Ange Postecoglu is wrong - Tottenham fans who want their team to lose don't need 'counselling'

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Some Spurs fans on social media want their team to lose to dent Arsenal’s title chances - was Ange Postecoglou right to call them out?

There are few people in this world who can express exasperation quite like Ange Postecoglou. Whenever a journalist asks a question which he finds a shade exhausting, he packs withering scorn into his responses at a contempt-per-word ratio that Edmund Blackadder would struggle to keep up with – all while maintaining a sufficiently high ‘mates per sentence’ rate to ensure the unfortunate hack on the receiving end still half-believes the avuncular Australian likes them anyway. Being able to tell people they’re idiots without them disliking you is a neat trick, and the Tottenham Hotspur manager has it down to a tee.

It was a skill he put to good use once again during his pre-match press-conference on Monday, when it was put to him that some Spurs fans would prefer his side to lose to Manchester City on Tuesday night – a result which would keep the visitors in pole position for the title going into the final weekend of the Premier League season, and perhaps deny deadly rivals Arsenal their first league title in 20 years.

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“I don't understand it, I never will,” he told the media. “I understand the rivalry but I've never and will never understand if someone wants their own team to lose. That's not what sport is about. It's not what I love about the game. If other people want to treat it that way, that they get pleasure from other people's misery, that's not how I've lived my life and how I perceive my role… us winning tomorrow night will help us bring joy to 100% of Spurs supporters."

That may be less true that Postecoglou hopes if social media is anything to go by, where you can find plenty of apparent Spurs fans who want nothing more than to see Manchester City win in north London – people the Spurs head coach said would need to have a “counselling session.”

On the one hand, of course you understand where those fans are coming from. Watching rival fans experiencing unbridled joy is a pretty painful experience, after all, and nobody would ever ask a Tottenham fan to feel good about anything nice happening to Arsenal. Football culture makes katagelasts of us all – people, that is, who enjoy laughing at the misery of others. Watching our fiercest rivals fail is funny. The tears of their supporters taste delicious. If they don’t, then what’s the point of the rivalry in the first place?

But on the other hand, Postecoglou has a point in this particular case. Not because we should all come together to be as one in the brotherhood of man, sporting rivalries aside, but because Spurs really can still qualify for the Champions League.

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As it stands, they are five points behind Aston Villa with a game in hand. Defeat Manchester City – unlikely on paper, perhaps, but it would hardly be the first time that Spurs had been the spanner in Pep Guardiola’s finely-calibrated footballing machine – and they will make the top four if they beat Sheffield United on the final day and Villa lose to Crystal Palace.

And this isn’t the Palace of Roy Hodgson we’re talking about, who invariably had their feet up on the beach for the last few matches of the season after battling their way to 40 points – Oliver Glasner’s side have stormed their way into a six-match unbeaten run, knocking over Liverpool and thrashing Manchester United away. If you think Villa avoiding defeat at Selhurst Park is a done deal, you haven’t been paying attention to everything that’s going on in west London right now. Something very interesting is bubbling away over there.

Meanwhile, a game against Sheffield United is about as close to a gimme putt as you can get in the Premier League. The Blades are down, down, down and have shipped more goals than any other side since the top flight was cut down to 20 teams. Even a Spurs side on a distinctly dodgy run should really win at Bramall Lane.

The main reason that some Spurs fans don’t want to win on Tuesday night is simply because they don’t believe they can in the first place. That’s fair enough – they’ve been conditioned by years of agonising near misses to assume the worst and laugh it off when it comes. Their side has only just lost four on the bounce in the league for the first time since they had Noé Pamarot and Goran Bunjevčević starting at the back. They’re up against Manchester City’s relentless victory engine. They probably will lose. But only probably.

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“I'd hate to think that anyone will think we'll go out there tomorrow with anything other than trying to measure ourselves against a top team and maybe win a game of football that's consequential,” Postecoglou added. "How are we ever going to become a team that wins things if in the big games we shy away from it. Why would we shy away from a challenge tomorrow that exists?”

And in all of that lies Postecoglou’s own challenge – to get the Spurs support to a point where they really believe that they can pull something out of the fire when it comes down to the crucial moment. To turn a good and entertaining team into a successful one. To wash away the post-Pochettino blues that have enveloped their turf thanks to a succession of dour and ultimately disappointing managers who beat the joy out of a side which had made the Champions League final not so long ago.

Spurs have not been great lately, and Postecoglou has plenty of tactical questions to answer, but over the course of the season, the mood music is still swelling slowly towards some stirring major chords. Beating Manchester City on Tuesday night would be a big step towards a long-awaited crescendo, and even if it handed Arsenal the title, it might be worth it in the long run. And hey, Arsenal might blow it anyway. It’s not as though they don’t have form too…

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