Football: Fans revolt over Spurs' sad decline

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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur 0

Sheffield Wednesday 3

AS KEITH Burkinshaw, the last manager to bring Tottenham European glory, so poignantly put it on the day of his departure: "There used to be a football club over there." The montage of All Our Yesterdays which they played just before kick-off on Saturday seemed to bear out that view, such was the propensity of black and white footage.

Tottenham is a once great club. It stopped being so the day Terry Venables brought Alan Sugar, a business man as opposed to a football man, through the iron gates of White Hart Lane. On Saturday those gates were locked and barred by mounted police in order to prevent hundreds of fans venting their anger at the man who prides himself on being the club's saviour. But saviour from what? Certainly not the sort of substandard, spineless fare which they served up in their first home match of the season and have been doing so with ever increasing frequency for about the last seven years.

How far away those glory, glory nights of Burkinshaw's days seem now. Spurs' torment will be not be helped any by knowing that their great north London rivals Arsenal may now be scaling those same European peaks, while they will be lucky to get a toehold in the foothills.

Sugar's response to Spurs' second comprehensive defeat of the season, other than to mouth obscenities at journalists who approached him for a comment, was to climb into a car with the disgraced Norwegian agent Rune Hauge, and his director of football, David Pleat, and head off for transfer talks, presumably concerning Manchester United's Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. While the "babyfaced assassin" ought to be a marked improvement on anything Spurs' current strike force has to offer - assuming, that is, he is willing to come to this footballing wasteland - Sugar will be kidding himself if he thinks that pounds 5.5m will stem the rot.

Spurs have been buying badly ever since Gerry Francis was in charge and its remarkable to think that after all these years, probably ever since the days when Francis was playing never mind managing, they still have not sorted out their central defence. The Tottenham coach, Christian Gross, may be ignorant of the defensive shortcomings of his fellow Swiss Ramon Vega, but certainly the Spurs' fans are not, judging by the abuse he got. The danger is, of course, that like last season it may have a detrimental effect on Sol Campbell. But there are glaring weaknesses elsewhere in the side, too, at right-back and, more crucially, central midfield.

How Spurs could have done with someone like Wednesday's Dutchman Wim Jonk directing operations at the heart of their midfield. Danny Wilson, the Wednesday manager, described his new signing as "magnificent", adding as a rider, "for the first hour". The first half-hour was enough, his quickly taken free-kick giving Peter Atherton the chance to plant a header past Ian Walker. From then on only one side were going to win this game. At least those Spurs fans who can still remember quality when they see it may have appreciated Wednesday's second, a delicate chipped return pass from Benito Carbone into the path of his fellow Italian Paulo Di Canio.

I doubt, though, whether they will have enjoyed the third, a beautifully struck free-kick by Andy Hinchcliffe, whose transfer Spurs abandoned last season when he failed a physical examination. Not fit enough for the Spurs eh? You've got to be joking.

Goals: Atherton (26) 0-1; Di Canio (36) 0-2; Hinchcliffe (78) 0-3.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Carr, Campbell, Vega (Saib, h-t), Tramezzani (Dominguez, 68); Fox, Anderton, Nielsen, Ginola; Ferdinand, Armstrong. Substitutes not used: Calderwood, Clemence, Baardsen (gk).

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Cobian (Barrett, 62), Walker, Thome, Hinchcliffe; Carbone (Hyde, 72), Atherton, Jonk, Rudi; Booth, Di Canio (Briscoe, 85). Substitutes not used: Clarke, Oakes (gk).

Referee: M D Reed (Birmingham).

Bookings: Tottenham: Anderton. Wednesday: Cobain, Rudi, Booth, Carbone.

Man of the match: Jonk.

Attendance: 32,129.