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Spurs: Ultimately, What IS the Point of Them?

Spurs have two major problems: the first is that they haven't been Champions since 1961 - a major flaw for a club with any pretensions to size and a place in the forefront of the game. The second problem may be succinctly summed-up as 'Arsenal FC'.
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As a Leeds fan, I'm quite familiar with the whole big club/small club debate - who qualifies as 'big', what are the criteria? If you currently have a crap team, does that mean you're suddenly a crap club? And so on and so forth, ad nauseam.

It's not really a question that preoccupies me - certainly not to the extent of the Freudian fixation with size that afflicts the plastic followers of a certain Salford-based franchise - but it can be annoying if you follow a club like Leeds, with all the rich tradition of the Revie era and even allowing for the fact that our history before those great days was a bit of a void. But what I'd normally argue is that, look - we've been Champions three times in my lifetime, we have a global fanbase and a worldwide notoriety (I won't call it adoration), a massive web presence which shows how many people count Leeds United as a big part of their lives, and absolutely no significant local rivals at all. Ergo, we are big. End of.

But what of certain other clubs who are routinely referred to as big, not to say massive or even as a 'mega-club'? Tottenham Hotspur are a bit of a peculiar animal in this respect. From some points of view, they are certainly a club of significant size. They have a decent stadium in a major city. They deal towards the top end of the transfer market and they've been a steady member of the top-flight since the mid-Seventies, picking up the odd trinket here and there. But Spurs have two major problems: the first is that they haven't been Champions since 1961 - a major flaw for a club with any pretensions to size and a place in the forefront of the game. The second problem may be succinctly summed-up as 'Arsenal FC'.

Arsenal have been stomping all over poor old Spurs for a good while now - and of course, they've just been and gone and done it again, edging their rivals out of a fourth Champions League qualifying slot that for so long looked destined for White Hart Lane. The presence of Arsenal as Tottenham's neighbours, rivals and perennial bêtes-noires is a major obstacle to their chances of ever being regarded as a mega-club, a status Arsenal wear casually, as of right.

Arsenal, after all, have generally been top dogs in North London, certainly over the past 50 years. They've had stability in the managerial chair since the mid-Nineties and not that long before Wenger, it was George Graham importing large quantities of silverware into the stadium graced by the famous marble halls. Even their recent potless run has not detracted from Arsenal's ability to regard Tottenham from a lofty position of pre-eminence. In this fallow period, the Gooners have played football of a sumptuous beauty and brilliance, and just as importantly they have managed the transition from a famous old home to a spectacular and world-class new one. The financial burden that went with this is all but seen off now - and yet it's a process that Spurs have still to embark upon, lacking any viable option for staying put. Will they negotiate a move as well as the Arse have? Highly doubtful.

The sad fact as far as Tottenham are concerned is that this continued subordination to a comparatively humble status will always be a glass ceiling that they will find impossible to break through, certainly if Arsenal now blossom into one of their title-winning incarnations, capable of dominating the domestic scene for years at a stretch. And Spurs need to be up there with the big boys if they are to come anywhere near the kind of status their fans expect and desire.

The youngest of those fans who can remember the last Spurs team to be champions will be coming up for retirement any time now. That's a hell of an indictment for a so-called 'big club' - not really élite form at all. Consider all the other clubs who have any real pretensions to this elevated status in the game. They've all been Champions at some point in the last 40 years - even Man U, who couldn't win the real thing after 1967.

This latest narrow squeak for Champions League qualification will have been a great relief to Arsenal, but being on the wrong end of that cliff-hanger could yet prove to be a major disaster for Spurs. There must be a very real chance that they will lose the jewel in their crown, and however many millions Gareth Bale might bring in, it's difficult to see where Tottenham might shop for a replacement of anything like the same quality.

All those players will be gobbled up by the Champions League cartel. Tottenham are in very significant danger of becoming the richest club to have their noses pressed up against the window of the House of Quality, yearning to be inside but time and again kept out of the spotlight by their more illustrious and increasingly celebrated, decorated neighbours.

That's a scary prospect for the proud fans of White Hart Lane, but it's entirely realistic. Spurs may just have blown their chances of ever again being thought of as a genuinely BIG club. And if that's the case - then really, what IS the point of Tottenham Hotspur?

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