weight off the shoulders

Tottenham Defender Eric Dier

As a Spurs fan, the last few years have been difficult.

The raised expectations over the last two to three seasons as we’ve watched Spurs try and fail to qualify again for the Champions League has been frustrating. We all got a taste of the good stuff in the 2010/11 quarterfinal run, and ever since then we — the supporters and the club — seem to have settled for nothing less. Two seasons ago, we nearly made it back but missed out thanks to Chelsea pulling off the impossible. The near miss saw Gareth Bale depart for Spain and Champions League glory last season, as we struggled to swallow the initial failure of the whole “selling Elvis to buy The Beatles” experiment.

And while there were some enjoyable moments in those almost-achievements, I have to admit the ride along wasn’t an entirely enjoyable one. It was stressful. Every match seemed do-or-die. Every dropped point seemed to sting a little more than it should.

I know I wasn’t the only one who was feeling it; even the crowd at White Hart Lane seemed to be experiencing the same nervousness. A ground that used to be known for its boisterous support suffered from an anxious hush, finger biting and fans turning on one another when things didn’t play out like any of us would have liked.

It just wasn’t that fun.

So going into this season, I decided I wanted to enjoy things this time around. I’d still be behind Tottenham 100%, I just wasn’t going to get so wrapped up in everything this time around. You know, try to enjoy all the little things.

Maybe it’s a consequence of last season’s disappointment. Perhaps it was due to there being yet another new manager at the club, and we need to give him time to find his feet. Hopefully the rest of you lot — and that includes you too, Daniel Levy — give Pochettino the time he deserves to make an impact on this squad.

Or it could be the fact the rest of the “big” clubs fighting for the top four seem to be pulling further and further away from us. Arsenal are finally making marquee signings. Liverpool may have sold their biggest gun, but they also look like they’ve brought in another along with a host of quality, Premier League-proven depth. City haven’t strengthened that much, but they continue to gel into a proper super club. Chelsea and Mourinho keep adding firepower. Thank God it looks like United haven’t yet put out their trash fire.

Possibly it’s the distant hope of a new stadium and the ability to compete financially on the horizon that’s keeping me optimistic about what the future still holds. I don’t know. Honestly, it’s probably a combination of all of those factors.

Whatever the case, I’m determined to enjoy this season for a change.

That said, the first match of the season last weekend against West Ham seemed to test my resolve.

I’ll admit that watching the game, I was a little more stressed than I would have liked to have been. Spurs losing to the Hammers three times last season, and an insatiable desire to see them avenge those loses, weighed heavy on my mind approaching kickoff. And Naughton conceding the penalty and being sent off early on certainly didn’t help matters either.

But once Noble missed the ensuing spot kick, I regained my composure. At that point, I remembered that at least taking a share of the spoils would be acceptable. It was Mauricio’s first actual game in charge, the squad was still missing key pieces like Vertonghen, Dembélé and Paulinho. A new system was still being implemented. Add in going down a man early on, and I would have been more than happy to see us steal a point on the road to start off the new campaign.

So when newboy Eric Dier — a player I’d never even heard of until several weeks ago, by the way — rounded the West Ham keeper in injury time and coolly slotted home, that was just icing on the cake. Quite delicious icing, I might add.

I celebrated with fellow supporters at the pub, and remembered what the joy without the burden of expectation felt like once again. But the victory doesn’t mean we’ll be winning the title. Nor will it guarantee that we’ll be finishing top four either. It was just a step in the journey.

So today, when Spurs take on QPR and former manager Harry Redknapp, I’m going to hope I remember that this too is just another match.

And if we somehow manage to lose it, remember that it’s not the end of everything. Another match will await. And I’ll still love my Spurs regardless.

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