Spurs fans would rather Arsenal didn’t win the league and that has blown some tiny minds

Editor F365
Spurs fans
Spurs fans

Some mornings, Mediawatch dreads the task in front of it. Scouring around in the grubbiest, mankiest bins of football journalism for scraps of content is a wholly undignified way to make one’s living, barely one step up from w*nking for coins.

But other mornings we stride in to work with heads held high because we just know there’s going to be a lot of dreadful pious bollocks from dreadful pious hacks and we’re going to gobble it all down with grateful, gleeful gusto.

Today was always going to be one such day once it became clear in the aftermath of Manchester City’s 2-0 win at Tottenham that the Spurs fans finding some enjoyment in their latest defeat because of what it meant to Arsenal was going to launch a thousand po-faced think-pieces that didn’t so much miss the point as deny its very existence.

This tweet from Oliver Holt was when we knew we were going to be in business.

Just such magnificent self-regard. Such entire seriousness. Such total failure to grasp how or why normal fans think and act the way they do.

We’ll gloss over the fact that what Spurs fans actually did was already by this point being wildly exaggerated. They did not cheer on City; they made the best of a bad situation and took their pleasure where they could find it. A handful of them did a Poznan, which isn’t the greatest banter of all time but nor is it a crime.

They sang songs about hating Arsenal on what was a bad night for Arsenal, just as Arsenal fans sing songs about Tottenham, just as fans all over the country do about whichever team they happen to hate.

Football fans have an absolute right to do that kind of thing within bounds of law and decency and are most importantly under no obligation to listen to Very Serious Football Hacks telling them what to think and how to behave.

The only one ‘spectacularly wrong’ here is Holt. And the specifics of it are so revealing. His framing can only mean he thinks that Spurs fans were worried about what people like him would have thought or said. Because only hacks like Holt would have responded to a Spurs win by holding it up as ‘an example of the very best of sport’.

No normal person would have done so, because thankfully normal people don’t talk like newspaper journalists. And they absolutely would have been mocked because of course they would. Normal people – the Arsenal fan at work, the West Ham fan down the street, the Chelsea fan your sister married and for which you will never forgive her – would absolutely have taken the piss long and loud. And rightly so. They’ll still take the piss now for Spurs ‘wanting to lose’. And again, rightly so.

Arsenal fans would have sung about winning the title at the Lane again. They would have been deliciously, righteously unbearable about it as the doctrines of banter-based supporterdom require. Spurs fans would have had to watch them take to the streets in celebration, heard the chants at the next 15 North London Derbies. None of this is complicated or new information. We all know how football fandom works, how rivalries operate.

Apart, apparently, from the people who are paid to go and watch these games and then to tell those who pay an awful lot to watch the same games how they should react to a match where there was no perfect outcome.

Spurs fans not wanting Arsenal to win the league is an entirely straightforward concept to understand, and the fans having a bit of fun and trying to make the best of what was a horrible situation brought on by the vagaries of the fixture list, Arsenal’s rapid and vast improvement and Spurs’ own inadequacies is not indicative of any wider malaise. It’s just what any fanbase would have done in that situation.

They weren’t motivated by what Oliver Holt might hypothetically think of them, funnily enough. We are supremely confident there will not be one Spurs fan today waking up and rueing the missed opportunity to be held up by a Daily Mail columnist as the very best of sport for gift-wrapping the league title to their most hated rivals.

And then there’s Martin Samuel in the Times, turning the entire Spurs fanbase into 61,000 straw men and setting about them with more furious seriousness. Again, it’s that utter seriousness of it that is so weird to us. How dare those fans find some joy in defeat! This is not Barclays heritage!

There really is some right nonsense in this, so bear with us.

Imagine when this place was being built. Was that really the dream, a crowd of over 61,000 gathered in the hope Tottenham lose a game that could have put them on the brink of Champions League qualification? Daniel Levy must be so proud.

So very much nonsense. First and most obviously: no, this was not the dream. That’s the whole entire point. We’ll keep saying it: Spurs fans were in a horrible position where a win was worth a little to them but a vast amount to their rivals. There was no dream scenario for Spurs fans; you can disagree with how they responded to that fact, but pretending not to understand it at all is either extremely disingenuous or terribly revealing.

Now to that next bit. A ‘game that could have put them on the brink of Champions League qualification’? Sorry, but was it balls.

Victory here over the best team in the country would have left them two points behind Aston Villa with one game left to play. Given the respective goal differences, they would have needed to beat Sheffield United while Villa lose at Palace. Not impossible by any means. But the Spurs-Palace double on Sunday currently pays out bigger than 2/1, so on that basis Spurs were playing for roughly a 30% chance of qualifying for a tournament they have almost no hope of winning and have played in several times before.

A win over City would not have put Spurs on the brink of anything. It’s perfectly valid and entirely understandable to think that a small chance of Champions League qualification should override all concerns about how unpleasant it might be to watch Arsenal win the league. But it’s equally understandable not to think that. And still just incredibly irritating for those paid to attend games to tell fans what or how to think regardless.

Yet the reaction to defeat left a sour taste; Tottenham supporters caught aping Manchester City’s Poznan celebration after the first goal…

Caught! We think they wanted to be seen, Martin. We think that was kind of the point. In much the same way several fans were ‘caught’ wearing light blue Spurs away kits from years gone by as a little joke.

Again, the failure of Samuel and the rest who’ve gone down this road today is in coming at it from a fallacious starting point: of this scenario being exactly the one Spurs fans wanted rather than a horribly difficult one where all they could do was try and wrap their head around it and make the best of it.

If Spurs fans had been truly unequivocally delighted by it all there wouldn’t have been the ‘muted mood’ Samuel himself acknowledges. It would have been a full-on Manchester City party. And it wasn’t that, obviously. It really was nothing more than a fanbase trying to making something of the sh*tty hand fate had dealt them. It’s just not as serious as any of this – now very much including Mediawatch itself – makes it out to be.

Yet what would have spoken more proudly for Tottenham than a win, even a draw, here? Far from giving Arsenal bragging rights, it would have stifled those taunts. Arsenal might have won the league because Tottenham refused to be cowed by Manchester City. And what would have been a finer statement of intent than that?

Again, it’s just a stubborn refusal to understand or acknowledge how normal football fandom outside the press box works. The idea that Arsenal fans’ taunts would have been reduced rather than increased by Tottenham doing them an almighty favour is simply wilfully obtuse.

Spurs fans have spent years being warra trophied for ‘putting the pressure on’ and ‘reaching the CL final’ and ‘finishing fourth at Arsenal’s expense’ and yet now here’s Martin Samuel telling them with a (very) straight face that they should all have wanted to beat City in order to respond to Arsenal celebrating the title by going ‘Aha, but my friend we have made a statement of intent’?

And ‘even a draw’ is also quite funny, given a few hundred words earlier he was so busy overstating their Champions League aspirations, which would have been ended as surely by a draw as by a defeat.

We really struggle to accept that Samuel (or Holt) can actually believe this line of thought.

We can completely understand everyone still being well up for taking the piss out of Spurs fans. It’s easy and fun and correct to do so. There is also now the almost impossibly tempting ‘joke is somehow always on Spurs’ scenario where City messing it up on Sunday will result in far greater banter heading the way of Spurs fans than City fans.

But your Holts and your Samuels can’t truly find it all as baffling as it appears.

It will be a miracle if West Ham win at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday. An XI of Tottenham season-ticket holders would be better fancied to do the business, David Moyes has already admitted it would be ‘difficult to stop City’s under-14s winning the title’. They’ll love that attitude in this part of north London. Then again, they also loved this. Strange, indeed.

Tottenham fans not wanting Arsenal to win the league? ‘Strange, indeed’.


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