Football: Absent Sinclair made to pay for lateness

Steve Tongue hears Leicester's manager account for his missing central defender
Click to follow
The Independent Online
FRANK SINCLAIR missed yesterday's Worthington Cup final after being sent home as a disciplinary measure. A day that ended with Martin O'Neill's biggest disappointment as a manger had begun ominously with the difficult decision to banish the Leicester City defender from the team hotel for what O'Neill would only refer to as "a breach of club discipline".

The former Chelsea player, Leicester's record signing last summer at pounds 2m, is believed to have turned up late for a team meeting. He has a poor disciplinary record down the years and O'Neill said: "Managers say everybody deserves five, six or seven chances but after 77 he'll blot his copy book. At the moment I'm not taking any further action." Sinclair was expected to play as one of the three centre-halves, but Gerry Taggart was brought in.

O'Neill felt that the day's other case of indiscipline, when Justin Edinburgh swatted Robbie Savage, turned the match against his team. "Robbie says he was hit and if you do that, you run the risk of being sent off. But it was probably the turning point against us because we were dominant at that time. I felt the numerical advantage would kick in in extra time."

If the few neutrals in the ground felt it was a wretched final, Leicester were perfectly happy with the way it panned out, until the very last minute.

O'Neill's view was: "In the first half one side negated the other but from a tactical viewpoint I was happy with it. But it is all about winning."

George Graham, back at one of his favourite grounds, and back in the business of collecting pots, agreed that the sending off did not adversely affect Spurs' prospects. "I thought we looked good with 10 men and still expected us to win," he said. "It wouldn't have bothered me going to extra time."

Graham began to hint before Christmas that he would like a trophy this year, but claimed yesterday that this one, and qualification for Europe, was a bonus: "I didn't expect to win a cup in my first season. That's why I'm here, to win things. The players have worked at it and knuckled down, there's too many good players, outstanding players, at Tottenham who've not won much."

That may have been a little dig at David Ginola, who seemed genuinely thrilled with his medal. "We were a little bit lucky, but sometimes you have to be lucky to win," he said. "I'm very proud to have won my first major trophy in my fourth season in English football. Last season we were in a very bad situation, but football is a team effort. Without being a tight unit you can't win a game like that."

Les Ferdinand, another talented performer with plenty of spare space in his trophy cabinet, said: "It wasn't the prettiest game but all that matters is having something in your hand to show your grandchildren. I've been around a long time and played with some good clubs and never played in a Wembley final. We are glad for Justin that he is going home with a medal."

Ferdinand was, however, guilty of the first declaration of any player that he was "over the moon".

For Edinburgh, it was an afternoon of mixed emotions. He said, after being sent on the long walk down the tunnel between the baying Leicester supporters: "I just prayed for the lads to pull through for me. I let them down. It was possibly the worst half hour of my life sitting in the dressing room"

Edinburgh thought he was harshly treated. "I was disappointed with the decision," he said. "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.

"It's difficult for me. I have a winner's medal in my hand but I perhaps feel I let a few people down."

Frank Sinclair was, as they say, unavailable for comment.