"It was Twenty Years ago today!"
article published December, 2017, but first written in 1997 by the late Brian Judson
Friday, December 26th, 1997
FA Carling Premiership
ASTON VILLA (1) 4 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (0) 1
Aston Villa : Bosnich; Nelson, Scimeca, Ehiogu, Staunton; Draper, Taylor,
Grayson, Wright; Milosevic, Collymore.
Substitutes *NOT* used : Oakes, Charles, Hendrie, Collins, Byfield.
Booked : Ehiogu.
Goalscorers : Draper 2 (38, 68), Collymore 2 (81, 89).
Tottenham Hotspur : Walker; Carr, Campbell, Mabbutt (sub Anderton, 73),
Wilson (sub Allen, 73); Calderwood, Fox, Nielsen, Sinton (sub Clemence,
25); Ginola, Iversen.
Substitutes *NOT* used : Baardsen, Domingues.
Goalscorer : Calderwood (59).
Referee : Mr A B Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).
Attendance : 38,644.
As a reporter of Tottenham's matches, I try to be fair and impartial. But
as Tottenham grow increasingly inept, hopeless and completely lacking in
confidence of any kind, it is increasingly difficult to be optimistic
about the future. Tottenham have gone so long on their travels without
gaining the glance of Lady Luck that as soon as they fall behind they
seem to accept they are beaten. The players simply have to learn the old
maxim of Dave Mackay : a match is *NEVER* lost until the final whistle
goes, no matter how remote the likelihood of a victory.
With Klinsmann allowed to remain in Italy for Christmas, because
Tottenham did not think international clearance would be received in
time, the team largely picked itself. Despite pleas from Scales and
Ferdinand to play, neither were considered by Herr Gross, although they
travelled to the match, as did the suspended Vega. Calderwood was again
played in midfield, a miscasting of a footballer who should never be
playing at this level.
Villa surprisingly decided to play Collymore, despite his being involved
in a fracas with his former girl friend that ended in his spending a
night in a police cell. His manager said he had had a chat with Collymore
and they had agreed he was fit to play.
The early stages of the match gave no clues regarding the denouement of
the climax. Both sides were totally inept, giving away possession of the
ball to match the spirit of the season. The benovolent Mr Wilkie presided
over proceedings, occasionally handing out a lecture when detecting a
I was surprised that Mr Wilkie took no action when Andy Sinton was
sandwiched between the double challenge of Draper and Taylor soon after
20 minutes had been played. Sinton, hardly surprisingly, collapsed in a
heap. The Villa players seemed to be saying to the referee that Sinton
had dived when the referee awarded a free kick to Tottenham. But Sinton
lay in a heap despite lengthy attention from Tony Lenighan and eventually
Sinton was stretchered off. I raised my eyebrows when Clemence came on as
substitute. If Anderton is allegedly fit, why didn't Anderton come on at
As Tottenham's midfield came increasingly under the cosh from their Villa
counterparts, Ginola abandoned any pretence of playing as a striker and
fell back to try to sort things out. This left Iversen alone up front,
something hardly likely to instil any confidence into him.
It came as no surprise when Villa eventually went ahead in the 38th
minute. Staunton set Milosevic free on the right. None of the Spurs
players challenged him and left him free to lob the ball to the far post.
The blond head of Mark Draper made sufficient connection to nod the ball
beyond Walker's clawing fingers.
Herr Gross evidently put some fire into Tottenham's bellies because, for
a while, they played something like the team they should be. Tottenham
applied some pressure to Villa's defence and eventually equalised, if
rather fortunate to do so. Fox unleashed a shot that Bosnich
instinctively saved. The ball ran loose to Clemence, whose gentle shot
seemed to be deflected by Calderwood. Although the reports suggest the
ball hit Calderwood on the arm, I have looked at the action replays and
cannot see it in the forest of players scrambling in front of the goal.
Spurs were not level for long. Villa were soon on the attack again and
tragedy hit Tottenham when Walker and, I think, Iversen rather than
Nielsen collided as Walker went to catch a Collymore cross. As the two
Tottenham players collapsed in a heap, Draper poked the ball into the
unguarded Tottenham goal. In the wake of this goal, Walker was captured
by the Sky cameras furiously swearing at someone, who I presumed to be
the hapless Iversen. If only Walker showed as much passion at other times!
After that, there was only going to be one winner. The question was how
many Villa would bother to score. All trace of their hesitance had
disappeared as they knocked the ball about, teasing the Tottenham players.
The double substitution of Anderton and Allen for Mabbutt and Wilson came
far too late. In any case, soon afterwards, Allen was injured in a tackle
and could only limp around helplessly before limping off for good,
reducing Tottenham to ten men.
And then Collymore suddenly sprang into life after spending much of the
preceding time striking posing attitudes. Grayson tore down the right
wing, his shot hit the post but rebounded to Collymore, who turned the
ball into the unguarded goal before Walker could recover.
Then, in the last minute, Villa won a free-kick on the edge of the area
after Carr had handled the ball. There had been some appeals for a
penalty from Villa but Mr Wilkie was having none of that, waving them
away. He proceeded to organise the Tottenham defence. I thought Walker
might have placed Carr at the near upright as a precaution whilst he
covered the other side of the wall. But he didn't and it came as no
surprise when Collymore lobbed the ball over the wall into the unguarded
space by the upright.
Hopefully, Klinsmann will be back on Sunday for Arsenal. But Tottenham
need more than just a striker who knows where the opposition goal is.
They need a completely new team. The current team's confidence is so
fragile it does not take long to shatter it. It particularly needs a
captain who is combative, someone out of the Vinny Jones mould as he used
to be or David Batty. We need someone who can grab hold of some of the
more faint-hearted players and shake them up and tell them to get on with
*winning* the game, even if Tottenham happen to be losing 5-0.
O! Burgess! O! Mackay! O! Mullery! O! Roberts! O! Gough! Where are you in
our hour of need!
But Villa should not be complacent. Collymore may have scored two goals
but he didn't perform very much apart from that. They have plenty of
their own problems. Too much depends on Staunton, for example. In
defence, he shores the Villa defence up but he can add to their options
in midfield. Villa looked anaemic in midfield at times until Tottenham
collapsed. Certainly, I cannot see Villa achieving much with this team
even if they are in the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup.
And so to the battle for supremacy in North London. At least Arsenal have
problems of their own ....
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