Ivan Cohen wrote this report:-
It has been several years since the righteous Spurs' supporters occupied what
was once their second home at Wembley. This weekend, saw the beginning of
putting the world of football back to rights. With a team that only a year ago
was hovering perilously close to the relegation zone, George Graham managed to
find entry into European competition by winning the Worthington League Cup.
The atmosphere at Wembley for a domestic cup final has to be savoured in
person. There is no way that words or radio or television can do justice to
the resounding cacophony of sound, sights and smells. Nor can anything but
first-hand experience convey the unique passion and quality of the day out as
an event in its own right. Unlike those with whom I travelled (six others!), I
felt no nerves going into the match. Indeed, I have been fortunate enough to
see Spurs play a number of finals at Wembley (always successfully I might
add!), and so my only pre-match emotion was unbridled pleasure, heightened by
having been denied by the lack of quality at Spurs (especially managerially)
for so long.
The weather had been a real mixed bag, with torrential rain interspersed with
bouts of sunshine. And the rain left its mark, with a hugely greasy surface,
which came later to haunt Ian Walker (especially) on one occasion. My only
qualm all day was wandering between turnstiles K and L asking people if they
were Les Wilson, with whom I singularly managed not to meet up.
All-in-all, the final, like so many others, was hardly a footballing classic.
The first-half was mainly a sterile battle in midfield, with Leicester being
the more convincing partly due to their more mobile midfielders. Indeed,
Spurs' play first-half (andf much of the second) can best be characterised as
consisting of too little off-the-ball running, leading to some pretty poor
passing throughout, and almost no service of note to the two forwards. If
there is anything else to be said about the first half, it is about as
substantial as the number of golascoring opportunities that arose (none).
At half-time I was confident that Spurs would win, as I felt Leicester City
were playing up to their potential while Spurs seemed to still be cruising.
Leicester had given all that they had, and yet had no real cutting edge, while
Spurs seemed a tad effete and still in only second gear. As the game started
and Heskey beat Sol only for Vega to block his shot, I told my good friend
Harry Goodrich not to worry; this was a George Graham team. Patient, and
always likely to snatch a goal a minute from the end. Little did I realise
then just how prophetic those words would turn out ;-)
The second half saw Leicester City step up the pace of the game, and if
anything they looked the more likely, although goal chances remained few and
far between. Personally by half-time I was convinced that the referee was less
than a boy being sent in to do a man's job, and it was ultimately his failure
to control the game that led to Rob Savage (by name, and by nature) being
involved in a series of nasty, petty incidents. It was Savage whose clumsy
body check on Justin Edinburgh just after the hour mark led to a retaliation
that saw the dismissal of the thirty year old Spurs' defender. While no-one
can condone violence, Justin's reaction was perfectly understandable, and for
him to be sent off while the perpetrator of a diabolical foul remained on the
pitch remains one of football's great miscarriage of justices. GG reorganised,
getting Shaggy to play from the left-back position (although playing more as a
wing-back), with Iversen adopting a left-mid/forward role. This turned out to
give both of them more room than they had had all afternoon.
However, it was the sending off which was the game's turning point, as it
spurred on the men in white to play at a higher level altogether. For the last
twenty or so minutes the play was almost entirely Spurs. With ninety minutes
showing on the clock, Iversen finally found some space on the right to run at
the Leicester defence. His low shot could only be parried by 'keeper Keller,
for Nielsen--whose runs into the box had been a feature of Spurs' play
throughout--to head the ball home. One-nil to the Tottenham!
It was nice to see the reception the supporters gave the players. Indeed, even
those morons behind me who had been slagging off Nielsen and Ferdinand all
afternoon (mostly without justification) gave them a huge applause at the goal
and the final whistle and the well-long (half) lap of honour. It was nice that
George Graham's masterminding of this victory was recognised by the crowd
also. Never can a manager have had to do so much to win over so many
It has to be said that Leicester managed to stifle Ginola for the most part,
and limit our ability to create. But ultimately that was their undoing, as it
prevented them from playing much creatively themselves. It would be difficult
to nominate a player of the match, as everyone worked hard without starring.
In short, it was a strong team performance against a hard-working well-
organised battling Leicester side. Spurs can take credit for the way they went
about the task, especially following Justin's dismissal, and the silverware
back at WHL serves as a reminder of what can be achieved with the right
personnel. Now to find a George Graham to run the ticket office.... time to
book those seats at Old Trafford, and for those without season tickets to get
one for next season. As long as we have a manager of the calibre of Mr Graham,
we will win trophies.
Ivan "Doctor Hotspur" Cohen
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