Football: Barton nails Francis

Newcastle United 1 Barton 89 Tottenham Hotspur 0 Attendance: 36 ,709
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Kenny Dalglish has had a hard time of it this week, what with Faustino Asprilla joining Alan Shearer on the long-term injured list and both Tottenham and the Premier League ignoring his plea to delay yesterday's match by 24 hours.

Gerry Francis can only dream of such hardship. The Spurs manager has to make do with a team of Newcastle cast-offs and on their return to St James' Park the eager Les Ferdinand, the indolent David Ginola and the anonymous Ruel Fox were unable to help Tottenham take advantage of the jet-lagged and weakened Magpies.

Francis's side failed to win their spurs or even salvage the meagre consolation of yet another goalless draw. They were beaten in the final minute when Ian Walker was unable to hold on to David Batty's long-range howitzer. The ball was spilled to Warren Barton who tapped what the travelling White Hart Laners hope will prove to be another nail into the managerial coffin of Francis. "We want Francis out," was the chanted message they left loud and clear on Tyneside.

In the circumstances, it was a worse day for the Tottenham manager than his last at St James'. The haunted look on Francis's face at the end of last season's fixture, a 7-1 slaughter of his cockerels, was the determining factor Kevin Keegan cited for deciding to escape the football management game.

Asprilla was not the only notable absentee from the home ranks. Robert Lee was also missing, nursing a thigh injury that has also forced his withdrawal from the England squad. That may have heartened Francis on his return to Tyneside but his mood must have shifted to one of foreboding when John Scales pulled a calf muscle while sprinting on to the pitch before kick-off. The start had to be delayed to allow the bizarre formal introduction of Gary Mabbutt as a pre-match substitute.

Tottenham and Mabbutt were fortunate to survive appeals for a penalty when the veteran defender sent the Georgian midfielder, Temur Ketsbaia, sprawling on the Geordie turf after 12 minutes. Martin Bodenham was caught up in a buffet- car raid on his last trip to Tyneside and it seemed that the Cornish referee had been party to a robbery of the daylight variety yesterday, an apparent injustice evened out midway through the second half when Jose Dominguez was felled by Steve Howey.

There were initial signs that Tottenham were in the mood for a smash and grab of their own. Ferdinand tested Shay Given with a header after 45 seconds and Ginola fired narrowly wide in the second minute. It was to be Tottenham's most threatening spell. For the fifth time in six Premiership matches they failed to score. Mr Bodenham did not even notice that they started the second half with only nine men. Fox and Ferdinand trotted on to the pitch while play was in motion.

"They were both in the toilet," Francis explained before addressing the question of his uneasy position on the White Hart Lane throne. "This is the last year of my contract," he said. "I realise we've got to perform; we've got to get results. I've been a manager for a long time. I realise the pitfalls. At a club like Tottenham you've got to achieve."

Comments