Goal record against Newcastle spurs Poyet

Tottenham's veteran midfielder faces favourite opposition today while thoughts turn to coaching career
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The Independent Football

In these troubled times for Tottenham, sitting as they are in mid-table and having to wait until next summer before appointing a permanent manager, the men from the capital have every reason to worry about assignments such as this afternoon's match away to Newcastle United.

However, two days after a heated Annual General Meeting when there was much worry about Spurs' direction, the north Londoners can look to South America for inspiration in the substantial shape of Gustavo Poyet. They only have to hope he scores.

The Uruguayan has been in England for six and a half years now and every time he has scored against Newcastle, be it home, away or on neutral ground, he ends up victorious. Against that he has also been on the losing side four times, but he did not score in those games.

Poyet has notched up six goals against the Geordies in five different games but the former international, who turned 36 last month, cannot explain it. "I like Newcastle," he says. "You play better against some teams than you do against others. I get a good feeling against them, especially when I go to St James' Park. It's a great place to play football. It's a huge stadium and it's beautiful."

Poyet was brought to England when Ruud Gullit was the Chelsea manager. He signed for free in 1997 from Real Zaragoza as something of an unknown quantity, despite being part of the Spanish side that had beaten Arsenal in the Cup-Winners' Cup final two years earlier.

However, he quickly built up a reputation as a powerful midfielder with hardly an equal in the air. Indeed, he had barely been in this country two months when he opened his account against Newcastle, his strike being the difference in a 1-0 win.

His most recent goal against them was for Spurs at St James' in a 2-0 victory two years ago. However, arguably his most memorable contribution came when he scored both goals in Chelsea's FA Cup semi-final win at Wembley in April 2000, inspiring the Londoners to a 2-1 victory. Poyet then went on to lift the trophy a month later after victory against Aston Villa.

"Against Newcastle I find myself in good positions and after that it is up to me to put it in the net," he says. "I remember what I did at Wembley. There are teams where you get more chances than others. That's football, I guess.

"But I just try and enjoy each game, and not treat this as a special one because of my record against Newcastle." Enjoying his football is paramount to Poyet these days, mostly because he expects this to be his last season. Having joined Tottenham for £2.25m in 2001, his contract runs out this summer. Therefore when Spurs made their poor start to this season and Poyet was out of the side due to a fractured wrist, it was not how the winner of the 1995 Copa America with Uruguay envisaged winding down his career.

"It's been quite strange," he says. "At the beginning we were not having the best of results and it was not good for me, at my age, not playing. Now I have been playing the last few games so it is all right. I want to finish my career on a high and keep my place in the team."

When he does finish playing he plans to coach. He has been working with Spurs' reserves, and has been getting a taste for life with a tracksuit and stopwatch. "I would like to coach. I really enjoy it," he says. "I've been doing it for a while now, especially with the reserves. I've worked with them enough to make me think about that option. I'll see in the future if I have the chance to do it."

At the AGM, angry shareholders vented their spleen at some of the ageing Tottenham squad. Poyet went unnamed but it is highly possible many of them think his better days are behind him. However, he still averages, impressively, almost a goal every three League games, though he is a realist. "I think this will be my last season playing football," he says. "I'm not sure so I will keep one door open and make a decision in February or March. If I quit playing I will probably stay in England."

Yet his infectious enthusiasm for the game and love of communication - he was nicknamed El Radio at Chelsea - appear to make him a natural to start climbing the coaching ladder, and Spurs might be better off looking to keep his energy and knowledge within their club.

His customary goal against the men in black and white would certainly help his, and Tottenham's cause.

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