I wanted to write a little in praise of the mentality of the Spurs Women team as I don’t think it gets remarked on nearly enough and I think it’s something we can all be inspired by and learn from.
Bill Shankly famously said “football isn’t a matter of life and death… it’s much more important than that” and I’ve been supporting Spurs for over thirty years so I have had a long time of experiencing Monday mornings barely able to drag myself out of bed following a bad result.
But Shankly never had to face Bunny Shaw. Or penalty shootouts for that matter…
There are only two constants in life: Death and Bunny Shaw Scoring. I don’t think many Spurs fans even expected a goal against Manchester City yet alone a result against an in form side with their quality. But seeing Spurs go out of the Women’s FA Cup in the cruelest of fashions to a Reading side that didn’t really deserve it? Personally, a real blow.
I’d billed that as a game Spurs really needed to win to show that we’d turned a corner amid a run of games against the WSL’s behemoths in which we’d put in strong performances but come away with nothing. A much needed morale boosting win was the order of the day.
To learn Bethany England was out with an unspecified injury picked up against Manchester United was another blow but we still had enough quality in the side. Celin Bizet has really started to excel in recent weeks in a makeshift right wing-back role but was moved up top alongside Niki and as an attacking duo they complimented each other well – Celin constantly moved, stretching the Reading defence, tiring them and our agent of chaos Niki bulldozed through them, bruising them with her physicality to Celin’s pace.
Reading’s game plan was obvious from the outset: retain possession and recover it quickly, pressing high and with numbers, flooding the centre and relying on mistakes.
I don’t think there was a single Spurs fan that didn’t want to give Molly Bartrip a hug after her devastation at the decisive own goal against United. She plays with such commitment and heart putting everything on the line that she didn’t deserve to feel that. She bounced back brilliantly marshalling the backline as Reading provided a very different challenge to the more recent opponents as rather than relentless attacking or crossing, their possession demanded constant focus. And Molly, Amy and Kerys – filling in for Shelina on the left of the back three provided it. They didn’t put a foot wrong and Reading rarely looked like scoring.
On the flanks, Asmita looked untroubled, Captain Ash did Ash things, casually spraying passes around, calmly moving the ball past her opponents as if they weren’t there. In the centre Angharad and Drew were outnumbered while Reading pressed but once the exertion tired them out, they really displayed their dominance. Then the brightest part of the day:
Kit Graham Returned.
It was like she’d never been away. She took no time reacclimatising herself, just casually working the ball as if she owned it (and deeply unlucky not to score by a couple of inches).
This did not look like a team in ‘relegation form’, psychologically crushed by a run of defeats. And even after the disappointment of penalty shootout, the players greeted the fans with smiles, hugs and selfies, Rehanne played delightedly with Ash’s daughter…
The punditry cliche is to talk about ‘heads dropping’ and I feared that result might have sent us in against The Bunny Shaw Team low in confidence. But not this team. They weathered the early onslaught with Tini in imperious form reaching everything (she’s so cool I want to be her when I grow up). And then Celin scored her second Spurs goal (I’m counting the goal against Liverpool as hers, I no longer respect the FA’s authority) – against the run of play but a sign we can score without Beth England and the least Celin’s recent performances deserved. And then Bunny Shaw arrived… some things are just inevitable.
But the team kept battling, creating chances, fighting to the end. Like Chelsea and United before them, City didn’t have a stroll in the park, they were in a contest.
Maybe these players’ generation is just more open about discussing their mental health – and if you haven’t, do check out Molly Bartrip and Esther Morgan’s essays online about their mental health struggles, they’re beautifully articulate – and maybe the closeness of their relationship with the fans, the true affection there, really pulls them through but their strength of character is something we can all seek to emulate.
So Reading get Chelsea in the next round. Good luck with that. We’ve played Chelsea enough this season anyway and hopefully another game in the fixture list will tire them a bit more when it comes to the league…
Dave Puckridge is on twitter @DavidPuckridge
One Reply to “Mentality ”
Thanks for this David … I am for one am a harsh critic as I want to feel our club is building better teams in all what we do but of course there is an opposite side to the mirror. Great read
Not sure I agree with you with the Reading game though – we were very wasteful and played far too much panic passing and in the end taking Nikola off before penalties maybe was a poor decision by RS. Reading did have their chances – they were no walkover and it will be another tough game against them in a few weeks as we both need the points. We also have had to play 2 games against top sides with poor referees who looked to be very one sided (not ours) and VAR id definately needed in the WSL sooner rather than later.
We have now 3 games to turn this season around namely, Brighton Reading and Leicester (all at home). The mental strength of the women will be tested for sure and I for one hope we can stave off relegation and start again with a new team build next season… but please can Paratici get top drawer players in please.