Tottenham Keep Knocking On Champions League Door


Since 2006 when Martin Jol first introduced Tottenham to the prospect of finishing the season in a top-4 placing, Spurs have been persistent in their attempts to open the Champions League door.

Hoping to avoid another Lasagnegate. [Photo:]Once again, the final decision on next season’s Champions League qualification  goes down to the last day of the season and for the third time in seven years Tottenham find themselves in a direct battle with near neighbours and London rivals, Arsenal. On the two previous occasions that this has occurred it has all ended in smiles for the red half of north London and in tears for Spurs.

Tottenham keep knocking on that Champions League door – but can they make it through the door this time or will it again be slammed shut and bolted on the inside?

For the second successive season, Tottenham and Arsenal are vying for the Champions League and it is to be decided in what could be a very dramatic climax to the season. Last year both clubs were fighting over 3rd and 4th, normally sufficient for qualification, but the urgency to achieve the higher placing was due to Chelsea’s appearance in the Champions League Final which proved to be crucial for Spurs and the cause of yet more heartache as they were dumped into the Europa League.

May, 2012 – Dodgy Goalkeepeing

As is the situation this year, twelve months ago, Arsenal were away from home, at West Brom, while Spurs had to win their final home match, against Fulham, and hope that Arsenal avoided victory. They had come with a late run to claw back Tottenham’s big advantage and were in pole position, knowing that they had control and had only to match Spurs’ result. Aided by a dodgy goalkeeping display from former Tottenham reserve, Marton Fulop, who was at fault for all three Arsenal goals, Roy Hodgson’s last match at The Hawthorns ended in defeat, ensuring Arsenal’s qualification. Totenham did all they could, they defeated Fulham but it wasn’t enough and then Bayern Munich lost out in the Champions League.

May, 2006 – ‘Lasagnegate’

Martin Jol’s team had occupied fourth position from early December but Arsenal made a late rally and going into the last day of the season, they were in 5th place, one point behind Spurs. Tottenham travelled to Upton Park while Arsenal entertained Wigan in the last match to be played at Highbury.

‘Lasagnegate’ – was this the chief suspect? [Photo: Michael Gooner’s Twitter pic (@MickTheGooner)]In his first full season in charge Jol’s team finished fifth and only missed out on fourth place when ‘Lasagnegate’ struck down many of the Tottenham players on the eve of their game against West Ham. All requests from Tottenham for a delayed kick-off or a postponement were turned down and a team depleted with sickness and with some players being sick during the match, lost at Upton Park where Jermain Defoe scored the Spurs goal.

Initially it had been though that the players had been struck down by food poisoning which led to many comical photographs of Arsene Wenger in a chef’s at serving food. After investigation it turned out that a Spurs player had had a virus which had been passed on to many of the squad.

Manchester City

In 2010 and 2011, it had been a straight battle between Tottenham and City for the Champions League place but it didn’t make it to the final day of the season. On both occasions Spurs travelled to the Etihad Stadium for the showdown in early May. In 2010 a Peter Crouch goal secured Spurs’ first appearance in the Champions League in Harry Redknapp’s first full season in charge at White Hart Lane. The following year, a Crouch own goal handed the place to City.

Totttenham have been unfortunate in that having finally broken the stranglehold that Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool had on the top-4 for so many years by finishing above Liverpool for the past four years, City have suddenly arrived from nowhere, in similar style to Chelsea, due to the club’s take over by the new breed of billionaire owners. Only Tottenham have made a persistent attempt to make it into the top-4, other clubs like Everton and Newcastle have tried but tailed off after a season. Recent seasons have seen Spurs mount a challenge something that for too long had been beyond them.

Will It End in Tears?

Are Tottenham to be disappointed again this year? Having defeated Arsenal in early March, Spurs were third, 7 points ahead, not as large a margin as last season but Arsenal with their unbeaten run have overturned the gap and are now in prime position. A win for them at Newcastle and there’s nothing Spurs can do. Totttenham must defeat Sunderland and trust Newcastle to get at least a pdraw against Arsenal which would be sufficient for Spurs to finish in fourth.

Can Spurs do it? For much of the season, I have thought that Tottenham could make it but in recent weeks as points have slipped away, I’ve become less confident and with the season’s climax so similar to last year, I have that horrible feeling that they will miss out once more.

The worst case scenario would be for Arsenal to slip up at Newcastle only for Spurs to fail to win their home game against Sunderland – that would be so cruel.