Looking Forward



Premier League

Sunday 23rd November 2003

Most of the news surrounding Aston Villa over the last few years has taken place off the pitch.  Managers, suspicions surrounding big name signings, managers being sacked and most of all the hopes by the Villa fans that Doug Ellis will be removed from office as chairman of the club to free them of his reign.  With a Venezuelan billionaire keen to invest and buy out the Octogenarian owner of the club, the manager is still being rumoured as thinking about leaving

On the pitch, there has been little to write home about, with mid-table places and escapes from the lower reaches of the Premiership table, similar to Tottenham over the last ten years.  They did reach an FA Cup Final in 199, only to flop in losing to 

Former Sunderland keeper Thomas Sorensen was one of the few arrivals for David O'Deary on his taking over the team.  A talented goalie, Sorensen had a torrid time at the Stadium of Light, suffering injury too, but is hoping for a better time at Villa Park.  Former first team goalkeeper Stefan Postma has been allowed to go on loan at Blackburn Rovers, with O'Deary obviously not thinking he is worth retaining.

Defensively, there is a youthful look to their side, but all the players have good experience.  Welsh international Mark Delaney will be on the bounce from their Euro 2004 defeat by Russia, with former Charlton defender Jlloyd Samuel on the other flank, their pace helps them cover and get forward when there is space.  Captain Gareth Barry is a player who Tottenham have been linked with and his left foot can be devastating from dead ball situations.  Big Swede Olaf Mellberg provides a dominant aerial presence in the middle of the back four alongside Ronny Johnsen, who was a Man U stalwart for many years.  Lacking pace as he enters the last season of his career, Johnsen could be the one to make way, unless Barry is preferred in midfield.

Some problems involving Lee Hendrie, both on and off the field, appear to have been sorted out, but he is still to recapture his best form and his fellow midfielder Gavin McCann, brought in form Sunderland too, has not proved to the Villain fans that he was money well spent.  Young German Tomas Hitzlsperger puts in a lot of leg-work in midfield and has the power in his shot to surprise keepers from long distance, so he needs to be closed down quickly if he gets within shooting distance.  Mustapha Hadji is being watched by Hertha Berlin, although nothing might move on that deal until January, while fellow Moroccan Hassan Kachloul is currently on loan at Wolves.  Youngster Liam Ridgewell has been favoured in midfield recently and his running is a feature of his endeavours, as Republic of Ireland international Mark Kinsella has been edged out by the new manager's choice in this area of the team. 

The head of veteran striker Dion Dublin is still the focus of the Villa attack, but he can double as a centre-half, so might be all over the pitch !!  England forward Darius Vassell will miss the game after being injured in a prestige friendly in Dubai, but Swede Marcus Allback has been among the goals for his club, being a strong presence on the floor as well as in the air.  Another young player, Pete Whittingham, has been drafted in on occasion, but Colombian Juan Pablo Angel has rediscovered the knack of scoring under O'Deary ... something Croatian Bosko Balaban never looks like getting the opportunity to do at the Midlands club.  I am sure that the club will try and get him off the books in January if possible.  If Villa are looking for more in the forward line in the future, they need look no further than the two brothers Stefan Moore and Luke Moore, who have made a name for themselves in the England youth set-up as well as breaking into the Villa squad.

Although Villa are having a tough time of it, Tottenham are lacking drastic firepower without the injured Kanoute, so it will be a low scoring affair with both sides considering a point from the afternoon's efforts a satisfactory outcome ... although the viewing public on Sky TV might not think so !!

PREDICTION : -   Tottenham  1     Aston Villa   1

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


A view from an Aston Villa site was not forthcoming.

Players unavailable.

TOTTENHAM : -  Simon Davies (thigh/groin), Christian Ziege (knee), Jamie Redknapp (knee), Frederic Kanoute (ankle); - possibly Jonathan Blondel (slight knock from reserve game on Monday)

ASTON VILLA : -  Darius Vassell (knee), Gavin McCann (suspended)

TV :  Live on Sky Sports 1
Canada  -  FOX Sports World Canada  -  09:00AM Mountain; 10:00AM Central; 11:00AM Eastern - Live coverage
USA  -  Pay-per-view  -  09:00AM Mountain; 10:00AM Central; 11:00AM Eastern - Live coverage
Radio :  BBC Radio Five Live (693/909 AM); 
Internetwww.spurs.co.uk   Live webcast    



Tottenham   2      Aston Villa   1     (Half-time score : 0-0)
Premier League
Sunday 23rd November 2003
Venue : -  White Hart Lane
Kick Off : -  16.05 p.m.
Weather : -  Raining for 48 hours.
Referee : -  J. Winter (Whitley Bay)
Crowd : -  33,140
Teams : -  
Tottenham : -  
Keller; ; Carr, Gardner, Richards, Taricco; Anderton, Dalmat, Konchesky ( Ricketts 58), King;  Postiga (Zamora 74), Keane
Unused Subs : - Burch, Doherty, Poyet

Aston Villa : -  Sorensen; Delaney (Dublin 81), Mellberg, Johnsen, Samuel; Barry, Hendrie (S. Moore 88), Hitzlsperger, Whittingham; Vassell, Allbäck
Unused Subs : -  Postma, Ridgewell, Kinsella

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of http://www.colours-of-football.com)

Aston Villa

Scorers : -  
Tottenham  -  Ricketts 79, Keane 81

Aston Villa -  Allbäck 67

Cards : -  
Tottenham  -  None

Aston Villa -  Hendrie (kicking ball away) 40

Despite Tottenham not making Thomas Sorensen in the Villa goal make a save during the whole of the second half, they managed to smuggle the ball past him twice to take the three points in a match that looked as though it would remain goal-less for the majority of the play.

With the pitch markings having to be marked three times prior to play, the heavy rain that had fallen for 48 hours threatened to wash more than the chalk marks away, as Tottenham's back-to-back defeats and Villa's poor run meant that a win for either side was imperative.  Both sides had problems before the game with injuries, but Villa managed to get Vassell fit, while Pleat opted to go with Postiga alongside Keano in the forward line.

The wet surface was always going to make it difficult for keepers to judge the pace of the ball coming off the grass, but it was rare that either was tested in such a way.  Keller let a cross slip through his hands like a bar of soap, while Sorensen managed to grab onto any high balls that came his way.  With a player like Hitzlsperger in their team, it was perhaps obvious that he would strike while the turf was wet.  His first minute effort dribbled weakly wide, but his second on the half hour flew along the ground and missed the target by about eighteen inches.  

Tottenham's start had been bright, with Keane setting up Postiga in the box, but he was not sharp enough to get there before a defender, who did enough to put him off and shoot wide.  Helder really needs a goal and one from anywhere will do to boost his confidence.  He has shown that he is willing to work hard and join in with the general team-play, as shown when he set up Dalmat for a 20 yard shot that went too high.  The young Portuguese international needs to toughen up quickly, as he is getting physically muscled out of the match by experienced opponents and perhaps a spell in the reserves to get him used to scoring again might help.

Anderton had the next chance with a header from Konchesky's cross from out on the left touchline.  When a bit closer, the loan midfielder hit Mellberg's mis-kick well wide with what looked like a cross but might have been intended as an outrageous curler.  It was certainly outrageous, in that it missed the target by miles with the goal not more than five yards in front of him. 

Spurs were being troubled by the rapid breaking speed of Vassell, but Gardner stood firm and matched him stride for stride to make sure he didn't get away.  When Richards slipped over and left Vassell in on goal, Carr came across to block his drive on goal.  Similarly at the other end, Spurs were foundering on the rock (4/5 of which was above water) of Mellberg.  Finally, just before the break, Spurs had something more than a tame Keane shot down the middle.  Taricco cut inside and unleashed a drive that swerved and Sorensen got a hand to it to touch it round the post with a good save.

Frankly, the first half was as drab as the grey sky that hung over White Hart Lane.  Even the half-time entertainment of the holiday shoot-out failed to raise more than a small cheer, when the Spurs man patently was not quicker than the Villa fan, but Chivers' watch told a different story.  We all expected Postiga to make way for Zamora, but he turned out for the second half.  

The half started with Deano, who had a solid game, getting in the way of Allback's shot and then play swung to the other end to see Keane put in a low ball that Postiga was too far behind to get a head to.  The Swede was causing Spurs problems and his flick to Samuel's cross was not sufficient enough to trouble Keller, when he should have worked the Spurs keeper.  The same could be said of England international Vassell, who showed no reason why that last bit should have any validity, when he was presented with a fine opportunity by Delaney's pull back from the dead ball line, but he scuffed his shot under pressure and another chance went begging.  It only kept the score-sheet blank for another two minutes, as King had blocked a Hitzelsperger drive and then Whittingham hit a long cross from left to right and picked out Allback's head.  He nodded the ball back across Keller and gave Villa the lead.

Spurs needed to hit back and when King put Taricco through on the left wing almost immediately after the goal, his cross was too far ahead of Keane with the goal gaping in front of him.  Robbie managed to retrieve the bal and knock it back into the middle where Helder got something on it under close attention from a defender, but his attempt went wide.  It was his last contribution as Zamora replaced him shortly after and that made a big difference to the team, but not before Keller had to leap to grab a Barry shot that jumped up off a deflection from Dean Richards.  

However, when the action returned to the Paxton Road end, Keane put in Ricketts on the left wing.  His trickery took him past Delaney and he drilled in a low shot that went between Zamora's legs and a defender's legs too, deceiving Sorensen, who looked on as it bounced in off the inside of the post.  It was the sort of goal Spurs needed and it really seemed to boost the confidence of the side, who looked out of it.  With Dublin coming on for the injured Delaney, Villa were reorganizing when the ball is cleared out to the right, where Carr picked out Keane in acres of space in the area, turned Johnsen inside out and slipped his shot past the goalie for 2-1.

Both were well made and well taken goals, but why did it take Tottenham so long to work out that this was how to play against Villa, who rarely threatened the goal.  Their best chance came with a couple of minutes left, when Carr tried to clear a ball into the Spurs box and forced Keller into the save of the match by flying up to tip the ball away and luckily for him, the ball went straight to a Villa head, but it bounced harmlessly into touch.

Shame that it was such a poor game for such a long time, but the way Spurs have won games this season by only playing for short periods, makes you wonder what would happen when they play for the full 90 minutes !!


Kirk Hammerton




With the rain teeming down on the White Hart Lane pitch, it looked like we might be in for a drag of a match as the ball would not run smoothly on the turf, but the excellent drainage meant that the only thing that was a drag was the majority of the play and the fact that despite being undercover, I still got wet !!

Having spotted Steve Claridge eating a take-away pizza from it's box on his way to the ground, I wondered if he was there for a footballing reason or to reacquaint himself with SuperStars referee Jeff Winter.  The fact that he was the man in the middle also cast a greyer cloud over my view of the match than anything the weather produced.

The pitch held up well, which is more than I could say for my spirit approaching the ground.  I would have settled for a point apiece and to go home without having had to sit through the "action".  There was little enough of that, as Spurs struggled to overcome a combative Villa midfield and the forwards were feeding off scraps, although Postiga could have had a couple of shots on target had he got his shots off a little sooner.  Whereas he was taking the ball early when he first appeared for Spurs, his need to have an extra touch is now working against him.  A goal will bring his natural play out and I am sure that will come.

Keane looked lively, but when faced with an opportunity did not make the Villa keeper work hard to save and it looked as though the forwards were going to have another blank day, but the half-time Thomson shoot for a holiday competition did rouse the fans a little.  Some fast times on a greasy surface were quite impressive, which is more than you could say for Chirpy's keeping !!  The opponent bore a striking similarity to their midfielder Whittingham though !!  Perhaps Villa don't pay their youngsters much, so he was trying to add on a bit of holiday money !!

It looked like a repeat of the Bolton match (although Villa were not a patch on the Lancashire side), when a cross came in from the left and Allback rose between King and Gardner to head a looping ball over Keller and into the net.  We had not looked like scoring at all, but then two quick substitutions seemed to change all that.  Ricketts came on and panicked the Villa back line with his direct running.  That resulted in the first goal, with Delaney being left on the floor in a heap in the box and needing treatment to untangle his legs after Rohan had turned him inside out.  The shot along the ground shot in off the far post to equalise.

Playing Postiga was a great way of lulling Villa into a false sense of security, so when Zamora came on, they didn't know what hit them.  His dummy for Ricketts' goal left Sorensen bemused and his general hold-up play and strength on the ball helped waste some time at the end, although it never seems to go Tottenham's way when they try to hold the ball up in the corner of the pitch (remember Kanoute at Leicester), so I would rather they didn't do it !!  Straight after Villa had brought on Dublin for Delaney to counter Bobby's aerial threat, we had taken the lead.

A ball into the box squirted out to the right and Carr picked the ball up, knocked it into Robbie Keane in the area and his turn left Johnsen looking for his man, but only looked up to see Keano guide the ball expertly past Sorensen for the winner.  Keller produced more of an effort to save a deflection off Deano from a Barry pile-driver and a better spring to stop the ball cannoning off Carr into the net in the last minute.

Not a win that will paper over the cracks in many Spurs fans' minds and one that again stresses the need for a dominant midfielder who will break up the other side's play and kick start our own.  OJ is one player who might be able to do this, as he looks to have a good passing ability and a crunching tackle.  Ledley did well, but can't do it all on his own ... he needs someone else in the middle to allow Ricketts and Dalmat the freedom to create.  Let's hope they get the chance to soon, as it might help the forwards have a few more opportunites to score from !!

Gareth Davey


Other scores this weekend :

Birmingham City

0 Arsenal 3 Saturday
Everton 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Saturday
Fulham 2 Portsmouth 0 Sunday
Leicester City 1 Charlton Athletic 1 Saturday
Leeds United 0 Bolton Wanderers 2 Saturday
Manchester United 2 Blackburn Rovers 1 Saturday
Middlesbrough 0 Liverpool 0 Saturday
Newcastle United 3 Manchester City 0 Saturday
SCBC 0 Chelsea 1 Saturday


League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Arsenal 13 10 3 0 28 10 33 +18
2 Chelsea 13 10 2 1 27 8 32 +19
3 Manchester United 12 10 1 2 25 8 31 +17
4 Charlton Athletic 13 6 4 3 20 16 22 +4
5 Fulham 13 6 3 4 24 18 21 +6
6 Birmingham City 13 5 5 3 11 11 20 0
7 Newcastle United 13 5 4 4 19 18 19 +1
8 Manchester City 13 5 3 5 22 18 18 +4
9 Liverpool 13 5 3 5 18 14 18 +4
10 SCBC 13 4 5 4 8 8 17 0
11 Portsmouth 13 4 3 6 17 18 15 -1
12 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 13 4 3 6 13 17 15 -4
13 Middlesbrough 13 4 3 6 11 15 15 -4
14 Bolton Wanderers 13 3 6 4 11 19 15 -8
15 Everton 13 3 4 6 15 17 13 -2
16 Leicester City 13 3 3 7 20 22 12 -2
17 Blackburn Rovers 12 3 2 7 17 23 11 -5
18 Aston Villa 13 2 5 6 10 17 11 -7
19 Wolverhampton Wanderers 13 2 4 7 8 26 10 -18
20 Leeds United 13 2 2 9 12 34 8 -22

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