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FOOD FIGHT

Remembering Lasagne-Gate: How easy is it to deliberately poison a Premier League team?

West Ham and Tottenham meet on Friday night, so we cast our minds back to a contentious fixture in Premier League history

Tottenham travel to West Ham on Friday night hoping to keep their faint title hopes alive after a stirring end to the season.

Spurs are on a run of nine successive Premier League wins since mid-February and have cut Chelsea’s gap at the top from 10 to four points in the last month.

But a trip to the Hammers may bring back bad memories.

Tottenham manager Martin Jol looks disappointed after his side’s defeat

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Tottenham manager Martin Jol looks disappointed after his side’s defeat

In a match of similar importance, if not more, on the last day of the 2005/06 season Spurs travelled to Upton Park only needing to match Arsenal’s result to clinch a top-four spot.

Martin Jol’s side ended up on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat whilst the Gunners beat Wigan to pip them to the prestigious final Champions League place.

But the Spurs players were off-colour in more ways than one that ill-fated day, with many claiming a questionable lasagne dish was the reason behind the absence of a number of first-team players.

Martin Jol concerns Robbie Keane after the defeat

Epa
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Martin Jol concerns Robbie Keane after the defeat

With the game on the Sunday, the likes of Michael Carrick, Robbie Keane, Aaron Lennon, Edgar Davids and Michael Dawson all fell mysteriously ill on the night before.

Jol estimates as many as 10 players felt unwell overnight, with the club asking to postpone the game by 24 hours but getting knocked back.

The Health Protection Agency later cleared the hotel where the Spurs players had stayed before the game of any wrongdoing, instead citing an outbreak of norovirus as the cause instead.

The Tottenham players take on fluids on the fateful day

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The Tottenham players take on fluids on the fateful day

But feasibly how easy would it really be for someone to deliberately sabotage a team’s performance by poisoning their food.

We spoke to Dr Mayur Ranchordas, a sports nutritionist who spent three years at Newcastle during Alan Pardew’s tenure and most recently worked at Sunderland.

“IT WOULD BE EASY”

Dr Ranchordas explained that during away games, the proper procedure for away teams would be to send their own head chef to their respective hotel to take over the menu.

But sometimes club tardiness means this policy isn’t enforced and, as was the case with Spurs back in 2006, they simply rely on the hotel catering company to meet their demands.

Yossi Benayoun celebrates his 80th minute winner

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Yossi Benayoun celebrates his 80th minute winner

Asked if it was possible for somebody to poison a menu, Dr Ranchordas said: “It’s so easy.

“Many clubs don’t send their own head chef in advance, who would establish their own menu and hygiene standards in the kitchens.

“Instead they rely on the hotel, who will normally serve the food up as a buffet.

Buffet food is the norm if a club choose not to send their own head chef to away games

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Buffet food is the norm if a club choose not to send their own head chef to away games

“So it’s actually pretty easy to contaminate.”

Not to give anyone any shifty ideas.

CHANCES OF PLAYING

But how long does it take for the effects of food poisoning to kick in? And would a player be able to function, let alone play a professional game of football.

“It depends how badly people are infected, but aggressive poisoning where bacteria is present means full blown diarrhoea and vomiting,” Dr Ranchordas added.

“The body will be doing everything to clear it so there’s zero chance of being able to play.

Robbie Keane keels over during the game

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Robbie Keane keels over during the game

“The player would be so dehydrated, plus a failure to hold down any calories means a real lack in muscle glycogen.

“It’d probably take 48 hours to fully recover from the illness, but three to four days before a player could compete again.”

Game over then.

Even this season we saw Chelsea’s squad depleted on the eve of their trip to Manchester United, with a number of their players falling ill at the worst possible time.

Marcos Alonso fell ill before a game at Manchester United last month

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Marcos Alonso fell ill before a game at Manchester United last month

11 years on from that torrid day in east London and Spurs have finally ended the curse and guaranteed a higher-placed finish than Arsenal.

But with a number of major clubs failing to take necessary precautions before away trips, could we see a Lasagne-Gate surface again?