Football: Fate gangs up on Francis

Newcastle United 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0
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The Independent Online
Newcastle United 1

Tottenham Hotspur 0 Now that Kenny Dalglish has become a paid-up member of the communications business, British Telecom having persuaded the Newcastle manager that it can be good to talk, perhaps he could give Gerry Francis a little assistance.

Somebody up there seems to be going to extraordinary lengths to tell the Tottenham manager something. And the message to be deciphered can hardly inspire hope when one of your players (John Scales) gets injured running on to the pitch to line up for the kick-off and another two (Ruel Fox and Les Ferdinand) get left behind in the toilets at the start of the second-half.

Not that Francis was unaware of being in the managerial mire after the final fateful twist at St James' Park on Saturday: consignment to defeat, in the last minute, by a life-long Gooner, as Warren Barton openly admits to being. There was no Gerry meandering at his post-match press conference. "I'm in the last year of my contract," he said. "I realise that at a club like Tottenham you've got to achieve. You've got to get results."

Not, however, results of the kind Tottenham have been getting of late. This was their 11th failure to win in successive Premiership matches away from White Hart Lane, their fifth league game out of six (home or away) without a goal.

Against a Newcastle team more acutely depleted by injuries than them, and drained by their midweek trip to Kiev (Tottenham and the Premier League having refused Dalglish a 24-hour delay), Francis' men never looked like winning the points, let alone their spurs.

It must be said that any manager pinning his hopes on David Ginola to dig him out of a hole is not only inviting trouble but a message with a P45 pinned on to it, too. His idling return to his old pastures could hardly have contrasted more starkly with the dynamic display of the man Dalglish signed to replace him, Temur Ketsbaia.

The Georgian Geordie, a free-transfer from AEK Athens, has the application to match his not inconsiderable talent. He ought to have won a penalty, when Gary Mabbutt clearly felled him, and menaced Tottenham with his tireless scheming and his long-range shooting.

He turned the opposition inside out, which Spurs could only manage when Ferdinand did precisely that with the Newcastle shirt Ketsbaia gave him at the final whistle. Draped in the sweat-stained black and white striped No 14 top, Ferdinand was cheered off the field of his former dreams. Unlike Ginola, whose every touch was met with jeers, the Toon Army never did want him to leave.

Goal: Barton (89) 1-0.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Watson, Peacock, Howey, Beresford; Barton, Batty, Barnes, Ketsbaia; Tomasson, Rush. Substitutes not used: Gillespie, Hamilton, Pinas, Albert, Srnicek (gk).

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Carr, Vega, Mabbutt, Campbell; Fox, Calderwood, Clemence (Sinton, 88), Ginola (Dominguez, 63); Armstrong, Ferdinand. Substitutes not used: Nielsen, Bardsen (gk).

Referee: M Bodenham (East Looe).

Man of the match: Ketsbaia.

Attendance: 36,709.