Spurs demand to be taken seriously

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The Independent Online

IT HAS not been the greatest of weekends to be a football supporter in the city of Sheffield.

IT HAS not been the greatest of weekends to be a football supporter in the city of Sheffield.

As United were losing 6-0 at Maine Road to slump to the bottom of the First Division, Wednesday took over last place in the Premiership, with their manager, Danny Wilson, insisting that they were not all that bad and that it is too early to start thinking of himself as under pressure.

"It comes with the territory," he said of the rumour mill that puts any manager without a win at this stage on his proverbial bike. It's not something that should frighten you. I'll understand it if it happens." In his own, unpretentious way, Wilson is philosophical about what it means to be a manager, but whether he can fully understand what his side is doing to him on the field at the moment is another matter.

After a bright start and with the match still there to be reclaimed, they showed little faith in their ability to do so. Such a lack of self- belief at this early stage is a worrying sign, although, as Wilson says, three points will make a huge psychological difference - and they are at home to fellow strugglers Derby County on Wednesday.

Then there is the excuse that Wednesday were playing a team on its way, however temporarily, to the top of the Premiership. Spurs' third win in a row marks them out as a side in a rich vein of form, although George Graham homed in, characteristically, on the fact that they had won without quite matching their recent displays.

Without John Scales - injured in the warm-up - they were not always as secure at the back as Graham would like to see, although Chris Perry's pace and anticipation finally established him as the master in that area of the pitch.

Another key to their success, was the effective work of Les Ferdinand and Steffen Iversen up front. For a club supposedly short of strikers, Spurs were well-served at Hillsborough, Ferdinand winning everything in the air - including a glorious header for the opening goal - and looking sharp on the ground, whilst Iversen foraged tirelessly.

Best of all, though, was Oyvind Leonhardsen, a player Wilson tried to sign during the summer, but who is now just the sort of wide midfielder Graham likes in his sides.

The Norwegian - looking happier than at any time since leaving Wimbledon - scored a marvellous goal and also showed his versatility by working up and down both wings during the afternoon.

Starting on the right, Leonhardsen was switched when Graham withdrew David Ginola at half-time - something he warned he might do often this season - and proved equally effective on the left.

Ginola had contributed a nifty back-heel to set up Mauricio Taricco's cross for Ferdinand's goal - but little else. The arrival of Steffen Freund to play a holding role alongside Tim Sherwood signalled Spurs' intention to hold what they had.

That is why, even at this early stage, Tottenham have to be taken seriously as a top-four team. They are setting out to be able to play it both ways; expansive when it suits them, conservative when it doesn't - and no apologies. Better sides than Wednesday will struggle against that two-pronged approach this season. Meanwhile, a long, hard winter looms in the Steel City, where both leading clubs have been exposed as having mislaid most, if not all, of their clothes.

Not everything is bleak, however. Rotherham are almost half-way up the Third Division.

Goals: Ferdinand (19) 0-1; Carbone (pen 23) 1-1; Leonhardsen (41) 1-2.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Atherton, Thome, Walker, Nolan; Alexandersson, Jonk (Scott, 81), Haslam, Rudi (Booth, 56); Carbone, De Bilde. Substitutes not used: Srnicek (gk), Donnelly, Newsome.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Carr, Young, Perry, Taricco; Leonhardsen, Anderton, Sherwood, Ginola (Freund, h-t); Ferdinand, Iversen. Substitutes not used: Baardsen (gk), Fox, Dominguez, King. Referee: A D'Urso (Billericay).

Bookings: Tottenham: Ferdinand, Iversen, Freund.

Man of the match: Leonhardsen.

Attendance: 24,027