The Vicissitudes of Spursitude

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White Hart Lane

Lots of talk these days about whether Tottenham Hotspur FC have at long long last shed the humiliating quality of being ‘ursy’. And lots of smirking over examples of Spurs being well and truly Spursy in action. See eg this.

What is Spursiness? Why not call it Spursitude?

The Urban Dictionary helps focus our thinking on Spursy:

 To consistently and inevitably fail to live up to expectations. To bottle it

 To have visions of grandeur / to be immensely deluded only to mess it all up again and     again and again whilst pretending not to care

These definitions are on to something. Most Spurs fans were not even born when Tottenham were league champions last time round. Namely in 1960-61.

That’s nearly 60 YEARS AGO.

Since then there have been great moments now and then. But nothing consistent. Since the Premier League was set up Tottenham have mostly tottered in and around the top half of the table, sometimes nibbling fiercely at the heels of the top clubs getting richer and fatter as the compound interest effects of repeated success and regular Champions League money pile up.

Thus Spursitude. The space between the ambitions of Tottenham fans and the desultory results on the pitch. The sense of now and then approaching real glory, only to see it dashed away yet again by something bewilderingly and unexpectedly idiotic. The UK going to war with Argentina. Bad lasagne.

A sense of baffled self-absorbed entitlement: “We’re obviously a really big club, even though we scarcely ever win anything. We deserve more”.

Plus the worst thing about Spursitude: the longer it continues, the more examples of Spursitude appear in the nature of things, and the larger the gap grows between self-esteem and reality. Losing the FA Cup to Coventry. Selling Elvis only to buy Paulinho plus Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich. Oh, and Christian Eriksen

Being crushed by relegated Newcastle, and pipp’d at the post to second by Arsenal. Playing sell-out Champions League games at Wembley! And failing miserably.

We used to be good at the FA Cup. Remember Ricky Villa? Glory.

Now? Seven FA Cup semi-final defeats in a row. A record no-one needs.

All football clubs have their fair share of stupid mistakes, inexplicable defeats and grotesque setbacks down the decades. But no other club has a word to describe sustained vainglorious ineptitude that somehow defines the club as such, and is now expected.

Even the famous quote by Danny Blanchflower somehow reinforces Spursitude:

“The game is about glory. It’s about doing things in style, with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom”

Thus the appalling idea enters the soul: this is what we are.

That Blanchflower idea somehow prioritises glory over consistency. Over grit; digging in; sustaining effort. What if waiting for them die of boredom is in fact the best way to win this game, and lots more games to come, and so become champions now and (perhaps) for many seasons to come?

Spursitude is not all negative. The sheer unexpected outlandishness of the dizzy gap between expectations and reality is highly entertaining. It’s rarely dull being a Spurs fan.

I recall the 1984 UEFA Cup match in the then Yugoslavia between Hajduk Split and Tottenham. At half-time a Croatian fan walked on to the pitch with a fluttering chicken, then wrung its neck and dumped its twitching corpse in the centre circle.

The droll ploy to play Mike England as a centre forward.

Madcap games against Arsenal. Greaves, Ginola, Hoddle, Modrić. Bale.

Yet between those spindly pinnacles of excitement have been deep wide ravines of failure. Glory crossed with gormlessness. Nearly six DECADES.

In the first sixteen years of the Premier League era Tottenham average 10th. Mid-table anonymity. Then in 2009/10 things look up. Tottenham break into the top four, and since then have not gone below 6th.

So near but yet so far. Still stuck in the servitude of Spursitude.

Along comes Mauricio Pochettino. Tottenham goal differences over each season since 2006/07:

+3

+5

0

+26

+9

+25

+20

+4

+5

+34

+46

The current season’s goal difference of +46 is almost double the goal differences of Manchester United and Arsenal combined.

This drastic change in the season’s goal difference tally goes far beyond the dashing but eccentric Redknapp surge. It shows method. Discipline. Teamwork across a whole season. Ambition. Ruthlessness. Glory – with steel.

Something Completely Different.

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Charles Crawford watched his first Tottenham match in 1971 (Spurs beat Huddersfield 4-1). He was UK ambassador in Bosnia, Serbia and Poland. He is now a communication consultant.

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