We Spurs fans like a good moan. Whether it’s a dodgy refereeing decision at Old Trafford (there’s been a few!) or the lack of English players at the ‘other’ club down the Seven Sisters Road, there’s always something that gets us whinging down the pub.
Maybe it’s because of late we’ve been overshadowed by our north London neighbours. Maybe it’s because we’re underachievers. Maybe we just think we’re bigger than we actually are? I’ve always felt aggrieved that I never lived through Tottenham’s glory years – those of Nicholson, Blanchflower, Ardiles, Hoddle et al.
I can’t help thinking we were on the very cusp of a return to those glory years. Trophies in the cabinet, tabloid journalists purring at our attacking play, and an end to the perennial playground/office bullying that comes as a result of being 3-0 up at home against ten-man Manchester City at half time and being 4-3 down at the final whistle (Oh yes, those kind of results stay with you till your dying breath).
Since Martin Jol took the reins in 2004, Spurs have been on the up. There’s been one trophy in the cabinet, albeit the League Cup, and a debut in the Champions League. Dazzling displays of attacking football that have had the journalists scrambling for the bandwagon, and the playground bullies all of a sudden want to be our best pals.
Yet a return to the dark days of mid-table mundaneness is firmly on the cards. Who can I blame this time? Not Arsenal, not Chelsea, not United, not even West Ham, but Manchester City. Here’s the reason…
After years of exile from the big time, Tottenham were finally pulling their socks up – physically, figuratively, and financially. But along comes Mr Money Bags Sheikh Mansour to ruin our day in the sun. I can’t begrudge City their rise to power, because they have suffered in a larger, darker shadow for much longer, but I can begrudge them when their rise to power sends us packing from the Champions League. There we were; a cockerel beginning to loudly crow, making inroads into the top four cartel, at the heels of Liverpool and Arsenal, I dare say? But now rises the Blue Moon to cast us into a sort of…well…pale, insipid obscurity.
It’s true that unlike the miserly and miserable Alan ‘Your Fired’ Sugar, Daniel Levy has been pretty good to us – like a father treating his son every now and again with the latest, neatest toys, a few of which get cast aside once we realise they’re not as neat as we first thought (Darren Bent, David Bentley anybody?). But City’s owner is like the rich dad who spoils his suckling children with everything they ever want. “Daddy, can we have Tevez? Can we have Toure? Can we have Aguero? Pleeeeaase. Oh and, Edin Dzeko is quite fashionable at the moment – since you’ve got your wallet out, we’ll have him too”. If you haven’t already got the point, here it is…
City’s spending has blown Spurs (and everyone else) out of the water. We may have beaten them to the elusive 4th place in 2010, but it only delayed the inevitable. And now, by denying us a return to the Champions League, they’ve loosened our dual grip on the tails of Arsenal and Liverpool. A place amongst the big boys was there to be taken, but the timing of our modest rise couldn’t have been worse, for it coincided with a Blue Moon hell-bent on total eclipse. This only serves to remind us of what could have been if not for a dodgy Lasagne on the night of Saturday 6 May, 2006. Would our place in the top-four elite have been cemented by now? Highly unlikely, I suppose. But then we Spurs fan are a pessimistic bunch.
Liverpool, United and Chelsea will all continue to spend. Even Arsenal will have to depart with some of their carefully guarded cash to keep up. As for Spurs, Villa, Everton and Newcastle, those nearly men of the Premier League era, all we can hope for is a generous, petro-dollar rich sugar-daddy of our own.
Or will we be saved by financial fair play? Too late, the horse has bolted – £400m over 10 years for the ‘Etihad Stadium’? That should be enough to keep the rest of us jostling for mediocre talent with the kind of money the Sheikh finds down the back of the sofa. For Spurs, a crumb of comfort might be found in a revamped White Hart Lane. And in a final, bitter note, we’ll always have Peter Crouch’s 82nd minute winner at Eastlands to hark back to. That and Ricky Villa’s fabulous solo goal in the ’81 Cup Final, of course…
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