Tottenham Hotspur and the infinite sadness
The club that ends up in 5th will foreclose and die within months. Jim White told me so.
If you choose to ignore the colour commentary and the endless exaggerated opinions that create the illusion that finishing 5th is fatalistic, it's been a good season. One of promise but with equal measures of regret. There's no doubt that the irony Gods bestowing their seasonal brand of Greek tragedy upon us might leave a bitter taste in our mouth, but it's hardly surprising. It won't quite render us lifeless and hopeless. It won't, will it?
Once more it's all about perception and rationalising the season in its entirety rather than simply isolating games or scapegoating or building it all up to be a winner takes all with FIN scrolling down your face as it collapses, tear drenched and wrecked. Chin up, next season isn't that far off. You'll blink and it'll be pre-season.
Without Sky Sports telling you how to think and without defaulting to the laminated cheat sheet with its gloating instruction guide that opposing fans use as their gospel - finishing 5th is in no way the disaster that some would suggest it is. Even if it was the most realistic placement pre-season, it still doesn't make it easy to accept it now, at seasons conclusion. That'll be the bitter taste in mouth. We had enough to achieve more than we have, but not quite enough to hold onto it. But this is hardly end of days.
There is still no definitive power shift, aside from the fact that the title is only truly contested between the two Manchester clubs, and this season, it really wasn't contested at all. The Premier League, its top tier, remains in transition and is far more open than it once was - which is a good thing.
Sure, Chelsea - with their depth of quality - will probably be the favourites to win it next season with a certain shy coach returning to lead them. Last season they were all over the shop, erratic and troubled but retained spirit and embraced lady luck. This season, they've recaptured momentum and it's been enough for them to push themselves back into the top four. United will be in transition, but will no doubt retain their experience and competitiveness. It's hard to say how City will fair. Depends on their next managerial appointment, his methodology and what targets are set with transfers and trophies. But the quality they already possess would suggest they'll be heavily involved.
Arsenal? Their demise early season was one of hyperbole. Some would say they are under-achieving, with many of their supporters unable to handle the self-inflicted sense of entitlement that makes it all look a lot worse than it really is.
Wanting Wenger gone, bin bags on seats, not turning up to games because they had given up all hope, booing (even as recently as the Wigan home match)...if you thought the atmosphere had degraded into a joyless romp at the Lane, pop over to the Emirates for a truly bipolar melting pot and drown yourself in misery and happiness. No wonder their tickets cost so much, they charge for double the experience. I guess x amount of consecutive CL qualification isn't as grand as all that gloating would have you believe. Still, you can't expect them to deviate away from the cheat sheet. They wouldn't know what to say.
Their form, however, has been stunning (on paper) in the second part of the season. They might have lucked out a few times but they've got the results. Then again, our form has been fairly solid too. Something like three defeats in six months (and 2 in 21 games - correct me if I'm wrong). Remember when we beat them 2-1 and how good we felt and how dejected they were and how all the pundits had decided it was all done and dusted? We've not done much wrong since then. Neither have they. Both clubs have their own differing sets of ambitions and aspirations and problems and what equates to success and failure at this immediate moment in time. That power shift, it's still up for grabs but it won't be decided this season.
It's really important to remember that you can practically count those defeats on one hand. Spurs not losing games? What zany parallel dimension have I awoken in? We are more likely to win away from home than at any other time in twenty years. Sure, that illustrates just how badly managed we once was but equally so, this is part of making a winning mentality a normal business as usual mentality. It might still appear to be fruitless right now but a season or two from this point, we might well look back at the past 2/3 seasons and this season as the changing point. Graft is greater than that maligned sense of expectancy that haunts so many.
We dropped points at the start of the season when apparently some of you expected/wanted Andre Villas-Boas to just play the way Harry had the players set up so that we could just take the points and appease our VIP supporters who can also claim a hefty sized chip on their shoulder. Yeah sure, let's not allow the new coach to bed in, lay his own foundations and work with the players with longevity in mind. For everything that was good about Redknapp's philosophy, the bad was responsible for two separate sets of loss of form that proved to be detrimental to our season(s) and our progression. For every problem that was evident and new ones birthed with the changes made, AVB has worked to correct them. There are still minor issues here and there (set-pieces) but if I can see them, so can he.
Fact is, for all these dropped points that are apparently proving to be so costly now, it's easy to forget all the points we won (especially towards the end of games) that have proved to be the difference between us still being in the frame for 4th and perhaps being several points out of it in 5th instead. Then there's the ambiguity of the Europa League (was it or was it not important?) proving to be a distraction with hindsight. Our early cup exits also disappointing.
I don't see 'the end of the season' as being the end of the line, leaving us incapable of signing players and competing in time for 2014. Much like last season was meant to finish us off as contenders, this season won't either. Even if we claimed CL football, it won't change the fact that domestically, we still have work to do in the league. Stealing in at the death won't suddenly doom Arsenal either. Sure, their fans might decide to get those bin bags back out again, but the reality is - there is little between either side. The more vital slice of reality, that might or might not bite, is that both of us will be looking upwards to City and Chelsea and scratch our heads in unison in how to truly combat their financial strength.
We've excelled in many ways this season. Have your heard the one about Modric, van der Vaart leaving, King retiring and Sandro and Kaboul spending most of the season injured? How did we even get into this position in the first place? Well, actually, we do have quality. Let's not completely underplay it. Even with the missing pieces, we still got stuck in and even though we may still be a season away from truly seeing this Tottenham side become AVB's, there is a lot to be proud of.
Our fighting guile, never say die attitude. Our away form. We have compensated plenty whereas perhaps with the missing players in the side, the season would have played out more comfortably and favourably. What is pivotal is there was no choke. There was no Henry Heimlich standing, staring silently in the shadows preferring to keep his manoeuvre a secret. There was no choke because our reflex spat it out. We're made of sterner stuff. Just need that extra bit of something in there. Mostly upfront and in the middle. A striker and a playmaker. That creative edge, that spark of subtle ingenuity that Luka and Rafa we're so very good at.
A little more adventure at home, further hard graft with defending set-pieces and more innovation with our offensive ones...should help. Along with the aforementioned bolstering of the side, not with squad players but with brand spanking new first teamers. CL or no CL, neither should influence Daniel Levy when the true necessity is to build a side strong enough to challenge for the title no matter what. Then CL simply becomes a consequence of our endeavour.
We all know how frustrating the transfer window can be, but let's not forget we signed Lloris, Vertonghen and Dembele last time out. Sigurdsson shouldn't be ignored either. Neither should our youth prospects. Another three big signings and the return of Kaboul and Sandro...I've come over all faint. It's simple really; Chairman backs coach. Coach will attain success. Supporters will stand and sing. Aim high. Otherwise pull down those 'The Game is about Glory' boards within the walls of White Hart Lane before they are tainted with hypocrisy.
As per usual, everyone will seek to improve in the summer. When doesn't a side look to bolster? It's part of a clubs evolution and we're in need for an injection of DNA to spark the sprint into a sustained run. From 100 metres to a marathon.
Whatever happens at the weekend I can only thank THFC for making me feel alive. Again. Even if the counter-productive consequence of following them is a further five years knocked off my life expectancy. Is this all a little too melancholy? Where's the the usual battle cry, you ask? No need for it. Not this time. The war will go on. Infinite sadness only for those that refuse to look ahead with confidence. Whatever happens happens. I'll still be Tottenham the morning after.
Villas-Boas insists that he will be 'guided by the emotions of the Spurs crowd' on Sunday. That's our cue to belong and believe and be Spurs. The Gods never smile on us. If they happen to this time, then I'll start going to church. Or probably just walk past a church and wave. Best I show some restraint. Don't want to go overboard.