Season taking shape as Spurs drown in the hype

DASHING around to the ground on Saturday, late as ever, an Only Fools & Horses style t-shirt on one of the stalls caught my eye, featuring Harry Redknapp as Del Boy and a rib-tickling variation of his catchphrase: “This time next year we’ll be Champions League”.

Most of my Spurs mates have been downtrodden for so long, that they daren’t usually allow themselves to get carried away with early season flights of fancy.

Besides which, any pre-season optimistic stuffing has normally been well and truly knocked out of them, within the first couple of disappointing outings.

After our north London neighbours were afforded a brief glimpse of the Promised Land, with their momentary sojourn at the summit, it appears as if normal service has been resumed.

I customarily tease one of my Spurs mates, with a text message to remind him not to forget to tape Eastenders for me, whenever we’re involved in Champions League encounters.

So naturally with us 0-2 down after only five minutes last Wednesday night, he couldn’t resist pointing out “this is much better than Easties!”

However with the Arsenal subsequently enjoying more than our fair share of good fortune in Liège, by the time Eduardo added the climactic drum beat lead in to the theme tune and credits, I fully concurred with my pal’s sentiments, picturing the wretched look of dismay etched upon his face, as the Gunners had once again gone and ruined his evening.

I suppose just the fact that I’m even focusing on the enemy is evidence enough that Spurs fans weren’t alone in failing to heed the proverbial “don’t believe the hype” warning.

Mark Hughes might not be alone with his conspiracy theories about Sunday’s Mancunian derby continuing on, as long as was necessary for the established old world order to prevail.

Yet both Sunday’s derby games suggested that although the competition might have intensified a notch or two this term, to the point where these upstarts might occasionally upset the odds, all the money in the world cannot instantly bridge the gap of that big club mentality gap that’s been established over the past decade or so.

Sunday’s two derbies were the perfect demonstration of the diminution of Gooner expectations. Where once I would have sat down to savour such a feast of football, praying for both big fish to drop points, it now appears to be in our favour for them to beat the likes of City and Spurs.

Personally I think I’d have preferred for there to have been no winners, with all four clubs dropping points in two draws.

I don’t enjoy seeing any footballer suffer injury (although I can’t help but feel there are karmic forces at work when Didier Drogba limps off) but that didn’t stop me from smiling as I envisaged my distraught Spurs mates watching their defence being utterly decimated, as King and then Bassong joined Woodgate and Dawson, in the centre-back card school that’s become of the Spurs treatment room.

Meanwhile our own defence managed their first Premier League clean sheet the day prior and Thomas Vermaelen continued to develop his burgeoning cult hero status by bagging a brace and bizarrely leapfrogging William Gallas as the club’s two leading goalscorers.

But far more important was the soaring header that resulted in Tommie’s first goal, as now, for the first time perhaps since the days of the fab back four, the Gunners appear to once again have a genuine aerial threat at set-pieces and corners.

With his goalscoring feats and the long-awaited return of Rosicky seeming almost like a second new signing, there’s something of a feelgood factor that could well burst forth over the coming weeks, with a run of winnable games against some of the Premier League’s lesser lights.

If the fates should choose to smile kindly upon us and with the likes of Theo Walcott waiting in the wings, who knows, perhaps Saturday’s result will prove to be the start of a run which might enable us to return to setting our sights on the biggest prize?


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