Graham Arnold grew up idolising Tottenham legends like Glenn Hoddle, Chris Waddle and Ossie Ardiles.
But he and his Sydney FC players won’t be taking a backward step when they lock horns with the London club’s current crop of stars on Saturday in the first of two blockbusters against EPL sides that will draw a combined gate of around 150,000 in four days.
So-called friendlies they may be but Arnold will be intent on pressing for victory against Tottenham on Saturday and Chelsea on Tuesday.
Not only does he want to atone for his team’s A-League grand final defeat by Melbourne Victory, he is also keen to set the tone for the coming season which will bring Asian Champions League football as well as the chance to go one better domestically.
“Every time I send a team on the field it’s about winning,” Arnold said.
“It’s our obligation to give our best performance.
“We are representing Australia and the A-League, and Tottenham are doing the same for their country. We are professionals.
“There is no better way to finish a season than to have two games against such top class opposition. Our boys want to end on a high.
“When I was a young boy I grew up watching players like Glenn Hoddle and Chris Waddle,” he said.
Ardiles, the former Argentinian star who toured Australia 31 years ago when Spurs played the Socceroos, is back in Australia to watch the side he also coached in the 1990s.
Arnold described Saturday’s match as a wonderful opportunity for Sydney FC players to test their skills against a side that has just finished fifth in the English Premier League.
“It’s also a great chance to showcase the A-League worldwide,” said the Sky Blues coach.
Sydney FC defender Jacques Faty, who recently re-signed with the Sky Blues, was quick to back his boss’s confidence in the local game.
“We know Tottenham is a big team but we are good, too,” said the French-born Senegalese defender.
“We will be giving our best.”
Arnold is busy shoring up his squad for next season, having recently extended the contracts of Faty, Shane Smeltz and Mickael Tavares.
Tottenham have brought a full squad to Australia replete with talent like England striker Harry Kane, fellow England internationals Ryan Mason, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker, Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen, French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Argentine star Erik Lamela.
Kane in particular is the big attraction for fans following a stellar EPL season in which he netted 21 times to equal a club record, and scored on his senior England debut.
The 21-year-old is enjoying a hugely productive spell in front of goal and is likely to prove a handful for Faty, Sebastian Ryall, Matthew Jurman and Co in Sydney’s defence.
Tottenham’s fifth placing in the EPL ensures they will be playing in next season’s Europa League, so manager Mauricio Pochettino will have plenty to weigh up against Sydney FC.
Tottenham players turned on their PR charm on Friday, with one group attending a Special Olympics coaching clinic at Birchgrove and another visiting kids at Sydney Children’s Hospital along with Sydney FC players.
Both teams were due to train at ANZ Stadium later.