"It was Twenty Years ago today!"
article published December, 2017, but first written in 1997 by the late Brian Judson
Sunday, December 28th, 1997
FA Carling Premiership
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (1) 1 ARSENAL (0) 1
Tottenham: Walker; Carr, Campbell, Vega, Wilson; Calderwood, Fox (sub
Dominguez, 59), Nielsen, Clemence; Ginola (sub Iversen, 66), Klinsmann.
Substitutes *NOT* used : Baardsen, Mabbutt, Scales.
Booked : Wilson.
Goalscorer : Nielsen, 28.
Arsenal: Seaman; Dixon (sub Grimandi, 26), Keown, Bould, Winterburn;
Vieira, Parlour, Petit, Overmars; Anelka (sub Rankin, 88), Bergkamp (sub
Substitutes *NOT* used : Manniger, Upson.
Booked : Bould, Keown.
Goalscorer : Parlour, 62.
Referee : Mr M D Riley (West Yorkshire).
Attendance : 29,610.
Jurgen Klinsmann came back to Tottenham to be greeted by a rapturous
welcome from Tottenham's supporters. Although he worked very hard in
Tottenham's cause, he was clearly not match fit and was visibly tiring
before the end of the game. He refused to use that as an excuse and was
still encouraging his flagging team mates to continue to battle as
full-time drew nearer.
The outcome of the afternoon's events left Tottenham in deeper trouble as
the results elsewhere conspired to push them closer to the bottom of the
table. Yet the mere presence of Klinsmann raised everyone's hopes and
gave some much needed confidence to the other ten Spurs players. Every
Spurs player worked hard even if some of their footwork was less than
brilliant at times.
Arsenal came to Tottenham with a depleted side. Adams, their colussus in
defence for so long, was missing as he was about to depart for a much
needed holiday to repair the ravages of wear and tear after playing
football virtually non-stop for the past 10 years or so, apart from the
time he served a prison sentence. No one can continue playing like that
for ever and Adams is now paying for it.
Also missing from the side was Ian Wright. As a Tottenham fan, I have
mixed feelings about Wright. There are certainly fewer footballers with a
capacity for hard work when he is in the mood, certainly working a great
deal harder than some Tottenham players have done in the recent past. But
Wright has a darker side to his character, often seeing slights and
insults where none have been intended, and a capacity for becoming
involved in incidents he should not intervene in. In many ways, Wright
has the same innocence of Paul Gascoigne in that Wright has never really
grown up as a person, although, of course, Wright does not go round
pulling his team mates shorts down! His time at Highbury is almost
certainly drawing to a close as Wenger has implied he will eventually
release Wright when a replacement has been found. Thus we may not see
Wright again in a North London derby.
Over the years I must have seen quite a few North London derbies. There
have been titanic struggles that have bordered on war. There have been a
few which have been of numb-minding boredom that they have been quickly
forgotton. This one will probably be remembered more by Tottenham fans
than by Arsenal's. For Arsenal were pretty poor at times. I cannot
remember a more anaemic Arsenal side than this one. They seldom troubled
Walker, although Walker was easily the busier of the two goalkeepers.
Arsenal's defence was seldom stretched but most of their players seemed
to have their minds elsewhere. Parlour was their hardest working player
for much of the game, particularly after Lee Dixon had limped off. Dixon
had gone down on the far side of the pitch and was clearly troubled after
receiving long treatment. He came back on the pitch for a short while but
signalled to the bench he could not cope. There was a short hiatus whilst
Arsenal frantically signalled to Grimandi he was wanted as he warmed up
further down the touchline. Eventually, Arsenal managed to effect the
change and Dixon disappeared up the tunnel to the dressing room for
Grimandi barely had enough time to recover his breath after sprinting the
width of the pitch to take up his position when Tottenham struck. Fox
whipped in a centre that met Nielsen as he hurtled in. For once Nielsen
managed to connect cleanly and Seaman was clutching at thin air as the
ball hit the back of the net.
Wenger briefly appeared on the touchline to make some urgent instructions
to his team. Meanwhile, Bould and Keown were quickly booked by the
referee for some unseemly tackling on Tottenham's players. Bould was
clearly seen arguing with the referee over his booking despite the fact
everyone had clearly seen him manhandling Klinsmann everytime they
Arsenal could have equalised before half-time. Tottenham's defence, not
for the first time, was caught flat footed when Arsenal counter-attacked.
Anelka showed some intelligence to beat a pathetic attempt of an offside
trap but was too hasty in shooting and saw his shot come off the base of
an upright and hoofed to safety by Calderwood. Walker was seen swearing
at his defenders for leaving him so exposed after this incident.
The question, as the two teams emerged for the second half, was whether
Tottenham could ride their luck. It was asking for an awful lot of luck
to do so. Yet Arsenal seemed unable to impose themselves on Tottenham,
despite the fact Tottenham's defence is one of the creakiest in the
Premier League. As the second half unfolded, Bergkamp looked less and
less interested in the proceedings. It emerged after the game that
Bergkamp had felt ill prior to the game and had not really wanted to play
but had been told to do so by Wenger, who was concerned about the fact
that there was nobody else suitable to replace Wright.
With half an hour to go, it looked as if Spurs might survive to win the
match. And then Parlour, sweat pouring off him like Niagra Falls, was
racing upfield through the flimsy Tottenham defence. Still short of the
penalty area, Parlour unleashed a shot that Vega could not dodge. As
Walker dived to the position where the ball would have gone to, Vega's
deflection saw the ball fly into the opposite corner of the goal. (Ed:- Official goalscorer recorded as Parlour)
After that, Arsenal seemed perfectly happy to settle for a point. They
called off the ailing Bergkamp who was clearly happy to go. He went
straight into the dressing room, probably with the intention of changing
and going home to sleep off the virus.
Tottenham tried to take the game to Arsenal in the closing minutes but
were hampered by the fact they were tiring rapidly. Clemence, in
particular, looked to be a virtual zombie, running around in a trance. He
should not really be playing in the first team because he has not got the
experience that Tottenham *need* if we are to escape from the noose and
the trapdoor to the Football League.
After the game, Wenger admitted that it had not been a pretty game. He
said he had been forced through circumstances to play tactics he would
prefer not to use but with Wright suspended and Bergkamp struggling he
did not have any option.
Klinsmann said the important thing to have emerged from the game was the
commitment all the players had shown. It would be necessary to show the
same level of commitment in future League matches if Tottenham were to
escape from their predicament. He was convinced Tottenham could survive.
Rumours are circulating at Tottenham that Christian Gross may resign if
the Department of Employment refuse to issue a work permit for his
fitness trainer Fritz Schmidt. They have been considering the application
since mid-November and have yet to make a decision. The irony is that if
Switzerland were in the EU there would not be a problem. Gross refused to
make any comment on the situation except to say he remained positive
there would be a successful outcome to the application.
Spurs now have a two week break from their problems in the Premier League
as they prepare for a Monday night encounter in the FA Cup with Fulham.
On paper, Spurs ought to beat Fulham but funnier things have happened.
Ginola was injured against Arsenal yesterday and Spurs do not know when
Ferdinand, Armstrong and Anderton will be fit to play in Tottenham's team
It was not a game to remember should this have been the last for some time in
North London's battle for supremacy. If Tottenham do go down, it may well
be a long time before battle is re-commenced and by then the faces on
both sides will be very different from those who played yesterday.
· Read the preview for this game.
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