Football: Ardiles welcomes the respite

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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur. . .3 Klinsmann 19, Sheringham 49, Barmby 63 West Ham United. . . .1 Rush 42 Attendance: 26,271 AS Ossie Ardiles put it afterwards, reports of his funeral were greatly exaggerated. The most widely anticipated resignation - or sacking - of the season was still on hold yesterday evening after Tottenham Hotspur produced both the result and the performance that Ardiles had been looking for.

Tottenham lived dangerously, as they always do, and could have conceded more as well as scored more against a West Ham side who contributed much to a match of pace, skill, commitment and frayed nerves. But three beautifully worked goals were a reminder that for all Tottenham have done wrong this season, there is a lot they have done right. The spirit they showed in coming back from the debacle of defeat in the Coca-Cola Cup in midweek suggested that Ardiles still has a future at White Hart Lane, and deserves one.

'I'm very happy,' Ardiles said, clutching an orange juice. 'I think we thoroughly deserved to win today. But this is not the ultimate answer. This will mean nothing if we can't take it on from here.' Asked if he was still the Tottenham manager, he replied, 'I think so.' He admitted that he was 'not yet off the hook'.

Ardiles had called for 'brave hearts' and that is what he got. But the improvement in Tottenham was not just in their attitude. Changes in personnel and tactics were crucial. Ardiles dropped three men from the midweek team, including Teddy Sheringham, and went a long way to solving his side's defensive problems by installing Gica Popescu as sweeper.

Popescu's occupation of the role he performs with such elan for Romania helped give Tottenham a much more assured look from the outset. They took the lead after 18 minutes with a goal that was a triumph of teamwork. Jurgen Klinsmann started the move with a 50-yard pass to Nick Barmby on the left wing, and ended by scoring from virtually on the goal-line.

Spurs could breathe more easily, but not much. They were vulnerable to the pace of Matthew Rush, while midfielder Mike Marsh was as effective as he was elusive. Between them they engineered an equaliser three minutes before half-time, Marsh pulling the ball back for Rush to score.

Suddenly things were looking dodgy for Spurs, never more so than when Klinsmann, of all people, threw himself into a late challenge on Julian Dicks and earned himself a yellow card. Quite a role reversal, that. But with Teddy Sheringham coming on for the injured Justin Edinburgh at half-time, shape and potency were restored to Tottenham's game.

Sheringham restored Tottenham's lead with a left-foot shot from the edge of the area before Nick Barmby sealed the outcome in the 63rd minute. Running on to Sheringham's looped pass, he lashed the ball past Ludek Miklosko.

No one felt the relief more than the Argentinian watching from the dug-out.

Ardiles admitted that last week had been the lowest point of his career, but that he discovered how tough he was, and that was something he was glad about. But he won't want to sink to such depths again.

(Photograph omitted)

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