LONDON (Reuters) - It is 56 years since Tottenham Hotspur were English champions and even their most optimistic followers cannot realistically expect them to bridge a 10-point gap at the top of the table with Chelsea.
For the second year running, however, Spurs are in second place with a dozen games to play. Now the question being asked is whether they can avoid the sort of anti-climatic finish that left them not only well short of surprise champions Leicester City last May but even pipped for the runners-up position by oldest enemies Arsenal on the final day.
Buoyant as the mood was around White Hart Lane after the 4-0 demolition of Stoke City on Sunday, the visitors were so poor that it would be unwise to draw too many conclusions.
Beating Manchester City and Chelsea this season was evidence of the potential of Mauricio Pochettino’s squad -- the youngest in the Premier League with an average age under 25.
But both those victories came at White Hart Lane, where Tottenham have reeled off 10 successive wins in the league and FA Cup since October.
On their travels they have been less impressive, with the most recent league game, a 2-0 defeat at Liverpool, notable as one of the worst performances of the season.
That is highly significant, according to Graeme Souness, an arch-professional who began his career in Tottenham’s youth team and later won five league titles and three European Cups with Liverpool.
“Their quality at times has been fantastic and it’s a mystery why they can’t win more games away from home,” he said after watching the Stoke game as a Sky Sports pundit.
”They have to start doing that if they want to be the real deal.
“It’s alright playing at home where everybody loves you and you’re full of confidence but sometimes you have to go to places and dig results out where nobody loves you and that’s what separates the real winners.”
With players like Harry Kane, 23, and Dele Alli, 20, yet to reach their prime, Spurs have been tipped as future champions. Given how difficult they have found playing European games at Wembley, however, next season could prove a tricky one when all home league matches have to be moved there while the new White Hart Lane stadium is constructed.
“They’ve had a bad European campaign in both competitions and they have to get back into the Champions League,” Souness said.
“If they don’t get back into the top four I don’t think it’s been a successful season for them.”