Dele Alli, part of the 'leaner, fitter, hungrier' Spurs. Pic by Richard Swarbrick
What in God's name has happened to Tottenham Hotspur? This time last year they looked bad enough to go down. Even as recently as a month ago there were murmurings about manager Mauricio Pochettino's future after the team failed to register a single win in its first four Premier League games. But now even the sternest observers are talking about a rebirth.
In a recent Monday Night Football Gary Neville talked of Pochettino 'knocking down the house and completely rebuilding it'. He said Spurs now had 'a better bunch of lads'. He praised a team - the youngest in the league with an average age of 23 - that had outrun their opponents in 40 of their 45 previous games, a feat not matched by any other Premier League side.
In the Telegraph this week Jason Burt warmed to the theme after citing a passage from Roy Keane's autobiography in which he said Spurs used to be so lightweight that the only team talk Alec Ferguson needed to give when Manchester United played them was 'Lads, it's Tottenham'. But now, under a headline calling Spurs 'leaner, fitter and hungrier', Burt suggested that Spurs just weren't 'Spursy' anymore, a notion first posited by yours truly, albeit slightly prematurely, last Spring.
The credit for this welcome destruction of the traditional Tottenham ethos is mostly Pochettino's. He came with a reputation for building hardworking, highly motivated sides and getting the most out of previously unheralded players. Living up to his billing, the more he's been able to shed the higher paid, higher profile players the better he's made the team. Kaboul, Adebayor, Lennon, Paulinho et al have gone along with their inflated salaries and names that we'd barely heard of when he arrived like Ryan Mason, Harry Kane Eric Dier and Dele Alli have taken their places. All of them look likely squad members in England's European Championship campaign next summer.
And things look equally exciting off the pitch. Already the proud inhabitants of the best training facility in football at Hotspur Way, work has started on the new stadium that will be the most sophisticated and advanced sports arena in the country on its completion in 2018.
The scale of the ambition and achievement shown by the board is often forgotten among the carping about net transfer spends and likely venues for the team's relocation while the building work is finished. But contrast the situation now with where Tottenham were under the previous regime. In the nineties under Alan Sugar - not exactly a business birdbrain devoid of ambition - Spurs rarely climbed above mid table. They were consistently outperformed by teams like Aston Villa, Newcastle, Leeds, Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday on the pitch and in the transfer market.
Under the current board Tottenham, with the sixth highest revenue, almost always finish in the top five and the new arena will provide the wherewithal to regularly challenge for the Champions League places. No other comparable club has shown anything like the same ambition nor had the same business leadership with which to back it up.
The resurgence on the pitch, built not on high transfer outlays and wages but a new esprit de corps nurtured by a clever manager and a squad with a majority of domestic players, 40% of whom have come through the academy, will stand the club in good stead during the necessary austerity of the next few years.
Right now Tottenham boast the longest unbeaten run in the league and a defensive record that cannot be bettered. Liverpool visit White hart Lane on Saturday under new boss Jurgen Klopp. Of course it would be very Spursy to be swept away by the tide of renewed Scouse optimism. But Spurs aren't Spursy anymore.