Football: Sinclair accepts gift with aplomb

Click to follow
The Independent Online
West Ham United 2

Sinclair 39, 46

Tottenham Hotspur 1

Armstrong 72

Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 26,044

NICE TO see Harry Redknapp back blowing bubbles again rather than spitting blood. At the end of a week in which the garrulous West Ham manager has said rather more than perhaps he wished he had, it was back to the kind of talk that is easy on the ear, luxuriating in a victory that hoisted his club to the unlikely heights of second place in the Premiership, albeit at least for 24 hours when their principal rivals play.

But for the moment the Hammers are lording it above Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea after a London derby that began in an unusually tepid temperature, but ended in a boiling cauldron of hostility as Tottenham attempted in vain to repair self-inflicted damage - an uncharacteristic aberration by goalkeeper Espen Baardsen, which literally handed Trevor Sinclair the first of his two goals, and a failure to disturb the poise of goalkeeper Shaka Hislop.

Even West Ham's most vehement supporters could hardly believe it, maybe because the last time the club enjoyed such distinction was 12 years ago when they actually led the then First Division. Redknapp is the kind of man who takes glory and strife in his stride, and when told of his team's elevation, he retorted: "Yeah, we're going well. We normally get 26 points about March time." Redknapp added, in slightly more serious vein: "No, the fact is that we've got ability all through the team. I can go home and sleep easily tonight."

Whether West Ham will hang on to that talent is another matter, of course.After the enforced sale of Andy Impey to Leicester which almost had Redknapp and his chief executive Peter Storrie declaring pistols at dawn and then rejecting Tottenham's audacious midweek pounds 4.3million offer for their under- 21 international Frank Lampard, it has been a trying week for the normally genial Hammers manager.

Now it has been made evident that West Ham have had a "cash-flow problem" it will not be the last approach by a voracious predator. But suggestions that yesterday's rivals had returned with an pounds 8m bid were greeted with equal scorn. "We don't want pounds 8m for him. We don't want anything. He's not available," insisted Redknapp. "We would be taking the fans money under false pretences if we sold players like Frank and Rio Ferdinand."

It was not, frankly, the most assured display by his team. If Tottenham had displayed only a modicum of composure within sight of goal they might have left Redknapp in considerably less a mood of equilibrium. Quite how Graham's players managed on 10 occasions, at a conservative estimate, to avoid troubling Hislop is impossible to say.

Yet, their approach play was all Graham could demand, with David Ginola providing an exhilarating performance of ground skills and trickery par excellence. The Frenchman even provoked approval from his demanding manager.

"He was tremendous," enthused Graham. "In the past he has tended to over- elaborate but today he got some great crosses over and we should have made more of them. We deserved to get more out of the game."

They might have if 19-year-old Luke Young had been a few inches lower with a volley from the edge of the area late in the game. As it was, it struck the bar and that was the last occasion Tottenham were to suggest that they were capable of retrieving a cause seemingly lost in the minutes just before and after half-time. If Graham required any consolation it would have been the debut of the England youth international, enforced by numerous injuries. Young's performance was imbued with strength and composure as he and captain Sol Campbell combined to quell the threat of John Hartson and Paul Kitson.

Having been constantly prone to Tottenham's incisive counter-thrusts for much of the first half, it required Baardsen's blooper in the 39th minute, saving initially from Lampard's powerful volley, then dropping the ball obligingly at the feet of the lurking Sinclair, to hand West Ham the initiative. Little more than a minute after the interval, Sinclair burst between Campbell and Andy Sinton and with the minimum of fuss beat Baardsen from outside the area.

Game over at 2-0, it appeared. Not if Graham's men have anything to do with it, as they demonstrated at Aston Villa, where they rallied to 3- 2 under similar circumstances recently. Tottenham pressed repeatedly down the flanks without reward, but finally profited from a corner, Chris Armstrong heading Allan Nielsen's kick firmly past Hislop. But they were unable to raise their game once more, and Redknapp conceded: "We had to hang on in there. There is no doubt George will turn them into a decent team. He's got a few quid to spend." That's, of course, so long as Graham doesn't try to lavish it in his direction.