STRONGEST team in the Premier League, kids in the Europa.
I have seen and heard a lot of people say we should keep doing what we’re doing, at least until we get to the latter stages of Europe’s secondary competition, ‘THEN we can start taking it seriously.’
I beg to differ.
How can I put this simply… the further into the Premier League season we go, the more important every game becomes.
If the Europa League is insignificant now, it’s going to be even less important once the advent calendars are finished and those who think the Andros Townsends should make way for the Gareth Bales once the new calendars are out need to think again.
When we are in with such a good shot of returning to the rarefied air of the Champions League, we cannot let anything, ANYTHING, distract us from our goal.
Please allow me to use literature to illustrate my point… Spurs are Frodo Baggins, Champions League football = chucking the ring into the fires of Mount Doom and the Europa League, FA Cup and Carling Cup are the meddlesome Gollom.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for a bursting trophy cabinet, I love open-top buses as much as the next man and there’s plenty of room in my collection for another cup final programme. But here’s the crux of the matter… qualifying for the Champions League is as good as a trophy, and if you ask me, even better.
Hold up, stop, calm down, I know what you’re thinking. Sacrilege. Wash my fingers out with soap. The FA Cup is more beloved than Bruce Forsythe. How can being fourth best ever been seen as better than winning something?
Well to my mind finishing in the top four is like winning a league – let’s call it the English Ahead of the Rest League (or EARL if you’d rather).
Simply put, the EARL is the second most important competition we enter behind the Premier League. It’s ahead of the Cups quite simply because it earns us promotion – reaching the Champion’s League is the present-day equivalent of being promoted from the bog-standard old Premier League.
Once we get there we can argue all day about whether the PL or CL is more important, but for now, assuming we are not quite up to winning the Premier League, EARL is as good as it’s going to get.
How about some food for thought?
The first leg of the round of 32 will be on February 16 – or in other words just after the home league game against Newcastle and two days before the FA Cup Fifth Round weekend.
The second leg, a week later on February 23, would be just three days before Arsenal away.
Still playing King, Bale, Parker, Modric and Manu in Portugal on Thursday night are you? I do hope not.
The first leg of the Round of 16 on March 8 is sandwiched between Man United at home and Everton away with the second leg the following week falling just before either Stoke at home or the FA Cup quarter-final.
You see where I’m going with this yeah?
Quarter-finals: March 29 and April 5 – the first leg is just after Chelsea away (this year!!!) and just before Swansea at home while the second leg precedes a trip to Sunderland.
Seen a PL game we couldn’t do with winning yet? Me neither.
First leg of the semi-final on April 19 falls betweeen trips to Bolton and QPR, (unless we make the semi-final of the FA Cup, in which case we’ll play that instead of Bolton), with the following week’s second leg a few days before Blackburn visit the Lane.
I know we all want to finish the season on a high with a nice day out at a showpiece Cup Final, don’t we?
Well you won’t even get that with the Europa. Spurs fans would have to leave for Bucharest almost as soon as our away game at Villa (or our FA Cup Final at Wembley, of course) has finished, with the Europa Final scheduled for Wednesday, May 9.
No night out at Faces for the lads though, win-or-lose, because the final game of the Premier League season at home to Fulham is less than four days later, and who knows, it might just be the EARL decider.
By Alex Hoad
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