Tottenham’s two-goal collapse against Stoke at the weekend was very avoidable. There was some mitigation to it and, yes, if Mauricio Pochettino had had an available second forward, Spurs might well have stumbled across the line and taken the points.
The temptation, then, is to write that game off as a false reality and as a product of Daniel Levy’s failure to equip the squad properly.
That’s fine - and Pochettino deserves that asterisk against his coaching performance - but if anyone believes that this problem is temporary, then they are sadly mistaken. This is a wake-up call, an introduction to what Tottenham life is likely to be like between now and the completion of the Northumberland Project.
What you see is what there is; there are no miracles happening between now and the end of this transfer-window and there are no secret £25m deals on the horizon. Spurs are now a ‘do what they can’ team, a club whose short-term ambition is to stay within the top-half of the table rather to make any further strides up the mountain.
When White Hart Lane’s replacement is built, that will change. The years following that move will be more optimistic and phrases like ‘net spend’ and ‘wage bill’ will gradually fade from prominence.
In the meantime, though, they will define the club’s existence and the prioritisation of economy over football will take a very visible toll on the first-team - and, as a consequence, test the loyalty of many fans.
Stoke was not a blip and the current situation is not an anomaly. This is one of those situations which will ultimately get worse before it gets better and, hopefully, that will bring with it a certain sense of perspective.
There are going to be disappointing results.
The team’s progress will be defined by the hypothetical maturation of younger players rather than the transfer-market.
Teams who have become traditional rivals will hold a significant financial advantage that will be hard to tolerate.
It’s going to be really galling and, given that the club have had some comparative success over the last decade, it’s going to take some getting used to. The Champions League is off the table and the usual annual footballing targets have all been simmered down.
It’s a necessity. It’s the short-term price which has to be paid if the club is to achieve anything in the future. Tottenham are not the beneficiaries of an oil baron’s wealth and have been unable to plot a West Ham-style theft on the tax payer, therefore their route to the next level must be organic and must be sponsored by sacrifice.
It’s really, really important for the fans to understand that and to adjust their thinking accordingly.
The audible discontent at the end of the Stoke game was, because of the circumstances, understandable. It was the type of limp surrender that has become synonymous with the club and it was facilitated as much by an absence of character as it was any staff shortages.
Going forward, however, the supporters have to be willing to grant the players and the manager a bit of leeway and recognise that the odds have shifted against them. Defeats against well-endowed sides are to be expected and disappointing performances against previously inferior opponents will have to be tolerated. If not, the water supply will be poisoned and the supporters will toil in an increasingly toxic world.
In this situation, the crowd have the power; their response to this adjusted reality will ultimately define the club’s morale. If the old standards are applied and expectations are not tempered, this period of limbo will be characterised by bitterness and resentment but if, fanciful as it sounds, the collective attitude is more laissez faire, then some joy can be derived from what might prove to be a hard slog.
Incremental player developments; individual wins; the occasional knocking-over of a well-monied rival.
Tottenham fans need to turn away from the bigger picture because, simply, there isn’t going to be one for a while. The game-to-game moaning about managerial performance has to go, the hand-wringing over league positions and expected finishes is redundant, and the victimisation of certain players is also a very expendable negativity.
If these seasons are to be bearable, it will be because the fans have allowed them to be so.
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