A day of great loss at White Hart Lane: the loss of Bill Nicholson, the loss of an opportunity to honour him with a victory and, above all, the loss of respect from the man who currently holds the office that his predecessor elevated to such enjoyable greatness.
Who knows what legacy Jacques Santini will leave behind and who, to be fair, knows whether he really appreciates, or has even been informed about, what Nicholson did for Tottenham Hotspur? Indeed, until recently Spurs themselves did not seem to know. Nicholson died as the club's president but, for the Worthington Cup final in 1999, he had to sit among the fans while, last season, he was inducted into a Hall of Fame that has not even been built.
The sullen behaviour of Santini in marching down the corridors and refusing to speak to the media after this defeat spoke volumes. He is in charge of the class of 2004 but this was no class act. Even platitudes seemed beyond him.
Let's be brutally honest. Santini has done the easy things. He has made Spurs harder to beat - although in saying that this was their third defeat in four games - without making them look like winners, without injecting any joy into their play. Maybe he should also be reminded that the club's motto - Audere est facere - is Latin for "to dare is to do". No-one could fault their effort or their desire. But tactically they are predictable. Any semblance of unpredictability was preserved for the tactless Santini.
"Bolton took their chance and played well, but we wanted to win the game for our fans. I think we would have if we had carried on playing as we did at the end of the first half," was all that could be squeezed out of him by the club's website yesterday. Maybe so. For one passage of play in the 41st minute Spurs did resemble the glories of old. Jamie Redknapp and Pedro Mendes kept possession in midfield before Nourredine Naybet pushed the ball into the feet of Frédéric Kanouté. His lay-off, into the area, was perfectly weighted for Robbie Keane who had peeled away and was there to shoot low between the legs of Jussi Jaaskelainen and into the net. It was a great goal and, dare it be said, the kind that Nicholson, and his former players, such as Pat Jennings, Ralph Coates, John Pratt and Mel Hopkins, who had stood pre-match at pitch-side to offer their own heartfelt tributes and then joined in the minute's silence, would have readily approved of. But that was it. Kanoute, in the final moments, hit a post with a header and had an earlier shot saved, while Jermain Defoe, who bewilderingly started on the bench, came close with a free-kick.
But quietly impressive Bolton were well worth their second consecutive victory at the Lane. There was a player on view who Nicholson would have wanted in his team. Unfortunately for Spurs, Jay-Jay Okocha was wearing Bolton blue. The Nigerian was both elegant, in his movement and caressing of the ball in possession, and brutal, in his shooting. It was his vicious shot from distance which set up the winning goal. Paul Robinson - who, along with Anthony Gardner had been badly at fault for Radhi Jaidi's close-range header in the 11th minute which had opened the scoring - parried but the ball ran to Stelios Giannakopoulos. Somehow Robinson saved again but substitute Henrik Pedersen drove the rebound in.
At the final whistle there were boos. Outside, and despite the rain, many lingered to read the floral tributes that had already gathered by the entrance to the ground and which were being moved inside yesterday. The stadium will now remain open all this week for respects to be paid. There we`re sons whose fathers were not even born when Nicholson retired in 1974. Their desire to show their respect was mixed with the unconcealed frustration of what had passed in the game.
Goals: Jaidi (11) 0-1; Keane (41) 1-1; Pedersen (75) 1-2.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Pamarot, Naybet, King, A Gardner; S Davies (Ziegler, 80), Pedro Mendes, Redknapp (Davis, 78), Jackson (Defoe, 70); Kanoute, Keane. Substitutes not used: Keller (gk), Brown.
Bolton Wanderers (4-5-1): Jaaskelainen; Hunt, Jaidi, N'Gotty, R Gardner; Diouf (Hierro, 81), Speed, Okocha, Nolan (Pedersen, 72), Giannakopoulos; K Davies. Substitutes not used: Poole (gk), Ferdinand, Fadiga.
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).
Man of the match: Okocha.
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