Why Tottenham’s 68-match winless run at ‘Big Four’ grounds really does matter
Tottenham’s defeat at Old Trafford on Saturday maintained their 68-match run of failing to win a league match away against a traditional ‘Big Four’ team. But why does it matter?
AS THE dust settled on Saturday, Spurs were left to reflect on yet another defeat at Old Trafford, and yet another league fixture passing without an away win against the traditional ‘Big Four’.
That run has now been extended to 68 matches, a statistic which Tottenham fans are well used to hearing and a millstone which continues to lie heavily around the club’s neck.
Redknapp has been aware of Spurs’ least favourite statistic for a while, but he always covers himself with the joke that he can’t be blamed for what happened in 1994, 1995 or any season before his arrival in October 2008.
Of course that is entirely fair, but the manager has also extended that excuse to his players, suggesting that Spurs’ recent signings are utterly unaware of their club’s ‘curse’, and are consequently unaffected on the field.
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“It’s different players now, they wouldn’t know about that record or anything else about it,” he said.
That would appear to be untrue, given Luka Modric’s comments before Saturday’s trip to Manchester.
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“We’ve started to beat these teams at home but it’s true that we need to start sometimes beating them away,” said the Croatian.
“We’ve come close, and someone also told me that before I came to the club we had some games there [at Old Trafford] but were always unlucky.”
It appears that Redknapp’s players are all too aware of Tottenham’s recent history, and it seems fair to argue that that has a shared mental effect in these fixtures.
Psychologically, when a strong opposing crowd is entered into the equation, there is every reason to suggest that the Lilywhites would lack belief in their ability to win.
Add the fact that footballers are a particularly superstitious bunch, and it starts to seem very possible that Spurs’ 68-match winless run has become a real mental issue.
Far from being a quirky little statistic, Spurs’ record is likely to have a very genuine effect on the team’s performances, and their chances of ending this run.
There has certainly been a visible fear factor in these fixtures and, if you add together the goals from five trips to Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool in league and cup last season, Spurs conceded 13 goals and scored one in reply.
Far from simply ‘not winning’ these games, Spurs are losing them all, and losing them heavily.
The Lilywhites were particularly limp at the Emirates and Anfield last season and, having fielded the stronger side in the Carling Cup quarter-final in Manchester, never made it count in a lacklustre 2-0 loss.
It is strange that Redknapp should play down the importance of this 68-match run, and suggest that past results have no impact on the present – of all people, he should know better. Why? Because of Gareth Bale.
The Welsh winger famously went 24 matches without being involved in a league win for Tottenham, stretching from August 2007 to a 5-0 win over Burnley in September 2009.
Bale’s curse became a favourite piece of football trivia, and Redknapp has since admitted that it influenced his team selections because he worried that his players were being affected.
Even more interestingly, and relevantly for this issue, the Spurs boss believes that Bale’s first win changed the player’s fortunes entirely, removing a mammoth weight from his shoulders and sparking a remarkable rejuvenation.
“Confidence is key,” said Redknapp back in May. “He had that terrible spell of not being on the winning team for 24 games. Suddenly we got rid of that, we managed to win with him in the team, and his confidence has risen.
“I think all of our confidence went higher after that because it’s not a nice feeling, that every time the lad plays we couldn’t win. I think we all started to get a bit edgy about it.
“There are times when you think about things like that. We’re all superstitious. And you think ‘this doesn’t seem right, it doesn’t seem possible’. But we got it out the way and since then has hasn’t looked back.”
The similarities with Tottenham’s 68-game curse should be blindingly obvious.
At the time, Bale laughed off his misfortune, declaring it to be ‘one of those funny things that comes up every now and then’. However, Redknapp has offered a different view, revealing the mental insecurities that had developed behind the scenes.
After that experience, and having seen the immediate effect when Bale’s curse was lifted, the Spurs boss will surely be desperate to end this 68-game hoodoo.
“We need that, we need to go away from home and play at Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Man United and pick up a win. We did that at Man City last year, and I think they’ll be a top-four team this year,” said the manager.
“But yes we need to go away from home in one or two of those games and pick up better results this year than we have in the past.”
Redknapp and his players will get another go in three weeks, on Saturday November 20, at the Emirates...