The end result of the past five seasons is that we’ve hit the brick wall. The prominent question is whether we have enough to climb over it. Gonna need a bigger ladder.
I’ve not been on a sabbatical or a holiday. I’ve not been sick. I’ve not been in Bruges. However, I have self inflicted purgatory on myself in an attempt to wrap my brain around the continued and persistent disharmony with Tottenham Hotspur and our on the field application. I am trying to work things out. Should it always be this dramatic, football? Should I always be in a constant flux of soul searching?
I’ve done this many times before, written pieces of this nature, around one thousand times in my twelve long years blogging about our mightily imperfectly perfect club. I’ve always taken preference philosophically rather than analytically (as everyone has an opinion about tactics already). That analysis is obvious to everyone and with football, with Spurs, we are all working off the same source material. We see the same thing every time but how we interpret it, how we focus on the positives and negatives will always vary with extreme irregularity and erraticness. Mostly based on emotion.
Emotion is the driving force, the influence in how we digest and suffer the highs and lows of this magnificently (socially flawed) game. For starters, it’s hardly a ‘game’. It’s more of a stabiliser. At least it’s meant to be one when considering escapism. Yet it’s routinely abused and pretty much an outlet for life and the angst we experience outside of the stuff that exists to make us forget about the angst. The football. How do we ever manage to escape from anything?
It’s the usual paradoxical cycle we surrender control over to.
So to go back to that source material i cited, with our club (with any club) it’s the way you interpret that data we all have access to. Right now, in this moment, that data appears to be corrupt and no formula can provide a mathematical solution to it. Tottenham are struggling to excel.
It’s arguably/obviously because of many things. The lack of sustained transfer activity during a pivotal period of our momentum as a football side (countered by an equally pivotal saga with our stadium move). The lack of a certifiable back up plan; a contingency. Protection from the potential of stagnation. We didn’t foresee and accept the likely eventuality that the current set of players – this magnificent group of players – would run out of fuel. We gave it all with a Plan A. We almost made it. Almost. It’s a harsh and brutal echo of glory, one that I don’t think Bill Nicholson had in mind when he made his famous quote. Then again, it’s actually spot on.
Emotionally and psychologically what happened last season, getting to the Champions League final, almost felt like a fantastical fluke. One the cosmos granted us based on previous efforts to break the mould. In the league and domestically the team had already lost more then three quarters of that last tank of fuel, leaking out the back, the exhaust choking on dark brooding fumes. What we have now is an empty tank. Sure, this isn’t one of my more intricate analogies but we are currently pushing the car, uphill, trying to get to the closest destination that can provide us with more fuel. We’re gonna need new wheels too. Our tread has gone. We have no depth. RIP analogy. RIP Spurs?
We are in this mess because that is football sometimes. It’s not half as profound as we believe it to be. Our cycle was four years, perhaps only peaking for three seasons. Clubs above our level, in a similar cycle, would have won (and have won) titles and silverware. We didn’t because we punched above our weight and did so in a way that masked the necessity to consolidate and improve in that moment to balance it all out. To claim that equilibrium to truly contend inside that top tier rather than do so scratching on the outside edge.
We can sit and debate whether we over-achieved, under-achieved, ‘could have done better’ with the resources we had, didn’t take the risks required and so on. We left White Hart Lane, played at Wembley and Daniel Levy tightened the financial constraints even tighter (something that possibly inspired him to appoint Pochettino in the first place). There are levels to how tight our chairman can get (two transfer windows tight). We didn’t expect or predict the ascendancy that took place.
Football is mostly a calculated expenditure that works with ruthless intentions to succeed. But this in our reality is often anchored by the wage structure and not having the generational resources of the elite clubs that are sitting on riches like Smaug on his glistening gold throne of treasure. That’s not to say that Levy’s masterplan doesn’t take precedence over the urgency we’d all prefer with the footballing aspect. Rome wasn’t built in a day right? It took that much time to burn though.
I’m getting sidetracked with the politics here and it’s been done to death.
The end result of the past five seasons is that we’ve hit the brick wall. The prominent question is whether we have enough to climb over it. Gonna need a bigger ladder. I’m not only referring to this season but the next one too. I don’t expect anything to change over night or off the back of a good solid win (although good solids wins are a must and a neat starting point). We keep turning back to the starting block after another false start. We, the royal, need to also stop being so reactionary in an almost groundhog day rhythm of repetition. On the field and off it too. We were all happy enough when we were winning and playing with pomp and style and on the up and challenging, for the first time in my life-time (ignoring the early to mid-80s as I was a wee lad). When we play well we’re all smiles and we crow about it, pride beaming like God rays from the sky above.
But when we’re not playing well?
Why do we auto-switch? Do we automatically decide, ‘You know what? That’s me done. This is unacceptable. How dare they. How dare they f**k this up’. Even though the odds of being capable of building a title winning side or sustain a team without the hiccup of an end cycle (something that does happen even with the clubs that win stuff) isn’t easy. But we’ve made it look possible. Which is some feat considering our foundation and where we’ve come from compared to others. This isn’t accepting our place as pretenders. Tottenham are still part of an elite and sure comparing ourselves to Bury or Bolton and saying things could be worse, as pertinent as it is in the broad sense, it doesn’t help with our own motivations and ambitions.
Within our own limitations (ignoring the politics of the boardroom just for one second) we gave it everything. And we failed. But still gave it everything. Surely that means something more than simply dismissing it as wasted time and bemoaning how we could have done it all differently with the aid of non-time travelling hindsight?
Doesn’t it? Isn’t it what we always wanted? To be a proper team and not a mish mash of broken dynamics? The irony of what we are right now isn’t lost on me by the way. But it’s a direct consequence of everything that came before. It’s dramatic and unnerving. There’s a discomfort with the idea of even losing out on a single season of progression and upwards adventures because we’ve been spoilt in prior seasons. But that’s football. The lows make the highs. If you ask what Poch has given us. it’s the immeasurable highs. Don’t pretend you didn’t feel them. That you weren’t made to belong.
Even if we spent money when ‘we’ all believed we should have spent it – there’s sill no guarantee of success. The fanbase will still fracture and distort how things have played out to suit a perspective. There’s always a better player to sign, there’s always a better formation to play. But obviously, we won’t know. Not in this universe. Quantum mechanics suggests there’s a parallel somewhere that has witnessed our glory. We won’t know. Bit Spursy that we’re all stuck in this dimension tbh.
We won’t know unless Pochettino is here to stay and he fixes it. The only way he does that is if he replaces the players that need replacing. Over time. Over the next one or two seasons. It’s the same job a newly appointed manager would have to undertake. Unless you want to sacrifice it all for the new-manager bump and somehow get that car over the hill for one last drive.
Questions and head-scratches will persist over the selection of lost boy Christian Eriksen. Whether the magic has been lost. The edge gone. Sometimes in life you have to move on. Not all relationships last forever. As hurtful as it might be having to look back and note we haven’t won anything under him, sometimes you don’t get what you deserve. Sometimes you get exactly what you deserve. We need to be careful with our next steps. Better the devil you know but the devil we know is pretty mediocre*.
*That can either be current Poch or pre-Poch Tottenham depending on how you choose to swagger your ego
What we had under Mauricio, when we were good – we were immense. It just doesn’t sit well with me to brush it all under the carpet and reset, reboot with something completely new or opt for a short term solution. I don’t know. I’m not sure. Maybe modern football at the top level only works if you detach yourself from sentiment and loyalty. Take the sacking of Bayern Munich’s coach as an example of the club placing the club above and beyond everything. But then, the club takes on the identity of the fanbase and the players and the coaches and manager. For us, Pochettino gave us back that identity and a culture of discipline we haven’t experienced in…well, decades. It appeared to be the long term rebuild this club needed. The scaffolding has collapsed.
To flip perspective, perhaps moving on is the natural, organic direction needed. That it isn’t going to be a harmful exercise in evolution. That this is the very risk we desperately need in motion to get going again. The club is more than one man, more than this squad. Of course, it means little if the chairman isn’t thinking about aiming higher than ever before. Maybe we need to turn the page and see what happens next.
The romantic in me wants Poch to get through this. To fix this. This is a problem caused by him and the chairman and the players. The very same team that gave us the CL run and the brilliant football of peak Poch Spurs. I’ll say it again, these are the very same servants to THFC that gave us a culture defining rebirth we haven’t had since the Boys from WHL in the aforementioned 80s. Excluding ribbons on cups. The bar is set a little bit higher to what it was back then. Just a tad. Gone are the days of a Derby and Forest. Don’t @ me about Leicester City.
I’m still in purgatory. I’m still trying to work things out. You’ll have to bear with me. I’ve looked at social media, at Twitter, and the toxicity levels are pretty much volcanic. The scapegoating, switching from one stance to another, looking to point the finger of blame – something that never fixes anything. My head is pulsating, I’m drifting without direction like a not so Great Dane that has lost its bark.
I’ll finish on something that I listened to recently, unrelated to football. Richard Dawkins. He touched upon tribalism, with how people group together in agreeable association relating to politics or religion. It resonates in today’s world thanks to the instant unfiltered reactionary online space our persona’s exist in. We’re in a place where people choose a group, a tribe, to be part of and then proceed to shout about it constantly and shout down any opposing view.
They associate themselves to a tribe based on their own opinions matching the groups. However, the anomaly is that people are often selecting a group but are then intentionally inheriting other opinions and perspectives that they neither believed in or cared about previously. They want to be part of the tribe, the group, so much so that they accept all the party-lines that are adhered to. No questions asked. Such is the desire to belong to something, anything. It’s contradictory and hypocritical.
I’m not comparing football with politics. Or maybe I am. Football probably has more in common with religion. And like many religions, they fragment their belief systems into a variety of cults – mostly all corrupted by an agenda to control or influence. But then politics is not too dissimilar to religion either. Everyone is following their team/group/tribe blindly. You could argue I’m following Spurs in the same way, never wanting to admit that maybe the opposite of what I believe in should be what the club go ahead and do.
Dawkins was referencing the human instinct to be part of a tribe and display loyalty and support that is often peaking at religious levels. What we have today is tribes within tribes, all at odds with each other, all firing shots with the intention to mock rather than test their own resolve.
Not sure what my point was going to be ending with this particular side-track. Other than the fact that I want to be part of a tribe that wins and loses together. That is self-aware to self-heal and admit mistakes and seek better judgement. And when there’s adversity, we don’t shrink our balls and suck ‘em into our groin with a shrivelled little mess poking out. We go to war as one, we die on the battlefield as one. We resurrect as one. We conquer as one.
Until then, purgatory.