging to this club fills me with joy. That echo of glory didn't resonate too loudly but it was still there. You almost forget - in these modern days of expectancy - how patient we Spurs fans had to be. Christ, we endured a lot.
The shift into the Premier League and
the birth of the 'Sky Sports Top four' arguably made the top two/three of the very best
sides in the country even better, stronger. It consolidated their power and gave them a grip that a tag team of Godzilla and King Kong would struggle to break. A case of the most prepared and organised having the door locked behind them when entering into a room of riches. Godzilla and Kong obviously now the doormen making sure no one can break in.
basically two leagues in one. Arsenal and Utd in one league, the rest in
the other. Sure, Liverpool and then Chelsea got involved in amongst the Champions League places and Newcastle
also dazzled us (but failed gloriously). But it was always either
Arsenal or United. The money from Europe's elite competition made the gulf so big
that there was no look in for us - and practically everyone else. Wasn't a case of Tottenham being crap. Simply a case of being outclassed by teams with world class players. We might have found a way in, but there was no astuteness with the board and the coaches. No blueprint or genuine plan, aside from the usual 'spend a lot on players we don't need and don't buy players we do need'. The culture of comfort left us in a state of slumber.
It did begin to change, ever so slowly. Time working against them and for the rest of us.
We began to get our house in order, starting with the opportunistic appointment (or did Frank Arnersen always mean it to play out like that?) of Martin Jol and that epic (and also a glorious failure) battle for 4th. Whilst we improved, others above us - still better than us - started to stagnate. Their decade of experience and settled winning formulas still enough to keep them ahead of the chasing pack. But the chasing pack were no longer howling from a distance. Rather, biting at their legs and scratching their backs.
The gap closed. In fact there is no gap aside from a mocking point or two. Arguably our own mistakes have cost us, with our own destiny in our hands. That experience and winning mentality still the difference. You have to earn it. All those heartbreaks will make the good times feel even better. They always do. Well, as long as you retain some sense of perspective. Spurs have never had an empire. We've always been the rebellion. And those rebellions have left their mark in history.
And now, with the 2014 season under way, there is still further evidence that the Premier League has gone from this small inclusive group of contenders to five or six teams that can compete.
Has the Premier League ever been this good?
wise (especially the defending from some of the top tier sides) it isn't
great. There isn't many decent English players about (compared to the
continued influx of better foreign signings) and the football might not
be as brutal and technically superior as say Utd and Arsenal sides of the early to mid 2000s. There isn't a case for the same two or three teams to
completely dominate proceedings. Every season you seem to think this is the one where 3/4 will pull away from the rest - but it never happens. Meaning that you hope your team does just that the following season.
Here we are again.
Even with City and Chelsea and
their 'money' and wage structures, the league (still fledgling with a
handful or so of games played) looks to be the most open in recent
memory. Plenty of time for that to change, as I'm sure the real test
will come when teams hit a bad patch and how they respond to it. At the moment, such is our immersion with each passing result as some definitive proof of what the rest of the season will hold that it clouds our ability to read what is most likely to happen. To be honest, I don't have a clue. When do you dare to make such a prediction? After ten games or twenty?
Utd are in transition post-Fergie. They we're dogged last season and won the league. Moyes might be maligned by some now but his Everton team, never glamorous, but always competitive. Writing United off is a fools game.
City and Chelsea have incredible depth. They are expected to challenge for the title thanks to the quality of players they possess and have signed. Arsenal are on song currently (Wenger 'in'). A single signing appears to have fixed their pre-season concerns and a striker that failed to impress many last term is doing the job so far this term. It's nothing new, we know they are strong when confidence is high. It's when confidence isn't high that they struggle. Everton have looked solid and Liverpool might pose questions for all with their SAS strike force.
Then there's us. Nowadays, always there or thereabouts. Never boring, always entertaining. Nothing like the 90s this, yet sometimes every bit like them because your heart still gets pulled out of your chest and chucked about for 90 minutes every week.
The main difference is, we're always looking up, never down.
Even though its early doors, even though players are settling in...I can't help but feel every game and the 3 points are undeniably precious. Especially at home where we dropped too many last season.
West Ham at home on Sunday.
We can't afford to lose this. Am I being over dramatic again? Is there really any other way to be when you support this grand old club?
I like that Spurs are making me feel this way.