For many seasons for younger Tottenham supporters, the final home match and the last game of the season have had little importance for Spurs. Safely ensconced in mid-table, it was just another match to be played to bring the season to a close with nothing at stake. For the past few seasons, however, with Spurs’ improving status there has been something to play for and this weekend’s home game with Sunderland has great significance with Spurs’ chances of Champions league football dependent on a Tottenham win and Arsenal dropping points at Newcastle.The result of the match against Sunderland, not to overstate its importance, could determine Spurs’ future direction for years to come. Three points will give Spurs 72 points, their highest total in the Premier League era and to snatch Champions League football from Arsenal would see a slight turning of the ways in north London. The importance of Champions League football is so important for finances and sponsorship plus retaining and attracting top players.
It has not always been so, as the last home game of the season approached. Frequently, it has been the opposition who have had more to play for and for some White Hart Lane was a good place to visit. In 1996-97, Coventry City were the visitors and their 2 – 1 victory ensured their Premier League survival by a single point, condemning Sunderland and Middlesbrough with already relegated Nottingham Forest. A young Northern Ireland player, Paul McVeigh, scored Spurs’ goal in what was his third and final appearance for the club. He remained with Tottenham until March, 2000 when he was given a free transfer and signed for Norwich City. He made twenty appearances for Northern Ireland, making his debut while with Spurs and then made over 200 appearances for Norwich.
Tottenham 2 Fulham 0 Adebayor, Defoe [Final place finish: 4th]
Emmanuel Adebayor gave Spurs the lead inside two minutes and Jermain Defoe added the second within minutes of coming on as a second half substitute. Tottenham’s win secured fourth place but they missed out on 3rd as Arsenal won at WBA, gifted three goals by former Tottenham reserve goalkeeper, Marton Fulop. In every previous season Tottenham would have qualified for the Champions League but Chelsea’s win in the competition later in the month saw Spurs drop into the Europa League.
Tottenham 2 Birmingham City 1 Pavlyuchenko (2) [Final place finish: 5th]
Two years ago the final game of the season was important for Birmingham who were looking to avoid relegation while Spurs could ensure Europa League qualification. In the end results elsewhere determined the outcome of both situations. Liverpool’s defeat meant Spurs were in Europe while a Wolves’ recovery guaranteed their safety and had relegated Birmingham even before Roman Pavlyuchenko scored the second of his two goals in the final minute.
Tottenham 1 Bolton Wanderers 0 Huddlestone [Final place finish: 4th]
With two away games to follow, it was essential that Spurs won to maintain their pursuit of fourth place. Tom Huddlestone’s thunderbolt of a drive in the first half ensured that Tottenham remained in pole position ahead of their vital head-to-head clash with Manchester City to secure Champions league qualification. Peter Crouch’s goal in Manchester four days later brought that dream to reality.
Tottenham 2 Manchester City 1 Defoe, Keane (p) [Final place finish: 8th]
Having battled for survival after a nightmare start to the season, Harry Redknapp in his first season at White Hart Lane had lifted the club to safety with an outside chance of making the Europa League. This win over City maintained that prospect but a final day defeat at Anfield brought it to an end. Jermain Defoe gave Spurs an early lead but City drew level midway through the second half. Robbie Keane secured victory with a penalty four minutes from time.
Having won the Carling Cup at the end of February, Juande Ramos’ team sleep walked through the rest of the season to finish eleventh. Liverpool brought the final rites to the season with two second half goals in what was a disappointing performance from Spurs.
Tottenham 2 Manchester City 1 Keane, Berbatov [Final place finish: 5th]
Spurs ensured their qualification for the UEFA Cup with a fifth place finish for the second successive season under Martin Jol. They scored two first half goals from Keane and Dimitar Berbatov but allowed City to pull one back before the interval but then held on throughout the second period to claim the points.
Tottenham 1 Bolton Wanderers 0 Lennon [Final place finish: 5th]
Aaron Lennon’s goal after an hour maintained Spurs’ hold on fourth place as they faced stiff competition from Arsenal for the final place for Champions League qualification. Spurs had been fourth since November but it would go down to the final games the next weekend when Spurs travelled across London to face West Ham United. As we all know, ‘Lasagne-gate’ became headlines as a sickly Tottenham played out the game with an ailing team who were clearly unwell. Spurs lost, Arsenal won and Tottenham fans had to wait another until 2010 for their first experience of the Champions League.
Tottenham 0 Blackburn Rovers 0 [Final place finish: 9th]
Spurs had an outside chance of European qualification but it had really been lost the previous weekend with a single goal defeat at Middlesbrough. A stubborn Rovers team came to deny Tottenham and they succeeded.
It Was Atrocious!
Tottenham 0 Blackburn Rovers 4 [Final place finish: 10th]
This wasn’t how it was supposed to be when Glenn Hoddle took over as manager. Spurs had lost 1 – 5 the previous week at Middlesbrough and brought the season to a close in front of clearly dissatisfied and disgruntled supporters at White Hart Lane. It was Teddy Sheringham’s final game for the club but there was nothing to commend about the performance which saw Gus Poyet sent off and Blackburn score twice in each half. There were calls for Hoddle to go and it wasn’t long into the new season before he departed.
It Was a Celebration!
Tottenham 2 Leicester City 0 Pratt, Holmes [Final place finish: 22nd - Relegation]
Spurs’ relegation had been determined the previous weekend in a five goal defeat at Manchester City. The team threw off their fears and gave the fans something to cheer in the final match with goals from John Pratt and Jimmy Holmes. The team included Pat Jennings for whom it would be his last League appearance for the club, Steve Perryman, Glenn Hoddle and Peter Taylor. The fans showed their loyalty to the club as they prepared for a step into the unknown – a year in the 2nd Division.
It Was Tense!
Tottenham 1 Hull City 0 Perryman [Final place finish: 3rd - Promotion]
One year on and Tottenham experienced a very tense evening at White Hart Lane. Spurs promotion had seemed secure earlier in the season but two successive defeats left them in danger of missing out. A late goal scored by captain, Steve Perryman, secured the points and they lived to fight another day – a final day visit to Southampton who were also in the battle for promotion. A tense scoreless draw gave both clubs promotion, Tottenham at the expense of Brighton on goal difference.
Sunday’s match against Sunderland is sure to be tense but hopefully, Spurs will come through and if results elsewhere go in their favour, supporters will have plenty to celebrate – 4th place and another crack at the Champions League.