“Why don’t you just change teams?” my wife habitually enquires, usually as I slip into yet another sulky stupor. My standard response is to gently remind her that it is far easier to change wives than teams.
In some ways I pity her, going about her daily life utterly oblivious to the lifelong endeavour of fanship. But then again, she isn’t the one hurling remotes at the TV, sitting hunched over in front of the laptop theorising about fictitious transfers or cursing referees like they’d violently slaughtered a herd of Unicorns (the correct collective noun is a ‘blessing’, but I couldn’t do it).
Much like a good marriage, fandom is based around loyalty although depending on which team you support, you may as well rewrite your vowels to say “in sickness and in hamstring injuries, through mid-table mediocrity and relegation dogfights, till administration do us part.”
But if Tottenham Hotspur were a wife, they’d be the type that takes up all your spare time, spends all of your hard earned and despite all the promises of a birthday romp, you wind up having to settle for a wristy when a timely migraine kicks in.
Okay, so maybe I’m overreacting. At least Spurs fans haven’t married an ex-stripper, all prone to bankruptcy and relegation, like the fans of Leeds United. But the fact the Tottenham faithful are still trading off the glory of the league/FA cup double some 50 years ago is a surefire sign that recent generations has had less than Russell to crow about.
Granted, we’ve seen some amazing players pull on the famous white jersey – the likes of Linnekar, Gazza, Klinnsman, Ginola & Anderton (wait, did I just type that last one?) to name a few, but the great teams have been as rare Cockerel’s teeth.
For a team that appears forever consigned to unwavering mediocrity, it is of little surprise that Spurs treat the race for 4th place like it is winning the Premier League. Not so much trying to climb Everest as content to scale the heights of Scafall Pike.
But not only are Spurs aiming low, they also seem to enjoy the kind of luck previously reserved for the Boston Red Sox after they dealt their Babe to the Yankees.
Take ‘Lasagne-gate’ on the final day of the season in 2006, where Spurs only needed to match Arsenal’s result to secure 4th place and the spoils that accompany it. Cue ten first team players hunched over an assortment of buckets and toilet bowls, a loss to West Ham and our season emphatically ended, rather poetically, in a sea of vomit.
But it hasn’t all been doom & gloom on the European front. In 2010-2011 we played in the Champions league, an event my Arsenal supporting friend described as ‘having his retarded brother follow him to the school disco’. But for a supposedly mentally handicapped side, Spurs played some very good stuff and topped the group giving defending champions Inter a belting in the process. That was followed up with a convincingly victory over AC Milan, but then the usual luck kicked in as we drew Real Madrid in the QF. Aaron Lennon got sick/nervous as the players were exiting the tunnel at the Bernabéu , Crouch got a soft red after just 15 minutes and there was no way back from there.
Last season, Spurs actually managed to finish 4th again, before lady luck (wearing Chelsea blue) scuppered our Champions League football yet again. To call Chelsea’s run to the trophy ‘arsy’ would not even begin to do it justice. From the late penalty to force extra time against Napoli, to the man-down-2-0 turnaround against Barcelona – Chelsea left even Cinderella and Euromillions winners feeling a little short changed in the luck department. But to top their unbelievable run, The Blues even managed to defeat a German team (who were playing at home) on penalties in the final, moving Spurs, for all intents and purposes, to 5th place. I mean c’mon!!!
But the fun for Spurs fans has not stopped there, so neither will I.
Tottenham didn’t just dip their toe in the transfer market this summer, they cannonballed off the 5 metre springboard. The first and most influential change came early in the summer as ‘Arry & the club parted ways. I, presumably much like Daniel Levy, had grown tired of the cliché fest that was Harry Redknapp – a man who the press adored for his ability to speak only in idioms, cockney riddles and constant sound bites, but who is yet to display any sense of footballing acumen in either a coaching or punditry role. But if he gave the club one thing it was stability. Something Spurs have seen only twice in the last decade, once under Martin Jol and again through Redknapp’s tenure, but both men felt the wrath of Daniel Levy and his distaste for 5th place.
Six managers over the past ten years (not including those in a caretaker role) has made coaching Spurs less desirable than drumming for Spinal Tap. But the steadfast rule to any managerial changes is before you wield the axe, you must have someone better lined up. Andre Villas-Boas was a failed experiment at Chelsea, who played favourites (particularly with fellow countrymen) and froze out senior players without the hint of an explanation. To put it mildly, he is the complete antithesis of stability.
There is already disharmony in the ranks with new signing, Hugo Lloris, already demanding sit down talks with the manager and he only joined the team 5 minutes ago. As the saying goes, hell hath no fury like a French keeper scorned, but it was the signing of Lloris that could have easily been deemed unnecessary to begin with. Despite his age, Brad Friedal has barely put a foot wrong between the sticks since he arrived at Spurs at the beginning of last season. Considering there is an £8 million pound reserve keeper (biggest impulse buy in history), Heurelho Gomes on the bench, as well as the artist formally known as ‘ the best stopper in world football’, Carlo Cudicini, sitting next to him, it could have been safe to assume that the money spent on Lloris could have been better invested elsewhere. There is no denying the French stopper is a talented keeper, but it seems most Spurs fans would have liked to see a sell-before-you-buy strategy undertaken here.
A surplus of keepers we can live with and I’m even willing to give AVB a chance to prove the naysayers wrong, but what Levy did to the midfield with the transfer clock winding down was unforgivable. To put it in its simplest terms, he took our best 2 attacking midfielders and replaced them with Fulham’s best 2 attacking midfielders. There is no better example of Spurs’ quest for midtable mediocrity than that. I’m not doubting Dembele could well transform himself into a club legend, but it will be some time before he is filling the huge boots left by Modric & Van der Vaart.