As Tottenham Hotspur prepare to do battle with Rubin Kazan tonight in the Europa League, it is exactly a year to the day since they took part in a 4-3 thriller at the San Siro against the then Champions League holders. This was no doubt a special night for many Spurs fans, I should know, I was one of the thousands that made it to Milan to watch the game but what a difference a year makes.
I look back with found memories at what was a baptism of fire in to the worlds best football competition. Being a long suffering Spurs fan, this was one hell of an adventure and for the first time in a long time, I felt like a kid at Christmas. The build up and the excitement was immense for a game against a team that were not only the Champions League holders, but also the reigning Serie A champions, and to top it off they played football in one of the worlds most iconic stadiums.
When I say it was an adventure, it truly was; I couldn’t get flights directly to Milan, unless I wanted to pay about £500, so I flew to Genoa with some mates and trained it to Milan. After a couple of hours of customary English drinking on public transport, I reached Milan, where I would hook up with one of my oldest friends and his family.
The buzz around the City was electric, maybe I am bias, but Spurs travel well, usually in good voice and big numbers and this game was no different. It was a regular yid fest as Spurs fans gathered around the main square in Milan, the Piazza del Duomo, drinking and singing before braving the night air and heading to the ground. As we approached the ground it dawned on me how big an occasion this would be for any football fan and I was no different, fully appreciating the fact I was lucky enough to be there.
As I climbed the multi-storey car park style turrets that lead away fans in to the rafters of the San Siro, I couldn’t wait to see the ground unfold in front of me. It was packed and as I looked around this menacing ground and then down to the pitch, it was a feeling like no other. The Champions League music started, the game kicked off and the rest is history. Thanks for the memories.
A year on and I can still remember everything about that trip, I still look back at the photos and video’s in awe of what a game that was to be at as a Spurs fan and as a football fan. But like most of the successes I have known following Tottenham, our foray into the Champions League didn’t last long.
Tonight match marks exactly a year since that special night and what a contrast it is. Rubin Kazin are no mugs, they have been in the Champions League group stages for the past two seasons and only missed out this year in a playoffs, but they are hardly a world football powerhouse like Inter Milan have been over the years.
For me as a fan tonight marks a period of regret which should be the same for the management and also the players at the club. It is regret that since January we have let not only Champions League football slip away from a club that has craved the opportunity for so long, but also the chances of challenging the top 3. Tonight people will see a quiet White Hart Lane that probably won’t be sold out and there will be little special about this game .
It is not that I don’t appreciate Spurs being in European competition, it is just now we have been at the top table nothing else will do. Tonight’s game holds no excitement for me, it is against our biggest rival in the group, but the Europa League holds little attraction during the group stages. Harry Redknapp has devalued the competition by playing the fringe players-why go and pay to see the reserves? We also go in to tonight with a depleted defence, a back four that was exposed against Newcastle, as we twice lost the lead and looked shaky without an experienced leader at back.
This highlights one of my two regrets in the transfer market during the last two windows; firstly missing out on the signing of Gary Cahill in the summer and secondly not signing a forward that could have given Tottenham the final push to qualify for the Champions League last season. I think Harry Redknapp and Daniel Levy will share these regrets also or at least they should do.
Not bringing a striker in last January is criminal and it cost us big time. Not only the lack of Champions League football, but allowing the gap between us and the now top 3 to widen even further, especially with the financial clout they have. This almost cost Spurs Modric this summer and will no doubt cost Tottenham retaining his services long term. It has also financially tied our hands somewhat, it is just lucky that Arsenal lost big players and Liverpool haven’t improved enough to really be considered a major threat.
So when Levy and Redkanpp think back to the glory, prestige and excitement of a year ago, let tonight be a lesson, that if you are standing still you are only going backwards in what is the most unforgiving league in world football.
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