After a roller coaster 2011/11 that saw the club enter its first Champions League, the media and fans alike had high expectations for Tottenham Hotspur in 2011/12. It started poorly, and after a run of one league defeat in 19, the team was rocked by a heartbreaking away defeat to Manchester City, Harry Redknapp’s court case, and then the speculation over his future considering the England vacancy. All of this culminated in a terrible run of form, seeing us win only two league games between February and May, and after a fourth place finish, the inevitable heartbreak continued as qualification to next seasons Champions League was denied as Bayern Munich lost 4-3 on penalties.
Of course, our fate was in our own hands throughout the season, and these are the the six matches I feel defined our season.
Sunday 18th September: Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 Liverpool
The season had started abysmally with two heavy defeats to the Manchester clubs, and a poor away draw in the Europa League to PAOK. Even a convincing win at Molineux wasn’t a recipe for confidence going into a tough fixture against the Scousers at home. Our worries were averted by a wonderful strike by Luka, which was swiftly followed by an early red card for the chubby Dundonian Charlie Adam. Two goals for Ade, and one for JD cemented an impressive 4-0 victory, that provided a catalyst for a one of our most successful spells in Premier league history.
The real turning point that day was the change in Luka’s form, and attitude. Having refused to play at Old Trafford, the fans were very much on his back, and although many will never forgive him (and rightly so), he showed that, for the meantime at least, he wanted to play football, and that he he was still pretty handy. He controlled the game at times, and we registered 65% possession, as well as 18 shots on target.
That was our first game at home since the 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Citeh, as well as the home debuts of Adebayor and Parker, and everything went right, setting the tone for our season. We then proceeded to lose to Stoke on penalties in the League Cup, but you know what I mean.
Sunday 11th December: Stoke City 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
“Screw you Chris Hoy! Oh really? Are you sure? OK, sorry Chris Hoy. SCREW YOU CHRIS FOY!” That was one of the main takeaways on the social networks after this game, considering that the man in black had sent Younes Kaboul off for a second bookable offence, although the first one was barely a foul, let alone a caution. He also managed to miss two Stoke handballs, one of which led to their opening goal, the other by Ryan Shawcross on the line, preventing a second for us, and to top it all off, Foy’s assistant wrongly ruled out a goal for offside.
All of this in mind then, and the 2-1 result look slightly unfair. Sadly thats not the case. We performed well in the second half of that match, however a first half in which we figuratively didn’t show up (although if we had literally not shown up, the result may have been better), ensured that the game was beyond us. Dreadful defending and lacklustre attacking was a omen of what was to come, and perhaps the first time that the squad showed the physical signs of Redknapp’s rotation policy (or lack thereof).
The result was the sole loss between the start of September and late January, but was a bitter pill to swallow when you consider how close we came to securing a point, if not three, after such a dismal first half.
Sunday 22nd January: Manchester City 3-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Even being knocked out of the Europa League didn’t dampen our spirits for long, and after going unbeaten from the Stoke debacle, we travelled to Eastlands confident that we could get at least a point. After that froggy bloke put City ahead, their lead was doubled quickly when we decided that defending wasn’t important, allowing the world’s biggest forehead to knock the ball home. Deflation was felt all around our fanbase momentarily, but then a rather un-Tottenham-like thing happened. We rebounded. Defoe and Bale scored two quality goals (Bales made me chubby), and when Mario Balotelli blatantly stamped on Scott Parker, I hoped that we could grab victory.
Sadly Howard Webb decided that a professional foul was no longer worthy of a dismissal, in fact, he decided to let the play go on. Defoe was presented a chance to score, and was an inch away from sliding the ball into an open goal, and moments later Ledley bundled Balotelli over, who slotted the ball home, in such an unbelievably smug manner, I wanted to staple his bellend to a scorpion.
We showed some impressive resilience in that game, but the defeat was a massive turning point in our season, and definitely the start of our decline. With victory at the Etihad, not only would we be 13 point ahead of the Woolwich lot, but only two points from top, and is it was, we were all but out of the title race (inevitable really), and we had 16 games to tie up Champions League football.
Sunday 26th February: Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham Hotspur
This was probably the worst day in my football supporting life. Never before had I gone from nervous, to confident, to delirious so quickly. Never had I gone from all of that to being distraught and homicidal in such a manner either, so when they scored the 3rd goal, I wanted to glass the cocky Gooner next to me.
It wasn’t the fact that we lost 5-2 away to our most bitter rivals. Nor was it the fact that we conceded five goals after being 2-0 up. It was the fact that we had imploded in such a pathetic manner that Redknapp looked so clueless, he embarrassed the integrity of our 130 year old club.
In truth, neither the players nor the fans really recovered from this result, and although there was the odd high between then and now, the age old feeling of Tottenham Hotspur implosion was predominant.
Sunday 15th April: Tottenham Hotspur 1-5 Chelsea
If the catergoric destruction at the hands of one London rival was the ‘worst day in football supporting life’, then this made the top 3 on that list. I am 21 years old, and remember the days of Paolo Tramezzani and Ramon Vega with only a fleeting eye, yet I have seen some bad performances, and this was terrible.
Similarly to the derby, it was the manner in which we fell apart. We were overrun in midfield from the off, and in a frenetic first half, we looked like we could pounce. Again, confidence amongst the fan base was reserved, but existent, until Drogba scored a world class goal. I hate Chelsea, and cannot stand the Ivorian, but you can do nothing but marvel at the goal. The story of the game was of course their second ghost goal in as many years against us, although this one was so painfully obvious, even Ray Wilkins couldn’t be biased (although something tells me he would have tried). We all know what happened at 2-0. We managed to scrape a goal back before departing from Wembley after 60 minutes, in a bid to catch the last ever Sunday edition of the Eastenders omnibus.
Worse was yet to come though, and that was what made it all so bad. At this point in the season, the 10 point lead we had over Woolwich in the league has all but evaporated, and although we were in the driving seat for 3rd place, it always felt as though it was ours to lose, and lose it we would.
Sunday 6th May: Aston Villa 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur
In line with many of the games I have highlighted, this was the epitome of disappointment. Beginning it all with such optimism, and then leaving so downtrodden, and the universal feeling of downheartedness that, at times, has epitomised Tottenham Hotspur for the past two decades had returned. We had relinquished 3rd, but a great win away at Bolton* along with a comical draw for Norwich at the Mausoleum meant that we had the opportunity to put ourselves back into 3rd, leapfrogging that lot, and control our own destiny.
Befitting the rest of our season, we drew. It was so bitterly disappointing that it should have been the expected outcome, yet it wasn’t like the match at home to Wolves or away to Swansea, both draws categorised as being a fair result. We dominated Villa at Villa Park from beginning to end, but were just so inefficient in front of goal that not even 24 shots and 19 corners could present our ‘strikeforce’ with a good enough chance to score, needing a penalty to do so.
At this point, I really gave up hope for 3rd, having an early premonition that Marton Fulop would decide that goalkeeping wasn’t a talent he wanted to exhibit in the following week, and that the ruthless efficiency that has epitomised the German psyche for a century would dissolve in the most pain staking fashion, with the Pig Striper himself personifying the German ideal of an English penalty taker.
All in all then, disappointment will always be the byword for the 2011/12 season. Any Spurs fan that tells me to accept that, by finishing 4th, our season is a success deserves to have to sit through the newly-produced club DVD entitles ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Twitch: A Compilation of all of Harry Redknapps in-car Sky Sports News transfer deadline day interviews’ on a loop!
* – At this point, I just want to echo the sentiments of most Spurs fans by saying it was great to see Fabrice Muamba back on the field at the Reebok Stadium, and that I hope his long road to recovery continues in such a strong manner.
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