Saturday, 15 January 2011

Bellwether forecast


Games we lose always seem to mean far more than those we win.

When we win, it's just a win. But when we lose it's a full-on bellwether of doom. Away at Villa down to ten men - coming away with a win could easily been a signifier of a different Tottenham in a new era. Same could have been true of going on to beat Newcastle at home after Kabul's sending off. You could even have said that the Fulham game, one we really should always win, and the barrier between us and a perfect Christmas, was a key indicator of who we are and where we're going.

But no, they were just games. Everton away - that was the true test. That was the match a proper Champions League side, or even a genuine title contender, would have won. That was our real examination. Basically, it's only a real examination when we fail. When we win, they're all just mocks.

Tomorrow against Man Utd sure does feel different, though. It feels significant. Certainly, if we lose, this silly and troubling talk of the title can stop immediately. Ferguson's said in the build-up that this is the first time he's taken a team to White Hart Lane to face a Spurs side capable of challenging for the league. He's ruffled our hair, basically. Told us we're really doing very, very well. Considering. Tomorrow he'll just clip us round the ear and give us a look that says 'Not so fast, sonny'.

And oh boy the media must already have written their opening paragraph's: Harry Redknapp's title pretenders were put firmly back in their place yesterday...; Spurs' long wait for a league title will last at least another year as a rampant Manchester United reminded the White Hart Lane faithful just what it takes to win a title...; Spurs may have a squad that looks capable of winning the Premier League, but the component parts of that squad look a long way short of having the mentality or experience to actually pull it off, especially when compared with a Manchester United side that yesterday reasserted its authority over the London upstarts with a performance marked 'Normal Service Has Been Resumed'.

Oh, or, from The Star: 'Fergie's Red Devils shoved a pitchfork up Spurs' season in yesterday's title showdown, and afterwards the canny Scot roared 'No one can stop us now' - leaving an angry 'Arry to moan about the 26 penalities awarded to the away side, and the fact that Wayne Ronney actually threw the winning goal into the net with both hands.'

That's the significance of a loss, then. What about a win? Well, in my mind, it would be hugely significant. Because in my mind a win is genuinely impossible, and so if we beat them, a quite fundamental universal law will have been transgressed and scientists around the world will have to have an emergency meeting about the nature of reality, quantum physics, etc. Will be interesting to see how The Star cover that: 'White Hot Spurs Baffle Boffins' would be my guess.

But, for the rest of the world, well, the silly and troubling talk of the title will get sillier and more troubling. Even though we'll be five points behind the best English club side of the modern era, who also happen to have a game in hand.

And people will say we've matured as a team, that we can beat the big sides in big games, etc. But it's been 10 years since we beat them, so the significance is just as likely to be statistical as anything else. As in, it's about time. I mean it's literally, simply about time. And the clock's just been reset for another 10 years.

It will also mean that Arsenal are more likely to win the league. Which is one of the things I like most about the Man U fixture. It's great when we win (I seem to remember), but when we lose it generally fucks up Chelsea and/or Arsenal. It's the one fixture they support us in, and it's always a pleasure to let them down.

Actually, perhaps the most significant thing about tomorrow is that for the first time in years, Chelsea fans probably want United to win. Usually they can patronisingly hope we can 'do them a favour' in their battle for top spot, a battle we're watching from several places and dozens of points further down.

This week they may well think that catching Man U is beyond them this year and that they're better off hoping for a Lillywhite defeat/mini slump, to at least allow them to shore up fourth spot.

So, in summary: A loss = same old Spurs, hello Everton and Villa. No, nothng, sorry, we just popped out for a pint of milk. Back now, where were we? And who the fuck let Bolton in? A win = Oooh, about six pints, probably. COYS.

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