Spurs centre-back Michael Dawson is determined to finish in the Premier League top four and erase some bitter memories.
Spurs famously needed to win at West Ham three years ago to finish ahead of rivals Arsenal but Dawson and the squad were hit by a norovirus, at the time thought to have been from a lasagne, and the chance slipped away at Upton Park.
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Dawson was sick the night before the game and barely made it through 90 minutes but he believes the experience has made the players involved still at the club – Aaron Lennon, Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe – stronger this time around.
Harry Redknapp’s men have started the campaign strongly and ahead of this weekend’s trip to Everton have established themselves as top-four contenders again.
“We were fourth for a long time that year and the way we lost fourth spot on the last day was hard to take,” Dawson said. “Maybe it has made us more hungry for this year.
“It was gutting, so hard to take to go there and for a lot of the lads to be ill, with myself being one of them. I was up in the middle of the night. It got to 4am and I phoned the doctor and said ‘I think I’m going to be struggling’.
“I was throwing up all the time, 8am came and there were quite a few more like that.”
Michael Carrick suffered badly that day, while Dawson tried his best to mask the effect the virus was having on his performance.
“I’ll be honest, all I could think was that I couldn’t wait to get to bed,” he said. “It really wiped me out being up all night being sick. Then we had to go and run around for 90 minutes. It was disappointing. You don’t want to make excuses but I know how bad everybody felt after that.
“It hurt. I was in a bad way and so were the others. Michael Carrick is the one who stands out. He came off and he was in bits.”
There is no evidence to prove food poisoning was the cause of the illness – but West Ham fans still remind their Spurs counterparts of the “lasagne-gate”.
“I have had it (lasagne) since,” Dawson joked.
The 26-year-old is deadly serious about getting Spurs into the top four.
“That is what we’re aiming for and if we don’t do that we’ll be (disappointed),” he added. “You do look at other results – Man City last week against Hull. I spoke to Andy, my brother, and he was over the moon.
“But it’s what we do, it’s down to us. You put in performances and get results then there is no need to look over our shoulders.”
Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate are injured for the trip to Goodison Park this weekend, so Dawson will be at the heart of Redknapp’s defence.
With a run in the team, Dawson could have a chance of getting back in the England team. He was on standby for the last World Cup and was also in squads under Steve McClaren but is uncapped and yet to be selected by Fabio Capello.
“I had two weeks of training for the World Cup under Sven and that was a great experience for me,” he said. “It gave me the hunger to achieve what I wanted to achieve – dreaming of becoming an England international.”
Dawson has not booked his summer holidays yet and will be ready for a call-up if needed.
“Hopefully Mr Capello will be watching and hopefully I’ll be doing enough. I’ve just got to concentrate on playing week-in, week-out for Tottenham and doing well for them,” he said.
“There’s lot of top-class centre-backs around in the country – it’s as simple as that – JT, Rio (Ferdinand), (Joleon) Lescott, (Matthew) Upson, Ledley (King) , Woody (Jonathan Woodgate) – the list goes on.
“My aim at the moment is to carry on playing in the Tottenham team.”