Football: Ginola's flair is still in fashion

Tottenham Hotspur 2 Nottingham Forest 0
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THE INTEGRATION of the cavalier David Ginola into a side which would, hopefully, restore Tottenham to their former glory, or at least some sort of parity with those other people in north London, was always going to be one of the more intriguing aspects of George Graham's White Hart Lane reign.

By reputation, the Frenchman represented all that Graham is said to abhor - star quality, individualism, lack of commitment, flair. But so far the Spurs manager has been pleasantly surprised, although one senses, privately, he is not holding his breath. By Graham's own admission, Ginola has been a model professional: he never misses training, turns up on time and, most importantly, on the pitch does his manager's bidding, well, as much as any natural soloist can.

Right now, one senses Graham needs Ginola more than Ginola needs Graham. While he is in the side, whatever else may go wrong, they will not be found wanting for entertainment, and that goes a long way at Tottenham. But more than an entertainer, he is a match-winner, as Forest were reminded all too painfully on Saturday.

The wing-back Steve Stone was given the task of tracking him. While he never really contained him, for 46 minutes he restricted him by both fair means and foul, and occasionally even funny; an arm-lock earned his first booking. He even matched Ginola for the theatrical, once taking a dive of which the latter would have been proud.

When the two clashed again in the first minute of the second half, both ending up side by side on their bottoms, most officials would have called it quits, but the referee Stephen Lodge chose to book both and Stone was sent off.

It would be churlish to suggest Stone might have gone before for his dive, as Ginola, as is his wont, had been guilty of the same and one could sympathise with Forest's manager, Dave Bassett - and not least the crowd, who had enjoyed the duel - when he complained: "I thought people come to be entertained, to see 11 versus 11 - if somebody goes over the top or punches someone they deserve everything they get, but... my players [like Graham, he did not see the incident] thought it was a scandalous decision."

Without their protector, Forest's defenders were at Ginola's mercy and he showed them none. Beforehand, Graham had asked Ginola to try to get round the defence and deliver an early cross. Ginola carried out his request to the T, skirting Steve Chettle and pulling the ball back for Chris Armstrong to force in off the debutant, substitute Christian Edwards.

Ten minutes later another teasing run induced a foul from Scot Gemmill and Darren Anderton drove the free-kick with such power that Allan Nielsen's slight deflection was enough to beat Dave Beasant again.

"In the second half he was just great to watch," said Graham of the mercurial one, without sounding too enthusiastic. "So long as he's trying to do the right things - fantastic."

Goals: Armstrong (58) 1-0; Nielsen (68) 2-0.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Baardsen; Carr, Campbell, Scales, Edinburgh (Sinton, 65); Nielsen, Anderton, Calderwood (Clemence, 77) Ginola; Armstrong (Allen, 83), Iversen. Substitutes not used: Fox, Walker (gk).

Nottingham Forest (3-5-2): Beasant; Chettle, Hjelde, Armstrong (Edwards, 46); Stone, Bart-Williams, Gemmill, Quashie, Rogers; Van Hooijdonk, Freedman (Bonalair, 54). Substitutes not used: Shipperley, Harewood, Crossley (gk).

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).

Sending-off: Forest: Stone. Bookings: Spurs: Nielsen. Forest: Van Hooijdonk, Gemmill.

Man of the match: Ginola.

Attendance: 35,832.