There are two important fixtures that I look out for at the start of any premier League Season. Naturally they are of course Woolwich (H) & (A).
Exceptions to that rule include the Boxing Day fixture, end of season home match, and Bournemouth or Saints (A), depending on whether they retained Premier League status. A short trip up the road always welcome.
However – This time, the pre-season review of the fixture list was too take a different turn.
Stand out fixture (secured by magnet to the fridge door and illuminated with a highlighter) – Chelsea (H)!
As the 2022/2023 campaign imploded, there was one prominent name on the lips of nearly every Spurs Fan. His name, routinely sung in the concourses and on the terraces – Mauricio Pochettino!
The unemployed (at the time) former Head Coach of Spurs. The messiah who had dared us to dream only a few years earlier and taken us to places we imagined impossible and exceeded all our expectations.
History Books will detail the painful 2-0 defeat in the Champions League Final to serial European Cup Winners, Liverpool FC. Quickly followed by the unravelling and demise of a very talented squad. The Lillywhite equivalent of the ‘Golden Generation’ was burnt out, ageing and requiring a major overhaul.
A team that promised so much, but ultimately delivered so little. After months of poor performances, the enviable happened. The one who had brought so much joy and belief to a fan base, starved of recent success, was scrawling a goodbye message on a whiteboard. What should have been a painful rebuild undertaken by the man we trusted was turned into an absolute nightmare by the Managers/Coaches that followed his tenure.
So why the so much love and angst? Managers come and go. But ultimately this is a results-based business. The early years of the Poch era (end of White Hart Lane and Wembley) introduced the high press with attacking full backs (Walker & Rose), solid defence (Toby & Jan) and creativity not seen since the days of Hoddle channelled through our Denmark International – No.23 (C. Eriksen). We rolled over the likes of Real Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester United amongst many others. We even had a little shot at the title before some systemic implosions and loss of discipline towards the end of the season.
Most importantly though. The connection between fans and Coaching staff was solid. He loved us and we loved him. Banners adorned the side walls depicting Poch as an Argentine Mesiah. ‘He’s magic you know’ echoed as constant reminder of the bond, connection, and mutual appreciation of a person we considered – Ours!
So, the natural thing to do when your clubs in a turmoil was to call, and even demand, the reinstatement of the one who you miss most. Poch was unemployed, having just left PSG and clearly wanted (as far as we know) to come back to Spurs. The love & connection was still there at fan level. But for some reason, at Board level, there was hesitation; a reluctance to go back. And with the lack of positive decision making and clarity regarding this most critical of positions, the scorn and distain towards our board rapidly intensified. Small protests started to gain traction against ENIC. ‘Levy Out’ balloons were encouraged along their journey by a swift hand or two towards their intended target. Blown along by a loud chorus of distain and vitriol.
Now then …. I can’t remember what came first?? I should probably check/know but…Poch to Chelsea then Ange to Spurs?? Not sure and I will look it up. Anyway, it happened, and it came as a mighty shock, accompanied by deep disappointment followed by an expression of hatred. Not quite at the levels of a certain player crossing the White > Red divide, but close enough. From ‘Magic you know’ to ‘Pochettino is dead’. All it took was a hop across to the Blue Half of West London and a simple lyrical adjustment to Angels – and – our love for the Coach/Person we held so dear was gone!
Life has it’s sliding doors moments, and this is certainly one of them. If Poch (whilst on his garden sun lounger) had taken the call from Mr L, then we wouldn’t have a certain Australian tip up at our door with a big beardy smile and throw his arms around everyone with a heartfelt G’day!
We wouldn’t have experienced ‘Ange Ball’, ‘Freed from Desire’, or a very deserving placing at the very top of the Premier League Table.
Who knows what we would have had?
But I know what I prefer now.
Enjoy your Lunch!
Up the Spurs!