There’s always that moment when you first wake-up when you’re not really aware of where you are. Your eyes open, your mind recognises your surroundings, and gradually you settle back into the reality that you fell asleep in eight hours earlier.
And then you remember what’s going on in your life; it could be the stomach-punch of a work-deadline or a recent break-up, or it could be the short,sharp shock of adrenaline brought on by an approaching holiday or party. Good or bad, that’s usually the way it works.
If you’re a football fan, then you’re team tends to feature somewhere in that sequence. Maybe not as prominently as important life events, but you’ll certainly have a fleeting awareness of a recent good result or a painful cup elimination. For a lot of supporters, the trajectory of a season has a hold over their general mood and, even though it’s a mainly a passive sensation, their emotional baseline is altered by whatever is happening at their club.
That’s really what football’s for: it fills holes in your life, it is the insulating foam that creeps into vacant space.
If something bad is going on in your life – not something as dramatic as illness but, say, a general negative like a big utility bill – you live under a cloud and your shoulders sag. Situations like that temper your enthusiasm for everything and they are typically involved in that early morning flood of realisation.
“What a beautiful morn…oh, I still haven’t paid my council tax”.
That’s really what Tim Sherwood was to Tottenham supporters last season: less a manager, more an enormous bill that they knew they were months away from settling.
Meet a nice girl? So what, Tim Sherwood is still the manager.
Paid-off your mortgage? Yeah, but Sherwood is alienating more players by the day.
Finally fix the plumbing in your kitchen? Good for you, but there’s no holding-midfielder in the squad this afternoon.
It’s very hard to quantify what the most dislikeable aspect of Sherwood really was, because so much of his odiousness occurred behind closed doors. He said the right things in press-conferences, he generally made all the right faces on the touchline, and actually a lot of the results achieved under him were very decent. Even so, there was a palpable distrust between him and the fans, and that bred widespread unhappiness.
Those good results weren’t imagined, either, because Tottenham did beat a very good Southampton side home and away, and they did go and win at Old Trafford, but three points last season always involved a horrible Sophie’s Choice between progressing up the league table and increasing the likelihood of seeing Sherwood on the touchline in 2014/15. Limbo is a terrible thing for a football fan, and not being able to properly enjoy victories is a sure sign that something was very, very wrong – and that was Spurs last season.
The Tottenham Twitter community is, like any other club’s equivalent, diverse and so mass generalisations are unfair, but there were an awful lot of the clubs fans who, rather than taking any active emotional part in the latter half of the season, merely watched with a cynical indifference. There was no real rage at Sherwood because it soon became clear that he was leaving, yet there was no real joy, either – that is the price of being in transition and knowing that, for all intents and purposes, you are really just waiting for time to pass and for the year to end. There will be no pay-off, there will be no trophy, and there will be no battle for Premier League places, instead all you’re rooting for is the merciful relief of a new manager and a Summer of justifiable optimism – anything really, anything other than disaffected ennui.
But that period is over and it’s wonderfully liberating. Of course, supporters in lower divisions or those whose clubs have real issues will sneer, but it’s a dreadful thing to have your enthusiasm for your team taken away. To wake up on a Saturday and to not really be completely invested in the result, or to go to the ground and not really cheer goals with any conviction. It’s footballing Purgatory, and in some ways it’s actually worse than witnessing something truly awful happening to your club. Debt-crisis? Best player being sold? Relegation looming? Awful, obviously, but none of those problems chip away at your affection.
Tottenham is a different place, now, and even in a few short weeks the animosity has all been washed away. Amazing; all it took was a new manager, a couple of photos of the players smiling during pre-season, and the promise of a better left-back, and you’re back where you were before – hoping that it goes well, knowing that it probably won’t, be being all-in again on whatever does transpire under Mauricio Pochettino.
You’ll hurt me again, I know, but I like that you’re still able to.