It’s 2001. Tottenham are facing Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final. New wealthy owners ENIC have installed club legend Glenn Hoddle as a new coach, replacing George Graham. A populist, if somewhat, odd move.
The teams walk out at Old Trafford. The atmosphere is raucous. Expectation amongst the white half of North London, sky high. Spurs take the lead. Captain Campbell limps off. Arsenal score twice and head to Cardiff.
The season rumbled on, Spurs finished mid table, Campbell never played for the club again, instead walking out the door and straight down the Seven Sisters Road. The euphoria had well and truly died down. A quick look at the team sheets that April day speaks volumes. For Arsenal, Adams, Keown, Pires, Henry, Ljungberg. Spurs? Perry, Clemence, Doherty, Iversen.
Tottenham were well and truly in their place. The task facing ENIC and Chief Executive at the time Daniel Levy, huge.
Fast forward to 2013. Spurs are basking in a third place spot, having beaten their rivals 2-1. The teamsheets tell a story. For Spurs Bale, Lennon, Lloris, Vertonghen. Arsenal? Mertesacker, Ramsey and Giroud. Times are a changing.
Arsenal’s longevity in the top echelon of English football is remarkable. Arsene Wenger has presided over an era of success unmatched outside of Manchester. He’s done it all whilst being financially responsible too.
But there is finally a sense of change in the North London air. As bold and proactive as the Tottenham board has been, the counterparts in N5 are eyeing the bottom line rather than the league table. Tottenham have been knocking on the door for a few seasons. Now they look set to break it down.
Much of the credit lies with Levy. He has made decisions. Bold decisions. Not always decisions that worked out, but he has been strong enough to make them.
Known as a ferocious negotiator, Levy has seen six managers come and go since he shook hands with George Graham. He’s made errors. Santini wasn’t a fabulous idea. And admitted his mistakes. But when he’s decided on a course of action, he is all in. Dispensing with the popular Martin Jol was brave. Saying no to Harry Redknapp’s demands, even braver. But he’s done it his way.
Coaches have been given cash to spend, and licence to do things their way. He’s ignored the press, and often his own supporters who have been vocal in their doubts. And he is reaping the rewards.
Tottenham have gone from a team renowned for underachieving and looking back on a glorious past, to team that may just have their best days in front of them.