Disclaimer: This post was written before the Brighton-Tottenham game, and therefore doesn’t cover that result or Lloris’ injury; the latter of which is, in my opinion, an interesting look into how player injury impacts fans’ banter culture. Nevertheless – sorry (not sorry), Spurs fans.
Losing at home’s always going to sting. Losing seven goals to two, in your new stadium, in the competition that you made the final of the season before? Yeah, good luck not being reminded of that for years to come.
What I’m really alluding to is Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-7 humiliation to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday night, a feat that’ll be immortalised in memes for as long as the internet’s around – and don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that this’ll be remembered forever. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a Chelsea fan, and as Tottenham and Chelsea are London clubs with a history between them, I’m obviously going to be biased against Spurs (I’m radically simplifying the dynamic and histories of the clubs here, but bear with me). However, I think I’d get a general consensus amongst football fans when speaking about Tottenham – a club that would personify the saying “always the bridesmaid, never the bride”, except they wouldn’t even be asked to be a part of the bridal party.
Even before the explosion of digital media, newspapers and sports magazines were spearheading the trend of mocking clubs, chasing sensationalist headlines at the expense of team X or Y’s dignity. Additionally, it’s arguably a fundamental part of the sport – any time a team loses in an embarrassing manner, you can expect their supporters to be bantered to hell and back by crowing rival fans. Sunday afternoons in the pub would be dull otherwise, wouldn’t they? Social media’s only worked to exacerbate these trends, with the caveat that now, it’s a free-for-all – anyone can spark a viral meme that’ll be referenced over and over again, thanks to the visibility that retweets/shares/upvotes give a post. In the context of the footballing world, it’s even easier to do so, given the sport’s universal popularity and the ammunition provided by the historical success (or lack thereof) of the particular club.
The thing about Spurs is that despite their propensity towards promoting English talent, (generally) playing dynamic, attacking football, and having challenged for the Premier League title and made the final of last season’s Champions League title, they haven’t actually won anything in recent history (unless you count the Audi Cup). To say that it’s a point of frustration for the club and its fans would be a massive understatement – Spurs’ growing desperation for some form of success has become palpable in the frustrated energy of manager Mauricio Pochettino during his press conferences. Questions have been increasingly asked about the team’s form and their lack of silverware, despite the talent of the squad and a successful Champions League run in the 2018/2019 season (though this belied a bad run of form in their domestic competitions).
As painful as this might be for Tottenham fans, though, the memes that their failures to succeed have produced have been glorious for rivals and neutrals. This isn’t a new phenomenon, either – Chelsea legend Frank Lampard’s often attributed with the quote “It’s bad to lose to Tottenham because they make DVDs of it for the next 10 years”; but with the Spurs releasing DVDs of their almost-seasons and “incredible… draw[s]”, you start to get the sense that there might be something more to this. That’s not even counting the number of “Spurs’ (empty) trophy cabinet” memes there are out there, with players from rival clubs getting in on the joke (see: Giorgio Chiellini’s mention of “the history of the Tottenham”). In Tottenham’s case, their recent bad run of form has only given their fellow football fans more ammunition, having lost to the lower-ranked Newcastle United earlier in the season – and then getting knocked out of the Football League Cup by League Two side Colchester United. And we’re not even halfway through the season!
Naturally, every team has its day when it comes to unexpected losses or bad runs of form, and when the time comes for your club, the nature of the footballing community is such that other supporters will take the mickey out of you for it until the next casualty comes about. The uniqueness of Tottenham’s case, in that their side’s shown so much promise but consistently fallen short of achieving any real glory, makes them an easier target than most. Even in the unlikely event that they do win some silverware in the near future, the club will always be haunted by this reputation of failure. But at the end of the day, long-suffering fans know when to give up the jig; after all, if you can’t beat them, join them with some self-deprecating humour.