In early 2006 I had just moved to the UK and was doing some work at Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur in North London.
I’d only been there a few days before nearly being mown down by then art-buff boss Martin Jol. The ultimate gent, he apologised before bustling into the office to plot Spurs’ first-ever Champions League campaign, as they looked set to finish fourth.
It ended up not to be, as his squad was struck down on the eve of the final league match of the season by food poisoning and lost to West Ham on the final day, finishing fifth.
Eventually the popular Jol was fired in 2007 (replaced by Juande Ramos) and went on to coach Hamburg and Ajax Amsterdam before returning to the Premier League as boss of Fulham.
He’s also the man now that possibly stands in the way of Spurs finishing fourth and securing a Champions League spot.
What’s that saying about the wheel turning?
This weekend sees the conclusion of one of the more exciting title races in recent times, with Manchester United seemingly having it sewn up before the ‘noisy neighbours’ City hauled them back into it - one Mario Balotelli-tantrum and Carlos Tevez-golf round at a time.
City should then wrap up the title - they’re better off by eight goals on the table, as they host a desperate QPR guided by former City boss Mark Hughes (a former United legend nonetheless). His departure, though, was acrimonious, so how sweet the revenge would be.
Manchester United will be hoping to avoid the curse of the Black Cat as they travel to the Stadium of Light to take on a Sunderland side not known for their charity, but with nothing at all to gain other than perhaps moving up one spot ahead of West Brom.
At the bottom Wolves and Blackburn Rovers are already gone. Rovers is already starting to cannabilise itself and with a host of good players now available, that will whet the appetite of those with cash to spend.
Perhaps even Orlando Pirates will now bid for Yakubu?
But the third and final team to join them appears to be a straight fight between QPR and Aston Villa on 37 and 38 points respectively.
Villa take on Norwich, who have arguably been the team of the season under Paul Lambert.
And then it’s the fight for fourth.
How Newcastle have ended up joint on points with Spurs is beyond me. It is incredible, but what an achievement by Alan Pardew’s side. But really who would you rather see in the Champions League, Gareth Bale or Santon? Yep, I thought so. Case closed.
Perhaps Steven Pienaar can do his parent club a favour then in ending Newcastle’s hopes, as Everton host the Magpies.
As for Spurs - well they host Jol’s Fulham side at White Hart Lane. Surely he won’t be a main protagonist in Spurs missing out on the Champions League, again.
All games kick-off at 4PM (SA time) on Sunday.
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