Looking Forward



Premier League

Sunday 29th December 2002

The Christmas and New Year games are coming thick and fast and the travelling involved gets longer.  A distant trip to the North East to face Newcastle after a home match with Charlton racks up the miles.  And it is an area where Tottenham have fared badly in the recent past.  A win there and at the Stadium  of Light last season were welcome wins and another would see Spurs leap into fourth position in the League.

Newcastle have a decent home record though and with Shearer in as good scoring form as he has ever been, Tottenham will have to be on their toes to prevent the former England striker getting shots on goal.  Seven home wins in the League show how difficult it is to leave St. James'  Park with anything at all and with the speedy Bellamy returning after a rest against Bolton Wanderers on Boxing Day, the Magpies will be at full strength for the match.

Given is a fine shot stopper, although on the short side for a keeper and the presence of Les Ferdinand might encourage some crosses to test the defenders in front of the Irishman.  O'Brien and Dabizas are not infallible in the middle of the back four, with backs Hughes and Griffin having been paired together more recently, but Bernard might return if selected.  He will give an attacking edge to the side, although Griffin in particular has found his shooting boots of late.  Bramble is out injured and Elliot and Caldwell are both used as cover in this area of the team.

Gary Speed might be getting on in years now, but he has a good engine and works tirelessly between the penalty boxes, often timing his runs to get on the end of moves.  Alongside him, Solano provides good passing ability, with Jenas and Dyer giving young legs to the midfield.  Both these youngsters are willign to push forward and therefore, the Tottenham wing backs (or full backs if a 4-4-2 is played) will have to try and stop them getting into positions where they can damage the Spurs defence.  It will mean a lot of covering by the Spurs midfield, but there are likely to be some fresher legs there to cover the ground.  Laurent Robert can also operate on the flanks in midfield and his pace and cracking shot is dangerous both from open play and especially from a dead ball situation ... if he can get the chance before Shearer !!

The prolific (but easily disliked) Shearer has had a number of partners in the side because of injury and suspension, but the return of Craig Bellamy sees the prime choice pairing up front.  The speed and trickery of the Welshman and the power and experience of the old head give a good blend in a striking partnership, which means that Keller could be a busy boy on Sunday afternoon.  Lua-Lua can come on to add pace and dribbling skill if needed and Amoebi offers the option of a tall man up front, who also is good on the floor.

With the Spurs side only performing for the last half hour against Charlton, it is a little worrying as to what will happen if they do the same against Newcastle.  Having started with an aged midfield then, I can only think that Hod will include Simon Davies from the start and also give Iversen a place from the kick off to inject a little life into the proceedings, as he did at Manchester City.  A 4-4-2 might be more solid to start off with, but the onus is on Tottenham to take the game to United.  Bolton's 4-3 win on Boxing Day was achieved with a "have-a-go" mentality.  It will need another 90 minute performance to take anything form the match.

With Richards only 50-50 according to word coming out of the club, it could lead to a weakness in the air at the back and with the old legs suffering from three matches in quick succession, I think that the mileage clocked up might mean ...

PREDICTION : -  Newcastle United   2   Tottenham  1

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



Newcastle United  2  Tottenham  1   (Half-time score : 1-0)
Sunday 30th December 2002
Venue : -  St. James' Park
Kick Off : -  14.00 p.m.
Weather : -  Chilly, rain
Crowd : -  52,145
Referee : -  S. Bennett (Kent)

Linesmen :  Mr. A. Garratt; Mr. S. Brand

Fourth Official  :  Matt Messias

Teams : -  
Newcastle United : - Given, Hughes, O'Brien, Caldwell, Bernard; Speed (Jenas 24), Robert, Dyer (Lua Lua 46), Solano (Dabizas 46); Shearer, Bellamy
Unused subs. : - Harper, Amoebi

Tottenham : -  Keller; Carr, King, Perry, Taricco; Davies, Bunjevcevic, Poyet (Sheringham 69), Freund; Keane (Acimovic 80), Iversen (Ferdinand 69)
Unused subs. : - Sullivan, Thatcher

Managers : -  
Newcastle United  -  Bobby Robson

Tottenham - Glenn Hoddle

Colours : -  
Newcastle United  -  Black and White striped shirts, black shorts, black socks with white turnover

Tottenham - Yellow shirts, navy blue shorts,  yellow socks with navy blue turnover

Scorers : -  
Newcastle United  -  Speed 18, Shearer 59

Tottenham -  Dabizas (o.g.) 74

Cards : -  
Newcastle United  - Dabizas (foul) 61

Tottenham -  Freund (dissent) 60, Perry (foul) 90

Two goals originating from throw-ins cost Spurs the chance of going fourth in the Premiership, which is where Newcastle find themselves after their victory.  In fact, the home side scored all three goals in this match, which wasn't as close as the scoreline suggests.

While Tottenham had all the possession, the Magpies had the best of the chances, with Keller being the warmer handed of the two keepers.  But it came down to Newcastle taking the chances they were presented with, while Spurs laboured to create and then found a resolute Given in goal to get past.  His saves from Treacle and Gus were inspired and Bunjy's off target effort was the only other worthwhile shot Tottenham could manage.  Poyet would be particularly disappointed that the keeper's reflex save kept out his volley, as a yard either side and he would have had no chance.

At the other end, there were a procession of opportunities for the home team, but the goal came off an opening period when Spurs had taken the game to Newcastle.  Despite the heavy and cut up pitch, Spurs were passing the ball well and pushing onto the Newcastle defence.  A break gained a throw in on the left wing and from it the ball was headed up into the air, where it fell to Gary Speed, who had strolled away from Simon Davies on the blind side and he dispatched it low into the bottom corner of Keller's goal.  It was quite a relief that the strike partnership of Shearer and Bellamy had left their shooting boots at home, as both squandered good possibilities by putting the ball outside the frame of the goal when well placed.  With King having a shaky game and looking cautious of the Welshman's pace, the lack of Richards' presence in the back four was visibly evident.

As the game went on, the midfield of United got eaten away.  Speed withdrew with a hernia a few minutes after his goal and was joined by Dyer and Solano at half-time.  The Peruvian international was involved in a sickening clash of heads with Taricco and was obviously disorientated, having to spend the night in hospital with concussion.  The home side had to reorganise at the break and their changes appeared to make them more solid against the attacking threat of the Spurs midfield.  Davie shad a good game, but got bogged down in the quagmire midfield, while Bunjy produced a good passing performance, but as to his best position, I haven't a clue.

The second goal was the killer.  As Perry and others disputed the throw-in given to Newcastle, the home side got on with the game and sent Bellamy coursing away down the left wing.  He found his way blocked by Freund, but held the ball up and then clipped a cross to the far post, where Shearer had wandered away from Ledley, who had allowed the in-form striker out of his sight.  He headed the ball back between King and Keller to net his thirteenth goal of the season.

Spurs were left to chase the game in the hope of making another comeback like they had against Charlton.  Throwing Sheringham and Ferdinand on to join up with Keane meant that Tottenham were open to counter attacks, which saw Shearer and Lua-Lua have chances to increase their lead.  However, the only other goal of the game came Tottenham's way courtesy of a United defender.  Sheringham's tackle on Dabizas, which the ref allowed to go unpunished, put him on the sidelines getting attention, while the game went on.  When he was waved back onto the pitch, he made a dash for the penalty area, where his finely timed run met Teddy's cross and planted a beautifully executed diving header past his static keeper.  Oh for a cross like that earlier in the match, when it could have given us the lead.

As it was, Spurs did push on, but without creating a clear-cut chance.  Newcastle's patched up side held out and their three points put them into the top four, while Spurs stayed in eighth.  In the past, such an approach to the match, especially without some of the players in the Spurs side, would have seen us on the end of a spanking.  Sloppy finishing by Shearer of all people let Tottenham off the hook a bit, but there was much to be content with in the way Spurs went forward.  Two incidents of poor concentration and a lack of a decent ball into the area eventually cost Spurs the game.

Maybe they are saving them for a game against a big club ??


Ray Mann




With the final ball delivered into the box failing to find it's target, it is no surprise that Spurs failed to gain any benefit from the possession they had in this defeat at the hands of Newcastle United.

The fact that Christian Ziege was in hospital having an operation that would save his leg, if not his life, showed that Spurs lack a precision crosser of the ball that would help our progress even further.  The crosses hit into the box today were either put into areas where the deliverer thought team-mates would be or were over-hit to areas where no-one was.  The fact that Robbie Keane ploughed pretty much a lone furrow through the mudfield of St. James' Park meant that he had to be taken off for his own good near the end.  He wasn't happy about it, but other matches lay ahead.

Spurs were a little fortunate not to travel home with a bigger scoreline against them.  Shearer was poor on the day, for all the Man of the Match awards he was given.  He put two great chances wide from within ten yards of the goal that Tottenham might have been able to convert, had they been presented with them.  King's poor back-header let in Bellamy in the first half and his shot was wide of the mark, when normally he would have at least hit the target, as he did earlier, but Keller saved well.  Kasey managed to turn a Hughes shot straight at him away for a corner and Taricco kicked the ball off the line when it came over and Shearer got a shot in.  

Meanwhile Gus Poyet was the one man who got on the end of things for Tottenham.  He had a close range volley turned aside by Given, put a header over the bar from a corner and also was involved with Bunjy in a  goalmouth scramble that failed to see the ball forced over the line.  Taz tried to notch his first Spurs goal, but his 25 yard drive was turned over by the Irishman Given.

For all the ball Spurs had, there was much huffing and puffing, but little quality in producing chances for Keane.  He had one shot in the first half and was nearby when Poyet had his volley, but the work off the ball he was doing was not what was needed of our lone striker.  When Teddy and Les came on, things looked better, but the only gain was a goal from the diving head of Dabizas.  Coming back on to the pitch after receiving treatment, he raced back into his own box and precisely put his header from Sheringham's cross past Given with no-one around him.

If that was a late Christmas gift, then the two goals that Spurs conceded were out of the same stocking.  The first, after 17 minutes, stemmed from a throw-in, which was headed out, but Simon Davies lost his bearings and Speed nipped in behind him to slot home low past Keller.  The second also arose form a throw.  This time, a disputed one, which was the reason that Robert's quick thinking released Bellamy and his cross was nodded home at the far post by Shearer.  Perry and Freund were guilty of taking more interest in moaning at the referee and not their defensive responsibilities, while Ledley let Shearer slip away behind him to have a free header.

Later on, Lua Lua ran away from the defence and hit the outside of the goalpost and Carr should have had a pop at goal instead of trying to pass on the responsibility for trying to score.

The home fans celebrated as they knew they had been matched by Tottenham's passing game, but, for fans from this footballing hotbed, is was a shame that they appeared to know nothing of the laws of the game and howled for decisions that even Jeff Winter wouldn't give.  Their sarcastic booing of Ferdinand was funny, but why they did the same for Sheringham, Taricco and Poyet is beyond me.  Sporting fans ??  not in my opinion.

The loss of Dean Richards was another factor in this defeat, as he might have stayed closer to Shearer as a typical central defender would have done.  The loss of key players could affect the destiny of Tottenham's season with two important games coming up in the next six days.  But what might be more important is the delivery of the ball to our forwards.

The Polyphant



Other scores this weekend :


1 Liverpool 1 Sunday
Aston Villa 1 Middlesbrough 0 Saturday
Blackburn Rovers 2 West Ham United 2 Saturday
Charlton Athletic 1 WBA 0 Saturday
Everton 0 Bolton Wanderers 0 Saturday
Fulham 0 Manchester City 1 Saturday
Leeds United 2 Chelsea 0 Saturday
Manchester United 2 Birmingham City 0 Saturday
SCBC 2 Sunderland 1 Saturday


League Table
  P W D L F A Pts
1 Arsenal 21 13 4 4 42 22 43
2 Chelsea 21 10 8 3 34 17 38
3 Manchester United 21 11 5 5 33 21 38
4 Newcastle United 20 11 2 7 34 29 35
5 Everton 21 10 5 6 23 22 35
6 Liverpool 21 9 7 5 30 21 34
7 SCBC 21 8 8 5 24 20 32
8 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 21 9 5 7 30 30 32
9 Manchester City 21 9 3 9 28 29 30
10 Middlesbrough 21 8 5 8 25 20 29
11 Blackburn Rovers 21 7 8 6 28 25 29
12 Charlton Athletic 21 8 5 8 24 25 29
13 Leeds United 21 8 3 10 28 27 27
14 Birmingham City 21 6 7 8 19 25 25
15 Aston Villa 21 7 4 10 19 23 25
16 Fulham 21 5 5 10 23 27 23
17 Bolton Wanderers 20 4 7 9 23 35 19
18 Sunderland 21 4 6 11 14 30 18
19 WBA 21 4 4 13 16 32 16
20 West Ham United 21 3 7 11 21 38 16

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