Tottenham Hotspur is not the most successful soccer club in England, but it might be the most popular team in the Twin Cities, given that the Minneapolis Spurs fan club boasts more than 500 members. Explaining the Spurs’ popularity requires explaining the club’s star-crossed history, which might go a long way toward understanding why this North London club seems so very Minnesotan.
Tottenham is one of the “big six” clubs in England that traditionally run roughshod over the English Premier League, and as a rich, fashionable London team, the Spurs aren’t exactly underdogs. Although the club’s trophy case is more barren than you might expect: no league titles since 1961, no FA Cup wins since 1991. A couple of lonely triumphs in the League Cup, England’s secondary cup competition, is all the team has to show for the last quarter-century.
“Tottenham has a very Minnesota-like track record. They’ve been around forever, they have a storied history, but heartbreak is the central piece of being a Spurs fan like it’s the central piece of being a Minnesota sports fan,” said John Eichten, the vice chairman of the Minneapolis Spurs.
Tottenham’s local fan club has been around in some form since 2007, and nowadays you can find 75 members gathered at the Nomad World Pub in Cedar-Riverside to watch the team’s games — and more than double that if it’s a game against Arsenal, Tottenham’s North London rival. That rivalry with Arsenal has not been kind to the Spurs in recent years. The clubs are separated by less than 5 miles in North London, but Arsenal has been on top for decades, and between 1996 and 2016, finished ahead of Tottenham in the standings 21 years in a row.
The most painful season of all for Spurs fans might have been the final one in the streak, when the Spurs needed a single point on the final day of the season to finish above Arsenal. Instead, Tottenham lost 5-1 to already relegated Newcastle United, down to 10 men for much of the game — a loss Eichten compares to the Vikings’ 41-donut loss to the New York Giants in the 2000 NFC Championship Game.
The team is on an upswing at the moment. It’s finished ahead of Arsenal two years in a row, in the top-four Champions League spots, and will move into a new stadium next year, built on the site of its historic White Hart Lane ground. Still, it wouldn’t be Spurs without painful losses; Tottenham lost in the FA Cup semifinals to Manchester United this year, and endured a heartbreaking loss to Juventus in the Champions League knockout rounds.
When the Spurs finally break through and lift another trophy, it won’t be just another win.
“It’s not like cheering for the Yankees. It actually means something when Tottenham wins,” Eichten says.
Heartbreak, with the undying hope of future success. North London is far away, but even so — there’s a bit of Minnesota in Tottenham. No wonder so many Spurs fans reside here.
Writer Jon Marthaler gives you a recap of recent events and previews the week ahead. • firstname.lastname@example.org