The experience of playing away from Tottenham for this season has been pretty surreal. The opening weeks of the season were exciting but at the same time disconcerting - new routines and places to meet/eat, trying different routes to games and back to the tube after to avoid the dreaded Wembley Way queues mixed with a pining for the old familiar haunts, rat runs and parking spaces and the years honed familiar view of the pitch - the whole thing felt discombobulated.
Overlay that with the grating press narrative about a hoodoo and some key injuries and it made for an uneasy autumn. But as the leaves turned and then fell the new routines gained some familiarity, the results accelerated and if not “home”, Wembley began to feel an acceptable inconvenience with pulse-racing wins over Liverpool, Man Utd and Real Madrid. All the while the webcams and time lapse cameras from the new Lane showed breathtaking progress as steel, concrete and glass arced over the skyline of N17.
The second half of the season has felt somehow less electric and yet the results show a significant acceleration over the final 18 games (picking up 40 points) and as the weeks and games have sped by the thoughts of Home have gathered pace.
Now that Champions League football has been secured for a third successive campaign there is a palpable sense of relief - the risk of a season away from home was that it would stall or derail the progress of the Pochettino era. The press certainly felt that risk was real with no major pundit predicting a top four finish. But do it we have, and with a healthy points total only a whisper off last season’s record haul achieved off the back of an unbeaten home record.
On reflection, this really has been a remarkable season: Harry has 30 league goals (41 in total) despite two lengthy spells out and the mind boggles at what will happen when he has an injury free season.
The away form has picked up quietly but noticeably and the ability to close out a game, whilst not quite there on a consistent basis, is emerging. But the most remarkable aspect of the season is that whilst content with the outcome it feels like the whole Club is hungry for more - and probably disappointed not to have got more this season. Just pause and reflect on that.... for years, decades perhaps, the prospect of qualification for the Champions League group stages was the be all and end all, now in the space of a few short Pochettino seasons, it is a but necessary stepping stone on the path to a more lofty destination.
He has not only changed the mentality of the staff and players, but the fans too. He spoke after the Leicester game about moving to a new phase, of taking risks off the pitch for glory in the same way he encourages the team to take risks on the pitch. It feels like a clear signal that the summer could be very interesting indeed.
And so with a crazy end to end 5-4 win against Vardy and co we bade farewell to our temporary home - a cavernous soulless bowl that seems to leak atmosphere out of its gaping roof (although granted there have been a couple of games where despite the acoustics the national stadium has been jumping), the bland concourses with no sense of ‘us’ despite the significant efforts of the Spurs matchday team with street furniture banners and face painters a plenty.
I don’t imagine there was a single tear shed amongst players, staff or fans after Leicester were dispatched. The overwhelming sense was relief that it’s over mixed with an unbridled excitement at coming home.
Of course, Home has had something of a makeover in these past 12 months so the views will be different, new matchday routines will need to be forged but the old familiar journey, those rat runs and parking challenges will be back, and we will once again walk up High Rd N17 to see a (much bigger) stadium rising out from the midst of the familiar terraced houses of our ancestral homeland.
It will be then that we truly realise just what a bullet we dodged with the Olympic Stadium. No doubt the colonel and his van will be parked up somewhere and the waft of his burgers and onions will fill the air.
Football matches themselves linger, some more than others, but it’s the familiar sights (and smells) which bring the richest of memories and so the anticipation of experiencing those again after our sojourn in Brent is palpable. After all, there is no place like home.
Those who’ve read (endured!) these blogs over the last couple of years will know that my passion for Spurs is inextricably linked to family, and so it’s fitting that this final blog of the season is dedicated to my wonderful grandma who peacefully slipped away the night before the Leicester game. I remember childhood Saturday afternoons with her keeping an eye on the final scores on TV waiting for my grandpa to come back from the game. Now they can keep an eye on results, and us, together again.