What. A. Night
City 4 Tottenham 3 (4-4 on agg) - Spurs win on away goals #salty
Tottenham Hotspur. The most dramatic of clubs. There isn’t a better tag line for us. We’ve gone from purgatory to this. I don’t know what this is or what to call it. There’s no instruction manual on how to handle the emotional thrashing our hearts have endured. The footballing Gods, by the grace of their power via modern technology, have justifiably enabled us to get the result we deserved. A result against an absolute beast of a football team with the likes of the dazzlingly Raheem Sterling and the irrepressible Kevin De Bruyne pulsating at ridiculous world class levels.
“This is our house” screamed KDB whilst Spurs came out of the shadows to wrap duct tape around his face and completed a nigh impossible to conceive home invasion, looting the place of the true riches of football, Glory, the type money can’t buy. At least not with a certain degree of honesty.
I said this to several happy lads after the game (having experienced one of the greatest gatherings away from actually being present inside a ground); I'd rather this, the 4-3, all the dramas, the agony, the pain, the glory, than winning the game with a bit of comfort. It's Tottenham this. It's what we do, it's what we are. Every emotion in one massive wallop to the heart and mind. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the very best of times. All in the space of ninety-five minutes.
Spursy, it’s origin and true definition before it became bastardised by self-deprecation and parody meant having swagger. Shirts tucked out, socks rolled down to ankles on the pitch and accompanying flair and style, as supporters, off it. Was this Spursy enough for you?
I’m not going to review the game. It’s unreviewable. I could sit here and write about how we could have defended better for the goals. How we struggled to contain their often brutally exquisite slices through our back four. That in purist terms, this was barely our best performance yet somehow it was our very best result. You don’t need statistics and xG and heat-maps and percentages to tell you how to analyse the game because the game doesn’t need analysing. The amount of booze soaked shirts and the limbs and bruises in the away section is the only visual you need to focus on.
What’s the point in breaking it down and getting lost in the tactics when you’re better off just re-watching the game in its entirety. Words can not do it justice. This blog will be a mess, a wonderful mess. An emotional brain dump in an attempt to process the sheer audacity of it because that’s the only quality that matters.
It might take a while to come down from all this.
It was astonishing. It was bonkers with more narrative twists than a peak episode of Game of Thrones, with one extraordinary moment followed by another and another. Spurs won but lost but won. VAR, oh VAR, even the pauses for official confirmation (for our goal and their disallowed one) was possibly the most gut wrenchingly brilliant experience, losing the plot, beers in the air whilst kissing and hugging everything that moved. The Fighting Cock social was fire. Poch and his heroes were fire.
Pochettino, his face in the seconds before the final whistle went, looked like it was about to explode. Which I reckon was the same face as every Spurs fan on the planet. He's one of us. When he looked up to Daniel Levy and company post-match, punching the air obsessively, man…what a moment. He gets it. He wants it so much. Ajax are a sparkling team that have got past Real Madrid and Juventus. They’ve done so with astute and clinical brilliance, always knowing what was required cometh the second leg. Much like us. Neither club can underestimate the other.
We have so many connections with them in terms of supporter identity and of course all the ex players currently in our colours. What a semi-final. It won’t be easy considering our injury plight but then it wasn’t meant to be easy on Wednesday night either.
That start. Ominous. 1-0 down. And then Son, the wonderful brilliant Son, with two goals, the second was positively sexual. Then City back in it. Then ahead. Then ahead over the two legs. Then Llorente. Handball? The official via VAR says no. Fernando’s hips don’t lie. We had Wanyama with an epic tackle and boot of the ball down the field (only for another ball to come into play instantly). We had City pushing and pushing and pressing and pressing deep into injury time. Christian Eriksen then played himself into unnecessary trouble and what we all feared, what we all expected because we’re not allowed nice things…happened. They score. Sterling scores, delirium everywhere. Pep dancing and hopping around like an asylum inmate escaping from a straitjacket. But no, no. We are allowed nice things. VAR again. It’s offside. It’s disallowed. Bedlam. Unreal bedlam. The majority noise sucked out of the Manchester air with only a pocket of delirious Londoners losing their minds. Pep now back in the straitjacket, Poch sensing a defining moment.
WE ARE ALLOWED NICE THINGS.
When Sterling scored the goal that never was, I crumbled. I fell to the ground. The silence around me was the lowest collective disappointment I have ever felt. It was horrendous. I walked directly ahead and below the big screen into the hallway that led to the gents. I stood there, taking a pee, and cursing Eriksen. Why Christian mate, why why why why? But that low ebb back in the bar. That silence. It started to bubble. I could sense something, I could hear shouting and yelling. “VAR, it’s gone to VAR”. No way I thought. That’s impossible. Surely not? I ran out (didn’t wash my hands, deal with it) and back into the bar area, still zipping myself up, and the noise level, oh man the noise.
The noise level erupted.
It was cerebral and physical carnage. Nice things are real. I’ve seen them. They don a cockerel on a ball.
Final whistle. More bedlam. Chaotic from the opening minutes to long into the night. Tottenham might not be elite yet but they give you, me and everyone a taster.
You know how I’ve often written about moments. Written about what football is all about at its most basic level. That no matter the team, the league, you as a supporter cherish the moments that your club is able to provide you. It doesn’t matter what experience any given rival or anyone else for that matter experiences. All that matters is your club. Our club. And our club has given us a modern day classic. A thunderbastard of a football match that is the epitome of a Glory night. These are the moments. Others will mock and attempt to downplay. “But it aint a trophy”. Sure, but you ain’t a Spurs supporter. You’ll have your moments, let us have ours. This is why getting knocked out of domestic cups doesn’t matter. This is why growing with this team and progressing with this team, the journey and the anticipation and the hope, this is why it matters. This is why we do it. This is why we belong. For these moments.
I don’t care if you think I’m getting carried away, because that’s the bloody point of it all too. Rival fans are downplaying it all because no matter how strange it is to hear, Spurs could well make it to the final. Nobody can quite digest it. Perhaps in context, we shouldn’t be surprised. Because the players and the manager and his coaching staff - and all of us; We deserve it. We deserve to believe in something that is a tangible possibility and not pure fantasy.
To think we’ve gone all the way to the semi-final when we were on the brink of elimination (twelve minutes away) against PSV. To think we’ve done this with no signings. To think that it’s now utterly unacceptable for Levy not to back Poch and allow him to add the depth we need to our squad to sustain challenges and contend with precision and not desperation. We don’t need to match the spending of City or United or Chelsea or Liverpool. Poch has proved the graft is in the coaching and philosophy and culture he instils. But he needs to work with brand new tools rather than fixing up replacements using odd bits he can find and glue together. Yes, it’s about the collective, but there is no reason to not consolidate that collective further. It’s logical. It’s pragmatic. It’s the required edge.
We need a tight squad of players at the core but one that retains competitiveness and flexibility beyond what we can offer now - even if what we can offer now has got us this far. That brand new stud of a stadium will help in more ways than one too.
He’s a miracle worker, is Poch. This wasn’t sublime Spurs. It wasn’t our best but we didn’t need to be at our best. We simply needed to score and to go to the Etihad and notch three is miraculous. We believed it. We delivered it.
I need to mention Moussa Sissoko. A year or so ago he was a scapegoat. The poster-boy for Daniel Levy’s often brain numbing transfer acquisition gameplay. £30M on a player that didn’t quite fit in. And now? Essential. Losing him made me nervous. With no Winks or Dier but a returning to form Wanyama, it still doesn’t make sense how we combated their midfield. Perhaps we simply survived it all thanks to sheer raw desire and tenacity. No Kane or Lamela either. Now compare their starting eleven and bench to ours. Madness.
Sissoko sobbing in the dressing room thinking we had lost has also given me the feels, on par with the birth of my daughter (she’ll never read this so no regrets). Then to see the post-match footage of Poch giving it the ‘big balls’, slapping the white board and all the players celebrating and singing Moussa’s name. Melting over here. This is everything. This is belonging.
Spurs had mettle. We had plenty of nervous moments too, giving the ball away. Wingbacks were abused at times. But I refuse to be critical. Stating the obvious (we need to improve in certain areas) isn’t something we’ve learnt off the back of this game. We know it already. Our players deserve the plaudits because they did not capitulate. We didn’t bottle it. The Harry Kane team did not bottle it. We owned it. In the aftermath of this 4-3, let’s not forget the first tie. The 1-0 win. The goal and clean sheet. The Lloris pen save (to accompany the one handed save from KDB in the second game). Without this foundation, there is no heroics in the second leg. There is no semi-final.
I couldn’t care less about going back up there on Saturday (I do care). We could lose 8-0, I’d shrug (I won’t shrug, I’ll cry). We’re going to Amsterdam. We might be going to Madrid. Tottenham have rocket-propelled us to the stars.
“I hope that no one put a video on social media! Because I saw a video that someone recorded celebrating in the dressing room, I hope this is not on social media. I hope that this is private."
Er…about that Poch…
I do love how tribal football is. I mean, this isn't out of the ordinary (we’ve celebrated in the stands and in pubs before yeah) but obviously the celebrations on the Wednesday night were on another level. Like everyone was coming up on MDMA together, hugging and kissing and giving each other knowing looks and telepathic ‘wtf’ gazes. It was similar scenes to that time when I wondered into Trade at the back of a Manumission night in Privilege, Ibiza. If you know, you know.
At the final whistle, some bloke spotted my drink (triple rum and coke) at the table just in-front of the projector screen, picked it up and chucked it backwards and up in the air. I grabbed him by the neck and pulled him towards him, both of us shouting and celebrating the win, then I screamed in his ear with an aggressive yet caring threat "That was my f**king drink that you just wasted". He shouted back "I'll buy you another one". I yelled with spit "I don't f**king want one, I don't care". We then screamed a little more and I kissed his forehead and he kissed mine. Football.