I’ve never really written a piece like this one before. In fact, it took me longer to think of the title than to write the entire piece. It’s been a while since I wrote on here; a combination of A Levels, my work at Wingate & Finchley and writing for the excellent SpursStatMan.com on a semi-regular basis. But it turns out that the last piece I wrote for this site (www.nikhilsaglani.com/klopppoch) has started to come to fruition.
Mauricio Pochettino has done what no Tottenham fans thought ever possible; he’s genuinely got some believing we can win the Premier League title. Of course the shambles at Stamford Bridge, the monotonous football at Manchester United and the erratic form at the Emirates have aided Spurs’ rise, but it comes as much down to the hard work of Pochettino & co. After decades, Spurs have an entire squad of players that fans are able to trust on the pitch, whoever is selected by the manager. But perhaps more pertinently, there is a manager in place that Spurs fans can trust to select the right team, make the right transfers and train players into superstars. You just look at the list of players the Argentine has got debuts in the England set up for and it tells you enough about what kind of a coach he is. Very few of the players he’s got into the England side would have got to the level they did without him; as shown by the dips in individual success of Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren and perhaps even Morgan Schneiderlin since they parted ways with Southampton.
In my (admittedly short) life, following Tottenham was always tough. I grew up around Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal fans – I was an easy target on a Monday morning. There were only really four seasons in which I had any sort of bragging rights – and none of those lasted too long. In 2009/10 and 2010/11, the entirety of the Champions League story was great fun but the way in which the latter season fell to pieces – Blackpool away sticks out as a particularly grim one – took the gloss of two great years. 2011/12 was fun for six months, until Harry Redknapp, Rosie the dog and Fabio Capello intervened. That drubbing at The Emirates hurt – a lot. The final one was 2012/13, under Andre Villas-Boas, but most of that was because of a certain Gareth Bale. Even then, it was short lived. What Pochettino has built with the style of play, the youth promotion, the general likeability of the squad and – of course – the wins, make it seem like the current bragging rights might be slightly more long lasting.
Which is why, winning the league this season is not the be all and end all – and should never be thought otherwise. Yes, it would be incredible, there’s no doubt about that. But these kinds of things have to be viewed after taking a step back – what were our targets in August? Personally, I was asking for another top six finish and another cup final – with perhaps a trophy at the end of it this time. For me, that’s not too much to ask of Spurs. We’re already well ahead of the targets many fans had set for the five years of Pochettino’s contract – not that many were confident he’d see all five out knowing our history. The lack of transfer activity in two key positions saw much resentment towards Daniel Levy, who also deserves huge credit for the appointment of and trust placed in Pochettino. At the time of writing, we sit in third place in the league, ahead of our North London rivals on goal difference. And, as soon as the full time whistle blew at Carrow Road on Tuesday, out came the ‘mind the gap’ jokes. Well, at least most of them were jokes. Unfortunately, since the closing of the gap between us and them, there has been a constant burning desire to celebrate every mini-triumph we have over them, when in fact the disparity between the two clubs is still pretty sizable. We aren’t quite capable of purchasing world-class rejects from Barcelona and Real Madrid, and definitely not for a combined £77m. But Pochettino has shown us in the past 18 months that he does not need expensive parts, merely efficient cogs that will form part of the collective wheel. In Pochettino’s press conference before the game against Watford (http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/sport/football/tottenham-hotspur/pochettino_striker_decision_is_part_of_a_strategy_to_help_spurs_through_a_very_tough_period_1_4406745), he spoke about the desire to be patient in the transfer market and that he’d prefer not to buy than to buy a player for the sake of it. This has been shown by the camaraderie amongst the squad on and off the pitch, something the Argentine is careful not to destroy.
So whilst we are in this period of steady success, it is imperative we remain careful not to get swept up with it all. That doesn’t mean we can’t dream of the title – or winning the cups – but it also means that we should live in the moment and enjoy what is unfolding in front of our eyes. Two seasons ago we lost 4-0 at Anfield and Stamford Bridge, 5-1 and 6-0 against Manchester City and three times to West Ham United. So rather than demand leaps forward, let’s try and remember that slow and steady wins the race.
On a personal note, I’ve received all five university offers now – and am in the process of deciding where I want to spend the next three years of my life (so any advice from people who studied history or went to the Universities of Southampton, Birmingham, Cardiff, Queen Mary’s and SOAS would be welcome). Also, the voluntary role at Wingate & Finchley is going well too. I’m working with two excellent writers in the Press team within an ambitious club – an environment in which everyone, playing and non-playing staff, can thrive. I hope this different style of article has been a good read – it was a case of penning my thoughts on how we should be living in the moment rather than worrying over matters out of our hands. Enjoy the rest of the season and up the Spurs!