Gus Poyet and Teddy Sheringham were still scoring goals for Tottenham the last time they played Tranmere Rovers.
Spurs won big, 4-0, on that day in February of 2002. On Friday, they outdid themselves as the Lilywhites routed Tranmere 7-0 to advance to the fourth round of the 2018/19 FA Cup.
The gulf in quality between the two sides was apparent as Spurs ran riot in the second half for the biggest away win in club history.
Tranmere play in League Two, the fourth level of the English footballing pyramid. Mauricio Pochettino was expected to rotate significantly for a game in which his side were overwhelming favorites, but he still managed to put out a strong starting 11.
18-year-old Oliver Skipp started his second senior match for Spurs in midfield. Juan Foyth, Davinson Sanchez, and Ben Davies were the three center-backs lined-up in front of Paulo Gazzaniga. Kyle Walker-Peters, Serge Aurier, Fernando Llorente, and Lucas Moura all came back into a team that also included Dele Alli, despite his recent struggles with injury.
Prenton Park’s atmosphere was loud and lively for what will have been one of the biggest games of Tranmere’s season. The ball bounced a bit more on the tough pitch, but it was still much better than some of the others that Spurs have had to play on in the early rounds of a cup.
Tottenham came out looking eager to take care of business early. Son Heung-Min was slipped in on a breakaway by Llorente, but Rovers keeper Scott Davies came out to make a save.
Lucas had another good opportunity just a couple minutes later. Son slid a ball through for the Brazilian, but he scuffed his effort and hit it tamely at Davies.
Spurs had a predictably large share of the possession in the first half. Still, despite only having the ball 24 percent of the time, Tranmere increasingly brought themselves back into the game after the initial early chances for the visitors.
Foyth made a key block when Connor Jennings attempted a volley in the box, and Tottenham defended well when the League Two side managed to get back-to-back corner kicks.
The game seemed destined to be scoreless at the break, but then an opening goal came for Spurs from an unlikely source.
Rovers had trouble clearing their lines and Foyth eventually won possession back in a promising area for Tottenham. The ball came to Aurier outside the box and the Ivorian unleashed a slicing shot that moved away from Davies and into the top corner.
It was Aurier’s third goal for Spurs since joining in 2017, and his first since the Bournemouth game last March.
Pochettino’s side hadn’t been at their best in the first half, but they noticeably upped the intensity in the opening periods of the second frame.
It was two just three minutes into the half when Son evaded a tackle down the right and crossed towards Llorente. The Spanish striker was all alone in the box for an easy tap-in.
Looking back, Tranmere would’ve been overjoyed to have the game end at that point. But it didn’t, and then the floodgates really opened.
Aurier’s fourth goal for the club and second of the game came after he was played in following some impressive hold-up play from Son. Aurier’s shot was hit hard enough that it couldn’t be stopped by the keeper, or the defender desperately attempting to cover on the line.
Spurs’ South Korean star found the net on his own just a few moments later. This time he operated on the left side of the box as he dragged a bouncing shot across the box and into the side netting to make it 4-0.
After a brief lull, Llorente decided he wanted a hat-trick, so he scored twice in two minutes. His second goal was finished after an incisive through ball from Oliver Skipp, and his third came about when he was found in the box by Lucas after a run down the left.
Youth players George Marsh and TJ Eyoma came on during the rout to make their debuts for Tottenham, and so did one man who is a bit more experienced. It was already 6-0, but Harry Kane came off the bench for a 15 minute cameo appearance.
He always wants to play and he always wants to score, and Kane did exactly that in the 82nd minute. Davies rushed out of net to attempt to stop Dele’s through ball for the Englishman, but Kane latched onto it first and chipped over the keeper and into the goal.
Harry celebrated by giving high-fives to about a dozen different Spurs fans in the stands at that end. It was his 159th tally for Tottenham, bringing him equal with Cliff Jones for the third most in club history.
The hostile atmosphere at the beginning of the match had subsided after the seven-goal onslaught by the visitors. Everyone on the bench was even able to share a laugh when Aurier took some wild shots while going for his own hat-trick.
Up next for Spurs is a slightly more important cup match. They will welcome Chelsea to Wembley on Tuesday for the first leg of the League Cup semifinals.