Whether it was his mere presence, albeit as nothing more than an observer from the stand, or merely the fact that Derby do not quite possess the fortitude and talent to sustain their current flirtation with the higher reaches of the Premiership, George Graham was able to luxuriate in a first win as manager of Spurs. It was almost poetic that, for a few hours at least - until Arsenal faced Newcastle today - his new team should hoist themselves above the one with whom he was once so firmly associated. What can the pounds 6m man achieve when he starts the job in earnest?
Actually, never mind George Graham. It was more like the work of Billy Graham, because his team, though only occasionally exhibiting the stylish, flowing football that their supporters demand, almost by decree, appeared to gain their inspiration from a hand far greater than Graham or the acting manager David Pleat, who had mixed emotions on his last day in the Spurs dugout.
For once, the Tottenham rearguard did not appear as though they could be breached at any minute, in spite of the menace of Paulo Wanchope, and on the rare occasions they did look vulnerable, there was seemingly an invisible force denying Jim Smith's men.
Graham, presumably not wanting to deny Pleat his glory, glory afternoon, departed immediately after the game with his chairman Alan Sugar, leaving the Tottenham director of football to remark pointedly: "We worked very hard. I don't think that was too boring. We're above Arsenal tonight and when I left in 1987 we were above Arsenal then, so I haven't done badly."
Pleat, who will remain in his present position under the new administration, added: "That's six games since Christian Gross left and we've lost one. During that time we've been behind and fought back. But that's not given me the impression that we're cowards frightened of our opponents. We're not all pansies at Tottenham. We've got to knock that image aside and sometimes that means that you have to sacrifice beauty."
In a world where the leader of the greatest super-power acknowledges he used his office as a form of sex parlour, nothing should surprise us any more. But George Graham as manager of Spurs? That still takes a bit of getting used to. But there it was in the programme, so you knew that the last fortnight's bizarre events had not been just an unpleasant dream in which the game's last remaining ethics have been tarnished once again.
One thing is for sure. The relationship between Sugar and Graham should prove as fascinating as events on the field. Not least is the fact that the Spurs chairman's nemesis, Terry Venables, is one of the new manager's closest allies. Whether the pair will become known as George and the Dragon is open to question. But like the manner of his arrival or not, the deal has been done. And now much is expected of a man who in more senses than one can be regarded as a double agent.
Graham believes that a top-six place in two years is within his capabilities. Past experience of his career at Millwall, Arsenal and Leeds shows that to be not unduly optimistic.
The home supporters lost no time in issuing their own caustic verdict on the nature of Spurs' management changes, notably when in the first few seconds, the visitors' defence stood with arms raised, in the time- honoured manner of Tony Adams and Steve Bould appealing for offside. "Are you Arsenal in disguise?" they jeered.
Graham had much to ponder, such as why did a trio of Spurs players - Darren Anderton, Allan Nielsen and Ruel Fox - all spurn decent chances in the opening minutes, and how did Derby not inflict any serious damage on a defence hitherto noted for their generosity.
With all the commotion surrounding Graham's arrival at White Hart Lane, it was easy to ignore the fact that Derby had risen to second in the Premiership, and that their manager, Jim Smith, had predicted that one of the less fashionable clubs could win the championship. At the moment he is not suggesting that it will be his own, and after this you could understand why.
True, Stefan Schnoor and Lars Bohinen forced some excellent saves from Espen Baardsen just after the half hour before Wanchope, taking a long ball from Rory Delap delightfully in his stride on the edge of the area, held off the attentions of Ramon Vega to take his chance. Unfortunately, the accuracy did not match the power of his venomous effort.
For all Derby's possession either side of the break, it was Tottenham who scored the goal that ended the home team's proud home defensive record of not having conceded a goal this season. Bohinen fouled Stephen Carr on the right and from the resulting free-kick, whipped in wickedly by David Ginola, Campbell's header found the far corner of the net with the goalkeeper Russell Hoult stranded.
Derby, despite their splendid start to the season, have not been scoring as regularly as their position suggests and, once behind, they struggled to reply to the question Spurs had posed them.
Confusion between Justin Edinburgh and his goalkeeper gave a sniff of a chance to Wanchope and the substitute Dean Sturridge, brought on belatedly, but they both failed to capitalise. Well before the end you suspected that the day would belong to Spurs, and Chris Armstrong should have emphasised this a minute before the whistle when he worked his way through but could only hit the post from a good position. "It could have gone either way. We were asleep on the free-kick and Campbell tucked it away well," Smith admitted. His counterpart and old adversary Pleat added: "I want this team to do well for George and the supporters who want style, credibility, and a place in the top six. We've got to re-establish that at Tottenham. There are plenty of good young players and we've got nothing to be worried about. I wouldn't be troubled if I was Mr Sugar tonight."
l A Derby steward was taken to hospital with an arm injury after intervening in an argument in the tunnel after the match involving Tottenham's Colin Calderwood and Sol Campbell and Derby's Francesco Baiano.
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