Updated: May 10
So it’s match day, and can any fan want anything else but a win? For Spurs fans today, if you take soundings in some quarters, it’s one of the strangest and most complicated matchdays ever. According to some, we need to lose, to avoid qualifying for a competition that will damage our chances of qualifying for another competition we didn’t try in this season and probably won’t win next. We need to increase our chances of winning something by losing, so that we are in fewer competitions and can concentrate on not winning the ones that are left, because if we try too hard we might compromise our chances of qualifying for more competitions. Which we need to do even though the more competitions we are in the less chance we have of winning any of them. If indeed we even want to win them in the first place.
This is the contorted logic of modern football, a sport that needs teams to do well enough rather than to win. Being Spurs, further complexities are piled on top, because our form — or lack of it—at Wembley has made a rod for our backs. And then there’s the whole home games at Wembley thing too. It’s never simple at Spurs.
For me, it is. I want a good performance at Wembley, one that entertains us. I want a win to take us into the Europa League and give us confidence for our trip to Old Trafford on Sunday. I want us to play the best team available, I don’t believe modern footballers are incapable of playing two games in a week. And if we get into the Europa League, I want us to take it seriously.
I can almost hear the keyboards being bashed as I, er, bash my keyboard. But I’m a fan. And I want my team to do well. what’s wrong with that?
Of course this Champions League campaign has been, well, it’s been shit really, hasn’t it? The two home games so far have been bloody awful, Moscow was OK, half of Leverkusen reasonable, and Monaco a disgrace. Quite how the players have failed to motivate themselves for the competition that is supposed to be the ultimate stage is a mystery. If getting top four in the league to qualify for Europe is such a big deal, surely the point is to do something once you qualify?
Some say it’s all gone wrong because we played at Wembley. So what happened in Germany and in Monaco then? Can’t blame Wembley for that. Apparently, because Arsenal didn’t do well when they played home games there, that means no one does well when they play home games there. Look up the definition of apophenia. It’s more common than you may think, and most simply explained by referring to gamblers who insist they see patterns in random occurences. The only conclusions to draw from Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur’s poor form at Wembley is that neither played well. The stadium didn’t stop the players playing, and the fact remains that winning a cup entails winning at least one game at Wembley. So there’s no getting around it.
Making Wembley the scapegoat also fits the agenda of those who believe the club only moved home games there because of greed. I’ve heard the phrase “We would have won those games at White Hart Lane” more than once, but that’s an opinion, not a fact — much as we like to blur the distinction in these challenging times. The fact, tricky things, those, is that we could not have played at White Hart Lane anyway. Champions League regulations meant the stadium didn’t meet requirements and even if rules could have been bent, getting every season ticket holder in would have been a challenge at best. As for members — no chance. So the argument is academic.
Of course, as we’re seeing, if you’re determined to believe something you’ll not be dissuaded by inconvenient facts. So if you believe the club are a bunch of moneygrabbers then the fact that renting one stadium while running another must be more expensive than simply running one stadium will make no difference. And nor will the fact that having no stadium in which to play a competition you’ve qualified for doesn’t exactly give you a strong negotiating position.
Of course, manager Mauricio Pochettino’s shall we say intriguing team selection for the must-win game against Monaco that we lost — incidentally not at Wembley, another fact there — has also added to the general tumult. I’m a big fan of our manager but even I have to admit I’m confused by the message that team selection sent out. It was a Champions League game. The ultimate competition, so we’re told. We had to win. Simple. So play the best team. Even if we’re playing the form team in another competition in that competition next. Win the game in front of you, don’t play based on what might happen next. Even if we’d beaten Chelsea after rotating the team, that would just have been three points early in a competition with a long way to go. Don’t get me wrong, three points at Stamford Bridge would have been immense. But Monaco was a must win to stay in the Champions League. And in the end we lost both. I don’t get it.
Much as I’m a Poch fan, being a promising manager only lasts so long. He needs to win something. And there’s a suspicion that he doesn’t really see the cups as a big deal. Although not seing the Champions League as a big deal is a surprise. That doesn’t mean I believe he, or any professional, ever goes into a game not wanting to win. But I’m not entirely convinced from what I’ve seen of Poch’s approach to cup competitions over a couple of seasons.
So there are question marks to wipe out, unwanted runs that need breaking–six straight defeats at Wembley, come on! Whichever way you look at it, we need a win. I don’t believe losing breeds a winning mentality. And I don’t agree with those who say teams who qualify for the Europa league don’t do well in the Premier League. Last season we made the last 16 of the Europa and achieved our best finish ever while playing some of the best football I’ve seen since the Burkinshaw years. I want us to qualify for the Europa League, but I want us to take the bloody thing seriously if we do. Otherwise what’s the point?
And to help us do that I hope we turn up in number again. Of course attendance records don’t win trophies, but I’m proud of the fact that we’ve broken records aplenty. It shows everyone what we’ve always known about the dedication of our fans, and those who choose to belittle that really are just looking for something to complain about. I hear a lot about how so many fans who want tickets can’t get them and I know demand far outstrips supply. But here’s the chance for 85,000+ to see the Spurs. And if you’re asking what’s the point, the answer is that it’s Spurs and it’s a game we need to win for all the reasons outlined above.
I want a good performance at Wembley, one that entertains us. I want a win to take us into the Europa League and give us confidence for our trip to Old Trafford on Sunday. I want us to play the best team available, I don’t believe modern footballers are incapable of playing two games in a week. And if we get into the Europa League, I want us to take it seriously.
Simple. I’ll be there tonight.