It would be safe to assume Martin Jol, the Tottenham Hotspur manager, is sick of the sight of black and white stripes after watching a mediocre Newcastle United side deliver a damaging blow to his team's chances of Champions' League qualification. Far from it.
On Wednesday the Dutchman be praying for the unlikely Juventus victory which will prevent Arsenal from reaching the semi-finals of club football's élite knockout competition.
Jol is neither motivated by north London rivalries nor a closet fan of the Serie A leaders from Turin. He is, however, aware that should the Gunners succeed Liverpool as champions of Europe then a fourth-placed finish in the Premiership for his side will only be good for Uefa Cup football next season.
"In the first place, if Arsenal win all their League games then we cannot finish fourth," said Jol, after the Highbury club's 5-0 win against Aston Villa saw them move to within two points of Spurs, with a game in hand. "But if they win the Champions' League then fourth place will mean nothing.
"For us it is important that we get more than 60 points and wait to see where that puts us. I am not going to say who I hope wins on Wednesday. I am not going there. But what do you think?"
Tottenham have occupied fourth since December but a dismal away record in 2006 has allowed Arsenal and Blackburn Rovers to challenge them. Newcastle, with nothing but pride to play for and without their influential midfielder Scott Parker, ruthlessly exposed the weaknesses of a team suddenly choking with their Champions' League dream in sight.
Three goals in the first 30 minutes - Lee Bowyer, Shola Ameobi and Alan Shearer, from the penalty spot, all profiting from defensive lapses - ended this fixture as a contest. Michael Dawson's second-half dismissal, for two bookable offences, allowed United to coast to a first victory in five matches.
"The bigger picture is a lot brighter than our performance against Newcastle suggests," said Michael Carrick, the Spurs midfielder who learnt his trade with Tyneside's famous Wallsend Boys Club. "There is a lot at stake between now and the end of the season and we can still finish fourth." Jol added: "I felt anxious before the game and the players looked nervous. We didn't always show composure on the ball but we never lacked ambition."
Robbie Keane has been central to Spurs' success all season and the Irishman offered brief respite from Newcastle's onslaught with the headed equaliser which cancelled out Bowyer's second-minute goal. Jol knows the value of his captain but added: "He should shoot more and score more goals. The statistics say he is the No 1 striker in the country and his shooting ability is beyond question."
Bowyer, on the first anniversary of his infamous on-field spat with his team-mate Kieron Dyer, reminded potential suitors that he still poses a genuine threat in front of goal despite a faltering career on Tyneside. The former Leeds midfielder could have claimed a first-half hat-trick with a performance timed to awaken interest in the summer transfer window.
"I have heard Lee say he will wait and see who the new manager is and if he gets on with him he could stay," said Newcastle's caretaker manager, Glenn Roeder. "He has been looking to move but why can't he change his mind? He is fully fit and highly motivated."
Goals: Bowyer (2) 1-0; Keane (19) 1-1; Ameobi (25) 2-1; Shearer, pen (30) 3-1.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Carr, Ramage, Moore, Elliott; Solano (Faye, 80), Bowyer, Emre (Clark, 63), N'Zogbia (Chopra, 90); Shearer, Ameobi. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Boumsong.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Kelly, Dawson, Gardner, Lee; Jenas, Davids (Murphy, 88), Carrick, Lennon (Defoe, 70); Keane, Mido. Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Stalteri, Huddlestone.
Referee: M Dean (Cheshire).
Booked: Newcastle Moore, Emre; Tottenham Dawson, Mido, Keane.
Sent off: Dawson.
Man of the match: Bowyer.
Attendance: 52, 301.Reuse content