Hoonhout: Tottenham’s win over Real Madrid marks the start of a new era
Tobias Hoonhout | Monday, November 6, 2017
Ever since Mauricio Pochettino took over Tottenham Hotspur before the 2014–2015 Premier League season, Spurs fans have been waiting for a signature moment to mark the club’s transformation into a real contender. For, in the past, while the club has been known to be one that plays an attractive style, it always seemed to lack any actual threat — Sir Alex Ferguson once simply said “Lads, it’s Tottenham,” in a pre-match team talk.
And while the emergence of young English stars like Harry Kane and Dele Alli, along with Tottenham’s back-to-back title challenges, has resulted in a lot of success for the club over the last few seasons, there still hasn’t been that “defining moment.”
That was until this past Wednesday night.
After Spurs disappointedly bowed out of their relatively easy group in last year’s Champions League, Tottenham was placed in arguably the “Group of Death” in this year’s campaign. In Group H, Spurs joined German giants Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid, unquestionably the best team in Europe after becoming the first club since 1990 to successfully defend its title with last year’s triumph over Juventus in the Champions League final. For Mauricio Pochettino and his men, the challenge was on — there was no room for error in order to progress to the knockout stages.
Boy, has Tottenham responded to the challenge. Not only are Spurs leading the group with 10 points and are the only team still unbeaten in the group, but on Wednesday, they beat Real Madrid 3-1 — the first time Madrid has lost in the group stages of the competition since October 2012 — to take four of a possible six points from the defending champions.
A few weeks ago, few expected Spurs to travel to Real Madrid and take points at the Bernabeu. And while Real was arguably the better team, Tottenham went toe-to-toe with the Spanish giants in an entertaining 1-1 draw. When Real visited Spurs this past week, Tottenham seized the opportunity and punished Madrid. Albeit the fact that Real was missing several players — including former Spurs star Gareth Bale — due to injury, Spurs dominated for 90 minutes and dictated the game to Madrid in a way that Real has had few teams do so to them over the last few years.
While it was reminiscent of the October 2010 win over defending European champs Inter Milan, this feels different. While that victory will certainly go down as one of the club’s greatest nights, it proved to be just a glimpse of what was to come. Spurs still lacked the consistency to prove the club belonged among Europe’s elite, and crashed out of the competition against Real Madrid (ah, the irony) in the quarterfinals that season.
But Pochettino has brought that consistency. His commitment to youthful energy and a philosophy of outworking opponents in all facets of the game have resulted in Spurs not only qualifying for the Champions League in back-to-back seasons for the first time in club history, but also even challenging for the title in arguably the most difficult domestic league in all of soccer.
Pochettino has given the club a foundation for future success, and the win over Real Madrid is just the start. Tottenham’s new stadium is coming along and should be ready for the new season next fall. And while Spurs have never been a club to spend big on players, the prospect of a brand new stadium, coupled with the success both domestically and continently, offers the potential for a new era for Tottenham Hotspur. If the club can hold onto players like Kane, Alli and others, this win over Real Madrid won’t be the last.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.