Football: Sting in Tessem's tale

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The Independent Online
Southampton 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1

CONSIDERING NORWAY has a population of four million, the influence its players have had on the Premiership is nothing short of remarkable. At The Dell on Saturday, the Norwegian effect was much in evidence. Jo Tessem made his Southampton debut, Oyvind Leonhardsen scored the game's only goal for Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton's Klaus Lundekvam was sent off. Oh, and George Graham still needs to find a striking partner for Stefen Iversen.

If Leonhardsen's late strike ensured the points went to Spurs, the day belonged to Tessem, who only joined Southampton for a modest pounds 600,000 from Molde on Friday. The Norwegian, who at right-back was marking David Ginola, was typically Scandinavian in his understated response to the question of how well he thought he had done. "I was pleased with my debut. Overall, I thought I did quite well," he said.

Quite well is putting it mildly. Such was Ginola's anonymity that he was substituted by Graham midway through the second half. But that is only part of Tessem's tale. His ascent up the football ladder is perhaps only rivalled by the rise of the Norwegian national team up the Fifa rankings.

During the 1990s Tessem interrupted his football career to train as a policeman for two years. While he was at the Oslo Police Academy he rang SFK Lyn - which means lightning in Norwegian - and asked whether he could train with them. A year later he was in the first team, where his versatility - before Saturday he had played in every position apart from the right-back and goalkeeping positions - persuaded Molde to buy him. The average wage at Molde is around pounds 50,000 per year. For a Norwegian policeman it is about pounds 20,000. The four-year contract Tessem has signed with Southampton is worth pounds 1.6m, not including bonuses.

All in all Spurs put on a quintessential Graham performance, as was the way he trotted out the managerial cliches. "We've played better before and lost," he said. Leonhardsen's performance encapsulated what Graham's Spurs are all about: spiky at the back and spiky at the front. The Norwegian midfielder, just seconds into the second half, was the last man in defence denying Marian Pahars a chance.

Then with nine minutes left there he was again, popping up in a crowded penalty area to finish off a well worked free-kick.

Goal: Leonhardsen (81) 0-1.

Southampton: (4-4-2): Jones; Tessem, Lundekvam, Richards, Colletter; Ripley, Oakley, Hughes (Le Tissier, 85), Kachloul (Boa Morte, 85); Pahars, Beattie (Soltvedt, 78). Substitutes not used: Moss (gk), Benali.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Taricco, Perry, Campbell, Edinburgh; Leonhardsen, Sherwood, Freund, Ginola (Dominguez, 64); Armstrong, Iversen. Substitutes not used: Baardsen (gk), Fox, Young, Clemence.

Referee: S Bennett (Orpington).

Bookings: Southampton: Lundekvam, Pahars, Colletter, Hughes, Richards. Tottenham Hotspur: Campbell, Leonhardsen. Sendings off: Southampton: Lundekvam.

Man of the match: Leonhardsen.

Attendance: 15,248.