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Spurs v Chelsea, 06.12.97

"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:- Walker; Carr, Scales (sub Allen, 71), Vega, Wilson; Fox, Calderwood, Nielsen (sub Anderton, 60), Sinton (sub Edinburgh, 56); Ferdinand, Ginola.

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).

Attendance 28,476.

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 back four!

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 over Walker.

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 emptying stadium.

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 spokesman.

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 like

"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 better.

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?

Cheers, Brian

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