Football: Hammers' new policy pays off

Ken Jones on Monday
Click to follow
The Independent Online
HARRY REDKNAPP is doing a terrific job, but looking down from West Ham's lofty perch in the Premiership was not about to make him light- headed. "The championship?" he said, chuckling in response to that grand illusion, "Look, when we finished eighth last season I thought, what have I done? What will they expect of me now?"

Flippancy cannot conceal Redknapp's satisfaction with the progress made since a corner was turned two seasons ago. Smarting from failed gambles on foreign players West Ham's manager began placing most of his bets at home. Paul Kitson, John Hartson, Steve Lomax, Neil Ruddock, Ian Pearce. "From relegation, we finished in championship form and we haven't looked back," he said after Saturday's 2-1 defeat of Tottenham.

In fact, Redknapp was in better form than his team. "Ginola [David] needs to put in some work on his ball control," he cracked.

Ginola's mesmeric touch and the crosses he repeatedly whipped into West Ham's goalmouth answered in part one of the questions raised when George Graham took over at White Hart Lane. The hard taskmaster Graham and the fitful Frenchman hardly seemed compatible.

Ginola playing in support of twin strikers? Forget it. In Graham's mind he plays on the left wing or nowhere. "Today, I thought Ginola was outstanding," the Tottenham manager said.

Nobody wants to see their name in a headline next to the word unwanted. No successful player, and that's how you must describe Ginola, wants to hear that he's not the right man for the job. Maybe that explains Ginola's recent brilliant response to Graham's demanding management.

Whether Ginola's commitment lasts is another matter but out there on the left, hugging the touchline, going this way and that, occasional flaws in concentration can be accommodated.

The excitement West Ham's players showed at the end, hugging each other and running to salute their supporters, ran deeper than the satisfaction gained from success in a London derby. If it was proof of the spirit that Redknapp is proud about, it touched too on the realisation that a makeshift Tottenham team, in which a 19-year-old centre-back Luke Young was making his debut, deserved something from an exciting contest.

To his astonishment, Graham discovered that Tottenham have hardly any quality youngsters coming forward. "At Leeds it was only a question of when to bring in the emerging talent," he said, "something that David [O'Leary] is doing now."

With Tottenham's treatment room filling up again - John Scales, Ramon Vega, Justin Edinburgh - and Colin Calderwood suspended, Young stood up to the tough assignment he was given and almost equalised late on with a rasping drive against the crossbar.

Ahead in the 38th minute when Espen Baardsen fumbled Frank Lampard's shot to Trevor Sinclair's eager feet, West Ham went further ahead immediately after half-time, Sinclair taking perfect advantage of a chance made for him by Paul Kitson.

Free at last from the injuries that have kept his appearances for West Ham down to 34 since joining them from Newcastle United 19 months ago, Kitson was consistently the brightest of the home team's attackers.

When Tottenham started to throw their full-backs forward in an effort to save the game, West Ham found it so difficult to protect their lead that Chris Armstrong's headed goal from Ginola's corner didn't surprise anyone.

As in any team sport, the will to make things happen in football overrides tactical considerations. The will and the wit. Would West Ham have celebrated their third successive victory if Armstrong and Steffen Iversen had been more alert to the angle and trajectory of Ginola's centres? This is just one of the things that Graham will be seeking to improve while going around in search of replacements.

The move Graham made last week for Lampard - officially pounds 4.3m - had Redknapp bristling. "I heard somebody say on Sky television that we are holding out for pounds 8m," he said. "That's cobblers. Frank [Lampard] isn't going anywhere."

Big time or small time. The book-balancing sale of Andy Impey to Leicester City last week, a move opposed vigorously by Redknapp, suggested the latter category. "We get 26,000 here every home match," Redknapp said. "It would be breaking faith if we transferred any of our best players."

A comfort to West Ham's supporters will be the fact that Graham was in Germany on Friday watching a midfielder.

Goals: Sinclair (38) 1-0; Sinclair (46) 2-0; Armstrong (73) 2-1.

West Ham United (3-4-1-2): Hislop; Pearce, Ferdinand, Ruddock; Sinclair, Lomax, Lampard, Berkovic (Potts, 40); Lazaridis; Kitson, Hartson. Substitutes not used: Sealey (gk), Breacker, Margas, Abou.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-1-1): Baardsen; Carr, Young, Campbell, Sinton; Nielsen, Anderton, Clemence (Fox, 70), Ginola; Armstrong, Iversen. Substitutes not used: Wilson, Gower, Thelwell, Walker (gk).

Bookings: West Ham: Kitson. Tottenham: Sinton.

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).

Man of the match: Ginola.

Attendance: 26,044.

Comments