As Spurs reflected on the draw with Manchester United on Sunday afternoon and contemplated the prospect of playing a struggling Fulham team this evening, the game at Craven Cottage took on a whole new complexity at around 4.20pm. It was at that time that Fulham announced that Martin Jol had been sacked and the Head Coach, Rene Meulensteen, would take over. Meulensteen who was only appointed a few weeks ago has previously been first team coach at former Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson. He was in charge of Spurs’ Europa League opponents, Anzhi for 16 days during the summer before the owner withdrew his funding.
‘New Manager Syndrome’
The appointment of a new manager at Craven Cottage will lift the Fulham players who have struggled in recent weeks and are 18th in the Premier League, three points behind Cardiff City. They lost 3 – 0 at West Ham on Saturday and have suffered 6 League and Cup defeats since defeating Crystal Palace in late October. Their last home win was in their previous game at the beginning of the month, a 1 – 0 win over Stoke City.
Fulham will be looking for a boost from the appointment of the new manager – that the players will produce that extra effort and have a greater incentive to impress the new man in charge. It’s a new start for the players and they will want to show Meulensteen that they deserve to be in his starting team.
The sacking of Jol will give the London derby a little extra charge and Spurs will have to be prepared to be even more committed to avoid falling foul of the ‘New Manager Syndrome’.
‘Former Players Syndrome’As if it wasn’t enough to have to face team wanting to make a point to their new manager, Tottenham will also be playing a team which will contain a number of former players. Playing against your former club always gives a player an added desire to put in that extra commitment to make a point to their former employers.
- Scott Parker who left Tottenham last summer to accommodate the arrival of Spurs’ new midfield players will be one player in particular who will want to impress.
- Then there’s Dimitar Berbatov who scored he only goal of the game at White Hart Lane last March, a win which did nothing to help Spurs’ drive for Champions league football.
- Darren Bent, signed on loan from Aston Villa in the summer, took great delight when scoring twice for Sunderland in the opening 30 minutes in a 3 – 1 win at the Stadium of Light after departing White Hart Lane. He could have had four but for two penalty saved by Heurelho Gomes.
- Adel Taarabt provided the only goal of the game at Lofyus Road in Ledley King’s last match for Spurs in April, 2012 and then was sent off late in the game.
Playing against a former club can provide a great motivation for certain players and Spurs will have to be ready to combat that as well. Rememeber Emmanuel Adebayor against Manchester City and Arsenal last season – he used his motivation to good effect at City but then over-stepped the mark at Arsenal with an early sending off after scoring the opening goal.
Spurs will have to be prepared for ‘Former Player Syndrome’.Mousa Dembele
At least Tottenham have Mousa Dembele. He will have a desire to remind Fulham of how good he was for them and he may face his namesake, Moussa Dembele, a young French player who was among the Fulham substitutes last weekend. He played for the Fulham Under-18 team a few weeks ago against Spurs and scored the equaliser with a penalty in a 2 – 2 draw.
There is a long list of players who have played for both Tottenham and Fulham, Spurs will want to ensure that the current crop of former players don’t spoil their evening as the endeavour to make a good impression on their new manager and revive Fulham’s season. Spurs will have to ensure that their motivation to recover from last month’s disappointments is greater than anything the Fulham team will have.