FA PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 22ND AUGUST, 1998
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) - SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY 3 (2)
Sheffield Wednesday scorers -
Referee:- Mike Reid
Spurs:- Walker; Carr, Vega (sub Saib 45), Campbell, Tramezzani (sub Dominguez 68 ); Fox, Anderton, Nielsen, Ginola; Ferdinand, Armstrong
Subs not used:- Baardsen (GK); Calderwood, Clemence
Sheffield Wednesday:- Pressman; Cobian ( sub Barrett 62 ), Walker, Thome, Hinchcliffe; Atherton, Rudi, Jonk, Carbone ( sub Hyde 72 ); Di Canio ( sub Briscoe 85 ), Booth
Subs not used:- Clarke (GK); Oakes.
The Spurs team walked off at the end of half-time, and full time with their heads hanging low, and to boos, and cries of "What a load of rubbish" from a crowd that has always been quick to criticise, and this season has already been given ample ammunition to vent their anger at most of the team, and specifically Fox and Vega. Only Campbell received cheers as he walked off; Saib was once again heartily welcomed onto the pitch; and Ginola got some adulation during the game.
The T.A.G. (Tottenham Action Group) protest did not surface, but the open jeering of the crowd was very evident. Already this looks like being a long hard season for Spurs, and the pressure is well and truly on Gross. He is going to come under the microscope more and more over the next two weeks. There was a grand show of some nostalgic, and glorious footage on the Jumbotron, together with dramatic music, which culminated in the arrival of the teams onto the ground.
Tottenham in fact started brightly. Ginola was getting the better of Cobian, and found his way into the box several times. He was fired up for this game, but sadly, today it was a case of a one man show in attack, with no-one able to convert his deliveries ( not always accurate ). Ferdinand did not seem able to read Daveed's play, and quite frankly looked like a lost sheep today. He will be dismissed from my fantasy team as soon as possible! We seemed to have the same problem as at Wimbledon, with no cohesion between attack and midfield. Our best chance in the first half fell to Sol Campbell from a right field cross. His header shaved the post.
Fox once again was an irritant. For example, Ginola sent a lovely long cross field pass to Fox, who managed to give the ball away instead of taking a wonderful opportunity to set up Ferdinand. In the second half, he managed to fall over after actually beating a couple of players. That moment seemed to say it all about Fox. In the early stages Nielsen was tigerish in the middle of the park, and just managed to avoid a booking with a repeated strong tackle. Tramezzani seemed to be linking better with Ginola this time. Steve Carr won several valuable balls in defence, including some headers. Vega crocked himself in an early tackle, when conceding a free kick, and may claim his injury impeded his ability to defend throughout the rest of the first half. Spurs fans know better however, and were mightily relieved to see the end of him.
Despite Nielsen's efforts, our midfield lacked grit, and Rudi ( much improved from last season ), Jonk, Carbone, and Di Canio in particular were able to play some pretty football, and weave patterns around us.
Once again, a free kick conceded by Darren Anderton led to the first goal. He got booked, which was surprising, considering the referee's lenient attitude towards Nielsen earlier. The free kick was taken quickly; the defence was a.w.o.l., and Atherton sent a looping header over Walker ( who was once again in no-man's land ) into the corner of the net. Walker has now become a target for the boo boys, as well as Vega and Fox.
It wasn't too long before our woe was increased. This time, Carbone weaved his way around several players from the left, and between him and Di Canio, Walker did have to play the hero, and save two or three times at short range. Only Sol Campbell was present to help out, but it was inevitable that the ball would finish in the net, and Di Canio claimed the goal.
Saib started the second half, and at least managed to bring the ball out of defensive positions, and make connecting passess with Ginola, Anderton, and Fox. We started with a three man defence of Carr, Campbell, and Tramezzani. At times they struggled to withhold the pressure, and the lack of goals for Tottenham is evidence of the failure of Gross's efforts to be more adventurous.
Dominguez was sent on for an injured Tramezzani, and Nielsen was drafted into the left side defensive position. In my view we were pretty shapeless in the latter stages of the game. Players could be seen looking quizzically at each other, and whilst he is at times our one man defence, it is only fair to say that Sol has not proved himself as a leader of men ( or should I say mice? ). There is a definite need for someone to get a grip of the team, on and off the park. Whilst I commend Gross for helping us to survive last year, I have to confess my doubt at his ability to inspire, organise, and communicate with the players.
I believe we had one of our better chances before Wednesday went three up. This was as a result of a long pass from Ginola finding Armstrong, who set up Nielsen, whose header never really looked like reaching the net as Pressman made one of those saves that goalies like to make now and again which looks more spectacular than it really was. Pressman dominated his area, and looked like the sort of keeper we could do with. I'm for Espen taking over - now. ( Or - says he in an aside - how about an offer for Manninger ?! )
Our ignomy was complete when of all people, Hinchcliffe scored with a curling left foot free kick from outside the area, which left Walker floundering. How he must have wished for that moment, and how Solskjaer must be pondering his decision!
I was sorely tempted to buy ticket for the Everton game, but already consider my purchase to be a self inflicted punishment. Only a minimum of eighteen games to go. I've heard of Alcoholics Anonymous, and Gamblers Anonymous. Who can we turn to?
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