Football: Weekend Guide to the Premiership: Derby County V Tottenham Hotspur ; Last Season: 2-1. Kick-Off: Today 12.0 Noon TV: Live Sky Sports 1 (11.30Am), Highlights ITV1, 10.30pm
THE LONG road to Premiership salvation starts here for Derby and John Gregory. The former Aston Villa manager will be glad that it is erratic Tottenham who are his first opponents as he sets out to achieve the impossible and defy the bookmakers' odds of 1-8 on his new team playing in the Nationwide next season.
As the Tottenham manager, Glenn Hoddle, admitted yesterday, a new hand at the tiller can often turn around an unhappy ship. "It is not the best time to face a team when they have just got a new manager because usually there is a bit more of a spring in their step," said Hoddle. "Plus the crowd will be up for it."
With his new signing - the defender Warren Barton from Newcastle - going straight in today's team, Gregory will be looking for a result - at any cost. "I am not looking for them to get the ball down and out-pass the opposition," he said. "And that is not our intention immediately. The intention is to win games, no matter what it takes. How ugly that might be, it doesn't matter as we need victories soon.
"There is a Chinese proverb that says when you set out on a 1,000- mile journey, the first step is the hardest," he said. "I know it will be a difficult game against Tottenham."
Gregory, who has 14 games left to lift Derby from one rung off the bottom, may well stick mainly with the team that lost narrowly to Charlton on TuesdayAs well as Barton, he has the defender Luciano Zavango back after suspension.
Hoddle is not so fortunate, having five first-team players still out injured, with no sign of any of them returning in the immediate future. …