"It was Twenty Years ago today!"
article published 10th August, 2017, but first written in 1997 by the late Brian Judson
Sunday, August 10th, 1997
FA Carling Premiership
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (0) 0 MANCHESTER UNITED (0) 2
Tottenham Hotspur : Walker; Carr, Vega, Campbell, Edinburgh; Howells,
Nielsen, Ginola, Clemence (sub Sinton, 77); Iversen, Ferdinand.
(Substitutes *NOT* used : Baardsen; Scales, Calderwood; Fenn).
Booked : Vega, Edinburgh.
Manchester United : Schmeichel; Irwin, Johnsen, Pallister, P Neville;
Scholes (sub Beckham, 65), Butt, Keane, Giggs; Cryuff, Sheringham.
(Substitutes *NOT* used : Van der Gouw; G Neville; McClair, Poborsky).
Scorers:- Butt (82), Vega (o.g.) (83)
Booked : Scholes, Cryuff.
Referee : Mr G Poll (Tring).
Attendance : 26,359.
Although Tottenham ultimately lost the match, I felt overall they were
not disgraced in losing 2-0 to the Champions. I know there are those who
will seize on the defeat as evidence that Tottenham are rudderless and
drifting perilously close to the rocks of relegation. I saw many signs
that Spurs could do very well this season given some luck that deserted
us all too frequently last season. I will go so far as to predict that we
may well finish in a top five spot given a rub of the green for a change.
Spurs fielded a side that mixed old and new faces. Walker was in goal,
wearing an awful salmon pink outfit that made me worry he was in the grip
of anorexia so thin did it make him look. Vega and Campbell are the rocks
on which our defence will depend this season. Both are largely
unflappable characters, unlike Calderwood whose main ambition seems to be
to play for Scotland at Twickenham.
There were new faces in Stephen Clemence, Les Ferdinand and David Ginola
with the promise of more to come. Sporting Lisbon winger Jose Dominguez
signed for Spurs too late to be considered for this match as Spurs have
to wait for international clearance.
Clemence had made a highly impressive debut in pre-season matches in
Norway and retained his position to make his debut against Manchester
United. Ferdinand and Ginola also made their debuts despite having missed
much of the pre-season build-up for different reasons. Ginola had asked
to leave Newcastle when it became clear that Kenny Dalglish did not
include him in his immediate plans. Ferdinand was also given the go-ahead
to leave as Newcastle's accountants decided they needed some cash inflow
to improve the end of the year balance sheet. On the eve of Ferdinand's
move, Shearer had sustained a long term injury which had led to frantic
calls from Dalglish in a last minute bid to ask Ferdinand to change his
mind but failed to do so.
Manchester United had made only one change to their playing staff by
snapping up Teddy Sheringham when he had rejected an extension to his
existing contract that did not meet his expectations. Sheringham had
departed, complaining that from a fan's point of view, Tottenham lacked
ambition and clearly did not want to keep their best players.
Not surprisingly, Sheringham was barracked by some sections of the much
reduced crowd when the two teams emerged into the red hot cauldron
shortly before 4pm. The reconstruction of the Members Stand on the
northern side of the ground had opened up a rarely seen view towards
Eastern Enfield, where I grew up in the 1940s and 1950s. Much of the
skyline has changed but I could still recognise some buildings.
Spurs began the game defending the Edmonton end of the ground. Both sides
took time to settle. Clemence patrolled the left wing, releasing Ginola
to go to where the urge took him. Ginola's unpredictability puzzled
Manchester United for a long spell as they did not seem to work out what
to do with him at times.
Some of the first half exchanges were red blooded to say the least.
Sheringham was quite taken aback by one ruthless tackle Vega made on him
that led to the latter's booking.
Part of the trouble in the first half, from Manchester United's point of
view, was the lack of a striker up front. With Andy Cole side-lined,
there was no one up front to aim for. Neither Cryuff nor Sheringham
showed the nous to take the game to Tottenham. When United did attack,
both Vega and Camphell were quick to snuff their attacks out. Giggs, as
usual, was predictable in his running and thinking. He certainly is no
successor to George Best who would have torn Spurs apart in his hey-day.
In the early stages, both Ferdinand and Iversen were frequently caught in
the offside trap that Johnsen and Pallister were very effective in
springing. Ginola and Clemence tried hard to spring the trap but both
frequently over-kicked the ball which made Schmeichel's job that much
easier. The Dane, in fact, was frequently annoyed by the failure of his
outfield players to catch the long throws he frequently made to initiate
counter-attacks. Schmeichel was becoming so worked up at one point I
wondered if he would collapse in the heat as he was expelling so much air
from his lungs.
United were never really stretched when Tottenham attacked, although
Ginola once tried to win a penalty by seemingly diving. The Mancunian
side were incensed but the referee took no action much to my surprise.
In the early stages of the second half, it was soon clear that Tottenham
had shot their bolt. It must have been very difficult playing in the
centre of that hot cauldron so it was understandable. The question was
whether Spurs could continue to ride their luck.
On the hour Manchester United were very fortunate to win a penalty.
Cryuff dashed into the area but Edinburgh robbed him of the ball and
tried to clear the ball upfield but slipped. In the process of falling
over, Edinburgh completed his kick which struck his hand, in my view
accidentally. The referee promptly awarded a penalty before he was even
surrounded by protesting red shirts. Sheringham took the penalty as
Walker danced on the goal line. His shot hit the post and Sheringham,
forgetting that he could not touch the ball again until someone else had,
ballooned the ball over the bar. The Spurs fans roared in amusement "Oh
Teddy, Teddy, Teddy!"
Soon after that, Ferguson and Kidd had had enough. They called off Paul
Scholes and sent on the precocious David Beckham. It did not take very
long for Beckham to scheme things so that Tottenham were on the ropes in
boxing parlance. It was only Vega and Campbell with some reflex saves by
Walker that kept the visitors at bay.
In the 82nd minute, Beckham lofted the ball to Sheringham, whose shot was
blocked and ran loose to Butt. The Tottenham defence evidently thought
Butt was offside but the referee waved play on and Butt was unmarked as
he let fly.
A minute later, Sheringham was still celebrating, Beckham flighted a
cross that Vega got to first. Vega was evidently trying to head the ball
for a corner but only succeeded in diverting it into his own goal. As the
red shirted hordes celebrated, Vega held his head in total despair and
Spurs were left with far too much to do and had no reserves left to pull
themselves back into contention. Thereafter, Manchester United were
content to play out time, pushing the ball around to humilate Tottenham.
Gerry Francis thought there was a lot to be pleased about despite the
fact Tottenham had lost. "There were some pluses for us with the
outstanding form of Sol Campbell and Stephen Clemence did well on his
debut." When asked to comment on the reports that Sugar had demanded a
top five finish this season, Francis commented, "It is something everyone
at Tottenham is striving for. It took Alex four years to get United off
the ground but time isn't something managers always have. I can't worry
about that. It's life. Perhaps if we win the FA Cup and Coca-Cola Cup and
finish sixth people will still be asking questions."
It is vital that Spurs extract something from Wednesday's match at West
Ham if Spurs are not to lose contact with the early pacemakers. I am
confident that Spurs will do so.
· Read Brian Judson's preview for this game.
· All the Spurs Stats you could hope for here! THFC6061 Sports Stats
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