When we take on the likes of Seattle Sounders, Toronto FC and Chicago Fire during our tour of North America this summer, we will be up against some familiar faces.
Our former striker Jermain Defoe has of course been on red-hot form for Toronto FC, ever since scoring a brace on his MLS debut against Seattle Sounders back on March 15. The England frontman was a firm favourite at White Hart Lane, initially joining us from West Ham United in 2004, where he scored 43 goals in 139 league matches before joining Portsmouth in 2008. Returning to us in 2009, he scored 48 further goals for Spurs in 137 Barclays Premier League matches and broke our record for goals scored in Europe, with 23 in continental competitions for us during his career.
Defoe’s peformances will be to the delight of Toronto FC Head Coach Ryan Nelsen, himself a former Spur. The New Zealand-born ex-central defender made five Barclays Premier League appearances for us back in 2012.
Of all our playing connections to clubs in North American cities, our links to Toronto go back furthest. Scottish goalkeeper Bill Brown, who part of our famed double-winning side of 1960-61, moved to Canada to end his playing career and signed for the now dissolved Toronto Falcons in 1967, for whom he made 16 appearances in the National Professional Soccer League. Our first ever match in North America was played against Toronto & District FA on May 22, 1952.
During the 1960s, our late, great double-winning captain Danny Blanchflower spent a brief time playing for Toronto City along with fellow Football League players Stanley Matthew and Johnny Haynes. He also worked for broadcaster CBS Television Network as a summariser during Canadian club matches in the North Professional Soccer League during the decade.
Last year, we loaned our former midfielder John Bostock to Toronto FC, with the player making seven MLS appearances for them. Rohan Ricketts was something of a fans’ favourite at Toronto FC, where the midfielder played 39 matches and scored four goals between 2008 and 2009. He had previously made 30 Premier League appearances, scoring once, for us between 2002 and 2005.
Born in Etobicoke, Ontario in 1977, our former Canadian international Paul Stalteri started his professional career across the city with Toronto Lynx, who currently play their football in the USL Premier Development League (fourth tier of the American Soccer Pyramid). Fellow Canadian Lars Hirschfeld, who was a Spurs player between 2002 and 2004, is still going strong playing in goal for Norwegian team Valerenga currently. Amongst the other clubs in North America that he represented are Edmonton Drillers (indoor scorer), Calgary Storm and Vancouver Whitecaps.
Over in Seattle, US legend Clint Dempsey is one of the star players in a Sounders team that continues to perform in the MLS. Dempsey was born in Texas in 1983 and began his professional career with the New England Revolution. He subsequently moved to England and Fulham in 2007, before signing for us for the 2012-13 season, that saw him play 29 Barclays Premier League games and net seven times for us. He signed for the Sounders in 2013 and has an excellent scoring record for them.
Prior to the new Seattle Sounders FC franchise forming in 2009, there was a team of the same name that competed in the North American Soccer League between 1974 and 1983 and in the USL First Division from 1994 to 2008. Mike England was one of a number of former Spurs players to sign for the club, playing 116 league games and scoring seven goals between 1975 and 1979. Jimmy Robertson, who scored for us in the 1967 FA Cup Final win over Chelsea, also played 37 games for the Sounders between 1976 and 1977.
Roger Cross, who was Gerry Francis’ assistant manager here at Spurs between 1994 and 1997, spent a brief period of time with the Sounders in 1977, playing eight matches and scoring twice. Jimmy Neighbour, who made 119 league appearances for us between 1966 and 1976, became a Sounder in 1979, playing 21 matches and netting once. Ray Evans, who also represented St.Louis Stars, California Surf and Tacoma Stars (indoor soccer), turned out for the Sounders for two seasons, beginning in 1982 and came out of retirement briefly in 1989 to play a season in the Western Soccer Alliance with Seattle Storm.
A real American hero in goalkeeper Kasey Keller was the Sounders number one between 2009 and 2011. With 101 caps to his name for the States between 1990 and 2007, Keller enjoyed a long playing career in England. Having started his career with Portland Timbers, he moved to Millwall in 1992 and subsequently player for Leicester, Southampton (loan) and Fulham as well as 85 Premier League matches for us between 2001 and 2005.
We also have to mention Harry Redknapp, our manager between 2008 and 2012. He played 24 league matches for Seattle Sounders between 1976 and 1979, while his assistant Kevin Bond made 30 appearances, scoring 16 goals in 1981.
Our Chicago connections are far less extensive than Toronto or Seattle, though young midfielder Grant Ward is currently on loan to the Fire from us. It is interesting to note the existence of a club called Chicago Spurs, who played a season in the National Professional Soccer League in 1967 before relocating to Kansas City the following year in order to avoid competing with the Chicago Mustangs. There is huge interest in Spurs in Chicago with the local official supporters club meeting in the Atlantic Bar & Grill in Lincoln Square in the city on matchdays. The passion for Spurs in the city is set to grow on the back of our tour appearance there this summer.
By Andy Greeves