Football: Jansen goal highlights weaknesses

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The Independent Online
Blackburn Rovers 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1

EVEN AS George Graham lauded Matt Jansen's first goal for Blackburn, the Tottenham manager was inadvertently exposing a deficiency in his own team, and perhaps in his own transfer strategy.

No, he confessed, he had not considered bidding for the striker signed from Crystal Palace for pounds 4m, a self-conscious smirk rippling across his face. He felt Jansen was serving his apprenticeship, one for the future, he reasoned. He may not be alone, in the more immediate future, in regretting his lack of interest in the England Under-21 player.

One flash of instinctive control and finishing skill does not confirm that this was an inspired piece of business by Brian Kidd, just as the general perception of Ashley Ward and Jason McAteer as diligent but limited footballers should not prematurely call into question the Blackburn manager's judgement.

In any case, there will be places for the artisans as well as the artists in Kidd's commune, and so far selfless endeavour has served him well. For the third consecutive home match, Rovers were reduced to 10 men - this time due to the dismissal of Jason Wilcox - but again they reorganised accordingly and refused to be beaten.

As Graham also conceded, Spurs lacked the quality to create an opening and add to Steffen Iversen's equaliser after Blackburn erected the barricades, but then they had been no more adept when the chances came their way in a fluid and uninhibited first half.

"All the top teams have got world class players, especially up front," Graham said. "They've got players who can unlock organised defences."

Spurs, of course, possess such a player in David Ginola, regardless of the tawdry taunts from Joe Kinnear. The Frenchman, suspended and injured at the weekend, might have made the difference in a match where his colleagues relished liberation from the Wimbledon stalemate. Anxious to avoid further focus on Ginola, Graham preferred to play down his absence, but yes, he acknowledged that his was the type of quality required.

Graham and Kidd inherited squads that under-achieved yet could not, and still cannot, aspire to the major league. Players such as Ward and McAteer are unlikely to bridge the gap, but a Ginola would, and probably a Jansen, too.

Jansen's inexperience betrayed him on more than one occasion on Saturday, but the execution of his goal, outwitting Sol Campbell and startling Ian Walker in the process, was the touch of the gifted.

There has been much speculation about the eventual make-up of Kidd's intended team. Sources close to the camp contend he wishes to keep Chris Sutton, currently out injured. A Sutton-Jansen partnership represents a formidable prospect.

McAteer for Tim Sherwood, however, seems a less inspiring development. Central midfield is the area in the Blackburn side in danger of being left bereft of quality.

Kidd has brought a mixture of crusading zeal and boy-next-door chumminess to the job. Blackburn's players have responded, scrapping their way from the relegation places, and on course to meet the manager's first objective at the club.

They might find the task a mite less arduous if they could last a match with a full complement, but then you sense the new spirit of the Rovers thrives on adversity.

Kidd insists he takes nothing for granted, not even Jack Walker's open chequebook. "I'm not buying for buying's sake," he says. "If Mr Walker says I can't have a player I accept it. I'm not the type to spit my dummy out."

He is far more likely to spit blood for the cause, but he may just need more sublime contributions from Jansen, too.

Goals: Jansen (43) 1-0; Iversen (60) 1-1.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Filan: Kenna, Henchoz, Broomes, Davidson; McAteer, Dunn (Peacock, 84), Wilcox, Duff (Marcolin, 62); Jansen (Davies, 62), Ward. Substitutes not used: Croft, Flowers (gk).

Tottenham Hotspur (4-1-3-2): Walker; Carr, Vega, Campbell, Edinburgh; Freund; Anderton, Nielsen, Sinton (Armstrong, 84); Iversen, Ferdinand. Substitutes not used: Fox, Taricco, Young, Baardsen (gk).

Referee: N Barry (Scunthorpe).

Sending-off: Wilcox. Bookings: Blackburn: Dunn, Ward, Filan, Davies. Tottenham: Freund, Nielsen, Carr.

Man of the match: Jansen.

Attendance: 29,643.

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