Tottenham must lose their small-club mentality and learn from Arsenal | Football

Ange Postecoglou was furious some Spurs fans were happy to lose to Manchester City (Picture: Reuters)

So thank you, everybody. The result might have gone the way most suspected but the memes were special.

By way of a recap: Arsenal needed Tottenham to win or draw with Manchester City at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to have the title in their hands. Spurs win bafflingly often against Pep Guardiola’s side in their new home – every time they’ve hosted them in the league, in fact. Until Tuesday, when they lost 2-0 in front of home support nearly as audible as a Covid crowd.

Tottenham, in case you’re wondering, last won the league in 1961. You would realistically have to be a Spurs fan in your 70s to have a proper memory of your side being the best in the land. Arsenal have won a few a little more recently. And yet the local rivalry remains as vigorous as ever.

Perhaps that’s why so many Spurs fans have to settle for getting pleasure from mishaps that befall their north London neighbours.

More than one friend of mine confided they would rather see us relegated than Arsenal win the league. I thought it was hyperbole until I heard the crowd on Tuesday.

The lusty chorus of ‘Come on you Spurs’ when City were finally 2-0 up with only injury time to play broke my heart. Ange Postecoglou’s heart seemed a little battered after the game too.

Asked the Arsenal question his response, ‘I just don’t care, I wanna win, I wanna be successful at this football club’, was not a dodge but the only possible correct answer from someone serious about his craft and about his team.

Mikel Arteta on the pitch in the rain

Arsenal’s patience with manager Mikel Arteta is bearing fruit (Picture: AP)

For so long Tottenham fans have complained – rightly at times – about a lack of ambition. And now, in this moment, everything is as close to poised as it can be. The stadium is built, the related money should soon be funnelled to transfers and a manager with a plan and long-term vision is in position.

Hell, even the women’s team improbably made a cup final. And then this.

A very strong performance against the Premier League’s best team for four years straight with – somehow lost though it has been in the noise – Champions League football still on the line, and… ambivalence.

It is small-club mentality to be so focused on what everyone else is up to. ‘But it’s Arsenal!’ is the obvious caveat. Sure, it is. And they trusted the process for coming up on five years and very nearly made it. They still could, in theory, with one to play.

We know that comparing ourselves to those around us is part of the human condition and one that, if unchecked, contributes to anxiety, a sense of our falling short and even depression. It’s one of the problems that arises with social media. I know I find it a huge challenge in my career – there will always be someone doing better than me or certainly looking like they are.

As far as there is a solution it is to focus on what you do and, if success is what you’re after, to keep chipping away with commitment. And if hated rivals do win titles, congratulate them, find clues in how they did it, try again next year, one step closer.

Tears welled as it hit home how special Wembley final really was

Crowds of fans at Wembley Way before the Women's FA Cup final

Fans fill Wembley Way before the Women’s FA Cup final (Picture: Getty)

It’s more widely known today that women’s football was banned in this country for 50 years. Brilliant specialist historians and writers have been diligently tracking the impact and, as the game has grown, so has the number of people taking an interest – there’s even a documentary on the scandal from the queen Clare Balding.

And now that tens of millions of people watch big games and female footballers have won Spoty back-to-back, I can find it boring to be asked to explain, after another record attendance, ‘How good is this for the women’s game?’

The game is here, there’s no need to compare it to anything else or to ask it to do anything new.

People love it, the fans are devoted, men, women and children attend in their thousands and know all about Ella Toone and who transferred where.

Tottenham fans waving flags at Wembley Stadium

Tottenham fans packed in at Wembley on Sunday (Picture: Shutterstock)

So it took me by surprise when tears started in my eyes as I arrived at Wembley Park on Sunday to watch Spurs take on Manchester United in the Women’s FA Cup final.

Looking out on a packed Wembley Way at the sold-out crowd of Maddisons and Englands and Earpses and Rashfords on this sunny, hopeful day I realised – this does hit different.

The sight of a crowd so big taking pride in what their women’s teams can do – without fear of being mocked for what they love, or need to worry that their side will be gone next season. That is new.

And that exuberant day was welcoming to new fans, old fans and really anyone who fancied it. For me, that is the best of sport.


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