Bill Nicholson Testimonial

Wednesday 8th August 2001



Tottenham  3  AC Fiorentina  0  -  Bill Nicholson Testimonial  -  Wednesday 8th August 2001

Weather : -  Wet surface, warm with a chilly breeze.
Crowd : -    35,877
Referee : -  Mr. P Jones
Scorers : -  Tottenham  -  Ferdinand 15, Poyet 30, Iversen 50
                    Fiorentina  -  None

Spurs: Sullivan, Taricco (Piercy 87), Ziege, Bunjevcevic, Doherty (Perry 65), King, Freund (Davies 59), Poyet, Clemence, Ferdinand (Iversen 45), Rebrov (Etherington 83).

Fiorentina: Taglialatela (Manninger 45), Agostini (Repka 58), Adani, Cois (Amoroso 58), Roberto, Di Livio, Morfeo, Rossi, Chiesa, Gomes, Pierini (Gonzales 58).

With a near capacity crowd (just the West Stand letting us down), Bill Nicholson celebrated his second Testimonial at Spurs and even if he had been awarded one for each of the six decades he has served the club, it would not be enough.  I was only pleased that the team could do justice to the club and traditions that he built in the late 50's and through the 60's and 70's.

The long queues outside held kick off up for a while, but when play got underway, Spurs in their light blue change kit made an early chance through Ziege who blazed over.  Up at the other end a delightful passing move cut Spurs open and the ball out to Chiesa on the left, put him in on goal. However, Sullivan was sharp off his line to block the former Juventus man's shot.  The play was open all game and it ebbed and flowed from end to end.  Ziege set up Rebrov with a great chance when the Ukrainian was in the clear in the box, but tried to be too deliberate with his volley that bounced wide.  Spurs didn't have to wait too long for their opener though and it came about from a high ball pumped into the box from Taricco.  Les jumped with the keeper, who seemed to have the ball, but then dropped it on Ferdinand's head.  It was a bizarre incident, as the ball bounced away from goal off one of the corners on Sir Les' bonce.  He did react quickly enough though to strike it low past the man on the line to open the scoring.  This infuriated the Italians who surrounded the ref begging him to award a foul, but he would have none of it.  It did lead to some retribution.

Having conceded, Fiorentina did not take kindly to the fact and started to exhibit some of the more cynical tendencies in their game, which, even for a friendly, could not be withheld.  A blatant trip on Rebrov when he was through and some clattering tackles from behind were de riguer for the Italian side.  However, they did show glimpses of the delicate way they could play the beautiful game.  A pass through the middle of the Spurs defence skidded off the wet turf and seemed to be going to Sullivan.  The Scottish keeper came, then went back and finally decided to make the ball his, but it somehow went straight through his advance and it rolled towards goal.  In came running the youngster Rossi and with Doherty throwing himself into a block, the Italian managed to spoon the ball over the bar from about three yards out !!  How he missed, I will never know.  A few minutes later, a long ball over Doherty's head saw Chiesa in again on the right hand corner of the box and he took a first time lob with the outside of his foot that left Sully stationary and he was unlucky to see his shot just fade past the far post.

Play then moved towards the Fiorentina goal, with a bout of Spurs wide men crossing it from one side to the other, before Rebrov lofted a cross to the far post, where Les rose and headed it into Taglialatela's hands.  A couple of minutes later, Ziege was taking a left wing corner, which he whipped in low to the edge of the six yard box and Poyet lost his marker and side-footed the ball into the far corner.  It was a sublime piece of finishing and one where he let the pace on the ball take it into the net, just using his foot to divert it in the right direction.  Spurs were a little loose at the far post for a corner near half time and Pierini (who won't be joining West Ham) hit the post with a header.

The second half saw few changes, but Iversen came on for Les and he made his mark soon after.  A classy run by Poyet saw him exchange passes with Iversen, before slipping the Norwegian in for an opportunity to delicately chip the ball over the advancing Manninger.  It was a well-crafted and well-taken goal, which saw Poyet at his best.  Unlike in the first half, when he rattled the bones of one of the Fiorentina defenders with a late challenge, showing his "harder" side.  Spurs continued to press forward, while the Violas attacks inevitably broke down around the edge of the area.  Rebrov had a fierce shot turned over by the keeper and Ziege almost embarrassed the ex-Arsenal man with a corner driven in at the near post that he had to claw away for another set-piece.  He did well to save Iversen's downward header, which he should have scored from and was a virtual replay of the one by Simon Davies who didn't get enough on to trouble the goalie.

As for the blond defender for the visitors, who had a bootlace tied around his head, it was a night to forget.  He was involved in a running battle with Clemence in the first half, got nut-megged by Rebrov in the second and only managed to get near enough to kick Spurs players.  It was hard to assess this win as Fiorentina were not at the top of their game, but a win is a win and against quality opposition, they proved that you could not allow them the opportunity to show how good they were.  Spurs worked hard, passed well and Clemence who comes in for a hard time from the Spurs crowd, should be praised for his showing.  Davies looked at home against this side and got stuck in, while Ziege looked like a potential provider for the future with a string of good balls into the box. 

But most of all, the man watching down from the front row of the West Stand was the hero of the night.  Bill Nicholson made this club and deserves everything he receives from this match and more.  The delight on his face was plain to see and he will be pleased to have witnessed a Tottenham performance worthy of the name.  The Glory is to come.






For a friendly, this game nearly kicked off later than it kicked off late.  For once, I was grateful for it.  Having spent an afternoon at the London Arena with the kids watching Robot Wars with the kids (well, it had been arranged to come after the Luton game and before the club set up this match), I had to rush to White Hart Lane.  Seeing Sgt. Bash (a Spurs fan) beat Shunt (West Ham) at Robot Wars football was a good start. It's not often you see Spurs win twice in the same day !!  However, leaving Docklands at 6, I made it to Loughton by 7 and to Picketts Lock by 7.07.  It then took me nearly 50 minutes to get to the ground from there !!  The traffic was horrendous and I had to park in some gloomy, fly-tipped side street leading to an industrial estate fully expecting the car to be in bits when I returned.

As I took my seat, the game kicked off.  I had missed Bill Nicholson's entry onto the pitch, the standing ovation from the almost full ground  and I understand "McNamara's Band" an old favourite of Spurs fans who go back to the 70's.

What I did see was a Tottenham side producing a display of passing not seen for many years.  The interplay from some of the players who have just joined was excellent and the movement had Fiorentina scurrying around trying to kick their way into the match.  There were a number of "challenges" which would have earned cards in a normal match, but Mr. Jones had a hard time trying to explain (via the crossing two handed gesture) to indicate that he wanted the dirty play cut out.  Either that or he was indicating that the scything tackle was back in fashion.  Although the visitors didn't pull out of any challenges, Spurs still played their game despite a few moments when Fiorentina showed their true ability.  They gave the Tottenham goal some near misses, mainly through Chiesa and Rossi who got the ball over and wide from difficult and easy positions respectively.  Spurs had got the early goal when Les put in an English centre forward's challenge on the Italian keeper and found the ball at his feet and got it past the last man to notch another pre-season goal to add to his one at Millwall.  Gus soon added another gliding in to meet Christian Ziege's corner from the left.  It was a class finish and showed what we can expect from him this season, as well his fighting attitude to win.  Indeed, he took the captain's armband after Les quit the action at half-time.  

The game was a good one as there was space for players to play and Ziege seemed to be appreciating the space wide on the left, despite the people sitting around me who thought he should have been marking the right winger all the time.  I hope that they will not be there for the rest of the season !!  King was imperiously picking things off in defence, without getting flustered and alongside him Bunjy won more headers than in any other game so far.  He also looked to start moves by putting the forwards in at every opportunity.

On the Jumbotron screens, they had a Bill Nick interview at half-time.  When asked about his feelings when Hoddle came in as manager, he simply replied that everything felt right again.  He didn't really need to say any more.  Spurs fans knew what he meant.  There then followed video sequence of the end of last season, with only one goal (Rebrov's hooked volley against West Ham United in the FA Cup) from the GG era.  Then a procession of old Spurs legends who had played under Mr. Nicholson were introduced to the crowd.  Hopkins, Cliff Jones, Bobby Smith, Mackay, Henry, Marchi, Les Allen, Jennings, Peters, Chivers, Coates, Pratt, Terry Naylor (looking like Boycie out of "only Fools and Horses"!), Falco, Mabbutt, Rosenthal (who surely didn't fit either criteria !!).  All had come to pay homage to the great man. 

After the break, there was greater concentration on booing a replacement goalkeeper from Highbury than much else.  He was left floundering four minutes in, when Poyet showed a fleet turn of pace to put Iversen in and he lobbed the ball over the ex-Arsenal keeper, as he went to ground, from just inside the box.  It was a neat finish, but the passing between him and Gus on the way to the goal was very pleasing.  Spurs did use the ball particularly well tonight and Clemence did well, trying to enforce the midfield, but linking well with Freund and Poyet to keep the play moving.  Doherty was a little off his usual form and did get caught out a couple of times, as the nimble footed Chiesa got round him, but the Irishman battled back to put in a good display.  Davies should have scored with a free header just outside the six yard box and Iversen was guilty of wasting a similar chance.  Some heading practice is needed in training Glenn !!  Fiorentina had their best chance when the ball was worked to the edge of the box and Domenico Morfeo hit a dipping shot that went about a foot over the bar.  He was the outstanding Viola player and prompted things from midfield and hit passes accurately, even when he was falling over !!  Looks a very good man to have on your side.

Spurs continued to push forward and both Ziege and Rebrov forced saves, while Sergei took delight in showing off his tricks and flicks.  Freund did an effective job in his unflashy manner, but did nearly come to blows with one of the Fiorentina defenders, who wouldn't return the ball for a free kick.  Next time he tried to get past Steffen, he nearly had his shorts ripped off him !! There was one comical moment near the end when Manninger tried to stop the ball going out for a corner.  Unfortunately, his momentum took him off the sideline and Etherington had the presence of mind to take a short corner to Rebrov, who was just about to bend it into an unguarded net, when the ref blew to re-take the corner !!  There had been no infringement, but he wanted to preserve peace after allowing the first goal in the face of lots of complaints form the Italian side.   Then the whistle blew for the end.

The man of the evening stood and was pictured on the video screens taking the applause he so richly deserves.  In a time when "ten years means nothing to some people", Bill Nicholson deserves more than all the money that Highbury can provide.  A knighthood is the only true recognition of what this man has done for one club.  He is the one who had made them world famous and respected even to this day.  He is the one who gave the club it's Glory Days.  He is the man who made Tottenham.

Long may we see him at White Hart Lane.

Marco van Hip

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