At White Hart Lane on Saturday there was an emotional parade by surviving members of Tottenham's 1961 Double-winning team. Time and football move on and those old heroes, who later reached the European Cup semi-final, may be surprised to learn that as Spurs return to the competition almost half a century later, not only is tonight's final qualifying round first leg being played on an artificial pitch, but the only North London boy stepping onto it will be appearing for the opposition.
Scott Sutter, the 20-year-old right-back of Young Boys Bern, was born in Enfield and brought up there as a Tottenham supporter, with Jürgen Klinsmann as his hero. Four years ago, his Swiss father Werner moved the family to his native country where Scott endured two seasons hampered by Achilles injuries with the Zurich club Grasshoppers. Now in his second year in Bern, he is fully recovered and is an important member of the side, who has played for Switzerland's Under-19 and Under-21 teams.
"He has great tactical and technical qualities," said Young Boys' Bosnian coach Vladimir Petkovic yesterday. Sutter recalled: "It was amazing for me when I was watching the draw with my dad and the first two names out were us and Tottenham. I jumped up and punched the air. The club I support and where I once had a season ticket. Now I can finally play at White Hart Lane. It couldn't get any better."
It could for Young Boys officials, eyeing a lucrative passage into the Champions League proper for the first time; the club's sporting director Alain Baumann described the draw as "the worst we could have". Tottenham are widely regarded here as too strong for a team who only lost the Swiss League to Basel on the final day of last season but then sold their leading scorer Seydou Doumbia (50 goals in two seasons) to CSKA Moscow. They have already missed him badly, scoring only five times in as many league games to stand seventh out of 10 teams as the Swiss league stands.
After being held 2-2 at home by the Istanbul team in the previous round, Young Boys won the away leg 1-0, earning the respect of the Spurs manager Harry Redknapp. "We looked at the video of them against Fenerbahce and they absolutely battered them at home, they could have beaten them six," he said. They failed to, however, and have not won any game so far on the latest version of the Stade de Suisse's artificial pitch, where Spurs trained last night. Redknapp claims the surface will suit his team's passing game, although it influenced his decision not to include Ledley King, whose knee, he felt, would not respond well to it. Sebastien Bassong is therefore likely to make his European debut alongside Michael Dawson in defence. "We know what a massive two games these are," said Dawson, for whom these are exciting times after playing his first game for England last week. "We deserve to be here and we know what the rewards are," he added. "As a young kid you watch the Premier League and want to play in that, which I dreamt of asd a boy. Then you watch the Champions League and now it's fantastic to be playing in it." There is no reason to expect further changes from the team that tore Manchester City apart on Saturday, only to be denied by Joe Hart in goal, unless Redknapp wishes to freshen up his midfield or attack with one or two players who did not start in that game.
For the manager too, this is new territory, a whole escalator of steps up from winning the InterToto Cup with West Ham. Asked if his brief was to bring back the glory, glory nights to White Hart Lane, however, he was not committing himself: "The only brief from [chairman] Daniel Levy was ’I haven’t slept for two weeks, I think we could get relegated’. I stopped that but I’m not putting my name to anything else."
Young Boys (probable, 4-2-3-1): Woelfli; Sutter, Affolter, Jemal, Lulic; T Doubai, Spycher; Degen, Constanzo, M Schneuwly; Bienvenue.
Tottenham (probable, 4-4-2): Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Huddlestone, Modric, Bale; Defoe, Crouch.
Referee F de Bleeckere (Belgium).