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Spurs Odyssey Preview - Spurs v Middlesbrough, 03.04.2000

Last season's game - Spurs 0 Middlesbrough 3, 13.09.98
This season's away game - Middlesbrough 2 Spurs 1, 18.12.99
See the current injury list for all Premier League Teams
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This preview was written by Brian Judson

Full Record of Spurs -v- Middlesbrough

Premier       Pl   W   D   L  For-Ag  Pts
Home           4   1   2   1    4-6    5
Away           5   2   1   2    5-5    7
Total (Prem)   9   3   3   3    9-11  12
Football Lge
Home (Div 1)  25  15   4   6   62-40  36
Away (Div 1)  25   3   6  16   25-52  13
Total (Div 1) 50  18  10  22   87-92  49
Football Lge
Home (Div 2)   1   0   0   1    2-5    0
Away (Div 2)   1   0   0   1    0-3    0
Total (Div 2)  2   0   0   2    2-8    0
Total (Prem)   9   3   3   3    9-11  12
Total (Div 1) 50  18  10  22   87-92  49
Total (Div 2)  2   0   0   2    2-8    0
Grand Total   61  21  13  27   98-111 61

Middlesbrough, in recent years, have tended to shuttle backwards and forwards between the Premiership and the Football League. Too good for the Football League, they have found it difficult to settle into the Premiership. But last season they crept into the top half of the Premiership, almost unnoticed, on their return to the top tier. They made a poor start to their return to the Championship but steadily improved, finishing just above halfway at the end of the season.

When we played Middlesbrough earlier this season, we lost 2-1 at the BT Cellnet Stadium. Ramon Vega gave us an early lead but goals from Ziege and Deane enabled the Teesiders to win. Allan Nielsen, now on loan to Wolves, was dismissed after a second yellow card.

Last season, we were well beaten by Middlesbrough, 3-0, at Tottenham. Ricard scored twice and Kinder once. That occurred just after Christian Gross was sacked by the Board and Chris Hughton was placed in charge of team affairs pending a new managerial appointment. The return game saw us draw 0-0.

Middlesbrough's problems have largely been the same as Tottenham's. Neither side seems able to score goals easily and both seem to have lethargic, lazy strikers. Both have defences that cave in under sustained pressure and both have goalkeepers who are prone to making schoolboy howlers. Both lack a good captain. Ince's best days are behind him whilst Sol Campbell is not the sort of captain Tottenham need. Both sides lack shape and organisation. However, Middlesbrough's Chairman Steve Gibson is probably closer in outlook to Tottenham's former Chairman Irving Scholar in that both are students and self-confessed nuts about their respective clubs. Scholar's problems originated from the overspending on the East Stand refurbishment during 1988-89, which led to Tottenham's well-documented debt problems during 1990-91 and the so-called Dream Team pairing of two former East End boys made good. Whilst Alan Sugar is still Chairman at Tottenham, Terry Venables seems to have accepted that his future is as a TV pundit, particularly as he is debarred from holding Directorships following his well documented shortcomings at various establishments he once owned.

Considering that so many people eulogise about Venables as a football coach, his CV is conspicuous by the largely absent reminders of success. It is true to say he did win honours with Barcelona and Tottenham and lesser triumphs with clubs such as Queen's Park Rangers. But Venables had the potential to have done so much better but was too easily bored by the minutiae of running a football club. Venables remains an enigma. I doubt whether even Venables fully understands the cocktail that is Venables.

Coming back to the two clubs, both are potentially sleeping giants. Middlesbrough have the potential to join Newcastle United and Sunderland in the North East honours stakes. They have had their share of stars in the past and Brian Clough had a brilliant goalscoring record with Middlesbrough, albeit in the old Second Division, scoring 197 goals from 213 appearances for Middlesbrough in the League. Not even Greaves can boast a return like that since it is almost, but not quite, a goal a game. What would old big 'ead be worth today in the transfer stakes?

One player who will not be on view tomorrow night is Paul Gascoigne. Tottenham have happy memories of him as a player but his best days had long since gone by the time he signed for Middlesbrough. I have been one of his greatest admirers but have to concede that he has been the architect of his own downfall. His advisers need to consider very carefully what they recommend to Gazza. In my opinion, he should quit Middlesbrough before he makes a complete prat of himself. It is sad to seeing him humping his bulk about when one remembers the joy he brought to us in the dark days of season 1990-91. The hat-tricks against Hartlepool and Derby County plus *that* goal at Wembley against *them* will live long in the memory long after the dross of the current season has faded.

So to consider tomorrow night's match. There's nothing but pride at stake. Neither club have a prayer of qualifying for next season's UEFA Cup. Both managers might say that is their aim but there is more chance of six pink pigs flying in perfect formation towards the setting sun than there is of either club featuring in Europe next season. George Graham seems to have accepted this by the tacit admission he is considering giving some youngsters their chance in the remaining matches. If Spurs were definitely in with a chance of qualifying for Europe, he wouldn't consider putting them on the bench unless there was no alternative and only Tim Sherwood is currently unavailable.

So, who will win? It comes down to who will be hungrier! Middlesbrough may well be hungrier because they would want to finish in the top half of the table. But I suspect that Tottenham will want to seek revenge for last season's 3-0 home defeat. I take Tottenham to win 2-1 with Chris Armstrong scoring both goals.


Cheers, Brian

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