Looking Forward



Premier League

Saturday 25th August 2001

With Rovers midfielder David Dunn out for six weeks after the defeat at Derby County last week, their main playmaker will be missing for the visit of Tottenham.  So, that makes it a reasonable time to play the Ewood Park outfit, except they have just held Man U 2-2 at home in the midweek match.

Graeme Souness did very well to keep Blackburn near to the top of the table for so long last season, as they held on to the coat-tails of runaway leaders Fulham.  The side played some nice passing football, but were also blessed (?) with the grit that their manager showed when he played the game.

Bringing in an experienced keeper in the tall shape of American Brad Friedel helped create some competition for the gloves at the club.  Alan Kelly (who turned down the chance to become the Spurs shadow keeper) and John Filan then had some real challenge for the number one shirt.  Friedel is not that brilliant on crosses for a big bloke and also has his aberrations with shots and wandering out of his goal.  Not that good with his feet, he could be under pressure if Iversen closes him down when the ball is on the floor.

If you consider the defence, you would say it was a bit creaky.  Not that it is not solid, but the joints of all the old players in this part of the team would need a few gallons of Cod Liver Oil to lubricate !!  Craig Short, Jeff Kenna, Bjornebye, Simon Grayson.  All experienced in the Premier League, but beyond their best.  Getting around man mountain Short (who doesn't live up (or down) to his name) might be hard, but former Mancheater United man John Curtis adds some youth, without a great deal of pace though.  The same can be said of fellow former Manc Henning Berg.  Martin Taylor is another tall defender, who sometimes doubles in midfield and can be a useful weapon when going forward as he can finish well.

Blackburn have a good few players in midfield, including the new signing from Sporting Lisbon (via Tranmere), Alan Mahon.  The youngster is a very talented and flamboyant character and Spurs' interest in him should really have been followed up, as he is a Spurs  type player.  Craig Hignett has been here before and will know from his time with Barnsley what will be needed to keep Rovers afloat.  Tugay has come in from Glasgow Rangers, bringing experience with him, but he may struggle to get accustomed to the Premier League's pace after a reasonably easy time in Scotland.  With Jason McAteer out of favour, it is more likely that Gary Flitcroft or Keith Gillespie will feature alongside Hignett.  Flitcroft had time with Manchester City and again has been around the bottom of the table, so realises the hard work required to survive, although sometimes, his energy is not channeled in the right direction.  Gillespie's approach is totally different, with the emphasis on attacking and doing so at pace.  Spurs will not be able to allow him to run at them or he will find space and put in a string of crosses for Bent, Blake or Hughes.  He is a traditional tricky winger and so is subject to the erratic performances associated with that sort of player.  

Funnily enough, Nathan Blake cost Blackburn twice the money they dished out on Marcus Bent.  Blake has the brawn, while Bent is a bit more methodical about his play.  The Welshman will try and blast his way past defenders, which can un-nerve them somewhat, but Bent has a trick or two and is more of a natural goalscorer.  Mark Hughes will haul his old bones out to try a falling volley at the drop of a hat, but he will probably be used only as a last resort.  Damien Duff started out wide, but has been converted into a player who comes inside and he has a lovely ability to score without using excessive power - he just stokes the ball in.  Corrado Grabbi, I have only seen on TV highlights, but he looks like he is strong enough to hold his own and he certainly knows where the goals are, as he showed against Man U, without actually finishing on the scoresheet.

The real jewel in Ewood Park's crown is Matt Jansen.  The former Crystal Palace striker looks to have it all.  He has the knack of finding space when none seems available, he can join up play in the build-up, he can head the ball well for a short bloke and he has excellent awareness of where he is in relation to his colleagues and the goal.  Still very young, he was the player who chose Palace over Man U and wanted to return to the North West, as that was where he felt comfortable.

The Blackburn game is based on a powerful midfield, who get through a lot of work and provide the springboard for players to get forward.  Spurs will need to make sure that this area of the pitch is not over-run with blue and white shirts, as they will set up the wide players to feed the ball in or will set one of the forwards through the centre with a well weighted pass.  Having said that Spurs will be able to have the legs on their defence should they get a decent enough supply and therefore, although it will be tight, Spurs could just edge it (with a little bit of luck and no red cards !!).

PREDICTION : -  Blackburn Rovers  0  Tottenham  1

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



Blackburn Rovers  2   Tottenham  1                                   (Half time score: 1 - 0 )
Saturday 25th August 2001
Weather : -  Bright, sunny.
Crowd : -   24,922
Referee : -  Mr. S. Bennett (Kent)

Scorers : -  Blackburn Rovers   -   Mahon 6, Duff 70
                  Tottenham -  Ziege 89


Blackburn Rovers :  Gillespie (foul) 35

Spurs :   Taricco (ungentlemanly conduct) 25


Blackburn Rovers :  Friedel; Curtis, Berg, Short, Flitcroft; Jansen, Duff, Mahon (Hignett 60), Gillespie (Bent 69); Grabbi (Blake 19), Taylor.
Subs not used : - Filan, M. Hughes

Spurs:  Sullivan; Perry, Doherty, King, Taricco (Rebrov 67); Ziege, Anderton (Davies 85), Poyet, Clemence (Freund 7); Sheringham, Iversen.
Subs not used : - Keller, Thelwell

Tottenham’s away woes continue.  Blackburn came into the game on the back of a home draw against Manchester United four days earlier. Souness clearly had them “up for it”.  If you needed evidence then you had to wait no more than 4 minutes.  Flitcroft whacked Clemence with a tackle that left the Spurs player needing attention.  The referee gave a foul, but did not show a yellow card.  This was the first of a number of strange decisions during the afternoon.  Clemence tried to carry on but limped from the field within a couple of minutes.  Before Spurs could get their sub on Blackburn took a quick throw.  Jansen slipped the ball inside to Mahon who caught a number of Spurs players not concentrating.  Mahon scored across Sullivan on the angle.  Freund came on as sub to take the place of Clemence in the holding role in midfield.

Spurs then started to gradually get some possession and push forward.  The passing game was giving plenty of possession, but no cutting edge.  Midway through the first half we had another bizarre incident.  Perry tackled Jansen near the dugout with a robust challenge and the referee gave a throw in.  Souness, incensed, leapt from the bench and hurled the ball into the ground in a show of petulance, which would have earned any of the players a yellow card.  The Blackburn manager then became involved in an argument with Poyet, Taricco and Freund, with the outcome incredibly a yellow card for Taricco.  Souness got away with the whole incident.  Cynics may suggest Souness knew exactly what he was doing and used the opportunity to get his players and the crowd going as Spurs started to get on top.  Half time came with Rovers leading one nil and the Spurs fans struggling to see who might score for us.

The second half continued in the same pattern.  Lots of possession for Spurs, but no end product.  Teddy had an excellent effort saved well by Friedel.  Blackburn were now hitting on the break.  From one such break they scored again.  After 71 minutes Duff collected the ball on the half way line. He ran to the edge of the Spurs box virtually unchallenged, as the Tottenham midfielders and defenders seemed to allow him to pass.  With the goal in his sights and time to pick his spot he fired low into the corner.  

Shortly afterwards Iversen contrived the miss of the season.  Through a Berg error he found himself 10 yards out with the ball, time and one on one with the keeper.  He fluffed the chance.  Finally when time was running out Ziege hit a fine left foot shot for a consolation goal.  For Spurs Bunjevcevic was missing at the back.  In his absence King did well and Doherty battled, while Perry struggled to keep the defence organised. With Clemence out of the game there was no bite in midfield to combat Flitcroft.  Sheringham and Anderton showed how well they could still pass the ball.  Ziege and Poyet are clearly class, but they both go missing for long stretches.  Iversen had an appalling game as a striker.  He seems to have lost his touch and his finishing ability.  Rebrov came on late in the game but was ineffectual.  So a poor start.  If Europe is to be a possibility, and it is already looking doubtful, the squad still needs strengthening.  We need to sign Dean Richards now and then pursue a tough midfield player and a pacy striker. Not much to ask for is it?


Eric the Viking




With the prospect of Glenn Hoddle's team passing like their manager and Graeme Souness' team kicking like theirs, it was obvious that the outcome could have been predicted without the aid of a crystal ball.  If you had owned one, you probably would have got a kick in it anyway.

Clemence's removal from the action inside of five minutes, without even a card for the offender, set the tone for this encounter.  It was obvious after a defeat and a draw in their first two games, that Rovers would come out snarling to throw Spurs out of their stride and passing rhythm.  It worked a treat as down to ten men, a quick throw left Spurs defenders standing as Mahon raced through to beat Sullivan with an angled drive.

It wasn't without trying that Spurs went down, as they created good chances through Sheringham's volley which forced a good save out of Friedel and Iversen, but the grit that is needed to form the platform to build the passing game on was missing.  Too often the Spurs midfield was caught upfield and the defence looked over-run, in a flash-back to the bad old days of a couple of seasons ago.  The fact that the team looked like getting back into the match, then let Damien Duff waltz through the team to score Blackburn's second makes it even more difficult to take.  The way he went unchallenged from almost the halfway line is really embarrassing and although he did finish the move well, he should never have been allowed to get into that position in the first place.  The defence seemed like they were afraid to tackle and that might have been a hang-over from Goodison, but they cannot go through the season without getting stuck in.

The real worry at the moment is where the goals are going to come from.  Ziege got a consolation at the end, but by then Iversen had missed twice when he really should have done better and Teddy is playing pretty deep, as is Rebrov.  We seem to be missing a target man at the moment and I never thought I would say it, but we need Les to lead the line.  There is much to be said for his style of hold-up play that will allow the midfield time to get up and support the forwards.  The injury to Clemence and the suspension of Poyet, must surely let Simon Davies into the midfield, which will provide some energy and breaks from the middle of the park.  Who else comes in is anyone's guess.  Neither Leo or Deadwood seem to have been favoured so far by Hoddle (although they have had their injuries) and the other option would be to play Etherington as a traditional winger within a 4-3-3 system.  He might get caught out in a 3-5-2 set-up, although he does show some appetite to track back.

It again shows the shallow nature of our squad - up front, in midfield and pretty soon in defence with Doherty facing a possible ban for his Everton sending off; Gardner, Thatcher and Carr out for a while and Bunjy suffering a knock too.  The start to the season is nothing to panic about just yet, but the team do need to start getting things right as it id hard to catch up if you get left behind in the Premiership.  That is something we have been trying to do for 10 years anyway.


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