If I can pinpoint the root of my latest existential crisis, I'd probably have to say that for the first time, possibly ever, I truly, really, honestly believed, 100%, wholeheartedly, no caveats, that we were doing it.
To be honest, I don’t even know where to begin, so let me preface this navel gazing touchy feely slop with a topline of what I think.
Am I happy that Pochettino left? No.
Am I unhappy that Pochettino left? No.
Am I happy that Jose Mourinho is in charge? No.
Am I unhappy that…f**k sake… this isn’t interesting in the slightest is it?
If anything it begs the question as to why I’m even writing this self-indulgent bilge in the first place. Ultimately, I don’t have any precise conclusion or even fully coherent thoughts, sorry for the spoiler, but I have thoughts at least.
“We all have thoughts Jack, why are your thoughts any more interesting than mine?”
Because they just are, you cretin.
First and foremost, I suppose I should say that the Champions League genuinely broke me on a certain level. From speaking with a number of Spurs fans across the gammon-to-snowflake scale, many share this feeling. There’s a mix of those who can and those who can’t face highlights of particular moments, there’s some who will take joy from the run, and others who refuse or are unable to, but one common thread appears to be that the final broke us.
Broke the fans. Broke the players. Broke the manager.
(Daniel Levy seemed pretty chill about the whole thing to be honest.)
Speaking from my own perspective, I feel like nobody is going to enjoy losing a Champions League Final, but getting downed by a Messi masterclass would have been much easier to stomach than seeing Moh Salah standing on one leg and pointing to his nose after seconds of having kicked off the biggest game we’ll questionably ever see Spurs compete in in our lifetime.
Losing to any English club would have been the pits. Losing to Arsenal would have been the ultimate pits. Chelsea and Liverpool rank fairly equally in the next level of pittage for me. But the resulting misery hasn’t even really so much been about the opposition for me.
If I can pinpoint the root of my latest existential crisis, I’d probably have to say that for the first time, possibly ever, I truly, really, honestly believed, 100%, wholeheartedly, no caveats, that we were doing it.
The narrative was all there. Our run was the fairytale this time. Our league form was atrocious, we’d not spent a penny on transfers since the Groat had become obsolete tender, Amsterdam was obviously the pinnacle, but the amount of times we came back from the brink across the competition was nothing short of miraculous. Universal energy, lemons, blind faith, whatever it was, I was completely sold.
Bracing myself for the inevitable cries of DHOTYA, but even on the day of the final, walking to the pub we had selected at random, nearby to the Fighting Cock venue, the group I was with all stopped in tandem, noticing ‘Nicholson Street’ running just adjacent to our destination, a little nod from the big man above, or so we thought.
Making sure to all tap the literal (and metaphorical) sign, we carry on our merry way.
“What are the chances of that?! Nicholson Street! Even spelt the same way”
“It’s happening isn’t it?! Poch is right, the energy is universal”
“Might pop into Tesco for some lemons”.
We reach the pub, and what happens to start playing, literally the second we walked in the door, none other than ‘December 1963 (Oh What a Night!)’. This wasn’t a Spurs pub, it wasn’t even close to being a football pub, there wasn’t a jukebox, there weren’t any other Spurs fans inside…it was happening…it was f**king happening lads…f**k me…this time…at f**king last…
As you can see, I’m getting carried away just recounting this, and this is part of the issue. The whole thing became overly emotional, irrational, ridiculous even, but it was the peak of belief.
Again, from my own perspective, it felt like an unbelievable ending, so unbelievable that it managed to loop in on itself and become entirely believable. One of the things you literally dream of as a football fan. The fantasy that sits in a cozy box somewhere in the mind’s eye, a safe space for the conscious, that you can retreat to during times of just needing to hide from reality for a bit.
All the years of jibes from Arsenal, Chelsea, United, Liverpool even Man City and Leicester (I mean really) fans now, all the times we’d use the disingenuous ‘we’re just sleeping giants, we’ll overtake you one day’ line, I never really thought it’d be much more than the odd FA Cup or maybe a league title when everyone else was having an off year so they’d only caveat it anyway. But here we were, on the very verge of reaching Nirvana.
Any mention of Leicester is tinged with that above bitterness, but speaking to an old professional acquaintance of mine who happened to be a Leicester fan, he’s told me of the liberation of winning the Premier League. Any off day, any horror performance, once the knee jerk annoyance has passed he quickly drifts back into a state of ‘oh well, I’ve seen Leicester win the Premier League’, and much as I still think we’re a ‘bigger’ club than Leicester, we probably have more in common with them than we do a United or a Liverpool, with cups and top honours dripping from every pore of their history.
This wouldn’t have been just another trophy to sate expectations of a spoilt fanbase. Spurs aren’t really the club that wins the big stuff, we’re the dreamers, echoes of glory, to dare is to do. The DNA of the club carries with it the uncertainty of achieving success, a nagging fear of failure, but at the same time a sense that we’re not just here to be an also ran. We’re going to make sure you remember us, for better or for worse we’ll give it a proper go. This was our moment to show the lot of them that every dog has his day.
I can honestly say that had we done it, I wouldn’t have cared about football in the same way anymore. This isn’t to say that I’m going to sit here and pretend that any subsequent loss or victory at Arsenal, Chelsea etc wouldn’t carry any feeling, or that winning or losing anything else significant in future wouldn’t have either, but it wouldn’t have been the same.
Which brings me pretty perfectly to where we find ourselves now. Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, a global brand, in the world renowned
White Har Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (naming rights pending), Amazon Prime documentary under production, Nike ticks on our chest, all topped with none other than Jose Mourinho at the helm.
It’s great, but it’s also just a bit dull, isn’t it?
I’m not afraid of progress, I realise that Spurs aren’t lone aggressors in the field of hypermodernisation, that the landscape of football is rapidly changing. As much as I won’t pretend that I won’t revel in Spurs winning the Premier League next season (definitely happening fwiw btw) I can’t help but carry a nagging feeling that the gloss is no longer there.
These markers of ‘progress’ that should excite me, just don’t. Maybe that’s partly just getting older? Or maybe partly just being a bit depressed? Who knows, maybe I should speak to a therapist…perhaps this is in itself a form of therapy. Anyone out there reading this who can sort me a prescription for some decent benzos, do us a solid.
This also isn’t a pining for Pochettino as a person, so much as it is what he embodied. Sure, I loved the chubby, Malbec swilling, surly great Argie as much as I possibly could without being accused of vanity, but the club will always be bigger than one man, as it was with Redknapp and with Jol before him.
It’s more that the club is now, and so suddenly, so far removed from what I’ve followed my entire life. White Hart Lane is nothing more than a few plastic chairs in boxes stuck at the back of airing cupboards and literal rubble used in the floor of the spaceship looking, pulled pork slinging, microbrewery we ply our trade in nowadays, impressive as it is.
Pochettino always felt so perfectly Tottenham in many respects, brilliant at times, but always underpinned by a feeling of being somebody wishing to be great, instead of just being great. We came so close, so, so close…the 16/17 season easily the best I’ve ever seen us, and this Champions League run was a throwback to that. Belief, excitement, cajones…but ultimately, nothing. Audere est Facere.
Painful memories of failure, but glorious failure, as glorious as it possibly could conceivably be, and isn’t this exactly who or what we are supposed to be? The ethos we wear with pride
Now he’s gone and with it, I can’t help but feel that so has one of the last few throwbacks to this ‘old’ Tottenham. For the sake of balance, it’s important to highlight Harry Kane at this juncture, for he surely is the last segue to our past. The Roy of the Rovers schtick has been done to death, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
He shouldn’t be doing what he is, but he is. He’s made his mistakes with lion themed tweets and triggering Liverpool football club by having the temerity to compete with Salah for the golden boot. It’s even starting to feel like he’s falling into that sweet spot where his greatness is becoming so normalised, even by Spurs fans, and in doing so will not only give him additional fire for his seemingly psychopathic pursuit of goals and glory, but also the space to spring a surprise on all those who have doubted him consistently to this point.
Surely he’s due the glorious ending to his and Tottenham’s story? But if history dictates anything it’s that we perhaps shouldn’t be too surprised to see him in a few years time, opening new Sainsbury’s arm in arm with Ledley as they show off their League Cup winners’ medals, that is if Kane even gets one of those. Who knows, but this at least shows that the chance of a happy ending (careful) to the ‘old Tottenham’ arc isn’t entirely off the table.
Regardless, we enter this shiny new era led by a man who despite having his fair share of baggage, is a certified winner. Billed as risky choice, but isn’t anybody? It is now on him to usher us into a state of being where dare I say it, eventual success almost feels inevitable more than it does fanciful, and that isn’t Tottenham, is it?
In my attempt to make some sense of this all, I find myself questioning the very nature of identity itself. Does it define us or do we define it? Don’t mind me as I hit this blunt, chaps.
Alas, in the context of Tottenham, for a club that has long championed the echoes of glory in failure, failure no longer seems like an option anymore.