TWO years and three months ago Spurs played Liverpool off the park in a thrilling 4-1 win at Wembley.
Both clubs have moved on since then; Spurs to one of the best stadiums in the world, Liverpool to one of the best football teams in the world.
The relative progress of both clubs since that game throws up a key question, and one that was on the mind of every Spurs fan in the build up to this game. How valuable is success off the pitch if there is precious little on it?
The facilities in Tottenham’s superb new stadium are so good that many a fan was seriously considering simply availing themselves of them rather than watching the game, such was the expectation of a sound hammering.
Because since that thriller at Wembley, Spurs have undeniably gone backwards on the pitch and Liverpool have smartly progressed by remembering that it is what happens on the pitch that is the jewel in the crown of any football club.
As it turned out, Spurs didn’t suffer the expected humiliation. Not that the starting line up gave home supporters much hope.
But fair play to Mourinho; the way he set up the team made a game of it, even if effectively playing two right backs underlined the glaring lack of available quality.
Such has been the relative progress of both clubs since the 4–1 that losing 1-0 almost felt like a win. But, as the new breed of ultra realist Spurs fans will no doubt observe, you don’t win a trophy for effort.
The fact Spurs can look back on this game ruefully and justifiably claim they deserved something from it is a further indication of both clubs’ direction of travel.
That 4–1 was not an isolated occurrence. Spurs had regularly finished above Liverpool over the course of a league campaign for several years.
But a lack of investment in the playing squad and the sacking of a manager who repeatedly said the squad needed refreshing has led Spurs to a situation where they must be happy with a performance that secured nothing, but hints at better to come.
"The boys gave absolutely everything."January 11, 2020
The trouble is, Spurs have had better and squandered it. So expectation is hard to fuel, because there is serious doubt about whether those running the club see being the best, rather than being there or thereabouts, as a worthwhile aim.
Billing your stadium as the ultimate entertainment destination falls a little flat when there’s not much entertainment on offer. The thin gruel of recent months is harder to take when fans have dined so richly.
All this may have contributed to a muted atmosphere in the stands, and to the fact that many away fans obtained tickets outside of the away end.
The Liverpool fans liberally dotted throughout the single tier home end, supposed to be the heartland of home support, provided another example of where the experience at modern Spurs is fraying around the edges.
As we drifted away into the night, we mused over the small crumbs of encouragement. Tanganga’s Premier League debut, Moura’s performance, the fact we’d restricted Liverpool to one goal.
We’ve got over Kane being out, because as fans of other teams tell us, he’s not very good, just a tap-in merchant.
Whether or not his absence led Mourinho to abandon the hoofball that has been a feature of his tenure is a matter for debate.
‘What might have been’ are the words writ large over this day. Not just about the 90 minutes, but about the longer-term development of Tottenham Hotspur. Hard questions need addressing.