Football: Twin trip downplayed by Graham

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The Independent Online
GEORGE GRAHAM, the Tottenham Hotspur manager, yesterday admitted that it is "highly unlikely" he will equal his double cup-winning feat of six years ago.

A solo goal from the French forward David Ginola propelled Spurs into the semi-finals of the FA Cup at the expense of Barnsley at Oakwell on Tuesday. The worthy contender for a "goal of the season" award was the perfect tonic for Graham and his side as they prepare for Sunday's Worthington Cup final against Leicester City at Wembley.

It leaves the 54-year-old Scot just three matches away from a two-pronged twin towers triumph, which is what he achieved with Arsenal in 1993 - with Sheffield Wednesday the victims on both occasions.

For Graham to accomplish such a feat once - the only man to have done so - was a true test of his managerial skills, but, should he do it again, and with another club, it is likely to cement his place among the greats of the managerial game.

Graham has turned around the fortunes of an ailing Spurs side in double- quick time as he attempts to build a dynasty at White Hart Lane. Having only taken over the club last October after he left Leeds United, the double cup assault is something he is urging both the players and the supporters to get used to.

But, as for lifting both trophies, with Newcastle standing in the way of a second day out at Wembley in May, Graham is unconvinced.

"It's possible, but it's highly unlikely," Graham admitted. "As long as we're in the cups there is a possibility, but it's one I'm not even thinking about."

However, Graham added: "It has been done before, though! I was very pleased with the players last night, though, because we've a cup final on Sunday, and I think the way they approached the game and the way they competed was right.

"We knew Barnsley would have their sleeves rolled up and they did, and that's why I admired the players. That's what I want on a regular basis.

"If I can get the club right, these are the type of games I want regularly, two or three difficult games a week. I want them to get used to it," Graham added. "I want them to get used to playing semi-finals one week and cup finals the next week."

It is no secret that Ginola has been given a new lease of life since Graham arrived, with his goal on Tuesday underlining the talent he possesses.

The game's turning moment had come in the 59th minute with a red card for Barnsley's centre-back Adie Moses, sent-off for two bookable offences. The first was for an innocuous shirt-tug on Ginola - followed inside a minute by a late tackle on Les Ferdinand - which seemed to act as a spur to the Frenchman. In the 69th minute came a goal to rival, if not better, Ricky Villa's 1981 FA Cup final replay winner over Manchester City at Wembley.

Starting on the left wing and 10 yards inside the Barnsley half, Ginola cut inside Nicky Eaden's tackle, evaded Clayton Blackmore, glided past Robin van der Laan and then Arjan de Zeeuw's lunge, before curling the ball home from 12 yards past Tony Bullock.

Graham admitted he had seen better goals, although he added: "It was typical Ginola. He can be quiet for 45 minutes and then he can come alight for 20 minutes. How people, even from the opposition, cannot admire his skill is unbelievable.

"But I'd like to see him score with a few more tap-ins, getting into the box more. But he is a match-winner, and although he's got some deficiencies, we've got to put up with them!"

Tim Sherwood, Spurs' recent pounds 4m recruit is just pleased to be on the same side as Ginola these days, having been on the receiving end for so long with Blackburn Rovers.

"He is a magnificent winger," Sherwood confirmed. "For the goal, he was brilliant. His quality really showed."