It may only have taken Glenn Hoddle 299 days to steer Tottenham Hotspur to the Worthington Cup final but his predecessor, George Graham, did so in just 139. Graham's Spurs went on to defeat Leicester City in the 1999 final but, even if the current team lose against Blackburn Rovers on 24 February, it is clear Hoddle has had the greater impact.
Graham was never loved at White Hart Lane, a legacy of his Arsenal past and a reputation for pragmatic football. The manner in which his team reached that final, by defeating Wimbledon 1-0 on aggregate, said it all for Spurs' fans. Jealous of their traditions, as underachieving clubs tend to be, White Hart Lane wanted the "Glory, Glory Game" back. Wednesday's 5-1 thrashing of Chelsea, giving Spurs a 6-3 aggregate victory, suggests it is on the way.
The scoreline did not flatter. It was not just that Chelsea were bad – though they were – Spurs were very good. This despite having five first-choice players injured (Les Ferdinand, Christian Ziege, Steffen Freund, Goran Bunjevcevic, and Stephen Carr) and another (Dean Richards) cup-tied. With squad depth also affected by injuries to four other players (Chris Armstrong, Gary Doherty, Stephen Clemence and Ben Thatcher) Spurs have understandably struggled to find consistency in the Premiership where they have won once in the last six games. But this is hardly new. Spurs' current position of seventh is as high as they have finished in the League since 1990.
A key factor this season has been the continuing fitness of Darren Anderton who was outstanding on Wednesday. Since coming on as a substitute in the opening game of the season he has only missed one match, when he was rested for the Worthington Cup second round tie against Torquay in September. It is at least seven years since he played as regularly and he could prove to be a significant figure in Sven Goran Eriksson's World Cup squad.
Hoddle said: "There has not been a more consistent midfielder in the country than Darren. He covers every blade of grass, his passing has been superb, he has popped up with important goals, and he has created things for us. You cannot ask for more. It is wonderful to see him playing regularly. I think he has nailed the 'sick note' tag."
Anderton will be 30 in March but need only look at Teddy Sheringham, Gus Poyet and Les Ferdinand to realise there is footballing life beyond that. "If you have ambition I don't think it makes a difference whether you are old or not," said Poyet, 34. "There is a good mix here. We also have young players coming through and we try to help them."
The build-up to the final is likely to be especially nerve-racking for one Spurs player. Mauricio Taricco collapsed to his knees and raised his hands to the heavens at the end of Wednesday's match as it gave him the chance to make up for missing the 1999 final through being cup-tied. However, the FA are to study video footage of the skirmish which resulted in the wrongful dismissal of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and that could lead to Taricco being suspended.
In the incident Mario Melchiot, rather than Hasselbaink, struck Sheringham but, in the aftermath, Taricco was seen to punch the back of Melchiot's head. Taricco has already escaped video trial this year after no action was taken following a tackle that put Everton's Thomas Gravesen out for a month. He may not be as fortunate this time. Chelsea are to appeal against Hasselbaink's red card but, while he is expected to be reprieved when the referee, Mark Halsey, files his report today, Melchiot could be banned instead.Reuse content