Spurs: Is This The End Of An Era At White Hart Lane?
This article previously appeared on The Fighting Cock
This season, watching Spurs has been a frustrating experience. With the talent we have in our squad, people have been expecting us to click, gel, morph from the broken, fragmented mess we’ve been most weeks into a lean, mean footballing machine that both good results with style and attractiveness. Unfortunately for us fans, that’s never really happened.
While there have been flashes of Spurs turning into a potentially great side, for example away to Swansea, home to Norwich, at home to Stoke, even away to Manchester United, there has been little consistency in performance.
For the most part, we’ve been driving through Swindon in a Volvo drinking water while listening to Snow Patrol average.
It’s testament to the sheer talent of the players in our squad that despite there being little cohesion or a clear style of play, we are fifth in the league, only three points off a Champions League Spot and heck, only nine points off the top of the table two thirds through the season. We won’t be far off our Premiership points record.
Ever since Harry Redknapp left, while we may have got more points on average per game, we’ve been a fundamentally worse team. That may sound preposterous and admittedly is somewhat illogical. But if you watch us play – we’re just not as good as we once were. We’re not as comfortable passing the ball. When a player has the ball, there are fewer options. We rarely dominate games now, where it used to be commonplace. The flair and panache we had under Knappsy has disappeared. We’ve been winning ugly.
If you watch us play – we’re just not as good as we once were. Winning ugly is unusual for Spurs and while right now we’re still doing OK in the league and in Europe, it can’t last. Too many poor performances catch up with you. Man United are finding this out this season – they’ve been average for years but through individual heroics and Sir Alex Ferguson’s managerial genius, stayed in contention for honours at home and abroad. This year, with Sir Alex gone, they’re in the table exactly where their performances merit.
This season, I’ve slowly been getting the feeling that despite Spurs doing reasonably well, that an era of great football, great players, moderate success and many of my greatest moments as a Tottenham Hotspur supporter is coming to an end.
The quality players we have at the moment, namely Lloris, Vertonghen, Sandro and a couple of others, won’t want to stay if we don’t qualify for the Champions League. Players of that calibre are more than capable of holding their own in the competition and won’t want to waste more years playing dull Europa League group games against riff-raff teams from countries you couldn’t identify on a map of Europe.
With Liverpool set to make a step up this summer following Champions League qualification, Man United likely to improve, Chelsea and Man City remaining as ludicrously wealthy as they are and even Arsenal progressing this season, the top four will be harder to broach than ever in future seasons. If we don’t do it this season (which is unlikely), we can probably kiss our chances of making it again goodbye until the new stadium arrives and we get some uber-wealthy new owners.
If this is the end of an era, it’s been one that history I think will be kinder to in twenty years time than it is now. When all our players have retired, Redknapp is ensconced in his house on Sandbanks and we talk about Spurs from 2008 to 2014, we will talk fondly of Bale, Modric, Van Der Vaart, Ledley and others.
For years on end, we played stylish, cultured attacking football that often was gorgeous to watch. Seeing Modric control games and boss opposition midfield with his right instep was a joy to behold. One of the great things about football is how people of any physique can succeed, and seeing this quiet, diminutive, slightly buck-toothed Croat who was never likely to do photoshoots for Giorgio Armani control games and make fools of bigger opponents was a delight. I’d argue we’ve missed him more than Bale, such was the control of games Little Luka gave us.
If we don’t do it this season (which is unlikely), we can probably kiss our chances of making it again goodbye until the new stadium arrives and we get some uber-wealthy new owners.
Bale of course, for half a season, was amongst the best players in the world. While many were angry at the manner of his departure this summer, it was only due to his nagging injuries we were able to keep him for so long. After his destruction of Inter, we had two and a half more seasons of him – more than you would have guessed at the time.
And when he was fit and on form, he was amazing.
His winning goals against West Ham, Southampton and Sunderland last season were incredible and all saw me attempt the world jumping into the air while sitting on the sofa record. I may never see a player hit such a hot streak of form for Spurs ever again. That’s how good he was and how privileged we were to witness it.
We also had Ledley, who until he seemed to lose his confidence after giving away the deciding penalty away to Man City in January 2012, was simply the greatest player I’ve seen for Spurs. Better than Bale, Luka and the rest. The guy could barely hobble, never mind walk or run. Yet he still marshalled our defence superbly whenever he played. His positioning was incredible, his timing and anticipation superb, all from a guy who couldn’t train or move with any sort of ease.
I used to love Rafael Van der Vaart as much as I loved those three – until he admitted beating his missus. It doesn’t matter than he apologised or that he only did it once – I can’t bring myself to like a guy who would do such a thing.
The proudest I’ve ever felt of Tottenham was us beating AC Milan at the San Siro. Away from domestic abuse, when these players were all in the same Spurs side, there was an excitement about us, about how far we could go. We had terrific players, played aesthetically pleasing football and had many, many great moments and great games.
The 4-4 draw with Arsenal was an incredible moment, Aaron Lennon’s equaliser making me reach a paroxysm of delight I haven’t felt before or since. Beating Wigan 9-1 was great. Beating the Scum after a decade of not beating them in the league was immense and also made me want to make sweet love to Heurelho Gomes after his string of saves to preserve our victory. Going to Man City and against the odds outplaying them, winning and making the Champions League was a night I’ll savour forever.
Our run in the Champions League was amazing too and it almost seems fitting that it was to be our only Champions League run in this particular era. The second half against Inter at the San Siro was ludicrous, but in a good way. The best all round performance I’ve ever seen from Spurs was when we beat Inter at the Lane. Overwhelming the European Champions the way we did, outclassing them from start to finish, Bale playing the way he did, just a great memory.
The proudest I’ve ever felt of Tottenham was us beating AC Milan at the San Siro. They kicked us, dived, simulated, headbutted our coaches. What did we do? Beat them fair and square, with Wilson f**king Palacios and Sandro (who’d never started a game for us before) in midfield.
Not only did we beat them, in two games against them we didn’t have one player booked. Compare that to Gattuso headbutting Joe Jordan, or to Flamini’s disgraceful tackle on Vedran Corluka. We got hammered by Madrid, but the fact we got to play Real Madrid, in a Champions League quarter-final, was wonderful in itself.
The next season, we went on the magic run of attaining thirty one out of thirty three points. Yes, the standard of opposition in that run perhaps wasn’t the best. So what? We won ten and drew one in eleven league games. We genuinely challenged for the title. OK, only for about five minutes, but still we challenged, more than I ever expected from Tottenham.
The end of the season? Yeah, that s**t hurt. If I have a regret now, it’s that I didn’t enjoy this era as much as I should have done. I was too concerned with progressing further and irritating draws and home defeats to Stoke, Wigan, Hull etc.
I didn’t enjoy Tottenham being amongst the top eight sides in Europe, didn’t savour it, as much as I wish I did now, and as I will in the future if we ever get that good again.
Yes, we never won a trophy. We only qualified for one Champions League. We never finished above Arsenal. But four three, four, five years, we had a great team that gave us a series of great moments that made supporting Spurs a pleasure. If this is the end of an era, it’s been a good one, filled with wonderful memories we can cherish.
Thank you Luka. Thank you Rafa. Thank you Gareth. Thank you Ledley. And, last of all, thank you Harry.
Follow Jack on Twitter at @Debaser92