Man Utd away, a hard task at the best of times, has now assumed difficulty of Herculean magnitude thanks to ‘Arry’s managerial masterstroke of slating all his players before they’ve even been selected, and announcing to the world and his wife that he intends to ensure defeat today. It’s a stance guaranteed to polarise opinion amongst fans, so what better way to see out a Saturday morning hangover than with an All-Action-No-Plot guide to the Pros and Cons of Giving Up a Football Match Before Even Taking To The Field?Prioritising the League: Hard to argue with the logic of this. Never mind how we ended up in this position, never mind the inflated wallets and egos of the players, never mind the fact that with our squad we ought to beat every other team in the bottom half of the table – the fact is we’re only out of the relegation zone on goal difference. All season I have shared the complacency of the players all season that we’re bound to avoid relegation, but it won’t take care of itself – the players need to do it. This task will become far more difficult if, say, Modric and Lennon were to pick up injuries in the Cup today. Elimination from the FA Cup would be bearable, relegation would be catastrophic. Rest the key players. It makes sense.
Our Cup Tradition: The counter-arguments, however, are plentiful. Not least, that this is the most glamorous cup competition in the world. We have a magnificent tradition in the FA Cup, from winning it as a non-league team in ’01, to the double-winners of ’61, the centenary winners in ’82 and the Gazza-inspired run of ’91. The FA Cup is a core part of the illustrious history of Tottenham Hotspur. Are we really going to give up on it this year? Is that not some sort of betrayal of our identity? It’s a romantic view, which doesn’t really hold logical weight against the spectre of relegation, and yet it’s a compelling argument.
A Novel Means of Coping With Fixture Congestion and The Relegation Threat: A whacky idea this, but how about we deal with the relegation threat by taking the left-field approach of actually winning games, rather than forfeiting Cup ties? This ludicrous notion would involve outfighting and outplaying opponents, on a regular basis, typically for a full 90 minutes. Madness I know. It’ll never catch on.
Disband The Team: If a team no longer strives to win, and admits even before taking to the pitch that it doesn’t want to win, it ceases to be sport. The team in question ought not to be there. The attitude towards the UEFA Cup is similarly odd, in that having strived so hard to get there for years, we’re now encouraged to view it as an unwanted extra burden, one we’d be better off without. If we don’t want to win any of the cups, why bother staying in the Premiership? We’re certainly not going to win that any time soon, so why bother? It’s just one fixture after another. We don’t want to qualify for Europe, as that creates too many games, so let’s avoid the problem by dropping down a division. In fact, let’s just avoid the entire problem of playing every week and disband the team. Let the players become full-time celebrities, without the hassle of this 90-minute malarkey. (Depressingly, I can think of a couple of players who might be genuinely taken with the idea…)
’Arry The Great Motivator: ’Arry, whose arm-round-the-shoulder confidence-building techniques were so highly spoken of when he joined, has been employing rather questionable motivational tactics of late. Publicly stripping Jenas of the vice-captaincy, publicly deriding reserve goalkeeper Sanchez (not even remembering his name), publicly laying into Bent after that miss, and now announcing that the players he picks v Man Utd will be those he considers the most rubbish at the club. Public criticisms of players are not necessarily bad things, they can often have galvanising effects, but this latest stunt prior to the Man Utd game seems poorly-judged.
The Mugs In The Stands: Last, and evidently least amongst the considerations – the poor mugs who shell out an arm and a leg for the tickets, and trek across the country and back to provide ill-deserved support. There is no question of Spurs doing them the courtesy of trying their damnedest in this game. At times, all to often this season, it seems the team should be paying us for our support.
I’d imagine the “mish-mash” weakened team of reserves today will put in a lot more effort than the prima donnas of Wednesday night at Burnley. It will be good to see the likes of Taraabt and Giovanni get a run-out, while Bale and Alnwick can pick up more experience, but I struggle to see us winning this one.