Looking Forward


Middlesbrough  (Home)

Premier League

Saturday 20th August 2005

With one game gone, Spurs currently have eight players on the injury list !!  no wonder we need a big squad.

Routledge will be missing with a stress fracture to his foot, so perhaps Aaron Lennon will be on the bench to add an input of pace should it be required later in the match, but I imagine Davids will feature alongside Tainio, Carrick and Reid in midfield.

With this in mind, Spurs might miss the speed to break Boro down, as they are a dour outfit, who rely on their defence to keep the opposition out and then build on that.  Even the reappearance of Mendieta, who is a fine player, will see him paired in midfield with the hard working Boateng, England prospect Downing on the wing and Doriva or Parlour.  Boateng usually runs the midfield against us, but with Tainio and Davids in there, it should be a combat zone, which Spurs might put their mark on.  The need to stop the supply to Yakubu, who seems to enjoy scoring against us, is paramount, but our defence has looked fairly solid in spite of being without Ledley King.  Dawson and Gardner look good in the centre, but with Edman likely to miss the game, it could mean Stalteri moving to left back and Kelly coming in at right back.

McMahon and Riggott's absence will add to Steve McClaren's concern at the back, where Ugo Ehiogu will be missing after getting sent off in last week's game against Liverpool.  The area might now lack some experience even though Gareth Southgate is still there to marshal the troops.  With Franck Queudrue returning to the ground where he was sent off last season, it might be that he gets a hot reception from the Spurs fans, while veteran Colin Cooper might be in line for a recall as Anthony Davies is out on a year long loan at Derby County.

Their forward department would look formidable if they were all available, but they have some missing persons there too.  Joseph Desire-Job almost joined West Ham last week, while Nemeth will miss the game, as will Malcolm Christie, as he has been out injured for nearly two years now.  It might mean a reunion of former Leeds United duo Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink and Mark Viduka up front, with the Australian being a target for a number of sides, with Newcastle United being the keenest, if Yakubu doesn't make it.  I think they will play their big money signing of the summer, as they have to justify the expenditure.  All three strikers are strong on the ball and run well, but the older pair might not cause as much of a problem, so with one dangerous player to watch up front and with Downing needing to be tamed out wide, it might allow some Spurs players the time and space to break forward.  

There have been a lack of really entertaining games against Boro at home for some time and their safety first approach might mean another war of attrition, but I think that the days when that might have worked against Spurs have gone and we are better equipped to play this system now.  Whether we can create the chances (and convert them) to take all three points is the test of our progress.  In this case, I fancy us to win ...

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham Hotspur  2    Middlesbrough  1

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -  Noe Pamarot (knee); Sean Davis (knee); Michael Brown (foot); Mounir El Hamdaoui (ankle); Ledley King (groin); Tom Huddlestone (knee); Erik Edman (Achilles); Wayne Routledge (broken foot)

MIDDLESBROUGH :  Malcolm Christie (leg); Szilard Nemeth (ankle); Emanuel Pogatetz (suspended ?); Stuart Parnaby (knee); Tony McMahon (dislocated shoulder); Chris Riggott (knee); Ugo Ehiogu (suspended); James Morrison (ankle)


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Tottenham Hotspur   2    Middlesbrough   0      (Half-time score : 0-0)
Premier League Venue : White Hart Lane  
Saturday 20th August 2005 Kick Off :  15.00 p.m.
Crowd :  35,844 Referee :  Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire)
Weather :  Warm, sunny
Teams : - 
Tottenham Hotspur :

Robinson (c)



Defoe (Keane 77)

Unused subs: 

Middlesbrough :


Southgate (c) 
Bates (Doriva 73)

Mendieta (Morrison 46)

Yakubu (Viduka 46)

Unused subs: 

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of http://www.colours-of-football.com)
Tottenham Hotspur Middlesbrough
Scorers : -  

Tottenham Hotspur

Defoe 49
Mido 76



Cards : -  
Tottenham Hotspur  

Hasselbaink (foul) 68



Defoe (leaving the pitch to celebrate) 50
Tainio (foul) 51
Davids (foul) 67


Match Report : -  

The first half of this game was hardly a classic as Boro came to bore a draw out of the match, but a sparkling strike from Jermain Defoe and a blooper by Mark Schwarzer left them making the long trip back up the A14 pointless.

With Routledge out, it meant that Davids came in for his debut to much cheering from the Spurs fans.  I am sure he will not get the same reception from other supporters this season, as his style will not endear him to opposition supporters.  But still, I doubt he will be the only one, as Tainio picked up his second booking in successive games and Stalteri takes no prisoners.  Spurs picked up four bookings in this match, which hardly saw a bad foul (although Davids' was late) and if this is the way referees go on this season most teams will struggle to get a side out most weeks !!  Hopefully, it is just their early season crackdown, which will ease by next weekend.

A first touch for Davids came early and it was Ray Parlour that got it.  Trying to mix it with Edgar is a mistake and the former Gooner ended up over the Dutch midfielder's shoulder as he tried to prove how hard he was !!  It was good to see Stalteri getting up the right wing and causing early problems with his crosses and when Reid put one in after 12th minutes, it came out to Mido, who mis-hit his shot.  Boro's first chance came from a cross by Downing, but Hasselbaink's header lacked direction.  His striking partner Yakubu showed why they signed him, when a Spurs attack broke down and the ball got to him in the centre circle, he powered forward with Edman (who had been getting a drink on the touchline) trailing behind him and it was only Stalteri coming across from right back that blocked his shot.  From the resulting corner, Downing put the ball over and it got through a mass of bodies in the area, but Hasselbaink couldn't find the target at the far post.

Mido showed his new physique off with some good running and he glanced a header wide, then crossed for Davids to try an overhead kick, which Schwarzer saved easily.  Spurs were moving the ball around well and a move on the left saw Davids play it into Tainio on the edge of the area and his sharp drag-back set-up Carrick to let fly from 25 yards, but the effort was drilled narrowly over the bar.

Spurs cried handball when Defoe struck Queudrue on the arm with a shot, but it wasn't given and then Davids brought a save from the Middlesbrough goalie from a tight angle on the left wing.

Right on half-time a Boro free-kick was an almost exact replica of their earlier chance, when it evaded everyone, but this time it was Yakubu who managed to get his shot over from close range at the far stick.  As the teams departed, the "Boring boring Boro" chants rang out as the time-wasting had already begun, but McClaren must have been stung by the singing, as he brought on Viduka and Morrison for Yakubu and the pale shadow of the player he used to be Mendieta.

This prompted the visitors to test the Spurs defence and following a rash shot from Mido when Reid was better placed, Hasselbaink toe-poked an effort over from close range as Robbo came out after Downing had flicked the ball onto him.   But from their next attack, Stalteri got a touch to a cross from the right and the ball fell to Tainio.  Looking up, he picked out Defoe in the centre circle and he saw two defenders and Mido ahead of him.  With the Egyptian moving right and taking Bates with him, Defoe ran at Southgate and as he moved towards him, Defoe hit a rocket of a shot just inside the post that Schwarzer was never going to reach.  It was a cracker of a goal and the only downside of it was a booking when he went to celebrate with the crowd.  

That yellow was followed by a yellow for Tainio for a shoulder charge on the (seemingly easy to knock over Downing) and then Davids' foul some minutes later.  The importance of a fine keeper was brought to the fore when Robinson dived full length to his left to touch round a Downing free-kick and then an advance to force Boateng to shoot just too high onto the roof of the net as he latched onto a return pass from Hasselbaink.  The Spurs keeper had Viduka's shot covered, when he rasped one on goal from 30 yards, but it was a foot over the bar.  Tottenham were a little luckier when Downing took Boateng's pass and fired over from inside the area with only Robbo to beat. 

The game had opened up and Spurs were hitting Boro on the break, so when Davids tried top put Defoe in with a back-heel and it broke free, Carrick hit a scorcher of a shot that flew about three yards wide.  It was only temporary relief for Boro, because in the 76th minute, Defoe once more took the ball through the middle of the pitch and laid it off to Mido running to his right.  Defoe went for the return and Carrick was in the box too, but Mido switched it to his left foot and hit a low bobbling shot that Schwarzer dropped down on, with the other two white shirted players furious.  Only Schwarzer went down in stages and the ball managed to go under his body and roll into the net for 2-0.  It was very poor keeping and David James would have been ashamed of the goal that went in.

Spurs were soaking up any Boro attacks and hitting on the break with Reid hitting a shot at the goalie and Dawson doing some ball juggling before hitting a shot on goal from a corner.  The visiting side had one last chance when Davids tiredly challenged and conceded a free-kick on the edge of our box.  Hasselbaink hit it low and Robinson got down to make a fine save close to his body.  When Mido struck a shot too high in the last minute, it signalled another 2-0 win for Spurs and six points to head the league.  Let's hope we can say the same at the end of May !!



Stamford Rivers


Red & White Whirl


Red is not my favourite colour.  It has always been Never Red for me.

However, the team from Middlesbrough never rise such feelings of hatred in my blood vessels.  Not because I like them or anything, but because they are a nothing team.  They are non-descript and bland, without a spark to ignite any strong feelings about them.  Can you remember a memorable Spurs game against Boro ??  No ... I thought not.

Their players are much the same.  Either older players looking for a final pay-out or some of them not bothered about what the club does.  Any promising young players would be better off moving on.  Although there are some big names in their side many are lesser talents than they once were.  Mendieta has not overcome his injury and it is a shame to compare him as he is now to the Valencia player who was so effective in La Liga and Europe.  Viduka and Hasselbaink are eating pies for Australia and Holland respectively.  Southgate shows his age at the back, Reiziger has just come back from a year out with injury and Boateng is not as effective as he has been in previous seasons.  Parlour finds himself in much reduced circumstances among the midfield and Schwarzer ... well, more of him later.

The side reflects the merits of their manager.  Steve McClaren is not so much the power behind the throne in the England set-up, but a literal translation of the "eminence gris" (a grey person in a position of distinction).  His role at Middlesbrough is much the same.  Most people would not be able to pick him out of an identity parade, as he blends into the background very well.  His effect on football teams falls into line with this description.  Boro are in Europe.  You could say that they managed it from their league position last season and did so almost unnoticed.  It is all you would expect from them.

In 24 games last season they failed to score more than one league goal, so their defence is what earned them most of their points, but that appears to be crumbling and the lack of sharpness in the forward department means they are finding it hard to nick a goal.  In this game Paul Robinson was the factor that stopped them getting some ill-deserved reward for their journey South.  His full length dive to tip Stewart Downing's free-kick around the post was a very good effort, as it was arrowing inside the upright, but his late stop from Hasselbaink's drive was even better.  Ending up closer to his body than he might have thought, he had to bring his hand in to stop the ball close to his body and put it wide.  It was not only those two saves, but also his closing down on Boro players when they got through that put them off and made them miss.

Robinson's efforts were a part of a solid team performance from Tottenham, as they shone from front to back.  In front of him Michael Dawson looks a better buy every week.  Poise and positioning make his ability to nip in front of opponents to nick the ball away a really important one.  Winning most headers in defence and then popping up for corners in the other area, all add to produce a player who will only get better.  Alongside him, Anthony Gardner looked a more confident defender and although he had to cope with both the pie-munchers backing into him (probably because the pull of gravity on their bulk prevented them getting off the ground), he stuck to it and did very well.

Wide on either side, the full backs impressed to.  While Edman almost notched an own goal last week, he was solid and no-nonsense this afternoon, as was his colleague Paul Stalteri.  It was noticeable that when compared to the team's performances at this stage last season, both were keen to get forward, with the Canadian making more forays up the line and finding himself in good scoring positions, but the ball did not arrive.  His regular presence in the box was a frustrating one for him, as the ball did not find it's way from the left wing to his position on the far post.  Defensively, both got stuck in, used the ball well and only gave it away on the rare occasion.  Edman was given a stern lecture from Edgar Davids at one stage and also was caught having a dink on the halfway line when Yakubu broke away and nearly scored.  A bit more focus might be required.

The midfield was where the focus fell on the side for this match.  Davids was the obvious star of the show who everyone wanted to see, but there were others who showed they can be every bit as effective.  His early challenge on Parlour won the fans over and got the former Gooner over his shoulder.  His simple but efficient use of the ball showed class doesn't have to be sumptuous, but can be utilitarian.  His will to win tackles and the game shone through and for someone who hadn't played regularly last season, he did very well.  Davids would easily have been man of the match if he hadn't run out of steam a bit in the second half.  Alongside him, Carrick seemed to relish the fact that he was playing alongside a world star.  His passing was perceptive and was intended to open up the Boro defence, while he seemed to understand that he needs to increase his scoring rate, because he was willing to take shots from distance - one just clearing Schwarzer's bar.

In the past, players like Boateng and Parlour would have made our midfield look weak, but the strength that now pervades the midfield make Tottenham a different proposition.  Tainio mixes it with the best of them in the midfield and we might need all those midfielders with the yellows he and Davids will collect this season.  It would be churlish just to say that he is a battler, as he has more to his game than that.  He can pick out a shrewd pass like Davids and he looks up to realise what is the best option.  His back flick to set up the Carrick shot mentioned above was a fine example, but the ball to Defoe for his goal, was just where the England striker wanted it.  He will prove to be a very shrewd signing by Jol.  On the other flank (as Tainio had to play right side) was Andy Reid, who is still finding his feet in the Premiership, but will soon show what he can really do.  Some of his crossing was delayed and some did not pick out the right man, but he showed that he is willing to battle for the ball and when he gets it is more confident about taking people on.  This will improve with time.

Of course, up front our two strikers are on fire.  Defoe is starting this season like last, with his goal today being similar to that which beat Birmingham City at the Lane.  A real rocket of a shot that left the silver clad keeper in mid-air, with no chance of reaching his destination.  The ball left his foot like a torpedo and flew with immense power ... more than it looks possible for a little guy like Defoe to generate, but he does and I am glad he does.  He looked lively and it was a perfect response to those who criticised him for not scoring for England in mid-week.  Well, I hope he does score for England, but it won't worry me if he maintains this form for Tottenham and misses out with the national side. Frankly, he is getting to the stage like Hoddle did where he is in a better club side than the national team.

As for Mido, I guess the team-mates he plays alongside might get frustrated with him, shooting when he might be better putting someone else in on goal.  But he puts himself about and his new slim-line look is helping him do that, as he is much fitter now.  He appears to have struck up an understanding with Defoe too, with them making space for each other and it paying off.  I think that they will be the main two up front, especially now Kanoute has been sold, but it might be a more profitable pairing, with both "selfish" when it comes to goalscoring.

Jol played this game just right.  It would have been tempting to put Lennon on to exploit a tiring defence, but with the game delicately poised at 1-0, it would have been a risk.  The youngster will get his chance and it might have been more tempting to replace Davids with Mendes, but he kept things going and gave Defoe a rest, replacing him with Keano.

Two wins and six points.  Not a bad start, but now comes the hard part.  The expectation builds and the pressure to keep picking up points builds too.  The squad are already experiencing injuries and we will need to utilise the whole squad with suspensions also going to be playing their part at some stage.  Still, it is always nice to see Tottenham Hotspur at the top of the league ... long may it continue !!

Sparky Marky


Other scores this weekend :
Birmingham City 1 Manchester City 2 Saturday
Blackburn Rovers 2 Fulham 1 Saturday
Charlton Athletic 1 Wigan Athletic 0 Saturday
Liverpool 1 Sunderland 0 Saturday
Manchester United 1 Aston Villa 0 Saturday
Newcastle United 0 West Ham United 0 Saturday
West Bromwich Albion 2 Portsmouth 1 Saturday
Bolton Wanderers 0 Everton 1 Sunday
Chelsea 1 Arsenal 0 Sunday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 2 0 0 4 0 6 +4
2 Charlton Athletic 2 2 0 0 4 1 6 +3
3 Manchester United 2 2 0 0 3 0 6 +3
4 Chelsea 2 2 0 0 2 0 6 +2
5 West Ham United 2 1 1 0 3 1 4 +2
6 Manchester City 2 1 1 0 2 1 4 +1
7 West Bromwich Albion 2 1 1 0 2 1 4 +1
8 Liverpool 2 1 1 0 1 0 4 +1
9 Arsenal 2 1 0 1 2 1 3 +1
10 Blackburn Rovers 2 1 0 1 3 4 3 -1
11 Everton 2 1 0 1 1 2 3 -1
12 Aston Villa 2 0 1 1 2 3 1 -1
13 Bolton Wanderers 2 0 1 1 2 3 1 -1
14 Birmingham City 2 0 1 1 1 2 1 -1
15 Fulham 2 0 1 1 1 2 1 -1
16 Middlesbrough 2 0 1 1 0 2 1 -2
17 Newcastle United 2 0 1 1 0 2 1 -2
18 Wigan Athletic 2 0 0 2 0 2 0 -2
19 Portsmouth 2 0 0 2 1 4 0 -3
20 Sunderland 2 0 0 2 1 4 0 -3

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