We’ve been spoiled in recent years. The past few seasons it’s seemed like we went into the final day of the Premier League season with at least one or two major races yet to be decided. Whether it was Champions League qualification, relegation, or, indeed, the title, the last day of the season has provided at least some drama.
This is, historically, not often the case. League seasons being what they are, the last day usually ends up being anti-climactic. Everything’s been decided, and now it’s time to either celebrate or rue your lot in life.
After the midweek round of fixtures, most of the drama for this season has been resolved ahead of the final day. Leicester have won the title, the three teams dropping down to the second division have been confirmed, and Top 4 is more or less settled. Unless you’re a fan of either Manchester club, Sunday will likely be a day of few surprises.
That’s nice, if your club has reason to celebrate. Tottenham Hotspur missed out on the title this season after coming closer than they have for a long time. Fans couldn’t help but think back to 1961, the last time they won the top flight championship. A different time, surely, but football and the singular euphoria it inspires transcends time.
This week we look back to May, 1961, and see Tottenham the last time they were Champions of England.
1960-61 was the season they did the double, the only time in their history they would do the league-and-cup double. (Ten years later they would win the League Cup and something called the Anglo-Italian League Cup.) Spurs lost their last game of the league season, 2-1 at home to West Brom. But it didn’t really matter, since they had wrapped up the league title a few weeks prior. They ended up finishing eight points clear of runners-up Sheffield Wednesday. A week after their league campaign ended, they faced off against Leicester City at Wembley, and goals from Bobby Smith and Terry Dyson gave them a 2-0 win and their third FA Cup.
After all their competitive obligations were met, Tottenham arranged the tradition open-top bus parade. You basically know what to expect— the bus, players looking slackjawed at all the attention, fans young and old lining otherwise relatively quiet residential streets. It’s one of those things that unremarkable to neutral observers, but if you’re one of the people on the street or on the bus, it’s one of the best days of your life.
At the end of the parade the team meets with the Mayor and his wife. Danny Blanchflower and Bobby Smith give short speeches. The fans are still cheering. You know the drill.
Whether or not you’re a Spurs fan, it’s remarkable to see how the way we celebrate things can stay constant for generations. This thing, football, it occasionally creates moments of indescribable joy, and yet there’s this sort of unspoken script for how to express that joy. It’s making rosettes and singing Abide With Me. It’s watching a bus wind its way down your street. It’s telling your kids, and their kids, what it was like when your team won the league. 50 years from now, old-timers will be telling kids about the time Leicester won the league, and the kids will just sort of tune it out.
But people do keep their histories. You can see a lot of the team that won the league in 1961 in the team that almost won it this year.
Sunday is the Final day of the season and then the following weekend is the FA Cup. Celebrations (and commiserations) are already underway. All that’s left is seeing this one out, and looking forward to August. All ten games will be shown on various cable channels and kickoff at 10am EST. And then, we all go away until August.