London (AFP) – Mauricio Pochettino has pleaded with Tottenham and Millwall fans to keep the peace when the London rivals clash in a potentially volatile FA Cup quarter-final on Sunday.
Since being drawn to face Millwall at White Hart Lane, Tottenham officials have been liasing with police in a bid to a keep a lid on the hooligan gangs threatening to run riot in north London.
There is a history of animosity between the two sets of supporters dating back to violent clashes in the 1970s and the last meeting between the teams was marred by fighting before and after a 2001 pre-season fixture.
While Millwall have done everything in their power to rid themselves of the lunatic fringe that made the club so notorious in the heyday of football hooliganism, there is still a section that revel in that reputation.
Millwall were the subject of an investigation after hundreds of fans invaded the pitch after their FA Cup fifth round win over Leicester last month.
There were several arrests as missiles were thrown and police on horses were brought in to restore order.
Serious disorder marred Millwall’s last long run in the FA Cup when fans battled police and fought among themselves during a 2013 semi-final at Wembley.
Police, club officials and supporters groups from both teams met on Wednesday to talk over security arrangements for a fixture categorised as having a ‘high risk’ of violence.
Pochettino is well aware of Millwall’s image and the Tottenham manager called for cool heads to prevail on Sunday.
“For me it is the first time I face Millwall, I hear a lot of things but I hope and wait until all happens in a really good way,” Pochettino said.
“I hope nothing happens. I trust that our fans and their fans behave well, that is my wish because it is football.
“Football is to try to enjoy and for happiness and there is no sense to fight for anything. In my head it is about being calm and enjoying football. That is my wish.”
– Electric atmosphere –
As a long-serving club legend, Millwall boss Neil Harris hopes his team’s name isn’t dragged through the mud again.
With White Hart Lane being gradually demolished to make way for Tottenham’s new purpose built stadium, this will be the last FA Cup tie at the famous old venue.
And Harris joined Pochettino in asking fans to ensure the occasion is remembered for drama on the pitch rather than incidents in the stands.
“As a club, of course you want to paint yourself in the right light. It is a competition that has been good to us this year. We certainly want the focus to be on on-pitch activities,” Harris said.
“Tottenham have a great following. White Hart Lane is a football cathedral with a good passionate crowd.
“It’s the last game at the Lane in the FA Cup. Millwall in town with nearly 4,000 fans is going to be an electric atmosphere, one we should all embrace and look forward to.”
Having enjoyed shock wins over Watford, Bournemouth and Leicester en route to the last eight, third tier promotion chasers Millwall are aiming for their biggest upset yet.
But Tottenham, currently second in the Premier League, are firm favourites and can call on in-form Harry Kane, who has established himself as one of England’s best strikers since making his name during a loan spell with Millwall.
“It was a big part of my development. I had a great time at Millwall,” Kane said.
“I was 18, we were in a relegation battle and it really turned me into a man.”
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