Brian Judson made this offering:-
After eight long years of experiencing life in the doldrums, the Blue and
White half of North London have plenty to shout about this morning. They
are back in Europe, an arena that used to be their personal fiefdom so far
as London football was concerned. Whilst other London clubs longed on with
barely concealed jealously, it was Tottenham who strode across foreign
fields bringing honours back to White Hart Lane. Not for us, the shock and
disillusionment of seeing our hopes washed away by a goal scored from the
halfway line! Next season will see us back in Europe!
There were no great surprises from either side when the teams to play were
announced. Promising though Luke Young is, there was never the chance he
would be in a match of this importance. For Vega has made great strides
since appearing to be a buffoon who had no idea how to play football. With
Taricco and Sherwood cup-tied and the squad limited to artisans and
youngsters, the Spurs team largely picked itself. The one question was
which of the three strikers would miss out. Most thought it would be a
straight question of whether Ferdinand or Armstrong missed out.
Thankfully, Armstrong, in view of his need for an operation on his foot,
was the unlucky player. I assume that Graham felt that risking Armstrong
on a lush pitch was asking for trouble.
Leicester sprang a mini-surprise in omitting Kaamark. He had marked
Juninho out of the game when Leicester had played Middlesbrough in the
League Cup Final two years ago. They also took a risk in playing Heskey,
who has been bedevilled by back problems all season.
The first half was largely a non-event. Spurs attacked the dressing room
end of Wembley but, to be honest, neither side bothered the opposing
goalkeeper. Walker and Keller was largely spectators for most of the first
half as both teams cautiously circled each other, probing their defences,
looking for gaps and being very wary of each other's major threats, the
Gallic Ginola and the beefy Heskey. Spurs enjoyed much of the possession
of the ball but were unable to make it count. They managed to create only
one opening in the first half.
Spurs won a free-kick in the 40th minute. Anderton took the free-kick and
found Iversen unmarked. But Iversen tamely headed the ball into the
grateful clutches of the American Keller.
But Spurs could quite easily have fallen behind long before then. In the
21st minute, Savage slid through a peach of a pass to Heskey, who was thus
able to beat Tottenham's offside trap. Campbell made a total hash of a
tackle which appeared to provide Heskey with a gilt-edged chance to score.
But, suddenly from nowhere at all, Vega raced across and managed to
stretch to push the ball away from Heskey as he was poised to shoot.
But that was the sum of the excitement in the first half. As the players
trooped off for the break, I wondered what the rival managers would say in
the privacy of the dressing rooms. Graham have sat like an unmovable
Buddha on the touchline for most of the first half, whereas O'Neill was
more like a demented puppet twitching to invisible strings as the game
The teams emerged for the start of the second half. And for the early
stages of the second half, it looked to be that the sterility of the first
half would be repeated in the closing forty five minutes of the match.
And then, suddenly, Spurs were reduced to 10-men following Justin
Edinburgh's 63rd minute dismissal. The defender was on the receiving end
of a reckless challenge from Robbie Savage but then paid the penalty for
swinging out wildly with his arm in the direction of the Welsh
international. Referee Terry Heilbron yellow-carded Savage but then felt
he had no choice but to send Edinburgh off for what was clearly violent
conduct. Edinburgh was distraught as he became the sixth player (Antonio
Rattin, the Argentinean, Billy Bremner, Kevin Keegan, Kevin Moran and
Andrei Kanchelskis being the first five players) to be dismissed from a
first class match staged at Wembley.
Spurs promptly re-arranged their team. Anderton was told to drop back to
left-back and Freund to drop deeper in midfield with Iversen switching to
the right wing. This left Ferdinand up front on his own. Leicester must
have rubbed their hands in glee that their tactics of attempting to
provoke Spurs players into indiscretions had paid off.
And yet this was the first of two turning points in the match. After
Edinburgh's dismissal, Spurs began to stir themselves from their long
supine stupor. Slowly, Spurs pushed the East Midlanders back onto the
Savage was at the centre of even more controversy towards the end of the
match. He came in late with his foot raised for a tackle on Steffen Freund
that left the German literally hopping in anger and he had to held back by
Cottee. Heilbron consulted his assistant as the Spurs fans bayed for blood
but, again, Savage was given the benefit of the doubt. He again escaped
after seeming to dive under a challenge from Nielsen on the edge of the
penalty area. As the Spurs fans loudly barracked Savage, O'Neill replaced
him with Theo Zagorakis in stoppage time to prevent Savage being sent off
as extra time loomed. This was the second turning point of the game as it
enabled Spurs to concentrate on their own game instead of having to count
to ten when provoked by some underhand, dubious tackling.
The decisive goal came via an Allan Nielsen header two minutes into
injury time. Les Ferdinand began the move by finding Steffan Iversen in
space on the right flank and he cut into the area after outpacing Steve
Walsh. Kasey Keller managed to get a hand onto his eventual shot but the
ball lobbed up invitingly for Nielsen to head home from six yards out.
This was the moment the Spurs hordes had waited for since 1991. Out came
the scarves. The victory anthems were dusted down and aired once more. The
playing ghosts of former Spurs teams must surely have been there to savour
the birth of another great Spurs team. It may not be the finished article
but the nucleus of the next great Spurs team is surely there.
And then the final whistle echoed. The blue shirted Leicester players
slumped to the ground, drained of energy. The emotional Tony Cottee was
seen to be crying as he realised his last chance of playing honours had
disappeared. Steve Walsh led his team up to collect the losers' medals.
They were sportingly applauded by a Tottenham team that had been sorely
provoked over the previous ninety odd minutes. Even the dismissed
Edinburgh, reunited with his team mates in victory, applauded them up the
As the disconsolate Leicester players returned to pitch level, a grinning
Campbell was leading his team up the stairs. He was mauled by many Spurs
fans who gave him scarfs and hats until he reached the Royal Box where the
cup awaited him. He took possession of the Cup and brandished it to the
The Tottenham hordes let fly a huge deep-throated roar. The cup
was passed along the line, each player thrusting it out to their fans.
George Graham held it last, thrusting it high into the skies.
Back at pitch level, the players had only one thought. Spurning the packed
ranks of the photographers, they made a bee-line for their fans. In vain
did the stadium officials try to persuade them to return for the
photographic session. Campbell repeatedly brushed them aside and strode
with the cup to the fans, who were roaring their appreciation.
Afterwards, George Graham said: "I'm pleased for the club, and for myself.
I hope this is the first trophy of many for Tottenham," adding that he
thought his side deserved the win. He added: "I thought we dominated the
first half and overall we deserved to win. I hope this will be the first
of many trophies."
But the Tottenham boss criticised referee Terry Heilbron for sending off
Edinburgh, saying the Newton Aycliffe official should have used "common
sense". "I thought it was harsh," Graham said. "Okay, he was fouled and he
retaliated, but it only looked as if he brushed him. He raised his hands,
but the referee could have used his common sense."
Match-winner Nielsen said: "It's a wonderful day, and I think we
deserved it. This was my first time at Wembley, and in my three years here
it is the best moment I have experienced."
Edinburgh said the time he spent in the dressing room after his sending
off had been the worst 30 minutes of his career. "I have got mixed
emotions," admitted the right-back. "It was possibly the worst half-hour
of my life sitting in the dressing room but the lads have done me proud
and came through for me. It was a bad tackle which came in on myself and I
got up and just pushed Robbie Savage away. I don't think I caught him, I
don't think I threw a punch."
· Brian Judson's preview
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