They don’t get it, not quite. Managers, players, the board – none of them feel for their club in the same way as those in the stands. They haven’t had the years following every high and every low, spending their wages on miserable, rainy afternoons, or glorious victories under the lights. And we can’t blame them – it has to be that way.
We maintain a hope that they can understand what it means to us to some extent though, hoping they know how much it means. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find that bond, but for much of last year it felt like the club had reconnected with the fans in a way that hadn’t been seen in years. That image of the fans and players celebrating as one at Vicarage Road after Heung-Min Son’s late winner will remain etched into the memory of those who lived that moment for decades.
After all these strides forward in creating a sense of togetherness, it felt like we took a slump backwards again at St James’ Park. The result and performance were pathetic, the reaction, to me at least, was incredibly disappointing. Once again, it felt like the only people hurting were the fans. It seemed that after the title was gone, the work was seen as over.
But then, maybe that’s underestimating Mauricio Pochettino and his players. In the last few weeks, he admitted that the last day embarrassment had ruined his summer. Learning that the Argentine had kept his feelings hidden from his players during Euro 2016, whilst secretly wanting to ‘kill them’ altered the outlook on that capitulation in Newcastle. Pochettino is a bit more like us than some gave him credit for.
His acknowledgement and disgust at the final failings of himself and his team provide a welcome reassurance that everything is going to be done to avoid a repeat this time around. That last day gave Pochettino a harsh lesson that his young team still has much to do. As his players returned to Hotspur Way, they were given the stark reality of his summer pain and have been pushed to greater lengths than ever.
Now, as the new season looms, the man in charge seems confident that his team is ready to go and better last year. In Thursday’s press conference, Pochettino noted that Spurs aren’t desperate to throw money about to bring in reinforcements. He’s happy with the personnel he’s got, though open to one or two more additions. After what was an extraordinary season, this is a sensible and logical attitude.
It can be easy to feel like we’re getting left behind with the money spent by rivals on Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kanté, and John Stones. Despite the success derived from our slow building of a team, many still hysterically cry out for a marquee signing. But drastic change is not what is required; the prerogative is improving an already exceptional level of performance, maturing a side that exceeded all expectations to ensure they can manage the greater pressure of anticipation this time around.
Pochettino evidently knows that. This is merely reiterating the obvious – trust him; he knows what he’s doing. He never wants to feel that dejection of his ‘worst day as a manager’ again and that harsh lesson is maybe what was needed to push us even further. The 44-year-old learned that his team still had much maturing to do and tearing into them upon their return from international tournament football was surely a necessity to reinforce that the season’s end was unacceptable.
He’s still not quite like us. He doesn’t have to go to work or school and face up to the inevitable abuse from rival fans. But it’s reassuring that it hurt him so much. And he’s said himself that his squad can use that. The job with this young group is far from complete. There’s more to come from Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham.
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