They've kicked in
Eastlands. Sunday. Cup final. Do or die. Imperative. Season defining. Boys become men. Men become giants.
Or just another massive fixture in a short list of massive fixtures, every single one vital in terms of mathematics but some clashes carrying more weight in statement and impact on the day.
What will be will be.
So how's everyone feeling?
I'm composed for the moment. Distracted for the most part. I've done my best not to think too deeply about the build up and the repercussions of all the potentialities of Sundays result. Even though they'll be plenty of games to follow the City encounter it feels like we have to win this to further solidify the locomotive of belief. Throw a bit more coal in the fire and try to avoid blowing off too much steam if we're halted by broken tracks.
It should help us collectively to really start considering and accepting what we've got ourselves involved with here. It's not a fairytale, right? It's reality. It's a title challenge but it's one that remains tentative based not just with our form but the form of others around us. Reality can still dish out a happily ever after. Although historically we always end up with something grim.
Manchester City away at a ground where in recent seasons we've not had the greatest of days.
I've done my best not to think too deeply...until now.
Sh*t. The nerves just kicked in.
Is it do or die? No, probably not. Dropping points at this stage could be critical but there's still room for manoeuvring in the right direction in the aftermath. Even if Leicester keep on going, there's still something to chase. The chase is a pivotal ingredient. Keeps us hungry. It's been discussed before. We're not ahead of the pack, we're in amongst it. This pressure is a little different to past indiscretions when chased and failing to hold our nerve.
Leicester are embracing their own brand of not giving much of a f*ck about anyone or anything. They don't care for burn-out, stress of expectancy and favourite odds and tags. For now at least, they're enjoying it and for once that might be the best way to handle the push.
Don't treat it like it's this big bag of ballaches. Keep control of yourself, as a team, keep doing what you've been doing and if you need to react in a way that's brand new - then it will come down to sheer instinct and tenacity. If you haven't got what it takes you won't get what you wanted. This is the fuel we're both currently siphoning.
When the chase turns to consolidation for one of us, anyone of the top four for that matter, that's when holding your nerve becomes key again.
It's impossible to predict yet you can take a stab at the likely outcomes.
Leicester don't drop enough points to be caught regardless of the endeavour of those below them.
City reawaken and find form against us giving them a spring board to push on and then show enough quality and grit to pinch it as others collapse under the strain.
The unmentionables to unmentionable things.
We keep on doing like we've done all season, consistent and balanced, finding the right results at the right time to keep us involved till the end and...well, I'll let you dream up your own finale to this one.
Spurs still haven't been outclassed by anyone this season (jinxed it). Pochettino and his players don't talk about the title in a loud and boisterous way. They're certainly self-aware but there's no necessity for arrogance or badly timed battle cries. Emotions are contained. It's better to do than to talk.
We see it on the pitch with how players cover team-mates when we push from defence to attack. We play as a unit, as part of a system that has deliberate transitions. It doesn't quite sound like the carefree swashbuckle of prior Spurs teams but I'm not referencing the style. It's the blueprint behind it. It's how the players think and adapt. It's the mindset at play. 1-0 down or pushing for that winning goal. We are composed and cultured in how we fashion our victories and build momentum and how we handle disappointments and seek to correct mistakes.
We want to win. We celebrate but focus is immediately on the next game. It's supreme professionalism and the only way to carve out the right type of mentality to support a challenge that comes naturally by way of adding the points to the momentum.
Others that have followed Tottenham's progress this season, the media and pundits, mention us along with Leicester in countless 'can they do it?' articles. Can we stay the distance? It can come across as a touch patronising but at the same time there's reason for their take on it. They're asking the question because it's a valid one. No one quite expected either team to be this involved this late on.
ESPN published a blog that citied how Pochettino's has sometimes struggled in the final 10-15 games of the season whereby his teams have dropped more points (ratio wise) towards the end of the campaign compared to earlier in the season. Is it fitness related? A lack of rotation? Too much of a streamlined squad that suffers from fatigue or purely coincidental? It's hard to know because we've not played those final games yet. We have incomplete data. Forget about comparing us to other teams Poch has coached, you can hardly compare us to previous versions of Tottenham. We're the polar opposite of what we had two seasons ago.
This team might only be as good as they are because of every single lesson learnt in the previous seasons he's had coaching other sides. This group of players might also be the money-shot. Be it thanks to the newly formed team comprising of Paul Mitchell, Rob Mackenzie and co or the beauty of accidental design, akin to the Big Bang where there's something wonderfully symmetrical and expansive that appears from absolutely nothing. To be fair, you have to be cynical to think that what we're achieving is a fluke of the football universe. The flux some top tier teams are in might have elevated us ahead of schedule, but that shouldn't concern us. We've arguably been in flux for twenty years.
Can we last the distance?
If we lose on Sunday, we all know what tends to happen in the follow up games. We win most of them. If we get thrashed or have a calamitous day out, it's new ground for this team. It's a test I'd rather not see us sit so late in the term. We've not even had a relatable mock exam.
If we draw, no doubt some will ask why we didn't do what Leicester did but then City are on the rebound and will refuse to be that fragile again. Or maybe they're fragile regardless. They've had enough about them to beat most out there this season but suffer badly when the opposing team are drilled and decisive with their approach.
If we win 1-0 or or wipe the floor with them - regardless of the manner in which we claim it - we move onto the next game. We move on because not getting the three points against Swansea would mean we've not made the three at Eastlands count for something more than just an impact or statement. Fiorentina twice and Crystal Palace separate both league games. It seems this title run will be influenced by having to eat a sandwich with a couple of fillers we could do without. Let's hope we don't choke. Rather the sandwich than getting the order wrong and having a plate of Lasagne dropped on our table.
Poch and his team want to win every game and football is about glory and not wanting to see Spurs win is paradoxical yet I think some might be 'okay' with a certain continental exit. No need for a referendum. I just hope the suggestion that Tottenham's fitness and conditioning is unparalleled and that this peak in Jan/Feb will provide us with an edge is true.
I can't call the Man City game. We know, within reason, what Spurs team will show up. It's far more tricky to work out if Manuel Pellegrini's side will showcase their talents as a functioning formation rather than a collection of erratic individuals.
We've come this far, keeping Claudio Ranieri's team company. It would be rude not to match them on our visit to the Eastlands.
Will reality bite? If so, does it take a chunk out of us or the hosts? Will it turn out to be a fairytale after-all?
Maybe we keep expecting the big bad wolf to turn up and spoil things. Maybe we need to front up and look at our reflection in the mirror and realise we are the big bad wolf. After-all, when all is said and done, can you think of anything better than devouring something in red?
What was the point of this blog? I think I set out to prepare myself for all outcomes with my standard psychological repair kit at the ready and now refuse to want anything other than a win because losing would be a miserable despondent result.
Best we get accustomed to all the theorising because I expect Tottenham, going forward, to be this involved every season.
How's everyone feeling now?