Nice stadium, Tottenham – but what about the trophies?

Harry Kane Nice stadium, Tottenham – but what about the trophies? – Reuters/Lee Smith

Digital ads at Unsponsored Spurs Stadium tell the club’s story in 2023. During the many quiet moments of games this season, ads for energy drinks, crypto exchanges and car dealers have been just as interesting as the football.

There are also reminders about the most exciting upcoming events in N17. Not AC Milan visit on Wednesday, but Beyonce, Wizkid and Red Hot Chili Peppers. All three feature at Spurs this summer, the NFL returns twice next autumn, some rugby and boxing are available, and this week plans were announced for a go-kart track under the south stand as part of a partnership with Formula 1.

With these extra curricular activities, Spurs claim that “an estimated 5.9 billion people worldwide are interested in events held at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – equating to almost 80 per cent of the world’s population”, or roughly the number of people queuing at the Seven Sisters station after the Games. It is clear that such diversification helps the club to be financially secure.

But while a glitzy stadium selling local beer from very long bars is nice, many Spurs fans would prefer a proper FA Cup performance. Fans of the league’s 88 or so other teams could be wailing after that Defeat to Sheffield United on Wednesday night a bit rich. We are still talking about a club that ended its fairy-tale run to the final of the Champions League in 2019, which is still in this season’s competition and, despite all the struggles this season, is still fourth in the table.

Think losing to Sheffield United is bad? Try supporting Southampton. But there are several reasons for the unusually strong reaction of Tottenham fans to each new setback. Most important is the growing sense of the cycle of dying. When Spurs appointed Jose Mourinho, they hoped his record of guaranteeing trophies would continue. Finding his way of myth-building and ritual sacrifice unsuitable for their atmosphere, they tried to re-establish themselves with Nun Espirito Santo. That, politely, did not work out, so the Spurs returned to the well of cruelly proven winners. Antonio Conte has had a bad season with the deaths of three close friends and recent gall bladder surgery. He misses his family in Italy, and the new contract remains unsigned.

Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte - Nice stadium, Tottenham - but what about the trophies?  - Reuters/Molly Darlington

Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte – Nice stadium, Tottenham – but what about the trophies? – Reuters/Molly Darlington

It’s looking less and less likely every day that he will be their manager at the start of next season. Three wins from three under deputy Cristiano Stellini before Wednesday night may have been a mere joke, but a 4-1 defeat at Leicester when Conte returned prematurely did not suggest the team were a match for their manager. The narrow defeat at Bramall Lane continues the pain in the cup which has now ended with defeats to Sheffield United, Middlesbrough, Everton and Crystal Palace in the last five seasons.

It doesn’t help that Arsenal are mounting their first credible title challenge since Harry Kane was in shorts (and often wore their red shirt). Newcastle and their convenient national government support looms large in the medium term. Liverpool are improving, Chelsea won’t be this weak forever. Tottenham’s position at the top of the table is threatened. It’s always been that way, but now there are reasons for depression everywhere.

If the rest of the big six are heavyweights, Tottenham are in the category below: banterweights

Harry Winks, underutilized by Conte, is thriving at Sampdoria. Richarlison, a sensible signing in theory, is yet to score a league goal. Come to think of it, Adele’s last album was a bit of a disappointment. Of course it makes financial sense to give the league the upper hand, but it doesn’t make it any more comfortable to see Kane resting in a competition that Spurs won more than any other club until 1996, when Manchester United overtook them.

Arsenal also overtook them in 2003, and Liverpool and Chelsea have now equaled Tottenham’s eight, the last of which came in 1991. Ultimately, focusing on fourth place in any league, regardless of the riches that await, is a deeply unsatisfying mission for the fans.

It can be fun if it’s new (Newcastle this season) or unexpected (Leicester in the early Rodgers years), but not for a club in Spurs’ awkward position as the smallest big club. If the rest of the big six are heavyweights, they’re stuck in the category below: banterweights. Failure to qualify for the Champions League is disastrous, but success is more than the same. And no one connected with Tottenham seems to want that.

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