Football: Sugar to blame for gross misjudgement

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Tottenham Hotspur 1 Barnsley 1 From glamour club to strugglers in five years, three managers, millions spent, in some cases squandered, still no proper shape or consistent purpose. Add the new threat of going out of the FA Cup against Barnsley, the Premiership's most trampled on team, and you have to wonder why Tottenham's supporters have not lowered the boom on Alan Sugar.

Tottenham's studious Swiss coach Christian Gross cannot be held responsible ("he should go," a caller to David Mellor's wearisome radio programme said predictably) for a predicament that has all the makings of a crisis. It rests with the owner.

In showing irritation with questions put to him after Saturday's 1-1 draw, Gross's demeanour was that of a man who did not realise what he was getting into. Unwilling to touch upon Les Ferdinand's stoney-faced reaction to being substituted in the 62nd minute (Ferdinand was smuggled past waiting reporters) Gross put forward the unconvincing explanation that no more than an hour's activity had been expected from a player coming back from injury.

Will Gross last, or simply be written off as another gross error of administrative judgement? Who knows? Who knows about anything at White Hart Lane these days?

Warm applause for Tottenham's president and former manager Bill Nicholson, who is 78 today, made you think. It made you think about the style associated with Nicholson's teams and his many successes. What passed through the mind of Tottenham's greatest manager on Saturday?

It made you think about the team that represented Tottenham before Sugar fell into rancorous conflict with Terry Venables, a team considered by old players to have more potential than any Tottenham had put out since the 70s; Teddy Sheringham, Nick Barmby, Neil Ruddock, Darren Anderton and the emerging Sol Campbell blending into a unit that promised much for the future.

Events on the field since bring Tottenham's post-Venables policies into question. Saturday's performance against opponents who had pretty dismal memories of matches in London this season, including a 3-0 defeat at White Hart Lane, emphasised further the extent of Tottenham's shortcomings.

Their sole idea was to give David Ginola the ball in the hope that he could conjure up openings for Jurgen Klinsmann and Ferdinand. Especially as Barnsley chose not to give the Frenchman close attention ("we didn't get any joy from doing that in a league match," their quietly impressive manager Danny Wilson said) this had its possibilities but Ginola remains a fitful presence playing as the mood takes him.

Ginola's corner led to Sol Campbell heading Tottenham in front after 30 minutes but even before Neil Redfearn equalised with a 59th-minute penalty Barnsley appeared to be growing in confidence. "The beatings haven't effected our belief and this result might do a lot for us," Wilson said.

The possible effect on Tottenham is a different matter. Far from being the inspiration Sugar clearly imagined, Klinsmann looks two yards off the pace and is no longer seen as much on the ball. Apart from a powerful header that Watson saved, brilliantly little was seen of Ferdinand.

Unless there is a rapid individual and collective improvement Tottenham could find themselves in serious trouble. Loss of a place in the Premier League with the obvious financial consequences that might bring is not as far fetched as some may imagine.

Before Sugar knows where he is, the giant crane looming over the construction of a new stand could come to symbolise an emergency at White Hart Lane. At the start of the season, he suggested that failure to bring some success to the club might lead to his departure. Would he try to blame that on Venables, too?

Goals: Campbell (30) 1-0; Redfearn (59) 1-1.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-1-3-2): Bardsen; Carr, Vega, Campbell, Wilson; Berti; Fox, Ginola, Sinton; Ferdinand (Calderwood, 62), Klinsmann. Substitutes not used: Howells, Clemence, Brady, Brown (gk).

Barnsley (4-4-2): Watson; Eaden, De Zeeuw, Moses, Barnard; Tinkler (Bosancic, h-t), Sheridan, Redfearn, Marcelelle; Hendrie (Liddell, 88), Ward. Substitutes not used: M Bullock, Morgan, Leese (gk).

Referee: G Ashby (Worcestershire)

Bookings: Tottenham: Calderwood. Barnsley: Sheridan.

Man of the match: Watson.

Attendance: 28,722.

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