I understand that in the knockabout pantomime jeering between rival football supporters it is necessary to deride the success of one’s adversary and inflate the prowess of one’s own chosen team. I get it. It’s the reason fans of Mansfield and Crewe can, without any discernible trace of irony, both sing that they are watching ‘by far the greatest team the world has ever seen’. It is part of the charm of the game.
Unfortunately when this same instinct is filtered through the prism of social media there is a more desperate edge to the banter. The desire to somehow be proven right is almost overwhelming and, sadly, it leads to us being made to look chumps at times.
I have always championed consistency above all else in football, it’s one of the reasons I rate Arsène Wenger so highly as a manager and the principal reason I am cautious of elevating every other coach who’s club enjoys a rare visit to the top four.
Very often a league campaign will throw up an unlikely contender. A side from the middle or lower orders will perform way above themselves. I recall Villa, Newcastle, Everton and Liverpool all having stand out seasons like this and of course we all know what happened with Leicester.
The salient factor is that they almost never repeat the feat. Getting there is incredibly tough, staying there almost impossible. Even super wealthy clubs with a short or long history of success find themselves struggling on occasions and for any side to break into the elite and stay there takes some doing.
It looks likely that Tottenham will finish above Arsenal this season. I hope it won’t happen today because we need to maintain our recent run of results to build confidence in the lead up to the cup final and keep the pressure on those above us. But realistically it looks like it’ll happen at some point between now and May 21st.
If it does it will mean that Pochettino has done the hardest job. He has followed a season where his side challenged for the title and pushed Arsenal to the wire with another where once again Spurs has been the only consistent challengers to the presumptive champions and may well go one better than its closest rival.
It is a real achievement and by rubbishing it we only make ourselves look foolish. One reason it’s a real achievement is because finishing above Arsène Wenger is no easy matter. He has proven to be one of the very best managers the country has ever seen and any side finishing higher that his either wins silverware or gets into the Champion’s League. Of course journalists and others hostile to our club will exaggerate the significance of Spurs’ success, but guess what; that need not upset you because no one forces you to listen to them or read what they write.
The derby is a massive game for both clubs given their ambitions in the league. Geographical and historical rivalry make it a huge occasion for local fans, for other supporters around the world it lacks that particular, visceral intensity. It matters because it’s another top club and they are above us in the league. It’s a tough away fixture at a time when we’d rather be pouring goals into the opposition net against someone less able to wound us.
I had a good feeling about Man City which was eventually borne out, similarly Leicester, no matter how late we left it, always seemed winnable. Today I just can’t read the tea leaves. We know that Spurs have suffered under pressure recently but their experiences last season will stand them in good stead this time around. That’s where consistency comes in, it feeds experience and know-how into the mix.
However, if we praise Pochettino for his two seasons dining at the top table, and we should, then how much more highly must we value our own manager who has achieved the same or similar again and again and has done so not for two years but for two decades?
I haven’t given up on the Champion’s League place yet and I’ll bet the players haven’t either. Today is a chance to close the gap on at least one of the teams standing in our way. If it also staves off the spectre of a reverse St Tott’s then that’s no bad thing either. The atmosphere will be hostile to say the least, the opposition as excited at their chances as a monk sitting on a washing machine. It’s up to us to spoil the party.
We need to turn that expectation to nervousness, convert excitement to impatience, get under their skin and irritate them. Oh, and while we’re at it scoring more goals than them might not be a bad idea.
If you’re going to the game please stay safe. I’ve managed to pull a 10 till 5 shift today so have to decide between watching the second half live or waiting and seeing the whole thing tomorrow. It’s a tough choice, although my chances of avoiding the result are minimal as I’ll be at another football match and, well, you know how people around you like to discuss the other games taking place.
Speaking of work, I’d better get going; enjoy the game and if I don’t catch you later I’ll see you next Sunday for Man United.