The BBC opened the papers after the FA Cup third round to discover they were in the dock. Accused of excess caution. In their selection of live cup action the public were denied the schadenfreude of witnessing the cup’s romance as Everton were beaten at Gay Meadow.
Viewers were forced to watch Tottenham’s meek submission in Hampshire.Yet it was easy to understand the BBC’s thinking. Everton’s transformation under the astute Moyes suggested they would be fully prepared for the Shrewsbury challenge. Professional enough to absorb the home side’s pressure and probably make class tell.
Like the BBC, the Toffeemen failed to recognise the hidden dangers this tie had in store. In the post match analysis, Shrewsbury’s Luke Rogers suggested that Everton had failed the professional’s code of honour – they didn’t want it enough. But why didn’t they want it enough?
You can be sure that Moyes fully briefed them on the task ahead, but his players seemed to assume that as a top six Premiership side their lofty presence alone would be enough to see off the third division threat.
But Everton overlooked the fact that the foundations for sustained success are still being laid. They are a top six side in construction. The spectre of underachievement still lurks in the Goodison locker rooms. Once these foundations become permanent then they afford a dash of Premiership insousiance. Until then success must be worked for not assumed.
Shrewsbury worked hard for their success. Everton didn’t have to work as hard to fail.
And so to St. Mary’s. Tottenham are forever burdened by the weight of their history. How can it be other when they have to tread a road more star spattered than Hollywood Boulevard.
For them the memories of Blanchflower, Greaves and Mackay burn deep. But that doesn’t excuse why Spurs failed to turn up at St Mary’s. They knew the way. A team resembling them had been there a few days before and played well.
Spurs played as if they had to be in Southampton rather than wanting to be. The match seemed as much fun as having tooth cavities filled with tinfoil. They performed as if the game had no real sense of meaning to them. Any maybe it didn’t.
For Southampton, meaning comes in fighting to maintain new standards. Their history of Premiership struggle is too firmly etched into the clubs consciousness to take their foot off the work-o-meter.
Could you imagine Arsenal showing the white flag in similar circumstances?
Spurs look in the mirror to see their glorious past, whilst their arch-rivals glimpse the future they are shaping. For Arsenal, each game creates meaning for players who know they can determine club history.
For those who wore the Cockerel at St. Mary’s, it seemed another game in the inexorable football roadshow. They seemed unable to appreciate or be able to carry the burden of being Tottenham.
So can this Tottenham recapture the essence of ‘Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur’ and create a vision for the 21st century.
Or will they continue to distort the memory of those who have gone before?