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Harry Hotspur's valiant campaign goes on!

Match Reports
Spurs v Man City, 18.04.03

FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
FRIDAY 18TH APRIL, 2003
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) MANCHESTER CITY 2 (2)

Scorers:-
Sommeil, 3
Barton, 20

Referee:- Mike Riley

Attendance:- 36,075

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2/3-5-2):- Keller; Carr, King, Gardner, Taricco (sub Perry, 46); Davies, Bunjevcevic (sub Toda, 46), Poyet (sub Acimovic, 71), Anderton; Sheringham (Capt), Keane

Subs not used:- Sullivan; Iversen

Booked:- Poyet, Carr

Man City (4-4-2):- Shmeichel; Dunne, Sommeil, Distin, Jensen; Benarbia, Foe, Barton, Wright-Phillips; Fowler (sub Macken, 80), Anelka

Subs not used:- Nash; Jihai Sun, Horlock; Goater

Booked:- Dunn, Barton, Wright-Phillips

It was every bit as bad as you have read, or seen on television. Maybe it was worse. Having taken my whole family to the game, I feel guilty about ruining their Easter. Thankfully, seeing Paul McCartney live at Earls Court in the evening put us straight. That WAS entertainment!

I have seen countless dire performances by this team this season (under the management of a one-time Spurs legend), and they now outnumber those under any previous manager in the last ten years. You don't believe it? Come and put yourself through the pain and see for yourself. I am sick and tired of throwing money at a product where too many participants get figures like 35,000 per week (we are talking of the likes of Sheringham, Anderton and Poyet here), and they just don't show the desire, or the ability to put on a show for the paying customer. It's season ticket renewal time at the moment, and this performance will not have encouraged anyone to take up the option to renew. Quite the opposite, as many will finally make the break.

Make no mistake, this team will be relegated next season, unless there are drastic changes from top to bottom. Something is deeply wrong at The Lane at the moment.

Hardly a good word can be said for any Spurs player yesterday. Keller stands accused of a mistake for the second goal, but I don't blame him. Blame the frightened rabbits in front of him, and include the young future stars King and Gardner in that comment. In fact Kasey made one or two vital saves to keep the score down to reasonable proportions. Keane ran his heart out, but even he had a bad day, running into blind alleys, and giving the ball away too cheaply at times.

I really think Glenn Hoddle should be sacked, because I think that the root of the problem is on the field of play, where the players do not understand or conform to his "sub-roles" for the team. The initial formation of 4-4-2 does not tell the story. Here are some of the problems:-

Keane is encouraged to get out on the flanks (left or right) leaving Sheringham up front, and Poyet in front of the "holding" midfielders moving up to support the Captain. That means that Davies is restricted with regard to his natural inclinations to play a straight right wing role. (In the second half he had to play left wing-back - not for the first time this season) Anderton is nominally the left side midfielder, but plays inside. Bunjevcevic is left as the alleged defensive midfielder, but the crowd have turned on him with a passion now, as he lost the ball too often, and got roundly booed as an individual. Carr and Taricco do not seem to get too far forward. The aspect of our play that I miss the most these days is Carr's rampaging runs, and his combined work with Davies. Carr was ambling around too much of the time yesterday, as if he is just waiting for Mr Wenger to come along. Don't hold your breath Stephen. On current form, you're staying at Spurs. So, even a simple 4-4-2 is not operating in a standard way under Hoddle. Spurs were static, like Subbuteo figures, waiting to be placed in the right place on the field. There is little off the ball movement, and no imagination.

On the other hand, Keegan's moderate City side does have pace and movement, and showed plenty of eagerness, nearly scoring within seconds. Ledley King sheepishly headed the City kick-off into Anelka's path, and he could have scored the fastest Premiership goal ever, but fired just wide of Keller's right post. Spurs were very quickly carved up again, but Wright-Phillips was offside. Within just two minutes, Spurs were behind. Marc Vivien Foe won a corner, which was taken by Bernarbia in the north-east corner, and headed home by Sommeil rising unchallenged in the middle of the box. This was his first goal for City.

Spurs first chance came after 9 minutes, when Robbie Keane headed across for Sheringham who did bring a fine save from Schmeichel, diving to his top left corner. Gus Poyet became the 100th Premiership booking of the season for a foul, and one was reminded of the fact that our opponents could yet qualify for Europe because they top our Fair Play league. But they were showing more "fight" than we were, and allegedly we still had a chance before this game. Hoddle and the management seemed to hold that belief, but none of it has been transmitted to the Spurs team, who played like it was an end of season run-around.

On 18 minutes, Kasey Keller had to fly to his left to make a great save from Shaun Wright-Phillips. Kasey tipped the ball over the bar with his right hand. There was chaos two minutes later, as Anelka beat the offside flag, and strolled into the Spurs area. He miscued his shot, but Keller could only push the ball out a couple of yards. After a brief skirmish, the ball ran to young Joey Barton, who hit a deflected shot into the net, for his first Premiership goal.

Schmeichel was not tested in the rest of the half, and even Richard Dunn looked good against the Spurs attack. (Dunn had a helpless game for City at home to the gooners two months ago)

At the interval, Kazuyuki Toda got his long-awaited debut appearance, replacing Bunjevcevic. Toda received great applause, but after this 45 minutes, now the crowd knows he is nothing special. He had a reasonable half; nothing more; nothing less. His first action was a lunging tackle near the touchline, but his passing was of mixed quality. Chris Perry replaced Taricco (who may feel a little hard done by to be chosen above the "Old Codgers"), and Spurs changed to a 3-5-2, displaying a little more desire and effort.

After three minutes, Spurs did have a good chance, when Keane got into the box, passed back to Poyet, whose shot was well saved by Schmeichel (making probably his last appearance at The Lane). However, City could have gone three up on the hour, as Anelka beat Perry to a deep cross and passed inside for Fowler, whose weak shot was saved by Keller low to his right. Skipper Teddy Sheringham had frustrated in the first half, when he was in a shooting position, but chose to put the ball out to the flank, over-hitting it into touch) This was just one of countless errors by the one-time hero, who can jet off to Sporting Lisbon any time he likes, as far as I'm concerned. Now after 66 minutes, Carr did get down the wing, passed back to Anderton, whose cross was headed on by Poyet to Sheringham beyond the back post, with time to measure his shot. Teddy tried to half-volley, and had an embarrassing mis-hit, where once upon a time he could be lethal.

Acimovic replaced Poyet, but made no impression, an now all we could realistically hope for was a consolation goal. Robbie Keane did bring another great save from Schmeichel (with his legs), but that was it. The stadium emptied rapidly, but those Spurs fans left did boo their team off the park, as the whole home contingent had at the end of the first half.

On this form, I can't see us getting another point this season. West Brom will probably already be down by the time we play them on Monday, but they can beat us. Next Sunday we entertain Man Utd, and I think we'd best just admire their football, and hope they can pip our local rivals to the Premiership. No doubt the match programme will be full of the usual platitudes from Hoddle, Sheringham and Pleat, but I want to see changes before then. Give the future of Spurs a chance and ditch the old guard. Easter is a time of re-birth, after all.

Further comment regarding Kazuyuki Toda.

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