So David Howells, the long-serving thoroughly good guy, was risking a lot having Fiorentina as his guests for yesterday's testimonial at White Hart Lane. In the event, though, the game was almost too quiet, especially for Les Ferdinand who was making his first appearance since leaving Newcastle. His debut, and the overall performance of his new team against the less than fully-dedicated Italians, was not the stuff of fresh hope.
Ferdinand has to overcome comparison with Teddy Sheringham, whose move to Manchester United seemed to many Spurs fans an indication that the club had lost its ambition. What Ferdinand himself wants, perhaps even more than the opportunity to replace Shearer in the England team, is to end his career with some medals, which was, of course, the very reason Sheringham left for United.
Whether Ferdinand achieves his objective could largely depend on an understanding with David Ginola, a player who so often plays brilliantly yet sometimes seems oblivious to his team's real needs. At least he should bring back some of the fun and expensiveness everyone used to associate with Spurs.
Yesterday's situation was made for his dextrous skills. Back-heels, flicks and ambitious long passes to Ferdinand brought him immediate rounds of applause. But caution is urged since this warm summer day without pressure was very different to the likely intensity of next Sunday's first home game against Manchester United.
The delights of Ginola's penetrating passes with his right foot had to be set against Tottenham's usual generosity in midfield which, after 15 minutes, allowed Rui Costa to thread a pass through the penalty area to the former Manchester United man, Andrei Kanchelskis, who clipped a shot inside Ian Walker's far post.
Walker was not to be recompensed. Going to block a low centre from Anselmo Robbiati, he failed to make contact with hands or feet, leaving Luis Oliveira to ease in the second.
Ferdinand's opportunities were few, with Spurs insisting on flighting almost everything high and too close to both of Fiorentina's goalkeepers - Valerio Fiori took the place of the dominating Francesco Toldo at half- time. Ironically, it was Stephen Clemence, the young son of the former England and Spurs goalkeeper Ray, who arrived for the second half and straight away gave Ferdinand an example of opportunistic shooting. Driving Tottenham's first real shot of the game, he was disappointed to see Fiori turn the ball away.
When Ferdinand at last received the ball at his feet only a yard off the line he took an instant strike but Fiori dropped quickly to block. Bearing in mind Tottenham's injury problems last season and continuing difficulties already this term, it was natural that no one wanted to dive into anything reckless, but a shade more bite in front of goal would have enlivened a pleasant but hardly enlightening performance. Ferdinand found Roberto Mirri difficult to pass on either side and, with Ginola fading in the second half, few true openings emerged. Ramon Vega did strike the Fiorentina crossbar, but by far the most rousing cheer of the day was reserved for the appearance of the long- suffering Gary Mabbutt. He took the place of Howells, whose day could have ended with a better result but his reward was seeing the crowd of almost 15,000.
Tottenham Hotspur: Walker (Bardsen, 46); Carr, Edinburgh (Calderwood, 46), Howells (Mabbutt, 88), Vega, Campbell; Ginola, Nielsen, Mahorn (Clemence, 46); Ferdinand, Sinton (Fox, 24; Iversen, 62).
Fiorentina: Toldo (Fiori, 46); Tarozzi (Bigica, 46), Falcone, Cois, Padalino (Mirri, 75); Serena, Luis Oliveira, Kanchelskis (Flachi, 62); Batistuta (Dionigi, 46), Rui Costa (Piacentini, 46), Robbiati.
Referee: D Elleray (Harrow).Reuse content