North London derby: Tottenham's rival match veteran Brad Friedel can remind Andre Villas-Boas of the importance of Arsenal clash

 

If Andre Villas-Boas is feeling the pressure before his first north London derby, he can gain immediate perspective by asking the Tottenham goalkeeper about his knowledge of local disputes.

Brad Friedel has played in two Arsenal-Spurs matches but has also competed in tribal clashes in Istanbul, Birmingham and east Lancashire and witnessed the Merseyside derby at close quarters.

Villas-Boas revealed earlier in the week he had been reminded several times by chairman Daniel Levy of the importance of tomorrow’s fixture, yet such troubles are minor compared with what Friedel has experienced. During his season at Galatasaray, the American returned from a cup final win over Istanbul rivals Fenerbahce to discover his home had been vandalised.

Friedel also played for Aston Villa against Birmingham when there was violence in the stands during the

2010-11 season. The rivalry between Arsenal and Tottenham is fierce and the fixture is among the most important in the calendar but, after what he has seen, Friedel is able to take the intensity of these battles in his stride.

“Galatasaray-Fenerbahce is the most energetic, hate-filled, violent derby I’ve been involved in,” Friedel said.

“The fans hate each other with a passion and the atmosphere is tremendous, although nicer when you play at home.

“When we won the Turkish Cup at their ground in 1996 after a two-legged final, I got back home and the windows were smashed in my flat.

“Fenerbahce fans had also tried to turn my car over.

“For two or three hours after the match we couldn’t get out of the changing room. They smashed the windows on our coach and tried to tip it over when we left the ground. We couldn’t even lift the cup on the day.

“Graeme Souness was the manager and Dean Saunders was playing there and both had their families with them. Fortunately, I was single, otherwise it wouldn’t have felt brilliant on derby days, with people knowing exactly where you live. But I did love my time in Istanbul.

“Those things happen very rarely in England but the Villa-Birmingham derby was a bit tasty at times.

“When we played there once there were fireworks being thrown between the fans and we got stuck on the pitch. That was a bit nasty and there was true hatred there.

“As for this derby, a few of the songs aren’t in the best taste but, by and large, it’s done in the correct manner. People will their team on and are loud and energetic.”

Memories of the most recent derby are painful for Tottenham. In February, a 2-0 lead at Emirates Stadium became a 5-2 defeat and signalled the start of Spurs’ nervous end to the season, during which Arsenal overcame a 10-point deficit to take a Champions League place at their rivals’ expense.

Friedel denies, however, that the result undermined Tottenham’s campaign and he believes that the departure of Robin van Persie has weakened the Arsenal squad more than those of Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart have damaged Spurs.

While neither side have convinced this season, Friedel insists Spurs are better-placed to push for a top-four spot, especially as Van Persie scored 37 times in his final term at Arsenal before joining Manchester United.

“When you lose a lot of goals, it’s the most difficult thing to replace,” Friedel said. “When Luka left we got Mousa Dembele, so one outstanding player left, another arrived and their goal tallies are similar.

“When you talk about someone who can bang in 30 goals per season, it’s different. If you manage to replace it successfully, there’s a lot of luck involved when you do. A goalscorer is the hardest player to buy — when do you buy, who do you buy, how much do you pay?

“When both are fully fit, then I like our squad more than Arsenal’s. As for the Champions League, we’ve got to get into it. That’s what the club, all the players and the staff want to achieve as a minimum.”

Friedel will strive as hard as ever to reach that target but he insists the outcome will not influence the decision about his future. The 41-year-old is in the final year of his contract at White Hart Lane and is keeping France captain Hugo Lloris out of the team, yet he  knows the former Lyon man is Spurs’ long-term solution.

“If I want to play on, it will be a purely mental and physical decision,” he added. “Even if we qualified for the Champions League, I wouldn’t sign on again if I was completely knackered by April.

“When the club have invested in someone as good as Hugo, I’d have to think about what my role would be but I’m not an egomaniac and I feel lucky, at the age of 41, to be contracted to  this club.”

It is a calm and rational assessment which, a matter of hours before a derby, seems like the perfect approach.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy