It’s been 9 and a half years since Michael Chopra scored in injury time to down Spurs on the opening day of the season. That season, Spurs came 11th in the league and won the League Cup. Martin Jol was sacked, Anthony Gardner was filling in for the injured Ledley King and the distance between the fans and club was as far as I can remember. The club was a bundle of disarray with no direction. That League Cup remains Spurs’ only bit of silverware in the past 10 years, but honestly, it really isn’t like it was back then.For once, Tottenham are in an era of unrecognised and quite frankly uncomfortable stability. The club has been riddled with calamity and misfortune since the early 90s in a time period that has amassed 19 different coaches and managers. The correlation is obvious. Spurs’ good times have come under the three managers who have been at the helm for the longest periods of time in those 17 years: Martin Jol, Harry Redknapp and Mauricio Pochettino. The latter, however, is the real deal.
Not many could foresee what Pochettino would go on to do for Spurs in such a short time. Since his appointment in 2014, he has moulded a youthful and energetic pressing team who play the game in a quintessential Tottenham manner. He and his trusted coaching staff, assisted by the frugality of Daniel Levy, are the ones exclusively responsible for the club’s upturn in fortunes. The fans, for once, feel genuinely connected to the club and Tottenham are on a clear path to something.
0-0 draws against relegation candidates are disappointing. That’s a sign of the times. Previously, Tottenham were the go-to team for clubs and players in desperate need of reinvigoration. David Moyes and his Sunderland players have done little to demonstrate their status as a Premier League quality club but they did enough to force a 0-0 out of an attacking side including Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen. Post-match there was a feeling of humiliation, meltdown and hyperbole. While Twitter vented at refereeing decisions and under-par individual performances, the consensus of rational thinkers was that it was an off day. Simply, Tottenham couldn’t knock down the Sunderland door. That happens in football. Quickly jogging the memory, Spurs were the beneficiaries of such fortune just two weeks ago. As Man City pounded Tottenham for 90 minutes, Heung Min-Son salvaged a draw as Tottenham scored from both their shots on target. Outclassed, outsmarted and generally bettered by Guardiola’s players and tactics, Tottenham, in this instance, were Sunderland and escaped with a messy point.
Injuries have ravaged the squad all season, too. The squad is so evidently bare and the summer signings of Janssen, N’Koudou and Sissoko have proved fruitless to date. One of the season’s rarities is Tottenham fielding their strongest XI. Given the absences of Rose, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Lamela and Kane throughout parts of the season, it is all that more extraordinary to have endured and suffered through games without them. But one thing that Pochettino has proved is his proficiency in making things ‘go’. As Toby Alderweireld was a precautionary substitution in the latter stages of the Manchester City pasting, it wouldn’t have been entirely irrational to enter panic mode, but Victor Wanyama seamlessly slotted into centre back. The point is that Tottenham’s circumstances have been significant. Erik Lamela is an inventive missing piece in the attacking puzzle and Eric Dier is more stopgap than centre back or centre midfielder. It’s all been a tad disordered and untidy.
Pochettino’s grasp on the English language is advanced enough to understand that when he says, ‘it is important not to feel bad’, he means it is important that Tottenham don’t let frustration overcome them. There is a much bigger picture. In a month in which Harry Kane labelled it ‘stupid’ to consider leaving the club, perspective must be maintained. Even with Pochettino’s influence so clear on the current squad, the club remains in transition as it readies itself for a stadium move. Net profit, calculated spending and successful academy products are all symptoms of this. With that will come the odd moment of frustration. This, as Kane is relaxed to acknowledge, is a club showing all the signs of development. The current crop of players have already shown a steel in the face of discontent, even one as mighty as the ability to bounce back from the visions of last season.
Dropping points against comparatively inferior sides is infuriating and will continue to happen for as long as you are a football fan. In those very moments of irritation, fans are permitted to be bothered. What is more significant is that the fans and club take a step back, rationalise and remember that Michael Chopra goal. Things could be a lot worse.