Tottenham fans caught between rock and hard place ahead of title deciding Man City clash

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola embraces Tottenham Hotspur’s Ange Postecoglou during a previous match between the two teams. Picture: Darren Staples / AFP

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola embraces Tottenham Hotspur’s Ange Postecoglou during a previous match between the two teams. Picture: Darren Staples / AFP

Published May 14, 2024


Towards the end of the 1998-99 season, Tottenham Hotspur striker Les Ferdinand scored a goal against Manchester United at Old Trafford that he almost instantly regretted.

It was the final round of fixtures of the season, with Manchester United and Arsenal gunning for the Premier League title. United had to win the match to clinch the league to complete the first piece of their eventual treble puzzle.

Arsenal were still in with a shot of winning the title if they could see off Aston Villa and United drew or lost against George Graham’s mid-table Spurs, who essentially had nothing to play for after winning the League Cup to qualify for Europe earlier that season.

Ahead of the game, Spurs’ bitter rivals Arsenal implored the Lillywhites to go for the win and not lose the game out of spite.

However, former Arsenal manager Graham said they would be professional and try to win every match they play.

Tottenham took a shock lead in the first half when Ferdinand scored, giving their North London rivals Arsenal hope of winning back-to-back titles after clinching the league in 1998.

For Ferdinand, however, it was one of the most bizarre moments of his life.

“I scored at Old Trafford, and not many did at that time, and thought, ‘Bloody hell what have I done here, this could go down in history as the worst move of my career,’’’ Ferdinand said in an interview with The Times.

“The home fans went silent and the pocket of Tottenham fans half-celebrated; they didn’t want to celebrate.

“From then on as a player, you are willing Man United to score, it was strange. In the week before, Spurs fans came up and said, ‘We don’t mind you losing this game’.

“My job was to score goals and my initial thought was to run away and celebrate. Then reality kicked in and I thought, ‘If Arsenal win, they win the title’.

“You are professional and there was not one player in the team who did not want to win due to Arsenal.”

Almost 25 years later and Arsenal’s fate is again in Tottenham’s hands. This time, Arsenal are praying for Spurs to beat or even take a draw against the new kings of English football, Manchester City, for Arsenal to have chance of lifting the league title next Sunday.

The modern age of social media has certainly played it’s part in the build-up to Tuesday night’s clash between Spurs and Pep Guardiola’s City, with Arsenal fans imploring their rivals to get one over City, while many Spurs fans on social media are saying they actually want to team to lose to City just so their rivals don’t lift the title.

In a Sky Sports poll, 54% of Spurs fans apparently said they would be happy to lose despite their team needing to win to keep their Champions League hopes alive after Aston Villa failed to beat Liverpool on Monday night.

Meaning, Spurs fans would rather lose significant revenue from Europe’s premier club competition and play in the Europa League instead, rather than see Arsenal parade the Premier League trophy through the streets of North London.

Spurs manager Ange Postecoglou, however, is having none of this “playing to lose” talk after being grilled about the issue during a pre-match press conference.

“I was part of one of the biggest rivalries in the world in the last couple of years with Celtic and Rangers, and 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,” said Postecoglou.

“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.

“My role is to bring success to this football club and I know 100% of Spurs supporters want us to win, be successful and win trophies. That is without a shadow of a doubt and us winning tomorrow night will help us bring joy to 100% of Spurs supporters.”

It seems like there’s no win-win scenario for Spurs fans on Tuesday night!