Are Tottenham really a million miles away?
The concept of ambition is one that may well be a subject of fiery debate amongst the supporters of some clubs, but for those of Tottenham Hotspur, it’s one usually greeted with a more genteel outlook.
Past waters of mid-table mediocrity and the extensive back-catalogue of false dawns have left those on the white side of North London with something of a scorched outlook when it comes to discussing their side’s long-term prospects. ‘To Dare Is To Do’ may well be the club motto, but daring to dream isn’t something fans are particularly ofay with.
Although following the club’s relative success within recent years, talk of higher expectations isn’t quite the taboo topic that perhaps it once was at White Hart Lane. With two fourth placed finishes in the bag over three seasons, a wonderful campaign in the Champions League still fresh in the memory and a squad that’s arguably the strongest in a generation, fans aren’t just pining for success out of hope. They’re now quite rightfully pining for it out of expectation.
But it’s here that Spurs have reached something of an interesting crossroads in the development of those expectations. Success can only be measured against the goals that the club have been set to achieve and should Andre Villas-Boas’ men attain Champions League football this term, then supporters will be more than appeased.
Although where should the club be aiming should they achieve those targets?
It’s tempting fate somewhat to presume that the Lilywhites are dead-certs to dine upon Europe’s most exclusive table once more, given the self-implosion of last term. Even if they do achieve Champions League qualifications, given the uneven financial footing that the club stand upon in comparison to the teams around them, challenging for it on a regular basis is enough of a challenge in itself.
The financial constraints of having just the 36,000 seats to sell on a matchday aren’t going to be solved until a naming rights partner is attained for the new stadium development and until that happens maybe it is asking too much to look further than challenging for Champions League football every season. But should this side stay intact for the start of the 2013-14 season – Gareth Bale inclusive – how much further are Tottenham away from realistically challenging for the unthinkable?
Uttering the words ‘Spurs’ and ‘title-challenge’ may well be bordering heresy, but while it’s still some way off, maybe it’s not quite within the land of make believe after all. Going on the present day disparity between Tottenham and current leaders Manchester United, a 17-point gap hardly oozes the feeling of two clubs competing on similar plateaus.
But on terms of making the next step towards challenging for top honours, it’s worth noting that Tottenham currently sit a mere five-points behind Roberto Mancini’s second-placed Manchester City side. Whether or not they’ll still be within touching distance of the reigning champions come May remains to be seen. Although on current form, Spurs aren’t galaxies away from the Italian’s side and that should serve as real encouragement to supporters.
Should Gareth Bale stay with the club this summer – and if they attain Champions League football, there’s no reason to think that he won’t – Tottenham have the foundations of a real, top-quality side. To bridge the gap from top-four contenders to Premier League title-chasers might seem derisory given the discrepancy in resources with the likes of two Manchester clubs and Chelsea.
Yet in some ways, Tottenham are already living evidence that it’s not just how much money you’ve got that’s important, more what you choose to do with it.
Arsenal’s annual wage bill costs around a further £52milion to service than that of Spurs’, but how much further ahead has that got them? They pipped the Lilywhites’ to third place by just one point last term and they currently sit four points behind Villas-Boas’ side with 12 league games to go.
Again, Chelsea’s outlay of £171million a year on wages isn’t far off double that of Spurs’ estimated £91million spend. Although after finishing two places below the then-Harry Redknapp led side last term, it’s not out the question that the Blues could finish behind Tottenham for the second season in a row. Regardless of the potential mismanagement at both clubs, maybe Spurs don’t have to double their wage bill to compete with the teams above them – not in the meantime, anyway.
To play devil’s advocate here, should the side stay as it is, what would happen if chairman Daniel Levy manages to serve up Villas-Boas a top-class striker and say, a Joao Moutinho? Granted, all of their rivals will of course be strengthening, but if you look at this Spurs side player-for-player, is it really more than two or three top-class players away from mounting a title-challenge?
The problem is that those ‘two or three’ players needed to make a difference don’t come cheap. And although the next windfall of television money will make a sizeable difference to the club’s coffers, the same applies to the other 19 teams plying their trade in the Premier League. Spurs are a tightly run financial ship, more so than ever with the ongoing effort to get the stadium project off the ground.
Yet if they find success in qualifying for next season’s Champions League and Levy does find a way to bring in one or two genuinely top class players, then maybe a title tilt isn’t as far away as it may seem. It hinges on an awful lot of big ‘ifs,’ but there’s every reasons for Spurs fans to fix their ambitions skywards.