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Football will outlive us all, even me

I remember, about two months ago, the herd - following the masters-of-the-obvious Match of the Day pundits - saying that Spurs could win the league, they really could.

Then, a month ago there was some sort of poll, so Sky told us, of all the Prem managers, and they overwhelmingly agreed Spurs was the most attractive team in the league. And what I remember so clearly was shouting, "No! No! No! Stop it at once!"

I admit I did agree with myself when I heard myself saying that Modric and Bale, my fave players, are now possibly the best in the Prem, we are so blessed. And of course in Harry we have a real treasure, what a total transformation he has wrought, he is so brilliant, inspirational, tra-la.

In odd moments, I was guilty, forgetting what I have lived through - several world wars, endless economic recessions, countless idiotic governments, nul points yet again in the Eurovision - and I began to half believe that this might well be the season for Tott-ing-ham, best team in London, Arsenal where are ya?

Well, for half an hour I believed all that. Perhaps 20 minutes. I'm not that daft.

Meanwhile, all those Spurs fans who for months totally convinced themselves we had already won everything are now going around sobbing - where did it go wrong? Is it Harry's fault, flirting with England? The players getting distracted, losing focus?

Course it's not. It's just that Spurs is a middling team. Have been for 50 years. Will be for the next 50 years. It's their nature. For the first half of the season they overachieved - Bale and Modric played above themselves. Now they have gone off.

Plus the opposition have found them out. The rest are as we always feared. Adebayor, Saha, Van der Vaart, Gallas and Parker have been around and then let go from various other clubs for a reason - they are not top-quality or consistent.

Temper temper

It is the young, poor sods who get most disheartened by this realisation. They can't take it.

When my son was ten he would get into the most awful temper when Spurs lost. Even worse was a boy round the corner called Dan who once stayed in his bedroom for three days after a Spurs defeat.

In football, friends, this season has shown just how important it is for managers to have put in the years and built up experience. Fergie is 70, Harry is 65, Roy Hodgson 64, Wenger is 62 - all of them retired pensioners in normal life. André Villas-Boas, aged 13 - come on, surely you remember him - never had a chance, poor child.

In most walks of life - except in politics, where they live for the quick fix and bugger tomorrow - dressing-room dramas and defeats come round, not quite exactly the same, or with the same characters but enough to help you cope; remembering what you did last time, enabling you to be calm and hang on, as Wenger did. Just a month ago the Arsenal crowd had turned against him and were booing Walcott. Now, look at them. Bastards.

Older and wiser

On the pitch, experience also counts. Scholes has come back from retirement, playing a vital part in Man United's final push. Giggs, unbelievably, seems as fleet of mind and body as ever. If it was the old lags wot did it at Chelsea for A V-B, they will be the ones to rescue Chelsea's season.

But it is not often acknowledged that age is a vital ingredient for football fans. The things we've seen, I could tell you some stories, eeeeeh, lad. Stars and managers come and go, miracle workers arrive, new dawns dawn, then it all settles down - into nothing very much, really.

I come home from Spurs, find out that fuckin' Arsenal has won yet again, shout at the wife, kick the tortoise, then hit the bottle, and do you know, in ten minutes, I have forgotten the pain and agonies. Moved on to something else. Life, as it's often called.

There's that famous quote from Bill Shankly - that football is not just a matter of life and death, but is more important than that. I don't take it to mean that a game of football is more important than anyone's life - of course not - but that football will go on, outlive us all.

So that's what Spurs fans have now got to do. Remember, it's just another middling season.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 02 April 2012 issue of the New Statesman, France is my enemy

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Labour tensions boil over at fractious MPs' meeting

Corbyn supporters and critics clash over fiscal charter U-turn and new group Momentum. 

"A total fucking shambles". That was the verdict of the usually emollient Ben Bradshaw as he left tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party meeting. His words were echoed by MPs from all wings of the party. "I've never seen anything like it," one shadow minister told me. In commitee room 14 of the House of Commons, tensions within the party - over the U-turn on George Osborne's fiscal charter and new Corbynite group Momentum - erupted. 

After a short speech by Jeremy Corbyn, shadow chancellor John McDonnell sought to explain his decision to oppose Osborne's fiscal charter (having supported it just two weeks ago). He cited the change in global economic conditions and the refusal to allow Labour to table an amendment. McDonnell also vowed to assist colleagues in Scotland in challenging the SNP anti-austerity claims. But MPs were left unimpressed. "I don't think I've ever heard a weaker round of applause at the PLP than the one John McDonnell just got," one told me. MPs believe that McDonnell's U-turn was due to his failure to realise that the fiscal charter mandated an absolute budget surplus (leaving no room to borrow to invest), rather than merely a current budget surplus. "A huge joke" was how a furious John Mann described it. He and others were outraged by the lack of consultation over the move. "At 1:45pm he [McDonnell] said he was considering our position and would consult with the PLP and the shadow cabinet," one MP told me. "Then he announces it before 6pm PLP and tomorow's shadow cabinet." 

When former shadow cabinet minister Mary Creagh asked Corbyn about the new group Momentum, which some fear could be used as a vehicle to deselect critical MPs (receiving what was described as a weak response), Richard Burgon, one of the body's directors, offered a lengthy defence and was, one MP said, "just humiliated". He added: "It looked at one point like they weren't even going to let him finish. As the fractious exchanges were overheard by journalists outside, Emily Thornberry appealed to colleagues to stop texting hacks and keep their voices down (within earshot of all). 

After a calmer conference than most expected, tonight's meeting was evidence of how great the tensions within Labour remain. Veteran MPs described it as the worst PLP gathering for 30 years. The fear for all MPs is that they have the potential to get even worse. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.