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Bolton v Spurs, 24.03.03

FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
MONDAY 24TH MARCH, 2003
BOLTON WANDERERERS 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)

Scorer:-
Okocha(pen), 90

Attendance:- 23,084

Referee:- Graham Poll

Teams:-
Bolton (4-1-3-2):- Jaaskelainen; N'Gotty, Laville, Bergsson (Capt), Gardner (sub Barness, 46); Campo; Mendy(sub Andre, 72), Frandsen, Okocha; Djorkaeff, Pedersen

Subs not used:- Poole; Ballesta, Nolan

No bookings

Spurs(4-3-1-2):- Keller; Carr, King, Thatcher (sub Doherty, 21), Taricco; Davies, Bunjevcevic, Anderton (sub Etherington, 86); Poyet; Sheringham (Capt), Keane

Subs not used:- Sullivan; Toda; Slabber

Booked:- Doherty

It was a tired, decrepit, old and bereft Tottenham side that lost with almost the last kick of the game last night at The Reebock Stadium. Tired, seemingly of playing football for this particular cause; decrepit due to the age and the infirmity of too many in the side; old for the same reason - this is not a "colloquialism"; and bereft of ideas and inspiration.

Once again, all our problems were aired on TV worldwide for all to see only too clearly. Yet, after the game, Glenn Hoddle seemed to lack ideas as to what has gone wrong with his team. He mentioned that we had lost "three on the spin", but did not mention that this was the third time this has happened this season, and the fourth under Glenn's management. (Last season we managed to lose four on the trot after beating Sunderland in March - maybe they are the cause of our loss of form, as we thought they were the standard for the Premiership!)

Well Glenn, let me give you a few ideas as to why things went wrong last night. Anderton played out of position on the left flank in a midfield three behind the mostly absent Gus Poyet, who played behind the front two. Can anyone remember a notable contribution from Gus last night? I can't. Poyet was countered in the Bolton side by Ivan Campo playing in front of his defence and running the game along with the likes of Youri Djorkaeff and Jay-Jay Okocha. Spurs had no bite in the middle; left too much space for the runners, and needed too much time on the ball, when they did have opportunities.

Yes, Spurs did lose Ben Thatcher to injury at an early stage, which meant that Doherty had a chance to play in what is at least his best position - at the back. Ironically he came closest to scoring for Spurs with a deflected shot from an Anderton free kick in the second half, which is more than he has done in most of the games he has played recently as a striker. And, yes we did welcome Robbie Keane back to the fold, but on his own admission, Robbie lacks match fitness, and he had a frustrating day, getting caught offside most of the time, and losing control of the ball with his best chance against Jaasskelainen. The usually impressive Finnish keeper was hardly tested by Spurs, whereas, Kasey Keller is one of the few Spurs players who can hold their head up high, with a string of fine saves - particularly in the second half.

The game itself lacked much in the way of excitement in the first half, and as the game wore on it looked like the crowd would be the most notable part of the night, with an atmosphere that got louder as the game went on. The Spurs army of fans with "Glenn Hoddle's blue and white army" seemed to kick start the home chorus, who got their own drumming rhythm going. There were early runs for Robbie Keane and Simon Davies, who was notably put into space by Sheringham, but had the ball swept off his toes as the keeper advanced. Good work by Davies and Carr down the right (where any decent attacks originated) led to a cross which was nearly converted but blocked in the 6 yard box.

Bolton started to break in a threatening manner, but luckily for Spurs, their shots were wayward, from the likes of Okocha, Mendy and N'Gotty. Pedersen was allowed to advance from the inside right channel on the half hour, but hit his shot straight to Keller. Five minutes later, Spurs best chance fell to Bunjevcevic in a goalmouth scramble following a corner, but his chance was cleared in front of the goal.

Sam Allardyce replaced Gardner with Barness at half time, but it was a good 12 minutes before a meaningful attack. Sheringham lost the ball in the middle and the home side broke away, but Keller saved sharply from Mendy. Doherty's effort on goal came after he had collected the only booking of the game. Anderton's free kick went across the area, and Gary turned and got a shot in, which was deflected and landed on the net. Any other free kicks went to waste, and there was one occasion when Anderton fired straight at a defender allowing a break-away attack.

After the Doherty effort, it was all one way traffic. Pedersen collected a ball from Djorkaeff and his shot beat Keller but was outside his right post. Barness hit a powerful shot that Keller could only parry, and Okocha's follow-up header was over the bar. Ex-Spurs Gudni Bergsson (who seems to threaten retirement at the end of each season ) headed a free kick onto the outside of the post, before Keller made a great flying save from Djorkaeff's shot, tipping it over the bar.

Bolton took advantage whenever a Spurs attack broke down, moving swiftly into Spurs territory, whereas, if Spurs got the ball, they gave plenty of time for the defence to re-form. The game was crying out for Etherington's pace, but he was only given three minutes at the end. He took Anderton's place, but I would have moved Anderton inside, and removed Poyet, who as already mentioned was AWOL throughout proceedings.

Just when it looked like the game would end goal-less, with a point to each side that would have been worth little in their circumstances, Djorkaeff was pulled down by the hapless Doherty and Graham Poll gave the penalty despite being 40 yards out. Up stepped Jay-Jay Okocha to push the shot to Kasey's left, and lift his side above West Ham to be only two points behind Leeds. There was literally only time for the kick-off before the final whistle.

Next up for Spurs will be another team battling against relegation - Birmingham. Thank heavens for those fortunate results early in the season against Aston Villa, Southampton and West Ham, because without those 9 points, we would be in the midst of this relegation battle, and without the sort of players capable of succeeding under such pressure.

Spurs are a club going backwards, likely to finish lower than last season. It's time for the old guard to be given the heave-ho, and sorry to say, I include the manager in that comment.

The following articles were offered in responnse to my report:-

1 Joff Wild writes:- "Why Hoddle should stay"
2 Ian Cambpell:- "Glenn Hoddle's Talent and Misjudgements"
3 The state of "The Spurs Franchise"

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