Football: Glory game just a fading memory for Spurs

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Tottenham Hotspur 0 Leeds United 1

Snapshots from an afternoon's football at White Hart Lane.

A fanzine with a cover picture of Sol Campbell and the caption: "Sol hope for the future?"

Two Spurs fans discussing their fathers: "If only they'd made us support Manchester United."

The Park Lane End chanting: "We want Francis Out."

Leeds fans chanting: "There's only one Alan Sugar."

A Spurs fan accosting Gerry Francis, demanding he get rid of players who "are not fit to wear a Tottenham shirt".

White Hart Lane, as so often in recent years, is considering revolt. Fifteenth in the Premiership table, with one win in nine games, is testing the patience of the supporters and, no doubt, the board.

Press conferences have started with questions like: "You wouldn't walk away, would you?" or "What would make you walk away?"

Francis has started answering with replies like: "If Alan [Sugar] came to me and said 'Blah, blah, blah', then I'm fine with that situation." More worrying for Tottenham fans is that he seems to have little idea of how to stop the slide except with "more work".

Against Leeds on Saturday Tottenham were poor, they looked a collection of individuals rather than a team and lacked confidence, intelligence and craft. That they should be outplayed so comprehensively and, at times stylishly, by a team managed by George Graham added to home fans' chagrin.

There are, as usual, injuries: Les Ferdinand, Ramon Vega, Alan Nielsen, Rory Allen and Dean Austin were out; Darren Anderton, Steffan Iversen, Jose Dominguez and Chris Armstrong were involved without being fully fit. But everyone has injuries and, even before Anderton and Iversen came, on Tottenham were fielding pounds 15m of players, including seven internationals.

The formation was the first problem, a surfeit of centre-halves and wingers persuading Francis to put out an unbalanced team which was stretched at the back, squeezed in midfield and crowded out in attack. Only after reverting to 4-4-2 after the break did they manage to gain any measure of possession.

They then wasted this with sloppy or thoughtless passing. Considering they spent the second period playing two centre-forwards and two wingers in wide positions, it was a criminal waste of resources to fail to get a single cross in from the byline. This is partly because neither David Ginola or Ruel Fox seem to have such a weapon in their armoury these days.

When, with six minutes left, Fox finally did get in a decent cross - albeit right-footed from the left flank and 20 yards from the byline - Iversen and Armstrong were so startled they left it for each other.

Ginola, meanwhile, was as infuriating as ever. Moments of high skill were spoiled, as Francis noted, by trying to beat a man too many. His free-kicks, apart from a corner on to Campbell's head, were appalling for a player of such talent. He histrionically bemoaned his and his team- mates' failings and was booked for a theatrical dive.

On the plus side there was one beautiful first-half cross, which unfortunately found Dominguez rather than Armstrong, and his menace meant he was constantly baulked, checked and pulled. Graham's suggestion that he got two players booked with other dives was, at best, mistaken while his assertion that Leeds were not dirty because they did not make hatchet tackles ignored their habitual niggling.

On balance, however, Ginola had limited impact. He and Dominguez may be a sop to Tottenham's footballing tradition but they are yet to integrate into a team still too easily tempted into the long ball.

Leeds, by contrast, belied the hoof-and-chase football of Graham's late Arsenal period. The strikers, Rod Wallace and Harry Kewell, made a slippery and exciting combination. The midfield, with Gary Kelly's selfless running and knitting passing typical, was both slick and industrious while the defence gave nothing away. Nigel Martyn, watched along with Ian Walker by Glenn Hoddle, exuded confidence in goal.

He made three good saves but Leeds created the bulk of the chances. Wallace could have had a hat-trick before his 19th- minute goal, neatly rolled in after David Robertson slid a pass between John Scales and Gary Mabbutt.

"We're progressing," said Graham. "The first half was the best we've played this season. It could have been 4-0 at half-time."

He was standing in the Tottenham car park which, on match days, possesses the finest collection of expensive sports and luxury cars to be seen in the UK. Personalised number plates are de riguer, many belonging to Spurs players. It seemed a suitable place to discuss players' attitudes with a man who has ruthlessly culled the Leeds squad of several high earners.

"My philosophy has always been to buy players with hunger," he said. "Manchester United, the old Liverpool, they had world-class players with hunger. These players want to work, they want to improve. We have an excellent team spirit." He agreed, with obvious pleasure, at the suggestion that such hunger "comes from the manager". Bill Shankly and Alex Ferguson came to mind as he also assented to the thought that "it is a Scottish thing. It's our passion, our upbringing. We have got to keep that in the game."

Meanwhile, Gerry Francis was insisting "you can't fault our players for effort", which may be true in terms of play on the ball but not off it. The word is that only the difficulty of getting a replacement manager mid-season - such as Joe Kinnear - is staying Sugar's hand. The question is whether Francis will walk first?

As for Sol Campbell, how often does he look at Teddy Sheringham's Old Trafford revels and ponder the wisdom of signing a new contract last summer?

Goal: Wallace (19) 0-1.

Tottenham Hotspur (3-4-2-1): Walker; Scales, Mabbutt (Carr, h-t), Campbell; Fox, Sinton, Howells (Anderton, 59), Edinburgh; Dominguez (Iversen, h- t), Armstrong. Substitutes not used: Bardsen (gk), Calderwood.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Martyn; Maybury, Radebe, Wetherall, Robertson; Kelly, Hopkin, Haland, Ribero; Wallace, Kewell. Substitutes not used: Beeney (gk), Hasselbaink, Harte, Molenaar, Bowyer.

Referee: K Burge (Mid-Glamorgan).

Bookings: Tottenham: Ginola. Leeds: Hopkin, Maybury.

Attendance: 26,441.

Man of the match: Kelly.

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