Why Tottenham are top of the league

OPINION: Jose Mourinho’s men appear to be performing better in these apocalyptic, miserable conditions

Thursday, 26th November 2020 — By Richard Osley

Tottenham Spurs Stadium

IF you turn the fake football fan noises off from the TV coverage, then you get a flavour of what it’s really like in the echoing empty stadiums during Premier League matches.

The players shout into the air like kids who have broken onto school playing fields at the weekend; without the roaring hum of a crowd you can hear every “come on”, “man on” and agricultural curse. Players slide to their knees in front of rows of empty seats when they score a goal.

It’s a barren, dystopian way to play the game, devoid of atmosphere and joy. It’s like Narnia when everybody has been turned to stone, like Mad Max, 28 Days Later. It’s like Threads. Who on Earth could enjoy this time and thrive in such loveless, virus-ravaged conditions? Who on Earth….

…so Tottenham are top of the league, I see.

Could it be that Spurs are better in these apocalyptic, miserable conditions? That a team which has underdelivered since 1961 has finally found a recipe for success: play without any supporters! The sums are all starting to add up and I’m sorry to break it to Spurs fans, many of whom I count as friends who have been through far more heartache than they ever deserved, but it is they that have been the problem.

Think about the common denominator in the years and decades without a trophy: fans! And the thing that’s different this season, when they’re top: no fans!

It is a reasonable thesis that in more embarrassing years Spurs players have been spooked and startled by having to play in a stadium a little too big for them and with supporters either moaning about one player or another – yeah you do, you don’t like Lamela for starters – or singing “oh when the Spurs…” at a morose pace.

Without the supporters, Spurs look a different team, and plans for fans to start returning to their seats at some stage before the end of the season should worry Jose Mourinho – the master of suffocating football, perfect for the times we are experiencing.

In contrast, teams who like electric football and samba-beat passing have struggled in the emptiness. Even last year’s unrivalled champions, Liverpool, have stuttered once or twice in the airlocked new season.

That’s one theory about Spurs. The other possibility: when the world ran out of money and even football clubs felt the pinch, Tottenham spent in a way that their fans had always criticised other clubs for. The two teams who spent the most – see also Chelsea – are the ones who are now jostling with last season’s winners. Fans or no fans, that’s one winning formula that never fails.

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