"It was Twenty Years ago today!"
article published December, 2017, but first written in 1997 by the late Brian Judson
Saturday, 6th December 1997
FA Carling Premiership
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (1) 1 CHELSEA (1) 6
Tottenham Hotspur:- Walker; Carr, Scales (sub Allen, 71), Vega, Wilson;
Fox, Calderwood, Nielsen (sub Anderton, 60), Sinton (sub Edinburgh, 56);
Substitutes *NOT* used Baardsen, Mabbutt.
Goalscorer:- Vega 43.
Chelsea:- De Goey; Duberry, LeBoeuf, Sinclair, Babayaro (sub Nicholls,
20); Petrescu, Wise, Di Matteo, Le Saux; Flo, Zola.
Substitutes *NOT* used Hitchcock, Vialli, Hughes, Myers.
Booked:- Di Matteo.
Goalscorers Flo 40, 63, 90; Di Matteo 48; Petrescu 59; Nicholls, 78.
Referee Mr D J Gallagher (Oxfordshire).
Talking to Bernie Kingsley (TISA) before the match, as Bernie attempted
to flog copies of Cock-a-Doodle-Doo in the High Road, we tried to
recapture that feeling of victory over Chelsea. Neither of us could
remember *how* Nico Claesen scored the goal in August 1987 to give us our
last home victory over Chelsea. We have drawn a few games but mostly
it has fallen to scribes of Tottenham's fortunes to record a monotonous
series of defeats against Chelsea. (Ed:- Spurs' last win against Chelsea prior to this game was the 2-1 away win in February, 1990)
When the team was announced, I felt shellshocked when I saw that
Calderwood was not only playing but was playing in midfield and, the
worst sin of all, was captain. I could not believe that Calderwood, a
*Third Division player* by any known standards, was defiling the office
once filled by such legends as J L Jones, Arthur Grimsdell, Arthur Rowe,
Ronnie Burgess, Danny Blanchflower, Alan Mullery, Steve Perryman and Gary
Mabbutt. Only Rowe of those players never collected tangible silverware
but he did lead Tottenham to promotion with one of our finest teams in
1932-33. But Calderwood! A veritable donkey! And we laugh at other teams!
One can imagine the ghost of Christmas Past in the form of a heavily
chained Gerry Francis clanking through the corridors in the Tottenham
offices! For this, if anything, was a Gerry Francis team. What choice did
Herr Gross have once big Sol Campbell failed a fitness test? At least we
now know how awful we are without big Sol's commanding presence in the
And yet in the first half, we were the better of the two teams! I kid you
not! Twice, Gullit and Rix angrily appeared on the touchline to berate
their team for being lackadaisical. If anything, Chelsea were lucky they
were not 2-0 down before they finally bestirred themselves! De Goey made
two instinctive saves, one of them early on, from Ginola, whose long
range shooting was sometimes a threat.
Some of the Tottenham moves were lovely to appreciate. But it has to be
said that most of the moves broke down when Ferdinand or Fox received the
ball. With Fox it seemed to be over enthusiasm that led to him losing
the ball, continually spinning around until he was off balance and unable
to stop the ball rolling out of play. With Ferdinand, he sometimes forgot
there were other players out there, as he tried to recapture his glory
days with QPR when he sailed through the defences as if they did not
exist. But Di Matteo and company are made of sterner stuff than weaker
teams that Ferdinand used to profit from.
As half-time approached, it began to look as if there would be no goals
before half-time. And then, out of the blue, Chelsea scored. Flo had
ample room to move to head the ball past Walker in the 39th minute. It
was rough justice on Tottenham after their earlier fine play but a savage
indictment of their defence.
But Tottenham were soon level. A foul on Sinton led to a Tottenham
free-kick. The free-kick was beautifully taken and found Vega right under
the Chelsea cross-bar, totally unmarked. Even Vega with all his capacity
for missing goals could not miss from that angle. The goal prompted
Gullit to again re-appear angrily on the touchline.
If Tottenham had hopes of snatching something from the game to follow up
last weekend's win at Everton, they were quickly disappointed soon after
half-time. Di Matteo restored Chelsea's lead two minutes after the break
with a stooping header.
Yet Tottenham still continued to play well. They went searching for an
equaliser that refused to come because De Gooey commanded his goal area
so well. Once a Chelsea reserve to Kharine, it is difficult to see how
anyone can dislodge him now.
It was Chelsea's third goal that prompted Tottenham to collapse.
Tottenham were still searching for the goal that would bring them back
into the game. Shortly after Di Matteo's goal, Sinton had reluctantly
hobbled off, the victim of a crunching Chelsea tackle. Edinburgh came on
to play in midfield, Wilson surprisingly continuing to play at left back.
Chelsea suddenly broke away, tearing Tottenham's offside trap to shreds.
LeBeouf spotted the chance and chipped a beautiful pass to Petrescu.
Under pressure from Petrescu, Edinburgh appeared to pass the ball back to
Walker but mis-hit it. Chelsea later claimed that Petrescu had stuck a
foot out and he had been the last to touch the ball.
Suffice to say that from that moment onwards, Tottenham were beaten. It
soon became a rout.
At this point, Spurs called off Nielsen and sent on Anderton. I was
surprised about this because Nielsen had, in my view, been playing very
well. He may not always play well but he does have plenty of heart and
was winning more balls than he lost. I would have preferred to have seen
Fox taken off. At any rate, it was a poor decision to take Nielsen off
because Tottenham's midfield now ceased to exist.
Soon after that third goal, Zola and Flo played a one-two that enabled
Flo to get behind Tottenham's incredibly invisible defence to fire
Chelsea further ahead. Gullit and Rix appeared on the touchline yet again
the message seemed to be 'Don't let up!'!
Then, Calderwood made a terrible hash of receiving a throw-in and lost
possession of the ball to Zola. Zola's precise pass found Nicholls
perfectly and Walker had no answer to Nicholl's shot.
After that, Chelsea seemed content to take the mickey out of Tottenham,
pushing the ball around between them. It was almost as an afterthought
that Chelsea scored their sixth goal. Another long pass from LeBeouf
found Flo with plenty of time to set himself up before chipping the ball
And then it was all over. Tottenham fans quickly slunk out into the
anonymity of the High Road, leaving Chelsea fans carousing in the rapidly
Gullit's comment after the match was illuminating. "I didn't think
Tottenham deserved to be beaten 6-1. They were the better side for quite
a long time. We were able to capitalise on their defensive weaknesses so
we had all the answers in the second half."
Graham Le Saux may be charged under the Public Order Act for displaying
two rude digits at people in Tottenham's crowd. It sparked off a
mini-riot six minutes before half-time, shortly after Chelsea had
snatched the lead. A steward and a policeman were hurt during the
fighting. "Ruud Gullit was informed about the incident and I understand
the referee will be including it in his report," said a Tottenham
The incident was a thoroughly nasty one, reviving memories of some
disgraceful events in the 1960s and 1970s. The police and stewards did a
great job of containing the troublemakers. At least the game did not have
to be stopped.
I had hoped to be writing this report in a far more cheerful frame of
mind than I have at present. How I long to be able to write something
"Jimmy Greaves scored a gem, slipping past their defence before
popping it into their goal as if no one was there. He just kept
running as though the Mancunians had no defenders. Their defence
seemed to part, something like I imagine the Red Sea must have
done when Moses led his people out of Egypt."
But this is reality! We have lost heavily! And the omens are not good.
In 1914-15, the first season in which we were relegated, our heaviest
home defeat was against Sunderland (lost 0-6). We also lost away to
Liverpool (2-7), Middlesbrough (5-7) and Sunderland (0-5).
In 1927-28, when we were freakishly relegated, our home record was quite
good. But we lost one away game against Leicester City (1-6). The
principal reason we went down that season was because we only won 3
matches between the beginning of March and the end of the season.
In 1934-35, our third relegation, we were heavily beset by injuries (no,
Gerry Francis was *not* manager that season!). Our heaviest home defeat
was against Arsenal (0-6) whilst we lost at Arsenal (1-5), Everton (2-5),
Wolves (2-6), and Leicester (0-6). And Leicester were relegated with us!
In 1976-77, the last occasion we were relegated, we had quite a good home
record. It was our away form that let us down. We lost at Derby (2-8),
West Ham (3-5), Everton (0-4) and Manchester City (0-5).
So, our immediate ambition must be to aim to achieve 17th place in the
table. We should completely forget hopes of qualifying for Europe. I will
be overjoyed if we again draw Manchester United away in the FA Cup as
that will mean a quick dismissal from the Cup. The League is far too
important to have the distraction of a Cup run this season. Everything
*must* be channelled into survival.
How do we achieve that? How will Herr Gross turn our fortunes around? He
will find it difficult to dispose of those whose shelf-life has expired
but he simply must discard some of our deadwood fast. Perhaps we could
*pay* Swindon or Mansfield a fee to take Calderwood back to their club?
Or persuade Ray Harford that in Clive Wilson he has a promising player
that he can have in exchange for that old has-been Trevor Sinclair?
Whatever the way these players depart from Tottenham, the sooner the
Meanwhile, we can now look forward to our usual awayday blues at Coventry
City. Shall we run a sweep on which Tottenham player has an early bath
next weekend? Vega, anyone?
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