Most of the time I’m not one for animalistic rivalry. I prefer to put my bias aside and keep a rational head; to see football for what it is. But as derby day edges closer, I’m afraid instincts are kicking in.
Firstly, congratulations to Tottenham. After a LOT of waiting, they finally have a very good team. It would take a very brave man now to bet on them failing to finish above Arsenal for the first time since 1995. They are also favourites to do their first double over us since 1993.
Fair enough, Spurs fans. You could say it’s been coming (I’ve been hearing they’re going to finish above us every year since 2005). Our North London neighbours have shown far more ambition in the transfer market than we have in recent seasons. And although for a while that involved throwing crazy money around on duds like David Bentley, Giovanni dos Santos, Peter Crouch, Roman Pavlyuchenko – and too many more to mention – the club seems to have finally got things right.
And yet for all the years of big talk and big money, the one time Spurs do manage to finish above Arsenal it will owe a great deal to the fact that the Gunners are enduring their worst season in living memory. It’s not like we’re 2nd and they’re 1st and beating us to an actual trophy; we’re 4th and they’re 3rd, which is the very highest they can realistically hope of finishing this season. They’ve improved enough to overtake the worst Arsenal side for decades, but not enough to topple the Manchester clubs and win their first title since the days before colour TV.
They have become the media darlings this season, largely due to the popularity of their straight-talking cockney-stereotype manager Harry Redknapp (who is so popular he might well be driven out of White Hart Lane and into the England hot seat). Ridiculously though, they also have the image of the small team in a small stadium punching above its weight (a bit like Arsenal used to be?), which is totally inaccurate.
Sure, by Manchester City standards Spurs have not been big spenders, but it’s taken tens of millions of pounds worth of a few hits and a lot of misses to get to where they are now (see above). Where exactly is the money coming from? And is it being well-spent on old-timers like Brad Friedel and Scott Parker, who will surely need replacing in the next 2-3 years. Or on the wages of Ledley King, who has averaged 19 games a season for the last seven years?
It’s all looking rosey now, and while you have to credit them for their ambition – it’s not sensible spending – just look at what Harry did to Portsmouth.
So, Spurs fans, congratulations. You might well do the double over us, you will almost definitely finish above us, and you might have a chance in the FA Cup (just got to break down Stevenage in that replay first). No doubt if all this happens you and Harry’s mates in the Sun will lap it up and claim to have ‘overtaken us’.
Not quite though. Win eleven more league titles, then we can talk. Enjoy third place, (our manager considers it a trophy if that helps).
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