Wednesday 28 November 2001

White Hot Lane

From being mid-table, mediocre, and Premiership makeweights over the last decade, manager Glen Hoddle appears to be on the verge of bringing the good times back to the disappointed side of North London. Having had to suffer the agonies of watching fierce rivals Arsenal actually winning things, Tottenham fans are desperate to see their underachieving team back where they think it belongs - at the top of the table and back in Europe.

There have been many false dawns over White Hart Lane, but with favourite son Hoddle returned, and bringing with him some impressive wins and a welcome return to the stylish and attractive football that served Spurs so well in the past, hopes are high.

Currently in seventh place, Spurs got off to a slow start this season, gaining only two points from their first three eminently winnable games, but things have gradually come together as the influx of new players have started to settle in. At times, their fast free-flowing football has been breathtaking, no better example than against Manchester United at the end of September when three first half goals put last year's champions to the sword. The five goals that they conceded in the second half shows that there is still some way to go however.

The Team

One of the few teams in the Premiership to play three at the back, Spurs have replaced Sol Campbell with the workmanlike but effective Dean Richards from Southampton. His partnership with the highly promising Ledley King bodes well for the future.

The introduction of the influential Teddy Sheringham has been a masterstroke. Believed to be past his best, the England international has been playing some of the most devastating football of his career, and has been the catalyst for the majority of the good football that his team has displayed. Gus Poyet and Christian Ziege were manager Glen Hoddle's other major signings, and the South American's ability to arrive late into the box has brought many vital goals.

With Richards cup-tied and Poyet and Mauricio Taricco both struggling to overcome injuries, Thursday night's game might see a recall for defender Goran Bunjevcevic. Ben Thatcher and Oyvind Leonhardsen both stand by, while £11million Ukrainian international Sergei Rebrov, who has not started a Premiership game this season, might also be in a line for a surprise selection.

From the Past

While League meetings between the two sides have been something of a rarity, cup-ties have become a regular feature of recent seasons. Drawn together in the FA Cup three years ago, Second Division Fulham put on a brave display, but went down 3-1 at White Hart Lane, a fine goal from midfielder Neil Smith and an own goal from Maik Taylor sticking in the memory.

Two years ago, Fulham gained their only Cup victory against Spurs by beating the then Worthington Cup holders 3-1. In a game where the Premiership visitors were comprehensively destroyed, Fulham showed just how good a side they could be. After taking the lead through Hayles, Fulham allowed Spurs an equaliser when Taylor sliced a kick to an unmarked Iverson, but immediately re-took the lead after a fine passing move gave Wayne Collins the opportunity to score. Fulham went on to dominate a very subdued looking Spurs, with Geoff Horsfield in particular, giving Sol Campbell a torrid time. Fittingly, Horsfield scored a fine third goal to round off a wonderful evening.

The last time Fulham beat Tottenham in the League was in February 1965. A Spurs team containing the likes of Jimmy Greaves, Alan Gilzean, Cliff Jones, Cyril Knowles and our own Alan Mullery were hammered 4-1 by a Fulham side thirteen places below them in the First Division. After a goalless first-half, winger Johnny Key scored twice and there were goals also for Maurice Cook and Rodney Marsh. A crowd of nearly 28,000 went home thoroughly entertained after one of the highlights of what was yet another depressing season. Once again, relegation was narrowly avoided with the team finishing in twentieth place.

He Wore both Colours

Cup-Final centre-half John Lacy came late into professional football, completing his degree at the London School of Economics where the College team was coached by George Cohen, before eventually joining Fulham from Kingstonian in 1971. He made 192 appearances for the Whites scoring eight goals, before moving across London to join Spurs for a fee of £200,000. Despite playing for them 133 times there was a view that he didn't really have the pace for the First Division.

A tall commanding player, superb in the air, he formed a fine partnership with Bobby Moore. His powerful header from a corner that went just over in the 1975 Cup Final joined the long list of Fulham "what might have been's".

After Spurs, he moved on to Crystal Palace, Stavangstadt in Norway, Barnet, St Albans, and Wivenhoe before retiring in 1991. Last heard of, he was working for a double-glazing company in North London.

Not Many People Know That

Tottenham were caught offside seventeen times when they played Bradford last season - the highest total by any Club in a single game.