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Newcastle v Spurs, 04.10.97

"It was Twenty Years ago today!"
article published 5th October, 2017, but first written in 1997 by Bruce Lewis

FA PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY OCTOBER 4TH, 1997
NEWCASTLE UNITED 1(0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0(0)

Scorer:-
Barton, 89

Attendance:- 36,708

Referee:- Martin Bodenham

Teams:-
Newcastle:- Given; Watson, Beresford, Batty, Peacock, Howey, Ketsbaia, Barton, Rush, Barnes, Tomasson

Spurs:- Walker; Carr, Campbell (Capt.), Vega, Calderwood, Mabbutt, Fox, Clemence (sub Sinton, 87), Armstrong, Ferdinand, Ginola (sub Dominguez, 64)

This excellent eye witness account comes from Bruce Lewis. Note the prediction at the end:)

Dear Spurs-list,

Newcastle Utd 1 v Spurs 0 Warren Barton, 89

On Friday, Elaine and I travelled up to Newcastle to see our favourite football team in the whole world play at St James' Park. I do this because I love Spurs. We spent money on tickets, petrol, and two nights staying over so that we could make a weekend of it too.

And to what end? Only to see the single most completely over-run and totally outplayed Spurs team of all time. Before the game, the local Geordies we spoke to in the pub reckoned the game would be very tight with nil-nil written all over it. They couldn't see their Magpies doing anything extraordinary as they were without Tino Asprilla, Alan Shearer, Rob Lee, Stuart Pearce and of course Les Ferdinand (for some strange reason).

So it came as much as a shock to them as it did to us (a bit anyway) that they totally dominated this game. Speaking to more Newcastle fans after the game they said that Spurs were worse today than when they lost up here 7-1 last year.

Make no mistake; Spurs were pathetic, insipid, uninspired, unmotivated and damn awful. During the game, the Newcastle fans were looking at us wondering why we follow such utter trash. To bear witness to this display (non-display?) was just plain embarrassing. We had almost a full strength team out there; we certainly had nearer to our 100% capacity than Newcastle did, with so many of their main names unavailable.

Gerry Francis's starting line-up again defied belief. Colin Calderwood was played in midfield, alongside rookie Stephen Clemence. Calderwood is quite simply a central defender and isn't likely to blossom into anything else, not on the currently available evidence anyway. Clemence is still young, and still has a very, very long way to go to be good enough to put in a performance that would command a man of the match award. In his few games for Spurs, Clemence has still to put in a goal-scoring pass or to assist in any major way in a Spurs goal. This is no sleight on Clemence; he may turn out to be very good player in time, but not today. An apprentice needs a sorcerer to learn from, and Colin Calderwood is not the man to show Stephen Clemence how to become the next Hoddle, Hazard, Waddle, Gazza, etc.

Of course, this isn't Calderwood's fault. He is simply being played in the wrong position, and with his lack of midfield credentials coupled with Clemence's recent introduction to the first team, this is hardly a combination to break down one of the best teams in the country.

This midfield line-up displayed a form of tactical desperation on Francis' part, while the defensive line-up displayed a form of tactical ineptness. Sol Campbell was played at right back, with Steve Carr hanging around at left back. Luckily, Carr performed well in this position, but it isn't a position he can play in every week. He is right footed and needs to play the ball on his right foot. Fortunately for Spurs he wasn't made absolute advantage of from anything that came his way, so Francis got away with it.

But the reason Carr was moved from right back was because it was thought that Sol Campbell could do a better job there of holding onto the excellent Temurri Ketsbaia. He turned in a man of the match performance, and it was a testimony to Campbell's reliability that he was deputised to take care of the Newcastle flyer. This of course begs the question as to why Carr shouldn't be deemed good enough to hold Ketsbaia himself. A good question indeed. If Carr is thought not good enough by Francis to take care of anyone else in the Premiership, then he shouldn't be part of the current Spurs line-up. Please note this is not my ideal, I'm just demonstrating Francis' lack of logical reasoning here.

In the centre of defence we had club captain, living legend hero and all round great guy Gary Mabbutt. He was partnered by Ramon Vega. Mabbutt came on as substitute just before the game started, due to John Scales having got injured in the pre-match warm-up. Scales was due to start the game, with Mabbs as sub, but this change again demonstrated the incredible variation with which the Tottenham players are able to pick up injuries. Plenty of irony surrounded Mabbutt's performance, for his last minute inclusion enabled him to help marshal the defence to frustrate the Newcastle onslaught. He did not however do this as club captain for Sol Campbell again had this honour, and Mabbs refused to take the captain's armband back from Campbell as he came onto the pitch to join the rest of the team even though Campbell was happy to offer it to him. The irony was almost complete when in the first half Mabbs brought down Ketsbaia in the penalty area, with the whole of Tyneside demanding a penalty. Later on, TV replays showed that Newcastle quite clearly had a rock hard case.

Referee Martin Bodenham gave plenty of examples of his utter inability to referee games when he failed to give Spurs a penalty as well, when Jose Dominguez was brought down in the second half. Other strange examples included a Newcastle player bringing down Steve Carr, who was thus prevented from stopping the ball from going out for a Newcastle throw in almost level with the Spurs six yard line. Carr had to get up and retrieve his boot that had been wrenched off in the assault, prime evidence of the crime in question.

Les Ferdinand - still evidently recovering from injury, and Chris Armstrong - just back from injury, were the components of Tottenham's strike force. Neither of them got a solid crack at goal, the best being weak headers from Ruel Fox crosses. Whatever was made available for the front men was mainly down to Fox; he has improved immeasurably so since last season, and seemed our only chance of getting a chance of a shot on goal. However, his final ball still needs some work, but some of his crosses do get near their intended targets.

David Ginola on the left side of midfield completely failed to get it together. Roundly booed by the whole of the home support anytime he came near the ball, his intended pretty back flicks and general attempts at being flash never paid off, and were cheered and laughed at by any supporter wearing black and white. The Newcastle fans we met before the game insisted that Ginola only ever performed in one in ten games, and it's beginning to look as if he is carrying on that high level of inconsistency for Spurs as well.

If Fox came out with a small degree of credibility from this game, then Ian Walker came out with flying colours. He twice had to make outstanding saves that involved tipping the ball over the bar. Newcastle had plenty of shots on target, but anytime that Walker didn't have to perform heroics to keep the scores level, he was instead keeping well behind the ball and didn't flinch when called upon. All of his hard work though was unfortunately chucked away by his team mates when he parried a shot that Warren Barton was able to follow up just seconds before the end. There wasn't anything that Walker could have done to prevent it from going in.

Newcastle on the other hand were thoroughly dominant. Wave after wave of their attacks pushed at the Tottenham defence, and only at the very last moment did they get through, much to the relief of the home fans. Throughout the game the Newcastle supporters voiced their frustration at not having seen various moves and attacks end in a goal. They pushed for their team, although their reasonable encouragement was hardly needed as Tottenham willingly rolled over and died.

The Spurs midfield was cut to shreds, and the four very unequal parts of Ginola, Clemence, Calderwood and Fox were all played at different speeds, at different levels of ability, with different degrees of motivation, with different levels of awareness. And totally no communication again whatsoever. Whenever Ruel Fox found his acres of space on the right side, the ball was either not pushed out to him when it would have been more beneficial to do so, or when closed down by two Newcastle defenders near the home corner flag he wasn't given anything like a decent passing option.

It is difficult to quantify what preparation Spurs actually take for some games. Spurs were so completely outplayed at Arsen*l earlier on in the season, yet in this game they actually managed to play far worse. In a strange sort of way, quite commendable really. Manager Francis seems unable to get his players where they are most needed; indeed, Ruel Fox and Les Ferdinand were not even on the pitch come the start of the second half as they were both stuck in the toilet.

Unless Alan Sugar brings in a new manager soon, Spurs will begin to spiral out of control. While bitter rivals Arsen*l are able to bring in a new manager who makes the unthinkable happen i.e. makes them play decent football, and gets them into Europe and then sits them at the top of the Premiership table on the back of a 5-0 stroll against Barnsley, we suffer dark days. Tottenham supporters are made to make do with a second rate reality that isn't even a shadow of past glories.

A little before Newcastle scored, we tried to make our views known to Sugar, singing "We Want our Tottenham Back," and "Francis Out!" At the end of the game, Elaine walked over to a policeman and asked him if he could arrest Francis on the grounds of "that performance." The Newcastle blue replied, "Howay there, ah would if ah could like, but ah can't, sorry." So, we tried, y'know?

Anyone in the City of Newcastle that we spoke to, from cab drivers to shop vendors to people in the street to supporters in the pub before the game started (where Elaine compared her Spurs ear-ring to a Newcastle one that a Geordie chap was wearing) thought that their team were becoming boring under Dalglish and that they would maybe struggle against Spurs. The truth is that while they may miss such people as Shearer and Asprilla, it doesn't make a jot of difference when the other team walks into the ring holding their hands up in the air to leave themselves wide open, while happily displaying a big sign round their neck that says 'hit me.'

There is a cancer going through the Spurs side, that is eating away at almost every facet of the team, and is also now beginning to destroy everything that Spurs have ever stood for. Spurs are a laughing stock, with other team's supporters no longer envious of all the things that we have achieved over the past 100-odd years. Instead, they now display a slice of sympathy with a big helping of amusement, as the last remaining vapours of a once proud and very mighty side all but evaporates into the sealed and bound annals of Spurs magnificent history.

Cheers guys, it was fun while it lasted.

P.S. The following is a test, do not _yet_ take quite literally, just practice cheering okay.

(Ahem, cough)

"Gerry Francis has been sacked."

There, that felt a _lot_ better. It will feel even better when it becomes true.

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