Despite beating Madrid and topping our Champions League group, we stuttered with a few draws, a loss to West Ham in the Carabao Cup and a big defeat away at Man City. Predictably the vultures circled our players - first Kane, then Dele, then Jan, the Kane again (brilliantly dismissed by the man himself in the Players Tribune - if you’ve not read his article following his 100th Premier League goal you must!) and latterly its Toby. And then the results, as they always seem to do these days picked up and kicked on arriving at a Champions League last 16 tie against two-time in three years finalists Juve on the back of a 17-game unbeaten run, nestled in the top four and in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.... and yet the narrative from the press, and from fans of other clubs, was Dele and diving.
Stepping back, it was and is a fascinating phenomena to observe. It’s as if the press don’t believe Spurs have a right to play at the top table domestically, let alone on the European stage. We were a plucky novelty at first but suddenly almost by stealth over these past few seasons we have leveraged out of the top four - first Chelsea and Liverpool and now it seems for a second season Arsenal.
The Gooner sycophants in the media are having a meltdown, the script is being ripped up and their reaction is to undermine and snipe at any opportunity. The current targets are Toby and his contract (positioned as him wanting out because Spurs don’t pay - the reality appears to be a little different in that he wants his big new salary and to keep his buy-out clause.... well these days no matter how good a player you are, either you’re committed to Pochettino’s journey or you can go. I hope it’s not the latter but if it is so be it, that team spirit, the collective, is all important) and Dele’s ‘diving’ which after the draw at Anfield became Kane’s ‘diving’ (odd given the keeper admitted catching his legs with his shoulder) and even more absurdly Lamela’s ‘diving’ for having the temerity to have his leg hacked from behind by the clumsy Van Dijk.
The outrage from Liverpool fans was as bemusing as it was ridiculous and clearly there are short memories around Stanley Park where they’ve glossed over the ‘smart’ and ‘professional’ approach Stevie G took to winning free-kicks and penalties. The fallout from that game means Dele is now boo’ed by all opposition fans - moronic on many levels but even more so given it’s likely to spur him on to better performances! Cheers guys!
During my blog sabbatical, I’ve reflected that these latest press whipped storms in tea-cups are also part of the maturity journey we are on. An trivial annoyance to be treated with the same disdain as the other slurs and sneers aimed at the club over these past few years (soft, Spursy, bottlers won’t make top four, bottlers can’t do it in the Champions League group stages, Wembley hoodoo, can’t do it without Kane, can’t do it without Toby etc, etc) and each in turn dismissed on the inexorable rise under this manager. The final jibe now aimed at us ‘but you have to win a trophy’..... like those other jibes, be careful about pulling the feathers of this cockerel!
The vitriol from other fans, and the continued disrespect from the press is essentially a badge of recognition that Tottenham Hotspur are back. And back we are. Made even more enjoyable as it comes at a time when the other lot have deteriorated into little short of a shambles on and off the pitch. Almost as shambolic as VAR!
The epic two legs against Juve are another step on the maturity journey having played superbly but ultimately being outdone, as can happen when two top-class well-matched teams collide, by the fine margins, in this case the nous of serial winners like Cellini.
I’m certain that next year - another year wiser in the ways of Europe’s top table - Pochettino’s men will have absorbed the learnings and improve, just as they have done every step of the way under his tutelage until now.
Only next year those all white kits will take to the field on classic mid-week nights back home, at the magnificent new Lane taking its final shape on the skyline of north London. Those nights will be special indeed.