Tag Archives: Tottenham Hotspur

Premier League Files: Gheorghe Popescu

Premier League Career: Tottenham Hotspur (1994-1995)

A former captain of Barcelona, Gheorghe Popescu was one of the key players from the bright Romania team that was one of the most thrilling international sides to watch in the 1990s. The brother-in-law of fellow Romanian great Gheorghe Hagi, Popescu featured in several top European leagues, including Serie A, La Liga and the Bundesliga.

He only had one season in the Premier League but it was an impressive campaign in north London with Tottenham Hotspur. Plus, he will always have a positive spot in the hearts of Tottenham fans for scoring a winning goal in a North London Derby.

Before his Tottenham spell, Popescu had reached the semi-finals of the European Cup with Steaua Bucharest in 1988 at a time when Romanian clubs enjoyed greater success in European competition. He was signed by Sir Bobby Robson in 1990 for PSV Eindhoven and spent four years of largely qualified success in Dutch football.

After his excellent performances at the 1994 World Cup finals in the United States, he was signed by Tottenham’s flamboyant manager, Ossie Ardiles in September of that year for £2.9 million. Ardiles was known for his attacking flair and his lack of defending principles. However, Popescu’s signing was seen as a potential change in his thinking. His experience and tactical knowledge would see him operate mainly in a defensive midfield role, shielding central defenders Colin Calderwood and Sol Campbell.

On New Years’ Day 1995, Popescu scored the only goal as Tottenham beat Arsenal 1-0 at White Hart Lane. By now, Gerry Francis had succeeded Ardiles as manager and he helped maximise the potential of Popescu, who added another two further strikes as Tottenham finished seventh and above the Gunners in the table for the last time until the 2016-2017 campaign.

The lure of Barcelona though was too much for Popescu and he moved for £3 million in the summer of 1995 to replace the ageing Ronald Koeman in the team. He was reunited again with Robson, who made him his captain and helped Barcelona to a Copa del Rey and Cup Winners’ Cup double in 1997.

Deemed surplus to requirements by Louis van Gaal, Popescu’s next move was to Galatasaray. He spent four years in Istanbul, winning more trophies and the UEFA Cup in 2000, when Galatasaray defeated Arsenal in a penalty shootout. Further spells followed with Leece in Italy and an eight-game stint with Dinamo Bucharest in his homeland. He retired in 2003 after one season in the Bundesliga with Hannover 96.

He won the Romanian Footballer of the Year award six times and won over 100 international caps for his country.

However, in 2014, Popescu was sentenced to a three-year sentence in jail after being found guilty of tax evasion and money laundering in connection with the transfers of football players from Romania to other countries. At the time, he was the favourite to become the next president of the Romanian FA.

It was an unsavoury conclusion to a life in football which made him an idol in his home country and a key figure for some of Europe’s most senior clubs.


Shock Results: Tottenham Hotspur 0-3 West Ham United (October 2013)

Goalscorer: Winston Reid 66, Ricardo Vaz Te 72, Ravel Morrison 79


Tottenham Hotspur: Hugo Lloris, Kyle Walker, Kyle Naughton (Lewis Holtby 81), Michael Dawson, Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele, Paulinho, Andros Townsend, Christian Eriksen (Roberto Soldado 74), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Erik Lamela 63), Jermain Defoe

West Ham United: Jussi Jaaskelainen, Guy Demel, Razvan Rat, James Tomkins, Winston Reid, Mohamed Diame (James Collins 80), Mark Noble (Joey O’Brien 90), Ravel Morrison, Kevin Nolan, Stewart Downing, Ricardo Vaz Te (Carlton Cole 86)

Referee: Lee Probert, Attendance: 35,977

A win for Tottenham Hotspur in this match with London rivals West Ham United in October 2013 would have taken them joint-top of the table with Arsenal and Liverpool FC. West Ham began in the bottom three but a win would see them rise into 13th position in the table. As Andre Villas-Boas’ side had the joint-tightest defence in the Premier League going into this match, Spurs were expected to come out on top.

Sam Allardyce decided to name no recognised forward in his starting XI, with Ricardo Vaz Te and Ravel Morrison playing in the false no.9 positions. In a first half of precious few chances, it was West Ham who created the best moment. They won a free-kick in a dangerous position and rather than shoot, Mark Noble elected to chip the ball over the wall. Clearly a training ground routine, it nearly worked. Kevin Nolan’s shot went just wide from a tight angle.

Tottenham enjoyed 61% possession in the match but created precious little which was a sign of how their season was progressing. They were tight at the back but had only scored six goals in their first six league matches of the season – still struggling with the aftermath of the Gareth Bale transfer to Real Madrid.

Villas-Boas elected to start with Jermain Defoe over summer signing Roberto Soldado and Defoe did cause some problems at the start of the second half. He was twice denied by Hammers’ goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen. As the game entered its last 25 minutes, the outcome of the match was firmly in the balance.

It was at this moment when West Ham took the lead. Winston Reid met Stewart Downing’s corner but his effort was inadvertently blocked on the goal-line by Nolan. Fortunately for the east Londoners, the ball bounced back to Reid and he made no mistake on the rebound, striking past Hugo Lloris. He joined Oliver Giroud and John Terry in being only the third player to score in the league this season past Lloris.

Vaz Te would add his name to that list just six minutes later. Found by Noble, his shot was saved by Lloris but he followed up quickly and the ball went into the net off his knee. If there was fortune about West Ham’s first two goals, there was nothing lucky about their third. Morrison, who had been dangerous all afternoon, collected a flick-on from Mohamed Diame and ran with the ball. He beat both Tottenham central defenders, Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen before convincingly beating Lloris and finishing the match off as a contest.

It was the Hammers’ first win at White Hart Lane since 1999 and their first away victory in nine attempts. West Ham would win three encounters in the season with Tottenham but finished in the bottom half of the table. Spurs’ form dipped alarmingly after this loss and AVB was axed as manager in December 2013. Tim Sherwood took over and guided the club to a sixth-place finish at the end of the campaign.

The Managers: Chris Hughton

Premier League Clubs Managed: Newcastle United (2010), Norwich City (2012-2014), Brighton & Hove Albion (2017-PRESENT)

Chris Hughton has had to work incredibly hard to make his mark in Premier League management. Having tasted the big time previously with Newcastle United and Norwich City, he has done fantastically well to not only guide Brighton & Hove Albion into the Premier League but to keep them closer to mid-table during their first campaign at this level.

Hughton has often gone under the radar but his loyalty towards players, simple tactics and resistance to make dozens of changes in rotation every week seem to be a key to his success. He got his chance after many years working as a coach for many managers at Tottenham Hotspur.

He made a mark in his playing days too. In 1979, he became the first mixed race player to represent the Republic of Ireland national team. The duration of his playing days were going to be with Tottenham and in fact, his whole career kicking footballs for a living were in the capital.

Cup success with Spurs

Hughton came through the youth system at Tottenham Hotspur and made his debut for the club in the 1979 League Cup against Manchester United. He made the left-back position his own during 13 years at White Hart Lane and is often considered by Spurs’ fans as one of their finest full-backs.

Although league championships would elude him, Chris would enjoy cup success with Spurs, triumphing in the FA Cup in both 1981 and 1982, plus the UEFA Cup in 1984. He nearly won the FA Cup three times but was on the losing side in 1987 when Tottenham lost 3-2 to Coventry City.

In all competitions, he played just two games short of 400 and scored 19 goals. In November 1990, he moved to West Ham United on a free transfer as cover for the injured Julian Dicks. He spent two seasons at ‘The Academy of Football’ before winding down his playing days with Brentford. Hughton hung up his boots at the end of the 1992-1993 season, aged 34.

For the Republic of Ireland, he won 53 caps between 1979 and 1991, starting all three group games of their first major tournament, the 1988 European Championships in West Germany. Hughton also went to the World Cup in 1990 but didn’t figure in the historic Irish run to the quarter-finals. By that stage, he was the back-up defender to Steve Staunton.

Learning the ropes

Just five months after his playing retirement, Chris was back in the game in a coaching capacity. Appointed by Ossie Ardiles in October 1993 to join his backroom team at Tottenham, Hughton remained with the club for 14 years and worked under seven permanent Premier League managers, including Gerry Francis, George Graham and Glenn Hoddle.

He looked after the Under-21 and reserve teams before becoming more of a prominent first-team coach in 2001. He left the club alongside Martin Jol following the latter’s sacking after a UEFA Cup loss at home to Getafe in 2007.

In February 2008, he joined up with Newcastle United as a first-team coach, working primarily as a defensive coach. In his first match on the touchline alongside Kevin Keegan, his new club beat his old side 4-1.

When Keegan quit in September 2008, Hughton experienced some caretaker work with Newcastle alongside the appointments of Joe Kinnear as a permanent manager and Alan Shearer’s brief interim role at the end of the campaign.

With Newcastle down in the Championship following relegation from the Premier League in 2009, Hughton was appointed caretaker for a third time as owner Mike Ashley had put the club up for sale. Once the Magpies had made an excellent start to the season and Hughton won the first two Manager of the Month awards, he was reluctantly given the permanent role as Newcastle manager.

Ashley might never have been convinced but Hughton won over the home faithful which sometimes is difficult to do. They lost just four times in 46 games, winning promotion in record time and going through the campaign unbeaten at St James’ Park.

Utmost highs and crushing lows

Hughton brought Sol Campbell and Dan Gosling into the club on free transfers for Newcastle’s return to the Premier League in 2010 but the only arrival for a cash deal was Nottingham Forest full-back James Perch which suggested again that the owner was not totally happy with the manager he had in-charge.

If Ashley was looking for an excuse to sack Hughton, he had to bide his time. Newcastle had some utmost highs in their early weeks back in the top-flight. They included shock away wins at Everton and Arsenal, plus a 5-1 Tyne & Wear Derby humbling of Sunderland.

Around this time, rumblings had emerged that Hughton was being threatened with the sack with the club reluctant to give him a new contract. After a 3-1 defeat to West Bromwich Albion in early December, he became the first manager in the 2010-2011 Premier League season to lose his job, despite the club sitting 11th in the table. The sacking was badly received by many Newcastle fans and the players who were desperate for Chris to keep his job.

Returning to top-flight level in Norfolk

Hughton returned to management in June 2011, taking the vacant position at relegated Birmingham City. As they’d won the League Cup in the previous season, he got the opportunity to manage in Europe and earned 10 points in the UEFA Europa League group stage although they were eliminated at this stage.

They reached the fifth round of the FA Cup before bowing out to eventual winners Chelsea and guided the Blues to a fourth-place finish in the Championship. Disappointment would follow in the play-offs with defeat in the semi-finals to Blackpool over two legs.

However, Chris had proved his Newcastle stint wasn’t a fluke and Norwich City showed considerable interest once it became clear they were going to lose their manager, Paul Lambert to Aston Villa.

He took over at Carrow Road in June 2012 and steered Norwich to famous home victories over Arsenal and eventual champions Manchester United, plus a 3-2 away win on the final day at Manchester City. There was also a 10-game undefeated run which took the Canaries as high as seventh in the table just before Christmas. Although there was a tricky run in the Spring, Norwich finished a respectable 11th in the final standings, a place higher than the previous campaign under Lambert.

Plenty of money was spent that summer to improve the squad with the likes of Leroy Fer, Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Nathan Redmond arriving in the summer of 2013. Results didn’t come though consistently enough and there were few high points. A 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in February 2014 was the main highlight. However, the fans had lost confidence in their manager and so had the board. Despite being five points clear of the drop zone in early April, Norwich elected to part company with Chris by mutual consent. Academy boss Neil Adams took over and the club ultimately were relegated due to a difficult fixture run-in which included defeats to Liverpool FC, Manchester United and Arsenal.

Rebuilding at Brighton

The 2013-2014 season was probably the first campaign where he’d underachieved as a manager but Hughton would be back before the year was out, succeeding Sami Hyypia as Brighton & Hove Albion boss.

Brighton were struggling near the foot of the Championship table but he managed to stabilise the Seagulls, keeping them in the second tier, then taking them to the play-offs in 2015-2016 and automatic promotion last season.

Home wins against West Bromwich Albion, Newcastle United and Watford have shown Brighton are tough to beat at home in their debut Premier League campaign and they concluded the 2017 Christmas and New Year period in a positive 12th place – far beyond their expectations.

As a manager, Hughton has said previously: “As a manager, I’ve got to make sure they have the correct training sessions. That they are disciplined and that creates a good environment.”

He gets about his work quietly but impressively too and bigger jobs are likely to come his way in the future.

Great Goals: Rod Wallace – LEEDS UNITED vs. Tottenham Hotspur (April 1994)

On his day, Rod Wallace could produce the absolute spectacular and this was undoubtedly his greatest goal in his Leeds United career.

Against a Tottenham side in April 1994, Wallace took on all the opposition defenders and beat the lot of them. Receiving possession from around 60 yards from his goal, Wallace went towards the touchline and then jinked past two Tottenham defenders who couldn’t prevent him from going into touch.

His weaving run took him to the edge of the penalty area. By then, he had support in the box but Wallace’s eyes were focused on the goal and nothing else. He then produced a finesse curling shot to defeat the Spurs goalkeeper and take the acclaim of the Elland Road crowd.

This was voted the Goal of the Season by BBC viewers in 1994 and has also come out on-top in a FourFourTwo website vote too. This is a goal that has stood the test of time.

Iconic Moments: Tottenham denied by a lack of technology (January 2005)

Tottenham Hotspur hadn’t won at the home of Manchester United since the Premier League had begun in 1992. They should have taken all three points in January 2005 but for an amazing aberration by the match officials at Old Trafford.

The game was in the closing stages tied at 0-0 when Roy Carroll was caught off his line by an eagle-eyed Pedro Mendes. The Tottenham midfielder tried his luck from at least 40-yards out and the ball squirmed out of Carroll’s grasp and clearly bounced over the goal-line.

However, this came in a time where technology of judging whether the ball has crossed the line was not available to the officials. With Mark Clattenburg not having a clear view, it was his linesman Ray Lewis who decided the ball had been cleared by a rather sheepish Carroll before the ball had crossed the line.

It was a travesty of a decision and ultimately cost Tottenham a place in Europe come the end of the season. Clattenburg later admitted that if they had the technology available, they would have given the goal but the officials weren’t 100% sure and therefore, couldn’t guess on such a key decision.

After more farcical incidents, goal-line technology finally arrived in the Premier League for the start of the 2013-2014 season.

Memorable Matches: Fulham 3-3 Tottenham Hotspur (September 2007)

Goalscorers: Younes Kaboul 10, Dimitar Berbatov 28, Clint Dempsey 42, Gareth Bale 61, Alexei Smertin 77, Diomansy Kamara 90


Fulham: Antti Niemi, Chris Baird, Carlos Bocanegra, Dejan Stefanovic, Paul Konchesky, Steven Davis, Hameur Bouazza (David Healy 70), Alexei Smertin (Collins John 79), Simon Davies, Clint Dempsey, Diomansy Kamara

Tottenham Hotspur: Paul Robinson, Lee-Young Pyo, Pascal Chimbonda, Younes Kaboul, Ricardo Rocha, Tom Huddlestone, Jermaine Jenas, Steed Malbranque (Michael Dawson 84), Gareth Bale, Dimitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane (Jermain Defoe 68)

Referee: Mike Riley, Attendance: 24,007

Neither Fulham, nor Tottenham Hotspur were in sparkling form in the early weeks of the 2007-2008 season. Tottenham, heavily tipped to challenge for a finish in the top-four, had lost three of their opening four Premier League matches whilst Fulham were trying to bed in a clutch of new signings under the former Northern Ireland manager Lawrie Sanchez.

He could welcome back goalkeeper Antti Niemi to the fold. The former Southampton stopper was back after a long spell out with a wrist injury. Unfortunately, his return didn’t start well. 10 minutes in and he flapped at Gareth Bale’s corner. The ball fell to Younes Kaboul and the Frenchman, a summer arrival from Auxerre made no mistake to put the ball into the empty net.

In the 28th minute, it was 2-0 to the visitors. Fine work from Robbie Keane saw him play in his strike partner Dimitar Berbatov. Berbatov easily outpaced Dejan Stefanovic and he smashed the ball past Niemi from an improbable angle. It was the Bulgarian’s first goal of the season. Fulham were on the ropes and could have been put out of the contest completely before half-time. Jermaine Jenas had a golden opportunity but wound up giving possession away rather than playing the on-field skipper Keane in to score. It was a costly error as against the run of play, Fulham pulled one back three minutes before half-time. Former Tottenham midfielder Simon Davies swung in a corner and Clint Dempsey made the most of free space to power home.

At the start of the second half, Tottenham reasserted their authority on the contest. Berbatov forced Niemi into a smart save and ex-Fulham midfielder Steed Malbranque struck a half-volley against the post with Niemi completely stranded. A third goal was surely coming and their persistence was eventually rewarded just past the hour mark. Keane’s flick-on put Bale in the clear. The young Welshman flew down the left-hand side and finished calmly beyond Niemi to score his first league goal for the club since his summer move from Southampton.

With 12 minutes left, Fulham looked to be running out of ideas but their hopes of gaining something out of the match were rekindled when Alexei Smertin’s shot deflected off Ricardo Rocha and left Paul Robinson stranded. Tottenham suddenly looked nervy and with time fast running out, they lost the lead. Diomansy Kamara’s acrobatic effort from the edge of the penalty area caught out Robinson and secured the Cottagers’ a fairly fortunate point.

Tottenham manager Martin Jol was furious afterwards. He told BBC: “We have to cut out this sort of rubbish and these mistakes and then maybe we will start winning games.”

He wouldn’t win another league match and was sacked towards the end of October. Tottenham only finished 11th but did win the League Cup under Juande Ramos that season. Fulham escaped relegation on the final day after three wins in a row at the end of the season. This point would be a huge one for them as the season progressed.

The Managers: David Pleat

Premier League Clubs Managed: Sheffield Wednesday (1995-1997), Tottenham Hotspur (2003-2004)

In January, David Pleat turns 73 years old. He is fondly remembered by Luton Town fans for his time as manager of the Hatters and also had spells as Premier League manager to both Sheffield Wednesday and Tottenham Hotspur. Since stepping aside as Tottenham boss at the end of the 2003-2004 campaign, he has become a regular commentator on both TV and radio.

Making his mark at Luton

Like many of his contemporaries, David Pleat did experience a playing career but it wasn’t with many highlights. He made 185 appearances in the Football League between 1962 and 1971, often figuring as a winger. His most notable spells were with Luton Town and Exeter City. It was with the former where he would make his initial mark in management.

Appointed manager of the club in January 1978, he spent nine years at Kenilworth Road and promoted a side that were easy on the eye to watch for the neutral. His final year in charge saw the club finish ninth in the First Division and reached the FA Cup semi-finals in 1985. His most iconic scenes though were earlier than these highs.

In 1983, Luton had to win on the final day at Manchester City to survive in the First Division and send their opponents down. For long spells in the game, it looked like it would be Luton going down but a last-minute goal from Raddy Antic ensured they survived. At the full-time whistle, Pleat is seen running onto the Maine Road pitch, doing a dance shuffle on his way to congratulating his players. It is still considered one of the most powerful images of football in the 1980s.

He left Luton in 1986 to become Tottenham Hotspur manager, guiding them to a third-place finish in the First Division table behind the two Merseyside clubs and the FA Cup final, although they surprisingly lost this 3-2 to Coventry City. He got the absolute maximum out of Clive Allen, who enjoyed his best goalscoring season under Pleat, netting 49 times in all competitions.

In October 1987, he was dismissed by the club after allegations about his private life came out in the press. He moved to Leicester City and spent three years at Filbert Street before being sacked in 1991 for a lack of progress in the Midlands. He returned to Luton for a second spell but couldn’t prevent them from being relegated in the final Football League season before the formation of the Premier League.

An excellent FA Cup run in 1994 saw Luton claim the scalps of Premier League teams Newcastle United and West Ham United before being beaten in the Wembley semi-finals by Chelsea. However, his Premier League chance would arrive a year later and it would be in the form of a Yorkshire side who were keen for a bit of a revival.

Struggles in Sheffield

Sheffield Wednesday struggled in 1994-1995 and finished in 13th spot under the guidance of Trevor Francis. Francis left at the end of that season and Pleat arrived at Hillsborough, keen to show his qualities at the highest level of the English game. He brought Mark Pembridge with him from Luton and added Belgian Marc Degryse to the ranks. However, his first season in Sheffield was a struggle. The Owls finished a lowly 15th and still mathematically could have been relegated on the final day if a freak set of results had occurred. A 6-2 derby win over Leeds United was the only significant highlight of his debut season in Yorkshire.

More encouraging signs emerged in 1996-1997, with Wednesday enjoying a wonderful start, winning their first four matches and setting the very early pace. This included a brilliant 2-1 away victory over Newcastle United. Naturally, they fell off their early tempo but still finished seventh in the table, matching their best-ever Premier League finish. However, this was as good as it got for David. His team became very leaky in the opening weeks of the following campaign, losing 7-2 at Ewood Park to Blackburn Rovers and 6-1 at Manchester United.

In November 1997, Sheffield Wednesday chairman Dave Richards had enough. With the club bottom of the table, he sacked Pleat, who became the first managerial casualty of the 1997-1998 campaign.

A final dalliance at Tottenham

Pleat returned to Tottenham in 1998 as the club’s Director of Football. He would hold the role for six years, which included three spells as caretaker manager following the sackings of Christian Gross, George Graham and Glenn Hoddle respectively.

When Hoddle left in September 2003, Pleat took over as manager for the remainder of the season and won 16 of his 39 matches in all competitions; making Spurs an attractive, if totally open team to witness. Scorelines including a 5-2 home triumph over Wolves, a 4-4 draw with Leicester City and a 4-3 victory against Portsmouth.

In August 2006, he took up a football consultant role with Nottingham Forest which included scouting potential new signings for the club. He left the post in September 2011.

David has since become a familiar voice in the media, writing newspaper columns for The Guardian newspaper, commentating on BBC Radio 5 Live and featuring regularly as a co-commentator for ITV until 2009. He now works for Al Jazeera Sport.

The Managers: Martin Jol

Premier League Clubs Managed: Tottenham Hotspur (2004-2007), Fulham (2011-2013)

Martin Jol’s Premier League management career was dominated completely by one city. He managed two clubs in London, managed his first game in the English top-flight in the capital and also saw his management stint in this country ended in London. His time with Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham saw him provide exciting, creative sides that pleased their supporters. Sadly, there was no silverware to follow for his good work.

His time in this country is slightly undervalued when you consider some of the good work from managers arriving in the UK following his departure as Fulham manager in November 2013. His success since in the Middle East shows that he can win top honours around the world.

First steps in the Netherlands

During his playing career, Martin played over 400 times. He turned professional in 1973 with his local professional side ADO Den Haag and won the Dutch Cup two years later. He spent one season in the Bundesliga with German giants Bayern Munich before moving back to Dutch football with FC Twente in 1979.

He was one of the few foreign imports in the English game during the 1980s, joining West Bromwich Albion in 1982 and also going onto play for Coventry City. In 1985, he returned to his homeland and a second spell with Den Haag, winning the Dutch Footballer of the Year award before deciding to quit playing in 1989.

Jol went into coaching at the start of the 1990s and his first professional management role came in 1996 with Roda JC. A year after this appointment, he guided Roda to the Dutch Cup, their first trophy for three decades. He then spent six years with the unheralded RKC Waalwijk team, transforming them from relegation battlers to regular European football challengers. His achievements were well-known in the Netherlands. Jol won Coach of the Year honours in both 2001 and 2002.

To further himself though, he needed to move away from his home country and in June 2004, he was heading back to England for his first crack at management outside of Holland.

Biding his time at Tottenham

Martin Jol initially came in as assistant manager to Jacques Santini who was leaving his post as manager of the French national team to take over at Tottenham Hotspur. Santini’s side though were dull to watch and the fans never took to him as their boss. 13 games into the season, he walked out on the club and Jol was thrust into the limelight as Tottenham’s fourth manager in 14 months.

It was quite a baptism. He lost his first three matches but a 2-0 win over Middlesbrough in November 2004 started a brilliant run that saw Spurs to their best run of form since the inaugural Premier League campaign in 1992-1993. Tottenham strung a run of five successive victories together and managed an eight-game unbeaten sequence until they were beaten at home by impending champions Chelsea in January 2005. Tottenham would eventually finish ninth, missing out on a European spot by two points. Nevertheless, the foundations were in place for a fairly successful spell in north London.

This started by signing a three-year contract extension in August 2005 and the 2005-2006 campaign was going to be the club’s best in Premier League history until their fourth place finish in 2010. Tottenham sat in the top six all season and were in the coveted fourth position from early January onwards right the way through until the final day of the season. Their squad was struck down by a mysterious illness on the eve of the final match at Upton Park against West Ham United. Spurs would lose the game 2-1, allowing bitter rivals Arsenal in to snatch fourth position and the final UEFA Champions League qualification spot at the last possible moment. Despite this crushing late disappointment, it did mean European football for Tottenham for the first time since 1990 and it was the club’s highest league finish in 15 years.

An unfortunate end at The Lane

Inconsistency dogged the 2006-2007 season. High points including a first win in 16 years in the league over Chelsea and a run to the semi-finals of the League Cup. However, Tottenham were in the bottom half of the table by mid-February and out of the race for a Champions League challenge. Jol’s side did finish the campaign very strongly though, losing just once in their last 12 matches to ensure a second successive fifth place finish. On top of that, Spurs went deep in the FA Cup and UEFA Cup, reaching the quarter-finals in both competitions before bowing out to eventual winners, Chelsea and Sevilla respectively.

Expectations were even higher in the summer of 2007 with £40 million being spent on new talent including Gareth Bale and Darren Bent. However, all was not well between Jol and the hierarchy at the club. Reports began to emerge that he had fallen out over transfer policy with the Director of Football, Damien Comolli. It was believed that he had signed a number of players that Jol didn’t really want. One of his transfer targets, Bulgarian Martin Petrov went to Manchester City after the Spurs boss was refused the opportunity to make a bid for him. Worse was to come for Martin.

Results were extremely poor in the opening three months of the 2007-2008 campaign. Tottenham won just one Premier League game and that was against hapless Derby County. They conceded sloppy late goals to deny themselves away wins at Craven Cottage and Anfield and when a director and the club secretary were photographed in a Spanish hotel meeting Sevilla manager Juande Ramos, Jol’s die was cast.

He was sacked during their UEFA Cup defeat at home to Getafe in October 2007.

Hamburg, Ajax and back to London

Although approached by Birmingham City a month later, Martin elected to take some time out of the game and wouldn’t return to the managerial dugout before the start of the 2008-2009 season. When he did return, it wasn’t in England either.

He gave the Bundesliga a go, managing former European champions Hamburger SV. Hamburg finished a respectable fifth in the 2008-2009 table and also reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup. Unfortunately, they were dumped out of that competition by northern rivals SV Werder Bremen. He wouldn’t build on this impressive debut campaign though as the vacancy came up back in the Netherlands with Ajax.

He signed a three-year contract to manage the Amsterdam heavyweights in May 2009 and they broke a number of records in the 2009-2010 season. Ajax finished with a staggering goal difference of +86, scored 106 goals, won their final 14 games of the season and finished with 85 points. That normally would be good enough to win the Eredivisie title but they were beaten to the prize by just a single point. It was FC Twente who took the championship, under the guidance of Steve McClaren.

Jol would still bring some silverware to the club as they won the Dutch Cup, beating Feyenoord 6-1 across two matches. He would resign though in December 2010 after struggling at the start of the following campaign. Ajax were in fourth place when he left but would go on to win the title that season under his successor, Frank de Boer.

He would head back to London in June 2011, succeeding Mark Hughes as the new manager of Fulham.

A mixed bag at the Cottage

His first season back in the Premier League was a solid one. Fulham finished in ninth spot with 52 points, just one point off their record total, set by Roy Hodgson three seasons earlier. There was a 6-0 thrashing of west London rivals Queens Park Rangers, a league double over Liverpool FC and a creditable 2-2 draw with Manchester City, despite trailing 2-0 at one point. He did fall out though with star forward Bobby Zamora, who would eventually join Queens Park Rangers in January 2012.

2012-2013 was a step back though. Although Fulham finished in 12th spot, they finished the campaign very poorly, with just one win in their last seven matches which cost them a top half finish. Jol did bring Dimitar Berbatov into the club from Manchester United and it was his goals that kept them well clear of danger. The worry was though that a decline was beginning at Craven Cottage. Many of Fulham’s more experienced players were leaving, such as Danny Murphy and Clint Dempsey and the replacements were not as impressive.

It came to a head in 2013-2014 for the club. Fulham scrambled three league victories together before the end of November but apart from a 4-1 win away at Crystal Palace, they looked like a team bereft of ideas and on the verge of relegation. With every passing week, the manager’s burrowed look was getting bigger. After a second half collapse at Upton Park, which saw Fulham fail to register a single shot on target and lose 3-0 to West Ham United, Jol was sacked. He lost his final six matches in all competitions with the Cottagers. Fulham would finish the season as an ex-Premier League side.

He would get league glory though in the Middle East, guiding Al Ahly to the Egyptian Premier League title in 2015-2016. Unfortunately, he received threats on social media after the side’s failure to reach the African Champions League semi-finals. Fearing for his safety, he resigned from his post as manager after just six months in the role.

Martin Jol was a down-to-earth, commendable and good Premier League manager who always went down the attractive route. His record is fairly impressive too. It was unfortunate that sluggish starts to his final seasons with both Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham would prove to be his downfall.

Iconic Moments: The fastest Premier League goal (December 2000)

Over the years, there have been many contenders for the fastest Premier League goal in history. You might think that one of the top forwards holds the record like Alan Shearer, Les Ferdinand, Thierry Henry or Wayne Rooney?

Well you’d be wrong. It is a defender who holds the record and the honour goes to Tottenham stalwart Ledley King. He achieved the feat in December 2000 when Tottenham Hotspur visited Valley Parade to play bottom-placed Bradford City.

From kick-off, Tottenham played a long ball forward which the Bantams’ defence struggled to clear. 20-year-old King, playing in a defensive midfield role on the day, decided to try his luck and it was his day. His shot deflected in from 20-yards out to beat Matt Clarke and give Tottenham a very early lead. The goal was timed at just 10 seconds, a shade quicker than Shearer’s effort for Newcastle against Manchester City in January 2003.

Memorable Matches: Middlesbrough 3-3 Tottenham Hotspur (December 2005)

Goalscorers: Robbie Keane 25, Yakubu 30, 43, Jermaine Jenas 63, Franck Queudrue 69, Mido 83


Middlesbrough: Mark Schwarzer, Matthew Bates, Gareth Southgate, Ugo Ehiogu, Franck Queudrue, George Boateng, Doriva, James Morrison (Massimo Maccarone 89), Fabio Rochemback, Marc Viduka, Yakubu

Tottenham Hotspur: Paul Robinson, Lee-Young Pyo, Michael Dawson, Ledley King, Paul Stalteri, Michael Carrick, Edgar Davids, Jermaine Jenas (Grzegorz Rasiak 81), Andy Reid (Jermain Defoe 56, Michael Brown 90), Robbie Keane, Mido

Referee: Howard Webb, Attendance: 27,614

The 27,614 crowd that turned up at the Riverside Stadium in December 2005 were given a pre-Christmas treat. Middlesbrough and Tottenham Hotspur produced a great spectacle and ultimately, a game which neither side deserved to lose.

Boro were having a tricky season under Steve McClaren. They had lost their last two Premier League games and were finding the juggling effect of Premier League and European matches tough to handle. Martin Jol’s Tottenham didn’t have that problem and they were challenging for a top-four finish alongside the top-flight’s usual suspects.

After a scrappy first 25 minutes, it was Jol’s side who took the lead. Lee-Young Pyo launched a deep cross into the box. Mark Schwarzer was challenged by Mido and under pressure, the goalkeeper lost the ball. Robbie Keane was in the right place at the right time. His strike wasn’t the cleanest but evaded three Boro defenders to score. Schwarzer looked at referee Howard Webb, feeling he had been impeded. In truth, it wasn’t his finest piece of goalkeeping.

Middlesbrough responded well though and by half-time, were leading 2-1. From a Gareth Southgate flick-on, Yakubu volleyed past Paul Robinson at the near post. He was the big summer arrival at the Riverside and returning an excellent goals tally. The Nigerian doubled his tally but in more fluky fashion. Academy graduate James Morrison was given space to run at the defence. He did just that, skipping past Michael Dawson’s tackle before releasing a shot. His effort took a wicked deflection off Yakubu and that gave the England no.1 goalkeeper no chance. Yakubu nearly had a hat-trick early in the second half. Only great reflexes from Robinson stopped him from walking home with the match ball. Morrison’s cross was met by a thumping header that was turned over the crossbar. It was a crucial save. Moments later, Spurs equalised. Jermaine Jenas produced a perfectly curled free-kick that comprehensively beat Schwarzer to level the scores.

With 20 minutes left, Middlesbrough regained the lead. Fabio Rochemback’s corner was met by a flying Franck Queudrue header. The ball hit the underside of the bar and bounced over the line. These were the days before goal-line technology but no doubts here – the linesman correctly awarded the goal. Robinson didn’t agree and was booked by Webb for his protests. However, Tottenham deserved something from the match and they got their point seven minutes from the end. Mido climbed the highest from a corner to defeat Schwarzer and ensure the points would be shared.

Both suffered heartache at the end of the season. Middlesbrough finished a disappointing 14th but went all the way to the UEFA Cup final before losing to Sevilla. Tottenham were pipped to a top-four finish on the final day of the campaign by north London rivals Arsenal.

Premier League Files: Steven Caulker

Premier League Career: Swansea City (2011-2012), Tottenham Hotspur (2012-2013), Cardiff City (2013-2014), Queens Park Rangers (2014-2015), Southampton (2015), Liverpool FC (2016)

Defender Steven Caulker has already played for six different Premier League clubs. He will be hoping to reach the heights of the top-flight again. Currently at Queens Park Rangers in the Championship, Caulker has opened up in 2017 about a dark and grim period in his life which saw him battle mental illness. In recent years, the product of the Tottenham Hotspur academy has lost his way in his career but his courage in speaking out deserves praise and many will hope to see him back to his best in the near future.

Caulker supported his hometown club Brentford in his youth. Despite being a talented athlete as a teenager, especially at 400m, Caulker chose to pursue a career in football. It was one of his youth coaches who saw traits of a central defender in the player and encouraged him to move back from his early days when Caulker was trying out a career as a central midfielder.

He impressed at youth level with Tottenham and signed his first professional contract with the north London club in July 2009. It was time for Caulker to go and play at first-team level. For the 2009-2010 season, he was sent out on-loan to League One outfit Yeovil Town, alongside a fellow future Tottenham first-team player in Ryan Mason. He impressed throughout his loan period with them, starting 44 games. After a brief cameo with Tottenham in a League Cup defeat to Arsenal in September 2010, he signed a contract extension and went out on-loan again, this time to Bristol City. Again, he did well and despite his loan spell being cut short by a knee cartilage injury in March 2011, he was voted Bristol City’s Young Player of the Year.

Another loan would follow in 2011-2012 but this time, it would be in the Premier League with newly-promoted Swansea City. He made his top-flight debut in Swansea’s opening game; a 4-0 defeat to Manchester City. Unfortunately, a collision with the goalpost at the Emirates Stadium ruled him out of action for three months. After this absence, he became a regular fixture in the Swansea side, featuring 26 times as the south Welsh club finished an excellent 11th in their maiden Premier League campaign.

In the summer of 2012, he represented the Great Britain team during the football tournament at the 2012 London Olympics. In the same year, he won his one and only international cap with England and scored too in the 4-2 defeat to Sweden in Gothenburg.

In 2012-2013, Caulker would spend the entire season with his parent club. He made his Premier League bow for Tottenham as a half-time substitute in a home win over Queens Park Rangers in September 2012. A fortnight later, he scored his first Tottenham goal in a 2-0 home win against Aston Villa and would add another away at Manchester City in November, although this would end in a narrow 2-1 defeat. He was contracted to Tottenham until 2016 but when newly-promoted Cardiff City made a bid of £8 million for the player, Spurs accepted the offer and Caulker was heading back to Wales but this time on a permanent basis.

A lot was expected considering the fee paid by the Bluebirds and he would justify the price tag, scoring five goals and playing every single minute of the campaign. Highlights included two goals in a 3-1 victory over relegation rivals Fulham and a headed winner in the first Premier League Welsh derby as Cardiff edged out Swansea 1-0. However, Caulker couldn’t prevent his side from being relegated as they finished bottom of the Premier League. Unfortunately, Caulker’s career has fizzled out pretty dramatically since. He stayed in the top-flight following Cardiff’s demise by joining Queens Park Rangers. Although he scored in a home draw with Stoke City, Caulker’s form was not as strong as it had been at Cardiff and he experienced the bitter pain of relegation in back-to-back seasons.

Nevertheless, Southampton signed the centre-back on a loan deal in July 2015 which was meant to last the whole campaign. He failed to break-up the formidable axis of Jose Fonte and Virgil van Dijk and played just eight times in all competitions for the Saints. After an insipid display in the 6-1 League Cup battering by Liverpool FC, Caulker would never play for Southampton again. In January 2016, he joined Liverpool FC on yet another loan deal and featured three times, all as a substitute. He did claim one assist and it was a big one too, as Adam Lallana scored a 95th minute winner in the incredible 5-4 victory over Norwich City.

Caulker returned to Queens Park Rangers but continued to struggle to find his best form. In the summer of 2017, he admitted in an interview with The Guardian about struggles with mental illness, plus addictions to drinking and gambling. He said: “For too long I’ve hated everything about myself and I needed to learn to love myself again. I miss the game like crazy. I don’t feel as if I’ve enjoyed playing football since Cardiff. I don’t want to type my name into Google and just see a list of humiliating stories. I want people to remember I am a footballer who was good enough to represent his country at 20 and still has 10 years left in the game.”

“Wherever the opportunity arises, I’m just thankful still to be alive.”

It is hard to believe that he is still only 25. If he can beat his demons, Steven Caulker still has a future in the game and the chance to fulfil his early talent.

Great Goals: Ryan Giggs – Tottenham Hotspur vs. MANCHESTER UNITED (September 1992)

In the very first season of the Premier League, Ryan Giggs was one of the biggest stars. Still only a teenager, the Welshman’s lightning pace and box of tricks made him a nightmare to play against. He scored one of his best Premier League goals in September 1992 when Manchester United made the trip to White Hart Lane.

Still goalless with half-time in sight, Giggs took possession and beat two Tottenham defenders before rounding the goalkeeper and then with the angle tightening, produced a fine finish into the back of the net. This goal demonstrated all of Ryan’s strong attributes as a youngster.

Tottenham did score in the second half to ensure the game finished all-square at 1-1 but this match is only remembered for a wonderful individual effort by Giggs.