‘It’s the history of the Tottenham’…

“It is the history of the Tottenham”, proclaimed Giorgio Chiellini following Juventus’ comeback win over Tottenham in early 2018. He added: “they always created many chances to score so much, but at the end, they always miss something to arrive at the end.” Chiellini’s words circulated the football world like wildfire and have since been used as a Twitter meme to disparage Tottenham. But honestly, have truer words ever been said?

Since then, even after five years, three managers and a brand-spanking new 60,000-seater stadium, nothing has changed. Last night, Spurs crashed out of the FA Cup to Championship outfit Sheffield United to virtually ensure that the Lilywhites will win no trophy for the 15th consecutive season. Iliman Ndiaye evaded a flurry of challenges in the box and smashed the ball past Fraser Forster to put the Blades ahead and put Tottenham to the sword. The same Iliman Ndiaye who a few years ago, whilst Spurs were competing in a Champions League Final, was playing for Rising Ballers, an amateur British Sunday League team. 

Forming the back three for Spurs last night were Davinson Sanchez, Eric Dier and Ben Davies. That Champions League night, when Chiellini famously uttered those ever-so-pertinent words, those three players all started. In fact, in all of Spurs’ last six FA Cup exits (which include Middlesborough, Norwich and Crystal Palace), some combination of those three players have formed the centre-back pairing. This is not to say that any of them are particularly poor players. Eric Dier is consistently reliable for Spurs and England. Ben Davies has shown he is a competent left-back at various points in the last few seasons. However, it appears blindingly obvious to everyone that these players are not delivering for Tottenham. So why the intransigence?

Manager Antonio Conte with winger Dejan Kulusevski

Since 2008, Spurs have enjoyed some fleeting junctures of happiness, but nothing is long-lasting with them. Mauricio Pochettino brought beautiful, free-scoring football to White Hart Lane but his team lacked the experience and bottle for any noteworthy success. Jose Mourinho was hailed as the man who would undoubtedly bring a trophy to N17. It was a fair assumption. After all, he had won trophies at every club that he’d managed. Thinking that Mourinho wouldn’t win anything Spurs would have been like thinking Batman wasn’t going to save Gotham City. Yet a week before his first opportunity to do so with Tottenham in the League Cup Final, he was sacked. Spurs got trounced. Ryan Mason was given the nod over Jose Mourinho. Mourinho had won more League Cups than Mason had managed games. Then came Conte. It seemed for a while that he had turned Harry Kane, Heung-min Son and Dejan Kulusevski into the deadliest front three in the league. Spurs were devastating on the counterattack. Yet things have since taken a turn for the worse. It’s not quite sour, but it sure isn’t sweet. 

This leaves Spurs in a difficult situation. 15 years trophyless, a manager on the brink of leaving, an ageing Heung-min Son, and an increasingly frustrated Harry Kane. For a player as magnificent as Kane, it would be a pity for him to end his career without any real accolades to emphasise his brilliance. In 2017, he admitted he would be ‘disappointed’ not to win any trophies in the next three years. It’s now been six. 

Spurs’ best player and all-time top scorer, Harry Kane

At times, it feels as if Spurs focus more on commercial deals than actual footballing success. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an important aspect of a football club and they indeed thrive in that department. Their social media team is light years ahead of almost everyone else’s. They utilise their stadium well to generate revenue with NFL matches and concerts but there needs to be a balance. Just recently, they announced a 15-year partnership with Formula 1 to have an underground go-karting track at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. This is great, but why is underperforming Davinson Sánchez on the brink of 200 appearances at the club?

Spurs have all the potential to be a great club. They possess the best training ground in the country, a groundbreaking and quite frankly beautiful stadium and a loyal and committed fanbase. They also have the best striker in the world and a worthy support cast consisting of Kulusevski, Heung-min Son, Bentancur and Romero. With significant investment into the squad in the summer and an astute new manager, Spurs are closer to winning trophies than one may think. However, without dipping into the war chest this summer, we’ll inevitably continue to say, “it is the history of the Tottenham”.

By Nicky Helfgott

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