Trophy springboard for Hoddle

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The Independent Online

Tottenham's Manager, Glenn Hoddle, admitted yesterday that it might be another four years before the club, who have not won the championship since 1961, can challenge for it again. But he believes that victory over Blackburn Rovers in the Worthington Cup on Sunday, with a guaranteed return to European competition, would be a significant step along the way.

In Hoddle's first full season as manager, Spurs are on course to repeat their achievement of 1982 in reaching the final of both domestic cup competitions. He was pulling the strings in midfield that year, one of four during the 80s in which they finished either third or fourth in the table without ever ending up closer than 13 points behind the champions. This season should bring a best Premiership performance since 1995, but the widely predicted breakthrough into the top six has not quite materialised: with only two wins in nine League games since just before Christmas – one of them a narrow 1-0 success at home to Blackburn – Tottenham are currently eighth.

"It might take three or four years, but the major thing for this club and myself as manager is to go into any season where we have got a realistic chance of being a team that can win the League," Hoddle said at White Hart Lane yesterday. "That's where I want to get the club. Day one from stepping in here, that has been my vision. That is going to take time. I think next year would be unrealistic. But that's the second part of the plan, if you like, which will take more finance and development. This [the Worthington Cup] would be a significant way to be developing it and a stepping stone and a foundation towards it. We find ourselves in a final for starters and one game away from Europe. The foundations haven't been laid yet but there's certainly a few bricks been put in place."

Darren Anderton and Ledley King should both be fit for Sunday's final, while Anthony Gardner and Goran Bunjevcevic both came through a reserve game on Wednesday.

Dean Richards is ineligible and Spurs will also be without Stephen Carr, Steffen Freund, Stephen Clemence and Gary Doherty through injury.

Christian Ziege's return to fitness will enable Mauricio Taricco to play on the right, with Anderton, Gus Poyet and Tim Sherwood the preferred trio in central midfield.

Teddy Sheringham and Les Ferdinand, with a combined age of 70, are favourites to start in attack. "We have got experienced players, who know how to win things, and young players who haven't done so yet," Hoddle said. "It's important to have that balance and that's why I brought in the players I did at the beginning of the season. If Ledley and Darren come through, I've got a plenty of talent to pick from. But we won't go into the game with any complacency."

* Premiership clubs gave their Worthington Cup their support yesterday when they agreed that the winners should continue to qualify for the Uefa Cup for at least the next two years.

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