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Spurs v Leeds, 01.11.97

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

Saturday, November 1st, 1997
FA Carling Premiership
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (0) 0 LEEDS UNITED (1) 1

Leeds scorer:-
Wallace, 19

Tottenham Hotspur : Walker; Scales, Campbell, Mabbutt (sub Carr, 45), Edinburgh; Howells (sub Anderton, 69), Fox, Ginola, Sinton, Dominguez (sub Iversen, 45); Armstrong.

Substitutes *NOT* used : Baardsen, Calderwood.

Booked : Ginola.

Leeds United : Martyn; Maybury, Wetherall, Radebe, Robertson; Haaland, Kelly, Hopkin, Ribeiro; Wallace, Kewell.

Substitutes *NOT* used : Beeney, Haisselbank, Bowyer, Harte, Molenaar.

Booked : Hopkin, Maybury.

Referee : Mr K Burge (Tonypandy).

Attendance : 26,441.

They may not be the finished article as yet. They may have some glaring weaknesses. But sometime in the next two or three years one of these sides on view at White Hart Lane on Saturday will win the Premiership. Because they clearly demonstrated how hungry they were to win the match. Because they showed a willingness to supply hard running off-the-ball in support of a player with the ball. Because they know that hard work is the key to winning a match. And that side, I am sorry to say, will be Leeds United.

Let me make it abundantly clear from the outset of this report. Tottenham were crap, rubbish, hopeless. They lacked shape. They had no will to win. Only two players can hope to escape censure regarding their performance and those two players are the best we currently have on view at Tottenham at the moment. And to make it clear who I am referring to, I am talking about our colussus in defence, Sol Campbell, and the much criticised Ian Walker.

When the team was announced before the game, I audibly groaned when I saw Mabbutt was named in the team and Calderwood and Carr were on the bench. We have very few specialists for the right back (or right wing back position) and John Scales is not one of them. Carr has his faults but those are largely due to failures on the part of other misfits in the team. Mabbutt, as I have argued before, should not be an automatic choice any longer but used as a squad player and play mostly in the reserves to help the development of our younger players. He no longer has the pace to play in Premiership matches. And Calderwood : my views on his shortcomings have all too forcefully been expressed in the past.

I know there is a view that 'Dustbin' should not play in the team but who else is there? I know there is support for Jamie Clapham but I have not seen him myself and cannot express a point of view on that. Suffice to say that, whatever his cultural background and upbringing, however sad that may have been, on the field, 'Dustbin' has *always* given a 100 per cent, if not always a lillywhite one, performance. He is combative and determined but does not always make the right pass at the right time. But until there is someone who can hack it for us in that position, I think we will have to settle for Edinburgh.

From the outset of the afternoon's proceedings, it was always clear there was only going to be one winner. Tottenham were generally clueless in the first half. Part of the reason for that was that Tottenham allowed Leeds, particularly Hopkin, to dictate the proceedings in midfield. Howells, for me, demonstrated precisely why he is the wrong player for the key midfield position. He, as always, is far too one-paced and slow to assess situations. Mabbutt may be a better reader of the game but he has lost his greatest asset, his pace, to the inexorable march of time.

In the 19th minute, Robertson pushed through a precise pass that left Scales completely flat-footed and Wallace one-on-one with Walker. Wallace made no mistake as Walker came out in an attempt to retrieve the situation. The Leeds celebrations were joyous and uninhibited.

For me, the one mystery of the first half was how Leeds failed to take advantage of that goal. They could and should have gone in for half-time at least 5-0 ahead. Some of the reasons for their failure to do so could be to Walker's credit in playing so well in adversity but Leeds were very wasteful at times.

During half-time, I remembered Hopkins' final game for Crystal Palace at Wembley last season and the clinical strike that gave Palace promotion at Sheffield United's expense. Hopkins reminds me a great deal of Graham Roberts. He is not a pretty player but that is not his job to be pretty. Hopkins exemplifies everything we have not got in abundance at Tottenham. Particularly GUTS!

The second half, from a Tottenham point of view was slightly better. Carr and Iversen replaced Mabbutt and Dominguez. Jose, it has to be said, contributed nothing to Tottenham's poor first half. He allowed himself to be intimidated by the Leeds defenders and looked increasingly forlorn after that.

Martyn was slightly more busy in the second half but was rarely troubled. Campbell forced him to make a world class save when heading the ball for what looked likely to be a certain goal. But Martyn was rarely seriously troubled.

Unusually for Leeds, there were few bookings. Perhaps George Graham has impressed on them the need to avoid collecting bookings, something he did not address at Arsenal. Whatever it was, only Hopkin and Maybury were booked. Ginola's booking was his own fault for making a spectacular dive that would have earned 6.0 for presentation in a diving event at the Olympics.

Where do we go from here? It is easy to blame the manager but it is not all his fault. He cannot influence the events on the park. And I must remind you that Tottenham teams down the years have had the same attitude from time to time. Even the Double side displayed a reluctance to work for other players occasionally. It is this lack of off the ball support, leaving players isolated and surrounded by defenders, that annoys me intensely. They should watch videos of all the great teams and some average ones, like Southampton at Everton yesterday, and note how some juducious off the ball support can throw opposing defenders into two minds.

And Anderton? He might just as well have remained on the bench for all the effort he put in. At times he looked lost as Leeds bypassed him.

In the three weeks before the next home game, Tottenham *HAVE* to do something about that invisible midfield. We need a ball winner in midfield. We do *NOT* want two poseurs in midfield : if all they can do is to strike attitudes and belly flop from time to time, let us find someone who is prepared to *WORK* like the great Dave Mackay, who always refused to recognise a game had been lost until ten seconds after the final whistle had echoed.

In the arguement of style, flair and panache, I think we should forget about entertaining people for the moment and start to think about grinding out some results. It will not be pretty but it will help Tottenham to avoid being sucked down into the relegation whirlpool. The time to think about entertaining football will be when we have the players capable of playing in style allied to playing combative football when it is needed.

Cheers, Brian

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