Earning their Spurs
Tottenham Hotspur fans are getting excited.
This is not unusual.
Spurs fans are often excited, more frequently excitable, and, much like their beloved club, prone to the vicissitudes of football and life.
Spurs fans are also notoriously negative, pessimistic, and wont to display airs of resignation that would make Eeyore look like an eternal optimist, and yet there’s a feeling around White Hart Lane right now that suggests that this could be about to change.
Here are the facts. Tottenham Hotspurs are the ‘form team’ in the Barclays Premier League at this moment in time, having won 9 out of their last 10 league games, and taken 28 points out of a possible 30.
They are 3rd in the table; 2 points off Manchester United, with a game in hand, and are winning games (particularly away from home) without playing at their best.
This is uncharacteristic of a club that last won the English league title in 1961, and has flattered to deceive on so many subsequent occasions that devotees can comfortably be forgiven for their cynicism and sense of impending disappointment.
Tottenham have always tried to stick to an ethos of playing attractive, attacking football, where a more pragmatic approach, at times, may have been more appropriate, and while it may have won them admirers down the years, it hasn’t won them much of anything else.
What Spurs fans now are just beginning to ask themselves is: could this season be different? Does the club, at last, have a squad to rival any in the BPL, and, much more importantly, does the current crop of players have the necessary mentality to get the job done?
A couple of seasons ago, Spurs broke into the top 4 in the BPL.
In the circumstances, it was a major achievement, and the subsequent run in the UEFA Champions League presented many latter-day Tottenham Hotspur fans with some abiding memories.
Tottenham reached the quarter-final stage of the competition before being dismantled by Real Madrid, as their European campaign ended in glorious failure.
This should come as no surprise to many, as Tottenham Hotspur FC has long been associated with glory, dating back to Bill Nicholson’s double winning side of 1961. It has also been associated with failure…seemingly ever since.
One of my favourite football quotes of all time comes from Nicholson, who said: “It is better to fail aiming high than to succeed aiming low. And we of Spurs have set our sights very high; so high, in fact, that even failure will have in it an echo of glory.”
It’s stirring stuff; a battle cry if ever there was one, even if it is redolent of a bygone age and probably the stuff of nonsense to your average modern-day footballer.
But it’s an ethos that has, more or less, plagued every Tottenham team that followed Nicholson’s successful time at the club. Each successive generation has wanted to win things, but as every Spurs fan will tell you, it has to be done with panache and style. Otherwise, it almost doesn’t count.
Unfortunately, in this day and age, success and style don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Manchester United’s title-winning season of 2010-11 was characterised more by gritty, hard-fought victories, than by playing teams off the park, and even Chelsea (who won back-to-back titles) under Jose Mourinho, were hardly a joy to watch week in and week out.
Those teams though had a mental strength and a winning mentality that is hard to forge and even harder to maintain, but in believing (and expecting) that they were going to win every time they took to the pitch, the mind-set they brought in to every game represented a significant psychological advantage.
That belief is clearly beginning to develop at Tottenham, whose recent away wins at Blackburn, West Brom, and particularly Fulham, were based on hard work, determination and a resilience we haven’t seen in a Spurs side for many years.
While most Tottenham Hotspur fans will dismiss outright any talk of being genuine title contenders this season, and will maintain that the squad remains a work in progress, who knows what might happen if results continue to go their way, and the belief becomes real.
The problems for Spurs, assuming they are still in contention, may come at the business end of the season. It will be unfamiliar territory for players and management alike, and while Manchester United, for example, have had plenty of practice, and boast a wealth of experience in getting the job done by any variety of means, it will all be new for the North London club.
In the meantime though, Tottenham Hotspur fans will have to allow themselves to be caught up in the excitement, while keeping their feet planted firmly a couple of inches below the ground. They’ll be hoping for the best, no doubt, but probably fearing the worst.
Catch Andrew Leci on Monday Night Verdict every Monday at 8pm on ESPN and send in your feedback to [email protected]
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