Football: Reunion raises the stakes for Spurs old boys: Trevor Haylett singles out Norwich City's visit to Tottenham as the pick of Boxing Day's football fare

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The Independent Online
WITH none of the Premiership's four brightest stars on view, the Boxing Day programme, traditionally one of the year's peaks, has a distinctly mid-table, middle-of-the-season feel about it. Then again, when did we last get everything we wanted for Christmas?

Eat, drink and be merry. Some can, some can't. The footballer's Christmas box contains early nights, soft drinks, the same slog at the training ground and then on to the coach for more motorway miles but this is also a time for meeting old friends and revisiting old haunts and here at least the game can conform.

Tottenham against Norwich is memory lane as well as White Hart Lane for four of the Norfolk side who cut their teeth in the lillywhite of north London. It is also the pick of today's games, which spectators will hope reaches the heights of Spurs' previous two games at home to Newcastle and Liverpool.

Determination will be particularly keen among Ian Culverhouse, Mark Bowen, Ian Crook and John Polston (assuming the last two players have recovered from injury) to make their former club pay for last season's 5-1 drubbing.

The sides also feature in two more of the better-looking holiday games on a post-Christmas card which suffers by being dispersed through four successive days. Tottenham follow up by going to West Ham tomorrow - where Teddy Sheringham could make his Spurs comeback after more than two months out with damaged knee ligaments - while the next day Norwich receive Aston Villa.

Sheffield Wednesday are at Everton tonight where Jimmy Gabriel will be hoping for a first victory at his fourth attempt as caretaker manager. A 3-2 scoreline would do nicely, the same as the 1966 FA Cup final between the teams which featured Gabriel in Everton's midfield.

Today's board meeting should reveal Everton's new owners. Yesterday the consortium headed by the Everton director, Bill Kenwright, countered claims made by Peter Johnson, the Tranmere chairman and rival bidder, that they were 'Mancunians', pointing out that to a man they were true blue Evertonians. 'We are all season ticket holders of long standing,' Tony Tighe, a member of the consortium, said.

Swindon will also have Cup nostalgia in mind today when they play host to Arsenal in only the third meeting since the 1969 League Cup final went, surprisingly and dramatically the way of the men from Wiltshire. Victory would see them off the bottom for the first time since the first week of their first season in the top grade if Chelsea go down at Southampton. Saints' Dave Beasant and Ken Monkou renew acquaintance with old colleagues, while at Portman Road, Stuart Slater faces West Ham for the first time since Celtic took him to Scotland. David Rocastle makes his debut for Manchester City at Villa Park but David White, the other half of the Christmas swap-shop has to wait until Wednesday for his first game for Leeds at home to Queen's Park Rangers.

All worthy practioners of their art but none quite in the class of Roberto Baggio, named yesterday as the European Footballer of the Year to follow last week's world award from Fifa. The Juventus striker polled 147 votes with Dennis Bergkamp second with 83 and Eric Cantona third on 34.

The Third Division fixture between Shrewsbury and Lincoln, scheduled for tomorrow, has been postponed (pitch unfit).

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