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Winning ugly or losing pretty: The Ethos of Tottenham Hotspur

To dare is to do. But can we still do if we don't dare? And what's the point of daring if we aren't doing? My head hurts.

Michael Regan

There are as many roads to Spurs' fandom as there are Spurs fans. Some of us were born to it, inheriting a lifetime of pain and suffering as a birthright. Some of us fell in love with a particular player, a Robbie Keane or a Paul Gascoigne, and had our hearts stolen by Spurs along the way. Some of us happened to like playing as Gareth Bale on FIFA. And some of us just turned on the TV one day and thought, "Hey, these guys look pretty cool."

But unless you started following Tottenham in the Double winning season, you probably didn't end up a Spurs supporter because you were desperate to back a dominant, all-conquering team. If you did, my condolences.

The great Danny Blanchflower once said:

"The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It's nothing of the kind. The game is about glory. It's about doing things in style, with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom."

The spirit of that quote is reflected in the club's motto: Audere est facere. To dare is to do. And however we got here as Spurs fans, there's something of that ethos that goes straight to the heart of why we've become a part of the lilywhite faithful.

If all we wanted were trophies or Champions League success, there were plenty of other teams we could have started following instead. But we didn't. I think it's important we remember why.

Did we care more about the spirit of what it means to be Tottenham when we first signed up for this than we do now? Are we willing to sacrifice the things that made us love this team in the first place just so we can win some trophies?

Maybe. I don't know. But I do know you can only live in the Sisyphean hell of Spurs fandom for so long before you want the goddamn boulder to stay at the top of the goddamn hill every now and again.

And it's easy for Danny boy to talk about glory and style as part of a historic team that to this day remains one of the greatest sides in English football history. A fifty year title drought might give even ol' Blanchflower a rethink on his whole glory business.

Besides, where's the glory in getting your ass kicked? You'll notice he says "It's about doing things in style, with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot" and most definitely does not say "It's about playing pretty football even if it gets your ass handed to you and your teeth kicked in." Between winning ugly and winning pretty? Sure, winning pretty sounds great. Between winning ugly and losing pretty? I think the adjective's gonna have to take a backseat, and I don't think Mr. Blanchflower would disagree.

Right now Spurs supporters are torn between wanting to win at all costs and wanting to gouge their eyes out as they watch the team play. Camps and factions have begun bunkering down on either side of N-17 and breaking out the heavy artillery.

Please, hold your fire. Because we all want the same thing. The endgame for every single Spurs fan is "winning pretty".

But winning pretty ain't easy. This team has nine first team players that it didn't have last year. Sixteen (16!) new guys over the past two seasons. And along the way we've lost three or four of the best players this club has ever seen. We've got a coach who's still trying to impose his methodologies on the squad. Growing pains are real. It's not all going to click immediately. Along the way to winning pretty, this team is going to struggle and it's going to take time.

But we will get there. We've seen signs of it already. Fleeting moments of brilliance, in Paulinho's sumptuous backheel to beat Cardiff, or sparkling team goals like Eriksen to Soldado to Siggy against Chelsea. Sometimes even whole matches like against Norwich. The seeds are there. The potential is there. We're not sitting on our asses parking the bus, or playing hoofball for 90 minutes. The team is dominating possession, creating chances, grinding out results, and sitting comfortably within touching distance of first place.

We all want those swashbuckling victories, but until we get the hang of buckling swash, winning ugly is going take us a lot further than exhilarating 5-4 stoppage time losses. The game is about glory. And there's no glory in losing all season, no matter how pretty you look doing it.

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