May 7, 2024

Tottenham’s infamous ‘lasagne-gate’ is one of English football’s most bizarre and mysterious tales.


Spurs approached the final day of the 2005/06 season on the cusp of a top-four finish and one result away from beating their bitter rivals Arsenal to Champions League qualification. Martin Jol’s men, who were playing West Ham away, only needed to match Arsenal’s result against Wigan in the Gunners’ last ever game at Highbury.


Yet those hopes were dashed as all but a handful of the Spurs team suddenly suffered food poisoning the night before their monumental fixture. Prior to kick-off at Upton Park, rumours circulated of the players having eaten a dodgy lasagne at the Marriott Hotel in Canary Wharf, east London, where the squad had stayed on the evening of May 6, 2006.


Spurs manager Jol was made aware of the situation in the morning and made an attempt to get the game postponed, or even delayed by a few hours. That was met with the Premier League explaining that failure to play the fixture would lead to a points deduction, having dished out a similar punishment to Middlesbrough 10 years prior.



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The Lilywhites, nauseous and weak, rallied together in the dressing room, desperate not to squander their season on account of their upset stomachs. Their efforts were in vain, however, as they lost 2-1, while a Thierry Henry hat-trick saw the other half of north London breathe a sigh of relief in N5.


A dejected Jol said after the match: “We had 10 players feeling sick overnight. We asked to postpone the game for 24 hours but we didn’t want to risk sanctions.


“We took a gamble but I think you saw we weren’t strong enough. We’re in Europe and that’s the main target but to be fourth for most of the season and lose it on the last day is a big disappointment. We’re gutted. I have never experienced anything like this in football before.”


Of those who had been treated to a fateful buffet-style dinner offered at the Marriott, Edgar Davids, Teemu Tainio, Robbie Keane, Michael Dawson, Michael Carrick, Aaron Lennon, Radek Cerny, Calum Davenport, Lee Barnard, Tom Huddlestone and Lee Young-pyo were all violently sick.


“I remember the build up to the game. It was massive for the football club,” striker Jermaine Defoe, who was one of the few not affected, told Transfer Talk podcast. “We felt like we deserved it, I remember going into the game and everyone was buzzing.


A dejected Totenham Hotspur manager Martin Jol. FA Barclays Premiership\\west Ham United V Tottenham Hotspur – 07 May 2006

Martin Jol saw his side lose to West Ham and miss out on Champions League football

A dejected Jermain Defoe (L) and Michael Carrick of Tottenham Hotspur.

FA Barclays Premiership west Ham United V Tottenham Hotspur – 07 May 2006.

Jermaine Defoe [L] did not suffer from food poisoning while Michael Carrick [R] was affected.

“We had the evening meal, and going to bed, and I remember a call from the doctor to ask how I was feeling, because a lot of the lads were not well. I thought it was like one or two, but quite a few were struggling. I couldn’t believe it.


“Such an important game and seven of the lads were sick. I still respect guys such as Michael Carrick, who went out and played even though they were struggling.”


Talismanic midfielder Carrick was one of the worst affected, writing in his 2018 autobiography: “I’d never endured agony like this. It felt like a fire was lit in my guts with petrol poured on it again and again. The pain kept flaring up and I curled up in bed, praying for it to pass.”


Central-defender Davenport came on as a substitute that day, having been woken up by a sudden urge to be sick. He said: “I was in a bad way. I remember waking up at about 5am and thinking, ‘I never wake up for the toilet or anything, what is wrong here?’ I got on the toilet and had my head in the sink and my backside on the toilet and… well, it wasn’t pretty.


LONDON – MAY 07: Tottenham Hotspur take refreshments during the Barclays Premiership match between West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur at Upton Park on May 7, 2006 in London, England. (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)

Most of the Tottenham team were sick before the game.

“I couldn’t get off the toilet so I rang the team doctor and explained how I felt. I was told, ‘Calum, you’re not the only one, I’ve had some other people on the phone as well’. I was given something to make me feel a bit better and then went down to breakfast.


“Preparation is everything at that level and on the eve of a big game you had to stop yourself thinking, ‘This has all gone against us right on the finish line.’”


Captain Ledley King, who like Defoe was fortunate enough to steer clear, was left feeling similarly dejected at the time, later recalling: “The players were not ready to play football. I don’t know how they played. I thought at the time, this is just our luck isn’t it? It’s just Tottenham.”


Teemu Tainio, another player to suffer, described it as the biggest disappointment of his career. Meanwhile, Jermaine Jenas voiced his frustration to West Ham hero Mark Noble in a conversation on TNT Sports in April 2024.


LONDON – MAY 07: Robbie Keane of Tottenham Hotspur looks dejected as they miss out on a Champions League place following the Barclays Premiership match between West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur at Upton Park on May 7, 2006 in London, England.



Jenas fumed: “There was this moment where we were sat in the dressing room and there were eight, nine, 10 people being sick everywhere. One is in the toilet, one’s in the sink, one’s in a bucket, everyone’s just being sick everywhere. And then all you could hear was the biggest party ever going on in the dressing room opposite.”

The One Show presenter explained how Jol was desperate to take Davids off as a result of his woeful display, only for Carrick to come over and say: “Don’t you dare – I can’t last another second on this pitch, take me off now.”


Understandably, there was an inquest into what had happened the minute chairman Daniel Levy caught wind of the situation on the morning of the match. A qualified lawyer, an FA doctor and the police were called to investigate what had happened.


At that point, it was assumed the players were suffering from food poisoning, with Defoe admitting in 2017 that he thought: “Something has definitely gone on here, one of the West Ham lads has done something to the food.”


LONDON – MAY 07: Despair for Edgar Davids, Young Pyo-Lee and Chris Hughton of Tottenham Hotspur as they miss out on a Champions League place following the Barclays Premiership match between West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur at Upton Park on May 7, 2006 in London, England. (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)

The rumour gathered steam, while others wildly suggested that the Marriott chef in question was an Arsenal season ticket holder and had purposely sabotaged Spurs’ top-four hopes.


Blood and urine samples were taken to try to establish the cause of the sickness. And – contrary to popular belief – a consultant in communicable disease control at the North-East and Central London Health Protection Unit judged that the outbreak may have been caused by viral gastroenteritis, rather than food poisoning.


Yet nearly two decades on, it is hard for Tottenham’s stars not to feel aggrieved by the incident. “Funnily enough I was one of the ones that was actually fine,” Goalkeeper Robinson said. “It was a difficult situation for the club. We’d been in prime position all season, we let it slip with poor results.


“We went to White Hart Lane on the last day with our own destiny in our own hands. As it was well documented, a lot of the boys were sick the night before. We turned in a brave performance but it was nowhere near good enough to win the game. We were poor. There was opportunity for excuses.


“Once one or two of the boys went down ill, I’m not for one minute saying not everyone was ill, but when poor performances happen and we lost the game, a lot of that was attributed to the night before.”


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