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Spurs v Wimbledon, 27.09.97

"It was Twenty Years ago today!"
article published 5th October, 2017, but first written in 1997 by the late Brian Judson

Saturday, September 27th, 1997
FA Carling Premiership
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 WIMBLEDON 0

Tottenham Hotspur : Walker; Carr, Campbell, Mabbutt, Vega; Fox (sub Nielsen, 79), Ginola, Clemence, Dominguez; Ferdinand, Armstrong.

Substitutes *NOT* used : Baardsen, Calderwood, Scales, Sinton.

Booked : Ginola.

Wimbledon : Sullivan; Cunningham, Perry, Blackwell, Kimble; C Hughes, Jones (sub Thatcher, 45), M Hughes, Earle, Cort, Ekoku (sub Euell, 84).

Substitutes *NOT* used : Heald, Holdsworth, Gayle.

Referee : Mr P Durkin (Dorset).

Attendance : 26,261.

Writing a report of a football match after the passage of a few days pause for considered reflection permits the writer to consider various strands of thought. It has been the perceived opinion of Listees that Spurs did not perform very well on Saturday. On another occasion, however, I felt that Spurs could quite easily have collapsed against Wimbledon but did not do so last Saturday.

The game itself began fifteen minutes late. One reason for the delay was said to have been an armed robbery in Stamford Hill which disrupted travel by bus to Tottenham. The other reason referred to plumbing problems in the South Stand. Whatever the reasons, the delayed start unsettled both teams, who had been waiting, keyed-up, for some time in the tunnel before they finally emerged.

Although Chris Armstrong was paired with Les Ferdinand as the strike force, one had to bear in mind that Armstrong had not previously played with Ferdinand. It is very rare that a strike duo hit it off from the word 'go'. I can think of only two at Tottenham : Smith and Greaves and Archibald and Crooks. Smith and Greaves had had the advantage of playing together for England so were quickly able to pick up where they had left off. Chivers and Gilzean were another lethal two-some but it took a while for their striking to 'gel'.

So I was not altogether surprised when we failed to score. Much has been made of the failure of Ginola, Dominguez and Fox to create openings. But it has to be pointed out that Dominguez was never allowed the freedom he enjoyed against Blackburn. Ginola was rudely upended on a number of occasions, something he has always allowed to damage his confidence. And Kimble was always far too wily for Fox.

There were few moments of excitement over the whole of the ninety minutes. Generally the chances that fell to Tottenham were usually centres from Ginola and Ferdinand nodding the ball wide. Yet Wimbledon could have snatched the points. Hughes was a threat for Wimbledon and Cort did manage to 'score' a goal but was flagged for offside.

Francis singled out Clemence as one of the few players to play anything like his normal form. Personally, I wasn't sure about that as Clemence did make a hash of some of his ball work but that was hardly surprising given that some of his colleagues could not be bothered to support a player running with the ball. Both Carr and Clemence worked hard but, as had been pointed out, Campbell looked lethargic at times. Mabbutt was definitely far too slow. On more than one occasion, he should have been first to the ball but was always caught in possession or left standing.

Personally, I disagreed with the barracking. As I have commented above, Armstrong and Ferdinand had not played together and Armstrong has, additionally, to suss out how Ginola and Dominguez are going to centre the ball. It's easy to say this ought to be practiced at Spurs Lodge but it can never replicate the tension of match play with a critical crowd breathing down your neck. It is very easy to say 'We want our Tottenham back!' but there are no quick, speedy solutions. It's easy to say 'Sack the manager!' but who is there with the right pedigree to replace Francis? And how can we be sure the replacement will 'walk on water'?

Francis was quoted as saying after the match, "I've been in this game for 13 years, it's part and parcel of the situation. I think the fans can see that in the last two games we could have had four more goals and been in a good position: that's what everyone wants, to be successful. There is a lot of flair in the side at the moment, with the likes of Ginola, Fox and Dominguez. What we need to do is finish more, but some of our skills are exciting, compared to anywhere else that you look. Ginola often left two or three players for dead."

Cheers, Brian

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