Looking Forward



Premier League

Saturday 23rd December 2000

So, Middlesbrough have brought in Terry Venables to coach the side to Premiership safety.  How will he be welcomed back at White Hart Lane I wonder ?  By the fans - pretty well.  By Alan Sugar - a frosty reception is guaranteed for this December meeting.

The Boro side come to Tottenham having had a miserable time of it lately.  Bryan Robson has presided over a drastic slump in fortunes that even some recent Spurs bosses might have been embarrassed by.  The big money signings have once again failed to do the business.  Alan Boksic looks keen to leave after a bright start; Ugo Ehiogu has suffered injury and suspension after transferring to the Riverside; Karembeu has taken a while to come into form; Ziege didn't last more than a month of the season before decamping to Liverpool and other injuries have struck the club hard.

Schwartzer in goal has been letting some goals slip past and the man he replaced, Mark Crossley was sent off for a foul against Arsenal.  In front of him, Pallister is likely to be out until the New Year with a back injury and his former central defensive partner, Gianluca Festa is seeking to get away from the North East.  Fleming and Gordon are back in tandem on the flanks, while Cooper and Vickers have teamed up inside them.  

Forwards Summerbell, Andy Campbell and Desire-Job are all out until after Christmas with various injuries, while Boksic has joined them in the treatment room, although news reaches us that he might be ready to return to the side.  Colombian Hamilton Ricard will be suspended for this match, so the out of touch Noel Whelan and Brian Deane could provide the strike force against Tottenham, with Alan Armstrong having been sold to Ipswich Town.  The chances they get will have to be forged from the midfield of Ince, O'Neill, Karembeu and Mustoe, in the absence of the suspended Marinelli.  Beyond these players, Robson and Venables have little in the way of experienced playing staff.  A win over Chelsea will have boosted their fragile confidence.

For a club with Tottenham's home record, this game should look reasonably easy on paper, but Middlesbrough have a decent record at White Hart Lane of late.  The fact remains that Boro are leaking goals, even when they are playing well and Tottenham must take every chance they get.  More will come at home, so ...

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham 3 Middlesbrough 1

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



Tottenham 0 Middlesbrough 0  Saturday 23rd December 2000

Scorers:  None
Weather : Cold, dry.
Referee : Rob Styles (Waterlooville)

Spurs :  Sullivan, Carr, Perry, Campbell, Thelwell, Clemence, Sherwood (Leonhardsen 85), Anderton, King, Rebrov, Ferdinand (Armstrong 45).
Subs Not Used: Walker, Korsten, Doherty.

Middlesbrough : Schwarzer, Vickers, Cooper, Ehiogu, Mustoe, Ince, O'Neill (Gordon 90), Okon, Karembeu, Whelan (Fleming 88), Boksic (Deane 76)
Subs Not Used: Festa, Crossley.

The much vaunted return of Terry Venables went off without a peep from Spurs fans.  Much like the match really, which promised much, but found Tottenham lacking ingenuity to break down Boro's stubborn defence.  And the peep of Mr. Styles whistle was about the most annoying thing about this match.  New to the Premier League, he stopped play at every opportunity and let Boro' get away with time wasting that started just 20 minutes into the match.  When there was an advantage, he still managed to pull play back.

As a game of football, it was pretty poor fare.  Lots of attacking intent by Spurs, but little quality in terms of the final ball and when that was the case, there were usually enough Middlesbrough defenders on hand to block the Miami Dolphins offense.  And it was in Miami, that our out going chairman was - on holiday.  I am sure it had nothing to do with the return of TV.

Boro came for the point and anything else they might get.  In truth, they were sluggish going forward and appeared intent on defending what they came with.  There were a couple of instances when they broke through - a Karembeu cross was missed by all, then Campbell cleared from a low ball across the six yard box and in the second half, Boksic broke clear, but his shot was off target.  

As for Spurs, there were a number of chances scattered throughout the match.  Carr's early shot was just a little away from the goal and another cross was close to Clemence's head.  Rebrov had a shot blocked, Anderton's drive was palmed away by the Aussie keeper and Stephen Clemence's cross to the far post was headed goal-ward by an in-rushing Carr, only for it to hit a defender on the back and go off for a corner.  Schwarzer also did well to push a Tim Sherwood diving header around the post.  Ledley King showed his ability with a powerfully hit strike which warmed the Boro keeper's fingers.

The second half looked more promising, as Armstrong's pace coming on for head injured Ferdinand (quelle suprise) seemed more likely to trouble the Boro defenders.  He had the ball in the net twice, but both were ruled out for offside, obviously to the angst of George Graham.  Clemence had a long range effort plucked out of the air by the keeper and Anderton nearly repeated his goal against Southampton last season, when Schwarzer kicked a clearance straight to him, but managed to scramble back to stop the effort.  Perry had a scissors kick saved, Armstrong took the ball past the keeper, but was going to fast to be able to pull the ball back and he was involved again, when a free kick was hit his way and his header cleared the impending danger for Boro' !  He was also involved in chasing the ball down when a back-pass to Schwarzer was spooned up in the air and Rebrov hit the ball back towards goal, only for a deflection to take it up and onto the bar.  Only Clemence's mis-kick when slipped through by King spared Boro in the closing stages.

On this showing, Middlesbrough will really struggle to stay up, but they are obviously benefiting from Venables' tactical awareness.  It is not pretty, but someone said as we came out that he wished Spurs could do that away from home !  On the day, it looked like Spurs wouldn't have scored if they had played all night.  There was some evidence of good football from Spurs, but then what good is it playing with style if you don't win ??


Pete Stachio


Boro - edom


Boro look like a side condemned.  If they play the rest of the season like this, it might achieve a target, but the fans will suffer dreadfully.  They were very poor and on a day when Spurs looked unlikely to score, they could have got their usual return from a visit to White Hart Lane.  Some of their players appear to be going through the motions for their money and I am sure that Tel will want more from them as the campaign progresses.  Boksic showed a delightful control of the ball when it came to him like a rocket, but his awareness and finishing for the one chance that came his way was woeful.  And all for 63,000 a week !!  As for Karembeu, he showed brief flashes of what he is capable of, but the overall feeling was that he was not giving everything for the cause.

For all the hype and all the people who tell me Tel should come back to manage Tottenham, this was a performance out of character with a Venables side.  It was undoubtedly born out of the dire situation and need for points that they find themselves in, but it hints that he might just be there to organise them and save them from relegation, without any further involvement beyond that.  It is something that will probably come about as Tel is a Londoner and for all the noises he is making, I can't imagine him staying North of Watford for too long.

The best time of the match came at half time.  When Holsten's "new exciting" competition, hosted by Martin Chivers, was premiered during the break the fans could hardly contain their boredom.  Two fans - one from each side - were offered the chance to earn themselves 10,000 just by striking a ball from the edge of the penalty area against the woodwork.  When the "Hit The Bar" competition was announced, it must have had Bryan Robson and Noel Whelan dashing from the dressing room !!  The participants got 1,000 each just for taking part as they both narrowly failed to strike wood, but when Rebrov's deflected shot went against the crossbar in the second half, we all wondered if he would be taking home an unexpected bonus !!  It was the closest a Spurs player came to scoring apart from the two efforts Armstrong got in, but had disallowed by an assistant referee who was hell-bent on spoiling Tottenham's day in everything he did.  The one disappointing thing about the Spurs side, apart form not scoring, was the lack of quality in crossing today.  Either they failed to beat the first man to allow the ball to enter the box or they were plonked onto the head of Ugo Ehiogu, who had a very good game, or into the hands of Schwarzer.

Sullivan had a relatively relaxing time after his strenuous Monday night, while the defence did well against the balls played up to the front two.  Carr spent most of his time bombing forward; Thelwell put in another no-nonsense performance and seems very assured; Perry did well - even when asked to take the ball forward and get it into the box and Campbell was in such good form that I can't remember him doing anything wrong.  His ability to intercept kept the ball from reaching Boksic most of the time and he gladly brought the ball out of defence to set up moves.

Anderton had an industrious game, always on the look out for a goal and even slid around getting his foot in.  Clemence again did very well, with a very good cross to set up Stephen Carr with a headed chance, while Ledley King showed the skill and composure of a player with much more Premier League experience than he has.  He will be a Tottenham star for a long time to come.  The one low point was Tim Sherwood.  It looks like something happened to Tim last summer, as he appears to have lost a bit of pace and his passing is very poor.  His big strength was moving the ball around - nothing flashy, but simply to keep the game moving.  Now he presents the ball to the opposition with a misplacement of a simple short pass and has to resort to fouling as he cannot keep pace with players running away from him.  Today he did resurrect his ability to get forward into the box like he used to, but in the end his substitution came as a release from his performance.  He didn't look happy as he went towards the bench, but he shouldn't have been surprised.

In the forward line, Les didn't go too long before getting his knock on the head and Sergei showed some lovely touches and an eye for goal without any luck today.  You get the feeling that Spurs are still not playing to his strengths (if they know how to do so).  Armstrong looked more likely to benefit from Rebrov's work, but his ability to be in the right place was just a few feet out according to the trigger happy linesman.  Still, on another day ...

Still unbeaten at home, but still not quite there if we want to be up amongst the leading pack.  These are the games which should be three points for Spurs, but until they develop the know how to get around a stubborn defence, then they will still be in mid-table.

East Stan


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