Spurs and the Clarets get ready to renew old rivalry

Last updated : 06 January 2009 By Gareth Davies
Tottenham Hotspur has been long derided as a club entrenched in the past, too fixated on former glories and the golden era of the Sixties. It is apt, then, that this evening's opponents should evoke memories of such golden times, during a period when the club have spent so much time, energy and money in attempting to recapture the glory days.

Few at White Hart Lane this evening will remember when Tottenham against Burnley was the most eagerly anticipated match on the footballing calendar, when Jimmy Greaves and Dave Mackay donned lilywhite and Jimmy Mcllroy and Jimmy Robson wore the claret and blue during the 1962 FA Cup final.

GLORY: Spurs celebrate winning the FA Cup in 1962
I wasn't even alive at the time, but I grew up on the nostalgia, and garnered a unique feel for the classic rivalry, through the tales my father - who is an avid Burnley fan - used to tell. A man who choked on the irony when his eldest son picked Tottenham as his team of choice.

By that time, the mid 1980s, Burnley's hay day had long gone and ours was quickly evaporating into a sepia-toned haze. Yes the Claret's fall from grace was more dramatic and further than ours but few would argue that we have come markedly closer than our old foes to regaining the title of biggest club in the land.

Not that winning the Carling Cup, even in successive years, will bring us any closer to achieving that goal. When Greaves, Danny Blanchflower and Bobby Smith helped us to a 3-1 back in 1962, Bill Nicholson's great Spurs side were in the middle of a sequence of four successive top-three finishes, and had just became the first post-war double winners just a year earlier. Fast forward half a century and the current side can't make into the top half of the table, let alone win the league.

t least we have retained our top flight status. Not since 1976 have Burnley graced the top tier of English football, underachievement that is hard to fathom given the club's illustrious history; In 1960 Burnley were were league champions and a year later they reached the quarter finals of the European Cup.

From Princes to paupers. From 1985 they endured a seven year spell in Division Four during which period the club came moments away from oblivion. In 1987 Burnley went into the last match of the season needing a win against Leyton Orient to stay in the football league. They got it - 2-1 the final score - but it was the lowest point of a dramatic decline.

However, things are looking up for the boys from Turf Moor. Under the likes of Stan Ternant, then Steve Cotterill and now Owen Coyle, the wily Scot, Burnley have gradually risen up the divisions and to establish itself as one of the Championships most stable clubs. Better still, promotion may be a genuine possibility for a side that have threatened to win a place in the play-offs on more than one occasion over the past five years.

Never have their prospects been as exciting in recent years as they are now. Under Coyle, who was a complete unknown in English football before his he crossed the border from St. Johnstone, the club have seen an influx of young talent joining on the leagues smallest clubs (at times in the past few years coaches have had to be named on the bench due to the paucity in numbers). Coyle has persuaded Manchester United's precociously talented youngster Chris Eagles to swap Old Trafford for Turf Moor, and captured the signings of Scunthorpe striker Martin Paterson - a revelation in a struggling side last year - and Dundee midfielder Kevin McDonald.

SHOCK: Burnley dump Arsenal out of the competition
Its is these players, and older heads like modern Clarets legend Robbie Blake, who have helped fire Owen Coyle's men past three Premiership clubs on the way to this evening's semi-final,and repaid the faith of chairman Barry Kilby. Having beaten Fulham, Arsenal and Chelsea already this season, there is little wonder Kilby believes his side can secure a place at Wembley, starting with a solid performance this evening.

As a result, Harry Redknapp is under no illusion of the task facing his depleted side. In the injured Darren Bent's absence, Roman Pavlyuchenko will lead the line and Tom Huddlestone or Jamie O'Hara, impressive over recent weeks, will fill in for the suspended Jermain Jenas. Oh how Harry would love to be able to call on new signing Jermain Defoe, who will be presented to rapturous applause before kick off.

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The word from Coyle and his players is that they will adopt the same approach as has served them so well in previous rounds, in that they not sit back and try to defend. Its the sort of positive approach that should be applauded, and with the technical ability of Eagles, who has weighed in with a fair share of assists this season, and a wealth of goalscoring midfielders at his disposal, Coyle's side will get chances. The key maybe in whether they allow the likes of Luka Modric and Pavlyuchenko - so impressive against Wigan - the space to work their brand of magic. If they do, then it could be a long hard night for the fans in claret and blue.

One suspects, however, a much closer affair than that. But why not? What would be more fitting than for two clubs, steeped in history and a Corinthian rivalry, to enjoy a traditional, hard fought cup tie?

As I finger through pictures of the 61 final, a contest nicknamed "The Chessboard Final" due to it tactical and slow paced nature, my phone buzzes on the desk. I've told my Dad I've just got tickets for this evening's game and, sure enough, the banter restarts.

Enjoy "Captial Punishment 4", he says. You know what? I think I will.