FA Cup winner David Howells says Spurs must be wary

‘91 Cup winner on Stevenage v Tottenham FA Cup Fifth Round clash

Former Tottenham favourite David Howells is refusing to look beyond the challenge of Stevenage in this Sunday’s FA Cup Fifth Round contest – and believes that Boro could take the tie to a replay.

The former Spurs midfielder, who won the FA Cup with the White Hart Lane club in 1991, reckons the Premier League high-fliers would be “foolish” to take their hosts lightly, and says Harry Redknapp’s men should learn from their harrowing trip to Watford in the previous round.

“Any sort of laxness from Spurs so to speak, or if we approach the game with the wrong attitude, we’ll get punished,” Howells said. “It’s happened before, not just to Spurs I’ll admit, but you have to prepare properly for this sort of game against a team from a lower league and it would be foolish to underestimate Stevenage.”

Howells, 44, who spent a large chunk of his career at Spurs between 1985 and 1998, added that Tottenham’s narrow 1-0 win over Watford three weeks ago – in which Rafael van der Vaart scored the decisive goal shortly before half-time – should act as a warning beacon as Spurs prepare to take on Boro in a bid to reach the last eight.

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“I think the Watford match might have done us a favour in some respects as we could have got beaten in that game, and some would say we were lucky to get away with the win,” he said, adding that he expects Tottenham to have learned lessons from the tie. “I think Stevenage can definitely cause a lot of problems,” he continued. “With the new manager coming in he’ll certainly want to put his own stamp on things and they’ve been on a great run of late. (Graham) Westley did a great job before and got a good run of results going, and Gary Smith has [done well] since he came in and it’s a great team they’ve got there.”

Despite Tottenham’s chase for the Premier League title reaching a crucial stage, Howells believes Redknapp would be wise to field a full-strength side at the Lamex Stadium.

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“I don’t see why we won’t play a really strong team to be honest. I think he (Redknapp) might play one or two players who need 90 minutes, and I think Jermain Defoe will probably play, but there’s no reason why we won’t put out a strong team.”

Having been at White Hart Lane to witness last weekend’s 5-0 thrashing of Newcastle United – a team who famously got knocked out of the Cup by Stevenage last season – Howells knows that Tottenham’s superb vein of form in the top flight doesn’t guarantee them a place in the draw for the sixth round of the FA Cup.

“I think it’ll be a very, very tough game,” he said. “Both teams are in great form in their respective divisions in their own right, but when you look at the way Spurs are playing they must be the favourites to win it. But that said it will be very tricky and we have to give Stevenage the respect they deserve and who knows, it might even go to a replay.”

The current Spurs squad would be wise to heed the words of Howells, after the midfielder’s part in Tottenham’s 1991 FA Cup-winning squad. Now a PE teacher, Howells, who also turns out for the Spurs Legends team, recalls: “It was absolutely fantastic to win it. We were lucky that year as the semi-final was at Wembley as well as the final so we’d got used to the whole atmosphere by the time we got to the final. It was effectively a practise run at the final.

“It was the first ever semi-final to be held at Wembley and it made sense as there was no other suitable ground really. It was Tottenham v Arsenal and Chelsea wasn’t really suitable in those days, and it didn’t make sense to drag two North London teams up to Villa Park so we played it at Wembley. It was the right decision in my view.

“We had a young side that year anyway, apart from the likes of Mabbutt, Lineker and Paul Allen with their experience, but in the semi-final we experienced the crowd. Although we didn’t have the national anthems before the game or the chance to meet royalty like the final, it was a big adventure and then to go on and win the final against Nottingham Forest was absolutely amazing.”

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