Hoddle risks wrath of FA as Savage bites

Birmingham City 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0
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The Independent Football

Tottenham boss Glenn Hoddle launched the first and probably the most bizarre verbal attack on a referee with the new season just 90 minutes old yesterday.

Hoddle was seething over the appointment of Rob Styles after watching his side lose out to David Dunn's debut penalty in the noon kick–off at sunny St Andrews.

Styles had been involved in Birmingham's pre–season friendly with Newcastle in Malaysia when he controversially sent off Blues defender Kenny Cunningham. And Hoddle's clear inference today was that Styles had been presented with an ideal opportunity to make amends for that decision.

Hoddle said: "I don't think this referee should have been in charge of the game today. He had a big problem with Birmingham and you could tell that he was affected by that. From the first minute I knew it would go against us.

"The last place he should be officiating on the first day of the season is St Andrews and that is why we lost today."

Styles booked eight players in a not particularly ill–tempered match and Hoddle added: "I've got nothing against Rob Styles as a referee but he made some poor decisions and it sticks in the throat."

Hoddle was particularly angry about the 35th minute spot–kick awarded by Styles when Robbie Savage fell under Anthony Gardner's challenge in the box.

Blues boss Steve Bruce admitted Hoddle might have had a point about that but refused to comment on Hoddle's wider claims which seem likely to earn him a ticking–off from Football Association chiefs.

Bruce preferred to dwell on his side's magnificent first–half performance which was capped by Dunn's spot–kick after Savage had tangled with Gardner.

The £5.5million club record buy from Blackburn coolly stepped up to mark his first Blues goal after just 35 minutes of his debut by firing a fine shot to the left of Kasey Keller.

Bruce said: "We were magnificent in the first half and I think it was inevitable that we were going to run out of gas a bit in the second.

"David Dunn proved he had some real, real quality with the spotlight on him and such a big crowd. He's rushed to get the ball (for the penalty). He's got something about him and he's a special player."

Dunn's goal was a rich reward for Birmingham's early effort with Frenchman Christophe Dugarry earlier poking a shot against the post.

Savage produced a typically aggressive performance in the middle and the Blues centre–backs denied Spurs a sniff of a first–half chance.

Bruce added: "I thought Robbie Savage was absolutely magnificent in the first half and all the players dug deep towards the end. They showed a bit of fight today."

Dugarry should have extended the home side's lead on the stroke of half–time when he turned Gary Doherty but shot straight at Keller.

Hoddle's decision to introduce Bobby Zamora for ineffective Portuguese debutant Helder Postiga early in the second half almost paid dividends as the visitors hit back.

And Robbie Keane will have nightmares about his 56th–minute miss when he burst clear and shot past Maik Taylor but fired against the base of the left–hand post.

Moments after his miss Zamora was only inches away with a close–range header, then he poked a low shot goalwards only to see it blocked by Cunningham.

Taylor denied substitute Dean Marney an equaliser with a fine save as the minutes ticked by, and Zamora came agonisingly close with an injury–time header from Stephen Carr's right–wing cross.

Hoddle added: "Bobby is one thing we will have up our sleeves this year. Whoever is on the bench will come on and affect the game. It was always going to be a difficult game for Helder and he just needs a bit more time."

Birmingham City 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0
Dunn pen 36

Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 29,358