• FA Cup

Silverware chance worth fighting for

Kevin Keegan March 17, 2012
Tottenham face Bolton on Saturday at White Hart Lane © Getty Images
Enlarge

This weekend, Tottenham v Bolton at White Hart Lane is live on ESPN. Click here to subscribe.

Tottenham's poor recent run continued as they lost at Everton in front of the ESPN cameras last Saturday - they've just completely lost momentum and hit a brick wall at a bad time.

The players may be starting to fear that their season will fizzle out but the FA Cup still presents them with great opportunity to win some silverware and I'm sure they will fancy their chances when Bolton travel to White Hart Lane in the quarter-finals on Sunday.

This week the Premier League managers voted Spurs the most exciting team to watch in the division, but they could still end up with nothing to show for it. It was a similar situation with my Newcastle team, everyone loved to watch us play, we played great football and we could beat anyone on our day - but we didn't win anything. Even if Tottenham finish third or fourth, which will obviously be a great achievement this season, they wouldn't have a trophy to parade, or a medal to show. That's what players crave.

There's been plenty of speculation that both Bolton, who are struggling at the wrong end of the table, and Spurs will field weakened teams as they are keen to focus on the league. I can understand why they would be tempted to and it's fair to say that neither side will want a replay. If you told Bolton, 'You're going to lose at Spurs but stay up', they'd probably take that without even getting on the coach. However, a place in the FA cup semi-finals, to be played at Wembley, is still a major incentive. Bolton had a great run to the semi-finals last year before having that massive disappointment of getting battered by Stoke, but they've been to Wembley and the players who lost that day will want to prove they can go a step further.

A win on Saturday would be a major confidence boost to either side and we've seen time and time again that clubs who have a good Cup run see their league form pick up because the players get into a winning mentality. I have never viewed the FA Cup as a distraction to the league and I'm sure Tottenham supporters will be expecting to go to White Hart Lane and see a strong team that wants get back to winning ways and progress in the FA Cup, a competition the club hasn't won since 1991.

I think in recent seasons clubs have started to take the FA Cup seriously again  there was a time a few years ago when I feared for the competition but it seems to have regained its status in the mind of clubs, and so it should as it's a major competition. If you are part of an FA Cup-winning side people remember you and there is still an awful lot of prestige associated with the competition; it is a chance to write your name into football's history books and having played in a winning final, I can honestly say it's one of my greatest memories, right alongside winning the European Cup.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing him play in the flesh - he's got bags of pace and there's a real buzz about him up at the Reebok Stadium"
- Kevin Keegan on Ryo Miyaichi

Hopefully Owen Coyle and Harry Redknapp will field strong teams but if they don't, you'd have to back Spurs with a few players missing over Bolton with a few players missing. One man who is likely to be included is Rafael van der Vaart, who is still on the comeback trail after having a bit of trouble with injuries in the last couple of months. He needs games but when he came on at Everton, Spurs improved 100% - they were mediocre until that point and he gave them an added bit of enthusiasm. He's willing to try things, his movement and vision is superb and he will run at people. It's a big boost for them having him back.

While Van der Vaart and Gareth Bale will likely be Tottenham's biggest threats, Bolton's comes in the form of Japanese youngster Ryo Miyaichi. I'm really looking forward to seeing him play in the flesh - he's got bags of pace and there's a real buzz about him up at the Reebok Stadium. It'll certainly be a good test for him playing away at Spurs. Miyaichi is the latest example of a shrewd January loan signing from Owen Coyle, who has previously had Jack Wilshere and Daniel Sturridge at Bolton.

The club know they can't afford to buy these players but taking them on loan is the next best thing. Owen will have gone to Arsene Wenger and said, 'I know you think a lot of him and can't play him every week so we will take him, we'll look after him and give valuable experience and he'll be a better player when he comes back to you'. You have to admire Owen Coyle as he hasn't gone for second-rate players, he's gone for the best young players these big clubs have to offer. And the more success stories like Wilshere and Sturridge that Bolton have, the more Owen appears a safe pair of hands with young talent and the club will continue to benefit.

Bolton will certainly need all of their players firing if they are to get through on Saturday; they played very well travelling to tough places like Birmingham and Fulham during last year's FA Cup run and have the capacity to surpise Tottenham if they're taken lightly. However, Harry Redknapp won the FA Cup with Portsmouth in 2009 and I'm sure he will have set his sights on doing so again. Should he get the England job, a top four finish and an FA Cup triumph would be some way to bow out.

Kevin Keegan is ESPN's Lead Football Analyst

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Feeds Feeds: Kevin Keegan

Kevin Keegan Close
Kevin Keegan is ESPN's Lead Football Analyst ESPN analyst Kevin Keegan is one of English football's most respected figures and he will be writing for ESPN throughout the season. As a player, Kevin represented Liverpool with distinction, winning numerous titles in domestic and European football, and was twice named European Footballer of the Year during his time at Hamburg. Kevin managed England, Newcastle United, Manchester City and Fulham.