Fixtures and frettings

Gareth Bale in disbelief after being booked for diving against Sunderland
It’s a stressful business supporting Spurs isn’t it?

Memories of a time when it was a serene and relaxing past-time don’t immediately present themselves but it has definitely become a greater ordeal in recent times. The season itself tends to be draining enough but a decade ago even the summertime ceased to offer any respite. This can be put down to the conjunction of two forces; the introduction of the transfer window and the advent of the internet. The former defining the period in which transfer speculation would be at its most rife, the latter giving it a megaphone through which every murmur could be widely and freely projected. The growth of Twitter, a marvellous thing when used well, just made it worse. At least forums could be checked only a couple of times a day without risk of missing an update; Twitter’s instant and 24 hour presence gave us uninterrupted access to misinformation and conjecture. So ubiquitous has this process become that the speculation is now as familiar as our yearly and pompous announcements that we will ignore it. Like with exercise regimes, diets and resolutions to get into work earlier; even as we say we’ll do it, we know we won’t and the more we say we shall the more we reinforce the idea that we never will.

No set of supporters escape it but it’s fair to say Spurs fans have suffered through this time of year more than most. Looking back at the transfer window since its introduction a decade ago it’s very difficult to remember one we’ve entered with any sense of stability or calm. Levy’s penchant for brinkmanship and our status as a club as likely to poach as be poached from has done little for our emotional wellbeing but the truth is few clubs greet this time of year without apprehension over the loss of influential players or a failure to add superior ones. What is damning, however, is how rarely we approach these periods free of unrest surrounding the manager’s position. Whether they’re the subject of interest from another club or the subject of speculation about their own job, the position of Tottenham manager is often as likely to occupy minds as the identity of those taking up positions on the field. We shouldn’t be surprised then, to begin the summer with uncertainty about Andre Villas-Boas’ future. Indeed, little sums up modern football and our place in it so well as a season which began with questions about our managers’ competence and ended with doubts about our ability to keep him from the clutches of Europe’s richest and most lucrative suitors.

It’s a worrying situation but the important thing to remember is that none of what happens this summer is really the point. To illustrate this concept, the Premier League will this week announce the fixture list for the 2013/2014 season. On its release we will check the dates of the North London derbies’, assess the nature of our fixtures over the Christmas period and note the clashes with the top four clubs alongside the awkward away trips to newly promoted teams. We will predict tricky periods, imagine runs of winnable games and suggest matches that could be definitive and almost certainly be wrong with every forecast. Some of us will plan away trips, book time off work and begin the process of being strategically nice to significant others to soften the blow when Hull City away inevitably takes precedence over a family birthday.

But most importantly we will, briefly, be excited. We won’t know if AVB is leaving or if a new striker is arriving, we won’t know if Bale is going to be sold or how the money will be reinvested nor will we know if he’s staying or who will be playing alongside him. What we will know is the simple truth, the only truth, of any football season: our club will be playing and we will be cheering them on. We will look at the fixtures and understand the season will contain joy and frustration, relief and anger, elation and anguish, irrespective of what happens between now and September. For just a few minutes we won’t think about the players or the manager or the sales or the signings; we will look at the new season and see only ourselves and Spurs embarking on the journey, as it always has been and as it always will be.

And then we’ll get straight back onto twitter to see if we’ve signed anyone.

Steve is a Spurs fan of 20 years and a former season ticket holder in the west stand. Follow Steve on Twitter: @SteveJMaloney

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