Tottenham’s Europa League Endurance Test – Next Up: Basel


The Europa League has always been recognised as a marathon, a test of endurance for those teams which reach the latter stages of the competition. The quarter-final draw has paired Spurs against Swiss side Basel, with the first match at White Hart Lane.

[Photo: Logan Holmes]The Europa League with its Round of 32 to accommodate the clubs dropping out of the Champions League Group stage takes on a sense of endurance as clubs try to meet the demands of their League programme and the challenges of their European campaign. Success in the competition puts demands not only on players and coaching staff but also on spectators who are faced with considerable expense to travel at quite short notice. Its fore-runner, the UEFA Cup, which Tottenham have won twice was also regarded as a difficult competition to win with many tough ties and considerable travelling involved.

We’ve Been Here Before:


Tottenham entered the UEFA Cup for the first time as League Cup winners. Their journey to success involved 12 matches in Iceland, France, Romania (twice), Italy and England. In total Tottenham played 68 matches in all competitions that season.

Admittedly the opening round was no more that a training exercise winning 15 – 1 on aggregate against Keflavik. After that, however, the matches became much more testing in every way. Against Nantes the tie was settled by a single goal scored in the second leg at White Hart Lane by Martin Peters. Two ties against Romanian teams resulted in comfortable aggregate wins but the away tie against Rapid Bucharest was a very physical battle with the home team’s ruthless display greatly annoying Bill Nicholson. Tottenham overcame AC Milan in the semi-final earning a draw in the San Siro before defeating Wolverhampton Wanderers over two legs in the Final. Martin Chivers scored 8 goals but the two in the 1st leg of the Final at Molineux were crucial.


Tottenham qualified for the UEFA Cup having finished 4th in the 1st Division the previous season. They played twelve European games plus 49 League and Cup matches that season. Injuries and suspensions took their toll with Ray Clemence, Glenn Hoddle and Steve Perryman missing the final while Ossie Ardiles was barely fit enough to be included as one of the substitutes.

The road to success started in Ireland against Drogheda United and an easy 14 – 0 aggregate win. Next to Holland and a surprisingly comfortable 6 – 2 win over old rivals, Feyenoord, thanks to a Glenn Hoddle master-class. Hoddle out-shone Johan Cruyff in the first leg at Tottenham as Spurs were four up at the interval. Bayern Munich proved a tougher test in Germany, winning the first leg 1 – 0 but Tottenham squeezed through with a 2 – 0 win at White Hart Lane. Austria Vienna were beaten 2 – 0 in the quarter-final 1st leg at White Hart Lane and Spurs managed to draw 2 – 2 in Austria. The semi-finals against another team they’d played before, Hadjuk Split, was a close affair, testing everyone’s nerve. Spurs returned home from the 1st leg with a single goal deficit but a vital away goal. Micky Hazard’s goal at White Hart Lane took Spurs through on the away goals rule.

The 1st leg of the Final against Anderlecht in Belgium ended 1 – 1. Paul Miller scored the goal which put Spurs in a strong position but a goal down late in the second half in the 2nd leg had a weakened Tottenham team under pressure. Nerves were on edge but Graham Roberts saved the day with an equaliser six minutes from time after an Ossie Ardiles’ shot had hit the bar. The tension only increased as the game stretched into extra time. No goals and it was a young Tony Parks who stepped up to really save the day with two excellent saves in the penalty shoot-put after extra time had failed to settle the match.

  • Tottenham are the only former winners of the trophy, in its former guise of the UEFA Cup, remaining in this year’s Europa League.


Do we want to win the Europa League this season?

Tottenham were fortunate that their European campaign started in the Group stages as they were one of seven clubs with automatic entry to that stage of this season’s competition  avoiding any of the numerous qualifying rounds. The draw has kept the travel involved at a reasonable level so far, avoiding long journeys to far flung Russian outposts. Italy twice, France, Slovenia and Greece. The six group matches provided two testing ties with Lazio but they have faced more challenging opposition in the two knock-out stages with both Lyon and Inter Milan close to progressing before Spurs managed to find a vital goal. To date, Spurs have played 10 games in Europe plus 35 League and Cup matches.

Remember, Remember Remember!

Having gone this far, Tottenham want to win the trophy. Qualification for the Champions League is important but so is winning a trophy.

  • Remember back to those seasons of disappointment when Spurs just missed out on qualification for the UEFA Cup – the anguish at the end of the season.
  • Remember the excitement of that first European campaign in 2006-07 after so many disappointments. Yes, we’ve moved on from there and our aspirations are higher but winning is important.
  • Remember the words of Bill Nicholson,

"“It’s magnificent to be in Europe, and this club – a club like Tottenham Hotspur – if we’re not in Europe…. we’re nothing, we’re nothing.”"

Bill Nicholson didn’t expect Tottenham Hotspur to go into European competitions half-heartedly – he wanted them to go into it to WIN it – to bring the Europa League trophy home to White Hart Lane.

Over To You

What are your views on the Champions League qualification/Europa League debate?