First trophy could herald glittering Spurs era, says Hazard
By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - Claiming a first trophy could be the toughest hurdle for Tottenham Hotspur's exciting young squad but should they do so it could herald in a golden era for the club, according to former midfielder Micky Hazard.
Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham side face London rivals Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday in a clash between the two sides battling for the Premier League title.
Hazard, an influential part of the last Tottenham squad to regularly win silverware in the 1980s believes there is currently no better team in England than Spurs but says getting over the line is crucial for them to take the next step.
"Ultimately a team will be judged on what it wins," Hazard, who won the 1982 FA Cup and 1984 UEFA Cup with Tottenham and also had a five-year stint at Chelsea, told Reuters on the eve of the eagerly-awaited semi-final.
"When you win a trophy it takes you to a level where you start to really believe you can do it three or four times.
"That's the hard part, though. If this Spurs team gets over the line sooner rather than later they will surge ahead because they are that good. But until you do that you never know whether you've got what it takes.
"Winning the FA Cup would take them to the next stage in their mentality."
While a first FA Cup title since 1991 looks to be Tottenham's most realistic shot of rubber-stamping their rise under Pochettino with a trophy this season, the Premier League title is still a tantalising possibility.
A burst of seven consecutive league wins and a Chelsea wobble means the gap between the clubs has been reduced from 10 down to four points in the space of a few weeks.
While no points are available at Wembley on Saturday, Hazard believes the outcome could have huge significance for the six remaining league games both sides have left.
"It's a massive game anyway but it goes above that because of the statement it could send out if Tottenham win and the effect it could have on Chelsea," Hazard, 57, said.
"Chelsea are in pole position in the league and you look at their fixtures and you think 'how are they going to slip up?'. But they were 10 points clear and now it's four.
"It's a bit like being 2-0 up in a game when you are coasting. Then the opposition score and everything gets jittery and you end up drawing or losing. The psychological effect is similar in the run-in to a title chase.
"Chelsea won't crumble, they have too many good players. But that doesn't mean you don't feel pressure. If Chelsea lost and then drop points in their next league game it's a different kettle of fish. Then the pressure can become uncontrollable."
Tottenham have won 11 more Premier League points than any other club since the start of last season, have the youngest regular starting squad in the top flight and have a new 61,000-seater stadium on the way.
With a state-of-the-art training ground and the hugely admired Pochettino at the helm, Hazard believes there is little chance of the likes of the English core of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Kyle Walker being tempted elsewhere.
"Poch's name is written all over this team and he is the perfect manager for the club. There is not a more exciting club in the world than Tottenham at the moment," Hazard said.
"If you don't want to play for Spurs at the moment you are a mug because it's so exciting, the team is exciting the facilities are second to none. The whole place is buzzing.
"Poch prides himself in making good players even better and when you have a manager like that you don't need to spend millions. There is something magical about taking a group of footballers who are not challenging for the top honours and then working so hard with them that they turn into challengers.
"That is a process that has been going on since he arrived. And it's not finished yet."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)