Tottenham’s trip to West Ham this weekend is partly a quest for revenge as far as Spurs are concerned.
Last season, though in reality just months ago, Mauricio Pochettino’s side traveled to the London Stadium for the first time in a game they had to win to keep up any pretence of a title challenge. In the end, they lost to a late Manuel Lanzini strike and their title tilt dissipated under the floodlights of the new Hammers home.
The reality is perhaps slightly more nuanced. In the end, it wasn’t really that one defeat which gifted Chelsea the title, and even if Spurs had won the game they would still have finished second in the league barring a Chelsea collapse.
Most likely, they’d have finished four points back instead of seven, but no-one will remember the number in the years to come. They might, harshly enough, remember West Ham as the team that ended their chances, though. Such is football’s selective memory.
Despite being a Premier League fixture for the vast majority of the Premier League years, it’s still unsurprising that Tottenham have the edge in this one. Despite being a firmly established and upward looking Premier League side, West Ham have spent years fighting the drop or settling for midtable finishes.
But while the stats bear that out – 20 wins for Spurs to West Ham’s 14, ten more goals for the north London club and the fact that West Ham have won under half of their derby games at home – they aren’t hideously one-sided.
Over the last few years especially, Spurs have been by far the more successful side in the league, finishing in the Champions League spots and finding themselves in title contention two years in a row. And yet West Ham will always raise their game for an occasion like this one, especially in front of their home crowd. And indeed, West Ham’s seven red cards to Tottenham’s two probably tells you all you need to know about where the emotion lies.
A jaunt through the top scorers list for this Premier League fixture throws up quite a striking find: the top five scorers are all feted Spurs strikers. From the likes of Jurgen Klinsmann and Dimitar Berbatov on three goals, to Jermaine Defoe and Teddy Sheringham, who tops the list with eight, each one has pulled on the Lilywhite shirt with distinction.
But the interesting part is the fact that the top two on the list, Sheringham and Defoe, are Old Boys of both clubs, with strikes in this London derby for both teams. Perhaps that hints that neither side has had a dominant striker. Until now.
This weekend, Harry Kane can level Defoe’s tally with another goal in a London derby. He’s only had a few years at the top and scoring goals, but Kane is already closing in on the legends of this fixture, and his London derby goal tally is already superb. Pretty soon we could be talking about Kane as the undisputed top scorer in games between West Ham and Spurs, and the frightening thing is he’s only 24.
There may have been more pulsating, more jaw-dropping games of football between these two irrepressible rivals, but nothing stands out for drama and historical curiosity as the 2006 showdown between the two on the final game of the season.
Needing a win to ensure fourth place and Champions League football ahead of their north London rivals Arsenal, Spurs had to travel to Upton Park to face another bitter London rival West Ham at the Boleyn Ground. The night before the game, in a London hotel, as many as ten of Tottenham’s players were struck down by a stomach bug hiding in a badly-cooked lasagna.
Michael Carrick, Edgar Davids and Robbie Keane, to name just a few, were all taken ill but forced to start the final game of the season, attempting to win or simply match Arsenal’s result in order to make it to the Champions League the next season. But a patched-up team failed to overcome their final hurdle as Arsenal beat Wigan 4-2 in their final ever game at Highbury to overtake Spurs on the line and pip them to fourth spot. Food poisoning is no laughing matter. Right, West Ham fans?
Honourable mentions must go to some of the strikers listed above who have graced both teams. Teddy Sheringham is a real Spurs legend, but was in the twilight of a glittering career when he joined the Hammers. Jermain Defoe, on the other hand, played for West Ham at a very different part of his career-span, but his behaviour in refusing a new contract and suffering disciplinary issues in his final season at the club didn’t sit well with Hammers fans, even if all of that is now a decade ago.
Perhaps, then, the most heroic player to have played for both clubs in the Premier League era is Scott Parker. The only man to have played for North, South, East and West London clubs in the Premier League is also the last man to have won the Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year whilst wearing a West Ham shirt and winning three consecutive Hammer of the Year awards to boot.
Although Parker only spent two seasons at White Hart Lane, his contribution – in the first season especially – was immense, and he was rewarded with a place in the PFA Team of the Year and a fourth place finish in the Premier League, though once again Spurs missed out on Champions League football as Chelsea’s European Cup victory forced the Lilywhites into the Europa League. He is now back at the club in a coaching capcity.