Like most Spurs fans, I have learnt, through bitter experience, to avoid mentioning the ‘H’ word. ‘Hope.’ (Sorry, had to mention it there in case anyone doesn’t know what I’m talking about but I promise not to do it again). Because we’ve all learnt that, invariably, when that word is ever mentioned in connection with Spurs, it is accompanied by the word ‘dashed.’ It doesn’t matter whether said dashing has been caused by a dodgy lasagne before a crucial game at West Ham, Bayern Munich’s inexplicable capitulation to Chelsea in the European Champions League final or just by our carelessly throwing away a 13 point advantage over the Arse enema, the result – Harry’s one glorious late season run into 4th excepted – has been the same: promise unfulfilled.
Mauricio Pochettino’s utterings regarding our chances have, on the whole, been good; wary of raising false expectations, repeating his ‘keep working hard’/’look to the next game’ mantra. But it’s getting harder. Media pundits, latching on to the fact that few teams apart from ourselves and Leicester are playing with any consistency, keep talking our chances up. Gary Lineker has been almost orgasmic seeing his two favourite ex-teams (never hear him talk about Everton much, do we) doing so well. People have started talking about qualities Spurs have never been known for in the past: hard work, closing opponents down high up the pitch, fighting to regain possession, athleticism, never say die attitude, team spirit, youth, strength in depth. And also, lest we forget, the sort of qualities we used to be associated with but lost during the AVB – and, to be fair, the early Poch days – quick, forward passing and creating loads of chances.
That last sentence is perhaps why we shouldn’t run away with ourselves. By all accounts, and certainly as far as I could tell from the highlights on MOTD on Saturday, we dominated Watford to the extent that they barely registered a shot while we stormed forward and peppered their goal. And we won 1-0, with a goal scored by a full back in the 64th minute.
A few weeks earlier, we dominated the first 30 minutes away to Everton so much that their own fans started booing as it looked as if we were the home side – and yet they took the lead and we needed a brilliant Alli goal to claw it back. The two home defeats to Newcastle and Leicester have also been against the run of play but a direct result of our not finishing opponents off. And in games we have won, we’ve often needed some brilliant goalkeeping from Lloris, or a bit of luck with the woodwork, at crucial, potential turning points.
I don’t want this to sound overly negative; God knows I have been – sometimes with much justification – in the past. It’s true that all teams who win things need good goalkeepers and some luck at the right times, and nobody thinks about that once the trophy’s locked up in the display cabinet. And, in fact, I’ve been delighted with some of the football we’ve played and, we shouldn’t forget, we have the best goal difference in the league, based on a good defensive record and a high goal tally. I also love the fact that Pochettino is giving so many young players a run out and that they are all responding well; I’d much rather that than constantly looking overseas for some ready-made, so-called star (and look where that got us in the past). It is the best we’ve played for a long long time and, if we are sometimes failing to kill teams off, the good news is that they are not killing us off either.
One thing I cannot see happening on Sunday at City is us going out already frightened and acting like rabbits caught in the headlights and being run over after only 30 seconds or so, then reversed over and run over a few more times for good measure. We may suffer a City backlash after their defeat to Leicester but I’m confident we won’t just lay down and die. That in itself is a massive improvement on the past few seasons.
But I do have one more worry. A few days ago I saw on the Spurs-web that Pochettino had not only talked about our growing sense of belief but also mention the dreaded ‘T’ word. Yes, the TITLE! One thing we should all know by now is that whenever Spurs – whether it’s the fans, the manager, or players, or ex-players (talking of which, Sol ‘sell-out Tory boy’ Campbell can fuck off and thanks to Graham Roberts for telling him so) – start mentioning the possibility of us challenging for the title we become like Icarus flying too close to the sun and we plummet to earth. So, much as I loathe that clichéd goal celebration that so many players adopt now, as if their poxy tap-in will silence all their critics, I’m going to borrow it for a word of advice. I’m going to metaphorically run towards Mauricio with my finger to my lips and bellow; ‘Shssssssh. Don’t mention the ‘T’ word. Just get the boys to keep working hard.
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