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Spurs Odyssey Preview - Spurs v Chelsea, 10.05.99

This preview was written by Brian Judson

Full Record of Tottenham Hotspur -v- Chelsea

PremPl W D L For-Ag Pts
Home 60 3 3 5-12 3
Away 70 3 46-13  3
Total (Prem) 130 6 711-25 6
Football Lge
Home (Div 1) 42 20 9 13 79-57 51
Away (Div 1) 42 19 6 1763-50 46
Total (Div 1) 84 39 15 30142-107 97
Football Lge
Home (Div 2) 2 1 1 0 7-4  3
Away (Div 2) 2 0 1 11-4  1
Total (Div 2) 4 1 2 1 8-8  4
Total (Prem) 130 6 711-25 6
Total (Div 1) 84 39 15 30142-10797
Total (Div 2) 4 1 2 1 8-8  4
Grand Total101 40 23 38161-140 110

Let us begin this preview by dealing with the most dismal aspect of it first. The following is the dreadful sequence of results over the years since 1986-87 :

1986-87 1-3  2-0
1987-88 1-0  0-0
1989-90 1-4  2-1
1990-91 1-1  2-3
1991-92 1-3  0-2
1992-93 1-2  1-1
1993-94 1-1  3-4
1994-95 0-0  1-1
1995-96 1-1  0-0
1996-97 1-2  1-3
1997-98 1-6  0-2
1998-99      0-2

We have not beaten Chelsea at home since season 1987-88 nor away since 1989-90. Unless we win this weekend, we may suffer the humiliation of going through the entire decade of the '90s without beating them anywhere! Off the top of my head and without checking the statistics, I believe this is the worst of our current sequences and, possibly, one of the worst, if not the worst, of all time.

Chelsea have challenged for the championship this season but their credentials have not been strong enough to withstand a severe examination from the other two challengers. They failed to score against Arsenal, losing 0-1 at Highbury and drawing 0-0 at Stamford Bridge. They drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge and 1-1 at Old Trafford. They should have won at least two of those four games if they were to be regarded as serious championship contenders. Their challenge has buckled at home where they have won fewer games than their rivals have done so at their home grounds. However, Chelsea have won 8 games and draw 8 games on their pilgrimage around their opponents' grounds, losing only at Coventry City (1-2) in addition to the previously mentioned defeat at Highbury.

When Chelsea have been on form, they have been a joy to watch. It must be said that all the five teams who have appeared in one of the top five positions this season have largely eschewed defensive tactics of the kind that Inter Milan were once famous for, boring the pants off their captive audience. Zola has again been one of the most exciting players in the championship, capable of scheming a goal from the most unlikeliest of scenarios. The Tottenham back four will doubtlessly be told to watch him closely.

However, it does have to be said that Chelsea, even more than Arsenal, have a darker side to their play. Le Saux and Leboeuf are players not to be trifled with as some of their opponents have discovered, notably Robbie Fowler, for example. Some unwanted suspensions have occasionally disrupted the balance of the Chelsea team.

Over the years, various players have worn the colours of both clubs, notably Jimmy Greaves, Glenn Hoddle, Graham Roberts and Micky Hazard. The classic sting was probably the swap of Les Allen, then a Chelsea reserve team player, for Johnny Brooks, then an England international. Allen flowered all too briefly at Tottenham in the Double side whilst Brooks did not stay long at the Bridge and quickly slid down the League ladder and faded all too soon. Both players lacked the confidence in their ability to become great players. Possibly the best player to appear for both sides, after paying due homage to the talents of Greaves and Hoddle, was Tommy Harmer.

I have written of my admiration for Harmer the Charmer before. The younger generation will probably dismiss my claims of his being up there in the pantheon of Tottenham greats as Harmer never won any of the game's major honours. I submit that, in my humble opinion, it is easy to dazzle in a great team but more difficult to do so when one is playing in a poor team which was Harmer's lot at Tottenham in the mid-1950s. I have never seen anyone with the ability merely to dip one's shoulders to send an entire defence running in one direction whilst Harmer went the other. Taking a penalty kick was one of his specialities : I don't think he ever missed one. He always placed the ball, never belted it pass the luckless goalkeeper confronted by Harmer taking a penalty. Those few of you whose rheumy eyes are moistened by the thought of Harmer the Charmer will know what I am talking about. The others of you will have to listen to me as I do not believe there is any footage of Harmer available on video tape.

I remember very well Harmer's last appearance at Tottenham in February 1964. He was playing in a Chelsea side that was making its first appearance at Tottenham after the previous season's promotion. Despite being the oldest player on the field (Blanchflower had retired the previous November although he still had to officially announce it), Harmer ran the game for Chelsea and was largely instrumental in the fact that Chelsea won 2-1. I remember Harmer receiving a standing ovation from the Tottenham crowd even though he had robbed us of two points in our quest for the championship. We may be fickle supporters on occasion but we do have our favourite sons.

Chelsea come to Tottenham this week knowing they can now relax their guard as Leeds are now unable to secure a place in next season's Champions League after being beaten by Chelsea last night. They have no chance of winning the title now although mathematically they still have a chance. They are a wounded team as they will not be taking any silverware back to the Bridge this summer as they have been eliminated from the last ever Cup-Winners' Cup competition. They have only pride to play for now they know they will be in the Champions League next season but, even so, Tottenham cannot afford to take anything for granted.

As a former Chelsea player who was swapped for former Gunner Tommy Baldwin, George Graham will want to put one over his old club. He was sacked by Tommy Docherty, who regarded him as a bigger playboy than Terry Venables. Graham was essentially a lazy player going nowhere rapidly at the Bridge. In transferring to Arsenal, he was taught the value of self-discipline by that iron man, Don Howe, who was largely the brains behind Arsenal's double of 1970-71. Yet, ironically, Graham never considered management as a career until Venables gave him the opportunity to coach the Crystal Palace youngsters towards the end of the 1970s.

So what are our chances? Looking at the dismal catalogue of past matches listed above, one has to say the sequence has to end some time, so why not this week, despite the obvious shortcomings that Arsenal exposed last night? The tensions of their push for the title and their travels in Europe have exhausted Chelsea in recent weeks. They are not the team who joyfully knocked the ball about last autumn. Whilst still a formidable side, I think Chelsea could be beaten, providing the back four remain alert and Walker continues to maintain his recent improved form. There won't be much in it if Tottenham do win as I can see Chelsea desperately battering our defenders in their attempt to retrieve the game. But if Chelsea should manage to score first, I think they will take heart from that and probably go on to win the game. Spurs might find that recent sequence a crushing depressing factor if we fall behind. Much will, of course, depend on how tired Spurs are after that spat with the North London enemy on Wednesday night ..........

Cheers, Brian

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