Bosnich salute beyond a joke

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Nielsen 61 Aston Villa 0 Attendance: 32 ,847
Tottenham Hotspur's first home win of the season in a busy, exciting but unlovely match ended no more attractively when police interviewed the Aston Villa manager Brian Little after his Australian goalkeeper, Mark Bosnich, had his name taken for making a Nazi salute to the home crowd.

The referee, Peter Jones, had not seen the incident but had it drawn to his attention by a linesman, Mike Tingey. The crowd had been baiting Bosnich with taunts of "Klinsmann", referring to an incident that happened two seasons ago when Bosnich pole-axed the German, who was then playing for Spurs. Bosnich was seen pursuing and arguing with the linesman as the teams left the field.

Little confirmed that he had spoken to the police and the referee. Scotland Yard also confirmed that there had been complaints from the crowd and that they will be looking into the incident, as will the Football Association when they receive the referee's report.

Bosnich clearly failed to remember the large proportion of Jewish people that make up Spurs' crowd. In a call to the David Mellor BBC phone-in programme last night he made profuse apologies. He said: "To be honest I'm a bit distraught ... I'd just like to say that it was something done out of ignorance. For me it was a real joke, but it's been taken so much out of proportion and I'm so, so sorry. I know the Spurs fans have lost people in the war, but I also lost people in the war ."

Bosnich, making his first appearance of the season after coming back from injury, added: "I thought the crowd were laughing with me. Obviously I was mistaken. It's been taken out of context and I'm really sorry. I was being taunted all game. I'm so sad.

I'll stand up in front of everyone and state my case."

Little said that much now depended on the referee's report: "We will all be waiting to hear about that."

Spurs' drab home performances badly needed an infusion of something heady to offset the sort of football that has made going to White Hart Lane more of an obligation than a pleasure. Chairman Alan Sugar had said there was no way he was going to spend the exorbitant going rate for top players, which is another reason why so many fans who remember the days when Spurs were always in the market place and usually bought the best stock must be wondering where the club is going.

Not having beaten Villa in 14 previous attempts, Tottenham's already injury-troubled side had quite a hill to climb, and it was not made any easier by allowing Villa to attack them too freely through the centre.

By failing to nip the threat of Sasa Curcic in midfield, Spurs exposed themselves to the danger of being outmanoeuvred, but it was an unexpectedly direct 25-yard shot from Ugo Ehiogu which grazed the crossbar that most seriously threatened them.

The loss of Andy Sinton with a knee-ligament injury after a formidable tackle by Mark Draper cost them useful width on the left but at the same time Ruel Fox provided a sufficiency of crosses from the right, although most ended with Teddy Sheringham snatching at half-chances.

A goal was badly needed, as much as anything to concentrate minds, when, after half-time, tempers flared with the Bosnich incident. The mood was accentuated when Savo Milosevic had to be calmed down by Little after being accidentally elbowed by the Tottenham full-back Justin Edinburgh.

When the goal came, after 61 minutes, it was full of controversy. Fox made another testing run down the line, centred and Ehiogu seemed to handle as he tried to block Allan Nielsen, who nevertheless managed to bundle the ball in.

Unimpressive though Villa were in their own and their opponents' penalty areas, Tottenham made too little of their advantage, as a result, during the last quarter of an hour they were left clinging to the lead and their much-needed points.

Gerry Francis, the Tottenham manager, tried to talk about his team, but said: "I don't suppose too many other people here are interested. It is all about Bosnich isn't it?