White Hart Lane. Not exactly our happiest of hunting
Last years 3-2 defeat after we had led 2-0 still stings but
the fickleness of the Spurs fans also sticks in the memory.
If you look at Spurs and the Messiah that is Glenn Hoddle,
you may begin to appreciate just how harshly the press and
Evertonians have treated Smith over the last few months.
A comparison of the last 6 premiership games of the respective
teams sees that Spurs have won once in their last 6 games
picking up just 5 points, whilst we have won 1 picking up 3
points - all this time whilst the minority have bayed for
Smith's blood and the Spurs fans have heaped praise on Hoddle.
In the summer, Spurs recruited Poyet, Sheringham and
Buncejevic and shortly into the season wrestled Richards from
Southampton for Ł8m. They lost Campbell
Everton bought Radzinki. We lost Ball, Jeffers and
The press, up to a few weeks ago, was lauding Hoddle and
the new Spurs - how many "New" Spurs teams do we see
a decade? At the same time, Smith was being
castigated. As Hoddle fails to get anything out of
Rebrov, an Ł11M signing (admittedly not by him), Smith
watches as Campbell, Ferguson and Radzinski double up in the
If any club benefits from a London aura and great
relationship with the Southern-biased press it is Spurs.
What they hell have they won? Oh yeah, a few Cups in the
last 20 years - even when we were fighting relegation we
nipped off to Wembley to beat United! In the last 10
years, the highest they have finished is 7th, usually coming
in around 10th-12th and they have failed to get past the
semi-finals of the FA Cup. Despite all this they still
get massive media coverage and are "tipped" for
great things !
What we will expect on Saturday ?
Spurs do actually have a few people out. Ziege will
definitely be missing - which I am delighted about, that bloke
is class and Liverpool really buggered up in letting him get
away - Freund is also out and there are mixed stories about
Ferdinand - I am sure every Evertonian joins me in wishing him
all the best... for Sunday - please give us a break, Les!
We sound like there will be a few people coming back.
Watson seems sure to be back and Dunc has shaken off the flu;
Xavier we aren't sure about but it sounds like we're not
trying to keep him anyway now so he probably wouldn't be first
Smith probably won't consider it but if Watson isn't fully
fit then why drop Hibbert? The lad has managed 2 full 90
mins (West Ham away last season and last week) and the defence
has not conceded a goal in either. He seemed to carry
the brunt of the blame for Blackburn's goal earlier in the
season but Watson has hardly been error free. I said
last week that I wanted to see Hibbert given a chance and now
I would love to see him given an extended run in the 1st team.
Watson doesn't really deserve to lose his place but players
should be shown that if they come in and perform then they
will keep their places - perhaps others then won't be quite so
keen to take a week off when they get a "knock" if
they know there is no guaranteed 1st team place awaiting them.
Gerrard, Gravesen, Watson, Pembridge and Xavier on the
bench would certainly ensure that those on the pitch kept on
their toes and resisted a small "twinge".
The only reason why Hibbert maybe shouldn't keep his place
is the ability of the man he'll be competing with: Gus Poyet.
This player oozes class. He seemed to have gone off the
boil at Chelsea last year but 7 goals and 4 assists so far
this year has reaffirmed his ability and his contribution to
Spurs is immense. His interaction with Sheringham (back
from suspension for this game) and Anderton is genuinely a joy
to watch and our midfield will have to work exceptionally hard
to keep chasing and denying these three extremely talented
players time and space to weave their patterns.
Upfront Spurs have not always made the most of their
approach play. Ferdinand has scored 7 in the league so
far and if he does overcome the aforementioned injury then he
will have to be closely marshalled. Rebrov and Iversen
have simply not looked the part so far (1 goal between them
this season) and if Ferdinand does miss out then our defence
could be capable of looking after them.
At the back, Spurs can look vulnerable. Another two
goals conceded against Ipswich from set pieces on Saturday
suggests that we could get at them. Richards is a good
player - could we really have signed him for a free when we
choose Gough instead - but not the International class player
Hoddle tries to claim. At fullback/wingback Spurs really
miss Steve Carr and the loss of Ziege further weakens
them. Davies replaced him and Taricco - he of THAT
TACKLE (on Gravesen) - is on the other flank.
It's down the flanks that I think we can get
something. Nick seems to enjoy having Blomqvist on the
other side. Despite Thatcher playing his first full game
for Spurs reserves on Monday, Saturday may still come a bit
soon for him and Nick should have enough about him to keep
Davies, who is really a midfielder, penned back and still
assist Watson/Hibbert in watching Poyet.
Blomqvist could terrorise Taricco and if he does then we
can look forward to seeing who can them do something with the
Well, Campbell is back and answering the call again but
completely unfit; Dunc should be available but again has
missed 5 days training of the last 10 because of the
"flu". That said, even if they are only both
half fit (and Campbell not even that) then I can see us
scoring. Gazza is playing as well as he has for us and
his and Jesper's supply from set pieces with Campbell, Dunc,
Weir and Stubbsy forward (and possibly Unsworth) we could
easily garner some reward. Nick Chadwick may once again
get another 5 minutes but the game should be up by then.
If Poyet plays then I am a touch concerned; however Spurs
are in the middle of a serious run of matches with Chelsea
last midweek, Coventry this evening (Wednesday) and Chelsea
again next midweek. They are a relatively old team
(kettle pot black I think!) and that run of games could take
its toll. If we can stick with them through the first
30mins of the 1st half and 15mins of the 2nd then we can get
something from this game.
I reckon we could pinch it 1-0 but more realistically 1-1
would be acceptable from (another) one of our bogey grounds.
But if Zamora signs in time .....
A win could take us to the fringe of the top 10 with Orient
to come at home in the 4th round of the Cup. Top half
and 5th round of the cup come February? Would you have
believed it two weeks ago - strange season isn't it ....
by Paul Preston
The news of Blomqvist's injury and consequent absence was a big blow.
He has been increasingly influential of late. Moreover, as I and my 12 year-old
son approached the ground in the company of a couple of Spurs supporters, it was
obvious that the team line-up announced on the radio seemed stronger to them
than we knew it would be. In other words, they were worried about Ferguson
and Campbell as a formidable combination while we knew that they would not be
all that threatening for both long- and short-term (or, as we say in my
profession, for both structural and conjunctural) reasons — always static and
We had barely got seated when the expected happened. Quick move down their
right, cross over and Ferdinand heads in his reglamentary goal against
Everton. Three minutes into the game and it looked like we were in for a
Spurs play good football, make excellent use of their wings and also have
some seriously niggly, sly old lags (Sheringham, Sherwood, Taricco and Perry to
name but a few). Moreover, to assist them in getting the most out of this
group of shirt-pulling cheats, they had the determined and shameless support of
a referee who combined ineptitude with open favour for the home side.
Spurs are thus no push-overs despite their recent poor form. However,
we replied quickly. On five minutes, a deflected cross from Gascoigne came
over and Weir swung at it, connected sweetly and nearly burst the back of the
net. It was a wonderful goal which also, coincidentally, made Weir our
joint top scorer with four goals (the reason why a potentially top-ten team
languishes where it does).
It looked as if we might be in for a high-scoring game but, in the event, it
was not to be. The match fell into a pattern that was set for the next 85
minutes. They bombarded us for about 70% of the time and, when not pressed
into our own penalty area, we attacked back.
The imbalance was largely the result of the fact that every ball going out of
play at our end, irrespective of how it got there, was deemed to be a corner by
the referee... while every ball going out of play at their end, irrespective of
how it got there, was deemed to be a goal-kick. It was also a reflection
of our weak midfield. Our defending was deep, dogged and courageous.
Simonsen was not flawless but he is good for morale. He seems to have a
good rapport with the rest of the back four and does not berate them for his or
their mistakes. He commanded the area well and made at least two crucial
saves. We had lined up - or so it seemed to me - in a 3-5-2 formation:
Unsworth, Stubbs and Weir as back three; Hibbert and Naysmith as wing backs;
Gascoigne, Gemmill and Alexanderssen in midfield proper; and then Campbell and
Ferguson up front.
The back three were strong throughout, with all three making crucial and
brave interceptions. Hibbert showed flashes of inexperience when up
against the cynical Taricco which may go some way towards explaining Walter's
reluctance to throw him in at the deep end. On the other hand, there were
moments when he was reminiscent of Michael Ball, with some athletic chasing back
culminating in crisp and decisive tackles. Naysmith was all that and more
— his usual efficient and energetic self, storming up and down the left to
Gascoigne had some lovely touches although he was being wound up by their
midfield. Several bits of argie-bargie saw him unfairly penalised with
free kicks for Anderton just outside the right of our penalty area (which is
what they had been looking for in the first place).
Gemmill was less effective than he can be although he worked hard. For
me, Alexandersson was the pick of the midfield until taken off (I presume for
injury). He showed why Walter presumably rates him. His movement was
good and he got over some good crosses and he harried back tirelessly in support
As mentioned earlier, my expectations of Ferguson and Campbell were not high
given the lack of match fitness of both. In the event, I thought they both
did quite well and Campbell, under the circumstances, remarkably so. His
ability to control the ball and lay it off while being sexually molested by
three defenders was quite remarkable. He lacked pace for obvious reasons,
but I didn't think that he was being lazy. He didn't run after lost causes
but he didn't stint energy. Ferguson was brave as usual and got a number
of crucial headers, in both attack and defence. The understanding between
him and Campbell is still lacking but today I thought it was as good as I have
And finally, the nice surprise of the day was the introduction after 59
minutes of Peter Clarke. What a prospect! When Alexandersson went
off, Walter reshuffled the side to 4-4-2, with Weir moving to right back,
Unsworth to left back and Clarke aligning with Stubbs in the middle, thereby
allowing Hibbert to move onto the right of midfield. This made tactical
sense (to me, at least) given the way we were under pressure.
Clarke is very athletic, seriously pacey for a central defender and has
tremendous smarts. He was caught out on one occasion when a good tackle in
our penalty area saw one of their forwards go down theatrically.
Fortunately, no penalty nor a yellow card for diving for the prima donna in
question (I couldn't see who it was). Otherwise, he showed acute
positional sense and was decisive in either doing a Row Z or bringing the ball
out himself. If he can be coaxed along, we will do without Xavier.
So, overall, a good battling performance with a makeshift side. We
could have had at least two penalties from a more sympathetic referee —
Ferguson being barged over on one occasion and Campbell being blatantly pulled
back at least twice. The referee was appalling, on incident after
incident, the only excuse for his failure to whistle for many a Spurs foul was,
in the bon mot of Mike Burke sitting next to me, that his view was blocked by
five yards of air.
"He's good in the
by the Squire of Beckenham
Aye, an' so was Douglas Bader..."
“He is the best player!… Why, I could act as well as he
myself. I am sure, if I had seen a ghost, I should have looked in the very
same manner, and done just as he did…” (Henry Fielding, Tom Jones,
Tottenham. A club who, traditionally, have harboured aspirations that
far outstrip their potential; ambitions and expectations that are usually
banished in very short order by the cold, fetid January breath of harsh
reality; a tradition for flair and artistry based on a very flimsy
40-year-old premise; a sense of historical self-importance that has been
over-inflated by their camp followers to resemble pomposity on a Zepplinesque
scale. In short, the Cockney counterparts of Everton (except with more
So, given this historical synchronicity between the Lilywhites and ourselves,
why do I enjoy my visits to White Hart Lane as much as I do a sinus wash?
It’s not the stadium, which has been progressively redeveloped and enhanced in
a functionally efficient, if not aesthetically rewarding way… is it the
increasingly vague memories of derring-do on the Seven Sisters Road in the late
seventies and early eighties, which given my talent for the 100-metre dash
allied to my rank cowardice, I was usually well away from? Or is it just
that, after the gradual redevelopment, the place doesn’t seem to have the
warmth or the patina that somewhere like Highbury has?
I think that the truth probably lies in our unerring ability to snatch defeat
from the jaws of victory at White Hart Lane. Whenever we go to Highbury,
we go in the knowledge that we are almost certainly going to suffer an absolute
hiding, and we can work on our ‘gallows humour’ for the post-match inquest
over a beer or two; the whole experience has an almost ethereal air of the
inevitable about it.
At Tottenham, however, we arrive with a sense of expectation: a conviction
that we can get a result out of the game, a conviction reinforced by Tottenham’s
renowned inconsistency… And then we go two goals up and throw it all
away in the second half with a piece of slack defending, or a misguided
substitution, or a slice of pure bad luck, usually in the 86th minute. The
frustration that accompanies these defeats is something that all Blues know
Still, this was far from my mind as I paced with trepidation outside Highbury
and Islington tube, awaiting the almost touchingly tardy arrival of Stevie
Taylor the Tooting Toerag. A route march to meet up with the usual
suspects at the Antwerp Arms followed, and we were gifted by the presence of the
former head of the Independent
Blues, Ian MacDonald. A more passionate Evertonian would be difficult
to find, but he wears a cloak of sadness following all the recent
“behind the scenes” shenanigans and the way in which the club has taken
a constructive opinion and turned it into a vendetta. One day, the board
will actually come to realise that while supporters are the dependable
foundations of any club, we can also be the rocks upon which a club will
perish. By then, I fear it will be too late.
Much of the pre-match opinion was given over to late injury to Blomqvist, and
to the usefulness (or otherwise) of Duncan Ferguson. During the panic over
the lack of a shirt sponsorship deal a few years ago, a joke did the rounds that
our new shirt sponsor would be Tampax, “because we’re going through a bad
period”. However, Ferguson, Blomqvist and some of the other crocks have
given the joke a new punchline; like Tampax, they’re “in for a week, and out
for a month…”
Once the totemic talisman of a generation of supporters, Big Dunc is now
regarded as yet another symptom of the club’s decline. The man who
advised Tony Adams to deck Mickael Madar after the comedy Frenchman spat at the
Arsenal captain now makes Madar looks like a powerhouse of positive
energy. Wisdom had it that, if a good performance was not provided by
Ferguson, and quickly, then he’d be on his way so fast that his nose would
bleed. This wisdom, however, did not extend to predicting just who would
want to take a chance on him.
Given the decimation of our wafer-thin squad through injury, the selection
wasn’t a surprise: Simonsen in goal; Unsworth, Weir and Stubbs as three
centre backs; Naysmith on the left, Hibbert on the right; Gemmill, Gascoigne and
Alexandersson in midfield; Campbell and Ferguson up front. Spurs were
playing a 4-4-2 and, if we’d have had Blomqvist and played the same formation,
I reckon we would have had a rip-roaring seesaw of a game.
However, we didn’t have Blomqvist, and so we had to sit and bite our nails
as Spurs flew out of the traps and straight at us. Spurs’ movement and
passing was far, far more fluent than ours and you could sense that continued
pressure like this would see us defending around the box and relying on the
hopeful punt to Rodin’s Effigy of Balzac up front.
The inevitable Les Ferdinand opener came on four minutes. A cock-up
between Naysmith and Gemmill (I think) led to the ball being whipped into the
box by Leonhardsen, which Ferdinand met with a towering header and buried it low
to the right of Simonsen.
At this point, we were thinking that Tottenham might just take a leaf out of
the book of their North London neighbours and stick about four or five past us…
but just like us, they are fatally flawed (bless ‘em). Three minutes
later, we were level when a deflected cross from Gascoigne was only half
cleared, and as the ball dropped fifteen yards out it was met on the volley by
our super striker Davie Weir, who smashed it past Sullivan with much
aplomb. A fantastic strike, and no mistake.
Spurs continued to press, and only the profligacy of Ferdinand allied to some
resolute no-nonsense defending and superb goalkeeping kept us in the
match. Meanwhile, at the other end, the Totem Pole managed to wake up for
just long enough to get his head onto a cross and force the save of the game
A word about our ‘talisman’: in this game, he wasn’t just peripheral
— he was useless! Duncan seems to think that all he has to do now to
earn his money is to haul his arse up into the air and try to get on the end of
the hopeful punt. Given the pattern of our play for the last few seasons,
I could almost forgive him for this is he would only make an effort to use his
legs and drag himself into some space away from Campbell every now and then, and
give an outlet for whoever has the ball. Sad to say, even this most basic
of footballing concepts now seems beyond him. Put it this way: I’m four
stone overweight and I’d still outrun him over 90 minutes.
He was joined in his conservation of effort by Alexandersson, whose total ‘effort’
could have been surpassed by a hibernating hedgehog. Admittedly, he was
playing slightly more infield than he’d like to accommodate the 3-5-2, but
frankly he was appalling. He contributed nothing of any value and merely
succeeded in confusing the hell out of Gemmill and Hibbert and making every move
of note break down.
The second half started with Ferdinand being replaced by Iversen. I
thought at first that he’d been rewarded for his wastefulness with an early
bath but it turned out that he’d been concussed after a clash with our tricky
left-winger, Rhino. Spurs started to play the ball down the inside
channels and turn our defence rather than raid down the wing but, other than a
few hairy moments, our defence weren’t fooled and held out well.
Hibbert, in particular, was a real eye-opener: yes, he’s inexperienced and
sometimes his over-exuberance can leave him a little exposed. However, his
tackling was superb, and his prodigious workrate should have embarrassed the
hell out of his, err, more senior “colleagues”.
Gasoline had a fair game, and gave everybody one glimpse of the past when he
shimmied past three Spurs players on the right before laying off an intelligent
ball into space (which, as usual, was wasted) but, with the lack of effort from
some of the other players, he tired as he ran himself into the ground.
When the board came up to signal the introduction of Joe-Max Moore, we all
anticipated the demise of Duncan and a bit of effort up front… instead of
which, off came Gazza. We were astounded, and reflected that Duncan must
be leading a charmed life…
We’d earlier seen the introduction of Peter Clarke for Alexandersson
(hurrah!), and the lad gave a steady performance, despite having an unfortunate
passing resemblance to Anthony’s divvy mate Darren from “The Royle Family”.
The substitutions didn’t have a great deal of overall effect, but at least it
shows that Walter might actually have realised that he has one or two little
gems in the squad that deserve to do more than make the tea at Bellefield.
The game eventually petered out in a maelstrom of wasted possession and
absolutely surreal refereeing decisions. A special mention here to Mr C
Wilkes, the latest student of the David Elleray Blind School to take up
top-drawer officialdom. The pearl among his pigshit refereeing must have
been the turning down of a blatant shove on Gemmill in the box which occurred
three yards in front of him and would have probably given us all three points. S
till, we can’t afford to buy referees these days can we?
And so, after surviving a late scare when Simo pushed a stinging Rebrov
effort onto the bar (“Goal Kick”, cried the ref), the whistle went and we
left clutching a welcome point — but with the innate sense of frustration
still burning within us. Not, this time, because of Tottenham, but because
a player with so much talent, so much potential, and so much backing from the
supporters in the past, just can’t be fagged anymore.
Why is it always us?