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Southampton 1 - 0 Everton

Half-time: 0 - 0


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FA Carling Premiership 2000-01 – Game #30
3pm Saturday 17 March 2001
The Dell, Southampton
Att: 15,251
Newcastle United (h) Ref: Mark Halsey West Ham United (a) »
[ Matchday Calendar ] League Position: 16th [ Results &  Table ]
 MATCH SUMMARY
Francis Jeffers Everton started brightly, winning a free kick just outside the area in the first minute.  But we never seem to score from these golden gifts, and this was no different as Gravesen shot just over the bar.  The game then descended into a scrappy tussle, with Everton looking vulnerable to Southampton's incisive and intelligent attacking moves. 

There was little to write home about until about 30 mins when a good cross came in from Gravesen, and Scott Gemmill's header flashed just wide of the post.  Apart from this, Everton struggled to make much progress against a well-organized defence who have kept 8 clean sheets out of the past 9 games, to put Southampton top of the current form league.

To underline the danger, Beattie had a strong shot just on half-time that was well saved by Paul Gerrard.

The seemingly inevitable Southampton goal came on 58 mins, when Southampton moved up from a goal kick, and Tessem got free to slot the ball home.  Southampton were rampant and minutes later Pahars seemed all set to score his usual goal against Everton when he completely missed a sitter.

Everton did not fold, but instead started to play up more, with Alexandersson working a good opportunity for a Ferguson header which was well saved.  Lots of pressure and a string of corners followed Gascoigne's introduction with just 20 mins left...  when did we last score from a corner?

Chances at both ends during a lively last 10 minutes but Walter Smith's ridiculous defensive substitutions with Everton chasing the game were unlikely to swing things for the Blues, whose hopes were raised by a late penalty call... predictably declined.  Everton's last ever game at The Dell ends in yet another defeat for Everton and the tactically challenged Water Smith.
  

 

  

 MATCH FACTS
   GOALSCORERS  Debuts
Southampton: Tessem (58')
EVERTON:
   LINEUPS  Subs Not Used 
Southampton: Jones, Lundekvam, Richards, El Khalej (86' Dodd), Petrescu, Bridge, Oakley, Draper, Tessem, Pahars, Beattie. . Moss, Le Tissier, Rosler, Kachloul.
EVERTON: Gerrard; S Watson, Gough, Weir, Ball; Gravesen, Gemmill (86' Unsworth), Pembridge (79' Pistone), Xavier, Alexandersson (70' Gascoigne); Ferguson.
Unavailable: Nyarko (suspended), Cadamarteri, Campbell, Cleland, Jeffers
, Jevons, Moore, Naysmith, (injured); Myhre (on loan)
Simonsen, Tal.
   Playing Strips  Formations
Southampton: Red & white shirts; black shorts; red socks. 4-4-2
EVERTON: Royal Blue shirts; white shorts; blue socks. 4-4-2
   Yellow Cards  Red Cards
Southampton: Bridge (81'), Beattie (84')
EVERTON: Pistone (91')
 Sports.Com Detailed Match Stats    

  

 MATCH REPORTS
 REPORTS BY EVERTON FANS
Guy McEvoy Worst team since Watford?
Mickey Blue Eyes Long and Winding Road
Neil Wolstenholme Smith: Tactical Genius?
Ste Daley Oh how we have fallen!
 NEWSPAPER REPORTS
ELECTRONIC TELEGRAPH Hoddle busy on the home front
by Steve Thomson
THE SUNDAY TIMES Hoddle in spotlight as Saints march on
by Ivo Tennant
THE TIMES Den of mediocrity
by Paul Connolly
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 Worst Team since Watford?
Guy McEvoy
 
So then.  The last visit we'll make to the Dell.  To be honest, I'll be sorry to see it go.  It's clearly the worst ground in the Premiership facilities, capacity, and looks-wise but that's probably half the charm of an away trip down there.  Just hope for their sake that the new ground is more Reebok than Pride Park.

Fittingly for our last visit, we'd got the worst seats possible in the away section.  I really must have a word with my ticket man.  We were tucked in the back row of the visiting section and the angle the roof came down at meant that, while you could see the entire playing area, if the ball went more than about six feet off the ground, it would be out of view.  Thank God Unsworth wasn't starting; we'd never have seen a bloody thing!

The line-up was depressing.  Ferguson as a lone striker.  Ferguson may be many things, but a lone striker ain't one of them.  Mission Impossible for the lad.  We had a packed midfield of Gravesen (wide left), Gemmill, Pembridge, and Alexandersson (wide right).  Xavier played the sort of Joe Parkinson position in front of the defence.  Watson, Weir, Gough, and Ball were the men in the back line.

The game started and we quickly set out our stall we were here for the 0-0 draw.  And to be charitable, to that end, we seemed quite likely to meet our objective.  The entire half seemed to be spent in the middle third of the pitch: passes and mispasses and total failure to create any decisive penetrating movement were symptoms of both teams' play.  Really hard work to watch.  I can't recall a single noteworthy incident. 

Reflecting the fayre on display, the atmosphere was also muted.  Their fans seemed to shift their focus between Hoddle's imminent departure ('Who the fuck are Tottenham Hotspur?') and how bad we were ('Big Club. You used to be a big club').  The latter hits home.  Our fans largely sat there and imagined useful, cheaper things that could be done on a Saturday.

The second half was just more of the same.  They could've gone down to five men and I still don't think we would ever have looked like scoring.  This was, I suppose, fine while we were level but a bit of an issue once they went ahead.  To be honest, I don't want to lay blame I haven't seen a replay and at the time I'd drifted into a comatosed trance... which I only snapped out of when the man was clean through.  From the bit I can see in my mind, I think it was simply a good goal.

So we had to try something different and Smith certainly did that.  Unsworth, Pistone and Gazza entered the fray.  Pistone looked lost.  Totally lost.  All his limited involvement ended in disappointment.  Unsworth did bring a lift of spirit, but there is still something bleak about banging a centre half to central midfield as your best option to salvage a game.  

Most people were also bemused by the withdrawal of Alexandersson to facilitate all this.  He'd not set us alight but, of the few pushes towards their box that we'd had, he'd often been involved.  Anyway, the team shake-around strange as it was did have some effect, and we had a glut of corners at the end... but, deep down, you knew they weren't going to come to anything.  

And they didn't.

I'm not sure I'd really single any one out for particular praise or criticism:  

  • Gravesen at least put himself about more than most which at times highlighted his weaknesses but at others resulted in great crosses into the empty box.  
  • Pembridge showed an outrageous piece of skill in the first half to beat three men, but had the moment ruined by the ref blowing for an earlier foul despite our hard-won advantage.  
  • Richard Gough shouted a lot.  
  • Gazza tried to lift us, but his touch on the day was I think better in his head than his feet.  
  • Duncan managed one attempt on goal all game. 
  • Gemmill had a couple of half efforts. 

By and large, though, everyone just went through the motions.

Final whistle.  Fair result.  Long way from home.  All you need then to make the day is a long walk back to the station while it pisses down listening to Saints fans bang on about how Everton are the worst team they've seen since Bradford.

Saturday was hard, hard work.


   Up to Reports Index ]
 Long and Winding Road
Mickey Blue Eyes
 
Venues like The Dell remind me of the melodramatic closing scene in Peter Weirs great film, Dead Poets Society, the bit where most of the pupils stand on their desks to support the scapegoat teacher Keatingpure schlock theatre but made for a wonderful movie denouement: Stand up and be counted. 

This has relevant pique since we live in a society deliberately created to count nothing more than the bottom line, and we have all acquiesced.  No use whining now.  DO something about it or get only what youre allowed to have.  Which is just enough to keep you in rationalised jeers at the expense of the less fortunate.  

It applies to footy more than almost any other part of popular culture.  But still The Beautiful Game survives, albeit in increasingly anorexic form, dressed in The Emperors New Clothes.  Patiently, we await the innocence of the little boy in the crowd.  Amazingly, our ticket allocation was sold out two weeks before the game.  We were all about to stand on our desks, or fold-up seats, and behave like schoolboys for the duration of the visit to Sarfampton.  In a word, cathartic.  Oh aye yeh, nothing if not self-deceptive....

The Bus

I was relieved to get into The Bus at 7am and get on with it.  I needed an antidote to an encounter the previous evening in which an alleged Blue Belly had insisted that we:

(a) pay the players more to stop them leaving, 

(b) borrow the money to buy better players, 

(c) cut the overdraft, 

(d) build a new stadium at Kings Dock, 

(e) sack Walter Smith, 

(f) get rid of Bill Kenwright and Paul Gregg, 

(g) attract a rich new owner who will spend millions on new players, 

(h) sack the entire administrative staff, 

(i) get a new PR image, 

(j) and oh yes The Games Going To The Dogs And Why Isnt Somebody DOING Something About It And No I Wouldnt PAY To Watch That Shite. 

Altogether it was the kind of senseless diatribe which has you looking fondly to your window box for reasonable conversation.  Gawd save us from professional afficionados and self-styled insiders.  Its like listening to the immortal Billy Connolly doing his outrageous character assassination on women: I want some o THIS!  I want some o THAT!  I want some o the OTHER!  And I want it all NOW!

Thankfully, The Bus is full of fans who genuinely love footy and for some historical and long-forgotten reason have attached themselves to Everton.  Existential to a man, (Were shite, arent we?  But by JEESUS well get better!) they know the common sense limits to our parlous situation.  Nobody asks for the stupidly impossible magic wand.  All they want is a good team and three points in the next game, a genuine reason for feeling good.  Theyll even analyse each game and where we went wrong.  Being there is like having a sensual, cleansing hot shower after swilling out a pig sty the previous night.

The Context

It was a cold grey day on Merseyside but it got colder, frostier and even snowed for a spell as we got further south.  The world turned upside down.  Very appropriate considering where we were going and who we were playing.  A quick poll elicited the view that we were unlikely to get much out of the game, a draw at most.  But nobody was downhearted, far from it.

Southampton is a mostly featureless place, at least along our route, but with an odd air of faded cheeriness  never better expressed than through the local accent, a sort of combination of cockney and west country.  I liked the place but wouldnt want to live there. 

We ended up at a small pub called The Golden Lion split-level with two pool tables at the lower rear level.  We flooded through to the rear, coats off and immediately occupied both tables.  I played Alan first and (haha) BATTERED him to the usual appalling barracking of, That was absolute SHITE la! and Yer cudn't it a cows arse with a banjo!  The automatic response to the latter is of course, No.  But I can smack YEW in the mouth any time. Meantime, Ray chatted up one of the barmaids in his usual pain-in-the-arse-I-can-see-you-coming-sunshine routine.  The locals looked on as though theyd never seen pantomime before.

Many lagers and much footy chat later we walked ten minutes to the ground in a light cold drizzle. Ive never seen a higher ratio of bizzies and stewards at any ground, including the nazi north-east. But nobody was objectionable, not even the acne-scarred bizzy who said he didnt know where my access gate was but then helpfully suggested I ask a steward. F uck knows what he would have said if Id asked for the time.

Inside, I beheld The Dell. Its like a time warp. After seasons end Southampton move out to a much-needed new stadium. Not surprising really because the present one is about as small as they cometwo small double decker stands parallel with the touch lines, a cowshed behind one goal and an amazing, acutely sliced larger popular stand behind the other. We were stuck in the corner on two tiers next to the cowshed. It was all dead nostalgic. We were in the front row of the upper tier, right next to a supporting post. Though quite full, the gate was only just over fifteen thousand. Places like this are the very heart and soul and roots of the game. Something lost and something gained in living every day, an okay clich.

The Big Yin was back for us and so was Nic, Goughy and Pembo. Since Gemmill was playing too I hoped we might get our only useful centre midfield pairing of Gemmill-Pembridge. Huh, fat chance. Honestly, I havent the faintest idea what formation we were playing. It quickly became evident that the players didnt know either. Gravesen for instance started the game wide left and then at various times went in the middle to f uck up whatever creativity there was, then went wide right and then went back to wide left. Everyone else sort of milled around and gave the ball to Southampton at every available opportunity. Up front, The Yin was even more solo than SuperKev. We played reasonably combatively for the first ten minutes and then the game was played mostly in our half with the only likely looking combos coming from the opposition. Even then, attempts on goal were few and far between. It was an awful first half. For us, the only useful looking player was Nic. If he ever gets into a good team hes going to do some damage with those close control dribbles of his.

The second half wasnt much better and we didnt get into it until after theyd scored. Even then we didnt look convincing. That said, I dont want to take anything away from Southampton. They have a solid, well organised defence and they can string some useful movements together. Fact is, though, they arent that good and had we even shown a semblance of cohesion we might well have got at least a point. Whatever chance we had disappeared with the substitutions when Gazza was brought on too late to get into the game, and was accompanied by an ominously overweight Sandro and Beloved Lardarse. It made you blink, what with wide left hungry-for-it Idan Tal on the bench and all.

The goal came when they broke up an attack down our left and quickly switched the ball through the middle to some Scandinavian or other who was off on an acute angled right-to-left run through the centre circle. We had been pressing for a few minutes and Goughy was the last line of defence. As Goughy closed, the guy did the elementary thing and knocked the ball beyond his left side and ran around his right. Youthful legs took their toll and he was well clear with only Paul left to beat at the edge of the box. No mistake. And that was it, apart from some late unlikely looking pressure from us. It was a depressing result and it was written on every Blue Bellys face as we left, mine included. There was still a cold drizzle.

Back at The Golden Lion, we slumped down with our beers and contemplated through a glass darkly. There was more mutter than chat. Dispirited, we left the pool tables and went up to the bar. The place was full of Blue Bellies. Undaunted, Ray was still trying to chat up the same barmaid. Then suddenly the place exploded. A group of lads decided THEY werent going to let it get them down. Singing everywhere. Faces brightened instantaneously. It was like the sun coming up. Bass tones of Zulu Warrior were everywhere. It went to its logical conclusion when two middle aged Bellies got onto tables and did the full, and I do mean FULL, routine. As they got down to their underpants a voice off to the side said, Look at dem flexin der fat guts! When they eventually made it to the full monty everyone strained to see what they had. The bar maid looked up and said, Ah I wouldnt worry about a little thing like that and suddenly the miseries were gone in a glorious wave of laughter. It was magical.

Scouse humour came flooding through at its very bestwhich of course entails cruel, hard-nosed reality. One of the barmaids had an eye permanently closed, looked in fact as though the eyeball was missing. As she went past collecting glasses one pissed up Belly said, Will you stop winkin at me, gerl! She laughed as hard as anyone.

By the time we got back on The Bus the depression had lifted completely and was replaced by the usual bulldog determination and crazy optimism. West Ham and Arry?! PAH! Well murder em.

Hope springs eternal. Another clich thats only a clich because its true.


   Up to Reports Index ]
 Smith: Tactical Genius? Discuss
Neil Wolstenholme
 
Glad I only had to get back to London rather than Liverpool after another performance that didn't lack for effort but possessed no cohesion, pattern, ingenuity or skill.  

I was astonished when we started with Gravesen at left wing (and so was he judging by his first half performance).  Surprised when we took off Alexandersson at a time when he looked the only player in our team who could find the Southampton penalty area without a road atlas.  Stunned would sum up my reaction when Pistone came on to play our 'problem' left wing role with 10 minutes to go and a genuine left winger in Tal was left to warm the bench.  Finally I was bemused when, with less than 5 minutes to go, the attacking force that is Dave Unsworth was thrown into the fray. 

We can talk about injuries all we want but the initial formation and subsequent substitutions might most generously be put down to desperation (the alternatives being incompetence or sabotage).  The really sad thing is we could have won today Soton were that average.  The only positive is that, if a team like them can ride so high, then we really only have to aspire to mediocrity next season to stand an outside shot of Europe if we are still in the Premier League, of course.

Of course, to aspire even to mediocrity, it is generally helpful not to sell your best players.  Jeffers may (or may not) be a greedy little Judas toe-rag but the sad truth is, when the club is no longer able (again putting the most charitable interpretation on things) to keep someone like him motivated, then you have to look at the state we are in and ask some hard questions about the direction we are going down.  If he (and Ball) were to be sold then, based on last summer, we run the risk of drafting in inferior replacements.  Even if we get away with it again this season, if you keep playing Russian Roulette sooner or later you get the bullet.  As the Soton fans sang today "you used to be a big club".

One of the reasons I'm so keen to see Kings Dock happen is my fear that we've reached such a parlous state that even better management on and off the pitch might do no more than make us a barely adequate PL club.  Kings Dock won't turn us into a European superpower as if by magic but it might just might help get us onto a better financial footing and provide the boost to image and morale that we so badly need. 

However, I'd rather watch us in a ploughed field that we had majority ownership of than rent a stadium from the council or everyone else as you cannot compete in a league were clubs own their stadia and get the commercial benefits from it if you're a tenant and our history reminds us of the evils of landlords...  I still genuinely believe that if we continue to campaign and put pressure on the powers that be, we will get Kings Dock on (or acceptably close to) our terms but I won't accept anything less and doubt if anyone else would either.

I said when Bill Kenwright et al took over (or rather when Paul Gregg took over, as it is mainly his money, with Bill as the PR lead) that I had real doubts but would judge by actions and achievements.  The next 2 months have become crunch time can we secure our PL status and can we get Kings Dock on the terms the club continue to say they must have (EFC majority ownership)?  I and others are doing what we can to help the club's cause and I have my fingers crossed that, just for once, the club will manage not to screw things up and deliver on their promises.

BK may be a great Evertonian but his record so far is not conspicuously better than PJ's in terms of genuine accomplishment.  The onus is on the board to deliver improvement on and off the field soon.  A good start might be asking the manager to account for today's innovative three left back formation!!!  We have some decent players but we sure as hell aren't getting as much out of them as some other teams are achieving with (theoretically) inferior talent.

A final note on this St Paddy's Day: if Leprechauns truly are the bankers of the faerie world (as claimed by a right banker on Radio 5 earlier today!), has BK approached them yet to see if they can loan us a few quid?
 


   Up to Reports Index ]
 Oh How we have fallen!
Ste Daley
 
A few things hit home to me today, as I sat looking out of the window of the 17:15 Southampton service to Waterloo.  The rains continued to pour, and the looks on Evertonians' faces matched that of the weather: grim at best.... 

The first thing that hit home was that I had awoken earlier that day, thinking "a point would be a good result today" 0 now excuse the language, but what the fuck?  I support Everton always have and always will the same Everton that are credited with 9 league championships, 5 FA Cups and a European Trophy, the same Everton that in days gone past (admittedly 10 years ago but anyway...) in days gone by, Everton FC, were a super power of English football.  One of the players, one of the most respected football clubs around.....  

Three points and no less would have been the order of the day for a visit to Southampton.  But no, here was me and if you lot are honest with yourselves, and if we had communication with Walter Smith, me, you and the Scotsman would all have settled for a draw pre-match. 

Let's not kid ourselves; we would have settled for a draw because of how bad a team and how badly run a club we have become not because we had x amount of injuries; not because Southampton are an outstandingly brilliant team; purely and simply because we have fallen so far into mediocrity. 

The second thing that struck me somewhere in between a left-footed defender being thrown on as a last-ditch attempt to salvage a point... and the booking of another left-sided defender who hadn't played a top-level game for months, and who was also thrown on to help salvage a point (despite the fact that a certain Idan Tal was left sitting on his hands keeping the bench warm)...  

Now this is what struck me: Francis Jeffers is possibly going to leave the club almost certainly if we go down, and I for one wouldn't blame him.  Michael Ball is likely to follow suit if relegation becomes reality or the crippling debts continue to rise.  

Now if one of these / either of these / both of these players are allowed to leave, regardless of the sum of money, we Everton Football Club are finished!  At the moment, these two players are our only major assets; our only hopes for the future.  They must be kept at all costs; nurtured, and the team built around them.  

And it can't stop there.  We need to keep developing players from youth level up something we are going to struggle to do, with the state of the whole youth policy at the club at the moment.  If, as I have said, we allow these players to leave, THAT'S IT!  It's all over, and say goodbye to any trophy for another 20 years at least.  

Or, if the club continues to be run in the way it has been, make that 40 years. 

And finally, what a shitty ground The Dell really is; but they're moving albeit to a Pride Park/Riverside Stadium clone.  They are a club who are happy to survive in the Premiership and that'll do them nicely.  The problem is, whilst we all aim higher, in reality we are fast becoming if we are not already another Southampton; another Coventry (although their number seems to be up this year...).   I don't think we will go down this year.... but next year?  Unless a lot of work is done, then it's a real possibility. 

This is not a "Walter Out" protest.  Whilst tactically and substitution-wise, he has made one or two (understatement) "blunders" today being another one I just don't see who we could replace him with.  Dave Watson would be the only real contender... and I fear that Dave would not be ready with no experience behind him, bar the caretaker job he did a few years ago. 

Anyway, back to Walter.  I feel on the whole his transfers have been pluses for the club (not all, but most...) and that he has managed to offload some of the deadwood from the squad.  I still feel that, without the overdraft looming over us and with less of the injuries we have suffered this year, he could still install some stability. 

One thing that needs to be addressed right now is the youth set up.  I hear Alex Ferguson is quitting United....  As Smith and Fergy are reported to be "best-mates", could we not make him an offer to prove just how good he is?  Even if its only a job as Youth Director?  He turned United around by starting from the bottom with the kids, and working it up and now look at them! 

One thing's for sure: I'd settle for a point against West Ham in the next game. 

Sad, ain't it.


   Up to Reports Index ]
 Hoddle busy on the home front
Steve Thomson, Electronic Telegraph
 
GLENN HODDLE was left in no doubt about the feelings of Southampton fans concerning the speculation linking him with the manager's job at Spurs. Their desire for him to stay was echoed in the rapturous reception he received when returning to the dug-out for the second half of this largely scrappy encounter with relegation-threatened Everton.

On the field, one untidy incident merged into another for nearly an hour before Jo Tessem broke the deadlock. Southampton stretched their winning run to five games which also represented the seventh consecutive time they had kept a clean sheet. It puts them on the fringe of the race for a place in Europe, not to mention underlining Hoddle's suitability as a candidate for the situation vacant at his former club.

Before the game, Hoddle's sole concern was prising three points from Everton, according to his agent, Dennis Roach. "That's all he's got on his mind, and hopefully pushing Southampton up the table towards a European place," he said.

Roach denied there had been any direct approach to Hoddle from Spurs, saying: "If there had been, it would have gone through Rupert Lowe, their chairman, and I think you've already heard from him that he's not been contacted." He also revealed that Hoddle was due to take a week's holiday after the game.

Proceedings soon came to life as Everton's Thomas Gravesen blazed a free kick over the bar before James Beattie, at the opposite end, just failed to make contact with a glancing header at the near post.

Southampton continued to press and, despite the return of 39-year-old Richard Gough to stiffen their resolve, the visitors looked ragged at the back and only a last-ditch lunge by Steve Watson blocked a fierce goal-bound effort from Tessem.

Duncan Ferguson was another Goodison player returning from injury but his aerial threat went unnoticed until half an hour had elapsed when he switched play to Gravesen and Scot Gemmill's diving header from the Dane's cross flew just past the post.

After the break, a goalless stalemate was beginning to look likely before the match-winning moment suddenly arrived. A quick pass forward found Tessem in space near the centre circle, he skipped past David Weir and, evidently to his own surprise, found himself one-on-one with Paul Gerrard, who half-smothered the ball but was unable to prevent it creeping over the line.

Report © The Electronic Telegraph

   Up to Reports Index ]
 Hoddle in spotlight as Saints march on
by Ivo Tennant, The Sunday Times
 
GLENN HODDLE departed the Dell last night for a short holiday in Spain, taciturn about his future, unforthcoming on the mounting speculation that he will soon be installed as Tottenham Hotspur's manager. All that concerns him - or so he said - was that Southampton had achieved their fifth successive Premiership victory, a record of sorts for them. Hoddle's pre-match lack of comment one way or the other, his refusal to give an interview to the local radio station and the presence at The Dell of his agent, Dennis Roach, might well have suggested something was afoot. Or it might not have done. The former England manager talks to the media on his terms and tends to be sparing with his remarks at the best of times.

What Roach did say was that Hoddle's contract with Southampton includes the customary clause for compensation for both parties in the event of its termination.

In other words, no particular mention of a demand to be released should Tottenham make an approach for him, as Rupert Lowe, Southampton's chairman, has long been concerned that eventually they would do.

The support for Hoddle as he took his seat in the dug-out was manifestly apparent, just as it had been on a Radio Solent phone-in before the kick-off.

Lowe, a chairman who allows his manager to look after team affairs without interference while he, a former banker, attends to the financing and development of the new stadium, insists there has been no approach from Enic, the new controlling body at White Hart Lane.

As to the football here, it was something of a sideshow. Everton, deploying a 4-5-1 formation, created, if anything, the better of such chances as there were. A free kick from Thomas Gravesen went just over the bar in the second minute and a header by Scot Gemmill was only a foot or so wide of one post later in the first half.

Jo Tessem's goal on 58 minutes was quite the most skilful moment of the match. Collecting the ball 12 yards inside Everton's half, he evaded one challenge, outwitted David Weir and scored with a shot that Paul Gerrard could not parry with any conviction. It trickled over the goal-line just before Abel Xavier could regain his ground.

Meanwhile, on the substitutes' bench sat two of the most gifted footballers seen in England during the past decade. Paul Gascoigne appeared midway through the second half, his ebullience not dimmed by the passing years and clubs. But alas Matt Le Tissier, who has been told by Hoddle to sort out his fitness if he wants a new contract, did not.

Everton probably deserved a point. Late in the game Duncan Ferguson, who was mostly constrained by Southampton's central defenders, had one header from a corner by Gravesen well tipped aside by Paul Jones, and went close with another from a cross by Gascoigne.

Southampton last conceded a goal in the Premiership on New Year's Day.

Report © Times Newspapers Ltd

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 Supporters left guessing by Hoddle in den of mediocrity
by Paul Connolly, The Times
 

GLENN HODDLE played a blinder on Saturday, swerving this way and that, evading challenges with aplomb. Im not going to comment about events at other clubs. We had a good win today and thats that, the Southampton manager said with a smile, jinking past a query about the vacant management post at Tottenham Hotspur. Will I be in charge when we play Ipswich on Monday? Ive no reason to talk about anything other than Southampton, he said with a grimace, dodging another clumsy tackle, before dashing off into a miserable Hampshire evening. If Tottenhams new owners, ENIC, eager to curry favour with the fans, do make a move for Hoddle, they should be aware that his present team are not exactly rampaging cavaliers of stylish football.

Every Tottenham fan appears to believe that it is their right to see their side playing beautiful football while sweeping everything before them. Hoddle is the embodiment of that romantic, rather preposterous notion, but if any Spurs fans had attended this dreadful encounter between two poor teams, they would have run for the hills yelling: Bring back Christian Gross!

For long stretches, it was difficult to believe that Southampton and Everton were in the same division as Manchester City, never mind Manchester United. Players passed as though they had sprinklers for feet, the crowded midfield resembled the opening scenes of Gladiator as players hacked at each other with gleeful abandon, while the goalkeepers could have got on with some gardening in their goalmouths, so rarely were they tested. And Southampton played some ponderous long-ball football, which would concern Spurs fans.

The only players to poke their heads above the parapet of mediocrity were Dean Richards and Jo Tessem, of Southampton. Richards was imperious in defence, while Tessem scored the only goal of the game in the 58th minute and was one of the few players who did not act bemused when passed the ball.

His goal was a cracker. Winning the ball from Abel Xavier on halfway, he shimmied past Richard Gough and outwitted David Weir before firing past Paul Gerrard. It was a cameo of sublime skill, all the more startling for the awfulness of the game that framed it. To be fair, Southampton perked up after the goal and Marian Pahars should have scored after another fine run by Tessem.

Walter Smith, the Everton manager, was honest enough to admit that his injury-struck team had not deserved much from the game but, when asked if he planned to dip into the transfer market, he growled: Weve enough players, but theyve been bloody injured all season.

Report © Times Newspapers Ltd
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