Double-winning captain Danny Blanchflower once said, “The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It is nothing of the kind. The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.”
Any Tottenham fan will know the importance of these words as they form a vital part of the club. As you walk into White Hart Lane, separating the West Stand’s upper and lower tiers, Blanchflower’s words are written; minutes before kick off they echo around the ground. The quote “The game is about glory” has some what become an unofficial motto to the North London Club and it has as much, arguably more, importance now than it did when it was spoken for the first time.
Yet the Tottenham hero’s words are easily misunderstood. Blanchflower doesn’t dismiss winning overall. For Blanchflower winning was a given as he mentions, “beating the other lot”. What Blanchflower is actually indicating is that there is a difference between success and glory, and that success is only worth it if done with “style” and a “flourish”. He understood that winning was important but the way in which you did is equally so. One is not more important than the other but the two should balance and this is what made the quote so special.
The importance of this quote to the club means the players, manager and fans alike should prioritise all competitions equally, no matter the reward, as the “glory” of playing with “style” and “flourish” while aiming high is enough motivation.
In the recent past, Tottenham seemed to abandon these ideas, with Spurs crashing out of cups followed by shocking performances in the league. Since the arrival of Mauricio Pochettino, tides have changed at the club. In his first season the Argentine took the club to the final of the Capital One Cup. He’s also produced strong starting line ups in the Europa League and FA Cup, suggesting that he, like Blanchflower before him, wants to see silverware at the club and attained playing the ‘right’ way.
In more modern times being in four competitions per season it’s easy to not prioritise cups, especially domestic, as much as the league. It’s extremely difficult to balance the fitness and wellbeing of key players if you aim to put your best foot forward and to succeed in all, or most of them.
Yet it is doable.
At the moment Pochettino has his style of play flowing through all sections of the club. The first and second teams play his high-tempo energetic football that could be key to their success. It comes back to Blanchflower’s idea that the way in which the club plays is as important as the success itself. If Pochettino has found a winning formula with his youthful side, which arguably he has this season, and the whole team is playing it, the manager can overcome these problems through rotation. If every player is playing Pochettino’s way then as the style of play is dominant then the team is strong as well. The point is that even if Tottenham don’t succeed in all cup competitions as long as they perform well and aren’t disappointed with their performance they are, in a way, prioritising it. They are looking at the competition with the same ambitions as they look at the Premier League.
Yet there are benefits to prioritising the League. A top four spot would secure Champions League football for the club, which is high in priorities. Even so a top seven finish would secure Europa League, which even if as a competition it is not as respectable as the Champions League it is still a European competition, something which many clubs and players wish to preform in. On top of this a higher finish in the league would bring in more money to spend which would make a contribution to buying more players or towards Spurs’ new up and coming stadium.
But who said that prioritising the league would bring better results in that competition? As seen in recent seasons Tottenham have prioritised reaching top four over the Europa Cup in a bid for Champions League football. Yet don’t both bring the same reward? You could even say that the Europa League brings more as you are presented with a trophy and a Champions League place. If money is the reason then you would be shocked to know that, last season, Tottenham could have finish as low as 8th while also winning the Europa League and still collected more winnings than if they finished fourth.
Last season is an example of Tottenham prioritising the league. They fielded weaker teams in the Europa League in order to keep their Premier League bid alive. The second leg would take place only three days before their Capital One Cup final so fielding a stronger team then would not have been a healthy option. Therefore would it not have been sensible to field a stronger team in the first leg so that the tie was done and dusted? Instead a weaker team was chosen. As we know Tottenham didn’t achieve top four last season and were knocked out of the Europa League, so they did not achieve Champions League football.
Another wise man once said, “It is better to fail aiming high than to succeed aiming low. And we of Spurs have set our sights very high, so high in fact that even failure will have in it an echo of glory.” Again, this quote is recognisable to Spurs fans as the words of Blanchflower’s manager, Bill Nicholson. What Nicholson is saying is that as a club, Tottenham should only look to achieve the very best and do so to the best of their abilities; so much so that even if they fail, they would have done so knowing they did their upmost best and that this itself has “[echo’s] of glory”. Again they have as much relevance as Blanchflower’s and echo his ideas.
As a club which prides itself on its history and past greats, they should use the quotes of Tottenham’s most successful manager and captain as inspiration. The words of Bill Nicholson and Danny Blanchflower should aid the current squad to do their utmost best in all games, in all competitions to bring glory back to White Hart Lane.