Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tottenham v Shamrock Rovers Europa League Preview

A first meeting between Spurs and Shamrock Rovers at White Hart Lane on Thursday evening in the second Group stage match of the Europa League.  Tottenham will be looking for their first win in the competition following a draw in Greece two weeks ago.

Tottenham Look to Shatter the Rovers' Dream

On qualifying for the Group stages of the Europa League, the Shamrock Rovers' manager, Michael O'Neill, had only one team in mind for his ideal draw - Tottenham Hotspur.  This game at White Hart Lane and the return in Dublin in December will be 'living the dream' for everyone involved with Shamrock Rovers.  It is their opportunity to play on the big stage, in front of the television cameras and they will give it everything to make it a memorable evening for the 4,000 Rovers fans who are crossing the Irish Sea.  There will be considerable support in the ground for Rovers with many Irish people who now live in England being drawn to the game.

Michael O'Neill has done a remarkable job at Shamrock Rovers since taking over in 2008.  Both he and his assistant, Jim Magilton have considerable experience as players at the highest level and O'Neill has managed in Scotland while Magilton managed both Ipswich Town and Queen's Park Rangers.  The team will be well prepared and O'Neill has called for great concentration from his players to help then deal with the occasion.  He has also signed four players to strengthen his squad since reaching the group stages, including Jim Patterson who has experience in Scotland with Dundee United and has played for Plymouth Argyle.  Rohan Ricketts has also joined and since leaving Tottenham in 2005 for Wolverhampton Wanderers he has played for numerous clubs in a number of different countries.

European Competitions
On two previous occasions Spurs have faced opponents from the League of Ireland in European competition.  In 1981-82 in the Cup Winners' Cup, Tottenham overcame Dundalk 2 - 1 on aggregate.  They were relieved to leave Ireland with a 1 - 1 draw and won the home leg by a single goal from Garth Crooks who scored both Spurs goals in the tie.

Two years later it was so much easier as Spurs won the away game against Drogheda United by six goals, Gary Mabbutt (2), Mark Falco (2), Tony Galvin and Garth Crooks scoring.  The return game was a formality but a full strength team was fielded at White Hart Lane and scored eight without reply for a 14 - 0 aggregate win.  Chris Hughton, Graham Roberts (2), Steve Archibald, Mark Falco (2) and Alan Brazil (2) getting on the scoresheet.

Friendly Matches
Other meetings with teams from Ireland have usually been games played as part of preparations for a new season.  For a number of years Tottenham were regular visitors where they have a large following and in the late 1980s/early 1990s Terry Venables liked to take his team to Ireland to play their first couple of pre-season games.

Ardiles and Villa
Aug. 1978 v Bohemians Won 4 - 0  Hoddle, Armstrong, Moores, Taylor
This match was one of the early games in which Spurs two new signings played - Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa.  Their presence in the match added to the anticipation of the local supporters.
Aug. 1981 v Limerick Won 6 - 2  Archibald, Hoddle (4), Falco
FA Cup holders, Tottenham paraded the trophy around the ground prior to kick-off.
July, 1989 v Bohemians Won 2 - 0  Stewart, Walsh
                 v Cork City Won 3 - 0 Mabbutt, Gascoigne, Lineker
Aug. 1990 v Shelbourne Won 3 - 0 Gascoigne (2), Lineker
July, 1993 v Shelbourne XI Won 4 - 2 Barmby, Sheringham, Turner, Opp. o.g.
                 v Drogheda United Won 3 - 1 Anderton, Sheringham (2)
Oct. 1988 v Home Farm Won 4 - 0 Fenwick(p), Howells, Stewart, Opp.o.g.
Aug. 1994 v Shelbourne Won 1 - 0 Klinsmann
Having signed for Spurs, Jurgen Klinsmann made his debut a few days earlier at Watford and scored his first goal of a memorable season in Ireland.
Mar. 2002 v Bohemians Lost 1 - 3 Doherty

Rohan Ricketts
Rohan Ricketts
Rohan Ricketts is a former Tottenham player and probably the only 'known' name in the squad made up mainly of players who have played most of their football in Ireland.  O'Neill has brought in some experienced players from Scotland, using his knowledge of the Scottish game to good effect.  Ricketts started in the Arsenal youth system but moved to Tottenham in 2002 having made one appearance in the League Cup.

In season 2003-04, he became a regular member of the team under Glenn Hoddle.  He made 28 League and Cup appearances, scoring twice.  The following season he made only 6 appearances after the sacking of Hoddle and after a time out on loan he joined Wolves in 2005.  After two years there he went to Barnsley and moved on the following year to Toronto FC.  After a good first season he fell out of favour with the arrival of home-grown players so he left to play in Hungary, Moldova and Germany.  In his travels he has expereinced many difficulties but is hoping that his spell with Rovers will be an opportunity to show that he is still capable of playing in English football.

He has made an impressive start with Rovers, creating the two goals on his debut at the beginning of September and scoring his first goal last weekend against Bray Wanderers.

Tottenham will turn to their squad and young players for this game with the North London derby looming on Sunday.  The young players have shown excellent ability and application in the games they've played so far, the  one thing lacking has been goals - three scoreless draws against Hearts, PAOK Salonika and Stoke.  If Roman Pavlyuchenko doesn't recover from the injury which caused him to miss the game at Wigan, Jermain Defoe may be called upon to play alongside Harry Kane.  Otherwise the team will be made up of the players who didn't play at the weekend.

Harry Redknapp has put a lot of faith in the youngsters for the Europa League so that the senior players can sit out the mid-week games and be fully prepared for the Premier League challenges.  He needs them to find a goal scoring touch as he is relying on winning at home to ensure qualification for the knock-out stages in 2012.  Shamrock Rovers are the weakest team in the group so Tottenham will be looking for a commanding performance and goals to ease their passage to the next stage.



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