Let's get in our time machines and go back to a wonderful time called '2003'. Daniel Levy and Joe Lewis had just bought out all of the shares of Tottenham Hotspur and moved the club into private ownership. Glenn Hoddle was manager, and not a very good one, though he had an awful squad. He was replaced by David Pleat mid-way through the 2003-04 season. Spurs finished 14th in the Premier League.
The next season, things got better immediately. Jaques Santini was fired mid-way through that season and replaced with Martin Jol, but Tottenham climbed to 9th in the table. Paul Robinson, Jermain Defoe, Michael Carrick and Michael Dawson were among the players that joined during the summer. The next season, 5th. Tom Huddlestone, Edgar Davids, Aaron Lennon and Jermaine Jenas were among the 11 that signed.
You probably know the story from there. Jol finishes 5th again, then gets fired. Juande Ramos wins the League Cup, then gets fired. Harry Redknapp finishes 4th twice and makes the Champions League, but eventually got fired. Andre Villas-Boas finished 5th with a record points total, then got fired the next year.
Gareth Bale is gone, just like Luka Modric, Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Carrick before him. He was sold for a profit so that Spurs could reinvest his transfer fee on various things, including new players.
Now, Tottenham Hotspur sit in 5th, possibly heading for a lower position in the table, and have struggled to integrate the seven players they signed over the summer. They have a glorified caretaker manager who's out of his depth and no one knows if the managerial targets the fans and media have come up with are actually interested in the job. Meanwhile, Liverpool are soaring, Manchester United look set to drop nine figures over the summer, Arsenal are stabilizing and the oilbucks of Manchester City and Chelsea aren't going anywhere. It looks like Spurs are stuck, the clear No. 6 team in the 'Sky Six', just as close to Everton and Newcastle as they are to the title. The future looks grim.
That is, if you're looking at the future from the perspective of someone who expects titles. But you probably shouldn't expect titles, seeing as you chose to support Tottenham Hotspur.
I don't use the word 'chose' liberally here, or as an American fan, like some who have family connections to the club in England might suggest. Because, at the end of the day, Tottenham Hotspur are a sporting club. They do not give back to their community in truly significant ways or for reasons other than generating good PR. The majority of the people who attend their games and buy their merchandise do not live in the immediate vicinity of the stadium. Spurs are important to you, as a fan, because people choose sports teams in order to have something entertaining to care about. But people choose to support teams other than their family's team or their neighborhood's team all the time, which is why Fulham fans sing 'you only live around the corner' at Manchester United fans who exit Craven Cottage before the final whistle, as if they actually have a train to catch.
No one made you support Tottenham Hotspur and no one makes you continue to support Tottenham Hotspur. You would not be exiled from your family or group of friends if you told them that you no longer care about football or that you watch games as a neutral. With every game you watch, every Spurs-related thing you buy and every click you give this website, you are making a choice.
The choice that you made, either when you were a child watching games with your family or when you stumbled upon FOX Soccer Channel when you were bored at 8 in the morning, was to support Tottenham Hotspur, a club that wasn't even a serious competitor for the European Cup or Premier League title when they had players like Glenn Hoddle and Paul Gascoigne. If you started supporting them in the 70s or 80s, you supported a team that had promise, but was never the biggest in England. If you started supporting them post-Gazza, you started supporting them when they were mostly crap, but had some nice cup runs. If you started supporting them in the post-ENIC world, you started supporting a team on the rise that was chasing a potential Champions League berth.
But if you started supporting them in the last couple years? Then, I'm sorry to say, you've started supporting a team that has bumped into a glass ceiling and can't quite power through it, for a few reasons.
Here are a couple: One, because Bale was a little too good. If he was Luis Suarez and the best offer we could attract was a £40m bid from a rival, he'd still play for Spurs, but turning down £85m from a team in a different country -- which he was willing to go on strike to ensure he joined -- is a different matter altogether. Two, because Levy made a less than optimal hire in Andre Villas-Boas. These things sucked and have led us to a point where the last two months of our season is completely meaningless, something we haven't felt in a while.
The thing about Levy, though, is he's not doing anything different from what he's always done. He makes coaching decisions based on what the team needs at the moment, whether that's hiring rising stars, making safe hires or taking a big risk. Those hires have all led to Spurs maintaining or advancing their position in the footballing world, even if all of his coaches have met an untimely demise. The same goes for selling players, which hasn't led to any kind of collapse. We recovered from the sales of Carrick and Berbatov just fine, finished on 72 points after selling Modric and are miraculously in 5th place without Bale -- the same place Spurs finished with him -- despite struggles to integrate new talent, injury issues and awful management.
A vocal minority fans are crying for Levy's head based on the last two years, while a growing number of fans are starting to question whether he's to blame for Tottenham's struggles. Does anyone see a problem with this? Namely, the suggestion that Spurs are struggling and that there's any hole for them to dig out of at all? Since when does top six and a finish in the neighborhood of 70 points constitute a serious problem? Did one Champions League appearance and the presence of Bale turn Spurs into something other than what they actually are?
Tottenham Hotspur are going to finish this season with one of their best point totals in their history even though they sold their best player, played nearly the entire season without their club record signing and their two best central defenders and have employed two very different, but almost equally poor managers. This is disastrous? Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong and Spurs are...in 5th place? Maybe 6th if Everton win their games in hand? And will finish on around 70 points? This is a disaster worthy of asking the chairman who's responsible for delivering Modric, Bale and Champions League football in the first place to step down?
This team is fine, and they're fine because the people running it have some idea about what they're doing. Making a bad coaching hire and a couple of questionable purchases in the transfer market doesn't change that. Everyone who supports Spurs wants to see the club in the Champions League and winning FA Cups, but we're only in sight of that because of the work Levy and his associates have done. Plus, no one started supporting Spurs as a glory-hunting venture.
Take a step back, remember where we came from and consider how much good work must have been done prior to this season if this team's performance constitutes disaster. It's a great time to support Spurs, because things will get better from here. And if it's even possible to get better after three consecutive seasons of 69 points or more, Spurs are doing something right.