It may only be the Capital One Cup, but this week’s game takes on a new level of importance for one reason.
It’s against Spurs.
My league cup memories are somewhat tarnished by one day in history – 22nd January 2008 to be precise – when I settled into a seat in the East Stand of White Hart Lane and prepared to watch yet another victory over our nearest and dearest for the mighty Arsenal.
I was confident, I was expectant and I was happy. Briefly.
Tottenham went on to beat us 5-1 that day; securing their first win over us for almost 10 years.
Let that sink in a moment: TEN whole years. Not even Mike Dean standards of refereeing had been able to interrupt such a run.
One of the most embarrassing elements of that game was that it didn’t feel we could fall back upon the “it was only the kids” get out of jail free card, since Sagna and Gallas had started with Fabregas coming on as early as the 18th minute, and you could feel the Spurs fans respond to that the longer the game went on.
It was also the game that gave us a fantastic glimpse into the futures of Adebayor and Bendtner when they squared up to each other in preposterous fashion in the centre circle.
Of course we had our revenge a couple of years later, winning 4-1 after extra time in a thoroughly ruthless performance and scoring twice in the first six minutes of the additional period to crush Tottenham hopes. We played a stronger XI in that game, as we should do this week, but in truth the damage had already been done to an extent.
While we laugh at “the tide is turning” “this is our year” and “power shift” mantras that are the bedrock of popular support at White Hart Lane, we have never managed to regain the pre-2008 levels of dominance over our rivals at their place in particular.
On that day in 2008, you could feel it change as they dared to hope. Over the intervening years, it has reached a point where, in their run down dump of a stadium at least, they even expect victory.
I have not returned to sit in the home stand at Spurs for a game against Arsenal again since that horrific winter day, and indeed I never will. When an Arsenal win was all but certain, it was almost enjoyable to watch the game, delighting in the misery, dejection and utter resignation (even before the first whistle) of the Spurs fans around you.
These days, it is simply unbearable, and no small part of that is down to the mentality change that swept through their fans as a result of that League Cup victory in the ’07-’08 competition.
So it might ‘only’ be the Capital One Cup, but that doesn’t make it unimportant.
The competition itself can continue to rank very low down our priorities but as long as we’re facing our closest rivals (geographically at least) then it is critical – if only for its contribution to North London supremacy.
Let’s put it this way: come Thursday morning, the only way to brighten my morning will be if the whole city is daubed in bold red paint. Let’s make it happen boys.