Football: Level-headed Redfearn spots his chance

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Campbell 30 Barnsley 1 Redfearn pen 59 Attend ance: 28,722
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The Independent Online
THEY paid birthday respects to the Spurs president before the kick-off at White Hart Lane yesterday. This made it impossible, over the course of the 90 minutes that followed, to avoid making comparisons with the past. The office holder happens to be Bill Nicholson, 78 tomorrow, who was also the manager of Spurs when they played the glory game and won the double.

That was nearly 40 years ago and whatever Spurs played yesterday, glory had little to do with it. Having taken the lead after 30 minutes, they then allowed Barnsley back into the game, unable to match either their spirit or organisation. They are still in the FA Cup but could have had few complaints if Barnsley, a side of modest accomplishment but honest endeavour, had prevailed.

Barely a month had passed since the sides last met at the ground in the Premiership. Then, Spurs settled the argument by scoring three times in the first 20 minutes. That was never a possibility yesterday because they hardly made three chances from which to score in the entire match. Jurgen Klinsmann and Les Ferdinand, playing together for the first time, were all but bereft of incisiveness. Klinsmann chested a ball down with his old aplomb early in the proceedings but the turn and shot which followed was hardly vintage. There is the suspicion that he has shed a crucial yard of pace. Ferdinand was largely uninvolved. Had his thunderous header not been adroitly tipped over by David Watson in the 25th minute, things might have been different. But as it was, he posed no menace to a defence which has given birth to the chant of "Who ships all the goals?"

The chances of Spurs' miserable season improving in time will depend heavily on the Klinsmann-Ferdinand axis, though the contributions of David Ginola will be every bit as significant. The Frenchman was, as ever, a fitful genius. At times he seemed reluctant to be on the ground but at others his distribution and touch were things of beauty. It was his crisp, no-nonsense corner from which Spurs took the lead on the half-hour. Sol Campbell was allowed an untroubled header from close range at the far post.

Too often, they have been killed off when thus exposed but it was as though they somehow sensed that Spurs were a team whose whole was less than the sum of their parts. Before the first half was out, Neil Redfearn, typically titanic in midfield, had worked an opening only to see his shot land in the goalkeeper's arms and Eric Tinkler had a thunderbolt pushed over.

Fifteen minutes into the second half, the workhorse Ashley Ward was brought down by Clive Wilson and Redfearn's penalty was unerring. Barnsley's sense of purpose burgeoned.

Ferdinand was substituted and stalked off, less than happy. "I didn't speak to him after the game because I had spoken to him before it. He knew he was only going to play for an hour or so before the game," Gross said.

True, Spurs finished the stronger with Klinsmann being denied after a Ginola free-kick and the Frenchman blazing narrowly wide in the final minute. But none of this was enough to make them convincing and it was woefully inadequate in marking Nicholson's birthday.