If Tottenham Hotspur are to flourish in both the Premier League and UEFA Champions League this season they will have to deal with the mental effects of playing in both competitions, according to former Spurs player and manager Glenn Hoddle.
The ex-England midfielder had prolific success in cup competitions with the north London club, and as well as thriving in domestic tournaments he was also part of their triumph in the 1984 UEFA Cup, later guiding Monaco the quarter-finals of the European Cup.
With forays in the Cup Winners’ Cup too, Hoddle has played across the whole range of European competitions, and with his former club experiencing their first outing on UEFA’s top stage in almost half a century, he feels Spurs need to be prepared for the impact of fighting on two fronts.
After Tuesday’s highly charged 3-1 victory over Inter Milan, Tottenham have a tough trip north to face Bolton Wanderers and Hoddle feels their psychological approach to games like this will define their season.
He told FIFA.com: “It’s the emotional and mental effects rather than the physical ones that are the main issue. The coming down side of things was where we always had problems during my time at Tottenham, and most teams in the Champions League find that’s why you need a big, strong squad.
“That’s the challenge that modern-day teams have to face. They had a hard trip to Milan a fortnight ago and the following weekend they drew at home to Everton.
“Dealing with this is key to preventing their Premier League results faltering while they’re still in the Europe. But if you want to play in the Champions League with the big boys you need to have a squad that can cope with that.”
Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea have all complained in the past about ‘the European hangover’ after midweek matches, producing below-par performances in subsequent Premier League games. However, experience in the Champions League has since helped them maintain form in both competitions.
So far it looks like Spurs are coping well with the pressure, with victories against Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers in the wake of games against foreign opposition – a 1-1 draw with Everton being the only blemish so far since qualification.
However their form in Europe's premier club competition is what has really been catching people’s eyes. A valiant comeback in Milan to narrowly lose 4-3 brought commendation, but Tuesday’s convincing win at White Hart Lane really drew the plaudits, and Hoddle was no different.
He told Sky Sports: “It was an unbelievable performance and one that will no doubt give them a huge belief that they can go on to the latter stages of the tournament. They’ve put themselves in pole position within the group and they deserved it, they were absolutely outstanding from the front right through to the back.”
He also saved individual praise for Gareth Bale, Tottenham’s top performer over the two legs and arguably now one of Europe’s hottest properties.
“This boy is really playing at the top level," he said. "He is playing at his very, very best and any centre-forward in the world would love to have him in their side right now.”