It’s that time of the year again…the North London derby. On Sunday afternoon, Arsenal welcome an in-form Tottenham Hotspur side to the Emirates.
Since the inception of the Premier League, Arsenal have generally dominated the fixture – winning 18 matches out of a possible 44. However, Pochettino’s Spurs side are unbeaten in 10 Premier League games. It promises to be an interesting encounter.
On a chilly October night in 2008, the two sides produced one of the most remarkable encounters in Premier League history. With two minutes left on the clock, Arsenal were 4-2 up and seemingly coasting. Five minutes later, a pot shot from Luka Modric deflected off the post into the path of an onrushing Aaron Lennon… “AND LENNON HAS EQUALISED IN ONE OF THE MOST ASTONISHING MOMENTS OF THE SEASON!!”
But, what ever happened to the Tottenham side from that night? Where are they now?
Goalkeeper: Heurelho Gomes
Then: Gomes hadn’t had the best start to his Tottenham career. The summer signing had come with a big reputation and, in an early season tie against Aston Villa, let a weak shot by Ashley Young squirm under his body. Despite his mistakes, Gomes was still first choice under manager Harry Redknapp. For former club PSV, Gomes had been lauded for his immense reflexes. However, his tendency to punch soon became too much for Spurs fans to handle…
Now: Gomes has reinvigorated his Premier League career with newly-promoted Watford. The 34-year-old former Brazilian international has been one of the club’s most consistent performers during the opening exchanges of the 2015-2016 season, although he did concede a poor goal against Leicester. This is a far cry from the Gomes of old. While at Spurs, he was ridiculed for his inability to catch and apparent kicking difficulties. In particular, Gomes’ poor decision-making during the club’s 2010-2011 Champions League campaign allowed both Inter Milan and Real Madrid to take commanding leads – the incidents sealed his standing as one of the most unpopular signings in Spurs’ history.
Right-Back: Alan Hutton
Then: Hutton was at fault for Arsenal’s third goal – turning towards his goalkeeper and playing a lazy back pass right into the path of a hungry Adebayor. Injuries had restricted the talented Scotland international since his move from Rangers in 2008. Before moving to Spurs, Hutton had been one of the most talented young full-backs in Europe. He’d attracted the attention of the likes of Manchester United and even had Barcelona checking his progress. Hutton chose to sign for Tottenham in what was thought to be a £9 million deal. Despite a promising start, the marauding right-back was blighted with ankle injuries and soon saw his place taken by the more consistent Vedran Corluka.
Now: Like Gomes, Hutton has re-invigorated his career after a sticky spell in the loan market. He is currently playing week-in-week-out for Premier League side Aston Villa. His Tottenham career didn’t last long into the Redknapp reign. He was sent out of loan soon after the Arsenal game and, upon returning, was made to train with the youth side. The emergence of a young Kyle Walker further restricted Hutton and, by 2011, he was on the books of Aston Villa. Ever since, he’s been in and out of the side, finding favour recently under the tutorship of Tim Sherwood. It remains to be seen whether Hutton’s talents will impress new boss, Remi Garde.
Left-Back: Benoit Assou-Ekotto
Then: After seeing first-team appearances limited in the opening weeks of the 2008-2009 season, Assou-Ekotto publicly announced his intention to leave the club and return home. However, the arrival of Harry Redknapp offered the Cameroon international a fresh start. Since joining the club in 2006 as a talented French born youth international, Assou-Ekotto had been damaged by both injury and competition for places – namely the reliable Lee Young-Pyo. The £3.5 million defender was cool and calm on the ball and soon became a Redknapp favourite.
Now: Assou-Ekotto is currently playing for Saint-Etienne in the French top division. Despite endearing himself to Spurs fans during a nine-year spell, the controversial star ended on bad terms. After being banished to the reserves by new manager Mauricio Pochettino, Assou-Ekotto refused to leave the club by mutual consent. Instead, he continued to collect his £40,000-a-week wages and ran down his contract. He will be best remembered in English football for saying he didn’t actually enjoy playing the game – it was, and always will be, a job for the Cameroon international.
Centre-Back: Vedran Corluka
Then: Croatia international, Corluka, was a big name summer signing for Tottenham in the summer of 2008. The former Manchester City defender signed for the club for a handy fee of around £5.5 million. Despite his defensive qualities, many Spurs fans were miffed by Corluka’s apparent lack of pace. This was particularly apparent when the young defender came up against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Didier Drogba. Nevertheless, he proved to be a useful outlet for the north London side, filling in at right-back when needed.
Now: Since 2012, Corluka has been playing for Lokomotiv Moscow in the Russia top-flight. Premier League side West Ham have been heavily linked with the 29-year-old’s signature. His Tottenham career ended in 2011 when, unable to dislodge the impressive Kyle Walker, he sought pastures new on loan at Bayern Leverkusen in the German top division. The experienced international will be forever remembered for his decision to swap a £36,000 watch with a nightclub waiter, who had admired it!
Centre-Back: Jonathan Woodgate
Then: Woodgate has had an interesting career. In his early 20’s, he was at the centre of a huge race and assault storm. By his mid 20’s, he was a Real Madrid outcast – voted the worst signing in the club’s illustrious history. By his late 20’s, he was one of the Premier League’s best players. How did this happen? Well, after an impressive two-year spell re-establishing himself at Middlesbrough, Tottenham decided to risk the £8 million needed for the defender’s signature. He quickly settled in and, after a run of first-team games uninterrupted by controversy or injury, was named as the club’s vice captain. He captained the club to League Cup triumph against Chelsea – heading the winner in extra-time. His form for Spurs encouraged his re-integration into the England national set up.
Now: 35-year-old Woodgate is plying his trade back at Middlesbrough in the English Championship. Persistent injuries curtailed any longing impact at Spurs. After a season-and-a-half of triumph and good form, Woodgate succumbed to a serious groin injury. He played his final game for the club 14 months later in a Champions League tie against AC Milan. Injury further limited Woodgate during at spell at Stoke City. He moved to Middlesbrough in 2012.
Right Midfield: David Bentley
Then: Bentley was the golden boy of English football – the next David Beckham. The English wizard scored one of the goals of the season in the game against Arsenal, striking a 40-yard volley over the despairing Manuel Almunia. He had signed for Spurs just a few months earlier. The £15 million deal from fellow Premier League side, Blackburn, seemed a snip for the man everyone was talking about. While at Blackburn, Bentley pitched in with 26 assists in two seasons and dislodged David Beckham at international level. He was a managerial and fans’ favourite. However, at Spurs, Bentley had the resurgent Aaron Lennon to compete with – he was by no means a guaranteed starter.
Now: Remarkably, Bentley is no longer playing professional football. Despite only being 31, he retired from the game a year or so ago. In recent interviews, the former Spurs man said that he “never felt like a footballer”. He claimed that the game lacked characters and has become “robotic”. He is now a successful restauranteur and occasional gaelic football competitor. His Spurs career never quite took off. Soon into Harry Redknapp’s managerial spell, Bentley fell out with the experienced manager. Redknapp preferred to utilise the pace of Aaron Lennon, thus leaving Bentley to sit on the bench. He left Spurs in search of first-team football, going as far as Russia. However, Bentley struggled to re-produce his old form and eventually retired from the game in 2014.
Left Midfield: Gareth Bale
Then: Harry Redknapp took a risk on a player who hadn’t won a game in a Tottenham shirt. For all his talent, Gareth Bale just couldn’t catch a break. The Wales international was, at one time, one of the best young talents in the England. However, since joining Spurs from Southampton in a £5 million deal, his confidence had been shot. He was often utilised at left-back and struggled to win over the Spurs faithful. However, his technically ability and athleticism could not be denied. He just needed the break..
Now: Bale is arguably one of the best players in the world. The Real Madrid forward has not only won league titles and the Champions League, but has spearheaded his country’s recent march to the European Championships – the first Welsh team to do so since 1958. His curse didn’t last too long into the Redknapp reign. And with that, the floodgates opened. 4-0 down in a Champions League tie against Inter Milan at the San Siro, and with Spurs a man light, Bale announced his name in stupendous fashion. His second half hat-trick sent shivers throughout Europe. He became target number one and, for a while, was marked out of games. His manager, Redknapp, realised this and began allowing the Welshman free reign of the pitch. In 2013, Real Madrid decided to break the world-record to sign Bale for £85 million. In his first season, he helped the club to their tenth Champions League title – scoring the winning goal in the final.
Central Midfield: Luka Modric
Then: Modric was the star turn in an aspiring Tottenham side. His £16.5 million move from Dinamo Zagreb was the club’s record transfer and shocked many in the game. The media and pundits had expected him to sign for a Champions League side rather than an aspiring mid-table regular. In his early games under Juande Ramos, Modric was used as a deep-lying playmaker – a role he initially struggled to cope with. Many Spurs fans questioned why they had paid so much money for a player who didn’t seem to handle the physical side of the Premier League very well.
Now: Like Bale, the now 30-year-old Modric is one of the best players in world football. He lines up alongside the Welshman week in, week out at Real Madrid. Despite struggling initially in English football, Modric soon adapted and became one of the best players at the club. Once Ramos had been relieved of his duties, Modric was utilised in a more forward-thinking role. In the 2010-2011 season, he was named Tottenham’s “Player of the Season”. Just a year later, Real Madrid signed him for £30 million. The trophies have inevitably followed for the experienced international. Spurs have never quite managed to replace him.
Central Midfield: Jermaine Jenas
Then: Jenas’ curling effort from the edge of the box gave Spurs the hope they needed in the dying moments of the derby. The experienced England international had been at the club since his £7 million move from Newcastle United in 2005. By 2008, he was an important cog in the Spurs machine. However, for many a Spurs fan, Jenas’ lack of final product was the a major concern. In a game against Newcastle United, Jenas ran the length of the pitch with Bale, rounded the keeper and seemed destined to score. Unfortunately, he slipped at the final moment and wasted what could have been the goal of the season.
Now: Jenas is a leading pundit of the BBC’s flagship show, Match of the Day. Despite being just 32, injuries forced Jenas to end his career at the end of the 2014-2015 season. He stayed at Tottenham until 2013, but had several loan moves away during this period. He finished his career at struggling Premier League side, Queens Park Rangers.
Central Midfield: Tom Huddlestone
Then: When Huddlestone signed from Derby County in 2005, he was one of the best young British talents around. His £2.5 million move appeared to be a bit of a coup for the North London club. By the 2008-2009 season, Huddlestone was a first-team regular, fighting with the likes of Didier Zokora and Jamie O’Hara for the central midfield berth. Under previous manager, Juande Ramos, Huddlestone was questioned on his weight – he was ordered to take part in an intensive training routine.
Now: Huddlestone has been at Championship side Hull City since 2013. They signed him for a fee of around £5 million. His opening period with the club was reasonably successful – leading to a re-integration into the England National side. However, at the end of the 2014-2015 Premier League season, Hull were relegated. Despite interest from the likes of Aston Villa and West Ham, Huddlestone vowed to help the club back into the top league. They are currently top of the Championship.
Striker: Roman Pavlyuchenko
Then: After scoring consistently in the Russian Premier League, Tottenham decided that Pavlychenko was the man to lead their line. He signed for the club in September 2008, for a fee of around £13 million. In 189 games for his former side, Pavlyuchenko had scored nearly 100 times. However, at Spurs, the Russia international struggled to fit in – the language barrier, in particular, proved to be a major hurdle.
Now: The 33-year-old is now playing for FC Kuban Krasnodar in the Russian top flight. He left Tottenham in 2012 after four solid seasons at the club. “Super Pav” became a cult figure at the club – scoring goals when it mattered. It was his goal against against Basel in the Champions League play-off that got Spurs back into the tie. Without it, who knows whether Spurs would have made it all the way to the quarter-finals. He joined Lokomotiv Moscow after leaving Spurs, scoring 17 times between 2012 and 2015.