Football: Graham working in harmony with the past

Tottenham Hotspur 3 Everton 2
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The Independent Online
COMMONLY, FOOTBALL managers take a dim view of the history they inherit. "I'd like to boot it into the street," an embattled former Arsenal employee once said about the bust of Herbert Chapman that stands famously in the entrance hall at Highbury.

When Howard Wilkinson took over at Leeds United, he ordered pictures of past heroes and stirring events to be removed from the corridors at Elland Road. At both those clubs George Graham thrived on comparison, believing that history should be more of an inspiration than a burden. "I was stimulated by the challenge of living up to Arsenal's past," he said. (His study, at the time, resembled an Arsenal shrine). Neither, as manager of Leeds, did Graham feel a need to exorcise the ghost of Don Revie.

Thus the pictures that adorn Graham's new office at White Hart Lane, large prints of the glory days associated with Tottenham's greatest manager, Bill Nicholson, Danny Blanchflower, Dave Mackay, Cliff Jones, John White. "Why not?" Graham said when we spoke after Saturday's 3-2 victory over Everton. "There is no sense in trying to obscure the past, and the pictures remind me of how much there is to be done here."

The task is not only living up to Tottenham's achievements but doing so in the style that older supporters yearn for, and which is not associated with the pragmatism Graham has successfully adopted in management.

As Graham left the press room on Saturday, reporters from daily newspapers gathered around him on the chance of picking up some extra quotations for today's editions. Tongue in cheek, referring to some uncharacteristic risk- taking, he said: "Was that a George Graham team out there?" Two home victories in a week, six goals scored, was enough for somebody to suggest that he might be thinking seriously of the championship.

A smile crossed Graham's face. "I don't think so," he said. "We haven't got the strength in depth and there is a long way to go. The first half was the best we have played since I have been here, but Everton defended well and sustaining it for the whole game was always going to be difficult."

Graham and Walter Smith of Everton fall into the category of make-do- and-mend managers, employed by clubs with plenty of tradition but constrained by market forces. Doubtless, the post-match huddle into which they fell centred on the difficulties of replenishment.

For Smith, whose work is hindered by ongoing confusion over Everton's ownership, there was the frustration of conceding two late goals after going ahead with the second of David Unsworth's two successful penalty kicks, both awarded against Tottenham's goalkeeper Ian Walker in tussles with Francis Jeffers. "We got ourselves into a good position, then allowed Tottenham to force the game into our penalty area," he said.

Both the incidents that led to Everton goals were contentious, the second penalty carrying a hint of offside against Jeffers before Walker sent him sprawling and, despite Everton's resolute defending, victory would have flattered them.

Coming under great pressure in the first half when Tottenham's passing was most purposeful, Everton needed Paul Gerrard's reflexes to keep them in the game. Rated third choice until a week ago, Gerrard pulled off a string of outstanding saves - the best of them to thwart Darren Anderton, who was in the form of a man with something to prove while negotiating a new contract.

Tim Sherwood brought Tottenham level with a near-post header from Anderton's corner and Graham put their late recovery down to burgeoning team spirit. "I thought our response to the second penalty was tremendous," he said. "Nobody's head went down and we got what we deserved. It comes from the work put in on the training ground, the spirit that's built up there."

No faulting Tottenham's commitment, but how far will it carry them? "We need more quality," Graham said. He was looking wistfully at a gallery of great players.

Goals: Unsworth (pen 24) 0-1; Sherwood (34) 1-1; Unsworth (pen 77) 1- 2; Leonhardsen (82) 2-2; Iversen (86) 3-2.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Carr, Perry, Scales, Taricco; Leonhardsen, Sherwood, Anderton (Freund, 85), Ginola; Ferdinand, Iversen. Substitutes not used: Baardsen (gk), Young, Korsten, Fox.

Everton (3-5-2): Gerrard; Weir, Gough, Unsworth; Dunne, Ward (Cleland, 72), Gemmill (Hutchison, 72), Collins, Barmby; Campbell, Jeffers (Cadamarteri, 80). Substitutes not used: Simonsen (gk), Pembridge.

Referee: P Alcock (Halstead, Kent).

Bookings: Tottenham: Walker. Everton: Gemmill, Ward.

Man of the match: Anderton.

Attendance: 34,539.