Happy to stand corrected but there’s something odd around the Spurs fan community at the moment. People are having fun.
Tonight we play Fiorentina. We’re up against it – should have settled the tie in the first half of the home leg and the team cannot help but think of Sunday’s League Cup Final. Yet it seems like half the fans I know are in Italy in party mood with plans to carry on straight through to Sunday afternoon. A journalist has just tweeted that despite a heavy police presence following violence in Italy last week from Feyenoord supporters, every Spurs fan he’s seen is intent on taking in the sights.
The League Cup Final itself – most people seem to be delighted just to be there, an unexpected pleasure to be enjoyed as a Wembley final rather than consolation for an FA Cup exit and a league position that could see us finish outside the European qualification places entirely.
There’s a sense of enjoying the moment rather than planning ahead. Since Christmas there have been some fabulous moments for certain. Wins against Chelsea and Arsenal, not just victories but barnstorming performances amidst a pulsating atmosphere reminiscent of the Shelf in its pomp that many of us believed had disappeared from the Lane forever. I missed the West Ham game as I have been ill but enjoyment of a different kind, stealing a point, missing a last-gasp penalty but still scoring. Play badly, nah, something will turn up. Can’t do any wrong.
The 2008 final versus Chelsea was placed in a different narrative. Not just our first sniff of a trophy for almost a decade, this tension-filled match was about a breakthrough into the upper echelons of the Premier League. This story is about how a taste of success breeds a hunger for more. The League Cup is very much the junior competition but winning can instil a winning mentality, a belief that this is a step towards something better.
As with all good fairy-stories, there’s some truth here but this time round, I’m not hearing much about ‘moving to another level’, the curse of the modern game where every success is interpreted not as an achievement in itself but as the stepping-stone to something else, usually expressed in terms of money. Win the Europa League because there’s a CL place up for grabs, not because there’s a bloody brilliant trophy at stake. Or dump the EL, and the League and FA Cups for that matter, so you can finish 4th and get even more money. Win the League but don’t do well in the CL so what does it count for?
For the time being at least, Spurs fans are happy with their lot. In Italy and on Sunday, let’s enjoy the day, give it a right good go and see what happens. In many ways it’s a healthy attitude. Partly it has come about because expectations have become lower this season. This may be realistic or maybe settling for second best, I’ll leave it up to you to decide.
For me, the manner in which we’ve reached this point is the key. I have never known a season begin with so much disillusionment expressed by hard-core supporters. Nobody was even talking about winning something. The years of disenchantment had taken their toll on hearts, minds and bank-balances. The lack of long-term planning, constant reactive chopping and changing of the manager and squad, of wasted opportunities and the huge cost of watching Spurs that created alienation and distance between supporter and club.
Pochettino has been forced to turn to the young men but they have repaid us in spades with talent and wholehearted commitment. They can’t keep it up week in week out – the performance against West Ham showed their tactical and mental limitations rather than physical tiredness – but they feel the same way about the club as we do. Others, most notably Vertonghen and Eriksen, have rediscovered a pride in their performances. As a result, fans feel closer to the team than has been the case for many years.
The news this week that the building of the stadium can proceed, subject to another possible appeal, has helped the mood. It means the club can move forward.
So it feels good to be here in the moment, enjoying Spurs play football and anticipating the spectacle at Wembley on Sunday. No one is under any illusion, however. Let’s enjoy it while we can because the mood could change. On the field we are seeing the start of something not the end product. It will be another wasted chance if we do not invest in the team in the summer, never mind the fact that the real test will be keeping key players like Lloris, Eriksen and Vertonghen, especially if we do not qualify for Europe.
The much-anticipated stadium will be a huge drain on funds over a period far longer than the few years it takes to build and if prices, sightlines and atmosphere are not right then supporters will rightly question the whole point. We matter – the club need to show they have a better understanding of that fundamental point that has apparently been the case in the past.
Meantime, Fisher’s Fitness Battle will come down to the wire. Coughing, spluttering and rattling with pills, block 108 may be infected but being there is all there is. Enjoy the moment and get behind the team. I’ll bring my own oxygen tent.
Still time to download the Final song Hotshot Tottenham by Ledley and the Kings, including a good friend of this blog. And Chas and Dave. All proceeds to the Tottenham Tribute Trust helping ex-players.
Looking for something to wear on the big day? The Art of Football have some snazzy styles on display here including a competition to win an Eriksen t-shirt. An offer you can’t refuse.