It’s funny how quickly things can change, but when you reflect back upon the conditions prior to the current situation, they can seem so, so long ago.
Just over four years ago — to be exact, it was November 2, 2010 — chants of “Taxi for Maicon” rained down from the rafters at White Hart Lane as Tottenham dismantled the holders Internazionale in the Champions League. An early, 18th minute Rafael van der Vaart goal got things started, while second half efforts from Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko finished them off. All of that rode on the back of an impossible-to-forget performance from budding superstar Gareth Bale. Scurrying about at a hundred miles an hour in those sexy retro-esque Puma kits, we all attempted to hang on to the moment, the feeling and the player himself.
Four years isn’t really that long ago in the grand scheme of things. It’s just a single World Cup cycle, after all. And Spurs have had some pretty electric moments since, where the future still seemed just as bright and glory just as attainable as it was that November night.
But after yesterday’s horror show against Stoke City, that match against Inter seems a scant memory from potentially decades ago.
Of the squad that featured against the Italian giants that night, only club captain Younès Kaboul and Aaron Lennon remain. The other nine starters, plus all seven substitutes and the manager, are all long gone. And for the most part, I’m 100% okay with that. Harry Redknapp tested my patience with his wandering eyes and ridiculous substitutions. I’ll be happy to never see the likes of Jermaine Jenas, William Gallas or Alan Hutton at White Hart Lane ever again. But I’d be lying if I didn’t long for the sight of Bale, Modrić and Van der Vaart in dressed in lillywhite again.
Spurs’ squad is undeniably deeper these days, packed with far more players with far more international caps than ever before. Vertonghen for Gallas seems a significant upgrade. Soldado’s pedigree is far richer than that of Crouch. And even though Lennon is still around, we’re getting far more production from Nacer Chadli. Similar comparisons could be made to the likes of Dembélé and Palacios, Vorm and Pletikosa, etcetera, etcetera.
But looking at the current position at which Tottenham find themselves in the table (12th), how poor the performances the team have put in recently (uninspiring) and the downturn in the atmosphere at the Lane (turgid), all this change seems for nothing.
Of course, the nature of life is change. That’s especially true in the game of club football. It’s silly to sit here and think that we should still Bale and Modrić and all the added depth. Managers come and go, players move on and new fans now show up at the pub to support.
But the situation Tottenham now find themselves in feels a lot like when I first started supporting the club in the mid 90’s. Dejected. Hopeless. Pessimistic.
The players look uninspired, lost and without a plan. Guys like Soldado seem broken, a shadow of their former selves. Our manager continues to make confounding squad selections — like Vertonghen being on the bench against Stoke — without any true explanation of his reasoning for them. The desire to right the ship seems just as absent as the passion we all want to see. Urgency might be there, but it only manifests itself as rushed decisions and mistakes.
The supporters see all of this and feed off the negativity. Where cheers once showered down, now only boos fall. Twitter, Facebook and the forums are rife with anger, fist shaking and finger pointing. I’m sure somewhere someone is gathering money for a plane to drag a banner with “ENIC/Levy Out” scrawled across it over the next home match. Meanwhile, the media is content to pour gas on the fire.
The players are obviously not immune to this. Adebayor said as much. And it becomes a viscous cycle: disappointment begets a lack of confidence, which begets further disappointment.
Do I have solutions in here? Nope. Sure, I could try suggesting new players to sign in a transfer window that’s still two months out, or a new formation, “better” substitions or team selections, firing Pochettino or even criticizing my fellow supporters for the lack of faith they’ve shown the team. But what good would any of that do? It’s not like Levy is reading my blog.
And despite some of those online who have suggested as much, there’s no way in hell I’m going to switch my club allegiances.
This could just be a new reality. Maybe I should just reflect back on those memories from a Bale-fueled 2010-2011 fondly; a short spell in the sun that was nothing more than an outlier. Perhaps I just need to get used to things being like they were before.
But, this could just as easily be a blip in form.
Maybe these are the roadbumps we have to traverse in order to get to the place Pochettino wants us to be. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can rise back up, right? Optimism isn’t easy, and it’s even harder to sell it to those suffering a similar fate. But much like how things were in the 90’s, optimism might be the only route we have left. It might take a long time to regain the highs of the Champions League glory.
After all, four years isn’t that long of a time to wait. Perhaps then, these dark times will seem as far away as our last bright memories seem today.