“Pochettino’s teams cant keep pace for the full season.” “Tottenham have bottled it… again!” “The biggest challenge for Spurs, is that they’re a selling club - how can they keep hold of their players, and what big names wants to play there?”
Any Spurs fan that has taken an occasional, often guilt-edged glimpse at the twitter accounts of the so-called experts will be accustomed to comments like these. Indeed, for those of us living overseas in our self-imposed exile, they are all too familiar.
They are often touted by pundits and journalists alike, some of whom have a long history in the game, others with a seasoned past writing about it. Self-proclaimed experts. However, for those once involved, it shouldn’t escape the notice of the viewer, listener or reader that there may be good reason why many of these pundits no longer sit in the dug out or in the director’s box of the clubs who once had them on their payroll. Maybe they aren’t experts at all. Maybe they are peddling a personal agenda, and maybe, just maybe, peddling the agendas of their producers and current employers.
Ultimately, having just spent the last week making my annual pilgrimage to North London and witnessing Tottenham Hotspur dispose of Manchester United, reigning Champions Leicester and then Hull City, I can assure you that should you hear the aforementioned quotes again in the context of this current team, that they are complete nonsense, and are likely being uttered by people who are entirely clueless. Take solace from the fact that should you hear Alan Shearer or Jamie Redknapp, Adrian Durham or Rachel Riley among others, make derisory statements about this Tottenham side, none of them will likely ever be employed by an elite football club in a technical capacity. Thank f***.
But what could we have possibly learned from three games that essentially counted for very little in the greater scheme of the 2016/17 campaign? On a personal note, the first thing I now understand is that I should make the long trip home from New Zealand more often!
More importantly, there are two key learning’s for us. Firstly, when Tottenham hosted Manchester United, it was to be the final game at our home of 118 years. At the Supporters Club awards day which I was fortunate enough to attend, Paul Coyte made the humorous (yet fair) comparison with Trigger’s famous broom. However, that should not diminish what was a momentous occasion for the Tottenham Hotspur players, supporters and officials. It was a big day. It was OUR Cup final. It was a game nobody wanted to lose. It was the biggest occasion we have experienced since the 2008 League Cup final, and arguably not even that can really compare.
Our players coped. Despite the constant speculation surrounding the future of Kyle Walker, rumour that the stadium would put such pressure on the wage bill that no marquee signing will want to join this club, and that our squad will soon be paraded around Europe as marquee signings for the elite clubs that so often sniff around us and others alike. For those on the outside, it may have seemed that these were bigger stories than our momentous day. But it didn’t phase our boys, who proved they can deal with the big occasion, despite the emotion, despite the surrounding noise of the media, whose agenda is becoming ever more obvious.
The second learning is we are disposing with the notion that Tottenham lack the ruthless streak needed to become champions of England, or that we are held back by a mental fragility that will always see us drop points and be usurped by our nearest rivals in the table.
The 6-1 demolition of Leicester meant more than you can imagine to the traveling fans, who have been dogged by the insult that we follow the only team capable of finishing third in a two-horse race. Indeed, as each shot flew past a hapless Kasper Schmeichel, the Leicester fans kept reminding us of that ‘fact’. We politely reminded them that there are six good reasons to put that insult to bed, and that they might want to give their physio a pay rise, for the treatment he will have to give Schmeichel’s repetitive strain injury he sustained picking the ball out of his net, again and again.
Spurs could have taken their foot of the gas at three or four-one, but instead they ruthlessly imposed more misery on Leicester and their supporters, who are becoming increasingly tiresome. I wonder how many of them will get ‘Twelfth” and the number 17 to mark the year of that achievement printed on their shirts for next season.
And then there was the trip to Hull on the final day of the season. Another dead rubber. Another opportunity for the players on both teams to see out the game at a friendly pace, while occasionally playing up to the fans of both clubs, who hoped to offer one final send off before the players go on their summer retreat.
Nonsense. Spurs raced into a two-goal lead, and took no pity on their already-relegated opponents. Tottenham bettered their tally from Thursday night, and had it not been for some sound goalkeeping, Spurs could have had ten.
The game was meaningless in the context of the Premier League season. But to the traveling fans and to Pochettino, exercising the ghosts of St James’ Park and demonstrating that Spurs were not willing to let up, and will put teams to the sword, was of the upmost importance.
Statistically, we should no longer even be asking those questions of this Tottenham team. Their current points tally would have been good enough to win the Premier League on nine separate occasions since its inception in 1992. And Arsenal, in their twenty-two years of dominance that they like to remind us of, have only beaten our 2016/17 tally of points twice in that period. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it. When you’ve found your way back to Woolwich of course. You’ve already left a bad enough smell in North London as it is.