Football: Ginola conjures up images of glory game

KEN JONES ON MONDAY
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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur 0

Blackburn Rovers 0

The thing Tottenham's supporters are trying to decide is whether David Ginola is their type of player. Those who were around in the Sixties not only retain images of virtuosity but commitment. Such marvellous players as Dave Mackay, Danny Blanchflower and John White enhanced the club's tradition of style but effort was central to their achievements.

This came up at White Hart Lane on Saturday when I fell into conversation with some younger supporters who are not entirely sure about what used to be or the direction their club is taking. History conveys the idea of a Tottenham model but does the description only figure in people's imagination?

When Blanchflower spoke about the "glory game" he created a problem for all the Tottenham managers who have succeeded Bill Nicholson. Romance is fine, living up to it is the difficult thing, especially for Gerry Francis. Thirty-six years separate Tottenham from their last championship and so far this season there has not been much to suggest improved prospects. When supporters call out Francis's name, it is usually to demand his departure.

Saturday was different. A goalless draw was all Tottenham got for their technical superiority but the performance coming after last week's miserable League defeat at Leicester was more encouraging. "We showed a lot more passion," Francis said. It was also a fact that Ginola had his best game since arriving in north London from Newcastle.

A pretty safe bet was that Ginola would be on his way from St James' Park once Kenny Dalglish succeeded Kevin Keegan. The Frenchman simply is not Dalglish's type of player; skilful and imaginative but too loose in application. You could imagine Dalglish thinking that his mentors in management, Jock Stein and Bob Paisley, would not have given Ginola house room.

When Francis signed Ginola, a gamble no other club in the Premier League and not many abroad were prepared to take, it was probably on the basis of an accurate service for strikers all of whom, including Ginola's former Newcastle team-mate Les Ferdinand, are presently injured.

By all accounts very little was seen of Ginola until he came to life during the second half of last week's Coca-Cola Cup tie against Carlisle. On returning from a scouting mission, Francis was pleased to discover that Ginola had shaken himself. "We're trying to impress upon David that he's got to be more involved in things generally," Francis added. "This means tackling back, helping out defensively and being available as often as possible."

A personal point of view is that attempts to change the nature of footballers seldom result in anything permanent. Usually they are what they are, stuck with the attitude they were born with. Ginola was often quite brilliant on Saturday and no fault could be found with his willingness. Francis was obviously very pleased with him and Blackburn's manager expressed his admiration. "One of the reasons we didn't play very well was that Ginola, Dominguez and Fox are very skilful players and were always prepared to run at us," he said. "I'm pleased to have nicked a point but it would have been embarrassing to have taken all three. Most of the time, especially in the first half when we could have easily been two or three down, we weren't in it."

Given licence to move around, Ginola was sometimes quite exceptional. For once the sublime skills were matched by determination and acceptance of the fact that no player can expect the right to go about his work unhindered. Consequently, Ginola was far more effective than he had been previously in Tottenham's colours. However, on the basis of a point made earlier, it remains to be seen whether Ginola can maintain this level of consistency.

In his efforts to replenish an injury hit squad - "I think I should stay off the issue of injuries," he said - Francis has been scouting at home and abroad for replacements. "We might be able to pick someone up on loan, I just don't know," he said. He was unquestionably pleased by a match which Tottenham would have won but for Tim Flowers's brilliant goalkeeping and Patrick Valery's alert goalline clearance from David Howells. "Supporters aren't silly," he added. "They not only want skill they want the passion my players showed today." That and continued proof that Ginola is the business.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Carr, Campbell, Mabbutt, Edinburgh; Fox, Howells, Clemence, Ginola; Dominguez, Mahorn (Vega, 81). Substitutes not used: Calderwood, Neilsen, Sinton, Baardsen (gk).

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Valery, Henchoz, Hendry, Kenna; Bohinen, Flitcroft, Sherwood, Wilcox (McKinlay, 84); Dahlin (Croft, 79), Sutton. Substitutes not used: T Pedersen, P Pedersen, Fettis (gk).

Referee: G Barber (Surrey)

Sending off: Blackburn: Valery (79). Bookings: Blackburn: Flitcroft, Valery, Sherwood.

Man of the match: Dominguez.

Attendance: 26,573.

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