By Bill Thomas
For a club that likes to style itself as one of history’s giants, trophies at Tottenham are conspicuously thin on the ground. They haven’t won a league title since 1961, which makes Liverpool’s current drought seem like a slightly warm afternoon.
Their last FA Cup win was in 1991, they haven’t won in Europe since 1984 and their last trophy of any kind came in the League Consolation Cup in 2008.
Put that haul alongside Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal and Spurs are decidedly second best, their claims to any special status resting largely on the 20th century’s first double in 1961 and the glory, glory side of Blanchflower, Mackay et al under Bill Nicholson.
That, however, might be about to change. Because if you were going to pick out one club now, one group of players and one set of ambitions, that might just go on to be the dominant force in the next decade of English football, it is very hard to look beyond Tottenham Hotspur.
Theirs is a young, vibrant team, full of players who still have much to prove but give every indication of wanting to do so and to do it where they are rather than being spirited abroad or to the Manchester clubs. In that sense, though they didn’t all come through together, there’s nonetheless a similar feel to this Spurs group as the Scholes, Beckham, Giggs, Neville crew that came through at Manchester United.
It’s unlikely that any side will ever dominate the Premier League in the way that United did, but Spurs look very well set to finally get their hands on that trophy in the course of the next couple of seasons, not least because they’ve shown the quality and the consistency to come again this term after falling away and missing out on overhauling Leicester 12 months ago.
Football is increasingly about pace these days, about what you can do when you recapture possession and how quickly you can do it. With extraordinary speed from the full-backs, in possession Spurs are almost playing a 2-4-4 system, something they can comfortably do because of the two monsters they have in the middle of the park in Wanyama and Demebele, players who can do for Spurs what Kante does for Chelsea. They provide such effective screening for the defence that Walker and Rose have almost total licence to bomb forward and cause absolute havoc in an attacking sense. And they have a world class goalkeeper behind them which helps too, Manchester City and Liverpool please note.
Then you have the attacking players. Eriksen is one of the most underrated players in the Premier League, an artist with the ball at his feet, someone who conjures up memories of Bergkamp in his prime. Add in Alli, showing all the midfield drive of a Lampard or a Gerrard and with masses of improvement to come and then Kane up front, a player who, injuries permitting, is going to one day beat Rooney’s England record and you have a team of rare talent that is going to get better and better.
Not only that, it is a team that shows every sign of enjoying one another’s company, a team with collective ambition and a team that believes it’s going to do something very special in the years to come.
Beyond that, their coach, Pochettino, looks very much like Wenger did 20 years ago, somebody coming into the English game with new ideas, new approaches and the ability to change the direction of a game with a substitution or a tactical switch. Having had time in England now at Southampton and Spurs, he looks ready to move up a gear and really start to collect the trophies and to do it with the kind of swagger that is expected from Tottenham Hotspur.
Yes, there are challenges to overcome, not least a year away from White Hart Lane, be it next season or the one after, an issue that must not be underestimated. The very fact that Spurs are dithering over pressing the Wembley button suggests that they know just how close they are to the Premier League crown and just how big a part playing at the Lane might play in finally securing it. One more year there might just be enough to do it and then to create the kind of momentum that could nullify the difficulties of a season out at Wembley.
Postponing the move might also just give them the breathing space for that one more push they need in the transfer market to take them that last step in the league next term. A commanding centre-half looks essential, someone to do for them what Kompany, Vidic and Terry did elsewhere as does another goalscorer to lighten the load for Kane given that Janssen hasn’t delivered.
Manage to do that in the window, and they could well say a final goodbye to White Hart Lane in May 2018 with a hell of a celebration.