Football: Second Coming passes without any sign of miracles - not that many Tottenham fans were expecting one

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The Independent Online
Next to the half-completed new North Stand at White Hart Lane, the squat turn of the century Salvation Army building, where - for 90 years - Christians have laboured fruitlessly for God and temperance in the Tottenham area, was grilled and shuttered yesterday.

Perhaps, with the Second Coming at hand, they had decided that even Jesus was unlikely to be much competition for the returning Jurgen Klinsmann, who - after an absence of more than two years - was about to leave his people out of the affliction in which they found themselves.

The beleaguered Israelites themselves, however, were surprisingly like the Laodiceans - neither hot nor cold. For every fan queueing in the rain outside one of the club's gift shops to buy a Klinsmann shirt, there were two more shaking their locks and contemplating relegation with an almost pleasurable horror. There was no automatic expectation, among supporters who had seen the unfortunate team ship 14 goals in four games, that Jurgen could - in terrace vernacular - manage the miracle of turning wankers into winners. Not immediately, anyhow. Still, it did the old heart good to see the German captain on the pitch at kick-off. Not least because Les Ferdinand was missing again (the week before last it was the squitz, on Boxing Day it was toothache, yesterday presumably it was verrucas), as was Darren Anderton, who must have strained something when signing his new contract just before Christmas.

But the chief reason for the great yell that went up, even from the most miserable Spurs' fans (and that, I can tell you, is really miserable), was the feeling that he might be able to instill a little of that magic quality - confidence - in team-mates who had entirely lost theirs, playing quite well in matches until half time and then getting thumped in the last 20 minutes. Good youngsters such as Steve Carr and Stephen Clemence were looking terrified every time they had the ball, often giving it away in their own half - something Arsenal never do.

Arsenal, of course, are going through their own crisis. Only, it is an Arsenal crisis, in which they slip out of the top four for five minutes, and Ian Wright says something he shouldn't. Spurs fans would regard an Arsenal crisis as a successful season, so tight is the Gunners' ageing defence. Yesterday, Steve Bould won every single high ball against Klinsmann. Allan Nielsen, the Danish midfielder, recalled by Christian Gross, was not nervous, however. He was having a good, busy game. Not beautiful, but busy. And just before the half hour a rather lovely combination of Ruel Fox and Klinsmann resulted in a satisfying thump from Nielsen, and orgasms around the stadium. But could the lead be kept?

Of course it couldn't. Ray Parlour wasn't playing games. With Dennis Bergkamp and Marc Overmars subdued by Campbell, Carr and the psychotic Swiss defender, Ramon Vega, Parlour was the best Arsenal player on view. And on 62 minutes a nice run from Emmanuel Petit - one of four French players fielded by Arsene Wenger - led to Parlour's drive taking a deflection from some part of Vega (probably his id) and going into the net.

At which point both sides shut up shop so completely that one wondered whether some Kuala Lumpur cartel hadn't put 20 million baht (or whatever) on a 1-1 draw. In fact, only two more things worthy of note happened. On 88 minutes Arsenal introduced a substitute called Isiah Rankin, and I decided that he was going to score and I was going to have to write "Isiah upstages Resurrection". And on 90, Jurgen was finally in the clear, crossed, and Steffen Iversen nearly got his head to what would have been a spectacular goal, a miracle, and a great story. Except he didn't and it wasn't.

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