In his famous poem ‘If’, Rudyard Kipling asserts that one of the principle qualities required of a true ‘man’ is the ability to “meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same”. Now, I’m guessing (and not just because it’s hard to imagine that there are many ‘Rudyards’ cheering on their teams and gleefully abusing the opposition and the men in black in grounds up and down the country every week) that he wasn’t much of a football fan. Just how would that advice look in practice? Spurs’ fans cheering dementedly as Liverpool walk all over us at the Lane, perhaps? Or everyone sitting on their hands, bearing totally blank expressions as we win (again) at Old Trafford ( OK, I accept that Daniel Levy is not the best example here)? No – when you first pledge your allegiance to a football club, whether by indoctrination as a babe-in-arms when ‘baby’s first club bobble hat’ is stuck on your head by a cruel parent or by choice a bit later in life ( I only adopted Spurs as ‘my team’ aged 12 when a group of friends took me to see them play Burnley in late 1966 or early 1967), you effectively sign-up to the full bi-polar experience: glorious highs and terrible lows. Highs and lows, moreover, that are incomprehensible to the uninitiated (“But does it have to ruin your whole weekend, love?”).
Of course, the two imposters Rudyard speaks of mean different things to different groups of fans. Thus, Man.Utd., likely to finish 7th, or 6th if we, heaven forbid, fuck-up one or both of our last two games, have this year met with Mr. Disaster. The betrayal by Gods unaware of their divine right to win or at least threaten to win the title and qualify for the Champions’ League every season has led to the red side of Manchester, not to mention half of London, reverberating to the sound of wailing and the gnashing of prawn sandwich-encrusted teeth and the sight of grown men throwing themselves under buses (not the sort parked so inconsiderately at Anfield recently by Mr. Mourinho), and a former playing legend known for throwing himself under wives and girlfriends (not necessarily his own) being appointed for the rest of the season while the corpse of ‘the crucified one’ is still warm (if it ever was).
Meanwhile, over in the red side of North London, a certain club rejoices at meeting Mr.Triumph in the shape of another 4th place to go alongside all the others it’s collected over the last 11 or 12 seasons in its trophy cabinet. (Yes, I know they’ve also got an FA Cup final coming up but I’m hopeful that the same Gods who have deserted Man. Utd will shower their goodwill on the underdogs again this year, so that the cup will go to a team that will really treat it as a triumph rather than to one for which it will be seen as a mere consolation prize – COYFS (that’s ‘Come On You Former Spurs).
Elsewhere, Crystal Palace will no doubt consider it a triumph that their Premier League status has been secured four games ahead of schedule while the fans of whichever of the other five or six teams manage to drag themselves out of the relegation mire will (at least initially) view their seasons similarly, while those whose teams don’t will inevitably cry ‘disaster.’ At the other end of the table, there’s already a feeling, at least if the media coverage and close-ups of anguished players’ and fans’ expressions are to be believed, that Liverpool, a club which last year didn’t even qualify for European competition, might sadly view a 2nd place finish this season, if not exactly as a disaster (and a team that knows what the genuine article looks like would surely not demean the term, certainly not in the year when they’ve held such a dignified anniversary tribute), at least as something less than the triumph it ought to be for them.
My point is that ‘Triumph and Disaster’ are relative terms. For us, go back a few years, particularly to that season where it took the second coming of Jurgen Klinsmann to save us from relegation, and I’d warrant that most fans then would have would viewed a 5th or 6th place finish as something of a triumph. However, we’ve long since forgotten those dark days, plenty of managers have floated under the bridge, and, now that we’ve tasted a 4th place and Champions League football under Harry a few years back, and spent a good bit of money with the intention of sipping from that holy grail on a regular basis since then, no amount of bleating from Tim Sherwood about how 72 points if we win our last two games will equal our best ever Premiership points total and make him the best manager in Spurs’ history ( I may have paraphrased him a bit here) will persuade anyone at the Lane, at least outside his ego-balloon, that this season hasn’t tipped more towards the disastrous end of the scale. Ok, I know I’m exaggerating and what I’m really talking about is another season of huge under-achievement rather than disaster. That being said, a number of our matches certainly deserve mini-disaster status – the obvious ones such as home and away to Liverpool and Man. City, the away defeat to Chelsea, and the inability to score even one goal in three games against the Arse-enema, but also the shocking and inexplicable 3 – 0 defeat at home to West Ham. I know Tim wasn’t at the helm for all of these but his failure to learn from the shit performances in the others under AVB surely counts against him. What’s more, we’ve got West Ham again on Saturday, with self-declared tactical genius Sam Allardyce fighting for his managerial life, and we all know what usually happens when Tim publicly talks up our chances of winning – blunt attack allied to some of what, in the spirit of this article, I shall call ‘iffy’ defending.
Anyway, regardless of whether we finish 6th or 7th, on 66 or 72 points, it’s time now to reflect on this season and look forward to next, and I’d hazard a guess that the word ‘If’ is in the forefront of many fans’ minds. With regards to this season, if only we’d kept our best players – why, oh why, did we let Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore go to Hull? (Only kidding). If only Tim Sherwood could, just once or twice, have taken a leaf out of
Jose Mourinho’s book and parked a bus rather than Delboy’s clapped-out old three-wheeler in front of some of those free-scoring attacks. As for next season, if :-
Daniel Levy this time appoints someone with experience, stature, tactical nous, organisational skills and a winning pedigree rather than just someone who’s shown some potential by having a middling season with a middling team (for those who clamour for Pocchetino, just look at what happened to Michael Laudrup in his second season) or someone who hails from the same part of the world as a good manager and has an interesting name or, worst of all, one of our rival’s rejects ( no name-check needed here, I’m sure);
said manager can find out what Baldini does and decide whether he’s a Mr. Triumph-in- waiting or the Mr.Disaster-in-practice many of us suspect him to be;
he can keep our best players, get those we signed last season either playing to their potential or shipped-out, further develop our promising young players (Sherwood definitely deserves some credit here) and make some astute signings;
then maybe we, too, can look forward to a trophy cabinet like our friends in the north (of London), bedecked with 4th place certificates every year, or even emulate Liverpool’s massive leap this season. After all, ‘to dare is to do’ isn’t it?
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