The 2001 Uefa Champions League had only one Premier League side, Leeds United. The team managed by David O’Leary lost 3-0 on aggregate to Valencia. From 1999 to that 2001 season, Leeds United and their young manager were supposedly destined for great things.
O’Leary became Leeds manager by default as he was the assistant to George Graham, but the former Arsenal manager made the astonishing decision to join Tottenham Hotspurs.
The Leeds board gave the job to his fresh-faced assistant and they proceeded to play some lovely football, winning many friends and fans along the way. Jonathan Woodgate, Stephen McPhail, Lucas Radebe, Seth Johnson, Harry Kewell, Alan Smith, Mark Viduka, Rio Ferdinand, Lee Bowyer, Ian Harte and a young Paul Robinson in goal looked set to be a force in the PL for many years.
Those who can recall the type of combination play that McPhail, Harte and Kewell used to get up to down the Leeds left are left with good memories of an impressive team.
Football mirrors life a great deal so the best laid plans can be subject to forces completely out of our control.
Finishing outside of the Champions League places that same 2001 season destroyed the business plan of then Leeds owner Peter Ridsdale, which was predicated on constant or regular participation in the money spinner. This meant that by the summer of 2002 most of the clubs most prized assets had to be sold. The rest is history.
I have brought up Leeds United and specifically O’Leary because that bright manager of that period is no longer coaching or managing.
Had Leeds won a trophy then I believe strongly that he would still be in the game now.
I introduce Mauricio Pochettino. I can’t emphasise this enough: The Argentine has until the end of next season at the very most to win a trophy, otherwise he will be in danger of losing his way and his job.
Daniel Levy has backed all his managers since he took over the ownership of the club, but only Juande Ramos delivered a League Cup - back in 2008.
Harry Redknapp was hugely backed and will say he qualified for the Champions League, but for me, he had squads that should have challenged for the Premier League title.
This season and last we have witnessed a Spurs side that look set to mount consistent pressure on whoever wants to win the title, and in the process they have been playing some really great football.
Pochettino, like O’Leary then, has a lot of talented players at his disposal: Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Victor Wanyama, Moussa Dembele, Danny Rose, Kyle Walker, Toby Alderweild, Jan Vertonghen, Son Hueng Min and the excellent Hugo Lloris in goal.
He has the tools, so at some point he will be asked to show his returns for these investments. He has already talked a good game by claiming that Spurs are aiming much higher than just finishing above cross town rivals Arsenal in the league.
This weekend Spurs take on league leaders Chelsea in the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley. Man for man I believe that Spurs edge Chelsea - only just.
This match could prove absolutely vital in the race for the Premier League title race because defeats to Crystal Palace and Manchester United have suddenly turned a procession into a steeplechase race for Chelsea.
The neutrals love it though. A Spurs win and the nerves will really start to jangle at Chelsea while Spurs will be galvanised for the final push. A win for the league leaders and they can relax and believe that they are in control, thereby finishing the job of winning the title.
Pochettino needs to get his players believing that they have the chance of a double this season, and to achieve that they must get past the semifinal stage.
There are many good and tactically aware managers but what separates the best is usually the number of trophies won.
The board at Man City trust Pep Guardiola because of his trophy haul, as do the Old Trafford board of directors with Jose Mourinho. Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool knows his two Bundesliga titles will ensure that his players will trust his judgement, as will the Board.
Pochettino strikes me as man who knows what is expected of him and his team, and I am certain he knows he needs to win a trophy sooner rather than later.
This semifinal reminds me so much of the 1999 semi where the top two teams in the country at the time met in two titanic matches that were settled by sensational goal in extra time. The winner of that semi-final went on to win the league and their manager went on record to say that winning that semifinal gave his team a lift to drive for the title.
A great deal more than qualifying for the final is riding on this Chelsea vs Spurs FA Cup semifinal.
Don’t forget that you can watch both FA Cup semifinals live on SuperSport, as well as the Premier League matches this weekend.
Thank you for reading and Chelsea fans do let me know your thoughts on this game and the title race. Does it look like your team will falter? Respond here or you can tweet us @supersporttv and @CalvinEmeka