The one good thing about the international break is that it provides me with an opportunity to put pen to paper, while the national team play fixtures I have little or no interest in. After all, does anyone really understand what the purpose of the Nations League really is?
Onward, we have more important matters to discuss. Last week was arguably one of the most bizarre weeks Tottenham have endured for some time. Those of you of a certain vintage, will have experienced many a high and probably many more lows. But last week, well that was just odd. There is no better way to describe it.
It all began last Monday night, a bank holiday for those in the UK, and a trip to Old Trafford. I do not envy those who traveled from North London to make the journey to Manchester. With no trains operating out of Euston, the Tottenham faithful had to make a convoluted journey that would leave many not returning home until the early hours of the following morning. It will likely have left a rather large dent in their wallets too, with fares rising to upwards of £170 for those who left booking travel relatively late. Credit to those who made the journey, sung their hearts out, and endured a painful Tuesday morning in the office.
The game itself was unusual. While the result was emphatic, in hindsight, one could suggest that the three second-half goals, and the performance of Lucas Moura in particular, masked some of the frailties that United were able to expose, if not capitalise on in what was a disappointing first half for Tottenham. While it is true that United were fortunate not to concede a penalty, it is easy to forget that Lukaku somehow managed to miss an open goal, where it appeared far easier to score – certainly for a player of his calibre. In fact, just after Harry Kane had given us the lead, Hugo Lloris was called into action to make a fine save, and the overall performances of Ben Davies and Davinson Sanchez were particularly below par.
But The Lilywhites left Old Trafford with three points where so often we have come up empty handed. Ultimately, it is only that very fact, so we thought, that mattered. The Spurs faithful were euphoric on Twitter.
That euphoria continued through to Thursday, and the Champions League draw that will see Spurs lock horns with FC Barcelona, Inter Milan and PSV Eindhoven. Who wouldn’t fancy a trip to those three cities? I could not contain my excitement and immediately booked flights for all three away fixtures. Incredible.
But less than a few hours later, the week took a bizarre twist. The draw for the EFL Cup saw us pitted against Watford – at home. And so Twitter went into meltdown. The back story to this was that Spurs, if drawn at home, would be unlikely to be able to utilise Wembley on the dates selected for the EFL Cup third round. The club surveyed its members in advance of the draw, to get their point of view on whether or not they would prefer to play at a neutral venue, or switch the game to their prospective opponents ground, in the event that Spurs were drawn at home. It was always likely, given the discussions around the new stadium, that Milton Keynes would be high on the list of desired neutral grounds should we be drawn at home. The members, albeit narrowly, decided that it would preferable to play at a neutral ground.
Had we of drawn Carlisle, I doubt the issue would have escalated the way it ultimately has. But it wouldn’t be Tottenham, without someone, somewhere, throwing a spanner in the works. Spurs were drawn at home – to Watford, a club less than 20 miles from our home in N17.
And so began the debate, with broadcasters and second rate journalists again calling on the Football authorities to penalise Tottenham, but also among Tottenham supporters who now, knowing that we were due to play Watford, discussing the morality of playing at Stadium MK, the home of the despicable MK Dons. No self respecting football fan, aside from those who follow them, has any love for MK Dons after the dissolution of Wimbledon FC. Indeed, the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust decided that they would not travel to support their team at Stadium MK as a result. While this does not constitute a boycott, the THST clearly decided to take a stance. That stance was political – and while I certainly do see their point of view, I do wonder if we had been drawn at home to Carlisle, for example, they would have taken that stance, given that we all knew that we were likely to have to play at a neutral ground.
It is my intention to travel to Milton Keynes, because I want to support my club, in the hope that we can progress in this tournament and potentially win that trophy. I will travel because I am a Tottenham supporter, and love watching my team. Graham Robert’s, the Tottenham legend who you of the KiwiSpurs will be very familiar with, expressed his dismay at the THST. While I wouldn’t have put it quite as he did, labelling the THST pointless, and a disgrace, I will agree that the THST certainly do not speak for us all. We all knew that we were likely to have to play at a neutral ground, and it was always most likely to have to be Stadium MK. Imagine the THST’s dismay, had Daniel Levy and co decided to play the home tie at The London Stadium, or god forbid, the Emirates – assuming the landlords at both grounds would have permitted this.
Of course, Spurs could have reversed the tie, and offered the duties of hosting the match to Watford. But this would have been problematic. Firstly, it would go against the majority of those supporters who expressed a view in the club survey. Granted, those supporters probably didn’t anticipate we would be paired with Watford. But nor did Spurs. Secondly, there would have been significantly fewer tickets available to Spurs supporters, and while this may not matter to those who have little trouble getting tickets for away fixtures, those who still lack the 300-400 loyalty points to access away games would sooner have the opportunity to see their team play. Again, this point would have been more poignant had we not been drawn with Watford – but when I last checked, not even Nostradamus had predicted the 2018/19 EFL Cup Third Round draw.
Alas, we are to find out definitively on Thursday, whether or not that tie will go ahead at Stadium MK. I suggest in the meantime, Spurs fans just get on with supporting their team and while I appreciate the THST’s efforts, they certainly do not speak on my behalf.
So if that wasn’t enough, we then traveled to Vicarage Road on Sunday to face Watford in a top-of-the-table Premier League fixture, between two teams who up to that point, were boasting 100% records. I won’t dwell for too long on the minor details of that fixture. It was painful enough first time around. However, despite dominating possession in the first half, I can’t recall the Tottenham frontline putting Ben Foster to work. It took a fortunate own goal to give us the lead. A lead we relinquished when Tottenham, as they had done in big games last season (FA Cup Semi-Final, Juventus, West Ham in the EFL Cup all come to mind), conspired to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Three points dropped, and the discussion of our inability to strengthen in the transfer window re-emerged. Clearly, we must improve significantly when we take on Liverpool at Wembley on September 15th.
So, that was the week that was for Tottenham. A typically Spursy roller-coaster of emotions. Euphoria followed by confusion and naturally ending in despair. It seems that only by following Tottenham, can one truly understand what this feels like. We are the most bi-polar of football clubs. All this, against a backdrop of a stadium still unfinished, with no completion date in site. Furthermore, with the confirmation that the Manchester City fixture on October 29th will now take place at Wembley, it is unlikely that Spurs will be spared the wrath of the media for some time yet.