By Pete Stachio
(Home) 10 May 1998
Thank goodness that it didn't come to needing something from the last game of the season. I would have hated having to sit through the match worrying about the other matches which would have affected our future; there has been too much of that already this season. And I wouldn't have been too hopeful should we have required anything from this match. So, a sunny day, opposition who were safe and had nothing to play for in front of a sell-out crowd. What more could you ask for ?? Well, the game was as competitive as one could be with nothing hanging on it, but there was enough good football to make it enjoyable. Spurs started brightly and went forward at every opportunities, but it was The Saints who took the lead when a dubious free-kick was awarded and the players over the ball feinted time and time again to take it, luring Fox into breaking out of the wall. Eventually, it was taken and Le Tissier's low shot found a way through the wall and past Walker into the left hand bottom corner of his net. It was Southampton's first meaningful attack, but Spurs managed to concede a goal from it - it really summed up the way the season had gone. However, a long clearance by the Spurs keeper was chested down and set up, by Ferdinand, for the on-running Klinsmann, who lashed the ball into the top right corner of the Park Lane goal. His joy was plain to see (having failed to score on his last farewell) and he led the way to do a celebratory dive onto the turf, just as he did on his Hillsborough debut. The game then proceeded to be filled with individual skills, Ginola seeming determined to round off the season with a goal of his own. Yet it was he who provided an enticing cross, which Jurgen was just unable to wrap his head around.
The second half became a bit scrappy with both sides conceding possession and wasting the space that they found, but it was Spurs who looked the most likely to score, with Les, Saib and Jurgen going close, while Ruel Fox sliced the best chance wide as he ran onto a pass from the right side of the box. The atmosphere for such a meaningless game was quite fantastic and it is hoped that there will be reasons for such cheering next term. It reached fever pitch when Gary Mabbutt replaced Colin Calderwood, with 71 minutes gone, to make his final appearance in a Tottenham Hotspur shirt. There was a great gesture from Sol Campbell, who immediately removed the Captain's armband and passed it to the man who had worn it with such honour in the past. Gary, who has given such excellent service to the club and is being released after 16 years, gave it his all for his short time on the pitch. He desperately hung around upfield, hoping to get on the scoresheet as he did in his League debut at home to Luton Town, but that wasn't to be the fairytale ending for Mabbs. Instead, he lead the players on a lap of honour at the end of the match and there was a tear in his eye as he waved his goodbyes. After the circuit had been completed, Mabbutt, Jurgen and David Howells all ran into the centre-circle to take the cheers from the crowd as thanks for all they had done for the club . Nicola Berti could be seen refusing to follow suit, so let's hope that is a sign that he will be staying at the Lane next season.
The end of a thoroughly disappointing season ending with the club being unbeaten at home since December and picking up just enough points to maintain their Premiership status. With Bolton being the unlucky club on the last day, with Everton profiting from their misfortune, we all trust that next season will not leave Tottenham Hotspur in such peril again. It will require the spending of a lot of money and a lot of hard work, but it was all a bit too close for comfort this time around.
Wimbledon (Away) 2 May 1998
What was I saying about Wimbledon being tight at the back ?? How could I ever have doubted our fine team and thought for a minute that they may succumb to such lowly foes ?? Even in their current predicament, they surely had enough class to do what was required ?? Well, as we all know now, they did. And how!! The game started well, with Spurs taking the fight to the home team. It took a while to make the breakthrough, when Ginola jinked around Thatcher and curled an exquisite shot against the right hand goalpost. The ball rebounded (for once) to Fox, who fed Anderton to cross for Klinsmann. Although slightly behind him, his header was superbly directed into the path of Ferdinand to prod past the slow-off-his-line Sullivan. All seemed well with the world, but like a bolt from the blue(s) came two rapier-like thrusts into the Spurs net. Let's examine the evidence. Peter Fear had not played all season and hadn't scored for three years. So, it was obvious that today was going to be his day, wasn't it ?? In between, Walker had to pull off a smart tip over from a header and Berti had a header disallowed (rightly so) for offside, but, in truth, Spurs should have been strolling this one. It took a moment of classic Klinsmann to restore parity. Ginola again outwitted Thatcher and put in a low, near-post cross, that found Jurgen getting ahead of his marker and the keeper to glance home. Similar to his goal against West Ham, it gave Spurs heart. Going in at half-time, it was important to hear how the other matches were going, but the awful quality of the PA meant that you had to rely on whispers from those with radios and fill in the gaps yourself.
Ian Walker must wish he could play Wimbledon every week, because in the second half, I can't remember him being called on to make a save at all. All the action was centred around the Dons goal and it all arose from one moment of madness. Ginola again beat the young right back to the ball and turning to run towards his own goal, was caught high on his shin by Fear. The ball had run to Nielsen, following up behind and before he knew it Thatcher was flying through the air two footed, straight at him. He was lucky to escape serious injury and the view of Robbie Earle on Sky TV the next day, that the ref was hasty and that Nielsen soon got up afterwards, was crass in the extreme. The red card was the only possible option for the referee and reduced to ten men, Wimbledon were reduced to chasing shadows, because Tottenham showed that it can be easier playing against ten men. Within three minutes, Berti had blocked McAllister's clearance and it fell to Jurgen, who advanced into the box and shot past Sullivan. Four minutes after that, Ferdinand flicked on a long ball and Klinsmann turned across his marker to fire in his third. Then two minutes on, he was put in on goal by Les' strong run and perceptive ball, to strike a left foot shot to notch his fourth of the game. He might have had five had his header from Anderton's cross been a foot or so lower. But his contribution had not finished. He played a sublime back-heel back into Moussa Saib's path and the Algerian ran on, slotting the ball into the net for his first Spurs goal. In fact, Spurs could have scored a few more, but were content for long periods to play possession football in the spring sunshine. Even Sol drove through the Dons midfield and onto the edge of the penalty area, before over-running the ball. But, it was a day like that. I remember, a few seasons back when we played at Selhurst against Wimbledon and we emerged 5-2 winners, with Gary Lineker responsible for four of them. The four today were possibly even better than Saint Gary's haul, what with the pressure on the team and on Klinsmann in particular. On a day that every Spur played their part, perhaps a word of praise for Christian Gross. It was his team and his selection that won the day. For all the arguments about who should play and how, we saw Armstrong on the bench, Ginola out wide on the left, Calderwood in the back four and Anderton on the right. But on the day it worked for him. And while he has taken a lot of criticism for things over the last couple of months, he deserves some applause for keeping Spurs afloat.
Newcastle United (Home) 25 April 1998
Well, who would have thought it. In a head-on collision of two relegation threatened teams ...stop me if you have heard this before. The performance of Alan Shearer for England against Portugal in mid-week had sent shivers down the spine of Spurs fans with this game approaching. Add to that the jinking Gillespie, the cool bald head of Ketsbaia and the battling Batty and there was more than enough there for Tottenham to worry about. But they did not need to worry after a bright start that had fans on the edge of their seats, when Ginola cut in from the left after only a couple of minutes and unleashed a rasping right footed drive that produced an excellent save from Given in the Newcastle goal to tip the ball over the bar. Klinsmann and Vega both had headers from dead balls and Ginola was the hub of all that Spurs produced. In fact, it was he who produced a run from left to right across the box ending in a sharp turn that left Barton floundering, before crossing into the six-yard box where Jurgen beat Watson to the ball and headed down past Given. His celebratory dive signalled how pleased he was to get on the score sheet after the last couple of weeks. The lead could easily have been extended before half-time, when Anderton robbed Watson on the left hand edge of the box and crossed for Ginola to hit a rocket of a volley inches wide of the Newcastle goal.
After the break, things continued in much the same vein. Newcastle failed to threaten Walker and the lack of a fluent playmaker in their midfield meant that the defence were restricted to dealing with long balls and avoiding Shearer's elbows. A series of corners kept the play in the Newcastle penalty area and Ferdinand's free header from one of them produced another fine save from Shay Given. The Italian defender Pistone was the butt of the crowd's abuse as he tried to pull Fox's shorts off, dived outrageously and tried in vain to kick a few Spurs players. And it was he who conceded the corner, under pressure from Fox, that Ginola floated to the far post for Les to leap prodigiously and power a header for goal number two. The relief could be felt all around the ground, but the team seemed to sit back a little after this, allowing Newcastle to impose themselves. Twice, Ramon sliced balls over his own cross-bar from just a few yards out, when the ball was flying across the box. Ketsbaia, who had replaced substitute Gillespie after only two minutes on the pitch, had a long range shot well saved and held by Walker. He repeated the feat from a Pearce free-kick (and how often have we seen those end up in the net) near the end. The most important blocks were by Vega, who got in the way of a Shearer header and Calderwood, who thwarted Andersson's follow-up effort.
The results assisted Tottenham in moving up a couple of places, leapfrogging Newcastle and Everton, but Bolton's shock win at Villa gives them a lifeline. I'm hoping that it can all be resolved next week as needing something on the last day of the season may be more than the old heart can stand. Full marks to Colin Calderwood, Sol, Les and Jurgen who all ran their socks off. This was as good a display as we've seen at home all season and if the level of performance can be maintained, Tottenham should be playing in the Premier League next season. It's a big if though.
Barnsley (Away) 18 April 1998
Crunch. In more ways than one. The head-on collision of two relegation threatened teams produced a hard fought match, but one that Tottenham's class should have seen them claim all three points despite having a man sent off. The early play was to and fro with Spurs perhaps just edging it with Berti's header cleared off the line, but it was the home side that took the lead. Ginola's dis-possesion gave the Tykes an opportunity to run at the Spurs defence and Bullock's jinking produced a pull back that invited Redfearn to smash the ball home from six yards out. Tottenham appeared to realise what the consequences of defeat meant when Barnard flashed a shot across the Walker's goal and battled back, with Klinsmann skying a chance that bobbled badly just as he struck it. However, it was Barnsley who could have wrapped it up right on half-time, when a free kick was allowed to go across the six-yard box and Fish at the far post just failed to keep his header in play.
The second half started with Armstrong appearing instead of Jurgen and almost immediately, the difference was felt. Ginola hit a shot wide and then forced a corner, which he took out on the left. Ferdinand's header was cleared off the goal-line and Nielsen played a shot straight back in that Calderwood deflected in for an equaliser. His nutty leaps, reminiscent of Nobby Stiles in 1966, showed how much it meant to him and inevitably, the club. Barnsley had not been able to keep up their first half efforts and Spurs were soon going close again with Armstrong and Anderton. However, it all so nearly went wrong in one moment of indecision. Ramon Vega decided to try and bring the ball out of defence, but let the ball run away from him. Ashley Ward stole thee ball away from him and advanced on goal. Vega, in what could be described as a foolish act or as one of sacrifice for the team, hauled him down and the referee pulled out the red card. In all honesty, Martin Bodenham didn't have any choice in the matter. Whether or not it was a clear run on goal could be debated, but I have a feeling that had the Swiss star been allowed to stay on the pitch there might have been a riot (following the recent visit of Liverpool when three home players were sent off). Anyway, they say it's harder to play against ten men, but following the dismissal there was only one team in it and that was Tottenham. The team started to use the ball and with Calderwood moving into defence from midfield, the side looked compact and comfortable. The whole spectre of relegation could have been removed in one fell swoop when Ginola was put through at the death, but couldn't find a way past Watson to secure three points. A draw in the circumstances was not a bad result, but it leads to a nerve-wracking last three games.
The side performed admirably with Nielsen filling in at left-back and Calderwood, despite recent booing, showed what a no-nonsense approach can achieve. Gross' decision to leave Klinsmann in the dressing room after the break was one which caused surprise, but the partnering of Armstrong with Ferdinand worked to cause Barnsley problems. In retrospect, this game didn't turn out to be as hard as it had been expected. Barnsley's fight flagged after the break, but despite that, Spurs were still unable to find a way through to get a second goal. After all the moans and groans from players who had not been selected, it was nice to see a gritty performance to earn a valuable point. In our present position, the important thing was not to lose and that was accomplished.
Coventry City (Home) 13 April 1998
Another lapse at the death cost two points. It will be games like this and the Liverpool home match that could eventually cost us our place in the top league. For 86 minutes of this game, Spurs dominated and had the lion's share of possession, but finally, did not create enough decent chances for all of that. From the first few minutes, when Vega's header hit the bar and bounced down to the oncoming Fox, who nodded it over the bar, you just had the feeling that things were not going to go our way (Especially when you remember that Bolton managed to bury a rebound from the crossbar on Saturday to help them to victory). Saib had to depart the fray after only a minute when Moldovan's knee somehow hit him in the face, leaving him unconscious and off on a stretcher. Spurs pressed forward and kept Coventry away from our goal in the process. Vega had another header saved spectacularly by Ogrizovic, but what was really frustrating was when Ginola went on a speedy run past three defenders from the halfway line and shot past the post, when a square ball along the six-yard box would have found Armstrong with the goal open in front of him.
The second half again saw Spurs on the offensive, with Klinsmann going close with a free-kick from 25 yards and the ball pinging around off defenders from a cross, but no Spurs player was available to apply the finishing touch. The goal, when it came, was simplicity itself. A Ginola corner swung over onto Nicola Berti's head. It was after this, that Spurs seemed to go asleep a bit. Another opportunity came when Ferdinand beat Oggy to a cross, but saw his header sail agonisingly over the bar. Then, things started to go into slow motion as Coventry took a throw-in, the ball was laid to Dublin on the edge of the box and he stroked it past Walker to equalise. Just five minutes remained and the two points that vaporised in that time could have been so important in the long run. As could the lead we surrendered in the last minute against Liverpool. Too many drawn matches that we should have won, especially at home (viz. Blackburn and Wimbledon) are painful reminders that the team has neither the killer instinct to finish games off nor the defensive resolve to tighten things up at the back to protect a slender lead.
The silence of the crowd at the final whistle spoke more words than I could ever write about this match (and the whole season). I am very depressed, as Tottenham need three wins from their last four games to be certain of safety, but, try as I might, I cannot see where they are going to come from. I hope against hope that I am wrong, but the gritty determination needed to pull clear of the bottom three does not shine out of a tense and nervous Spurs side. The matches remaining must see them play in a fashion not associated with Tottenham teams of the past, but points are what are important at the moment. Glory can come later. (Hopefully)
Chelsea (Away) 11 April 1998
During the week leading up to this game, referee Paul Durkin said on Ceefax that he felt that he would be the next official who was attacked on the pitch. So, was he specifically thinking about this match and why did he go such a long way towards bringing his premonition to life. How could he say that the tackle that Michael Duberry perpetrated on Jurgen Klinsmann that nearly cut him in half was not a penalty?? Then he turned down Chelsea appeals for handball, when Walker rushed to dive at Vialli's feet close to the edge of the penalty area. It smacked of a man with a death wish, except the few Spurs fans allowed to grace the Stamford Bridge away section were not enough to create a riot and the home fans knew that despite not getting a spot-kick, it was only a question of time before they would score. And score they did, with two slick finishes in the final 15 minutes - another example of our inability to defend until the end of a match.
The late header by Vega that bounced back off the bar would only have helped our goal difference and was symptomatic of the lack of goal-scoring opportunities that we managed to create against a half-interested Chelsea side. Apart from a couple of runs that Saib had, but could not produce a decent finish to and a couple of balls that flashed across the goalmouth, there was precious little to get excited about. Ginola flittered around the edge of the action and Ferdinand, when he came on just failed to wrap his neck around a far post cross.
The most worrying aspect was the runaround that Flo gave Sol. He'll be up against another Norwegian beanpole next week in Fjortoft and he usually scores against us. We will need our defence to be on their toes to keep him quiet. The team need to show that they have the bottle for the last five games and the way things are going, only victory in all five will ensure a place in the Premier League. With the three teams around us all winning, it appears that our destiny is in our own hands. This is something we have known for a while now, but is that destiny in safe hands ?? We can't rely on any of the teams around us at the bottom of the table doing us any favours. The tension seems to be getting to the players as well, with them getting involved in arguments with Vialli and the short-arse Wise. It's important that they concentrate on their own game and ignore the antics of the opposition. It would only lead to the ref taking a dim view and the last thing we need is to end up playing with 10 men.
The next month will determine our fate, but it is up to the players to pull the club out of the worsening situation we find ourselves in.
Everton (Home) 4 April 1998
Another Saturday, another six-pointer. This one had a false start in more ways than one. The whistle blew for the start of the match and was then blown again as one of the Everton players was in the Spurs half. The ref allowed Spurs to kick-off again, but failed to realise that Armstrong and Fox were some 20 yards inside the Everton half of the pitch !! Spurs started well, but did allow Everton time and space to exploit, which they did. Ferguson had a tame shot saved by Walker and Barmby was foiled by Vega (although it looked like he missed from a couple of yards himself). Their first decent effort was the goal and that resulted from an intercepted clearance, which Barmby fed to Madar, who strolled through our non-existent offside trap to slot past Walker. It was only quick thinking by Carr that thwarted Ferguson again. The strong wind was obviously a major factor in the way the game was played and must have been far too fierce for Barmby, Madar, Ginola and Armstrong, the way that they kept ending up on the floor. The half ended with Spurs pressing, but Ginola's curling shot from the edge of the box that whizzed inches wide was the closest they came.
The excitement of the Grand National being shown on both our video screens (the second in use for the first time) must have reached the Spurs dressing room, as they looked fired up for the second half but the best chance early on fell to Ferguson. He raced away from Vega, who had slipped, exchanged passes with Madar and in the clear and 12 yards out, he preceded to blaze yards wide with his right foot. Spurs seized the moment and Klinsmann went close with two flashing headers from Carr crosses. However, a quick throw-out from Myhre found Barmby, who ran past Wilson and was only foiled when Walker dived out at his feet. This saw the end of Clive's involvement in the game as he left the field with a shoulder injury and was replaced by Calderwood, who played a solid game in his stead. Berti was replaced by Saib for the last 20 minutes and the Algerian's precise passing brought about an immediate change. It was his dinked pass into Vega, who nodded across goal for Armstrong to head home that put Spurs equal. Then Saib's cross produced an acrobatic scissor-kick from Jurgen that was blocked by Watson's face and Armo managed a volley with his back to goal that went wide. Even then things weren't finished, as the ball flew across the Spurs goal and Ball had a shot at the death saved by Walker as it came through a forest of legs.
Barmby obviously feels he has something to prove to the Spurs fans as he went around kicking the Spurs players until he got booked for his third late challenge. His every touch prompted shouts of "Tottenham Reject", which he wasn't, but his career has nose-dived since his departure. Ginola was frustrating again and did nothing to impress the referee, who rightly booked him for diving. If yellow cards are an indication of the amount of fight in the side, then Everton are bound to stay up, but the final score in terms of goals was probably about right. Spurs had more possession, but did little with it in terms of clear goal-scoring chances and Everton broke quickly and utilised the space they were given. A point a piece to keep both away from the bottom three - both Bolton and Barnsley failing to win, but in the remaining games both Spurs and Everton need a couple of wins to climb to safety.
Crystal Palace (Away) 28 March 1998
A crucial game and one which if lost would have been highly embarrassing, what with Palace not having won at home all season, as well as damaging to our fight against relegation. At last, our strikers are being provided with some good service and they are reaping the rewards as, for the second game in succession, they scored three times. After a slightly shaky start with Palace asking a few questions of our defence, Spurs gradually began to control the play with Saib's pinpoint passing and some good movement off the ball being the major contributory factors. Berti's header went over the bar when it should have been on target, as did Calderwood's which would have rounded off a really good move had he been able to get his head further over the ball. Jurgen had a couple of half-chances that he would have gobbled up a couple of years back, but this time around they were spurned. Armstrong, returning to his old stomping ground, tricked Ishmael into a rash tackle and was brought down in the box. For all the world, it seemed like a penalty, but the man in black, controversial ref Mike Reed, failed to agree and booked Armo into the bargain for diving !!
Coming just before half-time, it could have deflated Spurs, but they came out storming after the break and proceeded to pepper the Palace goal. Vega's header was fumbled onto the post by Miller and Armstrong had a goal wiped out as he punched the ball into the net. Technically, he could have been for an early bath as it was a second bookable offence, but as inconsistent referees go this one was consistently so. The breakthrough came when Klinsmann flicked on a long throw and Berti looped a header into the top corner of the net, while the Palace keeper stood and watched it go in. Having escaped expulsion, Armstrong made the hosts pay, when he flung himself at a header to round off a move that started in our own defence. Jurg wrapped things up when Saib put him in to lift the ball delicately over Miller for 3-0. The advantage could have been greater, when Armstrong was through and blazed wide. Things went a bit wobbly towards the end, when Howells gave possession away and Shipperley scored for the home side and minutes later, Lombardo headed a good chance inches wide. Tottenham held on for an important three points and a result that keeps the run going into the game against Everton.
Liverpool (Home) - 14 March 1998
If you'd have said to me before the game that we'd have scored three goals, I would have been very happy. If you'd have told me we would get a point, I would have bitten your hand off. So, why am I so fed up ?? I can't believe that having led three times in the match, that we've thrown away two points by only coming out of it with a draw. As a friend said, if we were mid-table, then it would have been possible to appreciate how exciting the game had been, but the desperate need for points means you just feel like you've been kicked in the guts. Taking the lead when Jurgen headed home Ginola's right wing cross, Spurs were playing well and could have gone further ahead when Klinsmann was foiled by Friedel and Nielsen's follow-up shot was blocked on the line. Liverpool then caught us on the break and McManaman had the freedom of the penalty box to lash the ball past Baardsen. Espen had done very well to prevent Owen from scoring on three occasions in the first half. Within minutes of the restart, David Ginola had cut inside from the right and bent a left foot shot past a couple of defenders into the bottom corner of the net. The lead lasted for about 20 minutes this time until the Reds broke again and Ince's overhead kick squared things. The game threatened to get out of hand after Harkness lunged two-footed at Berti from behind. Referee Uriah Rennie, who is supposed to be top of the heap in terms of the men in charge, produced a yellow card, when red would have been more fitting. The ref's handling of the game was lenient to say the least. Ginola's free-kick found Nielsen's head and directing it downwards, the ball bounced up onto the crossbar and was put behind for a corner. Ginola again took the place kick and this time Vega's header found the net. With only nine minutes left, the ball was bobbling around the Liverpool area and fell to our Danish midfielder again. This time he took it on his chest and produced a very tidy bicycle kick. The ball thudded against the post and rebounded out. The play suddenly switched to the other end and Owen nudged the ball past Baardsen, the ball hit the post and rebounded into play ... straight to McManaman who tied it up at 3-3. Even then, Spurs could have taken the points when Fox's mis-hit shot fell to Jurgen, but as he reacted the ball flew over the bar. This was probably a cracking match for the neutral, but many more like this and I'll be cracking up !!
Leeds United (Away) - 4 March 1998
Following on from the valuable win over Bolton, Spurs needed to keep the momentum going by coming away from Elland Road with something. That didn't happen because of bad finishing, good goalkeeping and one defensive lapse. Two good chances fell to the feet of Jurgen Klinsmann, both of which failed to hit the target. While it was a coup to re-sign him, Jurgen has looked a shadow of the player he was when he played during the 1995/6 season. Because of injury and age, he's just a bit off the pace and it's starting to show. Unfortunately, the club have few options because of injury, so we'll have to hope that he soon finds his touch in front of goal. Ginola engineered a good opening only to hit a tame shot at Martyn. The Leeds and England keeper had to be on his toes to deny Nielsen from just outside the six-yard box with an athletic save to tip the shot past the post.
Just as we had beaten Bolton three days before with a goal right on the stroke of half-time, so Leeds turned the tables on us. Wallace's cross from the left bounced invitingly into the path of the on-running Kewell, who headed past Baardsen. Apart from a save from a Hasselbaink long-shot and a Bowyer drive that went over the bar, there was precious little to entertain the fans at the cold northern outpost.
Whatever happens at the end of the season, we'll look back on games like these and think we could (and should) have got something out of them. Leeds had an FA Cup ¼ final to look forward to on Saturday, but still had enough about them to win. We have nothing to look forward too and couldn't produce a performance good enough to get any points. Where it will all lead is yet to come. But it would be nice to have some leads to go on (as the police say).
Bolton Wanderers (Home) - 1 March 1998
Danny Baker (radio presenter on Talk Radio) has always said that it is better for your club to be involved in promotion or relegation at the end of a season, rather than linger in the mid-table no-man's-land of meaningless games. Well, after having to suffer 90 minutes of this match, I'm not so sure. It was nerve-wracking stuff from the first minute collision between Baardsen and Holdsworth to the final minute when Saib created space in the box to force a save from Branagan. It was always going to be edge of the seat stuff, because the win was so desperately needed.
Spurs started looking very jittery, allowing Bergsson to go close with a header and Thompson to fire wide as Bolton gave the defence a rough ride. But, Spurs eventually settled and began putting passes together. Carr's good run across the box produced an opening for Armstrong, which he poked just wide and it was just before half-time that Spurs took the lead. The move started deep in Spurs' half, with Ginola picking the ball up and finding Wilson on the left wing. His ball into the box saw Nielsen spin away from his marker and hit a shot that despite hitting the post (and looking like it was going to bounce out), went into the net. Bolton seemed to have the stuffing knocked out of them by this and although they had to come out for an equaliser in the second half, they only threatened at the end of the match. Spurs thought they should have had a penalty when Phillips just got to the ball before he got Ginola. Tottenham were denied further goals (when Bergsson headed just past his own post and Fox produced a flying save from the Bolton keeper) and the services of Armstrong (stretchered off with a dead leg). At the other end Espen frustrated the Trotters with a finger-tip top save to push Phillips' shot around the post. Ginola worked tirelessly, but too often without producing an end result, while Nielsen and Berti run themselves into the ground to provide the foundation for this victory.
I'm just thankful that we didn't make a pig's ear of it in the end.
Sheffield Wednesday (Away) 21 February 1998
Another defeat with little to cheer about. Another mistake punished with a goal. Another few chances saved well by the goalkeeper or stopped by the woodwork or not on target. Another game in which we failed to score. Another game that seemed to sum up our season really. Sheffield Wednesday away - a match we should have got something out of, but going there to play for a point was a bit hopeful. I dont really think we can hold out for 90 minutes without having something to defend. Although the team differed from that sent out to play Blackburn, the approach was totally at odds with the opposition. The home side has been letting goals in, so why not play like we did at Ewood Park ?? The final flourish was a bit too late and while luck was not on our side, it may have been an unfair reflection of the game to have come away with a point. It would have been hard on Wednesday to lose two points as well as Ian Nolan with a broken leg. We wish him a speedy recovery.
With Saibs arrival due this week, it will be interesting to see where he fits into all this and how he can adapt to the rigours of English football. Hopefully, he will provide a supply to the forwards (when fit) to get us some goals to get out of this position. The Bolton game suddenly becomes more than a six-pointer and along with the games against Palace and Barnsley could decide our fate.
Leicester City (Home) 14 February 1998
A match against Leicester, who are a tough team to play at the best of times, were next up. Without virtually all the experienced strikers at the club unavailable, it was left to the returning Chris Armstrong to lead the line. Spurs started brightly but were indebted to Baardsen for his acrobatic save from Heskeys volley. However, it was Ginolas feeble attempt to get a free kick after nut-megging an opponent that gave possession to Savage. He fed the ball on to Zagorakis whos twenty yard shot bounced in front of Baardsen and then off his chest to provide Cottee with a tap-in. Tottenhams play was quite good in keeping possession and even getting the ball into good wide positions, but the final ball let us down. Arphexad grew in confidence as he picked off a succession of poor crosses and his save from Vegas header was top class. However, he too spilled Foxs drive and the ball landed at Calderwoods feet, which directed it into the net. Spurs then began to control the game, but did their best to give it away when Carrs pass across his own box was seized on by Heskey. Luckily, Baardsen redeemed his earlier error by diving at the flying Foxs feet. Loud appeals for a penalty when Sol challenged Cottee went unheeded to the ire of the away side, but the claim was as questionable as when Fox was toppled in the Leicester penalty area minutes earlier. What was clearer was the two hands of Matt Elliott in Vegas back in the opening minutes; possibly the most obvious penalty of the day. All in all, a good point, with Edinburgh and Armstrong performing very well. The most encouraging aspect was perhaps that they actually looked like a team and can go on from this match with some heart.
Blackburn Rovers (Away) 7 February 1998
The fallout from the Barnsley match was quite horrendous and the prospect of bringing home the bacon from Blackburn looked decidedly unlikely, the way they had been playing. However, I would happily trade a place in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup if we could have three points from the League game at Oakwell in the near future. Keeping the team together after the Yorkshire defeat may have given them the opportunity to have clear the air talks and to reassess the tactics in the light of the new injuries the side had suffered (Sling us some arrows). The injury to Klinsmann was the major concern. With Rory Allen not the finished article and becoming as injury-prone as the long-lost Darren Anderton; Neale Fenn turning Div. 3 defenders inside out while on loan to Leyton Orient; Chris Armstrong only just back from injury, where did this leave the forward line and what were the options available to Gross ? Well, he could have played Ginola upfront alongside Les, but I feel that this would have led to David dropping back to find the ball and isolating Les. I was happy to see Christian play some sort of inverted Christmas Tree formation (just the thing for this time of year) allowing Ginola to play between the front man and midfield, thus acting as a go-between and not detracting from one or the other when he went walkabout. It could be that having been forced into the position and tactics at Ewood Park, some good could have come of it. Indeed, the strengthening of the midfield by the returning Nielsen and Howells also firms up that area and acts as a springboard for Spurs to bounce their attacks off. The side did ride their luck during the match, but it was luck that had been owing to the team for some weeks now. Indeed, the was it across the line / wasnt it across the line debate even went our way and without too much dispute from the Rovers players. The two goals at the end did flatter us, but then how many games this season (West Ham at home for one) should we have scored more goals in. The score-line certainly helped reduce our burgeoning goal difference which was about to assume Swindon style proportions.
News that Spurs were looking to line up Raddy Antic as their new manager in the summer came as somewhat of a shock. With Gross still warm in the seat, it seems the height of bad manners to even hint at a new man coming in when the present incumbent hasnt even had a fair go. I presume that Antics name was put in the frame because of his association with football at Luton and therefore, David Pleat. There is no doubt that he has been a success at Atletico Madrid, but this season has fallen back from the leading pack that includes arch rivals Real and therefore, has brought down the wrath of Jesus (Gil) on his position. For too long there has been a culture at the club for chopping and changing managers. Not many get the chance to implement a five-year plan. We need some stability and should we survive our present perilous position Im sure that Herr Gross will take Spurs forward. We must hope however, that if Arsene buggers off for Real, that the name on the contract as manager at the Arse isnt Antics. With more important games to come, it will be necessary to get as many players as fit as we can and the failure to get Schmidt his work permit, will make Grosss job harder in this respect, but hopefully, the side can settle down to a more regular XI and put together a run of results. I never did like it down there where the position numbers are high and the points are low. Its a hell of a downer !!
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