“It’s magnificent to be in Europe, and this
club - a club like Tottenham Hotspur - if we’re not in Europe, we’re
nothing. We’re nothing.”
Nicholson certainly set the bar high for Tottenham, and why shouldn’t he
? In his 16 years in charge of the club, Bill managed to guide
Spurs into European competition on eight occasions, in an era when you
either had to win the league title or a trophy in order to qualify.
Today, seven English teams have the chance of competing in Europe every
season, four in the Champions League and three in the UEFA Cup (Europa
League). Like Nicholson said, a club like Tottenham needs to be in
Europe every season, and that aspiration should be greater today with so
many places up for grabs. Spurs have a good record in Europe,
being the third most successful English club in European finals, the
first British club to win a European trophy (the Cup-Winner’s Cup in
1963), and the first to win two different European trophies (the UEFA
Cup 1972). We are a big club. With our resources, Europa
League qualification should be the minimum objective for each campaign.
I was disappointed to miss out on Europe
this season, although I think that I am in the minority. I was
surprised when so many other supporters said that Spurs would be better
off out of Europe, as it would mean one less distraction from out tilt
towards the Champions League and major domestic silverware. I can
understand that argument to a certain extent, particularly after the
season we’ve endured. Nevertheless, I believe that it would be
better for Spurs to be in the Europa League rather than not.
Playing in Europe gives a club greater
prestige, and it provides them with an extra chance of landing some
silverware. Just because Spurs can’t get into the Champions League
we shouldn’t turn our noses up at the Europe League, even if it is not
held in as high regard as it used to be. Obviously I would prefer
that we were in contention for the Champions League every year, but at
the moment that just isn’t feasible.
It’s a flawed argument to say that Spurs
doesn’t need the distraction of Europa League football. We all
want Spurs to play in the Champion’s League and to be in contention for
the big trophies every season. In order to win the Champions
League, a team would have to play a similar number of games needed to
win the Europa League. Therefore, if Spurs can’t cope with the
‘distraction’ of playing in the Europa League, how would Spurs hack
playing in the Champion’s League ?
Sometimes European games can provide a
welcome distraction from domestic woes. Tottenham’s form in the
UEFA Cup in 2006-2007 helped to galvanize the team’s performances in the
league. We finished fifth that year, making the quarter finals of
the FA and UEFA Cup as well as the League cup semis. Clearly
European football wasn’t a distraction then. I agree that playing
in the UEFA cup caused some difficulties last season, but that was
because we were struggling at the bottom of the league. It would
have been the same situation had Spurs been playing in the Champion’s
After three consecutive seasons in
Europe, failure to qualify this season is a backwards step.
Unfortunately, it seems that the novelty of playing in Europe has worn
off for some fans and even the manager. Harry Redknapp complained
on several occasions last season about playing in Europe. I agree that
the Europa League’s format is bloated and it would benefit from being an
un-seeded straight knock out competition. That would make the
competition different from the Champions League, throwing up some juicy
ties early on in the competition. But I would rather Spurs were in
the competition than not. Without European football next season,
Redknapp won’t have the same opportunity to try out different formations
and give some of the younger squad players a run out.
Next season, with increasing competition
for the European spots from Everton, Aston Villa and Man City, Spurs
could miss out two years in a row. I think that some of our fans
expect Spurs to easily qualify for the Europa League in the next
campaign, and perhaps even the Champions League (will we ever learn ?).
I certainly think that we have a good chance, but it’s not a foregone
conclusion. If we fail to qualify for two seasons in a row, it
will be difficult for Spurs to hold onto their best players and may make
them less competitive in the transfer market. The pressure to
qualify for Europe next year will intensify as the season progresses.
To those who say they aren’t bothered
about missing out on the Europa cup, I ask them to cast their minds back
to the pre-Jol era, the dark days, when we were desperate to qualify for
European competition in any form. I also ask them to remember the
euphoria of our first season back in Europe, putting Bestikas to the
sword on their own patch, and the amazing atmosphere when battling back
to draw 2-2 with Sevilla at home. Spurs were one of the favourites
for the UEFA Cup that year and were hard done by not to win it. To
the (slightly) older fans, I ask you to cast your minds back to the UEFA
cup victories of 1972 and 1984, two of the proudest moments in our
club’s history. It would be nice to enjoy nights like that again.
But as they say, you have to be in it to