A look back, and then forward to the final

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

When the season started, what did we expect? The League or a trophy or two or all? I believed we could, again, be in the top four, but with a much higher position than we eventually got. I also thought that we could win a trophy or three.

By the time Man United came along in August, I had thought we were up to winning the title or at least had a good fighting chance (I know, too early to predict).

We beat United 3-0 on their own ground (some argued that this was the beginning of a shit season for United and the eventual loss of their manager… but I say that their season started dive when they employed Mourinho). We won the United game, and the world looked like it was our oyster.

Then along comes pint-sized ol’ Watford to give us a good kicking between the legs (oh, are!). But never mind, we thought, just a blip, until we took on Liverpool at Wembley (who eventually finished second). Little did we know that that blip was going to continue beyond Liverpool, and cause considerable wabbles at the Champions League group stage.

Christmas came and went, and so did the League Cup (being knocked out in the semi-finals by Chelsea on penalties). At least we still had the FA cup to advance our ambitions with…. Erm, no, we got knocked out in the first round by Palace, away. Another dead end! But Pochettino didn’t seem worried about pathetic domestic trophies, he had his eye on bigger fish.

We scrapped through the Champions League, it seemed only a matter of time before we were dumped out of that competition as well (at least on Champions League form). Which would have left the Premier League for any possible glory.

But the Dortmund game, home and away, gave us four goals on aggregate. Were we ready to dream that impossible dream? Or was this another great result before the hiccups came in droves again.

The league ended up being a roller coaster ride, mainly downwards, but lucky for us our downward projection wasn’t as steep as United’s and our old muckers, the dopy Gunner wanderers. They were shooting past us, faster than a ferret up a trouser leg in search of rancid nuts. That all ended (the season) with us slipping from our comfortable position in 3rd to fourth. Above us was City, Liverpool and now Chelsea. While below us in the deep pool of dung infested swamp of despair were the two red ink spots on the landscape of the Premier League.

Never mind, we thought, we’ve still got our Champions final ahead of us. And it is never over until the Grim Reaper has finally swiped his scythe over his victims’ necks, to leave the winners standing in the pool of the victim’s own blood.

The fickle finger of fate can be a funny old fickle finger of fate, so-much-so that we were drawn against the favourites, and eventual winners of the triple (League, FA & League Cups), Manchester City. Not only that but they had and will do, beat us three times over the season. City, of course, were one of the favourites to lift the European Champions League trophy, so we were doomed. The writing was already on their prize, which would have made four-trophies for them.

Our first encounter, in the Champions League, was at our new home. We had just beaten Palace to baptise our new stadium. City were bigger fish than the tiddly sprog of a thing (Palace, that is). But miracles can and do happen… and our motto is “if we can’t win by conventional means then smash your way through,” erm… actually, not that one, but “Audere est Facere.” Yes, To Dare is To Do. And through our history, we’ve indeed Dared. And we dared to give the favourites a bloody nose and let them leave our new home one-goal down.

But never mind, the critics yelled, they’ve (that is us) still got to go to their fortress and get hammered by them. And in a pulsating game, they beat us… erm… well, not according to VAR, according to that piece of technology, where they were forced to sit in agonising silence (after great fanfare and love-ins after they thought they had put the nail in our coffin). They waited, we waited, and the referee finally signalled that their goal wasn’t a goal at all, but an offside attempt to trickle their way through to the Semi-Finals. I/ our fans went ballistic. Unbelievable. Out of this world and to top it all the referee finally blew his whistle to say that, yes, we were the actual winners over two legs and would go through to the next stage, the Semi-Finals.

Again, Ajax were the favourites. This time the darlings would show us whose name was on the trophy, theirs. They came to our new stadium and stole our dreams in the guise of a 1-0 victory, and more importantly, an away goal advantage. Well, there you go. It was all over. The writing was in the critics’ scribblings. The Final was going to see Ajax face Barcelona (Barcelona had beaten Liverpool by 3-0 the previous night) in the other quarter-finals.

We were out, Liverpool were out, and it was all over for English clubs, that is in the proper European competition (we are not talking about Donald Ducks quackers Europa parade, as that was for demented ducks).

Ajax and Barcelona were to play the tedious second legged game, then to the final. Was it worth them turning up?
The night before our game, we sat and hoped to watch Liverpool being hammered by Barcelona. At least that will put a smile to our faces. Nobody is going to come back from a 3-0 goal drubbing. After all, Barcelona were the kings of Europe and their name were on the trophy (and they had Messi to boot). To cut a long story short…

After Barcelona’s great victory (irony!) the night before, to progress to the finals, it was Ajax’s turn to humiliate us.

Before the first half had even ended, we were in the same position as Liverpool, three goals down (on aggregate). So it was all over…. All we had left now was a chance to keep our third spot position in the league.

Some of the fans had already left the stadium to drink away their sorrows by half-time. Others stayed to face the music. At least we had a good innings. No disgrace ending at the Semi-Final’s door. After all, the great double Spurs team got just as far before succumbing to the great Benfica side. No disgrace at all!

The crowd was muted, not surprising really, by the end of the first half. The writing was on the toilet walls for us (as the journalists and pundits keep writing it… as I had said before!). That is how the critics expected it to end, along with the Ajax supporters and most of the viewers around the world. But if anything, Spurs are resilient (and bloody lucky)…

So, we approach the second half with the inevitable before us. A bit like a slow-motion car crash being played out in real time, or at least that is what everybody was thinking, apart from the few buoyant Spurs supporters.

Ten minutes after the interval up pops Moura to score our first goal… but still, 3-1 to them overall. No thoughts of miracles at that point. Four minutes followed the first goal and up pops Moura again with his second… but… no, not possible. Then because of added time we get an extra 5 minutes. That extra five minutes were quickly up, and they were still winning, but because of the time wasting by their goalkeeper even more added time was given.

We were all looking at our watches and the referee, then out of the blue Moura gets his third, making it 3-3 overall. We went into a total frenzy.

Pochettino and everybody else couldn’t believe what they were witnessing. Tears were abundant, even the Ajax fans and players, but for different reasons. Then it was all over. We had managed to get to the final of the most celebrated club competition in the world. And against all the odds.

Well, that was the easy part. Now we must face Liverpool, odds on favourites to win the competition. The same odds on favourites that Dortmund, City and Ajax had over us.

Two teams that were considered dead in the water in their first leg, but came back from the dead to reach the final. A miracle some claimed. Now we wait for another miracle, this time only one of the miracle finalists will go on to achieve that greater miracle, and I believe it can be us.

Ever since Daniel Levy came to the club, followed by Pochettino, the writing was on the wall, even though the professional journalist and cynics mocked, we the fans and club raised above their cynicism and looked towards the skies and beyond, to where Bill Nicholson was looking down on us… and we knew that our time would come. That this day would be here in our lifetime. And it is… at least the first part… the second will be to lift that trophy…


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