When we talk about ‘transition seasons’ at football clubs we generally mean that the club has moved from a previous poor performance, generally involving a parting of ways with the coach, to being on the road to better times. This has been a transition season for Spurs but, rather than being on the road to better times, we’ve reached the better times already.
Such is the quality of Antonio Conte, he has allowed our ‘transition season’ to essentially be a transition half-season. Even during the transition he got us winning.
But it’s the transition off the pitch that, for me, has been more important. I have made no secret of the fact that being a Spurs fan has been very difficult for me during the last couple of years. I felt completely disenfranchised and devoid of hope when he was our manager. I could not see any semblance of a workable system and there was nothing to dream on.
Nuno Espírito Santo wasn’t him (good) but he also wasn’t really anything (bad), and it always seemed like such a terrible fit. Fortunately it was a fleeting visit. Antonio Conte’s appointment felt massive because of his coaching ability and his record, but I did worry a little about how I’d find his deliberately abrasive and confrontational approach. It’s amazing how quickly I’ve adjusted to it.
I doubt that he’s ever going to occupy the same space that Mauricio Pochettino does for me — partly because the chances are that we’ll be a quick stop-off on his journey to a Galáctico, that’s how brilliant he is — and partly because I don’t believe that he is quite as invested in the club. Fair enough. But seeing him waving his arms on the touchline to urge support, seeing the way he has us playing, seeing the way that he has made use of some of the previously under-performing talent at his disposal… this is what it’s all about.
We go on and on as fans about what’s better: winning a cup or a top four finish. The truth, at least for me, is that unity is more important than either. If I feel bought into something, if I feel that we’re moving in the right direction, I can forgive almost anything. And I’ve got that back in spades. What is it they constantly say up the road? Trust the process. Except whereas they put blind faith in their long-winded and wasteful process, we have found a slick and efficient one.
So whatever happens today — and hopefully it’s the absolute obliteration of Norwich City Football Club as an entity (no offence, Canaries, I just want us to end on a high) — I want to thank Antonio Conte for bringing the spark back into my relationship with Spurs. I didn’t need handcuffs, role-playing, light spanking, a third party. I just needed direction.
COYS. I love you.