Who’d be a Spurs fan, eh? It is certainly not a pursuit for the faint hearted……or for anyone who wants to maintain an optimistic outlook on life. As my dad always reminds me when we lose (yet another) semi-final to an arch rival “supporting Spurs is a rollercoaster, mate. It always has been”. Fair enough. Except for the majority of my life, that particular rollercoaster has been The Smiler at Alton Towers. And of course, it is just our luck that this year’s Carabao Cup is the first year where the away goals rule has been removed……in previous years, a 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge would have been enough to see us through to the final. Outstanding. It’s funny how so much can change in such a short space of time. Only a month ago, we were considered to be in the title race, having scored 11 goals in 2 matches, whilst playing the sort of football that made us look like the Harlem Globetrotters……you know, without all the basketball and stuff. Fast forward to the end of January and we are desperately trying to hang onto a Champions League spot due to an injury list as long as my arm…..and I only wish it was as long as something else! In my mind’s eye, I can just envisage Jack Wilshere, propped up in his latest hospital bed, laughing maniacally at the sheer deliciousness of the irony of it all. Of course, all that unsupervised laughter will probably just rupture his windpipe, finally forcing him into early retirement. As fictitious scenarios go, I suppose this one is fairly bittersweet.
Now call me nostalgic, but life seemed to be so much easier when we were crap. You always knew where you stood with the Spurs teams of old. After all, it is very hard to be disappointed when anything less than a 3-0 defeat is considered to be a good day at the office. A much simpler time. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that we are a now one of the biggest teams in the world and that is testament to the unbelievable work that Levy and Poch have put in over the last five years. I am just not sure that my poor heart can put up with the weight of the expectation on a regular basis. Ultimately, as with most things in life, it is always the hope that kills you. To Spurs fans, the mere concept of hope has previously been an abstract emotion that we overheard other supporters discussing in the pub or something that we occasionally read about in the paper before consulting our nearest thesaurus for clarification. For my Aussie readers, if you don’t know what a thesaurus is, just look it up in a dictionary and then work your way backwards from there. Anyway, ever since Mauricio Pochettino pitched up at White Hart Lane and Daniel Levy dismantled his infamous football manager merry-go-round of despair, us Spurs fans have been forced to wrap our heads around this rather alien concept of hope….particularly because over the last couple of years we have come within touching distance of potential glory. But with that hope, inevitably comes disappointment. Unless, of course, you are talking about Hope Solo. She may not have a clue how to prevent her iCloud from getting hacked but we could never be disappointed with her continued contribution to the world of football….or the internet.
But the funny thing is, it is not necessarily our results that have left the majority of Spurs fans feeling rather flat in 2019. Our results have been decent and as such, we have actually got off to our best ever start in the Premier League era. It is more the fact that we cannot seem to get through 90 minutes of action without losing at least one of our first team players to injury, which is subsequently putting the rest of our season in serious jeopardy! At this rate, we may as well just ask Prince Philip to be our coach driver for the FA Cup tie at Crystal Palace and be done with it!!! Annoyingly, having finally convinced the majority of the footballing world that we are no longer “Spursy” and that we do have the mental fortitude to play and win at the highest level, it would appear that fate has found another way to step in and redress the balance….with a fucking sniper rifle from the stands! The biggest criticism of our club since the Summer has been that our playing squad has very little strength in depth. We get that a lot. But I am not entirely sure it’s true, as we do have decent cover in almost every position. If the debacle of the last month has taught us anything, it is more the fact that the depth we do have appears to have very little strength…..as all of our back-up players seem to spend more time on the treatment table than they do on the training pitch! Let’s take stock, shall we?
Firstly, and most importantly, we have lost our striker and talisman, Harry Kane for nearly three months with what is rapidly becoming the annual “anklegate” saga (copyright pending). It is regular as clockwork nowadays and I wouldn’t be surprised that after further scans, it turned out that his ankles are comprised almost entirely of silly putty. Which means that we are forced to rely on Fernando Llorente to plug that gap up front. This is a man who has the turning circle of Deepwater Horizon and was previously deemed “too slow” to survive in Serie A, a league which never seems to be played at anything more than walking pace. If his performance against Fulham is anything to go by, he has also given us a whole new understanding of the term “False 9”, as he certainly behaved like a decoy striker in that game! Although maybe a little too much decoy and not enough striker. I am not sure what worries me more…..the prospect of having to play without Harry Kane for three months or the prospect of having to play with Fernando Llorente instead! But it is OK – Poch was very quick to point out that we still have Dele Alli, a player who he feels could genuinely fill that False 9 role in much the same way that Leo Messi does for Barcelona. And who was the last player that Poch compared to Leo Messi….that’s right, Marcus Edwards. This can only go well for us. Predictably, in the next game against Fulham, Dele scored a powerful far post header to haul us back into the game before pulling his hamstring and ruling himself out for two months. Cracking. Of course, we would normally then call upon Son Heung-Min to lead the line but he is once again off representing South Korea in what is starting to feel like his bloody bi-monthly Asian Cup duties. For a region that is generally considered to be crap at football, they sure do play an awful lot of games. But I guess there must be a lot of people desperately trying to get out of military service, so I suppose it all makes sense. Interesting fact about South Korea, they have the highest rate of suicide amongst all of the developed countries in the world. And do you know which Premier League club is the most supported in South Korea? You guessed it…..Tottenham Hotspur. Like I said, it’s always the hope that kills you…..or the unreasonably high expectations of overbearing Asian parents. But probably more the hope.
To make matters worse, we are still without everyone’s favourite pastafarian, Victor Wanyama, who has certainly been giving Madeleine McCann a run for her money this season. Couple that with Eric Dier, who has been sidelined to have his appendix removed (an operation that also seems to have affected his depth perception) and Lucas Moura and it is easy to see how the likes of Georges-Kevin N’Koudou have been bought in from the cold in recent weeks. Still, every cloud has a silver lining and even though N’Koudou has only played 8 minutes of Premier League football this season, he still has the same amount of assists to his name as both Mesut Ozil and Jorginho combined. So at least that is something. As if our midfield woes weren’t already bordering on the farcical, we also allowed Mousa Dembele, one of the classiest midfielders to pull on a Spurs shirt in recent years, to fulfil his childhood dream of playing for Guangzhou Evergrande in the Chinese Super League, whilst Christian Eriksen appears to be flirting with the idea of jumping ship to join the travelling circus that has become Real Madrid this season and Manchester United continue to shamelessly court Mauricio Pochettino…...even if he is currently the mayor of a ghost town.
But it is not all doom and gloom, as we are still in the Champions League (for now) and the new stadium is close to completion (allegedly). Plus we have a four point buffer over Chelsea in 3rd place and a seven point lead over Arsenal, so clearly Poch doesn’t feel it is necessary to press the panic button just yet…..although that is probably because the panic button is situated in the physio room at Hotspur Way, which is standing room only right now! And although things may look a little bleak in the wake of yet another semi-final defeat to Chelsea, as the old saying goes “it is always darkest before the dawn”. Unless you are dead. Or Stevie Wonder. And to the best of my knowledge, we are neither. So let’s hope that these injuries bring on a siege mentality to what remains of our threadbare squad and they can hold down the fort until three of our “Fab Four” can return to rescue our season and by extension, my sanity. After all, it is this sort of siege mentality that Jose Mourinho has always used to motivate his teams and things always seem to work out all right for him, don’t they? Oh, no wait……bollocks. COYS.