Irish eyes may be smiling at the prospect of a big night out in north London this evening, but Tottenham Hotspur's manager Harry Redknapp says he has both eyes fixed on Sunday's derby against Arsenal rather than the Europa League fixture at home to Shamrock Rovers. The number of changes to the side from last weekend's win at Wigan is therefore likely to be in double figures, as it was for the opening group match, when Spurs drew 0-0 away to PAOK Salonika.
One player out of contention for some time to come is the midfielder Tom Huddlestone, after it was confirmed yesterday that he needs a second operation on his ankle. William Gallas, who has not played this season, has also had a further setback but there is better news of Aaron Lennon, who will take part tonight with a view to returning against Arsenal. Redknapp said that key players like Gareth Bale, Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor will be kept out of tonight's game, adding: "We have a squad here so we have to use it. Some of them that haven't been playing and it's a great opportunity for them. If they are not happy, this is a chance to show us why they should be in the first team."
Shamrock, the first Irish team to reach the group stage of a European competition, will hope to take advantage of weakened opposition after losing their opening group match 3-0 at home to Rubin Kazan. They remain the underdogs, although their manager Michael O'Neill, once a teenage star at Newcastle with Paul Gascoigne, says their European results have been better away than in Dublin. They qualified for this stage by defeating Partizan Belgrade and are in uncharted waters: the League of Ireland's summer season ends this month and it will be seven weeks into the supposed close-season when they play the return game with Spurs in Dublin on 15 December.
The atmosphere at White Hart Lane should be at least as good as for the previous Europa League game against Hearts, as more than 4,000 visiting fans are expected. But none of them can be looking forward to the evening more than the midfielder Rohan Ricketts, whose travels have taken him to Canada, Hungary, Moldova and Germany since his days with Arsenal and Spurs.
* Sports minister Hugh Robertson last night said he hoped Tottenham will commit themselves to staying in Haringey. London Mayor Boris Johnson had earlier offered Spurs £17mwhich he hopes will be enough to persuade the club to take up the Northumberland Development Project. Robertson said: "They've had a very good and final offer... of help to redevelop in Tottenham."Reuse content