Football: Durie displays true character

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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur. 2

Middlesbrough. . .2

GORDON DURIE: a football innocent or football cheat? The 'juke-box' jury must reconvene; an FA disciplinary commission, having on Friday found the Tottenham striker guilty of feigning injury and having suspended him for three games, will now be asked to justify its verdict at an appeal hearing.

What no one can doubt, certainly none who witnessed his outstanding performance at White Hart Lane, is that, regardless of the rights or wrongs of the case, Durie remains a very fine player.

A player, what is more, with a big heart. His influence as the catalyst for Spurs' second-half turn-around, which rescued a point from near certain defeat, was quite remarkable, not only in view of that 'devastating' decision, but also because it was his first game for four weeks after a knee operation.

Shirt aflap outside his shorts - a rare sight for a player who is known for his immaculate appearance - Durie was here, there and everywhere, dropping deep to launch another attack, then surging past defenders to set up the equaliser for substitute Nick Barmby.

With his contribution complete, Durie's thoughts turned once more towards clearing his name. 'I can't really find the right word to describe how I felt when I heard the verdict,' he said, 'but devastated comes close. To be told you're a cheat is a terrible slur on your character and I won't rest until it's removed. At first I was dubious about playing today, but I talked it over with friends and decided to give it a go because I had nothing to hide.'

Spurs officials afterwards released video pictures of the incident with the Coventry defender Andy Pearce during the game on 18 August. It clearly shows contact between the two foreheads but, accepting the difficulties of discerning impact or pain, it does seem that Durie's reaction was excessive though, if guilty as charged, he would not be the first to attempt to gain an advantage out of a situation, be it a penalty or the sending-off of an opponent.

It is distasteful, but it goes on. Players are human and in the heat of battle they do silly things: witness the inexcusable behaviour here of Neil Ruddock and Justin Edinburgh, Ruddock appearing to strike Paul Wilkinson in the face as they chased a ball, Edinburgh appearing to stamp on Chris Morris.

Both went unpunished, but there was no escape for Alan Kernagan who made a clumsy challenge for the penalty that gave impetus to Tottenham's resurgence. It surely was a game of two halves. Unprompted, both managers said so. Tottenham, abysmal in their defending in the first 45 minutes and clueless before Middlesbrough's sweeper-defence, were a force renewed after the interval.

They gained strength as Boro' wilted, the power and precision that endorsed their early supremacy had become a distant memory by the time Spurs, for the third successive time in the League, transferred a position of despair into a point although they remain three places off the bottom.

Goals: Mustoe (2) 0-1; Ruddock og (33) 0-2; Sheringham pen (71) 1-2; Barmby (74) 2-2.

Tottenham Hotspur: Walker; Edinburgh, Van den Hauwe, Samways, Tuttle (Nayim, 55), Ruddock, Sedgley, Durie, Anderton (Barmby, 63), Sheringham, Allen. Substitute not used: Thorstvedt (gk).

Middlesbrough: Pears; Morris, Phillips, Kernagan, White, Gittens, Slaven (Fleming, 75), Mustoe, Wilkinson, Wright, Proctor. Substitutes not used: Kavanagh, Collett (gk).

Referee: P Durkin (Dorset).

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