May 2010: Peter Crouch headed home the winner in what was then the most important Premier League fixture in both club’s recent history. Harry Redknapp was the victor in that moment, but Roberto Mancini went on to win the league title just two years later. Manchester City have won the league twice since then, picking up a couple of domestic trophies while Spurs remain without any silverware since the haunting days of Juande Ramos.
The two club’s journeys to now both started in 2008. Previously drizzled in frustration and disappointment, both clubs had reputations for being the nearly men, known more for calamity than success. Manchester City were famed for their side in the late 1960s and early 70s, Tottenham had great sides in both the 60s and 80s, but neither had done anything noteworthy in the Premier League era. Spurs showed signs under Martin Jol but food poisoning was to end their hopes of finally pipping Arsenal to the Champions League. Manchester City qualified for European football after a 25 year barren spell in 2003, but that was a result of the ‘Fair Play’ award.
2008 was the beginning of Sheikh Mansour and his financial powers. The buzz created around Manchester City was fuelled by money but it was something. Despite popular opinion, City had been a big club before. Maine Road was known for its atmosphere and the club was glittered in big names: Mike Summerbee, Colin Bell and Joe Mercer. The newfound authority within the club meant they moved from the likes of Rolando Bianchi to Robinho, Geovanni to Craig Bellamy and Richard Dunne to Vincent Kompany.
Meanwhile, White Hart Lane was a solemn place. Tottenham had accrued just 2 points in 8 games under manager Juande Ramos. His grasp of English was poor, the team looked disoriented and Spurs were looking at relegation. Harry Redknapp was recruited to salvage the mess and there began a new era of exciting football. Historically, Tottenham have always been a good team to watch; you needn’t look past the likes of Glenn Hoddle, Paul Gascoigne or David Ginola to acknowledge that. The problem is, the new generation of 20s Spurs fans were starved of anything close to that. Only a selection of players: the likes of Ledley King, Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Carrick were honestly possessing quality.
Both Tottenham and Man City alike had done little to inspire their next batch of fans. That game in 2010 was the first time the fixture had held any significance since the FA Cup Final in 1981. Tottenham were victorious then and in 2010. Manchester City have had the most recent laughs. For all Spurs’ efforts under Redknapp, Andre Villas Boas and Tim Sherwood, Man City have consistently stamped down at least fourth place and have been a regular fixture in Europe’s elite competition.
Before Pochettino, Spurs were unswervingly embarrassed and comprehensively beaten by Man City. 6-0 and 4-1 at Etihad and 5-1 at White Hart Lane meant that in 3 consecutive fixtures, City had flattened Tottenham at an aggregrate of 15-2. With Pochettino at the helm, Spurs have won the last 3. Their individual records sway back and forth but neither one side can claim to have bettered the other for a meaningful length of time.
Cash injections have meant that Manchester City have been able to grow year after year. When seasons have been under par, they have been able to finance appropriately to ensure that they at least attain Champions League football. That accomplishment is viewed somewhat differently by fans and players at White Hart Lane who only recently are starting to familiarise themselves with the heights of the top 4. Manchester City expect league titles, Tottenham expect Champions League qualification.
Off the pitch, both clubs are exemplary. The infrastructure and behind-the-scenes setup at both the Etihad Campus and Enfield Training Centre are to the best standard in the country. Both appear to have in place academies that are creating genuinely good footballers and the foundations are uncharacteristically solid. Tottenham’s Champions League campaign this season tells them that they might just be a few years behind their comparable counterparts, but the similarities are in evidence.
Both have lived too long in the shadows of their rivals. Manchester City will find it hard to ever compare their success to that of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United and Tottenham are yet to finish above Wenger’s Arsenal. Their uprising’s come in tandem but their journeys couldn’t be more distinct. Manchester City brought Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Toure, Tottenham educated and polished Harry Kane and Dele Alli alongside semi-expensive signings. Both are effective, but the former has won trophies. In Gareth Bale’s departure, Tottenham had opportunities but wretchedly messed up.
Neither are clear of their fragile reputations. Man City still fear the renaissance at Manchester United and weaknesses are continue to be unearthed, even under the guidance of Pep Guardiola. Tottenham as recently as last season demonstrated their ability to discover disappointment in the wake of an unexpected title chase and yes, still finished below Arsenal in doing so. Sheikh Mansour and the City board will continue to spend in attempts to win everything available while Spurs, led by the humble Pochettino, will endeavour to carry on what is becoming of the best Tottenham sides in the last 50 years.