First Touch

Still No Glory For Tottenham Hotspur

Well, that was the end of yet another empty season at Tottenham Hotspur. But, admit it, haven’t they been just great to watch?

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By Derek Ross

Everyone loves them. They love Ange. They love Son, they love Maddison and some even smile benignly on Cristian Romero. Everyone loves the footballing buckle being swashed. And the pundits of course love the style.  And my what style it is!

A football team conducting a celestial choreography as luminous orbs pirouette amidst the ebony expanse. Those grey dull days of Antonio Conte, and Jose Mourinho are but a painful, forgettable chapter of yore.  Ange Postecoglu is the man who now occupies the aching hearts of Tottenham fans across the globe. Fans for whom winning something, anything has become a scar of desperation of the soul.

For more years than any of them care to be reminded, they have been locked in a tempest of anguish and yearning that has ensnared their very spirit in its unforgiving grasp. For the first nine games of this current campaign Spurs were the most beautiful girl in the room.

Son scored for fun. Bissouma looked like that commanding midfield presence that had been stolen away from Brighton. Romero took chances but not prisoners, Maddison surely the buy of the season, and then Mickey Van Der Vin, a serious contender for any one hundred metre gold medals but who can play a bit and usually stops anything that crosses his or anybody else’s path. 

Contenders for the Premier League. Surely a cup and definitely Champions League shoe-ins. Even Roy Keane was convinced, and Gary Neville has conducted a public love-in with the club on almost every occasion he was co-commentator on any of their fixtures.

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Another Empty Season For Spurs

Alas, as is so often the case in this particular corner of North London, another season has ended in yet more fractured remnants of aspirations, scattered like stardust across the desolate expanse of disillusionment. Spurs have, arguably, the finest football stadium in world football, the finest training facilities in the Premier League.

They used to employ a certain Harry Kane who can barely piss without scoring a goal. They have Son. They have Maddison and Destiny Udogie. Not too long ago they had Luka Modric, the finest midfield player of his generation. They had Cristian Erikson. They once had Michael Carrick. They once had Kyle Walker who now hasn’t enough space in his home for all of his accumulated silverware.

Spurs have always had good players within their ranks and their fair share of world class ones in men like Modric, Bale, Lloris, Son and Kane of course.

They had Jose Mourinho. They had Antonio Conte. Serial winners who couldn’t administer enough medicine to cure the Tottenham virus of non-achievement. But surely there had to be an antidote?

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Ange Ball To The Rescue

And then suddenly there it was. The antidote was ‘Angeball.’ And boy isn’t ‘Angeball’ great to watch? And let’s be honest. Isn’t football played at its best supposed to be beautiful? A woven tapestry of collective artistry that enraptures the senses and stirs the soul with its visceral splendour.

Audere est Facere is the club’s Latin motto. ‘To Dare is to Do.’ Regrettably, there has been plenty of daring but not much doing unless of course you include Cristian Romero who will ‘do’ anyone who comes within six feet of him! 

And let it not be forgotten that the beautiful Tottenham Hotspur stadium screams it from the stadium banner, ‘The Game is About Glory.’  Yes, indeed it is. But for Spurs, glory is but a starless sky and a continuing haunting melody of unfulfilled promise, a void that longs to be filled.  Glory currently resides at Manchester City who have been drowning in it season after season. Another league title, making it four on the spin. Liverpool still feels the warmth of glory’s embrace. Chelsea and Manchester United have taken long sips from Glory’s chalice, and Arsenal were painfully close to reacquainting themselves with its delicious flavour.

For Tottenham Hotspur however, glory is the missing child who not only refuses to come home but adamantly refuses to divulge his whereabouts. Team after team, and manager after manager has sought the child out. Millions upon millions have been shelled out on the search. Missing persons were called. The police have been forever on the lookout. Managerial bounty hunters were brought in to track him down. Nothing worked. Even a brand-new home was built to welcome him home and yet… the club remains a giant jigsaw puzzle with half of the pieces still missing, and nobody can ever recall the picture on the lid of the box.

Next Season Will Be Different

There have been promising signs. Tantalizing glimpses above the knee of the raised skirt of what might have been if only the club hadn’t got so many injuries to crucial players at crucial times, and if only Romero could have remained a consummate defender instead of an unexploded bomb!

And yet the club has the unfortunate tendency of holding on to sub-par players for long after it has become evident that those players are not at the requisite level to move the dial. And it should not be forgotten that it took the club forever to realise that Harry Winks just didn’t possess sufficient skill to play in midfield at the level the club aspired to.

Among the current squad, players like Oliver Skipp, Emerson, Bryan Gil, Pap Sarr, Rodrigo Bentancur and Pierre Emile Hojberg are decent but are they really good enough to challenge those above them. Richarlason has shown some improvement but is he ever going to score twenty league goals in any season. As is always the case there will probably be two, and certainly no more than three, purchases during the summer transfer window. But the standard is likely to be another reflection of the club’s transfer and wage structure which Daniel Levy protects with all the verve of a lion protecting its kill.

That wage structure is directly related to the club’s league position, so finishing fifth in the table this season when the club has the sixth largest wage bill is an overachievement of sorts. Ange might have brought back some glorious football but losing twelve games out of thirty-eight with, yet another trophy-less season doesn’t feel glorious.

And so, it ends. The end of another trudge through thirty-eight games towards another hollow finale. The story had a new, bright beginning but alas the ending remained the same. Next year of course it will be different. Because you always have to believe that it will be different. But at the Lane, different has a plethora of possible meanings.

Tottenham Hotspur will play second tier European football next season and Postecoglu, like every predecessor,  will ask Daniel Levy for yet more millions to find glory and bring him home to the crucible of suffering where the souls of everyone connected to this great club are forged in the haunting melody of failure upon failure, and who long only for the object of their devotion to rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of anguish. Including me!  Roll on August.

Derek Ross is an occasional contributor for First Touch. He also writes for Soccer 360 and The Top Flight   

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