Former Tottenham midfielder eyes ‘dream’ return to the Lane

IT WILL be an emotional afternoon for two former Spurs players this Sunday, as they return to White Hart Lane with Charlton Athletic in the FA Cup third round.

Gary Doherty and Johnnie Jackson made a total of 84 appearances between them for Tottenham, before leaving the club in 2004 and 2006 respectively.

Republic of Ireland international Doherty was influential in Spurs’ run to the FA Cup semi-final 10 years ago, scoring three goals in that run.

Jackson, meanwhile, was a product of Spurs’ youth academy, first training with the Lilywhites as a 10-year-old.

Jackson hasn’t been back to Tottenham since moving to Colchester United six years ago, and he admits that Sunday’s tie is a dream come true.

“When the draw was being made, everyone wanted a Premier League side and of course, the ideal scenario for me was to get Tottenham,” he said.

“When we drew them out of the hat, I couldn’t believe it. It was the dream draw for me without a doubt. We hadn’t made it through to the third round at the time though, so it certainly added extra pressure ahead of our replay with Luton.

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“There was a massive sense of relief and excitement when we won at Kenilworth Road, as we wanted the Tottenham game so much.”

The Camden-born midfielder has a host of happy memories of his Tottenham career and says Sunday will be a strange experience as he heads for the White Hart Lane visitors’ changing room for the first time.

“I haven’t been back to White Hart Lane since I left, so it will be an emotional day for me on Sunday,” reflects Jackson, who has scored 13 goals this season, including four in his last three games.

“I loved my time with Tottenham and moments that stand out for me during my time at the club include my first-team debut away at Portsmouth.

“Having come through the youth academy, apprenticeships and all of that, it was a brilliant feeling to finally play in the Premier League, which is something I will never forget.

“Another big moment for me in a Spurs shirt was scoring my first professional goal in an away game, ironically at Charlton. I picked the ball up inside their half, ran about 20 yards with it then hit a shot from just outside the area.

“The ball angled in to the bottom corner and I remember feeling a great sense of delight as I saw the Tottenham fans celebrating. We won 4-2 that night, so it was a good evening all round for me and the club.”

As Jackson is quick to acknowledge, much has changed at Tottenham since he left in 2006. Spurs have gone from a side battling for a place in the Premier League’s top six to one which now has genuine title aspirations.

“I watch Spurs on TV whenever I can and I’m so impressed with the squad they have put together,” he says. “From back to front, they are a quality team and I hope they can continue to do well in the league and in Europe.”

Charlton go into the game at White Hart Lane as big underdogs, but Jackson says the mood in the Addicks camp is upbeat as they look to pull off an upset.

“We want to go there and give a really good account of ourselves,” says Jackson. “We know it’s a big ask to get anything, especially given the way Tottenham have been performing over the past few seasons.

“Our main hope is that we come up against a team that is slightly off their game on the day and we are bang on top of ours. That’s how upsets come about in the FA Cup.

“Tottenham have very few off days at the moment but I’m sure Harry Redknapp will have his team well prepared for this one. We are just looking forward to the challenge and playing against top class opposition.”