The weekend’s defeat at home to Stoke came almost five years to the day after the death of Bill Nicholson. The great man, Tottenham’s all-time greatest manager, led the club to the league and cup double in 1960/61, and in doing so becoming the first team to achieve the feat in the 20th century. This season, some 49 years later, has seen the best start to a campaign by a Spurs side since. The loss to the Potters should be viewed as no more than a slight stumble, and Harry Redknapp’s 21st century charges have a great opportunity to bounce back straight away in the League Cup against Everton on Tuesday. It is this secondary competition that looks like being their best chance of silverware this season, and offers Redknapp a chance to go some way towards establishing himself as a worthy successor to Nicholson in the annals of Tottenham history.
With the Premier League still too big an ask of Spurs, no European action this year and the FA Cup taken more seriously by the big boys, the Carling Cup is just the kind of trophy an aspiring team could go all the way in. Having narrowly missed out on success in the same competition last time round, when Ben Foster and his iPod were all that stood between victory and defeat in a penalty shoot-out, Tottenham are among the favourites this time around. Two of their biggest rivals for the cup, Arsenal and Liverpool, meet each other in this week’s fourth round, meaning at least one will fail to reach the quarter-finals. Manchester United and Chelsea will play decent-strength sides but have other fish to fry, and in total, five of the eight ties are all Premier League affairs, diluting further the strength of the remaining entrants with five top-flight teams guaranteed to go out.
Everton are the visitors to White Hart Lane and there will probably not be a better time to play the Toffees. With injuries abounding at the Merseyside club, David Moyes will not have the luxury of rotating his side significantly, and the game comes just two days after the team in blue lost at Bolton in the league, a game that itself was just days after an away tie in the Europa League. Everton skipper Phil Neville has hit out at the timing of the match, saying: “The fact that we’re playing on Tuesday is nothing short of a disgrace. Somebody somewhere is probably sat in their office not bothered about the fact we want to win the Carling Cup.” Despite the disappointing weekend result, Spurs have had an extra day’s rest, as well as a whole week without a game last week due to the absence of European commitments. The Spurs bench contained quality players such as Alan Hutton, Jermaine Jenas and Roman Pavlyuchenko, all of whom would be in fresh condition to come in to contention if Redknapp decides to rotate the pack. David Bentley, a scorer in a previous round, did not even make the eighteen-man squad on Saturday.
After two 5-1 wins over Championship sides Doncaster and Preston in the previous two rounds, and having only lost the final last year on penalties, it is a long time since Spurs suffered a League Cup defeat inside the regulation 90 minutes. As well as offering a chance to keep up this impressive record and, potentially, win some silverware, the game against Everton also carries another advantage as Spurs look to sustain their exciting league form. Not only will Redknapp be able to explore the depth of his squad, he will also be thankful that one game of Jermain Defoe’s three-match ban will be served, meaning the star striker will only miss two crucial league games in total. After a short-lived trial with a separate disciplinary procedure for the tournament a few years back, whereby bookings in the League cup only led to suspensions in that competition, Spurs are now able to exploit the repatriation of the cup to the overall disciplinary stakes. Missing Defoe for the game against Everton is not critical, especially as Peter Crouch enjoyed his best performance of the season in netting a hat-trick against Preston in the last round.
One player who will definitely be missing as well as Defoe is Aaron Lennon. The England winger limped off with an ankle problem against Stoke with quarter of an hour left, leaving his team with just ten men as Redknapp had used all his subs. The boss did not look happy that Lennon was unwilling to continue, but has moved to diffuse any suggestions that Lennon’s England aspirations had any bearing: “I hoped he could stay on but he couldn’t. I told him we’d only have ten men and could he play on, but he said his ankle was too sore. I don’t want to cause an issue. It’s not about England – he’s got big games coming up for Tottenham.” Redknapp will be hoping the injury isn’t too serious as the Carling Cup game against Everton is quickly followed by the north London showdown with Arsenal. It may well be a make-or-break week for Redknapp’s men.