Watching a calmer, more harmonious Tottenham emerge from the Winter 11

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Because of the nature of pre-season reporting, it’s easy to perceive Premier League Summers as times of perpetual panic.  Players are coming in, players are being sold, managers are being hired or fired, friendly results are being hopelessly over-scrutinised - it’s largely artificial and merely a tactic used to fill the football void, but it’s still rather draining.

By the time the season actually starts, the sense of relief isn’t solely derived from the reappearance of competitive football, but the end of the nonsense cycle.

In recent years, Tottenham have been the poster-club for fractious pre-seasons.  There’s always a saga at White Hart Lane and there’s always a melodrama which contrives to block out the Sun.  Either there aren’t enough signings being made or there are too many or the wrong players are being bought or sold and so, inevitably, by the time the league resumes at least one section of the club’s support holds some kind of grievance.  It’s exhausting and it saps at the collective morale.

This Summer has been different, though, and even the process of appointing a new manager has felt easy and painless.  Players have arrived, but again with minimal fuss, and even though the usual rumours are still floating around the internet world about Dutch wingers and Argentinean centre-backs, there seems to be more of a laissez faire feel to everything.

On the, always excellent, Fighting Cock podcast that was published this week, a point was made about the unification of the fanbase.  As peripheral a factor as that seems to be, it’s a very fair point; Tottenham supporters have been characterised by their tendency to squabble in recent years and at times the fortunes of the side appear to have been a secondary concern behind inter-supporter point-scoring.  There was the pro-Redknapp lobby, the anti-Villas-Boas lynch mob, those who hated Daniel Levy, those who thought Levy had been a force for good, Tim Sherwood apologists, Nabil Bentaleb fans, and so and so on and so on.

Football is a subjective topic and conflicting opinions will always be a part of the game, but this friendly-fire felt less like healthy debate and more just bitter squabbling.  If a culture exists where losing is tolerated as long as it validates an opinion, then something is very seriously wrong.

The club is probably to blame for that; during the last five years the team’s performances, in spite of oscillating narrowly between 4th and 6th,  have felt tumultuous.  Such is the chasm between the Champions League placings and the positions immediately below, that a club whose perceived success or failure is predicated on tiny margins are always likely to torture their supporters with hope.

Fourth place is the ultimate triumph, fifth is a cataclysmic, manager-sacking disaster.  The Premier League breeds that loss of perspective and, in Spurs’ case, the allure of elite European football was so extreme that it even infected the decision-makers at the club.  If in the past the fans have been guilty of over-reacting to disappointment, then Daniel Levy has helped to perpetuate that hysteria through the creation - and belief in - unrealistic expectations.

2013/14 was horrible, nobody will disagree with that, but maybe retrospectively it will be seen as something of a turning point.  Through the mess with Andre Villas-Boas, the dark days of Tim Sherwood, and the routine - and often humiliating - defeats at the hands of almost all the contending teams, maybe some kind of perspective emerged?  Maybe it was the season when even the most one-eyed fans accepted Tottenham’s place in the Premier League’s hierarchy?

That may sound negative, but it’s really the first-step to being a happier fan.  Spurs are a good side and they have a young, ambitious manager leading a squad of a talented players who could potentially play some very attractive football in the near future.  That seems to be widely accepted but, more importantly, it seems to be accepted without conditions - there is no ‘top-four or bust’ atmosphere around the club’s pre-season and that old attitude seems to have been replaced with a more casual and relaxed optimism.

The Champions League is an enticing mistress and it has the habit of making everything else feel relatively meaningless.  Once you’ve tasted those Inter Milan nights at White Hart Lane, it becomes very difficult to go back to caring about the FA Cup, the Europa League or simply finishing above Everton.  Tottenham had a great time on the continent and the bloody noses handed out to those illustrious Italian clubs will forever be a part of the club’s psyche, but it also feels as if the side has been raging against those memories ever since.  Everything became about returning to that stage and every failed attempt to get back felt unjustifiably like a catastrophe.

It was a false disappointment; Tottenham have largely been fighting battles that they should never have been expected to win.

There’s a big difference between hope and expectation, and maybe Spurs supporters can get back on the right side of that line - and it feels as if that’s happening now.  The team can still be held to a high standard and but the objectives now need to be broader.  Where there was once the top-four and nothing else, maybe now there are more general targets: progression, continuity and cohesion.  Forget the bigger picture and just go back to enjoying those Saturday afternoons again.

That feels healthier.

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