Football: Fans turn on Ardiles after humiliation

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The Independent Online
Notts County 3 Tottenham Hotspur 0 Ossie Ardiles, his position as manager of Tottenham under increasing pressure, insisted last night that he would not resign, even after witnessing 90 minutes as embarrassing and demoralising as any he has endured during his 16 months in charge as White Hart Lane.

In a desperate first half Spurs gave away of two goals in as many minutes and had their Romanian World Cup star, Ilie Dumitrescu, sent off. By the end they had been humiliatingly defeated by a side bottom of the First Division.

To make matters worse for Ardiles, they are now out of the one competition which might have offered him salvation. Barred from the FA Cup, and with the six points they have been docked in the Premiership (subject to appeal) bring the threat of relegation, Spurs saw the Coca-Cola Cup as the trophy they had to win. By doing so Ardiles would justify his pounds 12m outlay on players by winning a place in Europe.

This match, Ardiles said, one one that his team dared not lose. In the event, they never looked capable of winning it. They were outplayed so comprehensively that, for the first time, their supporters called for Ardiles to step down.

Afterwards, looking anxious and subdued, Ardiles made a defiant stand. 'I will not resign,' he said. 'I've never been a quitter in my life. It is not in my nature. I was hurt by the reaction of the fans. I can only say to them that we have an important game on Saturday and we need them to get behind the players at this difficult time.

'I cannot fault the players. In the circumstances, a man down, they did everything possible but they are suffering from a severe lack of confidence, especially when defending. Everything that happens is my responsiblity, not theirs. The buck stops with me.

'Obviously, once you lose the support of the crowd the job gets more difficult but whether this result affects my position is not for me to say.

I do not intend to resign, whatever happens.'

Nevertheless, the Argentine will not have found it easy to avoid wondering how his chairman, Alan Sugar, will react when they meet at Spurs' headquarters today.

Not for a moment did County resemble a side lodged at the foot of the First Division. They won the majority of possession in midfield, and consequently created plenty of chances. Against such a palpably fallible defence it was almost inevitable that they would score. They did, after 18 and 20 minutes, as Spurs creaked and cracked in painfully familiar style.

Tony Agana, taking a return pass from Phil Turner, advanced into the penalty area from the left, cut inside Colin Calderwood, and shot across Erik Thorstvedt inside the far post. Spurs had barely begun to consider their response when they went two down. Andy Legg, combining with Agana to go past Dean Austin, chipped over a cross from the byline for Gary McSwegan, inside the six yard area, to mark his first competitive action for more than a month with a neatly headed goal.

As if this were not trouble enough for Spurs, Dumitrescu was dismissed eight minutes before half-time, after committing his second cautionable foul within seven minutes.

In the second half, Ardiles had little option but to throw caution to the wind, leaving his team with only three defenders, as Calderwood was replaced by the midfielder, Mickey Hazard. Tottenham increased their ratio of chances but were met with frustration. Dozzell, Sheringham, Barmby and Popescu all had opportunities but none was converted.

Tottenham inevitably left themselves even more vulnerable at the back and, with 18 minutes left, McSwegan's simple tap-in settled Spurs fate. 'That one didn't count, really,' Ardiles said, in his charmingly innocent way.

This result, however, may count for a lot.

Notts County (4-1-3-2): Reece; Mills, Yates, Johnson (Murphy, 65), R Walker; Turner; Devlin, Butler, Legg; Agana, McSwegan (Matthews, 80). Substitutes not used: Cherry (gk).

Tottenham (4-1-3-2): Thorstvedt; Austin, Campbell, Calderwood (Hazard, 45), Edinburgh; Popescu; Barmby, Dozzell, Dumitrescu; Sheringham, Klinsmann.

Substitutes not used: Mabbutt, I Walker (gk).

Referee: K Burge (Tonypandy).

(Photograph omitted)