Hull 1 Spurs 7
28th May 2017
Sometimes a week can seem a very long time.
I travelled to France straight after the Hull game and have spent the past week with a dodgy internet signal. But following the atrocity in Manchester on Monday night, blogging about football was the last thing on my mind.
Spurs dispatched Hull into the Championship with a display of ruthless professionalism that the already-relegated side could only dream of. It was sad to see noble warriors like Dawson and Huddlestone reduced to impotence as our younger, fitter, better players ran rings round them, scoring 7 goals.
And so Spurs finished the season with 86 points, a goal difference of +60, and a host of other ‘best in league’ stats and club records. The narrative is that Chelsea were clearly the best team in the League. I don’t see it that way. They deserved their title. 93 points deserves the title. They were best at accumulating wins and they handled the pressure of the run-in well (when, lest we forget, Spurs took 36 from the last 39 available points to narrow the gap). But Chelsea ‘clearly’ better than Spurs? No way. Luckier with injuries and capitulations by opponents? Absolutely.
Manchester United 2 Ajax 0 (Europa League Final)
Kitchee SC 1 Spurs 4 (Friendly, Hong Kong, 26th May)
Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1 (FA Cup Final)
In the week since the season ended, two cup finals have been decided and Spurs travelled to Hong Kong (and Korea) for post-season R&R, promotion work and a friendly match (won 4-1 with goals from Son, Janssen, Kane and Stirling).
I watched the first half of the Europa Final on TV in a sports bar in France. My wife and I left at half-time. Watching United strangle Ajax was slightly more entertaining than watching paint dry. But only slightly. As I wrote recently (‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’, Post 10), for supporters my age, Manchester United and Spurs are soul mates. Younger people talk about Fergie’s swashbuckling teams but he was merely staying true to the tradition that Busby established in the 50s and 60s. Regardless of results, United and Spurs have always played the right way.
I have little doubt Mourinho will build a stronger team than he inherited. There was a time, pre-Pochettino, when I briefly thought about Mourinho coming to Spurs. But I’m so glad that never happened. The game is about glory. About going out and beating the other lot. Not waiting for them to die of boredom. Like us, United fans know that. Old Trafford is seen as a theatre of dreams. I suspect there will be no real joy in any future United silverware won while the club is under the management of the Special One.
The narrative is that Manchester United, and maybe even Arsenal, ultimately had better seasons than Spurs, City and Liverpool, because they won Cups. We ‘only’ got Top Four. No silverware. But this is the same media who’ll spend from now until August debating who’ll get Top Four next Season, rather than who’ll win the 2018 FA Cup. The fact is that league points accumulated is the true measure of a club and its progress. Spurs used to be derided as a ‘Cup-side’.
In Poch’s first Season, Spurs won 64 points (19-7-12) with a goal difference of +5, and came 5th in the League. In Poch’s second Season, Spurs won 70 points (19-13-6) with a goal difference of +34, and came 3rd in the League. Last Season, we ended with 86 points (26-8-4) with a goal difference of +60, and came 2nd in the League. These are staggering statistics. An average improvement of 11 more points and +28 goals per season.
But it’s about more than just numbers and trend lines. It’s about the entertainment those numbers reflect. It’s about style. Swagger. About a tangible bond between manager, players and fans. And that’s what I personally got from this season (even more than last). Living in the moment.
Spurs may win the title next season. We may not. We could lose one or two of our best players. We might not be able to compete with the silly money boys over the summer. Who knows? All speculation. The same pundits who got it wrong a year ago will give us their latest opinions with similar conviction throughout the summer to come.
Sadly, we have no trophies to show for the season just finished, beyond individual awards for Kane and Dele. But we do have special memories.
The celebrations of Dele’s two goals against Chelsea, Son’s happy smiles in countless matches, Eriksen’s winner at Palace and Dele’s curler against Watford, our jokey ‘goal celebration’ handshakes, Winks running into Pochettino’s arms, Kane’s strikes from every angle, everybody enjoying Janssen finally getting a goal from open play, and Pochettino standing silently on the touchline, like a proud father. Finally that ‘Farewell to the Lane’, steel cranes and a rainbow hovering over her last undefeated hurrah.
None of us knows what the future holds. This week of all weeks reminded us of that. A happy crowd leaving a stadium cut down without warning. That’s why it’s important to live the moment. And this Spurs team allows every fan to do that.