Football: Francis relies on straight talking

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The Independent Online
In adversity, and depending on the manager's disposition, interval oratory can take many forms. This includes cup throwing, invective to make a drill sergeant blush and allusions to the labour exchange.

Asked what he had said to bring about the remarkable transformation that once saw Aston Villa recover from a four-goal deficit, the late Joe Mercer replied famously: "Nothing. I walked in, kicked over the tea urn and left them to get on with it."

Some psychologists have theorised that pep talks and pep performances can have a hypnotic effect that expands horizons and capabilities. Others have demonstrated that their effects are temporary and perhaps illusionary, like uppers.

Doubtless, Gerry Francis is hoping that the improvement in application and attitude that resulted from a verbal explosion in Tottenham's dressing room at half-time on Saturday will be permanent. Presumably because it would be bad for his image, Francis did not go into details. "What I had to say isn't printable," he said.

Footballers are trained to play hard but this does not necessarily produce a consistent level of intelligent commitment. Which explains why the drum beat has to be loud and constant. Also, it is a fact that players are so often occupied by their piece ofthe action and so preoccupied with themselves and their anxieties that sometimes they lose sight of the bigger picture.

What Tottenham lost sight of for 45 minutes on Saturday was that diligence had been central to the progress they have made since Francis got his hands on the extravagant method promoted by his predecessor. Working harder and with more intelligence, West Ham fully deserved to be ahead through Jeroen Boere's header.

Finding an effective method that sits comfortably with Tottenham's stylish tradition remains a dilemma for Francis but the picture he saw wasn't one thing or the other. "The team you saw in the first half wasn't the one that hadn't lost for 10 matches," he said.

It showed up after the interval. Where they had fitfully conceded midfield, Tottenham began to fill it with more aggression and purpose.

A mix up between their goalkeeper, Ludek Miklosko, and Kenny Brown that led to Teddy Sheringham hitting a post seemed to unsettle West Ham and when Miklosko mispunched Darren Anderton's free-kick, Sheringham equalised.

Two fruitless penalty appeals added to West Ham's frustration and by the time Jurgen Klinsmann got away on Nicky Barmby's pass for the winner they had lost momentum. This puzzled the West Ham manager, Harry Redknapp. He could not be sure whether it was the outcome of Tottenham's improvement or a lack of conviction in his players. "I can't settle on a reason why we didn't go on from where we left off," he said.

In any case, Redknapp chose to replace Matty Holmes and Michael Hughes who had caused Tottenham no end of bother until space on the flanks was denied to them.

A game plan is based on relative strengths, weaknesses and tendencies. The problem is that often it contains the seeds of its own destruction. There are times when straight talking is more important.

Goals: Boere (10) 1-0; Sheringham (58) 1-1; Klinsmann (79) 1-2.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Miklosko; Breacker, Martin, Potts, Brown; Hughes (Allen, 73), Moncur, Bishop, Holmes (Morley, 85); Boere, Cottee. Substitute not used: Sealey (gk).

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Austin, Calderwood, Mabbutt, Campbell (Edinburgh, 76); Anderton, Howells, Popescu, Barmby; Sheringham, Klinsmann. Substitutes not used: Nethercott, Day (gk).

Referee: B. Hill (Leicester).