Two minutes and 26 seconds is all it took. With one swift glance off lustrous mane, Fernando Llorente turned his cameo into an encore; Borussia Dortmund put to the sword by a swashbuckling Spurs side reinvented for the second-half.
If, as many had anticipated, Pochettino and his team were planning on going “under the radar” — a term now a part of Tottenham Terminology 101 — in the Champions League, the instruction manual mustn’t have made it to N17. Mercilessly exposing one Europe’s most in-form and vibrant teams? That’s not how you do incognito, lads.
Wednesday’s game had been billed as Jadon Sancho back on home soil. But while the wunderkind’s influence flickered then faded over the course of match, it was the celebrations of 70,000 that got radars roaring; the eyes and ears of Europe’s elite now firmly fixed on an irresistible force located somewhere in… Brent?
The Champions League is now ours to bottle, then. Or that’s what some would have you believe at least. Like our unexpected Premier League title challenges over recent years, our progress in Europe’s elite competition will ultimately serve as ammunition for those vying for our crash at the final bend. The higher you climb the harder you fall, after all.
Wembley was rocking on Wednesday night, but credulous thoughts remain absent. Even the most ardent supporter knows one swallow does not make a spring, and that it’s not “small club mentality” or innate pessimism to accept that Spurs, despite a gloriously enthralling European win, will likely fall short in both the Premier League and Champions League this season — oil-rich leviathans are guaranteed to usurp us in both.
But in victory over the Bundesliga leaders, Pochettino has provided fans with something that could be considered the next best thing to a trophy-win: the notion of daring to dream and urging us to enjoy the ride, whatever may come of it hereon in.
Instead of Project Fear, the Argentine has presented an alternative path for supporters: Why fear the absence of Kane and Alli when you can be dazzled by Son and witness The Second Coming of Fernando Llorente?; Why dread the departures of Eriksen and Alderweireld when you can savour them now alongside our daring youths of today — Winks, Sanchez and Foyth?; Why demand players box-fresh when you we have Jan Vertonghen and Moussa Sissoko in the form of their lives?
Like most fans supporting sides at the highest level, we can be too often gluttonous in our demand for better (while under-appreciating the here and now) —it mimics a spoilt child planning a birthday wish-list minutes after opening presents at Christmas.
That’s not to concede the addition of new players or the even more desirable trophy-win is a ludicrous demand. But if pride in performance and appreciation of a job done well can only be bestowed on Pochettino and co once a trophy is held aloft, then we, like 99 per cent of professional clubs and its fans, are redundant until that point in time.
Is success in life, as with football, only to be considered such when you reach the mountain’s summit, or can fulfilment come from what you learn along the way? In reality, the ascent to higher plains should be treasured just as much as the reaching of the destination.
And who’s to say we haven’t learnt from the journey already? On Wednesday night Dortmund were dispatched with the same ruthless efficiency Juventus had shown us a year previous in the same competition — it’s proof that past agonies are a necessary part of the learning process.
Maybe this is the exact personification of “happy-clapping”, but there’s a reason why managers such as Mourinho, Allardyce, Moyes and Pulis face opposition from their club’s own supporters despite positive results on the pitch. Football is about hope and excitement; it’s about 11 players enrapturing audiences and captivating fans in an hour-and-a-half.
Granted, there’s no trophy for beating Borussia Dortmund 3-0, but does that mean we shouldn’t salute the achievement? “The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning… It is about doing things in style, with a flourish,” a late, great poet famously said. Silverware may still elude us, but to say Pochettino’s Tottenham, with their style and flourish, aren’t already winners might just be the biggest fallacy in modern football.
Enjoyed this article? Hit the heart below!