Archive for February, 2016

For those of you of a certain age you may have picked up the melodic tune of the title to this piece if you remember a band called Smokie. But I have had this ringing in my ears for the last two days and as someone quite rightly pointed out to me on Twitter we could just as easily follow this line up with “Palace? Who the fk are Palace?”

The pain of this cup exit was felt more than most in recent years. This is the one time we really felt primed to compete in the competition and we had a winnable draw at home in the last 16. Win that and then the possibility of a Wembley final starts to become tangible and you only have to win three more games to get your hands on the trophy. Not only that we’d take it away from those home draw goons who have been gifted the trophy for the last two season with finals against a poor Hull side and an even poorer Villa one.

OK we have had six FA Cup semi-finals since last winning it in 1991 but we never used to lose semi-finals and we certainly used to win the damn thing outright. And this is why this particular cup is held in such high regard by many Spurs fans. But for all the media hype around the “magic” of the FA Cup nothing could be further from the truth and I for one am angry at how this competition has been allowed to deteriorate into the farce that it has become with none more guilty than the custodians of the competition, the FA themselves.

From the day that they allowed semi-finals to be regularly played at Wembley they diluted the very magic of getting there. Add to that the nonsense around letting Man Utd “skip” the tournament one year and then season it with allowing the Premier League to ride rough shod over football in this country and it is no wonder the competition is what it has become. Lower level premier league teams “rest” players so that they can battle for Premier League survival. Championship teams “rest” players so that they can battle for promotion to the Premier League and so on. In short the Premier League and the Pound are the drivers of priorities so much so that the game clearly is not about glory any more. The Goons won £1.8m for winning the FA cup last season. The last placed team in the Premier league will get £1.23m and that is without TV revenue. So go figure.

But we are in the age where “prioritising” has become an accepted term in football. You only have to see Manchester City’s shoddy display against Chelsea on Sunday and the awful disdain for the competition reflected in their line up to understand where we have got to. This is tantamount to allowing teams to have bye’s into the next round so where’s the magic in that. And clubs expect fans to travel hundreds of miles to watch guys represent them that they possibly may not have even heard of before.

So the solace in getting knocked out of the FA Cup is that we can, as Spurs, now focus on the Premier League and maybe the Europa League too. We have by default prioritised our actions although I am not sure if in Pochettino’s case it was as intentional as Pellegrini’s this weekend. “There’ll be less games to play now”; “we should knock the Europa league on the head too”; and “it’s probably for the best”; just some of the ways we can put a gloss on the defeat on Sunday. There will indeed be less games to play (three of them as a maximum), and who knows it may even work out for the best if there isn’t a distraction of a Wembley final to occupy the minds of players that have a league title to challenge for, for the first time in decades. But that isn’t really the point is it?

The game did used to be about glory. Honest it did. And there did used to be some magic attached to the FA Cup. That once glorious showgirl now turning tricks in the city centre slum in order to keep the flame burning for old time’s sake.

I am old school. I want the club to win trophies and when all is said and done that’s what any football club’s history and honours list is measured by. But such is modern football that we have all become conditioned to accept what is deemed to be important and how each club is right to prioritise their efforts and we all get over it very quickly. And of course I will be hoping beyond hope that this does indeed work out for the best and my club and that they can pick up an honour at the end of this season even though we are now down to two of a possible four.

Trophies used to be celebrated. Now we celebrate league position, signings, and participation. Not quite the same when you understand that it’s all about money, which invariably ends up in the pockets of players and comes out of the pockets of you and me. At least let us have something to crow about in between. Still. Onwards and upwards eh?

Squeaky Bum Time

Ok I don’t know about you lot but I am officially reaching squeaky bum time. Just the fact that Spurs have reached second place in the league (even if it is on goal difference) has triggered the kind of anxiety within me that I had forgotten exists when it comes to the team I support. After weeks of loving everything about what the team were doing and being quite comfortable in competing with whomsoever we were up against, my psychology is now being tested merely because we have hit the giddy heights of second.

I haven’t really had to experience anything like this since 1985. For those that recall in that season we were pushing for the league title challenge when we played a crucial home game on a dark Wednesday night towards the end of the season against our title rivals Everton. Standing amidst another heaving crowd on the shelf we witnessed an excruciating 2-1 loss and then a ridiculous fixture congestion got the better of us. We finished third in the end.

Since then our dreams and expectations have been sanitised by the mediocrity that followed particularly in the 90’s. We had more flirtation with relegation than we did with the title for such a long while. Even European football seemed like a pipe dream until the man with no hair came along and started our upward trajectory. Oh how we sang about a “European Tour” when we hit the heights of the Europa league again.

Redknapp’s team raised expectation further and apart from one fleeting and enjoyable season in the champions league a repeat visit eluded us and sometimes by forces beyond reasonable explanation. AVB tried to push us on but didn’t manage it. But now? Now under Pochettino something special is happening and yes we’ve all noticed it and people are writing and talking about it everywhere it seems.

But what about us poor sods? What about the fans? This is alien right? How are we supposed to cope for goodness sake? Every game coming up is going to be agonising without question and starting this coming Sunday at the Etihad. I daren’t watch! But then this is what we want I hear you say, and you’d be absolutely right but we fans need to get used to this. This is what we signed up for, to root for a team that is successful; to abandon the shackles of expectation and then to actually deliver. Of course it is, but when you have been so deprived of this feeling of heightened expectation and believing that you can go into any game and expect to win, then this goes against the grain for many Spurs fans.

Screw “spursy”! We need to eliminate this word and so what if it appears in the Urban Dictionary? It’s time to redefine its meaning isn’t it? But whatever we do we can’t help sensing in the back of our minds that fate is waiting with a baseball bat to knock us back to our Spurs supporting reality. So we play it down. We stay humble. We remember that Champions League qualification is our real objective for the season and we tell everyone this. But we can hope. We actually have hope of the realistic kind. And this is what can ultimately drive you crazy.

Thank goodness for Leicester I say, allowing us to slip under the radar. Everyone is talking up plucky old Leicester. 5000/1 outsiders at the start of the season and now 7/4 title favourites. The world has gone mad of course it has. But that’s fine. As long as people aren’t talking too loudly about Spurs then that’s good for us fans because if the expectation and attention reached fever pitch we’d probably spontaneously combust.

The good thing about all of this “hope” is that it is pervading into the fan support at matches and there’s an electricity being generated by our fans. There is no question that our away support is one of the best in the land and anywhere in Europe in fact. White Hart Lane however can be a funny yet moody old place. Tension, apprehension, indifference, frustration, disgust as easily conveyed by the fans as excitement, anticipation, energy and drive. The recent game against Watford was a key moment for us this season. The fans realised where we were and what we could potentially achieve and the game became huge, as will all games from here on in. The positive thing is that the crowd responded and sought to drive on and lift the team. The same fans who are starting to agonise (or maybe not for those more confident among us) rose to the challenge and the roar that greeted Kieran Trippier’s winner was of the magnitude normally reserved for NLD games. The fans know now.

“There’s a long way to go”. “One game at a time”. “Champions League is what we want and then we will see”. “There’s a lot of hard games coming up”. Sounbytes? Yes but so what? If it helps us cope then I am all for it. The rest of this season is going to be ride the like of which many will never have experienced before so hold on to your hats. Pochettino and the players and driving the club towards something and its up to us to jump in and drive them on even more. And even if it doesn’t happen this season we have one hell of a building block for subsequent seasons. There appears to be substance to this progress. But whatever happens I’ll tell you what. Stock up on the undies because squeaky bum time is most definitely here. COYS.