Football: Day Graham got even with Leeds

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The Independent Online
Leeds United 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1

Harte 73 Sherwood 53

Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 39,696

ELLAND ROAD can be an unforgiving place at the best of times. George Graham's return with his new love Tottenham to the club he jilted last October certainly does not count as one of those.

As if that was not grave offence enough, the Scot, who needed to be protected in the dug-out during the second half by a phalanx of stewards and a constable at his shoulder, had the temerity to oversee a resilient performance by his side that so nearly propelled the eight-times FA Cup winners to this season's sixth round at the first attempt.

But just when Leeds, under Graham's former player at Highbury and then assistant at Leeds, David O'Leary, looked not to have the imagination required to respond to Tim Sherwood's first goal for Spurs, defender Ian Harte surged forward to drive home a venomous equaliser and secure a replay.

"Thanks for the memories, George" had certainly been not on the lips of the Leeds' faithful as the Tottenham team bus drew up. It had been more like football's equivalent of the Glasgow kiss. "Judas" they screamed with high originality at the Scot, and worse. Others merely shrugged benignly and gave thanks to the master for so obligingly handing over to a pupil, David O'Leary, who has brought a new sense of adventure to Elland Road by releasing the precocious talents of such youngsters as Jonathan Woodgate and Alan Smith, both in yesterday's line-up.

Graham had repaired the fractured entente cordiale with his former chairman Peter Ridsdale with a glass of champagne before the game, but there was to be no conciliation with the Leeds supporters. A posse of six policemen had been deployed to accompany him to the dug-out after the break, but he shrugged it all off with the words: "I thought it was a very good reception. It's normal, for ex-players and ex-managers. I don't know why everybody is surprised. It's part and parcel of the game."

The visitors' performance was utterly typical of that so frequently extolled by the Scot, as Tottenham throttled the life out of O'Leary's young players in the final third of the pitch and reduced their serious attempts on goal to a minimum before so nearly departing victorious with a goal that owed more to fortune than fancy footwork.

But confronted with some of the country's most experienced and gifted players, O'Leary's "babies", as the manager likes to call them, were a credit to the manager's advocacy for blooding young players - an issue on which he and Graham were often at odds. For all his sang froid, the Irishman is highly ambitious and he will take a tough stance when he meets Ridsdale and his board to discuss a renewal of his contract which has existed unaltered since he was Graham's number two.

"There is a wonderful crop of young players here. They gave a great account of themselves against the likes of Ginola, Campbell and Sherwood, and the picture looks very rosy, but in the summer we need to add five or six quality people. I will sit down with them and the first thing will be to see whether they want me to stay on," he said without apparent irony. "Then we'll look at the figures and find out what resources are available. Otherwise, we won't be able to dream on like the big boys."

For the moment his team can continue to fantasise about the Twin Towers, but only because the Republic of Ireland international Harte, who had too often struggled to gain a place under Graham, struck with a vengeance not evident among the Leeds forwards and midfielders.

At the start, as Graham had taken his seat in the directors' box, alongside the Spurs director of football David Pleat, there had been a sustained chorus of abuse and police gathered on the cinder track below to ensure that order was maintained. The Tottenham manager merely maintained that whimsical little smile of his, an expression that broadened as Tottenham seized the early initiative.

Indeed, Spurs should have scored within 90 seconds. The last thing you need to do as a defender is to present the ball to David Ginola, and when the Leeds captain Lucas Radebe did just that to the player he was man- marking, the Frenchman dispatched Les Ferdinand scampering into the penalty box. Although the England goalkeeper Nigel Martyn was beaten, the ball cannoned off the foot of Harte standing on the line.

From the start, there was no shirking of tackles, and the contest between Lee Bowyer and Spurs' recent purchase, the pounds 4m Tim Sherwood, making his full debut, was one of several that proved to be abrasive.

Sherwood it was who established Spurs lead just after the interval. Steffen Iversen played the ball back from near the corner flag, Darren Anderton crossed low and when the former Blackburn man lashed at the ball from a few yards out it appeared to take a deflection off David Hopkin as it looped over the head of the stranded Martyn.

It provoked Leeds to launch a sustained onslaught on the Spurs goal. Just when Tottenham had appeared to have successfully frustrated them, Harte brought delight to the Elland Road crowd and heartbreak to Graham.

O'Leary later admitted he had yet to sign a contract since taking over. It was thought that O'Leary had put pen to paper to a lucrative deal following the departure of Graham. "I am going to see whether they want me to stay first," O'Leary said. "When I took the job on I said I will put the kids in and that I would like to get David Batty - that's what I have done. Now over the next couple of weeks we are going to sit down and discuss what figures I have to spend and what we can get."

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