Former Tottenham midfielder Jamie O’Hara says Everton have “caught up” with his old club – and is warning Spurs to brace themselves for a “tough test” at Goodison Park on Saturday.
The two teams are locked together on four points after three Premier League matches and will collide in a mouth-watering fixture this weekend.
Spurs have won their only away game this season – at Newcastle – but dropped five points at temporary-home Wembley, having collected 53 from 57 available at White Hart Lane in 2016/17.
The capital club finished last season in magnificent style, winning 12 of their closing 13 matches to finish as runners-up behind Chelsea.
Tottenham were also eventual champions Leicester’s closest pursuers in the previous campaign.
But O’Hara fears some sage recruitment from the north Londoners’ rivals has seen them reeled in by the chasing pack – even though Mauricio Pochettino entered the market late in the summer transfer window and completed his business with a deadline-day swoop for Spanish striker Fernando Llorente from Swansea.
“Tottenham are having a tough start,” O’Hara told evertontv. “Playing at Wembley is very difficult for them – it is hard moving away from White Hart Lane.
“Everton have had a fantastic start to the season, they have brought in some great players and everything about the club seems really positive.
“Llorente did well for Swansea last year and he is a big signing. They needed to get someone in. I am a Tottenham fan, so I was getting frustrated and hoping they would bring in a massive name.
“I really fancied them to do big things this year – and I feel like they might do well in the Champions League.
“But it will take them a while to get used to Wembley and the problem is a lot of teams have caught up: Everton and a few others.
“A lot of clubs’ transfer business has really impressed me and I think the Premier League will be fantastic this season.”
A graduate of Tottenham’s Academy, O’Hara played 56 times for the club before moving on to Wolves in 2011.
And he has been thrilled to observe a flock of Spurs' current young stars flourish under the guidance of Argentine manager Pochettino.
He is struck, too, by the manner in which Everton’s prolific youth system consistently delivers players fit for first-team purpose – especially in an era when England’s top flight is regarded as one of the planet’s heavyweight leagues.
“There are world-class players in the Premier League,” added O’Hara. “To stay at that level and put in those performances, week in, week out is exceptionally difficult… we don’t appreciate how good those guys are.
“But it is a joy to see the young players given a chance. Tottenham’s Academy is fantastic. And I hear a lot of good things about Everton’s Academy as well.
“Tottenham give players opportunities. If you look at the England team currently, there are a lot of Spurs players in there… and starting matches.
“That is what you want to see: English players given a chance to show what they can do for their clubs. And it gives those coming through the chance to look up to these players and think ‘I can get the same opportunity’.”
O’Hara was at Goodison Park on Sunday, when he played for a ‘Lowery Legends’ team against ‘Bradley’s Blues’ in the Bradley Lowery charity match.
He scored a hat-trick, too, which made for a contrasting experience from his previous skirmishes at the ground, where he did not taste any success as a professional.
Nevertheless, O’Hara, who also had spells with Portsmouth, Blackpool and Fulham, says he will always be grateful he had the chance to perform at the country’s finest stadiums – and admits he harbours a deal of affection for Everton.
“I was lucky enough to fulfil my boyhood dream and play at places like Goodison Park, Old Trafford, White Hart Lane and Wembley,” added O’Hara, who currently plays for non-League side Billericay Town.
“Whenever I played at Everton, the fans were unbelievable.
“Goodison is a fantastic place to play – and one of the hardest places I have played at, to be honest. I have been on the end of a few hidings there.
“I want to see Everton do well. They are a fantastic club and the fans are brilliant. The people are all united.
“Everything about the place at the moment is brilliant."