I’m getting on a bit now. April next year, my 50th anniversary at White Hart Lane. Football’s changed, watching the game even more so, but I haven’t, not really. Lose and it affects my mood for several days. A good win in a big game, nothing like it. Nothing, because this is a grand old team to see. If anything my connection with Spurs is deeper than it’s ever been. It’s not a fashionable view, because fans are drifting away from the game, and I get it, I see why. It’s just that I’ve had my crisis of faith several years ago when logic demanded I should loosen the ties, but I couldn’t, instinctively couldn’t, and wouldn’t.
I’m old. I don’t have unrealistic expectations or the sense of entitlement that characterises a generation of support brought up on Super Sunday, the holy grail of the anointed Top Four or a history that begins in 1992. I just want them to give a right good go, league and cup. Be contenders, be something, win something. And I’ve been let down.
Last night Spurs slipped out of the Champions League, unnoticed and unmourned, not with a bang but with a whimper. Monaco beat us home and away. They are a neat, decent side well set up to make the most of their talents and, in both games, Tottenham’s deficiencies. But that’s not the point. What matters is, it didn’t matter. Not apparently to the players who did not give of their best not just last night but in the whole tournament, nor to the manager.
Pochettino expressed anger about the performance in his post-match quotes but throughout he has been unwilling to put out a full-strength side. Yesterday in a match we had to win to stay in the CL, he left out Vertonghen, Eriksen and Walker, Sissoko too, compounded by fiddling around with the formation to a sort of 4-3-2-1. He didn’t want it and this fed through to the players.
I don’t like it and I don’t get it. Well, I do, in that the manager’s message is that the Premier League is the main target and nothing else matters very much. Bu this is the Champion’s League. We toiled long and hard to get there, surely it’s worth more than this. Prestige. Money. Glory. Choose any one of those and you have a reason to be motivated. We opted for none of the above.
Stay in the competition at least to the knock-out stages and even more money comes rolling in. Far be it from me, old-fashioned, living in the past, to say that glory in taking on Europe’s best is motivation enough. Giving supporters a treat, those supporters who formed the biggest ever British crowd for a club game and promptly beat it three weeks later, far be it from me to suggest we could have some fun, get behind the team, all in white and take them all on.
I admire Pochettino and his team hugely. They are as committed and as motivated as any Spurs side I have ever seen and the manager has worked wonders at the club. With this decision, he is wrong. It’s a waste. This is the Champions League not the League Whatever It’s Called This Year Cup 2nd round. Never mind the good old days of Europe under lights at the Lane, Benfica, Gornik, Anderlecht, Barca, Milan, I’ll take those memories to my grave with me and alongside them will be the outstanding football this young side played last season. I love this team. And for what? Losing I can deal with, the lack of interest I cannot.
So what’s the plan? Finish on the top four to qualify for a tournament we won’t try in because we want to concentrate on finishing in the top four to qualify for a tournament we won’t try in. Repeat to fade.
Last night Lloris played them on his own. Heroic Hugo saved a penalty and produced a string of top class saves including one astounding reaction leap than defied the laws of nature. Sadly it failed to inspire those in front of him. The back four was constantly stretched. Although Wanyama dropped in between the two centre halves, the full-backs had no protection from the midfield and were exposed, or rather the space behind them was, a fertile breeding ground for opposition attacks.
From one cross, our back four lined up on the 6 yard box as if they were zonal marking for a corner. The Monaco attackers stood off and were all unmarked. One headed it in, the others had the freedom of the box. Back in the game after Kane’s penalty, we conceded straight from the kick-off. What were they thinking? Nothing, apparently. This was a mug’s goal. Spurs stalwart and friend of the blog Adam Powley tweeted that the team of the early 80s, after they scored they either got possession or fouled within three opposition touches. We need some of that nouse.
One more example sums up the game. Loose ball, edge of the box. Wanyama takes a wild slice, misses. On Saturday, I praised Dier for the immaculate way he shepherded Payet to safety, nullifying a dangerous break without even tackling him. Yesterday he too took a wild clumsy heave at this same ball, nowhere near it and conceding a penalty. It’s all in the mind and their minds were somewhere else.
I’m disappointed and numb. This is so out of character. This is the team that gives everything, 100% commitment, that’s their trademark. I know Spurs weren’t going to win the Champion’s League but I wanted Europe to see how good we are, to see some of that flowing, effortless football, how we take the game to the opposition and don’t sit back and wait for the other side to die of boredom. I wanted people to see proper Tottenham because I’m proud of them. Even that was denied me, me and all the other proud Spurs supporters. Newsnow filter out articles containing swearwords, so here is reader participation – insert your expletives of choice here. I’m truly hacked off.