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Same Old Spurs - A Trophy-less Timeline

“It is the history of the Tottenham” - Giorgio Chillieni, 2018.

That now infamous quote from Juventus’ former centre back alluded to Tottenham’s tendency throughout history to compete at the highest stage only to lose in spectacular fashion where it matters most. They are, maybe harshly, regarded among many football fans and pundits alike as ‘bottle-jobs’. The club has subjected their fans to consistent frustration and heartbreak.

Tottenham’s history shows that the club has often been in competition with the very best. However their honours demonstrate for grim reading, despite the numerous Cup semi-finals and finals they have reached, and title challenges they have been a part of in the Premier League.

Tottenham’s last trophy was the English League Cup in 2008, after they beat London rivals Chelsea 2-1 in extra time. Since then not only have they failed to win a trophy, they have consistently come close to many and controlled the game, only to throw it away at the last hurdle. Below documents such matches across all the competitions Spurs have been involved in, predominantly since their last trophy win.

English League Cup

In 2009, the year after Spurs won the League Cup, they reached the final again, but lost to Manchester United 4-1 on penalties after a goalless match after extra time.

It wouldn’t be until the 2014/15 season where Spurs would reach the final again, but again they lost, this time 2-0 against London rivals Chelsea. In the 2018/19 season they played Chelsea once again, this time in the semi-finals. After winning the first leg 1-0, they lost the second leg 2-0, with the deciding goal for Chelsea coming from a Tottenham own goal in the 84th minute. 

In the 2020/2021 season they reached the final under serial trophy winner Jose Mourinho, who many felt was brought in to bring silverware to Tottenham as he has done in every other club he has managed. Less than a week before the final however, Mourinho was sacked, and Spurs lost 1-0 to Manchester City, with City scoring the only goal of the game in the last ten minutes.

FA Cup

Since Spurs last won the FA Cup in 1991, they have managed to reach the semi-finals 8 times.

They reached the semi-final in the 2009/10 season and were, as the BBC put it, “overwhelming favourites” against Portsmouth, who had struggled with financial issues that season and been relegated from the Premier League a day before the match. However, Spurs failed to score in normal time, despite heavy pressure, before conceding twice in extra time, losing the game 2-0. 

Two seasons later they played Chelsea in the semi-finals of the 2011/12 seasons, but were humiliated 5-1 against their rivals, ending their pursuit of a trophy that season in woeful fashion. 

Tottenham would then reach back to back semi-finals in the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons, where they faced Chelsea and Manchester United respectively. Against Chelsea, they conceded a goal within 5 minutes, but were able to impressively comeback to 1-1 and 2-2 before shipping 2 goals in the last 15 minutes. Against United, Tottenham were able to take an early lead in the 11th minute, only to lose the game 2-1 and see another final and trophy elude them. 

No matter how these finals went, whether they dominated the ball, conceded first or scored first, only one thing remained certain: Spurs would blow their chance of winning a trophy.

Uefa Champions League

In the 2017/2018 season Tottenham were looking in control to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2010. They came back from 2-0 down to Italian champions Juventus to draw 2-2 in Turin. Moreover, the away goal rule was still in effect, meaning that Spurs had the advantage. Even more impressively, Spurs took the lead in the return leg and continued to control the match, meaning Juventus had to score 2 goals in the second half to go through. In the 64th minute, Juventus scored, before, in classic fashion, the dominant spurs conceded again just 3 minutes later. They lost 2-1 on the night, and so got knocked out 4-3 on aggregate. It was after this match where Juventus defender Chilleini stated his now iconic quote, adding that Tottenham “always miss something in the end”. Looking at the history of Tottenham, it is hard not to agree.

In the 2018/19 season, Spurs defied the odds and reached the Champions League final. They knocked out one of the favourites, Manchester City, in the quarter finals, after a thriller at the Etihad, typified by a last minute VAR check ruling out a Raheem Sterling goal to send the London side through on away goals. 

     In the semi-finals, after losing the first leg 1-0 to Ajax, Spurs found themselves 2-0 down before halftime in the second leg, 3-0 down on aggregate. A hat-trick from Lucas Moura, completed in the 96th minute of time, was enough to send Spurs through again on away goals, to set up a final against Liverpool. 

     There was belief as well as luck along the way that made some feel Spurs could end their trophy drought on the grandest stage. However, Spurs reverted back to their historic traits, and conceded a penalty within 2 minutes that was converted by Salah. The rest of the game proved difficult to get back in, with Liverpool appearing content with their early lead, before scoring a second 3 minutes from time to confirm their status as European Champions.

Europa League

In a routine round of 16 tie with Dinamo Zagreb, under Mourinho, Spurs were comfortable 2- 0 winners in the first leg at their new stadium, before rehashing an old pattern and succumbing to a 3-0 defeat on the return leg, sending them out of the competition once again in remarkable and yet all too familiar fashion for Spurs fans. 

Premier League

The 2015/16 campaign shaped up to be Tottenham’s best chance at winning the Premier League. With Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal playing far below their expected levels, Tottenham found themselves challenging for the title against, in fairness, a spirited Leicester City side defying all odds under Claudio Ranieri after just avoiding relegation the season before. Spurs could have been top of the table as late as March as they led 10-men derby rivals Arsenal 1-0. With 15 minutes to go however, they conceded an equaliser. Leicester City capitalised and won their game to go top. 

     In order to keep the title race alive with three games left to play, Spurs visited out-of- form Chelsea at stamford bridge. By half-time Spurs were cruising, winning 2-0 and looking at taking a vital 3 points to continue their best ever chance of winning not just a trophy, but the Premier League. In typical fashion however, they failed to win, conceding just after half time and again with less than 10 minutes to go, meaning the match ended 2-2. Leicester were confirmed champions as Spurs had failed to win.

Sunday 30th April’s epic against Liverpool at Anfield only continued to show that this trait is still well and truly embedded in the club, with Spurs finding themselves 3-0 down within 15 minutes. However, 5 minutes before halftime Kane pulled a goal back against Liverpool, before Son fired the second with less than 15 minutes of the match to go. Spurs kept pressing Liverpool’s shaken defence, and in the third minute of stoppage time they drew level with substitute Richardson’s header making it 3-3. 

     Spurs had been on the front foot during the second half and had all the momentum, but just 99 seconds later they committed what former footballer turned commentator Gary Neville described as the “most Tottenham thing” to do. Spurs’ other substitute Moura attempted to pass the ball coolly back to his keeper, but got it wrong allowing Liverpool's Jota to intercept it and punish the mistake with ease. The game finished 4-3 to Liverpool, and Tottenham fans once again had to endure the heartbreak that comes with supporting a team that time and time again will raise fans hopes only to crush them in extraordinary style.

Closing Remarks

As the current 2022/23 season draws to a close, Spurs will once again be trophy-less, with their main attention turned to securing a top 4 finish in the Premier League, which is something that looks in doubt after their recent poor performances leaving them in 6th place, behind Liverpool and Manchester United. With Conte out the door and speculation of who will be Spurs manager for the next season, it remains to be seen if anyone will be able to lead Tottenham to silverware in the coming years. Judging on the history however, this feat still seems a great distance away.

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