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Spurs Odyssey Preview - Newcastle v Spurs, 22.12.99

This season's home game - Spurs 1 Newcastle 1, 12.12.99
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This preview was written by Brian Judson

I have refrained from circulating this preview before as I was unsure whether the match would be going ahead tonight following the recent wintery weather we have had but all of last night's scheduled replays went ahead. The winners of tonight's match will play Sheffield United, who beat Rushden & Diamonds, on penalties, after drawing 1-1 after two hours play.

Previous FA Cup Results :

1904-05  2  H 1-1 Walton  19,013
        2R  A 0-4         26,755
1934-35  4  H 2-0 G Hunt (2)  61,195
1951-52  4  A 0-3  69,009
1986-87  5  H 1-0 C Allen (pen)  38,033
1998-99 S/F N 0-2 (a.e.t)  53,609
1999-00  3  H 1-1 Iversen  33,116

Previous League Cup Results :

1975-76 SF/1L H 1-0 Pratt  40,215
        SF/2L A 1-3 McAllister  49,657

We all remember how the first match of this tie saw us leading 1-0 until late in the game. All too often this season we have held the lead and have failed to take advantage of it, conceding silly goals in the dying moments of the match. We all have our theories why Spurs are making these silly mistakes but I know from personal experience of having to lipread people in order to make a conversation how difficult it is to concentrate 100 per cent when one is tired.

The more I consider the problem, the more I wonder whether we are asking far too much of our players. The best players end up playing virtually the whole year round with very few lengthy breaks. When I first began to follow football, the League season ended on the last Saturday of April with the FA Cup Final played the following Saturday and there was no football until the second Saturday in August when the First Team played the Reserves in a practice match at Tottenham. In other words, the majority of the players, apart from those who played cricket, like Jimmy Cumbes, the West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper, were given time to recover from their previous season's efforts. Moreover, I do not recall Tottenham having the sort of horrendous injury lists they seem to have these days. The only time a player was out for any length of time was following a broken leg. I do not recall hearing players suffering damage to their cruciate ligaments before Gazza did his in in 1991.

This leads me to wonder whether this is the real reason that Alan Shearer did not sparkle so much when he returned to the Newcastle team following his serious injury earlier this year. Shearer is a player whose game depends on his being mobile and energetic enough to shake off a really determined marker in order to find a position from which to score. But since Bobby Robson took over as manager, Shearer seems to have returned to form.

Of course, the rows in the Newcastle boardroom have not helped matters much at St James' Park but with both factions appearing to have buried the hatchet for the moment, Bobby Robson has been able to steer the team to the comparatively safe waters of 14th place in the table. Newcastle need to rebuild but Gullit appears to have frittered away millions on some very indifferent players. With Newcastle aiming to redevelop their ground further, there appears to be little scope for spending large sums of money on new players.

One wonders what will happen at the end of Robson's contract. He is now 66 and clearly looking his age. He is the oldest manager in the Premier. The toll of constant travelling will not help him either. Perhaps Newcastle intend to groom Steve Clark to succeed him. There was talk of Peter Beardsley being appointed to the backroom staff but I have not heard any more on that issue. If I were a Newcastle supporter, I would be apprehensive about the future, especially now that Shearer is approaching his 30th birthday.

Tottenham have a very poor record at St James' Park. Our full record of League clashes with Newcastle is:

Full Record of Spurs -v- Newcastle United

Premier       Pl   W   D   L   For-Ag  Pts
Home           7   4   1   2    14-8   13
Away           7   1   3   3     8-15   6
Total (Prem)  14   5   4   5    22-23  19
Football Lge
Home (Div 1)  43  24   7  12    87-48  59
Away (Div 1)  43  15  14  14    70-76  45
Total (Div 1) 86  39  21  26   157-124 104
Football Lge
Home (Div 2)   6   1   3   2     6-7    5
Away (Div 2)   6   3   0   3     6-4    6
Total (Div 2) 12   4   3   5    12-11   11
Total (Prem)  14   5   4   5    22-23   19
Total (Div 1) 86  39  21  26   157-124 104
Total (Div 2) 12   4   3   5    12-11   11
Grand Total  112  48  28  36   191-158 134

We have only won on 20 visits to St James' Park out of a total of 56 visits. Our only victory in the Premier League there was as long ago as 14th August 1993 when Sheringham scored the only goal of the game. Only Sol Campbell and Ian Walker survive from the squad for that match. Walker was a non-playing substitute whilst Campbell played at right back with Calderwood and Mabbutt as the centre-back pairing.

The two teams are unlikely to be changed from the first game. Neither manager has much leeway within his squad for various reasons. But if I were Bobby Robson I might be tempted to play Ketsbaia from the start as he is much more mobile than Ferguson. I have noticed that Campbell doesn't seem to be bothered by players like Ferguson yet is thrown when confronted by a player who prefers to dribble his way past a defender.

The pattern is therefore likely to be the same as in the first match except that Newcastle will be trying to nick the early goal. If Spurs can survive the opening 20 minutes of the match, that might lead to frustration on the part of the Newcastle players, particularly within the ranks of the foreign legion, who tend to become excitable when frustrated. But if Spurs should fall behind, then I think we can be sure our season is effectively over, no matter how much Graham will try to talk it up. I can't see Spurs coming back into the game once we fall behind because Ginola has spluttered in fits and starts and we do not seem to have anyone else capable of grabbing the game by the scruff of its neck like Dave Mackay used to do so.

And my view? Ah well, to be honest, I can't see us winning outright up there unless we have a monumental slice of luck. If we manage to take it to extra time, we might be able to nick a winner as players tire. But I have to say I expect Newcastle to win, 2-1. I very much hope I am wrong but I somehow doubt it.

Cheers, Brian

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