Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce has told Tottenham’s young guns Champions League qualification would be just reward for their efforts.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men are currently fourth, seven points adrift of leaders Arsenal, ahead of Saturday’s visit of the Black Cats to White Hart Lane.
Their brand of attacking football, spearheaded by Harry Kane and Dele Alli, has won them many admirers and led some to tout them as potential champions.
Having seen former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson successfully rebuild his team on several occasions, Allardyce knows how difficult it can be for a young team to go all the way, but is tipping Spurs to secure a top-four finish.
He said: “I’m not so sure they can hold their nerve – Brendan [Rodgers] couldn’t hold his nerve to win the title with Liverpool a few years ago.
“Right when they needed to be resilient or hold on to the result they got, they didn’t quite do it and that can be because of that lack of experience of what you need to do to win a title.
“Listening to my old mentor, Sir Alex, the hardest one is always winning the first one for your players, and particularly the players who are as young as Tottenham’s, so it would be nice if they did.
“But I think their main aim would be to finish in Champions League and if the title came around, that would be one of those seasons they dream about.”
If Tottenham do manage to upset the traditional big four – and Chelsea’s difficulties have made that eminently possible – they may not be alone with Allardyce warning people not to write off surprise package Leicester.
He said: “It would be great if Leicester and Tottenham finished in the top four. I don’t hear anybody talking about Leicester too much, they’re only talking about Tottenham. I don’t think you can write Leicester off either.”
Sunderland’s ambitions for the campaign are far more modest, although they have given their survival hopes a significant boost with back-to-back league victories over Aston Villa and Swansea.
They have not won three in succession since the end of the 2013-14 season, when they went on to claim four successive victories on their way to a remarkable escape – but will arrive in north London buoyed by the 4-2 triumph at Swansea which dragged the Welsh club firmly into the relegation mix.
Allardyce said: “Hopefully the win spurs them on. It was more important winning that game than getting anything against Tottenham because that was a six-pointer.
“Imagine the distance we would have had to catch up if Swansea had beaten us. It would have been massive.”