2 Good, 2 Bad – A History of Tottenham Vs Newbies in the EPL
Tottenham opened their first campaign as Wembley-based nomads with a trip to St James Park on Sunday. While Newcastle United represented familiar opposition for Tottenham, the Lilywhites will face two newly-promoted sides (Brighton & Hove Albion and Huddersfield Town), who are making their Premier League debut, for the first time since the 2008/09 season.
Though the Premier League is now 25 years old, only eight seasons in its history (including 2017/18) have seen at least two of the three newly-promoted teams making a Premier League debut. So just how have Premier League ever-presents Tottenham fared against such opposition in those seasons?
1992/93 – Points return: 27.7% (worst)
Newly-promoted debutants: Blackburn, Ipswich, Middlesbrough
Tottenham began life in the Premier League modestly. It was a far cry from the present-day situation, in which the latest football betting odds show Tottenham as just 9/1 to win the title. Though Teddy Sheringham joined from Nottingham Forest early that season, Tottenham pulled only one win from a possible six against the newly-promoted sides. Ironically, the toughest of those fixtures – 2-0 away to a title-chasing Blackburn side – was that sole win. A 3-0 defeat at Ayresome Park, to the eventually-relegated Middlesbrough, was a particularly bleak moment.
1993/94 – Points return: 38.8%
Debutants: Newcastle, West Ham, Swindon
The following season was a bare improvement where the points return is concerned, but Tottenham’s home form against debuting sides in the Premier League remained woeful. A 1-0 win at St James Park on the opening day of the season, against a Newcastle Untied team powered by Andy Cole (and tipped as title outsiders), gave Tottenham some cause for encouragement. Sadly, the humiliations were not far off. As well as losing 1-4 at home to West Ham, Tottenham also took just one point from a possible six against Swindon, with John Gorman’s side conceding 100 goals.
1996/97 – Points return: 58.8%
Debutants: Sunderland, Derby
Tottenham took just a single point from six against Derby County but did the league double over Sunderland, scoring six unanswered goals against the latter.
1999/00 – Points return: 50%
Debutants: Watford, Bradford
In a season that was neither here nor there, Tottenham drew with Bradford 1-1 in both encounters. Tottenham yielded that same scoreline at Vicarage Road against a hapless Watford side that could never hope to survive. They thrashed the Hornets 4-0 at White Hart Lane.
2002/03 – Points return: 83.3% (best)
Debutants: West Bromwich, Birmingham City
Although the dawn of the new millennium saw little change at White Hart Lane, it represented a drastic improvement of fortunes against newly promoted clubs making a Premier League debut. A league double over a useless West Bromwich side was the least that could be expected for Tottenham’s long-suffering fan base. A draw at a surprisingly capable Birmingham City, prior to a 2-1 win in the reverse at White Hart Lane, was no disgrace.
2002/03 – Points return: 75%
Debutants: Wolves, Portsmouth
Tottenham did the double over Wolves (7-2 on aggregate), but could not quite match the record of the previous season. Boxing Day saw David Pleat’s men lose 2-0 to Portsmouth at Fratton Park, but they gained revenge in an enthralling 4-3 win over ‘the Pompey’ two months later.
2008/09 – Points return: 50%
Debutants: Stoke City, Hull City
Had the board acted sooner in ousting Juande Ramos, the above percentage would likely be higher. A 1-0 home defeat to Hull City, followed by a 2-1 loss at Stoke confirmed Tottenham’s record worst start to a season in history. After Harry Redknapp’s arrival, Tottenham improved drastically, and won both return fixtures against the debutants of 2008.
The rest, as they say, is history. Tottenham Hotspur F.C now finds itself in a rarefied position, but history itself serves as a warning against complacency. Newly-promoted Premier League sides, especially debuting ones with nothing to lose, can pose as much of a threat as the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea. Tottenham’s first test of that ilk comes on 30 September, when Pochettino’s men travel to the Kirklees Stadium to face Huddersfield Town.