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Spurs Odyssey FA Cup Preview - Newport v Spurs, 27.01.18

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Previous FA Cup meetings with Newport:-



Season  Rd  H/A  Result  Scorer(s):-
58-59    4   H    4-1    Dunmore (2), Smith (2)
59-60    3   A    4-0    Smith, Allen (2), Blanchflower

Here be dragons!

“Here be dragons!” is a phrase used historically to describe unfamiliar territory. Even one of the two (yes two) rugby teams that play at Newport’s Rodney Parade ground are called “Dragons”. Spurs haven’t called to this part of the world in nearly 60 years!

The town of Newport in south-east Wales is getting excited at the prospect of Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur coming to town! It is not so much because the locals are overawed by the prospect of Spurs’ visit, but with nothing to lose and their team in good form, they fancy their chances of pulling off an FA Cup shock.

Whoever Mauricio Pochettino selects to represent the mighty Spurs had better look out because they and their fans will offer a hostile welcome, not least because we come from over the border. An FA Cup trip to Cardiff 11 years ago comes to mind.

Another reason for the excitement is that this is the first time that Newport have reached the FA Cup Fourth round since they climbed back into the Football League 5 years ago, and indeed since 1979. Newport’s recent history is well known as the club established in 1912 folded in 1989. This particular phoenix successfully rose from the ashes, and eventually worked their way back up the football pyramid, starting in the Hellenic League and regaining football league status after winning the Conference Play-Off Final in May 2013. Former Spur Justin Edinburgh was the Newport manager then and has been the longest serving of the last 12 managers at Newport. Justin has moved on, and current County boss is former player Michael Flynn, who was appointed last May.

It must be said that Newport are in good shape in their current League Two campaign, sitting just one place and one point outside the play-off zone. They are unbeaten in their last six games which include their dramatic 2-1 third round win over Leeds. That win acted as revenge for an early season 5-1 beating Newport took at Elland Road in the League Cup. Their other FA Cup victims have been Walsall and Cambridge United. All of Newport’s FA Cup games have been at home.

A temporary stand has been built at the Rodney Parade ground to increase the capacity to around 10,000 for the visit of Spurs. The Leeds game attracted a crowd of nearly 7,000, and a sell-out is expected in tomorrow’s televised game (BT Sport). Newport were one of the original members of the Third Division (South) which was created in 1920. They fell out of the league in 1931 but were re-elected in 1932. Had there been an official Football League season in 1939-40, County would have been in Division Two. They did play Spurs on 31st August 1939 and drew 1-1, but that game was written off once the season was abandoned with the outbreak of World War Two. For the record Ron Burgess scored the Spurs goal, and the Spurs team included Bill Nicholson.

When League football returned in 1946, Newport did meet Spurs in Division Two. Ron Burgess was again a member of the Spurs side which won 4-2 at Somerton Park in September. Bill Nicholson was a member of the Spurs side which beat Newport 3-1 at White Hart Lane in October 1946. Les Medley scored one of Spurs’ goals, but the other two were scored by 32-year-old George Foreman, who was one of a generation of players whose careers were curtailed by the war. Foreman only played that season for Spurs, and his only other Football League season had been with West Ham in 1938-39. Those 1946 matches were the only Football League meetings we had with Newport.

We also met in the FA Cup twice in consecutive seasons. In 1958-59 in the fourth round the score was 4-1 at White Hart Lane. The next season it was the third round and Spurs won 4-0 at the then Newport ground Somerton Park (they now play at Rodney Parade). These games will bring back memories for Cliff Jones who played in both games. His brother Bryn played for Newport at the time. Like Cliff, Bryn also started at Swansea, and they played in the same team at the time Ron Burgess was the Swansea manager.

Having beaten Newport away in 1959-60 in the next round Spurs were drawn against Crewe. They drew 2-2 away but then beat Crewe 13-2 at WHL. Unfortunately, they then lost at home to Blackburn in the fifth round.

I haven’t found many Spurs – Newport connections, but one of them is goalkeeper Mark Kendall. Kendall was born in Monmouthshire in 1958 and made his Spurs debut in the 1978/79 season. He had a spell on loan with Chesterfield in 1979/80 playing only 9 games but finishing on the losing side just once. To this day Kendall is regarded as something of a hero in my current home town of Chesterfield.

Mark Kendall was signed from Spurs by Newport and played 327 games for them in all competitions. He was part of the Newport squad which played in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup in the 1980-81 season, after they had won the Welsh Cup. Sadly, Mark died all too young at the age of just 49 in 2008.

A less impressive Spurs connection is that of David Jenkins. Many current Spurs fans vilify Moussa Sissoko and don’t understand why he gets so much game time this season under Mauricio Pochettino. Jenkins was a much-hated Spurs player not least because he was the worst side of a bargain struck by Bill Nicholson when Jimmy Robertson went to Arsenal and Jenkins came to Tottenham. Jenkins only ever played in 16 games for Spurs, between 1968 and 1970, and after spells with Brentford and Hereford Utd he had a brief time with Newport in the 73/74 season.

Newport have a player in their camp who was with Wycombe Wanderers last year and who scored twice against us in that dramatic 4-3 win. He is 34-year-old Paul Hayes, but he has only had about 15 minutes game-time for his new club off the bench. More likely opponents up front are 29-year-old top scorer Padraig Amond and 29-year-old Frank Nouble. Between them they have 16 league two goals. Midfielder Joss Labadie has chipped in with 5 goals in all competitions, but he is a doubt for tomorrow’s game. The “Exiles” drew at home to Morecambe on Tuesday night in front of just 2,754 people.

After the surprise absence of Christian Eriksen from Sunday’s Southampton game, it is difficult to assess whatever team news we are fed by Spurs. We are told that Toby Alderweireld and Danny Rose are close to returns, but if Toby is nearly ready then Manchester United next Wednesday is more logical. Now apparently Serge Aurier, Harry Winks and Erik Lamela are doubts. Eriksen and the other major bug victim Hugo Lloris and rehabilitating with gym work.

The nature of the game, and the forthcoming crunch game against United suggests a weaker team than normal on a pitch which certainly won’t be any easier than that at Southampton on Sunday. Remember - three teams play at Rodney Parade, two of which are rugby teams!

So, it begins to look like a team of Vorm; Trippier, Foyth, Vertonghen, Walker-Peters; Wanyama, Dier; Sissoko, Dele, Son; Llorente/Kane. That’s all guess work of course. Whoever plays should of course be good enough to secure a place in the fifth round, but this is the FA Cup! I’ll say 3-0 to Spurs, but I hope for more.

We don't see too much of match referee Roger East. Mr East was in charge for our 5-1 win over Stoke early last month, but he was not highly rated by Spurs Odyssey voters. Mr. East was described as "whistle happy", missing too many obvious fouls and handball offences. On the plus side, Mr East was in charge of our fourth round game last year when we scraped home against Wycombe Wanderers in the seventh minute of added time!

· "It was Twenty Years ago today!" - Spurs drew at home to Barnsley in the same stage of the FA Cup in 1998.

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