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Spurs v Crystal Palace, 24.11.97

"It was Twenty Years ago today!"
article published November, 2017, but first written in 1997 by the late Brian Judson

Monday, November 24th, 1997
FA Carling Premiership
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (0) 0 CRYSTAL PALACE (0) 1

Scorer:- Shipperley, 57

Attendance : 25,634.

Referee : Mr P Durkin (Portland).

Tottenham Hotspur : Walker; Carr, Scales, Campbell, Edinburgh (sub Vega, 26); Sinton, Anderton (sub Nielsen, 66), Clemence, Ginola; Ferdinand, Iversen (sub Allen, 66).

Substitutes *NOT* used : Baardsen, Dominguez.

Crystal Palace: Miller; Edworthy, Linighan, Warhurst, Hreidarson, Gordon; Rodger, Roberts; Dyer, Shipperley, Padovano (sub Veart, 81).

Substitutes *NOT* used : Nash, Davies, Emblem, Zohar.

Booked : Edworthy, Veart.

Tottenham began the new era under the stewardship of Messrs Christian Gross and Chris Hughton displaying the same faults that led to the downfall of previous coaches, Gerry Francis and Roger Cross. But to be fair, the players fought hard and, generally, provided much more off-the ball support to each other than hitherto.

With Chris Armstrong the only player not available for selection because of injury, it was interesting to note the omissions from the squad for the match. There was no Howells, Mabbutt or Calderwood. Regular readers of my reports will know that I have been suggesting for some time now that each of these players should *NOT* figure in *ANY* Tottenham squad.

Howells has always been far too one-paced and does not always make the intelligent decision. When he loses possession of the ball, he is struggling. Mabbutt has been a first class servant to the club since joining us at the start of the 1980s but he has lost whatever pace he once had. Although he continues to read the game well, unlike many other players in the squad, Mabbutt's future with the club should be confined to helping the development of the younger players. He could be the logical solution to filling one of the vacancies that will arise following the promotion of Chris Hughton to Assistant manager. And Calderwood should never have been signed by Tottenham in the first place, being little more than a journeyman footballer.

There had been speculation that Jamie Clapham might figure on the bench, given the lack of cover for Justin Edinburgh, who seems to have been prone to injuries this season. But when the squad was announced, Clapham did not feature, which seems to suggest that Chris Hughton does not think he will make the grade. If Clapham was ever going to make the breakthrough, it would surely have come last night.

The restoration of Stephen Clemence on the left wing with Darren Anderton and Andy Sinton sharing the responsibilities on the right wing with David Ginola making the plays in the centre was at least positive. With Iversen and Ferdinand up front, there was a distinct lack of experience of a midfield and strike force having played together.

Spurs were more impressive in the first half than in the second. There were hints of flair and elan that we have not seen for a long time. In the first half-hour, we seemed to be moving forward intelligently. I then noticed Sol Campbell signalling a need for an urgent substitution. Then Tottenham called off Justin Edinburgh, who seemed to have aggravated an old injury and Ramon Vega came on as his replacement, with Campbell replacing Edinburgh.

Spurs had a number of chances to score in the first half but wasted the lot. Some of them were long range shots from Anderton, Sinton and Clemence, which were either weakly struck or wild pot shots that worried none of the Palace defenders. Ferdinand and Iversen could not get their act together but that was largely due to a lack of match fitness and knowledge of playing with each other.

The best of the Spurs players in the first half was undoubtedly Ginola but he was still infuriatingly inconsistent, particularly when losing the ball. Sometimes, he seemed to admire his own efforts instead of providing support to a player he had passed the ball to.

The longer the game wore on, the more the Palace players sensed that Tottenham were there for the taking. The Palace defence were not seriously bothered by Tottenham at all, particularly after half-time.

Palace went ahead after 57 minutes. Ginola lost possession of the ball and stood and watched what happened instead of chasing to regain possession. Roberts pushed the ball to Edworthy, who slipped between Clemence and Campbell. His cross was slightly touched by Shipperly and the ball squeezed through a gap between Walker and the near upright.

As Shipperley and his team mates celebrated, Tottenham's heads collectively went down. I was annoyed because in my preview last week I had specifically mentioned Shipperley's predatory skills.

Some thrust disappeared from Tottenham when Iversen and Anderton were called off to be replaced by Rory Allen and Allan Nielsen. Neither really imposed themselves on the situation. Although both players had their chances to equalise, neither Allen nor Nielsen showed much intelligence.

The one incident of note in the final minutes was the departure of the promising Padavano on a stretcher. He had played well and had fitted into Palace's team. They should provide an interesting team when Lombardo is fit to return. The result and Lombardo's absence from the Crystal Palace team were my two disappointments last night.

Looking to the immediate future for Tottenham, I do not think anyone can now seriously challenge the fact that Tottenham are likely to be facing a relegation battle, particularly if we do not start winning games in the immediate future. On paper we have a fairly good squad but there is the 'x' ingredient - I call it the Mackay factor - that separates a brilliant team from a promising team. We all have our ideas which players should be retained and which players should be discarded. It will be interesting to see how the new administration assesses the squad.

So now we go to Goodison Park on Saturday for a six-pointer that we *MUST* win if we are not to figure in one of the bottom three positions. It will be interesting to see the first decisions of the new management when the teams run out at Goodison on Saturday. To those of you making the long trip north to Goodison, I hope you are rewarded with the sight of Spurs winning there. The important thing, though, is to support the team and give them encouragement even if things go wrong.

Cheers, Brian

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