When Gerry Francis resigned as Spurs Manager in November 1997, one of his coaching staff was reported to have said ‘at least we won’t have to listen to that song anymore’ with that song being ‘we want our Tottenham back’, a chant which had begun to roll down off the terraces with increasing volume and venom as the low-scoring non-event matches stacked up.
Considering Francis’s biggest ‘what if’ game at Spurs was probably the 1995 FA Cup semi-final when Joe Royle’s Everton somehow did us 4-1 at Elland Road, I couldn’t help but think of our old manager at full-time on Wednesday and wonder if he was staring bleary eyed at the scenes on his TV screen and ruefully singing that song to himself, because this was classic Tottenham after all, cruising at 0-1, somehow 3-1 down, back in it bang on half-time, 3-3, 4-4, and still we find a spare foot to shoot ourselves in.
Same as I imagine any other Spurs fan feels, I hate Spurs losing, and especially so when it means getting dumped out of a cup, but while the hatred of losing is never lessened by the performance, the loathing I often feel for the team, management and club after defeats like the ones we’ve recently suffered against Liverpool, Brighton and Chelsea often is.
If we had to lose, I’d always choose to lose the way we did against Everton, where it always felt as if we had the goals in us to pull something out of the hat and the quality of our attacking play – especially Kane’s equaliser from Son’s cross – got me out of my seat for the first time in far too long as far as watching Spurs is concerned.
Even against Arsenal, I’d rate the 4-5 reverse we suffered against them in November 2004 as the least painful derby defeat I’ve ever been to.
And, sadly, I’ve been to a few.
A certain Portuguese obviously had something to say about that particular loss to Arsenal way back in his first season as a Premier League manager, calling it a hockey score, disgraceful, and saying that in a three-against-three training session he would send the players back to the dressing room for not defending properly if they allowed nine goals to fly in.
I wonder if Wenger and Jol were texting each other as Winks allowed himself to be so easily dispossessed and seven of Mourinho’s Spurs players stood statuesque across the six seconds it took Bernard to play this ball into Sigurdsson in the first screen shot and pick up the return to score Everton’s fifth in the second. Honestly, looking at the two shots, it’s almost as if he’s used a secret tunnel to pop up behind them all without a single one noticing, though all of them have turned around to watch him jog by.
Mourinho was slightly more reticent in giving his views on this particular 5-4 Tottenham reverse, avoiding the issue by saying he doesn’t feel comfortable to be speaking about it.
The problem is, with Dier already benched for the penalty he gave away against Chelsea, Rodon benched for not being Milan Skriniar, Aurier benched for being Aurier, Tanganga benched for who knows what reason, Reguilon injured and Doherty, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Davies and possibly Hojbjerg all now requiring benching as punishment for crimes against trophy ambitions, who the hell does Mourinho have left to send out against City tonight?
Personally, I’d stick as close as possible to the eleven which beat City back in match-week 9, which would mean a back-four of Aurier, Alderweireld, Dier, and probably Davies in place of Reguilon, though maybe Mourinho is so shell-shocked from seeing a defence he put together concede five for what I think is the first ever time in his career, we’ll see a repeat of the Brighton experiment, with a mish-mash of whichever three centre-backs he’s least furious with, Doherty and Sissoko as wing-backs, and Kane replacing Hugo in goal.
That match-week 9 fixture against City was the last time our hosts today lost, and they’ve been in frightening form ever since, unbeaten with twelve wins and two draws, scoring five twice, four twice, and only failing to score once. The swing between us and them since that game has been twenty-two points and they’ve gone from thirteenth and the humiliation of being a place below Arsenal to five points clear at the top of the league with a game in hand on any club with an outside hope of overhauling them.
I saw most of their game against Liverpool last week and even before Alisson channeled his inner Karius to gift them their second and third goals, they looked so much better than the champions.
Though, to be fair, unless you’re us or West Ham, that doesn’t look all that difficult to do right now.
But we’ve faced City twice while Mourinho’s been with us and pretty much had their number both times.
They also seem to be one of the few teams playing professional football at the moment who we can sometimes be consistently (p)lucky against, the equivalent fixture last season – which took place way back in August 2019 when some of us believed we were about to embark on a title challenge and Pochettino would be with us for life – being a prime case in point. We scored with our only two shots on target, only managed three shots overall, allowed City to take a whopping thirty, yet still came away with a point.
That sort of performance is my main hope for something today, and while my expectations that we can go there and get a win or a draw with the way we’ve been playing and the way they’ve been playing are pretty low right now, the hope’s just about staying alive and has gone from virtually zero when I started typing this to pretty much blind optimism right now: Kane and Son and Ndombele with a brace apiece for the most hockeyriffic 5-6 result ever witnessed and the title winning run starts here.
Come on you Spurs!