Tottenham have come a long way in the 21st century, morphing from perennial underachievers at the start of the Premier League era to becoming Champions League finalists and regular contenders for top-four finishes.
There are, however, certain reputations that the north London outfit are finding it difficult to shake, despite St Totteringham’s Day – which was once an annual event enjoyed by Arsenal fans all over the world – becoming a thing of the past.
The phrase ‘Spursy’ is one that continues to follow a side now working under the management of Antonio Conte around, but what does it mean and where did it come from? GOAL takes a look…
What does ‘Spursy’ mean in football?
There are various definitions of what it means to be ‘Spursy’, but an underlying theme is present throughout.
- To have success in reach but to ultimately throw it away.
- A certain fragility in the team that consistently fails to live up to expectations and crumbles within sight of victory.
It was reported back in 2016 that a definition for ‘Spursy’ was to be added to the Oxford English Dictionary, but that proved to be a spoof story that probably had origins in the red half of north London.
Where does ‘Spursy’ come from?
There was a time when Tottenham were considered to be pushovers, with undoubted quality on their books all too often being let down by a lack of stomach for a fight.
Legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson famously told his players during a half-time team talk at White Hart Lane in 2001 when his side were trailing 3-0: "Lads, it’s Tottenham." The Red Devils would go on to win the game 5-3.
There have been countless other instances down the years in which Spurs have either shot themselves in the foot or endured a wretched run of bad luck.
Another example of a three-goal lead being thrown away came in a FA Cup clash with Manchester City in February 2004, while the final day of the 2005-06 campaign delivered the now infamous 'Lasagne-gate' incident which resulted in a squad hit hard by food poisoning missing out on fourth spot to arch-rivals Arsenal.
Semi-finals have proved difficult to clear since claiming a last major trophy back in 2008, with four setbacks suffered in the last four of the FA Cup, while three League Cup final defeats and one in the Champions League have prevented further entries from being added to an honours board.
In 2012, Spurs were denied a place in the Champions League despite finishing fourth in the Premier League, with Chelsea’s triumph in Europe that year allowing them to dash the dreams of London neighbours.
Moving on to 2016 and Spurs looked to be title contenders, only to fall off the pace set by Leicester and finish behind Arsenal again, while in 2021 Spurs slipped out of the Europa League at the last-16 stage despite winning the first leg of a meeting with Dinamo Zagreb 2-0.
Inconsistency has remained an issue in the present, with former Tottenham striker Teddy Sheringham telling Sky Sports recently after seeing Conte’s men beat Manchester City away from home and hit nine goals across meetings with Leeds and Everton but come unstuck at Burnley and against Championship side Middlesbrough in the FA Cup: "It's very up and down, isn't it? It's very 'Spursy', that's how I see it at the moment."
Whether it is a case character flaws or misfortune, certain tags appear destined to follow Tottenham around until such a point as they are able to get back in a trophy-winning habit and silence their doubters.