“Your ground’s too big for you”, the Spurs contingent sang the last time we visited Molineux for a league fixture, revelling in the fact the new Stan Cullis stand had opened that evening, but the stadium looked far from full.
That last visit – 10th September 2011 – was back in the dark days of Arry, long before Poch put a spine into Spurs. And, to be (begrudgingly) fair to Gary Neville, we started that afternoon bottom of the league, having been three-nilled by United and one-fived by City in our opening two games.
In the build-up to this fixture, our Arry stuck his head out of a car-window and told a BBC reporter he took full responsibility: “I could tell there were too many players around that wanted to leave. It wasn’t creating the right atmosphere going into the new season…”
This, of course, was back in the halcyon days when the transfer window stayed open until the end of August, giving Levy enough time to finish his holidays and give some thought to what the squad needed in order to focus on titles: In and around those two Manchester maulings, and in shocking contrast to the summer just gone, he sprang into action and borrowed Adebayor from City and actually bought Scott Parker from Spam for £5.5m, adding to the fortune he’d already splashed out early-doors (Friedel; free – Ceballos; free – Coulibaly; undisclosed).
Oh, on the same day he borrowed Adebayor, he borrowed Falque as well.
He did manage to cling onto Modric, though, and as for those bad-eggs bringing down the mood in Arry’s dressing-room, he loaned Jenas to Villa, somehow sold Hutton to Villa, and banked a respectable £18m by dropping Palacios and Crouch off in a Potteries car-park and returning with a flash-drive full of Bitcoins (or were he and Joe still accepting old-money duffel-bags back then?).
Those of us with a flat-earth mentality no doubt ended that particular transfer-window as happy as pigs in Arsenal kits. Not only had we made yet another profit to chip away at the upcoming stadium debt, we’d finally signed Scotty Parker as well. And if anyone could get a tune out of Adebayor, it was Arry…
And, to be fair to Arry, we beat Wolves two-nil that night, whumped the Dippers four-nil at home the following Sunday (with an absolute pearler from Modric opening the scoring), and wouldn’t lose in the league again until Stoke beat us two-one on the 11th December. We spent the vast majority of the season in third and Arry celebrated his tax-dodging acquittal and Capello’s shock-resignation from the job he really wanted by managing the team to a five-nil throbbing of Newcastle on the 11th February.
In the next-fixture, at the Emirates, the TV cameras panned in on a group of Spurs fans pre-match who’d arranged themselves so the letters on their t-shirts read MIND THE GAP on the front and something like HARRY DON’T GO on the back. We raced into an early two-nil lead and…
… to be (begrudgingly) fair to Gary Neville…
… lost five-two.
We then only picked up two points from twelve before beating Swansea on April Fools day, ended the season in fourth, and, of course, got bumped out of the following season’s CL by 6th placed Chelsea.
Arry, no doubt, will point to the unsettled squad and the six-point head-start Levy gave all our competitors by balding up our opening two fixtures.
Levy, no doubt, will point to a nil-nil draw with Villa (who finished fifth from bottom) in our penultimate game and a one-nil defeat to QPR (who finished fourth from bottom) three weeks earlier, because a win in either of those games would have seen us bump Arsenal into fourth.
And, most likely, saved Redknapp his job.
It doesn’t really matter which of them points out what, though. Between them, they screwed it right up, and yet another potentially golden era for Tottenham came to yet another shuddering stop.
That potentially golden era might also have been saved had we not suffered a one-one home draw with Wolves on the 14th January. In typical charity-Spurs fashion, Wolves wouldn’t pick up another point until Mick McCarthy was sacked following a five-one home schooling by West Brom in the middle of Feb. They ended that season bottom, suffered another relegation the following season, then, after securing immediate promotion, spent three seasons bobbing around the nether-regions of the Championship before topping the pile in Santo’s first season as manager last time around.
Now they’re sitting pretty in tenth, having won four, drawn three and lost three, which is a fairly respectable return ten games into a first season back in the PL, irrespective of how well financed they might be and how many players they might have brought in via supposedly spurious links – according to Leeds and Aston Villa and a few other Championship clubs, anyway – to super-agent Jorge Mendes.
Two of those defeats, though, have come in their last two games – two-nil at home to Watford and one-nil away to Brighton – which maybe makes this trip a little less daunting than it might have seemed just a couple of weeks earlier.
As for us, we’re still better off points-wise than this time last season, whether comparing the number of games played or results against the same opposition. Following Wednesday’s Wet Spamming, we’re also one round further ahead in the Carabo Cup than we managed last year.
Which means, if it wasn’t for the last ten minutes or so of two CL games, who knows what sort of dumb-dumb over-hyped guff I’d be typing right now, especially as I’ve been vaguely enjoying some of our football as the season’s worn on, with only the defeats against Watford and Dippers leaving me totally meh.
Maybe Saturday’s news of Glenn’s heart-attack and the Leicester City helicopter disaster also put the importance of winning on Monday into a slightly different perspective, because I enjoyed watching that game even though there were spells when it felt like City were about to give us a spanking. They didn’t, though, and the fact we created a couple of really good openings and finished the game looking the team most likely to score left me feeling more upbeat than I usually would after a defeat, especially given last season’s thwumpings from City.
Wednesday’s performance against Spam only added to my uneasy sense of optimism: I feel that was one of Poch’s best ‘second-eleven’ selections and Spammers away has to be his biggest domestic cup scalp so far – unless I’ve missed any, the only other current PL teams we’ve seen off in the FA or League cups under Poch have been Watford, Fulham, Newcastle, Leicester and Burnley (hopefully, though, we’ll be adding Gooners away to this list very soon). As Taff pointed out in his bloeug, Foyth could well be the next big thing, and as Chauvelin and The Great Ronwoldo were discussing this morning, our goals against column in the PL so far this season actually compares well to all but City and Dippers, and even compared to those two we’ve only conceded five and four more.
Fuelling my giddiness ever such a little bit more, I feel the hint of a goal-threat might finally be returning to our game, with two very good chances created against a City defence with a reputation for being one of the tightest around and Son taking his chances really well on Wednesday. Even Llorente scored, suggesting that, all in all, despite the defeat to City, despite being fifth, despite being five points off the top, despite the horror of being behind Arsenal, despite languishing in third in our CL group, despite Poch being off to Real, despite Alli only signing a contract extension so Levy can sell him for more money to Real once Poch’s got his feet under the table in Spain, despite the spiralling debt, the falling attendances, the fact we’re indefinitely homeless and our temporary home has a pitch in a worse state than Superspoz’s new allotment, it might just be possible to postpone the official end of THFC until we get turned over by Wolves.
Win, though, and we’ll either be back above Arsenal or within touching distance of Dippers again, and the earth will feel reassuringly flat until we screw up against PSV in Tuesday night’s must-win NFL Stadium game or our next PL outing, which happens to be Palace away.