GILES SMITH'S THURSDAY THOUGHTS
Columnist Giles Smith considers one of our less painful defeats as he looks forward to being in the Champions League draw...
I suppose the key phrase to use at this juncture is 'job done'. Job not particularly well done, maybe; the kind of job where you'd be on the phone to the bloke pretty sharpish to come back and have another look at it. Oh, and could he tidy up a bit better afterwards this time? But job done, nevertheless.
On account of the 0-0 draw elsewhere, those three points we didn't earn in Basel on Tuesday night were enough to guarantee us qualification to the knock-out stages of the Champions League. To that extent, they were some of the best three points we have ever dropped. In fact, I'm struggling to think of three dropped points that have served us so handsomely. If three points dropped bring these kinds of rewards, we ought to start dropping three points more often.
So, happy days, then. Other clubs (Arsenal) are still hanging on, nervously biting their nails and awaiting the outcome of the final round of games before they know if they're joining us at the top table after Christmas, or if they're going to be snacking from the serve-yourself buffet as a Europa League side.
We, however, can stroll along to the Bridge in a fortnight's time in a state of some comfort and contentment, merely hoping to see first place in the group confirmed (and one or two possibly nasty draws thereby avoided) with a hearty, post-Swiss, multi-goal bounceback against Steaua Bucharest.
And, yes, it might be a strange and unsettled season so far; and the mighty dawn of that comprehensively brilliant performance against West Ham last Saturday evening might have seemed to have frizzled away like butter in a frying pan just three nights later. But, in terms of our overall happiness with life, let's not have short memories. Think what was happening at exactly this time last year.
Job done, then.
Honestly. Our old friends and neighbours Spurs get thumped 6-0 by Manchester City, in what was widely agreed to be last week's most dire and miserable performance by a football team involving players who are paid in actual money, and immediately the rumours fire up that the manager is for the chop.
To quote the not untypical headline in the Daily Mail: 'Dark Days For AVB As Spurs Think Of Giving Him The Cold Shoulder.'
Really? After just one 6-0 humiliation? It's a measure of the dire impatience that so blights the game these days, at all levels.
Just that solitary thrashing for a manager who has only been in the job for a year and four months, and immediately everyone goes in off the deep end. The board are said to be considering their options and replacements are allegedly being lined up and everyone's walking around muttering, 'He'll be out of there by the end of the week, just you see…'
It's ridiculous. What happened to giving a manager time? At the first sight of a 6-0 drubbing, everyone cries 'enough!' and wants to see the line drawn. Whereas, if you were only patient enough and sat back, it's perfectly possible that you might see another 6-0 drubbing not long after, and possibly even another one after that, or something very similar.
Proper, long-form entertainment, in other words - properly lasting, deeply satisfying entertainment from a scenario that's been allowed to mature. What's wrong with people's attention spans these days? Everyone just seems to want a quick fix.
Of course, your joy and rejoicing at Tottenham's result might have been slightly less fulsome and ruddy-cheeked if, like my great Chelsea-supporting friend, you had had £5 on Spurs to lose 5-0 - a bet still holding good with just seconds remaining on the clock. This, surely, is just about the only circumstance in which the sight of Jesus Navas beating Hugo Lloris to score a sixth goal in the 90th minute could leave a Chelsea fan staring mournfully across the carpet with his head in his hands.
Then again, if we're talking about clouds, that particular one had a sizeable silver lining. After all, if you're going to lose out on a three-figure windfall, there could hardly be a happier way to do so, surely. And, true enough, my friend's disappointment was extremely short-lived. In fact, I think, deep down, there was a part of him that, if someone had made him the offer, would have chipped in to see it.
It arrives earlier every year, doesn't it? We're still more than a month out, yet the run-up to it already seems to have been underway for weeks, and television and the papers are full of it, and lists are being drawn up and children are animatedly talking about what they're hoping to get.
Personally, I wouldn't mind if people refrained from mentioning the January transfer window until December 15th, at the earliest. Otherwise, you're sick of it before it even gets here.