Old boys spurred on in the friendly derby
Jol and Fulham's former Tottenham contingent are keen to show their north London neighbours what they might be missing
Fulham against Tottenham is one of those local derbies that has acquired the status of rivalry but not real hatred. One club is clearly bigger and more successful than the other, both in terms of direct meetings and broader achievement. So personnel switching between the two are essentially making a move either up or down. The former Spurs contingent who greet their old club at Craven Cottage this afternoon know, whether they admit it or not, that they have dropped down a rung. They may not talk of taking revenge for rejection or of proving a point, but the added incentive is clearly there.
Take Fulham manager Martin Jol, who served at Spurs for three years and four months achieving two fifth places and missing out on a Champions' League appearance by the thickness of a dodgy lasagne. To be sacked at all after such a record, even after a disappointing start to his final season, would be hard to take. Yet the manner of his dismissal was humiliating. Only two games into the season, Spurs representatives were spotted with Juande Ramos, the manager of Seville. During a televised Uefa Cup match at White Hart Lane three months later, a website broke the news that Ramos was taking over; the commentary picked up on the fact leaving viewers looking at pictures of a man who did not officially know his fate.
In the circumstances Jol's generosity toward his former employers is remarkable. "It was a great time. Three years and four months. I still have positive feelings, which is the most important thing."
Bobby Zamora could be excused having almost entirely negative ones, after failing to live up to his potential in a barren spell at Tottenham before recovering some confidence after dropping down to the Championship with West Ham. Since returning to a higher level with Fulham, he has improved his hold-up play to the extent of winning a first England cap. Now he faces a huge day with a game against his old club and then the announcement of whether he has kept his place in Fabio Capello's squad.
"Last couple of years we've put in some good performances against Spurs," he said after the feisty 4-1 win over Wisla Krakow on Thursday. "They're a great side with some top, top players so we know it's gonna be tough. We'll be up for it, we're at home and we have a great record at home."
Like Jol, Danny Murphy, the one member of the former Tottenham quintet who went straight to Fulham, also tries to emphasise the positive, yet he too has underlying regrets. Having turned down Spurs initially in favour of Charlton when leaving Liverpool, he went to White Hart Lane under Jol but views his 18 months there as a learning experience rather than a particularly enjoyable period.
"The good things are always easy to remember, but it's probably one of the only negative spells of my career," he admitted. "It made me stronger, definitely. I think that little lull, without playing so much, maybe gave me the hunger and desire to kick on again and prove a few people wrong."
When Jol was appointed by Fulhamin the summer, Murphy was forced to deny they had ever fallen out. "I think it's not too healthy looking back on the negatives," he added. "I try and focus on the positives of my career. I made some good friends and worked with some good coaches at Tottenham, learned plenty off them, which hopefully I'll be able to use in future years."
Competing with a crop of internationals for a place at Spurs, he failed to convince Jol that he should be the main midfielder and did not play as often as he wanted: "You need a run of games in a team to gain confidence and show what you can do. I never really got that at Tottenham. I'm a player who needs time to grow into a position. I need to evolve a bit when I go to a new team. I've always taken time to play well in a certain role. I didn't quite get the opportunity."
At Fulham he is more influential than at any time. Roy Hodgson made him captain and under Jol he has kept the armband, a regular starting place and his position as the team's main creative force and set-piece specialist. There was no overt display of emotion when he scored two penalties as Fulham ran up a stunning 4-0 half-time lead in the FA Cup against Tottenham last season – which was how the tie ended – but the satisfaction must have been immense.
This season Fulham started early in the Europa League, giving Jol the chance to assess his squad, but their League results were poor. A first win at home, 6-0 against Queens Park Rangers, and then away at Wigan has perked them up.
Fulham have only 12 wins in the teams' 75 meetings but the emphaticmanner of that last one in January will encourage more than just the Tottenham old boys among them.
Fulham v Tottenham Hotspur is on Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 4pm
From spurs to Fulham: Fab five who proved their Cottage industry
Danny Murphy: Joined Spurs from Charlton in 2005 but was rarely a regular under Martin Jol and moved on to Fulham in August 2007. Has played his best football there since his Liverpool days as main playmaker, and has been captain for four seasons.
Stephen Kelly: Irish full-back who played 44 games for Tottenham without establishing himself. Moved to Craven Cottage via Birmingham in 2009. Currently used more in European games than Premier League.
Martin Jol: The 55 year-old became a Spurs coach in the summer of 2004 and then manager in November when Jacques Santini resigned after 13 games. They finished 9th, 5th and 5th but he was replaced by Juande Ramos in October 2007 with the team 18th. After managing Hamburg and Ajax he joined Fulham in June.
Simon Davies: Joined Tottenham in 1999, making almost 150 appearances before moving to Everton. Signed for Fulham in 2007 and was player of the year the following season.
Bobby Zamora: Made his name asa striker with Brighton but only managed one goal in 18 games for Tottenham before moving to West Ham, then Fulham in 2008. Flourished and won first England cap last year.
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