The Best of Times; the Worst of Times

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Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

In years gone by there used to be a feeling amongst Spurs supporters, or certainly those that I knew, that no matter how bad our season, it would be totally redeemed if we beat Arsenal. Of course, beating Arsenal at home is still the single most important match of the season and beating them away, the second most important. But times have changed and beating Arsenal is no longer the litmus test of how good our season has been; our horizons have expanded. These days it is more a case of just dealing with Arsenal twice per season, so that we can concentrate on more exciting and demanding adventures such as challenging for the Premier League or the Champions League, objectives which, as it happens, are now both way out of Arsenal’s reach.

Before Saturday’s derby I took the opportunity to skim some of the Arsenal fanzine forums to understand both their mood and their reaction to the big match. What a difference from the positive, optimistic tone on Spurs forums. The comments covered every aspect of the club but none of them was positive; an owner who is remote from the club, power struggles at Board level, an autocratic manager past his prime, players not committed and trying to get away, an academy not producing the new talent required, expensive players not fulfilling their potential …….and so it went on….and on…. not a single optimistic or approving comment. Once the fans get despondent and frustrated to this degree then the club has a real problem because they are the club’s largest resource, the longest serving resource and the resource which is expected to provide stability and resilience when everything around them starts to wobble. Owners, managers and players are all free to move on, or in some cases be moved on, and to form new relationships and loyalties, but that is not a luxury available to fans. For them, there is a simple rule- once a supporter always a supporter, trapped by their unswerving loyalty and condemned to continue supporting their team no matter how difficult or painful that can be. When times are good, they are very good; but when they are bad, they are so much worse.

As we went into Saturday’s game at the Emirates, traditional roles were reversed; Spurs were the favourites with Arsenal hoping to give their fans something to cheer about after lacklustre performances. The fact that Spurs lost was hugely disappointing but don’t be misled by Arsenal raising their game for the derby match-this is a temporary respite only; their owner still has little interest except financial, there is no unity at Board level, players still want to leave and expensive new signings block the way of home grown talent.    

For Spurs fans it undoubtedly means taking stick for a day or two but they must get over that quickly because these are good times with the prospect of much more to come. As the club’s largest and most loyal resource, they must re-double the role they play and the motivation they provide. Playing Arsenal is no longer the make-or-break match of the season and Spurs fans should not be distracted or dismayed by one disappointing result. Instead they should remain buoyed in their optimism and support by brilliant club management, a brilliant manager and brilliant players with more coming through. For Arsenal, the pain endured by many of their supporters will have been at least partially assuaged by beating Spurs. Unfortunately for them, their ‘high’ will be short-lived as they remain trapped by their long-standing loyalty and the knowledge that day by day their club’s arthritic regime is failing to remedy transparent problems. Even though they won a derby game, slowly but surely they continue to drift. Undoubtedly, in my opinion, the best and worst of times lie ahead for each club – tomorrow is another day.

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