Pascal Chimbonda has more reason than most to request home-cooked private meals rather than risk hotel food as he and his Tottenham Hotspur team-mates prepare to entertain West Ham United at White Hart Lane this afternoon.
After hearing of last season's seriously peaky performance when the clubs last met, the Guadeloupe-born Frenchman could even be excused for fasting in preparation for a London derby of great importance for both teams. But though his favourite dish is l'émincé de volaille avec sauce Roquefort, or thinly sliced chicken with a cheese sauce, he has survived a year of Lancashire hotpot.
In last season's fiasco at Upton Park, Spurs were reportedly hit by food poisoning (it turned out to be a virus) and lost both the game and a possible place in the Champions' League. "I have heard a lot about this match and about London derbys and I love the passion in England for this kind of thing," he said. "But I have come to Tottenham to win these games, to win trophies, to try to win everything. It will be difficult but that is what we expect."
Much pride will be at stake, as Chimbonda has learned, after last season's disappointment and the fact that both sides have made dreadful starts in the League. Martin Jol's Spurs, fresh from an impressive 2-0 win over Besiktas in Turkey last week, have scored only five goals in eight Premiership games and conceded 10.
These statistics do not worry Chimbonda. "We have some very good players here and I'm sure we will show that we can play better and better as time goes by," he said. "We have been unlucky in some games. Martin Jol is a very good coach who likes to win. He gives a good feeling to the players. A lot of new players have come into the team and it takes time, but the recent games have shown improvements."
Tottenham have not tasted a triumph against West Ham since September 2002 when a Teddy Sheringham penalty helped them seal a 3-2 win. The evergreen former England striker, now 40, may appear again for West Ham as they bid to avoid creating an unwanted record by losing five successive Premiership games.
At a time when the club appear in limbo amid talk of a takeover while failing to find a formula on the pitch that integrates the talented Argentinian signings Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, Alan Pardew is in desperate need of a result to alleviate mounting pressure. Since Bobby Zamora netted in a 1-1 home draw with Aston Villa on 10 September, they have failed to score in nine hours 38 minutes of League and Cup football.
"This is a game we must win, but I believe that we must win every game," said Chimbonda. Such confidence radiated the kind of self-belief that is manifest in his game and helped him win the vote as the best right-back in the Premiership last season from his fellow professionals. His form earned him a place in the French World Cup squad but he has still won only one cap.
His £5.25 deadline-day transfer from Wigan Athletic was acrimonious but, when asked about reports that Paul Jewell threatened to play him in the reserves all season if he continued to seek a move, Chimbonda said he did not think that would have happened if he had stayed. "He's a great trainer and I think he said something when he was angry. I have nothing against him at all and I know that it is only thanks to him that I came to England in the first place. But now I am here and I am ready for the next level."Reuse content