It’s the sort of headline that most Tottenham Hotspur supporters are sick of the sight of following the barrage of negativity that has draped itself around the Lilywhites’ campaign in recent weeks.
With last season’s self-capitulation still fresh in the memory as the club looks to have again suffered a potentially fatal wobble in the race for Champions League football, supporters upon the white side of north London have found their recent history almost unavoidable over the last period of Premier League games.
And far from simply tempting fate, the continuous reminders of the misfortune that beset the squad during the 2011-12 campaign is arguably having a palpable effect upon both supporters and player; Clint Dempsey recently suggested that a ‘noticeably tense’ matchday atmosphere has been well noted by the team when playing at White Hart Lane over the last couple of weeks.
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But while the concept of failing to attain Champions League football has become something of a taboo subject amongst supporters in N17, without looking to preempt the fate of Andre Villas-Boas’ side this term, is it time to stop sweeping the notion under the carpet? Because for as gutting as it might be for the club, it might not necessarily spell the doomsday scenario that some have made out.
It’s the elephant in the room that nobody really feels particularly comfortable talking about at Spurs and given the repercussions that are likely to befall the side should they fall short of the mark for the second season running, it’s understandable.
From a financial perspective certainly, a lack of Champions League football is likely to have a profound impact upon the players they are likely to be able to attract to the club, as well as the funding in which they are likely be able to put towards such efforts.
It’s been suggested on more than one occasion that the Lilywhites’ transfer budget is likely to be closely tied to whether they manage to attain elite European football and should they fail to do so, it’s quite likely we might see a transfer strategy more in line with the net spend of last summer. In short, any new marquee faces are likely to find the bulk of their funding from those who left the club and you don’t need a crystal ball to figure out what that’s likely to spell.
Because for as much money as Spurs might bring in from selling the likes of Tom Huddlestone, Jake Livermore and the rest of the deadwood that currently sits within the squad at White Hart Lane, it’s the future of Gareth Bale which is likely to be in a somewhat perilous state should Champions League football prove elusive.
Is it a foregone conclusion that the Welshman leaves should Tottenham finish outside of the top four? It’s hard to say, but given the air of inevitability that surrounds his touted departure from the Lane amongst supporters, there is a feeling that should he go this summer, it may only ultimately have deprived the club of one more season from his services. Yet however you frame it, should Bale leave this summer, the next one or at any point in the near future, it’s going to be a devastating blow.
But is it one that’s really likely to send Tottenham spiraling down the table?
Should Spurs finish fifth and Bale leave for pastures new, the feeling of bitter disappointment for the second season running is going to take quite some time to get over for supporters, but it’s not a departure that should spark anything resembling a mass exodus.
And with a £50million price tag, regardless of how much of that chairman Daniel Levy would theoretically give Andre Villas-Boas to play around with, it’s hardly as if the club are going to be bereft of resources to rebuild should the Welshman pack his bags this summer.
The feeling seems to be that such will be the financial might that the four teams above them will pack, that Spurs will be permanently left in the relative cold of the Europa League for several years to come. Yet the club has been here before several times over the last couple of seasons and while the failure to attain Champions League football has been damaging, it’s not been the mortal blow that some are perhaps inclined to believe it has.
During the 2010-11 season, despite experiencing a raft of famous European nights in the competition, the club ultimately fell just short of qualifying for a second bite of the Champions League apple. The damage was a summer of discontent and fervent transfer speculation, but far from losing sight of their rivals, the club still managed to finish fourth the following season.
Yet again, Champions League football still evaded the club following Chelsea’s European triumph and this time, the after-effects were a lot more severe following the loss of the influential Luka Modric, Rafael van der Vaart and club legend Ledley King. Although in spite of the aforementioned, needless to say a change of management at the club, too, Spurs still find themselves well in contention for a top-four finish.
This isn’t to say that such an approach is sustainable, nor that the club wouldn’t be missing out on a huge opportunity to move forward by qualifying for the Champions League. But for as heartbreaking as it would be for the club to miss out and for as difficult as the club would be making life for itself, there’s no reason to suggest that Tottenham couldn’t make another charge for the top-four next season, regardless of what happens over the next six games.
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