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Spurs v West Ham, 17.01.98

"It was Twenty Years ago today!"
article published January, 2018, but first written in 1998 by the late Brian Judson

Saturday 17th January 1998
FA Carling Premiership

Tottenham Hotspur : Baardsen; Carr, Vega, Campbell, Wilson; Calderwood (sub Howells, 58), Fox (sub Brady, 79), Berti, Ginola (sub Dominguez, 65), Sinton; Klinsmann.

Substitutes *NOT* used : Mabbutt, Brown.

Booked : Vega.

Goalscorer : Klinsmann 7.

West Ham United : Forrest; Potts, Ferdinand, Unsworth, Pearce; Moncur, Lampard, Berkovic (sub Hodges, 85), Lazaridis (sub Dowie, 46); Hartson, Abou.

Substitutes *NOT* used : Lama, Bishop, Rowland.

Booked : Moncur, Hartson, Potts.

Sent-off : Abou. (42 mins)

Referee : Mr D R Elleray (Harrow).

Attendance : 30,284.

This was one of those occasions where I fancy we really needed Harry Gibbs, the former boxing referee, to adjudicate on the incident that occurred just before half-time. A mass brawl over an incident few saw at the time led to the dismissal of the liveliest of live wires in the West Ham defence. Since I didn't see the actual offence, I can only report what I have read but, allegedly, Abou kicked Vega when the action was elsewhere on the pitch and Vega collapsed as if poleaxed. This led to a mass brawl in which Calderwood took a leading part, angrily exchanging words with West Ham's manager, Harry Redknapp, as the latter led off Abou. Abou had been swiftly dismissed by Mr Elleray after consulting the linesman nearest to the scene and Abou had refused point blank to go. Mr Elleray had then asked Redknapp to remove Abou so that he could re-start the match. And then Calderwood had to make things worse by exchanging comments with Redknapp.

The scene left a nasty taste in my mouth because these fixtures traditionally do not turn as nasty as did yesterday's. Even with the highly combative Julian Dicks in the side, swatting players discreetly when the referee had his back turned, the atmosphere never turned sour.

Before the game, Christian Gross had hammered into his players the need to extract a win from the game. Spurs' position is so dire as the position is so tight at the bottom that it could come down to goal difference to decide who stays up and who drops. Only Bolton and Barnsley have a worse goal difference than Tottenham so wins are vital.

A long list of players were all missing from the team yesterday but there was one of the long-term injured on the bench for yesterday's game. David Howells had not featured in a Tottenham line-up since 8th November when Tottenham had lost 4-0 at Liverpool. I hoped that if Howells came on it would mean an early departure for Calderwood.

From the kick-off Tottenham poured forward. West Ham packed their goal mouth and absorbed everything Tottenham could throw at them. Their intention was obviously to absorb Tottenham's attacks and then catch them on the break when their lines of communication were extended. But that hope quickly vanished.

In the 7th minute, Ginola pushed a low ball into the West Ham penalty area. Ferdinand hesitated a fatal second, allowing Klinsmann to lightly touch the ball sufficiently enough to place it wide of the desperately clawing hands of Craig Forrest. It wasn't a spectacular goal but it was Klinsmann's first since returning to Tottenham. White Hart Lane erupted to salute the second coming of Klinsmann.

This left the Hammers with little choice but to chase the game. They began to push forward but found Campbell marshalling his back four so well that they barely worried Baardsen in goal. Hartson was repeatedly caught offside as he chased through balls from Unsworth and began to become frustrated.

And yet, to my surprise, as I have recorded, it was Abou who was sent off. And, looking back, I think the fates smiled on Tottenham for once. Abou had certainly been far livelier than Hartson as Abou had the nous to beat Tottenham's offside trap. I always felt that if West Ham equalised it would be more because of Abou than anyone else.

After the break, West Ham introduced Ian Dowie, the player with the neanderthal looks, at the expense of Stan Lazaridis. It placed more responsibility on John Moncur to prise open the Tottenham back door as Frank Lampard was not at his best form.

For a while, West Ham poured forward. Tottenham were looking a bit edgy as they were pushed back but Baardsen made it clear who was in charge of the penalty area. Unlike Walker, Baardsen bawled out his back four if he felt they had left him exposed. Klinsmann dropped back to help the defence, marshalling those with no specific defensive duties.

Howells came on for Calderwood. I am no fan of Howells but he was a distinct improvement on Calderwood, who I detest more. Howells worked hard and tried to get the ball forward instead of just hoofing the ball as Calderwood tends to do.

Ginola was called off shortly afterwards. He looked reluctant to go but eventually accepted the decision to replace him with Dominguez. Ginola is now very important to Tottenham's plans and I think he was substituted in order to avoid a recurrence of his hamstring twinges. Dominguez worked hard for Tottenham but did not really create any openings. He continues to be an enigma as he is clearly not a team player.

Brady was the last of the substitutes to come on for Tottenham but had insufficient time to make an impression. But he does look promising.

Towards the end of the game, I felt that West Ham slowly began to accept they were unlikely to score. Certainly Hartson seemed to lose interest in the game after he was booked. I don't think Dicks would have stood for that had he been playing. Tottenham are fortunate they missed the combative Dicks for this vital match.

After the game, Harry Redknapp criticised Calderwood and Vega's part in Abou's dismissal. He felt that Vega had made a meal of the incident and that Calderwood had made it even worse by running around stirring things up.

On my way home after the game, I thought a lot about Baardsen's performance. He is obviously still very raw as a goalkeeper and has a lot to learn. But, having said that, I am beginning to think that Baardsen may turn out to be the best goalkeeper we've had since the days of Pat Jennings. Before people say, "But what about Ray Clemence?" please do remember that we saw Clemence only after he'd passed his peak as his best days were at Liverpool.

Baardsen has one important asset that Walker lacks. He is not slow to make his feelings clear when there has been a lapse of concentration in front of him. Walker tends to conceal his feelings or make enigmatic smiles. Baardsen's distribution is still not perfect but he looks better than Walker in that respect. I have a feeling that Campbell may well have a bit more confidence in knowing Baardsen is behind him than in Walker.

Tottenham now have a two week break from their League problems as they return to the road to Wembley. This time the opposition is Barnsley, who Tottenham comprehensively defeated just before Christmas.

Cheers, Brian

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