Looking Forward



Premier League

Saturday 29th December 2001

With a major rift opening between John Gregory and chairman Doug Ellis and also between the fans and Ellis, Villa appears to be a club in turmoil.  However, they have been picking up points and sit in 8th place just before Christmas.

Peter Schmeichel has made the gloves his own at Villa, leaving Finnish keeper Peter Enckleman getting the odd game when the old Dane needs a rest.

Alpay and Mark Delaney are both likely to be out with ankle and knee injuries until the New Year, so will probably not feature in this match, but there are a few options open to Villa in their absence.  Young England prospect, Gareth Barry has dropped out of the side, as Gregory shows his authority over the players.  Barry had done nothing wrong and now is hinting that he might leave the Midlands club, with Tottenham one of the clubs interested.  Big summer signing Olof Mellberg has shown a ruggedness sometimes missing from the Villa defence in the past.  Jay Lloyd Samuel has come in to add youthful exuberance to the experience of Alpay and Mellberg.  He has had first team football while on loan, but has settled into the Villa side well.  Further old heads are available in the shape of Steve Staunton and Alan Wright.  Staunton is coming to the end of his career, but still reads the game really well and has a good range of passes ,while Wright can bomb down the line and supply the crosses that the forwards need.

Former Spurs winger, David Ginola will be available for selection again on the date of this match after his suspension for getting sent off against Leicester City.  Whether he will be chosen to play by manager Gregory, who appears to despise the Frenchman, despite the ability he can bring to the team.  Moustapha Hadji will also likely be fit to return following an ankle injury and he might link up in midfield with his Moroccan colleague, Hassan Kachloul, who was reputed to be a Spurs target in the summer.  They are both skillful, but tend to disappear from games sometimes, despite their industry when Villa are on top.  

Most of the hard work in winning the ball comes from George Boateng, who covers acres of space to shut down the opposition.  This could make Tottenham's passing game more difficult to impose on Villa.  Alongside him, young Lee Hendrie also is all-action and can get forward into the box to finish off moves.  His temperament is a bit suspect, but he has signed a new deal at Villa and seems to have been better off for it.  The inventive Paul Merson has been out of the side of late and others who have featured in the past, but may not now are Steve Stone and Ian Taylor, who both show the terrier like abilities that Gregory seems to look for in Boateng.

The Colombian who looked like a flop last season, has now come alive and is scoring freely.  Juan Pablo Angel has finally settled into the Premiership way of life and is getting on the scoresheet with monotonous regularity.  Twinned up front with the fast and powerfully built, Darius Vassell, they have showed a good understanding. The Spurs defence will have to watch their movement, as they drop off their markers to pull players out of position very well.  Dion Dublin is still there and looks likely to be on the bench, which is where we hope he stays as he ALWAYS scores against Spurs.  One big signing who has still to hit it off, is Bosko Balaban, who came in from Croatia and is yet to get a regular starting place in the side.

Favouring a 5-3-2 formation, at Derby Villa came unstuck and lost 3-1, but they try and spring players forward from the back to support the midfield, who then can also get forward.  This will mean a lot of work for our wing backs to stop them getting free, so Ziege and Taricco's attacking side might be curtailed in stopping the other side doing the same.  Tottenham do not have the best of records at Villa Park, but should be able to play their part in a decent game.  Bearing in mind the injuries and tiredness at this time of year (especially with the age of some of our players), I believe this might be the match that Spurs do least well in ...

PREDICTION : -  Aston Villa  2  Tottenham  1

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



Aston Villa  1  Tottenham  1                                 (Half time score: 0-1)
Saturday 29th December 2001
Kick Off :  3 p.m.
Weather : -  Cold
Crowd : -   41,134
Referee : -   Mr. E. Wolstenholme (Blackburn)

Scorers : -   Aston Villa  -   Angel (pen) 90
                  Tottenham  -  Ferdinand 38


Aston Villa :   None

Tottenham :  Richards (foul) 51, Ziege (foul) 70, Ferdinand (unsporting conduct) 72


Aston Villa : Schmeichel; Wright (Stone 71), Mellberg, Staunton, ; Boateng (Taylor 87), Samuel,  Merson, Hendrie, Kachloul; Angel, Vassell.
Unused Subs : Enckleman, Barry, Dublin

Spurs :  Keller; Richards, King, Perry; Ziege (Gardner 83), Anderton, Poyet, Freund, Taricco; Sheringham, Ferdinand (Rebrov 82)
Unused Subs :  Sullivan, Sherwood, Davies

With both sides struggling in recent weeks, they were keen to get something out of the game and although Tottenham defended stoically, they were denied by the hand of Daz.  A long hail Mary of a cross in injury time was handled at the far post by Anderton and with the last kick of the match, Juan Pablo Angel scored from the spot.  Despite Tottenham controlling the game for periods, Villa had pressurised Spurs and then got their reward at the end of the match.

The match began with a shock when Kasey Keller showed up in goal, making us wonder if Sullivan had been dropped or whether he was just being rested.  Perry came in for Gardner, who had a torrid time at the New Dell in midweek.  Not unsurprising changes, but ones which might have made the team readjust their tactics.  It was not to affect them a great deal as there was a to-and-fro to the game that made it feel like a Cup match.  Deano had to make a couple of last ditch tackles to retrieve the situation after the speedy Vassell got away from the Tottenham defence and the same player shot into the side netting from inside the area.  Keller was tested by Merson and the ever present threat of Vassell before Spurs broke on the left with Ziege, who passed into the box.  It was intended for Teddy, but with Staunton and Mellberg in attendance, he stepped over the ball leaving Les a run on goal with a clear shot.  Although Schmeichel got a bit of his leg on the ball, he could not stop it going in for Ferdie's 150th Premiership goal.  He had already struck the post with a header that seemed to take an unfortunate bobble off the turf, when it looked like it was floating in.

Spurs were up against it for most of the time, but Villa created few direct chances, as they were blocked at the edge of the box or the final pass was off target.  However, without Keller's sharp double save when Merson burst into the box, the lead would not have been taken into the half-time break.

The second half was a different story as Villa tried to press home their possession, but with Merson and Boateng both playing deeper, the threat was slightly lessened.  Keller had to be alert to deny Staunton's header, Hendrie's shot and a volley by Kachloul, as Spurs were made to defend for long periods.  The Spurs fans gave good voice to help the team repel the Villa raids as the home side's fans unfurled "Gregory Out" banners.

With about ten minutes left, Hoddle brought on Rebrov for Ferdinand and it proved an inspired substitution, as his pace on the break caused the home side problems.  First he broke on his own and rather than fire off a shot, passed back to Freund, who's cross went behind.  This was a feature of Spurs' breaks today.  With a few more effective crosses (or even ones that stayed on the pitch), Les could have added to his goal total.  Extra training in that department might be in order before New Year's Day.  When he got away again, he put Anthony Gardner in and while he had done well to get in that position, his shot lacked conviction.  Accepting he is a defender, he must learn to stick these sort of chances away, especially as the break lead to Villa's equalising goal.

It came via a long cross (again) into the box and Darren Anderton's hand hit the ball, leaving the referee to point to the spot and Angel to crash the penalty past Keller.  It was a bow for Tottenham's recovery after the defeats by Ipswich and Southampton, but showed that there is a resilience that would have not been evident in the past.  It is just a shame that there was only seconds to go when the handball happened.

A bad end to a bad Christmas, which we will have to hope turns into a good New Year.  With these things evening themselves out over the length of the season, we have some good luck to look forward to.


Peter O'Hanrahanrahan




Moments of injury time remained when Sergei Rebrov put Anthony Gardner in on goal.  However, his weak shot was saved by Schmeichel and that lead to Villa grabbing a penalty equaliser at the death.

It was a sickening way to lose two points, but perhaps if Tottenham had taken the opportunities they had created in the second half, especially after the introduction of Rebrov, they might have been out of reach already.  Twice, the Ukrainian chose to pass when well placed and his confidence and the rumours about an impending move to Lazio must be affecting him. 

With Sullivan dropping out of the side - hopefully to give Keller some first team match practice - there was an odd look about the Spurs side.  One which was more obvious as the game went on.  It involved the missing of chances.  Those that slipped by against Ipswich and SCBC proved more important than those against Bolton (Worthington Cup) and Fulham.  If we are to seriously challenge for a European place, then there must be an acceptance that all chances are vital and should be stuck away, rather than try and pass the buck or try and score the goal of the season.  In games like this and the previous two, those missed chances have cost us points and could be even more costly come the end of the season.

The other problem this match threw up was the rate at which Spurs are picking up bookings.  Not undeserved ones, but ones for stupid things - like Les' kicking the ball away.  Having got away with it in the first half, he did it again in the second and got yellow carded.  Ziege and Richards both got yellows, which are starting to add up and should these players get suspended, we will be back in the situation where the team will have others throw into the side and the balance will be upset.

Villa probably deserved something out of the game, but Spurs had held out so well, that it was cruel that a ball from Stone that looked as thought it was floating out of play, should be handled and a penalty awarded.  Anderton will be the only one who knows as to why he raised a hand.  It gave Angel the opportunity to test Keller as he had failed to do so throughout the rest of the match.  As it was, it was no contest.

While many of the Spurs players looked as though they were knocking the ball about easily, Villa hassling tactics made it hard to string passes together.  Gus was involved, but rarely effective.  Teddy was slightly off in his passing, although his dummy was classy and left Les an easy task in beating Schmeichel.  Les battled hard, but had two decent chances, of which he took one and hit the post with the other.  There was a lack of people breaking from midfield until Gardner came on and he is not the best finisher at the club at the moment.  Rebrov should also have tried Schmeichel out more after he came on, as he had chances to shoot and did not take them.  The back three defended really well, while Taz and Ziege did some good tracking back, but when attacking, they wasted a lot of possession, by putting in crosses to no-one in particular or over-hitting them.  The side cannot afford to spurn the chance to put in a cross to a Spurs head.  Deano was perhaps the pick of the bunch, with Keller not far behind (despite dropping a high cross) as he made some important saves.

On another day, Spurs might have held out, but it is the points that we are dropping against comparative or lesser teams that will come home to haunt us later on in the New Year.  Villa might be just the sort of game that will prove typical of this season.

Benny The Ball

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