Football: Ginola stays on his feet to good effect

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The Independent Online
IT WAS almost too much of a good thing that David Ginola had been spotted handing over his shirt to referee Dermot Gallagher. "I'm not kidding," Wimbledon's manager Joe Kinnear said, up to mischief with a tasty morsel of information. "Ginola was asked for the shirt and he took it to the referee's dressing-room. Saw it myself."

All week long Kinnear had sought an edge in the ongoing saga of Ginola's thespian activities and with three more matches to play against Tottenham he was not about to pass up an opportunity. "Just about sums things up," he said.

More to the point Ginola had risen above the grind of a hard fought Cup- tie and pantomime booing without incurring the wrath of Kinnear's defenders. In fact, Gallagher never had cause to exercise his judgement in matters of legality. "Perhaps he [Ginola] is realising that he doesn't need to act up," Kinnear said, "and if that is the case our complaints after last week's match have achieved something. It wasn't so much Ginola's diving for penalties that bothered me as having players sent off."

George Graham had been determined to stay out of the controversy. "I haven't got involved," he said when we spoke on Friday. "I've told David [Ginola] that the best way to deal with all this is on the field."

If Ginola does not always perform to Graham's satisfaction on alien territory (he has been repeatedly substituted away from home) he justified a full stint in the 1-1 draw that added another encounter to the serial. The goal that brought Tottenham level in the 72nd minute, after Robbie Earle's perfectly executed overhead kick on the hour had raised Wimbledon's hopes of progression, further emphasised the extent of Ginola's ability and imagination.

Nothing much promised for Tottenham when Ginola drifted infield and took a square pass from Stephen Carr with Wimbledon's defence packed in front of him. Pausing, Ginola swayed left then right before slipping past Earle to fire a low shot past Neil Sullivan.

Maybe Graham will prove better for Ginola than any manager he has played under. "I thought he was terrific," Graham said. "Did everything I expect from him."

Ginola's complaint that he does not see enough of the ball in away matches is met by Graham's crushing logic. "It's bound to happen," the Tottenham manager replies. "The home team sees more of the ball, takes more of the initiative."

If Ginola is coming to terms with a pretty obvious fact and responds further to Graham's demanding influence, the best of him may well be seen in Tottenham's colours.

Some of Ginola's work, his sleight of foot, strength on the ball and two-footed accuracy was of the highest order. "Yes, I think he should score more often," Graham smiled, "and that's something he can work on."

As for who prevails in cup ties yet to be played between these teams, it does not seem that there is much more than a goal between them. "We'll certainly know each other well by the time it's all over," Kinnear said.

As Wimbledon have players to bring back, Kinnear thinks that they may last the course better. "It's going to be tight," he said when conveying the unspoken impression that he was not entirely pleased with the outcome of Saturday's proceedings.

Some people present felt, cynically, that the gifting of Ginola's shirt was a sound investment. That, however, would be unfair to Gallagher, who could not be faulted even when allowing Justin Edinburgh, who had already been booked, to escape the dismissal that seemed inevitable when he flattened Jason Euell.

Reporting that Euell had been left with an ankle injury, Kinnear denounced the perpetrator. It made a change from complaining about the shirtless one.

Goals: Earle (61) 1-0; Ginola (72) 1-1.

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Sullivan; Cunningham, Blackwell, Perry, Thatcher; Ardley (Cort, 75), Roberts, Earle, M Hughes; Leaburn, Euell (C Hughes, 86). Substitutes not used: Kimble, Kennedy, Heald (gk).

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Carr, Vega, Campbell, Edinburgh; Fox (Ferdinand, 73), Freund, Anderton, Ginola; Iversen, Armstrong. Substitutes not used: Calderwood, Taricco, Sinton, Baardsen (gk).

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).

Bookings: Wimbledon: Ardley, Hughes. Tottenham: Edinburgh.

Man of the match: Ginola.

Attendance: 22,229.