Last season’s ultimate denoument revealed Spurs to be one of the unluckiest clubs in Europe. Having had an exhilarating season under Harry Redknapp, and despite suffering an end of season loss of form, the White Hart Lane club still managed to secure fourth spot in the Premier League. In every other year of the competition, this would have seen them qualify for at least a qualifying round of the Champions’ League.
Who could however have expected that Chelsea would confound predictions on a number of successive occasions and go on to secure the trophy in Bayern Munich’s backyard. That outstanding success for one London club meant disappointment for another one. It meant that – unlike Everton, when caught in a similar dilemma a few years back - Spurs, cruelly had their place snatched away. Soon afterwards Redknapp was gone, and it was back to the drawing board.
This season, with AVB at the helm, Spurs have shown that last season was no fluke, and go into the final half-dozen or so games in position to correct the perceived inequity of last year. All seemed to be going swimmingly until last week, when an injury to the talismanic Gareth Bale in the game against Basel suddenly seemed to shake the team’s self-belief. The game ended in a dispiriting 2-2 draw, and put a serious question mark over Spurs’ ability to progress in the Europa League. Suddenly, what could have previously looked like a fairly run-of-the-mill game against Everton on Sunday assumed the proportions of a major challenge, and one in which Spurs needed to demonstrate a steel and determination to see things through. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out that way, and despite taking an early lead, only a late goal managed to secure them the cold comfort of a draw. It was certainly a case of two points less than expectations demanded. The spectre now has been raised of ‘another Spurs blow-up.” Many people are ready to hang the label of ‘serial bottlers’ around the players’ necks. By the time Spurs take to the field in the league again, on 21st April, at home to Manchester City – no easy task, of course – it is entirely possible that they will be out of the top four.
In such times, a team needs strong characters to step up to the plate and dismiss doubts. No surprise then that as well as manager AVB, a number of players have stepped up to declare their faith in the team securing the coveted top four place. Clint Dempsey has declared his confidence that their aspirations can be met, despite the inevitable tense atmosphere gripping the squad. His stance has been supported by other players such as relative newcomer Lewis Holtby. Confidence can be a fragile commodity, and doubt can swiftly transfer from players to fans, and back again. Such a ‘front foot’ stance by the club therefore is very much the required response.
With the prospect of Bale, Lennon and Defoe to return in the coming weeks, there’s no reason for Spurs’ fans to panic, and on the season’s form, they undoubtedly have the quality to get back on track in no time flat. The Manchester City game has now almost acquired a ‘must win’ status. On form, it’s a task not beyond Spurs, and success against the reigning champions is just the confidence booster required. Should the result go against them however, the tension will be ratcheted up another couple of notches, and the tantalising prize could elude them for another season.