30 April, 2006

Savour the moment

Tottenham Hotspur 1, Bolton Wanderers 0

It gets better, but it's probably the time to savour the moment before the final week of the Premier League season.

Let's recap. 2005-6 will be, not matter what happens now, Tottenham's highest ever Premier League placing. It's their best finish in the top division in 16 years, way back in pre-Premier League days.

Aaron Lennon, Spurs young winger and today's hero, has sparkled this season. Michael Carrick is developing into a midfield general. Robbie Keane seems reborn, has led the line and been top scorer. Mido inherits the fan favourite title though his Spurs future is in doubt. Paul Robinson is England No.1 goalkeeper. Ledley King and Michael Dawson grow in stature every game.

Europe, here we come. Tottenham have not appeared in a European club competition since the UEFA Cup back in 1999-2000 (qualifying thanks to a League Cup victory) when Spurs limped out of the second round thanks to a last minute own goal by Stephen Carr. Arsenal's boasting aside, Tottenham have the best record of any London side in European competition with a Cup Winners' Cup win, 2 UEFA Cup wins, a UEFA final appearance and a European Cup semi-final. Next season's first European match will mark the club's 100th game in all competitions.

The question remains whether that's a Champions League appearance or the second tier UEFA Cup. To add flavour to the question, it rests as much upon what Arsenal do in the next three weeks as what more Spurs can achieve.

After today's 1-0 win over a dogged Bolton side, Tottenham can wrap up 4th place with a win at West Ham next Sunday. Or, Arsenal can hand that finish to Spurs by dropping points at Sunderland (Monday) or Manchester City (Thursday).

But, Arsenal can still sneak in the back door by winning the European Cup final against Barcelona on 17 May. Tottenham have already claimed that they should get the right to entry no matter what Arsenal do.

Whatever happens, Donutball salutes Martin Jol who has taken Spurs from the depths of early last season when Frenchman Jacques Santini resigned. Jol has fashioned an attractive, yet resilient team, in the true fashion of the great Spurs sides.

When was it better? FA Cup wins in the 80s? Gazza's semi-final goal against Arsenal?

Donutball picks the first leg of second round UEFA Cup at White Hart Lane. Standing on The Shelf, we were enthralled by a brilliant first half performance by Glenn Hoddle pulling the strings and guiding the home side to a 4-0 lead. Second half, the great Johann Cruyff in his final season more or less said, what Hoddle can do I can do also. Cryuff matched Hoddle pass for pass and brought Feyenoord back to 4-2. Despite Tottenham's grasp on the tie being in danger, the crowd applauded both maestros off the field. Spurs did manage a 2-0 win in the away leg to progress and eventually won the final on a memorable May evening with this author again on The Shelf.


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